Sports – Muscat Daily An Apex Media Publication Sat, 03 Jun 2023 17:48:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Sports – Muscat Daily 32 32 Oman’s Al Harthy all set for maiden appearance in Le Mans 24 Hours Sat, 03 Jun 2023 17:48:41 +0000 Muscat – World motorsport’s greatest and most prestigious race, the annual Le Mans 24 Hours, welcomes Ahmad Al Harthy and the Oman Racing team for the first time this year – the huge event marking the fourth round of the FIA World Endurance Championship season.

Taking place on June 10-11 at the Circuit de la Sarthe in France, the build-up to the 24H Le Mans actually starts later this week ahead of the first official test sessions on Sunday. Notably too, Al Harthy’s debut in the endurance classic will form part of the race’s landmark centenary year.

The crown jewel event of the FIA WEC calendar couldn’t come at a better time for the Oman Racing with TF Sport team, the squad heading to France off the back of a season-best third place last time out at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.

Following two challenging races to begin Oman Racing’s maiden season in World Endurance, at Sebring in America and Portimao in Portugal, a welcome change to the Balance of Performance rulings meant the No.25 Aston Martin Vantage was able to compete on an even footing at Spa.

After chalking-up his first GTE Am pole position in style with a superb performance at the Ardennes track, Al Harthy then starred in the race along with team-mates Charlie Eastwood and Michael Dinan to secure a first WEC podium finish, mere tenths of a second shy of the runner-up position.

Climbing into eighth place in both the GTE Am driver and team standings as a result, the trio now head to Le Mans with confidence high and a determination to challenge strongly in the greatest and most spectacular race global motor racing has to offer.

While the 100th anniversary installment of the 24H Le Mans will mark a career milestone for Oman’s most successful racing driver, Al Harthy has, of course, raced as part of the Le Mans 24 Hours event previously in the ‘Road to Le Mans’ support races on two occasions. Back in 2017 he claimed a double victory, returning in 2021 and again finishing on the podium – that time alongside Dinan.

Competition in the GTE Am class will be fierce, with 14 entries from WEC joined by six other standalone entries. All told, including prototype cars from the Hypercar and LMP2 classes, the combined grid for this year’s 24H Le Mans is expected to be north of 60 cars.

Al Harthy will be supported by his prestigious portfolio of partners Oman Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth, OQ, Omantel and MHD-ITICS, with huge numbers of fans also set to make the journey from Oman to France to cheer-on their home hero.

“I truly cannot wait for Le Mans week to begin, this is such a huge event for everyone at Oman Racing with TF Sport and the biggest race of my entire career so far,” said Ahmad Al Harthy.

Le Mans is such a famous event around the world, there is so much history associated with it and I am unbelievably proud to be representing Oman on the biggest stage of them all in endurance racing.

“Everyone has been preparing so hard behind the scenes and we head to Le Mans in very good spirits after the podium finish at Spa last time out in WEC. We’re obviously very experienced in 24 hour races from GT World Challenge Europe, where we have won of course, but Le Mans is another level again. It really is going to be an amazing experience, and we intend to do Oman proud.”

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Maqsood to lead Oman in ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe Wed, 24 May 2023 18:03:21 +0000 Muscat – Experienced all-rounder Zeeshan Maqsood will lead Oman at the forthcoming ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier, which will be held in Zimbabwe from June 18-July 9.

Oman Cricket unveiled the 17-member national squad at the Oman Cricket Academy Grounds in Al Amerat on Wednesday with the skipper expressing confidence in the team’s hopes to qualify for the World Cup.

“We are ready for the challenge and it’s a big opportunity for us to showcase our potential. We have the experience of playing against all the teams except for West Indies and Zimbabwe. We have to play to our best abilities and hopefully we can achieve the desired results,” said Maqsood.

The ten-nation Qualifier will decide the remaining two spots for the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup in India 2023. Oman, who are aiming to qualify for the World Cup for the first time, will be heading to Durban in South Africa for a preparatory camp on May 28 where they will play five practice games before heading to Zimbabwean capital of Harare on June 11.

Oman’s 17-member squad will be trimmed to 15 for the Qualifier after the trip to Durban.

