Eyes on bigger prizes as Pakistan and Afghanistan begin ODI series

Eyes on bigger prizes as Pakistan and Afghanistan begin ODI series
Afghanistan's Fareed Ahmad (L) celebrates after dismissing Pakistan's Asif Ali during the Asia Cup Twenty20 international cricket Super Four match between Afghanistan and Pakistan at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium in Sharjah, UAE, on September 7, 2022. (Photo courtesy: AFP/File)
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Updated 21 August 2023
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Eyes on bigger prizes as Pakistan and Afghanistan begin ODI series

Eyes on bigger prizes as Pakistan and Afghanistan begin ODI series
  • Both sides eye preparation for upcoming Asia Cup, World Cup competitions 
  • Pakistan will kick off Asia Cup 2023 with clash against Nepal on Aug. 30 in Multan

Hambantota: Pakistan face Afghanistan in a three-match one-day international series in Sri Lanka starting Tuesday, with skipper Babar Azam seeing it as good preparation for the Asia Cup and World Cup.

The first bilateral ODI series between the two teams will be followed by the six-nation Asia Cup, in Sri Lanka and Pakistan, beginning on August 30 and the World Cup in India from October 5.

It is a home series for Afghanistan who cannot stage international cricket in their own country because of security fears.

“These three matches are a good opportunity for us to test our players in the match situation,” Azam told AFP.

Azam is the top-ranked ODI batsman and leads a strong side that also boasts openers Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq — ranked three and four respectively.

They are backed up by a potent pace attack of Shaheen Shah Afridi, Naseem Shah and Haris Rauf.

Afghanistan have world-class spinner Rashid Khan fit again after he withdrew from The Hundred competition in England

“Afghanistan have developed into a good side,” said Azam of a team which beat Bangladesh 2-1 in an ODI series last month.

“We are not going to take these matches lightly,” said Azam, despite Pakistan having won all four ODIs against Afghanistan since the countries first met in 2012.
“We have good players who can deal with spin bowling so it is going to be an exciting series.”

Afghanistan are captained by batsman Hashmatullah Shahidi and have new faces in fast bowlers Abdul Rahman, Mohammad Saleem Safi and Wafadar Momand.
Tuesday’s match is being played in Hambantota, with the remaining two in Colombo on Thursday and Saturday.

Squads:
Pakistan: Babar Azam (capt), Shadab Khan, Mohammad Rizwan, Fakhar Zaman, Abdullah Shafique, Imam-ul-Haq, Saud Shakeel, Agha Salman, Iftikhar Ahmed, Mohammad Nawaz, Usama Mir, Haris Rauf, Naseem Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Tayyab Tahir, Mohammad Haris, Faheem Ashraf, Mohammad Wasim
Afghanistan: Hashmatullah Shahidi (capt), Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Ikram Alikhil, Ibrahim Zadran, Riaz Hassan, Rahmat Shah, Najibullah Zadran, Mohammad Nabi, Azmatullah Omarzai, Rashid Khan, Noor Ahmad, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Fazalhaq Farooqi, Abdul Rahman, Mohammad Saleem Safi, Wafadar Momand


Man City win historic fourth straight Premier League title

Man City win historic fourth straight Premier League title
Updated 59 min 57 sec ago
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Man City win historic fourth straight Premier League title

Man City win historic fourth straight Premier League title
  • The champions’ relentless surge to the finishing line has included 19 wins and four draws since their last defeat in the league, at Aston Villa in early December
  • The Gunners, without a Premier League trophy since 2004, came from a goal down to beat Everton 2-1 but had to content themselves with second place for a second straight season

MANCHESTER, United Kingdom: Manchester City created English football history on Sunday, beating West Ham 3-1 to win their fourth straight Premier League title and break Arsenal’s hearts as Jurgen Klopp made an emotional Liverpool exit.

Phil Foden scored two early goals — including one after 79 seconds — at an expectant Etihad to lay the foundations for City’s victory.

West Ham’s Mohammed Kudus pulled a goal back with a spectacular overhead kick to give Arsenal renewed hope but Rodri struck just before the hour mark to effectively wrap up the title.

The Gunners, without a Premier League trophy since 2004, came from a goal down to beat Everton 2-1 but had to content themselves with second place for a second straight season after they finished two points behind City’s tally of 91.

The champions’ relentless surge to the finishing line has included 19 wins and four draws since their last defeat in the league, at Aston Villa in early December.

