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The Sports Express – April

April Cover

Cricket

  • The 2021 edition of the Indian Premier League got underway on the 9th of April, 2021 with the schedule of playing in two different stadiums simultaneously and rotating across 6 stadiums throughout the entire season. The first half of the season saw Chennai Super Kings, Delhi Capitals and Royal Challengers Bengaluru emerge as strong favorites for the playoff spots. Defending champions, Mumbai Indians endured a rather inconsistent start to the tournament alongside the Punjab Kings while Rajasthan Royals and Sunrisers Hyderabad struggled, culminating in the dropping and replacement of Sunrisers captain David Warner. Other notable moments included centuries by Sanju Samson and Jos Buttler, a 5-wicket haul by the unexpected purple cap holder Harshal Patel, Ravi Jadeja’s 37 run over off the aforementioned Harshal, a couple of classic AB De Villiers innings as well as a classic game between arch-rivals Mumbai and Chennai, ending in a final ball finish.
  • However, there was some criticism on holding the IPL while India was going through a severe increase in Covid-19 cases and the pandemic caught up to the IPL, with Varun Chakravarthy testing positive for the virus. Initially, the match between Kolkatta Knight Riders and Mumbai Indians was postponed however more positive cases including Amit Mishra and Wriddiman Saha forced the postponement of the tournament.
  • The first test match of the 2-test series between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh ended in a high scoring draw with Dimuth Karunaratne scoring his maiden test double century. Mominul Haque, Dhananjaya De Silva and Najmul Hossain Shanto also scored centuries as Sri Lanka’s plan of preparing a green pitch suited for pace bowling backfired.
  • South Africa and Pakistan faced each other in a 3 match ODI series where Pakistan emerged 3-1 victors. The first match was won by Pakistan on the back of a Babar Azam hundred, while South Africa levelled the series in the second match despite a heroic innings by Fakhar Zaman who scored 193 runs. Pakistan won the third game against a depleted South Africa side who had four players departing for the IPL. The 4-match T20I series which followed also ended in a 3-1 Pakistan victory, notable for a Babar Azam century. Babar Azam ascended to the No.1 position in the ODI batting rankings due to his performances in this series.
  • South Africa’s problems continued off the field as the country’s sports minister Nathi Mthethwa derecognized Cricket South Africa from running the sport in the country due to their inability to agree on a new constitutional model. This made it quite possible that the South African national team would be unable to play international cricket, however the situation was resolved for the time being with a new governance model being agreed upon a few days later.
  • Nepal, Netherlands and Malaysia took part in a triangular T20I series hosted in Kirtipur, Nepal. Nepal dominated the tournament, crushing Netherlands by 142 runs in the final. The tournament was also notable for Max O’Dowd scoring the first T20I century by a Dutch cricketer.
  • The Sheffield Shield title, Australia’s premier First Class competition went to Queensland, who defeated New South Wales by an innings and 33 runs in the final. Despite, New South Wales boasting 3 members of Australia’s regular test bowling attack in Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon they were put to the sword by Marnus Labuschagne who kept up his fine run of form with 192 runs in the first innings. The Queensland bowling attack led by Michael Neser, Jack Wildermuth, Xavier Bartlett, Brendan Doggett and Mitchell Swepson dismissed New South Wales for scores of 143 and 213.  However, New South Wales made amends in the Marsh Cup final, the domestic 50 over competition in Australia, winning the final against Western Australia. 
  • For the first time in the two tournaments’ century plus long history, the English County Championship and the Sheffield Shield saw matches being played simultaneously. The County Championship introduced a new format with 3 groups of 6 teams each with 2 teams from each group progressing to different leagues based on their position within the group. Defending champions Essex endured a slow start to the season, placed 5th in Group A which is currently led by Warwickshire with a resurgent Nottinghamshire who won their first County match in more than an year in second place. Group B sees surprise leaders in Gloucestershire with usual suspects Somerset in second while group C is led by the two Roses rivals, with Lancashire and Yorkshire occupying the top 2 spots.

