Saturday, April 25, 2009

Deccan Chargers vs Mumbai Indians Highlights

Deccan Batting

Mumbai Batting

Watch cricket highlights of the Deccan Chargers vs Mumbai Indians from IPL 2009.

Scoreline: Deccan Chargers 168/9 - Gibbs 58, Gilchrist 35, Dwayne Smith 35 - Lasith Malinga and Dwayne Bravo 3 wickets apiece. Lasith Malinga yorkers.
Mumbai: 156/7: Tendulkar, Duminy knocks - Pragyan Ojha 3 wickets

A pretty exciting game that swung wildly. Gibbs and Gilchrist to start with, took their chances and put on a spectacle that wasn’t exactly close to anything near their best. Deccan however faded away once big-hitting Dwayne Smith who couldn’t really produce this kind of stuff for the West Indies got out. Lasith Malinga finally discovered his beach-cricket-honed slingy yorkers that bamboozled the lower order and Mumbai were well in the chase with Tendulkar and Duminy pulling out some of their best. A strange Sachin however stepped on the other side of the ad/strategy break and Mumbai appeared to panic after that. Ojha bowled beautifully yet again and barring a late charge by Harbhajan Singh that looked quite realistic, Mumbai fell apart after Tendulkar’s dismissal. Incidentally, Sachin often jokingly calls Harbhajan the Bradman of the Indian team. Not that it has any particular relevance here, just thought of it.

Gibbs and Ojha star in Deccan's win

Deccan Chargers lost their way after Herschelle Gibbs was dismissed for 58.

The Kingsmead crowd was witness to a hard-fought contest between two evenly-matched teams and, after several twists and turns, Deccan Chargers, winners of last year's wooden spoon, clinched a tense battle against Mumbai Indians. Deccan overcame several setbacks - a middle-order collapse, an assault from Sachin Tendulkar and JP Duminy, and a spirited push towards the target from Mumbai's tail - to secure their third straight victory of the tournament.

Deccan's success was set up by valuable contributions from their overseas players, whose failure to fire in unison was a large part of their disappointment last season, and a terrific spell from left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha.

Herschelle Gibbs, who top-scored with 58, Adam Gilchrist and Dwayne Smith provided a high-octane start, one which ensured that Deccan achieved with a defendable target despite an extremely poor finish to the innings. Mumbai, though, were well on course to victory, needing only 85 runs off the last ten overs with nine wickets in hand, before Ojha struck thrice in successive overs to derail the chase. Fidel Edwards, who had bowled a fiery first spell, returned to bowl a crucial penultimate over, conceding only four runs, which left Mumbai with too many to get in the last.

The turning point of the game came in the first over after the tactical time-out in Mumbai's chase. Tendulkar and Duminy had flipped into attack mode after a slow start and plundered 72 runs off the preceding seven overs before the break to put Mumbai on top. However Tendulkar, who had expressed his reservations about the seven-and-a-half minute interruption, mis-hit an inside-out shot off Ojha straight to Gibbs in the 11th over and gave Deccan an opening. Ojha widened that opening in his next two overs. He bowled Shikhar Dhawan as he swung across the line and had Duminy caught at deep midwicket by Smith, who covered lots of ground to take a well-judged catch on the run.

Mumbai had slipped from 86 for 1 to 92 for 4 but they weren't giving up. In Abhishek Nayar and Dwayne Bravo, they had two clean strikers and both made crisp starts before they were dismissed by Edwards, effectively ending Mumbai's challenge.

Deccan needed their bowlers' to raise their performance because their batsmen had fallen several runs short of the total that was in sight when Gilchrist and Gibbs got going. Gilchrist took four balls to get his eye in against Lasith Malinga before lofting the fast bowler over the long-on boundary. He hit two more sixes, one an outside edge over third-man off Zaheer Khan and the other a thunderous hit over deep midwicket off Bravo. Gibbs showed good touch by charging Zaheer and clubbing him past mid-off. He allowed Gilchrist to take the risks and after the left-hander was caught behind off Bravo for 35 off 20 balls, Deccan sent Smith in at No. 3 to keep the momentum going.

Deccan were 88 for 1 after 10 overs and the acceleration came two overs later when Dhawal Kulkarni was introduced into the attack. Gibbs smashed him for six over square leg and sliced him behind point while Smith launched him over midwicket to take 18 runs of the over. Jayasuriya, however, made the vital breakthrough, dismissing Smith for 35 off 22 balls, and began Mumbai's fightback.

Mumbai's experienced bowling attack seized the opportunity - Malinga picked up 3 for 19 with searing yorkers - and ensured that Deccan managed only 43 runs off the last seven overs for the loss of seven wickets. However, Deccan had already given their bowlers a target which they were able to defend.

Allrounders 'unsustainable' in modern game

Jacob Oram: "I haven't talked about this publicly before, but if I had to choose one thing, I would probably give up Test cricket before bowling".

is prepared to stand down from the New Zealand Test side to extend his career as an allrounder in the more lucrative limited overs formats. Oram, who this week watched his Chennai team-mate Andrew Flintoff return to England for yet another round of surgery, believes the physical demands on allrounders are such that many will be forced to give up one form of the game, or one skill set.

"At the moment, with what I do, I know it's not sustainable," Oram told Cricinfo. "I am 30, and I have the passion and desire to play well into my mid-30s, but to be honest, with the way things have been going, that is not going to happen unless something gives.

"I have talked to people about giving up bowling, or bowling in as few forms of the game as possible. I haven't talked about this publicly before, but if I had to choose one thing, I would probably give up Test cricket before bowling. I have played eight years of international cricket and being an allrounder is part of who I am. To give up the bowling - it's just not me, not what I do. I think it would be giving up Tests before I gave up being an allrounder.

"I love playing Test cricket. That said, when you speak to your friends and family about your situation, it seems pretty obvious to them: you'll either have to give up Test cricket, or greatly reduce your bowling workload. Ideally, you wouldn't want to give up either of those things, but if you look at what is happening to players around the world at the moment, it is going to happen more and more. In Test cricket, I would be looking to bowl 15-20 overs a day. I might be able to get through one or two Tests, or even string it out for a series, but the chances are that it won't last for any great length of time.

"I don't know when I will have to make that decision. It could be in six months, 12 months or two years. I would love to keep going as an allrounder in all forms of the game, but I realise that's a bit of a double-edged sword. If I was to do so, I would pretty much halve the time I have left in the game. And, from recent experience, I can say that sitting on the sidelines for several months a year watching your team-mates play is mentally and emotionally draining."

Crammed international schedules and the explosion of the high-intensity 20-over format have exacted a tremendous physical toll on cricket's leading allrounders. Along with Oram and Flintoff, Dwayne Bravo, Shane Watson and Ashley Noffke have all spent extended periods on the sidelines in the past year, and are now making tentative steps towards comebacks.

Oram missed the recent Test series against India with an Achilles injury, and realises he must substantially reduce his workload in future if, as per his wishes, he is to play into his mid-30s. The sight of Flintoff leaving the Chennai Super Kings camp for the final time on Friday served as a poignant and depressing reminder of the strains on all-rounders, particularly given that the pair had discussed that very topic in the days before the Englishman tore the meniscus in his right knee.

"I felt extremely sorry for the guy," Oram said. "We had a couple of extremely good chats while we were here about our game, our bodies and how the public and media perceive injuries. Sometimes, it feels like a critique on your character as much as it is about your body. I don't think anyone here has any doubts about his character, because we all saw how hard he was working. To me, it just highlighted the fact that being an allrounder is a tough job.

"The obvious answer is to cut down on games, but it's hard to see that happening. Maybe there needs to be more rotating of allrounders and fast bowlers - leaving them out of certain series, or something like that - but I know that would not go down well with certain players. Perhaps they need to unearth guys at a younger age and have more allrounders in the pool - maybe three or four of them - so there is not so much focus on one main guy. Another thing might be to start having specialist Test or ODI-T20 allrounders. And that could go for fast bowlers too."

Oram has played 31 Tests and 130 one-day internationals for New Zealand, but makes no apologies for prioritising Twenty20 cricket in the twilight years of his career. The $US675,000 for which Oram was purchased in the initial IPL auction was by far the most lucrative contract of his career, and has allowed him to set a financial base for his family.

"I could lie to you and say it's not about [money]," he said. "But with the doors that have been opened in the IPL, the Southern Premier League, and I'm now reading an APL, it is a chance to set yourself up. The TV deals and the sponsorships in those kind of tournaments have changed things, and I know that is something people do not necessarily want to hear. But I am 30, have played international cricket for eight years, and am getting to the point where it's time to think about how you are placed financially, and how you will look after your family in the years to come.

"The pride that goes into representing your country goes without saying. But the reality is in today's game, you get paid when you're playing, and while that might be a bit of a taboo subject - and people want to hear it's all about wearing your national colours - it has to be understood that this is our career, and we also have mortgages, bills and families to feed. Ideally, I want to play all the cricket I can for as long as I can, but something has to give."

Chennai Super Kings v Kolkata Knight Riders

Rain forces abandonment without any play.

