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Women’s World Cup: Smriti, Harmanpreet hammer centuries in India’s 155-run thrashing of West Indies



Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur hammered centuries as India emerged triumphant over the West Indies by a huge margin of 155 runs in the third match of their campaign at the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup at Seddon Park on Saturday.

While Smriti hit 123 runs in 119 balls, Harmanpreet slammed 109 in 107 balls apart from the 184-run partnership, rescuing India from 78/3.

The refreshing batting performance, led by Smriti and Harmanpreet helped India reach 317/8, their highest score in World Cups, including of the ongoing edition.

In reply, West Indies raced to 100 for no loss in just 12 overs, thanks to Deandra Dottin’s 62. But once she fell, the rest of the batting order couldn’t stand up to the scoreboard pressure and crumbled to 162 all out.

The 155-run win, coming 48 hours after a 62-run loss to New Zealand at the same venue, now puts India on top of the points table and gives their NRR a huge boost in the race to semifinals.

Mithali Raj’s decision to bat first on a used pitch was validated early on by Yastika Bhatia’s 21-ball 31. After getting her first boundary with an outside edge flying over slip, Yastika pulled Chinelle Henry thrice in the arc from deep mid-wicket to backward square leg.

Yastika continued to pull as Shamilia Connell was taken for fours through leg-side. Yastika’s knock came to an end when she chipped a cutter from Shakera Selman back to the bowler. Mithali’s promotion to three didn’t go well as she closed her bat face too early and chipped straight to mid-on off Hayley.

Deepti Sharma fell to Anisa Mohammed while trying to slog sweep and Hayley at first slip took a one-handed stunner to her right at slip. On the other hand, Smriti took her time before driving Shamilia through cover and lofting Hayley Matthews over mid-off. Harmanpreet began by using her feet against Anisa for two boundaries through off-side and began to rotate the strike with Smriti starting to get her groove.

The duo ran exceptionally between the wickets while rotating the strike and scoring delightful boundaries in between. Smriti brought up her fifty with a boundary clipped between mid-wicket and mid-on.

Harmanpreet brought out her sweep against Stafanie Taylor’s off-spin while Smriti thumped Shakera for a grand six down the ground. Harmanpreet then reached her fifty with a loft over long-off for four.

As Smriti and Harmanpreet’s partnership began to grow, West Indies began to fumble in the field. Misfields, dropped chances and missed run-outs began to creep in as Smriti got some luck on her side in nervous 90s. Smriti then reached her century with a pull through square leg off Hayley. Hayley came under further attack from Smriti as she slammed a hat-trick of boundaries.

Though Smriti found deep mid-wicket on the pull off Shamilia, Harmanpreet hit Dottin for a four and six and reached her century with a single through long-on. Harmanpreet fell in the 49th over as the outside edge on the paddle went to the ‘keeper. Pooja Vastrakar, Richa Ghosh and Jhulan Goswami fell in quick succession but India had crossed the 300-mark by then.

In reply, Deandra began by cracking two fours through cover and over slip off Meghna Singh. Jhulan Goswami teased her on the off-stump line but Deandra replied with successive boundaries over mid-wicket and extra cover.

From the other end, Hayley started with a drive in the gap between backward point and over off Meghna. Hayley then smacked a wayward Jhulan for a hat-trick of fours before Deandra hit two more fours in a row to take 21 runs off the over.

Hayley was given a reprieve at 23 when she was dropped by substitute fielder Taniya Bhatia. But Deandra continued to plunder boundaries, including a six over long-on off Deepti to reach her fifty in just 35 balls. Pooja and Rajeshwari Gayakwad were brought in but were unable to stop the boundary flow. Hayley’s drive off backfoot through cover brought the century of West Indies in just 12 overs.

From there, West Indies began to implode as Sneh Rana drew a top-edge from the slog-sweep of Deandra and was safely caught by short fine leg. A sustained pressure of dot balls resulted in Kycia Knight trying to pull Meghna but found fine leg. In her next over, Meghna got the big wicket of Stafanie, who nicked a shaping away delivery to keeper.

Sneh got one to turn and bounce away from Hayley, who looked to cut but edged behind to keeper. Pooja, returning for her second spell, got Shemaine Campbelle to slice straight to backward point. In the next over, Rajeshwari trapped Chinelle plumb lbw and effected the run-out of Aaliyah.

