The Herald (Zimbabwe)

Gems Boys content with runner-up medal

- Blessing Malinganiz­a

DESPITE ruling his side out of the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League title race, Manica Diamonds coach Jairos Tapera is looking to finish the season strongly.

Coming from 2-0 defeat at the hands of Sheasham, Manica Diamonds will hope to bounce back to winning ways and keep their hopes of a top four finish when they host Simba Bhora today at Gibbo.

Manica Diamonds currently sit third on the log standings with 50 points, seven behind log leaders Ngezi Platinum Stars and are tied with second placed Dynamos and fourth placed FC Platinum.

Despite still having that mathematic­al chance of lifting their maiden title, coach Tapera has ruled his side out of the title race.

“If you look at the top four teams in terms of seniority who do you think can take the championsh­ip?

“Yes we are there among the top four but we are there because of the best run of form but with no intention of the championsh­ip,” said Tapera. Tapera insists that since the start of the season they have never had an intention of winning the championsh­ip but instead to better off their last season tenth position finish.

“We have been singing the same song since the start of the season that we need to finish better than we did last season hence we want to finish the competitio­n on a high.

“And we also want to win as many games from the last four and see where they can take us on the log standings,” said Tapera.

With Manica Diamonds being forced to travel to Gibbo for their home matches, after their preferred home ground, Sakubva Stadium was not homologate­d, Tapera is full of praise for his charges for showing character in the league.

“Had it not been for the character of the boys we will not be in the top four at this moment but instead we would be talking a different story altogether.

“For us traveling for more than 750 km for our homes and more than 750 km on our away games has not been an easy task for and I am happy with how the performanc­e of the players.

“It had become normal to us not to get a single day to training for the next match but the boys have done their best but such is football,” said Tapera.

With their opposition in today’s match, Simba Bhora not yet safe from relegation, Tapera admits it has not been easy to face team’s that are trying to survive the chop.

“It has been a big challenge to play teams that are in the relegation mix but we treat them the same and obviously going into tomorrow’s (today), we need to bounce back to winning ways.”*

MUMBAI. — Glenn Maxwell fought through cramps to smash an unbeaten 201 off 128 balls, single-handedly guiding Australia to an improbable three-wicket win over Afghanista­n in a World Cup cricket match yesterday and sealing the team’s spot in the semi-finals.

Afghanista­n appeared set for a famous victory against five-time champions Australia at the floodlit Wankhede Stadium, reducing them to 91 for seven wickets after setting them a victory target of 292.

But the Afghans then watched in disbelief as Maxwell launched an extraordin­ary counter-attack. With captain Pat Cummins for company, Maxwell took Australia past Afghanista­n’s total of 291 for five wickets with 19 balls to spare.

The right-handed batsman suffered cramps after going past his fourth hundred in the 50-over format but laboured on, cutting down on running between the wickets to manage the pain and relying more on big hits.

In total, Maxwell hit 21 fours and 10 sixes during his knock — many of them on one leg and the last six brought up the victory and also brought up his double century.

Cummins remained unbeaten on 12 from 68 balls but more importantl­y added 202 for the unbroken eighth wicket partnershi­p.

Afghanista­n held numerous meetings on the ground but were unable to find a way to dislodge Maxwell, who was dropped on 33 by Mujeeb Ur Rahman off Noor Ahmad’s bowling.

Maxwell was also adjudged out leg before wicket in the same over against Noor but the batsman managed to successful­ly overturn the umpire’s decision on appeal.

Afghanista­n seamers Naveen-ul-Haq and Azmatullah Omarzai had struck early blows with the ball to reduce Australia to 49-4 after opening batsman Ibrahim Zadran’s maiden World Cup hundred helped Afghanista­n post a competitiv­e total.

With Steve Smith missing from the side due to a bout of vertigo, Australia did not seem to have the batting depth to chase down the target and Rashid Khan’s two quick strikes seemed to have all but sealed the match in Afghanista­n’s favour.

Yesterday’s victory took Australia to 12 points. They became the third team to reach the semi-finals with India and South Africa having already booked their spots.

Zadran anchored the Afghan innings earlier with an unbeaten 129 from 143 balls after the South Asian side won the toss and elected to bat. The 21-year-old Zadran’s fifth hundred in the 50-overs format was studded with eight fours and three sixes.

All-rounder Rashid smashed an unbeaten 35 off 18 balls with three sixes and two fours to provide Afghanista­n with some quick runs towards the end. — Reuters

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