Bangladesh cricketers hungry to gain pre-World Cup boost in ODI series vs New Zealand

Bangladesh cricketers hungry to gain pre-World Cup boost in ODI series vs New Zealand
Bangladesh rested a host of key players for the Asia Cup, captain Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim, Najmul Hossain and Towhid Hridoy among them, in order to keep them fresh and injury-free. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 20 September 2023
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Bangladesh cricketers hungry to gain pre-World Cup boost in ODI series vs New Zealand

Bangladesh cricketers hungry to gain pre-World Cup boost in ODI series vs New Zealand
  • New Zealand has sent only five World Cup-bound players to Bangladesh
  • Tamim Iqbal, who stepped down as ODI captain last month, is back for Bangladesh after recovering from a back problem

MIRPUR, Bangladesh: After failing to reach this month’s Asia Cup final, Bangladesh is hungry to gain a much-needed boost ahead of the 50-over World Cup by beating New Zealand in the three-match ODI series that starts on Thursday.
Bangladesh rested a host of key players for the Asia Cup, captain Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim, Najmul Hossain and Towhid Hridoy among them, in order to keep them fresh and injury-free, although it has still not named its squad for next month’s World Cup.
New Zealand has sent only five World Cup-bound players to Bangladesh, stand-in skipper Lockie Ferguson, Trent Boult, Rachin Ravindra, Ish Sodhi and Will Young.
Tamim Iqbal, who stepped down as ODI captain last month, is back for Bangladesh after recovering from a back problem. Mahmudullah, axed after the England series in March following poor form, also returns.
Liton Das, who leads the side in Shakib’s absence, said: “There are many things to achieve from the series. The first thing is to win, that will be a big achievement ahead of the World Cup.
“We won’t play to show just individual brilliance. A five-wicket haul or a century doesn’t matter if the team doesn’t win.”
Ferguson, yet to play on Bangladesh soil, believes conditions will test his New Zealand team to the limit.
“Bangladesh is very good in home conditions and is a huge challenge here,” he said. “It’s important for us just to focus on what’s coming up tomorrow and try to adapt as quickly as possible to the conditions. Some of us haven’t played here so we’ll have to adapt quicker.”
New Zealand hasn’t won an ODI match in the country since 2008 and Ferguson said the input of former Bangladesh bowling coach Shane Jurgensen would be invaluable.
“We’re leaning on the knowledge of the guys who have been here previously and leaning on Jurgensen about how to play the game, construct our innings with the bat and try to defend it with the ball, or vice versa,” he said.


Inter Milan seal Scudetto in derby thriller with AC Milan

Inter Milan seal Scudetto in derby thriller with AC Milan
Updated 23 April 2024
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Inter Milan seal Scudetto in derby thriller with AC Milan

Inter Milan seal Scudetto in derby thriller with AC Milan
  • Inter have become the second team to win 20 Italian league titles, and will have a second star stitched onto their jersey, after Juventus who are way out in the lead with 36 league crowns

