South Africa comfortable at No. 1

Updated 05 February 2013
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South Africa comfortable at No. 1

JOHANNESBURG: South Africa’s cricketers are increasingly comfortable as they look down on the rest of the cricketing world from their number one spot in the Test rankings.
A 211-run win in the first Test against Pakistan at the Wanderers Stadium was their fourth win in a row — all achieved within four days — and it extended their unbeaten run to 13 matches, going back more than a year.
Not only are South Africa on top of the Test team rankings, they dominate the individual categories too.
Hashim Amla tops the batting list, with AB de Villiers and Jacques Kallis also in the top ten, while Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander are the two top-ranked bowlers, with Morne Morkel at number nine.
In addition, Kallis is the leading all-rounder.
“It’s been a great year for our squad, and to be honest I still don’t think that I am the best batsman in our team,” said Amla.
“What has been most pleasing for us has been the all-round contribution from everyone in the squad.” “Everybody wants to do well for this team,” said Steyn, who destroyed Pakistan by taking six for eight in the first innings and had match figures of 11 for 60.
“We’re really pushing on for something at the moment. We’ve managed to bowl teams out for under 50 and with the bat we have managed to have some big sessions where we have piled on the runs.
“When this team puts its mind together it’s a pretty tough team to play against.” Despite being in his 17th season of international cricket, Kallis says that at the age of 37 he is enjoying the game more than ever.
“You wake up in the morning, keen to practice and play, not only because the team is winning but because of the environment that has been created and the players we’ve got.” Much of the credit for the team culture is due to captain Graeme Smith, the first man to have 100 Test captaincies under his belt, and coach Gary Kirsten, whose understated methods, based on humility and giving players responsibility, are proving as successful with his native country as they were when he was in charge of India.
“It’s an environment where guys are given the freedom to do what they want,” said Kallis.
“But there is a mark and no-one oversteps that mark, which is an incredible culture to have because everyone has respect for each other.” Smith said it was important to keep setting a high standard.


What now for Saudi Arabia’s big four teams?

Updated 19 April 2018
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What now for Saudi Arabia’s big four teams?

  • Al-Hilal won their 15th top-flight title this season.
  • Big summer for Saudi Arabia football with the Green Falcons at the World Cup.

Now the Saudi Professional League season is over for another year Arab News can look back at their title tilts and what the big four clubs have to do over the coming months ahead of the next season.

 



AL-HILAL

Finished: Champions

Coaching situation: Ramon Diaz was in charge for much of the season, but was fired in February after setbacks in the Champions League.
Assistant Juan Brown did Okay in the final stretch, but a top-class coach could get more out of this team.

Squad priorities: A reliable goalscorer to support Omar Khribin and with veteran defender Osama Hawsawi leaving for pastures new, a replacement center-back with leadership qualities. Welcoming back the major stars — Carlos Eduardo, Khribin, Nawaf Al-Abed and Salem Al -Dawsari — will be a major boost.

Aim next season: Win the AFC Champions League

 



AL-AHLI

Finished: Second

Coaching situation: Sergiy Rebrov is out of contract at the end of June. His future is likely to depend on how the team fares against Al-Sadd in the second round of the AFC Champions League in May.

Squad priorities: There is not much wrong. The Jeddah giants were the highest scorers in the league last season and had the second best defense. Keeping star midfielder Leonardo fit will help as will a little cover in the center of defense. Star striker Omar Al-Somah fell out with the coach in a public way in the penultimate game of the season. It may be that one of them has to go. The Syrian has been player of the year for three years and has a longer contract than Rebrov.

Aim next season: Win the league. Maintain good performances in Asia.


 
AL-NASSR

Finished: Third

Coaching situation: Krunoslav Jurcic arrived in January and the former Croatian national team boss produced an upswing in results. May just be a temporary appointment and it needs to be sorted quickly.

Squad priorities: Looks good with the Saudi Arabia national team keeper, a strong center-back pairing of Omar Hawsawi and Bruno Uvini and the full-back position seemingly sorted with the January signing of Saad Suhail. They probably need a defensive midfielder and have to keep Junior Kabananga. The DR Congo striker has shown enough in his few weeks at the club to suggest that he could be a real star next season, especially with Leonardo pulling the strings behind him.

Aim next season: A genuine title challenge and getting through the play-offs into  the 2019 AFC Champions League.

 


AL-ITTIHAD

Finished: Ninth

Coaching situation: A bottom half finish is unacceptable for a team with Al-Itithad’s stature and history. Chilean coach Jose Luis Sierra may find that winning domestic cups is no substitute for challenging for the title.

Squad priorities: There is too much reliance on players such as Carlos Villanueva, a creative spark in the team, and Fahad Al-Ansari, the midfield engine, who are the wrong side of 30. The possible return of star winger Fahad Al-Muwallad will help, but an introduction of energy is needed.

Aim next season: Top three and, if the team wins the King’s Cup, a good showing in the 2019 AFC Champions League.