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ENG v IND, 5th Test: Pant’s marvellous 146, Jadeja’s unbeaten 83 propel Ind’a to 338/7

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Rishabh-Pant

Rishabh Pant played one of the best knocks by an Indian Test batter in overseas conditions, a marvellous 146, as he and Ravindra Jadeja (83 not out) figured in a magnificent counterattack to propel India to 338/7 in 73 overs on day one of rescheduled fifth Test against England at Edgbaston on Friday.

At 98/5, India were in all sorts of trouble, staring at a total that would have been way less than what they expected. But Pant and Jadeja shared a counter-attacking stand of 222 runs off 239 balls, with Pant producing a knock that will be remembered for long while Jadeja played the second foil to perfection.

England were stunned, bereft of ideas as Pant was spot-on with his targets to attack and then dominate a tiring bowling unit. Just like how the New Zealand pair of Daryl Mitchell and Tom Blundell frustrated England in the recent series, Pant and Jadeja did the same in a brilliant rear-guard act. Such was the impact of Pant’s 146, his fifth ton in Test cricket, that head coach Rahul Dravid co’ldn’t stop himself from erupting in joy with hands aloft in the dressing room.

His knock had everything one would expect in a typical Pant knock: timing, calculated control, judicious shot selection, drives, pulls, flicks and one-handed heave, falling over but managing to clear the fence. He capitalised on the over-pitched deliveries, toyed with Leach’s line and length and didn’t play a shot in anger or in a sudden rush of blood.

Friday at Edgbaston was a mix of gloom and shine in terms of the weather. When it was gloomy, England made hay but when the sun came out, Pant and Jadeja basked in scintillating stroke play to put India on top. Electing to bowl first, England got very little movement as they found only 0.61 degrees of average swing in the first ten overs.

But that was of little value as Shubman Gill, who hit four attractive boundaries, looked a little tentative to balls outside the off-stump, edging a couple of them which didn’t carry to the slip cordon. James Anderson’s persistence bore fruit when he got rid of Gill with a ball the batter should have left on line and length, but poked at it and nicked to second slip.

Anderson struck again when his fuller ball swung late and had some extra bounce, which took the shoulder edge of Cheteshwar Pujara’s bat to second slip. After a rain delay of nearly one-and-a-half hours, Hanuma Vihari, who called this venue home when playing for Warwickshire last year in County Championship, was trapped lbw by a full nip-backer from Potts.

Virat Kohli tried to leave after playing forward defence against Potta. But he was late in withdrawing the bat, which resulted in him chopping onto his stumps off the bottom edge. Shreyas Iyer was aggressive in his start, taking three boundaries, but he gloved a short ball off Anderson to leg-side and wicketkeeper Sam Billings dived to his left, completing a stunning one-handed catch.

England were on top at that juncture. But there was very little idea that despite losing half of the side even before touching the 100-run mark, India would end day one on top, thanks to Pant and Jadeja. The duo began the revival job by keeping the scoreboard ticking through strike rotation and some exquisite shots. As Anderson and Broad went fuller in their lengths, boundaries came in. Jadeja slammed two glorious on-drives and an eye-catchy off-drive, presenting the full face of the bat while Pant brought out a punchy drive through cover.

With the Dukes’ ball going soft after 30 overs and with a ball change in between, the path to fightback opened for India when Jack Leach’s re-introduction in the 37th over got Pant to step out and drive through long-off for a boundary. Leach dropped it short on the very next ball and Pant rocked back to pull for another boundary.

Pant brought up the half-century of his association with Jadeja by dancing down the pitch to slam a six down the ground. Six overs and a boundary later, Pant reached his fifty in 51 balls off Leach with a sublime whip coming off the backfoot to beat deep square leg easily to seal the second session in India’s favour.

The duo began the final session by hitting four boundaries in the first three overs. The pick of those boundaries was Pant collecting a pair of back-foot punches through point off Potts. When Potts tried to trouble Pant with short-pitched stuff, he got in line of the ball and pulled comfortably through fine leg successive’y. Anderson and Leach’s thrashing continued as Pant got his century after diving for the second run off Broad. In the same over, Jadeja pushed to mid-on for a single, reaching to his fifty.

After getting his century, Pant smacked Leach for two fours, one of which was an overthrow, and as many sixes, one of them his trademark one-handed stroke. Even Joe Root’s part-time off-spin wasn’t spared by Pant, carved over extra cover and a fast bouncer swivelled over fine leg for boundaries.

After Jadeja pulled Stokes through sq’are leg to bring up India’s 300, Pant went for a big slog-sweep after smacking Root down the ground. But with Root firing a slower, wide delivery, the ball took the edge to the lone slip fielder. Stokes had another wicket when he bounced out Shardul Thakur. But Jadeja ensure’ that another wicket didn’t fall till stumps arrived, to make day one truly India’s day.

