Messi doubtful for qualifiers
BARCELONA striker Lionel Messi has returned home to Argentina but remains doubtful for World Cup qualifiers against Uruguay and Venezuela with his club confirming the 29-year-old is struggling with a sore left hamstring.
Messi played in Sunday’s 1-0 league win at Athletic Bilbao but underwent tests on Monday after admitting that the injury was causing him pain.
“Tests conducted have confirmed that Lionel Messi has a sore left adductor muscle. Both the medical services of FC Barcelona and the AFA (Argentina Football Association) have agreed on this report,” Barcelona said in a statement.
“The player will travel to Argentina to join the national team and the evolution of the discomfort will decide his availability to play in the games scheduled.”
Argentina sit third in the 10-team South American qualifying group on 11 points from six matches, two points behind leading pair Uruguay and Ecuador. Edgardo Bauza will take charge of Argentina for the first time when they host Uruguay in Mendoza tomorrow before the side travels to Venezuela for another qualifier in Merida five days later. Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero and Paris St Germain midfielder Javier Pastore have already pulled out of the squad through injury, so the 2014 World Cup runners-up will be hoping Messi can be fit enough to play. Earlier this month, Messi, who has scored 55 goals in 133 appearances for his country, reversed a decision to retire from the national team after they lost the Copa America final to Chile in a penalty shootout at the end of June. — Reuters A MASTERFUL display of swing bowling from Dale Steyn, who picked up his first five-wicket haul in international cricket since December 2014, helped South Africa bowl New Zealand out for 195 in their chase of 400 on the fourth day in Centurion. Steyn and Vernon Philander, abetted by exaggerated variable bounce on a deteriorating SuperSport Park surface, set up South Africa’s first Test series win since early 2015 by ripping through New Zealand’s top order in a devastating seven-over period before lunch.
Despite an impressive half-century from Henry Nicholls, New Zealand never really recovered from being 18 for 4 at lunch, and they were eventually bowled out half an hour from stumps. Steyn landed the first ball of the fourth innings in the channel outside off stump — it was wide enough for Tom Latham not to play but the extra bounce caught him unawares, and the ball clattered into the stumps off Latham’s withdrawing bat. It was the third time in three innings on this tour that Steyn had dismissed Latham.
Five balls later, Martin Guptill got an unplayable outswinger: it pitched on off and swerved away to take the outside edge to Hashim Amla at first slip.
The variable bounce kept troubling New Zealand. In the second over, Kane Williamson was rapped on the glove by an inswinger from Philander that reared at him from a good length. In the next over, Steyn got one to land on a similar length and scoot along the surface to Ross Taylor, trapping him in front. Could New Zealand’s situation get worse?
It did. Williamson, perhaps still suffering the after-effects of the blow to his left hand, wafted at a wide delivery from Philander. He had avoided playing that line throughout the first innings. The ball swung further away and took his outside edge, and wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock completed a stunning one-handed catch low to his right.
Nicholls offered New Zealand’s only real resistance with 76, his highest Test score. He was particularly effective square on either side of the wicket, picking off straight deliveries and punishing width outside off. When the bowlers overpitched, he collected runs through vacant areas down the ground.
After weathering a tough period before lunch, he added 68 with Watling for the fifth wicket. With the ball moving both ways, Nicholls and Watling left well outside off, forcing the seamers towards the stumps. The quicks were continually rotated and batting became gradually easier as the middle session wore on.
Just when it looked like New Zealand would get through the session unscathed, the offspinner Dane Piedt got one to spin back viciously. Watling shuffled across, missed his flick, and was struck in front of off stump. Watling reviewed, but umpire’s call on impact meant South Africa had their only wicket of the session. Kagiso Rabada, hitting the high 130kph range as opposed to the 150 mark he regularly clocked in the first innings, struggled for fluency, rhythm and accuracy before tea. A number of wayward deliveries on either side of the wicket were easily avoided or dispatched to the boundary. However, he returned late in the day to pick up two-lower order wickets: he had Tim Southee bowled with a spearing yorker on off stump and beat Neil Wagner for pace to pin him in front of middle and leg.
Mitchell Santner, Doug Bracewell and Southee all got off to starts, but could not stay long enough at the crease to help Nicholls to a maiden Test ton. At 195 for 9, Nicholls was quickly running out of partners and du Plessis recalled Steyn. A top-edged pull off a short delivery, aimed at Nicholls’ ribs, was taken at fine leg to end New Zealand’s resistance.
In the morning, resuming from a score of 105 for 6, overnight batsmen Temba Bavuma and Vernon Philander were patient early, leaving and blocking Trent Boult and Tim Southee, both of whom generated appreciable lateral movement like they had on the third evening. Philander looked untroubled until he left a good-length delivery from Southee that jagged back prodigiously to uproot the off stump. South Africa declared at 132 for 7, having added 27 in the first hour. — Cricinfo ARSENAL have signed striker Lucas Perez from Deportivo La Coruna, the Premier League club said yesterday.
The 27-year-old netted 19 goals in all competitions last season as Deportivo finished 15th in La Liga.
Arsenal have endured a frustrating close season, snubbed by striker Jamie Vardy, who extended his contract with champions Leicester City. Olympique Lyonnais rejected their bid for forward Alexandre Lacazette.
The deal is subject to the completion of regulatory processes, the London club said. — Reuters