India's Shubhankar Sharma gets Masters invitation

India's Shubhankar Sharma, a two-time winner on the European Tour this season, held the lead after 54 holes at the World Golf Championship in Mexico. (AP)
Updated 06 March 2018
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India's Shubhankar Sharma gets Masters invitation

PALM HARBOR, US: Shubhankar Sharma can add another achievement to his rapid rise. He's going to the Masters.
Two days after Sharma held the 54-hole lead in his first World Golf Championships appearance, the 21-year-old from India accepted a special invitation to play in the Masters next month.
He will be the fourth Indian to play the Masters, and the second to receive a special invitation. Jeev Milkha Singh, a mentor to Sharma, received one in 2008.
"Golf is a global game, and throughout our history we have extended invitations to deserving international players not otherwise qualified," Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley said. "As his results have proven, Shubhankar Sharma is a remarkable young player."
Sharma was at No. 462 in the world three months ago when he shot 61 in the second round and won the Joburg Open. He closed with a 62 last month to win the Malaysian Open, making him the only two-time winner on the European Tour this season.
Sharma also leads the Race to Dubai.
"I am deeply honoured to be found worthy of invitation by the Masters Committee. It's a dream come true. My gratitude," Sharma said on Twitter.
He held at two-shot lead going into the final round of the Mexico Championship last week, but he failed to make a birdie until the 12th hole and a string of bogeys late in the round dropped him into a tie for ninth.
It still was enough for Sharma to rise to No. 66 in the world.
This is the first time since 2013 the Masters has awarded a special invitation. It usually reserves such invitations to international players who, unlike PGA Tour members, do not have as much access to qualifying, such as winning PGA Tour events or making it to the FedEx Cup finale at the Tour Championship.
International players typically are among the top 100 in the world ranking when they receive an invitation.
Sharma, who turned pro at 16, is playing this week at his home course (DLF Golf Club) in New Delhi at the Hero Indian Open. He is on the bubble in the final week of qualifying for the next World Golf Championship, the Dell Technologies Match Play in two weeks in Austin, Texas.


Australia confident they can win Perth Test to level series against Virat Kohli’s India

Updated 16 December 2018
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Australia confident they can win Perth Test to level series against Virat Kohli’s India

  • Nathan Lyon bullish about the Baggy Greens chances of levelling the series.
  • Another Virat Kohli masterclass not enough to get India on level terms with hosts after the first innings.

PERTH: Australia are confident they can overcome a deteriorating pitch to build a match-winning lead in the second Test in Perth.
At stumps on the third day, Australia were 132 for four, with Usman Khawaja on 41 and Tim Paine on eight, an overall advantage of 175 after leading by 43 runs on the first innings despite a stellar Virat Kohli century.
Although they still had six wickets in hand, opener Aaron Finch was taken to hospital for scans after retiring hurt with an injured right hand on 25.
Australian coach Justin Langer said Finch had been cleared of serious damage, but was uncertain if he would return to the crease.
The cracks in the pitch were starting to become a significant factor, with Finch’s opening partner, Marcus Harris, also struck flush on the helmet by a rising delivery in making 20.
Australian spinner Nathan Lyon, who claimed five wickets in the Indian first innings to move into the top 25 of Test wicket-takers, conceded the pitch was getting harder to bat on, and claimed Australia were set to post a total its attack could defend to level the series.
“The wicket is starting to play a few more tricks,” he said.
“We know we have the bowlers to make sure we can defend what we have to.
“Whatever we get to is just going to have to be enough.”
Indian paceman Jasprit Bumrah (one for 25), who was almost unplayable at times, said India’s batsmen would not be deterred by a tough fourth-innings chase.
“We want early wickets tomorrow to reduce the total,” he said.
“I am confident our team is capable of chasing any total but we will try to minimize it as much as possible.
“No one has really got out to the crack, it is just there, but it doesn’t do a lot but it is only in the mindset.”
The Australians found batting extremely challenging in their second innings, playing and missing time and again as they battled to extend their lead.
Shaun Marsh (five) and Peter Handscomb (13) again fell cheaply, doing little to ease the pressure on their pair to retain their spots in the side.
Marsh played a loose shot to a short ball from Mohammed Shami (two for 23) and was caught behind, while Handscomb’s shaky defense was highlighted when he was trapped lbw by Ishant Sharma (one for 33).
The struggles of the Australian batsmen were a far cry from the command of Kohli as he anchored his team’s first innings until a contentious dismissal.
In reply to Australia’s 326 after winning the toss and batting, India were bowled out for 283 despite Kohli’s 123.
In reaching triple figures, Kohli became the second-fastest player to reach 25 Test centuries in terms of innings with 127, behind only Don Bradman (68) and ahead of his countryman Tendulkar (130).
He also joined Tendulkar as the only Indian batsmen to have scored six Test centuries in Australia, and became the first Test centurion at the new venue.
The Indian captain’s innings came to a controversial end when he was caught at second slip by a diving Handscomb from the bowling of Pat Cummins.
Kohli was given out by the on-field umpires but clearly believed it had not carried.
However, the decision stood after it was reviewed by third umpire Nigel Llong.
Bumrah said the Indians were “a little surprised” by the on-field decision, while Lyon said the Australians believed it was a “great catch.”
The Indians lost their last five wickets for just 35 runs to hand Australia a small but valuable lead.