The big hitters and class closers in Arab News’ IPL XI 2018

Sunrisers Hyderabad captain Kane Williamson (L) and Chennai Super Kings captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni pose with the Indian Premier League (IPL) trophy during the pre-match press conference ahead of the 2018 IPL Twenty20 final cricket match between Chennai Super Kings and Sunrisers Hyderabad in Mumbai on May 26, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 30 May 2018

The big hitters and class closers in Arab News’ IPL XI 2018

LONDON: At the end of the most competitive Indian Premier League (IPL) season since the competition began in 2008, picking an XI from the eight franchises is harder than ever. We will play by the rules though. In the IPL, no team can field more than four foreign players — our XI has the same composition.

KL Rahul: Had his teammates not underperformed so badly, Rahul’s batting would have taken Kings XI Punjab into the playoffs. He scored six half-centuries for a team in which only one other batsman crossed 350 runs for the season.

Jos Buttler: A man transformed after being asked to open, Buttler’s innovative and powerful strokeplay were instrumental in Rajasthan Royals sneaking into the playoffs. With Ben Stokes having a poor season, it was all the more important that he stepped up.

Kane Williamson: Did not have the impact he would have liked in the playoffs, but with eight half-centuries in the league phase, he was a byword for consistency. Shouldered the burden of captaincy and a weak batting side.

Rishabh Pant: He destroyed Bhuvneshwar Kumar, the league’s best bowler in previous seasons, while making a 63-ball 128 against table-topping Hyderabad. Despite Delhi’s season never taking off, Pant was relentless, pounding out the runs at a heady rate.

MS Dhoni: Smashed 30 sixes as he rediscovered his batting mojo. His three half-centuries were as many as he had made in three previous seasons, and his leadership was marked by the usual glacial calm. Got an aging side past the finish line.

Dinesh Karthik: Some would say he overachieved by taking a new-look Kolkata side into the playoffs. But for a heroic display from Rashid Khan, they could even have made the final. Rotated his bowlers cleverly and was exceptional at closing out tight games with the bat.

Krunal Pandya: Hardik Pandya may have the India cap and the rockstar image, but it was his older brother who was more consistent for Mumbai Indians. Krunal was his tidy self with the ball, and he offered a big-hitting option down the order, scoring faster than his sibling.

Rashid Khan: Probably the best T20 bowler in the world. He has been around a couple of seasons now, but so few batsmen continue to pick him from the hand. He is usually too quick to play off the pitch. The list of batsmen he flummoxed — Kohli, de Villiers and Dhoni included — reads like a who’s who of the game.

Deepak Chahar: He was the perfect sidekick for Lungi Ngidi, swinging the new ball accurately and giving little away. After a few seasons of struggle in domestic cricket, he is back in the limelight.

Umesh Yadav: A regular wicket-taker for a Bangalore side that had few others. Whether he pitched full or short, Yadav’s pace made him a potent threat. He and Yuzvendra Chahal seemed to be the only bowlers Kohli trusted.

Andrew Tye: Another whose stellar displays could not cover up the inadequacies of his Punjab teammates. The Tye knuckle-ball confounded most and played a massive part in the team starting the season 5-2.

Diriyah Tennis Cup serves up top-class fare

Updated 13 December 2019

Diriyah Tennis Cup serves up top-class fare

  • Day one of the three-day tournament saw Fognini, Monfils, Medvedev and Goffin through to the semi-finals

RIYADH: A new chapter was written today in Saudi Arabia’s sporting history as the first international tennis matches took place as part of the epic month of Diriyah Season.

The Diriyah Tennis Cup presented by Saudi Aramco will certainly go down in history as eight of the world’s best tennis stars met in the Diriyah Arena for the first-ever international tournament played in the Kingdom. 

The event also goes down in tennis history as not only the first in Saudi Arabia, but also one of the first to use Hawk-Eye Live technology. Replacing the need for line judges and providing more accuracy, Hawk-Eye Live sends visual and audio cues to the chair umpire and off-court monitors within a tenth of a second of a ball bouncing, to show faults and out of bounds shots without relying on the naked eye.

The first day as part of a three-day tournament saw all eight players in action in the opening matches. First up on court was Italian and world number 12 Fabio Fognini taking on American John Isner world number 19 and holder of the third fastest serve of all time in Men’s Tennis. Although both players will be written into the Kingdom’s history books, it was Fognini who was the record breaker as he delivered the first international serve and match win ever recorded, 7-6 6-4. 

Speaking after his win, Fabio Fognini said: “I won the first game of the competition, it’s nice. It’s something I will remember for sure and the people will remember as it is the first year we play here. I know they want to do something more [grassroots tennis], especially to improve tennis in this country so I’m happy.”

Commenting after the historic match, John Isner also added: “Very unique to be here and be part of this. I never thought I’d be here playing in Saudi Arabia. Very grateful and happy to be here. The ball kids did great tonight, fantastic job.”

Second up on the Diriyah Arena court was Swiss Stan Wawrinka, the world’s number 16, against Frenchman Gael Monfils the world’s number 10. Monfils took the win in straight sets 6-3 6-3. Monfils rallied the crowd by encouraging them to cheer and danced after some of his winning shots.

“So far it’s great. The offering they have here for us to perform is incredible. The court is one of the best…it’s quite nice. The people are very nice. I feel very good.” said Monfils.

Daniil Medvedev of Russia and Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany met in the third match of the evening. Medvedev made light work of Struff to take the win 6-3 6-1 and advance to the semi-finals.

Speaking after his win, Medvedev commented: “Was a great match. It’s never easy like this, after the end of the season, holidays and in the middle of pre-season to know how you are playing at this moment – are you strong or not? Today was a great match, beating Jan so easy is a great achievement because he’s a great player so I am really happy. The atmosphere was also really good and warm.”

In the final match of the night, Belgian’s David Goffin rallied with Lucas Pouille of France. Goffin took the final place in tomorrow night’s semi-finals beating Pouille 6-2 6-4.

After the match, Goffin commented: “Super organisation – the stadium is very nice. First time for me playing in Saudi, it’s a great atmosphere. I think for the people tonight it was something to see, professional tennis matches here. I think it was great for us and them as well. It’s a nice court and stadium – it could be a very nice center court in a big tournament.”

Today’s results will see Fognini of Italy meet Monfils of France in semi-final 1 and Medvedev of Russia will take on Goffin of Belgium on Friday 13th December. The remaining four players will still continue to play as part of the Consolation Bracket. The Diriyah Tennis Cup will conclude with the final on Saturday 14th December.