Max Verstappen cruises to ‘unbelievable’ Red Bull one-two in Bahrain Grand Prix

Red Bull Racing’s Dutch driver Max Verstappen crosses the finish line to win the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir on March 2, 2024. (AFP)
Red Bull Racing’s Dutch driver Max Verstappen crosses the finish line to win the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir on March 2, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 02 March 2024
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Max Verstappen cruises to ‘unbelievable’ Red Bull one-two in Bahrain Grand Prix

Max Verstappen cruises to ‘unbelievable’ Red Bull one-two in Bahrain Grand Prix
  • Verstappen delivered the 12th ‘hat-trick’ of his career leaving only the seven-time champions Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton ahead on 22 and 19 trebles respectively

SAKHIR, Bahrain: Three-time world champion Max Verstappen began his title defense in flawless fashion on Saturday when he guided his Red Bull team to a crushing one-two triumph, ahead of team-mate Sergio Perez, at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
In a statement of emphatic superiority, the 26-year-old Dutchman came home 22.5 seconds clear of Perez, who started from fifth, to ease some of the pressure on team boss Christian Horner.
Pole sitter Verstappen held off the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc to lead into the first corner, and it was business as usual from there to the flag as he enjoyed the perfect start to his quest for a fourth consecutive title.
By claiming the 33rd pole of his career, fastest lap and race win, Verstappen delivered the 12th ‘hat-trick’ of his career leaving only the seven-time champions Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton ahead on 22 and 19 trebles respectively.
It was Verstappen’s eighth successive win, his 55th race victory and 99th podium finish as Red Bull dominated an uneventful race on a cold evening at Sakhir’s Bahrain International Circuit.
it also extended his run as championship leader to 40 races since the 2022 Spanish Grand Prix.
“Unbelievable!” said Verstappen.
“I think today went better than expected and we had a lot of pace. It was super-enjoyable to drive and we stayed out of trouble. It’s a good start to the year — it couldn’t be better.
“It was a lot of fun. And it’s very special to have days like today as it doesn’t happen often, when everything is all ok with the car. It felt great today.”
Team-mate Perez praised the team.
“The team definitely had good momentum. We’ve got to keep it up now for the coming weekends,” he said.
“It was the maximum we could achieve — a tricky race with the tire management and plenty to learn from the race.”
Carlos Sainz, whose seat at Ferrari is to be taken by Hamilton next year, finished a pugnacious third ahead of team-mate Charles Leclerc, who profited from a rare error by Mercedes George Russell in the closing laps.
“I felt really good today and had good pace. We had a clear plan and it worked well,” said Sainz.
“I managed my tires and then I could overtake a few cars on the way to the podium. A good step forward compared to last year.”
Russell finished fifth ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris, Hamilton in the second Mercedes, Oscar Piastri in the second McLaren and the Aston Martin duo two-time champion Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll.
After days of speculation, Red Bull boss Horner arrived hand in hand with his wife, former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell — a show of unity following the release on Thursday of a cache of alleged messages from him to a female member of staff.
That had come just 24 hours after he had been cleared by Red Bull’s internal investigation into allegations of inappropriate behavior.
On track, the team showed no apparent distraction as Verstappen topped qualifying to secure his 33rd pole position — and lead the pack when the lights went out in cold, dry conditions in the desert.
The Dutchman made a clean start and led from lights to flag.
When he came in for his final set of new softs at the end of lap 37, he re-joined with a 17-second cushion ahead of Perez.
It was a commanding performance from the champion, decorated with a fastest lap of 1:32.608 as he cruised through the final 16 laps: a lap that was fully 1.5 seconds quicker than any other.
“Look, it’s been the best possible start to the season,” said Horner afterwards.
“Very clinical from the team and a well-executed race. The perfect start.”
Asked about his own position and the confidence that Red Bull’s owners have in him, Horner was bullish.
“Do I have their backing? Absolutely, yes,” he said. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here.”


