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Russia my last shot at World Cup glory, says Messi

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Lionel Messi

Buenos Aires, Dec 7: Barcelona star Lionel Messi has admitted that upcoming Football World Cup in Russia is likely to be his last chance to clinch a major international tournament for Argentina.

The 30-year-old footballer is still seeking his first senior trophy with the Albiceleste, having come painfully close in the past three and a half years as a losing finalist in the 2014 World Cup, 2015 Copa America and 2016 Copa America, IANS quoted citing  Xinhua news agency reported.

“People are waiting for this group to leave because it has not won for a long time and those who criticize get tired of always seeing the same faces,” Messi told in an interview TyC Sports.

“I think it’s the last opportunity for this group. There is a lot of excitement. If we do badly, the entire national team will have to disappear. It’s going to be very difficult for anyone to continue because we have already been here for a number of years”, he added.

Argentina endured a torrid qualifying campaign in South America’s CONMEBOL group, only attaining a World Cup place in the last match against Ecuador in October with a Messi-inspired 3-1 triumph in Quito.

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IND vs SL, 2nd ODI: India beat Sri Lanka by 141 runs, level series 1-1

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india vs sri lanka

Mohali, Dec 13: India thrashed Sri Lanka by 141 runs to not only avenge the loss in the series opener but also level the three-match rubber 1-1 in the second One-day International at the Punjab Cricket Association I.S. Bindra Stadium here on Wednesday.

Chasing a mammoth 394, most of the visiting batsmen failed to capitalise on their starts, barring Angelo Mathews, who stroked a patient unbeaten 132-ball 111 as Sri Lanka could only muster 251/8.

Put in to bat on a wintry sunny morning, Rohit and fellow opener Shikhar Dhawan (68 off 67, 4×9) laid the foundation with a solid 115-run opening stand before the Mumbai batsman bludgeoned his way to an unbeaten 153-ball 208, comprising 13 fours and 12 sixes.

Rohit, who fired his sixth ODI century of the year, was later engaged in another massive 213-run stand for the second wicket with rookie Shreyas Iyer (88 off 70; 4×9, 2×6).

The 30-year-old Rohit had nudged his way to his century off 115 balls by the end of the 40th over and then went on to thump 107 more off his final 37 balls.

He got to the landmark in 151 balls when he stole two runs after nudging a full length delivery off his counterpart Thisara Perera in the final over of the innings.

Coming into the match, the Mumbaikar was the only batsman to have hit two double tons. Rohit’s knock was the highest by an Indian captain against the islanders.

In reply, the islanders lost the opening duo of Upul Tharanga (7) and Danushka Gunathilaka (16) within the first powerplay even as Lahiru Thirimanne’s (21) poor run with the willow continued to haunt them.

While Tharanga and Gunathilaka fell to Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah respectively, Thirimanne’s attempt to reverse-sweep a flat delivery angling into middle, was enough for debutant off-spinner Washington Sundar to claim his maiden ODI scalp.

The three quick wickets brought in the experienced Mathews, who anchored the 53-run fourth wicket stand with stumper Niroshan Dickwella (22) before leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal got rid of the southpaw.

Reduced to 115/4, Asela Gunaratne (34) walked in to add 44 runs for the fifth wicket as Sri lanka crossed the 150-run mark with Mathews, nearing his half century.

But Chahal’s loopy legbreak cut short Gunaratne’s stay at the crease as stumper Mahendra Singh Dhoni didn’t waste a second in removing the bails.

Chahal then struck immediately with the wicket of Perera (5) before pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar came back to remove Sachith Pathirana (2) to reduce the tourists to 180/7.

With wickets tumbling at the other end, Mathews switched gears to reach within striking distance of his second ODI century, which came off 122 balls, when he nudged a delivery from Bhuvneshwar through mid-wicket for two runs even as the visitors fell short by 141 runs in the end.

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Sindhu, Srikanth aim to end 2017 on a high at Superseries Finals

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PV Sindhu Kidambi Srikanth

Dubai, Dec 12: Indian shuttlers P.V. Sindhu and Kidambi Srikanth will hope to end 2017 on a high when they compete in the season-ending World Superseries Finals, starting at the Hamadan Sports Complex here on Wednesday.

In the tournament featuring the eight best players and pairs of the World Superseries circuit across five categories, Srikanth, who has four men’s singles titles and Sindhu, with two titles, will be favourites in their respective sections.

