Saturday, June 28, 2008

Depleted Pakistan face severe test

Chaminda Vaas and Sanath Jayasuriya will both return to the Sri Lankan team after being rested for the match against UAE.

Match facts

Sunday, June 29, 2008
Start time 16.00 (local), 10.00 (GMT)

Big Picture
On current form, Sri Lanka are the clear favourites in this Super Four match: their win against Bangladesh in the group game has already given them a two-point cushion, while Pakistan have to recover from a disappointing loss to India, which was made worse by the rib cartilage injury to Umar Gul, ruling him out of the tournament. There are also clear indications of a rift between the Pakistan selectors and the captain, with Shoaib Malik appearing to blame the selection committee after the loss to India. Sri Lanka, on the other hand, have coasted through their two matches in the tournament, against admittedly easier opponents, and their team has a fairly settled look to it.

Unlike most other teams, though, Pakistan thrive in situations when there's little going in their favour. They have enough firepower in their batting line-up to take the early initiative or chase down a stiff target - Malik's form at the top of the order has been especially pleasing - but the bowling is a concern on these flat pitches.

Sri Lanka haven't been stretched so far in the tournament, but that could change on Sunday. Also, they haven't enjoyed the match-up against Pakistan of late, losing five of their last six completed ODIs against them, including a 2-1 series defeat in Abu Dhabi last year. In that tournament, however, they didn't have the services of Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan, two players who have been vital cogs in the Sri Lankan bowling machine for years.

Form guide
(Last 5 completed ODIs; most recent first)
Pakistan LWWLW
Sri Lanka WWLLW

Watch out for ...
Mohammad Yousuf has scored two brisk cameos in the Asia Cup so far - his tournament strike rate is 120.83 - indicating he is in fine touch, but he hasn't converted them into something more substantial. His excellence against spin could make him a huge factor on Sunday.

Ajantha Mendis was more than a handful for the hapless UAE batsmen, and on a pitch aiding spin, he can be a threat for more accomplished batsmen as well.

Team news
Umar Gul's absence is a huge blow to Pakistan's bowling, and Wahab Riaz, the left-arm fast bowler, will play in his place. Riaz made his debut against Zimbabwe earlier this year and has taken nine wickets in four ODIs. The other likely change is the inclusion of Saeed Ajmal, the offspinner, for his first international match. Fawad Alam will probably miss out, which is slightly unfortunate considering the fact that he scored an unbeaten 63 and bailed Pakistan out against Hong Kong.

Pakistan (probable) 1 Salman Butt, 2 Shoaib Malik (capt), 3 Younis Khan, 4 Mohammad Yousuf, 5 Misbah-ul-Haq, 6 Shahid Afridi, 7 Sohail Tanvir, 8 Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), 9 Saeed Ajmal, 10 Wahab Riaz, 11 Iftikhar Anjum.

Sri Lanka had rested Sanath Jayasuriya, Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan against UAE, but expect all of them to return on Sunday.

Sri Lanka (probable) 1 Sanath Jayasuriya, 2 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 3 Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 4 Chamara Kapugedera, 5 Chamara Silva, 6 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 7 Chaminda Vaas, 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Ajantha Mendis, 10 Muttiah Muralitharan, 11 Dilhara Fernando.

Stats and trivia
# Since 2006, Pakistan have a win-loss ratio of 5 in ODIs against Sri Lanka. Against no other team is their win-loss ratio better than 1.5.

# Pakistan also have an excellent record against Sri Lanka in Karachi, winning four out of five matches. In Asia Cup clashes, however, Sri Lanka have won six out of nine.

# Sri Lanka's top three batsmen don't have great stats versus Pakistan: Kumar Sangakkara averages 30.15, Jayasuriya 33.65 and Jayawardene 28.62 against them.

"It is an important game for us because we have not carried any points from the qualifying rounds into the super stage. India and Sri Lanka have a slight advantage there."
Geoff Lawson, the Pakistan coach, admits his team is on the back foot

"I don't think Gul's absence would make much of a difference to them because they are a strong side and no matter what the conditions are, it basically depends on what sort of attitude they have towards a match on a given day."
Mahela Jayawardene is ready for a tough fight.

Impressive Australia seek three from three

One victim on Sunday will be enough to make Brett Lee the fastest man to reach 300 ODI wickets.

Match facts

Sunday, June 29
Start time 09:30 (local), 13:30 (GMT)

The Big Picture

Australia lead the five-match series 2-0 and West Indies' efforts in both matches have been distinctly underwhelming. In St Vincent they conceded a big total before stumbling so badly early in their chase that for the rest of the innings they were playing catch-up, and not very well. In Grenada they could not capitalise on a strong start from their bowlers, allowing Australia to post a challenging score and then collapsing miserably in the chase. Their tempo was all wrong on a slow pitch that required patience and with the third match to be held at the same venue, West Indies must quickly adapt to the tough conditions if they want to avoid an irreparable 3-0 deficit.

ODI form guide

West Indies - LLNWW (most recent first)
Australia - WWLLL

Team news

Not many players were able to hold their head up high after Friday's drubbing. There is a chance that West Indies will be boosted by the return of Ramnaresh Sarwan, who has been nursing a groin injury, and if he plays it will likely be Kieron Pollard to miss out after an awful shot selection brought his downfall second ball on Friday. Patrick Browne's inclusion was a failure on both fronts as he laboured over 1 with the bat and struggled behind the stumps, so Denesh Ramdin might take back the gloves.

West Indies (possible) 1 Chris Gayle (capt), 2 Xavier Marshall, 3 Ramnaresh Sarwan, 4 Shivnarine Chanderpaul, 5 Dwayne Bravo, 6 Andre Fletcher, 7 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 8 Darren Sammy, 9 Jerome Taylor, 10 Sulieman Benn, 11 Daren Powell.

Unless Andrew Symonds recovers from his back injury there is no real reason for Australia to alter their successful line-up. Ponting said the win in Grenada was even more pleasing than their first-up St Vincent victory and he will presumably be keen to wrap up the series before tinkering too much with the team.

Australia (possible) 1 Shane Watson, 2 Shaun Marsh, 3 Ricky Ponting (capt), 4 Michael Clarke, 5 Michael Hussey, 6 Cameron White, 7 James Hopes, 8 Luke Ronchi (wk), 9 Brett Lee, 10 Mitchell Johnson, 11 Nathan Bracken.

Watch out for ...

Jerome Taylor If the Grenada pitch seams like it did on Friday, Taylor could once again be a handful for Australia's top order. He picked up two early wickets, including Ricky Ponting for the fifth time in his past six international innings, and without Fidel Edwards he is clearly the most dangerous man in West Indies' attack.