Kolkata Knight Riders v Chennai Super Kings - Match abandoned without a ball bowled

Persistent Cape Town rains made sure that Chennai Super Kings and Kolkata Knight Riders didn't get onto the park for their match. The rain was intermittent all day, and the umpires decided to call it off close to three hours after the scheduled start. Both teams will now share a point.

Incidentally this is the third IPL game to be washed out without a ball being bowled. The first was at the Feroz Shah Kotla between the hosts Delhi Daredevils and Kolkata last May, and the second was between Rajasthan Royals and Mumbai Indians earlier this season.

Chennai and Kolkata would have started the game level at two points, and they now have three points each, from four matches each.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Mohali Kings XI vs Bangalore Royal Challengers Highlights

Bangalore Batting

Mohali Bating

Watch cricket highlights - Mohali vs Royal Challengers Bangalore - from IPL 2009

Scoreline: Bangalore 168/9: Jacques Kallis 62, Ross Taylor 35, Jesse Ryder 32 - Abdulla 4-31-4, Irfan Pathan 4-35-3.
Mohali finish with an over to spare: Ravi Bopara 84 (59), Yuvraj Singh 30 (17) - Anil Kumble 4-19-1

Ravi Bopara finally put on a show of his clean-hitting abilities, though he’d do well to get rid of his grafting-tendencies that sometimes brings him down. Dale Steyn missed out today to fit in the Glimmer twins - Ross Taylor and Jesse Ryder. Much joy from the two. It was a determined Yuvraj Singh on show today, holding himself back, until right at the end, while Bopara picked up his game with 5 overs and 60 runs to get. No Pie-chucker vs KP today

Much as KP the player is one of the best around, think the Bangalore team will acquire a better balance when he returns for the England-WI series. Bad news however hovers - Dravid will miss some of the later games (becoming daddy beckons) while Kallis is apparently going to be Capn. Well, at least he could amuse his teammates with gems like - How high above sea-level are we (while strolling on a beach with SA teammates).

User, Zeronava’s comments probably make sense - drop Mallya to improve Bangalore’s fortunes.

The IPL has been fun so far. Only dampener is the appearance of Harsha Bhogle on air - Gavaskar is probably the best equipped to handle him. Hope their duet continues.

Pregame: Though Mohali have a game in hand relative to Bangalore, another loss is hardly desired. Also, they’d be hoping to get their first 20 over complete game this season.

All-round Symonds sees Australia through

Afridi scored a responsible 41 and took two wickets, but was not the best allrounder on the night.

Andrew Symonds may have cut his Rastafarian beads, but he showed tonight there had been no cutback on his competitive spirit or his aptitude as Australia levelled the series 1-1. His two-wicket over, in the face of a marauding Shoaib Akhtar, had kept Pakistan down to a par total, but his bigger contribution came with the bat when Shahid Afridi and Saeed Ajmal threatened to run through Australia for the second time in a row.

Afridi and Ajmal had undone James Hopes' good work at the top, bringing the game right back into the balance, when Symonds came in to bat. Hopes, filling in for the injured Shaun Marsh at the top of the order, had put Australia on their way to a chase of a tricky 207, before Ajmal and Afridi struck in back-to-back overs.

The contest was always going to come to life when the spinners came on. Before that Hopes had weathered the storm from hostile and accurate Shoaib and Umar Gul. That initial spell resulted in the early wicket of Brad Haddin, but Hopes counter-attacked and brought the run-rate within manageable proportions.

From 19 for 1 in six overs, Hopes cut and drove Gul and Shoaib for three boundaries and a six in the next three overs. Australia reached 70 for 1 in 14 overs, when spin was first introduced.

Australia tried to play the mind game, going for the batting Powerplay immediately, and trying to delay the introduction of the dangerous spinners. Pakistan played ball, and went on with Afridi and Ajmal anyway. From 70 in 14 they moved to 91 in 20 in a tense period of play.

In the 21st, Ajmal got Watson with a doosra, the batsman looking to pull without reading the spin. In the end Watson tried unsuccessfully to pull out of the pull, and top-edged. In the next over, Afridi beat a Hopes sweep with a straight and full delivery.

Batting was not easy then, what with Test fields in place and the ball turning big, and Australia coming off a monumental collapse in the previous game. Ajmal and Afridi attacked, but Symonds tackled them superbly. Even early on in the innings, he picked Ajmal's doosra. For good measure he let Ajmal know every time he saw the away-spinner. His 58 comprised only four boundaries and a six, the first of which was the team's first boundary in 17 overs.

The value of Symonds' knock grew when put in comparison with his partner Michael Clarke's effort. Clarke struggled to pick the spin, and was patchy all the way through. At one point, out of a 58-run stand Clarke had scored only eight.

Symonds' sensible batting also coincided with Pakistan gradually running out of the spinners' quota, and with a small total to defend they had to bring back the pace bowlers on. Once that happened it was a cruise for Australia, with close to four an over required.

Even that small target was thanks to Symonds' effective over at the death. Shoaib's 14-ball 25 had lifted Pakistan from 176 for 7, but just when it looked he would take Pakistan to a more competitive total, Symonds struck with two in the 46th over to not even allow them a full quota of 50 overs.

That was not the last twist of a slow yet dramatic first innings of the game. A disciplined Australia had done well to pull Pakistan back after they had threatened twice to move out of their grasp.

First it was Younis Khan who recovered from a sluggish start to get into fluent mode only to be dismissed for 28. Then Shahid Afridi played an uncharacteristically responsible innings, but when he looked set to launch Pakistan into the safe zone, Hopes got him with seven overs to go.

Following the early run-out of 17-year-old debutant Ahmed Shehzad, Pakistan made an edgy start. Salman Butt and Younis were literally edgy against Nathan Bracken and ODI debutant Doug Bollinger, both left-arm seamers. They troubled both the batsmen with their angle and movement both ways. By the end of the ninth over Pakistan had crawled to 28 for 1, having faced a maiden each from both the bowlers.

With Hopes came the change of angle, and Younis helped himself to three boundaries in his first two overs. In the next seven overs Pakistan doubled their score, mainly via Younis who scored 20 off 14 during that period. The sight of Ben Laughlin lit his eyes up, a short loosener first up widened them further, and an edge resulted as he went to cut the leather off the ball.

Two more wickets, punctuated by an especially asphyxiating spell by Bollinger, meant Pakistan were struggling in the middle overs, five down for 122. Bollinger went for 26 in his 10 overs, including a middle spell of four overs for five runs.

But then Afridi lifted them, not looking to hit the ball out of the ground every time he faced up. The main feature of his innings was his late-cuts, and placement for quick runs. He actually faced 40 balls, the most he has since his 52-ball 85 against Zimbabwe last January. Afridi also read the game well, picking a slower ball early during the Powerplay, when Australia had both third man and fine leg up in the circle. That was his only six. Afridi, along with Ajmal, provided Australia with a tough examination, but he was not the best allrounder on the night.

Bopara half-century leads Punjab to clinical victory

Ravi Bopara displayed tremendous calmness during the Kings XI Punjab chase.

Ravi Bopara compiled a supremely-paced innings, one that could rival AB de Villiers' century because it came during a run-chase, to give Kings XI Punjab their first victory of the tournament. He scored steadily without taking too many risks and just when the chase entered its final phase Bopara accelerated with tremendous speed to consign Bangalore Royal Challengers to their third consecutive defeat.

The groundwork for the win was laid by Punjab's bowlers who made their first sunny match-day count. Yusuf Abdulla, who had bowled three overs for 39 before this match, struck at crucial moments in Bangalore's innings. Abdulla's four strikes, and Irfan Pathan's three in the final overs, were vital in restricting Bangalore to 168, a target which allowed Punjab's batsmen to play according to a plan.

Chasing under lights at Kingsmead can be tricky and Punjab approached their chase cautiously. Their openers, Karan Goel and Bopara, played few big shots, focusing instead on scoring at nearly eight an over by pushing the ball into gaps. They scored only 44 off the first six overs and Bopara's pull off Jacques Kallis, which sailed over the square leg boundary at the start of the seventh over, was the first six of the innings.

Goel fell soon after, run out after a stand of 52, and the batsmen that followed - Kumar Sangakkara and Yuvraj Singh - also paced, rather than pushed, their innings. Punjab ensured that the asking-rate didn't spiral out of control, but with 60 runs needed off the last five overs, they couldn't afford any slip-ups.

Bopara ensured there weren't any. He launched into Praveen Kumar in the 16th over, smashing him for sixes over long-on and deep backward square leg and took 19 runs off the over. Yuvraj pulled and glanced two fours off Kallis in the next over to reduce the equation to 28 off three. And when Bopara pulled a full toss and powered another full ball over the leg-side boundary, the game was nearly won. Yuvraj reached the target with a straight six with a whole over to spare, completing a clinical chase.

The calmness that Punjab exhibited during the chase was absent during Bangalore's innings. Bangalore's openers once again failed to put a partnership together with Robin Uthappa chasing and edging Pathan's wide delivery in the second over. It was the fourth time in as many matches that Bangalore were losing an opener for a duck (Jesse Ryder twice, Praveen and Uthappa once). Ryder, however, finally got off the mark this season, punching his third ball off Ranadeb Bose to the cover boundary.

