Why English and Welsh cricket stands at a crossroads

Why English and Welsh cricket stands at a crossroads
English referee Martin Atkinson (3L) celebrates with teammates after taking the wicket of New Zealand's Tim Southee during the second T20 international cricket match between England and New Zealand at Old Trafford, in Manchester, north-west England, on September 1, 2023. (AFP)
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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.


Kuramagomedov takes welterweight world title at Bellator Champions Series Dublin

Kuramagomedov takes welterweight world title at Bellator Champions Series Dublin
Updated 23 June 2024
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Kuramagomedov takes welterweight world title at Bellator Champions Series Dublin

Kuramagomedov takes welterweight world title at Bellator Champions Series Dublin
  • Paul Hughes shines on Bellator debut with second round TKO

Dublin: Bellator Champions Series Dublin crowned a new champion at the 3Arena in Dublin as Ramazan Kuramagomedov defeated Jason Jackson to extend his unbeaten streak and become the new Bellator welterweight world champion in a gruelling five-round battle.

Kuramagomedov was visibly emotional after he achieved his life-long dream of becoming a champion after a hard-fought unanimous-decision victory.

In the co-main event, the Irish welcomed Derry’s Paul Hughes who stepped into the cage for his Bellator Champions Series debut and rose to the occasion as he stopped Bobby King via TKO in the second round. “Big News” Hughes lived up to his moniker, confirming to the MMA world that he will be a prospect to watch for years to come.

Australia’s Arlene Blencowe silenced the 3Arena when she dropped Sinead Kavanagh and followed up with a guillotine choke to force the tap. The two fighters exchanged heavy hands in the first round, with “Angerfist” landing a strong straight right hand on Kavanagh in the second round followed by the successful submission.

Dalton Rosta had his hand raised after a three-round battle with Norbert Novenyi after a wildly entertaining middleweight bout. The pair exchanged heavy offence, with Dalton displaying his resilience in the third round as he fought through adversity after big elbows from Novenyi to secure the majority decision win.

The main card kicked off with a win in the Irish column as Darragh Kelly remained undefeated after he put Mathias Poiron to sleep after a tight guillotine that brought the home crowd to their feet and put the lightweight division on notice.

 

Bellator Champions Series Dublin Main Card Results

Ramazan Kuramagomedov (13-0) beat Jason Jackson (18-5) via unanimous decision to become Bellator Welterweight World Champion

Paul Hughes (12-1) beat Bobby King (12-7) via second round TKO

Arlene Blencowe (16-10) beat Sinead Kavanagh (9-7) via second round guillotine

Dalton Rosta (9-1) beat Norbert Novenyi (7-1) via majority decision

Darragh Kelly (6-0) beat Mathias Poiron (7-2) via first round guillotine

 

Preliminary Card Results

Kasum Kasumov (16-1) beat Matheus Mattos (14-3-1) via unanimous decision

Nathan Kelly (11-2) beat Jose Sanchez (13-3-1) via first round front naked choke

Khasan Magomedsharipov (10-0) beat Tyler Mathison (6-4) via unanimous decision

Sarvarjon Khamidov (16-0) beat Marcirley Alves (12-4) via unanimous decision

Shinobu Ota (7-3) beat Roger Blanque (5-6) via first round north south choke

Michelle Montague beat Karolina Sobek via first round rear naked choke

Nate Kelly beat Paul Nolan via first round tap arm bar


Super subs give Venezuela 2-1 win over 10-man Ecuador, Mexico edge Jamaica

Super subs give Venezuela 2-1 win over 10-man Ecuador, Mexico edge Jamaica
Updated 23 June 2024
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Super subs give Venezuela 2-1 win over 10-man Ecuador, Mexico edge Jamaica

Super subs give Venezuela 2-1 win over 10-man Ecuador, Mexico edge Jamaica
  • Arteaga said the disallowed goal had given Mexico the impetus to go on and win the game
  • Mexico face Venezuela on Wednesday in Los Angeles with Jamaica up against Ecuador on the same day in Las Vegas

SANTA CLARA, California: Goals from substitutes Jhonder Cadiz and Eduard Bello gave Venezuela a 2-1 win over 10-man Ecuador in their Copa America Group B match on Saturday.

In the group’s other game, Mexico made a winning start to their campaign with a 1-0 victory over Jamaica in Houston but lost their captain Edson Alvarez to injury.

