Saturday, April 5, 2008

Bowlers seal emphatic win for South Africa

Morne Morkel took two crucial middle-order wickets as South Africa swept to a comprehensive win and a 1-0 lead in the series...

Sourav Ganguly stood on the burning deck nearly four hours for a fine 87 as India's misadventure at Motera ended with ugly scars that may take a while to heal. South Africa, a class apart from first ball to last, swept to a thoroughly deserved innings-and-90-run victory inside three days and cannot lose a series that was billed as the contest for the No.2 ranking behind Australia.

Ganguly added 110 with Mahendra Singh Dhoni, and 55 with VVS Laxman, exhibiting all the determination and poise that had been conspicuously absent in India's abject first innings. But once Dale Steyn, wicketless until then, returned to tempt him into a drive from round the wicket, the match was only ever going to have one outcome. Ganguly stood his ground, and replays suggested the noise that alerted Tony Hill might have been bat striking ground, but the South Africans were convinced that there had been a big deflection.

His dismissal completely changed the course of a final session that had started encouragingly for the home side, with Ganguly playing some delicate cuts off Paul Harris and a beautiful straight push off Morne Morkel. With Dhoni in dogged and restrained mood, it was Ganguly who worked the bowlers, until the decisive moment when Graeme Smith tossed the ball Steyn's way.

Dhoni reached his half-century from 122 balls soon after, but with Smith calling on his big guns, the resistance was swiftly ended. Makhaya Ntini saw off Dhoni, pitching one perfectly in the off-stump corridor to induce the expansive drive. Smith made no mistake at slip.

Harris was swung for one huge six by Irfan Pathan, but otherwise bottled up one end and was rewarded for his effort with the wicket of Anil Kumble, bowled through the gap between bat and pad. That was enough for Smith to call for the new ball, five overs late, and Steyn soon struck, trapping Harbhajan Singh in front. The subsequent flurry of strokes from Pathan and Sreesanth did little more than delay the popping of the champagne corks.

In truth, India's fate was sealed in a morning session where they lost both Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid. With rain falling heavily the previous evening, Smith had declared on the overnight total of 494 for 7. Needing 418 just to make South Africa bat again, the Indian innings had the most bizarre start. Steyn strove for express pace, and Sehwag responded with two stunning strokes, a swivel-pull and a clip off the pads, both of which sailed over the rope for sixes.

But after surviving an excellent leg-before shout from Ntini, Sehwag's luck ran out. The second time Ntini thudded one into the pad, Hill raised the finger. Dravid, best equipped to deal with the conditions, came in and got going with a lovely flick for four off Ntini, but Wasim Jaffer was having a torrid time at the other end, squared up by Ntini and then lucky to escape after a superb short ball from Morkel had him popping one up into no-man's land.

A beautiful cover drive soon after lifted the spirits somewhat, and when Jacques Kallis replaced Ntini, Jaffer greeted him with an emphatic pull for four. The partnership was worth 33 when Morkel struck with a delivery that climbed steeply up at Dravid. He tried to drop the ball to his feet, but couldn't quite get on top of it, and the edge was neatly caught by AB de Villiers at third slip.

Sourav Ganguly made a fluent 87, but his knock only delayed the inevitable defeat...

Jaffer followed in similar fashion, caught on the crease and squared up by a Kallis delivery that angled in, and it was left to Ganguly and Laxman to try and salvage a modicum of pride. Laxman was in splendid touch, playing some magnificent drives down the ground and tucking the ball off his pads with time to spare. Soon after lunch, though, Smith replaced Steyn with Morkel, and after Laxman had caressed two fours, the breakthrough arrived. A delivery outside off stump, a statuesque swish, and thin contact with the back of the bat on the way to Mark Boucher. Laxman's 35 had taken just 45 balls, but India needed so much more.

Every South African bowler tested Ganguly with the short ball, but he suffered his most anxious moments against the deliveries that slanted across him. A beautiful square-drive off Morkel and a crisp off-drive off Steyn saw him find his range, and Dhoni's arrival allowed the strike to tick over steadily.

Dhoni chanced his arm as he's prone to. A cut off Steyn flashed through gully and after he had whipped Harris through midwicket, he got his first stroke of luck. A short ball from Steyn, a miscued hook, and a complete bungle on the long-leg rope from Ntini, who had wandered too far in. Steyn wasn't very pleased and he showed it, and there was further cause for frowns just before tea when a rash charge at Harris saw Boucher fluff a tough stumping chance.

Ganguly swept Harris neatly for four, and reached his 50 from just 86 deliveries. It was brave stuff, but you sensed that it would ultimately be as futile as trying to paddle up the Amazon with a broken oar. After stinking up the place on the first morning, the good ship India deserved only the cold ocean floor.

India v South Africa, 2nd Test, Ahmedabad, 3rd day

Easing of IPL's media restrictions on the cards

The IPL may back down on its restrictions on media coverage in the wake of threats of a boycott...

The outcry over the stringent and unprecedented conditions set by the Indian Premier League (IPL) in its guidelines for covering the inaugural tournament may prompt a climbdown on certain issues, including perhaps reworking the contentious clauses governing media coverage. Top officials of the Indian Premier League, who are due to meet on Sunday, appear keen to avoid a media boycott - which is a possibility - and are likely to frame a suitable formal response to the criticism.

On Friday, Lalit Modi, the IPL commissioner, called up Alok Gupta, president of the influential Editors' Guild of India - which earlier in the day had condemned the restrictions - and indicated he didn't want a media boycott. It is also believed that Modi indicated the IPL was working on amendments to the terms and conditions.

The IPL had indicated a possible softening of stand on Thursday when IS Bindra, a member of the governing council, told Cricinfo the league was ready to discuss the issue with all parties involved to reach an amicable solution.

One of the factors behind the IPL's stringent terms is a feeling of discontent in the BCCI - which controls the IPL - over not having the rights to, or control over, photographs taken by the news agencies at earlier matches played in India. That, it is believed, prompted the inclusion of the clause giving the IPL rights to all photographs taken at all matches.

As reported earlier, the contentious clause deals with IPL's right to use all pictures taken at its grounds for free and without restrictions; the commitment by news organisations to upload on the IPL site, within 24 hours, all images taken at the ground; and the restriction of web portals' access to images without prior permission from the IPL.

Bindra explained that the restrictions on web portals' access to images was a fallout of the IPL having sold web portal rights for the event to a company based in North America for US$50 million.

Along with the Editors' Guild of India, the Sports Journalists' Federation of India had also issued a statement expressing "alarm and concern" over the IPL's conditions and asked that the "unfair and unethical restrictions being placed on the media be withdrawn unconditionally".

The reactions from Indian associations came a day after Agence France-Presse (AFP), a respected international news agency, indicated it would not cover the IPL given the conditions laid down at present. "The terms and conditions are too strict and raise questions about press freedom," Barry Parker, AFP's South Asia bureau chief, told Cricinfo. "The present terms and conditions don't allow us to cover the event."

Indian Premier League

Tendulkar out of Kanpur Test

Tendulkar in need for more rest...

Sachin Tendulkar is yet to recover from his groin injury that kept him out of the ongoing second Test against South Africa in Ahmedabad and will also miss the third Test in Kanpur, starting on April 11.

