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Shakib Al Hasan banned for 4 games of DPL following his on-field meltdown

Cricket|: Dhaka: Star Bangladesh cricketer Shakib Al Hasan has been let off lightly with a four-match suspension from Dhaka T20 Premier League, following his on-field meltdown during a match between Mohammedan Sporting and Abahani Limited. According to leading Bangladesh cricket portal 'BDCrictime', "Mohammedan Sporting Club captain Shakib Al Hasan has been banned for four matches due to his arrogant behaviour in the Dhaka Premier League. He will not be able to play the eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh round matches of the DPL." While his team Mohammedan won the match easily by DLS method, Shakib lost his cool twice during the game -- once when he kicked the stumps after a strong leg-before appeal against his Bangladesh teammate Mushfiqur Rahim and secondly when umpires called for covers with one ball left to complete a minimum of six overs of the Abahani innings which would be required for a result. This time, he rushed from mid-off and uprooted the stumps. The match did start and Shakib's team won easily but he aso misbehaved with rival team officials and former Bangladesh captain Khaled Mahmud Sujon. Later Shakib tendered an unconditional apology on his official facebook page, but his act of trying to damage match property is as good as Level III offence. The portal also reported that the decision was taken by Cricket Committee of Dhaka Metropolis (CCDM) chaired by Kazi Imam. Shakib's boorish behaviour went viral as video footage of him uprooting the stumps has since then been shared more than million times from various social media handles. Shakib is Bangladesh's most prolific international cricketer with more than 10,000 international runs across formats along with nearly 600 wickets. He has already been banned for one year after failing to report a corrupt approach during an earlier edition of Indian Premier League.

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Stuart Broad wants 'soft signal' abolished after New Zealand incident

Cricket|: Birmingham: England great Stuart Broad has urged cricket chiefs to "do away now" with the soft signal after feeling he had been denied a wicket by the current Decision Review System in the ongoing second Test against New Zealand. Broad thought he had Devon Conway caught low in the slips by Zak Crawley for 22 on Friday's second day at Edgbaston. There was enough doubt, however, for third umpire Michael Gough to be called in by his colleagues. And when standing umpire Richard Kettleborough gave a 'soft signal' of not out, England's hopes of seeing off Conway right then faded. Gough duly ruled Conway not out and he went on to make 80 before New Zealand ended the day on 229-3, 74 runs behind England's first innings 303. Broad, with the aid of a Crawley catch at deep square leg, eventually dismissed Conway but was still clearly rankled not to get him earlier on. "You can see from our reaction on the field that we thought it was out," Broad told Sky Sports before play on Saturday. "Zac thought he had his fingers under the ball. You only have to look at Joe Root's reaction at first slip and (wicket-keeper James) Bracey's reaction behind the stumps - who are a yard away from it - to know that that ball has carried." Nevertheless Broad, perhaps anxious to avoid disciplinary action from his father Chris, the ICC match referee for this Test, added he sympathised with the "really difficult situation" the umpires found themselves in with the soft signal. "It's not the umpires' fault that they're 40 yards away with maybe an obscured view. "You're going upstairs because you're not sure whether it's carried or not. "Then the third umpire's hands are tied a little bit with whatever that on-field call is." Broad, now sixth in Test cricket's list of all-time leading wicket-takers insisted the International Cricket Council should abolish the soft signal immediately as "the cons completely outweigh the pros". "I don't really see the point of waiting for another ICC meeting in September or wherever it comes to discuss what's going on in the game," he said. "Let's just do away with it now. "The ICC should just come out and say 'the soft signal is gone'. If the umpires are unsure, let's go through the amazing technology we've got and get the right decision."

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ECB to review cricketers' social media accounts following Ollie Robinson old tweets fiasco

Cricket|: London: England's cricket authorities will review players' social media to "address any historical issues" following fast bowler Ollie Robinson's suspension for discriminatory posts on Twitter in 2012-13. The England and Wales Cricket Board's announcement Saturday opened the door to taking disciplinary action against other players, if necessary. Robinson was suspended from international cricket last Sunday pending a disciplinary investigation into the racist and sexist tweets he posted as a teenager. The 27-year-old Robinson, who made his test debut in the first match of a series against New Zealand last week at Lord's, has apologised. The review will "address any historical issues, remind individuals of their personal responsibilities going forward, and help them learn lessons along the way," the ECB said. "The Board was clear that this process would not prevent further disciplinary action in the future, should that be required, under the applicable processes, but it is hoped that the game can emerge from this difficult period stronger and determined to be more inclusive and welcoming to all," the board added. The saga was embarrassing for both Robinson and the ECB, with the tweets resurfacing hours after England's players shared a "moment of unity" with their New Zealand counterparts by wearing T-shirts designed to show a collective stance against discrimination of all kinds.