Flamboyant batter Aqib Ilyas has been named Maqsood’s deputy with the squad consisting of a majority of all-rounders.

Leg-spinner Samay Shrivastav and all-rounder Rafiullah are the only uncapped players in the squad.

The batting responsibilities will be on the shoulders of Jatinder Singh, Kashyap Prajapati, Aqib Ilyas, Shoaib Khan, Zeeshan Maqsood, Mohammed Nadeem, Ayaan Khan and Sandeep Goud.

The bowling attack will be spearheaded by left-arm pacer Bilal Khan and the lanky Kaleemullah with Rafiullah, Fayyaz Butt, Nadeem, Goud and Shoaib in support roles as medium pacers.

The spin department will depend on the guiles and the magic of Jay Odedra, Shrivastav, Maqsood, Ilyas and Ayaan.

With an average age of 32, the team will rely on the experience, which had come good during the ICC World Cricket League Division 2 where Oman finished second in the seven-nation tournament that featured 36 ODIs over the past four years.

Three wicketkeepers – Naseem Khushi, Suraj Kumar and Adeel Shafique – have been drafted with one sure to miss out from the final 15.

Strong group

Oman have been clubbed with former World Cup winners Sri Lanka, Ireland, Scotland and neighbours UAE in Group B. Hosts Zimbabwe, West Indies, Netherlands, Nepal and United States make up Group A.

 Oman will begin their campaign on June 19 in Bulawayo against Ireland followed by a game against UAE on June 21. On June 23, Oman will take on 1996 World Cup winners Sri Lanka before concluding the league stage with a match against Scotland on June 25.

Each side will play the other teams in their group once with the top three from the groups progressing to the Super Six stage.

The teams each play three Super Six matches against the sides they did not meet in the group stage. All points won in the groups will be carried over to the Super Six stage apart from those gained against the bottom two from each group.

The finalists will both progress to the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023. The Super Six stage will commence on June 29, while the bottom two teams from each group will compete in the playoff.

Oman squad for World Cup Qualifier (Final 15 after Durban trip): Zeeshan Maqsood (captain), Aqib Ilyas (vice-captain), Jatinder Singh, Kashyap Prajapati, Shoaib Khan, Mohammed Nadeem, Sandeep Goud, Ayaan Khan, Suraj Kumar, Adeel Shafique, Naseem Khushi, Bilal Khan, Kaleemullah, Fayyaz Butt, Jay Odedra, Samay Shrivastav, Rafiullah.

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Oman begin World Cup qualifying campaign with Ireland match on June 19 Tue, 23 May 2023 22:56:24 +0000 Muscat – Oman have been clubbed with former World Cup winners Sri Lanka, Ireland, Scotland and neighbours UAE in Group B as the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2023 fixtures were released on Tuesday afternoon.

Hosts Zimbabwe, West Indies, Netherlands, Nepal and United States make up Group A with the ten teams competing for the final two spots at ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 in India.

The ten-nation World Cup Qualifier will be held in Zimbabwe from June 18 – July 9 across four venues in Harare and Bulawayo.

Oman, who are aiming to qualify for the Cricket World Cup for the first time, will begin their campaign on June 19 in Bulawayo against Ireland followed by a game against UAE on June 21.

On June 23, Oman will take on 1996 World Cup winners Sri Lanka before concluding the league stage with a match against Scotland on June 25.

Each side will play the other teams in their group once with the top three from the groups progressing to the Super Six stage.

The teams each play three Super Six matches against the sides they did not meet in the group stage. All points won in the groups will be carried over to the Super Six stage apart from those gained against the bottom two from each group. The finalists will both progress to the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023.

The Super Six stage will commence on June 29, while the bottom two teams from each group will compete in the playoff.

For the first time at this event, DRS will be used for all matches from the Super Six stage.

The Qualifier will begin with hosts Zimbabwe taking on Nepal and two-time World Cup winners West Indies meeting USA on June 18.

Each match will be high stakes, with the top two teams qualifying for the global one-day showpiece and assured of nine guaranteed matches in India.

