The enduring appeal of a well-established amateur tournament

The enduring appeal of a well-established amateur tournament
The 1988 competition comprised 16 teams, three of which have participated in each competition since that year. They are the Wombats from Australia, Darjeeling CC from Dubai and the Drifters from England. My team is the latter and its name is appropriate. (AFP Filephoto)
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Updated 04 April 2024
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The enduring appeal of a well-established amateur tournament

The enduring appeal of a well-established amateur tournament
  • International Cricket Sixes is a wonderful event that is far removed from the money-laden world of franchise cricket

In Chiang Mai, northern Thailand, the 34th edition of an International Cricket Sixes is being played, ending on April 6. Its inaugural competition took place in 1988, but three years were lost to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sixes cricket was introduced to Thailand by Myles de Vries, initially at the Royal Bangkok Sports Club in 1985. A move to Chiang Mai was initiated by de Vries and Adrian Gundlach. This was to establish a separate identity for the Sixes away from Bangkok and take advantage of an underutilized facility at the Chiang Mai Gymkhana Club. It is believed that support was provided by the tobacco industry, which was based in the north.

The 1988 competition comprised 16 teams, three of which have participated in each competition since that year. They are the Wombats from Australia, Darjeeling CC from Dubai and the Drifters from England. My team is the latter and its name is appropriate.

Folklore has it that the choice was made because its members drifted unknowingly from one situation to another. It has stuck through many iterations and has been a remarkable catalyst for many long-lasting friendships.

This applies to both the Drifters and to members of opposing teams. It is a tournament that epitomizes a combination of friendship and competition, of cricket played in the right spirit. This has led it to become recognized as the largest amateur six-a-side event in the world. It could not have achieved this status without the hard work and dedication, freely given, of a number of people over the years. It is an even more remarkable achievement that the status has been attained in a country not normally associated with cricket.

A common belief is that the game was introduced to Thailand by the children of elite Thai families, who were educated in England. The Bangkok City Cricket Club was formed in 1890, playing its first match in November of that year at the Pramane Ground close to the Royal Palace. However, the game failed to develop in Thai society and it was soon played only by expatriate residents.

According to the Cricket Association of Thailand, the first cricket match played in Chiang Mai was in 1895. This predates the formation of the Gymkhana Club by a group of 14 expatriates with the purpose of encouraging the sport in the north of the country. Cricket was first mentioned in the Minutes of the Club Committee meeting of Nov. 6, 1898. Later that month, the Sports Committee Meeting referenced the inclusion of cricket in the forthcoming Christmas program. The colonial clubhouse, replete with veranda, remains, providing the base for golf, cricket, squash and tennis sections.

Across holes seven to nine of the golf course lies the cricket ground. There are two permanent buildings. One serves as the engine room during the tournament, housing match commentators, scorers and organizers. The other is the boundary bar. Temporary tents are provided around half of the boundary perimeter to house the teams, while the scoreboard is moved to the other side of the ground so as to be visible to all.

After 1988, the tournament grew in both size and reputation as international cricketing stars were attracted. In 2002, 30 teams came from nine different countries. This was surpassed in 2007, with 33 teams from 14 different countries and in 2008 with 36 teams. Since then and until the pandemic, the number has been between 30 and 32. No stars have been attracted since 2012.

This year there are 26 men’s and three women’s teams in a separate competition, which began in 2008. Eleven of the teams are from Australia, five from England, four from Thailand, the balance from seven other countries. The competition’s format has evolved over the years. Teams are now divided into two sections — Gentlemen and Players — according to historic or perceived strength. Within these sections, teams are divided into groups of four, the results of which determine placings in Round Two. This has five levels, in descending order: Cup, Shield, Bowl, Plate and Spoon. Each is a mini-tournament to determine the finalists at each level.

All of this could not happen without a superb organizing team. Operations Manager George Appleton, formerly in the Royal Navy, has spent most of the last six months preparing for the event. Richard Lockwood, a well-known statistician in the game, is the committee chair and chief scorer. They have been in Chiang Mai for six and 15 years, respectively. Other volunteers have taken on roles as commentators, treasurers, bar managers, organizers of umpires, and media and communications facilitators. They continue a line of previous tournament organizers. One of those was Maurice Bromley, in whose honor the Shield competition is named.

