Stokes hopes England cricket fever endures despite northern snub

Stokes hopes England cricket fever endures despite northern snub
England's Ben Stokes during a press conference Tuesday on the eve of the Ashes fourth Test against arch-rivals Australia at Old Trafford. (Reuters)
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Updated 19 July 2023
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Stokes hopes England cricket fever endures despite northern snub

Stokes hopes England cricket fever endures despite northern snub
  • Even if England don’t become just the second team to win an Ashes from 2-0 down, all-rounder Stokes hopes new fans will still retain their enthusiasm
  • In 2027 the most northerly venue for the men’s Ashes will be Trent Bridge, the Nottingham base of Midlands county Nottinghamshire

MANCHESTER: England captain Ben Stokes said he hoped the feelgood factor surrounding his side would endure regardless of the outcome of this season’s Ashes, even though he was “devastated” by the decision not to hold any Tests in the north of the country when Australia next tour in 2027.

Since Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum took charge of the Test side last year, the emphasis has been as much on entertainment as results, although England have won 12 out of 16 matches while becoming renowned for their aggressive ‘Bazball’ style.

They head into Wednesday’s fourth Test against arch-rivals Australia at Old Trafford with renewed hope of regaining the Ashes after a dramatic three-wicket win at Headingley left Stokes’s men 2-1 down with two to play.

Even if England don’t become just the second team, after the Australia side of 1936/37, to win an Ashes from 2-0 down, all-rounder Stokes hopes new fans will still retain their enthusiasm.

“I hope this craze around cricket doesn’t get lost if things don’t go our way in this Ashes,” Stokes told reporters at Old Trafford on Tuesday.

England have recalled James Anderson, their all-time leading Test wicket-taker, on the 40-year-old paceman’s Lancashire home ground.

Yet even though one of the ends is now named after him, Anderson has still to take five wickets in a Test innings at Old Trafford.

“Is he not on there yet?,” said Stokes, standing in front of Old Trafford’s honors board. “I’ve got to say, I’m amazed at that.

“It would be good if he was able to do that, it would be nice to get his name up...He’s been an incredible gift to English cricket.”

But there will be no chance for any such heroics at Old Trafford in 2027, nor at Headingley. Officials recently announced that the two northern strongholds had been left of the list of venues for that season’s men’s Ashes even though they each have a long history of staging Anglo-Australian matches.

Old Trafford and Headingley, the Leeds headquarters of Yorkshire, are also home to some of English cricket’s most passionate fans.

It was no surprise that England revived their hopes in this Ashes in front of the faithful at Headingley, a ground where Ian Botham started to turn the tide of the 1981 series and Stokes himself struck a remarkable century in a stunning one-wicket win in 2019.

But in 2027 the most northerly venue for the men’s Ashes will be Trent Bridge, the Nottingham base of Midlands county Nottinghamshire.

Stokes, who made his name at northeast county Durham, said: “You know the crowds we get in the north — and I say ‘the North’ quite bluntly there — are very good. We get a lot of support...So yeah, I’m a bit devastated that there won’t be any Ashes cricket here in 2027 in the north. It’s a shame.

“I don’t make those calls but, if I was involved, I would have said ‘please keep at least one game in the north’.”


Babar, Arif star as Peshawar beat Islamabad in last-over PSL thriller

Babar, Arif star as Peshawar beat Islamabad in last-over PSL thriller
Updated 27 February 2024
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Babar, Arif star as Peshawar beat Islamabad in last-over PSL thriller

Babar, Arif star as Peshawar beat Islamabad in last-over PSL thriller
  • Babar Azam scored an unbeaten 111 runs from 63 deliveries to help Peshawar set a 202-run target
  • Arif Yaqoob claimed five wickets for just 27 runs as Peshawar restricted Islamabad to 193 for nine

ISLAMABAD: Babar Azam hit a blistering century and Arif Yaqoob registered a five-wicket haul as Peshawar Zalmi defeated Islamabad United in their exciting match of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) 9th edition at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore on Monday.

Islamabad won the toss and sent Peshawar in to bat. Babar orchestrated a relentless assault on Islamabad and scored an unbeaten 111 runs from 63 deliveries, laying the foundation of his side's win.

Saim Ayub and Paul Walter respectively added 38 and 19 runs to help Peshawar set a 202-run target for Islamabad. In response, Islamabad could reach 193 runs in 20 overs.

"Comeback for the ages," PSL wrote on its official account on X. "Islamabad United lose 6 wickets for just 10 runs as Peshawar Zalmi clinch a last-over thriller."

