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

 Saudi Arabia U19s will be looking to emulate the senior team as they get their ICC World Cup campaign underway. (ICC)
Saudi Arabia U19s will be looking to emulate the senior team as they get their ICC World Cup campaign underway. (ICC)
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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.


Real Madrid win at Mallorca while resting players for Man City trip. Atletico beat Girona

Real Madrid win at Mallorca while resting players for Man City trip. Atletico beat Girona
Updated 14 April 2024
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Real Madrid win at Mallorca while resting players for Man City trip. Atletico beat Girona

Real Madrid win at Mallorca while resting players for Man City trip. Atletico beat Girona
  • The victory on the Mediterranean island increased Madrid’s commanding lead of the league to 11 points before second-placed Barcelona played at Cadiz
  • Ancelotti equaled Zinedine Zidane with 183 league games coached for Madrid, second only to Miguel Muñoz’s record 424 league games

BARCELONA, Spain: Real Madrid ground out a 1-0 win at Mallorca in the Spanish league on Saturday while resting top players ahead of their decisive Champions League game at Manchester City.

Midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni scored the only goal three minutes after halftime.

The victory on the Mediterranean island increased Madrid’s commanding lead of the league to 11 points before second-placed Barcelona played at Cadiz later.

Madrid visit Manchester City on Wednesday with their quarterfinal poised after a 3-3 draw in Spain’s capital this week.

“We have a very important game Wednesday,” Tchouameni said. “We played a very difficult game against City and we are tired, but we know that when we play for Madrid we have to give it our all until the end.”

Vinicius Junior and Eduardo Camavinga played the final half hour as substitutes. Dani Carvajal went on for the final minutes, while Rodrygo and Toni Kroos never left the bench. Jude Bellingham started and was replaced by Camavinga.

A long strike by Tchouameni that deflected off a defender before finding the net was the only way Madrid got past the defense of Javier Aguirre’s Mallorca.

Tchouameni will miss the game in England to serve a suspension. A holding midfielder, he was used as a central defender by manager Carlo Ancelotti in the first leg against City while Madrid dealt with injuries.

After facing City, Madrid will then host Barcelona in La Liga next weekend.

Ancelotti equaled Zinedine Zidane with 183 league games coached for Madrid, second only to Miguel Muñoz’s record 424 league games.

Mallorca were playing their first game since losing the Copa del Rey final on penalties to Athletic Bilbao last weekend. They remained in 15th place.

ATLETICO BEAT GIRONA

Antoine Griezmann scored twice as Atletico Madrid beat Girona 3-1 to boost their chances of finishing in the top four.

Griezmann got his first league goal since December by converting a penalty after a handball by Girona. His leveler in the 34th canceled Artem Dovbyk’s early opener.

Alvaro Morata’s hustle proved key to putting the hosts ahead in first-half stoppage time when he chased down a ball before it could cross the end-line and whipped it into the area for Ángel Correo to head into the top corner.

Griezmann, Atletico’s all-time top scorer, then blasted in a loose ball in the 50th for his 13th league goal of the campaign.

Dovbyk moved ahead of Bellingham as the leading league scorer with his 17th to give Girona the fourth-minute lead. The Ukraine striker tapped in a low cross from Yan Couto after a quick team passing move disrupted Atletico’s coverage.

Girona remained in third place at four points clear of Atletico in fourth. Atletico moved five points ahead of Athletic Bilbao in fifth. The top four finishers in Spain earn Champions League berths for next season.

“It was very important to win today. We want to be in the Champions League next season,” Griezmann said. “We didn’t start well but when we took it to them we could turn it around.”

Atletico visit Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday leading their Champions League quarterfinal after a 2-1 first-leg win in Spain.

Rayo Vallecano also drew with Getafe 0-0 at home.


Co-favorite I Am Maximus wins the Grand National Steeple Chase

Co-favorite I Am Maximus wins the Grand National Steeple Chase
Updated 14 April 2024
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Co-favorite I Am Maximus wins the Grand National Steeple Chase

Co-favorite I Am Maximus wins the Grand National Steeple Chase
  • The result delivered a first Grand National win for jockey Paul Townend and a second for trainer Willie Mullins
  • Defending champion Corach Rambler unseated jockey Derek Fox on the first fence, but there were no reports of any horses or riders being injured

LIVERPOOL, England: I Am Maximus confirmed his status as a favorite by pulling away late to win the Grand National Steeple Chase on Saturday.

About a dozen horses looked to be in contention as they cleared the final hurdle but none could match the finish of I Am Maximus, who had gone out as the joint favorite at 7-1 and pulled well clear on the final section.

The result delivered a first Grand National win for jockey Paul Townend and a second for trainer Willie Mullins.

“At halfway he was a bit careful with his jumping, but we just built his confidence back up again and then going over the last two (fences) I had the four horses in front of me that I wanted in front of me,” Townend said. “I was hoping when I pulled him out that he’d pick up and go and he did. ... The feeling passing the line is up there with the best I’ve had.”

Delta Work was second and Minella Indo third.