Football

  • Undoubtedly, the biggest story coming out of football in the past month was the proposed European Super League, which was proposed as a Champions League replacement with 12 founder clubs in Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea, Juventus, Inter Milan and AC Milan, with a further 3 teams expected to sign on as founding members. There was swift public outrage both from UEFA as well as from fans which led to 9 clubs dropping out of the project within the next few days. Currently, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus have not dropped out of the project but it remains to be seen if the project ever becomes reality. PSG and Bayern Munich were swift in their condemnation of the project and reiterated their commitment to the Champions League which itself will see a major format change from 2024 onwards. The protests against the Manchester United ownership, the Glazers increased massively in the following days which culminated in fans breaking into Old Trafford causing the Manchester United vs Liverpool game to be postponed.
  • The Champions League quarterfinals took place with defending champions Bayern Munich being knocked out by PSG on the back of a 3-2 win in the first leg. Manchester City progressed to the semifinals as well despite being troubled by Borussia Dortmund. Chelsea continued their impressive form since the appointment of Tomas Tuchel with a 2-0 victory over Porto in the first leg enough for a victory in the tie while two injury hit squads in Real Madrid and Liverpool battled against each other with Real Madrid emerging on top after a 3-1 victory in the first leg.
  • The UEFA Europa League semi-finalists were also determined with Manchester United making their way past Granada, Arsenal eliminating Slavia Prague, Roma defeating Ajax and Villarael defeating Dinamo Zagreb.
  • The Premier League continued with Manchester City going within one win of cementing the Premier League title. Manchester United continues to be in second place with Chelsea and Leicester remaining in the top 4. West Ham still stand a chance of making it to the Champions League while Liverpool and Tottenham also harbour ambitions of their own. Chelsea faced their first loss under Tomas Tuchel with a surprise 5-2 demolition at the hands of West Brom and Jose Mourinho was sacked by Tottenham Hotspur days before the League Cup Final which they would go on to lose 1-0 to Manchester City courtesy of a late Aymeric Laporte goal. However, City’s hopes of a quadruple were smashed by Chelsea who defeated them in the FA cup semi finals. Chelsea will face Leicester City in the final after they defeated Southampton in the other semi final.
  • The La Liga title fight continues to be enthralling with stuttering form from Atletico Madrid has seen both Barcelona and Real Madrid as well as an inform Sevilla draw close to them in the league table. All 4 sides will have genuine title ambitions with Atletico only remaining in the lead due to a shock Barcelona loss against Granada and Real Madrid enduring two consecutive 0-0 draws against Getafe and Real Betis. Real Socieded won the 2019/20 Copa Del Rey title after the postponed final from last season against Athletic Bilbao resulted in a 1-0 win courtesy of a Mikel Oyarzabal penalty. Athletic Bilbao would go on to lose their second cup final of the month after being demolished 4-0 in the 2020/21 Copa Del Rey final against Barcelona.
  • Inter Milan won their first Serie A title in 11 years after a strong run of form corresponding with hiccups to their closest contenders in AC Milan and Juventus resulted in them sealing the title with time to spare. Juventus and AC Milan could still miss out on the Champions League altogether as Atalanta and Napoli ensure that the battle for the 3 remaining Champions League spots will go down to the wire.
  • Bayern Munich got within one win of winning another Bundesliga title with only a shock loss to Mainz denying them. The battle for the Champions League spots continues to be intriguing as Borussia Dortmund surged into the top 4 after Eintracht Frankfurt and Wolfsburg dropped points. This corresponded with the current coach of Eintracht Frankfurt, Adi Hutter being named the Borussia Monchengladbach coach for next season. Meanwhile, Hansi Flick also decided to leave his post as Bayern Munich manager after the season’s end following tension with the sporting director, Hasan Salihamidžić and is heavily rumoured to be Joachim Low’s successor for the German National team manager. Julien Naglesmann, the RB Leipzig manager was named his replacement from next season.
  • The Ligue I title race continues to be on the most exciting title races in the European leagues as Lille defeated Paris St Germain 1-0 to put themselves in pole position to win the title. However dropped points against Montpellier means Lille have a meagre one point advantage going into the final 3 games of the season. Lyon effectively dropped out of the title after losing 3-2 to Lille, however they were still able to ruin the title ambitions of Monaco, defeating them 3-2 to effectively end Monaco’s run at the title. Monaco and Lyon still have a slim mathematical chance of snatching the title but it’s effectively a two horse race between PSG and Lille with just one point separating the two sides. 

