Saturday, July 5, 2008

Batting giants prepare for final onslaught

Four of India's batsmen have already scored more than 250 runs in the tournament.

Match facts

Sunday, July 6, 2008
Start time 16.00 (local), 10.00 (GMT)

Big Picture
After a frenetic 11-day period that saw 12 matches, Sri Lanka and India have survived the crammed schedule, the heat, and a few wobbles to make their way to yet another Asia Cup final. Historically, these two sides have been the strongest in the tournament, winning seven of the eight editions so far; Sunday's game will be their sixth meeting in Asia Cup finals.

The excellent batting pitches have been a constant throughout the tournament, and the teams to survive have utilised these conditions better than others - India and Sri Lanka have easily been the best batting teams of the competition. Both have settled line-ups, with most of their top order in superb form, which points towards another run-fest on Sunday.

With both teams in such exceptional batting touch, the difference in the final could be a bowling spell or some inspiration in the field. Nine matches have already been played on the same square at the National Stadium, suggesting that spinners might have something to look forward to. Sri Lanka have the clear advantage in that department, with Muttiah Muralitharan and the exciting Ajantha Mendis leading the way.

Sri Lanka also have the edge in the field. India's exceptional batting has masked their generally sloppy fielding throughout the tournament. Catches have been missed, the ground fielding has been erratic and, in a crunch game, these factors could well be critical.

Form guide
(Last five completed ODIs; most recent first)
Sri Lanka LWWWW

Watch out for ...
Sanath Jayasuriya, who loves the big occasion, and he loves batting against India. If he survives the early overs, the Indian bowlers could be in for more tough times.

Gautam Gambhir. He has been consistency personified in ODIs this year, and his excellence against spin makes him a key batsman for India against an attack featuring Muralitharan and Mendis.

The battle of the openers: Gambhir and Sehwag have added 319 runs for the first wicket in four innings at an average partnership of 79.75 and a rate of 8.14 runs per over; Jayasuriya and Sangakkara have averaged 88.75 per partnership at seven runs per over. The new-ball bowlers from both teams clearly have their work cut out.

Murali v Yuvraj: Yuvraj has often struggled against slow bowlers at the start of his innings, and if he bats at No. 5, there's a good chance that he'll be confronted by Murali as soon as he comes in.

Team news
Sri Lanka had rested Chaminda Vaas and Ajantha Mendis for their last round-robin match, against India, but both are certain to return for the final. Two out of Kaushalya Weeraratne, Thilan Thusahara and Dilhara Fernando will sit out. None of them has had tournaments to remember so far, but Fernando's experience might help him retain his place.

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

India's batting has been spectacular throughout the tournament, but the bowling is a worry. The biggest concern has been Irfan Pathan, who, after missing the first three games due to a side strain, has leaked 148 runs in 20 overs for just a solitary wicket. His place could be taken by Yusuf Pathan. Pragyan Ojha will keep his place after two tidy performances, which means Piyush Chawla misses out.

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

Umpires Simon Taufel & Tony Hill. Third umpire Zameer Haider

Stats and trivia
# Sri Lanka haven't lost to India in the last six finals between the two teams - they've won four while two were rained out. The last time India won a final against them was ten years ago, in the Singer-Akai Nidahas Trophy.

# Sanath Jayasuriya averages 51.54 at a strike rate of 100.17 in finals against India. In 11 innings he has scored one hundred and four fifties, including a 99.

# Muttiah Muralitharan has an excellent economy rate of 4.03 in finals against India. In seven innings, he has taken nine wickets at 28.22.

# India's top five (Gambhir, Sehwag, Raina, Dhoni and Yuvraj) all average more than fifty in the tournament, with Dhoni the only one with a strike rate - 97.88 - less than 100.

"Mendis is a big-game player and he has the ability to play well in big matches and we will be counting on him in the final."
Mahela Jayawardene names his trump card for the final

"Our openers have given us good starts and if they continue to do so it would keep pressure off the middle order and set the foundation."
Mahendra Singh Dhoni looks forward to another strong start by Sehwag and Gambhir

India v Sri Lanka Asia Cup final Live Streaming And Live Score Board.

Australia seek whitewash

Michael Hussey and Michael Clarke will lead between them once more.

Match facts

Sunday, July 6
Start time 09:30 (local), 13:30 (GMT)

The Big Picture

West Indies will still be kicking themselves for giving up the fourth ODI having been in full control of the run chase and will be fully pumped ready to prove a point to their critics. Australia have been left with a very good chance of a rare ODI series sweep and Michael Clarke will be hoping for a more convincing showing in his second one-dayer as captain in the injured Ricky Ponting's absence. The match is both teams' last chance for some international cricket for nearly two months before they play some warm-up ODIs at the end of August ready for the Champions Trophy in Pakistan in September.

ODI form guide

West Indies - LLLLN (most recent first)
Australia - WWWWL

Team news

West Indies made some quick adjustments after their third straight loss, bringing in an untested trio for the fourth ODI and dropping Patrick Browne, Sulieman Benn and Kieron Pollard. Of the new three, Nikita Miller took a wicket on debut and Shawn Findlay made 9, while Kemar Roach is yet to feature. West Indies captain Chris Gayle has spoken about his displeasure that he's not always sure what's going on selection-wise. "The majority of the time we discuss about selection and sometimes I get something totally different," he told the Trinidad Express. "It's difficult on my side." He and Ramnaresh Sarwan have been struggling with groin complaints, while Shivnarine Chanderpaul has had a calf complaint, so whether they will be risked once more still remains to be seen.

West Indies (possible) 1 Chris Gayle (capt), 2 Xavier Marshall, 3 Ramnaresh Sarwan, 4 Shivnarine Chanderpaul, 5 Dwayne Bravo, 6 Shawn Findlay, 7 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 8 Darren Sammy, 9 Daren Powell, 10 Fidel Edwards, 11 Kemar Roach.

Michael Clarke will captain again after Ponting flew home because of the tendon problem in his right wrist. Clarke avoided defeat in his first ODI as captain but while his team pulled off a last-ball win, he couldn't escape a fine for a slow over-rate, losing 10 per cent of his match fee. His team-mates also lost five per cent each. Stuart Clark is the only remaining member of the squad not to have played in the series and he could be used, giving Brett Lee a rest. David Hussey played his first ODI of the tour in the last match and made 50 so he has a strong chance of being retained.

Australia (possible) 1 Shane Watson, 2 Shaun Marsh, 3 David Hussey, 4 Michael Clarke (capt), 5 Michael Hussey, 6 Andrew Symonds, 7 Luke Ronchi (wk), 8 James Hopes, 9 Mitchell Johnson, 10 Nathan Bracken, 11 Stuart Clark.

Watch out for ...

Kemar Roach The 20-year-old Roach, a right-arm fast bowler, could be in line for his ODI debut. Though he has barely played any first-class cricket, he was called up to West Indies' third Test squad against Australia and has earned a place in the ODI squad, not that his captain Gayle particularly approves of new faces at a time when they are facing the World Champions, Australia. He has played for Barbados and West Indies' Under-19s and last month made his Twenty20 debut for West Indies.

Luke Ronchi Brad Haddin's injury picked up in the first ODI has given Ronchi four bites at the ODI cherry and so far his glovework has drawn much praise. But he will want to show off his explosive batting if he gets the chance. So far he has only been required to bat once, when he got 12 in the last match.

Umpires Asad Rauf, Steve Bucknor.


It's forecast to be windy with scattered showers in the afternoon in Basseterre on Sunday.

Stats and trivia

Friday's match was the first time in four matches that Australia have failed to surpass 300 runs on the smallish ground of Warner Park. It was also West Indies' first defeat in two ODIs there, having beaten India there in 2006. If Australia win the final game on Sunday it would be a rare whitewash of West Indies in ODI series in the Caribbean: this has happened only twice before when South Africa won 5-0 and Pakistan 3-0, both in 2005.


"Do you really want to experiment with a team like Australia? If that is the case, it is going to be more difficult to beat them. I thought it was the wrong time to try these things, to experiment a lot. We should be looking to win the series, but it's already gone."
Chris Gayle has been unhappy with some of the selection decisions

"A victory on Sunday and a 5-0 series sweep will mean a lot to us, since it has been our goal when we arrived in the Caribbean to win every match we play on this tour. It would be important to us because the new guys coming into the side would get to be a part of a winning side, and we would get to show them the level of performance we expect from them. This series is not over for us just yet. We want to win every match."
Michael Clarke goes for the big 5-0

PCB chairman backs captain and coach

Shoaib Malik and Geoff Lawson have been given a vote of confidence by the PCB chairman Nasim Ashraf.

Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Nasim Ashraf has said that both captain Shoaib Malik and coach Geoff Lawson will retain their jobs despite the team failing to reach the finals of the Asia Cup.

