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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
S P O R T S

Ahn saves Korea the blushes
Frankfurt, June 13
South Korea were given an almighty scare by Togo today before a second-half revival earned them a 2-1 victory.



Togolese defender Dare Nibombe (right) vies with South Korean forward Jung Hwan Ahn during a Group G match in Frankfurt on Tuesday. — AFP photo

Togolese defender Dare Nibombe (right) vies with South Korean forward Jung Hwan Ahn during a Group G match in Frankfurt on Tuesday.
Ballack’s return boosts Germany
Dortmund, June 13

Boosted by the return of their inspirational captain Michael Ballack hosts Germany have the chance to book a place in the second round of the World Cup when they face Poland in Dortmund tomorrow.
Ballack declared himself fit for the Friday opening match with Costa Rica, which Germany won 4-2, but manager Jurgen Klinsmann decided not to risk his calf injury and omitted him from the starting line-up.
German captain Michael Ballack takes part in a training session in Berlin on Monday. — Reuters
German captain Michael Ballack takes part in a training session in Berlin on Monday.

 

 

Today’s matches
Group H
Spain vs Ukraine
(6.30 pm)

Tunisia vs Saudi Arabia
(9.30 pm)

Group A
Germany vs Poland
(12.30 am)

 

EARLIER STORIES





France held to goalless draw

Stuttgart, June 13
A lacklustre France failed to tame Switzerland in their World Cup opener today, having to be content with a 0-0 draw from a tight, tactical battle at the Gottlieb Daimler Stadion.


French midfielder Zinedine Zidane eyes the ball during the 2006 World Cup Group G match against Switzerland in Stuttgart, on Tuesday. — AFP photo

French midfielder Zinedine Zidane eyes the ball during the 2006 World Cup Group G match against Switzerland

Solid Italy outshine Ghana

Hanover, June 13
Italy began their World Cup campaign with a solid 2-0 victory over Ghana which won the approval of coach Marcello Lippi.




Italian forward Vincenzo Iaquinta runs past Ghanaian goalkeeper Richard Kingston before scoring Italy’s second goal during a Group E match in Hannover on Monday. — AFP photo

Italian forward Vincenzo Iaquinta runs past Ghanaian goalkeeper Richard Kingston before scoring Italy’s second goal during a Group E match in Hannover on Monday.

Spain keen to shed underachiever’s tag
Kamen, June 13
Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas is confident a win against Ukraine in their Group H opener in Leipzig tomorrow could help kickstart a new era for international football’s biggest underachievers.

Models exhibit bags designed in tune with the on-going FIFA World Cup
Models exhibit bags designed in tune with the on-going FIFA World Cup, in Kolkata on Tuesday. — PTI

Mexican coach in trouble for smoking
Berlin, June 13
Mexican coach Ricardo Lavolpe will be given a warning about smoking on the touchlines at the World Cup after he lit up during the 3-1 victory over Iran, FIFA said on today.

Kolkata drunk on World Cup             
Kolkata, June 13
When Brazilian drums beat in Germany, fans in Kolkata sway the Samba way awaiting a midnight soccer carousal as Ronaldinhos make appearance against Croatia sending dizzy this football crazy metropolis, already caught by the World Cup fever. The die hard Brazilian fans in the citys Kalighat area wished success of their Latin heroes



Rain thwarts India’s push for victory
St Lucia, June 13
Every morning a dozen of us pile on to a plush mini-bus at a hotel in this island’s capital, Castries, to commute to the Beausejour Cricket Ground here. It’s a jovial journey. The West Indian media men slip into their local accents and dialects. It’s leg pulling and repartee all the way. One listens and enjoys.

Sania quells Ukrainian resistance
Birmingham, June 13
Fourteenth seed Sania Mirza was stretched to three sets by Alona Bondarenko before the Indian star quelled a spirited resistance from her Ukranian rival to advance into second round of the $200,000 DFS Classic here today.
Brilliant in patches, Sania won the match 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. The Hyderabadi, who faced round one exit in the French Open singles event, seemed determined to prove a point on the grass court and broke her rival thrice to race away with the first set with a 6-2 scoreline.



Sania Mirza in action against Alona Bondarenko of Ukraine during the Birmingham Classic in Edgbaston on Tuesday. Sania won 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. — Reuters photo
Sania Mirza in action against Alona Bondarenko of Ukraine during the Birmingham Classic in Edgbaston on Tuesday. Sania won 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.


