Fierce rivals India and Pakistan will meet in their first game of the T20 World Cup on October 24.

The schedule for the tournament in the United Arab Emirates and Oman was confirmed on Tuesday, with the final taking place in Dubai on November 14.

Pakistan and India will do battle in their opening Super12 Group 2 match at 6 pm local time.

New Zealand will get their bid for glory underway against Pakistan in Sharjah two days later, while Afghanistan begin their campaign on 25 October against a qualifier

Holders West Indies play England in a repeat of the dramatic 2016 final in debut on October 23, the same day as Group 1 rivals Australia face South Africa in Abu Dhabi.

The opening game of the competition will see co-hosts Oman come up against Papua New Guinea in Group B on October 17, with Scotland and Bangladesh in action on the same day.

The first semi-final will take place in Abu Dhabi on November 10 and the second will be staged in Dubai the following day.

 

 

West Indies T20 World Cup schedule 

23 October

 England  vs   West Indies

 Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai

 

 26 October

South Africa  vs  West Indies


 Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai

 

29 October

West Indies  vs  B2

Sharjah Cricket Stadium, Sharjah

 

4 November
  West Indies   A1

Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi

 

 6 November

Australia  vs  West Indies

Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi
  

 

  

Toutai Kefu is in a serious but stable condition in hospital after the Tonga coach and former Australia player was wounded during a burglary at his home.

Kefu and three members of his household were taken to hospital following an incident in the Coorparoo area of Brisbane that was reported to police at around 03:00 local time on Monday.

A man in his forties was confirmed to have suffered "serious injuries" after a violent altercation.

Two 15-year-old males have been arrested in relation to the incident, with Queensland Police confirming Kefu's wife, son and daughter were also receiving treatment for knife wounds at Brisbane's Princess Alexandra Hospital. A third alleged suspect is said to be unaccounted for.

"His initial condition was described as critical, but expected to survive," detective superintendent Tony Fleming told reporters on Monday.

"Mr Kefu is out of surgery and is stable now.

"His son is still receiving treatment as I understand and there's more treatment for Mrs Kefu and their daughter that will continue tomorrow.

"The mother has suffered very, very serious lacerations to her arm and I'm told her wounds are very significant."

Support for Kefu, who played 60 Tests for Australia, and his family poured in from across the world of rugby.

Superintendent Fleming stated that the family was awoken by noises in the house, with Kefu going to investigate.

"That person was accosted by at least one of the offenders in the premises and threatened to be stabbed if they didn’t hand over vehicle keys," Fleming said.

"Other members of the family came to that person's aid and during this time very significant injuries occurred to the family."

Kefu is Australia's most capped number eight of all time and helped the Wallabies win the 1999 World Cup. He coached Tonga at the 2019 tournament in Japan and was reappointed to the role earlier in 2021.

"Thoughts and prayers are with my Tongan brother Toutai Kefu and his family," former cross-code New Zealand star Sonny Bill Williams wrote on Twitter, while the Wallabies tweeted: "You got this great man!! All our love and thoughts to you and the entire Kefu family!" 

Dave Rennie took the blame for Australia's record 57-22 Bledisloe Cup defeat to rampant New Zealand at Eden Park on Saturday.

The All Blacks ran riot in Auckland, scoring eight tries to retain the trophy for a 19th successive year and secure a bonus point-victory in their first game of the Rugby Championship.

New Zealand only led 21-15 at half-time, but Codie Taylor claimed a double as Ian Foster's side tore the Wallabies apart after the break.

Australia head coach Rennie took responsibility for a chastening drubbing at the hands of their trans-Tasman rivals.

He said: "Everything falls back on me. We went in with a plan. If we can't execute that plan, we'll seriously look at what we’re doing.

"We want to have an optimistic mindset around how we play, but you've got to play what's in front of you.

"In the end, the players are implementing what we're trying to put on the park. So clearly we'll take responsibility for it."

