Legends of the Fall (The story of Pakistan and PCB)

The Pakistan Cricket Board has taken the most daring decision seen in cricket against many of it’s star players.  The PCB has sacked, banned and fined heavily seven of it’s top senior players.  Among the players to face the guillotine from PCB are former captains Younus Khan and Mohammad Yousuf – both of whom have been banned for life.  The other players to face the sword are Shoaib Malik and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan – who have been banned for a year while Shahid Afridi and the Akmal brothers (Umar and Kamran) are fined Rs. 2-3 million ($24,000-35,000).

The Pakistan Board has ended the careers of two of it’s best batsman and looks menacingly down at the others.   The PCB committee of inquiry was set up after Pakistan’s disastrous tour of Australia and now after the completion of the inquiry, the committee has decided to bring about the worst punishment it can, making it’s cricketers as a living model for all those who cross the line.  The reasons of the punishment are several, some are known while others are only to be guessed, but one thing is certain that PCB wants to make an example of the cricketers so that in the future everyone will think twice before doing anything.

The decision by PCB is welcomed by me as a good decision.  But I also strongly oppose it because of the severity of the penalty imposed.  The penalties belted down on the cricketers are abominable.

Pakistan cricket is going through some very turbulent times and in the recent years, things have been going from bad to worse.  No team is willing to play in Pakistan, there has been numerous infightings within the team with numerous captains at the helm, making Pakistan a very sorry state for cricket affairs.  One thing that the Pakistan team has lacked is discipline and anyone with vague knowledge of Pakistan will tell you that.  Since 2007 Pakistan cricket has taken a nose dive with Akthar, Sami testing positive for drugs, disunity in the team with open schisms between Malik, Younus Khan and Yousuf, match-fixing allegations, and numerous other disharmonious activities both in the team and PCB alike.

I agree that something must be done to protect the cricket in Pakistan and ensure that it’s players respect and honor the game and the responsibility of playing for Pakistan.  PCB has done the exact same thing I mentioned above in a sense, but has taken it to an extreme.  The Pakistan cricket board has been an organization that has been ridiculed and unable to function it’s own house.  Added to the disharmony within the administration is the constant failure of their national team, and this has made the PCB which was like a struggling and wounded cobra suddenly bare it’s fangs and bite with venom.  Younus, Yousuf, Malik and Afridi must face most of the wrath for the simple reason that they are or were captains of Pakistan.  A captain is responsible for the way his players conduct themselves, so the blame inevitably falls on the captains.  But what to do if the head itself is not strong and unmannerly?

I welcome the act of the action taken against the players by the PCB but condemn the very actions taken against them.  PCB has been very unprofessional like as it does not state the exact reasons for the penalties imposed on the players.  How can any punishment be handed down without proper reasons of wrong doing.  They have said that the punishments given was due to lack of performance and
indiscipline.  But surely one doesn’t get banned for life for indiscipline or  lack of performance on the field.  I feel that PCB is at fault here.  You don’t go and ban a batsman who has been playing for over a decade and the captain who led Pakistan to the T20 World Cup glory.  This is an act showing utter contempt on the players.

The players deserve to be punished but banning them is preposterous and just plain stupidity.  It is like whipping a small ten year old boy some good lashes for doing some simple and naughty act.  It’s just not right what the PCB is handing down as punishments.  Due to this, what does the PCB gain?  They gain an image that they are doing some major cleanup job within the team, but what about the Board?  Aren’t the selectors, team managers, support staff, coach and the board members equally responsible?  It is they who put a irresponsible leader at helm, and it is they who are called the ‘think tank’ and are responsible for the devising strategies for wins.  So even they failed, but they have been exempted from the blame thus far.

The PCB only gains to lose from this debacle.  Which youngster would even want to pursue a career in cricket now in Pakistan.  Hard work and talent will earn you a place in the team, but what is the guarantee?  How does one expect to make his living as a cricketer if his future is so uncertain?  These are some basic question that PCB must ask itself.

In just seven weeks, Pakistan will start a campaign to try and hold onto the title as ‘Champions of T20’, but I just wonder what kind of team Pakistan will set forth to defend their title.  Who will be leading the team then and what will be the morale and thinking of the team?  No one knows, but one thing is sure, it will never be the same.

Having said all this, nothing that happens in Pakistan will hardly be a surprise because anything can happen there.  And I definitely won’t be surprised if all this was a bluff and was taken back by the board.  I conclude this article by quoting Ramiz Raja, “Our main problem was discipline, but barring players, I am not sure, it doesn’t look nice to just end the international careers of such talented players. It is surprising, but at the end of the day, the PCB needed to make an example and took a step to clean up the lack of discipline in the team.”

Dilshan leads Sri Lanka’s charge against India

Tillakaratne Dilshan continued his impressive run with a fine century that guided Sri Lanka to a commanding 275 for three, in reply to India’s 426, at the end of the second day’s play in the first cricket Test here Tuesday.Thilan Samaraweera was batting on 45 and Mahela Jayawardene 36 as Sri Lanka reduced the decifit to 151 at the close of play at the Sardar Patel Stadium at Motera here.

If the opening day’s honours went to the hosts, the second day belonged to Sri Lanka. First, Sri Lankan bowlers packed off the Indians, who could add just 41 runs to the overnight score, within an hour of the morning session. Then the island’s batsmen, inspired by Dilshan, gave a strong reply.

Dilshan and Tharanga Pranavitana (35) started briskly, adding 74 runs for the opening wicket.

Pranavitana was the more dominant of the two and even though he was troubled by Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma, the left-hander hit six fours during his 55-ball stay.

Dilshan was at ease right from the start and drove Zaheer for two consecutive fours to set the tone of the Sri Lankan reply. The introduction of spinners didn’t help India and Dilshan smacked leg-spinner Amit Mishra for two back-to-back fours in Mishra’s first over.

Sharma ended Pranavitana’s innings after the batsman edged an away going delivery to wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

After Pranavitana’s dismissal, Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara (31) stepped up the tempo as 118 runs came up in the post-lunch session.

Soon after the tea break, Dilshan got to his tenth century in style, cracking a four off Sharma but didn’t last long as he mistimed a short-pitched delivery off Zaheer and Rahul Dravid took an easy catch.

Zaheer used the bouncers well and in the next over got rid of Sangakkara, who hooked to Sachin Tendulkar at square-leg boundary. Jayawardene and Samaraweera played patiently for their 81-run stand as the visitors ended the day on a bright note.

Earlier in the morning session, Sri Lankan fast bowlers Chanaka Welegadara (4/87) swung the ball and Muttiah Muralitharan (3/87) got a good purchase to pack up India’s innings in 15 overs.

Rahul Dravid failed to add to his overnight score of 177 and played on with a thick edge off Welegadara’s inswinging delivery.

Harbhajan Singh (22) and Zaheer (12) offered some resistance with their 25-run partnership.

But the early introduction of spin did the trick for the visitors. Left-arm spinner Rangana Herath trapped Zaheer leg before wicket while Muralitharan picked up Harbhajan and Ishant Sharma to wrap up the innings.

Is Brawn GP a One-Season Wonder?

Button return unlikely

The Brawn GP team stunned everyone when it launched at the inaugural race of the 2009 Formula 1 season, driver Jensen Button stormed to a pole and eventually to the chequered flag of the season opener Australian Grand Prix.

The team has now claimed the constructors trophy for the season, in addition to Jensen Button winning the drivers’ championship for the year. Brawn’s other driver Ruben Barichello also came very close to winning the championship and eventually finished third overall in 2009. Brawn beat the likes of Formula 1 heavyweights Ferrari and McLaren in 2009, but is this just another case of a one season wonder?

Many expect the Ferrari and McLaren teams to return to form in the next season when the new rules take over. However Brawn team principal Ross Brawn believes they will be there or thereabouts as they’ve started the installation of engines at a very early stage. “We’ve had a good run into installing this engine in the car now, so things like the cooling system, the exhaust system, the airbox – all those types of things have been developed more thoroughly on the new car,” Brawn explained.

“The main thing for us is that it’s the second year of working with Mercedes and it should be a much better installation because we’ve had an opportunMcLaren – Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaity to begin early and have the sort of exhaust system we need, design the gearbox properly for the engine, design the chassis properly for the engine, put the right coolers on… so we should benefit from all those things.”

Incidentally, Ferrari abandoned development of their car in the middle 2009 season, preferring to focus on developing the car for the next season. Brawn couldn’t afford to do that since the team was fighting for the championship. “We have been trying to balance what we do this year with next year,” Brawn said. “We’ve not thrown everything at it, because we needed to get on with next year’s car, and on balance we got away with it. Next year’s cars have no refuelling, a different chassis shape and a different tyre size – quite a lot of differences. So because we don’t want to be a one-season wonder, we’ve had to make sure we can balance this year and next year.”

On the downside, Jensen Button’s chances of returning to the Brawn car look slim, what with his humongous salary demands post his title win this season. Ross Brawn revealed today that they are unlikely to match his salary demands. Button had taken a pay cut when he moved from the now defunct Honda to the Brawn team. Brawn stated that the team can instead give him complete freedom to negotiate his own sponsorship deals instead of giving him a contract worth more than £6m a year. “We can offer a higher proportion of driver freedom and that will probably be the route we will go,” Brawn was quoted, “Jenson has some freedom for his own endorsements but has a commitment to meet our obligations.”

Do you expect the Brawn GP team to win next year? Will Button move to McLaren, who are ready to pay him his quoted salary? Will Kimi Raikkonen take Button’s place in Brawn?

India tumble to #3 in ODI rankings

Dhoni under pressure

Its official – the seven match ODI series against Australia was an embarrassment for India, especially since captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s team was up against a makeshift B-team of Australia.

India have now tumbled to #3 on the ICC ODI rankings, quite the far cry from the #1 spot the men in blue were eying before the start if the series. India needed to win the series against Australia in order to claim the world number one position, things looked rosy halfway into the series when India led 2-1. However in an incredible turn, Ponting’s men came back with a vengeance and finished with a 4-2 series win.

What made the India’s loss even more ungainly was that several key ODI players were missing from the Australian side, including frontline bowler Brett Lee, James Hopes, Brad Haddin, Nathan Bracken, Callum Ferguson and vice captain Michael Clarke. Even wicketkeeper Tim Paine, who was the replacement for wicketkeeper Brad Haddin also injured his finger during a match and was sent home. Moises Henriques, another all rounder was called as a result.

Australia are now back at the top of the charts after a solid ten weeks of ODI cricket. Ponting’s men beat England 6-1 in their home series and then conquered the champions Trophy in South Africa, before routing India 4-2. Australia were on #3 on September 20th behind South Africa and India, but are now eight points clear of Grame Smith’s team. India sits in third place, 4 points behind South Africa.

