Marsh brilliance puts Australia on top of the world

Marsh brilliance puts Australia on top of the world
Australia's Mitchell Marsh and Glenn Maxwell celebrate winning the ICC Men's T20 World Cup. (Reuters)
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Updated 15 November 2021

Marsh brilliance puts Australia on top of the world

Marsh brilliance puts Australia on top of the world
  • Mitchell Marsh hit 77 off 50 to kill off New Zealand's hopes of an upset

DUBAI: Never ever write the Australians off. The stage may have been different. A first ever all-Antipodean affair between Australia and New Zealand in the Middle East. And yet the outcome was an all too familiar one as the green and gold of Australia, powered by the might of Mitchell Marsh with a quite superb innings (77 off 50) on the biggest stage of them all, defeated the Black Caps yet again to win their first ever ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in Dubai. 

It was a knock worthy of winning a World Cup from a man who just a fortnight ago was left out of the Australia side as they got thrashed by England at this very same venue. Such is the unpredictable nature of the shortest format of the game, that it was Marsh who was the Player of the Match in the final and it is Australia who will go into a home T20 World Cup next year as the defending champions. 

As Glenn Maxwell (28 off 18) reverse swiped Tim Southee to hit the winning runs and the Australian players streamed onto the outfield, Marsh removed his helmet to let out an almighty roar and embraced Maxwell, before dropping down in a ball of emotion. 

From the moment he dispatched his first ball of the final for six, Marsh played an innings of the highest class, including six fours and four sixes, as he took the game to the Black Caps alongside the player of the tournament David Warner (53 off 38), before finishing off the job with Maxwell as Australia cruised home with seven balls to spare.

Despite the best efforts of the New Zealand skipper, Kane Williamson (85 off 48), who played brilliantly in a knock which contained 10 fours and three sixes, it was the Australians back home who woke up to the news that they were world champions.

Aaron Finch won the toss and as expected, chose to field, as is the case in Dubai with only one team thus far successfully defending a total all tournament.

And at 32 for one at the end of the powerplay, Australia would certainly have been the happier side with the star of the semi-final, Daryl Mitchell (11 off 8) back in the hutch and Martin Guptill (28 off 35) and Williamson failing to gain any real momentum.

Williamson was on 21 off 22, when he shovelled a full toss from Mitchell Starc to Hazlewood at deep fine leg. It should have been a regulation catch but the ball went through the Australian’s hands before bobbling over the rope. 

That moment sparked a shift in the captain’s approach. Williamson switched gears effortlessly. The New Zealand skipper crunched the next ball straight past Starc, before dispatching a high no-ball full-toss for a third consecutive boundary.

Despite Zampa getting rid of Martin Guptill in the very next over, Williamson marched on. Maxwell was sent for two sixes in the 13th. The first, a shot that Rishabh Pant would have been proud of as Williamson hit a one-hander and the very next ball, he swept one into the stands to bring up his half-century off just 32 deliveries, in what was then the fastest ever in a T20 World Cup final.

At the end of the 15th over, New Zealand had doubled where they were at the halfway stage. The 16th was sheer madness as Williamson smashed Starc for 24, with one six and four fours. Starc, often so reliable with the ball in hand, ended up going for 60 in his four overs and Australia were up against a man playing like he was at the peak of his powers.

It was apt that Williamson was eventually dismissed by the man who dropped him. Hazlewood finished with exceptional figures of three for 16, however he’d have gone into the interval hoping that his drop wouldn’t prove costly. 

New Zealand had set a target of 173 - the highest in a men’s T20 World Cup final. Williamson and the Black Caps believed. 

When Australian captain, Aaron Finch top-edged a short delivery from Trent Boult to Daryl Mitchell who took a wonderful catch, they sensed an opportunity to do something they hadn’t done since 1981 and beat Australia in a knockout encounter.

That was, however, about as good as it got. Marsh walked out to the crease like a man on a mission, smashing Adam Milne for six, four, four off his first three deliveries and he never looked back. 

