Cricket’s T20 giants and minnows ready to battle in USA and Caribbean

The ICC Men's T20 World Cup trophy is displayed at Broward Stadium in Lauderhill, Florida, on May 6, 2024. (AFP/File)
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Updated 27 May 2024

Cricket’s T20 giants and minnows ready to battle in USA and Caribbean

  • This will be biggest ever T20 World Cup after ICC decided to extend number of teams from 16 to 20 
  • ICC also sees World Cup as launchpad for cricket’s return to the Olympics for Los Angeles 2028

FORT LAUDERDALE, United States: Cricket’s ability to grow its global presence beyond its heartlands, while still maintaining the quality at the highest level, will be tested over the coming month in the T20 World Cup in the Caribbean and the United States.

The ninth edition of the tournament, in the fastest and most explosive form of the game, will be the biggest ever after the decision of the International Cricket Council (ICC) to expand the field from 16 nations to 20.

It will also be the first ever major ICC event to be held, in part, in the United States, a country where attempts to grow the sport have consistently failed.

Three American venues — in Florida, Texas and New York — will host 16 of the group stage games including the marquee match between India and Pakistan which will be played in Long Island, New York.

The rest of the tournament will be held in the West Indies, including the Super Eight stage, the semifinals and the final, which will be played at Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados.

While cricket is widely played at a recreational level in the United States, with strong presences in all three of the states that have been chosen for games, organizers are realistic about the chances of “converting” mainstream American sports fans.

Instead, they expect that the large immigrant communities from cricket-loving backgrounds, including thousands of India fans in particular, will pack the stadiums.

“I think, number one, we want to celebrate those that are already fanatical lovers of cricket. They deserve to see the best players in the world come into their backyard and have that chance,” T20 World Cup USA, Inc. chief executive Brett Jones told AFP.

“Number two, I think it’s about spiking curiosity in the game,” he said.

The ICC also sees the tournament as a launch pad toward the sport’s return to the Olympics for Los Angeles 2028, when the T20 format will be used.

Major League Cricket, a T20 tournament, was launched last year and also stands to benefit from any growth in interest in the big-hitting, spectacular shortest form.

But it is not only the American market that the ICC is focused upon — the expansion of the tournament has opened up opportunities for newer cricket nations to compete on the big stage.

In recent years, the sport has been able to expand outside of its traditional strongholds with Ireland and Afghanistan earning places in the 12-strong elite with full Test status.

But the ICC see the shortest format as the perfect vehicle for growing the game and this year’s edition will feature three T20 World Cup debutants in the USA, Canada and Uganda.

Nepal, Papua New Guinea and Oman are among the other nations who are relatively new to the big stage and who will be looking to make their mark and grab some attention with an upset win.

With the teams drawn in four groups of five teams, with just the top two advancing, none of the smaller nations are expected to progress beyond the group stage and there is a danger the pool stage could mainly be a ‘weeding out’ process.

India, winners of the first edition in 2007, are the favorites, with their line-up packed with players steeled from the annual Indian Premier League.

Veterans Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli could be playing in their final big tournament and are desperate to make up for defeat in the ODI World Cup final last year.

Despite being the epicenter of the modern game, India have not won a major title since the 2013 Champions Trophy.

Australia, winners of the ODI World Cup last year along with the World Test Championship, opted to leave out their veteran batsman Steve Smith but big-hitting David Warner with the bat and pacemen Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins provide plenty of experience.

“There’s five, six or seven teams that can win it and we know that in tournament play it’s all about getting things right at the right time and winning in big moments,” said Australia captain Mitchell Marsh.

Among those contenders, England are the defending champions, but will be without the star of their 2022 triumph Ben Stokes, with the all-rounder managing his fitness after a knee operation and they will look to skipper Jos Buttler to provide the fireworks with the bat.

Co-hosts West Indies won the tournament in 2012 and 2016 and while the Caribbean team have struggled in the longer formats, they remain a threat in 20-over cricket and are hoping that they can benefit from familiarity with the surfaces in the region.

