ICC World Cup 2019: Brilliant Bumrah, Shami hat-trick seals thriller for India against Afghanistan



India vs Afghanistan, ICC World Cup 2019: Brilliant Bumrah, Shami hat-trick seals thriller for India against Afghanistan

Finally, India were involved in a contest at this World Cup, but it came against a side they would rather have not been challenged by in the first place, let alone this well.

CRICKET Updated: Jun 23, 2019 13:04 IST

Aditya Iyer (Chief Cricket Writer)
Aditya Iyer (Chief Cricket Writer)
Hindustan Times, Southampton
mohammed shami,india vs afghanistan,ind vs afg odi
Mohammed Shami (C) celebrates with teammates after his hat-trick.(AFP)

In the 37th over of the morning, Kedar Jadhav went down on one knee and slapped a Rashid Khan delivery over midwicket for four. This was a moment of great significance in the Indian innings; not only was this Jadhav’s first boundary of the match, it was the team’s only boundary in the space of 14 overs between the 26th and the 40th.

This soporific phase would eventually cause the Indians on the field — and those in the stands — to have several anxiety attacks during the end of Afghanistan’s batting innings. Afghanistan nearly pulled off the impossible in a match that turned into an unlikely classic with edge-of-the-seat drama. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Such was India’s batting day on Saturday and, more significantly, such was the nature of the Southampton wicket. The fact that Jadhav was doing his thing in the middle before the death overs should also tell you that India’s top order did not have a great time on the wicket, slow and sticky, which was exploited to the fullest by Afghanistan; and specifically by their slower bowlers.

ALSO READ: India join elite of elite list after thrilling 11-run win over Afghanistan

Off-spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman opened the bowling and by the time he completed his quota of 10 overs, he had conceded just 26 runs. In fact, none of the four Afghan spinners on show went for more than 38 runs (Rashid alone had gone for 110 in his previous game) and that was, of course, a large reason why India finished with an innings total of 224 for eight.

Then, Afghanistan nearly chased it down and threatened to cause the biggest upset of this World Cup — and perhaps in the history of all the other World Cups too. Coming into this match, India had won all the games they had played and Afghanistan had lost all their games and unfortunately for the neutral – or the fan who has a penchant to back the underdog – it stayed that way even at the end of Saturday, where India achieved a slender and nervy 11-run win.

Finally, India were involved in a contest at this World Cup, but it came against a side they would rather have not been challenged by in the first place, let alone this well. And while the Afghani top-order did what they could, the match got closer than anyone expected because of Mohammad Nabi at the very end with the bat, swinging it this way and that until the very last over during his gritty 52; and because of Mujeeb with the ball, right at the very beginning.

ALSO READ: Mohammed Shami creates history, becomes 2nd Indian to take World Cup hat-trick

In his third over, Mujeeb catalysed India’s batting downfall with the wicket of Rohit Sharma. The conjurer of 319 previous runs from three World Cup innings was gone for the addition of 1 run. The opener played all around the offie’s carrom ball — which spun away from the batsman and crashed into his off-stump — leaving India hiccupping at 7 for one in the fifth over. Still, there was no reason to panic just yet for into the Rose Bowl walked Virat Kohli.

The India captain was not bothered by the surface he was playing on, or, if he was then his stroke-play didn’t show it. He flicked Aftab Alam, the head-banded medium-pacer, over deep backward-square-leg for his first four and next ball he punched him through point for four more and his stream of runs began flowing in the eighth over of the innings. But even Kohli’s presence on the pitch couldn’t lift India’s overall run-scoring as the team managed just 41 runs from the first 10 overs and 45 from the next 10.

For a while, in the space of time between overs 21 to 30, Kohli and Vijay Shankar (who finally walked out to bat at No.4) managed to steady the wobble somewhat with a 58-run stand. An on-drive off Rashid brought up Kohli’s fifty, his third in consecutive innings, in the 22nd over and in the following over, Shankar cover-drove the leggie Rahmat Shah for his first of two boundaries, which also brought up the team hundred. But Rahmat exacted his revenge soon on Shankar, trapping him leg before for 29, and Kohli departed soon after.

