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Friday,12-August-2022

International

The biggest thing in my life, says Rishabh Pant after match-winning knock

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Wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant, whose dismissal for 97 through rush of blood on the fifth day of the last Test in Sydney denied India a possible victory, on Tuesday stayed till the end on the fifth day of the Gabba Test to ensure he saw India off to a historic win at the venue considered to be a fortress for Australia.

The highest target chased at The Gabba before India surpassed 328 with three wickets in hand on Tuesday was 236, way back in 1951 by hosts Australia against West Indies.

Over the next 70 years, although teams have made bigger fourth innings score at The Gabba — like 450 by Pakistan in 2016 — no one has chased a fourth-innings target to win a game. Importantly, no team had beaten Australia in Brisbane in last 32 years. The last time the Aussies lost a Test at The Gabba was against West Indies in 1988.

So when Cheteshwar Pujara (56) was the fourth wicket dismissed with the score at 228 on Tuesday and India needed exactly a 100 to win, the odds were stacked heavily against them.

However Pant, who initially batted in a circumspect manner while curbing his natural strokes and had buckled down in the company of Pujara, opened up after the departure of the India’s batting mainstay.

From 34 off 84 deliveries at the time of Pujara’s dismissal, he finished with unbeaten 89 off 138 balls, scoring his last 55 runs off 54 balls.

“I think this is the biggest thing in my life right now. I am happy (and thankful) to the support staff, and all the fans who supported me even though I was not playing the initial matches (the limited overs series games and the first pink-ball Test). But it has been a dream series I can say that. I had been practising hard and everything paid off because we won the series,” said Pant who was adjudged the Player of the Match.

The hosts had won the first Test of the series in Adelaide, while bowling out India with the pink ball for their lowest Test total of 36. The Rahane-led side, however, registered a stunning comeback in Melbourne, winning the Boxing Day Test by eight wickets. The third Test then ended in an epic draw in Sydney.

Pant said the team management, including coach Ravi Shastri and stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane, had backed him and encouraged him by calling him a match-winner.

“The team management always backs saying that you are a match-winner and you always have to go and win the match for the team. That is the only thing I keep thinking every day. I always think that I want to win matches for India and I am happy that I did it today,” added the 23-year-old.

Pant said he was more disciplined, although there were some loose shots too during the course of his Tuesday’s knock.

“Yes, this was a fifth day pitch. The ball was turning a bit and I thought I have to be disciplined with my shot selection and if you win the match everything pays off well. Everything went so well.”

International

England beat Germany after extra time to win UEFA women’s Euro

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England beat Germany 2-1 after extra time in a packed Wembley Stadium in London, bringing home the trophy of the UEFA women’s Euro for the first time.

Germany suffered a heavy blow minutes ahead of the final on Sunday evening as their captain Alex Popp had to pull out after picking up an injury during the warm-up.

The 31-year-old forward had scored in all five previous matches in this tournament and scored twice in Germany’s 2-1 win against France in Wednesday’s semifinal, reports Xinhua. England, reaching the Euro’s final for the third time, couldn’t break the deadlock until Ella Toone came off the bench to score the opener in the 62nd minute.

But midfielder Lina Magull helped Germany equalise in the 79th minute.

The 1-1 scoreline was held until the 110th minute while substitute Chloe Kelly prodded in her first goal for the England team.

“What we’ve done is incredible. I knew we had England behind us- we saw that coming to the stadium,” said England head coach Sarina Wiegman in front of 87,192 fans in Wembley.

“But the whole tournament we’ve had so much support from our fans. I’m so proud of the team.”

The 52-year-old Dutchwoman, who also guided the Netherlands to win the women’s Euro trophy in 2017, is the first coach to lead two different teams to the title.

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Pakistan Cricket Board wants ICC to form strategy on growth of franchise T20 leagues

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Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said on Saturday that it has asked the International Cricket Council (ICC) to form a strategy on controlling the growth of lucrative franchise T20 leagues with rising concerns about its impact on the international cricket calendar.