Both him and Warner accelerated with ease, regularly hitting boundaries and nullifying the New Zealand spin pairing of Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner. 

After drinks, Williamson turned to the man of the moment from Wednesday in Jimmy Neesham. For all the talk pre-match about Neesham having a job to finish, Marsh signaled his intent to finish his own by swatting him for six, before Warner cashed in by pummelling Neesham for six more to bring up his half century. 

Boult came back into the attack and castled Warner, but Australia’s attacking intent was exemplified by the decision to send in Maxwell instead of Steve Smith. With 63 needed off 40, the task was by no means a simple one, yet Marsh and Maxwell ensured that it would be a procession.

Marsh went down on one knee to elegantly send Sodhi into the stands to bring up a fifty of his own - surpassing Williamson’s earlier as the fastest 50 in a T20 World Cup Final - and by then, the wheels were coming off the Black Caps.

It was left for Marsh and Maxwell to guide Australia to a famous victory and for Aaron Finch to become the first Australian man to lift the T20 World Cup. Australia now hold both the men and women’s T20 World titles. 

“It’s a huge honour to be able to lead this Australia team. I'm so proud of the way the guys went about it from the start - they were brilliant. I'm so proud,” said Finch. “This team is pretty special. The camaraderie, the way that everyone really cares for each other and looks after each other, looks out for each other; it’s pretty special.”


Saudi Arabia maintain perfect start to Asian Handball Championship and eye top spot against Iran

Saudi Arabia maintain perfect start to Asian Handball Championship and eye top spot against Iran
Updated 13 sec ago

Saudi Arabia maintain perfect start to Asian Handball Championship and eye top spot against Iran

Saudi Arabia maintain perfect start to Asian Handball Championship and eye top spot against Iran
  • Comfortable 30-13 victory over Australia in Dammam leaves hosts in good position to win group B

Saudi Arabia continued their perfect start to the 20th Asian Handball Championship with a 30-13 win over Australia at the Ministry of Sports Hall in Dammam.

The top five teams in the tournament will qualify for the 2023 World Handball Championships to be held in Poland and Sweden.

The Saudi team will face Iran — who also have maximum points after beating India 42-29 — on Thursday, knowing a win will ensure top spot in group B.

This will be a new feat for a Saudi team that has never topped its group before, having previously finished runners-up seven times, along with two third and four fourth-place finishes.

India will take on Australia in the other group match.


Eclipse nominee Jessica Pyfer set for Saudi Cup weekend appearance

Eclipse nominee Jessica Pyfer set for Saudi Cup weekend appearance
Updated 32 min 49 sec ago

Eclipse nominee Jessica Pyfer set for Saudi Cup weekend appearance

Eclipse nominee Jessica Pyfer set for Saudi Cup weekend appearance
  • Pyfer and Argentina’s Andrea Marinhas latest female riders confirmed for stc International Jockeys Challenge a day before $20m showpiece event

RIYADH: Jessica Pyfer, a rising star of the weighing room in the US, has been confirmed to ride in the stc International Jockeys Challenge next month.

The event will be held the day before the $20 million Saudi Cup at King Abdul Aziz Racetrack on Feb. 25, and is sponsored for a third year by platinum partner, stc, the digital enabler in the telecommunication industry in the Kingdom.

Pyfer, 23, who only began riding in September 2020, notched an impressive 59 winners from 557 rides in her second full season as a jockey in 2021, amassing prize money of $2.8 million.

Her achievements in such a short time have seen her nominated for an Eclipse Award, which recognizes the achievements of both horses and participants across the US thoroughbred industry.

After being confirmed for the IJC, Pyfer said: “I am super excited. It feels like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I’ve only been race-riding for about a year-and-a-half and have never competed outside the US, so for an opportunity like this to come along is pretty cool.”

She added: “I’ve spoken to Mike Smith, who has ridden in Saudi a lot, and he told me that I’ll have the time of my life, so I couldn’t be more excited,” she said.