Inevitably, the tournament’s composition has changed over the years. Some teams have aged and faded away. Others have managed to rejuvenate themselves. The tournament does seem to have a solid base. In 2024, five of the 26 teams had competed over 30 times, five between 20 and 26, six between 10 and 19 times, with eight between one and nine. New teams joined, two in 2024, one of them the Lao Elephants. Cricket started officially in Lao seven years ago, being played on a dirt track and a potholed outfield. It has progressed to a newly built AstroTurf pitch, a well-groomed outfield embraced by eucalyptus trees.

In addition to attracting new teams and sustaining the ethos for existing ones, another objective of the Sixes has been to provide support for the development of junior cricket in the Chiang Mai area.

This has been through fundraising, tournament organization, coaching and development work. Selection of players at national age group levels has provided rewards.

None of this could be achieved without the volunteers. Each team pays an entry fee, and sponsorship is attracted, but hospitality income is critical in providing the means to sustain the tournament. It also provides spin-off benefits for the local economy, while matches are streamed live, worldwide. This wonderful event is far removed from the money-laden world of franchise cricket.


Spanish favorites Sergio Garcia, Fireballs win historic double playoff

Spanish favorites Sergio Garcia, Fireballs win historic double playoff
Updated 15 July 2024
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Spanish favorites Sergio Garcia, Fireballs win historic double playoff

Spanish favorites Sergio Garcia, Fireballs win historic double playoff
  • For Garcia, the script couldn’t have been written any better, as he won for the first time after three previous playoff losses
  • It was LIV Golf’s first double playoff, and just the second team playoff in league history

SOTOGRANDE, Spain: On an unprecedented day in LIV Golf’s young history, captain Sergio Garcia and his Fireballs GC produced a storybook finish for their Spanish fans on home soil at LIV Golf Andalucia.Garcia rallied from seven strokes down to win his first LIV Golf individual title on the second sudden-death playoff hole against Crushers GC’s Anirban Lahiri.

Meanwhile, teammates Abraham Ancer and David Puig beat the Crushers duo of captain Bryson DeChambeau and Paul Casey in the team aggregate-score playoff as the Fireballs — with three Spaniards on the roster — swept both trophies at Real Club Valderrama.

It was LIV Golf’s first double playoff, and just the second team playoff in league history. The first team playoff came earlier this year at LIV Golf Adelaide, when the home Australian team — Ripper GC — also won.

For Garcia, the script couldn’t have been written any better, as he won for the first time after three previous playoff losses. That it happened on his favorite course, one in which he’s won three other professional events and has now finished inside the top 10 in 16 of his 17 starts, made it even more special.

“To be totally honest, there’s a connection between Valderrama and myself that I can’t even explain it,” said the 44-year-old Garcia, who ended a four-year winless drought while winning his 37th professional title.

Garcia started the day at even par, seven shots behind overnight leader Lahiri.

But the Spanish star played flawless golf for 17 holes, posting six birdies and applying pressure on Lahiri, who was trying to break his own winless drought of nine years.

While Garcia suffered his only bogey of the day with a three-putt at the par-3 third to wrap up his 5-under 66, Lahiri birdied the par-5 17th. That put the tournament in Lahiri’s hands going to the par-4 18th, the most difficult hole on the course this week.

Lahiri found the middle of the green with his approach shot and rolled his birdie attempt to 3 feet to set up the potential winning par. But with a chance to win the individual title and secure the team title for the Crushers, he missed the putt for a final-round 73 to drop back to 5 under and set up the double playoff.

Garcia was riding in a van back to the clubhouse at the time. “We obviously heard the crowds going crazy, so we figured that he might have missed his par putt,” Garcia said. “… It was nice to be able to have another shot at it.”Garcia and Lahiri each parred their first playoff hole. Meanwhile, in the team playoff right behind them, DeChambeau found trouble off the 18th tee and had to lay up with his second shot. Casey’s approach finished in the rough behind the green. DeChambeau bogeyed the hole while Ancer and Puig made easy pars to claim the Fireballs’ first team victory of the season.

Like his captain, Lahiri’s errant tee shot on the second playoff hole left him in trouble, and Garcia won with a par, with his teammates and family racing onto the green to drench him in celebratory champagne.

“Obviously individual for me, it’s a dream come true to do it on my favorite course in front of my family and friends and in front of my teammates,” Garcia said. “But to even make it even better by winning the team championship, too, it was amazing. So proud of these guys, the way they played.”

On the flip side, it was heartbreak for the Crushers, who have won twice this season and lead the season-long points standings as they look to repeat as team champions.

“It sucks. Losing is never fun,” said DeChambeau. “That’s what makes winning so much better. I feel for Baan.”

