Passing of a player of grace is a reminder of Scottish cricket’s progress in recent decades

Passing of a player of grace is a reminder of Scottish cricket’s progress in recent decades
Hamish More played 42 times for Scotland between 1966 and 1976. (Twitter Photo)
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Updated 13 January 2022

Passing of a player of grace is a reminder of Scottish cricket’s progress in recent decades

Passing of a player of grace is a reminder of Scottish cricket’s progress in recent decades
  • The game in Scotland has come a long way since Hamish More first took to the crease but the way to join the elite 12 now is to perform consistently well in limited-overs cricket

In my years of playing cricket, genuine characters were never far from sight — or out of earshot. No doubt this is true of many sports, but the nature of cricket and the length of time that participants are together, perhaps attracts people of a certain disposition. Last week, I learned of the death of a character with whom I was privileged to play in the later years of his career.

Hamish More, born in Edinburgh, Scotland, played 42 times for his country between 1966 and 1976, scoring more runs than any other Scottish player of that era. In Hamish’s view, the number should have been higher, although, by his own admission, it was partly his fault. Hamish was not known for being either tactful or taciturn. He was not shy in pointing out to selectors that he had scored 13 centuries in club and representative cricket before he was eventually selected. On that occasion he scored 50 against Cambridge University and, apart from becoming a regular in the national team, was invited to play in a number of select teams that included eminent international players of the time.

Another reason for not being selected more often was that Hamish took a break from representing his country in 1976 to care for his wife, who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and a young family. Hamish’s softer side was always apparent when speaking of the effects of that stage of his life.

In 1979-80, he was selected for a Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) party to tour Bangladesh, in which he was the only amateur player. Following this, he returned to his country’s colours in 1980, when he played in Scotland’s first foray into English domestic limited-overs cricket. One of our first conversations centred on this when he became aware that I was from Nottinghamshire. Conspiratorially, he beckoned me to sit down.

“I opened the batting in the match against Nottinghamshire. I had been away from this level of cricket for four years and they got me to open against two of the finest bowlers in the history of the game on a green wicket tailor made for them. I survived for 12 overs, scoring 16 runs, and then they were replaced by bowlers of lower speed and quality. The first ball that one of them bowled at me was short and I went to hook it, only to be too early with the shot, the ball hitting me in the mouth. The rest of my stay in Nottingham was spent in the city’s hospital.”

Unspoken was the thought that his mental lack of mouth control had delayed his elevation to the national team and the physical damage to it had caused his retirement. Hamish continued to play MCC and club cricket into his seventies. I first met him when playing in a six-a-side tournament in Chiang Mai, Thailand. This was an annual international six-a-side tournament populated by teams from England, Australia, Malaysia, Japan, Sri Lanka, South Africa, plus local ex-pats. Some teams had former professionals among their ranks.

In one match, I was bowling to a former Sri Lankan international. He hit me for three successive boundaries. The next delivery went sailing for six. In my despair, I looked up to see our wicketkeeper appealing to the umpire and pointing at the stumps. During the act of despatching the ball, the bat, or some part of the body, had dislodged a bail, so that the player was adjudged out. Hamish strolled in from the boundary and announced that I had acquired yet another international victim. Behind this droll statement was a simple truth, rather than a lack of tact. The likelihood of me taking the wicket of an international cricketer was slim, other than via a slice of fortune.

During Hamish’s peak years, Scotland was beginning to emerge from a lengthy period when its international standing was low profile, few games being granted “first-class” status. This was despite a cricketing history dating back to 1785, with its introduction by garrisoned English soldiers. After breaking from the UK Cricket Council in 1992, Scotland became an Associate Member of the International Cricket Council in 1994, taking part in the ICC Trophy in Malaysia in 1997.

Since then, it has experienced a roller-coaster ride in establishing its international credentials. It is not one of the 12 leading cricketing nations that play Test matches, but this is its ambition. The way to make a case for inclusion is to perform consistently well in limited-overs cricket. Qualification was achieved for ODI World Cups in 1999, 2007 and 2015 and for T20 World Cups in 2009, 2016 and 2021. Progression to the main round was achieved in that last tournament through victories in all three first-round matches. In the second round, the major cricket playing teams proved to be too strong, although Scotland’s overall performance provided it with a breakthrough not experienced since the famous victory over England in June 2018, one that I know pleased Hamish enormously.

