Thursday, June 11, 2009

Taylor stars in West Indies win

Stafanie Taylor reaches her half-century, South Africa v West Indies, ICC Women's World Twenty20, Taunton, June 11, 2009
Stafanie Taylor celebrates her fifty © Getty Images

England showed why they were the team to beat, following up their World Cup win in the 50-over format earlier in the year with a thumping ten-wicket win over India in Taunton. England gave a fitting reply to India's lacklustre batting display with their openers Sarah Taylor and Charlotte Edwards scoring half-centuries to make a mockery of a target of 113. Both scored at a fair clip, smashing 13 fours and two sixes between them to breeze home with more than four overs to spare.

"This is our biggest game and hopefully this will clinch our semi-final spot," said Edwards. "Everyone wanted to see how we'd react to the tag of favourites. Whenever there's a bit of pressure on this team the players come out fighting. I was really, really pleased with Holly - she bowled so well. To come out and play as we have done today in front of such an enthusiastic crowd has been fantastic."

India's decision to bat backfired, as only three of their batsmen managed to reach double figures amid some miserly England bowling. Mithali Raj top scored with 29, but the only encouraging phase for India was her 22-run stand with opener Anjum Chopra for the second wicket. The stars for England with the ball were left-arm spinner Holly Colvin (3-20) and Nicky Shaw (2-28), who ensured their team remained in control, keeping India in check with wickets at frequent intervals. A 35-run sixth-wicket stand between Raj and wicketkeeper Sulakshana Naik lent some respectability to the Indian innings, but by then the advantage had been ceded.

West Indies recorded the first upset of the ICC Women's World Twenty20, beating South Africa by four runs in a tense opening match of the tournament at Taunton. Stafanie Taylor, 18-years-old today and playing in her third Twenty20 for West Indies, starred with a 52-ball 50 at the top of the order in her side's competitive 123 for 7. Taylor and Pamela Lavine (24 from 22) put on 44 for the first wicket, but South Africa fought back through Dane van Niekerk and Shabnin Ismail who each took two wickets. South Africa, however, began their chase of 124 poorly, losing both their openers with just 12 runs on the board, before slipping to 82 for 6. Mignon du Preez gave them hope with 38 from 28 balls, while Sunette Loubser cracked 19 from 16, but both players were run out as West Indies' fielders held their nerve. There was a third mix-up when Stacy-Ann King threw down the stumps to dismiss Ismail in a tight 20th over to leave South Africa four runs short, prompting West Indies' celebrations.

All-round New Zealand seal comprehensive win

New Zealand 198 for 5 (Redmond 63, Guptill 45*, Styris 42) beat Ireland 115 (Nathan McCullum 3-15) by

A spate of injuries forced New Zealand to call upAaron Redmond to their World Twenty20 squad at short notice and throw him into action straightaway against Ireland in their Super Eights' opener at Trent Bridge. He answered their call with an astonishing innings, piercing gaps in the infield with pinpoint accuracy to blast 63 off 30. His half-century and cameos from Scott Styris and Martin Guptill ensured that a weakened New Zealand did not slip on a banana skin and completed a comfortable 83-run victory.

New Zealand were without three of their best players - Jesse Ryder was ruled out of the tournament with an infection while Ross Taylor and Daniel Vettori had hamstring and shoulder injuries - so they sent an SOS to Redmond, playing in the Bolton League in England. He'd never played a limited-overs international but opening in a World Twenty20 match was a seamless transition.

Wearing Brendon McCullum's shirt with the name blacked out, Redmond began by driving a full ball from Peter Connell to the cover boundary, the first in a glut of boundaries. He hit two more fours off Connell's first over towards backward point and third man before turning his attention to Trent Johnston, who was returning after missing the game against India. The first two balls raced to the point and straight boundaries and the last two were dispatched to square leg and midwicket. Redmond had hit seven fours off his first ten balls.

Johnston changed ends but to no avail. Redmond flicked the first ball of Johnston's second over to the midwicket boundary and lofted the second down the ground. Redmond had contributed 40 out of New Zealand's total of 44 when Brendon McCullum finally decided to make an appearance and pulled Kevin O'Brien to hit the tournament's 100th six. However, he failed to clear mid-off while stepping out to Kyle McCallan and holed out soon after.

The focus shifted back to Redmond who brought up his fifty, off 23 balls, by reverse-sweeping McCallan for consecutive fours. He had hit no sixes but had 13 fours. Those who watched him struggle during the Tests in England last year would have been surprised for Redmond managed only 54 runs in three matches on that tour. Those who watched him ransack 100 off 56 balls for Otago against Central Districts in the State Twenty20 in February would not.

Redmond was eventually lbw to Alex Cusack, playing across the line but had done more than enough to set up the innings. Styris made Ireland pay for Regan West's missed caught-and-bowled chance by hammering 42 off 25 balls and Guptill launched the ball into the stands four times during his 45 off 32. New Zealand didn't manage 200, but their total of 198 was beyond the range of Ireland's guns.

Ireland needed a combination of magnificent batting and luck to get near New Zealand and they got neither. Their opener William Porterfield was run out in the first over while backing up too far after Kyle Mills got his fingertips on to Gary Wilson's firm drive before the ball crashed into the stumps. Their best batsman in the win against Bangladesh, Niall O'Brien, dragged a length delivery straight to mid-on in Mills' second over.

A collapse from 15 for 2, though, was averted by a steady partnership between Wilson and Andre Botha but they were unable to match the asking-rate and had reached only 42 by the end of the Powerplay. The blows that sealed Ireland's fate, however, came in the space of four balls. Wilson's attempt to loft Styris over long-off was held by James Franklin and Botha was run out attempting a non-existent single, leaving Ireland on 58 for 4.

The ensuing slide was swift and Ireland lost wickets quickly even as the required run-rate soared to 15 an over and beyond. Nathan McCullum prospered, picking up 3 for 15, while his brother Brendon was outstanding in the infield. He scored direct hits to run out John Mooney and Johnston, and took a sharp catch to his right at midwicket to dismiss Cusack. New Zealand may have appeared weak on paper but their performance at Trent Bridge on the day was anything but.

Slick South Africa crush poor England

South Africa 114 for 3 (Kallis 578) beat England 111 (Shah 38, Parnell 3-14)

Paul Collingwood is cleaned up by Jacques Kallis, England v South Africa, ICC World Twenty20, Trent Bridge, June 11, 2009
Paul Collingwood's stumps

South Africa put in a display worthy of their tag as pre-tournament favourites as they cruised to a seven-wicket victory against England at Trent Bridge after skittling the hosts for 111 in their first Super Eights match. Dale Steyn and Wayne Parnell set the tone with wickets in their opening overs and were backed up by impressive spin and fine catching, particularly Roelof van der Merwe's effort to remove Kevin Pietersen, and although the run chase didn't set pulses racing the result was never in doubt.

Only Owais Shah made a significant contribution for England as he made 38 off 33 with two sixes, but it was a forlorn effort as wickets fell regularly. When a scorecard reads as poorly as England's it's easy to criticise the batting - and some of the shot selection was poor - but South Africa were outstanding in every facet of their game. They could have charged down the small total, but chose to take their time on a surface that grew slower by the minute - a key factor in Paul Collingwood deciding to bat first - yet still eased home with 10 balls to spare as Jacques Kallis helped himself to an unbeaten 57.

Winning a rare toss was about the only thing that went well for England. South Africa started the match in perfect style when Steyn removed Ravi Bopara with his fifth ball as an inside edge crashed into off stump. Luke Wright then found that opening against a top-quality attack was a different proposition from the Netherlands or lacklustre Pakistan efforts. He was beaten twice by the impressive Parnell, as he tried to crash the ball through the off side, then edged another attempt to the keeper to leave England 4 for 2.

The scene was set for Pietersen, but it proved another case of KP failing and England failing with him. He opened his account by whipping his first ball from Steyn imperiously through midwicket and drove the next through mid-off as Steyn momentarily had problems with his run-up. Two more boundaries followed off Kallis's opening over, but the next bowling change was decisive.

