Saturday, March 1, 2008

South Africa through to the final

Jon-Jon Smuts top scored for South Africa with 58...

South Africa prevented a repeat of the summit clash between India and Pakistan in 2006, with a convincing 98-run victory in a rain-affected semi-final in Kuala Lumpur.

South Africa's bowlers picked up 8 for 67 on Saturday after play was resumed on the reserve day because of a monsoon shower, which brought a halt to the game on Friday, with Pakistan on 86 for 2 in 18.5 overs.

The rain threatened to ruin play on Saturday as well for it had been pouring since the wee hours of the morning. On most grounds around the world, play would have been abandoned but the drainage at the Kinrara Oval is such that after the showers eased at 11.00 am local time, the ground staff had the ground ready for a 12.20 pm start. Pakistan needed 166 to win off 28.1 overs with eight wickets in hand at the start of play but South Africa's medium-pace attack bowled a tight line and length and four quick wickets irreparably damaged Pakistan's chances. The D/L target, which had to be kept in mind given the overcast conditions, spiralled out of control.

The game turned in South Africa's favour with the first ball - Pieter Malan slipped one down leg side and Bradley Barnes completed a sharp stumping after Umar Amin had over-balanced. The D/L par score, which was 91 for 2 after 20 overs, inched upwards following the first ball wicket. A second quick wicket put the D-L par score out of Pakistan's immediate reach. Ali Asad was adjudged leg-before to Roy Adams though the ball had pitched outside leg.

Pakistan were 95 for 4 but Ahmed Shehzad, who was on 40 overnight, was still batting and he briefly kept hopes alive through his fluent strokeplay. He reached his 50 with a lofted six against Yaseen Vallie but was lucky to get there because Jonathan Vandiar dropped a hard chance right on the long-on boundary. However, on 60, Shehzad fell while trying to raise the tempo, top-edging a slower delivery from Adams to Sybrad Engelbrecht at point.

Shehzad had fallen after a brief stand of 29 and as has been the trend in Pakistan's innings another wicket fell quickly - Umair Mir bowled round his legs by Vallie - to reduce them to 124 for 6.

The game as a contest was finished with Pakistan needing 128 with four wickets in hand and the remaining batsmen lost their wickets holing out in the outfield while trying to find the boundary. South Africa's victory means that India, after waiting for more than 24 hours to know the identity of the other finalist, will face the team they beat during the group stages. South Africa, however, have improved remarkably since that six-wicket defeat and will pose a sterner challenge.

Next IPL season could see England players - Modi

Lalit Modi doesn't want counties to sign players who participate in the unofficial Indian Cricket League...

IPL commissioner Lalit Modi will stand by an "informal understanding" with the ECB that keeps England players out of the IPL for the first season as it clashes with the county season. However, he has warned things could be different in the future.

"I know a lot of our owners are in touch with the English players," he told the Daily Telegraph. "I know that the players' agents have been in touch with me, and I've been telling them we cannot do anything for the moment. After this season, it will be more difficult to do that."

Modi had earlier suggested that the dates for future IPL events could be altered to ensure that it doesn't overlap with the English county season to allow England players to be accommodated.

In exchange for ensuring England players are out-of-bounds to franchise owners in the first season, Modi wants the counties to keep out any player connected with the unofficial Indian Cricket League.

"We accept that people are committed to certain pre-existing contracts, but it's not acceptable for any county to knowingly sign an ICL player," he said. "They need to keep to that understanding, otherwise the trickle-down effect is that none of the English counties could end up being invited to the Champions Twenty20 Trophy in the autumn."

Modi's comments come a day after England batsman Kevin Pietersen insisted that no amount of money will tempt him into joining the IPL and said he preferred to focus on his England career.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Gilchrist fires but Sri Lanka get consolation win

Adam Gilchrist was at his blistering best but his team-mates struggled to find the same form...

Adam Gilchrist provided the fireworks but Sri Lanka's seamers had the extinguisher at the MCG, where Australia's blistering start of 0 for 107 in the 15th somehow turned into their first loss in nearly three weeks. Chasing 222 Australia were cruising as Gilchrist belted 83 from 50 balls, but a collapse of 6 for 16 in ten overs ensured Sri Lanka regained some pride with a 13-run win.

It almost turned back Australia's way as Nathan Bracken and Brett Lee combined for a 35-run tenth-wicket stand that brought them within sight of victory, but Sanath Jayasuriya had one final trick in his last match on Australian soil. With 14 needed from the last two overs, Jayasuriya, who had not bowled in the innings, came on and bowled Lee (37) first ball to seal the win.

The result did not mean anything - Sri Lanka are still flying home on Saturday and Australia are safely in the finals - but it did highlight why some fans will miss the tri-series, despite its tired format. Australia wanted to enter the deciders with winning momentum, but they were also keen to get some chasing practice after batting first in all but the series-opening wash-out. On the strength of their middle-order efforts, Ricky Ponting will be hoping to win the toss in the finals.

Admittedly MCG pitches have been hard to bat on all season, but the way Gilchrist was going it looked like this surface was friendlier. When he fell, it became a minefield. Ishara Amerasinghe and Nuwan Kulasekera, previously fodder for Gilchrist's cannon, turned into snipers and clinically picked off his team-mates.

Michael Clarke was bowled by Amerasinghe for 0 from 11 balls, Ponting was lbw to Kulasekera for 1 from 11, Andrew Symonds feathered a leg-side catch behind off Amerasinghe for 0 and Lasith Malinga had Brad Haddin lbw for 7. When Michael Hussey was bowled by a ripping inswinger from Chamara Kapugedera for 5, they were still 80 short and the tail could not save them.

A brave gambler could have had huge odds on the result after Gilchrist's quick start in his final game at the MCG. His first 17 balls brought only 9 but he raced to his half-century from 35 deliveries, bringing up the milestone with a vicious square cut for four off Malinga. Fourteen came from that over but Malinga was fortunate compared to Amerasinghe. Gilchrist picked up 18 off Amerasinghe's second over, launching fours over mid-off and midwicket, pulling a six forward of square and then running four more when his well-timed drive over cover strangely pulled up.

The Sri Lankans gave Gilchrist a guard of honour as he came to the crease - Brad Hogg, Jayasuriya and Muttiah Muralitharan received the same gesture from their respective opponents - and they must have been thankful they will never again be subjected to his power. It took an awesome catch to deny Gilchrist triple-figures as Malinga ran around from long-off and clutched a diving chance to give Kulasekera his first wicket.

There was no doubt about Gilchrist's dismissal but his opening partner James Hopes, who made 28, fell in bizarre circumstances when Muralitharan's doosra brushed the off stump. The bail took so long to dislodge that there was confusion over how it fell, but replays eventually confirmed Hopes was bowled. That was the moment that sparked Australia's collapse, and they must have wished their target was smaller.

