4th Test: India face last hurdle to WTC final, England look to spoil the party - The Daily Guardian
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4th Test: India face last hurdle to WTC final, England look to spoil the party

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Ahmedabad [India], March 3 (ANI): While the debate over the pitch has taken the centre stage in the ongoing Test series between India and England, Virat Kohli’s men will be setting their eyes on only one thing — securing a spot in the World Test Championship (WTC) final — when they take the field for the fourth and final Test which begins here at the Narendra Modi Stadium from Thursday.
India only needs to draw the final Test against Joe Root’s men in order to seal a spot in the WTC final where will then take on New Zealand at the Lord’s from June 18-22.
The hosts will be riding on the confidence following their back to back wins in the last two Tests after suffering a massive 227-run defeat in the first game in Chennai.
In the last Test played with the pink ball in Ahmedabad, India registered a 10-wicket win within two days.
Bowlers from both sides delivered stand-out performances in the game as 30 wickets fell within a little over five sessions in the third Test. On the other hand, almost all the batsmen, barring Rohit Sharma and Zak Crawley, were found wanting as they struggled against the turning and skidding balls. The pitch for the fourth Test is expected to once again assist the spinners, thus making it more difficult for the visitors.
If England, somehow, manages to win the final Test and thereby draw the series, the WTC final will then be contested between New Zealand and Australia.
Other motivation for the England team going into the final Test would be to gain some much-needed confidence ahead of the limited-overs leg of the tour.
Root has already said that if his side manages to win the final Test then it would be one of his greatest achievements as a captain.
“You look at India’s record at home in recent times and it’s incredible. So, for us to come away with a drawn series would be a really good achievement, especially off the back of the last two games. We’ve had two challenging weeks but that doesn’t define us as a team. We need to look at this as a real opportunity to do something special. It would be a brilliant achievement to leave here two-all. It would be a monumental effort from this group of players. So there are loads to play for,” ESPNcricinfo quoted Root as saying.
“It would certainly be up there with my greatest achievements as captain. The progress we’ve made over the last couple of years has been really pleasing, especially away from home. If we end up winning this game it’d be four wins out of six Tests on this tour. It would be a phenomenal achievement from the players to have found a way in some very foreign and difficult conditions. So it’s a great motivator for us as a side and I’d be extremely proud of everyone involved if we managed to do that,” he added.
Squads
India: Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma, Mayank Agarwal, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, KL Rahul, Hardik Pandya, Rishabh Pant (wicket-keeper), Wriddhiman Saha (wicket-keeper), R Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel, Washington Sundar, Ishant Sharma, Md. Siraj, Umesh Yadav.
England: Joe Root (captain), James Anderson, Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Dominic Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Zak Crawley, Ben Foakes (wicket-keeper), Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Ollie Pope, Dom Sibley, Ben Stokes, Olly Stone, Mark Wood. (ANI)

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TOKYO OLYMPICS, DAY 2: BIG DAY FOR INDIAN CONTINGENT

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Tokyo Olympics which was declared ‘open’ on Friday with a toned-down Opening Ceremony, will see the spotlight shift to sporting activities and the second day of the Games is one of the biggest for the Indian contingent.

Saturday can indeed prove to be one of the most rewarding days for the county at the Olympics. The day possibly holds the prospect of winning six medals. Mirabai Chanu who is the sole Indian representative in weightlifting will kickstart her campaign on Saturday. Competing in the 49kg category, her real challenge lies in China’s Zhihui Hou, but looking at the recent form of the Manipur-based lifter, it is safe to say that Chanu can indeed come back with a medal.

The mixed pair competition of archery will also get underway on Saturday and after the ranking matches on Friday, Pravin Jadhav and Deepika Kumari would be paired alongside each other. Deepika might have practised with Atanu Das heading into the tournament, but who knows the pair of Deepika and Pravin might just emerge as the darkhorse.

The qualification matches will kickstart at 6 am on Saturday and it will be followed by the medal matches at 10:45 am.

