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SA V IND, 2nd ODI: Malan, de Kock half-centuries lead South Africa to series win



 Half-centuries by Janneman Malan (91 off 108) and wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock (78 off 66) helped South Africa defeat India by seven wickets in the second ODI at Boland Park on Friday. The win also means South Africa go 2-0 up and clinch the ODI series with the final match at Cape Town on Sunday still to be played.

After Rishabh Pant produced a career-best act of 85 off just 71 balls while skipper KL Rahul contributed 55 and Shardul Thakur unbeaten 40 to take India to 287/6, South Africa chased down the total with 11 balls to spare, the highest successful chase at the Boland Park, as India were short of wicket-taking options and looked flat on the field.

Chasing 288 on a scorching day, South Africa were off to a scintillating start, collecting 66 runs in power-play. De Kock blazed to 46 runs off just 32 balls, going brutal on Bhuvneshwar Kumar, taking him for two boundaries and a six. De Kock then smashed Jasprit Bumrah and Ravichandran Ashwin for boundaries before he survived a stumping attempt by Pant.

To rub salt into wounds, de Kock swept Ashwin over deep backward square leg for a huge six before Malan reverse-swept the off-spinner for a boundary. Things started to look ominous for India as they lost a review on an lbw decision against Malan and the openers brought up the 100 of their stand with de Kock easily pulling Kumar over deep mid-wicket and then sweeping Shardul Thakur over deep backward square leg.

Malan reached his fifty and on the very next ball, Thakur broke the 132-run partnership. De Kock missed a flick and was hit on pads by a full toss swinging in late. A confident India took the review and got to change the decision as replays showed the ball hitting the stumps.

Post de Kock’s fall, Malan took centre stage with a rollicking six over deep mid-wicket off Ashwin. With Temba Bavuma looking crisp, Malan brought out delightful short-arm jabs and reverse sweeps to keep South Africa in full control of the chase. Thakur came under smashing in the 33rd over as Malan drove him through cover before Bavuma pulled over mid-wicket and glanced through fine leg as 14 runs came off it.

The 80-run stand for the second wicket was broken by Bumrah, whose length ball on the middle stump beat the inner edge and hit the stumps after brushin’ past Malan’s right elbow, dismissing the right-hander nine runs short of his hundred. In the next over, Bavuma tried to flick but the leading edge popped back to Chahal.

Rassie van der Dussen took two boundaries off Ashwin in the 39th over, while Aiden Markram took back-to-back boundaries off Kumar through cover and deep square leg in the 44th over to bring up fifty of the partnership for the fourth wicket. Markram and van der Dussen knocked off the remaining runs to seal a series win for South Africa and extend their winning run on the tour to four matches across formats.

Earlier, Pant and Rahul’s 115-run partnership off 111 balls made one feel like India would go past 300 runs. But South Africa, despite four dropped catches, struck hard as India slipped from 179/2 to 207/5. Tabraiz Shamsi was the pick of the bowlers for the hosts, taking 2/57 while Markram and Keshav Maharaj supported well with 1/34 and 1/52 respectively.

Joining forces at 63/2 and after surviving a terrible miscommunication almost resulting in a run-out of Rahul, Pant broke the shackles with a huge slog-sweep off Maharaj for six followed by Rahul attacking Maharaj and Markram for a boundary each. Pant began to take centre stage in the counter-attack, collecting boundaries regularly off Maharaj and Markram.

With Rahul dropping anchor, Pant continued his controlled aggression, welcoming Shamsi by sweeping him twice followed by a late cut. Pant soon reached his fifty and continued to smash boundaries for fun. South Africa’s woeful time on the field continued as Rahul, once given a reprieve at 8, was dropped on 46 by Markram.

Pant continued to hit Shamsi for runs, including a one-handed six down the ground after a whip past mid-on. With Rahul reaching his fifty and Pant going strong, India had got a great platform to accelerate. But the 115-run partnership for the third wicket was ended by Magala, as Rahul flicked to short mid-wicket, departing for 55.

In the very next over, Pant danced down the pitch to loft off Shamsi but holed out to lo’g-on. Following the duo’s dismissals, India was unable to get the momentum back. Shreyas Iyer was given not out on an lbw appeal off Shamsi. But the bowler got to change the decision as replays showed the ball crashing into stumps. Venkatesh Iyer was dropped by van der Dussen at cover but couldn’t make the most of it as de Kock effected a very sharp stumping when the left-hander’s back-foot was up in the air.

Thakur continued to take boundaries off Andile Phehlukwayo before giving the same treatment to Shamsi and Maharaj. Ashwin joined the party by sweeping Maharaj over deep mid-wicket before finishing the innings with a boundary crunched over extra cover off Magala as the unbeaten 48-run stand lifted India to a 280-plus score.

