Monday, June 30, 2008

West Indies v Australia, 3rd ODI, Grenada

Australia 227 for 3 (Watson 126, Ponting 69) beat

West Indies 223 (Gayle 53, Bracken 3-26) by seven wickets

Shane Watson made his first ODI century and Ricky Ponting bounced back to form as Australia completed yet another one-sided victory over West Indies to take an unbeatable 3-0 lead in the five-match series. Chasing 224 on a decent batting pitch, Australia ruthlessly took advantage of a lacklustre bowling effort from West Indies to cruise to one of their easiest wins in recent memory, reaching the target with seven wickets in hand and 57 balls to spare.

Watson is competing with Shaun Marsh to become the permanent limited-overs opening partner for Matthew Hayden and his 126 will do his cause significant good. He fell late in the chase, paddle-sweeping to short fine-leg, but Andrew Symonds and Michael Clarke had no trouble getting Australia over the line. As well as Watson played, he will rarely enjoy an innings at international level where he is under less pressure.

West Indies' total was never likely to be enough but when Fidel Edwards removed Marsh in the first over there should have been some spark. Instead there was nothing. Just as their woeful batting display on Friday led to a couple of omissions for this match, their ordinary effort with the ball on this occasion must raise questions over the attack, while their fielding was also distinctly sub-par.

Watson's innings ticked over at around a run a ball but he hardly needed to take any risks, instead pouncing on short and wide offerings and clipping confidently through leg when the fast men strayed onto his pads. He cut an out-of-sorts Sulieman Benn for thee fours in one over when the spinner repeatedly pitched too short and wide and the third of the boundaries gave Watson his half-century from 48 deliveries.

However, his innings should not be regarded lightly and there were moments of pure Watson perfection, as when he clubbed Dwayne Bravo back over his head for a huge six, and a couple of straight drives highlighted a sound batting technique. His century came up from 106 balls with a pulled four when Chris Gayle dropped short and a double-arm-raised cheer showed how important the milestone was after 68 matches and six on-and-off years in the team.

Ponting was equally happy to make the most of the insipid bowling display. Early in his innings he dispatched four boundaries in three overs when Daren Powell and Edwards constantly overpitched - the ultimate gift for a man who started the series with a pair of failures - and he rarely looked threatened until slog-sweeping a catch to Xavier Marshall at long-on when he had 69.

That ended the innings of "R Pointin", according to the National Cricket Stadium's scoreboard, which for most of the day didn't even work and left the fans with no idea of the progress as there was no manual scoreboard as a backup. It hardly improved Grenada's reputation after Friday's unacceptable and repeated sightscreen glitches, but really the off-field embarrassments were trivial compared to West Indies' regular malfunctions on the park over the past three days.

The batting looked like it might finally gel when Gayle and Marshall put on an 86-run opening stand after being sent in by Ponting but another string of unfulfilled starts left the fans disappointed. Even allowing for the frailty of the West Indies middle order, it was impossible to believe they would fail to bat out their overs after the openers lasted until the 18th over.

But it all fell apart for them again and Australia were all smiles as Brett Lee became the fastest man to reach 300 ODI wickets with a skied caught-and-bowled that removed Darren Sammy, and then soccered the ball onto the stumps in a comedic run-out as Powell dropped the ball at his feet, started, stopped, started again, slipped, and was caught short trying to crawl back to his crease. That dismissal told the story of West Indies' day.

It could have been so different but Marshall, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan were all caught after making solid starts and reaching the 30s. Sarwan and Chanderpaul guided them to 160 for 2 before Chanderpaul edged behind off Symonds and was snared by some sharp work from Luke Ronchi, who knocked the ball up on his first attempt and pouched it second grab. Four overs later, when Sarwan had 31, he impatiently drove Mitchell Johnson straight to Symonds at cover after being tied down for four consecutive dot balls.

Wickets just kept falling. Andre Fletcher had 12 when he came out of his crease to Nathan Bracken, apparently forgetting that Ronchi was keeping up close, and was brilliantly stumped when he missed an attempted pull. It was the third outstanding piece of glovework from Ronchi, playing only his second ODI. He also sent Marshall back for 35 when he hurled himself to his right, toward where a first slip might have been, to grasp a thick edge.

Marshall had taken a backseat to Gayle, who looked so ominous that shots he appeared to mistime even flew to the boundary. He hammered three sixes on his way to 53 from 54 balls and recorded his 100th six in one-day internationals when he picked up an outswinger on a driveable length off Bracken and slammed it back over the bowler's head. But the only bright point of West Indies' day was extinguished when Marshall's straight drive clipped the bowler Johnson's fingers and rebounded onto the stumps to have Gayle unluckily run out.

It was all a downhill slide from there. After a Test series that, while won 2-0 by Australia, was fiercely competitive, the one-day portion of the tour has been awfully one-sided. And there are still two games to go.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

England v New Zealand, 5th ODI, Lord's

New Zealand 266 for 5 (Styris 87*, Oram 52) beat

England 215 (Shah 69, Vettori 3-32, Southee 3-49) by 51 runs

Scott Styris and Daniel Vettori, New Zealand's two most experienced ODI players, guided their team to a 51-run victory that ensured their often disappointing and sometimes heated tour ended on a high. Styris set up the success with an unbeaten 87 before Vettori wrecked the England middle order, giving Kevin Pietersen a torrid first match as captain and confirming a 3-1 triumph for the visitors.

It was an outstanding result for New Zealand in a series where they managed to stay on top despite being dealt two cruel blows. At Edgbaston they were denied what seemed a likely win when rain ended their chase one over short of the 20 required to constitute a game, and at the Oval they won on the last ball in a match where ill feeling spilled over due to a controversial mid-pitch collision and subsequent run-out.

But New Zealand like being the underdogs. They are the masters of talking themselves down, which at times seems unjustified but also serves to heighten the joy whenever they triumph in a series. They are also more consistent in the one-day arena than in the Test format and it was two of their premier limited-overs players who set the platform for the final win with a 77-run partnership.

The efforts of Styris and Jacob Oram, who had enough experience to slow the tempo having lost top-order wickets, before launching a late attack, must have made Pietersen question his decision to send New Zealand in on a good batting pitch. Not that scoring should have been that difficult for England either, they just failed to copy Styris and capitalise on their starts.

Three of their top four fell after promising much. Alastair Cook and Ian Bell made an encouraging 53-run opening stand that might have had Vettori a shade nervous. Bell drove Kyle Mills through the on-side for a pair of boundaries in the first over but it was just another tease for frustrated England supporters and he was lbw for 27 when he walked across his stumps to Mark Gillespie.

Cook displayed similar promise in reaching 24 before edging behind off the second ball from Tim Southee, who had a cracking series and finished with 13 wickets at 18.23 after adding a watchful Pietersen, who cut in the air to point for 6. When Vettori deceived a confident Ravi Bopara (30) with an arm ball and added Luke Wright and Tim Ambrose cheaply, the result was certain.

Only Owais Shah managed a hint of what Styris had achieved, finishing with 69 to become the only man besides Styris to pass fifty twice in the series. The big difference was that Styris, who played a perfectly-paced innings, had impressive support from Daniel Flynn, Grant Elliott, and Oram. England's bowlers had chipped away at the top order, which meant Styris had to settle and ensure they batted out their overs. After they built a solid platform of 170 for 4 from 40 overs, New Zealand added 96 in the final ten as Pietersen failed to work out how to plug the leaks.

At the 40-over mark New Zealand had managed only eight fours and a six; by the end they had more than doubled the boundary count. Oram cut loose with a pair of sixes that cleared long on, giving him a 37-ball fifty and leaving Shah with a double-figure economy rate, and even though he departed to a catch at long off, the crowd was given further fireworks when Styris suddenly lifted his tempo.

When Styris reached his half-century from 75 deliveries - with a miscued six - he had managed only two fours. His next 34 came from 16 balls as he powerfully launched Ryan Sidebottom and James Anderson into the crowd to leave England ruing the life they gave him on 13. Styris flashed hard at a Graeme Swann delivery outside off stump and the ball flew over the head of the backward point, Bopara, who hurled himself in the air only to see the ball bounce off his outstretched hand.

It was a tough chance by any measure, but it was just one of a handful of fielding lapses from Pietersen's men. Flynn was put down at cover by Bell on 21 and when Jamie How had 4 his top-edged pull was grassed by Ambrose, who should have snared the highly gettable opportunity running back with the flight. Styris made England pay, while the other let-offs gradually added up.

Even so, the surface was true enough that with a more disciplined batting display England could still have chased successfully and gone out with a 2-2 draw. But ultimately it was New Zealand who donned the black caps to deal a fatal blow to England's series.

