Marin and Axelsen claim back-to-back badminton titles in Bangkok

Spain's Carolina Marin hitting a shot during the women's singles final match where she beat Taiwan's Tai Tzu Ying at the Toyota Thailand Open badminton tournament in Bangkok. (AFP)
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Updated 25 January 2021

Marin and Axelsen claim back-to-back badminton titles in Bangkok

  • Thailand is hosting three consecutive badminton tournaments in a biosecure coronavirus bubble, without spectators to guard against the coronavirus outbreak

BANGKOK: Spain’s Carolina Marin and Viktor Axelsen from Denmark on Sunday claimed their second Thailand Open badminton singles titles in a fortnight.

Axelsen was a commanding force against his compatriot Hans-Kristian Solberg Vittinghus in the men’s final in Bangkok.

Marin, the reigning Olympic champion, smashed top seed Tai Tzu-ying for the second time in a fortnight.

Thailand is hosting three consecutive badminton tournaments in a biosecure coronavirus bubble, without spectators to guard against the coronavirus outbreak.

Marin, 27, went into Sunday’s final without losing a single game across the two tournaments.

In a much tighter contest than the first final last week, the Spaniard claimed the first game 21-19.

The Taiwanese 26-year-old appeared to lose her confidence early in the second set, as a dangerous Marin asserted her dominance.

Tai saved four match points but her comeback was too late as Marin sealed her victory 21-17.

“I feel extremely happy. Two victories in two weeks, it’s an amazing way to start the year,” said Marin.

“I said to myself and my team that for 2021 I was going to be a new player, with a new mindset with more focus on the game.”

Tai acknowledged she couldn’t match Marin’s pace.

“I couldn’t control myself from making unforced errors,” she said.

The first non-Asian woman to win an Olympic badminton gold, Marin has faced an uphill battle to recover from a January 2019 knee injury in time to defend her crown in Tokyo.

Axelsen 27, ran rings around 35-year-old Vittinghus triumphing in the first set 21-11.

Vittinghus, ranked 42th, made the tournament from a reserves list and had to reschedule his flight home because he had not anticipated a finals berth.

Axelsen repeatedly sent Vittinghus diving for shots and appeared in control of most rallies throughout the 40-minute match.

He polished off the second set 21-7 and flagged there would be low key celebrations.

“I’m going to stay at the hotel and talk to my family, my baby girl at home and that’s what’s on the menu tonight,” he said.

The women’s doubles was an all Korean affair with sixth-ranked Kim So-yeong and Kong Hee-yong too strong against fourth-ranked Lee So-hee and Shin Seung-chan 21-18, 21-19.

In the men’s doubles, seventh-ranked Lee Yang and Wang Chi-Lin of Taiwan also made it back-to-back titles in 36 minutes against Malaysia’s ninth-ranked Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik 21-13, 21-18.

Thailand’s third seeds Sapsiree Taerattanachai and Dechapol Puavaranukroh won their second tournament in a fortnight, outclassing sixth-ranked Koreans Seo Seung-ae and Chae Yujung in the mixed doubles.

Like their uniforms the Thai team were red hot, winning 21-16, 22-20 in 46 minutes.

Four people involved in the tournaments, including two players, have tested positive for the coronavirus during the past fortnight of competition.

The finale — the Badminton World Federation World Tour Finals — kicks off on Wednesday at the Impact Arena and will be contested by the top eight of each discipline.

Chinese and Japanese athletes have not participated in the Bangkok tournaments.


England collapse to 112 all out in India pink-ball test

Updated 55 min 35 sec ago

England collapse to 112 all out in India pink-ball test

  • Patel, who recorded his second haul of five or more wickets in just his second test

AHMEDABAD, India: Spinner Axar Patel claimed six wickets as India skittled out England for 112 on day one of a crucial day-night third test in Ahmedabad on Wednesday.

Patel, who recorded his second haul of five or more wickets in just his second test, combined with Ravichandran Ashwin to end England’s innings in 48.4 overs in the world’s biggest cricket stadium.

India’s innings witnessed a power cut with most of the new LED lights at the revamped stadium going off for two minutes after which play resumed.

