Australia secured top spot in Group B of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup India 2022, after defeating Thailand 2-1 at the Mumbai Arena on Thursday. While Thailand tasted defeat on the night, Miyo Okamoto’s side also advanced to the quarter-finals, where they will face Japan on Sunday, while Australia will cross paths with the Korea Republic. Emily van Egmond opened the scoring for Australia in the 39th minute and Kerr came off the bench to score the poacher’s effort before Nipawan Panyosuk netted a memorable consolation goal. With Kerr, Ellie Carpenter, and Caitlin Foord among those benched, Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson made wholesale changes to the side that beat the Philippines 4-0 on Monday. A starting line-up filled with youngsters had the same dominance of possession enjoyed by the Matildas in their previous two matches, but Thailand offered fewer defensive deficiencies to exploit, remaining resolute and keeping the group leaders at bay for the first 30 minutes.
While the Thais themselves were limited to ambitious long-range efforts on the counterattack, Australia began to build momentum as the half went on, and their efforts were rewarded six minutes before the interval when Egmond took her tally to five goals for the tournament by picking out the bottom corner of Tiffany Sornpao’s net from 20 yards following Remy Siemsen’s pass.
One could quickly have become two had it not been for Pikul Khueanpet’s goal-saving block to deny Kyra Cooney-Cross three minutes later, with the Thai defender bravely keeping the ball out when the Melbourne Victory youngster looked odds on to score.
With the score at 1-0 at the break, both teams looked good to advance to the knockout stage, but there were struggles for each of them early in the second half.
The Matildas suffered a blow when youngster Holly McNamara suffered what appeared to be a knee injury, while Thailand saw their best chance of the night go begging when Suchawadee Nildhamrong intercepted the otherwise impressive Cortnee Vine’s throw-in within sight of goal but took too long to pull the trigger before being closed down. Goalkeeper Sorpnao made a fine reflex save to deny Remy Siemsen a first international goal just after the hour mark, and substitutes Mary Fowler and Kyah Simon before both saw gilt-edged opportunities go to waste as space in the Thai became increasingly available late in the game.
Instrumental for much of the night in keeping Thailand in the contest, it was Sornpao’s mistake that provided Australia’s second goal spilling Simon’s cross directly into the path of substitute Kerr in the 80th minute, with the Chelsea star never likely to pass up the chance to score her seventh goal of the tournament from point-blank range. Thailand had offered little going forward, but they celebrated their progression to the last eight in style with one of the final kicks of the match, with substitute Panyosuk lobbing an audacious 25-yard effort beyond Lydia Williams in the third minute of stoppage time.
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GOVERNMENT SANCTIONS NEERAJ CHOPRA’S REQUEST TO TRAIN IN FINLAND
India’s Olympic Gold Medallist Neeraj Chopra is set to switch his training base from Turkey and will fly out to Finland on Thursday.
Neeraj, who is currently training at Turkey’s Gloria Sports Arena, is scheduled to fly out on May 26 and would train in Finland’s Kuortane Olympic Training Centre till June 22. The Kuortane OTC offers Olympic-level indoor and outdoor facilities for athletes and is currently also the training base for Paralympics Gold Medalist Devendra Jhajharia. From Kuortane, Neeraj will then head out to Turku to participate in the Paavo Nurmi Games, followed by Kuortane Games in Kuortane and then Diamond League in Stockholm.
The Sports Authority of India (SAI) has also reached out to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to ensure that Neeraj and his team do not face any issues during their stay in Finland. MEA has assured SAI that the Indian Embassy in Helsinki would be available for any assistance if required.
The four-week (28 days) training camp has been sanctioned by the government’s Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) and would cost the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (MYAS) Rs 9.8 lakh approximately.
The finance would be used towards expenditure for Neeraj and his coach Klaus Bartonietz’s travel, accommodation, training, local travel, and daily out-of-pocket allowance among other expenditures.
Next season performance to decide when Dhoni will quit the game
M.S. Dhoni, one of the finest finishers of the game, has still that edge. Whenever he stepped in during the ongoing IPL, he exuded the same enthusiasm and spirit as he showed in those initial days of his career. His fitness level is superb. In the present season of the IPL, he has batted very well and has performed very well both behind the wickets and as a captain of his team, thus winning the hearts of cricket aficionados.
What I feel is Dhoni would put in all efforts to secure wins for his team as long as he is fit, and if we look at his recent statement it is his wish to play the last match of his life in Chennai only. The next IPL season may be held in different cities, which may cause him to travel across venues. He would, however, like to play his last match among his CSK fans.
The Chennai team management will play a significant role in respect of his decision to play his last match there. The reason is M.S. Dhoni and Chennai team management has a special relationship with IPL. Dhoni would always want his team to improve their performance in the next season of the IPL. He would want his team to play the game with a new approach and attitude. If the CSK skipper makes it happen only then would he be able to continue his career with the league.