F1

  • The Australian GP street circuit is getting a layout change to promote overtaking with turn 9 and 10 being straightened and turn 13 getting a bit of an extension.
  • It was found out that the low rake cars have about a second loss in lap time due to the 2021 regulations. Mercedes and Aston Martin are the main two teams to run low rake cars for several years now.
  • Nico Hulkeburg is confirmed as the Test and Reserve driver for Aston Martin.
  • F1 has asked the Canadian GP promoters (Octane Racing Group) for an extra $6 Million as compensation to organise a closed-doors event. A deadline was set as april 12th. With the promoters being unable to pay, the Canadian GP was cancelled.
  • It was pole position for Lewis Hamilton at the 2nd race in Imola. It was also noteworthy that Sergio Perez beat his teammate Max to 2nd place while Lando Norris set a time for P3 but the time was deleted due to track limit violations.
  • Max Verstappen wins the Imola GP with a lead of over 20 seconds, The wet starting race saw Verstappen lunging into turn 1 and taking the lead while having a bit of contact with Lewis Hamilton.
  • Valterri Bottas and George Russell crashed midway through the race when Russell in the slow Williams was trying to overtake Bottas, went into the wet part of the track and lost control. The race was Red flagged as there was too much debris. 
  • When 1 Mercedes had a huge loss the other Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton benefited, after Lewis Hamiton went off the track and dropped to 9th with a lap down on the race leader he was able to unlap himself before the restart and was able to make up places and finish P2. and the Mclaren Driver Lando Norris finished 3rd afet a brilliant race, The brit collected his 2nd Podium finish. 
  • The Miami GP is confirmed for 2022.
  • The FIA officially announced Sprint Race Qualifying. This format will be first tested at the British GP and the format will be, Friday 1st session is a practice session, Session 2 of friday will run the usual qualifying format which will set up the grid for the Saturday Sprint race. On Saturday the 1st Session will yet again be a Practice session and the evening will be a 100km Sprint race where the finishing order will be the starting grid for the main race on Sunday. In the Sprint race, there will be no mandatory pit stops and in the case of damage to the car, the FIA will allow up to 200,000 euros for damages. 
  • It is planned to have 3 sprint Qualifying sessions this year starting with the British GP.
  • This 3 race sprint Qualifying will be a test for the FIA to bring more exciting races to Formula 1
  • Formula 1 announces a deal extension with the Suzuka Circuit to host the Japanese Grand Prix for three more years.
  • Alfa Romeo announces Callum Ilott as their new additional reserve driver with Robert Kubica.
  • The Turkish GP returns to F1 in place of the Canadian GP.
  • Bottas denied 100th Pole position for Lewis Hamilton at the Portugese GP.
  • Even without getting Pole Lewis Hamilton’s masterclass driving saw him take the checkered flag 1st even though Lewis fell back to 3rd at the opening stages. Max Verstappen and Valterri Bottas finished P2 and P3 in a very uneventful race. 
  • Meanwhile, Lewis, Max and Valterri now have the record for the most common podium shared in F1. The 3 drivers finished in the top 3 15 times.
  • It’s 2:1 race win ratio in the favor of Lewis Hamilton for the battle in the title fight with Max Verstappen.
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The Sports Express – March

