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Ind vs Eng: Motera probably one of the best ground I have ever been to, says Archer

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Ahmedabad (Gujarat) [India], February 22 (ANI): England pacer Jofra Archer on Monday said that the newly-built Motera Stadium is probably one of the best he has ever been to. The four-match series between India and England currently stands level at 1-1 and now both teams will lock horns in the pink-ball Test from Wednesday at the Motera Stadium.
“The stadium is beautiful, the seats are beautiful. The ground is probably one of the best I have ever been to. Half of 1,10,000 would be present at the stadium, this is the most we get at most places anyway. Ready to see what unfolds when the match starts,” said Archer while talking to ECB’s media team on Monday.
“Pink-ball feels pretty normal, to be honest. It is pretty much the same, it is a little bit hard to shine. It does a little bit more when the lights come on as compared to daytime. This is going to be new for me if I play the pink-ball Test with the SG ball. The next Test is very important, if we go all the way, that would put us in the driver’s seat,” he added.
Archer had missed the second Test of the series against India after having an injection in his right elbow. The pacer remained tight-lipped when he was asked whether he would be given a chance in the playing XI for the third Test.
“Always nice to be in competition for a spot in the team, if I do not get it then it’s fine. I would rather win the series than play a lot of games. I could have played the second Test if needed but I was going to be rested anyway, I took the injection so that I could have enough time to be back,” said Archer.
When asked about England’s much-debated rotation policy, Archer said: “Resting is necessary looking at Covid-19. Rest and rotation are necessary. There is a lot of cricket this year, we have a big squad, we are giving guys a chance to show what they can do. The beauty of the big squad is that we can see everyone on a daily basis, you can still see what they can do.”
India had achieved an emphatic 317-run win against England in the second Test of the ongoing four-match series. As a result, the series stands level at 1-1 and the Virat Kohli-led side has also reached the second spot in World Test Championship (WTC) standings.
India remain in contention to make the final of the ICC World Test Championship. The victory in Chennai on Tuesday has lifted India to the second position with 69.7 percentage points on the table but they cannot afford to lose another match as they need to win 2-1 or 3-1 to qualify for the final of the maiden edition of the championship.
England, who led the table after winning the opening Test, has slipped to the fourth spot with 67.0 percentage points. They can still qualify, but for that, they must win both remaining matches of the series against India. (ANI)

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RONALDO SCRIPTS FOOTBALLING HISTORY AT EUROS, BECOMES ALL TIME TOP-SCORER

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Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo made European Championships history as he became the all-time top scorer in the summer tournament after his record-shattering 10th and 11th finals goals in the opening Euro 2020 match against Hungary.Cristiano Ronaldo, who was playing his record fifth European Championship on Tuesday, overtook the previous mark of nine goals set by France’s Michel Platini in Euro’s all-time leading scorer list. On the list of active players, only France’s forward Antoine Griezmann comes close to the five-time Ballon d’Or winner as he has scored six goals in the seven matches played at Euros.Ronaldo’s late brace also saw him moving onto 106 international goals, three shy of footballing immortality – Iranian striker Ali Daei’s all-time record international goals tally of 109. Juventus marksman also became the oldest player to score for Portugal at a major tournament (World Cup & Euros), aged 36 years and 130 days.

Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo celebrating goal against Hungary

Before Ronaldo stole the stage with a clinical penalty and a brilliant one-two with Rafa in additional time to slot the ball into the back of the empty net, Raphael Guerreiro deflected shot opened the scoring for the 2016 champions just six minutes before the full-time against Hungary. Later in the day, France rode on an unfortunate Mats Hummels’ own goal to slide past Germany in Euro 2020. France’s win leaves them second in Group F after Portugal’s 3-0 win over Hungary, while Germany sits on third. Portugal sits at the top of the board in Group F and will take on Germany in Munich on June 19 while Hungary’s next game is against France on the same day.

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MATS HUMMELS’ OWN GOAL HELPS FRANCE EDGE PAST GERMANY IN OPENER

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World Champions’ France rode on an unfortunate Mats Hummels own goal to slide past Germany, 1-0 in their opening fixture at Euros 2020. The heavyweight clash in Group F appeared a little cagier at times with chances in scarcity till the full-time. Although the tournament favourites, France were marginally better of the two sides with few missed chances here and there. Germany had their best chance when Serge Gnabry sent a looping volley narrowly over the bar from a Robin Gosens cross. The own-goal came early in the match for France after the brilliant individual skill from Paul Pogba on the right who sent the ball to Hernandez and made a cross, seeking Mbappe, only for Hummels to intervene – and sliding it into the roof of his own goal.

Didier Deschamps’ side also saw two goals ruled for offside in the second half from their premier strikers Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema. Adrian Rabiot also came close for the away team as the Juventus man smashed the outside of the post.Both France and Germany managed just one shot on target each in the match, the lowest total in a European Championship game for the French since 2012 (vs Spain), and for the Germans since 2008 (also vs Spain).

