T20, cricket’s fast and furious format, in spotlight as World Cup looms

A giant cricket ball is seen installed at a marketplace to mark 100 days to go for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in Miami, Florida, on February 22, 2024. (AFP/File)
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Updated 23 May 2024
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T20, cricket’s fast and furious format, in spotlight as World Cup looms

  • First cricket World Cup to be hosted on US soil starts June 1
  • T20 cricket is completed in just over three hours, unlike Tests or ODIs

The first cricket World Cup to be hosted on US soil starts June 1 and will be shared with countries in the Caribbean, represented by the two-time champion West Indies.

Fear not. It won’t drag on.

This World Cup is in the Twenty20 format, the fastest and most action-packed version of cricket.

Unlike test cricket matches, which started out as timeless before being shortened to five days, T20 doesn’t require any breaks for tea or lunch and is completed in just over three hours — roughly the same as a Major League Baseball game.

Players wear colorful uniforms, unlike the all-white test cricket kits, and venues have a party vibe.

The 20 competing teams have been divided into four groups in the league stage, which kicks off with the US against Canada in Dallas. The top two teams in each group advance to the knockout rounds. The final is set for Bridgetown, Barbados on June 29.

WHEN DID TWENTY20 CRICKET START?

T20 was first played at franchise level in England in 2003. That makes it a baby in terms of cricket, which has been played in one form or another for at least 400 years.

Within four years, T20 had its own World Cup and it has spawned far-flung leagues in traditional and new cricket markets. The most lucrative franchise cricket competition by far is the Indian Premier League.

Major League Cricket, which attracts players from around the world, made its debut in the US last year. Season 2 will launch July 4.

SPEED AND ENTERTAINMENT

The two important factors with the T20 format: It hurries the game up, meaning, generally, much more excitement. The game is also shortened time-wise and is easier to consume for young or new fans or — and this is key — TV programming.

While the format leads to high-tempo action on the field, T20 has also sparked an evolution in off-field entertainment in cricket. Cheerleaders dancing on podiums, DJs sitting behind decks spinning tunes and fancy dress themes are all part of the T20 game for crowds, bringing a colorful new twist for those at the stadium and broadcast viewers.

RULES

Cricket’s main rules still apply in T20 games, meaning there might still be a steep learning curve for new fans unfamiliar with the leg before wicket law, or “lbw” for short — when a batter is called out for using his protective leg pads to block a delivery from hitting the stumps.

At least there will be no ties. Test cricket has two ways for a game to have no winner, even if it’s been going on for five days.

But in T20, even if the teams get exactly the same number of runs — 150 runs is an average score and more than 200 is a good score — then there is a “Super Over” to decide the game. That means each team faces one over of six balls to smash as many runs as it can and whoever wins that tie-breaker wins the game.

THE FINER DETAILS

Like test and one-day international cricket, it’s a game between two teams of 11. Each team gets to bat for 20 overs (a series of six deliveries from the same bowler) which translates to 120 deliveries, excluding extras, per inning. Hence the name Twenty20.

The leather ball is white and similar in appearance to a baseball.

Bowlers run to the crease and use a rotating arm action to bowl the ball and try to knock the bails off three 28-inch stumps from the opposite end of the 22-yard pitch. Batters try to protect the stumps while scoring runs as quickly as possible by hitting the ball over or between fielders.

And so, at least in the T20 format, they regularly hit the ball out of the ground, not unlike a home run.

PAST WINNERS

Unlike the traditional Cricket World Cup, which was first contested in 1975, has been played mostly in the 50-over format, and has been dominated by six-time champion Australia, success in the global T20 tournament has been more evenly shared.

Only West Indies, representing the Caribbean nations, and England have won it twice. India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Australia have one T20 title each.

THE STARS

Virat Kohli, India: A feisty and formidable batter who has set records in the Indian Premier League and over a long career with the national team. There’s an array of high-profile stars in the India squad but none has a bigger following than the 35-year-old former captain.

Rashid Khan, Afghanistan: The 25-year-old leg-spinner has been the top-ranked T20 bowler in international cricket and is still very much in the Top 10. He’s a star in the IPL and for the Afghan national team.

Jofra Archer, England: If he’s fit, he’s super fast. The Barbados-born paceman hasn’t played a lot of cricket in the last few years because of injury but has been rushed back into the squad for the defending champions because of his intimidating bowling and experience in Caribbean conditions.

Mitch Marsh, Australia: A big, burley “allrounder” — meaning he bats and bowls — Marsh can get an innings away to a blazing start and also bowl with pace. He has been recovering from a hamstring problem which curtailed his IPL season and isn’t likely to bowl at the start of the World Cup but will play as captain regardless. He was the player of the final when Australia clinched its first T20 world title in 2021.


