Thursday, August 20, 2009

Siddle makes England rue missed opportunities

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England 307 for 8 (Bell 72, Siddle 4-63) v Australia
England's batsmen squandered a glorious opportunity to take control of the fifth and final Test at The Oval, as an Australian attack lacking the services of a specialist spinner overcame a dry, dusty and pace-free wicket to chisel out eight first-day wickets after losing an important toss. Ian Bell and Andrew Strauss contributed chalk-and-cheese half-centuries to a close-of-play total of 307 for 8, while Jonathan Trott marked his Test debut with a composed 41, but once again, no single batsman was able to make the day his own. And as a series century count of 7 to 1 in Australia's favour will testify, that has been the single biggest difference between the two sides.

Nevertheless, it was far from doom and gloom for England. Though Graeme Swann fell to the final ball of the day to give Peter Siddle a richly deserved fourth wicket, his spirited eighth-wicket stand of 39 with Stuart Broad had carried England clear of an embarrassing late-evening collapse, and given them an insight into how this surface might play as the match wears on.

Siddle was the statistical pick of Australia's attack with 4 for 63 in 18.3 overs, but the most significant bowler on show was arguably the part-time offspinner, Marcus North, who found rip and bounce from the sizeable first-day footholds, and left Ricky Ponting questioning his retention of the all-seam attack that had run riot in the fourth Test at Headingley. It remains to be seen what a par score will be on this wicket, but a total of 350 may yet prove competitive.

For the first two sessions, the backbone of England's performance was Bell, whose 72 was his sixth half-century in his last eight Tests against Australia, and arguably his most significant yet, notwithstanding his dispiriting failure to push on to three figures. Five balls after tea, having begun to bat with as much composure as at any time in his 49-Test career, he propped forward to Siddle in a half-formed defensive push, and lost his off stump via a fat inside-edge.

Up until that point, Bell had been the focal point of England's batting performance, first as a target for Australia's aggression, and then later, as his confidence grew, as the main source of forward momentum. He came to the crease as early as the sixth over, when Alastair Cook's poor series continued with a prod to second slip off Siddle, and immediately the ghosts of 2005 swirled into view, as Bell came within a whisker of picking up his third Ashes duck in a row at the venue, when Siddle crashed a fifth-ball bouncer into his wrist.

But Bell survived, and even began to thrive with Siddle offering him room to work the ball off his toes into the leg-side. He was peppered three times in a searing first over from Mitchell Johnson, then snatched at a drive as Stuart Clark offered a rare hint of width and skewed a thick edge through third man for four, but to his credit, he did not buckle and raced through the 30s with a brace of fours off Ben Hilfenhaus, as the undisputed class of his strokeplay began to become the decisive factor in his performance.

At the other end, virtually unnoticed as Bell took the heat of the bowling, was Strauss, seemingly aloof to the big-match nerves, just as he had been on this ground in 2005 when he rose above the occasion to set England's platform with a first-day century. He was given a range of welcome sighters when Hilfenhaus served up his most disappointing new-ball spell of the summer, then hurtled to his third half-century of the series with three fours in an over from Siddle, including a sublime clip off the toes to reach lunch on exactly 50 not out.

But the second session had barely begun when Strauss gave his great start away, hanging a limp bat outside off to his seventh delivery after the break, and grazing a low nick through to Brad Haddin off Hilfenhaus. It later transpired that the wicket-taking delivery should have been called as a massive no-ball, but it was a rare case of batsman error in a previously blemish-free performance. Strauss departed, head bowed, for 55 from 101 balls, and England were teetering just a fraction on 114 for 2.

Out to the middle came Paul Collingwood, promoted to No. 4, the position from which he made a double-century against Australia at Adelaide in 2006-07, and the move appeared to have focussed his mind after a limp run of innings since his match-saving 74 at Cardiff. With Bell now settled, having reached his fifty with a clip for four off Hilfenhaus, Collingwood played the sheet anchor, reaching 24 from 65 balls before his weakness outside off stump once again resurfaced, as he squirted a fat edge to Mike Hussey in the gully off Siddle.

England went to tea on 180 for 3 and their platform still seemed solid enough, even though Trott came close to running himself out while searching for his maiden Test run, which he eventually managed with a clip for two through midwicket from his 12th delivery. But five balls into the final session, the casual scenario was shredded when Bell's loss of concentration gifted Australia their fourth wicket of the day, and left their hosts' fortunes in the hands of a rookie.

Trott responded with the confidence and patience befitting a man with a season's first-class average of 80. Clark in particular tested his perceived penchant for working off-stump deliveries through midwicket, but his first boundary in Test cricket was a crashing drive through the covers that Kevin Pietersen could not have bettered, and with Matt Prior counterattacking in trademark fashion during a fifth-wicket stand of 48, England looked well placed to overcome their jitters.

Johnson, however, suckered Prior on 18 with a devious slower ball that was poked airily to point, and though Andrew Flintoff received a predictably rapturous welcome in the first act of his final Test appearance, he never looked likely to continue England's momentum. A sixth-ball steer through backward point was the highlight of his innings, before Johnson's extra bounce induced a snicked cut through to the keeper.