Kallis started in high gear, pulling a short ball from Pathan over the long-leg boundary and lofting Abdulla's first ball over cover point for four. Ryder also hit Pathan to the point boundary and Bangalore seemed to have shrugged off their Powerplay troubles: their average in the first six overs was 36 runs for the loss of 2.33 wickets and today they were 48 for 1 off 5.1 overs.

Abdulla, however, wrecked their momentum, bowling Ryder as he attempted to play a pull. Two balls later, he struck a tremendous blow, drawing Kevin Pietersen into spooning a catch to cover off a slower ball. Rahul Dravid once again entered with his team in trouble - 48 for 3 - but this time he failed to contribute. Tied down by the spinners - Bangalore scored only 22 between overs six and ten - Dravid attempted to smash Piyush Chawla down the ground and skied a catch towards long-on.

Kallis and Taylor had added 61 in quick time before Abdulla returned to induce a mis-timed pull from Kallis with a slower short ball. Taylor continued to attack, slog-sweeping Chawla into the stands at deep midwicket, but he eventually became Adbulla's fourth wicket. Pathan picked up quick wickets towards the close and Bangalore finished several runs short of what they would have aimed for.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Pakistan vs Australia 1st ODI Highlights

Australia Batting

Pakistan Bat

Watch cricket highlights from the 1st ODI - Pakistan vs Australia played at Dubai as part of the Chapal Cup (To South Indian users who might be wondering what?? - seriously, that’s the name of the company sponsoring this ODI series. It’s a single ‘p’, not a double ‘p’ there).

Scoreline + brief Highlights also available in video: Australia 168 all out in 38.5 overs - Shahid f***in Afridi - who cares if he’s not in the IPL if he can entertain like this - 6/38 - the best ever bowling performance by a Pakistan bowler vs Australia. Aus collapsed from 95/1 to 122/9 after Afridi and Saeed Ajmal (10-1-19-2) had the Aussies bamboozled - Boycott called it a treasure hunt - prize to the one who can find the ball.

Offspinner Ajmal in fact was spinning his doosras so much, there are many teams in world cricket who’d take a leg spinner able to do what Ajmal did in this game with his doosras.

The only reason Aus got beyond 122 was that Afridi finished his quota of 10 overs and Younus Khan adopted a fast bowling approach with 9 down. James Hopes did what he did in the recent series vs SA - battling with the tail.

Shahid Afridi wasn’t done though - with Pak messed up at 99/4 after a super start from Kamran Akmal (48) and not much to come, Afridi turned on Boom Boom lights and pulled out a very crucial cameo 24 (16) to ensure that Misbah (30) could see the innings through. In fact, Afridi’s fall came typically cos he couldn’t resist the possibility of smacking Hilfenhaus for his 4th consecutive 4, despite Misbah appearing to coax him against it.

Yusuf and Kamran steal Rajasthan a thriller

Yusuf Pathan hit seven fours and four sixes in all to ensure a thrilling win for Rajasthan Royals.

broke the IPL's first tie and with it Kolkata Knight Riders' hearts through clean hitting in the Super Over, to chase down 16 runs in four deliveries. It was intense drama at Newlands with the match swinging either way - from the moment Rajasthan Royals lost two wickets in the first three overs, till Sourav Ganguly's dismissal with two runs required and one ball to go - as the excitement spilled over into the Super Over, the solution to a Twenty20 tie.

It was Yusuf who helped Rajasthan recover from their second bad start in the tournament, at 14 for 2 in 2.2 overs this time. He plundered 42 off 21 balls, comprising six boundaries and two sixes. He then bowled the first over for Rajasthan, with fast, bouncy offbreaks to keep Chris Gayle and Brendon McCullum from getting off to a quick start. His first three overs bowled inside the Powerplays, to two of the most destructive batsmen in world cricket went for just 12.

Later, Sourav Ganguly pulled another one out of the old hat to almost mastermind a chase that looked gone with five down and 57 required in the last six overs. His 46 off 30 balls - especially the backing away and hitting through the off side - evoked the days when Ganguly used to be the best ODI batsman in the world.

Kamran Khan, Shane Warne's left-arm sling prodigy, bowled the designated Super Over for Rajasthan, but he had already bowled a 'super over' before that - the last over of the actual match. Kolkata needed only seven to win off that over, and despite starting off with a wide, Kamran took Ganguly's wicket off the fifth ball, and a single off the last ball ensured the dream result for the IPL, a tie.

Three Kolkata players would especially be heartbroken. Gayle, who was limping when he lofted the ball into the stratosphere many a time during his 41 off 33 balls, got the chase going. He then hit three successive boundaries in the Super Over to set Rajasthan a difficult target. He also assisted Ajantha Mendis in pulling back Rajasthan after Yusuf had reprised some of his last year's form. Mendis removed Yusuf and Graeme Smith, two of Rajasthan's most dangerous batsmen, in one over, and gave away only 19 in his four overs.

But in four balls of his Super Over, Mendis went for 18. Yusuf hit him over wide long-off for a first-ball six. He was then dropped off the second ball, with Brad Hodge failing to latch on to the miscued slog sweep running in from long-on towards mid-off. The third ball was hit over midwicket, and the fourth swept along the ground to square-leg boundary. Cricket can be tough on the toughest of players.

The most dejected - and it showed - was Ganguly, who brought in all his experience to fight Shane Warne's canny tactics to single-handedly take the game to a stage from where it should have been a cruise. But with eight required off eight, he lost his partner, Yashpal Sharma, to an irresponsible shot. On the fifth ball of the last over, with two required he himself went looking for a four through the off side and edged Kamran.

Heart-broken or not, when we look back at this game, Yusuf, Kamran, and Warne's innovative leadership will shine as the brightest moments.

Yusuf had come into bat when Anureet Singh, the Railways medium-pacer, and Ishant Sharma had taken out the Rajasthan newcomers Abhishek Raut and Rob Quiney in three balls early after they were put in by Kolkata. The changes were necessitated by a growing concern over some of the Indian domestic batsmen's capabilities on the bouncier pitches of South Africa.

But Yusuf put any such doubts over his credentials to rest as soon as he came in. A monstrous straight six off Ishant off the third ball he faced was followed by an across-the-line boundary off the next ball. Yusuf tried to spoil a decent debut by Anureet through a swivel-pulled six off the next ball he faced. Ajit Agarkar was the next in line, and he suffered the worst treatment, going for three boundaries in four balls. From 14 for 2 in 2.2 overs, Yusuf had taken Rajasthan to 54 for 2 at the end of the Powerplay through a brilliant counterattack.

But that's when Mendis came on, and turned the game around. Such was the choke hold applied by Mendis and Gayle that Rajasthan had to wait for 49 deliveries in the middle overs for a boundary. From 70 for 2 in eight overs, they went to 132 for 6 in 19 before Abhishek Raut, another debutant, ruined Anureet's debut with two sixes and a four in the last over.

A simplistic and a ruthless way to look back at the match would be to look at the 20th overs of each innings. Both times Kolkata looked a stronger side, but Rajasthan pulled it back through their immense fighting qualities. In the process the teams produced a Twenty20 classic. The only pity was that the teams had to be separated after they had both made multiple comebacks from seemingly impossible situations.

Pakistan ponder options for change of address

The PCB is considering putting forth a proposal to host its share of the World Cup matches in Dubai, with Pakistan as 'host';.

Nearly a week after the ICC's decision to move away the 2011 World Cup from Pakistan and effectively rule out international cricket in the country due to security concerns, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is weighing up options of how to move on. Though officially there has been silence from the board - apart from filing an official protest to the decision with the ICC - contact has been maintained with the ICC hierarchy on how best to proceed and two options on where Pakistan will play its designated 'home' cricket from now have become clear.

One is playing cricket at a designated neutral venue, such as Dubai. As an indication of the viability of this option, it is learnt that the PCB is considering putting forth a proposal to host its share of the World Cup matches in Dubai, with Pakistan as 'host.' It seems, however, that the proposal has been ruled out already by the ICC. "No, that is not an option," Haroon Lorgat, chief executive, ICC, told Cricinfo. "The board has made a decision. But I think this is a proposal (the PCB) is considering making. That is flowing from discussions I had today [Thursday] and yesterday with various people, including Pakistan ministry of sport."

Even as a longer-term option, the PCB concedes there are concerns. Logistically, in terms of distance at least, it is workable but board officials currently in the UAE are wary of the financial difficulties involved. "Dubai is a very expensive option," a senior board official told Cricinfo. "Security costs, hotel costs and just hosting a cricket match here is very expensive so that aspect has to be looked at."

The other option that has come up in discussions is for the PCB to work out individual arrangements with other countries to host its matches. New Zealand, for example, were due to tour later in the year: that series could now be held in New Zealand with Pakistan as the designated hosts. In such a case, Pakistan gets the hosting fee while NZC will charge the PCB a nominal amount for expenses.

But this bilateral, case-by-case arrangement could run into complications with TV rights. Ten Sports owns the right to broadcast Pakistan's home matches for the next five years. In New Zealand's case, Sky New Zealand owns rights to home matches and clearly some agreement will have to be worked out in such a scenario: the PCB says it will go ahead with this arrangement only if it is guaranteed TV rights money. A neutral venue such as Dubai or Abu Dhabi - where Ten Sports owns the rights - makes that option more attractive.

