This was not perfect. It was never going to be, given Real Madrid were emerging from the wreckage of their humiliating 3-0 defeat by Eibar on Saturday.But Santiago Solari’s side got back on track with a 2-0 win at Roma in the Champions League on Tuesday that sees them seal top spot in Group G, which gives them something to build from.Talk over the past couple of days has circled around a new crisis for the European champions, after the heavy thrashing in the Basque country on Solari’s debut as permanent manager. Article continues below Editors’ Picks Man Utd ready to spend big on Sancho and Haaland in January Who is Marcus Thuram? Lilian’s son who is top of the Bundesliga with Borussia Monchengladbach Brazil, beware! Messi and Argentina out for revenge after Copa controversy Best player in MLS? Zlatan wasn’t even the best player in LA! The Argentine coach had won four from four as caretaker but was brought crashing back to earth at Ipurua and many thought Tuesday could be a further humiliation in the Italian capital.Good news trickled through before kick-off, as Viktoria Plzen came from behind to beat CSKA Moscow 2-1, guaranteeing Madrid would qualify for the last 16 before they even kicked off against Roma.It is the 21st consecutive season that Madrid have progressed in a competition that they have historically dominated.Perhaps then the lustre of this tournament was enough to rouse them from their sleep in a way La Liga can’t, but Madrid will derive come comfort from the performances of key players and their lethal counter-attacking display.At times in the first half Madrid’s defence was all over the place, with narrow margins keeping the ball from the back of Thibaut Courtois’s net.The Belgian goalkeeper made a brilliant save to deny striker Patrik Schick, while Aleksandar Kolarov whistled a thunderous drive inches wide.Madrid’s biggest moment of luck came just before half-time when Turkish striker Cengiz Under somehow contrived to blast the ball over an open goal from six yards out when it came to him on a plate. The worst miss the Champions League will see in this season, perhaps in any.At half-time it felt like Madrid were lucky to go in level with the game somehow goalless, but Solari’s side showed character after the break.Courtois was alert between the sticks and some smart saves from the goalkeeper repaid Madrid’s faith in him this summer and shows that he can buy time for Los Blancos while they soul search.What Solari and Madrid fans will take heart from was how Madrid survived Roma’s onslaught and showed determination to keep attacking to force a breakthrough.Even though their first goal came from terrible defending by Federico Fazio, Gareth Bale took his goal well in the 47th minute.The Welshman has not been at his best this season and this was an important contribution to show Solari that he can make a difference for his team.As we have seen with Isco – cut from the squad – and Marcos Llorente, who impressed in midfield after finally being given a chance, Solari is looking for solutions, so it’s important for even the big names to prove their worth.Bale was key again for the second goal, looping a cross to the back post which Karim Benzema knocked into Lucas Vazquez’s path, and the winger obligingly finished from close range.It was Madrid’s best move thus far and started a period of dominance that saw them shred Roma’s defence numerous times in the final half hour, even though they did not add to their lead.This is the dangerous, almost brutal Madrid attack that Solari wants, playing with confidence and no fear.The coach must find a way to bring this attitude into matches on smaller stages, in La Liga, and get his team to play with it from the start, not only when they already have the bit between their teeth.
Australia’s pace attack, emboldened by the return of “once in a generation” bowler Pat Cummins, could prove the difference between the sides in this year’s Ashes series against England, feels former paceman Brett Lee.Steve Smith’s side already boast tearaway paceman Mitchell Starc along with the precision of Josh Hazlewood.Cummins returned to Test cricket in India after more than five years in the wilderness, replacing injured spearhead Starc and taking eight wickets from the final two matches in Ranchi and Dharamsala.His successful comeback has only bolstered Australia’s already formidable pace resources.”What Pat Cummins can bring is pace, aggression, control and anything between that. He is a once in a generation bowler and you have got to harness that amazing talent,” Lee said in an interview at a Mumbai hotel overlooking the Arabian Sea.The 23-year-old right-armer showed good control and generated enough pace even on the docile surfaces in India to trouble the hosts’ batsmen.James Pattinson has also been in stellar form in domestic cricket since returning from a 12-month injury layoff in February and the 26-year-old could complete a dream pace quartet for the five-match Ashes series starting in November.Lee, an ambassador for Bowling Master, said he would struggle to summon the courage to face such a pace battery.”I would be (scared), absolutely,” Lee said after launching the cricket training kit which will be sold on Amazon’s India portal.”It’s a pretty serious pace barrage that you’ve got. Australian bowling stocks now are pretty healthy.advertisement”Hazlewood is more of hitting the good length, day in and day out. With Starc you will be full, short, good length, yorkers, the whole thing.”Two completely different bowlers but complementing each other because they are building pressure from each end. Then you throw in someone like a Pat Cummins. It’s a pretty handy attack.”Less than six months ago, Australia were still reeling from their 3-0 whitewash in Sri Lanka when they were beaten in the home series by South Africa with a match to spare.The axe fell on some players and a revamped side gained a consolation win at Adelaide Oval before going on to blank Pakistan 3-0 in the following series.They impressed one and all in India, going down 2-1 after a closely-fought four-match series against the world’s top ranked test side.Lee said Smith now had the players to build a team around for the long-term.”After (former captain) Michael Clarke, you got Steve Smith taking over, and I think he’s building his own team, which is a terrific team,” said the 40-year-old.”It’s a team that are very close and a team that’s going to be around for a long time now. You have got some young guys coming. (Matt) Renshaw is just 21 years old. (Peter) Handscomb has come on and just taken to test cricket like a duck to water.”You throw in Pat Cummins, he’s back in the mix after five and half years in absence of not playing test cricket. You got some people that are injecting in some youth, some experience. Australia is in a very good spot.”Lee was also looking forward to seeing how Joe Root, who replaced long-serving Alastair Cook as test captain, would lead England Down Under.”He’s a class act … His stats back it up and proved that he is such an amazing talent,” Lee said.”He’s ranked among the top four-five batsmen in the world. And you throw in the captaincy with that. I am actually looking forward to seeing how he goes on the Australian wickets.”