Broad got off the mark with looping cut that yorked Ponting at slip and bounced away to the boundary, but the big breakthrough came courtesy of a stunning snaffle and shy from Simon Katich at short leg, who kept his eye on another firm clip off the pads from Trott, steadied himself as the batsman pushed off instinctively for a single, and pinged down the stumps for the most clear-cut of run-outs. It was an ignominious way for Trott's maiden Test innings to come to an end, but his 41 from 81 balls had gone a long way towards establishing his credentials.

Murali and Thushara hand Sri Lanka the advantage

New Zealand 281 for 8 (McIntosh 69, Vettori 33*, O'Brien 3*, Muralitharan 3-66, Thushara 3-80) trail Sri Lanka 452 by 171 runs
After heavy morning rain had caused a 90-minute delay, Sri Lanka's bowlers chipped away relentlessly, whittling out six wickets before bad light took the players off with New Zealand having just avoided the follow-on target. Thilan Thushara and Muttiah Muralitharan were Sri Lanka's bowling heroes, while Tim McIntosh, who faced 226 balls for his 69, led the resistance for the visitors. Along the way, Murali passed Shane Warne for the most maidens bowled in Test cricket (1761), and New Zealand were left to rely on their allrounders to take them past the follow-on target.

When Jacob Oram was wrongly given out caught off the pad soon after tea, New Zealand were still in danger of being asked to bat again. But Jesse Ryder, who had got going with a couple of emphatic pulls off Thushara, and Daniel Vettori staved off the spin threat and when the new ball was finally taken after 97 overs, a cover-drive from Ryder ensured that there would be no prospect of an innings defeat.

He went soon after, bowled playing an airy drive at Nuwan Kulasekara, and there was a stroke of fortune for New Zealand just before stumps when Daniel Vettori was palpably plumb to a Murali doosra. Everyone but the umpire was convinced, and Vettori could have been excused a shy grin as he walked off for the day.

McIntosh and Ross Taylor had batted through most of the afternoon, long periods of stolid defence interspersed with moments of real anxiety. McIntosh survived a couple of vociferous leg-before shouts from Murali, while Taylor was twice reprieved, on 15 and 27. Mahela Jayawardene couldn't get his hands to a low chance at slip off Ajantha Mendis, and he was again the injured party as Nuwan Kulasekara spilled a slog-sweep.

It was a stroke that Taylor had employed earlier, with one soaring over the rope at square leg, but by and large, attacking strokes were few and far between. McIntosh struck one superb straight six off Mendis, but neither batsman was remotely assured against Murali's wiles, especially with the ball angling in from round the wicket.

The two spinners bowled in tandem for most of the session, but it was only when Mendis was taken off after a 14-over spell that Sri Lanka broke through. Taylor hung his bat out at one from Thushara, and Prasanna Jayawardene did the rest. Soon after, McIntosh's luck ran out. This time, the leg-before shout was marginal, on or just outside the line of off stump, but after a long think, Daryl Harper raised the finger. When McCullum then chopped Thushara onto his stumps, New Zealand were in desperate trouble.

They had managed fine in the abbreviated first session as McIntosh, troubled periodically by the short ball, gritted his way to a half-century. Patel provided stout resistance as the bowlers toiled hard without reward. Murali bowled the first over and was then taken off, and it was Thushara who asked all the initial questions. Patel was sound and confident in defence, nudging the odd single, while McIntosh left the ball alone more often than not. Against the short ball though, he was in all sorts of strife, getting hit first on the shoulder and then flush on the helmet.

Patel's innings was part grit and part good fortune. There was one lovely drive through the covers off Thushara, but it was followed by an awkward shot that flew past the slips as he sought to duck under a bouncer. McIntosh survived a huge shout from Mendis, with the umpire perhaps thinking there was an inside edge, and it looked like it was going to be New Zealand's morning as a rare full toss was pummelled away to take McIntosh to his half-century. But then Murali struck, trapping Patel in front after a 57-ball 26, and it was left to Taylor and McIntosh to rebuild. But so slow and painstaking was the progress, with Murali putting together 29 uninterrupted overs for just 54 runs, that it was only a matter of time before Sri Lankan pressure told.

Punters stake $70 million on Oval Test

Punters stake $70 million on Oval Test
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The Ashes decider at The Oval may well be the most eagerly anticipated contest in recent memory, for fans, media and the players themselves. But the fifth Test will have a lot more riding on it than just the destination of the famous urn or bragging rights for the next couple of years. Informed estimates suggest that punters around the world may have staked well over US$70 million on the result of the Test - and thus the series - beginning today.

The sheer volume of money at stake would also explain why an Australian player was approached by a bookie after the Lord's Test, as revealed by Cricinfo.