There is still a belief in Pakistan's cricket circles that countries can be convinced to visit. But one official said you would have to be "senile" to expect countries to come now. "After the attacks of March 3, it is impossible to expect anyone to come here. We fought at the meeting to retain the tournament but the simple truth is that players are just not willing to travel here right now," he said.

Let's allow the situation to cool down, and make sure Pakistan continues to play international cricket in the interim. It is impossible to put a timeframe on this. It could be next month, it could be six months, it could be the end of this year Haroon Lorgat, ICC chief executive

The board "protested vigorously and fought to retain Pakistan's host status, but there was no support," an official present at the meeting told Cricinfo. The BCCI, it is learnt, didn't support Pakistan openly because there was a chance of the World Cup being lost altogether to Australia and New Zealand. Indeed, Pakistan is said to have preferred this option, asking instead to be inked in for the 2015 World Cup.

The financial fallout from the loss of the World Cup may not be as hefty as was originally predicted. World Cup hosts receive US$750,000 per game from the ICC but this mostly covers the expenses of organizing the match. All 10 full members share 75% of the total profit: thus each country will get a 7.5% share, and Pakistan will not miss out on that. What they will lose, however, is the gate money and that raised through hospitality.

The ICC insists it will stand by and help Pakistan through this, rejecting the notion that the country is being isolated. "I am worried that there was any message suggesting we were looking to distance ourselves from Pakistan," Lorgat said. "That is not true. In fact, it is quite the opposite. We are very keen for Pakistan to continue playing international cricket.

"There is a great reluctance from all players to go to Pakistan right now. Let's allow the situation to cool down, and make sure Pakistan continues to play international cricket in the interim. It is impossible to put a timeframe on this. It could be next month, it could be six months, it could be the end of this year."

Lorgat added that the PCB had been offered a taskforce to work with them and monitor the situation. "We hope the offer will be accepted. The offer is on the table."

Delhi clinch high-scoring thriller

AB de Villiers played the perfect Twenty20 innings to set up Delhi Daredevils.

Delhi Daredevils, inspired by AB de Villiers' superbly-paced century, held their nerve in the field to beat Chennai Super Kings in the first close game of IPL 2. de Villiers' century, the first of the tournament, came after Delhi's innings started in catastrophe and powered them to the highest total this season. Matthew Hayden charged a stiff chase with another aggressive innings and Suresh Raina's cool head kept Chennai on par with the asking rate, but Delhi won the battle of the death overs to sneak a thriller. Leading, expectedly, was the parsimonious Daniel Vettori who, after striking after the seven-and-a-half minute tactical break, bowled a decisive penultimate over.

This was a win fashioned with the bat. Tillakaratne Dilshan and de Villiers added 68 at a frenetic clip after Delhi were struggling at 8 for 2 with Gautam Gambhir - out to the very economical L Balaji first ball - and Virender Sehwag - pulling needlessly - out early. Dilshan started like a man with a train to catch, slashing five fours and two sixes in his first 15 balls. Taking a cue from de Villiers, who pulled Manpreet Gony for an easy six over midwicket, Dilshan picked the same bowler off his pads for six. Then he welcomed Albie Morkel into the attack by thumping three successive boundaries in a 17-run over. Dilshan slashed Andrew Flintoff over slip and then pulled him for a flat six. Fourty-five had been crashed off three overs and Dilshan's fifty took 24 balls. He fell slapping a full toss to extra cover.

While Dilshan was going berserk, de Villiers looked briefly like he was at the wrong party, simply scurrying down the other end with open-faced steers behind square. But once Dilshan departed de Villiers had to play host. The pattern of scoring changed from boundaries to nudges, flicks and cuts to third man. It appeared, as Chennai sneaked in 29 boundary-less deliveries and Balaji returned to dismiss Dinesh Karthik, that Delhi may have squandered Dilshan's platform.

Then Morkel drop a sitter off de Villiers the ball after he had raised his half-century and all hell broke loose. Clearing his front leg and relying on amazing hand-eye contact de Villiers thumped three sixes and three fours before clipping his 51st delivery to raise an amazing century. His second fifty needed just 19 balls.

It was a power-packed innings, highlighted by de Villiers' stunning assault in the last four overs: nothing matched the 20 he smashed in four successive balls off Flintoff. The fifth-wicket stand between de Villiers and Manoj Tiwary was worth 74 in 5.5 overs, Tiwary's contribution being nine.

Chasing the highest target set this season, Chennai needed something special. Hayden sparked it, with ten in the first over of the chase. Ashish Nehra looked like a man who hadn't played international standard opposition in months, dragging the ball short to allow a pumped Hayden clip runs through midwicket. Avishkar Salvi struggled to locate his line - either serving full or dropping short - and Hayden merrily ransacked him to the leg side in a 24-run over. Hayden raised his fifty from 22 balls.

Domination led to his dismissal and gave the impressive Pradeep Sangwan his second wicket. Having got Parthiv Patel driving to de Villiers at cover with a full one, Sangwan opted for a shorter length and Hayden miscued a pull to the deep.

At the half-way mark Chennai were 106 for 2, well on track thanks to Hayden. Vettori varied his pace and length to stifle MS Dhoni and drew a nick through to Karthik. Suresh Raina kept the flame burning with another gem - finding the boundary every over - before he sent a Sangwan full toss down long-on's throat for a 27-ball 41. Sangwan bowled well and picked up three wickets.

It was still anyone's game with Flintoff at the crease, 42 needed and Nehra called back for the 16th over. Flintoff worked a single, Morkel clipped four, but when Flintoff got back on strike Nehra forced him to hole out to long-off.

Salvi returned to bowl a five-run 17th over but thanks to Chennai's good work the asking rate was under ten. It was nerve-racking as both teams battled for a decisive edge. Nehra kept it very full and straight, Karthik missed a run out, Morkel survived another tight over. With 24 needed from 12 Sehwag tossed the ball back to Vettori, who immediately dismissed a sluggish S Badrinath. Vettori's over included a six by Gony and a run out to set pulses soaring, but by then the match had been decided. David Warner may not have gotten a game yet but he made his presence felt with two catches in the deep and a direct hit in the last over. A chase that had started with power ended in a panic.

Three overseas stars showed there was more to Delhi than Sehwag and Gambhir, further indication that this is the team to beat in the IPL.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bangalore Royal Challengers vs Deccan Chargers Highlights - IPL 2009

Deccan Bat


Watch cricket highlights - Royal Challengers Bangalore vs Hyderabad Deccan Chargers from the 2009 IPL T20 tournament.

Scoreline: Deccan Chargers: 184/6 - Adam Gilchrist 71 (45), Rohit Sharma 52 (30).
Bangalore 160/8 - Rahul Dravid 48 (27), Virat Kohli 50 (32) RP Singh 4 -16-2

Adam Gilchrist threatened a repeat of his IPL 2008 100 odd vs Mumbai - the first few overs were trademark Gilchrist square on the off. KP’s stint as England Captain, while good with respect to handling certain players like Harmison, was characterized by strange field placings. The same continues through his IPL stint. While he obviously looks to be trying to go the Warne way in handling junior players, am not sure if open shows of back-slapping is really inspirational. I think the issue KP is facing is that deep inside he is an introvert - something that comes through in his batting sometimes. Dravid had a similar problem as captain but the difference was his wider experience helped him make up for it at least in the technical aspects of captaincy. But so far, KP’s moves to bring himself on as bowler have worked.

Kumble was the only one who looked like he could put the brakes on, but his figures got molested by Rohit Sharma who today reinforced the fact that he can be VVS Laxman II in coming years.

Dravid put some life back into the Bangalore chase but yet again, he found company too late in Kohli and much like in IPL 2008, a super Dravid knock was let down by batting partners.

Pregame: The 8th game of the IPL and Bangalore will be playing its 3rd match. This game vs the Chargers is kind of a battle of equals.

Afridi helps Pakistan draw first blood

Shahid Afridi made the ball talk and picked up his best ODI figures of 6 for 38.

At 95 for 1 in the 19th over, Younis Khan's pre-match prediction of chasing a target of 260-270 seemed a reality. That was until Afridi got the ball and the crowd to dance to his tunes. He began by getting rid of the most well-set batsman, Brad Haddin, for a brisk 40, tamely chipping a flighted delivery to short cover. Michael Clarke's struggles against the spin trio of Paul Harris, Roelof van der Merwe and Johan Botha in South Africa were well documented and the nightmare didn't end with the move to another country. He was flummoxed by an Ajmal doosra and edged behind before Afridi worked his magic.

A rusty Andrew Symonds nicked one to a refreshingly sharp Kamran Akmal, before Shane Watson, who had played neatly on his return to the side after injury by adding 54 with Haddin, was beaten by one which turned through the gate. Safe catching helped Pakistan and Misbah-ul-Haq showed his sharp reflexes to cling into Callum Ferguson's edge to remove one of Australia's few in-form batsmen. Nathan Hauritz completely misjudged Ajmal's line, shouldered arms and lost his stumps.

The score suddenly read a shocking 110 for 7 and it brought back bad memories of their collapse at Centurion very recently. It wasn't the kind you would expect of the second best team in the world even in the worst of days. The spinners sensed a weak link and exploited it with clinical efficiency. Afridi's googlies proved too much for the tailenders Stuart Clark and Nathan Bracken as he collected his best ODI figures and Pakistan's best figures against Australia.

