Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Younis ruled out of opening match

Pakistan captain Younis Khan has been ruled out of the team's opening match of the Champions Trophy, against West Indies in Johannesburg on Wednesday, after suffering a hairline fracture on the little finger of his right hand. He picked up the injury while fielding in Pakistan's first warm-up match against Sri Lanka on Friday in Benoni, when he and wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal went for a catch in the slips.

Shahid Afridi will lead the side in his absence and Younis will start batting from tomorrow in the hope of being fit for Pakistan's next game, against India in Centurion on Saturday.

Pakistan manager Yawar Saeed, who had initially played down the seriousness of the injury, had a different version to give after Younis went for a fresh X-ray on Monday. "Younis will decide himself on Tuesday after having nets whether he can play the first match," Yawar said. "But even if he does not play against West Indies he will be fit in time for the big game against India on the 26."

Younis, 31, had earlier suffered a minor fracture on his little finger during a training session on Friday, but had downplayed the injury. "It's a little fracture. Nothing serious," he had said. "We will assess it on Monday. Hopefully it should be alright."

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Dilshan and Mendis drub South Africa in rain-hit game

Sri Lanka 319 for 8 (Dilshan 106, Jayawardene 77, Sangakkara 54) beat South Africa 206 for 7 (Smith 58, Mendis 3-30) by 55 runs (D/L)
Led by a blazing century from Tillakaratne Dilshan and a brace of cameos, the world's No. 5 team started their Champions Trophy campaign in fine style by beating the top-ranked side. Graeme Smith's decision to field was based on the amount of dew around but none of the bowlers, barring Dale Steyn, made an impression in the afternoon. Dilshan's 92-ball 106, coupled with significant inputs from captains past and present, lifted them to a daunting total that was well beyond South Africa.

Sri Lanka carried the energy from their powerful batting display into the field and Ajantha Mendis, unlike the home side's spinners, extracted bounce and turn under lights. Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis showed signs of dominance with an 81-run stand in quick time but once Smith was bowled off Mendis' first delivery, and Kallis and JP Duminy fell in successive balls, Sri Lanka could apply the chokehold.

Smith had a smile on his face when the toss went his way and Steyn nipped out Sanath Jayasuriya, but it was soon replaced by a frown. In a 158-run partnership with Kumar Sangakkara, who provided solid support with 54 from 74 balls, Dilshan played anchor and aggressor in equal measure. The first to feel Dilshan's force was Wayne Parnell, preferred to Makhaya Ntini; he struggled to hit a consistent length and went for 39 in five overs. It was a recurring trend in those early overs, Parnell dragging the ball down and Dilshan finding the deep point and midwicket boundaries. Albie Morkel was thrashed for 22 in two overs as Sri Lanka reached 100 in the 13th over.

The onslaught forced Smith, who refused to delay the Powerplay, to turn to his spin pair to try and stop the destruction. The pair stemmed the flow of boundaries but lacked bite and Sri Lanka ticked along at over six an over. Dabs, drives, flicks, shots off angled bats, and punches all evaded fielders and Sangakkara brought up his first half-century since February. He fell to an innocuous delivery from Duminy, after which Dilshan's boundary blasting - he hit 16 fours and a six - ended when he slashed the first ball of Steyn's return over to third man.

Sri Lanka used the platform extremely well and crossed 300 thanks largely to Mahela Jayawardene's 77 off 61. He was his usual deft self: cutting, nudging and pushing into the gaps with excellent timing. His feet constantly moved as he made room to create singles and, with Thilan Samaraweera playing in a similar vein, Sri Lanka pressed ahead. Before South Africa knew it Jayawardene was on 41 off 40 balls - the majority of those runs coming from controlled paddles and sweeps - and the stage was set for a late surge; the final ten overs cost 85. Parnell gave some respectability to his figures by dismissing Jayawardene and Samaraweera in successive deliveries though by then Sri Lanka were 297 for 5 in the 47th over.