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How David Robertson, a Scotsman, shaped football's growth in Kashmir valley

Football|: Kolkata: David Robertson, a former Scotland international footballer-turned-coach, has been the driving force behind the giant strides taken by Real Kashmir FC - the Indian football club from the strife-torn vallery over the last four years. It hasn’t gone unoticed as he was conferred a British Empire Medal (BEM) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List on June 12, 2021 for his ‘‘services to the local community of Jammu and Kashmir’’ during his coaching tenure with the club since 2017. “I would like to dedicate this award to so many people who have contributed in their own way. The Snow Leopard (Real Kashmir FC) fans are certainly one of them — they are part of the family. Without their support, no club can succeed. The support and warmth they have given not only to me but the whole club is incredible. They drive us all on, I hope very soon we can hear them roar at TRC.” Robertson told ileague.org after winning the award. From winning the Hero second Division League in 2018 to becoming the first club from the valley to compete in the Hero I-league, Robertson has been a key part of the incredible journey of the club which had enormous character against tremendous odds, including lack of infra-structure, to capture the imagination of Indian football fans. The Snow Leopards recently added another significant chapter in their journey by winning the 123rd edition of the IFA Shield tournament, one of the oldest football tournament in the world, last year. Jubilant members of Real Kashmir FC with the IFA Shield trophy which they won late last year. Image Credit: Twitter “The sacrifices of my wife and family have allowed me to pursue my dream. My parents are also a huge part of my successful career. My mother passed away six months ago and my father passed away three weeks ago, just days after I was first notified of my award. I’m sad that they were not here to celebrate with me,” he added. The 52-year-old, who played as a defender for Rangers, Aberdeen and Leeds United in England and donned the Scotland colours, took up coaching after retirement - managing clubs like Elgin City, Montrose and Phoenix FC in Scotland and the USA and now he feels “attached” to the people of the valley. “I’m so proud to have been a part of an amazing story. When I arrived in Kashmir almost five years ago, I found it tough as it was a new experience but that soon changed as I was made to feel so welcome by everyone not only those involved at RKFC, but the general public when I walked down the streets. Now I feel so honoured and attached to the Kashmiri public, I feel so much appreciation for their continued support and feel I am working and wanting to do everything I can to give them a team to be proud of,” he recalled. Robertson lauded Sandeep Chattoo and his family for standing as the backbone of the club. “I would like to thank Sandeep Chattoo and his family for all the support they have given me and their continued drive to keep the club moving forward. It’s a total pleasure to be part of such a great club. No one could believe where we are today from where we started. So many people have contributed on and off the pitch to make the club a success and we aim to keep striving for even more success’’, he added.

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Euro 2020 Group B match preview: Pukki set to start for Finland against Denmark

