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Clash On The Dunes to inspire Saudi Arabia to produce a world champion boxer

SYDNEY: Ernie Els on Wednesday said Tiger Woods has lost some of his aura but the skipper of the International team will not be under-estimating his superstar counterpart at the Presidents Cup next week.Woods is captaining and playing for the United States at the biennial matchplay showdown at Royal Melbourne, and one of Els’ key…

Clash On The Dunes to inspire Saudi Arabia to produce a world champion boxer

SYDNEY: Ernie Els on Wednesday said Tiger Woods has lost some of his aura but the skipper of the International team will not be under-estimating his superstar counterpart at the Presidents Cup next week.Woods is captaining and playing for the United States at the biennial matchplay showdown at Royal Melbourne, and one of Els’ key decisions will be who plays the 15-time major-winner in the singles on Sunday.The big South African has seven rookies in his 12-man team, but he also has a core of experienced players such as Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen and Marc Leishman.Els said he would decide who faces Woods after seeing how they perform in the three days of fourballs and foursomes, but suggested it would not be a newcomer.“I don’t want to have a guy feel overwhelmed,” he said in Sydney ahead of the Australian Open, where Els will play from Thursday alongside a handful of his Presidents Cup team.“I will not put a guy in there that’s going to feel that way. I’ll see who is going to feel like he’s really got the best chance against Tiger.“I don’t think today he has the same kind of aura he had in the past. It’s different,” added Els, himself a matchplay specialist but will only be captain in Melbourne.“It’s more of a celebrity kind of aura. But he’s still very competitive. He’s won the Masters and he won in Japan (both this year).“When Tiger is healthy, he can play at a very high level. But he’s not what he used to be consistently. That’s just what age does. But we’ll see when we get to Melbourne.”The United States go into the tournament as heavy favorites, boasting some of the world’s top-ranked players such as Woods, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas.They have won all but one edition in the event’s 25-year history, with Melbourne in 1998 the exception.Els said he had a good idea of what his pairings would be for the opening day of fourballs next Thursday, without giving anything away.“There are a couple of pairings that are kind of natural pairings, if you can call it that, but I’m looking at it in a different way, not just a personality way.” he said. “I’m looking at how the guys can really perform together.“I’ve spoken to the players, some of the players already. So my thing is kind of set already, my plan is kind of set in motion already.”In addition to Scott, Oosthuizen and Leishman, Li Haotong of China, Taiwan’s CT Pan, Mexico’s Abraham Ancer, Australian newcomer Cameron Smith and Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama all qualified automatically.Adam Hadwin and Jason Day were Els’ captain’s picks alongside rookies Im Sung-jae and Joaquin Niemann, although Day has since pulled out injured and been replaced by South Korean An Byeong-hun.

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Russian athletics champ blasts own sports authorities

RAWALPINDI: Pakistan’s captain Azhar Ali thanked Sri Lanka Tuesday for returning to Pakistan for the first Test tour there in a decade, after a fatal militant attack on their team in 2009 drove international cricket away. “It’s a historic occasion and all the players are excited to be part of this,” Azhar, who has played…

Russian athletics champ blasts own sports authorities

RAWALPINDI: Pakistan’s captain Azhar Ali thanked Sri Lanka Tuesday for returning to Pakistan for the first Test tour there in a decade, after a fatal militant attack on their team in 2009 drove international cricket away.

“It’s a historic occasion and all the players are excited to be part of this,” Azhar, who has played 75 Tests — but, until now, none at home — said at a press conference in Rawalpindi with his counterpart, Dimuth Karunaratne.

“We thank the Sri Lankan team for coming here. The last Test was also against them so their visit will send a strong message to the world that we need to support each other,” he said.

Eight people were killed and several players and officials were wounded when militants opened fire on the Sri Lankan team bus traveling to a Test in Lahore in 2009.

The attack plunged Pakistan into sporting isolation during its years-long battle with militancy, with all “home” venues played in the UAE.

