Battlelines drawn as Kohli, Williamson chase world title - The Daily Guardian
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Battlelines drawn as Kohli, Williamson chase world title

Virat Kohli’s boys will definitely fancy their chances of winning the inaugural edition of the World Test Championship at the Ageas Bowl against top-ranked New Zealand.

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India might be second on the list in the latest ICC rankings for Test teams, but it doesn’t bear testimony to what the team has achieved under Virat Kohli in the last two years. And going into the final of the World Test Championship (WTC) against top-ranked New Zealand from Friday, Kohli’s boys will definitely fancy their chances of winning the inaugural edition of the championship at the Ageas Bowl.

The momentum lies with the Kiwis as they beat England 1-0 in the just concluded Test series and the same catapulted them to the top of the rankings. But then, cricket isn’t played on paper and all these things will take a backseat when Kohli and Kane Williamson head out for the toss on Friday. This Indian team under Kohli has shown they believe in playing to win and has time and again snatched victories from the jaws of defeat. Not to forget the depth in the bench which was visible on the tour of Australia at the start of the year. India was without the likes of skipper Virat Kohli, spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, and pacer Jasprit Bumrah when the team defeated Australia by three wickets against all odds in the final Test at The Gabba to take the series 2-1. India will be riding on the recent performances in the longest format which also saw them clinching a series win against England after being one down in the Test series.

After cricket resumed amid the coronavirus pandemic in December 2020, India has won five out eight Tests with the recent win coming against England in which the hosts defeated the Joe Root-led side by an innings and 25 runs. But then, the only blip in an otherwise perfect report card is the series loss to the Kiwis in New Zealand in 2020. While they lost the first Test by 10 wickets, they lost the second one by seven wickets. On the other hand, New Zealand has won five out of the six Tests since December 2020 with the recent victory coming against England on Sunday. New Zealand who weren’t in contention to play the Test Championship final, first sniffed their chance when the ICC in November, last year, amended the WTC points system due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

New Zealand, who had half of the points India had, suddenly got a reprieve when the percentage points system was introduced. Since then New Zealand at home defeated West Indies and Pakistan to move to the top and qualified for the summit clash when Australia cancelled their tour to South Africa in February 2021. Some might argue that the road towards the WTC final was easy for New Zealand but that doesn’t deny the fact that the Kiwis didn’t just defeat West Indies and Pakistan, but left them gasping for breath by clinching games without even going into the second innings.

Same was the case with India when the Kohli-led side toured New Zealand before the pandemic. India’s highest score in the Test series was 242. The hosts New Zealand defeated India in back-to-back Tests as part of the current WTC cycle at the beginning of 2020. Who has the edge over whom certainly remains the favourite topic of cricket pundits, but one thing is for sure that New Zealand would like to heal all wounds of losing in the final in England in 2019 while for Kohli it is a legacy that awaits. The five-day game will allow India skipper Kohli multiple opportunities to etch his name in the annals of glorious history. The Indian captain hasn’t scored a century in Tests since 2019 and Kohli will be looking to take the centre stage to lead the charge as India get ready to lock horns with New Zealand in the ultimate clash. India and New Zealand have met each other 59 times in the longest format of the game.

While India has won 21 of those, the Kiwis have won just 12 matches. However, the recent trend seems to be evenly poised. In the last seven games, India and New Zealand have won three each and drawn one. So it will be fair enough to say the contest is evenly poised and whoever draws first blood might just take the Test mace home.

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Olympics: Deepika Kumari bows out after losing to top-seed An San

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Star Indian archer Deepika Kumari bowed out of the ongoing Tokyo Olympics after losing to South Korea’s An San in the women’s individual quarter-finals here at Yumenoshima Park on Friday.

Top seed San defeated world number one Deepika in an absolutely dominating fashion 6-0 to march into the semi-finals of the individual event. 20-year-old San is aiming for her third gold medal at Tokyo after finishing top of the podium in the mixed team event and the women’s recurve team event. Korean An San had a brilliant start to the first round as she aimed at three 10s while Deepika shot 7-10-10. San carried that momentum in the second round and clinically shot 9-10-7 to which Indian responded with 10-7-7.

The dominance of the South Korean continued in the third set as she gathered 26 as opposed to 24 of Deepika. Match ended in less than six minutes. With this San will either face USA’s Mackenzie Brown or Mexico’s Alejandra Valencia in the last four.

Earlier in the day, Deepika defeated Russian Olympic Committee’s (ROC) Ksenia Perova to progress into the quarter-finals (6-5) in the 1/8 Eliminations round in the ongoing Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

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YUZVENDRA CHAHAL AND GOWTHAM TEST POSITIVE IN SRI LANKA

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Three days after Krunal Pandya tested positive for COVID-19, it has come to light that spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and K. Gowtham have also tested positive for the virus in Sri Lanka.

