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Second Test: India tighten grip against Sri Lanka on 2nd day

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Colombo, Aug 4: India rode on a strong batting performance and some superb bowling by star off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin to consolidate their advantage on the second day of the second cricket Test against Sri Lanka here on Friday.

India captain Virat Kohli decided on declaration during the last session of the day after the visitors had piled on a mammoth total of 622/9 in their first innings.

Ashwin made good use of the considerable turn being offered by the pitch to remove Lankan openers Dimuth Karunaratne and Upul Tharanga as the hosts posted 50/2 in their first innings at stumps. India now have a lead of 572 runs.

Kusal Mendis (16 batting) and Dinesh Chandimal (8 batting) were at the crease when the umpires decided to call it a day at the Sinhalese Sports Club.

Ashwin registered figures of 2/38. Left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja and fast bowler Mohammed Shami also bowled well, although both did not manage a wicket.

Earlier, the Indians rode on half-centuries from Jadeja, Wriddhiman Saha and Ashwin to post a big total.

Jadeja remained unbeaten on a quick 70 runs off 85 balls, which included four boundaries and three sixes. Saha and Ashwin made 67 and 54 respectively.

Off-spinner Rangana Herath was the most successful among the Sri Lankan bowlers with figures of 4/154. Left-arm spinner Malinda Pushpakumara returned with 2/156 while Karunaratne and Dilruwan Perera bagged a wicket each.

Resuming the day at 344/3, India lost Cheteshwar Pujara (133) in the second over of the day, trapped in front by part-timer Dimuth Karunaratne before Ajinkya Rahane (132) and Ashwin consolidated the innings with a 63-run fifth-wicket stand.

Pujara looked good during his brief stay on the second morning, fetching a boundary off Karunaratne, but the next delivery ended his 232-ball vigil.

The Saurashtra right-hander who had by now added 217 runs with Rahane, was hit on his thighs by a back of a length delivery from Karunaratne, resulting in loud appeals from the hosts.

The on-field umpire, however, did not budge and the home side immediately asked for a referral which got them the prized wicket.

The fall of Pujara, brought in the dependable Ashwin, who started briskly, striking two boundaries off Rangana Herath and Karunaratne before slowing down a bit.

The right-handed duo of Ashwin and Rahane continued to frustrate the Sri Lankans, stealing the odd boundaries and rotating the strike at a good rate to raise their 50-run stand in no time.

In his attempt to accelerate the scoring rate after India crossed the psychologically important 400-run mark, Rahane perished to debutant left-arm spinner Malinda Pushpakumara, smartly stumped by Niroshan Dickwella after facing 222 balls and sending the ball 14 times to the fence.

Rahane’s dismissal brought a sigh of relief to the Sri Lankan camp, as wicketkeeper-batsman Saha and Ashwin safely guided India to 442/5 at the lunch break.

The Sri Lankans started the post-lunch session on a promising note when Ashwin was bowled by Herath shortly after completing his half-century.

Ashwin, who notched up the 11th half-century of his Test career, faced 92 balls, hitting five boundaries and a six.

Hardik Pandya then scored 20 runs off as many deliveries before he mistimed his shot while trying to smash a Pushpakumara delivery out of the park only to see Angelo Mathews latch onto the skier at long-off.

Jadeja joined Saha in the middle and the duo added 72 runs between them to pile more pressure on the hosts.

Saha was batting comfortably but was stumped when he stepped out to a flighted delivery from Herath. His patient innings of 134 balls included four boundaries and a six.

Saha’s departure prompted Jadeja to up the ante and the Gujarat all-rounder brought up his half-century in style, flicking a Herath delivery off his pads for a boundary.

Shami played a brief, power-packed knock at the other end, smashing 19 runs off eight deliveries. He hit Herath into the stands off two consecutive deliveries before offering a skier to Tharanga at deep mid-wicket while going for a hat-trick of sixes.

Jadeja continued with his aggressive batting, stepping out to smash Herath for another six with Umesh Yadav also joining the party with a boundary off Dilruwan Perera.

Brief scores: Sri Lanka (first inings): 50/2 (Kusal Mendis 16 batting; Ravichandran Ashwin 2/38) vs India (first inings): 622/9 declared (Cheteshwar Pujara 133, Ajinkya Rahane 132, Ravindra Jadeja 70 not out; Rangana Herath 4/154).

IANS

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FIFA World Cup 2018: Tony Kroos fives Germany win over Sweden

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Sochi, June 24 : Tony Kroos produced a last gasp winner as Germany revived their campaign with a 2-1 win over Sweden in a Group F match of the FIFA World Cup here.

Ola Toivonen gave Sweden the lead with a superb finish in the 32nd minute during the match on Saturday.

Germany displayed large doses of their famed fighting spirit as they staged a strong comeback in the second half.

Marco Reus (48th minute) got the equaliser early in the second half.