Al-Ittihad sign Algerian midfielder Houssem Aouar on a four-year contract

Karim Benzema welcomes Houssem Aouar to Al-Ittihad’s training camp in Alicante, Spain. (X/@ittihad_en)
Updated 17 July 2024
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Al-Ittihad sign Algerian midfielder Houssem Aouar on a four-year contract

  • Aouar joins from Roma, where he scored four goals in 16 appearances last season
  • Midfielder previously played for hometown club Lyon in France’s Ligue 1, scoring 30 goals in seven seasons

JEDDAH: Al-Ittihad have signed French-born Algerian international midfielder Houssem Aouar on a four-year contract.

Aouar joins from Roma, where he scored four goals in 16 appearances last season.

The 26-year-old midfielder previously played for hometown club Lyon in France’s Ligue 1, scoring 30 goals in seven seasons.

The signing ceremony took place at the team’s training camp in Alicante, Spain on Tuesday.

The event was officiated by the club’s CEO, Domingos Oliveira, and witnessed by sporting director Ramon Planes, following Aouar’s successful medical examination this morning.

Domingos Oliveira expressed his warm welcome to Aouar, noting that this move marks a significant new chapter in Aouar’s career. He emphasized that Aouar will contribute significantly alongside his teammates to achieving the high standards and results anticipated by the club’s fans and supporters.

Oliveira highlighted that Aouar’s signing aligns with the team’s technical requirements for a player possessing specific qualities that enhance the squad. This strategy is based on the technical needs identified by the sports committee and reviewed by the coach.

Houssem Aouar shared his enthusiasm about joining Al-Ittihad Club, recognizing its rich history, passionate fan base, distinguished players, and experienced coaching staff. He is motivated to deliver his best performance to represent the club and bring joy to its supporters.


FIFA says opening probe into Argentina players’ racist chants

Updated 17 July 2024
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FIFA says opening probe into Argentina players’ racist chants

  • The song targets France’s star striker Kylian Mbappe among others and includes racist and homophobic insults

PARIS: FIFA said on Wednesday it was opening an investigation into racist chants by Argentina players after they won the Copa America.
“FIFA is aware of a video circulating on social media and the incident is being looked into,” a spokesperson for world football’s governing body said.
They added: “FIFA strongly condemns any form of discrimination by anyone including players, fans and officials.”
The chants were heard during a live video posted on social media by Chelsea and Argentina midfielder Enzo Fernandez from the team bus in the wake of the Copa victory over Colombia in Miami on Sunday.
Some players, including 23-year-old Fernandez, sing a chant dating back to the 2022 World Cup final in which Argentina beat France.
The song targets France’s star striker Kylian Mbappe among others and includes racist and homophobic insults.
Chelsea had earlier announced they had launched an internal disciplinary procedure against Fernandez over the incident.
Fernandez has apologized and the club said in a statement it had launched an “internal disciplinary procedure.”
“Chelsea Football Club finds all forms of discriminatory behavior completely unacceptable,” it added.
“We acknowledge and appreciate our player’s public apology and will use this as an opportunity to educate.”
Fernandez, who joined Chelsea from Benfica for a Premier League record fee of £105 million ($136.8 million) in 2023, said in his apology: “The song includes highly offensive language and there is absolutely no excuse for these words.
“I stand against discrimination in all forms and apologize for getting caught up in the euphoria of our Copa America celebrations.”
The French Football Federation (FFF) complained to FIFA about the chants on Monday.
FFF president Philippe Diallo “condemned with the greatest firmness the unacceptable racist and discriminatory remarks made against players of the France team.”
France beat Argentina in the last 16 of the 2018 World Cup.


Belal Muhammad gears up for UFC 304 showdown with Leon Edwards

Updated 35 min 28 sec ago
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Belal Muhammad gears up for UFC 304 showdown with Leon Edwards

  • Muhammad sees the upcoming fight as a defining moment in his career trajectory
  • His Palestinian heritage serves as a profound source of motivation and pride ‘that means everything to me’

Riyadh: In the lead-up to UFC 304, slated for July 27 in Manchester, UK, Belal Muhammad, the formidable Palestinian-American welterweight contender, has honing his skills with a series  of rigorous training camps which have inluded sessions with Khabib Nurmagomedov and Islam Mackachev in Dagestan.

Speaking exclusively to Arab News, the 36-year-old reflected on his preparations and the profound significance of his upcoming bout against champion Leon Edwards.

“My training camp has been very good,” Muhammad said, detailing the final stages of his preparation. “It’s about being safe, staying uninjured, and making it to the fight week. It’s been a hard camp, but I feel the best I’ve ever felt. I can’t wait to get to Manchester and fight,” he added with palpable enthusiasm.

Ranked second in the welterweight division, Muhammad sees the upcoming fight as a defining moment in his career trajectory. “This is everything,” he stressed. “When I got into the UFC, all I wanted was to be the champion. Now, I see the finish line. I’m knocking on the door. All I’ve got to do is walk through it.”

Acknowledging the competitive landscape of the welterweight division, Muhammad assessed his opponents with a keen eye. “I see weaknesses in a lot of these guys,” he said. “I don’t think there are going to be easy fights, but looking at this division, Leon (Edwards) is my easiest fight,” he added.

