Australia confound the skeptics to win T20 World Cup as crisis erupts over suitability of format and conditions

Australia confound the skeptics to win T20 World Cup as crisis erupts over suitability of format and conditions
Australia confound the skeptics to win T20 World Cup. (AFP)
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Updated 18 November 2021

Australia confound the skeptics to win T20 World Cup as crisis erupts over suitability of format and conditions

Australia confound the skeptics to win T20 World Cup as crisis erupts over suitability of format and conditions
  • In 32 matches played from the Super 12 stage onwards, 21 were won by the team batting second, with 11 of the 12 contests played in Dubai won by the side chasing

Many years ago, I played in a Sunday football team run by a respected sportswriter. On occasions, we were joined by another respected sportswriter and the two would occupy the full-back positions. One Sunday, a young winger was running the left-back ragged, to the extent that an old hamstring injury befell him. As he hobbled off, the right-back uttered the unsympathetic words of “strengthened by injury, yet again.”

This was not the case for England’s T20 cricket team in its World Cup semi-final last week. The injuries to one of its rampaging opening batters and one of its key “death” bowlers, someone who is effective at keeping runs down at the end of the opponent’s innings, left gaps that proved hard to fill in the semi-final. The victors, New Zealand, were worthy winners, implementing their plans in a meticulous, efficient and, ultimately, explosive fashion.

Thus, England’s hopes of being world champions in both white-ball formats of 20 and 50 overs were dashed by opponents who had suffered cruelly at the hands of England in the 50-over World Cup final in 2019. New Zealand’s hopes of redemption were then shattered in the T20 final by none other than their neighbors, Australia, who had shocked Pakistan in the other semi-final.

Chasing 172 to win in that match, Australia had stumbled to 96 for five, with one Pakistani bowler claiming four wickets for 24 runs. Remarkably, Australia did not lose another wicket, securing victory with an over to spare. At the outset of the tournament, the team did not appear to be in good shape, having suffered recent series defeats, had a coach under pressure, been accused of outdated tactics and a squad comprising some out-of-form or out-of-practice players. This showed in the early matches, including a trouncing by England. In contrast, Pakistan had won all their matches in convincing style. This makes Australia’s turnaround even more impressive.

In the group stage, Australia secured a semi-final place by virtue of having a superior net run rate of 0.477 over South Africa, both having eight points. This is a narrow margin, leading to questions being asked about its suitability. It is not easy to understand or follow, particularly at a time when administrators are trying to make the game accessible to new audiences.

In straightforward terms, the rate calculates how many more runs a team scored per over compared with its opponents, averaged over the whole tournament or individual stage. In tournaments with few matches, there can be wild swings from match to match that can distort the overall rate. The number of wickets that fall is considered to be irrelevant. This, for some people, ignores the essence of cricket; the delight for a bowler of taking a wicket, of outfoxing the opponent holding the bat. In limited overs matches, a team can win without taking a wicket. The role and skill of the bowler is to minimize the number of runs scored, with wickets a bonus. In the final matches of the 2021 Super 12 stage, captains who won the toss made decisions to bowl first in an attempt to boost their net run rate. This was a factor that helped Australia.

However, the captain has to win the toss. Out of seven tosses, the Australian captain won six and won all those matches chasing. This was a particular advantage given the conditions of play, especially for matches that commenced at 6.30 p.m. UAE time, under floodlights. By the time the second innings opened, dew had formed. This makes it harder for bowlers to grip and spin the ball, which can more easily slip out of the hand, offering advantage to those batting. Bowling with a wet ball can be akin to trying to bowl with a wet bar of soap.

Thus, the conditions in the UAE made the toss a bigger factor than ideal. In the 32 matches played from the Super 12 stage onwards, 21 were won by the team batting second, with 11 of the 12 contests played in Dubai won by the team chasing. The clear importance of winning the toss was a flaw in the tournament, although the team batting second still has to achieve its victory. Australia dug very deep to lift the trophy with a team that grew in unity through the tournament. The next T20 World Cup is scheduled for October and November 2022, in Australia. Its team will surely be installed as favorites to retain the title.