In his own inimitable way, Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan on Wednesday wished Sachin Tendulkar for his upcoming film and elicited a philosophical response from the cricket legend.A film on Tendulkar – Sachin A Billion Dreams – will release worldwide on May 26 and celebrities across various walks of life have been wishing the cricket legend on social media. Shah Rukh’s good luck post though stood out.Tendulkar, who rarely shows his emotions, gave a glimpse of his philosophical side while responding to the gesture of extremely popular actor.”I believed, when u did well I would 2 & when u didn’t,I will fail. Like a billion others I miss my guiding lite. ATB for the film,” Shah Rukh tweeted.@sachin_rt I believed,when u did well I would 2 & when u didnt,I will https://t.co/UhouyNYvvx a billion others I miss my guiding lite.ATB for the film- Shah Rukh Khan (@iamsrk) April 19, 2017In reply, Tendulkar tagged Shah Rukh’s post and replied:”Zindagi me haar na hoti to koi kabhi jeet ta nahi aur kuch seekhta bhi nahi. Touched by your words like a billion others, love u @iamsrk :-)”.Zindagi me haar na hoti to koi kabhi jeet ta nahi aur kuch seekhta bhi nahi. Touched by your words like a billion others, love u @iamsrk 🙂 https://t.co/zsjDfStHQY- sachin tendulkar (@sachin_rt) April 19, 2017Among the other notable personalities to have wished Tendulkar include Rajnikanth, Madhuri Dixit-Nene, Shreya Ghosal.
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Sunrisers Hyderabad coach Tom Moody heaped praise on Afghan cricketer Rashid Khan and said the legbreak bowler has been a “terrific find” for the defending champions in the ongoing IPL.Moody said the 18-year-old’s exploits in the ongoing IPL is also a great news for the game in the war-ravaged Afghanistan.”He is a terrific find for us and he is great for the tournament for a number of reasons. It’s nice to have a young leg-spinner doing what he is doing,” Moody said ahead of his team’s IPL match against Kings XI Punjab.”Rashid’s success is also great for Afghanistan and for cricket as a whole,” the Australian said.Moody backed Rashid to continue the good work in the remainder of the tournament.”He took 1-17 in the last game (against Rising Pune Supergiant). For any spinner to take 1-17 in a high scoring game, I don’t think the opposition has worked him out. I still think he is a major threat and he will continue to do well,” Moody said about Rashid, who hails from Nangrhar province in Afghanistan.Talking about Sunrisers team in the ongoing IPL, Moody said: “I think this season we’ve probably got a well balanced squad. So I am comfortable as a coach to have a number of different combinations.”I think we need to have an open mind and be flexible while selecting the combinations.”Moody said they cannot afford to take Kings XI lightly even though the hosts did not have good run so far in the tournament.advertisement”Kings XI have changed their eleven more than a few times. So, its a fresh start for us, its not going to be the same eleven so that is also going to have an influence on our selection. At this point of the tournament, you would be foolish to take any team lightly,” Moody said.”Kings XI are at a point where they are desperate to secure a couple of wins and we are equally as desperate to secure wins because we want to hold our position on the top portion of the points table.”Moody was pleased with Yuvraj Singh performances so far but refused to divulge whether the local lad will be available for selection tomorrow.”Look I have been really pleased with Yuvraj. He has certainly been striking the ball well,” he said.”Unfortunately, he has been suffering from a flu. Hence, he missed a couple of games. Apart from that he looks in good shape, hitting the ball as well he has done for sometime.”
WWE has cancelled an NXT event in Manchester Citing the terrorist attack at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester Arena, which killed 22 people and left many more injured.The company had to showcase the popular roster NXT at the Manchester Arena on June 6 but the suicide bombing led to the cancellation.”Out of respect for all those affected by the Manchester tragedy, WWE is canceling the NXT event on Tuesday, June 6 at the Manchester Arena,” WWE announced on their website wwe.com.WWE statement pic.twitter.com/BSJUP0vGby- WWE UK (@WWEUK) May 26, 2017The company, in their announcement, added that they are giving the fans who had bought the tickets a full refund and gave them “the option to receive a free ticket at point of purchase to the NXT show on Wednesday, June 7, at First Direct Arena in Leeds.”WWE further stated that the WWE superstars will be visiting Manchester on June 6 to be with the victims and the company is making a donation to the We Love Manchester Emergency Fund.”We look forward to returning to the Manchester Arena on Monday, November 6, for Raw and Tuesday, November 7, for SmackDown LIVE,” WWE added.Various WWE stars had taken to Twitter to condemn the Manchester attack and extended their heartfelt sorrow and wishes for the victims and their families.My best wishes to everyone affected by the terrible happenings at Manchester Arena.- William Regal (@RealKingRegal) May 22, 2017thinking of you Manchester, I’m so sorry for what you are going through #ManchesterArenaadvertisement- Nikki Cross (@NikkiCrossWWE) May 23, 2017Only now finding out about the Manchester bombing. I don’t know what to say. Deeply, deeply upsetting.- Sami Zayn (@iLikeSamiZayn) May 23, 2017
World number one Andy Murray’s recent form of just four wins in eight claycourt matches is clear evidence that he can be beaten, the Briton’s French Open opponent Andrey Kuznetsov said ahead of their first round clash on Tuesday.Murray has not progressed past the round of 16 in three of his last four tournaments on clay, suffering a third round loss to Croatian Borna Coric in Madrid and losing out to home favourite Fabio Fognini early in the Italian Open this month.The 30-year-old is also recovering from an illness and Kuznetsov, who has previously lost to Murray twice in as many meetings, is hopeful he can make it third time lucky.”If you maybe see the results he showed on clay, maybe it’s not his best as he showed last year,” Russian world number 73 Kuznetsov told British media.”A few guys like (Borna) Coric, for example, beat him in Madrid. It shows that it’s possible to beat him. Also in the first rounds of the big tournaments, maybe they need some time to find rhythm and so on.”Kuznetsov, 26, who lost in the semi-finals at last week’s Geneva Open, said a quick start would be key to defeating the three-times grand slam winner.”Of course it will be important to start good. If it goes to a five-setter, there will be a few more chances for him to win because of the physical conditions,” Kuznetsov said.”But if he starts a little bit nervy and shaky, and I start with confidence, maybe I can win one set and take a lead in the second.advertisement”For me it’s a good experience to play against a world number one. If I win, I will be a hero. If I lose, nobody will be surprised. [There is] nothing to lose for me.”
