Kohli’s century not enough as Bangalore eliminated from IPL, Mumbai through to playoffs

Royal Challengers Bangalore's Anuj Rawat reacts as his teammate Virat Kohli, right, finishes his century during the Indian Premier League cricket match between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Gujarat Titans in Bengaluru, India, Sunday, May 21, 2023. (Photo courtesy: AP)
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Updated 22 May 2023

Kohli’s century not enough as Bangalore eliminated from IPL, Mumbai through to playoffs

  • Gujarat Titans opener Shubman Gill’s century outdoes Virat Kohli’s successive ton
  • Gujarat topped the league with 20 points, will take on Chennai Super Kings in first playoff

MUMBAI: Gujarat Titans opener Shubman Gill hit a superb century to outdo Virat Kohli’s second successive ton as Royal Challengers Bangalore were eliminated from the Indian Premier League on Sunday.

Bangalore had to win the final IPL game in the league stage to claim the last available playoff spot, but Gill followed his century against Sunrisers Hyderabad with an unbeaten 104 off 52 balls as Gujarat reached 198-4 with five balls to spare for a six-wicket win.

Kohli with 101 not out — his record seventh century in the IPL — had earlier anchored Bangalore to 197-5 but Gill powered Gujarat’s run chase by hitting eight sixes and five fours.

“It’s all about getting a start and converting it into a big one,” Gill said. “Thankfully it’s working out for me in the business end (of the tournament). You have to keep applying yourself, that’s important.”

Bangalore’s loss meant Mumbai sealed the final playoff spot after all-rounder Cameron Green had cracked a belligerent unbeaten century off 47 balls in Mumbai’s all-important eight-wicket win against Hyderabad earlier Sunday.

Gujarat topped the league with 20 points and will take on second-place Chennai Super Kings in the first playoff on Tuesday with the winner advancing directly to next Sunday’s final.

Mumbai will meet third-place Lucknow Super Giants in the second playoff game on Wednesday. The loser of the first playoff will get another chance for a place in the final when it takes on the winner of the second playoff on Friday.

Gill defied the data favoring teams batting first and winning at Bangalore in the recent past with his superb stroke play and he combined well with impact player Vijay Shankar, who scored 53 off 35 balls.

Gill and Shankar put on a match-winning 123 runs for the second wicket. Gill raised the victory and also completed his second successive century with a straight six off Wayne Parnell in the final over.

Bangalore finished sixth in the standings with 14 points, behind Rajasthan Royals also on 14 points but with a better net run-rate.

After the start was delayed by nearly an hour because of rain, Kohli and captain Faf du Plessis combined in a 67-run opening stand off 43 balls.

But Gujarat spinner Noor Ahmad (2-39) and Rashid Khan (1-24) squeezed the runs in the middle overs as Kohli raised his half century off 35 balls.

Kohli upped the scoring rate in the death overs with his superb drives on both sides of the wicket and became the first batter in IPL history to score seven centuries.

Kohli followed his century against Hyderabad three days ago when he scooped Mohit Sharma (0-54) to long on in the final over for a single to raise his hundred off 60 balls only to see Gill’s brilliance take the win away from his team.


All-rounder Green finally scored big in the most important game for Mumbai.

Green had struggled with only two half centuries in the previous 13 games but finally struck form with 100 not out as he anchored Mumbai to 201-2 with two overs to spare.

“We came with the mindset to win and not worry what happens elsewhere,” Mumbai skipper Rohit Sharma said. “Even if we don’t go through, we got ourselves to blame. If we do, (the) boys get credit.”

Asked to bat first, Hyderabad couldn’t capitalize on a blistering start of 140 between the opening pair of Mayank Agarwal (83) and Vivrant Sharma (69) before finishing on 200-5.

Last-place Hyderabad finished with four wins and 10 defeats.

Fast bowler Akash Madhwal put on the brakes with 4-37 in the latter half of the innings as he dismissed Sharma off a mistimed pull and then found the edge of Agarwal’s bat before knocking back the stumps of Heinrich Klaasen and Harry Brook.

Madhwal’s brilliant bowling helped Mumbai pull back nicely in the death overs. It conceded only 43 runs in the last five overs.