India never really recovered from the disappointing back to back losses at Mohali and especially at Hyderabad where Sachin Tendulkar’s 175 went in vain. To become the world #1, all India needed to do was win the series, was that a tough ask for a team with full strength playing against a half baked squad?

Botham slams Twenty20 cricket

Ian Botham

English legend Ian Botham lashed out at the cricket administrators for shoving more and more Twenty20  down the fans’ throat and said the slam-bang format, which is ‘bastardising the game’, has no place in international cricket.
Botham lambasted the “greed” of the administrators and questioned the logic behind having back-to-back Twenty20 World Cup.
“They are playing too much Twenty20 right now. We have just had a Twenty20 World Cup and within a year we’re going to have another in the Caribbean. It is greed, greed, greed. That is what will kill the game, the greed of the authorities,” Botham said in an interview to be published in the December issue of The Wisden Cricketer magazine.
“Twenty20 has its place but not on the international stage. It is a domestic and franchise sport. I don’t want to see the best players in the world standing there and slogging. Twenty 20 is bastardising the game,” said Botham.
Dwelling on the England  team and its tour of South Africa, Botham said Andrew Strauss should be more aggressive as a captain. “What he has done best is get better with the bat. He will learn to be a better captain, too, and I just hope he doesn’t get too negative. England were too defensive in the West Indies earlier in the year and we were only slightly better against Australia
“Strauss needs to have confidence in his players to be aggressive. He can’t be bold if the rest of the team doesn’t play. I don’t think he is absolutely confident that he can set them challenges,” Botham said.
He was his forthright self when asked if England could become the best Test team in the world.
“Never mind about getting to No.1, we’re No.5 at the moment. Let’s move up a few places first. They are nowhere near being the best Test side in the world at present. In South Africa, if England have the right bowlers and they are all fit, and the batsmen turn up, and the top five and six all fire, then we have a chance. Our batsmen don’t make enough runs,” Botham said.

ICC introduces anti-racism, anti-corruption codes

The International Cricket Council  (ICC) on Thursday introduced anti-racism and anti-corruption codes in its revised Code of Conduct to maintain and promote “fair play and multiculturalism”.The new codes were put in place after a “comprehensive consultation and review process with all stakeholders,” the ICC said in a statement.

“These codes help to copper-fasten the unique spirit of cricket by effectively laying out what behaviour is acceptable and what is not, not just by players but by everyone involved in the game,” said ICC Chief Executive Haroon Lorgat.

“These codes are practical, workable and user-friendly while also acting as genuine deterrents to anyone who seeks to undermine the integrity of cricket. With their implementation we are helping to protect the game for future generations to enjoy,” he added.

Racism in cricket had become a burning issue during India’s  tour of Australia last year, when Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds  were embroiled in an ugly showdown.

Symonds had accused Harbhajan of racially abusing him, a charge that was dropped after a hearing but the episode created a furore in both the countries.

The ICC said the stand-alone code has been put in place to prevent any racial spats arising out of language or cultural differences. “It is felt that alleged issues of racism across the wide range of cultures that make up cricket’s group of stakeholders may arise out of confusion, misunderstanding, ignorance or language and translation barriers,” the statement read.

“In those cases, provided both parties agree, it is felt that the best way to resolve these issues is through a non-adversarial process such as a conciliation with an expert in the field. If that fails to resolve the matter satisfactorily for all parties, then a disciplinary process would be initiated and tough sanctions could be applied,” it added.

The anti-corruption code, meanwhile, seeks to further empower the ICC’s Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU).

“It provides important support to the activities of the ICC’s Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) by requiring players to report approaches or invitations to act in a corrupt manner and to co-operate fully with investigations being carried out by the ACSU,” the governing body said.

“The code sets out a detailed charging and hearing process which preserves the players’ right to a fair and impartial hearing before a specifically convened tribunal and a final appeal right to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland ” it added.

“Players who are found guilty of such offences can expect to serve long suspension periods and face hefty fines.”

Pakistan out to avenge shameful Kiwi loss today

DUBAI: Shahid Afridi described Pakistan’s defeat in the one-day series as “shameful” but was hopeful his players could lift their performance for the two-match Twenty20 series starting here on Thursday.

Pakistan lost the final match by a narrow seven-run margin in Abu Dhabi to go down 2-1 to New Zealand in the three-match one-day international series.

“It was a shameful defeat and we batted like club cricketers,” said Afridi, who will lead the side for the Twenty20 series because Younus Khan quit the shortest form of the game after leading Pakistan to victory in England in June.

During Monday’s one-day international Pakistan, who managed to dismiss New Zealand for 211 all out, were let down by their top-order batsmen as they struggled to 101 for nine.

An explosive unbeaten 73 by tail-ender Mohammad Aamir — who set the highest score for a number 10 batsman in the history of one-day cricket — gave them an outside chance of winning.

But Aamir and Saeed Ajmal’s new Pakistani record of 103 for the tenth wicket could not prevent New Zealand from taking the last wicket to survive the turn around and win the match.

Afridi said he has been trying to motivate his players after the defeat, adding that he did not believe being defending Twenty20 champions would put them under extra pressure in Thursday’s opening match.

“We need to stick to the basics and do our best to win both the matches,” said Afridi, man-of-the-match in both the semi-final and final of June’s world Twenty20.

Opener Imran Nazir and all-rounders Sohail Tanvir and Fawad Alam have joined the squad for the Twenty20 series. Younus, Mohammad Yousuf, Salman Butt and Wahab Riaz have all been left out.

New Zealand have yet to defeat Pakistan in a Twenty20 encounter but have been buoyed by their one-day series success in Abu Dhabi, said captain Daniel Vettori.

The one-day series win was a confidence booster for us and I am sure the guys will be more motivated,” said Vettori, whose team came from 1-0 down in the series.“The conditions in the one-day matches were favourable to Pakistan and here also they will suit them, but the key thing is that we have a series win and must keep the pressure up and win the Twenty20 as well.”

The Black Caps will have 12 players to chose from after Kyle Mills (shoulder) and James Frankin (back) ruled out of the first match, while all-rounder Jacob Oram left for home to attend his child’s birth, Vettori later told reporters.

The second Twenty20 match here will be played Friday.

Teams: (from)

Pakistan: Shahid Afridi (capt), Khalid Latif, Imran Nazir, Umer Akmal, Shoaib Malik, Kamran Akmal, Abdul Razzaq, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, Umar Gul, Mohammad Aamir, Rao Iftikhar, Saeed Ajmal, Imran Farhat, Fawad Alam, Sohail Tanvir

New Zealand: Daniel Vettori (capt), Shane Bond, Neil Broom, Ian Butler, Martin Guptill, Brendon McCullum, Nathan McCullum, Aaron Redmond, Tim Southee, Scott Styris, Ross Taylor, BJ Watling.

Umpires: Nadeem Ghouri (PAK), Zameer Haider (PAK)

TV umpire: Ahsan Raza (PAK)

Match referee: Andy Pycroft (ZIM)

Final one-dayer washed out

CALLED OFF: The seventh ODI between India and Australia has been abandoned without a ball being bowled because of a cyclone Phyan. Photo: K.R. Deepak

The Hindu CALLED OFF: The seventh ODI between India and Australia has been abandoned without a ball being bowled because of a cyclone Phyan. Photo: K.R. Deepak
The ‘Maximum City’ woke up to a steady shower. The rains never stopped and a venue that had geared up for its first One-Day International remained damp while some diehard fans waved the Indian flag.At 5 p.m., the seventh and final match of the Hero Honda Cup series was called off at the Dr. D.Y. Patil Stadium here on Wednesday. The signs of a wash-out were too obvious even at 3 p.m. as the television crew began to roll back their cables while the giant screen beamed the satellite image of Cyclone Phyan whirling across the Arabian Sea.Australia had already won the series at 4-2 after a clinical display at Guwahati on Sunday. The last game here, presented an equal opportunity for the visitor to reiterate its dominance and for M.S. Dhoni’s men to retrieve dented egos but the weather gods decided otherwise.On October 21, Ricky Ponting and his merry band had touched base at Mumbai and spoke about the need to play at their best to defeat an Indian team that remained daunting at home. The series between the top two ODI teams enjoyed a cracking start at Vadodara where tail-enders Harbhajan Singh and Praveen Kumar nearly upset Ponting’s plans.

Missed opportunities

India however lost the match by four runs and it was a fallacy that repeated itself in another close match at Hyderabad despite Sachin Tendulkar’s gut-wrenching 175 as the Men in Blue lost by three runs. Add to it the inability to get past Australia’s 250 at Mohali and the shocking 27 for five at Guwahati that inevitably ruined the Indian hopes of drawing level and eventually wresting the trophy.

The Indian batting failed to live up to its billing. “Our batting was not consistent,’’ Dhoni had said at Guwahati.

And the numbers do tell a tale. The six regular batsmen — Dhoni, Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina — aggregated 1140 runs. These are low returns indeed from blue chip batsmen with a collective yield of over 40,000 ODI runs.

Take away Dhoni’s 124 at Nagpur and Tendulkar’s 175 at Hyderabad and the batting numbers become even more anaemic.

Compare this with an Australian line-up that lost Tim Paine midway through the tour but yet racked up 1198 runs through just five batsmen — Michael Hussey (313), Ponting, Shane Watson, Cameron White and Shaun Marsh. The Australians enjoyed just one century — Marsh’s 112 at Hyderabad — but had a better share of critical partnerships.

Bowlers too struggle

The Indian bowling too struggled as Harbhajan Singh remained the highest wicket-taker with eight but with an average of 33.87 and an economy rate of 4.51 he was unable to choke the Australian batsmen.

Among the speedsters, Ashish Nehra bagged seven wickets but leaked 6.08 runs per over. To add to the woes, Ishant Sharma ebbed away while left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja was sorted out and Praveen Kumar failed to make an impact.

The Australian attack though presented a better picture despite missing Brett Lee after the first game. Peter Siddle bowled a tight last over at Vadodara, Doug Bollinger grabbed nine wickets in four games, Shane Watson regained his confidence belatedly to top up with 10 wickets and a below-par Mitchell Johnson (nine scalps) still found his spark at Guwahati.

As the damp dust settled at the D.Y. Patil Stadium, Indian cricket has more questions to answer in a season that began with the summary dismissals of bowling coach Venkatesh Prasad and fielding coach Robin Singh. The Sri Lankans are here and there is no time to pontificate.

PTI adds

Watson named Man of the Series

Australian all-rounder Shane Watson was awarded the man of the series.

Watson, who opened the innings, was third in the Australian run-scorers’ list behind vice-captain Michael Hussey (313)) and skipper Ricky Ponting (267) with 256 runs to his credit with an average of 42.66 per innings from six matches with 93 being his highest score.

The 28-year-old Queenslander also contributed with the ball by snaring 10 wickets, the highest among the Australians, at a strike rate of 22.

