The Sports Week That Was and Will Be

With just one major movie release, the Michael-Keaton-starrer and biopic of the McDonald’s founders, The Founder, and a couple of very forgettable Indian films, this weekend can’t quite be spent at the cinemas. With Raees and Kaabil set to lock horns next week, instead, it’s better to turn our attention to the idiot box – and the plenty of sports playing on it – for the next seven days. As is the tradition, January is often the most action-packed month of the year. Try to stay with me here.

SUPER CRICKET SUNDAY

An Indian Breakfast 

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The Eoin Morgan-led England ODI team put on a better performance than the Alastair Cook-led Test team, but England are yet to record their first win on what is turning out to be a torrid Indian tour for them, in stark contrast to their 2012 trip. After captain Virat Kohli and homeboy Kedar Jadhav led India in a chase of 350 at Pune in the first game, a time machine transported many a cricket fan back to 2011 at Cuttack when two 35-year-old Indian batsmen, Yuvraj Singh and M.S. Dhoni, slammed centuries and took India to 380 after being 25/3 at one stage. The problem with India’s openers persists, but there was perhaps no better way for the two golden oldies to answer their doubters – this writer included – about why they were in a ‘young’ side to begin with. England fell 16 runs short in a brave chase led by Morgan’s century, and lost the three-match series within the first two matches. The third match will be at Eden Gardens in Kolkata this Sunday – a venue where both teams will go out to express themselves freely, especially given that this is India’s last ODI match before the Champions’ Trophy in June in England. 

Pakistan Down and Under

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Things didn’t improve for the Azhar Ali-led Pakistan ODI team after they won their first international match in Australia in 16 years at Melbourne. They squared the series in the second of five matches, and looked good in the third ODI at Perth too, till they inexplicably scored only 50 in the final 10 overs to pose Australia a modest target. Australia were in trouble at 20/2, and almost three after debutant Peter Handscomb edged his third ball to slips. He was out for a duck, until it became clear that Junaid Khan had overstepped, giving the batsman a life he would cherish – for four more overs. Handscomb was dropped again at 10, and went on to score 82 to support Steve Smith’s century (his third century, along with three ducks, in his last 9 innings), as they easily chase down 260-odd with seven wickets to spare. Australia took a 2-1 lead, going into the fourth ODI at Sydney on Sunday. If Pakistan loses this series, they could be ranked even below Bangladesh and West Indies in the current ODI rankings.

Lanka in an Asian Tragedy

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After being blanked out 3-0 in the Test series, and after AB de Villiers announced his ‘sabbatical’ from Test cricket till at least August this year, Sri Lanka now move to the limited-overs leg of their disastrous tour. They can’t buy a win yet, and the first of three T20 matches will be on, you guessed it, Sunday. 

AUSTRALIAN OPEN, TENNIS

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The two biggest upsets of the first tennis Grand Slam of the year occurred on Thursday – with World No. 2 Novak Djokovic falling to No. 117 Denis Istomin, and Agnieszka Radwanska losing to Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in straight sets. Radwanksa is still in the dubious ‘best player never to win a Slam’ category, while Djokovic’s prolonged slump just got longer – clearing the way for Andy Murray to win his first-ever Australian Open, and Milos Raonic – who was scheduled to meet Djokovic in the semis – to have a shot at the final too. Roger Federer will play Tomas Berdych in the third round on Friday, while Rafael Nadal will face upcoming star Alexandr Zverev in the same round on Saturday. By this time next week, we will know the two finalists from both draws.

Prediction: Andy Murray (men), Serena Williams (women)

FOOTBALL

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Real Madrid’s unbeaten streak of 42 games ended with Sevilla defeating them 2-1 in the dying minutes of their La Liga encounter. As a result, Sevilla climbed to second, just a point behind the leaders, though Madrid have a game in hand. Meanwhile in England, Chelsea extended their lead to seven points by defeating defending champions Leicester City on the weekend, while Tottenham climbed to second place over Liverpool, after the latter were held to a draw at Old Trafford by Manchester United – who remained in sixth place, behind Manchester City (who were mauled by Everton 4-0, giving Pep Guardiola his heaviest defeat as a manager). City will face Tottenham in the big match this Saturday. 

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