Albie Morkel's second delivery was a low full toss and Pietersen hit it pretty well and fairly straight, but van der Merwe went airborne to his left at mid-on and got both hands to a stunning catch. It was a huge moment for both teams, deflating for England and completely uplifting for South Africa. Morkel's successful over was the first maiden of the tournament and England's tally of 25 for 3 the lowest six-over total so far in the event.

Shah and Collingwood had no choice but to opt for a period of consolidation as Graeme Smith quickly turned to his spinners. Shah injected momentary life into the innings when he launched a full toss from Johan Botha down the ground for six then he followed that by attacking van der Merwe's next over, launching him straight and taking two more boundaries through cover and midwicket, but the revival didn't last.

Kallis returned to the attack and after Collingwood paddled him for four past the diving Mark Boucher, Kallis responded by clattering the stumps as the batsmen backed away to give himself room and then greeted James Foster with a rearing bouncer.

Despite having been taken for 17 in his previous over, van der Merwe had the confidence of his captain and responded with an over which effectively killed off the innings. Foster tried to reverse sweep the first ball but just lobbed a simple catch to short third-man and Dimitri Mascarenhas lasted three deliveries before backing away to cut, losing his off stump.

The last hope of England setting anything competitive lay with Shah, but he was undone by a sharp delivery from Kallis that moved away a fraction and took the edge. It meant the lower order was left having to try and bat out the 20 overs and they couldn't managed it when Parnell gave himself superb figures by cleaning up Stuart Broad and James Anderson in two balls.

Smith fell early in the chase as he top-edged a pull and was well caught by Foster who ran towards short fine-leg. England actually bowled reasonably well, but the game had long since been lost during their innings. Kallis enjoyed the rarity of being able to bat within himself during a Twenty20 innings to reach fifty off 46 balls. This was an ominously slick display from South Africa but for the hosts, who lifted their game in the nick of time in the group stage against Pakistan, another huge improvement is needed to have a chance of progressing further.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A chance for women to shine

Karen Rolton and Isa Guha walk with the World Cup trophy, Sydney, October 29, 2008
Australian captain Karen Rolton will be leading her side for one final tournament

Has there ever been a more important tournament for women's cricket than the ICC World Twenty20? The trophy itself may not be the most coveted in the game - the World Cup wins that non-contest hands down - but this is the women's chance to shine in the world spotlight, when sharing the stage with the men in the semi-finals in Nottingham and London and then the final at Lord's.

Sharing a tournament is an unprecedented opportunity offered by the ICC, which could lead to bigger crowds and better conditions should they do well in front of the TV cameras. The chance will come again, in the next World Twenty20 in the Caribbean - a risk the ICC had to take before the England tournament owing to scheduling deadlines - but first impressions last, so the inaugural chance for the women will be all-important.

The ICC's backing follows mostly successful trials where female teams have preceded the men in domestic and international Twenty20s. In recent years, the women's game has improved out of sight - literally - and impressed many of the one million viewers of the World Cup in March, which was also under the ICC's jurisdiction. But now comes the big test.

It won't quite be all eyes on the group stage, situated as it is in Taunton away from the cameras, but with mismatches all too likely there with the highest- and lowest-ranked teams, this is no bad thing. Eight teams will contest the trophy - the same eight who qualified for the World Cup - four teams fewer than the men, and therefore an already brief tournament is sliced even shorter, thus deliciously upping the pressure.

The brevity of Twenty20 can make for an unpredictable contest, although it's a fair bet that, barring disasters, the Big Four - Australia, New Zealand, India and hosts England - will be in the semi-finals, when it most matters that the game shows itself well. It is no coincidence that the cameras will be there from the semis onward only.

England are the early favourites, holding home advantage and the World Cup, although they were rolled twice there by Australia, showing that they are not invincible. Nevertheless, team spirit counts for a lot and they are the most settled team, with fierce competition for places keeping standards high. Charlotte Edwards' side includes the world's best batsman Claire Taylor, and the World Cup's most successful bowler in Laura Marsh, while both batting and bowling banks are well-stocked.

Australia may have come fourth at the World Cup, losing their crown in front of home crowds, but they will be hoping to prove the old adage and show that their class is permanent. It will also be Karen Rolton's last world tournament in charge, as she will be replaced by Jodie Fields for the subsequent tour of England, so the team will want to do well for their captain who has served Australia so well since making her international debut 14 years ago. They have already found some form after beating New Zealand 2-1 in a Twenty20 series in Brisbane which concluded Wednesday.

New Zealand, who reached the World Cup final this year, possess a formidable battery of players and have every chance of being the first holders of the title. They have a new captain in Aimee Watkins (formerly Mason) following Haidee Tiffen's post-World Cup retirement. She led them for the first time since taking over this week, and won the first Twenty20 against Australia, before losing 2-1.

India are famously mercurial - heading into the World Cup in shocking form but pulling off surprise wins against Australia to end third - but will be keen to follow their men in taking the first World Twenty20 trophy. The women know how much victory means to their country, the feting of the men in 2007 being but one example, and will be fierce challengers for the limelight if they play to their potential.

West Indies are expected to be the best of the rest. Their young side, coached by Sherwin Campbell, is packed with raw talent but is light on experience. Fifth place at the World Cup was a real triumph in the context of a lack of international cricket in the preceding years.

Pakistan have a new captain in Sana Mir, who will hope to build on the success of Urooj Mumtaz after their team finished a surprising 6th in the World Cup, having arrived there ranked 10th. Under Sana, they competed in a Twenty20 tournament this week, the RSA T20 Cup, involving hosts Ireland and Nottingham, and will aim to carry forward the momentum from the experience.

South Africa were woeful in their last world outing in March, and were forced to drop out of the RSA T20 Cup owing to funding and logistical problems. This leaves them potentially undercooked.

Sri Lanka, who have never played a Twenty20, will be led by Chamari Polgampola who was catapulted into the captaincy after Shashikala Sirawardene was sensationally dropped despite being their leading run-getter at the World Cup. They could easily sink without trace once more.

With only nine days of tournament will be over in the blink of an eye, but this short, sharp burst could boost the women's profile like nothing before. The game will still have a long way to go to prick the general consciousness and translate that into repeat ticket sales, but every little helps.

Ex-ICL player Razzaq returns to Pakistan side

Abdul Razzaq hit 66 from 61 balls against Chandigarh, Chandigarh Lions v Hyderabad Heroes, 19th match, ICL, Gurgaon, October 26, 2008
Abdul Razzaq is likely to become the first former ICL player to return to international cricket

The ICC has approved the PCB's request to add Abdul Razzaq to replace one of its two injured players in the ongoing ICC World Twenty20. This makes Razzaq the first former ICL player returning to international cricket after being banned.

Ijaz Butt, the PCB chairman, had told Cricinfo that a request had been sent to the ICC's technical committee. "He is an allrounder and we've requested he replace Arafat, who is also an allrounder." A source close to the player also confirmed that Razzaq had been contacted by the board and apprised of the situation.

On the same day ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat confirmed the decision. "The PCB has advised the ICC it has imposed a sanction on Abdul Razzaq in accordance with the ICC Board resolution," he said.

While both Yasir Arafat and Sohail Tanvir are carrying injuries, Arafat's hamstring strain seems the more serious and Razzaq represented a like-for-like change in that he is an allrounder.

The Pakistan team manager, Yawar Saeed, said Arafat had been diagnosed with a lateral hamstring tear and would not play any further role in the tournament. News of Tanvir, who played with a back strain in the victory against Netherland yesterday, was better - he was back training with the rest of the squad at The Oval today.

Razzaq was one of several ex-ICL players granted amnesty by the PCB a few weeks back, shortly after the Indian board set the ball rolling for players to come in from the unofficial league. Other boards followed suit; some set a 'cooling off' period in place, while others like the PCB said they would handle each player on a case-by-case basis.