It easily could have been. Sri Lanka stumbled to 3 for 42 but Australia appeared content to let Sri Lanka knock up a competitive total and test their chasing abilities. Nathan Bracken finished with 4 for 29 from his ten overs, but three of those came in the dying stages and it was not until the final ball of the 50th over that the visitors were dismissed for 221. They had Mahela Jayawardene and Tillakaratne Dilshan to thank for their fightback.

Dilshan batted sensibly, taking the easy runs on offer when the field pushed back and striking only three boundaries in his 62. He had late support from Chamara Silva, whose 35 was his highest score in a forgettable tournament. Silva and Dilshan added 60 for the sixth wicket after Dilshan and Jayawardene had combined for 64 for the fifth. Jayawardene's 50 from 66 balls featured a couple of cracking cover-drives to the boundary and he launched Mitchell Johnson over long-on for four more.

There was not a great deal for Sri Lanka to cheer early in their innings, and the crowd's biggest reaction was saved for a crash between Dilruwan Perera and the bowler Brett Lee. Perera was trying for a quick single, dropped his bat and could not regain his feet, forcing him to comically stumble and crawl towards the crease where he slammed his hand in safe ground just before Symonds' throw hit the stumps.

Moments like that hinted that the dead-rubber might not be totally forgettable and the later feats of Gilchrist and Sri Lanka's bowlers turned it into one of the tournament's most memorable games. It was also proof that what occurs on the field can be just as entertaining as what happens off it, a point that Australia and India should remember leading into the finals.

Record opening stand lifts South Africa

South Africa's openers were involved in a record opening stand of 405 for 0 in a single day...

On the eve of this match Ashwell Prince called on his batting team-mates to step up and post at least 400 on the board, and his words clearly didn't fall on deaf ears. But even he wouldn't have envisioned this: Graeme Smith and Neil McKenzie doubled South Africa's first-innings 170 from Dhaka and then some, frustrating a lifeless Bangladesh on a placid track to the tune of a record 405-run opening stand. In one day.

Smith had no hassles in compiling a South African record fourth double-hundred and his partner in a dumbfounding opening stand, Neil McKenzie, patiently batted his way to a third hundred after a seven-year gap. From the strides made during the opening Test, where they matched their opposition step for step, Bangladesh turned in their worst day in Tests for some time and were staring down the barrel on a track only certain to deteriorate.

With Bangladesh having decided to go onto the defensive early on day one, it was an ideal situation for South Africa's openers to put up shop for the long haul. For McKenzie left alone a lot but Smith, as the bowlers began serving too much on the pads, began working the ball into the yawning spaces. Smith, leading South Africa for a record 54th test, found the first-Test pitch a bit odd but took an immediate liking to the one in Chittagong.

He had been bowled via the inside-edge on plenty of occasions in the last 12 months and today Smith made a conscious attempt to get that back foot across. After growing in confidence through some trademark whips to midwicket he opened up with fluent shots to the off. A couple of positively-timed cover-driven boundaries were accompanied by some comfortable whips through the leg side and a cracking straight drive when Shahadat overpitched. He reached his 21st Test half-century from 65 balls with a slap past backward point on the stroke of the lunch.

Smith continued from where he left off in the first session, scoring 80 further runs from just 86 balls. He welcomed back Shahadat Hossain with a drilled straight drive and a dance down the track followed as he caressed four off Mohammad Rafique. His confidence high after crossing fifty, he was soon reaching out and flicking deliveries from well outside off stump.

Smith passed 5000 Test runs and duly reached three figures midway through the session. The fun carried on after the landmark, highlighted by a 16-run over just before tea. Smith's fourth double-hundred took him past Gary Kirsten (3) and he finished the day with a flutter of boundaries. He has probably had tougher net sessions.

Most sides that come to Chittagong normally employ the use of two spinners and Bangladesh maintained that trend. However Abdur Razzak, brought in to partner veteran Mohammad Rafique, seldom troubled South Africa. His middle-and-leg line, full and flat, was comfortably negated by the batsman, especially Smith. Rafique, in his final appearance, gave the ball a bit of a tweak and varied his pace to keep McKenzie on guard initially.

McKenzie, after failing twice against Shahadat in Dhaka, appeared intent on building an innings. With no real need to force the pace he defended the good deliveries - there were no pushes outside off and he wasn't beaten - and remained reserved in his approach.

Playing straight and not taking any risks, he plodded the spinners back. When the odd full toss was served up he brought out some firm on-drives, but otherwise his game was made of soft-handed dabs and steers. McKenzie took a liking to Mohammad Ashraful's gift-wrapped lollipops and duly sent them racing along the outfield.

This was his first score of note since being recalled, and he probably couldn't have asked for better conditions or a flatter bowling attack. A rare moment of aggression got McKenzie to his third hundred - the seven-year itch snapped with a straight six off Rafique. The same bowler dropped a return catch when McKenzie was on 131 and the batsman shuffled along to a career-best 169 by the close. Seeing him pull a fatigued Shahadat for six in the penultimate over of the day summed up play aptly.

The runs kept coming, the pitch got flatter and some lacklustre bowlers were left to curse the curator as South Africa eased well past the previous best opening stand against Bangladesh (the 87 that Smith and Herschelle Gibbs added at East London in 2002-03). Incidentally, Smith has featured in all four double-century stands for his country. The world record of 413, between India's Pankaj Roy and Vinoo Mankad, is just nine runs away.

The weather helped the hosts in the last Test played here, but with sunny skies expected all five days, the heat is well and truly on Bangladesh.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

IPL will try to avoid clash with county cricket - Modi

David Hussey is likely to choose the Indian Premier League over Nottinghamshire...

English players might have missed out on lucrative Indian Premier League contracts due to their non-availability in 2008, but Lalit Modi, the IPL chairman and commissioner, has indicated that dates for future events could be altered to accommodate them.

The inaugural IPL competition - from April 18 to June 1 - clashes with the first six weeks of the domestic season in England, while the national team are at home to New Zealand during the same period.

"Most of the English players say they'd like to play," Modi told BBC Sport. "It's not that we couldn't sign them [but] because it directly conflicts with the English games.

However, an ECB spokesman said England's commitments to the Future Tours Programme [FTP], which concludes in 2012, would result in its 12 centrally-contracted players missing out on the IPL.

Modi said the IPL would look at rescheduling its dates in the coming years in order to accommodate English players. "Sooner or later we will look at adjusting our programmes while we try to bring our league forward," he said. "The objective would be in the future we would be working with the ECB to ensure the overlap doesn't take place."

He also said that with top international stars opting for the IPL, county cricket in England would suffer. "They have decided to sign with us over and above the counties. The counties are going to be deprived of these players going forward."

One of the conflicts to have emerged already involves David Hussey, who has an existing contract with Nottinghamshire. Hussey was bought for a whopping $625,000 deal with the IPL's Kolkata franchise, and has indicated he will play for them as opposed to the county.

"We were expecting him to come to us in the middle of April," Mick Newell, Nottinghamshire's director of cricket, said. "We all want to work towards a compromise. David is keen to play in the IPL, the sums people are talking about are mind-blowing for cricket, so I'm sure both sides are keen to find a solution."