With Anisa flicking to a tumbling short mid-wicket, Jhulan grabbed her 40th scalp in World Cups and also became the leading wicket-taker in history of the tournament. Chedean Nation fell to a run-out from Deepti and Sneh finished off the match with a caught and bowled dismissal of Shamilia.

Brief Scores: India 317/8 in 50 overs (Smriti Mandhana 123, Harmanpreet Kaur 109; Anisa Mohammed 2/59, Aaliyah Alleyne 1/26) beat West Indies 162 all out in 40.3 overs (Deandra Dottin 62, Hayley Matthews 43; Sneh Rana 3/22, Meghna Singh 2/27) by 155 runs.


Saudi Arabia to host FIFA Club World Cup 2023




Saudi Arabia has been named the host of the FIFA Club World Cup 2023, scheduled to take place from December 12-22.

“In relation to the FIFA Club World Cup 2023�, which is due to be played under the current format with seven clubs, the FIFA Council unanimously appointed the Saudi Arabian Football Federation as tournament hosts from 12 to 22 December 2023,” the FIFA said in a statement on Tuesday night.

The unanimous decision was made at a FIFA Council meeting and came only a few days after Real Madrid lifted the trophy in Morocco, following a thrilling 5-3 win over Al-Hilal, the first Saudi club to reach the final of the tournament.

Saudi Arabia will be only the sixth host of the competition since its inception in 2000.

The Gulf nation, earlier this month, was awarded the hosting rights of the men’s Asian Cup 2027 and is also bidding to host the Women’s Asian Cup for the first time in 2026.

The FIFA Council also confirmed a change in the format of the tournament from June 2025 — to expand the FIFA Club World Cup from 24 to 32 teams — with 12 teams from Europe involved along six from CONMEBOL, while CONCACAF, CAF and the AFC will each have four, with one place for the OFC and another for the hosts.

In addition, the Council also confirmed that the hosts of the FIFA World Cup 2026, namely Canada, Mexico and the USA, will qualify automatically as the joint hosts of the tournament, with their slots, therefore, being deducted from the overall allocation of six assigned to Concacaf.

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Australian Open: Sania Mirza bids adieu to Grand Slam career as runner-up in Melbourne




 India tennis star Sania Mirza on Friday wrapped up her legendary Grand slam career as Australian Open mixed doubles runner-up. The Indian ace and partner Rohan Bopanna lost to the all-Brazilian pair Luisa Stefani and Rafael Matos in the mixed doubles final here at Melbourne Park.

Sania and Bopanna were beaten 7-6(2), 6-2 by Brazilians Stefani and Matos, who were playing in their first-ever Grand Slam final.

In her final major, the 36-year-old Sania admitted her emotions almost boiled over after the Indians stunned third seeds and reigning Wimbledon champions Desirae Krawczyk and Neal Skupski in the semifinals. There was no holding them back after her final match at Melbourne Park, 22 years after she first teamed with Bopanna.

Interestingly, Sania claimed her first major in 2009 at Melbourne Park, when she paired up with Mahesh Bhupathi. And she ended her illustrious Grand Slam career here.

Melbourne Park has been a happy hunting ground for the Indian star. After his maiden triumph in 2009. Seven years later, in 2016, she paired up with Swiss star Martina Hingis and claimed the women’s doubles title as the top seed.

Outside Australia, she earned four other Grand Slam titles: 2015 Wimbledon and 2015 US Open women’s doubles with Hingis, 2012 Roland Garros mixed doubles with Bhupathi and 2014 US Open mixed doubles with Bruno Soares.

“The journey of my professional career started in Melbourne� in 2005 when I played Serena Williams in the third round as an 18-year-old,” an emotional Sania said.

“That was scarily enough 18 years ago and I’ve had the privilege to come back here again and again and win some titles here. Rod Laver Arena has really been special in my life� To play the final, obviously, we couldn’t get over the line, but there’s no better place and no better person to finish my Grand Slam career with.”

“I never thought I’d be able to play in front of my child in a Grand Slam final, so it’s truly special for me to have my four-year-old here and my parents here, Rohan’s wife here,” she added.

Bopanna was looking to add a second Grand Slam mixed doubles title after his 2017 Roland Garros victory. Despite coming up short, he paid tribute to his compatriot and friend.

