Liverpool boss Klopp says Man City match no title-decider

Liverpool boss Klopp says Man City match no title-decider
Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp celebrates after their Champions League Quarter Final match against Benfica at Estadio da Luz, Lisbon on Tuesday. (Reuters)
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Updated 06 April 2022

Liverpool boss Klopp says Man City match no title-decider

Liverpool boss Klopp says Man City match no title-decider
  • Victory at the Etihad Stadium would give Liverpool an 11th successive league win and leave them two points ahead of City
  • "If we win against City, which is already difficult enough, I think no one would think, 'that's it, decided'," Klopp told reporters

LONDON: Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has warned against viewing Sunday’s match with Manchester City as a decider for the Premier League title.
Victory at the Etihad Stadium would give Liverpool an 11th successive league win and leave them two points ahead of City at the top of the table with seven games left to play.
But even if they succeed against City, there is no guarantee Liverpool will have a smooth finish to the season, with a derby against Everton and a clash with bitter rivals Manchester United to come before the end of this month.
Liverpool will make the short journey across the northwest to Manchester on the back of a 3-1 win away to Benfica in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final, a result that has left the six-time European champions on the brink of the last four.
“If we win against City, which is already difficult enough, I think no one would think, ‘that’s it, decided’, because of the quality of the opponent,” Klopp told reporters on Wednesday.
“We play now against the best team in the world but we will give it a try anyway.
“Everyone knows about the importance of the next game, but after this game there will be other game in another competition but also in the Premier League as well.
“If you cannot be first you want to be second. If you are behind then you want to come closer. If you are close you want to overtake.
“That’s the situation and we will give it a proper try.”
Liverpool remain on course for an unlikely quadruple of trophies this season after already winning the English League Cup in February.
But German boss Klopp said: “We are in the (Champions League) quarter-final, the semifinal (of the FA Cup) and the further you go in competitions the harder it gets.”


Ons Jabeur reaches first Grand Slam final at Wimbledon

Ons Jabeur reaches first Grand Slam final at Wimbledon
Updated 12 sec ago

Ons Jabeur reaches first Grand Slam final at Wimbledon

Ons Jabeur reaches first Grand Slam final at Wimbledon

LONDON: Ons Jabeur became the first African woman in the Open era to reach a Grand Slam final on Thursday when she defeated Germany's Tatjana Maria in the Wimbledon semi-finals.
The 27-year-old world number two from Tunisia triumphed 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 and will face either 2019 champion Simona Halep or Elena Rybakina in Saturday's championship match.
Before Thursday, South Africans Irene Bowder Peacock, at the 1927 French Open, and Renee Schuurman, in the 1959 Australian Open, were the only African women to reach a Slam final.


Basketball star Brittney Griner arrives at Russian court for trial on drug charges

Basketball star Brittney Griner arrives at Russian court for trial on drug charges
Updated 07 July 2022

Basketball star Brittney Griner arrives at Russian court for trial on drug charges

Basketball star Brittney Griner arrives at Russian court for trial on drug charges
  • The athlete was detained in February at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport after vape canisters with cannabis oil allegedly were found in her luggage
  • She faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of large-scale transportation of drugs
MOSCOW: Jailed American basketball star Brittney Griner returned to a Russian court Thursday to face her trial on drug charges as a senior Russian diplomat warned that US criticism of how Russia’s handling the case wouldn’t help her release prospects.
Griner’s trial began last week amid a growing chorus of calls for Washington to do more to secure her freedom nearly five months after her arrest.
The athlete was detained in February at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport after vape canisters with cannabis oil allegedly were found in her luggage. She faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of large-scale transportation of drugs.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warned Thursday that “attempts by the American side to make noise in public ... don’t help the practical settlement of issues.”
The White House said President Joe Biden called Griner’s wife on Wednesday to assure her that he’s doing all he can to obtain the athlete’s release, as soon as possible. They spoke after Biden read a letter from Griner in which she said she feared she’d never return home.
Washington hasn’t made public its strategy in the case and the United States may have little leverage with Moscow because of strong animosity due to Russia’s military actions in Ukraine. The State Department has designated Griner as wrongfully detained, moving her case under the supervision of its special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, effectively the government’s chief hostage negotiator.
Asked about the possibility of Griner being swapped for a Russian jailed in the US, Ryabkov, the senior Russian diplomat, noted that until her trial is over “there are no formal or procedural reasons to talk about any further steps.”
He warned that US criticism, including a description of Griner as wrongfully detained and dismissive comments about the Russian judicial system, “makes it difficult to engage in detailed discussion of any possible exchanges.”
The trial of the Phoenix Mercury star and two-time Olympic gold medalist was adjourned after its start last week because two scheduled witnesses did not appear. Such delays are routine in Russian courts and her detention has been authorized through Dec. 20, suggesting the proceedings could last months.
It was unclear if Griner would testify Thursday.
Although Griner’s supporters initially kept a low profile, calls for the United States to take action spiked after the trial’s first day.
The Rev. Al Sharpton, one of America’s most prominent Black activists, this week called for Biden to arrange a prayer meeting with Griner, saying, “Four months is too long for this to have gone on, and I hope the President acts on her pleas to come home.”
An organization called Win With Black Women sent Biden a letter saying Secretary of State Antony Blinken “has called Cherelle Griner, Brittney’s wife, assuring her and stating publicly that Brittney’s safe return was a matter of personal priority; however, we are concerned that the rhetoric does not appear to align with the actions taken to date. We urge you to make a deal to get Brittney back home swiftly.”
Russian news media have repeatedly speculated that Griner could be swapped for Russian arms trader Viktor Bout, nicknamed “the Merchant of Death,” who is serving a 25-year sentence in the US on conviction of conspiracy to kill US citizens and providing aid to a terrorist organization.
Russia has agitated for Bout’s release for years. But the wide discrepancy between Griner’s alleged offense and Bout’s global dealings in deadly weapons could make such a swap unpalatable to Washington.
Others have suggested that she could be traded along with Paul Whelan, a former Marine and security director serving a 16-year sentence in Russia on an espionage conviction that the US has repeatedly described as a setup.
Russia has shown no signs of backing off.
“This is a serious offense, confirmed by indisputable evidence ... Attempts to present the case as if the American was detained illegally do not hold up,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexei Zaitsev said Wednesday.
“The law has been violated, and arguments about the innocent nature of Griner’s addiction, which, by the way, is punishable in some US states, are inappropriate in this case,” he said.

