Kingston: West Indies chose to bat and crumbled to 196 all out at Sabina Park here on Friday on the opening day of the second Test against India as R Ashwin secured his 18th five-wicket haul in 34 Tests. West Indies were all out in 51.3 overs and in the reply, India were 126 for 1 with KL Rahul unbeaten on a brisk 75 off 114 balls, a fine knock from India's back-up opener, marking his return to Test cricket after nearly a year. Brief scores: India 126 for 1 (Rahul 75*) trail West Indies 196 (Blackwood 62, M Samuels 37, Ashwin 5-52) by 70 runs.
Pallekele: Sri Lankan spinner Rangana Herath backed up centurion Kusal Mendis' superlative effort to stun top-ranked Australia by 106 runs in the rain-affected first Test here on Saturday. Herath, 38, grabbed 5-54 to help the hosts bundle out Australia for 161 on the fifth and final day after they were set a challenging 268 in the second innings. Australian skipper Steven Smith posted a gritty half-century before Steve O'Keefe and Peter Nevill frustrated Sri Lanka with a 178-ball partnership. Herath bagged the last Australian wicket to fall by cleaning up O'Keefe to trigger wild celebration in the Lankan camp. This was Sri Lanka's only second Test win against Australia in 27 matches. It was batsman Mendis (176) who set up the unlikely win for Sri Lanka with his superb maiden ton in his team's second innings after the hosts overcame an 86-run deficit. The 21-year-old Mendis, the only centurion in a low-scoring contest, played a memorable 254-ball knock laced with 21 fours and a six. "Special knock by a special young player. Fantastic effort," an elated Sri Lankan skipper Angelo Mathews said at the post-match presentation. For Lankan spinners it was a race against time as rain threatened to thwart their chances of upsetting firm favourites Australia but Herath had other ideas in mind. The left-arm spinner, who grabbed four wickets in the first innings, made life miserable for the Australian batsmen on a turning track on the fifth morning. Smith, whose 55 was the next best after Mendis' century, was trapped LBW by Herath as Australia slipped to 141 for seven at lunch. Debutant chinaman bowler Lakshan Sandakan, who bagged seven wickets in the match, provided the perfect foil to Herath's experience. O'Keefe, who was ruled out of the remainder of the series after injuring his hamstring Thursday, surprised the opposition by turning up at the crease Saturday. O'Keefe and Nevill resisted stoutly with one eye on the skies but could only delay the inevitable. Sri Lanka lead the three-match series 1-0 as the action shifts to Galle for the second Test beginning August 4.
Dubai: Indian off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has surged to the top of the MRF Tyres player rankings for Test bowlers after a superb outing in the first Test against the West Indies in Antigua which the visiting side won by an innings and 92 runs. Ashwin, who was top-ranked in the 2015 year-ending rankings, not only regained the top spot with his second- innings haul of seven for 83 but has also gained in the batsmen's rankings with a knock of 113 and resultantly strengthened his grip on the top spot among all-rounders. Ashwin has replaced Pakistan leg-spinner Yasir Shah, who had grabbed the number-one ranking for bowlers only last week with a 10-wicket haul in the opening Test against England at Lord's. Yasir, who could take only one wicket in the second Test at Old Trafford, has dropped to fifth place below James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Dale Steyn. Ashwin has gained five points following his performance in the Antigua Test, while Anderson has earned seven points. This means the pre-Test gap between the two bowlers has been trimmed from three points to just one point only. In contrast, Yasir has conceded 46 points and now trails number-one ranked Ashwin by 44 points. Chris Woakes has jumped up 10 places to 23rd rank after his match-haul of seven for 108 at Old Trafford which contributed in England's 330 runs victory that levelled the four-match series 1-1. India pace bowler Umesh Yadav has gained six places to reach 24th rank with five wickets in Antigua while his new-ball partner Mohammad Shami has returned to the rankings at 28th place. In the MRF Tyres ICC Player Rankings for Test Batsmen, England's Joe Root and Alastair Cook have reaped the benefits of solid knocks to gain two and four places, respectively. Root's 254 and 71 not out has taken him to second position while Cook's 105 and 76 not out have helped him return to the top-10, in ninth position. Captain Virat Kohli's 200 at Antigua, which set the base for India's biggest win outside Asia, has helped him move up two places to 12th place while opener Shikhar Dhawan has gained four places after a knock of 84. Ashwin has moved up three places to 45th rank among batsmen after his third Test century (113) against the West Indies. Ashwin, only the third Indian to be top-ranked among all-rounders after Vinoo Mankad and Kapil Dev, has increased the gap with second-placed Shakib Al Hasan of Bangladesh. Ashwin has moved up from 406 points to a career-best 427 points and created a 43-point gap with Shakib.
