Friday, July 24, 2009

Sangakkara carries Sri Lanka's fortunes

Tea Sri Lanka 233 and 338 for 4 (Sangakkara 111*, Mathews 33*) need 154 runs to beat Pakistan 299 and 425 for 9 dec

When play started on the final day, Pakistan would have fancied their chances of pulling off a consolation victory. But by tea, with Kumar Sangakkara grinding the bowling into the SSC dust, those hopes had receded markedly, with the attack looking fairly innocuous on an utterly placid pitch. Thilan Samaraweera had contributed a classy 73 to a partnership of 122 with Sangakkara, and as much as Younis Khan shuffled his bowling pack, only one wicket came in 52 overs. Sri Lanka needed 154 from 38 overs for an improbable triumph, but survival rather than urgency was the predominant theme of the afternoon's cricket.

As he showed in Hobart not so long ago, Sangakkara is capable of dazzling counter-attacks in pressure situations. This though was all rearguard and little flair, with occupation of the crease the main mantra. The odd languid drive through the covers, or the precise sweep to the spinners would occasionally reveal some intent, but by and large, circumspection was the name of the game.

With Angelo Mathews showing only brief glimpses of his shotmaking potential, the run rate slowed quite a bit after Samaraweera's dismissal soon after lunch. He had been afflicted with cramp, and was then struck a glancing blow on the helmet by Mohammad Aamer before a doosra from Saeed Ajmal was nicked behind.

Apart from a brain-fade where he nearly handled the ball after digging out a yorker from Younis, Samaraweera had constantly challenged the bowlers, never allowing them to settle into a rhythm. Danish Kaneria, the scourge of Sri Lanka's first innings, was attacked and only Ajmal managed to exercise any real control.

Younis was also badly let down by Umar Gul, who struggled with no-balls and served up dross with the second new-ball. Each mistake was pounced on by Samaraweera, whose classical drives invoked another age. Pakistan still had a slight edge, but with no Flintoff-like talisman to turn to, Younis' brow became increasingly furrowed as the afternoon wore on.

Surgeon issues Pietersen recovery warning

Pietersen could find himself in a race to be fit for England's Champions Trophy campaign in September, after a London-based orthopaedic surgeon warned that he could need considerably longer than the estimated six weeks to recover from the operation he underwent on his right Achilles tendon on Wednesday.

"Kevin Pietersen has a serious problem with his Achilles tendon known as chronic tendinopathy, which hasn't responded to the usual measures of physiotherapy and injections," Dr Simon Moyes, who works out of the Wellington Hospital in St John's Wood, told the Press Association. "Less than five percent of patients end up needing surgery for this condition and therefore he is most unfortunate."

Pietersen was booked in for an operation on Wednesday morning, after struggling throughout England's historic victory in the second Test, in which they took a 1-0 lead in the Ashes series with their first win over Australia at Lord's since 1934. He was never comfortable at the crease, nor in the field, although his twin scores of 32 and 44 took his career tally against Australia to a formidable 1116 runs in 12 Tests, at an average of 50.72.

In a statement, the ECB's Chief Medical Officer, Nick Peirce, said that Pietersen had been operated on by a leading surgeon who had been specially flown in from Sweden, and that the early signs were that the operation had been routine.

"The operation involved a small incision and trimming of the blood vessels and nerves around the inflamed tendon," said Peirce. "Kevin will look to undertake a comprehensive rehabilitation programme to ensure there is no risk of recurrence. This is expected to be approximately six weeks but will be taken at an appropriate pace following constant review."

Moyes, however, warned that there was no guaranteeing a quick fix to Achilles injuries, and said that Pietersen and England might have to be patient in his recovery period. "The surgery to the tendon is not always predictable and involves cleaning inflammatory tissue, necrotic tissue and neovascular tissue - i.e. new blood vessels," he said. "I believe it will be at minimum of three months before he is fully recovered. Even then there is still a risk that the surgery may not work."

"As an England cricketer the Ashes are the pinnacle of the game so I'm absolutely devastated to be missing the rest of this series," said Pietersen. "I hate missing matches for England and especially during an Ashes summer but now that the decision has been made to undergo surgery I'm confident I can return to the England team injury-free following a course of rehabilitation."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Pietersen ruled out of Ashes

Kevin Pietersen limps through for another run, England v Australia, 2nd Test, Lord's, 3rd day, July 18, 2009

Kevin Pietersen has been ruled out of the Ashes after undergoing surgery on his long-standing Achilles tendon injury. Pietersen was assessed on Wednesday morning by a leading specialist, and the decision was made to undergo surgery which means he will miss up to six weeks.

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The news comes as a massive blow to England's morale and momentum after a week in which they finally ended a 75-year jinx in beating Australia at Lord's, and so went 1-0 up in an Ashes series for the first time since 1997. Pietersen's contribution to the match was muted, with twin scores of 32 and 44, but it nevertheless took his career tally against Australia to a formidable 1116 runs in 12 Tests, at an average of 50.72.

England, however, will now have to make do without that prowess. ECB Chief Medical Officer, Nick Peirce, said: "Following a consultation, involving scans and testing, with the world's leading Achilles specialist, Kevin Pietersen today underwent surgery on his right Achilles tendon.

"The operation involved a small incision and trimming of the blood vessels and nerves around the inflamed tendon and appears, at this early stage, to have been routine. Kevin will look to undertake a comprehensive rehabilitation programme to ensure there is no risk of recurrence. This is expected to be approximately six weeks but will be taken at an appropriate pace following constant review.

