Saturday, May 10, 2008

Balaji's five-for sinks Kings XI Punjab

Before L Balaji wrecked Kings XI Punjab with his five-for, it was another local boy S Badrinath who helped Chennai Super Kings post a formidable 181....

A match that swung from one side to the other was decided by two exceptional overs from L Balaji, the India international: he first picked up two crucial wickets in the 13th over to seize the initiative for his side, then picked up the IPL's first hat-trick in the final over to finish the match. Balaji's performance, in front of an ecstatic home crowd, pushed Chennai Super Kings to second place in the points table and ended Kings XI Punjab's streak of five successive wins.

Chasing a stiff 182, Punjab lost two early wickets but Shaun Marsh stayed calm at the other end, working the Chennai bowlers into the gaps for runs while picking up the odd boundaries. As the asking-rate escalated to over ten, Marsh decided to step it up, punishing Palani Amarnath for two sixes over the straight boundary and bringing up his fifty with another clean straight hit, off Balaji.

If Marsh appeared as if he'd just arrived after a stint at a driving range, Ramnaresh Sarwan, with whom he put on 66, was a touch slow with 20 off 22 balls and his inability to hit a boundary suggested why his Twenty20 strike-rate is less than a run-a-ball.

Their partnership was looking threatening, though, before both fell in one match-turning over from Balaji. Ambling in from a shortened run and putting in the effort in his final stride, he varied his deliveries, mixing up slower balls with shorter ones, with some surprising the batsmen. He got Sarwan with the first ball, the batsman bowled while giving the charge. Four balls later Marsh followed, top-edging to Amarnath on the square-leg boundary.

Amarnath tightened the screws in the next over, having Yuvraj Singh caught by Stephen Fleming at point, and the match was almost over as a contest. Not as a spectacle, though.

The 15th over saw a mini-battle between Muttiah Muralitharan and his Sri Lanka team-mate Mahela Jayawardene, who got down on his knees and dispatched him over deep midwicket. Two balls later, though, a repeat effort resulted in a top edge to S Vidyut at short third man, and Jayawardene, normally accustomed to running to congratulate his leading bowler, had to head back to the dugout.

And then there was the hat-trick, in the last over of the match. There were four balls to go and 19 runs to get when Balaji bowled to Irfan Pathan, who'd already hit him for a six off the first ball. This time, he holed out to a slower ball to deep square leg. Next, Piyush Chawla lofted one towards long-off for an easy catch, and the hat-trick was completed when VRV Singh managed to back away and top-edge one straight to Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Badrinath, a local boy like Balaji, and Dhoni had earlier threatened to take the game away as Michael Hussey had done in the previous encounter between Chennai Super Kings and Kings XI Punjab, but Punjab's bowlers did well to restrict the flow of runs in the final five overs of the innings.

Dhoni, Chennai's adopted hero and captain, sent the crowd into raptures soon after his arrival by clobbering Chawla for three sixes; the first two sailed into the leg-side stands, while the third was hit flat over the bowler's head. Yuvraj soon went in for damage control, bringing on Pathan, his side's leading wicket-taker, for his second spell as early as the 13th over. Badrinath took two sixes off Pathan and brought up his fifty off 37 deliveries. The two had added 80 off 49 deliveries, and a final flourish was on the cards.

Punjab came back well to rein in the rampaging batsmen. Sreesanth had bowled a good first spell in which he removed Chennai's openers and his final one - the 16th of the innings - went for just five, James Hopes and VRV took the cue and targeted the blockhole, and the run-scoring abated. Chennai got 181, but will be disappointed at not having been able to go past the 200-run mark, which looked likely at one stage.

Selectors face Flintoff decision

Will he, won't he? Andrew Flintoff hasn't played Test cricket for 17 months but recalling him at Lord's would be a risk...

Rarely has an England squad caused so much debate over one name - with less than 24 hours to go before the squad for the first Test against New Zealand is named, it is still almost impossible to say whether Andrew Flintoff will be recalled. His early-season form since returning from a fourth ankle operation has ranged from the utterly convincing with the ball to the utterly woeful with the bat.

Not surprisingly Flintoff has been talking himself up. "I definitely feel I could play a Test match now," he told The Sun. "I've missed a lot of international cricket in the past, so I'm itching to play for England once more." Team-mates and opponents have also been queuing up to sing his praises, including Justin Langer saying he's "the best fast bowler in the world" and could bat at No.11, to Marcus Trescothick, Paul Collingwood and his Lancashire captain Stuart Law all backing his case.

"I think that over to Collingwood was the best working-over of a world-class batsman I've seen for a long time," said Law. "Colly's a good player, but Freddie made him look almost second rate. That's just the quality of Andrew Flintoff. With the ball in his hand and the bit between his teeth, he had a point to prove. I don't think it would have mattered if it had been Ricky Ponting or Brian Lara - they would have felt the heat."

Whether Flintoff is selected or not will give an indication of his future role for England. He is adamant he remains a batsman who bowls, but no one else believes that line any more. His batting has slipped steadily since the 2006 India tour and this season's form doesn't suggest a corner is about to be turned. Three Championship ducks on the trot - including two first-ballers - have left him with precious little time in the middle.

If he is recalled for the first Test it will be his bowling form and fitness that would have swayed the decision. He would be part of a four-man attack including three quick bowlers (the others being Ryan Sidebottom and Stuart Broad) alongside Monty Panesar and be expected to take on a major workload, perhaps more than 20 overs a day. It would be an admission from the selectors that Flintoff's batting form doesn't matter.

Some, including the likes of Langer, argue that if he's your best bowler that is the way it should be. No one was ever concerned about Glenn McGrath's lack of runs. However, the situation with Flintoff is muddied by the lengthy, ongoing nature of his ankle problems and the fact that the he was meant to be the allrounder who balances the team. He has tried three times to return from operations, the last aborted comeback ending after the World Twenty20 in South Africa. It would be a huge gamble for the selectors to throw their lot in with Flintoff as a bowler, even with one eye on next year's Ashes.

And it isn't as though there is a desperate need to rush Flintoff back to face New Zealand, although England have recent experience of coming unstuck against them. But an attack of Sidebottom, Broad and probably James Anderson should be enough to dispatch the visitors and would give the team that won the final two Tests of the previous series another chance.

Anderson is the member of that trio under threat after a profligate display in Napier. His form for Lancashire has been mixed, but nine wickets against Durham came at the right time and he has a good Test record a Lord's. Last year he claimed seven wickets against India and also bagged five on his debut in 2003.

Matthew Hoggard will come back into the frame have a solid start for Yorkshire although he still appeared to lack some zip for England Lions. The consensus is that he was unlucky to be dropped after a poor performance in Hamilton and, although there is no automatic route back for him despite 248 wickets, he would be a solid presence in the squad in case a bowler pulls up injured.