Playing conditions will be different and, presumably, there will be no changes to the use of net run rate. Statisticians have generated some alternatives, but the current method is preferred. One easy-to-understand alternative would be the use of bonus points for runs scored and wickets taken.

After 2022, a T20 World Cup tournament is scheduled every other year up to and including 2030, comprising 20 teams from 2024. This frequency, coupled with the expansion of the Indian Premier League, the possibility of a second in-year IPL event and high-profile tournaments in other Test-playing countries, means that the T20 format is becoming ever more pervasive within the calendar of cricket.

It is also a route into international cricket for emerging nations so, by 2030, it may well have become the dominant format. Without doubt, it is where the money and the power lie, given the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s stranglehold via the IPL. In turn, this provides it with levers of power within the game’s governing body, the International Cricket Council. In defense of this position, the Indian view is that it generates revenue that can be widely distributed to sustain the game.

This assumes levels of responsible governance that have not always been in evidence. The recent revelations of racism in English cricket have highlighted inept and inappropriate governance. These magnify an impression that cricket is unable to protect itself from self-inflicted injuries. Will its response to the crisis strengthen the game, yet again?


Countdown to big Saudi race has F1 fans awaiting serious action

Countdown to big Saudi race has F1 fans awaiting serious action
Updated 05 December 2021

Countdown to big Saudi race has F1 fans awaiting serious action

Countdown to big Saudi race has F1 fans awaiting serious action
  • Locals and international visitors applaud Kingdom’s success in inaugural Formula One Grand Prix

JEDDAH: With just hours left until the big race, the Jeddah Formula One weekend has stolen the hearts of locals and visitors as the open-sea circuit promises and delivers a spectacle for fans.

F1 fans from all over the world made their way to the Jeddah Corniche Circuit by the Red Sea for the Kingdom’s inaugural Grand Prix and the penultimate race of the season, taking place on Sunday as the fifth night race on the calendar.

“Well, honestly, coming here I wasn’t expecting to see what I saw today. This is something we’ve been waiting for, for a long time,” said Almogherah Al-Ghalib, a local F1 fan who works in the marine sector. “The organization, the views and the lighting is awesome — and just to see all these people here in this historical event is something that words cannot explain.”

Organizers at the venue welcomed people to scenes that personified the buzz that has been building up since construction on the track commenced in April. With many events, activities and concerts taking place, fans were dazzled both on and off the track.

“This is my first time in Saudi Arabia, so I didn’t really know what to expect but it’s been super positive ever since I arrived,” said Sam Fane, an automotive YouTuber from the UK. “I’ve been very well looked after through amazing hospitality, and I tried some nice Arabian coffee, which I very much enjoyed.”

Months of planning went into the eagerly anticipated race. However, many foreign media outlets released reports before the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix claiming that the track would not be finished on time. But the Kingdom responded through action, delivering on its promise to give the fans a show.

“I think this place is absolutely stunning, I have to say. You have a beautiful sunset like the one that’s going on behind me and the background of the F1 track is pretty amazing. Everywhere I look, it’s beautiful. It’s a great place to have an F1 race and I’m sure a great place to visit even when the F1 is not going on,” Fane said.

“I think we’re all excited for what’s hopefully going to be an epic race,” he added.

With doors to the venue having been open since Friday, the sun has been bright and shining, the Red Sea glistening and the fans flocking to catch the action of the nail-biting championship between seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton and up-and-coming driver Max Verstappen, who will be pushing their cars to the limit during tonight’s potential title-decider.

“I'm British, so obviously I have to be a Lewis Hamilton fan. It’s been a very exciting season in F1 this year.” Fane told Arab News. “While I want to it to go down to the wire, I’m a Lewis fan all the way.”

At 8:00 p.m. on Sunday, it is lights out and away we go.