Rieko Ioane, David Havili, Sevu Reece, Ardie Savea, Brodie Retallick and Will Jordan also crossed in a devastating display from the All Blacks.

New Zealand head coach Foster was delighted to see his side take command in ruthless fashion following the interval.

He said: "We wanted to respond. The reason we had to respond is we knew the Aussies would lift. They played a combative, physical game in that first 40 and you could see they wanted to take us on up front.

"It was a good old ding-dong Test match in that first period. But we stuck to our plan, even when we lost a couple of things early. We didn't panic, or go away from what we wanted to do.

"What was exciting was when we got the opportunity, particularly with the ball, the group [Savea, Ioane and Taylor] were quite lethal at latching into the space in front of them.

"Plum [forward coach John Plumtree] is doing a lot of work in that ball-carrying space and breakdown space and today we reaped some rewards out of that."

New Zealand made it six Test wins in a row and stretched their unbeaten home run against Australia with an enthralling 57-22 Rugby Championship victory at Eden Park on Saturday.

The Wallabies, beaten 33-25 last weekend in Auckland, had won two of the three previous meetings in the Tri-Nations and Rugby Championship and looked like they might swing a frenetic contest their way early in the second half when the All Blacks were reduced to 14 men.

However, New Zealand stormed in front in sodden conditions, scoring three tries in 15 minutes to leave Dave Rennie's men demoralised after they had gone stride for stride with their hosts in the first half.

David Havili's converted try in the final seconds meant this was the highest score Ian Foster's side had ever posted against Australia.

The visitors' start was a demoralising one, Rieko Ioane plucking a pass from the air and surging 80 metres up the field to score with just three minutes played.

The Wallabies hit back in quick fashion, Andrew Kellaway darting over following a pinpoint kick from Noah Lolesio, who could not convert the try.

Australia defended resolutely to disrupt the All Blacks' rhythm, but another turnover in opposition territory saw them fall further behind, Brodie Retallick diving under the posts at the end of a sublime passing move.

Ardie Savea powered over for a third try of the half after Lolesio's penalty reduced the deficit, although Tate McDermott went over following a five-metre scrum to keep Australia in touch at the midway point.

However, six minutes after the restart – and with Savea in the sin bin – a stunning dummy and burst of speed from Aaron Smith allowed Codie Taylor a simple finish beneath the posts.

That try seemed to sap Australia's belief and, in turn, left the All Blacks buoyant. Damian McKenzie scored a penalty from 57 metres out and, scarcely a minute later, Sevu Reece snatched a looping pass down the left wing and raced away for try number five.

Three attempted tackles could not stop Taylor driving over for his second after a New Zealand attacking scrum, and quick work at the breakdown allowed Savea to set up Will Jordan to score once more in the right corner.

Kellaway got a consolation try in the driving rain but the All Blacks had the final say, Havili charging over after the siren sounded as celebrations began in earnest. Australia's winless run in New Zealand now stands at 27 matches.

 

Comprehensive

Not only was this the highest score New Zealand have managed against their old rivals, but the aggregate score in their 33 matches with Australia at Eden Park now stands at 874-443.

The Bledisloe Cup, which has not left their hands since 2003, has become a one-sided rivalry.

Risky business

In these two Bledisloe Cup Tests, Australia have adopted a more risky approach and each time had New Zealand a little worried early in the second half.

While it has made for great spectacles, their bold displays also proved their undoing: there were two intercept tries for New Zealand here and three in total in these matches.

Australia limited-overs captain Aaron Finch is expected to be fit for the start of the T20 World Cup after undergoing knee surgery.

Finch suffered cartilage damage in St Lucia last month and missed the tour of Bangladesh.

The opening batsman went under knife on Friday and the expectation is that he will be ready to lead his country when the T20 World Cup - staged in UAE and Oman - gets under way in October.

A Cricket Australia statement said: "His recovery is expected to take 8-10 weeks meaning he should be available for the opening games of the World Cup in mid-October."

