Monday, August 26, 2019

Sindhu, Stokes made my Sunday

P V Sindhu, the world badminton
champion (Pix credit: Outlook)
You won't believe, yesterday I was glued to the television from 5 pm to 10 pm. Never, at least in the recent past, have I watched TV at a stretch like I did yesterday.

India's badminton star P V Sindhu's match against Japan's Nozomi Okuhara, in the final of the BWF World Championships, was coming up at 5.10 pm.

Sindhu had been in tremendous form in the tournament, yet I didn't have much hope. Because she has a history of reaching the finals and losing.

Thus she had to settle for a silver in the 2016 Olympics, 2017 and 2018 World Championships, 2018 Commonwealth Games, and 2018 Asian Games.

But, as the match progressed, I was pleasantly surprised. Sindhu was racing ahead of Okuhara. Halfway through the first set she was leading 11-2. She smashed her way to wrap up the first set 21-7 in just 16 minutes.

It was very unusual of Okhuhara to make so many unforced errors and lose a set so badly. I thought she will recoup herself and there would be a tougher fight in the second set. After all, their head-to-head record is quite even. Of the 15 matches they had played against each other, Sindhu had won 8 and Okuhara 7.

But that's not what happened. More aggression from Sindhu. I haven't seen Sindhu like this. She has deft movements and placements. But her smashes were not always the ones that are powerful enough or placed well to be winners.

Sindhu with the gold medal (Pix credit: BBC)
But in this tournament, she was in a totally new form. She wasn't allowing herself to be complacent. Unlike most of her other matches, in which she and her opponent go neck and neck to finish so close at the end, here she was not trailing at all but taking an early lead and building on it.

The second set (21-7) lasted 20 minutes and she won the world championship. On top of the world. She richly deserves this.

As India's national flag went up and India's national anthem played, she couldn't hold back tears. My eyes too welled up.

CONSOLATION FOR JAPAN

The women's final was followed by the men's final.  Kento Momota of Japan was taking on Anders Antonsen of Denmark. Momota is the top seed and had been in great form. This match too was one-sided. Antonsen didn't pose many challenges and the match ended 21-9, 21-3.

This was some sort of consolation for Japan, considering Okuhara lost the women's final.

DRAMATIC VICTORY CHASE

Ben Stokes, England's saviour
(Pix credit: Cricbuzz)
After badminton, I switched channels to see what's happening in Leeds in the Ashes series. It was a little after 6.45 pm. The match had entered an interesting stage, I realised.

England had been set a target of 359 to win, on day 3 (the day before yesterday). That means more than two days for them to do the task. But considering that in the first innings they folded up at 67, the odds were not exactly in their favour.

They lost the first wicket at 12 and the second at 25. It was Joe Root who steadied the ship, ending the day with his score at 75 not out and England at 156 for 3.

Yesterday was Day 4, and many thought England won't be able to stay put, handing over the Ashes to Australia. When I joined the match, the score was 259 for six. That means England needed exactly 100 runs to win with just four wickets remaining.

At 261, Chis Woakes got out for one. Three wickets remaining and 98 runs needed.

Jofra Archer belted three fours and I thought he will stay around for some time. But he didn't and got out after repeating a lofted on-drive and getting caught. He made 15. England slumped to 286 for 8. Two wickets remaining and 73 runs needed. Any hope of England saving the match was disappearing fast.

Stuart Broad walked in, and after facing just two balls, he got out without scoring. Score 286 for 9. Only the most diehard optimist would ever have thought England would win.

Australia needed just one wicket and England needed 73 runs.

Ben Stokes was keeping the hopes alive; and he was joined by Jack Leach, a slow left-arm orthodox spinner, whose career batting average is under 20. It shouldn't have been difficult for Australia.

But Stokes and Leach both seemed to have planned it well, as they ensured that Stokes always retained strike at the change of over.