"Despite conventional conservative treatments to the tendon with trial periods of rest and rehabilitation, Kevin continued to be in significant discomfort and is currently unable to run or even walk comfortably. He had a strong desire to get through the Ashes series but despite this he has recently been unable to achieve a maximum level of performance.

"A number of short-term measures were considered but having been reviewed by the specialist, who flew into London from Sweden specifically, it was felt that anything else would put the tendon at risk and jeopardise his long-term recovery."

Pietersen said: "As an England cricketer the Ashes are the pinnacle of the game so I'm absolutely devastated to be missing the rest of this series.

"Up until now the Achilles injury has been manageable but it recently reached the point where we needed to look at other options in terms of treatment. I hate missing matches for England and especially during an Ashes summer but now that the decision has been made to undergo surgery I'm confident I can return to the England team injury-free following a course of rehabilitation.

"I was pleased with the previous course of treatment as it allowed me to take part in this Ashes series but unfortunately the injury has recently deteriorated. To leave a winning dressing room at this time is heart breaking but it wouldn't be fair to the team or myself to continue given the severity of the injury. I'll be supporting the team closely and wish them the best of luck as they look to build on the brilliant win at Lord's and reclaim the Ashes."

In Pietersen's absence, England are likely to offer a recall to Ian Bell, who was dropped in February after a run of low scores, but who has been in fine form for Warwickshire this season, with 640 runs at 80.00 before today, when he made 7 against Hampshire at the Rose Bowl.

"I am desperate to play," said Bell. "Having faced the Aussies before I know what to expect from them, and once you have appeared at Test level you want to carry on playing against the best players in the world."

The Australian camp maintained the line of the coach Tim Nielsen, who said on Tuesday he was not concerned by what was happening in England's squad. Shane Watson, the allrounder, said losing a key player like Pietersen "makes it very difficult".

Watson ready to step into Hughes' shoes

Shane Watson runs in to bowl, Lord's, July 14, 2009
Shane Watson will also bring a bowling option to the team, apart from batting in the top order, but he believes up to 15 overs will be his ideal workload initially © AFP
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Shane Watson is ready to become a makeshift opener if Phillip Hughes' woes continue, but the allrounder expects it will be the added value of his bowling that earns him a Test return. Watson, who has recovered from a thigh injury, is officially in the squad as a specialist batsman and has the backing of the coach Tim Nielsen to fill any spot in the order.

While Hughes has struggled, particularly against Andrew Flintoff, in posting 57 runs in the opening two Tests, it would be just as big a risk to replace him because there are no other genuine openers in the squad. One of the major criticisms of the selectors is they don't have cover for Hughes or Simon Katich, but they believe Watson is capable of doing the job. He does as well.

"Definitely," Watson said. "I've been working on my batting, especially the past couple of months, tightening up my technique a little more. I've always said I believe I have the game - and the mental game - to bat anywhere in the top order. I've been batting from three to four for Queensland for the last three or four years and opening the batting in one-day cricket."

Watson did have a stint at the top in the Sheffield Shield a couple of summers ago when he hoped to break into the Test team after Justin Langer's retirement, but the experiment ended before Christmas. "That was nice and successful," he said while smiling. Have things changed since then? "Yes."

The Australians, who are down 1-0, head to Northampton on Wednesday to prepare for Friday's tour match, Watson's first game of the tour. After spending two weeks on his fitness following the injury picked up during last month's World Twenty20, he hopes to deliver between 12 and 15 overs a day to prove he is capable of adding to his eight Tests. He also dreams of the days when his body frees him of the restrictions.

"[Up to 15 overs is] the ideal workload for me until I can get through some games consistently and then my ultimate goal is to have a free rein on what I bowl, but at the moment that's a little while away," he said. "That's the thing that I'm aiming for and hopefully I can get some continuous cricket into my body."

Watson believes he can create greater balance in the side, offering contributions with both disciplines. However, unless Australia drop someone in the top six - Marcus North scored a century in Cardiff and Michael Hussey's form is improving - it is unlikely he will squeeze into the XI unless Hughes continues to underwhelm.

"I bring a bowling option to the team, as well as batting in the top order," he said. "It's always helpful for the captain to have another option."

Watson has not played since the Twenty20 loss to Sri Lanka in Nottingham last month and has gradually increased his bowling load. He has been joined in rehabilitation by Brett Lee, who has been fighting a stomach injury since before the series started and is battling to be fit for next week's third Test. Watson knows better than anyone about injuries and said it would be a miracle if Lee was able to play in the tour game.

"It normally takes at least a week of building up your bowling to be physically fit to play in a game," he said. "I'd say it'd be a long shot for him to be fit, but miracles can happen."

The other major fear for Australia is the form of Mitchell Johnson, who was so erratic at Lord's that his place has come under question. Johnson has spent a lot of time with Watson at Queensland, where they played before moving interstate, and is trying to find the form that made him a world-beater in South Africa four months ago.

"Mitch is travelling okay," Watson said. "He knows he's not exactly at his best, but it wasn't too long ago that he was at his absolute best in South Africa. At his best, he's one of the best bowlers in the world."

Johnson's lack of form adds to the side's troubles and even the fringe members of the squad are feeling the stress. "There's pressure on everyone," Watson said. "We've got to be at our best - no excuses - and we have to stand up as a group. Each individual has to do everything we can to leave these shores with the Ashes in our hand."