While so much attention has been paid to Flintoff's batting form, a few of the certain picks for Lord's haven't been setting the world alight. Michael Vaughan has a top score of 42, but that is a positive run-spree compared to Paul Collingwood (32 runs in five innings for Durham) and Collingwood has also caused a few concerns after needing an injection in his shoulder. A Collingwood injury would make Flintoff's recall an even greater risk because Collingwood's medium-pace would help share the workload. If batting cover is needed the choice would be between Owais Shah, forever waiting for another chance, and the in-form Ravi Bopara.

Possible England 12 Michael Vaughan (capt), Alastair Cook, Andrew Strauss, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood, Tim Ambrose (wk), Stuart Broad, Ryan Sidebottom, Monty Panesar, James Anderson, Matthew Hoggard.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Rajasthan outplay listless Deccan

Deccan Chargers failed to build on Adam Gilchrist's 61...

The Deccan Chargers rolled over and let the Rajasthan Royals clinch their sixth win from eight games with ease. Deccan put up no fight to defend their below-par total and looked spiritless as Rajasthan chased the target with more than four overs to spare.

Deccan's fielders, perhaps hindered by the dust-storm blowing across the stadium, failed to save runs and even conceded a boundary instead of supporting their bowlers in putting pressure on Rajasthan.

More to follow

Rajasthan Royals kept their cool and reversed Deccan Chargers' aggressive start into a below-par total with disciplined bowling and sharp fielding in Jaipur. At the toss, Adam Gilchrist said his batsmen had the challenge of putting up a total that his bowlers could defend. But clearly Gilchrist was the only one game for the task; Deccan added only 43 after he was dismissed in the 14th over.

Shane Watson and Sohail Tanvir went for 20 and 16 respectively in their first two overs but they came back for their second spells determined to make amends. When Watson got Sanjay Bangar to edge to the keeper, Deccan had lost three wickets for five runs. And after Venugopal Rao hit Tanvir for successive fours, the bowler countered with skidding yorkers to slow down the scoring.

In the early part of the innings, the balance of power between batsman and bowler was even for the pitch offered some movement and the batsmen were a little cautious. Munaf Patel bowled a disciplined line and Tanvir swung it in to the left-hander but Gilchrist punished anything wayward and raced to 50 off 37 balls.

Only after he reached his fifty, did Gilchrist, dropped on 52 by Siddharth Trivedi, start throwing his bat at nearly every delivery. He was dismissed when, in reaching for a wide one off Trivedi, he edged the ball to the keeper. Gilchrist started off the evening with a back-foot cover drive off the first ball and followed it with a cut to backward point as Tanvir went for eight runs in the opening over. Watson was flicked for a massive six to square leg when he sent down a half-volley and Munaf was glanced for a four to fine leg.

Herschelle Gibbs joined the fun by lifting Watson for four over cover soon after he was dropped by Graeme Smith when attempting the same shot. Gibbs struggled to pick Warne and was nearly stumped off Warne's first delivery - his foot was in the air and Mahesh Rawat removed the bails just as he brought it down to the ground.

At the end of ten overs, Deccan were at 74 for 1. When Gilchrist was dismissed in the 14th over, they were at 97 for 3. In the next three overs they lost Shahid Afridi, who charged down the track to Warne and edged to third man, Rohit Sharma, run out by a direct throw from Warne, and Bangar.

Deccan can hope that Afridi, like Warne, can get some turn from the wicket and help them defend their modest total.

Deccan Chargers: 1 Adam Gilchrist (capt & wk), 2 Ravi Teja 3 Herschelle Gibbs, 4 Scott Styris, 5 Rohit Sharma, 6 Shahid Afridi, 7 Venugopal Rao, 8 Sanjay Bangar, 9 RP Singh, 10 P Vijaykumar, 11 Pragyan Ojha.

Rajasthan Royals: 1 Graeme Smith, 2 Niraj Patel, 3 Yusuf Pathan, 4 Shane Watson, 5 Mohammad Kaif, 6 Ravindra Jadeja, 7 Mahesh Rawat (wk), 8 Shane Warne (capt), 9 Sohail Tanvir, 10 Siddharth Trivedi, 11 Munaf Patel.

Clarke withdraws from West Indies tour

Michael Clarke will not be leaving with his team-mates for the Caribbean on Saturday...

Michael Clarke has forced a change in Australia's West Indies tour plans after pulling out of the start of the trip due to the serious condition of his fiancé's father. Clarke was due to make his debut as Australia's Test vice-captain following the retirement of Adam Gilchrist, but the batsman will not leave with the team on Saturday after being granted compassionate leave by Cricket Australia.

Clarke's dad Les has Hodgkin's disease, but it is the condition of the father of Clarke's fiancé Lara Bingle that is the most concerning. Graham Bingle has had liver cancer for more than a year and Clarke left the team camp in Brisbane before its conclusion on Friday to fly to Sydney.

"I will not be travelling to the West Indies with the team due to family reasons," Clarke said in a short statement. "I am looking forward to getting over there as soon as possible."

The withdrawal of Clarke came as a surprise to some of his team-mates and a Cricket Australia spokesman said his arrival date in the West Indies was currently unclear. Michael Hussey has been handed the vice-captaincy and Brad Hodge has been named as a shadow player. "Despite the circumstances it is a huge honour to be given the role," Hussey said, "even if it may only be for a short period of time."

Hodge is currently in the Indian Premier League with the Kolkata Knight Riders, but will fly to the West Indies until Clarke arrives. He is expected to meet up with the team in either Dubai or London on their indirect journey to the Caribbean.

"Brad has had another strong domestic season with Victoria in all forms of the game," the chairman of selectors Andrew Hilditch said. "He is still very highly regarded by the panel and this provides him with another opportunity to be involved with the Australian squad."

Clarke and Bingle were engaged in March and they have been supporting each other through the illnesses of their parents. "My sister Leanne phoned to tell me my father had cancer," Clarke told the Sydney Morning Herald last year. "It showed me that it could all be over tomorrow. You don't choose."

At the start of the camp on Monday, Clarke was as enthusiastic as when he joined the squad and was nicknamed 'Pup' for his effervescent nature. He was quizzing Brad Haddin about whether he had received all his gear for the tour and was in a hurry to start playing after feeling refreshed from his time away from the game.

He had avoided joining the Indian Premier League to stay home and "go fishing with the old man", something he achieved. He also took Bingle, a model, to the United States, where he proposed in New York's Central Park. "I made the decision [not to go to India] for my body and to spend time with my dad," Clarke told the Herald this week. "It was really nice to be able to spend some time with my family and Lara."