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Ahn saves Korea the blushes

Frankfurt, June 13
South Korea were given an almighty scare by Togo today before a second-half revival earned them a 2-1 victory to launch their World Cup campaign.

Substitute Ahn Jung-hwan rifled home the winner in the 72nd minute after debutants Togo had been reduced to 10 men in their Group G clash at the Waldstadion.

Togo's preparations for their first World Cup had bordered on a soap opera, with globetrotting coach Otto Pfister quitting on Friday over a squad pay row before making a U-turn yesterday.

Confusion still reigned about who was coaching the African side in the hours leading up to kick-off and the sense of farce continued inside the stadium when the Korean anthem was played twice before Togo's was heard before the start.

Togo's colourful contingent of fans might have feared the worst but instead their team went for the Koreans in lively fashion.

Mohamed Kader Coubadja shot over from a narrow angle after 11 minutes and the French-based forward caused panic in the Korean defence every time he got the ball.

It was no surprise when he broke the deadlock after 31 minutes. Taking a pass neatly on his thigh, he sped into the right side of the penalty area, steadied himself, then fired a low shot into the corner of the net.

Togo almost went further in front four minutes before halftime when Yao Senaya's curling free kick was tipped over the bar by Lee Woon-jae.

Korea coach Dick Advocaat sent on forward Ahn at the start of the second half, although it was Togo who continued to impress as Coubadja forced another fine save from Lee.

Ahn sliced a shot wildly over the bar after 50 minutes as the Koreans finally began to gather some momentum.

The match swung in South Korea's favour within the space of two minutes, though.

In the 53rd minute Togo skipper Jean-Paul Yaovi Abalo Dosseh was shown a red card for bringing down Park Ji-sung on the edge of the area and from the resulting free kick Lee Chun-soo curled a delightful free kick past Kossi Agassa.

The goal sparked a wave of Korean pressure, with Park at last displaying the dazzling runs that made him so popular at Manchester United last season.

Togo gallantly went for the win despite being a man down, but they were sunk when Ahn picked up a loose ball and advanced to fire an unstoppable shot past Agassa.

Togo's defeat means all four African debutants at the World Cup have lost their opening matches. — Reuters

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Ballack’s return boosts Germany

Dortmund, June 13
Boosted by the return of their inspirational captain Michael Ballack hosts Germany have the chance to book a place in the second round of the World Cup when they face Poland in Dortmund tomorrow.

Ballack declared himself fit for the Friday opening match with Costa Rica, which Germany won 4-2, but manager Jurgen Klinsmann decided not to risk his calf injury and omitted him from the starting line-up.

But the skipper has successfully returned to training and is expected to reclaim the captain’s armband from Bernd Schneider.

“I came through training and am now looking forward to playing tomorrow,” Ballack said.

“We want to reach the last 16 and hope the fantastic fans in Dortmund can push us to victory,” Ballack said.

“Poland are under pressure and there is a lot of discontent back home after their defeat to Ecuador so we should beware.” Poland lost 2-0 to Ecuador in their first match and if Germany can also taste victory over their neighbours they will become the first team to qualify for the knockout stage.

“Polish players know their public are not happy and realise it is all or nothing,” Klinsmann said.

“They will be fired up to do everything they can to stay in this tournament. It will be a heated encounter.” Germany would field two Polish-born strikers in attack with Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski, born in the Polish cities of Opole and Gliwice respectively, admitting the game would be an emotional occasion.

“It will be special and a bit strange to hear the Polish national anthem and then the German one afterwards,” explained Podolski. I will not sing either of them because I feel at home in both countries. I have not quite lost my Polish heart.” Poland scouts will be asking themselves how the duo slipped through the net and ended up representing old foes Germany.

Coach Pawel Janas admits Germany’s attack is a concern but felt their leaky defence was a cause for optimism.

“They are a dangerous team when they attack and they score a lot of goals but the defence is not as good,” he said.

Legendary Polish striker Zbigniew Boniek, part of the team that finished third at the 1982 World Cup, agreed.

“Any team with an intelligent player that can thread a pass between the centre-backs will have a lot of joy against Germany,” Boniek declared.

Poland’s star striker Ebi Smolarek, playing on the ground where he plays for club side Borussia Dortmund, would hope to prosper against the suspect German defence, but would be shackled by his club team-mate Christoph Metzelder.