Modi suggested players didn't need permission from the county they are contracted with to play in the IPL. "David Hussey has nothing to do with Nottinghamshire, as far as we are concerned he only needs an NOC [No Objection Certificate] from his home board."

Gilchrist defends Hayden

Adam Gilchrist has a maximum of four ODIs remaining in his career and he wants fans to focus on the game, not on the off-field issues...

Adam Gilchrist says Matthew Hayden remains one of the most highly-respected members of the Australia team despite Cricket Australia reprimanding him for calling Harbhajan Singh an "obnoxious weed". Gilchrist said the team was ready to move on and focus on the remainder of the CB Series.

"We haven't even sat down to speak about it," Gilchrist said. "I haven't seen Matthew, so we'll see where that's all at over the course of the day. I've not ever cared to think what other teams think of Matthew Hayden. He's one of the most well-respected people in our team so that's all that interests me."

Gilchrist also brushed off reports Ricky Ponting had told Harbhajan to "f... off" while giving him a send-off when he was dismissed in the ODI in Adelaide. "Ricky didn't use the words that were said in the paper today," Gilchrist said. "I didn't hear it."

Gilchrist is trying to enjoy his last international series, which has effectively been a month-long farewell tour of Australia, and he said he was pleased he was not personally involved in the ongoing tensions. With two or three finals between Australia and India over the next week he was hopeful the focus could go back on the game.

"I think everyone's over it a little bit now, just trying to get on with the finals and play some cricket," Gilchrist said. "I'm glad I'm not amongst it. But I don't think any player intends to set out to be a part of it. It's sort of by-products of passion and loyalty to team-mates and trying to play the game as hard and as fair as possible.

"Sometimes you don't always make the right decisions and sometimes others perceive what you've said or done or your actions as being different to what they actually were intended. It's difficult for everyone."

Ever since the controversial Sydney Test the relationship between the two teams has appeared strained, although the Australians claim they get on well with their opponents off the field. Gilchrist said his final season had been an eventful one.

"There's been a lot on," he said. "I haven't played in too many summers where constantly there's been any number of issues you could bring to mind that have sort of always been there throughout the whole season. It's been tough work for everybody."

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Hayden reprimanded for 'weed' comment

Matthew Hayden has been reprimanded by the Australian board for his comments on Harbhajan Singh...

Cricket Australia has upheld the charge that Matthew Hayden breached its code of conduct when he referred to Harbhajan Singh as an "obnoxious weed" on a radio station on Tuesday. No fine was imposed on Hayden but he was issued a reprimand after a hearing on Wednesday by the Code of Conduct commissioner Ron Beazley. Hayden was charged under Rule 9 of CA's Code of Behaviour, which prohibits detrimental public comment.

In a brief statement following the verdict, Hayden said: "I maintain my innocence, my intentions were never to denigrate cricket or anyone. But in the spirit of cricket I respect and accept the decision." Reacting to the judgment, BCCI secretary Niranjan Shah told Cricinfo, "CA has taken a decision and the matter is closed as far as we are concerned."

Earlier CA had assured the Indian board that it would investigate Hayden's remarks. "Mr Sutherland [the Cricket Australia chief executive] wrote to me that he is aware of the comment and is dealing with it," Shah told Cricinfo. Shah has asked the Indian team manager Vimal Soni not to react to Hayden's comments.

Harbhjan was quoted by PTI saying he did not want a slanging match over the issue. "Maybe they [Australians] realise they no longer are the undisputed champions of the world. Maybe they feel the crown is slipping. Otherwise, why would a cricket veteran [Hayden] ask a 19-year-old [Ishant Sharma] to join him in a ring? You only need to speak to international cricketers and international teams to know in what opinion they hold Hayden," Harbhajan said.

Hayden and Harbhajan clashed during Sunday's CB Series game between the two sides and the Indian team later complained that Hayden had called Harbhajan a "mad boy". Clarifying what he had said, Hayden told the radio station: "I called him a bad boy."

He also said: "It's been a bit of a long battle with Harbhajan, the first time I ever met him he was the same little obnoxious weed that he is now. His record speaks for itself in cricket."

India through to final despite hiccup

Shreevats Goswami's 51 was instrumental in India's win..

India Under-19s were stretched for the first time in the tournament but held their nerve in a tense chase under lights in wet conditions at the Kinara Oval to beat New Zealand by three wickets to reach their second successive final.

The victory was set up by their bowlers, who bowled an economical wicket-to-wicket line and restricted New Zealand to 205 and their batsmen, Shreevats Goswami in particular, displayed composure during the run-chase, which was shortened to 191 off 43 overs by the Duckworth-Lewis method.

There was a major rain delay in the seventh over of India's chase, soon after the opener Turuwar Kohli had been dismissed. Seven overs were lost, and Tanmay Srivastava fell soon after play resumed. However, Goswami, who was the only top-order batsman yet to make a significant contribution, struck from with a vital half century. His 84-run stand with Virat Kohli for the third wicket put India on course but the middle order, untested so far in the tournament, barely passed the examination.

New Zealand were the first side to take more than five Indian wickets and their medium-pacers. Led by Northern Districts fast bowler Tim Southee, who took 4 for 29 which was backed up by excellent ground-fielding, they triggered a collapse, taking five wickets for 59 runs. Southee struck twice in the 40th over, having Manish Pandey and Ravindra Jadeja caught behind. Trent Boult also induced an edge from Iqbal Abdulla in the 41st but Saurabh Tiwary's unbeaten 29 ensured India hung on for the win.

India have had a 'home advantage' in the tournament because they've played all their matches at the Kinrara Oval, where a sizeable number of fans playing musical instruments have supported them vociferously. Today, however, they had the worse of the conditions, for New Zealand won the toss and made India field in searing heat and chase under the lights.

Their bowlers performed superbly in the afternoon. The primary strike bowler, Pradeep Sangwan, did not find his rhythm and failed to take early wickets but managed to keep the runs down. Ajitesh Argal, who shared the new ball, bowled a consistent off-stump line and seamed it away from the right-hander. It was one such delivery, which moved into the left-hand opener, George Worker, which gave India the first wicket via a tame push to mid-on.

New Zealand's Kane Williamson on the attack...

With Sangwan and Argal having bowled five overs in the heat - the conditions became overcast and cooler as the innings progressed - Virat brought on left-arm spinner Jadeja in the 11th over. The move worked immediately as Jadeja slipped one past Michael Guptill-Bunce's attempted sweep and hit leg stump. Curiously Virat took Jadeja off after his second over, even though he had figures of 1 for 1, and brought him back only in the 44th.

New Zealand were 29 for 2 and Kane Williamson and Fraser Colson concentrated on building the innings. The attacking shots were rare - Williamson pulled to the square-leg boundary when the length permitted - but they steadily added 57. Virat, having tried all his bowling options, brought himself on, a move that produced quick results. He varied his pace and his straight line made him difficult to hit. He slipped one down leg side and had Williamson stumped before bowling Colson as he tried to play across the line.