South Africa, New Zealand and Pakistan will all fancy their chances of making an impact in a tournament which always produces surprises.

Sharjah’s Wyatt wins as Team Abu Dhabi’s Al-Qemzi runs out of luck in Sardinia

Updated 8 sec ago

Sharjah’s Wyatt wins as Team Abu Dhabi’s Al-Qemzi runs out of luck in Sardinia

  • Veteran Emirati driver underlines threat with sprint race win

SARDINIA: Sharjah Team’s Rusty Wyatt scored a commanding victory in the Regione Sardegna Grand Prix of Italy on Sunday to take the lead in the F1H2O World Championship as Team Abu Dhabi suffered a double setback in Olbia.

Wyatt secured his second powerboat grand prix win of the season in a race littered with early withdrawals, including Emirati driver Thani Al-Qemzi and his Abu Dhabi team-mate Alberto Comparato, as well as Victory Team’s world-title-chasing Erik Stark.

After qualifying second behind Wyatt, Al-Qemzi had raised his hopes by winning the first of the morning sprint races, and he was looking to close the gap on the Canadian before his race was agonisingly cut short by technical problems on the eighth of 40 laps.

By then, Estonia’s Stefan Arand and Comparato had already made early exits, and they were soon followed by Stark, who had arrived on the Mediterranean island as the championship leader.

There were no problems however for Wyatt, the first-round winner in Indonesia, who had the luxury of being able to slow down on the last lap and still win by 12 seconds from Frenchman Peter Morin, with Poland’s Bartek Marszalek taking the third podium spot.

Sweden’s reigning world champion Jonas Andersson made a big move on the day, climbing from 14th at the rolling start to a fifth-place finish behind Norway’s Marit Stromoy.

It was a particularly frustrating day for Al-Qemzi, who had shown in qualifying and sprint race action that he was full of confidence in the new boat he was driving for the first time, and that he remains a genuine threat.

The Emirati driver, who made his F1H2O debut in 2020, had secured 10 championship points when he overcame a big challenge from Morin to win the second of the morning sprint races, which had been postponed 24 hours earlier by high winds.

As a rolling start brought the GP to life, Wyatt manged to hold off Al-Qemzi before the race was brought to a halt seconds later when Estonia’s Stefan Arand barrel-rolled. Finland’s Sami Selio soon joined him on the sidelines.

Wyatt had earlier bagged the 10-point bonus with a start-to-finish victory in the first sprint race, holding Andersson at bay in the early stages before pulling away for a comfortable win.

In hostile Boston, Mavs’ Irving aims to keep focus on NBA Finals challenge

Updated 17 June 2024

In hostile Boston, Mavs’ Irving aims to keep focus on NBA Finals challenge

  • Friday night’s victory ended Irving’s own 13-game losing streak against the Celtics
  • Now Irving is more concerned with the task facing the Mavericks as they try to become the first NBA team to erase a 0-3 deficit to win a playoff series

NEW YORK: Resigned to the villain’s role in Boston, Dallas star Kyrie Irving is less concerned with silencing hostile Celtics fans than with quieting self-doubt and leading the Mavs in a must-win NBA Finals Game 5.

“Let’s just call it what it is,” Irving said Sunday as the Mavs prepared to try once again to fend off elimination in the championship series, in which they trail the Celtics 3-1.

“When the fans are cheering ‘Kyrie sucks’ they feel like they have a psychological edge, and that’s fair,’” said Irving, who was hounded by Celtics fans still rankled by his departure in 2019 after two seasons with the team.

Amid the jeers he delivered two sub-par performances in Games 1 and 2, the Mavs eventually falling 0-3 down before a blowout victory in Game 4 to extend the series.

“Of course, if I’m not making shots or turning the ball over, that makes it even more of a pressing issue that they can stay on me for,” Irving said.

“I think in order to silence even the self-doubt, let alone the crowd doubt, but the self-doubt when you make or miss shots, that’s just as important as making sure I’m leading the team the right way and being human through this experience, too, and telling them how I feel.”