Betfair, the leading P2P (person to person) betting exchange based in the UK, had already matched bets worth US$4.8 million by Wednesday afternoon. Given that Betfair generally accounts for nearly half of the total volume logged in the UK, the total betting on the winner of the Ashes series will far exceed the figure of US$10 million by the time the first ball is bowled at the Oval. And though cricket may not yet have taken off on the continent, betting on it is surprisingly energetic, with approximately US$3 million placed on the result.

However, these figures are dwarfed by those coming out of the illegal betting market in India, as befits the financial centre of the game. It is estimated that each of the preceding four Ashes Tests has seen between US$30 million and US$41 million (Rs 150-200 crore) wagered on the result. For the series win (called 'cup betting' in India), those figures increase to between US$50-61 million (Rs 250-300 crore). Indian bookies, like their English counterparts, have sensed the series shift in momentum towards Australia; on Wednesday afternoon, the odds on Australia winning at The Oval on the Indian market were 2.40, England winning it 4 to 1 and a draw at 1.25. Betfair (on Thursday, hours before the start), offered odds of an Australian win at 2.42, England 5.2 and a draw 2.5.

These amounts are restricted only to match and series winner, however, and once the Test begins much more will be wagered. For most in India, the popular bets are on the result, and about 95% of the estimated 1.5 million regular punters place their money on this. However, some bookies and very big punters bet huge amounts between themselves on what is called "fancy sauda". This can be on anything, from estimating innings scores, top scorers or wicket-takers and staking from Rs 100-10,000 per run against the difference in team totals. It can take in small details, such as who will bowl the next over from which end and how many runs will be scored in an over, or off the next delivery. Putting a realistic figure on these transactions is difficult and though there are very few punters involved in this, the stakes can often be very high.

Bookmakers, such as Ladbrokes and William Hill, used to stop taking bets after the toss in any match. But once they discovered how bookies from the subcontinent actually made more money after matches had begun, on fancy sauda, they too embraced the system. Thus 'In Play' betting - placing bets when the Test begins, where odds are re-worked with every ball bowled, every run scored - now accounts for the largest chunk of betting on any contest.

Though the figures for the last Test seem impressive, the decider is actually thought to be a low-volume contest in India. There are two reasons for this. One, this is a decider, so the winner (if it does not end in a draw) of this Test and the series is going to be the same, and since there are bets already riding on the series winner category, it does not make much sense for them to increase the ante. Two, New Zealand's series with Sri Lanka has diverted the hearts and wallets of punters not only in the subcontinent, but also to an extent in Europe, where bets over US$5 million had already been placed by the second day of the Test. In India, sources estimate that nearly US$80 million (Rs400 crore) are already placed on the first Test, and nearly US$60 million (Rs300 crore) on the series winner.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Victory would be greatest moment - Flintoff

Flintoff explains retirement decision

Andrew Flintoff has given a painful insight into the factors that contributed to his retirement from Test cricket. The England allrounder is almost certain to be ruled fit for his farewell Test at The Oval from Thursday, in what will be the final act of an 11-year career as notable for injury-enforced absences as flashes of brilliance.

"I look at it and think I've been fortunate to play as many Test matches as I have," he said. "It's been tough. I've had all these injuries, surgery, periods of rehab which total up into the years now. That's been frustrating but if someone said at (the age of) 20 that I'd have played this many Test matches for England I'd have snapped their arm off because I played young and didn't think I'd get back in after the start I had. I'm pleased with the way it's gone.

"It's been everything that I dreamed it could have been. When you talk about injuries and going through rehab at times it has been tough but the thought of putting on an England shirt and cap again is the one thing that gets you through. And having the opportunity to wear the three lions around the world and at venues like Lord's, walking out there on a pitch like that, or here walking out on Thursday, I don't think you can actually put into words how much I enjoy it. And I'm privileged to have been able to do it.

"When I go home I'm actually quite quiet but out on the cricket field, it's somewhere I can express myself and almost be somebody else for the day."
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Andrew Flintoff believes an England victory in his farewell Test would be a greater accomplishment than the team's venerated 2-1 Ashes triumph four years ago. Describing this week's Ashes decider at The Oval as "the biggest [Test] I'll ever play in", Flintoff said a final act of resurgence after a trying 12 months would be a more satisfying result than England's authoritative series win in 2005.

"It's different, obviously going in 1-1, but if we win this one it will be a far greater achievement than 2005," Flintoff said. "That was fantastic but the side had performed well over a period of time and we'd beaten everyone in the world and we came here against Australia expecting to win.

"I'm not saying we're not expecting to do it this time but the side's gone through a lot over the past 12 months. The side's changed hell of a lot. We've got young players who have never played in the Ashes. And from my point of view, with the injuries that I've had to be here, if we won it would be a far greater achievement for some of the things that have happened over the past six to 12 months."

Flintoff, training with a brace on his damaged right knee on Tuesday, began cautiously in his first bowling session since the eve of the Headingley Test, but gradually built up pace during a 20-minute spell. He expected the knee to swell after training, but insisted it could be managed with regular icing and treatment. "I'm confident I'll be alright," he said.

Flintoff admitted to disappointment over his Headingley omission - he had insisted his knee could have withdtood the rigours of the fourth Ashes Test - but declined to take aim at Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower over their decision.