The Indian board confirmed this in a release and added that he would continue with his rehabilitation program. "This decision has been taken to give Sachin the opportunity to make a full recovery from this injury," the release said. "Sachin has a rehabilitation program to continue with and will be monitored closely."

Tendulkar didn't appear fully fit during the first Test in Chennai and missed part of the action on the first, second, fourth days. He didn't take the field on the fifth day and was rested for the next Test.

There was an injury concern over Tendulkar even before the start of the series. Tendulkar was advised two-weeks rest after the Australia tour and the then physio, John Gloster, in his fitness report, warned against the injury entering a chronic phase.

Tendulkar will now be expected to be fully fit ahead of the inaugural Indian Premier League, starting on April 18.

Pietersen wants IPL chance

Eye on the money: "It's silly to think that you're losing up to a million [dollars] over six weeks," says Kevin Pietersen...

Kevin Pietersen has given the strongest indication yet that England's players are feeling they are getting a rough deal by not being able to take part in the Indian Premier League. While Pietersen remains focussed on his England career he hinted his priorities may change.

While millions of dollars have been splashed on the world's leading players England's stars have had to watch from afar as their international commitments and central contracts preclude any involvement. On the whole they have taken the party line that England comes first, but frustration is now growing.

"It's not something we can control, but it's definitely something that the hierarchy needs to fix into our fixtures," Pietersen told The Times. "You want your best players playing both for their country and for the IPL. You don't want them choosing between the two. It's silly to think that you're losing up to a million [dollars] over six weeks."

"As long as it doesn't interfere with me playing for England, then I'm all for the IPL," he said. "I won't jeopardise my England career for the IPL just yet, but the schedules have to be sorted because the England players are the only ones missing out."

Dimitri Mascarenhas is England's only representative in the first IPL tournament, having struck a deal with Hampshire to allow him two weeks in India with the Jaipur franchise. Although Mascarenhas has been part of the ODI squad over the last year he doesn't hold a central contract, so it wasn't a decision the ECB were involved with.

England players missing out

Friday, April 4, 2008

Heroes pip Badshahs in upset win

Abdul Razzaq's all-round performance helped the Hyderabad Heroes prevail over the Lahore Badshahs...

The Lahore Badshahs' unconquered reign was finally brought to a close, as the Heroes defended a target of 144 with a disciplined bowling effort to go 1-0 up in the best-of-three finals. Fortunately for the Badshahs, they can still recover from the blip, but the loss couldn't have come at a worse time.

The Heroes decided to bat and Abdul Razzaq gave them the early momentum with a brisk 21 off 12 balls. Steady partnerships were forged during the Heroes' innings - Jimmy Maher and Ambati Rayudu put on 27 before the latter and Kemp added 53 for the third wicket.

Although the Badshahs didn't manage to take wickets at regular intervals, they curbed the flow of runs. Mohammad Sami, who leaked runs in Thursday's semi-final against the Kolkata Tigers, bowled his four overs first up for 15 runs. Mushtaq Ahmed gave one less in the middle overs, and the lack of runs on offer reflected in the tally for the Heroes batsmen: Maher 33 off 34, Rayudu 44 off 42, and Kemp 11 off 20.

After 16 overs, Rayudu was sauntering with 23 off 32, but he did some damage from there on as 46 runs came off the last four overs bowled by Azhar Mahmood and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan. Rayudu was cut short of 44 by a direct hit from Inzamam-ul-Haq, but two no-balls from Naved-ul-Hasan in the final over saw him concede 17, and the Heroes reached 143..

Razzaq got the first breakthrough as the Badshahs began their chase, Imran Nazir's charge to send the ball into orbit sent him on the path to the dugout. Justin Kemp removed Humayun Farhat, and when Man-of-the-Match Stuart Binny picked up the prized scalps of Hasan Raza and Inzamam-ul-Haq, a seemingly easy target gained gargantuan proportions. At 50 for 4, the Badshahs were left needing a further 94 off ten overs.

Opener Taufeeq Umar kept ticking the strike over at one end, but it was the pyrotechnics from Azhar Mahmood (34 off 16) that breathed life into the Badshahs' innings.

Naved-ul-Hasan made a few amends for his expensive analysis - 47 off four overs - with a six and a four in the penultimate over bowled by Nicky Boje, leaving his team with 12 to get off the 20th. The drama was heightened as Razzaq struggled with his line, giving away three wides. With seven required off four, Umar swing and missed, and the attempted single led to the run-out of Naved-ul-Hasan. Razzaq finally got it straight, and Sami's bat met thin air - the wicket, a dot ball too, made it 7 off 2. Shahid Nazir, the star with the ball in Thursday's match, failed to connect his first ball and was bowled when a last-ball six was needed to tie.

The Heroes scraped home by six runs, and though they have the advantage, the form and prowess of the Badshahs will be tough to overcome for the second match in succession. The teams have a day's break before the next game in Hyderabad on Sunday, and the Heroes could delight the city they represent by clinching the Rs 25 million (approx US$0.625 m) prize on offer.

Hyderabad Heroes v Lahore Badshahs, 1st final, ICL

West Indies fight hard for lead

Chamara Silva top scored for Sri Lanka with 76...

Sri Lanka and West Indies fought hard to try and gain the upper hand in the second Test but the second day's play at the Queen's Park Oval ended with neither team gaining a decisive advantage. The battle for the first-innings lead was closely contested and West Indies finished 10 runs short of Sri Lanka's 278 with three wickets in hand.

West Indies had the better of the first two sessions and by tea they were superbly placed to go past Sri Lanka. Their bowlers had managed to winkle out Sri Lanka's last five wickets for 61 runs this morning and their top three batsmen - Ramnaresh Sarwan's 57 was the highlight - made useful contributions to steer West Indies to 133 for 1 by the tea break. However, Sri Lanka put the skids on the scoring-rate after tea and Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas had the batsmen under immense pressure. The result was that West Indies lost six wickets for 135 runs to bring the match back into balance.

However, it was an improved performance from West Indies after a wayward effort on the opening day. Tillakarate Dilshan had run them ragged last evening, cutting and pulling with abandon, and he began the same way by lashing Fidel Edwards' to the point boundary. However, he played one shot too soon and miscued a pull off the third ball of the morning, Denesh Ramdin ran to square leg to take the catch. Chaminda Vaas too fell to a top-edged hook, which was once again held by Ramdin.

With two wickets gone for seven, Chamara Silva was running out of partners. A lull followed as Sri Lanka went 21 balls without scoring before Silva accelerated, flicking Edwards to the fine-leg boundary before bringing up his fifty with a scorching cut. Thilan Thushara stuck around for 21 balls before a direct hit from Ramnaresh Sarwan caught him short. Muttiah Muralitharan, however, lasted only three deliveries; he top-edged his first ball over the wicketkeeper, slogged the second to over midwicket and sliced his next to third man where Bravo judged the catch to perfection.

With No. 11 for company, Silva tried to score at a brisk rate and West Indies could have ended the innings on 267 but Jerome Taylor dropped a simple caught-and-bowled. A meandering passage of play followed with Silva refusing singles and trying to shield Ishara Amerasinghe from the strike. As West Indies strived to end the partnership, Jerome Taylor sent down a beamer to Silva and had to be taken out of the attack because he had already bowled one at Dilshan last evening. Sri Lanka's innings ended via another top-edged pull from Silva and Powell held a well judged catch at long leg.

