Shock results spark excitement at Cricket World Cup 2023

Shock results spark excitement at Cricket World Cup 2023
New Zealand's Rachin Ravindra (C) celebrates with teammates after taking the wicket of Afghanistan's Rahmat Shah during the 2023 ICC Men's Cricket World Cup. (File/AFP)
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Updated 16 November 2023
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Shock results spark excitement at Cricket World Cup 2023

Shock results spark excitement at Cricket World Cup 2023
  • Unfancied, practically written off Netherlands team cause major upset with win over South Africa

Several commentators at the Cricket World Cup 2023 seem to be of the view that the competition lacked spark in its opening stages. The criterion for this appeared to be a dearth of close, exciting, finishes.

But their reflections ignored the broken records and two shocks of the tournament, one last Saturday and a second on Tuesday. Afghanistan’s deserved victory over a lacklustre England in Delhi generated serious doubts about the latter’s ability to secure a place in the final four.

It means that the defending champions are faced with the likelihood of having to beat three out of India, Pakistan, Australia, and South Africa to stand a chance. On current form, this is a tall order.

India’s resounding win over Pakistan in Ahmedabad in front of a sea of blue shirts worn by more than 100,000 adoring supporters provided another example of the nation’s dominant and expectant attitude. It feels as if the other teams are battling to become India’s opponents in the final.

England’s defeat opened up the competition for this position even more than before. New Zealand and South Africa had set the pace. However, the latter’s case was set back by a shock defeat to the Netherlands in the dramatic Himalayan backdrop of Dharamsala.

This was a match which may not have taken place or not been witnessed by incoming observers. Weather forecasts for Dharamsala in the preceding days, suggested temperatures of 5 degrees Celsius, plus rain. There have been instances of professional cricket being played in temperatures of 7 degrees and 8 degrees in the UK. Surely, 5 degrees would be too cold to play a World Cup match. Fortunately, the forecasts improved, and 15 degrees was predicted, albeit with the ongoing prospect of rain.

However, the forecasts took second place to the logistics of reaching Dharamsala. Your columnist, along with a few other would-be spectators, were booked on a 11:10 a.m. flight from Delhi on Monday, the day before the match. Shortly before boarding time an e-notification was received to inform of a delay to 12:30 p.m. This time came and went, with an indication of boarding at 1 p.m. Doubts crept in that were realized with the announcement of cancellation. Although the plane was in Delhi, poor weather conditions in Dharamsala provided too great a risk to land there.

A melee ensued around the departure desk. Information emerged that the airline was offering a flight to Chandigarh and the provision of road transport to carry passengers onto Dharamsala, a distance of 450 kilometers. This did not appeal to some passengers, who included four eminent former international cricketers. At this point, alternative offers from the airline were not forthcoming.

However, a more immediate problem needed to be solved, the repatriation of passengers with luggage which had been checked in for the cancelled flight.

This meant transfer to the arrivals hall where the melee reformed. After customary jostling, it emerged from the beleaguered ground staff that an alternative offer was available. This involved a flight the following morning at 6:40 a.m. accompanied by an overnight stay at a hotel designated by the airline. Eight people, all seeking to attend the match, were in this predicament.

The hotel had seen better days, so we decamped to another venue for the evening. Everyone responded to a 4:30 a.m. wake-up call, and the 6:40 a.m. plane took off late but arrived early.

On leaving Dharamsala/Kangra airport it is difficult to miss a large poster of Anurag Thakur. He is a local MP and minister of information, broadcasting, youth affairs, and sport.

On the journey to the ground, more of his posters are strategically positioned. They are occasionally accompanied by posters of the Indian Premier League chair and former Board of Control for Cricket in India treasurer, Arun Dhumal, who happens to be Thakur’s brother.

What appears to be an excessive exercise in personal branding must be seen in the context of national elections due to be held next spring.

Currently, in Himachal Pradesh, the Indian National Congress party has 40 seats in the State Legislative Assembly, gained in 2022. The Bharatiya Janata Party, which rules nationally, has 25 seats. A fierce battle for votes is already in play for next year.

Further spice to this situation is added by the fact that Thakur was president of the BCCI between May 2015 and February 2017, when he had to stand down after the Supreme Courts’ order on BCCI governance.

