Saudi Arabia display resilience to secure notable ACC Premier Cup victory

This is likely to represent a landmark victory for Saudi Arabia; a sign of a team adapting to the demands of a higher level of competition, especially after the day two defeat. (X/@cricketsaudi)
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This is likely to represent a landmark victory for Saudi Arabia; a sign of a team adapting to the demands of a higher level of competition, especially after the day two defeat. (X/@cricketsaudi)
This is likely to represent a landmark victory for Saudi Arabia; a sign of a team adapting to the demands of a higher level of competition, especially after the day two defeat. (X/@cricketsaudi)
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This is likely to represent a landmark victory for Saudi Arabia; a sign of a team adapting to the demands of a higher level of competition, especially after the day two defeat. (X/@cricketsaudi)
This is likely to represent a landmark victory for Saudi Arabia; a sign of a team adapting to the demands of a higher level of competition, especially after the day two defeat. (X/@cricketsaudi)
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This is likely to represent a landmark victory for Saudi Arabia; a sign of a team adapting to the demands of a higher level of competition, especially after the day two defeat. (X/@cricketsaudi)
This is likely to represent a landmark victory for Saudi Arabia; a sign of a team adapting to the demands of a higher level of competition, especially after the day two defeat. (X/@cricketsaudi)
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This is likely to represent a landmark victory for Saudi Arabia; a sign of a team adapting to the demands of a higher level of competition, especially after the day two defeat. (X/@cricketsaudi)
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Updated 14 April 2024
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Saudi Arabia display resilience to secure notable ACC Premier Cup victory

Saudi Arabia display resilience to secure notable ACC Premier Cup victory
  • Match likely to represent a landmark triumph

AL-AMARAT: On the evening of the second day of the ACC Premier Cup, my taxi driver rubbed the tips of his fingers together, not in anticipation of money but to indicate that something was in the air.

If he meant rain, he was correct. People woke early in Muscat on day three, Sunday, to the sound and sight of medium to heavy rain. Forecasts indicated that it would die away by 11 a.m. This turned out to be the case. The ground staff got to work on turf two at Al-Amarat, clearing the covers, rolling the wicket and preparing the outfield, which had dried very quickly.

Fortunately, only two matches were scheduled for day three, both on turf two. The first was Oman v Cambodia; the second, Hong Kong v Saudi Arabia. Play commenced at noon on turf two with Oman batting in a match reduced to 11 overs per side.

Prior to that, at 11:45, the covers came off turf one, the roller went to work, along with associated preparations. Perhaps turf one would be used for the second game of the day, thus allowing a full quota of overs for the first match. However, it seemed that, despite those preparations, turf one would be rested. The day’s second match was to be played to the 20 overs per team. It would have been interesting to see how the matches would have been balanced in terms of overs had four games been scheduled for day three.

Oman were asked to bat first, and lost a wicket in the first over. Undeterred, the batters sought to score quickly, given the reduced number of overs. Seventeen came off the third over, 18 off the fifth, largely off the bat of Naseem Khushi, who finally perished with 69 in the eighth over. Further hitting in the final two overs propelled the total to 154 for five.

Cambodia made a steady start in the first five overs, scoring 44 runs, but their innings unraveled in dramatic fashion in the sixth over, bowled by Aqib Ilyas. The first ball was scooped to deep square, where the fielder could not get his hands to the ball. However, off the next ball, Viraj was caught at deep midwicket, Beukes came in and was bowled first ball, followed by Godara, who misread the delivery, cutting it onto his stumps, to give Ilyas a hat-trick.

After that, wickets continued to fall, only captain Luqman Butt displaying resistance in a lone fight, ending undefeated on 41 out of 91 for seven.

There had been little danger of an upset after the first five overs of the game, but the scene was set for Saudi Arabia to achieve the first one of the tournament, after a disappointing defeat in the first match. The team elected to bat and a different intent was visible from the outset. Although S. Khan was dismissed in the fourth over, Abdul Waheed, who could easily have been run out in the same over, stroked his way to 77 in partnership, first with F. Khan, 30, and then with Manan Ali, 44, whose straight hitting was instrumental in Saudi reaching an imposing 202 for eight.