March Cover

Cricket

  • India surged to a 3-1 victory in the Anthony De Mello Trophy with a resounding innings victory in the final test match. The victory was set up by a maiden test hundred at home by Risabh Pant with valuable contributions with both bat and ball by Washington Sundar, Axar Patel and Ravi Ashwin. This win also confirmed India’s place in the World Test Championship final against New Zealand, scheduled for June at the Ageas Bowl, Southampton. Ravi Ashwin was named the man of the series for his all-round efforts.
  • In the T20I series following the test matches, there was a much closer battle among teams with both teams exchanging wins with the series going into the final match tied 2-2. This decider was won by India thanks to an outstanding spell of bowling by Bhuvaneshwar Kumar. From the Indian perspective, this series was also notable for the debuts of Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan, both of whom hit half-centuries in their first international innings.
  • This was followed by an ODI series which also served as part of the ICC ODI Super League which was again won by India with a margin of 2-1. The first match was notable for Krunal Pandya’s 50 on debut, the fastest 50 on debut by any player in ODIs and an England collapse leading to an India win. The second match saw a dominant chase by England courtesy of destructive innings by Johnny Bairstow and Ben Stokes while India clinched the series with victory in the decider despite a heroic effort by Sam Curran.
  • Sri Lanka undertook its tour of the West Indies, starting with the T20I series which ended in a 2-1 victory for the home side. The first T20I was notable for the debuts of Ashen Bandara and Pathum Nissanka as well as Akhila Dananjaya’s Jekyll and Hyde night, first taking a hat-trick and then becoming only the 3rd player at the international level to be hit for 6 sixes in a single over thanks to Keiron Pollard. West Indies would clinch a nervy chase to take a 1-0 lead before a superb Sri Lankan effort in the second match, with special mention to an outstanding all-round effort by Wanindu Hasaranga levelled the series before Sri Lanka would go on to lose the third match, another nailbiter which went down to the penultimate over.
  • The ODI series ended in a comfortable 3-0 victory for the West Indies with Shai Hope and Evin Lewis making hay with a handy contribution from Keiron Pollard in the 3rd ODI. Some solace for Sri Lanka could be found in the encouraging performances of Wanindu Hasaranga as well as debutant Ashen Bandara with Danushka Gunathilaka and Dushmantha Chameera also playing their part.
  • The test series ended in a hard-fought 0-0 draw with the first test saw history being made with Pathum Nissanka becoming just the 4th Sri Lankan to score a test match century on test debut, an outstanding effort which led Sri Lanka to a comfortable draw from a vulnerable position. Suranga Lakmal was consistent as ever bagging a 5-wicket haul in the first innings while Nkrumah Bonner drew the match with a 4th innings century. The second match saw a similar narrative with Sri Lanka falling behind in the first innings thanks to an outstanding hundred by new test captain Kraigg Brathwaite, before a solid second innings performance (aided by some inclement weather) led Sri Lanka to a draw. Lahiru Thirimanne kept up his consistent form with Oshada Fernando also playing a key role.
  • Afghanistan and Zimbabwe played a multi-format series in the UAE, with Afghanistan sweeping Zimbabwe 3-0 in the T20Is before the test series was drawn 1-1. Zimbabwe won the first test match in just 2 days thanks to a Sean Williams century and an outstanding bowling effort with a major role being played by debutant Blessing Muzarabani, before Afghanistan would go on to earn a hard-fought victory in the 2nd test which created history when Hasmatullah Shahidi became the first Afghan double centurion in test cricket before a 10-wicket haul for Rashid Khan earned Afghanistan a victory despite another century by Sean Williams.
  • March also saw several domestic cricketing competitions, with Sinhalese Sports Club coming out on top in the SLC T20 Tournament, defeating Army Sports Club in the final. Dolphins won the domestic First Class tournament in South Africa while Mumbai won the Vijay Hazare trophy thanks in no small part to 4 centuries by Prithvi Shaw who became the highest run scorer in a single edition of the tournament.

Football

  • March saw Manchester City continue their march towards the Premier League title while surprise Champions League challengers Leicester City and West Ham United maintained their good form as well as Manchester United and Chelsea. The North London Derby ended in a 2-1 victory for Arsenal despite an astounding piece of skill by Erik Lamela to give Tottenham the lead
  • Atletico Madrid maintained their position at the top of the La Liga table despite two draws against Elche and Real Madrid in the Madrid derby giving both Barcelona and Real Madrid a sniff at the title
  • A familiar story in the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich edging closer to the title despite the best efforts of RB Leipzig in second place. Notable for the month of March was Der Klassiker, where Bayern Munich completed a wonderful comeback from 2-0 down thanks to a Robert Lewandowski hat trick against his former club to win the game 4-2
  • Inter Milan raced clear in the Serie A title race, winning all of their games in the month, while their closest rivals AC Milan and Juventus stumbled
  • Ligue 1 sees maybe the closest title race of any of Europe’s big leagues with Lille continuing their strong challenge on the French title despite a loss to Nimes and a draw to fellow challengers Monaco bringing the chasing group closer. Another member of this chasing group Paris St Germain faced their own stumble with a loss against Nantes which they made up for with a comprehensive victory against the other challenger, Lyon. Any of the above mentioned four clubs still stand a realistic chance of winning the Ligue 1 title
  • March also saw the second legs of the Champions League round of 16, with Paris St Germain eliminating Barcelona thanks to a 1-1 draw to follow the 4-1 win in the first leg. However, the match that dominated the headlines was 10-man Porto eliminating Juventus. Porto came into the second leg 2-1 up, before a goal by Sergio Oliveira extended the lead before Fredico Chiesa scored a double to bring the tie to equal terms. Porto hung on after a red card for Mehedi Taremi to take the game to extra time with the score tied at 3-3, before Sergio Oliviera scored with a free kick to take Porto 4-3 up and despite a late goal by Adrien Rabiot bringing the score to 4-4, Juventus would lose on the away goals rule. In the other ties in the round, Chelsea defeated a surprisingly mediocre Atletico Madrid with Real Madrid eliminating Atalanta. Dortmund eliminated Sevilla thanks to another brace by Erling Haaland while Bayern Munich and Manchester City won comfortably against Lazio and Borussia Monchengladbach respectively. Liverpool also found the round more comfortable than previously expected with a comfortable win against RB Leipzig
  • March also saw the international break and world cup qualifying matches, with Germany falling to a shock 2-1 loss against North Macedonia while Turkey also shocked the Netherlands with a 4-2 win. Meanwhile, the South American qualifiers were postponed due to travel restrictions in the continent affecting players based in Europe.

