Listen: Full script of Episode 200 of Spodcast where we discuss Delhi's win over Hyderabad, Spurs reaching their first UCL final and more
In this edition of Firstpost Spodcast, we talk about Delhi's win over Hyderabad, Spurs reaching their first Champions League final after beating Ajax and more.
Welcome to Spodcast, the sports update on Firstpost.
Delhi Capitals defeated Sunrisers Hyderabad on Wednesday to proceed to the second qualifier that will be played on Friday.
Delhi chased down the target of 163 with just one ball to spare, defeating the Sunrisers Hyderabad by two wickets. Rishabh Pant was once again the standout player for Delhi. He smashed 49 runs from 21 balls to resurrect a Delhi innings that had floundered, and Keemo Paul finished things off with a four off the penultimate ball.
Delhi’s chase began well, with Prithvi Shaw belting 56 runs from 38 balls. Shaw was in his fine form on Wednesday — he punished Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the fifth over, playing a flowing cover drive, followed by a ramp shot for six over third man and a lofted boundary over mid-off — putting SRH on the back foot. Delhi made 55 runs in the powerplay.
However, they lost their momentum when Khaleel Ahmed’s extra pace and bounce got rid of Shaw and skipper Shreyas Iyer. Rashid Khan then removed Colin Munro and Axar Patel to peg back Delhi at 111/5.
It was then time for Pant to take centre stage. He teed off with a six off Mohammed Nabi, and then took a second six off him as 42 runs were required off the last four overs. Pant’s 21-ball blitz, which included five sixes and two boundaries, brought Delhi Capitals to the cusp of victory.
With 34 required off the last three overs, Pant showed brilliant game awareness to target Sunrisers' weakest link Basil Thampi, smashing him for 21 runs in the 18th over. When he was dismissed by Kumar, Delhi needed just 5 runs from 7 balls. Keemo Paul sent the penultimate ball from Khaleel Ahmed into the boundary, sealing a famous first win for a Delhi team in the IPL playoffs.
Earlier, SRH were put in to bat by Shreyas Iyer but Delhi’s bowlers never let them score freely. They were restricted to a par score of 162/8 on a good batting surface. Keemo Paul, who took 3/32, was well supported by Amit Mishra, Ishant Sharma, who claimed two wickets, and Axar Patel as the four bowlers sent down as many as 40 dot balls between them.
Martin Guptill and Manish Pandey made handy 30s while Kane Williamson, Vijay Shankar and Mohammad Nabi chipped in with 20-something scores. It looked like SRH might get a fighting total, but they lost momentum in the middle overs. Pandey and Williamson added just 34 runs in seven overs. Delhi’s tight bowling, even without the formidable Kagiso Rabada, put on a fine performance to snuff out any fight SRH hoped to put up.
Delhi Capital will face Chennai Super Kings in the second Qualifier on 10 May in their bid to make it to their first IPL final.
In Champions League news, an emotional Mauricio Pochettino called his Tottenham Hotspur players "super-heroes" after they reached the Champions League final for the first time in their history. A fantastic Lucas Moura hat-trick saw Spurs come back from the dead to beat Ajax on Wednesday, and leave the Dutch side heartbroken.
Ajax's improbable European run seemed set to go all the way to the final as they led 3-2 on aggregate deep in stoppage time in the second leg of the semi-final at the Johan Cruyff Arena.
That was when the ball broke to Lucas in the box and the Brazilian sent a low shot beyond Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana to seal their comeback, making it 3-2 to them on the night, 3-3 on aggregate, and taking Pochettino's men through on away goals.
Tottenham will face fellow comeback kings Liverpool in Madrid on 1 June, the first all-English showpiece since 2008.
A teary-eyed Pochettino said, “It is one of the most important nights in my life...The most important thing is to congratulate my players. They did a great job. I have said before that they are heroes. I think they are superheroes now. To have brought the club to the final of the Champions League is very close to a miracle.”
The man of the moment, Moura, said after the match, “Football gives us moments like this that we cannot imagine...We need to enjoy it. Look at me — it's the best moment in my life, my career.”
In Premier League news, Maurizio Sarri said Chelsea have no chance of competing with Manchester City and Liverpool next season unless their two-window transfer ban is overturned.
Chelsea were handed that ban for breaches of the international transfer rules on minors and FIFA threw out their appeal against the decision on Wednesday. The club will now take their fight against the transfer embargo to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
However, FIFA’s decision was the worst possible news for Sarri ahead of Thursday's Europa League semi-final second leg against Eintracht Frankfurt.
Having booked a place in next season's Champions League after securing a top four finish in the Premier League, Chelsea are bidding to win the first trophy of Sarri's reign in the Europa League. They are favoured to reach the final after drawing 1-1 in Frankfurt in the first leg last week.
However, Sarri is concerned that a potentially uplifting end to his less than stellar first season could be erased if Chelsea are unable to sign the players he believes are needed to fight City and Liverpool in the Premier League. At this juncture, the Blues are 24 points behind City.
