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Playing on pitches that roll along the floor brings in the opposition so much more: Stuart Broad

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New Delhi, Feb 24 (IANS) Former England fast bowler Stuart Broad expressed his admiration for the tourists’ stellar performance on Day 1 of the fourth Test against India questioning Jasprit Bumrah’s unavailability and India’s prowess on flat Test pitches, where their spinners often dominate proceedings.

With England asserting their dominance on the second day of the fourth Test at Ranchi, Broad couldn’t help but express his admiration for the tourists’ stellar performance. As spinners Shoaib Bashir picked four wickets on Day 2 and Tom Hartley too picked two wickets, weaving a web around the Indian batters on a challenging pitch, Broad noted that England were “massively on top,” seizing control of the game with finesse.

As the match progressed, India found themselves in a precarious position at 219 for 7 in the 72 over of the first innings, grappling with the challenges posed by the unpredictable pitch. Despite their initial struggles, England’s recovery from 112 for 5 to post a commendable total of 353 in the first innings further underscored their dominance.

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“Haven’t seen much of this Test match as of yet, just clicked on now. England is massively on top. Spinners bowling accurately, uneven bounce. Cracks. Bowlers’ dream. 350 looks 100 above par. Winning the toss in this series seems crucial. Bat first, dominate the game. Bumrah ‘rested’- can’t understand it. 8 overs in his last innings. Handed initiative back to England,” wrote Stuart Broad on ‘X’.

However, amidst the excitement of England’s remarkable display, Broad couldn’t help but raise questions about India’s strategic choices, particularly the decision to rest the world’s number one Test bowler, Bumrah. In a tweet expressing his perplexity, Broad highlighted India’s prowess on flat Test pitches, where their spinners often dominate proceedings. Yet, on a pitch exhibiting erratic behaviour, Broad pondered the rationale behind India’s preparation of such a surface.

“I mainly tweet about England- but looking at India. They’re an amazing team on flat Test pitches in India where their spinners’ skill comes into it & they out-bowl other teams. Playing on pitches that roll along the floor brings in the opposition so much more. I can’t understand why they’ve prepared a pitch like this?’ he added.

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While acknowledging the commendable performance of debutant Akash Deep, who showcased his mettle with a three-wicket haul, questions lingered about the absence of Jasprit Bumrah and its impact on the Indian team. With the series delicately poised and India holding a narrow lead, Bumrah’s formidable presence on a pitch exhibiting variable bounce could have provided the home team with a significant advantage.

–IANS

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WTA Tour: Wimbledon champion Vondrousova retires with injury in Berlin; Rybakina sets up clash with Azarenka

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Berlin, June 20 (IANS) Reigning Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova had to retire from her second-round match at the Berlin Ladies Open with a right hip injury. The World No.6 was leading Anna Kalinskaya 5-3 in the first set when she slipped and fell after a split-step on the first point of the ninth game.

Holding her right hip area, Vondrousova walked to her bench under her own power and received off-court medical treatment. She returned to play two games before retiring with the set tied at 5-5.

Vondrousova will have less than two weeks to recover ahead of her title defense at Wimbledon title defense, which begins on July 1.

Kalinskaya advanced to the quarterfinals and will face either No.2 seed Aryna Sabalenka or Daria Kasatkina.

The 2022 Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina enjoyed a more fortunate day. The No.3 seed came from a break down in the second set to defeat Veronika Kudermetova 6-4, 7-5 in her tournament opener.

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Into her 10th quarterfinal of the season, Rybakina will face former No.1 Victoria Azarenka on Friday. A win would boost her into her first grass-court semifinal since her Wimbledon title. Rybakina kept consistent pressure on Kudermetova throughout the 1-hour and 33-minute match, generating 11 break points while seeing just three on her own serve. Rybakina broke first for a 2-0 lead but was broken when she served for the set at 5-3. She responded with her second break of the match to close the opening set.

Kudermetova built a 3-1 lead early in the second set but buckled under Rybakina’s return pressure. Rybakina closed out the win by leveling the set and then, with Kudermetova serving to force a tiebreak, broke serve for a fourth and final time to seal a spot in her first Berlin quarterfinal.

Rybakina finished with 18 winners, including five aces, to 16 unforced errors.

The victory improved Rybakina’s unbeaten record against Kudermetova to 5-0. She will face a similar task against Azarenka, against whom she is undefeated at 4-0.

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–IANS

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Golf: Diksha Dagar to defend her LET title in Czech Republic

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Beroun (Czech Rep), June 20 (IANS) India’s top star on the Ladies European Tour, Diksha Dagar, will defend her title this week at the Tipsport Czech Ladies Open. Last year, her win at the event was her second career win. The Indian star secured a three-shot victory at Royal Beroun Golf Club to win her second title, five years after her first.

Being back in Beroun is special for Dagar, who will have her father Narinder on her bag once again, and she is relishing the opportunity to defend and potentially retain her crown. Apart from Diksha the other Indians in the field are rookies Pranavi Urs, Tvesa Malik and Vani Kapoor, and Ridhima Dilawari.