Since Hamish’s time at Scotland’s crease, the development of the national team, all part-timers, has improved steadily. It has built on a well-established recreational cricket structure, its 17,000 players making it Scotland’s second most popular sport. Yet, to achieve full-member status, more needs to be put into place. The further development of women’s cricket is one, and additional sponsorship is another, as is the expansion of cricket in schools, of which I am sure Hamish would approve.

One verse of the song “When an old cricketer leaves the crease,” by the English folk-rock musician Roy Harper, puts me in mind of Hamish.

“When the moment comes and the gathering stands and the clock turns back to reflect

On the years of grace as those footsteps trace for the last time out of the act,

Well this way of life’s recollection, the hallowed strip in the haze,

The fabled men and the noonday sun are much more than just yarns of their days.”

Sadly, Hamish’s moments have been and gone. Recollection reveals him to have been a player of grace on the hallowed strip, an entertaining raconteur, friendly, engaging company with a sharp tongue, whose cricketing prowess contributed hugely to the success of both club and country and whose yarns stitched together the idiosyncrasies of cricket and its characters. I am honoured to have shared his company.


Aston Villa add Arsenal’s Chambers to January splurge

Aston Villa add Arsenal’s Chambers to January splurge
Updated 8 sec ago

Aston Villa add Arsenal’s Chambers to January splurge

Aston Villa add Arsenal’s Chambers to January splurge
LONDON: Aston Villa signed versatile defender Calum Chambers from Arsenal on Thursday to take their tally of new recruits this month to five.
The 27-year-old, who can play in both central defense and at right-back, joins Philippe Coutinho, Lucas Digne, Robin Olsen and Kerr Smith at Villa Park as manager Steven Gerrard reshapes his squad.
Chambers has signed a three-and-a-half year contract after an undisclosed fee was agreed between the clubs.
He made 122 appearances for Arsenal after joining from Southampton in 2014, also spending time on loan at Middlesbrough and Fulham.
However, he has struggled for game time this season following the arrivals of Ben White and Takehiro Tomiyasu, making just five appearances, only two of which came in the Premier League.
“It’s a very exciting place to be and everyone can see that from the outside. Things are happening here and it’s definitely moving in the right direction,” said Chambers.
“For me, it was a no-brainer to join a great club. It was the right thing for me to do.”
Villa have moved up to 11th in the Premier League table since the arrival of Gerrard, who has won five of his 11 games in charge.

Meet the drivers who will battle for glory at the 2022 Diriyah E-Prix

Meet the drivers who will battle for glory at the 2022 Diriyah E-Prix
Updated 31 min 49 sec ago

Meet the drivers who will battle for glory at the 2022 Diriyah E-Prix

Meet the drivers who will battle for glory at the 2022 Diriyah E-Prix
  • 22 drivers from 11 teams will fight for the win at the launch of Formula E season 8 in Riyadh

RIYADH: The all-electric championship is back. The Diriyah E-Prix returns in the historic desert surroundings of the UNESCO World Heritage site for its season-opening double-header on Jan. 28-29.

Twenty-two of the best drivers in the world will race for eleven teams and only one trophy in season eight of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship.

Here are the heroes behind the helmets:

Mercedes EQ

Reigning team world champions Mercedes-EQ return for their final season in Formula E with another stellar lineup, bringing back season seven champion Nyck de Vries and Belgian star Stoffel Vandoorne.

The flying Dutchman De Vries qualified on pole for the first race of last season’s opening Diriyah E-Prix, leading every lap thereafter en route to his first-ever victory in the series.

His second victory came soon after, in Valencia. De Vries ended the campaign with two wins, four podiums and 99 points, becoming the first official FIA Formula E World Champion, following the series’ long-awaited FIA sanctioning. Vandoorne heads into his fourth season on the circuit, having finished ninth in last season’s championship with victory in the Berlin finale, three poles and three podiums to his name.

Jaguar TCS Racing

Jaguar race into season eight off the back of their best year yet, and led by a duo of strong, proven race winners: Kiwi Mitch Evans, and Britain’s Sam Bird. With two wins and 10 podiums last season, Evans returns as a serious challenger in 2022. A race winner in every season of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship to date, Bird bagged first place in both Diriyah and New York last year.

Avalanche Andretti Formula E

It’s a new look for the Andretti team in 2021, as Avalanche replaces BMWi as title partner. On the driving side, Jake Dennis returns alongside the rookie US driver Oliver Askew.