Watson was in England four years ago when Australia lost that series, but he was playing for Hampshire instead of fighting for a Test place. He didn't expect the explosion of interest in the contest since the host's victory at Lord's, but won't blame that for his team's under-performance at the home of cricket.

They have a week to work out how to keep their opponents quiet, something they failed to do in 2005. "It can be very difficult at times when England have their tail up," he said. "They are extremely good frontrunners: the team, the public and the media. But we can't let other influences affect our preparation or psyche. That's something we've got to be very conscious of."

Malik century puts Pakistan on top

Pakistan 299 and 300 for 5 (Misbah 65, Shoaib 106*, Akmal 60*) lead Sri Lanka 233 by 366 runs

At 67 for 4, with both Younis Khan and Mohammad Yousuf back in the pavilion, Pakistan were in danger of subsiding to another defeat, but two century partnerships utterly transformed the game in the final two sessions on the third day. The common factor was Shoaib Malik, the former captain, who put recent indifferent form behind him with a beautifully paced hundred. Misbah-ul-Haq and Kamran Akmal were perfect foils, scoring half-centuries, and by stumps, the Pakistan lead had swelled to 366.

Sri Lanka had started the final session promisingly, with the runs drying up and Misbah perishing to an indiscreet shot. Having given Angelo Mathews the charge, he was surprised by the extra bounce and the thin edge was easily taken by Kumar Sangakkara. With the lead then at 252 and the second new ball looming, it was Sri Lanka's big chance to wrest back the initiative. Instead, Malik and Akmal took it away with some wonderfully positive batting, as a tiring attack started to leak runs.

Throughout the series, Sri Lanka had sparked collapses with the second new ball, but after tea at the SSC, there was only a torrent of runs. Akmal set the tone with a lovely drive and a powerful pull off Nuwan Kulasekara, and Malik joined in with booming drives through midwicket and cover off Thilan Thushara. When Chaminda Vaas came on for perhaps his final spell in international cricket, Akmal responded with a mighty heave over long-off, and Sri Lanka's woes were compounded when Sangakkara muffed a stumping chance off Rangana Herath when Malik was on 91.

Having breathed a sigh of relief, Malik didn't look back. A four and a six down the ground off Herath took him to his hundred from just 178 balls, and when Akmal brought up his half-century moments later, there was plenty for the dressing room to smile about.

The game had turned after lunch though, with Malik and Misbah consolidating against bowling that was steady without being unduly threatening. Both rotated the strike cleverly, and as the afternoon session drew to a close, the big strokes were unveiled. Herath, the pick of the bowlers, was pulled for four and then straight-driven for six, before a glance to fine leg off Thushara took Misbah to his third half-century in Tests. Malik, who had been the most positive of the batsmen in the first innings, also smashed Herath for a straight six, and when Misbah ended the session with a sweet on-drive off Angelo Mathews, Pakistan were right on top.

It was a far cry from the morning when a poor shot, an ordinary umpiring decision and a beautiful delivery boosted Sri Lankan hopes as Pakistan struggled to 86 for 4. They had started the day on 16 for 1, and there was to be no period of consolidation. Fawad Alam once again got a start, but the shot that cost him his wicket would hardly have thrilled his captain at the other end. The ball was short and at the body, and Fawad's attempt to work it wristily through midwicket merely lobbed back to Thushara off the top edge.

Mohammad Yousuf got going with a vicious slash behind point, and there was a lovely pull too from Younis Khan off Thushara, but by and large, runs were very hard to come by. The pair were finally starting to show signs of settling when Ian Gould intervened to send Younis on his way. The delivery from Kulasekara nipped back, but there was a hint of inside edge before it struck him very high on the pad.

The other half of Pakistan's experienced combo didn't make it to lunch either. Yousuf had struggled against Herath for much of the series, and he was undone by a magnificent delivery that pitched on his pads before leaping up and turning wickedly enough to take the edge. It was the sixth time that Herath had dismissed him, and it left Sri Lanka to contemplate a good morning's work. What followed wasn't quite according to the home script. Pakistan weren't going to complain though.

Given that no team has made more than 352 to win a Test in Sri Lanka, it is safe to say that Sri Lanka face a steep-mountain climb to achieve a series whitewash.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Flintoff is England's key - Gilchrist

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Adam Gilchrist admits that Australia's 2005 Ashes defeat and Andrew Flintoff in particular dented his self-confidence, but hopes for cricket's sake that Flintoff plays the entire 2009 series.


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Cricket: Pyrford go top at Purley

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Surrey Champs Division One
Purley v Pyrford
PYRFORD edged their way to the top of the table after this nerve-jangling two-wicket victory.

A middle-order collapse, while chasing 183, almost put paid to their hopes of taking the 13 points they richly deserved — before Martin Snow’s cover drive with an over to spare sealed the triumph.

Skipper Rob Pole won an important toss, with the wicket damp at one end and prompting thoughts that it may have been prepared that way to help the hosts’ seam attack.

Bowling first, they failed to get a wicket in the first hour as Purley made their way to 30 before Chris Millhouse made the breakthrough and wickets began to fall more regularly.

After a disappointing lunch — with only Tuna pasta salad on offer and at least half the Pyrford team preferring to go next door to the pub to pay for food rather than eat fish — Purley were on 80-5.

They managed to move on to 140-6 before Craig Woods took a vital wicket and the hosts could only edge towards their final total.

With what Pole described as the best seam attack in the division, Pyrford knew they were up against it but made a good start through Jon Hedges and Rob Pole, Hedges taking a few bruises as the home team insisted on sticking to plan A — bouncers.

