England were ‘curious’ about potential Australia tampering, says Alastair Cook

Cameron Bancroft was the player who executed Australia's attempt to alter the condition of the ball. (AFP)
Updated 25 April 2018
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England were ‘curious’ about potential Australia tampering, says Alastair Cook

  • England batsman wondered how Aussies got the ball moving in Perth
  • Cook accepts 'people do make mistakes'

LONDON: Alastair Cook has revealed England’s players were “curious” about Australia potentially engaging in ball-tampering during the recent Ashes series.
Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft were hit with long suspensions by Cricket Australia after they plotted to use sandpaper on the ball in their third Test with South Africa last month.
The shamed trio claimed that was their first instance of ball-tampering.
But the spotlight has now been put on the Ashes, with television footage since emerging of Bancroft putting sugar in his pocket.
Australia’s consistent ability to get reverse swing had England’s bowlers scratching their heads during their 4-0 series defeat.
Cook was part of the England side and he admitted on Tuesday that there were questions among his squad about the third Test in Perth.
Asked at a Chance to Shine event in Tunbridge Wells whether England suspected Australia of ball-tampering during the Ashes, he said: “Yes a little bit, certainly in Perth when the outfield was wet with rain they got the ball reversing.
“I didn’t see anything. We have been pretty good at managing the ball to see if we can get it to reverse swing but then there’s the thing with the quicker you bowl the ball it reverse swings more.
“That was the thing in 2005, we had Simon Jones and Freddie (Andrew Flintoff) who were quicker than the Australian bowlers.
“We have to be very careful, we were curious at certain moments but then we couldn’t get the ball up to 90mph where they consistently could.”
Australia’s actions in Cape Town were widely criticized, with Smith and Warner both receiving year-long suspensions.
Cook insisted that should be a timely reminder for the game to be played in the right way.
“It’s not for me to comment on punishment, but the whole thing is a reminder that people want to see,” he said.
“It’s the same with cycling, that whoever is playing that people play in a fair way. If you try your hardest and there’s no external things that you win or lose that way.
“It’s amazing the public outcry for that.
“Sometimes with the pressure of playing, and it is so important to you and it’s your livelihood, sometimes winning or losing can overtake things.
“It’s wrong for everyone to sit in the cold light of day and criticize because people do make mistakes.”


Saudi Arabia hopeful ahead of opening Asian Games opening clash against Iran

Updated 14 August 2018
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Saudi Arabia hopeful ahead of opening Asian Games opening clash against Iran

  • Young Falcons hopeful of a semifinal spot.
  • Under-23 players keen on making a name for themselves in Indonesia.

JAKARTA: There is a widely held belief that to succeed in sport, you must start early.
Officials from the Saudi Arabia National Olympic Committee will be hoping it rings true this month as the Kingdom’s Under-23 football team prepares to prematurely kick-off its Asian Games campaign this afternoon in Jakarta, three days before the continent’s largest multi-sport competition officially begins.
Similar to the Olympics, the football tournament starts before the opening ceremony and finishes on the competition’s final day, Sept. 2. The fledgling Young Falcons face Iran today at the 28,000-capacity Wibawa Mukti Stadium in the Indonesian capital.
The Saudi NOC have brought a delegation of 169 athletes, including eight females, and will compete across 22 disciplines, including athletics, shooting, taekwondo and volleyball. The three-week Asian Games operate both as a continental precursor and, at times, a qualifying tournament for 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
The Young Falcons made their football debut at the Asian Games in South Korea four years ago, reaching the quarterfinals in Incheon, before losing to Iraq. Their regional neighbors were inspired by legendary striker Younes Mahmoud, who had been included as one of Iraq’s three over-age players and scored twice in a 3-0 win.
Yet the impact of Mahmoud in Korea has not influenced the team’s selection. With the Saudi Pro League starting next week, coach Saad Al-Shehri has opted to forego athletes older than 23, instead selecting a squad consisting primarily of Al-Ahli development players and a smattering of Al-Hilal, Al-Nassr, Al-Ittihad and Al-Ettifaq-based youths.
“We haven’t brought any overage players because we are playing here as preparation for the U23 Asian Cup, which will offer qualification for Tokyo 2020,” said Faisal Almarashdi, a spokesman for the team.
“We have brought to Indonesia only players who are 21 or under as they will all be eligible for Tokyo. Many have already played at the Under-20 World Cup under coach Saad, so there was never any discussion to use the three allocated over-age slots.”
Abdullah Otayf is the model example of how Asian Games experience can help a young career. Four years ago, the deep-lying midfielder was part of the squad that traveled to Korea. This summer he was an integral part of the Green Falcons side that played at the World Cup in Russia. 
With national team coach Juan Antonio Pizzi following the competition from afar, there will be chances to catch the eye for the likes of striker Haroune Camara and midfielders Abdullah Yahya Magrshi and Ali Hassan Al-Asmari ahead of January’s Asian Cup. Both midfielders have already made their full debuts for Ahli and featured in the Jeddah club’s Champions League campaign last season, while Al-Qadisiyah’s Camara was included in Pizzi’s provisional World Cup squad before being cut from the final 23.
“These Asian Games are very important for the young players involved,” Almarashdi added.
“They are the future of the senior team so if they play well here and at the U23 Asian Cup then, we hope, they will go to Tokyo 2020. From then on the pathway to the senior team is already very clear.”  
Much like the seniors, the U23 side is both short and slight, with only two of the 10 midfielders and forwards standing above 5 foot 8 (172m). Today’s opponents Iran are not only taller and more physical, they also have, in Croatian coach Zlatko Kranjčar, a manager who knows West Asian football after short spells in Qatar and the UAE. In their most recent preparation match, Iran lost 3-2 to China. 
Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, beat the UAE last week in Malaysia following a pair of friendlies against local sides. Today’s match will kick-off at 4 p.m. local time, midday in Saudi Arabia.