Ecuador were forced to play with 10 men from the 22nd minute of the game at Levi Stadium when striker Enner Valencia was sent off for dangerous play.

The 34-year-old forward struck the chest of Venezuela defender Jose Martinez with his boot while challenging for a high, bouncing ball in the box and was initially awarded a yellow card but after a VAR review he was shown a straight red.

Ecuador, which had been in control of the game before the dismissal, responded well and went ahead in the 40th minute when Venezuela failed to clear a free-kick into the box and Jeremy Sarmiento pounced on the loose ball to drill home.

Venezuela head coach Fernando Batista made two changes at the break, bringing on Cadiz and Bello and both were to make a decisive impact.

“Vinotinto” striker Salomon Rondon laid the ball off to Cadiz, whose low side-footed shot from the edge of the box took a slight deflection as it flashed past Ecuador keeper Alexander Dominguez.

Then, in the 74th minute, Alexander Gonzalez whipped in a cross from the right, met with a diving header from Rondon which was parried by Dominguez but Bello reacted to fire home the loose ball.

“To be able to score a goal, which helped in the victory, and to have contributed to the first goal, is a joy. These three points are very important for what’s to come,” said a delighted Bello.

Ecuador’s Spanish coach Felix Sanchez said the red card for Valencia had forced him to change the team’s approach.

“We had to change the plan, wait a bit behind the opposition. It’s clear that when you play with 10 men you are at the mercy of the opposition for many minutes, even if you don’t want to play that way,” he said.

“Obviously it’s not the dream start, but there are two more games left and we have the team to compete. The most important thing is that the team recovers its spirit for what is to come.”

Mexico labored for long stretches against Jamaica before a superbly struck 69th minute goal from Gerardo Arteaga earned them the three points.

Jaime Lozano’s team suffered a major blow when their skipper, West Ham midfielder Alvarez had to go off in the 29th minute after going down without contact.

’El Tri’ struggled to create opportunities in the opening half with their best effort, a curling shot just wide from Luis Romo, just before the break.

Jamaica thought they had the lead in the 50th minute but Michail Antonio’s diving header was ruled out for offside after a VAR review.

That letoff woke up the Mexicans who pushed forward with greater purpose. Luis Chavez forced a good save out of Jamaica keeper Jahmali Waite and Julian Quinones fired over the bar after cutting in from the left.

Waite was alert again to keep out a Santiago Gimenez near post blast as the pressure built and finally Mexico got the breakthrough when the ball fell to Arteaga on the edge of the box and he blasted a perfectly struck half-volley into the far corner.

Jamaica had one last opportunity to salvage a point but Dexter Lembikisa’s low shot was turned round the post by Mexico keeper Julio Gonzalez.

Arteaga said the disallowed goal had given Mexico the impetus to go on and win the game.

“A goal, whether for or against, changes your mood a lot. And seeing that it had been disallowed, that also lifted us a little bit more to keep insisting and looking for the goal ourselves,” the left-back told TUDN.

Mexico face Venezuela on Wednesday in Los Angeles with Jamaica up against Ecuador on the same day in Las Vegas.

“We know there’s not going to be an easy opponent. Thank God we won against Jamaica and now we want to go for another win,” said Arteaga.


Hatton leads by 3, DeChambeau lurks, Rahm’s Legion XIII grab team lead at LIV Golf Nashville

Hatton leads by 3, DeChambeau lurks, Rahm’s Legion XIII grab team lead at LIV Golf Nashville
Updated 23 June 2024
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Hatton leads by 3, DeChambeau lurks, Rahm’s Legion XIII grab team lead at LIV Golf Nashville

Hatton leads by 3, DeChambeau lurks, Rahm’s Legion XIII grab team lead at LIV Golf Nashville
  • Hatton birdied six of his final seven holes at The Grove en route to a bogey-free 7-under 64
  • With Legion XIII leading the team competition by five strokes over the Crushers, plenty of hardware is up for grabs among the top four players

COLLEGE GROVE, Tennessee: After a frustrating early string of nine consecutive pars, Tyrrell Hatton found another gear down the stretch in Saturday’s second round of LIV Golf Nashville.

As a result, the Legion XIII star is 18 holes away from his first individual title since joining LIV Golf.But first, he will have to hold off his closest pursuers, including a reserve player seeking a storybook result, and a couple of two-time major winners — including last week’s US Open champion.Hatton birdied six of his final seven holes at The Grove en route to a bogey-free 7-under 64.