Luke Ronchi Handed his one-day international debut on Friday because of Brad Haddin's broken finger, Ronchi knows he has three more matches to show his talents as Haddin has now flown home to aid his recovery. In Australia's deep batting line-up, Ronchi will probably come in at No. 8, although he is a highly skilled striker and the owner of the fastest one-day century in Australia's domestic one-day history. He also struck a 51-ball first-class hundred last season, smiting his second fifty in 11 balls.


Showers are forecast in the afternoon, which could mean another Duckworth/Lewis result after nine overs were lost on Friday.

Stats and trivia

Should Brett Lee collect at least one victim he will become the fastest man to reach 300 ODI wickets. Lee will be playing his 171st one-day international and the current quickest to the milestone was Waqar Younis, who got there in his 186th game.

Australia have had four men score half-centuries in the first two matches of the series; West Indies have had none.


"You've seen at times through the series the sort of cricket we can play. It's just a shame that we are not consistently playing that type of cricket."
John Dyson, West Indies' coach

"We're going to have to work our backsides off on Sunday to try and get a similar result [to Friday] but I think if we continue to bowl and field like that we'll be in great stead for the rest of the series."
Michael Clarke, Australia's vice-captain

Rampant India overwhelm Bangladesh

The 139-run stand between Suresh Raina and Gautam Gambhir helped India win at a canter.

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

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

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

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

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

Neither batsman wasted run-scoring opportunities, with Gambhir frequently stepping out to drive on the walk as has become his wont. Raina leant into some gorgeous drives, but also pulled ferociously when the bowlers dropped short. Both also judged the singles to a nicety, ensuring that the required-rate never even went over six.

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

Top Curve
Five stats

  • Bangladesh's 283 for 6 is their fifth-best score in ODIs, and their second-highest against a Test-playing nation. Their highest, 285 for 7 against Pakistan, came earlier this year.
  • Alok Kapali's 86-ball hundred was the fastest by a Bangladesh batsman, and the first against India.
  • This was Alok Kapali's first hundred; his previous best was his unbeaten 89 against West Indies in 2002 . He becomes the seventh Bangladesh batsman to score a hundred.
  • The 112-run stand between Alok Kapali and Mahmudullah is the highest for the sixth wicket in the Asia Cup, and the second-best for Bangladesh.
  • With his unbeaten 116, Suresh Raina becomes only the second batsman to score 300 runs in a single edition of the Asia Cup. He is just 15 short of Shoaib Malik's 316 in 2004.
Bottom Curve

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

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

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

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

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

Tamim eased past 50 but a moment's carelessness was to cost Bangladesh dearly. Having creamed Ishant through the covers for four, he then tried to deflect one fine off the pads. Dhoni made good ground to his right to take a splendid catch.

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

Ojha's second wicket came courtesy a little extra bounce, with Mushfiqur's attempt at a cut finding only Dhoni's gloves, but the scent of a quick kill turned into a bloody nose as Kapali blazed away like a Catherine wheel. Had Bangladesh taken their catches, there might have been even more fireworks to illuminate the Dhaka night.

Styris stars as New Zealand secure series

Scott Styris paced his innings well, starting slowly before letting loose in the later stages.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Security in Pakistan needs 'fine tuning' - expert

Recent touring sides have received massive amounts of security in Pakistan, but apparently not enough to guarantee a return by some.

n independent security expert, acting on behalf of three cricket boards, says some "fine tuning" is needed in certain areas before Pakistan is ready to host the ICC Champions Trophy in September this year, but feels it is "going in the right direction."

Reg Dickson, an Australian security consultant hired by Cricket Australia, the ECB and New Zealand Cricket, visited Karachi's National Stadium during Saturday's Asia Cup match between Bangladesh and India to assess the venue's security set-up.

"It's been an enlightening two to three hours. I met with Zakir Khan and some independent security consultants who have been very helpful," Dickson told reporters at the stadium. "It's a reasonable start. Some fine tuning needs to be done and everyone acknowledges that. But in time the security situation will be enhanced."

With the Asia Cup entering its final stages, as many eyes are on the security arrangements in place for the tournament as they are on the cricket. The Pakistan board has acknowledged that the Asia Cup is a dress rehearsal for the Champions Trophy.

Though the tournament is two months away, doubts have already been expressed by a number of players and teams over whether they would be comfortable playing in Pakistan. Australia, one of the countries with reservations, pulled out of a tour to Pakistan earlier this year on security grounds, though analysts acknowledge that the situation has improved since.

Dickson will only visit Karachi on this trip and is expected to submit a report to the three boards in two weeks' time. "I will be having more meetings. The tournament is still 2-3 months away."

Dickson, however, sounded cautiously optimistic about the chances of the tournament going ahead here. "I think everybody would like to play here and it is why PCB and others have put in so much work here. It's an educational tour for me and it's still a work in progress.

"We start off at a base. There is lots of security experience in this country plus international experience being brought in. Together we can see it going in the right direction."

'I've learnt from whatever has happened' -

Harbhajan Singh trains for the upcoming Test series in Sri Lanka.

Harbhajan Singh says he is keen to make amends after the infamous "slapgate" incident involving Sreesanth, one that led to his suspension for a majority of the IPL season and a five-match ODI ban. The ban meant that he missed out on India's trip to Bangladesh for a tri-series as well as the ongoing Asia Cup.

"I've learnt a lot from whatever has happened in the last few months, and I can promise that I'll still play with a lot of passion," Harbhajan told NDTV, a television news channel. "I want to play that way [with passion] but I'll try to control my emotions and other things. I don't want my emotions to affect others or myself.

"I'm very passionate about my game and I love playing for my country," he said. "I get too involved. I want to win each and every game and I want to deliver in difficult situations. And then, when you get so involved, suddenly you don't realise what you're doing."

Separate hearings by the IPL organisers as well as a BCCI-appointed enquiry commissioner concluded that, on April 25, Harbhajan hit Sreesanth after his side, the Mumbai Indians, lost by 66 runs to Kings XI Punjab in Mohali.

Harhajan spoke about what the episode had taught him. "There are a lot of things I would have done differently. But we're human and we all make mistakes and we learn from them," he said. "If anger was helpful it would have solved a lot of problems. But at the end of the day, you have to think before you do things and take your time. I will learn that."

When asked about his stint as captain of the Mumbai team, when he stood-in for four games in Sachin Tendulkar's absence, he said: "One of the lessons I learnt was that you have to be very calm and control your emotions. You don't have to show your anger and frustration."

Harbhajan is currently in a training camp at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore and said he was gearing up for a possible return to the national Test squad. "I'm working hard on my game. It's nice to be back with the boys and training with them," he said. "I'm really enjoying my time here and I'm really looking forward to the Sri Lanka tour and getting back to playing again and doing well." The first Test of the three-match series begins in Colombo on July 23.

