Pakistan skipper Babar Azam secures ICC Player of the Month award for August

Pakistan's Babar Azam plays a shot during the third and final one-day international (ODI) cricket match between Pakistan and Afghanistan at the R. Premadasa Stadium in Colombo on August 26, 2023. (AFP/File)
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Updated 12 September 2023

Pakistan skipper Babar Azam secures ICC Player of the Month award for August

  • The Pakistan captain has become the first male cricketer to win the award on three separate occasions
  • Azam secured the accolade following last month’s dazzling performances, including 150-plus against Nepal

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan skipper Babar Azam was crowned ICC Men’s Player of the Month on Tuesday following a scintillating series of scores last month that included notable run-scoring feats against Afghanistan and a glittering century against Nepal.
Azam was nominated for the prestigious award along with another team member and all-rounder Shadab Khan last week for their outstanding performances. The Pakistan captain’s accomplishment has made him the first men’s player to win the award on three separate occasions, after previous triumphs in April 2021 and March 2022.
Reacting to the development, Azam said he was delighted to be named ICC Player of the Month for August 2023.
“The past month has been extraordinary for my team and I as we have put some terrific performances,” an ICC statement quoted him as saying. “With the Asia Cup coming to Pakistan after such a long time, it was great to play in front of the passionate and cricket-loving crowds of Multan and Lahore. That I scored my second ODI score of 150-plus in front of my own people in Multan doubled the joy.”
“I am looking forward to making the most of the form as we head into an exciting phase of cricket with the backend of the Asia Cup nearing and the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup around the corner,” he continued. “My team and I are eager to bring joy and happiness to the millions of Pakistan fans.”
The Pakistan skipper started the ODI series against Afghanistan quietly last month. However, his form returned in the last two fixtures, where scores of 53 and 60 helped secure the series sweep for Pakistan.
On the back of these strong displays, Azam then saved his best performance for his last August outing – the opening Asia Cup fixture against Nepal in Multan.
At one stage 25 for two, he displayed control and flair in stabilizing the Pakistan innings, before launching a wave of aggressive strokes to propel them to a mammoth 342 score, eventually ending with 151 from 131 balls.
In total, his 264 runs in the month came at an average of 66 and at a strike rate of 92.30.
Azam was also congratulated by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) for winning the coveted ICC award.

Dakar Rally hits sands of Saudi Arabia for fifth time

Updated 06 December 2023

Dakar Rally hits sands of Saudi Arabia for fifth time

  • 2024 rally is shaping up to outdo its predecessors with a new course that commences in Al-Ula and finishes in Yanbu
  • Event will host 590 participants from 187 teams in the main Dakar Rally and an additional 174 in the Dakar Classic category

JEDDAH: It is all systems go as the Dakar Rally hits the sands of Saudi Arabia for the fifth time. The 2024 rally, from January 5 to 19, is shaping up to outdo its predecessors with a new course that commences in Al-Ula, passes through the Empty Quarter, and finishes in Yanbu.

Come the New Year, the global motorsport community will turn its gaze to Saudi Arabia for an exhilarating event featuring 778 drivers and navigators from 72 nations, including a significant presence from France, Spain, and Italy. The event will host 590 participants from 187 teams in the main Dakar Rally and an additional 174 in the Dakar Classic category. Competitors are categorized into 135 Rookies, 129 Legends, and 31 contenders in the Original by Motul Challenge. Female participation is notable, with 46 women competing, 34 of whom will be in the classic category.

In Dakar Rally 2024, 434 vehicles will take part, spanning a variety of classes such as cars, motorcycles, quad bikes, trucks, and lightweight vehicles in the T3 and T4 categories, along with a special segment for classic vehicles in the Dakar Classic category. Specifically, there will be 75 cars and 46 trucks vying for victory in the 2024 rally hosted by Saudi Arabia. The motorcycle segment is robust with 137 two-wheelers and 10 quads set to race. Additionally, the rally will feature 42 T3 and 36 T4 class vehicles. The Classic category will also be well-represented with 66 classic cars and 14 trucks joining the competition.

These figures are provisional until the technical inspection of all vehicles is completed. This is a precursor to the eagerly awaited annual event, part of the W2RC World Desert Rally Championship. The event is drawing near and is organized under the governance of the International Automobile Federation (FIA) and the International Motorcycling Federation (FIM).