"Let me make it clear once again that Shoaib Malik and Geoff Lawson were both appointed for two-year terms and they will at least continue till then," he said. Ashraf had criticised the team last month for a 140-run loss to India in the league phase of the Kitply Cup in Bangladesh.

However, on Friday, he said Pakistan were a young team that was improving. "It will take time to groom the players and we are doing our best in that," he said. "Give me the same players who were part of the team in the 90s such as Imran Khan, Javed Miandad, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Saeed Anwar, Aamir Sohail and others and see the result. We don't have the same talent that we had in the 80s and 90s and we have to accept that as a reality."

Ashraf said he was happy with players' attitude and their commitment. "I know personally the players are very committed. I can tell you that after we lost to Sri Lanka I went to the Pakistan dressing room and saw Shahid Afridi crying and wanting to be dropped from the team because he had not performed well. I saw Malik on a stretcher on drips and with cold packs on his body yet he went out and played in that match.

"I feel sorry when some people in such circumstances question the commitment of some players. I have told them to give 100% and even if they lose that is alright but they must give 100% effort."

Holding quits ICC cricket committee

Michael Holding: "A lot of things are happening today that I don't want to be involved with, so I've moved on".

Michael Holding, the former West Indian fast bowler, has resigned from the ICC cricket committee because he is unhappy with the ICC's decision to change the result of the 2006 Oval Test between England and Pakistan from a forfeited win for England to a draw.

Holding felt that Pakistan's refusal to play should not go unpunished even though they were not guilty of ball-tampering.

"I have just written my letter of resignation to the ICC cricket committee because I cannot agree with what they've done," Holding said while commentating for Sky Sports during a domestic match in England. "That game should never, ever be a draw. When you take certain actions, you must be quite happy to suffer the consequences.

"A lot of things are happening today that I don't want to be involved with, so I've moved on."

The Oval Test was originally awarded to England by umpire Darrell Hair after Pakistan did not come out to field after tea on the fourth day, following accusations of ball-tampering.

Pakistan had, at the time, been in a strong position in the match, having secured a first-innings lead of 331 and removed four England batsmen in their second innings. There was nothing at stake in the series, with England already leading 2-0 after wins at Headingley and Old Trafford, but the eventual forfeiture was the first in the history of Test cricket. The removal of England's win could affect their standing in the ICC Test Championship - they are currently third on 110 points, one ahead of their next opponents, South Africa, on 109.

The result had huge off-field ramifications as well. Hair went on to be suspended from the ICC elite panel, and though that decision was overturned last year when he took his employers to the High Court in London, the initial decision formed the basis of Pakistan's appeal for a rethink of the result.

World Twenty20 pullout a one-off decision

Giles Clarke: "We have reached a conclusion that is undoubtedly the right one for cricket"

Zimbabwe's decision to pull out of the ICC World Twenty20 in England next year is just a one-off decision, the ICC has said. The decision cleared the roadblock for the competition to be staged in England, but Zimbabwe retained its Full Member status in the ICC, a compromise outgoing ICC president Ray Mali termed as a "win-win solution".

The ICC statement read: "The Zimbabwe delegation have agreed to take this decision in the greater interest of world cricket and the ICC. This recommendation should be viewed as a one-off and will not be taken as a precedent."

The boards of England and South Africa had raised the issue of Zimbabwe's Full Member status going into the ICC board meeting in Dubai, but India is believed to have played a major role in brokering the compromise. Giles Clarke, the ECB chairman, said Norman Arendse, the Cricket South Africa president, highlighted Nelson Mandela's recent comments, in which he mentioned "the tragic failure of leadership in our neighbouring Zimbabwe".

"This statement was quoted during the board meeting by Norman Arendse, the chairman of Cricket South Africa and had a significant impact," Clarke told the Independent. "Nelson Mandela is a legendary figure and, as Mr Arendse said, he is a modern-day saint. His pronouncements carry weight." But it was Sharad Pawar, the BCCI president, who managed to persuade the Zimbabwe delegation, led by Peter Chingoka, to pull out.

"We have reached a conclusion that is undoubtedly the right one for cricket," Clarke told the Times. "Norman [Arendse] was very strong and when Sharad [Pawar] determined what he thought was the right course of action, there was no doubt what would happen. He made a very, very significant decision.

"I am very pleased with the agreement. We made our position absolutely clear all along, that Zimbabwe would not be coming, and that was the right position," Clarke said. "I was determined that it would be settled by us in the boardroom and that our players would never again be put in the situation where they had to make decisions." David Morgan, the new ICC president, had said the issue of Zimbabwe's membership was never discussed at the board meeting.

Meanwhile, Haroon Lorgat, the new ICC chief executive, praised Chingoka's role in effecting a resolution, and said politics must be kept out of cricket. "We cannot as a sports governing body be mixing the issues of politics with sport," Lorgat told the Gulf News. "I was very encouraged by the robustness of the debate around the executive board table but at the end of the day the issues of politics and sport should be kept separate.

"The Zimbabwe Cricket Board president Peter Chingoka helped broker the solution. It would have been extremely difficult if Chingoka was not in favour of the recommendation," he said. "I'm now confident that with the goodwill that has come through in the process of our deliberations, everybody will look at the big picture."

Zimbabwe Cricket will have to ratify the decision made by their delegation. An ICC sub-committee will oversee Zimbabwe's reintegration into mainstream cricket, and possibly the Future Tours Programme. The committee will be headed by Julian Hunte, the president of the West Indies Cricket Board, and will include Arjuna Ranatunga, the president of Sri Lanka Cricket, and an ICC official yet to be confirmed.

Australia snatch win in final-ball thriller

Andrew Symonds top scored with 87 at better than a run a ball.

Australia snatched a victory that should never have been theirs as Shane Watson delivered a superb final over that consigned West Indies to a devastating one-run defeat. Chris Gayle's 92 had set up what appeared certain to be a successful chase as West Indies pursued 283, but a string of late wickets ensured Michael Clarke tasted success in his first ODI as Australia's captain.

Clarke found out just how tough it is juggling bowlers at the end of a tense match as he used up his main men Brett Lee and Nathan Bracken in the 48th and 49th, leaving Watson as the only realistic option to send down the 50th. But crucially the final overs of Bracken and Lee contained a wicket each and when Shivnarine Chanderpaul (53) was bowled trying to turn Bracken through leg it left eight required from six balls.

Darren Sammy and Denesh Ramdin could only manage six singles as Watson pitched the ball up magnificently. Three were needed from the final delivery, which Sammy drove to mid off, where Clarke collected it cleanly to keep them to one and give himself a perfect, if stressful start to his one-day captaincy career.

He probably could not believe the result after West Indies were cruising through most of the innings. With eight overs remaining, they had seven wickets in hand and needed just 41 with Dwayne Bravo and Chanderpaul at the crease. Bravo was bowled by James Hopes for 31 but the momentum didn't really start to shift until a cracking late spell from Brett Lee, who tied down the debutant Shawn Findlay and took 1 for 10 from his final three overs.

Lee picked up Findlay through a stunning catch from Michael Hussey, who dived at full stretch to his left at midwicket. Four dot balls to Ramdin followed and West Indies could sense something was going wrong. Disappointment is a feeling that has been common for them in this series, but to throw away such a promising start would have been heartbreaking.

Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan had set them off to a terrific start with a 137-run second-wicket stand that was a welcome change in a series where they have cried out for contributions from their senior batsmen. After battling a groin injury and a dip in form, Gayle was back to his best in an innings that featured some powerful strikes, including a ferocious six over long on from a Lee half-volley.

Gayle also took a particular liking to Hopes, whom he clubbed flat and straight for six before clipping him for four through the leg side in an over that cost 14. His half-century came in 45 deliveries but his frustrating exit just short of triple-figures - he skied Watson to point, where Hopes took a terrific catch - turned out to be a key moment.

Already Sarwan had departed for a well made 63, edging behind off Lee having just dispatched him for a pair of fours. Sarwan pounded the part-time offspinner David Hussey straight over his head for six having started superbly with his first two deliveries driven straight and through cover for boundaries off Lee.

The Gayle-Sarwan union seemed to confirm what most observers thought: Australia's 282 for 8 was unlikely to be enough on a ground with a lightning fast outfield and tiny boundaries. In their three previous one-day internationals at Warner Park, all at last year's World Cup, the lowest total Australia had reached was 334. On this occasion, despite an excellent 87 from Andrew Symonds and a promising 50 from the debutant David Hussey, it was a string of unfulfilled starts from the top-order players that limited the team's score.