“Honestly, words cannot explain or express how I feel today. It’s a transitional period here in Saudi Arabia, and we’re glad to be here,” said Al-Ghalib.


Formula One is transforming Jeddah, says Saudi trailblazer Reema Juffali

The Kingdom’s first female racing driver, who is also a Race Ambassador for the grand prix, spoke to Arab News ahead of Sunday’s raceday. (Supplied)
The Kingdom’s first female racing driver, who is also a Race Ambassador for the grand prix, spoke to Arab News ahead of Sunday’s raceday. (Supplied)
Updated 05 December 2021

Formula One is transforming Jeddah, says Saudi trailblazer Reema Juffali

The Kingdom’s first female racing driver, who is also a Race Ambassador for the grand prix, spoke to Arab News ahead of Sunday’s raceday. (Supplied)
  • Saudi Arabian Grand Prix ambassador says event proves how passionate Saudi Arabia is about top-level motorsport

JEDDAH: Saudi trailblazer Reema Juffali is delighted with how hosting the Formula One Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in Jeddah has brought an “energy” to the city and confirms how passionate Saudis are about the sport.

The Kingdom’s first female racing driver, who is also a race ambassador for the grand prix, told Arab News ahead of Sunday’s race that the event is having a “massive” impact on the city.

“I mean everyone, the city, my friends and family, everyone is so excited,” she said. “You can feel the energy having an international event like this, with everything it brings, from the concerts and the events, that ripple effect Formula One has is massive,” she said.

“And I understand that now firsthand, especially the fact that I know what my city is and, now, how it’s changed with the Formula One here.

“I guess just the buildup to this weekend, today the race day, we’ve seen quite a few different things over the weekend and every day it has been very, very busy. Usually, you find some days a little less busy, but from the Friday, as soon as the gates opened, getting around you’re weaving through people.

“And I’ve been to other events and it’s generally not that busy on the Friday, so it just shows you how excited the Saudis are and how much they’re looking forward to it.”

Juffali said she feels honored and blessed to be chosen as a race ambassador and to be representing her country on an international level. She told Arab News how important telling her story will be in inspiring Saudi children to get involved in motorsport.

“I think that is what kind of brought this on, and my experience in racing single seaters has been my career and life for the past three years, so it felt like a fitting role for me and something that I very much look forward to taking on,” she said.

“A lot of it has been sharing my story, connecting with Saudis and Arabs alike, giving them a chance to dream of getting into Formula One, making that a dream for them.

“And nice to see, as well, another side to this sport because it’s not just racing, there’s a whole other world, there’s media, engineering, hospitality — it brings so much with it.

“So, I see that as my role, spreading that awareness and allowing people to understand what the sport entails,” she added.

At the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, world championship leader Max Verstappen can potentially clinch the title, but Juffali is hoping the battle between him and seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton can be extended for one more week beyond Jeddah, with the season concluding in Abu Dhabi next week.

“It’s going to be interesting. I think we saw that Max was quite eager in qualifying, but you also saw that he has the speed, so it is there,” she said. “It depends on overtaking, but I think that Lewis could potentially be at a disadvantage starting at the front.

“We don’t know that for sure, but it seems like it’s not going to be as simple in terms of overtaking, so I think if he has a good start and it’s a clean race, and we don’t get safety cars (he has a chance).

“But the more the race is interrupted, the more Max will have a chance, I think. In the end, it’s about getting the championship done in the next race, at least for myself, I want to see it go to the end,” she added.

Away from the Red Sea coast of Saudi Arabia and the glamor of F1, Juffali reflected on her season driving in the UK in the British F3 championship the past year — the first in which she felt she could say she was “an actual racing driver” — and told Arab News that, while she felt she did not reach her full potential on the track, she took away many other victories and lessons from the season.

“My driving was a lot more consistent, I was in the pack, always there or thereabouts and close to a good position,” she said. “Often, something would happen, whether it was a mistake from my side or I got unlucky. So, overall, I don’t think my performance reflected my ability.