France’s win leaves them second in Group F after Portugal’s 3-0 win over Hungary earlier in the day, while Germany sits on third. Last night was also Germany’s first-ever defeat in their opening game at the European Championships. France now heads to Budapest to face Hungary next while Germany welcomes Portugal to Munich on June 19.

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SMITH TAKES POLE POSITION, KOHLI JUMPS TO FOURTH SLOT

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Australia batsman Steve Smith on Wednesday reclaimed the number one position in the ICC Men’s Test Player Rankings for the first time since the Boxing Day Test last year. He takes over from New Zealand captain Kane Williamson, who is set to lead his team in the ICC World Test Championship final against India at the Hampshire Bowl in Southampton from Friday. Williamson, who missed the second Test against England at Edgbaston due to injury after scoring 13 runs in the drawn first Test at Lord’s, has slipped five points behind Smith’s 891 rating points and is second in the batters’ list.

This means that Smith has been at the top for 167 Tests played worldwide in total, only behind Garry Sobers (189 matches) and Viv Richards (179 matches). Matt Henry’s player of the match performance (three wickets in each innings) has lifted him to a career-best 307 points and 64th position while Ajaz Patel is at a career-high points tally of 323. Devon Conway continues his good run and is in joint 61st position.

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INDIAN MEN’S HOCKEY TEAM IS AMONG THE TOP FIVE CONTENDERS, SAYS OLTMANS

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Former Indian men’s hockey chief coach Roelant Oltmans believes India will be one of the strongest contenders for a medal at the Olympic Games Tokyo. In an insightful conversation with Hockey Te Charcha, a podcast series initiated by Hockey India, Oltmans emphasised that mental toughness will be a deciding factor for any team to succeed in Tokyo. “For me, the Indian men’s hockey team is among the top five contenders to win a medal in Tokyo. The team has shown good consistency in competing with the best teams in the world over the last two years. India has shown they can beat teams like Australia, Belgium, and the Netherlands. However, doing it at the Olympics will be a different matter. The decisive factor when you are trying to win such a tournament is the mentality of the team. You cannot panic if you are behind in a game or get overexcited when you are ahead. You have to be in control of each situation,” Oltmans said.

Oltmans anticipates that the weather conditions in Tokyo will be another key factor, as Tokyo is expected to be high on humidity during the Olympics. He said, “In terms of physical fitness all the top teams in the world are at the same level so no team has an obvious advantage, but the weather conditions will be more favourable for India as they are used to that type of climate. The weather will definitely be harsher for the European teams, and they will have to adjust to it.” The Dutchman was chief coach of the Indian team that reached the quarter-final stage in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Oltmans believes that the team has made headway since then and has praised the development process undertaken by Hockey India.

“Preparing the team to secure a medal in the Tokyo Olympics was always the main objective since I joined as High-Performance Director at Hockey India in 2013, and then became chief coach of the men’s team in 2015. India has made progress in that regard, and Hockey India has created the conditions for this to happen through its professional setup. You need a good development plan, but you also need the resources to execute a plan. Hockey India and SAI have played a big part in creating and executing this plan to develop hockey in India,” he stated.

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WILL LOOK TO PLAY MY NATURAL GAME, SAYS RAHANE

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Ajinkya Rahane.

India Test vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane on Wednesday said that he would look to play his natural game in the upcoming World Test Championship (WTC) final against New Zealand. India and New Zealand will lock horns in the World Test Championship (WTC) final, beginning June 18. “I will be playing my natural game. Winning is really important whether I score a hundred or not. I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself and even if my 30 or 40 is valuable for the team, I am happy. I am happy to take criticism. I feel it’s because of the criticism I’m here. I always want to give my best whether people criticise me or not,” said Rahane during a virtual press conference.

“’For me, it’s important to give my best for my country and contribute each and every time be it as a batsman or a fielder,” he added. Talking about what he has advised the youngsters in the team, Rahane said: “’It’s just a mental thing. If we can switch mentally and adapt, it’s important. Yes one-off, we have to take it as another game, not as a final or anything. We just want to give our best, play good cricket, be consistent in the five days.”

“Personally, I am not telling them anything. They know their game-plan. It’s about giving them freedom, backing them, believing in their abilities. We don’t want any kind of confusion,” he added. When asked about his response to his critics, Rahane said: “I don’t really think about criticism. If people criticise me, that’s their thing, and that’s their job. I cannot control all these things. For me, I always focus on controllables, putting my best foot forward, working hard, and following my process and the result follows.”

“I like to be in the present. I know the conditions. It’s about being in the moment, adjusting to the conditions. Also, me being the highest scorer doesn’t matter now. It’s past. I just don’t want to put extra pressure and would want to play freely,” he added. Mohammed Siraj has been included in India’s 15-member squad for the upcoming World Test Championship (WTC) final against New Zealand, starting on Friday.