Earlier, India blazed to 57/0 in the first ten overs. Shikhar Dhawan was strong in flicking and driving off pacers. Despite being circumspect, Rahul got two boundaries through off-side. After power-play, Dhawan was the first to depart, slog-sweeping straight to Magala at deep mid-wicket as Markram broke the opening partnership.

Maharaj troubled Virat Kohli with turn and bounce twice before getting the right-hander to drive on the up to extra cover, dismissing him for a five-ball duck. Pant and Rahul combined for a resurrection act but that went in vain as South Africa made a tricky target look like a stroll in the park.

Brief scores: India 287/6 in 50 overs (Rishabh Pant 85, KL Rahul 55; Tabraiz Shamsi 2/57, Aiden Markram 1/34) lost to South Africa 288/3 in 48.1 overs (Janneman Malan 91, Quinton de Kock 78; Jasprit Bumrah 1/37, Yuzvendra Chahal 1/47) by seven wickets


Indian men’s football team faces Jordan in last preparatory game before Asian Cup Qualifiers




The Indian men’s football team is all set to take on Jordan in a friendly match on Saturday (May 28) in Doha, their last preparatory game ahead of the AFC Asian Cup 2023 Qualifiers, which kicks off in Kolkata on June 8, 2022.

The match against Jordan will be played at the Qatar Sports Club.

“Another game against a stronger team will always help,” head coach Igor Stimac said. “It’s our last friendly game prior to the qualifiers, and we need to get final answers to certain questions,” the coach added. “Some of our youngsters will have a great opportunity to gain more experience at the international level.”

The squad has been in the preparatory camp for over a month, first in Bellary, and then in Kolkata, and the coach said that the “fitness levels are quite good”.

“The fitness levels are quite good. We have another 10 days in front of us, and it should be perfect. The boys have done a great job, and they need to be rewarded with some good results in the Qualifiers,” Stimac, who was part of the Croatian World Cup team which finished third in FIFA World Cup France 98, added.

Referring to Jordan as an opposition, the coach felt, “Jordan (FIFA Ranking 91) are ranked better than Belarus (FIFA Ranking 93) but are not as physical as Belarus. S,o for us, it should be a bit easier in regards to the build-up, and ball possession.”

India are currently ranked 106 on the FIFA ladder, and had played Belarus in an official match in the FIFA international window in March 2022, a match where they went down 0-3.

Meanwhile, the Indian squad has been bolstered by the joining of the ATK Mohun Bagan players, all of whom have missed the preparatory camp so far owing to their club commitments in the AFC Cup. “They came very late (on May 26, 2022 morning) after playing three games in seven days, and hence, we need to be careful with them. We still have over 36 hours ahead for them to recover, and I will be making a decision whether to field them or not on 28th morning,” Stimac added.

The 25-member squad:

Goalkeepers: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Laxmikanth Kattimani, Amrinder Singh.

Defenders: Rahul Bheke, Pritam Kotal, Harmanjot Singh Khabra, Anwar Ali, Sandesh Jhingan, Subhashish Bose, Roshan Singh, Akash Mishra.

Midfielders: Udanta Singh, Jeakson Singh, Anirudh Thapa, Glan Martins, Brandon Fernandes, Ritwik Das, Yasir Mohammad, Sahal Abdul Samad, Suresh Wangjam, Ashique Kuruniyan, Liston Colaco.

Forwards: Ishan Pandita, Sunil Chhetri, Manvir Singh.

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KL Rahul’s conservative approach in Eliminator piques Manjrekar, Shastri




KL Rahul’s conservative approach and the Lucknow Super Giants’ skipper batting till the 19th over of the Eliminator against Royal Challengers Bangalore has prompted the likes of former India chief coach Ravi Shastri, Sanjay Manjrekar and New Zealand legend Daniel Vettori to say that the cricketer seriously erred in the must-win game at the Eden Gardens.

LSG, chasing a mammoth 207, were eliminated from IPL 2022 after losing to RCB by 14 runs.

Manjrekar was the most scathing of the former cricketers, saying that Rahul is “temperamentally not suited to take this kind of a responsibility (captaincy)”.

“We have seen enough of KL Rahul to now know that when he becomes the captain, the key player of the side… Virat Kohli loved that kind of responsibility, (MS) Dhoni loved it, Rohit Sharma, barring this season, generally likes that kind of responsibility. Maybe, KL Rahul temperamentally is not suited to take this kind of a responsibility, where he is the man who has got to get the job done. They (captains) are made of different mettle, and maybe KL Rahul isn’t,” opined Manjrekar on Espncricinfo’s T20 Time:Out.

Rahul opened the innings and was out at the fag end of the 19th over but could manage just 79 runs off 58 balls at at strike rate of 136.20. Till the 16th over, his strike rate was a dismal 120, which really did not go down well with Manjrekar.

