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Wednesday,04-August-2021

International

Captain’s call on follow-on, depends on bowlers’ recovery: Ravichandran Ashwin

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Ravichandran Ashwin said that captain Virat Kohli will decide about whether India will enforce the follow-on or not after the third day of the second Test between India and South Africa in Pune on Saturday. South Africa were dismissed for 275 on Day 3, thus handing India a lead of 326.

“I haven’t thought about the follow-on,” Ashwin told reporters at the end of the day’s play at the MCA stadium when asked about his opinion on it. “The captain will decide overnight what we should do. It also depends upon how the bowlers recover tomorrow.”

Ashwin was all praise for Wriddiman Saha. Saha had a productive day behind the stumps, taking a brilliant catch off Umesh Yadav to dismiss Theunis de Bruyne and playing an important role in successfully overturning a caught behind appeal off Temba Bavuma that did not go India’s way.

“It’s a no-brainer to say Saha is one of the best (wicketkeepers) going around. I hardly saw him miss anything today even from the rough. It shows how good a keeper he is and what good set of hands he has got. He’s got a great composure too and you can’t really rule him out with the bat. He has made some really good contributions so he is a great wicketkeeper to have for us,” he told reporters.

Ashwin said that this pitch was quite similar to the one that was on offer in Visakhapatnam for the first Test. “Generally the scorecard tells you the story and one of the biggest problems with this South African team is that they bat till no.11 so you have to bowl at them like you bowl at a top order batsman. It was hard work but you expect to bowl out a team in 100-odd overs,” he said.

India would have got a much bigger lead on Day 3 had it not been for some late resistance from Vernon Philander (44 n.o.) and Keshav Maharaj (72). The pair added 109 runs for the ninth wicket and have possibly saved South Africa from suffering an innings defeat. Ashwin took four wickets, including those of Maharaj and South African skipper Faf du Plessis (64). The 33-year-old said that the pair batted pretty well and that he was too happy to be bowling again to be frustrated by the pair.

“I don’t get frustrated. I’m happy to be bowling again and whoever bats against me I am happy to keep bowling at him. It’s a good pitch, Philander batted beautifully. His technique towards spin and fast bowling was quite good. He played with soft hands and I think the myth of tailenders is just overstated. Nowadays nobody is really a mug with a bat. Even in our team everybody bats till number 11,” he said.

International

Excited at the prospect of playing in middle-order: Aussie skipper Matthew Wade

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London: Australia’s Matthew Wade celebrates his century on Day 4 of the 5th Test match between England and Australia at Kennington Oval in London on Sep 15, 2019. (Photo: Twitter/@ICC)

Australia’s stand-in skipper Matthew Wade has said ahead of the opening T20 International against Bangladesh at the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium later on Tuesday that it is an exciting prospect for him to “go back into the middle order” and that the task “doesn’t faze me too much”.

Australia will play a five-match T20I series against Bangladesh in the tune-up to the ICC T20 World Cup later this year in the UAE and Oman.

“To go back into the middle order is a challenge I’m excited to do. It doesn’t faze me too much, whatever needs to be done. Then once the (T20) World Cup comes around, whether that means I go back up the top or stay in the middle order, we aren’t 100 per cent sure. The way Mitch (Mitchell Marsh) has come out and played at No. 3 that’s certainly another option for us at the top.”

The fringe players in the Australian team will have an opportunity to make a case for themselves in the T20 World Cup squad when they face Bangladesh in the series.

Australia are without several key players, including David Warner, Pat Cummins, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Jhye Richardson and Kane Richardson, all of whom opted out of the tour while Steve Smith and Aaron Finch are nursing injuries.

Wade will be hoping that the team can bounce back after the 4-1 loss to the West Indies in the T20I series last month.

Bangladesh, meanwhile, come into the series on the back of a 2-1 T20I series win over Zimbabwe. With Mushfiqur Rahim, Liton Das and Tamim Iqbal missing the series, the onus will be on experienced campaigners such as Shakib Al Hasan, Mahmudullah and Soumya Sarkar to lead the way against Australia.

The last time they played, Australia beat Bangladesh by three wickets when they faced off in the Super 10 stages of the ICC T20 World Cup 2016 in Bangalore.

Batting first, the Bangladesh batsmen faltered early, losing both Soumya Sarkar and Sabbir Rahman in the power-play. Mohammad Mithun and Shakib steadied the ship with a 37-run stand before Australia’s bowlers pegged the batting line-up back.

A late flurry from Mahmudullah and Mushfiqur Rahim took Bangladesh to 156/5. Adam Zampa was the pick of the bowlers with 3/23 in four overs.

