Friday, July 31, 2009

Batting continues to worry Pakistan

Pakistan need to come up with a solid batting performance to stay in the series.

Match facts

Saturday August 1, 2009
Start time 10.00 (04.30 GMT)

Big Picture

The first one-dayer on Thursday wasn't as one-sided as it was turning out to be at one stage. The Pakistan lower order fought commendably with only a couple of wickets in hand but it wasn't enough to erase an inept performance by the top order. Pakistan's coach, Intikhab Alam, stated after the match that the pitch was not to blame; his team lost it in the field when they had a chance to restrict the Sri Lankans below 200. The bowlers struggled to contain a rampaging Muttiah Muralitharan in the third Powerplay and the Sri Lankans took the psychological advantage with them in the better part of the chase as well.

Intikhab didn't blame the defeat on bad batting. But the top order's frailties against the swing generated by Sri Lanka's penetrative new-ball attack remains a concern. In four matches against them, Pakistan are yet to register a win, despite the contests being closely fought. Pakistan need to win tomorrow or else they will have to win all their remaining games to win the series.

Sri Lanka too didn't bat as well as they would have liked, but have fewer concerns overall compared to their opponents. Kumar Sangakkara wasn't exactly chuffed with the way his bowlers lost the plot towards the end of the chase. Death bowling is something the home side will need to sharpen.

Form guide

(last five matches, most recent first)

Sri Lanka - WWLLL
Pakistan - LWLLL

Watch out for…

Shahid Afridi: He made a start in the first ODI, hitting a brisk 27 before a poor shot - dabbing a short ball to the keeper - cut short his knock. More is expected from him, both with bat and ball as this series progresses. If he retains his No.3 spot, he can focus more on anchoring the innings.

Thilan Thushara: He was the best bowler across both sides in the opening match - taking 3 for 29 - and his early strikes derailed Pakistan's chase. In Chaminda Vaas' absence, Sri Lanka have found an effective replacement who gets enough zip off the pitch. He cleaned up Kamran Akmal with a back-of-a-length ball which snuck through bat and pad, before removing Afridi and Younis Khan.

Team news

Intikhab conceded that the decision to send Shoaib Malik to open didn't work out as planned, which could strengthen Imran Nazir's case for an inclusion. If he's included, one of the non-performers in the middle order will have to make way.

Pakistan: (likely) 1 Kamran Akmal (wk), 2 Imran Nazir, 3 Younis Khan (capt), 4 Fawad Alam, 5 Shahid Afridi, 6 Shoaib Malik/Misbah-ul-Haq, 7 Mohammad Yousuf, 8 Abdul Razzaq, 9 Umar Gul, 10 Mohammad Aamer, 11 Saeed Ajmal

Sri Lanka will probably retain their winning combination.

Sri Lanka: (likely) 1 Upul Tharanga, 2 Sanath Jayasuriya, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (capt and wk), 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Thilan Samaraweera, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Chamara Kapugedera, 8 Thilan Thushara, 9 Nuwan Kulasekara, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Muttiah Muralitharan

Stats and trivia

  • Despite Pakistan's unsuccessful run-chase in the first ODI, Dambulla remains a better pitch for the team batting second in day games. Teams batting first average 3.84 per over and 20.09 per wicket. For teams chasing, the numbers are 3.98 and 26.94.

  • Murali's Man-of-the-Match award on Thursday was his second against Pakistan and his third at the Dambulla Stadium in 16 ODIs at that ground.

  • Murali's starting to win matches ... with the bat. In the tri-series final against Bangladesh in Mirpur this January, his whirlwind unbeaten 33 guided Sri Lanka to the title in the most freakish manner possible.

England vs Australia 3rd Test (2009) Day 1 Highlights

Australia 1st Innings Day 1

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Beefed-up Pakistan look for revenge

Sanath Jayasuriya will have a new opening partner with Tillakaratne Dilshan injured.

Match facts

Thursday July 30, 2009
Start time 10.00 (04.30 GMT)

Big Picture
The Tests delivered the promise of riveting cricket, at a time when the game's traditional format was under threat. Now save your appetite for the one-dayers. The selling point of the series comes from the visitor's camp. It marks the return of two exciting players from the ICL, who have been in heavy demand from loyal Pakistan followers to give the team a facelift - Imran Nazir and Naved-ul-Hasan. The other player from the ICL, Abdul Razzaq, had already started his rebirth as an international player in the World Twenty20 but was kept out of the Tests and Mohammad Yousuf too made a stirring comeback in the Tests.