Bangladesh v India, Super Four, Asia Cup, Karachi

India 284 for 3 (Raina 116*, Gambhir 90) beat

Bangladesh 283 for 6 (Kapali 115, Tamim 55) by seven wickets

Alok Kapali's dazzling 115 gave Bangladesh a fighting chance, but their inability to hold on to catches meant that India breezed past another stiff target at the National Stadium in Karachi. Two days after making mincemeat of 300 against Pakistan, they overhauled Bangladesh's 283 with 40 balls to spare. Suresh Raina, with a century against Hong Kong and 84 against Pakistan earlier in the tournament, stroked a magnificent unbeaten 116, adding 139 for the third wicket with Gautam Gambhir to set up the game for India. Gambhir's 90 spanned just 84 balls, and there was enough time for Yuvraj Singh to thrash a couple of mighty sixes before the curtain came down.

Shahadat Hossain, all lively pace and whole-hearted grunting, had hinted at an upset with two wickets in the first Powerplay, but the partnership between Raina and Gambhir upset Mohammad Ashraful's best-laid plans. Butter fingers didn't help.

Gambhir had made 56 when his attempt to muscle Mashrafe Mortaza over the infield was sliced up in the air towards point. Farhad Reza made a mess of the catch. Soon after, still in the final Powerplay, Raina experienced his own adrenaline-rush moment, top-edging a pull. But again, Mortaza's celebrations were aborted as Mahmudullah spilt the chance at fine leg. Raina had made just 16.

Bangladesh had started well enough, with Robin Uthappa inside-edging a full delivery onto his stumps. That brought in Rohit Sharma, another batsman whose fortunes have waned in recent times. With Bangladesh especially generous with overthrows, India didn't need to take undue risks, and Rohit soon got going with an imperious pull and a cover drive for fours.

With Gambhir cutting and pulling anything that was slightly off target, the 50 came quickly enough, but soon after Rohit flicked Shahadat straight to midwicket. Raina was content to rotate the strike early on, and Gambhir quickly got to his half-century with a four and six off Mahmudullah. Then came the bloopers, and that was effectively that.

Slipshod fielding had played its part in Bangladesh's surge to 283 as well. Kapali had made just 25 when Manpreet Gony misjudged a catch at long-on off the bowling of Yusuf Pathan. Gambhir gave him another reprieve late on, but by then he had roared into three figures.

The innings exploded into life in the final eight overs, when 90 runs were amassed as Kapali cut loose with a ferocity that brooked no answer from the Indians. Mahmudullah turned over the strike at the other end, contributing only 24 to the 112-run partnership as Kapali struck the ball with power and precision.

Pragyan Ojha had bowled a tidy spell and taken two wickets on debut, Yusuf had given little away, and Ishant Sharma had kept things quiet when called upon. But when Yusuf came on to bowl his final over, Kapali, then on 47 from 64 balls, exploded into life. Two big slog-sweeps for six set the tone, and when RP Singh returned, both batsmen scythed him over backward point for fours.

Gony, whose second international outing was a great deal more taxing than the first against Hong Kong, then went for 4,6 and 6 as Kapali started to swing with genuine confidence. Mahendra Singh Dhoni once again turned to Ishant to apply a tourniquet, but to no avail. Kapali clipped a slow yorker beautifully through midwicket and then carved one past point as 61 came in just five overs. Of that, 50 had come off Kapali's bat.

Bangladesh had started sedately, but when Nazimuddin cut RP straight to third man, Mohammad Ashraful arrived to up the ante. With Gony straying on to the pads once too often, the runs came quickly. With Tamim Iqbal driving the ball fluently and Ashraful utilising both power and touch, the run rate soared to six.

Unfortunately for Bangladesh, Ashraful's profligate streak came to the fore just when his team were on top. Gony had been brought back for a second spell, and a half-hearted drive on the up went to Ojha at mid-off. A first international wicket for Gony, and a first catch for Ojha.

Raqibul Hasan and Tamim continued to pick up runs at a fair clip, and Dhoni threw Ojha the ball in the 17th over. He started tidily enough, giving little away, and was unlucky as a thick outside edge that took Tamim past 50 just evaded the man at slip.

Yet again though, a moment's carelessness cost Bangladesh dearly. Having creamed Ishant through the covers for four, Tamim then tried to deflect one fine off the pads. Too fine as it turned out, with Dhoni making good ground to his right to take a splendid catch. The second and third Powerplays had fetched just 42, and Bangladesh had to do it all over again.

Raqibul expressed the desire to push on with a big heave over long-off against Ojha, but was flummoxed soon after, as Ojha came up with a beautiful delivery that turned past the defensive prod to take off stump. Mushfiqur Rahim and Kapali consolidated with a 49-run partnership, but India's bowlers, with Ojha varying his flight cleverly, were slowly establishing a stranglehold.

Ojha's second wicket came courtesy a little extra bounce, with Mushfiqur's attempt at a cut finding only Dhoni's gloves, but the scent of a quick kill turned into a bloody nose as Kapali blazed away like a Catherine Wheel. Had Bangladesh taken their catches, there might have been even more fireworks to illuminate the Dhaka night. Raina and Gambhir certainly weren't anything like as generous.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

West Indies v Australia, 2nd ODI, Grenada

Australia 213 for 5 (Hussey 62, Clarke 56) beat

West Indies 140 for 8 (Chanderpaul 45*, Clarke 3-26) by 63 runs (by D/L method)

Michael Hussey and Michael Clarke showed West Indies how to apply themselves on a difficult pitch but their hosts ignored the lesson and threw away wickets when the going got tough, handing Australia a comprehensive 63-run Duckworth/Lewis win. When the rain came after 26 overs West Indies' hopes were already dashed and at the resumption they needed a ridiculous 146 more off 14 overs, ensuring Australia took a 2-0 series lead.

The victory came because of two men. On a surface that was sluggish and offered tricky seam movement, Hussey and Clarke compiled a restrained and at times soporific century partnership that allowed Australia to reach 213 for 5 after they had wobbled to 35 for 3. West Indies fell to an almost identical 41 for 3 in the chase but whereas Hussey and Clarke went into Test mode and focused on batting out the overs, West Indies' middle order showed as much patience as a hand grenade.

Australia's attack adopted a stump-to-stump style that suited the conditions and while Shivnarine Chanderpaul displayed his customary resolve, his partners exhibited no such commonsense. Dwayne Bravo had 3 from 21 deliveries when he was frustrated into lofting Shane Watson's slower ball to Hussey at deep midwicket and West Indies were 49 for 4.

Patrick Browne was equally unable to find the gaps and with 1 from 18 balls he edged Clarke to first slip, where Cameron White took a superb diving chance on the second grab. If the situation was not dire enough, Kieron Pollard came in and from his second ball played the worst shot of the lot. In a situation that required a slow and steady consolidation, Pollard went over the top and lobbed Clarke straight down the throat of Watson at long off, much to the frustration of his older, wiser partner.

At the time Chanderpaul had worked hard for 13 from 42 deliveries and when rain halted play one over later, it at least delayed the embarrassment for West Indies. Their revised target, 204 runs from 41 overs, was unattainable and Chanderpaul finished unbeaten on 45 while Clarke ended up with 3 for 26. If little went right for West Indies in the first ODI in St Vincent, there were even fewer positives in Grenada.

Their chase got away to the worst possible start when Brett Lee found Xavier Marshall's edge from the first delivery of the innings. The ball flew low and to the right of Luke Ronchi, who made a good take to give him the perfect introduction behind the stumps in his first ODI. Lee was once again in fine form, seaming the ball effectively and often beating the bat of both Andre Fletcher and Chris Gayle.

A watchful Gayle did not get off the mark until his 13th ball and although a calm and composed innings was required, the captain set a poor example for his troops by miscuing an attempted pull off Mitchell Johnson to Ricky Ponting at mid off. It was a disappointing shot selection, though not as bad as that of Fletcher, who tried to pull a James Hopes delivery that was far too full, and lost his off stump.

The difference between their approach and that of Australia could not have been more stark. Clarke and Hussey knew that after a shaky start - Jerome Taylor and Daren Powell jagged the ball around early and picked up three handy wickets - runs were not their immediate concern. Accordingly, they added only eight runs in the first ten overs of their partnership. Until Clarke drove Darren Sammy back down the ground in the 26th over, there had been no boundaries for 104 deliveries. But Clarke and Hussey are both smart runners between the wickets and they were largely responsible for the fact that 94 of Australia's 213 runs came in singles.

Plenty of comfortable ones and twos were on offer when the spinners operated and if runs weren't exactly leaking there was at least a nagging drip that Gayle needed to deal with. He was not helped by his fielders, who seemed to switch off after the early enthusiasm. Browne was sloppy behind the stumps and Bravo made a meal of what should have been a catch at first slip when Clarke was on 30 and facing Sulieman Benn. Bravo inexplicably moved right, trying to anticipate the cut shot rather than watching the ball, and he failed to get a hand on one that would have gone straight to him had he stayed still.

It was a costly mistake as Clarke went on to sweep and cut a few boundaries in his half-century, which came off 87 deliveries. He eventually fell for 56, struck in line by a straighter Benn ball that he was trying to work through midwicket as Australia gradually tried to lift their rate. Hussey picked up the pace with a six swept over midwicket off Benn and, appropriately given the hard grind for most of his innings, brought up his half-century with a thick edge that flew away for four to third man.

