Friday, September 11, 2009

New Zealand under pressure to stay afloat

India's middle order has been shaky against fast, short-pitched bowling and if a wicket goes down early, expect Rahul Dravid to walk out first © Associated Press
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News : Dhoni backs flexible line-up to fill Gambhir void
Players/Officials: MS Dhoni Ashish Nehra Jesse Ryder
Series/Tournaments: Compaq Cup
Teams: India New Zealand
Big PictureDespite finding out the morning before their first match that Gautam Gambhir had aggravated a groin injury and would take no part in the series, India's captain MS Dhoni was confident of the side's chances. He has reason to be.
This is India's third one-day series in Sri Lanka over the last 13 months. Where for decades India's record here had been nothing to crow over - they arrived for a tri-series in 2005 having won just nine of 33 matches - a strong one-day outfit has turned that record around dramatically.They have won seven of ten matches since then and in their last two series proved the past now counts for little, beating Sri Lanka 3-2 last August and 4-1 in February. In terms of rankings, there's plenty at stake for India in this series - if they go unbeaten into the final and win there, they will climb to No. 1 in the ICC's ODI rankings for the first time.
India strutted their stuff at the two practice sessions they had since arriving two days after the tournament began, and look confident. There were no traces of rust in how their batsmen and bowlers applied themselves. On the whole, the manner of their preparation has been calm and self-assured even though Virender Sehwag, a critical cog in the batting line-up, is missing. Plenty of responsibility will be on Rahul Dravid, recalled to the one-day team after two years. India's middle order has been shaky against fast, short-pitched bowling and if a wicket goes down early, expect Dravid to walk out first.
To beat a confident Indian outfit, New Zealand will have to shape up in disciplines that let them down in the first game. Their batting was rocked by a superb display from three bowlers of varying speeds and trajectories - Ian Bishop called it one of the best one-day efforts under lights he had seen - but the application was perhaps to blame. The top order seemed intent on attacking from the start. In the field, New Zealand failed to finish the job when Sri Lanka were 69 for 5 in 25.3 overs, and also gave them leeway with singles and doubles in the field. That was surprising given how efficient they were in the Twenty20s. A defeat tomorrow will see them crash out of the short tournament.
Form guide(last five matches, most recent first)India NRWLWLNew Zealand LWLLNR
Watch out for...Ashish Nehra's return to Sri Lanka. In 17 matches here, he has taken 25 wickets at 26.36 with a best of 6 for 59 in his last outing here. That match happened to be at the R Premadasa Stadium. A recall to the side after a stellar IPL in South Africa was followed up by a good showing in the West Indies. If he gets the chance to bowl under lights at the Premadasa this time, with the assistance it provides to swing, Nehra could add to his impressive tally in the country.
Jesse Ryder should take a look at this Indian team and say to himself, 'Right, let's get some runs here'. Ryder was in top form when India toured New Zealand earlier this year, and set the tone for a personally excellent series in the one-day leg. He scored a sublime hundred in Christchurch and then took three wickets and scored a half-century in the last game, smashing India's attack all around Eden Park. Conditions are obviously a lot different and hitting sixes at the Premadasa will be a difficult proposition, but Ryder may just decide to raise his game against this outfit.
Team news
Dinesh Karthik has been confirmed as the man to open the innings in Gambhir's absence, at least for this game. Dravid will bat at either of Nos 3 or 4. Dhoni said it was rare that India went in to a match with five specialist bowlers, and indicated that it would be a 3-1 combination, which means Harbhajan Singh will be the only spinner. Ishant Sharma, Nehra, Praveen Kumar and RP Singh will contest the fast-bowlers' slots, but it is likely RP will be the one to miss out. Abhishek Nayar will have to wait to get his chance.
India: (probable) 1 Dinesh Karthik, 2 Sachin Tendulkar, 3 Rahul Dravid, 4 Suresh Raina, 5 Yuvraj Singh, 6 MS Dhoni (capt/wk), 7 Yusuf Pathan, 8 Harbhajan Singh, 9 Praveen Kumar, 10 Ishant Sharma, 11 Ashish Nehra.
It's not been confirmed whether Kyle Mills, who was under the weather before the last game, will fit in this time. Daryl Tuffey stepped up admirably in Mills' absence, and Ian Butler's poor bowling in the batting Powerplay during the last match may see him sit out for Mills. The batting will remain the same.
New Zealand: (probable) 1 Brendon McCullum (wk), 2 Jesse Ryder, 3 Martin Guptill, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Jacob Oram, 6 Grant Elliot, 7 Daniel Vettori (capt), 8 Nathan McCullum, 9 Ian Butler/Kyle Mills, 10 Daryl Tuffey, 11 Shane Bond.
Pitch and conditionsIn the last match the pitch was two-faced and not an ideal one for one-dayers. It remains to be seen what is rolled out for Friday's encounter. As usual, scattered showers are forecast but fans will hope the rain stays away, as it did on Tuesday.
Stats and Trivia
Sachin Tendulkar averages 44.25 at the Premadasa, with 885 runs and three centuries from 24 matches.
Dravid averages 31.25 here, with 500 runs from 21 matches.
Quotes"It is good to have him in the team. With that sort of experience, he is always going to help the team. It is wonderful to have him back in the squad."India's coach Gary Kirsten is excited about Dravid's return
"New Zealand really missed him when he was in the ICL. He's their spearhead and the fast bowling goes to a new level with Bond."Dhoni knows New Zealand's confidence will be up with the return of Shane Bond