City, who have now won six titles in seven seasons, stand alone as the only English team to have won four straight top-flight titles, eclipsing the achievements of the great Liverpool and Manchester United teams of the past.

“When I moved here, if someone had said I would win six leagues in seven seasons I would say ‘You’re insane — no way’,” said City manager Pep Guardiola.

“All these players for Manchester United and Liverpool and Chelsea, all these teams. Now is our period. We are part of that.”

But while City have set new standards in English football, they remain under a cloud as a result of 115 Premier League charges for alleged financial irregularities, levelled early last year.

Elsewhere on the final day of the Premier League season, Luton’s relegation was confirmed with a 4-2 loss at home to Fulham. They will join Burnley and Sheffield United in the Championship next season.

Tottenham beat Sheffield United 3-0 to seal fifth spot and a place in next season’s Europa League while Chelsea guaranteed a sixth-place finish and European football with a 2-1 win against Bournemouth.

Newcastle’s 4-2 win at Brentford condemned Manchester United to an eighth-place finish — their lowest since 1990.

Erik ten Hag’s men, who beat Brighton 2-0 in Roberto De Zerbi’s last game in charge of the south coast club, have a chance to salvage something from a disastrous season in next week’s FA Cup final against City.

But if United lose that they will miss out on European football.

Foden, 23, has enjoyed his most impressive season yet for City, taking his tally to 27 goals in all competitions on Sunday, together with 11 assists.

The England midfielder opened the scoring on Sunday in the second minute with a vicious left-footed shot from outside the penalty area, settling nerves among the home fans. He then stroked the ball into the net in the 18th minute after an assist from Jeremy Doku.

The title race briefly came alive again when Takehiro Tomiyasu side-footed home to level for Arsenal at the Emirates before Kudus pulled one back for West Ham.

The atmosphere became more subdued at the Etihad but the visitors rarely threatened again in David Moyes’s final game in charge for the visitors and Rodri’s goal in the 59th minute ultimately made the game safe.

Kai Havertz’s late winner for Arsenal proved irrelevant.

Arteta gave a rousing speech to the fans in the immediate aftermath of the match, urging them to crave more.

“All this is happening because you started believing, you started to be patient and started to understand what we tried to do,” he said.

“All the credit has to go to the players and the staff. Don’t be satisfied. We want much more than that and we’re going to get it.”

Klopp ended his Liverpool reign with a 2-0 win at home to Wolves but the match was merely a sideshow as the fans paid a warm tribute to a manager who has transformed the club since arriving in 2015.

“It doesn’t feel like an end,” the German told a packed Anfield. “It just feels like a start. Today I saw a football team play full of talent, youth, creativity, desire, greed.”

He added: “We have this wonderful stadium, training center and you — the superpower of world football. Wow.”


Xander Schauffele scores major breakthrough, wins PGA Championship in a thriller at Valhalla

Xander Schauffele scores major breakthrough, wins PGA Championship in a thriller at Valhalla
Updated 20 May 2024
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Xander Schauffele scores major breakthrough, wins PGA Championship in a thriller at Valhalla

Xander Schauffele scores major breakthrough, wins PGA Championship in a thriller at Valhalla
  • Schauffele: I told myself this is my opportunity — capture it
  • Schauffele became the first player since Phil Mickelson in 2005 at Baltusrol to win the PGA Championship with a birdie on the last hole to win by one

LOUISVILLE, Kentucky: Xander Schauffele cashed in at just the right time Sunday, swirling in a 6-foot birdie putt on the final hole to win the PGA Championship for his first major with the lowest score in major championship history.

The Olympic gold medalist got something even more valuable in silver — that enormous Wanamaker Trophy after a wild week at Valhalla.

Schauffele closed with a 6-under 65 to beat Bryson DeChambeau, entertaining to the very end with a 10-foot birdie of his own on the par-5 18th for a 64.

Schauffele became the first player since Phil Mickelson in 2005 at Baltusrol to win the PGA Championship with a birdie on the last hole to win by one. And this took all he had.

He already had mud on his golf ball on two key holes along the back nine that kept him from attacking the flag. His drive on the 17th bounced back into a bunker, forcing him to scramble for par and stay tied with DeChambeau, who had finished two groups ahead of him. And then his tee shot rolled just far enough toward the edge of a bunker to present another problem.

