Friday, August 29, 2008

India vs Sri Lanka 5th ODI Highlights | One Day Cricket

Sri Lanka Batting

India Batting + Presentation

Patel grabs five as England claim series

Samit Patel capped a sparky allround performance with a five-wicket haul.

Andrew Flintoff starred with bat and ball, Ian Bell played arguably the most fluent one-day innings of his career and Samit Patel capped a sparky allround performance with a maiden five-wicket haul, as England's cricketers surged to an unassailable 3-0 series lead in Kevin Pietersen's first series as captain. With two games to come at Lord's and Cardiff, England could even climb to No. 2 in the world rankings if they maintain the same intensity that has left their South African opponents counting down the days until they can fly home to Johannesburg.

It was another crushingly professional performance from England. On Tuesday they bowled South Africa out for 83 at Trent Bridge en route to a ten-wicket win, and though the margin today was less emphatic, their impact was identical. Bell and Matt Prior signalled England's intent with a century stand in the first 15 overs of the innings, and though they did suffer a mid-innings wobble when four wickets fell for 38 in ten overs, Flintoff prevented any meltdown with a mature 78 not out from 77 balls.

England's total of 296 for 7 was arguably 20 runs short of their potential, but it never came close to being challenged. Without the drive and inspiration of Graeme Smith at the top of the order, South Africa were a flaky unit when their turn came to bat. Hashim Amla, playing in only his fourth ODI, top-scored with a battling 46, but the experienced pair of Herschelle Gibbs and Jacques Kallis mustered 21 runs between them, while AB de Villiers - the other remaining star of this one-day line-up - crassly ran himself out for 12 while taking on Steve Harmison's tracer-like arm at fine-leg.

At 82 for 4 in the 21st over, South Africa's challenge was effectively over, but Patel ensured that there would be no unlikely revival. Operating from the Vauxhall End with a tidy line and good variation, he nibbled away at the lower-middle order and tempted a variety of indiscretions. Mark Boucher made room for a cut but was beaten by the arm ball, Albie Morkel slammed two vast sixes in three balls before chipping a low return catch from the very next delivery, and Patel then corralled the tail with the minimum of fuss - tossing the ball up temptingly, he claimed the last three wickets for four runs in 13 balls, to become the first England spinner to take five wickets in a one-day innings since Ashley Giles in Delhi in 2001-02.

The excellence of England's team performances in the first two games had forced Patel to wait for his opportunity to take centre stage, but once it was given to him he did not disappoint. In addition to his wickets, he might have dismissed Gibbs with a squeakingly tight direct-hit shy that was turned down on referral, and he also sprinted 30-yards from mid-on to complete a cool catch over his shoulder as Kallis top-edged a pull off Flintoff. But arguably Patel's most crucial role of the day came with the bat, when he entered the fray for the first time, with England in a spot of bother on 182 for 5. Unperturbed, he pulled Morkel firmly through midwicket to register his first boundary in international cricket, and then spanked Makhaya Ntini gloriously on the up and through the covers, en route to 31 from 33 balls in a vital stand of 74 with Flintoff.

Flintoff's innings was cool, collected and undeniably brave. On 39, he was struck a fearsome blow over the right eye by Morkel, a blow that required treatment on the field as well as a spell in the dressing-room at the start of the South African innings. But he batted well within himself, grinding his way through the gears to finish unbeaten on 78 for the second innings in a row - his first back-to-back ODI fifties since 2004. When he went for his shots they came off handsomely, in particular a blasted six off Steyn that was dropped in the crowd at long-on, but he was equally happy to time the ball to the boundary, never better exemplified by a back-foot steer past point in the same Steyn over.

If one man epitomised South Africa's lack of belief it was Ntini, who endured a nightmarish day in the field. In his second over he lost his run-up completely, serving up consecutive no-balls - one of which was top-edged for four - before following up with an awful wide, delivered from level with the stumps. With the free hit carried over for a third delivery in a row, Prior opened his shoulders to clobber a length ball over long-on for six. Steyn was scarcely any more economical, drifting onto the pads with alarming regularity as Bell clipped him exquisitely through the leg side for three fours in two overs, as he hurtled to his half-century from 36 balls - his first ODI fifty at better than a run-a-ball.

Kallis, in a continuation of his peculiar form on this tour, once again proved to be South Africa's star with the ball. He didn't bring himself on until the 26th over, but then struck with his very first delivery as Owais Shah was beaten by a big offcutter and bowled off the inside-edge. He added a crucial second one over later when Kevin Pietersen hopped across his stumps to be pinned lbw for 5, and, with Bell already gone for 73, Paul Collingwood then became Johan Botha's second victim when he looped a leg-side catch off his pad and into the hands of Mark Boucher for 14.

That mini-collapse, however, was as troublesome as England's day would get. From Bell's early blitz to Patel's perfect denouement, everything else they attempted came off with spectacular success. As they shuffled off the field to the safety of the dressing-room, South Africa's defeated cricketers were left to wonder how they will ever get the better of the former countryman who is now captaining their opponents with such aplomb.

Triumphant Dhoni stresses on team effort

Mahendra Singh Dhoni: "It's about the 16 guys in the team and the bench strength ... captain is only as good as his team".

At the end of a series few expected India to win, their captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni readily paid tribute to his young bunch of hopefuls, who came to Sri Lanka under criticism for their defeat in the Asia Cup final. Stressing a collective effort rather than the need to rely on experienced or individual players, Dhoni credited a group that, while not always in form, stuck together to give India their first bilateral series win on Sri Lankan soil in 23 years of trying.

"Cricket's not a game in which you can rely on form in the sense that you can get a good start but the bowler running in is in better touch," he said. "If you get a start and the rest bat around you, you get a chance to put up a big score. If we win series like this we can afford to carry the players who aren't in form. You know what they're capable of and they've paid dividends in the past. But you cannot rely on one individual."

That was India's leitmotif all series, and it's paid off. India lost key players to injury and Dhoni was quick to admit this series win was a real achievement, stressing on the importance of continuance. "You can't sit back and say you won the World Twenty20 or the CB Series or this series. Sachin [Tendulkar] and [Virender] Sehwag help achieve consistently, but there were injuries. We didn't have Ishant Sharma and Sehwag was in prime form. But the others contributed and I'm glad with the contributions of the new players."

The single-biggest gain, Dhoni felt, was how his batsmen handled the threat of Ajantha Mendis and Muttiah Muralitharan. "These were slow tracks and it was important to rotate strike," he said, "and we were able to do that and played the spinners well. We negotiated Murali well, which has been tough over the years in Sri Lanka, and we tackled Mendis well. I was impressed by the way we handed these two in the middle overs. It wasn't just about playing Mendis; it was about scoring off him. Whoever got set in made it big. A 70 on such tracks was immense."

Dhoni spoke of winning "crucial" games, and in a season where India lost consecutive finals he was relieved to have nipped this one in the bud with a game to spare. "If this was the last game of the series, tied 2-2, and we lost people would start saying that 'in the last 23 finals India have lost 18', but neither this team nor I have played 23 finals. It was crucial we finish the series before reaching this game."

It's not about randomly selecting players. The players who have done well domestically and on A tours have been rewarded

It has been almost a year since Dhoni took over the limited-overs captaincy and lead India to the ICC World Twenty20 title. Reflecting on his tenure, he felt he had been given the right team and that made his job easier. "It's about the 16 guys in the team and the bench strength ... a captain is only as good as his team," Dhoni said. "A captain shares responsibilities, finds problem areas, and sends the best guy to rectify that problem. A good team makes a good captain, not the other way around. You have to let players go in the right direction; after that it is up to the individual."

The selectors have backed Dhoni's vision of youth, not without criticism, and Dhoni felt it was necessary because of the demands of today's game. "You want to have batsmen who run quickly, who can convert ones into twos and put pressure on the fielders," he said. "It is good to have a side like that. If you're scored a par score and have a fielding side which is safe then you add 15-20 more runs.

"It's not about randomly selecting players," he said. "The players who have done well domestically and on A tours have been rewarded. In the selection process you come across equally consistent players, and it gets tough. That's when you have to make the choice to take you forward. You have to give everyone enough chances, not just a few games. If he can't prove he knows what his mistakes are and can go back and correct those."

Dhoni's 193 runs and Man-of-the-Series performance has taken him back to the No. 1 ODI batting spot he held briefly in April 2006, and he credited a self-imposed absence as a relief. "I enjoyed my break but I enjoyed my training more," he said. "What you do in practice reflects in the game. I'm glad to have contributed."

Bowlers power Sri Lanka to consolation win

Man of the Match Nuwan Kulasekara took the first four wickets to fall in India's chase.

Sri Lanka's opening bowlers ensured their side maintained its record of not losing four consecutive ODIs at home as they beat India in the final ODI in Colombo. While one of them took career-best figures, the other got his career-best score.