Queen’s Sports Club and Bulawayo Athletic Club in Bulawayo, Harare Sports Club and Takashinga Cricket Club in Harare will share 34 matches between them, with Harare Sports Club staging the final on July 9.

The Qualifier is the culmination of four years of hard-fought competition and brings together the bottom five teams from the ICC Men’s CWC Super League, three automatic qualifiers from ICC Men’s CWC League 2 and two teams who gained entry from the ICC Men’s CWC Qualifier playoff.

Ahead of the Qualifier, all the teams will also feature in two warm-up matches to be played on June 13 and 15. Oman will play against hosts Zimbabwe in the first of the two warm-up matches at Takashinga Cricket Club on June 13 and then meet Nepal in the second warm-up game at Harare Sports Club two days later.

Oman’s coach Mendis said: “Now with the groupings and venue released, we know where to play and whom to play. We have to perform and there wouldn’t be any room for any excuses wherever we play. I along with my boys are confident of making it to Super Six stage.

“We have a pre-World Cup Qualifier tour to Durban in South Africa that will last for 12 days. Our preparations have been good despite the scorching summer giving the boys a hard time. We hope the five practice games in Durban will help us and by the time we conclude the trip, our boys will be ready. The two official warm-up games against Nepal and Zimbabwe will be crucial in Harare. We hope to have a successful outing in Zimbabwe.”

Oman’s fixtures: (All matches begin at 11am, Oman time)

June 19 (Monday): Ireland vs Oman, Bulawayo Athletic Club

June 21 (Wednesday): Oman vs UAE, Bulawayo Athletic Club

June 23 (Friday): Sri Lanka vs Oman, Queen’s Sports Club

June 25 (Sunday): Scotland vs Oman, Bulawayo Athletic Club

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We will make an impact at the World Cup Qualifier, says Oman coach Duleep Mendis Sun, 21 May 2023 18:06:02 +0000 Muscat – He has been a manager of a World Cup-winning squad and has already led Oman to two T20 World Cups. A coach who certainly knows what it takes to go to a World Cup, Duleep Mendis has a challenge that he is relishing as Oman prepares for a dream mission – a spot in the ICC Men’s World Cup.

The ODI World Cup is scheduled to be held in India in October-November later this year and with eight teams already confirmed, the stage is now set to decide the remaining two spots for the World Cup, which would be decided during the forthcoming ICC Men’s World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe from June 18-July 9.

Mendis will be leading Oman at the Qualifier and sounded confident of Team Red’s chances in Zimbabwe that will feature four-Test playing nations along with six Associate nations vie for the two berths at the ICC ODI World Cup.

Three-time World Cup winners West Indies, Sri Lanka, the team which won the World Cup in 1996 with Mendis as manager, hosts Zimbabwe and Ireland are the four teams that along with Netherlands finished as bottom five of ICC Cricket Super League. The quartet will be joined by Scotland, Oman and Nepal who finished as top-three nations in the World Cricket League Division 2 and UAE and USA, who made it through Qualifier playoff.

With the format for the World Cup Qualifier and groupings yet to be announced, Mendis said: “It has been a remarkable journey over the past four years during which we played 36 ODIs and finished second in the seven-nation Division 2.

“The forthcoming World Cup Qualifier will be a great opportunity for our boys to showcase their potential and I am confident that our team can do well. The recent performance at the ACC Premier Cup, an Asia Cup qualifier, in Nepal where we finished third gave us a good insight what our players can do.

“The batting didn’t click initially but did well in the later stages in Nepal. If our batters can perform as they did in the later stages, I am confident we can do well. Bowling has been our forte and if our batters play to their potential, we stand a chance.”

Mendis said: “Oman are not going to make up numbers in the Qualifier in Zimbabwe. We will make an impact and the 10-12 warm-up camp in Durban, South Africa, will do us a world of good. We will play five warm-up games against top teams there.

Journey of pride and passion, says Jesrani

While Mendis expressed hope and optimism, the man who has been one of the longest-serving managers of any Associate team in the world, Madhu Jesrani, who is also the secretary of Oman Cricket, was full of emotions while recollecting the team’s journey since the start of the 21st century.

