England to tour Pakistan next October; 1st time since 2005

England to tour Pakistan next October; 1st time since 2005
Michael Vaughan. (AFP)
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Updated 19 November 2020

England to tour Pakistan next October; 1st time since 2005

England to tour Pakistan next October; 1st time since 2005
  • Michael Vaughan was captain when England last toured Pakistan for three test matches and five one-day internationals

ISLAMABAD: England’s cricket team will play two Twenty20 Internationals in Karachi next October during its first tour to Pakistan since 2005.

The England and Wales Cricket Board on Wednesday said its squad will arrive in the southern port city on Oct. 12. After playing back-to-back Twenty20s on Oct. 14 and 15, both teams will fly to India on Oct. 16 for the T20 World Cup.

The ECB also announced a busy summer schedule with three Asian countries — Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India — all touring England.

Sri Lanka will play three ODIs in late June and July, followed by Pakistan’s tour comprising three ODIs and three Twenty20s. The English summer culminates with India playing five test matches in August and September.

England hosted West Indies and Pakistan earlier this year without fans, but it announced a ticket ballot on Wednesday for next summer’s home games. Potential spectators were promised a full refund in case the games need to be played without fans next year too.

“We had an amazing summer of international cricket this year with some memorable performances, and we know how much enjoyment it brought to people while staying at home,” EC CEO Tom Harrison said in a statement.

“Next year we’ve got another big international program to look forward to … It’s an exciting prospect for England fans, and while Covid means there’s still a great deal of uncertainty, we really hope to be able to welcome fans back into the grounds safely next year to bring that unique atmosphere to stadia across the country.”

Michael Vaughan was captain when England last toured Pakistan for three test matches and five one-day internationals.

Since then Pakistan has twice hosted England — in 2012 and 2015 — in the United Arab Emirates due to security concerns over traveling to Pakistan. Test cricket returned to the country after more than 10 years when Sri Lanka toured Pakistan late last year. International cricket was halted in Pakistan after the Sri Lanka cricket team bus was targeted in a terrorist attack in March 2009.

Despite international travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic this year, Pakistan was able to tour England and play three test matches and three Twenty20s in Manchester.

“As was demonstrated this summer, we have a strong relationship with the PCB and the ECB is delighted to be able to play our part in ensuring the safe return of international cricket to this wonderful nation of passionate cricket fans,” Harrison said.

Harrison said that the ECB is working closely with the Pakistan Cricket Board to ensure safety and security of its team and “of course the situation regarding the fast-moving and ever-changing COVID-19 pandemic.”

The PCB expects England’s short tour will showcase Pakistan’s ability to host international matches and will encourage the visitors for their tour to Pakistan in 2022-23 season.


First cricket World Test Championship puts new spin on game’s established formats

First cricket World Test Championship puts new spin on game’s established formats
Updated 32 min 52 sec ago

First cricket World Test Championship puts new spin on game’s established formats

First cricket World Test Championship puts new spin on game’s established formats
  • In the second of his regular columns for Arab News, Jon Pike explains cricket’s different formats and how each can have its own world’s best

Cricket can be impenetrable for those who are new to it and seeking to understand its rules and conventions.

The scoring system, the idiosyncratic names given to positions in the field, strange signals made by umpires, the use of a literacy known only to cricket, outbreaks of applause for no apparent reason, and matches ending with no outright winner after days of play, all combine to create an arcane environment.

This is exacerbated by a variety of formats under which the game is played. Until the early 1970s, international cricket consisted of (generally) five-day Test matches, a term used to describe the contests in the very first visit by an England team to Australia in 1862-63.

After 1971, when Australia and England played a limited, 40 overs match because the Test at Melbourne had been washed out, one-day cricket gained momentum, with the first Cricket World Cup contested by eight teams in England in June 1975, based on a format of 60 overs per side in each match.

The popularity of the format, reduced to 50 overs in 1987, has been enduring, with the dramatic final between England and New Zealand at Lord’s in July 2019 set to last long in the memory. At the end of the 100 overs, the scores were tied, and the outcome was decided when England scored the most runs in one extra over of six balls per side.

Such gripping finales are rare, and cricket’s administrators have been concerned for decades about the game’s lack of attraction to younger people, fearing the universal appeal of football to them. This has been very much the case in the UK.

In 2003, the governing body, the England and Wales Cricket Board, introduced a new format called Twenty20 (T20), in which each side was limited to 20 overs, having developed a format which was first trialed in New Zealand in the 1990s.

