Angleo Mathews scored a classy ton in Christchurch kept Sri Lanka’s hopes of reaching the World Test Championship final alive. Sri Lanka set New Zealand a target of 285 and pegged back the hosts by taking the wicket of Devon Conway.
Iga Swiatek got her title defence at the Indian Wells Masters off to a flying start. The world No 1 is pursuing a rare title defence in the Californian event, before moving on to the Miami Masters. Meanwhile, Andy Murray beat Radu Albot to register his first straight-sets win in a year.
In the Premier League, Manchester City were made to work hard in their narrow-win over Crystal Palace, as the defending champions aim to catch-up to current leaders Arsenal. Liverpool were brought down to earth by Bournemouth after The Reds’ historic win last week over rivals Manchester United.
In Spain’s La Liga, Real Madrid continued to chase leaders Barcelona with a win against Espanyol.
Here’s a look at the key stories from international sporting events through the day for 12 March, 2023:
Mathews ton inspires Sri Lanka
A classy century from Angelo Mathews and the early wicket of Devon Conway kept Sri Lanka’s World Championship hopes alive in the first Test against New Zealand on Sunday.
“We’ve given ourselves a great chance to win the Test match,” Mathews said after his masterful 115, made from nearly six hours in the middle in Christchurch.
His innings rescued Sri Lanka from a tight spot and led the tourists to a second innings total of 302.
That set New Zealand a target of 285, and the home side were 28 for one by stumps after 17 overs, with Conway out for five.
Tom Latham was not out 11 with Kane Williamson on seven, with New Zealand requiring 257 on the final day. The highest fourth-innings score at Hagley Oval is 256 for eight in a drawn Test.
“We had to work extremely hard to get those runs and we’ve got the fast bowlers to exploit the conditions,” Mathews said.
“We had the belief that if the batters get the runs on the board the fast bowlers will come into play.
“We need to strike early (Monday) to get into the game and if we can open one end we can put a lot of pressure on the Kiwis.”
Sri Lanka need another nine wickets on the final day but their chances could be dashed by rain that is forecast for the morning.
New Zealand have only pride at stake but Sri Lanka, playing their first Test in seven months, are chasing their ticket to the World Test Championship final against Australia.
They must win in Christchurch as well as the second Test in Wellington to make the final.
Sri Lanka also need Australia to win or draw their current fourth Test against India.
There was jubilation in the Sri Lankan camp when Kasun Rajitha had Conway caught and bowled for five, and similar scenes when he thought he had Williamson lbw without scoring.
Sri Lanka reviewed the not out call but Williamson, who only made one in the first innings, was safe.
Mathews went to the middle late Saturday with Sri Lanka in trouble at 81 for three, which became 95 for four early Sunday with the dismissal of nightwatchman Prabath Jayasuriya.
But New Zealand’s confidence was dented as the 35-year-old Mathews put on 105 for the fifth wicket with Dinesh Chandimal and added a further 60 with Dhananjaya de Silva before he was dismissed by Matt Henry.
His 235-ball innings, filled with chanceless ones and twos and 11 boundaries, took Sri Lanka to a position of strength.
De Silva continued the momentum with his late cameo, finishing unbeaten on 47 while Rajitha and Lahiru Kumara chimed in with scores of 14 and eight as Henry mopped up the tail.
Blair Tickner, who accounted for the Sri Lanka top order, took four for 100 while Henry finished with three for 71.
New Zealand seamer Neil Wagner, who left the field injured on Saturday, did not bowl after scans revealed a bulging disc in his back and a torn right hamstring.
Wagner has been ruled out of the second Test starting on Friday.
Iga Swiatek, Carlos Alcaraz cruise to Indian Wells third round
Top seeds Carlos Alcaraz and Iga Swiatek raced into the third round of the Indian Wells WTA and ATP Masters 1000 without wasting a minute on Saturday.
Spain’s second-ranked Alcaraz, the US Open champion who can return to number one in the world with a third Masters 1000 crown, needed just one hour and 16 minutes to get past Australian qualifier Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-3, 6-3.
Women’s number one Swiatek, winner of the French and US opens last year, was even more ruthlessly efficient in a 6-0, 6-1 triumph over American Claire Liu.
Alcaraz lost just one point on his serve in the first set and did not face a break point in the match as he lined up a meeting with Tallon Griekspoor, a 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/4) winner over Argentina’s Guido Pella.
“Well, I surprised myself today with my serve,” the effervescent 19-year-old said. “I serve really well in the first set and in the second set as well.”
Early breaks in each set were too much for Kokkinakis to overcome in the face of Alcaraz’s speed and power.
“All that I’m looking for in every match is to enjoy and to play relaxed,” Alcaraz said. “I think that’s the most important part of my game, to stay relaxed and go for it and not to think about the mistakes, the points, the rounds.
“Just live the moment, play the match, and go for it,” he added.
Alcaraz was able to do just that as there was no sign of the right hamstring injury that forced him out of the ATP tournament in Acapulco prior to Indian Wells.