"It was a tough decision all round," he said. "I'd have played at the position I was at the time but Andrew [Strauss] and Andrew [Flower] decided that wasn't an acceptable level, so that's the sort of thing you've got to get on with. Ever since then I've been trying to get right for this one here which is going to be an unbelievably good game.

"Sometimes in professional sport there are some hard decisions you have to make and as a player sometimes they're hard to take but you move on from that. I'm just pleased to be here now with an opportunity to play on Thursday."

Flintoff has placed sentimentality and thoughts of another knee operation to one side as he attempts to propel England to Ashes glory, but conceded the enormity of his decision to retire from Test cricket would likely not hit him until England's next international assignment.

"At some point in the winter when the boys are playing in South Africa I'm sure I'll want to be there and I'll be missing it," he said. "But the retirement was a decision I came to a while ago. That knee stuff, it was the final draw. I got it out there to stop the speculation over my future. Since announcing it, it's been a bit of a weight off my shoulders and I can go out there and enjoy the last game. As for sentiment and all that, I'll let you know how I can get on with that.

"I've not been thinking about the past full stop to be honest with you. I'm proud that I've played for England over a period of time, proud of some of my performances and proud I've been on a winning side for quite a long period of time. That's about as far as I've gone to be honest with you. My thoughts over the past week have been getting fit for this Test match which is the biggest I'll ever play in, not because it's my last but the position of the series - 1-1 against Australia. It's a great opportunity for anyone going out there to take the series by the scruff of the neck and put in a match-winning performance."
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Jayawardene and Dilshan put Sri Lanka in control

Sri Lanka 293 for 3 ( Jayawardene 108*, Dilshan 92, Samaraweera 82*) v New Zealand
A wonderfully composed 26th Test century from Mahela Jayawardene and a thrill-a-minute 92 from Tillakaratne Dilshan allowed Sri Lanka to dominate the opening day's play after two early wickets from Chris Martin had given New Zealand the perfect start in overcast conditions in Galle. Thilan Samaraweera weighed in with an unbeaten 82, adding 159 with Jayawardene, and by the time the players went off for bad light, New Zealand were down for the count.

The start had been delayed by 90 minutes and the New Zealanders had reason to feel smug 40 minutes after winning the toss, but a rapid 118-run stand quickly wiped the smiles off their faces. Dilshan drove and cut like a dream, and at a pace that made you wonder whether he was practising for the Delhi Daredevils' Champions League campaign later this year. The fastest century ever by a Sri Lankan was easily within reach when he cut a delivery from Iain O'Brien back on to the stumps. By then, he had 92 from 72 balls, and the hapless O'Brien had gone at more than nine an over.

Jayawardene's approach was much less helter-skelter and far more measured. There were the characteristically lovely drives through the covers and the beautiful late twirls of the wrist that sent the ball to third man, but there were also periods of dogged defence against the accurate left-arm spin of Daniel Vettori. There was a period after tea when he appeared bereft of inspiration, but once he stepped out to off-drive Vettori for four, the fluency came surging back.

Martin was clipped through midwicket for four and when O'Brien dropped one short, an emphatic pull for four took him to his 18th hundred on home soil, at the very venue where he had scored his first 11 years ago. Samaraweera had been the perfect foil, taking time to play himself in and then playing some magnificent shots himself. New Zealand had quietened things with a couple of maidens after tea, but Samaraweera released the pressure with three boundaries off Jeetan Patel - a cover-drive, a cut and a glorious back-foot punch.

New Zealand could scarcely have imagined such a leather-hunt after the start they got. Martin's two wickets had taken him to 162, past Danny Morrison and on to No. 4 in New Zealand's all-time list. It took him just three balls to make an impact. Malinda Warnapura had been dropped and Dilshan asked to open, but the other opener, Tharanga Paranavitana, was soon on his way, edging one behind. And after Kumar Sangakkara had clipped two lovely leg-side boundaries, there was an air of disbelief around the ground as he struck one straight to Daniel Flynn at midwicket.

Dilshan had watched all this from the other end, but it didn't inhibit him in any way. He had started with a fluid drive for four off O'Brien, and the part-time blogger was soon being subjected to harsh treatment. There were three ferocious off-side fours in one over, and when O'Brien dropped short, he was pulled for six. An elegant cover-drive later, Dilshan had his half-century from just 30 balls.

Jayawardene got off the mark with a languid drive for four off Martin, and he kept picking the off-side gaps at regular intervals. Jacob Oram and Vettori slowed down the run-rate, but with both batsmen driving Patel beautifully through the covers, Sri Lanka were into three figures long before the luncheon bell rang. There was no respite after that either, with Dilshan slamming O'Brien over cover and then pulling contemptuously for four more. A fierce cut took him into the 90s, but with history beckoning, he lost the plot.