But with security dramatically improving in recent years international cricket began creeping back starting in 2015, albeit only for limited overs. Sri Lanka will play two Tests under heavy security, one in Rawalpindi and the second in Karachi, ending a decade-long absence for cricket’s five-day format. They will be the first home Tests for all 16 players in the Pakistan squad.

“Cricket is the biggest thing and if the youngsters can’t see matches here then it’s a big loss for our cricket and budding players,” Azhar said.

“I am sure our grounds will host more matches in the years to come.”

Karunaratne — who refused to tour Pakistan for a limited over series in September-October this year —  shared his rival’s sentiments.

“I am really excited … The players are excited to be part of this historic occasion,” he said.

Sri Lanka are on the up in Test cricket after becoming the first Asian team to win a series in South Africa earlier this year.

They then drew a Test series 1-1 against New Zealand at home in August, their first fixture in the World Test championship.

Sri Lanka have not lost a series in Pakistan since 1992 — winning two and drawing two.

They beat Pakistan 2-0 in their last series in UAE two years ago, a win Karunaratne hoped will motivate them.

“We played good cricket in 2017 so that confidence is with us,” he said.

Pakistan, meanwhile, are smarting from a 3-0 defeat in South Africa and 2-0 in Australia this year.

“Test cricket demands discipline and they (Sri Lanka) are a well disciplined side, whether playing at their home or away so we have to play disciplined and good cricket,” Azhar said, adding that as captain he has to “lead by example.” 

He managed just 59 in six innings in South Africa and 62 in four in Australia.

The second Test is in Karachi from Dec. 19.

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Russian athletics champ blasts own sports authorities

RAWALPINDI: Pakistan’s captain Azhar Ali thanked Sri Lanka Tuesday for returning to Pakistan for the first Test tour there in a decade, after a fatal militant attack on their team in 2009 drove international cricket away. “It’s a historic occasion and all the players are excited to be part of this,” Azhar, who has played…

Russian athletics champ blasts own sports authorities

RAWALPINDI: Pakistan’s captain Azhar Ali thanked Sri Lanka Tuesday for returning to Pakistan for the first Test tour there in a decade, after a fatal militant attack on their team in 2009 drove international cricket away.

“It’s a historic occasion and all the players are excited to be part of this,” Azhar, who has played 75 Tests — but, until now, none at home — said at a press conference in Rawalpindi with his counterpart, Dimuth Karunaratne.

“We thank the Sri Lankan team for coming here. The last Test was also against them so their visit will send a strong message to the world that we need to support each other,” he said.

Eight people were killed and several players and officials were wounded when militants opened fire on the Sri Lankan team bus traveling to a Test in Lahore in 2009.

The attack plunged Pakistan into sporting isolation during its years-long battle with militancy, with all “home” venues played in the UAE.

But with security dramatically improving in recent years international cricket began creeping back starting in 2015, albeit only for limited overs. Sri Lanka will play two Tests under heavy security, one in Rawalpindi and the second in Karachi, ending a decade-long absence for cricket’s five-day format. They will be the first home Tests for all 16 players in the Pakistan squad.

“Cricket is the biggest thing and if the youngsters can’t see matches here then it’s a big loss for our cricket and budding players,” Azhar said.

“I am sure our grounds will host more matches in the years to come.”

Karunaratne — who refused to tour Pakistan for a limited over series in September-October this year —  shared his rival’s sentiments.

“I am really excited … The players are excited to be part of this historic occasion,” he said.

Sri Lanka are on the up in Test cricket after becoming the first Asian team to win a series in South Africa earlier this year.

They then drew a Test series 1-1 against New Zealand at home in August, their first fixture in the World Test championship.

Sri Lanka have not lost a series in Pakistan since 1992 — winning two and drawing two.

They beat Pakistan 2-0 in their last series in UAE two years ago, a win Karunaratne hoped will motivate them.

