New Zealand defy India, and English weather, to claim inaugural cricket World Test Championship

New Zealand defy India, and English weather, to claim inaugural cricket World Test Championship
Reserve day needed after rain disrupts new competition’s playoff Test at Southampton. (File/AFP)
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Updated 24 June 2021

New Zealand defy India, and English weather, to claim inaugural cricket World Test Championship

New Zealand defy India, and English weather, to claim inaugural cricket World Test Championship
  • Reserve day needed after rain disrupts new competition’s playoff Test at Southampton

LONDON: How typical that English summer rain and murky conditions should conspire to influence the passage of the inaugural World Test Championship at Southampton over its five days. Were it not for the prescience of the International Cricket Council in deciding to allocate a reserve day, the match would have ended in a draw, with no outright champion.

As it was, the rain relented on the sixth day and the sun came out of hiding, allowing a full day’s play in which New Zealand triumphed in a tense atmosphere when their bowlers made good use of a helpful pitch and experienced batsmen saw them home with a mature and patient  display. They are worthy winners of the trophy, which earned them $1.6 million and India $800,000.

This was a welcome outcome for an event, first proposed in 2009, that has been dogged by a chequered launch, with previous attempts to introduce it having been abandoned in 2011 and 2014.

These two teams vying to become outright Test match champions earned that status through a points-based system which measured the performance, since August 1, 2019, of nine Test match-playing teams, in a specified number of series.

The intention of the ICC was for the teams to play eight Test series, but the crowded cricketing calendar, coupled with political considerations, would allow only six. This created a framework with each team scheduled to play three home and away series, involving 72 matches and 27 series. The pandemic struck part way through the cycle and not all teams were able to play six series.

A total of 120 points has been on offer for all series, irrespective of the number of games scheduled within the series, with the 120 divided by the number of scheduled matches. Thus, a five-match series carried 24 points for a win and a two-match series carried 60 points for a win. The two teams with the highest number of points are eligible to contest for the title of world champions in a play-off Test.

In November 2020, when the impact of the pandemic was apparent, the ICC adopted a percentage of points system, whereby the number of points that a team accrues is divided by the total that it contests. On this basis, India emerged with 72.5 percent and New Zealand with 63.6 percent.

Somewhat confusingly, the ICC also produces a rating of Test teams over a three-to-four-year cycle, using a different points system, by which the number of points obtained is divided by the number of matches to generate an average, called a rating. Fortunately, New Zealand and India are the top-rated teams at present, so there can be little argument about their respective rights to be at Southampton.

The aim of the ICC in devising the World Test Championship points system that applied between 2019 and 2021, was to encourage teams to place more emphasis on winning matches and to revive bilateral Test cricket.

However, the system is far from perfect. While it is out of the ICC’s control that India and Pakistan have not played a Test series against each other since 2007, current and past cricketers, such as Michael Holding, have criticized the fact that a win in a five-match series counts for less than a win in a two-match series.

In addition, there was criticism well before the match about pinning the title of world test champions on a single match, which is vulnerable to local conditions, as was illustrated in Southampton. The Indian head coach is not alone in expressing a view that a three-match series would be more appropriate, but the ICC says that there is no time to fit this into the calendar.

It has listened to the criticism of the points system. The next cycle, due to begin on August 1, 2021, starting with England v India, will see each match being worth the same number of points, reported to be a maximum of 12 per match, with teams ranked on the percentage of points system. This simplified system will allow teams to be compared at any point in time, considering that they are likely to have played a different number of series and matches.

The attempt to bolster bilateral men’s Test cricket has some limitations. In addition, the three other men’s Test-playing countries — Afghanistan, Ireland and Zimbabwe — are keen to test themselves at the highest level, but do not play enough of the longer form of the game for this to be possible in the near future.

The establishment of an outright winner in this inaugural WTC final will give impetus to its status and acceptance, taking away several of the criticisms that have been levelled at it. Future debates are likely to focus on the points system, where the final should be played and pathways for expanding the number of teams, rather than whether it should exist at all.

Indian captain Virat Kohli, a fervent supporter of Test cricket, was applauded by spectators for saying this at the presentation ceremony. India is a titan in the world of cricket, but despite this the holders of the ICC’s three pinnacles of cricket trophies are the West Indies, England and New Zealand. We will discover if this order changes in the next cycle.