Antigua: India again dominated play on Friday in the first test with a 535-run lead over West Indies at stumps on the second day. The tourists declared on 566-8 with captain Virat Kohli hitting his maiden test double century before getting out without adding another run. Ravichandran Ashwin, who shared a 168-run partnership for the fifth wicket with Kohli, went for 113. West Indies lost Rajendra Chandrika for 16, finishing on 31-1. Earlier, India resumed on 302-4 and Kohli became the first Indian captain to score a double century overseas when he clipped off-spinner Roston Chase for a single in the last over before lunch with India at 404-4. Kohli was bowled by West Indies quick Shannon Gabriel (2-65) in the second ball after lunch. Devendra Bishoo had 3-163 and Kraigg Brathwaite 3-65.
New Delhi: Tennis fans in the country have much to rejoice with the arrival of their star lady Sania Mirza’s autobiography on the book stands this July. Current world number one women’s doubles player Sania Mirza is in a hope of inspiring Indian youngsters to pursue the sport with her autobiography Sania Mirza: Ace against Odds. The book, which will be published by Harper Collins, has been penned by Sania with her father Imran Mirza. "I hope the book is a useful roadmap to guide the next generation of tennis players from India. If my story can inspire even one youngster to the heights of winning a Grand Slam in the future, I will feel blessed," Sania said in a statement. The autobiography chronicles her rise to the top, and is peppered with anecdotes where she talks about the difficulties and hardships as well as the joys and triumphs that came her way. The book also contains some memorable encounters of the player on and off the court and the people and relationships that have contributed to her growth as a person and a sportsperson. A product of publishing giant, Harper Collins, Ace against Odds plays host to several of Mirza's personal stories. "Sania's is an extraordinary achievement and her autobiography is as compelling as it is inspirational. We are privileged to be able to work with her on the book," Karthika VK, publisher and chief editor, Harper Collins said. From hogging the limelight after winning the Wimbledon's Championships Girls' Doubles title at the age of 16 to registering 41 consecutive wins with her doubles partner Martina Hingis, she is in the peak with her illustrious career now. The high profile tennis star, who is married to Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik, is among the highest paid athletes in the country. She was listed in the Time’s list of 100 most influential personalities in the world along with fellow Indians Raghuram Rajan and Priyanka Chopra. The tennis ace not only received the honor but it was none other than cricket maestro Sachin Tendulkar who wrote her profile. Tendulkar wrote, “Sania’s confidence, strength and resilience reach beyond tennis. She has inspired a generation of Indians to pursue their dreams — and to realize that they can also be the best.” “The Mirzas probably knew what the future held for their daughter,” wrote Tendulkar. “Her name, Sania, means brilliant,” he added.
Paris: Substitute Eder’s thunderous finish deep into extra time secured Portugal's first European Championship title after they overcame the early loss of Cristiano Ronaldo to snatch a 1-0 smash-and-grab victory over hosts France on Sunday. Eder picked the perfect moment to score his first competitive goal for his country, marauding forward before letting fly with a bullet shot from 25 metres in the 109th minute. It was a cruel blow for France, who had dominated the match and squandered a number of chances, in front of their devastated home support, who arrived at the Stade de France hoping to celebrate a third European crown. The trophy was lifted by Ronaldo, who broke down in tears at the final whistle but whose game had come to a frustrating end after 24 minutes when he was carried crying from the pitch on a stretcher with a knee injury. So much of the build-up had focused on Ronaldo and his hopes of crowning a glittering career with the only achievement missing from his CV, a piece of international silverware. The script had been written for him to produce a performance to match his status as one of the game's truly great talents, but he had to settle for a back-stage role after Dimitri Payet's challenge left him in a heap on the floor. Prior to his departure, it had been a fast-paced start with France's Moussa Sissoko a bullish presence in midfield, frequently charging through tackles and bursting into the box. His 34th-minute shot was well-parried by Patricio, but by that point the match had settled into a pattern of France probing and pushing but struggling to break down their more defensively-minded opponents. Without Ronaldo, Portugal seemed in no hurry to rush the ball forward, happy to see the game descend into a cagey, tactical battle. They had a scare, however, in the 67th minute when Kingsley Coman's cross found Antoine Griezmann unmarked six metres from goal, only for the tournament's top scorer to head a golden opportunity over. Minutes later, Olivier Giroud, fed by sprightly substitute Coman, forced a diving save from Patricio, who then parried away a pile-driver from Sissoko as France turned the screw. France's best chance of the night arrived in stoppage time when substitute Andre-Pierre Gignac turned his marker inside out before scuffing a shot past the keeper and against the post, with the ball bouncing across the face of goal and then out of harm's way. While Portugal continued to sit back in extra time, they had the better chances with Eder's header parried by Hugo Lloris and Raphael Guerreiro striking the crossbar with a free kick before Eder's moment of magic.