Both teams are at a rebuilding stage, with the 2011 World Cup in mind. The Sri Lankan captain, Kumar Sangakkara, highlighted that on the eve of the opening ODI in Dambulla, as it gives a chance for his team to experiment before arriving at the right combination. Instead of trying out new blood, both teams have handed comebacks to old faces, Thilan Samaraweera being a prime example from the home team. Tillakaratne Dilshan's temporary absence may come as a blessing in disguise for them as it's an opportunity for another attacking opener to fill the breach. After all, Sri Lanka cannot depend on Sanath Jayasuriya forever.

They will be up against the team which thumped them fairly convincingly the last time they met in the limited-overs format - the ICC World Twenty20. Where will the pendulum swing this time?

Form guide
(last five matches, most recent first)

Sri Lanka - WLLLL
Pakistan - WLLLW

Watch out for…
Upul Tharanga: With Dilshan bandaged and ruled out for the first couple of ODIs at least, Tharanga's spot at the top is more or less guaranteed. Holding his place once Dilshan returns will be his challenge. He last played an ODI during the tour of Bangladesh earlier this year but was overlooked for the series against Pakistan and India. His performance in the warm-up game in Kurunegala on Monday was inauspicious - he was out for a first-ball duck. Tharanga is a tried and tested player who's had success in the past and if he backs himself, he should manage some substantial scores, focus on building an innings and leave the power hitting to Jayasuriya.

Imran Nazir: He was the people's favourite not too long ago and still is. Trawl through the comments from readers in Cricinfo's recent stories and blogs on Pakistan and Nazir features almost everywhere. He was the most-wanted player from the ICL and for a good reason too. He smacked an unbeaten 111 off 44 balls to guide Lahore Badshahs to the ICL title last November and fans realised just how much they missed him. Pakistan can look forward to the exciting opening duo of Nazir and Kamran Akmal.

Sri Lanka's new one-day kit: Hopefully the dawn of a new era, after three consecutive series defeats at home.

Team news
Dilhara Fernando was added at the last minute as cover for the injury-prone Lasith Malinga. Sangakkara didn't reveal the exact combination and said that Samaraweera and Thilina Kandamby were in the mix.

Sri Lanka: (likely) 1 Upul Tharanga, 2 Sanath Jayasuriya, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (capt and wk), 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Thilina Kandamdy/Thilan Samaraweera, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Chamara Kapugedera, 8 Thilan Thushara, 9 Nuwan Kulasekara, 10 Lasith Malinga/Dilhara Fernando, 11 Muttiah Muralitharan

Pakistan have an embarrassment of riches and the competition for places has shot up. Will Yousuf walk in, and if he does, at whose expense? There was no word on a possible debut for Umar Akmal, who smashed an unbeaten 103 off 76 balls in Kurunegala.

Pakistan: (likely) 1 Kamran Akmal (wk), 2 Imran Nazir, 3 Younis Khan, 4 Fawad Alam, 5 Shahid Afridi, 6 Shoaib Malik, 7 Misbah-ul-Haq/ Mohammad Yousuf, 8 Abdul Razzaq, 9 Umar Gul, 10 Naved-ul-Hasan, 11 Saeed Ajmal/ Mohammad Aamer

Pitch and conditions
Sri Lanka's main batsmen have found it tough going in Dambulla and here's what Sangakkara had to say about the pitch: "Over the years it's been a tough wicket to read. It's had various scores on it from low to high, the highest being 285. The key is not having a negative mindset going out there. It's best to go out there with an open mind, assess the conditions very quickly and communicate it to the dressing room. Those few little basics that we talk about in building partnerships are going to be the key."

Stats and trivia

* Pakistan is the only team with a positive win-loss record against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka: in 21 ODIs they have won ten and lost nine. Since 2000, though, they have lost five and won three against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka.

* Teams batting first have won only five out of 13 day games in Dambula. The last four day matches here have all been won by the team batting second.

* Sri Lanka's main batsmen have had a tough time in Dambulla. Sangakkara averages less than 29 in 20 innings, while Jayasuriya has only two 50-plus scores in 18 innings.

* Both Sangakkara and Jayawardene haven't managed a half-century at home against Pakistan in 15 ODI innings. Sangakkara's highest in eight innings is an unbeaten 36, while Jayawardene's best in seven innings is 49.