James Hopes enjoyed a free swing of the arms in the third Powerplay with an unbeaten 48 to push the score to 168, a big improvement from a hopeless 122 for 9, but the momentum was still with Pakistan.

The Australian seamers failed to get enough early breakthroughs to cause a serious flutter in the Pakistan camp. The dangerous Salman Butt was trapped lbw for 5 in the seven-over period before the dinner break before a fidgety Younis Khan holed out to midwicket.

Spin was introduced in the 13th over but Hauritz couldn't extract the same turn and bite that Afridi and Ajmal managed against his batsmen. He overpitched too often and that allowed Akmal to get forward and drive through the line. He used his feet well and chipped down the track to bisect the gaps in the infield.

Shoaib Malik contributed only 12 in a stand of 48 with Akmal, content to let his partner hog the strike. However, as Akmal motored along, a flashy drive outside off cost him his wicket and Clark had his revenge after being slashed for a four past slip two balls earlier. A loose dab by Malik brought Afridi to the crease, who began by clipping his first ball - a low full toss - past square leg and then pulling the next past midwicket.

He took Pakistan within 31 of the target before mishitting one to mid-on. The chase thereafter was scratchy, with Misbah holding fort as Pakistan got home with 35 balls to spare. It wasn't the most convincing of chases but good enough to prove a point. Moreover, they played with a hunger to win against a team dogged by injuries and knackered after a back-breaking summer.

Gilchrist and Rohit shine in win

It was a true Twenty20-style half-century from Adam Gilchrist.

It seemed the IPL had finally found its Twenty20 soul, with two batsmen combining to score - for the first time in this tournament - at a frenetic pace throughout the innings. But chasing a huge Deccan Chargers total, a limp show from Bangalore Royal Challengers meant another wait for the first closely-fought encounter this season.

The day belonged to Adam Gilchrist and Rohit Sharma, who scored 123 between them, off 75 deliveries, with 88 of them coming in boundary hits. The target of 185, under lights at Newlands, is not an experience teams look forward to. It didn't help that for the third time in a row, Bangalore lost a wicket without having scored a run.

The difference in conditions in the two innings showed, with Deccan's bowlers managing to swing the ball in the initial overs. The first ball of the Bangalore innings, bowled by Fidel Edwards, was a fast, swinging yorker that removed Jesse Ryder for a duck in successive IPL matches.

If Edwards made an early impact, with only 31 runs coming in the Powerplay overs, Gilchrist was not far behind in Deccan's batting Powerplay. In the first two overs, bowled by Praveen Kumar and Dale Steyn, Gilchrist's clean hitting necessitated six fielding changes, and a change of angle to round the stumps from both bowlers. What was constant was Gilchrist's severity on anything erring in length. He reached 26 in the first two overs and inevitably a bowling change followed.

Praveen removed Herschelle Gibbs in his first over after changing ends, and despite VVS Laxman falling soon after, the Gilchrist show continued. From 26 off 11, he slowed down to reach 28 off 19, but then tucked into Jacques Kallis, taking him for 10 in two deliveries. That started the mid-innings assault with Gilchrist hitting clean - not one half-edge, not one unintended shot. He was especially harsh on short deliveries, and if the bowlers got too full, he teed off with similar ease. With one such six off a full Jesse Ryder delivery, in the 10th over, he reached his fifty in 31 balls.

Rohit was just warming up when Gilchrist sizzled. Once his captain got out, Rohit switched to his effortless hitting mode, which was one of the memorable sights of the last year's IPL. That Rohit paced himself well, showed in his scoring just 10 off the first 12 balls he faced, and 42 off the next 18. Anil Kumble's last over, the 13th of the innings, was the springboard for Rohit, with three sixes over midwicket - one swept flat, one lofted effortlessly, and the third a pull off a flatter, shorter delivery. Two more sixes later, Rohit perhaps fell at an inopportune time, with only 12 coming off the last 10 balls of the innings. But enough damage had been done by Rohit and Gilchrist by then.

A third poor start in a row by Bangalore meant they were always struggling against a Deccan attack that showed all the ingredients: hostility through Edwards, thrift through RP Singh (who took the purple cap with two wickets tonight), guile through Pragyan Ojha, and good support through Scott Styris. Once Ryder got out, Bangalore never really got going, and stumbled to 62 for 4 in the 11th over, with Kevin Pietersen back in the pavilion.

Rahul Dravid surprised his critics again, playing his natural shots, opposed to trying to hit too hard as he did against Chennai Super Kings. He finished with 48 off 27 balls, taking the orange cap in the process. Virat Kohli mirrored Dravid's effort, scoring a 32-ball 50, dominated by wristy shots and not one six. But from 62 for 4, with more than half the overs gone, they were fighting a lost cause.

In isolation, the innings played by Dravid and Kohli were as good as either Gilchrist's or Rohit's, with the hitting just as clean. However, isolation is not the luxury cricketers are accorded.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Comeback chance for Shoaib and Symonds

Andrew Symonds returns to the ODI fold after a long absence.

Match facts

April 22, 2009
Start time 2.30pm (10.30GMT)

Big Picture
For a team which has had little international cricket in the recent past the next couple of weeks is a huge opportunity: Pakistan have only played two Tests and six ODIs in the last nine months, but will play five ODIs and a Twenty20 game over the next 16 days against the second-best team in one-day cricket. While that's a significant occasion for Pakistan, it'll also test their preparedness - if they come out rusty, their lack of match practice could be ruthlessly exposed. It'll help, though, that their team is being led Younis Khan, a captain who exudes positive energy and is probably the best man to keep team spirits high in such depressing times.

For Australia, the problem is the opposite: they've played 12 Tests and 18 ODIs in the last nine months, and they have so much more cricket coming up in the next few months that some of their big names have been forced to take a break. Ricky Ponting, Michael Hussey and Mitchell Johnson are being rested, while Brett Lee isn't yet fit enough. In Ponting's absence, Michael Clarke will lead a team which has been struggling to assert itself in ODIs lately, losing a couple of series to South Africa and drawing one to New Zealand. The series is also an opportunity for a couple of players to return to the national fold - Andrew Symonds is back in ODIs after a ten-month absence, while Stuart Clark has an opportunity to stake his claim again after recovering from an elbow injury.

There'll be plenty of focus on the venue too: the Dubai Sports City Stadium will become the 172nd venue to host an ODI, and by all accounts the 25,000-seater has impressed both teams. With so much uncertainty over the security situation in Pakistan, a good show here will encourage more games - possibly even Tests - at this ground, which will be good news for Pakistan and for world cricket.

Form guide (last five ODIs, most recent first)
Pakistan LLWWW
Australia WLLLW

Watch out for
Andrew Symonds: Back in the Australian ODI team for the first time since July 2008, Symonds will be keen to prove he has worked on his attitude and his form, and is ready to perform at the top level again. Strong displays here will strengthen his case for a place in Australia's squad for the World Twenty20, and perhaps even the Ashes.

Shoaib Akhtar: There are plenty of question marks about Shoaib's form and fitness, but his ability to turn it on when fully focused isn't in doubt. The dry conditions in Dubai should help his reverse-swing too.

Team news
Pakistan are most likely to play three specialist fast bowlers - Shoaib, Umar Gul and Sohail Tanvir - with Saeed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi and Shoaib Malik offering spin support. Nasir Jamshed should be back at the top of the order after missing the last couple of series.

Pakistan (probable) 1 Salman Butt, 2 Nasir Jamshed, 3 Younis Khan, 4 Misbah-ul-Haq, 5 Shoaib Malik, 6 Shahid Afridi, 7 Kamran Akmal (wk), 8 Sohail Tanvir, 9 Umar Gul, 10 Shoaib Akhtar, 11 Saeed Ajmal.

Despite putting together century stands in their last two games in South Africa, Australia are likely to disturb the opening combination of Brad Haddin and Clarke, and instead put Shaun Marsh and Shane Watson at the top of the order. Haddin is likely to drop to No.3, with Clarke in next. With Johnson and Siddle resting and Lee injured, the bowling attack will have some changes too, and Clark might get an early chance to prove his fitness.

Australia (probable) 1 Shaun Marsh, 2 Shane Watson, 3 Brad Haddin (wk), 4 Michael Clarke (capt), 5 Andrew Symonds, 6 David Hussey, 7 Callum Ferguson, 8 Nathan Hauritz, 9 Stuart Clark, 10 Nathan Bracken, 11 Ben Laughlin.

Pitch and conditions
Pakistan aren't playing at home, but conditions at the Dubai Sports City Stadium will probably resemble those in Lahore or Karachi. The heat will be quite acute, and the dry conditions should offer plenty of encouragement for the spinners.

Stats and Trivia

* Australia have been in wretched ODI form this year, winning only five matches out of 15, and losing nine.

* Nathan Bracken has been one of the below-par performers during this period, with only ten wickets in 14 matches at an average of 39.93 and an economy rate of 5.34.

* In 11 ODIs against Australia, Younis has only scored 158 runs at an average of 15.80, with one half-century.

* These two teams last played an ODI more than three years ago, during the VB Series in February 2005. Australia won the best-of-three finals 2-0.