MILAN: Inter Milan sealed the Serie A title on Monday after beating AC Milan 2-1 and creating an unassailable lead at the top of the league with their sixth straight derby victory.
Goals from Francesco Acerbi and Marcus Thuram gave Inter a 17-point advantage over closest challengers Milan and secured their 20th league crown with five matches of the season remaining.
Inter last won Serie A in 2021, followed by AC Milan in 2022 and Napoli last year.
For Simone Inzaghi it was the first league title as a manager and on a cold, soaking wet evening at the San Siro he strode proudly in front of a clutch of Inter’s “away” fans in the 75,000 crowd as they roared in delight and fired fireworks from the stands at the final whistle.
Milan made a fight of it in the final moments after Fikayo Tomori pulled one back with 10 minutes remaining but Inter held out to kick off a title party after a stormy ending to the match which featured three red cards.
“I feel like crying because we worked so hard, we deserve this joy,” said tearful captain Lautaro Martinez.
“It’s been wonderful but we have to keep going because we’ve already won a lot of trophies and we want to win many more.”
Inter have become the second team to win 20 Italian league titles, and will have a second star stitched onto their jersey, after Juventus who are way out in the lead with 36 league crowns.
Inzaghi’s team did it style, laying waste to the rest of the division and becoming the first team to claim the title by winning the Milan derby and leaving his opposite number Pioli on the verge of the sack.
“He was struggling 14 months ago according to the media and look what he has achieved since. I am happy here, I work well and I think the team has margin for improvement,” insisted 2022 Scudetto winner Pioli.
With outgoing champions Napoli crashing and burning early in the campaign and Milan falling away in the autumn Inter raced off into the distance at the turn of the year.
Juve looked like putting up a fight but they collapsed in February just as Inter strung together a run of 13 wins which also gave them hope of repeating a deep run in the Champions League.
Inter failed in that mission as they were knocked out of the Champions League by Atletico Madrid in mid-March, but by that time the domestic damage had already been done.
The future looks bright too as Inzaghi, Martinez and Italy midfielder Nicolo Barella are all set to renew their contracts while smart work in the transfer market and increased revenue have helped mitigate significant financial harm wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Piotr Zielinski and Mehdi Taremi will arrive from Napoli and Porto as free agents in the close season while big stars like Thuram should stay.
“Crazy feeling, crazy game. We wanted to do it for our fans and we did it. It’s my first league title and I’m very proud of it,” said Thuram.
The nominal away side on Monday, Inter were on their way to a title party in the 18th minute when Acerbi was left completely free to head home Benjamin Pavard’s flick-on.
Inter should have been two ahead seven minutes later through Lautaro Martinez who lost his footing when Federico Dimarco’s perfect cut-back fell to the Argentina striker.
And his strike partner Thuram was equally at fault for Inter not increasing their lead seven minutes before the break as he shot a great chance just wide after being set up by Nicolo Barella.
But shortly after half-time Thuram made up for that miss with a brilliant individual goal which took his tally for his debut Serie A season to 12.
France forward Thuram collected Alessandro Bastoni’s long pass on the left and eventually cut inside before drilling home at Mike Maignan’s near post.
Yann Sommer did well to keep out Theo Hernandez’s well-struck shot as Milan fans let go a barrage of flares in the stands.
The resulting smoke mixed with the persistent rain to create an misty atmosphere around the San Siro, and just as Inter looked set to see the match out Tomori made sure it would be a grandstand finish when he headed home on the rebound.
However instead of levelling the match Milan lost their heads, with both Theo Hernandez and Davide Calabria receiving straight red cards in stoppage time.
Inter’s Denzel Dumfries was also sent off in the closing minutes, but that will matter less to his team who danced and bounced in front of joyous fans.


Jeddah set to host its first-ever World Table Tennis Championship

Jeddah set to host its first-ever World Table Tennis Championship
Updated 22 April 2024
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Jeddah set to host its first-ever World Table Tennis Championship

Jeddah set to host its first-ever World Table Tennis Championship
  • Saudi Smash will take place May 1-11 and will see international and Saudi players compete for total prize money of $2m

JEDDAH: Saudi Smash, Jeddah’s first-ever World Table Tennis Championship, is set to take place from May 1-11 at the King Abdullah Sports City.

The event will see elite players from around the world and the Kingdom take part in singles and doubles competitions for men and women, as well as mixed doubles.

Confirmed for the tournament are men’s world No. 1 Wang Chuqin and women’s No. 1 Sun Yingsha, as well as Felix Lebrun, Hugo Calderno, Hina Hayata, Lin Yun-Ju and Tomakazi Harimoto.

A 64-player singles qualifying round will determine the eight players who advance to the respective singles main draw competitions.

With a prize pool of $2 million, this championship boasts the highest rewards ever offered in any officially sanctioned table tennis event. The men’s and women’s singles champions will each pocket $65,000 and get 2,000 International Table Tennis Federation world rankings points.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, the Saudi minister of sport and president of the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee, said: “By introducing Saudi Smash, we add a further new international event to our growing list of major championships that we are honored to host in Saudi Arabia.”

Dr. Abdullah Hashim Al-Bar, president of the Saudi Table Tennis Federation, commented on hosting Saudi Smash for the first time, saying: “The Saudi Table Tennis Federation is proud to announce that Jeddah has been chosen as the host city for the inaugural Saudi Smash.

“This is a ground-breaking event that promises to elevate the sport to new heights in the Kingdom and inspire future generations of Saudi table tennis players. We are excited to be partnering with WTT to deliver one of their marquee events and look forward to showcasing Jeddah and Saudi Arabia to the world.”

Steve Dainton, WTT CEO, said: “We are thrilled to host the first-ever Saudi Smash in Jeddah.