“It’s always amazing to be back here as a defending champion because it is a very rare opportunity to defend your title and it’s a new challenge for me,” she said. “I would love to win again. If I can do that, it will be a mark off my bucket list. I remember on the second day I played seven-under; I remember every shot and every hole because it was very precious to me.

“It is always a special moment having your parent in your bag, especially your family. This year he will be my caddie and he also knows about the course well, it’s going to be so exciting for us.”

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After her victory, the two-time LET winner recorded a further five top-10 finishes that season as she finished third in the 2023 Race to Costa del Sol.

It’s been a good start to the 2024 season for Dagar, who has had four top-10 finishes to date on the LET and sits 10th in the Order of Merit.

Coming off the back of a T6 at last week’s Ladies Italian Open, the 23-year-old believes she is in good form and is hoping to carry some positive vibes.

She continued: “This golf course is in the same condition as last year. The greens are smaller, I love smaller greens on the golf course. The greens are a bit different from last week in Italy, I have to read carefully because it will be more challenging.

“I feel I am keeping up my game and going in a very good momentum. I’m super excited to play in this tournament.

“I played in the Pro-Am and put really well, made lots of birdies. I feel there are going to be some positive vibes coming in and I’m sure I can do well and finish in the top 10 again.”

Having been successful around this golf course previously alongside her form, Dagar is hopeful that her third LET title is just around the corner.

She added: “I always enjoy here. Before winning in Czech last year, I was playing well, I was in the leading group in Germany and also Belgium.

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“I was hoping that I was very close to winning and finally it happened, after a long gap of five years. This year is the same, I finished in the top ten last week, so I feel I am getting closer to the win.”

The 2023 champion gets her title defence underway at 1.14 pm (local time) on June 21 alongside Czechia’s Klara Davison Spilkova and Spain’s Nuria Iturrioz.

The Indian star secured a three-shot victory at Royal Beroun Golf Club to win her second title, five years after her first.

Being back in Beroun is special for Dagar, who will have her father Narinder on her bag once again, and she is relishing the opportunity to defend and potentially retain her crown. “It’s always amazing to be back here as a defending champion because it is a very rare opportunity to defend your title and it’s a new challenge for me,” she said.

“I would love to win again. If I can do that, it will be a mark off my bucket list. I remember on the second day I played seven-under; I remember every shot and every hole because it was very precious to me.

“It is always a special moment having your parent in your bag, especially your family. This year he will be my caddie and he also knows about the course well, it’s going to be so exciting for us.”

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After her victory, the two-time LET winner recorded a further five top-10 finishes that season as she finished third in the 2023 Race to Costa del Sol. It’s been a good start to the 2024 season for Dagar, who has had four top-10 finishes to date on the LET and sits 10th in the Order of Merit.

Coming off the back of a T6 at last week’s Ladies Italian Open, the 23-year-old believes she is in good form and is hoping to carry some positive vibes.

She continued: “This golf course is in the same condition as last year. The greens are smaller, I love smaller greens on the golf course. The greens are a bit different from last week in Italy, I have to read carefully because it will be more challenging.

“I feel I am keeping up my game and going in a very good momentum. I’m super excited to play in this tournament.

“I played in the Pro-Am and putted really well, made lots of birdies. I feel there are going to be some positive vibes coming in and I’m sure I can do well and finish in the top 10 again.”

–IANS

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T20 World Cup: Indian team wears black armbands in memory of former fast-bowler David Johnson

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Bridgetown, June 20 (IANS) The Indian team is wearing black armbands in memory of former fast-bowler David Johnson, who passed away on Thursday at the age of 52, during the Super Eight match against Afghanistan in the 2024 Men’s T20 World Cup at the Kensington Oval.

“Team India will wear black armbands today in memory of former India fast bowler David Johnson, who passed away on Thursday,” said a statement from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), shortly after the toss was done.

Johnson was a fast bowler who played two Tests for India in 1996, taking three wickets. In domestic cricket, he picked up 125 wickets for Karnataka in 39 first-class appearances. The highlight of Johnson’s career was clocking a speed of 157.8 km/h during a Test match against Australia.

Former Indian cricketer Anil Kumble stated on X, “Saddened to hear of the passing of my cricketing colleague David Johnson. Heartfelt condolences to his family. Gone too soon, ‘Benny’!”

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“Deeply saddened by the passing of my former teammate, David Johnson. He was full of life and never gave up on the field. My thoughts are with his friends and family,” tweeted legendary India batter Sachin Tendulkar.

“Saddened by the passing away of David Johnson. May god give strength to his family and loved ones,” wrote former India opener Gautam Gambhir wrote on X.

“Deepest condolences to the family and friends of our former Indian fast bowler David Johnson. His contributions to the game will always be remembered,” tweeted BCCI Secretary Jay Shah.