Clarke has been destined for national leadership duties since he won his first Test cap, but achieving a position of responsibility has not been as smooth as the predictions. He was named vice-captain for the Chappell-Hadlee Series in New Zealand in 2007 before being ruled out with a hip injury, but led the Twenty20 team in Perth later that year when Ricky Ponting was rested.

Charged-up Kolkata win tight battle

Sourav Ganguly's efforts with the ball helped his side earn a much-needed win...

Desperately seeking points after a string of losses the Kolkata Knight Riders and Bangalore Royal Challengers, two of the IPL's struggling but high-profile teams, produced a fascinating, if low-scoring, contest that was decided in Kolkata's favour off the penultimate ball. Their second encounter lacked the batting heroics of the first but there was plenty of brilliance in the field and with ball in a rain-shortened match that ended way past midnight.

The day began with Kolkata celebrating the birthday of its greatest son, Rabindranath Tagore, and ended with a crowd of thousands, braving a typical seasonal thundershower, delighting in the exploits of its current favourite as Sourav Ganguly led with the ball to revive his side's hopes in the tournament.

Ganguly had limped to a run-a-ball 20 with the bat, but his miserly spell - 3 for 7 from three overs - choked a stumbling chase of 130 in 16 overs that, despite a flurry towards the end from Mark Boucher, was always behind the eight ball. It was Ganguly's canny bowling, after Brad Hodge produced a superb direct hit from backward point to get rid of J Arunkumar, that perhaps decided the outcome. Bangalore's top order failed to keep pace and Ganguly, clearly charged up by the occasion, struck a huge blow by bowling his opposite number Rahul Dravid. By the time Ganguly was done Bangalore needed 78 off 36 balls, a near-impossible task.

Cameron White and Boucher played good hands, the latter almost pulling off a win, but Bangalore's top order had left them with a bit too much to do. White cut loose to take 15 runs off the 11th over from Laxmi Ratan Shukla, eight came off the next from the next from Ashok Dinda, and another 15 off Umar Gul kept them in line with the asking-rate. Ishant Sharma just gave five off the 14th, and when White was run out backing up too far at the non-striker's end by Murali Kartik, it seemed a done case. Boucher, whose 26 had needed 30 deliveries, then scored 24 off just 10, but Bangalore still fell five runs short.

Bangalore's top-order mess needs to be addressed, but their effort in the field after Kolkata decided to bat was heartening. Aakash Chopra, the former India opener, came in to bolster a struggling top order but didn't make much of an impact, lbw to Dale Steyn, and Hodge fell pulling Zaheer Khan.

If he looked smooth with the ball, Ganguly wasn't as much with the bat. Off the mark with an uppish drive for four and tangled by a short one from Praveen Kumar, he nudged around for 20 and was the first of two run-outs in Kolkata's innings, White pulling off a direct hit.

The going had been slow for Kolkata, and David Hussey tried to step it up, lofting a Praveen slower delivery over long-off, before placing the following delivery through extra-cover. He launched Anil Kumble for two consecutive sixes, but a good throw from Steyn cut him off. Tatenda Taibu got his first game but went early, top-edging Steyn, who then picked up a third when Shulka chopped onto his stumps.

An embarrassing goof-up delayed play ahead of Steyn's final over, the 14th of the innings, with only one bowler allowed to bowl four. The scorers and umpires mixed up the two Kumars, and had R Vinay with four overs bowled and Praveen with one, instead of three and two. Dravid, taking the walkie-talkie from one of the on-field umpires, pleaded his case and Steyn finally got to bowl. Wriddhiman Saha and Murali Kartik added 34 quick runs, the highest partnership of the innings, and Kolkata finished on 129.

That proved just out of reach for Bangalore, who have now lost six of eight matches.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Indian Premier League 2007/08 Points Table

Points Table
Team Mat Won Lost Tied N/R Pts Net RR

Rajasthan 14 11 3 0 0 22 +0.632

Punjab 14 10 4 0 0 20 +0.509

Chennai 14 8 6 0 0 16 -0.192

Delhi 14 7 6 0 1 15 +0.342

Mumbai 14 7 7 0 0 14 +0.570

Kolkata 14 6 7 0 1 13 -0.147

Bangalore 14 4 10 0 0 8 -1.160

Deccan 14 2 12 0 0 4 -0.467

Mumbai bowlers shock Rajasthan

Ashish Nehra's three wickets had Rajasthan on the hop after being asked to bat first in Mumbai...

Mumbai's medium-pacers bowled a clever mix of bouncers, slower balls and cutters to restrict Rajasthan to a 103, the lowest first-innings total of the IPL, on a two-paced pitch at the DY Patil Stadium before some sensible batting sealed a hat-trick of triumphs for the home team. In what was their second successive upset victory, after taming Delhi on Sunday, Mumbai prevailed over the table leaders yet again.

The pitch wasn't conducive to stroke-play: balls stopped, kept low and batsmen didn't find their timing easily. The experienced trio of Shaun Pollock, Ashish Nehra and Dwayne Bravo were canny with their variations but it was impressive to see the unheralded duo of Dhaval Kulkarni and Rohan Raje break the back of Rajasthan's line-up.

Sachin Tendulkar wasn't fit for today's game but he had the satisfaction of being on air almost every time the commentators cut to have a word with him. He was particularly thrilled with the performance of Kulkarni and Raje, young turks who utilised the conditions perfectly. Nehra finished as the most effective bowler, adding two tailenders to Yusuf Pathan's wicket early on to finish with 3 for 13; Bravo showed the power of the slower ball; and Pollock yet again proved the value of experience.

The fact that the Mumbai wicketkeeper Yogesh Takawale pouched three skiers, when top-edges ballooned off the bat, showed the slow nature of the surface. Even Mumbai's batsmen weren't fluent with their strokeplay but a few lucky breaks ensured a comfortable victory. Shane Watson struck twice - taking the wicket of Sanath Jayasuriya who pulled one to deep square leg - and Shane Warne struck with his very first ball, removing Takawale with a slider. However, Robin Uthappa's 34 was enough to take Mumbai past the finish line.

The match, though, was decided by the end of Rajasthan's innings. Pollock, whose decision to field first appeared to be a bold one, nipped out Graeme Smith early though even he would have been surprised at the manner of the dismissal. Smith backed away, took a stride out of his crease, missed an in-cutter from Pollock and kept walking. Had he looked back, he would have seen Takawale fumble the ball but the fact the he kept going allowed an easy stumping.

It was only the 53-run stand between Swapnil Asnodkar and Watson that made some sort of recovery for Rajasthan. Both batsmen put away loose balls and Watson even showed the value of hitting straight against the spin of Sanath Jayasuriya. It took an injudicious swipe from Watson to end the stand - Bravo working him out from around the wicket - and what followed was a forgettable collapse.