Daren Powell nipped the new ball around dangerously and removed both Shaun Marsh and Watson after they made starts, and when Clarke and Michael Hussey fell in the 30s, Australia were 129 for 4 and in a bit of a hole. But Symonds, the Man of the Match, paced his innings well, starting with singles and twos before launching a late attack that featured a massive six straight down the ground off Powell. It was Symonds' 101st six in ODIs after he brought up his 100th with a controlled drive over long on against the first-gamer Nikita Miller.

Symonds also showed off his version of the reverse sweep, an unconventional take on an already unusual stroke. When Miller pitched the ball on his pads, Symonds shaped as if to play a normal sweep, then ran the ball off the back of his bat down to the third-man boundary. It was nowhere near as gobsmacking as Kevin Pietersen's switch-hitting but it was innovative all the same.

When his 78-ball 87 ended with a drive caught at mid off, it was the finish of a 127-run partnership with Hussey, whose 50 from 51 deliveries included a six slogged over midwicket off Bravo and another driven viciously over long off against Powell. To their credit, West Indies' bowlers pegged back the rate in the dying overs when they picked up 4 for 23.

It was enough to limit Australia to a gettable total. As West Indies know only too well, they should have got it. Instead they will return to the same venue on Sunday for the final match, desperate to prove a point to their critics, including their own disgruntled board president.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Pakistan thrash sorry Bangladesh

Abdur Rauf's picked up three top-order wickets as Bangladesh were bowled out for 115.

A clinical performance from Pakistan saw them coast to a ten-wicket win over Bangladesh in the inconsequential final Super Four match of the Asia Cup. In a refreshing change at the National Stadium in Karachi, the bowlers dominated the proceedings in the first session but for Bangladesh it was the same old story as their innings folded at 115 all out - the tournament's lowest total.

On a pitch offering sideways movement and extra bounce, Abdur Rauf sliced through the top order with three wickets and Iftikhar Anjum bowled an astonishing six maidens - equalling the record for a Pakistani - to put the hosts on course. Half-centuries from openers Nasir Jamshed and Salman Butt helped complete the formalities with more than 30 overs to spare.

The plethora of big scores that have been easily chased down hasn't dissuaded captains from choosing to bat first, and Mohammad Ashraful continued the trend. While Sohail Tanvir extracted significant lateral movement from the pitch initially, it was Rauf who got the early wickets.

On one of the cooler days of the tournament, on a difficult pitch, Bangladesh's batsmen compounded their troubles with some ill-advised shots. Opener Nazimuddin attempted to pull a short delivery in the second over from outside off and only managed to top-edge it to Shoaib Malik at cover.

Ashraful and Tamim Iqbal didn't bring out their strokes except when the bowlers erred, but their steady approach lifted Bangladesh to 41 for 2. Ashraful hadn't connected with an attempted hook in the ninth over but got hold of a short one from Rauf in the next to launch it over the midwicket boundary. Rauf's next ball was a fast bowler's classic reply: a snorter aimed at the body which forced Ashraful to give Misbah-ul-Haq a catch at point.

Raqibul Hasan has shown a heartening and - for a Bangladesh batsman - rare ability to stick it out in the middle but this time he went for an ambitious hook first ball off Tanvir to hole out at short fine leg.

With Bangladesh at a dicey 49 for 3, Rauf came up with the best over of the match. The first ball was a sharp bouncer which Tamim fended to slip, and Alok Kapali barely survived the next five torrid deliveries - a couple of well-directed bouncers, and a mixture of incoming and away-going deliveries.

Iftikhar Anjum followed the Rauf formula of throwing in a surprise bouncer while also testing the batsmen against the deliveries which seamed off a length. Kapali struck three boundaries in Anjum's first over but he was undone by the extra lift in the pitch as well. It was a superb comeback by Anjum, conceding only seven runs in his last nine overs and beating the bat on umpteen occasions. He finished with figures of 10-6-20-2 and was unlucky to not get more wickets.

Saeed Ajmal backed up the good work of the fast bowlers, picking up two late-order wickets off his doosra, which the batsmen struggled to pick as Bangladesh folded in the 39th over.

The flimsy total wasn't going to be much of a challenge for a Pakistan batting line-up that convincingly chased down 309 against India on Wednesday. Jamshed provided the early momentum, repeatedly carting the bowlers in the arc between long-on and midwicket as Pakistan went into the dinner break at 23 for no loss.

Shahadat Hossain extracted the same bounce which aided the Pakistan bowlers, and troubled both openers in the first over after the resumption but there were few alarms after that. Pakistan scored a boundary in virtually every over with a series of off drives off Mashrafe Mortaza and Shahadat.

There was a brief lull after spin was introduced at both ends before Butt carved Abdur Razzak through extra cover in the eighteenth over. That opened the floodgates as Jamshed pummelled Mahmudullah over long-on for six and brought up his fifty with a swept four to midwicket. Butt also completed his fifty with three sweeps to the boundary off Razzak before an authoritative cut put Bangladesh out of their misery.

Bangladesh are still without a win against challenging opposition since last year's World Cup and the poor showing at the Asia Cup isn't the sort of preparation they'd want ahead of a tough tour of Australia.

Zimbabwe pull out of World Twenty20

Presenting a united front: Peter Chingoka smiles for the camera after a fraught ICC annual conference.

After weeks of backroom manoeuvring and two days of boardroom negotiations, the Zimbabwe issue was resolved with a compromise that sees them pulling out of the 2009 World Twenty20 in England yet retaining their Full Member status with access to full funding from the ICC.

Zimbabwe, whose decision to pull out from the World Twenty20 cleared the roadblock for the competition to be staged in England, will receive its full participation fee for the tournament. The scenario prompted Ray Mali, whose term as ICC president ended today, to call it a "win-win solution".

"We have decided to pull out in the larger interests of the game," Peter Chingoka, the chairman of Zimbabwe Cricket, told Cricinfo. "We have been informed that the British government may not grant visas to our players, and that situation may prevail during the Twenty20 World Cup. We don't want to be gatecrashers; we will attend only those weddings to which we are invited."

Friday morning's meeting of the ICC executive board, which spilled over into an unscheduled third day, lasted barely 20 minutes and wound up with sighs of relief, smiles all around and a group photo session that featured Mali's successor David Morgan shaking hands warmly with Sharad Pawar, head of the Indian board and the ICC's president-elect.

The morning's session was brief only because the principal players had been working through the night on an agreement that would avert a feared split within the ICC with England and South Africa ranged against India and other Asian countries over the propriety of Zimbabwe's status as Full Member.

In the end, India is believed to have played a key role in the compromise, especially in convincing Zimbabwe that the issue was not about membership of the ICC but about getting back into world cricket.

"We have consulted and exchanged notes with everybody, including our Indian friends, last night," Chingoka said. "We are now looking forward to more tours and international cricket with our Asian friends, especially India."

Top Curve
2009 World Twenty20

  • Zimbabwe's place in the World Twenty20 may now be given to an Associate, thus bringing up the number of Associates who will take part in the tournament to three, a senior ICC official confirmed.
  • Colin Gibson, the ECB spokesperson, told Cricinfo that tickets for the tournament "have almost entirely been sold out". "We are looking at an approximate revenue of somewhere between US$ 20-25 million already. The only matches for which tickets are still left are the two double-headers involving Zimbabwe," Gibson said.
  • Samir Inamdar, the chairman of the ICC's Affiliates and Associates, said that it has been agreed upon that an extra associate would be invited for the tournament, instead of Zimbabwe. "The third associate will come through the qualifiers in August this year. I have had a conversation with Giles Clarke, the ECB chairman, who has agreed that it is logical to replace Zimbabwe with an associate," Inamdar told Cricinfo.
Bottom Curve

Mali, it is learnt, also played his part last night in allaying Zimbabwean fears over their future. "Ray Mali, Dave Richardson, Haroon Lorgat and I decided on an adjournment yesterday to take the discussions forward. Mali took the lead (in resolving the issue)," Morgan said, before admitting "there were a number of private meetings after the adjournment."

Morgan said the issue of Zimbabwe's membership was never discussed at the board meeting, which "unanimously" accepted the country's "voluntary proposal" to pull out of the World Twenty20. There were different views on the issue during the hectic discussions, he acknowledged, but dismissed talk of the ICC being divided as a "mistake".

"It was a collective decision and I was a part of that decision," Sharad Pawar, the BCCI president, confirmed to Cricinfo.

Zimbabwe's re-integration into mainstream cricket, and possibly the FTP, will be overseen by a three-member ICC sub-committee headed by Julian Hunte, the president of the West Indies Cricket Board, and including Arjuna Ranatunga, the president of Sri Lanka Cricket, and an ICC official yet to be confirmed. Hunte and Ranatunga are ICC board members and were part of the official discussions over Zimbabwe here in Dubai.

