Italy, bad weather hand Saudi Arabia’s cricketers first defeat of 2024 in CWC Challenge League playoff

Saudi Arabia suffered their first defeat of 2024 on Friday as they fell to Italy in a weather-affected match in the ICC Cricket World Cup Challenge League playoff in Kuala Lumpur. (X/@cricketsaudi)
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Updated 24 February 2024
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Italy, bad weather hand Saudi Arabia’s cricketers first defeat of 2024 in CWC Challenge League playoff

  • A top-three finish and qualification for the Super Sixes stage of the tournament is still within Saudi Arabia’s grasp

LONDON: Saudi Arabia suffered their first defeat of 2024 on Friday as they fell to Italy in a weather-affected match in the ICC Cricket World Cup Challenge League playoff in Kuala Lumpur.

The 50-over competition is a step on the qualification route for the World Cup, which is to be held in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia in 2027.

The Greens, who recently won the 20-over ACC Challenger Cup in Thailand as well as a quadrangular T20 series in Bangkok against the hosts, had notched up a win in their first match against Kuwait on Thursday.

Saudi Arabia were chasing a total of 285 for victory after the Italians had notched up 284 runs for the loss of seven wickets from their 50 overs.

South African-born Wayne Madsen high-scored with the bat for Italy, bringing up 103 runs from 92 deliveries.

The Saudi bowling attack shared the load and six players grabbed wickets, while Usman Najeeb ended up with the best figures with two wickets for 40 runs.

Saudi Arabia were hampered by inclement weather, which cut short their innings with just over 12 overs left to bowl.

Despite the best efforts of captain Hisham Shaikh, who scored an unbeaten 60, and lower-order batsman Waji-ul-Hassan, who contributed 43 runs from 38 balls, the Greens were well behind the run-rate when the match fell victim to the weather, and lost the match by 52 runs under the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method.

A top-three finish and qualification for the Super Sixes stage of the tournament is still within Saudi Arabia’s grasp, especially if they can get a positive result in their final group match against Bermuda on Sunday.


Abu Dhabi-backed MMA championship makes successful France debut

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Abu Dhabi-backed MMA championship makes successful France debut

  • Benoit Saint Denis, Espen Mathiesen, Ffion Davies, Khaled Al-Shehhi emerge as champions at ADXC in Paris

ABU DHABI: Some of the world’s best grapplers and jiu-jitsu athletes participated this past weekend in the ADXC 4 championships at the Dojo de Paris in France.

 

The Grappling Main Event at the fourth edition of the Abu Dhabi Extreme Championship featured the long-awaited duel between UFC powerhouses Benoit Saint Denis and Marc Diakiese go the way of the home favorite.

 

Fighting in his homeland, Saint Denis used his grappling prowess to emerge victorious in the ADXC cage. Saint Denis almost submitted England’s Diakiese in the first round, but the latter managed to survive to go five rounds.

 

Norway’s Espen Mathiesen is now a two-time ADXC champion after defeating France’s Leon Larman in the Jiu-Jitsu Main Event. The Norwegian athlete played to his strength and defeated his opponent with a collar choke in the first round.

 

In the Grappling Co-Main Event, Wales’ Ffion Davies beat her opponent Morgan Black in the second round with an armbar, after intense pressure in the first round.

 

In the Jiu-Jitsu Co-Main Event, Khaled Al-Shehhi and Leonardo Mario found themselves evenly matched over the five rounds of three minutes each. Al-Shehhi started with a takedown, followed with a submission attempt and, when that did not work, used the single-leg to press Leonardo against the cage wall.

 

Mario applied pressure on Al-Shehhi’s guard, but the UAE powerhouse had a better run in the duel, using his technique to attack on top and even reach the side. Ultimately, Al-Shehhi did enough to convince the majority of the referees and won with a split decision.

 

In another matchup between MMA athletes, Abdul-Kareem Al-Selwady controlled Amin Youb throughout the first two rounds, even managing to mount in the third. Youb attempted to attack with a guillotine, but Al-Selwady managed to avoid the danger and convinced the referees, who unanimously decided in favor of the “Pride of Palestine.”