Once Pole was trapped lbw, Stephen Moreton and Ben Hunt moved the score on aggressively to 120-3 — at which point the wheels fell off as Hunt (trying to hook and caught behind), Craig Woods (poor shot) and Liam Steel (bowled) were out.

As the tension mounted, Pyrford needed seven off the last two overs and were helped by the keeper letting go two byes — before he missed a stumping and allowed another three.

Another quick single followed before Snow’s cracking shot saw Pyrford up to 184-8 and sparked relief among the visitors who had been the better side all day.

Purley was deducted a point for slow overs bowled — not enough in Pole’s view.

“If we had batted first we’d have been there until about 8.20pm,” he said. “It was getting dark anyway towards the end so it was difficult. They just wanted to bowl bouncers all day, possibly to use up more time.”

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England cricket stars

England cricket stars celebrate Lord's win by racking up £5k bar bill... but Freddie Flintoff settles for a pint with the missus

Following their historic win at Lord's, the England cricket team were determined to celebrate in style – and racked up an impressive £5,000 bar bill.

The team, led by former captain Kevin Pietersen, headed to Tini bar in Chelsea where they celebrated for four hours.

They drank to England's success in taking a 1-0 lead in the Ashes series yesterday, ending a 75-year wait for a win against Australia at Lord’s in the process.

Celebrating: The England Cricket team, Stuart Broad, Kevin Peterson, Paul Collingwood, Ravi Bopara and Graham Onions celebrate their victory over Australia, with a nightout at Tini bar in London

Lads on the town: The England team (from left) Kevin Pietersen, Stuart Broad, unknown friend, Luke Wright (from one-day team) , Paul Collingwood and Graham Onions en route to the Tini bar in Chelsea

Enlarge Time for tequila: The cricketers at Tini bar in London

High spirits: Drinks flowed fast once Kevin Pietersen, who seems permanently attached to his BlackBerry, Stuart Broad, Graham Onions and Luke Wright arrived

The team are now well placed to reclaim the Ashes they won in 2005 but surrendered abjectly to Australia the following year.

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They go to Edbaston for the third installment next Thursday, but the boys were too busy celebrating to think that far ahead.

A source said: 'They arrived at 7pm and everyone was definitely in high spirits. The drinks were flowing fast all night as it was an open bar, so everyone was ordering whatever they wanted.

Quiet night: Andrew 'Freddie' Flintoff skipped the boy's night out, instead joining a female friend at The Punchbowl

Quiet night: Andrew 'Freddie' Flintoff skipped the boy's night out, instead joining his wife Rachael at The Punchbowl

'But for some their tipple of choice was the patron tequila that was on offer. That seemed to go down really well among a few of the players.

'The bar had a real buzz to it as their win was such a momentous occasion. Everyone was chatting to one another and was having a really good night. They left about 11pm.'

Andrew 'Freddie' Flintoff, 31, the man of the moment, passed on a night with the lads, however, opting for a quieter night with his wife Rachel at Guy Ritchie's pub, the Punchbowl.

Historic: Flintoff waves to the crowd after the England cricket team's 115 run victory over Australia

Heroic: Flintoff, stump in hand after taking five wickets, milks the applause after a 115-run victory put them up 1-0 up in the Ashes series against Australia


Putting his feet up: Flintoff enjoyed a quiet drink after the earlier finish he
brought about

Flintoff, whose bender after the last Ashes victory matched his monumental efforts during the series, played it cool with a few quiet pints.

In a sentiment apparently not shared by all his team mates, he said: The worst thing we can do is dine out on this win. This was a fantastic team effort but we have to get better.'

Our drinker inside the pub confided: 'Flintoff’s night was slightly less raucous as he had a few pints with the owners, including his friend Guy Ritchie.

'Everyone was congratulating him after England’s win. He was in a fantastic mood as he spent most of the evening with his friends.'

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ENGLAND cricket star Freddie Flintoff emerges from a pub with his missus after celebrating his Ashes heroics with a quiet pint.

Cheers! ... Freddie Flintoff emerges from pub
with wife Rachael

The all-rounder, 31, who helped England grab a 1-0 lead in the Test series against the Aussies, grimaced as he left the Central London bar with wife Rachael early yesterday.

Team-mates including Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood went on a more serious lash-up nearby, racking up a £5,000 bar bill.

Flower confident England can win without stars

England's coach, Andy Flower, is confident that his team can build on the success and momentum they took from their historic victory over Australia at Lord's on Monday, regardless of whether their two star players, Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen, overcome their fitness concerns.

Amid the euphoria of England's first Ashes win at Lord's for 75 years, a result that gave them a 1-0 lead over Australia for the first time since 1997, there have been growing concerns about the ability of both Flintoff and Pietersen to take the field in the third Test at Edgbaston, which starts on July 30.

Pietersen, who struggled through the Lord's Test and made a laboured 44 from 101 deliveries in the second innings, will see a specialist later in the week, amid reports in some daily papers that he has already been ruled out of the contest. Though Flower denied that that was the case, he admitted that the prospect of surgery on Pietersen's troublesome Achilles tendon could not be ruled out at this stage.

"Kev is seeing a specialist later this week, they'll assess his Achilles problem, and we'll just get the expert advice and take it from there," said Flower. "I'd rather not make a prediction [about his fitness], I'll just let the medical guys make their decision. I don't know if an operation is the right action to take, but those sorts of decisions will be made by the end of the week."

