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Thursday,20-January-2022

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I think Neymar knows he made a mistake leaving Barca: Lionel Messi

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FC Barcelona forward Leo Messi has denied opposing the club’s signing of Antoine Griezmann this summer.

In an interview on the radio station RAC1 on Tuesday night, Messi also said that Neymar probably thinks he made a mistake in leaving the club in 2017 to join Paris Saint Germain, reports Xinhua news agency.

“It’s not true that I didn’t want Griezmann to come. It has never been a problem from my point of view,” said Messi, who said the French forward was “one of the best” players in the world.

He then discussed Neymar, whose possible return to Barcelona was one of the long-running sagas of the summer.

“He is one of the best as well, he’s different; he does things nobody expects. Having him in our team would give us more options,” said Messi, who admitted that the way Neymar left Barca by paying the release clause on his contract had upset a lot of fans who “didn’t want him to come back and that’s understandable.”

However, Messi said he keeps in contact with his former teammate and implied the Brazilian knew he had made a mistake in leaving Barca.

“You’d have to ask him but I think that’s the case. Knowing him as I do and seeing what he’s going through I’d say that was the case,” he commented.

Finally, the Argentine denied trying to influence the club to try and bring Neymar back to the Camp Nou.

“Although many people seem to think I’m in charge of signing players and sacking coaches, I wasn’t involved. I spoke to Ney and got the impression he wanted to come back but I only spoke to him and nobody else,” he explained.

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1st ODI: Dussen, Bavuma tons propel South Africa to 296 against India

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 Fighting centuries by Temba Bavuma (110 off 143) and Rassie van der Dussen (129 not out off 96) helped South Africa post a challenging 296/4 against India in the first ODI of the three-match series at Boland Park, here on Wednesday.

The hosts were in a spot of bother at 68-3, but Bavuma and Dussen stitched a huge 204-run stand for the 4th wicket to bail out Proteas from a tricky situation and propelled them to a competitive total at the sluggish Paarl pitch.

After winning the toss and opting to bat first, South Africa didn’t have a great start as they lost the wicket of Janneman Malan (6) in the 5th over of the innings. Malan, whose feet stayed glued to the crease, played a loose shot, with the ball taking a faint edge and Rishabh Pant made no mistake behind the wickets.

Skipper Temba Bavuma then joined Quinton de Kock at the crease and they negotiated India’s new-ball bowlers, who were spot on with the line and length and also managed to get some movement in the air. The duo batted cautiously and took South Africa to 39-1 at the end of the first 10 overs.

With a partnership building, Rahul introduced R Ashwin into the attack. The spinner, playing his first ODI since June 2017, nearly struck in his first over but Shreyas Iyer dropped the catch. The ball was tossed up outside off from Ashwin and de Kock sliced it towards wide of point, where Iyer moved to his right and dropped the catch after getting both hands to it.

However, it was eventually Aswhin, who ended De Kock’s (27) struggle and gave India the second wicket of the day. The left hander went for the cut on a flatter delivery by Ashwin but he missed it and was bowled and his 39-run stand with Bavuma came to an end.

Thereafter, Aiden Markram, who came to bat next, played many dot deliveries and a desperate attempt to get off the strike cost him his wicket. He played a drive to mid-off, called for the run but he couldn’t make it as debutant Venkatesh Iyer smashed a direct hit on the stumps, leaving South Africa to 68-3 after 17.4 overs.

From there on, Rassie van der Dussen and Bavuma mixed caution with aggression and got their partnership going, taking Proteas to 118/3 at the half-way stage.
Bavuma, who came out with a positive approach and stayed patient during a tough phase, got off to his third ODI fifty off 76 balls and continued the rebuilding job with his partner.

KL Rahul made several bowling changes to break the stand but Proteas batters — Dussen and Bavuma played with great determination and brought up a wonderful 100-run stand in the 34th over of the innings. Soon, Dussen also completed his half-century to peg the visitors back and keep the scoreboard ticking.

An overthrow by an Indian fielder took South Africa past 200 in the 39th over as Proteas batters looked to put their foot on the accelerator. The momentum was completely in South Africa favour and carrying his brilliant form from the Test series, Bavuma reached his second century of his career off 133 balls in the 45th over.

With five overs to go, the pair of Dussen and Bavuma looked to put India under a lot of pressure as Dussen got to his century in just 83 balls. But the likes of Bhuvi and Bumrah pulled things back by using yorkers and slower deliveries perfectly and didn’t allow hosts to score freely.

The accuracy by Indian bowlers in the death overs brought them success as Bavuma finally got out to Bumrah in the 49th over of the innings. After playing a captain’s knock of 110 runs, Bavuma holed out to India skipper KL Rahul at long on and his mammoth 204-run stand for the 4th wicket with Dussen came to an end.