Australia will face England, South Africa, West Indies and two yet-to-be-determined qualifiers in Group 1 of the Super 12 stage of the T20 World Cup.

Matthew Wade stepped in to skipper an under-strength Australia side in a 4-1 T20 series loss to Bangladesh.

The Rugby Championship returns this weekend with a pair of intriguing fixtures.

The tournament took a year off in 2020, reverting to a Tri-Nations format with world champions South Africa absent due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Springboks are back, though, and come into the 2021 edition on a high after beating the British and Irish Lions 2-1.

Meanwhile, New Zealand have already gained an edge over Australia in last week's Bledisloe Cup opener.

The tournament is teed up nicely, as Stats Perform provides the key Opta facts...
 

NEW ZEALAND V AUSTRALIA

Form

New Zealand have won their past five Tests, scoring an average of 58 points per game. However, the All Blacks have won only two of their past six outings in the Tri-Nations and the Rugby Championship (D1, L3) – Australia have won two of the sides' previous three meetings across these competitions (L1).

The Wallabies will have to end a long wait for an away win against New Zealand to further improve on that record, though. The All Blacks are undefeated in their past 26 encounters on home soil (W25, D1) – including last week's Bledisloe I.

Ones to watch

Two-time World Rugby Player of the Year Beauden Barrett is among the replacements for an All Blacks side who have scored 15 Test tries from the bench since the beginning of 2020, six more than any other tier one nation. Barrett has not scored in that period and last did so from the bench in a Test in 2016.

For Australia, the performance of one of their inexperienced stars will be key. Noah Lolesio has 57 Test points in 2021, but only five of those came at Eden Park last week as he missed two of three penalties and three of four conversions. He must be more clinical.
 

SOUTH AFRICA V ARGENTINA

Form

Argentina have led at half-time in four of their past five away Tests against South Africa, but they have gone on to win only one of those (L4). That victory, in Durban in August 2015, was the Pumas' only triumph in South Africa and one of only three against the Springboks in 30 Tests (D1, L26).

Both teams come into this match in form, however. South Africa have won nine of their past 10 Tests (L1), including the series win over the Lions, while Argentina have only lost one in eight (W4, D3) and are unbeaten in four (W2, D2).

Ones to watch

Coming off the gruelling Lions series, South Africa have made 12 changes, giving wing duo Cheslin Kolbe and Makazole Mapimpi a rest. That means another opportunity for Aphelele Fassi, who scored on his debut against Georgia last month but will now take on trickier opponents.

In-form Argentina will fancy their chances of disrupting a much-changed home side. The Pumas made the most tackles per game (146) and had the highest tackle success rate (89 per cent) at the 2020 Tri-Nations, with Marcos Kremer leading the tournament with his 72. He has made just 16 tackles from 22 attempts in his past three games, though.

England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chief executive Tom Harrison is "very confident" of this year's Ashes series going ahead in Australia.

Joe Root's England side are due to start their bid to regain the urn at The Gabba on December 8, with the fifth and final Test scheduled to begin at Optus Stadium in Perth on January 18.

However, England players have raised concerns about the possibility of their families not being able to join them for the trip due to Australia's tight border controls during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the prospect of lengthy quarantines.

Multi-format players such as Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler face the prospect of four months away from home as the T20 World Cup takes place in the United Arab Emirates and Oman ahead of the Ashes. 

Talks between the ECB and Cricket Australia are ongoing to reach a compromise and Harrison is optimistic that a full-strength England party will make the trip.

"We are working very closely with Cricket Australia (CA) and I had my latest conversation with my counterpart at CA yesterday," Harrison said. "We are speaking every few days on the matter.

"All the right conversations are happening at government level in Australia and we will be using our own diplomatic channels in the UK to ensure the view of the players and the ECB [is heard].

"This is not players asking for anything unreasonable – these are very reasonable requests that we are asking the Australian government to give some leniency, frankly.

"It's going to be important for us to ensure we can give comfort to players that their families are going to be able to be in Australia and that those conditions in which they are quarantined will be reasonable, enabling the players to be at their best in that Test series.