India reached five for no loss at dinner with Rohit Sharma, on five, and Shubman Gill at the crease.

Gill survived a scare when he was caught at second slip off fast bowler Stuart Broad but replays suggested that Ben Stokes had grassed the ball while taking the catch.

Earlier Zak Crawley top-scored with 53 after England elected to bat first. Captain Joe Root (17) Ben Foakes (12) and Jofra Archer (11) also got into double figures.

The England batting fell apart after fast bowler Ishant Sharma, playing his 100th test, struck first with the wicket of Dom Sibley for nought in the third over of the day.

Crawley put on 47 runs with Root for the third wicket to put up some resistence but Ashwin claimed the England captain with his off spin.

Root reviewed the call but replays showed the ball would have hit the top of leg stump and he left the field to the loud cheers of the home crowd.

England took tea at 81 for four and wickets kept falling in the second session.

Foakes stood guard for 58 balls before Patel bowled the wicketkeeper-batsman to wrap up the innings. Ashwin took three wickets.

England, looking to bounce back from a 317-run defeat, have brought back their pace duo of James Anderson and Archer in the team.

The four-match series is level at 1-1.


Mohammad Hafeez declines PCB central contract offer 

Updated 24 February 2021

Mohammad Hafeez declines PCB central contract offer 

  • Hafeez was the world’s top scorer in Twenty20 internationals last year
  • PCB chief executive says disappointed but fully respects Hafeez's decision

ISLAMABAD: Twenty20 specialist Mohammad Hafeez has declined a central contract offer from the Pakistan Cricket Board.
The allrounder “politely turned down” a contract offer in category C for 2020-21, the cricket board said Wednesday.
“While I am disappointed, I fully respect his decision,” PCB chief executive Wasim Khan said in a statement. “Hafeez has been one of our star performers of the season and we hope he will carry the form and momentum to Africa.”
Hafeez was the world’s top scorer in Twenty20 internationals last year, but he didn’t feature in the recent Twenty20 series against South Africa after failing to join the team in its bio-secure bubble in time.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammad Rizwan and lefthanded batsman Fawad Alam got promotions in the updated list of central contracts after their impressive performances last year.
Rizwan joined all-format captain Babar Azam, Azhar Ali and Shaheen Afridi in category A while Fawad, who had earlier only a domestic cricket contract, was elevated in category C.
Since the contracts were announced in May last year, Rizwan is the leading scorer for Pakistan in test matches with 529 runs in seven matches and 325 runs in Twenty20 internationals.
Alam, who was recalled to test matches last year after a 10-year absence, scored centuries in test matches against New Zealand and during the home series against South Africa.
The decision to promote players was taken by the PCB after Khan met with the chairman of selectors Mohammad Wasim and reviewed players’ performance during the 2020-21 season


India renames world’s largest cricket stadium after PM Modi

Updated 24 February 2021

India renames world’s largest cricket stadium after PM Modi

  • Modi has also been accused of centralising power in the world’s biggest democracy
  • “The people of Gujarat will not bear this insult to Sardar Patel,” said Hardik Patel, president of the opposition Congress party in the state

AHMEDABAD: India renamed the world’s largest cricket stadium after Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday, a move that drew immediate praise and criticism.
The name change to the Narendra Modi Stadium was unveiled at the 132,000-seat venue formerly known as Sardar Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad, in the western state of Gujarat, where India are playing England in the third match of a four-game test series.
A gifted orator and consummate populist, Modi is by far the most popular and recognizable politician in India, and won a second term in power with an increased majority for the nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2019.
But Modi has also been accused of centralising power in the world’s biggest democracy.
“World’s largest stadium dedicated to the world’s largest personality!,” Priti Gandhi, a BJP spokeswoman, said in a tweet.
Others said the decision reflected a cult of personality surrounding Modi.
“The people of Gujarat will not bear this insult to Sardar Patel,” said Hardik Patel, president of the opposition Congress party in the state.
Patel was India’s first interior minister, long revered for his tough approach on national issues. Authorities have named the larger complex surrounding the stadium after him.
Dedicating sports stadiums to former prime ministers is common in India, but renaming such a high-profile venue for a sitting leader is rare.
Many of India’s public institutions and projects have been named after members of the Congress’ Nehru-Gandhi dynasty that governed India for decades and which Modi’s party long criticized as the dominance of one family.
“Both the BJP and Congress are busy perpetuating political branding,” Sanjay Jha, a former Congress official and political commentator, said.
Archit Khare, a 29-year-old student at the game, said: “I don’t know why it has been changed. Sardar Patel is more iconic. Sardar Patel was the iron man of India, it should have remained.”