F1 

  • Hass announced that they will stop all development of their 2021 contender after testing to focus more on their 2022 contender.
  • Ferrari Trento Sparkling Wine has replaced usual champagne in podium celebrations for at least the next 3 years.
  • 3 Sprint races are being planned for 2021 to increase the excitement of Qualifying and the Main race, It will replace the Saturday qualifying and the finishing order will decide the grid for the main race. Sprint race qualifying is planned to be done on FP2 time on Friday.
  • F1 reveals the new Aston Martin Safety car and Medical car. The Safety car is an Aston Martin Vantage and the Medical car is an Aston Martin DBX. They are planned to run in countries where they have a bigger market share.
  • The Mercedes AMG GTR safety car and C63 Medical car will now be in Red and have a sponsor as well.
  • Pre Season testing went underway for the 2021 season with just 3 days the teams had a lot of running to do.  Day one saw Max Verstappen top the charts and a sand storm hit on the evening session, despite this, the teams still ran their tests.
  • Day two saw Valterri Bottas topping the timing sheets while 7-time world champion Sir Lewis Hamilton had a spin and got stuck in the gravel in the morning session.
  • Day 3 saw Max Verstappen again topping the timing sheets with them being very strong with the new regulations while the low rake cars such as Mercedes and Aston Martin struggled with rear-end grip.
  • Mercedes completed the minimum laps in testing with just 304 laps while Alfa Romeo completed 422 laps of Bahrain along with Alpha Tauri.
  • 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix organizers revealed the Jeddah Street Circuit, a fast circuit on the city coast with 27 turns and 3 Potential DRS zones. It is expected to be the fastest street circuit in F1 
  • F1 is ‘investigating’ active aerodynamics for 2025, as confirmed by F1’s Technical Chief Pat Symonds.
  • The 1st F1 race weekend got along on the Final weekend of march.
  • Max Verstappen got pole for the 1st race and it’s the first time the young Dutchman got back to back poles in his F1 career.
  • Despite Max getting pole for the 2021 Bahrain GP, Lewis Hamilton won the race after a very heated battle towards the end of the race with Max. Max Verstappen did take the lead at the closing stages but since he went over the track limits he was forced to give the position back to Hamilton a few corners later. 
  • From what we see in the season opener we are infor a good title fight between Hamilton and Verstappen for the drivers title and Mercedes and RedBull for the constructors title.
  •  Overall it’s looking forward to be a very exciting season that is going to unfold over 23 races
  • It’s a 3 week wait for fans until the Next race that is happening in Imola.
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The sports express – February

