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South Africa target four-in-four with Nepal preparing for Kingstown party

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If crowd support could win you matches, Nepal wouldn't lose too many [ICC]

A tournament of firsts has an addition: this is the first time South Africa and Nepal will meet on the international circuit. And they do so from opposite ends of the group’s points table.

South Africa advanced to the Super Eight after the Nepal-Sri Lanka washout, but would have likely made it there anyway. They have won all three of their matches so far – two by close margins – and are looking like one of the form teams.

Nepal have yet to win a match – and have in fact only played one full game – but they might feel they have already enjoyed some success. A 7000-strong crowd in Dallas, made up almost entirely of their supporters, cheered Nepal through their opening game against Netherlands. But their batting wilted under pressure from the Netherlands seamers, which does not bode well for them coming up against South Africa, whose fast bowlers have been exceptional.

South Africa’s main concern coming into the tournament was the form of Anriche Nortje  but he is back to, and perhaps even better than, his previous best. Nortje has reached speeds of 150kph-plus, has shown off a good slower ball, is taking wickets, and is now two away from Dale Steyn’s record as South Africa’s leading bowler in men’s T20 World Cups.  Nortje and Otteniel Baartman  with all his variations, have formed a formidable first and second change and have eclipsed Marco Jansen and Kagiso Rabada.

It is yet to be seen how much of a role the spinners will play – and remember South Africa have included three specialists in their squad but only used one, Keshav Maharaj, so far – and the trip to the Caribbean might reveal that. Should things take a turn in the direction of the spinners, Nepal are well resourced with the addition of Sandeep Lamichane for the West Indian leg of the tournament.

Sandeep Lamichhane, Nepal’s best-known player, has not played an international match since November last year after being convicted of and then acquitted for rape. The latter came ten days before participating teams had to name their final squads for the tournament and his name was not on Nepal’s initial list. Cleverly, they only included 14 players. But Lamichhane was subsequently denied a visa to enter the USA and had to miss Nepal’s first two games, but has reached St Vincent.

All this for what, you may wonder? Well, Lamichhane is match-winner, who was the fourth-leading wicket-taker in ODIs last year, and played a key role in Nepal reaching the World Cup Qualifiers. He has described playing at a World Cup as “fulfilling my dream of all cricket lovers”  and big things are expected of him.

The one aspect of South Africa’s game that needs improving is the performance of the top-three batters, who have collectively scored just 61 runs from nine trips to the crease. That may be due to the difficulties of the New York surfaces, where they played all their matches, and could change if conditions are less tricky in the Caribbean. Still, Quinton de Kock,  who is likely playing his last international event, Reeza Hendricks,  who was overlooked in 2022 and may feel the pressure to prove why that was the wrong decision, and Aiden Markram who is captaining, will want to do better. De Kock and Markram have both made some starts but Hendricks is particularly short of runs. With Ryan Rickelton in the squad, he will know he has some competition.

Nepal will have to leave someone out to make space for Lamichhane, if he is available for selection, and it could be left-arm spinner Sagar Dhakal, who was economical but went wicketless against Netherlands.

Nepal: Kushal Bhurtel,  Aasif Sheikh (wk), Anil Sah,  Rohit Paudel (Capt), Kushal Malla,  Dipendra Singh Airee,  Sompal Kami,  Gulshan Jha,  Karan KC,  Sagar Dhakal/Sandeep Lamichhane,  Abinash Bohara

Unlike Australia, who may or may not empty their bench against Scotland, South Africa are not considering anything other than fielding what they believe is their best XI. White-ball coach Rob Walter was clear that the top three will be given the opportunity to get some runs, while any changes to the attack will only be conditions-based.

South Africa: Quinton de Kock (wk),  Reeza Hendricks, Aiden Markram (capt),  Tristan Stubbs,  Heinrich Klaasen,  David Miller,  Marco Jansen,  Keshav Maharaj,  Kagiso Rabada,  Ottneil Baartman,  Anrich Nortje

[Cricinfo]



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Djokovic sets up Alcaraz rematch in Wimbledon final

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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

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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

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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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