T20 cricket has attracted new audiences, no more so than in India, where the spectacular Indian Premier League (IPL) that began in 2007 has captured global attention and made rich men of many of the world’s leading cricketers.

The introduction in England in July of a new, even shorter competition called the Hundred will add further complexity to the game’s playing architecture, especially as each over will comprise of the delivery of 10 balls rather than the customary six.

It is the policy of cricket’s governing body, the International Cricket Council (ICC), to have one pinnacle tournament for each of the three formats over a four-year period. World Cup tournaments have been in place for 50-over cricket since 1975 and for T20 since 2007, but not for Test match cricket.

It is usually clear which is the dominant team of the time in Test match cricket – for example, the West Indies in the 1970s and 1980s, followed by Australia until the late 2000s. Currently, it is arguable that it is India, a debate that is about to be tested between June 18 and 23 in Southampton, England, when India and New Zealand compete to be crowned champions in the first ever World Test Championship (WTC) final.

The two countries have earned the right to joust for the honor through a rankings system. These were introduced, through private endeavor, for Test cricket in 1987, with one-day international rankings being added in 1998. In 2005, the rankings were acquired by the ICC, who added them for women’s international cricket in 2008 and for T20 cricket in 2011.

The nature of Test cricket, in that it is played at differing times of the year in quite varying conditions, makes it difficult to compare performance on a common basis.

The ratings are based on matches played by 10 teams within a four-year cycle. The inputs into the calculations include points that reflect each team’s performance, the relative strengths of the two teams playing in each series of Tests and matches that have been played most recently.

Ultimately, the ranking is based on an average of the matches played and the points earned.

Annual updates are made every May, with the oldest of the results in the four-year cycle being replaced every calendar year. This system gave rise to a situation whereby the identities of the two finalists were not determined until early March, when it became clear that India had defeated England in a four-match series in India.

As a result, the final ratings in the four-year cycle saw India, with 121 points, just pip New Zealand on 120, followed by England with 109, and Australia with 108. The short lead by which India topped the rankings suggests that the match will be close run, especially in English conditions, with which New Zealand are more familiar, even more so as they have comprehensively outplayed England in a two-match series which ended on June 13 in Birmingham.

The build up to the WTC has not been receiving much coverage or attention, at least not in England, a factor not helped by the fact that it will be competing for space with the delayed Euro 2020 football tournament.

It remains to be seen if this inaugural event, designed to establish an outright champion Test playing team, will capture long-term interest.


Ukraine gets 1st win, beats North Macedonia 2-1 at Euro 2020

Ukraine gets 1st win, beats North Macedonia 2-1 at Euro 2020
Updated 17 June 2021

Ukraine gets 1st win, beats North Macedonia 2-1 at Euro 2020

Ukraine gets 1st win, beats North Macedonia 2-1 at Euro 2020
  • Andriy Yarmolenko and Roman Yaremchuk score again to give Ukraine a 2-1 victory over North Macedonia at Euro 2020
  • Goals were separated by 5 minutes meanwhile against the Dutch they scored only 4 minutes apart

BUCHAREST: Andriy Yarmolenko and Roman Yaremchuk both scored again, and this time it was enough.
The pair of forward netted a goal each in the first half Thursday to give Ukraine a 2-1 victory over North Macedonia at the European Championship.
The same two players also scored in the team’s opening match at Euro 2020 on Sunday, but that ended up being a 3-2 loss to the Netherlands.
Yarmolenko netted from close range in 29th minute after Oleksandr Karavaev’s flick from a corner. He then released Yaremchuk on the right flank in the 34th to double the lead with a low shot past onrushing goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski.
The goals were separated by five minutes. Against the Dutch, they scored only four minutes apart.
“I’m pleased with the three points we have earned,” Yarmolenko said, thanking his coaches for trusting him after spending most of the season on the bench at West Ham. “We can celebrate tonight, but tomorrow we’ll be preparing for the next game.”
The pair equaled coach Andriy Shevchenko’s record of scoring two goals at the European Championship. Shevchenko netted his in a 2-1 victory over Sweden when the country co-hosted Euro 2012, Ukraine’s only previous victory at the continental tournament.
“Today, we as the team played well in the attack,” Shevchenko said. “It was a pleasure to watch. During the game we had a lot of chances to score more.”
Ezgjan Alioski got the only goal for North Macedonia in the 57th minute when he scored on a rebound after goalkeeper Georgiy Bushchan blocked his penalty shot.
The penalty was awarded after Karavaev brought down North Macedonia striker Goran Pandev, who was aiming for a rebound after Bushchan pushed a shot from Aleksandar Trajkovski onto the woodwork.
“Maybe we should have attacked more, but we found ourselves two goals behind, and when that happens, it’s difficult to turn the match around,” Alioski said.
Ruslan Malinovskyi later had a penalty saved by Dimitrievski on the other end. It was awarded for a handball following a free kick after a video review.
Ukraine now has three points in Group C while North Macedonia has zero and is facing elimination from the tournament.
Ukraine is appearing in its third European Championship and has never progressed out of the group stage. The team will remain in Bucharest for its final group match against Austria while North Macedonia will travel Amsterdam to face the Netherlands.
North Macedonia is playing at its first major tournament. The team lost to Austria 3-1 in its opening game.
“We played a match of two very different halves,” North Macedonia coach Igor Angelovski said. “In the second half we showed why we are at the European Championship.”
Referee Andres Rapallini of Argentina was in charge of the game at the National Arena with linesmen Juan Pablo Belatti and Diego Bonfa assisting. They were taking part in the European tournament amid an exchange with South American soccer body CONMEBOL.
A Spanish refereeing crew will take charge of a Copa America match between Chile and Bolivia on Friday.