Dennis had a spectacular start to his Formula E career last year, becoming the most successful rookie in championship history, in terms of podium visits, with victories in Valencia and London.

Dragon / Penske Autosport

Dragon showed real signs of improvement last season, and have now added the Italian Antonio Giovinazzi from Formula 1’s Alfa Romeo. He joins forces with teammate Sergio Sette Camara, who had his best drive in Diriyah last year — finishing fourth in the opening race.

TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team

The German team return to battle in season eight with Andre Lotterer once again alongside Pascal Wehrlein. Both Wehrlein and Lotterer — the latter a three-time Le Mans winner and five-year Formula E veteran — scored consistently through a strong second half of the season last year.

Mahindra Racing

A stunning victory in London on home soil for driver Alex Lynn was the highlight, but he departed at the end of the season. Fellow Brit Oliver Rowland replaces him, racing alongside another British driver, Alexander Sims, for 2021-22.

Sims has a race win and podiums to his name in Formula E, and Rowland joins the team having made the move from Nissan e.dams.

Nissan e.dams

Nissan e.dams are heading into season eight with one of the most promising talents on the grid, Maximilian Guenther, who proved himself with a win in New York last year. He joins one of the most experienced drivers on the grid in 2015-16 champion, Sebastian Buemi, a multiple winner at Le Mans and in sportscar racing.

Envision Racing

Envision kick off season eight with a striking new green design for their cars, while retaining their driver pairing of Nick Cassidy and Robin Frijns.

After returning to Formula E in 2018-19, Frijns is now embarking on his fourth season with Envision, while Japanese Super Formula and Super GT champion Cassidy joined the Envision team last year and recorded two podium finishes in Mexico and New York.

NIO 333 Racing

NIO 333 retain veteran Oliver Turvey, who joined them just before the 2014-15 season finale in London, and add rookie Dan Ticktum for season eight.

Ticktum was a successful Formula 2 racer, winning his home event at Silverstone in his rookie season, and securing three further podiums.

ROKiT Venturi Racing

After three podium finishes, including two wins, last year, the 2016-17 champion Lucas di Grassi, who spent seven years with Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler, has joined Venturi. Edoardo Mortara finished second in the standings last year — his fourth campaign with Venturi, narrowly missing out to Nyck De Vries in dramatic fashion in the finale in Berlin.

DS TECHEETAH

DS TECHEETAH had their streak of back-to-back teams and drivers’ championships halted last season when they finished third by just a single point.

Jean-Eric Vergne and Antonio Felix da Costa return and could arguably be regarded as the strongest pairing on the grid. Both are past title winners — Vergne twice — with seven seasons of Formula E experience to their names.


Saudi Arabia take giant step towards 2022 World Cup with tense win over Oman

After their victory over Oman, a win against Japan at Saitama Stadium will now take Saudi Arabia to Qatar 2022. (Reuters)
After their victory over Oman, a win against Japan at Saitama Stadium will now take Saudi Arabia to Qatar 2022. (Reuters)
Updated 56 min 3 sec ago

Saudi Arabia take giant step towards 2022 World Cup with tense win over Oman

After their victory over Oman, a win against Japan at Saitama Stadium will now take Saudi Arabia to Qatar 2022. (Reuters)
  • The 1-0 win victory means Green Falcons top Group B on 19 points, with only 3 matches left

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia stayed on course for the 2022 FIFA World Cup with a hard-fought 1-0 win over a spirited Oman in Jeddah on Thursday, with Firas Al-Buraikan getting the all-important goal for the under-par hosts early in the second half.

With Group B rivals Japan defeating China 2-0 and Australia breezing past Vietnam with a 4-0 win earlier in the day, the pressure was on, but victory keeps the Green Falcons four points clear of the Samurai Blue, next Tuesday’s opponents, and five above Australia with just three games left to play. Qatar is getting closer and closer.

A win against Japan at Saitama Stadium will now take Saudi Arabia to Qatar 2022.

Those earlier results may have put pressure on Saudi Arabia, but the team’s first half performance was the worst 45 minutes in the whole third round of qualification. Oman, missing several players due to COVID-19, were well organized and looking to deny the group leaders any space, so chances were always going to be at a premium early in the game. What was less expected was that the visitors would look likelier to score.

