A bunch of rather unlikely things have occurred across the world over the last one week. It has been a fairly exciting week for anyone not living under a rock that didn’t show the Oscar coverage. Also, for tennis fans, Australian cricket fans (to be fair, they deserve some good times now), football cynics as well as anybody who wasn’t a fan of Virender Sehwag and Randeep Hooda to begin with.
India Downed Under
Ho-hum, another Test victory for Australia – would have sounded normal if this were 2004. But Virat Kohli’s India crashed to their first defeat in 19 matches, their first since August 2015, and their first against Australia at home since 2004. They lost by 333 runs, outplayed completely by Steve Smith’s Australia on a strange Pune pitch that seem to have irked people to irk coach Anil Kumble – who insists that their performance, and not the pitch, was at fault. A little-known journeyman left-arm spinner, who was probably playing his last Test match after failing in his previous few, took 12 wickets; Steve O’Keefe will have outdone memories of the little-known Adam Zampa lighting up the Indian T20 league last year on the same ground. The second Test begins on Saturday at Bangalore – a pitch that Kohli is very familiar with. Expect the young, bruised Indian team to come hard at the Aussies, who have set the stage for a fantastic four-match series. It won’t be 4-0; that’s for sure.
A Kiwi A Day
Martin Guptill, returning after a hamstring injury, confirmed his status as New Zealand’s most important limited-overs player with a stunning unbeaten 180, as his team chased down 286 against visitors South Africa to level the series 2-2 with one to go. New Zealand haven’t lost a bilateral home ODI series in their last nine, and have fought back well on the shoulders of their stocky opener – who averages 29 in Tests and a superb 44 in ODIs, after taking charge of being the man-for-all-seasons after the retirement of Brendon McCullum. Guptill’s became the fourth highest score ever in a chase, behind Shane Watson, M.S. Dhoni and Virat Kohli. The fifth ODI will be played at Auckland on Saturday. It continues to NOT be telecast on Indian TV screens.
Also playing on Friday will be old foes West Indies and England in the Caribbean. The islanders will be playing a three-match ODI series against a scarred England – both of who have much to prove. West Indies need ranking points to qualify for the next World Cup automatically after failing to qualify for this year’s Champions Trophy. England will want to undo the hurt they suffered in India.
Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer lost within a day of one another – the Djoker to wild child Nick Kyrgios at Acapulco and Federer to the 116-ranked qualifier Evgeny Donskoy at Dubai. While Djokovic lost in straight sets, Federer, in his first tournament after his miraculous Australian Open victory a month ago, blew three match points and a 5-1 lead in the third set as well as its tiebreaker to hand over victory to his shocked opponent. Federer had destroyed Benot Paire in his first match, but lost focus and will therefore now lose the opportunity to play Andy Murray. Murray himself saved seven match points against Philipp Kohlschreiber in a stunning 31-minute tiebreak (20-18) in the second set before steamrolling his opponent in the third 6-1. Murray is yet to win a title this year, while Djokovic continues his disappointing form after losing in the second round of the Australian Open to Denis Istomin.
The La Liga heated up tremendously this week, with there being now just two points separating the top 3. Real Madrid drew 3-3 with Las Palmas after being 0-2 down at home with 10 men. Barcelona destroyed Sporting Gijon after their manager Luis Enrique decided to step down at the end of the season. They went top provisionally, with Real having a game in hand. Sevilla won 1-0 too, to climb to within two points of Barcelona and a point off Real. Zidane’s team has suffered a dip in form after their 39-match unbeaten streak was broken last month by Valencia.
Leicester won their first game in seven, and their first after the exit of manager Claudio Ranieri, defeating Jurgen Klopp’s strong Liverpool team, and lifting themselves out of the relegation zone. Liverpool fell to fifth, and now are in danger of going sixth, once perennial sixth-placers Manchester United play their extra game in hand. Jose Mourinho’s team won the League Cup earlier in the week at Wembley by defeating Southampton 3-2 in the final – giving Mourinho his first piece of silverware in his first season in charge. This is his fourth League Cup in England, with his other three coming with Chelsea over his two stints as manager. He became the first United manager to win something in his first season.