Al-Shabab manager Igor Biscan all business as former Liverpool teammate comes to town

Updated 06 December 2023

Al-Shabab manager Igor Biscan all business as former Liverpool teammate comes to town

  • The Roshn Saudi League battle of the former Reds takes place on Dec. 7
  • Igor Biscan: We’re not really in a position to think about anything else apart from getting as many points as we can as soon as we can

RIYADH: Igor Biscan says it will be strictly business when he faces former Liverpool teammate Steven Gerrard in a fascinating clash in the Roshn Saudi League.

Biscan, appointed Al-Shabab manager in mid-October, goes head-to-head in a home game against Gerrard’s Al-Ettifaq on Thursday night. The two played together at Anfield for five years, helping the English club to a memorable Champions League triumph in 2005.

Al-Shabab, currently 12th in the table, go into Thursday’s game after three matches without a win. Al-Ettifaq, five places above them, are four league games without victory.

Biscan said: “It’s a big, important game for us because of the points, first and foremost. The other things are always interesting — seeing a former teammate, somebody like Steven — but we will not have too much time to enjoy ourselves.

“We’re not really in a position to think about anything else apart from getting as many points as we can as soon as we can. They have many more points than us in the table, but they are also not in a great period — in the last few games they have lost or didn’t win.”

Biscan was critical of his team following a 2-1 home loss to Al-Taawoun last weekend. Al-Shabab led 1-0 at the interval through a cheeky Panenka penalty by Yannick Carrasco that clipped the underside of the bar. But “a different team came out of the dressing room for the second half,” and Al-Taawoun came back strongly to run out deserved winners.

Speaking about Al-Ettifaq, Biscan added: “They’re a tough team to play against and we need to prepare ourselves not only for one half, but for 90-plus minutes. That’s the only way we can win any game in the future.”

Gerrard also criticized his side after their recent loss. Al-Ettifaq went down 1-0 at Al-Okhdood, who climbed to 15th in the 18-team league.

Gerrard said: “I apologize to our fans. The performance was far from what we intended.”

Al-Shabab versus Al-Ettifaq kicks off on Thursday at 9 p.m. Saudi time at Al-Shabab’s stadium in Riyadh.

E-visas available for 2023 FIFA Club World Cup ticket holders

Updated 06 December 2023

E-visas available for 2023 FIFA Club World Cup ticket holders

Riyadh: The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs revealed on Wednesday that electronic visas would be available to ticket holders for the 2023 FIFA Club World Cup in Jeddah.

The move has been made in cooperation with the Ministry of Sport.

“The step aims to facilitate travel procedures to the Kingdom for football fans to attend the 2023 Club World Cup matches, and also aims to provide the best possible experience for fans to visit the Kingdom and support their clubs during the tournament in an enthusiastic atmosphere,” a ministry statement said.

Ticket holders can apply online for an e-visa to attend the tournament’s games.

The Kingdom will host the competition from Dec. 12 to 22, with the participation of Al-Ittihad, the Roshn Saudi League champions for the 2022 to 2023 season.

Gold, glory and remarkable comebacks on day 13 of Saudi Games 2023

Updated 06 December 2023

Gold, glory and remarkable comebacks on day 13 of Saudi Games 2023

  • Al-Shabab clinch gold in women’s futsal
  • Men’s Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr clubs advance to basketball finals

RIYADH: There were celebrations for Al-Shabab’s women’s futsal team, who took gold following a 4-0 triumph over Al-Nassr in the final of the competition.

The medal was awarded by Adwaa Al-Arifi, assistant minister for sports affairs, witnessed by Lamia Bahaian, vice president of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation. The bronze medal was clinched by Al-Hilal after an impressive 11-0 victory over Al-Qadisiyah.

Sahari snatches paralympic table tennis gold

Rami Sahari from Al-Riyadh took gold in the men’s paralympic table tennis competition, with clubmate Thamer Habshan winning silver. Bronze went to Al-Sharqiya’s Abdulrahman Bamusa.

The medals were awarded by Abdulaziz Baeshe, CEO and secretary-general of the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee, in the presence of Dr. Abdullah Al-Bar, president of the Saudi Table Tennis Federation.

Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr advance to basketball finals

The upcoming men’s basketball tournament finals, set for Dec. 7 at 6 p.m., will see Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr face each other in the green hall at Prince Faisal bin Fahad Olympic Complex.

Al-Hilal emerged victorious in yesterday’s semifinals with an 81-51 win against Al-Ahli, while Al-Nassr narrowly defeated Ohud 75-73. Ohud and Al-Ahli will compete at 4 p.m., ahead of the final, to decide third place.

