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Tuesday,21-September-2021

International

Olympics: PV Sindhu storms into women’s badminton semi-finals

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PV Sindhu, the 2016 Olympics silver medallist and reigning world champion, quelled a superb fightback by Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi to win in straight games and reach the semi-finals in women’s singles badminton competition at the Olympic Games on Friday.

Sindhu seeded sixth here, beat fourth seed Akane 21-13, 22-20 in 56 minutes.

Sindhu, after winning the first game comfortably 21-13, was cruising towards victory, having opened up an 11-6 lead in the second game, when Akane started a superb fightback. The Japanese shuttler who had been outplayed by Sindhu in the first game with deceptive and disguised shots, switched tactics to engage the Indian, seeded sixth here, in long rallies, and tire her out.

And it looked like Akane would succeed as she fought back from 6-12 down to win 10 of the next 12 points, catching up with Sindhu at 15-15 and taking the lead.

Sindhu checked her progress by tapping into her energy reserves as she tightened her game, broke Akane’s rhythm with attacking play, and saved two match points to win the game and match at 22-20.

From 18-20, Sindhu won the next four points with superb attacking play, keeping Akane on her toes with half-smashes and pin-point drop shots to seal victory in 56 minutes.

Sindhu, looking to add a gold medal to the silver she won in Rio, dominated her Japanese rival at the net, created points with her disguised shots, and completed straight games win.

The Indian 26-year-old shuttler from Hyderabad was in total control of the first game and then quelled a strong fightback by Akane to reach the semi-finals for the second successive Olympics.

Sindhu was really happy with her performance against Akane but was focused on the next match.

“I’m happy but it’s not over yet. For me, it’s time to go back, relax and get ready for the next match. I’m happy but I need to prepare for the next match.”

Sindhu said the second game was the most important as Akane came back strongly.

“There were some very long rallies. The second game was very important, I was leading and Akane came back, so I couldn’t relax. On my side, there were a few errors. I wasn’t nervous even though she was at game point, my coach was saying: ‘It’s okay, keep the focus and you’ll get there. He was constantly supporting me and that got me by and I’m happy I got back in two games,” Sindhu told the BWF.

On her ability to rise to the occasion and doing well in the big events, Sindhu said: “I take that as a compliment but I think I have really worked hard for this and it’s not over yet and I have to be focused and prepare for the next match. The next one is important.”

Akane said she tried to be patient against Sindhu but it was difficult to attack. “It was difficult for me to attack her,” she said.

“I tried to be patient [at game point] but after that, she led by a game. I had a lot of support messages, so I tried to do my best but I lost that game [second game] so that’s frustrating. A lot of people supported me and I appreciate that. I worked hard and I’m disappointed. To stand on this stage, it’s not a normal tournament, it’s very special to me.”

Akane said the mood in the Japan camp was sombre as compatriot Nozomi Okuhara had lost to China’s He Bing Jiao in the first quarterfinal in the morning.

“We have had a lot of top-seeded players and everyone expected better of us, but we did our best and I want to go on to the next step in the future,” she told the BWF.

International

Coach Shastri hints that he might step down after T20 World Cup

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 Indian cricket team coach Ravi Shastri has given a big hint that he is likely to step down from the hot seat after the ICC T20 World Cup in the UAE and Oman when he said that “I believe one thing — never overstay your welcome.”

Shastri, who was squarely criticised for launching his new book in London and spreading the Covid-19 virus among the support staff two days before the fourth Test at The Oval, said on Saturday, “I believe so because I’ve achieved all I wanted,” when asked whether the ICC T20 World Cup would be his last outing with Team India as chief coach.

“Five years as No 1 (in Test cricket), to win in Australia twice, to win in England. I spoke to Michael Atherton earlier this summer and said: ‘For me, this is the ultimate — to beat Australia in Australia and win in England in Covid times.’ We lead England 2-1 and the way we played at Lord’s and the Oval was special,” Shastri told The Guardian.

“We’ve also beaten every country in the world in their own backyard in white-ball cricket. If we win the (T20) World Cup that will be the icing on the cake. There is nothing more. I believe one thing –never overstay your welcome. And I would say that, in terms of what I wanted to get out of the side, I’ve over-achieved. To beat Australia away and to lead the series in England in a Covid year? It is the most satisfying moment of my four decades in cricket,” said Shastri.

Within days of the book-launch function, where no masks were worn, Shastri had tested Covid-positive and went into isolation along with four members of his support staff. And when assistant physio Yogesh Parmar too tested positive, the players became anxious and finally the fifth and final Test in Manchester had to be called off.

“It was funny because in my 10 days I didn’t have a single symptom barring a little sore throat. I never had any temperature and my oxygen level was 99% all the time. I didn’t take any medication through 10 days of my isolation, not a single paracetamol. I tell the guys: ‘Once you’re double jabbed, it’s a bloody 10-day flu. That’s it,'” said Shastri.

On whether he discussed the emerging situation with players, Shastri replied, “No. I didn’t know who had got it (Covid-19). I didn’t know (the physio) got it suddenly and tested positive. He physically treated five or six players. I think that’s where the issue started. We were aware that the incubation period meant that someone might get it in the middle (of the Test). A lot of players had their families there. So it became a situation where you don’t know what that player is thinking. He’s got a young kid, you know, he’s got to think of them. It was a little, I would say, touchy.”