It also seems that he has been involved in a legal battle between the Himachal Pradesh State Government and the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association over the rights to the Dharamsala cricket stadium. At one time, Thakur served as president of the HPCA. Indian cricket and politics remain firmly intertwined.

Against this political background and the natural, geologically formed backdrop of the lower Himalayas, the Netherlands team forged a dramatic upset in one-day international world cricket.

Unfancied and practically written off, they were asked to bat by South Africa, the start having been delayed by two hours of rain. This looked set in, but relented.

Reeling at 82 for five after 20 overs, a remarkable transformation to the innings was then driven by captain, Scott Edwards. Even at 140 for seven, a shock seemed improbable. An outburst of clean hitting by Edwards and Aryan Dutt propelled the total to 245 for eight. South Africa did not help their cause by bowling 21 wides. Such ill-discipline is unforgivable, and the team seemed flustered when put under pressure.

The Netherlands opened with a spin attack, which appeared to unsettle South Africa’s top order, which slumped to 44 for four. The team never recovered, despite some middle and late order attempts to restore balance.

The victory was the Netherlands’ first over a Test-playing nation at an ODI World Cup. It will be forever remembered by the team and its supporters, who celebrated in their traditional orange on the Dharamsala outfield.

It is reassuring that cricketers can still generate spectacular upsets and thrill fans when the game’s administration appears more wrapped up in commercial and political activities.


Racism in sport: a local or global issue?

Racism in sport: a local or global issue?
Updated 29 February 2024
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Racism in sport: a local or global issue?

Racism in sport: a local or global issue?
  • Cricketer Azeem Rafiq’s upcoming book detailing his troubling experiences in the English game will provide lessons for some — and pose difficult questions for others

On Feb. 23, I participated in the inaugural gathering of the Cricket Research Network. This has been initiated by a group of British academics whose research specializations focus on cricket. Their focus is to bring together researchers, writers on cricket, journalists and others with an interest in the game. Their purpose is to provide a forum for disseminating research results to a wider audience than achieved currently on a fragmented basis. It is hoped that a more coordinated approach may lead to a greater voice and input into decision making by the game’s policymakers.

Although there were several papers on issues in other countries, the focus at this stage is on cricket in England and Wales. In that sense, it was fitting that the venue for the conference was Sophia Gardens, Cardiff, the home of the only non-English county cricket club, one fiercely proud of its heritage. This was well exemplified by the displays on view in the Museum where the sessions were held. Proceedings were well-mannered, the only hints of discord arising in relation to two of English and Welsh most emotional topics — The Hundred and structural racism in the game.

The latter had been given an adrenaline shot three days before the conference took place. This was in the form of a hearing of the Parliamentary Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport, which was continuing the work it began in 2021. At its first hearing, on Nov. 16, 2021, Azeem Rafiq testified about his experiences at Yorkshire County Cricket Club.

Earlier, in March 2021, the England and Wales Cricket Board announced the setting up of the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket to look at issues of diversity, inclusion and equity in cricket, at all levels and in all roles. Terms of reference were established in July 2021, followed by an online call for evidence in November 2021 that generated about 4,200 responses. A call for written evidence in March 2022 resulted in 150 responses. The findings, based on the evidence and underpinning research, were published in June 2023.

No punches were pulled by the commission, which concluded that “structural and institutional racism” exists within the game, women are treated as “subordinate” to men at all levels of the sport, Black cricket has been failed, and there is a prevalence of “elitism and class-based discrimination.” It was left to the ECB, under new leadership, to formulate how it would respond and draw up measures to address the ICEC’s recommendations.

A major part of the select committee hearing last week, also under new leadership, was to explore how much progress has been made since June 2023. In the first part of the hearing, three ICEC commissioners reported that the ECB had accepted all of their findings, most of their recommendations, along with displaying a commitment to tackle the issues. However, several press headlines focussed on the disappointment that the ICEC chair expressed about Lord Botham’s disparaging response to the report, given that he chairs a county cricket club.

