Cheteshwar Pujara again the star as India take control of the fourth Test against Australia

Pujara once again showed why he is one of the best batsmen in world cricket with his third ton of the series. (AFP)
Updated 03 January 2019

Cheteshwar Pujara again the star as India take control of the fourth Test against Australia

  • Pujara scores third century of the series to put India in commanding position in Sydney.
  • India only need to avoid defeat to win their first series on Aussie soil.

SYDNEY: Irrepressible Cheteshwar Pujara stroked his third century of the summer to put India in a commanding position in the decisive fourth and final Test as they strive for a historic series win in Australia.
At stumps on day one, they were 303 for four with the rock-like number three not out 130 and Hanuma Vihari on 39. Mayank Agarwal made 77, with Josh Hazlewood the best of the bowlers with two for 51.
After toiling on a hot Sydney day, Australia were rewarded with the wickets of KL Rahul, Agarwal, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane, but despite a five-pronged attack the key scalp of Pujara remained elusive.
The visitors lead the series 2-1 after winning the opening clash in Adelaide and the third one in Melbourne. Australia claimed victory in Perth.
If India, the world’s top-ranked nation, win or draw in Sydney they will clinch a first-ever series in Australia since they began touring Down Under in 1947-48.
“We are very happy, although we would have liked to be only three down. That said 300 for four on the first day, choosing to bat, I think we are in a great position,” said Agarwal, who paid tribute to Pujara.
“It’s great to watch him bat from the other end, the way he grinds the bowlers. He understands his strengths and he sticks with that. He’s very tight with his defense and just waits for the bad ball to come.”
Marnus Labuschagne, who in a surprise throw of the dice was picked by Australia to be their number three, said his team must learn from Pujara.
“He was very classy. I think it’s something I personally can take a lot from. He has just batted a lot of time and that’s what we’re going to need to do,” he said.
Labuschagne added that Australia were confident they could get early breakthroughs on Friday and “hopefully get them out for under 400.”
Kohli again won the toss and Australia got an early breakthrough with Hazlewood tempting Rahul into a defensive shot that took a outside edge and carried to Shaun Marsh at slip, and he was gone for nine.
But that only brought the stoic Pujara to the crease and like he has done all series, the 68-Test veteran dug in and blunted the new ball.
He survived a review decision for caught behind on 12, but otherwise gave a masterclass.
In another innings of patience and concentration, he slowly picked off runs to bring up his 18th Test century from 199 balls, with 13 boundaries.
The methodical 30-year-old has been by far the best batsman from either side across the series and his ton followed a stellar 123 in Adelaide and 106 in Melbourne.
Playing in only his second Test, the Bangalore-born Agarwal was also impressive.
He was targeted with bouncers and struck on the helmet but held firm, reinforcing his credentials after a solid debut in Melbourne.
He worked hard to make his second Test 50 in only three innings by caressing a Mitchell Starc delivery through the covers for four.
But he began to open up with the bat and after hitting Nathan Lyon for six to bring up his highest Test score of 77, attempted to do the same from the next delivery and was caught by Starc at long-on.
Master batsman Kohli was welcomed by boos from a section of the crowd and immediately silenced them with an exquisite four off Hazlewood.
But after a restrained 23 Hazlewood snared him in the first over after tea, caught behind by wicketkeeper Tim Paine.
Vice-captain Rahane looked good in making his way to 18, but a Starc bouncer caught him off guard and Paine collected another catch.
For Paine, it was the sixth toss he had lost in seven Tests and it could prove costly on a Sydney Cricket Ground pitch expected to be conducive to spin as it wears.
When Australia bat, they will have a new-look opening pair with Usman Khawaja padding up with Marcus Harris after the underperforming Aaron Finch was axed.

Russian athletics champ blasts own sports authorities

Updated 11 December 2019

Russian athletics champ blasts own sports authorities

  • Lasitskene, a three-time world champion, has in the past been critical of Russia’s athletics federation

MOSCOW: Russian high jump world champion Maria Lasitskene on Tuesday accused her country’s own sports authorities of failing to protect athletes from the deepening doping crisis, in a rare public broadside at top officials.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on Monday handed Russia a new, this time four-year, ban from top global sporting events, including the next summer and winter Olympics and the 2022 soccer World Cup, for tampering with laboratory data.

The ruling means Russian athletes cleared to compete at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will do so under a neutral flag. But Lasitskene and some other Russian track and field athletes face additional obstacles to being cleared for competition.

“I’ve already missed one Olympics and one-and-a-half years of international competition,” Lasitskene wrote in an open letter addressed to Russia’s sports authorities.

“And it seems that’s not the end of it. So who ultimately is to blame? Who’s going to give me back what I’ve lost?” she wrote in the letter published on Russian sports media outlet Championat.Com.

Lasitskene, a three-time world champion, has in the past been critical of Russia’s athletics federation, which has been suspended for doping since 2015, and has been one of the few Russian athletes to voice her anger publicly.

World Athletics, the global body governing athletics, last month halted the reinstatement procedures for Russia’s athletics federation after its president and six others were provisionally suspended for serious breaches of anti-doping rules.

As a result of these fresh sanctions, World Athletics also said it was reviewing the process it has used in the past to clear some Russians, including Lasitskene, to compete internationally as neutrals.

“Why have we arrived at a situation when an athlete is supposed to be delighted about getting neutral status?” Lasitskene wrote.

“Was the Sports Ministry and Russian Olympic Committee really happy with the Russian athletics federation’s work?”

The president of Russia’s Olympic Committee, Stanislav Pozdnyakov, on Monday dismissed the sanctions against Russia as inappropriate and excessive.