The Australian openers Usman Khawaja and Shane Watson put up a 62-run stand and it looked like they would cruise to victory at that stage. Australia were 95/1 in 11.2 overs at one stage, but then almost threw it away after sliding to 135/5. Maxwell’s 15-ball 26 proved to be crucial in the end as Australia got across the line with nine balls to spare.

Bangladesh coach Russell Domingo said, “Obviously, winning is always important. It’s a great opportunity for us to try and win a series against Australia; it will do wonders for our confidence. We also want to try and find our best combination (for the T20 World Cup), and playing against Australia will give us that opportunity.”

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Indian hockey team played extremely well: Amarinder Singh

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After India lost to Belgium in the Olympics men’s hockey semi-final, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Tuesday said the Indian hockey team played extremely well and wished the team the very best for the next match.

“Our Indian hockey team played extremely well in a keenly fought semi-final,” the Chief Minister tweeted.

“Despite the result, keep your head high and give it your best in the bronze medal playoff match. Best of luck for a podium finish!”

Before the match, Amarinder Singh in a tweet said, “Super exciting men’s hockey semi-final against Belgium.

“The entire country is proud of the hockey team’s performance. Let’s give it all we’ve got in the last quarter and win this.”

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Olympics: Gold dream ends, India men’s hockey team to play for bronze

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India’s dream of winning a gold medal in the Olympic Games men’s hockey competition after a gap of 41 years was crushed when they went down 2-5 against world champions Belgium in the semifinals here on Tuesday.

The Indians, who had won their eighth gold medal in the 1980 Moscow Olympics, fought well, went 2-1 up in the first quarter but slack defending and conceding too many penalty corners did them in as Belgium fought back to not only level scores but also scored thrice in the fourth quarter to seal a place in their second successive final. Belgium had lost 4-2 to Argentina in the Rio Olympics final five years ago.

Alexander Hendrickx, one of the most feared drag-flickers in the world, scored a hat-trick to seal Belgium’s victory. Hendrickx, who leads the scoring with 14 goals now, scored two off penalty corners in the 19th and 49th minute and one off a penalty stroke (53rd min) to put the match beyond India’s reach. Loick Fanny Luypaert (2nd min) and John John Dohmen (60th min) scored a goal apiece for Belgium, while Harmanpreet Singh (7th min) and Mandeep Singh (11th) were the Indian goal scorers in the match that started at a fast pace.

Belgium will play the winner of the second semifinal between Australia and Germany. India will take on the team losing the second semifinal for the bronze medal.

Though the Indians lost the match, they were not disgraced as they matched the Belgians, who lost to Argentina in the Rio Olympics, for three of the four quarters.

The Indian attacks worked well in the first two quarters but the defence looked stretched from the start of the match — committing mistakes both in ideation and execution as the Belgians came back from behind and sealed a good victory.

The defence that did so well against Great Britain in the quarterfinals, committed basic errors in their eagerness to thwart the Belgians. Instead of tackling them outside the shooting circle, they tried to stop them inside. The Belgians played smart and, instead of going for field goals, created penalty corners to give their drag-flickers the opportunity to break India’s resistance.

India, who were on a brilliant run of four successive wins, got off to a slow start and conceded a goal early in the second minute when they earned the first penalty corner.

Loick Luypaert, Belgium’s second-choice drag-flicker lined up for an attempt as their top scorer Hendrickx — who has scored 11 goals before the semifinal — gave his team the lead as he flicked a brilliant shot into the left corner just inches away from the outstretched leg of Indian goalkeeper PR Sreejesh.

But the Indians got into their rhythm and started enjoying more possession, moving the ball up into the attacking third, earning their first penalty corner in the 7th minute. Harmanpreet made it 1-1 with a superb drag-flick.

The Indians continued to press forward and took the lead in the 11th minute when forward Mandeep trapped cleanly in the circle a superb cross from Amit Rohidas, made a swift turn, and planted a powerful reverse hit into the goal.

India could not sustain the pressure and Belgium started the second quarter on a positive note, earning four penalty corners in succession. They made it 2-2 when Hendrickx outthought Sreejesh with a deft last-second change of direction to flick the ball into the goal.

Though the Indians enjoyed possession in the second and third quarters, Belgium slowly took control in the fourth as they looked for penalty corners off every opportunity they got.

Hendrickx struck early in the fourth quarter after another series of penalty corners — most of them blocked either by Sreejesh or rusher Amit Rohidas. That got the Belgians going and they sealed a memorable victory.

In all India conceded 14 penalty corners of which Belgium converted three.

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