Football|: Stockholm: Striker Teemo Pukki raised the fever of Finnish fans a notch by declaring has himself fit to lead the line against Denmark in their opening Euro 2020 Group B clash at the Parken Stadium today. Pukki, who scored 10 of Finland’s 16 goals as they came runner-up to Italy in their group to qualify for the finals of a major tournament for the first time, told reporters he has fully recovered from an ankle injury he sustained in May. “I’ve been training normally for the past week and a half, as all the other player have, and I played 30 minutes in the last preparation game, I haven’t had any issues with the ankle and I’m ready to play as much as the coach will allow me to,” the Norwich City player said. Finland’s blue-and-white clad fans had already begun arriving in Copenhagen on Friday, enjoying the sunshine around the stadium as their team made their final preparations. “There is a clear football fever in Finland at the moment, it’s great to see that there’s been a lot of videos, support messages, songs sent to us,” Pukki added. Both Pukki and team captain Tim Sparv know the Danes well, having spent four and six years respectively playing in the Danish top flight, and they have plenty of respect for their opponents. “In my mind, the Danish team don’t have any big weaknesses, we’ve been talking about their offensive game, they have some big names that can be very dangerous if we give them the time and space to do what they want,” Sparv said. Coach Markku Kanerva said he had no worries about Pukki or Sparv, who had been troubled by a knee injury in the lead-up to the tournament. “There are no new injuries, and we will go through our final training to see if all our players are 100 percent in shape. It all looks good, the players that had some small issues are doing well,” he said. Repeat of 1992 Meanwhile, Kasper Hjulmand said that his Denmark team will “dream big” and have one eye on a repeat of their unexpected triumph in 1992. A talented Danish side begin their campaign nearly three decades after winning their one major honour in a tournament for which they only took part because of the break-up of Yugoslavia. Hjulmand, 49, was not fazed when asked whether he thought his team could go all the way. “We are comfortable and we believe in ourselves,” Hjulmand told reporters. “We do dare to dream big but we also know that there are bigger countries out there with better opportunities to win it all. So our first aim is to progress from the group and then everything can happen. “It’s football and in one game everything can happen. But first and foremost it’s the first game against Finland and we’ll do our best to try and get a good start. From there, as I said, everything can happen.” Much will depend on the form of Christian Eriksen if Denmark are to have a successful Euro 2020. Image Credit: AP Denmark will be spurred on by 16,000 of their own fans and key to their success will be Christian Eriksen, who comes into the Euro after a turbulent season at Inter Milan when he won last season’s Serie A title but also spent long periods out of departed coach Antonio Conte’s team. “I think it wouldn’t matter where I’ve come from in the last 18 months. Every tournament is special, no matter where I’ve come from,” said the 29-year-old. “I’m not looking backwards, I’m looking forwards to this tournament and to play the Euros. “How things are seen from the outside and I feel about them may be completely different. If it (the Euro) had been seven months ago I would have still been very confident going into the tournament.”

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French Open: Can young Stefanos Tsitsipas stop Novak Djokovic in the final?

Tennis|: Kolkata: Like in life, sport doesn’t often make way for fairytale endings. A Serena Williams is made to wait for more than four years to overtake Margaret Court’s record of 23 singles grand slam titles while a Rafa Nadal is left stranded at the same number of grand slam titles as Roger Federer - 20. Nadal, who could have become the oldest finalist at French Open at 35 if he won the epic semi-final on Friday night, would be surely back next year on his favourite backyard. For now, however, its Novak Djokovic - the 2016 winner with 18 grand slams - who has history beckoning him to be the first in over half a century to win all four majors on multiple occasions. Standing on his way on Sunday will be Stefanos Tsitsipas, the lanky youngster with a complete game as it can be, who became the first Greek to reach a grand slam final. The French Open clay has proved to be a killing fields for many a reputation, but it looks difficult to look beyond the world No.1 Serb - who was at his grittiest best on Friday - waiting for his chances against arguably the best men’s claycourt player ever. “You cannot play better clay court tennis than this. It’s perfect,” tweeted an admiring Andy Murray, the former world number one who lost the 2016 final to Djokovic. The lopsided men’s draw, which meant only one of the ‘Big Three’ of men’s tennis could have been in the final - has perhaps thrown up its best candidate on form to stop the GenNext from producing their first champion on clay in a while. MORE ON FRENCH OPEN Djokovic hands Nadal his first defeat at French Open since 2015 Video: Sania Mirza, Shoaib Malik to launch sports academies in Dubai French Open: History beckons for late bloomers Pavlyuchenkova, Krejcikova “It was a privilege to face Rafa in such an incredible match,” said Djokovic after four hours and 11 minutes of intense action. “Tonight it was my greatest ever match in Paris.” It was his second win in nine meetings at Roland Garros with Nadal, a sequence which also included devastating losses in the 2012, 2014 and 2020 finals. “Definitely one of the top three matches that I ever played in my entire career,” said Djokovic. In a spontaneous gesture of appreciation on a dramatic evening, the French Open organisers allowed 5,000-off spectators inside Court Philippe Chatrier to watch the conclusion of the match despite it passing the 11pm Covid-19 curfew. “In agreement with the national authorities, the match will come to an end in your presence,” said a stadium announcer told delighted fans. Meanwhile, Tsitsipas, who trails 2-5 in a head-to-head record against Djokovic also broke a mental barrier in making his first grand slam final. The 22-year-old had lost all of his previous three semi-finals at the slams - at the 2019 and 2021 Australian Open as well as Roland Garros last year in five sets to Djokovic. It was at the end of a bruising five-setter, which had very little to choose between him and German Alexander Zverev, that the Dubai Duty Free Championships regular could have the last laugh. “All I can think of is my roots, a small place outside Athens where I dreamed to play on the big stage at the French Open,” a tearful Tsitsipas said on making the final. “It was nerve-wracking, so intense, I stayed alive. I went out there and fought. This win means a lot, it’s the most important one of my career so far.” “It was just exhausting. I’m proud of myself. I’m grateful for every single match that I get to play. I’m obviously just blessed to have the opportunity to play against the best and test myself.” Can the final live up to the scene-setter that the two gruelling semis-finals provided? We will know on Sunday.

