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Tuesday,25-January-2022

International

Test rankings: Steve Smith new No.1 batsman, Virat Kohli moves up to 4th

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Ahead of the World Test Championship (WTC) final, India captain Virat Kohli on Wednesday moved up one spot, to fourth, in the ICC Test batting rankings while New Zealand captain Kane Williamson lost his top spot to Australian Steve Smith.

With 891 points, former Australia skipper Smith is the world No.1 Test batsman while Williamson is now second with 886 points. Kohli, with 814 points displaced England captain Joe Root, who is now fifth with 797 points.

Two more Indians featuring in the top-10 – wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant and Rohit Sharma with 747 points each – are joint sixth.

Williamson lost his top spot in the rankings due to his omission from the playing XI in the second Test against England, while Root slipped to fifth after a forgettable outing in the two-Test series against New Zealand, which the hosts lost 0-1.

In the Test bowling rankings, Ravichandran Ashwin is the lone Indian in the top-10 — at No.2 with 850 points. Australia’s Pat Cummins is leading the pack with 908 points.

In the Test all-rounders rankings, Ravindra Jadeja (386 points) and Ashwin (353 points) are holding on to their second and fourth positions respectively. West Indies all-rounder Jason Holder, with 412 points, is leading the rankings.

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South Africa sends proposal to BCCI to host IPL: Report

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 Ahead of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announcing the venue for the 15th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) later next month, South Africa has reportedly thrown its hat into the ring, saying the country would be a cheaper option as compared to the UAE where the second leg of the tournament was held in 2021.

The Indian cricket board had informed its 10 IPL franchises that the venue will be finalised around February 20, with India being the front-runner and the UAE and South Africa also viable options due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Indian cricket team recently completed its three-Test and three-ODI engagement in South Africa without any bio-bubble breach or COVID-related issues, with South Africa’s director of cricket Graeme Smith thanking BCCI president Sourav Ganguly and secretary Jay Shah and the Indian team for showing ‘faith’ in Cricket South Africa (CSA) to organise the tour of the country.

A report in cricbuzz.com has said that, discussions are underway between the Indian board and CSA “with particular emphasis on venues for which there would be no or bare minimum air travel, cutting down on the expenses for the franchises”.

CSA has also reportedly assured that the hotel tariffs in South Africa would be “significantly cheaper than in UAE”.

As per the report, CSA has given the proposal to host the matches in four centres in and around Johannesburg, with the teams’ bio-secure environment in the capital city. The four venues — Wanderers Stadium (Johannesburg), Centurion Park (Pretoria), Willowmoore Park (Benoni) and Senwes Cricket Stadium (Potchefstroom) — are floodlit and within driving distance from one another.

Also, given that the 15th edition of the IPL will be a 10-team affair, involving 74 games as against 60 last year, CSA had also proposed a part of the league could be played at Newlands Stadium in Cape Town and nearby Paarl ground, according to the report.

The two grounds hosted four of the six games — one Test and three One-day Internationals — during the India-South Africa series.

South Africa had hosted the IPL in 2009 across eight venues, but then there were no COVID-19 concerns.

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Women’s Ashes Test: Australia call up pacer Stella Campbell for injured Vlaeminck

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Australian pace bowler Stella Campbell has been called into the Ashes side for the one-off Test against England women scheduled at the at Manuka Oval from January 27, after Tayla Vlaeminck suffered the recurrence of a foot injury.

Pacer Vlaeminck was ruled out of the multi-format women’s Ashes and the Cricket World Cup in New Zealand due to a stress fracture in the right foot. She missed the abandoned second T20I at the Adelaide Oval on January 22 due to the injury.

Scans confirmed the recurrence of the same navicular injury that ruled her out of the victorious 2020 women’s T20 World Cup campaign in Australia and was out of action for 10 months. The 23-year-old had reported pain in right foot during Australia’s first Ashes T20I on January 20.

Campbell is in fine form and took 7/25 at the Manuka Oval in a domestic one-day game earlier this month, and the hosts would be hoping the 19-year-old, who made her Test debut versus India during the one-off pink-ball game last year, can replicate the heroics with the red ball.

Campbell is also a member of the Australia A squad touring alongside the Ashes group, according to cricket.com.au.

“Stella bowled well for us in the Test match against India and provides another fast-bowling option now with Tayla being injured,” national selector Shawn Flegler said. “We will continue to assess conditions over the next couple of days before finalising the team.”

Allrounder Ashleigh Gardner backed the right-arm tall pace bowler to come good against England.

“It’s going to be pretty interesting to see what wicket we have for the first day of the Test match,” Gardner said. “Stella was almost unplayable (in the one-day domestic game) and to have her back into the Test squad is really exciting. Hopefully, if she does play, she can replicate that (form).”

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Real Madrid clear title favourites but Benzema injury a concern

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La Liga takes a break next weekend ahead of a round of international games in Latin America. Here are some things we learned from Matchday 22 before the players get a well-earned rest.

1. Real Madrid clear title favourites

Real Madrid may have dropped two points at home to Elche in their 2-2 draw, but despite a poor display, they are still clear favourites to win the title, partly because none of their rivals look likely to string together a run of results that would see them leapfrog Carlo Ancelotti’s men at the top of the table.

Sevilla had a chance to close the gap, but they were held by Celta Vigo, and while Atletico Madrid, Real Betis and Barcelona all won, their form is irregular and they also look to be too far behind to mount a serious chase unless something goes very seriously wrong at the Bernabeu.

Real, though, are holding their breath over the fitness of striker Karim Benzema, after he was substituted during their draw at home to Elche. The striker, who has 24 goals and six assists in all competitions, was forced out of the game after an hour with an apparent problem in his hamstring.

The club will wait until Wednesday before carrying out tests to determine the extent of his injury, Xinhua reports. If the striker has torn his hamstring, he will miss his side’s two most important matches of the season to date. Real Madrid travel to play Athletic Bilbao in the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey on February 3, and on February 15, they have the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie away to Paris Saint-Germain.

2. Betis are flying

Although the club has captured headlines for a shameful incident which saw Sevilla midfielder Joan Jordan hit by a pole thrown from the stands in the recent Seville derby, Real Betis’ form on the pitch is also worthy of comment.

Their 4-1 win away to Espanyol confirmed Manuel Pellegrini’s men in third place in La Liga, and although their defence at times looks a little shaky, players such as Borja Iglesias, Nabil Fekir, Sergio Canales, Juanmi and Willian Jose give Pellegrini plenty of options looking forward, making Betis a side worth watching and with a real chance of a top-four finish.

3. Pedri key for Barcelona

FC Barcelona needed a late goal from Frenkie de Jong to get them over the line with a 1-0 win away to struggling Alaves, as the Catalans produced another disappointing performance off the back of their Copa del Rey exit against Athletic Bilbao. Barca again struggled to produce any flowing football, but all of the best things they produced came through the boots of 19-year-old Pedri.

The teenager has only just returned after struggling with injuries all season, and after he asked to be changed after 105 minutes action in Bilbao, it looked as if he suffered another muscle problem. Nevertheless, he was able to take his place in the side on Sunday for another all-action display.

With Ansu Fati out for at least two months and Ousmane Dembele likely to be moved on, Pedri is vital for the remainder of Barca’s campaign.

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