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India play out 1-1 draw against Afghanistan, qualify for Asian Cup third round

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Afghanistan and India played out a 1-1 draw in their last match of Group E of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Joint Qualifier, at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in Doha, Qatar, on Tuesday. With this result, India finished third place in the standings with seven points from eight matches.

India took the lead via a 75th-minute own goal courtesy of Afghanistan goalkeeper Ovays Azizi, but the Afghans pulled back their equalizer minutes later, through their teenage sensation Hossein Zamani. A third place finish in Group E means that India move directly to the third round of qualifiers for the AFC Asian Cup China 2023.

India head coach Igor Stimac made two changes to the side that started for the Blue Tigers against Bangladesh in the previous game, with Bipin Singh and Udanta Singh making way for Rahul Bheke and Ashique Kuruniyan. The Blue Tigers got out off the blocks well right from kick-off as Manvir Singh soared up the right flank, made his way into the Afghanistan box and pulled the trigger. However, his shot was parried out for a corner by Afghan goalkeeper Ovays Azizi. The resulting corner by Brandon was cleared, but it fell kindly to Glan Martins on the edge of the area, whose shot was eventually blocked.Afghanistan also attempted to create their chances in the opening exchanges as David Ahmed Najem found some space on the right and whipped in a few crosses, but India custodian Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was alert to the danger and came out to collect. India started to grow into the game soon enough and Manvir once again raced down the right and played it through to an overlapping Suresh Singh Wangjam, who earned a corner for the side. Sandesh Jhingan managed to get a firm header onto the Brandon corner but the effort was cleared off the line by Afghan defender Haroon Amiri.

Glan Martins was putting in a lot of hard work in the middle of the park as he managed to make a crucial interception in the attacking third, before passing it to Sunil Chhetri, whose shot was again saved by Azizi.Brandon Fernandes was his usual self throughout the first 45 minutes, threading his passes to the attacking options again and again. A free-kick in the middle of the park around the 20th minute turned into a chance when Brandon chipped it towards Chhetri inside the box, but Masih Saighani was alert to the danger and cleared the ball.

Five minutes later, Ashique managed to beat Amiri down the left flank and dashed into the box, before attempting a grounded cutback aimed at Chhetri. Saighani was once again up to the task and intercepted the ball before any damage could be inflicted. A little after the half-hour mark, Afghanistan made an inroad into the India half, as Omid Popalzay was played through down the right. But Blue Tigers centre-back Chinglensana Singh came across and bundled into the midfielder, picking up a yellow card for his efforts to stop the attack. Afghanistan started building up a bit of momentum and earned another free-kick in the Indian third of the pitch, a few minutes later. Popalazay floated the ball towards Amiri, but Jhingan was on hand to get in the way and avert the danger. With a little under five minutes of regulation time of the first half left on the clock, Afghan forward Amir Sharifi manufactured some space outside the Indian penalty area and pulled the trigger. However, his left-footed effort was straight at Gurpreet, who smothered the ball comfortably.At the stroke of the 45th minute, Suresh made a crucial interception in the middle of the park, to catch the Afghan defence off-guard. The young midfielder carried the ball to the edge of the Afghan area, before playing it through to Manvir. However, Afghan keeper Azizi came out bravely to foil the opportunity, as the referee soon blew his whistle to end the first half. After the changeover, Afghanistan looked to string a few passes together in the Indian half but ended up giving away a chance to their opponents. Ashique intercepted a pass in the middle of the park and raced up the middle, looking to run at the Afghan defenders. He had options in the form of Chhetri on the left and Manvir on the right but was tackled by Amiri.

As India began to settle down in the second half, the Blue Tigers started to play the ball out of the back. A little under 10 minutes into the second half, one particular chance was created out of a string of passes that started all the way from the keeper. Gurpreet found Suresh in the defensive half, as the latter played it to Bheke with his first touch. Under pressure, the fullback struck the ball down the line to put Manvir through on the right flank once again but the cross was stopped.

Minutes later, Gurpreet made a crucial save to keep the scores at 0-0. Saighani hoofed a long ball to Popalzay, who chested it down and volleyed it from outside the area, but Gurpreet was up to the task, ashe plucked the ball out of the air. Amiri stood in India’s way once again on the hour mark, when he headed away a free-kick by Brandon that was aimed at Manvir, who had shaken off his marker inside the box, and looked set for a free header. A bit of dogged work in the opposition third by Ashique meant that the winger found some real estate just outside the Afghan penalty area, but Amiri soon came across and bundled him over, taking a yellow card to avert the immediate danger. Sunil Chhetri stood over the free-kick, as he curled it inches over the bar. 

That was the last action of the day for the Blue Tigers captain, as Igor Stimac brought on Liston Colaco in place of the 36-year-old. Meanwhile, Lalengmawia Ralte (Apuia) also came on for Brandon Fernandes.

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