It was the team’s second highest T20I total after the 221 for three against Bhutan on Feb. 15, 2024. Indeed, the team’s top five T20I totals have all been scored in 2024. Signs, perhaps, of a team on the rise.

In Saudi’s first match on day two, the bowlers had impressed. If a defense of 202 was to be achieved, they needed to impress again. Despite an early success for Ishtiaq Ahmad, who pinned Y. Murtaza lbw, the opening bowlers were not at their best, conceding 57 runs in five overs. The introduction of captain Hisham Shaikh turned out to be inspirational. Out of nowhere, for no reason, A. Rath skied a catch, and two balls later B. Hayat pulled a shortish ball into the deep but straight to a fielder who took a fine catch above his head.

In the first match Saudi had reduced Malaysia to 53 for five after 10 overs, but failed to make that advantage count. In this match, the introduction of slow left armer Zain Ul Abidin was responsible for restricting the progress of Hong Kong. He bowled four overs and claimed three wickets for only 16 runs. When his spell ended, Hong Kong were 106 for six after 13 overs, requiring another 97 runs in seven overs at 14 per over. This was beyond the capabilities of Nizakat Khan, who made a defiant 73 in a lost cause as the innings closed on 147 all out, 55 runs adrift.

This is likely to represent a landmark victory; a sign of a team adapting to the demands of a higher level of competition, especially after the day two defeat.

Perhaps that has galvanized the team. It does mean that in Group A Nepal lead the way with four points from two matches, followed by three teams, each with two points — Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, and Hong Kong — with Qatar bottom with no points. The stage is set for a probable three-way battle for second place.


Hungary knock Scotland out of Euros with 100th-minute winner

Hungary knock Scotland out of Euros with 100th-minute winner
Updated 24 June 2024
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Hungary knock Scotland out of Euros with 100th-minute winner

Hungary knock Scotland out of Euros with 100th-minute winner
  • Hungary arrived at the Euros with increased expectations after a 14-match unbeaten run between November 2022 and March of this year

STUTTGART, Germany: Kevin Csoboth scored in the 10th minute of added time as Hungary snatched a 1-0 win over Scotland to stay in the hunt for a place in the last 16 of Euro 2024.
A sickening collision led to Hungary striker Barnabas Varga being stretchered off in front of his visibly shocked team-mates in the second half, but Csoboth’s late winner kept them alive in the tournament.
It was a bitter end to Scotland’s bid to reach the knockout phase of a major tournament for the first time as they were caught out pressing for a goal of their own right at the death.
Germany finished top of Group A after a 1-1 draw with Switzerland, who will go through as runners-up. Hungary must rely on other results if they are to advance as one of the best third-placed sides.
Scotland came last with just a point as their wait for a first European Championship win since 1996 goes on.
Coach Steve Clarke made one enforced change for Scotland as Scott McKenna replaced Kieran Tierney, who was stretchered off with a hamstring injury in the 1-1 draw with Switzerland.
English-born Callum Styles got the nod in Hungary’s midfield, coming in after shaking off an injury, with Endre Botka also making his first appearance of the tournament on the right side of a back three.
John McGinn revealed the team skipped their pre-match nap as thousands of Scotland supporters gathered outside the hotel, belting out songs in anticipation of what they hoped was a historic night.
Hungary arrived at the Euros with increased expectations after a 14-match unbeaten run between November 2022 and March of this year. They also beat England twice in the last UEFA Nations League, as well as Germany away.
But back-to-back defeats had punctured confidence and left Marco Rossi’s side needing to beat Scotland to keep alive their hopes of reaching the knockout rounds.
Scotland goalkeeper Angus Gunn shovelled away a dipping drive from Bendeguz Bolla that bounced awkwardly in front of him, with Styles and then Willi Orban booked for cleaning out McGinn in a first half full of endeavour but limited in genuine chances.
That was until Che Adams’ dangerous clearance led to a Hungary free-kick 25 yards out, which Dominik Szoboszlai clipped toward the far post with Orban’s header skimming the top of the crossbar.
Szoboszlai, who shrugged off injury concerns after missing Hungary’s final team training session, hammered over a strike from distance, and it wasn’t until the 53rd minute that Scotland registered a shot.
Scotland defended doggedly as Jack Hendry blocked Roland Sallai’s attempt shifting in from the left before Marton Dardai headed over from a cross.
A horrifying incident left Varga prone on his back in the Scotland area as he tried to head a free-kick goalwards while Gunn came flying out, with Anthony Ralston also crashing to the ground.
It resulted in a long stoppage as medics set Varga in the recovery position before a sheet was draped around him as he was carried off on a stretcher.
The fourth official indicated 10 minutes of stoppage time, which sparked a desperate quest from both teams to find the winning goal.
Gunn saved well from Andras Schafer and Szoboszlai, before Csoboth hit the post. Scotland defender Grant Hanley had a chance parried away by Peter Gulacsi, with Hungary racing up the other end and Csoboth steering home a cutback to break Scottish hearts.