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Euro 2020 Group A match preview: Wales will be awkward opponent, predicts Switzerland coach

Football|: Baku: Switzerland expect an awkward encounter against Wales when they open their European Championship campaign in Baku today, Swiss coach Vladimir Petkovic said. The two countries kick off their Group A campaign in the Azerbaijan capital with Petkovic admitting he was unsure whether his team should take a cautious approach or go at their opponents from the outset. “I think we need to be ready for either approach. Because it is the first match, you don’t necessarily know at what stage the teams are at. That goes for both Switzerland and Wales,” he told a news conference. “They are certainly very tough opponents and they deserve the greatest of respect. They are awkward customers, very compact defensively and good in one against one situation,” he added of the Welsh who reached the semi-finals in 2016. Final third “They also have a lot of good quality in the final third of the pitch, both when they keep the ball but also when they play direct, with some talented players who know what they are doing.” But Petkovic, who took the Swiss to the last 16 of the previous European Championship in France as well as the 2018 World Cup, insisted the focus was more on his own side. “As we’ve shown in recent times, we want to dominate proceedings, we want to get hold of the ball, we want to dictate the tempo of the game and we also want to have a cutting edge in the final third and score goals. “And in order to do all of that we need to be very focused, make sure we defend even when we are in possession. It really matters how we approach the game right from the opening whistle and how we can ultimately make our efforts count,” he added.

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Euro 2020 Group B match preview: Belgium have a great squad even without De Bruyne, says Russia coach

Football|: Saint Petersburg: Belgium may be without key midfielders for their Group B opener in the European Championship but Russia manager Stanislav Cherchesov said Roberto Martinez still has a formidable squad to pick from. Kevin De Bruyne did not travel for Belgium’s first match, against Russia in St Petersburg, as he continues to recover from a fractured eye socket and nose while Axel Witsel is recovering from an Achilles tendon injury. Belgium went all the way to the World Cup semi-finals in 2018 and they have been the number one-ranked side in the world for the past three years. “They have 18 players from that World Cup squad, as far as I know. We have played them three times, all three matches were interesting and spectacular for the fans,” Cherchesov told reporters. “We are studying them and our task is to be at the peak of our abilities. We suffered two defeats but we must not forget that Belgium is a great team.” Russia were dealt a late blow when midfielder Andrei Mostovoy tested positive for COVID-19, with defender Roman Yevgenyev taking his place in the squad on Friday. Towering striker All eyes will be on Russia’s towering striker and captain Artyom Dzyuba, who has scored 29 goals for his country, two goals shy of becoming their all-time top scorer. Dzyuba said that De Bruyne’s absence would be a big loss for Belgium but that they are still the overall favourites to top the group. “I perfectly remember that the Belgians are very strong, disciplined and organised. I perfectly understand what is expected of me in the game. We have the experience and we have analysed all our matches,” Dzyuba said. “There are some nerves but of the pleasant kind because this is an important tournament. Like any player I would like to score but the team comes first. “We have to gain points, and everything else will come if I play well and wisely.”

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Euro 2020: Italy ‘send message’ to rivals after thrashing Turkey 3-0