For Islamabad, Shadab Khan returned 2/28 figures, while Salman Ali Agha and Naseem Shah took one wicket each.

In the second innings, Azam Khan hit 75 runs from 30 balls as Islamabad attempted to chase the mammoth 202-run target.

Colin Munro partnered with Khan and added 71 runs from 53 deliveries, but Islamabad faltered towards the end, losing six wickets in quick succession.

Yaqoob claimed five wickets for just 27 runs, while Ayub and Luke Wood dismissed one each to guide Peshawar to an eight-run win in the last over.

This was Peshawar's third consecutive win in their five matches, while Islamabad have won only one of their four games this season.


Hong Kong, Oman take charge in U19 Cricket World Cup qualifier on disappointing day for Saudis

Hong Kong, Oman take charge in U19 Cricket World Cup qualifier on disappointing day for Saudis
Updated 26 February 2024
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Hong Kong, Oman take charge in U19 Cricket World Cup qualifier on disappointing day for Saudis

Hong Kong, Oman take charge in U19 Cricket World Cup qualifier on disappointing day for Saudis
  • All is not lost for Saudi Arabia in Group B, and they will look to their match with Bhutan on Wednesday as a chance to get their qualification campaign back on track

BANGKOK: Saudi Arabia’s International Cricket Council U19 World Cup qualifying campaign got off to a bad start on Monday when the team were beaten resoundingly by Oman.

The Omanis became the first side in the Asian qualifying tournament so far to bat their full 50 overs as they hit 222 for the loss of eight wickets.

In reply, Saudi Arabia could not mount a serious challenge to their target of 223 and they were bowled out for 81 in less than 20 overs.

Oman started their innings steadily, but Fahad Munir claimed the first wicket in the eighth over when he bowled Thineth Sumanasekera for seven, which left the Omanis on 29 for one. The other opener, Jeet Shah, steadied the nerves, hitting 55 from 92 balls.

As more wickets began to fall to the Saudis, Oman, on 93 for six in the 29th over, were looking likely to be bowled out for a modest total.

Shah was still at the crease but No. 8 batsman, Nitish Nadendla, changed the course of the innings with a superb 60 from 65 balls — including three fours and two sixes — as he added 56 in nine overs before departing with the score at 149 for seven.

Prathiesh Ramesh also made a half-century, adding 61 runs for the eighth wicket partnership with Nadendla before being the eighth wicket to fall with the score on 210.

Saudi Arabia could not bowl out Oman who reached 222 for eight, a total which also included 43 extras and had the Saudis feeling the heat of the sun for more than three-and-a-half hours.

The Saudi team’s response was to lose five wickets for 32 inside the first 10 overs. Opening bowler Puladith Medagoda took two wickets but it was the left-arm spin bowling of Arya Sampat that did most of the damage as he took four wickets for 21 runs.

Munir made the highest score of the innings with 15 and Ahmed Faisal was the only other batter who managed double figures, scoring 12.

All is not lost for Saudi Arabia in Group B, and they will look to their match with Bhutan on Wednesday as a chance to get their qualification campaign back on track.

Bhutan were bowled out for 85 in their match against Hong Kong, also on Monday, but pushed their opponents all the way, forcing the loss of six wickets as they reached their total of 86 within 25 overs.


Defeat to Bermuda leaves Saudi Arabia’s ICC CWC Challenge League play-off hopes in the balance

Defeat to Bermuda leaves Saudi Arabia’s ICC CWC Challenge League play-off hopes in the balance
Updated 26 February 2024
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Defeat to Bermuda leaves Saudi Arabia’s ICC CWC Challenge League play-off hopes in the balance

Defeat to Bermuda leaves Saudi Arabia’s ICC CWC Challenge League play-off hopes in the balance
  • Now require favor from Gulf rivals Kuwait, who must beat Bermuda in the final Group A match on Monday to ensure Saudis progress

LONDON: Saudi Arabia fell to an agonizing defeat to Bermuda in the ICC Cricket World Cup Challenge League play-off in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday as they lost by four runs.

The defeat is the second in a row for the Saudis and leaves their qualification for the Super Sixes stage of the tournament hanging in the balance and out of their hands.

They now require a favor from their Gulf rivals Kuwait, who must beat Bermuda in the final Group A match on Monday to ensure the Saudis progress.

It was a crucial win that kept hopes alive for Bermuda — who had lost their opening group match by 157 runs to Italy — and ended their 16-game losing streak in the 50-over format.

Bermuda won the toss and scored 227 all out from 44.3 overs, with captain Delray Rawlins top-scoring with 75 runs from 95 balls.

