Saudi Arabia’s ACC Premier Cup semifinal chances hinge on beating Nepal after Qatar loss

Tuesday saw the crunch match between Saudi Arabia and Qatar in Group A of the ACC Men's Premier Cup. (X/@ACCMedia1)
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Tuesday saw the crunch match between Saudi Arabia and Qatar in Group A of the ACC Men's Premier Cup. (X/@ACCMedia1)
Tuesday saw the crunch match between Saudi Arabia and Qatar in Group A of the ACC Men's Premier Cup. (X/@ACCMedia1)
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Tuesday saw the crunch match between Saudi Arabia and Qatar in Group A of the ACC Men's Premier Cup. (X/@ACCMedia1)
Tuesday saw the crunch match between Saudi Arabia and Qatar in Group A of the ACC Men's Premier Cup. (X/@ACCMedia1)
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Tuesday saw the crunch match between Saudi Arabia and Qatar in Group A of the ACC Men's Premier Cup. (X/@ACCMedia1)
Tuesday saw the crunch match between Saudi Arabia and Qatar in Group A of the ACC Men's Premier Cup. (X/@ACCMedia1)
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Tuesday saw the crunch match between Saudi Arabia and Qatar in Group A of the ACC Men's Premier Cup. (X/@ACCMedia1)
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Updated 16 April 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s ACC Premier Cup semifinal chances hinge on beating Nepal after Qatar loss

Saudi Arabia’s ACC Premier Cup semifinal chances hinge on beating Nepal after Qatar loss
  • Victory for Saudi Arabia would most probably have mean progression to the semifinals and a shot at glory

AL-AMARAT: The day dawned in cloudy fashion but with no rain. Only two matches were scheduled for day five, both on Turf One. The first was a crunch match between Saudi Arabia and Qatar in Group A. Both teams were on two points, Saudi from two matches played and Qatar from three.

Victory for Qatar would move them into second place with a chance of reaching the semifinals. Victory for Saudi would most probably mean progression to the semifinals. There was much at stake.

Saudi chose to bowl first. Qatar got away to a quick start: 14 from the first over and 36 in four overs before the first wicket fell. The last ball of the ninth over brought a third wicket for 59, a situation with which Saudi would not have been unhappy.

They were less happy in the 11th over when they thought they had claimed a catch at long-on only for the delivery to be ruled a no-ball. Then, in the same over, an appeal for a run out was rejected.

After these two critical incidents, Mohammad Tanveer and Mohammad Jabir consolidated the innings until Tanveer was run out for 43 on 134 in the 17th over. In a desperate search for more runs, Qatar’s lower order swung the bat, wickets falling regularly until the innings closed on 153 for nine.

If this target looked achievable, it soon became a mountain to climb. Left-arm quick bowler Amir Farooq induced prolific opener Abdul Waheed to edge to the wicket keeper off the first ball of the innings.

Worse followed for Saudi in the second over when Faisal Khan was bowled by Gayan Munaweera. Saudi’s batsmen were at sea against two quick left-arm bowlers, the ball hitting the pads with regularity: A sign that the bowler is too quick for the batsman.

It was not a surprise when Usman Khalid was bowled by Munaweera in the fourth over, the score 16 for three. Munaweera was replaced for the sixth over by Jabir. If this seemed a surprise, the decision was justified when Jabir’s first ball had Manan Ali leg before wicket, sparking scenes of wild celebration.

At 18 for four, Saudi’s response was in tatters. The battle between bat and ball had been fascinating to watch. It did not relent and the normal fluency of Saudi’s captain, Hisham Shaikh, was disrupted.

In the seven overs after the last dismissal the Saudi batsmen scored only 43 runs as they sought to rebuild the innings. As soon as Shaikh sought to accelerate in the 14th over, he was out.

At 69 for five, the innings looked beyond repair. However, Kashif Abbas hit two sixes to give hope before aiming to hit one too many. Waji Ul Hassan continued the trend so well that 35 runs were required from the final two overs.

It was not to be, as Hassan perished in trying to clear the boundary once more. The remaining batsmen could not force the pace against Munaweera, the innings closing on 138 for eight, 15 runs short, much to the disappointment of the Saudi contingent.

It had been a brave rearguard effort, but the real damage had been done in losing the first four wickets so cheaply.

