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



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


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Djokovic sets up Alcaraz rematch in Wimbledon final




Novak Djokovic is trying to match Roger Federer's total of eight Wimbledon titles [BBC]

Novak Djokovic outclassed Italian underdog Lorenzo Musetti to reach the Wimbledon final and set up a showdown with reigning champion Carlos Alcaraz in a repeat of last year’s final.

The 37-year-old impressed as he stayed on course for a record-equalling eighth men’s singles title at Wimbledon with a 6-4 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 victory on Centre Court.

Musetti, 22, had one chance to get the break back in the final set but sent a forehand into the net and crouched down with his head in his hands, knowing the end was near.  Djokovic made sure his opponent did not get another opportunity.

Under pressure, Musetti sent a shot long before Djokovic walked to the net, knowing he had reached his 37th Grand Slam final and 10th at Wimbledon.

The Serb then moved his racquet over his shoulder and imitated playing a violin, in a gesture aimed at his six-year-old daughter Tara, with television cameras showing her grinning along.

Some fans, however, started booing, thinking Djokovic, who produced the same celebration following his win over Holger Rune in the last 16, was being disrespectful.

Alcaraz beat Djokovic in last year’s showpiece, winning 1-6 7-6 (8-6) 6-1 3-6 6-4 in a five-set epic, which lasted four hours 42 minutes and is regarded one of the best matches in the tournament’s history.

The pair meet again on Sunday in what could be another amazing chapter in Wimbledon folklore.

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Top ICC official Chris Tetley and Claire Furlong resign




There was a lot of scrutiny of the matches in the US leg of the World Cup, particularly the games held in New York

A couple of senior officials from the International Cricket Council (ICC), who were closely involved in organizing the Twenty20 World Cup in the US and the West Indies, have resigned. On Friday, it came to light that Chris Tetley, the ICC’s Head of Events, and Claire Furlong, the General Manager of Marketing and Communications, have announced their departures from the organization.

The resignations, coming as they did immediately after the conclusion of the World Cup and just about a week ahead of the ICC’s annual conference in Colombo, are believed to be related to the conduct of the championship. However, ICC insiders say the resignations are several months old.

One particular source has claimed that both Tetley and Furlong decided to leave the world body at the end of the last commercial cycle itself but stayed on in view of the Twenty20 World Cup in the US. The source went on to add that the two quit quite some time back but will continue to be with the ICC for a few more months ‘to ensure smooth transition of charge in a crowded event cycle.’ They will also attend the Annual Conference in Colombo from July 19 to 22.

The World Cup in the US, and particularly in New York, was a major project of the ICC and the two officials were closely involved in it. Many members of the ICC were priming to raise the issue of the New York games, which were low-scoring affairs due to the ‘up and down’ nature of the drop-in pitches at the NY stadium, at the Colombo conclave. A key member of the ICC board is learnt to have raised the issue through a letter to the members.

The number of fours and sixes, which are generally expected to be high in numbers in the Twenty20 games, was significantly low in the New York games. The Indian team, the eventual champions, however, did not comment on the nature of the pitches, stating that the conditions were equal for all the participating teams.

The matches in the US were conducted by an entity called T20 World Cup Inc which had built a modular stadium in the Nassau County of New York’s Long Island in record time. The stadium was dismantled immediately after the NY leg of the championship. NY hosted eight of the 16 games allotted to the US.

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Junior National Athletics Championship commences today



The spotlight will fall on the Under 20 age category when the Junior National Athletics Championship commences at Diyagama today as the four-day championship will be the final opportunity to qualify for the World Junior Championships.

Six athletes have already reached entry standards for the world event to be held in Lima, Peru in August.

Sri Lanka Athletics has spelt out the plan to form a team for the costly tour also leaving a space for those athletes who excel in the Under 18 age category. The World Junior Championship is open to Under 20 age category.

The day one programme includes at least ten events in the Under 20 age category.

However, it is not only the athletes in the Under 20 age category that will compete for honours.

The event will be vital for athletes in the Under 16, Under 18 and Under 23 age categories as well.

The Junior National Athletics Championship was earlier scheduled for June but inclement weather forced Sri Lanka Athletics to postpone the event to July. This postponement has affected athletes of some areas as some zonal championships commence during the Junior National.

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