His two-day total of 13 under leaves him three strokes ahead of Crushers GC’s John Catlin, the replacement for the injured Charles Howell III. Their captains — the Crushers’ Bryson DeChambeau and Legion XIII’s Jon Rahm, two of LIV Golf’s biggest stars — are another stroke back, tied for third at 9 under.

With Legion XIII leading the team competition by five strokes over the Crushers, plenty of hardware is up for grabs among the top four players. “I’ll probably be a little bit nervous tomorrow, but I’d say that’s a good thing,” said Hatton, whose last professional title was in 2021. “Obviously if you’re nervous about something, you genuinely care about it.”

The individual leaderboard was packed for the first half of Saturday— at one point, more than 30 players were within four shots of the lead. But then Hatton went on a birdie binge that included a chip-in at the par-3 13th, followed by a 30-foot putt on the 14th.

“Around this golf course, if you hit the ball good, you’re going to have a lot of opportunities for birdie,” said Hatton, who joined LIV Golf in the offseason to play for Rahm’s expansion team. “You don’t want to be making too many pars. It was kind of OK in the end, but I guess tomorrow I wouldn’t want to be stringing 10 pars in a row, obviously, when you’re being chased.”

Catlin shot his second consecutive 66, playing his final nine holes in a bogey-free 4 under. Having competed on multiple tours across the globe and with 13 professional wins, Catlin welcomes the opportunity to write his own Cinderella story this week. No reserve player has ever finished inside the top five of a LIV Golf tournament.

“I’ve been here before and I can honestly say I’ve won before, and I can do it again,” he said. “I’m going to go out and control what I can control, and we’ll see what happens.”

DeChambeau has battled fatigued in the whirlwind aftermath of last Sunday’s tense US Open victory at Pinehurst. He bogeyed two of his first three holes Saturday but avoided further trouble, finishing with four birdies in his last seven holes as he fed off the energy of the sold-out crowd.

“I’m proud of the way that I’ve managed my energy, although I have close to zero right now,” DeChambeau said. “… All I want is a shot on the back nine, and that back nine is gettable. Hopefully, I can get the job done tomorrow.”

Entering this week, Rahm was unsure how competitive he would be after withdrawing during the second round of LIV Golf Houston with a foot infection that forced him to miss the US Open.

After an opening 70, he produced the lowest score of the second round, an 8-under 63 that included nine birdies. That ties for his lowest round relative to par in LIV Golf.

“I needed a round like that to get close to the lead,” Rahm said. “Obviously, Tyrrell finished fantastic. Still a little bit of work to do tomorrow.”Hatton, Catlin and DeChambeau will play in the leaders’ group off the first tee, with Rahm playing with Ripper GC captain Cameron Smith and Torque GC’s Carlos Ortiz — the winner two weeks ago at LIV Golf Houston — in the earlier group that starts off the first tee at 12:05 p.m. CDT. Smith and Ortiz are tied for fifth at 8 under.

Team counting scores

Standings and counting scores for Saturday’s second round of the team competition at LIV Golf Nashville:

1. LEGION XIII -28 (Rahm 63, Hatton 64, Vincent 66; Rd. 2 score: -20)

2. CRUSHERS GC -23 (Catlin 66, DeChambeau 66, Lahiri 68; Rd. 2 score: -13)

3. MAJESTICKS GC -19 (Westwood 66, Poulter 67, Horsfield 68; Rd. 2 score: -12)

4. TORQUE GC -18 (Ortiz 66, Niemann 69, Pereira 69; Rd. 2 score: -9)

5. IRON HEADS GC -15 (Kozuma 67, Na 67, Vincent 67; Rd. 2 score: -12)

6. CLEEKS GC -14 (Meronk 66, Bland 67, Kaymer 70; Rd. 2 score: -10)

T7. SMASH GC -13 (Kokrak 65, McDowell 68, Gooch 69; Rd. 2 score: -11)

T7. STINGER GC -13 (Burmester 66, Grace 68, Oosthuizen 70; Rd. 2 score: -9)

T7. FIREBALLS GC -13 (Chacarra 70, Garcia 71, Puig 73; Rd. 2 score: +1)

10. RIPPER GC -11 (Smith 65, Leishman 69, Jones 72; Rd. 2 score: -7)

11. 4ACES GC -8 (Varner III 64, Perez 69, Reed 70; Rd. 2 score: -10)

T12. RANGEGOATS GC -6 (Wolff 67, Pieters 68, Watson 71; Rd. 2 score: -7)

