Ahead of Asia Cup clash, Pakistan’s Babar speaks about mutual respect for India’s Kohli

Pakistan's captain Babar Azam, left, and India's Virat Kohli take a walk on the pitch before the start of the ICC mens T20 World Cup cricket match at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on October 24, 2021. (Photo courtesy: ICC/File)
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Updated 01 September 2023
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Ahead of Asia Cup clash, Pakistan’s Babar speaks about mutual respect for India’s Kohli

  • Pakistan lock horns with India on Saturday for an Asia Cup 2023 fixture in Kandy, Sri Lanka
  • Last year, Virat Kohli lavished praise on Babar Azam, referring to him as the top batter in the world

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s all-format cricket captain Babar Azam spoke about the mutual respect he had for former Indian skipper Virat Kohli on Thursday, saying it was a “proud moment” for him to hear that the former Indian skipper had praised him.

Cricket analysts and commentators count both Azam and Kohli among the best batters in modern-day cricket, while fans in cricket-mad India and Pakistan have always indulged in heated debates over who is the better batter of the two.

In April 2021, Azam ended Kohli’s 41-month reign over the ODI batting charts by becoming the top-ranked batter in the format. The Pakistani captain has held on to the spot ever since and despite the famed India-Pakistan rivalry, both cricketers have always treagted each other with respect. Speaking to Indian channel Star Sports last year, Kohli had said he had always received respect and admiration from Azam, describing him as “probably the top batsman in the world across formats.”

“It feels really good when someone passes such comments about you,” Azam told Star Sports in a video message. “And the way Virat Kohli has given these comments about me, it is a proud moment for me and it felt really good.”

Azam recalled meeting Kohli in 2019 for the first time, saying the former Indian skipper was at his peak as a batter back then and still is.

“I wanted to take something from his game, I learnt a lot from him,” Azam said. “He gave a detailed explanation to all my questions. That helped me.

“When you do such things for each other, it feels really good.”

Azam and Kohli both have impressive ODI careers to their name. Azam, whose recent knock was a match-winning 151 against Nepal, averages 59.47 in ODIs with 5,353 runs to his name. He has 19 ODI hundreds, the second most for Pakistan in the format.

Kohli has 12,898 runs at an average of 57.32 in ODIs. He has 46 ODI hundreds to his name, which is the second most in the format’s history.

Kohli and Azam will be face to face as opponents once again on Saturday in Kandy, Sri Lanka when traditional rivals Pakistan and India will lock horns for an Asia Cup 2023 fixture. The two neighbors, who have fought three wars since gaining independence from British colonial India in 1947, only play each other at international tournaments.


108 drivers gearing up for all-female 2024 Rally Jameel

Updated 26 February 2024
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108 drivers gearing up for all-female 2024 Rally Jameel

  • Participants from 38 countries will tackle a new route in the contest’s third edition between March 4-8

JEDDAH: The stage is set for Saudi Arabia’s all-female Rally Jameel, with 108 competitors from 38 countries poised to take on a challenging new route for the race’s third edition.

This year’s edition, themed “She Shifts the World,” begins in Hail on March 4 and concludes at King Abdullah Economic City on International Women’s Day, March 8.

The all-women’s off-road navigation rally includes five stages and covers 1,600 km of Saudi Arabia’s off-road terrain.

The 2024 Rally Jameel will traverse Hail, AlUla, Umluj, Yanbu, and KAEC in Rabigh.

The endurance competition is based more on precision driving and navigating than speed, with drivers having to utilize maps, compasses and roadbooks.

The event is supported by the FIA’s Women in Motorsport and the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation.

Munir Khoja, managing director, marketing communications at Abdul Latif Jameel Motors, said: “As we gear up for the third edition, we are deeply encouraged by the growing interest from participants, particularly on an international scale, with a remarkable increase in global participation from 38 countries, compared to 15 in the inaugural edition of the rally.”

“This enthusiasm underscores our commitment to support Saudi Arabia’s vision for empowering women,” he added. “With the addition of new and more challenging routes, we continue to champion and contribute to the advancement of motorsport regionally and globally, representing the core values of Rally Jameel. We extend our gratitude to all our partners, organizers, and sponsors for making this event a reality.”


Jon Albon edges out Ryan Atkins to win Tough Mudder Infinity at AlUla

Updated 26 February 2024
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Jon Albon edges out Ryan Atkins to win Tough Mudder Infinity at AlUla

  • The Brit defeated his Canadian rival to claim $80,000 prize, while Alisa Petrova triumphed in the women’s race
  • Over 1,000 athletes competed for record pot of $480,000, with over 40 countries represented

ALULA: Jon Albon and Alisa Petrova were the respective men’s and women’s winners of the inaugural Tough Mudder Infinity event, which took place in AlUla with an overall prize pot of $480,000, the largest in obstacle course racing history.

