Sharma ton sets up India’s six-wicket win

India’s Rohit Sharma in action during the World Cup match against South Africa in Southampton on Wednesday. (Reuters)
Updated 05 June 2019

Sharma ton sets up India’s six-wicket win

  • Pressure mounts for South Africa following their third straight defeat

SOUTHAMPTON: An opening victory for India has South Africa’s Cricket World Cup campaign teetering on the edge.

Rohit Sharma made the most of an early reprieve to post an unbeaten 122 and guide India to a six-wicket win over an injury-depleted South Africa on Wednesday, when tight bowling dominated a low-scoring group game at the Rose Bowl.

Sharma’s let off came in the second over — Kagiso Rabada’s first — when he fended at a short ball which brushed his glove and carried to second slip, but South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis was not able to grab it.

He recovered steadily and carried his bat, reaching 100 from 128 balls, as India surpassed the victory target of 228 with 15 balls to spare, consigning South Africa to a third straight defeat.

It is likely South Africa will have to win its remaining six league games to maintain a chance of reaching the semifinals.

India had to wait until day seven of the tournament for its opening game, and the world’s No. 1-ranked paceman Jasprit Bumrah did not waste time getting things going when he dismissed both openers to have South Africa struggling at 24-2.

After Bumrah took the first two wickets by generating good pace and significant seam movement, wrist spinner Yuzvendra Chahal snared 4-51, starting with a pair in the 20th over that finished with the key wicket of du Plessis for 38.

Chris Morris chipped in with 42, Andile Phehlukwayo scored 34, and Rabada finished unbeaten on 31 as South Africa’s allrounders contributed in a total of 227-9 that initially seemed well below par in mild but slightly overcast conditions on a pitch showing no signs of wear.

But South Africa’s attack, missing veteran Dale Steyn (ruled out of the tournament) and Lungo Ngidi (hamstring injury), made India’s strong batting lineup work.

Rabada bowled with pace and aggression early and, after missing out on Sharma’s wicket, had Shikhar Dhawan (8) caught behind with the total at 13.

He then greeted India skipper Virat Kohli with a bumper and had figures of 1-3 after three overs, before Sharma hit him out of the attack with a six and two boundaries in his following over.

Kohli went to the crease aiming to extend a sequence of centuries — he opened the 2011 and ‘15 World Cups with hundreds — but the India captain was out for 18 when he chased a ball from Phehlukwayo and fell to an athletic, tumbling caught behind by Quinton de Kock.

Rabada came back to have KL Rahul (26) caught by du Plessis and returned 2-39 from 10 overs. He should have finally had Sharma’s wicket in his ninth over, but David Miller dropped a sitter at cover when the Indian opener was 107 in a missed opportunity that summed up South Africa’s day.

Chris Morris got a consolation wicket late, tumbling over the stumps at the non-striker’s end when he took a skied, return catch to dismiss MS Dhoni (34) to make the total 213-4. Otherwise, it was a long day with few rewards for the South African bowlers.

India next plays defending champion Australia at the Oval on Sunday, and South Africa remains in Southampton to face the West Indies on Sunday.


Juventus coach Sarri: Cristiano is in another class

Updated 5 min 18 sec ago

Juventus coach Sarri: Cristiano is in another class

  • The 38-year-old is the only player to have scored at least league 15 goals in each of the last 14 seasons

MILAN: Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to form has coincided with Juventus taking a firm grip on Serie A.

Ronaldo did not score at all in November, but he scored twice as Juventus beat Parma 2-1 on Sunday to take his tally to 11 in his last seven league matches.

The win also put Juventus on course for a record-extending ninth straight Serie A title as the Bianconeri moved four points above Inter Milan. They were two points behind the Nerazzurri a month and a half ago.

Ronaldo has struggled with injury this season and missed three Serie A matches, playing through pain in others.

The 38-year-old Portugal forward has nevertheless scored 16 goals in 17 matches, becoming the first Juventus player to have that many goals after 20 matches since Omar Sivori in 1960.

Ronaldo is also the only player to have scored at least 15 goals in one of Europe’s top five leagues in each of the last 14 seasons.

“Cristiano is in another class,” Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri said. “Sometimes he poses you a little bit of a problem but he will solve 100 others for you.”

While Juventus managed to grind out results in November when Ronaldo wasn’t scoring, Inter struggle when their top scorers are not on form.

There have been three matches since December where neither Romelu Lukaku nor Lautaro Martínez have managed to find the back of the net. All three ended in draws.

The latest was a surprise 1-1 result at relegation-threatened Lecce on Sunday.

That is also down to a general drop in pace in the team as, prior to that, Inter had managed to win the previous four matches where Lukaku and Martínez didn’t score.

“The final result stems from the fact that we’re a team that needs to go at 200 kph. We cannot afford to be off the pace,” Inter coach Antonio Conte said. “It’s evident that if we go at an average pace, if we go into cruise speed, we become a normal team and aren’t able to get a result.”

Substitute

Mario Balotelli’s match lasted only seven minutes on Sunday and he could now find himself with even less playing time in the coming weeks.

Balotelli came on as a substitute in the 74th minute of Brescia’s 2-2 draw against Cagliari but shortly afterward was shown a yellow card for a high tackle and then immediately shown a second after repeatedly swearing at the referee.

Depending on what referee Antonio Giua writes in his report, Balotelli could be suspended for several matches.

The forward will certainly miss Brescia’s next match, against former team AC Milan.

“I think the yellow card was too harsh. Mario didn’t feel it was right, and his protests didn’t seem excessive to me,” Brescia coach Eugenio Corini said. “It’s a pity because he came on with the desire to make us win the match.”

Balotelli was banned for the first four matches of the Serie A season following a red card in his last match with Marseille last season.

“It’s incredible how one episode can always drastically change from too negative or too positive everyone’s opinion on the character or professionalism of a person,” Balotelli wrote on his Instagram story after the match. “I will continue with my daily work this time, too. It’s not a problem. You can continue to judge me as you wish.”