Earlier this week, South Africa pulled out of a three-match bilateral ODI against Australia in January as it clashes with their new domestic T20 competition, the third time they will be attempting to have a successful franchise T20 League.

The next cycle of the Future Tours Programme (FTP), for 2024-31, which shows the schedule of teams playing bilateral series against each other and at what venues, is set to be confirmed in the upcoming week during the annual conference of the ICC at Birmingham.

“Growth of franchise cricket is impacting the already crammed international cricket calendar. The PCB is concerned about this development and wants the ICC to formulate a strategy on this issue,” said PCB Chief Executive Faisal Hasnain in a statement.

“We have sent a proposal to the ICC, which they have added to their meeting agenda. Two other boards have also conveyed their apprehensions to the ICC on this matter and urged the ICC to create a working group to debate on the expansion of franchise-based T20 leagues,” added Hasnain.

Talking about the confirmation of the FTP, in the context of Pakistan recently starting to host international cricket at home, Hasnain remarked, “Finalising the Future Tours Programme (FTP) is very important for us.

“This will give us certainty about which teams will be visiting us and which countries we will be touring. 80 per cent of the FTP has already been agreed upon and the remaining 20 per cent will be completed in the upcoming meeting.”

The upcoming ICC Annual Conference in Birmingham also marks the first time the meeting will happen after a Covid-19 pandemic caused a stoppage. “The annual conference presents a unique opportunity for networking with representatives of the world cricket.

“We are planning several initiatives that involve fellow members and meetings have already been set up on the sidelines with other boards to collectively enhance our common interest,” concluded Hasnain.

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T20 World Cup could be a swansong for several Australian cricketers, indicates Finch

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Australia white-ball skipper Aaron Finch has no doubt in his mind that he will be leading an “ageing side” in the ICC T20 World Cup at home later this year, and indicated that the tournament could be a swansong for several cricketers, especially batters.

As Australia prepare to defend the title they won in the UAE in 2021, Finch added that lifting the trophy in front of a packed Melbourne Cricket Ground in November would be a dream come true for him.

“It might be a full stop on everything (several players retiring from T20Is, including him) if it goes to plan like that. Fairy tales can happen in sport,” Finch, 35, was quoted as saying by cricket.com.au during the 100-day countdown celebration to the mega event on Friday.

While Finch has indicated that this could be the last T20 World Cup for him, it could also be opener David Warner and wicketkeeper-batter Matthew Wade’s last mega T20 event, given that both are in their mid-30s.

Wade has already said the 2022 T20 World Cup will be his international swansong, while Warner has also indicated that he might retire from T20Is to prolong his Test and ODI career. Finch will also probably turn his attention to the 50-over World Cup in India in 2023 to finally call it a day from international cricket.

Asked about his white-ball future post the T20 World Cup, Finch said, “Good question… It obviously shifts to a 50-over World Cup focus… after the (T20) World Cup, so I don’t think there’s too many T20 games in the next 12 months (after the World Cup) anyway. So I don’t know.

“I think just naturally when guys get to their mid-30s, it’s going to be that way. Davey (Warner) just keeps going; he could play for another 10 years, I think, with how fit he is and how much he loves the competition and continuing to challenge himself.

“(Matthew) Wadey has gone through a few phases (and) he’s now become so important to the structure of our team, batting at seven there and being so dynamic. But it’s an ageing side, isn’t it? Especially in that batting group,” said Finch.

Finch added that the World Cup in Australia would be “incredibly tough” after what he saw in the UAE last year where South Africa, in spite of winning four out of their five games, missed out on net run rate.

“Iit’s going to be an incredibly tough competition. We saw how brutal the format is with South Africa winning four out of their five games at the last World Cup and still not qualifying on net run rate. It’s just so brutal that you do need a bit of luck along the way. So let’s see.”

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