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China beat host S Korea to reach men's final at World Team Table Tennis Championships

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Busan, South Korea, Feb 24 (IANS) China withstood huge pressure from hosts South Korea to triumph in a full-set thriller here on Saturday, moving one win away from achieving its 11th straight men’s title at the ITTF World Team Table Tennis Championships Finals.

In the semifinal clash which lasted over three hours, world No. 1 Fan Zhendong picked up two wins and saved China from the brink of defeat, while Wang Chuqin made amends for his opening loss with a straight-game victory in the decisive matchup, reports Xinhua.

Amid the loud cheers from the crowd at the full-packed Busan Exhibition and Convention Center, Wang stepped up to the table first, facing off against Jang Woo-jin, the highest-ranked player in South Korea’s squad.

Fueled by the home crowd’s support, the 14th-ranked Jang raced ahead by one game at 11-7, but Wang pocketed eight points in a row on his way to an 11-2 victory in the second game to restore parity.

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As both players focused on their first three strokes, quite a few rallies were seen for the most part of the match. Down 1-4 in the third game, Wang went neck and neck with his rival for an 11-all tie, before the home paddler scored two straight points to prevail.

Facing a 1-4 deficit in the fourth game, Wang called a timeout, while Jang’s two catch-net points thwarted the comeback effort from the world No. 2, who fell 11-6 as it marked the first dropped set for the reigning champions in the Busan event.

Fan was next to hit the court, with the 18th-ranked Lim Jong-hoon across the table. Fan went ahead 7-4 in the opening game, but Lim put it on level terms at 7-all, before Fan kept his cool to win the game 11-8.

China’s top-ranked paddler had a perfect winning record in his previous four encounters with Lim, and he gained the upper hand throughout their duel, prevailing 11-6, 11-8 in the next two games to put his side level on the scoreboard.

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The two sides turned to their veterans in the third set. 33-year-old home paddler Lee Sang-su took the initiative with an 11-7 victory in the first game. However, 35-year-old Olympic champion Ma Long, who had a 7-1 win-loss record in their head-to-heads, soon evened the match at 11-4.

In a pivotal third game, after the two players tied at 10-all, Lee snatched two late points to move ahead again.

Despite emerging victorious 11-6 in the fourth game to level the score again, Ma fell 11-4 in the deciding game as South Korea gained a 2-1 advantage.

Stepping on the court again, Fan and Jang put on their duel between the two sides’ No. 1 paddlers. With the defending champions’ hope of forcing the decisive matchup resting on his shoulders, Fan lived up to his task, prevailing 11-6, 11-7, 12-10 with both teams returning to level terms.

Wang closed out China’s nail-biting victory with an 11-5, 11-7, 11-6 win against Lim.

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The final hurdle for China’s title defense on Sunday will be either France or Chinese Taipei, who will cross swords later on Saturday.

–IANS

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'I have no intentions of getting into coaching', says Abhinav Bindra

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New Delhi, June 23 (IANS) India’s 2008 Beijing Olympics gold medalist Abhinav Bindra believes that the Indian shooting contingent have the “potential to secure multiple medals” at the Paris Olympics, scheduled to kickstart from July 26.

Speaking exclusively to IANS, he further added that the depth of talent in Indian shooting is immense. Asked if he has any plans to take over the coaching role in the near future, Bindra said “no”.

The former Indian shooter also explained about the collaboration between the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Abhinav Bindra Foundation, designed to inspire physical activity and celebrate the 2024 Games.

Below are excerpts from the interview:

IANS: Paris Games are just a month away, how many medals do you think India can win in shooting? Since Tokyo was empty!

AB: Predicting the exact number of medals is challenging, but I am optimistic about our chances in Paris. Our shooters have been training rigorously, and with the right support and preparation, I believe we have the potential to secure multiple medals.

IANS: Who do you think can become the next Abhinav Bindra of shooting? Any chance of taking over the coach’s role in the Indian side?

AB: The depth of talent in Indian shooting is immense, and I am confident that we will continue to produce many champions in the years to come. As for myself, I have no intentions of getting into coaching.

IANS: Indian shooters perform well in other major tournaments, but when it comes to the Olympics, they often fall short. What do you think is the reason?

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AB: We must rally and support our athletes wholeheartedly. Shooting has won Olympic medals in the past, and there is no reason why we can’t achieve this success again in the future.

IANS: How is the collaboration between the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Reliance Foundation, and the Abhinav Bindra Foundation designed to inspire physical activity and celebrate the Paris Olympics?