In the second part of the hearing, the ECB’s chair revealed that he had spoken privately to Lord Botham to say that he did not agree with his views. It may safely be assumed that they would not be welcomed by the ECB’s leadership. They are faced with a herculean task to implement the ICEC’s recommendations. Failure to do so will pose questions about the board’s fitness for purpose and caliber of personnel. Finance is also an issue. In the last cycle up to 2024, sale of media rights accounted for 75 percent of the ECB’s income, about $260 million. In his testimony to the select committee, ECB’s chair said that in the new cycle to 2028, media rights have been sold that equate to around 90 percent of income.

This is a highly vulnerable, seemingly unavoidable, position. The need to attract additional funding into the game, partly in order to finance the ICEC’s recommendations, is encapsulated in the conundrum of The Hundred. It is now highly probable that private investment will be allowed into the competition using a model that is still to be finalized. Into this equation steps the returning Chair of YCCC, Colin Graves. He accepted an invitation to appear in front of the select committee for the third part of its hearing, alongside YCCC’s retiring chair. Cricket’s ability to polarize views seems to know no bounds, and Graves is a potent example. Even the committee chair remarked that he is “a gentleman who divides opinions.”

This potential was aptly demonstrated in response to a question asking why he had not picked up the phone to apologize to Rafiq. Graves’ response was that he “did not feel that was appropriate at the time.” Graves was executive chair of YCCC between 2012 and 2015, before becoming ECB chair between 2015 and 2020. It has always been difficult to understand why, during those years, he claims to have been unaware that racism might exist in cricket. He says that he “read about the complaints in the papers, just like everyone else.”

This has been and still is a sordid affair, which is not yet over. My sense, from listening and taking to people in the game, is that English and Welsh cricket is tired of the matter. They feel that the issue is being addressed, so leave us alone. Rafiq is branded as a controversial character. He is now exiled from the UK. Graves has returned to be in charge of YCCC. Where, one might ask, is the equity in this? Money, power and control appear to rule the roost.

In late April a book is due to be published under Rafiq’s name, chronicling his unsavory journey. It is likely to have lessons for others. One such lesson is that someone who has the bravery to stand up for their cause may, not for the first time, be downed by those with vested interest. It is for this reason, alone, that racism in sport is a global matter.


Saudi Arabia keep ICC U19 Cricket World Cup qualification hopes alive after Bhutan thriller

Saudi Arabia keep ICC U19 Cricket World Cup qualification hopes alive after Bhutan thriller
Updated 28 February 2024
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Saudi Arabia keep ICC U19 Cricket World Cup qualification hopes alive after Bhutan thriller

Saudi Arabia keep ICC U19 Cricket World Cup qualification hopes alive after Bhutan thriller
  • Bhutan finished on 178 all out after 47 overs
  • Faisal hit the winning boundary for the Saudis

BANGKOK: Saudi Arabia beat Bhutan by one wicket in a thrilling ICC U19 Cricket World Cup Asia Group B qualifying match in Bangkok on Wednesday, keeping their tournament progression hopes alive.

Bhutan won the toss for the match, held at the Thai capital’s Terdthai Cricket Ground, and elected to bat first. They started well against the medium pace of Fahad Munir and slow left-arm spin of Ahmed Faisal.

Faisal took the opening wicket as Tshering Rigden was bowled for 18 from 18 balls, but number three batter Tenzin Rabgay went for his shots and played well with opener Ronak Pradhan, who batted more cautiously. They combined to bring up a 50-run partnership for the second wicket and Bhutan were well-placed at 83 for the loss of one wicket after 15 overs.

Rabgay’s innings ended on 44 from 38 balls after he was bowled by Arhan Arif with the score on 85, and Saudi Arabia took their third wicket as Anuj Pradhan was dismissed by Taha Vaseem.

Bhutan were 95 for 3 after 20 overs, progressing to 152 for 3 by the 36th. However, Saudi Arabia’s bowlers were containing their opponents well, having been in the field for 50 overs against Oman in their previous match.

Vaseem was the pick of the Saudi bowling attack, managing to claim four wickets for 27 runs as Bhutan lost their last seven wickets for just 26 runs. They ended up on 178 all out after 47 overs.

Saudi Arabia’s openers both looked confident in pursuit, but Shahzad Sami was bowled lbw to Sangay Dorji for 9 and captain Rayyan Khan was caught behind off Ugyen Dorji for 12, leaving the young Greens on 24 for 2 after just four overs.