The sub-committee will advise the ICC board on all matters relating to Zimbabwe cricket; specific terms of reference for its operation have not yet been finalised but it's believed that it will report back to the ICC board in November.

The only window of uncertainty now is the one month that Chingoka has been given to get his board's approval for the arrangement, including the pullout from the World Twenty20. Chingoka calls the shots in ZC so this effectively gives him time to reassess his position, especially if he develops any second thoughts over the compromise.

Australia spells out tough stand on ICL

James Sutherland: "We know that playing India in India is always going to be very tough and I am sure our players will want to ensure the best possible Test series"

The Champions League is still in the planning stages but one clear strand that has emerged is a hardening of positions vis-à-vis the unofficial Indian Cricket League. Cricket Australia has joined the BCCI and Cricket South Africa in adopting a strong position against allowing players associated with the ICL to participate in the proposed Champions League.

"We have made clear our position in respect to the ICL from the start," James Sutherland, CA's chief executive, told Cricinfo. "We don't support competitions that are not properly authorised by the home body and we wouldn't support that in our country. But we understand the problems for some other countries which are in a predicament."

It appears now that England, with around 25 ICL cricketers playing for 15 of its 18 counties, will have to take a tough decision on the Champions League though there have been attempts to break the deadlock with a suggestion that players who took part only in the inaugural ICL tournament, possibly unaware of the consequences, be considered for the event. "It's too early to really comment on that. It's not something I feel comfortable talking about right now," said Sutherland, who was part of the negotiations that took place here on Thursday between the boards of Australia, England, India and South Africa.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is also understood to be already exploring other options, including accepting an offer to take part in another, similar tournament.

The Champions League is proposed to be held in the 10-day window between the ICC Champions Trophy and Australia's first Test in India starting October 9. That will most likely clash with a scheduled practice match on Australia's tour and raises the possibility of a conflict of interest for the two Australians - Michael Hussey and Matthew Hayden - who are part of the Chennai Super Kings, which qualified for the Champions League.

Sutherland, though, said Cricket Australia will speak to its players on the issue. "One of the things that is really critical for us is to ensure the best possible preparation for what will be a really big Test series. We know that playing India in India is always going to be very tough and I am sure our players will want to ensure the best possible Test series. So we will have to talk to the players and the coach about what the best preparations are going to be.

"The purpose of discussions during the course of last few days was to just progress those a little bit, put them on the table, and have a bit of a debate on some of the more contentious issues and try to smooth that through," he said.

Sutherland said a final picture on the Champions League would become clear only after further discussions, though another official who attended Thursday's meeting told Cricinfo that the competition would be held at three venues in India, with Jaipur and Delhi "on the confirmed list" and a decision pending between Mohali and Bangalore as the third venue.

Asia Cup success proves Pakistan is safe - Ashraf

Nasim Ashraf: "We are very proud the Asia Cup is organised in such a nice and peaceful manner. It proves that Pakistan is a country where cricket can be played safely"

The successful organisation of the Asia Cup will boost Pakistan's chances of hosting the ICC Champions Trophy in September this year, the board chairman Nasim Ashraf said.

"All kinds of security arrangements will be made for the Champions Trophy," Ashraf said after returning Thursday from the ICC's executive board meeting in Dubai. Sri Lanka is the alternate host for the Champions Trophy in September if a final security report within 10 days of the Asia Cup finishing on July 6 demonstrates that Pakistan is unsafe.

"It's a standard process of the ICC to have a backup venue," Ashraf said. "I was assured in the ICC's meeting by all the members that they intend to participate in the Champions Trophy in Pakistan.

"We are very proud the Asia Cup is organised in such a nice and peaceful manner," Ashraf said. "It proves that Pakistan is a country where cricket can be played safely."

New Zealand are also set to tour Pakistan for a short three-match ODI series in August, further enhancing Pakistan's chances. Ashraf met with Justin Vaughan, CEO New Zealand Cricket, in Dubai where the PCB chief was assured the tour would go ahead.

"New Zealand will arrive on August 20 and the series begins from August 24," Ashraf said. "Two matches will be played in Faisalabad and the third in Multan.

Australia postponed a tour of Pakistan in March after several bomb attacks in the wake of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto's assassination in December 2007, and several Australian and New Zealand players have already indicated they may pull out of the tournament rather than play in Pakistan.

Ashraf also appreciated the ICC's decision to change the 2006 Oval Test result from a forfeit win for England to a draw. "The ICC and especially the ECB showed tremendous generosity in reversing a bad decision," Ashraf said. "The decision shows that if humans can make mistakes it can be corrected by humans."

Darrell Hair, the umpire at the centre of the storm, was later banned from the ICC elite umpire's panel and only returned after completing a rehabilitation program last September, when he also dropped a claim of racial discrimination against the ICC in the British High Court. Ashraf said that he was not sure whether Hair would officiate in the Champions Trophy. "I leave it to the wisdom of the ICC to do the right thing," he said.

Shoaib's ban suspended till final judgment

Shoaib Akhtar's ban has been suspended pending a final judgement but the fine still remains.

Shoaib Akhtar's ban on playing for Pakistan has been temporarily suspended by the Lahore High Court pending a full and final judgement, which technically means the fast bowler is eligible to play for Pakistan. The fine imposed on him by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) in the original punishment remains however.

Shoaib was banned on April 1 from playing cricket for Pakistan for five years by the board's disciplinary committee, for comments he made to the media about the board earlier in the year. He had criticised the board's policy on central contracts, as well as playing conditions in a domestic tournament.

After the ban was announced, Shoaib went on to level serious allegations against Nasim Ashraf, the board chairman, in a series of TV interviews. The charges led to a defamation lawsuit being slapped against him by Ashraf and the board though the lawsuit was eventually dropped.

A subsequent appellate tribunal reduced his sentence to 18 months but imposed a hefty financial fine on him of Rs 7 million ($105,000 approximately). Unhappy with the judgement of the three-man tribunal, headed by a retired chief justice, Shoaib then filed a writ petition in the Lahore High Court last month.

"Akhtar's appeal of stay against the ban was upheld," Tafazzul Rizvi, the PCB lawyer said. "This means he is temporarily allowed to play until the writ petition is fully heard."

According to a source close to Shoaib's legal team, the judgement is only an interim one until the court hears out the whole case. It is unlikely that the case will proceed at any pace until at least September, after the summer break. "He is technically allowed to play for Pakistan now," said the source.

Understandably, Shoaib was pleased with the decision. "I am relieved. I want to play for my country and my fitness is up to the level," Shoaib said. "I might go to England to play a few county or league games to gain match fitness.

"I want to play in the Champions Trophy and win it for my people. I am thankful to the PCB chairman for his support in the last two months."

Whether or not he will have an opportunity to play is another question. It is unlikely that the selection committee will pick him, despite the paucity of pace resources in the current side, given his recent run-ins with the board. "We respect the court's decision," Salahuddin Ahmed, chief selector, told Cricinfo. "Shoaib's selection in the future will be based on his fitness and his match fitness." The future of Mohammad Asif, Pakistan's other leading fast bowler, is also unclear: he is the subject of an internal three-man board inquiry after he was detained in Dubai for 20 days for allegedly being caught in possession with a drug at Dubai airport.

In any case, Pakistan have no international assignments until late August, when New Zealand are scheduled to visit for three ODIs, though even that is yet to be confirmed. In September, Pakistan is scheduled to host the ICC Champions Trophy.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Three hundred 300s

India's successful run-chase, overhauling Sri Lanka's 308, was the 300th instance of a team scoring 300 or more in one-day internationals. Here are some quick numbers on 300s

# The first score in excess of 300 was England's 334 against India in the first match of the 1975 World Cup. It was a 60-over game. England, however, have gone past 300 only 21 times so far.

# Australia have scored more than 300 the most times - 53 - and they've won 48 of those games. Pakistan and India have scored 300 or more in 49 and 47 matches respectively.

# The National Stadium in Karachi, the venue of the 300th three-hundred, has also had the most innings of above 300 - 18 in 42 ODIs.

# Teams have scored 300 or more in 51 innings in India which is the most in any country. There have been 35 in Pakistan, 33 in Australia, and 31 each in England and South Africa.

# India have scored 300 on 12 occasions while batting second , the most by any country.

# The year 2007 had the most scores in excess of 300 - 51 innings. There were 27 in 2005 while 2006 had 24.

# The 2008 Asia Cup has already had 10 scores of above 300 which is the second highest for any tournament. The highest is the 2007 World Cup when teams reached 300 sixteen times.

West Indies aim to restore pride

Ricky Ponting is in doubt for the fourth ODI due to a minor wrist injury.