Green struck eight sixes and eight fours in a dominant 128-run stand with Sharma, who made 56 off 37 balls after getting dropped twice.

Both batters were aggressive against impact player Kartik Tyagi and pacer Umran Malik as the two bowlers conceded 82 runs off 5.5 overs between them. Malik was wayward in his line and length while Tyagi was also off the mark, giving plenty of opportunities to batters to go for big shots as Mumbai motored to victory.

“Not the campaign we hoped for,” Hyderabad skipper Aiden Markram said. “Lot of learnings along the way.”

Champions Ahly drop more points in pursuit of 12th title

Updated 09 December 2023

Champions Ahly drop more points in pursuit of 12th title

  • The record 11-time African champions were expected to collect maximum points from the Group D match in Alexandria The result was a major boost for Belouizdad, who conceded an added-time goal to lose away to Medeama of Ghana last weekend

JOHANNESBURG: CAF Champions League title-holders Al Ahly dropped points for the second successive weekend when held 0-0 at home by Chabab Belouizdad of Algeria on Friday.
After an away draw against Young Africans in Tanzania six days ago, the record 11-time African champions were expected to collect maximum points from the Group D match in Alexandria.
But a defiant Belouizdad defense, backed by former Algeria goalkeeper Rais M’Bolhi, contained an Ahly attack including Mahmoud Kahraba, Hussein el Shahat and South African Percy Tau.
The result was a major boost for Belouizdad, who conceded an added-time goal to lose away to Medeama of Ghana last weekend.
Medeama could not achieve back-to-back home victories, however, as they surrendered the lead in a 1-1 draw against Young Africans in Kumasi.
Jonathan Sowah, recalled after being ruled out of the Belouizdad match by suspension, converted a 27th-minute penalty for group debutants Medeama.
It was his third goal of the African campaign, and Ivorian Pacome Zouzoua also scored for a third time in the Champions League this season by equalising nine minutes later.
Ahly have five points, Medeama and Belouizdad four each and Young Africans two at the halfway stage of the mini-league. Group winners and runners-up qualify for the quarter-finals.
On a night when three matches produced only three goals, the best came from Cameroonian Jacques Mbe, which gave Etoile Sahel of Tunisia a 1-0 win over Al Hilal of Sudan in Rades near Tunis.
With just two minutes of regular time remaining, Mbe unleashed a thunderbolt past Ivorian goalkeeper Issa Fofana to earn Etoile their first points in Group C.
Petro Luanda of Angola, who play on Saturday, top the table with six points while Hilal, four-time champions Esperance of Tunisia and Etoile have three each.

Al-Dawsari, Mitrovic on target as Al-Hilal beat Al-Tai

Updated 09 December 2023

Al-Dawsari, Mitrovic on target as Al-Hilal beat Al-Tai

  • Saudi Pro League leaders wrack up 16th straight win in all competitions
  • Serbian striker first player since 2012 to score in 7 consecutive league matches

The Al-Hilal machine goes rolling on after the Saudi Pro League leaders defeated Al-Tai 2-1 on Friday to record a 16th successive victory in all competitions.

It was a strange game in that the Riyadh giants dominated but were never able to kill off their hosts, for whom goalkeeper Moataz Al-Baqawi was in fine form.

In the end, it did not matter as Hilal, threatening to pull away at the top of the table, went at Al-Tai from the start.

In the 15th minute, Kalidou Koulibaly’s smart half volley from outside the area drew a good diving save from Al-Baqawi and three minutes later the in-form Aleksandar Mitrovic should have opened the scoring.

A delightful volleyed through ball from Sergej Milinkovic-Savic freed the former Fulham forward who, with just the goalkeeper to beat, dragged his shot wide.

He was relieved in the 20th minute when a classic combination for both Al-Hilal and Saudi Arabia swung into action. Salman Al-Faraj crossed from the right and there was Salem Al-Dawsari to send a flying side-footed volley high into the net from near the penalty spot. The two club legends embraced in celebration of a beautiful and important goal.

Ten minutes later, Hilal were given a penalty after Ibrahim Al-Nakhli handled a shot from Mitrovic. The Serbian stepped up to grab his 14th league goal of the season and to get on the score sheet for the seventh successive game, a feat last achieved in Saudi Arabia in 2012 by Brazilian striker Wesley.