Brief scores: India 338/7 in 73 overs (Rishabh Pant 146, Ravindra Jadeja 83 not out; James Anderson 3/52, Matthew Potts 2/85) against England

International

Australian Open: Sania Mirza bids adieu to Grand Slam career as runner-up in Melbourne

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 India tennis star Sania Mirza on Friday wrapped up her legendary Grand slam career as Australian Open mixed doubles runner-up. The Indian ace and partner Rohan Bopanna lost to the all-Brazilian pair Luisa Stefani and Rafael Matos in the mixed doubles final here at Melbourne Park.

Sania and Bopanna were beaten 7-6(2), 6-2 by Brazilians Stefani and Matos, who were playing in their first-ever Grand Slam final.

In her final major, the 36-year-old Sania admitted her emotions almost boiled over after the Indians stunned third seeds and reigning Wimbledon champions Desirae Krawczyk and Neal Skupski in the semifinals. There was no holding them back after her final match at Melbourne Park, 22 years after she first teamed with Bopanna.

Interestingly, Sania claimed her first major in 2009 at Melbourne Park, when she paired up with Mahesh Bhupathi. And she ended her illustrious Grand Slam career here.

Melbourne Park has been a happy hunting ground for the Indian star. After his maiden triumph in 2009. Seven years later, in 2016, she paired up with Swiss star Martina Hingis and claimed the women’s doubles title as the top seed.

Outside Australia, she earned four other Grand Slam titles: 2015 Wimbledon and 2015 US Open women’s doubles with Hingis, 2012 Roland Garros mixed doubles with Bhupathi and 2014 US Open mixed doubles with Bruno Soares.

“The journey of my professional career started in Melbourne� in 2005 when I played Serena Williams in the third round as an 18-year-old,” an emotional Sania said.

“That was scarily enough 18 years ago and I’ve had the privilege to come back here again and again and win some titles here. Rod Laver Arena has really been special in my life� To play the final, obviously, we couldn’t get over the line, but there’s no better place and no better person to finish my Grand Slam career with.”

“I never thought I’d be able to play in front of my child in a Grand Slam final, so it’s truly special for me to have my four-year-old here and my parents here, Rohan’s wife here,” she added.

Bopanna was looking to add a second Grand Slam mixed doubles title after his 2017 Roland Garros victory. Despite coming up short, he paid tribute to his compatriot and friend.

“It’s truly special for me to play with Sania,” he said. “Our first mixed doubles together was when she was 14 years old and we happened to win the title.

“Today we get to play the last match here on Rod Laver Arena. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the title, but thank you so much for your time, for Indian tennis, for inspiring each and everyone.”

Stefani and Matos are the first all-Brazilian team to win a major after ending Sania and Rohan Bopanna’s farewell appearance together in the Australian Open mixed doubles final.

“Rohan and Sania� I know how many people you’ve inspired,” Stefani said. “Like Brazil, like India, this means so much to our countries. It inspires the kids, it inspires the next generations.”

The six-time Grand Slam champion, Sania, earlier this month announced that she will retire from professional tennis after the Dubai Tennis Championships, a WTA 1000 event, which begins on February 19.

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Bangladesh might have succumbed to pressure v India; not taking fake fielding issue any further: Sriram

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Bangladesh coach Sridharan Sriram has conceded his team might have succumbed to pressure in the thrilling five-run loss to India in their Super 12 Group 2 match of the ICC T20 World Cup, and has also said he has no intention of taking the potential fake fielding incident involving Virat Kohli during the match any further.

Bangladesh were cruising along at 66 without loss in seven overs, with Litton Das coming out all guns blazing and snatching the advantage of making 184/6 from India through a breath-taking 59 not out off 26 balls — laced with seven fours and three sixes at a strike rate of 226.9 — when rain put a halt to his pyrotechnics.

Bangladesh’s target was revised from 185 in 20 overs to 151 in 16 overs. They needed 85 more runs in nine overs to win the match, with all wickets in hand. India’s bowling attack, which took a beating in the power-play, got the much-needed respite thanks to the rain break and they went on to win the match by five runs (D/L method).

Sriram agreed the rain delay and the revised target brought the pressure on his side and it crumbled.

“Well, it was quite frantic for that brief (last) 10-12 minutes (of the match), which is understandable. I think the boys, nine runs an over or 9.75 runs an over, definitely I think the pressure got to them a little bit. Yeah, it was a little bit of a frantic 15-20 minutes if I can put it, yes,” said Sriram, the former Australia spin-bowling coach.

Bangladesh are scheduled to play their last Super 12 game against Pakistan on Sunday with a win not guaranteeing them a place in the last four, but the results of the remaining two Group 2 games — South Africa vs Netherlands and India vs Zimbabwe — could facilitate their semifinal entry.

Much heat has been generated over on-field umpires missing a potential fake fielding incident involving Kohli, which could have earned Bangladesh five runs in penalties and a victory against India, but Sriram said he is not here “to offer any excuses” for the defeat.

