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Ind vs Eng: Fans coming back is an added bonus, says Ben Foakes

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Chennai (Tamil Nadu) [India], February 11 (ANI): England wicket-keeper batsman Ben Foakes feels fans coming back in the stadium when the visiting side lock horns with India in the second Test will be an added bonus for the teams.
Foakes will play his first Test since January 2019 when India will face England in the second Test from Saturday and the wicket-keeper batsman is already excited to feature in the match knowing that the game will mark the return of fans at MA Chidambaram Stadium.
“It’s obviously an incredible series to be a part of and I guess the fans coming back is an added bonus. I think I’m just excited for the series. Obviously living in the bio-secure bubble and not seeing too many people outside for so long. So to have that atmosphere back would be awesome,” Foakes said in a virtual press conference organised by England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) on Thursday.
Jos Buttler has been rested for the last three Tests against India and Foakes will take the gloves for England on Saturday. The wicket-keeper batsman just wants to get back into the groove after missing out on international games in the last two years.
“Yeah! been a while since my last game, been here around the group so I am a bit excited and nervous at the same time. I love to have that same kind of impact in the series, it’s one of those days I haven’t played for a while. I am just trying out myself in a good position to do well and hopefully, I will be able to contribute,” said Foakes.
“Of course you wanna play but Jos (Buttler) has done an amazing job over the last two years. It’s one of those situations where it’s understandable,” he further said.
“You obviously had to have confidence in yourself for me don’t look back to that stuff. I just want to get back to playing cricket. Obviously, I haven’t played as much as like over the last two years. So the aim is to get back in and do a good job for the team,” Foakes added.
England head coach Chris Silverwood had also expressed his excitement for the second Test match against India which will be played in front of the fans.
Silverwood on Wednesday said the visiting side is not concerned about the bubble aspect as all the safety precautions are being followed in the bio-secure environment.
“Am not concerned about the bubble aspect. They have been brilliant and we all feel safe. And from the crowd point of view, we will be having noise in the ground again and it will be fantastic,” Silverwood said.
“I mean if we get anything like that, like some sort of normality, it will make everything just a bit more buzz really and I think it will great. We have got no concerns (on fans being allowed for the 2nd Test). Since we been here, we have been very well looked after and we feel safe in the environment,” he added.
England defeated India by 227 runs in the first Test at the MA Chidambaram Stadium on Tuesday. England’s winning start against India in their ICC World Test Championship series has kept alive the visiting side’s hopes of making the final of the nine-team competition. (ANI)

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Premier League: Man City thrash Wolves to extend lead at top of standings

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Manchester [UK], March 3 (ANI): Gabriel Jesus’ brace helped Manchester City thrash Wolves 4-1 in the Premier League at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday.
With this win, City further consolidated its lead at the top and now the side has 65 points from 27 matches. Pep Guardiola’s side now has a 15-point lead over the second-placed Manchester United.
This win was Manchester City’s 21st consecutive victory across all competitions this season.
In the first half, Wolves’ Leander Dendoncker registered an own goal and this helped in City gaining an early lead in the 15th minute of the game.
No more goals were registered in the first half and City went into the break with a 1-0 lead.
In the second half, Wolves got the equalising goal in the 61st minute as Conor Coady got among the scoring sheets, bringing the scoreline level to 1-1.
Gabriel Jesus then came into his own and he got his first goal of the match in the 80th minute, giving City a 2-1 lead. Ten minutes later, Riyad Mahrez got among the act and this ended up giving City a 3-1 lead.
Jesus scored his second goal of the match three minutes later and in the end, the hosts walked away with a comfortable 4-1 victory.
Manchester City will now take on Manchester United in the Premier League on Sunday. (ANI)

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Resilient Indian men’s hockey team play out 1-1 with Germany