Football|: Dubai: Italy made an impressive return to a major football tournament having failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup by thrashing Turkey in the Euro 2020 opener last night. The match ended in a comfortable 3-0 win for the Azzurri at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome and truth be told, they could have had a lot more. They peppered the Turkey goal recording 24 shots in all and although they had a slice of luck for the breakthrough, the result never looked in doubt even though they went in at the break being held 0-0. But Turkey, who had defended doggedly without offering much of an attacking threat changed it around for the second 45 and it brought about their downfall. On came the adventurous Under which created space in midfield that Italy duly exploited. Roberto Mancini’s side ventured forward at every opportunity which sure was refreshing to see as Italian teams of old have tended to be far more defense-minded and would settle for a 1-0 win. But after the unfortunate Merih Demiral put through his own net, Italy kept pouring forward knowing more goals were in sight, and so it proved. Lazio’s Immobile, playing on his home ground, grabbed the second with a neat finish after Spinazzola’s shot was saved by Cakir and then the keeper’s poor clearance lead to an emphatic finish from Insigne for the third. Attacking football Italy treated the 16,000 fans to a vivid display of attacking football and Mancini’s men sure lived up to the pre-match hype. He has transformed them and they sure are one of the favourites to win the tournament. They were well-organised with veteran captain Chiellini as commanding at the back as ever, while their movement upfront was too hot for Turkey to handle. There were several outstanding performances, in particular left-back Spinazzola and Berardi on the wing while Jorginho kept things ticking over in the middle. They didn’t miss Pellegrini who was ruled out due to injury but when he is back in the side, they’ll have even more energy which bodes well for them going forwards. They will fancy their chances of adding to their sole 1968 European Championship victory while Turkey can take some solace from the fact that Portugal were hopeless in the group stages in the 2016 tourney and yet they went on to win it. For Italy there’s no doubt that exciting times are ahead.

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South Africa take total control of first Test against West Indies

Cricket|: Gros-Islet, Saint Lucia: South Africa's relentless pace attack left the West Indies facing the prospect of an innings defeat inside three days as they limped to 82 for four, still needing 143 runs to make the tourists bat again, at stumps on the second day of the first Test in St Lucia on Friday. The West Indies were routed for 97 - their lowest-ever total in a Test innings against the Proteas - after choosing to bat first on day one. In their second innings on Friday, the home side again laboured to come to terms with the consistent quality and intensity of the visitors' pacers and seamers. Earlier, Quinton de Kock had flailed a flagging West Indies bowling attack on the way to an unbeaten 141 to lift South Africa to a first-innings total of 322 and a commanding first-innings lead of 225 runs. Having struggled in his previous four Test matches with the burden of captaincy, de Kock seemed more at ease without that responsibility and after a comparatively sedate morning session he exploded into an array of attacking shots in the afternoon period in partnership with the lower order, reaching a sixth Test century and first against the Caribbean side. He reached the century landmark with a six, one of seven in an innings embellished further with 12 fours off 170 deliveries. Such was the left-handed wicketkeeper-batsman's dominance of the latter stages of his team's innings that Anrich Nortje was kept off strike for long periods and contributed just seven runs in a ninth-wicket stand of 79 that left the home players looking thoroughly deflated on the field. "I knew it was important not only to get going at the start of the day but also to build partnerships to give ourselves a healthy lead," said de Kock in reflecting on his first Test century for 20 months. "I really haven't changed much about my batting, with or without the captaincy, and it came off for me today." Windies struggle with bat again After enduring de Kock's assault, West Indies' mood worsened in the final session with Kagiso Rabada and Nortje taking two wickets each to reduce them to 51 for four. However, Roston Chase and Jermaine Blackwood hung on to the close to give their struggling side hope of putting up a more concerted fight on the third day. South Africa exerted control of the day from the start of play and only tightened their grip on the match thereafter. De Kock led the way as 77 runs came in the first two hours for the loss of just one wicket when former captain Jason Holder induced an outside edge from the bat of Rassie van der Dussen and Shai Hope held the catch at gully to end the right-hander's innings at 46. Quick wickets after lunch lifted West Indian spirits but that proved a brief respite with Nortje steadfast in partnership with the rampant de Kock. It was left to Holder to end the misery for the home side when he produced a sharp lifter to the tailender which resulted in a catch to gully and then had last man Lungi Ngidi caught behind to finish with the best bowling figures of the innings at four for 75. He should have had the wicket of de Kock but celebrations when a top-edged hook was caught at long-leg were cut short by the umpire's call of no-ball following consultation with the television replay official. Scoreboard West Indies 1st Innings: 97 ((L. Ngidi 5-19, A. Nortje 4-35) South Africa 1st Innings (overnight: 128-4) D. Elgar c Blackwood b Roach 0 A. Markram c da Silva b Seales 60 K. Petersen c Holder b Seales 19 R. van der Dussen c Hope b Holder 46 K. Verreynne c da Silva b Seales 6 Q. de Kock not out 141 W. Mulder c da Silva b Holder 25 K. Maharaj c Powell b Cornwall 0 K. Rabada c Holder b Roach 4 A. Nortje c Hope b Holder 7 L. Ngidi c da Silva b Holder 0 Extras (b-4, lb-1, nb-6, w-3) 14 Total (96.5 overs, all out) 322 Fall of wickets: 1-0 (Elgar), 2-34 (Petersen), 3-113 (Markram), 4-119 (Verreynne, 5-162 (van der Dussen), 6-215 (Mulder), 7-222 (Maharaj), 8-233 (Rabada), 9-312 (Nortje), 10-322 (Ngidi) Bowling: K. Roach 20-3-64-2, J. Holder 20.5-4-75-4 (6nb), J. Seales 21-6-75-3 (3w), K. Mayers 8-2-28-0, R. Cornwall 18-1-61-1, R. Chase 9-5-14-0 West Indies 2nd Innings K. Brathwaite lbw Rabada 7 K. Powell lbw Rabada 14 S. Hope c Mulder b Nortje 12 R. Chase not out 21 K. Mayers c Mulder b Nortje 12 J. Blackwood not out 10 Extras (b-4, lb-1, nb-1) 6 Total (30 overs, 4 wkts) 82 Fall of wickets: 1-12 (Brathwaite), 2-25 (Powell), 3-37 (Hope), 4-51 (Mayers) To bat: J. Holder, J. da Silva, R. Cornwall, K. Roach, J. Seales Bowling: K. Rabada 10-4-18-2 (1nb), L. Ngidi 7-2-19-0, A. Nortje 8-3-34-2, W. Mulder 4-1-6-0, K. Maharaj 1-1-0-0 Note: Kieran Powell was introduced as a concussion substitute for Nkrumah Bonner in the West Indies team on the first afternoon

