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Chelsea slip into Premier League’s bottom half with 2-0 loss to Aston Villa

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John McGinn put the cap on Aston Villa’s impressive win at Chelsea.

Goals from striker Ollie Watkins and captain John McGinn earned Aston Villa all three points in a pulsating 2-0 Premier League mid-table win at Chelsea on Saturday.The result sent Villa into ninth in the table, leapfrogging Chelsea, who dropped into the bottom half.

Watkins took his chance in the 18th minute after a mistake from retreating defender Marc Cucurella, who headed a long ball into his path and he calmly lobbed his shot over advancing Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Chelsea, who enjoyed some 69% possession and more than two dozen shots but as so often this season proved toothless in front of goal, came out guns blazing in the second half only to concede a corner from a Villa break.The ball came out to McGinn and he sent a searing shot from 20 metres past the diving Kepa and into the bottom corner in the 56th minute.

“Everyone was flinging their bodies on the line,” McGinn told Sky sports. “This league’s difficult so to go on a run like we’ve done, and to stay so humble, to a man we were first class today.”

Villa’s World Cup winning goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez made flying saves from Mykhailo Mudryk and Joao Felix, but otherwise Chelsea produced tame efforts, dragged the ball wide or ran into well organised Villa defensive traffic.Villa, tight at the back and sparkling on the break, were solid, composed and inventive.

Boos and jeers echoed round Stamford Bridge as the home team and a dejected looking Graham Potter left the field, the pressure well and truly back on his shoulders.His side host Liverpool on Tuesday and play Real Madrid in the quarter-finals of the Champions League later this month.

“We have to accept it [the result] and do better,” he told Sky. “We can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We have a fantastic game on Tuesday to put it right,” Potter said.

“There were a lot of good things in the game, a lot of attacking entries and shots. If you look at the stats of the game it was a positive performance, but in terms of the scoreline it’s not. We’re all really disappointed.”

By contrast Villa, who have earned 29 points from 15 games since Unai Emery took over as coach last October, are two points adrift of the European places.



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West Indies and Afghanistan look to protect unbeaten records in last clash before Super Eight

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With a line-up packed with power-hitters from top to bottom, West Indies have always been the prototype of a perfect T20 batting side, and it’s no different at T20 World Cup 2024.  Add the incisive fast bowlers and effective spinners and they look like the team to beat.

The balance of the Rovman-Powell-led team resembles the ones they had during their title-winning runs in 2012 and 2016. Samuel Badree gave them successful starts with the ball with his legspin then, a role Akeal Hosein has assumed this time with his left-arm orthodox. It may not be a mere coincidence that Daren Samy, who captained West Indies to the title in those two editions, is at the helm as head coach now.

With all Super Eight spots decided, West Indies’ clash against Afghanistan has little significance. But try telling that to the players that. “Momentum” and “pride” were the keywords in the pre-match press conference that Powell and Afghanistan coach Jonathan Trott addressed.

Afghanistan will have tough competition in the Super Eight round, having been clubbed alongside India, Australia and Bangladesh, and will want to carry positive vibes into it. Having enjoyed an unbeaten run thus far, neither team will want to trip up heading into the business end of the competition.

Among those in the current squad, only Nicholas Pooran (1914) and Brandon King (1365) have more T20I runs for West Indies than Rovman Powell (1351). Pooran (487) and King (621) also are the top scorers for them in T20Is since January 2023 with Powell (461) at third. But Powell’s strike rate of 163.47 is far superior to that of the other two, which highlights his destructive powers. However, he is yet to fire in this World Cup – 39 runs in three matches at a strike rate of 105.40. A decent hit ahead of the Super Eight will bode well for the co-hosts.

Rashid Khan has six wickets in this World Cup, and all of them have come in the middle overs. In his T20I career, he has only nine wickets in eight matches against West Indies. They are one of only four teams against whom Rashid averages in the 20s. But against a line-up dominated by right-hand batters, Rashid should be licking his lips to have a perfect outing.

West Indies (probable): Brandon King, Johnson Charles, Nicholas Pooran (wk),  Roston Chase,  Rovman Powell (capt),  Andre Russell,  Sherfane Rutherford,  Akeal Hosein,  Romario Shepherd, Alzarri Joseph,  Gudakesh Motie.

Afghanistan (probable):  Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk),  Ibrahim Zadran,  Gulbadin Naib,  Azmatullah Omarzai,  Mohammad Nabi,  Najibullah Zadran,  Karim Janat,  Rashid Khan (capt),  Noor Ahmad,  Naveen-ul-Haq,  Fazalhaq Farooqi

[Cricinfo]

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Can Papua New Guinea spoil Boult’s T20 World Cup farewell plan?

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It's been a disappointing T20 World Cup for Kane Williamson and New Zealand  [ICC]

Is it one last time for New Zealand’s golden generation in T20Is? They only have three players under 30 in their side. None of their senior batters have come to the fore in the tournament so far. Trent Boult,  well, has been Trent Boult-ing, but he’s confirmed this will be his last T20 World Cup.

Though Kane Williamson believes it may not be the end of the road yet for many seniors, New Zealand bowing out of the tournament early will make them rethink the future.

They did come together to show their prowess against Uganda in the last game, rolling them over for 40. Though all of their bowlers made a mark, their batting unit, one of their biggest letdowns this tournament, did not get much time in the middle. The win also came a bit too late, their fate already sealed: they will not be heading to the knockout stage of a men’s World Cup for the first time since 2014.

