Saturday, March 15, 2008

Smith displaces Tendulkar as No. 1 ODI batsman

Graeme Smith: on top of the world...

After the satisfaction of seeing his team on top of the ODI rankings, Graeme Smith had a personal milestone to celebrate as well, as he went past Sachin Tendulkar to take the No. 1 spot in the ICC's ODI rankings for batsmen.

Smith began the three-match series against Bangladesh in third place, 24 points behind Tendulkar, but pushed him to second spot after scoring 199 and being dismissed just once in the three ODIs. In fact, Smith has been in glorious form in one-day internationals over the last seven months, scoring nine half-centuries and a hundred in his last 19 innings, for an average of 52.35.

Tendulkar's reign at the top thus lasted less than two weeks - he claimed the spot after leading India to victory in the CB Series - but Smith is likely to keep that spot for at least three months since both India and Australia aren't scheduled to play ODIs before June.

AB de Villiers was the other South African batsman who made significant progress, going up six places to a career-best No. 9 after being the second-highest run-getter in the series with 109 runs.

Among the bowlers, Andre Nel, who has been left out of the Test squad for the series against India, made the biggest improvement, going up ten places to No. 6 after claiming seven wickets in the series.

Bangladesh, though, had little to celebrate. Abdur Razzak moved up two spots to No. 16 in the bowlers' list, while Shakib Al Hasan broke into the top 50 for batting, but Mohammad Ashraful, their captain, dropped eight places to 59.

LG ICC Player Rankings

Rating Name Country Rank
1 G.C. Smith SA 792
2 S.R. Tendulkar IND 777
3 R.T. Ponting AUS 770
4 M. Yousuf PAK 752
5 M.L. Hayden AUS 740
6 A.C. Gilchrist AUS 738
7 M.E.K. Hussey AUS 736
8 K.P. Pietersen ENG 735
9 de Villiers SA 733
10 M.S. Dhoni IND 728

'Age rule' could hamper Bindra's chances

If IS Bindra is appointed ICC's chief executive, the two top posts in world cricket will soon be held by India ...

As the clock winds down to the ICC's executive board meeting in Dubai, the selection of the next chief executive is developing into a potentially fractious matter with the Indian board backing the candidature of IS Bindra, its former president, who, the ICC secretariat is keen to point out, is over the specified age. In the event of Bindra failing to get the job, it is likely to go to Imtiaz Patel, a South African, who heads Supersport, the broadcast network.

Dave Richardson, the ICC general manager, and Haroon Lorgat, the former chief selector of South Africa, are said to be the other names in the fray to replace Malcolm Speed.

Bindra's candidacy is viewed with some concern given that, once Sharad Pawar, the BCCI president, takes over as ICC chairman in 2010 as scheduled, the top two positions in world cricket will soon be held by India.

The BCCI has already faced a hurdle which it tried to sidestep. Pawar is learnt to have recently sent a letter to the ICC picking out holes in an "age rule" that could hamper the chances of their candidate. The letter was apparently sent in response to a note from the ICC to all national boards pointing to the age bar prevalent in the UAE, where it is based.

Pawar's letter asks the ICC not to attach much value to the rule, which bars those above 65 from taking up employment in the country, because it refers only to a particular category of employees. "The rule refers only to a specific category of candidates, essentially government employees, and Bindra doesn't fall in that group," a top source said. "Bindra is above that age limit but he is a veteran in these matters. He knows enough about the rules and regulations of the ICC and helped Pawar prepare the letter."

The chief executive will be selected by a four- person sub-committee comprising Ray Mali, the ICC chairman, David Morgan, the ECB head and Mali's chosen successor, Creagh O'Connor, the Cricket Australia chairman and Pawar. Bindra has confirmed to Cricinfo that he was contacted by a head-hunting firm early this year regarding a shortlist.

"A recruitment firm called Egon Zehnder International was appointed to source potential candidates and make recommendations to the four-person sub-committee. That process is complete," an ICC spokesperson told Cricinfo. "The sub-committee will make its recommendations to the ICC board and then it will discuss the matter at the meeting."

However, with Pawar slotted to take over as ICC chairman in 2010, after Morgan's two years at the helm under a compromise formula reached last year, the other national boards are concerned that an all-India show may lead to a monopoly on world-cricket administration.

Already, the WICB, which has supported India over various issues in the past, is learnt to have switched sides, leaving Bindra with the BCCI's traditional support base of Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.

But Bindra told Cricinfo that he would take a call on this issue only after he was offered the job. "Even if I am offered the job, I will have to take a call on whether I need to take it up or not. I have certain issues to work out even if the job is offered, about my quitting the Punjab Cricket Association (he heads the association), my daughter's education and other personal issues," Bindra said.

If the BCCI is not able to get its way on Bindra, then Patel, a former director with the then United Cricket Board of South Africa, is likely to emerge as the candidate who will fit the bill. "The key criteria for selection: Whatever makes them the best person for the job," the ICC spokesperson said.

Gayle, Sarwan and Chanderpaul could miss Tests

Their IPL commitments could see Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Chris Gayle miss the first two Tests against Australia...

Chris Gayle, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan could miss the first two Tests against Australia because of their commitments to the Indian Premier League, according to Dr Donald Peters, the chief executive officer of the West Indies Cricket Board.

Peters told The Gleaner that the trio had signed to play in the IPL and that if their franchises reached the final stages then matches would clash with the first and second Tests in Jamaica and Antigua.

"We are aware that we may lose the players for the first two Tests, and I asked the selectors to be cognisant of this, and to try to put batsmen on the side that could replace Gayle, Chanderpaul, and Sarwan," he said. There is a real threat that if the players' teams reach the final, they could be gone for 44 days, so we are really worried about this.

"I am heading to Dubai for an ICC meeting, and I will talk to the president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India about this, and the effect of IPL. Cricket administrators around the world are worried about the IPL, particularly New Zealand and West Indies because IPL takes place in the middle of when our seasons occur. But all of us stand to lose a significant amount of players."

Peters, who is accompanying Julian Hunte, the WICB president, to the ICC executive board meeting in Dubai, claimed that his board has proposed that a 30-day window be put in place for all the private cricket franchises to play their competitions. "Then nobody gets affected, and everybody can go back to play for their national teams, but IPL, right now, is a major factor in the way it affects international cricket ... West Indies and New Zealand are two of the smallest cricket nations, and it will hurt us the most if our best players leave to play in the IPL. But we have to find a solution."

However, Cricinfo was told by an ICC spokesman that no proposal had been tabled for such a window and it is believed that the ICC does not feel such a gap is necessary.

One option available to the WICB is to refuse to allow the players to go - they need No Objection Certificates from the board before being allowed to play abroad - but that is a route he does not want to go down. "I have the NOCs for the players, and I have to release the players, but I am not going to not release the players because they would go anyway," he told The Gleaner. "Given the amount of money involved, it certainly destabilises the infrastructure of cricket. It's not fair to the players, and it's not fair to the national teams. But this is capitalism at its best, free market enterprise at its best, and we now instead of crying have to find a way to make it work, so that we win, and they win. But right now we are losing."

Peters also warned that he was not worried about the short-term impact even if the three were absent. "I believe people in the West Indies want to see our team play, and I personally feel if we can put a few young, exciting players out there, people will still come to watch the matches. But if fans have bought their tickets, they should go and see West Indies play because they would also be playing against an under-strength Australia side, so there is a 50-50 shot that they can win the series."

India should have players' association - May

Tim May: "FICA's top priority is to ensure that the ICC remains an independent body"...

Tim May, the chief executive of FICA, the international players' association, has termed it unfortunate that players from India, the most powerful cricket centre in the world, do not feel the need to form an effective national players' association.

"It would be ideal if the Indian cricketers decided among themselves that they want a players' association," May told Cricinfo. "Unfortunately, players in India don't seem to feel that need. Perhaps, it's culturally different in India vis a vis employee-employer relationships. But yes, it will be better for all if India has an effective players' association. FICA can facilitate it, if it comes to that. But there has to be a need first.

"I believe that Indian players historically have learnt that it's in their best interests not to make their views public because it may be contrary to the BCCI's position," May said, suggesting that a stronger player unity could have avoided the recent fall-out with regard to the Indian Cricket League.

May, the former Australian offspinner, said that hopes of a common-sense resolution were receding for players banned for their contact with the unofficial ICL, and soon the only option left would be to approach the courts. "If the players in the ICL are serious about a resolution, they would finally have to go to an independent third party, which in this case would be the courts," he said. "I believe right now, they are waiting for a common-sense resolution. But unfortunately, their appeals have fallen on deaf ears. It's clear that a common-sense resolution is fading by the minute, and it's just a matter of time before things reach the court."