feb cover

Football

  • February saw the return of European football, starting off with the round of 16 in the UEFA Champions League and the round of 32 in the UEFA Europa League. In the Champions League, Manchester City and Bayern Munich cruised to comfortable first-leg wins over Borussia Monchengladbach and Lazio respectively, while Liverpool, Chelsea and Real Madrid also took first-leg leads. Meanwhile, Juventus suffered a shock defeat from Porto, while PSG dominated Barcelona in their first leg, courtesy of a Kylian Mbappe hat trick. In the Europa League, Leicester was surprisingly knocked out by Slavia Praha
  • Manchester City continued their stranglehold on the Premier League, winning all of their matches in the month of February and currently look on course for a comfortable title win. Manchester United and Leicester follow in 2nd and 3rd respectively, with one of the highlights of United’s month being a 9-0 win against Southampton. Liverpool continued their horror run, losing against Brighton, Leicester and Everton with the derby loss to Everton being their first loss in the Merseyside derby at Anfield in 22 years. Meanwhile, Chelsea continue to remain unbeaten under new manager, Tomas Tuchel
  • A 3-0 Milan derby win for Inter Milan ensured a commanding lead for them in the Serie A title race over city rivals AC Milan. Juventus in the midst of an inconsistent season has also closed the gap on 2nd place AC Milan who have been suffering heavily from injuries including one to star Swedish forward, Zlatan Ibrahimovic
  • An inconsistent month of February for Atletico Madrid including draws against Celta Vigo and Levante as well as a loss against the latter ensured that the La Liga title race was still alive and kicking with both Real Madrid and Barcelona closing the gap on Atletico following strong recent form in the league. Atletico Madrid still holds a slender lead going into the business end of the season but the title race is certainly on.
  • Bayern Munich suffered a couple of hiccups in the Bundesliga, including a draw against struggling Arminia Bielefeld as well as a loss against Eintracht Frankfurt, which allowed a RB Leipzig team in red hot form to come with two points of the serial winners. Meanwhile, Marco Rose, the current Borussia Monchengladbach coach was confirmed as Dortmund manager for the next season while arch-rivals, Schalke 04 remain rooted to the foot of the table and seem destined to be relegated
  • Surprise package Lille maintained their slender lead in the Ligue 1 table over giants Paris St Germain, with both Lyon and Monaco following close by making the Ligue 1 season into a genuine 4 team title race, It currently seems that Lille and PSG are the teams to beat, but both Lyon and Monaco will also fancy their chances in what has been a rather inconsistent season for defending champions PSG, who haven’t had the best start to the league under new manager Mauricio Pochettino

Cricket

  • The England India test series got underway in Chennai with Joe Root continuing his sizzling form with a double century on the way to a famous England win with notable contributions from Jack Leach, Dom Bess and the ageless Jimmy Anderson who bowled a candidate for one of the greatest overs of recent times with a stunning display of reverse swing. The pitches for the 2nd and 3rd tests were drastically more bowler-friendly with the second test in Chennai going India’s way thanks to centuries from Rohit Sharma and Ravi Ashwin while debutant Axar Patel also made his mark with a 5-wicket haul on his test debut. The 3rd test was also the first test match at the world’s biggest cricket stadium in Ahmedabad which was christened the Narendra Modi International Cricket stadium. The first test match at the ground, a day/night affair ended inside 2 of the allocated five days as a combination of a spin-friendly pitch and the skiddy nature of the pink ball led to a series of low scores and dominance from Axar Patel, who picked up a 12 wicket haul while English captain Joe Root also claimed a surprising 5-8. India leads the series 2-1 going into the final test match, again at Ahmedabad.
  • Pakistan played South Africa in a series at home with Pakistan winning the test series 2-0 with outstanding contributions from debutant Nauman Ali who picked up a 5-wicket haul as well as Mohammed Rizwan who notched his first test century. However, the sweetest moment of all came when Hasan Ali returned from a lengthy injury layoff to take a 10-wicket haul with a searing display of skiddy pace. The T20I series also ended 2-1 in favour of Pakistan with highlights including a sublime century from Mohammed Rizwan and Dwaine Pretorius’s 5-wicket haul in South Africa’s only win on the tour.
  • An inexperienced West Indies team under Kraigg Brathwaite sealed an unexpected 2-0 win over Bangladesh in a series that will be forever remembered for Kyle Mayer’s double century on debut, the very first double century by a debutant in the second innings. The second match was an extremely tense affair with Rakheem Cornwall bowling his side to the brink of victory before sealing the win with a sharp catch of Mehidy Hasan Miraz at slip off the bowling of Jomel Warrican
  • Australia postponed their tour of South Africa, citing health risks while also starting a T20I series against New Zealand where Devon Conway scored 99 not out in the first match of the series
  • The IPL auction took place in Chennai with Chris Morris becoming the most expensive player in the history of the IPL when he was bought for 16.25 Cr(approx $2.28 million)  by the Rajasthan Royals. Other notable buys were Jhye Richardson and Rilee Meredith by the newly renamed Punjab Kings, Glenn Maxwell and Kyle Jamieson by Royal Challengers Bangalore and Moeen Ali and Krishnappa Gowtham by Chennai Super Kings. IPL 2021 will also make history by being the first IPL edition with no participation from Sri Lankan players

Tennis

  • The 2021 Australian Open concluded with a 9th Australian Open victory for Novak Djokovic who also won his 18th Grand Slam title, moving within 2 of the overall record. He achieved this by dismantling Danil Medvedev in straight sets in the final. In the Women’s singles edition, Naomi Osaka continued her domination on hard courts beating Jennifer Brady in the final to win her 4th Grand Slam title.

