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“Virat Kohli is the form batsman for last 12 months”

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Virat Kohli

England batsman Jos Buttler has taken world cricket by storm in the past year and if the recent series against Pakistan was anything to go by, he will be the biggest threat for opposition bowlers as teams gear up to play in the 2019 World Cup in England and Wales. Despite dominating the headlines in the last year with his consistent show, Buttler considers India skipper Virat Kohli as the ‘form batsman going into the showpiece event.

Speaking to IANS, Buttler not only professed his admiration for Kohli, but also revealed how the time he spent with former Australia skipper Steve Smith during the IPL (playing for Rajasthan Royals) helped him learn about the amazing work ethics of the batsman who is hungry to show the world what they missed while he served a 12-month ban after the Sandpaper Gate in 2018.

“Both obviously amazing batters, I first time saw Steve up so close this IPL, it was a great experience to watch him go about his practice and his work ethics. As for Virat, we all know what a fantastic player he is and has been. He is probably the ‘form batsman’ for the last 12 months in the world. Two fantastic players, very different styles, but both very impressive,” he said.

While pundits feel that how Buttler goes about his business at the top of the innings for England will decide the fate of the hosts in this edition of the showpiece event, the batsman picks Ben Stokes for special mention.

“Ben is the biggest key player really for England. He balances the side brilliantly in the way he can bat and bowl and has a great influence on the whole team. He is one of the best all-rounders in the world and I am looking forward to him showing that with some quality performances in the World Cup,” he pointed.

Talking of his own journey in the last year, Buttler feels the elevation to the top of the innings while playing for Rajasthan in the IPL changed the course of his career.

“It has been an incredible year personally. I think last year when I started with the Royals, I was doing okay, but I wasn’t quite feeling like I was showing exactly what I was capable of and a change to the top of the order coincided with a great run of form and from there I was very lucky to be involved with England in Test match cricket and had a really enjoyable summer. Have been riding that wave ever since and looking to make it continue and last as long as possible,” he smiled.

England are touted as favourites going into the World Cup and Buttler believes it is the result of the effort that the team has put in over the last couple of years. But he is quick to add that all these mean nothing once the tournament gets underway on May 30.

“I think it is good to be favourites as that shows that you have been doing some really good stuff leading into the tournament. But it doesn’t really count for much when you get into the tournament. We just have to stick to what we have been doing and what has worked well for us. If we see around the world, every side has got some dangerous players and say for example we came up against an in-form Chris Gayle in the West Indies and a player like him can make life extremely tough for whoever you are. We just have to trust ourselves and take one game at a time,” he revealed.

Finally, with the World Cup being played in England, there is bound to be the pressure of expectations from friends and family, but Buttler just wants to go out and enjoy the ride.

“It is obviously a huge thing and as a side we have been planning and building for it for a number of years. With it being in England, it is hugely exciting for English cricket and I feel very lucky to be a part of it. Very excited about it,” he said.

(Baidurjo Bhose can be contacted at [email protected])

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Bengaluru ODI: Smith ton takes Australia to 286/9 vs India

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India Vs Australia
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Bengaluru, Steve Smith slammed a magnificent century as Australia put up 286/9 in 50 overs against India in the third and series-deciding final one day international here on Sunday.

Former captain Smith brought up his ninth 100 in 117 balls, third against India and got out on 131 from 132 deliveries as he tried to change gears and was caught at deep midwicket by Shyreyas Iyer off Mohammed Shami who was India’s best bowler.

Smith had hit 14 fours and a six in his innings. Despite restricting Australia to a score below 300 on what is generally a batsman-friendly track in Bengaluru, India had given away as many as 27 extras.

Shami (4/63) came back for his second spell in the end and picked up four wickets to shave off Australia’s tail and rein in on their scoring to not allow them to get to 300. Pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah was brilliant too although he went wicketless, giving away just 38 runs in 10 overs.

Besides Smith, fast-rising Marnus Labuschagne notched up his maiden ODI fifty as he scored 54 from 64 balls (5×4).