Jesrani said: “We have reached World Cup Qualifiers twice in the past, first in 2005 in Ireland and then in 2009 in South Africa. We had few amazing results though the 2009 trip to South Africa was disappointing. The current team has done brilliantly to finish second in Division 2 and we are proud of their journey.”

“I still remember how our team prepared for the previous World Cup Qualifier. We didn’t have even turf wickets or grass grounds. Oman Cricket has come a long way, thanks to the yeoman contribution of our former Oman Cricket chairman Late Sheikh Kanak Khimji.

“We all miss him, and it was under his guidance that we have come so far. This has been a journey of pride and passion for us,” said Jesrani as his voice choked with emotions.

Jesrani said: “The team under Duleep Mendis has made tremendous progress and though the going will be very tough in Zimbabwe, we have a good chance.

“The recent Premier Cup display in Nepal and the second-place finish in Division 2 has given our boys lot of confidence. We will carry the confidence into the World Cup Qualifier.”

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Abdullah al Rawahi becomes first Omani ever to win Jordan Rally Sun, 21 May 2023 10:37:50 +0000 Dead Sea, Jordan – Abdullah al Rawahi became the first Omani ever to win the Jordan Rally after a dramatic fightback by Nasser Saleh al Attiyah was thwarted by punctures on the closing stages of a pulsating Jordan Rally on Saturday.

Al Rawahi and local driver Ata al Hmoud had taken a lead of 2min 33.5sec into the final six special stages in the Dead Sea and Jordan Valley areas in their Skoda Fabia Evo. But Al Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel launched a full-scale fightback during the morning and reduced the deficit to 1min 20sec at the midday service point.

The pendulum appeared to have swung in the Qatari’s favour when the Oman Rally Team crew clocked out of service three minutes late and incurred a 30-second time penalty, reducing the deficit to 50 seconds. But Al Attiyah was forced to change a punctured tyre on the first test after the restart and then punctured again with Al Rawahi reaching the finish 7min 04.2sec clear of the struggling defending champion.

With the pressure off on the final stage, it enabled Al Rawahi to secure his third career MERC win and Al Hmoud became the first Jordanian to win his home rally since Amjad Farrah and Khalid Zakaria prevailed on a dramatic final stage way back in 2004. Al Rawahi’s third success drew him level with the late Björn Waldegård, Jean-Pierre Nasrallah and Abdullah Bakhashab in the regional Hall of Fame.

Al Rawahi said: “It’s been a very tough weekend for us. The stages were really nice and we enjoyed them. We managed to win this rally. The second day was difficult, actually starting first on the road. Nasser was trying to keep the pressure but we held on. Well done to my team. They have worked really hard this weekend. It’s an amazing feeling.

“When I started rallying my first rally was here in Jordan, so it’s a big thing for me. I have been gaining so much experience against the champion. Every rally we learn a lot, especially from the pressure we were in this weekend. We won the first rally and now this one. We will keep pushing and see what happens.”

Al Attiyah added: “This is my favourite race but, this year, it was not easy. Day one and day two, we were struggling a little bit with the problems. Today we had two flat tyres in the same stage and we tried to manage three stages with punctures and we had only one spare. We made it happen. It was important to finish and we finished second. Well done to Abdullah, he did an amazing race. Still, we are leading the championship and we look ahead to Lebanon. I am disappointed at one point but, on the other, I am happy to finish.”

Meshari Al Thefiri teamed up with Qatar’s Nasser Al Kuwari and were the class of the MERC2 field for the third successive event this season. The Kuwaiti rounded off the podium places and finished 6min 49.2sec clear of fourth-placed Jordanian Shaker Jweihan and his Omani co-driver Taha Al Zadjali.

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A lot of positives to take from Premier Cup in Nepal: Mendis Mon, 08 May 2023 08:34:00 +0000 Muscat – Individual brilliance stood out for Oman despite the national team narrowly missing out a place in the final of the recently concluded inaugural ACC Men’s Premier Cup in Kathmandu, Nepal.

A third-place finish for Duleep Mendis coached team did secure the Men in Red a spot in the ACC Emerging Teams Asia Cup, along with Premier Cup champions Nepal and runner-up UAE.

The three Associate nations will vie with the A teams from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Bangladesh in the fifth edition of the event in July.