T12. HYFLYERS GC -6 (Steele 67, Mickelson 70, Tringale 70; Rd. 2 score: -6)


India makes 196 and beats Bangladesh by 50 at Twenty20 World Cup

India makes 196 and beats Bangladesh by 50 at Twenty20 World Cup
Updated 23 June 2024
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India makes 196 and beats Bangladesh by 50 at Twenty20 World Cup

India makes 196 and beats Bangladesh by 50 at Twenty20 World Cup
  • Put into bat, India started quick as captain Rohit Sharma scored 23 off 11 balls
  • Virat Kohli added 37 off 28, hitting three sixes

NORTH SOUND, Antigua: Hardik Pandya blasted Bangladesh with a 27-ball half-century and Kuldeep Yadav’s three wickets finished off India’s win at the Twenty20 World Cup on Saturday.
Pandya struck four boundaries and three sixes in an unbeaten 50 to lead India to 196-5.
Yadav then took 3-19 in four overs to limit Bangladesh to 146-8.
India moved to the top of Group 1 in the Super Eight with two wins from two matches. Bangladesh was winless.
Put into bat, India started quick as captain Rohit Sharma scored 23 off 11 balls. Virat Kohli added 37 off 28, hitting three sixes. The duo put on 39 off 22 balls for India’s best opening stand in the tournament.
Sharma was caught in the fourth over off Shakib al Hasan, while Kohli put on another 32 off 27 balls with Rishabh Pant for the second wicket.
Tanzim Hasan Sakib struck twice in the ninth over, getting Kohli and Suryakumar Yadav for 6 as India slumped to 77-3.
But Rishabh Pant anchored one end with 36 off 24, including four fours and two sixes, putting on 31 off 19 balls with Shivam Dube.
Despite Pant’s dismissal in the 12th over, Dube’s prowess against spin came in handy — he hit three sixes, scoring 34 off 24 balls.
But it was Pandya who took charge in the death overs. India scored 62 runs in the last five overs.
Pandya was named player of the match.
“We have played some really good cricket (to win five straight games),” he said. “We have executed our plans well, but as a group we can still improve. We sometimes lose wickets in a bunch, but apart from that things are looking good.”
Bangladesh’s reply made a steady start. Openers Litton Das (13) and Tanzid Hasan (29) added 35 off 27 until Pandya got the breakthrough in the fifth over.
The Tigers were at 66-2 in the 10th over and scoring slower. The chase unraveled when Yadav came on to bowl. He trapped Hasan lbw, and dismissed Towhid Hridoy for 4 and claimed the big wicket of Shakib for 11.
Bangladesh lost three wickets for 32 runs across 24 balls and didn’t recover.
Pace bowlers Jasprit Bumrah (2-13) and Arshdeep Singh (2-30) helped to seal India’s fifth win over Bangladesh in the T20 World Cup.


Afghanistan stun Australia with 21-run T20 World Cup win

Afghanistan stun Australia with 21-run T20 World Cup win
Updated 23 June 2024
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Afghanistan stun Australia with 21-run T20 World Cup win

Afghanistan stun Australia with 21-run T20 World Cup win
  • Gulbadin Naib was Afghanistan’s man with the golden arm, bowling his team to tense 21-run victory over unbeaten Australia 
  • Both teams are on two points after two games, with Australia facing Group One leaders India in their final match

Arnos Vale, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: Gulbadin Naib was Afghanistan’s man with the golden arm, bowling his team to a tense 21-run victory over previously unbeaten Australia in a Group One Super Eight encounter of the T20 World Cup at the Arnos Vale Stadium in St. Vincent on Saturday.
Set a target of 149, Glenn Maxwell (59 off 41 balls, six fours, three sixes) kept the Test and One-Day champions on course until he became Gulbadin’s third wicket in the 15th over, opening the door to a result which keeps the duel for semifinal spots alive going into the final two fixtures in the group on Monday.
Gulbadin finished with four for 20 from his four overs of medium pace to turn the match as Australia suffered their first-ever defeat to the Afghans in a senior international encounter, being dismissed for 127 with four balls left in the match.
Earlier, Pat Cummins claimed his second hat-trick in as many matches as Afghanistan lost momentum after another century opening stand from Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran, settling for a total of 148 for six after being put in.
Both teams are on two points after two games — with Australia facing Group One leaders India in their final match while Afghanistan play Bangladesh, who have lost both their Super Eights games.