Pakistan to face England in opening T20I clash at Headingley ahead of World Cup

Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir (right) gestures during a practice session ahead of T20 series against England at Headingley Cricket Ground in Headingley, Leeds on May 21, 2024. (Photo courtesy: PCB)
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Updated 22 May 2024
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Pakistan to face England in opening T20I clash at Headingley ahead of World Cup

  • Skipper Babar Azam expresses confidence Pakistan will carry the winning momentum from the Ireland series
  • England dominate the T20I rivalry with 19 wins to Pakistan’s nine triumphs, with one game ended as a no-result

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan men’s cricket team will take on England in the first of the four-match T20I series at Headingley today, Wednesday, in what is expected to be an exciting match ahead of next month’s World Cup.
The last T20I meeting between Pakistan and England took place at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in the final of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022. England edged past Pakistan by five wickets in the close encounter with Sam Curran earning the Player of the Final award for his figures of three for 12.
A full-strength Pakistan cricket team is expected to take the field at Headingley on Wednesday at the back of a 2-1 series win against Ireland in Dublin last week. Mohammad Rizwan and Shaheen Shah Afridi snapped up the Player of the Match awards in the two victories.
Pakistan men’s white-ball head coach Gary Kirsten also joined the side on 19 May for the first assignment of his two-year tenure.
“I am confident that Pakistan will carry the winning momentum from the Ireland series into the England T20Is. Our 2-1 victory in Dublin showcased the brilliance of our batters and bowlers, while also providing us with learnings as we aim to work on our areas of improvement,” said Pakistan skipper Babar Azam, the most successful captain in T20Is with 46 wins.
“We’ve had productive training sessions at Headingley and with head coach Gary Kirsten linking up with the squad, we are focused on fine-tuning our strategies and combinations for the four T20Is against England and T20 World Cup,” he added.
England dominate the T20I rivalry with 19 wins to Pakistan’s nine triumphs, while one game ended as a no-result. England were the winners of the previous bilateral series against Pakistan, clinching the seven T20Is played in Lahore and Karachi 4-3.
Series schedule:
22 May – v England, 1st T20I, Leeds
25 May – v England, 2nd T20I, Birmingham
28 May – v England 3rd T20I, Cardiff
30 May – v England, 4th T20I, The Oval


Saudi Olympians meet with local mayor at Paris Games training camp

Updated 18 July 2024
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Saudi Olympians meet with local mayor at Paris Games training camp

  • Marc-Antoine Jamet spoke with pole vaulter Hussain Al-Hizam and swimmer Zaid Al-Sarraj

LONDON: The mayor of Val-de-Reuil in Normandy met with Saudi athletes preparing to compete in the upcoming Paris Olympics at their training camp in the commune on Thursday.

Marc-Antoine Jamet spoke with pole vaulter Hussain Al-Hizam and swimmer Zaid Al-Sarraj as well as the director of the Saudi team, Afnan Barnawi, and a number of camp administrators.

The mayor was joined by local children and they wished the Saudi team luck and success in their Olympic participation.

Also on Thursday, the Saudi show jumping team held a training session in the Kingdom ahead of their journey to join up with the Saudi delegation in Paris two days before the equestrian competition starts on July 27.


England’s Brown birdies last to lead The Open

Updated 1 min 14 sec ago
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England’s Brown birdies last to lead The Open

  • Brown leads by one in his very first appearance at The Open Championship
  • Lowry made the most of the calm late afternoon conditions with three birdies in five holes around the turn to shoot 66 and lie solo second

TROON, United Kingdom: Daniel Brown drained an eight-footer on the 18th for a closing birdie that saw him sign for a round of 65 and a one-shot solo lead of the Open Championship in his very first appearance.

Earlier, Shane Lowry shot to the top of the leaderboard at five under par as Rory McIlroy was among the big names to struggle on day one of the 152nd Open at Royal Troon.
McIlroy posted a seven over par round of 78 with his hopes of ending a 10-year wait to win a major floundering as most of the field struggled in the wet and windy conditions on Scotland’s west coast.
Lowry, who won his sole major at The Open five years ago, made the most of the calm late afternoon conditions with three birdies in five holes around the turn to shoot 66 and lie solo second.
Two-time major winner Justin Thomas is lurking at three under, while recently crowned USPGA Championship winner Xander Schauffele is among a group of five on two under that also includes Justin Rose.
World number one Scottie Scheffler cut a frustrated figure on the greens but is still in the mix after a one under round that featured four birdies and three bogeys.
McIlroy was aiming to get over his heartbreak at the US Open last month, where he missed two short putts to blow the lead as Bryson DeChambeau claimed his second major by one shot.
However, the Northern Irishman’s round, and probably championship, was blown off course at the postage stamp 120-yard eighth.
McIlroy was unfortunate as his near-perfect tee shot slipped off the green into a bunker, which he took two attempts to get out of, to post a double bogey five.
Another double bogey followed at the 11th, while he also dropped shots at the 10th, 15th and 18th.
“All I need to focus on is tomorrow and try to make the cut,” said McIlroy.
“I need to go out there and play better and try to shoot something under par and at least be here for the weekend, if not try to put myself up the leaderboard a bit more and feel like I have half a chance.”