Raje forced Mohammad Kaif and Asnodkar to go for big shots and had them caught in the deep, while Kulkarni removed Ravindra Jadeja and Shane Warne with short balls. Jadeja top edged while going for the pull and was athletically caught by Takawale, while Warne's attempted slap through the off side ended in an easier skier for the wicketkeeper.

The tail didn't have much of a chance against the slower balls - indicated aptly by a tantalising one from Bravo that ended the innings. It was Rajasthan's first defeat in six games and they slipped to second place, behind the Kings XI Punjab, in the points table.

Mumbai Indians v Rajasthan Royals

Lord's could host neutral Tests and Twenty20 Champions League

MCC secretary and chief executive Keith Bradshaw, IPL commissioner Lalit Modi and MCC head of cricket John Stephenson announce the signing of the MCC Spirit of Cricket declaration last month...

Lord's could stage neutral Test matches and matches in the proposed Twenty20 Champions League to assist the MCC in fund raising as it plans to spend up to £200 million to redevelop the ground ahead of its bicentenary in 2014.

A report it the Guardian today says that a number of proposals are being considered by Keith Bradshaw, the MCC's secretary and chief executive, after a whistlestop visit to India over the weekend.

Bradshaw met with Lalit Modi, the IPL's commissioner, in Mohali and the possibility of bringing the Twenty20 Champions League to London was discussed. The main stumbling block appears to be the timing as the event can only be played after the ICC Champions Trophy which finishes in late September. "The MCC was positive about the idea and are eager to proceed, subject to ECB clearance," an IPL official told Cricinfo.

The Guardian also claimed that the possibility of Pakistan playing Australia at Lord's had been raised earlier in the year after the Australians' tour of Pakistan had been scrapped on security grounds.

"It is our heartbeat to have major matches, so as well as our England Tests and ODIs we have to look at whether there is the potential to stage other sorts of cricket here such as neutral Test matches," Bradshaw, who could face some tough questions at the MCC's annual meeting later today, told the newspaper. "We would be very open to staging neutral Tests and, in terms of embracing what's been mooted in terms of IPL, the Champions League or the English Premier League, why not? We have a very open mind."

While the ECB, who would need to be consulted before any other matches could be staged at Lord's, might not object to the Twenty20 Champions League being held in London, it would probably take a dimmer view of neutral Tests for fear of the impact they might have on the traditional summer fixtures.

However, Lord's is under threat as a venue because of the ECB's new strategy of allocating international matches which has seen traditional venues struggle to get high-profile fixtures with games being switched to new centres such as Cardiff and Southampton. That has led to speculation that Lord's, which in recent years has hosted two Tests every summer, might only get one as more venues fight for the limited number of matches.

"We would prefer to know exactly what our major matches are going to be for the next 10 years, given that we are spending £200m on the ground, but we have moved to a very commercial situation where our fellow grounds are no longer our family but our competitors in a bidding process," Bradshaw said. "We bid a lot more for those matches than we ever have before. We will take account of what the ECB is trying to achieve and we are conscious of player fixtures and broadcasting contracts, but we have a very open mind and we would be very keen to host a Champions League event."

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Deccan outplay insipid Chennai

Adam Gilchrist blasted 54 off 36 balls to lead Deccan's chase...

The Chennai Super Kings have plenty to ponder after losing to the Deccan Chargers by seven wickets, their third successive defeat. Their top order failed again and their total of 144 was easily overhauled by Deccan, inspired by a blazing 54 by stand-in captain Adam Gilchrist. Besides struggling to come to terms with the loss of their big-hitting overseas batsmen, Chennai's bowling, which has taken only seven wickets in the last three matches, is also a cause for concern.

Deccan's bowlers exploited the helpful conditions early on to slice through the Chennai top order. Just as in the previous two matches, batsmen flounder against the moving ball in the first over. Parthiv Patel troubles with the bat continued as he survived a close lbw call first ball, was dropped by the bowler P Vijaykumar off the fourth, before RP Singh took a fine running catch to dismiss him sixth ball. S Anirudh, son of former India batsman Kris Srikkanth, fell soon after, miscueing a pull off RP.

Stephen Fleming was just about getting into his groove when his rasping square drive off his former New Zealand team-mate Scott Styris was smartly held by Rohit Sharma at cover point. And when S Badrinath was spectacularly held at backward point by Herschelle Gibbs in the seventh over, Chennai were in shambles at 43 for 4.

Suresh Raina, who was playing fluently when the wickets were tumbling around him, and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, were again called on rebuild the innings. There was some tidy, but not threatening bowling from Sanjay Bangar and left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha as Chennai progressed to 82 without any hiccups. Raina unleashed some lovely straight drives while Dhoni sensibly cut out the risks and kept the ball on the ground.

However, both Raina and Dhoni were dismissed in the space of nine balls and Chennai were in danger of being bowled out for the second game in succession. Raina once again failed to capitalise on his start, spooning a wide full toss from Bangar to cover. Dhoni had been tied down by Ojha and perished when an attempted pull took a bottom edge and ballooned off his pads to Shahid Afridi at point.

As in his previous two knocks, Albie Morkel needed to haul his team out of the hole created by top order. The crowd had been chanting for a six and there had been none till the 17th over, when a monstrous hit from Morkel sent the ball out of the stadium. Four more sixes came off the last four overs, including two in the final one by Manpreet Gony, as Chennai pushed their score to 145.

After a quiet start to the chase, Gibbs showed glimpses of his striking abilities, lashing Makhaya Ntini for a six over cover and a four to midwicket, before being caught-and-bowled by the impressive Gony. Gilchrist, leading the side after VVS Laxman suffered a hand injury, had also been tied down by Gony but got going with a couple of pulled boundaries off Albie Morkel in the fourth over. He then tore into Ntini: the first ball was sent into the stands over his favourite midwicket area, the second was a lofted straight drive which ran away for four and the third was smashed back over the bowler's head for six. Twenty runs came in that over and Deccan had raced to 50 for 1 by the end of the sixth.

With Styris, promoted to No .3, playing a steady hand at the other end, Gilchrist kept the barrage of boundaries coming before he cut a short and wide delivery from Morkel straight to S Badrinath at point. By then, the required-rate had come down to around six - leisurely by Twenty20 standards.

Rohit struggled initially against Muttiah Muralitharan but slammed a 17-ball 23, including a stunning straight six to reclaim the orange cap for being the tournament's highest cumulative run-scorer. Styris remained unbeaten on 36 as Afridi smashed Joginder Sharma for two sixes and two fours in an over to complete the victory.

This is Deccan's second win and it lifts them off the bottom of the table. The most heartening aspect of the win was that their batting clicked as a unit, unlike the several games in which it was left one batsman to carry the innings.