Australia take series with emphatic win in Guwahati

Australia walked over the line in Guwahati, scoring a six-wicket win to take an unbeatable 4-2 lead in the seven-match series against India. India were bundled out for a disappointing 170, as Australia’s two left-arm seamers shone bright.

  • Scorecard: Ind vs. Aus – 6th ODI

Doug Bollinger took a career-best 5-35, and Mitchell Johnson on his return to the side took 3-39, bowling a tone-setting first over that dashed India’s hopes before most of the country had woken up to the 8.30 AM start at the Nehru Stadium.

India began with a second-ball six off Sehwag’s blade, but collapsed to 27-5 in the first hour. Johnson bowled out Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir in the first over the day. The score became 75-7 later. Praveen Kumar and Ravindra Jadeja struck fifties and resisted Australia with a fire-fighting stand of 74. But repairing the damage was beyond them. MS Dhoni’s decision to bat on a sticky, uneven wicket had blown up in his face.

Shane Watson, who took 2-27, then made 49 in 49 to quell hopes of an India comeback. The all-rounder’s tally in the series has swollen to an impressive 256 runs and 10 wickets in six matches. Jadeja bowled manfully, beating the bat and inducing edges numerous times against Ricky Ponting and Watson. But it was clear India never had the stopping power to defend their paltry score.

For Australia, it’s an incredible series win considering that two of their first choice pacers (Brett Lee and Peter Siddle), two all-rounders (James Hopes and Moises Henriques), two first-choice wicketkeepers (Brad Haddin and Tim Paine) and their vice-captain Michael Clarke had all been injured and missing from action. The win reinforces why Australia have been No. 1 for so long. What they lacked in talent, they’ve made up in resilience and will to win in dire situations.

After the first over shock, much depended on Sachin Tendulkar who began the game 49 short of 30,000 runs in international cricket. He looked in good touch with the couple of finely timed drives. But at 10, Bollinger snapped him up with a sharp return catch.

Yuvraj Singh bowled himself out comically. He patted down a Bollinger delivery, which then popped up out of the left-hander’s sight. As he turned around to stop the ball, he accidentally hit it with his bat, guiding it on to the stumps.

There were no heroics from Suresh Raina either. On a two-paced wicket and variable bounce, the virtues of playing with soft hands were ignored. He hit one firmly to mid on to give Johnson his third.

Dhoni held on grimly, consuming 77 balls for 24, taking 33 balls to get into double figures. Having survived a loud shout for caught-behind off Bollinger, he was wrongly given out LBW to the same bowler. The ball was missing off stump.

Harbhajan made his second straight duck in this series. He too was bowled. This left India at 75-7 in the 31st and that’s when a recovery started.

Jadeja, like Dhoni, took time to settle down. The youngster would have had a lot on his mind with calls to axe him after India’s three-run loss in Hyderabad.

Praveen trotted along at an easy pace. But India made their most progress after the 40th over when they took the batting Powerplay.

From 117/7, India moved to 151/8 with the wicket of Jadeja in this period. Right after he got his fifty, the left-hander holed out to long-on, giving Bollinger his fifth.

Ashish Nehra showed he hadn’t learnt from his mistake in Hyderabad. Instead of turning over the strike to Praveen, he went for glory. Shane Watson bowled him, and wrapped up the innings with Munaf Patel’s wicket. From that point on, this was Australia’s series to lose.

Johnson, Bollinger rout India for 170

Through the gap ... Harbhajan Singh was bowled by Doug Bollinger for a duck.Through the gap … Harbhajan Singh was bowled by Doug Bollinger for a duck.
Photo: AFP


Guwahati, India
November 9, 2009

Sports Performer Awards - Presented by Colonial First StateAustralia was within touching distance of a remarkable limited-overs series victory over India after routing the home side for 170 in helpful morning conditions at Guwahati today.Mitchell Johnson (3-39) and Doug Bollinger (a career-best 5-35) were ruthless in exploiting the generous swing and seam on offer in the opening overs following Indian captain MS Dhoni’s fateful decision to bat first.They captured five wickets between them with the new ball to reduce the Indians to 5-27 in nine overs.Johnson’s first over of the innings saw the wickets of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, bowled by deliveries that swerved late past their probing bats, while it was Bollinger who claimed Hyderabad centurion Sachin Tendulkar.All-rounder Ravindra Jadeja (57) and seamer Praveen Kumar (54) hit out late to save India from utter embarrassment, but their free-scoring also indicated that the pitch was flattening out nicely for the afternoon.

The Australians had admitted to their tiredness ahead of this fixture but were motivated by the chance of taking an unbeatable 4-2 series lead, with one match left to play in Mumbai on Wednesday, despite missing nine players due to injury.

Darkness descends early in Guwahati, at around 4.30pm local time, forcing the early 8.30am start.

The first few balls foretold nothing of what was to follow.

Sehwag appeared to settle in typically with a cut for six over point, one or two other fierce shots and a wayward Johnson wide.

But Johnson’s first full ball of the day swung back treacherously at Sehwag, exposing his minimal foot movement and splaying the stumps.

With the final ball of the over Johnson did it again, bending one around Gambhir’s speculative on-side push to pluck out off stump and make it 2-7.

At the other end Bollinger gained less swing but still found enough life to cramp the batsmen, and Tendulkar fell when he bunted a scrambled-seam delivery back to the bowler.

Yuvraj Singh was unfortunate in the slow motion manner of his exit, bowled when a Bollinger delivery struck him on the thigh then top-spun back into his wicket.

But there was nothing unlucky about the demise of Suresh Raina, who tamely lobbed Johnson to Nathan Hauritz at shortish mid on.

The Indian innings was by now all but crushed, and it might even have been worse – umpire Asoka Da Silva missing a faint touch from Dhoni’s gloves on the way through to Graham Manou before the Indian captain had scored.

As it was, Bollinger (first spell 5-4-6-2) and Johnson (6-1-26-3) had done more than even Ponting could have asked for, and the next 21 overs were a slow scrap against tight support bowling by Clint McKay, Nathan Hauritz and Shane Watson.

Bollinger’s return brought an instant breakthrough, Dhoni given lbw to a ball that may have missed off stump, and Harbhajan Singh cuffed his first delivery onto his wicket.

Jadeja’s stand of 74 with Kumar was deservedly ended by Bollinger, who toasted a second international five-for in only his seventh match.

Sachin played the best innings of his life

Even better than his 186*

One more four from Sachin Tendulkar would have sealed victory for India, but that is asking for too much already, considering Sachin smashed an incredible 175, and confirmed our belief that a total of 350 can very well be chased.

Sachin belted 175 off just 141 balls and has now amassed a total of 17,168 runs in ODIs. To watch India lose the match after Sachin got out was pure nostalgia – this sort of thing had happened so many times during the 90s. Sachin has stated that his century is indeed one of his greatest.

“I thought we started off really well then lost wickets. Suresh (Raina) and I had a good partnership but in the end, it was disappointing. The pressure to keep scoring runs was there and we took it very close. But I feel it was one of my best knocks,” said Tendulkar, who was adjudged as the Man of the Match.

On his personal milestone of crossing 17,000 runs, Tendulkar said: “I care about playing for India, it’s a passion and I have been absoloutely honoured to play for India for so long.”

Incidentally, Sachin had scored the highest score of his career at Hyderabad back in 1999 against New Zealand, although at a different stadium. With his 175, Sachin is now number 3 in the list of most runs scored in a match by a player on the losing side. CK Coventry tops the list with an unbeaten 194 against Bangladesh in August 2009 and Matthew Hayden occupies the number 2 spot with his 181 not out vs New Zealand two years ago.

World Cricket Greats laud Sachin’s effort

Mixed Bag for India

The entire cricket world shouted a big “d’oh” when India lost the match against Australia by 3 runs at Hyderabad on Thursday, and there wasn’t a single soul who did not commend Sachin Tendulkar’s magnificent 175, which ultimately went in vain.

The cricket fraternity applauded Sachin not only for his unbelievable century but also for crossing the seemingly impossible milestone of 17,000 runs in One Day Internationals. Sachin required seven runs to cross the barrier and he achieved the target off a Ben Hilfenhaus delivery.

Cricket biggies the likes of Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Sunil Gavaskar, Javed Miandad, Herchelle Gibbs lavished praises on the Maestro for his Herculean effort. “It’s really a remarkable achievement. He is one of the best cricketers of the world cricket. I have had some good memories with him, having partnering him for years in one-day cricket,” said former India skipper Sourav Ganguly.

Dada even wished the Little Master the best of luck for the 2011 World Cup that is to be hosted by India, Sri Lanka and Bangaldesh. “I wish he scores another 2000 runs by 2011 World Cup. Sachin knows best how to accumulate runs. Once he gets going he becomes unstoppable,” Ganguly said. Meanwhile, Mumbai batsman Wasim Jaffer hoped that Tendulkar would also achieve 20,000-run mark. “He has achieved several records. I hope that he reached 20,000-run mark. Whatever he has achieved, it is nearly impossible to achieve for anyone else. I just wish that he keeps on going and gets more and more runs for India,” Jaffer said.

“It’s a great achievement. Anyone playing for 21 years is not an easy job, we are proud of him,” said India all-rounder Rohit Sharma.

“Sachin has played for 20 odd years and I think, it’s wonderful task by a man who has achieved so much. I congratulate him,” South Africa cricketer Herchelle Gibbs said.

Javed Miandad advised youngsters to follow Sachin’s example if they’re thinking of making cricket their livelihood. “I think the way Tendulkar has handled his career and lasted for so long, keeping his passion for runs alive, is a lesson for budding young cricketers in Pakistan and India,” Miandad said. “Youngsters should adopt Tendulkar as their role model if they want to progress in the sport,” he added.

Miandad said he admired the way Tendulkar had kept his hunger alive for runs despite having such a long career. “He made his Test debut against us in 1989 and even today one can see the same hunger and spark to score runs. More importantly, he has been a great ambassador for the sport with the way he has conducted himself. The way he maintains his fitness, he should play in the next World Cup in 2011.” Miandad said.

“From what I know and have heard, Tendulkar even today spends one to two hours in the nets by himself and he still has this quality of interacting with all those people who helped build his career. To be a top professional performer these days every player needs to show this same devotion,” he added.

Agassi admits drug use

Andre Agassi

AP Andre Agassi

Andre Agassi’s upcoming autobiography contains an admission that he used crystal meth in 1997 and lied to tennis authorities when he failed a drug test – a result that was thrown out after he said he “unwittingly” took the substance.

According to an excerpt of the autobiography posted on The Times of London website, the eight-time Grand Slam champion writes that he sent a letter to the ATP tour to explain the positive test, saying he accidentally drank from a soda spiked with meth by his assistant “Slim.”

