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Saina’s defeat knocks India out of women’s badminton team event

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Saina

Jakarta  |  An inconsistent Saina Nehwal saved four match points before losing to Nozomi Okuhara after PV Sindhu’s gritty win over world number one Japanese Akane Yamaguchi, as India crashed out of the Asian Games women’s badminton team event today.

The Indian women’s team, which won a historic bronze in the last edition in Incheon, lost the quarterfinal to the top-seeded and the most formidable team in the world.

It was always going to be a close affair between Sindhu and Yamaguchi but the Indians prevailed in the tight opening singles 21-18 21-19.

Sindhu, who took 41 minutes to put India ahead, had also beaten Yamaguchi at the recent World Championship on the way to the final.

N Sikki Reddy and Arathi Sunil struggled to contain unforced errors and lost tamely 15-21 6-21 to Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota, allowing the Japanese to make it 1-1.

In the crucial second women’s singles, Saina made a dramatic comeback and saved four match points in the second game, but eventually lost 11-21 25-23 16-21 after battling for one hour and 11 minutes.

Saina initially struggled to contain her unforced errors while Okuhara was disciplined. The Indian hit almost everything either over the line or on to the net but still made a stunning comeback.

She, though, could not take advantage of the momentum and lost five points in a row from 16-16 in the decider to lose the match to Okuhara, who felt the heat towards the end but was helped by the Indian’s inconsistency.

In the must-win fourth rubber, Sindhu and Ashwini Ponappa lost 13-21 12-21 to Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi, who were solid with their defence.

Okuhara stood out with her retrieving. There was just one point in the entire first game, which Saina dominated, and that too Okuhara prolonged with her amazing recovery and movement on the court.

Okuhara remained disciplined while Saina could not rein in the errors. The Indian was soon trailing 11-19. A smart winner from Okuhara sealed the opening game.

Okuhara stayed strong with her returns and court movement, racing to a 7-1 lead. Saina got her second point only when Okuhara committed a rare unforced error.

The Indian also struggled with her judgement in leaving the shuttles while Okuhara remained remarkably accurate.

From 7-15, Saina logged five straight points and turned the game on its head. She made it 20-20 from nowhere.

Saina buried a smash to the net to give Okuhara her fourth match point but saved it with another down the line smash. She had her first game point at 23-22 but hit long. She finally made it 1-1 when Okuhara failed to return a drop volley.

Egged on by her teammates, shouting ‘jeetega bhai jeetega India jeetega’, Saina yet again reduced the deficit to open up a two-point lead at first break.

With better control over her shots and agile movement, Saina kept troubling the Japanese. The two players were heading towards an exciting finish after being locked 16-16.

From there Saina lost five points in a row. At 16-17, she left the shuttle, thinking it was out, but it fell in.

Saina hit a smash out on the right side of Okuhara, looking for a winner, conceding a crucial three-point lead. Okuhara made sure there was no drama in the end and heaved a sigh of relief when Saina’s backhand return met with the net.

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Asia Cup: Rohit Sharma lauds Indian bowling unit for consistency

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Dubai | India captain Rohit Sharma was all praise for his bowling unit, which has consistently kept opposition teams on tight leash ensuring the side’s smooth passage into the Asia Cup final.

India have assured themselves a spot in the summit clash after winning two Super Four Games against Bangladesh and Pakistan respectively. The Indian bowlers have restricted Pakistan to 162 and 237 in two games while bowling out Bangladesh for 173.

“The entire bowling unit stuck to their task and hats off to them. Repeated performances are challenging in these conditions and I don’t want to take any credit away from bowlers,” said Rohit, who was involved in a double hundred partnership with Shikhar Dhawan. Rohit mentioned Jasprit Bumrah for his exceptional bowling in the ongoing tournament.

“I think he’s (Bumrah) matured as a bowler now, played great amount of cricket and he understands his bowling. I think that’s very very important for any individual; Bumrah understands what fields he needs to set and knows how to keep it tight. Bhuvi also did the same,” the skipper said.