Midway through the first half, the Reds had the best opportunity of the game so far. Rabia Al-Alawi, always a busy and dangerous presence in attack, cut inside Ali Al-Bulaihi on the edge of the area and produced a low diagonal shot from the right that rolled just centimeters wide of the left hand post, with Mohammed Al-Owais in goal unable to do anything but stand, watch and hope.

In the absence of injured Salman Al-Faraj in the middle, the Saudis were not only giving the ball away far too often, but looked short of urgency and intensity. Coach Renard, who cut a frustrated figure on the sidelines and was continually signaling to his players to wake up, had seen enough by the half-hour and withdrew the anonymous and ineffectual Sami Al-Najei from the middle to bring in Hattan Bahebri.

Yet Oman continued to ask the questions. Right-back Amjad Al-Harthi’s low shot was almost turned in by Al-Alawi.

In the final five minutes of the first half, Saudi Arabia finally got home fans on their feet, though there were still no clear chances created. Al-Buraikan challenged the Omani goalkeeper for a Yasser Al-Shahrani cross and the volume rose soon after as the hosts appealed for a penalty for what they felt was a kick on Sultan Al-Ghannam. The half ended with a long-range half-volley from Abdulelah Al-Maiki and a shot from Al-Shahrani.

The one positive going into the break was that the second half could only get better, and so it seemed when Saudi Arabia took the lead three minutes after the restart. Befitting the performance, it was not the prettiest of goals, but nobody cared.

Omani goalkeeper Faiyz Al-Rashidi could only palm a low Al-Ghannam shot into the path of Al-Buraikan, and the 21-year-old was not going to miss from such close range.

That did not mean that the game opened up, as Saudi Arabia still struggled to impose any control and Oman still asked questions. Just past the midway point of the half, Al-Alawi had a header from close range fall straight into the arms of Al-Owais and soon after the same striker was turning in the area and firing just over.

Hearts were in mouths right at the end. Arshad Al-Alawi’s long-range effort was tipped over by Al-Owais and from the resultant corner, the same player somehow headed over from close range with the goal at his mercy.

That was the last action of what was, in truth, an ugly win — a fourth 1-0 victory out of seven games so far, but that will not bother anyone but the few Omanis in Jeddah. Saudi Arabia have taken another huge step towards a successive World Cup appearance and, with that vital cushion of four points still in place, the Green Falcons’ focus turns to Japan and a huge game on Tuesday.


Jerry Inzerillo: Formula E perfect opportunity to showcase Diriyah

Jerry Inzerillo: Formula E perfect opportunity to showcase Diriyah
Updated 27 January 2022

Jerry Inzerillo: Formula E perfect opportunity to showcase Diriyah

Jerry Inzerillo: Formula E perfect opportunity to showcase Diriyah
  • The group CEO of Diriyah Gate Development Authority welcomes fans back to Saudi Arabia’s fourth E-Prix with new qualifying format and host of post-race concerts

How are you preparing for the opening race of Formula E, and how excited are you about welcoming fans back to Diriyah?

Formula E is one of the most important highlights in the Diriyah events calendar, and as such, we have been doing a huge amount to prepare. Our infrastructure has been strengthened, with improvements to our road and transportation network being of particular note, allowing those traveling to the event to have a smooth, fantastic time when the season starts.

It is also the perfect opportunity to showcase Diriyah’s position as a global gathering place, as visitors come from all corners of the world to experience this extraordinary spectacle.

Through this evolution and thanks to the sophisticated vision of His Royal Highness Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, we have been fortunate to forge great sporting partnerships, such as we have with the likes of Formula E. Welcoming modern events to the Kingdom and to Diriyah is our greatest pleasure as it tests our preparedness as a culturally-connected global hub of not just sports, but also entertainment, culture, heritage and education.

The spectacle and electricity of the Formula E racecourse set against the historic backdrop of Diriyah is a fitting representation of our shared vision — to respectfully protect the essence of our past but make strides towards the future. We can’t wait to welcome the fans back in person again this year.

This season marks the fourth year in a row that the race is in Diriyah. What is new that fans and visitors can look forward to?

Last year during the pandemic we were lucky enough to run our first night race under LED lights. It looked brilliant on television and had an enormous positive response from the fans. This year will be the first time that fans will see the night race in person at the track. I just know it’s going to be the most sensational experience for them.

We are also delighted that a new qualifying format will be unveiled in Diriyah for the first time this year, as well as a spectacular concert line up especially for this year, including artists such as Craig David, Wyclef Jean, James Blunt, Two Door Cinema Club and The Script.