Nuwan Kulasekara dismissed the Indian top order, troubling the batsmen with movement off the seam, after Thilan Thushara had scored a half-century to boost a faltering Sri Lankan innings to 227. There followed a rain interruption and, when play resumed with six overs docked, India crumbled to Ajantha Mendis and Dilhara Fernando, losing seven wickets for 33 runs to finish on 103, their lowest score in Sri Lanka.

Chasing 228 - Mahela Jayawardene won the toss for the first time in the series and followed the winning strategy of batting first - Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli, were beaten by Kulasekara's line but hung on to hit the loose deliveries for fours. Thushara, bowling immediately after his unbeaten 94-run stand with Jehan Mubarak, also got the ball to cut in and was unlucky to have an appeal for caught behind turned down off his first ball of the innings. The delivery landed on the seam and straightened with the angle and replays suggested it took the edge off Gambhir's bat before reaching the keeper.

But Kulasekara got Gambhir soon after, with a tactic Sri Lanka had used earlier in the series. Kumar Sangakkara stood up to the stumps and Gambhir, perhaps distracted, edged the next ball to the keeper. While Thushara moved the ball away from Kohli, Kulasekara seamed it in and the batsman brought his front foot across the line only to be trapped in front. He beat Suresh Raina with a delivery that cut in to the left-hander before having him caught at midwicket.

Raina's wicket was the turning point of the innings: it triggered a collapse that saw eight wickets fall for 33 runs. It had been drizzling when he was batting, and a reckless heave to midwicket was unpardonable for an in-form batsman, besides D/L calculations would have been the focus in the dressing room. The players went off right after Raina's fall, and came back with the target revised to 216 off 44 overs, and Sri Lanka in the advantage.

Smart stats

  • Thushara's unbeaten 54 is his highest ODI score. Only three sri Lankan batsman have made more runs in an innings batting at No. 8.
  • Sangakkara finished the series with just 37 runs in five matches, which is his lowest aggregate in a series in which he played more than three games.
  • The unbeaten 94-run stand between Thushara and Mubarak is Sri Lanka's third-highest for the seventh wicket in ODIs. The highest - 126 between Mahela Jayawardene and Upul Chandana - also came against India in 2005.
  • Nuwan Kulasekara's 4 for 40 is his best figures in ODIs.
  • Ajantha Mendis once again got the better of Yuvraj Singh. In 16 deliveries that he has faced from Mendis in ODIs, Yuvraj has been dismissed four times - thrice bowled and one lbw.
  • Ajantha Mendis once again got the better of Yuvraj Singh. In 16 deliveries that he has faced from Mendis in ODIs, Yuvraj has been dismissed four times - thrice bowled and one lbw.
  • India's total of 103 is their lowest in a completed innings in Sri Lanka, and their fourth-lowest in ODIs since 2000.

That target would have been a lot smaller if not for Thushara's innings. He joined Mubarak at the crease with Sri Lanka at 133 for 6. Though several boundaries came off edges in their partnership, Mubarak and Thushara rotated the strike, something the top order had failed to. Thushara drove and cut confidently to get to his maiden half-century. The two batsmen were kept quiet by left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha but attacked the wayward length of RP Singh and Irfan Pathan in the final ten overs.

The Sri Lankan top-order's contribution would have looked even worse if not for the 77-run stand between left-handers Mahela Udawatte and Malinda Warnapura. They countered Zaheer Khan and Munaf Patel's tight bowling and settled down after the first Powerplay, working out the gaps in the field and choosing to tip and run in order to up the run-rate.

Zaheer tried to hurry them with shorter deliveries, but Udawatte picked out the loose balls over the in-field and forced the bowlers to vary their length, which only resulted in overpitched deliveries and more boundaries. The two added 39 between overs 10 and 15. Pathan dismissed Udawatte and Warnapura in the same over, but was largely ineffective from then on. Ojha troubled the lower order, bowling three successive maiden overs, as Sri Lanka added only 60 runs between overs 20 and 40.

The first innings, though, became inconsequential with India's capitulation. Kulasekara, who took all three wickets to fall before the stoppage, trapped Rohit Sharma leg before on resumption. Ajantha Mendis and Dilhara Fernando stepped up to the plate after Kulasekara finished his quota of nine overs with 4 for 40. The last seven wickets fell in 11 overs: Mendis dismissed Yuvraj Singh for the third time in the series and wrapped up the tail, while Fernando generated bounce and movement to bowl Dhoni and have RP Singh caught by Jayawardene. As in the first ODI, this was an embarassing loss, but India had already secured the series in the previous match.

NZ announce home schedules against Windies and India

West Indies in New Zealand 2008-09

  • December 5-7 v Auckland, Eden Park Outer Oval

  • December 11-15 1st Test, University Oval, Dunedin

  • December 19-23 2nd Test, McLean Park, Napier

  • December 26 1st Twenty20 international, Eden Park Auckland

  • December 28 2nd Twenty20 international, Seddon Park, Hamilton

  • December 31 1st ODI, Queenstown Events Centre, Queenstown

  • January 3 2nd ODI, AMI Stadium, Christchurch (Day-night)

  • January 7 3rd ODI, Westpac Stadium, Wellington (Day-night)

  • January 10 4th ODI, Eden Park, Auckland

  • January 13 5th ODI, McLean Park, Napier

New Zealand Cricket has announced the itineraries for the home series against West Indies and India this summer. West Indies are scheduled to tour from December 2008, playing two Tests, two Twenty20 internationals and five one-dayers, followed by India's visit in March.

West Indies begin their tour on December 5 with a three-day warm-up match against Auckland, before the first Test at Dunedin's University Oval, the newest Test venue in the country. The Twenty20 internationals precede the one-dayers, the first of which is scheduled for New Year's Eve in Queenstown. West Indies wrap up their tour with the fifth one-dayer in Napier on January 13, leaving them more than three weeks to prepare for their home series against England.

India, however, don't have such a luxury and face a gruelling schedule during their tour, with a possible 19 days of cricket to be played in a span of 33 days.

The tour, India's first of New Zealand since 2002-03, begins with a Twenty20 international at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington and ends with the final Test, from April 3-7, at the Basin Reserve in the same city. India will play one Twenty20 international, five day-night ODIs, a warm-up three-day game, and two Tests during their trip; they return home in time for the second edition of the Indian Premier League, which runs from April 10 to May 29.

A hectic itinerary means the Indian players will have only a day's break between the Twenty20 international and the first ODI in Napier, as well as between the fifth ODI in Hamilton and the warm-up match in Lincoln, near Christchurch, which concludes two days before the start of the first Test in Hamilton.

India had a torrid time on their last trip in December 2002-January 2003, losing the two-Test series 2-0 and the seven-ODI contest 5-2. The visit came in the build-up to the World Cup in South Africa, where the Indian team, under severe pressure initially, made it to the final. Cold and damp conditions resulted in favourable conditions for bowlers, with neither Test lasting five days, and teams batting first often getting bowled out cheaply in the ODI series. India are also slated to visit Pakistan for a full tour early next year.

Daniel Vettori, the New Zealand captain, said he was looking ahead to a competitive summer. "It will be nice to face the contrasting styles of the West Indies and India this summer," Vettori said. "They are two teams who are both on the rise, and they will provide a good measure of where we are at in our own development."

Udawatte and Mubarak in as SL bat

Dilhara Fernando replaced Chaminda Vaas in the match.

Toss Sri Lanka chose to bat v India

Mahendra Singh Dhoni failed to make it five out five when he lost the toss in the final one-dayer and was asked to field. With the series decided in India's favour, both sides rang in the changes in a match Sri Lanka will want to win for pride, and to maintain their record of not losing four consecutive ODIs at home.

Mahela Jayawardene chose to rest Muttiah Muralitharan, Chaminda Vaas and Tillakaratne Dilshan and brought in Mahela Udawatte, Jehan Mubarak and Dilhara Fernando. Pragyan Ojha and Irfan Pathan got their first games in Colombo, in place of Harbhajan Singh and S Badrinath. Praveen Kumar was replaced by RP Singh, who will play his first match since the Asia Cup in July.

The toss has played a significant role at the Premadasa with the pitch offering movement to the fast bowlers and turn and bounce to the spinners in the evening. So India's young batting order will be tested in the chase.

Sri Lanka's top order has been lacklustre in this series with Jayawardene the only one to aggregate over 100 in the four matches. Sanath Jayasuriya needs 42 runs to surpass Sachin Tendulkar as the highest run-scorer in matches between Sri Lanka and India. He currently has 2525 in 74 matches at an average of 36.59 and strike-rate of 97.

Sri Lanka 1 Sanath Jayasuriya, 2 Malinda Warnapura, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 5 Chamara Kapugedera, 6 Mahela Udawatte, 7 Dilhara Fernando, 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Thilan Thushara, 10 Ajantha Mendis, 11 Jehan Mubarak.