“We played good cricket in 2017 so that confidence is with us,” he said.

Pakistan, meanwhile, are smarting from a 3-0 defeat in South Africa and 2-0 in Australia this year.

“Test cricket demands discipline and they (Sri Lanka) are a well disciplined side, whether playing at their home or away so we have to play disciplined and good cricket,” Azhar said, adding that as captain he has to “lead by example.” 

He managed just 59 in six innings in South Africa and 62 in four in Australia.

The second Test is in Karachi from Dec. 19.

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Free-scoring Salzburg pose serious threat to leaky Liverpool

ALKHOBAR: Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship title rivals Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Yasir Seaidan top an impressive entry of 51 cars, 9 NUTVs, 10 motorcycles, 23 quads and 1 truck that will tackle this weekend’s Sharqiya Baja 2019, the fifth and final round of the inaugural series. While the Saudi duo go head-to-head to decide the outcome…

Free-scoring Salzburg pose serious threat to leaky Liverpool

ALKHOBAR: Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship title rivals Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Yasir Seaidan top an impressive entry of 51 cars, 9 NUTVs, 10 motorcycles, 23 quads and 1 truck that will tackle this weekend’s Sharqiya Baja 2019, the fifth and final round of the inaugural series.

While the Saudi duo go head-to-head to decide the outcome of the drivers’ championship across the barren sands of the Eastern Province — with Al-Rajhi holding a three-point lead over his rival — a host of opponents will be challenging for overall honors in the event based out of the Holiday Inn on Half Moon Bay near Alkhobar.

Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi returns to action in his Peugeot 2008, with double Dakar winner Carlos Sainz and Czech veteran Miroslav Zapletal heading a car entry that also includes all the usual Saudi protagonists across the various T1, T2 and T3 categories.

Another driver making his first appearance on the Saudi sands in advance of the 2020 Dakar Rally, is former WRC driver Conrad Rautenbach. The Zimbabwean has entered a Can-Am Maverick X3 in the FIA T3 category and will be partnered by Portugal’s Pedro Bianchi Prata. Rautenbach formerly drove for the Citroën Junior Team in the FIA World Rally Championship and won the FIA African series in 2007 and 2011.

Yousef Al-Dhaif holds a winning points’ cushion in the NUTV Championship at the helm of his Can-Am, but the Saudi faces eight rivals in the Eastern Province, including Fahad Al-Naim and Salah Al-Saif.

Mishal Alghuneim has already clinched the motorcycle title and will lock horns with the likes of Hashyan Al-Hashyan and Abdullah Al-Helal for the last time before he readies his KTM for the onslaught of a first Dakar appearance in January. The UAE’s Othman Al-Ghufeli is the only non-Saudi entered on two wheels on this occasion.

Despite disappointment at the last round in Riyadh, winning performances in the Qassim Rally and AlUla-Neom Cross-Country event have given Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi a 21-point advantage in the quad section over Riyadh Al-Oraifan. The pair will decide the outcome of the title race in Half Moon Bay with a further 21 rivals challenging for honors in the increasingly popular category.

The Saudi trio of Ibrahim Al-Muhanna, Osama Al-Sanad and Raed Abo Theeb have entered a Mercedes truck in T4 at the rear of the field.

Baja officials have now confirmed that Thursday afternoon’s opening super special stage will run for 4.32 kilometers, and precedes challenging desert selective sections of 257.44 kilometers and 213.10 kilometers on Friday and Saturday.

The event is organized by the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF), under the chairmanship of Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal and the supervision of former FIA Middle East Champion Abdullah Bakhashab.

The new baja runs with the support of SAMF, the General Sport Authority, Abdul Latif Jameel Motors (Toyota), the MBC Group, Al-Arabia Outdoors and the Saudi Research and Marketing Group. It is also being observed as an official candidate for future inclusion in the FIA World Cup for cross-country bajas.

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