There was a lull thereafter, but once Jayawardene eased to his 50 from 104 balls, the scoring rate picked up again. Oram was guided fine twice and Martin then driven superbly through cover. When Samaraweera cut Patel for four to bring up the 200, Vettori was looking around for wicket-taking options. There didn't seem any. Martin bowled a decent spell with the old ball just before stumps, but the rest, Vettori apart, leaked runs, and two majestic pulls from Samaraweera off the horribly expensive O'Brien were the perfect bookend to a hugely satisfactory day for the Lankans.

Australia report bookie approach to ICC

The Australian team management has filed a report with the ICC's Anti-Corruption and Security Unit after a player was approached by a man suspected of links to illegal bookmaking. Cricinfo has learned the approach was made in the bar of the team's London hotel, the Royal Kensington Garden, following Australia's Ashes defeat at Lord's in July.

The player alerted senior officials immediately and, following ICC protocol, team manager Steve Bernard filed a report with the ACSU. The matter is currently under investigation. The player is not suspected of wrongdoing, and has been praised by a senior ICC official for his prompt reporting of the approach in line with the ACSU's player education programme.

Sources within the ICC and the Australian team, when contacted by Cricinfo, described the approach as "concerning" and part of a worrying resurgence in the presence of illegal bookmakers around major events. Sir Paul Condon, the chairman of the ACSU, told ICC meetings in Dubai and London over the past year that Twenty20 cricket posed the greatest corruption threat to the game since the dark days of Sharjah in the 1990s; a notion supported by recent media and anecdotal reports.

Cricinfo understands the ACSU is investigating additional approaches made to players by illegal bookmakers, or conduits acting on their behalf, during the ICC World Twenty20 tournament in England earlier this summer. One source said the ACSU was "well advanced" in several lines of inquiry, at least one of which also involved approaches made to players at a team hotel.

Senior officials are concerned that illegal bookmakers, emboldened by the new betting possibilities opened up by the Twenty20 game, are becoming increasingly prevalent around match venues and team hotels. After the inception of the ACSU in 2000 - in direct response to the match-fixing scandals involving international captains Hansie Cronje, Mohammed Azharuddin and Salim Malik - barriers were established to block bookmakers and their intermediaries from direct contact with players. But the approach to an Australian player during an Ashes series, coupled with those allegedly made to other international cricketers at the World Twenty20, have raised concerns that a new wave of corrupting influences is attempting to infiltrate the game.

"This shows that our education programme is working," an ICC spokesman told the Telegraph. "The player who was approached reported it straight away. We have the policies in place to try to ensure that we never go back to the times we were at a decade or so ago." The spokesman was also quoted by Times as saying that the ACSU "was content that all the World Twenty20 matches were clean".

A report in the Sunday Telegraph earlier this week, quoting an anonymous ICC source, warned that cricket was under renewed threat from illegal bookmakers. "Those in charge in the ICC understand that Twenty20 cricket has the danger of going back to the bad old days," the source said.

The report suggested that the apparent resurgence in contact from illegal bookmakers was in part attributable to the second IPL, a tournament at which the ACSU was not in operation, due to its $1.2 million operational bill. Lalit Modi, the IPL's commissioner, told Cricinfo last month the ACSU would be involved in future IPL tournaments, and an agreement in principle has been reached for the unit to police the Champions League Twenty20, scheduled to be played in India this October. "They have expanded their services and going ahead, all the tournaments, including Champions League and the IPL would have the presence of ICC's anti-corruption unit," Modi said, in a move welcomed by the ICC's chief executive Haroon Lorgat.

Lorgat last week announced there was "absolutely no substance" to reports that Pakistan players had been approached by illegal bookmakers at their team hotel in Colombo during the recent series against Sri Lanka. The matter was investigated by the ACSU.

"The ICC and its members have a zero-tolerance approach to corruption and rightly so because the integrity of our sport with its spirit is one of its greatest assets," Lorgat said. "On that basis it is entirely appropriate that any suggestions in relation to that subject are always reported to and properly investigated by the ACSU. I am pleased those investigations have indicated nothing untoward has taken place on this occasion but it is a reminder that all of us - players, officials and supporters - must maintain our vigilance to ensure we remain on top of the issue of corruption."

Cricket's recent trysts with bookmakers

February 2007: Nagpur Police accuses Marlon Samuels of giving out team information to an alleged bookie, Mukesh Kochar. Police releases a transcript of the conversation between Samuels and Kochar, and the ICC bans Samuels for two years.

October 2008: Two ICL players are suspended from the league amid widespread speculation over match-fixing, though the ICL says they are suspended on "disciplinary grounds".

July 2009: Pakistan players complain of the presence of "suspicious characters" in their team hotel in Colombo during a Test series. The team management gets their rooms changed, and the ICC's ACSU clears Pakistan of any contact with bookies.

August 2009: An audio tape of a phone conversation between Mohammad Illyas, a Pakistan senior selector, and Salim Altaf, the PCB's chief operating officer, alludes to match-fixing in the ICL. Illyas, father-in-law of Imran Farhat who played in the ICL, accuses senior Lahore Badshahs players of having fixed matches.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Mission tourism: I-Day cricket in Swiss Alps

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Indians appear to be moving up in the world, both literally and metaphorically, judging by an India versus England cricket match held yesterday on Independence Day on Jungfrau, 3,454m high up in the Swiss mountains.