Rohit was also happy that the strategy of playing four spinners, including part-timer Kedar Jadhav, has clicked so far with Ravindra Jadeja’s comeback adding a new dimension.

“When Hardik got injured, the challenge was to field four spinners and we thought about a few combinations (3 seamers, 4 spinners) and in these conditions, it is important to take the pace and not give much pace. For Jadeja, to come out and perform like that is amazing.”  They now have 13 century opening partnerships and Rohit feels batting with Dhawan becomes easy as both of them are clear about their roles.

“With Shikhar, I don’t need to talk much. It’s important to let him be himself. We have batted enough to know each other to start off like that and we clearly know our roles. We always knew that the new batsman will find it difficult to keep going straightaway and Shikhar and I knew it.”

On his own batting, the skipper spoke about how he has worked on his pull shots which have worked well for him during this tournament. “Nothing is easy (talking about the pulls for six). I have really worked hard on those kind of shots. When it comes off it really looks nice and I’ve gotten out a few times playing such shots.

“I back myself to play those shots. It’s important to put pressure on bowlers. They have one of the great bowling attacks. Taking nothing away from their bowling and they have troubled us in the past.”

Dhawan said he has become sensible in his shot selection of late, in white ball cricket, and it’s from Rohit that he has learnt to convert those 50s into 100s’

“…he’s very good at converting those 50s into 100s and that’s something I’ve learnt from him. It’s good that we both value our wicket. When you play 20 overs on this track, it gets easy. The plan was not to lose wickets in the first 10 overs as you might not get runs easily early on,” Dhawan said.

“I wanted to be sensible with my shots and I’ve thrown it away in the past and I have learnt the lessons the hard way. That’s the good for me and it’s nice to have that balance,” Dhawan said. Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed rued the couple of dropped catches of Rohit, which cost his team dearly in the end.

“We made it tough for ourselves by dropping those catches. We were 20-25 runs short and if we would have held on to our catches we could have possibly made things interesting.

“The wicket was a bit difficult to play on in the afternoon as the cracks had widened up. It wasn’t easy for a new batsman walking in. Had we got early wickets, this chase would have been certainly difficult. We have been losing a lot of wickets in the early overs and hence it becomes difficult to recover from such situations.” The Pakistan captain was all praise for the Indian centurions.

“The way they batted, all credit to them. Rohit and Dhawan were exceptional. They have shown better skills as compared to us. We need to work a lot on our skill level if at all we want to get into the final.

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Asia Cup: Mustafizur Raham keep Bangladesh in hunt

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Bangladesh

Abu Dhabi | Mustafizur Rahman held his nerve to bowl a fantastic final over as Bangladesh eked out a three-run win over a gutsy Afghanistan to stay afloat in the race for the Asia Cup final.

Afghanistan yet again came close to a victory against a top-Asian team but faltered at the finish line, losing the plot in the last 10 overs of the chase during Sunday’s match. They needed eight runs off the final over but experienced paceman Mustafizur conceded only four and also dismissed dangerous Rashid Khan (5).

Afghanistan looked well in control with Hashmatullah (71) and captain Asghar Afghan (39) going very strong after losing three wickets. They stitched a 78-run partnership for the fourth wicker but Bangladesh skipper Mashrafe Mortaza dismissed both to puncture Afghanistan hopes.

Mohammad Nabi (38) and Samiullah Shenwari (23 not out) produced a quick-fire 46-run stand for the sixth wicket but that was not enough as they ended with 246 for seven while chasing 250.

Mahmudullah (74) made it a memorable match for himself. After batting well at a crucial juncture, he dismissed Afghanistan opener Mohammad Shahzad (53) and also took a catch of the rival skipper.  Bangladesh now need to beat Pakistan on Wednesday to qualify for the summit clash.

Afghanistan bowlers could not capitalise on a dominant start upfront and allowed Bangladesh to score a competitive 249 for seven with Mahmudullah and Imrul Kayes repairing the innings with fighting half-centuries.