Chasing more than a run a ball from the start, South Africa needed a strong platform. They were in early trouble when Hashim Amla was cleaned up by Angelo Mathews off an inside edge in the third over. Kallis joined Smith, looking leaner having shed a few kilos, and the pair milked the wayward Nuwan Kulasekara, who seemed to have contracted Parnell's problem of bowling short. Kallis was quick to punish him and Kulasekara's fifth over went for 14, with Smith particularly strong through the off side.

While Smith danced down the track at will and shuffled about to unsettle the fast bowlers, Kallis chose to clip the ball sweetly from the crease. Smith looked increasingly confident at the crease, but playing for a Mendis offbreak he missed one that skidded and hurried on and had his leg stump pegged back.

Mendis had again proved a valuable go-to man for his captain by ending the flourishing partnership. Smith's bullish start hinted at the possibility of a Dilshan-style ambush, but inside four overs Mendis ripped the heart out of the batting order. Kallis showed glimpses of his class in compiling a brisk 41 before he was excellently caught at mid-off by a tumbling Mathews. Next ball, Duminy was castled by a flipper.

The required run-rate was already above seven at 113 for 4 in the 21st over, placing too much pressure on the rest of the order. Lasith Malinga, having bowled just one over at the start, returned to dismiss AB de Villiers and later snapped a gung-ho stand between Morkel and Johan Botha before rain interrupted the chase. At that stage Sri Lanka were well in command, and were later adjudged deserved winners.

Sri Lanka had previously lost only once after posting a 300-plus total in one-day internationals and, led by Mendis, the masters of asphyxiation struck. Adapting to early-season South African conditions superbly, Sri Lanka have taken the lead in showing that Asian teams are a force to be reckoned with in this tournament. South Africa, frustratingly, have shown again why their ability in multi-team tournaments has long been questioned.

Monday, September 21, 2009

England's worst one-day run, and an innings of 298

England have just lost six straight one-day internationals to Australia. Is this their worst-ever run? asked Clive Morgan from CardiffRather surprisingly, perhaps, it isn't: England lost 11 successive one-day internationals to various opponents in 2000 and 2001. It's not even England's worst run against Australia - between February 1999 and March 2003 Australia won 11 successive ODIs against England. That finished a sequence of 15 matches between the two, of which Australia won 14 and the other one was abandoned (although, since the toss took place, it is counted as a match in the records). The worst run of all is 23 straight ODI defeats, by Bangladesh between 1999 and 2002. That beat the previous record of 22 by... Bangladesh, between 1986 and 1998. For a full list of the worst losing streaks in ODIs, click here.
Someone at the ground said when Worcestershire's Daryl Mitchell made 298 last week that no one else had made this score in a first-class match - is that true? asked Jamie Harris from CheltenhamThat innings of 298 by Daryl Mitchell for Worcestershire against Somerset in Taunton last week was the first time anyone had been out for 298 in any first-class match. But there has been a 298 not out, by the Indian one-cap wonder Gursharan Singh, for Punjab against Bengal in a Ranji Trophy quarter-final match in Calcutta in 1988-89.
When was the last time that a country fielded a Test team, all 11 of whom had scored a first-class century? asked Dennis Clarke from SouthamptonThe last time this happened was in the first Test between Australia and Zimbabwe in Perth in 2003-04, the match in which Matthew Hayden broke the world record with an innings of 380 in Australia's total of 735 for 6 declared. So far, so predictable... except it was the Zimbabwe side that contained 11 players with at least one first-class century to their names (Ray Price, their No. 11, had made his in a Logan Cup match in Zimbabwe the previous month).
Brad Haddin took 52 catches in Test cricket before making a stumping. Has any other wicketkeeper had a longer stretch of dismissals without a stumping? asked Jason from AustraliaThe record in this regard is held by the former South African wicketkeeper Dave Richardson, who took 119 Test catches before finally managing a stumping, against India in Cape Town in 1996-97. He expressed his relief at the time, saying he hadn't wanted to end his career with no stumpings at all in case people thought he was a good slip fielder rather than a wicketkeeper! He ended up with 150 catches and two stumpings in his 42 Tests.
Against India recently Sri Lanka's Thilina Kandamby scored 91 not out batting at No. 6. Is this the highest individual score in ODIs by a No. 6? asked Gilman Wazir from the NetherlandsRather surprisingly, perhaps, that innings by Thilina Kandamby against India in the Compaq Cup in Colombo earlier this month is well down that list - there have been 29 higher scores from No. 6 in ODIs, including 20 centuries. The highest of all is Kapil Dev's epic 175 not out for India (who were 9 for 4 when he came in, and soon 17 for 5) against Zimbabwe in Tunbridge Wells in the 1983 World Cup.
In the Compaq Cup final Sachin Tendulkar scored his 44th century in one-day internationals. How many ODI centuries have New Zealand batsmen scored all told? I'm guessing that it isn't much more than 44... asked Blair Leighton from JapanAs I write the whole of New Zealand lead Sachin Tendulkar by 26 - there have been 70 ODI centuries by New Zealand batsmen. Tendulkar (44) is in front of Zimbabwe (36) and Bangladesh (15) though. Largely thanks to him, India lead the way overall with 163 ODI centuries: Australia have 146, Pakistan 141, West Indies 130, Sri Lanka 98, England 90 and South Africa 85.
And there's an update to last week's question about Herbert Chang, who played one Test for West Indies in 1978-79, was also of Chinese extraction. And Adam Frankowski also pointed out that at least two of the Caribbean's most famous former umpires, Douglas Sang Hue and Eric Lee Kow, also had Chinese ancestry.