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PSL 2021: Munro, Khawaja star in fastest century partnership of the league

ICC|: Kolkata: New Zealand opener Colin Munro has been rated as a dangerous customer in white ball cricket, and he showed why on Friday night in their Pakistan Super League game against Quetta Gladiators in Abu Dhabi. An unbeaten 90 off 36 deliveries by Munro, ably supported by Islamabad-born Australian Usman Khawaja’s unbeaten 41, saw them cruise to the fastest century partnership of the league as they swept Quetta Gladiators by 10 wickets. Chasing a target of 134 on a slow surface, the two experienced openers were in no trouble at all as Munro hit 12 fours and five sixes as they reached 137 without loss in just 10 overs. Munro tore the Quetta bowling apart by hitting Andre Russell’s concussion substitute, Naseem Shah, for four boundaries in the first over. Russell didn’t take the field as a precaution after being struck on the helmet by fast bowler Musa Khan while batting. MORE ON PSL 2021 PSL: It will be a record if we can defend title, says Karachi skipper Pakistan sees PSL in Abu Dhabi as precursor to T20 World Cup PSL 2021: Lahore teammate Tim David in awe of Rashid Khan after second win Quetta bowlers kept pitching it in his arc and the 34-year-old Munro kept smashing as Islamabad raced to 97 without loss in just six overs. It was the fourth highest score in the powerplay in the four top franchise leagues in the world. Munro notched up his half-century soon but he did not relent and Khawaja played his part at the other end. Quetta spinners Zahid Mahmood and Mohammad Nawaz also were flayed by Munro. He smacked 54 runs off four overs and finished the game with a reverse swept six off Nawaz. Quetta, a squad boasting of at least two franchise cricket giants in Faf du Plessis and Russell, struggled against young fast bowlers Mohammad Wasim (2-12), Akif Javed (1-18) while Pakistan international fast bowler Hasan Ali chipped in with a haul 2-24. ‘‘The wicket of Du Plessis was extremely satisfying,’’ said Wasim after castling the former South African skipper for four. Russell smashed Musa for two successive sixes but was struck on the helmet off the next delivery, then was caught at short third man in an eventful 14th over for only 13. Jake Weatherald topscored for them with 43.