May is currently in Panchkula, near Chandigarh in Punjab, on an invitation from the ICL. He indicated that sorting out the ICL issue, especially the "unfair restrictions" that have been placed by national boards on players who are part of the unofficial venture, was a huge priority for FICA.

If the players in the ICL are serious about a resolution, they would finally have to go to an independent third party, which in this case would be the courts

May also pointed to a worldwide perception that the Indian board wields a strong influence over world cricket affairs and said that the top priority for the players' association is to ensure the ICC remains an independent body capable of taking impartial decisions.

"There is a perception that the BCCI's power influences some of the ICC's decisions," he said. "Any sport needs to be run by a thoroughly independent body, and no competition should be run by the power of one competitor. This is not a personal attack against the BCCI but FICA's top-most priority, going ahead, is to ensure that the ICC remains an independent body capable of taking impartial decisions." May said the players' body would be keenly tracking the ICC executive board meeting in Dubai on March 17, especially the selection of its chief executive - India's IS Bindra is one of the leading candidates.

Outlining FICA's priorities in the near future, May said that a lot of thought would be given to the direction in which the game is headed and how that would affect cricketers.

"We also need to ask ourselves how we are shaping the game," he said. "There is this new product out there, Twenty20, which is immensely popular. So how do we protect Test cricket or one-day cricket? Do we need to protect them at all? The FICA believes that the ICC and the players' association needs to sit together, get the facts out on the table, call in the TV experts, analyse the ratings, and take informed decisions."

He also agreed that the recent controversies over sledging, especially during the recent India-Australia series, had the potential to harm player relations. "There is a line on the sand you should not cross. But it has been crossed in the last six months. First, players and the ICC referees have to be clear that this is the line and if you cross that, you will be charged. But finally, it's up to the on-field umpires."

Chingoka entry into UK in the balance

Peter Chingoka has always denied links to the Mugabe regime...

The UK government has asked the ICC for a copy of the independent forensic audit into the financial affairs of Zimbabwe Cricket before it will consider granting ZC chairman Peter Chingoka a visa to enter the UK for June's ICC annual conference.

Chingoka was only granted a limited-entry visa to the UK for last year's meeting and was subsequently denied entry in October when he was due to give evidence in the tribunal investigating Darrell Hair's unfair dismissal claim against the ICC.

Cricinfo learned that the recommendation to block Chingoka came from the UK embassy in Harare, which cited close links between him and the ruling Zanu-PF regime. It was subsequently revealed that he would have been barred from entering the UK last June were it not for the intervention of Richard Caborn, the then minister for media, culture and sports, who stepped in as it was felt such a move would have compromised David Morgan's bid to become the next ICC president.

Andy Burnham, Caborn's successor, has been more bullish in his comments, reflecting a hardening of the government policy towards Zimbabwe under Gordon Brown. The fear within the ECB is that if Chingoka is refused entry the ICC will move the annual meeting away from London. The issue is a likely preliminary skirmish in the much bigger battle of whether Zimbabwe will be allowed to tour England in May and June 2009.

There have been serious concerns over the finances of Zimbabwe Cricket for several years and in June 2007 the ICC demanded an independent forensic audit be undertaken by KPMG. At the time ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed said in a confidential but leaked memo that the auditors and ICC had been "misled" about some transactions, concluding: "It is clear that the accounts of ZC have been deliberately falsified to mask various illegal transactions from the auditors and the government of Zimbabwe."

Cricinfo has learned that ZC will defend its conduct with an explanation that the financial situation inside Zimbabwe, allied to stringent foreign exchange regulations, means that irregular behaviour is not only necessary to enable it to operate but is also normal inside the country. Given that Chingoka has influential allies among other chief executives, it is not believed that any major action will be taken.

The UK government will face tough questions if it does decide to allow Chingoka in, not least from Kate Hoey, the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Zimbabwe, who has described him as a "political commissar" installed by Robert Mugabe, adding that "Zimbabwe's cricket officials are at the heart of the dictatorship's web of corruption and political oppression".

Given that he was not refused a visa last year because of the financial investigation into ZC's finances, critics of Zimbabwe will ask what has changed to make it acceptable for Chingoka to be allowed into the country at the same time the overall government line is hardening.

A source at Westminster suggested that the government's thinking was that if they got hold of the KPMG audit "it would be more difficult for the ICC to sweep it under the carpet ... they seem confident it will damn Chingoka and therefore vindicate the tough line they have adopted".

Friday, March 14, 2008

South Africa No.1 after clean sweep

Albie Morkel claimed 4 for 29 as the Bangladesh batsmen once again failed to get going...

A comprehensive all-round rout of Bangladesh in the third and final one-dayer in Mirpur not only sealed a 3-0 series win for South Africa but also propelled them to the top of the ICC one-day rankings, displacing Australia. South Africa were handed the victory on a platter after another tepid batting display by Bangladesh, who folded up for a paltry 143. Bangladesh's trio of left-arm spinners made the South African batsmen work hard for the runs, but yet again, they just didn't have the cushion of runs to work with.

Bangladesh were let down once more by their batsmen, who persisted with their strategy of freeing their arms during the Powerplays, and refused to buckle down and build an innings while wickets fell in quick succession. Despite winning the toss in all three games, not once did they even come close to posting 200.

Albie Morkel, the wrecker-in-chief with 4 for 29, started the top-order slide, while the offspinner Johan Botha chipped in with three wickets to hasten Bangladesh's surrender in the end.

The openers, Tamim Iqbal and Shahriar Nafees, showed little intention of seeing off the new ball and were beaten for pace on several occasions. Tamim fell to a poor decision, given out caught behind when the bat had only made contact with pad, but the manner in which swished and poked during his short stay inspired no confidence. Nafees fell after getting a start, edging to the keeper after Morne Morkel cramped him for room from round the wicket.

At 41 for 2 and with plenty of overs left, Ashraful had another golden opportunity to play himself in and set the example for the rest. Instead, he seemed desperate to hit his way out of a barren run - his last five innings have fetched him 36 - as he attempted one pull too many and fell rather tamely to Albie, handing an easy catch to Hashim Amla at mid-on.

Nazimuddin's wicket was gift-wrapped for Albie as the batsman walked across his stumps and tried to slog a good length delivery across the line. Botha then got into the act, beating Shakib Al Hasan in flight, before a run-out sent back Raqibul Hasan.

There were no meaningful partnerships to keep South Africa at bay as the spinners - Botha and Paul Harris - choked the runs and chipped in with the wickets. Albie returned to claim Mashrafe Mortaza, his fourth wicket, before de Villiers rounded off a good day behind the stumps with his fifth victim, pouching Mosharaff Hossain off Botha.

With very few runs to defend, the Bangladesh captain Ashraful reverted to opening the bowling with Abdur Razzak, the left-arm spinner, who kept the openers guessing and also tested the patience of Herschelle Gibbs, who fell to a back-foot punch to cover.

Razzak and Shakib, bowling in tandem, regularly landed the ball on the rough outside the left-handers' offstump, getting it to turn sharply. Razzak also got one to kick up alarmingly off a good length to square up Alviro Petersen outside off. Petersen, promoted to No.3, showed plenty of patience against the spinners, but he made just 24 from 54 deliveries before falling lbw when playing forward to an arm ball by Hossain. That gave Hossain his first ODI wicket. Smith's attempt to tuck the spinners for runs on the leg side were often intercepted by the infield, but with the target so meagre, the asking rate was never a worry.

A dull chase lit up once de Villiers walked in and pounded Hossain for two fours over midwicket before caressing Farhad Reza with a square drive past point. Razzak, after a miserly opening spell, came in for some punishment from de Villiers, who improvised superbly. The fifty partnership came off just 58 balls and de Villiers had all but sealed the deal when Reza broke through his defences.

Smith helped himself to his 36th ODI fifty to end the tour on a high for the team and for himself. The quality of opposition was hardly top-class, but South Africa can take plenty of confidence from the manner in which they won every international match on tour. Their next tour - to India - is likely to be a much tougher test, and will probably offer the team a truer indication of their skills in the subcontinent.

Bangladesh v South Africa, 3rd ODI, Mirpur

Anderson five puts England in control

James Anderson rocked New Zealand with 5 for 73...

England grasped control of the second Test in Wellington, with James Anderson picking up his fourth five-wicket haul to help dismiss New Zealand for 198 shortly before stumps on the second day. With a lead of 144, and on what remains an excellent pitch, England's hopes of levelling the three-match series grow by the day.

