Monday, October 19, 2009

Delhi prevail in low-scoring contest

Delhi Daredevils 114 for 6 (Shah 39*, Karthik 23, Ontong 2-8) beat Cape Cobras 84 (Nannes 3-19) by 30 runs
The spate of low scores at the Feroz Shah Kotla continued on Monday with the Cape Cobras collapsing in their chase of 115 to lose by 30 runs, in the bargain posting the tournament's lowest total. The good news for them, though, was that they finished second in League B and will play their semi-final against Trinidad and Tobago in Hyderabad, avoiding the dodgy Kotla pitch. There was good news for Delhi Daredevils, too - they were already out of the tournament but ended on a high and gave their fans something to cheer.
With the pitch behaving as expected - the ball coming on slowly and the bounce uneven - bowlers from both teams stuck to a plan similar to that adopted by other teams here. While pace helped Cobras restrict Delhi's batsmen, the home team relied on their spinners to turn the tide and pick up the big wickets - Herschelle Gibbs, JP Duminy and Justin Ontong. Gautam Gambhir, aware of the tricky pitch, opted to open the bowling with Tillakaratne Dilshan and the turn was evident in his second delivery as he trapped Gibbs in front to one that shot in from outside off. Duminy, charged with the responsibility of guiding the innings after Henry Davids' departure, was castled by Amit Mishra to one that kept extremely low, and Ontong was bowled through the gate, deceived by Dilshan's flight.
Strangely enough, though, the flow of each innings was altered by run-outs that prevented a par score on this track. Dinesh Karthik's attacking 23 was ended by an all-too-familiar blunder by his partner Owais Shah, while Henry Davids' dismissal off a direct hit from Pradeep Sangwan at short third man - after putting on an aggressive 27 with Duminy - proved decisive in getting Delhi back in the game.
Meanwhile, Dirk Nannes went about his job with typical efficiency; having uprooted Andrew Puttick's off stump in his second over, he delivered immediately on return for his second spell. Ryan Canning was bowled while attempting a pull and Claude Henderson failed to dig one out of the blockhole. At 78 for 8, there was only one result possible and Yogesh Nagar made swift work of the tail.
Delhi's score was boosted by Shah, who made amends for Karthik's dismissal with some aggression at the death. He broke a 10-over boundary drought with a six over long-on off Ontong, and helped snatch 35 off the last four overs to give his bowlers something of a target.
Karthik had launched a counter-attack after the Cobras seamers - who kept a tight line and offered little width - had reined in Delhi by dismissing the openers. After seeing off three overs amid the pressure of a declining run-rate, he stepped up to dispatch Kleinveldt for three consecutive fours. Each delivery varied in length but Karthik adapted brilliantly; a short one was pulled over midwicket, a good-length delivery was driven on the up and a slower ball bowled full was clattered over extra cover. His dismissal pegged back Delhi further, but Shah's surge towards the end of the innings took them to what turned out to be a match-winning total.
While the Hyderabad semi-final between T&T and Cobras promises to be a high-scoring one, the two Australian teams, Victoria and New South Wales, will be wary of what is likely to be on offer in Delhi, with the pitch spoiling a game designed for big hits.

Younis 'happy' to return as captain

Younis has taken back his resignation, paving the way for his return to the Pakistan captaincy, satisfied that the environment in which he will continue leading the side is now more conducive than before.
Ijaz Butt, the PCB chairman, said on Monday that the board had rejected the resignation Younis handed in last week. At the same time he offered Younis the stability that he has wanted since becoming captain in February this year, saying that, if fit, he will captain Pakistan till the 2011 World Cup.
Younis said he was overwhelmed with the support he had received in the week after he handed in his papers at a National Assembly committee hearing in Islamabad. "I am very happy right now," Younis told Cricinfo. "The faith that the chairman and the board has placed in me again, it's good to know. The support that I have received from the board and the country through this time has been fantastic."
There were believed to be various reasons behind Younis's resignation, though he never openly stated them. It is believed that as well as the suspicions of match-fixing raised in the aftermath of Pakistan's Champions Trophy semi-final loss to New Zealand, murmurs about factions in the team and management working to undermine Younis spurred the move.
Younis met Butt last week and it is understood that he set down some conditions which would have to be implemented before he could come back. Stability of tenure was one, though those close to Younis insist he didn't want an assurance till the 2011 World Cup. A streamlining of the selection process, as well as changes in the team management were thought to be the other conditions.
Younis refused to go into details, however, maintaining only that, "the environment is good right now and I am very happy with it. All that has happened over the last eight months, all the effort is worthwhile now." Younis said he expects to be fit for Pakistan's next assignment, an ODI and Twenty20 series against New Zealand in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Clarke keen to play IPL next year