In shooting, men’s 10m air pistol and women’s 10m air pistol events will be held. Apurvi Chandela and Elavenil Valarivan are the two Indian shooters who have emerged as the frontrunners in the women’s 10m air pistol events after having a good showing in the events this year.

Saurabh Chaudhary is someone who everyone has put their money on to bring back gold in the men’s 10m air pistol event. South Korea’s Jin Jong-Oh is expected to be a thorn in Chaudhary’s way, but looking at the recent form, it is safe to expect the Indian youngster to emerge as the winner of gold.

On Saturday, shuttler Sai Praneeth will start his men’s singles campaign while the doubles pair of Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy will also open their campaign. The matches will showcase the form these three shuttlers have been in, and one will be able to gauge how far the badminton contingent can go in the Games.

Both men’s and women’s hockey teams will start their bid to win gold at the Games on Saturday. While the women’s team clashes against the formidable Netherlands, the men’s lock horns against darkhorse New Zealand.

India will also make its presence felt in tennis, judo and rowing on Saturday, hence the very second day of the Games will help the fans gauge whether the nation can come back with medals in double digits or not.

Meanwhile, ace sprinter Hima Das on Friday wished all the best to the Indian athletes who are going to feature in the ongoing Tokyo Olympics.

Earlier this month, Hima Das sustained a hamstring injury while running in the 100m heats during the National Inter-State Athletics Championships. The ace Indian sprinter said she will watch all the games and will cheer for athletes. Hima is also confident that Indian athletes will script history in the ongoing Games.

“Indian athletes will script history this time. Unfortunately, I got injured at the last moment, never mind I’ll watch the Games and will cheer for our athletes. I just want to say everyone should cheer for our athletes as it will provide them extra motivation,” Hima Das told ANI.

Lovlina Borgohain (69kg) along with fellow boxers will feature in Tokyo Olympics. The men’s boxing side comprises number one and Asian Games champion Panghal (52kg), Manish Kaushik (63kg), Vikas Krishan (69kg), Ashish Kumar (75kg), and Satish Kumar (+91kg).

The women’s squad includes Mary Kom (51kg), Simranjit Kaur (60kg), Lovlina (69kg), and Pooja Rani (75kg).

“It’s an honour for Assam that Lovlina Borgohain will compete in the Tokyo Olympics. She is my old friend and I’m sure she will bring a medal for India and Assam,” said Hima Das. ANI

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WE NEED TO BE CAREFUL AGAINST NEW ZEALAND, SAYS MANPREET

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The Manpreet Singh-led Indian men’s hockey team will make a cautious start to their campaign in the group stage at the most-awaited Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 as they take on dark horse New Zealand in their first Pool A match on Saturday.

Grouped along with the defending Olympic Champions Argentina, the formidable Australia, New Zealand, Spain and Japan, World No.4 India’s task will be cut out to ensure a spot in the quarter-final. Playing at the same venue, in the north pitch, back in 2019 at the FIH Test event — Ready Steady Tokyo Hockey, India had beaten New Zealand 5-0 in the final.

However, in the round-robin stage, New Zealand had got the better of India with a narrow 2-1 victory. “They are a team we need to be careful of,” expressed Manpreet Singh who will be India’s flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony on Friday. He further emphasized that: “The team must stick to basics, ensure we execute our plans properly and not get complacent at any point in the game.”

Manpreet’s caution to his team also comes from past experiences while playing against this team which will be led by the experienced Blair Tarrant who has 217 international caps. In 2018, when New Zealand toured India ahead of the FIH Men’s World Cup in Bhubaneswar, India had tasted considerable victories (4-0, 3-1, 4-2) against this team but had gone down 2-3 in the crucial semi-final at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

“New Zealand is a very good team, and I have a lot of respect for the way they play. They are mentally very tough, and they never give up. This attitude of theirs makes them a dangerous opponent,” expressed India chief coach Graham Reid. “They have a very skilful forward line and honestly at the Olympics, world rankings don’t really matter. So, it will be important for us to start well on Saturday,” Reid said. With the team getting good training hours at the Oi Hockey Stadium, Reid believes the team is ready for the group stage challenge.