Papua New Guinea, meanwhile, will be exiting with different emotions. They gave co-hosts West Indies a near scare in the first game. Their spinners bowled superbly in that game. Their fast-bowling unit has been impressive. This will be the first time these teams come up against each other. Can PNG’s bowlers challenge New Zealand’s demoralised batting unit?

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Mandhana century, Asha four-for give India a winning start

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Smriti Mandhana hit her sixth ODI century and her first at home [BCCI]

Smriti Mandhana’s outstanding century and a clinical bowling performance led by Asha Sobhana headlined India’s massive win as they went 1-0 up against South Africa in the first of the three ODIs in Bengaluru, on Sunday.

Mandhana’s 117, her first century at home and sixth in ODIs, rescued the hosts after they opted to bat first but suffered an early collapse. India added 166 runs after the fall of the fifth wicket, the most they have done in a women’s ODI,  to push their total from 99 for 5 to 265 for 8, which proved too much for South Africa, who had an underwhelming outing with the bat on a surface that offered variable bounce and turn.

The chase got off to a shaky start as South Africa lost Laura Wolvaardt, the returning Tazmin Brits and Anneke Bosch for 33 runs. Marizanne Kapp and Sune Luus chipped in briefly but none of the batters could negate the spin threat under lights at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium. Asha, showing no nerves on her debut, starred with four wickets to skittle the visitors for 122, handing India a 143-run victory.

A month after making her International debut at 33 in the T20Is against Bangladesh, Asha was handed the ODI cap, becoming India’s oldest debutant in this format as well. She was slotted in ahead of the offspinner Shreyanka Patil. That Asha has the knack of picking up big wickets in pressure situations was well-known after the WPL. On Sunday too, she showcased that control and maturity to tilt the momentum in India’s favour.

After India’s pacers and Deepti Sharma strangled South Africa’s top order, South Africa slowly found a way to get back into the contest, thanks to Kapp and Luus’ partnership. The duo had batted for more than ten overs after the fall of the third wicket and India knew a well-set Kapp could be a game-changer.

Having bowled two overs for eight runs, Asha came back for her second spell, in the 19th over. The legspinner started by conceding just two runs, getting enough drift and turn to slow down the scoring. After largely sticking to length deliveries in her first few overs, she floated one outside off this time, slow through the air, to deceive Kapp and force her to hit in the air towards cover where Harmanpreet was stationed. An easy catch for one of India’s best fielders gave Asha joy, and her maiden ODI wicket.

In her next over, Jemimah Rodrigues dropped Annerie Dercksen at point but a mix-up between her and Luus ended Dercksen’s innings as she was run out at the striker’s end.

At 75 for 5, South Africa were all but out of the game.

D Hemalatha and Rodrigues were back in the XI. Rodrigues was returning from a back niggle after missing out on the Bangladesh T20I series while Hemalatha, on the back of good performances against Bangladesh, made her way to the ODI setup.

In India’s last ODI series against Australia in December, head coach Amol Muzumdar had mentioned that Richa Ghosh would be suited for No. 3, with Harmanpreet and Rodrigues coming in after her. This was a deviation from her previous role where she was used as a finisher.

However, on Sunday, with Shafali Verma departing early for 7, Hemalatha slotted in at No. 3. She perished after a 16-ball 12. Rodrigues and Harmanpreet were India’s Nos. 4 and 5 and Ghosh back to the lower-middle order at No. 6. She survived four balls but was then caught behind for 3.

Ninety-two for three became 99 for 5 in the 22nd over and India were desperate for a big partnership. An ODI after a gap of six months, players are bound to be rusty. But not Mandhana. She put on a brisk 81-run stand for the sixth wicket with Deepti Sharma to lift the team past 250. Switching to the long format, the India vice-captain curbed her aggressive instinct to play along the ground to play long.

South Africa denied easy runs for India’s batters, with the likes of Dercksen and Ayobhanga Khaka targeting a stump-to-stump line. But Mandhana countered well, using the crease whenever the opportunity arose to play her pull and cut shots to manufacture runs. Though she and Deepti kept the scorecard ticking, there were also chances to convert the ones to twos.

Mandhana hit 12 fours – seven of them on the leg side – and a six. She was all clarity and calmness. After 32 overs, she batted cramps on her way to hundred. But it also forced her to find a few quick boundaries and forgo the singles.

Once Deepti departed for 37, Pooja Vastrakar joined Mandhana and this pair stitched a 58-run stand off 54 deliveries to give India the late push they wanted. South Africa let their guard down in the last ten overs, conceding 74 runs, with the humidity also playing a major factor in their sloppy fielding.

Mandhana played for 193 minutes and 42.3 overs overall to make 117. In the end, South Africa could post only five more than her score.

Brief scores:
India Women 265 for 8 in 50 overs  (Smriti Mandhana 117, Deepti Sharma 37, Pooja Vasttrakar 31*, ; Ayabonga Khaka 3-47, Masabata Klass 2-51) beat  South Africa Women 122 in 37.4 overs  (Marizanne Kapp 24,  Sunee Luus 33, Sinalo Jafta 27*; Deepti Sharma 2-10, Asha Sobhana 4-21) by 143 runs

[Cricinfo]

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