If we look at Dhoni’s performance as a batsman, we can say it with an amount of certainty that there is an improvement in his strike rate and form as a batsman. He has played 14 matches and scored 232 runs, at an average of 33.14 runs with a strike rate of 123.40, in 13 innings. He has also scored a half-century. He has played last overs in his inimitable style and has proved himself a good finisher of the game as usual. It will be interesting to see whether Dhoni maintains his form or even betters it or not. Dhoni, on his part, would make all efforts to play in his prime form in the next season of IPL. If he is unable to accomplish this feat, he may call it a day and hang his boots.
The author is a former Indian cricketer and selector
FRENCH OPEN: DJOKOVIC BEATS NISHIOKA, STORMS INTO R2
World Number 1 Novak Djokovic on Monday defeated Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka to register a thumping straight-set win in the opening round of the ongoing French Open 2022.
The defending champion beat Nishioka 6-3 6-1 6-0 to claim the victory at Roland-Gross and storm into the second round. Earlier on Monday, Rafael Nadal claimed a straight-sets victory over Australian Jordan Thompson 6-2, 6-2, 6-2. With this win, the Spaniard has booked a second-round meeting with French lefty Corentin Moutet. Against Moutet, Nadal will be seeking the 300th Grand Slam match win of his career.
Apart from Nadal, World No.1 Iga Swiatek needed just 54 minutes to get through her opening round under the roof on Court Philippe-Chatrier, posting a 6-2, 6-0 victory over Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko.
Amanda Anisimova scored her second win over Naomi Osaka in as many Grand Slam tournaments this year, advancing in straight sets to the Roland Garros second round.
INDIA GO DOWN 2-5 AGAINST GRITTY JAPAN
The Indian Men’s Hockey team suffered a 2-5 defeat to Japan in their second encounter at the Asia Cup here at the GBK Sports Complex Hockey Stadium in Jakarta on Tuesday.
Kosei Kawabe (40’, 56’) struck a brace, while Ken Nagayoshi (24’), Ryoma Ooka (49’) and Koji Yamasaki (54’) were the other goal-scorers for Japan in the Pool A match. Pawan Rajbhar (45’) and Uttam Singh (50’), scored the two goals for India. Japan started putting pressure on the young Indian team from the starting whistle of the match. In the 5th minute, Karthi Selvam struck a reverse hit inside the Japan circle to create an early opportunity for his team. But SV Sunil could not make contact with the ball in front of the goal and the opportunity was missed. Japan received the first penalty corner in the 11th minute of the first quarter, but goalkeeper Suraj Karkera made an excellent save to deny the opposition.
Ken Nagayoshi scored the first goal for Japan from a drag-flick in the 24th minute after India conceded back-to-back penalty corners. Trailing 0-1 at halftime, India started brightly in the third Quarter as Uttam Singh received a chance inside the circle to get his team level. But he was unable to trap the ball and the opportunity was missed.
Japan started counter-attacking straightaway as India started getting back into the game. Kosei Kawabe doubled his team’s lead in the 40th minute with a shot past the young Indian defence. In the final minute of the third quarter, Pawan Raj Bhar deflected the ball into the nets after receiving a pass from Birendra Lakra, as India reduced the deficit to 1-2.
Ryoma Ooka scored four minutes into the final quarter, but Uttam Singh managed to get one for India straightaway in the next minute to keep India in the hunt. Late goals from Koji Yamasaki and Kosei Kawabe sealed the deal for Japan as they won the match 5-2. India will play their next game against Indonesia on Thursday.
CHARU SHARMA SHARES VIEWS ON SENIOR PLAYERS AND ROLE OF COACHES, SUPPORT STAFF
Renowned Indian television commentator and compere Charu Sharma who was also the stand-in auctioneer at the 2022 Indian Premier League auction, after Hugh Edmeades, the original auctioneer collapsed due to postural hypotension gave his views on the ongoing IPL and how everyone in their respective franchise can contribute for their teams.
According to him, “Younger players who didn’t played well or didn’t make it to playoff will be backed as they have 10-12 years of cricket left in them.
Performance of experienced players like Pollard, Bravo etc. at IPL matters as it sets their value for other leagues too and since they are near to retirement so there are not much options left if they are unable to contribute.
Coaching staff has very less to offer on field. They can only assist the players during training session.”
He further added, “What happens in the ground is the sole responsibility of the players. Big names matter in cricket, so every player likes to be around big players and even owners tend to have big names as their coaches and support staff. Mentor’s position is to speak when his guidance is required.
Players like to talk to mentors more often for any doubts rather than coaches at first place. Head coach is the most important post, subsequently the batting coach, bowling coach and head analyst so head coach must be heard very attentively. Physios and trainers are underrated but again they play a very important role.”