Ironically, Razzaq's name was on the original list of 30 probables the PCB had sent to the ICC in early April - before the BCCI announced the amnesty - but the board u-turned and scratched his name off because the ICC objected to his ICL status. And with more irony, the comeback completes a full circle of sorts for Razzaq: it was only after being overlooked for the 2007 World Twenty20 squad that he decided to turn his back on Pakistan cricket. He lambasted the team's set-up at the time, claiming he had been treated badly and then retired from international cricket, before taking back his announcement.

Pakistan will welcome back Razzaq's skills. He was one of the ICL's most valuable players, leading his franchise Hyderabad Heroes to the title in the first season and a runners-up spot the second time round. His form in the recently-concluded domestic Twenty20 was outstanding as well and limited-overs competitions in England hold special memories. It was in the 1999 World Cup that Razzaq first announced himself as a major talent, picking up a bundle of wickets and scoring some crucial runs, often at one down.

Zaheer, Rohit hand India clinical win

India 113 for 2 (Rohit 52*, Gambhir 37) beat Ireland 112 for 8 (Zaheer 4-19, Ojha 2-18) by eight wickets

Ireland's Jeremy Bray has his stumps rearranged, India v Ireland, ICC World Twenty20, Trent Bridge, June 10, 2009
Ireland's batsmen had a tough time against India

India's bowlers were clinical in their demolition of the Ireland batting, the batsmen were equally solid in chasing down the moderate total, thus consigning Ireland to their first defeat in Twenty20 internationals. Zaheer Khan ran through the top order full of left-hand batsmen, Pragyan Ojha took a first-ball wicket in his second Twenty20 international too, and the new opening combination of Gautam Gambhir and Rohit Sharma got India off to another solid start.

Zaheer, who made his comeback from his shoulder game only in the last game, was fast and accurate today, getting the ball to shape away from the left-hand batsmen. He didn't swing it as much as his opening partner Irfan Pathan did, but his pace and accuracy did the trick. Jeremy Bray was the first one to go, on the last ball of the second over, playing all around a yorker. Soon Zaheer was on a hat-trick when William Porterfield chased the first ball of the fourth. Andre Botha survived the hat-trick, but guided one to slip in the same over.

Something strange happens when the batsmen sight Ojha. On Ojha's debut, Shakib Al Hasan tried to pull a delivery too full for the shot and paid the price. Today Kevin O'Brien, Ireland's saviour against Bangladesh, walked across and went to pull, and dragged it from way outside off onto his leg stump. There must be something.

Just into the seventh over, Ireland were four down for 28, with the small matter of Harbhajan Singh's topspinners and Ishant Sharma's sharp seam movement to negotiate. Gary Wilson got a doosra in Harbhajan's second over, which took the off stump, and from 48 for 5 it seemed they could only go up.

John Mooney and Andrew White went about rebuilding sensibly, but it was extremely difficult for them to accelerate even though they managed to kept their wickets. The 24-run partnership ended when Mooney tried to reverse-sweep Ojha in the 15th over. In a way the stroke gave credit to the tight bowling that didn't allow runs with orthodox cricket.

A 15-run 16th over from Irfan Pathan took Ireland close to 100, but Zaheer came back to remove White for a 25-ball 29. Alex Cusack and Kyle McCallan got two more boundaries as Ireland got 39 in the last three overs to reach 112.

In the chase India didn't set Trent Bridge alight. Although Gambhir cut the first ball of the innings for four, they didn't look in any undue hurry. Only one six and six fours were hit in the 77-run first-wicket partnership. In the five overs of Powerplay - five because the rain had cut the match short to 18 overs a side - India got to 38 without taking any unwise risks.

Rohit looked solid, Gambhir still not at his best. But Ireland never looked like getting a wicket. The highlight of Gambhir's innings was an inside-out drive off offspinner Regan West in the ninth over. In West's next, though, Gambhir sliced to short third man and missed out on consecutive half-centuries. Quite inconspicuously Rohit had moved to 35 by then.

MS Dhoni walked out at No. 3 again, but Rohit picked up the pace. A trademark slog, which incredibly doesn't look unwieldy, off Boyd Rankin took him into the 40s. Ireland, to their credit, stuck to their task in the field. Case in point being sliding saves to delay India's win, and a good diving catch by Bray at deep square leg to send Dhoni back.

Rohit got to his fifty with another trademark shot, which is at the other end of the spectrum when in terms of aesthetics. He took a step outside the line of a McCallan offbreak, and nonchalantly drove it over extra cover. With a late-cut single, he took India to the win. It was a fitting final shot, because India had hardly taken any chances on the night.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Shoulder injury rules Sehwag out of World Twenty20

Virender Sehwag walks back after falling for 40, New Zealand v India, 5th ODI, Auckland, March 14, 2009
Virender Sehwag will be heading home after failing to recover from a shoulder injury

Virender Sehwag has been ruled out of the ICC World Twenty20 in England after failing to recover from a shoulder injury he sustained during the IPL in South Africa.

He will return to India after consulting specialists in England and will be replaced by Dinesh Karthik, who was in good touch during the IPL. Karthik, who last played a Twenty20 for India in January 2008, also doubles up as a reserve wicketkeeper, something the squad was lacking.

A BCCI media release ended days of speculation over Sehwag's fitness - the opener has been a peripheral figure during Indian practice sessions. He wasn't present for India's optional training session on Monday at Lady Bay and didn't bat on the tour until Tuesday morning, often watching his team-mates go about their routines from the sidelines. The uncertainty over his injury led to reports of a rift between him and the captain MS Dhoni, which prompted the team to make a dramatic public show of unity and emphasise their team spirit through a statement read out by Dhoni.

Things weren't much clearer today, either, at the pre-match press conference - in fact the drama descended into farce. Dhoni refused to clarify the ambiguous situation, saying "anything related to fitness there will be a press release from the BCCI". Following repeated inquiries and flared tempers among the media, team manager Chamundeshwar Nath intervened to try and defuse the situation. However, he too stopped short of saying that Sehwag would indeed be returning home.

"If Sehwag has got pain in the hand, he might not bat," Nath said. "Today he tried and he was in some discomfort. Tomorrow, we will take a final decision on him. If he is not fit enough we will inform BCCI and they will issue a press release. How much pain Sehwag is having, Dhoni cannot answer when he is batting in the nets."

Minutes after that, the BCCI had issued a release ruling out Sehwag.

Under normal circumstances, the loss of Sehwag, a proven match-winner in any form of the game, would be a massive blow to India's strategy. While India's campaign will be weaker, they will benefit from Rohit Sharma, who has made the transition from middle-order batsmen to opener successfully in the three games in England so far. Rohit scored 31 and 80 in the warm-ups against New Zealand and Pakistan, and made 36 in India's first group match against Bangladesh at Trent Bridge.

Not having the bowler-destroying skills of Sehwag to call upon if needed, however, is a blow, as is the loss of his part-time offspin in a tournament that has seen the slower bowlers play a significant role. Sehwag sustained the grade one tear to his shoulder during the IPL and the coach Gary Kirsten said that he had been kept in the squad in the hope that he would not miss the entire tournament. "If a player of the caliber of Sehwag can be available for any part of the tournament, we want to keep him there." That however hasn't come to pass and India will have to hope that Rohit's good form at the top continues even against tougher opposition and more potent new-ball attacks.

That the injury to Sehwag was such a closely-guarded secret was perplexing. An injury is after all merely an injury and a more transparent dissemination of information from the team management would go a long way in diffusing the ambiguity and speculation that often surrounds the Indian team. Perhaps they could follow Ireland's example - moments before Dhoni addressed the media, William Porterfield had spoken at length about the injury to Niall O'Brien.