Germany left everything to the last minute, scoring in the 95th minute, avoiding what could have been an embarrassing elimination from the World Cup in the group stage.

The Germans felt disaster coming when Ola Toinoven scored the first goal in the 32nd minute, giving Sweden a 1-0 lead by half time, Efe news reports.

To Germany’s relief, Marco Reus scored three minutes into the second half off a cross from the left by Timo Werner, giving his teammates the jolt of energy and confidence they needed.

Germany soon took control of the match, achieving nearly 80 per cent possession of the ball and finding several clear chances to score, although the Swedish defence held the line.

Even though Jerome Boateng received a red card in the 83rd minute, the Germans continued to play as one would expect from the former World Cup champions.

In the 89th minute, Germany’s Mario Gomez was close to scoring with a superb header that was deflected by keeper Robin Olsen.

It wasn’t until the 95th minute that Germany sealed their 2-1 victory with a free kick by Toni Kroos from the left of the box, beautifully curling the ball into the far corner of the net.

The rest of the game saw the Germans dominate as they created and wasted a hatful of chances.

The Swedish defence also did well, holding the defending champions at bay with some last ditch defending.

Kroos finally found the winner five minutes into second half added time when he curled in a free-kick at the far post.

Sweden and Germany are now tied in Group F with three points each, while Mexico is in first place with six points and South Korea is last with zero point.

Germany have three points from two matches and will face South Korea in their final group engagement.

Sweden, who had beaten the Koreans in their first match, remained on three points as well.

They will take on Mexico in their third and final group match.

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World Cup 2018: Germany face must-win against Sweden

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Sochi, June 23: Holders Germany will have to beat Sweden in order to avoid an early exit from the FIFA World Cup when the two sides meet in a crunch Group F clash at the Fisht Stadium here on Saturday.

Blessed with a strong squad brimming with talented players, Germany were hot contenders to become the first team in 56 years to retain the World Cup.

But after a shock 0-1 defeat to Mexico, the jolted four-time winners will have their task cut out against Sweden. A reversal will all but end their campaign.

“Everyone is aware that this is our first ‘final’, it’s annoying that it comes so early, but it’s self-inflicted,” team director Oliver Bierhoff was quoted as saying.

Germany were all over the place in the first half against Mexico and their heroics in Brazil four years ago seemed distant.

After the defeat, there have been catcalls to drop under-performing players like Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira.

Sweden, meanwhile, will believe they can cause another upset after their confidence lifting 1-0 win over Korea Republic. This was their first win in the competition since hosting the tournament in 1958.

The Swedes are no strangers to upsetting the odds, beating France during qualification and getting past Italy in the play-offs, so an under-performing German side will hold no fears for Janne Anderson’s men.

IANS

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FIFA WC 2018: Confident Mexico up against under-pressure Koreans

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Rostov-on-Don (Russia), June 23: A confident Mexico will be eyeing their second win to seal a pre-quarterfinal berth when they take on South Korea in a Group F match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup at the Rostov Arena here on Saturday.

The South Americans were impressive during their 1-0 win over defending champions Germany in their campaign opener where they put on one of the best team performances.

Meanwhile, the Asian side will be under pressure after going down 0-1 to Sweden on Monday and are facing the prospect of being eliminated at the group stage in a second consecutive World Cup.

Korea head coach Shin Tae-yong will certainly be wanting something special from his side to keep themselves alive in the mega event.

The Koreans played well in their first match, but found the going tough against the tall, physically strong Swedes.

While the Koreans did well in the midfield, the well-organised Sweden defence coupled with the Europeans’ physical advantage proved too much for them.

While most of the Mexican players do not have too much of a physical presence, their superior skills and tactical ability will present a different sort of challenge for the Koreans.

Mexico head coach Juan Carlos Osorio will be hoping for a repeat show from his side and despite being known for reshuffling his lineup, he is not expected to make much changes against the Koreans.

Hirving Lozano, star for Mexico against Germany, scored the only game of the match and will be eager to go against South Korea to find the back of the net again.

However, despite having a great start to their campaign and being favourites in Saturday’s clash, Mexico midfielder Marco Fabian believes his side has to still do a lot.

“We reached our first target and have beaten Germany, but we can’t sit back,” Fabian told the media.

“Some consider us to be group favourites now, and that’s a compliment – but it’s one we shouldn’t believe. There are no favourites in this World Cup,” he added.

On the other hand, Koreans after suffering a defeat by Sweden, would have to reconsider their 4-3-3 formation which handed space to their opponents in the first game.

South Korea midfielder Koo Ja-cheol said his teammates were preparing to tackle Mexico and had found striker Javier Hernandezas as one of the major threat.

“Of course we are not ready to give up. Everyone put in so much effort to get here,” Koo said.

“What we want is to turn fans’ disappointment into joy,” he added.

Overall, it will be a herculean task for the Asian outfit to pull off a victory against the Mexicans on Saturday.

IANS

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