Ganguly upbeat about Shoaib's arrival

Sourav Ganguly: "I don't think any team should be written off at this moment"...

Sourav Ganguly is upbeat over Shoaib Akhtar being allowed to play in the Indian Premier League and hopes his struggling side can turn things around quickly.

"He was in our scheme of things initially, and after having had to make do without him in all these games, it's good to know that he is joining the team," Ganguly told Hindustan Times.

"Having said that, it's equally important to realise that no individual can turn things around dramatically. For our team to succeed, everyone has to do well. Many matches are still left to be played and I don't think any team should be written off at this moment."

Kolkata have managed just two wins from six games and Shoaib's arrival would no doubt be a fillip to their preparations for their home match against Bangalore on Thursday. However question marks continue to remain over Shoaib's fitness and John Bucanan, Kolkata's coach, has insisted on a fitness test. The team is scheduled to play a practice match on Wednesday and Shoaib's performance there could decide on his being picked.

Shoaib arrived in Kolkata last night. "I'm really happy to be here and the Eden Gardens is my favourite ground," he said. "It's the ground which made my career when I got Sachin Tendulkar out on the first ball. It's been good to me and I love the ground ... The crowd is fantastic.

"As I've been under so much of stress, I haven't been able to train as much as I should have done. But I'm fit. There's no pain, no niggle. I'll try to get match fit as fast as possible. Shah Rukh Khan has supported me a lot. He's been there like a big brother. Has always been so."

Meanwhile John Buchanan, Kolkata's coach, said he was approaching Shoaib's arrival with "an open mind". "Obviously, Shoaib has a reputation, not only on the field but off it too... There are rules in place and there are ways in which the team has been operating," he told Kolkata's Telegraph. "The rules are the same for everybody and there won't be exceptions, no matter who you are. As long as Shoaib understands what's in place and abides by the rules, there shouldn't be any drama."

Buchanan said he spoke to Geoff Lawson, coach of Pakistan, before the IPL started and was told that Shoaib had never been fitter. "He brings pace to the table and is possibly one of those players who could emerge a Twenty20 specialist because Shoaib won't have to bowl more than four overs. He could just run in for those four overs and make an impact," said Buchanan. "Pace is pretty important [and] one of the things we're looking for in the team is for somebody to stand up and have a presence. We could get that out of somebody like a Brad Hodge or a Salman Butt. Equally, someone like Shoaib brings a presence; whether he plays or not, there's a real buzz around him."

Asked about his approach towards Shoaib, Buchanan said: "That these are my expectations from you and I'm sure you've got expectations of me. That this is how the team operates, that these are the values we hold dear. Welcome to the Knight Riders, but there are no special rules for anybody."

Indian Premier League

Monday, May 5, 2008

Punjab make it five wins in a row

Rahul Dravid made a typically battling 66 but with little support from his team-mates, Bangalore only managed 126...

The Kings XI Punjab proved why they are one of the tournament's best all-round sides by extending their winning spree to five, after beating the Bangalore Royal Challengers comfortably by six wickets in a low-scoring encounter. After their bowlers used a seaming pitch to send Bangalore crashing to a paltry 126, their batsmen chased it down easily to send Punjab into second place, behind the Rajasthan Royals on net run-rate.

One of the reasons for Bangalore's woeful struggle in the tournament is the batting, and today was no exception. Rahul Dravid played the lone hand with a battling 66 and his knock stood out in a sorry scorecard which had five ducks, just two batsmen crossing double figures and three run-outs. The constant reshuffling of the batting order reflected their weakness, none more so than at the top of the order, as their fifth opening combination in seven matches walked out to bat.

It was a good toss to win for Yuvraj Singh, who gave his bowlers an early crack on a seaming track. Sreesanth was lethal in the first over, sending back a wobbly Wasim Jaffer with his stock delivery, the away swinger, before getting his next delivery to nip back in sharply to slice Cameron White in half and take the middle stump.

The situation was tailor-made for Jacques Kallis to script Bangalore's recovery act but a reckless call by Virat Kohli led to his dismissal. At 19 for 3, Bangalore had the dubious distinction of scoring the least at the end of five overs.

If Sreesanth was making life difficult at one end, breaking free at the other end wasn't easy either. Irfan Pathan's inswingers cramped the right-handers for room, while VRV Singh kept them guessing by hitting the deck outside the offstump and getting a few to rear up. Dravid and Kohli eased the nerves with a stand of 54 as the innings slowly picked up in pace.

The one glaring glitch for Punjab was the fielding and the biggest culprit was VRV, who wasn't agile enough on a quick outfield. It rubbed off on his bowling as he conceded three fours in an over. Dravid pulled the first to deep square leg, creamed the next through the covers to bring up his fifty, before flicking the third past midwicket to go past the highest score by a Bangalore batsman. He then scooped the same bowler over extra cover for a flat six before mistiming the following delivery to third man. Piyush Chawla was the most penetrative among the lot, trapping Misbah-ul-Haq and running through the lower order to finish with 3 for 25.

Though Bangalore had a paltry total to defend, on a seaming pitch, one would have given them a slender chance. Despite possessing lethal new-ball bowlers like Dale Steyn and Zaheer Khan, the early breakthroughs didn't come and the seamers were guilty of spraying it too wide, allowing the batsmen to drive through the line and beat the gaps with ease.

Bangalore had early success, sending back the out-of-sorts James Hopes in the second over, courtesy a brilliant reflex catch by White at cover. Ramnaresh Sarwan feasted on some wayward fare by Zaheer, crunching boundaries through the offside. Two quick breakthroughs by Praveen - sending back Sarwan off a bouncer and Yuvraj Singh with an away swinger - made things interesting. However, the in-form Shaun Marsh played a steadying hand and ensured there were no further hiccups. By the time he was dismissed - bowled through the gate by Zaheer - Punjab were only 21 away from victory and they coasted home with ten balls to spare.

2009 Ashes itinerary announced

The Rose Bowl will host the third ODI on September 9, 2009...

The ECB have confirmed Australia's full itinerary for their tour of England next year, which includes seven one-dayers in addition to the usual five Tests. Australia will spend four months in England with the Ashes set to follow the ICC World Twenty20, which takes place in June.

They switch formats with a four-day match against Sussex at Hove, followed by another against England Lions at New Road to prepare themselves for the five Test matches. The Rose Bowl was chosen as the venue for the third ODI on September 9, preceded by the first two games at Old Trafford.

"The summer of 2009 promises to be one of the most exciting in the history of cricket in England and Wales," David Collier, the ECB chief executive, said. "The Ashes and the NatWest Series along with the NatWest International Twenty20 matches have the potential for providing the sort of wonderful cricket which can fire the nation's imagination.