Before this Test, Michael Vaughan spoke of his excitement at the change in personnel following the semi-ruthless double-axing of Matthew Hoggard and Steve Harmison. And although Tim Ambrose's credentials have increased exponentially following his attractive maiden hundred and silky-smooth keeping, it was Anderson and Stuart Broad - the new, young bowling replacements - who Vaughan most needed to pass the litmus test. Both did just that.

After Ambrose's superb maiden hundred - becoming the first England wicketkeeper in 11 years to reach a ton on foreign soil since Alec Stewart in 1997 - Anderson was immediately to the fore, ripping out New Zealand's top three in perfect bowling conditions. Much as England's lower order had struggled, New Zealand's openers couldn't cope with Anderson's natural away swing. The ball to remove Matthew Bell was as unplayable as Jacob Oram's crackerjack to Vaughan yesterday, knocking over his off stump and giving the bowler the confidence to pitch it up. Jamie How prodded meekly at another outswinger, as did a quizzical Mathew Sinclair, and after 16 overs New Zealand had slipped to a precipitous 31 for 3.

They weren't finished, however. Stephen Fleming - playing for the last time on his home ground - and in particular Ross Taylor took the attack to England in a fourth-wicket stand of 71, laden with counterattacking strokes in front of square. There was a determined (perhaps sentimental) stickiness to Fleming which contrasted starkly with Taylor's natural inclination to force the scoring rate, and the pair made hay while England's concentration noticeably slipped. Monty Panesar's fielding was at its most clumsy and costly, letting through two fours and missing a run-out opportunity - though he was on the receiving end of a dreadfully panicky throw from Kevin Pietersen at cover.

Fleming threw away his wicket with a careless slap to point and, after Taylor brought up an attractive 74-ball fifty, he became Anderson's fifth victim when he pushed forward at another awayswinger. It was Anderson's fourth five-wicket haul, and you could hear the rumbles of discontent grow ever noisier at Auckland's decision to employ him last week.

At 113 for 6 New Zealand were in danger of folding like a pack of cards, but in came their most in-form and dangerous pair, Brendon McCullum and Daniel Vettori, who smacked 52 in little more than five overs. McCullum looked in bristling form, charging Anderson and shuffling to the off side. A wonderful back-foot drive past Broad looked to have dented his confidence, but impressively he had the gumption to pitch it up two balls later, handing Andrew Strauss his second safe slip catch.

Vettori at least managed to cut down England's lead with another hugely valuable and immensely infuriating fifty - brought up off his 42nd ball with the most audacious of uppercuts for six over third man. However, Paul Collingwood mopped up the tail with career-best figures of 3 for 23 as New Zealand were dismissed for 198 with about half-an-hour of the day's play remaining.

Alastair Cook and Vaughan survived the last five overs and, leading by 148, England are in the box seat and ready to bat New Zealand totally out of the game.

New Zealand v England, 2nd Test, Wellington, 2nd day

Court action against ECB inevitable - Greig

Tony Greig, seen here with Kerry Packer, warns the ECB will face another courtroom drama as it did in the 1970s if it doesn't soften its stance...

Tony Greig, a member of the Indian Cricket League (ICL) executive board, believes court action will become inevitable if the English Cricket Board (ECB) decides to ban players appearing in the unofficial Twenty20 tournament.

"I don't see how the ECB will get away with what they're planning," he said. "It'll end up back where we were in 1977 - back in court. It will be tested - you can be assured of that."

Greig's statements came in the wake of the ECB's tough stance against 'unofficial events' and players involved with the ICL. "If you read the ECB statement, they say they're going to be robust on this issue. I'm trying to work out why," said Greig. "If players aren't required to play for their county for six months of the year, then why not play somewhere else? I thought it had been established 30 years ago that you can't stop players plying their trade. Players' rights have to be upheld. Governing bodies do not have the right to restrict players from plying their trade."

Chris Read, the Nottinghamshire wicketkeeper, said last week that he would take the ECB to court if his involvement in the ICL proves to bring an end to his England career. As confusions grow over ICL players, several English counties are concerned that certain players - Shane Bond, Jason Gillespie, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan and Mushtaq Ahmed, to name a few - may be unavailable to them if regulations outlined by the ECB last week prevent them from honouring their county contracts.

"The money is big here and [English players] know they're on good ground [legally]," Greig said. "I can't see how this is hurting English cricket. They're just pandering to India. How can guys like Paul Nixon do harm? They aren't needed by their county in the off season - they're not going to miss any county cricket by playing in the ICL. It's just pressure from India on the ECB."

Greig, a former England captain who sued the English cricket authorities for restraint of trade during the revolutionary Packer revolution, also warned that the manner in which the ICL and Indian Premier League (IPL) are being handled by the Indian board will make the other boards stand up against it.

"Top players from all over the world will quit international cricket to play in the IPL and the ICL, the boards will bleed, and the finger will be pointed at the BCCI," he said. "The Asian boards are in the BCCI's pocket. But what happens to New Zealand, South Africa, England, who are sure to feel the pinch."

"The BCCI is asking for a window from the ICC to host the matches. They may as well get it for now, but the schedules of the other countries will go for a toss. The way the BCCI is functioning right now, it doesn't seem that they are in the mood to compromise."

Indian Cricket League

There are better captains than Smith - Jennings

Ray Jennings: 'I believe there are one or two other guys who are able to lead the team better than he [Smith] does'...

Outspoken former South Africa coach Ray Jennings believes there are better candidates to captain the national side than Graeme Smith.

Jennings has no issue with Smith the batsman, who recently posted a new world Test opening partnership with Neil McKenzie, but does have reservations when it comes to him leading the side. "Graeme Smith is a superb cricketer. He has presence and mental toughness," he told The Wisden Cricketer. "From a captaincy point of view I believe there are one or two other guys who are able to lead the team better than he does."

When pressed to name his preferred candidates, Jennings replied: "Names aren't really important to me. I believe there are better guys to do the job but that's my opinion. As a batsman there's no doubt I'll have Graeme in my side. He's a solid cricketer and a fighter."

When asked to comment on the recent high profile fall out between senior administrators about racial quotas, Jennings said: "South African cricket has to understand that they don't need to put issues like this in the media. They could have had the fight behind closed doors and iron it out there. It has put me and a lot of cricketers in an awkward position.

"I'm sad that coloured players in the team could have a stigma attached, where they feel they are underprivileged when that's not the case. It's not about having a 50-50 or 60-40 split between white and coloured players. In our country the sides are picked on their cricketing ability because the players of colour are good enough to play."

Jennings, who served a six-month stint as national coach, also said he would take up the post if it came around again, but only under his own terms. "I would definitely take it up again but there would be a few conditions. I would look at the combination of the side: how it gets picked. I would also look at my management staff and how I put that together."

In a terse media release, Cricket South Africa said Jennings claimed to have been "misquoted" in the article.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

South Africa look to go No. 1

Mohammad Ashraful needs to back his words with runs...

Against the backdrop of the uncertainty surrounding Andre Nel's international future, the short one-day international series between hosts Bangladesh and South Africa comes to a conclusion in Mirpur. South Africa have already clinched the series, and much of the focus rests on whether they can complete the sweep that will take them past as Australia as the best ODI side in the world.

Reports on Wednesday suggested Nel, upset at being ignored for the upcoming Test series in India, considered quitting South African cricket. Mickey Arthur, South Africa's captain, had to vigorously persuade Nel to play in the second match, where the fast bowler returned figures of 4 for 27. Nel has been South Africa's best bowler of the series, taking seven wickets at 7.28 after he was entrusted the leadership of the attack with Dale Steyn not getting a game.

Whether Nel plays tomorrow is uncertain but South Africa still have options in Steyn, Player-of-the-Series in the 2-0 Test whitewash, and Morne Morkel. South Africa's top order was tested in the second ODI but a match-winning partnership between AB de Villiers and JP Duminy took them home comfortably. For the likes of Duminy, yet to cement his place in the side, and Hashim Amla, only two ODIs old, the final match is another shot to impress in the limited-overs format with a busy international calendar ahead.

Gerald Majola, CSA's chief executive, had one eye on the upcoming Test series in India even as South Africa are poised to sweep the ODI series. "We are confident that [South Africa] will win," he said, "and finish the international season as the best ODI team in world cricket."

For Bangladesh, who have struggled to compete against South Africa, the scenario offers another shot at saving face. Their form, however, suggests South Africa will have few hassles. The previous game, also in Mirpur, could have been a different story altogether had Bangladesh followed captain Mohammad Ashraful's wish after he won the toss and put up a 230-plus score on the board. Bangladesh's batting has been a disappointment in the series - only Tamim Iqbal, Shakib Al Hasan and newcomer Raqibul Hasan managed fifties - and their policy of rotation has come under criticism.