Smith and Labuschagne shared a 127-run stand for the third wicket which formed the visitors’ bedrock after electing to bat first.

India were dealt a blow early on as senior opener Shikhar Dhawan had to go for an x-ray with a call on whether he will take any further part to be taken once he is assessed.

Dhawan was taken off the field after he hurt his left shoulder in the series-deciding tie after he dived to save an Aaron Finch shot in the cover region before hurting his left shoulder in the fifth over.

India made early inroads as Mohammed Shami found David Warner’s outside edge to wicketkeeper K.L. Rahul who was played ahead of fit-again Rishabh Pant. Warner was gone for just three with his captain Finch (19) following suit soon, albeit in frustrating manner as he was run out due to indecision on Smith’s part while taking a single in the 9th over.

A livid Finch stormed out of the ground with the visitors in a spot of bother at 46/2. But as has been the case so often of late in Test cricket, Smith and Labuschagne joined hands to bring the team on track.

Similar in their playing style, the pair used square of the wicket a lot to score runs and punished the bad ball although Labuschagne was lucky not to get run out after Kuldeep Yadav failed to collect a Yuzvendra Chahal throw from the deep.

Smith got to 53 in 63 balls as he looked as consistent as ever with Labuschagne also notching up his maiden half century in 50-over cricket as he got to 53 in 60 deliveries.

It took a breathtaking catch from Indian captain Virat Kohli to break the stand as Labuschagne looked to accelerate in the 32nd over. The 25-year old played an inside out drive off Ravindra Jadeja which Kohli plucked inches off the grass diving low to his right.

Mitchell Starc was sent to bat at No.5 in a bid to up the ante and score briskly, but the experiment failed as Jadeja had him caught at deep mid-wicket fence by substitute Chahal to complete a two-wicket maiden 32nd over.

Alex Carey (35) and Smith associated for a quickfire 58-run partnership before Kuldeep got a timely breakthrough as Carey holed out to Shreyas Iyer at deep cover.

Bumrah followed it up with a near-perfect 43rd over, just conceding one run off the final delivery as Ashton Turner huffed and puffed at the crease.

Smith brought up his hundred by running a Navdeep Saini delivery down to third man but his celebration said it all as the Aussies fell behind in their run-scoring with Turner struggling to eventually get out caught behind in the same over.

Shami then removed Smith, Pat Cummins (0) and Adam Zampa (1) with toe-crushing yorkers as India ended on a high. Ashton Agar was not out on 11.

Australia made one change to the side, bringing in Josh Hazlewood for Kane Richardson while India named the same team.

Brief scores: Australia 286/9 in 50 overs (Steve Smith 131, Marnus Labuschagne 54; Mohammed Shami 4/63) vs India.

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Tata Steel Chess: Anand draws with Jorden van Foreest

It was the 18th straight draw between him and Fabiano Caruana of the United States in the Classical time control.

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Viswanathan Anand

Wijk Aan Zee (The Netherlands), Jan 18 : Five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand was on Saturday held to a draw by Dutch Jorden Van Foreest in the sixth round of Tata Steel Masters.

Veteran Anand faced the Four Knights opening in the sixth round as black and unleashed an attack in the centre early by sacrificing two pawns.

Anand tried to make inroads as White’s king was stuck around the centre for a long time and
it was a cautious move by both players especially after white lost back one pawn.

The draw was agreed upon once Anand picked the second pawn.

Anand remained in joint sixth spot after three points from six games.

Anand needs a powerful finish to be in with a chance of finishing on the podium with seven rounds still remaining.

Meanwhile, World champion Magnus Carlsen’s got a sixth draw on the trot as his search for an elusive win continued.

It was the 18th straight draw between him and Fabiano Caruana of the United States in the Classical time control.

Elsewhere, Anish Giri bounced back from his previous round loss to defeat Vladislav Kovalev of Belarus while Daniil Dubov thrashed his Russian compatriot Vladislav Artemiev.

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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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