Adjusting to Test cricket proving a tough process for new teams

Adjusting to Test cricket proving a tough process for new teams
With the field up, Ireland's Lorcan Tucker hits a boundary off the bowling of England's Stuart Broad during play on day 2 of the Test match between England and Ireland at the Lord's cricket ground in London, on June 2, 2023 (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 08 June 2023
Follow

Adjusting to Test cricket proving a tough process for new teams

Adjusting to Test cricket proving a tough process for new teams
  • Rigorous ICC criteria in place to determine both full- and associate-member status

There are countries that harbor aspirations to become full members of the International Cricket Council and, with it, the opportunity to play Test cricket.

The case of Ireland should provide a salutary example of a rocky path. Awarded full-member status in 2017, Ireland is finding adaptation to Test cricket a tough and gradual process, full of unexpected challenges.

A detailed set of criteria has been put in place by the ICC to determine both full- and associate-member status. In summary, they cover aspects of governance, administration and finance, performance, participation and domestic structures, infrastructure and development policies.

The performance aspect includes a requirement that the men’s team had registered a specified number of victories over full-member teams in specified tournaments over an eight-year horizon. During the same horizon, participation in at least three ICC World Cups and/or T20 events is required, whilst the women’s team is required to have participated in at least one ICC World Cup or T20 in the previous four years.

Satisfying the criteria takes time, resources and effort. Cricket Ireland was justifiably proud of its success and its 2021 three-year strategic plan was launched under the title of “Creating a Cricket Island.”

This recognized the urgent requirement “to develop facilities across the Island to support Grassroots, Pathway and Senior International players.” Having recently visited one of the four grounds which are ICC approved, it is clear a number of years of sustained investment will be required to bring facilities and venues up to appropriate levels.

Cricket in Ireland is probably the fifth-most popular team sport after soccer, Gaelic football, hurling and rugby. This provides it with a difficulty in attracting sufficient support. Although full-member status meant that Cricket Ireland was slated to receive some $40 million from the ICC in the funding cycle ending in 2023, the cost of hosting its first-ever Test match against Pakistan in 2018 was estimated to be $1.14 million. Almost half of these costs were incurred by a lack of permanent infrastructure which necessitated the installation of temporary seating and other portable structures. The crowd witnessed a memorable match in which Ireland came close to securing a famous victory.

Ireland’s next two Tests were played in 2019, against Afghanistan in India and England at Lords, where they came very close to causing a shock. Plans to host a Test against Bangladesh in summer 2020 were cancelled, even before the advent of COVID-19 restrictions. Financial difficulties were being encountered by Cricket Ireland, as a result of a shortfall in expected ICC funding allocation. The risk involved in hosting a second Test, in which revenue streams were unlikely to cover costs, was considered too high. Ireland is not included in the nine-team World Test Championship, so any Test match it plays is a “friendly” and lacks context.

Instead, Cricket Ireland chose to prioritize white-ball cricket in preparation for upcoming T20 World Cups and the start of the qualification process for the 2023 World Cup. The team did not qualify for the 2021 T20 tournament, but did so in 2022, where a rain-affected victory was achieved against the eventual winners, England.

Starting next week, Ireland will contest in the final qualifying phase for the 2023 World Cup. At the time that the decision to focus on white-ball cricket was made, the pandemic had not struck.

Its ubiquitous effects did not spare Cricket Ireland, which, despite showing a surplus of $1.65 million in 2020, generated a loss of $1.32 million in 2022. The 2020 surplus reflected the timing of grants received from Sport Ireland for COVID-19 resilience and reduced expenditure resulting from the postponement of events and activities. When events returned in 2021, they took place in bio-secure environments, which led to increased costs and low income because of limits on spectator numbers.

All of this has meant that Ireland played only three Tests in the four years since becoming a full member. This year the team has played three Tests in South Asia, one in Bangladesh and two in Sri Lanka, losing all three, quite heavily. Last week another Test was played against England at Lords, meaning that, of the seven Test matches played by Ireland, only one has been at home. There has been some criticism of this on the grounds that Cricket Ireland receives more funding, as a full member, from the ICC than associate members, primarily for the purpose of hosting Test cricket.

Apart from the impact of COVID-19 and financial difficulties, other mitigating circumstances have been advanced for Ireland’s lack of Test cricket and victories.

One is that a previous generation of players came to the end of their careers soon after gaining full-member status and that the new generation needed time to adjust to the longer game.