India1 Gautam Gambhir, 2 Virat Kohli, 3 Suresh Raina, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt & wk), 6 Irfan Pathan, 7 Rohit Sharma, 8 RP Singh, 9 Pragyan Ojha, 10 Zaheer Khan, 11 Munaf Patel.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Sri Lanka look to revive batting form

Virat Kohli can make use of the opportunity to produce an innings that could cement his place in the side even after the return of Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag.

Match facts

Friday, August 29, 2008
Start time 2.30pm (0900 GMT)

Big Picture

Few would have bet on India winning their maiden one-day series in Sri Lanka with a game in hand, especially after they were thrashed twice in a row, first in the Asia Cup final in Pakistan and then in the opening game of this series, with their bogeyman from the Test series, Ajantha Mendis, being the tormentor on both occasions.

The difference lay in the abilities of the two batting orders to adapt. While the Indian batsmen huffed and puffed to victory in the second ODI before adjusting to post defendable totals in Colombo, their Sri Lankan counterparts repeatedly failed to cope with India's three-pronged pace attack backed up by Harbhajan Singh. The success of India's bowlers, and Sri Lanka's collective batting failure, makes the final a dead rubber.

Therefore, there isn't a lot but proverbial pride to play for on Friday. Sri Lanka have lost two of their last three series at home - against Pakistan and England - and beaten only Bangladesh so they will hope their batsmen fire them to a consolation victory. There is an incentive for some of the Indian batsmen - Virat Kohli, S Badrinath and Rohit Sharma - to produce an innings that will make it harder for them to be overlooked when Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag are available for India's next limited-overs assignment.

This series, though, has been decided and both teams will be looking forward to a break during the gap created by the absence of the Champions Trophy.

Form guide (last 5 ODIs)

Sri Lanka LLLWW

Watch out for

The toss: Mahendra Singh Dhoni has won all four tosses in the series. He admitted to misreading the pitch after India lost the first game but made the correct decision in the second in Dambulla. The decision to bat first after the series shifted to the Premadasa has been a no-brainer. The fast bowlers have moved the ball laterally under lights while the spinners have extracted turn and bounce as the match progresses, making chasing a target significantly harder. Murali and Mendis haven't had the opportunity to defend a score at the Premadasa yet and expect Sri Lanka to stretch India if they do.

Raina and Dhoni v the spinners: India's two victories at the Premadasa were set up by substantial contributions from Dhoni and Suresh Raina. Both batsmen scored half-centuries in each match to prop up an otherwise frail batting line-up. They approached Murali and Mendis with controlled aggression and did not hesitate in dispatching the bad delivery. Raina scored 31 off 33 balls against Mendis and 35 off 34 against Murali, while Dhoni took 44 off 51 balls and 43 off 45 balls against Mendis and Murali respectively.

Team news

The teams didn't practise on the eve of the match. Sri Lanka had brought in Malinda Warnapura to open the innings with Sanath Jayasuriya and pushed Kumar Sangakkara down to No. 3 in order to strengthen a top order that was struggling against the new ball. The move failed: Warnapura made an 18-ball duck and Sangakkara fell for 6 but Sri Lanka could give the strategy another go.

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

There's no definite team news from the Indian camp as yet. They are likely to retain the winning combination unless they want to give a chance to Irfan Pathan, RP Singh, Pragyan Ojha and Parthiv Patel.

India (likely) 1 Gautam Gambhir, 2 Virat Kohli, 3 Suresh Raina, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt & wk), 6 S Badrinath, 7 Rohit Sharma, 8 Praveen Kumar, 9 Harbhajan Singh, 10 Zaheer Khan, 11 Munaf Patel.

Pitch & conditions

In the last two matches, Dhoni had a broad smile on his face as he called correctly and decided to bat. Jayawardene said he would have done the same on a pitch that assists the bowlers as it wears. The weather for Friday isn't clear: thunderstorms are forecast and the chance of rain is 90%.

Stats & Trivia

  • Jayasuriya needs 42 runs to surpass Sachin Tendulkar as the highest run-scorer in matches between Sri Lanka and India. He currently has 2525 in 74 matches at an average of 36.59 and strike-rate of 97.

  • If Sri Lanka lose the final ODI, it will be the first time they've lost four ODIs in a row at home.

  • Murali's four wickets in four matches at 43 apiece are his worst series figures at home since India toured Sri Lanka in 1997 (among series with a minimum of three ODIs).


    "Whenever we are at the nets or batting together, he tells me how to plan. He is such a class reader of the game and he always plays with responsibility. We learn a lot from him while batting with him. It is good we got partnerships in two matches."
    Raina on the positives of batting with Dhoni

    "The toss proved crucial, it put the Indians in an advantageous position but I should say we made too many mistakes along the way. There was lack of consistent partnerships from the batters and that did not help the team at all."
    Mahela Jayawardene on Sri Lanka's performance in the fourth ODI

  • Wounded South Africa seek a comeback

    Graeme Smith hands over the captaincy to Jacques Kallis.

    Match facts

    Friday, August 30, 2008
    Start time 10.45BST (9.45GMT)

    Big Picture
    Kevin Pietersen's captaincy honeymoon shows no sign of abating. A win in his maiden Test was closely followed by a starring role in the first ODI at Headingley, and then on Tuesday at Trent Bridge he reached Nirvana with the most comprehensive victory imaginable. The game was done and dusted in 37.1 overs, and now, to make matters worse for the South Africans, they will have to make do without their inspirational captain, Graeme Smith, who has been ruled out of the rest of the tour with a bout of tennis elbow. Jacques Kallis takes over as captain, but at 2-0 down with three to play, he has his work cut out if he hopes to turn the series around.

    Form guide
    England WWLLL
    South Africa LLWWW

    Watch out for...

    Steve Harmison The Oval was the scene of Harmison's Test comeback earlier this month, and he clearly enjoyed the extra pace and bounce in the wicket. An unexpected addition to the squad, following Ryan Sidebottom's withdrawal, he has been quietly effective in his two games to date, and managed to bag two wickets in his solitary over during the Trent Bridge rout. Having committed to England's winter tours, another buoyant performance will give South Africa plenty to ponder as they seek to claw their way back into the series.

    Jacques Kallis This time last year he resigned from the vice-captaincy in fury after being omitted from the ICC World Twenty20 squad, but in his country's hour of need he's back at the helm. Perhaps the extra responsibility will kickstart Kallis' batting, which has been peculiarly ponderous all summer long. He did make a useful 52 in the Headingley defeat (only his second half-century in nine innings) but was prised from the crease cheaply by Stuart Broad on Tuesday.

    Team news

    No changes anticipated for England, and little wonder, seeing as the entire side will be as fresh as proverbial daisies after their lightest work-out in months. Thanks to Stuart Broad's five-wicket haul and Matt Prior's bullish 45 not out, five of the 11 players did nothing more strenuous than stroll on the outfield for 23 overs.

    England (probable) 1 Ian Bell, 2 Matt Prior (wk), 3 Owais Shah, 4 Kevin Pietersen (capt), 5 Andrew Flintoff, 6 Paul Collingwood, 7 Luke Wright, 8 Samit Patel, 9 Stuart Broad, 10 James Anderson, 11 Steve Harmison.

    Problems abound for South Africa. They've lost their captain, Smith, so Hashim Amla comes in at the top of the order for only his fourth ODI, while the Morkel brothers, Albie and Morne, are not entirely match-fit as yet. Albie did play at Trent Bridge, though like most of his team-mates he made no great impact, while Morne looked intermittently hostile during his net session on Thursday afternoon, and is likely to come in for Andre Nel.
    South Africa (possible) 1 Herschelle Gibbs, 2 Hashim Amla, 3 Jacques Kallis (capt), 4 AB de Villiers, 5 Jean-Paul Duminy, 6 Mark Boucher (wk), 7 Johan Botha, 8 Vernon Philander, 9 Morne Morkel, 10 Dale Steyn, 11 Makhaya Ntini.

    Umpires: Nigel Llong, Simon Taufel

    Pitch and conditions
    It was quick and bouncy for the Test match earlier in the month, and more of the same is anticipated for Friday. Expect good value for shots on a fast outfield, but plenty of life for the tall bowlers on both sides.

    Stats and Trivia
    # In 37 ODIs since 1992, South Africa have enjoyed much the better of their contests against England, with 22 wins to 13 losses. What is more, they have never lost three consecutive matches in the same series.

    # South Africa have played in three previous ODIs at The Oval, including the 1999 World Cup, when they pushed England towards an early exit with a 122-run victory. They also won in 1998, by three wickets, but lost five years later, by six wickets.

    "Being booed off the field is more than enough motivation for the guys to put in a big performance."
    Jacques Kallis expects his team to bounce back strongly from their humiliation at Trent Bridge.

    "If he played another game, [the elbow] could tear properly and that would require surgery. It's just not worthwhile."
    South Africa's coach Mickey Arthur explains why Graeme Smith has played his last game of the tour.