Corey Anderson began consolidating with Southee but lost him and Morgan in the space of two overs to Kaul, who bowled a fabulous death-over line, keeping it full and straight. Anderson did the bulk of the scoring and pushed the run-rate up to four an over as the batsmen at the other end merely hung around. He struck six fours and four sixes, two of which flew over the media box, and fell only in the 49th over for a 68-ball 70.

The chase started late because of a shower during the dinner break and Southee bowled a hostile spell once played resumed. He used his height to gain bounce from a good length and seamed the ball away from the right-handers. He could have had Goswami for a duck but the wicketkeeper Guptill-Bunce grassed a low chance. However, he dismissed Turuwar, who tried to break free by pulling from outside off stump and holed out to midwicket for 10. It began to rain as he walked off.

Srivastava was fluent when play resumed, but his innings was cut off by an athletic catch: Anderson moved to his left at mid-on and dived full length to take it with one hand.

Goswami made the most of his reprieve and, after seeing off the new ball, played outstanding drives through the off side, none better than the shot played on the up past mid-off to bring up his half-century. Virat, a powerful batsman, flayed the bowling through covers consistently with whippy drives. With the rain break, the D/L target had to be kept in mind and Virat's quick-scoring eliminated that burden.

India and Pakistan remain the only unbeaten teams in the tournament but while India's bowling has delivered efficient performances in each match, it has been their consistent batting that has set them apart from the other teams. They now await the outcome of the South Africa-Pakistan clash on Friday.

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Hogg calls time on his career

Brad Hogg has decided against pushing on to tour Pakistan and West Indies and will bow out in the CB Series next week...

Brad Hogg has joined the retirement epidemic sweeping Australia's mid-30s players and will step down less than a year after many rated him the world's most effective limited-overs spinner. In a climate where internationals are dropping like slips catches in the national cordon, Hogg has decided to exit at the age of 37.

The timing is surprising as Australia's spin stocks are currently severely depleted and Stuart MacGill, who was expected to be the No. 1 following Shane Warne's retirement, is still not playing for New South Wales after wrist surgery. Despite Hogg's below-par performance in three Tests against India, he was expected to be a contender for the tours of Pakistan, which is scheduled for late next month, and the West Indies.

When asked if he had been offered a place in the Indian Cricket League, Hogg said it was not something he had considered, although personal issues had played a part in his decision. "I haven't even thought about that," Hogg said. "I'm out of here for a couple of months. I've got things that I want to sort out at home and get my new chapter in my life organised and on the go.

"It's an exciting time and a sad time. There are just a few personal issues that are probably the main reason for this decision. I'm going to take a good couple of months off, really decide what I want to do. I've got a number of things on the go at the moment - I won't go into that."

Dan Cullen, the South Australia offspinner, and Bryce McGain, a legspinner from Victoria, have taken another step up the pecking order with Hogg's departure and the relatively unknown pair could both play a part in Pakistan if the trip goes ahead and MacGill is unfit. The slow-bowling options have not been this thin since Warne was catapulted into the team in the early 1990s.

Australia will miss Hogg's frugal mid-innings overs in the one-dayers, but his removal from the Test scene offers the selectors a chance to gamble on fast-tracking another player with potential. His powers in the limited-overs arena have not waned noticeably - his eight games in Australia this season earned 10 wickets at 26.30, slightly below his career mark - but he has started to look his age in the field and will depart after the CB Series finals, which start in Sydney on Sunday.

He will have a maximum of three matches to add to his 121 games and 154 victims that make him the sixth-most successful Australian bowler. A man without the power of his batting team-mates or dazzling turn of his legspinning partners, Hogg did well to hang on for so long.

In the lead-up to the 2007 World Cup he was used sparingly and went five games without a wicket before springing to life in the Caribbean like the Energizer bunny he was often compared with. For much of the tournament he was unplayable as batsmen guessed - usually incorrectly - at his wrong'un and he stormed to 21 wickets at 15.80. Of the slow bowlers only Muttiah Muralitharan could claim more impact at the tournament, but Hogg gained greater notice because of the potency of his seemingly unpickable googly.

It was an incredible performance and he deserved as much credit for Australia's success as any of the squad's big names. Not many people have been part of two World Cup triumphs, the first coming when he stepped in for Warne after his pre-tournament drugs ban in 2003. After the second success he considered stepping down, but with Warne gone he wanted to have a final go in Tests and decided to stay for another summer.

"My career started against India and I thought, well, if I can play Test cricket against India that would be fantastic," he said. "I've had a real bloody good run at it and I'm really happy with what I've achieved. I'm going out on a high with my team-mates in my home country."

Hogg said his career highlights included being part of Australia's record-equalling 16 consecutive Test wins, playing in two World Cups where the team was undefeated, and "playing alongside legends" such as Adam Gilchrist and Ricky Ponting. His ultimate high, however, was being seen as Warne's peer.

"If someone could have ripped Shane Warne's right arm off I might have had more of a crack," Hogg said. "When I did play in '96 I said I'd never make it unless I played with Warney in an international match. I think it was 2003 we played two games together and I think that's probably the highlight of my career as a spinner, I actually deserved that spot getting in there with Warney."

He was not particularly comfortable in front of large off-field crowds and was happier bobbing around the field or bouncing in to bowl with his tongue hanging out. Nobody looked happier to be playing and when he was picked in the squad for his first Boxing Day Test last December he fulfilled a childhood dream.

Hogg's Test debut came in India in 1996 and he had to wait seven years and 78 games for a second chance. Three matches came in 2003 before another long break until his final recall against India, but he was unable to qualify as a slow bowler of international quality in the format.

Eight wickets arrived at the average of 60.12 this season and the numbers would have been much worse if he had not had a hex over Sourav Ganguly, who he removed four times. Hogg's biggest failing was his inability to trouble the batsmen on the fifth day and his best result of the series was an essential 79 to save Australia's first innings in Sydney. He finished with 17 wickets in a career of seven Tests.

Hogg has a couple of children and another on the way and has been preparing for his future by studying for a business degree in Western Australia. He joins Adam Gilchrist, Michael Kasprowicz, Matthew Elliott and Jimmy Maher in announcing their retirements over the past four weeks - although Hogg is undecided whether to play on for Western Australia - while Jason Gillespie is expected to join the parade on Friday.

£200 million redevelopment for Lord's

Lord's is set to change almost beyond recognition...

A report in today's Times says that the MCC is planning to spend up to £200 million on redeveloping Lord's over the next decade. Every stand, other than the listed 1890 pavilion and the new Grandstand, would be replaced.

Initial plans were costed at £100 million, but these have now been expanded to include rebuilding of the Warner Stand (1958), the Compton and Edrich Stands (1991), the Mound Stand (1987), the Tavern (1967) and the Allen Stand (1935). The changes are likely to boost the capacity to between 38,000 and 39,000, still less than half of some of the biggest grounds in the world, but still by far the largest in England. Other changes could include an underground Real Tennis court, an academy, floodlights and a hotel.