Pietersen required four injections to get through the Lord's Test, and admitted at the weekend that the injury - the first significant problem of his career - has been playing on his mind "all day and every day". The same could not, however, be said of Flintoff, whose immense performance on the final morning at Lord's propelled England to victory with 10 unstinting overs off the reel.

Flintoff's final figures of 5 for 92 enabled him to become only the sixth player to score a century and take five wickets in Test cricket at Lord's, a belated statistical accolade in a career that has often gone under-rewarded. But Flower admitted to feelings of unease as he watched his star player thunder in in the closing stages of the match, with the result more or less sewn up already.

"Fred had a tough physical game," said Flower. "I was sitting up there thinking I'd quite like to see him taking a break, but he carried on, and he feels strong, and it worked out okay in the end ... I hope. Chatting to him afterwards he was very bullish about being ready for the third Test, but obviously with his injury record we have to be careful about wear and tear on his body, and he will be reassessed."

Regardless of what the doctors make of his conditions, with Steve Harmison finding menacing form for Durham in the County Championship, and James Anderson producing a superb four-wicket spell to help roll Australia over for 215 in their first innings at Lord's, Flower was confident that England have the fast-bowling resources to see them through an arduous summer.

"Flintoff is a world-class performer as we know, so if he's out of the side, of course that's a blow," said Flower. "But we've got a few fast bowlers waiting in the wings that we know can play international cricket, and can be very successful. Obviously we want Flintoff in the side, but we'll see if his body is up to it. If not there are other guys that can do good jobs for us. This is an Ashes series, a Test series, it's not his farewell series."

With a ten-day break between matches, England's players have got a timely opportunity to patch up their wounds before Edgbaston - and that includes the seamer Graham Onions, who was struck on the elbow while batting in England's first innings, and was said to be experiencing a lot of pain when he straightened his arm. "I should imagine he'll be fine because of the rest time available," said Flower.

"Usually the man involved knows his body best and can feel certain things," he added. "If the guys are fit enough to get through and contribute to winning Test matches, then they'll be selected. If they are not, it's not a tough decision to make, they are just not fit enough to be selected." Flower confirmed that, if Pietersen was unable to take part at Edgbaston, then Ian Bell - a squad member for the past two Tests - would be the logical man to stand in.

"When asked before the series if we believed we could win the series, I said yes," said Flower. "Whether we will win or not, we don't know. The guys are confident, but we'll have to play very good cricket. We're playing against the No.1 side in the world. We know they will regroup and come back strongly at us, so we've also got to regroup. Sometimes you can get distracted as much by winning as by losing. We have to regroup this following week as well, and hit them hard at Edgbaston."

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West Indies players end strike

West Indies' leading players have ended their strike and made themselves available for international duty following the appointment of an arbitrator to settle their dispute with the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB). Chris Gayle and other star players could now take part in the one-dayers against Bangladesh.

The original 13-man squad picked by the board for the Bangladesh Tests had boycotted the series due to a disagreement over contractual issues. The strike forced the selectors to pick a second-string side which lost both Tests, handing Bangladesh their first overseas series victory.

The WICB and the West Indies Players' Association (WIPA), which is negotiating on the cricketers' behalf, agreed to resolve the impasse by mediation on Tuesday, after meeting with Guyana president Bharat Jagdeo, who is also chairman of the 15-nation trading bloc Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM). Both sides agreed to the appointment of former Commonwealth secretary general Shridath Ramphal as arbitrator.

"It was agreed that in the light of the Mediation Agreement which the Parties expect to lead to the resolution of outstanding issues all the players will make themselves available for selection," they said in a joint statement.

"The mediation team, with assistance from the Caricom secretariat, would begin work immediately," they said. "Both parties have taken this step, mindful of the interest of their respective organisations but conscious also of their wider responsibility to the people of the West Indies and the international sport of cricket."

The agreement came hours after a weakened squad was announced by the board for the first two one-dayers against Bangladesh.

Spinners hand Pakistan the advantage

Pakistan 299 (Manzoor 93, Yousuf 90, Thushara 5-83) and 16 for 1 (Alam 14*, Younis 0*) lead Sri Lanka 233 (Jayawardene 79, Dilshan 44, Kaneria 5-62, Ajmal 3-70) by 82 runs

Pakistan's tail offered no resistance at all, but with Danish Kaneria at the forefront of a superb bowling performance, they still managed a 66-run first-innings lead. By stumps on the second day at the SSC, Pakistan had lost Khurram Manzoor, playing on to Rangana Herath, while adding 16. Sri Lanka's 233 was largely down to a classy 79 from Mahela Jayawardene and attacking cameos from Kumar Sangakkara (45) and Tillakaratne Dilshan (44), and their plight might have been worse if not for some largesse from the Pakistan fielders.

Jayawardene continued his love affair with the ground where he had four successive Test hundreds - it was his 14th fifty-plus score here, a record for a batsman at any venue - but with Pakistan's slow bowlers bowling beautifully, it was a real tussle for supremacy after lunch. Jayawaredene anchored the innings and a partnership of 71 with Angelo Mathews allowed Sri Lanka to recover from the depths of 82 for 4.

Mathews counterattacked from the outset, but he had made just 12 when Kamral Akmal put him down off Saeed Ajmal's bowling. He drove powerfully down the ground and square of the wicket as Sri Lanka recovered from the loss of Thilan Samaraweera, undone by an offbreak that turned prodigiously. The star of the show was Jayawardene though. Whether it was driving down the ground, sweeping fine, or clipping precisely through midwicket, he played with all the confidence of a man who knows the venue inside-out.

