Rohit Sharma knock leads India to first ODI series win in South Africa

India won a one-day series in South Africa for the first time after a knock of 115 from Rohit Sharma and the wickets of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal. (AP)
Updated 13 February 2018
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Rohit Sharma knock leads India to first ODI series win in South Africa

PORT ELIZABETH: India won a one-day series in South Africa for the first time, clinching a piece of history with a 73-run victory in the fifth game on Tuesday to lead 4-1 overall with one match left.
India’s win was set up by 115 from opener Rohit Sharma — his first significant score of the tour — and sealed by wrist spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, the standout bowlers in the series and constant thorns in the side of the South African batsmen.
India’s first success in an ODI contest in South Africa also came with a game to spare. The tourists could stamp their dominance even further with a potential 5-1 win over the team that was ranked No. 1 at the start of the series.
India are now top-ranked in ODIs and there is no doubting that after this performance. India have won nine straight series, and last lost one in Australia in early 2016.
India’s only failure in South Africa came in the fourth ODI, when South Africa took advantage in a rain-shortened game to pull one back and make it 3-1. That kept the home team alive, only for India to snuff out their hopes of drawing the series with a clinical win at St. George’s Park.
“I think it was another complete performance from us and something we needed to do after the last game,” India captain Virat Kohli said. “It feels wonderful to create some history. The guys have worked hard for it. Ever since that third test in Johannesburg, it’s been a wonderful time for us here.”
Following the disappointment of losing the first two tests of the tour and the series 2-1, India have bounced back to win five of the last six games between the teams in all formats.
That is more like the standard of performance expected of an India team that arrived in South Africa at the end of December with a big reputation under Kohli, arguably the best batsman in the world across all forms of the game.
In Port Elizabeth, it was Sharma’s turn to lead India’s batting. His century, with 11 fours and four sixes, took India to 274-7 after being asked to bat first by South Africa.
South Africa could only manage 201 all out in 42.2 overs in its chase, with Yadav taking 4-57 and Chahal 2-43.
Hashim Amla made 71 to keep South Africa hoping, but he was run out by a tiny margin with a direct hit from Hardik Pandya at mid-off in the 35th over and South Africa capitulated after that.
After Amla, South Africa went from 166-5 to 201 all out in the space of eight overs and those last five wickets all fell to the spin of Yadav or Chahal.
India’s series win was built on two key areas.
The top three of Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Kohli contributed four centuries, three half-centuries and nearly 900 runs between them in the five games. And Yadav and Chahal completely controlled proceedings with their slow bowling to share 30 wickets in five matches.
South Africa had won 17 straight ODIs at home before India swept to a 3-0 lead in this series, and ultimately their first series win in South Africa. India haven’t been regular visitors to South Africa for ODI series, but had waited since 1992 to win one here.
“This obviously hurts the guys a hell of a lot so we’re going to look to bounce back and at least end the one-day series on a positive note,” South Africa captain Aiden Markram said.


London clash between Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad a chance to showcase Saudi football to the world, says SAFF

Updated 16 August 2018
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London clash between Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad a chance to showcase Saudi football to the world, says SAFF

  • Super Cup final in UK capital can boost Saudi football's image around the world, claims SAFF official
  • SAFF defends number of foreign players allowed to play in Saudi Pro League claiming they help raise the standard.

LONDON: Saturday’s Super Cup final between Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad in London will not just be a great experience for the players, but also a chance to showcase the best of Saudi Arabian football on an international stage ahead of what should be a season to remember.
That is according to Luai Al-Subaiey, the General Secretary of the Saudi Arabia Football Federation (SAFF)ahead of the cup clash at Loftus Road, the home of Queen’s Park Rangers. The match is the traditional season curtain-raiser that features the champions and the winners of the King’s Cup. And with holding fixtures overseas a growing trend in modern football, Al-Subaiey told Arab News the decision to play the match in London was a no-brainer.
“Club teams from one country playing in another country is commonplace,” Al-Subaiey said.
“Teams from the English, German, Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese leagues played in the US this summer. The Spanish Super Cup was played in Morocco last week.
“We do it because it is good for our players to gather more international experience, to learn what it’s like to play in large overseas stadia, and of course, there is a large Saudi Arabian and Middle Eastern population living and working in London, (roughly) 300,000 people there.”
Al-Subaiey and Co. are confident that a great game in London this Saturday will be a springboard to a great season to come, especially with leading clubs in the country active in the international transfer market.
With eight overseas players allowed in Saudi Arabian teams in the upcoming Saudi Pro League season, there have been concerns that opportunities for local talent could be reduced. Al-Subaiey, however, believes that importing quality players can only be a good thing.
“Foreign players in the Saudi League will help improve the quality of football,” he said.
“But it also needs to be managed and balanced with the need to nourish domestic talent and provide our homegrown players with a pathway to the top.”
International stars such as Omar Abdulrahman have a part to play in the development of the Saudi Pro League and its ambition to be one of the leading leagues in the world. The United Arab Emirates playmaker joined Al-Hilal earlier in August in a season-long loan deal worth a reported $15 million — the second highest in football history.
As well as Abdulrahman, Al-Hilal have signed Peruvian international Andre Carrillo, who scored at the World Cup this summer, as well as former Barcelona defender Alberto Botia. Al-Nassr have bought Nigerian international Ahmed Musa from Leicester City and Nordin Amrabat from Watford.
“Has Wayne Rooney added something to DC United and the MLS? Has Omar Abdulrahman added to Al-Hilal? Of course, additions like these improve the quality of football,” Al-Subaiey said. “For the fans, these players bring excitement, and for the clubs and their league, these players bring a higher profile and greater attention — but there is something deeper too.”
For the official, what the best players bring is attitude and the utmost professionalism.
“Central to high performance sport is the right mindset. People like Rooney and Abdulrahman bring a great work ethic and possess great skills — but they also possess a professional mindset. And the young players who will work with them will see this, experience this — and learn from this.”
If all goes according to plan Saudi Arabia will qualify for the 2022 World Cup and perhaps even
progress to the second round for the first time since 1994. In Russia the Green Falcons started off with a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of the hosts in the opening game in Moscow. The team tightened up before losing narrowly to Uruguay, and then going on to beat Egypt 2-1 in the final game.
“We were absolutely delighted to be at the World Cup,” Al-Subaiey said.
“As you can tell with teams like Italy, Holland and the USA not qualifying and teams like Germany and Argentina not progressing (far in the tournament), the standard of play in international football is very high.
“Our particular group was quite challenging, and our initial game against host Russia, one of the biggest surprises of the World Group, was a difficult first match. Our final game, our win against Egypt, was a World Cup high point for our team. It was a match our young players and our national program can build on.”