    India warm-up not ideal - Johnson

    Mitchell Johnson is keen to have more time in India to prepare for October's Test series.

    Mitchell Johnson says having only one warm-up game in India before October's Test series is not ideal for Australia, who are still hoping another tour match can be arranged. The postponement of the Champions Trophy has left Australia with limited cricket scheduled before the first Test starts in Bangalore on October 9.

    The Daily Telegraph reported that the BCCI was reluctant to organise a second warm-up game because it would mean rearranging India's domestic cricket schedule. However, Cricket Australia has not formally requested an extra match and Johnson said the players would definitely welcome more time to acclimatise.

    "It's probably not ideal [to have only one game]," Johnson told AAP. "We probably want a few more games before that, but that's the way it is.

    "We've got one game before so we'll have to go back to our states and work pretty hard and try to do the best we can there to prepare as well as we can for India. It's always hard to prepare for India, which has such different conditions than here, so it is going to be tough. I think we will manage."

    Johnson will likely be a key part of Australia's attack for the Test tour, having bowled superbly during last year's one-day series in India. He said it would be a major step up to transfer that success to the five-day format.

    "Playing one-day cricket there I know how hard it is," he said. "But to play Test cricket, with the wickets and playing five-day cricket, it's going to be extremely hard, but it's a challenge I'm looking forward to."

    The gap in the calendar created by the Champions Trophy postponement means Australia have no international cricket between the three-match one-day series against Bangladesh, which starts on Saturday, and the India tour. Johnson warmed up for the Bangladesh games with 3 for 5 against the Australian Institute of Sports in Darwin on Thursday.

    Harmison confirms his exile is over

    Steve Harmison is back, and fully committed to touring this winter.

    And as if by magic, he reappeared. Steve Harmison's self-imposed exile from England's one-day squad has officially come to an end after 18 months on the sidelines. Not content with his stand-in role for the NatWest Series against South Africa, Harmison is now mentally packing his bags for India, West Indies and beyond, after rediscovering his love for the England lifestyle.

    "I'm available from now to play every one-day international and Twenty20 for England," said Harmison, which raises the intriguing possibility of a trip to Antigua in November for a share of Stanford's millions. As recently as Wednesday afternoon, such a notion couldn't have been further from his thoughts, but then a text message from Kevin Pietersen set in motion a chain of events that has culminated in an unequivocal recall.

    "KP will take the credit for it, and you will all write that he got me in a headlock and said 'you've got to come back and play for me', but he wasn't really that important in the decision," said Harmison. "I retired because my head had gone and mentally I'd lost form, but now I've come back."

    The timeframe of Harmison's return to one-day colours has been sudden and unexpected. On Tuesday evening, he was playing for Durham against Nottinghamshire in the Pro40 at Trent Bridge, and by Thursday he had received the phone call from Peter Moores, to say that Ryan Sidebottom had been ruled out of the series, and was he interested in stepping in. Less than 24 hours later, Harmison took the field at Headingley for his first ODI appearance since October 2006, and the rest has happened so quickly it hasn't yet had time to pass into history.

    "I was putting the kids to bed for their afternoon sleep at 2pm, and I got the phone call," said Harmison. "Both Mooresy and KP said 'come and play'. They weren't expecting a full comeback, they just needed a favour, and said take it to the end of the series, and see what happens. I spoke to my family and to Durham, who were great when I came back from New Zealand in a poor place, and everyone said I've got to play, and that was it."

    At the age of 29, and after six years as an England international, Harmison seems (for the moment at least) to have grasped the need to make the most of the remaining years as a top-class athlete. The catalyst for his one-day comeback was the clear enjoyment he showed during his Test return at The Oval earlier this month - a match which rekindled his rapport with the crowds that have, at times since 2005, caused him to shrink into his shell rather than rise up to be the leader of England's attack.

    "I can't overestimate how much I missed playing for England," said Harmison. "After nearly four-and-a-bit years constantly on the road - one-days, Test matches, one-days, Test matches - inside I was completely knackered and my head had gone. I just wasn't bowling well, I wasn't enjoying my cricket, so I packed it in. But I'd have stopped playing full-stop if I thought I wouldn't play for England again."

    Instead, Harmison has spent this season out of the limelight, honing his skills with Durham, and after more than 500 overs in a successful county campaign, he's realised he is now match-fit for the first time in two injury-interrupted years. Consequently, the penny has also dropped about the need to go abroad and put in the hard yards in matches that might lack the glamour and prestige of a Test match, but are no less crucial to his preparations for the big event.

    Harmison was already intending to reprise his winter plans of 2007 and head off to South Africa to play for the Highveld Lions ahead of the India Tests in Ahmedabad and Mumbai. Instead he's realised there is another way to get those crucial overs under his belt. "I came back to play for cricketing reasons," he said. "I could go to South Africa to play four-day cricket to get ready for the Test matches, or play one-day cricket for England. It's really a no-brainer. I had to come back."

    Before he can get stuck into Test cricket again, however, Harmison has a potentially tricky decision to make over his availability for the Stanford contest. Given the money on offer, and the timing of his comeback, he's aware of the negative impression his instant return could make - even if he were to be selected on merit.

    "It is awkward," he said. "If I'm picked, there's not much I can do, but I've said to the coach and captain how I feel. At the end of the day I have been looking more long-term, because it's about being ready for the Test series. I retired for cricketing reasons, and I've come back out of retirement for cricketing reasons. At the minute we've got three games to play [against South Africa] and three games to win, which would be a big boost for England going into Antigua, the winter in India and the West Indies as well."

    Cramped itinerary for New Zealand tour

    India in New Zealand 2009

    • March 6: Twenty20 international, Westpac Stadium, Wellington
    • March 8: 1st ODI, McLean Park, Napier (Day/night)
    • March 11: 2nd ODI, Seddon Park, Haminton (Day/night)
    • March 14: 3rd ODI, Eden Park, Auckland (Day/night)
    • March 17: 4th ODI, Westpac Stadium, Wellington (Day/night)
    • March 20: 5th ODI, AMI Stadium, Christchurch (Day/night)
    • March 22-24: v New Zealand XI, Bert Sutcliffe Oval, Lincoln University
    • March 26-30: 1st Test, Seddon Park, Hamilton
    • April 3-7: 2nd Test, Basin Reserve, Wellington.

    India face a gruelling schedule during their tour to New Zealand next year, with a possible 19 days of cricket to be played in a span of 33 days.

    The tour, India's first of New Zealand since 2002-03, begins with a Twenty20 international at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington and ends with the final Test, from April 3-7, at the Basin Reserve in the same city. India will play one Twenty20 international, five day-night ODIs, a warm-up three-day game, and two Tests during their trip; they return home in time for the second edition of the Indian Premier League.

    A hectic itinerary means the Indian players will have only a day's break between the Twenty20 international and the first ODI in Napier, as well as between the fifth ODI in Hamilton and the warm-up match in Lincoln, near Christchurch, which concludes two days before the start of the first Test in Hamilton.

    India had a torrid time on their last trip in December 2002-January 2003, losing the two-Test series 2-0 and the seven-ODI contest 5-2. The visit came in the build-up to the World Cup in South Africa, where the Indian team, under severe pressure initially, made it to the final.

    Cold and damp conditions resulted in favourable conditions for bowlers, with neither Test lasting five days, and teams batting first often getting bowled out cheaply in the ODI series.

    India are also slated to visit Pakistan for a full tour early next year.

    Wednesday, August 27, 2008

    India seal maiden series triumph in Sri Lanka

    The 143-run stand between Suresh Raina and Mahendra Singh Dhoni set up India's match-winning total of 258.

    India made the most of the toss, a vicious turner in the second innings and Sri Lanka's feeble batting to record their first bilateral one-day series triumph on the island, completing a stunning turnaround from the crushing defeat in the opener in Dambulla. Mahendra Singh Dhoni led from the front with his batting and on-field captaincy but this was a team performance as India recovered from a shaky start to choke Sri Lanka out of the match.

    It turned out to be a great toss for Dhoni to win: Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis would have been virtually unplayable if they got to bowl second, and India's strategy of going in with four bowlers would also have been exposed. It didn't initially seem that way as India's top order floundered in the face of some disciplined bowling. There were no yorkers, no bouncers and no slower balls, just old-fashioned line-and-length to slow down the openers - only four boundaries came in the first ten overs. Kohli survived a couple of early chances before he started to grow in confidence.

    At the other end, Gambhir was starved of the strike and perished when attempting to up the run-rate. That brought Yuvraj Singh to the crease for a short, troubled and runless stay. Chaminda Vaas became the fourth man to take 400 wickets in ODIs when Yuvraj was too early on an offcutter and edged it to short midwicket. Kohli unleashed some wristy shots to bring up his maiden half-century but soon paid the price for playing away from his body, an inside edge on to his stumps giving Thushara a wicket in his first over.