Tough times will help Ishant improve - Srinath

TA Sekhar: "What's the use of him bowling like [Glenn] McGrath? People say cut down pace, concentrate on lengths … no way ..." © AFP
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Players/Officials: Ishant Sharma Javagal Srinath
Teams: India
Ishant Sharma's struggles in limited-overs cricket in the last year are part of his growth as a cricketer, says former India fast bowler Javagal Srinath. Ishant has impressed in Tests but struggled with his lengths in ODIs and has been average recently in that format on the slow pitches in India, West Indies and Sri Lanka.
"These tough times are the best for him to learn about himself, about his bowling craft and develop," Srinath told Cricinfo.
Ishant averaged 31.48 and picked up 27 wickets in his first 20 ODIs. In 13 games in 2009, he has picked up 19 wickets at 31.42. The economy rate, though, has shot up from 5.34 to 6.19. On Sunday, in a ICC Champions Trophy warm-up game, he leaked 49 runs off seven overs and picked up a wicket.
There is a school of thought that Ishant should be given adequate breaks from ODIs to allow him to concentrate on Tests so that India don't risk losing a potent strike force in the longer version of the game. However, Srinath doesn't share that view.
"This is part and parcel of the development of a bowler. The second season is always going to be tougher for a cricketer. He has the basics right and he will go on to become a very good bowler for India. These tough times are the best for him to learn about himself, about his bowling craft and develop. From what I hear, he has a great attitude to learn and if he remains hungry, he will come out a better ODI bowler and as a result, a better bowler overall."
Srinath, however, is worried about the effects of too much criticism on such a young bowler. "It all depends on his attitude I guess but too much criticism can hurt. This is a very crucial stage. At this developmental stage, you can only develop the more you bowl and more you learn about yourself."
There are concerns that Ishant, who has a fragile body and not a smooth post-release routine where he almost stumbles a bit, can get injured with playing too many ODIs but Srinath believes that's a risk that he has to take at this stage. "That's the risk that you have to weigh against the results and only he can know about his body."
TA Sekhar, who ran the MRF Pace Academy with Dennis Lillee, shared the same view. "His strength is the pace and the bounce he gets from length and back of a length. That is his USP. I see no reason, for example, why should he cut down pace just to bowl a fuller length as some people have been suggesting.
"What's the use of him bowling like [Glenn] McGrath? People say cut down pace, concentrate on lengths … No way. I am sure he is in good hands with Venkatesh Prasad (the India bowling coach) who would get the best out of him. Obviously, Ishant has to tinker with a few things like lengths but he doesn't have to change anything drastically. He is just 19-20. This is the time to play more and improve. He has what we call the fast-twitch muscles. The body will grow stronger and importantly, he will be much the wiser for going through this phase."