Mahmudullah and Kayes (72 not out), playing his first ODI in almost a year, shared a 128-run stand for the fifth wicket to lift their side from a precarious 87 for five after electing to bat.

The inexperience of Afghan bowlers showed yet again as they allowed the rivals to free themselves from their clutches. Mahmudullah played aggressive after completing his 20th ODI, twice lofting star Afghan spinner Rashid Khan over the ropes.

Rashid was well handled by the two batsmen. He could get only one wicket today and gave away 46 runs in his 10 overs. It was key in Bangladesh’s revival.

Mahmudullah’s knock came off 81 balls with three fours and two sixes while left-hander Kayes consumed 89 balls for his calculative unbeaten knock, which had six shots to the fence. The partnership broke towards the end of the innings when pacer Aftab Alam had Mahmudullah caught by Rashid.

At the top, only Liton Das could make his presence felt with a 41-run innings whiler Mushfiqur Rahim (33) frittered away a good start by running himself out.

The pace trio of Aftab Alam, Mujeeb ur Rahman and Gulbadin Naib had succeeded in straight-jacketing Bangladesh batsmen, keeping them under a tight leash with disciplined line and length. Alam got the better of Nazmul Hossain (6) while Mohammad Mithun (1) was done in by Mujeeb Ur Rahman.

Boundaries were far and few. Making it tougher for the Bangladesh was some terrific fielding by the gritty Afghans. After the top-order was removed, run outs of Shakib ul Hasan (0) and Rahim only added to their woes. However, Mahmudullah and Kayes ensured that the minnows do not take advantage of a brilliant start.

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I don”t have to prove anything to anyone: Ravindra Jadeja

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Ravindra Jadeja

Dubai  | Ravindra Jadeja kept a count of the number of days he was out of India’s One-day squad and once in, he made it count with four wickets and stated “I don’t have” to prove anything to anyone.

The left-arm spinner, who is also a handy bat, returned, in his own words, after around 480 days, with very impressive figures of 4/29 and bagged the Man-of-the-Match Award in India’s seven-wicket win over Bangladesh in the Asia Cup. “I will always remember this comeback because I returned to the team after a gap of around 480 days. The earlier gaps have not been this long,” Jadeja told reporters at the post-match press conference.

Making a statement of sorts, he said, “I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. What my ability is, I need to sharpen it. I don’t have to show anyone what I can do. I need to challenge myself.”

With less than a year left for the 2019 World Cup, Jadeja might have sent a timely reminder to the selectors about his prowess, but he said he was not thinking that far ahead.

“The World Cup is still some time away, we’re going to play a lot of matches before that, and I can’t comment on that yet. My ambition is to perform the way I did today whenever I get the opportunity. “Can’t think about it now. My focus is to perform in this series.”

Jadeja, back in the Indian One-Day International team for the first time since July 2017, foxed the Bangladesh batting line-up with his smart bowling.

“Even in Test cricket, because the last few series have been overseas, I haven’t been getting chances consistently. So I was determined that whenever I get the chance I will perform, that’s all that I can control. I was only focused about my own game and how I can improve further,” he said. The Saurashtra cricketer is known for his ability to bowl his spinning deliveries quickly.

“On a slow wicket, you have to bowl with more of your own effort. On a normal wicket, the ball goes through quickly after bouncing so it doesn’t give the batsman as much time. But on a slow wicket you have to bowl with more effort,” said Jadeja.

Regarding the last-minute developments prior to his latest limited overs comeback, he said, “I didn’t know that I got a call for a one-day team because I was playing for Vijay Hazare. I didn’t know what is going on here. The day before I got a call from the selector, he said I might have to go to Dubai, so be ready.

“I was playing Test cricket. Last few series were away so I didn’t play in it. I was concentrating on what is in my control, how to improve my game in away conditions. When I got a chance in England, I did well. Here, unfortunately, Axar (Patel) got injured and I got my opportunity and did well.”

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