Allu Arjun’s romantic entertainer Duvvada Jagannadham is one of the highly anticipated releases this year. Last seen in the blockbuster film Sarrainodu, fans have been patiently waiting for Duvvada Jagannadham in which Bunny will be seen in two different roles.As a surprise treat for fans, the makers released the teaser of the song Gudilo Badilo Madilo on Monday, which started trending on several social media platforms. Allu Arjun and Pooja Hegde’s crackling chemistry is probably the main highlight of the song, which is composed by Rockstar Devi Sri Prasad.Last week, the title song Saranam Bhaje Bhaje created quite a buzz among fans. Earlier this year, the first look posters of DJ, which had Allu Arjun sporting a Brahmani look, went viral on the internet. Duvvada Jagannadham teaser was released last month and has clocked more than 15 million views on YouTube. Directed by Harish Shankar, Duvvada Jagannadham is slated to release on June 23 this year.Meanwhile, Allu Arjun will be teaming up with Vakkantham Vamsi for Naa Peru Surya Naa Illu India. He will be also been seen in Lingusamy’s Tamil-Telugu bilingual film.ALSO READ: Shruti Haasan no longer part of SangamithraALSO READ: Spyder to Duvvada Jagannadham, 5 highly anticipated Telugu filmsWATCH: Gudilo Badilo Madilo Vodilo song
Strikers Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford delivered a devastating one-two punch just before half time to carry Manchester United to a 2-0 victory over Manchester City in a derby held 5,000 miles from home on Thursday.Lukaku struck first in Houston in the 37th minute with his second goal for his new club after moving to Old Trafford from Everton last week in a deal reported in the British media to be worth nearly $100 million.The Belgian found the net with a sensational finish on the half-volley from a narrow angle which exposed the positioning of goalkeeper Ederson, who recently joined City from Benfica for around $45 million.Two minutes later, Rashford took Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s pass all alone to the right of the City penalty area and placed the ball beyond Ederson to ensure the red half of Manchester prevailed in the first derby played outside England.The strike duo gave the United faithful hopes of a more explosive attack in the upcoming season by creating numerous chances against City, who were playing their first match of the pre-season in the International Champions Cup opener.Lukaku missed two more tantalising opportunities early in the second half, misdirecting a header off a corner from Rashford and then rattling the frame of the goal with a rocket off his left foot.”I couldn’t be happier with what he’s doing, and I could not be happier we managed to sign him before the pre-season,” United manager Jose Mourinho said of Lukaku on MUTV.”(He’s a) team player, who holds the ball, who waits for support, who allows the team to leave pressure zones. People look to goals and chances, I have a different perspective.”advertisementThe entertaining contest drew a crowd of more than 67,000 to NRG Stadium, home of the National Football League’s Houston Texans.United, who have already played two games in the U.S. against Major League Soccer clubs LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake, will play another four pre-season contests against Real Madrid, Barcelona, Valerenga and Sampdoria.City have games against Real Madrid, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United following the derby clash.”It was our first game, a good training (run) against another team,” said City manager Pep Guardiola.($1 = 0.7710 pounds)
Chandigarh, Jul 24 (PTI) Punjab Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh has offered star woman cricketer Harmanpreet Kaur the DSPs position in Punjab Police, saying he wants to “correct a wrong” done to her in the past. Harmanpreet played a crucial role in India reaching the final of the ICC World Cup in England. Her hurricane knock of 171 against Australia in the semifinals was the highlight of her contribution. Having already announced a cash prize of Rs 5 lakh for the batter, the CM offered her a job after speaking to her father Harmandar Singh in Moga. Harmanpreet had reportedly wanted to join the Punjab Police some years ago but had been denied by the force. Amarinder said it was a “wrong perpetrated on the young cricketer by the previous Badal government, which had refused to accommodate the national player in Punjab Police.” The chief minister also promised to review the states sports policy to provide government jobs to young sportspersons like Harmanpreet. PTI SUN PM PM
By Bharat Sharma New Delhi, July 26 (PTI) Twenty20s and one-dayers are the formats driving womens cricket forward but it is only the ultimate challenge of playing Tests that will help India produce more world-class players, said skipper Mithali Raj who has played just 10 Tests in an 18-year-old career. Speaking at felicitation function organised by the BCCI, where each of the squad member was presented Rs 50 lakh by the Board, Mithali spoke of the importance of playing more Tests. The Ashes between Australia and England is the only regular Test fixture in womens cricket while other teams mainly play the shorter formats. India have played just five Tests in the last 10 years. “Test matches are the ultimate test for cricketers, whether it is your temperament, skill or endurance. However, womens cricket needs promotion and so far it has been done mainly through T20s and ODIs by the respective cricket boards,” said Mithali at a special felicitation ceremony organised by the BCCI. “As of now, it seems every board wishes to market the sport through T20 and ODIs as they think they are the ideal formats. I feel Test matches should be played as frequently as limited over games because it churns out quality players. If the Indian team wants to play, the other teams should also be ready to play Test matches,” she added. The Indian womens team has been busy attending a host of felicitations ever since it returned from England, where it exceeded expectations by reaching the World Cup final. They are not used to it but the entire squad was mobbed by the media and the fans. Mithali said it feels good to be wanted, as it was never the case earlier. “I am one of those players who have seen days before the BCCI took over and after that as well. I am fortunate that I continued to play. Today I am seeing this phase in womens cricket, the reception we have got has been overwhelming. “I clearly remember, despite doing well in 2005 World Cup, we never had this kind of a reception. It is a nice feeling after what we have all gone through, we feel wanted, feel appreciated for the effort we have put in all these years. Mithali said Indian Railways played a huge role in giving support to the players through jobs. “A special mention to the Indian railways for supporting us and extending jobs to the girls. If it was not for the Railways, many more talented cricketers would have quit the game to focus on getting jobs for financial security,” said Mithali, who played her fifth World Cup. Despite India losing the final from a comfortable position, Mithali said it was a brilliant team effort. “Not many gave us a chance to reach the semis or final. This world cup has been very tough. “What the team has achieved in this World Cup, the seeds were sown in the ODI series against Australia, the West Indies tour, the Quadrangular Series in South Africa, the Qualifiers in Sri Lanka and into the World Cup. The preparation was very good,” she said, adding that she will continue playing for another 2-3 years. Sharing the stage with her captain, batting sensation Harmanpreet Kaur too felt good about getting a grand welcome. “It is only when you do well, you are recognised. This is exactly what has happened. It is a big achievement to play the final, considering we did not do well in the earlier editions,” said Harmanpreet, who is seen as Mithalis successor in ODI cricket. Her 171 against Australia in the semifinal has made the history books. She is the first Indian to play in Womens Big Bash in Australia and now hopes the country can have a league of its own. “Playing Big Bash was a very big achievement for me. I learnt a lot there and that helped me a lot in the World Cup. I hope more Indian players get the opportunity post the World Cup. It has only been Smriti Mandhana and myself so far. “If womens IPL happens, other countries players will come and play here, and sharing the dressing room with international players will be a big confidence booster to the the local players,” said Harmanpreet. PTI BS PM PMadvertisement
Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka have reputations for being supreme athletes but a gruelling tennis season that offers little time to recover has left them among a number of big-name players who will be missing from the U.S. Open with injuries. (Also read: Roger Federer unconcerned by mounting injury toll ahead of US Open)Despite medical advances and a greater understanding by the players on how their bodies work, there is little down time for anyone who wants to be a regular competitor during the ATP and WTA seasons, which last approximately 11 and 10 months, respectively.”Most of the injuries in tennis are what are classified as overuse,” Todd Ellenbecker, the ATP’s Vice President of Medical Services, said in an email interview.”Not one particular force or trauma but a continued, repeated overload of smaller forces that lead to a breakdown in the player’s body.”Five top 11 men’s players are among those who have said they will miss the year’s final grand slam, which starts on Monday in New York: former world number one Djokovic (elbow), Andy Murray (hip), 2016 champion Wawrinka (knee), Canada’s Milos Raonic (wrist) and Japan’s Kei Nishikori (wrist).The women’s draw has not been robbed of the same level of star power with the most high-profile withdrawal due to injury being 2011 U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur (hand).Reuters Photo With a non-stop stream of tournaments on hard courts, grass and clay, coupled with racket technology that allows players to hit the ball harder than ever before, the physical toll on bodies can mount up.advertisement”Tennis is indeed unique in that it is one of the only high level sports played on multiple surfaces at the elite level,” said Ellenbecker. “We know that different ball speeds, and trajectories/court surface interfaces do affect the player’s body … however definitive injury risk research is scant.”Ellenbecker said after matches, a player’s focus shifts immediately from performance to recovery, which means replacing fluid and vital nutrients and for some, ice baths, compression garments and other recovery methods that work for them.Former world number one Roger Federer, who had been blessed with a body that seemed bullet-proof against the aches, pains and injuries suffered by most top athletes, is in the midst of one of the greatest ever comebacks from injury.After missing the second half of last season with a knee problem, Federer has won five titles this year, including the Australian Open and Wimbledon trophies.The Swiss is also aware that now aged 36, he not only needs to be judicious with his schedule but also has to be cautious about how far he should push his body.Hence opting to skip the claycourt season, including the French Open despite being fully fit, paid off for the Swiss as just weeks later he became the first man to win eight Wimbledon titles.Reuters Photo Bill Norris, the ATP’s former Director of Medical Services who spent 35 years patching up the broken and sore bodies of players from Ken Rosewall to Federer, said players have little choice but to pace themselves by taking regular breaks if they want to stay competitive late in their careers.”Federer has changed a lot of coaches but he’s kept a great team around him,” said Norris.”By (age) 30-35 you know what your body is capable of, what the competition is capable of. If you schedule yourself right and pace yourself you will have some reserve.”The run enjoyed by Federer and 37-year-old American Venus Williams, a finalist at both the Australian Open and Wimbledon this year, has prompted many to ask whether a 40-year could soon walk off with one of the four grand slam titles.”From a truly anatomical standpoint, the work the players are doing now to maintain elite levels of human performance well into their 30s it is indeed possible and perceivable that we might see champions at this level among players in their 40s,” said Ellenbecker.”The amount of off-court work, human recovery efforts, and elite tennis skill development we are seeing now on the ATP World Tour where 43 of the top 100 players are age 30 or more tells us that this indeed could be possible.”
Fast bowler Tom Curran will make his debut for England in the Boxing Day Test against Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Tuesday.Curran will replace Craig Overton, who had sustained a rib injury while batting in the second Test at Adelaide and aggravated the area further while fielding in the third Test in Perth with scans revealing a fracture.Australia regained the Ashes urn after defeating England by an innings and 41 runs in the ongoing five-match series.Curran, who made his Twenty20 debut in June and then played his first one-day international in September, was an injury replacement for Steven Finn, who withdrew before the first test with a knee injury.Captain Joe Root said the selection of the South-African born fast-medium bowler was very much a gut decision.”Sometimes as a captain you have to go with your gut and he really hit home with me this week,” Root told reporters ahead of the fixture starting on Boxing Day at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.”It wasn’t an easy decision. We certainly (spent) a while thinking about it, trying to weigh up what was going to be the best way to go about it in these conditions and on this surface.”He does get the ball to move around a little bit. He’s always in the contest. That’s one thing that really stands out to me – he will at no point hide away from any challenge if it does become very hard. He’ll give it absolutely everything.”advertisementCurran’s elevation ahead of Wood was something of a surprise given England’s pace bowlers have struggled in Australia, with stalwarts James Anderson and Stuart Broad both struggling to get any movement through the air or off the pitch, while their entire attack has been lacking in pace.Pundits had suggested that Wood, arguably the fastest bowler in their squad, could be picked, but Root said the 27-year-old was not quite match-fit as he battled back from an ankle injury.”He did come into it,” Root said of the selection discussions around Curran and Wood.”The fact that (he’s) not necessarily 100 per cent fit, not played a huge amount of cricket, (it) might have been a little bit of a risk going into this game.”It was a tough call (but) …for the balance of the team, I think Tom was the best option.”
