Australia face tough task to save final Test against India

India again dominated at the SCG and now look certain to claim their first series win on Australian soil. (AFP)
Updated 05 January 2019

Australia face tough task to save final Test against India

  • Baggy Greens throw away wickets after strong start to first start in Sydney .
  • India on verge of making history with first Test series win Down Under.

SYDNEY: Australia blew a strong start with yet another top order batting collapse in Sydney Saturday, leaving themselves a mountain to climb to stay in the fourth and final Test against India.

When play was abandoned half an hour early due to rain, they were 236 for six, still 386 behind with Peter Handscomb (28) and Pat Cummins (25) fighting a rearguard action after some soft dismissals plunged the hosts into deep trouble.

Australia went to lunch at 122 for one but meekly surrendered soon afterwards, losing three wickets for 24 runs, with spinners Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav doing the damage.

Yadav ended with three for 71 and Jadeja tow for 62.

While aggressive rookie opener Marcus Harris blazed a career-best 79, senior players Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh and skipper Tim Paine all failed to deliver when needed most.

“I got a start and a few of us got a start but none of us went on to get a big score so it’s pretty simple to work out what went wrong,” said Harris.

“We’re a young group and we’re trying to work it out and think on our feet but we’re playing against the number one side in the world, so it’s not like it’s an easy thing to do.”

Despite the task ahead, Harris remained optimistic.

“Obviously 600 is a big score to chase down or get a close deficit, but I think the more time we can occupy the crease, you never know what can happen.”

India took a stranglehold on the match over the opening two days, compiling a huge 622 for seven declared on the back of centuries from irrepressible Cheteshwar Pujara and livewire Rishabh Pant.

They lead 2-1 after victories in Adelaide and Melbourne and are fast closing in on a historic first-ever series win since they first toured Australia in 1947-48.

Yadav said India’s fielding and catching practice was paying off.

“I feel like we are the best side in the world now when it comes to fielding,” he said.

Skipper Virat Kohli’s declaration left Khawaja and Harris to face 10 nervous overs before stumps on Friday, when they crawled to 24 without loss.

Khawaja was dropped on nought but failed to make the most of his second life.

On a day when the Sydney Cricket Ground was a sea of pink to mark a breast cancer awareness initiative, he was dismissed for 27 after mistiming a shot off Yadav with Pujara taking an easy catch.

STUCK IN TWO FIGURES

At the other end the diminutive Harris, who has shown flashes of brilliance in his short four-Test career, quickly found a groove with some crisp shots.

He survived a close call on 24 when a diving KL Rahul narrowly missed a catch and reached his second Test 50 with a single before smacking three fours in one Yadav over.

Harris went to lunch on 77 but added just two more before chopping a Jadeja delivery onto his stumps, blowing a glorious chance to press on and make Australia’s first century of the series.

So far, none of Australia’s batsmen has reached three figures over the four Tests, with Harris’ 79 the highest anyone has scored. In contrast, India have had a field day, compiling five centuries.

Australia gambled by picking inexperienced allrounder Marnus Labuschagne to come in at number three and he settled in well, cracking seven boundaries in a stylish 38.

But he was sent packing by a blinding reflex catch from Ajinkya Rahane at mid-wicket off Mohammed Shami’s bowling.

Marsh scored a century in Sydney against England this time last year, but was out for eight, tickling an edge to Rahane at slip from a turning Jadeja ball.

The day got worse when Travis Head was caught and bowled by Yadav just before tea for 20 and as storm clouds gathered overhead Yadav clean bowled Paine for five.

It was left to Handscomb, recalled as a specialist in tackling spin, and paceman Cummins, who made a gutsy 63 in the third Melbourne Test, to try and repair the damage.


Joshua reveals he’s gone back to school ahead of Ruiz rematch

Updated 06 December 2019

Joshua reveals he’s gone back to school ahead of Ruiz rematch

  • “I really started studying boxing again”: Joshua

RIYADH: Former world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua has admitted that he has been hitting the books just as hard as the gym in his six-month buildup to this weekend’s epic Clash On The Dunes bout in Riyadh.