* Muralitharan has enjoyed the conditions in Dambulla, taking 33 wickets in 15 matches at an average of 15.36 at an economy rate of 3.46 runs per over.

"You are never sure as to whether they will be explosive or be destructive. Sometimes they are a hard side to play, all the more so we should be thinking about our game a lot more that we should about theirs."
Kumar Sangakkara on Pakistan

"We are aware of Sri Lanka's strength we must stick to our basics every day and in every game. Sri Lanka's fielding is fantastic and they have the upper hand in fielding. If we field like we did in the Twenty20 we can provide good competition."
Younis Khan knows where his opponents have the edge

Weather adds to Australia's problems

Taking the strain: all eyes will be on Andrew Flintoff's knee.

Match facts

Thursday, July 30 - Monday, August 3, 2009
Start time 11.00 (10.00 GMT)

Big Picture

England 1-0 up, Australia facing a selection conundrum, key injuries to both sides. By rights, this should be an epic, filled with the kind of outrageous twists and sub-plots we have come to expect from Ashes series, but predictions of inclement weather and a benign pitch have installed the draw as the most likely result. An anti-climactic sequel to England's historic victory at Lord's is in the offing.

Australia will be desperate to avoid a repeat of 2005, in which they entered the home stretch in arrears of England, but short of a Herculean bowling performance a result will be difficult to enforce if, as is expected, substantial periods of the match are lost to rain. To be any chance, Australia will presumably need Mitchell Johnson to rediscover the radar conspicuously absent on this tour to date.

England, meanwhile, will be praying Andrew Flintoff's pin cushion of a right knee is able to withstand the rigours of bowling on a heavy Edgbaston playing surface. Flintoff has been applying an ice machine to his knee each night to help alleviate the after-effects of his mighty bowling performance at Lord's, and is confident of playing a full part in the match. The all-rounder has fond memories of Edgbaston, having led England to a gripping two-run victory over the Australians four years ago with a virtuoso performance that included thunderous innings of 68 and 73, and seven wickets.

Form guide

(last five matches, most recent first)

England - WDWWD
Australia - LDLWW

Watch out for…

Ian Bell The much-maligned Warwickshire batsman will make his Test comeback at his home ground as a replacement for the injured Kevin Pietersen. Bell has in the past struggled when cast in the substantial shadow of Pietersen, but with England's svengali batsman recovering from Achilles surgery, he now has a prime opportunity to forge his own name and exorcise his Ashes demons in a Warne-free environment.

Mitchell Johnson Acres of column space have been devoted to the issue of Johnson's dire form since the Lord's Test, but no one - least of all the Australians - has uncovered a solution to this most vexing of problems. Lowering arm height, fragile confidence and a delicate family situation have all contributed to his decline, which continued through the recent tour match against Northamptonshire. Despite his diminishing form and confidence, Johnson seems set to get the nod for Edgbaston, albeit in the redefined role of first-change bowler.

Team news

England will most likely resist the temptation to call in Steve Harmison, who played a leading role in the only first class win recorded at Edgbaston this year, and stick with their attack from Lord's. Bell's inclusion for the injured Pietersen should be the only change. Monty Panesar has been deemed surplus to needs in Birmingham and released back to Northamptonshire.

England (probable) 1 Andrew Strauss (capt), 2 Alastair Cook, 3 Ravi Bopara, 4 Ian Bell, 5 Paul Collingwood, 6 Matt Prior (wk), 7 Andrew Flintoff, 8 Stuart Broad, 9 Graeme Swann, 10 James Anderson, 11 Graham Onions.

The Australians are considering shoe-horning the dependable and precise Stuart Clark into the starting XI, but exactly which bowler - if any - will make way remains uncertain. The heavy weather will presumably not assist Nathan Hauritz's chance of playing - despite being the equal-leading wicket-taker in the series - and Peter Siddle might also find himself in the firing line. Still, the odds of Australia naming an unchanged line-up is firming.

Australia (possible) 1 Simon Katich, 2 Phillip Hughes, 3 Ricky Ponting (capt), 4 Michael Hussey, 5 Michael Clarke, 6 Marcus North, 7 Brad Haddin (wk), 8 Mitchell Johnson, 9 Peter Siddle, 10 Ben Hilfenhaus, 11 Stuart Clark.