Defending champion Corach Rambler unseated jockey Derek Fox on the first fence, but there were no reports of any horses or riders being injured.

There was also no repeat of the chaotic scenes from last year, when the race was delayed by nearly 15 minutes and more than 100 people were arrested after animal rights activists scaled fences around the perimeter of Aintree racecourse and got onto the track in an attempt to stop the event.

Organizers made changes this year in order to avoid more protests, slimming down the field from the usual 40 horses to 34 in an attempt to reduce collisions and bunching either side of the fences. In the end, the slimmed-down race featured just 32 runners after Chambard and Run Wild Fred did not start.

Organizers also used foam and rubber toe boards to make the fences softer, and the race was held 75 minutes earlier than usual — at 4 p.m. local time — so the course would stay as soft as possible.


Disappointment for Saudi team in first match of ACC Men’s Premier Cup

Disappointment for Saudi team in first match of ACC Men’s Premier Cup
Updated 13 April 2024
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Disappointment for Saudi team in first match of ACC Men’s Premier Cup

Disappointment for Saudi team in first match of ACC Men’s Premier Cup
  • Saudi Arabia now play Hong Kong in a must win match on day three

AL-AMARAT: On April 12, the men’s Asia Premier Cup got away to a flying start on Oman’s two side by side turf grounds at Al Amerat, Muscat.

This excellent facility provides the opportunity for two matches to be played on each turf per day. The press tent is situated between the two grounds so that both matches can be observed simultaneously.

Prospects of upsets were high. In Group A, Oman, one of the favourites to earn the top place and progress to the Asia Cup in 2025, were run close by Bahrain, who fell four runs short of victory. Oman had been given a scare and an upset avoided.

Another contender for top spot, the UAE, was subject to a steady top order batting display by Kuwait, who posted 178 for eight.

At 26 for three, the UAE innings was on the back foot, but an unbroken fourth wicket partnership of 153 avoided another potential upset.

Nepal twanged the heartstrings of their supporters against Malaysia, who posted a creditable 143 for three.

Captain, Virandeep Singh, anchored the innings with an unbeaten seventy-two, supported by S Muniandy, Nepal using eight bowlers.

Nepal made heavy weather of its reply, wickets falling at critical times, before a sixth wicket partnership of thirty runs sent their delirious supporters into raptures. No other team in this tournament has this boisterous, enthusiastic support.

There seemed to a hundred or so, all working in Oman, making a noise far beyond their numbers. Crucially for them, another potential upset had been avoided.

In their performance, Malaysia had given a warning that they represented a strong challenge for Saudi Arabia on Day 2. Choosing to bat first, Malaysia lost Virandeep Singh in the first over, bowled by Ishtiaq Ahmad. Tight bowling by Saudi’s quicks reduced Malaysia to fifty-three for five after ten overs. Several smart catches were taken but there was some ragged fielding.

At this critical juncture in the innings, Saudi needed to turn the screw. However, the left-handed A. A. Wahid rebuilt the innings, with help from V Unni and late flurry of scoring in the last two lovers took Malayasia to 146 for seven. This target looked achievable on a good batting pitch.

Saudi’s start was steady, but the introduction of spin at both ends stifled the scoring. In the sixth over, Saudi attacked but then lost two wickets in the seventh over, the score forty-seven for three. Then came drama. First came the dismissal of the captain, H Shaikh, was adjudged to be stumped and K Abbas caught behind in the same over, the batter being unimpressed to be out.

At 91 for five in the fifteenth over, the game was in the balance. A profitable over of twelve runs then ensued off a left arm quick. The return of slower bowlers brough extra pressure and, despite several lusty blows, the lower order all gave straightforward catches in their attempts to find the boundary. As a result, the innings closed twelve runs short on 134 all out, with five balls spare.

It is a match that Saudi will be disappointed to lose. At 53 for five, the Malaysian innings was in deep trouble, but they managed to wriggle free and then post a competitive score. The Saudi batters had difficulty in scoring sufficiently against the slower bowlers. Even so, to finish twelve runs short with five balls remaining suggests that some improved game management will be beneficial. Overall, the Malaysian team probably fielded better. The margins are so tight in T20 cricket that fielding often makes the difference.

In the other matches of day two, Kuwait made light of Cambodia’s 141 for five, reaching the target in the twelve over for the loss of only two wickets. The UAE totalled an imposing 236 for six against Bahrain, who responded in positive fashion particularly by Ali Butt and I Anwar with some superlative straight hitting. Ultimately, they perished and the team fell short by thirty-seven runs.

However, the real fireworks of the day were provided by Nepal who scored 210 for seven. Before the last over they had scored 174 for seven. Dipendra Singh Airee then smashed six sixes to place himself as only the third player to do that in T20I cricket. The others were Yuvraj Singh in 2007 and Kieron Pollard in 2021. Qatar replied with a spirited 178 for nine and will wonder how much closer they might had been, but for Airee’s blitz.

At the end of day two, the UAE and Nepal lead their respective groups, each with two wins from two matches. Saudi Arabia play Hong Kong in a must win match on Day three.


