Desperate times at Yorkshire County Cricket Club amid racism scandal

Analysis Azeem Rafiq (L) and Colin Graves (R) during hearings on racism in cricket. (Screenshots)
Azeem Rafiq (L) and Colin Graves (R) during hearings on racism in cricket. (Screenshots)
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Updated 01 March 2024
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Desperate times at Yorkshire County Cricket Club amid racism scandal

Azeem Rafiq (L) and Colin Graves (R) during hearings on racism in cricket. (Screenshots)
  • Following allegations of racism at Yorkshire CCC, a number of complaints were upheld and formally accepted by the club

LONDON: My cricket column this week referred to a follow-up hearing on Feb. 20 by the UK House of Commons Parliamentary Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport into racism in cricket.

It focused specifically on what measures had been put in place since its initial hearing in November 2021, and after the recommendations of the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket were published in June 2023.

The key catalysts for this have been Yorkshire County Cricket Club and one of its former players, Azeem Rafiq, who made allegations of racist behavior at the club. A number of the allegations were upheld and formally accepted by the club, although not, it seems, by all parties involved in cricket. Another figure in the saga has emerged, or rather re-emerged, in recent weeks.

Colin Graves was executive chair of YCCC between 2012 and 2015, and then chair of the England and Wales Cricket Board from 2015 until 2020. Prior to that he was part of a consortium that rescued YCCC from insolvency in 2002. Repayment of club debt was consolidated into Graves Trust funds, to which the club currently owes almost £15 million ($19 million).

Graves said that since his stint at the ECB ended four years ago, he “has not been involved with running any form of cricket.”

Ongoing financial difficulties at YCCC, exacerbated by costs generated by payouts to previous employees, have brought it, once again, to the brink of insolvency, and so the club’s board sought a financial rescue package.

A consortium led by Graves put forward a proposal that was accepted by a majority of the 25 percent of members who chose to vote. It seemed like there was a general feeling of inevitability about the outcome, inside and outside of Yorkshire.

Nevertheless, some have voiced concerns about the potential effects of Graves’ return to the club appointment as chair of the board. He accepted an invitation to appear at the last week’s hearing of the Parliamentary Select Committee, during which its members articulated some of those concerns.

Asked whether he intends to bring back any of the previous backroom and coaching staff, his response was: “It has not been discussed by the board. We have our first board meeting on Monday (Feb. 26), and I am sure that the future, the structure, everything will be discussed. But at this point in time it has not been discussed.”

On the afternoon of Feb. 27, an article appeared in The Cricketer magazine, written by George Dobell, who has been closely associated with reporting on and supporting Rafiq’s case.

The article reported that, incredibly, the board of the YCCC was considering bringing back Mark Arthur, who was its CEO from 2014 until his resignation in November 2021. He stepped down days before the initial hearing of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Nov. 16, 2021. During that hearing, Roger Hutton, who served as chair of the YCCC board between April 2020 and November 2021, alleged that the CEO had attempted to prevent further investigation into the racism allegations.

During his tenure, Hutton commissioned a law firm to conduct a review of the allegations of racism. Only a summary of its findings has been released publicly. During his appearance at the Select Committee hearing on Feb. 20, Graves referred twice to this fact, though it was not clear why.

Seven of the 43 allegations made by Rafiq were upheld on Sept. 10, 2021, by an independent panel appointed by YCCC. It confirmed he had been the “victim of racial harassment and bullying.” Perhaps the fact that 36 allegations were not upheld provides YCCC’s new board with some hope for exoneration.

Much water has flowed under the bridge since that verdict. Part of that has been an acceptance, albeit in some cases reluctantly, that racism has been present in the game. Indeed, Graves proffered an apology during the recent Select Committee hearing to those from ethnic-minority backgrounds who had experienced discrimination or racism at the club, including Rafiq.

He said it “should never have happened, it never will be acceptable, and it certainly will not be going forward.”

Arab News asked Rafiq whether he felt the timing of the apologies ahead of the YCCC’s extraordinary general meeting to decide whether Graves would return as chair of the board, and those made during the Select Committee hearing last week, were coincidental and whether they could they be accepted as sincere. He declined to comment.

During the recent Select Committee meeting, Graves was asked whether he or his representatives had sent a legal letter to the publishers of “It’s Not Banter, it’s Racism,” a book by Rafiq that is due to be published in April. He said solicitors acting on behalf of YCCC had asked to see an advance copy. He denied that the tone of the letter was intimidatory and agreed to make public its contents. The reasons for requesting a copy of the book were not clear.

It is difficult not to feel a sense of unease about how the latest turn of events at YCCC might unfold. Graves deflected any detailed discussion during the Select Committee meeting of senior management appointments on the grounds that the club’s board had not yet met to discuss them.