Australia's new Twenty20 captain Michael Clarke will consider seeking an IPL contract next year as he aims to gain more experience in the shortest format. Clarke will lead Australia at the ICC World Twenty20 in the West Indies in May and he knows there is plenty of improvement required from his team in Twenty20 cricket.
Under Ricky Ponting, the Australians crashed out in the first round of this year's tournament and Ponting later retired from the format, leaving Clarke and new vice-captain Cameron White in charge. Clarke's own Twenty20 record is modest - he has played 25 matches without scoring a half-century - and an IPL stint could help him boost his form.
"There have been reasons why I haven't taken part in the last couple of IPLs," Clarke told a press conference at the SCG on Monday. "I've always said that it's a competition I would love to take part in at the right time. If the timing is right, if my body is healthy and I'm feeling good and a team wants me, it could be a great opportunity to prepare for what's going to be a huge Twenty20 World Cup."
Clarke knows finding a team willing to sign him could be easier said than done, given his Twenty20 record and his decision to pull out of the past two IPL auctions. Also working against him is the fact that he and several of his Australian colleagues will be unavailable until the final three weeks of the IPL due to their tour of New Zealand.
In any case, he must find a way to lift his men for the World Twenty20 against teams and individuals with far more experience in the format. Clarke, who is eyeing the No. 3 spot in the Twenty20 order following Ponting's retirement, said he would sound out his vice-captain White for Twenty20 advice - White has played 50 games over the past five years.
"I'll be looking to Cameron White as vice-captain and a lot of the other senior players who have played a lot more Twenty20 cricket than me," Clarke said. "It [Twenty20 ] is an area of our game that we're trying to work hard on and it's great to see New South Wales and Victoria over in the Champions League doing very well.
"I've played 19 games for Australia and the first half were about entertainment. We didn't know how seriously to take it. It's definitely changed over the last couple of years. No doubt cricketers in general take Twenty20 cricket a lot more seriously because it's a competition that's here to stay."

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Terrific T&T blaze into semi-finals