Match facts
Friday, July 4
Start time 09:30 (local), 13:30 (GMT)

The Big Picture

The spark has rather disappeared from a tour that during the Test portion delivered a few non-fatal shocks to Australia. If the 2-0 Test result did not fully reflect the closeness of the series, the 3-0 scoreline in the ODIs has been totally justified. It means Australia have already won the five-match contest, although they will be keen to avoid a repeat of their 2003 tour of West Indies when they secured the series by claiming the first four matches, then went down in the remaining three. For the home team, the main aim is to regain some lost pride.

ODI form guide

West Indies - LLLNW (most recent first)
Australia - WWWLL

Team news

It was not surprising that West Indies dropped three players from the squad for the final two games. Patrick Browne, Sulieman Benn and Kieron Pollard were axed, while Jerome Taylor was also unavailable due to a shoulder injury. Three uncapped men have been included, though it is not clear how many will play. Nikita Miller is a strong chance to make his debut in a straight swap for Benn, while it would also be a good time to test the fast bowler Kemar Roach. Shawn Findlay's chances of a top-order spot could hinge on whether any of Chris Gayle, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shivnarine Chanderpaul are rested with their injury niggles.

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

The main question in the Australian camp is whether the captain Ricky Ponting will be rested after he battled a slight wrist injury in the previous match. The problem is not considered serious but he trained very lightly on Wednesday and could potentially hand the captaincy reins to Michael Clarke, who has only led his country in Twenty20 internationals. With the series already decided there will likely be places for David Hussey and Stuart Clark, the only two members of the squad who have not yet been used, while Brett Lee might be rested.

Australia (possible) 1 Shane Watson, 2 Shaun Marsh, 3 Ricky Ponting/David Hussey, 4 Michael Clarke, 5 Michael Hussey, 6 Andrew Symonds, 7 Luke Ronchi (wk), 8 James Hopes, 9 Mitchell Johnson, 10 Nathan Bracken, 11 Stuart Clark.

Watch out for ...

Nikita Miller The third specialist spinner used by West Indies during Australia's tour, after Amit Jaggernauth in the first Test and Sulieman Benn in the third Test and opening one-dayers. Some West Indies observers were surprised Miller was overlooked earlier in the series after topping the domestic first-class wicket list for the season. A left-arm orthodox bowler, he will be hoping for a more promising start to his international career than most West Indies slow men.

Andrew Symonds After missing the first two games with a back injury, Symonds was not required to do much with the bat in his return as the top order drove Australia most of the way home. He did pick up a couple of wickets with his offspin and further bowling success might make Australia rethink whether they need a specialist spinner in the short formats following Brad Hogg's retirement. There's also the small matter of his batting, which could provide the St Kitts crowd with some entertainment.

Umpires Asad Rauf, Steve Bucknor.


Scattered showers are forecast in Basseterre on Friday.

Stats and trivia

Australia have happy memories of Warner Park, where they played three games during last year's World Cup and posted 300-plus scores every time. Two of the outings were against minnows but the defeat of South Africa was especially memorable, with Ponting and Clarke both falling just short of triple figures as the team made 377 for 6.

West Indies have only played one ODI at the venue, when Sarwan and Chanderpaul guided them to victory over India in 2006.

Gayle's 53 in the previous match in Grenada is West Indies' only half-century of the series; Australia have had six men pass fifty once each.


"They are the best team, and you can look to see where your cricket is. It would be really disappointing to lose 5-0."
Chris Gayle, West Indies' captain

"At the start of the series we said we wanted to win 5-0. We've got two games to go and I think we're playing good enough cricket to do that."
Michael Clarke, Australia's vice-captain

Batting might sees India into final

Despite keeping in back-to-back games, and playing a long innings against Pakistan, Mahendra Singh Dhoni managed two catches, two run-outs and 67 runs against Sri Lanka.

For the second day in succession, a target of 309 was overhauled without much trouble. Each of India's batsmen played their part as India reached the final with a convincing six-wicket win over Sri Lanka. Muttiah Muralitharan was the only bowler to unsettle the batsmen but, with little support from the rest, India triumphed with 19 balls to spare.

In contrast to their bowling effort, four of Sri Lanka's top six made significant contributions to help them post an imposing total. However, having already qualified for the final, they rested the experienced Chaminda Vaas as well as their new spin sensation Ajantha Mendis, a decision that worked in India's favour.

Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag provided their now-familiar blazing start as India started their chase in earnest. It wasn't an all-out assault from them. Runs were scored with a combination of well-timed boundaries and a host of sharp singles - even Sehwag's six over midwicket was an effortless pick-up off his pads. In fact, the only shot in the first Powerplay, based on brute force, was an on-drive from Gambhir off Nuwan Kulasekara in the 10th over.

With little in the pitch for the fast bowlers, the openers were only troubled when taking some ill-judged singles. Gambhir demonstrated his confidence level by repeatedly charging the fast bowlers while Sehwag nonchalantly pulled even length deliveries to midwicket. Though India had raced to 71 in the first 10 overs, Jayawardene decided to take the second Powerplay. The decision seemed to backfire as 21 runs came off the next nine balls but the breakthrough came when Sehwag tapped a slower ball down leg side to Dilhara Fernando at short fine leg.

Suresh Raina started off with a confident pull to midwicket but was fortunate to see a lofted drive dropped by substitute Jehan Mubarak at cover. He and Gambhir took India to 135 before Gambhir was trapped lbw for 68, failing to pick a straighter one from Murali. Dhoni promoted himself ahead of Yuvraj Singh probably to ensure two left-handers didn't have to deal with the wiles of Murali.

Dhoni hardly showed any effects of having kept in back-to-back matches and playing a long innings yesterday as he and Raina scampered quick singles and twos. He started out cautiously before opening out after the 30th over - four fours (including a powerful, fine paddle-sweep off Murali) and a six came in the next four overs as the required-rate dipped to manageable levels.

Top Curve
Six stats

  • Sanath Jayasuriya scored 20 in seven balls off Irfan Pathan but only 23 in 30 balls against the other bowlers
  • Mahendra Singh Dhoni made 48 runs on the off side and only 19 on the leg side
  • India were 55 for no loss after eight overs while Sri Lanka were 39 for 1 - an indication of how the Indian new-ball bowlers outperformed their Sri Lankan counterparts
  • Chamara Kapugedera was tied down by left-arm-spinner Pragyan Ojha (19 off 28 balls) but scored freely off part-timer Virender Sehwag (16 off 8)
  • Irfan Pathan leaked 80 runs in his 10 overs - the most he has conceded in an ODI so far
  • India's 310 for 4 was the 300th time a team has scored 300 or more in an ODI innings
Bottom Curve

Raina was run out soon after when going for a tight third and Dhoni was foxed by a quicker one from Murali to leave with two new batsmen at the crease, and 56 runs in the arrears. Yuvraj and Rohit Sharma, though, settled India's nerves with a composed partnership and set up a rematch in Sunday's final.

Unlike the Sri Lankan bowlers, India started off well as the new-ball bowlers turned in a much-improved performance, so much so that the first convincing boundary came only in the seventh over.

Ishant Sharma was the pick of the bowlers, exploiting the variable bounce in the pitch and effectively using the slower ball to trouble the batsmen. In one of cricket's typical quirks, amid an excellent spell, Ishant got his wickets off two of the worst deliveries he sent down - both short and down the leg side.

His opening partner RP Singh was also economical and Sri Lanka were limited to 39 for 1 after eight. The introduction of Irfan Pathan, though, let them off the hook as 26 came off his two overs. Sanath Jayasuriya had just switched to fifth gear before gloving one to Dhoni off Ishant. With the pitch easing up, Jayawardene and Kapugedera collected the singles against the spinners while punishing the loose deliveries from the faster bowlers to put on 78. Kapugedera, in particular, was impressive with a series of classical off-driven boundaries early on.

Risk-free batting took Jayawardene on to his half-century but he perished soon after as he stepped out and chipped Pragyan Ojha straight to long-off. Kapugedera was next to go, trapped lbw by Praveen, but not before he added 68 with Chamara Silva. Silva used the cut and sweep shots well against the spinners to make a well-deserved fifty and cameos from Kaushalya Weeraratne and Thilan Thushara pushed Sri Lanka beyond 300.

India's cause wasn't helped by their fielding, which has been below par right through the Asia Cup - catches were misjudged, dives at the boundary rarely saved the fours and several run-out opportunities were spurned. Ultimately, though, their batting covered up the deficiencies in the other departments to take them to the final at the expense of Pakistan.

New Zealand thrash out-of-depth Scotland

Jacob Oram picked up three wickets.

The gap between the major cricket-playing countries of the world and the associate members remains large, despite occasional freak results, as New Zealand showed when they outclassed Scotland by eight wickets at Aberdeen today. First their pace attack tore apart the home side's batting, and then their batsmen hammered Scotland's main strength, their seamers, as the match was over in not much more than three hours' play.

