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India all set for English challenge as international cricket returns in country

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New Delhi [India], February 4 (ANI): The first Test between India and England will mark the resumption of international cricket in the cricket-loving nation after a gap of more than 11 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
India’s ODI series against South Africa was called-off following the coronavirus outbreak in the country in March last year. The first ODI of the three-match series was washed out due to rain in Dharamshala.
India last played Sri Lanka in front of the home crowd in a T20I clash in Pune, January last year.
The first Test will be played behind closed doors while the second Test will have 50 per cent crowd in attendance, the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) secretary confirmed on Tuesday.
Both the Tests will be played at MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai. As things seem under control and new normal is in place, the focus has been given to cricket again. The hosts are pumped up to take any challenge after the historic series win against Australia.
The four-match Test series Down Under was not only about cricket, it was a mental, physical and temperamental test of the players which they passed successfully.
Virat Kohli-led side is on higher morale as compared to England, who are coming after a 2-0 series win against depleted Sri Lanka. Both the teams are fighting for a finals spot in the World Test Championship (WTC).
New Zealand on Tuesday had become the first team to qualify for the inaugural ICC WTC final as the Test series between Australia and South Africa was postponed. The Kiwis will now be joined by either India, England or Australia in the WTC finals.
To book their place in the WTC finals scheduled from June 18-22, India will have to win the series against England by 2-1, 2-0, 3-1, 3-0, or 4-0, margin. For England to qualify and join New Zealand, they will have to win the series against India by 3-1, 3-0, or 4-0 margin.

While looking at the home squad, it seems like the side has all to overcome the English challenge. Rohit Sharma will continue to pair with his rookie partner Shubman Gill in the opening. Kohli, vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara will power the middle-order while it will be a tough call to pick between The Gabba Test hero Rishabh Pant and Wriddhiman Saha for behind the sumps duty. India have always given preference to Saha in home conditions while Pant is considered as a foreign tour wicketkeeper by the management. But after the Australia tour, Pant has done it all to cement his place in the team irrespective of the conditions.
It will be interesting to see that whether India goes with four bowlers or five. Most likely the hosts will opt for two spinners — Ravichandran Ashwin and Kuldeep Yadav — and two pacers — Jasprit Bumrah and Ishant Sharma. If India pick all-rounder Hardik Pandya they will have an extra batsman but they have to drop one spinner in that case.
The final decision on the playing eleven will be taken before the match on Friday.
On the other hand, England struggled with the opening pair in the Sri Lanka tour and Zak Crawley’s injury has added another worry for the side. Crawley injured his right wrist and as a result, the top-order batsman didn’t train on Wednesday at the practice session.
In Crawley’s absence, Rory Burns can join Dominic Sibley for the opening. Root, who will be playing his 100th Test on Friday, will bolster the middle-order while Jos Buttler, Ben Foakes, Dan Lawrence and Ben Stokes will further power the batting line-up.
Jofra Archer will lead the fast bowling for visitors while there could be a toss-up between James Anderson and Stuart Broad. If Moeen Ali gets a chance in the XI, either Dom Bess or Jack Leach will play as the other spinner.
India’s squad for first two Tests: Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Wriddhiman Saha, Hardik Pandya, KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohammad Siraj, Shardul Thakur, Ravi Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Washington Sundar, Axar Patel.
England squad for first two Tests: Joe Root (captain), Jofra Archer, Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Ben Foakes, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Dom Sibley, Ben Stokes, Olly Stone, Chris Woakes, Ollie Pope. (ANI)

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Tokyo Olympics: World No. 1 Kento Momota knocked out

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Japan shuttler Kento Momota on Wednesday was knocked out of the ongoing Tokyo Olympics after the world number one failed to progress from Group A in the men’s singles event.

On Wednesday, Momota was defeated by South Korea’s Heo Kwang-hee. The South Korean defeated Momota 21-15, 21-19. Momota had won his first match of Group A against Timothy Lam 21-12, 21-19, but he failed to rise to the occasion in his next match, and as a result, he has bowed out of the ongoing Olympics in the men’s singles event.

Earlier on Wednesday, India shuttler Sai Praneeth lost his second Group D match against Mark Caljouw of the Netherlands in the Tokyo Olympics here at the Musashino Forest Plaza Court 3. Caljouw defeated Praneeth 21-14, 21-14 in straight games.

Star shuttler PV Sindhu defeated Hong Kong’s Ngan Yi Cheung in her second Group J match of the Tokyo Olympics here at the Musashino Forest Plaza Court 2 on Wednesday.

Sindhu defeated Ngan Yi Cheung in straight sets 21-9, 21-16 to cruise into the elimination round of women’s singles. Elsewhere on Tuesday, India men’s doubles pair of Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy defeated Great Britain’s duo of Ben Lane and Sean Vendy in a crucial final Group A Play Stage game. The Indian duo defeated Lane and Vendy 21-17, 21-19 in their final group stage match.

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Rahi Sarnobat, Manu Bhaker to resume India’s challenge in shooting

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India’s Rahi Sarnobat and Manu Bhaker will resume India’s shooting challenge at the ongoing Tokyo 2020 Olympics, when they take the field in the first precision round of qualification in the Women’s 25M Pistol competition on Thursday at the Asaka Shooting range.