    The score read 81 for 3 before Suresh Raina and Dhoni took charge. Both were decisive with their footwork, regularly charging down the track to negate the spin, or playing right back and reading the spin off the pitch. The running between the wickets was sharp, and with Raina playing some breathtaking lofted drives, the stuttering run-rate got a lift.

    They batted sensibly, cutting out the risks, and it wasn't until India were out of trouble that the more chancy strokes - the reverse-sweep and the paddle-sweep - were brought out. While Raina played the big shots, including a massive pull for six over midwicket off Muttiah Muralitharan, Dhoni was content with some quick singles and twos - there were only four boundaries in his 71.

    The spin threat was negated and the pair had powered India to a commanding 224 for 3 in the 41st over before Thushara struck. He had Raina holing out to mid-off and dismissed a tiring Dhoni soon after, leaving two new batsmen to deal with the wiles of Murali and Ajantha Mendis. They throttled the runs, which resulted in more wickets falling, and Thilan Thushara, who had never taken more than two wickets in an ODI before, took two in the final over to complete his five-for.

    The tricky target didn't seem enough as Sanath Jayasuriya started in a typically murderous mood , using his favourite cut shot to pepper the off-side boundary. As he made merry, his partner Malinda Warnapura toiled at the other end. Warnapura scratched around without scoring before finally being adjudged lbw off Munaf Patel for 0 in the seventh over.

    Munaf combined well with the accurate Zaheer Khan, who kept it on a back of a length around off, to stifle the runs and with only 10 runs coming in six overs, Kumar Sangakkara went for his shots. There was a cover drive for four, but his next stroke was an attempted cut, which took the bottom-edge and cannoned into his leg stump.

    Jayasuriya then took over. Boundaries started to flow in every over: a bouncer on leg stump was pulled over deep backward square leg for six, and an over-the-bowler's-head drive off Praveen. The fifty came up with a pull over midwicket for four and he repeated the shot two balls later, this time for six. He had made 60 of Sri Lanka's 74 before an outside edge off a sharply turning Harbhajan Singh delivery was superbly held by a diving Raina at slip.

    Sri Lanka's hopes, as it has in several matches this series, rested with their captain, Mahela Jayawardene, but he was soon run out attempting a suicidal single. That left them at stuttering at 104 for 4, with all their big-name batsmen dismissed. The pitch had by now deteriorated to the extent that even a part-time spinner like Yuvraj was difficult to negotiate. Thushara followed up his five-wicket haul with a spirited 40 but it was too tall a task for the lower order and they ended up 46 runs short.

    Dhoni binds a winning ODI package

    Mahendra Singh Dhoni was at the forefront of India's unexpected ODI series triumph in Sri Lanka.

    India don't like being favourites, and being written off by many even before their young ODI side assembled in Colombo ultimately worked just fine. Defeat in the final Test at the P Sara Stadium was so comprehensive that it was difficult to see where the one-day recruits would turn for solace as they landed for five matches against Ajantha Mendis and Co. Now, after beating the hosts by 46 runs, India have sealed their first series win in Sri Lanka. And central to their success has been their captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

    From the day he landed in Colombo, Dhoni stressed the past should be left alone and the focus should be on the task facing his side. He admitted Ajantha Mendis would be a threat but said it was up to the individual to handle him. He stressed on the importance of the batsmen to back themselves to score briskly, despite the setbacks. India's recent record in the subcontinent included losses in the finals of the Kitply and Asia Cup, which Dhoni termed as "crucial games", and he hoped to rectify that trend. This match was a final in itself, and India held their nerve to win it.

    He is a very important cog in this wheel, and for the second game running he was at the centre for India, overcoming health issues - he had a a fever yesterday and evidently hadn't recovered fully. Dhoni and Suresh Raina showed how it should be done, scoring runs at a good clip after Sri Lanka left India 81 for 3 in the 18th over. He led the way in proving Mendis could be thwarted, even as he struggled to remain on his feet towards the end of his innings. Overall, Dhoni has top scored in the series with 192 runs at a strike-rate of 79.33, won four tosses in a row, made the right selection choices, and been proactive in the field.

    Under lights, with Sanath Jayasuriya in a punishing mood, Dhoni tossed the ball to Harbhajan Singh in the 18th over. With pace taken off the ball, Jayasuriya edged the third ball to a smartly-placed wide slip. After that Dhoni added an extra cover, who was sharp to deny runs. Attempting to work Yuvraj Singh off his pads, Chamara Kapugedera was trapped lbw. These are minor moves Dhoni makes, but they often have a resounding resonance. Dhoni opted for four specialist bowlers in the last two games and he was rewarded with wickets from Yuvraj. Dhoni also won four successive tosses: some call that luck; with Dhoni, it's all part of the package.

    In his book, What Sport Tells Us About Life, Ed Smith writes of the 19th-century historian Thomas Carlyle, who believed the bravery of heroes and leaders derived from their inspired and resourceful force. "The history of the world," Carlyle argued, "is but the biography of great men." Dhoni is no great, yet, but he has this amazing knack to inspire. And, since becoming captain and changing his approach to batting, he has played key roles with the bat. He averages 57.17 when in charge, with ten fifties and one century.

    Many had criticised Dhoni's decision to skip the Test series, forgetting that he had to endure such agruelling schedule this last 18 months (14 Tests, 56 ODIs, eight Twenty20 internationals, and the IPL). In the Test side Dhoni has yet to cement his place, as one century in 31 matches suggests; in fact, he was dispensable at the time he announced he was opting out. Dhoni is the most important member of a young one-day side and he realised that for the better.

    Numerous television chat shows slammed Dhoni for the loss in the series opener and for reportedly influencing the selectors to pick young talent instead of ageing, vastly experienced heroes. Now Dhoni has led this group, with their struggles and pressures, to win a series few expected them to even contest.

    The line-up India fielded resembled virtually that of the dismal Asia Cup final but, led by Dhoni and his sheer bullishness in believing Mendis could be overridden, they overcame the odds. Ignore the awful times, and concentrate on the good ones, seems to be Dhoni's mantra

    Unlike in the second and third matches, where Zaheer and Dhoni were virtually one-man shows, this was a collective victory. "Contributive efforts are better because you are not relying on one individual," Dhoni said after the last game. "You will get individual performances brilliantly, but it's always better to win through a team effort. Everyone can enjoy it that way."

    Consecutive fifties from Raina and Dhoni, Virat Kohli's maiden half-century to papered over the failures of Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj, Munaf's two-wicket burst, Zaheer Khan's accuracy, wickets for the spinners. This match had it all, and that will give Dhoni immense satisfaction.

    Critics can argue that India were helped by a complete batting failure by the hosts, and off-key series for Chaminda Vaas and Muralitharan. Dhoni will tell you that his bowlers got the measure of the batsmen, and there is no denying how Dhoni and S Badrinath's approach towards the spinners in game two sparked a revival. Sri Lanka were poor in this series, very poor, but India were good.

    This isn't in the same league as the ICC World Twenty20 or the CB Series, but it should be toasted. It came after Mendis - he who mauled India in the Asia Cup final - and Muttiah Muralitharan made a mockery of the best middle order in Test cricket. The line-up India fielded resembled virtually that of the dismal Asia Cup final but, led by Dhoni and his sheer bullishness in believing Mendis could be overridden, they overcame the odds. Ignore the awful times, and concentrate on the good ones, seems to be Dhoni's mantra.

    Baseball, poets say, cannot be scripted. Neither can cricket. After the barrage of questions they faced before this series, Dhoni and his bunch of upstarts can sit back and smile. They've defied the odds and deserved to win, and Carlyle would certainly have toasted their success.

    Jayawardene blames inconsistent batsmen

    Mahela Jayawardene pointed out Thilan Thushara's performance with both ball and bat as a positive to take from the series.

    Mahela Jayawardene, the Sri Lankan captain, blamed inconsistent batting for his side's defeat in the ODI series against India. Sri Lanka needed to avoid a loss in the fourth ODI to stay alive in the series, but went down by 46 runs, handing India the trophy with one more match left in the contest.

    "I was disappointed the way we played. We had our opportunities," Jayawardene said after the match. "Our one-day cricket hasn't been consistent especially the overall performances with the bat," he said. "If you are not capable of getting the runs it's quite difficult to win matches." Sri Lanka, set a competitive target of 259, were bowled out for 212.

    Jayawardene, like his counterpart Mahendra Singh Dhoni, has led the scoring for his team, but none of the other batsmen have been able to back him up. Sanath Jayasuriya's 60 today was the only other fifty for Sri Lanka in the series besides Jayawardene's two, and the remaining batsmen haven't been able to make up for the poor scores from Kumar Sangakkara.

    Jayawardene admitted the lesser-known players need to step up their game. "That is something we really have to work with. Our guys need the confidence to go out there and express themselves which we have asked them to do," he said. "But they haven't been consistent. We definitely need to work hard and make sure we get it right because this is our future."