Pitch and conditions

Steve Rouse, the Edgbaston groundsman, is among the many who believe a result will be difficult to achieve over the next five days. Heavy rain drenched the West Midlands on Wednesday, and is expected to continue for several days yet. When play does commence, Rouse is expecting another low, slow surface which should suit England's batsmen down to the sodden ground.

Stats and trivia

  • Only four wins have been achieved at Edgbaston from the last 20 first class matches played there. Durham is the only team to have won a match at the ground this year, and did so on the back of Graham Onions and Steve Harmison taking a combined 16 wickets.

  • Results are more common in Test matches at Edgbaston. Of the last 17 Tests played at the ground, only three have been draws.

  • Australia's record at Edgbaston stands at three wins, five losses and four draws, making this one of their least favourite grounds in England. By contrast, England have won won 22 and lost eight of their 43 games - their best Test record at any ground in the country.

  • Ponting needs 25 runs to overtake Allan Border's Australian record of 11,174 Test runs


"I think right at the moment it is more of a confidence thing and (we will) probably look at him in this game playing in a slightly different way than in the last couple of games and use him more as a strike impact type of bowler."
Ricky Ponting on Mitchell Johnson

"It's not much fun when you are out of it but it makes you very, very hungry when you come back in. And also, you get a kind of mindset of having nothing to lose. You've been out of the side, this is another opportunity for you and I expect him to grasp that with two hands and play some really good innings in the coming matches."
Andrew Strauss on Ian Bell

Monday, July 27, 2009

Shoaib's international career almost over, says Akram

Wasim Akram: "I don't think he [Shoaib Akhtar] has got a chance, unless and until some miracles happen."

Former Pakistan captain Wasim Akram believes fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar's international career is virtually over. Akram said the warning bells had been sounded with Shoaib's omission from Pakistan's list of probables for the forthcoming Champions Trophy, to be held in South Africa.

"I don't think he has got a chance, unless and until some miracles happen," Akram said. "Even though it depends on the captain and selectors, I think Shoaib has fallen out with the selectors and the board itself. The board still supported him and he went to Abu Dhabi and played two of the five games [against Australia] before getting injured again. We all saw that."

Akram also said the emergence of young fast bowlers like Mohammad Aamer had made Shoaib's comeback tougher. "I think Pakistan's bowling unit is doing well and they have to look ahead and think about the future," he said. "They have to back the youngsters who will do the job for them, even if you look at the 2011 World Cup. Also in this year's Champions Trophy and the next Twenty20 World Cup, the team would have to rely on the youngsters. I don't know where you can place Shoaib Akhtar in the current picture of Pakistan cricket."

Akram predicted a difficult future for Mohammad Asif as well. The 26-year-old fast bowler, however, made the cut for the probables for the Champions Trophy, following a tumultuous two-and-a-half years in which he failed dope tests and was embroiled in a detention case in Dubai.

"My advice to Asif would be - learn from your mistakes. I sincerely hope he learns from the 300 mistakes that he has made in the last two years," said Akram. "He's young, talented and one of the best Pakistani bowlers but it will take him some time to return because Aamer is now bowling really well."

He pointed out that international returns were not easy and cited the cases of Umar Gul and Sohail Tanvir. "Even Sohail Tanvir was struggling in Twenty20," Akram said. "Umar Gul is phenomenal but I don't think he bowled well enough in the Test matches [in Sri Lanka]. My advice to Gul is: Twenty20 and ODI are fine but if you are to be recognised as a good bowler you have to do well in Test cricket too."

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Bangladesh look to build on Test success

Shakib Al Hasan has led by example in his brief stint as captain.

Match facts

Sunday, July 26, 2009
Start time 09.30am (13.30 GMT)

The Big Picture
The current strife in West Indies cricket could yet again benefit Bangladesh. They've tasted more success in ODIs, with upset wins against Test-playing nations in major tournaments, and start clear favourites as they take on a makeshift West Indies team over three games. The 2-0 win in Tests - their greatest achievement to date - should give them the confidence to try and press their superiority. As for the hosts, the feud between the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and the West Indies Players' Association (WIPA) has shown few signs of abating despite the strike being called off. And with many members of the current ODI squad also featuring in the provisional squad for the ICC Champions Trophy, the incentive to make a mark in the ODI circuit has never been greater.