There was doubt over whether Gayle would open given his troubles against Vaas and he ended the speculation by coming out with the debutant Sewnarine Chattergoon. Vaas troubled both left-handers with the ball that seamed away off the pitch but there was no pressure from the other end. Gayle took on Amerasinghe, clipping him off the back foot to the midwicket boundary and pulling past mid-on in his first over and clouted consecutive boundaries in his second before being dropped by Muttiah Muralitharan at mid-on.

West Indies scored 49 before the lunch break but lost Gayle for 45 soon after the resumption when he steered Thushara straight to gully. Gayle had been doing most of the scoring but there was no let up in momentum because Ramnaresh Sarwan batted aggressively from the start. He began with a fierce cut to third man and concentrated on playing the inswingers from Vaas late, using the movement into him to push the ball through the leg side. He was also strong through the off, driving Thushara to long-on and then cover-driving to bring up the 100 in only the 18th over.

While Sarwan began at nearly a run-a-ball, Chattergoon started his innings patiently. He didn't try anything fancy and focused on rotating strike with Gayle and Sarwan. His first boundary came via an upper cut over slips and then he steered Vaas through point. Even Muralithraran, who was introduced in the 19th over, failed to make a breakthrough as the batsmen kept taking singles to keep scoring at over four an over. West Indies were 133 for 1 when rain forced the umpires to take tea early and the tide turned after play resumed.

Vaas ended the 79-run stand by bowled Chattergoon with one that straightened off the pitch to clip the top of off stump and after which Muralithraran picked up his first wicket, trapping Marlon Samuels lbw for 3 to reduce West Indies to 141 for 3. Sarwan remained firm and kept runs flowing with frequent boundaries: the two cover-drives off Vaas and the straight drive off Murali to bring up his fifty stood out. However, he eventually clipped Murali off his pads into the hands of Malinda Warnapura at leg gully.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul failed to make an impact, falling leg before to Thushara but Devon Smith and Dwayne Bravo batted sensibly to take closer to Sri Lanka's total. Smith started patiently, scoring 4 off 26 balls before opening out with consecutive drives off Thushara.

Murali was now in full flow and there were several appeals as Smith and Bravo struggled to read him. He eventually broke through Smith's defences with a doosra, a wicket which exposed West Indies' tail when they were within touching distance of Sri Lanka's first innings total.

West Indies v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Trinidad, 2nd day

de Villiers double leads South African run-fest

AB de Villiers ended the day on an unbeaten 217, the highest Test score by a South African against India...

If an Indian team with ambitions to world dominance found the opening day at the Sardar Patel Stadium humiliating, day two was soul-destroying, with a classy AB de Villiers double-century and a dogged Jacques Kallis hundred underpinning a relentless South African charge to victory. By the time the rain came down to wash away Indian tears, they had rampaged to 494 for 7, with de Villiers still going strong on 217, the highest score by a South African against India.

In the 77.2 overs bowled in the day, India managed just three wickets, two of them when the batsmen were in the quest for quick runs after tea. Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh picked up one apiece, with Mark Boucher and Morne Morkel trapped leg before, but by then the only question being posed was just how imposing the lead would be.

de Villiers needed just 146 balls for his second hundred, and played some stupendous strokes in the final session. A huge six off Harbhajan landed on the roof at what is a massive venue, and when he was later gifted a full toss that he creamed through cover, the celebrations could begin. That stroke also brought up the 400-run lead, and de Villiers put the seal on an impressive day's work with a mighty heave off Kumble that soared into the empty stand at deep midwicket. As a weary Indian side trudged off, a defeat of mammoth proportions beckoned unless they could bat with a great deal more application at the second time of asking.

Kumble and his men could reflect on opportunities that came their way early in the proceedings. Harbhajan, the pick of the bowlers, was desperately unlucky against both batsmen. Kallis had made just 61 when he fended one awkwardly off the glove, only to see it roll back and strike the stumps. The bails stayed on, Harbhajan held his head, and the chance had gone. In his very next over, an offbreak went right through de Villiers, missing the stumps by a whisker.

Irfan Pathan was insipid with the old ball, and Kumble soon replaced him at the other end, but the runs slowly started to mount as the pitch showed few signs of menace. de Villiers cut Harbhajan for four, and Kumble was then far from thrilled as a Kallis cover-drive was fumbled over the rope by Sourav Ganguly.

Despite slightly overcast conditions, Kumble didn't call on Sreesanth. By the time the new ball was taken after 81.2 overs, whatever little moisture that might have been in the pitch was long gone. Sreesanth soon made an impact too, striking Kallis on the shoulder with a bouncer and then having an excellent leg-before shout turned down.

Once the initial threat posed by the new ball passed, the runs came freely. de Villiers flicked RP Singh for four and then glanced Sreesanth fine, before Kallis highlighted his power with two contemptuous pulls for four. On the stroke of lunch, Ganguly came on, and a paddle down to fine leg saw de Villiers reach his fifth Test century.

Kallis was on 97 at the time, and the 30th century that took him past Sir Donald Bradman arrived soon after the interval, with a magnificent cover-drive for four off Ganguly. It had been a stolid and at times fortuitous effort, spanning 228 balls, but vital in the context of the match after Harbhajan's three quick wickets on the first afternoon.

The 200-run partnership came from 401 balls, and the runs were milked with ease after that. Pathan was pedestrian at best and Kumble merely restrictive. Both men played the sweep with increasing confidence and it was quite bizarre that Sreesanth, the most effective Indian pace bowler on view, was called on only an hour and ten minutes after lunch.

Kallis swatted the first ball for four, and when an edge then streaked past slip, Sreesanth's frustration boiled over. But instead of self-destructing, he used the anger to produce a gem of a delivery that lifted from outside off stump and caught Kallis in two minds. By the time he tried to arc the bat away, it was too late and the inside edge cannoned into the stumps. He had batted six hours, and the partnership of 256 was South Africa's highest against India, surpassing the 236 that Gary Kirsten, currently India's coach, and Andrew Hudson added at the Eden Gardens in 1996-97.

A sparse crowd watched it all with a mixture of frustration and reluctant admiration, and there was something forlorn about the few Indian flags being waved in the stands on a day when dreams of global conquest evaporated in egg-frying heat.

India v South Africa, 2nd Test, Ahmedabad, 2nd day

Lorgat appointed ICC chief executive

Haroon Lorgat, the former convenor of Cricket South Africa's (CSA) selection committee, has been appointed the ICC's next chief executive officer. Lorgat, 47, will take over from the current CEO, Malcolm Speed, following the ICC Annual Conference, scheduled to take place between June 29 and July 4.

Lorgat's appointment, comes days after Imtiaz Patel, another South African, turned down the ICC's offer and follows a meeting he had with David Morgan, the ICC's president-elect, in Pretoria on Wednesday.

The appointment was approved by the ICC's recruitment board, comprising Morgan, the ICC president, Ray Mali, the vice-president, Sharad Pawar and Creagh O'Connor, the chairman of Cricket Australia.

Lorgat said he look forward to an "exciting and rewarding journey in a game I have truly loved from a very young age."