Mohammad Zuber and Mohammad Rehan came together in the middle needing to rebuild for Saudi Arabia. The score reached 47 in eight overs and 56 for 2 by the end of the 10-over powerplay.

By the time the third Saudi wicket went down, Rehan had been joined by Hashir Ahmad. With the target less than 100 runs away, the match turned into an intriguing battle between the Saudi batsmen and the Bhutan spinners.

Bhutan’s captain, Tshering Rigden, alternated his bowling attack well and forced Saudi Arabia into a collapse of their own in the middle batting order. The Greens fell from 96 for 3 to 117 for 8, still needing 54 runs for victory.

Number 10 batter Faisal, who hit 22 runs off 62 deliveries, played a superb anchor role and forged a priceless 52-run ninth wicket partnership as Saudi Arabia crawled towards their target, even while losing their penultimate wicket on 169 still needing 10 to win.

With just four runs required in the final over, it was player-of-the-match Faisal who won the match for the Saudis, hitting a crucial boundary with just four balls remaining.

The win means Saudi Arabia’s hopes of progress in the tournament are still alive and in their own hands — a victory over Hong Kong on Friday will secure them a semi-final place.

Oman confirmed their place in the semi-finals in Group B on Wednesday, with a 53-run victory over Hong Kong at the Asian Institute of Technology Ground.


Fiery Munro ensures Islamabad hammer Karachi by seven wickets in one-sided PSL contest

Fiery Munro ensures Islamabad hammer Karachi by seven wickets in one-sided PSL contest
Updated 29 February 2024
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Fiery Munro ensures Islamabad hammer Karachi by seven wickets in one-sided PSL contest

Fiery Munro ensures Islamabad hammer Karachi by seven wickets in one-sided PSL contest
  • Islamabad United’s Colin Munro smashes 82 runs from 47 balls to win Player of the Match award
  • His opening partner Alex Hales scored 47 runs from 35 balls before Salman Ali Agha guided the team home

ISLAMABAD: Explosive Islamabad United batter Colin Munro on Wednesday smashed an 82-run knock from 47 balls to hand his team a thumping seven-wicket victory over the Karachi Kings at their home ground in the southern port city.
The two sides locked horns for the 15th match of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) contest in Karachi. The Kings, led by skipper Shan Masood, were unable to impress in the first match of this year’s PSL hosted in Karachi. The Kings were able to score 165/5 from their 20 overs after being sent in to bat by United. 
Pakistani all-rounder Imad Wasim, a former Karachi Kings cricketer, Salman Ali Agha, Naseem Shah and Hunain Shah took a single wicket each to restrict the Kings to a modest total before Islamabad’s openers wreaked havoc on Karachi. 
“Back-to-back sixes by Salman Agha and WE HAVE WON!” United wrote on social media platform X, announcing the franchise’s victory. 
Munro and his opening partner Alex Hales smashed a 108-run partnership, leaving little doubt Islamabad would clinch the match. Hales was dismissed by Hasan Ali after scoring 47 runs from 35 balls, hitting four boundaries. Wasim fell to left-arm Karachi spinner Tabraiz Shamsi on the second ball, heading to the pavilion without scoring a single run. 
Munro was the third Islamabad wicket to fall when he was trapped leg-before-wicket by Mohammad Nawaz. His 82-run knock included eight fours and four sixes. 
United, who were placed at number five on the PSL points table, have gone up to the fourth spot ahead of the Kings with four points from five matches. Skipper Shadab Khan’s side will next take on the Quetta Gladiators on Saturday as it eyes climbing the PSL points table further. 
The Kings will now face a strong Gladiators squad, placed on number two at the PSL points table, on Thursday. Placed now on number five at the PSL points table, they have four points from two matches with a run rate of -0.527. 
The top four teams of the tournament will qualify for the playoffs.