Kapil Dev, who led India to another historic win, called the match a “historical event” and an “outstanding experience”.

The idea is to promote Indian tourism in Switzerland, especially “hot love in a cold climate”.

“A lot of young couples on honeymoon come here already,” Daniela Fuchs, a spokesperson for the promoters, told The Telegraph today.

The Swiss would like to see many more and there are a number of ways in which Indian couples can get cosy.

Some special offers will be heavily advertised in India to mark the centenary of Jungfrau Railways — this sweeps holidaymakers into the scary but spectacular mountain peaks — with “two-for-one” discounts.

A typical offer states: “Two people can stay overnight in a hotel and receive a ski pass for the price normally paid by one person. The offer is valid for two nights, from 5 to 24 December 2009 and 15 March to 18 April 2010. With this promotion, Jungfrau Railways intends to strengthen its presence in the Indian market.”

Those hankering for desi food can always pop into the Bollywood Restaurant which has mysteriously materialised, complete with an Indian chef, on top of the Jungfrau. But those couples who would rather not be recognised may find it prudent to give it a miss for there is never any shortage of Indians — even on top of a Swiss mountain.

For example, for yesterday’s game, Indian tourists and autograph hunters were out in force and went “crazy” when the ball cleared the boundary snow.

The 45-minute, six-a-side “fun cricket match” was held on a 100m x 70m wide field of ice using a “special ball”, heavier than a tennis ball but not the usual 5.5oz ball that might have sunk into soft snow.

While Mansur Ali Khan, the erstwhile Nawab of Pataudi, and Farokh Engineer, officiated as umpires, the Indian team consisted of stars of yesteryear — Kapil (who did need his dark glasses so he could see the ball as the sun bounced off the slabs of ice), Ajay Jadeja, Sandip Patil, Roger Binny, Anshuman Gaekwad and Syed Kirmani.

The “England” team, made up of players who now live mostly in Britain, included Alvin Kallicharan, Geoff Howarth, Chris Broad, Neal Radford, John Emburey and Collis King.

“Since Indians love cricket, we thought we would hold a cricket match,” said Daniela. “We flew in the Indian cricketers from Delhi and Mumbai. They played hard and, luckily, the Indian team won by 4 runs.”

It was left to Pataudi’s actress wife and India’s censor board chairman Sharmila Tagore, to provide the glamour.

“She told me that she has come to Switzerland in the past for several of her films,” said Daniela.

Indeed, once upon a time Switzerland used to be almost the only place abroad where Hindi film song-and-dance routines were shot before the UK, Malaysia, Thailand, Australia, Singapore and America got in on the act.

The match was sponsored by Swiss International Air Lines, with help from Beyond Boundaries, Switzerland Tourism, Interlaken Tourism and Longines.

The Jungfrau Region, home of the awe-inspiring Eiger, Mönch & Jungfrau peaks in the Alps, is popular with holidaymakers who have traditionally based themselves in Interlaken, Grindelwald, Wengen and Mürren.

The sixth James Bond movie, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), starring George Lazenby as British agent 007, was filmed in Schiltorn in the Jungfrau region of central Switzerland.
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Trott confirmed for Oval debut

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Warwickshire's Jonathan Trott will make his Test debut in the Ashes decider at The Oval on Thursday, after being confirmed as Ravi Bopara's replacement in a 14-man squad for the crucial fifth Test. Trott is expected to slot into the middle order, with his county team-mate, Ian Bell, promoted to No. 3. Monty Panesar also returns to the reckoning as a potential partner for Graeme Swann if England choose to go in with two spinners.

"It's been a good few days for me, and I've picked a good one [to make my debut]," Trott told Sky Sports. "I went into the changing room last week [at Headingley] and I felt really welcome and comfortable, so I've just got to make sure my own mind and game is in order, and make sure I take my opportunity."

England's four-man selection panel - Geoff Miller, James Whitaker, Ashley Giles and Andy Flower, plus the captain, Andrew Strauss - met for five hours on Friday at Trent Bridge, where both Bell and Trott scored second-innings hundreds to secure a draw for Warwickshire against Nottinghamshire. Those performances were enough to convince them that wholesale changes were not required, despite the humiliation of England's innings-and-80-run defeat in the fourth Test at Headingley, meaning that the prospects of recalls for Mark Ramprakash and Robert Key receded.

"The final Test match is an absolutely vital game for the team with so much at stake and we have had to make some difficult selection decisions in choosing our squad for The Oval," said the national selector, Geoff Miller. "Jonathan Trott will make his Test debut. Having been part of the squad at Headingley, he was the next batsman in line in our view and this rewards him for the excellent form he has shown in county cricket both this summer and with England Lions over the winter.

"Ian Bell will bat at No. 3 next week which is a position he has occupied for England before and we were delighted to see both him and Jonathan make centuries for Warwickshire this week."