    A positive for Sri Lanka, though, was the performance of their bowlers, especially the medium-pacers in the absence of Lasith Malinga, Dilhara Fernando and Farveez Maharoof. "That's something that we can fall back on," he said. "Especially with the injuries we've had guys who put up their hands and performed. Thilan Thushara has been outstanding with ball and bat, so was [Nuwan] Kulasekera." Besides picking up career-best figures of 5 for 47 in this game, the left-armer Thushara has also been Sri Lanka's second-highest run-getter in the series; an ideal replacement perhaps for Chaminda Vaas, who happened to pick up his 400th ODI wicket.

    With a bowling line-up consisting of Ajantha Mendis and Muttiah Muralitharan, Sri Lanka can surely make opposition batsmen sweat, but Jayawardene wants his batsmen to put the runs on board. "We just need to make sure our batting is consistent," he said. "At the start of the series I said in one-day cricket you need to be very consistent with the bat. Putting runs on the board or chasing down targets - we have to do it. That's where we lost the series."

    Jayawardene said his team would be aiming to end the series with a win. "We do have some cricket in the near future so it's important that we finish on a high note," he said. "We played some really good cricket throughout the Test series and one-day series. It will be disappointing if you just give up on the next game."

    Olympic cricket is 'inevitable' - Ponting

    Ricky Ponting is anticipating an Olympic future.

    Australia's captain Ricky Ponting believes it is only a matter of time before Twenty20 is part of the Olympics. Just days after the completion of the Beijing Games, Ponting said it was "inevitable" the new form would become an Olympic event, given its popularity in the subcontinent.

    Ponting, who also called for a portion of the international calendar to be kept free for Twenty20 tournaments, was speaking at a dinner in Sydney to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Don Bradman.

    "I actually think it's inevitable Twenty20 cricket will be an Olympic sport," Ponting said. "You think about the audiences in the subcontinent, 22 or 23% of the world's population is based in that area. The IOC could do a lot worse than put cricket in the Olympics."

    Although he wanted Twenty20 to be part of the world's biggest sporting event, Ponting warned that the format had to be handled carefully by international cricket bosses. He has concerns about players chasing quick dollars rather than playing for their country.

    "The critical issue with the game of Twenty20 cricket is how do we make it work," Ponting said. "We definitely need a carve-out period. The reason I say that is not because I want to go off and play, it's not about that.

    "I want to play for Australia as much as I can, I want to play as many Tests for Australia as I can. I want the next generation of Australian players to have that dream to put on the baggy green cap and play 100 Test matches and 300 one-day games.

    "I'm worried if there's not that period of time, be it in the IPL or the EPL, or whatever competition it might be, that this next generation's opinions might change. They might see the dollars and think, 'maybe it's more appealing to me that I go and play IPL instead of playing for my country'. That would be the saddest thing ever to happen to this great game."

    India vs Sri Lanka 4th ODI Highlights | One Day Cricket

    India Batting Video

    Sri Lanka Batting Video

    Unchanged India bat on reserve day

    Malinda Warnapura gets his second ODI cap at the expense of Chamara Silva.

    Toss India chose to bat v Sri Lanka

    Under clear blue skies, Mahendra Singh Dhoni won his fourth straight toss and chose to bat, reasoning the pitch was a bit dry and the spinners could get some help later on. India, 2-1 up in the series, went in unchanged and with four specialist bowlers but Sri Lanka made one change, bringing in opener Malinda Warnapura for Chamara Silva.

    Sri Lanka's batting has looked top-heavy in recent times with their three big names - Sanath Jayasuriya, Kumar Sangakkara, and Mahela Jayawardene - at the top of the order failing to fire. Warnapura averages a modest 28 in List As and earns his second ODI cap on the back of some impressive showings at the Test level; his inclusion will see Sangakkara drop down to No 3 and stiffen the middle order.

    In the lead-up to the match, Sangakkara had stressed the importance of the top order firing. "In one-day cricket if a top-order batsman stays in until the 30th over there is almost a certainty he will score a hundred," he said. "That is the kind of attitude that top-order players should carry into a match." Sound advice for Sri Lanka's batsmen, none of whom has made a century at home since Upul Tharanga in September 2005.

    Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, S Badrinath, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt/wk), Rohit Sharma, Praveen Kumar, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel

    Sri Lanka:
    Sanath Jayasuriya, Malinda Warnapura, Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Mahela Jayawardene (capt), Chamara Kapugedera, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Nuwan Kulasekara, Chaminda Vaas, Thilan Thushara, Ajantha Mendis, Muttiah Muralitharan

    'Bradman remains unassailable'

    Matching Don Bradman's 309 runs in a day at Leeds in 1930 is virtually impossible now.

    Ricky Ponting has rated the achievements of Don Bradman above those of the Olympic swimmers Michael Phelps and Mark Spitz and sprinter Usain Bolt. On the 100th anniversary of Bradman's birth, Ponting will deliver the Bradman Oration in Sydney and speak about his "ageless legacy".

    Ponting said the performances of Phelps and Bolt in Beijing, and Spitz in Munich in 1972, were some of the greatest sporting achievements in history, but he does not believe the athletes match Bradman. "Of the 2519 batsmen who have taken the crease in 131 years of Test cricket, Bradman stands alone and untouched," he said in the Australian. "I am not aware of any other sport which has one competitor so far above any other performer.

    "He dominated cricket for 20 years from his debut in 1928 to his retirement 60 years ago this month and if he had not lost eight years of his career to World War II his figures would no doubt be better still. At every Olympics plenty of records are broken. Bradman remains unassailable."

    Ponting doubted it was possible for a modern player to score 300 runs in a day, like Bradman did at Leeds in 1930. "As a team we do try and score at least 300 runs a day in Test cricket," he said. "In honour of Bradman's legacy that's the least we can do."

    Bradman was born in the small New South Wales town of Cootamundra in 1908 and spent time in Bowral and Sydney before moving to Adelaide in the mid-1930s. In 52 Tests he scored 6996 runs, finishing with a zero at The Oval in 1948 when four runs would have given him an average of 100.

    "There are thousands of kids in every generation who grow up in Australia wanting to scale the heights of the greatest cricketer who ever lived," Ponting said. "As boys and girls discovering the great joys and mysteries of playing and watching cricket, we might not know much about Don Bradman the man but we quickly realise the magnitude of his achievements."

    Ponting said it was "amusing" when people compared him to Bradman. "There's no need to even look at the record books to know there is no comparison," he said. Ponting's average over 119 Tests currently stands at 58.37 - a long way from 99.94.

    Mushtaq Ahmed quits county cricket

    Mushtaq Ahmed walks into the sunset after six fruitful seasons with Sussex.

    Mushtaq Ahmed, the former Pakistan legspinner, has announced his retirement from county cricket due to persistent knee trouble. For the last six years, Mushtaq has been an integral member of the English county side Sussex, during which they won three County Championship titles.

    It was a difficult decision, Mushtaq admitted, as he thanked his team-mates and staff at Sussex.

    "I would firstly like to thank Allah for providing me with this great family," Mushtaq said. "This is a very hard decision for me to make, as I feel that I could possible play one more year, but out of respect, I would only do that if I felt 100% per cent and I wouldn't want to risk that for the family.

    "I am going to miss playing for the club greatly. I am truly honoured to have spent six wonderful years here. There are not enough words to express my gratitude to the club, but I would like to specially thank Peter Moores, Mark Robinson, Chris Adams, all my team-mates, all the fans and everyone who is part of this magnificent family for all the opportunities and memories that they have provided me with.

    Adams, the Sussex captain, hailed Mushtaq as one of the county's most valuable overseas players.

    "Mushtaq's legacy at the club is that he leaves us statistically, romantically and emotionally the best player to ever pull on a Sussex shirt," Adams said. "In view of the impact he's made, it's difficult to think of another cricketer who has achieved or done more for one county. His legacy extends beyond the playing arena, as I'm sure all that have been graced by his presence will agree. He is simply a great man."

    Mushtaq, 38, last played for Pakistan in 2003. Overlooked by his country, he carved out a very successful county career, and in 2003 he became the first bowler in five years to take 100 wickets in the English season. That was instrumental in guiding Sussex to the first Championship title in their history, a feat he and they repeated in 2006 and the following season. He has bowled over 26,000 overs in all competitions, taking 598 wickets. He ends his first-class career with over 1400 wickets.

    Forever superstar

    Mobbed, but respectfully: crowds surround Bradman as he makes his way off he field after having made 300 in a day at Headingley in 1930.

    Not so long ago I found myself at a trivia night, when a round was announced with the designation "Famous Faces": this involved a sheet of paper featuring the images of 20 allegedly famous persons. My table gathered to brainstorm and banter. After a pause, looks were exchanged. We reviewed the evidence again. Hmm, nope - not one figure did any of us recognise: they were faces, it transpired, from reality television we'd never watched, pop music we'd never heard, sport we didn't care about. Few things today date you so reliably as that group of people you consider "famous".

