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Hamilton on pole in Qatar with Verstappen second

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DOHA: Seven-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton put his Mercedes on pole position for the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix with a dominant display under the floodlights on Saturday (Nov 20).

Red Bull’s championship leader Max Verstappen, 14 points clear of his British rival with three races remaining, will start alongside on Sunday night but qualified nearly half a second slower.

Hamilton’s team mate Valtteri Bottas was third.

AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly was fourth despite losing his front wing and suffering a puncture, shedding debris and bringing out the yellow flags on his final lap.

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“That last lap was beautiful, it was a really sweet lap,” said Hamilton.

The defending champion was first out of the pits for the final flying effort and set an eye-opening time of one minute 20.827 seconds for his 102nd career pole.

The 36-year-old had already been on provisional pole with a time of 1:21.262 after going fastest in the first and second phases of qualifying.

Hamilton said he had not been feeling well on Thursday and Friday, when he was also up until midnight working with his engineers.

“I had a bit of a stomach ache from Wednesday but felt fantastic today. I slept well last night so that makes a big difference,” he said.

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Verstappen said his car was just lacking some pace.

“It’s been just a bit more tricky for us again in qualifying,” said the Dutch 24-year-old, whose Mexican team mate Sergio Perez qualified only 11th.

“Checo (Perez) is not even in Q3 (the final phase) so it definitely shows we are struggling a bit more than normal. But nevertheless it’s still second, so it’s all to play for. I wish we could have fought for more.”

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Abahani rely on foreigners for Mohun Bagan challenge

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Six-time Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) champions Abahani aim to enter the group stage of AFC Cup when they encounter Mohun Bagan SG in the tournament’s play-off match in Kolkata today.

The match is scheduled to get underway at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan, commonly known as the Salt Lake Stadium, from 7:30pm (Bangladesh Standard Time).
Abahani kept their sights on the group stage after a 2-1 win over a Maldivian outfit, Club Eagles, in the preliminary second round last week in Sylhet. However, Indian Super League (ISL) champions Mohun Bagan stand ominously tall in Abahani’s path.

The Kolkata-based popular outfit, who came to this stage after beating Nepal’s Machhindra FC 3-1, had defeated Abahani 3-1 in the play-off last season before thrashing BPL champions Bashundhara Kings 4-0 in the group stage and becoming South Asian zone champions.

Going further back, the two sides met in the AFC Cup group stage in 2017. Mohun Bagan had a comfortable 3-1 victory but Abahani managed to draw the next match. Mohun Bagan recently thumped Bangladesh Army Football Team 5-0 in Durand Cup, sending an indication of their strength this season.

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Abahani coach Mario Lemos, who has been at the helm of the Dhanmondi-based outfit since 2018, are well-aware of how hard Mohun Bagan can come at his charges.

“We have a lot of respect for Mohun Bagan and know their qualities. As a team we will try our very best,” Lemos told The Daily Star via text messages before conducting the first practice session in Kolkata.

“They are a very attacking team and create many chances, get many players inside the box. We have to be able to stop them. Otherwise, that will make a big difference in the game,” added the 38-year-old Portuguese.

Lemos got only one session to prepare his charges ahead of the crucial fixture after landing in Kolkata yesterday morning. Unlike their previous match, played under unplayable conditions in front of a huge home crowd in Sylhet, Abahani are set to feel immense pressure against Mohun Bagan who are boosted by Australian and Spanish players.

Abahani will certainly bank on their six foreigners, of whom Stuart Cornelius and Danilo Augusto struck against Club Eagles. Lemos believes the fielding of six foreign players will make them stronger.

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“I think it [fielding six foriegn players] will improve the team and make it a bit more solid and physically stronger,” said the Abahani coach, who is likely to play three foreign defenders to neutralise Mohun Bagan.

Abahani could not cross the preliminary round or play-off stage in the last three editions after having emerged as the South Asian zone champions to enter the inter-zonal semifinals of the AFC Cup in 2019. Asked what shortcomings prevented Abahani from getting into the group stage in the last three editions, Lemos said, “I see it more the other way, I see the opposition teams we faced have been strong teams. When you play against strong teams, sometimes the result doesn’t always go your way.”