Qatar climbed into second place on four points, leaving Saudi, Malaysia and Hong Kong on two points each. Saudi does have a superior run rate, but to make use of this, the side must beat Nepal in their final game — a tall order.

Malaysia and Hong Kong will play each other, the winner will end on four points, with net run rate likely to be a determining factor in deciding who finishes second.

In Group B, Bahrain beat Cambodia by seven wickets to claim their first victory, leaving Cambodia without a point, a situation which may not change given they play the UAE on day six.

All eyes will be on the match between Kuwait and Oman, a match the former must win to progress. Kuwait sits in second place, ahead of the UAE by virtue of a superior net run rate. The UAE are favorites to progress to the semifinal.


Pakistan retains pacer Haris Rauf in T20 World Cup squad

Pakistan retains pacer Haris Rauf in T20 World Cup squad
Updated 24 May 2024
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Pakistan retains pacer Haris Rauf in T20 World Cup squad

Pakistan retains pacer Haris Rauf in T20 World Cup squad
  • The tournament will run from June 1 to June 29 and be jointly hosted by the United States and West Indies
  • Pakistan’s Group A includes arch rivals India, and the team will face the United States in their first match

KARACHI: Pakistan retained fast bowler Haris Rauf when announcing on Friday their 15-man squad for the Twenty20 World Cup, despite doubts over his fitness and lack of match practice.

The 30-year-old injured his shoulder during Pakistan Super League in February and is expected to play in the second Twenty20 international in Birmingham on Saturday – his first outing since recovery.

Pakistan Cricket Board’s selection committee said Rauf is fit and raring to go.

“Rauf is full fit and bowling well in the nets,” said a PCB release. “It would have been nice if he had gotten an outing in the first match at Headingley but we remain confident that he will continue to maintain an upward trajectory in the coming matches.”

The Headingley match between Pakistan and England was abandoned due to rain.

Pakistan is the 20th and the last team to announce the squad as they continued to search for combination since their 2-2 series draw at home against New Zealand last month.

Babar Azam will lead the squad in the World Cup, his third T20 World Cup as skipper.

The tournament will run from June 1 to June 29 and be jointly hosted by the United States and West Indies.

Teams are divided in four groups of five with the top two teams qualifying for the Super Eight Stage in which all matches will be played in the West Indies.

Pakistan’s Group A includes arch rivals India as well as Canada and Ireland.

Pakistan will face United States in their first match in Dallas on June 6.

Fast bowler Hasan Ali, as well as batters Agha Salman and Muhammad Irfan Khan were left off the squad.

Fast bowler Mohammad Amir – the only survivor of Pakistan’s 2009 Twenty20 World Cup triumph – is meanwhile staging a comeback after coming out of retirement two months ago.

He is part of a strong pace attack spearheaded by Shaheen Shah Afridi, Rauf, Naseem Shah and Abbas Afridi.

Pakistan lost in the semifinal of the 2021 Twenty20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates and in the final in Australia in 2022.

Squad: Babar Azam (captain), Mohammad Rizwan, Saim Ayub, Fakhar Zaman, Usman Khan, Azam Khan, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Amir, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Naseem Shah, Abbas Afridi, Haris Rauf, Abrar Ahmed.


Man Utd to sack Ten Hag even if they win FA Cup: reports

Man Utd to sack Ten Hag even if they win FA Cup: reports
Updated 24 May 2024
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Man Utd to sack Ten Hag even if they win FA Cup: reports

Man Utd to sack Ten Hag even if they win FA Cup: reports
  • Britain’s The Guardian newspaper said the Premier League club had decided to take the ruthless step after a dismal season
  • Van Gaal was fired just two days after United’s FA Cup final victory against Crystal Palace in 2016