Poland and Germany have met twice in the World Cup and the latter holds the upper hand. At the 1974 World Cup hosts West Germany defeated Poland 1-0 in Frankfurt as they went on to lift the title.

Four years later in Argentina the two nations met again and the game finished 0-0. In 14 meetings Germany have never lost against Poland — winning ten and drawing the other four — and Germany have also never tasted defeat in Dortmund. “I do not think Poland will be concerned with statistics,” Klinsmann said. — AFP

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France held to goalless draw

Stuttgart, June 13
A lacklustre France failed to tame Switzerland in their World Cup opener today, having to be content with a 0-0 draw from a tight, tactical battle at the Gottlieb Daimler Stadion.

The 1998 champions, who had drawn with their neighbours twice in World Cup qualifying, could not surprise a compact and well organised Swiss side on a hot, sunny evening. They have not scored in the finals since they won the title eight years ago.

France and Switzerland kept intact their chances of progressing from Group G, led by South Korea after they overcame Togo 2-1 earlier. Both sides, however, need to improve dramatically if they are to go anywhere in the tournament.

Switzerland missed the best chance of the game on 65 minutes with a header from close range by substitute midfielder Daniel Gygax that France goalkeeper Fabien Barthez somehow managed to save with his foot.

The match, a close affair with few thrilling moves, was played at a relatively low tempo, the players having to deal with stifling heat at first before it cooled down a bit.

The first half was fairly even with arguably the best opportunity for Switzerland, when striker Alexander Frei wasted an effort from close range in the 24th minute after a distant Tranquillo Barnetta free kick bounced through untouched to hit a French post.

The France fans breathed a sigh of relief and hoped for a goal seven minutes later when newcomer Franck Ribery snapped a shot narrowly over the bar from just inside the area.

The French contingent then shouted for a penalty after a shot towards goal by Thierry Henry hit defender Patrick Mueller’s hand on 37 minutes. There were a couple of scares for France in the second half, notably with a powerful run into their box by Philipp Degen on 62 minutes.

The good news for France was a decent performance from ageing maestro Zinedine Zidane, who will retire after the finals.

Top prospect Ribery, starting a match for France for the first time after three sparkling performances as a substitute in warm-up games, showed his class on occasions but could not quite live up to huge expectations. — Reuters

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Solid Italy outshine Ghana

Hanover, June 13
Italy began their World Cup campaign with a solid 2-0 victory over Ghana which won the approval of coach Marcello Lippi.

Andrea Pirlo’s rasping 40th-minute drive put Italy ahead before substitute Vincenzo Iaquinta settled an intriguing Group E contest of contrasting styles with a breakaway goal seven minutes from the end.

Italy twice hit the woodwork in the first half and Ghana keeper Richard Kingston made a series of excellent saves to keep the four-time African champions in the game before Iaquinta struck.

Question marks have been raised about Italy’s ability to cope with the distraction of the Serie A match-fixing scandal that is rumbling on back in the peninsula.

But despite several scares, the Azzurri never looked like ending up with anything less than three priceless points.

“We knew Ghana were strong and would put us under pressure but we got the three points and we are very satisfied,” Lippi said.

Most neutrals were rooting for Ghana, hoping to see one of world football’s aristrocrats embarrassed by the African underdogs, appearing at their first World Cup.

But too often the Black Stars lost their composure in front of goal after creating good openings, and in the end Italy’s class told.

Kingston, preferred to Sammy Adjei in Ghana's goal, came to their rescue in the 12th minute, smothering a shot from Alberto Gilardino before seeing the ball hit the outside of the post.

After Sulley Muntari’s drive had whistled over the bar, Italy were once again denied by the woodwork.

Gilardino’s flick released Luca Toni whose fierce right-footed shot thumped the underside of the bar. Asamoah Gyan and Michael Essien both sent shots into the stands for Ghana after promising runs before the Africans missed a golden chance.

A defensive clearance found its way to Emmanuel Pappoe with plenty of time to line up his shot, but rather than hit the target he sliced his effort wide.

Czechs crush USA

Gelsenkirchen: Two brilliant goals from midfielder Tomas Rosicky powered Czech Republic to an emphatic 3-0 win over the United States on Monday, the biggest margin of victory at the World Cup finals so far.

The Czechs took control of the match early on when tall striker Jan Koller headed in a right wing cross from close range in only the fifth minute of the Group E fixture.