This prompted one of the committee members to note that Graves “did not say that he would not bring back any of the old guard who were fired.” It was further noted that such people were those who had failed to notify the chair of problems that were subsequently shown to have existed.

Graves offered assurances that equality, diversity and inclusion measures put in place in the past two years would be guaranteed and fully supported. A new board member, Sanjeev Gandhi, will be appointed specifically to oversee the development of these EDI measures. Gandhi previously worked with Graves at the ECB on the creation of The Hundred tournament.

There was no mention or recognition of the measures to address EDI issues that were initiated by Kamlesh Patel, senior independent director of the ECB, during his time as chair of YCCC between November 2021 and March 2023. Instead, he has faced heavy criticism as the person who purged the old guard at a damaging cost to the County.

As far as can be seen, none of the British media has picked up the The Cricketer’s story. YCCC has not responded to requests for confirmation of its claims.

The ECB seems to be impotent in terms of intervention in a matter that, so far, is solely the YCCC’s business. It is difficult to avoid the feeling, however, that there is an underlying process of retrenchment at play, in which financial considerations are to the fore.

There is an old adage that suggests a strong Yorkshire (in cricket terms) means a strong England. The truth of this is about to be tested off the field. Graves has a responsibility not to undermine the progress that has been made since Rafiq’s allegations came to light, and to match his own words of apology and his commitment to equity with commensurate actions for the good not only of Yorkshire, but for English and Welsh cricket as a whole.

Trust needs to be reestablished. A good place to start might be to rebuild some trust with Rafiq, rather than reappointing a previous CEO.


Scottie Scheffler leads Masters by 1 shot on a wild day of movement

Scottie Scheffler leads Masters by 1 shot on a wild day of movement
Updated 14 April 2024
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Scottie Scheffler leads Masters by 1 shot on a wild day of movement

Scottie Scheffler leads Masters by 1 shot on a wild day of movement
  • Augusta National didn’t need a ferocious wind to be wildly entertaining; the course was tough as ever

AUGUSTA, Georgia: Scottie Scheffler was in the lead and seemingly in control of his game Saturday in the Masters until realizing there was no such thing at Augusta National.

He posed over another beautiful shot at the flag on the 10th hole and was stunned to see it take a hard hop over the green and roll down into the bushes. He made double bogey and suddenly was one shot behind.

“Make another bogey at 11 and all of a sudden I’m probably going from in the lead to a few out of the lead and then,” Scheffler said, “you know, things happen pretty fast out there.”

It was so fast and furious that it was hard to keep up.

Six players had at least a share of the lead at one point. There was a five-way tie for the lead early on the back nine. No one was safe. It was like that to the very end.

Scheffler made an 8-foot birdie putt on the final hole for a 1-under 71 that gave him a one-shot lead over Collin Morikawa, the two-time major champion who has largely disappeared from the elite in golf and now is one round away from the third leg of the Grand Slam.

Bryson DeChambeau looked to be on the verge of a meltdown when he drove into the trees right of the 18th fairway, punched out to the short grass and then hit wedge from 77 yards that spun back into the cup for a birdie to sum up a wild Saturday.

“Easier than putting,” DeChambeau, adding that he was joking although there was some truth to that. He three-putted three times on the back nine.

Max Homa has gone 32 holes without a birdie and he was only two behind after a round of 17 pars and one bogey for a 73. Xander Schauffele has gone 25 holes without a bogey, and that goes a long way. He was five back after a 70.

Augusta National didn’t need a ferocious wind to be wildly entertaining. The course was tough as ever, with a wind that would have felt scary if not for the day before. The greens made players feel as though they were putting on linoleum floors.

Scheffler was at 7-under 209 as he goes for a second Masters green jacket and tries to extend a dominant stretch that includes two wins on tough courses (Bay Hill and TPC Sawgrass) and a runner-up finish in his last three tournaments.

“It’s nice to have that experience, but going into tomorrow, that’s really all that it is,” he said.

Morikawa made two tough pars to finish off a 69 — of those was a long birdie putt that hit the lip and spun 12 feet away. He is the only player to break par all three days at this Masters. Not bad for a someone who only found a swing key on Monday, switched putters after the first round and hasn’t had a top 10 since the first week of the year.

“If you asked me at the beginning of the week I’d be one back heading into Sunday, I would have taken that any time,” Morikawa said. “You give yourself a chance with 18 holes left, that’s all you can really do.”

Another shot back was Homa, whose last birdie was on the fourth hole of the second round. He has made 32 pars in his last 36 holes.

Eight players were separated by five shots going into the final round, where the greens are likely to be even faster, crispier and more frightening.

Tiger Woods was not among them. Neither was Rory McIlroy.

Woods, having made his Masters-record 24th consecutive cut Friday, started the third round seven shots out of the lead and hopeful of at least making his massive following think there might be more magic left in that battered 48-year-old body.