India have plenty to ponder over this week after their defeat to South Africa in the first Test in Cape Town but Sourav Ganguly has backed the Virat Kohli-led side does not need to panic.While the Indian pacers always kept the team in a winning position throughout the game, it was the batsmen who failed to deliver on a seamer-friendly Newlands track.India were bundled out for 135 in their second innings while chasing 208 a run less than what they had scored in the first innings. South Africa took a crucial first lead of 77 and scored 130 to set India a tricky target.India blew their chance in Cape Town and the challenge is going to be only stiffer up in Centurion for the second Test and Johannesburg for the third Test. South Africa won’t have Dale Steyn in their ranks but they have enough firepower to go with Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel and Kagiso Rabada. In fact, they might even contemplate adding an extra batsman to the line-up after the way India’s pacers bowled this week.”India will play five bowlers because the problem is not with your fifth bowler batting option. The problem is with your top and middle order batting options. Hardik Pandya played magnificently despite the fact that he went to South Africa without much of match practice. You cannot go in a Test match without a spinner so that chapter closes. Ravichandran Ashwin also got you 30 runs with the bat. The problem is not fast bowling, the problem is not Hardik Pandya, the problem is not Ashwin. The problem is your top-order batsmen,” Ganguly told India Today.advertisementWATCH FULL SHOWAn in-form Rohit Sharma was preferred over the tried, tested and successful Ajinkya Rahane, who has proven himself time and again in testing overseas condition.”History of Rohit Sharma and history of Shikhar Dhawan in overseas conditions are not very good. You look at their records, it’s like chalk and cheese when they go away and when they are in India. So you are basically depending on Murali Vijay and Virat Kohli as the two best performers in overseas conditions. Look at Cheteshwar Pujara. His 13 of 14 Test hundreds have come in subcontinent conditions. I keep saying about KL Rahul because he has scored runs in Australia, he has scored runs in West Indies and Sri Lanka. It’s not just about form, it’s also about where people score runs. But let’s not panic too much. I was not surprised by the result. I have tremendous regard for Virat Kohli and we will see an improved performance in the next game,” Ganguly added.Many believe it was a gutsy call by coach Ravi Shastri and Kohli but the reality is that Rohit failed to deliver on the big stage.Rohit showed good temperament during the first innings and saw off the first hour of the second day’s play but was trapped plumb in front of his wickets for a painstaking 11 from 59 balls.Rahane averages 53.44 in overseas conditions, including Sri Lanka, West Indies and Bangladesh while his average in South Africa rises to 69.66 from four innings.Decision to drop Rahane was bold but it backfired. Kohli, who has never fielded the same XI in consecutive Tests, may bring back the Mumbai batsman for the second Test as India seek fresh start at Centurion.”I don’t think Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri will change the team straightaway. There is a possibility that one of them (Ajinkya Rahane or KL Rahul) may come back. It could be Ajinkya Rahane in the middle in place of Rohit Sharma and there’s a possibility of KL Rahul coming at top of the order. India will have to bottle down and fight hard in the batting. The wicket in Centurion will be quick as well. It will have a lot more bounce than Cape Town. It may not seam as much as Cape Town but it will be lot quicker,” he said.However, Ganguly said he will give Rohit another chance and will bring in KL Rahul in place Shikhar Dhawan for the second Test.”I would actually play five bowlers and play KL Rahul in place of Shikhar Dhawan. Rahul because he has done well in overseas conditions. I would give Rohit Sharma one more opportunity. I wouldn’t tinker with the bowling line-up. All the batters have not scored runs. There’s not been a single fifty from the order. You got to put this behind and try and comeback stronger in the next Test. Preparation is important and India have lost a bit there and faced not much of criticism. So India will have to fight their way into the next match,” Ganguly said.advertisementIndia’s top five combined for 130 runs in the match as compared to South Africa’s 234 by their top-five batsmen, courtesy two half-centuries in the first innings.India’s top order was among runs prior to the series but those runs were scored in India and conditions similar to sub-continent pitches in the West Indies and Sri Lanka.India’s top five will have to pull their socks up in the remaining two matches and reignite the spark to have a shot at at least drawing the series if not winning.
