Challenges for all teams in the 2024 Asia Premier Cup

Challenges for all teams in the 2024 Asia Premier Cup
Nepal, winners of the 2023 Asia Premier Cup in ODI format, has had an intensive preparation for the 2024 T20 edition. (www.asiancricket.org)
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Updated 11 April 2024
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Challenges for all teams in the 2024 Asia Premier Cup

Challenges for all teams in the 2024 Asia Premier Cup
  • On April 12, the men’s Asia Premier Cup will open at the Al-Amerat Ovals in Muscat, Oman

On April 12, the men’s Asia Premier Cup will open at the Al-Amerat Ovals in Muscat, Oman. It consists of 10 teams. Only the one finishing top will progress to join the five major Asian teams in the 2025 Asia Cup, scheduled to be hosted by Pakistan. The prospect of this prize will make for a highly competitive and pressured competition.

The 10 teams are divided into two groups of five. Group A comprises Hong Kong, Malaysia, Nepal, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, while Group B pitches Bahrain, Cambodia, Kuwait, Oman and the UAE against each other. Cambodia and Saudi Arabia qualified for the cup by claiming the top spots in the Asia Cricket Council Challenger Cup in February this year in Thailand. The other eight teams are the highest ranked ACC associate members.

As of March 23, the International Cricket Council’s T20I rankings showed a 26-place range between the 10 teams. Leading the way is the UAE in 16th place, immediately followed by Nepal, only one ranking point separating them. Oman is in 18th place, needing to take any glimmer of home advantage to challenge the UAE and Nepal. It is probable that the team which progresses to the Asia Cup will be one of these three.

Oman recently concluded a five-match T20I series vs. Namibia, against whom they will compete in the group stages of the ICC T20I World Cup in June. Namibia won the series 3-2. The last decade has been a successful one for Oman, with peaks in 2016, 2021 and 2024 through T20I World Cup qualification. In the latter case, Oman beat Bahrain in the semifinals of the Asia Qualifier, while Nepal defeated the UAE. Oman’s squad for the Asia Premier Cup is very similar to that for the 2021 World Cup when it was already considered to be aging. This may prove to be critical in the field, but the team has defied being written off before.

Nepal, winners of the 2023 Asia Premier Cup in ODI format, has had an intensive preparation for the 2024 T20 edition. Most recently it has played two matches in a Friendship Cup in India against the state teams of Gujarat and Baroda, winning both matches. Before that, it played two matches against Ireland A, winning both. This followed on from a tri-series against Hong Kong and Papua New Guinea, Nepal winning two out of three completed matches. In a preceding tri-series against Namibia and the Netherlands, two of the five matches were won by Nepal. It is a patchy recent record that the squad, under regular captain Rohit Patel, brings to the Premier Cup.

Outside of these three teams, Hong Kong is the next highest ranked in 21st position. Hong Kong qualified for the 2022 Asia Cup by virtue of beating the UAE in the final qualifying match, so its pedigree may suggest that it is well placed to reach the Premier Cup semifinals. Victory in the East Asia Men’s Cup in February kick-started its preparations, followed by three close matches against Qatar, a heavy defeat by PNG and a convincing win over Nepal. The team is led by Nizakat Khan and has a balance between experience and younger players. However, other teams in the group are lined up to provide a strong challenge.

Qatar, ranked 28th, has shown its capability to challenge, whilst Malaysia, 25th, and Saudi Arabia, 31st, are keen to show that they belong at this level. The latter has been working on fitness levels at a training camp, enjoying the opportunity, as part-timers, to train together. Confidence is high after the Challenger Cup successes in 2023 and 2024. The approach will be to play with a positive mindset, aiming to create at least one upset.

In Group B, Kuwait is ranked 26th, Bahrain is 27th, while Cambodia is 42nd. Cricket Kuwait has been an ICC associate member since 2005, having been an affiliate member since 1988. The team has produced upsets in the past, notably in 2004. Since 2019, it has won just over half of its T20Is. Bahrain became an ICC affiliate member in 2001 and an associate in 2017. Its first ever T20I was in 2019 when Saudi Arabia was defeated. In its most recent T20I matches in early March, Bahrain beat Kuwait, Malaysia, Tanzania and Vanuatu. The team has shown in the last year that it is capable of beating the UAE, emphasizing that the highest ranked teams will have to be performing at their peak.

Cambodia appears to be something of a special case, compared with the other teams, especially in terms of longevity. The Cricket Association of Cambodia was established in 2021, with ICC associate membership awarded in 2022. Then, in May 2023, Cambodia hosted the Southeast Asian Games, which included cricket across four different formats involving seven countries. The Cambodian squad received an influx of players of varying pedigree and experience from the Indian subcontinent.