An under-fire Ashraful, after Bangladesh mustered just 173 in 48.2 overs despite a record 119-run stand for the fifth wicket, blamed his batsmen but his own form has been dismal recently. He has scored just eight runs in two games, on the back of a poor Test series, and Bangladesh have won nothing under his captaincy.

Having debuted a crop of young players, and with several veterans either retired or on the way out, Bangladesh continue to be in a period of change. How well they can adapt, having lost the series, and with this being the last opportunity against Test-match opposition before they host Ireland for a three-match series starting March 18, remains to be seen.

Bangladesh v South Africa 3rd ODI live ScoreCard And Latest News

We won't start sledging but we will retaliate - Uthappa

Matthew Hayden gets a royal send-off from Sreesanth during the epic Twenty20 match...

They said the India-Australia series was a summer of spite but, if you believe Robin Uthappa, it all began in the Twenty20 World Championship in South Africa. The Indian team were huddled in a team meeting ahead of the game against Australia when the way to tackle Australia's aggression came up for discussion. "We said they [Australians] generally talk a lot," Uthappa recalls. "We decided that if they start the sledging, we won't sit back and take it. We will give it back. We won't and didn't initiate anything."

The game was meandering along when Uthappa says he had a look at Matthew Hayden and was surprised at the response. "I just looked at him and he went, "What are you looking at? I have played 11 years of international cricket. Give me some respect." And I thought, 'Here is someone I have been looking up to for the last eight or nine years and this is the kind of person he is.' When he said that he became very human to me, like any other mortal. So I give it to him nowadays.

"Don't get me wrong, I am a massive fan of Hayden. I hold him in a very high regard. If he had not started it, I would have never started it. He started it and my regard for him dropped."

That sowed the seeds for what happened during the Tests and, especially, the subsequent CB Series; the meltdown in behaviour during the Sydney Test and in its aftermath has passed into cricket infamy. Some of the sledges appear as simple mind games, some plain funny while a few get personal and abusive.

Uthappa's favourite is one directed at Hayden. "This boy has got an average of 27," Uthappa recalls Hayden telling his teammates as he walked in to bat. "Let's bring it down to 20 before he leaves Australia." "I turned around and told him, 'You know Matt, if you had batted in different positions that I have batted in you wouldn't even have had the average of 20."'

Uthappa waited for Hayden to come out to bat so he could have a go. "Boys, here is the person who talks about averages but he has hardly won any games for his country." And, on a funnier note: "Here is the guy who has hardly any hair but does head and shoulders ads."

It wasn't all funny, he concedes; a few sledges got personal and abusive. "It does get personal but it doesn't have to. Sledging is an art; you don't have to use abusive language. The best sledging happens when you don't abuse."

How did the sledging affect the players? Uthappa believes it did work against the Australians. "These little things that you say really ticks them off. They don't expect us to retaliate and, when we do, they don't know what to do. You can make out that it's affecting them. You can pick cues, especially with Ponting. When he came out to bat, we would say, 'There's an edge coming across. It's just a matter of time.' With Symonds, it would be pretty much about his hair, with Adam Gilchrist, it was about him having a good farewell."

Did the vitiated atmosphere in the middle affect relations off the field? Not to the full extent, Uthappa says, though he traces change in personal equations from before the tour and once the hostility began. "Even with Symonds, in India, we had a good time. We went out one evening; we went for a drink and chatted about the game. With Brett Lee, too, there is this constant sledging between us but off the field we are very good mates. We end up talking and going out.

You can pick cues, especially with Ponting. When he came out to bat, we would say, 'There's an edge coming across. It's just a matter of time.' With Symonds, it would be pretty much about his hair, with Adam Gilchrist, it was about him having a good farewell."

"At the end of the CB series I went and met Gilly. I am a great fan of his and have enjoyed his batting all through his career. I spoke to Lee as well, met Ricky briefly, and didn't really speak to Hayden. Symonds wasn't around. I spent around 30 minutes in their dressing room. It was quite good."

With the series done, Uthappa says sledging will be off the agenda - unless it is against Australia. "We would never initiate it but now I know, if I am playing Australia I will sledge because I know they won't keep quiet later. So I might as well start. I'd say the whole team will get aggressive."

To must observers there seems little difference between sledging and abuse so the question remains of how far the line can be pushed. Uthappa maintains that the team that fields first draws the line. "If they start sledging, they draw the line. They can take it as far as they can take it. At what level they stop, the other team shouldn't cross. They have the right to take it up to that level."

Ultimately, what will be of concern is the effect of on-field behaviour on spectators, especially children. To the general feeling that cricketers are role models and should behave appropriately while on the field, Uthappa responds by saying it's the parents' responsibility to counsel their children.

"One has to understand it's a sport. When you are playing sport it [sledging] is understandable, I think it should be allowed. Fine, it's our responsibility as well to be well-behaved and I think we do a fairly good job of it. I think its responsibility of people watching as well to make the children understand that what level and where you can do some thing like that."

So will aggression be wired into the DNA of future Indian cricketers? Uthappa is, again, unambiguous: "It's good for Indian cricket that aggressive young Indians are coming up. When you see the Aussie youngsters, or any youngsters for that matter, they are quite brash and come across as quite confident. I think you need youngsters like that in India. You don't want quiet boys going out there and playing cricket."

Uthappa pauses before adding, "No one in cricket is a saint."

Refreshed Tait likely to return

Shaun Tait: "The one big thing I have learnt about myself is I do enjoy cricket"...

Shaun Tait, the Australian fast bowler who recently took an indefinite break from cricket, has said he is feeling refreshed and plans to return to the fold.

Tait, 25, walked away from cricket indefinitely following his unsuccessful return to the Test team in January, citing physical and emotional exhaustion.

"In the last two weeks I've started to feel like myself again," he told reporters in Melbourne. "I'm thinking about cricket more and thinking about playing cricket again. It's a good sign.

"The one big thing I have learnt about myself is I do enjoy cricket. It is a part of my life and will be a part of my life for the future."

Tait looked ahead to the next domestic season, starting in October, but said he would be adopting a different approach this time. "When I do come back and play I'm not going to worry about the speed gun as much as I used to," he said.

"I'm my own worst enemy. Everyone talks it up. Everyone looks at me for one reason. That I can bowl fast and that's it. I'm going to work on other parts of my game as well."

He also spoke of the advice he had received from Brett Lee regarding the mental aspect of the game. "His trick was bowling better lines and just worrying about being a mature bowler rather than trying to be the fastest bowler of all time."

Nel doesn't intend to quit - Majola

The ICL is looking at signing on Andre Nel but the South African board says he doesn't plan on retiring from international cricket...

Gerald Majola, the chief executive of Cricket South Africa, has said that Andre Nel will continue to play for the country and denied reports that he is planning to quit international cricket after being omitted from the India-bound Test squad. However, Cricinfo has learned that the unofficial Indian Cricket League are in discussions with Nel to sign him up.

Majola told Cricinfo he spoke to Nel on Wednesday after the second one-dayer against Bangladesh in Mirpur and Nel assured CSA he didn't intend to quit. "He told me that he has not quit and does not intend to do so either. The controversy was created by other people, and not Nel," Majola said.

Nel was replaced for the India tour by Charl Langeveldt under CSA's transformation policy, which mandates at least six players of colour in a 14-man squad. Nel was said to be so disappointed that he refused to appear for the post-match presentation ceremony to receive his Man-of-the-Match award after a spirited, match-winning 4 for 27.

Tony Irish, the chief executive of the South Africa Cricketers' Association, told Cricinfo that the SACA and even team captain Graeme Smith was disappointed for Nel.

"I have spoken to Smith about this and like us, he is very disappointed for Nel," Irish said. "But we cannot interfere in selection matters. It is not our business but we hope this situation is resolved amicably."

Meanwhile, sources in the ICL say they have contacted Nel and are keen to sign him up. CSA sources dismissed this possibility saying that Nel was among the 15 players who had signed a South Africa contract last month, and stands to be sued in case of a breach.

"The allrounder Justin Kemp was also keen to join the ICL last year but didn't do so because he was contracted with us and could have been sued," the sources said. "The contract is up to March every year, and Kemp signed on this time after that."

Nel has not toured India before and has taken eight wickets in his four Tests in the subcontinent. The first Test starts in Chennai on March 26.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

New Zealand bowlers take control

Jacob Oram's remarkable spell after lunch completely redressed the balance...