Schauffele had to stand with his feet in the sand, gripping well down on the 4-iron, aiming out to the right and hoping for the best. He drilled a beauty, some 35 yards short but with a good angle. He pitched to 6 feet and was never closer to finally winning a major.

“I told myself this is my opportunity — capture it,” Schauffele said.

The putt broke just enough left to catch the left edge of the cup and swirled around before disappearing. Schauffele, who exudes California chill, raised both arms above his head with the biggest smile before a hard hug with Austin Kaiser, his caddie and former teammate at San Diego State.

DeChambeau was on the range, staying loose for a potential playoff, watching Schauffele from a large video board. He saw the winning putt fall, and walked all the way back to the 18th to join in with so many other players wanting to congratulate the 30-year-old.

“I gave it my all. I put as much effort as I possibly could into it and I knew that my B game would be enough,” DeChambeau said. “It’s just clearly somebody played incredibly well. Xander’s well deserving of a major championship.”

Viktor Hovland, the FedEx Cup champion who wasn’t sure he even belonged at Valhalla while trying to work his way out of a slump, also had a 10-foot putt after DeChambeau hit his to tie for the lead. He missed the birdie, then missed a meaningless par putt and shot 66 to finish third.

Schauffele, who began this championship with a 62 to tie the major championship record, finished at 21-under 263 with that winning birdie. That beats by one shot the major record previously shared by Brooks Koepka in the 2018 PGA Championship at Bellerive and Henrik Stenson in the 2016 British Open at Royal Troon.

And so ended another memorable week at Valhalla.

Masters champion Scottie Scheffler, who arrived five days after the birth of his first child, was arrested and briefly jailed on Friday morning for not following directions of police investigating a fatal car crash involving a pedestrian an hour earlier.

He got out of jail and to the course in time to play the second round and shot 66. But it caught up with him on the weekend. Scheffler fell out of contention with a 73 on Saturday — his first round over par since last August. He closed with a 65 to tie for eighth.

Two players — Schauffele on Thursday and Shane Lowry on Saturday — tied the major record with a 62. Scoring records seemed to fall just about every day on a rain-softened course.

All that, and it came down to one putt that Schauffele will never forget.

“I really didn’t want to go into a playoff with Bryson,” he said.

In so many ways, this time was overdue. He had gone nearly two years since last winning at the Scottish Open. Schauffele had eight consecutive finishes in the top 20 at majors coming into Valhalla. He already had a pair of runner-up finishes and six top 5s.

And in the last two months alone, he lost 54-hole leads when he was chased down by Scheffler’s 64 at The Players Championship and by Rory McIlroy’s 65 last week at the Wells Fargo Championship.

The victory was his eighth on the PGA Tour — that doesn’t include his Olympic gold from the Tokyo Games in 2021. This one moves him to a career-best No. 2 in the world, still a long way from Scheffler but assuring Schauffele of qualifying for the US team in the Olympics.
 


Barcelona seal lucrative 2nd place in Spain, Sorloth scores 4 as Villarreal draw with Real Madrid

Barcelona seal lucrative 2nd place in Spain, Sorloth scores 4 as Villarreal draw with Real Madrid
Updated 20 May 2024
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Barcelona seal lucrative 2nd place in Spain, Sorloth scores 4 as Villarreal draw with Real Madrid

Barcelona seal lucrative 2nd place in Spain, Sorloth scores 4 as Villarreal draw with Real Madrid
  • Real Sociedad secured the last Europa League spot with a 2-0 win at Real Betis, who were left with a place in the Europa Conference League
  • Atletico Madrid will finish fourth after a 4-1 loss to midtable Osasuna at their Metropolitano stadium

MADRID: Barcelona routed Rayo Vallecano 3-0 to secure the lucrative second place in the Spanish league on Sunday, while champion Real Madrid drew 4-4 at Villarreal with Norway striker Alexander Sorloth scoring all four goals for the hosts.

There won’t be much left to fight for in the final round next weekend as Cadiz became the last team to be relegated after being held to a 0-0 draw at home against Las Palmas.

Real Sociedad secured the last Europa League spot with a 2-0 win at Real Betis, who were left with a place in the Europa Conference League.

Pedri scored twice and Robert Lewandowski once for Barcelona, who kept a four-point gap to Catalan rival Girona with a round to go. Girona won 3-1 at Valencia for their first-ever third place finish in the Spanish league. They had already clinched a Champions League place in advance.