    What we honour today, on the centenary of Sir Donald Bradman's birth, is his defiance of that modern trend to a fame of instant perishability. There's the cricket, too - but that can be savoured any day, and has been for the 60 years since Bradman's last Test innings in the endless recapitulations of his career. Centenaries are celebrations of continuity: they are tributes to the figure concerned and to ourselves: statements of stability, recognitions of our abiding priorities.

    Bradman remains capable of remarkable feats, if today's dinners and DVDs, speeches and specials are anything to go by. After all, how many cricketers have their centenaries marked in any significant way? It was WG Grace's bad luck that when his fell in 1948, all Englishmen could talk about was Bradman.

    By present trends, too, the legend survives on precious little. As a surgically-enhanced Sachin Tendulkar emerges from his cryogenic deep-freeze in the multimedia megalopolis BCCI City on 10 November 2067, worshippers will probably be able to watch holograms of every ball of his career - a career plied in every cricket country of the world as the champion of the most populous. Representing a nation in his time of only six million people, Bradman played cricket in two countries, and bar the fragmentary footage that remains and the words he inspired, left behind traces only of his runs. Yet he is known to every cricket fan - and most of them know his batting average too.

    Bradman's feats, then, are only the half of it. A grasp of the phenomenon of fame enhances appreciation. In his pioneering study The Image, Daniel Boorstin explained fame as an outcome of technical innovation in the mass media: the telegraph, linking continents, the rotary press, allowing print on both sides of a newspaper, and the roll film, which made having your photo taken less like sitting for a portrait and more like signing an autograph. Studying content in popular newspapers and magazines in the US, Boorstin found the most marked change around the First World War: before it, three-quarters of the subjects of stories were from politics, business or the professions; after it, more than half came from entertainment, thanks to the explosion in the popularity of cinema, the dissemination of radio, and the advent of the wire photo. There emerged a shadow form of fame, with the style rather than the substance. "The hero" shared public space with "the celebrity", who was "well-known for their well-knownness".

    Bradman was a source of enormous national pride, and bore a crushing burden of sporting expectation. His public activities were somewhat restricted, and he was never comfortable with being a object of curiosity. But few famous persons can have lived, and also been permitted to live, so close to an ordinary life

    A different kind of fame
    The 1920s then saw the first frenzies of public acclamation, where the hero and the celebrity merged into one. The American aviator Charles Lindbergh went aloft in May 1927 a relative unknown, and landed across the Atlantic a divine. The classic biography by A Scott Berg describes a life turned inside out. Matrons in St Louis fought over a corn cob Lindbergh had chewed. He could not cash or send a cheque, or send shirts to the laundry: neither would be returned. He married in secret, leaving the ceremony hunched in the back of a friend's car, while a decoy led the press off to a false destination. Honeymooning on a yacht a week later, he and his wife were buzzed by a seaplane with a photographer dangling out the window. When their first son was kidnapped and killed, photographers stormed the morgue, ransacked the coffin and took pictures of the mangled corpse, then sold them as postcards on the streets of New Jersey for $5 each; later, photographers trailing a car taking the Lindberghs' second son to nursery school forced it off the road.

    And yet, nothing like this befell Bradman. To be sure, he was a source of enormous national pride, and bore a crushing burden of sporting expectation. His public activities were somewhat restricted, and he was never comfortable with being an object of curiosity. But few famous persons can have lived, and also been permitted to live, so close to an ordinary life. He held ordinary jobs, as a seller of sporting goods and a dealer in stocks. He was married once, to his childhood sweetheart, and raised children in the only house he bought.

    It could have been otherwise. Nobody who wished it, for instance, could not find Bradman's address, and you knew you were guaranteed a response if you wrote to 2 Holden Street in the Adelaide suburb of Kensington. Bradman, too, scorned the template reply: he gave even his plainest letters a personal, humanising touch. But out of this developed a stable, sustainable, long-term, arm's-length relationship between Bradman and his public, in which both sides, consciously and unconsciously, honoured their sides of the bargain. Thus was a pre-modern fame nurtured into a post-modern age; a compromise classically of Australia, a country that exalts the common man. Consequently Bradman eluded some of the wages of fame. In his What Price Fame?, American economist Tyler Cowen presents detailed calculations suggesting that the famous tend to have far lower life expectancies than the non-famous, and to suffer disproportionately from heart disease, kidney failure, alcoholism and drug addiction. "Fame tends to be bad for the famous," he concludes. Not for Bradman. Perhaps it even kept him going: despite a relatively frail constitution, he lived to 92.

    Ordinary Joe: Bradman at a fancy-dress party in 1938.

    England's darling
    England's embrace of Bradman was not foretold, nor was it immediate, but it was wholehearted. Richard Holt argued plausibly in the 2002 edition of Wisden that the summer of 1934 was "the turning-point of Bradman's relationship with the British". Before his form came flooding back at Headingley, Bradman's batting was unexpectedly fallible that summer; his life-or-death struggle with peritonitis then spellbound the British public.

    It sometimes eludes modern readers just how serious Bradman's predicament was. It was 50 years since the first successful surgical removal of an appendix, but infection remained a deadly possibility in an age before antibiotics. In the most thorough study from the time - compiled in a Massachusetts hospital between 1929 and 1939 - three per cent of appendicitis patients died, the mortality-rate rising to 13% where perforation occurred. As Holt observes: "The public suddenly saw this remarkable run-making machine in a new light, as a young man with a new bride, whose dash from Sydney to Perth to get the first boat caught the popular imagination."

    Four years later, like a good son of empire, Bradman apprehended the unfolding European crisis as an affair for Australians also, writing to a friend from Naples: "From the dock of our ship we counted 36 destroyers. Eight cruisers and seventy-two submarines. I guess they were not built to rust." He was a popular, patriotic ambassador for his country, and would be more popular a decade later, when on his fabled final tour he was made an honorary life member of both Yorkshire and Lancashire. "To the middle classes, Donald Bradman, batsman and stockbroker, stood for suburban virtue rewarded," argues Holt. "To the working man, his blend of virtuosity and grit struck a chord, especially in the North, where his professionalism was more appreciated than in the South." If that's true, mind you, it can only be by an almost imperceptible margin. He was assuredly revered at Lord's, where he became, on his 50th birthday, the first honorary life member of MCC not a member of the royal family or to have held high political office. His appeal to toffs, of course, was in the way his rise validated social hierarchies, suggesting that the man of talent would always be recognised.

    Big all over
    Bradman's influence is concentrated around cricket's Anglo-Australian axis but not confined to it. In March 1976, for example, his image was used on a postage stamp issued in South Africa to mark the centenary of the Champion Bat Trophy, forerunner to the Currie Cup.

    Among the most famous Bradman stories of all, meanwhile, concerns Nelson Mandela, recently sprung from Robben Island, breaking the ice with former Australian prime minister Malcolm Fraser by asking: "Tell me. Is Donald Bradman still alive?" On his visit to Australia in September 2000, Mandela vouchsafed: "In the 30s and 40s, at least in our country, we regarded Sir Donald... as one of the divinities, so great was he and such an impact he made."

    Bradman was the first honorary life member of MCC not a member of the royal family or to have held high political office. His appeal to toffs, of course, was in the way his rise validated social hierarchies, suggesting that the man of talent would always be recognised

    Then, of course, there is Bradman's reputation in Asia, with its many exhibits - from the schoolboys in Bombay in the mid-1930s who founded the Don Bradman Cricket Club to the starstruck Ceylonese port policeman who had his newborn son christened Bradman Weerakoon after an encounter with the homeward-heading Australian. It is also a fame that has stood the test of time. More Indians than Australians watched Bradman's funeral service - in fact, more Indians watched (50 million) than there are Australians.

    It's an exaggeration to report Bradman as feeling particular kinship with cricket in Asia. He made landfall on the subcontinent only in June 1953, on the way to reporting an Ashes series for the Daily Mail, stopping off in transit with BOAC at Calcutta then Karachi. Interestingly, his wife probably spent more time there than he did, solicitously looked after by Vijay Merchant when she paused there on her 1934 mercy dash to England.

    Otherwise, Bradman remained aboard the Strathaird when it docked at Bombay's Ballard Pier in 1948, and declined all the many subsequent invitations, including one from the Board of Control for Cricket in Pakistan to a series of one-day matches in November 1976 to mark the centenary of Mohammed Ali Jinnah (Keith Miller went instead and, 20 years after his retirement, was actually game to play). Vasant Raiji puts his claim that Indians regard Bradman as cricket deity rather elegantly, turning the absences into an argument for ineffability:

    God is perfect. In the eyes of the Indians, Bradman is the perfect batsman. God is unseen. Indians have not seen Bradman play. God's ways are inscrutable. Indians cannot comprehend why, in spite of numerous pressing invitations, Bradman never came to India. Whatever happens is God's will. So if Bradman avoided India, it was Bradman's will. Disappointment but no ill-feeling or rancour.