Brave Egyptian footballers exit Tokyo 2020 after narrow loss to Brazil

Brave Egyptian footballers exit Tokyo 2020 after narrow loss to Brazil
Updated 31 July 2021

Brave Egyptian footballers exit Tokyo 2020 after narrow loss to Brazil

Brave Egyptian footballers exit Tokyo 2020 after narrow loss to Brazil
  • Led superbly by Ahmed Hegazi, Egypt performed with great spirit, but once again let down by a lack of scoring power

Egypt’s U-23 team has been eliminated from the men’s Olympic football tournament after narrowly losing 1-0 to reigning champions Brazil at Saitama Stadium.

The Pharaohs reached the quarterfinals after finishing second in Group C with a 0-0 draw against Spain, a 1-0 loss to Argentina and a fine  2-0 win over Australia. 

Brazil’s final group match was a 3-1 win over Saudi Arabia, which ensured they finished on top ahead of Ivory Coast.

Egypt showed little fear in the face of the Rio 2016 gold medalists, and put pressure on the Brazilian defence in the opening 15 minutes.

On 20 minutes, Egypt had a major scare when goalkeeper Mohamed El-Shenawy, a standout performer at Tokyo, looked to have injured his thigh. However after some on-pitch treatment he was able to continue.

Seven minutes later, El-Shenawy was called into action when he saved a stinging left footed shot from Richarlison, the tournament’s top scorer with five goals.

But Egypt, led superbly by Ahmed Hegazi, continued to look dangerous on the break with 21-year-old Amar Hamdi in particular causing the Brazilian midfield problems with his penetrating runs.

The deadlock was broken in the 37th minute when a sharp Brazil counterattack saw Richarlison find Matheus Cunha, who scored with a precise shot past El-Shenawy.

As hard as Egypt tried to get back on terms in the second half, they rarely troubled Santos in the Brazil goal, while El-Shenawy kept his team in the game with several good saves.

At the final whistle, the dejected Egyptians and joyous Brazilians showed just how well the African team had performed. But in the end, with their attacking prowess, few could argue that the South Americans did not deserve to progress to the semifinal.

On Tuesday, Brazil will face the winner of the last quarterfinal between South Korea and Mexico.


Personal best followed by elimination for UAE’s Mohamed Al-Hammadi in Men’s 100m at Tokyo 2020

Personal best followed by elimination for UAE’s Mohamed Al-Hammadi in Men’s 100m at Tokyo 2020
Updated 31 July 2021

Personal best followed by elimination for UAE’s Mohamed Al-Hammadi in Men’s 100m at Tokyo 2020

Personal best followed by elimination for UAE’s Mohamed Al-Hammadi in Men’s 100m at Tokyo 2020
  • The 29-year-old Emirati sprinter finished third in Saturday morning’s preliminary heats but faced a tough field in the afternoon’s Round 1

Sprinter Mohamed Hassan Al-Noobi Al-Hammadi became the last member of the UAE’s five-athlete delegation to depart Tokyo 2020 when he failed to progress from Saturday afternoon’s Men’s 100m Round 1 — Heat 5 in the Olympic Stadium.

Earlier in the day, the 29-year-old Emirati had posted a personal best time of 10.59 seconds, finishing third in the Preliminary Round — Heat 2 behind Barakat Al-Harthi of Oman and Emanuel Archibald of Guyana.

Racing against a much tougher field in the second race of the day, Al-Hammadi managed a time of 10.64, 0.63 seconds behind the third of the qualifiers, Ferdinand Omurwa of Kenya.


Tennis ace Novak Djokovic ‘not sure’ about US Open fitness after Tokyo Olympics nightmare

Tennis ace Novak Djokovic ‘not sure’ about US Open fitness after Tokyo Olympics nightmare
Updated 31 July 2021

Tennis ace Novak Djokovic ‘not sure’ about US Open fitness after Tokyo Olympics nightmare

Tennis ace Novak Djokovic ‘not sure’ about US Open fitness after Tokyo Olympics nightmare
  • Serb could become the first man to complete a calendar Grand Slam since Rod Laver in 1969