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sparkling White ton flattens England

Australia 230 for 4 (White 105, Clarke 52) beat England 228 for 9 (Strauss 63, Watson 3-36) by six wickets
Cameron White scored his maiden international hundred, and Michael Clarke signed off as captain with a sheet-anchor 52 from 92 balls, as England's under-performing batsmen were taught an object lesson in how to pace a run-chase in the third ODI at the Rose Bowl. Chasing 229 under the floodlights after losing the toss for the third time in the series, White and Clarke added 143 for the third wicket to steer Australia to a comfortable six-wicket victory with nine balls remaining, and secure a virtually unassailable 3-0 lead with four matches of the NatWest Series still to come.

Though England's bowlers put up something of a fight with the ball, the match was lost during another inadequate performance from the batsmen, in which Andrew Strauss, once again, was the only redeeming feature. Australia lost both openers early in their chase, and at 56 for 2 after 15 overs, it looked as though they might be forced to struggle for the ascendancy. But whereas England's batsmen produced five partnerships worth between 34 and 41 runs - a stat that perfectly encapsulated the wastefulness of their performance - the Aussies needed just one hefty alliance to make the game safe.
For differing reasons, White and Clarke had plenty to prove in tonight's contest - the return of Ricky Ponting for Saturday's fourth ODI will require White to relinquish his No. 3 spot, and Clarke to hand back the captaincy. But both men ensured that the skipper will return to a steady ship after silencing a full house at The Rose Bowl with a performance that was light on fireworks but brimful of determination. Clarke contributed a solitary boundary to a stay that spanned 30 overs, which also happened to be his last shot before being bowled by Graeme Swann one ball later, and while questions remain about his lack of impetus in the middle-order, tonight is not the night for quibbling.
Instead, it is a night for White to celebrate his arrival on the international stage. Having never batted higher than No. 5 before this series, today's 116-ball hundred followed on from his maiden half-century in the first match at The Oval, and whereas England's skittish batsmen have continually found new and innovative ways to squander their promising starts, he belied his reputation as a biffer to set himself a platform and, then, crucially, to build on it.
His only error with the bat came on 92, during Australia's Powerplay, when Tim Bresnan fluffed a skier at long-on - and while the bowler, James Anderson, was not best pleased at that let-off, Anderson himself had earlier been guilty of letting White off the hook with two run-out chances - the first an underarm shy from five yards that somehow missed the stumps with the batsman on 46, and later a failure to break the stumps with White on 70, and floundering for the crease having worked a single into the leg-side.
There was no panic at any stage of Australia's performance, however. They claimed the Powerplay at 154 for 2, with 66 balls of the chase remaining and 75 runs still needed, whereupon White drilled Sidebottom over mid-on for their first six of the series. His own contribution ended with nine runs still required, when he scudded a Luke Wright slower ball to mid-off, but Callum Ferguson and Michael Hussey ensured there were no late dramas.
And so England were left to rue another day in keeping with their performances all year, in which their fortunes were dictated entirely by their captain. Having won his third toss of the series under overcast skies, Strauss might well have been tempted to bowl first, were it not for the memory of the failed run-chases that England compiled in the first two matches at The Oval and Lord's. This time, he took it upon himself to set the agenda personally, and at first he did so to fine effect. Though he did not open his account until his 11th delivery of the innings, he then climbed into Brett Lee with three fours in a row - a pull, a cut and a drive, the three staples of his international diet - en route to a 60-ball half-century.
James Anderson holds his head in his hands as England drift towards another defeat © Getty Images
At the other end, Ravi Bopara showed signs of his returning confidence when he drilled the first ball of Nathan Bracken's third over over long-on for six, and at 40 for 0 after seven overs, England were looking in command of their destiny. But then, however, it all started to go wrong. Bopara attempted a repeat stroke, but picked out James Hopes at full stretch running back towards the pavilion, and in the very next over, Matt Prior sized up a violent pull shot to get himself off the mark, but he fizzed a simple chance straight to Hopes once more, this time off the bowling of Mitchell Johnson.
Owais Shah, under pressure again thanks to his haphazard running in the second ODI, was adjudged lbw, somewhat unluckily, as replays suggested that Johnson's delivery would have slipped past the off stump. And then, in a lapse in concentration that has been an unfortunate part of his otherwise excellent form in this series, Strauss worked Hauritz in the air with a flick of the wrists, and Clarke swooped low at midwicket to send him on his way. At 98 for 4, Australia were firmly in the ascendancy.
Collingwood, charged with raising the tempo as well as providing mature support to the tyro Eoin Morgan, then produced arguably the most culpable dismissal of the lot, as he attempted to biff Shane Watson's medium pace over the leg-side field, but succeeding only in scuffing his drive to Bracken at mid-on for 28 boundary-free runs. And when Luke Wright scorched to short extra cover, it was left to Morgan to cobble together a defendable target. He added 36 in seven overs with Bresnan, including a rare six as Hopes was punched over the top, but the decision to call for the Powerplay in the 42nd over once again scuppered all England's momentum.
On 43, Morgan was suckered by a slower-ball full toss from Lee, and patted a tame drive to Johnson at wide mid-off, before Swann played across the line to a wicket-to-wicket delivery from Shane Watson to be adjudged lbw for 3 from three balls (188 for 8). As England dribbled through their allocation, it wasn't until Bresnan cleared his front leg to smash consecutive fours off Watson with three balls of the Powerplay remaining that they managed so much as a boundary in their five sloggable overs.
Bresnan and Ryan Sidebottom ensured that the innings was not a total surrender by hauling England through their 50 overs in a ninth-wicket stand of 40, with both men posting their highest scores in ODI cricket before Sidebottom holed out to White off Watson's final ball of the innings. Nevertheless, their modest achievements were a further indictment of the failings higher up the order. Only an inspired performance with the ball would have enabled England to escape. And sure enough, White and Clarke ensured it did not materialise.