This caused some disquiet, especially from Malaysia, relating to a failure to take account of ICC rankings in group selection and the eligibility of players. Cambodia claimed that they were naturalized citizens. Allegedly, passports were issued on April 23, six days before the first match and past the deadline for shortlisting players. It is noticeable that various cricket websites do not display place of birth for most of the players. Cambodia won gold in the men’s T10, T20 and ODI events, while Malaysia were runners-up in all three.

Cambodia’s rise has continued via qualification in the Asia Challenger Cup to secure a place in the Asia Premier Cup. Their leading light and captain is Luqman Butt, born in Gujranwala, Punjab. It seems clear that the sudden emergence of Cambodia is ruffling a few feathers. This tournament will test how far the team can rise in its current guise and how acceptable its strategy will be to more established teams. Most of them, of course, are also comprised of a significant proportion of players originating from the Indian subcontinent.


Nicholas Pooran powers Lucknow Super Giants to dead-rubber IPL win over hapless Mumbai Indians

Nicholas Pooran powers Lucknow Super Giants to dead-rubber IPL win over hapless Mumbai Indians
Updated 17 May 2024
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Nicholas Pooran powers Lucknow Super Giants to dead-rubber IPL win over hapless Mumbai Indians

Nicholas Pooran powers Lucknow Super Giants to dead-rubber IPL win over hapless Mumbai Indians
  • Mumbai out, Lucknow too failed to qualify for the playoffs

MUMBAI: Nicholas Pooran starred in Lucknow Super Giants’ 18-run victory over pre-tournament favorites Mumbai Indians in the last game of a disappointing Indian Premier League season for both teams Friday.
The maverick West Indies’ wicketkeeper-batsman hit eight sixes in his 29-ball 75 to take Lucknow to 214-6 after Mumbai skipper Hardik Pandya won the toss and chose to field first.
Mumbai crashed to 196-6 despite an impressive start by openers Rohit Sharma and Dewald Brevis in their rain-interrupted chase.
Pandya said that it was “quite difficult” for five-time champions Mumbai, who finished the 10-team league in last spot.
“This season we didn’t play good quality cricket and it cost us the whole season,” Pandya said.
Lucknow too failed to qualify for the playoffs and ended the tournament in sixth spot.
Captain KL Rahul said that it was “very disappointing.”
He blamed mid-season injuries to key players and said that they “didn’t play well enough collectively and couldn’t come together” as a team.
Earlier, Nuwan Thushara got Mumbai off to a great start and removed opener Devdutt Padikkal for a first ball duck.
Padikkal’s partner Rahul stitched together a 48-run partnership with Australia’s Marcus Stoinis, who fell to Piyush Chawla’s leg-spin for a 22-ball 28 in the sixth over.
Chawla also removed Deepak Hooda (11) to reduce Lucknow to 69-3 by the 10th over.
Thushara finally removed Pooran in the 17th over to end his match-defining, 109-run partnership with Rahul.
He also removed rookie Arshad Khan (0) in the same over and finished with 3-28 in his four-over spell.
Chawla removed Rahul, who took 41 balls for his 55 runs, in the 18th over and finished with 3-29.
Key unbeaten cameos by Ayush Badoni (22) and Krunal Pandya (12) took Lucknow to 214-6.
Mumbai’s openers took their team to 88 before Brevis fell for 23 in the ninth over.
India skipper Sharma top-scored with a 38-ball 68 with 10 fours and three sixes before he fell in the 11th over.
In between, Mumbai also lost their best T20 batsman, Suryakumar Yadav, for 0 and were reduced to 97-3 while out-of-form skipper Pandya fell for 16.
Indian rookie Naman Dhir hit five sixes and four fours in his unbeaten 28-ball 62.
Leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi, who removed Sharma, and Afghanistan’s Naveen-ul-Haq, who removed Brevis, took four key Mumbai wickets between them.


Why English and Welsh cricket stands at a crossroads

Why English and Welsh cricket stands at a crossroads
Updated 16 May 2024
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Why English and Welsh cricket stands at a crossroads

Why English and Welsh cricket stands at a crossroads
  • Since its inception in 2021, The Hundred format has been divisive on several levels, but ECB could implement changes to how it is run

On May 11, the second of a four-day county championship match unfolded in front of my eyes at the Utilita Bowl, Southampton. This is the home of Hampshire County Cricket Club. On a rare sunny day, there seemed to be around 600 other people watching, a majority in the members’ area.

