The third Test match between India and England starting on February 24 at the huge and magnificent newly constructed Motera Stadium in Ahmedabad should be a very interesting affair. The stadium is named after the Ironman of India, Sardar Patel, and the Indian team will need to imbibe the same qualities of the ‘Man of Steel’ who played an important role in the freedom movement against the British Empire.
India will not only need to play to win the series against England, but need to ensure a win to stay alive to qualify for the first World Test Championship (WTC) final in June. At one match all, the four-Test series is at a very crucial stage.
England, on the other hand, require to win the two remaining Test matches to qualify for the WTC final. The pink ball battle will require a positive and aggressive approach, as winning for both sides is the only way forward. This itself should be enough to make the match enthralling and exciting. When two teams in any sport are set to play a game with a positive state of mind, the competition that emerges is what makes it wonderful to watch.
The day/night encounter will be played with the Sanspareils Greenlands (SG) pink ball. This is a new experience for most international cricket players. The challenge that they face would also create that extra bit of interest for the millions of viewers watching the match. The pink ball has a coat of lacquer similar to the white ball, so the new ball swings a fair amount. Both India and England have world class pace bowlers in their midst to exploit the movement and hence batting against them will require good technique and temperament to be successful.
Furthermore, an interesting aspect of a day/night match is also the change in conditions that emerges as dusk falls and then again under the illuminated dark night sky. This makes batting even more difficult.
The newly laid pitch in Motera is expected to have a good bounce. The wicket during the domestic T20 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy tournament recently showed that it spun viciously and most teams struggled to put up a good score. The wicket has not had a first-class five-day match played on it as yet and, unlike Chennai, preparing a vicious turning surface would not be easily possible.
India have shown in the second Test match in Chennai that not only do they have better spinners to bowl on a turning track than England, but also their batsmen are more skilled to play the turning ball. The English batting struggled against spin and most of them looked terrified to be out there in the middle.
The Motera stadium, with the largest spectator capacity for a cricket venue in the world, is built to offer every modern facility for the cricketer. It is expected to be the showcase venue of Indian cricket. India, therefore, cannot afford to provide a wicket that is not of Test standard. The cricketing world will be watching the match with added interest as Motera will also be the venue for the T20 World Cup final later this year.
The interesting factors that the Test match in Ahmedabad will provide will be that both the pace bowlers and the spinners will play a part in the match. This is where India have the edge as they have a good pace and spin attack. Furthermore, with Rishabh Pant and Ravichandran Ashwin in good batting form, the only change that may come about would be Jasprit Bumrah to replace Kuldeep Yadav.
England, however, have some major issues in selecting their playing side. Their spinners have not shown the accuracy and guile required to be consistent and effective. Jack Leach, their left-arm spinner, has bowled reasonably well in patches, but his lack of experience and control of length has not made him a match-winning threat.
Dom Bess, their off spinner in the first Test match, also did not show the ability to be accurate and effective and so England have a major dilemma as to whether to play with an additional pacer instead of him. England, one feels, cannot go in with only one frontline spinner and therefore will have to sacrifice either Stuart Broad or Jimmy Anderson for Dom Bess. The problem that faces England is that Ben Stokes has not been at his best as a bowler. They need him to contribute much more for them to become an effective bowling unit.
One major issue that the Indian side will need to forget is their disastrous batting performance in the last day/night pink ball Test match in Adelaide against Australia. The 36-run total will definitely rankle in the minds of their batters. They will need to reflect on their wonderful performance at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens when they played their first ever day/night Test match against Bangladesh in November 2019.
Their three top line batsmen — Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, and Ajinkya Rahane — scored runs in that match that was played with a SG pink ball. Their mental strength as to how they will forget the disastrous Australian debacle will play a major part in the Indian team’s performance. They will need to show resilience and positivity facing the wily English pace attack of Jimmy Anderson/Stuart Broad and Jofra Archer.
The third Test match will be a seesaw battle between India and England. India at home with over 50,000 spectators behind them at the stadium will be the firm favourites. Cricket, however, is an uncertain game and with the playing conditions being far more uncertain both by way of the wicket and the day/night affair, victory or defeat will depend on the side that plays cautiously, sensibly and most importantly fields and catches well.
IND vs NZ, 2nd Test: India tighten noose around Kiwis, lead by 332 runs
Despite New Zealand left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel’s historic 10-wicket haul, Team India bounced back in style to take a stranglehold on the second and final Test here at the Wankhede stadium, gaining a mammoth 332-run lead with no loss, on Saturday.
The Virat Kohli-led side wrested the initiative by bundling New Zealand for 62 in 28.1 overs in their first innings with off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin claiming 4-8 and Mohammed Siraj 3-19.
At the end of Day 2, the hosts were 69 for no loss in their second innings. Mayank Agarwal was batting on 38 with Cheteshwar Pujara, who opened the innings as Shubman Gill had suffered a blow to his right elbow while fielding, was batting on 29.
India may have tightened the noose around the Black Caps but the talk of the town was Ajaz Patel. The New Zealand spinner scripted history by scalping all ten wickets in an innings. He bowled beautifully by giving the ball a lot of revs, giving it enough air and getting a nice loop going.
With his figures of 10-119, Ajaz joined the likes of legends Jim Laker of England (1956) and India’s Anil Kumble (1999) to dismiss the entire opposing team single-handedly.
