Stage is set for a Cape Town classic with South Africa on a roll against Australia

BACK IN THE ATTACK: Kagiso Rabada will take the new ball for the South Africans. (REUTERS)
Updated 22 March 2018
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Stage is set for a Cape Town classic with South Africa on a roll against Australia

LONDON: With Kagiso Rabada cleared to play in Cape Town after a two-match ban was rescinded, we can expect another white-knuckle contest at Newlands.
Steve Smith’s pre-match comments suggested Australia are far from happy about the Rabada reprieve, and they will need no further motivation at a venue where they have won four of six Tests since South Africa returned to the international fold in the 1990s. We look at five things to watch for from the crucial third Test.

THE PHILANDER SHOW
Three of South Africa’s greatest bowlers — Dale Steyn, Makhaya Ntini and Shaun Pollock — have taken more than 50 wickets in Cape Town. But even their numbers look ordinary next to Vernon Philander’s haul from his eight Tests at Newlands. His 47 wickets have cost just 16.34 each, and that includes a spell of five for 15 in his debut Test, when Australia were skittled for just 47. Philander has been largely peripheral this series, taking five for 175, but expect that to change at a ground where he has been known to hoop it round corners.

NO MORKEL SWANSONG?
Until Rabada won his appeal on Tuesday, Morne Morkel was in line for a Newlands recall. Faf du Plessis, the South African captain, has not ruled him out, but it would be staggering if the 21-year-old Lungi Ngidi was dropped after taking five for 75 in the victory in Port Elizabeth. Morkel has done yeoman service for the Proteas and needs just three wickets for 300, but Ngidi represents the future. Morkel’s ordinary record in Cape Town — 35 wickets at 32 in 10 Tests — may well also count against him.

LYON NEEDS TO ROAR
So far, the biggest headlines about Nathan Lyon in this series have related to his pathetic celebration after the run-out of AB de Villiers in Durban. Lyon is one of Australia’s self-styled enforcers on the field, but he needs to do far more with the ball. Keshav Maharaj, South Africa’s specialist spinner, has taken nearly twice as many wickets (11 to six) in the series, with Lyon barely a factor after the first innings in Durban. In recent years, his consistency has allowed Australia to go into games with a four-man attack. When he is off-kilter, the pacers’ workload goes into the red zone.

TIME FOR WARNER?
David Warner has not had a bad series, with two half-centuries in the two Tests. But those were overshadowed by his behavior in Durban, and there would be no better way to change the narrative than to replicate his performances of four years ago, when innings of 135 and 145 inspired an emphatic Australian victory. Warner averages nearly 70 in South Africa, more than he does at home, and an Australia side that has yet to score a hundred this series will look to him to set the tone.

CAN AMLA TURN THINGS AROUND?
Since scores of 201, 109 and 96 against England in early 2016, Hashim Amla has found runs hard to come by against top opposition. He averaged 47.35 in 2017, but his three hundreds came against Sri Lanka, poor travelers of late, and Bangladesh (two), who had barely any experience of South African conditions. In five Tests against India and Australia in 2018, he has made four half-centuries, but the mammoth innings that once defined him have proved elusive.

SMITH SHOCKED AT RETURN OF RABADA
Steve Smith has criticized the decision to overturn a ban on South African fast bowler Kagiso Rabada for making physical contact with him.
Smith said that a “line in the sand” had been drawn regarding physical contact and said he was surprised he had not been asked his opinion during the appeal hearing.
Having been banned for the remaining two Tests in the series for brushing against Smith’s shoulder after taking his wicket in the second Test, Rabada was cleared to play in the third Test starting today in Cape Town after a successful appeal.
Australia spin bowler Nathan Lyon had said the team had “no dramas” with the decision, but Smith told cricket.com.au website: “I certainly think he (Rabada) bumped me a little bit harder than it actually looked on the footage.”
Although Smith claimed “it didn’t bother me too much,” he went on to say, “they’ve obviously decided what’s deliberate contact and what’s not and apparently it wasn’t.
“The ICC have set the standard, haven’t they? There was clearly contact out in the middle.
“I certainly won’t be telling my bowlers to go out there and after you take a wicket go and get in their space. I don’t think that is on and part of the game. But the standard has been set.”
Rabada was initially given three demerit points for the incident in Port Elizabeth by match referee Jeff Crowe, triggering an automatic two-Test ban.
But judicial commissioner Michael Heron said he was not completely satisfied that the contact was deliberate and reduced the charge to acting against the spirit of the game, imposing a one-point penalty, which took Rabada one point below the threshold for the ban.