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Krefeld [Germany], March 3 (ANI): Indian men’s hockey team’s second of their four-match tour of Europe ended in a 1-1 draw with both the teams living up to the billing on Tuesday.
Jarmanpreet Singh of India opened the scoreboard for India in the 4th minute while Martin Haner scored for Germany. Riding high on confidence after a dominating 6-1 win in their first international match of 2021, India started on an attacking note against the hosts and earned themselves a penalty corner in the 4th minute, which was converted by defender Jarmanpreet Singh with a classic slap shot.
Within the following two minutes, the hosts also bounced back and got their chance to score an equaliser with a penalty corner but could not capitalise.
The visitors continued to dominate in the second quarter, with better ball possession, creating potential opportunities with intent to capitalize on the early lead. However, the quarter ended with the hosts putting pressure on the Indian men with strong man-to-man tackle.
The hosts backed their tactical play with some quick forays into the striking circle, resulting in them earning back-to-back penalty corners. It was in their second attempt when the experienced Martin Haner levelled the score 1-1 minutes ahead of the half-time break.
Continuing the momentum, the third quarter saw Germany keeping the ball in the Indian half to create scoring opportunities but, Indian defenders remained composed and set-up a well-structured defence that kept the German forward line from converting. A solid block from Surender Kumar at the very last minute saw the third-quarter ending in a 1-1 stalemate.
The final quarter saw some nail-biting moments, with both the teams upping the ante but neither allowed a goal with the match ending in a 1-1 deadlock.
“This match was a good experience for our players. It was a tough match and the team worked hard. Both teams created opportunities and I believe we will learn a lot from this game,” stated India’s coach Graham Reid.
India will next play Great Britain on Saturday, March 6. (ANI)

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Crowd to be allowed for 5th T20I if Wellington’s alert level status is relaxed

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New Zealand Cricket (NZC) on Tuesday announced that the order of Sunday’s T20I double-header at Wellington’s Sky Stadium has been reversed.

As a result, New Zealand’s men’s team will be taking on Australia in the early game and New Zealand’s women’s team (White Ferns) will be squaring off against England later in the afternoon. “The decision follows discussions between New Zealand Cricket and Cricket Australia and will allow the Australia squad to catch a charter flight home immediately after the game – and avoid having to transit through Auckland,” NZC said in an official statement.

“Should Wellington’s Alert Level status be relaxed ahead of Sunday’s doubleheader, a crowd will be allowed inside the venue,” it added.

On Monday, NZC had announced that the final T20I of the five-match series between New Zealand and Australia has been shifted to Wellington from Bay Oval.

The final T20I of the three-match series between New Zealand women (White Ferns) and England women will also be played in Wellington.

Earlier, it was confirmed that the upcoming third and fourth T20Is between New Zealand and Australia will be played behind closed doors. The first and second T20I between New Zealand Women (White Ferns) and England Women will also be played behind closed doors following the change to New Zealand’s alert levels with an eye on the Covid-19 pandemic.

On Saturday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that Auckland would return to level 3 for seven days. As a result, no sport can be held at level 3, reported stuff.co.nz.

The fourth T20I between New Zealand-Australia and White Ferns-England was to be played in Auckland, but as per the new guidelines, the matches were relocated to Wellington.

The rest of the country has moved to alert level 2 and the restrictions will last for a period of seven days. While announcing the new restrictions, Ardern said that the lockdown was needed due to there being no immediate transmission link between the new mystery case and the latest Auckland cluster.

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Real Madrid lose 2 vital points in La Liga title race

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Real Madrid dropped two vital points in the race for the La Liga title when they were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Real Sociedad.

The result leaves Real Madrid five points less than league leaders, Atletico Madrid, with an extra game played ahead of the Madrid derby which will be played in Atletico’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium next weekend, Xinhua news agency reported.

Real Madrid again lacked effectiveness in front of goal without the injured Karim Benzema, but Real Sociedad deserves credit for a solid display in which they always looked threatening on the break on Monday night.

The game was just six minutes old when the visitors should have had a penalty when Casemiro brought down Nacho Monreal only for the referee to rule it out for a prior offside, which for some reason the VAR did not correct.

Real Madrid reacted to the let-off and took control of the game with Mariano Diaz having a header deflected onto the bar, before Raphael Varane also hit the bar with a header, which visiting keeper Alex Remiro had covered.

Marco Asensio then saw a shot blocked and Robin le Normand cleared off the line, while Remiro saved from Luka Modric as Madrid threatened but failed to open the scoring.

Real Sociedad then started the second half strongly and Portu opened the scoring with a header that went in off the post in the 54th minute after a pinpoint cross from Monreal.

Porto was then inches away from setting Alexander Isak up for his side’s second of the game, only for the ball to evade the striker by inches.