    Of course, Indian cricketers have partaken directly of the legend, forming the opposition when Bradman scored his 100th first-class hundred, and his only brace of Test hundreds. But Bradman's role in Indian cricket seems to have been less that of an individual figure and more as a kind of yardstick or gold standard. He offered records to be aimed for, which at first seemed far-off: BB Nimbalkar came famously close with his undefeated 443 for Maharastra against Kathiawar in December 1948, within a boundary or two of surpassing Bradman's record first-class score. It was evidence of Indian cricket's maturity when Sunil Gavaskar made a few of the Don's records his own, surpassing Bradman's record number of Test centuries, and underwriting the successful pursuit of 406 in the fourth innings in Port-of-Spain to improve on the feat of Bradman's Australians at Leeds 28 years earlier.

    A headline in Mumbai's Mid-Day the day after Bradman's death in 2001.

    An idealised Bradman has also been a personification of good conduct. During his struggle with the BCCI's great poobah Anthony de Mello, for instance, Lala Amarnath was strengthened by a description of himself in Bradman's Farewell to Cricket as "charming in every respect and a splendid ambassador". "De Mello has done me a lot of harm," Amarnath told the Times of India. "But my reputation has been fully vindicated by no less a celebrity than Bradman in his memoirs."

    Bradman's acceptance of honorary life membership of the Cricket Club of India was front-page news; likewise his lofty praise for the methods of Sachin Tendulkar. More recently, he has been used to represent the lofty estate from which cricket has fallen. In November 2000, he made an improbable appearance in the Central Bureau of Investigation's report into cricket corruption: "Cricket, as it is played at present, does not appear to be the same game played by Sir Don Bradman or [the one] Neville Cardus wrote about. The romanticism associated with the game has perhaps gone forever."

    That, in fact, is a possible next development of the Bradman legend: a symbol not of continuity but of dislocation, of what is bygone, of what the game has sacrificed. For it will be difficult to sustain a legend of the Don if the form of the game in which he excelled, Test cricket between countries, is destined for permanent eclipse. Were Francis Fukuyama an analyst of cricket rather than geopolitics he might at the moment be writing The End of History and the Last Bradman.

    History is surely full of ironies: India, which never saw Bradman, will be the country that chiefly shapes how he will be seen by future generations: whether he continues to provoke instant recognition, or becomes one of those faces in a trivia quiz that you can't quite place.

    Bravo undergoes ankle surgery

    Dwyane Bravo: "I have pushed it [injury] to the limit and there is no way I could have continued on with the problem persisting".

    Dwayne Bravo, the West Indies allrounder, will undergo surgery on his left ankle in New York after being left out of the Tri-Nation series in Canada because of the injury.

    Bravo, who said he had carried the injury for the last two years, earlier planned to have surgery on his ankle in November but decided to move it forward as the problem turned urgent. "I have used painkillers and stuff but I cannot go on like this," Bravo told the Caribbean Media Corporation. Last year he missed the Quadrangular series in Ireland after aggravating the injury.

    "I need to have the problem corrected and as such I will be going across to New York to have surgery done on the ankle. I have pushed it to the limit and there is no way I could have continued with the problem persisting."

    The surgery was organised by the West Indies board and Bravo is expected to return to Trinidad on Sunday. He will aim to be fit for England's tour of the West Indies starting February 2009.

    Stanford match threatened by sponsor dispute

    The High Court in London will hear from September 18 an injunction brought by Digicel against the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) regarding the Stanford Super Series. The injunction is the latest step in a dispute between the board and its official sponsor over commercial rights relating to the tournament, the first edition of which is due to be held in November.

    The injunction relates solely to the proposed match between England and the Stanford Superstars to be held in Antigua on November 1, part of the five-year, US$100 million series - which consists of one All-Star match per year against an England select team. Digicel is seeking to have the WICB withdraw all approvals for the Stanford Super Series; if it is successful, the fallout could disrupt the annual $20 million match.

    Digicel's concern is that the deal between the WICB and Stanford encroaches on the Caribbean telecommunication company's exclusive sponsorship rights. Reports suggest Stanford is close to signing on Cable and Wireless (Digicel's competitor and a former sponsor of the West Indies team) as a sponsor for the series. Digicel's agreement with the WICB says its sponsorship rights apply in respect of any match involving a team that "...represents, purports to represent or may reasonably be perceived as representing the West Indies....".

    The WICB's view is that Digicel's case holds no water because the team playing the Super Series is not the West Indies team but the Stanford Superstars, over which Digicel has no sponsorship rights.

    The issue was discussed over three weeks of negotiations last month but, with no solution in sight, Digicel sought to take the matter into arbitration.

    Tuesday, August 26, 2008

    Broad inspires crushing English win

    Stuart Broad wrecked South Africa's batting with 5 for 23.

    Stuart Broad produced the best bowling figures of his professional career, and Matt Prior followed up his haul of six catches with a rumbustious 45 not out from 36 balls, as South Africa were subjected to the heaviest and most humiliating defeat in their 406-match ODI history. From start to finish the contest lasted a mere 37.1 overs, 23 of which were used up by the South Africans themselves, as England routed them for 83, their second worst total after the 69 they made against Australia at Sydney in 1993-94.

    It was a performance of utter dominance from England, who have undergone a renaissance in the weeks since Kevin Pietersen took over as captain. On this occasion, however, the plaudits belonged to the least heralded member of their pace attack, a man whose cutting edge has occasionally been called into question in his first full year of international cricket. In front of his home crowd at Nottinghamshire, Broad scotched all such notions by producing a waspish length on the line of off stump, and for once found the edge, as he surged to his first five-wicket haul in all limited-overs cricket.

    There wasn't even a morsel of comfort for South Africa to take from the match, and afterwards Graeme Smith felt obliged to apologise to a packed crowd for the early curtailment to their evening's entertainment. Doubtless he repeated those sentiments to the Trent Bridge authorities, who were unable to showcase their spanking new floodlights. The cricket that did take place, however, was pretty spectacular, as England racked up their third ten-wicket win in ODIs, and their first since Bangladesh were beaten by the same margin in 2005.

    Having lost the first ODI by 20 runs on Friday, South Africa won the toss and batted, in the hope of kickstarting their campaign. Instead they were derailed by a spell of four wickets in 17 balls from Broad, after which their innings was in tatters on 27 for 4. His first victim was Herschelle Gibbs, who had time for one trademark pull through midwicket off James Anderson before inside-edging an offcutter to give Prior the first of his six catches - a tally that has not been equalled by an England wicketkeeper since Alec Stewart managed that many against Zimbabwe at Old Trafford in 2000.

    It was a timely haul for Prior, whose stock has risen this summer while Tim Ambrose's has fallen, and the second of his takes - a one-handed leap in front of first slip to remove Smith for 9 - drew gasps of admiration from his team-mates, not to mention surprise from his detractors. With confidence coursing through his veins, he epitomised the attitude of the entire England team, and having rushed the team to victory with the bat, his recall to the Test side seems sure to be rubber-stamped at the end of next month.

    South Africa's confidence never recovered from Broad's early blows, and he added two more wickets in his first five overs. Jacques Kallis, whose form has been floundering all tour long, flashed wildly outside off stump for Owais Shah to snaffle a comfortable edge at first slip then, after clubbing two fours off Anderson, JP Duminy poked half-heartedly outside off stump.

    There was, however, no respite in prospect, because into the carnage rumbled Andrew Flintoff, who ripped AB de Villiers and Mark Boucher from the crease in a performance of brute hostility. Despite a lengthy delay to receive strapping to his injured left toe, Flintoff's aggression was as pumped as his team's performance, as both men were backed into the crease by bouncers then beaten by the fuller length - de Villiers was pinned lbw for 5, Boucher caught-behind for 10.

    All the while, Steve Harmison was being held back from the attack, as Pietersen understandably allowed Broad to bowl his full quota of ten overs in a row. Broad responded with his fifth wicket with the second ball of his final over, as Johan Botha drove at a full length and was adjudged caught-behind, at which stage his figures were a remarkable 5 for 11 from 9.2 overs.

    Andre Nel swiped some of that gloss by mowing Broad through the leg side for three boundaries from his final four balls, but Harmison needed just one delivery to end that short-lived counterattack - Luke Wright steadied himself at mid-on to pouch a predictable top-edged hoick. Four balls and one slogged boundary later, Albie Morkel's return to South African colours had also ended tamely, with Prior again the beneficiary of a weak dab outside off. It was left to Flintoff to round up the innings with a yorker to Dale Steyn, and South Africa's humiliation was nearly complete.

    All that remained was England's batting, and they never threatened to falter. Ian Bell dropped anchor for 28 from 51 balls as Prior cut loose, and the closest that South Africa came to a breakthrough were a pair of free-hit "catches" after Steyn twice overstepped. Prior launched Makhaya Ntini down the ground for six then wrapped up the match with a fierce mow through midwicket, to put the seal on a memorable triumph for England.