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The Sports Express – March

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.
RACALBS

The author RACALBS