New Zealand won the toss and put the home side in to bat under a grey overcast sky. Within an hour a steady and prolonged drizzle had started, but to their credit they opted to continue playing in the cold and rain - after all, they do play cricket at Dunedin. In any case, by then they were already well on top as the ball moved around considerably - Daniel Vettori said after the game the toss was major factor in the outcome - and Scotland's new batting confidence in recent months was crumbling rapidly.

Scotland's woes began in the first over. After a single by Gavin Hamilton, still wearing Fraser Watts' kit after his own had been stolen, the captain Ryan Watson again failed to score, playing a hesitant defensive stroke to a ball from Mark Gillespie and playing on to his stumps. Shortly afterwards Hamilton played over a low full toss from the same bowler, to be bowled for 6; the score was 12 for 2.

New Zealand moved in for the kill, resisted gallantly by the 'boys from the Hebrides', Qasim Sheikh and Navdeep Poonia. Sheikh dug in so firmly that he took 21 balls to score, while Pooniah, up from Warwickshire, was more aggressive before being caught down the leg side off Jacob Oram for 15. Colin Smith made 11 in positive mode, but his dismissal at 54 for 4 began a steady slide from which the team never recovered.

As the rain eased, John Blain and George Goudie, coming together at 75 for 8, finally brought a temporary halt to New Zealand's inexorable advance. But they only added 12 laborious runs before Blain went for 6. Goudie roused the crowd of about 200 from their depression when he lofted Vettori for six over long-on, and next over off-drove Michael Mason to the boundary to bring up the hundred.

Then another lbw decision, the fourth of the innings, from umpires who had been so conservative during the previous two days, brought it all to an end for 101, Dewald Nel being the victim to Vettori for 4. Goudie was left unbeaten on 17. Oram and Grant Elliott took three wickets each, Mason and Vettori two, and none of them conceded more than 20 runs. All that remained for Scotland was for their seamers to salvage some respect for their team as New Zealand faced an easy target.

Even this proved beyond their ability as they had the worst of the conditions, with the movement diminishing since the morning. New Zealand were out to waste no time in wrapping up the tournament and went for their strokes from the start, although they did get away with a few mistimed shots. Scotland had just one real feel-good moment when the opener Peter Fulton, after hitting a handsome four through midwicket, was trapped lbw by John Blain in the first over.

After that, though, it was more carnage. Ross Taylor was in murderous mood, although his fifty on this occasion dragged on for 34 balls, compared with the 19 he needed against Ireland, and included a six over third man off Nel. Brendon McCullum also hit Nel for an off-side six, over extra cover, but then his bat, with a strange cracking noise, lofted a catch to mid-on when he had made 22. He held it up with a chagrined look as he walked off, no doubt at the end of its useful life.

It took New Zealand two balls short of 15 overs to complete another overwhelming victory, with Taylor finishing unbeaten on 61 off 41 balls, and Scott Styris 14. Scotland had chance to use only their three frontline seamers, all of whom took a hammering. New Zealand came to Aberdeen, they saw, and they could scarcely have conquered more convincingly.

Siddons sues Cricket Australia over shoulder injury

Jamie Siddons runs a training exercise with Glenn McGrath during the 2005 Ashes tour.

Jamie Siddons, the Bangladesh coach, is suing Cricket Australia, claiming he injured his shoulder throwing cricket balls during his time as Australia's assistant coach. The Herald Sun reported a writ had been lodged in the Victorian Supreme Court in which Siddons says he has suffered injury, loss and damage, although no monetary figure is quoted.

Siddons claims he has ongoing problems with his right shoulder as a result of hours of throw-downs on a "constant, repetitive and forceful basis" during the 2005 Ashes tour of England. John Buchanan, the Australia coach during that trip, confirmed Siddons had suffered shoulder troubles.

"I can verify he threw a lot of cricket balls on the tour," Buchanan told the paper. "We knew he was injured when he returned from the tour. We knew he had an injury sustained from throwing. There's no doubt about that."

A Cricket Australia spokesman said it was unaware of the court action. "We can't talk about Jamie Siddons, but it is common for a batsman to have a member of the coaching staff involved at the training session to stand relatively close and to throw the cricket ball at a pace," he said. "It's a throw-down, and is common in club cricket and elite cricket."

Siddons' Bangladesh side will be in Australia in late August for a three-match ODI series. The Herald Sun reported the case was due for pre-trial discussions in October.

Top officials meet for 'basic discussions'

The Champions League, a proposed multi-nation tournament featuring top domestic Twenty20 teams, took a short step forward on Thursday with officials from India, South Africa, Australia and England wrapping up a "basic discussion" on the governing structure, prize money and regulations. With the league looming - it is slated to take place later this year - the officials will meet again next week for further talks, Cricinfo has learnt.

"There are still a lot of issues to be sorted out and we are meeting again next week to discuss that," an official who was part of the meeting told Cricinfo. "We are hopeful that we can hold the tournament this year but we will have to discuss this further."

Those who attended the meeting, held on the sidelines of the ICC annual conference here, are believed to include Lalit Modi, the BCCI vice-president and IPL chairman, Gerald Majola, the chief executive of Cricket South Africa (CSA), James Sutherland, the chief executive of Cricket Australia, and David Collier, the chief executive of the ECB, all representing their boards.

They did not discuss the issue of barring cricketers associated with the unofficial Indian Cricket League (ICL) from playing in the tournament but the BCCI - a prime mover of the Champions League - and Cricket South Africa are adamant about excluding such players.

The ECB, meanwhile, will continue to abide by the trade laws in England that have seen 15 of their 18 counties employing around 25 ICL cricketers this season - and which puts the ECB at risk of missing out on the Champions League.

Yet it does not appear unduly worried over that possibility because, according to a source, the ECB has been approached by "other parties" to take part in similar tournaments. The source revealed that Giles Clarke, the ECB chairman, has received an "offer" with prize money that is "clearly more than what is being offered for the Champions League" from an UAE businessman to take part in a similar tournament "with other teams".

Significantly, Pakistani officials were not part of the meeting, though the BCCI had stated last month that Pakistan would be one of the participating teams. "All I confirm is that teams from India, Australia and South Africa are taking part. We will finalise the fourth nation or even a fifth in due course," the official said.

He did not mention England but the very fact that the four national boards who discussed the issue formally today included the ECB, following an agreement in principle among them in June, indicates that England is still very much in the frame.

Zimbabwe issue spills over to third day

"Offline discussions" involve Zimbabwe Cricket coming up with a plan to prove its cricketing credentials.

The debate over the future of Zimbabwe cricket has come down to the wire - and spilled over to an unscheduled third day - with England, determined not to host them for the Twenty20 World Cup, and India, their staunch defenders, refusing to blink right through an entire afternoon of intense boardroom jostling. The ICC executive board's discussion on Zimbabwe was finally "put on hold overnight to enable offline discussions" and will resume at 9 am on Friday.

However, the ball has been put in Zimbabwe's court; the "offline discussions" involve Zimbabwe Cricket coming up with a plan to prove its cricketing credentials. "Zimbabwe have been asked to prepare a plan in consultation with ICC officials on how best they can fulfil their obligations to world cricket, the FTP and ICC events, including the Twenty20 World Cup," an official involved in the discussions told Cricinfo. "The board will agree on a statement based on that framework."

What has become clear over the last two days is that the issue has shifted from Zimbabwe's membership of the ICC to its participation in next year's Twenty20 World Cup in England. The hitch in the latter is the UK government's threat of refusing entry to Zimbabwe's cricketers - which, if acted on, will see the tournament taken out of England.

Officials from the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) were very clear at the meeting on pushing ahead with the World Cup, though they did take care not to mention anything about not inviting Zimbabwe for the event. The ECB rolled out their ticket sales figures for the 2009 event and the fact that tickets for most of the matches have already been sold out. "Nobody spoke of a vote because, with India standing firm, the ECB knew they couldn't push it through," the official said.

The pressure was mounted on Zimbabwe by England, represented by Giles Clarke, the ECB chairman, and Norman Arendse - president of Cricket South Africa, which last week suspended ties with Zimbabwe - to pull out of the Twenty20 World Cup on their own.

However, sources suggested Zimbabwe, who were backed in the discussion by India, represented by Sharad Pawar, the BCCI president, and West Indies, represented by Julian Hunte, president of WICB - too would stand their ground. In fact, as soon as the day's session got over, Peter Chingoka and his associates emerged for a quick smoke, with the president of Zimbabwe Cricket apparently angry at the position Zimbabwe has been placed in vis-à-vis framing a plan overnight. "Nobody has told us officially to come up with any plan. This is all happening behind our backs," a Zimbabwe Cricket official told Cricinfo.

