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Tuesday,07-December-2021

International

2nd Test: Rohit Sharma’s 161, Rahane’s 67 help India reach 300/6

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Rohit Sharma scored his seventh Test century — his first one year and after eight innings — to help India reach the 300 for six wickets on the first day of the second Test against England at the M.A.Chidambaram Stadium here on Saturday. Ajinkya Rahane scored 67 while
Rishabh Pant was batting on 33 at close.

The other unbeaten batsman was debutant Axar Patel, who was on five, on a pitch that had started assisting spin from the first hour of the day.

Sharma’s counter-attacking 161 (off 231 balls, 18x4s, 2x6s) and his 162-run partnership with Rahane (149 balls, 9x4s) helped India recover following a poor start after captain Virat Kohli won the toss and chose to bat.

Later in the day, Pant (56 balls, 5x4s, 1×6) put up a 35-run stand with R. Ashwin (13). Axar has so far played seven balls so far and hit one boundary.

India, who lost three wickets in the first session, didn’t lose any in the second session and both Sharma and Rahane handled the England bowlers with ease.

Sharma, who was struggling to get a big score since his return to Test cricket last month, took the attack to the English bowlers in a confident manner. The 33-year-old batsman raced to 80 off 78 deliveries (13x4s, 1×6) to take India to 106 for three wickets at lunch despite India losing three wickets.

On a pitch that aided turn early on, England introduced left-arm spinner Jack Leach as early as the eighth over of the match. Sharma, however, looked in control and put India in the driver’s seat before a couple of wickets late in the first session gave Joe Root’s team some relief.

India had lost Shubman Gill early with the team still to open its account. But then Sharma and No.3 Cheteshwar Pujara (21) shared an 85-run partnership for the second wicket to help India move into a commanding position. The partnership was dominated by Sharma as he unleashed his strokes.

However, just as they looked like they were taking the game away from England, the spinners got into action. Leach got rid of Pujara having him caught at slip by Ben Stokes.

Soon after, off-spinner Moeen Ali, who was proving expensive, spun one back in through the gap between Kohli’s bat and pad to dismiss him for a duck and reduce India to 86 for three.

India had won the toss and elected to bat. The hosts made three changes in the XI that lost the first Test by 227 runs in the four-Test series. They rested pace bowler Jasprit Bumrah and brought in Mohammed Siraj. Left-arm spinner Patel and Chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav replaced left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem and off-spinner Washington Sundar, respectively.

For England, pace bowler Stuart Broad came in for James Anderson, Olly Stone replaced the injured Jofra Archer and picked the wicket of Gill. Off-spinning all-rounder Ali replaced Dom Bess while Ben Foakes replaced Jos Buttler who has gone back to England.

Brief scores (Day 1): India 300/6 wkts in 88 overs (Rohit Sharma 161, Ajinkya Rahane 67, Rishabh Pant 33 batting; Axar Patel 5 batting, Jack Leach 2/78, Moeen Ali 2/95)

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I think England will win the Ashes 2-1, says Monty Panesar

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Former England spinner Monty Panesar believes that the Joe Root-led side is favourite to win the upcoming Ashes series against Australia.

England are due to open their Ashes campaign against Australia on Wednesday morning, with the first Test to be played at the Gabba in Brisbane.

The visiting side is bidding to win the Ashes Down Under for the first time since claiming the famous 3-1 victory in the 2010/11 edition.

“Everyone’s talking about Australia, but I really think England are favourites to win the Ashes,” Panesar told thecricketpaper.

“I think if we get some sort of play (in the first Test), which at the moment we just don’t know with the forecast, as it appears the first four days could be a washout, then a draw would be like a win for England.

“If they go to Adelaide for the pink (ball second) Test, I think that’s where England have the upper hand. England probably need to win that Test match to command their position on the tour and think that they are serious contenders to win this (series). I can see England winning the series, with the emergence of Ben Stokes being back in the team. Joe Root will want to taste that victory.”

“It’s going to be a lot closer than you think, I think England will win the Ashes 2-1,” Panesar added.

Panesar further believes that all-rounder Ben Stokes can have a major effect on the series.

“The Superman of cricket (Ben Stokes) is going to be absolutely crucial, all aspects of his persona. There’s going to be times when he’s not bowling and he’s helping others. It’s just his presence on the field, it makes a huge difference,” he added.

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Four things we learned from Spain’s Matchday 16

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Real Madrid opened up an eight-point gap at the top of La Liga this weekend as both Atletico Madrid and FC Barcelona lost at home. Here are some things we learned in Spain over the past two days.

