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NBA Heat Check: No let up from Holiday, Harrell magic fading for Wizards

By Sports Desk January 01, 2022

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  • India recover from Bairstow century to build commanding third-day lead over England India recover from Bairstow century to build commanding third-day lead over England

    India recovered from Jonny Bairstow clinching yet another century to finish an eventful third day of the fourth Test against England with a healthy 257-run lead.

    Bairstow led a fine England counter in a thrilling morning session, bringing up his third century in as many Tests as the hosts looked to make up for a poor start to their first innings.

    But after Bairstow's team-mates toiled in being bowled out for 284, India recovered from the early loss of Shubman Gill to reach 125-3 by close of play, leaving the hosts with it all to do on day four. 

    The hosts enjoyed some good fortune upon resuming, with skipper Ben Stokes (25-36) being dropped in inexplicable fashion by Jasprit Bumrah before gifting the visiting captain a catch with an identical shot off the very next ball.

    As has often been the case since Brendon McCullum took charge, England were left to rely on the brilliant Bairstow, who dragged them into contention by bringing up his century – the 11th of his Test career - off 119 balls shortly after lunch.

    But their momentum dissipated when Mohammed Shami had him caught for 106 off 140 to reduce England to 241-7, before Mohammed Siraj dismissed Stuart Broad (1-5) in the very next over and finished the innings 4-66 after accounting for Sam Billings (36-57) and Matthew Potts (19-18).

    Needing a fast start to have any hope of teeing up another successful chase, England were boosted when James Anderson had Gill (4-3) caught at slip, his fourth Test dismissal of the India opener.

    Broad and Stokes then claimed a wicket apiece as Hanuma Vihari (11-44) and the out-of-form Virat Kohli (20-44) were felled, before Cheteshwar Pujara bought up a slow half-century off 139 balls. 

    He and Rishabh Pant (30 not out) were then content to see the day out in quiet fashion, with England now requiring wickets to fall quickly on Monday.

    Brilliant Bairstow drags England into contention

    The pressure was on when England resumed on Sunday, and Bairstow – so often the key man in the early days of McCullum's red-ball revolution, stepped up after a bout of sledging from Kohli.

    In recording his first century against India in Test cricket, Bairstow went from 13 off 61 balls to 100 off 119, going up through the gears in rapid fashion when England needed him most.

    Siraj halts hosts' progress

    With England having recovered from 84-5 to 241-7 by Bairstow's dismissal, India could have been forgiven for thinking back to the way McCullum's men conducted three successful chases of over 250 against New Zealand in their recent series whitewash.

    But Siraj stepped up to claim a four-wicket haul as India held off their hosts, leaving England requiring something special to level the series at 2-2.

  • Wimbledon: Watson credits 'flawless' Niemeier after seeing best grand slam run halted Wimbledon: Watson credits 'flawless' Niemeier after seeing best grand slam run halted

    Heather Watson praised Jule Niemeier's "flawless" performance after seeing her best Wimbledon run ended by the German in a straight-sets last-16 reverse.

    Watson was beaten 6-2 6-4 by Niemeier on the 100th anniversary of Centre Court's opening, as the home favourite fell short of a first career grand slam quarter-final appearance.

    Niemeier's win set up a last-eight clash with compatriot Tatjana Maria, as two German female players reached the Wimbledon quarter-finals in the same year for just the fifth time since 1987.

    In her post-match news conference, Watson lauded her opponent's display and said she will eventually look back on her run to the fourth round with pride. 

    "Immediately after walking off the court, I was obviously extremely disappointed. I've taken every match here as a big opportunity and managed to take advantage of it until today," she said.

    "But credit to my opponent. I felt like she played really well, especially in that first set. Very flawless tennis. 

    "She served big, which was a big difference today, I felt like I was always reacting to her ball. I was not on the front foot like I was in my other matches.

    "It's so soon after the match, I'm still deflated and disappointed, I saw today as a big opportunity and thought I would come through it.

    "I've always felt good enough, I've won four WTA titles – that's not easy. I know when I light it up I can beat anyone on my day, and tennis is so up and down. 

    "I'll look back and be proud of myself for this week, but right now I'm disappointed."

    Niemeier became the fourth-youngest German woman to reach the Wimbledon quarter-finals in the Open Era, with only Bettina Bunge, Steffi Graf and Sabine Lisicki doing so at a younger age.

    The 22-year-old recognised the significance of winning on the day of Centre Court's centenary celebrations, after the likes of Roger Federer and Billie Jean King spoke during a parade of former champions, and even apologised to fans for eliminating a home hopeful.

    "I didn't want to watch the show before the match because I was pretty nervous and I saw all the players, so I didn't want to see it. But of course, it's a special place, it's one of the biggest courts on Tour," she said.

    "The court is so beautiful, and I feel honoured I had the chance to play on Centre Court.

    "I just want to say sorry that I had to kick out a British player today!"

  • Wimbledon: Maria joins the greats after reaching maiden grand slam quarter Wimbledon: Maria joins the greats after reaching maiden grand slam quarter

    Surprise Wimbledon quarter-finalist Tatjana Maria joined an illustrious list of greats after defeating Jelena Ostapenko on Sunday.

    Maria, a mother of two, returned from maternity leave under a year ago and came back from a set down to triumph 5-7 7-5 7-5 against the 2017 French Open champion. 

    That sent the 34-year-old into the first grand slam quarter-final of her career.

    With that achievement, the German matched a feat only six women had previously managed, as she became the seventh woman in the Open Era to reach the last eight of a major after turning 34.

    World number 103 Maria, who salvaged two match points in the second set, joins the great Billie Jean King, Virginia Wade, Chris Evert, nine-time Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova, Serena Williams and Venus Williams on that distinguished list.

    Ostapenko was in a foul mood after seeing the match slip from her grasp, and received a frosty reception as she made her way off court.

    It could take nothing away from a special day for Maria, who said in her on-court interview: "Oh my God, it makes me so proud to be a mum.

    "That's the best thing in the world, I love to be a mum, I love my two kids. To be able to do this together, we practiced this morning with my daughter.

    "Everybody has been so nice, supporting us and believing in me and our family, it makes it really special."

    Next up for Maria is compatriot Jule Niemeier, who defeated Britain's Heather Watson in straight sets.

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