"It's a conversation that's going to take place over the next few weeks but I am very confident we will get to a place where we can fulfil our obligations to tour."

Ian Foster has called on New Zealand to fight "fire with fire" in a second Bledisloe Cup Test against an Australia side that will include Marika Koroibete at Eden Park on Saturday.

The All Blacks won the opener 33-25 last weekend, extending their winning run over the Wallabies in Auckland to 21 Tests.

Rieko Ioane will move to centre with Anton Lienert-Brown (knee) missing out, while Sevu Reece switches to the left with Will Jordan on the right flank and TJ Perenara returning as a replacement along with Samisoni Taukei'aho, Dane Coles and Scott Barrett.

The All Blacks have held the Bledisloe Cup since 2003 and Foster wants a clean sweep this weekend.

The All Blacks head coach said: "We know that Australia will be disappointed with the result and will lift. It's a do-or-die game for them.

"But the Bledisloe Cup means a lot to us. It's an historic trophy and it’s easy for people to take it for granted based on results in recent years, but throughout history it has been a hard cup to win, so it’s hugely important.

He added: "I think it's the right thing for this team for now. We need to go forward. We're going to get a more committed Australian team and we need to make sure we're matching fire with fire."

Koroibete replaces Jordan Petaia on the wing after serving a one-match ban for breaking team protocols in one of four changes to the Australia line-up.

Matt To'omua, Matt Philip and Lachie Swinton also come into the team, while the fit-again Nic White is on the bench.

Rennie said: "Eden Park is a place that most teams fear but we're excited to get another crack after last weekend’s disappointment.

"To beat New Zealand, you have to win the collisions and be clinical for 80 minutes and we didn't do that. We've got a lot more in us and we'll show that on Saturday."

 

New Zealand: Damian McKenzie, Will Jordan, Rieko Ioane, David Havili, Sevu Reece, Richie Mo'unga, Aaron Smith; George Bower, Codie Taylor, Nepo Laulala, Brodie Retallick, Samuel Whitelock (captain), Akira Ioane, Dalton Papalii, Ardie Savea.

Replacements: Samisoni Taukei'aho, Karl Tu'inukuafe, Angus Ta'avao, Scott Barrett, Luke Jacobson, TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett, Jordie Barrett.

Australia: Tom Banks, Andrew Kellaway, Hunter Paisami, Matt To'omua, Marika Koroibete, Noah Lolesio, Tate McDermott; James Slipper, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Allan Alaalatoa, Darcy Swain, Matt Philip, Lachlan Swinton, Michael Hooper (captain), Rob Valetini.

Replacements: Jordan Uelese, Scott Sio, Taniela Tupou, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Harry Wilson, Nic White, Len Ikitau, Reece Hodge.

Australia's T20I series in Bangladesh ended in a humiliating defeat as the tourists were bowled out for 62 in the final game of the five-match series.

Bangladesh had already clinched a series victory going into the final contest in Dhaka, but rounded things off in style with a 60-run victory. 

The hosts reached 122-8 on a surface that consistently proved challenging to bat on, before Shakib Al Hasan took over with ball in hand.

Shakib took 4-9 from 3.4 overs, while Mohammad Saifuddin claimed 3-12 as Australia were dismissed with just 13.4 overs bowled.

Afterwards, stand-in captain Matthew Wade, who top-scored for Australia with 22, found little reason to be upbeat following the 4-1 series defeat.

"It's hard to say there will be more positives. Certainly a great learning opportunity for our group," Wade said. 

"I've played for a few years now, [these were] certainly the toughest conditions to play T20 cricket in.

"It wasn't our series unfortunately. There's no excuses of not playing enough cricket. We had enough cricket in the West Indies to come and play good cricket, we just didn't."


Shakib stars

Shakib's masterful display with the ball saw 15 of his 22 deliveries produce dot balls.