“But in terms of confidence, in terms of how I’ve grown as a driver... I felt that connection with the car, what it felt like to be able to translate to my engineer and communicate these things.

“So, there were definitely merits and it was a very enjoyable year, and I will take those to the next stage, which I will hopefully announce soon. Stay tuned, you’ll hear more about it.”


LIVE: Saudi Arabian Grand Prix raceday in Jeddah

LIVE: Saudi Arabian Grand Prix raceday in Jeddah
Updated 8 min 11 sec ago

LIVE: Saudi Arabian Grand Prix raceday in Jeddah

LIVE: Saudi Arabian Grand Prix raceday in Jeddah
  • Stay tuned for the F1 action throughout the evening

JEDDAH: The eyes of the sporting world will turn to Jeddah on Sunday as the inagural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix revs into action under the lights along Jeddah's Corniche coast.

Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton starts the race in pole position after Saturday's qualifying session, while his world championship title rival Max Verstappen starts in third.

The Dutchman holds an eight-point advantage over the British legend in the championship standings, and could potentially seal the title in Saudi Arabia if Hamilton has a calamitous race.

Follow all the action here throughout the evening. (All times AST)

21:15 - And due to the damage to the tyre wall, the red flag came out, which meant Verstappen who hadn't pitted took the lead of the race and will restart at 21:15 local time at the front of the pack...

20:50 - And we have a yellow flag on the course, Mick Schumacher has hit a wall. And tells the team over radio he is okay...

20:35 - GO! It's a great start for Lewis Hamitlon as Verstappen just didn't look like he was got the pace off the line, but he's coming back into it...and fast!

20:25 - Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman got a tour of the pitlane ahead of the national anthem ceremony and the start of the race.

 

 

20:10 - With concerns overnight about the gearbox of Max Verstappen, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, told Sky Sports: "It has passed all the tests we would normally do so we have to believe in our measurements and our tools. We have to go for it, Max has been driving beautifully, just a shame to not convert that (into a pole) but there is a lot of racing to be done."

19:50 - A nice moment on the track, as the drivers and teams take a moment of silence to honor the late Frank Williams, former principal of his namesake team and who had a long association with Saudi motorsport.

19:30 - With the race just an hour awayF1 fans from all over the world made their way to the Jeddah Corniche Circuit by the Red Sea for the Kingdom’s inaugural Grand Prix. Read more from the fans below...

READ MORE

The countdown to big Saudi race has F1 fans awaiting serious action. Click here for more.

18:45 - It was a dramatic F2 race, the event which is run before the Formula 1, as Enzo Fittipaldi and Theo Pourchaire have a huge collision on the starting grid. Both drivers were transferred to a local hospital concsious, and the race was run with half points being awarded.

17:30 - Fans are streaming in, and we still have three hours left until lights out. Teams are busy in the pitlane making last minute changes and fine tuning the cars before the big race.

15:45 - In case you missed it, Arab News spoke to Saudi trailblazing female racing driver Reema Juffali ahead of the race, see what she makes of Jeddah hosting Formula One and who she thinks will win below...

READ MORE

Formula One is transforming Jeddah, says Saudi trailblazer Reema Juffali. Click here for more.

15:00 - Saudi Arabia's sport minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal was impressed with what he saw on Friday, and is looking forward to the big race today...


African teams shine: 5 things we learned from second round of group matches at 2021 FIFA Arab Cup

African teams shine: 5 things we learned from second round of group matches at 2021 FIFA Arab Cup
Updated 05 December 2021

African teams shine: 5 things we learned from second round of group matches at 2021 FIFA Arab Cup

African teams shine: 5 things we learned from second round of group matches at 2021 FIFA Arab Cup
  • Egypt, Algeria and Morocco join hosts Qatar in the quarterfinals, while UAE in danger of exit despite recording two wins

With two rounds of matches of the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup group stages already over, the tournament is starting to take shape, with several teams, including hosts Qatar, Egypt and Algeria, confirming qualification to the quarterfinals. Here are five things we learned from the latest action:

1. Syria finally have some luck against careless Tunisia

It has been a tough few months for the Syrian national team, with just two points from the first six games in the final round of qualification for the 2022 World Cup, but on Friday they managed to shock Tunisia with a 2-0 win.