“Then I come to the central lie of the letter,” Agassi writes. “I say that recently I drank accidentally from one of Slim’s spiked sodas, unwittingly ingesting his drugs. I ask for understanding and leniency and hastily sign it: Sincerely.

“I feel ashamed, of course. I promise myself that this lie is the end of it. The ATP reviewed the case – and threw it out.” The ATP did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Agassi retired in 2006. Excerpts from his autobiography, which comes out on November 9, are being published this week in the London newspaper, as well as Sports Illustrated and People magazines.

In a story posted on People magazine’s website, Agassi says: “I can’t speak to addiction, but a lot of people would say that if you’re using anything as an escape, you have a problem.”

According to the Times of London website, Agassi writes in his book that “Slim” was the person who introduced him to crystal meth, dumping a small pile of powder on the coffee table.

“I snort some. I ease back on the couch and consider the Rubicon I’ve just crossed,” Agassi writes.

“There is a moment of regret, followed by vast sadness. Then comes a tidal wave of euphoria that sweeps away every negative thought in my head. I’ve never felt so alive, so hopeful – and I’ve never felt such energy.”

“I’m seized by a desperate desire to clean. I go tearing around my house, cleaning it from top to bottom. I dust the furniture. I scour the tub. I make the beds.”

Among the most successful – and, without a doubt, one of the most popular – tennis players in history, Agassi drew attention not just for his play, but also for his outfits, his hairstyles and his relationships with women, including a failed marriage to actress Brooke Shields.

In a posting on People’s website, Agassi says he “was worried for a moment, but not for long,” about how fans would react if they found out he used drugs.

“I wore my heart on my sleeve and my emotions were always written on my face. I was actually excited about telling the world the whole story,” Agassi says.

A writer from SI first revealed the crystal meth reference on a Twitter posting.

According to the Times of London excerpt, Agassi was walking through New York’s LaGuardia airport when he got the call that he had failed a drug test.

“There is doom in his voice, as if he’s going to tell me I’m dying,” Agassi writes. “And that’s exactly what he tells me.”

“He reminds me that tennis has three classes of drug violation,” Agassi writes. “Performance-enhancing drugs … would constitute a Class 1, he says, which would carry a suspension of two years. However, he adds, crystal meth would seem to be a clear case of Class 2. Recreational drugs.” That would mean a three-month suspension.

“My name, my career, everything is now on the line. Whatever I’ve achieved, whatever I’ve worked for, might soon mean nothing. Days later I sit in a hard-backed chair, a legal pad in my lap, and write a letter to the ATP. It’s filled with lies interwoven with bits of truth.”

Dhoni master class in Indian win

Dhoni hits a six during his electrifying innings during the second ODI at the VCA grounds in Nagpur on Wednesday.

PTI Dhoni hits a six during his electrifying innings during the second ODI at the VCA grounds in Nagpur on Wednesday.

The welcome at the crease was short and scary. Ben Hilfenhaus fired a bouncer and M.S. Dhoni was struck behind on his helmet. That was the lone moment of discomfort for the Indian captain as he smiled past the threat and with a cool head marched to his fifth One Day International hundred.

Dhoni’s 124 (107b, 9×4, 3×6) along with Gautam Gambhir (76, 80b, 6×4) and Suresh Raina’s (62, 50b, 6×4, 1×6) stellar efforts, guided India to 354 for seven in 50 overs and paved the way for a 99-run victory over Australia in the second ODI of the Hero Honda Cup series at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium here on Wednesday night.

Australia scored 255 in 48.3 overs. The victory helped India draw level with Australia at 1-1 in the seven-match series. The teams will now face-off at Delhi in the third ODI on Saturday.

Early strikes

Ricky Ponting’s men needed a strong start while chasing India’s imposing score but Praveen Kumar castled Tim Paine (8). Shane Watson (19) too failed to last long as Ishant Sharma’s first delivery with its mix of pace and bounce surprised the opener and Sachin Tendulkar crouched low at first slip to pocket the catch.

Soon Praveen beat an on-the-move Ponting (12), who shuffled forward and found the ball thudding into his pad. Michael Hussey (53, 60b, 6×4) and Cameron White (23) then shared a 48-run fourth-wicket partnership that just about delayed Australia’s free-fall.

Hussey strung three consecutive fours through the off-side against Harbhajan Singh and eased into his second consecutive 50 of the series. However with left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja (three for 35) turning one sharply past Hussey’s defences, the contest was over as the Indian bowlers, enthused by the big total, struck in tandem though Harbhajan struggled.

Industrious ally

Earlier ‘Man of the Match’ Dhoni found an industrious ally in Gambhir, who scored his second consecutive 50 of the series to top up his earlier effort at Vadodara on Sunday. The duo’s 119-run fourth-wicket partnership spread over 113 deliveries, provided a strong backbone to the Indian innings after Virender Sehwag (40, 31b, 6×4, 1×6), Tendulkar (4) and Yuvraj Singh (23) were back in the pavilion with the score reading 97 for three in 15.1 overs.

Before Dhoni unfurled his powerful shots, Gambhir whetted his appetite with a straight-driven four off Peter Siddle. Gambhir flicked the seamers and danced down to off-spinner Nathan Hauritz to hit over the in-field as Dhoni bided his time.

The pocketed their runs with stealth before the alliance was broken in a moment that almost cost Dhoni’s wicket though it was Gambhir who got dismissed. Dhoni’s checked drive off Siddle just missed the outstretched palms of the seamer while Gambhir charged down from the non-strikers end and Hauritz slammed down the stumps.

Shifting gears

Raina then came in at 216 for four in 33.6 overs with Dhoni busy shifting gears. Dhoni and Raina teamed up in a 136-run fifth-wicket partnership lasting 96 balls as India scored 47 runs in the batting Power Play (overs 40 to 44) and thumped 108 runs in the last 10 overs.

The Indian captain scored his first fifty off 55 balls and the next came in just 39 balls as he waded into the seamers with clubbed hits and the odd tennis forehand style shot. Dhoni struck a six off Hilfenhaus and then hammered successive sixes off Watson to reach his hundred and nearly took off the all-rounders head with a straight swipe.

Raina too took flight, pulling Mitchell Johnson and pock-marking the mid-wicket fence. Dhoni and Raina were out in the last over but by then Ponting’s men were gasping for breath.


India: V. Sehwag c Hilfenhaus b Johnson 40 (31b, 6×4, 1×6), S. Tendulkar c White b Siddle 4 (8b, 1×4), G. Gambhir (run out) 76 (80b, 6×4), Yuvraj Singh c & b Hilfenhaus 23 (24b, 2×4, 1×6), M.S. Dhoni c Paine b Johnson 124 (107b, 9×4, 3×6), S. Raina c Paine b Johnson 62 (50b, 6×4, 1×6), Harbhajan Singh (not out) 1 (1b), Paveen Kumar (run out) 1 (1b). Extras (b-1, lb-6, w-14, nb-2): 23. Total (for seven wickets in 50 overs): 354.

Fall of wickets: 1-21 (Tendulkar), 2-67 (Sehwag), 3-97 (Yuvraj), 4-216(Gambhir), 5-352 (Dhoni), 6-353 (Raina), 7-354 (Praveen).

Power Plays: One (Overs 1-10): 67/1; Bowling (12-16): 35/1; Batting (40-44): 47/0.

Australia bowling: Hilfenhaus 10-0-83-1, Siddle 10-0-55-1, Johnson 10-0-75-3, Hauritz 10-0-54-0, Voges 5-0-33-0, Watson 5-0-47-0.

Australia: S. Watson c Tendulkar b Ishant 19 (26b, 3×4), T. Paine b Praveen 8 (14b, 1×4), R. Ponting lbw b Praveen 12 (16b, 2×4), C. White c Raina b Harbhajan 23 (42b, 3×4), M. Hussey b Jadeja 53 (60b, 6×4), A. Voges b Jadeja 36 (44b, 1×4), S. Marsh st Dhoni b Jadeja 21 (21b, 1×4, 1×6), M. Johnson b Nehra 21 (19b, 2×4, 1×6), N. Hauritz (not out) 30 (32b, 3×4), P. Siddle c Dhoni b Ishant 3 (5b), B. Hilfenhaus (run out) 16 (12b, 2×4). Extras (lb-5, w-8): 13. Total (all out in 48.3 overs): 255.

Fall of wickets: 1-20 (Paine), 2-41 (Watson), 3-45 (Ponting), 4-93 (White), 5-140 (Hussey), 6-180 (Marsh), 7-194 (Voges), 8-223 (Johnson), 9-230 (Siddle), 10-255 (Hilfenhaus).

Power Plays: One (Overs 1-10): 45/2; Bowling (Overs 11-15): 23/1; Batting (35-39): 41/2.

India bowling: Praveen 8-1-37-2, Nehra 7-0-40-1, Ishant 8-0-34-2, Harbhajan 10-0-62-1, Yuvraj 8-0-39-0, Jadeja 6.3-0-35-3, Raina 1-0-3-0.

Sachin TendulkarGautam GambhirBrett LeeAustralia’s tour of IndiaDhoni

Australia beats India and leads by 1-0 in the Future Cup series

Australia's Andrew Symonds plays a shot during the second one-dayer against India in Kochi October 2, 2007 Australia beat India by 84 runs in the second ODI of the seven-match series played here today.

Kochi, Oct 2 : Australia beat India by 84 runs in the second ODI of the seven-match series played here today.

Chasing a target of 307 runs set by Australia, India was all out for 222 runs with more than two overs to go.

India lost its first four wickets in quick succession and before the end of first fifteen overs, Gautam Gambhir, Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh and Robin Uthappa were back to pavilion scoring 7,16, 10 and 41 runs respectively.

After Hogg dismissed Dravid, Indian went for a toss with skipper M S Dhoni trying his best to salvage his team. Dhoni made 58 and was the last one to go.

From the Australian side, Hogg was the highest wicket taker. He took three crucial wickets of Dravid, Yuvraj and Dhoni.

Stuart Clark and Michael Clarke shared two wickets each, while Bret Lee was the most uneconomical bowler with his economy crossing 6 runs per over.

Earlier, India won the toss and elected to field first, which many termed as a bad decision.

Though Adam Gilchrist was dismissed in the first over by Zaheer Khan, Australia recovered from its early loss with Matthew Hayden scoring 75 runs. However, it was the partnership of Andrew Symonds and Man of the Match trophy winner, Brad Haddin, that helped Aussie to score a formidable score of 306 runs.

From Indian side, S Sreesanth picked up three wickets followed by Irfan Pathan with two wickets and Zaheer Khan with one wicket.

“Their (India’s) captain said after Bangalore that it seems to have been a bit of a trend for them to let teams off a little bit. But I’m not saying it was their bad bowling. I prefer to think it was our good batsmanship,” said Gilchrist after winning the match.

Australia leads the series 1-0.