"Personally, I'm delighted to be back in Aussie colours - I've had a few decent tussles with Pakistan over the years, my debut in Pakistan for starters, and the 2003 World Cup, and I've no doubt this will be a tough series against them. The challenge is there for all of us to roll up our sleeves and get into it."
Andrew Symonds is glad to be back in the ODI squad

"We've been given a fantastic opportunity to perform and put your hand up while guys are out resting or injured. It gives somebody else an opportunity to push for the 2011 World Cup."
Michael Clarke puts a positive spin to the fact that so many top players are missing from the Australian squad

"There is no alternative to playing at home but unfortunately we have to play in Emirates but the conditions here are similar to Pakistan and we feel it is like a home away from home. I hope Pakistani people who live here will come to encourage us."
Younis Khan tries to make the best of a difficult situation

"I am pleased at Shoaib's discipline both on and off the field. He has shown promise and he is bowling with commitment, and I have lots of hope that he would deliver for us, which, I tell you, is very important."
Intikhab Alam, the Pakistan coach, has high expectations from Shoaib Akhtar

Deccan favourites in battle of former losers

All Humpty: Deccan will want to continue with such celebrations.

Match facts
April 22, 2009
Start time 16.30pm (14.30GMT)

Big Picture
The bottom-placed teams from last season had undergone massive changes this year but one of them, Bangalore Royal Challengers, already threaten to revert to type, via a dispirited show against Chennai Super Kings on Monday. They will now want to push Deccan Chargers back to type and maintain equilibrium in the table.

Deccan, though, had a more authoritative win than Bangalore to start their campaign. They outplayed their opposition, albeit the weaker Kolkata Knight Riders, right from the time Fidel Edwards bowled the first ball. Looks can be deceptive, but Deccan looked the part, Bangalore didn't.

Bangalore may have won one comprehensively, and lost one in the same manner, but their batsmen were consistent in their failures. It is not a good reflection on the side if they have to rely on Jacques Kallis and Rahul Dravid for the runs. They should be the springboard for the bigger hitters, the Ryders and Pietersens. Which is the real Bangalore? Wednesday could be a good time to find out.

Also of interest will be to see whether Newlands improves for the batsmen. We shouldn't be complaining about a more even contest between the bat and the ball, though.

Player form guide
Deccan: They will be absolutely pleased with the opening combination of Fidel Edwards and RP Singh, who set up the big win for them - Edwards through tight, fast bowling, RP through movement, bounce, and wicket-taking deliveries. Will be too early to read into the batsmen's form - they were chasing only 102, but Adam Gilchrist and Herschelle Gibbs, on current form, are a tempting proposition at the top.

Bangalore: The batsmen need to score. And fast. The New Zealand imports, their two big draws, haven't really clicked. Jesse Ryder was mysteriously dropped for their second game. Ross Taylor now has one run from five balls and two innings. Dravid and Kallis have looked their best batsmen. It's their bowling that has kept them in so far, but Praveen Kumar and Dale Steyn would want a better show than in their game against Chennai, the two of them giving away 72 runs in eight overs.

Watch out for
Gilchrist v Praveen: Murderous intent v wily swing bowling. Vast experience v young wise head. As it stands, it's 2-0 to Praveen. Surprising as it may sound, Praveen took Gilchrist out, early, in both the finals of the CB Series last year.

Friendly fire
Gibbs v Steyn: Who will the crowds go mad for? So far every time the ball has gone to Gibbs, and every time Steyn has beaten the batsman, there has been generous appreciation from home crowds. This one should be a monumental contest. Can Gibbs pull a fast Steyn delivery, of un-pullable length?

Team news
Ryder, if there is no injury concern, should take his place ahead of compatriot Taylor. Ryder looks in better touch, is a more complete batsman, and provides a lot with his smart medium-pace bowling. One Indian slot has been a complete waste for them, too. B Akhil looked out of his depth against quality spin bowling, and he didn't get a bowl. His replacement in the second game, Rajesh Bishnoi, didn't get to bowl either, and came in to bat after the game had been lost. They just can't keep wasting a player.

Bangalore Royal Challengers (probable) 1 Jesse Ryder, 2 Robin Uthappa (wk), 3 Jacques Kallis, 4 Kevin Pietersen (capt.), 5 Rahul Dravid, 6 Virat Kohli, 7 B Akhil/Rajesh Bishnoi/somebody new, 8 Praveen Kumar, 9 R Vinay Kumar, 10 Anil Kumble, 11 Dale Steyn.

Deccan might not need any changes. The bowlers were perfect, the batsmen untested.

Deccan Chargers (probable) 1 Adam Gilchrist (capt. & wk), 2 Herschelle Gibbs, 3 VVS Laxman, 4 Rohit Sharma, 5 Scott Styris, 6 Venugopal Rao, 7 Ravi Teja, 8 Harmeet Singh, 9 Pragyan Ojha, 10 RP Singh, 11 Fidel Edwards.

Head-to-head record
Bangalore won both their matches last year: the first one a thriller by three runs, and the next seemingly comfortably by five wickets.

Mohali Kings XI vs Kolkata Knight Riders Highlights

Watch cricket highlights - Kolkata Knight Riders vs Punjab Kings XI from IPL 2009.

Scoreline: 158/6 - Yuvraj Singh 38 (28), Irfan Pathan 32 (17), Jayawardene 31 (19). Sourav Ganguly 2 wickets.
KKR 79/1 (9.2 overs) - Chris Gayle 44 (26), Brendon McCullum 21 (16). Rain stops play. Kolkata win on D/L - ahead by 11 runs.

Another curtailed game for Mohali’s opposition - this time a 9 over innings - slightly better than 6 overs (Delhi-Mohali). Finally, a preview of what Chris Gayle and McCullum can do together. But before that, it was Sourav Ganguly’s day out with 2 break-through wickets in his first over after Irfan Pathan had taken a half-step towards permanence in the Indian team. Glorious shots from Yuvraj and Jayawardene on yet another disappointingly curtailed day.

Pregame: Brett Lee still appears to be not fit enough to start this game. Both the teams have lost their opening matches, so an interesting game in prospect.

Gayle helps Kolkata home in rain-hit game

Sourav Ganguly took two wickets in three balls in his first over to set Punjab back.

Sourav Ganguly made yet another comeback, this time with the ball, to help Kolkata Knight Riders keep Kings XI Punjab down to 158 for 6. Thereafter, Chris Gayle made the most of two dropped chances to dishearten Punjab and take Kolkata 11 ahead of the Duckworth-Lewis par-score when heavy rain ended the match in the 10th over.

Ganguly had been quiet in the lead-up to this tournament; he had lost his captaincy and looked out of sorts in scoring 1 in 12 balls against Deccan Chargers. Today, though, he made his statement with the ball, taking two wickets in his first over and pulling Punjab back from a solid-yet-unspectacular start.

When Ganguly came on to bowl, Irfan Pathan, promoted to No. 3, had just taken Ishant Sharma for 14 in his third over, and Punjab had moved along to 46 for 1 at the end of six overs. Thirty-two of those had come from Irfan's bat, in 17 deliveries.

And then Ganguly struck, fortuitously at first. Irfan went for a six to the deep midwicket area and was caught smartly by Murali Kartik at the boundary. Two balls later, Ganguly got Ravi Bopara, the opener, to edge to the new captain, Brendon McCullum. Both men were elated, the captain with his bowling change, the bowler having proved a point, and both ran in different directions to celebrate and eventually hugged each other.

Punjab moved from 46 for 1 in six to 67 for 3 in ten overs before a rain interruption. Following that, Punjab enjoyed two of the best overs of their innings. Yuvraj Singh hit a six off Ganguly to take 14 off his third over. Yet, Ganguly ended with figures of 24 for 2 off his four. And just after the rain break, in perhaps a poor tactical move, McCullum brought Chris Gayle on, who had trouble gripping the wet ball and bowled three wides in his 14-run over.

Yuvraj couldn't quite manage a reprise of his six sixes in an over at the same venue, during the inaugural ICC World Twenty20. And once he top-edged Moises Henriques in the 16th over, falling for 38 off 28, caught by Yashpal, Punjab were always struggling.

Thirty-six came off 26 balls after Yuvraj's fall, thanks largely to Mahela Jayawardene, who scored 31 in 19, and took the last over, bowled by Ashok Dinda, for 16, the biggest over of the innings.

But the hitting from Irfan, Yuvraj and Jayawardene paled in comparison with Gayle's. He played the first two overs quietly, and enjoyed a dropped sitter by Karan Goel at short midwicket off Yusuf Abdulla. It was a forgettable day for Goel, who had earlier scored a seven-ball duck.

Once Gayle carved Irfan over cover-point in the third over of the innings, the floodgates opened. From 4 off 8 balls, he reached 31 off 15 through a calculated assault on the left-arm opening bowlers. And then, in the fifth over of the innings, the game breaker came. Irfan was spanked straight and pulled square off the first two balls, and then Gayle showed him the greens, teeing off to over wide long-on.

By the time Gayle was dropped again, by Kumar Sangakkara, off a Piyush Chawla googly, he had taken the match out of Punjab's reach as the dark clouds gathered.