Finishing the series with seven wickets at an average of 18.14 and 114 runs at a strike rate of 100.88, no player did more for Bangladesh as they clinched back-to-back bilateral T20I series wins for the first time in their history, following up the triumph over Zimbabwe in emphatic fashion.

"Thanks to my team-mates, this achievement wouldn't have been possible without their help," said Shakib. "I think we played some really good cricket through two series, in Zimbabwe and here. Obviously the wicket was tough, but we held our nerve well."

Modest totals beyond tourists

No match in the series produced an aggregate score of over 244 as both teams found posting big totals difficult.

However, the difference was that Bangladesh scored at least 120 in all but one match. Australia, missing several key players such as Steve Smith and David Warner, managed that feat just once.

Wade admitted as much, adding: "Credit to Bangladesh, they did well. We really had to scrounge, their batsmen found a way to get there [110-120 totals].

"Our bowling was good, but we just didn't have enough runs on the board. We've got to find a way to get better in spinning conditions."

Noah Lolesio's wayward kicking cost Australia at Eden Park on Saturday, but the Wallabies plan to keep faith with their young fly-half.

Lolesio, 21, entered the Bledisloe Cup opener against New Zealand with 52 Test points in 2021, trailing only Johnny Sexton (65) among players for tier one nations.

But he added just five in a 33-25 All Blacks victory, missing two of three penalties and three of four conversions.

Windy conditions did not help Lolesio, yet his profligacy proved the difference between the sides as Australia's run of defeats in Auckland – where Lolesio was born – extended to 21 Tests.

Coach Dave Rennie was in forgiving mood, though, with the number 10 having contributed 23 points in a series decider against France just last month.

"He was sensational in the French series and you don't go from an ace goal kicker to a novice overnight," Rennie said. "Tough conditions – we saw Richie [Mo'unga] miss as well.

"He kicked penalties in the French series to win the first and third Test and one that should have won us the second one. Yes, he'll be disappointed.

"We've got a lot of faith in the kid. He's going to get better and better, he's 21 and there are a lot of young men around him as well.

"He's growing and he's an impressive kid, too, very confident, great work ethic, he's spending a lot of time sitting around with Quade [Cooper] and talking about the generic parts of his game.

"He played pretty well tonight, but he had a rough night with the boot."

Captain Michael Hooper added: "We pick each other up. As Dave said, his boot guided us through a series win.

"In a goal kicker's career, there's going to be nights like that. He'll be better from it. He'll learn from that for sure."

New Zealand's Eden Park fortress remained unbreached as they took the Bledisloe Cup opener 33-25 against Australia following a clinical second-half spell.

The All Blacks have not lost to the Wallabies in Auckland since 1986 and have momentum to take into next week's Rugby Championship encounter at the same venue again.

Australia were in this contest throughout but allowed the scoreline to get away from them as Richie Mo'unga, David Havili and Damian McKenzie crossed in a 14-minute period.

That left a mountain to climb, with a double from Tom Banks and Jordan Uelese's try not enough, largely due to a poor kicking game from Noah Lolesio in tricky winds.

Those gusts played in Mo'unga's favour as he dispatched two early penalties and then stretched the All Blacks' lead to nine after Lolesio's kick faded right, one of several wayward Wallabies efforts.

Lolesio did get on the board with his next attempt before Andrew Kellaway burst through for the first try, but New Zealand finished the half firmly on top and Sevu Reece forced the ball over heading into the break.

Reece thought he had a second soon after the restart, finishing off one of the great Test moves from his team's own try line only for the score to be pulled back for a forward pass from Aaron Smith.

However, another sensational break brought the All Blacks joy as Mo'unga intercepted inside his own half and raced through, with the hosts really hitting their stride as Havili and McKenzie each touched down in the corner.

Australia finally got the response their pressure merited through Banks on the left and he toed the ball away to score again following Lolesio's incisive kick.

But repeated misses from the tee meant Uelese's try in the final seconds counted for little.