"And of course all this follows the ICC World Twenty20 which guarantees that all the best Twenty20 players in the world will be in this country in June 2009."

The news follows Glamorgan's coup last month when they were awarded the first Ashes Test, their inaugural Test match.

Mark Newton, Worcestershire's chief executive, was delighted with the news that a taste of the Ashes is coming to New Road. "This is the closest we will ever get to playing a Test Match in Worcester and I couldn't be more pleased about the timing," he said. "2009 will be a huge year for cricket in England and for four days Worcester will be centre of the cricketing world."

A two-day match against Kent at Canterbury has been earmarked for August 15, in between the fourth and fifth Tests, though Australia could alternatively face England Lions if Kent are involved in Twenty20 finals day. In addition, Scotland will host a one-day warm-up to the seven ODIs with a fixture at Edinburgh on August 28.

The Ashes itinerary

May (tbc) Australia arrive in UK
Mon 1 - Thu 4 June - Warm-up period for World Twenty20
Fri 5 - Sun 21 June - World Twenty20
Wed 24 - Sat 27 June - Four-day game v Sussex (Hove)
Wed 1 - Sat 4 July - Four-day game v England Lions (Worcester)
Wed 8 - Sun 12 July - 1st Test Cardiff
Thu 16 - Mon 20 July - 2nd Test Lord's
Fri 24 - Sun 26 July - three-day game v Northants* (Northampton)
Thu 30 July - Mon 3 Aug - 3rd Test Edgbaston
Fri 7 - Tue 11 Aug - 4th Test Headingley
Sat 15 - Sun 16 Aug - Two-day game v Kent (Canterbury)
Thu 20 - Mon 24 Aug - 5th Test Oval
Fri 28 Aug - ODI v Scotland (Edinburgh)
Sun 30 Aug - 1st International Twenty20 (Old Trafford)
Tue 1 Sept - 2nd International Twenty20 (Old Trafford) (floodlit)
Fri 4 Sept - 1st ODI day/night (The Oval)
Sun 6 Sept - 2nd ODI (Lord's)
Wed 9 Sept - 3rd ODI day/night (The Rose Bowl)
Sat 12 Sept - 4th ODI (Lord's)
Tue 15 Sept - 5th ODI day/night (Trent Bridge)
Thu 17 Sept - 6th ODI day/night (Trent Bridge)
Sun 20 Sept - 7th ODI (Durham)
Mon 21 Sept Australia depart

Wed 8 - Sun 12 July, 1st Test, Cardiff
Thu 16 - Mon 20 July, 2nd Test, Lord's
Thu 30 July - Mon 3 Aug, 3rd Test, Edgbaston
Fri 7 - Tue 11 Aug, 4th Test, Headingley
Thu 20 - Mon 24 Aug, 5th Test, The Oval

Australia in England 2009

PCB softens stance on Shoaib

Shoaib Akhtar has been given some breathing space after the PCB decided not to pursue its defamation suit....

In a further softening of its stance on Shoaib Akhtar, the Pakistan board will no longer pursue the defamation lawsuit following a reconciliation of sorts between Nasim Ashraf, the board chairman, and Shoaib at the house of a top political official last night in Islamabad.

The dinner meeting was held at the residence of Rehman Malik, a key advisor to the prime minister in the current government on interior affairs, in which Shoaib apologised to Ashraf. The meeting reportedly came at the request of Malik, who called Ashraf and told him Shoaib was ready to apologise to him personally and that the matter should be resolved for the good of Pakistan cricket. Last week Shoaib had also apologised publicly to the chairman and the board.

"He has publicly and personally apologised, so I forgive him," Ashraf told Cricinfo. "My honour has been vindicated and now the defamation lawsuit will not be pursued."

Though the lawsuit has been dropped, the five-year ban - currently suspended - and the appeals process against it, will remain in place. The workings of the Appellate Tribunal remain outside the jurisdiction of the board chairman and the appeals hearing will resume as normal on June 4.

The PCB had, on Friday, filed the Rs 22 crore (approx US$3.37 million) lawsuit against Shoaib for comments he had made against the PCB chairman immediately after the imposition of his five-year ban. Shoaib had alleged on a TV show that Ashraf had demanded a share of his salary from the IPL. He also alleged that Ashraf had tried to extort money from other Pakistan cricketers as well.

The decision is further good news for Shoaib, following yesterday's decision to suspend the ban on him to allow him to play in the Indian Premier League.

Not surprisingly, speculation that the ban is likely to be overturned eventually has already begun, though privately, PCB officials are believed to be adamant that Shoaib will not play for Pakistan again.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Tanvir bowls Rajasthan to first place

Sohail Tanvir took 6 for 14 to rout Chennai for 109...

A red-hot spell from Sohail Tanvir during which he took 6 for 14 - the best figures in Twenty20 cricket - decimated the Chennai Super Kings for 109 at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur. That reduced what was a clash for top spot in the Indian Premier League into a one-sided rout as the Rajasthan Royals chased down the smallest target of the tournament to win their fifth consecutive game, with eight wickets in hand.

Tanvir exploited the seamer-friendly conditions, there was swing and bounce, and gave Rajasthan a perfect start, nailing both openers for ducks in the first over. Parthiv Patel played across the line and missed an incutter first ball and Stephen Fleming fell in similar fashion four deliveries later. Both those wickets were to balls that came into the left-hander but Tanvir picked up his third with the one that went away and induced an outside edge from S Vidyut in his second over. Chennai were reeling at 11 for 3 and Rajasthan's dominance was emphasised by a rare sight in Twenty20 cricket - a slip cordon populated by three fielders.

Fourteen runs came off the fifth over, bowled by Siddarth Trivedi, and when S Badrinath played an orthodox square-drive and a flick to get take boundaries off the sixth, Chennai seemed to be recovering. However Watson, who used the bouncer effectively, took a simple return catch after Badrinath top-edged a miscued pull. Chennai had been pushed further back just when they were taking half a step forward.

With Suresh Raina and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the two highest run-getters in Chennai's line-up, batting together a competitive total was gettable. However, Rajasthan captain Shane Warne further dented Chennai's hopes when he won the battle against his opposite number Dhoni: his first ball pitched outside leg and spun right across Dhoni's off stump and two deliveries later, a flighted leg break took the outside edge to Graeme Smith at slip.

Rania and Albie Morkel staged a recovery of sorts after Chennai were reduced to 44 for 5. After played out a few economical overs, Morkel slog-swept Warne for two fours through square-leg and swatted a straight six in an over that cost 17. Yusuf Pathan even dropped a sitter at long-on to give Raina a reprieve but the batsman didn't capitalise, holing out to Tanvir at long-off soon after.