Viewers in India can watch Harbhajan's interview on NDTV at 6.30pm

Friday, June 27, 2008

India likely to test bench strength

Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag average 51.93 per partnership in the 15 ODIs innings in which they have opened together.

Match facts

Saturday, June 28, 2008
Start time 16.00 (local), 10.00 (GMT)

Big Picture

Since beating India in the 2007 World Cup, Bangladesh have failed to carry the momentum forward and have lost to every major opposition in one-dayers. India, on the other hand, used their World Cup exit to get their act together, winning more than they have lost, and reversed their fortunes with a CB Series victory earlier this year.

In the Asia Cup so far, Bangladesh beat UAE comfortably but lost to Sri Lanka by a huge margin while India won both their matches - against Hong Kong and Pakistan - convincingly. Now that minnows UAE and Hong Kong have made their exits, Bangladesh need to win against at least one of the stronger sides if they are to have any hope of reaching the final. With India and Sri Lanka carrying forward two points each from the league stage, Bangladesh and Pakistan already have some catching up to do.

Form guide

(Last 5 completed ODIs; most recent first)
Bangladesh LWLLL

Watch out for ...

India's openers - Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag - who have been in top form since the IPL. The two average 51.93 from 15 innings in which they have opened together.

Raqibul Hasan, the 20-year old batsman, scored a half-century against India in the Kitply Cup and Bangladesh will hope he can repeat his performance against them in the Asia Cup as well.

Team news

Gary Kirsten, the India coach, said players on the bench would be given chances to perform and since India have two bonus points from the group stage, they may give Manpreet Gony a chance over Ishant Sharma in this game. Gony went wicketless against Hong Kong in the only international he has played. Pragyan Ojha, who was also in the squad for the Kitply Cup, could get a turn in place of Piyush Chawla. Though Rohit Sharma is yet to fire, he is likely to keep his place since Irfan Pathan is still recovering from his side strain.

India 1 Gautam Gambhir, 2 Virender Sehwag, 3 Suresh Raina, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt & wk), 6 Rohit Sharma, 7 Yusuf Pathan 8 Praveen Kumar, 9 Pragyan Ojha, 10 RP Singh, 11 Manpreet Gony.

All the Bangladesh bowlers leaked runs against Sri Lanka even though most of them got a wicket for their efforts. Mohammad Ashraful has shuffled around with the batting order - bringing Mushfiqur Rahim up to No. 5 from No. 8 in the match against Sri Lanka - but retained the same XI for the two games. However the 131-run defeat to Sri Lanka may prompt Ashraful to drop Shahadat Hossain, who went for 62 runs in seven overs, for medium-pacer Farhad Reza. Hossain has taken only seven wickets in seven games this year at an average of 49.14.

Bangladesh 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Nazimuddin, 3 Mohammad Ashraful (capt), 4 Raqibul Hasan, 5 Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), 6 Alok Kapali, 7 Mahmudullah, 8 Mashrafe Mortaza, 9 Abdur Razzak, 10 Dolar Mahmud, 11 Farhad Reza.

Stats and trivia

  • India have scored 144 against Hong Kong and 151 against Pakistan in the Powerplay overs in the Asia Cup.

  • India have hit 26 sixes in their two matches so far, while Sri Lanka hit five and Pakistan and Bangladesh three each.


    "Cricket is a cruel game and you can't afford to relax any day. We are here like the others to try to win this tournament as it is a big one from the Asian point of view."
    Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the Indian captain, is focussed on the prize

    "We are actually thinking of how we can bring our best game tomorrow rather than dwelling on what Indian batsman can do. We are more focused on following the team rule in batting and getting the bowlers to correct the mistakes they made in Lahore."
    Mohammad Ashraful wants his team to stick to the game plan.

  • England seek inspiration from captain Pietersen

    England will need Kevin Pietersen, their stand-in captain, at his best for Lord's if they are to salvage a 2-2 series draw.

    Match facts

    Saturday June 28, 2008
    Start time 10.45 (9.45GMT)

    The big picture

    The wheels haven't quite come off for England, but the nuts have certainly been loosened. After being swept aside remorselessly in the first ODI at Chester-le-Street, New Zealand have stolen the march and fought back with impressive resolve. The series reached an ugly flashpoint at The Oval on Wednesday, when Paul Collingwood decided not to withdraw an appeal for a run-out against Grant Elliott, the New Zealand allrounder who collided with Ryan Sidebottom. Elliott is now doubtful for the final match with the thigh injury sustained during the incident. Collingwood apologised, but his four-match ban - for a slow over-rate, not the Oval furore - further hampers England's plans. It leaves England's most influential batsman, Kevin Pietersen, with the task of trying to salvage a 2-2 draw in the final match at Lord's on Saturday. But as New Zealand's nerveless chase at The Oval suggested, they have peaked at just the right time.

    Form guide
    England L L NR W L (most recent first)
    New Zealand W W NR L W

    Watch out for

    Ravi Bopara For someone who has battered county cricket's bowlers in the past month, Bopara's nervous, fidgety performance in this series has undoubtedly been a concern. He fought through the difficulties at The Oval impressively, however, and at last notched a worthwhile score with a 78-ball 58. A superb diving catch to dismiss Daniel Vettori reinforced the return of his confidence, and with Collingwood absent, England need him to fire in the middle-order if they are to have a chance of drawing the series.

    Daniel Vettori New Zealand's captain has cast a forlorn figure this summer, but his euphoric celebrations at The Oval marked a turning point in fortune for his side. Admittedly, their joy was one of relief - justice had been served after Collingwood's win-at-all-costs decision - but, moreover, New Zealand showed an icy calm resolve in chasing 246. Vettori can take credit for their resurgent form. Forever accurate with the ball, he has shown hitherto hidden qualities of tactical leadership as the series has progressed. He, more than anyone, will be desperate to ensure New Zealand finish their difficult tour on a deserved high.

    Team news
    Alastair Cook has fully recovered the shoulder injury which ruled him out earlier in the series, and is the likely candidate to replace Collingwood. It seems improbable he will fill Collingwood's No.5 position however, meaning Luke Wright could be shunted down the order.

    England (possible) 1 Alastair Cook, 2 Ian Bell, 3 Kevin Pietersen (capt), 4 Ravi Bopara, 5 Luke Wright, 6 Owais Shah, 7 Tim Ambrose (wk), 8 Stuart Broad, 9 Graeme Swann, 10 Ryan Sidebottom, 11 James Anderson.