The report added that leading architects were being approached, though even after their appointments, obtaining planning consent would take at least a year.

Funding for the project would be raised from debentures and possibly by building apartments on the northern perimeter at the far end of the Nursery Ground. That would probably signal the end of the Nursery, which has increasingly been eroded by a series of developments, as a cricket pitch.

"We do not want to create a stadium," David Batts, who is in charge of the redevelopment, told The Times. "We have to be mindful of how many people will be able to walk around the ground during a Test match to buy food and drink. The walkways can be congested already, so we have to work out how many boxes and bars we put into the stands to enable spectators to eat in the stands, which is particularly necessary for the short Twenty20 matches."

The plans are part of the MCC's attempt to move forward, aware that there is pressure on the ECB to take one of its two annual Tests away and award it to another venue.

Hayden charged for 'weed' comment

Hearing scheduled for later this evening...

Cricket Australia has charged Matthew Hayden with breaching its code of conduct for referring to Harbhajan Singh as an "obnoxious weed" on a radio station on Tuesday.

A media release issued by CA said Hayden was charged under Rule 9 of CA's Code of Behaviour, which prohibits detrimental public comment. CA will appoint a Code of Conduct Commissioner from its panel and convene a hearing at 8pm local time on Wednesday.

Earlier CA had assured the Indian board that it would investigate Hayden's remarks. "Mr Sutherland [the Cricket Australia chief executive] wrote to me that he is aware of the comment and is dealing with it," Niranjan Shah, the BCCI secretary told Cricinfo. Shah has asked the Indian team manager Vimal Soni not to react to Hayden's comments.

Harbhjan was quoted by PTI saying he did not want a slanging match over the issue. "Maybe they [Australians] realise they no longer are the undisputed champions of the world. Maybe they feel the crown is slipping. Otherwise, why would a cricket veteran [Hayden] ask a 19-year-old [Ishant Sharma] to join him in a ring? You only need to speak to international cricketers and international teams to know in what opinion they hold Hayden," Harbhajan said.

Hayden and Harbhajan clashed during Sunday's CB Series game between the two sides and the Indian team later complained that Hayden had called Harbhajan a "mad boy". Clarifying what he had said, Hayden told the radio station: "I called him a bad boy."

He also said: "It's been a bit of a long battle with Harbhajan, the first time I ever met him he was the same little obnoxious weed that he is now. His record speaks for itself in cricket."

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Harbhajan an 'obnoxious weed' - Hayden

Harbhajan Singh has not endeared himself to many Australians in recent months...

Matthew Hayden has stirred already troubled waters by calling Harbhajan Singh an "obnoxious weed", a comment that will only serve to deepen the animosity between the two sides that has surfaced during India's tour.

Speaking on a Brisbane radio station, Hayden said: "It's been a bit of a long battle with Harbhajan, the first time I ever met him he was the same little obnoxious weed that he is now. His record speaks for itself in cricket.

"There is a certain line that you can kind of go to and then you know where you push it and he just pushes it all the time. That's why he has been charged more than anyone that's ever played in the history of cricket."

The pair clashed during Sunday's CB Series game at the SCG when the Indians complained that Hayden had called Harbhajan a "mad boy".

Hayden played down the incident, accusing the Indians of making an issue of it because "they are losing every game they are playing". He said: "I called him a bad boy."

"He took offence to that. I thought that was quite funny. I said mate, you should be flattered, it's a clothing range."

Cricket can never be friendly - Dhoni

Mahendra Singh Dhoni: "We have to be careful about it and if they provoke us we need to mind what we say. Ishant just reacted to what Andrew Symonds said"...

Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the Indian captain, believes Ishant Sharma was provoked by Andrew Symonds into the reaction that earned the young bowler an ICC reprimand and fine. Dhoni also said the Australians had turned this kind of incident into an art form and that India would need to catch up.

"It's an art and they are good at it, but the Indians will learn soon," Dhoni said after India's comprehensive seven-wicket victory over Sri Lanka in Hobart that booked them a place in the finals against Australia, which start on Sunday.

Ishant was fined 15% of his game fee by Jeff Crowe, the match referee, for sending Symonds off with words after dismissing him in Sunday's game at the SCG. Though the Indian team management accepted Crowe's verdict, they also asked him to speak to the Australians about their provocative behaviour in the field. They even cited as evidence specific instances in the previous two CB Series clashes between the teams.

Dhoni, who wasn't in close proximity to either Ishant or Symonds when the incident occurred, felt Ishant had every right to do what he did, adding it was Symonds who started it. Television cameras showed Dhoni pacifying Ishant after the umpire Daryl Harper had cautioned him about the bowler.

"It's (provocation) been going on for a long time," Dhoni said. "We have to be careful about it and if they provoke us we need to mind what we say. Ishant just reacted to what Symonds said."

Dhoni, who had double the reason to celebrate today's win - his side's entry into the finals was confirmed as well as him completing 100 ODI catches - defended a series that has never been too far from reaching boiling point. "Cricket can never be friendly. As long as the rivalry never crosses the line it's fine."

Dhoni himself avoided an ICC rap after he was found wearing gloves that weren't within the regulations. The pair of white ones he sported came with a loop-like webbing that had been reinforced at the edges.

Law 40.2 states that "if the wicketkeeper wears gloves, they shall have no webbing between the fingers except joining index finger and thumb, where webbing may be inserted as a means of support..."

Dhoni said he had obeyed the laws and didn't want any further controversy. "It was close to the line of 'if the gloves were legal or illegal'. In the 100 catches I've taken only three or four might have been caught in the webbing. Otherwise, the rest I've claimed out of my glovework and my skill."

Lee wins Allan Border Medal

Brett Lee with his Test Player of the Year trophy: 'It's been a great summer"...

Brett Lee has completed an outstanding year by winning his first Allan Border Medal despite missing the entire World Cup with an ankle injury. Fittingly, in a season when he took over from Glenn McGrath as the spearhead of Australia's attack, Lee became the first bowler since McGrath in 2000 to claim the major award.

He also took home the Test Player of the Year title, while Matthew Hayden was named the One-Day International Player of the Year. Lee finished with 125 votes in the Allan Border Medal count, ahead of Hayden on 107 and last year's champion Ricky Ponting on 64.

It was Lee's first time on the stage at the medal ceremony since 2000, when he was named the Bradman Young Cricketer of the Year. He said it was a thrill to be taking such an important role in the side following the disappointment of missing the World Cup triumph.

"I'm really enjoying that leadership role," Lee said. "It sits a bit funny with me being called the strike bowler or the main bowler because it's a team effort. I actually thought missing 19 matches I was absolutely no chance. That was a very hard time missing the World Cup, watching it on TV was very hard.