Just as in his first spell, Tanvir struck with the first delivery of his second as well, this time Morkel was bowled as he slogged across the line. The tail found Tanvir's skiddy pace and immaculate line to hard to negotiate and Chennai were dismissed in the 19th over, a drastic fall in batting fortunes after the departure of Australians Matthew Hayden and Michael Hussey.

If Chennai were to make a match of it, they needed to take every chance coming their way. Joginder Sharma, though, spilled a simple chance at mid-off when Makhaya Ntini, after starting off with a maiden, had Smith miscuing a pull. Twenty one extras, the second highest conceded in the tournament, didn't help their cause either.

Swapnil Asnodkar, full of confidence after his Man-of-the-Match performance on his IPL debut in the previous game, pummelled his first ball straight back down the ground for four and slammed Manpreet Gony for consecutive boundaries in the fourth over during a fluent 32.

At the other end, Smith was skipping down the track and muscling boundaries square of the wicket, and when a wayward seventh over from Morkel cost 14 runs, Rajasthan had raced to 58 for no loss. It wasn't until this stage, after the horse had bolted, that Chennai brought on their best bowler, Muttiah Muralitharan, but the task of bringing Chennai back into the contest was beyond him. Rajasthan lost a couple of wickets but, with the help of some lusty blows from Pathan and Watson, the target was overhauled with 5.4 overs to spare.

After winning their first four matches, this was Chennai's second consecutive loss and the huge margin of defeat meant that they slipped to fourth place in the space of two days.

Twenty20 matches

Best figures in an innings

Player Overs Mdns Runs Wkts Econ
Team Opposition Ground Match Date Scorecard
Sohail Tanvir 4.0 0 14 6 3.50
Rajasthan v Chennai Jaipur 4 May 2008 Twenty20
SR Abeywardene 4.0 0 15 6 3.75
Panadura v SL Air SC Colombo (Burgher) 30 Oct 2005 Twenty20
TJ Murtagh 4.0 0 24 6 6.00
Surrey v Middlesex Lord's 23 Jun 2005 Twenty20
Irfanuddin 4.0 0 25 6 6.25
K Dolphins v S Stallions Karachi 3 Mar 2006 Twenty20
MG Dighton 3.0 0 25 6 8.33
Tasmania v Queensland Toowoomba 1 Jan 2007 Twenty20
D Mohammed 3.0 0 8 5 2.66
Trinidad & T v St Lucia Coolidge 2 Feb 2008 Twenty20
JE Taylor 3.4 0 10 5 2.72
Jamaica v Bermuda Coolidge 21 Jul 2006 Twenty20
Iqbal Abdulla 4.0 0 10 5 2.50
Mumbai v Haryana Ahmedabad 17 Apr 2007 Twenty20
Mushtaq Ahmed 3.3 1 11 5 3.14
Sussex v Essex Hove 22 Jun 2005 Twenty20
Mohammad Asif 3.5 0 11 5 2.86
S Stallions v Wolves Karachi 1 Mar 2006 Twenty20
Shoaib Malik 3.0 0 13 5 4.33
S Stallions v R Rams Karachi 25 Feb 2006 Twenty20
M Kartik 4.0 0 13 5 3.25
Middlesex v Essex Lord's 6 Jul 2007 Twenty20
E Chigumbura 4.0 0 13 5 3.25
Zimbabwe v Titans Centurion 11 Apr 2008 Twenty20
AD Mascarenhas 3.5 2 14 5 3.65
Hampshire v Sussex Hove 9 Jul 2004 Twenty20
MV Nagamootoo 4.0 0 15 5 3.75
Guyana v Grenada Coolidge 10 Aug 2006 Twenty20
DMGS Dissanayake 3.0 0 15 5 5.00
Bloomfield v Saracens Colombo (Colts) 2 Mar 2007 Twenty20
SB Bangar 4.0 0 16 5 4.00
Railways v Rajasthan Jaipur 6 Apr 2007 Twenty20
CK Langeveldt 4.0 0 16 5 4.00
Cape Cobras v Eagles Cape Town 11 Apr 2008 Twenty20
Imranullah Aslam 4.0 0 17 5 4.25
Tigers v Leopards Karachi 22 Dec 2006 Twenty20
Zeeshan Khan 4.0 0 19 5 4.75
Tigers v Zebras Lahore 25 Apr 2005 Twenty20
NM Carter 3.5 0 19 5 4.95
Warwickshire v Worcs Birmingham 1 Jul 2005 Twenty20
SDC Malinga 3.5 0 20 5 5.21
Saracens v Panadura Moratuwa 15 Oct 2005 Twenty20
LAS Sebastien 4.0 0 20 5 5.00
Dominica v BVI Coolidge 27 Jan 2008 Twenty20
AJ Hollioake 3.0 0 21 5 7.00
Surrey v Hampshire Southampton 24 Jun 2003 Twenty20
K Tulloch 4.0 0 21 5 5.25
Cayman Is v Bahamas Coolidge 11 Jul 2006 Twenty20
S Vora 3.5 0 22 5 5.73
Baroda v Saurashtra Mumbai (BS) 6 Apr 2007 Twenty20
Shoaib Akhtar 4.0 0 23 5 5.75
R Rams v Quetta Bears Lahore 25 Apr 2005 Twenty20
CO Obuya 4.0 0 24 5 6.00
Warwickshire v Glamorgan Birmingham 20 Jun 2003 Twenty20
J Ormond 4.0 0 26 5 6.50
Surrey v Middlesex The Oval 13 Jun 2003 Twenty20
RJ Logan 4.0 0 26 5 6.50
Notts v Lancashire Nottingham 16 Jun 2003 Twenty20
A Jacobs 4.0 0 26 5 6.50
Warriors v Eagles Bloemfontein 21 Feb 2007 Twenty20
JF Brown 4.0 0 27 5 6.75
Northants v Somerset Northampton 20 Jun 2003 Twenty20
DMGS Dissanayake 4.0 0 27 5 6.75
Bloomfield v Ragama Colombo (Moors) 8 Oct 2005 Twenty20
Fawad Alam 4.0 0 27 5 6.75
K Dolphins v S Stallions Karachi 26 Dec 2006 Twenty20
NJ Rimmington 4.0 0 27 5 6.75
Queensland v Tasmania Toowoomba 1 Jan 2007 Twenty20
Nischal Gaur 4.0 0 28 5 7.00
H. Pradesh v Delhi Delhi 3 Apr 2007 Twenty20
EP Thompson 4.0 0 32 5 8.00
Central Dist v Otago Napier 20 Jan 2007 Twenty20
AGR Loudon 4.0 0 33 5 8.25
Warwickshire v Glamorgan Swansea 25 Jun 2005 Twenty20
AJ Hollioake 4.0 0 34 5 8.50
Surrey v Hampshire The Oval 3 Jul 2004 Twenty20

Shoaib cleared to play in IPL

Shoaib Akhtar arrives to face the tribunal at the Pakistan Cricket Academy...