Nadal in race to be fit for Wimbledon semis as Djokovic targets 8th final

Nadal in race to be fit for Wimbledon semis as Djokovic targets 8th final
Updated 07 July 2022

Nadal in race to be fit for Wimbledon semis as Djokovic targets 8th final

Nadal in race to be fit for Wimbledon semis as Djokovic targets 8th final
  • Nadal said he was unsure over his ongoing participation in the tournament
  • The 22-time Grand Slam champion has six wins against Kyrgios in nine meetings between the pair

LONDON: Rafael Nadal is facing a race against time to be fit for Friday's mouthwatering Wimbledon semi-final against Nick Kyrgios but can either man stop Novak Djokovic in his relentless push for a fourth straight crown?
A meeting between 22-time Grand Slam champion Nadal and the mercurial Australian has been on the cards since Kyrgios defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas in an ill-tempered third-round meeting.
Kyrgios cruised through his last-eight match against unseeded Chilean Cristian Garin on Wednesday in straight sets to reach his first Grand Slam semi-final.
But it was a different story for Nadal, who had to battle an abdominal injury in a gruelling five-set win against 11th-seeded American Taylor Fritz.
The second seed, visibly in pain, looked unlikely to finish the match when he was forced to take a medical time-out in the second set.
But he returned to the court and twice recovered from a set down to win in four hours and 21 minutes
The extra time on court for Nadal -- two hours longer than Kyrgios -- is a factor in itself but the Spaniard's injury raises the prospect that he may not even be fit enough to play.
Nadal, the 2008 and 2010 champion, said he was unsure over his ongoing participation in the tournament as he targets the third leg of a rare calendar Grand Slam.
"I can't give you a clear answer because if I gave you a clear answer and tomorrow another thing happens, I will be a liar," the 36-year-old said after his quarter-final win.
If the two do meet on Centre Court, it would be the standout tie of the tournament so far in a year when many of the top seeds have fallen by the wayside early.
Kyrgios's tournament has been defined by breathtaking shot-making but also his familiar rants on court -- including a demand that Tsitsipas be thrown out of the championships for hitting a ball into the crowd.
The 40th-ranked player has been fined a total of $14,000 and he now has the added distraction of a looming court appearance in Australia, related to an allegation of assault.
Nadal has six wins against Kyrgios in nine meetings between the pair.
The Australian famously beat Nadal -- then world number one -- on his way to the Wimbledon quarter-finals on his debut in 2014 but the Spaniard took his revenge in 2019.
Kyrgios, 27, said he believed the match against Nadal would be the "most-watched of all time".
"We've had some absolute battles on that Centre Court," he said. "He's won one against me and I've won one against him.
"Obviously, we know, two completely different personalities. I feel like we respect the hell out of each other, though. I feel like that would be a mouth-watering kind of encounter for everyone around the world."
Djokovic had to come back from two sets down against Italian 10th seed Jannik Sinner in his quarter-finals on Tuesday.
But the 35-year-old finished the match looking fresh, even pulling off an outrageous winner while doing the splits.
The Serbian top seed is on a 26-match winning streak at Wimbledon as he seeks to draw level with Pete Sampras on seven titles at the All England Club -- just one behind Roger Federer's men's record.
British ninth seed Cameron Norrie has vowed to "take it" to Djokovic and will hope to ride a wave of home support but he has a tough task on his hands to unseat the champion.
Djokovic, who beat the 26-year-old in their only previous meeting, is braced for a partisan crowd.
"For him, not much to lose," he said. "Every victory from now onwards is a big deal for him.
"I know that. But, you know, I practised a few times. I know his game well. He's been around. Of course I will do my homework and get ready."