Captains bet on ODI revival

Kumar Sangakkara and Graeme Smith, the two captains who will open the Champions Trophy in Centurion, both believe the tournament will be crucial in directing the future of the ODI as a viable format in international cricket.
The issue has swiftly become the pre-tournament theme, amid increasing noise and disquiet about the format's health in the wake of Twenty20's prodigious rise. Both captains do believe, however, that this tournament - significantly, the first world championship in the format since the World Twenty20 in this country exactly two years ago - is ideally placed to provide ODIs with that boost.
"The ICC put a lot of effort into this tournament," Smith said. "Ultimately it will be the cricket, how it is played, that will define whether this is a success or not. The good point is that it is short, to the point and can capture the imagination of fans around the world. That's the challenge ODIs have, with all the talk about moving domestic formats to 40 overs and all. This is a crucial period for the ODI game and how this competition is a success on the field is more important than anything else."
Recent ICC 50-over events have been heavily criticised, variously for being too lengthy, for having too many weak teams or for their unwieldy formats. This is the first 50-over tournament in over two years and the ICC believes that in the shorter, sharper format - only eight teams, 15 matches and two venues - lies a future path of ODI prosperity.
"It's an important step," said Sangakkara. "In the 2007 World Cup the cricket was great, but lots of people thought it was way too long, had too many teams and days between games. The true test of ODI is in big tournaments like this, the appeal to fans and players and how much money TV networks make from it. South Africa is a wonderful place to play and I think it will be a good tournament."
Getting the balance right between the three formats, Sangakkara believed, will be the key, something the ICC has advised members to bear in mind as the new FTP is hammered out "Everything should exist in harmony and balance," he said. "We've got to find a solution, players, administrators and the public, where attention and import should be given to each format. Cricket started with Tests so we've got to maintain and protect its primacy but also ensure that the cash flows in and the fans have something to look at and enjoy."

Nearly men kick off nearly tournament

Lack of choices can be a blessing in disguise. Hence we have potentially the best event organised by the ICC in a long while. Not entirely by design, though: there was no window for a longer tournament, there isn't even a reserve day for the final. So there was no space for flab or Super Sixes or Eights or whatever. Although Bangladesh can argue they had a better case than West Indies, few could have envisaged the political turmoil in the Caribbean when the tournament was being drawn up. As a result the preliminary groups are neither meaningless cakewalks nor so fickle that one freak loss ends the tournament for a team. Throw in the fact that the top three teams are so close to each other, the No. 1 ranking is likely to change hands more often in this tournament than the baton in a relay race. So good on the ODIs, which do with this shot in the arm.
It helps that South Africa has been the setting for memorable starts to world events. In the first match of the 2003 World Cup, Brian Lara's century helped West Indies beat South Africa by three runs in a tense finish. Four years later the ICC went to South Africa unsure if the World Twenty20 would be accepted by the audience. The same two teams, in 37.4 overs, hit all such trepidations out of the Wanderers. The possibility of an exact repeat has been ruled out by the draw, which pits Sri Lanka opening the tournament against the hosts, but a similar start is needed.
Both players in the act on Tuesday run the risk of becoming perennial best men: both have been consistent limited-overs teams for large parts of last 15 years, but only two players in each team have tasted success in an ICC event: Sanath Jayasuriya and Muttiah Muralitharan won the 1996 World Cup, and Mark Boucher and Jacques Kallis won the inaugural Champions Trophy in 1998.
Since then South Africa have lost two World Cup semi-finals, one World Twenty20 semi-final, and three Champions Trophy semi-finals. Sri Lanka haven't been that consistent, but they too have lost a World Cup final and semi-final each, a World Twenty20 final, and shared a Champions Trophy final.
Not much has changed on that front: this is another best chance for South Africa to shrug off the chokers' tag, and although Sri Lanka are not starting off as favourites it would be folly to underestimate them. So let the nearly men kick the nearly tournament off.
Form guide(last five matches, most recent first)
South Africa - LWWWLForget their record in big tournaments, this is indeed South Africa's best chance in a big tournament. They are the most settled team among the eight, Australia are not what they used to be - their 6-1 win in England notwithstanding - and others generally have more issues to settle than the hosts. They last played an international match back in April. Will they be rested or rusty?
Sri Lanka - LWWLLA new-look team trying to bring together mavericks, team players and veterans makes for interesting following. Their No. 5 ranking in ODIs should not prompt other teams to let their guard down.
Watch out for...Dale Steyn has stated what the world knows in its heart of hearts but is not so convinced about when it comes to big tournaments. "If the team play to their potential, and this might sound cocky, I really believe no side can match us at the Champions Trophy." The world is waiting, Dale, for the "team to play to their potential".
Nuwan Kulasekara quietly became the No. 1 bowler in ODIs without many noticing, and has kept the ranking for some time now. Now he will be tested in the open and, if the conditions help swing, his accuracy, inswingers, and the odd one that goes straight could just confirm the ICC rankings.