Mir’s six-wicket haul hands Lahore sixth straight defeat in PSL

Mir’s six-wicket haul hands Lahore sixth straight defeat in PSL
Updated 28 February 2024
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Mir’s six-wicket haul hands Lahore sixth straight defeat in PSL

Mir’s six-wicket haul hands Lahore sixth straight defeat in PSL
  • Leg-spinner picked up 6-40 and bowled out Lahore for 154 in 17 overs

ISLAMABAD: Usman Khan's blistering 96-run knock and Usama Mir's six-wicket haul helped Multan Sultans thump Lahore Qalandars by a mammoth 60 runs in their Pakistan Super League (PSL) 9th edition match at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore on Tuesday.

Multan won the toss and decided to bat first in the game. Khan built the momentum for Multan by scoring a decisive 96 runs from 55 deliveries.

Iftikhar Ahmed and Reeza Hendricks chipped in with 40 runs each to take their side to 214 runs at a loss of four wickets. In response, Lahore could barely reach 154 runs.

"The pair of Usama (6-40) and Usman (96) dominate Qalandars to hand Sultans a 60-run triumph," PSL wrote on its official account on X.

Lahore captain Shaheen Afridi dismissed two for 39 runs, while Sikandar Raza and Carlos Brathwaite took one wicket each.

In the second innings, none of Lahore batters could stay on the crease for long while chasing a 215-run target.

Sahibzada Farhan (31), Rassie van der Dussen (30) and Fakhar Zaman (23) remained the top-scorers as Lahore collapsed at 154 in 17 overs.

Usama Mir returned 6/40 figures. Faisal Akram dismissed two for 25 runs, while Aftab Ibrahim took one wicket.

Multan top the PSL points table with five wins from their six matches, while Lahore have lost six games on the trot and are placed at the bottom.


Namibia spring surprise in ICC League 2 opening series

Namibia spring surprise in ICC League 2 opening series
Updated 27 February 2024
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Namibia spring surprise in ICC League 2 opening series

Namibia spring surprise in ICC League 2 opening series
  • African side clocks up three wins from four games in Nepal
  • Next round of matches in UAE will feature hosts, Scotland, Canada

KATHMANDU: The opening series of matches in the new International Cricket Council World Cup League 2 cycle ended this week with a shock victory for Namibia in Nepal, as the tournament prepares to move on to the UAE, who will host Scotland and Canada.

Namibia won three out of their four matches in tough conditions, including a double over the hosts.

Nepal came back from the defeat in their second match to spring a shock of their own by beating perennial World Cup participants the Netherlands. It was a torrid tournament for the Dutch, who lost their first match to Namibia.

The series ended with Namibia on six points, the Netherlands on four and Nepal on two.

Namibia’s coach Pierre de Bruyn told Arab News he was “over the moon” with his team’s performance in the opening round.

“Last year we lost four games in Nepal and we learned a lot from that,” he said. “Winning six points in Nepal is incredible, beating them twice at home and taking points off them. It’s early days but we realized how important a point could be last time and that we should be ruthless in order to take points.”

Nepal, who only lost two home series in the entire 2019-23 League 2 campaign, had a series to forget this time round, with inconsistent batting from an ever-changing middle order.

Head coach Monty Desai said his team would now be doing all they could to win away from home.

“Losing at home hurts, but if you want to be known as the associate’s top team, away games are equally important,” he said. “We have been working very hard and need to bring maturity to it.”

Netherlands coach Ryan Cook rejected the notion that his team’s two defeats were a shock, despite their higher One Day International ranking.

“Shocking? Not at all. This is a very competitive league and it’s completely different game of cricket,” he said. “We’ve got to be able to adapt to those conditions. We are entering a new era in terms of the league.”

The next series of games feature the UAE, Scotland and Canada.

Canada’s coach Pubudu Dassanayake, who led Nepal in the 2019-23 League 2 cycle, said he was happy with his team’s performances in a series of warmup games played recently in Nepal.

“More than winning and losing, we were exposed in all three departments (of batting, bowling and fielding). More than just winning, I am happy we could find out our weaknesses. We expect to have our fast bowlers back to full fitness and perform in those conditions (in the UAE),” he said.

Oman and the US make up the eight teams that feature in the 2023-27 League 2 competition. Each side will play 36 matches — 12 at home, 12 away and 12 at a neutral ground — across nine triangular series. The top four will advance to the ICC Cricket World Cup qualifier and the chance to secure a place in the tournament proper.