Afridi seals Pakistan's progression

Pakistan 175 for 5 (Akmal 41, Younis 36) beat Netherlands 93 (Afridi 4-11) by 82 runs

Shahid Afridi carried Pakistan into the Super Eights at the expense of a spirited but outclassed Dutch side at Lord's, as he ripped his top-spinning legbreaks through a succession of bamboozled defences to deliver his team a thumping 82-run victory with the superb figures of 4 for 11 from four overs. For the Netherlands, the end came with unseemly haste as they lost their last nine wickets for 52 in 10.2 overs, but they still left the tournament with their heads held high after last week's unforgettable floodlit triumph over England.
Shahid Afridi gets a high five from Kamran Akmal after bowling Tom de Grooth, Netherlands v Pakistan, ICC World Twenty20, Lord's, June 9, 2009
The Dutch were completely bamboozled by Shahid Afridi's top-spinning legbreak

Shahid Afridi carried Pakistan into the Super Eights at

Today, however, the greater class and knowhow of the Pakistanis came to the fore. They produced a chastened display after their error-strewn effort against England at The Oval on Sunday, and though their batting was kept on a tight leash by some determined Dutch bowling, the prospect of defeat was never seriously entertained. Netherlands were set 176 for victory, but thanks to their superior net run-rate going into this game, they could still have gone through with a score of 151 or more. In the end, the calculations were academic.

Netherlands were given a typically brief but belligerent start from their pinch-hitter, Darron Reekers, who smashed three fours from his first five balls including two stand-and-deliver slaps over long-on from Mohammad Aamer, but that, realistically, was as good as their run-chase got. From his very next delivery, Reekers miscued another wild wallop, and Sohail Tanvir claimed a well-judged catch at deep midwicket.

It wasn't a faultless display by any stretch of the imagination, and Pakistan's fallible catching again resurfaced when Alexei Kervezee was gifted two lives in consecutive overs. But Afridi struck with his first delivery of the match when he slid a topspinner through Bas Zuiderent's defences, and Peter Borren followed one over later when he top-edged a sweep off Saeed Ajmal. Kervezee's chancy innings came to an end in the same over as he galloped down the wicket to slap what would have been their first boundary in front of square for seven overs, but was defeated by the doosra and stumped by a mile.

At 49 for 4 in the ninth over, the Dutch resistance had been all but crushed, and Afridi stepped forward to grind them down even further. Though he fumbled a run-out opportunity to let Tom de Grooth get off the mark first-ball, Afridi struck with the first ball of his third over, a full flat topspinner that flattened the leg stump. Two balls later, Daan van Bunge yorked himself as he charged down the track and was easily stumped for a duck, and though Ryan ten Doeschate stemmed the procession with a six over midwicket off Shoaib Malik, his same-over dismissal - again to a yorker-length stumping - reduced the score to a sorry 71 for 7.

Afridi had time to claim one more wicket in his superlative four-over spell, as Edgar Schiferli flogged a lofted drive to deep mid-off, before Kamran Akmal completed his fourth stumping of the match - again off Ajmal - as Dirk Nannes was dragged out of his ground. It was left to Umar Gul to seal the contest with 14 balls to spare, when he splattered Pieter Seelaar's stumps with another full-length delivery. Pakistan's captain, Younis Khan, may have derided Twenty20 matches as "fun" after their defeat against England, but this was a very serious performance indeed.

The tone of the Pakistan performance was set during their six Powerplay overs, in which they raced to 50 for 1. Salman Butt, singled out by his captain after the England match for the woeful state of his fielding, responded with the aggression of a man whose job was on the line as he whipped his first ball, from Nannes, through midwicket for four, before launching Schiferli over the covers and into the Mound Stand for six.

Just as Butt was beginning to cut loose, however, he drilled ten Doeschate to Borren at mid-off for 18. Malik launched his innings with two fours in three balls before being badly dropped by Zuiderent at backward point on 14, and when Akmal found his range with a brace of sixes in consecutive overs, Pakistan had reached 77 for 1 with 11 overs remaining, and looked as though they were pulling clear.

But Netherlands showed from a similar position against England that they are a side who will not give up, and Borren combined with the 21-year-old offspinner, Seelaar, to put the brakes back on the innings. Having reached 41 from 29 balls, Akmal found himself frustrated in a beautifully slow and teasing second over from Seelaar, which ended with an ambitious drill over midwicket, and a heart-in-the-mouth juggling catch from Schiferli in front of the Tavern Stand.

The Dutch bowlers maintained their discipline admirably as the overs ticked away. If in doubt they went full, sometimes offering full-tosses, but there was scarcely a long-hop in evidence. Younis dented ten Doeschate's figures by clearing his front foot to swipe Pakistan's fourth six of the innings, then belted Seelaar for two more in two balls to hoist his team past 150 with 15 balls remaining. But Seelaar kept his cool, and his line and length, and before the over was out, de Grooth at long-on had intercepted Younis's next shot in anger.

Schiferli maintained the full-and-straight approach to deny Afridi the room to swing his arms, although he did finally connect with one to drill Nannes out of the ground with four balls remaining. The bowler responded by uprooting his leg stump with the very next delivery, but as Afridi would later go on to show with the ball, sometimes there is simply no stopping him. When the mood takes them, there is sometimes no stopping Pakistan either.

South Africa seal low-scoring thriller

South Africa 128 for 7 (Smith 33, Butler 2-13) beat New Zealand 127 for 5 (McCullum 57, van der Merwe 2-14) by one run

South Africa's bowlers, led by the unhittable spin of Roelof van der Merwe, pulled an improbable victory out of the jaws of defeat as they successfully defended a meagre target of 129 and snuck home by a solitary run to secure the Group D bragging rights in a scrappy but compelling dead-rubber tussle at Lord's.

Roelof van der Merwe celebrates Brendon McCullum's dismissal with Herschelle Gibbs, New Zealand v South Africa, ICC World Twenty20, Lord's, June 9, 2009
Roelof van der Merwe suffocated New Zealand's run-chase with 2 for 14 in four overs

At the halfway mark of the match, it seemed there could be only one winner, after South Africa had squandered a platform of 47 for 0 after their Powerplay overs to dribble to a disappointing 20-over total of 128 for 7. But New Zealand's response never emerged from second gear. A 54-ball 57 from Brendon McCullum set the platform, but his team-mates failed to dive in, and bizarrely they ran out of steam with six wickets still standing.

The bulk of the credit belonged to van der Merwe, who put a momentum-squandering six-ball duck behind him to concede a mere 14 runs from his four overs, as well as capturing both of New Zealand's dangermen. McCullum was stumped by a distance as he gave the charge and missed, while Ross Taylor swished flat-footedly and was bowled for 22 from 31 balls, a peculiarly ponderous innings that was compounded by a tweaked hamstring that hampered his mobility in the second half of his knock.

McCullum had begun his innings with typical belligerence, cracking three fours from his first seven deliveries as New Zealand put 19 on the ball in just two overs. But at the other end, his support was in short supply. Martin Guptill miscued Dale Steyn to mid-on for 5 before Neil Broom was caught and bowled by a lunging Jacques Kallis for 1, and at the end of the Powerplays, New Zealand had slipped to a sluggish 35 for 2.

With the pitch slowing up, the run-rate went with it, and South Africa's spinners took full advantage. Taylor and McCullum added 56 for the third wicket in 11 overs, as van der Merwe and Johan Botha took the pace off the ball to tormenting effect, and by the time Jacob Oram arrived to reinject some urgency, the requirement was hovering around two runs a ball.

The final scoreline was misleadingly tight. New Zealand failed to hit a single six in their innings, and they would not have come close had it not been for a freakish yorker from Steyn that bounced out of a foothole and over the keeper's head for four byes in the penultimate over. With eight needed from two balls, Oram inside-edged through fine leg to keep the contest alive, but couldn't clear the field with his final baseball-style swing.

It was a disappointing denouement for New Zealand, as South Africa successfully defended the lowest winning total ever made in T20Is, but it was vital match practice nonetheless. Deprived of the services of their captain, Daniel Vettori, who has been struggling with a shoulder problem, New Zealand turned instead to the lanky seam of Ian Butler, and the spin and swing of Nathan McCullum and Scott Styris, who sent down a combined analysis that would have graced a 50-over game: 4 for 41 from ten overs.