When Hussey holed out to long on for 62 from 105 deliveries his job was done. He had set a solid platform so the lower order could attack and White finished unbeaten on 40 from 39 balls while Hopes added a run-a-ball 17. The allrounders, who might have been under undue pressure had they come in earlier, had an easy task after the Clarke and Hussey partnership, which was worth 100 off 29 overs.

It also gave Ponting, in his 300th ODI, some justification after choosing to bat on a pitch with some moisture. His run of big milestone innings ended when he chipped a catch to short midwicket for 13, out to Taylor for the fifth time in his past six international innings. Australia had already lost Shaun Marsh and Watson, who waited 15 minutes for the first over due to yet another tedious sightscreen fault that did little for West Indies' image after a similar ridiculously long wait in Barbados. In the end it was a batting malfunction that really damaged West Indies' reputation.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Sri Lanka v UAE, Group A, Asia Cup, Lahore

Sri Lanka 290 for 9 (Udawatte 67, Jayawardene 61, Shah 3-49) beat

UAE 148 (Amjad 77, Mendis 5-22) by 142 runs

Sri Lanka scored another big victory to make it two wins in two days and progress to the second round with two points, by virtue of their win over fellow qualifiers Bangladesh. UAE, who are now out of the tournament, looked like they would make a match of it as opener Amjad Ali made a spectacular half-century, but they hurtled to defeat after his departure.

Shrugging away any exhaustion after having kept wickets earlier, Amjad made his aggressive intentions clear from the first over. He took three consecutive fours in the opening over by Nuwan Kulasekera. A wristy flick over square leg, a fine glance past fine leg and then a punch between mid-on and midwicket proved Amjad was not going to wait for the bowler to err.

Perhaps the shot of the day came in the next over when a mere forward punch from Amjad, powered by a Brian Lara-esque high backlift, sent the ball racing past mid-off. Even the loss of his opening partner Arshad Ali, who was beaten by a brilliant pick and throw by Chamara Kapugedera early on, did not hinder Amjad's approach.

His cavalier approach had UAE at standing firm at 83 for 1 after 15 overs and even forced Mahela Jayawardene to delay taking the third Powerplay. Although their hopes of reaching the target in 39.1 overs - in order to pip Bangladesh to the second round - looked unlikely, they were still in with a chance to pull off an upset. However, those hopes faded when Amjad fell trying to clear the long-on boundary off Tillakaratne Dilshan in the 24th over.

There was hardly any resistance from the others and with the tail unable to deal with Ajantha Mendis' mystery spin, UAE slumped to a 142-run loss. Mendis finished with career-best figures of 5-22 as UAE lost their last six wickets for 15 runs.

Despite the huge margin of defeat, it wasn't the easy game Mahela Jayawardene would have expected. Having elected to bat first Sri Lanka received an immediate jolt when yesterday's centurion, Kumar Sangakkara, was trapped plumb low on his back leg by the accurate Zahid Shah. Bowling a tight line and hitting the seam hard, Shah kept the batsmen guessing and was easily the best fast bowler on the day.

After that initial setback, Sri Lanka picked themselves up and sped to 76 for 1 by the end of the first Powerplay. Shah didn't get any support from Fahal Alhashmi, his new-ball partner, who was, at best, erratic. After bowling two wides in his first over, Alhashmi delivered four more in his next, conceding 15 runs off that over, including an exquisite straight boundary by Mahela Udawatte, who went on to make a patient 67.

There was a brief lull before Shah was clubbed by Jayawardene for four consecutive boundaries. But it was important to keep the tempo going in the muggy heat and Jayawardene, who had reached his half-century, looked tired after the drinks break and was run out off a direct hit when going for a tight single.

At one stage, Sri Lanka seemed likely to cross 300 for the second successive day, but a mixture of exhaustion, poor shot selection and impatience helped UAE, who had only played 10 ODIs coming into the game, restrict them.

The two Chamaras, Kapugedera and Silva, didn't show any patience and, attempting to force the issue, threw their wickets in quick succession. Though Sri Lanka raced to 147 in 20 overs, they had lost four top-order batsmen and were left with their last recognised pair of Udawatte and Tillakaratne Dilshan at the crease. The run-rate started to dip as just seven boundaries were scored after the 15th over. And there was not one six in the entire innings.

The onus fell now on the tiring Udawatte and Dilshan. But UAE sensed they had an opportunity as runs dried up in the middle overs. Alhasmi came back in style to first get rid of Udawatte, who mistimed while trying to clear the rope and holed out to midwicket. Dilshan then chased a wide off-side delivery and managed a thick edge to the keeper.

With just the tail to deal with and Sri Lanka stuttering at 189 for 6 after 30 overs, UAE failed to curb Kaushalya Weeraratne and Nuwan Kulasekara, who stopped the slide and constructed a valuable 53-run eighth-wicket partnership.

UAE managed to put on a much better show than the other Associate nation in the tournament, Hong Kong, but the big boys proved too strong for them.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Pietersen replaces banned Collingwood as captain

Kevin Pietersen has been named England's captain for the final match of their one-day series after Paul Collingwood was banned for four ODIs. Collingwood was found guilty of Level 3 ICC Code of Conduct breach following his side's failure to bowl their overs in the required time during their dramatic one-wicket defeat against New Zealand at The Oval on Wednesday.

In addition to missing the final one-dayer against New Zealand at Lord's on Saturday, Collingwood will also play no part in England's ODI against Scotland, their Twenty20 international against South Africa on August 20, nor the first of seven ODIs a week later.

"I'm humbled to have been handed the England one-day captaincy in Paul Collingwood's absence for the final game at Lord's,"

Pietersen said.

"Captaining England has been a dream of mine but I also understand that I'm assuming the role in Paul's absence as he is the captain and leader of the one-day side. To be asked to captain your country is the ultimate honour in sport and I feel privileged and proud to have been asked to lead the side on Saturday.

"I'm very much looking forward to leading the team against New Zealand and am excited by the challenge of captaining such a young and talented side. We can't win this series but I, like the rest of the dressing room, expect an outstanding England performance to finish the series on a high."

It remains to be seen whether Pietersen will continue the captaincy for the other three ODIs that Collingwood is missing, although there is no other obvious candidate - he is the second-most experienced of the options after James Anderson. Who replaces him at No.5 for the South Africa matches is harder to guess, but a shift in the batting order could be made to accommodate Alastair Cook - England's leading run-scorer in their last two one-day series - who has now fully recovered from his shoulder injury. Luke Wright and Ian Bell's opening partnership has promised much, but if Cook does return, it seems probable he will open the batting. Wright could then bolster the middle-order.

"Obviously I'm disappointed to be missing England's next four limited overs matches but as a team we are aware of the rules and regulations in place and it's my responsibility to bear the penalties for such a breach,"

Collingwood said.

"Clearly we'll look to address the problem so it doesn't happen again.

"The England captaincy means the world to me and already I'm looking forward to leading the one-day team against South Africa in August. I wish my team-mates all the best for Saturday's final ODI as we aim to finish the series with a win."

Collingwood's four-match ban comes hot on the heels of yesterday's controversial match at The Oval. With Grant Elliott being run out after colliding with Ryan Sidebottom, Collingwood was offered the chance to withdraw his appeal. He turned it down, however, a decision he later apologised for.

A deficit of more than two overs in an ODI brings with it an automatic Level 2 charge against the captain involved, but if that captain has already been charged and found guilty of the offence within the preceding 12 months then the charge is elevated to Level 3.

England also felt short of the required over-rate against India in Bristol on August 24 last year. On that occasion the team was, as at The Oval on Wednesday, three overs down and Collingwood was fined 50% of his match fee. The regulations also state that players shall be docked 5% of their match fees for every over short of the required mark, with the captain fined double.

Bangladesh v Sri Lanka, Group A, Asia Cup, Lahore

Sri Lanka 357 for 9 (Sangakkara 101, Kapugedera 74, Jayasuriya 72) beat

Bangladesh 226 for 7 (Mushfiqur 44, Mortaza 34*) by 131 runs

Mohammad Ashraful was left to rue his decision at the toss - on the sort of pitch where they had piled 300-plus the previous day, Bangladesh decided to field first and paid a heavy price as Sri Lanka, fired by some superb top-order batting by Kumar Sangakkara and Sanath Jayasuriya, piled a massive target before inflicting a heavy defeat.

Chasing an insurmountable target, Bangladesh never seemed like waging a battle although a fourth-wicket stand of 78 between Mushfiqur Rahim and Raqibul Hasan played a major hand in delaying the inevitable. For a while the duo played with patience, character even tackled smartly the spin of Ajantha Mendis and Muttiah Muralitharan. But eventually, Muralitharan got the better of their grit, effectively ending the Bangladesh fight.