He takes over at a time when the game, and the ICC, face several difficult decisions. "I am under no illusion about the challenges that await me but those challenges are also opportunities and I cannot wait to start work at the highest level in such a great game."

Mali expressed his delight at Lorgat's appointment. "I have worked alongside him for a decade in South African cricket and I have seen first-hand what a great team player he is and that is something that will serve both him and the game extremely well in the years to come."

Lorgat previously held several posts in cricket administration. He was chairman of Western Province Professional Cricket and a board member at Western Province Cricket Association.

He also served as a finance committee member for the United Cricket Board of South Africa (1999-2004), was a member of the ICC's World Cup finance committee (2000-2003), was a board director and treasurer of CSA (2003-2004) and a selector (2001-2003). In 2004, he was appointed as chairman of selectors for CSA, a position he held until 2007.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Klusener's 91 fails to halt Badshahs' march

Lance Klusener's best efforts couldn't put a stop to the Lahore Badshahs' march into the final...

Even a battling 91 from Lance Klusener couldn't halt the undefeated run of the Lahore Badshahs as the Kolkata Tigers failed to surmount an imposing target of 183.

Klusener's 91 made for half of the Badshahs' total of 182, but a remarkable spell by Shahid Nazir thwarted the efforts of the South African as the Badshahs sealed their place in the final against the Hyderabad Heroes with a seven-run win.

The Tigers' openers raced away while hunting down 183. Klusener, who's been opening the batting in the 20-over format and not the finishing role he primarily played for South Africa, combined with Deep Dasgupta as 60 runs came off the first six overs, including 18 off one from Azhar Mahmood.

Just then, Inzamam-ul-Haq brought on Shahid, who was drafted back into the side, and he did the job, by removing Dasgupta and conceding only two runs off his first over to peg back a run-rate that seemed out of control.

Thirty-four runs came off the following six overs, and two wickets fell - including that of the dangerous Craig McMillan - as the required run-rate climbed up to over 12. Shahid had done the damage, stymying the run-flow in the middle overs with 12 coming from his four, and two wickets as a bonus.

Klusener stepped on the pedal soon, and the Tigers kept in touch with the asking-rate in the next four overs. Mohammad Sami suffered the bulk of the onslaught, giving away 29 in two overs. However, only eight came off the 17th bowled by Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, leaving the Tigers with 31 required off the final two.

Not comfortable with trying any of his part-timers, Inzamam threw the ball back to Sami. When five wides were frittered away off the first ball he delivered, Klusener perhaps sensed the kill, and a four next ball brought the equation down to 22 off 10. However, Rohan Gavaskar squandered four balls for just three runs.

Klusener managed a six off Azhar Mahmood, but he too couldn't pull off what he'd done many a time in his international career, falling for 91 off the final delivery sent down.

Inzamam had decided to bat at the toss, but the Badshahs suffered an early blow when Andre Adams had Imran Farhat trapped in the first over. Humayan replaced brother Imran, and along with Imran Nazir, resumed the Badshahs' dominance witnessed through the tournament.

South Africa's pace bowlers may have floored India in Ahmedabad, but Nantie Hayward had no such luck as he was hammered for 27 off his first two overs. It was Klusener who finally got the breakthrough in the tenth over, Humayun Farhat top-edged one to short fine leg.

Shibsagar Singh dismissed Hasan Raza for a duck in the next over, and suddenly the Tigers had clawed their way back to slow down the rampaging Badshahs - from 82 for 1 in nine overs to 95 for 4 in 13.

Naved Latif hit three sixes to gain lost ground, before he was snapped up by Klusener. Mahmood then smashed 24 off just eight balls as Hayward was carted for 20 off the 20th over. Inzamam occupied one end with a sedate - by Twenty20 standards - 28-ball 33 as the Badshahs finished at 182 for 7.

Shibsagar took 2 for 19 off his four overs. Klusener scalped two as well, but that, besides his two catches and 57-ball 91, could only earn him the match prize, as the Tigers missed out on a chance to win the big prize.

Shoaib cannot play in IPL

The steady descent of Shoaib Akhtar's career continued after the Indian Premier League (IPL) decided that he won't be allowed to feature in its tournament till the end of his five-year ban or until his ban is lifted by the Pakistan board.

"Shoaib has been banned by the Pakistan Cricket Board, and even though they have cleared him to play for IPL, we felt that international discipline needs to be respected," IS Bindra, a member of the IPL governing council, told Cricinfo. "If he can't play for Pakistan, how can we play him? There will be no discipline left in the game, if we play him. It will set an unwanted precedent.

"We [the IPL] want to be part of the international system, not operate outside it. If somebody is banned on disciplinary grounds, that is a serious offense, and we felt it would be very odd if he was to play in IPL."

Shoaib, however, plans to appeal the ban and if he wins, he could yet turn out for his team. "If he is able to clear the ban and wins the appeal process, he will be allowed to play", Lalit Modi, the IPL chairman, clarified to a private television channel.

A spokesman for the Kolkata Knight Riders confirmed to Cricinfo that they have been informed by the IPL that Shoaib will not be available to play for them. "In this situation, we will abide by the IPL directive as the final availability of a player depends on a clearance from the league."

Meanwhile, Cricinfo has learnt that the Kolkata franchise is now free to look for Shoaib's replacement, though nobody has been identified as yet. Besides, the money that was bid on Shoaib [US$ 450,000] will not be counted in the team's spending cap of $5 million, and the franchise will be free to use that money to buy the services of a new player.

Only yesterday, Shoaib had claimed that the willingness of the Knight Riders to play him confirmed there were no disciplinary issues. "If I had been so indisciplined and had an attitude problem as the Pakistan board claims do you think that Shahrukh Khan or [Sourav] Ganguly would want me to play for their team in the IPL," Shoaib said.

Until he can clear his name, it seems they don't.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

'I have been victimised' - Shoaib

Shoaib Akhtar arrives amid much fanfare to address the press in Islamabad...

Shoaib Akhtar, speaking a day after a PCB disciplinary committee imposed a five-year ban on him, said he had been victimised by Pakistani cricket authorities.

"I have been victimised, I have been pinpoint targeted. I should be told what I did and when I violated discipline," Shoaib said while addressing a press conference in Islamabad. "I am what I am because of Pakistan but my punishment is also because I am Pakistani.

"Banning a guy who played for his country with high fever is wrong. I will not go down without a fight. Even my doping case was mishandled," Shoaib said. "I will appeal, as is my right. If that fails I will go to court, if that fails then I will go to the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, there have been reports filtering through that the newly-elected Prime Minister of Pakistan, Yousuf Raza Gillani, has spoken with PCB chairman Nasim Ashraf and asked him to review the decision.

Shoaib was hauled up for comments made after not being offered a contract by the PCB, while on a two-year probation for hitting team-mate Mohammad Asif with a bat before the World Twenty20 last year.

Fast bowler to contest five-year ban

Lawson regrets Shoaib's downfall

Shoaib Akhtar and Geoff Lawson during better days...

Pakistan coach Geoff Lawson expressed regret at the five-year ban imposed on Shoaib Akhtar by a PCB disciplinary committee, adding that the fast bowler would remain an unfulfilled talent.