Atletico Madrid will finish fourth after a 4-1 loss to midtable Osasuna at their Metropolitano stadium.

BARCELONA SECOND

Lewandowski scored in the third minute and Pedri added goals in the 72nd and 75th as Barcelona won for the fourth time in five matches to seal second place and a spot in the lucrative Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia.

Madrid and Copa del Rey finalists Mallorca and Athletic Bilbao also will play in the Super Cup next season.

The victory came a day after Xavi denied a slew of reports in Spanish media outlets that Barcelona’s leadership is considering firing the coach for having said that the club’s poor finances will impede it from competing with Madrid.

“The situation hasn’t changed,” Xavi said. “I imagine I’ll speak with the president tomorrow or the next day. We needed the win to secure second place and we did it.”

Some fans chanted in support of Xavi and against Laporta during Sunday’s match.

Rayo are in 16th place.

SORLOTH THRIVES

Sorloth scored once in the first half and three times in the second to give eighth-place Villarreal a draw against Madrid, who scored all of their goals before halftime.

Arda Guler scored twice and Joselu and Lucas Vázquez added a goal each for Madrid, which played with a mostly reserve squad as it continues to prepare for the Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund on June 1 in London.

Madrid had clinched their 36th league title three rounds ago.

CADIZ DEMOTED

Cadiz needed a win against Las Palmas to avoid returning to the second division for the first time since the 2019-20 season.

Cadiz, coming off two consecutive victories, had a goal disallowed by video review for offside in the first half, and saw defender Victor Chust sent off with a straight red card in the 74th.

Cadiz had spent 14 straight seasons in the lower divisions — including seven years in the third tier — before making it to the top flight in 2020-21.

Almeria and Granada had already been relegated before Sunday’s games.

SOCIEDAD SIXTH

Sociedad sealed the final Europa League spot with the win against Manuel Pellegrini’s Betis.

Brais Mendez and Mikel Merino scored first-half goals for Sociedad, who won three of their last four games.

The other Europa League place had been secured by Athletic Bilbao, who beat 13th-place Sevilla 2-0.

In other results, 17th-place Mallorca drew 2-2 against last-place Almeria and Celta Vigo won 2-1 at second-to-last Granada.


Al-Ittihad Club victorious at 2024 West Region Hockey Championship

Al-Ittihad Club celebrate winning the gold medals at the 2024 Saudi Arabia West Region Championship Cup. (Supplied)
Al-Ittihad Club celebrate winning the gold medals at the 2024 Saudi Arabia West Region Championship Cup. (Supplied)
Updated 19 May 2024
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Al-Ittihad Club victorious at 2024 West Region Hockey Championship

Al-Ittihad Club celebrate winning the gold medals at the 2024 Saudi Arabia West Region Championship Cup. (Supplied)
  • Al-Ittihad clinched the title at the covered sports hall at Al-Ittihad Club in Jeddah, relegating beaten finalists Sakhi to the silver medals
  • The United Thalasserry Sports Club team secured third position in the competition

RIYADH: Al-Ittihad Club picked up the gold medals at the 2024 Saudi Arabia West Region Championship Cup, the Saudi Hockey Federation said on Sunday.

Federation CEO Abdulilah Al-Maimoun presented the cup and gold medals to Al-Ittihad after their victory in the championship, which took place on May 17 and 18.

Al-Ittihad clinched the title at the covered sports hall at Al-Ittihad Club in Jeddah, relegating beaten finalists Sakhi to the silver medals. The United Thalasserry Sports Club team secured third position in the competition.

Individual prizes were also handed out during the championship ceremony. Ahmed Al-Jundi, a standout player from Al-Ittihad team, landed the best player award, while Jeddah Future players Karim Ashraf, best goalkeeper, and Talam Wissam, best young player, were also honored.

The championship was decided by a series of 12 matches, featuring 60 players representing six teams.

Al-Maimoun said the 2024 Saudi Arabia Western Region Championship had achieved the goals the federation aspires to. He indicated that through these competitions, the federation aims to promote field hockey and attract interest in it.

The CEO confirmed the federation’s keenness to continue organizing such championships as a means to promote the game in other cities in the Kingdom.