DeChambeau had been the form player in the majors so far this year, despite his defection to the breakaway LIV Tour.
The American finished sixth at the Masters and runner-up in the USPGA Championship before claiming his second US Open.
However, his struggles with the windy conditions of links golf continued as he was six over par for his opening nine holes.
DeChambeau battled back on the back nine as an eagle on the 17th helped him to a 76.
“I’m just proud of the way I persevered today,” said DeChambeau.
“I could have thrown in the towel after nine and could have been like, ‘I’m going home’. But no, I’ve got a chance tomorrow. I’m excited for the challenge.”
Thomas recovered from his own double bogey at the 12th to post a 68, which was 14 shots better than his opening round at Royal Liverpool 12 months ago.
“I played really solid, got it around. I felt like I had great control of the ball,” said Thomas.
World number three Schauffele continued his fine form in recent months as he dropped just one shot to put himself among the chasing pack.
Five-time major champion Brooks Koepka defied the worst of the weather to post four consecutive bridies between the fourth and the seventh before dropping back to one under.
Tiger Woods had hit back at suggestions from former European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie that he should retire, but the 15-time major champion failed to prove he can still be competitive with a 79.
“I didn’t do a whole lot of things right today,” said Woods. “I had three 3-putts today. I didn’t hit my irons very close, and I didn’t give myself a whole lot of looks today.”
Cameron Smith, champion at St. Andrews two years ago, fared even worse with an 80.
World number four Ludvig Aberg was another of the big names to falter in his first ever round at The Open with a four-over round of 75.
The Swede’s playing partner Jon Rahm is two over, while home favorite Bob McIntire is in the running after a one-over 72 to back up his victory at last week’s Scottish Open.


Al-Nassr Women discover opponents for prelim stage of first AFC Women’s Champions League

Updated 18 July 2024
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Al-Nassr Women discover opponents for prelim stage of first AFC Women’s Champions League

  • Saudi Arabia will host the preliminary stage of the tournament next month

RIYADH: Saudi champions Al-Nassr Women have been drawn against Myawady Women from Myanmar, the UAE’s Abu Dhabi Country Club and Young Elephants FC of Laos in the inaugural AFC Women’s Champions League.

Saudi Arabia will host the preliminary stage of the tournament next month, it was also confirmed on Thursday.

The first edition of the tournament will welcome the 21 domestic champions from AFC member associations, and the preliminary stage in the Kingdom — which will be played Aug. 25 to 31 — will feature 13 teams competing in four round-robin groups.

The winner of each will progress to the group stage, where eight top-seeded clubs await.

The Kingdom’s selection as hosts for the preliminary stage follows the successful hosting of the West Asian Football Federation Women’s Championship and the growth of the Women’s Premier League ahead of its third season.


Cricket’s future path is clear after recent forum

Updated 18 July 2024
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Cricket’s future path is clear after recent forum

  • World Cricket Connects brought together more than 100 influential voices in the game

A focus of this column over the last three years has been the rapidly changing landscape of professional cricket. Some things which may have seemed like straws in the wind in mid-June 2021 are now in full flow, unlikely to be stopped even by hurricane-strength storms.

Cricket’s governing body is the International Cricket Council, tasked with managing the game. In a previous era, this had been the responsibility of the Marylebone Cricket Club. The latter still has influence in the game. Early this year, its current president, Mark Nicholas, an urbane former professional cricketer, initiated the idea of a forum to discuss cricket’s future. This was held on July 5 at Lord’s prior to England’s Test match against the West Indies.

The gathering was called World Cricket Connects. It brought together more than 100 influential voices in the game, including chairs and CEOs from five ICC full members, plus associate nations, Scotland and Oman. Former and current players, both men and women, were present, along with several executives of T20 franchises.

There was one notable omission. Jay Shah, secretary of the Board for Control of Cricket in India, was not there. He had sent his apologies. The need to be pictured with the T20 World Cup Trophy in India prevailed. Why not, especially after an election victory, since his father is Prime Minister Modi’s interior minister. The BCCI’s priorities are clear. They were clear in September 2021 when it pulled its team from a deciding Test match against England, citing mental health issues, only for the players to return immediately to perform in the Indian Premier League.

Without Shah, described by Nicholas as the most powerful person in cricket, the event was an emperor without clothes. Reports of its content took time to emerge. The ICC chair was reported to have said that the ICC is not fit for purpose and that as a “members’ organization,” it falls short of being a global governing body. Whilst not a revelation to many, the fact that it was said in a semi-public forum is a surprise, perhaps reflecting frustration at India’s power. This is not going to decline.