Fresh from their 130-run dispatching of Scotland in their opening fixture at The Oval, South Africa seemed to have continued in the same vein when Graeme Smith and Kallis cruised to 47 for 0 in the six Powerplay overs. But as soon as Nathan McCullum was thrown the ball by his brother and captain, Brendon, New Zealand applied a tourniquet that the clinical South Africans were unable to remove.

McCullum's first over went for just two runs, and from the start of the very next over, the rot set in. Smith called Kallis through for a quick single as his brother hurtled round to short midwicket to field. The shy beat Kallis's lunch by a fraction of an inch, whereupon Butler denied the incoming Herschelle Gibbs any early momentum by completing an over in which only one run was possible.

Gibbs, in a hurry to impose himself, then mistimed a drive at Styris to be caught-and-bowled for 3 from 7, before Butler chimed in with the biggest wicket of the lot as Smith played all around a full-length delivery and was comprehensively bowled for 33 from 35. At 63 for 3 in the 12th over, their early momentum had well and truly evaporated.

Had the result not been immaterial, there's no way that AB de Villiers, the star against Scotland, would have been held back this long. But the shuffling of the batting card did South Africa no favours. van der Merwe creaked to a six-ball duck before McCullum yorked him with a quicker ball, and when de Villiers finally appeared to belt his second ball through midwicket for four, it was only South Africa's second boundary in seven overs.

It didn't, however, signal an upturn in their fortunes. A second boundary, this time through the covers, demonstrated that de Villiers' eye was most certainly in, but so was Guptill's in the outfield, as he pulled off a direct hit from mid-off to run the dangerman out for 15 from eight balls.

Mark Boucher failed for the second innings running when he mistimed a full-toss to give Butler a deserved second, and not even JP Duminy could inject any urgency. He did his best with a brace of sixes, but then holed out moments after the second of them, caught by Broom at mid-on. Albie Morkel, a serious striker when the mood takes him, was unable to keep the strike in the dying moments of the innings, as New Zealand completed a fine effort in the field. It was not, however, good enough.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Sloppy Pakistan face litmus test

Match Facts
Tuesday, June 9
Start time 13:30 local (12:30 GMT)

Who'd have thunk it, that Pakistan and Netherlands would be taking on each other in a group game in which Pakistan might do and still die? Such has been the way with this strangest of groups but clarity has now emerged. Netherlands, to progress and thus consign Pakistan to a fate they seem worryingly resigned to, can afford to lose, but by no more than 24 runs. If Pakistan chase, then they must do so with roughly three overs to spare.

Dirk Nannes gears up to have a bowl at the nets, Lord's, June 4, 2009
If there is bounce still Lord's, you can be sure Dirk Nannes will be utilising it

The problems are Pakistan's. Not for a moment since they landed in England have they looked like a team that is playing in a World Cup. Younis Khan's bizarre, careless dismissal of the format and the tournament seems to have filtered through to the side. Anyway you'd think, given their lack of international games recently, that Pakistan would be itching to rip through a Ramadan 20/20 night tournament in Karachi's Pakistan Chowk, let alone a World Cup. The attitude is, however, only the most overarching concern: on the field, they are the worst fielding side, have an unsettled batting order and are rusty with the ball. Beyond that, they're fine.

Netherlands, on the other hand, have accorded this tournament the respect it deserves and have shown, with that fabulous opening win, just why the format is celebrated. As well as skill, the Netherlands will remind one and all, Twenty20 rewards discipline, hard work and bravery. The problem for them, of course, is to recreate the intensity of Friday, something which often proves beyond associate nations and lower-ranked sides.

Watch out for

Saeed Ajmal and Umar Gul have looked the only players up for a battle so far and on their eight overs, will rest most of Pakistan's Super Eights aspirations. Netherlands will not have much experience of Ajmal's doosra and Gul's arrow-straight, pacy yorkers are a handful for most.

Pakistan have a long history of bouncer-induced trauma adding Sunday's defeat to England to the list. If there is bounce still Lord's, you can be sure Dirk Nannes will be utilising it. He has the pace and natural angle to trouble them, but that he makes such a good story - Japanese-speaking, saxophone playing wanderer who took to the game late - means that he is a headline (not a good one for Pakistan) in waiting.

Team news
Pakistan will make changes, most likely dropping Salman Butt and possibly pushing Kamran Akmal in his place. Sohail Tanvir may also get in, his unusual angles and action, worth confusing the Netherlands with.

Pakistan: (probable) 1 Ahmed Shehzad, 2 Kamran Akmal (wk), 3 Shoaib Malik, 4 Misbah-ul-Haq, 5 Younis Khan (capt), 6 Shahid Afridi, 7 Yasir Arafat, 8 Sohail Tanvir, 9 Umar Gul, 10 Mohammad Aamer, 11 Saeed Ajmal.

Given that the win against England was their biggest one yet, there are unlikely to be any changes from that starting XI.

Netherlands: (probable) 1 Alexei Kervezee, 2 Darron Reekers, 3 Ba Zuiderent, 4 Tom de Grooth, 5 Peter Borren, 6 Ryan ten Doeschate, 7 Daan van Bunge, 8 Edgar Schiferli, 9 Jeroen Smits (capt/wk), 10 Pieter Seelaar, 11 Dirk Nannes.

Pitch and conditions
Unfortunately for Pakistan, rain is forecast, but the Lord's pitch has offered both runs and movement off the seam.

Stats and trivia

  • 25 - The least number of runs Pakistan must win by if they bat first to go through to the Super Eights.
  • 7-0-73-1 - The combined figures of Pakistan's opening bowlers Yasir Arafat and Mohammad Aamer against England.
  • 8-0-63-1 - The combined figures of Netherlands' opening bowlers Dirk Nannes and Edgar Schiferli against England.

"It would be sad if we don't make it, but I have never attached too much importance to Twenty20 cricket, as it is fun cricket. I mean it is more for entertainment, even if it is international cricket. It is all for the crowd."
Younis Khan, Pakistan's captain, after the England loss.

"Cricket is no longer so boring."
Headline in Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad after the side's opening-day victory over hosts England in the World Twenty20.

Sangakkara and Dilshan dump Australia out

Sri Lanka 160 for 4 (Sangakkara 55*, Dilshan 53) beat Australia 159 for 9 (Johnson 28*, Mendis 3-20, Malinga 3-36) by six wickets

Sri Lanka eliminated Australia from the ICC World Twenty20 with a six-wicket victory at Trent Bridge. Kumar Sangakkara played a captain's innings to lead them across the line, with an over to spare, as they chased 160 after Tillakaratne Dilshan sparked the pursuit with an innovative 53 off 32 balls. Australia were set back by a magnificent display from Ajantha Mendis, who bamboozled with his variations, and although the match went to the final over Sri Lanka always held the edge to book their Super Eights berth.

Kumar Sangakkara, on one knee, carves another boundary, Australia v Sri Lanka, ICC World Twenty20, Trent Bridge, June 8, 2009
Kumar Sangakkara cracked a superb

Sri Lanka eliminated Australia from the ICC World

Australia's stay in this tournament - the international title they don't hold - lasted three days and now they face two extra weeks in Leicester to prepare for the Ashes series. Make no mistake, they desperately wanted to win this event, and further stock their trophy cabinet, but were short on their skills for the second game running against a highly impressive Sri Lanka outfit.

With Sangakkara at the crease there was a sense of calm about the run-chase, even when the asking rate grew in excess of nine-per-over for a moment in the closing stages, and he was aided by a sparkling cameo from Jehan Mubarak. When Mubarak came to the crease a charged-up Brett Lee had bounced out Chamara Silva and he followed it up with three dot balls. However, Lee sent down a wide and the extra ball of the over was clouted over deep midwicket and you could see Australian shoulders slump.

