India’s bowlers come to the rescue as South Africa reined in

India's captain Virat Kohli, foreground, reacts after making a catch to dismiss South Africa's batsman Quinton de Kock. (AP)
Updated 13 January 2018
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India’s bowlers come to the rescue as South Africa reined in

PRETORIA: Just over halfway through the first day at Supersport Park in Centurion, South Africa were cruising at 148 for 1 on a pitch that bore little resemblance to the one that was supposed to provide a trial by pace and bounce. Aiden Markram, who led South Africa’s Under-19s to the World Cup in 2014 and who plays his franchise cricket here for the Titans, was in sight of a third century in five Tests when Ravichandran Ashwin went round the wicket and angled one across him. Markram’s attempted late cut found Parthiv Patel’s gloves, and India had a route back into the contest.
But by the time the new ball was due, a rejuvenated Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis, the captain, had moved the scoreboard on to 245 for 3, despite AB de Villiers, another of the local heroes, making just 20 before playing on off Ishant Sharma. For all Ashwin’s indefatigable effort and some miserly bowling from Ishant, the hosts were well on top.
Then, they decided to chance a single off Hardik Pandya. He rushed to gather, swivelled and threw down the stumps at the bowler’s end with Amla short of the crease. He had made a typically classy 82, playing himself into form after a nervy start.
Two balls later, Quinton de Kock (0) edged to Virat Kohli at slip to give Ashwin his third wicket of the day. And when Vernon Philander was run out, haring down the pitch after popping one up on the leg side off the alert Pandya, South Africa had slumped to 251 for 6. Through sheer persistence, India had made the pendulum swing back.
“Obviously bitterly disappointed,” said Markram of his 94. “It’s now the second time in a short career [he made 97 on debut against Bangladesh], but I’m just going to keep saying it’s part of the game and try to be positive.”
His disappointment was partly assuaged by praise from Kohli. “He is a massive competitor as everyone sees on the TV, but it’s great to see that he has got good values that people off the field might not see,” said Markram. “It was a great gesture and it meant a lot.”
He admitted to being surprised by an almost-Asian surface where he and Dean Elgar, who made 31 before being caught at silly point off Ashwin, eked out just 78 in the first session. But he also doffed his cap to Ashwin, who bowled 31 overs for his 3 for 90.
“He is difficult to face on a flat wicket, but he still had to bowl well,” he said. “You need to give him some credit. It will be interesting to see if the pitch will continue to spin like it did.”
Ashwin, who endured one of the worst spells of his career in Johannesburg in 2013, when he failed to take a wicket in the fourth innings – “It was a reality check in terms of not being able to win a Test match for the country on day five when all things were actually set up for a spinner. It was kind of a hit on my professional pride,” he said – was just glad to have kept India in the contest.
“It could have so easily been a game where they could have run away with it after the second session,” he said. I’d like to believe I was just dogged enough. I think my experience of going to England and playing at New Road (Worcestershire) helped, because this has been that sort of wicket.”


Mohamed Salah named Premier League’s best player of the year at PFA awards

Updated 23 April 2018
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Mohamed Salah named Premier League’s best player of the year at PFA awards

  • Egyptian superstar currently has 30 Premier League goals this season
  • Salah beat the likes of De Bruyne and Kane to the award

LONDON: Mohamed Salah was crowned the Premier League’s Players’ Player of the Year on Sunday, with his incredible 41-goal debut season at Liverpool beating out strong competition from Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne.
“It’s a big honor. I’ve worked hard and I’m very happy to win it,” Salah said at the ceremony on Sunday evening.
Salah matched a Premier League record tally for a single season by scoring his 31st league goal of the campaign in a 2-2 draw at West Brom on Saturday.
“You’re comparing your name with some great names,” he said, on the prospect of breaking the record. “To break the Premier League record is something huge in England and all over in the world.
“There are still three games to go. I want to break this record.”
Salah has also netted seven times in eight Champions League games, including in both legs of Liverpool’s 5-1 quarter-final thrashing of City, to carry his side to a first semifinal for a decade.
De Bruyne showed why he had been many people’s early-season favorite for the prize with an incredible long-range strike for his 12th goal of the season to go with a league-high number of assists as champions City thrashed Swansea 5-0 on Sunday.
“From my point of view when you are analizing 10 months, there is no player better than him,” said City manager Pep Guardiola of the Belgian midfielder.
“Maybe there are numbers better but for me he was the best. But it is my opinion, the opinions of the players could be different. But in the end, in summer time he will be at home being champion.”
City did pick up a prize from the PFA gala in central London on Sunday, though, as Leroy Sane won the Young Player of the Year.
Sane, another City team-mate David Silva, De Bruyne, Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea and Tottenham striker Harry Kane were the other five nominees for the main prize.