Rosicky made it two with an unstoppable, swerving shot into the top corner in the 36th minute and added his second in the 76th, weaving his way through the defence before lifting the ball over U.S. keeper Kasey Keller.

The only setback for the Czechs came just before halftime when Koller was carried off on a stretcher with a hamstring injury.The United States' best chance to equalise came in the 28th minute when captain Claudio Reyna's strike hit the right post of Petr Cech's goal and just before the break scorer Koller was taken off with a hamstring injury. — AFP, Reuters

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Spain keen to shed underachiever’s tag

Andriy Shevchenko of Ukraine during a training session in Leipzig on Tuesday.
Andriy Shevchenko of Ukraine during a training session in Leipzig on Tuesday. — AFP photo

Kamen, June 13
Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas is confident a win against Ukraine in their Group H opener in Leipzig tomorrow could help kickstart a new era for international football’s biggest underachievers.

The Real Madrid ‘keeper will start behind a 4-3-3 formation as coach Luis Aragones hopes his team can break a 56-year hoodoo by making it to the semi-finals.

Spain’s best World Cup performance was a fourth-place finish in 1950.

The 67-year-old coach is set to leave out-of-form skipper Raul out of his starting line-up, instead going with Atletico Madrid’s Fernando Torres, Valencia’s on-form David Villa and Liverpool’s Luis Garcia.

That three-pronged attack has an average age over just under 25 years, and for Casillas, who was called up for the World Cup four years ago after a freak accident to Santiago Canizares saw the then number one drop an aftershave bottle on his foot, it could prove an omen.

He believes Spain’s 12th World Cup campaign could herald both a new beginning, and give them the impetus to finally go all the way to the final.

Clash of Arabs

Munich: Fear of defeat and an early World Cup exit has dominated the mood of Tunisia and Saudi Arabia ahead of tomorrow's Arabic derby in Group H. Tunisia's French coach Roger Lemerre, may uniquely have won successive continental championships in Europe and Africa but, after overseeing holders France's first round exit at the 2002 finals, hopes to erase bad memories of the global tournament.

Saudi Arabia, in their fourth consecutive World Cup, also want to wipe out a nightmare — they were thrashed 8-0 by Germany in their first outing at the 2002 finals in Japan and departed without scoring a goal.

Tunisia are the only African nation with previous experience at the finals. After losing on penalties to Nigeria in this year's Nations Cup quarter-finals, Trabelsi said the 2004 African champions must learn to avoid costly errors.

Tunisia will be without leading striker, Brazilian-born Francileudo dos Santos, top scorer in the qualifiers with six goals, and have made two injury-enforced changes to their squad. — Reuters, AFP

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Mexican coach in trouble for smoking

Berlin, June 13
Mexican coach Ricardo Lavolpe will be given a warning about smoking on the touchlines at the World Cup after he lit up during the 3-1 victory over Iran, FIFA said on today.

FIFA officials spotted Lavolpe smoking when they reviewed the videotape of Sunday's match in Nuremberg.

"We looked at the tape and in fact we realised he did smoke," FIFA's head of communications Markus Siegler told a daily press briefing.

Lavolpe, who won the World Cup as a player with Argentina in 1978, is a chain-smoker who was rarely seen without a cigarette in his hand at last year's Confederations Cup in Germany.

Referee apologises

Oehringen: A World Cup referee apologised to Australian players for a blunder that could have cost them a match against Japan, Socceroos goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer said.

Egyptian referee Essam Abd El Fatah admitting during a stoppage in play that he was wrong not to call a foul on a play that resulted in a 26th-minute goal by Shunsuke Nakamura, Schwarzer said after Australia's come-from-behind 3-1 win in Kaiserslautern on Monday.

Apparently impeded by Japanese players, Schwarzer was unable to reach Nakamura's floated cross, which sailed into the net in the first half.

"I went over and asked him about the goal and he said to me 'I know. I made a mistake. I'm sorry,'" Schwarzer said.

Fan stabbed

Hamburg: A German World Cup fan was attacked by four men and stabbed in a town near Hamburg, apparently because he had painted his country's flag on his cheeks, police said today.

The 20-year-old man was leaving a disco on Friday night when he was set upon by the four men, also all around 20, said Juergen Gramsch, a spokesman for police in Schenefeld.

"The victim stated that he was taunted because of his short haircut and German flags on his cheeks," Gramsch said, adding the victim was not a skinhead.

Two of the attackers then pulled knives and stabbed the victim in the hands, which he had raised in his defence, Gramsch said.

