Firstpost Spodcast Episode 218: Pakistan stun England in ICC Cricket World Cup; Novak Djokovic, Simona Halep advance to French Open quarters and more
In this episode of Firstpost Spodcast, we discuss Pakistan's win over England in ICC Cricket World Cup, Novak Djokovic and Simona Halep's march to French Open quarters and other sports news
Welcome to Spodcast, the sports update on Firstpost.
World Cup cricket first. Pakistan handed England a shock defeat on Monday, winning by 14 runs at Trent Bridge as they ended an 11-match losing streak in one-day internationals.
It was a remarkable turnaround for Pakistan, who slumped to 105 all out in their opening match and receiving a thrashing by the West Indies. In a closely contested encounter on Monday, Pakistan prevailed despite two centuries from England’s middle order.
Pakistan batted first, and the openers attacked from the start, with Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq sharing a stand of 82. Mohammad Hafeez top-scored with 84, while Babar Azam made 63 and captain Sarfaraz Ahmed chipped in with a useful 55. Pakistan were undone by a barrage of bouncers against the West Indies, and England used similar tactics. However, Pakistan coped well with the bowling and, interestingly, it was off-spinner Moeen who took the first three wickets. To make matters worse, England put on an unusually sloppy fielding performance on a day their fast bowlers were expensive, even dropping Hafeez when he was on 14. Pakistan finished with 348/8, which meant England would have to achieve the highest target ever chased down in a world cup game.
That wasn’t to be. England's chase got off to a bad start when Jason Roy was LBW on the sweep to leg-spinner Shadab Khan to leave them 12/1. Jonny Bairstow, whose opening partnership with Roy has been a key factor in England's rise to number one in ODI rankings, fell for just 32 when he was caught behind off Wahab Riaz. It was then the turn of the spinners. England captain Eoin Morgan was bowled by Mohammad Hafeez and Sarfaraz took a good catch to dismiss Ben Stokes off Shoaib Malik. With England’s chase reeling due to their old weakness against spin bowling, Joe Root and Jos Buttler put on a rescue act, guiding the tournament favourites towards the imposing target of 349. Root made 107 runs from 104 balls while Buttler made a characteristically belligerent century, scoring 103 from just 76 balls, as they shared a 130-run partnership for the fifth wicket. Root brought up his 15th ODI century, and Buttler his ninth. Once Buttler fell in the 45th over, Pakistan were back in the saddle. Chris Woakes tried to keep England in the hunt but was caught behind in the 48th over. With 29 runs needed off 12 balls, England just couldn’t muster the skills required to pull off another brilliant chase. They finished with 334/9, falling short of their target by 15 runs.
At the French Open, Novak Djokovic became the first man to reach the French Open quarter-finals for 10 successive seasons while defending women's champion Simona Halep swept into the last eight in just 45 minutes.
Top seed and world number one Djokovic continued his bid to hold all four Grand Slam titles simultaneously for the second time by thrashing Germany's Jan-Lennard Struff 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 in drizzly conditions. In the next round, he will face fifth seed Alexander Zverev in his 13th quarter-finals appearance at Roland Garros. Only Australian great Rod Laver has held all four majors at the same time twice before, after his calendar Grand Slams in 1962 and 1969.
Speaking after his win, Djokovic said, “It was tricky with the rain, but that's Paris...I'm really confident with my serve. I hope it continues like that.”
Zverev reached his second successive French Open quarter-final with a 3-6, 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 win over Italy's Fabio Fognini. Last year he achieved his best run at the Slams, making the quarter-finals where he was defeated by eventual runner-up Dominic Thiem.
In the women’s draw, Simona Halep reached her fourth French Open quarter-final with a 45-minute thrashing of Polish teenager Iga Swiatek. The Romanian third seed raced to a 6-1, 6-0 win as Swiatek failed to hold serve in the match. Halep will face 17-year-old American player Amanda Anisimova in the next match.
A new development in the Caster Semenya case. Switzerland's top court said on Monday it had temporarily suspended IAAF rules that oblige athletes including double Olympic champion Caster Semenya to lower her testosterone levels in order to compete in certain events.
Swiss Federal Tribunal spokesman Peter Josi said the court had issued a "super-provisional order" barring the application of the IAAF rules until a further hearing takes place concerning the rules that were previously approved by the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The new IAAF rules required women with higher than normal male hormone levels to artificially lower the amount of testosterone in their bodies if they wanted to compete in races over distances of 400m to the mile.
Semenya, who won the women's 800 metres at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, said after the announcement, “I am thankful to the Swiss judges for this decision...I hope that following my appeal I will once again be able to run free.” Semenya and Athletics South Africa lost their CAS appeal against the measures. In a split decision, arbitrators at the sports court acknowledged however that the rules were "discriminatory." The athlete announced plans to appeal to Switzerland's highest court, with her lawyer stating, “This is an important case that will have fundamental implications for the human rights of female athletes.”
In other cricket news, the BCCI announced the schedule of the entire home season for Team India in 2019-20, which will comprise five Tests, nine ODIs and 12 T20s.
The season begins starting 15 September with South Africa arriving for three T20s and three Tests. The three Test matches against South Africa in October, and another two against Bangladesh, will be part of the inaugural World Test Championship that begins after the 2019 World Cup. Bangladesh will play a series in India for the first time when they tour in November for three T20s and the two Test matches. Bangladesh had toured India for the first time in 2017 when they played a one-off Test in Hyderabad.
Noticeably, India will not be playing a full-series comprising Tests, T20s and ODIs in one go in the 2019-20 season. And that means South Africa will return to play three ODIs in March 2020.
After Bangladesh's departure in the last week of November, India will face the West Indies in three T20s and as many ODIs, followed by Zimbabwe for three T20s. India then host Australia for a three-match ODI series. BCCI and Cricket Australia had serious differences over the scheduling of the series but the Indian cricket board eventually had its way.
The home season will conclude in March 2020 with South Africa's ODI tour of India.
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Several major American sports have a policy setting out a procedure to be followed in such situations, and Djokovic believes tennis should go down the same route.
Novak Djokovic, five-time winner finishes second in Group Tokyo 2020 behind Medvedev and will play third-seed Dominic Thiem in the semi-finals on Saturday.
ATP Finals 2020: Daniil Medvedev overcomes Rafael Nadal in thrilling semi-final, sets up title clash against Dominic Thiem
Nadal, who has never won the elite event in his illustrious career, faltered when serving for the match in the second set and was beaten 3-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-3.