Saudi Arabia’s crown prince to provide $1.33m a year to Arab Football Associations

Minister of Sport Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal chaired the 26th Arab General Assembly of the Arab Football Federation. (Twitter/@UAFAAC)
Minister of Sport Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal chaired the 26th Arab General Assembly of the Arab Football Federation. (Twitter/@UAFAAC)
Updated 37 min 26 sec ago

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince to provide $1.33m a year to Arab Football Associations

Minister of Sport Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal chaired the 26th Arab General Assembly of the Arab Football Federation. (Twitter/@UAFAAC)
  • The meeting voted Prince Abdul Aziz as president of the union for a new term between 2021-2025

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will provide SR5 million ($1.33 million) a year in support of the Union of Arab Football Associations (UAFA).
Minister of Sport Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, who is also UAFA president, told a UAFA annual meeting in Jeddah that the union has received SR5 million from the crown prince for this year in support of the union and its programs.
The meeting voted Prince Abdul Aziz as president of the union for a new term between 2021-2025.


FINA World Swimming Championships set to rival Olympics for quality: Event organizer

FINA World Swimming Championships set to rival Olympics for quality: Event organizer
Updated 17 June 2021

FINA World Swimming Championships set to rival Olympics for quality: Event organizer

FINA World Swimming Championships set to rival Olympics for quality: Event organizer
  • Abu Dhabi Sports Council director hopes December competition at Etihad Arena will raise profile of swimming in UAE
  • The centerpiece of the event will be Yas Island’s Etihad Arena, which was launched with UFC Fight Island 3 in January

ABU DHABI: At a time when holding international events had become practically impossible in the aftermath of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island emerged as an example of how a safe environment could be provided for the return of major sporting competitions.

First came three UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) Fight Island events in 2020 and earlier this year, and then the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship (ADWPJJC) was staged in April.

Next up for the UAE capital is the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m), which will run from Dec. 16 to 21.

The fighting mats at the new Etihad Arena will be replaced by a retractable swimming pool with an adjoining warm-up pool as the world’s best short-course swimmers head to the city for a competition initially scheduled for last year.

“We expect over 160 countries to be represented and registration has already been opened by Abu Dhabi Sports Council (ADSC), led by (secretary-general) Aref Al-Awani,” ADSC event director, Abdulla Al-Wheibi, told Arab News.

“It’s important to note that we are in daily contact with government agencies to ensure safety measures, this is a new aspect for us.

“The safety precautions are updated from time to time. Whether it is health and safety information regarding vaccines or PCRs (polymerase chain reaction tests), we make sure they are taken on board. Also, any updates covering accommodation and transport,” he said.

The success of the previous competitions has encouraged ADSC and its partner organizations to expand the program of events. Crucially, thanks to the strict safety precautions, Abu Dhabi has become a destination that athletes feel comfortable travelling to.

“Without doubt, Abu Dhabi is one of the most popular cities to hold tournaments. It has succeeded in the past in holding big tournaments.

“What has helped is the outstanding logistics that we have here, the facilities, the capacities to host, all of these things helped in successfully hosting previous tournaments and hopefully the coming ones as well,” Al-Wheibi added.

The competition’s organization and facilities were recently given the seal of approval by the visiting Taha Al-Kishri, director of the Asia Swimming Federation, member of the executive board at FINA, and chairman of the Arabian and Oman Swimming Association.

