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BHUBANESWAR: India suffered an early exit from the hockey World Cup after the hosts lost 5-4 to New Zealand on penalties in a dramatic crossover match on Sunday.
Fancied India, led by defender Harmanpreet Singh, needed a win to make the quarter-finals of field hockey’s biggest tournament and had the home fans on edge after the match ended 3-3 in Bhubaneswar.
New Zealand came back from 3-1 down to level the contest and then held their nerve as the penalty shootout went to sudden death.
Sean Findlay starred for New Zealand, ranked 12th in the world, scoring the goal that forced penalties and then twice converting in the shootout as the underdogs celebrated at the Kalinga Stadium.
Sixth-ranked India once dominated men’s field hockey, winning eight Olympic gold medals between 1928 and 1980.
The former national game of the cricket-mad nation witnessed a revival after India won bronze at the Tokyo Olympics and followed it up with a Commonwealth Games silver in Birmingham last year.
Australia, holders Belgium, the Netherlands, England and Spain have also secured their place in the quarter-finals.
India scored through Lalit Upadhyay (17th minute), Sukhjeet Singh (24th) and Varun Kumar (40th).
New Zealand replied through Sam Lane (28th) and two penalty-corner conversions by Kane Russell (43rd) and Findlay (49th).
New Zealand will now take on reigning world champions Belgium in the quarter-finals.
Earlier, Spain emerged victorious by the end their thriller against Malaysia to set up their quarter-finals date with title favourites Australia.
The two sides were locked at 2-2 at the final whistle before Spain won 4-3 in the penalty shootout.
The scoreline read 0-0 at half time before Faizal Saari put Malaysia ahead in the 35th minute but Marc Miralles (41st) and Xavier Gispert (42nd) scored in quick succession to put Spain 2-1 up.
Shello Silverius then scored a fine field goal to equalise for MalaysiaIn the penalty shootout, it was 3-3 after the first set of five players took their shots. Firhan Ashari, Saari and Suhaimi Shahmie Irfan scored for Malaysia, while Marhan Jalil and Silverius missed. Miralles, Bonastre Jordi and Gispert Xavier scored for Spain while Alvaro Iglesias and Marc Reyne failed to score.
As the two teams were tied 3-3, sudden death was applied. Spain’s Miralles scored while Ashari missed.
Spain, who had finished third in Pool ‘D’ behind England and India, dominated the match with a lot of circle penetration but the speedy Malaysians were impressive in the counter-attack. Spain got as many as eight penalty corners but wasted all of them. Malaysia earned one PC which they could not convert.
Malaysia were able to put the ball in the Spanish goal in the first minute of the fourth quarter but the goal was disallowed with the umpire ruling that the ball had touched the back stick of Saari.


POTCHEFSTROOM: Pakistan lost to England by 53 runs in their second match of the ongoing ICC Women’s U-19 World Cup in Potchefstroom, South Africa on Tuesday.
Chasing 157, Pakistan were bundled out for 103-5 as England’s Sophia Smale took two wickets. Pakistan skipper Syed Aroob Shah was the pick of the batters for the side 34 off 36 balls. Aroob hit five boundaries during the knock.
Opener Shawaal Zulfiqar’s 25 off 32 balls — which included four boundaries — and contributions of 16 and 12 by Aliza Khan and Areesha Noor respectively down the order were helpful in saving Pakistan from a defeat by a bigger margin.
Earlier, England were lifted by Seren Smale and Ryana Macdonald-Gay after Pakistan had reduced them to 43-3 by the end of the sixth over. Smale was involved in a 37-run partnership with Niamh Holland for the third wicket before combining for a fourth-wicket stand of 32 with Macdonald-Gay, who remained unbeaten at 35 off 22 balls, hitting three fours and a six. Wicket-keeper/batter Smale, meanwhile, added 37 off 33 with the help of six boundaries.
Areesha, Zaib-un-Nisa and Anosha Nasir took two wickets each for Pakistan while Rida Aslam bagged a scalp as England were restricted to 156-7. England could have posted a lower total had Pakistan held on to a few catches.
Summarised scores:
ENGLAND WOMEN’S U-19 156-7 in 20 overs (Seren Smale 37, Ryana MacDonald-Gay 35, Grace Scrivens 24; Anosha Nasir 2-20, Zaib-un-Nisa 2-24, Areesha Noor 2-34); PAKISTAN WOMEN’S U-19 103-5 in 20 overs (Syeda Aroob Shah 34, Shawaal Zulfiqar 25; Sophia Smale 2-10).


