Al-Nassr beat Al-Ahli to stay top of Saudi Women’s Premier League

Al-Nassr beat Al-Ahli to stay top of Saudi Women’s Premier League
Al-Nassr have consolidated their position at the top of the Saudi Women’s Premier League. (Twitter: @saff_wfd)
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Updated 12 November 2022

Al-Nassr beat Al-Ahli to stay top of Saudi Women’s Premier League

Al-Nassr beat Al-Ahli to stay top of Saudi Women’s Premier League
  • A 4-0 win means the team from Riyadh now have seven points from three matches

Al-Nassr have consolidated their position at the top of the Saudi Women’s Premier League after beating Al-Ahli 4-0 at the reserve stadium of King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah on Friday night.

The match came in the scheduled fourth round of the new competition, although it was only the third outing for the teams as last weekend’s Matchday 3 had been postponed due to the Saudi Games.

Al-Nassr led 2-0 at halftime thanks to goals by Mubarak Al-Saiari and Marina Panchko, and doubled the scoreline after the break with strikes from Yasmine Tabila and Hessa Al-Eissa.

After drawing 3-3 against Al-Shabab in their previous fixture, Al-Nassr now lead the table with seven points from three matches.

Al-Ahli, meanwhile, are in fifth place of the eight-team table, with only three points after a second loss.

The two teams will continue their league campaign on Nov. 18 when Al-Nassr will visit Eastern Flames in Dammam, while Al-Ahli will meet Al-Shabab in Jeddah.

The fourth-round matches will conclude with two matches on Saturday, with Sama taking on Al-Yamamah and Al-Hilal wafting Eastern Flames.


Cricket continues to wrestle with contentious issue of ‘throwing’

Cricket continues to wrestle with contentious issue of ‘throwing’
Updated 16 sec ago

Cricket continues to wrestle with contentious issue of ‘throwing’

Cricket continues to wrestle with contentious issue of ‘throwing’
  • Threshold for permitted amount of elbow straightening is 15 degrees for all bowlers

There are certain elements of cricket that are considered to be unsavory or objectionable. One of them is throwing the ball instead of bowling it. A recent example occurred in South Africa, but it is by no means a new phenomenon.

Until the early 19th century, underarm bowling was the norm. Apparently, women found it difficult to navigate their long skirts using this form of delivery, with some resorting to roundarm delivery. The brother of one lady became something of a martyr in deploying the method in a match at Lord’s in 1816. This led to a new ruling, which stated that “the ball must be delivered underhand, not thrown or jerked, with the hand below the elbow at the time of delivering the ball.”

Despite the ruling, attempts to contravene it were frequent and contentious. Eventually, in 1835, roundarm bowling was legalized, deliveries allowed at shoulder height. The next battle centered on the legality of delivering the ball with the hand raised above the shoulder. In 1864, Law 10 was amended to allow this, provided the arm was straight and the ball was not thrown. Rotation or flexing of the wrist in the delivery swing was allowed.

In essence, the Law has remained the same for well over 100 years. Interpretation of whether the Law was being broken rested on the visual interpretation of an action by the umpire standing square to the striker.

No doubt, off-field discussions about the legality of an individual bowling action would have taken place prior to the call of no-ball. Several careers were ended by such calls between 1880 and 1950, after which an outbreak of illegal bowling occurred. Tougher enforcement of the Law and individual bans curbed the trend. At the time, Neville Cardus, one of cricket’s great writers, objected to throwing because it looked ugly.

Who knows what he would have made of the Sri Lankan, Muttiah Muralitharan, who claimed 800 Test wickets, the most yet. His right arm is congenitally bent and hyperextends during delivery. One Australian umpire called him for throwing in 1995, making clear that he would do so again. This is not the first time that a single umpire has taken the view that it is his responsibility to focus on a particular bowler’s action. In Muralitharan’s case, most other umpires were reluctant to call him, while the game’s administrators could not agree on his action’s legality

Most Australians seemed to be in little doubt. This was despite the availability of biomechanical testing, which showed that Muralitharan did not extend his arm any more than bowlers with actions that were considered to be legal. Indeed, the tests show that most bowlers flex and extend their arms as they rotate around the shoulder, to varying degrees.

As a result, thresholds were drawn up for the allowable amount of elbow straightening — 10 degrees for fast bowlers, 7.5 for medium pacers and five degrees for spin bowlers. Subsequent testing, based on empirical evidence in the early 2000s, provided a basis on which the tolerance threshold was raised to 15 degrees for all bowlers. Actions deemed to be illegal are usually well in excess of that level.

There have been occasions when I have been playing or watching cricket, that, instinctively, it looks as if a bowler is throwing the ball. People on either side turned to ask the question — was it a throw? It is possible that those whose bowling actions appeared suspect were well within the threshold which currently applies.