Last-gasp Fuellkrug goal rescues top spot for Euro hosts Germany

Last-gasp Fuellkrug goal rescues top spot for Euro hosts Germany
Updated 24 June 2024
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Last-gasp Fuellkrug goal rescues top spot for Euro hosts Germany

Last-gasp Fuellkrug goal rescues top spot for Euro hosts Germany

FRANKFURT: A stoppage-time header from Niclas Fuellkrug has rescued a 1-1 draw for Germany against Switzerland on Sunday in Frankfurt, ensuring the Euro hosts finish top of Group A.

The Swiss hit the lead early, Dan Ndoye booting in from close range after 28 minutes to stun the home side.

Germany took a series of risks late in the hope of an equalizer and veteran striker Fuellkrug delivered, heading home in the second minute of stoppage time.

The result means Switzerland, rather than Germany, face a tougher last 16 assignment, setting up a potential meeting with holders Italy or 2018 World Cup finalists Croatia.

The Germans look set to face second place in England’s Group C, which is currently Denmark.

Heading into the match the hosts were optimistic they had turned the corner after almost a decade of disappointment at major tournaments, with two World Cup group stage exits bookending a Euros last 16 elimination.

Led by an experienced midfield featuring captain Ilkay Gundogan and Toni Kroos, Germany beat both Scotland and Hungary in their first two Euros matches to give the hosts hope of a deep run in the tournament.

The hosts were however caught off guard by Switzerland’s energy and failed to carve out many clear-cut chances against a dogged Swiss defense.

Despite Fuellkrug’s late rescue effort, Germany coach Julian Nagelsmann will have plenty to ponder after the stodgy performance.

Despite having already qualified for the last 16, Nagelsmann decided to play the same starting XI for the third straight game.

It was a decision he may regret when defender Jonathan Tah saw yellow, his second in the group stage, meaning he will miss Germany’s first knockout game.

Pushed on by an optimistic and partisan home ground, Germany started brightly, carving out some half-chances after launching long balls over Switzerland’s midfield press.

Robert Andrich looked to have given Germany the lead after 16 minutes when Yann Sommer made a meal of his long-range strike, which bounced past the goalkeeper and into the net.

The goal was however overturned with VAR finding Jamal Musiala had committed a foul in the lead-up.

The Swiss had been on the back foot early but took the lead on the 28-minute mark, taking advantage of some sloppy play from Musiala and Joshua Kimmich.

Musiala lost the ball in his own half, sending Switzerland on the break. Kimmich won but then let go of possession, allowing Remo Freuler to find Ndoye who stuck out a leg and booted the ball into the net.

It was the first time the hosts have trailed this tournament and the goal seemed to rattle Germany, who were increasingly hesitant in closing out the first half.

