Stellar Starc fires Kolkata to third IPL title

Kolkata Knight Riders players celebrate after wining against Sunrisers Hyderabad during the Indian Premier League cricket final match in Chennai on May 26, 2024. (AP)
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Updated 26 May 2024
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Stellar Starc fires Kolkata to third IPL title

  • Kolkata bowled out Hyderabad for IPL’s lowest total of 113 in a final as Australia’s left-arm quick Starc returned figures of 2-14
  • Rahmanullah Gurbaz, 39, and Venkatesh Iyer, 52 not out, helped the team home with 9.3 overs to spare after a partnership of 91

CHENNAI: Mitchell Starc bowled a sensational opening spell to fire Kolkata Knight Riders to their third Indian Premier League title with a eight-wicket thrashing of Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Sunday final.
Kolkata bowled out Hyderabad for IPL’s lowest total of 113 in a final as Australia’s left-arm quick Starc returned figures of 2-14 to live up to his top billing in the world’s most lucrative T20 tournament.
Starc went to Kolkata for a record $2.98 million in the December auction and ended the IPL with two stellar performances, including a match-winning 3-34 in the first play-off to hammer the same opponent.
Kolkata’s batsmen had it easy and despite Sunil Narine’s early departure, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, who made 39, and Venkatesh Iyer, on 52 not out, helped the team home with 9.3 overs to spare after a partnership of 91.
Iyer, a left-handed batsman, reached his 50 in 24 balls and hit the winning runs to trigger celebrations for Kolkata, who remained the most dominant team after they ended top of the table with 20 points in the league phase.
Skipper Shreyas Iyer was unbeaten on six, and at the other end, when Kolkata players came rushing on to the pitch and the stadium fireworks went off.
“My mom is watching from home,” said Afghanistan’s Gurbaz, who left the tournament midway through to be with his ailing mother back home and returned for the play-offs.
“She is feeling good now. I asked mom before the match if she wanted anything. She said just the win,” added the wicket-keeper-batsman.
“This win is for the fans who turned up year after year and waited for ten years,” Venkatesh said on his team’s first title win since 2014.
Kolkata’s co-owner and Bollywood superstar actor Shah Rukh Khan was in attendance and congratulated his champion players after he suffered from a heat-related illness in the first qualifier in Ahmedabad.
It was Kolkata’s second title triumph at the venue, after they won their first trophy in 2012, and a near-capacity crowd at the 36,000-seater stadium cheered on.
Apart from the big signing of Starc, they got Gautam Gambhir as mentor after the former India batsman led the team to two titles.
Hyderabad skipper Pat Cummins won the toss and elected to bat first and go with his team’s strength of scoring big, after they racked up IPL record totals of 277 and 287 in this year’s edition.
Hyderabad took Cummins for $2.5 million in the same auction and made him captain after he led Australia to two titles, including the World Test Championship and the ODI World Cup last year.
But Starc took the limelight as he struck in his first over when he bowled in-form Indian batsman Abhishek Sharma, for two, on a delivery that pitched in the middle and caught the top of off stump.
Travis Head followed his fellow left-hand opener Abhishek to the dug-out, caught behind for his second duck in three matches off fast bowler Vaibhav Arora.
Starc struck again and the opposition top-order was in disarray at 47-4 inside seven overs.
Andre Russell took down Aiden Markram for 20 and wickets kept tumbling as fellow South African Heinrich Klaasen fell for 16.
Cummins, who was dropped on 10 by Starc, took the team past 100 before falling for 24 off Russell, who ended with figures of 3-19.


Saudi Arabia to host first Esports Olympics in 2025: IOC

Updated 3 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia to host first Esports Olympics in 2025: IOC

Lausanne: Saudi Arabia will host the inaugural Esports Olympics in 2025 the International Olympic Committee said on Friday.
“The International Olympic Committee (IOC) today announced that it has partnered with the National Olympic Committee (NOC) of Saudi Arabia to host the inaugural Olympic Esports Games 2025 in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the body said.
“The duration of the partnership between the IOC and the Saudi NOC will be 12 years, with Olympic Esports Games held regularly.”

Etihad Arena to host global basketball stars, legends, coaches and senior executives

Updated 38 min 29 sec ago
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Etihad Arena to host global basketball stars, legends, coaches and senior executives

  • ‘Courtside Conversations and USA Basketball Showcase’ on July 16
  • Men’s teams from US, Australia, Serbia to play games in UAE capital

ABU DHABI: Sports enthusiasts are in for a treat as Etihad Arena will host a “Courtside Conversations and USA Basketball Showcase” on July 16 in Abu Dhabi featuring some of the sport’s top players and personalities.

This is in conjunction with the “2024 USA Basketball Showcase Games” in the UAE capital from July 15 to 17.

The games feature the world No. 1 US basketball men’s national team, Australian Boomers and Serbia, ranked at five and four respectively, that are all preparing for the Paris Olympic Games.

The “Courtside Conversations and USA Basketball Showcase” will be an evening of discussions with participants including basketball players, legends, and senior executives.

The forum will kick off with a “Global Growth of the Game” panel discussion highlighting the importance of investing in young people, women, and minorities.

It will also explore how programs beyond the court can mentor leaders in every community.

Speakers include Miami Heat legend Alonzo Mourning, the Las Vegas Aces’ Chief Business Development Officer Jennifer Azzi, and USA Basketball CEO Jim Tooley.

The second panel, “The Road to Paris,” will have the panelists discuss how to build a championship-caliber team and the value of teamwork. The participants include NBA legend and US Men’s National Team MD Grant Hill and former NBA player Steve Smith.

Attendees will have the chance to ask questions, which have to be submitted in advance.