India vs. Australia, second one-day international, Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi, Oct 2

Adam Gilchrist c Tendulkar b Khan 0
Matthew Hayden b Pathan 75
Brad Hodge c Dhoni b Sreesanth 3
Michael Clarke st Dhoni b Pathan 27
Andrew Symonds c and amp; b Sreesanth 87
Brad Haddin not out 87
James Hopes c Dravid b Sreesanth 4
Brett Lee not out 2
Extras: (b 4, lb 2, w 15) 21
Total: (for six wickets in 50 overs) 306

Fall of wickets: 1-3 (Gilchrist, 0.6 overs), 2-8 (Hodge, 3.1), 3-66 (Clarke, 15.3), 4-160 (Hayden, 31.1), 5-268 (Symonds, 46.5), 6-297 (Hopes, 49.2)

Zaheer Khan 10-1-55-1 (2w)
Sreesanth 9-0-67-3 (2w)
Irfan Pathan 10-0-47-2 (3w)
Harbhajan Singh 10-0-57-0 (1w)
Ramesh Powar 5-0-30-0
Sachin Tendulkar 3-0-22-0
Yuvraj Singh 3-0-22-0


Gautam Gambhir b Johnson 7
Sachin Tendulkar c Symonds b Clark 16
Robin Uthappa lbw Clark 41
Yuvraj Singh c Hayden b Hopes 10
Rahul Dravid c Johnson b Hogg 31
Mahendra Sing Dhoni not out 5
Mahendra Singh Dhoni c Hodge b Hogg 58
Irfan Pathan run out (Hogg/Clarke) 1
Harbhajan Singh st Gilchrist b Clarke 4
Ramesh Powar b Clarke 17
Zaheer Khan c Hodge b Hogg 3
Sreesanth not out 7

Extras: (b 4, lb 6, w 10, nb 7) 27
Total: (all out in 47.3 overs) 222

Fall of wickets: 1-11 (Gambhir, 3.1 overs), 2-58 (Tendulkar, 8.5), 3-79 (Yuvraj, 11.4), 4-87 (Uthappa, 14.2), 5-136 (Dravid, 25.1), 6-139 (Pathan, 26.6), 7-154 (Harbhajan, 30.3), 8-179 (Powar, 34.6), 9-190 (Khan, 39.2 ov), 10-222 (Dhoni, 47.3 ov)

Brett Lee 7-0-44-0 (2nb, 2w)
Mitchell Johnson 9-1-46-1 (5w)
Stuart Clark 6-0-14-2
James Hopes 7-0-33-1 (1nb, 1w)
Michael Clarke 9-1-35-2
Brad Hogg 9.3-0-40-3 (1w)

Result: Australia won by 84 runs

Man of the Match: Brad Haddin (Australia)
Umpires: Steve Bucknor (West Indies) and Suresh Shastri (India)
TV umpire: G.A. Pratapkumar (India)
Match referee: Chris Broad (England)

Bravo plays match winning innings

Trinidad & Tobago continued their merciless rampage in the ongoing Champions League tournament as they smashed Cape Cobras to bits during the semifinals on Thursday.

T&T will now face New South Wales Blues in the final of the inaugural CL T20. Dwayne Bravo played a match winning 34-ball 58 to maintain his team’s unbeaten run in the tournament. Bravo and Darren Ganga set up an unbeaten 93-run partnership for the fourth wicket as T&T chased down the target of 176 with four balls to spare.

Although the Deccan Chargers have been knocked out of the tournament, the Rajiv Gandhi stadium at Hyderabad was alive with cheers for the T&T team. Earlier the dangerous JP Duminy scored an unbeaten 62 and Herchelle Gibbs scored 42 for the Cape Cobras who elected to bat first after winning the toss. Their knock was in vain as Bravo in reply smashed four fours and three sixes while Ganga clobbered one four and three sixes. William Perkins (20) and Adrian Barath (29) made sure Trinidad got off to a stunning start as the openers piled up 53 in the first five overs.

Pak won’t play 2011 World Cup matches in India

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is against playing its matches in India during the 2011 World Cup, and has reportedly asked the International Cricket Council (ICC) to shift its matches to Sri Lanka or Bangladesh.

Sources said PCB chief Ijaz Butt, during the recent ICC executive board meeting, had apprised the game’s governing body regarding its stance.

“Even the ICC is aware of the tense relation between the two countries and not keen to take any risks. Pakistan has also indicated it would be more comfortable playing maximum number of matches in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh,” The Nation quoted PCB insiders, as saying.

Butt, however, has expressed the hope that the soured relationship between India and Pakistan would improve by 2011 World Cup, but made it clear that it will follow the government’s directives on allowing players to visit India.

“We will do whatever the government tells us to do in this regard. But hopefully by 2011 relations between the two countries would have improved quite a bit,” Butt said.

The ICC had recently announced the groupings of the 2011 World Cup, saying the schedule and venues of the matches will be finalized by next year.

While is India in placed in Group B along with South Africa, England and the West Indies. Pakistan will be in ‘Group A’ along world champions Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Canada.

Netherlands, Ireland and Bangladesh are also in Group B. (ANI)

Trinidad and Tobago will win the Champions League

After receiving a severe bashing from the Caribbean batsmen, that knocked them out of the Champions League, the Diamond Eagles skipper Boeta Dippanaar on Sunday tipped Trinidad and Tobago to win the T20 tournament.

Trinidad and Tobago posted a huge 213 for four following a brilliant batting display and then restricted their rivals to 189 for five to storm into the semi-finals.

Dippenaar was impressed with the way the Caribbean batsmen took on their bowling attack. “They played magnificently well. They are favourites to win the Champions League. Chasing 214 was really tough. Had it been 195 we had a game on,” Dippenaar said after the match.

“Had we executed our bowling towards the end, it could have been better.”

The South African though was also pleased with his own team’s show in the tournament.

“We have played excellent cricket. They (players) have shown that they will play for Eagles in the Champions League for many more years,” he said.

The winning captain Daren Ganga was also happy with the performance of his team but warned his boys to not get overconfident. “It was an intense match. They put us under pressure but I knew with that total we were in for a win. All credit to the guys. They are hungry to perform and know exactly what they have to do.

“I am really happy with the performance of the boys. We need to take it step by step and don’t get overconfident. I am looking forward to the semis,” Ganga said.

Adjudged Man-of-the-Match for his aggressive 63, Adrian Barath was happy after making an exciting debut in international Twenty20 matches for his side.

“It was my best Twenty20 innings. Perkins also batted well and that helped. We set it up and Pollard and Stewart did well in the end.

“I am happy after this performance and hoping we can be in final,” Barath said. (ANI)

Will Ricky Ponting break Sachin’s records?

Sachin Tendulkar’s records are known to every single cricket lover in the world, but few know that Australian skipper Ricky Ponting is not far behind. Will Ponting possibly outdo the Little Master?

Almost twenty years ago Tendulkar made his international debut in November 1989 against Pakistan. Sachin, now 36, has amassed 12,773 runs, including 42 hundreds, in 159 Test matches while apart from the 16,903 runs with 44 centuries in 430 One Day Internationals.

Whereas Ponting who is now 34 years old has scored 11,345 runs from 136 Tests with 38 hundreds apart from 12,044 runs from 324 ODIs that includes 28 centuries. Ponting made his international debut in February 1995 in a ODI and later played his first Test in December the same year.

Looking at those figures, Ponting can very well catch up with Sachin in Test matches. However Ponting is not quite sure if he is talented enough to achieve such a milestone. “It would be nice if he retires some time,” Ponting quipped. “I was asked about this (chasing Tendulkar’s records) in South Africa. He’s been the benchmark for international players in the world,” he said at a media conference on Wednesday.

“I think he’s going into his 20th year in international cricket which in itself is a remarkable feat within itself. The records he has set in Test and One-day cricket would be hard for anybody to tame down the track,” he added.

In fact Ponting wants to focus more on winning matches rather than breaking records. “I will keep plugging away, doing the best I can and hopefully keep playing well enough to win a number of games for Australia. Thats what its all about,” he said.

“Its not about personal achievement or how many runs you score, its the number of games you can win for your team. So I will do my best to win quite a few games for Australia in the next couple of weeks,” he added.

NSW ravage Victoria, storm into CL Final

In match which was expected to be a neck and neck stunner turned out to be a pretty one sided affair as New South Wales destroyed Victoria and sailed to the finals of the Champions League.

In the all Australia encounter, NSW scored an easy win over Victoria Bush Rangers as the latter fell short by 79 runs, chasing 170. Victoria ended with 90/9 in reply to New South Wales’ 169/7.

Victoria’s faltered from the start itself as the team lost three top order batsmen in the first three overs. Matthew Wade’s unbeaten 23 turned out to be the highest individual score of the team. For New South Wales it was quite the opposite as openers David Warner (48) and Phil Hughes (35) gave their team a solid start, packing in 62 runs in seven overs. Victoria had their hopes alive as NSW was restricted to 169/7, when it looked like they would score close to 200.

In reply, Brett Lee began with a maiden over for New South Wales and Victoria lost 3 wickets in a space of 6 runs. Offie Nathan Hauritz struck twice, that too in his third and fifth balls of his first over, and openers Rob Quiney and Brad Hodge returned to the pavilion. After the powerplay Victoria were 17/3 and their fate was more or less sealed.

F1: Vettel wins Japanese GP!

Red Bull’s Sebastien Vettel drove an exceptional race at Suzuka to claim his fourth career win in Formula 1; the 22-year-old grabbed a vital ten points to keep his Championship hopes alive.

Vettel led from the start and crossed the chequered flag less than three seconds ahead of second plaved Jarno Trulli of Toyota and McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton. Kimi Raikkonen, in one of his final races for Ferrari gave Hamilton a scare during the penultimate lap but eventually finished fourth. Williams’ Nico Rosberg finished a satisfying fifth followed by BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld.

It was a disappointing race for the two Brawns as Barichello claimed the seventh spot, just a second ahead of teammate and championship leader Jensen Button who grabbed a lone point from the race. Force India’s Adrian Sutil had qualified fourth but his strategy took a hit after he was penalised four places and then had an unceremonious tiff with Kovallainen during the race. Sutil managed to finish on 13th followed by teammate Vitantonio Liuzzi.

New Zealand beats England, enters Champions Trophy semifinals

England batsman Eoin Morgan plays a ball by New Zealand bowler Kyle Mills during the Champions Trophy match at Wanderers in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Tuesday.

AP England batsman Eoin Morgan plays a ball by New Zealand bowler Kyle Mills during the Champions Trophy match at Wanderers in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Tuesday.

Despite a late English surge, New Zealand overcame England by four wickets on a juicy Wanderers track to top Group `B’ and enter the semifinals of the ICC Champions Trophy.