Perhaps it was simply fate for the Fireballs and their captain to win on home turf in front of a partisan crowd.“A dream weekend for all of us,” said young Fireballs star Eugenio Chacarra. “Super happy for Sergio. He’s been up there a lot, and he’s been playing at a high level for 20 plus years. It’s really nice to see it from close every single day, and so happy for him that he got it done on his favorite course.”


Argentina defeat Colombia 1-0 to win record 16th Copa America

Argentina defeat Colombia 1-0 to win record 16th Copa America
Updated 23 min 11 sec ago
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Argentina defeat Colombia 1-0 to win record 16th Copa America

Argentina defeat Colombia 1-0 to win record 16th Copa America
  • The win was the third straight major tournament title for Argentine following their 2021 Copa victory
  • Messi appeared to suffer a noncontact injury while running full speed on the pitch

MIAMI: Lautaro Martinez scored an extra-time winner as Argentina beat Colombia 1-0 to win a record 16th Copa America title at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday.

A poor game which had been marred by security and crowd issues, forcing a 82-minute delay, was decided by a quality finish from Martinez — his fifth goal of the tournament.

The win was the third straight major tournament title for Argentine following their 2021 Copa victory and their triumph in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

There were tears before the celebrations though with Argentina captain Lionel Messi going off injured in the 66th minute watching the rest of the game distraught on the bench, while there was an emotional farewell for Angel Di Maria in his final game for the national team.

For Colombia, whose only title came in the 2001 Copa America, it was a disappointing night when little seemed to work for Nestor Lorenzo’s team.

There was chaos around entry to the stadium for fans, with organizers blaming supporters for trying to enter without tickets while fans blamed the lack of an efficient entry system to the venue.

The scenes were alarming with some fans needing medical attention for heat exhaustion but after the decision to suddenly throw open the gates, with no checks on those entering, the situation was largely resolved and the game finally went ahead.

Colombia’s Jhon Corboba hit the bottom of the post with a speculative shot in the seventh minute but neither side were able to find their flow in the early stages.

Di Maria found Messi in the 20th minute with a low ball into the box and Messi’s left-foot shot was saved by Colombia keeper Camilo Vargas.

Colombia had looked the more lively in the opening period and they went close in the 33rd minute when Jefferson Lerma tried his luck from 25 yards out and his low drive forced Emiliano Martinez into a diving save.

There was concern for Messi in the 36th minute when he dribbled to the byline but was halted by a sliding challenge from Santiago Arias which was ruled fair left the Argentine captain needing treatment.

Messi, who now plays his club football in Miami, then curled a free-kick in from the left flank but Nicolas Tagliafico’s header was just off target.

It had been a disappointing first half and it didn’t improve much after the break, when the fans had at least received some entertainment from Colombian singer Shakira.

Argentina failed to deal with a James Rodriguez corner and the ball looped to Davinson Sanchez but he was unable to keep down his header which floated over the bar.

There was finally some of the expected quality when Di Maria produced one of his trademark runs in from the left and forced Vargas into action, the Colombia keeper turning the ball wide of the post.

Then came a major blow for Argentine hopes when Messi went down, without contact, as he ran in midfield, and clearly in pain he went off to be replaced by Nicolas Gonzalez in the 66th minute.

It was too much for Messi, in what may have been his last major tournament, as he sat in tears on the bench, unable to hold back his emotions.

The Argentine fans thought they had grabbed a winner in the 75th minute when Tagliafico found Gonzalez in the box, who beat Vargas with a low drive but the effort was ruled out for offside.

Little changed in extra-time with a half-chance from Miguel Borja after a flick from Jorge Carrascal but the game was settled by a worthy winner.

Leandro Paredes won the ball in midfield for Argentina with a perfectly timed tackle, found Giovani Lo Celso whose first time pass was perfect for the on-running Martinez who confidently fired home the winner.