AB: The collaboration between the IOC, Reliance Foundation, and the Abhinav Bindra Foundation is built around the “Let’s Move India” initiative. This program aims to inspire physical activity by engaging people of all ages in celebrating the Paris 2024 Olympics. Through a series of digital challenges and regional school initiatives, we are encouraging individuals to participate in various forms of movement, be it dance, local sports, or athletic celebrations. This partnership not only highlights the importance of physical well-being but also brings communities together in a shared celebration of our athletes heading to Paris 2024.

IANS: What role do schools play in the Olympic Values Education Programme (OVEP) as part of this collaborative effort?

AB: Schools play a pivotal role in the Olympic Values Education Programme (OVEP) as they serve as the primary platforms for engaging young minds. Through OVEP, we integrate the core values of Olympism—excellence, respect, and friendship—into the educational framework. Schools across the country participate in physical activities, educational workshops, and community events, fostering a culture of physical fitness and sportsmanship. This involvement ensures that children not only stay active but also internalize the positive values associated with the Olympic movement. Through my foundation – ABF, we work with schoolchildren to experience these values through sport, art and activities, which helps them imbibe values and 21st century life skills.

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IANS: How has the initiative positively impacted children in Odisha and Assam, and how many children have benefited from it?

AB: The initiative has had a significant positive impact on children in Odisha and Assam, enhancing their physical activity levels, promoting gender inclusivity, and improving educational outcomes. Through our collaborative efforts, we have reached and benefited over 7 million children. These children have gained access to better sports facilities, training, and educational resources, fostering a holistic development that combines physical fitness with academic growth.

IANS: In what ways does the Abhinav Bindra Foundation contribute to promoting physical well-being?

AB: The Abhinav Bindra Foundation contributes to promoting physical well-being through various initiatives focused on sports science, athlete training, and community engagement. Our high-performance training centers provide grassroots athletes with access to state-of-the-art facilities and professional coaching. Additionally, our STEAM and Sport4Her initiatives aim to develop young athletes, particularly girls, while our Sport of Life and Athlete Mental Wellness programs offer surgical assistance and mental health support, respectively. We also focus on addressing environment and climate change through the Olympic Forest Project. By integrating global best practices, we strive to create a supportive environment that nurtures physical and mental well-being.

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IANS: What is the Olympic Movement’s mission in terms of enhancing physical and mental health through sport?

AB: The Olympic Movement’s mission is to make the world a better place through sport by enhancing both physical and mental health. This mission is accomplished by promoting regular physical activity, fostering community spirit, and encouraging healthy lifestyles. The “Let’s Move” initiative exemplifies this mission by inspiring millions of people worldwide to engage in daily physical activity, which in turn improves overall well-being and creates a more active, healthier global community.

IANS: Why is it important to support Indian athletes for the Paris 2024 Olympics, and how does this collaboration aim to achieve that goal?

AB: Supporting Indian athletes for the Paris 2024 Olympics is vital to highlighting the incredible talent and dedication within our sports community on a global platform. Through initiatives like “Let’s Move India,” we aim to generate widespread support and enthusiasm, significantly boosting our athletes’ morale. The Olympic movement is gaining traction in India, and with Honorable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi’s vision of hosting the Olympics in 2036, programs like OVEP and Let’s Move India are crucial in connecting young audiences with the global community. Furthermore, our efforts to promote physical activity at the grassroots level are essential in nurturing a strong pipeline of future Olympians.

–IANS

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T20 World Cup: 'Thank God we at last beat Australia', says Naib after Afghanistan’s epic triumph

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Kingstown, June 23 (IANS) Pace all-rounder Gulbadin Naib, who took the Player-of-the-Match award in Afghanistan’s historic 21-run win over Australia in the Super Eights stage of 2024 Men’s T20 World Cup, said he was elated and relieved over his side finally beating their much-fancied opponents in international cricket.

At the Arnos Vale Stadium, Naib became the game-changer for Afghanistan though his spell of 4-20, where he bowled his four overs without any interruption. He took out Marcus Stoinis and Tim David, before getting the all-important wicket of Glenn Maxwell for 59 in the 14th over to end Australia’s hopes of winning the game.

The result means Afghanistan are still in the race to enter the semi-finals, and opens up Group 1 incredibly. The epic win also is very sweet for Afghanistan, who dealt with two heartbreaks previously while facing Australia in World Cups.

In the 2022 T20 World Cup, Afghanistan fell short of beating Australia by just one runs and in the 2023 ODI World Cup, their hopes of a win were dashed by a cramping and one-legged Maxwell making an unbeaten 200.