"Whether he got banned today or not, there was always going to be some problem with Shoaib," Lawson told the Daily Telegraph. "He has so much ability but he lacks the responsibility that's needed to become a great fast bowler.

"At times he tried really hard for us, but you just never knew what to expect when you turned up to the ground. Personally, I wouldn't have banned him; I'd have made him earn his international place back by playing domestic cricket. It's always sad when you see a guy who doesn't fulfill his talent."

Lawson, in his recent tour report on the away series against India, had advised against Shoaib's selection for Tests, indicating that he had lost confidence in his abilities in the longer version of the game. But Lawson thought Shoaib would perform well in the Indian Premier League, to which the ban does not extend. "I reckon he'll go pretty well. We timed him in the nets last week and he was bowling over 93mph."

Meanwhile, Shoaib's ban brought out contrasting reactions in Pakistan, with Shafqat Rana, a national selector, saying that Shoaib deserved the ban. "Akhtar has been involved in a number of controversies, and in my view the ban is justified. The decision will set an example for other cricketers as well. And they will concentrate on their game," he told the Daily Times. "It is true that a person learns from his mistakes, but unfortunately the fast bowler made it a habit of repeating his mistakes. I think the board's zero tolerance policy should be commended."

But former captain Imran Khan criticised the PCB for its decision. "The ban on Shoaib and even on the players who have gone to play in the Indian Cricket League are unacceptable and will shake the foundations of our cricket system. We are losing good players to bad policies of the board."

Javed Miandad said that he was sorry for Shoaib while agreeing that he was involved in a lot of disciplinary cases. "I would like to add here that it is the result of the PCB's leniency towards Shoaib's blunders he did in the past. But now his [latest] offense is not that grave as several Pakistan Test cricketers in the past have done this type of wrong acts repeatedly and got away with those," Miandad told Dawn.

Hanif Abbasi, the newly-elected national assembly member from Rawalpindi, Shoaib's home-town, told a local TV channel that the ban was "unacceptable" and that it would be overturned when a change of guard came about in the PCB.

Pakistan reacts to fast bowler's five-year ban

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Curator promises sporting surface

Chief curator Dhiraj Parsana: "We've done our best to produce a sporting wicket"...

The boring draw in the first Test in Chennai - 1498 runs and only 25 wickets - has put the pitch in Ahmedabad, a venue not renowned for results, in the spotlight. With Kanpur's Green Park traditionally being a ground that produces draws, it's up to Ahmedabad to ensure a result in this series. The chief curator Dhiraj Parsana is non-committal: he promises a sporting surface but remains unsure of what the weather could dictate.

"My crew and I have done our best to produce a sporting track. There's going to be a tinge of grass on the surface, which will assist the quicker bowlers," he told Cricinfo. "Traditionally the Motera [Ahmedabad] track has assisted spinners but the number of draws has been a worry for some people, I am aware of that. All I can say is that we have prepared a pitch that will make for a good contest. The ball could dominate early but there will be plenty in it for the batsmen too."

Three of the last four Tests in Ahmedabad have been drawn but all those matches were played during the latter part of the year - from late October to mid-December - when it is cold in Ahmedabad. In April, the weather is hot and muggy.

"Honestly I don't know what to say about that - it's an unseasonal time to be playing in Ahmedabad and if the weather factors in then the pitch could assist both pace and spin," said Parsana. "The heat will obviously sap whatever moisture there is and if it starts to crack, then it's over to the spinners."

India last played at the Motera Stadium in December 2005 and beat Sri Lanka by 259 runs; Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh snared 17 wickets and victory was achieved on the fifth morning. It was a spinner-friendly track then but there were no objections because both sides depended on their slower bowlers. However, before that win against Sri Lanka, the previous match with a decisive result was in November 1996 when India beat South Africa by 64 runs with Javagal Srinath taking eight wickets and Allan Donald seven on a cracking surface.

In between there have been dull draws highlighted by big scores and long innings; Sachin Tendulkar scored 217 here against New Zealand in October 1999 and Rahul Dravid 222 against the same team in a href="/statsguru/engine/match/64046.html">October 2001.

It would be unfair to single out Ahmedabad, however, for the trend is widespread. Since April 2003, ten out of 21 Tests played in India have been drawn. Compare that to the other two countries where Test cricket is in good health in terms of money and attendance, and the statistics present a stark contrast.

During the same period there have been 28 results from 33 Tests in Australia and 27 out of 35 Tests in England. Three of the draws in Australia - against India in January 2004, Sri Lanka in July, and South Africa in 2005 - were matches that could have been won by either side even during the final session; unlike in India, where draws are often finalised on the fourth day.

A nearly 50% result ratio is not an ideal situation for India compared to 80% in Australia and England. India is the only place on the subcontinent where sizable crowds come to watch Test cricket but if this continues it's definitely going to affect spectator interest.

In the 1980s it was not unusual for low and slow tracks to assist their spinners but It's not about spin anymore, unless Kumble and Harbhajan turn in truly excellent displays, as they did against Sri Lanka in Ahmedabad in 2005. The situation demands the BCCI's attention.

With the Indian Premier League kicking off this month the emphasis will be on producing featherbeds, such as the one in Chennai, and that's what the organisers want - comatose pitches which will assist the smash-bang ways of the Twenty20 format. As a result, an increasing number of Tests are being drawn in India when compared to other countries - a poor advertisement for the purest form of the game in its richest market.

ICC to meet Lorgat on Wednesday

Dave Richardson (left) and Haroon Lorgat (right) are the significant candidates in the fray for the post of ICC CEO...

The ICC, looking to finalise the appointment of its next CEO, has informed Haroon Lorgat, a leading candidate and the former convenor of Cricket South Africa's (CSA) selection committee, that a "senior representative" will meet him in this regard on Wednesday. That official, Cricinfo has learnt, is likely to be David Morgan, the ICC's president-elect.

The meeting with Lorgat will take place in Cape Town, three days after Imtiaz Patel, the ICC's "preferred choice" for the post, announced his decision to continue as chief executive of SuperSport, the South African broadcaster.

"I have been asked to make myself available tomorrow (Wednesday) for a possible meeting with a senior ICC representative. However, I am not in a position to discuss the nature and subject of the proposed discussion," Lorgat told Cricinfo.

It's learnt that Lorgat, who figured on the ICC's original shortlist of six candidates, currently has a "99% chance" of being picked to replace Malcolm Speed. And if the situation develops as planned, a decision on the new appointment is expected within the next 10 days.

Dave Richardson, the former South Africa wicketkeeper and ICC's general manager, is the other serious candidate on the shortlist. IS Bindra, the former BCCI president and a third name of note on that list, has already been appointed as ICC's principal advisor.

Understandably, the ICC has placed details of the fresh recruitment process under wraps after the "difficult situation" it was placed in by Patel, who reportedly gave sufficient indication that he was ready for the job only to pull out. "We cannot discuss any timeframe at this point. All we can say is that the right processes are in place this time too," an ICC spokesman said.

The next CEO will be picked by a four-member recruitment committee that includes Morgan, Ray Mali, the ICC president, Sharad Pawar, the BCCI president and Morgan's chosen successor, and Creagh O' Connor, the chairman of Cricket Australia.