Shoaib Akhtar has been cleared to play in the IPL after the Appellate Tribunal decided to suspend his five-year ban for one month, until they reconvene on June 4. The PCB has, in turn, granted Shoaib a No Objection Certificate to feature in the IPL, where he will play for the Kolkata Knight Riders.

Lalit Modi, the chairman and commissioner of the IPL, confirmed that Shoaib will play the tournament. "We look forward to Shoaib playing for us," Modi said. "I am going to call him immediately and invite him to come to Kolkata tonight or tomorrow morning."

Farrukh Aftab, the head of the three-man tribunal, announced the decision. "We have suspended the ban for one month and the next hearing will be held on June 4," Aftab told reporters in Lahore. "Had we not suspended the ban, he could not have been played the in IPL, which we thought was injustice to Akhtar."

Meanwhile, Shoaib expressed relief after his clearance. "This is a great relief for me as I am keen to play in the IPL," Shoaib said. "But this is just one battle won and we still have to win the final case."

The tribunal's decision to grant Shoaib a temporary reprieve comes after his lawyers pressed for the suspension of his ban.

Earlier, the tribunal, on April 30, had decided to uphold the PCB's ban on an interim-basis. Shoaib was banned for comments he made after not being offered a contract by the PCB, in which he lashed out at domestic tournaments, pitches and the administration in general. He made the comments while on a two-year probation after hitting team-mate Mohammad Asif with a bat before the World Twenty20 last year. Shoaib has the additional burden of dealing with a Rs 22 crore (approx US$3.37 million) defamation suit filed against him by PCB chief Nasim Ashraf.

The Knight Riders franchise, which signed him for US$425,000 in the player auctions, would welcome his arrival and hope for a turnaround in their fortunes. The team has suffered four consecutive losses after winning their first two games. Shoaib returns to one of his memorable hunting grounds, the Eden Gardens in Kolkata, where the team has five remaining home games. His was a revelation in his first Test at the venue, picking up eight wickets in a match-winning effort.

Pollock leads Mumbai's shock win

Shaun Pollock was immense in every aspect as Mumbai Indians snatched their first win at home...

A magnificent all-round performance by Shaun Pollock produced the biggest upset of the tournament as Mumbai Indians - languishing with just one win in five games - pipped the fancied Delhi Daredevils by 29 runs in a gripping contest at the DY Patil Sports Academy stadium. Requiring a modest 163 for the fifth win, Delhi's much-vaunted batting line-up collapsed for a paltry 133.

One player influenced this result more than any other. Pollock has had a mixed tournament so far, but here he was immense in every aspect. With the bat, he came in to bat in the 15th over, when Mumbai were languishing at 112 for 5, and blasted 33 off a mere 15 balls, including 22 off the penultimate over, which changed a below-par total into a competitive one. He then returned with the ball and sent down four metronomic overs, conceding just 16 for two wickets. In his second over, he nailed Shikhar Dhawan, and then returned for a second spell to dismiss the dangerous Shoaib Malik. Add a catch to dismiss Virender Sehwag, and some inspired captaincy moves, and there was no doubt about who the Man of the Match was.

Delhi's strength has been their top-order batting - their top three have been in outstanding form - but here, two of them were back in the hutch after 14 deliveries, and the rest failed to measure up. On a slow pitch, both Gautam Gambhir and Dhawan mistimed drives on the up, and after three overs, the scorecard read a sorry 6 for 2. to make matters worse, Sehwag struggled to get the strike, facing just seven deliveries in the first six overs.

AB de Villiers and Sehwag mounted a mini-revival, but when de Villiers was unluckily run out backing up too far, it was the first indication that the day was going to belong to Mumbai. Sehwag, though, wasn't about to give up too easily. He continued to struggle to get to the striker's end, but when he did, he made it count: Pollock was slashed over point for a huge six, Dwayne Bravo's slower one was heaved over the bowler's head, while Sanath Jayasuriya was greeted into the attack with two brutal sixes over long-on and midwicket, the first of which gave him the orange cap for the tournament's highest scorer. The next ball he faced was his last, though, as Pollock - that man again - brought off a smart catch as Sehwag miscued a low full-toss off Dominic Thornely.

From there, it was a matter of holding their nerve, and Mumbai did that expertly. The bowling was spot-on, and the fielding showed an urgency which clearly demonstrated how much they wanted this win. Nothing exemplified the new-found spirit more than Ashish Nehra diving full-length at the long-on boundary to bring off an amazing save in the 16th over.

Shoaib Malik and Dinesh Karthik both threatened a fightback, but Mumbai weren't to be denied today. Pollock returned for a second spell and immediately had Malik scooping one to long-on as another batsman was defeated by lack of pace, while Pollock's golden touch then brought another success, as he tossed the ball to Bravo, who trapped Karthik plumb in front with his first ball. Nehra, the other stand-out bowler in the game, then took two wickets in two balls to seal the contest.

At the halfway mark, though, it seemed Mumbai's 162 would be inadequate. The absence of Sachin Tendulkar hit them hard again, especially against a new-ball bowling attack which had Glenn McGrath and Mohammad Asif. Yogesh Takawale, the 23-year-old wicketkeeper from Maharashtra who opened the innings, struggled to get the ball off the square, putting additional pressure on Jayasuriya. For a brief period, though, he responded magnificently. After starting off with a glorious cover-drive off McGrath, he flicked and lofted Asif for three fours. Yo Mahesh was greeted with a flicked six over square leg and a four to fine leg off successive balls. That, unfortunately, was as good as it got, as Takawale skied to third man, and Jayasuriya charged once too often. Those two wickets in the spate of three balls suddenly pegged back Mumbai, and they struggled to recover from that double blow.

The one feature that ran through the Mumbai innings was their tendency to lose wickets every time they seemed to be snatching the momentum. Robin Uthappa struck successive sixes over long-on and midwicket, only to throw it away by attempting a too-cheeky scoop over fine leg. Dominic Thornely, who returned to the team after recovering from the blow to the eye off Zaheer Khan a couple of weeks back, picked off Rajat Bhatia for a straight six before falling next ball, bowled while attempting a wild slog.

The reckless approach continued, as Abhishek Nayar moved to leg and missed a quick one from Virender Sehwag, while Dwayne Bravo lofted the fourth ball he faced straight to long-on. With the innings falling away alarmingly, it needed a quick blitz from Pollock to lift Mumbai to a somewhat respectable total. The 19th over - bowled by the lacklustre Asif - disappeared for 22 as Pollock smashed him straight, over extra cover, and over square leg for three sixes. A total of 162 still seemed below par, but that was before an inspired Mumbai Indian team took the field.