Having dominated the morning session, England lost a flurry of five wickets between lunch and tea as New Zealand fought back brilliantly on the first day of the second Test in Wellington. At lunch, England were 79 for 0 and the failings of their batsmen in Hamilton looked to be a distant memory. But Jacob Oram produced a miserly, attacking spell of 2 for 6 from nine overs straight after lunch to completely redress the balance and leave England fighting to stay alive.

The switch in momentum was as dramatic as it was surprising. Whereas Michael Vaughan and Alastair Cook put on 79 before lunch at a decent rate of 2.92 an over, England imploded after the interval - though it took a magic ball from Oram to dislodge Vaughan. Two deliveries after lunch Oram angled one into him, the ball cutting away slightly from Vaughan's forward push and it brushed the top of his off stump - an 80mph legbreak. Oram's dramatic impact was all the more surprising given his solid if unspectacular performance in Hamilton (2 for 25 from 29), yet England were prepared to treat him with rather more respect than perhaps he deserved. Admittedly his length was nagging, but by no means was he as unplayable as the strokelessness of England suggested.

Soon after, Cook - having stroked his way to 44 to become the youngest England batsman to pass 2000 Test runs - fished at a teaser from Oram outside his off stump to hand Brendon McCullum a simple chance. It was a loose, nervous stroke - waftily poking away from his body - and left England with Andrew Strauss and Kevin Pietersen at the crease, neither of whom were in decent form.

Oram was well supported by Kyle Mills who, though he lacked the incisiveness of his fine spell in Hamilton, had the gumption to pitch the ball up more often than not. Inevitably it produced the odd boundary - Strauss rolled back the years with a beautiful drive straight back past him - but Mills got his man with a perfect slower ball that utterly foxed Strauss into loosely looping one to point. England had slipped to 94 for 3 and, with it, totally lost the momentum.

It was Ian Bell's awful, nervous hook which summed England's modus operandi perfectly. In he marched to face Mills who dropped in a bouncer, and Bell hooked it from outside the off stump to top edge it just short of Mark Gillespie, who made his return to the New Zealand side, at fine leg. Had a more agile fielder been stationed there, England would have rightly slipped to four down. Bell was dropped by McCullum in the next over off Oram - a tricky chance diving to his right - and though he creamed Chris Martin for the most textbook of fours as tea neared, a feeble push ended his innings on 11 to leave England in serious trouble.

The one man who continues to threaten - even when he's not in prime form - is Pietersen. He scratched around against Martin and Mills early in his innings but, with the flurry of wickets at the other end, the occasional nudge through the covers and whip through midwicket kept his score ticking over. When he slapped Gillespie past mid-on for four, there was a sense the Pietersen of old might be returning, but it wasn't to be. Gillespie - like Oram two hours previously - produced a corker which cut back on Pietersen, to bowl him through the gate for 31.

England have rung the changes for this game, dropping Steve Harmison and Matthew Hoggard, and at lunch they appeared to have quelled the demons of Hamilton. How quickly fortunes can change. In two hours, New Zealand have shown the benefit of a disciplined line and length to pray on the insecurities and technical frailties of England's top-order, and it has paid dividends.

England 1 Alastair Cook, 2 Michael Vaughan (capt), 3 Andrew Strauss, 4 Kevin Pietersen, 5 Ian Bell, 6 Paul Collingwood, 7 Tim Ambrose (wk), 8 Stuart Broad, 9 Ryan Sidebottom, 10 James Anderson, 11 Monty Panesar.

New Zealand 1 Jamie How, 2 Matthew Bell, 3 Stephen Fleming, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Mathew Sinclair, 6 Jacob Oram, 7 Brendon McCullum (wk), 8 Daniel Vettori (capt), 9 Mark Gillespie, 10 Kyle Mills, 11 Chris Martin.

New Zealand v England 2nd Test Live Score Card And Latest News

Pakistan hope to face Australia within a year

Tim Nielsen, Australia's coach, has not finalised Australia's schedule for May, but he believes Twenty20 games would be good preparation for the West Indies tour...

The Pakistan Cricket Board will look to reschedule Australia's Test tour in November or next March after the original trip was postponed on Tuesday. Australia's players are relieved the decision was made to cancel the visit over security and saftey concerns, but they are still due in the country for the Champions Trophy tournament in October, an event David Morgan, the ICC president-elect, wants to go ahead as planned.

Shafqat Naghmi, the PCB's chief operating officer, told the Sydney Morning Herald Cricket Australia had asked the hosts to propose a new date. "We have looked at the international schedule and all of the other factors, and we think either November this year or March next year would be a good time for the tour to go ahead," Naghmi said. "If it was to proceed in November, it would most likely be a split tour, with the Australians then coming back in March.

"But if it were to take place in March, it would be a full tour. From reading James Sutherland's statements, I think he favours March." Australia are also due in India in October and will host a Test series against New Zealand and start a contest with South Africa before the end of 2008.

Both the PCB and the Australian government do not believe the Indian Premier League (IPL), which is due to start on April 18, had any influence on the team staying home. "There have been suggestions that somehow the decision by Cricket Australia and the Pakistan Cricket Board is related to proposed Twenty20 games in India," Stephen Smith, Australia's foreign minister, said in the Australian.

"I absolutely reject that suggestion. From the first time I had a conversation with Cricket Australia about this matter, I was absolutely convinced that CA had the security, safety and welfare of their players and any members of a touring party uppermost in their minds."

The window in the calendar theoretically frees Australia's players to take part in the lucrative IPL, but there have been suggestions Cricket Australia will stage a short limited-overs series before leaving for the West Indies on May 10. However, Tim Nielsen, the national coach, has not finalised Australia's schedule and believes Twenty20 games would be good preparation.

"As long as it fits in and Cricket Australia is comfortable with it, I don't have any problem," Nielsen told the Age. "It is nice that they can play some competitive cricket. I always encourage guys to be playing county cricket when it fits in because it is nice to be playing competitive, organised cricket. It is probably the best preparation they can get to put their bodies through those sorts of workloads."

Michael Clarke and Stuart Clark joined Matthew Hayden and Brett Lee in welcoming the decision to pull out of the tour. "I don't think 'disappointed' is the right word - I'm rapt Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers' Association made the decision and it didn't have to come down to individual players," Clarke told AAP. "I'm very relieved and happy they've done that for the playing group."

Clark said the squad was worried about the situation in Pakistan. "I don't think anyone likes it when a cricket tour gets called off because that's our job, but there were obviously concerns from everyone involved," he said. "We were getting third-hand information, reading the papers and listening to the news on the TV and we were obviously getting the sensational news about bombings and stuff like that."

Nel considers quitting over quota selection

Andre Nel was devastated following his omission from the Test squad for the tour to India...

Cricket South Africa's transformation policy has once again cast its shadow over the national team with reports emerging that Andre Nel is contemplating leaving international cricket after being omitted from the India-bound Test squad.

"Andre has not made any decision on his future yet," Michael Owen-Smith, the South African media manager, told Cricinfo. "He's a contracted player till April. We have not been notified of anything."

Nel, currently with the one-day squad in Bangladesh, was replaced by Charl Langeveldt under Cricket South Africa's transformation policy, which mandates at least six players of colour in a 14-man squad.

Nel was so devastated on hearing of his omission that the team management considered leaving him out of the second ODI against Bangladesh in Mirpur today. Owen-Smith denied reports, however, that he refused to play the game.

"He was chosen in the XI last evening before the squad announcement was made. He was obviously down on hearing the news and the team were very concerned. They left it to him to take a final call and, after consideration, he said he would play. He's a very responsible player and showed what it means to him today."

Nel ended up taking four wickets, including two in his first two overs, a performance that won him the Man-of-the-Match award. However he didn't make an appearance at the post-match press conference, not wanting to discuss his omission. "He had endured a very emotional 24 hours and he didn't want to speak to anyone later," Smith said. "It's understandable and he didn't attend the media briefing after the day."

The selection convenor, Joubert Strydom, said he could not comment on those reports. "I don't know whether that is true or not," Strydom said, "but I would have been disappointed in Andre if he had been happy that he had been dropped."

Mickey Arthur, South Africa's coach, was reported as saying that he had to persuade Nel to play the match. "His axing from the squad was devastating for him," Arthur told Cape Argus.

"I had to talk him through the process and told him how important it was for him to take the field [against Bangladesh on Wednesday]. And though still very upset, he eventually agreed to play."