The Kiwis, pursuing 147, needed to reach the target in 44.3 overs to finish ahead of England on run-rate. They were home in the 28th over here on Tuesday.

Powered by openers Brendon McCullum and Martin Guptill, New Zealand was coasting at one stage before the English pacemen fought back. James Anderson seamed one away from Martin Guptill (53, 55b, 7×4, 1×6) for Greame Swann to snaffle up the edge at slip. Moments later Swann held an even better catch in the cordon as Ross Taylor nicked a delivery leaving him from Stuart Broad. And Grant Elliott could not get out of the way of a wickedly climbing delivery from Broad that kissed his gloves. Broad, hitting the deck hard, was extracting disconcerting bounce.

Gareth Hopkins too departed early; a brute of a short ball brushed his gloves on way to ‘keeper Eoin Morgan Broad had scalped four and the Kiwis were 130 for five. Niel Broom (17) struck some useful blows before being consumed by Ryan Sidebottom.

Skipper Daniel Vettori and James Franklin guided New Zealand home surviving some tense final moments. Elliott was adjudged Man of the Match for his four-wicket haul.

New Zealand had the rub of the green early on though. Anderson was unlucky not to consume Guptill; the opener edged the paceman more than once. Gradually, Guptill opened out with a few pleasing off-drives.

At the other end, McCullum cut loose. He gave Sidebottom the charge to send the ball soaring over the point fence; in a deliberate ploy, McCullum was disrupting the length of the English pacemen.

McCullum also fed on width. The right-hander’s upper-cut off Anderson cleared the point boundary. When Broad dropped one short, he top-edged a hook for the maximum.

Before he was held at cover off cover off Broad for a rollicking 48 (39b, 4×4, 3×6) McCullum had put the Kiwis on course. The opening pair had whipped up 84 in only 12.3 overs.

Guptill continued to inflict damage. He walked down to Paul Collingwood for a sweetly-struck straight six. And he slammed Broad over his head to reach an entertaining half-century.

Earlier, the New Zealand pacemen were on the button from the word go after Vettori won the toss. The conditions were ideal for the pacemen under a cloud-cover. The slippery Kyle Mills struck in the first over with a mean delivery that took off from short of a good lenth and moved away from the left-handed Andrew Strauss to find the edge.

There was deviation off the seam for the pacemen. And the odd ball tend to shoot through. His mind and body in harmony, thundered in, Shane Bond got the ball to jag back at the right-handed Joe Denly to rattle the timber. The Kiwi spearhead was getting the ball to dart around. He made further inroads.

The in-form Owais Shah attempted to whip a full length delivery outside the off-stump and ‘keeper McCullum pouched the edge. Collingwood, an old-fashioned fighter, was defiant. He pulled Bond for a six over square-leg when the paceman pitched one short.

England was 23 for three after the first block of Power Play overs.

There was plenty of drama on the field as well. Collingwood left the over’s final delivery – outside the off-stump – off Kyle Mills alone and set out for some gardening. In the meantime, McCullum threw down the stumps at the striker’s end. The third umpire ruled Collingwood out after a Kiwi appeal but then umpire Darryl Harper had seemingly shouted `over’ soon after the delivery passed Collingwood.

The on-field umpires, Vettori and Collingwood were involved in a discussion before Vettori withdrew the appeal.

Collingwood and the left-handed Morgan staged a recovery of sorts. Mogan struggled to find his timing but Collingwood, ready with his horizontal bat strokes, punished left-arm paceman Franklin.

Ian Butler, working up some pace and extracting bounce, consumed Morgan on the cut with a lifting delivery outside the off-stump. ‘Keeper McCullum could not pouch the edge cleanly and Taylor displayed superb reflexes at first slip to complete the catch.

The brave Collingwood continued to defy the Kiwi attack; Franklin was pulled for the maximum again. But then, a batsman’s strength can prove his undoing. Collingwood (40,

58b, 2×4, 3×6) launched into yet another pull – picking the delivery from out-side off – against support seamer Elliott and Taylor leapt to pluck a fine one-handed catch at mid-wicket.

The England innings disintegrated quickly. Elliott, revelling in the conditions, taking the ball away in the corridor. And he surprised the batsmen with steep lift. Before long, he had scapled four.

Bond returned to trap a battling Ravi Bopara (30) leg-before with a good length delivery that kept low. A tenacious last-wicket stand between Sidebottom and Anderson took the total close to 150.

Hamilton wins Singapore GP

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton celebrates his win at the Singapore Grand Prix on the Marina Bay City Circuit in Singapore.

AP McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton celebrates his win at the Singapore Grand Prix on the Marina Bay City Circuit in Singapore.

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton won the Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday, while Brawn GP driver Jenson Button extended his Formula One championship lead by one point.

Hamilton started from pole and protected his lead to finish 9.6 seconds ahead of Timo Glock, who equalled Toyota’s best-ever race result by finishing second. Fernando Alonso provided some good news for scandal-hit Renault by finishing third for the team’s first podium finish of the season.

Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel pursued Hamilton for much of the race, and closed the gap to just half a second after 37 of 61 laps. But his hopes of victory were dashed by a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pit lane, and he finished fourth.

Button worked his way up the field from 12th place to finish fifth, one place ahead of teammate and championship rival Rubens Barrichello. Button leads the championship by 15 points ahead of Barrichello with three races to go.

“I’m really happy to get fifth, four points, pull one on Rubens and only lose one to Vettel, so really this has been a good race,” Button said.

Red Bull’s Mark Webber exited on lap 45 after a brake failure that sent him spinning off the track, effectively ending the Australian’s slim championship hopes. Webber had been running in fourth in the early part of the race.

Brawn now holds a 42.5-point lead over Red Bull in the constructors’ championship, meaning it needs just 12 points over the final three races to take the crown in its inaugural season.

Vettel is 25 points behind Button, and has little chance of preventing one of the Brawn drivers from taking the championship. However, he was not conceding defeat quite yet.

“There’s always a chance,” Vettel said. “We try to push as hard as we can and try to win races. If not, at least finish second, if not, at least finish third. We want to do the best we can and see what happens.”

Barrichello is running out of chances to overtake Button, but was equally defiant.

“I’m not going to throw my towel in,” Barrichello said. “I will fight to the end.”

McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen was seventh and BMW Sauber’s Robert Kubica was eighth.

Hamilton’s only headache came early in the race when his KERS power-boost system failed, which required the driver to reboot the system via some button pushing on the steering wheel – quite a feat on a circuit of constant turns.

“Like I didn’t have enough things to think about in the car, pressing all those buttons, but it was fun,” Hamilton said.

While Vettel loomed up during the second stint, Hamilton described the race as “pretty straightforward.”

“I was never really under serious pressure. When Vettel was behind me I knew I was five laps longer (fuelled) and I just had to keep him behind.”

Williams driver Nico Rosberg was running second through the first stint of the race, but crossed the pit-lane exit line on his way out after his first stop, and had to serve a drive-through penalty that cost him a chance of any points. He finished 11th.

Alonso’s podium finish brought some smiles back to the Renault garage after a week when they dealt with the fallout of having staged a crash here last year. The team lost team principal Flavio Briatore to an indefinite ban, chief engineer Pat Symonds for five years and saw an exodus of major sponsors.

“I would like to dedicate it to Flavio, who I know would have watched the race on television,” Alonso said. “Part of the first success of the season is due to him.”

Glock’s second-place finish was a welcome return to form for Toyota – believed to be weighing up its F1 future – whose early season strength had dissipated in the European races.

“When you fall down and fight back again, its really important for the team,” said Glock, who equalled his personal best finish.

Rain cuts short a promising encounter

Australian batsman Shane Watson, right, leaves the field after he was caught out by Harbhajan Singh off a ball by Ashish Nehra during the Champions Trophy match at Centurion, South Africa, on Monday.
AP Australian batsman Shane Watson, right, leaves the field after he was caught out by Harbhajan Singh off a ball by Ashish Nehra during the Champions Trophy match at Centurion, South Africa, on Monday.

India and Australia claimed one point each after rain and thunderstorm stopped the vital Group ‘A’ contest in the 43rd over of the Australian innings.

Australia was 234 for four at SuperSport Park here on Monday when inclement weather interrupted the innings. Play never resumed.

To qualify for the semifinals of the ICC Champions Trophy, India must beat the West Indies by a handsome margin in its last match at the Wanderers on Wednesday and hope that Pakistan defeats Australia at Centurion on the same day. Pakistan is through to semifinals.

If India and Australia finish on three points each, the net run-rate will come into the picture. Presently, Australia is ahead on run-rate.

When the downpour sent the players off the field, the free-stroking Cameron White (35 not out, 30b, 2×4, 1×6) and Callum Ferguson (2 not out) were at the crease.

Australia, opting to bat, was powered by half-centuries from Tim Paine, skipper Ricky Ponting and the left-handed Michael Hussey. The side was progressing towards a healthy total.

Opting for five bowlers

India, rightly, decided to go in with five specialist bowlers. Swing bowler Praveen Kumar replaced an off-colour R.P Singh and leggie Amit Mishra came in for Yusuf Pathan.

The pitch had a few patches of grass but was still on the slower side. Aashish Nehra bowled a zestful spell with the new ball. The left-arm paceman angled the ball across the right-hander from the middle and off stump and bent his back to extract a measure of bounce.

Shane Watson picked the wrong ball from — from outside the off-stump — for the pull and Harbhajan gobbled up the catch at short mid-wicket. India and Nehra had struck early.

From the other end, the under-rated Praveen bowled craftily. Praveen is not sharp but can be skiddy with a pronounced wrist action.

Pegged back at the start, Paine and Ponting gradually opened out.

Ishant Sharma struggled during his first spell. The lanky paceman was not running in well and his bowling lacked the zing — seam movement laced with bounce — that made him such a compelling bowler not so long ago. Ishant’s wrist is an integral aspect of his bowling and he needs to look back at his wrist position. He is not able to fire the ball with the same force or hit the seam with the same regularity. Consequently, he is tending to bang it in short.

Paine pulled Ishant for the maximum and Ponting unleashed a glorious cover-drive. Ponting then turned his attention on Praveen, skipping down for a delicious straight six.

Australia was 49 for one at the end of 10 overs. India took the bowling Power Play. Mishra was introduced in the 12th over.

Mishra impresses

Mishra bowled admirably, spinning the ball away from leg and middle, and slipping the odd top-spinner and the wrong ’un. He evoked respect from the fleet-footed Ponting.

Meanwhile, Paine continued to pick runs off Ishant, pulling and cover-driving the paceman to the fence. Paine is not the most attractive batsman around but can be effective. He innovated as well reverse-sweeping Harbhajan.

However, it was the conventional sweep that led to Paine’s (56, 58b, 7×4, 1×6) downfall as he top-edged one off Mishra. Australia was 87 for two in the 17th over.