Lyon: Cristiano Ronaldo scored one goal and inadvertently set up the other as Portugal ground out a 2-0 win over Wales on Wednesday to march into the Euro 2016 final. The Portuguese superstar, who has had to soak up a lot of criticism for a lacklustre tournament by his high standards, majestically powered in a 50th-minute header to put his side in front. Ronaldo then saw his shot turned in by Nani for a second goal three minutes later, ending Wales' remarkable run at their first major finals since 1958. The Portuguese, who had not won a single game in the tournament over 90 minutes, next meet hosts France or Germany who play their semi-final on Thursday. "We've been dreaming about this from the start," Ronaldo told reporters. "We knew it would be a long way but we've fought all the way." Wales kept their opponents quiet in the first half but could not recover the two-goal deficit, ending a scintillating run that has captivated millions back home and turned their players into heroes. The Welsh, with midfielder Aaron Ramsey suspended and replaced by Leicester City's Premier League winner Andy King, had an early spell of possession but a tight Portugal defence kept them at bay. Portugal, bidding for their first Euro final since losing on home soil to Greece in 2004, had their first chance in the 16th minute, a low drive by Joao Mario after a clever flick from Ronaldo. Wales responded as Joe Ledley found Gareth Bale with a low corner and the forward fired over the bar. The Welsh, playing their first major tournament semi-final, did not suffer from stage fright with their back line, supported by midfielders Ledley and Joe Allen, remaining disciplined and compact. In a cagey first half Portugal struggled to find Ronaldo, opting for long crosses into the box that were easy pickings for central defender James Collins. Portugal injected some urgency after the break, pressing high up the field. It paid off instantly with a corner in the 50th minute that Raphael Guerreiro floated in towards the far post where Ronaldo climbed high above two defenders to power his third goal of the competition. They doubled their lead with Nani sliding into the box to connect with Ronaldo's mishit shot and claim his third goal of the tournament. Wales were then lucky not to concede more goals as Portugal, now unbeaten in 13 competitive matches, continued to dream of a maiden international trophy.
Posted by RP on 04 July
Paris: France swept emphatically into the Euro 2016 semi-finals and brought Iceland's fairytale run to a crushing halt as Olivier Giroud scored twice in a 5-2 win on Sunday to set up a mouth-watering last-four clash with Germany. Paul Pogba, Dimitri Payet and Antoine Griezmann were also on target in a one-sided romp at the Stade de France that proved a nightmare end to Iceland's improbable dreams of success. Having fairly comfortably eased past England into the quarter-finals, Iceland, the smallest nation ever to have qualified for the European Championship, with a population of 330,000, were 4-0 down inside the first half. They tried to rally after the break with a goal from Kolbeinn Sigthorsson, and added a late consolation through Birkir Bjarnason, but the damage had already been done. France, who had not been past the quarter-finals since they won the tournament in 2000, eased off and cruised home. Coming into the game, Iceland were praised for a rigidly well-organised defence while France had found first-half goals hard to come by, with their previous six coming after the break. It was a matter of minutes, however, before both of those traits to be swept aside, as France set about picking their way through gaping holes in Iceland's previously solid rearguard. Having defended so admirably against England, Iceland were 2-0 down inside 20 minutes through two of the oldest and simplest tricks in the football playbook. The opener came after 12 minutes from a hopeful long ball which found Giroud with acres of space to run through and he drive a low finish beneath keeper Hannes Halldorsson. The second goal was a simple corner to the far post that the soaring Pogba headed emphatically home. It seemed as though the contest was already effectively over when Payet turned the screw two minutes before halftime, sweeping home a low left-foot strike from the edge of the area for his third goal of the tournament. Yet worse was to come for Iceland as Griezmann twisted the knife on the stroke of halftime, latching onto a through ball after Giroud's dummy to race clear and chip the advancing Halldorsson to become tournament top scorer with four goals. There was a brief respite for Iceland as they clawed a goal back 11 minutes after the break when Kolbeinn Sigthorsson slid in at the near post to convert Gylfi Sigurdsson's low cross, but their raised spirits were swiftly doused. A simple lofted free kick from Payet three minutes later allowed Giroud to dart in front of the keeper and flick his header into the unguarded net. With six minutes remaining, Bjarnason pulled another goal back for Iceland with a header but the tie, and Iceland's hopes of extending their dream run, were over as France looked forward to facing old rivals Germany in Marseille on Thursday.
