Friday, June 27, 2008

Asia Cup – Phase 1

Well, the 1st round of the Asia Cup Cricket tournament just ended. It was sort of a formality, so that some member nations of the ICC from Asia too get some international exposure. There weren’t any result based surprises in this tournament thus far, unlike in the UEFA Euro ’08. The first day had two games with very low fan-fare in both the National Stadium (Karachi) – hosting the game between Hong Kong & Pakistan and Gadaffi Stadium (Lahore) – hosting the game between Bangladesh and the UAE. Here’s an overlook:-
Pakistan, batting first, looked good to put on a good score, but faltered in the middle overs, courtesy, some good bowling by the spinners. But, Fawad Alam and Sohail Tanvir then proved thst Pakistan has found themselves two good all rounders, and helped the hosts reach 289, by no means low, but, lower than what was expected of the team. The bowlers did not have any problem in knocking out the opposition.
Bangladesh had it easy against their opponents, the UAE, and started off their campaign in style. Ashraful prevailed again and notched up a century to bring up Bangladesh’s second 300+ score. The UAE showed good talent with the bat, given their exposure. Khurram Khan brought up a stylish, well paced 78, but it was not enough to get the game into their kitty

Day 2
India faced off against Hong-Kong, and the Delhi openers made the Hong Kong bowling look bleak. It was only for Sehwag or Gambhir to donate their wicket. After the openers were sent back, which took a long time to happen (time seems to be passing slower than life when the Delhi duo are firing at all cylinders), the spinners managed to keep the run-rate under (relative) check. Rohit found the going tough and succumbed. Raina came in and started unleashing his stroke play, Dhoni joined in. both scored centuries and brought up a daunting task for Hong Kong to chase down a target of 375 (an Asia Cup record)! After a steady start (save the opener’s failure to Rudra’s ball…) Hong Kong were looking at playing the full quota of 50 overs. But, Piyush Chawla created the Hong Kong line-up’s downfall. In the end, India won emphatically, by 256 runs, another Asia Cup record.
Srilanka had a simlar day in trouncing Bangladesh. Jayasurya blunted the bowlers but fell short of another big score. Srilanka managed less than what they would’ve expected, but managed to win the game in a grand manner.

Day 3
India met, the hosts, Pakistan, in a great clash. Pakistan, electing to bat first, started slowly, reminding us of the match in Mirpur, few days ago. Here, Butt and Malik played cautiously till the 10th over, and then, broke the shackles. Butt fell for a cautious 38, but Younis kept the party going. Malik reached his 6th century in a very well paced innings comprising of handsome drives and good shots beyond the ropes. But, he was to leave the pitch soon, unconquered though, as he fell to an attack of cramps. Yousuf joined his favourite partner, but the “Yo-Yo” team work was not long lived and Younis fell to Yusuf Pathan on a day when Indian bowlers were finding it tough (again) to contain the Pakistani to order batsmen. But, by then, the tone was set, and all the batsmen coming in made sure, the total was another big one in the tournament. But what followed was a rampage by the Indian typhoons, Raina first and then, Sehwag, who blistered the attack, which already lost the services of Umer Gul early into the innings, and captain Shoaib Malik still nursing his cramps. Every bowler was made to earn for errr….a dot ball. Sehwag built his innings to bring up a century, long waited one. Raina’s heroics set the tone, but he missed out to cap the day of his brilliance in fielding with a century with his bat. The man-of-the-match, did of course end India’s worry of a top order batsmen, as Rohit was shaky during his tenures at the pitch.(Meanwhile, Srilanka won their match against the UAE thanks to Mendis, who got a 5 wicket haul, his first, to cut short the UAE’s batting, which had the highlight of their captain’s beautiful knock, all clubs should look to tag him). Back to Karachi, Yuvraj and Dhoni finished the cake that Raina and Sehwag couldn’t finish. Pakistan were very unlucky to miss both Umer Gul for his bowling and Malik’s captaincy as well as his bowling. We all hope, they get back to business soon. The tournament will have more serious encounters now on…

Pakistan and Bangladesh will have to win all their matches to move to the finals, while India and the Emarald Island can afford to lose a match (but, who wants to, when you’re on a run???).

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