Hussey collected runs with typical efficiency; extravagance was out and timing and placement were in. The left-hander’s feet movement was precise, so was his shot-selection.

Engrossing duel

The duel between Ponting and Harbhajan was an engrossing one. The Aussie captain swept the off-spinner to the fence and played his former nemesis with confidence.

Ponting (65, 88b, 4×4, 1×6) was batting in a sublime manner, gliding Ishant to the point fence and looking looked good for more when a direct hit from Gautam Gambhir to the non-striker’s end from sweeper cover ended his tenure.

White and Hussey strung together another partnership. White displayed soft hands for a big man, caressing Mishra to the mid-wicket fence. He also struck Harbhajan over mid-off and slog-swept Mishra into the stands beyond mid-wicket.

Hussey (67, 65b, 5×4) eventually holed out at long-off off Ishant but this was the day when Australia was able to build partnerships.

Eventually, a promising encounter was cut short by rain.

South Africa stays alive in competition

South African bowler Wayne Parnell and wicketkeeper Mark Boucher celebrate the wicket of Jesse Ryder during a Champions Trophy match at Centurion, South Africa on Thursday. Photo: AP

AP South African bowler Wayne Parnell and wicketkeeper Mark Boucher celebrate the wicket of Jesse Ryder during a Champions Trophy match at Centurion, South Africa on Thursday. Photo: AP

South Africa stayed alive in the competition at the SuperSport Park here on Thursday. Walking on thin ice after the defeat against Sri Lanka, the host overcame New Zealand by five wickets in a Group `B’ match of the ICC Champions Trophy.

Left-arm paceman Wayne Parnell scalped five after Graeme Smith elected to field and then the fluent Abraham de Villiers (70 not out, 76b, 9×4) coaxed and forced the ball through the empty spaces on both sides of the wicket to guide the side home in the 42nd over.

The lanky Parnell was adjudged Man of the Match.

Even a below-par target of 214 — the Kiwis lost their last five wickets for 11 runs in 18 balls – had the potential to turn hazardous. Looking back, New Zealand erred by leaving out a second spinner on this surface.

The Kiwis had their moments but could not quite create the kind of pressure that wins matches. Smith’s uppish stroke off Darryl Tuffey was held at mid-on and Jacques Kallis was snared by a short-of-a-length ball outside off-stump from Shane Bond.

Hashim Amla missed one that turned from leg to middle from Daniel Vettori to be caught in front and then Brendon McCullum, standing up to paceman Kyle Mills, plucked a brilliant catch off the under-edge after Jean-Paul Duminy attempted to cut a rather widish delivery.

McCullum took an easier catch, again standing up, to dismiss Mark Boucher off Tuffey but the South Africans, collecting runs at a brisk clip, seldom allowed the stress to build.

Amla’s (38) back-footed punch on the off-side off Mills screamed for attention. Kallis (36) cover-drove Bond majestically; the duel between the two marquee cricketers was intense and Kallis survived a

vociferous shout for a caught behind decision. Replays suggested the decision was right.

The fleet-footed de Villiers batted with typical panache, driving with a flourish on the off-side and picking runs off his legs. He used the crease well to convert the length.

With Mark Boucher and Albie Morkel providing handy support, the South Africans nailed the pursuit amidst rousing cheers from a colourful crowd.

Eventually, New Zealand did not have adequate runs to defend. Earlier, the Kiwis stumbled in the last stretch. The anticipated acceleration never arrived with pacemen Parnell and Dale Steyn striking hard.

Parnell’s bowling a mixed bag

Parnell’s bowling was a mixed bag. There were instances when he provided width and was punished for it. He picked up wickets at the beginning and the end of the innings.

Jesse Ryder was just getting into his stride when he mistimed a stroke to be spectacularly held by a leaping van der Merwe at mid-wicket. This was an important strike.

The paceman got the ball to angle across the right-hander at a decent pace. During the latter stages of the innings, Parnell smartly went round the wicket to cut down on the width. His victims included a fighting Ross Taylor (72, 106b, 6×4, 2×6) who missed a full length ball to be adjudged leg-before.

Steyn worked up real speed, bowled with consistency and hustled the batsmen with short-pitched deliveries. Kallis gave little away with his short-of-a-good length deliveries around the off-stump.

And van der Merwe operated with control. He is not a natural flighter of the ball but does get his deliveries to drift into the right-hander. The ball straightened on a few occasions, spun away sharply on the others. The left-arm spinner’s middle-and-off line enhanced his bowling.

He castled a well-set Grant Elliott (39, 48b, 4×4) when the batsman played inside the line of a delivery which straightened and trapped Niel Broom leg-before with the one that kept a shade low.

Off-spinner Johan Botha prised out a threatening Brendon McCullum (44, 68b, 3×4, 2×6) on the sweep. Spin made a difference. The Kiwi innings largely revolved on Taylor, who cut and swept well. There were a couple of slog-swept sixes from his blade too; at the expense of Kallis and van der Merwe. Yet, his was an innings of application than flamboyance. McCullum promised much – he flat-batted Albie Morkel over long-on for the maximum – but could not kick on.

The South Africans won the key moments.


New Zealand Innings

Brendon McCullum c Duminy b Botha 44; Jesse Ryder c van der Merwe b Parnell 8; Martin Guptill c Amla b Parnell 21; Ross Taylor lbw b Parnell 72; Grant Elliot bowled Van der Merwe 39; Neil Broom lbw b Van der Merwe 1; Gareth Hopkins c Duminy b Parnell 13; Kyle Mills c De Villiers b Steyn 0; Daniel Vettori not out 1; Daryl Tuffey c Duminy b Parnell 4; Shane Bond c De Villiers b Steyn 0

Extras: (4b, 5lb, 1w, 1nb) 11

TOTAL: (all out) 214

Overs: 47.5.

Fall of wickets: 1-12, 2-58, 3-92, 4-163, 5-171, 6-203, 7-204, 8-209, 9-213.

Bowling: Dale Steyn 9.5-1-32-2, Wayne Parnell 8-0-57-5 (1w), Jacques Kallis 8-0-24-0, Albie Morkel 3-0-13-0 (1nb), Johan Botha 9-1-44-1, Roelof van der Merwe 10-1-35-2

South Africa Innings:

Graeme Smith c Vettori b Tuffey 7; Hashim Amla lbw b Vettori 38; Jacques Kallis c McCullum b Bond 36;A.B. de Villiers not out 70; J.P. Duminy c McCullum b Mills 11; Mark Boucher c McCullum b Tuffy 28; Albie Morkel not out 19

Extras: (2lb, 4w, 2nb) 8

TOTAL: (for 5 wickets) 217

Overs: 41.1.

Fall of wickets: 1-22, 2-74, 3-108, 4-138, 5-180.

Bowling: Kyle Mills 8.1-0-45-1 (1nb), Shane Bond 10-0-51-1 (2w), Daryl Tuffey 9-1-52-2 (1w), Daniel Vettori 10-1-34-1 (1w), Jesse Ryder 2-0-15-0, Martin Guptill 1-0-13-0 (1nb), Grant Elliot 1-0-5-0.

Result: South Africa won by five wickets.

Toss: South Africa.

Umpires: Aleem Dar and Asad Rauf, Pakistan.

TV umpire: Daryl Harper, Australia. Match referee: Roshan Mahanama, Sri Lanka

Button in 2 minds about F1 tactics

Jenson Button

AP Jenson Button

Jenson Button says he is in two minds about how to approach the remaining races of the Formula One season as he attempts to hang on to his lead in the drivers’ championship.

Entering this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix, Button acknowledged the importance of driving aggressively while knowing he need trail his Brawn GP teammate Rubens Barrichello in order to clinch the title.

Button has a 14-point lead over Barrichello, with only two points difference between winning and finishing second.

“It’s a great position to be in, but it’s also a tricky one,” Button said. “As a driver, your instinct is to win, but I also have to think that all I have to do is finish (immediately) behind my teammate each race.

“You have to go all out, be aggressive, but it’s always in the back of the mind to finish, be consistent.”

Button has not won a race since the Turkish Grand Prix in early June while Barrichello has won two of the past three.

Button need only cast his mind back to 2007 for a cautionary tale, as British compatriot Lewis Hamilton blew an even more dominant championship lead late in the season.

“Lewis had a 17 point lead with two races to go and lost it by a point, so there is a long way to go,” Button said.

The power advantage enjoyed by the Mercedes engine teams – Brawn, McLaren and Force India – over the past two races was likely to be negated on the twisty, stop-start Marina Bay circuit.

However, the warm temperatures should assist the low-downforce Brawns, which struggle to get heat into the rubber in cooler conditions, losing grip.

“We’ve learned a few things over the last few races,” Button said. “When the temperature is good, our consistency is good and our lap times are good.”

Button gave a hint on Brawn’s race strategy when he likened the Singapore race to Monaco, due to the difficulty in passing.

In Monaco, Brawn chose to use the super-soft tyre compound and be more heavily fuelled than rivals. Even when the Brawn tyres started to degrade and lap times fell, the quicker cars behind them simply could not pass.

Real routs Villarreal 2-0

Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka (R)

AP Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka (R)

Goals by superstars Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka gave Real Madrid a 2-0 win against a 10-man Villareal in the Spanish League on Wednesday.

Barcelona, a 4-1 winner against Racing Santander a day earlier, leads the standings after four rounds on goal difference, ahead of Madrid on the same 12 points. Sevilla is third ahead of Athletic Bilbao, both on 9.

Elsewhere it was Atletico Madrid 2, Almeria 2; Espanyol 2, Malaga 1; Xerez 0, Deportivo La Coruna 3; and Valladolid 1, Osasuna 2; Tenerife 1, Athletic Bilbao 0; Getafe 3, Valencia 1.

In only the second minute, Ronaldo attacked on the left wing, deftly evaded two defenders, and shot low inside the near post past outstretched goalkeeper Diego Lopez.

Not long after, Villarreal central defender Gonzalo Rodriguez received a yellow card for a rash challenge on Ronaldo, who sent the resulting free kick into the defending wall.

Rodriguez earned a second yellow and his ejection in the 35th for a dangerous kick that hit Kaka in the chest.

Despite being a man down, Villarreal began the second half with some aggressive attacks and strong defense which appeared to catch Madrid by surprise.

After weathering that, Kaka’s left cross struck Villarreal defender Angel Lopez in the hand within the penalty area, and the penalty was slotted in by Kaka in the 73rd.

Madrid’s ninth new player of the season, defender Ezequiel Garay, who was signed a year ago but spent last season loaned back to Racing Santander, was injured in warm-ups before the match and had to be replaced by Fernando Gago.

For Valencia, Juan Mata lobbed to David Silva who, despite having lost a boot, fed Joaquin Sanchez to send in a cross for David Villa, who chested the ball and struck it into the back of the net in the 23rd minute.