The race featured over 1,000 participants for the first event of its kind in the Middle East North Africa region. More than 40 countries were represented, and there were also several local athletes participating including Nelly Attar, the first Arab woman to climb K2, and Rakan Al-Thaqafi, a Saudi Arabian amateur boxing champion.

As expected, the men’s race came down to a battle between long-time rivals and obstacle course racing legends Albon, from the UK, and Canada’s Ryan Atkins. The two men have been involved in several epic contests over the years and this was no exception, as they led from the front for long spells. It was the Brit who eventually crossed the line to take the $80,000 prize, with Mark Batres, from the US, finishing third.

“It was tough, it was a tough course in its own way, the sand and the terrain and the fact it was flat made it really challenging as your legs got stiff on the sand,” Alton said.

“It was over two years since I last did an obstacle course race, so it was nice to come back and find out whether I can do some obstacles. I really enjoyed the rings — I realized I hadn’t lost my touch.”

On the prize money, he added: “Not too shabby — it’s the best payday I’ve had from a race which is the cherry on the cake.”

He also provided his thoughts on AlUla. “I had no idea where I was coming, the rock formations were nice and then I went into the Old Town — it was the most interesting town, lit up old school buildings in the valley of these cliffs. It was a nice place, it’s going to develop so quickly and it’s interesting to see how many events will come here in the future.”

The women’s race was equally exciting, as Petrova edged out the US’ Nicole Mericle and Switzerland’s Janka Pepova to walk away with the $80,000.

She said: “It was the first Tough Mudder race I’ve ever done — I’ve never ran so long before. I did 90 km, the longest race I did.

“I tried sky running before, which was 50 km, and it was so tough. The last two laps were so tough and my body started rejecting food and I could only drink water.

“My legs are so sore, and I’m so tired but so happy. First time winning a big race — I’ve never been first at a world championship. Thanks to my training, my supporters, and my husband, I’m so happy. Now I need to eat and sleep.”

There were also competitions for teams of two and four.

The two-person race was won by French duo Thibault Jean and Gregory Basilico, who finished ahead of Tyler Veerman and Kris Brown.

In the four-person race, meanwhile, it was the European elite, made up of Jesse de Heer, Stijn Lagrand, Luca Pezzani and Goncalo Prudencio, who came out on top.

Nic Cartwright, Tough Mudder Middle East license holder, said: “We’re thrilled to bring the first ever Tough Mudder Infinity in the Middle East, right here in AlUla, Saudi Arabia. Athletes from over 40 nations battled it out for the largest prize pool in OCR history, while a total of 1,000 participants pushed their limits across all race courses — a testament to the growing sport of obstacle course racing in the region.

“Our incredible partners at the Royal Commission of AlUla were instrumental in bringing this vision to life and showcasing AlUla’s breathtaking landscape to the world. After this successful inaugural event, we look forward to bringing more exciting OCR experiences to the region in years to come.”


England take three wickets but India closing in on series victory in 4th test

Updated 26 February 2024
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England take three wickets but India closing in on series victory in 4th test

  • India were 118-3 at lunch on Monday, needing 74 more runs to attain unassailable 3-1 lead in series
  • Skipper Rohit Sharma shared an 84-run opening stand with Yashasvi Jaiswal to give India upper hand

RANCHI, India: Rohit Sharma scored a half century to set India on course for victory on day four of the fourth test, before England snared three wickets to keep their slightest hopes alive of achieving a dramatic turnaround.

India was 118-3 at lunch on Monday, needing 74 more runs for victory and an unassailable 3-1 series lead in the five-test series.

Sharma shared an 84-run opening stand with Yashasvi Jaiswal, before the latter was spectacularly caught by veteran James Anderson off Joe Root for 37 to give the tourists a much-needed breakthrough against the seemingly comfortable Indian opening pair.

Jaiswal’s wicket sparked a mini-collapse as India went from 84-0 to 100-3 inside nine overs as England sniffed a chance of victory.

Left-arm spinner Tom Hartley had Sharma caught behind in the 26th over for 55. It was initially judged as a stumping, but on review, the television umpire also detected an edge from the batter while keeper Ben Foakes held on to a sharp catch.

Off-spinner Shoaib Bashir then had Rajat Patidar caught at short leg for a six-ball duck as India lost its second wicket in eight deliveries.

