Virat Kohli, India praised for ‘perfect finish’ to historic Australia tour

India's captain Virat Kohli celebrates with his teammates after the dismissal of Australia's Aaron Finch off the bowling of Bhuvneshwar Kumar during the third one-day international match between Australia and India at the MCG in Melbourne, Australia, January 18, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 19 January 2019
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Virat Kohli, India praised for ‘perfect finish’ to historic Australia tour

  • Virat Kohli's team will return home to India triumphant without having lost a Test or limited-overs series
  • The Test victory was India’s first in 71 years of trying in Australia

NEW DELHI: India’s cricketers are being hailed a once-in-a-generation side as the World Cup looms, capping off a “perfect finish” to their historic Australia tour with a maiden one-day international bilateral series victory.
Virat Kohli's team will return home to India triumphant without having lost a Test or limited-overs series — a first on Australian soil.
The Test victory was India’s first in 71 years of trying in Australia, a crowning achievement burnished by another historic first as the visitors clinched the ODI series 2-1 in Melbourne on Friday.
India earlier drew a three-match Twenty20 showdown 1-1 after one match was washed out, ending the tour without losing a series in any format.
“Perfect Finish To Dream Tour,” declared the Mail Today daily on page one Saturday.
“One-Day wonder Down Under,” ran a front page headline in the weekend edition of the Indian Express newspaper. Other Indian dailies called it a “perfect ending” and “series of firsts.”

Virat Kohli enjoyed some downtime at the Australian Open after a successful tour Down Under -- seen here meeting tennis legend Roger Federer with his wife Anushka Sharma. (AFP)


Captain Kohli, riding on a high, is already looking ahead to the World Cup in May, confident his men have hit their stride as the coveted ODI cup looms.
“We are feeling confident and balanced as a side with the World Cup in mind,” the skipper said.
“In all the three series we bounced back in different stages, and I think that builds team character ahead, especially when the World Cup is so near. If everyone contributes at different stages, it is then you win a big tournament.”
The India side is being tipped as one of the best in years.
“The teams that used to come here (to Australia), you can’t compare those teams to this (one),” veteran commentator Harsha Bhogle told broadcasters Sony Six after India’s seven-wicket win in the third ODI.
“It has only happened twice in history that a visiting team has won a Test and ODI series in Australia.”
Indian cricketer-turned-commentator Sanjay Manjrekar also praised their “nonchalant” confidence on foreign soil and pointed to “signs that they are setting themselves high standards” going forward.
Special praise was reserved for veteran wicketkeeper-batsman Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who defied critics to smash an unbeaten 87 and register his third straight ODI half-century.
The 37-year-old had been accused by some of losing his lustre as a finisher but was named man of the series after driving India’s tricky 231-run chase at the MCG.
Legendary batsman Sachin Tendulkar praised Dhoni on Twitter, saying he “once again played the role of the anchor beautifully!.”
India now head to New Zealand for a limited-overs series, starting with the first of five ODIs in Napier on January 23.
The 50-over World Cup begins in England on May 30.


Real Madrid can still win title, claims Santiago Solari

Updated 17 February 2019
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Real Madrid can still win title, claims Santiago Solari

  • Defeat leaves Real in third, nine points behind arch-rivals Barcelona.
  • Girona had not won in the league since November.

LONDON: Santiago Solari insisted Real Madrid could still win the La Liga title despite a shock 2-1 defeat at home to Girona.
The capital club were coming off a five-match winning streak, but were not able to get past their relegation-threatened rivals at the Bernabeu, conceding twice in the second half after taking a 1-0 half-time lead.
Girona had not won in 13 matches in all competitions and were coming off six straight losses. The Catalan club had not won in the league since November and had entered the weekend one point from the relegation zone. So to say this was a shock would be understating the case, Real were on the up, and this was supposed to be an easy win to aid their slim title hopes and add to the momentum of their good 2019 form.
But Solari — clearly a “glass half full” man — claimed Real’s title charge was far from over. Asked if the title was lost, the Argentine, who took over the asked Julen Lopetegui in October, said: “Not at all, not at all, next week there is another match, our rivals, too. All the matches are difficult, as Girona have shown today, we have to keep winning to try to cut the gap.
“This is football and there is always a rival, in this case Girona, who played well.
“In the second half there was a lot of energy. Girona were forceful when they attacked and we lacked clarity. The fatigue is not only physical, it is mental, concentration. We come from a major bustle, many games with good results, and that may have happened to us at the energy level in the second half. It’s likely.”
The surprise defeat dropped Madrid to third place and left them nine points behind Barcelona, who edged Valladolid 1-0 on Saturday with a penalty kick converted by Lionel Messi. The result at the Nou Camp ended a three-game winless run for the Girona neighbors in all competitions.
Madrid had won seven of their last eight matches in all competitions, with the only setback a 1-1 draw at Barca in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals. They had cut Barcelona’s lead from 10 points to six in recent rounds after seeing their arch-rivals go through a slump.
Solari made some changes to the starting lineup, leaving Vinicius Junior and Gareth Bale on the bench after they started midweek in the 2-1 win at Ajax in the Champions League second round clash.
Casemiro opened the scoring with a firm header from near the penalty spot in the 25th minute after a cross by Toni Kroos, and Girona equalized with a penalty kick converted by Cristhian Stuani in the 65th after a handball by Sergio Ramos inside the area.
Girona had a golden chance to equalize about five minutes before the penalty, when Aleix Garcia’s close-range shot went over the crossbar. The visitors moved in front with a 75th-minute header by Portu after Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois initially saved a shot by Anthony Lozano.
Portu had hit the post a few minutes earlier with a booming shot from inside the area.
Solari put on Vinicius Junior and Bale in the second half, but they were unable to save Real. Courtois made it to the area in a last-gasp attempt, but could not get enough on his header, sending the ball just wide of the post.
As if to emphasize the dire day, Ramos was sent off in 90th minute after receiving a second yellow card.