Earlier the responsibility, once again, fell on Ashraful to play the multiple role of anchor, hustler and finisher. Yesterday, Ashraful had scored a composed century. Today, after his top edge was spilled by Jayasuriya, Ashraful went for a brash pull against a short ball from Dilhara Fernando. The umpire Simon Taufel thought the ball had brushed his gloves but the batsman started his walk with disbelief.

If Bangladesh meandered towards defeat, Sri Lanka always seemed formidable with the bat. Such was the dominance of the Sri Lankans that rarely did their run rate drop below seven. Much of the credit went to the opening pair of Jayasuriya and Sangakkara, who quickly got into the groove once they had gauged that they had nothing to fear from the bowling or the pitch. What unfolded over the next hour was a spectacular batting display that resulted in a 116-run opening partnership, which was the perfect platform for the other batsmen to build on.

It didn't matter that this was the first time in two years the pair went out to open. After the World Cup, this was the seventh pair Sri Lanka had tried out and it proved decisive as it was the first century opening partnership since the 2006-07 New Zealand tour where Jayasuriya had successfully paired with Upul Tharanga.

As Sangakkara caressed the ball to the boundary from close to his body, Jayasuriya cut hard, charged, pulled and hit at everything. Dolar Mahumud suffered the worst carnage as his second over was taken for 25 runs by Jayasuriya, which included two spectacular cuts on his toes past the point boundary.

Bangladesh's bowling was erratic to say the least. Apart from the dependable Mashrafe Mortaza and the left-arm spin of Abdur Razzak, the rest of the bowlers never stuck to the thumb rule of bowling to the fields. Time and again, Ashraful rushed to his bowlers, but as Sri Lanka's final total indicated, that didn't do much good.

Sangakkara took command after Jayasuriya departed, bowled trying to cut Razzak's spin. One of the highlights of the innings came in the 20th over, as Sangakkara clobbered five fours off Mahmud. The first ball was a wide, while the next one was smacked low by Sangakkara past mid-off. The next, a slower one, was swept to long leg for another boundary, after which he smacked one over the bowler's head for the third four. Mahmud had a chance to make amends, but made a mess of a caught-and-bowled chance the next ball. Sangakkara celebrated by sending the last two balls - both of which drifted down the leg side - for fours as well to speed towards his eighth ODI hundred and the second this year.

He accomplished that feat by pushing a single off legspinner Alok Kapali, whose first two balls were pulled for consecutive fours. He fell soon after, though - increasingly tired in the energy sapping heat, he miscued a pull to give Mahmudullah his only wicket.

But Chamara Kapugedera made sure the momentum was never lost, as he piled an intelligent 74, stitching important partnerships with Chamara Silva and Tillakaratne Dilshan. He was especially severe on Kapali, regularly stepping down the pitch to loft.

Sri Lanka now have the leisure of rotating the line-up in tomorrow's final group-stage clash against UAE, while Bangladesh will enter the second round with mixed feelings.

England v New Zealand, 4th ODI, The Oval

New Zealand 246 for 9 (Styris 69, Oram 38) beat

England 245 (Shah 63, Bopara 58, Bell 46) by one wicket

On a day that ebbed and flowed dramatically, New Zealand held their nerve to squeeze a tense one-wicket win at The Oval, to sneak a 2-1 lead going into the weekend's series decider at Lord's. Like England earlier in the day, New Zealand stumbled twice either side of a brisk middle-order partnership between two men searching for form, and despite a controversial moment sure to occupy the airwaves and columns for days to come, chased down 246 from the last ball of the game.

Scott Styris hit 69, Jacob Oram marked his first game of the series with a crucial 38, and Kyle Mills defied the odds to remain unbeaten on 25, which all added up to a hair-raising, pulsating chase of a target that had been set up by sparkling (but unfulfilled) fifties from Ravi Bopara and Owais Shah.

In easily the tightest contest of the summer, England were struggling to stay in the contest with New Zealand well placed on 173 for 4 in the 35th over, but hit back to dismiss Styris (brilliantly run out by Graeme Swann and Paul Collingwood), Oram (pulling to the deep) and Daniel Vettori (excellently held by Bopara at mid-on) in the space of 24 balls and for 16 runs - turning The Oval into a cauldron.

A fourth followed in the most controversial manner. With 26 needed from 39 balls, Kyle Mills called Grant Elliott for a sharp single. As Elliott bolted out of the blocks he collided with Sidebottom, rugby style, and fell flat to the ground. Bell threw the ball to Kevin Pietersen, who broke the stumps, but England did not withdraw their appeal despite the umpire, Mark Benson, offering Collingwood the chance to renege. A peeved Elliott hobbled off for 24.

With 12 needed from 21, Bell knocked down the stumps with Tim Southee short of his crease. Mark Gillespie then survived a tantalizingly tense maiden 47th over from Swann, and no runs had been scored for nine deliveries when Mills, who had been sizing up the midwicket boundary, swatted Collingwood off the middle for a 106-metre six, to transform the equation from 12 from 10 to six from nine.

Manic singles followed, and it came down to three from six balls. Mills pinched a single, but the next five deliveries seemed to take an eternity as Luke Wright ploughed a channel outside off and Gillespie fished and missed repeatedly. Then, on the last ball, he pushed the ball to Swann at cover and set off for the single that would have secured the tie. Swann's shy, however, missed the stumps and with England's fielders all converging on the stumps, New Zealand's sprinted through for a delirious winning over-throw. England's final blemish in the field proved decisive.

New Zealand should have been in deep trouble long before that moment, after Ryan Sidebottom had nipped out Brendon McCullum and Ross Taylor, but a spate of nerves from the home side allowed Styris to rack up some long overdue form. James Anderson should have had him on 0 but Shah at second slip spilled a regulation catch in front of his face. Sidebottom's figures of 5-0-15-2 were tarnished with a 13-run sixth over and nine in the seventh as Styris cashed in on his fortune.

Styris kept flashing and was given two more lives, on 27 and 28, first off Stuart Broad when he slashed hard and Collingwood failed to latch on at backward point, and then when Broad himself dropped a return catch. Styris' best shot, a front-foot drive through extra cover, brought him his first ODI half-century since December 2007.

Like the Styris-Oram partnership, a solid fifth-wicket stand between Bopara and Shah formed the crux of England's ultimately inadequate effort. New Zealand snapped a 41-run stand between a nervous Luke Wright (18) and Bell (46) and when Collingwood followed Pietersen's 0 with a loose shot of his own, the heat was on two men pushing for long-term spots.

Bopara - watchful and solid - and Shah - shuffling and hustling - applied themselves well for most of the 15.2 overs they shared. Shah started with a cross-batted six over midwicket off Southee, and played a more six over exta cover off Vettori, but more importantly was always looking for quick singles, and urging Bopara to look out for the second.

A player with a lot of time to execute his shots, Bopara - after flops the first two matches and a start at Bristol - looked composed during his 78-ball innings. His 58 was a career-best knock, but only a tantalising glimpse of the sublime form he's been showing for Essex in county cricket this summer. He threw it away soon after passing fifty for the second time, playing a languid, frustratingly indifferent drive to Oram at mid-on.

Shah played some stunning shots, including three powerful fours in one Gillespie over as he moved past fifty from 63 balls, but was run out needlessly going for a second run on 63, amid a lower-order collapse. England's last pair lifted the total to 245 but overall it was a disappointing effort from a team that has lost steam with each match of the series.

New Zealand backed themselves to chase when they opted to field after winning the toss, and though it wasn't easy by any means, they go to Lord's with the momentum - and a little sympathy - firmly their way.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hong Kong v India, Group B, Asia Cup, Karachi

India 374 for 4 (Dhoni 109*, Raina 101, Sehwag 78) beat

Hong Kong 118 (Chawla 4-23) by 256 runs

Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his team marked the 25th anniversary of India's World Cup triumph with an emphatic 256-run win over Hong Kong in Karachi to begin their Asia Cup campaign in style. India rested Yuvraj Singh and Ishant Sharma for this game, but they weren't missed much: Suresh Raina and Mahendra Singh Dhoni helped themselves to centuries against a hapless bowling attack after Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir had built a platform, before Piyush Chawla's flummoxed the Hong Kong batsmen.

India put up a near-clinical performance, barring a middle-overs spell when Hong Kong's left-arm spinners stifled the batsmen and gave away 47 runs in 15 overs. Had it not been for that India could conceivably have ended the day surpassing the highest total in ODIs - Sri Lanka's 443 - and the largest victory margin in runs with ease. India's 257-run win against Bermuda in the World Cup last year remains the record.

Hong Kong were all but out of the contest once India amassed 374 for 4, but they would be disappointed to be dismissed under 150 and not being able to last 50 overs for the second game in a row. The defeat also ends their challenge in the tournament.

India's innings revolved around two partnerships: the opening stand of 127 between Sehwag - who blitzed 78 off 44 balls - and Gambhir, while Raina, whose 66-ball hundred is the second-fastest by an Indian, and Dhoni amassed 166 for the fourth wicket, an Asia Cup record. Both partnerships came at more than eight an over, and one can gauge how poor Rohit Sharma had been to score 11 off 29 deliveries.

