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I see this as ‘significant chance’ for India, says Waugh

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Sydney: Former Australia captain Steve Waugh says the upcoming four-match rubber is a “significant chance” for India to win their first Test series Down Under.

The series begins with the first Tests in Adelaide on December 6.

“I will see this as a significant chance and they would have prepared for this tour for a long time. I think it’s going to be a really close series,” Waugh told ‘ESPNcricinfo’.

India captain Virat Kohli is likely to be the biggest threat for the Australian bowlers, as they look to maintain their unbeaten record at home against the Asian giants.

Asked how Australia would tackle the Kohli threat, Waugh said, “He is a great player and loves the big moment, a bit like Tendulkar and Lara. They wait for these big series and that’s where they want to show their best. So who is the danger man for Australia? They have got some really good batsmen, they have got a very good all-round team.”

Former wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist said the visitors would mainly bank on their talismanic skipper to get runs on the board.

“Virat is clearly the best player in the world at the moment. So India will look to him to score heavily but all are going to have their challenges and as too will the Australian batting line-up,” Gilchrist said.

The big-hitting batsman of yesteryear was of the opinion that the Australian pace attack comprising Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood could pose tough questions.

“I think Pat Cummins is outstanding, Hazlewood is almost McGrath-like with his bowling. Those three guys and there are couple in the wings who are high-quality fast bowlers.”


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Sarfraz wants team to play fearless cricket in SA

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KARACHI: Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmed urged his fellow team-mates to play “without fear” during their forthcoming tour of South Africa — a country where they have won only two Tests during their past five tours.

The Pakistani side is en route to South Africa to play three Tests, five ODIs and three Twenty20 Inter­nationals, with the first Test starting in Centurion on Dec 26.

Pakistan head into the series after losing 2-1 to New Zealand in the UAE last week. In the wake of the tough loss, Sarfraz said he still had high hopes of earning a good result against the Proteas.

“Conditions in South Africa are tough with bouncy and seaming pitches so anyone who plays without fear and with a big heart will succeed,” Sarfraz told AFP.

Pakistan’s two wins out of 12 Tests in South Africa came in 1998 and 2007, having lost nine with just one draw.

On their last tour in 2013, Pakistan were routed 3-0 and bowled out for their lowest Test score of 49 in the first Test in Johannesburg, with both senior batsmen Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq in the line-up.

Now without the two stalwarts, Pakistan will look to Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq to help guide the squad.

“We need big innings from both Azhar and Shafiq and they are capable of doing that, so if we put good totals on board we have a good bowling attack to win the match,” said Sarfraz, who also singled out recalled paceman Mohammad Amir as key to any success.

“Amir is back after a good performance at the domestic level so we hope he gets us key wickets in Tests,” said Sarfraz of Amir, who was dropped from the series against Australia and New Zealand due to poor form.

Pakistan open the tour with a three-day game against Cricket South Africa Invitation XI at Benoni from Dec 19.

The second Test is in Cape Town from Jan 3-7 and the third in Johannesburg from Jan 11-15.

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AC Milan crash out of Europa League

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London: Olympiakos Piraeus pulled off a stunning 3-1 Europa League win over AC Milan at the Karaiskakis Stadium that put them into the last-32 and sent the Italians crashing out as the remaining places in the knockout stage were decided.

All the goals in Greece came in a thrilling second half, with Milan defender Cristian Zapata scoring an own goal to make it 2-0 to Olympiakos in the 70th minute, before he pulled one back for his side two minutes later.

Yet Milan`s defensive frailty was punished when Konstantinos Fortounis scored from the penalty spot in the 81st minute to give his side the win that left them second in Group F on 10 points.

They edged out the seven-times European champions on goal difference and progressed along with group winners Real Betis.

Chelsea dropped points for the first time this season in the competition as they drew 2-2 with Vidi FC in Budapest, but the game was overshadowed by allegations of anti-Semitic chanting by the visiting fans.

Swedish side Malmo pulled off one of the bigger shocks of the round, winning 1-0 away to 10-man Besiktas to finish runners-up behind Genk in Group I.

Besiktas`s Ricardo Quaresma was given a straight red card for a reckless tackle on Franz Brorsson in the second half.

Bayer Leverkusen demolished AEK Larnaca 5-1 to finish top of Group A, with FC Zurich finishing runners-up following a 1-1 draw with Ludogorets.

Group C winners Zenit St Petersburg were comfortably beaten 2-0 away by Slavia Prague, who claimed the runners-up spot, rendering Bordeaux`s 1-0 win away to FC Copenhagen meaningless as both sides went out.

Celtic, who were beaten 2-1 at home by a Salzburg side that had already secured top spot in Group B, needed a helping hand from Rosenborg.

The Norwegians secured a 1-1 draw at home to RB Leipzig that knocked out the German side and sent the Scottish champions through.

Despite a 3-0 thumping by Sevilla, Krasnodar made it out of Group J as Standard Liege could only manage a scoreless draw away to Akhisar.

They will be joined in next Monday`s draw for the knockout stage by Villarreal, Rapid Vienna, Dynamo Kiev and Stade Rennais.

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India made a mistake by leaving out Jadeja for 2nd Test: Vaughan

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Perth: Former England cricketer Michael Vaughan on Friday said that visitors India made a mistake by not including Ravindra Jadeja in the playing XI for the ongoing second Test against Australia here.

The 44-year-old also went onto predict an Australian win.

“Think India have made a mistake not playing @imjadeja … Not only for his bowling but his Batting at No 8 … India have a very long tail this Week … Aussies to win … #AUSvIND #Perth,” he wrote on Twitter.

Virat Kohli, who lost the toss, decided to go ahead with four seamers on a green surface in Perth which resulted in Jadeja missing out. Ravichandran Ashwin was ruled out of the second Test due to an abdominal strain.

Australia’s openers made a solid start on the first day of the second Test against India in Perth on Friday, with under-pressure Aaron Finch not out 28 and Marcus Harris on 36.

After captain Tim Paine won the toss and elected to bat, the home side were 66 without loss at lunch in scorching conditions in the inaugural Test at the 60,000-capacity Perth Stadium.

On a pitch with a distinct greenish tinge, Harris looked solid throughout in only his second Test, smashing six fours in his 76-ball knock.

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