Instead, Woods posted his highest round in three decades playing the majors. He shot an 82, the third time he has failed to break 80 in a major, and the first since the 2015 US Open.

“Just hit the ball in all the places that I know I shouldn’t hit it,” Woods said.

McIlroy came to the Masters thinking this might be the year he finally got the last leg of the career Grand Slam. All he could muster was a 71 that left him 10 shots behind with 20 players in front of him.

There were no shortage of challengers.

Ludvig Aberg, the rising Swedish star playing in his first major, was among those who had a brief share of the lead until missing a pair of short par putts on the back nine. He still managed a 70 and was only three shots behind.

Another newcomer to the Masters, Nicolai Hojgaard of Denmark, had the lead to himself with three straight birdies around the turn. He celebrated that good fortunate by running off five straight bogeys, putting the ball in the water on both par 5s.

And then there was DeChambeau, who started the third round tied with Scheffler and Homa.

DeChambeau kept making enough birdies to hang around and was only one shot behind until he decided to go for the green from the trees on the par-5 15th. He went well right toward the 17th fairway — the second time in as many days he played a par 5 from two holes — only this one didn’t work out so well.

He chunked his wedge and watched it tumble into the pond. He took a penalty drop, pitched on and two-putted for double bogey. And then he three-putted for bogey on the 16th. And right when it appeared to be falling apart, he made his surprise birdie to limit the damage to 75. He was four shots behind.

Scheffler didn’t escape the craziness. He reached 8 under quickly by chipping in across the green on No. 1 and making a 30-foot birdie putt on No. 3. But all it took was two holes to make it feel like his head was spinning.

What saved his day was a 7-foot par putt on No. 12 and then a 30-foot eagle putt on the par-5 13th that dropped on its final turn and elicited rare emotion from Scheffler.

“C’mon, baby!” he yelled when the putt dropped.

“Things got a little dicey in the middle,” Scheffler said. “On No. 10, I hit what I thought was a decent shot 8 feet from the hole and it wound up in the bushes. I did a good job of staying patient.”

He’ll need another dose for Sunday, even with the experience of winning a Masters. Two years ago, he had a three-shot lead going into the final round and spent the morning in tears as his wife gave him soothing words of confidence.

Now his wife is home in Dallas expecting their first child at the end of the month. Scheffler brought in his best friends from home to stay with him.

“I didn’t want to be in the house all by myself this weekend. Didn’t really seem that exciting to me,” Scheffler said.

There’s plenty of that inside the ropes.


Holloway’s last-second KO of Gaethje likely will be lasting memory of UFC 300

Holloway’s last-second KO of Gaethje likely will be lasting memory of UFC 300
Updated 14 April 2024
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Holloway’s last-second KO of Gaethje likely will be lasting memory of UFC 300

Holloway’s last-second KO of Gaethje likely will be lasting memory of UFC 300
  • Holloway-Gaethje was arguably the most anticipated fight on the loaded card, and it not only lived up to expectations, but surpassed them before a sellout crowd of 20,067
  • In the evening’s final fight, Pereira dropped Hill to the canvas with a straight left hand and then pounded him

LAS VEGAS: Alex Pereira left no doubt he was the true light heavyweight champion in the main event, knocking out Jamahal Hill 3:14 of the first round Saturday night.

But the lasting image of UFC 300, one that likely will resonate for years to come, was Max Holloway’s last-second knockout of Justin Gaethje for the ceremonial BMF title belt.

Holloway-Gaethje was arguably the most anticipated fight on the loaded card, and it not only lived up to expectations, but surpassed them before a sellout crowd of 20,067 that roared over the final seconds and its stunning conclusion.

“That fight sucked the life out of everybody tonight,” UFC President Dana White said. “People ask me what I do. I sell holy (stuff) moments. That was the ultimate holy (stuff) moment. Let’s just talk about his fight for the rest of the press conference.”

The UFC — which had its third-highest gate at $16.5 million — awarded Holloway a $600,000 bonus for his performance.

Even though Holloway (26-7) was well on his way to a victory by decision — two judges had him ahead 39-37 — the former featherweight champion could have run out the clock.

He instead pointed to the floor in the final seconds and then traded blows with Gaethje (25-5). It was a tremendous combination of punches from both fighters before the one that sent the now ex-BMF champ to the mat with just one second remaining in the five-round fight.

“This is the moment,” Holloway said about going for the KO. “This is what the BMF is known for. If that’s not a BMF moment, I don’t know what is. If Justin was up, he would’ve given me those 10 seconds.”

“That’s why Max Holloway is beloved,” White said. “He’s got the fight won and in there with one of the most dangerous fighters in the business. That’s like movie (stuff). It’s the fight of the year. If something beats that as fight of the year, holy (stuff).”