The openers raced to 100 in just 10.5 overs, the quickest India have been to the mark. Hong Kong's opening bowlers didn't pose any menace with their pace, and the batsmen feasted on easy offerings. Tabarak Dar, Hong Kong's captain, then brought on his trio of left-arm spinners, who managed to rein in India's attack. Najeem Ahmed was once again impressive after having given Pakistan a scare on Tuesday, but it was fellow left-armer Najeed Amar who did the damage with the wickets of Sehwag and Gambhir. The two, along with Munir Dar, put the brakes on the scoring as India crawled from 127 in 15 overs to 159 after 25.

Dhoni and Raina, though, managed to more than double the 178 that India had scored after 30 overs. Dhoni , batting at No. 4, was off the blocks quickly, finding the gap through the covers for two fours off Nadeem. He lunged his front foot forward against the spinners, trying to smother the turn. Largely content with the singles, he kept the rate ticking along with Raina.

Raina, using his advantage as a left-hander, managed to push the left-arm bowlers into the gaps and takes the singles. His fifty came at a run-a-ball, but he cut loose against inexperience bowlers, with his second fifty coming in just 16 balls as India smashed 129 in the final ten overs.

Both batsmen targeted to clear the straight boundary, with Dhoni launching one onto the roof. Raina pummelled four sixes - all over long-on - off the 42nd over from Skhawat Ali, which cost 25 runs. Irfan Ahmed was then smartly chipped over extra cover for four, and a slower one was carted behind square to bring up his first hundred. Raina fell for 101, but Dhoni hung around to compile his fourth ODI hundred.

Not much was expected from Hong Kong in reply, but Tabarak and James Atkinson, the 17-year-old wicketkeeper, showed some resolve against the quicker bowlers. However, hewas out stumped as he was stepped out and was beaten by a legspinner in Chawla's first over. What stood out in Chawla's performance today was his ability to surprise the batsmen with turning legbreaks - he often has been guilty of relying on the googlies for picking wickets in the past. He managed to also induce Hussain Butt and Courtney Kruger outside their crease, leaving Dhoni to complete easy stumpings. A top-edged slog-sweep fetched him his fourth, and he finished with impressive figures of 10-2-23-4.

Irfan battled before he was run out for 25, and Sehwag wrapped up the game with wickets off successive deliveries. India now face Pakistan on Thursday, and definitely a much sterner test.

Bangladesh v UAE, Group A, Asia Cup, Lahore

Bangladesh 300 for 8 (Ashraful 109, Raqibul 83) beat

UAE 204 (Khan 78, Razzaq 3-20) by 96 runs

Mohammad Ashraful adopted a cautious approach to make the second century of his career as Bangladesh cruised to a comfortable 96-run over UAE during their Asia Cup opener in Lahore. He was supported by Raqibul Hasan, who made his second-successive 80-plus knock as the duo put on 141 off 122 balls. There was more reason to celebrate for Bangladesh when left-arm Abdur Razzaq became the third bowler from the country to take 100 wickets when he ended Khurram Khan's battling 78.

The UAE seamers had a tough time settling in after Bangladesh chose to bat, conceding six wides in the first two overs. Bangladesh, though, did not make use of the freebies when the over-eager Nazimuddin flirted with a perfectly-bowled outswinger from Zahid Shah. Ashraful, off the very next ball, had a lucky escape when an inside edge missed the stumps. Ashraful had two more doses of good fortune, but the signs were ominous when he latched on to a short delivery from Amjad Javed. Meanwhile, Tamim Iqbal, who struggled to get going initially, flicked Alhashmi to the fine-leg boundary to bring up Bangladesh's fifty and move into double figures. Ashraful then played a copybook extra cover drive against the wayward Javed Amjad to bring up the fifty-run stand.

The introduction of spin slowed things down, but suprisingly, offspinner Mohammad Tauqir was not used after conceding only six runs off three overs. Against the run off play, Tamim failed to heed Ashraful's call to avoid an unnecessary third run in the 24th over. As though venting his frustration at the run out, Ashraful played a stunning inside-out shot to reach his half-century followed by another scorcher to the extra cover boundary off Silva, though it grazed the hands of the cover fieldsman.

Raqibul, who batted with verve and purpose, made his intentions clear by lofting the left-arm spinner, Khan, one-bounce to long-on. Ashraful then hit two successive boundaries against the same bowler, and ran sharp singles and twos with Raqibul as he moved from 73 to 100 without the aid of a boundary.

UAE were suddenly under the cosh when Raqibul went on attack-mode, taking three boundaries apiece against Khurram and legspinner Arshad Ali as he picked up 27 from nine balls. Raqibul, though, missed out on a golden opportunity to reach his maiden ton, when a top-edged pull sailed to the 'keeper Amjad Ali, and UAE could have gotten two in two had Amjad held on to a catch off Ashraful at long leg. Ashraful was run out soon after and he was one of four wickets which fell within fifteen balls. Dollar Mahmud ensured that they did not muddle up the finish, making 19 off 9 to take Bangladesh to their highest score away from home.

Amjad Javed gave UAE a flying start by taking ten runs off the first over bowled by Mashrafe Mortaza to the cover boundary off the first ball of the innings before striking him over long-on on the sixth. But Mortaza extracted his revenge when he induced a top-edge from Javed, which was pouched by Tamim Iqbal. Indika Batuwitarachichi lasted only two balls, trapped by Shahadat Hossain.

The two Ali's, Arshad and Amjad did not the early wickets faze them, taking the attacking route. Amjad was particularly impressive, twice driving the ball past the covers and once straight down the ground, but the shot which stood out was a flick off Mashrafe to the midwicket boundary which had a certain Caribbean flair attached to it. Arshad almost matched that stroke with a powerful pull off Shahadat. The duo had raised 32 off 28 balls, but their promising stand was stalled when left-arm spinner Abdul Razzaq, introduced in the ninth over, got Amjad to edge to first slip with his first ball.

Arshad kept up the fight, punishing a couple of short balls from Dollar Mahmud. But when spin was introduced at both ends, UAE found the runs hard to come by. Mahmudullah, bowling quickish offbreaks, then accounted for UAE's captain, Saqib Ali, who cut him uppishly to Shahadat at backward point.

Khan survived a couple of close lbw appeals, but got going by striking Mahmudullah for a couple of attractive boundaries, one to long-on and then past extra-cover. The 47-run fifth-wicket stand between Khan and Arshad ended when the latter mishit Mahmudullah to Raqibul at midwicket. With the wickets falling in regular intervals, Khan let loose a barrage of aggressive strokes. He reached his maiden half-century in the 38th over bowled by Mahmud, during which a misdirected throw from Ashraful gave him four additional runs. After Khan holed out to Razzak, Alok Kapali helped himself to a brace of wickets to bring the match to a close.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

ICC introduces women's T20 World Cup

International Cricket Council (ICC) on Tuesday introduced the women's edition of the Twenty20 World Cup alongside its men's version. It will be held in England next year.

Eight nations, including India, will participate in it. The other contenders are Australia, England, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka and the West Indies, who all will also compete in next year's ICC Women's Cricket World Cup in Australia, an ICC statement said.

The men's tournament, which will be staged at three venues -- Lord's, The Oval and Trent Bridge, will include a fourth venue, Taunton, for women.

Both the semi-finals, at Trent Bridge on June 18 and The Oval on June 19, and also the final at Lord's on June 21 will be double-headers with women's and men's matches.

Monday, June 23, 2008

South Africa cuts links with Zimbabwe

Pressure from its own cricketers appears to have forced Cricket South Africa into an embarrassing about-turn regarding cricketing links with Zimbabwe.

Norman Arendse, CSA's president, and other senior administrators, especially Ray Mali, the ICC president, have adopted a policy of unwavering support for Zimbabwe Cricket. But last week a number of players made clear that the deteriorating social environment in Zimbabwe meant they were no longer willing to play against sides from there.

"In the light of the worsening situation in Zimbabwe, CSA has reviewed its position in relation to Zimbabwe cricket,"

Arendse said on Monday. "We have decided to suspend our bi-lateral agreements with the Zimbabwe Cricket Union until further notice.

"In the past, CSA has defended Zimbabwe cricket against heavy odds, but the general situation in Zimbabwe has now made this untenable.

"We will continue to comply with the ICC's Future Tours Programme regarding Zimbabwe, as we are bound to this programme as a full member of the ICC. However, CSA will suspend its bi-lateral agreements with ZC, which includes development and administrative programmes, and the participation of Zimbabwe teams in CSA's domestic competitions."

The news will be a hammer blow to the Zimbabwe board as the only really meaningful cricket they have been able to play of late has been in South Africa's domestic competitions.

As things stand, Zimbabwe have no domestic games scheduled until their new season starts in March 2009, and the only international fixtures arranged in the next year are home and away series against Sri Lanka.

The timing of the announcement could not be worse, coming on the eve of the ICC annual conference in Dubai when, in theory, Zimbabwe could have asked to be readmitted to Test cricket. That idea is now as distant as at any stage in the last three years.