This is Diriyah’s fourth hosting occasion of the E-Prix in four years, and the now internationally renowned street racing track around our UNESCO World Heritage site At-Turaif will come alive under the floodlights as Saudi Arabia leads the way in adding even more thrill to what is one of the world’s fastest growing sports.

The inaugural Diriyah E-Prix in 2018 was the Kingdom’s first major international event; in 2019 it became the Middle East’s first double-header and in 2021, it was the first ever night race for the all-electric ABB FIA Formula E World Championship.

Huge thanks and praise must go to Prince Abdul Aziz, Saudi Arabia’s minister of sports, and His Royal Highness Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal, chairman of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, for their excellent leadership, as well as the whole Ministry of Sports team who are helping to deliver such a unique and exciting spectacle for the community.

What makes the Diriyah Gate project unique, and what are your plans for the next 10 years?

Our mission at Diriyah Gate Development Authority is to transform one of the most important historical sites in Saudi Arabia into a global hub for culture, heritage, and tourism. Diriyah Gate will be an 11 square kilometer development that protects and celebrates the exceptionally distinctive character of Diriyah. It is going to be a mixed-use space with culture firmly at its heart. There will be a tangible connection to the history in its execution, with everything built in the traditional Najdi style, but one that works hand-in-hand with innovation and the future.

There is an immense pride in Diriyah amongst Saudis, particularly with it being the birthplace of the Saudi state. When I bring people to Diriyah, whether they be global brands or regional players, they fall in love with it. The uniqueness of any project starts with the location, so what we’re trying to do is curate an experience that delivers an authentic connection with visitors to Diriyah as a place. One of the ways we’re doing that is by restoring our UNESCO World Heritage Site at At-Turaif, which will open later this year. There aren’t many new developments in the world that can boast that sort of centerpiece.

We are also looking forward to opening up our latest fine dining area at Bujairi Terrace in Q1 of this year. The district overlooks At-Turaif and is soon to be home to some major global food and beverage brands as well as local Saudi cuisine which together will provide a world class culinary offering.

When the Kingdom gears up to open its doors to international travelers, where does Diriyah Gate fit within the national tourism strategy?

As one of the most important tourism-oriented giga-projects, we are a critical component of the national tourism strategy’s success. Our project is enormous in scale, we will create 55,000 jobs and aim to attract 27 million visitors a year. As one of the first giga-projects slated to open, it really is the catalyst of Vision 2030, and is critical to the Vision’s success pledge to raise tourism’s contribution to the Kingdom’s GDP from 3 percent to 10 percent by the end of the decade.

With the amount of large-scale sporting events that have now taken place in Diriyah, can we look forward to any other major events being hosted in Diriyah in the near future?

Alongside the hosting of annual events brought to us by our partners at the Ministry of Sport, like “Sports for All,” we will also be putting together a program of our own DGDA sports and lifestyle events in line with what we have delivered before, like the Diriyah Equestrian Festival, the Diriyah Tennis Cup and the 2019 “Clash on the Dunes” boxing match between Andy Ruiz and Anthony Joshua.

In the near future we expect to host multiple annual events covering a wide variety of spectator sports, with world class sports facilities — including world class golf courses, equestrian and polo facilities for local and international events and competitions; private and community sports and fitness facilities; and in addition to that, DGDA is working on identifying further venues that promote a healthier and more active lifestyle across the project, with more to be announced in due course.

How does Formula E’s sustainability vision align with DGDA?

Formula E aspires to accelerate change towards an electric future, as well as raising awareness and inspiring change in sustainable practises, contributing to reducing global carbon emissions and urban air pollution. We at DGDA share this vision and are putting in place measures to ensure that the development complies with the highest sustainability and environmental standards.

We want to create a place where heritage and history are respected, protected, and are seamlessly interwoven with sustainability and environmental considerations to create a world class global cultural and lifestyle hub. This is an exciting challenge and is one we at DGDA can’t wait to deliver.

Our environmental and sustainability initiatives ensure environmental compliance, by embedding international best practices, innovative technologies, and sustainability certification targets in all our projects.

Drawing on the Kingdom’s rich past, the buildings in Diriyah will reflect the Najdi architecture of 300 years ago, newly adapted for 21st century living. Our handmade mud brick walls, locally sourced materials, palm groves and farms embody a contextualized approach to both social and environmental sustainability, resonating with the history of the site while responding to the local climatic conditions.