In popular culture, the lion is often depicted in one of two ways. The first and most common depiction shows the lion in his immovable prime, an aura of unmistakable majesty surrounding him. Behold The King himself and bow down before him, for he is wise, regal, and golden. The second depiction shows an aging lion covered in battle scars and ravaged by time. Finally showing the type of vulnerability that brings with it the uneasy realisation that even the best among us may well be merely mortal.
Such is the duality of man that the royal among us can simultaneously contain both versions within them. And so, enter centre stage: Babar Azam. Sense and sensibility as much as pride and prejudice. Babar Azam the batsman is unparalleled, especially in the one-day format. But that is no longer news. It has not been news for some time now. Enough has been written about those ridiculous numbers. Averages of 60.66, 110.5, 67.5 and 84.87 in the past four years. Numbers which make you rub your eyes for a second. These…these can’t be right? But then you watch Babar bat, and you realise that of course they are. Those numbers make perfect sense, just look at him. But then, enough has been said about those darned aesthetics as well. Balance and coordination so immaculately precise that they bend time and space to their will. That late, late cut watched on repeat ad infinitum. That disdainful flick off the pads burned into every eye. That cover drive injected into the veins of every hand that has ever held a cricket bat.
Such is the elegance and regularity with which Babar does what he does that it has become terribly easy to just take it all for granted. He has no right to be making it look this easy. He has no right to be making it look this routine. And yet he does. By now, we all know the drill. The spectators do, the journalists do, the teammates sitting in the pavilion do, those partnering him at the other end do, the opposing captains do, and most tellingly of all, the bowlers do too. Babar Azam just occupies a different plane of existence when he stands at the crease. Babar and Aslan, morphing into each other. That golden body glowing in the sunlight, that smooth mane flowing in the breeze.
This is the year of the 50-over World Cup. Babar the batsman is at the peak of his powers. In October, he makes international cricket’s shortest possible journey and yet unfortunately also its least trodden, much to the detriment of the sport and fans of both Pakistan and India. Into the territory of The Rival. More than 200 million will be hoping that Babar leads the side all the way from the PCB headquarters at the Gaddafi to the World Cup final at the Wankhede on November 26. With numbers like his, it would take a brave man to bet against this force of nature.
And yet, it appears that the king may well be coming to the end of his reign. He is wounded and he is vulnerable, anxiously looking towards the horizon and wondering in which direction the next winds shall blow. Sensing this weakness, or maybe there to create it, reporters who clearly have no agenda whatsoever have been asking Babar some terribly silly, often downright offensive, questions. Tell us about your regrets, tell us how you failed, tell us how would you feel if someone else replaces you, tell us how it feels to be only human like the rest of us? Questions meant to provoke and offend, hyenas nibbling away at the tail. To be fair to those gaggle of hyenas, there does lie a point within their empty giggling.
Babar the captain has sometimes looked almost laughably silly. The failures are just as undeniable as his success. A historic defeat to Australia, a historic defeat to England, a historic defeat to New Zealand — embarrassment after embarrassment after embarrassment. And just like the reporters with no agendas, members of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) with no agendas have been making some questionable decisions. Shan Masood — who last made an ODI run in 2019 and who has less runs in his entire ODI career than Babar has in 14 days of 2023 — promoted to the position of vice-captain with Babar’s right-hand man and close friend Shadab Khan out of the side. Rumours circulating that Shan may well replace Babar. The message clear: fail and someone much less deserving of your throne shall replace you on it and you will have to take orders from your inferiors.
So here comes the crux of the matter: do you risk upsetting and hence demotivating certainly the best batsman your country has ever produced, perhaps the best batsman any country has ever produced? Or do you risk pandering to a captain who has brain fades and risk underutilising the rest of the team just because the captain is so much better than everyone else around him? No player is ever greater than the team and yet no player in Pakistan cricket history has ever been greater than Babar Azam. To make matters more complicated, Babar the captain may well be inextricably linked with Babar the batsman. Since 2020, Babar is the only captain to make more 5,000 runs in international cricket. The next best is Joe Root with less than 4,000. Without the captaincy, Babar has an impressive batting record, averaging 54.2 at a strike-rate of 87.1. As captain, his numbers become pretty much supernatural — an average of 76.5 at a strike-rate of 93.9.
But if Babar the batsman is sense and sensibility itself, then Babar the captain has the tendency to be pride and prejudice. Babar says the right things, acts in the right manner, backs players the right way, tells them to keep their chin up when they fail. Trust the process has been Babar’s mantra throughout his career, and it has worked pretty well for Babar the batsman. But there is the feeling that Babar the captain can sometimes trust the wrong players. For example, Imad Wasim has an average of 42.9 and a strike-rate of 110.3 in ODIs with the bat. Of the 40 times he has batted in one-days, he has not been dismissed 17 times. It’s almost like he can be the answer to Pakistan’s finishing problems. Add to that the fact that Imad can bowl under pressure at both ends of an innings and you have a player that potentially solves two of Pakistan’s biggest problems. And yet pride and prejudice causes Babar to stick with Muhammad Nawaz, with mixed results, because he gets along better with Nawaz than he does with Imad — Karachi Kings friction spilling over into the national team.
But then, can we really blame Babar for sticking to his guns? When trusting the process has helped the batsman achieve what had never been achieved before in the history of the game, then why should the captain not trust the process too? We cast longing looks at the joyous abandon shown by other sides and yet refuse to lay the groundwork that led to that success in the first place. We want our players to be aggressive without accepting the risks that come with that aggression. We want them to not care about failure while also raising the stakes of said failure. We want them to soar without ever giving them the room to fall first. Backing the players to the end can sometimes be folly, but for every Hasan Ali and Faheem Ashraf, there is also a Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes.
Sometimes the process will not work, but mostly it will. Babar the batsman has proved that beyond any doubt. Maybe we should all trust Babar the captain and hope that the process can pay even half as much dividend for the team as it does for the individual. At the moment, Babar stands on the brink of greatness and the 2023 World Cup can be his magnum opus. Make no mistake about it, there will come a time when he falls but for now Icarus flies wonderfully close to the sun, soaring higher than any man has ever dared. One day a new king must take over. One day the hyenas will win. One day it will all be over. But for now, let us bask in the regal aura of Babar Azam without trying to clip his wings ourselves just because we cannot fly like he can. After all, we may never see the likes of him ever again.