Kohli’s dismissal was a classic sticky-wicket dismissal. He tried to cut Nabi’s off-spin and was already through with his stroke before the ball arrived, and the edge carried to the squatting fielder at gully. This was not the last time in the day when Nabi threatened to make this match about him. Anyway, Kohli’s dismissal brought Jadhav to the crease, and along with a misfiring MS Dhoni, they would plod India through to the death overs.

The 43rd over, bowled by Alam, brought Jadhav, Dhoni and India a rare haul of boundaries. Jadhav hooked the medium-pacer for four and Dhoni did the same by driving him, inside-out, to the fence past covers. But an over later, Dhoni nearly ran Jadhav out (had the fielder not slipped while receiving the throw, India would not have gotten anywhere nearly their eventual score) before getting stumped off Rashid. Dhoni’s 52-ball suffering had produced a total of 28 runs, and India were 8 runs shy of 200 with only 33 balls to go.

ALSO READ: Kohli praises character of side after thrilling win against Afghanistan

Jadhav would get them there, the team score of 200, with a one-handed six off Alam in the 46th over. It was the only six of the Indian innings but even more incredibly, this six was also India’s final boundary. Neither Jadhav, nor the usually heavy-hitting Hardik Pandya, could find the ropes in the final 25 balls of the innings and that was as much due to the Afghanistan’s excellent bowling as it was due to an awkward pitch. So awkward that when Jadhav got to his fifty in the 50th over, he almost looked disappointed and both his bat and his head stayed down.

All eleven Indian heads were often down during Afghanistan’s chase, and especially during the end of it. It was in the 32nd over when for the first time, more runs were needed than balls, but Afghanistan didn’t panic. For, by the 35th, the middle-order pair of Nabi and Najibullah Zadran had brought the runs required to double digits. This left-right pair would see them through to the death overs, where Afghanistan needed 68 runs from 60 balls.

It would seem imminently doable when Zadran flicked the first ball of the last 10 overs (bowled by Shami) for four runs or when in the 45th (also bowled by Shami) Nabi lofted a handsome one-bounce four over covers to bring the equation down to 45 runs from 35 balls. And it really didn’t seem like it would be Shami’s day when he ran in to bowl the third-to-last over – with 24 runs needed – and his LBW shout against Nabi was reversed by the third umpire (the impact indeed was outside the off stump).

At the other end, Bumrah bowled two icy death overs of such precision–9 of his 12 deliveries in the 47th and the 49th were yorkers–that it kept the game swinging from one side to another, and finally set up Shami to claim his day.

Nabi and Afghanistan needed 16 runs from the final over, and the first Mohammed Shami ball was smacked by Nabi straight back down the ground. This got him to fifty and put Afghanistan two hits away from their greatest ODI win. Nabi even connected one of those hits, but it carried only as far as long-on and he was gone. Shami snuffed out any remaining hope by clattering the stumps of the next two tail-enders back-to-back, ensuring he replicated Chetan Sharma’s World Cup hat-trick event and not the last-ball six off him Sharma is forever remembered for.



The 2-minute guide to playing chess well



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The 2-minute guide to playing chess well

Have you ever watched a chess match and felt completely bewildered at what the players were doing? How do they decide which pieces to move? How are they keeping track of everything? Are they really playing with strategy? Or are they just moving pieces around on a board?

Below, we’ve broken down chess into a few easy components you can use to improve your game.

The basics of chess

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You probably know the basics of chess already, but let’s start with a quick refresher. The goal of chess is simple: Use your pieces to trap your opponent’s king. When the king is in the attack path of an existing piece, it’s known as a check. To escape, the king has to make a legal move to a safe square. If no safe moves exist, it’s known as a checkmate, and the game is over.