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“Thank god we at last beat Australia. It’s a great achievement for our cricket in Afghanistan. If you look at history of our cricket, it is not much. Last ten years, we achieved a lot of goals. This is a big achievement.

“We played very good cricket and in the first round we beat New Zealand. Then (to beat) Australia is not easy. They are a world champion team and it is a big achievement for our cricket. We can carry this to the next level. Our journey starts now. We are very lucky to have such a staff and management,” said Naib after the match.

Naib also paid gratitude to captain Rashid Khan for trusting his bowling skills again in a crucial juncture of the game. “We were waiting (for this win) for a long time. It’s a great moment not just for me but for my nation and my people.

“(It is a) big achievement for our cricket. I have no words to say but thanks to the fans for supporting our career and cricket journey. It’s a great teamwork, we worked hard for the last two months and the result is in front of you.”

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Rashid was also glad that Afghanistan got third time lucky in beating Australia in World Cups, which he described as a great feeling and hoped for their loyal fans back home to be proud of the side.

“It’s a massive win for us as a team and as a nation. In the World Cup, beating champions is a great feeling. It’s something we missed in last two years – in 2023 World Cup and also in 2022 in Australia where we lacked some runs.

“It is so much important for us home and for everyone and all over the world where Afghans are there. They were badly missing this win. I am sure they would be proud of this and would have enjoyed the game. It is just the beginning for us, big game next and we have all the chances of making the semis.”

In the batting, Afghanistan were propelled by Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran putting on an opening stand of 118 runs, before crumbling in the fag end of their innings to end up on 148/6, as Pat Cummins took another hat-trick.

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Rashid felt Afghanistan having the services of eight bowlers made things easy for them to bowl out Australia for 127 in 19.2 overs.

“The thought was although we didn’t finish as well as we would have liked to, but this is how this wicket is. The more important thing was that the opening partnership gave us the best start. That let us get to a total we had in mind.

“We all watched two games before, and on this wicket anything 130-plus we said we were capable of defending. We keep calm and have that belief. The beauty of this team is having too many allrounders gives you options. As a captain, it makes it easy,” he said

–IANS

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T20 World Cup: Afghanistan's all-round display seals first ever win over Australia

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Kingstown (St Vincent), June 23 (IANS) Riding on Gulbadin Naib’s four-wicket haul after Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran’s opening stand of 118, Afghanistan stunned Australia by 21 runs in the T20 World Cup Super Eight match on Sunday (as per IST) here at Arnos Vale Ground, securing their first-ever win over the cricketing powerhouse.

Afghanistan’s win brought an end to Australia’s impressive unbeaten run at the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup. Now, both teams are neck-and-neck in the race to join India in the next phase of the tournament.

Australia’s skipper Mitchell Marsh won the toss and opted to field first, a decision that may well have proven fatal. Gurbaz and Zadran’s opening stand of 118 off 95 balls took Afghanistan to 148/6 in 20 overs.

In defense of 148, Gulbadin (4-20) and Naveen-ul-haq (3-20) wreaked havoc on Australia’s chase and bundled them out for 127 in 19.2 overs to seal their first-ever win over mighty Australia.

The Afghans executed their plan perfectly from the start, with the openers Gurbaaz and Zadran staying patient and precise during the Powerplay. With a mix of dots and boundaries, they avoided losing wickets. Six boundaries helped them reach 40/0 in the first six overs. By the mid-point, Afghanistan was 64 for no loss.

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On a pitch favouring spinners, Agar and Adam Zampa were attacked during the middle overs. Zampa’s expensive 13th over included two boundaries, a misfield, a close LBW shout, and a missed stumping by Matthew Wade.

Gurbaz reached his 50 in the 15th over and then Zadran did the same five balls later. Marcus Stoinis delivered Australia’s long-awaited breakthrough scalp when he removed Gurbaaz in the 16th over, breaking the deadly-looking 118-run partnership and turning the tide.

Then, Zampa took two wickets in the next over, including the crucial dismissal of Zadran, quickly leaving Afghanistan three down. The 18th over also favoured Australia, with Pat Cummins conceding just four runs and taking the wicket of Rashid Khan.

After achieving an unlikely hat-trick against Bangladesh, Cummins pulled off a second consecutive hat-trick after dismissing Karim Janat and Gulbadin in the 19th over finishing with figures of 3-28.

The Aussies dropped several catches and leaked runs, making their defense costly and leaving much work for their batting. In a fierce battle, Afghanistan posted a par score of 148/6 in 20 overs, reports ICC.