Sources in the know of developments confirmed that the duo have tested positive for COVID-19. “Unfortunately, they have tested positive. They were close contacts of Krunal and were already away from the rest of the squad in the team hotel,” the source said. Krunal Pandya tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday and eight Indian players — Prithvi Shaw, Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Yuzvendra Chahal, Deepak Chahar, Manish Pandey, Ishan Kishan, and K Gowtham were identified as close contacts.

Being close contacts of Krunal, they were staying away from the rest of the team and didn’t participate in the last two T20Is after Krunal’s test came positive.

Meanwhile, Wanindu Hasaranga’s four-wicket haul and Dhananjaya de Silva’s unbeaten 23-run knock helped Sri Lanka defeat India by seven wickets in the third and final T20I. With this win, Sri Lanka won the series 2-1.Sri Lanka won the T20I series while India had earlier won the ODI series.

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TOKYO OLYMPICS: NUMBER ONE SEED DJOKOVIC BOWS OUT, LOSES TO ZVEREV

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Number one seed Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic on Friday was knocked out of the men’s singles event in the ongoing Tokyo Olympics after losing the semi-final clash. Germany’s Alexander Zverev defeated Djokovic 1-6, 6-3, 6-1 in the men’s singles event.

As a result of this loss, Djokovic would not be able to achieve the Golden Slam (all four Grand Slams and Olympic gold) in the same year. Djokovic had brought out his A-game to the court in the first set, and he ended up winning it 6-1. However, disappointment followed for the Serbian as he lost two back-to-back sets and as a result, he bowed out of the tournament.

Djokovic had won the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon this year and now he would look to win the US Open, beginning August this year. Earlier, top seeds Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka were also knocked out of the Olympics.

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INDIA WOMEN’S HOCKEY TEAM BEAT IRELAND 1-0, KEEP QF HOPES ALIVE

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The Indian women’s hockey team defeated Ireland 1-0 here at the Oi Hockey Stadium North Pitch on Friday. As a result, India’s hopes of making it to the quarter-finals of the women’s hockey event remain intact.

Earlier, the Rani Rampal-led side had suffered defeats in its first three group-stage games. The first quarter between India and Ireland saw no goals and after the end of the first 15 minutes, the scoreline remained 0-0.

A similar story was on the offer in the second quarter and at the halftime mark, the scoreline remained the same and it was Rani Rampal’s side that was feeling the pressure going into the third quarter. The third quarter also saw no goals, however, Navneet Kaur finally broke the deadlock in the fourth quarter and she gave India a lead with three minutes left to play. In the end, India managed to hang on to the advantage to score a 1-0 victory.

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INDIA MEN’S HOCKEY TEAM FIRE ALL CYLINDERS, DEFEAT JAPAN 5-3

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A resilient Indian hockey team came firing on all cylinders to thrash Japan 5-3 in the ongoing Tokyo Olympics on Friday. This was India’s fourth win of the ongoing quadrennial event. The Men In Blue will next be in action in the quarter-finals of the mega event. Japan might have scored three goals but the Indian boys made sure the Men in Blue were in the lead throughout the game and dominated proceedings.

Just two minutes before the end of the third quarter, India earned their second Penalty Corner only to miss the net. But the Indians were in the lead (3-2) with one quarter to go. Both teams got off to a cautious start but the Manpreet Singh-led side broke the shackles and netted the first goal in the 13th minute.

Gurjant Singh then scored early in the second quarter as India doubled the lead over Japan. However, Japan came back with a goal as Tanaka opened the team’s account.

In the third quarter, Kota Watanabe scored an equaliser but Shamsher Singh again put India on top as he scored a goal in the 34th minute. At the end of the third essay, India led 3-2 with a thrilling final quarter on cards. In the final quarter, Nilakanta Sharma doubled India’s lead after a desperate attempt from both sides to find the net.

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TOKYO OLYMPICS: SINDHU DEFEATS YAMAGUCHI, GETS INTO SEMIS

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India shuttler P.V. Sindhu stormed into the semi-finals of the women’s singles event after defeating Japan’s number four seed Akane Yamaguchi in the quarterfinals here at the Musashino Forest Plaza Court 1 on Friday. Sindhu defeated Yamaguchi 21-13, 22-20. The quarterfinal clash between Sindhu and Yamaguchi lasted for 56 minutes.

The first game was more close than the scoreline suggested and Sindhu had to bring out the best in her to win it 21-13. The scoreline in the first game might not indicate how closely it was fought, but Yamaguchi made her fight for every point. The star Indian shuttler was just one more game away from progressing to the semi-finals.

Yamaguchi made Sindhu toil hard in the second game, and for every point, the Indian shuttler had to be at her best. In the end, the number six seed Sindhu ended up winning the match in straight games.

In the second game of the quarter-final, there was a 54-shot rally between Sindhu and Yamaguchi and it lasted for one minute and two seconds. On Thursday, Sindhu had defeated Denmark’s Mia Blichfeldt in the Round of 16 match of women’s individual event in the Tokyo Olympics here at the Musashino Forest Plaza Court 3. Sindhu defeated Blichfeldt 21-15, 21-13 in just 41 minutes to cruise into the quarter-finals.

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