Pogacar pulverizes opposition at Tour de France

Pogacar pulverizes opposition at Tour de France
Updated 15 July 2024
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Pogacar pulverizes opposition at Tour de France

Pogacar pulverizes opposition at Tour de France
  • The Slovenian dropped the last of his rivals with five kilometers to go after five more Pyrenean peaks
  • The 25-year-old racked up a second straight iconic mountaintop triumph and a 14th Tour de France stage win

PLATEAU DE BEILLE, France: Tadej Pogacar extended his overall lead at the Tour de France to more than three minutes on Sunday with a convincing second-straight stage win in the Pyrenees.
The Slovenian dropped the last of his rivals with five kilometers to go after five more Pyrenean peaks. A valiant Jonas Vingegaard could only finish 1 minute and 8 seconds adrift in second, with Remco Evenepoel in third at 2min 51sec on the day.
As Pogacar crossed the line at the magnificent Plateau de Beille deep in the Pyrenees, resplendent in his yellow outfit, he had racked up a second straight iconic mountaintop triumph and a 14th Tour de France stage win aged just 25.
The overall leader expressed surprise at Vingegaard and his team.
“Jonas did most of the work,” Pogacar said after Visma hogged the front of the peloton most of the day.
“With today being the 14th of July you might have expected a French win, but Visma went at it very strong.”
“I wasn’t sure myself I’d be able to keep up the pace, but this year I’ve adopted a different approach and it seems to be working,” said Pogacar, munching on a candy bar.

The Team UAE leader’s audacious bid for a Tour de France and Giro d’Italia double in the same season seemed closer after a third stage win on this year’s Tour lifted him comfortably clear.
The last man to win such a double was Marco Pantani in 1998. On his way to his French triumph, the Italian also won a stage ended on the Plateau de Beille.
Pogacar on Sunday ascended the mountain over four minutes faster than Pantani.
“That’s a very good sign,” Pogacar’s team director Mauro Gianetti said.
There are two murderous mountain slogs to go in the Alps, where the weather will likely be much hotter, which Pogacar dislikes.
The final-day lottery is a fearsome 34km individual time trial on the corniche between Monaco and Nice.
For now, the sun shines on the Slovenian as he leads the two-time defending champion Vingegaard by 3 minutes 9 seconds with the young Belgian Remco Evenepoel on his first Tour de France third at 5min 19sec.
Evenepoel also looked happy with his day’s work after he arrived for his debut Tour de France stating he was targeting the best young rider’s jersey, which he looks good for now.
“I felt it was a mistake to try and follow them when they went. It was a race between them two,” he said.
“I kept going at my steady rhythm. it was a good weekend for us.”

Evenepoel is third overall, five minutes clear of Mikel Landa, and leads the young rider category by six minutes from Carlos Rodriguez.
Vingegaard and Evenepoel were both involved in a bone-breaking crash in March, and it remains to be seen how their stamina stands up in the third week. After Monday’s rest day the race rushes back to the Alps, where tradition holds that the Tour is won.
Pogacar agreed with that Sunday.
“Only when I cross the finish line will I believe I have won,” said the 2020 and 2021 champion.
The weekend crowds were well-behaved Sunday. A roadside spectator who threw crisps in the faces of Pogacar and Vingegaard on Saturday was charged with violent behavior Sunday morning, after spending a night in the cells to sober up.
The Tour de France also stepped up protective measures to “limit health risks” with the reintroduction of the dreaded face masks due to a resurgence of Covid-19.
Monday is a rest day.
“We go into Monday with a big smile,” said Pogacar.
The fans watching roadside or in armchairs also likely left with a smile.
 

 


Spain beat England 2-1 to win record fourth European Championship title

Spain beat England 2-1 to win record fourth European Championship title
Updated 15 July 2024
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Spain beat England 2-1 to win record fourth European Championship title

Spain beat England 2-1 to win record fourth European Championship title
  • Oyarzabal slid in to poke home Marc Cucurella’s cross, just when the game at Berlin’s Olympiastadion seemed destined for extra time

BERLIN: Spain won a record fourth European Championship title on Sunday after Mikel Oyarzabal’s 86th-minute goal clinched a 2-1 victory over England, whose painful decades-long wait for a major trophy goes on.
Oyarzabal slid in to poke home Marc Cucurella’s cross, just when the game at Berlin’s Olympiastadion seemed destined for extra time after the latest show of resilience by England at the tournament.
Substitute Cole Palmer equalized for England in the 73rd minute to cancel out Nico Williams’ opener in the 47th from 17-year-old prodigy Lamine Yamal’s pass.
Spain also won the title in 1964, 2008 and 2012.
“I did my job and what I had to and was lucky enough to score the goal for the win,” said Oyarzabal, who came on as a substitute for captain Alvaro Morata. “When you are among the 26 names to be picked, that is special enough, but then to get to help the team like I did, that is the most important part.”
England men’s team has now lost back-to-back Euro finals and is still without a major title since winning the 1966 World Cup.
It is another agonizing loss for one of the world’s most underperforming national teams, this one coming in front of Prince William and Spain’s King Felipe at the venue built for the 1936 Olympics.
“This time it just wasn’t meant to be,” the prince wrote on social media. “We’re all still so proud of you.” 