Five minutes before the break, the ball fell to Ruben Neves just outside the area and the Portuguese star curled home only for the goal to be ruled out due to an offside in the buildup, though it was a very tight call.

And it became painful for Hilal deep into added time thanks to another spectacular strike. Salman Al-Muwashar was twisting and turning in the middle of the Hilal half as he attempted to protect the ball from a group of blue-shirted players and then, suddenly, Tariq Abdullah stepped forward to side-foot a looping shot that beat the jumping Yassine Bounou, not far off his line on the edge of the 6-yard box.

Instead of 3-0 at the break, it was 2-1 and a game that had been dominated by the 18-time champions was suddenly looking very interesting indeed.

Al-Hilal were determined to make it as predictable as possible and within five minutes of the restart, Mitrovic’s half volley stung the hands of the goalkeeper. Moments later, a delicate chip from Neves just cleared the bar to land on the roof of the net.

Nobody will ever know how it was not 3-1 three minutes before the hour. Neves curled a delightful cross into the area. Milinkovic-Savic’s volley came back off the inside of the post but there was Al-Dawsari to react quickly and drive the rebound toward the top. Somehow, however, Al-Baqawi got there to tip the ball over.

The goalkeeper ensured that Hilal did not get a third goal but they picked up the points nonetheless.

Elsewhere, Al-Taawoun went third behind Al-Nassr with a 4-1 win at home to Al-Fayha, the losers perhaps tired after their Asian Champions League heroics in midweek when they won 4-1 at the Uzbekistan home of Pakhtakor to progress to the knockout stage.

Saudi Arabia ready to host 2034 World Cup: Sports minister

Updated 08 December 2023

Saudi Arabia ready to host 2034 World Cup: Sports minister

  • Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal tells BBC Kingdom has proved itself able to host major events
  • Government has invested over $6.26bn in sports since 2021 as part of Vision 2030

LONDON: Saudi Sports Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal has talked up the sporting and economic opportunities of the Kingdom hosting the 2034 FIFA World Cup, saying his country is ready to host the world’s biggest sporting event.
In an interview with the BBC, he raised the prospect of the Kingdom hosting the competition in the summer rather than the winter, noted the importance of sport in a country where the majority of citizens are below the age of 30, and discussed the progress made by the Saudi Pro League.
The government has invested over £5 billion ($6.26 billion) in sports since 2021 as part of the Vision 2030 strategy to diversify the economy away from dependence on fossil fuels.
With the FIFA Club World Cup set to begin in the Kingdom next month, Prince Abdulaziz said Saudi Arabia is more than ready to host the biggest prize in football.
“We’ve showcased that — we’ve hosted more than 85 global events and we’ve delivered on the highest level,” he said.
“We want to attract the world through sports. Hopefully, by 2034, people will have an extraordinary World Cup.”
Since 2021, Saudi Arabia has hosted high-profile boxing matches, ATP tennis tournaments and Formula 1 racing.
The Public Investment Fund made waves when taking control of Premier League side Newcastle United and setting up the LIV Golf tour.
“Twenty million of our population are below the age of 30, so we need to get them engaged — we are playing our role to develop sports within the world and to be part of the international community,” Prince Abdulaziz said.
He added that lessons would be taken from the 2022 FIFA World Cup in neighboring Qatar, which had to be held in winter to avoid high temperatures.
He said Saudi Arabia is “definitely” looking into whether a summer contest would be feasible.
“Why not see what the possibilities are to do it in the summer? Whether it is summer or winter, it doesn’t matter for us, as long as we make sure that we (deliver) the right atmosphere to host such an event,” he added.
On the subject of the World Cup’s sustainability, Prince Abdulaziz said: “It’s a mandate on us in the Kingdom to make sure that we abide by the international regulations … to make sure that we play our role, to make sure that it’s eco-friendly.”
He addressed the progress of football in the Kingdom, which has taken on global significance since the £750 million influx of big names to the Saudi Pro League earlier this year, including Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Neymar.
At grassroots, too, football is gaining in popularity, and the Kingdom even sees over 70,000 women and girls regularly taking part in the sport.
“All of our big matches have attracted record numbers so far … We’re broadcasting to 147 countries around the world,” Prince Abdulaziz said.
“When we planned to develop the league we never thought that we would do it with such pace, but to see that is actually refreshing and it actually showcases the importance of this. Our focus is to develop our league to attract the best in the world.”