Ravi Shastri, Inda’s representative and a recent former coach, put forward a view that the 12 teams playing Test cricket should have a promotion and relegation system, with two tiers of six, including promotion and relegation. It may well come to that position, hastened by the costs of hosting Test cricket.

In this context, enter the ICC’s long-term ambition for cricket to become the world’s favorite sport. This translates into leading, growing and promoting cricket. The ICC is not really a governing body. It is an organizer and facilitator of global events, a builder of long-term successful commercial partnerships and a catalyst for growth. Almost as an afterthought, it says that “it will continue to make considerable efforts to protect the integrity of the sport.”

On the latter, there remain doubts, Betting is rife in the game. I have been moved by ICC officials from boundary side positions because I may be passing on information obtained from players to gambling companies. This not something that I would do and I am hardly the problem. It is unlikely that betting’s influence on cricket got a mention at Lord’s, which it should have done.

As we all know, T20 is the growth engine of modern-day cricket, like it or not. This fits the ICC’s vision, it is completely in tune with that of the BCCI and it fits with the growth of cricket in countries where growth would not have been possible otherwise. In this context, I was amazed to be appraised of a tournament hosted by Poland, involving teams from Latvia, Lithuania and Montenegro. My amazement centered on the Montenegro Bokaneers team.

It had three players with the surname of Plastics, its base registered as Brighton (England) and had one player with whom I have shared a pitch on more than one occasion. T20 cricket has democratized the game, but at what cost? At the World Cricket Connects event it was reported that there was much talk of money, about levering the consumer and responding to commercial forces. Apparently, those forces are killing Test cricket for all but the major countries. It costs upward of £1 million ($1.3 million) for Ireland and Scotland, for example, to host a Test match, without commensurate return from gate receipts, broadcasting rights and sponsorship. In Pakistan, costs of providing security for a Test match series are estimated to be up to $5 million.

Meanwhile, viewership levels for One Day International cricket have fallen by a quarter since 2019. In that context, discussions about reducing the number of “meaningless” matches surfaced, whatever that means. Some people may regard the recent England vs. West Indies Test match at Lord’s, completed in just over two days, as meaningless. Those who played a Test at Lord’s for the first time, one of whom took 12 wickets, are likely to disagree. In Scotland, the men’s team is hosting Oman and Namibia as part of the ICC Cricket World Cup League Two, part of the qualifying process for the 2027 ODI World Cup. In general, Scotland is desperate to play more cricket, especially against top-quality opposition, in matches that would have real meaning, as it seeks to improve its position in world cricket. Even Latvia vs. Montenegro Bokaneers has meaning for those who achieved an ambition of playing in an “international” match.

The sad truth is that professional cricket has been captured by commercial forces and, in particular, by those in India. Those forces are advertisers, producers of goods and services, broadcasters, betting companies and sponsors. Their most comfortable outlet is T20 cricket, given its short format and adaptability to broadcasting schedules. The COVID-19 pandemic caused substantial financial losses for cricket worldwide that have accelerated the rush to the T20 format, which looks set to dominate the future in its thrall to money. It now seems clear that both Test and ODI cricket will need to shrink to accommodate this new reality of commercialism and measurement of success by income generation.


Professional Fighters League announces extra bouts for August playoffs

Updated 18 July 2024
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Professional Fighters League announces extra bouts for August playoffs

  • 2024 PFL Playoffs will see the return of Biaggio Ali Walsh to the SmartCage

NEW YORK: The Professional Fighters League has announced additional bouts for the 2024 PFL Global Season Playoffs in August.

On Friday, Aug. 2 in Nashville, the heavyweight and women’s flyweight divisions will take center stage.

In a marquee addition to the event, Tyrell Fortune (14-2) will face Sergei Bilostenniy (12-3) in a heavyweight alternate contest. In all, five early bouts have been added to an already stacked night of action.

Two weeks later on Aug.16, the light-heavyweight and lightweight playoffs will take place in Hollywood, Florida.

Biaggio Ali Walsh (1-0) makes his sophomore professional appearance against undefeated Korey Taylor (4-0) during the ESPN main card.

A light-heavyweight alternate bout pitting Antonio Carlos Jr. (16-6) against Karl Albrektsson (14-5) is confirmed, while a lightweight alternate fight between Elvin Espinoza (10-1) and Mads Burnell (19-6) is also official for the early card.

The playoffs will conclude on Aug. 23 in Washington D.C. with the welterweight and featherweight divisions.

A welterweight alternate bout pitting Neiman Gracie (13-5) against Luca Poclit (10-2) is confirmed, while a featherweight alternate fight between Tyler Diamond (14-3) and Enrique Barzola (20-9-2) is also official.

The PFL Regular Season has each winner of the six weight divisions receiving a $1 million purse.