The selectors have shown an admirable determination not to be hustled into "panic" measures after a week of intense media speculation. Strauss and Flower were understood to be particularly keen not to jettison their entire Ashes strategy after one poor game. Nevertheless, the decision to pitch a Test debutant into England's most eagerly anticipated fixture for four years, alongside Bell, who bagged a pair in the corresponding match in 2005 and whose temperament in pressure situations has often been shown to be suspect, will undoubtedly leave them open to further scrutiny.

Bell's average at No. 3 is a lowly 31.00, set against an overall figure of 39.84, suggesting he is a player who prefers to react to events on the pitch rather than set the agenda. Trott, meanwhile, was withdrawn from the England Lions team to face the Australians in a two-day match at Canterbury on Saturday, a sign that the selectors didn't want to give the tourists an early look at him. Either way, both men undoubtedly benefited from the presence on the selection panel of Giles, who serves a dual role as Warwickshire's director of cricket.

Trott's century on Thursday was his fourth of a season in which he currently averages more than 80 in the County Championship, and at the age of 28 and after a decade in first-class cricket, he is clearly as ready as he could ever be to play in such a high-profile fixture. However, as his Australian counterpart, Mike Hussey, warned at Canterbury on Saturday: "It is a huge step-up from first-class to Test."

"I look forward to finding out," said Trott. "It should be a little bit [of a step-up], because that's why Test cricket is the ultimate. But I mustn't worry about that, I'll just worry about my game. When I go out to bat I'm a lot calmer than I am before I bat, so I'm sure I'll be fine. I felt pretty good against Nottinghamshire. It was a tough situation as we were following on, but it was very pleasing [to make a hundred] and I'll take a lot of confidence from that game, so will Bell."

The Headingley fall guy is Bopara, who has managed 105 runs in seven innings this series, having recorded three Test centuries in succession against West Indies earlier in the year. The selectors took soundings from within the Essex dressing-room to assess Bopara's frame of mind, and a morale-boosting 52 not out for Essex at Lord's on Friday wasn't enough to earn a reprieve.

"Ravi Bopara has been going through a tough time with the bat in this series and we have decided to leave him out of the squad for this game," said Miller. "He will be extremely disappointed but remains very much part of our plans for the future and I am sure that he has the talent and temperament to regain his place in the side."

"Every batsman has been through a run of low scores and he hasn't managed to really get in and show what he is made of in this series," said Flower, Bopara's former Essex team-mate, after the Headingley defeat. "It's a tough situation for him but he is a pretty calm bloke, so he's keeping it in perspective." There is no question that he will be an integral part of the Test and ODI parties to South Africa this winter, which were also discussed at Trent Bridge.

England's other change for The Oval will be the welcome return of Andrew Flintoff, whose damaged right knee was given a positive verdict by his specialist, Andy Williams, last week, and who can be guaranteed to bowl until he drops in what will be his final Test before retirement. He is likely to come in for Graham Onions, who has performed impressively since joining the side in the second Test, but who lacks the outright swinging skills of James Anderson, or the presence that Flintoff and an in-form Steve Harmison bring to the line-up.

Anderson emerged from the Headingley Test with a slight hamstring strain, sustained while sprinting for a quick single, but Miller reported a clean bill of health for both England's injury concerns. "Andrew Flintoff and James Anderson's injuries are much improved with rest and treatment," he said, "and we anticipate that both players will be fit and available for selection next Thursday."

England squad: 1 Andrew Strauss (capt), 2 Alastair Cook, 3 Ian Bell, 4 Paul Collingwood, 5 Jonathan Trott, 6 Matt Prior (wk), 7 Andrew Flintoff, 8 Stuart Broad, 9 Graeme Swann, 10 James Anderson, 11 Steve Harmison, 12 Monty Panesar, 13 Graham Onions, 14 Ryan Sidebottom.
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Tamim gatecrashes Coventry's party

Bangladesh 313 for 6 (Tamim 154, Price 3-60) beat Zimbabwe 312 for 8 (Coventry 194*) by four wickets
Charles Coventry made the joint highest individual score in an ODI but his effort was outweighed by a sparkling, cool-headed century from Tamim Iqbal, who broke the record for the most runs in an innings by a Bangladesh batsman. Coventry's blockbuster innings pushed Zimbabwe beyond 300, far more than Bangladesh have chased before, but the visitors were rarely troubled as they hunted down the target to take their third consecutive series.

Two things which stood out in Tamim's innings were the calmness he displayed, even when the required-rate started to soar, and the clean straight hitting - each of his six sixes were in the arc between long-on and long-off.

Bangladesh needed a solid opening stand after Coventry inspired Zimbabwe to 312, and Junaid Siddique and Tamim provided them that. Both openers were particularly harsh on Elton Chigumbura, who pitched the ball too short right through his opening spell. Junaid was the aggressor, hammering his way to a 27-ball 38 before, as has so often been the case, he threw away the start with a loose shot.