Another is that several Irish players, who played county cricket in England, were classed as overseas players once Ireland became a full member. Tim Murtagh is one example. In Ireland’s match against England in 2019, he took five for 13 in England’s first innings of 85 all out. Murtagh played most of his county cricket for Middlesex and has had to choose between continuing to do so or making himself available for Ireland. He chose the former but would have been a welcome addition to the Irish team last week when its bowling attack was savaged by England’s top order.

Ireland’s batting in its first innings was also a disappointment, being dismissed for 172. More application was in evidence in the second innings, with two players coming close to centuries. Only by playing Test cricket can they hope to improve in that format. Questions were raised about the wisdom of accepting the invitation to play the match so close to the World Cup qualifying tournament in Zimbabwe. Ireland and its players have to learn to cope with the demands of switching between all three formats if the standards required to maintain full-member status are to be fulfilled.


Liverpool fight back again to edge LASK on Europa League return

Liverpool fight back again to edge LASK on Europa League return
Updated 21 September 2023
Follow

Liverpool fight back again to edge LASK on Europa League return

Liverpool fight back again to edge LASK on Europa League return
  • Romelu Lukaku earned last year’s beaten finalists Roma a 2-1 victory at Sheriff
  • Bayer Leverkusen crushed Swedes Hacken 4-0, Rennes cruised past Maccabi Haifa 3-0 in France, Spaniards Villarreal lost 2-0 to Panathinakos in Greece

PARIS: Liverpool fell behind for the fourth time in five matches this season but fought back to beat LASK 3-1 in Linz in the Europa League on Thursday.
Elsewhere in the early matches in the first round of the group stage of the second-tier European competition, Romelu Lukaku earned last year’s beaten finalists Roma a 2-1 victory at Sheriff.
Bayer Leverkusen crushed Swedes Hacken 4-0, Rennes cruised past Maccabi Haifa 3-0 in France, Spaniards Villarreal lost 2-0 to Panathinakos in Greece.
Liverpool, playing in the Europa League for the first time since finishing runners up in 2016, changed their entire starting 11 away to LASK and quickly fell behind.
In the 14th minute, Sascha Horvath lobbed a corner to Florian Flecker just outside the Liverpool box. The Austrian midfielder controlled the dropping ball before smashing a rocket shot past Caoimhin Kelleher in the Liverpool goal.
Darwin Nunez levelled with a 55th-minute penalty kick after Luis Diaz was brought down.
After 61 minutes, Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp started to replace teenagers with regular starters.
Within two minutes they were ahead when Ryan Gravenberch burst down the right and crossed low for Diaz to score from close range.
Two minutes from the end Mohamed Salah, a second-half replacement, poked home a third.
In Moldova, Leandro Paredes scored four minutes into first-half injury time to give Roma the lead away to Sheriff.
Colombian Cristian Tovar levelled but Romelu Lukaku gave Jose Mourinho’s team a narrow victory.
In the Conference League, Aston Villa, returning to European competition after a 12-year gap, fell behind in the third minute to Legia Warsaw and despite equalising twice lost 3-2.
Pawel Wszolek met a cross from the left with a sliding volley to put Legia ahead.
Jhon Duran levelled after six minutes heading in a rebound after a Nicolo Zaniolo shot.
But the Poles regained the lead after 25 minutes when Wszolek crossed from the right and Ernest Muci scored on the half volley.
Lucas Digne levelled with a deflected shot from the edge of the box after 38 minutes but Muci settled the game with a low shot after 51 minutes.
Croatians Zrinjski Mostar came from three goals down to beat visiting AZ Alkmaar 4-3.
Myron Van Brederode, Sven Mijnans and Dani de Wit put the Dutch side three goals up by half-time.
Zvonimir Kozulj started the comeback after 48 minutes and ended it in the 81st minute, sandwiching goals from Josip Corluka and Aldin Hrvanovic.


Neymar draws blank as Al-Hilal draw with Damac

Neymar draws blank as Al-Hilal draw with Damac
Updated 31 min 29 sec ago
Follow

Neymar draws blank as Al-Hilal draw with Damac

Neymar draws blank as Al-Hilal draw with Damac
  • Early goal from Malcom put the visitors ahead as Al-Hilal looked to bounce back from a disappointing opening game 1-1 draw in the Asian Champions League with Navbahor
  • Nicolae Stanciu lined up a free-kick for Damac and the Romanian’s shot took an awkward bounce as Bounou went down to make the save and it ended up in the net

Neymar is still looking for his first goal in Saudi Arabia as Al-Hilal were held to a 1-1 draw with lowly Damac on Thursday. Despite the dropped points, the Riyadh giants return to the capital as league leaders with 17 points from the first seven games of the season. 

An early goal from Malcom put the visitors ahead as they looked to bounce back from a disappointing opening game 1-1 draw in the Asian Champions League on Monday with Navbahor of Uzbekistan. It didn’t quite work out that way as Damac produced a performance that belied their next-to-bottom league standing.