The use of locally sourced materials also contributes to the reduction of whole-life carbon associated with the development, reducing the transportation miles associated with material procurement and installation, while also promoting support for the local economy.

The prospect of lighting up the night sustainably was a challenge that drove great creativity and innovation between our teams, and it is inspiring to see sustainable, more energy efficient and renewable solutions being employed at this year’s Formula E event. This year’s spectacular double header will be held under the glow of low consumption LED technology lighting that uses up to 50 percent less energy to non-LED lighting. This is a vital aspect to Formula E, with its very inception being focused on reduced carbon emissions — and being the first sport to have net zero carbon since it launched eight years ago.


Hansen opens up lead over chasing pack on 1st day of Dubai Desert Classic at Majlis

Hansen opens up lead over chasing pack on 1st day of Dubai Desert Classic at Majlis
Updated 27 January 2022

Hansen opens up lead over chasing pack on 1st day of Dubai Desert Classic at Majlis

Hansen opens up lead over chasing pack on 1st day of Dubai Desert Classic at Majlis
  • The Dane carded a seven-under, bogey-free round with former champion Sergio Garcia in chasing pack after five-under 67
  • Defending champion Paul Casey, on -2, suffered a disappointing finish as bogeys on the 16th and 18th spoiled what had otherwise been a promising round

DUBAI: Denmark’s JB Hansen carded a sensational bogey-free seven-under to claim the overnight lead over a chasing pack that includes 2017 champion Sergio Garcia and Ryder Cup teammate Tommy Fleetwood, with World No.2 Collin Morikawa lurking just one shot further behind as a star-studded field battled it out on day one of the Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates Golf Club.

Hansen, the winner of the AVIV Dubai Championship in November last year, got off to a near-perfect start in the afternoon with four straight birdies from holes two to five, immediately slicing into the -5 clubhouse lead of Garcia and compatriot Pablo Larrazabal from the morning round. Three further birdies in four holes from 10 to 13 put the Dane on his way to a blemish-free seven-under 65, one ahead of Justin Harding of South Africa, who was on the 18th before the hooter ended play with light fading.

Earlier, former champion Garcia once again showed just why he loves playing the Majlis course, with a bogey-free five-under par 67. He sits in the chasing pack alongside compatriot Larrazabal, Fleetwood, Thongchai Jaidee, Paraguay’s Fabrizio Zanotti, and Italy’s Andrea Pavan.

Garcia, who went on to win the Masters in the same year he claimed victory at the Majlis in 2017, said: “It was good. I think it got a bit more challenging the last couple of holes with that left to right wind, but you know I made a couple of nice par saves at the right time and kept it in play, hit a good amount of greens and when I didn’t, my chipping and putting was helping me.”

Morikawa had hit the heights early on with seven birdies through his first 11 holes. Teeing off on 10 alongside Rory McIlroy and Bernd Wiesberger, the American looked certain to lead the way, but his charge was derailed by a run of three bogeys across his final four holes, seeing him slip back to join the group at -4. Two-time champion McIlroy had to settle for a one-under 71.

“A disappointing finish,” said Morikawa. “When you are thinking about so much, you have to remember to play golf. I’m happy, but not thrilled with -4. It’s good to see things that I have been working on all week show up on the course though.”

Defending champion Paul Casey suffered a disappointing finish as bogeys on the 16th and 18th spoiled what had otherwise been a promising round, pulling the Englishman back from -4 through 15 to -2. World No.5 Viktor Hovland meanwhile, playing in the same group as Casey, is well placed three off the lead after a four-under round that included an eagle on the par-five 10th.

Hovland said: “That was a kind of test of patience. I obviously got off to a nice start on the back nine and was able to hit some nice shots and roll in some putts. It was a good day, but I wish I could have taken advantage of some of the easier holes.”

Starting on the back nine, local youngster Josh Hill looked in great form early on with four birdies and just the one bogey on his front nine. He was on -4 through 12 before bogeys at six and nine took him back to two-under. “It was pretty good start,” said the 17-year-old. “I know the front line is a bit harder, so I was trying to keep it together. But I know I was trying to score at the same time. I had a bit of a rough finish, I know those last five are rough holes.”

Emirati golfer Ahmad Skaik, meanwhile, battled back from a tough start after three bogeys in his opening three holes. Working with new equipment for the first time, the left-hander settled into things and traded two more bogeys for birdies to card a three-over 75.