Since 1998 South Africa have lost two World Cup semi-finals, one World Twenty20 semi-final, and three Champions Trophy semi-finals. Sri Lanka have lost a World Cup final and semi-final each, a World Twenty20 final, and shared a Champions Trophy final

Graeme Smith has not shied from making statements for his team, and on the first day of the tournament, with regular co-opener Herschelle Gibbs out, his team needs the leader in the front.
Kumar Sangakkara the captain has been conspicuous in trying to bring a hard edge to his skilled team, but Sangakkara the batsman last scored an ODI century in June 2008, against Bangladesh. Sri Lanka won't mind a reconciliation of the two Sangakkaras.
Team newsSmith has confirmed Hashim Amla will open with him in Gibbs' absence due to a rib injury that has ruled him out of the first match. It probably won't hurt the middle order, which looks settled - only Albie Morkel and Mark Boucher could be needed earlier than usual. The most likely to sit out are Robin Peterson and Lonwabo Tsotsobe. Expect a toss-up between Roelof van der Merwe and Wayne Parnell for the final position.
South Africa (probable) 1 Graeme Smith (capt), 2 Hashim Amla, 3 Jacques Kallis, 4 AB de Villiers, 5 JP Duminy, 6 Mark Boucher (wk), 7 Albie Morkel, 8 Roelof van der Merwe/Wayne Parnell, 9 Johan Botha, 10 Makhaya Ntini, 11 Dale Steyn.
Murali should be fit to take the field now. After the tri-series final that Sri Lanka lost to India, Sangakkara had said Murali was fit but they didn't want to risk him before the Champions Trophy. Whose place will he take if he plays is an interesting question. Unless it is a rank turner, Ajantha Mendis should be the man most likely to sit out.
Sri Lanka (probable) 1 Sanath Jayasuriya, 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (capt/wk), 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Thilina Kandamby, 6 Chamara Kapugedera, 7 Angelo Mathews, 8 Thilan Thushara, 9 Nuwan Kulasekara, 10 Muttiah Muralitharan, 11 Lasith Malinga.
Stats and trivia
South Africa lead 5-1 head-to-head on Sri Lanka in ICC events. They lost to Sri Lanka in the 1992 World Cup, and tied with them in 2003, but have won all other encounters.
Murali, with 23 wickets, is the highest wicket-taker in Champions Trophy history.
Sangakkara, with 22 catches and four stumpings, leads the dismissals table for wicketkeepers.
"Our team has a lot of variety. We have got a left-armer, we have got pace, we have got allrounders and we have got spin. It is nice as a captain to have so many options."Graeme Smith likes what he sees when he casts an eye over South Africa's squad.
"A game's a game and it doesn't matter who the opposition is. But it's nice, because we've come here as underdogs in this game and they [South Africa] have got a major tournament to start, to kick off in front of their fans and the pressure is really on them."Kumar Sangakkara plays a mind game or three.

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