India canter to record margin victory over New Zealand to clinch series

By Sports Desk December 06, 2021

India have cruised to a 372-run victory after swiftly bowling out New Zealand on day four to claim their two-game Test series 1-0.

Jayant Yadav claimed four wickets within nine legal deliveries after the Black Caps resumed at 140-5 chasing an improbable 540 on the fourth day in Mumbai, eventually dismissing the visitors for 167.

Indian opener Mayank Agarwal was named Player of the Match after his first innings 150 set up the win, backing that up with a second innings half-century.

New Zealand left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel had taken a sensational 10-wicket haul in the first innings but the Black Caps struggled for runs, making only 229 for the game.

The margin was India's biggest win by runs in Test history, along with New Zealand's most significant runs defeat. It was also India's 14th consecutive Test series triumph at home.

Ashwin reaches 300 Test scalps at home

Ravichandran Ashwin fittingly claimed the final wicket to secure victory for India, with overnight batsman Henry Nicholls (44) stumped by Wriddhiman Saha, securing eight scalps for the game, with 34-4 in the second innings.

The 35-year-old off-spinner was India's most fruitful bowler for the game but also brought up his 300th wicket on home soil with Nicholls' dismissal. The wicket also was Ashwin's 50th for the calendar year.

Ashwin had feasted on New Zealand's tail-end in the first innings, but claimed four of the top five in the second.

Agarwal exceeds history maker

The exceptional nature of Agarwal's game was underlined by the fact he won Player of the Match honours ahead of someone who took the third 10-wicket haul in Test cricket history.

Agarwal made 212 runs for the game, 17 shy of New Zealand's entire total and his contribution did not stop there, taking the catch for tail-ender Will Somerville's wicket on the fourth day, the ninth to fall.

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    The drivers' and constructors' championships both heating up as Formula One makes its seasonal return to Europe seems fitting. 

    After legs in the Middle East, Australia and North America, Red Bull are comprehensively in the fight against Ferrari heading into this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona.

    With consecutive race wins at the Emilia Romagna GP and Miami GP following DNFs in Bahrain and Australia, Max Verstappen has closed the gap to standings leader Charles Leclerc to 19 points.

    After coming perilously close to such an error at Imola, a single mistake or DNF for Leclerc and a full points haul for Verstappen could see momentum in the drivers' championship completely shift.

    Barcelona is a happy hunting ground for Verstappen, who claimed victory there in 2016 in only his first drive for Red Bull.

    It could continue if the reigning world champion secures pole position, having converted 14 career poles into 10 race victories, the best rate of any driver in F1 history.

    Meanwhile, with Sergio Perez also contributing with solid driving and good race pace on Sunday, Red Bull have cut the gap in the constructors' standings to only six points.

    Only in Monaco have the team collected more points than in Spain, with 332 compared to 312, but that could change this weekend.

    With a fifth consecutive top-four finish, Perez could equal his best such run of results, recorded between Turkey and Qatar last season.

    Ferrari set for upgrades

    The gravity of Red Bull's resurgence could arguably be crystallised in the likelihood Ferrari will have upgrades installed for this weekend after only tinkering and researching on race weekends to this point.

    Leclerc will be looking to lead from the front, with all four of his race wins in F1 coming from pole position.

    Carlos Sainz will also be hoping for a strong finish at his home grand prix, where he has accumulated the most points (40) in his career alongside Monaco.

    Can Mercedes challenge?

    While they might not be a championship contender in either the drivers' or constructors' standings, Mercedes have at least shown improved performance to potentially challenge for podiums and race wins.

    The Silver Arrows come into this contest having taken the past nine pole positions in Barcelona, and they will likely need to make it another to challenge on Sunday.

    Lewis Hamilton is still waiting to surpass Michael Schumacher for the most consecutive seasons with a race win.

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    Drivers

    1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 104
    2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 85
    3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 66
    4. George Russell (Mercedes) 59 
    5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 53

    Constructors

    1. Ferrari 157
    2. Red Bull 151
    3. Mercedes 95
    4. McLaren 46
    5. Alfa Romeo 31

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    "Obviously I respect how he's been playing, he's a top player," Tavernier said. "But, I've just got to bring the best version of myself when the game starts and try to cause him all the problems, try to make him deal with me for the majority of the game. That's all I can really do."

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    If it needs reiterating, he's a huge contributor for Rangers in the final third.

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    Yet there's always the possibility of an overload in behind Kostic if the conditions are right, such is his attacking influence.

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    Kostic's 78 successful crosses from open play is also a season-high. Of course, you would expect him to lead the way given he's attempted so many more than anyone else, but his 26.8 per cent accuracy (crosses/corners) is right in line with the average (among players with at least 100 attempted). That in itself is impressive given his greater frequency.

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    A cursory glance at his map of open-play chances created proves that point.

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    As recently as mid-January he was turning out for Borussia Dortmund's second team in the third tier. Then he joined Eintracht on loan and has since scored important Europa League goals against Barcelona and West Ham.

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    Before Knauff's arrival, Eintracht were rather lopsided, with their other options on the right far from convincing. Sure, Kostic remains their main outlet, but Knauff's emergence has provided them with another – albeit stylistically different – threat on the other side, giving them greater balance.

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    He may not be their deadliest weapon, but he's proven he can offer them a lot, and his team-high 61 dribble attempts in that period proves he's happy to make his markers work for their money.

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    But their width and desire to attack from the flanks is fundamental to how they play – while it may be easier said than done, limiting their effectiveness out wide would go a long way to ending Rangers' 50-year European trophy drought.

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    Klopp made nine changes to his line-up for the trip to St Mary's on Tuesday, where Liverpool realistically had to win to keep hopes of winning the Premier League title alive.

    Although the Reds fell behind to Nathan Redmond's opener, Takumi Minamino pulled them level before half-time and Joel Matip's header secured a huge three points.

    Minamino also scored in his most recent previous Premier League start for Liverpool – a 7-0 win over Crystal Palace in December 2020. That gap of 514 days between scoring in consecutive starts for a top-flight club is the longest since Duncan Ferguson's 533 days for Everton from April 2002 until September 2003.

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    "No, of course not … There's no reason to talk to him [Gerrard]. We all know Villa wants to win because Villa wants to win," said Klopp.

    "We have to first win our game, we can't talk about Wolves as if they will not be there. It's difficult enough.

    "Imagine we went there with one ear in Manchester and [Raul] Jimenez headed in the ball. We will be 100 per cent focused.

    "So many things happened in this second half of the season. If we become champions it would be deserved as well, but for that we have to win."

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