Trinidad & Tobago 213 for 4 (Barath 63, Simmons 40) beat Eagles 189 for 5 (Rossouw 44)
Trinidad and Tobago, powered by a fearless batting performance, secured the final spot in the semi-final line-up of the Champions League. Their batsmen thrilled the Hyderabad crowd by playing a shot a ball during a relentless assault on the Eagles that propelled them to 213 for 4, the highest total of the tournament. And it wasn't even Kieron Pollard who devastated the bowling, although he did contribute at the end; the damage was inflicted by Adrian Barath, William Perkins and Lendl Simmons. To seal their place in the final four, T&T's bowlers just had to ensure Eagles didn't reach their target in 14.2 overs. They did that, but only after overcoming an early scare.
The Eagles were perhaps the most unheralded team at the start of the tournament. But despite the lack of international players in their ranks, they were tenacious, punching above their weight, keeping calm in tense situations, and progressed into the second round. Rilee Rossouw led the charge today, blazing 44 off 19 balls, and propelled the Eagles to 50 off only 3.4 overs. They pillaged 77 runs from the Powerplay and raced to 100 off 56 balls. However, their desperate pursuit of runs forced errors and Rossouw's dismissal, with the score on 81 for 2, ended Eagles' slim chances of reaching the target before the 15th over. They continued to fight manfully, pushing for what would have been an impressive consolation victory, but eventually fell 24 runs short.
T&T's enterprising style of play in India had already made them the most exciting side of the tournament, but today they turned the intensity up several notches. Their batsmen didn't merely try to time their shots and find gaps in the field, they wound-up and swung hard, aiming to smash the ball with every ounce of power they could summon. Adrian Barath, playing his first game because Darren Bravo was unfit, scored 63 off 41 balls and blitzed 64 off the Powerplay with Perkins. Lendl Simmons then blazed to 40 off 25 balls, Pollard chipped in with 23 off 13, and the spectators were treated to T&T's newest finisher, Navin Stewart, who ransacked 33 off 11. There were 13 sixes and 18 fours in all in the innings, and the carnage left the Eagles shell-shocked.
The Eagles' hopes of restricting T&T to a total they could achieve in 14.2 overs began to vanish in the first over. Perkins was the pace-setter, cover-driving Victor Mpitsang through cover, clearing the boundary in the same region, before slashing over the third-man boundary. Barath didn't take long to join in, carving Mpitsang over the backward point boundary as well. Cornelius de Villiers, Eagles' best bowler in their last two games, wasn't spared either. Soon, the opening partnership was a blur of flashing bats and balls speeding through and over the infield.
The Eagles received fleeting relief when Thandi Tshabalala beat Perkins' cut with a slow offbreak, but normal service resumed the very next ball. Tshabalala greeted Simmons with a friendly full toss and watched it disappear over long-on. With his confidence soaring, Simmons square drove the next ball for four and stamped out any thoughts of an Eagles fightback. Barath had been the quieter partner until then, because he hit relatively fewer boundaries initially, but he opened his shoulders to swing Tshabalala over long on and reached his half-century off 34 balls.
Boeta Dippenaar had been forced to make frequent bowling changes right through and he brought de Villiers back in the 14th over. It cost the Eagles 20 runs. Barath carved the first ball over the point boundary and drilled the last straight down the ground. In between those shots, Simmons sent the ball speeding to fine leg and cover point. Simmons fell soon after - he was Ryan McLaren's first wicket of the tournament - and Barath and Pollard followed in subsequent overs. The damage had already been done, though, but the only player from Tobago in the XI wasn't going to relent. Stewart had replaced Samuel Badree in the XI, and was promoted ahead of Daren Ganga and Denesh Ramdin to give the innings an explosive finish. He did precisely that, ransacking 27 runs off the penultimate over bowled by du Preez, ensuring that the Eagles would need a miraculous effort to win, never mind qualify for the semi-final.
There aren't too many ways to go about chasing 214 in 14.2 overs, and Rossouw began by smacking the last two balls of Ravi Rampaul's first over down the ground for four. He improved on that against Dwayne Bravo, lofting the last two balls of his first over for monstrous sixes on the leg side. Morne van Wyk also wasted no time, dispatching Rampaul to the midwicket and square-leg boundary before scoring a hat-trick of fours against Sherwin Ganga. It was adrenalin-saturated action and Rossouw, who was dropped on 31 by Daren Ganga off Simmons, heaved the same bowled over the midwicket boundary.
The breakthroughs eventually came off tame deliveries. Sherwin Ganga delivered two straight full tosses, both van Wyk and Adrian McLaren played across the line and were trapped in front. Rossouw continued to fight a losing battle; one attempted six didn't come off and he was caught on the deep midwicket boundary, easing T&T's nerves.
The 24-run victory was T&T's third win in League A, and they topped the group with six points, setting up a semi-final clash against either Victoria or Cape Cobras in Hyderabad.