Profligate Arsenal punished by 10-man Atletico Madrid

The gunners could not defeat 10-man Atletico Madrid. (AFP)
Updated 27 April 2018
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Profligate Arsenal punished by 10-man Atletico Madrid

  • The Gunners played with an extra man for over 80 minutes
  • Arsenal now need to become the first away team to score in 12 matches at Atletico’s Wanda Metropolitano stadium next week

LONDON: Arsenal’s hopes of sending outgoing manager Arsene Wenger off with a trophy suffered a major blow as they could only draw 1-1 with 10-man Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their Europa League semifinal on Thursday.
The Gunners played with an extra man for over 80 minutes at the Emirates Stadium, with Sime Vrsaljko’s early red card handing them the initiative.
However, they were made to rue a host of missed chances before and after Alexandre Lacazette headed them in front on the hour mark.
Atletico coach Diego Simeone was also sent to the stands shortly after Vrsaljko’s dismissal, but the Spaniards resisted manfully and pounced when their chance came as Antoine Griezmann prodded home a vital away goal eight minutes from time.
Arsenal now need to become the first away team to score in 12 matches at Atletico’s Wanda Metropolitano stadium next week if Wenger’s last game in charge is to be the final in his homeland in Lyon on May 16.
Moreover, Arsenal’s hopes of Champions League football next season also hang on becoming the first side other than Real Madrid to eliminate Atletico from Europe for five seasons.
There was a far more highly-charged atmosphere for Wenger’s penultimate home game in charge than there had been for last weekend’s game against West Ham United.
And the hosts were given plenty of encouragement early on, even when still up against Atletico’s full complement.
Lacazette volleyed off the outside of the post and forced Jan Oblak into the first of a series of fine saves with a header from close range.
Vrsaljko had been booked within two minutes for bringing down Jack Wilshere.

And the Croatian left his side a man light after just 10 minutes when French referee Clement Turpin showed no leniency for another late challenge on Lacazette.
Moments later, Simeone was also dismissed by the officious referee for taking his protests too far when an Arsenal player wasn’t booked for what he thought was a similar foul.
Atletico’s excellent defensive record is what has carried them to five European semifinals in seven seasons under Simeone.
The visitors battened down the hatches with 10 men, but were reliant on Oblak to keep them in the tie.
Wilshere headed straight at Oblak when unmarked at the back post at the end of a flowing Arsenal move.
And the Slovenian then spread himself well with an outstretched leg to deny Danny Welbeck.
Having weathered the Gunners’ early storm, Atletico only began to threaten themselves late in the first half and David Ospina had to be alert to parry a fiercely struck Griezmann shot following a fine run from Thomas Partey.
Atletico retreated ever deeper toward their own goal after the break and were finally punished on the hour mark when Wilshere’s deep cross found Lacazette rising above Lucas Hernandez to head in his seventh goal in seven games.
However, the French international and Arsenal could have had more.
Laczette’s dangerous ball across goal found no takers before he headed another good opportunity wide.
And Arsenal paid heavily for their profligacy, and some comical defending, when Atletico grabbed a vital away goal on 82 minutes.
Griezmann outmuscled French international team-mate Laurent Koscielny and then benefited from a slip by Shkodran Mustafi after his initial effort had been saved by Ospina to prod his 27th goal of the season into the roof of the net.
There was still time for Oblak to show why Griezmann isn’t the only Atletico player wanted by Europe’s elite with a spectacular one-handed save to turn Aaron Ramsey’s header behind and keep Los Rojiblancos on course for another European final.