‘Bold’ England win Sri Lanka series but Joe Root wants more

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England's captain Joe Root, left, and Ben Faokes celebrate their victory over Sri Lanka by 57 runs in the second Test match between Sri Lanka and England in Pallekele. (AP)
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England's Joe Root acknowledges the crowd after their team's victory over Sri Lanka by 57 runs in the second test cricket match in Pallekele. (AP)
Updated 18 November 2018
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‘Bold’ England win Sri Lanka series but Joe Root wants more

KANDY: Captain Joe Root set his sights on taking England to the top of the world rankings after his spin trio finished off Sri Lanka in the second Test on Sunday to seal the series with a match to spare.
England needed just 30 minutes on the fifth day to take the final three Sri Lanka wickets. Jack Leach got last man Malinda Pushpakumara caught and bowled to claim his first five-wicket Test haul.
Moeen Ali took four wickets and Adil Rashid one as England’s three frontline spinners accounted for the whole innings, as well as 18 of Sri Lanka’s 20 wickets in the game overall.
Root’s 124 in England’s second innings also played a key role in the 57-run victory and earned him the man-of-the-match award.
Celebrating England’s first away series win since beating South Africa in 2015-16 and his first away triumph as captain, Root sees England — who are currently ranked third in the world — challenging India for the top Test team spot.
“It was a brilliant Test match,” said Root, whose team had to twice fight back after their top order batsmen gave away cheap wickets.
“It ebbed and flowed throughout, like against India in the summer, and it’s pleasing to see another close game go our way.
“We said we’d come out here and play bold cricket, and be courageous. It’s easy to talk a good game but we’ve backed it up,” Root said.
“We have to keep looking to improve. The team has grown in the last 18 months but we are not the finished article. We want to get to number one in the world and that means performing in all conditions around the world.”
Sri Lanka needed 301 in their second innings to register an upset win but managed just 243 at the Pallekele ground.
They started the day needing 75 more runs and with three wickets in hand had an outside chance.
After Niroshan Dickwella was caught by Ben Stokes off Moeen Ali for 35 — the first wicket of the morning — Sri Lanka’s hopes were all but extinguished.
Moeen then struck No. 10 batsman Suranga Lakmal, the Sri Lanka skipper, on the pad next ball for a strong lbw appeal which was turned down. He bowled Lakmal his very next delivery.
Pushpakumara lasted only eight balls before chipping the ball back to Leach and the game was over.
Leach, playing just his third Test, said the game had been “unbelievable.”
“It feels good to have three spinners in the team. We all know our roles and help each other out. It’s nice to make history and hopefully we can carry that on now,” said Rashid.
Root insisted that England will not ease up for the third and final Test which starts in Colombo on Friday.
Sri Lanka will be looking to strengthen their rebuilding, said coach Chandika Hathurusingha.
“We’re looking at the bigger picture,” he said.
“This is the first series we lost this year. We won against South Africa 2-0. In these two games there were very close games. We had the opportunity to win both games at times.
“England played better cricket than us. We have to accept that. We have to learn from these mistakes,” he added.
“The skill is still there — that’s what I’m banking on. That’s the hope that I have with this team.”


Petra Kvitova positive ahead of Dubai final against Belinda Bencic

Updated 22 February 2019
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Petra Kvitova positive ahead of Dubai final against Belinda Bencic

  • World No. 4 wins third three-setter of the week beat Hsieh Su-wei and claim place in the final.
  • Swiss star Bencic deals a forehand smash to Svitolina's chances of unprecedented hat-trick.

LONDON: If Petra Kvitova does get her hands on the Dubai trophy against Belinda Bencic on Saturday, she will be quick to admit she did it the hard way.
The two-time Wimbledon champion was once again made to toil at the Aviation Club as she finally overcame Hsieh Su-Wei 3-6, 6-2, 6-4. It was her third three-setter in four days and came about as much through sheer grit and determination as any superior groundstrokes or serves.
“Yeah, it was (tough),” the Czech said.
“It was a tough one, for sure. She really didn’t give me anything for free.
“It was a tough first set. I’m glad that I was able to came back in the second. Anyway I didn’t play great at the end of the first.”
Coming into the event the world No. 4 admitted she was undercooked and in need of some game time. While, in hindsight, the three-setters against Katerina Siniakova and Jennifer Brady in the first two rounds probably did her some good, another match that went the distance was probably not in the ideal script for the 2013 Dubai champion.
But Hsieh is a tricky opponent and she proved it once again on Centre Court. The world No. 31 hits two-handed shots off both sides and was trying to beat her fourth top-10 seed of the week. That included wins over Angelique Kerber in the third round and Karolina Pliskova in the quarterfinals.

Bencic will try to upset Kvitova in Saturday's final at the Aviation Club (AFP) 


She started off in much the same vein as she had finished against Kerber and Pliskova, hurrying Kvitova around the court and making life as uncomfortable as possible under the hot Dubai sun.
“She’s very tricky,” Kvitova said about Hsieh, who grabbed five games in a row to take the opening set and go up 1-0 in the second.
“I didn’t really play the best at the end of the first set. But I calmed down afterwards a little bit,” Kvitova said.
“With Hsieh, I need to be a little bit patient. ... It’s not really that easy to make those winners against her.”
While she has 
not consistently displayed her A-game this week it should come as no shock that Kvitova has made today’s final. It was the second seed’s 17th victory of 2019 — a feat bettered by no one — and it will be her third final of the season and 35th of her career. She revealed that her presence in the showdown is thanks to her mental toughness and she admitted that after a long week she will have to draw on that a lot today.
“I think I’m pleased with my kind of mental focus after losing the first set, that I was more calmer when I came back and played from the beginning of the second set,” Kvitova said.
“I still kind of felt that I can do that somehow — it was something weird.
“I’m a bit tired right now, to be honest. I have a final, so I don’t know how I going to recover. Hopefully I have a few hours to do something with me.”
Of her sparkling form so far this year she said: “It’s a bit weird, to be honest. I didn’t really expect anything like that. Well, to be honest, I didn’t expect anything, which I already achieved this year. For me, everything is just bonus.
“As I mentioned, the tennis, it’s a bit like escape this week. This is unbelievable to be in the final when I’m escaping from something. Yeah, very interesting.”
In the other semifinal Bencic once again upset the odds to overcome world No. 6 Elina Svitolina 6-2, 6-3, 7-6. The Swiss went into the clash as the underdog, but from the off the world No. 45 was aggressive and deservedly won.
In doing so she ended Svitolina’s 12-match winning streak in Dubai and ended the two-time defending champion’s hopes of becoming the first woman to win three Dubai titles in a row.