Fan has heart attack

Beijing: A Chinese football fan suffered a heart attack during a World Cup match following three sleepless nights of heavy drinking and watching the tournament on television, a doctor said today.

The 42-year-old man, surnamed Zhang, from Qingdao in eastern China's Shandong province, became agitated after seeing Portugal miss a goal against Angola, according to newspaper reports. — AP, AFP

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Kolkata drunk on World Cup

Kolkata, June 13
When Brazilian drums beat in Germany, fans in Kolkata sway the Samba way awaiting a midnight soccer carousal as Ronaldinhos make appearance against Croatia sending dizzy this football crazy metropolis, already caught by the World Cup fever.

The die hard Brazilian fans in the citys Kalighat area, who had offered prayers to Goddess Kali with a cutout of Ronaldinho, wished success of their Latin heroes at the adjacent Nakuleswara temple while keeping ready drums and crackers for celebrating victory for Brazil.

Few days ago they had arranged a yagna with the help of a local priest, by lighting up fire and offering prayers, according to the Hindu ritual beseeching that Brazil straddle over others.

“We will watch the match on television and cheer for Brazil. When our team wins we plan to parade our locality beating drums and bursting crackers even if it is 3 a.m.,” Ashok Seal, member of a local club said. His friend Somnath Dhar Chowdhury informed that he and all of his friends would be donning the Brazilian jersey during the match.

“We have been waiting for this day for long. Our ultimate wish is to see Brazil win the World Cup,” he said. But the World Cup mania that might scale a new peak tonight, started at least a week ago with the city walls in different areas getting adorned by the paintings of Ronaldinho and Ronaldo, Cafu and Kaka, Saviola and Crespo, Zidane and Figo, Beckham and Ballack as large flags of the soccer superstars were hung over roads to set a perfect mood.

In Harish Mukherjee Street, a stones throw away from Kalighat, one can see the football heroes in galore freezed in action on the walls running alongside the road. The local fans, who started swearing by football, had engaged a professional for the job.

The overall mood is not different in Kasba, Behala or Purba Putiari in the south, Shyambazar and Shovabazar in the north and Sealdah in central Kolkata. Though Brazil commands the fancy of most of the soccer buffs of the city, there is a sizable number of staunch supporters of Argentina as well, who got stronger since the days of Maradona and though fewer, France, Italy and Germany too have their share of admirers.

While taking a chance entry into a non-descript Kolkata alley, a flag of Brazil or Argentina, sometimes fluttering together with those of France and Germany, would greet one, a grinning Ronaldinho, glued to the boundary wall of a building, would pop up at the turn of the serpentine lane or a larger-than-life cut out of of Zidane, Ronaldo or Figo would beckon you to the spirit brewing to the seam among the youngsters.

In what comes as a bonanza for sports goods merchants, the crazy fans are in a buying spree for the jerseys of their favourite teams while some of them, smearing their faces with the hues of Brazil or Argentina, are seen flocking the local clubs. — UNI

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Rain thwarts India’s push for victory
Ashis Ray & PTI

St Lucia, June 13
Every morning a dozen of us pile on to a plush mini-bus at a hotel in this island’s capital, Castries, to commute to the Beausejour Cricket Ground here. It’s a jovial journey. The West Indian media men slip into their local accents and dialects. It’s leg pulling and repartee all the way. One listens and enjoys.

On this the fourth day of the Test, attention turned to yours truly. As we assembled to board the vehicle, the scowling skies after a heavy downpour overnight made me remark: “Doesn’t look good”. “Looks good to us, maan”, was the immediate good-humoured answer.

Then, as we started moving, someone shouted from the back of the vehicle: “There’s only one person here who is worried about the weather.” To join in the fun, I responded: “Yes, I am suffering from depression!” Pat came the reply: “A tropical depression!!”

A tropical depression it really was, a series of thunderstorms accompanied by heavy, incessant showers. As a result play was called off on the fourth day.

Down Under, where India have never won a Test series, they could have done so in 1985-86. But it rained at both Melbourne and Sydney. Six month later, India were on the brink of a “brown-wash” at Birmingham after triumphing in the first two tests at Lord’s and Leeds. But they were frustrated on the final day.

In respect of West Indies, though, India cannot claim to have ever been thwarted by a wash out. In fact, the Indians have never been in as commanding a position in a Test in the Caribbean as they were at tea time on the third day, a lead of 373 in the first innings and the privilege of enforcing a follow on.