    New Zealand have a couple of injury concerns which could prevent them naming an unchanged side. Elliott will have a late fitness test on his thigh, while Kyle Mills tweaked his back during a net session at Lord's. If Elliott misses out Gareth Hopkins could earn a recall and Michael Mason is on stand-by to come in for Mills, whose loss would be a major blow to New Zealand after his performances with bat and ball in the series.

    New Zealand (possible) 1 Brendon McCullum (wk), 2 Jamie How, 3 Ross Taylor, 4 Scott Styris, 5 Daniel Flynn, 6 Jacob Oram, 7 Grant Elliott, 8 Daniel Vettori (capt), 9 Kyle Mills, 10 Tim Southee, 11 Mark Gillespie.

    Umpires: Steve Davis and Nigel Llong

    Stats and trivia

    * England have only won four of their last ten ODI matches at Lord's, but were victorious in their last two matches against India and West Indies last year.

    * New Zealand have never faced England at Lord's in a one-dayer. They won their sole appearance against West Indies in the 2004 Champions Trophy, beating them by 107 runs.

    * England will miss Collingwood's captaincy, but moreover his runs: he is the leading run-scorer in the series with 149 at 37.25.

    * New Zealand may be leading 2-1, but only McCullum appears in the the top five run-scorers with 114 at 38.00. Perhaps predictably, his strike-rate of 121.27 is the best of any top-order batsman.


    "When you perform like we have in the last two or three games, then guys start believing we are a good side."
    Belief is the key for a buoyant Daniel Vettori

    "Captaining England has been a dream of mine but I also understand that I'm assuming the role in Paul's absence as he is the captain and leader of the one-day side."
    England's replacement skipper, Kevin Pietersen, puts team loyalty ahead of personal ambition

    Australia hammer undisciplined Windies

    Batting was not easy for Michael Clarke but he worked hard for his 56.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Haddin flies home due to broken finger

    Brad Haddin's finger has continued to cause him problems.

    Brad Haddin will return to Australia to continue his recovery from a broken finger, meaning Luke Ronchi will be Australia's wicketkeeper for the remainder of the ODI series against West Indies. Haddin broke the ring finger on his right hand during the first Test last month and despite playing right through the Test series and in the first ODI on Tuesday, the injury is continuing to cause him problems.

    Ronchi made his international debut in the Twenty20 match in Barbados and Haddin was confident that a lengthy spell between the Tests and ODIs would give him plenty of time to recover. But the team's physio Justin Steer said Haddin was better off heading home early to help him recover.

    "This injury has now got to the point where it is limiting his capabilities as a player," Steer said. "Therefore he is going home to seek appropriate further treatment."

    Haddin is immediately flying home from Grenada, where Ronchi will make his one-day international debut in the second ODI. Ronchi originally flew to the Caribbean as cover when Haddin was in doubt for the third Test and stayed on as concerns remained over Haddin's fitness.

    Chingoka urges ICC not to make political decision

    Peter Chingoka: robust defence of Zimbabwe's position.

    Peter Chingoka, Zimbabwe Cricket's chairman, has written to all the members of all the ICC executive claiming that any move to ban Zimbabwe would be made for political and not cricketing reasons.

    Chingoka, who faces a motion to discuss Zimbabwe's status tabled by his friend and ICC president Ray Mali, pointed out that there were no moves to ban Zimbabwe from other international sporting events or organisations.

    He maintained what he has always said, that Zimbabwe was an apolitical organisation that could not be held responsible for the political turmoil inside the country.

    Earlier this week Cricket South Africa suspended all bilateral agreements with Zimbabwe Cricket, and England cancelled the proposed tour by Zimbabwe due in May 2009.

    Chingoka's claims were attacked by a former senior administrator who worked closely with him on the board but did not want to be named for fear of his safety. "The reality is that nobody survives inside Zimbabwe today unless they are linked to the ruling elite, especially in an organisation with access to precious foreign currency. The board are heavily politicised and anyone who suggests otherwise is blind. Chingoka and his cronies are desperate to portray an image of a brave souls standing up for cricket against tremendous odds. The reality is the quite the opposite."

    And a former Zimbabwe Test player, who also requested anonymity, was equally forthright. "The board have destroyed grassroots cricket here and all that is left is a paper-thin veneer of normality. These guys have caused the world game, not to mention the ICC, no end of embarrassment and they've not even done so in defence of cricket. It's all about self interest. Nobody wants to play us, nobody wants to tour here. What's the point of maintaining this charade?"

    Injured Gul out of Asia Cup

    Umar Gul will not lead Pakistan's attack for the remainder of the Asia Cup.

    Pakistan fast bowler Umar Gul has been ruled out for the remainder of the Asia Cup because of a rib cartilage injury. He has been advised two weeks rest.

    "Gul has been advised complete rest for at least two weeks and this is a big setback for us as he is one of our main bowler's," Salahuddin Ahmed, a Pakistan selector, told PTI.

    Gul sustained the injury during Pakistan's group match against India on Thursday. He pulled up in his first over and, despite receiving some treatment, had to leave the field after bowling only 1.2 overs. His departure left Pakistan's bowling attack severely depleted and India chased down their target of 300 with 47 balls to spare.

    "I don't know exactly what it is but I felt pain after just a few balls and it became unbearable," Gul said. Abdur Rauf, the fast bowler who made his debut against Zimbabwe in February, is likely to be named as a replacement. Sohail Khan, who was part of Pakistan's squad for the Kitply Cup in Bangladesh, hasn't recovered from a malaria attack.

    Pakistan qualified second from their group after their loss to India and their first match of the second round is against Sri Lanka on Sunday.

    Injured Gul out of Asia Cu

    Shoaib Malik: 'The captain and coach give their inputs but the selectors put down the XI'.

    Shoaib Malik re-ignited a simmering selectorial tussle when he appeared to blame the selection committee in the aftermath of Pakistan's emphatic six-wicket loss to India in the Asia Cup. Though he subsequently tried to play down his own comments, little doubt was left that the relationship between Pakistan's captain and selectors is far from a healthy one.

    During an often tense press conference in Karachi, Malik, responding to a journalist's question on the composition of the team, snapped back, "When captains are given the 11 players, then you ask this question of the selectors." Reporters immediately latched on to the implication, repeatedly probing Malik about whether there was friction within the management.

    Malik backtracked in spirit if not in word, testily explaining then that his thoughts and suggestions were also taken into account. "In Pakistan, selectors give the final XI," Malik said. "The captain and coach give their inputs but the selectors put down the XI. We all work together on this. Is that clear enough?"

    Though the dispute has history, it is believed that the latest tiff arose from Malik's reluctance to open the innings against India, preferring to recall Nasir Jamshed. That would mean dropping Fawad Alam, who had scored a maiden fifty in the previous game against Hong Kong, an idea the selectors did not ultimately agree to. There is also reportedly disagreement over whether or not Pakistan should play a specialist offspinner, Malik, in favour of giving Saeed Ajmal a debut.