Bangladesh agree to day-night Test in England

The MCC would like to host the Test now with its brand new floodlights in place at Lord's © Getty Images
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News : Test cricket could die out warns MCC
News : Taufel gives backing to pink ball
News : Lord's could host first day-night Test in May 2010
In Focus: Cricket rules
Teams: Bangladesh England Marylebone Cricket Club
The Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) has agreed to

The Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) has agreed to the ECB's request to appear in the first-ever day-night Test during the team's tour of England in May-June next year. However, the ICC has not yet cleared the idea and its approval will be subject to suitable equipment being developed for the purpose.
The idea was first proposed by the MCC during its World Cricket Committee meeting at Lord's in July as a way of making the game's longest and oldest format more appealing. The other proposals included the use of pink balls and a World Test Championship.
The ICC has made it clear that though the concept of day-night Tests was discussed by its cricket committee, no decision has been taken yet. "The ICC cricket committee had last year agreed in principle that the notion of day-night Tests should be investigated," an ICC spokesperson said. "For now, we are happy for members to try this at the domestic level first and if it proves successful, the cricket committee would consider recommending this on a trial basis at the Test level."
Apparently, there are a number of key issues related to the concept that are still being discussed: the colour of players clothing, whether the suggested pink balls retains its colour or needs to be changed frequently due to discolouration or wear and tear, to what extent would batting, bowling and fielding conditions vary and so on.
An MCC spokesman confirmed to Cricinfo that the World Cricket Committee would meet with the ICC in November. The future of Test cricket is on the agenda, and within that floodlit Tests will be discussed. "We are very keen to help in any way we can," the spokesman said, "and have been continuing with our trials of coloured balls to see if it will work on television."
The MCC could have a dual role in this process: as well as being fully behind floodlit Tests. Lord's could be the ground to host the match. One of the Bangladesh Tests is currently allocated to Headingley; the other is part of the bidding process, with Lord's in the running to hosting it. "We we would like to host it and we have our brand new floodlights," said the spokesman.
The future of Test cricket has been the subject of debate within the ICC over the last year with the concept of a Test championship initially gaining ground. But the idea was opposed by the India and England cricket boards who did not find merit in sharing their substantial TV revenue that would have gone to a common pool.
India and England have subsequently backed the idea of day-night Test cricket as a way of taking the format forward amidst the rise of Twenty20 cricket. However, the ICC, which is finalising its Future Tours Programme post-2012, is yet to arrive at a decision on the matter. The ICC's executive board meets next in October, when the issue is likely to be discussed again.