Hampshire CCC is unusual in that it is one of three out of the 18 county cricket clubs in England and Wales that are not subject to member votes. It is owned by Hampshire Sport & Leisure Holdings, a private limited company which oversees sporting and leisure activities on the site. Its former chair, who was instrumental in saving the county from insolvency in 2001, owns 60 percent of the shares.

By coincidence, Hampshire’s opponents were Durham County Cricket Club, another county not subject to member votes. It is constituted as a Community Interest Company, a form of social enterprise. Northamptonshire County Cricket Club is the third one not to be subject to member votes, being constituted as a private company limited by guarantee.

The scene at Southampton would have been replicated at the other five county championship matches taking place on May 11. At the same time in Kolkata, the Knight Riders and the Mumbai Indians were preparing to play the 60th match of the 2024 Indian Premier League franchise competition. Average spectator attendance in the IPL is estimated to be 30,000. These two different models of promoting cricket may be about to coalesce, if proposed changes to the landscape in England and Wales come to fruition.

The changes center on The Hundred, a format of cricket introduced by the England and Wales Cricket Board in 2021. The two teams each play a single innings of 100 deliveries, divided into 20 overs of five deliveries, with two overs bowled from each end alternately. Each match is scheduled to last for two-and-a-half hours. Eight men’s teams and eight women’s teams comprise separate competitions with all matches played back-to-back on the same day at the same venue. The whole of August is allocated to The Hundred to the exclusion of other formats.

Ever since its inception, the tournament has been divisive on several levels. First, it has segregated the 18 counties into those who host The Hundred and those who do not. The eight participating counties are Glamorgan, Hampshire, Lancashire, Middlesex, Nottinghamshire, Surrey, Warwickshire and Yorkshire. However, the teams do not carry the county names, since the concept was to create city-based teams using existing county facilities. Agreement to progress with the tournament depended upon the support of excluded counties. This was achieved by the ECB’s offer to pay each county £1.3 million ($1.6 million) for their backing.

At a second level, there are differing opinions about the opportunity cost of this funding. The ECB receives around 75 percent of its income from the sale of broadcasting rights, a substantial part of which relates to Test-match cricket. Critics argue that using this money to support and develop a format which represents an existential threat to Test cricket is willful. They argue that the funds should be deployed in producing players for the longer rather than shorter formats.

On a third level, it is argued that the focus on eight counties, instead of 18, will hasten the demise of some of the latter, several of whom are in parlous financial circumstances. It is understood that, in the last two years, five counties have received financial help from the ECB. Overall debt levels in county cricket may be in the order of £200 million, some of this being incurred in stadium development designed to host international matches. In addition, operational costs have increased sharply in recent years.

It is in this context that the ECB’s current proposal to sell off 49 percent of equity in The Hundred has great attraction. The balance of 51 percent would be owned by the host county, which can decide to retain it all or sell part or all of it. The proceeds of the 49 percent are to be distributed to counties according to an undisclosed formula. The ECB requested that counties agreed to a “direction of travel” by May 10.

A divergence of opinion has emerged amongst the counties about the proposed model for distributing the spoils, split broadly between those who host The Hundred and those who do not. Needless to say, both sides appear to want more. In terms of numbers, some reports assert that the ECB’s sale of 49 percent equity might raise some $507 million (£400 million) for distribution, enough to salve the cash problems of a few counties. It is understandable that the non-hosting counties fear that they could get sold down the river.

There is already a fear that they are becoming marginalized by not being a host of The Hundred format. If the money raised by the ECB falls well short of the $507 million, then their financial problems may not be solved and their marginalization exacerbated. There are also legitimate concerns over governance and scheduling issues once private owners become involved. At this stage, the nature of private investors is unknown. It would be no surprise if Indian franchise owners show interest. However, it is reasonable to assume that they would not be content with either a minority stake or minority voice.

Cricket in England and Wales is at a watershed moment, caught in a maze of alternative possibilities, each one of which has unknown consequences. The ECB, under previous management, was the architect of this moment, through its introduction of The Hundred, which is contracted to run until 2028. In a twist of fate, it is now regarded as a medium for escape from impecunity. The alternative to equity sale is to do nothing and watch the system crumble. Equity sale will be tantamount to privatizing a part of that system. It was difficult to escape the feeling at Southampton that I was watching one part of that system which is heading for trauma.