Fernandes double not enough for Man Utd win at Bournemouth

Fernandes double not enough for Man Utd win at Bournemouth
Updated 13 April 2024
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Fernandes double not enough for Man Utd win at Bournemouth

Fernandes double not enough for Man Utd win at Bournemouth
  • A point leaves United still 10 adrift of Aston Villa and Tottenham in the race for a top-four finish with six games to go
  • The Red Devils have now won just once in their last seven Premier League games to leave Erik ten Hag’s future as United boss next season in doubt

BOURNEMOUTH, United Kingdom: Manchester United’s chances of Champions League football next season took another battering as Bruno Fernandes’ double could only salvage a 2-2 draw at Bournemouth on Saturday.
Twice the Cherries led through Dominic Solanke and Justin Kluivert and Bournemouth were denied the opportunity to win the game at the death after a controversial VAR review overturned the decision to award the home side a penalty.
A point leaves United still 10 adrift of Aston Villa and Tottenham in the race for a top-four finish with six games to go.
The Red Devils have now won just once in their last seven Premier League games to leave Erik ten Hag’s future as United boss next season in doubt.
Once again it was United’s defensive deficiencies that were exploited as Bournemouth just missed out on a famous double after winning 3-0 at Old Trafford earlier in the season.
French teenager Willy Kambwala kept his place at center-back with Raphael Varane, Lisandro Martinez and Victor Lindelof among those absent due to injury.
But Kambwala had a moment to forget for the opening goal as his slip allowed Solanke to pick his spot and fire home his 19th goal of the season.
United had barely threatened as an attacking force before they levelled against the run of play on 31 minutes.
Alejandro Garnacho’s deflected cross fell perfectly into the path of Fernandes to volley into the roof of the net.
Bournemouth were back in front within five minutes as this time Kluivert took advantage of the acres of space offered by the United defense inside the box to drill low past Andre Onana.
Ten Hag’s future as United boss becomes more unsure with every passing week and poor performance.
However, the Dutchman was rewarded for a daring change at half-time as he replaced Garnacho with Amad Diallo.
The Ivorian winger shot to fame with an extra-time winner against Liverpool in a thrilling FA Cup quarter-final last month.
And he helped earn the visitors a point as his deflected shot was handled by Adam Smith inside the area.
Fernandes stepped up to slot the resulting penalty past Neto.
Bournemouth thought they had a spot-kick of their own deep into stoppage time when Kambwala blocked Ryan Christie’s charge into the box.
After a penalty was initially awarded, VAR intervened to say the foul had taken place just outside the box.
A point leaves Bournemouth still in 12th, eight points adrift of United in the European places.


Shimron Hetmyer seals IPL thriller for Rajasthan Royals over Punjab Kings

Shimron Hetmyer seals IPL thriller for Rajasthan Royals over Punjab Kings
Updated 13 April 2024
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Shimron Hetmyer seals IPL thriller for Rajasthan Royals over Punjab Kings

Shimron Hetmyer seals IPL thriller for Rajasthan Royals over Punjab Kings
  • Royals cemented top spot in the IPL table with third straight win

CHANDIGARH: Shimron Hetmyer provided the finishing touches to Rajasthan Royals’ last-over win against Punjab Kings in an Indian Premier League thriller on Saturday.
Punjab needed 10 runs from the last over, and Hetmyer (27 not out off 10 balls) held his nerve against death-bowling specialist Arshdeep Singh. After two dot deliveries, Hetmyer hit 6-2-6 to help Rajasthan cross the finish line with a ball left.
Rajasthan finished with 152-7 in reply to Punjab’s 147-8.
The Royals cemented top spot in the league with a third straight win, while the slumping Kings were handed a fourth loss in six games.
Put in to bat, Punjab missed Shikhar Dhawan and English allrounder Sam Curran stepped in as skipper.
The hosts were pegged back regularly by losing wickets.
Rajasthan’s spinners squeezed the scoring rate. Yuzvendra Chahal took 1-31 in four overs and Keshav Maharaj picked 2-23. Maharaj dismissed Jonny Bairstow (15) and Curran (6) and helped to reduce Punjab to 52-4 in 9.3 overs.
Jitesh Sharma anchored Punjab with 29 off 24 balls, including two sixes, but it was impact player Ashutosh Sharma who gave Punjab 147 to defend by scoring 31 off 16 until he was dismissed by Trent Boult (1-22) off the final ball.
Tanush Kotian replaced Rajasthan opener Jos Buttler and combined for 56 runs with Yashasvi Jaiswal. Jaiswal, in a slump, scored 39 off 28 balls with four fours.
As opposed to Rajasthan’s spin, Punjab’s pace did the heavy lifting and got the vital breakthroughs. Kagiso Ramada dismissed Jaiswal, and in-form skipper Sanju Samson for 18.
Liam Livingstone bowled Kotian as Rajasthan’s chase was struggling at 89-3 in the 14th over.
At 115-5, Hetmyer and fellow West Indian batter Rovman Powell took charge. Powell 11-off-five cameo gave Rajasthan the impetus that Hetmyer used to finish with a flourish of three sixes.