The previous Law which allowed no flexing of the arm is now proved to be draconian, condemning some high-quality bowlers to opprobrium. These days, assistance is provided to a bowler who is called for throwing. An independent review is conducted and, if the action is deemed to be illegal, remedial assistance is available. Although suspended from international cricket, the bowler is not subject to the public ordeal that was once the norm.

In January, Joburg Super Kings left-arm spinner Aaron Phangiso was suspended from bowling in the SA20 cricket league after an independent panel ruled his action illegal. His team has requested that the bowler’s action be biomedically tested. Phangiso has claimed two four-wicket hauls in the tournament and played 37 white ball internationals for South Africa. He had been reported previously for having a suspect action in 2016. After remedial work, he was cleared to resume playing.

One of Pakistan’s fastest bowlers, 22-year-old Mohammad Husnain, was reported for an illegal action during the 2021-22 Australian Big Bash League. This was confirmed by tests in Lahore that showed his elbow extension to be beyond the 15-degree threshold. After remedial work, Husnain was reassessed and cleared to return to play in June. Shortly afterward, while bowling in the Hundred competition in England, he dismissed Australian Marcus Stoinis, who made a throwing motion as walked from the field. No official censure was given to Stoinis, although commentators and Pakistani supporters were left unimpressed.

It does seem that the main characteristic of the issue of illegal, thrown deliveries in cricket is its ability to recur, almost always with acrimony. It is pertinent to ask why any bowler would intentionally do so, given the detection systems now in place. Clearly, a throw travels more quickly, providing a greater opportunity to dismiss the batter. It also generates a greater threat of physical danger. More than one bowler has been rumored to slip in the occasional “throw” in attempting to realize these opportunities.

This does not explain the existence of bowlers who are assessed to be bowling illegally when they do not set out to do so. Fortunately, scientific metrics have generated tolerance thresholds by which those with certain physiological structures, which lead to bowling actions, judged visually to be illegal, can be more realistically assessed.

It ought to lead them to be judged more sympathetically, but old attitudes die hard, if Husnain’s experience is typical. The line between legal and illegal bowling is fine, the latter falling into cricket’s bete noire, that of cheating.


Australian Open champions confirmed for Dubai Tennis Championships

Australian Open champions confirmed for Dubai Tennis Championships
Updated 25 min 39 sec ago

Australian Open champions confirmed for Dubai Tennis Championships

Australian Open champions confirmed for Dubai Tennis Championships
  • Novak Djokovic and Aryna Sabalenka, Grand Slam winners earlier this week in Melbourne will take part alongside women’s World No. 1 Swiatek
  • Nineteen of world’s top 20 women join a strong line-up between Feb. 19 and March 4

DUBAI: Australian Open champions Novak Djokovic and Aryna Sabalenka have been confirmed alongside women’s world No.1 Iga Swiatekfor for the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships later this month.

The official entry lists show that while the men’s draw is headed by the indomitable Serb, a remarkable 19 of the top 20 women are now confirmed to compete at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium over the course of the championships’ two-week tennis extravaganza. The very best of the best are coming to compete from Feb. 19 to March 4.

As well as the reigning Australian Open champion in Sabalenka and the reigning US and French Open champion in Swiatek, Wimbledon winner Elena Rybakina is among the women’s field that will compete between Feb. 19-25. Also on the official entry list is Arab icon Ons Jabeur, a two-time Grand Slam finalist in 2022, and Coco Gauff, the 2022 French Open finalist.

The field for the ATP Tour 500 event meanwhile includes 22-time Grand Slam winner Djokovic, as well as last year’s Dubai winner and World No. 5 Andrey Rublev, Canadian rising star Felix Auger-Aliassime, who is ranked No. 7 in the world, 2021 US Open winner Daniil Medvedev, and 2020 US Open finalist Alexander Zverev.

“Less than a week ago, Novak and Aryna were making history at the Australian Open, so it is fantastic to be able to confirm that tennis fans here in Dubai will get the chance to watch both inside the stadium,” said Colm McLoughlin, executive vice chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free.

“The official entry lists this year speak for themselves. To confirm all 10 of the world’s top 10 women is rare for a tournament outside the Grand Slams and a great demonstration of the popularity of our WTA event, which is marking its 23rd edition this month.”


Kingdom’s locally bred horses secure spots at Saudi Cup 2023

Kingdom’s locally bred horses secure spots at Saudi Cup 2023
Updated 02 February 2023

Kingdom’s locally bred horses secure spots at Saudi Cup 2023

Kingdom’s locally bred horses secure spots at Saudi Cup 2023
  • Neom Cup welcomes newcomer Castle for Prince Saud bin Salman
  • Asfan Al-Khalediah competes in the Manifa Cup for Arabian Horses

RIYADH: The Saudi Cup 2023 evening is gearing up to host several locally bred and trained horses that secured qualifying cards for the accompanying rounds of the world’s most expensive race event from Feb. 24-25.