F1

  • There were significant changes made to the Australian GP track layout to make overtaking better and the race a bit more exciting for the fans
  • The plans for an F1 race in Rio De Janeiro was cancelled after taking the economical downfalls from Covid-19.
  • Nikita Mazepin together with all Russian drivers competing in FIA-run Championships, not only in F1, will be banned from racing under the Russian flag from 2021.
  • Lewis Hamilton was confirmed as the driver for Mercedes but it was only a 1-year contract which got fans thinking if 2021 will be his last season with Mercedes or even in F1.
  • The calendar was finalised with the Portuguese GP being announced to take the 3rd race of the 23 race season.
  • The Paul Ricard circuit has reprofiled 70% of its track to improve overtaking and drainage.
  • FIA and F1 have announced that the engine development is frozen until 2022 and the teams now only get one chance before the season starts to take as much power from their PU. 
  •  Fernando Alonso was involved in a bicycle accident in Swaziland and was reported to have a broken jaw because of it. He is fully recovered and back to training for the 2021 season.
  • Redbull confirmed they will be taking over the F1 engine development of Honda to power their cars till 2025. This was a result of Honda getting out of F1 to focus more on electric car development.
  • Ferrari is confident they found the lost power from their engines and now have faster straight-line speed.
  • Pirelli has announced its tyre compounds for the entire season at once when they usually announce them as the season progresses.
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The Sports Express – January

Jan cover

Cricket

  • India defeated Australia on their home turf for the second consecutive series after winning the 4 match test series 2-1. The series was poised at 1-1 going into the Sydney Test where India batted out the last day to seal an unlikely draw with heroic knocks by Hanuma Vihari and Ravichandran Ashwin, both of whom were battling injuries. The final test match took place at the Gabba, a ground where Australia had not lost since 1988 and with India going into the match with an injury-depleted lineup little was expected. However, substantial contributions by Shardul Thakur, T Natarajan, Mohammed Siraj and Washington Sundar, as well as contrasting final day innings by Cheteshwar Pujara and Rishabh Pant, helped seal the deal for India, in what was undoubtedly one of the greatest test match victories of all time. Despite ending up on the losing side, Pat Cummins was awarded the Man of the Series for his outstanding bowling while Ajinkya Rahane lifted the Border-Gavaskar trophy for the second time.
  • Sri Lanka got off to a dismal start in their first test series of the year, succumbing 2-0 to England. Both test matches were played at Galle, with Sri Lanka collapsing in the first innings to hand England a huge advantage with Joe Root capitalized on with a double century. Despite a hundred by Lahiru Thirimanne and a fighting effort by Angelo Mathews in the second innings, Sri Lanka ended up losing the match by 7 wickets. The second match saw a better fight in the first innings with Angelo Mathews scoring a century for Sri Lanka and the evergreen James Anderson picking up 6-40. In reply, Joe Root kept up his unbelievable form with 188 while Lasith Embuldeniya picked up 7 wickets. However, the match was decided by yet another Sri Lankan collapse, this time in the second innings leaving England a small target to chase which they achieved with 6 wickets in the bag. Joe Root was named Man of the Series for his outstanding batting in both matches
  • The Big Bash League title went to the Sydney Sixers who defeated the Perth Scorchers in the tournament final. James Vince was in outstanding form in the final scoring 95, while Josh Philippe, another Sydney Sixers star who had an outstanding tournament.
  • The Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, India’s Domestic T20I tournament title went to Tamil Nadu who defeated Baroda in the final. This was an important tournament for Indian domestic players with the IPL auction coming up soon on the 18th of February
  • South Africa toured Pakistan for the first time since 2007, where they lost the first test thanks to an outstanding hundred by Fawad Alam and solid bowling performances by debutant Nauman Ali who picked up a 5-wicket haul and Yasir Shah. This was the first test for Pakistan under their new captain, Babar Azam
  • The ICC ODI Super League saw 3 series being completed in the month of January. Initially, Afghanistan whitewashed Ireland 3-0 which was followed up by another 3-0 victory for Bangladesh against a depleted West Indies team. The Bangladesh vs West Indies series was notable for the return of Shakib Al Hasan to international cricket, following a one year ban for failing to report a corrupt approach