“Grand Smashes are WTT’s most prestigious events and (this one) represents a significant milestone for table tennis in Saudi Arabia,” he added. “We are excited to showcase the talent and excitement of our stars, and Jeddah’s dynamic energy and passion for sports make it an ideal host city.”


Ivan Rakitic: Luka Modric moving to Saudi Arabia would be ‘amazing’

Ivan Rakitic: Luka Modric moving to Saudi Arabia would be ‘amazing’
Updated 22 April 2024
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Ivan Rakitic: Luka Modric moving to Saudi Arabia would be ‘amazing’

Ivan Rakitic: Luka Modric moving to Saudi Arabia would be ‘amazing’
  • Al-Shabab midfielder would waste no time in promoting the Kingdom to his former Croatia teammate if he decides to leave Real Madrid

LONDON: Ivan Rakitic hopes his strong brotherly bond with his former Croatia team-mate Luka Modric can persuade the timeless maestro to join him at Al-Shabab in the Saudi Pro League.

Modric may be 38 but Rakitic said that his enduring class was something his fellow Real Madrid midfielder, the free-scoring tyro Jude Bellingham, could learn from.

Modric’s Real Madrid contract expires in the summer, and rumors of a move to Saudi Arabia have been swirling. Rakitic, eager to reunite with his former teammate, would be delighted to help facilitate it.

“If you come to Saudi but don’t come to Al-Shabab, you’re going to have some problems with me,” Rakitic told Arab News with a laugh when asked what he would tell Modric, whom he has said “is like a brother to me.”

Rakitic suffered an injury inlets month’s 4-3 home defeat to Al-Hilal and was absent from Al-Shabab’s 5-0 win over Abha on Thursday, a result that sees them sit ninth in the Saudi Pro League table.

The 36-year-old joined the Riyadh club from La Liga side Sevilla in January and told Arab News over Zoom that he would be thrilled to share a pitch again with Modric, with whom he played for Croatia for 12 years until his international retirement in 2019.

The pair’s midfield majesty helped to propel Croatia to the 2018 World Cup final, which they lost 4-2 to France.

“If he decides to move, it would be amazing. I would call him directly after two minutes to try to do everything for Al-Shabab, for Saudi, to bring him to the Saudi Pro League, or give him all the information that maybe he needs.

“If he decides to stay in Madrid for one more year, I think enjoying Luka at the highest level would also be amazing.”

A renowned playmaker after trophy-laden spells at Barcelona and Sevilla, Rakitic is well-placed to assess the merits of other leading midfielders.

Of the credentials of England’s Bellingham, who, at only 20, has enjoyed a marvelous debut season with Real Madrid and scored a stoppage time winner in Sunday’s 3-2 win over Barcelona, Rakitic said: “Of course, (there are many talented young players) and Jude is one of the first we look for but I like the old generation. I like Luka, (Kevin) De Bruyne, Bernardo. I have (so much) respect for Real Madrid because they were able to understand they had to do this change of generation step by step by giving the opportunity to big talents like Bellingham, (Federico) Valverde, (Eduardo) Camavinga. But there are still many things to learn from Luka and Toni (Kroos).”

Bellingham, Camavinga, Modric and Kroos are all set to appear at Euro 2024 in the summer and Rakitic expects “a really special” tournament. He said there would be “surprises for sure” and cited hosts Germany, France, and Portugal as his top contenders.

Rakitic also believes Croatia and the evergreen Modric can have “a big tournament” — despite being in a tough group with Spain and Italy.

He is similarly enthusiastic about Saudi Arabia hosting the 2034 World Cup.

“I think it will be the best World Cup because if the Saudis are at the top in something it is in organization and motivation,” he said.

An interview with Rakitic would not be complete without mentioning the iconic triumvirate of Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez with whom Rakitic enjoyed halcyon days at Barcelona.

“Why not? I think we can do many, many, many important things together,” Rakitic said when Arab News mooted the dream scenario of him and the legendary trio joining forces in Saudi Arabia.

Messi may have rejected Al-Hilal’s $399 million-a-year deal last summer in favor of joining Inter Miami in the US but remains the Kingdom’s tourism ambassador.

Xavi has vowed to quit as Barcelona manager in the summer and has significant experience in the Middle East, having played for and managed Al-Sadd in Qatar between 2015 and 2021.

Iniesta is already in the region after joining Emirates Club in the UAE on a one-year deal in August.