 

In a well-balanced fight between purple belts, the UAE’s Shamma Al-Kalbani took on Lina Grosset of France. The first round saw both athletes exchanging foot attacks while the following one brought a little more movement, with reversals and guard-passing attempts. The third and final round saw Grosset putting on pressure from the top, but Al-Kalbani dished out some sneaky attacks and won via split decision.

 

 

ADXC 4 results:

 

Main Event: Benoit Saint Denis defeated Marc Diakiese via unanimous decision.

 

Espen Mathiesen defeated Leon Larman via collar choke.

 

Co-Main Event: Ffion Davies defeated Morgan Black via armbar.

 

Khaled Al-Shehhi defeated Leonardo Mario via split decision.

 

Main Card

 

Abdul-Kareem Al-Sewady defeated Amin Youb via unanimous decision.

 

Cassio Silva defeated Marko Oikarainen via unanimous decision.

 

Nathiely de Jesus defeated Elizabeth Mitrovic via unanimous decision.

 

Nia Blackman defeated Magdalena Loska via split decision.

 

Steven Ray defeated Ibrahima Mane via guillotine.

 

Preliminary Card

 

Youness Bennouali defeated Florian Bayili via split decision.

 

Geo Martinez defeated Nicolas Renier via heel hook.

 

Kalim Mastouri defeated Luca Anacoreta via unanimous decision.

 

Kasper Larsen defeated Alexander Alexandrov via rear-naked choke.

 

Shamma Al-Kalbani defeated Lina Grosset via split decision.


Saudi Arabia hosts Red Bull Four 2 Score Championship

Updated 23 min 1 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia hosts Red Bull Four 2 Score Championship

RIYADH: The Red Bull Four 2 Score Championship is returning to Saudi Arabia for its second edition from May 24 to June 7.

The tournament will feature teams of four players each competing in local qualifiers across three Saudi Arabia cities, culminating in a national final. The ultimate goal for participants is to win an all-inclusive trip to the world final in Germany later this year.

The event is being held in partnership with Red Bull Mobile, Subway and the Kingdom’s Ministry of Sports and Sports for All Federation.

Qualifiers will take place in five stages in Riyadh and Jeddah, with the national final scheduled for June 7 in Abha.

The tournament’s rules and concept are designed to showcase Red Bull’s “power football” philosophy. In the first and last 60 seconds of the 10-minute matches, goals are doubled. There are no breaks or goalies, emphasizing the importance of scoring at critical moments. Both male and female players aged 16 to 35 are eligible to participate.

The two winning teams from the female and male categories will represent Saudi Arabia alongside other international teams at the world final, hosted by RB Leipzig.


Timberwolves knock out defending champion Nuggets, Pacers oust Knicks

Updated 39 min 28 sec ago
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Timberwolves knock out defending champion Nuggets, Pacers oust Knicks

  • Timberwolves became the first team to come back from a halftime deficit of more than 11 points to win a Game 7
  • Minnesota will play the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference finals while the Pacers booked an Eastern Conference finals showdown with the top-seeded Boston Celtics

LOS ANGELES: The Minnesota Timberwolves erased a 20-point deficit to stun Denver 98-90, knocking the defending NBA champions out of the playoffs Sunday as Indiana ousted the New York Knicks.

Karl-Anthony Towns scored 23 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, Jaden McDaniels added 23 points and Anthony Edwards hit his stride late as the Timberwolves became the first team to come back from a halftime deficit of more than 11 points to win a Game 7.

The Pacers connected on an NBA playoff record 67.1 percent of their shots — making 53 of their 79 attempts from the floor — in a 130-109 Game 7 triumph over the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

Edwards, who has emerged as a star for the Timberwolves at 22, said poise was the key to Minnesota’s latest unlikely victory over three-time NBA Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets.

Down by 15 at halftime, Minnesota trailed by 20 early in the third. But Denver went cold as Edwards found his range and the Timberwolves cut the deficit to one point going into the fourth quarter.

Edwards, who scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half, said coach Chris Finch told him at the break to “play quicker.”

“If they’re going to continue to trap you, you got to make the right play and trust your teammates,” Edwards said. “We was just poised throughout the entire game. We just fought, fought.

“And KAT played spectacular tonight,” Edwards added of Towns. “He carried us tonight.”