Muhammad’s journey in mixed martial arts is deeply intertwined with his Palestinian heritage, which he views as a source of profound motivation and pride. “That means everything to me,” he said. “I wake up every day knowing I’m fighting for something bigger — to have my flag raised with the title, to give my people a voice.”

He highlighted the resilience and determination of his Palestinian community as a driving force in his career. “I can’t sleep. I can’t take any days off. I can’t be soft, because these people are hard. These people are so resilient. They push me every day to work harder. I’ve never seen a stronger people in my life.”

Addressing his Palestinian fans directly, Muhammad expressed solidarity and admiration. “Keep fighting. Keep staying strong. Keep being resilient because you’re changing the world,” he said, stressing the inspiration he draws from their unwavering support.

With the recent surge of MMA interest in the Middle East, Muhammad praised the region’s growing prominence in the sport. “It’s amazing to see the Middle East becoming a huge market for fighters and the UFC,” he said. “When you look at Arabs and Muslims, we’re not the tallest we’re not the biggest so you’re not gonna see a lot of us in the NBA. But now we have a different sport that we can take over. We can all be fighters,” he added optimistically, envisioning a future where Arab fighters continue to make significant strides in the sport.

Reflecting on his career’s evolution, Muhammad emphasized the lessons learned from both victories and setbacks. “I’ve had the highest highs and the lowest lows,” he said. “After every fight, I analyze what I did wrong. I train year-round to be a better fighter,” he added, attributing his continuous growth to a relentless pursuit of improvement.

Muhammad started his MMA journey at 23, unlike many fighters who start at a much younger age, a factor that has always played on his mind as he trains, he said.

“I really think I’m behind a lot of these guys. So I’ve always had that mentality that I’m behind and have to keep learning, growing, and getting better. And I think that’s what separates me from the rest. Every single fight, I come as a different fighter.”

Maintaining mental focus and motivation amid the stakes of UFC 304, Muhammad revealed a deeply personal motivation. “I love to win and I hate to lose,” he admitted. “I never want to see my mom disappointed in me. I keep winning so she keeps a smile on her face,” he added, highlighting the familial support that fuels his drive.

As the countdown to UFC 304 progresses, Muhammad stands poised to seize the welterweight crown, driven by skill, dedication, and a steadfast commitment to his goals. With Manchester on the horizon, Muhammad’s journey to championship glory promises to captivate fans worldwide and inspire a new generation of fighters from the Middle East and beyond.


‘Dota2 Riyadh Masters,’ ‘Counter-Strike 2’ and ‘PUBG Mobile’ top week 3 at Esports World Cup

Updated 17 July 2024
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‘Dota2 Riyadh Masters,’ ‘Counter-Strike 2’ and ‘PUBG Mobile’ top week 3 at Esports World Cup

  • 3 tournaments taking centerstage at Boulevard Riyadh City with high-stakes drama in store until Sunday  

RIYADH: The Esports World Cup has three major competitions taking place this week at Boulevard Riyadh City, promising further entertainment after a fortnight of action.

Running for eight weeks until Aug. 25, the Esports World Cup has a record-breaking $60 million prize pool on offer across 22 competitions and 21 games.

Sixteen clubs are vying to reach the latter stages of the $5 million “Dota2 Riyadh Masters” with hometown heroes Team Falcons flying the flag for Saudi Arabia.

Having topped the Group A standings with four wins and two draws from seven matches, Team Falcons have emerged as top contenders for the $1.5 million first prize and are certain to receive incredible home support this week.

Also, two other tournaments make their highly anticipated Esports World Cup debuts. The $1 million “Counter-Strike 2” competition will see some of the world’s best clubs competing.

Working together in five-versus-five format, players must display exemplary tactics to eliminate opponents and reign supreme in this ultra-realistic team-based shooter game.

Also sharing the spotlight is “PUBG Mobile,” with 24 teams battling for the $3 million prize on Friday.


Team Falcons reach ‘Dota2 Riyadh Masters’ semifinals, target Esports World Cup hat trick

Updated 17 July 2024
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Team Falcons reach ‘Dota2 Riyadh Masters’ semifinals, target Esports World Cup hat trick

  • The Saudi Arabia team have already claimed top places in the ‘Call of Duty: Warzone’ and ‘Free Fire’ competitions

RIYADH: Team Falcons remain on course for a historic hat trick of Esports World Cup titles after the hometown heroes reached the semifinals of the “Dota2 Riyadh Masters” competition on Tuesday.

One of the front-runners for the $1.5 million first prize, the Saudi Arabia club entered the knockout stages in scintillating form, topping Group A with four wins and two draws.

This form continued with the support of a capacity crowd inside the SEF Arena.

A 2-1 victory against China’s WBG.XG set up a semifinal showdown with Canadian outfit Gaimin Gladiators.

This moves Team Falcons closer to their dream of winning the competition and adding to Esports World Cup victories in “Call of Duty: Warzone” and “Free Fire.”

The “Dota2 Riyadh Masters” is running throughout week three at the Esports World Cup, concluding on Sunday, July 23.