Jane McGrath dies aged 42

Jane McGrath, the wife of former Australia cricketer Glenn McGrath, has died after complications resulting from surgery. McGrath, 42, battled breast, hip and brain cancer and became well-known for setting up with her husband the McGrath Foundation, which aimed in part to increase nursing care for breast cancer sufferers.

"It is with deep sadness that the family and friends of Jane McGrath, beloved wife of former Australian cricketer Glenn and loving mother of James and Holly, must announce she passed away at her home this morning,"

a statement issued by the McGrath Foundation said.

"With Glenn and their two children by her side, Jane's wonderful life ended peacefully after a sudden decline in her health over the past week."

Ricky Ponting, speaking on behalf of the Australian team currently on tour in the West Indies, expressed his deepest sympathy.

"Jane was a wonderful person who fought and maintained grace and dignity during her long-term illness,"

he said.

"She was an exceptionally friendly and lovely person who displayed great courage and stoicism during her illness. She was a tremendous mother to James and Holly and shared a very special and deep relationship with Glenn in the time they had together.

"All of us are thinking about Glenn and their children at this very sad time. We all wish to convey that our best wishes go with him and to know our heartfelt sympathies are with the family at this time. Jane will be very fondly remembered by all of us."

Australia's Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, paid tribute to McGrath while offering his condolences to the family.

"Jane's courageous struggle touched all Australians,"

he said.

"Jane was an inspiration whose legacy will continue to benefit so many others."

James Sutherland, the CEO of Cricket Australia, also paid tribute.

"Jane was well-known, loved and admired throughout Australian cricket and was one of the most respected and admired members of the Australian cricket team family group during Glenn McGrath's playing days,"

Sutherland said.

"All of us who met her were charmed by her dignity and good humour as she tackled her battle with her illness for more than ten years. We also greatly respected the work she and Glenn did through their foundation, work which brought and will continue to bring tangible comfort to so many others."

Sunday, June 22, 2008

England v New Zealand, 3rd ODI, Bristol

New Zealand 182 (Elliott 56, Mills 47, Anderson 3-61) beat

England 160 (Southee 4-38) by 22 runs

New Zealand produced a remarkable turnaround to level the one-day series with a 22-run victory at Bristol after finding themselves in a seemingly hopeless position. Kyle Mills and Grant Elliott had fine all-round days, while Tim Southee claimed 4 for 38, removing Paul Collingwood with his penultimate ball when the England captain was pushing his side within sight of the target, as New Zealand defended 182. However, that doesn't really do justice to the hole they dug themselves out of.

After 25 overs New Zealand were 61 for 5, which later became 110 for 7, but Elliott, who was pulled out of club cricket with Weybridge before the last match at Edgbaston, batted very sensibly to ensure the overs were played out. Mills' career-best 47 off 40 balls meant they went into the interval with a little momentum and he built on that with two early new-ball wickets, then it was Southee who did the major damage to the middle order as three went down in 18 balls.

Collingwood and Graeme Swann added 65 to edge England back into the favourites position, but Daniel Vettori had an excellent match in the field and marshalled his resources expertly. He took the pressure himself of bowling at the end and sprung a surprise by handing Elliott the ball at the death. The move worked as Elliott claimed the final scalp, which capped a memorable match for him when, a few days ago, he would have been expecting to be playing the Surrey Championship.

With all the discussion about the explosion of Twenty20 cricket, this was a timely reminder that 50-over matches allow plenty of time for ebb and flow. Both teams were in positions where their causes looked distinctly doubtful, but there was the opportunity to turn it around which wouldn't exist in the shortest form. This game was also a pointer that the most gripping contests are those where the bowlers can have a say and it isn't just about whose bat can hit the ball further.

Conditions meant batsmen were never the dominant force with plenty of assistance on offer for the swing bowlers and bounce for taller men like Mills, Stuart Broad and Chris Tremlett. England, though, will wonder how they let the match slip away and while they were slightly lazy in allowing New Zealand to bat out their overs, the target should still have been well within their grasp.

Mills put the run chase on the back foot by removing Luke Wright in the first over and then snaring the key wicket of Kevin Pietersen, a loose flick to midwicket, one of a few England batsmen who helped in their own demise. Ian Bell and Ravi Bopara began to resurrect the innings and New Zealand were desperate for another breakthrough. As so often in those types of situations, it was a brilliant delivery which did the trick as Bell slapped a wide ball from Elliott to cover. Five deliveries later Bopara was equally culpable when he slashed to backward point, although credit must go to Jamie How for a sharp catch.

What may have been a wobble turned into a full-blown collapse in the next over from Southee as he twice found outside-edges into the slips. Owais Shah drove without much conviction, sending a regulation catch to second slip, then Tim Ambrose flashed more expansively and found Ross Taylor, who parried the ball and held on a second time. Southee hasn't had the easiest of tours, following his impressive Test debut where he took five wickets in Napier, but this was a reminder of his talent especially when the ball is swinging.

It left Collingwood trying to pick up the pieces with the lower order for company, in the knowledge that both Swann (against Sri Lanka) and Broad (against India and Sri Lanka) have played major roles in chases during the last 12 months. Swann, after resurrecting the chase, chipped carelessly to midwicket and Vettori knew he had to bowl out England so recalled Southee. The move worked as Collingwood went lbw, then Vettori virtually sealed it as he trapped Broad down the leg side. Vettori's celebrations were a release of tension after a dispiriting few weeks, but also the realisation that his team had pulled off a memorable fightback.

Brendon McCullum departed after taking three consecutive boundaries off James Anderson and no other batsmen threatened to dominate in the same way. When Broad slanted a fuller ball through Taylor's static drive and Daniel Flynn clubbed a thigh-high full toss to mid-on New Zealand were 49 for 5.

Broad was in such metronomic rhythm that he was allowed to bowl his 10 overs straight through and produced the most economical figures of his career. Tremlett, on his recall, kept the pressure on with a miserly eight-over burst and there was a 12-over period where he and Broad operated in tandem that yielded just 16 runs.

However, from the high mark England had set in the field, their standards slipped. A couple of catches were put down - one by Collingwood and one by Ambrose - and while they didn't cost many runs it was a prime example of a moment not being seized. Elliott never threatened to take the attack apart, but his 99-ball half-century allowed a dart at the last few overs, and his stand with Mills added a vital 54 in 10 overs.

Anderson, who had his worst day of the summer with the ball, dropped too short and was dispatched, while Wright also proved expensive as the last two overs cost 32 runs. It is amazing how often such small periods of play end up being the difference. New Zealand have had precious little to cheer on this tour but, against the odds, they head to London for the final two matches with a chance of claiming a trophy.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

West Indies v Australia, Twenty20 international, Barbados

West Indies 102 for 3 (Marshall 36) beat

Australia 97 for 3 (Ronchi 36, Roach 2-29) by seven wickets

A breathtaking display from Xavier Marshall, who hammered 36 from 15 balls, set up a seven-wicket victory for West Indies as they got home with 11 balls to spare. Marshall, playing his first Twenty20 international, overshadowed the strong efforts of a string of other debutants including Australia's openers Luke Ronchi and Shaun Marsh, as the Kensington Oval spectators got their money's worth despite the match being reduced to 11 overs a side.

After Ronchi and Marsh set up what looked like a challenging target of 98, Marshall provided the sort of batting heroics West Indies fans have been deprived of in recent years. Twenty-five came off the second over of the chase, from Mitchell Johnson, the highlight of which was a monstrous Marshall six over midwicket that hit the roof of the Greenidge and Haynes Stand.

He had help from the first-gamer William Perkins, who audaciously went down on one knee to paddle Brett Lee over the wicketkeeper's head for four, perhaps unaware of the bloodied chin Mal Loye once sustained trying to slog-sweep Lee. But Perkins could not keep up with Marshall, whose clean striking was up there with the most powerful one-day hitters.

The signs were there from the first ball of the innings, when Marshall pulled a short Lee ball over square leg for six. By the time he had cracked a couple of fours off Lee's second over West Indies, remarkably, needed 47 from 48 deliveries and it was their game to lose.

For a while it looked like they might do just that. Marshall could not bear to see a dot ball and was unnecessarily run out when Shane Watson collected off his own bowling and threw down the stumps at the striker's end, and Perkins was caught short in the next over. When Denesh Ramdin holed out to deep mid-off from Watson's bowling it left West Indies at 64 for 3 and gave Australia a glimmer of hope.

Those hopes were dashed when the acting captain Dwayne Bravo's 15-ball 28 got his team home, sealing the win with a six powered over midwicket off Watson. The match finished in near darkness, vaguely reminiscent of the World Cup final at the same venue, but this time Australia were not cheering.

Despite the loss, there were some positive signs for Australia, who tested a number of relatively new faces. Ronchi and Marsh opened the batting and quickly showed why they are viewed as men to watch in Australia's limited-overs future. Marsh took nine off Jerome Taylor in the first over, including a sweetly struck drive straight back over the bowler's head for six.