TOKYO: World number one Novak Djokovic said he was “not sure” about his fitness for the US Open after pulling out of the Tokyo Olympics mixed doubles bronze medal match with a shoulder injury on Saturday.
The 34-year-old Serb could become the first man to complete a calendar Grand Slam since Rod Laver in 1969 when the US Open gets under way on August 30.
The withdrawal in Tokyo came after the 20-time major champion lost his cool on his way to a surprise 6-4, 6-7 (6/8), 6-3 defeat against Pablo Carreno Busta in the Olympics singles bronze-medal match.
He admitted that his exertions in Japan have taken their toll but he still hopes to be fit enough to challenge at Flushing Meadows.
“The consequences physically hopefully will not create a problem for me for the US Open, but that’s something that I’m not sure about right now,” said Djokovic.
“But I’m not regretting for giving it all because at the end of the day, when you play for your country, that’s necessary.”
The International Tennis Federation said Djokovic had withdrawn with a “left shoulder injury.”
“Ashleigh Barty and John Peers receive a walkover against Djokovic and Nina Stojanovic and win the bronze medal for Australia,” the ITF added.
Djokovic had been eyeing two gold medals when he played the singles and mixed doubles semifinals on Friday — but less than 24 hours after his hopes for gold were ended — he was preparing to leave the Ariake Tennis Park without a medal of any color.
He lost a gruelling match to Carreno Busta which lasted two hours and 47 minutes in suffocating heat, despite saving five match points.
The Serbian sporting icon’s best result at the Olympics remains his bronze medal in Beijing in 2008.
“I just didn’t deliver yesterday and today,” said Djokovic, whose singles loss to Alexander Zverev ended his Golden Grand Slam bid.
“The level of tennis dropped, also due to exhaustion, mentally and physically.”
His next opportunity to win an Olympic title will come in Paris in three years’ time, when he will be 37.
“I know that I will bounce back. I will try to keep going for Paris Olympic Games and fight for my country to win medals,” insisted Djokovic.
“I’m sorry that I disappointed a lot of sports fans in my country. But that’s sport, I gave it all, whatever I had left in the tank, which was not so much. I left it out on the court.”
On Saturday, Djokovic brought back memories of his infamous default against Carreno Busta last year at the US Open, when he inadvertently struck a ball at a line judge.
This time he threw his racquet high into the empty stands as he saw a break point come and go in the opening game of the third set, and continued to cut an angry figure, destroying another racquet by smashing it against the net post.
He was given a warning by the umpire after that second incident, but not following the first.
“It was an emotional outburst and it happens,” said Djokovic. “You’re tense on the court, in the heat of the battle.
“It’s not the first time and it’s not the last time probably. It’s not nice, of course, but it’s part of, I guess, who I am.
“I don’t like doing these things, I’m sorry for sending this kind of message, but we’re all human beings and sometimes it’s hard to control.”


Extreme E announces new plans to race in Sardinia this year

Extreme E announces new plans to race in Sardinia this year
Updated 31 July 2021

Extreme E announces new plans to race in Sardinia this year

Extreme E announces new plans to race in Sardinia this year
  • Decision comes after postponement of planned events in Brazil, Argentina due to COVID-19 situation in South America

LONDON: Extreme E, the electric off-road motor racing series, has revealed it has reached an agreement in principle with Sardinian officials to host the fourth event of its opening season, the Island X Prix, on Oct. 23-24.

The move to the Italian island follows the series’ decision to postpone its originally planned events in Brazil and Argentina due to ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) developments in South America.

“I am pleased to confirm that Extreme E is finalizing plans to hold an Island X Prix in Sardinia, Italy, and that we are delighted to have the support of Sardinian President Christian Solinas and the Automobile Club d’Italia as we plan our first European event,” Alejandro Agag, founder and CEO of Extreme E, said.

“Extreme E was built around the ethos of racing electric vehicles in remote environments in an effort to raise awareness for climate change issues and showcase the performance and benefits of low-carbon vehicles,” he said. “However, this crisis is not a problem which only affects remote locations. It is becoming increasingly noticeable closer to home, across North America, and here across Europe, with rising temperatures, heatwaves and wildfires, which currently rage in Sardinia itself, being some of the latest devastating examples.

“Together with our supportive hosts and our Scientific Committee and partners, we will use the power of sport to educate on the causes of these climate issues which are taking place right here in front of us, as we aim to open eyes even wider to the need for all of us to take collective action, now, before it’s too late.” 

Solinas has confirmed that the Sardinian region will work alongside the organizers for the success of the event.

Scientists are warning of worsening extreme weather patterns if global temperatures continue to rise without solutions put in place to cut carbon emissions and that greenhouse gas levels are already too high “for a manageable future for humanity.”