Later, a grim-looking David Morgan, the president-elect of the ICC, faced the cameras to answer questions on the day's proceedings, but ended up blocking almost all queries on Zimbabwe. "Some progress has been made and we will return to the subject tomorrow morning," he said, adding that "a considerable amount of time was spent in discussing Zimbabwe."

Under-pressure India face stern test

There's no respite yet for Mahendra Singh Dhoni, and he will have to find a way to beat Sri Lanka to seal a place in the final.

Match facts

Thursday, July 3, 2008
Start time 16.00 (local), 10.00 (GMT)

Big Picture
Younis Khan's whirlwind 123 changes the nature of Thursday's clash. Pakistan managed to chase a target of 309, and instead of a dress rehearsal for the final, the contest against Sri Lanka becomes India's chance to seal outright a place in the final without waiting for the outcome of the last Super Four match between Pakistan and Bangladesh - a win then will be enough for Pakistan to go through.

The batting has clicked for both India and Sri Lanka so far in the tournament but Pakistan's performance against the two teams highlighted how undercooked India's bowlers are. They have failed to come to grips with the flat decks in Karachi and it's their batsmen who bailed them out in the wins against Bangladesh and Pakistan. Mahendra Singh Dhoni had complained about the gruelling schedule for his team after playing three games in four days, and they will have to bounce back less than 24 hours after the loss to Pakistan.

Sri Lanka have sealed their spot in the final, and have the luxury to rest key players, something Pakistan won't want them to do. However, they will look back to the loss to Australia in an inconsequential game last year, when they rested key bowlers for tactical reasons after having sealed their spot in the semi-finals of the World Cup - the same bowlers proved ineffective in the one-sided final.

Form guide
(Last five completed ODIs; most recent first)
Sri Lanka WWWWL

Watch out for ...
# Ajantha Mendis, who's had a terrific start to his international career with 14 wickets in seven ODIs at an average of 13.71 and economy-rate of 4.00. However, tomorrow's battle against an in-form Indian batting line-up is likely to be his toughest test yet, unless Sri Lanka rest him in order to spring a surprise if they play India in the final.

# Yuvraj Singh hasn't had much to do in the Asia Cup because of the top order's consistent performances. However, he's showed excellent touch in all three innings, scoring 48, 36 not out and 37 at over a run a ball. His form will be tested though by Sri Lanka's strong spin attack, if both Muttiah Muralitharan and Mendis play that is.

Ajantha Mendis will look to increase on his tally of 11 wickets if he does play Sri Lanka's final Super Four match.

Team news

India would have ideally rested some players but their inability to beat Pakistan makes the Sri Lanka game significant. Dhoni suffered from cramps during his 76 and even Gary Kirsten, India's coach, has admitted the ODI captain needs a break. Dhoni, however, kept wickets during Pakistan's chase, and with no reserve wicketkeeper, he is unlikely to switch fielding positions as he did in the Indian Premier League.

India might also change their bowling combination. Remove his four-wicket haul against Hong Kong, and Piyush Chawla has been listless in the tournament. He could make way for left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha, who impressed in the game against Bangladesh. RP Singh could also get a look in, while Yusuf Pathan's role will be under scrutiny after his failure with both bat and ball against Pakistan.

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

Sri Lanka, on the other hand, have already qualified for the final and are likely to rest Sanath Jayasuriya, Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan as they did against UAE.

Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 2 Mahela Udawatte, 3 Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 4 Chamara Kapugedera, 5 Chamara Silva, 6 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 7 Kaushalya Weeraratne, 8 Thilan Thushara, 9 Nuwan Kulasekara, 10 Ajantha Mendis, 11 Dilhara Fernando.

Stats and trivia

  • The head-to-head record in the last five ODIs between India and Sri Lanka is an even split, with both teams winning two each with one no result.

  • Gambhir averages 86.50 against Sri Lanka. He's scored 346 runs in six innings with two hundreds and a fifty against them.

  • India's openers - Gambhir and Sehwag - average 75.66 for the first wicket during the 2008 Asia Cup. Their effort, however, pales in comparison to that of Sri Lanka's openers - in three innings, Jayasuriya and Kumar Sangakkara average 113.


    "It is good we have a chance to play them [India] before the final. It gives the opportunity to carry on our good form in the tournament and extract more from the players ... Thursday's game would be crucial, for it will set the mood for the final."
    Trevor Bayliss, the Sri Lanka coach, feels India were be their opponents on July 6 as well.

    "They tried everything, whatever they had in the armoury they tried."
    Mahendra Singh Dhoni tries to defend his less-than-impressive bowlers

  • Wednesday, July 2, 2008

    Younis special overpowers India

    Younis Khan made his fifth ODI century - and his third against India - to guide Pakistan's chase.

    Pakistan - courtesy Younis Khan's scintillating hundred - showed plenty of character to make easy work of a target of 309 against India and push their case for a berth in the final on Sunday. Pakistan's openers set the platform with attacking cricket against India's battle-weary seam attack, before masterful middle-order batting from Younis and Misbah-ul-Haq helped them gallop home with 27 balls to spare. The victory not only saved the home side from an early elimination, but also brought the lukewarm tournament to life as the hunt for Sri Lanka's opposition in the final extended to another day, at least.

    Pakistan's ruthless approach was similar to the defeat India inflicted on them last week. Mahendra Singh Dhoni's decision at the toss was a no-brainer as, on a typically benign pitch, Virender Sehwag began the run-glut with imperious hitting before Dhoni and Rohit Sharma crafted workmanlike half-centuries to arrest a sudden top-order jolt. India's bowlers however wilted in unforgiving conditions and Pakistan - backed by a boisterous crowd - never let the initiative slip once the openers set the launch pad.

    The intimidation began with Salman Butt's treatment of Praveen Kumar - he cut, drove and whipped anything either too short or wide and Nasir Jamshed found the bowler's gentle swing and pace to his liking as well, stepping down the track to crash one back down the ground. The early hitting started to tell on the fielders as well - Ishant Sharma fumbled to concede a boundary at deep square leg and Praveen failed to sight a skier towards third man. Irfan Pathan, playing his first game of the tournament, then came under the hammer as Jamshed slammed one over his head. Irfan responded with two head-high bouncers but was duly dispatched with controlled hooks.

    The only blip in the opening stand was the running. Shortly after a shy at the striker's end nearly claimed Jamshed, poor calling ended Butt's innings. Butt took off for a second run but found himself yards short of his ground.

    Jamshed marched on to his fifty - in his first match against a world-class opposition - before cramps cut short his innings at 53. Younis began in his typically breezy fashion, flashing an upper cut, extra-cover drive and a reverse-sweep off Piyush Chawla to bring up his fifty and 5000 ODI runs. And though Chawla bowled Mohammad Yousuf round his legs to leave Pakistan at 168 for 2 in the 26th over, they were still on course for a win.

    Younis was particularly harsh on the spinners, making good use of the sweep. Chawla and Sehwag came in for some rough treatment as Younis opened his stance and peppered the on side with several singles, twos and the odd boundary. Misbah's batting showed no signs of the pressures of captaincy as he complemented his partner's urgency by scoring at over a run a ball. Misbah slog-swept Sehwag for the first six of the match; Younis took on Chawla and carted him over the roof, hitting against the turn.

    Dhoni brought the seamers back once the ball got older but there was hardly any reverse-swing to work with. Misbah had the audacity to walk across the stumps and fetch a boundary off Irfan with a delicate flick of the wrists, something Sehwag did with equal efficiency earlier. Younis punished anything short and wide outside the off stump as he brought up his fifth ODI century - also his third against India. Misbah continued his on-side bashing with swivelled pulls and aptly finished the game with a flick past wide mid-on.

    The story could have been different had Sehwag carried on. He looked set to tear Pakistan apart for the second time in as many matches with a breathtaking assault, upsetting the bowlers with his improvisation. Misbah bravely persisted with the Powerplays after India had blazed 86 in ten, and Pakistan turned the tide thanks to a double-strike by Abdur Rauf which pegged back at India 91 for 3. Yuvraj Singh's brief stint at the crease was punctuated by elegant drives, before Iftikhar Anjum ended his cameo. At 129 for 4, the home side felt a surge of optimism and the crowd played along as well.

    However, Dhoni and Rohit ensured the run-rate never dipped below five an over throughout their 112-run stand. Both batsmen took their time to settle in, but neither played second fiddle. Rohit, who has been struggling for form since the IPL, grafted it out at the start, but displayed sound application and urgency to score at a faster rate than his captain. As the partnership mounted, so did the anxiety for Pakistan as the prospect of a challenging chase loomed. Both brought up their half-centuries off successive balls, in the process completing their century stand, which included 68 singles. The pair set up a seemingly defendable total, but ultimately India found themselves at least 30 runs short.