Boston Celtics sweep Indiana Pacers to reach NBA finals

Boston Celtics sweep Indiana Pacers to reach NBA finals
Updated 58 min 55 sec ago
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Boston Celtics sweep Indiana Pacers to reach NBA finals

Boston Celtics sweep Indiana Pacers to reach NBA finals
  • The Celtics will face the winner of the Western Conference finals, where the Dallas Mavericks hold a 3-0 over the Minnesota Timberwolves

WASHINGTON: The Boston Celtics clinched the Eastern Conference championship on Monday with a 105-102 win over the Indiana Pacers, sweeping the series 4-0 and booking a spot in the NBA Finals.
The Celtics will face the winner of the Western Conference finals, where the Dallas Mavericks hold a 3-0 over the Minnesota Timberwolves ahead of Tuesday’s game four.
The Celtics win in Indianapolis was their seventh straight in the post-season but they left it late against a Pacers team again without injured star guard Tyrese Haliburton.
Jaylen Brown once again proved decisive.
He hit a step through to level at 102-102 with 2:40 left in the fourth, then superbly rose to block Andrew Nembhard at the rim.
With 45 seconds remaining Brown found Derrick White in the corner who sank the three-point jumper that ultimately clinched the game.
Nembhard, who had 24 points, 10 assists and six rebounds for the Pacers, missed a three-pointer with 33 seconds left which would have tied the game.
Brown led Boston’s scoring with 29 points and Jayson Tatum had 26 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists.
The Celtics return to the finals two years after losing to the Golden State Warriors as they search for their first NBA title since 2008.
“It’s been nothing but a grind, we haven’t skipped no steps all season,” said Brown, who was named the Eastern Conference finals MVP.
“We’ve got a bunch of great guys in this locker room, tough guys. Our coaching staff has been great, front office great and now we want to take the next step,” he added.
It was the third time in the four series games that Indiana had lost after holding leads or being tied in the final minute of a game.
“Expectations will be raised for next year, which is good,” said Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle.
“There are challenges to meet over the summer for our guys to get better, all of us involved need to get better,” he added.


Unpredictable Pakistan aim for ‘third time lucky’ at T20 World Cup

Unpredictable Pakistan aim for ‘third time lucky’ at T20 World Cup
Updated 28 May 2024
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Unpredictable Pakistan aim for ‘third time lucky’ at T20 World Cup

Unpredictable Pakistan aim for ‘third time lucky’ at T20 World Cup
  • Pakistan’s build-up to the tournament, which takes place in West Indies and the USA, has been chaotic
  • Men in green have shown they still have the capacity to be the best outfit one day and the worst the next

KARACHI: Pakistan skipper Babar Azam is hoping it is third time lucky for his side at the Twenty20 World Cup after finishing losing semifinalists in 2021 and runners-up a year later.
Pakistan’s build-up to the tournament, which takes place in West Indies and the USA, has been chaotic, with Azam replacing Shaheen Shah Afridi as captain barely three months before it gets underway.
They squeaked a 2-2 T20 series draw at home against a depleted New Zealand in April before heading to Ireland where they slumped to defeat in the opener before coming back to win that series 2-1.
As now seems to be entirely normal, the men in green have shown they still have the capacity to be the best outfit one day and the worst the next, making them the most unpredictable side in the 20-team event which kicks off in the United States on June 1.
Pakistan are placed alongside India, co-hosts United States, Canada and Ireland in Group A. The top two teams will qualify for the next round of Super Eight, to be held in the West Indies with the final in Barbados on June 29.
If they lose to India in what is likely to be a monumental clash in New York on June 9 — Pakistan have won just one of seven T20 World Cup matches against them — their final group game with Ireland in Florida a week later could become a knock-out affair.
But Azam is confident his side can be lucky this time.
“Semi-final and then final, so it’s our turn to win the trophy this time,” he said before leaving for Ireland.
Since crashing out of the 50-over World Cup in November last year, Pakistan cricket has undergone a multitude of changes with coaching staff changed twice and the white-ball captaincy changed hands from Azam to Shaheen and back.
A news channel owner, Mohsin Naqvi, who is also the country’s interior minister, has taken charge of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).
Naqvi reconstructed the selection committee, held a training camp at an army base to improve the often vulnerable fitness and brought in former South African opener Gary Kirsten as white-ball coach — all to improve their chances in the World Cup.
Fast bowler Mohammad Amir — the only surviving member of Pakistan’s T20 World Cup title win in England in 2009 — and spinner Imad Wasim were brought out of retirement to further bolster the bowling attack, spearheaded by Shaheen and fast-rising Naseem Shah.
“My mood is good and my fitness is good and I am looking forward to winning the World Cup,” Shaheen told a PCB podcast recently, in spite of reported dissent over the captaincy saga.
“I have good partners and when they do well then you are also motivated.”
To spur the players further, Naqvi also announced a $100,000 bonus for each player if they win the World Cup.
Mystery spinner Abrar Ahmed and Shadab Khan supplement Wasim in slow bowling.
“This is the best team with every base covered, so we can win and there should be no excuse,” said Shaheen, whose fitness will be the key for Pakistan.
Pakistan’s batting approach and lack of consistency are big problems.
While the other teams have started to blast totals over 200 regularly, Pakistan have gone 43 T20Is without achieving that figure.
Pakistan rely heavily on Azam and Mohammad Rizwan who have a world record 10 century partnerships between them.
Dashing left-hander Saim Ayub is set to break up the Azam-Rizwan opening partnership which has been criticized for being too slow.
Star batter Fakhar Zaman, newcomer Usman Khan, Azam Khan and Iftikhar Ahmed form a powerful middle-order, but they have struggled for consistency.
If Pakistan are, indeed, to “return with the trophy,” the batters will need to step up and match their bowlers.