Abahani manager Satyajit Das Rupu on Sunday also admitted that the Indian clubs are progressing due to the ISL, “where a lot of big players are coming to play and the Indian local players also grow in stature”. Now, time will tell whether Abahani can pull off the seemingly improbable.

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Johnson can shine in South Africa, says Mitchell Marsh

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Australia’s new Twenty20 captain Mitchell Marsh said Tuesday that the “incredible talent” of uncapped fast bowler Spencer Johnson will make him one to watch on their white-ball tour of South Africa.

With one-day skipper Pat Cummings sidelined by a fractured wrist but expected to return for October’s World Cup, Marsh will lead Australia in three Twenty20 and five 50-over matches against South Africa, starting next week.

Left-arm quick Johnson, power-hitter Matthew Short and left-arm seamer Aaron Hardie have all earned maiden national call-ups.

Marsh said Johnson, 27, had hit form after a series of injuries earlier in his career.

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“We haven’t seen much of him because he’s had a lot of injuries and he sort of burst onto the scene last year,” Marsh told reporters. “He’s an incredible talent.

“I faced him in a one-day final and was blown away by his skill and pace, so I think he’s going to feel right at home.”

Marsh said Short and Hardie will also have chances to stake claims for places at the 50-over World Cup in India.

Cummins will take over as ODI captain when Australia arrive in India ahead of the World Cup. Test vice-captain Steve Smith is also out of the South Africa trip with a wrist injury.

All-rounder Marsh said he won’t “try and reinvent the wheel” while in charge, having gained experience captaining Western Australia.

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“I’m just looking forward to the opportunity. We’ll get through South Africa and see how we go, I am available to captain for as long as the team needs me,” he said.

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Asia Cup and ICC World Cup cricket will be telecast live on Toffee

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Toffee, the digital entertainment platform of Banglalink, has acquired the rights to live stream the upcoming Asia Cup 2023 and ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 by signing an agreement with Top of Mind. The agreement was signed by Banglalink and Top of Mind recently at the Banglalink office, Tiger’s Den. 

Asia Cup 2023 will be held in Pakistan and Sri Lanka from 30 August 2023, while ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 will kick off in India on 5 October 2023. Cricket lovers from all across the country will be able to enjoy the two mega cricket events on Toffee using any network. Toffee app is available for download on both Google Play and App Store. Viewers can also catch exciting cricket matches live on https://toffeelive.com/ and Toffee’s Android TV app. Along with Toffee, Banglalink users can also enjoy it using MyBL App within the Toffee section.

Upanga Dutta, Chief Commercial Officer of Banglalink said, “We are pleased to join hands with Top of Mind for bringing this very exciting & popular cricket event to our digital platforms. Toffee is the country’s most loved live sports streaming platform. After the FIFA world cup last year, we are very happy to now bring Asia Cup & ICC Men’s world cup cricket to digitally mobile customers of the country. We are confident that it will emulate the success of our FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. With superior live streaming technology, Toffee has already become the most loved OTT platform in the country, and we are confident to provide the cricketing fans best in class digital experience. Toffee is already catering to the digital advertising needs of several leading brands. These marque sporting events will bring new opportunities for brands to digitally engage with upwardly mobile customers.”

Ziauddin Adil, the Chairman of Top of Mind group, said, “It is a great pleasure to sign the agreement with Toffee, which has already gained enormous popularity as a sports streaming platform. Through this initiative, the two mega cricket events will reach the hands of millions of viewers in every corner of the country.” 

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Also present at the signing ceremony were the Marketing Deputy Director of Toffee Muhammad Abul Khair Chowdhury, Procurement & Supply Chain Director of Banglalink K.M Zakaria and Chief Growth Officer of Top of Mind Md. Abdullah Al Kafi among others. Toffee will continue to offer seamless live-streaming experiences to its viewers. 

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