Not Noah's day

Johnny Sexton (65) is the sole player from a Tier One country with more Test points this year than Lolesio, but his tally only improved to 57 on a testing day.

Just one of his three penalties found the target, while he also missed three conversions in a row before belatedly hitting the mark when Uelese went over.

Out of touch

Australia had lost just one of their previous six Tests, including a victory over New Zealand in November 2020. However, each of those six matches had been decided by margins of no more than three points.

When the Wallabies were picked apart at the start of the second half and the lead reached 25 points, any hopes of back-to-back wins over the All Blacks for the first time since 2001 were all but over.

Nine-time Olympic gold medallist Carl Lewis did not hold back in his criticism of the United States' performance in the men's 4x100 metres relay at Tokyo 2020.

Team USA have not won the event in 21 years and though they entered Thursday's heat as one of the favourites, they failed to qualify for the final.

It is the first time Team USA have failed to reach the Olympic final since 2008, though they have hardly had much fortune in the event since their success in Sydney.

Indeed, they have only once made it to the finish line cleanly, without any mistakes, when they claimed silver at London 2012. That medal, however, was conceded in the wake of Tyson Gay's doping ban.

This time around, a team including three of the fastest men in the world over 100m in 2021, fared little better.

Trayvon Bromell, Fred Kerley, Ronnie Baker and Cravon Gillespie finished sixth in the heat with a time of 38.10 seconds.

"We just didn't get the job done today," Kerley said. "That's all."

Sprinting great Lewis, who won two golds in the 4x100m relay, hit out at what he labelled a "clown show".

"The USA team did everything wrong in the men’s relay," Lewis wrote on Twitter. "The passing system is wrong, athletes running the wrong legs, and it was clear that there was no leadership. It was a total embarrassment, and completely unacceptable for a USA team to look worse than the AAU kids I saw."

He then expanded on his criticism in an interview with USA Today.

"This was a football coach taking a team to the Super Bowl and losing 99-0 because they were completely ill-prepared," Lewis said.

"It's unacceptable. It's so disheartening to see this because it’s people's lives. We're just playing games with people's lives. That's why I’m so upset. It's totally avoidable.

"America is sitting there rooting for the United States and then they have this clown show. I can't take it anymore. It's just unacceptable. It is not hard to do the relay."

HISTORY MADE BY SPAIN

Sport climbing and karate were two of the sports introduced for the Tokyo Games, and the first medals in each were won by Spanish athletes.

At the age of 39 years and 323 days, Sandra Sanchez became Spain's oldest Olympic champion as she triumphed in the women's kata, breaking the record set by Joan Llaneras in the velodrome in 2008.

Sanchez also became the first Spanish woman to clinch gold in martial arts since judoka Isabel Fernandez did so in 2000.

Her triumph was followed up by golds for France's Steven da Costa and Bulgaria's Ivet Goranova in the men's and women's kumite respectively.

At the opposite end of the spectrum to Sanchez, 18-year-old Alberto Gines Lopez became the youngest male Spanish athlete to strike gold at the Games as he pipped Nathaniel Coleman and Jakob Schubert in the sport climbing men's combined final.

"I think it will help the sport to grow, and for it to get more support. We need good installations in order to help the sport, and I think this will bring more support to the sport," the teenager said, before revealing his plans of celebration: "I'm going to break my diet. And then call my family and friends."

FOURNIER PREPPED FOR 'THE MOST COMPLICATED MATCH'

Team USA and France will meet in the final of the men's basketball competition, as the two favourites go head-to-head for gold.

Luka Doncic's shooting was off as Slovenia fell to an agonising 90-89 defeat to France, who beat the USA in the pool stage.

The European Champions, who also defeated the USA in the 2019 FIBA World Cup, now face a rematch against a side that has scored over 90 points in the last four games.

Evan Fournier, whose 23 points was second behind only team-mate Nando de Colo, knows what is in store.

"It represents a real step towards a dream, and the dream is to win the Olympics against the United States," said Fournier, who has just swapped the Boston Celtics for the New York Knicks.