Mike Tyson ‘doing great’ after falling ill during weekend flight from Miami to Los Angeles

Mike Tyson ‘doing great’ after falling ill during weekend flight from Miami to Los Angeles
Updated 28 May 2024
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Mike Tyson ‘doing great’ after falling ill during weekend flight from Miami to Los Angeles

Mike Tyson ‘doing great’ after falling ill during weekend flight from Miami to Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES: Mike Tyson was recovering Monday after falling ill a day earlier during a flight from Miami to Los Angeles, his representatives said.

The 58-year-old boxing legend “became nauseous and dizzy due to an ulcer flare up 30 minutes before landing” on Sunday, his publicist’s office said in a statement.

“Thankfully Mr. Tyson is doing great,” the statement said. “He is appreciative to the medical staff that were there to help him.”

American Airlines flight 1815 was met by first responders upon landing at LA International Airport “due to the medical needs of a customer,” an airline statement said.

Tyson is preparing to fight the 27-year-old social media star-turned-boxer Jake Paul this summer at the 80,000-seat home of the Dallas Cowboys. Netflix will carry the fight live, a first for the streaming platform.

Tyson was the undisputed world heavyweight champion from 1987 to 1990. He retired in 2005, but most recently fought in an exhibition in November 2020 against Roy Jones in California.


Ronaldo sets Saudi Pro League season scoring record while Al-Hilal finishes unbeaten

Ronaldo sets Saudi Pro League season scoring record while Al-Hilal finishes unbeaten
Updated 28 May 2024
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Ronaldo sets Saudi Pro League season scoring record while Al-Hilal finishes unbeaten

Ronaldo sets Saudi Pro League season scoring record while Al-Hilal finishes unbeaten