Clark and Lee bowl NSW into semis

New South Wales 112 for 4 (Warner 40) beat Somerset 111 for 7 (Clark 3-15) by six wickets
On a pitch that offered bounce and some movement, Stuart Clark led a disciplined bowling performance to restrict Somerset to a below-par 111 which New South Wales knocked off without breaking a sweat in Hyderabad. With this crushing win NSW have joined their Australian counterparts Victoria in the Champions League semi-finals.
It was a must-win game for NSW and they came to the party in style. Brett Lee bowled with fire, Clark was as canny as ever and David Warner unleashed hell as NSW sealed the chase in 11.5 overs. Warner got them off to an explosive start, carting boundaries all around the ground. There were couple of cut shots that stood out for his dexterity in finding the gap in a packed off-side field but the highlight was a six off Omari Banks, the offspinner. Warner backed away a touch and was actually beaten in flight but lunged out to chip it all the way over the extra-cover boundary. While the batsmen indulged themselves, the win was set up by some fine bowling from Clark and Lee.
Clark was steady as ever with his back-of-a-length deliveries, getting them to cut either way. He was introduced into the attack in the fifth over and swung into action immediately with a double strike. He induced Craig Kieswetter into holing out to mid-on and had Justin Langer swinging without control to deep midwicket.
In the next over, Clark got one to kick up from short of a length and had James Hildreth top-edging an attempted pull to fine leg. Arul Suppiah was run out in the same over and Somerset slipped from 24 for 0 to 39 for 4, a position from which they never recovered. Clark could have had another wicket but he dropped Zander de Bruyn off his bowling.
It might have been Clark who did the major damage, but the platform was laid by a hostile spell from Lee, who didn't shy from using short deliveries and troubled both the openers. He got away swing and bounce as he went hard at them. Doug Bollinger gave away a few fours but Lee yielded just four runs from the first two overs. The pressure eventually told on the openers who tried to break free against Clark and threw their wickets away. Lee returned in the end overs to pick up a wicket and kept a lid on the scoring.
This tournament is the farewell song of Langer, who is retiring from competitive cricket after this game, but nothing has gone right for him. The reflexes seems to have slowed down and today, he was beaten for pace on quite a few occasions. However, there was one little moment that reminded you of the past: Bollinger had served him a short delivery on the free hit and Langer swiveled to unfurl a crunchy pull to the midwicket boundary.
But there was little else to celebrate for Langer and his men as the ruthless NSW machine rolled along without any trouble.

Masakadza ton sets up massive win

Zimbabwe 329 for 3 (Masakadza 178*, Mutizwa 55, Taylor 52) beat Kenya 189 by 142 runs
If Kenya were expecting Zimbabwe to go easy on them in this dead-rubber, Hamilton Masakadza put any such doubts to rest, storming to a career-best unbeaten 178, the 11th-highest score in all ODIs. He tore into the Kenyan bowling attack as the hosts piled up 300-plus for the second time in the series, and followed up with a splendid performance in the field.
Once captain Prosper Utseya chose to bat, the opening partnership between Masakadza and Forster Mutizwa set the tone for Zimbabwe. They tackled the opposition bowlers with aggression, putting on 127 by the 25th over before offpsinner Jimmy Kamande provided the long-awaited breakthrough, getting Mutizwa stumped for 55.
Mutizwa, having struck seven boundaries during his 65-ball stay, made way for Brendan Taylor, the hero from the last match. Taylor continued strongly, playing the perfect support role to Masakadza, who grew more dangerous with each boundary. The 102-run stand for the second wicket had effectively dealt a blow to Kenya's chances of a consolation win, as Taylor made merry, smashing three fours and three sixes during his breezy innings.
Even as Taylor departed, caught by Collins Obuya off Nehemiah Odhiambo for 52, Masakadza continued undeterred. He reached his century and powered on in style. Malcolm Waller contributed 19 to the third-wicket partnership of 92 before falling to Odhimabo. But the day belonged to Masakadza, who kept up the momentum and his unbeaten 167-ball effort, studded with 17 fours and five sixes, ensured Zimbabwe put up an imposing total.
In reply to a massive target Kenya stumbled at the top and from 85 for 5 there was to be no miracle. Chris Mpofu bowled well with to take 3 for 44, striking once at the top and twice down the order. Ray Price was called on at first change and stifled the batsmen with another parsimonious outing; his figures of 7-3-15-2 accounted for two big top-order wickets. Jimmy Kamande's 37 was the top score of a disappointing batting card and Kenya were all out for 187 in 39.3 overs.

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