For the second game in succession, Punjab have been curtailed by rain, but this time they succumbed to Ganguly and Gayle, as opposed to their first match, when Delhi's chase was reduced to a six-over hit-out.

Finally, Pakistan can focus on the cricket

This series provides Pakistan with a sliver of an opportunity to reassert itself as a proper cricket team and not a wandering freak show.

Perspective is a handy thing. The last time Pakistan stepped out in colours, they were bowled out for 75 and it led to a change in leadership. The last time they stepped out for a Test match, terrorists attacked their opponents. A few days ago the world said to them, understandably, that they would not be coming to play for a while. So what importance an ODI and T20I series against Australia in the Middle East?

Au contraire, the context is precisely what makes this battle so significant. Younis Khan knows it and hopefully his team does too. This is more than just being the first ODI in four years between the two sides, the first contest of any kind in fact, other than a T20 game in 2007. Not testing yourself against the best regularly doesn't just possibly hamper development but it also says perhaps you aren't important enough to go up against them often enough.

This series thus provides Pakistan with a sliver of an opportunity to reassert itself as a proper cricket team and not a wandering freak show, a carnival, laughed at, ostracized and taken with as much seriousness as one might take Jim Carrey. If they do well, win a couple of games and maybe even the series, they say something serious to the rest of the world, something not about doping, or legal wrangles, or security concerns, or impending financial doom, or in-fighting. Simply, by doing well, they say we are around and we are not irrelevant.

Happily for them, it isn't just the first time in years they are playing Australia, it is the first time in years it may just be possible to hope they can pull something off. Admittedly, that takes into account more the phase Australia find themselves in than Pakistan. Until recently, they had plummeted - although briefly - to third in the ODI rankings. They are back to second, but consecutive series losses to South Africa, a tied series against New Zealand and nine losses in their last 15 games speak of uncertainty and weaknesses.

They are also without Ricky Ponting, Michael Hussey, Mitchell Johnson and Brett Lee, a robust spine if ever. They are still Australia, as Younis has pointed out, but not the Australia he remembers playing last. Nathan Bracken's case is an interesting parallel to the fortunes of Australia; for long the world's best ODI bowler, he has just slipped a touch. Sixteen wickets in his last 14 ODIs have come at nearly 40, conceding well over five an over. Mightier assignments lie in wait for them later in the year, so all eyes may not be on this one ball. Predictions are brash, but if you're a Pakistan fan or in the Pakistan camp, you might feel advantage can be taken.

What role will conditions and a new stadium in the Middle East play? The glib, comforting talk is that Pakistan feel like they might be at home but that isn't saying much given their recent home record. And isn't one of the reasons ODIs are said to be in trouble is that there has been such a standardization of pitches, in this region of the world at least? In most places an ODI pitch looks and behaves much the same as another: it gives up runs as easily as do porn stars their clothes. If pitches in Dubai and Abu Dhabi are much different, it will only make for better cricket.

As much as can be said of a bilateral contest, this series really is more about one side: Pakistan. If it is on the one hand such an important series, it is also in a sense, one in which they have nothing tangible to lose. If they are defeated, it is expected and, given what is happening around them in cricket and life, not the end of the world. But if they win, it makes for a cheerier, more worthy story altogether: take off against Australia, Younis told his players, and you'll be difficult to bring back down again.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Teams keen to get off the blocks

Karan Goel's sixes over wide long-on after charging the Delhi Daredevils bowlers were a treat to watch in the last match.

Match facts

April 21, 2009
Start time 12.30pm (10.30GMT)

Big Picture

Both Kings XI Punjab and Kolkata Knight Riders lost the opening game of their IPL campaigns on a rainy Sunday in Cape Town and the teams are now preparing to take on each other in Durban, where unfortunately the weather forecast for Tuesday is also bleak.

Punjab, however, will not be too disheartened even though Delhi beat them by ten wickets at Newlands. Their innings was curtailed to 12 overs by rain and further showers reduced Delhi's target to 54 in six overs, leaving Punjab's bowlers with little chance. The highlight of the game for Punjab was the performance of their openers, Ravi Bopara and Karan Goel, who added 67 at more than ten runs an over.

Kolkata, on the other hand, had a horrid outing against Deccan Chargers. Their pre-tournament build up was fraught with controversy over the multiple-captain theory and the issue was laid to rest only days before their first match, with Brendon McCullum taking over the leadership duties from Sourav Ganguly. The unrest reflected in their performance: Kolkata were 34 for 4 after 10.4 overs and the top-score was Brad Hodge's 31. Unlike those of other franchises, Kolkata's owner Shahrukh Khan was vocal about his disappointment over his team's performance and another poor outing will only increase pressure and criticism levels.

Player form guide

Punjab: The openers Goel and Bopara surprised a few people with the power with which they hit the ball against Delhi. Both of them played aggressive cameos while Yuvraj also smashed a couple of sixes before he was run out. The bowlers - Yusuf Abdulla and Vikramjeet Malik in particular - barely had a work out because of the shortened innings but they withered under a fierce onslaught from Virender Sehwag.

Kolkata: The explosive opening combination of Chris Gayle and McCullum failed against Deccan and the rest of the batsmen followed suit. The bowling did not inspire either - Ashok Dinda was the only one who took a wicket - as Deccan needed to take no risks to meet an asking-rate of less than six an over.

Watch out for

Karan Goel: He opened for Punjab, when quite a few expected Kumar Sangakkara to partner Bopara, and thrived against the new ball. He began by powering the ball square on the off side but the shots that stood out were his sixes over wide long-on after charging the fast bowlers.

Brendon McCullum and Chris Gayle: They are one of two overseas opening combinations in the tournament. Both batsmen are dynamic hitters but both failed against Deccan. Don't bet on both failing once again.

Friendly fire

Ishant Sharma v Yuvraj Singh: The last two times Yuvraj batted at Kingsmead, he smashed 58 off 16 balls against England, and 70 off 30 balls against Australia during the World Twenty20. Ishant will hope to have more success against him than Stuart Broad and Stuart Clark did.

Team news

Punjab are likely to play the same overseas players as they did against Delhi, unless they want to give Burt Cockley a go instead of Yusuf Abdulla. There isn't too much reason to change the Indian players either because they barely had chance to succeed or fail in the first game.

Punjab: 1 Ravi Bopara, 2 Karan Goel, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Yuvraj Singh (capt), 5 Mahela Jaayawardene, 6 Irfan Pathan, 7 Piyush Chawla, 8 Taruwar Kohli, 9 Vikramjeet Malik, 10 VRV Singh, 11 Yusuf Abdulla.

Kolkata did not play Sri Lankan spinner Ajantha Mendis in the first game, choosing to give the fourth overseas-player's slot to Australian allrounder Moises Henriques. However, they might think about including Mendis, given that their others managed to take only one Deccan wicket among them.

Kolkata: 1 Brendon McCullum (capt & wk), 2 Chris Gayle, 3 Sourav Ganguly, 4 Brad Hodge, 5 Aakash Chopra, 6 Laxmi Ratan Shukla, 7 Moises Henriques, 8 Ajit Agarkar, 9 Murali Kartik, 10 Ishant Sharma, 11 Ashok Dinda.

Head-to-head record

Punjab won their first match against Kolkata in the 2008 IPL by nine runs but lost the second game by three wickets in a last-over finish.

Watch Kings XI Punjab v Kolkata Knight Riders, IPL, Durban Live Online.

Old foes, new stage

Here, give us another classic.

Match facts
April 21, 2009
Start time 16.30pm (14.30GMT)

Big Picture
The defending champions have made a disastrous start. But that's what they did last year too, and that was the only straw Shane Warne clutched after Rajasthan Royals' humbling defeat to Bangalore Royal Challengers on Saturday.

Mumbai, last year's middle-rankers, had a dream start - and Sanath Jayasuriya didn't even fire for them - and head into this game as hands-down favourites. They have a dream opening combination in Sachin Tendulkar and Jayasuriya, the form man in JP Duminy and what worked as a perfect fire-and-ice bowling combination in Lasith Malinga and Harbhajan Singh. Not to mention Zaheer Khan and Dwayne Bravo.

Going by big names, Rajasthan should be out of their depth. Right? Wrong. That was the case last year too, and teams will do better than to write off Warne's team just on the basis of one poor performance. Even last year, Rajasthan lulled other teams with a poor performance first up. They had to wait for a long time for another average game.

Both teams will look to improve their batting - their bowlers were mostly spot on and in any case they will be playing on one of the bouncier pitches at Kingsmead. Given the young Rajasthan line-up, Mumbai - with the presence of Jayasuriya, Duminy and Bravo - will always threaten a big lusty innings.

Player form guide
Mumbai: Tendulkar could well have defined a role for himself through his patient fifty in the first game: try to bat for at least 15 overs, and give the big hitters most of the strike. Let the Jayasuriyas, the Bravos hit around Tendulkar. Malinga and Harbhajan look good with the ball, and should pose a test for Rajasthan.

Rajasthan: Warne rolled back the years, with flight, dip, big break, and also the fiery flipper. Ask Virat Kohli and B Akhil. Dimitri Mascarenhas proved to be the surprise element with the ball. With the odd quick delivery out of nowhere, Kamran Khan showed a glimpse or two of what Warne might have seen. It's the batsmen who are the worry - the Asnodkars and the Pathans, who played like kings on flat Indian pitches last year. Graeme Smith will have to run into some pretty good form pretty soon. It should help that Mitchell Johnson is in Dubai. Just get past old nemesis Zaheer Khan and he should be fine.