Once the recruitment committee has identified a preferred candidate, the committee will make a recommendation to the ICC executive board. The new CEO will take over from Speed, who steps down from the position after this year's ICC Annual Conference, which will take place between June 29 and July 4.

Shoaib banned for five years

Nasim Ashraf: The board has lost confidence in Shoaib Akhtar...

Pakistan fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar, 32, has been banned for five years by a disciplinary committee of the PCB for violating the players' code of conduct. The ban extends to cricket for and in Pakistan but will leave him free to play in the Indian Premier League (IPL), which begins later this month.

Legspinner Danish Kaneria, also charged with criticising the PCB, was let off with a severe reprimand as it was his first offence.

Shoaib had appeared before a disciplinary committee in February after being charged with publicly criticising the Pakistan board for offering him a retainership instead of a contract. The board had offered contracts to 15 players, based on a formula that took into account their performance, but Shoaib was demoted to a retainership from the Category A contract he held last year.

"The board has lost confidence in Shoaib Akhtar and therefore felt his presence in the field was damaging to the Pakistan team, for Pakistan players and for the image of Pakistan cricket," the PCB chairman, Nasim Ashraf, told AFP. "The committee has recommended a five-year ban for Shoaib Akhtar. He will be ineligible to play in Pakistan or to play for Pakistan anywhere else in the world. [It is] a sad day for me and for Shoaib Akhtar. He is such a talented player."

Shoaib, 32, said he was "deeply disappointed and hurt" by the decision. "I will go to court and fight against the ban."

He also dismissed Ashraf's claims that he was a negative influence on the team and vowed to make a comeback. "Ask the captain (Shoaib Malik), ask coach Geoff Lawson and they would vouch for me. I had played with high fever on the India tour (last year), which proved my commitment," he said. "I bowl fast so I am prone to injuries, but I have given my heart, soul and body to this team. I know some vested interest did not want me to be the part of the team, but I will be back."

Shoaib, who can appeal this decision, was already on two years' probation for hitting Mohammad Asif with a bat before the start of the World Twenty20 in South Africa in 2007. That offence saw him fined 3.4 million rupees ($52,000 dollars) and banned for 13 matches, and left him facing the prospect of a life ban today.

He felt the ban was stiff punishment for the offence. "I was demoted from central contract 'A' category, which was very hurtful and as a reaction I said something. I have apologised to the PCB, before the disciplinary committee and before everyone," he said. "So I thought that they would take a lenient action, but this harsh decision has effectively ended my career. I still want to play for my country."

Kaneria, Ashraf said, had been let off with a severe reprimand and has been barred from issuing any press statements. In his column on, Kaneria said he felt he deserved more respect as an established senior player in the side and was not satisfied with the board's explanation of his demotion from category "B" to "C" in the central contracts.

Bowler can still play in IPL

South Africa to target Sehwag with short stuff

'He cuts the ball very well but we saw he played his first pull shot only after scoring 312,' says Mickey Arthur about Sehwag's triple-century...

Mickey Arthur, the South Africa coach, has indicated that his bowlers will target Virender Sehwag, the triple-centurion from the first Test, with more short-pitched deliveries targetted at his body during the second Test in Ahmedabad.

"We had a look at Sehwag's fantastic innings. He cuts the ball very well but we saw he played his first pull shot only after scoring 312," Arthur was quoted as saying by AFP. "So we are planning to target him with short balls on his body, cramp him for space and see how he takes it."

Sehwag destroyed the South African attack in Chennai with an outstanding 319 off just 304 balls. His knock ensured India were under little pressure despite conceding 540 in the first innings. All the South African bowlers suffered while Sehwag was at the crease, but they fought back magnificently after he was dismissed, taking nine wickets for 159 on the fourth day to restrict India's first-innings lead to just 87.

For Arthur's plan to work, though, his bowlers will need more assistance from the pitch at Motera than what was on offer at the placid track in Chennai. "We will have to wait and watch for the first ball to be bowled on how the wicket is," he said. "At the moment it looks good with some grass on it. Hopefully the pitch will help the seamers. It will be interesting to see how the ball behaves on the lush green outfield or whether it helps reverse swing."

Ahmedabad has traditionally been a good venue for the spinners - the last time India played here, Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh took 17 out of 20 Sri Lankan wickets in a 259- run win - but in domestic matches this season, fast bowlers have had a fair amount of success. Siddharth Trivedi, the Gujarat fast bowler, told Indian Express: "This season, the wicket really helped fast bowlers. Bowlers who can hit the deck hard have got a lot of help from it. But spinners do come into play on the last two days." It remains to be seen, though, if the track for the Test is equally sporting.

India v South Africa 2nd Test Ahmedabad Live ScoreBoard

A tale of intrigue, injuries and incidents

A career constantly under the spotlight...

If you wanted to write about Shoaib Akhtar, going by his figures would be among the worst ways to do it. Nine years, 43 Tests, 169 wickets, 133 ODIs, 208 wickets; it's not even a tenth of the story. A few seasons on from his finest performance over a full series, his knees and one ankle were crocked, chit-chat about his action continued, he faced a two-year lay-off after failing a random drugs test (he was later acquitted) but missed the Champions Trophy in 2006 and the World Cup in 2007. This was followed by the infamous dressing-room tiff with Mohammad Asif and comments about the retainership he was handed, leading in March 2008 to a five-year ban on playing cricket for or in Pakistan. Cricinfo looks at the troubles, travails, intrigues, injuries, incidents, controversies and scandals of the Rawalpindi Express

1996 Dropped from the Pakistan squad for the Sahara Cup against India on grounds of indiscipline and poor attitude. His international debut is thus delayed by over a year.

1997Tours England with Pakistan `A' and makes an impact on and off the field; is cited for indiscipline by the Pakistan manager in the end of tour report. Finally makes his international debut in November in the second Test against West Indies in Rawalpindi.

1998 February brings his first major impact; 5 for 43 in Pakistan's first Test win in South Africa.

1999 The breakthrough year; starts with those two balls in Kolkata and continues through the World Cup, where he ends not only as one of the leading wicket-takers, but also its leading star. Soon after, he signs a contract to play for Nottinghamshire. He ends the year by being called for the first time in his career in Australia by umpires Peter Willey and Darrell Hair and John Reid, the match referee; a pattern for highs followed inevitably and immediately by lows is set.

2000Bowling action is cleared early in the year but a rib injury forces him to miss the start of the county season. A side strain then forces him out for the rest of the season and then a shoulder injury rules him out of England's visit to Pakistan in the winter. Knee and ankle injuries are also added to the catalogue before the year is out.

2001 Returns in March for his first international outing in ten months against New Zealand. Five wickets suggests he is back but breaks down with a hamstring injury nine balls into the next game...and is called again by umpires Steve Dunne and Doug Cowie. A report from the University of Western Australia concludes his action is the result of "unique physical characteristics." Pakistani officials say the report `clears him'. Misses much of England summer tour due to injury and poor health and is called again in November in Sharjah. Again, he is `cleared' by the University in December.

2002Hit by a brick from the Dhaka crowd in January, forcing him to miss end of tour. Recovers to destroy New Zealand twice at home, in the process bowling the first-ever 100 mph delivery. Blitzes Australia twice later in the year but is banned for an ODI after throwing a bottle into the crowds in Zimbabwe. Caught ball tampering in first Test, though he escapes punishment. A knee injury rules him out of the Test series against South Africa.