Friday night’s victory ended Irving’s own 13-game losing streak against the Celtics.

He’s cognizant of his complicated personal history with the team, which he said stretches back further than his petulant demonstrations when his Brooklyn Nets were swept by the Celtics in the first round in 2022.

He said Sunday it started when he arrived in Boston in 2017, when he failed to engage with the history of the storied franchise or, as he put it “the cult that they have here.

“That’s what they expect you to do as a player,” Irving said. “They expect you to seamlessly buy into the Celtics’ pride, buy into everything Celtics. And if you don’t, then you’ll be outed.

“I’m one of the people that’s on the outs,” he added with a laugh. “I did it to myself.”

Now Irving is more concerned with the task facing the Mavericks as they try to become the first NBA team to erase a 0-3 deficit to win a playoff series.

“Most importantly, (it’s) not making this about me or getting into the energy with anyone else other than my teammates,” Irving said, adding that the Mavs must think “about the goal that we have in front of us as best we can, and try not to get tired of everyone talking about the history that has not been made.”

Irving, who won a title alongside LeBron James in Cleveland in 2016, said he had encouraged his teammates — — many in the Finals for the first time — to embrace and enjoy the moment.

“We got a chance to accomplish one of our goals, which is to make it back to Boston,” Irving said. “We have another goal in front of us, and that’s to make it back to Dallas.”

Ferrari overcome late drama to hang on for second consecutive 24 Hours of Le Mans victory

Updated 17 June 2024

Ferrari overcome late drama to hang on for second consecutive 24 Hours of Le Mans victory

  • Ferrari make it two in a row as they outlast Toyota to win a weather-affected 24 Hours of Le Mans

LE MANS, France: Ferrari made it two in a row as they outlasted Toyota to win a weather-affected 24 Hours of Le Mans on Sunday with the trio of Nicklas Nielsen, Antonio Fuoco and Miguel Molina crossing the line in the No. 50 car 14 seconds ahead of the No. 7 of Nyck de Vries, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez.

The No. 51 Ferrari helmed by Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado and Antonio Giovinazzi rounded out the top three in the latest running of the most iconic sports car race in the world.

Rain and fog brought out the safety car in the early hours of the morning with Ferrari jostling with Toyota and Porsche for top spot. But with dawn breaking, the racing resumed under a green flag with several teams in contention.

With less than six hours remaining the No. 50 Ferrari made their move just before more rain fell with Fuoco moving up the grid. Nielsen then survived more late drama when a flapping door forced the car into an unscheduled pit stop but managed to hang on for victory.

“Nicklas. Antonio. Miguel. You’ll be forever part of the legend now,” the FIA World Endurance Championship said on social media.

DeChambeau outlasts McIlroy to win second US Open crown

Updated 17 June 2024

DeChambeau outlasts McIlroy to win second US Open crown

  • The 30-year-old American became the second active player of Saudi-backed LIV Golf to win a major title after Brooks Koepka in the 2023 PGA Championship