The Babar Azam-Rizwan partnership is something we’ve grown accustomed to and expect because we accept it as the natural order of things. To have that taken away is sure to cause a little kerfuffle. Some netizens are disappointed with the decision to replace the wicketkeeper-batter with Sarfaraz Ahmed while others think it’s the right call to have him rest.
On Monday, day one of the first Test between hosts Pakistan and New Zealand took place in Karachi. The Green Shirts chose to bat first and are currently at 302 runs with four wickets down. The captain has hit his century and he’s still standing. Ahmed entered the game on run 43 and they piled on more with an unbroken fifth-wicket partnership.
While Pakistani Twitter is all praises for Azam, they are still processing Rizwan’s replacement.
For some, acceptance comes easier than others — actor Arslan Naseer is among them.
Some are so impressed with Ahmed’s performance, they want to find a way to keep both him and Rizwan.
Not everyone is as accepting though. Some Twitter users are enraged and think this decision is enough to qualify Pakistani cricket as a “circus”.
They feel that this is a downgrade for the skipper and he should fight for Rizwan.
And then there are some people who think though it was a good call to have Rizwan rest, bringing Ahmed in his place is “debatable”.
Did we go back 10 years?
What are your thoughts on the replacement?


BAGHDAD: The upcoming 25th football Gulf Cup would present a chance to further ties between Iraq and the rest of the Gulf countries, said Prime Minister Mohammad Al- Sudani on Monday. A statement by the Prime Minister office indicated that this statement came during a meeting between Al-Sudani and Ambassadors of the GCC countries in Basra city, southern Iraq.
During the meeting, ways to enhance relations in various fields were discussed, added the statement. GCC Ambassador commended Iraq for hosting the upcoming tournament, wishing the organizers the best of luck. The 25th Gulf Cup is scheduled on January 6-19, 2023. Iraq, the six GCC states, and Yemen will partake in the tournament. (KUNA)


Dubai UAE: The Hawks celebrated Christmas Eve in Dubai by becoming the inaugural winners of the World Tennis League, overcoming an adventurous challenge from The Kites by 32 games to 25.
The trophy presentation was attended by His Excellency Nasser Aman Alrahma, Assistant Secretary General Dubai Sports Council, Mr Nasser Al Marzouqi - Secretary General UAE Tennis Federation and His Excellency Dr Aman Puri - Consulate General of India. Also present were WTL founders Mr Rajesh Banga and Mr Amit Sharma, Hawks team owner Sanjay Bector and Kites team owners Nishant Pittie and Rikant Pittie.
World number one Iga Swiatek had been the one to beat all week, and up until the final she had not lost a set. But Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina rose magnificently to the challenge to claim a convincing 6-3 6-1 victory to put The Hawks into a commanding lead. It was arguably not as straight-forward as the score suggests though, especially in the opening set, as although Rybakina generated a 3-0 lead she was taken to deuce each time before winning her service games.
Swiatek was able to level at 3-3 after breaking Rybakina's serve at 3-1, but Swiatek was broken again when the umpire over-ruled that her ball had fallen long to leave her trailing 3-5. Rybakina was once again taken to deuce as she served out the set, claiming the advantage point on her serve for the third time.