Virat Kohli is the toast of the nation these days thanks to his unbelievable scoring rate in all forms of cricket. Ever since he made his debut in 2009, Kohli has been breaking and setting new records in Tests, ODIs, T20I and has decimated almost every opponent he has faced so far.On Saturday, Kohli once again starred with the bat for India scoring his 20th hundred in the ongoing second Test against Sri Lanka at the Feroz Shah Kotla in New Delhi. The Indian captain remained unbeaten on 156 as India reached 371/4 at stumps on Day 1 after opting to bat first.Speaking on Kohli’s latest hundred and achievements on the field, Aaj Tak managed to bring former India captain Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Aakash Chopra and Harbhajan Singh together at Agenda Aaj Tak where the cricket stars heaped praise on the 29-year-old.”When we used to go to Australia, there was a gut feeling Laxman and Harbhajan will defeat Australia on their own. Kohli gives me the same feeling,” Ganguly said at Agenda Aaj Tak.”When we played, Indian cricket was different and the thinking was different and we had to take Indian cricket forward, when Dhoni came, he took it forward. Now during Virat’s time he had an established team and he had to take it even further.”The best thing about Indian cricket is that we have had different role-models in different eras. It has been a step by step growth and we have created champions in different generations. Kohli is the role model now.”advertisement”If Virat wins the World Cup in 2019, he will roam around Oxford Street with his shirt off. Mark my words,” joked Ganguly.Kohli on Saturday surpassed the great Sachin Tendulkar (107) to become the second fastest Indian batsman to score 20 hundreds in Test cricket.Talking about the comparisons between Kohli and Tendulkar, Dada said the current skipper can come close to the Little Master’s records but only time will tell if he can break any of them.”Don’t know if Virat can break Sachin’s records…I don’t compare two generations. But he has scored 52 and if he plays at this rate…he can reach Sachin’s record,” Ganguly said.Laxman agreed with Ganguly’s sentiments and said, ” I agree with Dada. You can’t compare two generations. Sachin was the trend-setter of our generation. He used to go out and win matches for India and we thought we will do that and I see that in Virat.”Harbhajan infact went on to say that as a cricketer Tendulkar was on another level.”Sachin and Virat are different batsmen. It won’t be fair on Sachin. Nobody is like Sachin and there will never be another Tendulkar ever in world cricket. I’ve bowled to both batsmen and I feel getting Sachin out was impossible.”Virat is a great batsman, in great form and has been dominating for the past 4-5 years but I feel Tendulkar is on another level.””If we just talk about statistics, I feel Virat will overtake Sachin in terms of ODI tons. It was difficult for people to imagine someone can overtake what Sachin has done but Kohli has done that and he is setting an example for the team and the whole country. And his love for love for Test cricket will make youngsters love the longest format of the game,” Aakash Chopra also weighed in on the debate.He is also the quickest to complete 52 international centuries across formats, achieving the feat in his 350th innings to beat South African Hashim Amla’s record of 378 innings.The Delhi dasher also went past 3000 Test runs as captain. He is the third Indian skipper after MS Dhoni and Gavaskar to achieve the feat. He also went past 5000 Test runs in the same match today to become the fourth-quickest Indian to achieve the feat in his 105th innings.Kohli is scoring hundreds for fun these days and this was his 11th hundred this year across formats which made him the most prolific captain, in terms of hundreds scored in a calendar year. Overall, he is the third player after Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting to score 11 tons in a calendar year.”He was a 10,000 player (in terms of Test runs) before and now he is like a 20,000 player. He is doing what others have not done before,” Harbhajan said. “I feel Ganguly is the biggest-ever captain of India. He did a very good job to take the team here after the match-fixing scandal and all… Virat is only taking the legacy forward.”advertisement”Virat always had the hunger and any person who has the hunger, he doesn’t look back. He is a champion player and is a role-model for all young players. Virat is a great batsman, in great form and has been dominating for the past 4-5 years but I feel Tendulkar is on another level,” Bhajji added.He has also scored two double tons this year, the first came against Bangladesh in February and the next one he slammed against Sri Lanka in the second Test in Nagpur six days ago. He also holds the record for scoring four double hundreds in consecutive series.The Delhi batsman is the only player in international cricket to average of more than 50 in all three formats of the game at the moment.Kohli has the best conversion rate among the 18 captain’s who have scored more than 10 Test hundreds. Out of the 17 times he has gone past 50 as the skipper, he has converted 13 of those into hundreds.
NEW YORK – Four-time Cy Young Award winner Greg Maddux, two-time winner Tom Glavine and two-time AL MVP Frank Thomas are among 19 newcomers on this year’s Hall of Fame ballot, joining steroid-tainted holdovers Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.Mike Mussina, Hideo Nomo, Kenny Rogers, Jeff Kent, Moises Alou and Luis Gonzalez also are among the players eligible to be voted on for the first time by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.The 36-player ballot will include Armando Benitez, Sean Casey, Ray Durham, Eric Gagne, Jacque Jones, Todd Jones, Paul Lo Duca, Richie Sexson, J.T. Snow and Mike Timlin, the Hall said.Voters are the approximately 600 writers who have been members of the BBWAA for 10 consecutive years at any point. Ballots are due by Dec. 31, and results will be announced Jan. 8.Players elected along with choices announced Dec. 9 by the expansion era committee (1973 and later) will be inducted July 27 at Cooperstown. Among those on the committee ballot are retired managers Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre; late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner; and late players’ union head Marvin Miller.Last year, the BBWAA failed for the first time since 1996 to produce any inductees. Craig Biggio came closest to receiving the necessary 75 percent, falling 39 shy with 388 (68.2 percent).Jack Morris, who will be on the ballot for the final time this year, was second with 67.7 percent, followed by Jeff Bagwell (59.6), Mike Piazza (57.8), Tim Raines (52.2), Lee Smith (47.8) and Curt Schilling (38.8).Making their first appearances on the ballot, Clemens was at 37.6 percent, Bonds at 36.2 and Sosa at 12.5. McGwire received 16.9 percent on his seventh try.Players remain on the ballot if they receive at least 5 percent support and can stay in the voting for up to 15 years.Other returnees include Don Mattingly, Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff, Rafael Palmeiro, Alan Trammell and Larry Walker.– Ronald Blum, AP Sports WriterTweetPinShare0 Shares