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International

Coach Shastri hints that he might step down after T20 World Cup

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Indian cricket team coach Ravi Shastri has given a big hint that he is likely to step down from the hot seat after the ICC T20 World Cup in the UAE and Oman when he said that “I believe one thing — never overstay your welcome.”

Shastri, who was squarely criticised for launching his new book in London and spreading the Covid-19 virus among the support staff two days before the fourth Test at The Oval, said on Saturday, “I believe so because I’ve achieved all I wanted,” when asked whether the ICC T20 World Cup would be his last outing with Team India as chief coach.

“Five years as No 1 (in Test cricket), to win in Australia twice, to win in England. I spoke to Michael Atherton earlier this summer and said: ‘For me, this is the ultimate — to beat Australia in Australia and win in England in Covid times.’ We lead England 2-1 and the way we played at Lord’s and the Oval was special,” Shastri told The Guardian.

“We’ve also beaten every country in the world in their own backyard in white-ball cricket. If we win the (T20) World Cup that will be the icing on the cake. There is nothing more. I believe one thing –never overstay your welcome. And I would say that, in terms of what I wanted to get out of the side, I’ve over-achieved. To beat Australia away and to lead the series in England in a Covid year? It is the most satisfying moment of my four decades in cricket,” said Shastri.

Within days of the book-launch function, where no masks were worn, Shastri had tested Covid-positive and went into isolation along with four members of his support staff. And when assistant physio Yogesh Parmar too tested positive, the players became anxious and finally the fifth and final Test in Manchester had to be called off.

“It was funny because in my 10 days I didn’t have a single symptom barring a little sore throat. I never had any temperature and my oxygen level was 99% all the time. I didn’t take any medication through 10 days of my isolation, not a single paracetamol. I tell the guys: ‘Once you’re double jabbed, it’s a bloody 10-day flu. That’s it,'” said Shastri.

On whether he discussed the emerging situation with players, Shastri replied, “No. I didn’t know who had got it (Covid-19). I didn’t know (the physio) got it suddenly and tested positive. He physically treated five or six players. I think that’s where the issue started. We were aware that the incubation period meant that someone might get it in the middle (of the Test). A lot of players had their families there. So it became a situation where you don’t know what that player is thinking. He’s got a young kid, you know, he’s got to think of them. It was a little, I would say, touchy.”

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Heather Knight shines as England Women win opening ODI vs New Zealand

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 Veteran England star and captain Heather Knight slammed a 107-ball 89 and Katherine Brunt scored a quick 43 as the hosts powered to a 30-run victory in the opening One-day International against New Zealand Women at the County Ground here.

Sent in to bat on Thursday evening, England were bowled out for 241 in the 50th over, with captain Knight (89) leading the way alongside Tammy Beaumont (44) and Brunt (43).

That proved 30 runs too many for New Zealand, as Brunt (1/22) and the England attack squeezed them out of the game, eventually bowling them out for 211 in the 47th over.

England were put in to bat first by New Zealand and got off to a good start. Openers Lauren Winfield-Hill and Beaumont capitalised on the bad balls and kept the scoreboard ticking. They were going strong at 44 in the ninth over when Hannah Rowe (1/47) struck, removing Winfield-Hill on 21 via a faint nick through to the keeper.

Her wicket did little to slow down the scoring as captain Knight joined Beaumont at the crease. The duo forged a strong partnership and soon took England past the 100-run mark in the 22nd over.

Just as it looked like England were going to reach top gear, Sophie Devine (2/57) provided New Zealand with the second breakthrough, ending the half-century stand. Beaumont fell just six runs short of a fifty, struck in front of the middle stump.

Two overs later, Natalie Sciver (2) fell to the returning Lea Tahuhu (2/32). She also picked up the wicket of Amy Jones (2) in the 30th over and Jess Kerr (3/42) got Sophia Dunkley (5) in the 32nd over to reduce England to 140/5.

Despite the regular fall of wickets, Knight continued to take on the New Zealand bowlers. She paired with Brunt to push England past 220. The 88-run stand was broken by Leigh Kasperek (1/48) in the 47th over when she caught and bowled Knight for 89.

The remaining four England wickets fell for 13 runs as the hosts were bowled out for 241.

New Zealand were in trouble early in the chase as Sciver (2/10) accounted for Suzie Bates (1) and Lauren Down (5) inside the opening 10 overs.

The pressure continued to mount as Kate Cross (2/37) had Maddy Green (19) caught at slip in the 13th over to reduce New Zealand to 31/3. The duo of Amy Satterthwaite (79*) and captain Sophie Devine (34) rebuilt the innings in a 78-run stand but just as they were getting back into the game, Cross struck again, removing the Kiwi skipper for 34 in the 29th over.

Wickets fell at regular intervals from there as New Zealand slipped to 143/8, with Sophie Ecclestone (2/39) on a hat-trick at one point after removing Katey Martin (9) and Brooke Halliday (0).

Brief scores: England Women 241 in 49.3 overs (T Beaumont 44, H Knight 89, K Brunt 43; J Kerr 3/42, S Devine 2/57) beat New Zealand Women 211 in 46.3 overs (A Satterthwaite 79 not out, S Devine 34; N Sciver 2/10, K Cross 2/37, S Ecclestone 2/39) by 30 runs.

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