There were joyous scenes after the final whistle among the Spanish players, with Williams putting his hands to his face before he was embraced by his teammates. Dani Carvajal slumped to the field and was piled on by jubilant teammates.
Yamal, Marc Cucurella and Dani Olmo were among the first to jump over the advertising hoardings to reach the Spanish fans in the stadium’s east end of the stadium.
It was fitting that Yamal and Williams combined for the crucial first goal as they are the poster boys of this exciting, multicultural team that mirrors the new reality in Spain.
Yamal’s mother is from Equatorial Guinea and his father is from Morocco, while fellow winger Williams has Ghanaian parents who made the long journey to Europe looking for a better life. To make it to Spain, they had to ride on the back of a crowded truck and walk barefoot through the Sahara desert.
“Euphoria! We are so happy. We deserved this,” said Williams, the player of the match. “This is for our fans and our parents, who have supported us throughout.”
Unlike his brother Inaki, who is a Ghana international, Nico chose to play for Spain and will now be regarded as a national hero there.
As, indeed, will Oyarzabal and the rest of the Spain team, who have won all seven of their matches at this tournament — an unprecedented feat — and beaten heavyweights Germany, France and England, back-to-back in the knockout stage.
Spain is back as a major player in senior soccer after winning both the Women’s World Cup and the men’s UEFA Nations League in 2023.
Since 2001, Spanish men’s teams have won 23 consecutive major finals in club and international soccer.


India beat Zimbabwe by 42 runs in fifth T20 to win series 4-1

India beat Zimbabwe by 42 runs in fifth T20 to win series 4-1
Updated 14 July 2024
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India beat Zimbabwe by 42 runs in fifth T20 to win series 4-1

India beat Zimbabwe by 42 runs in fifth T20 to win series 4-1
  • Sanju Samson, who was part of India’s T20 World Cup-winning squad, hit four sixes to help India score 167-6 in 20 overs
  • In reply, Zimbabwe was bowled out for 125 runs in 18.3 overs with medium pacer Mukesh Kumar taking 4-22 from 3.3 overs

HARARE: Sanju Samson scored 58 as India beat Zimbabwe by 42 runs in their fifth Twenty20 on Sunday to win the five-match series 4-1.
Samson, who was part of India’s T20 World Cup-winning squad, hit four sixes in his 45-ball innings to help India score 167-6 in 20 overs after losing the toss and batting first.
In reply, Zimbabwe was bowled out for 125 runs in 18.3 overs with medium pacer Mukesh Kumar taking 4-22 in 3.3 overs.
Zimbabwe had won the first T20 by 13 runs, with India then rebounding with four consecutive wins. It won the second, third and fourth T20s by 100 runs, 23 runs, and 10 wickets, respectively.
India’s top-order batters got double-digit starts Sunday but couldn’t build on them.
Yashasvi Jaiswal, who scored 93 not out on Saturday, was bowled for 12 off five balls. Skipper Shubman Gill was caught for 13, while Abhishek Sharma was dismissed for 14 as India reached 40-3 in five overs.
Samson and Riyan Parag (22) added 65 off 56 balls for the fourth wicket and stabilized the innings as India crossed the 100-mark.
The acceleration came late and cost India a few wickets, with Samson holding ground at one end. Shivam Dube scored 26 off 12 balls, hitting two sixes, and putting on 30 off 19 balls for the fifth wicket.
Zimbabwe pacer Blessing Muzarabani finished with 2-19 in four overs.
Kumar disturbed Zimbabwe’s start as opener Wessly Madhevere was bowled for a three-ball duck. He also sent back Brian Bennett for 10 runs.
Zimbabwe fought back with a 44-run partnership between Tadiwanashe Marumani (27) and Dion Myers (34).
Washington Sundar (1-7 in two overs) got the breakthrough in the ninth over, while Dube (2-25) dismissed Myers.
The hosts couldn’t fight back thereafter, especially with captain Sikandar Raza run out for eight. Zimbabwe crashed from 85-3 to 94-7 in the space of 15 deliveries.
Faraz Akram scored 27 off 13 balls to take Zimbabwe past 100, but the hosts never looked like winning.
Gill was leading India this series for the first time. He called it an “excellent series” for the young side.
“The hunger that we showed after the first loss was phenomenal to watch,” Gill said. “A lot of our players weren’t used to these conditions, some of them were on long flights, and we adapted very well.”