A row had erupted between Arthur and CSA president Norman Arendse over the Test team originally selected for the Bangladesh tour. The naming of the squad was subsequently delayed, but despite CSA's reaffirmation of its transformation policy, the squad finally chosen didn't meet the required targets.

Nel has not toured India before and has taken eight wickets in his four Tests in the subcontinent.

Nel and de Villiers star in series win

Andre Nel channeled his feelings onto the field with a four-for against a feeble Bangladesh...

South Africa came one step closer to usurping Australia as the No. 1 one-day side in the world with a comfortable seven-wicket victory in Mirpur. Andre Nel scythed through Bangladesh's top order after they chose to bat and though the tourists suffered a wobble of their own, AB de Villiers and JP Duminy sealed the series with a battling 119-run partnership for the fourth wicket. Bar a record fifth-wicket stand of 119 between Shakib Al Hasan and Raqibul Hasan, which proved the bulk of a poor 173 in 48.2 overs, there was little the hosts could take out of their 13th defeat on the trot.

Bangladesh had little answer to Nel, who took out his anger at not being included on the upcoming tour to India with a fiery opening burst. Tamim Iqbal was bowled third ball, Mohammad Ashraful fell hooking for 0, and Shahriar Nafees went fishing outside off stump. But unlike their trigger-happy top-order team-mates, Shakib and Raqibul, in his second game, complimented each other excellently with smart shots and sensible running.

Having seen off the nasty Nel, Shakib - who crossed 1000 ODI runs - and Raqibul picked easy runs to revive their side from 18 for 4. From the time spin was introduced, Shakib was down the track, trying to create room and get on top of the opposition. The new ball deviated but with the spinners achieving little from the surface, the duo was able to come onto the front foot and drive comfortably.

Raqibul's maiden fifty came up from 78 balls in the 31st over and the 100-partnership followed in the next. Rather than try and blast the part-time bowlers out of the park, Shakib and Raqibul milked them for easy singles and the run-rate inched higher.

Another collapse followed, however, as Smith called back Charl Langevelt in the 36th over. Raqibul chipped to mid-off for 63 and the lower order flopped against Nel's accuracy. Some rejuvenated fielding limited Bangladesh to five less than they made in the series opener. South Africa needed one substantial partnership to see them home to a target of 174 but Bangladesh's bowlers made it a bit tougher than perhaps expected. Herschelle Gibbs failed again and Hashim Amla was cut off just as he began to look good and the biggest blow was losing the in-form Smith.

Trying to drive at one pitched into the rough outside off stump, Smith could only drag the ball back on after it brushed his pads. Adbur Razzak kept it full and flat and the fielders were appealing whenever the ball hit the pad. Surprisingly, Ashraful took off Razzak soon after and spread his field. With an inexperienced lower order to follow, South Africa should have been forced on the back foot but they were allowed easy singles.

de Villiers and Duminy's modus operandi was essentially the same: shuffle across, hope the ball doesn't turn much, and flick the ball into the gaps. Mid-way through South Africa's innings the surface had eased out so batting was not difficult and the duo ticked along without much hassle.

de Villiers was his usual bristling self. A flick, a dab, a cut for two, a ramrod-straight punch for four, and he had the fielders on their toes. A good judge of a run, de Villiers pushed Duminy for quick singles, mostly worked off the pads. Always shuffling around in an attempt to unsettle the bowlers de Villiers picked up his 13th half-century, one that included only two boundaries and a six to seal the win. He cramped up with a hamstring shortly after going past fifty but stuck on to finish unbeaten on 69.

With the likes of Jacques Kallis rested and Gibbs not firing, South Africa had reason to be impressed with Duminy's effort. There was minimal fuss about his strokeplay; he repeatedly took the liberty of the sweep from outside off stump, a shot which has been his downfall in the past, but today it all worked well. After his joint Player-of-the-Series award in his last outing, against West Indies at home, this was another clinical effort from the young left-hander.

The first four of their match-winning stand didn't come until the 127th ball of de Villiers and Duminy's time together, but by then victory was a mere formality. Without taking any risks South Africa were over the finish line in the 49th over.

It wasn't a pretty win, but with sterner stuff around the corner it was time well spent testing their strengths.

Bangladesh v South Africa, 2nd ODI, Mirpur

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Mascarenhas signs with Indian Premier League

Dimitri Mascarenhas: off to India...

England and Hampshire allrounder Dimitri Mascarenhas has signed for the Indian Premier League's Jaipur franchise.

Mascarenhas becomes the first English player to agree a contract with the IPL, and the move comes with the blessing of Hampshire. "We reached agreement at 2am today," Rod Bransgrove, the county's chairman, told Cricinfo. "The deal is that he will have limited exposure to the IPL this season and will be a Hampshire player for the next two seasons. It takes into account the realities of the situation."

Fraser Castellino, the CEO of the Jaipur franchise, told Cricinfo the discussions had begun a few days ago, with the IPL kept in the loop. "He will be available with us 100% for the first season," he said.

However, that claim appears to go against a media release issued by Hampshire a few hours later in which they said that Mascarenhas would play in the IPL between May 12 and 26 this year and then all of 2009 and 2010. In return, he had signed a two-year extension to his contract and it was been agreed that in the event of a clash in any future Champions League, Hampshire would have priority. They concluded by stating he would will miss five Friends Provident games and one Championship match this May.

Hampshire, who will be compensated for the time he is away, will issue Mascarenhas with a No Objection Certificate, freeing him to play in India. As he is not centrally contracted to the national team, the ECB will not need to give its approval.

West Indies president raises IPL concerns

Julian Hunte: "We are deeply concerned about the future impact of leagues like the IPL on our cricket"...

Julian Hunte, the president of the West Indies Cricket Board, has expressed his concern over the impact that the two Indian Twenty20 leagues might have on cricket in the Caribbean.

Speaking as he prepared to attend next week's ICC executive board meeting in Dubai, Hunte spoke of his worry that the Indian Premier League will be taking place during tours by Sri Lanka and Australia.

"We are deeply concerned about the future impact of leagues like the IPL on our cricket, particularly when their seasons are in direct competition with our tours or our domestic season," Hunte said. "We and New Zealand will be the big losers. Already it is clear that three of our players [Chris Gayle, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan] will have to choose between representing teams in the IPL or representing their region. Given the amount of money at stake, it already seems to be a foregone conclusion.

"We also have the ICL and again the dilemma faced by our players. We just had the example of a player who would have been selected for the WI team but who went to the ICL."

Hunte said that the possibility of having a window in the international calendar to accommodate the IPL had been raised by the WICB's Dr Donald Peters at the recent ICC meeting of chief executive officers.

"The IPL is the second biggest threat facing West Indies," Peters said. "There is an even bigger one. There is a move to limit the first tier of Test-playing countries to the top seven which will then leave the West Indies with only Bangladesh and Zimbabwe to play."

"The WICB will never allow this to happen," Hunte responded. "In most of the cricket playing countries of the world, we are the team they like most after their national team. However, we have to use this as motivation to get back to the top of world cricket. Our players must be mindful of this when they go out to play since if our standing in world cricket does not improve we might find our options and opportunities severely limited."

Hunte also spoke of his unhappiness at the way Steve Bucknor was removed from officiating in the aftermath of the infamous Sydney Test between Australia and India in January.

"When Steve Bucknor, our premier regional umpire, was removed and replaced, I wrote to the ICC asking for information, essentially the reasons why the ICC acted as it did. I said at the time that the ICC was setting a dangerous precedent but that before we took a decision on the matter we needed to know more. So far, I have not received the information I sought and I consider this an insult to the WICB which is a full-member of the ICC."

Jayasuriya faces axe for West Indies series

Sanath Jayasuriya: The final farewell?...

Sanath Jayasuriya faces being dropped from Sri Lanka's one-day squad for the three-match series against West Indies, starting next month. Cricinfo has learned the side has been picked - without Jayasuriya - and is awaiting ratification by the sports minister.

The squad is also likely to be without Muttiah Muralitharan, the offspinner, and Lasith Malinga, the fast bowler. While Murali is being rested, Malinga is believed to have suffered a knee injury that will require rest for about three to four weeks. He will be replaced by fast bowler Nuwan Kulasekara for the Test and ODI series.

Jayasuriya, 38, the seniormost cricketer in the Sri Lanka team with 411 ODI appearances, will make way for Mahela Udawatte, the hard-hitting opener who is being spoken of as his future successor. Udawatte, 21, plays for Chilaw Marians.

Since his 63 in the World Cup final against Australia last year, Jayasuriya has had a poor run of form. He has failed to pass 50 even once in his last 20 ODI innings, scoring 305 runs at an average of 15.25. His decision to retire from Tests and focus on ODIs hasn't helped his batting either.