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Djokovic hands Nadal his first defeat at French Open since 2015

Tennis|: PARIS: "He brings out the best in me." That's what Novak Djokovic said the other night about Rafael Nadal, the 13-time winner of the French Open and the man he would be facing in the semifinal in just under 48 hours. Djokovic needed his best, and then some, Friday night as he beat Nadal on the court that Nadal has treated like his living room since 2005. The score, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6, 6-3, reflected a wild match that produced some of the most remarkable tennis in years. In beating Nadal at the French Open, Djokovic pulled off what is known as the hardest feat in tennis. Nadal was 105-2 at Roland Garros and had not lost there since 2015. (Djokovic had his number that time too.) There is a statue of Nadal outside Court Phillippe Chatrier. During this tournament, his fellow players speak of him with a kind of reverence usually reserved for legends of the past. And that was how Djokovic spoke of his longtime rival moments after Nadal's final backhand sailed wide. Final: Djokovic vs Stefanos Tsitsipas "The first thing I want to say was it was my privilege also to be on the court with Rafa for this incredible match," Djokovic said. "It is surely the greatest match I have played here in Paris." Djokovic will face Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece in the final on Sunday. Tsitsipas will be playing in his first Grand Slam singles final. Djokovic will be playing for his 19th Grand Slam singles title. A win would bring him within one of Nadal and Roger Federer, who are tied with 20. It would also put him in solid position to win all four Grand Slams in a single year, something that no man has accomplished in more than 50 years. He won the Australian Open in February and he is the defending champion at Wimbledon, which begins in two weeks. It is a title he has won four times, and he has won 12 Grand Slam titles on hard courts, including three at the U.S. Open, which will take place in New York in late summer. It was a match that had everything, even a looming curfew of 11 p.m. that threatened to send the crowd of 5,000 people home in the middle of an epic duel. Exception announced: Fans could stay and watch Instead, at the conclusion of the third-set tiebreaker, French officials delivered one of the great moments of the pandemic. As the set ended, an announcement was made that an exception had been granted and the fans could remain to see the conclusion of what would either be an upset for the ages or one of the great escapes in the history of the game. Suddenly, a crowd of 5,000 sounded like one 10 times as large. There was chanting and dancing in the aisles - "Merci Macron" they sang, showing their gratitude to the French president - and there were hugs and high-fives, which have been in short supply during a mostly miserable year and a half for sports and much of the rest of the world. In truth, forcing the crowd to leave would have been cruel after what it had witnessed during the previous 3 1/2 hours, including a 91-minute third set, in which Nadal seemed to have mounted the beginning of his great escape before Djokovic snuffed it out. Matches between Djokovic and Nadal are unlike anything else in the sport. Every moment feels crucial because they both provide their opponents so little margin for error. Miss a first serve and the second one is likely to come back down your throat. Leave that deep volley just slightly too far inside the baseline and there's an unseeable crosscourt angle they will find on a point that looked over just a second before. Diego Schwartzman, who had lost to Nadal in the quarterfinals, tweeted a question as he watched: "Do we tennis players play the same sport as the two of them?" This match, the 58th time the two have met, was a 4-hour display of tennis one-upmanship. A near-perfect, running lob from Djokovic was met with a wild sky hook overhead from Nadal. Forehands hit on impossibly tight angles were returned by backhands on even tighter ones. Nadal would hit a drop shot that would settle within 3 feet of the net. Djokovic would send it back nearly parallel to the net 1 foot closer. Violently slicing serves met untouchable crosscourt returns. Nadal had the initial edge, surging to a 5-0 lead that felt eerily familiar to the start of his blowout win over Djokovic in the French Open last year. Early on, Nadal returned two overheads then won a duel at the net. The crowd exploded as it always does when Nadal is doing his thing at Roland Garros. Djokovic appeared staggered, but he dug in and began to battle, even saving set point after set point. As the second set began, Djokovic grew more comfortable with every game. If the hardest thing in tennis is to beat Nadal at Roland Garros, the second hardest may be dealing with Djokovic's return of serve. All night long he pelted it at Nadal's feet, forcing him back as he tried to push forward. But with Djokovic sprinting ahead and serving at 5-4 in the third set, and needing just two points for a commanding lead, Nadal made two down-the-line winners that seemed to foretell a great escape. He broke Djokovic, and he had a set point two games later, but he frittered away a golden opportunity on Djokovic's second serve. Then in the tiebreaker, he missed a wide-open forehand volley to give Djokovic a 5-3 lead. "I had the big chance," Nadal said when it was over. "I missed it and an easy volley in the tie break. These kinds of mistakes can happen but if you want to win you can't make these mistakes." Nadal mounted one last attempt to rescue himself from the rarest sort of loss for him, breaking Djokovic in the first game of the fourth set and grabbing a 2-0 lead. He pumped his fists at the crowd, urging them to give him some intangible edge. Instead, Djokovic played his most dominant tennis of the night, winning the final six games. After Nadal's last error, Djokovic looked to the sky, bent over and grabbed a bit of red clay and rubbed it on his shirt. "Each time you step on the court with him you know you have to basically climb Mount Everest to win against him," said Djokovic, who was 1-7 against Nadal at the French Open before Friday night.