TweetPinShare0 Shares ATLANTA — Al Horford banged his dislocated finger and spent much of the game fiddling with it. Jeff Teague twisted his right ankle and hobbled to the locker room for a quick tape job.By the end of the night, they were both feeling just fine.Horford and Teague scored 20 points apiece, helping the top-seeded Atlanta Hawks hold off the Brooklyn Nets 107-97 on April 29 night in an NBA playoff series that’s closer than anyone envisioned.Down by 17 at the end of the first quarter, Brooklyn might have returned home with an improbable lead if not for Horford and Teague.With two fingers on his shooting hand taped together, Horford flew around the court in the fourth quarter, crashing the boards, knocking down jumpers and exhorting his teammates to hold off the eighth-seeded Nets.In the final minutes, Teague darted into the lane on his taped ankle for a pair of baskets that sealed another hard-fought victory.He let out a rare burst of emotion, screaming and waving his arms to pump up the home crowd, which included prospective new owner Antony Ressler and his wife, actress Jami Gertz.“It’s the playoffs,” said DeMarre Carroll, who led the Hawks with 24 points but also had his right hand wrapped up after taking a hard fall. “You don’t have injuries in the playoffs.”Atlanta leads 3-2 in the best-of-seven series, with Game 6 May 1 in Brooklyn. If needed, Game 7 would be back at Philips Arena on May 3.“The playoffs are a new season,” said Horford, who dislocated his right pinky in Game 1 but has played through the pain. “You never underestimate any team.”Alan Anderson led the Nets with 23 points off the bench. Jarrett Jack added 18 as the Brooklyn backups totally dominated Atlanta’s reserves, forcing the Hawks to rely almost entirely on their starters. Carroll played more than 42 minutes. Kyle Korver and Paul Millsap also went more than 40 minutes.“This was a game we really wanted to get,” said Korver, who made five 3-pointers and finished with 17 points.Horford appeared to bang his finger in the first half, clearly causing him plenty of discomfort. He had it sprayed at one point and was constantly tinkering with the tape job. But he still managed to make 10 of 17 shots and grab 15 rebounds.Teague, meanwhile, landed on Brook Lopez’s foot early in the third quarter and hobbled straight to the locker room. He was back in the game less than 3 minutes later.The Nets have been competitive in all three games in Atlanta, losing by a combined 22 points. This was actually the first game in the series decided by a double-digit margin, and that was only because the Hawks hit four straight free throws in the final 30 seconds.“They knocked us back in the beginning,” Nets coach Lionel Hollins said. “But we fought back.”Jack hit back-to-back 3-pointers and drove for a floater in the lane that closed the gap to 90-89. That was as close as Brooklyn got, though Joe Johnson hit two more 3s to pull the Nets to 97-95 — their last gasp, it turned out.“We responded,” Jack said. “Maybe a little too late.”(PAUL NEWBERRY, AP Sports Writer)
NEW YORK — The New York Rangers gave up an unusual short-handed goal as a two-man advantage was expiring early in the first period.It was all downhill the rest of the way, and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Rangers 6-2 on May 18 to even the Eastern Conference finals at one game.Tyler Johnson, who had three goals to pace the Lightning, got that goal to get Tampa Bay rolling and set the tempo in a sloppy Rangers effort.“That’s something you don’t see very often, and it’s a play that simply can’t happen,” Rangers Captain Ryan McDonagh said.The Rangers were late into a 1:07 two-man advantage when Martin St. Louis fell trying to take a shot straight on, and it sent Johnson on a breakaway with St. Louis in pursuit.“It’s embarrassing,” McDonagh said. “There a lot of things you want to say right now, but talking doesn’t do much.”The Rangers penalty killers didn’t accomplish much either, allowing the Lightning three goals on six man advantages.“We’re in the Eastern Conference finals,” Derek Stepan said. “We’re not playing a team with a poor power play. The have a really good hockey team. You see how detailed you have to be in the playoffs. You make some mistakes and they wind up in the back of your net.”Johnson, the 24-year-old who is becoming one of the front-runners to be the postseason MVP, had three of them.Johnson scored short-handed, even strength and on the power play in tallying the first hat trick in Lightning playoff history and Tampa Bay got its high-scoring offense in gear.Alex Killorn added two goals and Steven Stamkos had one and the Lightning bounced back from a crushing late loss on May 16 and made the Presidents’ Trophy winners pay for every slip, penalty and mistake.The Lightning stepped up their game, and the Rangers could not keep pace.“We were pretty upset with our effort, Killorn said of the Game 1 loss. “We talked about how bad we played and we were still in that game. Tonight we played to win. I think the last game we were kind of ‘OK, it’s Game 1. We’re going to play hard.’ Today we played to win.”Chris Kreider and Stepan scored for the Rangers in the wide-open, penalty-filled matchup that ended New York’s run of playing in 15 straight playoffs games decided by one goal.Henrik Lundqvist, who gave up at least five goals in two of three regular-season games against Tampa Bay this season, gave up six on just 26 shots.The series shifts to Florida for games on May 20 and May 22.icThe Rangers pushed back later in the second period and closed the gap to 3-2 when Stepan grabbed his own rebound and banked the puck off defenseman Braydon Coburn into the net with Bishop out of position.New York had a couple of chances to tie the game later in the period, but Bishop stopped point shots by Dan Boyle and McDonagh.The Lightning ended the Rangers’ run of one-goal playoff games in the third period on Killorn’s two goals and Stamkos’ one. Defenseman Victor Hedman set up Killorn’s first shortly after a penalty ended. Stamkos scored on a deflection on a power play and Killorn got his second on a power play.The game had an ugly moment in the second period when linesman Brad Kovachik had to leave the ice after injuring a leg. He was standing against the side boards near the Lightning blue line when Stamkos checked Kevin Klein of the Rangers into him.Kovachik had to be helped off the ice. Standby linesman Greg Devorski finished the game.(MIKE FARRELL)TweetPinShare0 Shares
GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Three days after squandering a chance to reach the Stanley Cup Final for the second straight season, the New York Rangers’ disappointment and frustration was still there for all to see.They not only failed to score with the final just 20 minutes away in Game 7 at Madison Square Garden against the Tampa Bay Lightning May 29, they allowed two goals in a 2-0 loss. They played a horrible period with hockey’s biggest prize on the horizon.And it hurt. Players were still confused June 1 as the team gathered for their end-of-season meetings with coach Alain Vigneault at their Westchester training facility.This was the team that posted the NHL’s best regular-season record. The team that had home-ice advantage. The group that felt this was its year to win the Cup.It was all there for the taking, and they didn’t take it.