The selectors are believed to have picked the uncapped Ajantha Mendis, of Army SC, in Murali's place. Mendis, who celebrated his 23rd birthday on Tuesday, is also an offspinner and, with 54 wickets at an average of ten, the leading wicket-taker in the current Premier League season. He will operate alongside legspinner Malinga Bandara.

Sources in the selection committee said the decision was aimed at preserving Muralitharan, who turns 36 next month, for the 2011 World Cup. He will appear only in important ODI tournaments.

Conditions to favour spin again

Mohammad Ashraful will be looking to end his losing streak as Bangladesh's ODI captain ...

Bangladesh will once again employ three spinners as they head to Mirpur for the second ODI against South Africa. Conditions in Mirpur, the venue for both the second and third ODIs, are expected to be similar to those of the first match in Chittagong, which South Africa won comfortably by nine wickets.

For the hosts, Mashrafe Mortaza makes a return to the playing XI and will spearhead the attack in place of Shahadat Hossain. Mortaza, the vice-captain, was overlooked for the first ODI, in which Bangladesh opted for three left-arm spinners in Abdur Razzak, Shakib Al Hasan, and Mosharraf Hossain.

The other change for Bangladesh has Junaid Siddique making way for Nazimuddin, who will become the sixth ODI debutant in the series. "We rested Mortaza in Chittagong and hopefully he will be fresh and energized for tomorrow's match. We need him to be in his best form with the ball. His big-hitting in the closing overs will also an added bonus," Mohammad Ashraful, the Bangladesh captain, said. "Junaid we feel is a little low on confidence after not getting the runs in ODIs. He has featured in partnerships but has not made the scores he is capable of. He has been given a break."

Bangladesh's persistence with spin means the pitch is again likely to be low and slow, also acknowledged by Mickey Arthur, the South Africa coach. "We will have our work cut out once again for the second and third matches as the conditions will be virtually the same," Arthur told the Independent. "There's nothing in the pitch that indicates that the quick bowlers will have any juice in it for them. They will need to put their backs into it and stick rigidly with their disciplines."

South Africa restricted Bangladesh to 178 in Chittagong on Sunday, and all their frontline bowlers were among the wickets. Andre Nel was the most impressive of the lot - with 3 for 24 off his ten overs. The visitors played two spinners in Johan Botha and Paul Harris, and Arthur indicated the two would feature in Wednesday's match.

"It certainly looks that way," Arthur said. "But a final decision will be made after a practice session later today. We don't know what the curator is going to be up to this [Monday] morning as he was still working on the track late yesterday. These issues change by the hour in this part of the world and until their job is complete you cannot cast anything in stone."

Graeme Smith and Herschelle Gibbs led the chase in Chittagong, but an inexperienced middle-order - with Jacques Kallis rested for the series - is a vulnerability Bangladesh could exploit if they can make early inroads.

Wins in both matches will see South Africa jump to the top spot in the ICC rankings for ODI teams, and would be the ideal way to head to the tougher test that awaits them in India.

Bangladesh: 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Nazimuddin, 3 Shahriar Nafees, 4 Mohammad Ashraful (capt), 5 Shakib Al Hasan, 6 Raqibul Hasan, 7 Dhiman Ghosh (wk), 8 Mashrafe Mortaza, 9 Mosharraf Hossain, 10 Abdur Razzak, 11 Syed Rasel

South Africa (probable): 1 Graeme Smith (capt), 2 Herschelle Gibbs, 3 Hashim Amla, 4 JP Duminy, 5 AB de Villiers (wk), 6 Alviro Peterson, 7 Albie Morkel, 8 Johan Botha, 9 Paul Harris, 10 Andre Nel, 11 Charl Langeveldt

Bangladesh v South Africa, 2nd ODI, Mirpur

Australia postpone Pakistan tour

James Sutherland: "The safety and security of our employees must come first"...

Australia have confirmed that they will not go ahead with their scheduled tour of Pakistan later this month due to security concerns. The series has not officially been cancelled but rather postponed, however it is unlikely to be played this year.

"We are very sorry that the tour could not take place at this time," Creagh O'Connor, Cricket Australia's chairman, said. "This was a difficult decision based on independent review of the circumstances prevailing in Pakistan at the moment. We wish no loss to the Pakistan Cricket Board and look forward to undertaking this tour in the near future."

O'Connor and Nasim Ashraf, the chairman of the PCB, will meet in Dubai next weekend in an attempt to determine possible dates for the deferred tour.

"We are obviously very disappointed at this decision," Ashraf said. "I guess there is not much we could do and we sincerely hope that the tour of Australia to Pakistan can materialise at the earliest opportunity."

James Sutherland, the chief executive of Cricket Australia, said Australia's busy programme meant it would not be easy to find a spot to reschedule the series. "There's a couple of windows in 2009 and 2010," Sutherland said. "There might be a little bit of massaging in order to make that happen but I guess that's what we're setting our sights on at the moment. The way our programme is at the moment, for Australian players, it's probably unlikely [we can play sooner]."

In recent weeks it had become increasingly unlikely that Australia would go ahead with the tour as some players were reportedly unwilling to go due to concerns about ongoing violence in the country. However, Sutherland said neither the opinion of the players nor the latest bombings - at least 15 people were killed in suicide attacks in Lahore on Tuesday, less than two hours before the announcement - had influenced the decision.

"We drew some conclusions from our discussions with the government and other advisers last week that saw us in a position of really seeing that there wouldn't be any other alternative," he said. "We raised that matter with the Pakistan Cricket Board at the end of last week and left them to consider the implications of that over the weekend.

"We're very disappointed that this tour won't be going ahead. We've left no stone unturned in trying to ensure that the tour could proceed as planned but at the end of the day for us the safety and security of our employees must come first and we've been left with no alternative."

Cricket Australia was briefed by the Australian government last week, however Sutherland said the recommendations of independent advisers had also been taken into consideration. "The starting point is to look at the federal government's advice to Australian travelers to Pakistan and it's not favourable," he said. "The question for us is then to have a closer look and say, what are the implications for an Australian cricket team given those quite serious warnings that are in place."

Series unlikely until at least 2009

Lawson criticises tour postponement

Geoff Lawson: "It is a shame that we are not playing Australia at a time when they are beatable"...

Pakistan coach Geoff Lawson has expressed disappointment at the Australian board's decision to indefinitely postpone the Pakistan tour, an announcement which came soon after twin bomb blasts struck Lahore killing at least 21 people .

"I don't think they [Australia] are justified in postponing the series. I am living in Pakistan and feel secure," Lawson, who is an Australian national, said. "I am disappointed, although it was expected. It is a shame that we are not playing Australia at a time when they are beatable."

Australia were slated to play a game in Lahore, but Lawson felt the postponement would affect Pakistan cricket. "There is an immediate disappointment of not having the best team in Pakistan and its a loss for players, fans, and administrators.

"It may have a major effect in the short term and its up to the PCB to assure that it will not have a major effect in the longer run," Lawson said. "I think the Australians should have come here full steam ahead."

Lawson said the security situation in Pakistan was unrelated to cricket. "Bombs do go off. You can't argue with that. But they're focused on particular targets that have nothing to do with sport, and particularly nothing to do with cricket."

Pakistan board confident of future commitments

Nasim Ashraf: "We are very confident our cricket will continue. The Asia Cup is very much on towards the end of June"...

Despite Australia's decision to postpone their tour to Pakistan, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) remains confident that future international commitments in the country will go ahead as scheduled.

Nasim Ashraf, the PCB chairman, said he was particularly disappointed Australia made the decision without sending a security team, as had been planned, to assess the situation in Pakistan. "Our consistent plea has been that at least the ground situation here should be assessed by Cricket Australia, but they said that they had made independent assessments and the decision was based on that," Ashraf told Cricinfo.

Hours before the decision was made, two suicide blasts rocked Lahore, killing at least 20 people. Once thought to be a safe venue - it was on the itinerary for the Australia series - this was the fourth attack in the city this year, highlighting just how much the situation has deteriorated.

Ashraf, however, pointed to recent international tours as proof cricket and cricketers remain unaffected. "Our position is that these blasts have been happening for the last two years. That hasn't changed now and we have had four international tours to Pakistan recently, including South Africa, Zimbabwe and Australia A. These are tragic incidents and paint a bad picture of the country, but they are targeted specifically at security institutions."

Pakistan is set to host the Asia Cup towards the end of June - the Indian and Sri Lankan boards have confirmed they will take part, though that was before Australia's decision. As for the ICC Champions Trophy in October and the Asia Cup, assignments which may be affected by Australia's pull-out and the generally unstable security environment in the country, Ashraf remained confident that they will go ahead as scheduled.