LONDON: Manchester United will sack embattled manager Erik ten Hag after the FA Cup final against Manchester City regardless of the result at Wembley, it was reported on Friday.
Britain’s The Guardian newspaper said the Premier League club had decided to take the ruthless step after a dismal season.
If Ten Hag’s two-year reign does end following the City clash, his exit would provoke memories of fellow Dutchman Louis van Gaal’s Old Trafford departure.
Van Gaal was fired just two days after United’s FA Cup final victory against Crystal Palace in 2016.
United finished an embarrassing eighth in the Premier League this season — their lowest final position since 1990 — and crashed out of the Champions League in the group stage.
Ten Hag has been the subject of intense speculation over his future, months after British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe took a minority stake in the club and assumed control of football operations.
United insist no decision has been made on the Dutchman’s future and say a full review will take place after Saturday’s showpiece against the Premier League champions, who are chasing their second straight league and FA Cup double.
The club have been linked with a list of names including Thomas Tuchel, Mauricio Pochettino, England’s Gareth Southgate and Ipswich boss Kieran McKenna, who has previously coached at Old Trafford.
Speaking before the latest report emerged, United goalkeeper Andre Onana said the final was “extra motivation” after an injury-hit season in which many of their star players flopped.
“We lost twice against City already (in the Premier League),” he said. “We know how good they are. Best team at the moment — all of our respect — but we go there to win. A final.”
Onana, who also played under Ten Hag at Ajax, stood up for his manager, describing him as a “good guy, a good coach.”
“Tactically he’s very good and he showed it last season,” said the Cameroon international. “I was not here last season and they got top four.
“This season a lot of things happened. I’m not here to back him. He is big enough to back himself. But he is a really good guy, he is a positive coach and tactically he’s good.
“If he had all his squad it would probably be different. This season is difficult for him, for us, for the club, for the fans.”
Saturday’s match offers United a shot at silverware against their bitter rivals and a route to Europa League qualification.
“It would make things look better,” said Onana, who has had an inconsistent first season at Old Trafford.
“It’s important to end well and winning this game would mean we’re in the Europa League.”


‘Happy I’m not playing Nadal,’ says Medvedev

‘Happy I’m not playing Nadal,’ says Medvedev
Updated 24 May 2024
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‘Happy I’m not playing Nadal,’ says Medvedev

‘Happy I’m not playing Nadal,’ says Medvedev

PARIS: Daniil Medvedev said he was “happy” not to have been drawn to face 14-time champion Rafael Nadal in the French Open first round as the great Spaniard prepares to bid an emotional farewell to the tournament.
Nadal, who has only lost three times in 115 matches at Roland Garros since his title-winning debut in 2005, is playing the French Open for the last time.
In a blockbuster first match, unseeded Nadal will face fourth-ranked Alexander Zverev and world number five Medvedev could not be more delighted.
“I’m not shy to say I’m happy it’s not me playing against him first round,” admitted Medvedev on Friday, a day after practicing with Nadal.
Former world number one and 22-time Grand Slam title winner Nadal, whose ranking has slumped to 276 after featuring in just four tournaments since January last year, will turn 38 on June 3.
However, Medvedev warned Zverev that Nadal is far from a fading force.
“There’s a lot of hard work, a lot of mental effort. Sometimes people forget he has a lot of talent in his hands also,” said the Russian.
“We were warming up serves and then he did three in a row, volley, dropshots, banana ones, with backspin, and it was funny.
“We were saying, ‘Yeah, no talent, just hard work!’“
Nadal holds a 7-3 winning head-to-head record against Zverev with five of those victories coming on clay.
The last time they met was in the 2022 semifinals in Paris when the German was forced to retire after suffering a serious ankle injury.
“It’s tough to play Rafa,” added Medvedev.
“He has the capability to spin the ball not like other players, get these high balls especially on clay, is not easy.
“Then we go to where he fights for every point, he brings intensity to every point. You know you’re going to be tired, you know it’s going to be tough. It’s not easy.”


Barcelona say Xavi will not return as coach next season

Barcelona say Xavi will not return as coach next season
Updated 24 May 2024
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Barcelona say Xavi will not return as coach next season

Barcelona say Xavi will not return as coach next season
  • The club said Laporta “has informed Xavi Hernández that he will not be continuing as first team coach in the 2024-25 season”
  • His departure comes a month after Xavi had reversed a previous decision made in January to leave the club this summer