“It has been tough to sleep the past few nights, just thinking about the players we have,” said Rick Nash, who scored 42 goals. “It’s one of the best teams I have ever played on. It’s been a really frustrating two days to try to digest this feeling.”Even Vigneault was at a loss after meeting with his players, insisting the lingering emotions made it impossible for him to put some perspective on the season that saw the Rangers post a franchise-record 113 points.The loss was so bad that Vigneault said his 22-year-old daughter, Janie, sobbed uncontrollably for hours after the game.This was supposed to be the Rangers’ year. This was supposed to be the season they brought the Cup back to New York for the first time since 1994.They lost the finals in five games to the Kings last season, but they were in every game. After losing Anton Stralman and Brian Boyle to free agency in the offseason, there were question marks early in the season, but youngsters like Kevin Hayes, J.T. Miller, Jesper Fast, Cam Talbot and young veterans like Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider and Derick Brassard stepped up, and this team discovered it could win again and again.The confidence only grew during the season and it seemed to reach a high when they rallied from a 3-1 deficit against Washington in the conference semifinals.“Last year we were even closer and it was tough the way it ended in overtime,” goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, 34, said. “But with the group we had this year, and I think the skill and determination we also had, it’s disappointing to come up short.”The Rangers, who have played in the conference finals three of the past four years, still have a young team and their window of opportunity to hold The Cup. The only major unrestricted free agent is Martin St. Louis, who will turn 40 in a couple of weeks. The fact that he hinted at his age might indicate that he will consider retiring.Stepan, Fast, Miller and Carl Hagelin are all restricted free agents, with Stepan in line to get a big contract.“We know we’ve played a lot of good hockey over the last four years,” Stepan said. “We’ve just got to find that extra push to pass over the hump to the next step.”Vigneault said that what made him proudest this season was that his team showed up every game and worked.“We have been knocking at the door. We’re getting close to the hump and we’re almost ready to get over,” he said. “If you ask me do I believe in this group: My answer is yes.”His players feel the same way.“We keep the team together we are going to have a chance every year,” defenseman Dan Girardi said. “The way the team is built, we have hankie in net, a great D corps and great forwards, so we’re set up to do some good long runs.”The question is whether the Rangers can take those last steps next season. “It’s been something that I have been dreaming about for a long time,” Lundqvist said.(TOM CANAVAN, AP Sports Writer)TweetPinShare0 Shares
MONTREAL — Carli Lloyd remembers putting the ball on its spot and shutting out the noise of more than 51,000 anxious fans.Then she blasted that ball into the back of the net.Lloyd’s penalty kick got the United States on the board, and the Americans went on to a 2-0 victory over top-ranked Germany in the semifinals of the Women’s World Cup on June 30.“That’s exactly what I did, shut out everything around me and focused on what I needed to do,” she said.Lloyd’s penalty kick in the 69th minute went into the right side of the goal less than 10 minutes after Celia Sasic shot wide on a penalty kick for Germany. Kelley O’Hara came in off the bench and scored in the 85th minute, delighting the pro-American crowd.Hope Solo posted her fifth straight shutout, continuing a dominant run for the American defense. The second-ranked United States has gone 513 minutes without conceding a goal.The victory captured the attention of President Barack Obama, who posted his congratulations on his Twitter account. Actor and musician Justin Timberlake also cheered on the U.S., tweeting “USA! USA! USA!!!!!”Next up for the U.S. is the winner of the July 1 match in Edmonton between defending champion Japan, ranked No. 4, and sixth-ranked England. Germany will play the loser of the second semifinal in the third-place game in Edmonton on July 4.The final is set for July 5 at Vancouver’s BC Place. “We didn’t come here just to make the final,” Lloyd said. “We came here to win it, so we’re going to go after it.”It was the fourth World Cup meeting between Germany and the U.S. In each of the first three games, the winner went on to take the title.The marquee matchup led to lines of fans waiting to get in about three hours before the game. The line for the main souvenir stand snaked up a half-dozen ramps to the building’s third level at one point.The stadium built for the 1976 Olympics, where the East German men won the gold medal, was filled nearly to its blue fabric roof, mostly with fans cheering for the United States. The crowd was announced at 51,176.Previous games in Montreal had the stadium less than half full, with the upper bowl completely empty.The United States had several good chances from the start. Julie Johnston missed on a header off a corner kick from Megan Rapinoe, and Alex Morgan’s breakaway in the 15th minute was stopped by goaltender Nadine Angerer.There was a scary moment in the first half when Germany’s Alexandra Popp and American midfielder Morgan Brian collided in front of the U.S. goal following a free kick from about 25 yards out.Television cameras caught blood in Popp’s hair, and Brian was prone on the field for several minutes. Both players returned to the match.Sasic’s penalty kick came after Johnston fouled Popp in the box. Sasic fooled Solo, who went right, but her kick went wide left, prompting a roar from the crowd.Sasic went into the match as the tournament’s high scorer with six goals.Shortly thereafter, Annike Krahn got a yellow card for fouling Morgan in the box, but replays showed it occurred just outside. Lloyd’s penalty kick was her third goal in three matches.“Of course, I’m very, very sad about this, that this penalty shot decided the match,” German coach Silvia Neid said. “What am I going to do though? A referee decision is something I have to live with. I am very sad about it, but I cannot change it.”Lloyd is known for coming up big in important games. She scored the winning goal in overtime to beat Brazil for the gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and scored both U.S. goals in the final of the 2012 London Olympics against Japan. She is the only player to score the winning goals in consecutive Olympic finals.In the World Cup quarterfinals, she scored the lone goal in a 1-0 victory over China.O’Hara scored on Lloyd’s left-footed cross.The United States tweaked its formation for the match. Morgan started up top, with Lloyd as an attacking midfielder with Rapinoe and Tobin Heath on the wings.The U.S. had success in its quarterfinal against China when it had Lloyd roaming up top and Brian back as a holding midfielder. The shift paid off with Lloyd’s goal on a lofted kick from Johnston.The United States improved to 3-1 against Germany in World Cup matches and 19-4-7 overall.“I think inside our environment, we knew we had this in us,” coach Jill Ellis said. “We do a good job of blocking out the distractions.”The United States has won two World Cup titles, but none since 1999. The Americans have appeared in the semifinals of all seven of the women’s tournaments.This tournament has played out with FIFA embroiled in scandal.Earlier June 30, FIFA confirmed that President Sepp Blatter would skip the World Cup final, as U.S. officials pursue a criminal investigation into the game’s ruling body.Blatter’s second-in-command, Secretary General Jerome Valcke, also will be absent from the biggest event in women’s soccer “due to their current commitments in Zurich,” FIFA said in a statement.(ANNE M. PETERSON, AP Sports Writer)TweetPinShare0 Shares