Shafali Verma, Wolvaardt help Velocity clinch 7-wicket win over Supernovas
Fifties from Shafali Verma (51) and Laura Wolvaardt (51*) helped the Velocity clinch a seven-wicket win over Supernovas in their first Women’s T20 Challenge match here at MCA Stadium in Pune. It was a great day for Velocity on-field. As they chased down a competitive target of 151 with help from half-centuries from Verna and Wolvaardt. With this win, Velocity are at the second position in the points table with two points. On the other hand, Supernovas are still at the first position with two points.
Chasing 151, Velocity were off a shaky start as they lost Natthakan Chantham for just 1 at team’s score of 6 off a Pooja Vastrakar delivery. Shafali Verma and wicketkeeper-batter Yastika Bhatia resumed the chase. They soon brought up a 50-run stand. At the end of the powerplay in six overs, Velocity stood at 60/1, with Verma (47*) and Bhatia (10*). The 63-run stand was finally broken in the eighth over of the game when Deandra Dottin dismissed Bhatia for 17 off 13. Shortly, Varma brought her half-century in just 30 balls. She was finally dismissed by Dottin for 51 off 33, with assistance from Harmanpreet Kaur at the short third in the 10th over of the game.
At the end of 10 overs, Velocity stood at 82/3, with captain Deepti Sharma (1*) and Laura Wolvaardt (7*). The duo took their side to a win, with Wolvaardt completing her half-century. At the end of 18.2 overs, Velocity stood victorious at 151/3, with Sharma (24*) and Wolvaardt (51*). Dottin was the pick of the bowlers for Supernovas, picking up 2/21.
Earlier, a fighting half-century by captain Harmanpreet Kaur (71) and her 82-run stand with wicketkeeper-batter Taniya Bhatia (36) helped Supernovas reach 150/5 in their 20 overs against Velocity here at MCA Stadium in Pune.
It was a solid outing for Supernovas with the bat with great contributions from Kaur, Bhatiya and Sune Luus (20*). On the other hand, despite a great start with ball, Velocity could not hold their grip on the match for long as the Supernovas skipper took them to the cleaners.
Put to bat first by the Velocity, Supernovas were off an extremely poor start as pacer Kate Cross sent Priya Punia back to the pavilion for 4 after she was caught by Ayabonga Khaka at the covers in the third ball of the first over. In the third over as well, Cross dismissed Harleen Deol for 7 off 9 after she was caught by Laura Wolvaardt at the backward point. In the next over, all-rounder Deepti Sharma got the big wicket of Deandra Dottin for 6 off 9, sinking the Supernovas to 18/3. From then on, captain Harmanpreet Kaur and Taniya Bhatia started the rescue act for the Supernovas. Both batters took on Velocity bowlers well.
At the end of powerplay in six overs, Supernovas stood at a sub-par 29/3, with Harmanpreet Kaur (7*) and Taniya Bhatia (5*). After the end of the powerplay, both the batters started attacking the Velocity bowlers, with pacer Ayabonga Khaka’s eighth over giving away 15 runs. At the end of 10 overs, Supernovas stood at 60/3, with Taniya Bhatia (20*) and Harmanpreet Kaur (21*). In the 12th over, the duo brought up the 50-run stand, with Taniya Bhatia (25*) and Harmanpreet Kaur (24*). In the 13th over of the innings, Kaur smashed spinner Maya Sonawane for a four and a six, with the bowler giving away 14 runs. This over turned out to be pretty expensive for Velocity and eased off a lot of pressure for Supernovas batters. The 14th over bowled by Deepti Sharma also gave away 11 runs.
In the 15th over of the game, Velocity finally got a breakthrough as Bhatia was run out for 36 off 32, ending her 82-run stand with Kaur.
This brought all-rounder Sune Luus to the crease, who had the responsibility to put finishing touches to Supernovas innings and post a fighting total on the board. In 15 overs, Supernovas stood at 103/4, with Harmanpreet Kaur (46*) and Sune Luus (1*). In the 17th over of the innings, Kaur brought her half-century. She survived an LBW appeal off a delivery by spinner Sneh Rana and took full advantage of it by smashing Rana for 4,6,4 in the final three balls of the over. The over gave away 15 runs and proved to give a boost to Supernovas innings.
In the final ball of the 19th over, Kaur was finally dismissed by spinner Radha Yadav for a quickfire 71 off 51 after her leg stump was dislodged while attempting to flick. Supernovas finished off their innings at a competitive 150/5 in their 20 overs, with Sune Luus (20*) and Pooja Vastrakar (2*) at the crease. Kate Cross was the pick of the bowlers for Velocity with 2/24. Deepti Sharma and Radha Yadav got a wicket each too.
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