Minnesota had pulled within one point going into the fourth quarter and took the lead for good on Rudy Gobert’s driving layup in the first minute of the final period.

Jokic scored 14 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter. He added 19 rebounds and seven assists and Jamal Murray scored 35 points but both said the Nuggets just missed too many shots.

“I felt like we got the shots we wanted and the opportunities were there,” Murray said.

The Timberwolves, who had rocked the Nuggets with two wins in Denver to open the series before dropping three straight games, closed it out with a blowout Game 6 win and their final comeback triumph.

“It’s a special moment,” Finch said. “This is a hell of a team with the best player on the planet. The series was wild, and this game was just a microcosm of the series.”

Minnesota will play the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference finals while the Pacers booked an Eastern Conference finals showdown with the top-seeded Boston Celtics.

Tyrese Haliburton scored 26 points while Pascal Siakam and Andrew Nembhard added 20 apiece as six Pacers players scored in double figures.

Donte DiVincenzo made nine three-pointers on the way to 39 points for the Knicks. Jalen Brunson scored 17 and handed out nine assists before departing with a broken left hand at the start of the fourth quarter — a final injury blow for the ravaged Knicks.

The Pacers broke through for their first road win of the series with a breathtaking offensive display in the first half, when they made 29 of their 38 shots for a 76.3 shooting percentage.

The Knicks cut a 15-point halftime deficit to six early in the third, but the Pacers had all the answers.

“Just a great game overall, top to bottom for us,” Haliburton said. “We hadn’t won on the road all series — we just found a way.”

The Knicks, chasing a first Eastern Conference finals berth since 2000, hurt their own cause with two costly turnovers on inbounds plays and the Pacers quickly pushed the lead back to 19 points.

The Knicks had hoped for a boost from forward OG Anunoby, who returned to the starting lineup after missing four games with a hamstring injury.

But Anunoby was clearly limited and departed in the first quarter as hurting teammate Josh Hart soldiered on despite an abdominal strain.

“Guys gave everything they had, and that’s all you could ask,” said Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau, who was without Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson and Bojan Bogdanovic for the playoffs.

“It was a battle all year and there was nothing left to give at the end.”


Whittaker and Chimaev to clash at Saudi Arabia’s inaugural UFC event

Updated 48 min 14 sec ago
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Whittaker and Chimaev to clash at Saudi Arabia’s inaugural UFC event

  • Dubai-based Chimaev is aiming to continue his undefeated streak and rise up the middleweight ranks

RIYADH: The UFC will mark its inaugural event in Saudi Arabia with a main event between No. 3-ranked Robert Whittaker and undefeated No. 10 Khamzat Chimaev on June 22.

Tickets for the event, organized in collaboration with the Kingdom’s General Entertainment Authority, are now on sale.

Former middleweight champion Whittaker (26-7-0), fighting out of Australia, returns to the Octagon with the aim to continue his winning streak.

A professional fighter since 2009, Whittaker made his mark by becoming middleweight champion at UFC 213, with his most recent win taking place against Brazil’s Paulo Costa at UFC 298.

Chimaev (13-0-0), fighting out of the UAE, aims to continue his undefeated streak. He has six wins by knockout, five by submission, and eight first-round finishes. At UFC 294, Chimaev defeated former welterweight world champion Kamaru “The Nigerian Nightmare” Usman in a middleweight bout.

Also on the card is Sergei Pavlovich (18-2) who takes on Alexander Volkov (37-10) in an all-Russia clash.

Other fights include Kelvin Gastelum (18-9-0, 1 no contest), fighting out of the US, taking on Daniel Rodriguez (17-4-0) also from the US, in a welterweight matchup.

Brazil’s Johnny Walker (21-8-0, 1 no contest), fighting out of Ireland, faces Volkan Oezdemir (19-7-0) from Sweden. And undefeated Shara “Bullet” Magomedov (12-0-0), fighting out of Russia, takes on newcomer Joilton Lutterbach (38-10-0) from Germany.

For Arab fans, Nasrat Haqparast (16-5-0), fighting out of Morocco, clashes with Jared “Flash” Gordon (20-6-0, 1 no contest), from the US, in the lightweight division. And Abu Azaitar (14-4-1), fighting out of Morocco, takes on Denis Tiuliulin (10-9-0, 1 no contest) from Russia, at light-heavyweight.