The precision round is slated to begin at 5.30 am IST. Rahi, fresh from an ISSF World Cup stage gold in Osijek, Croatia, leading up to the Games and Manu, will have to go through two days of qualification on Thursday and Friday before the top eight are separated after the second rapid-fire round. The 44-strong women’s Sport Pistol field on day six of the Olympic Shooting competition closely resembles the Air Pistol competition of day two and will have all the finalists of that event, barring the Chinese who have changed personnel.

India too has the experienced Rahi, also the reigning Asian Games champion, in place of Yashaswini Deswal who played the Air Pistol event, to accompany Manu.The 15-member squad has six starts to go and is still searching for its first shooting medal at the Games.

India archer Pravin Jadhav crashed out of the men’s individual event in Tokyo Olympics after losing to USA’s Brady Ellison at Yumenoshima Ranking Field on Wednesday. The 25-year-old suffered a 6-0 defeat in the Round of 16 match against Brady Ellison — also the current World Record holder.

World No.1 in men’s recurve category, Brady started the match with 9-10-9 in response to which Jadhav scored 9-8-10, which handed Ellison two easy points. In the second set, Ellison had a very bad start with an 8 but the Indian didn’t manage to benefit from that mistake of the American as he scored a poor 7 with the final arrow after he aimed 10 and 9 with the first two arrows.

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OLYMPICS: INDIA WOMEN’S HOCKEY TEAM LOSE TO GREAT BRITAIN 4-1

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The Indian women’s hockey team suffered a third successive defeat in the ongoing Tokyo Olympics as Great Britain won the encounter 4-1 here at the Oi Hockey Stadium — South Pitch on Wednesday.

Great Britain got off the blocks very quickly as Hannah Martin opened the scoring from the team’s first circle entry of the match inside just 75 seconds. The Indian team got better as the first quarter progressed to create few chances here and there, but GB’s defence assured their team went ahead without conceding a goal into the next fifteen minutes.

In the second quarter, Hannah Martin again prevailed for GB as she scored her second goal of the match. Indian goalkeeper saved the first shot but Martin converted on the second chance as the ball crept in between the feet of Savita.

India responded in quite a fashion after Sharmila Devi came up with a poacher’s finish from a PC. This was Sjoerd Marijne’s team first goal in Tokyo 2020 Olympics as the Indian No. 7 waited at the goal-mouth to guide the ball in following the flick by Gurjit Kaur.

The second half gave Indians no respite despite winning multiple PCs as GBR extended their lead by scoring on the rebound. The fourth quarter had the same story in store for the Women in Blue as the defending Olympic Champions hit the final nail by scoring their fourth goal of the match.

This is India’s third successive defeat after losing to Germany in their second match 0-2 on Monday.

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FORWARD LINE HAS TO DO BETTER AGAINST ARGENTINA IF INDIAN HOCKEY WANT TO DO WELL IN TOKYO

V BHASKARAN

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The Indian hockey team has played three matches so far in which they have lost the second match to Australia very badly and the results of the remaining two matches have undoubtedly gone in India’s favor but I am not completely satisfied with the way Indian players have performed. Especially the forward line has disappointed me a lot.

Looking at India’s forward line, it seems that they are not in the match. I have full faith in the abilities of my forward players. Lalit Upadhyay or Dilpreet all are very talented.  All of them have played good hockey recently but they are far from their best performance in the Olympics. Trapping near the forward line is not good. They need to do more than what they are doing. So far only 25 percent of them have come forward.

The need is to continuously do well. Our team has to play the open game. I only say one thing, make the most of the first quarter. Be aggressive in this quarter and score first, which pays a lot. Secondly, we are good during penalty corner, and we can take advantage of it. We don’t have to lose points after losing the match against Australia. Now there is a need to show all-round play. Goal chances have to be created. The way Simranjit Singh was playing, he made way for the goal.

Let’s assume that the defense line will make mistakes but the effort should be that mistakes are minimized. Also, lessons have to be learned from past mistakes. Argentina is the Olympic champion but we are no less than them in terms of capabilities. I am sure the forward line will definitely do better in this important match.

(The author is a member of the gold-winning team at the 1980 Moscow Olympics)

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DHANANJAYA, KARUNARATNE SHINE AS LANKA DEFEAT INDIA IN 2ND T20I

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Dhananjaya de Silva’s unbeaten knock of 40 runs followed by Chamika Karunaratne’s cameo of 12 runs helped Sri Lanka defeat India by four wickets in the second T20I of the three-match series here at the R Premadasa Stadium on Wednesday.

With this win, Sri Lanka has levelled the three-match series at 1-1. The final game will be played on Thursday. Chasing 133, Sri Lanka got off to a bad start as Avishka Fernando (11) was sent back to the pavilion by Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the second over of the innings. Sadeera Samarawickrama scored 8 runs from 12 balls and his struggle finally ended in the 7th over as Varun Chakravarthy clean bowled him, reducing Sri Lanka to 39/2.