However, Dussen along with David Miller (2) hit a boundary and a six off Shardul Thakur in the last over and took hosts to 296/4 in 50 overs.

Brief scores: South Africa 296/4 in 50 overs (Rassie van der Dussen 129* off 96, Temba Bavuma 110 off 143; Jasprit Bumrah 2/48, Ravichandran Ashwin 1/53) vs India

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Cameron Boyce makes BBL history by claiming double hat-trick for Renegades

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Australia leg-spinner Cameron Boyce made history in the Big Bash League (BBL) by claiming a double hat-trick for the first time in the tournament. Boyce, turning out for Melbourne Renegades against Sydney Thunder at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), also became just the 10th bowler in T20 cricket to take four wickets in four balls.

Boyce’s astonishing effort was spread across two overs of Thunder’s innings and it began from the final delivery of the seventh over when he dismissed Thunder opener Alex Hales, who miscued the loft to long-off.

Returning to bowl in the ninth over, Boyce deceived Jason Sangha with flight on the first delivery as the right-hander got stumped while dancing down the pitch in order to hit the leggie for the big shot.

On the very next ball, Alex Ross tried to play a reverse sweep and was trapped lbw in front of stumps as Boyce completed his hat-trick. The double hat-trick was completed quickly as Daniel Sams played the ball from Boyce all around and was in front of leg-stump, which was good enough for the umpire to raise his finger in Boyce’s favour, completing a double hat-trick.

Boyce’s four-in-a-row wickets meant Thunder fell from 80/0 to 85/4 in 8.3 overs. “We still can’t believe this happened!! A double hattie from Cameron Boyce!!” tweeted the BBL.

Boyce, who took eight wickets in seven T20Is for Australia, then completed his five-wicket haul as Matthew Gilkes spooned a catch to cover in the 11th over to finish with figures of 5/15 in three overs. Six overs later, Boyce got his hand on an on-drive from Usman Khawaja to run-out Ben Cutting from the non-striker’s end.

The 32-year-old Boyce’s ‘Player of the match’ efforts weren’t enough to hand the Renegades a win in their last match of this edition as he was dismissed on the final ball when two runs were needed to give Thunder a one-run victory.

The one-run loss also meant that the Melbourne Renegades made a hat-trick of finishing in the bottom of BBL points table (2019, 2020 and 2021).

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Australian Open: Berrettini sets up mouth-watering 3rd-round clash with teenager Alcaraz

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Seventh seed and last year’s Wimbledon finalist, Italy’s Matteo Berrettini, demonstrated his winning mentality, overcoming American wild card Stefan Kozlov 6-1, 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 in two hours and 38 minutes to reach the third round at the Melbourne Park for the second time here on Wednesday.

The Italian, who suffered from stomach problems in the first round, overcame the American with the help of 53 winners.

“It was a tough match. I think I started really well but then he started playing better and I wasn’t feeling my strokes after the first set, but I am happy to be through,” Berrettini was quoted as saying by atptour.com. “My stomach is better, but it is never easy to recover from something like that, so that is why my energy wasn’t its highest. I am really happy to win.”

Berrettini will take on Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz in the next round after the youngest Grand Slam seed in more than 30 years defeated Dusan Lajovic of Serbia 6-2, 6-1, 7-5 to advance to the third round.

After a strong start, Berrettini struggled to find his rhythm against Kozlov, who hit aggressively and with great depth to force the 25-year-old into errors. However, the world No. 7 was able to rely on his powerful serve to dig him out of holes, firing 21 aces and saving four of the five break points he faced in their first meeting on the ATP.

Berrettini is making his fifth appearance at the first major of the season, with his best result a fourth-round spot last year. However, the Italian has a strong Grand Slam pedigree, having reached Wimbledon final in 2021 where he lost to Serbia’s world No. 1 Novak Djokovic.

The 31st seed Alcaraz has yet to drop a set in Melbourne and will be targeting another deep run at a slam, after advancing to the quarterfinals at the US Open in September. The 18-year-old is the youngest player to be seeded at a major since Michael Chang at the 1990 US Open.

“I’m really happy with the performance today. It wasn’t an easy day with all the wind,” Alcaraz said. “I knew that I’d have to be really focused on the match, really focussed on what I had to do.”

Coached by former world No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero, Alcaraz had to advance through qualifying to make his main draw debut last year, but after a breakout season in 2021, he has returned as the 31st seed.

Looking ahead to his clash with Berrettini, whom the Spaniard beat in a third-set tie-break in their lone meeting last year indoors in Vienna, Alcaraz said, “It was a really close match… and I think I have grown up since that match. I’m going to have fun and let’s see what happens.”

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