The locally bred horses distinguished themselves in the Gulf Day races and the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ Cup, organized by the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, last Friday and Saturday, on the dirt and turf tracks of the King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Janadriyah.

Raaed in the 1351 race, Castle in the Neom Cup

Raaed, son of Dark Angel, claimed his sixth victory by winning the Turf Sprint Qualifier 1351 out of a total of 26 entries.

During its racing career, the 6-year-old horse has achieved first-four positions at a rate of 87 percent.

Meanwhile, the Neom Cup is gearing up for the participation of newcomer Castle, Frankel’s son, owned by Prince Saud bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, after winning the Middle Distance Turf Qualifier on Friday in its second successful participation.

The 2,100-meter Neom Cup race will be held on a turf track in the accompanying rounds of The Saudi Cup 2023.

Asfan participates in the Manifa Cup, Pagan runs in the Riyadh Cup

The stable of the sons of Prince Khaled bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz competes in the Manifa Cup round for purebred Arabian horses with Asfan Al-Khalediah on the 2,100-meter turf track.

Asfan has prepared well for the race, starting from the Taif Racing Season at King Khalid Equestrian Square in which it won its first prestigious titles, including the tough King Faisal Cup-ranked race for Arabian horses.

Pagan, owned by Fihan bin Faisal Almindeel Sons, has booked its place in the Riyadh Pace Cup, another accompanying round of The Saudi Cup 2023, after winning the 1,200-meter Dirt Sprint Qualifier race.

The 5-year-old horse, son of Sir Prancealot, clocked a record time of 1 minute, 10.29 seconds in its 90-0 Parity Round appearance last season.

My Map reaches the Derby Cup, with Hamdani in the Obeya Cup

My Map presented itself as one of the most promising colts the Saudi field has acquired in recent times as it won the title in its previous races over progressive distances based on the choices of its trainer.

The 3-year-old colt, son of Liam’s Map, owned by Prince Sultan bin Mishal, won the 1,600-meter Saudi Derby Qualifier race on Friday.

Finally, Hamdani Khaled Al-Khalediah won the Al-Diriyah Cup for Arabian horses to reach the Obeya Round at The Saudi Cup 2023.

Hamdani faced fierce competition against Dergham Athbah in the Al-Diriyah Cup race which it won by a nose.

Hamdani’s superb performance in the Al-Diriyah Cup was expected based on its results over the past two years as one of the best Arabian horses in the Al-Khalediah stable.

His victory was the second achievement for Hamdani so far this season, after winning the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia Cup for Arabian horses two months ago.


Strong Carnival lineup could point the way to Dubai World Cup success

Strong Carnival lineup could point the way to Dubai World Cup success
Updated 02 February 2023

Strong Carnival lineup could point the way to Dubai World Cup success

Strong Carnival lineup could point the way to Dubai World Cup success
  • Horses from 8 countries will clash in 7 races at Meydan this weekend

Rain did its best but didn’t manage to stop play at Meydan last week, although it was undoubtedly a soggy affair.

This played to the strengths of the visiting Europeans, however, who managed two wins.

First came the Irish-trained Coachello in the Dubai Sprint, while Good Fortune now owns a slice of history, having become the first Denmark-trained horse to win at the Carnival. A big well done to his trainer, Soren Jensen, who managed the win with just his second-ever runner in the UAE.

On to this week, when there are horses from eight countries clashing across seven races. It’s a very strong card, featuring the G2 Maktoum Challenge Round 2, which should throw up some horses to take their chance in the $12-million Dubai World Cup in March.

The connections of Algiers have that race firmly on their agenda after the gelding’s impressive win in Round 1. He runs here due to not having received an invitation to The Saudi Cup, as yet, and Riyadh’s loss will be Dubai’s gain as he will be hard to beat, although Remorse and Salute The Soldier will be among those trying their best to do just that.

The Group 2 Singspiel Stakes looks a fascinating race, with four Godolphin horses locking horns, including Valiant Prince who beat several of these rivals in the Al-Rashidiya last time out. For the last two years this race has been won by Lord Glitters and his trainer, David O’Meara, has Shelir here.

A fast-finishing second in the Zabeel Mile last time out, the extra 200 meters this time should suit the 7-year-old, so he gets my vote. Another one to watch is Sifting Sands, one of three runners on the night for US trainer Doug O’Neill. Connections have been purring about him and he runs here with a view to switching to dirt later in the Carnival.

