India vow to spoil Alastair Cook’s England swansong

India head coach Ravi Shastri during a press conference at The Oval ahead of the fifth Test against England. (Action Images via Reuters)
Updated 06 September 2018
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India vow to spoil Alastair Cook’s England swansong

LONDON: Ravi Shastri has promised India “will not throw in the towel” when they face England in the fifth Test at The Oval, which starts today despite having already lost the series.
England’s 60-run win in the fourth Test at Southampton gave them an unassailable 3-1 lead in the five-match contest.
It also meant India, despite being the world’s top-ranked Test side, have now won just one of their last nine series outside Asia.
The Oval clash has been given added significance by the fact it will be the last appearance before international retirement for Alastair Cook, England’s all-time leading Test run-scorer.
But India coach Shastri, who helped his country to a 1986 series win in England, is determined that the tourists spoil the party.
“This is a team that will not throw in the towel,” Shastri told reporters at The Oval.
“It will come out here and look to compete and not be on the first flight home, rest assured that’s exactly what we will do.”
The frustration for India, who earlier this year lost 2-1 in South Africa, is that two Tests in the current series — a 31-run loss in the opener at Edgbaston and the Southampton clash — could well have gone their way, particularly if captain Virat Kohli had enjoyed more support with the bat.
Kohli is the leading batsman in the series with 544 runs at an average of 68, including two hundreds, yet he will end up on the losing side.
“I think you have got to get tough mentally,” said Shastri when asked how India could improve their away record.
“We have run teams close overseas and we have competed. But now it’s not about competing. We have to win games from here.
“The scoreline says 3-1, which means India have lost the series. What the scoreline doesn’t say is that India could have been 3-1 or it could have been 2-2. And my team knows it. They would have hurt and rightly so after the last game.”
England, despite having won the series, face several awkward problems of their own, with uncertainty surrounding whether Jonny Bairstow should remain as wicketkeeper, rather than Jos Buttler, and what that means for their respective batting positions.
It looks as if off-spin all-rounder Moeen Ali, fresh from bowling England to victory at Southampton, will continue to bat at three as he did in the second innings of the fourth Test, thereby allowing captain Joe Root to bat in his favored spot at number four.
The longer-term question of who replaces Cook at the top of the order remains, as does what England should do when James Anderson — who needs just four more wickets to equal Australia great Glenn McGrath’s record of 563 for the most Test wickets taken by a pace bowler — finally calls time on his career.
Meanwhile, 33-year-old left-handed opener Cook, who has scored two centuries at The Oval, hopes to put a run of low scores behind him by defying the Indian attack on a mixed pitch.
“Four-one sounds better than three-two. But if I could play a really good innings that would be fantastic,” said Cook.
He will look to add a final flourish to his tally of 12,254 Test runs.


Simona Halep positive despite Dubai defeat by Belinda Bencic

Updated 21 February 2019
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Simona Halep positive despite Dubai defeat by Belinda Bencic

  • Former world No.1 blames three-set loss on tiredness after nine matches in 13 days.
  • Halep has high hopes for the rest of 2019, saying her game is in good shape.

LONDON: Simona Halep is still certain a good year lies in store for her despite losing to Belinda Bencic in the Dubai quarterfinals.
The Romanian former world No. 1 was the favorite to win her second title in the emirate but ran out of steam as her Swiss opponent ran out 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 winner.
It was Halep’s ninth match in just 13 days and she admitted tiredness had caught up with her.
“It was really difficult physically. I was tired,” the world No. 2 said.

Bencic came from a set down to beat the favorite in the last-eight encounter in Dubai. (AFP) 


“After the second set, I felt like I’m getting cramping a little bit. It’s normal. I was sweating a lot.”
While, her fatigue was clear for all to see, Halep was not using it as an excuse, admitting Bencic, who has now beaten her in two of their three matches, was the deserved winner.
“Yeah, she played well. She played very well. In the end, she was a little bit stronger,” the Romanian said.
Having lost in the Qatar final last weekend and failed to make the last-four in Dubai you might think Halep would be disappointed with her Middle East stint. She was, however, far from glum and revealed she is looking forward to landing more titles to add to her collection during the rest of the year.

Cheerio from Halep after her defeat to the Swiss. (AFP) 


“I think were three good weeks. Tough weeks. A lot of tension, a lot of pressure. Also the Fed Cup,” she said.
“I take only positive things. I had great matches. My level is good. Physically also I’m good. But day by day I had to play, so is not easy.
“I’m confident for the next tournaments.”