Lille: Wales and unsung hero Hal Robson-Kanu completed a stunning fightback to beat Belgium 3-1 in Euro 2016 on Friday and reach their first major tournament semi-final. The victory in Wales' first ever participation in a European Championship finals sets up a mouthwatering duel between their talisman Gareth Bale and his Real Madrid team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo when the tournament's last British representatives face Portugal in Lyon on Wednesday. Radja Nainggolan gave Belgium the lead in the quarter-final in Lille, but Ashley Williams brought Wales level before a dazzling strike from Robson-Kanu, whose contract with English second-tier club Reading expired on Thursday. A late header by substitute Sam Vokes wrapped up a historic victory for Wales. Wales manager Chris Coleman’s men surpassed the Wales greats of 1958, whose quarter-final showing at that year's World Cup in Sweden had been the country's greatest previous footballing achievement. Belgium coach Marc Wilmots will face tough questions about his failure to achieve more with one of his nation's finest collections of players, who also fell in the last eight at the 2014 World Cup. Inside the first 10 minutes, Yannick Carrasco, Thomas Meunier and Eden Hazard had all gone close for Belgium, while Romelu Lukaku failed to make telling contact with a deep Kevin De Bruyne corner. Robson-Kanu headed over for Wales and Bale hit the side-netting, but in the 13th minute Belgium went ahead when Nainggolan met Hazard's lay-off with a blistering 30-yard shot that whistled into the top-left corner.
Marseille: Portugal substitute Ricardo Quaresma, keeper Rui Patricio and 18-year-old midfield sensation Renato Sanches were the heroes as Portugal beat Poland 5-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw to reach the Euro 2016 semi-finals on Thursday. Patricio dived full length to block Jakub Blaszczykowski's penalty, Poland's fourth, allowing substitute Quaresma, whose goal late in extra-time beat Croatia in the round of 16, to bang in Portugal's fifth in the shootout. Two hours earlier Robert Lewandowski put Poland ahead with a second minute strike only for teenager Sanches to equalise with a superb shot 33 minutes into his first international start. Cristiano Ronaldo, who four years ago did not get to take his planned spot kick when he was fifth in line as Portugal lost to eventual winners Spain, went first this time. Joao Moutinho and Nani also scored confidently from the spot before Patricio swung things Portugal's way with his fine save and Quaresma applied the coup de grace. It was a somewhat strange encounter, with an all-action first half followed by 75 minutes of inaction. Poland went ahead when Portugal defender Cedric's misjudgement allowed a long ball to bounce over his head to Kamil Grosicki. He drove on down the left and squared for Lewandowski to guide the ball in. It was the striker's first goal of the tournament and, at one minute 40 seconds, the second-fastest in European Championship history after Dmitri Kirichenko's for Russia against Greece after 65 seconds in 2004. Poland looked the more confident team for the next 20 minutes but failed to press home their advantage as Portugal settled and began to make inroads. The Portuguese levelled when Sanches, due to join Lewandowski at Bayern Munich after the Euros, played a neat 1-2 with Nani and found time to shift the ball onto his left foot at the edge of the box and smash it past Lukasz Fabianski. Portugal have failed to win any of their five games here in 90 minutes, having drawn three group matches and beaten Croatia in extra time.