Easy enough to understand, though quite a bit more complicated to put into practice. Chess is believed to be over 1,500 years old, and in that time, experts have come up with one or two strategies that tend to work better than others. Let’s discuss a few of these tactics.

Basic chess strategy

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First, the most important thing you can do to improve your game is practice! Try to play a game every day, if possible. Experience is the best teacher, and if you’re new, you’ll learn a ton just from playing matches more often. Of course, to really improve, you’ll need to get specific with how you practice.

Start with the opening

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Everything in chess starts with the opening, so naturally, it’s a great place to start your training.

In general, start by bringing out your weaker pieces early (also known as “developing” your pieces). This means developing your pawns and knights before moving your higher-value pieces, like your rooks or queen.

Avoid moving pieces multiple times during the first 5-10 turns. In general, you’re better off developing more pieces than fewer in the interest of building attack opportunities. And definitely avoid repeats, such as moving a knight forward and then changing your mind and moving it back.

Castle your king as early as possible. This simple move involves switching the placement of your rook and king (under certain conditions). This is a great move for both offense and defense.

Build toward the center. The center of the board is the most active territory, so you’ll want to apply pressure there before your opponent does.

Work on tactical vision

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A key aspect of getting better at chess is developing what the pros call “tactical vision.” This means being able to look at the board and quickly identify opportunities for piece development, attack, defense and danger.

It’s a broad concept that comes with experience, so beginners should start by looking for these elements one at a time.

Keep pieces safe

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For example, it’s good practice to avoid leaving any piece “en prise” (in take). Also known as “hanging” the piece, this rule simply means don’t leave your pieces in positions where they can be taken without retribution. It sounds incredibly basic, but this is a key area where beginners struggle.

Those new to the game tend to hang pieces on nearly every turn, particularly in the later game stages where attack possibilities get more complicated. As such, a big part of beginner strategy is learning how to recognize these threats before the damage is done. When you get good at this, you’ll improve beyond the level of casual players.

Recognize common patterns

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If you want to keep your pieces safe, you need to recognize common attack patterns. There are whole textbooks devoted to this topic alone, so here, we’ll focus just on the most common patterns you’re likely to see:

Fork: When one piece threatens two pieces simultaneously, often forcing the opponent to save one and sacrifice another.

Knight Fork: A regular fork performed by a knight. These are especially tricky to spot thanks to the way the knight “jumps” across the board.

Pin: When a piece can’t move from its position without exposing another, more valuable piece to danger. Pinned pieces are easy to attack, since they have limited retreat options.

Skewer: It’s the pin in reverse. Two pieces will be lined up vertically, with a high-value piece protecting a low-value piece. In this case, your opponent will generally elect to save his/her important soldier, leaving the weaker one open to capture.

Improving through training

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The only way to get better at chess is to start recognizing these patterns in games and leveraging them to your advantage. Keep this in mind as you practice.

For best results, set aside a certain amount of time each day to play a practice game, review strategies and analyze patterns. Your goal isn’t to win—it’s to review each phase of the board for these patterns and get familiar with seeing them in practice.

Over time, you’ll find that you start to notice these opportunities automatically without much effort. That’s how you improve.

And as this skill develops, you’ll be able to build on these patterns to recognize more complex sets of moves that let you play you one, two or even three moves ahead of your opponent.

That’s how you win.

Iranian judo agrees to end decades-long boycott of Israeli athletes



Iranian judo agrees to end decades-long boycott of Israeli athletes

Historic commitment comes after talks with International Judo Federation over ‘disturbing phenomenon’ of Iranians throwing matches

Uzbekistan's Bekmurod Oltiboev, in white, competes against Iran's Javad Mahjoub during their men's +100 kg judo bronze medal match at the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday, August 31, 2018. (AP/Dita Alangkara)

Uzbekistan’s Bekmurod Oltiboev, in white, competes against Iran’s Javad Mahjoub during their men’s +100 kg judo bronze medal match at the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday, August 31, 2018. (AP/Dita Alangkara)

In a historic move, Iranian judo officials have agreed to stop boycotting Israeli athletes on the mat, ending a practice that had drawn criticism against Tehran in the sporting world.