    A loss against Sri Lanka on Thursday will mean India will have to wait on the result of the Pakistan-Bangladesh match on Friday to know whether they progress to the final.

    Younis' century push-ups and Malik's no-show

    Leave it, captain: Sarfraz Ahmed gets his hands first to the ball after Mahendra Singh Dhoni hit one high up in the air.

    No-show of the day
    After Shoaib Malik missed Pakistan's training session on Tuesday, vice-captain Misbah-ul-Haq was asked about captaincy at the pre-match press-conference. But in a short while, Salahuddin Ahmed, Pakistan's chief selector, announced Malik would play, and named the XI about 20 hours before the match, a policy of clarity one usually doesn't associate Pakistan with. As it turned out, Malik, who had suffered from severe dehydration and had been on a drip, had to pull out just before the start of the match. So much for certainty.

    Here today, gone tomorrow
    Sohail Tanvir had had, despite a mauling of the other bowlers by Sri Lanka, an impressive last game. Starting off with a maiden over, he had taken 5 for 48. On Wednesday, though, Gautam Gambhir was in no mood to let him settle down, and he took ten runs off Tanvir's first over. Similar treatment followed throughout: by the fourth over he had given away 43, and by the time he was done he had rid Wahab Riaz of the honour of having conceded the most runs in a match against India. Figures of 10-0-87-1 straight after a five-for, welcome back to earth Mr Tanvir.

    Somebody call, please
    When Mahendra Dhoni mishit Sohail Tanvir in the 49th over, the ball went miles in the air towards square leg. Sarfraz Ahmed, the wicketkeeper, and Misbah, from midwicket, ran in to catch the ball, and as they ran towards each other it seemed the square-leg umpire Tony Hill would be crushed between the two. Eventually Hill survived, but Sarfraz and Misbah collided, not nastily, though. Dhoni was the only casualty as Sarfraz held on to the catch.

    He's pumped
    When he crashed Praveen Kumar to reach his fifth century - his third against India - and the second in less than a month, Younis Khan looked towards the dressing room and did a couple of push-ups. Possibly that was his tribute to David Dwyer, Pakistan's trainer, who pushes him hard in training. It could, on an evil note, be a message to recent Pakistani centurions who have been cramping on the way to the landmark.

    Nearly man arrives
    Misbah has brought Pakistan back from improbable situations a few times, and then in a sudden brain-freeze thrown the good work away too. In his first match as captain, in a match they needed to win to avoid elimination, Misbah made sure he was there at the end of a brilliant turnaround; he scored 70 not out in 62 balls. In fact he hit the winning boundary, and pointed straight to the dressing room with his bat. Here's to the hitherto nearly man of Pakistan cricket.

    ICC agrees to change Oval forfeiture to draw

    Darrell Hair awarded England five penalty runs in their second innings for ball tampering.

    An agreement in principle is believed to have been reached to change the result of the controversial Oval Test between England and Pakistan in 2006 from an English victory to a draw, following pressure from the Pakistan Cricket Board during the annual ICC meeting in Dubai. The decision will be deemed official and final only after the board meeting concludes on Thursday and if the issue is not revisited before that.

    "England and Pakistan have agreed to declare the Oval Test as a draw to maintain the dignity of Pakistan in world cricket, especially after the ball-tampering charges were dropped," a source who attended the meeting said. The topic took up a considerable chunk of the morning's proceedings.

    The Test was originally awarded to England by umpire Darrell Hair after Pakistan did not come out to field after tea on the fourth day, following accusations of ball-tampering.

    Pakistan had, at the time, been in a strong position in the match, having secured a first-innings lead of 331 and removed four England batsmen second-time around. There was nothing at stake in the series, with England already leading 2-0 after wins at Headingley and Old Trafford, but the eventual forfeiture was the first in the history of Test cricket. The removal of England's win could affect their standing in the ICC Test Championship - they are currently third on 110 points, one ahead of their next opponents, South Africa, on 109.

    The result had huge off-field ramifications as well. Hair went on to be suspended from the ICC elite panel, and though that decision was overturned last year when he took his employers to the High Court in London, the initial decision formed the basis of Pakistan's appeal for a rethink of the result.

    A PCB source told PTI: "Members of other boards supported us in our stand that the result should be officially changed to a draw as an ICC adjudicator later found Hair guilty of transgressing his authority and not behaving properly during the entire episode. The board agreed the result should be a draw not a forfeited win for England."

    Flintoff recall unlikely for first Test

    Andrew Flintoff is likely to be given more time with Lancashire before an England recall.

    Geoff Miller, England's national selector, has given the strongest hint yet that Andrew Flintoff won't be included in the squad for the first Test against South Africa at Lord's on July 10.

    Flintoff has made his first-class comeback from a side strain in the current Championship match against Sussex, at Hove, bowling 34 impressive overs without taking a wicket. After failing with the bat in the first innings he guided Lancashire to an eight-wicket victory in the second with 62 not out, his first first-class fifty since May last year. But regardless of that performance, it still appears he will be given more time with Lancashire, who play their next Championship match against Hampshire during the first Test.

    "It's plain for everybody to see where he's at: the work he has put in has been absolutely fantastic but there is bat form to consider, he will want some runs, and a few more miles in his legs as well," Miller told the Press Association.

    "We have just picked for this first Test match because obviously Fred [Flintoff] is in a situation and there is a chance for us to have another look at that. We are not sure where we are beyond that first Test match."

    The likely omission of Flintoff marks a more cautious approach from the selectors, who were ready to bring him back against New Zealand in May before he picked up his side strain against Durham. But with four high-pressure Tests in five weeks, followed by a Twenty20 and five ODIs, it makes sense not to rush Flintoff back into the international arena.

    It therefore means an unchanged 12-man squad is due to be named on Thursday at Lord's, paving the way for the same final eleven for the sixth consecutive Test which would be a new record. Ian Bell, with a double century, and Alastair Cook, with 95, have found some timely form in the current round of Championship matches, while Chris Tremlett, the extra player for the final two Tests against New Zealand, has been in consistent form for Hampshire recently.

    Michael Vaughan has provided England with an injury scare after feeling a twinge in his knee during the match against Durham. He was seen flexing his knee during his 72 in the second innings and then received ice treatment instead of taking the field. However, Miller said it won't lead to any batting cover being named tomorrow.

    "I was with Michael yesterday and I think everything is under control with him," he said. "There was a kind of minor thing but we have got on top of it. Even so, if anything crops up, we don't need to pick players as cover because we know the people that would come in and we know where those people are."

    Along with the Test squad, Miller will also name a provisional 30-man party for the Champions Trophy, which is due to be held in Pakistan during September. It will be an opportunity to see who the selectors are keeping an eye on around the county circuit, and a squad of 30 often throws up the odd interesting name.

    Graham Napier's 152 off 58 balls in the Twenty20 got tongues wagging, but he hasn't produced consistent form for Essex. The likes of Sajid Mahmood, Matt Prior, Adil Rashid and Graham Onions will be in the shake-up, while Simon Jones' form could earn him his first squad call-up since the India tour in 2006.

    Test squad (probable) Michael Vaughan (capt), Alastair Cook, Andrew Strauss, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood, Tim Ambrose (wk), Stuart Broad, Ryan Sidebottom, James Anderson, Monty Panesar, Chris Tremlett

    England v South Africa Live Score

    Malik unfit for must-win match

    Shoaib Malik initially from dehydration following his hundred against India.

    Shoaib Malik has pulled out of Pakistan's critical encounter with India in the Asia Cup after failing to recover from dehydration. Speculation had surrounded Malik's place in the side yesterday, after he failed to turn up for practice because he was receiving treatment. He eventually arrived, drip on his arm, had a discussion with selectors and announced himself fit to play.

    In a surprise move, selectors publicly announced the playing XI a day before the game, choosing to name Malik in the side. Misbah-ul-Haq, the vice-captain not even in the team this time last year, will now take over as captain, while Nasir Jamshed will take his place in the side, as opener.

    Malik suffered initially from dehydration following his hundred against India, but he played in Pakistan's next match against Sri Lanka, scoring a fifty but taking 30 overs to do it. But there has been little improvement in his condition, despite a few days' rest. He took a fitness test at the National Stadium just before the toss, but was visibly suffering.

    "I am ready for the captaincy," Misbah told reporters yesterday, at which point Malik's place was unclear. "When you are vice-captain you always are ready for nearly everything, so I am ready for it. I will take along the team with me and win the match."

    Pakistan have also called up Saeed Ajmal, the offspinner, for his debut as well as giving Abdur Rauf his second ODI.