South Africa grinds down Australia, leads final test by 401

Australia's batsman Pat Cummins, right, avoids a run out as teammates Tim Paine, left, watches on during day three of the fourth match between South Africa and Australia at the Wanderers stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa, Sunday, April 1, 2018. (AP)
Updated 01 April 2018
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South Africa grinds down Australia, leads final test by 401

JOHANNESBURG: Tim Paine was in agony. Australian cricket in torment.
Both showed some guts on Day 3 of the fourth and final test in South Africa on Sunday, but it likely wasn’t going to be enough to avoid a big defeat and a first series loss in South Africa in nearly 50 years.
New captain Paine made 62 with Australia struggling in the series decider and played through the pain of a fractured thumb sustained while he was wicket-keeping the day before.
But despite Paine’s fighting half-century — and another one from bowler Pat Cummins — South Africa bowled Australia out for 221 in its first innings and extended its lead to 401 runs by the end of the day.
South Africa ground its way toward a series win with an unbeaten 40-run partnership between Dean Elgar (39 not out) and skipper Faf du Plessis (34 not out). Those two opted to be resolute and give away nothing.
Elgar made just 5 runs in 61 balls in that unbeaten stand to take South Africa to stumps on 134-3.
South Africa leads 2-1 and was edging toward a first series win over Australia at home since 1970.
That history might have been lost on an Australia team worried, instead, for its future after the ball-tampering scandal from the last match in Cape Town led to long-term bans for captain Steve Smith, vice-captain David Warner and batsman Cameron Bancroft, and thrust Paine into the top job.
Tasked with putting the shattered morale of the team back together, he led from the front, combining with Cummins for a 99-run partnership at the start of Sunday after Australia was in danger of collapsing at 96-6 on Day 2.
After being diagnosed with the fractured thumb on Saturday, Paine stayed on as wicketkeeper while Australia was in the field and also took his place in the batting lineup. He was 5 not out overnight and hit seven fours and two sixes in all to give Australia’s first innings a little respectability despite it still being way behind South Africa’s.
Paine was last man out to a running, diving catch by Elgar, which gave the innings a gripping finish. Fast bowlers Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada and spinner Keshav Maharaj all picked up three wickets each for South Africa.
Cummins made 50 and also removed Aiden Markram and AB de Villiers early in South Africa’s second innings for his sixth and seventh wickets of the game. Cummins has maybe the biggest claim to be Australia’s best player on one of its worst tours considering the stunning fallout from the cheating scandal.
While Paine battled it out, South Africa also had an injury complication, with retiring fast bowler Morne Morkel picking up a left side strain. He departed the field in the first session to get treatment and some strapping, but returned and would try and “push on” for the rest of his farewell game, the South Africa team said. South Africa wasn’t yet sure if he’d be able to bowl during the last two days of his test career.
Du Plessis was also struck a painful blow on the right index finger, a finger he’s broken and had problems with already this season.
When du Plessis was hit and reeled away, dropping his bat, Paine came over and appeared to show some concern for his opposite number.
That was one of a few examples of a good spirit between the teams — bowlers and batsmen chatted and smiled a couple of times — as one of the most ill-tempered cricket series in recent memory mellowed for the final few days.
As du Plessis and Paine stood together, the Bob Marley song “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” played on the stadium speakers.


Kyrgios withdraws from French Open, citing illness

Updated 24 May 2019
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Kyrgios withdraws from French Open, citing illness

  • Roger Federer plays down chances of his winning the mega title

PARIS: After a tantrum in Italy last week, Nick Kyrgios withdrew from the French Open on Friday.

The ATP said the Australian player cited illness as the reason.

Last week at the Italian Open, the 36th-ranked Kyrgios was defaulted and fined during his second-round match after an outburst of rage. Trailing against Norwegian qualifier Casper Ruud, Kyrgios slammed his racket to the clay and kicked a water bottle. Then he picked up a white chair and flung it onto the court.

Kyrgios was fined and lost ATP points but escaped suspension and was expected to play in Paris.

His withdrawal came only days after Kyrgios posted a video online in which he said the French Open “sucks” when compared to Wimbledon, where he trained recently.

In 2015, Kyrgios insulted Stan Wawrinka with crude remarks during a match in Montreal. He was fined $12,500 and given a suspended 28-day ban. He also attracted criticism for deciding not to play at the Olympics because of a spat with an Australian team official, and for firing back at retired players who have offered advice.

Also on Friday, Roger Federer played down his chances of winning the French Open on his first appearance at Roland Garros since 2015, saying that title-winning form might not be “in his racquet.”

The 20-time Grand Slam champion missed the French Open in 2016 through injury before sitting out the next two clay-court seasons in order to focus on Wimbledon.

But he will make his Roland Garros return on Sunday with a first-round tie against unheralded Italian Lorenzo Sonego.

Federer admitted that he is unsure of his title chances, but did compare his current situation with when he ended a five-year Grand Slam drought at the Australian Open in 2017.

“(I) don’t know (if I can win the tournament). A bit of a question mark for me. Some ways I feel similar to maybe the Australian Open in ‘17,” the 2009 French Open winner said.

“A bit of the unknown. I feel like I’m playing good tennis, but is it enough against the absolute top guys when it really comes to the crunch? I’m not sure if it’s in my racquet.

“But I hope I can get myself in that position deep down in the tournament against the top guys. But first I need to get there and I know that’s a challenge in itself.”

Despite being the third seed, Federer faces a tricky draw, with a possible quarter-final against Greek youngster Stefanos Tsitsipas — who beat him in the Australian Open last 16 — and a potential last-four clash with 11-time champion and old adversary Rafael Nadal.

Meanwhile, Nadal said on Friday that he “doesn’t care” if he is the red-hot favorite to lift a record-extending 12th French Open title, insisting that there are a host of players in contention for the trophy.

The world number two holds an incredible French Open win-loss record of 86-2, and hit top form by winning his ninth Italian Open last week with a final victory over old rival Novak Djokovic.