“My season has been amazing so far and I couldn’t have ever imagined that I’d be where I am now, with both an invite to the International Jockeys Challenge at the Saudi Cup and a nomination for an Eclipse Award.”

Pyfer said: “It will be amazing to line up against so many great jockeys, and a pleasure to ride alongside some of the world’s best female jockeys.”

Joining the up-and-coming US star is Argentine rider Andrea Marinhas, who began her career in the US, and is now based there and in her native Argentina.

Marinhas, 40, has 94 career wins to her name, with 15 of those coming this season, 11 in Argentina and four in the US.

“I’m so pleased to have been invited. The first thing that came to my mind was I could be riding with many of my favorite jockeys. It will be a beautiful experience,” Marinhas said.

“My season has been great,” she said. “I lead the national and La Plata racecourse female jockeys’ statistics with 18 winners and an 18 percent strike rate, so it’s great to get some international recognition. The opportunity to compete against some of the world’s best in Saudi is massive for me.”

Pyfer and Marinhas are the second and third female jockeys confirmed to ride in the IJC, after the UK’s Hayley Turner, and will be joined by a further four female riders.

Seven male jockeys — five international and two home-based riders — will make up the 14 strong IJC field, with last year’s winner, Shane Foley, and Australia’s Glen Boss already confirmed.

The stc International Jockeys Challenge features four $400,000 handicaps, with a further $100,000 for the challenge itself and riders receiving 15 percent of prize money won.


Saudi Dania Akeel on fast track to glory after courageous eighth-place finish in Dakar Rally

Saudi Dania Akeel on fast track to glory after courageous eighth-place finish in Dakar Rally
Updated 20 January 2022

Saudi Dania Akeel on fast track to glory after courageous eighth-place finish in Dakar Rally

Saudi Dania Akeel on fast track to glory after courageous eighth-place finish in Dakar Rally
  • ‘Motorsports athlete’ is first Arab driver to claim top 10 place in punishing desert event

RIYADH: Dania Akeel is a woman in a hurry.

The Saudi racer and self-described “motorsports athlete” last year became the first Arab woman to win the World Cup for the T3 Desert Baja Rally in Italy, and added another first to her achievements by becoming the first Saudi and Arab to claim a top 10 finish in the international Dakar Rally, which finished in Jeddah on Jan. 14.

The two-week, multi-stage Dakar Rally is widely regarded as one of the toughest and most challenging motorsports events in the world.

The 2022 event held in Saudi Arabia lived up to its reputation, with most competitors happy just to have completed the demanding desert course.

For Akeel, however, there was a lot more at stake.

“At last I have achieved my goal,” she said after crossing the finish line in Jeddah in eighth place — in a historic first for herself and her Saudi homeland.

“My biggest ambition was to finish the rally, but I discovered that I had the opportunity to achieve a better result,” she said.

Akeel survived the demanding rally stages thanks to a strategy developed with the help of her experienced copilot, Uruguayan Sergio Lafontier.

“The strategic plan helped us a lot. The most important aim was to avoid mistakes and delays in order to be among the top 10in the T3 category,” she said.

“After reaching the finish line, I thanked all those who supported me in making this achievement, and especially the companies that provided all the necessary support.”

Akeel achieved her goal by meticulously executing her strategy in the second half of the rally.

After 14 days of unrelenting competition in the demanding event, she is now looking forward to further success in the 2022 season.

She expressed joy for her historic achievement and appreciation to her growing numbers of fans around the world.