Germany went on the attack in the second half as Nagelsmann made several offensive changes but the hosts had few clear chances against a Swiss side doggedly protecting their lead.

Man City defender Manuel Akanji stretched out to block Kimmich at point-black range with 20 minutes remaining.

Nagelsmann brought Fuellkrug from the bench with 14 minutes remaining and the Borussia Dortmund striker stepped up to the plate, heading in a cross from David Raum to send Germany back to the top of the group.


Tchouameni prefers substance over style for France at Euro 2024

Tchouameni prefers substance over style for France at Euro 2024
Updated 23 June 2024
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Tchouameni prefers substance over style for France at Euro 2024

Tchouameni prefers substance over style for France at Euro 2024
  • A draw against a Poland side who are already eliminated will be enough to secure France’s last-16 place

PADERBORN, Germany: France midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni says he is not concerned about criticism of the team’s performances so far at Euro 2024 as the favorites stand on the brink of a place in the last 16 despite not lighting up the tournament.
“Some people want to win and do so by playing well, and others just want to win. Personally I just want to win, whether we play well or not,” the Real Madrid star told reporters at the French team’s base in Paderborn on Sunday.
“The most important thing is winning and getting three points because I think at the end of our careers what we will remember is what we have won, not how we played.”
The 2022 World Cup runners-up go into Tuesday’s final Group D game against Poland in Dortmund with four points from two outings having scored just once via an own goal while keeping two clean sheets.
They beat Austria 1-0 in their opening match after Maximilian Woeber put through his own net, and then drew 0-0 with the Netherlands in Leipzig in the absence of the injured Kylian Mbappe.
That is despite France boasting supreme attacking quality in their ranks beyond their captain.
Yet Les Bleus have often been criticized in the past for not playing more expansive football under coach Didier Deschamps.
They went on to win the 2018 World Cup after laboring through the group stage, recording a narrow 2-1 win against Australia thanks to a penalty and an own goal, then edging Peru 1-0 before a 0-0 draw against Denmark.
“In recent times we have had quite a lot of good results and won titles with this coach. That is the most important thing,” Tchouameni said.
“I understand that some people want to see a team play really good football.
“Maybe we are not the team that plays the best football, but we are the ones who are most often in the latter stages and that is the main thing for me.”
A draw against a Poland side who are already eliminated will be enough to secure France’s last-16 place.
Mbappe could return after sitting out the Netherlands match as he recovers from a broken nose suffered against Austria and adapts to wearing a protective face mask.
“I think everyone knows he is really eager to play in the next match,” Tchouameni said of his future Madrid teammate.
“As for the mask, I think he is starting to get used to it. Of course he would rather not wear it but I think if you ask the doctor he would say there is no choice.
“But that won’t change anything for him. We know that when he is on the field he will bring a lot to the team.”
Even a defeat against Poland might not stop France progressing, depending on the result of the other group game between Austria and the Netherlands.
However, a victory might not be enough for the French to top the group, if the Dutch win too and so by a bigger margin.


Jordan, Buttler star as England thrash USA to reach T20 World Cup semifinals

Jordan, Buttler star as England thrash USA to reach T20 World Cup semifinals
Updated 23 June 2024
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Jordan, Buttler star as England thrash USA to reach T20 World Cup semifinals

Jordan, Buttler star as England thrash USA to reach T20 World Cup semifinals
  • By winning so quickly, England secured a place in the last four, regardless of the outcome of Sunday’s final Group Two Super Eights match

