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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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Dominant Spain brush past Italy to reach Euro 2024 knockouts

Dominant Spain brush past Italy to reach Euro 2024 knockouts

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Dominant Spain brush past Italy to reach Euro 2024 knockouts

 Spain qualified for the last 16 of Euro 2024 with a match to spare on Thursday after beating defending champions Italy 1-0 in a dominant display which ensured that La Roja would go through as Group B winners.

Riccardo Calafiori’s own goal nine minutes after half-time was the difference between the two sides in the biggest match to date at the tournament in Germany.

But the slender margin of victory in Gelsenkirchen didn’t reflect a statement performance from Spain who completely nullified Italy and should have had the game won by half-time, as they did in their opening round thumping of Croatia.

Nico Williams was the star for Spain as he ran Napoli right-back Giovanni Di Lorenzo ragged and supplied the cross from which the unfortunate Calafiori poked the winning goal into his own net.

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“We had quite a few really good chances, but we’re very happy because we showed that we are a great team and that we can stifle any team,” said Spain captain Alvaro Morata.

Luis de la Fuente’s team have a perfect six points at the top of the group and take on Albania on Monday knowing that they are already in the knockout rounds and playing like potential champions.

For Italy Thursday’s deserved defeat was a reality check as vibrant Spain peppered the brilliant Gianliugi Donnarumma’s goal throughout the match.

“We misplaced too many easy passes and didn’t play with enough quality. If you make that many mistakes you are going to be punished,” said Donnarumma who made eight saves.

It was a performance reminiscent of the Euro 2012 final between the two teams when Spain crushed Italy 4-0.

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However all is not lost for Luciano Spalletti’s team, who are second on three points, as a draw with Croatia on Monday will be enough to guarantee qualification behind Spain.

“We created some situations with which we could have equalised, but they were much better than us. They deserved to win,” said Spalletti to RAI.

WILLIAMS SHINES FOR SPAIN

Spain could have been ahead twice in the first 10 minutes but squandered two great headed chances.

Less than two minutes were on the clock when an unmarked Pedri nodded Williams’ pinpoint cross straight at Donnarumma.

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And then Williams, who had a field day against Di Lorenzo, was the guilty party by somehow heading wide Morata’s superbly delivered, inswinging ball from the left flank.

Spain were clearly on top as Italy struggled to get out of their half, Gianluca Scamacca toiling on his own up front with little support and wasting possession when it did come his way.

Donnarumma had to be at his best twice within a matter of seconds when he first stuck out a foot to deny Morata and then pulled off a superb fingertip save which kept out Fabian Ruiz’s powerful drive from distance.

Meanwhile at the other end of the pitch Spain goalkeeper Unai Simon was a virtual spectator as Italy’s sole shot in the first half came just before the break when Federico Chiesa blazed a poor effort over from a difficult position.

The same pattern of Spanish possession and Italian defending continued after half-time and Pedri again wasted a great chance in the 51st minute, slamming wide after Marc Cucurella pulled back a perfect low cross.

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But Spain got the breakthrough soon after and it came through more sensational play from Williams on the left, who made mincemeat of Di Lorenzo before fizzing across a ball which Calafiori couldn’t help but divert home.

La Roja went close to doubling their lead with two distance strikes from Morata and teen sensation Lamine Yamal, before the superb Williams smashed an effort past Donnarumma which came crashing out off the crossbar in the 71st minute.

Italy pushed forward in hope of an equaliser after Mattia Zaccagni and Mateo Retegui replaced the ineffective Chiesa and Scamacca.

But in the dying moments Donnarumma again made two superb saves to twice stop Ayoze Perez making the scoreline better reflect a one-sided contest.

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US Open champ Gauff headlines US Paris Olympics tennis team

US Open champ Gauff headlines US Paris Olympics tennis team

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US Open champ Gauff headlines US Paris Olympics tennis team

 US Open champion Coco Gauff will lead the US tennis team at the Paris Olympics three years after she missed the Tokyo Games because of a bout of Covid-19.

World number two Gauff will be joined by fifth-ranked Jessica Pegula, Danielle Collins and Emma Navarro in women’s singles, the US Tennis Association announced on Thursday.