The Eagles of Carthage will be kicking themselves, especially as Fabrouk Ben Mustapha really should have saved a fairly tame shot from Oliver Kass Kawo in the fourth minute. Tunisia did everything they could to score, but just could not get the equalizer — a task that was made much harder at the end of the first half when Mohamed Ben Romdhane was sent off for an elbow.

Then, early in the second half, came a beautiful curling shot from Mohammed Anz that was good enough to win any game. Nevertheless, Tunisia had the possession and the chances to take at least a point, and will rue their missed opportunities. They must now beat UAE in the third game to be sure of a place in the knockout stage, while Syria are very much in the hunt.

 
2. Qatar not yet in top gear but progress

Qatar’s 2-1 win over Oman showed the benefits of competitive games. Oman have been active in the final round of qualification for the World Cup and are doing pretty well. They matched the Asian champions on their home turf and only a 97th-minute winner stopped them from taking a point. 

The hosts will not mind too much that the goal only just crossed the line since it guaranteed top spot in Group A and a place in the quarterfinals. It remains to be seen what kind of team coach Felix Sanchez puts out in the remaining group match against Iraq on Tuesday. With the last-eight clash taking place just three days later, the Spanish boss will be tempted to rest some of his stars, including Akram Afif, who caused problems and scored the opening goal. But Qatar look a little rusty and more games are what this team needs.

3. Morocco could press their way to the title

Jordan looked pretty good in their 1-0 win over Saudi Arabia in the opening game, but were then swept aside by Morocco, losing 4-0. Their hopes looked slim after 15 minutes, already a goal down and losing star forward Baha Faisal to injury, but things continued downhill from there.

It was just not much of a contest as the North Africans were a level above: Clinical in attack and working hard all over the pitch to deny Jordan time, possession and chances. At times, the pressing from the Atlas Lions was up to Liverpool’s standards.

Despite being without their European-based stars, this Morocco team were simply too good for a Jordan team that looked solid against the Saudis. It bodes well for the rest of the tournament. After two games, they have scored eight and conceded none. There is still a long way to go, but on this form they will take some stopping. Jordan’s goal difference has taken a battering and they will have to bounce back against Palestine.

 
4. Egypt and Algeria too good and rob tournament of crunch clash

It was always likely that Egypt, who defeated nine-man Sudan 5-0, and Algeria, who picked up a 2-0 victory over Lebanon, would end up taking the top two spots in Group D. It is a shame for the Arab Cup, however, that both these great rivals are already through to the quarterfinals ahead of their meeting on Tuesday — though the likelihood that top spot will mean that red-hot Morocco are avoided in the next round may add some spice.

As expected, Egypt were just too strong for Sudan and were three goals to the good by the half hour. The first, by Ahmed Refaat, was a real stunner and an early contender for goal of the tournament. The Pharaohs had no need to get out of second gear, with Hussein Faisal impressing on the right side of midfield on his international debut.

Algeria had a much more difficult second game against Lebanon, though they will not mind that. The Cedars are tough to beat and asked a lot of questions of the African champions. It means that the game with Egypt will lack tension, but on current form, these North African giants could end up meeting again.

 
5. Despite perfect record, UAE in danger of elimination

The UAE defeated Mauritania 1-0 to move onto six points. Usually, two wins from the first two games of the group means an early place in the knockout stage, or as good as, but not for UAE. The Whites may be three points clear of Tunisia and Syria, but need to be careful.