1. The title is Real Madrid’s to lose.

Real Madrid were lucky to beat Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao in their two previous games, but they were clear winners away to Real Sociedad in San Sebastian on December 4 night, with goals from Vinicius Jr and Luka Jovic seeing them home against a disappointing rival that seemed to suffer big night nerves.

The win lifts Real Madrid 10 points above a side that only three weeks ago was top of the table, and puts them eight ahead of Sevilla who are second with a game in hand.

You could argue that for much of the season Real Madrid have not been brilliant and the goals of Vinicius and Karim Benzema have sustained them, but even if that is true, they have still been better than everyone else and the title is clearly theirs for the taking.

2. Sevilla quietly stake their claim

Sevilla’s 1-0 win at home to Villarreal may have had a dose of fortune to it as Villarreal missed several chances to take a point, but it leaves Julen Lopetegui’s men in second place and quite possibly as Real Madrid’s main title challengers, Xinhua reports.

Lopetegui deserves credit as his side is without key players Youssef En-Nesyri and Jesus Navas, robbing him of his top goalscorer and right wing-back, but he has built a team based on a solid defense, with the ‘triangle’ of Fernando, Diego Carlos and Jules Kounde the foundation that allows others such as Lucas Ocampos, Joan Jordan and Ivan Rakitic to shine.

This is a decisive week for Sevilla with a Champions League visit to RB Salzburg followed by a league game in Bilbao, but for the moment they seem to be the most creditable of Real Madrid’s rivals.

3. A reality check for Xavi

Barca rode their luck to beat Espanyol and Villarreal in Xavi Hernandez’s first two league games in charge, but the 1-0 defeat to Real Betis on December 4 provided fans with a reality check.

Barca started brightly in the Camp Nou as they have done in Xavi’s other games in charge, but once their initial burst ran out of steam, Betis were comfortable and controlled the game except for a brief spell when Ousmane Dembele came on as a second-half substitute.

Xavi’s main problem is that without Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez or Antoine Griezmann and with Ansu Fati injured, he doesn’t have the players to score the goals when they are on top, while the number of young players in his side means it is hard to keep their performances going for 90 minutes.

4. All credit to Betis

It would be unfair to focus just on Barcelona after Saturday’s game. Betis produced an assured display in defense and even without key playmaker Nabil Fekir, they were able to dominate the ball for long periods of the game and create chances against Barca on the break.

Juanmi has gone from being a fringe player to the top-scoring Spaniard in La Liga, and much of the credit has to go to coach Manuel Pellegrini. The man nicknamed ‘the engineer’ is not a coach for a quick fix, but slowly and surely he gets his teams to win games with a mix of organization and individual talent. That’s why Betis are currently third in La Liga.

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Commit more time, money to develop spin bowling skills: NZ great to players

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 Former New Zealand skipper Jeremy Coney had demanded the Black Caps commit more time, energy and money to develop their spin bowling skills in the wake of the humiliating loss to India in the second and final Test at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Monday.

India thrashed the World Test champions by 372 runs to record their biggest victory by run margin. With this win, India also bagged 12 points in the World Test Championship 2021/23 standings.

The Indian spinners had reduced New Zealand to 140/5 in their second innings at stumps on the third day and they wrapped up victory in 43 minutes on the fourth morning, bundling out New Zealand for 167 runs in 56.3 overs to record a smashing win.

India’s spin magic was not lost on the 69-year-old Coney, who played 52 Tests scoring more than 2,600 runs for the Kiwis. He urged New Zealand Cricket (NZC) to spend some time and resources to improve the Black Caps’ skills at facing and bowling spin.

Though New Zealand spinner Ajaz Patel rattled India with his 10-wicket haul in the first innings, the visiting team batters were woeful against Indian spinners managing only 62 and 167.

“I think NZ Cricket need to be braver and believe in spin bowling and commit time and money to the development of that part of the game,” Coney said on SENZ’s post-Test coverage on Tuesday.

“We need a place to go where guys can practice facing spin and having a batting coach there, or we should try send guys to India. Another option is that we have a wicket in New Zealand that turns more than the others, so we get our keepers and fielders learning on these pitches. These are full-time players, and I think we can do more.”

New Zealand earned the dubious distinction of losing the match by 372 runs, which is their biggest margin of defeat after their previous loss by 358 runs against South Africa in 2007.

New Zealand will now play a two-Test home series against Bangladesh from January 1.

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