    The selection committee also played down speculation about a rift. "There can be differences of opinion between selectors and the coach and captain," Salahuddin Ahmed, the Pakistan board's chief selector, told Cricinfo. "But that doesn't mean there is a rift. We always select the best XI for any game. The squad of 15 we chose for the Asia Cup was, however, approved by everyone, including the captain."

    Though in isolation the development is more molehill than mountain, it is actually part of a history of unease between selectors, captain and coach in this tenure. Over time, the selection committee is thought to have become increasingly unimpressed with Malik's reluctance to bowl and his push for players such as the non-performing Kamran Akmal. During the series against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh also, there were a number of heated disagreements between Geoff Lawson and the selection committee; their relationship is also a tense one.

    At least in part, the friction stems from a recent board policy which gives the selection of the final XI, for home series, fully to the selectors. This policy, in turn, was a result of the disenchantment with the autocratic powers Malik's predecessor, Inzamam-ul-Haq, enjoyed during his tenure, when the final XI was unequivocally the captain's choice.

    Ronchi debuts as Australia bat

    Toss Australia chose to bat v West Indies

    Ricky Ponting's first act in his 300th one-day international was to win the toss and bat in the second ODI in Grenada. Luke Ronchi was included for his first one-day international after Brad Haddin was sent back to Australia to give his broken finger the best chance of recovery.

    Australia made no other changes to the team that won the first ODI in St Vincent, while West Indies made three alterations as they aim to level the series. As expected, Shivnarine Chanderpaul came back having missed the first game with a leg injury but West Indies lost another senior player with Ramnaresh Sarwan missing out due to a groin problem.

    Patrick Browne also came in for his fifth one-day international, at the expense of the regular wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin. Fidel Edwards was also left out and Daren Powell came in to the West Indies attack.

    West Indies 1 Chris Gayle (capt), 2 Xavier Marshall, 3 Andre Fletcher, 4 Shivnarine Chanderpaul, 5 Dwayne Bravo, 6 Kieron Pollard, 7 Patrick Browne (wk), 8 Darren Sammy, 9 Jerome Taylor, 10 Sulieman Benn, 11 Daren Powell.

    Australia 1 Shane Watson, 2 Shaun Marsh, 3 Ricky Ponting (capt), 4 Michael Clarke, 5 Michael Hussey, 6 Luke Ronchi (wk), 7 Cameron White, 8 James Hopes, 9 Brett Lee, 10 Mitchell Johnson, 11 Nathan Bracken.

    Procter satisfied with security in Pakistan

    The security situation in Pakistan is under focus in the run-up to the Champions Trophy in September.

    Mike Procter, the ICC match referee who is in Pakistan for the ongoing Asia Cup, has said that he is satisfied with the security situation in the country and that it should not be an impediment to hosting the Champions Trophy in September.

    "I see no reason why Pakistan should not host the Champions Trophy. I find Pakistan a safe place and have been here twice this year," Procter told AFP in Lahore. "This is my personal opinion ... I was here in March [for the five-match series featuring Bangladesh] and I'm here now, and I found the security arrangements to be fantastic.

    "The foreign umpires who have been with me during the Asia Cup also felt very safe and I would love to come to Pakistan for future events whenever I get appointments."

    Proctor, who was in Pakistan in 2002 when a suicide bombing outside the New Zealand team's hotel led to the postponement of the tour, said: "It was a different situation then. It was a suicide bomb blast ... even at that time, the security was the best. We are more conscious about it now as the situation around the world since 9/11 has become volatile."

    Meanwhile, there are reports that the ICC is considering South Africa as an option to host the event in case it doesn't take place in Pakistan. "South Africa could hold the Champions Trophy in case Pakistan or Sri Lanka [the alternate venue] can't," an ICC source told AFP. "But it must be stressed that Pakistan remains our first choice and a lot of work has already been done to ensure the tournament is held there." The source also said that Johannesburg, Centurion and Potchefstroom will be hosting the Champions Trophy matches in case the tournament is shifted to South Africa.

    The ICC board will meet on Sunday in Dubai, where they will analyse a security report before making a decision on the matter.

    'Worsening' Zimbabwe situation tops ICC agenda

    David Morgan: "The executive board decided by a substantial majority politics and cricket should not mix. For matters to move forward there will have to be a change in that regard."

    The volatile issue of Zimbabwe cricket, the country's politics and its status as a Full Member of the ICC with voting rights is the first listed item on the main agenda for the ICC's annual meeting, to be held in Dubai over the next week. The ICC on Friday said the "worsening situation within the country" prompted the president, Ray Mali, to place the issue on the agenda.

    Some Full Member nations have already started sending out informal feelers to fellow members to gauge their position on the issue, though an idea of where these discussions are headed has come from the BCCI, which has indicated that it is unlikely to support any stringent action against Zimbabwe.

    "We have always supported Zimbabwe cricket and have nothing to do with the political situation there," a senior BCCI official told Cricinfo. "In fact, we are a bit surprised that the issue has been brought up once again since the ICC board had discussed this last year and decided clearly that politics and cricket can't be mixed. The BCCI believes that a country's politics and its cricket don't go together. There is no reason to change our stand now."

    A two-thirds majority vote within the ICC board - seven out of 10 votes - is needed for any resolution to be moved on Zimbabwe. That includes suspending them from full membership, which would see them lose access to a significant chunk of ICC funding and valuable voting rights. But the BCCI heads a powerful group within the ICC and has traditionally enjoyed the support of Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, who are all Full Members - and Zimbabwe.

    Yet, amid talk of various compromise options and even a potential face-off on the issue - the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has already taken a hard line stance on Zimbabwe - the surprise of the past week is the u-turn by Cricket South Africa, which was till recently a strong backer of its neighbouring country's cricket, irrespective of its politics.

    CSA shifted position on Monday, citing the worsening political situation there, and cut off all bilateral ties with Zimbabwe. Later, Norman Arendse, the CSA president, described this action as a move to pressurise the Zimbabwe government run by Robert Mugabe, whom he accused of "doing everything he can to stop a free and fair election".

    Within two days, the ECB scrapped its 2009 home series with Zimbabwe following an advisory from their government, and in the process put a question mark on hosting them for next year's World Twenty20. The ECB later said in a press release that it "deplores the position in Zimbabwe and, like Cricket South Africa, finds this untenable. Therefore all bilateral arrangements are suspended with Zimbabwe Cricket with immediate effect."