Sri Lanka had lost both openers early, but it was the wicket of Sangakkara just before lunch that tilted the scales in Pakistan's favour. Sangakkara had been reprieved twice earlier, and had taken just 56 balls for his 45 against bowling that could best be described as erratic.

Twice, Manzoor could have had him off Mohammad Aamer's bowling. The first chance went to his at face-height at gully, while the second brushed his outstretched fingertips and went for four. The first reprieve was especially costly, with Pakistan right on top of proceedings. Younis Khan had just brought himself on to bowl the sixth over, and struck with his second delivery as Tharanga Paranavitana misjudged one that swung in from round the wicket.

Malinda Warnapura had lasted just one ball, playing a terrible shot across the line to an Umar Gul delivery that darted back in. But Sangakkara was in fine touch from the moment he arrived, clipping wayward deliveries through midwicket and stroking the ball beautifully down the ground. There was plenty of aggression, and a bit of lip, from both Aamer and Gul, and even Younis had a frustrated shy at the stumps with Sangakkara taking guard several feet outside the crease.

On the stroke of lunch, with Jayawardene also threatening to find his groove, Pakistan had much to ponder. But then Ajmal struck with the final ball of his second over, though there was considerable doubt over whether the ball had pitched in line before striking Sangakkara's pad.

The end of the Pakistan innings had been swift, in keeping with the collapses that had cost them the series. Kaneria went leg before to Nuwan Kulasekara and both Akmal and Ajmal choppped deliveries back on to leave Thilan Thushara with figures of 5 for 83.

Thushara was to play a part later too after Kaneria, recalled after sitting out the first two Tests, had hauled Pakistan back into the game with a magnificent spell. After being treated for cramps, Jayawardene misread a straighter one that crashed into his stumps. Chaminda Vaas had been trapped leg before minutes earlier, and Dilshan should have followed too without scoring, but Ian Gould failed to spot a gloved paddle-sweep to backward short leg.

Kulasekara edged Saeed Ajmal to slip and Herath was given out leg before to Kaneria, before a 29-run partnership between Dilshan and Thushara held up Pakistan. Dilshan, who had come in at No.8 after sustaining a finger injury on the opening day, smashed sixes off Kaneria and Umar Gul and protected the tail-end batsmen by rotating the strike.

It took a freakish incident for his defiance to end. Dilshan top-edged a sweep, and the ball sneaked through the helmet grille to cut his eyebrow. Soon after, he went for a cut and Akmal managed to hold on to leave Kaneria with 5 for 62. On a pitch where the ball was starting to turn sharply, it could yet be a winning contibution.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Strauss has been too bullish – anything is possible in 21st century cricket

A fancy declaration has unnecessarily jeopardised England's series. It could yet lead to a defeat that would knock the stuffing out of them

Andrew Strauss

England's captain Andrew Strauss shows his frustration after a chance goes begging on the fourth day of the second Test at Lord's. Photograph: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

It is easy to be wise after events but at 11.15am a note of bewilderment was made at the news of England's declaration: "If no follow-on, put them out of the game."

Once the option of the follow-on had been rejected on Saturday, presumably on the basis that England could lose the Test by having to bat last, the logical step for Andrew Strauss was to allow his side to continue batting until the game was absolutely safe: to score so many runs that, even if the Australians, on an excellent surface, were still there at the close of play on Monday, they would not have enough runs to win, to leave them batting without hope of victory.

Andrew Strauss declined this route. As a consequence we are back in Adelaide 2006 territory: a fancy declaration has unnecessarily jeopardised England's series. It could yet lead to a defeat that would knock the stuffing out of any team. England escaped with an amazing draw at Cardiff but defeat here would overhaul that result on the gobsmackometer by a margin that would have Peter Snow breaking the high jump record. The equation still favours England: 209 more runs are required by Australia with five wickets standing but now nothing can be guaranteed.

So far Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin have added 185 together with barely a glitch. This evening Andrew Flintoff was charging in with the new ball like a wounded bull and there was an air of desperation about England. Strauss' summoning of his team for an impromptu huddle just before taking the new ball was an indication of their state of mind.

England may be all right with an early wicket tomorrow but there will be palms drenched in sweat in the morning all around Lord's. Strauss talked about the importance of his team being more ruthless before the series; the need to finish off opponents. Yet he has not listened to his own propaganda. In this instance that would have entailed batting Australia right out of the game before trying to take their wickets.

If Australia were to win tomorrow, England will cling to the history books for justification of their declaration. No side has ever come anywhere near 522 for victory in a Test match, 418 by West Indies against Australia at St John's in Antigua is currently the highest. But in cricket it is safer to adopt the Henry Ford mantra, to treat history as bunk, and to play the conditions, which at Lord's means another sublime batting surface and a lightning fast outfield.

It may be that Strauss has mistaken ruthlessness for bullishness. The England camp are not immune from criticism and there was a lot thrown in their direction in the Caribbean for the conservative nature of their declarations when England needed to win to square the series. Maybe those criticisms were valid but different rules apply now. It is the start of a series and the opponents are Australia.

Moreover the game in the 21st century is changing faster than at any time in its history. Pitches no longer deteriorate, which makes the reluctance to enforce the follow-on all the more puzzling, and batsmen are no longer constrained by any parameters. In part this is because of the pitches. It is also a consequence of Twenty20 cricket. Batsmen now believe anything is possible.