Ronchi had even more fun in Taylor's next over, backing away and slamming a six over backward point before following with powerful fours over cover and long-on. It was an exciting start, and Bravo contributed to the boundaries by apparently not realising the first Powerpaly had finished after three overs, keeping the field in unnecessarily for the fourth.

Bravo had shown some nous by opening with Sulieman Benn, whose spin forced Marsh and Ronchi to create the pace. In response, Ronchi slapped fours contemptuously on both sides of the wicket against Benn but his exciting innings ended on 36 from 22 balls when he gave another debutant, Kemar Roach, his first wicket thanks to a catch at long-off from Taylor.

It was a positive comeback after Roach began his international career with an ugly beamer that Marsh did well to get some bat on. Marsh crashed a huge six over long-on against Roach but then handed him his second wicket when his pull was brilliantly taken by Marshall, who jumped back on the midwicket boundary and then shimmied around the rope like a dancer to avoid conceding a six.

Batting for the first time in a Twenty20 international, David Hussey skied a catch for a second-ball duck before Watson and Cameron White completed the target-setting. It was hard to know what would be an appropriate score, given that it was the biggest reduction to both innings ever seen in a Twenty20 international.

The start was delayed by two hours and 25 minutes as persistent rain fell over Kensington Oval and it was beginning to look like the first Twenty20 international to be held in the Caribbean would not be held after all. In the end, the crowd got to see nearly two hours of relentless entertainment and, importantly, a home-team victory.

Strauss called up to cover for Cook again

Andrew Strauss will join England's squad for the third one-day international against New Zealand on Saturday as Alastair Cook struggles to recover from a shoulder injury.

Cook has yet to feature in the one-day series after injuring his shoulder in the final Test against the Kiwis.

The Essex opener had an injection on Thursday but is still not fit to feature at Bristol so Strauss returns to the squad for the third time in as many matches as cover.

Cook will be assessed by medical staff on Monday with a view to playing at The Oval on Wednesday.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Australia players could pull out of Champions Trophy

Ricky Ponting says Australia's players are still uneasy about visiting Pakistan for the Champions Trophy later this year. Ponting's comments came as an Australian newspaper reported that some members of the squad had told their team-mates they would boycott the trip if it went ahead, even if the security advice was positive.

Australia postponed their Test tour of Pakistan earlier this year due to safety concerns and although the ICC is happy with the current security situation there, the Champions Trophy will be discussed at an ICC executive board meeting later this month. Ponting confirmed some individual players had concerns about touring Pakistan.

"We don't know if we're going, and if we do go, we don't know if individuals are going to pull out,"

Ponting told AAP.

"But what we know right now is, yes, there is some apprehension amongst some of the players and that was stated last summer. I don't think that would have changed until now.

"It might change in the coming weeks, if we get some good news from the security reports over there, then the individual's mindset might change a little bit. What happened last summer was probably something that made us all sit back and think about it a little more.

"If Cricket Australia and the players' association decide that we go, then it will be an individual's decision, as every tour is. But there will be some apprehension for sure."

The Sydney Morning Herald quoted an unnamed player as saying several members of the team would not visit Pakistan regardless of the security assessment.

"It is going to come down to the individual's decision,"

the player said.

"We have talked about it, and there are some guys who will go if security advice says it's okay. But there are others who have said they won't go, regardless. At this stage, we are waiting to hear more."

The New Zealand allrounder Jacob Oram has already expressed his concerns about visiting Pakistan for an ODI tour before the Champions Trophy. Ponting, who led Australia to the Champions Trophy triumph in India in 2006, said other players would almost certainly have similar worries.

"I'm sure some of the England players will have some concerns as well as a lot of the New Zealand players who have been confronted with this stuff before, in Sri Lanka and Pakistan,"

Ponting said.

"It just won't be Australian players. There will be a few other teams who will be thinking long and hard if the tour does go ahead there."

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

West Indies v Australia, 3rd Test, Barbados, 5th day

Australia 251 and 439 for 5 dec beat

West Indies 216 and 387 (Marshall 85, Bravo 69, Chanderpaul 50, Clark 3-58, Casson 3-86) by 87 runs

Beau Casson fought off some harsh treatment from Dwayne Bravo to help Australia grind their way to an 87-run win in Barbados to secure a 2-0 series victory. The visitors' success was not without some tense moments after Bravo and Shivnarine Chanderpaul threatened a record fourth-innings chase, but important breakthroughs to Casson and Stuart Clark exposed West Indies' tail and Australia wrapped up the triumph 20 minutes before tea when Daren Powell flashed a catch behind off Brett Lee.

Much like the first Test in Jamaica, Ricky Ponting's blood pressure was rising as West Indies happily pursued a challenging but vaguely gettable target. They started the day needing 240 more runs to make the highest successful Test chase in history, 475, and the explosive 122-run stand between Bravo and Chanderpaul gave them hope. Bravo hammered Casson with the sort of contempt that could have irreparably dented the confidence of the debutant spinner but, to his credit, Casson stayed on task and made the most vital strike of the match.

Bravo had reached his first half-century of the series and sent the Kensington Oval crowd into raptures with three powerful sixes over extra cover when Casson tossed up half-volleys outside off. Phil Jaques might well have laughed when Ponting asked him to move in to silly mid-off following the aggressive display, but Jaques did as asked and Bravo obliged by nudging a nothing shot that Jaques clasped low down to give Casson his second Test wicket.

The momentum was suddenly with Australia, who quickly took the new ball, and from the third delivery with the fresh one, Clark trapped Chanderpaul (50) in front with a ball that pitched in line and straightened, and West Indies were in big trouble. Some flashy resistance from Jerome Taylor and a gutsy comeback from Sewnarine Chattergoon, who batted with a severe ankle injury, nudged the target under triple-figures but Australia's four main bowlers made sure of the success.

Clark trapped Denesh Ramdin plumb lbw with a straight one, Mitchell Johnson found some bounce to entice Taylor to edge to Brad Haddin, and Lee had Chattergoon caught behind driving at a wide one. Lee finished the job by removing Powell after Casson picked up his third victim when Sulieman Benn skied a catch towards point. It was a solid debut from Casson, whose first-class bowling average of 40.36 may not have inspired complete confidence that he would step comfortably up to Test level. But he refused to back down after being beaten into near submission by Bravo, who had earlier handled the fast men with confident defensive strokes.

Bravo proved the perfect partner for Chanderpaul, who continued to be the rock for West Indies. He tucked and glanced in his usual fashion and brought up his 8000th Test run, becoming the fourth West Indies batsman to the milestone, and by the time he finally departed he had 442 runs for the series, a tally that was more than a hundred greater than any other player from either team and enough to earn him the title as Player of the Series.

The partnership between Bravo and Chanderpaul caused major headaches for Ponting, who was already without Andrew Symonds due to a back strain, and he must have been starting to wonder what on earth had happened to Test cricket if 475 was no longer a safe lead. Such was the confidence of the two batsmen that, until they were split with 172 more required, West Indies' record chase of 418 against Australia at St John's in 2003 was looking vulnerable.

But Ponting's men stuck to their tactics and through Casson and Clark, then Johnson and Lee, the plan started to come together. The most likely result was reached and Australia have now failed to win only one of their past 16 Test series, the mis-step coming in the 2005 Ashes.

Australia head for the limited-overs series with a Test victory, the Frank Worrell Trophy, and a few positive signs, including the form of Simon Katich and a reasonable start to Casson's international career. Still, the win was not nearly as comfortable as they might have expected. Despite the loss, West Indies should be proud of their efforts against the No. 1, and they have proved to the world that Australia's dominance is not as absolute.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Test cricket returns to India's Brabourne stadium after 35 years

The vintage Brabourne stadium in Mumbai will host its first Test match in 35 years when England tour India later this year, an official said on Monday.

The Brabourne was chosen as a venue for one of England's two Tests in December because the Mumbai Cricket Association's (MCA) Wankhede stadium is being renovated for the 2011 World Cup in South Asia.

The Cricket Club of India (CCI), which owns the 35,000-seater Brabourne ground, has finalised a three-year deal with the MCA to host international matches till the Wankhede was rebuilt.

"The discussion part is over and the CCI has agreed to keep 50 per cent of the club house tickets to themselves and give the rest to us,"
MCA official P.V. Shetty told reporters.

The Brabourne stadium in leafy south Mumbai hosted the last of its 17 Tests in February, 1973 against England before the MCA built its own Wankhede stadium nearby following a dispute over ticket distribution.

The Wankhede stadium, named after former Indian cricket chief S.K.Wankhede, has been a regular Test venue since hosting its first five-day match against Clive Lloyd's West Indies in 1975.

The Brabourne stadium hosted five Champions Trophy one-day matches, including the final, in 2006 and also a Twenty20 international between India and Australia in October last year.

The Brabourne, which organised its first Test in 1948, was where current superstar Sachin Tendulkar scored his maiden double century in a first-class match against the touring Australians in 1998.