Holloway, who also used a spinning kick at the end of the first round to bloody Gaethje’s nose, was in control throughout most of the fight.

“I think it broke his nose. ... Any less of a man couldn’t do what Justin Gaethje does,” Holloway said.

In the evening’s final fight, Pereira dropped Hill to the canvas with a straight left hand and then pounded him. Referee Herb Dean stepped in to stop the fight, giving the Brazilian the victory.

Pereira, 36, was a minus-132 favorite, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

“I see myself as the champion. I didn’t want to let the belt go to my head,” Pereira said through an interpreter. “I had to step in and win the championship.”

Hill, 32, was the previous title holder, but a torn Achilles tendon forced him to vacate the championship last July. That put the belt in Pereira’s hands, eventually setting up this matchup and his fourth pay-per-view event in 16 months.

As would be expected from a milestone card number, this was a strong lineup that included 12 current or former champions, and 11 who have headlined UFC pay-per-view events.

Zhang Weili (25-3) retained her women’s strawweight championship in the co-main event, beating No. 1 challenger Yan Xiaonan (18-4) by unanimous decision. Each judge scored the fight 49-45.

Zhang nearly choked out Yan to end the first round. Yan, however, found a way to take the fight the five-round distance.

“She bounced back very quickly,” Zhang said through an interpreter.

No. 4 lightweight challenger Arman Tsarukyan (22-3) won by split decision over top-ranked challenger and former champion Charles Oliveira (34-10). Each scorecard was 29-28, two in favor of Tsarukyan.

“I thought all (the) judges were going to give me the decision,” Tsarukyan said.

Three-time NCAA wrestling champion Bo Nickal (6-0) led off the five-fight main card by submitting Cody Brundage (10-6) by rear-naked choke hold at 3:38 of the second round.

“I’m a little bit embarrassed with that performance because I expected to go in there and completely dominate,” Nickal said.

One of the more notable matchups on the undercard was between two-time US Olympic judo gold medalist Kayla Harrison and International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee Holly Holm.

Harrison (17-1), who made her UFC debut, dominated Holm (15-7). She won the bantamweight bout by submission with a rear-naked choke at 1:47 of the second round.

Retired champion Amanda Nunes posted a video of herself on social media listening to Harrison in the cage and wondering why she didn’t mention her by name.

“I didn’t call Amanda’s name because Amanda’s not the UFC champion,” Harrison said. “I thought she was happily retired. I would love to win the UFC title, and if Amanda wants to come back, I would welcome her with open arms.”

White said he hopes to see Nunes return.

“I think she retired too soon,” White said.

Also on the undercard, second-ranked challenger Jiri Prochazka (30-4) put himself on track to reclaim the light heavyweight championship with a technical knockout at 3:17 of the second round of fifth-ranked Aleksandar Rakic (14-4). Prochazka lost his belt to Pereira in November on a second-round TKO.

“Whoever will win tonight in the main event, I want to take (him on),” Prochazka said.

CONOR MCGREGOR IS BACK

White said Conor McGregor will fight in UFC 303 against Michael Chandler on June 29 in Las Vegas. Also, Islam Makhachev will fight Dustin Poirier at UFC 302 on June 1 in Newark, New Jersey.


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 14 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-AMERAT: On April 12, the men’s Asia Premier Cup got off 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 a 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 favorites 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 8. At 26 for 3, 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 3. Captain Virandeep Singh anchored the innings with an unbeaten 72, 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 30 runs sent their delirious supporters into raptures. No other team in this tournament has this boisterous, enthusiastic support. There seemed to 100 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 53 for 5 after 10 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 a late flurry of scoring in the last two overs took Malaysia to 146 for 7. 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 47 for 3. Then came drama. First there was the dismissal of the captain, H. Shaikh, who was adjudged to be stumped, and then K. Abbas was caught behind in the same over, the batter being unimpressed to be out.

At 91 for 5 in the 15th over, the game was in the balance. A profitable over of 12 runs then ensued off a left-arm quick. The return of slower bowlers brought 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 12 runs short on 134 all out, with 5 balls spare.

It is a match that Saudi will be disappointed to lose. At 53 for 5, 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 12 runs short with 5 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 5, reaching the target in the 12-over for the loss of only 2 wickets. The UAE totalled an imposing 236 for 6 against Bahrain, who responded in positive fashion, particularly Ali Butt and I. Anwar with some superlative straight hitting. Ultimately, they perished and the team fell short by 37 runs.

However, the real fireworks of the day were provided by Nepal who scored 210 for 7. Before the last over, they had scored 174 for 7. Dipendra Singh Airee then smashed 6 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 9 and will wonder how much closer they might had been, but for Airee’s blitz.

At the end of Day 2, 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 3.