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Kiwi players’ experience their USP, feels coach Stead

e have won a lot of tight games and that’s particularly satisfying… against Bangladesh, West Indies, South Africa, India… they could have gone either way,”

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London, July 12 (IANS) New Zealand coach Gary Stead is high on confidence and doesnt believe that the Kiwis are underdogs going into the final of the World Cup against hosts England at the Lords on Sunday.

“There is a lot of fight and steeliness in the way we have played. We don’t have to play the perfect game. What we have to do is to be able to adapt to the conditions in front of us. Working out that 240 (against India) is a good score is the strength the guys have. Guys like Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Tom Latham… they have a lot of experience.

“There was a lot of talk before the tournament about scores of 350. We didn’t make any, but just adapted to the conditions. I just hope we keep putting the best foot forward for the final. I don’t know who is the underdog here. That’s for the media to say… We are going in with a 50-50 chance and we need to be a little bit better than England on Sunday,” Stead said with a smile.

On the semifinal encounter against India, the head coach said: “When we started the game, we thought we could get 300, but quickly assessed that maybe 250 could be the target we should aim for. When we got somewhere close, we knew we were in with a chance.

“The opening spells of Matt Henry and Trent Boult were absolutely superb. The Indian bowlers also bowlerd superbly upfront. But we managed to get the edges and some nicks that put us on the front foot. Then came a period which was a battle of attrition, we never thought we are going to blast them out. We trust our resources in the bowling department. But Ravindra Jadeja and M.S. Dhoni’s partnership was outstanding. It was another example of how our guys stood up to pressure.”

Stead said that the goal of the support staff was no different from that of the players.

“Our (support staff) goal is no different from the players. It’s to take the team as far as possible in the competition. The most satisfying thing for me is to put plans in place and the contingencies. I said at the start of the tournament that it’s not a 350 tournament because World Cups have a different pressure. When you play everyone then the competition becomes cut-throat.

“We have won a lot of tight games and that’s particularly satisfying… against Bangladesh, West Indies, South Africa, India… they could have gone either way,” Stead said.

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Sania scripts dream return, clinches doubles title in Hobart

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Hobart: Indian tennis star Sania Mirza along with Nadiia Kichenok came out with yet another brilliant performance as they defeated the China’s Peng Shuai and Zhang Shuai in straight sets to win the women’s doubles title at Hobart International on Saturday.

Former doubles No.1 Mirza and Kichenok defeated the second-seeded Chinese duo 6-4, 6-4 in a rather one-sided contest which lasted one hour and 21 minutes.

The Indo-Ukrainian pair were the first to break in each set, but ultimately needed to wrap up the match by delivering the deciding breaks late. The unseeded duo won the last three games of the opener, and eight of the last 10 points to seal victory, having nearly seen a double-break advantage slip away.

Though the duo won six straight games from 3-4 in the opener to lead 6-4, 3-0, the 33-year-old Indian was the one who saw her serve broken twice as the Chinese eventually restored parity at 4-4.

Nonetheless, Mirza and Kichenok finished the match off in style with their fifth break of the match, before the Ukrainian served out the match and the victory for the team.

It is Mirza’s first WTA title in just over two years and 42nd of her storied doubles career, while Kichenok won her fifth, and first since partnering her twin sister, Lyudmyla, to win the WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai in 2018.

The Indian star last won a trophy alongside Bethanie Mattek-Sands at the Brisbane International in the first week of the 2017 season, one of three doubles finals she reached that year before announcing her pregnancy in April of 2018.

Three-time doubles Grand Slam winner Mirza was making a return to competition after a two-year hiatus away from tennis, initially due to injuries and then welcoming a son in October 2018.

The former world No.1 won the Australian Open doubles title in 2016 following a successful 2015 season in which she claimed the Wimbledon and US Open doubles titles, all paired with Martina Hingis.

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Rajkot ODI: India level series with 36-run win

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Rajkot, Jan 17 : India beat South Africa by 36 runs in the second ODI at the SCA stadium in Rajkot to level the three-match series between the two sides 1-1. Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul and Virat Kohli helped India post a total of 341 to chase. In response, Australia were all out for 304 despite Steve Smith scoring 98.