Skipper Dasun Shanaka (3) failed to leave a mark as he was stumped by Sanju Samson of the bowling of Kuldeep Yadav and Sri Lanka were reduced to 55/3, still needing 78 runs more for the win from 65 balls. The set batsman Minod Bhanuka (36) was also dismissed by Kuldeep and Sri Lanka was put on the back foot at 66/4.

Dhananjaya de Silva and Wanindu Hasaranga then joined hands together and they put on 28 runs in quick succession, but this partnership was cut short by Rahul Chahar as he dismissed Hasaranga (15) with Sri Lanka still 39 runs away from the target.

In the last three overs, Sri Lanka required 28 runs for the win, and de Silva along with Chamika Karunaratne ensured that the hosts get over the line.Earlier, Shikhar Dhawan top-scored with a knock of 40 runs as India posted 132/5 in the allotted 20 overs. Sent into bat first, India got off to a steady start as openers Shikhar Dhawan and Ruturaj Gaikwad put on 45 runs inside the first six overs. The first-wicket stand of 49 runs finally came to an end on the final delivery of the seventh over as Gaikwad (21) was sent back to the pavilion by Dasun Shanaka.

Devdutt Padikkal then joined Dhawan in the middle and both batters found it tough to rotate the strike. However, in the 11th over, Padikkal broke the shackles as he dispatched Dhananjaya de Silva for a massive six. However, the 32-run stand between these two batters finally ended in the 13th over as Akila Dananjaya clean bowled Dhawan (40), reducing India to 81/2.

In trying to look for a big shot, Padikkal (29) also perished in the 16th over, having been clean bowled by Wanindu Hasaranga, reducing India to 99/3.Sanju Samson (7) also failed to leave a mark and India were struggling to post a respectable score on the board.

In the final overs, India struggled to register boundaries and were restricted to under the 150-run mark. For India, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Navdeep Saini remained unbeaten on 13 and 1 respectively.

Brief Scores: India 132/5 (Shikhar Dhawan 40, Devdutt Padikkal 29, Akila Dananjaya 2-29); Sri Lanka 133/6 (Minod Bhanuka 36, Dhananjaya de Silva 40*, Kuldeep Yadav 2-30).

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Tokyo Olympics: Sindhu, Pooja, Deepika steal spotlight on Day 5

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Shuttler P.V. Sindhu, archer Deepika Kumari, and boxer Pooja Rani stole the show for the Indian contingent on Wednesday in the ongoing Tokyo Olympics, but the women’s hockey team disappointed and their road to the knockout stage is now looking difficult.

Shuttler P.V. Sindhu and archer Deepika KumariBoxer Pooja Rani

It was shuttler Sindhu who brought respite to the entire nation as she stormed into the pre-quarterfinals in the women’s singles in the ongoing Olympics. Sindhu defeated Hong Kong’s Ngan Yi Cheung in her second Group J match. The 26-year-old defeated Ngan Yi Cheung in straight sets 21-9, 21-16 to cruise into the elimination round of women’s singles. Archer Deepika Kumari defeated USA’s Jennifer Mucino-Fernandez at Yumenoshima Ranking Field on Wednesday. The India archer defeated her opponent from the US 6-4 in the 1/16 eliminations round. The match was on a knife’s edge, but Deepika’s composure was amazing to watch, and she ended up winning the match.

Boxer Pooja Rani registered a dominating performance as she stormed into the quarter-finals of the women’s middleweight (69-75kg) category after defeating Ichrak Chaib of Algeria in the Round of 16 here at the Kokugikan Arena. Rani defeated Chaib 5-0.

The day had started off on a bad note for the Indian contingent as the women’s hockey team stumbled to a 1-4 defeat against Great Britain. This is now the third consecutive match that the Indian women’s hockey team has lost. The side earlier suffered defeats at the hands of the Netherlands and Germany.

This is India’s third successive defeat after losing to Germany in their second match 0-2 on Monday. The Netherlands had thrashed India in their opening game on Sunday. India will now face Ireland (July 30, 2021), and South Africa (July 31, 2021) before the knockout stage, which begins on August 2.

Archer Tarundeep Rai had shown an amazing fighting spirit to make a comeback and win against Ukraine’s Oleksii Hunbin 6-4 to march into the round of 16. However, his campaign ended on the very same day as he lost to Israel’s Itay Shanny in the 1/16 eliminations round.

A similar fate was in store for archer Pravin Jadhav as he crashed out of the men’s individual event in Tokyo Olympics after losing to USA’s Brady Ellison. The 25-year-old suffered a 6-0 defeat in the Round of 16 match against Brady Ellison — also the current World Record holder.

India shuttler Sai Praneeth lost his second Group D match against Mark Caljouw of the Netherlands in the Tokyo Olympics at the Musashino Forest Plaza Court 3. Caljouw defeated Praneeth 21-14, 21-14 in straight games.With this loss, Praneeth has failed to qualify for the next stage as he lost both his group stage matches. In the first game, Praneeth was the one in the lead, but Caljouw staged a comeback and he took the first game 21-14. A similar story unfolded in the second game, as Praneeth was not able to capitalise on a good start, and in the end, he ended up losing the match in straight games.

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