Wicketkeeper Nurul Hasan accused Kohli of fake fielding during the match, claiming that the umpires missed the incident and could have resulted in the opposition getting crucial five runs as penalty. The incident that Hasan talked about going unnoticed took place in the seventh over of Bangladesh’s chase when Kohli feigned a throw while standing at point, as if he was relaying a throw coming from Arshdeep Singh from the deep off the bowling of Axar Patel.

Neither the on-field umpires, Marais Erasmus and Chris Brown, spotted it, nor did the two Bangladeshi batters, openers Litton Das and Najmul Hossain Shanto, out in the middle, pointed it out.

Law 41.5, pertaining to unfair play, prohibits the “deliberate distraction, deception or obstruction of (the) batter”, and if an incident is deemed to be a breach, the umpire can declare that particular delivery as dead ball, and award the batting side five runs. But Hasan didn’t mention if either of Das or Shanto spoke to him or to the team about distraction or deception from Kohli pretending to throw the ball to the keeper.

Shedding light on the controversy, Sriram said, “No, we are not here to offer any excuses. I did speak to the fourth umpire as soon as it happened, but I think it was the on-field umpire’s call, and that’s what we were told, but we’re not here to offer any excuses.”

Sriram said the focus now is to beat Pakistan and wait for the results of other matches to go in his team’s favour.

“I’ve been very clear in all my press conferences. We’re just taking it one game at a time, plan for one opposition at a time. Every game we want to go, we obviously want to win it, but we’re aware of what challenges Pakistan present. We played them in New Zealand just recently (in the Tri-series), and we have high respect for that team, so we’re going to turn up and be at our best on that day.”

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Adit, Nihaal lead a strong showing in third leg of US Kids Golf India; Five boys, two girls complete hat-trick of wins

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Adit Veeramachaneni of Bengaluru landed three eagles in a superb winning effort of 7-under 65 in the third leg of the US Kids Golf India at the links-style Golden Greens.

Adit, winner of the first two legs of the India series, completed a treble in the U-9 category.

Veeramachaneni was one of the five players in the Boys section to complete a hat-trick of wins. Two other players in the Girls section also completed a similar feat of three wins in three starts.

Among the outstanding performances in the third leg was Nihaal Cheema in the Boys Under-6. He carded an incredible six birdies in his nine-hole competition for a 6-under 30 score.

Divjot Singh playing in Boys U-7 Category gave the US Kids Golf India Series a milestone moment by holing his second shot at the 275-yard Par-5 fifth hole for the Tour’s first-ever albatross in India. Divjot’s second shot from just over 100 yards disappeared into the hole sparking off a big celebration.

Divjot also avenged the defeat he had suffered earlier at the hands of Kabir Goyal, who finished second this time.

The excellent scores were indicative of the talent on view, as six winners and one second placed player shot under par scores and another two winners had even par rounds. It meant that the players with under par scores will have a chance to qualify for the US Kids Golf’s World Championships in the US and the European events.

The six winners shooting under par at the Golden Greens included Nihaal Cheema (Boys U-6), Divjot Gupta (Boys U-7), Adit Veeramachaneni (Boys U-9) and Armin Paul Singh (Boys U-12) among boys and Amaira Gulati (Girls U-8) and Shambhavi Chaturvedi (Girls 11-12). Arnav Kumar (Boys U-9), runner-up in U-9, also shot 1-under.

The players completing a treble were: Nihaal Cheema (Boys U-6), Jot Sarup Singh (Boys U-8), Adit Veeramachaneni (Boys U-9), Chaitanya Pandey (Boys U-11) and Manyaveer Bhadoo (Boys 15-18).

Among the girls, Lucknow’s Amaira Gulati (U-8) and Gurgaon’s Mahreen Bhatia (Girls 13-14) made it three in a row.

Rajesh Srivastava, President of the US Kids Golf India, said, “It was a sensational day. Adit (Veeramachaneni) from Bengaluru and Nihaal Cheema carded brilliant scores of 7-under and 6-under. There was also the first-ever albatross in US Kids Golf India when Divjot Singh holed his second shot on the Par-5 in the U-7 category. The birdies and eagles also signalled the rising standards as the youngsters aim for berths at the World and European Championships, ahead of the Indian Championship later this month.”

Amit Dube, the Tournament Director, a former pro and now a coach, added, “The standard shows that these youngsters are ready for big events and American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) events. We look forward to a high level of play and more youngsters coming out in future.”

Fifty players teed up across the various age categories as they got ready for the Indian Championship, a three-day international event to be held from November 23-25, 2022. The Indian Championship, scheduled at the Classic Golf and Country Club, will have World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) points.

Players shooting 72 and below in at least two Local Tour events will earn Level 11 status and will earn AJGA Performance Star.

The US Kids local Tour is the only tournament giving opportunity to Players to earn AJGA Stars. The youngsters are looking to accumulate Priority Level status for the US Kids Europe and World Championships and the AJGA stars, which helps them get into numerous international events.

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