"We have to rest and not let our minds wander, and prepare as much as possible, because there's a team waiting for us. They've prepared for us for two years, apparently, and because we beat them in the pool it will be worse, so it will be the most complicated match of the competition for us without any doubt."

SHOOT-OUT GLORY FOR BELGIUM

Beaten finalists in 2016, Belgium claimed their first hockey gold, and only their second in an Olympic team sport, after their men beat Australia 3-2 in a shoot-out.

Goalkeeper Vincent Vanasch was the hero in dramatic circumstances.

He made two saves before then denying Jacob Whetton, only for Belgium's celebrations to be cut short by a referral. However, Vanasch stood firm for a second time.

The shoot-out drama followed a 1-1 draw, with Tom Wickham having cancelled out Florent van Aubel's opener.

"What a feeling. You become Olympic champion, but twice [because of the referral] It's unusual," Vanasch said. "We had to calm down and go again. We knew that.

"I'm like a musician, it's a rehearsal and then you come to the concert and it comes naturally. That's how I come on the pitch. I'm composed, but also I trust myself, I trust my reflexes."

Australia have now won seven men's hockey medals across the last eight Games, while Belgium won their first gold in a team event since the 1920 Antwerp Olympics, when their men's football team triumphed.

Kevin Durant admitted Team USA were caught with "a nice haymaker" from Australia before clambering to their feet and reaching another Olympic final.

The Americans scored a 97-78 victory at the Saitama Super Arena, putting a fourth successive gold medal at the Games within reach.

But at one stage in the second quarter Durant and co trailed 41-26, with the Australian Boomers making a fast and purposeful start to the semi-final that they could not maintain.

It was at the point the USA side fell 15 points behind that they took a timeout, and from that stage onwards they dominated, Durant leading the team with 23 points and nine rebounds.

Australia shot just 25 of 61 – 41 per cent – from the field, whereas USA managed 38 of 74 and dominated the boards 44-29 in what became a convincing victory.

"We've been down 15 in games before and came back," Durant said. "It doesn't matter what level it was at, or where it's at. A lot of guys have been in that position before. We know how to handle ourselves.

"We kept our composure and we knew that we could get back into the game pretty fast, if we got stops and got out and ran. So we've got to give credit to Australia because they came out and hit us with a nice haymaker, but we were able to get back up and get that lead back."

 

It came as no surprise to Durant that Australia began as they did.

"We knew Australia would come out fast and hit us with a nice punch. We know that teams want to get us down early, see how we respond," said the Brooklyn Nets star.

"A lot of these guys got continuity for years and years, so they know how to play with each other. I feel like a lot of teams are expecting us to fold early.

"We stuck with it, stuck with our principles, made a couple of switches on defence, and we were able to get some momentum going into the half. Guys came out with that intensity, making shots as well."

The 32-year-old Durant is chasing a third gold medal of his Olympic career, having played on the London 2012 and Rio 2016 teams.

For Jrue Holiday, who is coming off an NBA championship-winning season with the Milwaukee Bucks, this is a first Olympic experience.

Like Durant, he saw no need for panic after Australia began Thursday's semi-final so strongly.

By half-time, Australia's lead had been cut to just 45-42, and a 32-10 third quarter for the USA showed their firepower.

"I think we played the game long enough to know that there's always a chance," Holiday said. "So we took that six minutes in the second quarter and kind of ramped it up, and went into half-time in the position that we liked."

Australia have finished fourth in Olympic men's basketball four times, never going further and claiming a medal.

They will have a bronze-medal game to come in Tokyo and must pick themselves up to go again.

Jock Landale scored 11 points against the USA, and the Melbourne United star accepted it was tough for Australia to keep up their early high level.

"It's hard. It's really hard. They're great basketball players, they're smart basketball players," Landale said.

"They figure out what you're doing and they just find ways to exploit it. I think we started turning the ball over in that third quarter and they were just living in transition, and that's tough to beat. They're the most athletic guys in the world, so I think that's probably where we lost them."