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Chasing 149, Australia suffered an early blow with Naveen dismissing opener Travis Head on the third delivery. He then did it again in his second over, removing Mitchell Marsh with a slower ball, piling pressure on Australia. Then, Glenn Maxwell came to the crease and hit two calming boundaries in the fifth over, but David Warner’s wicket gave Afghanistan the upper hand. By the end of the Powerplay, Australia was struggling at 33/3.

Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis pushed Australia to 70/3 halfway through the innings. Stoinis fell for 11 off 17 just after drinks, followed by Tim David (2 off 4) also departing cheaply. However, Maxwell’s six in the 13th over brought up his fifty off 35 balls.

Just as Afghanistan lost marginal hope, Gulbadin stepped up to the plate and tempted Maxwell into one outside the off stump, which was superbly snatched by Noor Ahmad behind point. It was all on the hat-trick hero Cummins as Wade’s dismissal left Australia at 108/7, requiring 41 runs off 29 balls.

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However, Cummins couldn’t replicate his form, missing the ball and putting Australia in a tougher position with three overs remaining and needing 36 runs.

Afghanistan’s exceptional fielding turned every opportunity into a wicket, making a crucial impact. Zampa’s dismissal marked Australia’s all-out for 127, falling 22 runs short of victory. This historic win marked Afghanistan’s first-ever triumph over Australia, a memorable moment for the team.

Brief scores: Afghanistan 148/6 in 20 overs (Rahmanullah Gurbaz 60, Ibrahim Zadran 51; Pat Cummins 3/-28) beat Australia 127 in 19.2 overs (Glenn Maxwell 59; Gulbadin Naib 4-19) by 21 runs.

-IANS

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Cummins becomes first player to claim two consecutive hat-tricks in T20 World Cup

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Kingstown (St Vincent), June 23 (IANS) Australia pacer Pat Cummins created history on Sunday (as per IST) when he became the first player to register a hat-trick in consecutive Men’s T20 World Cup matches.

The Aussie achieved the feat against Afghanistan when he had skipper Rashid Khan (17.6 over), Karim Janat (19.1 over) and Gulbadin Naib (19.2 over) dismissed with three consecutive deliveries across his two overs.

It was just the eighth time that a bowler has completed a hat-trick at a Men’s T20 World Cup and the first time a player has achieved the feat on multiple occasions, reports ICC.

Cummins is already a member of an illustrious group of seven players to have taken a hat-trick at a Men’s T20 World Cup, with Brett Lee (2007), Curtis Campher (2021), Wanindu Hasaranga (2021), Kagiso Rabada (2021), Karthik Meiyappan (2022) and Josh Little (2022) the other bowlers to have done so previously.

On Friday, he registered a hat-trick across two overs against Bangladesh on Thursday, becoming the second Australian after Brett Lee to claim a hat-trick in the T20 World Cup.

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–IANS

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Euro 2024: Tielemans, De Bruyne power Belgium to 2-0 win over Romania

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Cologne (Germany), June 23 (IANS) Youri Tielemans and skipper Kevin De Bruyne helped Belgium beat Romania 2-0 in the Euro 2024 Group E match late on Saturday night.

After Belgium’s win, all four teams in Group E sit on three points.

Belgium began in an emphatic fashion by scoring within two minutes in Cologne. In a frenetic start, the ball broke for Romelu Lukaku and when he received it back from Jeremy Doku, he teed up Tielemans to rifle low and hard past Florin Nita at 73 seconds, the third fastest goal in EURO history, tournament reports.

Romania responded straight away, Radu Dragusin climbing highest to force a fine save from Koen Casteels. Doku and Lukaku continued to combine as the latter turned but saw his shot deflected wide.

A typically driving run from De Bruyne then gave Dodi Lukebakio the chance to test Nita, the keeper saving at full stretch before batting away another Doku shot.

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Romania remained determined, finishing the half strong and pressing forward after the break. Valentin Mihaila nearly scored but missed the target. De Bruyne, increasingly influential, combined frequently with Lukaku and came close twice. Casteels saved Belgium by denying Dennis Man when he broke through.

It proved to be a huge save and the keeper then turned provider by clearing long, with De Bruyne anticipating a slight flick-on and stretching out to guide in the second. Romania continued to push but Belgium saw out the final moments to get their campaign up and running.

“After the first game, I wasn’t concerned. I don’t think we played badly per se. Obviously, we made some mistakes but we created chances, even if we couldn’t find the back of the net. We played well during the game and I think we deserved the win, so I’m happy. What’s important is that we’re creating chances and those situations,” said Belgium captain De Bruyne.

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–IANS

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