Richard Washington, professor of climate science at the University of Oxford and founding member of Extreme E’s Scientific Committee, said: “Rising temperatures and wildfires are now a threat across every continent. In just the last couple of years, we have seen devastation in the Amazon, Australia, Siberia, Canada and the Mediterranean region. With thresholds already crossed by climate change, wildfires are more extensive, more intense, more damaging and last longer. New ways of forecasting wildfires and new ways of adapting to them are urgently needed.

“Ultimately, the driver of all this is climate change,” he added. “To reduce the devastation, we need to stem the driver of that change, and that means cutting carbon emissions. Continue to live as we do, and the carbon emissions by the end of the century will make the wildfires of recent years look modest. Extreme E is at the forefront of the drive towards a better future, a new way of doing things and a world which does not rely on deadly carbon emissions.” 

So far, the series has journeyed to the deserts of AlUla, Saudi Arabia, and the beaches of Senegal, West Africa, where it has educated on the issues of desertification, coastal erosion and plastic pollution, and is about to race in Greenland to shine a spotlight on the melting ice cap. The sport-for-purpose series highlights the impact of climate change and promotes the benefits of electric vehicles and low-carbon solutions in the fight to help reduce global emission levels.

Extreme E has attracted drivers from some of the biggest disciplines in motorsport. Formula One world champion Nico Rosberg’s Rosberg X Racing currently leads the championship standings, closely followed by seven-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton’s X44 team. Former Formula One competitor Jenson Button also leads his own JBXE entry. The world-class drivers in Extreme E include rally legends Carlos Sainz Snr. and Sébastien Loeb and FIA World Rallycross Champions Johan Kristoffersson, Timmy Hansen and Mattias Ekström competing alongside leading female drivers, including Molly Taylor, Jamie Chadwick, Catie Munnings, Cristina Gutiérrez and more.

All teams include a male and female driver who complete a lap apiece of the Extreme E racecourse, with a driver switch taking place midway and with both drivers competing together for success.

Extreme E races — known as an X Prix — take place over two days, within an area no larger than 10 km squared.

As well as using sport to shine a global spotlight on climate issues in its five locations, Extreme E will work alongside local experts in each region to implement positive legacy initiatives dependent on local needs. Further details on the Island X Prix’s overall purpose and legacy plans will be confirmed in the coming weeks.


Saudi Arabian judoka praised by Japan media to play against Israeli player

Saudi Arabian judoka praised by Japan media to play against Israeli player
Updated 31 July 2021

Saudi Arabian judoka praised by Japan media to play against Israeli player

Saudi Arabian judoka praised by Japan media to play against Israeli player
  • ‘This game shows that sports can transcend political and external influences’
  • ‘Al-Qahtani was proud to be a role model for women in her home country’

TOKYO: Japanese media praised the decision by Saudi Arabian Judoka Tahani Al-Qahtani to play against Israeli Raz Hershko in the first round of the 78-kg class at the Tokyo Olympics Games on Friday.

Japan’s Asahi newspaper reported that the match “had drawn attention” after two athletes from Algeria and Sudan refused to play against their counterparts from Israel.

“Al-Qahtani was admitted by the International Olympic Committee as a wild card and became the second Saudi Arabian female judo athlete to participate in the Olympics since the 2012 London Olympics,” Asahi’s article stated.

Despite losing, the Japanese newspaper reported that the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee highlighted Al-Qahtani’s upcoming bout on Twitter 12 hours before the match, confirming her participation against her Israeli opponent.

“On that day, whether Al-Qahtani will stand on the tatami mat attracted attention in her home country and other Middle Eastern countries.”

Japanese media praised the decision by Saudi Arabian Judoka Tahani Al-Qahtani to play against Israeli Raz Hershko at the Tokyo Olympics Games on Friday. (Twitter: @saudiolympic)

The report added that the International Judo Federation commented in a post-match release, “This game shows that sports can transcend political and external influences.”

Meanwhile, Kyodo News Agency also reported on the Judo Olympic match, stating “Saudi woman fights with Israel: Impress Social Change.”

“Arab countries often abstain from playing against Israeli athletes…, but Al-Qahtani was proud to be a role model for women in her home country. Although she lost by one stroke in the back of her shoulders, she impressed the change in Saudi society.”

The Japanese news agency quoted Hershko saying, “The game has nothing to do with politics. It was a good match.”

Al-Qahtani’s inclusion and stance was also praised by the International Judo Federation. In a post-match release, it stated: “This match shows that sports can transcend political and external influences.”