Manuel del Moral hit back for Getafe a minute later from a well-timed cross by Jaime Gavilan.

Valencia’s French defender Jeremy Mathieu failed to clear a corner shot by Pedro Leon and del Moral rose to head it in despite goalkeeper Miguel Moya getting a hand to it in the 39th.

Pedro Leon stretched the lead in the 70th with a perfectly struck free kick beyond Valencia goalkeeper Oscar Ustari.

After being taken down by Fernando Soriano in the penalty area, Atletico’s Diego Forlan sent his spot kick wide of the right post in the 19th minute at Vicente Calderon Stadium.

Midfielder Pablo Piatti put Almeria ahead in the 27th but two minutes later Maxi Rodriguez’s shot bounced off a defender and was pounced on by midfielder Cleber Santana for 1-1.

Forlan collected a loose ball from central defender Jose Flores to score in the 56th but then Piatti equalised for Almeria in the 90th.

At Espanyol, Fernando Fernandez’s corner was accidentally deflected by Espanyol defender Juan Forlin past goalkeeper Idriss Kameni for an own goal in the 29th.

Forward Ben Sahar headed in Ferran Corominas’ cross to level in the 56th, but Ivan Alonso put Espanyol back in front in the 81st.

Midfielder Juca’s free kick started Deportivo in the 28th, an own goal by defender Leandro Gioda in the 72nd made it 2-0, and Ivan “Riki” Sanchez finished off the rout of Xerez in the 79th.

Osasuna striker Walter Pandiani’s long-range shot caught Valladolid goalkeeper Jacobo Sanz by surprise in the 27th.

Despite Luis Prieto’s straight red card for illegally challenging Carlos Aranda four minutes before halftime, Valladolid equalised in the 49th when Diego Costa’s shot bounced in off defender Jose Romero.

But Jorge Galan won the match in the 74th.

An unmarked Mikel Alonso scored for Tenerife a minute before fulltime when Athletic goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz failed to come out to challenge him.

Jonty Rhodes’ formula to revive ODIs

Jonty Rhodes

The Hindu Jonty Rhodes

Jonty Rhodes has an interesting suggestion for livening up the middle overs in ODI cricket.

“All the Power Play overs, including the one by the batting side, should be taken by the 31st over. They could bring in this rule. This way you could have plenty of action between overs 20 and 30. And the last 20 overs are bound to be interesting in any case,” the former South African cricketer told The Hindu.

The 40-year Rhodes was an inspirational cricketer who revolutionised fielding during his time. He often ruled at point, making blinding saves and coming up with sensational catches.

Rhodes will always be remembered for his fielding but has a useful batting record in both Tests – he has 2532 runs in 52 matches at 35.66 – and the ODIs – the right-hander has notched up 5935 runs in 245 matches at 35.11.

He took 34 catches in Tests and 105, in the ODIs. Rhodes also saved countless runs with his anticipation, reflexes and astonishing flexibility.

Rhodes welcomes Twenty20 cricket and says cricket’s latest version has brought new fans to the game. “A lot of families are coming to watch the game which is good. The stands are getting filled up in South Africa,” he says.

He adds, “Twenty has made the game faster. The batsmen are playing a lot more strokes and the standard of fielding has gone up.”

However, Test cricket remains the foremost form of the game for Rhodes. “You should not tamper with the rules for Tests. They should stay as they are. You ask any of the cricketers and they will tell you that Test cricket is the ultimate challenge. It is played over five days and tests the cricketers, both mentally and in terms of skills. Cricketers find out more about themselves in Test cricket.”

Asked whether the lucrative Twenty20 form of the game would lead to a conflict between representing the country or playing for greater monetary benefits, Rhodes replied, “I grew up wanting to play for South Africa and I am sure every kid would have that burning urge to play for his country. That is the ultimate honour. However, a cricketer will also think about his financial security. I am sure we can all find a balance.”

What were his views on England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff turning down a central contract? Rhodes answered, “He (Flintoff) has played in great pain for England. His has put his body on the line for his country, given it his all. If he wants to make the most of the last few years of his career, you cannot deny him that option.”

Rhodes expects the Champions Trophy to put ODI cricket on centre-stage.

‘Gun for hire’ Flintoff always welcome in England dressing room: Prior

England wicket keeper Matt Prior has said that Andrew Flintoff’s decision to adopt a new globetrotting freelance cricket career would not affect his popularity in the England dressing room.Putting aside all speculations regarding Freddie being shunned by his teammates for ‘gun for hire’ decision, Prior said the players won’t have any problems if a ‘fit and firing’ Flintoff is selected for the England ODI or T20 teams.

“As a dressing room we don’t really talk about these things. People make decisions on their careers depending on where they are at. When you are in an England side you are only focused on the win – the team goal is more important than any individual,” The Sun quoted Prior, as saying.

“But Fred brings a huge amount with him and it’s always fantastic to have him around.

At the end of the day it’s about performing. As an international side, that’s the currency we deal in,” he added.

For the time being, the English wicketkeeper is focused on the Champions Trophy only.

Prior said that even after the 6-1 drubbing in the one-day series against Australia, the team is all charged up for the mega event.

“The Champions Trophy is a new tournament with a fresh slate. We’re not 6-1 down to anyone, we’re dead level. A change of venue and scenery could freshen us up too,” he said.

Symond’s romance with girlfriend over again

The on-again, off-again romance between former Australian cricketer Andrew Symonds and girlfriend Katie Johnson is off again, it seems.Word has reached Confidential that Johnson, who had been running her beauty therapy business from home, had moved out of Symonds’ digs and taken up a job in Brisbane’s CBD.

The couple had split in February before rekindling the flame a month later as Johnson stood by Roy through some dark days following his axing from the Oz team and counselling for a binge-drinking problem.

While Symmo was spotted on the arm of an attractive brunette in Emily Ferguson at The A-List Club function at Gambaro’s last week, tongues should not be wagging.

Turns out Ferguson was serving drinks. Roy was Han Solo at the party, save hanging out with new training partner Darren Lockyer

India to ensure adequate security in C’wealth 2010 games, say Maken

India on Wednesday assured the representatives of the participating countries of the Common Wealth Games 2010 of providing adequate security during the games to be held next in October.The Home Ministry’s international security liaison group has organised a two-day conference for the participating countries of Commonwealth Games 2010 who are attending the liaison conference,The conference will last till Thursday (Sep.24).

On Wednesday, the first day of the conference, Minister of State for Home Ajay Maken informed media that he has told the participants that security would be up to the mark and Commonwealth games scheduled to be held in the city in 2010 would be completely safe.

“I have also personally ensured them and told that there will be no dearth of resources or manpower for security. We’ll be using the best available technologies available globally; we’ll be using the best brains available with us for security purposes. And there’ll be no let up in security in any way. Well as far as the security aspect is concerned we are fully geared up and fully satisfied,” said Maken.

Suresh Kalmadi, Chairman of the Organising Committee, said that representatives would be taken on venue visit on Thursday so that they return to their countries with confidence.

He said that India is getting a lot of communication and security equipment into the system. “They are going to all the venues and we are giving them venue briefs; how security is there on the venues, so they go back all confident,” said Kalmadi.

About 30 Embassy chiefs or their representatives were briefed about the security measures for next year’s Commonwealth Games earlier in September.

Games organisers have said security will be at par with last year’s Beijing Olympics when they stage the Games from Oct. 3-14 next year.

However, the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) president Mike Fennell last week slammed the organising committee over the slow pace of work for the games, scheduled from Oct. 3-14 next year.

Safety concerns have escalated in South Asia since militant attacks in Mumbai last November killed 166 people and gunmen ambushed the Sri Lanka cricket team bus in Pakistan in March.

Further concerns flared up last month when England pulled out of the world badminton championships in Hyderabad.

Home Minister P.Chidambaram personally attended the final day of the championships in Hyderabad as any ordinary viewer and showed that India was capable of providing security for any major sports event.

Messi signs new deal

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi has extended his contract with European champion Barcelona.

Barcelona says in a statement on its website that “the Argentina forward’s new agreement runs until 2016 and has a buy-out clause of euro250 million ($368 million) included.”

The 22-year-old Messi’s previous contract was to expire in 2014 with a buy-out clause of euro150 million ($220 million).

Messi was a key player in the Barcelona team, which won the Spanish league, Copa del Rey and Champions League last season, making him a likely top candidate for the Footballer of the Year prize this year.

Its time to bat! Virender Sehwag

Virender Sehwag
India’s dashing opener Virender Sehwag has decided to step down as Delhi Daredevils captain, making way for Gautam Gambhir who will lead the team in the Champions League next month.Sehwag wanted to concentrate on batting and expressed his desire to step down.“I would like to thank GMR for their understanding in accepting my request to step down. Personally, I would like to concentrate on my own batting and contribute to the team. Gautam did a great job of captaining Delhi and also during IPL-2 in South Africa this year. He has shown very good leadership skills and will bring fresh energy to Delhi Daredevils,” Sehwag said.Team owner GMR considered many candidates but found Gambhir to be the most apt leader for the team. Dinesh Karthik has been appointed vice captain.“Viru has been a source of great strength and inspiration to the team. When he expressed a desire to step down in order to fully focus and concentrate on batting, we respected his decision and accepted his request,” said Srinivas Bommidala, chairperson of GMR Sports.Gambhir said it would be a challenge for him to step into Sehwag’s shoes.“I am delighted at my selection by GMR as captain of Delhi Daredevils and I am committed to deliver my best. I have always looked up to Viru. He has been a guide and friend for me. It is always difficult to fit into the shoes of someone as illustrious as him,” he said.“I have led Delhi in the past in Ranji Trophy and we won the title. I have also had the opportunity to lead the Delhi Daredevils in IPL-2 when Viru was injured. It was an enriching experience and hopefully I can put into practice all that I have learned. I can always turn to Viru for any advice, as also to the other seniors in the team. We have had great camaraderie on the side and this will help reach greater heights.”B. Vanchi, director of GMR Sports, was confident that under Gambhir the team would be successful.“We are confident that with Gautam leading the side, and Dinesh Karthik assisting him as the vice captain, Delhi Daredevils will achieve greater success,” he said.Karthik, who led Tamil Nadu with distinction in the Ranji Trophy, said: “It is a great honour to be made the vice captain. I have enjoyed responsibility within the team and we have a great team which can deliver good results”.Squad for the Champions League includes: Gautam Gambhir (captain), Dinesh Karthik (vice captain), Virender Sehwag, AB De Villiers, Tilakaratne Dilshan, Daniel Vettori, Paul Collingwood, Ashish Nehra, Amit Mishra, Dirk Nannes, Owais Shah, Rajat Bhatia, Pradeep Sangwan, Vijaykumar Yo Mahesh and Mithun Manhas.

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