“I think the season we did together, 2014-2015, I think (we were) the best team in the history of football,” Rakitic said.

Barcelona won La Liga, the Copa del Rey, and the Champions League, becoming the first European team to secure the treble twice — a feat Bayern Munich emulated in 2020.

“(We achieved) the perfect Champions League that season (beating) the French champions (Paris Saint-Germain), the English champions (Manchester City), the German champions (Bayern Munich) and the Italian champions (Juventus). It was the best season possible.”

Messi reportedly asked the Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham to persuade Rakitic to join his club last year.

But Rakitic said he “never spoke” to the former England, Real Madrid and Manchester United star.

“Hopefully I can speak to him because I’m a big fan,” he said.

“I wear my (Adidas) Predators because I saw him taking his free-kicks with (those boots). If David would like to meet and even take some free-kicks together, it would be amazing.”


Indonesia eliminate Jordan, join Qatar in last 8 of AFC U-23 Asian Cup

Indonesia eliminate Jordan, join Qatar in last 8 of AFC U-23 Asian Cup
Updated 22 April 2024
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Indonesia eliminate Jordan, join Qatar in last 8 of AFC U-23 Asian Cup

Indonesia eliminate Jordan, join Qatar in last 8 of AFC U-23 Asian Cup
  • A 4-1 win secured second spot in Group A of the tournament which also provides a pathway to 2024 Olympic Games in Paris

DOHA: Indonesia on Sunday beat Jordan 4-1 at Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium in Doha to reach the quarterfinals of the 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup.

Indonesia has now secured second spot in Group A behind already-qualified hosts Qatar, who drew 0-0 against Australia on the same day at Jassim bin Hamad Stadium in Al-Rayyan.

The tournament, which runs until May 3, provides a pathway to the men’s football competition at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

Indonesia led 2-0 at half time thanks to Marcelino Ferdinan’s penalty on 23 minutes and Witan Sulaeman’s strike five minutes before the break.

Ferdinan made it 3-0 after 70 minutes before Jordan’s consolation nine minutes later came via an own goal from Justin Hubner.

Komang Teguh ensured there would be no late drama by making it 4-1 with four minutes of the 90 left.

In Monday’s action, a draw against Iraq will be enough for Saudi Arabia to secure top spot in Group C, while Thailand and Tajikistan meet at Al-Janoub Stadium in Wakrah.

After two rounds of matches, Saudi Arabia lead the group with a maximum of six points while Thailand are second with three points on goal difference from Iraq. All three can still qualify for the quarterfinals while bottom-of-the-table Tajikistan, with no points, have already been eliminated.

Monday will also see the conclusion of Group B. South Korea meet Japan, with both having already ensured progress; and the UAE and China clash in a dead rubber having amassed no points between them so far.

The tournament has 16 nations split into four groups, with the top two from each progressing to the quarterfinals. For the Olympic Games in Paris this summer, the winners of the two semifinals secure automatic qualification.

The two losing semifinalists will compete for third place, with the winner also booking a place in Paris. The fourth-place finisher has a final chance with a playoff against an African qualifier.


Mixed martial artist Paul Hughes joins Professional Fighters League

Mixed martial artist Paul Hughes joins Professional Fighters League
Updated 22 April 2024
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Mixed martial artist Paul Hughes joins Professional Fighters League

Mixed martial artist Paul Hughes joins Professional Fighters League
  • The 27-year-old has inked an exclusive, multi-fight contract with Saudi Arabia-backed PFL

NEW YORK: The Saudi Arabia-backed Professional Fighters League has signed Ireland’s Paul Hughes (11-1) to an exclusive, multi-fight contract.

“I am absolutely ecstatic to sign with the PFL. The regular season format, in my eyes, is the ultimate form of MMA competition and is for the ultimate prize of one million dollars,” Hughes said, according to a press release issued Monday. “I’m ready to prove that I am the best lightweight on the planet.”

The PFL’s CEO Peter Murray said: “The Professional Fighters League is always going to be in the mix when it comes to the free-agency market and this was certainly the case with Paul Hughes, someone we have had our eye on for quite some time. I’m looking forward to seeing Paul continue his journey with PFL in big fights that continue to test his skills.”

Hughes, 27, a former Cage Warriors featherweight champion, is on a five-fight winning streak, with eight of his 11 victories coming via stoppage.