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FERNANDO, RAJAPAKSA PROPEL SRI LANKA TO CONSOLATION WIN

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Avishka Fernando (76) and Bhanuka Rajapaksa (65) smashed fifties to ensure Sri Lanka did not lose the third and final ODI against India despite a late wobble on Friday.

With this win, Sri Lanka opened their account in the series. India won the ODI series 2-1 after failing to secure a win in the dead rubber on Friday. The hosts defeated India by three wickets on the back of some stunning performances. Chasing 225, Sri Lanka got off to a steady start scoring 35 runs in the first five overs. Krishnappa Gowtham claimed his maiden international wicket when he dismissed Minod Bhanuka in the sixth over.

However, Sri Lanka ensured a solid start as they raced to 55/1 in 10 overs. Avishka Fernando and Bhanuka Rajapaksa held the ground as they stitched a 109-run stand for the second wicket.

Fernando smashed his fifth half-century to put Sri Lanka in control of the chase in Colombo. Meanwhile, Rajapaksa also registered his maiden ODI half-century to aid the hosts’ chase. India bounced back with Bhanuka Rajapaksa and Dhananjaya de Silva’s wicket but that didn’t dent Sri Lanka’s hopes. However, the visitors again wobbled when they lost Charith Asalanka and skipper Dasun Shanaka in successive overs.

In the last ten overs, Sri Lanka needed just 10 runs but Rahul Chahar struck to give visitors another blow. However, Akila Dananjaya and Ramesh Mendis ensured the hosts get over the line in the 39th over.

Earlier, Praveen Jayawickrama and Akila Dananjaya picked had three wickets each to restrict India to 225. India were all out for 225, with Prithvi Shaw and Sanju Samson scoring 49 and 46 runs respectively. Suryakumar Yadav scored 40 before getting trapped in front of the stumps. None of the India batters reached a half-century in the game.

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Wait’s over, let the Games begin despite Covid pandemic

Japanese athlete Naomi Osaka becomes the first tennis player to light the Olympic cauldron during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Games.

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After much debate on the fate of the Tokyo Olympics thanks to the COVID-19 situation, the Games were finally declared open on Friday as fireworks kickstarted the Opening Ceremony here at the Japan National Stadium.

With the emergence of COVID-19, many athletes had to train for the showpiece event in isolation and this was the highlight during the Opening Ceremony as performers showed how they have been connected by their hope and shared passion. After the fireworks and lighting show, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach was welcomed on the stage. The IOC had decided that only six officials will be allowed per contingent.

Tokyo Olympics 2020 opening ceremony begins at Japan National Stadium, in Tokyo on Friday.Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka

Japanese athlete Naomi Osaka on Friday became the first tennis player to light the Olympic cauldron during the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo Games. Osaka had the distinct honour of serving as the final torchbearer of the Olympic Torch Relay, lighting the cauldron inside the Olympic Stadium for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 in 2021. Osaka, 23, is a four-time major champion in tennis who is making her Olympic debut. She won her fourth Grand Slam title at the Australian Open earlier in 2021.

During the ceremony, parading athletes observed physical distancing. At the beginning of the ceremony, the Japanese flag entered the Olympic Stadium and after that, the light show began.

This year’s Olympics will feature a record 33 sports comprising 339 events. The initial video which kicked off the ceremony showed Tokyo’s elation at winning the bid to host the Games and then the stadium went into darkness as the 2020 event had to be postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

There have been questions raised in Japan over the hosting of the Olympics even when the host nation has been witnessing a surge in Covid-19 infections and total Games-related cases have risen to 106. Even though the Opening Ceremony kicked off, protestors took to the streets to voice their unhappiness of the Games going ahead in Tokyo.

The torch relay had recently concluded its journey through Tokyo having spent most of the 15-day final leg of its nationwide tour off roads and away from the public.