Usyk beats Fury in Riyadh showdown to become undisputed heavyweight champion

Usyk beats Fury in Riyadh showdown to become undisputed heavyweight champion
Updated 19 May 2024
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Usyk beats Fury in Riyadh showdown to become undisputed heavyweight champion

Usyk beats Fury in Riyadh showdown to become undisputed heavyweight champion
  • Joins likes of Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis and Mike Tyson as undisputed heavyweight champion
  • Britain's Fury says he believes he won fight but lost in scoring, looks forward to a rematch

RIYADH: Oleksandr Usyk beat Tyson Fury by split decision to win the world’s first undisputed heavyweight championship in 25 years on Sunday, an unprecedented feat in boxing’s four-belt era.

Britain’s Fury was the early aggressor but Usyk gradually took charge and the “Gypsy King” was saved by the bell in the ninth round before slumping to his first career defeat.

Ukraine’s Usyk joins the likes of Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis and Mike Tyson as undisputed heavyweight champion, the first since boxing recognized four major belts in the 2000s.

Britain’s Lennox Lewis was the last man to unify the heavyweight belts — three at the time — after beating Evander Holyfield in 1999.

With the win, the still-undefeated former undisputed cruiserweight champion can legitimately claim to be the best of this era, although a rematch expected in October could provide another twist.

“It is a big opportunity for me, for my family, for my country,” said Usyk, 37, who briefly served as a soldier after the Russian invasion.
“It’s a great time, a great day,” he said, adding that he was “ready for a rematch.”
Fury called it a “fantastic fight with Oleksandr.”
“I believe I won that fight, I believe he won a few of the rounds, but I won the majority of them,” he said.
“You know his country is at war, so people are siding with the country at war but make no mistake, I won that fight in my opinion and I will be back.”

Two judges scored it for Usyk by scores of 115-112 and 114-113 while the third gave it to Fury 114-113. The victory extended Usyk’s professional record to 22-0. After his first loss, Fury stands at 34-1-1.
Usyk, who adds Fury’s WBC belt to his IBF, WBA and WBO titles, looks set to go down as one of the greats after dominating at amateur, cruiserweight and now the top division.
A fired-up Fury came running out of his corner to start the fight and the 6ft 9ins man (2.06m) man was quickly into his rhythm, keeping the shorter Usyk back with his jab and playing to the crowd.
Usyk got inside with some quick combinations while Fury landed some heavy body shots. By round four, the Mancunian was taunting his ever-advancing opponent and showboating, guard down.
Usyk called two low shots in round five and got caught with a left hook as Fury continued to look comfortable, landing a telling uppercut in the following round and bobbing and weaving to stay out of range.

But the Ukrainian tagged Fury with two clean lefts in the seventh and landed a punishing hook that dazed the “Gypsy King” in the eighth.
By the next round, a relentless Usyk barrage had Fury in serious trouble and the wobbling, bleeding Mancunian took a standing count before being saved by the bell.

Fury recovered his poise and with the match in the balance heading into the final round, both fighters were finding the target.

Usyk's promoter Alex Krassyuk believed that the Ukrainian was denied a knock-out victory when the referee stepped in as Fury looked about to hit the deck in round nine.
“I believe the referee saved Tyson from a knock-out and stole the ninth-round knock-out, which should have happened,” Krassyuk said.

Wladimir Klitschko was among the legends watching along with Saudi-based football stars Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar, who like boxing are grateful beneficiaries of Saudi Arabia's lavish push into sports.
Riyadh’s newly built, 22,000-capacity Kingdom Arena was packed when Usyk strode out for his ringwalk at 1:30 am (2230 GMT) wearing a green cossack coat and fur hat.

Fury followed, dancing to Barry White and Bonny Tyler’s “Holding out for a Hero” in a green sleeveless jacket and back-to-front baseball cap.
It set the stage for a clash of two fighters with impeccable pedigrees and very different approaches to the sport.
Fury has had a rollercoaster career, with lows including a two-year, backdated drug ban and struggles with alcohol, cocaine and depression.

Fury had shed 15lb from his last outing when, sluggish and out of shape, he was knocked down by ex-MMA fighter Francis Ngannou en route to a split decision in October.
Usyk, by contrast, has been the model of consistency with a career that was always on the rise.
The 37-year-old from Simferopol in Crimea put together an outstanding amateur record, winning European and world titles and Olympic gold in 2012.
After turning pro, he unified the cruiserweight belts in 15 fights before moving up to heavyweight, where he took three belts from Anthony Joshua in 2021 and won their rematch the following year.