Rybakina then kept up the pressure on Swiatek as the second set got underway, breaking in the first game and winning the opening two games at love, before dominating the rest of a surprisingly one-sided contest.
The Kites recovered ground when Felix Auger-Aliassime defeated Alexander Zverev 6-4 6-3 in a keenly contested battle. The first eight games went with serve, when Auger-Aliassime edged in front by breaking to lead 5-4. At 30-30 on Auger-Aliassime's serve Zverev briefly paused play when he was concerned about a left ankle problem before disputing the outcome of the next point which left Auger-Aliassime to serve out the set.
In the second set, Zverev soon found himself in trouble again when he was broken for 1-2 and he failed to convert a break point back for 2-2. Zverev continued to be under pressure as he had to fight back from 0-40 to hold for 3-4, but his resistance ended when Auger-Aliassime broke him for a third time for the match.
The outcome then, at the end of six days of scintillating competition, came down to the mixed doubles, with Holger Rune and Sania Mirza (Kites) playing Dominic Thiem and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (Hawks) for the title. Both Mirza and Pavlyuchenkova surrendered their first two services games in the first set before The Hawks edged the tiebreak 7-4, and just one break against Mirza in the fourth game decided the second set and confirmed The Hawks as champions
WORLD TENNIS LEAGUE FINAL

Hawks 32 – 25 Kites
Elena Rybakina (Hawks) def Iga Swiatek (Kites) 6-3 6-1
Felix Auger-Aliassime (Kites) def Alexander Zverev (Hawks) 6-4 6-3
Dominic Thiem/Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (Hawks) def Holger Rune/Sania Mirza (Kites) 7-6 6-3


About World Tennis League
The inaugural World Tennis League is set to take place from 19th - 24th December 2022 at the Coca Cola Arena in Dubai and will bring together some of the world’s best tennis players and internationally renowned entertainers in a never-seen-before format for tennis. Four teams of elite players including Novak Djokovic, Nick Kyrgios and the record-breaking Iga Świątek will compete across six days where ticket-holders are bound to see explosive court action in a series of round-robin matches including singles and doubles. After the tennis, visitors will then be treated to even more outstanding entertainment from international music stars such as Tiesto, Ne-Yo, Wizkid, deadmau5, Mohamed Ramadan and Armin Van Buuren.
Dubbed 'The Greatest Show on Court', tickets for the World Tennis League are on sale now, starting from AED 199.


Dubai UAE: The Kites will battle The Hawks on Saturday to become the first winners of the World Tennis League after an incredible double matchday in Dubai. The Kites topped the points table as they completed their round robin matches with 113 points, with The Hawks amassing 106 points from their three rounds of play.


Although it would ultimately prove to be in vain, The Eagles got off to a winning start as Nick Kyrgios and Bianca Andreescu (Eagles) linked up to defeat Dominic Thiem and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (Hawks) 6-4 4-6 10-7. The opening set was close throughout, with Thiem's loss of his serve in the first game of the match the only thing to separate the two teams. Thiem also dropped the opening game of the second set to put The Hawks under pressure. But the set was levelled at 2-2 when Andreescu lost her serve, and then Kyrgios surprisingly was broken at 5-4 to level the match at one set all. The Eagles though responded by edging the super tiebreak 10-7.