Curran stars for Punjab as Rajasthan lose four in row

Curran stars for Punjab as Rajasthan lose four in row
Updated 15 May 2024
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Curran stars for Punjab as Rajasthan lose four in row

Curran stars for Punjab as Rajasthan lose four in row
  • Chasing a tricky 145 on a sluggish pitch, Punjab depended on Curran’s unbeaten 63 to achieve their target
  • Impact substitute Ashutosh Sharma smashed 17 and the winning run to hand Rajasthan their fourth successive defeat

GUWAHATI, India: Skipper Sam Curran starred with bat and ball as Punjab Kings beat Rajasthan Royals by five wickets for a consolation win in the Indian Premier League on Wednesday.
Chasing a tricky 145 on a sluggish pitch, Punjab depended on Curran’s unbeaten 63 to achieve their target with seven balls to spare in Rajasthan’s adopted home ground in Guwahati.
Left-handed Curran put on a key 63-run stand with Jitesh Sharma, who made 22, and despite losing his partner in the 16th over steered the team home to lift them from the bottom of the 10-team table.
Impact substitute Ashutosh Sharma smashed 17 and the winning run to hand Rajasthan their fourth successive defeat in this edition of the T20 tournament.
“To be very honest, we have to sit back and accept that we are going through some failures,” Rajasthan skipper Sanju Samson said.
“You have to find out what’s not working well as a team. When you are getting to the business end, we need someone to raise their finger up and say I am going to win the game for the team. We have the players who can do that.”
The loss for Rajasthan hurt their chances of a top-two finish in the league stage a day after they confirmed their play-off spot.
Rajasthan, who stay in second place with one game in hand, and table-toppers Kolkata Knight Riders are the only two teams to have booked their play-off berth.
The top four teams make the play-offs, but the first and second-placed sides have the advantage of two chances to qualify for the final on May 26 in Chennai.
Punjab, who had already bowed out of the play-off race, kept the opposition down to 144-9 despite a 34-ball 48 by Riyan Parag.
Left-arm quick Curran bowled Yashasvi Jaiswal, for four, in the first over and then Samson departed for 18 off Nathan Ellis after a slow start.
Parag found Ravichandran Ashwin, who hit 28 off 19 balls, for company and the two attempted to push the scoring in their partnership of 50.
The rest of the batting faltered against a disciplined attack as Curran, fellow quick Harshal Patel and spinner Rahul Chahal took two wickets each.


Stubbs gives Delhi IPL play-off hope with win in last league match

Stubbs gives Delhi IPL play-off hope with win in last league match
Updated 14 May 2024
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Stubbs gives Delhi IPL play-off hope with win in last league match

Stubbs gives Delhi IPL play-off hope with win in last league match
  • Left-handed Porel hit 58 before Stubbs smashed an unbeaten 57 off 25 balls to steer Delhi to 208-4 after being invited to bat first
  • Ishant Sharma led the bowling charge with three early wickets as Delhi restricted Lucknow to 189-9 despite valiant knocks from Nicholas Pooran (61) and Arshad Khan, who hit an unbeaten 58

NEW DELHI: Fiery fifties from Abishek Porel and Tristan Stubbs helped Delhi Capitals sign off their IPL league phase on a high as they beat Lucknow Super Giants by 19 runs on Tuesday.
The win took Delhi to 14 points in 14 matches and they remain technically in the mix to reach the play-offs of the T20 tournament, but a run-rate in the negative keeps their chances slim.
“We are still in contention even after the last game,” Delhi skipper Rishabh Pant said after he returned to lead the side following a one-match ban for slow over-rate.
“We had a better chance of qualifying if I would have had a chance to play in the last game (which Delhi lost).”
The left-handed Porel hit 58 before Stubbs smashed an unbeaten 57 off 25 balls to steer Delhi to 208-4 after being invited to bat first at their high-scoring home venue, Arun Jaitley Stadium.
Pant, a left-handed wicketkeeper-batsman, made 33 to cap off an impressive season after he came back in the IPL from a horror car crash in December 2022.
“Personally, it was fantastic to come back,” said Pant, who has been picked in India’s squad for the T20 World Cup next month.
“It was heartening to see the support from entire India. Was a long time to wait after one-and-a-half years. I want to be on the field all the time. Don’t want to miss any action.”
KL Rahul-led Lucknow have 12 points with one more match to play and have their hopes hanging by a thread.
The result confirmed a play-off spot for Rajasthan Royals, who became the second team to enter the final four alongside table-toppers Kolkata Knight Riders.
The top four teams make the play-offs. The final is on May 26 in Chennai.
Ishant Sharma led the bowling charge with three early wickets as Delhi restricted Lucknow to 189-9 despite valiant knocks from Nicholas Pooran, who smashed 61, and Arshad Khan, who hit an unbeaten 58.
Delhi lost attacking opener Jake Fraser-McGurk for a duck but Porel and Shai Hope, who struck 38, put on 92 runs to lay the foundations of the big total.
Delhi stuttered in the middle after they lost Porel, Hope and then Pant at regular intervals and Lucknow bowlers checked the flow of runs.
But Stubbs had other ideas and he hit back with a flurry of fours and sixes to fire Delhi past the 200 as the last three overs cost Lucknow 45 runs.
Lucknow suffered early blows after pace spearhead Ishant took down Rahul, for five, and Quinton de Kock, for 12, inside three overs.
Marcus Stoinis was stumped by Pant off spinner Axar Patel and Ishant, who was named man of the match, struck again to make Lucknow slip to 44-4.
Stubbs made it count with his off-spin as he sent back impact substitute Ayush Badoni out for six to end a 27-run partnership with Pooran.
The left-handed Pooran attempted to drive the chase in his 27-ball knock laced with six fours and four sixes but he left a lot to be done when he departed in the 12th over.
Number eight Arshad then raised hopes of a turnaround with his late charge as he raised his first T20 50 in 25 balls to give Delhi a scare.
Arshad kept losing partners as he continued the charge but in the end failed to match up the asking-rate.