He said, “It's very difficult to cover the gap at the moment; we need to work, probably we need to do something from the market...So it's not easy, because the level of the top two is very, very high. As we can see in Europe so it's not easy. Of course, we have to work and we have to try. In my opinion we can reduce the gap. I think that we have to buy only one, two players, otherwise it's very difficult to improve immediately. I think we are a very good team, so we need only one, two players, no more.”
To complicate matters further, Real Madrid are expected to make a move for Blues star Eden Hazard, who is out of contract next year. That means Sarri could be forced to sell a player he would prefer to retain rather than risk losing him for nothing when his deal expires.
In tennis, Rafael Nadal made the perfect start to his bid for a sixth Madrid Open title on Wednesday by beating Canadian teenager Felix Auger-Aliassime in straight sets.
Nadal has had a turbulent few weeks, slipping to surprise defeats in both Monte Carlo and Barcelona last month before being hit by a stomach bug on Sunday.But there was no sign of discomfort as the world number two began with a 6-3, 6-3 win.
His opponent, 18-year-old Auger-Aliassime, is enjoying something of a breakthrough year after beating Borna Coric, Fabio Fognini and Stefanos Tsitsipas, as well as Denis Shapovalov at Madrid in the first round. But Auger-Aliassime struggled to cope with Nadal’s power and spin on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Nadal, who will be chasing his 18th Grand Slam title at Roland Garros, will next face another young talent in America's Frances Tiafoe, with either Stan Wawrinka or Kei Nishikori waiting in the quarterfinals.
In the women’s draw, world number one Naomi Osaka was through to the quarterfinals for the first time after easing past Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-2, 6-3. Osaka pulled out of the semi-finals in Stuttgart last month with an abdominal injury but has said she is no longer feeling discomfort during matches.
She explained, “The ab injury was always sort of in the back of my mind, but that was more in the first round and now I feel fine...I'm at a really good place right now. I feel like I'm having fun playing tennis again, which is always a good thing for me. I always play well if I have that mentality.”
Osaka could meet world number three Simona Halep in the semis. Halep demolished Slovakian Viktoria Kuzmova 6-0, 6-0 in 44 minutes. Halep is chasing her third Madrid title after winning the tournament in 2016 and 2017.
Veteran Indian women’s cricketer Mithali Raj led her T20 side Velocity through some very anxious moments before registering a three-wicket win over Trailblazers to keep the race to final in the inaugural Women's T20 Challenge alive in Jaipur on Wednesday.
After their five-wicket win over Supernovas in the tournament-opener on Tuesday, a victory over Velocity would have sealed Trailblazers' place in Saturday's summit clash.
But that was not to be. Velocity restricted Trailblazers to 112/6 after opting to bowl. Left-arm spinner Ekta Bisht, who took 2/13, and New Zealand's Amelia Kerr, who took 2/21, kept the Trailblazers under check from the get go. Harleen Deol top-scored for Trailblazers with 43, while opener Suzie Bates made 26 runs. Skipper Smriti Mandhana made just 10 runs while Deepti Sharma scored 16 runs off 16 deliveries towards the end to take Trailblazers past the 110-run mark.
Chasing 113 for a win, Velocity got off to a less than desirable start. They lost opener Hayley Matthews early, but Shafali Verma, who made 34, and Danielle Wyatt, who scored 46 from 35 balls, accelerated the scoring for Velocity to set the platform for an easy chase. There was a minor scare after the dismissal of Wyatt and Verma.
Mithali looked set to finish off the chase but Velocity lost four quick wickets – three in the 18th over bowled by Deepti Sharma – with just two runs needed for victory. Veda Krishnamurthy was run out for a first-ball duck, and then Mithali was dismissed by a Deepti Sharma yorker on the first ball of the 18th. Sharma also got through the defence of Shikha Pandey the very next ball. On the fifth ball of the same over, Deepti claimed her fourth wicket of the day when she bowled Kerr to raise hopes of an improbable win for the Trailblazers, but it was too little too late. Velocity chased down the target with 12 balls to spare.
Velocity are now top of the points table, just ahead of Trailblazers while the Supernovas are yet to open their account.
Badminton star Lee Chong Wei will miss the World Championships in August after falling down the rankings following a prolonged absence due to cancer.
Michelle Chai, general manager of the Badminton Association of Malaysia, said Lee — currently ranked 113 in the world — would not play in the championships in Switzerland from 19-25 August. That means the Malaysian former World No 1 loses the chance to win the world title for the first time. It is another blow to his fading hopes of competing in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
A participating nation can send a maximum of two players who are inside the world top 150 and there are two Malaysians currently above Lee — Lee Zii Jia and Liew Daren. BAM president Norza Zakaria said the association would endorse players based on rankings released at the end of April. He told the media, “As we know, Chong Wei is not part of the list and he is still working on his fitness. The priority for Chong Wei now is for him to recover from his ailments, so let’s focus on that first.”
The 36-year-old triple Olympic silver medallist has been out since July last year when he was diagnosed with early-stage nose cancer. He endured a tough treatment programme in Taiwan but chose not to retire, and instead resumed training in January.
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