“His feedback was very positive, and he was confident that Abu Dhabi will put on a world-class event,” said Al-Wheibi, adding that in terms of numbers and quality of swimmers, the competition could rival the standards of the Olympics.

“The total number present if you include participants, teams, and organizers will be more than 2,000. In terms of quality, this will be the highest-ranking world tournament.

“It takes place every four years, similar to the Olympics. The next one takes place in Kazan (Russia) in 2025. In terms of numbers and quality of athletes, it is the same caliber as the Olympics. The swimmers are preparing this season to take in two competitions, the Olympics, and then this one,” he added.

Al-Wheibi pointed out that having the world’s best athletes at the event would help to further raise the profile of swimming in the UAE, and he hoped it would encourage more Emiratis to take up the sport.

“We are working on several development programs, one of which is for the UAE national team which over the last two years has been overseen by an Australian technical director. This program is not just during the tournaments but an ongoing one, because our target is to produce a talented group over the coming years.

“Swimming in particular requires long-term planning if you are to produce world champions. Abu Dhabi Sports Council will continue to strongly back these swimmers,” he said.

Other initiatives will involve schools and academies as ADSC looks to create a community ahead of the competition, which will also see the three-day FINA World Aquatics Convention take place on the sidelines.

“It will be attended by international entities that will display products that are related to swimming. There will also be clinics and workshops, and the subjects of the latest training methods will be discussed, and doping will be tackled. It will be a sporting festival,” he added.

The centerpiece of the event will be Yas Island’s Etihad Arena, which was launched with UFC Fight Island 3 in January.

Al-Wheibi said: “It’s a wonderful arena with world-class specifications. It’s one of the most beautiful locations you could hold this tournament in. Having the Etihad Arena has massively aided in holding sporting events because it has the capabilities to hold any event in ideal circumstances.

“The facilities it has, such as seating, offices, VIP sections, entrances, athlete facilities, media centers, and the compound, make it complete.

“Add to that its location on Yas Island, a beautiful island that includes top-class hotels and facilities. We recently inspected the new Hilton Yas hotel adjacent to the arena. It has over 500 rooms and will act at the official headquarters for the tournament. Then there are the W Hotel, Crown Plaza, and others which will be used by the athletes and technical staff,” he added.

Having all these facilities in close proximity would, according to Al-Wheibi, make it easier to host competitions by reducing the need for transportation, similar to an Olympic village.

While UFC Fight Island allowed a maximum of 2,000 fans into Etihad Arena in January, it has not yet been decided if the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) will have a live audience. Either way, fans will have an opportunity to catch the action.

“As things stand there is no final decision on the attendance of fans, but if a live audience was to be allowed, it will be at 30 percent of the total capacity, in accordance with safety restrictions.

“We have to consider those coming from abroad as well, it will be limited, and an announcement will be made ahead of the tournament. We will be using our sports television channels to ensure the live broadcast of the tournament,” Al-Wheibi said.


Al-Hilal trio join Saudi U-23 squad as ‘overage’ players ahead of Olympic training camp

Al-Hilal trio join Saudi U-23 squad as ‘overage’ players ahead of Olympic training camp
Updated 17 June 2021

Al-Hilal trio join Saudi U-23 squad as ‘overage’ players ahead of Olympic training camp

Al-Hilal trio join Saudi U-23 squad as ‘overage’ players ahead of Olympic training camp
  • Coach Saad Al-Shehri has called up three senior squad players who helped the senior Saudi national team reach the final round of World Cup qualification

DUBAI: Saudi U-23 coach Saad Al-Shehri has called up full internationals Salman Al-Faraj, Salem Al-Dawsari and Yasser Al-Shahrani of Al-Hilal to join the Riyadh Olympic training camp.

The camp, which will be held between June 23 to July 14, is the fifth and final phase of the team’s preparation for the Olympic Games in Tokyo, which is set to start on July 23.

The trio were involved with the Saudi senior squad’s joint qualification campaign for the 2022 World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup.

Teams taking part in the Olympic football tournament are allowed to add three over-age players to their U-23 squad. Al-Shehri has gone with three proven winners who this season helped Al-Hilal to win a record 17th Saudi Professional League title and progress to the last 16 of the 2021 AFC Champions League.

On Tuesday, the Saudi U-23 football returned to Riyadh after concluding its Olympic training camp in the Spanish city of Marbella.

In Japan, the Saudi U-23 team will face Brazil, Germany and Ivory Coast in Group D of the men’s football tournament.