Laker claimed 10-53 against Australia at Old Trafford, while Kumble bagged 10-74 against Pakistan at the Feroze Shah Kotla ground in New Delhi. Incidentally, Ajaz plays for Yorkshire just like Laker, the first man to claim all-10 in an innings.
The Kiwis spinner, who had taken only 29 wickets in his previous 10 Tests, claimed four wickets on Friday, added two more to his tally in the morning session on the second day and then claimed four more wickets in the post-lunch session.
The 30-year-old Ajaz, who migrated from Mumbai to New Zealand when he was eight and made his Test debut against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi in 2018, claimed his first four wickets for 73 runs and the next six for just 46 runs. He was on a hat-trick in his first over of the second day when he claimed Wriddhiman Saha and Ashwin off successive balls.
India, starting on overnight 221/4, were then bowled out for 325.
Ajaz’s brilliant effort overshadowed the fantastic 150-run knock by Indian opener Mayank Agarwal. In a 311-ball inning, he smashed 17 fours and four sixes. Agarwal, who was 120 overnight, added 30 runs to his total on Saturday but more importantly raised 67 runs for the seventh wicket with Axar Patel (52).
Chasing the total, the Kiwis’ meek surrender raised several eyebrows. The entire team got out for just 62 runs. This is the lowest-ever total by any team against India, the previous lowest being 79 by South Africa at Nagpur in 2015.
Siraj started the carnage for India as he claimed the first three wickets, the only pacer in this Test to get wickets. He bowled a beautiful line, kept the ball in the channel and disguised a straight one quite brilliantly to castle a batsman of the caliber of Ross Taylor.
Ashwin then took over as he bagged four wickets for eight runs. The entire New Zealand innings lasted just 128 minutes as only two batters — stand-in skipper Tom Latham (10) and bowler Kyle Jamieson (17) — could reach double figures. Three batsmen got out for zero.
India did not enforce the follow-on and scored 69 for no loss in their second innings with Mayank Agarwal batting on 38 and Cheteshwar Pujara on 29 at stumps.
India 325 all out in 109.5 overs (Mayank Agarwal 150, Axar Patel 52, Shubman Gill 44, Ajaz Patel 10-119) & 69/0 in 21 overs (Agarwal batting 38, Pujara batting 29) v New Zealand 62 all out in 28.1 overs (Tom Lathan 10, Kyle Jamieson 17; R Ashwin 4-8, Mohd Siraj 3-19, Axar Patel 2-14).
Viktor Axelsen, Tai Tzu Ying named badminton players of the year by BWF
Olympic champion Viktor Axelsen and Tokyo Olympics silver medallist Tai Tzu Ying were named the Badminton World Federation’s (BWF) Male and Female Player of the Year respectively in recognition of their stellar runs this season.
Denmark’s Axelson was rewarded for his extraordinary run starting from the Barcelona Spain Masters in Feburary 2020, and made 10 finals in 11 individual tournaments, winning seven of those, including gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, the world governing body of badminton announced during its awards ceremony on Friday.
Tai won the All England 2020 and then struck a rich vein of form at the three-tournament Asian Leg in January 2021, making all three finals, and clinching the BWF World Tour Finals 2020, Xinhua reports. The Chinese Taipei player then made the final of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, being defeated in a thrilling match by Chinese shuttler Chen Yufei.
Due to the disruptions caused to the sport’s tournaments by COVID-19 over the last two years, the period of consideration for the BWF Player of the Year awards was from November 2019 until 31 October 2021.
Olympic champions Lee Yang/Wang Chi-Lin of Chinese Taipei were named the Most Improved Player of the Year, while Indonesia’s Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu were named the Pair of the Year.
Chinese shuttler Qu Zimo was named Male Para Badminton Player of the Year, and Leani Ratri Oktila of Indonesia won the Female Para Badminton Player of the Year. France’s Lucas Mazur/Faustine Noel were honored with the Para Badminton Pair of the Year award.
Junior World Cup hockey: India to meet France in bronze-medal contest
India will go head-to-head against France once again at the FIH Men’s Junior World Cup 2021 on Sunday as both teams battle it out for a third-place finish. The two teams had opened their campaign against each other in the tournament on November 24 in a hard-fought match that France won 5-4.
India chief coach Graham Reid expressed confidence on Saturday that the team will overturn the result and clinch bronze.
“We will be taking as many positives as we can from our performances in the tournament so far, and we will be ready for Sunday. I am very confident the team will be back to the level we need to be up against France,” said Reid.
After the loss against France, India went on to pick up three straight wins, defeating Canada 13-1, Poland 8-2, and Belgium 1-0, but lost in the semifinal to Germany 2-4, missing out on the chance to play Argentina in the final.
Speaking on the defeat, Reid said, “I am disappointed that we did not put our best foot forward in the first and second quarter. The basics let us down a bit. Germany attacked well, defended well, and had intensity about them. They did what we were trying to do.”
Reid elaborated, “But we hope to learn from this experience about what we should be doing at this level if we want to win. One of the great things to come out of the game was that none of the players gave up the fight, and we played better in the second half. As a coach, you have to admire that.”
France also had a tremendous tournament, as they won all their Group B games, defeating India 5-4, Poland 7-1 and Canada 11-1. In the quarterfinal, the Frenchmen beat a defensively strong Malaysia 4-0. But their hopes to win the trophy ended after they lost in the semifinal to Argentina 1-3 (0-0) via shoot-outs.
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