He was ably supported by Dominic Sabir, who hit 51, including five fours and a six, off 45 balls.

The Saudi bowling attack was led by Usman Najeeb and Zain Ul-Abidin, who both claimed three wickets and finished the match with economy rates below five runs.

In reply, Saudi Arabia’s batsmen made their way to 223 for the loss of nine wickets, with captain Hisham Shaikh top-scoring with 45 and Waji Ul Hassan hitting 41 in the middle order.

Needing to score five runs off the final three balls for victory, Ishtiaq Ahmad was run out by Allan Douglas Junior as he attempted to come back for a second run with just two balls of the match remaining.

Sabir, whose exploits with the bat were backed up with three wickets for 33 runs with the ball, was awarded the player of the match.


Peshawar Zalmi beat Lahore Qalandars by 8 runs in PSL thriller

Peshawar Zalmi beat Lahore Qalandars by 8 runs in PSL thriller
Updated 26 February 2024
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Peshawar Zalmi beat Lahore Qalandars by 8 runs in PSL thriller

Peshawar Zalmi beat Lahore Qalandars by 8 runs in PSL thriller
  • Saim Ayub (88), Babar Azam (48) and Rovman Powell (46) guided Peshawar to 211 runs in 20 overs
  • In response, Rassie van der Dussen scores first century of season, but fails to guide Lahore to victory

ISLAMABAD: Peshawar Zalmi defeated Lahore Qalandars by eight runs in a thrilling match of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) 9th edition at the Qaddafi Stadium in Lahore on Sunday.

Lahore won the toss and decided to field first in the match. Saim Ayub played a brilliant innings of 88 runs from 55 deliveries, strengthening Peshawar’s position in the game.

Captain Babar Azam struck 48 and Rovman Powell hit 46 to take Peshawar to 211 runs in 20 overs at a loss of four wickets. In return, Lahore could only score 203 runs despite Rassie van der Dussen’s first century of the season.

“Another day, another thriller,” read a post on PSL official account on X. “Rassie van der Dussen’s spirited century goes in vain as Peshawar Zalmi clinch a hard-fought 8-run win.”

Shaheen Afridi dismissed three Peshawar batsmen for 33 runs.

Chasing a 212-run target, van der Dussen hit an unbeaten 104 runs from 52 deliveries, but could not lead his side to victory. Shai Hope and Ahsan Bhatti chipped in with 29 and 20 runs, respectively.

Naveen-ul-Haq dismissed two for 50 runs, while Salman Irshad and Paul Walter took one wicket each.

This was Lahore’s fifth consecutive loss of the season, while Peshawar have registered two back-to-back wins in their four matches.


Saudi Arabia U19s set for ICC Cricket World Cup qualifying action in Bangkok

Saudi Arabia U19s set for ICC Cricket World Cup qualifying action in Bangkok
Updated 25 February 2024
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Saudi Arabia U19s set for ICC Cricket World Cup qualifying action in Bangkok

Saudi Arabia U19s set for ICC Cricket World Cup qualifying action in Bangkok
  • Saudi Arabia will be hoping they can get a good result against Oman, arguably their toughest fixture, and put themselves in a strong position for qualification

BANGKOK: Saudi Arabia U19s will be looking to emulate the senior team, who recently completed nine consecutive wins in Bangkok to win the ACC Challenger Cup and the Thailand Quadrangular T20 competitions, as they get their ICC World Cup campaign underway.

The qualification pathway for the next ICC U19 Men’s Cricket World Cup, which will be held in Zimbabwe and Namibia in 2026, started on Sunday and Saudi Arabia’s first match against Oman gets underway on Monday.

The long qualification process has begun just two weeks after the final of the 2024 tournament was won by Australia U19s, who beat India U19s by 79 runs at Benoni in South Africa as the packed schedule of international cricket starts its next cycle.

The Division 2 Asia Qualifier serves as the first stage in the qualification program for the 2026 tournament, which will see teams from Africa, the Americas, Asia, East Asia Pacific and Europe attempt to reach the tournament proper and join the pre-qualified teams.

The division will see eight teams compete in 50-over matches for two places in the Division 1 Asia Qualifier. Bahrain, Thailand, Kuwait and Malaysia play each other in Group A while Oman, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong and Bhutan play each other in Group B.

After their fixture with Oman, the young Greens will face Bhutan at Terdthai Cricket Ground on Wednesday and Hong Kong at the same venue on Friday.

Saudi Arabia will be hoping they can get a good result against Oman, arguably their toughest fixture, and put themselves in a strong position for qualification for the next stage and the chance to play some of the strongest sides in Asia.