Following on, Brian Lara’s men were 43 for one in the second innings when bad light brought an early close to the proceedings on the third day. Lara was holding fort on 15 and was accompanied by opener Daren Ganga on 24.

India’s bowlers deserved credit for the way they stuck to the task on a pitch which was easy neither for strokemaking nor for blasting out any opposition.

Anil Kumble (3-57) and Munaf Patel (3-51) were stand out performers with their accuracy and patience but the surprise package once again was Virender Sehwag (3-33).

Sehwag, who picked four wickets in the drawn first Test in Antigua, sliced through the tail to put a quick end to the lower order resistance.

Kumble started the rot in the afternoon after the sixth wicket pair of Dwayne Bravo (25) and Denesh Ramdin (30) had added 61 runs.

Bravo was induced into driving an edge into the hands of Rahul Dravid in the slips.

Close on the heels of this dismissal, Patel struck from the other end when Ramdin played a loose drive and edged a catch to wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Sehwag then rose to the occasion, performing the role of the fifth bowler with aplomb and claimed Jerome Taylor (23) and Pedro Collins (0) in his important spell after tea.

Taylor playing aggressively hoisted Sehwag for a six but then to fell a catch into the deep square leg fence for 23 runs.

Pedro Collins became the ninth batsman to be dismissed, second by Sehwag, when he played defensively and edged a catch to Dravid in the slips.

Sehwag then wrapped up the innings when he caught Ian Bradshaw (20) in his follow-through.

The rest may render the Indian bowlers fresher. But the lost time makes the West Indian assignment easier. The prediction for the fifth day is better, but not entirely bright.

Scoreboard

India (1st Innings) 588 for 8 decl.

West Indies (1st Innings)

Gayle c Dhoni b Kumble 46

Ganga lbw Patel 16

Sarwan lbw b Patel 0

Lara lbw b Kumble 7

Chanderpaul lbw b Pathan 30

Bravo c Dravid b Kumble 25

Ramdin c Dhoni b Patel 30

Bradshaw c and b Sehwag 20

Taylor c Kaif b Sehwag 23

Collins c Dravid b Sehwag 0

Collymore not out 2

Extras (b-5, lb-2, nb-9) 16

Total (all out, 85.1 overs) 215

Fall of wickets: 1-36, 2-36, 3-55, 4-106, 5-106, 6-167, 7-178, 8-209, 9-210.

Bowling: Pathan 11-2-43-1, Patel 17-4-51-3, Kumble 30-12-57-3, VRV 10-3-23-0, Sehwag 16.1-5-33-3, Yuvraj 1-0-1-0.

West Indies (2nd Innings)

Gayle c Dhoni b Pathan 2

Ganga not out 24

Lara not out 15

Extras (nb-2) 2

Total (1 wkt, 17.3 overs) 43

Fall of wicket: 1-2.

Bowling: Pathan 7-1-23-1, Patel 5-4-4-0, VRV 3-0-9-0, Kumble 2-0-7-0, Sehwag 0.3-0-0-0. — PTI

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Sania quells Ukrainian resistance

Birmingham, June 13
Fourteenth seed Sania Mirza was stretched to three sets by Alona Bondarenko before the Indian star quelled a spirited resistance from her Ukranian rival to advance into second round of the $200,000 DFS Classic here today.

Brilliant in patches, Sania won the match 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.

The Hyderabadi, who faced round one exit in the French Open singles event, seemed determined to prove a point on the grass court and broke her rival thrice to race away with the first set with a 6-2 scoreline.

However, the Ukranian raised her game in the second set while Sania's form hit a sudden slump. The Indian committed an error too many and Alona wasted no time to take the set 6-3 and draw parity.

Shaken out of her comfort zone, world No 41 Sania displayed nerves and held her serve to win the set 6-3 and seal the match.

The Indian will take on Shenay Perry of US who defeated compatriot Jill Craybas yesterday.

Bopanna ‘hoping’ to beat Federer

Halle (Germany): Having set up a dream date with Roger Federer, Rohan Bopanna is not ready to settle for anything less than a victory when he takes on the world number one in the opening round of the $685,000 ATP Tour event here tomorrow.

"If you ask me, I am looking to pull off the match, not just a game or a set," Bopanna gushed. "Obviously he is the best player in the world. I want to play my best and make it as close as possible," the 27-year old from Coorg said. — PTI, UNI

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