Football

  • Liverpool faltered badly in their defence of the Premier League title losing at Anfield for the first time since 2017 against Burnley, which they followed up with another loss against Brighton and Hove Albion. This allowed first Leicester City and then Manchester United to move to the top spot in the table. However, their reign at the top was short-lived as a rampant Manchester City side who have won 13 matches in a row moved to the top of the table and current. The month of January was also notable for the sacking of Frank Lampard from the Chelsea manager’s spot to be replaced by former Borussia Dortmund and PSG manager, Thomas Tuchel.
  • Atletico Madrid maintained their lead at the top of the La Liga table and look strong favourites to win the title. Barcelona rediscovered some of their form after struggling in the initial stages and currently occupy the second spot while Real Madrid have also had a similarly inconsistent season. 
  • Bayern Munich remained at the familiar position at the top of the Bundesliga table followed in second by RB Leipzig. Borussia Dortmund continued to struggle under caretaker manager Edin Terzic and currently occupy 6th place while Wolfsburg and Eintracht Frankfurt with a rejuvenated Luka Jovic occupy the Champions League spots. BVB’s archrivals Schalke 04 remain rooted at the foot of the table and narrowly avoided breaking the record for the longest interval between league victories in the Bundesliga, winning for the first time in 358 days when they defeated Hoffenheim 4-0.
  • Serie A still sees the lead in the hands of AC Milan with Inter Milan following closely in second. However, Juventus seem to have rediscovered some of their old form and remain closely behind in 3rd with Roma, Lazio, Napoli and Atalanta following not too close behind. AC Milan, despite losing to Juventus were buoyed by the return of talismanic striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic from injury.
  • Ligue 1 remains an unexpectedly close battle between Lille, Lyon and PSG with Lille being the surprise leaders going into the month of February. Monaco are also on a strong run of form with an outside chance of challenging for the title. In the last week of January, PSG lost 3-2 to a struggling Lorient side and they might not seal the deal as easily as they have tended to do in the last few seasons. Meanwhile, Marseille appears to be in turmoil with fans attacking the clubs training session, resulting in injuries to security staff and a player, their manager Andre Villas-Boas tendering his resignation to the board over a disagreement over the transfer of Oliver Ntcham. His request was rejected by the board who opted to suspend him pending further disciplinary action.
  • Rangers seem set to end Celtic’s dominance in the Scottish Premier League under the stewardship of Steven Gerrard. The championship had been won for the last 9 consecutive seasons by Celtic
  • The January Transfer window while not being proliferated by huge deals still saw many significant moves. Here is a list of some of the moves you might have missed (currency in pounds)

1. Dominik Szobszlai- Midfielder, Red Bull Salzburg to RB Leipzig, 22.9 million

2. Amad Diallo- Winger, Atalanta to Manchester United, 18.7 million

3. Sebastian Haller- Forward, West Ham to Ajax, 20 million

4. Moussa Dembele- Forward, Lyon to Atletico Madrid, loan

5. Luka Jovic- Forward, Real Madrid to Eintracht Frankfurt, loan

6. Mario Mandzukic- Forward, free agent signed by AC Milan

7. Arkaduiz Milik- Forward, Napoli to Marseille, loan

8. Fiyako Tomori- Defender, Chelsea to Milan, loan

9. Willian Jose- Forward, Real Sociedad to Wolves, loan

10. Mesut Ozil- Midfielder, Arsenal to Fenerbahce, free transfer

11. Papu Gomez- Midfielder, Atalanta to Sevilla, 5.5 million

12. Morgan Sanson- Midfielder, Marseille to Aston Villa, 16 million

13. Martin Odergaard- Midfielder, Real Madrid to Arsenal, loan

14. Jesse Lingard- Midfielder, Manchester United to West Ham, loan

15. Sami Khedira- Midfielder, Juventus to Hertha Berlin, free transfer

16. Jean Clair Todibo- Defender, Barcelona to Nice, loan

17. Ozan Kabak- Defender, Schalke to Liverpool, loan

18. Shkodran Mustafi- Defender, Arsenal to Schalke, released

19. Takumi Minamino- Winger, Liverpool to Southampton, loan

20. Ainsely Maitland-Niles- Midfielder, Arsenal to West Brom, loan

21. Josh King- Striker, Bournemouth to Everton, undisclosed fee

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