In Chennai last winter India knocked off 387 in just over a day against England, scarcely blinking in the process. Earlier this summer down at county level Somerset sprinted to 479 in 85.3 overs to beat Yorkshire with four wickets and four overs to spare. Old verities no longer apply.

Strauss's declaration has set up a pulsating final day. As well as Adelaide 2006 there are echoes of Edgbaston 2005 here. Tomorrow all four results are possible. There should be only two.

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Gilchrist, Warne and McGrath in all-time Australia team

Don Bradman at the crease
Don Bradman was a shoo-in for No. 3 in Cricinfo's all-time Australian XI © Getty Images
Related Links
Players/Officials: Arthur Morris | Victor Trumper | Sir Donald Bradman | Greg Chappell | Allan Border | Keith Miller | Adam Gilchrist | Shane Warne | Bill O'Reilly | Dennis Lillee | Glenn McGrath
Teams: Australia
Other links: All-time XIs - Australia

Three members of Australia's all-powerful side of this decade, Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Adam Gilchrist, have been voted into an all-time Australian XI by a Cricinfo jury, but there is no room for Ricky Ponting.

In June, Cricinfo announced the definitive search for the all-time greatest teams from all the Test-playing countries, starting with Australia. The Australia jury, which comprises cricket historians and print and radio journalists - among them Peter Roebuck, Gideon Haigh, David Frith, Warwick Franks and Jim Maxwell - were faced with the task of picking 11 from a shortlist created by Cricinfo's editors from the 410 wearers of the baggy green.

Australia's all-time opening pair was agreed to be Victor Trumper, whose average of 39.04 from 48 Tests belies his art, and Arthur Morris, part of Don Bradman's Invincibles on the 1948 tour of England. "[Victor] Trumper was the prototype of an expressive Australian batsmanship based on boldness, instinct and natural talent," said Haigh. Honourable mention was made of Matthew Hayden, arguably the most aggressive opener of the modern era, who averaged over 50 in Tests, but failed to make the XI.

At No. 3 is Bradman himself, whose selection Franks called "axiomatic". The middle order is bolstered by Greg Chappell and Allan Border. The Waughs, Steve and Mark, were strong contenders but missed out. Jury member Mike Coward's reasoning for the inclusion of Border was that "the sustained success of Australia over the past two decades or so is the direct result of his bravery, commitment and leadership".

Keith Miller and Adam Gilchrist were unanimous picks for the allrounder and wicketkeeper slots, while contrasting legspinners Shane Warne and Bill O'Reilly both found a place, edging out Clarrie Grimmett and Bert "Dainty" Ironmonger.

The fast-bowling spots went to Dennis Lillee and Glenn McGrath, takers of 355 and 563 Test wickets respectively, who beat out the likes of the legendary Alan Davidson (186 wickets at 20.53), Ray Lindwall (228 at 23.03) and Garth McKenzie (246 at 29.78). This was the most difficult part of selecting an all-time Australian XI, because this group had the longest list, indicative of the massive depth in that department for Australia.

"In many ways, this team tells you why Australia have been such a dominant force in cricket over the years," explained Sambit Bal, Cricinfo's editor. "They have had great players through the ages, and you have them all here: Victor Trumper from the 1900s, Bradman and O'Reilly from the 30s and 40s, Arthur Morris and Keith Miller from the 40s and 50s, Greg Chappell and Dennis Lillee from the 70s and the 80s, Allan Border from the 80s, and McGrath, Warne and Gilchrist from the last two decades. That's a wonderful spread."

Cricinfo also asked readers to vote for their own favourites. Many did so, and in their view, Hayden, Ponsford, Ponting and Steve Waugh were chosen over Trumper, Morris, Greg Chappell and Border. The bottom half, however, remained the same.

More details here.
The nominees

Openers: Arthur Morris, Mark Taylor, Bill Woodfull, Bill Ponsford, Justin Langer, Matthew Hayden, Bill Lawry, Bob Simpson, Victor Trumper.

Middle order: David Boon, Allan Border, Donald Bradman, Greg Chappell, Neil Harvey, Charles Macartney, Stan McCabe, Ricky Ponting, Mark Waugh and Steve Waugh.

Allrounders: Warwick Armstrong, Richie Benaud, Jack Gregory, Keith Miller and Monty Noble.

Wicketkeepers: Jack Blackham, Adam Gilchrist, Ian Healy, Rod Marsh, Bert Oldfield and Don Tallon.

Spinners: Clarrie Grimmett, Bert Ironmonger, Bill O'Reilly, Hugh Trumble and Shane Warne.

Fast bowlers: Ray Lindwall, Charlie Turner, Fred Spofforth, Dennis Lillee, Garth McKenzie, Alan Davidson, Brett Lee, Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie, Ted McDonald, Craig McDermott.
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Clarke and Haddin keep England at bay

Australia 215 and 313 for 5 (Clarke 125*, Haddin 80*) need another 209 runs to beat England 425 and 311 for 6 dec (Prior 61, Collingwood 54)

Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin kept alive Australian hopes of a world-record run chase with an unbeaten partnership of 185 that both stunned and enthralled the capacity Lord's crowd. No sooner had England appeared set on an inexorable march towards their first Ashes victory at Lord's in 75 years than the Australian middle-order duo produced a stoic, chanceless sixth-wicket stand to drag the tourists back into the contest.