Embedded relationship between cricket, data, records still relevant as ever

Embedded relationship between cricket, data, records still relevant as ever
Updated 07 July 2022

Embedded relationship between cricket, data, records still relevant as ever

Embedded relationship between cricket, data, records still relevant as ever

Cricket and statistics go hand in hand. As a boy, I remember recording, in a formal scorebook, every ball bowled, run scored, and wicket taken during the professional matches I watched in person.

Now, I ask myself, why did I do that? Even more so, why do people still do this, given the multitude of information and data which now exists?

One potential answer is that it makes a connection with the match and the individuals in it. Secondly, it creates a personal and permanent written record, something to look back on as a series of memories. And thirdly, it creates one’s own data base, however partial.

All of this makes cricket quite different from other sports.

The outcome of a football match is determined only in terms of the number of goals scored, rugby by the number of points. In cricket, each ball bowled is a discreet, but connected, event, its recording essential to the outcome of the match.

If a boundary is recorded against the bowler, but not in favor of the batter, the scorebook will not balance. If this error is repeated too many times, the final score will be imbalanced and corrective measures required that may prove to be controversial. Such problems do not occur in professional cricket, with its professional scorers and electronic checks and balances.

The recording of the outcome of every ball gives rise to rich data sets which are mined for nuggets of information. These used to center on averages – the average number of runs scored by batters per completed innings, the average number of runs taken by bowlers to secure a wicket. Many an argument has focused on the relative merits of which player out of several with similar averages was the best.

Averages fail to consider the circumstances in which the runs were scored, or wickets taken. Did the player benefit from home pitches that were favorable to his or her strengths? Was the player someone who played for the team rather than him or herself?

Some statistics do not lie. There is little dispute that Sir Donald Bradman was the greatest wielder of a cricket bat in the history of the game. In 80 Test match innings, he averaged 99.94 runs falling short of averaging 100 by the slimmest of margins. In his final innings, needing four runs to reach this milestone, Bradman was bowled second ball for naught.

The potential errors which may creep into scorebooks, mentioned above, may well have existed during Bradman’s career. Indeed, cricket historians have pored over the records of Bradman’s batting and have identified possible misclassifications of runs scored by him to others. However, no one seems to have the appetite to amend Bradman’s average, based on a re-scoring of old records. As it stands, his average is between 38 and 41 runs higher than the 10 next best performers, only one of whom is playing today.

The bowler who has taken the most wickets in men’s Test cricket is the Sri Lankan, Muttiah Muralitharan, who amassed 800 between 1992 and 2010. His record is not without controversy because of accusations of an illegal bowling action. This is something that rankles, especially with Australians, who regard Shane Warne, with his 708 wickets, as a better bowler. These debates will continue, without resolution.

Cricket, because of its self-contained units of play, such as over, batter innings, and team innings, lends itself to assessments of comparative performance and the establishment of records.

One such record focusses on the highest number of runs scored in one over. In professional cricket, the first time that six sixes were hit off a six ball over was achieved by the great West Indian all-rounder, Sir Garfield Sobers. This was in 1968 in a match between Nottinghamshire and Glamorgan. Since then, the feat has been achieved a further eight times, but only three times in international matches – two in T20 matches and one in a one-day match. The feat has never been achieved in a Test match.

However, the rearranged Test match between England and India, which finished on Tuesday, ending in an exhilarating victory for England, witnessed the record number of runs scored in an over – 35. The England pace-bowler, Stuart Broad, having just celebrated becoming only the sixth bowler to take 550 Test match wickets, conceded 23 off legitimate deliveries, plus five from a wide and seven from a no-ball. Broad had also been the bowler who delivered the over which was hit for six sixes in a T20 international in 2007.

Cricket throws up oddities and coincidences of this nature on a regular basis. These provide the fodder for quizzes and insightful additions to the narrative generated by match-day commentators on radio and television.

Over the last 20 years, matters have become more serious. Data is now available from the various electronic devices used to record the details of every ball bowled in top-level cricket around the world. Ball-tracking technology generates data that establishes ball speed, its release and bounce point, how much it deviates off the pitch, the height that it passes or hits the stumps, the line that it takes in the air, and how much it swings.

These statistics have spawned a new breed of cricket analyst and a level of analysis about individual players, grounds, and teams, which allows match strategies to be developed of a hitherto unachievable breadth and depth.

