Messi doubt­ful for qual­i­fiers

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Sport Starts Here -

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

Wayne Rooney

Luis En­rique

Asamoah Gyan

Lionel Messi

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