Super Rohit Sharma ready for more glory in crunch Sri Lanka clash

Updated 16 December 2017
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Super Rohit Sharma ready for more glory in crunch Sri Lanka clash

BANGALORE: Rohit Sharma was already five years into his ODI career when he went to Sri Lanka in the summer of 2012. He finished the five-match series with 13 runs, including two ducks, and spawned a succession of memes and cruel social media posts about “No-Hit.” If some of Indian cricket’s most influential voices had not sworn by his talent, he might have ended up on the scrapheap, with two hundreds from 80 innings and a mediocre average of 30.84.
MS Dhoni’s solution to Rohit’s travails was to send him up the order to open the batting. It was the same conclusion that Sachin Tendulkar reached in 1994, when he sought out the team management and asked to be allowed to open. His average at the time, 66 innings into his ODI career? 30.84.
Since his promotion, Rohit averages 57.7 from 87 knocks. Three of the 14 hundreds he has made have been scores in excess of 200. Sri Lanka have been at the receiving end of two of those epics — a world record 264 in 2014, and at unbeaten 208 in Mohali earlier this week that helped India square the current series, which includes today in Visakhapatnam, at 1-1.
Sri Lanka’s emphatic win on a lively pitch in Dharamsala, with India skittled for just 112, was an upset, considering the recent results in this rivalry, and Rohit, stand-in captain after Virat Kohli took the series off to get married in Tuscany, quickly redressed the balance with an innings that married patience and brutality. Having eased to a century in 115 balls, he smashed 10 sixes and four fours while romping to the second hundred in just 36 deliveries.
Without the assistance on offer from the pitch and overhead conditions in Dharamsala, Sri Lanka’s bowlers looked utterly ordinary. Nuwan Pradeep was taken for 106 in his spell, while Thisara Perera, the latest of the many captains appointed by Sri Lanka Cricket, conceded 80 in eight overs.
Sri Lanka’s bowling woes, especially with Lasith Malinga not far from retirement, have been a constant refrain since Muttiah Muralitharan called time on a storied 18-year career. During the Muralitharan era, when Sri Lanka could also call on Chaminda Vaas’s left-arm nous, this was an even rivalry, with India shading it 50-43 (102 matches).
Once defeat in the 2011 World Cup final sent Murali into retirement, there has been no contest to speak of. India have been utterly dominant, with 21 wins and just six losses (28 games). On Sri Lankan soil, where they once used to struggle, India have won nine and lost just one in that time.
That today’s clash is not a dead rubber is a surprise in itself. But the omens for Sri Lanka are not great, at a venue where India have won five of their six matches. Dhoni set the tone way back in 2005, the first match to be hosted at the new venue, by smashing 148 off 123 balls against Pakistan. Last year, when New Zealand went to Visakhapatnam with the series square at 2-2, they were handed a 190-run thrashing.
For India, this series has been another opportunity to look at faces for the future. The 18-year-old Washington Sundar, fast-tracked from the Under-19 team coached by Rahul Dravid, made his debut in Mohali, and there was also a sparkling 70-ball 88 from Shreyas Iyer, 23, playing just his second match.
Middle-order slots remain up for grabs though, with Dinesh Karthik and Manish Pandey among those in the fray. Yuzvendra Chahal continues to reap the wickets with his leg-spin, while Hardik Pandya is now trusted enough to take the new ball in some games.
Sri Lanka have been boosted by Angelo Mathews’ return to form, but there remain plenty of questions about the top order, where Upul Tharanga continues to be a hit-or-miss option. The dropping of Dinesh Chandimal, in such outstanding form in the Test series, was a big call, and Sri Lanka need big runs and not cameos from the likes of Niroshan Dickwella, Asela Gunaratne and Perera.  
But with India having won 12 of 18 ODIs on home turf over the past two years, it is hard to see anything other than the expected result at a venue that’s often seen them at their ruthless best.  


‘Captain fantastic’ Harry Kane to the rescue as England beat Tunisia at the death

Updated 19 June 2018
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‘Captain fantastic’ Harry Kane to the rescue as England beat Tunisia at the death

  • Harry Kane came to the rescue with two goals, the second a dramatic injury-time winner
  • England had started brightly in a blur of passing and movement and could have been two goals up inside the first four minutes

VOLGOGRAD, Russia: Captain Harry Kane came to the rescue with two goals, the second a dramatic injury-time winner, as England began their World Cup Group G campaign with a stuttering 2-1 win over Tunisia on Monday.
Gareth Southgate’s men almost paid a heavy price for missing a slew of first-half chances when Tunisia’s Ferjani Sassi slotted home a softly-awarded penalty 20 minutes before half-time.
And the north Africans were still level as the game went past the 90-minute mark.
But Harry Maguire won a header from a corner and Kane was on hand at the far post to nod in the winner before being mobbed by his ecstatic teammates.
“I’m so proud of the lads,” Kane said. “They kept going, kept going to the last second.
“I am absolutely buzzing, everyone on the staff is. It shows good character to get the job done.”
England had started brightly in a blur of passing and movement and could have been two goals up inside the first four minutes.
First Jordan Henderson’s lofted first-time pass released Dele Alli and when the ball eventually broke to Jesse Lingard he saw his shot from six yards saved by the outstretched left boot of Mouez Hassen in the Tunisia goal.
Kane had been kept quiet in the opening salvos but he exploded into action in the 11th minute when he cut inside from the left and saw his shot from the edge of the box deflected wide for a corner.
Ashley Young delivered the set piece for John Stones to rise highest and meet with a powerful header. Hassen saved acrobatically but Kane was on hand to tap home the rebound with his right foot and open his World Cup account.
Hassen, who had injured his left shoulder making an earlier save, could not continue and left the field in tears as he was replaced in goal by Farouk Ben Mustapha.
England continued to press and were made to pay for not converting a succession of chances when they conceded a soft penalty.
Kyle Walker swung a lazy arm across Fakhreddine Ben Youssef who fell as if poleaxed and Colombian referee Wilmar Roldan pointed to the spot, with his decision being upheld by the VAR.
Ferjani Sassi took one step and fired home confidently past the hitherto unemployed Jordan Pickford and Tunisia who had been outplayed for the first half-hour were somehow level 10 minutes before half-time.
Still there was time for Lingard to come close again twice, first from a goalbound shot and then a dink over the keeper which agonizingly struck the post.
Alli too hit the woodwork with a header and England went into half-time wondering how they had not sealed victory already.
England still enjoyed the lion’s share of possession but could not find the same zip and penetration they had enjoyed at the start of the first half.
The ineffective Sterling gave way to Marcus Rashford with just over 20 minutes to go and the Manchester United man almost fashioned a chance straight away with a jinking run into the box.