GulfNews Sports

Italy get Euro 2020 off to flying start as Wales, Belgium enter fray

Football|: PARIS: Wales and the world's top-ranked team Belgium begin their Euro 2020 bids on Saturday after the delayed tournament finally kicked off with victory for an impressive Italy side on an emotional night in Rome. After a year of football played largely in empty stadiums due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Stadio Olimpico was filled to a quarter of its capacity for the opening game of the European Championship and the home fans in the crowd of 16,000 were treated to a 3-0 win for Italy against Turkey. Roberto Mancini's side came into the tournament on a 27-game unbeaten run and laid down a marker with a comprehensive victory, Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne scoring after Merih Demiral's own goal had put them in front. The result capped an emotional night in the Italian capital as a spectacular sound and light show preceded kick-off and tenor Andrea Bocelli performed 'Nessun Dorma', popularised during the 1990 World Cup held in Italy. "It was a beautiful evening, I hope there are many more to come," said Mancini after the Group A curtain-raiser. "To win 3-0, and with the supporters in the stadium again at last, makes it all the more special." Rome is one of 11 cities across the continent hosting matches, the unprecedented pan-European format creating major headaches for UEFA during a pandemic. 'Special situation'  The majority of the venues will only be partially-filled for matches, although Budapest is planning to fill its Puskas Arena to 100 percent of capacity. Matches are being played from as far apart as Seville to Baku in Azerbaijan, where Wales and Switzerland meet in the first of three games on Saturday. However, ongoing travel restrictions mean there is little of the carnival atmosphere usually associated with a major tournament when fans converge on host cities. "We all have to adapt to a special situation," UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin told AFP. The build-up has been overshadowed by several positive Covid-19 cases among players. On Friday Russia announced winger Andrei Mostovoy had contracted the virus and was ruled out of the tournament. Spain's squad were vaccinated on Friday by the army at their training headquarters near Madrid following positive tests to two players - Sergio Busquets and Diego Llorente. Busquets will miss Monday's match against Sweden in Seville but Llorente has now rejoined the squad after four subsequent negative tests. 'Massive honour' for Bale In Baku, up to 31,000 fans will be able to attend Saturday's first game, when Wales - semi-finalists at Euro 2016 in France - take on the Swiss in Group A with Gareth Bale wearing the captain's armband. "It's going to be a massive honour to lead your country out in a major tournament. It's going to be one of the highlights of my career," Bale said. That match, at 1300 GMT, will be followed by Denmark's clash with Finland in Copenhagen in Group B. Denmark, European champions in 1992, will be spurred on by 16,000 of their own fans against Finland. Kasper Hjulmand, the Denmark coach, said his side "dared to dream big" as they prepare to face a Finland team making their major tournament debut. Belgium, one of the leading contenders, face Russia in Saint-Petersburg in Saturday's late match but Roberto Martinez's team will be without playmaker Kevin De Bruyne, who is still recovering from the facial fractures he suffered playing for Manchester City in the Champions League final. Among the other leading contenders, England enter the fray on Sunday and hope to make the most of home advantage when they take on 2018 World Cup runners-up Croatia in London. Wembley is hosting eight games in total in the 24-team tournament, including both semi-finals as well as the final on July 11. Ukraine shirt row World Cup holders France - with Karim Benzema recalled from a five-and-a-half-year international exile - are the firm favourites to add the continental crown. Holders Portugal, with Cristiano Ronaldo backed up by a star-studded squad, are also a threat. Meanwhile Ukraine's football association said Friday it had managed to agree on a compromise with UEFA over Euro 2020 kits that feature patriotic slogans and sparked Russia's ire. Kiev angered Moscow after its football association unveiled kits showing the outline of Ukraine including Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014. Russia criticised a slogan written on the inside of the shirts - "Glory to the Heroes". A UEFA spokesperson told AFP that Ukraine had agreed to cover up the slogan with a smaller map of the country.