BRIDGETOWN: Chris Jordan took four wickets in five balls, including the third hat-trick of the T20 World Cup, as defending champions England qualified for the semifinals with a 10-wicket thrashing of the United States in his native Barbados on Sunday.
The 35-year-old all-rounder, born and educated on the Caribbean island, justified his recall for this match in spectacular fashion with the remarkable figures of 4-10 in 2.5 overs as the United States were dismissed for 115.
England captain Jos Buttler then led from the front in a blistering chase with an unbeaten 83, featuring five sixes in an over from Harmeet Singh, as his side raced to their target in a mere 9.4 overs.
By winning so quickly, England secured a place in the last four, regardless of the outcome of Sunday’s final Group Two Super Eights match between co-hosts the West Indies and South Africa in Antigua and any associated net run-rate calculations.
Buttler faced just 38 balls, including six fours and seven sixes, but the day belonged to Jordan, whose hat-trick was the third of this tournament, with Australia’s Pat Cummins achieving the feat against both Bangladesh and Afghanistan, and the first by an England bowler in any men’s T20 international.
“Unbelievable feeling, more importantly to restrict USA and to do it in a special place like this is always nice,” said Jordan.
“Been on a hat-trick a few times, nice to get it on target this time.”
Buttler added: “I wanted to bring CJ back in to add a little bit of depth to the batting and we know what he is capable of with the ball. He executed it fantastically well, and a World Cup hat-trick is a great effort.”
As for his own form, Buttler said: “Personally it’s really important I continue this into the semifinals. I have been feeling good all year, I feel I am hitting the ball well and it is nice to get that confidence.”
The United States, one of the surprise packages of the event after defeating Pakistan on their way to the second round, were 115-6 when Jordan came onto bowl the 19th over.
His first ball of the over saw Corey Anderson hit a fast and low full toss to Harry Brook at long-on as the former New Zealand all-rounder fell for 29.
Two balls later, paceman Jordan clean bowled Ali Khan for a duck, the off-stump knocked out of the ground.
Next ball Nosthush Kenjige was plumb lbw and Jordan then completed his hat-trick — and ended the innings — by bowling Saurabh Netravalkar between bat and pad to remove the last man’s middle stump.
The United States were relatively well-placed at 48-2 at the end of the six-over powerplay.
But leg-spinner Adil Rashid then bowled two excellent googlies to dismiss Aaron Jones and Nitish Kumar, whose 30 was the highest score of the innings, in a miserly haul of 2-13.
England started their reply knowing victory in 17.4 overs would see them advance to the semifinals regardless of events elsewhere.
Buttler signalled his intentions early on with an extraordinary 104-meter six before Mumbai-born left-arm spinner Singh then felt the full force of his bat.
England must now wait another 24 hours to discover the identity of their semifinal opponents.


Euro 2024 security bulked after pitch invaders aim for Ronaldo selfies

Euro 2024 security bulked after pitch invaders aim for Ronaldo selfies
Updated 23 June 2024
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Euro 2024 security bulked after pitch invaders aim for Ronaldo selfies

Euro 2024 security bulked after pitch invaders aim for Ronaldo selfies

BERLIN: UEFA will increase security during the rest of Euro 2024 after several pitch invaders attempted to take selfies with Portugal’s star striker Cristiano Ronaldo.
The 39-year-old forward posed for a photo with a young boy during the 3-0 win over Turkiye in Group F on Saturday in Dortmund, but grew exasperated as at least five more fans attempted to do the same.
“Safety and security in the stadium, on the pitch and at team facilities are the ultimate priority for UEFA,” the European football governing body told AFP on Sunday.
“To this end, additional safety measures will be deployed in the stadiums to further meet the requirements of the tournament, and to prevent such incidents.”
One security guard crashed into Paris Saint-Germain striker Goncalo Ramos while trying to stop a pitch invader reaching Ronaldo.
Portugal coach Roberto Martinez said it was lucky that the supporters who ran on to the pitch were only trying to take photographs.
“It is a concern because today we were lucky that the intentions of the fans were good,” said Martinez.
“It is a very difficult moment if those intentions are wrong... probably we should give a message to the fans that it is not the right way.”
UEFA said any spectators entering the field of play will be thrown out of the stadium, be banned for further matches and face “the filing of a formal criminal complaint for trespass.”
Portugal qualified for the last 16 with their comfortable win over Turkiye as Group F winners.