Mithali Raj leads India to semi-finals of ICC Women's World Cup 2017 with masterful century

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Indian skipper Mithali Raj

In the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017, India took on New Zealand on Saturday in the last round robin game for either team before the knockout stages commence. The two teams squared off in Derby in what was a direct shootout for a semi-final spot.

Kiwi skipper Suzie Bates won the toss and put the Mithali Raj-led Indian side into bat. New Zealand’s fast bowling pair of Lea Tahuhu and Hannah Rowe were effective early on and removed the Indian opening pair of Punam Raut and Smriti Mandhana cheaply leaving the Indians tottering at 21-2.

Skipper Mithali Raj then got together with Harmanpreet Kaur to steady the ship as the two put on 132 runs for the third wicket before Kaur, after scoring 60, chipped an easy return catch to spinner Leigh Kasperek.

Deepti Sharma was next to go but Raj got together with Veda Krishnamurthy and took the attack to the Kiwi bowlers as the duo put on a quickfire 108-run partnership for the fifth wicket to push India’s total to over 250.

Mithali Raj

Mithali Raj.

In the process, Raj completed her sixth ODI century before being eventually dismissed for a masterful 109 while Krishnamurthy’s boundary-laden 70 off just 45 deliveries ensured that India set New Zealand a tough target of 266 runs.

In reply, the Kiwis got off to the worst possible start losing Bates and her opening partner Rachel Priest within the first three overs. Pacer Shikha Pandey had Bates edging to wide slip while Jhulan Goswami took a brilliant return catch to dismiss Priest.

From then on, it was an uphill battle for the New Zealand batting line-up and they never got going as they folded without a fight.

New Zealand skipper Suzie Bates fell cheaply.

New Zealand skipper Suzie Bates was dismissed for a low score.

Left-arm spinner Rajeshwari Gayakwad was the destructor-in-chief for the Indian team picking up a fifer in her first match of this tournament.

Gayakwad had been warming the bench for the previous six matches but when the call came in a crunch match, she delivered with aplomb finishing with career-best bowling figures of 5-15.

New Zealand were eventually bundled out for a paltry 79 runs, falling short of the target by a mammoth 186 runs handing the Indian women their first semi-final berth at a major ICC event since 2010.

The Indian team have now won all the four games they have played at Derby and the fact that their semi-final against Australia takes place at the same ground augurs well for them.

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Arjuna Ranatunga seeks probe into Sri Lanka's 2011 World Cup final defeat

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Former Sri Lanka captain Arjuna Ranatunga.

Former Sri Lanka skipper Arjuna Ranatunga on Friday demanded an investigation into the country’s 2011 World Cup final defeat by India amid allegations of match fixing.

Ranatunga, 53, in a video posted on his Facebook page, said he was shocked by Sri Lanka’s six-wicket defeat in the final at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.

“I was also in India giving commentaries at the time. When we lost, I was distressed and I had a doubt,” Ranatunga said.

“We must investigate what happened to Sri Lanka at the 2011 World Cup final.”

“I cannot reveal everything now, but one day I will. There must be an inquiry.”

Without giving names, Ranatunga said players could not hide the “dirt” with their clean white cricket clothing.

Sri Lanka, batting first, scored 274-6 off 50 overs and appeared in a commanding position when Indian superstar Sachin Tendulkar was caught for 18. India turned the game dramatically thanks partly to poor fielding and bowling by Sri Lanka.

Ranatunga’s spokesman Thamira Manju said he was writing to President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe complaining about the state of cricket in the country.

There have been recriminations in the country since Sri Lanka suffered a humiliating 3-2 loss to bottom-ranked Zimbabwe in a five-match one-day series on home soil this month.

There is also growing tension between Sri Lankan sports authorities and players about the use of managers, including an agent who represents more than half the national team.

Last year, the International Cricket Council imposed a three-year ban on a top Sri Lankan official Jayananda Warnaweera for failing to cooperate with an anti-corruption investigation.

Warnaweera, a former Test player who was facing a two-year domestic ban over allegations of involvement in match-fixing, failed to attend interviews with an ICC anti-corruption unit.

Sri Lanka’s cricket board also suspended a fast bowling coach and sacked a part-time employee for their alleged roles in approach to two Sri Lankan players to arrange a defeat by West Indies at Galle in October 2015. An unnamed man linked to a bookmaker had offered the two players around $70,000 to lose the match.

(Provided by AFP)

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Skipper Faf du Plessis wants Proteas to pass character test

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Faf du Plessis during practice before the Trent Bridge Test.

South Africa captain Faf du Plessis has urged the Proteas to pass a “huge test of character” when they face England again at Trent Bridge.

Du Plessis did not play in England’s crushing 211-run win in the first of a four-Test series at Lord’s last week following the birth of his first child.

But he was on hand to see South Africa lose 10 wickets in under two sessions as they slumped to 119 all out in their second innings with more than a day to spare.

“I had the baby with one arm and watched the cricket with one eye,” du Plessis told reporters at Trent Bridge on Thursday — his 33rd birthday and the day before the second Test starts on Friday.

“I saw a lot of interesting things from the side which is probably a bit of outside perspective, you don’t always get that,” he added as he took back the reins from stand-in skipper Dean Elgar.

“I’m really excited to be back with the team. It was tough going for us, the previous one, we weren’t as good as we would like to have been but in cricket you get another go and we’re looking forward to this next Test.”

South Africa have a proud away Test record. In their past 19 series spanning some 10 years on the road, they’ve won 13, drawn five and lost just one — in India in 2015/16.

But they did not help themselves at Lord’s by twice taking wickets with no-balls and missing several chances to dismiss Joe Root before he marked his first innings as England captain with a brilliant 190.

“It’s basics for me, there’s no point looking too much further as you can over-analyse,” said du Plessis.

South Africa did manage to reduce England to 76 for four on the first morning at Lord’s before the hosts fought back, aided by some slack Proteas fielding.

“There were times that England found themselves under pressure — the disappointing thing was just how quickly they got out of it,” said du Plessis.

“Eighty for four could have quickly been a different story but we didn’t take our chances. Catches go down but it’s how you respond to them and we didn’t do that well enough.

“When they threw a punch back at us we just sat back and let it happen, expecting something to change and it never did and that is where we let the game slip.”

South Africa’s task this match has been made harder by the fact that pace bowler Kagiso Rabada has been ruled out after being hit with a one-match ban as a result of swearing at England’s Ben Stokes at Lord’s, while Proteas coach Russell Domingo is back home following the death of his mother from injuries suffered in a recent car accident.

“‘KG’ (Rabada) is an unforeseen circumstance, so you can’t plan for that,” senior batsman du Plessis said.

“The stuff off the field you can’t plan for (either) — I didn’t expect the baby to come earlier, the tragedy in Russell’s family etc — it’s a huge character test for us.”

“What was missing in the first Test was that we didn’t do that (show enough character).”

While acknowledging Trent Bridge’s reputation as a ‘swing-friendly’ ground, du Plessis said it was important his side played what was in front of them at Nottinghamshire’s headquarters.

“We know the ball is conducive to the swing and seam bowlers but we have a quality attack,” he insisted.

“I’ve never been a guy to get too focussed on past results.

“It’s about getting out there, seeing what the pitch offers and how you react.”

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