BARCELONA: Barcelona say coach Xavi Hernandez is leaving the club at the end of the season.
The Spanish club made the announcement Friday after a meeting between club president Joan Laporta, Xavi and several other senior figures at the team’s training ground.
The club said Laporta “has informed Xavi Hernández that he will not be continuing as first team coach in the 2024-25 season.”
Xavi’s last game in charge will be Sunday’s away game against Sevilla on the final day of the league season.
His departure comes a month after Xavi had reversed a previous decision made in January to leave the club this summer. In April, the 44-year-old Xavi said that he had changed his mind after his players showed him that they believed in the team’s potential and had improved their performances.
But Laporta had reportedly been displeased by Xavi’s recent comments in a news conference that Barcelona’s poor financial situation would make it nearly impossible to compete against Real Madrid and Europe’s other top clubs.
The former midfielder led Barcelona to the Spanish league title last year, but the team are eight points behind already crowned champion Madrid going into the last round.
As a player, Xavi left Barcelona in 2015 after helping the club win 25 titles, including four Champions Leagues and eight Spanish leagues in 17 seasons while forming a formidable trio with Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta. He was also key to Spain’s streak of titles when they won the 2010 World Cup and European Championships in 2008 and 2012.
Laporta brought Xavi back from his only prior coaching job in Qatar in November 2021 to lead his rebuilding project of a club that had just lost Messi amid a financial crisis.
The following summer the club sold off future television revenues and other club assets, which Laporta dubbed financial “levers,” to sign Robert Lewandowski and other players. Xavi was able to win the club’s first titles since Messi’s departure and the future looked bright.
This season, however, Barcelona lost all three ‘clasico’ matches against Madrid and were thumped twice by upstart Catalan rival Girona, losing both of their league matchups 4-2. They also lost in the quarterfinals of both the Champions League and the Copa del Rey.


Saudi Arabia spending big for a place on the gaming map

Saudi Arabia spending big for a place on the gaming map
Updated 24 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia spending big for a place on the gaming map

Saudi Arabia spending big for a place on the gaming map
  • The kingdom has already been spending heavily with a $38-billion push into gaming

TOKYO: Saudi Arabia is moving aggressively with its investments in more gaming companies, the Canadian industry veteran steering the kingdom’s push to become a global hub for the sector told AFP Friday.
The kingdom has already been spending heavily with a $38-billion push into gaming under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 program, part of a plan to diversify the economy away from oil.
“We don’t pause. We don’t do neutral,” Savvy Games CEO Brian Ward said in a joint interview in Japan with Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud, chair of the Saudi eSports Federation.
“It’s a good time to be in the market, looking for good teams in studios,” said Ward, a former executive at “Call of Duty” maker Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts and Microsoft.
Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) has bought stakes in “Resident Evil” maker Capcom and Japanese giant Nintendo, as well as in Activision Blizzard and Electronic Arts.
Savvy, a PIF subsidiary, in 2022 bought a $1.1-billion stake in Sweden’s Embracer in 2022 and bought Scopely, the US mobile games company behind “Monopoly Go!,” for $4.9 billion last year.
“There’s a lot we want to do to get it done and to reach our targets at 2030,” said Prince Faisal, who is also Savvy vice-chairman.
“But we also want to make sure that we are taking the time to study things, to look at things. And make sure we’re making the right steps and not just throwing cash out there to see what hits,” he said.
ESports World Cup
In eSports, Savvy also bought tournament organizer ESL Gaming and the platform FaceIt. Riyadh will also host the eSports World Cup in July and August, when 2,500 gamers will battle for $60 million in prize money.
Prince Faisal, who credits video games for giving him insights into real-life history, said the tournament would help put Saudi Arabia on the global gaming map.
“A gaming industry is something you can start now and you’ll see the results in five to 10 years. And so to start momentum going, to start a conversation, esports is a great entry point,” he said.
Saudi Arabia aims to create 250 gaming companies and studios on its soil, 39,000 game-related jobs, be in the top three of professional gamers per capita and to produce a blockbuster “AAA” game by 2030.
The objective at the same time is for gaming to account for one percent of gross domestic product, something which Prince Faisal admits “keeps me up most at night.”
“One of the amazing things is we have a long history of storytelling in our region. It’s typical Bedouin culture is sitting around a fire telling the story,” he said.
“The tools are there... I think we can come up with not just the next great game, but the next great story.”
Saudi Arabia’s gaming drive
“There’s a lot of misconceptions about Saudi and who we are as Saudis,” Prince Faisal said.
“And the best way that I can say to answer that is to come and see and what you’ll see on the ground is very different than the conception that’s out there.”
Ward said he had been assured that Saudi Arabia’s gaming drive would be “consistent with the values and culture of our industry.”
“We have been given carte blanche to operate like a true games company. We don’t do anything different at Savvy being based in Riyadh than we would if we were in New York, Los Angeles, or Berlin.”