Zverev serves his way to Italian Open title and sets himself up as a contender in Paris

Updated 20 May 2024
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Zverev serves his way to Italian Open title and sets himself up as a contender in Paris

  • It’s been a long road of recovery for the fifth-ranked Zverev after tearing three ligaments in his right ankle during the 2022 French Open semifinals against Rafael Nadal
  • This year’s French Open starts next Sunday and now Zverev has established himself among the favorites again

ROME: Alexander Zverev put on a serving clinic in a 6-4, 7-5 win over 24th-ranked Nicolas Jarry to claim his second Italian Open title Sunday and earn his biggest trophy since tearing his ankle apart two years ago.

Zverev opened the match with three straight aces and won 20 of his 21 service points in the first set. The German didn’t drop a point on his first serve until late in the second set when the 6-foot-7 (2.01 meter) Jarry ran down a well-placed drop shot and replied with a cross-court winner.

In all, Zverev won 44 of his 49 service points — helped by getting in 95 percent of his first serves.

It’s been a long road of recovery for the fifth-ranked Zverev after tearing three ligaments in his right ankle during the 2022 French Open semifinals against Rafael Nadal.

When Zverev broke Jarry to convert his fourth match point, he dropped to his knees on the red clay court, leaned back and let out a scream.

“The last two years have been extremely difficult,” Zverev said during the trophy ceremony. “I didn’t know whether I was ever going to be on this stage — regardless of winning or losing — so this moment is extremely special.”

This year’s French Open starts next Sunday and now Zverev has established himself among the favorites again — especially with top-ranked Novak Djokovic and 14-time Roland Garros champion Nadal both struggling lately. Djokovic and Nadal were eliminated in the second and third rounds, respectively, in Rome.

There are also injury concerns for second-ranked Jannik Sinner (hip) and third-ranked Carlos Alcaraz (right forearm) — who both withdrew from Rome.

“The focus is on Paris,” Zverev said. “But let me enjoy this one for a day or so, and then I’ll have my full focus on Paris.”

Zverev, who has disputed a penalty order from a German court over allegations that he caused bodily harm to a woman, faces a trial starting during Roland Garros. He said recently that he won’t attend the start of the legal proceedings.

And Zverev isn’t 100 percent healthy either. He had the pinky on his left hand bandaged due to a fall in his quarterfinal win over Taylor Fritz, after which he said he “tore a capsule” and that his finger was “crooked.” The German plays right-handed but uses a two-handed backhand.

Zverev will also be defending his gold medal when the Paris Olympics tennis tournament is held at Roland Garros starting in late July.

Jarry, a Chilean playing in his first Masters Series final, upset Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarterfinals.

“This has been an incredible week,” Jarry said.

Jarry was cheered on by his grandfather, Jaime Fillol, who was a top-20 player and who gave Jarry his first racket as a kid. Fillol was on Chile’s Davis Cup team that lost the 1976 final to Italy.

Jarry’s wife and two sons were also courtside and he grew emotional during the trophy ceremony and had to look away from his family to regain his composure.

“This is a fantastic example of what a family life on tour can look like,” Zverev said.

“I’m not so emotional,” Zverev added. “My dad cries, I don’t cry. It’s a good mix.”

It was Zverev’s third final in Rome. He won in 2017 by beating Djokovic in straight sets for his first Masters Series title then lost to Nadal in the title match a year later.

It was also Zverev’s first Masters final since getting beat by Alcaraz at the 2022 Madrid Open. The only previous titles he won since his ankle injury came in Hamburg, Germany, and Chengdu, China, last year.

Zverev earned a winner’s check of €963,225 (more than $1 million).

Top-ranked Iga Swiatek beat No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka in the women’s final on Saturday.

In the women’s doubles final, Coco Gauff double faulted on match point to hand Sara Errani and Jasmine Paolini of Italy the title with a 6-3, 4-6, (10-8) victory. Gauff teamed with Erin Routliffe.

Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos beat Marcelo Arevalo and Mate Pavic 6-2, 6-2 for the men’s doubles title.