Captaincy row rages as Black Caps head to South Africa

Updated 13 December 2012
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Captaincy row rages as Black Caps head to South Africa

WELLINGTON: New Zealand cricket chiefs issued a public apology to axed captain Ross Taylor yesterday, as a weakened Black Caps side prepared to depart for South Africa without the in-form batsman.
Taylor opted to sit out the tour against the Proteas after being replaced as skipper by opener Brendon McCullum last Friday, leaving a gaping hole in the New Zealand batting line-up as the side faces the world’s top-ranked Test team.
The axing also exposed deep divisions within New Zealand cricketing circles and provoked a backlash against administrators over Taylor’s treatment.
New Zealand Cricket (NZC) chairman Chris Moller acknowledged the issue could have been handled better, but stood by the decision to appoint McCullum and said there would be no sackings at the organization.
“The board has reviewed all aspects of the captaincy issue and wishes to publicly place on record its apologies to Ross Taylor and his family for the manner in which events have unfolded,” Moller told reporters.
The drama is a distraction any team poised to confront the Proteas at home could do without, let alone one ranked eighth in the world and already without star spinner Dan Vettori and gifted batsman Jesse Ryder.
“What’s unfolding at the moment is very disappointing,” McCullum, a close associate of coach Mike Hesson, told reporters this week after denying he had any role in Taylor’s downfall.
“I’m sure that will all heal in due course,” he added.
McCullum’s optimism appears misplaced, as cricketing greats and media commentators called for heads to roll at NZC amid claims the sport has lost its way under the current leadership.
Former coach Mark Greatbatch called for Moller’s departure yesterday, accusing him on commercial radio of being “involved with too many underhand dealings in the last two or three years.”
Former captain Martin Crowe has demanded NZC’s entire top echelon, including Hesson, stand down, saying they had permanently damaged cricket in New Zealand, where popularity for the sport runs a distant second to rugby union.
Taylor himself has accused NZC of lying by saying he was initally asked to stay on as Test captain when told before the first Test against Sri Lanka in Galle last month that the team’s leadership would be changed.
Dominion Post columnist Mark Reason said Taylor was New Zealand’s only Test-class batsman, averaging 43.45, and slammed the way he had been treated.
“Whatever happened to loyalty? New Zealand Cricket has shamed us all,” he wrote.
However Taylor, who presided over a string of disappointing results in his 16 months as captain, has also faced criticism, with the New Zealand Herald’s Chris Rattue accusing him of abandoning a team that desperately needs him.
“(He) is starting to come across as a prima donna,” Rattue wrote, saying the South Africa tour was looming as a potential disaster without him.


Heartbreak for Mohamed Salah and Egypt as Russia all but secure last-16 spot

Updated 19 June 2018
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Heartbreak for Mohamed Salah and Egypt as Russia all but secure last-16 spot

ST. PETERSBURG: Russia scored three goals in a 15-minute span early in the second half to set up a 3-1 win over Egypt on Tuesday, moving the host nation to the brink of the World Cup’s knockout stage.
Mohamed Salah won and converted a penalty for a consolation goal on his return from injury but Egypt’s first World Cup in 28 years could be over in barely five days following a second straight loss.
Ahmed Fathi poked the ball into his own net — the fifth own-goal of the tournament — to put Russia ahead in the 47th minute. Then Denis Cheryshev and Artyom Dzyuba scored in quick succession to leave Russia on course for a victory that followed up a 5-0 opening-night win over Saudi Arabia.
It was Cheryshev’s third goal of the World Cup, putting him tied with Cristiano Ronaldo at the top of the scoring chart.
Russia’s place in the round of 16 will be assured if Uruguay wins or draws against the Saudis on Wednesday. Those two scenarios would also eliminate Egypt, which started with a 1-0 loss to Uruguay.
The hopes of 100 million Egyptians were raised when Salah was selected in the starting lineup, the Liverpool forward making his comeback after 3 1/2 weeks out with damaged ligaments in his left shoulder after a tangle with Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos in the Champions League final.
Salah trotted out for his pre-match warmup to roars from Egypt fans, who at times appeared to outnumber their Russian counterparts. They shouted every time Salah’s face flashed up on the big screen and when his name was announced before kickoff.
Yet from the start, it was clear that Salah was staying out of anything too physical and there was no concerted effort from his Egypt teammates to pick him out each time. He didn’t touch the ball until the seventh minute.
He did win the penalty — confirmed by the video assistant referee after Salah was pulled down by Roman Zobnin. He converted it in the 73rd minute, but it wasn’t enough. Egypt is still without a victory in six World Cup matches.
Russia is nearly assured of advancing from the group stage for the first time since the Soviet era.
Cheryshev, who entered the World Cup as a fringe player, is proving lethal in front of goal, with his latest a side-footed effort from close range from Mario Fernandes’ cross in the 59th. Dzyuba’s goal was more direct, the striker chesting down a long ball from defender Ilya Kutepov, beating his marker and curling home a low finish.