Watch out for
Warne v Tendulkar: Perhaps the biggest gift from this new format. It happened only once last season because Tendulkar was not fit for their first match. Even though they went at it for just six balls, they did put up a show. Tendulkar tried his trademark paddle first up, tried coming down the track and was pushed by a flatter delivery, and six balls yielded six runs, with no clear winners. Here's hoping for a longer duel this time. Just don't get out, Sach, before Warnie comes on to bowl.

Friendly fire
Smith v Pollock: The incumbent v his predecessor. Too bad Shaun Pollock will only be plotting from outside, and not bowling himself. Maybe they should get him to bowl just for one match.

Team news
Necessity spells only one change for Mumbai: Dhawal Kulkarni in place of Rohan Raje, who went for 15 in his one over. Apart from that, they wouldn't want to fiddle too much with a settled-looking line-up.

Mumbai Indians (probable) 1 Sanath Jayasuriya, 2 Sachin Tendulkar (capt.), 3 Shikhar Dhawan, 4 JP Duminy, 5 Dwayne Bravo, 6 Abhishek Nayar, 7 Harbhajan Singh, 8 Zaheer Khan, 9 Pinal Shah (wk), 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Dhawal Kulkarni/Rohan Raje.

Don't expect wholesale changes with Rajasthan, but don't count out an odd rabbit out of Warne's hat either. Warne, Mascarenhas, Smith and Henderson should continue to be the four foreign players. Niraj Patel is the man most likely to be under pressure.

Rajasthan Royals (probable) 1 Graeme Smith, 2 Swapnil Asnodkar, 3 Niraj Patel/anybody, 4 Tyron Henderson, 5 Ysuf Pathan, 6 Dimitri Mascarenhas, 7 Ravindra jadeja, 8 Shane Warne (capt.), 9 Mahesh Rawat (wk), 10 Munaf Patel, 11 Kamran Khan.

Head-to-head record
Mumbai gave Rajasthan one of their rare hidings last year when they first met, bowling the eventual champions out for 103. Rajasthan set things right in the return game, though, with a thrilling last-ball win. Before Niraj and Jadeja bailed Rajasthan out, they were 77 for 5, chasing 146. Maybe reason enough to give Niraj another game.

Watch Mumbai Indians v Rajasthan Royals, IPL, Durban live online.

Bangalore Royal Challengers vs Chennai Super Kings Highlights

Watch highlights of the Bangalore Royal Challengers vs Chennai Super Kings game from IPL 2009 being played in South Africa.

Scoreline: Chennai 179/5 - Matthew Hayden 65 (35). Bangalore 87 all out. Muralitharan - 4-1-11-3

We saw yesterday with the Mohali vs Dehli game the effect of the ad/strategy break for the first time in the IPL. Pretty much the same happened today. Only thing, this time around, such was the effect of the Matthew Hayden knock, the eventual result wasn’t affected. What was impressive about Hayden’s knock was that it wasn’t just burly-man bludgeoning the bowlers – there was some delicate stuff in it too.

Anil Kumble bowled well again and was a bit unlucky on a couple of occasions. The Bangalore innings came apart and Muralitharan – not picked for the first game – was crucial to this taking out key players, Pietersen and Uthappa.

Players have golden chance against Australia - Younis

Younis Khan: "If as a player you take off in this series, nobody will be able to bring you down.".

Just days after another sad chapter pushed them further onto the margins of the cricket world, Pakistan glimpse a rare opportunity to make a significant on-field statement. They take on Australia in a five-match ODI series followed by a Twenty20 international in Dubai and Abu Dhabi from Wednesday, a contest Younis Khan believes offers Pakistan the chance to begin another era on a brighter note.

As an indication of just how much Pakistan have faded away off the field in recent years - and Australia's reluctance to tour Pakistan - Wednesday's game will be the first ODI between the two sides since February 2005. In fact, the two sides have only met once in any format since then: at the World Twenty20 in September 2007, when Pakistan trumped them on the way to the final.

Much has changed since then - four players from each side remain - not least the fortunes of both sides, but Younis believed that good performances here may well lead to a repeat of Pakistan's last successful era, which began around the time the two sides last met.

"This is a very big series for several reasons," Younis told Cricinfo. "If we play well - not necessarily win - but play well then we can become like Inzi and Bob Woolmer's sides in 2005 and 2006," he said. "If we perform well - and win - then people will have to take notice because it is Australia. I want to see good moments…after the series I want to be able to look back and pinpoint 7-10 moments where we did really well, with a bowling spell, a bit of fielding, some batting. That will be an achievement."

Pakistan's squad is neither inexperienced nor raw, but undercooked and rusty: since April 2007, Australia have played 45 ODIs against top-flight nations and Pakistan just over half, with 24. But for the players, says Younis, the series is a golden opportunity. "Any guy who takes the opportunity here and does well, it'll be a massive break for them internationally. This is how I am looking at it personally and trying to instill in the team. I am fairly sure they are aware of it. If as a player you take off in this series, nobody will be able to bring you down."

The time to do that, some might argue, is ripe. This remains a transitional period for Australia as ODI losses to South Africa and a shared home series with New Zealand indicates. The absence of Ricky Ponting, Michael Hussey, Mitchell Johnson and Brett Lee will be felt but this is, according to Younis, still Australia.

"They are still very balanced and the style of play and their motivation doesn't ever change," he said. "They are the only team in the world where players come in and go out and it makes very little difference. They are still a top side. If we do well, play to our potential and win a few matches, then I really think we can start getting out of this phase and move on."

Strauss puts pressure on IPL stars

Andrew Strauss was relaxed at Middlesex's media, but he doesn't have long before the serious work startsagain.

Andrew Strauss has a "fairly good idea" who will be batting No. 3 for England against West Indies and hinted that those candidates in county cricket could edge ahead of those plying their trade in the IPL.

Michael Vaughan, Ian Bell, Owais Shah and Ravi Bopara are all options at three and while the first two have started the domestic season, Shah and Bopara - along with Test certainties Kevin Pietersen, Andrew Flintoff and Paul Collingwood - are in South Africa with their IPL franchises.

Bell has begun the summer with a bang, scoring 172 in the Championship and 108 in the Friends Provident Trophy, while Vaughan hit a polished 43 against Durham on Sunday. Meanwhile, Shah couldn't get a game in Delhi Daredevils' opening encounter against Kings XI Punjab, for whom Bopara was opening the batting

"I suppose there is a slight advantage about being back in England and pushing your claim forward," Strauss said. "Obviously if someone is back in England getting hundreds they are pushing their claims whereas for others who aren't it's harder for them to push their claims, especially if they are not playing."

Strauss also warned that it was the responsibility of the players at the IPL to make sure they were in right frame of mind for a Test by May 6. "The challenge for the guys over there, and it's an important one, is to adapt their game from playing Twenty20 to a Test match the following week," he said. "That's on their shoulders and they need to do that, but they are all good enough players. They are aware of what is required."

Of those chasing the No. 3 berth Bell has made the ideal start with his two centuries for Warwickshire, but Strauss added that other factors will come into the final decision which leaves the door open for Vaughan's experience.

"I doubt we'll be basing selection purely on early-season runs. I think we have a fairly good idea which direction we need to go in.

"It's fantastic that Belly has come back and hit the ground running, he had a very frustrating tour [in West Indies] to be fair. The one thing we said we wanted from him was hundreds and he's demonstrated his ability to do that and hopefully it will continue.

"Michael Vaughan hasn't had much of a chance to bat so far, we all know what qualities he brings, but that No. 3 spot is a hotly contested one with Owais Shah the man in possession and Ravi Bopara, who came in in West Indies and got a hundred. That's four good options for one place and it will be a tough decision."

Strauss will play one match before the first Test, against Leicestershire next week, when he is set to open the batting alongside Phil Hughes, Australia's rising star, who has arrived for his six-week stint with Middlesex.

Hughes' deal with Middlesex was signed before he stormed onto the international scene, by becoming the youngest batsman to score twin hundreds, in his second Test against South Africa, at Durban. However, his brief move to north London has still stirred controversy ahead of the summer's Ashes series.

Hughes will have three Championship matches for Middlesex alongside a host of one-day games before his spell ends on May 31, but Strauss insists Hughes' time in the domestic scene won't have a major bearing on the Ashes and could even be used to England's advantage.

"Of course a young guy like him who hasn't played in England can get some real benefits from playing here for six weeks," Strauss said. "The other side of it is that both Middlesex and other teams will pick out potential weaknesses that may not have been seen before. It's a double-edged sword.

"The Ashes series is later in the summer so we don't have to worry too much about his form at this stage. Middlesex signed him before he played for Australia so they didn't go into it with any malicious intentions."

Hughes, less than 24 hours after stepping off his flight from Australia, was unflustered about the prospect of English bowlers having an extra look at him. "I'm not worried about that," he said. "They can get the videos and go through the South African series. All the teams do that now, but I'm not worried about it at all. On a personal level it's about getting to know the conditions."