Hilal coach Jorge Jesus fielded a strong line-up containing the club’s big summer signings. Neymar was in attack alongside fellow Brazilian Malcom. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic also started, as did Kalidou Koulibaly in defense and Yassine Bounou between the sticks. Ruben Neves came off the bench at the start of the second half.

By that time the men in white were looking for a bit of a cushion as Damac, still looking for a first win of the season with just three points from the opening six games, had their moments.

Malcom fired the opener after just nine minutes but there was much to thank Neymar for. The former Barcelona star had dropped deep — as he did on numerous occasions — to pick up possession. He then threaded a pass through two defenders on the left for Salem Al-Dawsari to get to the byline — to pull back for the Brazilian to smash the ball high into the net from the edge of the six-yard box.

Al-Hilal wanted a second, and almost immediately from the restart, attacked down the same side but this time Al-Dawsari’s low ball, with Neymar waiting in the middle, was cut out.

Damac almost levelled after 14 minutes. Abdulaziz Al-Bishi blocked a poor clearance, and after pushing Bounou out of the way on the right side, could not curl the ball into the empty net from the tightest of angles. It was a let-off for the 18-time champions.

There was another warning on the half-hour. Assan Ceesay looked like he was going to give Damac the lead as he shot from inside the area but Bounou was quick off his line to make the save.

Then Neymar should have scored. With eight minutes of the first half remaining, Malcom drew a number of defenders on the right side and then slipped the perfect pass into his fellow Brazilian, unmarked near the penalty spot. Neymar shot toward the bottom corner but was denied by the heel of Sultan Faqihi.

Just before the break, Damac came even closer as Farouk Chafai headed against the Hilal crossbar. The hosts continued to push for the equalizer after the break and got back on level terms midway through the second half. It was a deserved goal though slightly soft from the point of view of the visitors.

There didn’t seem to be a huge amount of danger when Nicolae Stanciu lined up a free-kick more than 30 meters from goal, but the Romanian’s shot took an awkward bounce as Bounou went down to make the save and it ended up in the net.

Soon after, Milinkovic-Savic produced a pass of beauty to dissect the Damac defense and while Neymar made his run behind the backline, he could not quite guide the ball between the posts.

Both teams continued to push forward for the winner but neither managed it. It was a second successive disappointing 1-1 draw for Al-Hilal.

Elsewhere, Gina Wijnaldum announced his arrival in Saudi Arabia with a brace as Ettifaq picked up a dramatic 4-3 win at home to Al-Tai. 

The former Liverpool star scored the fastest goal of the season so far, after 79 seconds, to give the Dammam men the lead. A hat-trick from Bernand Mensah ensured that Al-Tai were in the game as Moussa Dembele and then a second from Wijnaldum ensured it was 3-3 as the game entered injury time.

With 94 minutes on the clock Dembele struck again to send the team third, just a point behind leaders Al-Hilal.

Al-Taawoun are second after a 2-1 win at home to Al-Raed.


Oman hosts 10th West Asian Union Championship for Youth Football in December

Oman hosts 10th West Asian Union Championship for Youth Football in December
Updated 21 September 2023
Follow

Oman hosts 10th West Asian Union Championship for Youth Football in December

Oman hosts 10th West Asian Union Championship for Youth Football in December
  • The championship will be held for footballers born in 2008
  • The tournament’s draw will take place on November 23, 2023

MUSCAT: The Omani Football Federation will be hosting the 10th West Asian Union Championship for Youth in Muscat between December 10 and 20, 2023.
Seven Arab countries including Jordan, UAE, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Yemen, in addition to the host, Oman, will participate in the championship that is being held for footballers born in 2008, said a media statement on Thursday.
The tournament’s draw is scheduled to take place on November 23, 2023, at the West Asian Union Headquarters in Jordan’s capital, Amman, and will be broadcast on its official YouTube page.
The Jordanian national team won the 9th championship which was held in Aqaba City, in Jordan, during the summer of 2022 after winning the final match 1-0 against Lebanon.
Along with the two finalists, Yemen, Kuwait, Oman, Palestine, Syria and Iraq participated in the tournament’s ninth edition.