The eagerly anticipated battle between reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina and recent WTA Finals winner Caroline Garcia was highly competitive for most of the first set, before Rybakina took control to claim a comfortable 7-5 6-1 victory.


It was Garcia who had the first glimpse of success as she forced Rybakina to fight off a break point before holding for 3-3. But, as the set seemed destined to go to a tiebreak, Garcia had her own serve broken at love to trail 5-6, and Rybakina also won the next game at love to take the set. Rybakina kept up the pressure in the second set, breaking to win her fifth straight game and lead 2-0, and as Garcia went on to surrender two of her next three service games Rybakina strolled to victory to level the tie for The Hawks.


The Hawks then went on to win the tie when Alexander Zverev took the first set from Andreas Seppi 6-4 after at first failing to serve out the set when he had broken to lead 5-3. He was also immediately broken back after he took Seppi's serve to lead 2-0 in the second set, but as at the end of the first set he broke back again right away to re-establish his advantage and to lead 3-1. Zverev briefly found himself under pressure as he had to fend off three break points to lead 5-2, before he broke again for the match.


To begin the second matchday, Holger Rune and Sania Mirza started well for The Kites against Grigor Dimitrov and Paula Badosa of The Falcons, breaking both of their opponents' serve was not only enough to earn them the first set but to secure a place in Saturday's final. A break of Mirza's serve then gave The Falcons a 2-1 lead in the second set and that was enough to stretch the match to a super tiebreak, which was won 10-5 by The Kites.


Iga Swiatek then demonstrated why she has dominated the game throughout 2022, not only winning the French and US Opens but establishing a huge lead at the top of the rankings. The WTA Player of the Year and 2022 ITF World Champion broke the serve of Aryna Sabalenka right at the start to lead 1-0, and went on to demoralise her opponent by surrendering just one game in the set with a stunning display of skill and athleticism.


Often laughing at her misfortune to meet an opponent in such devastating form, Sabalenka managed to make more of an impression in the second set, twice recovering a break of serve to be level at 3-3. But that is as far as her resistance could manage, as Swiatek broke again to lead 5-3 and serve out the match.


Novak Djokovic was in jovial mood as he faced Sebastian Ofner, but although he quickly took a 3-0 lead he found Ofner a skilful opponent and, when the set went to a tiebreak, he double-faulted to concede the opening set. The 21-times Grand Slam champion did though allow his superior ability to emerge in the second set which he took 6-0, and he went on to win the super tiebreak 10-7.
There are three matches in each of the six sessions, featuring a mixed doubles, a women's singles and men's singles. Teams get one point for each game they win, plus five bonus points for winning most games in a match. One point wins the game at deuce, there is no advantage scoring, and if sets are one set each a super tiebreak is played, first to 10. That tiebreak can be won by a single point margin. Finally, the team manager can call one timeout in each set.


Day 5 Matches:
Eagles v Hawks
• Nick Kyrgios/Bianca Andreescu (Eagles) def Dominic Thiem/Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (Hawks) 6-4 4-6 10-7
• Elena Rybakina (Hawks) def Caroline Garcia (Eagles) 7-5 6-1
• Alexander Zverev (Hawks) def Andrea Seppi (Eagles) 6-4 6-2

Kites v Falcons

• Holger Rune/Sania Mirza (Kites) def Grigor Dimitrov/Paula Badosa (Falcons) 6-2 4-6 10-5
• Iga Swiatek (Kites) def Aryna Sabalenka (Falcons) 6-1 6-3
• Novak Djokovic (Falcons) def Sebastian Ofner (Kites) 6-7 (5-7) 6-0 10-7

Standings after Day 5:

 

Ties Played

Games Won

Bonus Points Won

Games Won

Points Won

Kites

3

97

16

54.2

113

Hawks

3

94

12

52.2

106

Eagles

3

83

6

46.6

89

Falcons

3

81

3

46.8

84



24th December
6PM WORLD TENNIS LEAGUE FINAL
The Kites v The Hawks

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