    This line of thought seems to have gained acceptance with some in the ICC administration, too, especially after the unpleasant situation following a previous meeting which decided not take any specific action against Zimbabwe's cricket officials based on the results of an independent financial audit that pointed to irregularities in utilisation of funds.

    Malcolm Speed, the ICC chief executive, failed to turn up for the press conference that followed the decision and was subsequently asked by the ICC board to go on paid leave till the end of his tenure this month-end after differences with the top brass over Zimbabwe.

    Speaking to Sky Sports on Wednesday, David Morgan, who will take over from Mali as ICC president at the end of the annual meeting, welcomed action against Zimbabwe but warned: "It will be a very difficult discussion. India and Zimbabwe are close and India's position is crucial in all this, for sure."

    Morgan added: "I reminded myself this morning of a meeting of the executive board just a year ago when the subject of how member countries are governed was on the table. The executive board decided by a substantial majority politics and cricket should not mix. For matters to move forward there will have to be a change in that regard."

    One-over eliminator could replace bowl-out

    Harbhajan Singh finds the mark in the bowl-out against Pakistan during the World Twenty20 in South Africa.

    The bowl-out has been used in two Twenty20 international games so far, but those could well be the only instances of its implementation in an international match. In the ICC Annual Conference which starts in Dubai on Sunday, the Chief Executives' Committee will discuss the possibility of replacing the bowl-out with a one-over eliminator in the case of a tied game.

    Under the rules for the new tie-breaker, each team will nominate three batsmen and one bowler. Each side bats one over, with the innings being declared closed if it loses two wickets. If the teams finish tied on runs scored in that one over, the side with the higher number of sixes in its full innings and in the one-over eliminator will be declared the winner. If the teams are still tied, the one with the higher number of fours in both innings will win.

    This tie-breaker has already been introduced in the ongoing Asia Cup in Pakistan, and will come into play if the final of the tournament ends in a tie. If approved, it will also be applicable in the semi-finals and final of the Champions Trophy later this year and the World Twenty20 in England next year.

    Thursday, June 26, 2008

    Ailing West Indies face uphill battle

    Nathan Bracken's form in St Vincent was one of several positive signs for Australia.

    Match facts

    Friday, June 27
    Start time 09:30 (local), 13:30 (GMT)

    The Big Picture

    Australia have the momentum after a convincing win in the first ODI in St Vincent on Tuesday and victory in the first of two games in Grenada would give them a formidable 2-0 lead in the five-match series. There were plenty of positives for the visitors in the opening encounter: Shaun Marsh was the Man of the Match with 81 on debut, Nathan Bracken picked up four wickets in his first major outing since knee surgery and Brett Lee was just as threatening as in the Tests. For West Indies virtually nothing went right. They were already missing Shivnarine Chanderpaul with a leg injury, then Xavier Marshall hurt his shoulder in the field, and none of the batsmen looked like making a successful chase. It will take a huge effort for them to turn the tide their way in Grenada.

    ODI form guide

    West Indies - LNWWL (most recent first)
    Australia - WLLLW

    Team news

    As well as the injuries to Chanderpaul and Marshall, West Indies also had to deal with groin complaints for Ramnaresh Sarwan and Chris Gayle, neither of whom were at 100% in St Vincent. The coach John Dyson says the group feels "more like a mobile hospital than a playing unit of late". They tested a few younger players in the first match and it's likely Andre Fletcher and Kieron Pollard will get another chance. Should Chanderpaul remain unavailable there are few other batting options in their squad, with the reserve wicketkeeper Patrick Browne the only potential replacement.

    West Indies (possible) 1 Chris Gayle (capt), 2 Xavier Marshall, 3 Ramnaresh Sarwan, 4 Andre Fletcher, 5 Dwayne Bravo, 6 Kieron Pollard, 7 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 8 Darren Sammy, 9 Jerome Taylor, 10 Sulieman Benn, 11 Fidel Edwards.

    If Australia's idea for this series was to trial new players, part one of the plan worked brilliantly with Marsh's debut heroics. David Hussey might get an opportunity at some point in the series, although probably not in this game, while Andrew Symonds remains in doubt with a lingering back injury. Mitchell Johnson showed signs of improvement in St Vincent so Australia will likely continue with him rather than including Stuart Clark.

    Australia (possible) 1 Shane Watson, 2 Shaun Marsh, 3 Ricky Ponting (capt), 4 Michael Clarke, 5 Michael Hussey, 6 Brad Haddin (wk), 7 Cameron White, 8 James Hopes, 9 Brett Lee, 10 Mitchell Johnson, 11 Nathan Bracken.

    Watch out for ...

    Darren Sammy Typically it's Dwayne Bravo that gets the all-round attention in this West Indies line-up but Sammy is starting to prove a very useful bits-and-pieces player. In St Vincent he was arguably West Indies' best bowler, collecting 2 for 31 and clearly thinking about his craft. His nagging line made him harder to get away than his quicker colleagues and he has a well-disguised slower ball, which got rid of Marsh on 81. Sammy also equal top scored in the chase with 33. All West Indies need from him now is to turn these useful contributions into occasional match-winning efforts.

    Ricky Ponting Australia's captain is experiencing an unusual run of form where he either seems to make big hundreds or fall very early. Since the start of the Chappell-Hadlee Series in December his ODI scores have been 107, 134, 0, 9, 9, 25, 10, 11, 124, 1, 1, 1 and 5. That means it's about time for another century. It's also his 300th ODI and he has a history of brilliant performances in milestone matches. But Ponting will need to get over his struggles against Jerome Taylor, who has now dismissed him four times from his past five international innings.

    Umpires Asad Rauf, Norman Malcolm.


    Scattered showers are forecast for Friday, so it could be another stop-start day. There were plenty of such occasions during the Test series and then in the Twenty20 international.

    Stats and trivia

    Ponting will be the second Australian to reach 300 ODI appearances, with Steve Waugh heading the list on 325.

    Australia played two Super Eights matches at the National Cricket Stadium in Grenada during the 2007 World Cup, thrashing Sri Lanka by seven wickets and demolishing New Zealand by 215 runs. West Indies' only outing there during the tournament was a 67-run loss to South Africa.

    Leaving aside a rain-reduced match in 2004 and Ireland's capitulation for 77 in the World Cup, the average first-innings score at the stadium is 255.


    "We have to regroup and rethink our approach. It is a series of five. It's not the end of the earth yet."
    John Dyson, West Indies' coach

    "The overall composition of the team is pretty good, and in Grenada, we can expect the same sub-continent type pitches, and I believe our overall make-up will work as well."
    Ricky Ponting, Australia's captain

    Ponting to notch up 300 ODIs

    Ricky Ponting made only 5 on Tuesday but he is hoping for a big performance in his 300th ODI.