Bengaluru win five in row to keep IPL play-off hopes alive, Chennai victorious again

Bengaluru win five in row to keep IPL play-off hopes alive, Chennai victorious again
Updated 12 May 2024
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Bengaluru win five in row to keep IPL play-off hopes alive, Chennai victorious again

Bengaluru win five in row to keep IPL play-off hopes alive, Chennai victorious again
  • Bengaluru, who moved to fifth, have mounted a late charge to make the play-offs

BENGALURU: Rajat Patidar's attacking fifty and inspired bowling set up Royal Challengers Bengaluru's fifth straight win to improve their IPL play-off hopes with a 47-run thrashing of Delhi Capitals on Sunday.
Bengaluru posted 187-9 after Cameron Green hit an unbeaten 24-ball 32 and bowlers then combined to bowl out Delhi for 140 in 19.1 overs at their home M. Chinnaswamy Stadium.
Bengaluru, who moved to fifth, have mounted a late charge to make the play-offs but will need to win their last league match and other results to go in their favour to be in the top four.
Delhi slipped to sixth and go into their final match with 12 points. Bengaluru have also 12 points from 13 matches, but boast a better run-rate.
"Brilliant, we put in some good performances and I'm really pleased. It's just confidence," Bengaluru skipper Faf du Plessis said.
"First half of the season, things didn't quite come together and from that batting perspective and bowling perspective we have been able to put it together now."
In the first match of the day, skipper Ruturaj Gaikwad led holders Chennai Super Kings to a five-wicket win over Rajasthan Royals and boost their play-off hopes.
Chennai moved to 14 points and third place with seven wins in 13 matches.
Rajasthan remain second in the 10-team table led by Kolkata Knight Riders, who are the only team to have already qualified for the next stage.
The top four teams will make the play-offs with the final on May 26 in Chennai.
In match two, star batsman Virat Kohli took charge after he smashed 27 off 13 balls to lay the foundation of Bengaluru's total in a match where Delhi missed skipper Rishabh Pant, who was suspended after a slow over-rate offence.
Kohli remains the leading batsman this season with 661 runs including one century and five half-tons.
Patidar, who hit 52, soon took control in a 88-run stand with England batsman Will Jacks, who smashed 41, before a late charge by Green.
Delhi faltered in their chase after they lost David Warner for one off left-arm spinner Swapnil Singh.
Left-arm quick Yash Dayal took down Abishek Porel and then ran out Jake Fraser-McGurk in successive balls and soon Delhi slipped to 30-4.
Stand-in-skipper Axar Patel put up a fight with his 57 off 39 balls but fell to Dayal in the 16th over and the wheels came off the chase.
Australia's Green took a wicket and ran out Tristan Stubbs to add to his batting cameo and was named player of the match for the first time this season.
"When your main players are run out and you lose four in powerplay, you're chasing the game," said Patel. "Anything can happen (in the race to the play-offs), but we haven't thought that far ahead."
In the earlier match, five-time champions Chennai restricted Rajasthan to 141-5, a total they overhauled with 10 balls to spare in their last home game at MA Chidambaram Stadium.
Gaikwad anchored Chennai's tricky chase as they lost wickets at regular intervals including when Ravindra Jadeja was called out for "obstructing the field".
Jadeja was sent back by Gaikwad while attempting a second run and he changed direction on the pitch when the throw from wicketkeeper Sanju Samson hit his hand and the third umpire ruled him out after an appeal from the opposition.
Gaikwad kept his cool and put on an unbeaten 24-run stand with impact substitute Sameer Rizvi, who hit the winning boundary.