Lee said the medal was a pinnacle after the low of his lengthy spell out of the team leading up to the 2005 Ashes. "I spent 19 months on the sideline carrying the drinks," he said. "But to appreciate the good times you have to go through the bad times."

In a year that was dominated by coloured clothing - Australia only played six Tests during the voting period - Lee polled in all but one Test. His 12 votes in the Test count put him five ahead of Hayden (7), while there was a traffic jam for third, with five players grabbing three votes.

There was no question that Lee was the star in the longer form of the game during a summer when Australia equalled their own world record of 16 consecutive Test victories. He was named Man of the Series in both the Sri Lanka and India contests and finished with 40 wickets during the voting period, at the average of 20.58.

Against Sri Lanka he collected 16 wickets at 17.56 in two Tests, while in the four India games he grabbed 24 victims at 22.58. Lee's success was not limited to Tests and he picked up 30 ODI wickets at 21.70, however his injury meant it was not surprising that he finished 11th in the one-day count.

Hayden ended up with 24 votes, ahead of Ricky Ponting on 19 and there was a three-way tie for third, with Michael Clarke, Adam Gilchrist and McGrath all on 14. Hayden's award capped off a terrific return to the one-day arena after he lost his spot following the 2005 tour of England.

In his first series during the voting period, Hayden belted an Australian record unbeaten 181 in the Chappell-Hadlee Series in New Zealand, and things improved from there. He was the leading scorer at the World Cup in the Caribbean, making 659 runs at 73.22, and a blistering 66-ball century against South Africa was a highlight.

A productive ODI tour of India followed and Hayden finished the 12-month period with 1462 runs at 56.23. He made four centuries and six fifties and he said he was "fully stoked" to win the award after he was not part of the one-day team in mid-2006. His World Cup began with serious injuries to both feet but he said that was never going to stop him help Australia defend their title.

"Fifteen months out from the tournament I looked to be in deep trouble, not looking to play one-day cricket again," he said. "I had a deep fire in my belly. A couple of broken feet at the start of a tournament is perhaps not the way you want to start. It was just a lot of work getting back into that side, and from that moment on I don't think broken feet were going to stop me."

Martyn and Kasprowicz join ICL

See you in the ICL: Michael Kasprowicz has signed with the unofficial league..

Three former Australian Test players, Damien Martyn, Michael Kasprowicz and Matthew Elliott, have signed up with the Indian Cricket League (ICL), the unofficial tournament that does not have the sanction of the Indian board.

While Kasprowicz, the fast bowler, and Elliott, the opening batsman, retired from first-class cricket in Australia earlier this month, middle-order batsman Damien Martyn surprised all when he walked away from both international and domestic cricket in December 2006, mid-way during the Ashes.

Martyn had reportedly joined the ICL ahead of its inaugural tournament, but didn't take when it was held late last year.

"These high stature Australian cricketers will definitely boost the quality of cricket, strengthen the teams, making the league showcase competitive cricket," Kapil Dev, the chairman of the ICL, said. "It will provide our young domestic players, the challenge to test their skills with some of the best exponents of the game, thus fulfilling one of the key objectives of ICL."

Elliott had indicated that he would join ICL while announcing his retirement from first-class cricket. "I'm thinking about it," Elliott had said. "It's more about what's best for me after my cricket career."

The three will join fellow Australians Stuart Law and Ian Harvey in the league, while Michael Bevan and Steve Rixon are in charge of the Chennai and Hyderabad teams.

'Pathetic' Ryder apologises for bar incident

An uncomfortable Jesse Ryder faces the media in Christchurch as Justin Vaughan explains the board's position...

A chastened and sore Jesse Ryder faced the media in Christchurch to apologise for his behaviour on Sunday morning that left him nursing a badly gashed hand which has ruled him out of the game for at least three months.

Ryder severed tendons in his right hand after punching a window in a local bar at 5.30am in the aftermath of New Zealand's victory in the final ODI against England, and added insult to injury by abusing hospital staff who were trying to treat him.

A subdued Ryder, accompanied by New Zealand Cricket (NZC) chief executive Justin Vaughan, read out a prepared statement at the board's headquarters, ironically just yards from where the incident on Sunday had taken place.

"My behaviour was pathetic, and I will be apologising to them," Ryder said. "I apologise to the public and all the people who have supported me. My behaviour was unacceptable. I understand there are issues I need to address. I am committed to working with New Zealand Cricket to get back on track and back in the team."

Asked about his drinking - it emerged that he had been at a bar until 1.30am on the eve of the game as well - he replied: "I don't think I have a problem."

Vaughan made it clear that while NZC stood by the player, there remained deep concerns. "We want Jesse in the Black Caps, but we are disappointed in him and for him," he said. "We want Jesse to acknowledge that he has issues that need to be addressed and we want to support him to address those issues. Unless he does commit to addressing those issues there will be no place for him."

Ryder will undertake voluntary work on the recommendation of the hospital staff when his injury heals.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Sri Lanka limp out of tri-series

Praveen Kumar rattled Sri Lanka with 4 for 31..

Sri Lanka beat themselves in their must-win game as India eased into the finals with an emphatic seven-wicket win in Hobart. In what was a pathetic batting display, Sri Lanka skid from a comfortable 1 for 72 to a perilous 7 for 93, blowing their chances on a flat deck. A composed fifty from Chamara Kapugedera avoided a debacle but couldn't take away the one-sided nature of the contest.

Chasing 180 was never going to be too much of a challenge for India, especially when Sachin Tendulkar started to cut loose. Gautam Gambhir added a polished fifty to what's been a fantastic series, leaving Yuvraj Singh to add the final touches on a comprehensive win which got India a bonus point they no longer need. Sri Lanka travel to Melbourne for their final league match but that will now be only of academic interest.

The conditions were overcast, and the bowling accurate but nothing could explain the batsmen pretending to be kamikaze artists. Praveen Kumar, a seamer relying on gentle swing, triggered the collapse before Ishant Sharma, a taller, pacier gunman, pierced the soft underbelly further. Kumar Sangakkara's poor shot selection opened up the flood gates and the rest seemed more intent to catch the next flight out of Hobart. On a flat pitch, they saw their chances of entering the final up in smoke.

The script could have easily changed, especially when Sanath Jayasuriya and Sangakkara were out in the middle. The duo had shrugged off the early dismissal of Dilruwan Perera, castled by a peach of a straightener from Ishant, by cashing in on a slightly wayward new-ball spell. Sangakkara, like he's done all series, laced cover-drives with ease while Jayasuriya, who's endured a struggle in Australia, crunched jabs through point to offer glimpses of his destructive best. The pitch appeared to have eased out; India, who picked five bowlers, seemed to have botched a great chance.

Everything changed when Kumar was introduced. Playing only his third ODI, he showed why he's so highly rated in the domestic circuit. Sangakkara paid the price for taking Kumar too lightly: he walked down the track and poked recklessly, only to see Mahendra Singh Dhoni pull off a fine catch diving to his left. Sangakkara telegraphed his intentions too early and couldn't make allowance for Kumar's subtle movement away from him.