The qualification for the Emerging Asia Cup is a small consolation for Oman as the team had the potential to go all the way in the Premier Cup, according to Mendis, the team’s chief coach.

The former Sri Lankan Test captain said that “his boys returned with a lot of positives from the Nepal tour.”

Oman lost to UAE  by just two runs in a rain-interrupted semi-final that was decided on DLS method. The loss of two wickets in one over just before rains stopped play gave UAE a narrow win.

Reflecting on the loss that saw Oman miss out a chance to battle with hosts Nepal in the final and a chance to make it to the Asia Cup, Mendis said: “A single-over madness cost us dear. We were ahead of UAE till that over.”

Mendis added: “The boys learnt an important lesson. One can’t lose focus while on the crease. Despite the defeat in the semi-final, we came back with a lot of positives. The individual performances of some of the players were top-notch and the best in the tournament. Overall, our players demonstrated good application and noteworthy performances in all departments of the game during the tournament.”

Oman’s fiery left-arm pacer Bilal Khan was declared the best bowler of the tournament and the coveted award will give a world of confidence to the experienced speedster ahead of the ICC World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe next month.

Bilal picked up a total of 17 wickets in the six matches at an average of 19.82 and an economy of 6.29. He had three four-wicket haul with his best figures of 4/42 against Qatar.

Another bowler who impressed was right-arm off-spinner Jay Odedra, who collected ten wickets including a five-wicket haul of 5/14 against Kuwait. With an miserly economy of 3.55, the best by an Omani bowler in the series, Mendis said that he was the “find of the tournament for us.”

The opening pair of Jatinder Singh and Kashyap Prajapati had an excellent run with Jatinder garnering 288 runs in six games including an unbeaten century against Malaysia.

An average of 72, Jatinder finished as the second-best run-getter in the tournament. UAE’s Vriitya Aravind was the top scorer with 454 runs.

Prajapati scored a total of 222 runs in six matches at an average of 44.4 with the highest score of 66. He was the sixth highest run-scorer of the tournament.

Oman skipper Zeeshan Maqsood led from the front and his all-round display should have “earned him the player of the tournament award” according to Mendis.

His reasons were based on Maqsood’s stellar statistics as the captain collected 187 runs at an average of 46.75 coupled with 13 wickets at an average of 16.46.

However, the player of the tournament award was conferred on Nepal’s spinner Sandeep Lamichhane, who picked up 13 wickets in the tournament and scored 55 runs in six matches.

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Al Zubair and Schiller lead International GT Open Series after finishing second in race two in Portugal Tue, 02 May 2023 07:06:55 +0000 Portimao, Portugal – Oman’s Al Faisal al Zubair and German team-mate Fabian Schiller followed up a stunning win in race one with the runner-up spot in the shorter second race at round one of the 2023 International GT Open at the Autodromo Internacional Algarve, in Portimao, Portugal, on Sunday.

The Al Manar Racing by Getspeed Mercedes AMG GT3 crew had qualified in pole position and led for much of the second race before losing vital seconds during the driver change over.

With a little over 11 minutes to go, Al-Zubair – who had taken over from Schiller for the second part of the race – was trailing Team Motopark’s Marcos Siebert by 4.408 seconds but the Omani closed to within 2.257 seconds at the finish, as Siebert and his Méxican team-mate Diego Menchaca claimed victory in the second race in their Mercedes AMG GT3.

Eastalent Racing’s Simon Reicher and Christopher Haase rounded off the podium places at the helm of their Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II.

The second place, to add to the win in race one, means that Al Zubair and Schiller now lead the International GT Open series by two points after the opening round.

Al Zubair said: “It has been a great weekend and I am feeling very comfortable with the team and the car. It has boosted my confidence. I couldn’t really have asked for much more. P1 yesterday and second today with a 10-second handicap. This was an amazing result.

“To leave the first round of the International GT Open as the first round leaders is a strong indicator of the strength of the team we have built. I am excited for the next races and looking forward to it.”