Steven Gerrard: ‘Extremely nice’ to have Moussa Dembele back for Al-Ettifaq

Updated 08 December 2023

Steven Gerrard: ‘Extremely nice’ to have Moussa Dembele back for Al-Ettifaq

  • French striker makes return in draw with Al-Shabab after 2 months out
  • Moussa ‘key to us winning games,’ teammate Jack Hendry says

RIYADH: Al-Ettifaq manager Steven Gerrard said it was “extremely nice” to have Moussa Dembele back in Roshn Saudi League action after his No. 9 made a substitute return following knee surgery.
The former Fulham, Celtic, Atletico Madrid and Lyon striker played the final 20 minutes of the 0-0 draw at Al-Shabab on Thursday night. The game at the new Al-Shabab Club Stadium in Riyadh saw Ettifaq finish with 10 men following Demarai Gray’s red card, while the hosts ended with nine after Ever Banega and Gustavo Cuellar were both dismissed.
While frustrated not to have taken all three points — Dembele nearly made the perfect return with a late header that went over the bar — Gerrard said that having his top scorer back was a boost. Al-Ettifaq have failed to score in five of the eight games since the French striker last played, drawing three and losing two.
“It’s extremely nice to see Moussa Dembele back, extremely nice,” Gerrard said.
“When we get Moussa back up in a better place physically and get more minutes into him then I’m sure we’ll carry more of a threat. Moussa Dembele brings goals and assists. The good thing is we have him back. He’s a goalscorer. We’ve missed that quality.”
The former Rangers manager’s comments on the return of Dembele, who netted seven goals in eight Roshn Saudi League matches before his injury at the beginning of October, were echoed by teammate Jack Hendry.
“It’s very big for us to have him back. He’s a figurehead for us up front,” the defender said.
“He’s going to be the key to us winning games and kind of turning our fortunes in the right direction. Moussa’s a proven goalscorer. I played with him at Celtic and I know what he can bring to a team, so to have a figurehead like him up front is going to be important for us moving forward.”
Dembele said: “We will continue to work hard to improve our finishing.”
Ahead of weekend fixtures, Al-Ettifaq — who next play Al-Taawoun at home on Saturday, Dec. 16 — sit eighth in the league table.
“The game as it progressed was certainly there for the taking,” Gerrard said. “When we had a man advantage, we made a tactical change to take a defender off and bring Moussa on to be more aggressive and more opportunities came. We’re a bit frustrated we haven’t gone and taken the big opportunity to go and win the game.
“We’ll continue to grind until we find our rhythm and confidence in the final third, but we want to challenge individuals and the collective to bring more in the final third.”

Rashford must fight for Man Utd place, says Ten Hag

Updated 08 December 2023

Rashford must fight for Man Utd place, says Ten Hag

  • “Rashford is an incredible, good player,” Ten Hag said on Friday
  • “You can’t do it with 11 players, he can’t play every game”

LONDON: Erik ten Hag says it is up to Marcus Rashford to force his way back into the Manchester United side after he was dropped for the midweek win against Chelsea.
The England international was left out of the starting line-up for the 2-1 win at Old Trafford after a string of disappointing performances, with his attitude questioned after last week’s 1-0 defeat at Newcastle.
Rashford, 26, scored a career-high 30 times for United last season but has netted just twice in the current campaign.
“Rashford is an incredible, good player,” Ten Hag said on Friday. “You can’t do it with 11 players, he can’t play every game, he’s not in this moment in the form he was last year but I am sure he will get there.
“It is up to them (to get back into the side). The team will always line themselves up and the best players who form the best team will play.”
United face an in-form Bournemouth side at Old Trafford on Saturday, and Ten Hag has plenty to consider in his team selection with a must-win Champions League match against Bayern Munich to follow on Tuesday before they head to Liverpool next week.
“I think they have very good form, Bournemouth,” Ten Hag said.
“It’s a very good side, very well constructed, capable players, again you have to play your best.
“Everyone is killing everyone — you have to be 100 percent ready as a team for that game. That’s our job to do, to get there.”