Shubman Gill (18 not out) and Ravindra Jadeja (3 not out) watchfully navigated the remaining overs before lunch, with a grandstand finish in the offing.

At the break, Gill was batting on 18 runs with Jadeja (3 not out), and England stayed in the hunt needing another seven wickets for an improbable win.
India has a 2-1 lead in the five-test series, after winning back-to-back tests in Visakhapatnam and Rajkot by 106 and 434 runs, respectively. England had won the first test in Hyderabad by 28 runs.


Jokic powers Denver over Warriors as Giannis leads Bucks’ victory

Updated 26 February 2024
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Jokic powers Denver over Warriors as Giannis leads Bucks’ victory

  • It was Jokic’s third career game with at least 30 points, 15 rebounds and 15 assists
  • Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 36 points and the Thunder won their fifth consecutive game

SAN FRANCISCO: Nikola Jokic posted his 18th triple double of the season to lead reigning NBA champion Denver’s 119-103 victory at Golden State on Sunday.

The 29-year-old Serbian center, a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player, had 32 points, 16 rebounds and 16 assists plus four steals while Jamal Murray added 27 points for the Nuggets.

Klay Thompson came off the bench to lead the Warriors with 23 points, but none in the second half, while Stephen Curry added 20 in the matchup of the past two NBA title winners.

“They are literally the Warriors. They are champions. They are a tough team to beat,” Jokic said. “But 103 points in this arena is really good for our defense.”

It was Jokic’s third career game with at least 30 points, 15 rebounds and 15 assists — passing Wilt Chamberlain for the second most in NBA history behind Oscar Robertson.

It was Jokic’s sixth career game with 15 rebounds and 15 assists to pass Magic Johnson for fourth on the all-time list.

Jokic, who hit 13-of-24 shots from the floor, also became the first NBA player with 14 rebounds and 14 assists in three consecutive games.

Thompson had 16 points in the first quarter on 4-of-6 3-point shooting, but the Nuggets (39-19) closed the second quarter on a 14-0 run to equalize at 61-61 at half-time, then reeled off a 14-0 run early in the third quarter to seize command.

“That run 14-0 at the end of the second quarter when we got the game back into control, and we went up 10 points in the third quarter, I think that stretch helped us take control and we controled the game the whole way,” Jokic said.

It was Denver’s seventh consecutive triumph in games against Golden State (29-27) and 10th in their past 11 matchups.

At Philadelphia, Greek star Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 30 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and passed off nine assists to lead Milwaukee’s 119-98 rout.

New Bucks coach Doc Rivers collected a victory over his former club, the 76ers having fired Rivers last May after three seasons guiding the franchise. Milwaukee hired Rivers last month to replace fired Adrian Griffin.

“It was awesome,” Rivers said of his return. “I had three good years here. I enjoyed my stay. This was good. There were a couple hilarious comments.”

Damian Lillard added 24 points, nine assists and seven rebounds while Malik Beasley added 20 points as the Bucks hit 43-of-79 shots from the floor (54.4 percent) and kept the Sixers to 36-of-97 (37.1 percent) shooting.

Milwaukee seized a 69-48 half-time lead and stayed in command to the finish despite some second-half stumbles.

“We came out and played hard in the first two quarters,” two-time NBA MVP Antetokounmpo said. “In the third quarter we were a little bit sloppy. But going into the fourth quarter I think we did our best job just finding one another, making the right plays offensively.”

The Sixers, playing without injured reigning NBA MVP Joel Embiid, had 24 points from Tyrese Maxey.

At Houston, Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 36 points and the Thunder won their fifth consecutive game, beating the host Rockets 123-110 to grab a share of the Western Conference lead with Minnesota at 40-17.

At Phoenix, Grayson Allen scored 24 points and Kevin Durant added 22 to lead the host Suns over the Los Angeles Lakers 123-113.

LeBron James led the Lakers with 28 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds while Anthony Davis had 22 points and 14 rebounds.

In Los Angeles meanwhile, the Clippers were outgunned 123-107 by the Sacramento Kings, De’Aaron Fox leading the way for the visitors with 33 points.

Indiana center Myles Turner scored 33 points to lead the host Pacers over Dallas 133-111. The Mavericks saw their seven-game win streak snapped despite 33 points for Luka Doncic and 29 from Kyrie Irving.

Cleveland’s Jarrett Allen had 22 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Cavaliers’ 114-105 victory at Washington.

DeMar DeRozan scored 24 points to lead Chicago in a 114-106 victory at New Orleans while Finnish forward Lauri Markkanen scored 26 points to lead Utah’s 128-109 home win over San Antonio.