“It’s truly special for me to play with Sania,” he said. “Our first mixed doubles together was when she was 14 years old and we happened to win the title.

“Today we get to play the last match here on Rod Laver Arena. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the title, but thank you so much for your time, for Indian tennis, for inspiring each and everyone.”

Stefani and Matos are the first all-Brazilian team to win a major after ending Sania and Rohan Bopanna’s farewell appearance together in the Australian Open mixed doubles final.

“Rohan and Sania� I know how many people you’ve inspired,” Stefani said. “Like Brazil, like India, this means so much to our countries. It inspires the kids, it inspires the next generations.”

The six-time Grand Slam champion, Sania, earlier this month announced that she will retire from professional tennis after the Dubai Tennis Championships, a WTA 1000 event, which begins on February 19.

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Bangladesh might have succumbed to pressure v India; not taking fake fielding issue any further: Sriram




Bangladesh coach Sridharan Sriram has conceded his team might have succumbed to pressure in the thrilling five-run loss to India in their Super 12 Group 2 match of the ICC T20 World Cup, and has also said he has no intention of taking the potential fake fielding incident involving Virat Kohli during the match any further.

Bangladesh were cruising along at 66 without loss in seven overs, with Litton Das coming out all guns blazing and snatching the advantage of making 184/6 from India through a breath-taking 59 not out off 26 balls — laced with seven fours and three sixes at a strike rate of 226.9 — when rain put a halt to his pyrotechnics.

Bangladesh’s target was revised from 185 in 20 overs to 151 in 16 overs. They needed 85 more runs in nine overs to win the match, with all wickets in hand. India’s bowling attack, which took a beating in the power-play, got the much-needed respite thanks to the rain break and they went on to win the match by five runs (D/L method).

Sriram agreed the rain delay and the revised target brought the pressure on his side and it crumbled.

“Well, it was quite frantic for that brief (last) 10-12 minutes (of the match), which is understandable. I think the boys, nine runs an over or 9.75 runs an over, definitely I think the pressure got to them a little bit. Yeah, it was a little bit of a frantic 15-20 minutes if I can put it, yes,” said Sriram, the former Australia spin-bowling coach.

Bangladesh are scheduled to play their last Super 12 game against Pakistan on Sunday with a win not guaranteeing them a place in the last four, but the results of the remaining two Group 2 games — South Africa vs Netherlands and India vs Zimbabwe — could facilitate their semifinal entry.

Much heat has been generated over on-field umpires missing a potential fake fielding incident involving Kohli, which could have earned Bangladesh five runs in penalties and a victory against India, but Sriram said he is not here “to offer any excuses” for the defeat.

Wicketkeeper Nurul Hasan accused Kohli of fake fielding during the match, claiming that the umpires missed the incident and could have resulted in the opposition getting crucial five runs as penalty. The incident that Hasan talked about going unnoticed took place in the seventh over of Bangladesh’s chase when Kohli feigned a throw while standing at point, as if he was relaying a throw coming from Arshdeep Singh from the deep off the bowling of Axar Patel.

Neither the on-field umpires, Marais Erasmus and Chris Brown, spotted it, nor did the two Bangladeshi batters, openers Litton Das and Najmul Hossain Shanto, out in the middle, pointed it out.

Law 41.5, pertaining to unfair play, prohibits the “deliberate distraction, deception or obstruction of (the) batter”, and if an incident is deemed to be a breach, the umpire can declare that particular delivery as dead ball, and award the batting side five runs. But Hasan didn’t mention if either of Das or Shanto spoke to him or to the team about distraction or deception from Kohli pretending to throw the ball to the keeper.

Shedding light on the controversy, Sriram said, “No, we are not here to offer any excuses. I did speak to the fourth umpire as soon as it happened, but I think it was the on-field umpire’s call, and that’s what we were told, but we’re not here to offer any excuses.”

Sriram said the focus now is to beat Pakistan and wait for the results of other matches to go in his team’s favour.

“I’ve been very clear in all my press conferences. We’re just taking it one game at a time, plan for one opposition at a time. Every game we want to go, we obviously want to win it, but we’re aware of what challenges Pakistan present. We played them in New Zealand just recently (in the Tri-series), and we have high respect for that team, so we’re going to turn up and be at our best on that day.”

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