    Ricky Ponting will play his 300th one-day international on Friday and West Indies should be worried. Arguably no player has lifted as consistently for his milestone matches as Ponting, which is peculiar as he insists such landmarks mean little to him. Ponting made centuries in his 50th, 150th and 250th ODIs, as well as a half-century in his 100th one-day international and a pair of hundreds in his 100th Test.

    In Grenada he will join Steve Waugh as the only Australians to appear in 300 one-day internationals and Ponting said it was yet another achievement that he would not truly appreciate until after he retired. "It's all probably something I'll look back on when I'm finished and be proud of," Ponting told AAP. "I've never been one to even talk about such things in the rooms or anything like that.

    "I said when I played 100 Tests I was probably as proud of that achievement as anything else, being in the game for that long. So again, I guess this is a good achievement because it says that you've been in the game for a long time."

    Although Ponting claims not to remember his mammoth efforts in milestone games, they have been so frequent that it is hard to believe they are coincidences. His highest ODI score of 164 came in his 250th match, the Johannesburg game that will mostly be remembered for Australia scoring a world-record 434 then having it chased down by South Africa. Until that point his best one-day score was 145, posted against Zimbabwe in his 50th ODI.

    In his 100th he managed 50 against Pakistan, he scored 119 against England in his 150th game, and in his 100th Test he starred with 120 and 143 at the SCG against South Africa. On this Caribbean tour he has already passed 10,000 Test runs but it was one of his least remarkable landmark performances that Ponting remembers most, when he made 10 in Harare in his 200th ODI.

    "I remember Tim Nielsen, who was the assistant coach at the time, making up a shirt and drawing something in black texta all over a white T-shirt and then presenting it in the warm up to me," Ponting said. "That was about as good as it gets."

    At 33, Ponting has plenty of time ahead of him to build on his memorable - or for him, forgettable - milestone achievements. For now, he just wants to end a slight dip in ODI form that has resulted in single-figure scores in his past four innings, while West Indies are hoping that history does not repeat when he joins the 300 club on Friday.

    Sehwag and Raina seal thumping win

    Virender Sehwag hit five sixes and 12 fours during his 119 off 95 balls.

    A mighty performance from India's batsmen, led by Virender Sehwag and Suresh Raina, made easy work of Pakistan's competitive target of 300 and gave India two points to take into the next round. The pair tore into Pakistan's depleted and wayward bowling attack - scoring at more than eight an over during their second-wicket partnership of 198 - as India reached the target with six wickets and 47 balls to spare, their quickest chase while facing a target of 300.

    The Indian approach was in stark contrast to Pakistan's methodical plan in their innings. Their openers played cautiously at the start and accelerated once the new ball had been seen off. Malik's maiden century as captain was the cornerstone of the innings and gave the batsmen who followed the freedom to innovate and bat aggressively to propel Pakistan to 299 for 4. In the end, however, they needed plenty more to challenge a trailblazing Indian batting line-up.

    Pakistan's attack was weakened by a rib-muscle injury to Umar Gul, who left the field after bowling only 1.2 overs. Shoaib Malik's offspin was also unavailable because he didn't take the field after cramping towards the end of his century, which left acting captain Misbah-ul-Haq with only three specialist bowling options - Sohail Tanvir, Iftikhar Anjum and Shahid Afridi - and their flat performance cost Pakistan dearly.

    Despite snaring Gautam Gambhir early - Misbah showed lightning reflexes in taking a one-handed catch to his left at gully - Pakistan were unable to contain India. After the Kitply Cup final, Dhoni had admitted that promoting Raina ahead of himself was a mistake but today Raina walked in at No. 3, instead of the out-of-touch Rohit Sharma.

    Bristling with confidence after his century on Wednesday against Hong Kong, Raina began with free-flowing cover drives when offered width outside off stump by Tanvir and Anjum. He did most of the early scoring and Sehwag hadn't got off the mark till the fourth over. However, Sehwag began to gather momentum by flicking consecutively to the long-leg boundary when Anjum strayed on to his pads, and slashed two short and wide balls from Tanvir to the third-man boundary.

    With Tanvir and Anjum ineffective, Misbah turned to Afridi in the 11th over. Afridi bowled one satisfactory over before Sehwag hit him for two straight sixes in his second. Raina lofted Anjum audaciously over extra cover for another six and when Misbah brought Tanvir back, Sehwag immediately glided him down to the third man for four.

    Pakistan began to haemorrhage runs and by the time Malik took the field, India had raced to 100 in 14 overs. They found the boundary virtually every over: Raina lofted Fawad Alam's left-arm spin over the midwicket boundary, Sehwag hit Afridi over long-on for six once more. And when Malik, who wasn't allowed to bowl for 71 minutes after taking the field, turned to Salman Butt, Sehwag responded by charging him and smashing the ball twice into the stands at deep midwicket to move into the 90s.

    Sehwag brought up his century of only 80 balls but Raina missed his, chipping Anjum tamely to Alam at cover. At that stage India needed 90 runs in 23 overs and victory was only a matter of time.

    The ease with which India achieved victory was startling for Pakistan, who had worked extremely hard to build a competitive total on a benign pitch. They reverted to the caution-before-aggression approach that won them the Kitply Cup final in Dhaka earlier this month. In that game, Butt and Younis Khan did the groundwork, steering Pakistan cautiously to 104 for 1 after 25 overs before they went on to score hundreds in a final total of 315 for 3.

    Today, Malik's effort was an example of how to pace an innings. He and Butt gave the first eight overs to the Indian bowlers and took no risks. By the end of the 13th over, Pakistan had only scored 38 but India's fast bowlers had failed to create wicket-taking opportunities. Thereafter, Malik began to attack, driving Praveen straight for four and then gliding him between Dhoni and short third man. He was offered width twice by Ishant and cut him through and over point for fours. Dhoni finally resorted to spin in the 20th over but by now Malik was well set and he hit Chawla for two fours through midwicket to reach his fifty off 61 balls.

    Malik and Younis, who scored 59, strengthened Pakistan's grip on the game during their 129-run stand for the second wicket. Brimming with confidence, Younis swept the spinners fluently, made room to cut, lofted them over midwicket and threw them completely off line by using the reverse-sweep repeatedly. They played crucial roles in setting a challenging target but their hardworking partnership, during which they ran between the wickets splendidly, was put firmly in the shade by the blitzkrieg launched by Sehwag and Raina.

    Sri Lanka prevail over spirited UAE

    Amjad Ali's 77 gave a spirited start to UAE's chase.

    Sri Lanka secured their second big win in two days, this time over UAE, to progress to the second round of the Asia Cup with two points in the bag. Chasing 291, UAE looked like they would make a match of it as opener Amjad Ali hit a spectacular half-century but they hurtled to defeat after his departure, losing their last six wickets for 15 runs as Ajantha Mendis finished with career-best figures of 5-22.

