Juan Antonio Pizzi confident Saudi Arabia can mount an Asian Cup title challenge

Salem Al-Dawsari scored for the Green Falcons during their 4-0 win over North Korea and will be a key man for the side in the UAE. (AFP))
Updated 11 January 2019
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Juan Antonio Pizzi confident Saudi Arabia can mount an Asian Cup title challenge

LONDON: Saudi Arabia are feeling confident and ready to take on anyone, that is the message Juan Antonio Pizzi has delivered to the team’s title rivals ahead of today’s Group E clash against Lebanon.
The Green Falcons won their opening match in emphatic style against North Korea on Tuesday. The 4-0 win seemingly imbuing the side with a lot of belief as well as the all-important three points.
They can confirm their spot in the second round with victory over a Lebanon side who felt aggrieved during their 2-0 loss at the hands of Qatar — coach Miodrag Radulovic hitting out at what his thought was awful refereeing.
Pizzi and his players are chomping at the bit to get at the Cedars and confirm that they are one of the teams to beat in the UAE.
“If the team continues at the level that they did against North Korea, it will be difficult for any other nation in the tournament to defeat us,” the coach said.
“We are ready for (the match against Lebanon), we hope to apply what we planned for in the match. We trust in our abilities and will look to impose our philosophy.”
Such confidence is perhaps understandable. The win was Saudi Arabia’s first in an Asian Cup since 1996 and only confirmed that the good run of form shown coming into the tournament was a pointer to possible success rather than false promise.
But while confidence is clear for all too see Pizzi insisted they will not be taking victory against Lebanon for granted.
“I previously said at the beginning of the tournament that every team has its strong points, and I think Lebanon are ready to match our strengths. We know the only way to win is to do our best,” the former Spain international said.
Green Falcons midfielder Hussein Al-Moqahwi illustrated the players were singing from the same song book as their boss revealing he and his teammates were expecting a tough test against Radulovic’s team.
“Tomorrow’s game will be tough, especially since Lebanon lost their first match,” the midfielder said. “This is one of the most dangerous games, but hopefully the three points will be ours.”
Before the tournament Pizzi emphasized the benefit of finally having his players all together for a long stretch of time, saying he was able implement his ideas far better than at the World Cup, when he was only six months into the job and very much in at the deep end.
That is something Al-Moqahwi agreed with.
“We have adapted to the manager’s style of play and hopefully will be able to implement it during the match,” he said.


David Warner on fire in IPL return after ball-tampering ban but epic knock not enough to stop Kolkata

Updated 24 March 2019
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David Warner on fire in IPL return after ball-tampering ban but epic knock not enough to stop Kolkata

  • Warner did not play in the 2018 edition of the IPL tournament
  • During his ban, he played T20 franchise cricket in Canada, Bangladesh and the Caribbean

KOLKATA: Australia’s David Warner smashed 85 from 53 balls on his Indian Premier League comeback Sunday but his knock went in vain as Sunrisers Hyderabad lost to Kolkata Knight Riders.
Warner, who along with compatriot Steve Smith returns to the Twenty20 tournament after missing the previous edition due to a ball-tampering controversy, steered Sunrisers to 181 for three after being put into bat.
Warner did not play in the 2018 edition of the IPL tournament after organizers stopped him for his part in the scandal.
His one-year ban from international cricket ends later this month and the 32-year-old opener is expected to make Australia’s World Cup squad and play in this summer’s Ashes series in England.
During his ban, he played T20 franchise cricket in Canada, Bangladesh and the Caribbean, and grade cricket in Australia.
His efforts though were not enough, with Andre Russell hitting an unbeaten 49 off 19 balls as the Knight Riders won by six wickets with two balls to spare at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens.
A pause for a floodlight failure in the 16th over re-charged Knight Riders’ chase as Russell put together an unbeaten 65-run stand with Shubman Gill, who hit 18 runs including the winning six.
Russell struck four fours and four sixes
Earlier Warner stood out during a 118-run opening stand with England’s Jonny Bairstow, who made 39, to lay the platform for their big total.
“It is good to get out there and contribute. It looked a nice wicket to bat on but it slowed down a bit which made us reassess after six overs,” Warner said after his knock.
The Australian admitted some anxiety before his big return to IPL — and an unusual solution.
“I was a bit nervous in the dressing room and kept drinking pickle juice,” he said.
Opener Warner survived a reprieve on 38 after Knight Riders captain and wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik dropped him off left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav.
Warner, who captained Sunrisers to their only IPL title in 2016, made the most of the spill and raced to his 37th IPL fifty with a six off Russell to signal his aggressive intent.
Bairstow was bowled by leg-spinner Piyush Chawla but Warner took the attack to the opposition, hitting nine fours and three sixes during his blitz.
Warner, who recently recovered from an elbow injury he picked in the Bangladesh Premier League, finally fell to Russell after driving the ball to cover.
Warner said his elbow “wasn’t all too bad” after doing a lot of work with his trainer back home.
Year-long bans from state and international cricket for Warner and Smith end on March 28 but the duo are keen to get among the runs in the IPL, ahead of the 50-over World Cup starting in May.
The suspension did not include club games but IPL’s governing council decided not to allow the disgraced duo in the 11th edition of the T20 league last year in a bid to avoid controversy.
The pair were banned for cheating in a Cape Town Test in March last year along with teammate Cameron Bancroft, whose nine-month ban has already finished.
Smith is expected to appear for his team Rajasthan Royals in their opening match against Kings XI Punjab in Jaipur on Monday.