India stun Thailand to make early statement of intent at Asian Cup

Jeje Lalpekhlua celebrates after scoring during India's 4-1 win over Thailand. (AFP)
Updated 06 January 2019
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India stun Thailand to make early statement of intent at Asian Cup

  • Blue Tigers impress during their Group A opener in Abu Dhabi.
  • Next up for India is a clash against the hosts UAE on Thursday.

ABU DHABI: India stunned Thailand 4-1 at the Asian Cup football tournament on Sunday, veteran striker Sunil Chhetri scoring twice in their Group A opener.
Watched by the 12 Thai schoolboys rescued from a flooded jungle cave last year after being trapped for more than two weeks, the War Elephants had little answer to India's brimming energy in Abu Dhabi.
Chhetri opened the scoring when he smashed home from the penalty spot after 27 minutes.
The Blue Tigers were in front for just seven minutes, Thai captain Teerasil Dangda restoring parity by bravely heading home a Theerathon Bunmathan free kick.
But Chhetri drilled his second of the game moments into the second half following a lung-bursting run down the right from Udanta Singh.
Things got worse for Thailand when Anirudh Thapa chipped in a third in the 68th minute before substitute Lalpekhlua Jeje completed the rout to leave India as unlikely group leaders.
Hosts United Arab Emirates were held 1-1 by Bahrain in Saturday's curtain-raiser.
India's players celebrated by performing Iceland's "Viking Thunderclap" in front of their delirious fans.
"Did I expect to win 4-1? No, but we're not getting carried away," insisted India coach Stephen Constantine.
"It's just another game. There will be no issue with keeping the boys' feet on the ground, don't worry about that."
The Englishman, formerly in charge of Malawi, Sudan and Rwanda, has clashed with senior players and sparked dismay in India by stripping Chhetri of the captaincy.
"There's no controversy about rotating captains!" he snapped when quizzed by Indian media.
"I've done it for four years. Chhetri gives everything every game he plays whether he's captain or not."
India finished runners-up on their Asian Cup debut in 1964 when it was a four-team competition won by Israel.
But they had lost six of their last seven games at the regional tournament, conceding 20 goals, before qualifying for the fourth time and first since 2011.
"If I say it's just another result would that be a cliche?" said Constantine.
"We've won one game, got three points. We have two more games, that's it."
Thailand, appearing for the since co-hosting the tournament in 2007, have now won just one of 21 games at the Asian Cup.
Thailand coach Milovan Rajevac made no excuses for this side's humiliating defeat.
"India totally deserved to win," said the Serb. "We didn't underestimate them. They were aggressive and fought for everything. But it's just one game. We have two more left so we have to learn from our mistakes and go again."


David Warner on fire in IPL return after ball-tampering ban but epic knock not enough to stop Kolkata

Updated 24 March 2019
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David Warner on fire in IPL return after ball-tampering ban but epic knock not enough to stop Kolkata

  • Warner did not play in the 2018 edition of the IPL tournament
  • During his ban, he played T20 franchise cricket in Canada, Bangladesh and the Caribbean

KOLKATA: Australia’s David Warner smashed 85 from 53 balls on his Indian Premier League comeback Sunday but his knock went in vain as Sunrisers Hyderabad lost to Kolkata Knight Riders.
Warner, who along with compatriot Steve Smith returns to the Twenty20 tournament after missing the previous edition due to a ball-tampering controversy, steered Sunrisers to 181 for three after being put into bat.
Warner did not play in the 2018 edition of the IPL tournament after organizers stopped him for his part in the scandal.
His one-year ban from international cricket ends later this month and the 32-year-old opener is expected to make Australia’s World Cup squad and play in this summer’s Ashes series in England.
During his ban, he played T20 franchise cricket in Canada, Bangladesh and the Caribbean, and grade cricket in Australia.
His efforts though were not enough, with Andre Russell hitting an unbeaten 49 off 19 balls as the Knight Riders won by six wickets with two balls to spare at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens.
A pause for a floodlight failure in the 16th over re-charged Knight Riders’ chase as Russell put together an unbeaten 65-run stand with Shubman Gill, who hit 18 runs including the winning six.
Russell struck four fours and four sixes
Earlier Warner stood out during a 118-run opening stand with England’s Jonny Bairstow, who made 39, to lay the platform for their big total.
“It is good to get out there and contribute. It looked a nice wicket to bat on but it slowed down a bit which made us reassess after six overs,” Warner said after his knock.
The Australian admitted some anxiety before his big return to IPL — and an unusual solution.
“I was a bit nervous in the dressing room and kept drinking pickle juice,” he said.
Opener Warner survived a reprieve on 38 after Knight Riders captain and wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik dropped him off left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav.
Warner, who captained Sunrisers to their only IPL title in 2016, made the most of the spill and raced to his 37th IPL fifty with a six off Russell to signal his aggressive intent.
Bairstow was bowled by leg-spinner Piyush Chawla but Warner took the attack to the opposition, hitting nine fours and three sixes during his blitz.
Warner, who recently recovered from an elbow injury he picked in the Bangladesh Premier League, finally fell to Russell after driving the ball to cover.
Warner said his elbow “wasn’t all too bad” after doing a lot of work with his trainer back home.
Year-long bans from state and international cricket for Warner and Smith end on March 28 but the duo are keen to get among the runs in the IPL, ahead of the 50-over World Cup starting in May.
The suspension did not include club games but IPL’s governing council decided not to allow the disgraced duo in the 11th edition of the T20 league last year in a bid to avoid controversy.
The pair were banned for cheating in a Cape Town Test in March last year along with teammate Cameron Bancroft, whose nine-month ban has already finished.
Smith is expected to appear for his team Rajasthan Royals in their opening match against Kings XI Punjab in Jaipur on Monday.