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PANGHAL AMONG 3 BOXERS TO GET BYES IN 1ST ROUND

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Star boxer Amit Panghal (52kg) is among the four Indian pugilists who received byes into the Tokyo Olympics pre-quarterfinals as per the draw unveiled on Thursday. Satish Kumar, Simranjit Kaur, and Lovlina Borgohain are the other three players who have received byes.

ASix-time world champion pugilist Mary Kom will be leading India’s charge in the upcoming showpiece event. She will lock horns with Dominica’s Miguelina Hernandez on Sunday. In-form Pooja Rani will square off against Algeria’s Ichrak Chaib in her opening bout while Vikas Krishan will play against Japan’s Mensah Okazawa in the round of 32 on Saturday to kick-start India’s quest for a medal.

India last won a medal in boxing in the 2012 London Olympics when Mary Kom clinched a bronze four years after Vijender Singh finished third in the 2008 showpiece event. Since then, India has not won a medal in the Olympics in the discipline.

However, India did come close to clinching a medal in the 2016 Games before boxer Vikas Krishan Yadav faced defeat in the quarter-finals.

The men’s boxing side comprises number one and Asian Games champion Panghal (52kg), Manish Kaushik (63kg), Vikas Krishan (69kg), Ashish Kumar (75kg), and Satish Kumar (+91kg). The women’s squad includes Mary Kom (51kg), Simranjit Kaur (60kg), Lovlina Borgohain (69kg), and Pooja Rani (75kg).

With 127 athletes, Tokyo Olympics will see India’s highest-ever playing contingent competing. Tokyo Olympics will begin on Friday and the Games will run up to August 8 this year. The event was slated to be held last year, but it was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With ANI inputs

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Djokovic knows ‘history is on the line’ at Tokyo Olympics

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Novak Djokovic knows how close he is. Not just to creating history and becoming the first man to achieve a Golden Slam by winning all four major tennis tournaments and an Olympic singles gold medal in the same year. Sure, that’s on Djokovic’s mind as he enters the Olympic tournament starting Saturday.

But it’s the bigger end product that would be the result of such an achievement that is weighing most heavily on him surpassing Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to be considered the greatest tennis player ever. The goal is so great that Djokovic doesn’t even want to consider the consequences.

“I don’t want to be part of the debate. I don’t want to be compared to anybody, the top-ranked Serb said Thursday. It’s still a very long way to a potential historic achievement.

“I know that there is a lot of things on the line. I know there’s history on the line. I’m privileged and motivated to be in this position. I’ve worked very hard to be here. But let’s talk about history if everything goes great here,” Djokovic added. “Right now all focus goes to the next challenge.” In Serbia, the debate is already over. Olympic committee chief of mission Natasa Jankovic introduced Djokovic at the team’s news conference as “the most successful tennis player ever.”

By winning Wimbledon this month, Djokovic matched Federer and Nadal with his 20th Grand Slam title having opened the year by capturing the Australian and French Opens. He is the only one of them to have won each Slam twice. He is the only one to hold all four major titles simultaneously, something he did over the end of 2015 and start of 2016. The only tennis player to achieve a Golden Slam was Steffi Graf in 1988.

“I’m not in touch with Steffi, but if you can connect her, I would be delighted to ask her how she did it, Djokovic said, recalling how he briefly worked with Graf’s husband, Andre Agassi.

“When I was thinking about her (Golden Slam) I didn’t think that would be achievable. But right now it seems more and more realistic for me. Of course that’s one of the goals and dreams. Making matters more straightforward for Djokovic is that neither Federer nor Nadal are playing in Tokyo.

But that also was the case at last year’s U.S. Open, where Djokovic was disqualified for unintentionally hitting a line judge in the throat with a ball. “I have not experienced too many big tournaments in the past 15 years without Roger and Rafa playing, Djokovic said. So it’s a little bit strange, to be honest, because I’m used to seeing at least one of them.”

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