They kept us all on the edge of the seat, as Australia came so close to taking that wicket, with chances for catches and runouts. With fours and sixes coming in at regular intervals from Stokes' bat, the required number of runs came down and down, and an unimaginable scenario of an England victory was gradually emerging.

And it finally, it happened. The match was tied at 359 and Stokes hit a boundary and ensured England not only registered an unbelievable win but also kept the Ashes alive.

The last pair faced 61 balls. Out of that, Leach faced only 17 and scored just one run. The rest 44 balls were faced by Stokes and scored 72 runs. His 135 not out, came in 219 balls, with 11 fours and 8 sixes. Stupendous performance.

Though the hero is Stokes, we must not forget the role Leach played. He hung on, keeping the match alive and allowing his partner to get the runs. He was like hanging on the edge of the precipice, waiting for his friend to save them both from a calamitous fall.

The moral of the story is, never give up hope, never lose cool, stay calm.

The fourth Test begins on September 4 at Old Trafford.

INDIA BEAT WEST INDIES

India was playing their 1st Test match against West Indies at Antigua. And the Indian bowlers were right on top, and the prospects of an Indian victory was looming. But I had little energy to sit through another cricket match!

The match would have got over around 2 am Indian time. India bundled out Windies for 100 winning the Test 318 runs, with Jaspreet Bumrah returning amazing figures of 8 overs 4 maidens, 7 runs and 5 wickets.

14 comments:

  1. I did not watch the match. But I read in papers about Sindhu's great victory. She is really the pride of India.

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  2. I read about the English win on my FB wall, but didn't know what that heroic inning was all about. Now I know, thanks to your interesting narration :)

    Destination Infinity

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  3. Hi, it is exciting when our favorite sports figures or sports teams do well. It sounds like you have some deserving teams and an amazing young tennis player. MLSTL

    Just so you know, My computer blocks your website. It says that it has malicious content in bedded on it.

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  4. I certainly did follow the Ashes outcome as an Aussie. It's been a very tense engagement especially when Steve Smith was struck and we all thought of that day when Phil Hughes lost his life.

    Denyse #mlstl

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  5. I'm really not a sports fan - cricket especially seems to go on endlessly (I'm a philistine when it comes to things like that). The badminton match would have been interesting to watch though - we don't have badminton televised in Australia.
    Thanks for linking up with us at MLSTL and I've shared on my SM :)

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  6. When most people say they are binge-watching TV, it's usually a Netflix series, but sports works, too!

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  7. I am not a sports fan these days, though I can understand the draw. I was heavy into Cleveland Indians baseball back in the 1990's when they were good. My husband tells me they are doing well again. :) I hope your work is going well, and thank you for the kind words on my recent post.

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  8. Hi Rajan - Indeed. Sindhu is now aiming for the Olympic gold.

    Hi Rajesh - Thanks.

    Hi Michele - Thanks for dropping by and for your comments.
    Indian sports is sort of coming of age now with many athletes and sports personalities doing well in the world stage.
    Sorry, my blog was getting blocked by your computer. My laptop is protected by Norton, and the blog is hosted on Google's Blogger. I am just wondering what raised the flag. Anyway, I will check and thanks for the alert.

    Hi Denyse - Indeed it was such a nasty blog that Steve took. Lucky nothing unfortunate happened, and he is expected to be back in the next Tests.

    Hi Leanne - I can understand. There are many who are not interested in sports.
    Thanks for dropping by and for the comments.

    Hi Jennifer - O yes, one can be hooked to sports telecasts!

    Hi Darla - There are sports fans who are put off by too many of these matches happening too frequently and losing interest. Thanks for dropping by.

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  9. Sports can often be inspirational and offer life lessons. And sometimes it's just fun! It sounds like this time it was both. Thanks for sharing on #MLSTL.

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  10. Triumphant moment indeed. Indians feel proud of her.

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  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  13. India has some glittering stones among the beads of sport and game chain. Sindhu has proved her carat in badminton field. Sorry Pradeep, because of typos, I deleted my comment.

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