–IANS

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T20 World Cup: Kuldeep replaces Siraj as India elect to bat first against Afghanistan

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Bridgetown, June 20 (IANS) Left-arm wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav replaces fast-bowler Mohammed Siraj in India’s playing eleven as captain Rohit Sharma won the toss and elected to bat first in the side’s first Super Eight match of 2024 Men’s T20 World Cup against Afghanistan at the Kensington Oval on Thursday.

India have met Afghanistan eight times in men’s T20Is and have never lost to them in the format. The last time they met, India and Afghanistan were tied at 212 each at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru this year and played out two Super Overs before Rohit & Co eventually prevailed.

Kuldeep didn’t feature in India’s Group A matches in the USA due to conditions being favourable for fast bowlers. But with the expectation of spinners thriving in the West Indies as the game progresses, he is now all set to play his first T20 World Cup game.

It means India’s bowling combination consists of three spinners, three pacers, and the part-time pace of Shivam Dube. “Looks alright at this moment, looks like a good track. No grass on the pitch, I guess it will get slower. It’s better than New York. We have to adapt to the conditions quickly.”

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“We have been here for a couple of days, we have played a lot of cricket. It’s about understanding what we need to do in conditions like these. It’s an early start. Usually starts in the evening elsewhere. We enjoy playing here,” said Rohit after winning the toss.

Afghanistan captain Rashid Khan said batter Hazratullah Zazai comes into the playing eleven in place of Karim Janat. Zazai came into the Afghanistan squad as a replacement for injured spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman. “We would have liked to bat first. It’s more about how you play the game in T20s.”

“Happy with our preparations and how things have gone. We are facing good teams, need to control our emotions, and play our natural game. It does help to get used to the conditions. We have to play good cricket,” he said.

The ground dimensions are 58m and 67m square boundaries, with a 70m boundary down the ground. Afghanistan have played all four of their Group C matches in the Caribbean, while Thursday’s game will be India’s first match in the island region in the tournament.

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Playing XIs:

India: Rohit Sharma (c), Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant (wk), Suryakumar Yadav, Shivam Dube, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Arshdeep Singh, Jasprit Bumrah

Afghanistan: Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk), Ibrahim Zadran, Najibullah Zadran, Hazratullah Zazai, Gulbadin Naib, Azmatullah Omarzai, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan (c), Noor Ahmad, Naveen-ul-Haq and Fazalhaq Farooqi

–IANS

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Golf: Anvitha picks up title on her second pro start in the 8th Leg of WPGT

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Bengaluru, June 20 (IANS) Anvitha Narender, who held at least a share of the lead from the opening round completed a comprehensive seven-shot win in the eighth leg of the Women’s Pro Golf Tour (WPGT). In only her second professional tournament, the New Jersey-born golfer, who was T-8 on her debut a week earlier, shot three fine rounds in the 60s for 69-65-68 to total 8-under 210 and beat amateur Lavanya Jadon, who had a rough start, but held on for a round of 73 and finished second at 1-under 209.

Vidhatri Urs, who like Anvitha, is playing only her second pro event, shot the day’s equal best of 68 despite a finish that had a double-bogey and a bogey at the end. Vidhatri, who was T-3 last week, finished third time at even par 210 with cards of 72-70-68.

Anvitha starting the day with a two-shot lead, found herself five ahead after the first three holes despite making only three pars. Her playing partner Lavanya, who was two behind at the start, double-bogeyed the second and bogeyed the third. The third player in the lead group, Seher Atwal parred the first six holes.

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Anvitha dropped a shot on the Par-5 fourth, where Lavanya birdied for a two-shot swing. However, Anvitha fought back with birdies on the sixth and the eighth and seemingly ran away with further birdies on the 12th and the 13th. As the players found the going tough in the closing stages, Anvitha could afford bogeys on the 14th and the 17th though she had a birdie in between on the 16th.

With a final round of 68, she coasted to a comfortable seven-shot win as Lavanya had three bogeys and two birdies on the back nine.

Vidhatri after a bogey start made a charge with five birdies in the next eight holes, including three in a row from eighth to the tenth. Five pars and a birdie on the 16th put her second behind Anvitha, but a double bogey and a bogey on the last two holes dropped her to third place as Lavanya ended second with three pars at the end.

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Seher had a rough back nine with four bogeys on a tough scoring day.

Another amateur, Saanvi Somu from Bengaluru, shot 1-over 71 and was tied fourth with the experienced Seher Atwal, who dropped four bogeys in her last seven holes in a card of 3-over 73 and a total of 2-over 212.

The 2023 Hero Order of Merit winner, Sneha Singh, who had a share of the lead after the first day, began in a disastrous manner with four bogeys in her first seven holes. She had one birdie and another bogey in a round of 74 and was sixth at 6-over 216.

Gaurika Bishnoi, winner last week, also dropped shots at the tough closing holes as she finished bogey-bogey for 70 and was Tied-7th with Snigdha Goswami (74), who had four bogeys and no birdies.

Four players, Amandeep Drall (69), Jahaanvie Walia (70), Agrima Manral (71), and Rhea Jha (74), one of the co-leaders after Day 1, ended in a tie for ninth place.

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–IANS

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