Saudi U-23 football team defeats Mongolia to top group at 2023 Asian Games

Saudi U-23 football team defeats Mongolia to top group at 2023 Asian Games
Updated 21 September 2023
Follow

Saudi U-23 football team defeats Mongolia to top group at 2023 Asian Games

Saudi U-23 football team defeats Mongolia to top group at 2023 Asian Games
  • Saudi female rower Haya Al-Mami qualifies for the semifinals of the women’s single sculls competition
  • Over 6,000 journalists and 1,500 photographers have applied to cover the 19th Asian Games

HANGZHOU, China: The Saudi U-23 football team took the lead in the second group on Thursday after winning their second match against Mongolia at the 2023 Asian Games.
The Green Falcons thrashed Mongolia 3-0 with Haitham Asiri, Mohamed Marran and Naif Masoud scoring on the 18th, 49th and 74th minutes, respectively.
The Saudis now lead the group with three points following a goalless draw with Iran in their opening game.
Saudi female rower Haya Al-Mami has qualified for the semifinals of the women’s single sculls competition (W1x) after finishing third in the second round.
The semifinal will take place at 3 p.m. on Friday at the Fuyang Lake Water Sports Center, and will include competitors from South Korea, Chinese Taipei, Uzbekistan and China.
In the men’s lightweight double sculls (LM2x) competition, Saudi duo Turki Al-Aarf and Sultan Al-Shali advanced to group B after finishing fifth in the second round.
Their teammate Rakan Ali Reda advanced to group C in the men’s single sculls (M1x) competition after finishing sixth in the second round.
On Friday, the Saudi table tennis team start their participation when they face the host country China at 6 pm.
The draw for the table tennis competition on Thursday placed the Saudi team in the group with China and Vietnam.
The competitions involve 20 teams in the men’s category and 18 in the women’s category.
The Saudi e-sports team held its first training session at the e-sports hall in the Jiang Hotel in Hangzhou, with 22 players taking part.
Over 6,000 journalists and 1,500 photographers have applied to cover the Asian Games. The organizing committee has set up a comprehensive media center in the Expo Ground area in downtown Hangzhou.
The center features nine large screens for broadcasting live games and can accommodate over 500 media representatives at one time. It functions for 16 hours daily, and provides news, photos, and videos in languages including Arabic, English, Korean, Japanese, Russian and Chinese.
Organizers have dedicated an area for conducting live interviews with guests.


South Korea thump Thailand 4-0 to reach Asian Games last 16

South Korea thump Thailand 4-0 to reach Asian Games last 16
Updated 21 September 2023
Follow

South Korea thump Thailand 4-0 to reach Asian Games last 16

South Korea thump Thailand 4-0 to reach Asian Games last 16
  • Hosts China and North Korea also registered second successive wins
  • South Korea raced into a 4-0 lead by half-time at the Jinhua Sports Center stadium

HANGZHOU, China: Defending Asian Games men’s football champions South Korea became the first team into the last 16 after a 4-0 cruise past Thailand on Thursday.
Hosts China and North Korea also registered second successive wins and both need only a point from their final group games on Sunday to guarantee a place in the knockout phase.
South Korea raced into a 4-0 lead by half-time at the Jinhua Sports Center stadium via a goal apiece for Hong Hyun-seok, An Jae-jun, Um Wong-san and Lee Jae-ik.
It sparked thoughts that the gold medal winners from Jakarta in 2018 might repeat their 9-0 opening game rout of Kuwait on Tuesday, but the Thais were more resolute in the second half.
China had a sizeable crowd at the Huanglong Sports Center Stadium rocking by half-time as they also went 4-0 up before the break against Myanmar.
Two goals from Long Tan and one apiece from Dai Wenjun and Wang Zhenao put them into cruise control and though they peppered the Myanmar goal in the second half they, like the South Koreans, could not add to their score.
Earlier on Thursday, India kept their last-16 hopes alive by edging Bangladesh 1-0 with a goal from 39-year-old striker Sunil Chhetri.
“I feel relief that we gave ourselves a chance to stay in the tournament,” said the veteran.
India lost their opening game 5-1 to China on Tuesday but can still go through from Group A if they beat Myanmar on Sunday.
“It wasn’t easy, playing back-to-back in two days, and in three days we have a game again. There are no excuses though as the other teams are doing the same,” Chhetri added.
“This gives us a chance of going at Myanmar and trying to qualify.”
North Korea, who are playing their first tournament since the Covid pandemic, were pushed hard by Kyrgyzstan but a 20th-minute goal from forward Kim Kuk Jin was enough to give them a 1-0 victory at the Zhejiang Normal University Stadium.
They beat Taiwan 2-0 in their opening match on Tuesday.
North Korea are competing at their first multisport event since the Asian Games in Jakarta in 2018.
The Asian Games officially open on Saturday but some events have begun their preliminary phase, including football.
Asian Games men’s football squads are made up of under-23 players, with three older players allowed, but the age limit has been extended to under-24 for this edition because the games were delayed by a year.