Recon pays as Pogacar takes UAE Tour climb to extend overall lead

Updated 24 February 2021

Recon pays as Pogacar takes UAE Tour climb to extend overall lead

  • The Tour de France champion had already started the day in the leader’s red jersey

Jabel Hafeet, UAE: UAE Emirates rider Tadej Pogacar said his plans had gone perfectly after he took a major step toward victory in his team’s home cycling Tour, winning the first climbing stage on Tuesday to strengthen his hold on the overall lead.

The Tour de France champion had already started the day in the leader’s red jersey and finished it by beating last year’s UAE Tour winner Adam Yates, who Pogacar forced into doing most of the grunt work in the finale.

“I made my move early because the final two corners makes it tough for a guy behind to overtake,” said Pogacar, who climbed this section in training repeatedly in intense preparation for the Tour.

“I knew exactly what I needed to do to win this sprint,” Pogacar admitted when asked about his preparations for the race.

Yates, the Ineos team leader this week, now sits second, 43sec behind with one more climb stage to overhaul the on form Slovenian.

“The UAE Tour is not won overall yet. A lot can happen in the last four stages,” Pogacar said on the winning line.

“We wanted a win and we got one. It was a really tough day and kind of stressful,” he said mentioning the crosswind that caused breaks in the main group on the flat exposed sections of the ride.

“It was super hard but I’m super happy to win,” said the 22-year-old who had his image emblazoned on the tallest building in the world the Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai after his win in September on the 2020 Tour de France.

But Yates truly took the battle to Pogacar with a series of blistering accelerations on the way up the 10km 5.4 percent gradient Jebel Hafeet summit finish climb.

Only Pogacar managed to follow Yates as the other contenders, chiefly the brilliant Portuguese rookie Joao Almeida dropped away with Yates’ relentless attacking.

“I wanted to make time on the others, and Adam certainly did,” said Pogacar.

But under immense pressure to win this Tour Pogacar refused Yates’ pleas to launch a joint bid to distance the others.

Instead, from a position of strength he sat on Yates’ wheel and then skipped away from him over the final 400m.

The Briton however almost overhauled him on the line and the pair finished on the same time of 3hrs 58min 35sec.

Almeida and the chasing group crossed the line 48 seconds off the pace, leaving the Quick-Step man in third overall at 1min 03sec.

There are four more stages to race with three potential sprint finishes and Thursday’s toughest stage featuring a summit finish at the 21km long Jebel Jais climb likely to be decisive.


Tiger Woods in hospital after ‘major’ car crash

Updated 23 February 2021

Tiger Woods in hospital after ‘major’ car crash

  • Woods, the sole occupant, was removed from the wreckage by firefighters and paramedics
  • The roll-over collision near Los Angeles did not involve any other vehicles

LOS ANGELES: US golfer Tiger Woods was hospitalized Tuesday after a car crash in which his vehicle sustained “major damage,” the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department said.
Woods, the sole occupant, was removed from the wreckage by firefighters and paramedics, and suffered “multiple leg injuries,” his agent said in a statement to US media.
“He is currently in surgery and we thank you for your privacy and support,” said Mark Steinberg.
Woods was taken to a local hospital for treatment.
The roll-over crash near Los Angeles did not involve any other vehicles. Television images showed the car lying on a patch of grass off the road, with its hood badly damaged.
Woods, one of the most successful golfers of all time, has won 15 major golf championships.
He recently underwent his fifth back surgery, and said he was uncertain if he will be able to play at the upcoming Masters, which he last won in 2019.
According to celebrity website TMZ, 45-year-old Woods was in the area for his annual Genesis Invitational golf tournament at the Riviera Country Club.