There was widespread relief at the 93rd-minute goal from Khalil Ibrahim that gave a 1-0 win over Mauritania. The African team withstood everything that the Asian team threw in their direction, with goalkeeper Mbacke Ndiaye deservedly winning man of the match.

But a goal difference of plus two after two wins is a danger. If the UAE lose to Tunisia, who thrashed Mauritania 5-1 and were unlucky to lose to Syria, and Syria win against Mauritania, then UAE will be going home.


Late goal salvages point for Saudi Arabia against Palestine and maintains hopes of FIFA Arab Cup progress

Late goal salvages point for Saudi Arabia against Palestine and maintains hopes of FIFA Arab Cup progress
Updated 05 December 2021

Late goal salvages point for Saudi Arabia against Palestine and maintains hopes of FIFA Arab Cup progress

Late goal salvages point for Saudi Arabia against Palestine and maintains hopes of FIFA Arab Cup progress
  • A 1-1 draw leaves Green Falcons needing a win in last match against Morocco to have chance of reaching the quarterfinals

Abdullah Al-Hamdan’s late goal earned Saudi Arabia a 1-1 draw with Palestine on Saturday and kept alive their hopes of progressing into the quarterfinals of the Arab Cup. 

A first-half stunner from Mohammed Rashid in Qatar’s Education City looked to have condemned the young Green Falcons to a second successive defeat, three days after losing 1-0 to Jordan, but an equalizer with eight minutes remaining from the Al-Hilal striker earned the men in white a vital point.

The draw leaves Saudi Arabia in third in Group C with one point from two games and above Palestine on goal difference. Jordan have three points, while Morocco, the next opponents for Laurent Bonadei’s men, are already assured of a place in the last eight after winning both games so far 4-0. Only the top two teams progress.

With Saudi Arabia, who made eight changes from the Jordan game, fielding an inexperienced U-23 team, it was always going to be a difficult test and so it proved.

The first half was cagey, though Palestine started a little livelier, with both teams lacking quality in delivering the final ball. The first sight of goal for Saudi Arabia came with a free-kick after 14 minutes. Mohammed Al-Qahtani, the Al-Hilal teenager making his first start for the national team, curled a shot over the Palestine bar.

Palestine came close in the 37th minute. Tamer Seyam, the best player on the pitch in the first half, beat two men and his cross from the byline was heading for Khaled Salam, but Saudi goalkeeper Zaid Al-Bawardi managed to palm the ball away from the forward’s foot.

Then, in added time before the break, Palestine took the lead in some style. Rashid received the ball in the middle of the Saudi Arabia half, took two touches and then let loose an unstoppable shot that flew into the roof of the net to give the Indonesia-based defender his first international goal.

Saudi Arabia began the second half with purpose, moving the ball around quickly. Soon after the restart, Abdullah Radif forced a save from Amr Kaddura, the Palestine goalkeeper’s first real stop of the game. Moments later, Al-Qahtani’s low shot went just wide of the left post.

With 18 minutes remaining, Ayman Yahya’s shot from the edge of the box was deflected wide. On more than one occasion, there was frustration from the Saudi players waiting in the area at the quality of the final ball.

There was always a danger from Palestine counterattacks, which became more frequent the more Saudi Arabia pushed forward. Seyam, perhaps, should have scored and almost certainly sealed the win with a quarter of an hour remaining, but instead blasted the ball over.

Palestine rued that miss after 82 minutes when Saudi Arabia scored their first goal of the tournament. A long ball out of defense found Haitham Asiri on the right and his low pass was coolly slotted home by Al-Hamdan.

It was no less than this rookie Saudi Arabia team deserved, and they could even have won had Waleed Al-Ahmad not headed wide in injury time.

Next comes Morocco — the form team of the tournament so far — on Wednesday. The Atlas Lions have won both games, against Palestine and Jordan 4-0, and were impressive. 

Morocco are already through to the last eight and may rest a few players, but regardless, for Saudi Arabia, a win is needed and then it depends on what happens during the showdown between Palestine and Jordan.