The evening session may have belonged to Australia, but advantage still rests with England. Australia require another 209 runs for victory, having been set an unprecedented target of 522 by Andrew Strauss, and will resume on Monday acutely aware that they are one wicket away from delving into their bowling stocks.

But after a stirring fourth day, during which Australia made the impossible merely improbable, few would dare discount their chances entirely. Australia's effort is already the fourth highest fourth-innings total in Lord's 125 year history and 105 runs shy of Test cricket's highest ever successful run chase. And this with five wickets still in hand. After being offered the light in the 86th over, Clarke placed his arm around Haddin as he strode from the playing surface, satisfied that their efforts had saved a day that, hours earlier, had lurched heavily England's way. Five Australian wickets, three of which were contentious in the extreme, had fallen for just 128 runs before tea, and an expectant Lord's crowd awaited an Andrew Flintoff-inspired England to complete a quick kill.

But the script changed dramatically thereafter. Clarke, perhaps Australia's most consistent batsman of the past 18 months, successfully navigated his way through a testing early period and appeared impressively immune from the suffocating atmosphere created by Flintoff and Graeme Swann. The Australian vice-captain notched his half-century in near even-time, highlighted by several sublime drives and crisp stroke play off his pads.

Top Curve
Prime Numbers

  • 185*

    Clarke and Haddin's stand is the second highest sixth-wicket partnership for Australia in England. The highest was 200 between Clarke and Marcus North in the first Test in Cardiff.
  • 0

    The number of hundreds Clarke had scored in England before his 125 not out today. His previous best in 11 innings was 91.
  • 18.16

    Ricky Ponting's average at Lord's where he's scored 109 runs in six innings.
  • 329 for 3

    Australia's highest fourth-innings total at Lord's, in 1975. Their total of 313 for 5 is currently fourth on the list of highest final-innings totals at Lord's.
  • 75

    The number of years since England last won a Lord's Test against Australia. It'll mean an addition of four more years if they fail to take five wickets tomorrow.
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Haddin, meanwhile, entered the match brimming with confidence following his 121 in Cardiff, and looked the part early. His half-century was more attritional than Clarke's - surprising, given their usual modus operandi - and was raised with a single to third man off Swann. Clarke reached his 11th Test century from the very next delivery with a push through midwicket, and celebrated with his customary wave of the bat and kiss of the coat-of-arms. This may well be remembered as his finest Test innings to date, and will presumably enshrine itself into Australian sporting folklore should it lead to a famous victory.

Clarke and Haddin survived several anxious moments after the second new ball was taken, edging over the slips cordon on several occasions, but otherwise batted with tremendous maturity and determination on a day otherwise notable for a series of contentious dismissals that threatened to overshadow the broader contest.

Controversy, not history, dominated discussion during the first two sessions and, again, much of the focus centred on Rudi Koertzen, whose 100th Test might well be his most disappointing. The South African official began the fourth day by ruling Simon Katich out to a Flintoff no-ball, but the bigger controversy surrounded his involvement in the dismissal of Phillip Hughes to a claimed catch by Strauss.

Hughes was ordered to stand his ground by Ricky Ponting, the non-striker, after edging Flintoff low to first slip and, as has been the case twice previously this Test, Koertzen sought the counsel of Billy Doctrove. But unlike Nathan Hauritz's claimed catch on Saturday, the on-field officials did not refer the matter to Nigel Llong, the third umpire, and Koertzen ordered Hughes back to the Pavilion for 17.

Replays were inconclusive as to whether Strauss' fingers were completely between ball and turf, and a third umpire referral might have resulted in a benefit-of-the-doubt ruling, such as that granted to Ravi Bopara the previous day. Hughes, though, was not so fortunate, and now finds himself under immense pressure to perform at Edgbaston after false starts at Sophia Gardens and Lord's.

Michael Hussey also had reason to feel aggrieved at his dismissal, ruled caught at first slip to a Swann delivery he appeared to miss, but the Australian batsman could have counted himself most fortunate to have survived an earlier lbw shout from James Anderson. Hussey's wicket in the 33rd over appeared to signal the end of Australia's survival prospects, until Clarke and Haddin combined for an unbroken partnership that has lasted 286 deliveries and 188 minutes entering the final day.

Their efforts could not entirely detract from a virtuoso performance from Flintoff, playing his last ever Test at Lord's. Storming in from the Pavilion End, England's enigmatic allrounder bowled seven overs of pure menace for figures of 2 for 9 before lunch, accounting for both Australian openers in the process, and followed with seven more in the second session.

Presumably, Flintoff will not be offering conciliatory handshakes and embraces to the Australians in the event of a second Test victory, as was the case at Edgbaston four years, given the ferocity of his encounters with Hughes and Ponting in the first session on Sunday. In the second over of the morning, Flintoff unleashed a ferocious bouncer that barely cleared Hughes' helmet, and followed with an exaggerated verbal barrage delivered while walking backwards to his mark. The chirping also extended to Ponting, somewhat more practiced at the art than Hughes, as tempers frayed in this most pressurised of atmospheres.

Ponting's blood pressure rose further when Anderson struck him a painful blow to the right index finger, and again when a loose cut-shot resulted in him edging a Stuart Broad delivery onto his stumps. Marcus North also chopped on in the lead up to tea - his from a faster, flatter Swann delivery - as Australia stumbled to 128 for 5.

Clarke and Haddin ensured England did not have it all their own way, but they still have quite the mountain to climb. An early wicket on Monday will tilt the balance firmly the way of England. Still, better an improbable chase than an impossible one.

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