Kumar was ecstatic after his first international wicket but he was to nab two more in quick time. Mahela Jayawardene was undone by a sharp catch by Rohit Sharma at point - reacting quickly to a fierce cut he pulled off a superb low catch - before Chamara Silva wafted at one that shaped away to watch Dhoni pull off another fine take. It was Dhoni's 100th catch in ODIs. So smooth was the trajectory on that ball that it might have inscribed a perfect parabola, snicking the outside edge on its way through.

Jayasuriya, watching all the mayhem from the other end, thought it was best to break the shackles. Faced with a short ball from Irfan Pathan he attempted a high-risk pull, kicking the ground as the ball ballooned into Dhoni's gloves. Ishant returned to remove Tillakaratne Dilshan, with a peach that swung into his pads, before tempting Chaminda Vaas with an indiscreet pull. On a good batting pitch, with the bowlers doing nothing extraordinary, Sri Lanka were teetering on the brink.

Kapugedera, though, was like a sane voice in a mad melee. Along with Lasith Malinga, he endured 12.2 overs without a boundary before he began to gradually open out. He showed he had all the shots - a smooth cover drive, a crackling straight drive, and an innovative pick-up shot in front of square.

It was his highest ODI score but only delayed the inevitable. The sun was out by the time India's openers walked in and the match was headed in only one direction. Shrugging off his failures in the CB Series so far, Tendulkar set the Bellerive alight with a dominant half-century. Cutting loose against an uninspired bowling attack, he provided Australia with an ominous signal ahead of the final.

Reading Muttiah Muralitharan's doosras from the hand, he waltzed down the track to loft over the covers. Ishara Amarasinghe's dibbly-dobblies were never going to be a threat in these conditions and he was greeted with three successive fours in his first over: flicked delectably over square, cut savagely through point and spanked in the same direction.

Gambhir enhanced his ever-burgeoning reputation with an assured knock. He read Malinga's slower ones and didn't spare his quicker ones too, especially when they were wide and within his striking zone. He handled Murali with ease, picking him off for singles, and ensured he was out there when the winning runs were struck. Sri Lanka won't want to remember much from the CB Series but the sight of Gambhir cutting them to ribbons may be a tough one to erase.

South Africa complete hard-fought win

Shahdat Hossain's nine wickets in the match were not enough for Bangladesh, who suffered yet another loss..

And so the drought continues. More than seven years after they were granted Test status, and in their 44th match against non-Zimbabwean opposition, Bangladesh slipped up yet again, squandering the advantages gained on the second day to subside to a five-wicket defeat on the fourth morning. It took South Africa 10.5 overs to knock off the 27 needed, but the result was never in doubt after Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla and Ashwell Prince had built on a superb spell from Jacques Kallis.
Prince, who played a couple of pleasing drives off Shahadat Hossain, was unlucky not to be there at the end, given out leg before though the delivery from Shahadat pitched outside the line of leg stump. Aleem Dar gave it, but there was to be no final twist in this tale.
AB de Villiers, who endured several uncomfortable moments against the left-arm spin of Mohammad Rafique, clipped two fours of Shahadat to bring the scores level, and Mark Boucher then cut one past point to start the celebrations in the South African camp. Prohibitive favourites before the series started, they had been made to work exceptionally hard by a Bangladeshi team inspired by Shahadat's nine wickets.
Bangladesh will look back ruefully at their inability to post 200 in either innings. The opening day offered plenty of insight into their batting woes, with six batsmen spending reasonable time in the middle before throwing it away. The main culprit was Mohammad Ashraful, the captain, who sauntered to 34 from 26 balls before an over-exuberant charge at Johan Botha changed the complexion of the match.
Jamie Siddons, the new coach, will take the positives from this match, especially the bowling of Shahadat and the restrained 74 from Junaid Siddique. But he also needs to look at a relatively listless display from Mashrafe Mortaza, and cavalier strokes from too many of the batsmen. South Africa are unlikely to be as sloppy in the second Test.

India should 'worry about themselves'

The Australians are the only ones into the CB Series finals at this stage and their coach Tim Nielsen believes their opponents should focus on their own backyard...

Australia's coach Tim Nielsen says India should stop concerning themselves with Australia's behaviour and focus on their own performance as they try to secure a spot against the hosts in the CB Series finals. Following a controversial Test series there was further tension between the teams in their Sydney clash on Sunday when Ishant Sharma gave Andrew Symonds a send-off after dismissing him for 59.
Ishant was fined 15% of his match fee for the incident and India's team management has sent a letter to the match referee about what it considers to be Australia's players provoking their opponents. Nielsen said he had no problem with the way his players were acting on the field.
"It's interesting how much the opposition teams are talking about what we're doing and at the moment as far as I can see we're the only team that's in the finals," Nielsen said in Melbourne as the team gathered ahead of Tuesday's Allan Border Medal. "It might be time for them to start looking in their own backyard.
"While they're worrying about us it's a good sign. We're the only ones at the moment that are confirmed in the finals and until they have their battle on Tuesday then front up on Friday, Sri Lanka against us, we won't know who our opposition is. So they've got plenty to worry about themselves."
Nielsen said Ishant's actions - he pointed Symonds back to the dressing-room - were understandable given the pressure of the situation and he hopes India retain their fiery, spirited style of play. However, he wants players from both teams to ensure they do not cross the line if they meet in the finals; India will secure a place in the deciders if they beat Sri Lanka in Hobart on Tuesday.
"It's a difficult one because there is so much emotion going on," Nielsen said. "[Ishant] was under pressure, Andrew was batting so well with Ricky [Ponting] that it's hard to take the adrenaline and emotion of the game at this level.
"We want to play good, strong competitive cricket and we encourage them to keep doing it. We'll do it as long as we all stay within the guidelines of it. You can't start taking into account it's been a tough, hard series and then give people some leeway because of it. We know where the line in the sand is."
India v Sri Lanka, 11th ODI, CB Series, Hobart

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Ponting century outweighs fine Gambhir fightback

Ricky Ponting's revival was important for Australia and the substance of the 124 impressed the captain..

A spirited chase led by Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa fell 18 short as Australia celebrated the end of Ricky Ponting's rocky batting patch with a tight victory. While the home side toasted a return to form ahead of Sunday's first final, India's plight to reach the CB Series deciders now comes down to the match against Sri Lanka on Tuesday after they reached 299, a haul relying on Gambhir's second century of the tournament.

A horrible series was forgotten by Ponting during his fine 124 while half-centuries to Matthew Hayden and Andrew Symonds also lifted their clouds of poor form in a brutal team display of 7 for 317. In the face of such a challenge - it was easily the highest total of the series - India were always behind and it was only the performances of Gambhir and Robin Uthappa that kept them in the game after the first four wickets went by the 11th over.