Australia court rules minister acted rationally in canceling Novak Djokovic’s visa

Australia court rules minister acted rationally in canceling Novak Djokovic’s visa
Updated 20 January 2022

Australia court rules minister acted rationally in canceling Novak Djokovic’s visa

Australia court rules minister acted rationally in canceling Novak Djokovic’s visa
  • ‘An iconic world tennis star may influence people of all ages, young or old, but perhaps especially the young and the impressionable, to emulate him’

MELBOURNE: An Australian court said on Thursday it dismissed tennis superstar Novak Djokovic’s challenge to his visa cancelation as the minister who revoked it reasonably believed Djokovic, who is not vaccinated against COVID-19, may be a risk to the community.
The Federal Court also rejected the argument there was no evidence that Djokovic had ever urged anyone not to get vaccinated, saying it was open to infer that the public would perceive that he was opposed to vaccinations, since he said he had not been vaccinated.
“An iconic world tennis star may influence people of all ages, young or old, but perhaps especially the young and the impressionable, to emulate him. This is not fanciful; it does not need evidence,” the judges said.
Djokovic’s saga has fueled global debate over the rights of people who opt not to get vaccinated as governments look to protect the community from the coronavirus pandemic.
Djokovic was deported from Australia on Sunday night, just hours after the court dismissed his effort to stay in the country to play at the Australian Open, where he hoped to win a record 21st major title.
That followed an 11-day rollercoaster involving two visa cancelations, two court challenges and five nights in two stints at an immigration detention hotel where asylum seekers are held.
His lawyers had argued the cancelation should be quashed on the grounds that Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s decision was irrational, he lacked evidence that Djokovic’s presence in Australia may stoke anti-vaccination sentiment, and had failed to consider that deporting Djokovic might inflame anti-vax sentiment.
The Federal Court said while another minister might have decided not to cancel the visa, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke had followed the right steps under the law which allows him to cancel a visa as long as he is satisfied the visa holder “may be a risk to the health or good order of the Australian community.”
“The minister reached that state of satisfaction on grounds that cannot be said to be irrational or illogical or not based on relevant material,” Chief Justice James Allsop and judges Anthony Besanko and David O’Callaghan said in their reasons handed down on Thursday.
The Serbian now risks missing the next tennis Grand Slam event — the French Open — as the country’s Sports Ministry has said there would be no exemption from a new vaccine pass law approved on Sunday.


Malaysia’s top badminton player Lee Zii Jia quits national team

Malaysia’s top badminton player Lee Zii Jia quits national team
Updated 20 January 2022

Malaysia’s top badminton player Lee Zii Jia quits national team

Malaysia’s top badminton player Lee Zii Jia quits national team
  • Lee Zii Jia being held up as the heir to Malaysian legend Lee Chong Wei

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian badminton ace Lee Zii Jia, ranked seventh in the world, has quit his country’s national team to play as an independent, reports said Thursday.
Lee has been held up as the heir to Malaysian legend Lee Chong Wei, rising rapidly up the rankings and scoring a breakthrough victory at the prestigious All England Open last year.
But the 23-year-old has performed poorly in recent months. He lost to China’s Chen Long at the Olympics and retired with an injury in the world championship quarter-finals.
After weeks of speculation, Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) president Norza Zakaria confirmed that Malaysia’s top player had quit the body earlier this month.
“We see Zii Jia as an asset and we tried to persuade him (to stay) because we have groomed him since he was 13,” he was cited as saying by The Star newspaper.
“Now that he has reached this stage, winning the All England, we certainly didn’t want to lose him because he has a bright future.”
“However, he told us that he’s no Lee Chong Wei and he cannot cope with the pressure,” added Norza.
BAM did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
It was not clear why Lee cut ties with the body, and there was no immediate comment from the player, but he could face sanctions.
Previously, BAM banned Tan Chun Seang from playing in Asian countries for two years after he quit the national team.
However world number one Viktor Axelsen of Denmark voiced support for Lee’s decision.
“If a player ... feels it’s best for him to follow another path where he is more independent as a player, then that is what he should do,” tweeted the Olympic gold medalist.
“It’s his career and his life after all.”
Badminton is one of the few sports in which Malaysia performs well internationally.
Three-time Olympic silver medalist Lee Chong Wei, who retired in 2019, was one of the greatest players of his generation.