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia: Cristiano Ronaldo finished the Saudi Pro League by setting the season goal-scoring record on Monday.
Ronaldo scored twice in Riyadh as Al-Nassr defeated Al-Ittihad 4-2 and lifted his league tally to 35, one more than the record in 2019 by Abderrazak Hamdallah.
In the final seconds of the first half, Ronaldo, who had already had two goals ruled out for offside, chested down a long pass from Mohammed Al-Fatil and opened the scoring with a low shot from the left side of the area.
With 21 minutes remaining, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner celebrated wildly after heading home a corner from Marcelo Brozovic. He was substituted off the field five minutes later to a standing ovation from the home fans.
It ended an action-packed season for Ronaldo, who scored four hat tricks and collected one red card. He was also suspended for an obscene gesture in February at Al-Shabab fans who had been chanting the name of Lionel Messi, Ronaldo’s longstanding soccer rival.
Al-Nassr finished second in the league, 14 points behind local rival Al-Hilal, which won the championship more than two weeks ago and completed the 34-round league unbeaten on Monday.
Al-Hilal was too strong even without Neymar, who joined the club in August from Paris Saint-Germain but suffered a season-ending ACL injury in October.
Aleksandar Mitrovic stepped in and ended the season with a goal in the final seconds to clinch a 2-1 win over Al-Wehda. The Serbian striker, signed from London club Fulham last summer, reached 27 league goals, second only to Ronaldo.
On its way to the title, Al-Hilal went on a 34-game winning streak in all competitions, a new world record for a top tier team.
“This season has been truly exceptional for the team, arguably our best ever,” coach Jorge Jesus said. “The credit goes to the immense talent within the squad and the incredible sense of unity that transcends both on and off-field interactions.”
Al-Ittihad’s defeat at Al-Nassr ended a disappointing season for the defending champion. Karim Benzema, signed from Real Madrid, struggled with injuries and even with N’Golo Kante and Fabinho in midfield, signed from Chelsea and Liverpool respectively, the team from Jeddah could manage only fifth place.
Poor results cost Nuno Santo his job as coach in November, and the Portuguese tactician returned to the English Premier League a month later to take over Nottingham Forest.
Al-Ahli, the fourth of the ‘Big Four’ clubs taken over by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund last June, finished third, 17 points behind Al-Nassr. Al-Ahli beat Al-Fayha 1-0 thanks to a late goal — his ninth of the season — from former Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino.
Ronaldo took the headlines, however, and the 39-year-old still had one more chance to end the season with a trophy when Al-Nassr meets Al-Hilal in the King’s Cup final on Friday.


England’s Jacks thankful for Kohli influence ahead of T20 World Cup

England’s Jacks thankful for Kohli influence ahead of T20 World Cup
Updated 27 May 2024
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England’s Jacks thankful for Kohli influence ahead of T20 World Cup

England’s Jacks thankful for Kohli influence ahead of T20 World Cup
  • Jacks goes into third game of England’s warm-up series against Pakistan having helped propel the hosts to a 23-run win on Saturday
  • The Surrey all-rounder struck a quickfire 37 in what proved to be a decisive stand with captain Jos Buttler as England went 1-0 up

LONDON: Will Jacks hopes to put the on-field “coaching” he received from Virat Kohli to good use when England bid to retain their T20 World Cup title next month.
Jacks goes into the third game of England’s warm-up series against Pakistan having helped propel the hosts to a 23-run win at Edgbaston on Saturday.
The Surrey all-rounder struck a quickfire 37 in what proved to be a decisive stand with captain Jos Buttler as England went 1-0 up in the rain-hit four-match series ahead of Tuesday’s game at Cardiff’s Sophia Gardens.
It was another example of Jacks’ power hitting after he recently struck an unbeaten century off just 41 balls — including 28 runs from one Rashid Khan over — as Royal Challengers Bengaluru chased down 200 to beat Gujarat Titans in a high-pressure situation, with India star batsman Kohli looking on from the other end.
“The big thing with the IPL is that every game is such an occasion, the crowd, the atmosphere,” Jacks told reporters on Monday, just over a week from England’s World Cup opener against Scotland in Barbados.
“Every game you feel like you’ve got to step up and that’s similar to international cricket.”
As for batting with Kohli, the 25-year-old added: “He’s a very good role model. The way he approaches all the training and every aspect of the game off the field, his intensity, everything he does is a 100 percent attention.
“He’s done it for such a long time and I can appreciate that as a young guy who often doesn’t want to do the hard yards, but you see him doing it and want to copy that.”
Jacks added: “When we were batting together, he was coaching me through there. I learned some valuable things about chasing in that innings and pacing the game, which was really helpful.
“I was really proud of the way I stayed in the partnership, didn’t throw it away.”
Now Jacks, whose England career currently consists of a mere two Tests, seven one-day internationals and 12 T20s, is looking forward to a major global tournament.
“Playing in a World Cup is something I’ve dreamed of since I was a little kid. I’m really excited to do it,” he said. “It’s getting closer now and we’re building in the right direction.”
Jacks labelled his England T20 record of 218 runs at 18.16 a “mixed bag,” although his cause has not been helped by switching between opening the innings and batting at three.
“I’ve probably opened half my games and batted number three in the other half,” he said. “It’s no lie that I’m new to batting at three, I’m learning on the job.”
He added: “I’ve been getting starts every game and it’s about how do I change those into match-winning scores. That’s more of a mindset thing. It doesn’t matter what I’m averaging: if the team’s winning, then it’s good.”