Duro saw a header deflected over in injury time but there was not enough time for Real Madrid to find the winning goal their title hopes needed.

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Ashwin nominated for ICC Player of the Month

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India’s senior off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has been nominated for the International Cricket Council (ICC) men’s Player of the Month (February) award.

The ICC on Tuesday announced the nominees for the ICC Player of the Month Awards for the month of February to recognise the best performances from both male and female cricketers across all forms of international cricket. Alongside Ashwin, England skipper Joe Root and West Indies all-rounder Kyle Mayers have also been nominated for the month of February in the men’s category.

Ashwin played 3 tests against England as part of India’s ongoing series against them. In these Tests, he scored a 106 in the second innings of India’s second Test victory over England in Chennai and took his 400th Test wicket in the third Test victory in Ahmedabad.

Scoring a total of 176 runs across these games while also taking a total of 24 wickets, Ashwin is the deserving candidate to be nominated in the men’s category for Feb.

England Test captain Joe Root makes it to the list of nominations again this month for his outstanding performance with the bat and the ball.

He scored a total of 333 runs and took 6 wickets overall in the 3 Tests that he has played against India. In the first Test against India, Root scored a 218 to lead England to victory.

From the West Indies, Test debutant Mayers played 2 Tests against Bangladesh and scored a match-winning 210 to help the West Indies successfully chase 395 and win the first Test against Bangladesh. This performance alone is deserving of this nomination.

In the women’s category, England opening batter Tammy Beaumont and all-rounder Nat Sciver and New Zealand batter Brooke Halliday have been nominated for the month of February.

Tammy Beaumont’s unbeaten 72 helped England to a comfortable seven-wicket win against New Zealand. She played 3 ODIs and passed fifty in each of these against New Zealand, totalling 231 runs.

Brooke Halliday of New Zealand also played 3 ODIs against England and scored a total of 110 runs and took 2 wickets in these games. Brooke also went on to become just the fourth woman to score half-centuries in each of her first two ODI matches.

England’s Nat Sciver went on to take 5 wickets and score a total of 96 runs in the 3 ODIs she played against New Zealand. Nat was the leading wicket-taker in the ODI series between New Zealand and England and added an innings of 63 in the second match that they won.

India wicket-keeper Rishabh Pant had won the men’s award in January while the women’s award went to South Africa’s Shabnim Ismail.

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ASHWIN, ROOT OR MAYERS: WHO WILL WIN THE RACE?

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It is the moment of elation for Indian cricket as for the second consecutive time, an Indian player has been nominated for the ICC Player of the Month Award. England skipper Joe Root, who was overtaken by Rishab Pant last month, has also been nominated for the second time in a row.

Ashwin, besides scoring a stifling ton during the second match of the ongoing series between India and England, scalped 24 wickets, reaching the 400 wickets landmark. This is a big achievement for any bowler. Nevertheless, he has indeed accomplished most of it on the spin-friendly pitches, but his significant contribution to India`s victory in the last two Tests can’t be overlooked.

Ashwin also altered his bowling action lately, and as it seems, the change has delivered. Usually, the youngsters are seen making changes in their action, but when the bowler is close to 400 wickets experiments, it reflects the confidence and ingenuity of the player. If we take a look at Ashwin’s bowling very closely, we will find that there is a lot of synergy between his release point and the foot alignment. His action is completely different from what he would prefer in 2016.

On the contrary, Joe Root in the first Test in Chennai steered his team to victory by scoring a double century at a time when everyone was predicting India’s sweeping victory. The skipper also took five wickets as a part-time bowler, with precision, furtive acuity, and economical spells, and the stint went so well that it reflected Root in the avatar of a complete spinner.

The third contender in the race is West Indies’ young sensation Kyle Mayors who surpassed his team’s target of 395 runs in his very first Test. His double century made a mark, and especially because it was scored by a debutant. Mayors hails from Barbados, where former legendary players Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Hanes belong.

Of course, the performance of all three has been excellent, but Ashwin will likely win the race and clinch the title, without giving any surprise to the cricket lovers.

The author has played 6 Tests and 12 ODIs as a wicket-keeper batsman for Team India

Ashwin, besides scoring a century during the second match of the ongoing series between India and England, scalped 24 wickets, reaching the 400 wicket landmark.

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