Openers David Warner and Aaron Finch, who posted a record 258-run stand to help Australia stroll to a win in the first ODI, could not do a repeat of their heroics with the former being dismissed in the fourth over. Smith came in at number three and put up 62 with Finch before the Australian captain fell to Ravindra Jadeja on account of a close stumping call in the 16th over.

Finch had attempted to hit Jadeja over extra cover but missed the delivery due to the turn. Finch dragged his backfoot marginally outside the crease and wicketkeeper Rahul whipped the bails off immediately. Replays made it a tough call for the umpire to make but the decision went India’s way in the end.

However, Marnus Labuschagne, playing his first ODI innings, stuck on with Smith and the pair gave Australia the upper hand in the middle overs. They put up 96 for the third wicket before Labuschagne holed out at mid-off off Jadeja on 46. Smith however looked settled and was cruising to his ninth ODI ton when a loose shot cost him his wicket.

Kuldeep Yadav, who was wicketless in the first eight overs, bowled the 38th over and got Carey when the latter sent the ball straight to Kohli at extra cover. It was Kuldeep’s 100th ODI wicket and two balls later, Smith played on and had to walk back two runs shy of his hundred.

Ashton Turner and Pat Cummins were dismissed off consecutive deliveries by Mohammed Shami in the 44th over. Both players were done in by pinpoint yorkers directed at the middle stump. Shami sent in a leg stump yorker for his hat-trick ball and hit Mitchell Starc on his pads but the umpire didn’t raise his finger with the ball clearly going down the leg side.

Navdeep Saini then got India closer in the 47th with the wickets of Ashton Agar and Starc off the first and third balls of the over. Kane Richardson then delayed the inevitable by smashing Mohammed Shami for three fours and a six in the penultimate over. Jasprit Bumrah ended the match by dismissing Adam Zampa off the first ball of the last over.

Earlier, Shikhar Dhawan scored his third straight fifty with a sublime 96 from 90 balls, his innings laced with 13 fours and a six as skipper Kohli smashed a 76-ball 78 (6×4). But it was Rahul, batting at No.5 who gave India the much-needed push in the last ten overs with his aggressive batting and range of shots. Rahul was run out in the final over for 80 off just 52 balls, his quickfire knock studded with six fours and three sixes.

For the Aussies, leg-spinner Adam Zampa was the pick of the bowlers with figures of 3/50.

The decisive third ODI will be played on Sunday at the Chinnaswamy stadium in Bengaluru.

Brief scores: India: 340/6 in 50 overs (Shikhar Dhawan 96, KL Rahul 80, Virat Kohli 78; Adam Zampa 3/50) vs Australia 304 (Steve Smith 98, Marnus Labuschagne 46; Mohammed Shami 3/77)

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Anand gets past Xiong for first win in Tata Steel Masters

It was a French Defence Winawer variation where none of the players castled throughout the game.

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Viswanathan Anand

Eindhoven (The Netherlands), Jan 17 : Five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand beat Jeffery Xiong of the United States to notch up his first victory in the Tata Steel Masters chess tournament here on Friday.

Anand was struggling for form but roared back to notch a win after one loss and three draws.

The Indian was very good in the round four match, playing some brilliant chess.

It was a French Defence Winawer variation where none of the players castled throughout the game.

Anand fired a king side attack early with his white pieces and enjoyed spatial advantage in the middle game.

Xiong tried to keep him at bay but in the end Anand found a crucial central breakthrough after which the resulting rook and pawns endgame was a walk in the park.

Anand moved to joint sixth spot with 2.5 points on a day.

Firouzja Alireza also scored a victory over Anish Giri of Holland.

Anish Giri dropped to 11th spot along with Nikita Vituigov of Russia on two points, Yu Yangyi of China is in 13th spot on 1.5 points and Kovalev stands last with just one point in his bag. Eight rounds still remain in the marathon event among 14 players.

Magnus Carlsen’s form was not too good even though he played his 112th game without a defeat.

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