Twelve fillies clash in the Group 2 Cape Verdi, among them four for Godolphin who have Group race winners With The Moonlight and Wild Beauty on their side, while Soft Whisper beat several of these in the Ipi Tombe Stakes last time. I can’t choose between them, so maybe it goes to Spain who have Samedi Rien, a closing third to Soft Whisper, in the lineup for trainer Guillermo Arizkoretta. It’ll be tough for her, but these races are meant to be.

The Group 3 Al-Shindagha Sprint will give us a contender for the G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen on World Cup night. There isn’t much between the 12 who line up, but Doug Watson has issued a positive bulletin about Mubakker, so he’s my pick. Bhupat Seemar’s Freedom Fighter is another interesting one if able to overcome his wide draw in 13.

Watson could have a good evening as he also runs Legend Of Dubai in the closing handicap. The 5-year-old is a two-time winner in the UK and runs here for the first time, but is well-regarded by his handler and could be hard to beat. Ouzo, trained in the UK by Jamie Osborne, is another who should run well, having finished a close third over course and distance three weeks ago.

It’s nice that Vazirabad, a three-time winner of the G2 Dubai Gold Cup, is being recognized with a race named after him and the 2,410-meter handicap, race two, is a competitive affair. There’s no standout pick, for me, but Final Dance is an eight-time winner on turf in Turkey and should love this extra distance. He’s better than he showed when only eighth behind Algiers last time, so perhaps he can cause an upset in this lower grade.

The evening starts with the Purebred Arabians’ version of Maktoum Challenge Round 2, a Group 1. Watch out for Hiab Al-Zaman, a Grade 1 winner in America, who makes his local debut here for trainer Fawzi Nass.


Canadian tennis star Bianca Andreescu relishing shot at Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open

Canadian tennis star Bianca Andreescu relishing shot at Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open
Updated 02 February 2023

Canadian tennis star Bianca Andreescu relishing shot at Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open

Canadian tennis star Bianca Andreescu relishing shot at Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open
  • New WTA-500 tournament takes place at Zayed Sports City from Feb. 5-12

Former US Open champion Bianca Andreescu is delighted to finally see the UAE capital added to the WTA calendar with the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open —a contest that would “mean a lot” to her if she became its first winner.

The 22-year-old Canadian is among the top stars set to compete at the inaugural WTA-500 level event from Feb. 5-12 at the International Tennis Centre in Zayed Sports City.

With the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open being the latest elite tennis event in the city following the 2021 WTA Women’s Tennis Open and the annual exhibition Mubadala World Tennis Championships, Andreescu is relishing the opportunity of returning to the Emirate after being impressed by what she saw during a day trip back in December 2020.

The 2019 US Open champion said: “Whenever there’s a chance that I can play a tournament, I will but specifically for this tournament it’s a WTA 500 and is being staged in a great location in Abu Dhabi.

“I’ve been there before and I always wanted to go back. During my pre-season in December 2020, I traveled to Abu Dhabi for one day and I visited the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque which was amazing.

“It’s really nice that tennis is spreading all around the world and Abu Dhabi is a really nice place. I’ve always thought about why WTA doesn’t have a tournament on its calendar but now it’s here with the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open. To be one of the first players to play in the tournament is always nice so I’m very excited to play there.”

The Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open has attracted a strong field including recent Australian Open finalist and Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina, Russian world No. 8 Daria Kasatkina, world No. 9 Belinda Bencic, Russian No. 11 Veronika Kudermetova as well as three-time Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza.

Andreescu, who comes into Abu Dhabi following the Hua Hin Championships in Thailand, is fully aware of the stern competition she faces if she wants to claim her fourth WTA title.

“It will be very tough but I am looking forward to it,” said Andreescu, who reached a career high of fourth in the world rankings in 2019. “All of these wonderful women on the tour give me motivation and inspiration to be where they are and where I was before. To be competing alongside them gives me that extra motivation as I do like to play my best tennis against top players. I think I can do well given it’s on hard court, which is a surface I love.”

She added: “I have had a few good matches at the start of the year and played in the Thailand Open this week so hopefully I can continue to do well and get some good matches under my belt and carry that on to the Abu Dhabi tournament. I think right now it is about gaining as many matches as I can since I’ve not played the amount of games that I would I have liked to have played.

“Maybe next week might be my chance. It’s the first edition (of the tournament) so winning it would mean a lot.”

Whether she makes history by becoming the inaugural champion of the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open or not, Andreescu insists the tournament will serve as an important platform for the rest of 2023 and has set her sights on adding to her Grand Slam triumphs.

“I would love to win another Grand Slam and another WTA 1000 event,” she said. “I know that it’s possible because I’ve done it before and hoping this year is my year. I don’t want to be too picky but the Australian Open would’ve been nice.

“But looking ahead I’ve always wanted to win the US Open and the next one after that would be Wimbledon. I don’t have the most experience on grass yet but last year I showed some dominance on it so hopefully I can do well in that this year.”