    Shrugging away any exhaustion having kept wickets earlier, Amjad took three consecutive fours off the opening over from Nuwan Kulasekera. A wristy flick over square leg, a fine glance past fine leg and a punch between mid-on and midwicket proved Amjad was not going to wait for the bowler to make a mistake.

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

    His cavalier approach took UAE to 83 for 1 after 15 overs and even forced Mahela Jayawardene to delay taking the third Powerplay. Although their reaching the target in 39.1 overs - and so pipping Bangladesh to the second round - was unlikely, they were still in with a chance to pull off an upset. Those hopes faded when Amjad fell trying to clear the long-on boundary off Tillakaratne Dilshan in the 24th over and the tail proved unable to deal with Mendis's mystery spin.

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

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

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

    Mahela Udawatte's half-century helped Sri Lanka post an imposing total.

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

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

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

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

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

    Collingwood banned for four ODIs

    Paul Collingwood: facing a spell on the sidelines.

    England will have to look for another captain for the remainder of their series against New Zealand after Paul Collingwood was banned for four ODIs. Collingwood was found guilty of Level 3 ICC Code of Conduct breach following his side's failure to bowl their overs in the required time during their dramatic one-wicket defeat against New Zealand at The Oval on Wednesday.

    In addition to missing the final one-dayer against New Zealand at Lord's on Saturday, Collingwood will also play no part in England's ODI against Scotland, their Twenty20 international against South Africa on August 20, nor the first of seven ODIs a week later. It leaves England in a difficult position. Trailing the current series against New Zealand 2-1, they now not only need to appoint a new captain but also find a replacement No.5.

    The likely candidate to take the reins is Kevin Pietersen. Although he hasn't yet captained England in any form of the game, he is their third most experienced in the side and the first on the team sheet. Who replaces Collingwood at No.5 for the South Africa matches is harder to guess, but a shift in the batting order could be made to accommodate Alastair Cook - England's leading run-scorer in their last two one-day series - who has now fully recovered from his shoulder injury. Luke Wright and Ian Bell's opening partnership has promised much, but if Cook does return, it seems probable he will open the batting. Wright could then bolster the middle-order.

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

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

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

    This means that each England player will be fined 15 per cent of his match fee for the deficit but Collingwood is set to escape a financial penalty as his punishment is set to come in the form of the ban. He does have the right of appeal within the next 24 hours.

    The charge was laid by all four umpires - the on-field officials Steve Davis and Mark Benson, television umpire Richard Kettleborough and fourth official Peter Hartley. All four umpires were present at the hearing, along with the player, England manager Phil Neale and coach Peter Moores.

    Two points and momentum on the line

    Salman Butt didn't score a run against Hong Kong, but his record against India is formidable.

    Match facts

    Thursday June 26, 2008
    Start time 16.00 (local) 10.00 (GMT)

    Big Picture

    Both Pakistan and India recorded comprehensive victories against Hong Kong - as they were expected to - and despite an assured rematch later on in the tournament a lot rests on Thursday's match. The winning team carries forward two points from this match into the semi-final league.

    Moreover, an India-Pakistan match always comes with its own pressures and expectations, and both teams would want to carry forward valuable momentum to go with the two points.

    The two teams have played more often recently, and India have had the better of the exchanges, winning nine out of 14 since 2006. However, Pakistan turned the tables on them in the Kitply Cup a couple of weeks back, losing the league game but winning the final.

    On paper India are the stronger team, with their batting, especially, looking in much better shape than Pakistan's. The home team's top order struggled against Hong Kong's limited bowling resources, and Shoaib Malik will want a much better performance on Thursday. Both teams, though, will gladly trade a defeat here for a win in the round-robin clash.

    Form guide

    (Last 5 completed ODIs; most recent first)
    Pakistan WWLWW
    India LWWWW

    Watch out for ...

    Salman Butt: He was dismissed for a third-ball duck on Tuesday against UAE, but India are his favourite opposition: Butt averages 52.93 against them, and five of his seven ODI hundreds have come against the Indians.

    Yuvraj Singh was rested on Wednesday, but expect him to be among the runs against an opponent he loves to play: he averages 48.58 against Pakistan, and has scored half-centuries in each of his last five innings against them.

    Team news

    India rested Yuvraj and Ishant Sharma against Hong Kong, but expect both to get a game against Pakistan. Rohit Sharma, who scored a listless 29-ball 11, could well be benched. Irfan Pathan's side strain kept him out of the first game, and if he clears a fitness test, Yusuf Pathan might sit out.

    India (probable) 1 Gautam Gambhir, 2 Virender Sehwag, 3 Suresh Raina, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt & wk), 6 Robin Uthappa, 7 Irfan Pathan, 8 Piyush Chawla, 9 Praveen Kumar, 10 RP Singh, 11 Ishant Sharma.

    Pakistan are most likely to field the same team which beat Hong Kong, but with not too much at stake in the game, this might be the perfect opportunity to tinker with the batting order and push Shahid Afridi up the order to open the batting. He has struggled lower down the order, and a move up might just do the trick.

    Pakistan (probable) 1 Salman Butt, 2 Shahid Afridi, 3 Younis Khan, 4 Mohammad Yousuf, 5 Misbah-ul-Haq, 6 Shoaib Malik, 7 Fawad Alam, 8 Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), 9 Sohail Tanvir, 10 Umar Gul, 11 Iftikhar Anjum.

    Stats and trivia

  • The last time Pakistan lost to India in an Asia Cup game was way back in October 1988. Since then, they have won three times while one game was washed out.

  • India also have a good winning streak going against Pakistan at the National Stadium in Karachi, winning their last three matches against them here. The last time they lost to Pakistan at this ground was in January 1983.

  • Shoaib Malik's only Asia Cup game against India was a memorable one: he scored 143 - his highest ODI score - and took 2 for 42 as Pakistan won by 42 runs in Colombo in 2004.


    "A little difference is made from playing so often but in both our countries, crowds want a win all the time. There is a little more pressure on us being at home, but we are confident going into the India game."
    Shoaib Malik says his team is ready for another tussle with their old rivals

    "The beauty is that when we used to play less, people used to complain. Now we play more, people complain. But it's not up to us; it's the boards' job to make schedules, it's the cricketer's job to play."
    Mahendra Singh Dhoni on the frequent India-Pakistan matches. If both teams make the final, they'll be playing each other three times in this tournament alone

  • India vs Pakistan Live Score

  • India thrash sorry Hong Kong

    Suresh Raina's first ODI century was a spectacular one, and lifted India to a huge total.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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