"We are very confident our cricket will continue. The Asia Cup is very much on towards the end of June. Arjuna Ranatunga [Sri Lanka Cricket chairman] and the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) will be here soon to finalise plans for that," Ashraf said. "The Champions Trophy is on soon after that and the ICC will also try and ensure that all teams take part in that. India are due to come here at the end of the year as well."

The board is also working on plans to fill up their calendar over the coming months now that Australia has pulled out. They are in talks with Bangladesh for a series of ODIs in April, as well as a possible tri-series in August. "We are confident Bangladesh will come over in April and we are trying to get two international teams over for a tri-series after that.

"A number of teams will want practice before the Champions Trophy so we are looking to invite sides over in the window before it as well."

Australia postpones Pakistan tour

Bangalore snap up Misbah-ul-Haq

Misbah-ul-Haq was the first high-profile player to be signed up in the second round of auctions...

Misbah-ul-Haq, the Pakistan batsman, and India's Under-19 World Cup-winning captain Virat Kohli have been bought by the Bangalore Royal Challengers in the second round of the Indian Premier League's player auction in Mumbai on Tuesday. Misbah, who nearly took Pakistan to victory in the ICC World Twenty20 last year, was bought for US$125,000.

Dimitri Mascarenhas, the England allrounder, was signed on by the Jaipur franchise for $100000, making him the first England player to be auctioned at the IPL. There had been a question mark over the participation of English players - excluded from the first round of the auction - in the IPL season, as it overlaps with the beginning of the county season. However, his county, Hampshire, has said it will give Mascarenhas the necessary no-objection certificate.

The Jaipur franchise also signed up South African fast bowler Morne Morkel ($60,000), Australian allrounder Shane Watson ($125000), Pakistan left-arm fast bowler Sohail Tanvir ($100000) and a couple of Indian U-19 players in Taruwar Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja.

The Kolkata franchise, now named the Kolkata Knight Riders, has bought two Pakistanis - Salman Butt ($100,000) and Mohammad Hafeez ($100,000) - and two U-19 players in Siddarth Kaul and Iqbal Abdulla.

The Australians James Hopes ($300,000) and Luke Pomersbach ($50,000) and New Zealand bowler Kyle Mills ($150,000), have been bought by the Mohali franchise, in addition to two U-19 players in Tanmay Srivastava and Ajitesh Argal.

Pradeep Sangwan, the left-arm seamer who impressed in his debut Ranji Trophy season and at the U-19 World Cup, will represent the Delhi Daredevils, as will Brett Geeves ($50,000), the Tasmanian fast bowler who's yet to play for Australia.

Bangalore also signed up Bangladesh left-arm spinner Abdur Razzak ($50,000), New Zealand batsman Ross Taylor ($100,000) and Indian U-19 wicketkeeper Shreevats Goswami.

South African batsman Ashwell Prince was bought by the Mumbai Indians for $175,000, in addition to U-19 players in Saurabh Tiwary and Manish Pandey. Napoleon Einstein and Abhinav Mukund, two Tamil Nadu players from the U-19 World Cup, and Vidarbha's Viraj Kadbe will represent the Chennai Super Kings.

ICC needn't get involved in Harbhajan issue - Shah

Niranjan Shah said the Indian board didn't complain after Matthew Hayden's "obnoxious weed" comment about Harbhajan Singh...

BCCI secretary Niranjan Shah has questioned the need for the ICC to get involved in the controversy over Indian offspinner Harbhajan Singh's alleged remarks about Australian players Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist. The Australian media have reported that the ICC is investigating Harbhajan's comments.

"I'm surprised that with the correspondence between two boards, how the ICC has interfered in this?" Shah told the Australian. "How is the ICC involved without knowing anything? There is nothing to investigate and we maintain that we totally support ICC on zero tolerance of abusive language or any sledging on the ground."

Shah also told the paper that he considered the issue of Harbhajan's alleged outburst closed. Cricket Australia had written a letter to the BCCI expressing its discontent after it was reported that Harbhajan had called the Australian team "arrogant", labelled Hayden a "big liar" and said that Gilchrist was "no saint".

"The whole thing has been settled and I don't want to get into it any more," Shah said. "Harbhajan Singh has totally denied what he has (been alleged to have) said." This comes a day after the Indian board gagged Harbhajan from talking to the media in a bid to avoid any more controversies after an ill-tempered series between India and Australia.

Shah also denied that the BCCI had asked CA to take action against Hayden after he called Harbhajan an "obnoxious weed". CA had reprimanded Hayden for breaching its Code of Conduct after that incident. "I never complained about what Hayden said. I just took what appeared in the newspapers and forwarded it to James [Sutherland, Cricket Australia's CEO]," Shah said. "I had always maintained that it was up to CA to do anything with Hayden."

Jonty Rhodes Catches

Arguably the best fielder in world cricket, Jonty Rhodes has produced some of the most awesome catches. His fielding efforts are not only elegant for the audience but also able to change the course of a game.

His one day batting record is also very good. Rhodes scored 5935 runs in one day internationals with 2 centuries and 33 half centuries playing a total of 245 matches.

Sachin Bowls Moin Khan

Sachin Tendulkar sometimes sparks with magic with the ball. He bowled Moin Khan of the last ball of the day in a Test Series in Pakistan. Moin Khan was totally decieved by Sachin's googly.

India won the game by an innings and 52 runs. Sehway made the record 309 runs on the same test, with sachin scoring 194 and 60 not out on the two innings respectively. Dravid declared when Tendulkar was playing on 194. There were some media talks about the issue as well.

Sahid Afridi Scoring a 12 in Power Cricket

Shahid Afridi First Player To Hit A 12, HUGE HIT - video powered by Metacafe

What is the highest number of runs one can make in cricket of a normal delivery without running? Six? Well, in this video Sahid Afridi scores a 12. That is not in ODI or a test match but in the Power League Tournament. The game was held in a close roof stadium and hitting the ceiling would be counted as a 12.

Jonty Rhodes' Famous Run Out of Inzamam

The two players featured here are involved in a number of runouts. Jonty is involved in running the opponent out and Inzamam in running out himself and his partner. Here Jonty runs a long distance and slams the stumps to get Inzi out.

Shoaib Akhtar - Fastest Ball in History

Shoaib Akhtar - Fastest Ball in History

Six Sixes in an over

Herchelle Gibbs made a record in ODIs by being the first and currently the only to score six sixes in six balls of an over.

Yes he did it against minnow Netherlands but still you got to hit every damn ball fly over the rope which is amazing. In this match South Africa mad 354 in just 40 overs, the maximum overs allocated to the match due to delayed start. Let's see what other world cup amuses we got to see.

Catches from World Cup 96

A rare but great compilation of catches from 1996 Cricket World Cup held in the subcontinent. As you should know, it was won by Sri-Lanka. Can they once again repeat the feat in 2007? We have to wait and see but this great compilation is worthy of reliving the experience anytime as one of the great cricket videos. Enjoy

Gary Sober hit six sixes in an over

One of the greatest cricketers, Sir Garfield Sobers of West Indies is the first and the one of only two batsmen who have scored six sixes in an over in a first class match. In 1968, playing as captain of Nottinghamshire against Glamorgan in Swansea, he set the world record of the bowling of Malcolm Nash.

The other record holder is Ravi Shastri of India, who did that later in 1984 playing for Bombay.

Inzamam Hit Wicket

Shahid Afridi slaughtering Malinga Bandara

Shahid Afridi scored 32 runs in an over off Malinga Bandara.



This is only second to Herchelle Gibb's six sixes in an over. Pakistan won the match easily and Shahid was declared man of the match.

Malinga's 4 wickets in 4 balls in World Cup

ICC World Cup 2007 Malinga 4 Wickets In 4 Balls - video powered by Metacafe

This is a thrilling performance by Malinga of Sri Lanka to take Sri Lanka on the verge of winning the game from nearly-lost situation. However, they end up losing the match by a small margin. Even then, it was a great match to watch and the video should be one of the classics as well.

I would say, this performance of Malinga will be remembered for a long time in World Cup History. Watch out for Malinga!

Ernie Els Vs Monty Panesar

Ernie Els Vs Monty Panesar - video powered by Metacafe

Very nice mashup by Sky Sports. Monty Panesar bowls to Ernie Els and gets him LBW out. As you can see at the end, its an advertisement of US Open Golf and Natwest twenty-twenty on Sky Sports. Nicely done.