The 30-year-old revealed that, as well as sparring with up to five fighters in a row, he committed to learning as much as he could about the “science of boxing” in his preparations for the rematch following his June defeat to Mexican-American fighter Andy Ruiz.

The pair meet again on Saturday in the jewel in the crown of Saudi Arabia’s Diriyah Season — with tickets selling fast in the face of phenomenal demand.

To Joshua, the fight is his chance of redemption following Ruiz’s shock win in New York’s Madison Square Garden, so he has left no stone unturned in his quest to produce the perfect performance under the lights and with the eyes of the world watching.

“After that fight, I knew my mistakes,” he told Arab News. “That’s why I said: ‘You were the better man that day. I give you it. First-ever Mexican champion. Hats off to you.’”

He continued: “I wasn’t low because I know I’m better than that and that I’ve got a lot more I needed to give. I just knew that me and Andy are different in every aspect — the only thing we have in common is time. So I made sure I used my time wisely because I knew I was going to get it right. I knew what I needed to work on. It was more strategic planning.

“Ever since I walked into boxing I’ve been dominating. From the amateurs — bosh, championship. Turned pro — bosh, championship. You never really understand what (you have) until it’s taken (from you).

“Then I had time to think and that’s when I really started studying boxing again. There is no doubt I can fight. I’ve been fighting top-level fighters. I’ve never really had an introduction level. I’ve just been straight on. I’ve now had the time to reflect, get my head right, get my head back in the game, and boost myself again and do what I did 10 years ago: take over this division.”

When asked what his studying entailed, Joshua — who won a gold medal in the heavyweight category at the 2012 London Olympics — explained: “Loads of videos. Sometimes you can put fighters side-by-side — both 6 feet 6 inches, both weighing roughly the same amount — but you can see one is more disciplined with technique than the other, you can then see why they became more successful in their field and you learn about the discipline of following through your tactics. Stuff like that.

“You learn about when you move to the left against an orthodox fighter: Is that a dangerous move or is that a smart move to control a fighter? What does it mean to move to the right? What’s the first art of defensive boxing? It’s your feet — get out the way. You start to indulge yourself in the sweet science. Before I was more, ‘I’ve just come to fight.’ Now I’ve learned about the sweet science of the sport, which is important as well.”

In line with his learning, Joshua has ensured his 3,000-mile trip from London does not impact his training and fight preparation. In the lead-up to June’s defeat, he spent seven weeks away from home in Miami. On this occasion, he has arrived only two weeks prior — allowing him to maintain a “training camp vibe” to his buildup.

He believes he is now in the perfect place ahead of Saturday’s blockbuster bout, admitting he actually finds the actual fight the least nerve-wracking part of the whole experience.

“I just kept a training routine and focused on business: Keep my focus and get the job done,” he said. “I’m not nervous at all. I’m confident. I don’t think I’ve ever been nervous for a fight. I’ve probably been more nervous sparring. I trap myself in a dungeon, so I feel like I’m an experiment in a lab. I then come and present my efforts to you.

“That’s why I feel I’ve got so much pressure on myself, because behind closed doors I work so hard mentally and physically to try and stay at the top. I spar, like, five guys in a row who come to take my head off, and I’ve got to be sharp in every second of that round, which will ultimately (affect) what I do on fight night. Training is the hardest part, I think. That’s why I’m never nervous about a fight, because I put so much work in in the gym.”

Ruiz’s win over Joshua in June sent reverberations across all divisions of the sport, with many considering it one of boxing’s biggest ever upsets. So, could lightning strike twice?

“I think it’s kind of like an exam, isn’t it?” said Joshua. “You go through it once, you fail. Most people fail their first driving test, then they go again and prepare better, so I think I’m better prepared if I’m honest with you. You will definitely see the energy in the fight a bit different this time.”

Asked what the outcome would be if he were to suffer a second defeat to Ruiz in seven months, Joshua said: “Definitely catastrophic. But I’m not even thinking about losing. It’ll be big business when I win. I just got to keep focusing on the win.”

He added, “Everyone fails their first driving test. I think I got mine the second time.”