In the next over Sangakkara, one of the most mpressive cricketers in the world on and off the field, completed a classy fifty off 40 balls with a delicate dab-sweep off Nathan Backen. With 14 needed off two overs there was no way back for Australia and Mubarak cleared the ropes again before a wide sealed their elimination.

When Australia slumped to 94 for 6 in the 15th over the match was shaping to be very one-sided, but they added 65 runs in the last five overs to give the bowlers something to defend. However, they needed early wickets and despite a fine catch by David Warner to remove Sanath Jayasuriya the game was carried away from them through a fine innings from Dilshan.

He took 16 off Shane Watson's flustered first over, showing his full range of shots including a mow over midwicket and a deft sweep over fine leg, while his 26-ball half-century arrived with an extraordinarily cheeky top-edge flick over the wicketkeeper's head. Dilshan needed some convincing to opening the batting, but his elevation has been a revelation and he has the power to clear the in-field but also the subtle touch to manoeuvre the ball.

It needed a cracking delivery from Michael Clarke - his first - that pitched on leg, spun and hit middle to end Dilshan's innings and a period of tight bowling from the spinners gave Australia a slim lifeline. Sangakkara and Mahela Jaywardene were content to deal in singles, but with the run-rate climbing fractionally Jaywardene tried to go over the top and got an outside edge to backward point.

Sangakkara, though, knew perfectly when to pick his moments and deposited Nathan Haurtiz for two sixes in his last over, which went for 16. Lee, under huge pressure after his pasting at the hands of West Indies, tried to conjure a comeback but Australia just hadn't made enough runs.

The tone had been set in the first over of the match when Warner carved Angelo Mathews - a surprise new-ball option on his debut - to point but the key was always going to be Sri Lanka's spin. Watson and Ricky Ponting had begun to locate the boundary regularly when Mendis was thrown the ball for the final over of the Powerplay and the game changed.

He could have had Watson leg before with his first ball as he was beaten by one turning from leg to off, then with the final delivery of a brilliant over he uprooted Ponting's leg stump as the captain backed away. In his next over Mendis nailed Watson on the sweep and the new batsmen were prodding and poking uncertainly against his multitude of variations.

However, it's not just with spin that Sri Lanka's attack has a magical touch. Lasith Malinga's first over had been expensive, but he is an irresistible cricketer who can produce wonderful moments and a superbly disguised slower ball made Brad Haddin look foolish as it dipped late and took out two stumps.

Captains can often be left scratching their heads in Twenty20, but today everything Sangakkara tried work perfectly. He brought back Isuru Udana and the young left-armer produced a classy slower-ball that Clarke could only chip back down the pitch, before Mendis claimed his third by pinning Michael Hussey with one that zipped off the surface.

The next over proved Australia's best of the innings as Muttiah Muralitharan was taken for 21 with Mitchell Johnson launching two huge slow-swept sixes over deep midwicket. The damage, though, had already been done and a team so used to competing in the final stages of global events are packing their bags after the first round.

Ireland storm into Super Eights

Ireland 138 for 4 (Niall O'Brien 40, Kevin O'Brien 39*) beat Bangladesh 137 for 8 (Mortaza 33*, Johnston 3-20) by six wickets

reland beat Bangladesh in the 2007 World Cup and, pitted against the same side in a must-win clash in more familiar conditions, produced an encore to surge into the second stage of the World Twenty20. This will go down as one of the biggest moments in Ireland's cricket history - but another disappointment for Bangladesh, who were knocked out of the competition.
Kevin O'Brien and John Mooney are joyous after ejecting Bangladesh, Bangladesh v Ireland, ICC World Twenty20, Trent Bridge, June 8, 2009

In their first game against a professional side in this format,

Ireland did make their mark. And how

The hungrier side was always going to come up tops and Ireland took a massive stride by keeping a reckless Bangladesh to 137. Bangladesh batted with the freedom of a team that believed they were already in the next stage and paid the price, stumbling after a shaky start. Mashrafe Mortaza's late heroics ensured at least a fighting total, which is where some self-discipline could have changed the outcome of this game. Ireland applied themselves to their chase and got home by six wickets - the O'Brien brothers again proving their worth - to yells and whoops from their dugout.

Twenty20 isn't a format where you can check in and book yourself for bed and breakfast but there still is a need for stability. Instead Bangladesh started like a runaway train, scoring 30 of their first 39 runs in boundaries, despite losing a wicket early. Three boundaries in five balls are plenty, but Junaid Siddique took a silly dance down the track and started the rot.

Mohammad Ashraful briefly threatened to make Ireland pay for a drop at first slip, pulling - a la Gordon Greenidge - over deep square leg and hitting Boyd Rankin over mid-on for sixes in one over, but then again steered to slip where Kevin O'Brien atoned for his earlier lapse. Predictably, William Porterfield turned to spin as the fielding restrictions were lifted and immediately Bangladesh tried to dominate, unsuccessfully. Johnston picked up the third as Shakib Al Hasan picked out long-on, before tidy spin from both ends and a sudden spring in Ireland's step further confounded Bangladesh.

Tamim Iqbal paid the price for misjudging a single, caught inches short - and with his foot in the air after he dropped his bat - by a smart pick-and-throw from Niall O'Brien. Niall was in action minutes later, brilliantly stumping Mahmudullah, his foot an inch off the ground as he heaved, when standing up to Alex Cusack's medium-pace. Consolidation was the need of the hour but instead of taking a couple overs to consolidate, Mahmudullah swung recklessly across the line. The buzz around Ireland was stirring, the fielding now top-notch, and you could sense an upset.

This was a time for Bangladesh to take a step back. Instead they kept swinging, clearly fraught at not having managed a boundary for 71 deliveries - a result of excellent work from Johnston and Ireland's spinner. West and Kyle McCallan plugged way splendidly, tidy with their lines, and accounted for Mushfiqur Rahim and Raqibul Hasan. Ireland had crawled all over Bangladesh, strangling runs and keeping the batsmen guessing as to where the next run would come from. McCallan returned exemplary figures of 4-0-17-1, but there was a bit of gas in Bangladesh's tank still. Mortaza's lusty hitting earned him two sixes in the final over, a handy cameo.

Mortaza then struck with the ball to dismiss Jeremy Bray in the third over Ireland's openers started watchfully, aware that a daredevil approach could harm them. Then Niall stuck it to Mortaza, flicking three sixes with immense power in the sixth over, and taking a pair of boundaries in Mahmudullah's first over. Niall played off the back-foot with power, but a late cut off Naeem Islam's first ball showed he could perforate the gaps with grace too. Irish supporters in the crowd cheered raucously, aware that what their team was doing was stunning.

However, Porterfield's sluggish approach forced Niall to improvise and he fell for 40 from 25 balls. Ireland were on track with the asking rate when Porterfield chipped a return catch to Adbur Razzak, and a similarly soft dismissal from Gary Wilson, driving the first ball of Mortaza's second spell to extra cover, sent Bangladesh into raptures.

Ireland still needed 49 from 34 but Kevin shut the door with some clutch hits, flicking a full toss from Mortaza to fine leg, dumping Razzak over midwicket and creaming Rubel Hossain over and past extra cover twice. John Mooney wasn't to be left behind, reverse-sweeping a four to ease the pressure, but it was Kevin who had the final word, clubbing another effortless six and sealing victory with a four off extra cover.

"I will be very disappointed if we don't make our mark in this competition," said Ireland coach Phil Simmons on the eve of this match. In their first game against a professional side in this format, Ireland did make their mark. And how.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Fighting for survival

Australia v Sri Lanka, World Twenty20, Group C, Trent Bridge

Match facts

Monday, June 8
Start time 17.30 local (16.30 GMT)

Big Picture

Sri Lanka's first match of the tournament is the most crucial one for Australia, who must win to stay alive in an event which has barely started. Even then a victory might not be enough after their heavy seven-wicket loss to West Indies, which puts them well behind on net run-rate. On Saturday Ricky Ponting was trying not to think of the consequences, which include the possibility of two weeks of punishment in Leicester, and will rev up his men as they attempt to avoid a fifth Twenty20 international loss in a row.

