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India extend their World Cup run again

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Former pacer Ajit Agarkar says someone like Ravichandran Ashwin not making it to the India’s playing eleven in the ongoing ICC Champions Trophy, speaks volumes about the strength of the bowling attack of the defending champions.

“At the start of the tournament some of the batters were not in a great form, but once the tournament started all the batsmen are in good form and bowlers are doing well. All the five bowlers are in good form. A guy like Ashwin not making the eleven tells you how well the bowling unit is doing,” Agarkar said in Mumbai on Friday.

India suffered defeat at the hands of a gutsy Sri Lanka, who chased down a massive 321-run target but Agarkar believes that the Virat Kohl-led side are still favourites to lift the Champions Trophy.

In their first game, India had hammered arch rivals Pakistan but following the loss against Sri Lanka, they face South Africa on Sunday, in a virtual quarter-final.

Ashwin, a seasoned off-spinner, did not make it to the playing eleven in both the games.

“They (India) are one of the favourites because of the form the players have shown,” said Agarkar, who grabbed 288 wickets 191 in ODIs.

The former speedster also strongly believes that this is the best bowling attack in recent times, which has variety.

“As a combined attack, one of the best attacks we (India) had for a while. Even the ball has not swung in England, you got (Jasprit) Bumrah, Umesh (Yadav), variety is there, which helps the team always. Quite a complete attack. Not just balance, but there is variety, which makes captain’s life easier,” he added.

According to the former Mumbai pacer, form of both openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma is pleasing.

“Shikar’s form is very encouraging, but Rohit who did not  have much cricket in the last six months due to injury, his form is biggest plus for India, because coming into the tournament, probably he didn’t have enough runs that he would have liked but both the games (in which) he has batted, he looked comfortable,” said the former pacer.

On the India-South Africa clash, he said the game will be a tough challenge for the Indians.

“They (South Africa) are the number one side (in ODIs) and had a bad game against Pakistan, so it will be a tough game. They have not won an ICC tournament before in-spite of having such a good game. It will be a tough game for India. They will have to play well. South Africa like India is a balanced team and on the day they play well, they are difficult to beat,” he added

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Inter Milan Must Sweat To Show We Are Contenders, Says Conte

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Inter Milan head coach, Antonio Conte, warned against complacency and urged his players to show they are credible Serie A title contenders ahead of Sunday’s home clash with relegation battlers Crotone.

Conte’s team, who finished as runners-up last season, cut the gap to league leaders AC Milan to just one point before the 10-day winter break, thanks to a run of seven straight league wins.

That form has put Inter firmly in the mix to end their 11-year wait for a league title, with defending champions Juventus languishing nine points behind them in sixth.

“We must confirm our place among the contenders,” Conte told a news conference.

“We don’t have to send any message, just be credible. We have the duty to fight until the end. When you’re at Inter, this is an obligation.

“It’s a balanced championship. You need to sweat to win every match and there are no easy games.

“In the end important values like hard work and organisation will stand out, things that make you excel and win.”

Inter are favourites to come out on top against Crotone, who are in 19th place having won just twice since being promoted from Serie B.

However, one of those victories came in Crotone’s last match before the break and Conte insisted he will not be underestimating the threat of the visitors.

“We’re expecting a demanding match, as I think they all are in Serie A,” he said.

“We’re facing a team that has been galvanised by finishing last year with a win against Parma.

“This match will require a lot of focus. Starting again after the holidays is always a great unknown, but we know the importance of continuing our positive streak.”

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Pirlo Warns Juventus Players Never To Repeat Fiorentina Display

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Juventus coach, Andrea Pirlo, has warned his players not to repeat the poor performance they produced during their shock 3-0 defeat against struggling Fiorentina in their last match before Serie A headed into its Christmas break.

The Italian champions, who face Udinese on Sunday, slumped to their first league defeat of the season against Fiorentina.

The result left Pirlo’s side 10 points adrift of league leaders AC Milan, albeit with a game in hand, putting their nine-year stranglehold of the Italian title at risk.

“We talked about the game against Fiorentina, we got it completely wrong,” the 41-year-old, who is in his first season as a manager, said.

“It was a good meeting and we discussed our future objectives. It was productive.

“I don’t want to see any more matches like the one with Fiorentina.

“We’ve otherwise made some progress and improved in many aspects, but I’m convinced it can be even better.”

Udinese also headed into the winter break following a 2-0 defeat to Benevento but Luca Gotti’s side were unbeaten in six league matches before then.

Hence Pirlo is not taking the challenge lightly.

“I’m expecting a difficult match, Udinese are on a good run of form and are a very well organised and physical team with players who are very good on the counter attack,” he said.

“The team is eager to redeem itself after the last defeat. We’ve got almost all our players back, so we’re setting out to restart the league season strongly.”

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Kane, Son Doing ‘Special Things’ – Mourinho

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Harry Kane and Son Heung-min are doing “special things” for Tottenham Hotspur this season, manager Jose Mourinho said.

This was following the dynamic duo both scoring in a 3-0 win over Leeds United that lifted Spurs to third in the Premier League on Saturday.

Kane gave his side the lead from the penalty spot — his 10th league goal of the season — then combined with Son who doubled Tottenham’s tally just before halftime.

It was Son’s 100th goal for Tottenham and the 13th time this season that the pair had combined for a league goal, equalling the whole season record set by Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton for Blackburn Rovers in 1994-95.

“I think in the Premier League there are many good players everywhere even in clubs where you don’t believe they can have great players,” Mourinho said.

“But I have to say that Sonny and Harry are doing special things this season.

“They are very good players as you know for many years.

“I want more goals, especially from other players but today the second goal is great, is also great because it was something we spoke about against a team that defends the way Leeds does.”

While the scoreline rather flattered Tottenham against a Leeds side who enjoyed 64% possession, it snapped a four-game winless sequence in the Premier League and sent Mourinho’s side back into the top four of the table.

They are in third spot with 29 points from 16 games, four behind joint-leaders Liverpool and Manchester United.

“Of course the result is important.

”We didn’t play the last match and the run of results in the least few weeks was not good so we needed these three points so we go up a little bit in the table,” Mourinho said.

Tottenham’s game in midweek was postponed after Fulham players tested positive for COVID-19.

This is a decision that Mourinho still find puzzling on the day that three of his own players were condemned for breaking the rules to attend a party.

“I go back to the initial rules of if you have 14 players available you have to play,” Mourinho said.

“I don’t see another reason for not doing it. I think every club does the best for their players to keep them all safe but then there are moments in private lives which you cannot control.

“Not everyone can be blamed so we have to carry on. If somebody has some positives, we have to play.”

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