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Nida Dar’s efforts in vain as Australia beat Pakistan by eight wickets

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Nida Dar's efforts in vain as Australia beat Pakistan by eight wickets

Australia beat Pakistan by eight wickets in the first One-Day International (ODI) of the three-match series in Brisbane.

Returning captain Meg Lanning and teenaged debutant Phoebe Litchfield struck half-centuries in Australia’s comfortable eight-wicket victory over Pakistan in a truncated women’s ODI series opener at Allan Border Field.

Chasing a revised target of 158 in 40 overs, Lanning made 67 off 76 balls after coming to the crease in the first over following the dismissal of opener Beth Mooney.

There had been much anticipation over the return of Lanning from a five-month hiatus – she hadn’t played since the Commonwealth Games after taking personal leave. She was made to work early against probing bowling from quicks Diana Baig and Fatima Sana as Pakistan eyed a first-ever victory over Australia.

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Lanning had a reprieve on six when Muneeba Ali dropped a straightforward chance at point off the bowling of Sana and she made them pay almost immediately with a boundary.

She was in command from there on, back to her belligerent best as she unleashed sweep shots to effectively thwart the spin, and looked good for more before falling with victory in sight. Having survived a near run-out, Lanning was dismissed in tame fashion, caught down the leg side off spinner Omaima Sohail.

Lanning had combined well in a century partnership with 19-year-old Litchfield, who impressed with a slew of thunderous boundaries in her 92-ball 78 not out.

After Lanning’s dismissal, she smashed Sohail for two boundaries and then a six before hitting the winning runs in the 29th over to cap a stellar performance.

A 90-minute rain break shortly after play started reduced the contest to 40 overs per side with bowlers able to bowl a maximum of eight overs each.

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Australia’s spinners papered over a patchy bowling effort to restrict Pakistan to a modest total of 160 for 8. Lanning used eight bowlers with Australia’s quicks loose at times in an attempt to conjure swing.

Spinners Ashleigh Gardner, Jess Jonassen and Alana King were the standouts, all menace during the middle overs with sharp turn, while Mooney was excellent behind the stumps in Alyssa Healy’s absence.

Veteran Nida Dar anchored the innings with a well-compiled 59 to notch Pakistan’s highest individual ODI score in Australia. She was almost dismissed on 37 after disastrous running between the wickets saw her at the non-striker’s end alongside Kainat Imtiaz, who was adjudged run out.

Dar’s late fireworks provided a lift, but she lacked support as several batters were unable to capitalise on strong starts.

Skipper Bismah Maroof hit several beautiful drives before falling for 28 to a terrific catch from Mooney after gloving Gardner.

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No. 4 Sohail started typically aggressive with consecutive boundaries through point. But the cavalier approach led to her dismissal when she loosely drove to point to gift seamer Tahlia McGrath a wicket in her first over.

Before the rain delay, quick Darcie Brown claimed two wickets but her radar was off with a slew of wides as she pressed for movement.

With the T20 World Cup looming, the three-match series leads into a trio of T20Is to wrap up Pakistan’s first bilateral series in Australia since 2014.

It was an important hit-out for Lanning with Australia missing Healy, who is sidelined for the ODI and T20I series against Pakistan with a calf injury.

In their first ODI since winning last year’s World Cup in April, Australia started the new edition of the ICC Women’s Championship in style.

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Klopp won’t let Liverpool flops feel sorry for themselves

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Jurgen Klopp has warned struggling Liverpool there is no room for “self-pity” as he fights to stop their troubled season spiralling further out of control.

Klopp’s side head to relegation-threatened Wolves on Saturday languishing in ninth place in the Premier League after one win in their past six games in all competitions.

The Reds, currently 10 points adrift of the top four, also crashed out of the FA Cup fourth round at Brighton last weekend, ending their defence of the trophy.

After that painful stoppage-time defeat on the south coast, Klopp drew attention to the unhappy body language of some of his players, who came close to winning a historic quadruple last season.

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Liverpool defender Andy Robertson has admitted the campaign deteriorated after the World Cup break.

But Klopp, who still hopes to salvage the season, is determined to stop his squad feeling sorry for themselves.

“Self-pity is not allowed in these moments,” he said. “We are human beings and know these moments when you think ‘Oh my God, everything is going against me’.

“There’s only one person who can change that really and it’s yourself. These kind of things can happen and will happen in the future as well, but it’s about limiting the time to get back on track.”

Publicly at least, Klopp has no answers for the poor form of Virgil van Dijk, Mohamed Salah, Jordan Henderson and Fabinho, among others.