He had missed the Australian Open with similar trouble, but returned to win in Buenos Aires last month before falling in the final at Rio de Janeiro – where he was hindered by the injury.
“It seems today that I move really well,” Alcaraz said. “I think I’m ready and totally recovered from the injury.”
Defending men’s champion Taylor Fritz, who toppled Spanish superstar Rafael Nadal in last year’s final, had to work harder to get through his second-round opener, a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory over 41st-ranked Ben Shelton.
Seventh-seeded Dane Holger Rune and eighth-seeded Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime advanced.
Rune beat American Mackenzie McDonald 7-5, 6-3 while Auger-Aliassime beat Spain’s Pedro Martinez 7-6 (7/5), 6-4.
Former world number one Andy Murray, grinding his way back after hip replacement surgery in 2019, defeated lucky loser Radu Albot 6-4, 6-3 – the Briton’s first straight-sets win in a year that has seen him pull off a string of unlikely marathon victories that included a five-set epic lasting five hours and 45 minutes in the second round of the Australian Open.
Swiatek, meanwhile, needed just 65 minutes to dispatch Liu as she launched her bid to become just the second woman – after Martina Navratilova in 1990 and ‘91 – to win back-to-back Indian Wells titles.
Neither Liu nor the breezy conditions on Stadium Court troubled Swiatek, who won 25 of 32 first-set points.
Liu did manage to save a match point as she finally held serve in the penultimate game, slipping a forehand passing shot under Swiatek’s guard on game point.
It brought a relieved smile to the American’s face, but Swiatek closed it out in the next game.
“For sure Claire used that moment when I didn’t play as aggressive that I should be, but I’m pretty happy that I was able to close it out pretty fast,” Swiatek said.
She can expect a tougher challenge when she faces 2019 Indian Wells and US Open winner Bianca Andreescu, who defeated American Peyton Stearns 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.
Women’s fourth seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia made a winning return after being sidelined in the wake of a minor knee operation, beating Poland’s Magdalena Frech 4-6, 6-4, 6-1.
Fifth-seeded Caroline Garcia overcame Hungarian Dalma Galfi 6-1, 6-7 (4/7), 6-4 and Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina, runner-up at the Australian Open in January, rallied from 4-1 down in the second set to beat former Aussie Open winner Sofia Kenin 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (7/5).
Manchester City close gap on top
Manchester City needed an Erling Haaland penalty 12 minutes from time to see off Crystal Palace 1-0 on Saturday as Liverpool’s resurgence proved short-lived after a 1-0 defeat at Bournemouth.
Victory takes City to within two points of Premier League leaders Arsenal, who play at Fulham on Sunday.
Pep Guardiola’s men dominated for almost the entire 94 minutes at a sodden Selhurst Park, but were headed for another major blow to their title defence until Ilkay Gundogan was chopped down inside the box by Michael Olise.
Haaland kept his cool to roll home his 34th goal of the season from the spot.
“I enjoy it, this is England, this is what I have watched my whole life,” said Haaland on challenging for his first Premier League title.
“I enjoy every single second being in it. It’s good to be in the middle of it.”
Earlier, Liverpool were brought back to earth with a bang after inflicting Manchester United’s record-equalling defeat in a 7-0 win last weekend.
Philip Billing scored the only goal for Bournemouth to lift the Cherries out of the bottom three as Mohamed Salah fired a second half penalty wide.
“The game was pretty much the opposite of what we wanted to show and to do today. I think we played for pretty much 95 minutes the game Bournemouth wanted to play,” said Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp.
“This game was a massive knock and how it is with knocks, you have to take them, you have to have a look how big the scars are and then you go from there.”
Fifth-placed Liverpool are now six points adrift of the Champions League places after Harry Kane ensured a tough week for Tottenham ended on a high by scoring twice in a 3-1 win over Nottingham Forest.
Real Madrid continue to chase Barcelona
Vinicius Junior scored a fine solo goal as Real Madrid came from behind to beat Espanyol 3-1 and cut Barcelona’s lead to six points at the top of La Liga on Saturday.
Ruben Baraja’s Valencia scraped a fraught 1-0 win over Osasuna to climb out of the relegation zone thanks to Justin Kluivert’s strike at Mestalla.
Joselu had sent visitors Espanyol ahead early on at the Santiago Bernabeu but Vinicius produced a surging run and lethal finish to pull the champions level.
Eder Militao’s header completed the turnaround and Marco Asensio wrapped up the win late on.
Barcelona visit Athletic Bilbao on Sunday night to try and restore their advantage, ahead of the Clasico at Camp Nou on March 19.
“They caught us out a bit with their goal, but the game gives us confidence to face a complicated week,” said Nacho, ahead of Madrid’s clashes with Liverpool in the Champions League on Wednesday and Barcelona on Sunday.
“When space opens out, we’re a team that has very fast players up front (to capitalise).”
After failing to score from open play in their last three matches across all competitions, Madrid’s three well-taken goals were a confidence boost.
With text inputs from AFP
Updated through the day