2003Axed from Pakistan team after a poor World Cup and told by PCB chief Tauqir Zia to clean up his act or be removed from team forever. Recalled in May for a triangular in Sri Lanka and promptly becomes the second player ever to be banned for ball tampering. Appointed vice-captain for Test against South Africa and is served up a lawsuit by a Pakistani citizen for attending a fashion show on a night of religious significance. Banned for one Test and two ODIs for abusing Paul Adams in the first Test. Misses Test in New Zealand with calf and groin injuries but is photographed one day before enjoying a jet-ski ride, much to his management's chagrin. Typically, returns for second Test, helps Pakistan win with a stupendous seven-wicket burst (11 in the match) and gets injured again in the ODI series.

2004 A disappointing series against India ends with a back injury in the final Test. Unable to bowl for the rest of the match, he comes out to bat later, freely smacking boundaries in a 14-ball 28. Inzamam publicly questions the authenticity of the injury. Amid disquiet over his commitment and attitude, Shoaib is called before a medical inquiry which eventually finds his injury to be a genuine one. Returns to the squad where on the tour to Australia at the year's end his true Jekyll and Hyde nature comes out. He fights a lone battle against Australian batsmen in the first two Tests, but in the process is disciplined by match referees (for sending Matthew Hayden on his way) and injures his shoulder at Perth. By the time of the last Test in Sydney, looks physically spent and rumours of disciplinary breaches and problems with the team management emerge.

2005Starts the year with a hamstring injury and misses most of the VB Series. Hamstring keeps him out of the India tour and fitness problems preclude his inclusion for the tour to the Carribean. On the bright side, he is offered a Bollywood role. Relationship with both Inzamam and Bob Woolmer erodes steadily and his stock is at its lowest ebb when he is verbally maligned by Worcestershire chairman John Elliott for being a disruptive influence. Comes back for the series against England after proving his fitness in a training camp, finishes with 17 wickets, and silences any number of critics with a rehabilitated performance. Ankle injury surfaces in the last Test at Lahore.
Injuries have plagued him throughout his career...

2006 Questions are raised about his action again, this time, by Greg Chappell after the Faisalabad Test against India. Ankle injury becomes a stress fracture and rules him out of the ODI series. All the while rumours fly about ICC concern over his action although no official action is taken or statement made. Injury forces him to miss the Sri Lanka tour and doctors discover soon after a degenerative knee condition which threatens to end his career. Is due to undergo surgery, the results of which will determine whether or not he can continue playing but speculation about whether it is his action or his injury which have forced him out intensifies.

2006 Banned for two years after testing positive for the banned substance Nandrolone, Shoaib was sent back to Pakistan and missed the Champions Trophy. The verdict, however, was overturned by a three-man tribunal a month later.
2007Things look bright for the bowler as he is named in a 30-man squad for the World Cup. After not initially being picked for fitness reasons, the selectors have a change of heart and recall him. He makes a successful return against South Africa in the second Test, taking four wickets in the first innings. But a hamstring injury forces him to miss not only the second innings, but also the rest of the tour. A televised spat with Bob Woolmer results in Shoaib being fined by the board. Later, after much deliberation, Shoaib is declared unfit to take part in the World Cup due to injury at the very last minute. Speculation has it that his exclusion was from fear of being dope-tested by the ICC, and that traces of Nandrolone were still present in his body.

2007A fit-again Shoaib is named in the Asia XI squad to take on an Africa XI but is withdrawn by the Pakistan board after declaring himself unavailable for Pakistan's tour of Abu Dhabi. Shoaib is included in the squad for Scotland and later named in the team for the inaugural ICC World Twenty20. He leaves a training camp in Karachi without permission and is fined at a disciplinary hearing. On appeal, a second hearing suspends the fine and charges and puts Shoaib on a six-week probationary period. A dressing-room spat with Mohammad Asif in South Africa results in Shoaib being sent back home prior to the event.

Shoaib is consequently handed a 13-match ban and a fine of approximately US$57,000 for a number of breaches of discipline. He is also placed on a two-year probationary period during which any disciplinary breaches could result in a life ban.

2008 The board's announcement of new central contracts in January sees Shoaib demoted from the top category to a retainership. He is handed a five-year ban, preventing him from playing for and in Pakistan, after accusing the board of double standards over awarding of the contracts.

Shoaib Akhtar timeline

Monday, March 31, 2008

Kaif expected call-up

Mohammad Kaif: Ready to seize the future...

Having earned a Test recall after nearly two years, Mohammad Kaif said he was expecting to be picked based on his domestic performance. He was named as replacement in the squad for the second Test against South Africa after Sachin Tendulkar was ruled out with a groin injury.

"I had scored some 1000 to 1200 runs," Kaif told the tabloid Mumbai Mirror. "A bulk of them were scored on tough wickets so the call was kind of expected." He scored 687 runs at 59.73 from eight Ranji Trophy games for Uttar Pradesh and 266 at 52.46 from two Duleep Trophy matches for Central Zone this season.

Kaif was dropped from the Test side after India's tour of West Indies in June 2006 despite scoring an unbeaten 148 in the second Test in St Lucia. "I had learned a lot during this period. I think whatever happens, happens for some good only. So I think there must have been some good reason of my being away from the Indian side.

"I must thank my supporters and those who stood by me in my bad period. I hope that the bad phase has ended and this selection will bring more good news for me in the future."

Though excited about being included in the squad, Kaif said India would no doubt miss Tendulkar. "Captain Anil Kumble will never have wanted him [Tendulkar] to be out of the side," Kaif said. But now I have got a chance and if I play, I will try and make the best out of it."

ICC searches for speedy resolution

Haroon Lorgat, the former convenor of Cricket South Africa's selection committee, is a strong candidate for the ICC CEO post...

The ICC is looking at a speedy resolution to the search for its next chief executive officer, with Imtiaz Patel declaring on Sunday that he had withdrawn interest in the position. Its four-man recruitment committee may discuss the issue as early as this week and Cricinfo has learnt that Haroon Lorgat, the former convenor of Cricket South Africa's (CSA) selection committee, has emerged as a strong candidate for the post.

Lorgat has already received a preliminary inquiry for a possible meeting with the ICC this week. "It's very premature to even talk about this subject," Lorgat told Cricinfo. "But obviously if the job is indeed offered to me, I would consider that a great honour."

Incidentally, the other significant candidate in the ICC's shortlist is also a South African - Dave Richardson, the former wicketkeeper, and currently the ICC's general manager, cricket. "In fact, we have been fortunate to have several high-calibre candidates on the shortlist, all of whom bring something slightly different to the table," the ICC president-elect, David Morgan, said.

Lorgat, 47, headed CSA's selection committee for three years till the 2007 World Cup. A qualified chartered accountant - whose roots, like Patel's, are in India - and formerly a senior partner in Ernst & Young, he is currently on the board of Kapela Investments, a private venture he set up last year with five other associates.

The next CEO will be picked by a recruitment committee that includes Morgan, Ray Mali, the ICC president, Sharad Pawar, the BCCI president and Morgan's chosen successor, and Creagh O' Connor, the chairman of Cricket Australia.