In a letter to the International Judo Federation published Saturday, Iran’s Olympic Committee and local Judo Federation agreed to “fully respect the Olympic Charter and its non-discrimination principle.”

In a statement, the IJF said the letter came after several rounds of talks regarding the “disturbing phenomenon, which involves the sudden ‘injury’ or failure of weigh-in of Iranian athletes,” which it said was related to Iran trying to avoid meeting athletes from certain countries.

Neither Iran nor the IJF specifically mentioned Israel, but Iranian athletes have on several occasions forfeited matches to avoid facing Israelis, who have become increasingly relevant in the sport on the world stage.

Iran’s sports policy is an outgrowth of the country’s official refusal to recognize Israel. Its leaders routinely encourage the demise of the Jewish state and the countries are considered arch foes.

In February, Iranian judoka Saeid Mollaei threw a match at the Paris Grand Slam to avoid facing Israeli Sagi Muki in the next round by feigning an injury, ending his chance at a gold medal. He then recovered to win his bronze medal match, but feigned another injury to avoid standing on the podium with Muki.

According to Israel’s Army Radio, the IJF had threatened to ban Iran from international competitions, including the Olympics, if it did not agree to fight Israelis.

On Saturday, Muki won gold at the Baku Grand Slam, likely securing his place at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Israel’s Sagi Muki poses on the podium with his gold medal following the men’s under 81 kg weight category competition during the European Judo Championship in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv on April 27, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)

The IJF has in recent years stepped up pressure on Muslim boycotts of Israeli athletes, including refusals to host them or shake hands.

In 2018, the body stripped international competitions from the UAE and Tunisia over their refusal to allow Israelis to compete as Israelis.

The UAE later relented, resulting in the anthem Hatikvah being played in the country for the first time last year after Muki won the gold in the under-81 kg category.

Israeli Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev and Israel Judo Association President Moshe Ponte with medal winners during the women 52 kg medal ceremony at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam Judo tournament in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

Iran has had a long-time policy of avoiding Israelis in athletic competitions, frequently at the expense of its own competitors. An Iranian swimmer refused to enter the same pool as an Israeli at the Beijing Olympics and in the 2004 Athens Games, an Iranian judoka refused to face an Israeli, resulting in his disqualification.

In February, after Mollaei threw the match in Paris, Iranian athletics chief  Davoud Azarnoush said he hoped “Israel will be wiped out and annihilated before the next Olympic games, and all of us will breathe a sigh of relief,” according to Radio Farda.

A letter from Iranian judo officials to the IJF, published on May 11, 2019. Click to expand. (IJF)

In the letter to the IJF, the Iranian sports officials said they were negotiating with Iran’s parliament “to identify proper legal resolutions,” seemingly in order to rescind the unofficial ban on competing against Israelis.

Iranians athletes have increasingly found themselves caught between domestic officials, who may punish them for competing against Israelis, and international officials, who will punish them if they forfeit matches. In recent years, an increasing number of Iranian athletes and coaches have spoken out against the policy.

The last competition between Iranian and Israeli teams on the international level dates back to a wrestling match in 1983 in Kiev, Ukraine.

The regime in Iran routinely encourages the demise of Israel, and funds, arms and trains terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Islamic Jihad in Gaza that avowedly seek the annihilation of the Jewish state. Israel has led international opposition to the 2015 P5+1 powers’ deal with Iran, which was intended to prevent Iran attaining a nuclear weapons arsenal, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accusing the Iranians of lying about their nuclear weapons program and successfully lobbying US President Donald Trump to withdraw from the accord.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.