Select fans will be able to meet basketball legends Smith and Mourning, which includes on-court photo opportunities following the Australia-Serbia game.


Stars of ‘Free Fire,’ ‘Dota2 Riyadh Masters’ and ‘Mobile Legends: Bang Bang’ battle it out at Esports World Cup

Updated 12 July 2024
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Stars of ‘Free Fire,’ ‘Dota2 Riyadh Masters’ and ‘Mobile Legends: Bang Bang’ battle it out at Esports World Cup

  • World’s largest gaming competition runs until Aug. 25 at Boulevard Riyadh City

RIYADH: Action at the Esports World Cup is hotting up across three of the most high-profile conceptions — “Free Fire,” the “Dota2 Riyadh Masters” and “Mobile Legends: Bang Bang.”

Running until Aug. 25 at Boulevard Riyadh City, the eight-week Esports World Cup has seen strong showings in “Free Fire” from All Glory Gaming, Team Solid, and Twisted Minds.

At the “Dota2 Riyadh Masters,” HEROIC, Team Spirit, Tundra Esports, and WBG.XG were among the teams to impress.

Meanwhile, “Mobile Legends: Bang Bang” has reached the quarterfinal stage.

The Esports World Cup features a unique cross-game structure pitting the world’s top clubs and players against one another across 22 global competitions in 21 leading games.

More than 1,500 players from 60 countries are battling it out for a share of the $60 million prize pool — the largest in the history of esports.


T1 star Faker hails ‘Cristiano Ronaldo-esque’ reception from fans at Esports World Cup in Riyadh

Updated 12 July 2024
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T1 star Faker hails ‘Cristiano Ronaldo-esque’ reception from fans at Esports World Cup in Riyadh

  • The ‘Michael Jordan of esports’ helped South Korean side overcome Top Esports of China 3-1 at Boulevard Riyadh City in Esports World Cup’s ‘League of Legends’ final

RIYADH: Faker, the T1 star known as the “Michael Jordan of esports,” believes his Esports World Cup reception from fans in Saudi Arabia has been “Cristiano Ronaldo-esque” — but that is mostly because they love “League of Legends,” not just him.

The 28-year-old South Korean professional, whose real name is Lee Sang-hyeok, is a hero across the world for his gaming exploits and has 1.5 million followers on Instagram.

Starred in the Esports World Cup’s “League of Legends” competition as South Korea’s T1 overcame Top Esports of China 3-1 in Sunday’s all-Asian final in front of a capacity crowd at the SEF Arena at Boulevard Riyadh City.

The win secured vital Esports World Cup Club Championship points for T1 and the $400,000 first prize.

Faker described the love he received from fans in Saudi Arabia as akin to that of five-time Ballon d’Or winner and Al-Nassr hero Cristiano Ronaldo.

“I think it’s because I’ve been putting in a lot of effort all these years and the fans really like that. But mostly I think it’s the love of ‘League of Legends’ itself from the fans. All I can do is just keep being better and keep it up all these years.”

Adored by millions worldwide, “League of Legends” is a strategy game where two teams of five powerful champions face off with the objective of destroying the opposition’s base.

The final on Sunday at the Esports World Cup was decided in a best-of-five format.

Faker — who competes alongside Zeus, Oner, Gumayusi and Keria in T1’s five-star lineup — said the world cup “symbolizes the growth of esports worldwide.

“There are so many athletes from so many countries competing here and this reflects the recent growth of our industry. It’s popular everywhere right now. I hope the Esports World Cup attracts even more athletes, clubs, games, and fans in the future.”

The Esports World Cup began on July 3 and ends on Aug. 25 with 22 tournaments across 21 titles.


Saudi’s Hattan Alsaif fights for women’s place in Mideast MMA

Updated 12 July 2024
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Saudi’s Hattan Alsaif fights for women’s place in Mideast MMA

  • At PFL MENA 2 on Friday night, the 22-year-old will take on Egypt’s Iman Baraka at Riyadh’s Green Halls
  • Alsaif made a winning debut in the Professional Fighters League against Egypt’s Nada Faheem in May

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Hattan Alsaif is fighting to prove that women deserve their place in the world of combat sports.

The 22-year-old Muay Thai striker recently made history by becoming the first female from the Kingdom to be recruited by a major mixed martial arts organization when she joined the Professional Fighters League.

In May, Alsaif made her highly-anticipated debut during the inaugural season of PFL MENA. She knocked out Egypt’s Nada Faheem by head kick in the second round, much to the delight of fans in Riyadh.

Alsaif hopes to inspire other Saudi Arabia women to take up the sport.

“Combat sports isn’t exclusive to men anymore,” Alsaif said. “It’s open to both sexes.”

Alsaif has some big names in her corner, namely fellow Saudi Arabian fighter Abdullah Al-Qahtani, who is currently the Kingdom’s biggest MMA star.

“He supports me, he helps me develop my game, and he gave me a lot of motivation after my first PFL win,” Alsaif said of Al-Qahtani.

Alsaif said she does not feel pressure when fighting, but rather a determination to succeed.

“Winning my last fight wasn’t pressure, it was validation,” she explained. At PFL MENA 2 this weekend, she steps back into the cage to take on another Egyptian fighter.

“It showed my preparation was perfect, and now I’m even more confident facing Iman Baraka,” she said.

Alsaif said she enjoyed fighting in her hometown. “The energy of the Saudi fans after my first win was incredible. It fueled my training and showed me I was on the right track.”

“I saw the love and support from the fans after my victory, and it made me even hungrier to win again. I’m ready to step into the cage and prove myself,” she added.

“The last fight was a great victory, but now my focus is on Iman Baraka. I’m not dwelling on the past, I’m training for the challenge ahead.”