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But the German believes the situation can be turned around, pointing to the recent resurgence of Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford after a poor period for his club.

“We all see that some players didn’t exactly reach the level they reached for us consistently over four or five or six years. That’s not unusual, it happens to other players as well,” Klopp said.

“One of the best examples ever probably will be Marcus Rashford. The season he had last year and the season he has this year, I’m not sure he can really explain it. Now he is flying. That’s how it goes.

“The times in between these two extremes we have to use and go through it and fight through it.

“You have to get through this and the players I know, my players, they will go through that and show again how good they are.” 

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‘He’ll play’: Nagelsmann calls out PSG mind games over Mbappe

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BayernMunich coach Julian Nagelsmann said on Friday he thinks Kylian Mbappe will play for Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of their Champions League tie, accusing the French club of “playing poker”.

PSG announced on Thursday that the star forward would miss “up to three weeks” with a thigh injury, ruling him out of the February 14 clash in the French capital.

“I don’t think he’ll be out,” Nagelsmann said, claiming the Ligue 1 champions had given a speculative diagnosis of the star’s condition.

“I don’t know what he’s got, (but) I assume he’s playing.

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“What it says on the website is vague. If it’s not a structural injury, I can’t imagine him missing the game, but I don’t know.

“I am preparing for the game as if he is going to play.”

Mbappe, who has 25 goals for PSG this season including seven in the Champions League, was replaced in the 21st minute of his team’s 3-1 win over Montpellier on Wednesday.

Alongside Mbappe, both Neymar and Sergio Ramos are currently under fitness clouds for the French side, but both should be fit in time for the clash with Bayern.

Nagelsmann’s side have injury concerns of their own, with the long-term absences of goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, wing-back Noussair Mazraoui and defender Lucas Hernandez.

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Forward Sadio Mane has been out since November but has returned to training, although he won’t feature at the Parc des Princes.

“I am expecting him back in the middle or at the end of February,” Nagelsmann said.

“It looks good and he has no more pain. But he’ll miss the first leg against Paris.”

With six wins from six matches Bayern are unbeaten in the Champions League this season, but have drawn their past three league matches ahead of Sunday’s clash with Wolfsburg.

Bayern currently sit in first place in the Bundesliga, but are just one point clear of Union Berlin.

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A further three teams — RB Leipzig, Borussia Dortmund and Freiburg — are within one win of the 31-time Bundesliga winners. 

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Cockerill confident England will match Scots’ passion

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England forwards coach Richard Cockerill says the English will have no trouble matching Scotland’s “passion” when they face their oldest rivals in the Six Nations at Twickenham on Saturday.

Scotland are always keen to get the better of England in a fixture dating back to 1871.

The desire will be even more potent given the latest chapter of the rivalry comes on the opening weekend of the Six Nations.

But Cockerill, who lives in Edinburgh having previously been in charge of the Scottish capital club, said the hosts would have plenty of emotional fuel themselves as they try to beat Scotland for the first time since 2020.

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“I can assure you that, tomorrow, we will have enough passion to match the Scots’ passion. Then it will be down to who plays the best rugby,” Cockerill told reporters on Friday.

Cockerill, capped 27 times by England, added: “When I was a player, it was the rivalry and realising how competitive the Scots are against the English. I still live in Edinburgh so I see that every day. It’s a huge game.

“We know it means a lot to Scotland and it means a hell of a lot to us as an England team. The rivalry is going to be keen.”

That competition was brought home to Cockerill when he lost a bet and had to wear a Scotland hat following the Dark Blues’ 2018 win over England at Murrayfield.

Asked if that had been a painful experience, Cockerill replied: “Yes, very! It was all in good humour.”

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‘Scrum hasn’t been good enough’

Cockerill is the last surviving member of Eddie Jones’ staff still involved in an England backroom set-up now led by new head coach Steve Borthwick.

Jones was sacked after a November campaign that capped England’s worst year since 2008, with Cockerill clear on where the team had to get better.

“Our scrum hasn’t been good enough and that’s something we need to improve,” he said.

“Our set-piece parts have to be a lot better if we’re going to compete at this level and win games at this level.”

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Veteran prop Dan Cole, 35 will be on England’s bench on Saturday after being recalled to the Test set-up for the first time since the 2019 World Cup.

Cole, asked why he had been recalled, jokingly replied: “Probably my goal-kicking, charm, good looks.”

But on a serious note, the 95-times capped Cole added: “I think England want to play a certain way with Steve — set-piece and I think he thinks I’ve something to offer in that part of the game.” 

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