Gambhir and Mahendra Singh Dhoni met at the difficulty of 4 for 51 and made sure the team could provide some outstanding fight during the 98-run liaison, but the assignment eventually proved too difficult. Gambhir varied his pace throughout his display and his 113 from 119 balls was important, although his side was left wanting more. Uthappa tried his best with Irfan Pathan and Harbhajan Singh providing excellent help as the overs ran out.

Gambhir lifted his rate after Dhoni departed, having taken his time in the first half of his innings, but he was unable to drag his side ahead. His best shot was a pull in front of square leg off Brett Lee - a slog-sweep for his only six from Brad Hogg was also impressive - and he was strong on the offside. The main shame was the lack of support provided from his top-order team-mates.

Dhoni failed to ignite regularly, usually working the ball around like he was chasing a total in the 200s, but while he was there the Australians sensed danger. He was removed for 36 when Lee picked up his second major wicket on a mixed night that included five wickets and some no-ball problems, including three in a row in a nine-ball over. At 5 for 149 India's were in big danger, but they didn't stop battling and Gambhir found a willing partner in Uthappa.

They needed about nine an over and the slow bowlers Michael Clarke and Hogg were targeted in the 67-run partnership in 8.4 overs. A sharp piece of work from Gilchrist, who stumped Gambhir when his back foot slid out of the crease when trying to slog Hogg, earned his fifth dismissal. Uthappa and Pathan scurried another 41 and Harbhajan arrived to slash 20 off 11 before he miscued and Gilchrist benefited again. Next ball Uthappa holed out to midwicket, leaving with 51 from 46, and Lee had four wickets. He came back to finish the match by bowling Ishant Sharma to collect an unlikely 5 for 58.

The batting problems began when Stuart Clark captured two early victims with the edges of Virender Sehwag (18) and Yuvraj Singh (5), who both pushed unconvincingly and provided work for Gilchrist. Rohit Sharma went in a similar manner to Bracken after the chase started badly when Sachin Tendulkar stepped across his stumps and was lbw to Lee fifth ball. What they needed was the start their opponents managed.

After a subdued campaign the Australia top order decided blasting out of a slump was the best option and in a game of no consequence to them they raced like a bushfire. Pegged back by the slower bowlers after reaching 92 from the first ten overs, they rebuilt through the reborn Ponting before Symonds added some late-innings impetus with 59 off 49 balls.

India were led by Gautam Gambhir's 113, but he needed more assistance from his top-order team-mates..

Along with Hayden, Ponting and Symonds have been the main under-achievers in the series, but the results of Ponting - his highest score in six previous matches was 25 - were the biggest worry for Australia. The century, his 26th in ODIs, came when he found a single to mid-off from his 111th delivery and he accelerated until he skewed to Pathan at deep mid-off.

Before today Ponting and Hayden had been responsible for sleepy starts that were from the 1980s, but the modern approach returned and the early exchanges were like a Twenty20. Ishant and Sreesanth, who came in after Munaf Patel suffered food poisoning, were unable to stop the initial pummeling. Sreesanth went for 37 off four overs and Ishant was only slightly better in giving up 37 from five.

Some reshuffling from Dhoni was effective - Harbhajan was employed for the 11th over - and only 32 came in the next ten overs, but Ponting was able to break away. Once Hayden departed for 54 and Clarke (31) left to a poor pull shot off Sehwag, Symonds joined the flexing. His six fours and two sixes were typically forceful and his fifty came up with a heave over the fence from Pathan.

India chased the same quick opening as Australia got from Gilchrist, whose 16 came from seven balls, before he left to a miracle take from Dhoni. Sreesanth clipped Gilchrist's inside edge, forcing Dhoni to change direction and he leaped to his right for a one-handed take. It was the highlight of India's time in the field and from there things went downhill.

The bowlers were almost helpless and gained figures to forget. Sreesanth went for 58 from eight overs - he did take two wickets - Ishant gave up 65 in ten and Pathan allowed 73 in nine. Harbhajan and the part-timers Sehwag and Yuvraj fared better, but it was Australia's turn to fire. India will hope the same applies to their big-name batsmen when they face Sri Lanka in Hobart on Tuesday in a must-win encounter.

India not to tour Pakistan for three ODIs

India's ODI side not to travel to Pakistan owing to a cramped schedule...

The Indian board has decided to reject Pakistan's proposal for a three-match one-day tour in mid-March. The Pakistan board had requested the BCCI for a series once the Australian tour was shortened but India felt their players' schedule was too tight to accommodate another tour.

"The players have had a long and strenuous tour of Australia and will return only on March 8 or 9," Niranjan Shah, the board secretary told Cricinfo. "They have to assemble for the South Africa series on March 22. So it will be really tough to play three ODIs in between."

The series had been under discussion between the two boards following the hesitancy shown by Australia in coming to Pakistan as scheduled in March-April. It was decided recently that Australia's tour - if it goes ahead - would be considerably shortened. Pakistan were then keen to utilise the free period in the first half of March.

The Pakistan board, it is learnt, were confident that the tour would go ahead and had already began preparations for the three games, all scheduled for Lahore. The decision from the BCCI - taken by the office bearers today - was conveyed to the PCB chairman, Nasim Ashraf, by his Indian counterpart, Sharad Pawar.

However, India are likely to tour Pakistan for a short one-day series before the Champions Trophy in September-October.

Young Indian cricketers will be counselled - Shastri

Young Indian cricketers like Ishant Sharma will receive financial counselling...

Ravi Shastri, the former Indian allrounder who is now a member of the Indian Premier League board, has said there is a plan to counsel young cricketers who have been lapped up for huge sums of money in the IPL.

Several experts have voiced their concern over junior cricketers like Ishant Sharma being paid so much money but Shastri, who is on the IPL governing council, said there was a plan in place.

"These guys will be at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) before the IPL and and we plan to have some kind of a financial counselling for them there," Shastri, the chairman of the NCA, said while commentating for ESPN-Star. "The NCA Director Dav Whatmore is on the same page, and is working on this. Maybe even the parents of these cricketers may be invited for the counseling."

The Indian board has instructed junior domestic cricketers to not sign up for the IPL. A number of franchise representatives and senior players have spoken about the possibilities of youngsters getting carried away with so much money so early in their careers.

Steve Waugh, the former Australian captain, had voiced his concern too. "I hope some of the young cricketers will be able to keep their head on their shoulders after their value went through the roof," he wrote in his column for Hindustan Times.

"I worry for the likes of Ishant Sharma, who went for a surprisingly high bid even though he is not even six months old in international cricket. I might sound like an old-timer but I always worry when too much happens too soon in the life of a young, promising cricketer."

Meanwhile Mahendra Singh Dhoni, India's one-day captain who was the most prized player at the IPL auction, said he was firmly concentrating on the CB Series for the moment. "I'm not thinking much about the IPL," Dhoni said at the toss, before the clash against Australia in Sydney.

"The IPL is about playing for your franchise. It's a new concept that's been introduced to professionalise domestic cricket in India. It's not about your country or state. As of now I'm concentrating on this series and trying to reach the final."