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As a fan, Day-Night Test makes sense: Sania Mirza




She is undoubtedly the biggest name when it comes to India’s representation in the women’s tennis circuit, but on Friday it was all about cricket for Sania Mirza. In the city to witness India’s maiden Day-Night Test at the historic Eden Gardens, Sania said that there was no saying ‘no’ to friend Sourav Ganguly.

Speaking to IANS, Sania said that it was amazing to be a part of something as historic as the pink ball Test and said that it does make sense as a fan.

“Sourav invited us personally as there is also a felicitation. It is great to be a part of something historic. I know Sourav for quite a long time and there was no question of saying no.

“Honestly, as a fan, it does make a little bit of sense. Technically I cannot say. But as a fan I can see how this can work in the evening with people coming from work and watching. And everything at night is better usually. It is more dramatic. I don’t know if this will be the future or not, but it is great to have something like this and it is a great option,” she said.

Sania is an avid cricket fan and with husband Shoaib Malik playing for Pakistan, does she call for a return of arch-rivals India and Pakistan on the cricket pitch? She refused to get into the debate and said there were people who had the responsibility of taking that call.

“I don’t know. That is not a call for us to take right? People are there who take this call. I do follow cricket regardless of who is playing and I do follow the Indian team and when my husband is playing,” she said.

Asked who her favourite is among the Indian players, the 33-year-old tennis star had a fun take saying that she suddenly feels old now that her friends have all retired. But made no bones about the fact that skipper Virat Kohli is her favourite in this team.

“Virat Kohli I would say. He is the whole country’s favourite isn’t he? I somehow feel older because all my friends have retired whether it was Yuvi (Yuvraj Singh), Zak (Zaheer Khan) and all. So I will go with Virat,” she laughed.

While cricket is the reason she was at the Eden, any chat with her is incomplete with a point on her return to the tennis court and Sania said that plans are on course and it should be the Australian Open in January.

“Hopefully in January as I am planning to make a comeback in Hobart in the Australian Open,” she signed off.


AFC Women’s Asian Cup: Chinese Taipei thrash Iran, seal quarter-final berth




Chinese Taipei booked their place in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup quarter-finals after defeating Iran 5-0 in their final Group A tie at the D.Y. Patil Stadium, here on Wednesday.

Lai Li-Chin starred with a hat-trick with Chen Yen-Ping and Wang Hsiang-Huei scoring one each as Chinese Taipei sealed second place in Group A behind China PR to advance to the knockout stage. Both teams, having suffered defeats against China, went into the tie fully aware that their respective fates were in their own hands, with Chinese Taipei only needing a draw to pip Iran to a quarter-final berth.

Iran, appearing in their inaugural AFC Women’s Asian Cup, had the first look on goal in the third minute when Melika Motevalli almost caught Chinese Taipei napping but her powerful header was parried to safety by goalkeeper Cheng Ssu-Yu. Chinese Taipei, however, responded immediately with Lee Hsiu-Chin doing well to muscle her way into the box to draw out the defenders, allowing Lai time to send her well-placed shot to the bottom left corner.

Iran came close to finding the equaliser in the 21st minute but Afsaneh Chatrenoor’s shot from inside the box was saved by goalkeeper Cheng, while Fatemeh Amineh saw her glancing header cleared. Chinese Taipei doubled their lead in the 31st minute when captain Lai’s intended cross sailed over Iran goalkeeper Zohreh Khodaei and into the back of the net. With the momentum firmly in the East Asian team’s favour, Kazuo Echigo’s side added their third five minutes from the break through Chen Yen-Ping’s close-range effort.

Chinese Taipei came close to finding the net again in the 55th minute when Lai sent a clever ball into the six-yard-box but substitute Chi Ting sent her shot straight into the arms of Khodaei. Iran were under pressure again moments later, with Chi Ting finding herself in a scoring position down the left flank but her shot from the edge of the box grazed the crossbar.

There was, however, to be more agony for Iran as they conceded a penalty in the 63rd minute following Motevalli’s foul on Su Yu-Hsuan, with Lai sending Khodaei the wrong way to seal her hat-trick. Chinese Taipei made it 5-0 in the 78th minute through substitute Wang Hsiang-Huei, who picked up Su Yu-Hsuan’s through ball before slotting home to seal the emphatic win.

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U19 World Cup: Rehan Ahmed, Bethell help England beat South Africa, reach semi




A four-wicket haul by spinner Rehan Ahmed and a blazing half-century by Jacob Bethell helped England defeat South Africa, by six wickets and storm into the Super League semi-finals of ICC U19 Cricket World Cup here.

Ahmed claimed four for 48 as South Africa were bundled out for 209 in 43.4 overs despite a classy 97 by Dewald Brevis. In reply, England romped to 212/4 in 31.2 thanks to Bathell’s 88 off just 42 deliveries.

Bethell, who was born and raised in Barbados and joined the youth ranks at Warwickshire as a 17-year-old at the start of 2021, blasted 16 boundaries and two sixes as England raced to a superb victory.

