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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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Mohammad Rizwan slams unbeaten 78, leads Pakistan to 21-run win over Bangladesh

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Wicket-keeper Mohammad Rizwan scored an unbeaten 78 and carried his bat throughout the innings as Pakistan kick-started their campaign in the tri-series in New Zealand with a 21-run win over Bangladesh at the Hagley Oval on Friday.

After Rizwan’s belligerent knock laced with seven fours and two sixes took Pakistan to 167/5, pacer Mohammad Wasim Jnr and left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz took three and two wickets respectively to restrict Bangladesh to 146/8 in 20 overs.

Pushed into batting first, Rizwan and captain Babar Azam (22 off 25 balls) added 52 runs for the first wicket in 7.1 overs. The ever-consistent opener, who hit his sixth half-century in last eight T20I innings, then added 42 more runs with Shan Masood, who made 31 off 22 deliveries.

Shan Masood (31 off 22) was Pakistan’s other key contributor, as Haider Ali, Iftikhar Ahmed and Asif Ali couldn’t contribute much to reduce the tension around Pakistan’s fragile middle order. Despite this, Pakistan managed to score 51 runs off the last four overs to post a competitive total against Bangladesh, playing without talismanic all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan.

In defence of their total, Pakistan pacers were too hot to handle for the Bangladesh openers in the first six overs. Wasim struck in the fifth over as he dismissed Mehidy Hasan Miraz for 10. In the next over, Sabbir Rahman fell for 14 after a simple caught and bowled dismissal off Haris Rauf.

Litton Das made 35 off 26 balls before Nawaz dismissed him and Mosaddek Hossain on successive deliveries in the 13th over. Afif Hossain made 25 off 23 balls while Yasir Ali top-scored for Bangladesh with 42 not out off 21 balls, hitting five fours and two sixes.

After dismissing Taskin Ahmed and Nasum Ahmed on the first two balls of the penultimate over, Wasim finished with impressive figures of 3/24 while Nawaz returned with figures of 2/25 in a collective bowling performance for Pakistan where all bowlers kept their economy rate below 10 despite a 20-run final over.

Pakistan will be next seen in action when they take on hosts New Zealand tomorrow in the second match of the tri-series.

Brief Scores: Pakistan 167/5 in 20 overs (Mohammad Rizwan 78 not out, Shan Masood 31; Taskin Ahmed 2-25) beat Bangladesh 146/8 in 20 overs (Yasir Ali 42 not out, Litton Das 35; Mohammad Wasim Jnr 3-24, Mohammad Nawaz 2-25) by 21 runs.

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Matthews’ 56 goes in vain as Green takes New Zealand to 4-1 series victory over West Indies

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West Indies captain Hayley Matthews’ 56 went in vain as Maddy Green hit an unbeaten 32 to take New Zealand to a five-wicket victory in the final T20I at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium and clinch the five-match series 4-1.

After Fran Jonas (2/8), Eden Carson (2/17) and Suzie Bates (3/10) restricted West Indies to 101/8 in 20 overs, Maddy led the charge for New Zealand in chasing the score on the last ball of the innings and end the tour on a high by bagging the Player of the Match award.

Electing to field first, New Zealand struck early, with Fran removing opener Aaliyah Alleyne for six in the fifth over of the innings. From there on, the hosts were unable to get going as barring Hayley, who got her sixth T20I fifty, none of the batters touched the double-digit mark.

It meant that Hayley had to do the bulk of scoring, hitting three fours and four sixes to take the team past 100. However, with no support from the other end, the team could make just 101.

While Fran would take out Hayley in the 17th over, Eden took out Rashada Williams and Chedean Nation. Suzie was the pick of the bowlers for New Zealand, dismissing Natasha McLean, Shabika Gajnabi and Afy Fletcher. Bates returned figures of 3 for 10 from her three overs.

In the chase, New Zealand lost Suzie (13) and Brooke Halliday (1) inside first eight overs. But Sophie Devine (23) and Amelia Kerr (25) steadied the ship for New Zealand. After the duo fell, Maddy took the charge of taking the team home with an unbeaten 32 off 29 balls, hitting two fours and scored the winning run as well on the final ball of the chase.

For West Indies, Afy, Shabika and Sheneta Grimmond scalped a wicket apiece. The win also marked the successful culmination of New Zealand’s tour of West Indies, where the visitors had won ODI series 2-1 and took T20I series as well.

Brief scores: West Indies 101/8 in 20 overs (Hayley Matthews 56; Suzie Bates 3/10, Fran Jonas 2/8) lost to New Zealand 102/5 in 20 overs (Maddy Green 32, Amelia Kerr 25; Shabika Gajnabi 1/8, Afy Fletcher 1/12) by five wickets.

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South Africa continue to languish at 11th spot in Super League despite 9-run win vs India

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South Africa, despite defeating Indian in the opening One-day International here on Thursday, are languishing at 11th position in the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Super League Standings — a position which will not earn them automatic qualification in next year’s 50-over World Cup in India.

In fact, even if they make a clean sweep of the three-match series here and also win the ODIs against England at home and the two games remaining from their suspended home series against the Netherlands, it is unlikely they will be able to automatically qualify for the showpiece event.

India are currently sixth in the Super League standings. Only Zimbabwe (12th) and Netherlands (13th) are below South Africa in the standings.

The Proteas, before the start of the ongoing series against India, were languishing at 11th place with just four wins in 13 matches. A total of 13 teams are ranked in the Cricket World Cup Super League Standings — 12 Full Member nations, along with the Netherlands — and the bottom-five teams, after the two-year Super League qualification period, will play a qualifying tournament, which will also feature the best teams from the lower rungs of competition.

When the Proteas forfeited the ODI series against Australia in January next year, reportedly due to their much-hyped franchise-based inaugural SA20 tournament at home, they had to give away all 30 ODI World Cup Super League points that were on offer, according to ICC.

Since then, they have levelled the series against England in England (1-1), but it hasn’t made their position in the standings any better.

Put in to bat first in Lucknow in a 40-overs game, South Africa were reduced to 71/3 with India striking two quick blows. The wicket of Quinton de Kock further dented the visitors, but the tables turned when Heinrich Klaasen and David Miller came thogether at the crease.

The two put on an unbeaten 139-run stand in 17.4 overs to take South Africa to 249 in 40 overs. Klaasen remained unbeaten on 74 off 65 balls while Miller, carrying forward his fine recent form, finished on a 63-ball 75 not out.

South Africa pushed their advantage further with the new ball as Kagiso Rabada and Wayne Parnell sent back the India openers inside the first six overs. Keshav Maharaj then spun a web over India batters with the pitch taking turn and India were reduced to 51/4.

Shreyas Iyer and Sanju Samson resurrected the innings with a half-century stand, but Iyer was dismissed in the 27th over to give South Africa the upper hand. Despite late fireworks from the Samson-Thakur pair, India finished short and South Africa earned some much-needed Super League points.

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