Team USA shook off a slow start to overwhelm Australia 97-78 and reach the gold medal game as Gregg Popovich saw the best and worst of his team in Thursday's semi-final.

A fourth successive men's basketball title for the US is now within sight, but coach Popovich will know another shaky opening might be asking for trouble.

Here, as in the quarter-final against Spain, the American team went through the gears and eventually piled on the points.

They had trailed 41-26 with 5:23 to go in the second quarter, which was when Popovich called a timeout, having seen enough of his team being pulled this way and that by Patty Mills and the lively Boomers.

Dante Exum's dunk from Jock Landale's delicious assist gave Australia that 15-point cushion, but that was as good as it got for them.

From that point on, the game flipped, the US team going on a 48-14 run through to the end of the third quarter as they built a 74-55 lead, with Australia unable to get close enough to worry their opponents.

Kevin Durant led the USA with 23 points and nine rebounds, albeit making just one of seven three-point shots, while Devin Booker backed him up with a 20-point game.

The clash of France and Slovenia in the second semi-final later on Thursday would dictate whom Popovich must prepare his side to face next.

As well as four in a row, the USA are targeting a seventh men's basketball gold medal in the last eight Olympic Games, going back to the 1992 'Dream Team' triumph in Barcelona.

Japan squeezed through to the women's basketball semi-finals following a dramatic 86-85 victory over Belgium at the Tokyo Olympics.

Targeting a first medal in the event, the host nation almost suffered last-gasp heartbreak after recovering from 70-61 behind in the final quarter.

Saki Hayashi’s three-pointer put them in front by one with 16 seconds remaining, but there was still time for Belgium’s Kim Mestdagh to take aim right at the death.

However, her last-second jump shot bounced off the rim, meaning Japan go through to a last-four clash with France.

"There were so many peaks and valleys. We were hanging on to the cliff by a fingernail in the fourth quarter," coach Tom Hovasse said.

"We just came up with plays and towards the middle of the fourth quarter, we ramped up our defence and that took them out of their comfort zone.

"We believe in ourselves, and I am hoping more people outside our locker room believe in us.

"I think it is safe to say it is the biggest win in Japan basketball history."

 

FRANCE FEND OFF SPAIN FIGHTBACK

Japan's next opponents are France, who beat Spain 67-64 after another epic encounter.

Despite dominating most of the contest – Marine Johannes leading the way with 18 points – France appeared in danger of throwing it all away as they fell 61-60 behind.

However, they recovered to snatch victory and secure a third consecutive appearance in the last four.

Astou Ndour had 16 points in a losing cause for Spain, runners up from the Rio Games who will not be taking home a medal this time around.

 

SERBIA STUN CHINA

Serbia were another team to produce an inspired turnaround as they defeated China 77-70.

Bronze medallists on their debut in Rio, the European champions recovered from 58-50 down to reach their second successive semi-final at the Games.

"How many times have we done this, 20, 30 times?" said shooting guard Ana Dabovic, who claimed six assists during the game to go alongside her 13 points.

"We never quit, and we play the hardest when we are down. We showed today we can find energy.

"This is a great success for a small country. Second time at the Olympics for Serbia; second time in the semi-finals. This is great."

Jelena Brooks top-scored with 18 points for Serbia, while Sonja Vasic had 16.


SEVEN IN A ROW STILL ON

The United States remain on course for a seventh straight Olympic gold after easing to a 79-55 win over three-time silver medallists Australia.

Breanna Stewart led the way with 20 first-half points – she would finish the contest with 23 overall - as USA ran out 79-55 winners.

"I thought we came out and played inspired basketball on both sides of the ball," said coach Dawn Staley.

"We played with an incredible desire to advance and it was just contagious.

"I thought our team was focused on keeping the heat on Australia and not let them back in the game."

Team USA have not failed to win the women’s tournament at an Olympics since Barcelona in 1992.

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