Chris Gayle stepped up and blew Australia over as they struggled at the start of both innings. A quick opening with bat and ball will be required if they are to tame Sri Lanka; nothing like the horror of giving up two wickets in the first over against West Indies and then spilling 71 runs in the first 30 balls of the chase. Australia were disrupted by the pre-tournament exit of Andrew Symonds, but they can't blame that. Nothing could have stopped Gayle's force.

Sri Lanka enter the event already knowing a victory on Monday will push them through to the next phase. In their warm-up matches they lost to South Africa after beating Bangladesh, but they will need to be more convincing to topple Australia despite the recent struggles of their opponent.

T20 international form guide (last game first)

Australia LLLLW
Sri Lanka LWWLW

Watch out for...

So much rests on the openers in Twenty20 that Sanath Jayasuriya, the grandpa of the tournament at 39, remains as essential to the team's success as he was in the 1996 version of the one-day World Cup. There wasn't much heat from him in the warm-ups, with 1 and 29, but if he fires Sri Lanka could burn bright throughout the tournament.

Mitchell Johnson was Australia's best bowler in the opening game with 2 for 36 and will carry heavy responsibility against Sri Lanka. His side needs instant impact with the ball and his control could be the difference between a realistic and impossible total. With his batting talents on the improve, he may also enter as a useful pinch hitter if the side needs a boost.

Team news

The offspinner Nathan Hauritz is unlikely to be left out again and Ben Hilfenhaus and Peter Siddle will come into contention as Australia gave up 172 runs in 15.5 overs. Brett Lee could be the one to make way after giving up 56 runs from four overs.

Australia squad Ricky Ponting (capt), Michael Clarke, Nathan Bracken, Brad Haddin (wk), Nathan Hauritz, Ben Hilfenhaus, James Hopes, David Hussey, Michael Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Brett Lee, Peter Siddle, David Warner, Shane Watson, Cameron White.

Sri Lanka have some worries after their mixed warm-up form, but if their core of Jayawardene, Sangakkara, Muralitharan and Mendis performs then the headaches will ease.

Sri Lanka squad Kumar Sangakkara (capt, wk), Muttiah Muralitharan, Sanath Jayasuriya, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardene, Chamara Silva, Angelo Mathews, Ajantha Mendis, Nuwan Kulasekara, Thilan Thushara, Lasith Malinga, Isuru Udana, Farveez Maharoof, Jehan Mubarak, Indika de Saram.

Pitch and conditions

Trent Bridge hosted India and Bangladesh on Saturday and there were 335 runs and 13 wickets, so the pitch has something for everyone. The weather is expected to improve with light showers on Monday, but the top temperature will be a chilly 14C.

Stats and Trivia

  • Brett Lee's figures of 1 for 56 were the most expensive by an Australian in Twenty20, and the 27 runs Chris Gayle took off one of his overs was the fourth-most in the format's history
  • Australia are in their worst losing streak in Twenty20, with the four-game winless run beating their two consecutive defeats to India in 2007
  • In the teams' only previous encounter, Australia won by 10 wickets after dismissing Sri Lanka for 101


"We were just a bit sloppy. Coming into game we had spoken about making sure we get the first over of each innings right but, as it turned out, we lost two early wickets while batting and gave away a lot off our first over as well."
Ricky Ponting after the defeat at The Oval

"The newcomers to the team bring the X-factor but the senior players have to make all the difference because they have to be the match winners."
Kumar Sangakkara, Sri Lanka's captain

de Villiers and South Africa crush Scotland

South Africa produced an ominously clinical performance to send Scotland packing in the ICC World Twenty20, beating them by the second highest margin in this format of 130 runs. AB de Villiers cracked a classy and authoritative 79 from just 34 in South Africa's 211 for 5, the highest total of the tournament so far, before Dale Steyn and Johan Botha tore through Scotland who were rolled for 81, the seventh-lowest Twenty20 total.

AB de Villiers goes downtown, Scotland v South Africa, ICC World Twenty20, The Oval, June 7, 2009
AB de Villiers scorches another siix

This was a champion performance from one of the tournament favourites. Unlike England, who were out-thought and out-played by Netherlands in the opening match, South Africa asserted themselves from the outset to lay bare Scotland's technical flaws, not to mention their lack of experience.

Chasing a daunting 212, Scotland were reduced to a hopeless 50 for 6 at the halfway point. Steyn knocked over Ryan Watson and Colin Smith (his second first-ball duck in as many days) while Wayne Parnell removed Gavin Hamilton, who decided to open the innings. Steyn rarely reached his top pace, but he needn't have: he was quick and menacing enough to sound a warning to the other teams in the tournament. Kyle Coetzer briefly stood in South Africa's way, the only Scotland batsman to take them on, smiting Albie Morkel over long-on for two sizeable sixes to give a hearty and patriotic crowd something to cheer, but these were the last desperate runs of an innings already terminated.

Coetzer's 31-ball 42 crowned an impressive personal display from him, following his outstanding catch in South Africa's innings to dismiss Mark Boucher. Before that, however, Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis ensured South Africa got off to a flying start. Kallis was first to open his shoulders, thumping the wayward Callum MacLeod through extra cover before flicking him fine for four more. He took to Jan Stander - who had a howler of a tournament - with greed, flaying him over backward point; flicking a stray to fine-leg before square cutting twice more past point. South Africa, unlike England who stuttered so aimlessly two days ago, were not going to let an Associate side get the better of them.

Scotland were urged to improve their fielding by the captain, Hamilton, yesterday, but he himself was twice at fault with a couple of mucky indiscretions, and overall, his side's fielding occasionally verged on the comical. Scotland are nothing if not fighters, however, and they fought back impressively with three wickets. Majid Haq, a canny and underrated offspinner, induced a thick inside edge to a slog-sweep from Kallis to end his innings on 48. Smith, too, attempted a similar shot three balls later but top-edged it to the wicketkeeper. Ryan Watson was then brought on and a lovely piece of flight accounted for Herschelle Gibbs, who was just beginning to look ominous.

And then de Villiers took over with relish. Initially favouring an orthodox approach with a selection of elegant, classy drives, he then scorched Haq for a flat fix over long-on before opening himself up to Glenn Rogers' slow-left-arm spin, cover-driving him with wonderful flare and elegance. With five overs to go, the manic final flurry was instigated and Watson was treated with pure disdain, carted over midwicket for a crowd-pleasing six.

His and Morkel's fifty partnership came from 18 balls and, though Morkel fell for 24, de Villiers powered onwards to bring up a 25-ball fifty with his fifth boundary down the ground as an increasingly overawed MacLeod was clattered to all parts. This mercilessness is how to deal with Associates, England.

The moment of the day, however, belonged to Scotland. Boucher, on two, nailed Gordon Drummond over the top but Coezter was lurking at long-on, practically treading on the boundary, and with a trampoline leap he leapt high and stretched his right hand, swivelling in the process, to cling onto an extraordinarily athletic chance which rightfully received a standing ovation. It was Scotland's only high point.

South Africa wrapped things up in the 16th over with each facet of their game looking polished and their attitude ruthless, but far sterner tests lie ahead in the coming days.

Resurgent England progress with huge win

England certainly like doing things the hard way, but kept their ICC World Twenty20 hopes alive with an impressive 48-run victory against Pakistan at The Oval which was so emphatic that they are through to the Super Eights. With the hosts' hopes hanging by a thread Kevin Pietersen returned and hit a sparkling 58 off 38 balls to lift England to a competitive 185 for 5, and Pakistan never got close against a team desperate to erase embarrassing memories

Kevin Pietersen crunches one through the leg side, England v Pakistan, ICC World Twenty20, The Oval, June 7, 2009
Kevin Pietersen was at his explosive best as he lifted England to a decent total

Pakistan, much like England the other night, were well short of their best especially in the field where they dropped at least four catches and produced countless more sloppy pieces of groundwork. They were terribly rusty during their warm-up games and are still a long way from settling, and maybe suffered from knowing they have a second chance against Netherlands on Wednesday, but this defeat was so heavy that even a win in that game might not be enough.