New Zealand crumble to Sri Lankan pace

Sri Lanka 216 for 7 (Samaraweera 104, Mathews 51, Bond 3-43) beat New Zealand 119 (Elliott 41, Malinga 4-28) by 97 runs
A batting masterpiece and a fast-bowling barrage. It isn't often that a team can combine both of those forces in one night, but Sri Lanka had all of that, and more, going for them. Thilan Samaraweera compiled a superlative maiden one-day century and Lasith Malinga ripped New Zealand's middle order to shreds as the hosts launched the series with a thumping win, bonus point included.
When Sri Lanka were restricted to 216, it seemed a tight contest was on the cards; instead New Zealand folded for 119, sending the smattering of spectators home early. Sri Lanka's innings had been resurrected from 69 for 5 by Samaraweera and Angelo Mathews, but New Zealand never recovered after Sri Lanka's fast bowlers sliced through the order.
Within 29 balls, Jesse Ryder (0), Martin Guptill (3) and Ross Taylor (2) were left brooding in the dressing room. New Zealand's shot at victory had been squashed and any self-belief that lingered after the Tests now vanished.
And Sri Lanka weren't done. Malinga is hardly the man you want to see with the ball when your top order has been blown away, and what followed was stunning. With his first three overs, comprising deliveries on all sorts of lengths, Malinga kept the batsmen tied down. The fourth was something out of a shooting gallery. Brendon McCullum had run the risk of being arrested for loitering as he squeezed 14 from 51 balls before Malinga rattled his stumps. Two deliveries later Malinga held back his length and drew an edge off Jacob Oram's bat to Kumar Sangakkara. With his next ball, Malinga hurled down a corker that went right through debutant Nathan McCullum.
At 41 for 6 in the 19th over, this game was as good as done. The only batsmen to cross 14 were Grant Elliott, with a brave 41, and Ian Butler, whose efforts lessened the margin of defeat. Completing the rout with another yorker was Malinga, whose aggressive bowling had undoubtedly been fuelled by Samaraweera's inspirational batting.
Samaraweera, whose highest ODI score coming into this match was 38 not out, teamed up with Mathews and averted a meek surrender with a 127-run association from 134 balls. The pair combined exceptional running between the wickets with some fireworks to help Sri Lanka reach a total that looked remote when they began.
Conventional wisdom and statistics at the Premadasa suggest strongly you bat first in day-night matches, and when Sangakkara won the toss it was greeted with loud cheers as the crowd anticipated a quick start. But this was an unusual two-paced track that didn't encourage for blazing shots and Sri Lanka slipped to 22 for 3.
Tuffey's reputation as a first-over specialist preceded him on his international return, and it was a special wicket to celebrate too, as Tillakarate Dilshan chopped on. Bond dismissed Mahela Jayawardene for 0, steering a rising delivery to slip, and Sanath Jayasuriya for 7, slashing to third man. Vettori eased Bond back into this format with five tight overs (2 for 9) and Tuffey's consummate spell of 1 for 19 off six overs made for a clinical start with the ball. Tuffey and Bond bowled very straight and shackled the Sri Lankan top order, and the fielders were energetic and predatory as well.
There were only two boundaries by the half-way mark - both inside the first three overs - and a run rate of 2.72 indicated how much Sri Lanka had struggled. Almost immediately, Samaraweera and Mathews began to build some momentum, unfazed by the nature of the track and energetically hunting for scoring possibilities. A boundaryless streak, lasting 143 deliveries, was soon snapped.
Mathews played his most fluent innings in recent memory. He timed the ball well from the start, getting off the mark with a straight drive off Daniel Vettori, and then placed the ball far more deftly than he had in the Twenty20s. Between overs 33 and 38 the pair added 35, running hard between the wickets and taking runs off Butler, prompting Vettori to call back Tuffey. Samaraweera, who had reached his half-century off 78 balls, cleanly lofted and paddled boundaries to get the small crowd cheering.
In the first over of the batting Powerplay, taken after 44 overs, Samaraweera turned it on: he brought up the century stand in 114 balls with a spanking cover drive off Butler, repeated the shot a touch squarer, and paddled four more past short fine leg. Bond returned to bowl Mathews for 51, but Samaraweera achieved his watershed landmark. It was exceptional batting and got Sri Lanka to a total far beyond what New Zealand would have liked.
Vettori now has a few days to raise his players' morale. It will be difficult after such a comprehensive defeat, especially against India. New Zealand's next game - and potentially last - game is on Friday. They can, at best, hope to look forward to a new pitch.

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