Srikanth, 24, has been drawn in Group B alongside world champion Axelsen of Denmark, China’s Shi Yuqi and Chinese Taipei’s Chou Tien Chen.

Group A features top seed Son Wan Ho (Korea), All England and Hong Kong Open champion Lee Chong Wei (Malaysia), Ng Ka Long (Hong Kong) and China Open champion Chen Long (China).

The top two players in each group will progress to the semi-finals.

Srikanth, who clinched titles in Australia, Indonesia, Denmark and France, faces a daunting campaign-opener against defending champion Axelsen.

In the women’s singles, Sindhu has been clubbed in Group A with Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi, Sayaka Sato and China’s He Bingjiao.

Defending champion and the year’s most successful singles player, Chinese Taipei’s Tai Tzu Ying, finds herself in the company of last year’s runner-up Sung Ji Hyun (Korea), Denmark Open champion Ratchanok Intanon (Thailand) and World Championships bronze medallist Chen Yufei (China) in Group B.

Sindhu won Superseries titles in India and South Korea Open. The 23-year-old will begin her campaign against Bingjiao. The three-time World Championships medallist got a bronze last year and improving the colour of the medal will be on her mind this time.

“There are going to be some long matches,” anticipated Sindhu, looking at the draw. “Of course Nozomi (Okuhara) and Carolina (Marin) weren’t able to make it, but the other top players are here. I have to play my game and I need to concentrate on each match.

“Since the semi-final places might be decided by the number of games won and lost if the players have an equal number of wins, it’s important to try to win every game.”

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IND vs SL, 1st ODI: Sri Lanka defeat India by 7 wickets to take 1-0 lead in series

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Dharamsala, Dec 10: Sri Lanka dominated with both bat and ball to outclass India by seven wickets in the first One-day International (ODI) at the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium here on Sunday.

After opting to field, Sri Lanka rode on career best figures of 4/13 from pacer Suranga Lakmal to restrict India to a lowly total of 112 runs. The right-arm seamer’s previous best of 4/30 was against England in December 2014.

Opener Upul Tharanga (49) then helped Sri Lanka chase down the target with a massive 29.2 overs to spare, taking a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.

For India, pacers Bhuvneshwar Kumar (1/42), Jasprit Bumrah (1/32) and Hardik Pandya (1/39) scalped a wicket each.

Sri Lanka endured a rough start to their innings, losing Danushka Gunathilaka (1) and Lahiru Thirimanne (0) within the first 10 overs.

But the experienced Tharanga brought the chase back on track, smashing 10 boundaries in his 46-ball innings. He also formed a 46-run third wicket stand with Angelo Mathews (25 not out).

However, Tharanga was sent back to the pavilion before completing his half century from a delivery by medium-pacer Hardik Pandya which was edged and easily carried at first slip by Shikhar Dhawan.

Later, incoming batsman Niroshan Dickwella (26 not out) and Mathews helped their side post 114/3 and clinch victory in 20.4 overs.

Earlier, Lakmal took a four-wicket haul as Sri Lanka dismissed India for a paltry 112 runs.

For India, middle-order batsman Mahendra Singh Dhoni (65) played a fighting innings to help the hosts register a three-digit total.

After being asked to bat first, India lost their top order — Rohit Sharma (2), Shikhar Dhawan (0), Shreyas Iyer (9), Dinesh Karthik (0) and Manish Pandey (2) — in quick succession.

Sri Lankan opening bowlers Lakmal and Nuwan Pradeep (2/37) combined well.

Later, Dhoni played a cautious innings, hitting loose balls to the fence to claim his 67th ODI half-century.

The veteran stumper’s valiant 87-ball innings was laced with 10 boundaries and two hits over the fence.

Kuldeep Yadav (19) from the other end played a perfect second fiddle, notching a 41-run crucial eighth wicket stand with Dhoni.

However, Yadav, who hit four boundaries, was sent back by Akila Dananjaya when his ball went past the outside edge. He was easily stumped by Niroshan Dickwella.

Later, Jasprit Bumrah (0) and Yuzvendra Chahal (0 not out) failed to get amongst the runs.

Dhoni, who stood firm while wickets kept falling, was the last man to be dismissed off a length delivery by Thisara Perrera which was chipped in the air and caught easily by Danushka Gunathilaka at the cover boundary.

Brief scores: Sri Lanka 114/3 (Upul Tharanga 49, Niroshan Dickwella 26 not out; Bumrah 1/32) against India 112. 

IANS

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