PINEHURST, United States: Bryson DeChambeau captured his second US Open title on Sunday, outlasting Rory McIlroy in a dramatic back-nine duel to win by a stroke at Pinehurst.
Overtaken by McIlroy with six holes remaining to play, DeChambeau kept his poise over the dome-shaped greens and sandy waste areas of Pinehurst to rally for the crown.
McIlroy, thwarted in a bid to end a 10-year major win drought, led by two strokes with five holes to play.
But the four-time major winner from Northern Ireland made bogeys on three of the last four holes to help hand the trophy to DeChambeau.
“I still can’t believe it,” said DeChambeau. “It’s unbelievable.”
DeChambeau, who also won the 2020 US Open, fired a one-over-par 71 to finish on six-under-par 274 while McIlroy shot 69 to stand on 275 after 72 holes.
The 30-year-old American became the second active player of Saudi-backed LIV Golf to win a major title after Brooks Koepka in the 2023 PGA Championship.
In a collapse mindful of Greg Norman’s epic 1996 last-round loss to Nick Faldo at the Masters, McIlroy missed par putts from 2.5 feet at the par-3 17th and just inside four feet at the par-4 18th — tension-packed bogeys that left McIlroy one behind.
DeChambeau found dirt and weeds left and a bunker at 18 but blasted his third shot to four feet and sank his pressure-packed putt for the victory.
“I was not great today but I got out of trouble really well and then, man, I can’t believe that up and down the last — that was All-World, probably the best shot of my life.”
Raising his arms in triumph, DeChambeau screamed and jumped for joy, then paid tribute to the late Payne Stewart, the 1999 US Open winner at Pinehurst who died only a few months later.
“That’s Payne right there, baby,” DeChambeau said into a television camera, pointing to a pin of Stewart on his cap.
Americans Tony Finau and Patrick Cantlay shared third on 276, two off the pace, with Finau firing a 67. France’s Matthieu Pavon was fifth on 277 after a 71, one stroke ahead of Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, who fired a 70 to stand on 278.
DeChambeau answered bogeys at the fourth and 12th holes with birdies at the par-5 10th and par-4 13th to keep the pressure on McIlroy until he cracked.
“I felt like I was hitting the driver pretty well. It just wasn’t starting exactly where I wanted to hit to,” DeChambeau said.
“Ultimately on 13 I knew I had to make birdie there to give myself a chance, because Rory was going on a heater.
“He slipped up a couple on the way coming in and I just kept staying the course, focused on trying to do as many fairways as I could.”
McIlroy settled for his second US Open runner-up effort in a row and his 21st top-10 finish since he last won a major at the 2014 PGA Championship.
DeChambeau and McIlroy shared the lead at seven-under when the drama seemed to turn.
McIlroy sank a five-foot putt at 13 for his fourth birdie in five holes while DeChambeau found sand and weeds off the tee and made bogey at 12, a two-shot swing leaving McIlroy on eight-under and DeChambeau two back.
But DeChambeau birdied 13 from just outside 27 feet and McIlroy went over the green at the par-3 15th and missed a 31-foot par putt, leaving them deadlocked at the top again.
DeChambeau then suffered his first three-putt bogey of the tournament, lipping out a four-foot par putt at the par-3 15th to fall one back, only for McIlroy to botch his short putts at the end.
Pavon failed in his bid to become the second Frenchman to win a major title after Arnaud Massy at the 1907 British Open.
Sweden’s sixth-seeded Ludvig Aberg, who began five back, took a triple bogey at the second to fall back. He fired a 73 to share 12th on 281.
World number one Scottie Scheffler, the huge pre-tournament favorite, fired a two-over 72 to stand on eight-over 288 for what was only his second finish outside the top-10 this year.
“Didn’t play my best. A bit frustrating to end,” he said. “I definitely need to do some things better.”

Jude Bellingham’s goal secures England a 1-0 win against Serbia at Euro 2024

Updated 17 June 2024

Jude Bellingham’s goal secures England a 1-0 win against Serbia at Euro 2024

GELSENKIRCHEN: Jude Bellingham scored to give England a winning start at the European Championship by beating Serbia 1-0 on Sunday.
The Real Madrid star put England in front with a stooping header in the 13th minute at the Veltins Arena after Bukayo Saka’s cross.
Victory sent England to the top of Group C after Denmark drew 1-1 with Slovenia earlier in the day, with Christian Eriksen scoring three years after suffering a cardiac arrest on the field at the last Euros.
Gareth Southgate’s England was a beaten finalist at the last Euros, losing on penalties to Italy in the final three years ago. It is one of the favorites this time around.
The buildup to the game had been overshadowed by concerns about violence between rival supporters. And some of those fears were realized when police rushed to separate brawling fans in Gelsenkirchen earlier in the day.
Social media footage showed men throwing chairs at each other outside a restaurant festooned with Serbian flags in the city.