The aggression shown by England opener Bethell removed any pressure they may have felt chasing 210, with the Warwickshire man producing one of the best individual knocks of the tournament so far.

Bethell’s explosive innings saw England rattle along at over ten runs an over before he fell with the score at 110, already over halfway to the target and with 39.2 overs remaining. He and fellow opener George Thomas (19) added 110 runs for the opening wicket before Bathell went for a slog sweep and failed to connect properly, sending down the throat of Ethan-John Cunningham who took a sharp catch at deep midwicket.

The only tinge of disappointment for Bethell was that he didn’t convert his start into what would have been a richly-deserved century.

England raised the remaining runs without much trouble as they sealed a place in the semi-finals.

Earlier, South Africa elected to bat first on winning the toss but soon ran into trouble as they were reduced to 21/2 in the seventh over.

But Dewald Brevis came to their rescue and helped them reach a modest target.

The all-rounder’s returns with the bat have been quite extraordinary at this tournament and he should have had another century against England, falling for 97 as he looked to boost his side’s total while wickets tumbled around him.

Brevis is nicknamed ‘Baby ABD’, and it’s not hard to see why comparisons have been drawn with the South Africa legend AB de Villiers. His array of shots and attacking potential is something special, but so is the 18-year-old’s control — throughout the tournament he has played at a pace that suits the team rather than himself.

His four innings to date at the U19 World Cup have yielded 65 against India, 104 against Uganda, 96 against Ireland, and now 97 against England. And with two games still to go, it’ll be fascinating to see how many more runs he can pile on in the Caribbean.

But the rest of the South Africa batters failed to give him much support as they were bundled out for 209.

Joshua Boyden looked just as dangerous with the new ball against the top-level batters of South Africa as he had during the group stage, taking two early wickets and finishing with very tidy figures of 2/31.

Spinner Ahmed was outstanding too, coming back well after being hit for runs early on to take 4/48 off his ten overs.

Meanwhile, in the Plate League, Zimbabwe thrashed Scotland by 108 runs while hosts West Indies registered a 169-run victory against Papua New Guinea.

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BCCI bringing back Kuldeep Yadav into the 50-over format




Kuldeep Yadav

India on Wednesday announced an 18-member squad for the upcoming ODI and T20I series against the West Indies, with Rohit Sharma returning to lead the team and leg spinner Ravi Bishnoi getting maiden call-up to the senior side.

Rohit, who was ruled out of the South Africa tour because of a hamstring injury has fully recovered from his injury and will lead the side. He cleared the mandatory fitness test at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru following which he attended the selection meeting with the senior selection committee.

It would be the first series for Rohit as the full-time ODI skipper after he replaced Virat Kohli in December, last year.

However, all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja is undergoing his final stage of recovery post his knee injury and will not be available for the ODIs and T20Is. Hardik Pandya also remains sidelined as of now.

The All-India Senior Selection Committee led by Chetan Sharma has rested pacers Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Shami for the series. On the other hand, KL Rahul will be available from the 2nd ODI onwards.

Young leg-spinner Bishnoi has been rewarded with a maiden India for the T20 series. He impressed everyone with his bowling skills while playing for Punjab in the last two seasons of Indian Premier League and has been picked up by new franchise Lucknow Super Giants from the drafts for the next season of cash-rich league.

Bishnoi first came to limelight after making an impression in the 2020 Under-19 World Cup.

The other big call made by the selectors was bringing back Kuldeep Yadav into the 50-over format. The left-arm spinner has been on the sidelines for a long time and was only handed an opportunity in Sri Lanka last year when India were forced to pick a second string side.

Meanwhile, batting all-rounder Deepak Hooda has also earned a surprise call-up to the ODI squad whereas Harshal Patel finds a spot in the T20I squad. Pacer Avesh Khan has been picked in both the squads with the selectors opting to retain Bhuvneshwar Kumar only in the T20I set-up.

Veteran off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has been handed a break but his Tamil Nadu teammate Washington Sundar makes a return after missing out on the South Africa tour due to Covid-19. All-rounder Venkatesh Iyer has been chosen only in the T20I squad having already been benched in the third and final ODI in South Africa recently.

India are set to play three ODIs at the Narendra Modi Stadium, Ahmedabad from February 6 followed by the T20I series at the Eden Gardens, Kolkata from February 16.

ODI squad: Rohit Sharma (Captain), KL Rahul (Vice-captain), Ruturaj Gaikwad, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Surya Kumar Yadav, Shreyas Iyer, Deepak Hooda, Rishabh Pant (wicket-keeper), Deepak Chahar, Shardul Thakur, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Washington Sundar, Ravi Bishnoi, Mohd. Siraj, Prasidh Krishna, Avesh Khan

T20I squad: Rohit Sharma (Captain), KL Rahul (Vice-captain), Ishan Kishan, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Surya Kumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant (wicket-keeper), Venkatesh Iyer, Deepak Chahar, Shardul Thakur, Ravi Bishnoi, Axar Patel, Yuzvendra Chahal, Washington Sundar, Mohd. Siraj, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Avesh Khan, Harshal Patel.

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