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Tuesday,09-March-2021

International

This is the peak of my career, says Alex Hales after England snub

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Alex Hales

England opener Alex Hales, who set the Big Bash League on fire on Friday with a 56-ball 110 for Sydney Thunder against Sydney Sixers, said that the England team management hasn’t got back to him as yet.

Hales, who is the leading run-getter in the Big Bash League 2020-21, with 462 runs in 12 innings at an average of 38.5, has not played for England since March 2019.

Hales’s effort on Friday came a day after the England selector Ed Smith said that the opening batsman may not come back to the national side in near future.

“No, nothing at all – nothing from that end (English selectors). At the moment, I’m just enjoying my cricket and I’m going to keep trying to score as many runs as I can, enjoying myself, and see what happens,” Hales was quoted as saying by ESPNcricinfo.com.

“Obviously that’s the peak of cricket, playing for your country. At the moment, I’m just going to focus on the process of scoring runs and enjoying my cricket, and if that’s the end result then brilliant,” he added.

“This is definitely the best I’ve played, I feel like it’s in the peak of my career. I’m 32 now and I feel like I know my game really well, and I’m just going to keep looking to impress whenever I get a chance. Particularly in T20 cricket, the older you get the more you understand what your strengths are,” Hales said.

England selector Smith had earlier said, “At the moment, I would expect things to stay as they are there. No doors are closed in terms of there’s no final decision. It’s not that it’s going to be the same indefinitely. But at the moment, if I had to make a prediction, I would say we’d stay as we are.”

England are due to play five T20 Internationals and three ODIs against India in India in March.

International

Bajrang Punia and Vinesh take back top spot after winning in Rome

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India’s Bajrang Punia got back to the No. 1 spot in the 65 kg wrestling world rankings after winning gold at the Matteo Pelicone Ranking Series in Rome. Earlier, Vinesh Phogat took back the top spot in the 53 kg rankings after winning gold in her weight category at the ranking series.

Both wrestlers, who have qualified for this year’s Tokyo Olympics, had slipped off the top of the rankings during the lengthy breaks they had to take in 2020 on account of the Covid-19 pandemic.

While Punia came into the tournament ranked second, Vinesh was third. Punia, 27, defended his title in Rome on Sunday after beating Mongolia’s Tulga Tumur Ochir 2-2. He was trailing 2-0 for much of the bout but managed to take two points in the last 30 seconds. Since Punia was the last to score a point, he was declared winner on criteria.

Vinesh, meanwhile, won gold without dropping a single point throughout the tournament, beating Canada’s Diana Weicker 4-0 in the final. This is the 26-year-old Asian Games champion’s second gold medal in two weeks, having earlier won the 53 kg title in the Outstanding Ukrainian Wrestlers and Coaches Memorial tournament in Kiev, Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Sumit Malik won bronze in the 125 kg category and jumped to fourth in the rankings. He gained nine points after coming into the tournament ranked 44. Naveen Mor rose to fourth in the Greco-Roman 130 kg category after winning bronze in Rome.

Sarita Mor rose to 2nd in the women’s 57 kg rankings after winning silver while Anshu Malik got up to fifth from eighth in the same weight class.

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WTT Star Contender: Manika Batra and Sathiyan in 2nd round

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India’s Manika Batra and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran on Monday went through to the second round of the WTT Star Contender table tennis tournament in Doha.

Manika, ranked 63 in women’s singles, beat Chinese Taipei’s Hsien-Tzy Cheng 3-0. Manika held her own to beat her opponent in straight sets 11-5, 11-9, 11-9. The 2018 Asian Games bronze medallist will face Japanese world No. 3 Mima Ito in her round of 16 match on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, world No. 37 Gnanasekaran had a more tricky encounter against France’s 40th ranked Emmanuel Lebesson, winning the match 3-2. Gnanasekaran lost the first two games but then came back to take the match 9-11, 7-11, 11-7, 11-4, 11-4. He will face Japanese world No. 5 Harimoto Tomokazu in the round of 16 on Tuesday.

Later, four-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist Achanta Sharath Kamal faces Puerto Rico’s Brian Afanador in his first round match. Kamal and Manika had earlier fallen short of qualification to the Doha event in the mixed doubles category, losing their second-round qualifier against Mexico’s Marcos Madrid and Yadira Silva.

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Novak Djokovic breaks Federer’s record for most weeks as world No. 1

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Serbian tennis great Novak Djokovic on Monday set a record for most weeks at No. 1 in the 48-year history of the ATP rankings. Djokovic entered his 311th week at the top of the rankings, one week longer than Swiss 20-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer’s record.

18-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic grabbed his ninth Australian Open title last month. Federer had set the record in July 2012, surpassing American Pete Sampras’ record of 286 weeks.

Djokovic, 33, had fallen to No. 22 in May 2018 amid a series of injuries and downturn in form. However, he stormed back into the top five after winning Wimbledon and the US Open in 2018 and following that up with a win at the 2019 Australian Open and 2019 Wimbledon.

Federer, Djokovic and Spain’s Rafael Nadal have dominated men’s singles tennis, particularly the Grand Slams, for nearly two decades.

From the 2003 Wimbledon to the 2021 Australian Open, the three players have won 58 out of 70 Grand Slams. They won 18 consecutive slams from the 2005 French Open to Wimbledon in 2009, and 13 consecutive slams from the 2017 Australian Open to the 2020 Australian Open.

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