Dates and venues for England's tour from mid-November have not been formally announced by the Indian cricket board.

Umpires' review system to start in India-Sri Lanka series

An experimental rule allowing players to seek a second opinion on umpiring decisions will be put on trial during India's upcoming series in Sri Lanka, officials said on Monday.

The rule says a batsman or fielding captain may request the review of any decision taken by on-field umpires by referring it to the third official monitoring television replays.

Each team will be allowed three unsuccessful review requests per innings. But if an umpire reverses his original decision after a review appeal, the benefiting team will be allowed an additional appeal.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) decided to trial the review in March, but it had to be put off after England and South Africa failed to reach an agreement on it for their Test series next month.

The Indian cricket board said in a statement on Monday that the new rule will be used during the three-Test series against Sri Lanka starting in Colombo on July 23.

A player can make a request for a review by making a 'T' sign with his hands and if the TV umpire rules in the player's favour, the on-field umpire will have to overrule his previous decision.

The rule will apply for all modes of dismissals except 'Timed Out' when an incoming batsman is given out if he takes too long to arrive at the crease after the fall of the previous wicket.

The TV umpire will be entitled to use slow motion replays from all available cameras, sounds from the stumps microphones and the Hawkeye system for tracking the trajectory of the ball.

So far, only the on-field umpires determine if a decision needs to be passed on to TV officials.

But growing concerns about the standards of umpiring have led for calls for increased use of available technology and forced the ICC to try the new system.

A similar experiment in English domestic one-day cricket last season was widely regarded as unsuccessful with the third umpire generally reluctant to over-rule his colleagues out in the middle.

England v New Zealand, 1st ODI, Chester-le-Street

England 307 for 5 (Pietersen 110*, Collingwood 64, Shah 49) beat

New Zealand 193 (Collingwood 4-15, Broad 2-16) by 114 runs

Kevin Pietersen's magnificent 110 led England to a convincing 114-run-win over New Zealand in the first ODI at Chester-le-Street. With a disciplined allround display in the field, they never let New Zealand have a sniff of reaching 308 - a target made all the more challenging for the visitors after the early wicket of Brendon McCullum for 36. If this wasn't a complete one-day performance by England, it was something close to it. For New Zealand, it was sadly much of the same.

Led by Stuart Broad, England's bowlers were tight, disciplined and indebted to Pietersen's remarkable hundred from 112 balls. For too long Pietersen has been in hibernation; this was his first one-day hundred since the 2007 World Cup, and once he passed fifty, he appeared to regress back into that creative, dominant batsman who had all of England purring two years ago. England had lost Luke Wright for a stodgy 11, while Bell struggled to replicate his silky timing of two days ago, falling for 46. When Ravi Bopara departed, rather timidly handing Scott Styris a caught-and-bowled, England limped to 95 for 3 with the halfway point fast approaching.

That they reached the lofty heights of 307 was largely Pietersen's doing, but Collingwood returned to form brilliantly with a run-a-ball 64, as the pair put on 136 for the fourth wicket. Pietersen initially struggled, pottering - as much he ever potters - to 30 but unfurled thrillingly. Styris, who was later to be dumbfounded by Pietersen's touch of genius, was clattered through the covers; Daniel Vettori, who mostly outbowled all his colleagues, was flat-driven over the top for six and after reaching a run-a-ball fifty, he took on Michael Mason with fours over midwicket. How desperately New Zealand miss Jacob Oram and the balance he offers the side.

For all Collingwood's impressive personal recovery, bulldozing his way into form through sheer bloody mindedness, all eyes were firmly fixed on Pietersen who, by now, was shifting through the gears in style. Each of his trademark shots were ticked off: the blazing cover drive, fierce pull in front of square, but the reverse-switch six hasn't been on view since he took on Muttiah Muralitharan in 2006. Here, he succeeded twice in four overs off an understandably perplexed Styris. Changing his grip and stance to that of a left-hander, Pietersen crashed him over cover (or midwicket, depending on your view) for one of the day's longest sixes. Four overs later he bettered it with another, straighter and crisper blow which sailed into the stand at long-on. This wasn't just audacious batting, but creative entertainment by a peerless showman. Surprising, then, that this was his first one-day hundred on home soil.

Collingwood was bowled by a frustrated Vettori, but England continued to pile on the pressure, with Owais Shah taking over the mantle of entertainer from Pietersen. In 25 balls, he carved, cracked and crashed 49. He went inside out to Mason over extra cover; Mills was hoisted over deep midwicket for another six, while Southee's debut went from bad to worse when Shah cracked him straight back over his head. It was breathless hitting.

Whereas England were consistently good, New Zealand were quite the opposite - though they were given hope of reaching their target through McCullum. Ryan Sidebottom, recalled after being rested for Friday's Twenty20 at Old Trafford, was fast but inaccurate, while James Anderson was back to his mercurial mediocre. McCullum capitalised, picking up Sidebottom for a huge six over midwicket, followed by a firm cut off Anderson two balls later.

With Anderson and Sidebottom leaking runs, it was to the youngster that Collingwood turned. Broad may look 14, but for someone still so inexperienced he showed remarkable control - helped, no doubt, by removing the biggest wicket of them all with his first ball. It wasn't the greatest of deliveries, truth be told: a short long-hop outside off which McCullum wellied straight to cover.

James Marshall's forgettable tour continued when he set off for a single to Collingwood in the gully, whose dead-eye throw knocked out the stumps to leave New Zealand stumbling on 61 for 2 after 14 overs. After McCullum, only Ross Taylor had the audacity to take on such a daunting total, and once he fell for 20 New Zealand had little hope. With the wickets came a resurgent England fielding display, Anderson excelling in the deep with two excellent saves, and only the most gnarly of nitpickers could fault them in the field.

Collingwood capped off a fine allround day with four wickets, drowning New Zealand's resolve. There may be no dollars or gold pots to chase in this form of the game at the moment, but England's eyes were firmly fixed on winning from the outset.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Pakistan’s exciting win over India to lift Kitply Cup

Pakistan lifted the Kitply Cup by defeating India by 25 runs in the sensational day/night final of the triangular series here on Saturday.

Chasing a difficult target of 316 runs, India after a shaky start took up the challenge and never gave up the fight till the last wicket fell when captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was caught at deep mid-off with teen balls remaining.

Dhoni made 64 runs off 59 balls with three fours and two sixes and Yuvraj Singh scored 56 off 59 balls with five fours and one six. Opener Gautam Gambhir also contributed a significant score of 40 runs off 33 balls with four fours and one six.

Other main scorers were Irfan Pathan (28), Yusuf Pathan (25) and Ruhait Sharma (24).

Umar Gul was the most successful bowler from Pakistan as he grabbed four wickets for 57 runs while Shahid Afridi and Iftikhar Anjum claimed two wickets each and Fawad Alam and Suhail Tanvir took one wicket each.

Earlier, a grand second wicket partnership of 205 runs between Salman Butt and Younis Khan helped Pakistan amass a huge score of 315 runs for the loss of only three wickets after captain Shoaib Malik won the toss and elected to bat first.

Both Salman and Younus hammered centuries to take Pakistan to a formidable position against India against whom they were embarrassedly beaten by a record margin of 140 runs on Tuesday at the same venue.

Left-handed opener Salman Butt scored 129 before retiring hurt with cramp. He hit 12 fours and three sixes in his seventh hundred, fifth against India, and also completed 2,000 runs in his 52nd match in ODI cricket.

Younus, after getting ducks in two previous games, displayed magnificent stroke-making to smash 108 runs off 99 balls with three huge sixes and eight fours in his fourth ODI hundred.

After the match ended, Younus Khan was declared the man-of-the-match and Salman Butt won the man-of-the-series award.

Pakistan began their innings cautiously after losing Kamran Akmal (15), and Salman and Younus took the score to 100 in the 24th over but then they opened their arms and played strokes freely as Pakistan reached 200 in the 37th over. They parted before Pakistan reached 300 in the 49th over.
Pakistan plundered 90 runs in the last 10 overs after Butt and Younus set the stage for the final onslaught.
Misbah-ul-Haq also contributed significant 33 runs off 21 balls with four boundaries and one six.

Shahid Afridi (10) and Shoaib Malik (11) were at the crease when Pakistan set India a difficult target of 316 runs on completion of the allotted 50 overs.

Irfan Pathan took two wickets for 59 and Ishant Sharma got one for 57 and Pyush Chawla conceded 85 runs from his 10 wicketless overs, the third-most expensive spell by an Indian in one-day internationals after Javagal Srinath (87) and Thiru Kumaran (86)..

India: Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain, wk), Suresh Raina, Yusuf Pathan, Irfan Pathan, Piyush Chawla, Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma.

Pakistan: Salman Butt, Kamran Akmal (wk), Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf, Misbah-ul-Haq, Shoaib Malik (captain), Shahid Afridi, Fawad Alam, Sohail Tanvir, Umar Gul, Iftikhar Anjum.