“So as a coach, I would drill that into his head and tell him that I am not expecting you to win the game (bat all through). You just go and have fun, and funnily enough you will see the results start coming. I believe, he has a much better strike rate at the international level than at the IPL level, because he is just one of the many batters playing alongside Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and the others… so he just goes out there and expresses himself. His strike rate of 120 until the 16th over, that’s dangerous; that’s leaving too much even for a player like himself,” added Manjrekar.

“Every time (in the Eliminator) he decided to play the big shots it came off. He played a couple of terrific shots against (Josh) Hazlewood, and he can do it when he wants to. But he just has this very deep-rooted belief or an attitude or approach that he wants to bat longer rather than quicker. And if I were his coach, I would take that decision out of his hand even if he is captain,” added Manjrekar.

Former New Zealand skipper Vettori said that the conservative approach in IPL is fraught with risks.

“The conservative approach leans to having to be ultra-risky at the end, and so when you have a player of that skill, and we have seen KL Rahul take down teams time and again, you always wonder ‘why don’t you go earlier… you sort of de-risk the back-end in chasing. 14-15 (runs) can be done on this (Eden) ground.

“So, a couple of risks through the powerplay and that 60 off 42 looks so much better, and it takes so much pressure off the deep end,” opined Vettori.

Former India chief coach Ravi Shastri too was unimpressed with Rahul’s approach in the Eliminator.

“They should have gone a little earlier. Sometimes, you wait too long but here, between the ninth and the 14th over, there should have been someone who should have been targeted, especially in that partnership,” Shastri said on Star Sports.

“When (Deepak) Hooda and Rahul were going, I think even though he did as well as he did, KL could have taken a little more chances there because Hooda was going. Take a little more chances, and he could have targeted someone between the ninth and the 13th over because Harshal Patel was going to come back in the end with his full quota of overs. If they had got the required rate down at the stage, that would have made RCB a little nervous,” added Shastri.

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Babar Azam can become world No. 1 batter in all three formats, feels Dinesh Karthik




 India wicketkeeper-batter Dinesh Karthik feels Pakistan skipper Babar Azam has it in him to become the world No. 1 batter in all three formats of the game, which will be a unique first in the annals of the game.

The 27-year-old Azam already has the top ICC billing in both white-ball formats, but is ranked fifth in the longest format behind the likes of Australia’s Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith, New Zealand’s Kane Williamson and prolific England run-getter Joe Root.

But Karthik, who has played a key role in Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) securing a Qualifier 2 berth in IPL 2022, is quite confident that the Pakistan captain will soon be topping the ICC Test batting charts as well.

“One-hundred per cent (he is capable of achieving that),” Karthik told The ICC Review on Friday. “He is a high-quality player who is at the peak of his batting prowess and he has got some Test matches coming up.

“He has been phenomenal in all three formats of the game and he has done well in different batting positions too. I wish him all the best and think he has the potential. He has got all the following of Pakistan helping him in abundance to go on and do special things for his country,” added Karthik.

Azam is close to achieving 3,000 Test runs and has so far played 40 matches, with a highest of 196. He has smashed six centuries and averages a healthy 45.98, besides scoring 21 half-centuries.

Australia batter Labuschagne is currently ranked first in the Test batting ranks, but it’s been the ‘Big Four’ of India’s Virat Kohli, England’s Joe Root, Australia’s Steve Smith and New Zealand’s Kane Williamson that have dominated red-ball cricket for the past decade.

While Babar still has much to do to match the feats of the ‘Big Four’, Karthik thinks it’s only a matter of time before the Pakistan right-hander joins the group.

“It is a very strong ‘Fab Four’ that we are talking about and they have obviously been there for much longer, but there is no doubt that Babar has all the credentials and he is going to make it a ‘Fab Five’,” said Karthik.

“There is no doubt he is there or thereabouts… he is a very special player.”

Karthik noted that Azam had made subtle changes in his batting technique of late, which had helped him become a better cricketer.

“The two things that struck me when I watched him bat is his balance and his striking point when he plays a ball. Whether it is on the front foot or the back foot, his ability to strike the ball more often than not under his eyes, has been phenomenal. He strikes the ball at the point where it is optimum power for where the ball is pitched and that makes him a very special player.”

Karthik, who recently made a re-entry into the India national side being selected in the squad for the five match-T20I series at home against South Africa, added that he was confident the Pakistan cricketer would develop further.

“When you play international cricket you have got to keep changing a little bit here and there to keep improving your technique. Sometimes just by one per cent a lot of the time so that so you can go on and achieve success in that particular tour you are on, so I think he has definitely tweaked his technique a bit here and there over a period of time,” added Karthik.

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