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.


Saudi Arabian runner Mazen Al-Yassin wins Men’s 400m heat to reach Tokyo 2020 Olympics semi-final

Saudi Arabian runner Mazen Al-Yassin wins Men’s 400m heat to reach Tokyo 2020 Olympics semi-final
Updated 01 August 2021

Saudi Arabian runner Mazen Al-Yassin wins Men’s 400m heat to reach Tokyo 2020 Olympics semi-final

Saudi Arabian runner Mazen Al-Yassin wins Men’s 400m heat to reach Tokyo 2020 Olympics semi-final
  • The 25-year-old’s result represents one of the Kingdom’s best performances at the Olympics

Runner Mazen Al-Yassin has produced off one of the Saudi Arabian delegation’s best performances at Tokyo 2020 by winning his race in the Men’s 400m competition at the Olympic Stadium on Sunday morning.

A personal best time of 45.16 in  saw him finish ahead of Kevin Borlee of Belgium and Ricky Petrucciani of Switzerland.

The 25-year-old will now be aiming for what would be a glorious appearance at Thursday’s final when he takes part in Monday morning semifinals, starting from 2.05am Saudi Arabian time.

Al-Yassin received the call up to the Olympics on July 2, and headed to Tokyo after eight years of consistent participation at 400m behind him.

He represented Saudi Arabia at the 2013 World Youth Championships in Ukraine, and that same year he won gold at the 4x400m relay at the Islamic Solidarity Games in Indonesia, and silver at in the individual 400m at the Asian Junior Games in Taiwan.

In 2015 another silver followed with Saudi in the 4x400m relay at the Asian Games in China.

In 2017, Al-Yassin’s personal best would show rapid improvement as shown with silver in the individual 400m race at the Arab Championships in Tunisia, and bronze in the relay. The same year grabbed another silver at the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Turkmenistan.


Irish boxer injures ankle celebrating win, out of Olympics

Irish boxer injures ankle celebrating win, out of Olympics
Updated 01 August 2021

Irish boxer injures ankle celebrating win, out of Olympics

Irish boxer injures ankle celebrating win, out of Olympics
  • Britain’s Pat McCormack advances to the gold medal bout by walkover
  • Walsh, who beat Merven Clair of Mauritius 4:1 on Friday, gets a bronze medal

TOKYO: Aidan Walsh has been forced out of his semifinal bout at the Tokyo Olympics after the Irish welterweight injured his ankle while celebrating his quarterfinal victory.
Boxing officials announced Sunday that Walsh did not attend the medical check and weigh-in before his scheduled bout with Britain’s Pat McCormack, who advances to the gold medal bout by walkover.
Walsh, who is from Belfast, will still win a bronze medal. But he appeared to cost himself a chance at gold by celebrating overzealously after he beat Merven Clair of Mauritius 4:1 on Friday to advance to the medal bouts.
Walsh wildly jumped up and down after the verdict was announced, and he landed awkwardly on his ankle. The Irish team said Walsh sprained his ankle, and he was spotted by Irish media leaving the Kokugikan Arena in a wheelchair later Friday.
The Irish team confirmed Walsh is out of the Olympics due to an ankle injury, saying only that it occurred during his bout. Walsh clearly was healthy and mobile throughout his fight until he came up in pain from his celebration.
“What Aidan did this week is an incredible achievement,” said Bernard Dunne, Ireland team leader for boxing. “His performance throughout the tournament has been outstanding, and it is great to see him write his name in the annals of Irish sport.”
The top-seeded McCormack was favored to beat Walsh. McCormack now will face the winner of the other welterweight semifinal between Roniel Iglesias of Cuba and the Russian team’s Andrei Zamkovoy.
Ireland has two other boxers still fighting for medals. Walsh’s bronze is his nation’s 17th medal in boxing, representing roughly half of all the medals won by the Irish team in its Olympic history.
 


Japan’s Matsuyama ‘can’t believe’ gold in sight after Covid scare

Japan’s Matsuyama ‘can’t believe’ gold in sight after Covid scare
Updated 01 August 2021

Japan’s Matsuyama ‘can’t believe’ gold in sight after Covid scare

Japan’s Matsuyama ‘can’t believe’ gold in sight after Covid scare
  • Schauffele said you wouldn't have known Matsuyama had suffered from coronavirus after playing alongside him on Saturday

KAWAGOE, Japan: Hideki Matsuyama of Japan "can't believe" that he could be on the brink of winning Tokyo 2020 golfing gold after contracting coronavirus only four weeks ago.
The US Masters champion returned a positive Covid-19 test on July 3 at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit, forcing him to pull out and then miss the British Open a fortnight ago.
He feared his dream of playing and winning a medal at a home Olympics might be gone and admitted he hadn't fully recovered his fitness after being tired at the end of his first round of 69 at The Kasumigaseki Country Club on Thursday.
But on Friday he bounced back with a brilliant 64 on the par-71 course, where he won the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in 2010, and will tee off in the final group on Sunday with Xander Schauffele and Paul Casey after a 67 on Saturday.
"I definitely could not have believed I would be playing the final group with a chance to win after having Covid," Matsuyama told reporters after finishing his third round a shot behind leader Schauffele.
"To be honest, the endurance part of my game has been struggling a little bit. Thankfully it's held up the last few days, so hopefully it's going to hold up tomorrow as well."
Schauffele said you wouldn't have known Matsuyama had suffered from coronavirus after playing alongside him on Saturday.
"He seems to be fine," said Schauffele, who leads on 14-under-par 199 after a third-round 68.
"I forgot that he had Covid, but teeing it up out here he seemed strong, seems normal and seems himself. So luckily he wasn't hit too hard by it."
Schauffele was in the final group with Matsuyama when he won at Augusta National in April and said Japan's number one was playing better then, but would still be a big threat when the two battle for Olympic glory.
"He obviously was firing on a lot of cylinders when he won the Masters," said Schauffele.
"I think he's maybe not as in his realm of perfection, maybe he's not hitting it as good as he would like to, but he's only one (shot) back."
Asia's first US Masters champion is revered in Japan and -- under huge pressure to deliver gold -- would normally be followed by huge galleries.
But even with no spectators at these Olympics, Matsuyama still had every birdie putt roared on by hundreds of Japanese volunteers and support staff.
"It does not feel like we don't have fans out here," he said.


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.