Recently, an opening into this behind-the-scenes world has been provided by two of its early devotees. In their book, “Hitting Against the Spin: How Cricket Really Works,” Nathan Leamon and Ben Jones unveil insights into the modern analytical techniques they and others have used in developing team and individual strategies at international level.

There are sceptics of this approach who argue that mentality and technique are paramount. England’s new cavalier attitude supports that view, although data insights are unlikely to have been jettisoned completely.

What is certain is that the use of data in cricket has changed significantly since I recorded matches in my boyhood scorebooks.


Zion Williamson, Pelicans aim to end ‘negative’ narratives

Zion Williamson, Pelicans aim to end ‘negative’ narratives
New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson shakes hands with VP of basketball operations David Griffin. (AP)
Updated 07 July 2022

Zion Williamson, Pelicans aim to end ‘negative’ narratives

Zion Williamson, Pelicans aim to end ‘negative’ narratives
  • Williamson appears healthy now, cleared by the club to engage in basketball activities without restrictions

NEW ORLEANS: A few months after Zion Williamson was left entirely out of Pelicans promotional material regarding ticket renewals, the injury-riddled star forward was back to being celebrated Wednesday as a supremely influential figure in New Orleans’ future.

“The last few months were a roller-coaster of emotions,” Williamson said. “The world just ran with narratives, and so when my family was going out in public, they’re getting harassed by people about why we don’t like New Orleans or why we don’t want to be here, when that’s not the case at all.

“I wasn’t able to play because my foot was broke,” Williamson continued. “Every time I checked my phone it’s always something negative. Even when you’re trying to make positive of the situation, it was very tough.”

So the Pelicans used the occasion of Williamson signing a $193 million, five-year contract extension — which could be worth up to $231 million if the explosive, 6-foot-6, 280-pounder lives up to the potential he’s displayed when healthy — to try to dispel past notions of distrust and start a new narrative.

“This is a really momentous occasion for all of us,” said David Griffin, the Pelicans’ executive vice president of basketball operations. “This is an opportunity for us as an organization to really put to bed a lot of things that were said.

“So many things that are talked about are just words,” Griffin continued as Williamson nodded in agreement beside him. “What Zion Williamson did today is express his commitment to this team and to this city and to this community. ... So the noise that’s on the periphery of all of that is completely irrelevant.”

Williamson appears healthy now, cleared by the club to engage in basketball activities without restrictions. Recently, he and his stepfather, Lee Anderson, have been running basketball camps for kids at a New Orleans YMCA, where Williamson formally signed his contract while campers stood behind him and applauded.

It also was Williamson’s 22nd birthday, and he commented, while grabbing Griffin’s shoulder and smiling, that it was his best birthday yet.

“Thank y’all for really sticking with me the past year,” Williamson said to the Pelicans’ brass. “It was a tough year, and then for the Pelicans to come give this birthday gift, I’m not going to let ‘em down. I’m not going to let the city down, I’m not going to let my family down, and most of all, I’m not going to let myself down.”

Now the 2019 No. 1 overall draft choice out of Duke, who has played in just 85 games in his first three seasons, is primed to see how much his return could help a squad that improved dramatically late last season and made a surprisingly competitive playoff showing without him.

Griffin, meanwhile, sees his vision for building a young team set up for sustained success coming together under Willie Green, who in his first season as an NBA head coach shepherded the team from a 1-12 start to postseason qualification, two play-in victories and two more victories in a first-round series against top-seeded Phoenix.

“We feel like with the team we have assembled, with Zion as an enormous part of that, coach Green and his staff are going to be able to put together an incredible run,” Griffin said. “We’re young, we’re talented and most importantly we are very hungry.”

Williamson played in just 24 games as a rookie because of a preseason right knee injury (lateral meniscus). In his second season, he played in 61 of 72 games, averaging a team-high 27 points and becoming a first-time All-Star during what was his lone NBA campaign not mostly or entirely wiped out by injuries.

“Zion is a huge part of what we want to accomplish,” Green said, noting that Williamson will periodically initiate the offense handling the ball as he did successfully in is second season. “It’s not necessarily him fitting in. He can do that with any team in the league. It’s about maximizing the group that we have when we had him to it. And, frankly, I think it’s going to be scary for the rest of the NBA.”

Williamson said he is focused on adopting strategies meant to preserve his health and promote career longevity — but cutting down on vigorous, high-flying dunks in favor of lower-impact layups probably won’t be one of them.

“I’m a competitor, so when I’m on the court, I’m not thinking about, ”Let me lay this ball in; hopefully my career will last longer,’” Williamson asserted with a playful grin. “No, I’m thinking about putting that person through the rim. So, as far as me dunking, that’s going to always happen. That’s going to stay happening, no matter what (team trainers and management) are talking about. I’m always dunking. Come on, man!”