"Once the recruitment committee has identified a preferred candidate, it will make a recommendation to the ICC executive board with a view to confirming the appointment at the earliest opportunity," an ICC spokesman said.

The new CEO will take over from Malcolm Speed, who steps down from the position after this year's ICC Annual Conference, which will take place between June 29 and July 4.

Even as the ICC moves to replace Speed, there is also a deep sense of disappointment at Patel's decision - especially after his participation in the recruitment process, which included a detailed interview. Patel is understood to have reiterated his interest in the job, which is believed to have involved an annual salary package in excess of US$500,000, when Morgan spoke to him just before announcing his name as the "preferred choice" during the board meeting in Dubai last month.

"We need to remember that this is not a minor appointment that is being discussed and it was obvious that a fair amount of groundwork was put in before the preferred choice was announced last month. There is a deep sense of disappointment about how things have turned out after that," said a source.

The search for the ICC's next CEO

Sunday, March 30, 2008

McKenzie ton rounds off tame draw

Neil McKenzie's patient 155, to complement his first-innings 94, warded off hopes of an Indian victory...

A patient unbeaten 155 from Neil McKenzie, and his solid 157-run partnership with Hashim Amla guided South Africa to safety on the final day at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, with India left to rue the missed chances that put paid to slim hopes of victory. Two catches were put down on a morning of frustration, and though Harbhajan Singh was rewarded for his tenacity and persistence after lunch, McKenzie stood firm to end any hopes of a decisive result.

Unbeaten on 88 at lunch, you might have expected him to be a little nervous after missing a century in the first innings. Instead, he cruised to three figures with two cuts for four off Anil Kumble. His fourth Test hundred took him just 184 balls, and vindicated the faith of the selectors who have left Herschelle Gibbs at home.

With the game heading nowhere, Kumble brought on VVS Laxman to bowl his offspinners, but Jacques Kallis put that into perspective by smashing the first ball past midwicket for four. Harbhajan was getting occasional steep bounce at one end, and Virender Sehwag was turning it sharply at the other, but there were only sporadic alarms for the two batsmen.

Harbhajan had beaten the bat several times with no luck at all, and was finally rewarded when RP Singh took a stunning catch at short square leg to send back Kallis for 19. It was his second failure of the match, and a bad omen for India that South Africa had managed so comfortably without a significant contribution from their batting talisman.

Harbhajan had Ashwell Prince caught at short leg soon after, the ball going off glove and then pad, but thoughts of a collapse had swiftly ended as McKenzie lofted a couple of big shots over the leg side. With Kumble off the field as well, the draw had become a certainty.

The final session was just a case of going through the motions, with Laxman and Sehwag bowling long spells. There was also the farcical sight of Harbhajan taking the second new ball, an indictment both of the pitch and India's pace bowlers. Apart from AB de Villiers being given out wrongly - the ball flew off the pad to short leg - there was nothing for the crowd to cheer about, and when play was called off with 14 overs left in the day, there were few murmurs of disagreement.

Hashim Amla's 81 was instrumental in blunting the Indian spin threat...

The fate of the match was as good as decided on a morning when Kumble was the only successful bowler. Unfortunately for India, it was almost lunch by then. He set up Amla with the googly before pitching a legbreak outside off stump. Amla poked hesitantly at it, and Rahul Dravid held on at slip. By then, Amla had already been reprieved twice, but his 81 was instrumental in blunting the Indian spin threat.

Kumble had opened the proceedings, but strangely took himself off after just an over, leaving Harbhajan to bowl in tandem with Sreesanth. The two batsmen were cagey early on, but then Amla started to assert himself. Harbhajan was cut for four, and when Sreesanth's attempted yorker became a full toss, he clipped it through midwicket to reach 50.

In truth, he shouldn't have gone much further. When on 55, a miscued sweep off Harbhajan went airborne, but Sreesanth made a real hash of the chance running in from the deep. As the ball fell into space to his left, Harbhajan looked incensed and clearly hadn't forgotten the gaffe overs later when he appeared to gesture after making a superb stop himself.

Soon after, Kumble and RP took over, with India sticking to the spin-pace combination. Amla produced a terrific on-drive off RP and then saw the bowler fail to hold on to a return catch when the ball was bunted back at him. On 72 at the time, he was living a charmed life, and a magnificent cover drive off Kumble raised visions of a second century in the match. Kumble though had other ideas.

McKenzie was less aggressive in the morning, and survived a vociferous appeal from Kumble just before the interval, but by then he had eased quietly into the 80s. Circumspection was the name of the game, but that soon gave way to celebration, and satisfaction at a job very well done. A match that began with bat dominating ball ended the same way, with South Africa having more cause for satisfaction after a sterling bowling display on the penultimate day.

India v South Africa, 1st Test, Chennai, 5th day

Gul and Iftikhar included for first two ODIs

Bazid Khan, son of former international Majid, is back after a strong Pentangular Cup...

Umar Gul and Rao Iftikhar Anjum have been recalled for the first two one-day internationals against Bangladesh, but there is no room for Shoaib Akhtar in a near-full-strength Pakistan squad. Three finds from the ODI series against Zimbabwe at home recently - Nasir Jamshed, Sohail Khan and Wahab Riaz - were handed another opportunity to impress, while there was a recall for Bazid Khan after a fine Pentangular Cup.

Gul, who travelled to Australia for a medical check-up on a longstanding back problem that prevented him from taking any part in the Test series against India last year, and Iftikhar - who had a poor series against Zimbabwe - return from injury to boost the bowling. With Mohammad Asif ruled out and Shoaib waiting to be cleared by the PCB's disciplinary committee, Pakistan's bowling attack also included Sohail Tanvir, Sohail Khan and allrounders Fawad Alam and Shahid Afridi, who make up the spin quotient.

Bazid, who played one Test and three ODIs in 2004-05, finished as the Pentangular Cup's second-highest run-scorer with 522 at 74.57, including three hundreds.

In the ODIs against Zimbabwe, Pakistan tried out opener Jamshed and bowlers Sohail Khan - who shot to fame in his debut first-class season by grabbing 65 wickets in his first nine matches - and Riaz, among other young hopefuls. Jamshed impressed with 197 runs at 39.40 as did the two bowlers. Both wicketkeepers from that series, Kamran Akmal and Sarfraz Ahmed, have been retained.

While announcing the 16-man squad Salahuddin Ahmed, head of the selection committee, said that players such as Yasir Hameed, Yasir Arafat, Faisal Iqbal, Naumanullah, Abdur Rauf, Kamran Hussain, Junaid Zia, Yasir Ali, Umair Khan - who have all performed well on the domestic circuit - would be considered for the next three ODIs.

The five-match series runs from April 14 to May 5.

After Australia decided to postpone their tour of Pakistan, the PCB searched for a team to replace them for a five-match ODI series. The PCB was keen on India to play the matches but the BCCI could not fit another series in to an already jam-packed itinerary.

Pakistan squad Shoaib Malik (capt), Salman Butt, Nasir Jamshed, Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf, Misbah-ul-Haq, Shahid Afridi, Kamran Akmal (wk), Umar Gul, Sohail Tanvir, Rao Iftikhar Anjum, Sohail Khan, Wahab Riaz, Fawad Alam, Bazid Khan, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk).

Bangladesh in Pakistan 2007-08