Picking up where they left off on Saturday, Schiller put the Al Manar Racing by Getspeed Mercedes take at the top of the standings by claiming pole position for the weekend’s second race on Sunday morning. The German beat Optimum Motorsport’s Charlie Fagg by 0.258 seconds to claim the perfect star position for the race.

He had last taken a pole in Barcelona in 2002 and said: “It’s nice to take it where I left it. The car is very strong and Portimão is definitely in the top three of my favourite circuits. We’ll see how it goes in the race and with the handicap, I will have to push hard from go!”

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Al Zubair and Schiller claim stunning winin International GT Open series in Portugal Sun, 30 Apr 2023 18:37:07 +0000 Portimao, Portugal – Oman’s Al Faisal al Zubair and German team-mate Fabian Schiller made a fabulous start to their short 2023 International GT Open campaign by winning the opening round of the series at the Autodromo Internacional Algarve, in Portimao, Portugal, on Saturday.

The Al Manar Racing by Getspeed Mercedes AMG GT3 crew had qualified fourth for the race and second in the Pro category and delivered a stunning performance in favourable racing conditions to win the first 40-lap race of the campaign by 15.611 seconds.

Pro category cars dominated the upper echelons of the leader board and filled the first seven places in the classification after the first of two races over the weekend.

The Optimum Motorsport duo of Samuel de Haan and Charlie Fagg were their closest challengers in second place in a McLaren 720S GT3. Team Motopark’s Diego Menchaca and Marcos Siebert rounded off the podium places in their Mercedes AMG GT3.

Al Zubair said: “It was an excellent race. We started from P4, 0.3 seconds behind the pole-sitter and we took the lead in the first stint. The team and I did a great job. Fabi took the lead in the second stint and he was fast, so we won. This is a great start to the 2023 season and we are looking forward to another win in the second race.”

After taking advantage of the private test sessions on Friday, Al Zubair and Schiller were third quickest in the free practice stint behind Liqui Moli Team Engstler’s Luca Engstler and Dylan Yip (Audi) and Kessel Racing’s Frédéric Jousset and David Fumanelli (Ferrari).

The Al Manar Racing by Getspeed duo ran the Mercedes for 25 laps with a best tour of 1min 41.614sec to be classified second in the Pro category.

Al Zubair went on to qualify the Al Manar Racing by Getspeed Mercedes fourth on the grid and second of the Pro crews behind Reece Barr and Mikaeel Pitamber in the SPS Automotive Performance Mercedes AMG GT3. The fastest lap of the session fell to the ProAm crew of Jousset and David Fumanelli.

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Oman qualify for ACC Emerging Teams Asia Cup after finishing third in Premier Cup Sun, 30 Apr 2023 18:33:23 +0000 Muscat – Oman’s off-spinner Jay Odedra’s five-wicket haul ended in vain as the third-place playoff match of the ACC Men’s Premier Cup against Kuwait was abandoned due to persistent rains at the TU Cricket Ground in Kathmandu, Nepal, on Sunday.

The right-arm bowler ran through the Kuwait middle order to restrict them to a paltry 130 in 31.3 overs. Chasing a modest target, Oman looked good in their chase as openers – Kashyap Prajapati and Jatinder Singh raced to 41 in just six overs before rains forced the players to go indoors.

With rains continuing, the match was finally called off but despite the no result, Oman secured a place in the 2023 ACC Emerging Teams Asia Cup in July.

Duleep Mendis’ men made it to the Emerging Teams Asia Cup on the basis of finishing third in the Men’s Premier Cup as they had a superior net run-rate (NRR) than Kuwait after both teams had ended with six points in their respective group stage. Oman finished with an NRR of +0.377 as compared to Kuwait’s +0.223.

Earlier, a day after the disappointment of losing to the UAE in the semi-final narrowly, Oman bowlers proved their dominance as Kuwait batters floundered against the sharp attack.

Kuwait opener Adnan Idrees top-scored with 34 and a late cameo from Sayed Monib, who hit 28 off 10 balls including five fours and a six helped the team cross 100-run mark.

Odedra returned with sensational figures of 5.3-1-14-5 and was on a hat-trick after dismissing Clinto Anto and Shiraz Khan off successive deliveries in the 26th over of the match. He then went on to pick three more as Kuwait crumbled to 130. Bilal Khan picked up two early wickets while skipper Zeeshan Maqsood, Ayaan Khan and Jatinder Singh also took a wicket apiece.