Bangladesh have had a mixed 2009, winning three ODIs - including one against Sri Lanka - and losing as many. Their two failures against Zimbabwe will be a cause for worry though some of their players seem to have recovered form in the Test series - witness Tamim Iqbal's century in St Vincent, Mahmudullah's sensational debut and Mushfiqur Rahim's consistency in the lower order. The biggest plus is the performance of stand-in captain Shakib Al Hasan, who's been outstanding in both forms of the game, but Mohammad Ashraful's appalling run will be under serious scrutiny.

West Indies will field an outfit more experienced in ODIs than Tests and should anyway be inspired to avenge their recent defeats. There were quite a few positives for the second-string team - it managed a significant first-innings lead in St Vincent and could have levelled the series in Kingstown after Bangladesh were reeling at 67 for 4 in chase of 215. Dave Bernard shone with three half-centuries, while fast bowlers Darren Sammy and Kemar Roach showed they were deserving of a place even in a full-strength squad. While spinners won Bangladesh the rubber, West Indies relied heavily on their pace-attack, and with the pitch in Dominica expected to be conducive to seam bowling, the hosts should be able to compete better.

Form Guide
(last five matches, most recent first)
West Indies NLWLL

Watch out for...

Shakib Al Hasan: Currently ranked as the No.1 allrounder in world cricket, Shakib has had an excellent year in ODI cricket. He is Bangladesh's highest run-getter in 2009, averaging 55.75 and is their second-highest wicket-taker with 11 at a staggering average of 10.81. Standing in for an injured Mashrafe Mortaza, Shakib led by example in the Tests, capturing 13 wickets in all and scoring an unbeaten 96 in the four-wicket win in Kingstown.

Darren Sammy: The West Indies vice-captain is among the most experienced in the current team in the shorter version of the game, but hasn't done justice to his talent. With 12 wickets at 56.41 and a batting average of 15.91, Sammy was a completely different player in the Test series with two five-fors. However, he threw his wicket away at a crucial time in the second Test and needs to do more to prove his worth as a batsman.

Team news

West Indies have included six new faces for the first two ODIs from the Test squad: Openers Devon Smith and Kieran Powell, legspinner Rawl Lewis, wicketkeepers Andre Fletcher and Devon Thomas and fast bowler Gavin Tonge. Smith could open the batting with Powell or Dale Richards, while fast bowler Pascal, who averages 18.50 with the ball in List A games, could take partner Roach in the pace attack in place of the left out Tino Best.

West Indies (possible): 1 Devon Smith, 2 Kieran Powell, 3 Dale Richards, Travis Dowlin, 5 Floyd Reifer (capt), 6 Dave Bernard, 7 Darren Sammy, 8 Andre Fletcher (wk), 9 Nikita Miller/ Rawl Lewis, 10 Kemar Roach, 11 Nelon Pascal

Bangladesh have named three new faces in their ODI squad: left-arm seamer Syed Rasel, allrounder Naeem Islam and left-arm spinner Abdur Razzak, who had been suspended after being called for a suspect action in December last year before the ruling was lifted in March. Rasel is likley to share the new ball with Rubel, while Mehrab Hossain jnr could open with Tamim.

Bangladesh (possible): 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Mehrab Hossain jn, 3 Raqibul Hasan, 4 Mohammad Ashraful, 5 Shakib Al Hasan (capt), 6 Junaid Siddique, 7 Mushfiqur Rahim, 8 Mahmudullah, 9 Mahbubul Alam, 10 Rubel Hossain, 11 Syed Rasel

Pitch and conditions

Richard LeTang, the head curator at Windsor Park, the venue for the first two ODIs, has said the pitch will provide "serious pace and bounce" though a score of around 300 would be chaseable.

Stats and Trivia

The Windsor Park stadium has played host to just two first-class games and will become the 173rd venue to host an ODI

Bangladesh have averaged 20.44 per wicket in their six ODIs this year. In the 198 ODIs they've played, they average 21.56 per wicket with 44 wins and 152 losses.

The West Indies squad - with six players yet to make their debuts in ODIs - together has played 106 ODIs, while Mohammad Ashraful has played 139.


"I'm looking forward to the one-dayers. What I'd like to see is a hard, pacy, bouncy wicket."
John Dyson, the West Indies coach, doesn't want the spinners to dominate again.

"(Dyson) is going to get exactly what he asked for, it's going to give you some serious pace and bounce. The spinners will have a hard time."
Richard LeTang, the head curator at Windsor Park, answers Dyson's call.

"They (WICB) are the boss playing hardball."
Chris Gayle on not being picked in the ODI squad despite calling off the strike.