Junaid's dismissal, and the introduction of Zimbabwe's spinners, sucked the momentum out of the chase. Mohammad Ashraful took his time to settle, and Tamim cut out the big hits for a while, which made the asking-rate make a steady slide upwards.

Tamim was generally content to knock the ball around, but had short bursts when he hit out to keep Bangladesh in touch. One such was in the 22nd over; Malcolm Waller was blasted over long-on and long-off off consecutive deliveries, followed by a powerful cut for four. He also come down the track and cracked Price over long-on to push Bangladesh's run-rate up to six. There was a similar volley of brutal hitting in the 36th over, Hamilton Mazakadza being taken for a couple of big sixes.

Raqibul Hasan was also a calming influence, nudging the ball around for comfortable singles to keep the strike rotating. He added 119 with Tamim at nearly a run-a-ball before falling in the 37th over. Soon after, Chigumbura dropped a dolly at long-on, Tamim getting a reprieve on 118. Two new batsman and Zimbabwe could have applied more pressure. However, Bangladesh's best batsman, Shakib Al Hasan, made a 12-ball 19 and Tamim also opened out to slam the door shut on Zimbabwe. By the time Tamim was dismissed the target was only 34 away, which Bangladesh knocked off with 13 deliveries to spare.

It was the flattest of tracks, and Zimbabwe could have piled on even more than 312 had Coventry got a little more support. It was a superbly paced innings from him; Coventry provided the impetus after the early dismissal of Mark Vermeulen, then tempered his aggression when wickets tumbled around him in the middle overs, before finishing off with an awesome display of power hitting. What made it even more astonishing was that the next highest score in the innings was 37, 157 less than Coventry. It was also his first ODI century, and he had never before crossed 106 in any form of senior cricket.

He stomped on the gas soon after reaching his hundred in the 38th over, particularly targeting the swathe from long-on to midwicket, where he slammed six of his seven sixes. Still, at the end of the 42nd over he was on 129, and the world record didn't seem in his sights. By the end of the 47th he was on 180, and all the interest was around whether he would make an ODI double-century, a feat not achieved in 2872 previous one-dayers.

He only managed three singles in the 48th, but a massive six over long-on took him 191 with the final over still to come. A drive to cover on the first ball took him off strike, and he wasn't back facing the bowling till the final delivery; Tawanda Mupariwa was dismissed off the second and Prosper Utseya faced the next three. Two were needed to equal Saeed Anwar's 12-year-old mark, and a tired punch straight past the bowler gave Coventry a share of the record. His final 91 had come off 43 deliveries.

Bangladesh would have been facing a far smaller target had Syed Rasel held on to a simple catch at deep square leg when Coventry was only 13. Coventry was then dropped on 137 in the 44th over, with Mahmudullah the culprit at square leg. Coventry celebrated by plundering 16 each off the next two overs, the crowds behind midwicket kept busy by the balls hammered by Coventry.

In the end, his effort didn't prove to be enough, as Tamim, a placid pitch and shoddy Zimbabwean bowling and fielding combined to ruin Coventry's day. A month ago, the most Bangladesh had chased successfully was 250, a mark they have improved on twice since, a sign of the progress they have made.

Dravid returns to one-day squad

Rahul Dravid has, as expected, made a return to India's ODI plans with his inclusion in the squad for the tri-series in Sri Lanka and the Champions Trophy next month. Dravid replaces Rohit Sharma, who managed 15 runs in three ODI innings in the West Indies and 43 runs in three innings against major opposition in the World Twenty20. The selectors didn't risk taking Virender Sehwag, who is yet to fully recover from his shoulder injury, to the Champions Trophy. He was not expected to make it to the Sri Lanka tri-series anyway.

Dravid last played an ODI for India in October 2007, but his form in the second IPL season in South Africa - where the Champions Trophy will be held - and the vulnerability of India's younger middle-order batsmen in the recent World Twenty20 prompted the selectors to fall back on his experience and technique.

Sachin Tendulkar, who had opted out of the West Indies ODIs, makes a comeback. Suresh Raina, who was out because of a hairline fracture of the thumb, also returns. Amit Mishra breaks into the ODI squad, replacing Pragyan Ojha as the back-up spinner to Harbhajan Singh, on the back of his impressive showings in the IPL and the Emerging Players Tournament in Australia.

Terming Dravid as "one of the best players India has produced", Harbhajan Singh welcomed his and Tendulkar's return. "We have some senior players like Tendulkar and Dravid back in the side, so we have the required experience," he said. "It is important to do well as after the tri-series, we have important tournament like Champions Trophy coming up. Responsibility will be there on all the players."

Dinesh Karthik, who came in for the West Indies ODIs as replacement for Sehwag, and Abhishek Nayar, who edged out Ravindra Jadeja, have retained their places.

Kris Srikkanth, the chairman of selectors, said it was the "best possible Indian team". "It's a very balanced team and we are confident they would go on to win the Champions Trophy in South Africa," Srikkanth said.

India one-day squad: Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni (capt/wk), Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Ashish Nehra, RP Singh, Amit Mishra, Dinesh Karthik, and Abhishek Nayar

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