Prajapati was unbeaten on 13 while Jatinder was at the crease on 19-ball 26 when the match was called off.

The 2023 ACC Emerging Teams Asia Cup will be the fifth edition of the event and is scheduled to be held in July 2023. The eight teams in the tournament are the A teams from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and the top-three teams from the 2023 ACC Men’s Premier Cup.

On Monday, hosts Nepal will take on UAE in the final with the winner qualifying for the Asia Cup.

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Historic first world endurance podium for Oman’s Ahmad Al Harthy Sun, 30 Apr 2023 18:30:05 +0000 Muscat – History-making FIA World Endurance Championship racer Ahmad al Harthy secured his and Oman Racing’s first podium finish in the globe’s biggest endurance racing category on Saturday in an action-packed TotalEnergies 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps. 

Already making headlines the day before with an absolutely scintillating maiden GTE Am pole position in qualifying, Al Harthy proudly flew the Omani flag on the FIA WEC podium 24 hours later after a fantastic performance with team-mates Michael Dinan and Charlie Eastwood.

“Amazing, amazing – finally! We’ve done it, making history again, I’m so happy to have taken the podium we’ve wanted for so long. After qualifying on pole position, the start to the race was challenging as Michael went with slicks on the damp track, so it was very difficult, but he drove amazingly well and did an incredible job,” said Al Harthy.

“All the drivers and the team did an amazing job, the positions were changing and moving around with lots going on with Safety Cars. It went for us, and went against us at times, but in the end we got the podium and were less than half a second from second place. Charlie kept fighting right to the finish, he raced so well.

Saturday’s race in Belgium began on a damp track and the No.25 Aston Martin Vantage was fitted with slick Michelin tyres for the start. Dinan began the race and while the early running was difficult with grip at a premium, slipping down to eighth place, the American did an outstanding job on the slick rubber to stay in contention and he battled back brilliantly as the track dried more and more.

Into the top five before the end of the first half hour, he returned to the podium placings ahead of the first round of pit stops. Moving as high as second before Oman Racing’s initial pit visit, Dinan rejoined in fourth and stayed in the podium fight before handing over the car to Al Harthy.

Determined to keep the podium challenge on course, the Omani raced superbly and held third spot with two and a half hours elapsed – delivering fantastic pace and racecraft.Positions changed fairly regularly with Safety Car interventions and different strategies in play, Oman Racing leading at points, and there was very little to chose between the front-running contenders.

The Oman Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth, OQ, Omantel and MHD-ITICS supported driver didn’t put a wheel wrong and after serving the team’s fourth stop, Al Harthy continued in fourth and then made his way back into the top three before Eastwood took over for the final couple of hours.

With 90 minutes to run the Irishman was fourth, but he moved inside the top three again. Gaining more and more ground, as the race entered its closing stages Eastwood was right on the tail of the No.33 Chevrolet Corvette. Trying everything to find a way past, at the end of six intense hours the Oman Racing Aston Martin finished third and just 0.2 seconds shy of the runner-up spot.

Marking a true breakthrough weekend for Al Harthy and Oman Racing in FIA World Endurance, the Spa performance has been the perfect preparation for the crown jewel event of the season which comes next – the one and only Le Mans 24 Hours.

“I was very pleased with my drive in the battle with everybody all the time, although we were synched slightly differently with pit-stops. Sometimes we were fifth, sometimes leading, and then in the final hour we could see the podium was possible. Again, a historic moment for Oman and I am so very proud to be representing my country and Arabia in the biggest championship in the world,” said Al Harthy.

“This motivates us even more for Le Mans and I must thank everyone behind the scenes, our partners and the supporters as, without them, this just wouldn’t happen. It really means a lot to me for all of them to believe in our programme – and we have delivered.”

Six weeks from now Al Harthy and Oman Racing with TF Sport will be at the world-famous Circuit de la Sarthe in France for the legendary Le Mans 24 Hours. The big race will begin on June 10 and will mark the Omani’s maiden appearance in the endurance classic.

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