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Tuesday,18-January-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.”

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Want to imbibe qualities of players like Deep Grace Ekka, Lilima Minz: Mariana Kujur

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Young Indian women’s team forward Mariana Kujur feels the Asia Cup, scheduled to commence here on January 21, is a great opportunity to make a mark in the senior side, adding that she would like to learn as much as possible from stalwarts such as Deep Grace Ekka during the tournament.

Defending champions India will open their campaign in the women’s Asia Cup against Malaysia on January 21.

Kujur, who hails from the hockey belt of Sundargarh in Odisha and is a product of the Panposh Academy, said she idolised her senior compatriots Deep Grace Ekka, Lilima Minz and Nimita Toppo who are all products of Odisha’s rich hockey culture.

“I am grateful for this opportunity. The women’s Asia Cup is a prestigious tournament in the international calendar and I want to use this opportunity to perform the role I’ve been assigned and live up to the team’s expectations. The past few weeks in the camp in Bengaluru have been good for me as I worked on understanding the level at which the senior team plays and I believe I have developed good on-field communication with the players particularly in the forward-line and the midfield,” said Kujur.

Having arrived in Muscat on January 16, the team has put in hard yards in order to get used to the conditions and Kujur said the team is upbeat ahead of their first game.

“After arriving in Muscat, we had a few good sessions of hockey. The weather is quite pleasant and we are getting used to the pitch at the Sultan Quboos Sports Complex. It is a beautiful venue and the team is quite excited ahead of the first match.”

Speaking about being part of the same team, which features one of her idols Deep Grace Ekka leading the team as the vice-captain, Mariana said, “Deep Grace is such a cool-headed player. She never lets the opponents get the better of her even in pressure situations. There is a lot that I can learn from her and she’s been quite supportive all along. She always advices me to play my natural game and not feel the pressure of playing for the Senior side. I think that way, all the players have been quite supportive and I am really looking forward to having a good outing here,” she stated.

India are grouped in Pool A along with Japan, Malaysia and Singapore. They will begin their campaign against Malaysia on January 21, and will play Japan on January 23. India will take on Singapore in their last Pool A match on January 24.

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U-19 CWC: Haseebullah Khan’s century gives Pakistan a flying start

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Pakistan got off to a flying start in the Under-19 ICC Cricket World Cup, as wicketkeeper-batter Haseebullah Khan smashed a century to help them crush Zimbabwe by 115 runs in a Group C match at the Diego Martin Sporting Complex here on Tuesday (IST).

Flaunting their batting strength, Pakistan put on 315/9, thanks to a Haseebullah 135 (155 balls, 10 fours, 4 sixes). Zimbabwe fell more than a century short in the chase despite an 83-run eighth-wicket partnership between Brian Bennett and Tendekai Mataranyika.

‘Player of the match’ Haseebullah also earned the distinction of posting the highest score of the U-19 World Cup so far. Haseebullah and Irfan Khan combined for a mammoth 192-run third-wicket partnership before the latter was forced to go for 81 from 77 balls after being caught by David Bennett off the bowling of Mcgini Dube.

Zimbabwe continued the fight-back, led by right-arm seamer Alex Falao, who took the wicket of Haseebullah on his way to 58/5 as Pakistan ended with 315/9. Zimbabwe had already produced a score higher than this against Papua New Guinea in their opening game of Group C but faltered in this chase.

Matthew Welch and Steven Saul combined at the top of the order to put on 34 for the first wicket. The next six wickets fell for 77 runs before a timely partnership of 83 runs between Bennett and Mataranyika gave Zimbabwe a glimmer of hope.

But with Bennett’s dismissal they were left needing 121 runs with only 58 balls remaining, Mataranyika followed his partner back to the hutch two balls later before the final wicket of Mcgini Dube fell to hand Pakistan a convincing 115-run victory.

Brief scores: Pakistan 315/9 in 50 overs (Haseebullah Khan 135, Irfan Khan 75; Alex Falao 5/58) beat Zimbabwe 200 in 42.4 overs (Brian Bennett 83; Awais Ali 6/56) by 115 runs.

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Australia’s No.1-ranked T20I woman batter Mooney out of Ashes with broken jaw

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The Australian women’s cricket team suffered a huge setback on Tuesday after their world No.1-ranked T20I batter Beth Mooney was ruled on the eve of the Ashes with a broken jaw.

The 28-year-old Mooney suffered the injury during Australia’s team training. Australia and England are scheduled to play the opening match of the multi-format Ashes when they clash in the first of the three T20Is on January 20 at Sydney.

The T20Is will be followed by a one-off Test and a three match ODI series.

Mooney was hit by a ball under the grill of her helmet during training and will undergo immediate surgery, according to Cricket Australia.

The injury all but rules Mooney out of the series, and the left-hander is also in doubt for the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup beginning in March in New Zealand.

Mooney has been a mainstay of Australia’s top order across the formats, boasting the top individual ranking in T20I cricket and two centuries in both international limited-overs formats.

A replacement for Mooney is yet to be named, though Australia have backup with the Australia ‘A’ side joining the Ashes squad for series preparation.

While Rachael Haynes seems a likely option to step into Mooney’s spot, it also opens the door for a number of other ‘A’ team members such as Elyse Villani, Georgia Redmayne, Grace Harris and young gun Phoebe Litchfield.

Mooney’s injury is not Australia’s only issue, with Ellyse Perry’s arrival in Adelaide delayed due to a COVID-19 scare. Molly Strano and Katie Mack, two players in the Australia ‘A’ squad, will also miss action after testing positive for COVID-19.

Australia squad for the Ashes: Darcie Brown, Nicola Carey, Hannah Darlington, Ashleigh Gardner, Rachael Haynes, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Alana King, Meg Lanning (captain), Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Tayla Vlaeminck.

Australia A squad: Georgia Redmayne (captain), Maitlan Brown, Erin Burns, Stella Campbell, Nicole Faltum, Tess Flintoff, Heather Graham, Grace Harris, Phoebe Litchfield, Katie Mack, Courtney Sippel, Molly Strano, Elyse Villani, Georgia Voll, Amanda-Jade Wellington.

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