World No. 12 Taylor Fritz headlines the men’s singles squad that also includes Tommy Paul, Christopher Eubanks and Marcos Giron.

Olympic tennis starts on July 27 at Roland Garros, where Gauff fell to world number one and eventual champion Iga Swiatek in the French Open semi-finals this month.

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Gauff, who was runner-up to Swiatek in the 2022 French Open, also reached the semi-finals at the Australian Open this year.

The 20-year-old will be a contender in women’s doubles as well, teaming with Pegula on the same Roland Garros courts where they claimed the French Open doubles crown — their fifth doubles title as a team.

Gauff had been slated for a Tokyo Games appearance at the age of 17, but tested positive for Covid days before the Olympics started to miss out on “a dream come true”.

Kathy Rinaldi will coach the women’s US Olympic team, which will also see Collins team with Desirae Krawczyk in doubles.

The men will be coached by 2012 Olympic doubles gold medallist Bob Bryan. Fritz and Paul will team up in doubles, where the US will also be represented by Rajeev Ram and Austin Krajicek.

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The mixed doubles team will be taken from the qualified players and named at a later date.

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Wimbledon champion Alcaraz’s reign at Queen’s ends in last-16 loss to Draper

Wimbledon champion Alcaraz’s reign at Queen’s ends in last-16 loss to Draper

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Wimbledon champion Alcaraz's reign at Queen's ends in last-16 loss to Draper

Wimbledon champion Carlos Alcaraz suffered a shock defeat by Britain’s Jack Draper in the last 16 of the Queen’s Club tournament in London on Thursday.

Alcaraz, also the reigning Queen’s champion, lost 7-6 (7/3), 6-3 with the British number one claiming the biggest win of his career.

World number two Alcaraz arrived for this grass-court warm-up event for Wimbledon fresh from his French Open triumph on the clay of Roland Garros.

But the 21-year-old Spaniard was undone by Draper, 22, who is bidding to become the first British men’s singles champion at Queen’s since Andy Murray won his fifth title at the event in 2016.

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Alcaraz had not been beaten in seven weeks or indeed lost a match on grass in nearly two years.

Draper, however, put that record to one side as he became the first British man to beat a top-two player on grass since Murray defeated Novak Djokovic in the 2013 Wimbledon final.

Alcaraz was annoyed by the automatic shot clock, which forced him to hurry his serve, and complained to umpire Mohamed Lahyani.

‘CREDIT TO JACK’

But he had no qualms about the result as his 13-match unbeaten streak on grass ended in decisive fashion, with Alcaraz saying: “I’m not too good right now.

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“I felt like I didn’t play well, I didn’t move well,” added Alcaraz, who begins the defence of his Wimbledon title on July 1.

“Of course I have to give credit to Jack. I think he played really good tennis today,”

For the 31st-ranked Draper, this stunning victory came hot on the heels of his first ATP title in Stuttgart last week.

“It was a really tough match,” said Draper. “Carlos is the defending champion, he won Wimbledon, he’s an incredible talent and amazing for the sport.

“I had to come out and play well and luckily I did. There’s no place I’d rather be right now.”

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An enthralling first set ended in a tie-break after neither Alcaraz nor Draper had managed a break point.

But it was Draper who pulled clear with several fine serves to earn five set points, with the Briton taking the third when Alcaraz hit a return into the net.

Left-hander Draper earned the first break point of the match at 3-2 up in the second set and duly converted it with an excellent return of serve down the line.

Alcaraz saved three match points on his own serve at 5-2 down before Draper, a day after 37-year-old Murray limped out injured of Queen’s after just five games, finished the job for a win that appeared to signal a changing of the guard in British tennis.

Draper will next play American fifth-seed Tommy Paul, a 6-3, 6-4 winner over Chile’s Alejandro Tabilo, in the quarter-finals.

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There was more British success when wildcard Billy Harris joined Draper in the last eight.

The 29-year-old journeyman from Nottingham, who usually travels to lower-tier tournaments in a camper van, celebrated his award of a wildcard for Wimbledon — and a guaranteed £60,000 ($76,000) — by beating French qualifier Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard 6-4, 7-5.

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