Three wins in youth handball

Al-Khaleej secured a 33-23 victory over Al-Ibtisam in the group 3 matches as part of the youth handball competitions, hosted at King Saud University’s main arena on Tuesday. Mudhar emerged victorious in group 2, scoring 31-20 against Al-Ahli, while in the same group, Al-Hilal narrowly overcame Al-Qarah 20-18.

There are two matches scheduled in group 1 on Dec. 6. Al-Hazem will face Al-Hada in the first, with Al-Wehda later going up against Al-Noor.

Men’s handball qualification battles begin

In men’s handball, Al-Noor defeated Al-Rawdah 38-26 during the group 3 matches. In Group 4, Al-Hada emerged victorious against Al-Adalah with a score of 32-24, and Al-Wehda overpowered Al-Hazem 32-19.

The schedule for Wednesday, Dec 6., features four exciting matches. In group 1, Al-Jeel will go head-to-head with Al-Zulfi, while Al-Qarah will face off against Mudhar. In group 2, Al-Njoom is set to compete against Al-Muheet and Al-Safa take on Al-Khaleej.

Women’s basketball final to feature Jeddah United and Al-Asima

The final showdown in the women’s basketball competition will be between Jeddah United and Al-Asima. The game, scheduled for noon on Dec. 7, will take place in the Ministry of Sport hall at Prince Faisal bin Fahad Olympic Complex. Third place will be determined between Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad in a match starting at 10 a.m.

Today’s semifinals saw Jeddah United, last year’s champions, take a convincing 53-29 win over Al-Ittihad, while Al-Asima triumphed 58-41 over Hilal.

Eight groups in padel

The padel competition kicked off yesterday morning at Riyadh’s N1 padel center, with competitors divided into four men’s and four women’s groups. The group stage will conclude today, Dec. 6, with the quarterfinals on Thursday and the semifinals on Friday. The finals in each category will take place on Dec. 9. 

Three weight categories in mixed martial arts

The two-day mixed martial arts contest starts today at King Saud University’s swimming hall in Riyadh with its quarterfinal weight categories, including the 61 kg, 70 kg, and 83 kg divisions. The finals for each category will take place on Thursday.

Jujitsu begins today

The jujitsu competitions, which start today, Dec. 6, at King Saud University’s multipurpose hall in Riyadh, will include women’s under 60 kg and over 60 kg categories alongside the men’s under 66 kg, under 77 kg, and over 88 kg divisions.

Boxer Majrashi’s inspiring comeback

The boxing ring at King Saud University bore witness to a remarkable comeback spanning an entire year. Saudi boxer Zeyed Majrashi, representing Al-Shabab, faced numerous challenges and setbacks following his defeat by Mohammed Al-Kreedis of Al-Hilal the previous season. Majrashi settled for silver in the 57 kg category in the 2022 Saudi Games.

Determined to secure the gold this year, Majrashi embarked on a year-long journey of rigorous training, intensive camps and both domestic and international competitions.

The pivotal moment arrived on Nov. 29, with Majrashi facing the same opponent who had defeated him previously. When the final bell rang Majrashi was awarded the gold, marking an incredible achievement following a year of relentless dedication. Speaking about his comeback, Majrashi said every goal was achievable when hard work met determination and desire.

Pakistan skipper Shan Masood hits century in Australia warm-up

Updated 06 December 2023

Pakistan skipper Shan Masood hits century in Australia warm-up

  • Masood steer Pakistan to 324-6 at stumps on the opening day of the four-day fixture
  • Pakistan will face Australia in three Tests, in Perth, Melbourne and Sydney, from Dec. 14

SYDNEY: New Pakistan skipper Shan Masood hit an unbeaten 156 on Wednesday in a warm-up match in Canberra ahead of their three-Test series against Australia.
After winning the toss and opting to bat against a Prime Minister’s XI, he came to the crease when opener Imam-ul-Haq was dismissed for nine.
Masood batted for the rest of the day, smashing 13 fours and a six to steer Pakistan to 324-6 at stumps on the opening day of the four-day fixture.
Sarfaraz Ahmed made 41 and star batter Babar Azam, who stood down as captain in all formats of the game after their disastrous one-day World Cup, hit 40.
Australia’s bowlers labored on a flat pitch at Manuka Oval with speedster Jordan Buckingham the pick with 3-63.
All-rounder Cameron Green, who has been sidelined from the Test side by Mitchell Marsh, did not turn his arm.
It proved a long day in the field for aspiring Australian Test openers Cameron Bancroft, Marcus Harris and Matt Renshaw, who are vying to replace David Warner when he retires from the longer format after the Pakistan series.
The visitors meet Australia in three Tests — in Perth, Melbourne and Sydney — from December 14.