England hope Archer is on target against Smith in second Ashes Test

England’s Jofra Archer during a training session at Lord’s cricket ground in London on Tuesday. (Reuters)
Updated 13 August 2019

England hope Archer is on target against Smith in second Ashes Test

  • Holders Australia, bidding to win their first away Ashes series for 18 years

LONDON: England are set to field a revamped attack featuring fast bowler Jofra Archer as they try to finally get Australia’s batting star Steve Smith out cheaply and level the Ashes in the second Test at Lord’s.

Holders Australia, bidding to win their first away Ashes series for 18 years, humbled England last time out thanks in large part to Smith, who returned to this level following a 12-month ban for his involvement in a ball-tampering scandal with two centuries as they cruised to a 251-run first Test win at Edgbaston.

England have only twice won the Ashes after losing the opener — when all-rounder Ian Botham turned the 1981 series on its head with several superb solo efforts, and in the thrilling 2005 contest which they edged 2-1.

Defeat at Edgbaston was made worse for England by the fact that James Anderson, their all-time leading wicket-taker, broke down after bowling just four overs with a calf injury that has ruled the 37-year-old swing specialist out of a Lord’s encounter starting Wednesday.

“We are very aware that England played without James Anderson, one of their best players and we got lucky,” said Australia coach Justin Langer.

“That’s the truth of it, with him not playing. He’s a brilliant fast bowler, one of the all-time greats, so if he only bowls four overs for the match then we got lucky there.

“Here at Lord’s there’s different conditions and different pressures so we just have to make sure we’re right for this Test match,” added the former Australia opener, who played at the “home of cricket” for English county Middlesex.

Anderson’s absence means England are set to give a Test debut to Archer, who will be returning to the ground where he bowled the dramatic Super Over that sealed a thrilling World Cup final win over New Zealand last month.

But the 24-year-old, coached at Sussex by former Australia paceman Jason Gillespie, has played just 28 first-class matches and Langer was looking to his batsmen to wear Archer down in a way that’s not possible in a one-day international, where bowlers are restricted to a maximum of 10 overs.

“It’s the same for everyone in Test cricket, get them into their second, third and fourth spells,” Langer said.

But a defiant Archer insisted he was ready for the challenge, having proved his fitness for Sussex in a 2nd XI match against Gloucestershire during which he took 6-27 in the first innings and then scored 108 after a side strain ruled him out of contention at Edgbaston.

“I’ve played a lot more red-ball cricket and it’s my preferred format,” Archer said. “I’m more ready than I’ve ever been.

“I bowled 50 overs in one game for Sussex and am the one usually bowling at the end.

England are also set to field left-arm spinner Jack Leach, who scored a career-best 92 in the one-off Test win over Ireland at Lord’s last month, after Moeen Ali was dropped following the off-spinner’s lacklustre display at Edgbaston.

Analysis by CricViz shows Smith averages a modest 34.90 against left-arm spin compared to a superb overall Test mark of nearly 63.

But as for suggestions Smith had an inherent weakness when confronted with this type of bowling, Langer replied: “No, I don’t buy into it.

“He has got this incredible ability to solve problems.”


World’s richest horse race Saudi Cup to ‘open doors’ for tourists to Saudi Arabia

Updated 16 September 2019

World’s richest horse race Saudi Cup to ‘open doors’ for tourists to Saudi Arabia

  • Race billed as the richest on the planet with prize fund of $20 million
  • Visa procedures for the event were also confirmed on Monday

LONDON: Next year’s Saudi Cup horse race in Riyadh will help open up Saudi Arabia to visitors from around the world, Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia chairman Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al-Faisal said on Monday.

The race, billed as the richest on the planet with a prize fund of $20 million, will be run at the King Abdul Aziz racetrack in Riyadh on Feb. 29.

The race over a distance of nine furlongs (1,800 meters) on the dirt track will have a maximum field of 14 starters and will be free to enter and to participate in.

Prince Bandar told Arab News the race will allow visitors to the Kingdom an opportunity to enjoy everything the country has to offer.

“This event was initiated by the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, it has been two years in the making, and we were extremely encouraged by the position of the government,” he said.

“They have been very supportive in everything they can do to ensure it is a successful event, there is a definite political will to do so.”

Prince Bandar referred to an announcement earlier this month that Saudi Arabia would open its doors to tourists from around the world by the end of 2019.

“So that works for us very nicely,” he added.

Prince Bandar said while the prize money was obviously important in building the reputation of the event, it was not the sole reason for its hosting and that he hoped it would establish Saudi Arabia as a major racing nation on the global stage.

Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia's chairman Prince Bandar (C) with a host of UK trainers and jockey Frankie Dettori at the London launch of the Saudi Cup. (AN Photo/Daniel Fountain)

“It definitely falls in line with the kind of activities that are now opening up the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its people and culture to people from all over the world, so that they can come and experience the country first-hand and have the opportunity to see a part of the world that has not been visited as often as we would like.

“The introduction of the Saudi Cup as an international race is without doubt the most significant event in the history of horse racing in Saudi Arabia and it demonstrates our resolve to develop this great sport in the Kingdom and also our ambition to become a leading player on horse racing’s world stage,” he added.

During his address in central London Prince Bandar said: “We will be thrilled to welcome international competitors to these new races. I am especially pleased that we will be having turf racing in Riyadh for the first time, things are really beginning to take shape.”

The prince also said he was keen for women jockeys and trainers to get involved with the Saudi Cup, adding they would be “most welcome” to compete at the event, and that he hoped it would entice some of the world’s most promising female talent.

“Women have been very active in equestrianism as a whole in the Kingdom, it is quite normal in Saudi Arabia for them to compete at that level,” he said.

Also announced at the London launch were the meeting’s support races, which include a staying handicap race run over 3,000 meters, a middle-distance race over 2,100 meters, while the two races on the dirt track are over 1,200 meters and 1,600 meters.

Tom Ryan, Saudi Cup Race Director, said the races and the horses competing in them had been selected to offer the most competitive spectacle possible for the estimated 10,000-12,000 expected to be watching at the racetrack itself and global television audiences.

World-renowned jockey Frankie Dettori also spoke at the event and described his experiences of running horses on the King Abdul Aziz dirt track.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have been going there for a number of years, and the quality of the dirt track in Riyadh is second to none, probably the best I’ve ridden on. 

“I’ve ridden European horses on it, and they take to it really well, and the new turf track will give the day even more appeal. 

“I’m sure this is going to attract a lot of interest from around the world, I hope I’ll be there on the starting line come February 29.”

Visa procedures for the event were also confirmed on Monday, with the Saudi Cup following a similar system used by recent sporting events hosted in Saudi Arabia. Racegoers who buy a ticket for the Saudi Cup will automatically receive a visa to enter the Kingdom.

Prince Bandar said: “In Saudi Arabia, we’ve had experience with Formula E and other such events, whether it is in hospitality or entertainment and we have no problem with accommodation for those involved with the horses or who wish to attend the event.

“We will also be providing programs and packages for people who wish to tour Saudi Arabia, whether it is for the archaeology, for nature, or the seas, deserts or mountains — we have everything accounted for.”