Atlanta beat visiting Orlando 109-92 behind Dejounte Murray’s 25 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds, but the Hawks lost scoring leader Trae Young for at least four weeks due to surgery Tuesday to repair a torn left pinkie ligament.


Luka Modric comes off the bench to give Spanish leader Real Madrid 1-0 win over Sevilla

Updated 26 February 2024
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Luka Modric comes off the bench to give Spanish leader Real Madrid 1-0 win over Sevilla

  • Madrid’s victory kept them eight points above Barcelona and nine clear of Girona, who play Rayo on Monday
  • Darwin Machis’ goal deep in injury time snatched Cadiz a 2-2 draw with Celta Vigo in a meeting of two teams in danger of relegation

BARCELONA: Luka Modric leapt atop the advertising board, pumped his arms and joined the collective roar of the Santiago Bernabeu.

The veteran Real Madrid star, who has seen his minutes shrink this season, had just become the hero for the Spanish league leaders with a scorching winner after coming off the bench in a 1-0 win over Sevilla on Sunday.

The normally calm Croat was possibly shouting for more than joy as he celebrated just his second goal of the season. Perhaps there was a bit of vindication, of showing everyone — Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti included — that he could still decide games even in an increasingly young Madrid squad.

The 38-year-old Modric collected a deflection with one touch before unleashing a powerful strike from outside the area that grazed the post before finding the net in the 81st minute. Modric had gone on just six minutes before with the leaders stymied in attack without injured top scorer Jude Bellingham.

“It is what always happens. We never give up. We have shown it many times, that this is a part of Real Madrid’s DNA,” Modric said about his goal. “We knew that today it was important not to let points get away because Barcelona would have closed the gap and we couldn’t allow that. Our insistence throughout all the game bore its fruit.”

Modric has helped Madrid win five Champions League titles and the player won the 2018 Ballon d’Or award. This season, with Bellingham replacing him in the starting 11, he has mostly been the subject of speculation about whether his playing days in Madrid’s all-white are nearing their end.

“It is very difficult to leave (Modric) on the bench, but every day he is an example for the entire squad,” Ancelotti said. “It is in Luka’s hands to decide what he does next season, and we are just waiting for his decision. It is difficult to manage (a situation like his) and I understand perfectly what Modric may be thinking when he does not play because I went through it as a player.”

Madrid was heading toward a second straight draw after being held 1-1 at Rayo Vallecano in the last round of games. Another stumble would have given Barcelona reason to hope that it might just be able to mount a challenge after it overtook Girona for second place on Saturday.

Madrid’s victory kept them eight points above Barcelona and nine clear of Girona, who play Rayo on Monday.

This was the third game that Bellingham, the league’s top scorer with 16 goals, has missed with a left ankle sprain.

NICO SENT OFF

Nico Williams was sent off with two quick yellow cards to leave Athletic Bilbao with 10 players just before halftime in their 3-1 loss at Real Betis.

The Spain winger got his first card for a foul and compounded that by earning a second booking for his apparently sarcastic applause of the referee.

The loss meant Athletic failed to take advantage of Atletico Madrid’s 2-2 draw at bottom side Almeria on Saturday. Athletic remained in fifth place at three points behind fourth-place Atletico. Betis moved into sixth, seven points behind Athletic.

Chimy Ávila scored his first goal for Betis since joining from Osasuna in the winter transfer window to take the 13th-minute lead. Yuri Berchiche added an own-goal before Williams was sent off in the 40th.

Gorka Guruzeta’s goal gave Athletic some hope in the 52nd, but Betis midfielder Johnny Cardoso added a third with a strike from the edge of the area in the 67th.

In the first half, an assistant referee had to leave the match after she ran into a television camera and cut her head.

LAST-GASP EQUALIZER

Darwin Machis’ goal deep in injury time snatched Cadiz a 2-2 draw with Celta Vigo in a meeting of two teams in danger of relegation.

Iago Aspas and Williot Swedberg gave Celta a 2-0 advantage before Juanmi Jimenez pulled one back for the hosts in the 66th. Rafa Benitez’s side was still eyeing a victory until Machis curled a shot in from the corner of the area just before the final whistle.

Celta, in 17th, remained the last team clinging to safety while 18th-place Cadiz was in the drop zone at three points behind.

“You think you have it in the bag, you are up 2-0, and they score two goals on plays we could have stopped, so it is obvious we missed an opportunity,” Benítez said. “We didn’t know how to manage those final minutes.”