England, as they had to, clearly came out with a point to prove having been rightly criticised for their performance against Netherlands on Friday. Whether Pietersen's return was a case of desperate times calling for desperate measures, or a case of his injury really improving, he produced what England dearly needed from him with one of his best Twenty20 innings.

The innings included six sixes, compared with none two days ago, and Pietersen produced three off his own bat including a monstrous blow into the second tier of the pavilion and a glorious, inside-out, cover-drive off Mohammad Aamer. Pietersen was helped out by two positive innings from Luke Wright, who crunched 34 off 16 balls, and Owais Shah, as he added 66 for the third wicket with Pietersen.

Pakistan had the batting fire-power to chase down the target, but never formed a solid base as England produced a disciplined display with the ball and, most importantly, in the field where they were far superior. Paul Collingwood, a reluctant captain with much pressure on his shoulders, set the pattern with a well judged running catch to remove Ahmed Shehzad off the recalled Dimitri Mascarenhas.

Mascarenhas had been handed the new ball - the role he plays for Hampshire - and Collingwood rotated his pace options. Broad produced the telling over when his short-pitched tactic worked with Kamran Akmal pulling to deep midwicket and the dangerous Salman Butt top-edging to backward point.

From there the innings didn't gain any momentum as Shoaib Malik struggled to score at a run-a-ball and Shahid Afridi's poor form continuing with a painful 12-ball 5 before he holed out off Graeme Swann. Adil Rashid bowl four overs of accurate legspin and held his nerve each time the batsmen came after him. Pakistan didn't manage a six until the 17th over and by then the game was long gone.

The atmosphere when play got underway was electric with huge support for both teams. If there had been a roof on the ground it would have come off when Malik pulled off a good catch at backward point to remove Ravi Bopara, handing debutant Aamer his first wicket.

That brought Pietersen to the crease early after his return to the side following the Achilles injury that ruled him out against Netherlands and the fact he started by dealing in quick singles suggested the problem wasn't causing too much concern. Pietersen sparked into life by slamming a waist-height no-ball down the ground and the resulting extra delivery (although not a free-hit) was launched monstrously straight into the second tier of the pavilion. It registered as 104 metres, just a fraction shorter than Chris Gayle's huge blow yesterday against Australia.

It had been Wright who brought the early impetus by taking 14 off three balls against Aamer, including England's first six of the tournament as the ball flew over deep midwicket. He continued in the next over from Yasir Arafat, but was gifted one boundary when Umar Gul misread the spin at third man and let the ball scoot past him.

Pakistan's disciplines continued to slip when Gul delivered another no-ball, but the question was whether England could keep it going as the crucial phase of the game began with Pakistan introducing their spinners? After a brief look, both men took boundaries off Ajmal and a huge top edge by Pietersen off Afridi carried over fine leg for six. Two more sixes came in the 13th over, bowled by Aamer as the batsmen cut loose.

A mini-cluster of wickets, including two in an over to the impressive Ajmal, meant England's charge wasn't as destructive as it could have been, but unlike against Netherlands the innings finished with a spark rather than a whimper with Mascarenhas and James Foster adding 29 in 19 balls.

It's little things like that which make the difference in Twenty20, and just 48 hours after their biggest humiliation England are into the next stage. Pakistan, meanwhile, have to win against Netherlands. How quickly things change.

Yuvraj and Ojha fashion strong win

India 180 for 5 (Gambhir 50, Yuvraj 41) beat Bangladesh 155 for 8 (Siddique 41, Ojha 4-21) by 25 runsScorecard and ball-by-ball details How they were out
Yuvraj Singh provided India just the impetus they needed after sluggish middle overs © Getty Images
Gautam Gambhir Rohit Sharma Yuvraj Singh
Matches: Bangladesh v India at Nottingham
Series/Tournaments: ICC World Twenty20
Teams: Bangladesh India
It took Yuvraj Singh 18 balls to undo 10 overs' hard work by Bangladesh that had pulled India back after another solid start from Gautam Gambhir and Rohit Sharma. It took Pragyan Ojha five balls to undo their eight overs of keeping pace with a stiff total and eventually India became the first side in this tournament to successfully defend.
The crisp sound from Yuvraj's bat resonated regularly at Trent Bridge, with sixes flying here and there as India managed 59 runs in their last four overs. Ojha came on and removed Junaid Siddique and Shakib Al Hasan in his first over, after which a promising chase stumbled.
If the defining moments of this Group A match were easy to identify, it was hard to not recognise the hard work Bangladesh put in to stay in the match and force India to come up with something special. The match started with Gambhir and Rohit continuing to ensure that India didn't miss the injured Virender Sehwag.
Rohit batted like a seasoned Twenty20 opener and took charge after Gambhir had got off to a quick start with a square-cut boundary off the second ball of the match. The first ball he faced today, he leant into a good-length and creamed Mashrafe Mortaza through extra cover. Bangladesh were apprehensive about using their spinners in the Powerplays, and Rohit capitalised on the medium-pace coming on to his bat. He drove well off either foot, clipped off his pads, and played only one slog shot.
Although Gambhir slowed down, India reached 54 in the first six overs, with Rohit scoring 32 off 18. Mohammad Ashraful immediately introduced spin, and Rohit got out trying to dominate them.
MS Dhoni came out first drop, but at the same time Shakib slowed things down, giving the batsmen no pace to work with. Shakib was exceptional with his control, making sure India stayed in that consolidation mode for a considerable period.
Shakib's three-over spell went for 17 and included Rohit's wicket, and India managed only 44 - with one seix and one four - between the seventh and 13th over. Mortaza came back to bowl one more tight over, and the pressure resulted in Dhoni's wicket in the next over. With Shakib finishing off strongly, India had got only 62 runs in the middle 10 overs. Gambhir managed a laboured 50 off 46 balls.
But Yuvraj carried out an assault that broke Bangladeshi hearts - and resistance. Just like lightning he struck after seven quiet deliveries. He took an impressive Naeem Islam for back-to-back sixes, and one more two balls later. He welcomed Rubel Hossain back with a six and consecutive boundaries before being dismissed for 41 off 18.
Bangladesh then clawed their way back, keeping Suresh Raina and Yusuf Pathan quiet. Rubel had bowled a superb first half of the 20th over, giving away only two and cleaning up Raina. But in walked Irfan Pathan and smote a six and a four to post a challenging total.
That final assault wasn't enough to deflate Bangladesh's confidence. Tamim Iqbal and Siddique came out swinging, tasting some success against the left-arm opening bowlers, Zaheer Khan and Irfan Pathan. Both the bowlers bowled length, and that's where most Bangladeshi batsmen love it. Especially spectacular was Siddique's approach - he pulled the first ball he played for six.
In the first two overs Bangladesh got 20, and although Tamim fell to Yusuf in the third, Siddique didn't slow down. He hit Zaheer for back-to-back boundaries, and then Yusuf for a six before Ashraful got out in an unfortunate manner in the sixth over. He played a crunching cover-drive off Ishant Sharma, backing away, but found Gambhir at cover.
Out came Bangladesh's best player, Shakib, but it was Siddique who kept the pace up even as Shakib looked to rebuild. He set the agenda by stepping out and hitting Harbhajan Singh for a six in his first over. Once again, just when it seemed Bangladesh had done well to stay with India, the defending champions produced another game-breaker: Ojha, making his Twenty20 international debut.
Shakib looked to pull the first ball he bowled, but it skidded on, and took the top edge. Siddique chose an inopportune time to hit Ojha out of the ground, and holed out to wide long-on four balls later.
India could sense from there on that the chase had died, and so it turned with the inexperienced lower-middle order. Ojha took two more wickets and Yuvraj took two diving catches. Bangladesh managed only 81 runs from the time that Ojha came on to bowl, and India closed the game out professionally.

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