Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ashes and its hangover

Looking at the English Isle from up above in the sky...one must've thought he's watching a game of ping pong, England and Australia fighting it out and the momentum being the little ball. I can't say, England couldn't lose the series, but I would say, Australia didn't know how to win the series this year.

Wales finally getting a test, Cardiff never knew they were in for a party. After Australia put England back on the mat, replying to England's three fifties with four centuries, Australia just couldn't blow England apart in 4 sessions. The likes of Monty Panesar would never even have dreamt of carrying his bat for 11 overs even in the nets. Something for Australa to cry over the upcoming days... Batting were good from both sides (England forgot a few tricks later on though). English bowling lacked the sting, Australian bowling however didn't know to mop things up for the celebration. The test will be more remembered for Pietersen't artistic ways of getting out. In the first innings, he dragged the ball from Japan to California to spoon a catch to the leg side... it was more embarassing in the second innings, allowing the ball a free-pass to the top of the stumps. Hilfy would've been happier if KP had played and missed it, but KP rather chose the charitable method.

Lord's Lord's Lord's Lord'!!!
I always say, Lord's is a very boring pitch... It never assisted the pacers as much you would want to on an English pitch. I guess the Ashes demanded the change...and the pacers did have a say. Cook and captain Strauss put on a good partnership up the order, without which their batting card looks like uncooked spaghetti fallen on the floor... raw, incomplete and not-good-enough. Andersen and Onions combined to knock off the Australians for a small total and in quick time, just about 60 overs... Only Huss with a gritty 51 could hold his held high. With some quick runs on the board, Australia were set a target of 522 with two days to play. Too big a task for the Australians... If chasing a 400+ is like walking on water, surviving two rain-less days is like swimming in thin air. So, the moment called for a hero, and there he was - Andreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeew Flintoff! A five-for gave England the go-ahead in the series and the Australians were left with themselves to blame.

NeWs - KP got injured. Hurt his ankle and hurt it real bad... gonna miss the rest of the series for sure...
A rainy test at Birmingham with Jimmy's five-for and some batting blitz by Freddie and Pup, and some good swing bowling from Hilfenhaus gave the crowd something in exchange for the money they spent on the tickets.

Still 1-0.
Still, an unfinished mission, for Australia...the Ashes was leaving their grips.
Still, an uncomplete task, for England...the Ashes was not grabbed with both hands yet...

Flintoff will miss the fourth match due to sore knee. Harmy will fill in.

Heading to Headingly, with heads up, Australia knocked off the English heads, who sported four ducks in their batting order. Skittled for 103, thanks to five-for by Siddle, Australia galloped on the contributions by watson, Punter, North and Pup to gain a lead of 343 which England failed to erase and hence gift a series levelling victory to the Australians, who did their homework on their bowling. Ben, Mitch and Siddle all came good in the test. Stuart Clark had a decent game with the ball and an electrifying game with the bat.

Its going to be a crunch game at The Oval, England wanting a victory, Australia wanting to book a cupboard for the urn...

This was surely the best game of the series, for both the cricket played and for whatever was at stake...
Freddie was back in the team to play his last (sniff) test, retirement decision owing to his fitness.
SO, here we go...
First the Englishmen put up a total, from which one couldn't predict the victor easily. (PS: this innings saw Jimmy Andersen's dream run with the bat end.. he scored his first duck in tests... He holds the record for most innings without a duck on a trot since debut. ) But once the Englishmen took the ball in their hands, they had fire in their eyes and gave back the Australians a taste of their own medicine and skittled them for a paltry 160 odd... Now, the match seemed to be heading somewhere, if not into Strauss' kitty, still a lot to be played... When someone told the debutant filling in middle order batsman, Johnathan Trott, that he will be playing the game of his life, you bet he was listening...and he delivered the knock out punch that the English side needed to give to the Australians. Nearly 7 sessions to play...you may have the time, but you can't reach the touch line... Its like having a candy in the hand, but having a burnt tongue... you just can't help these situations... praying for rain was useless... I saw an Australian fan put up a big chart beaming 'Only coward pray for rain' when the Australians were pressing England in the first test. I can only guess where that bloke was during the last match... getting back to the match. the Australian top order tried...tried hard...to delay the inevitable... they were out of ammo, and then they fell. Harmy and Swann crafted the victory like tigers hunting their prey...surrounding them and attacking.

England win the series 2-1, and get back the prized possession - the urn! Never in history had a burnt piece of wood ash had so much recognition. Viva la test cricket!

Wait a min... the ODI series...
Oh yeah! the English team were too busy celebrating their test victory that they forgot to play ODI cricket... they huffed and puffed and couldn't blow the Australians down!

they lsot the first game, lost the second game, the same with third, ditto with fourth, and fifth and same in sixth!!!! 6 in a row!!! That got Australia back from fourth position to first in ODI rankings!!! A victory in the last game helped England peg Australia back to second place on that list, but England achieved nothing out of the series.

I hadn't been following the series much, so please visit http://www.cricinfo.com/engvaus2009/engine/series/345967.html vor the details of the seires..

Was also busy with some personal work during the tri series in New Zealand, which India won in some style against SL in the finals, having lost to the same team in a pathetic fashion a couple of days before the finale... New Zealand seemed to be the side looking for help in all departments.
The series saw the return to form of Sachin and Harbhajan for India.
Follow the seires on http://www.cricinfo.com/compaq/content/series/403358.html

Coming up next - Champions Trophy from South Africa.
This is an important series because SA, AUS, IND and SL will be trying to reach the numero uno spot on the ODI table, while England Pakistan will be trying to restore some lost pride. WI will like to see what they are worth and New Zealand will look for some answers out in the open.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Summer in Isles

Bangladeshfor once believed they could finally do it... Get an ODI and test series victory over a much better team than Zimbabwe. They were helped by the fact that the whole of recognized WI team decided to protest against the board contract and hence Bangladesh would be playing a team which may arguably be even worse than Zimbabwe... But who cares??? Ten years down the line when a Bangladeshi kid reads 'Bangladesh beat WI', won't he be excited???

So, that fiasco happens a day before the first test and the whole Caribbean Isles are in a state of surprise... A new look, newest look team is flow in from various Isles. Floyd Reifer was named the captain, and Tino Best with 12 tests to his name was the most experienced of the playing XI which featured 7 debutants.

First test, Bangladesh, captained by Mortaza for an innings (injured in the other) steamrolled past WI, courtesy their tweakers. Second test was very much the same. So, there it was - Bangladesh blank WI 2-0.

Bangladesh's first test victory abroad, B'desh's first test SERIES victory abroad!

the ODI's had some good news - that, the WIPA decided to shake hands with the WICB. But the WICB decided to give them a good return gift by keeping them out of the ODI series! So, you know what to expect in the ODI series! A 3-0 blanking of WI by Bangladesh under Shakib-ul-Hassan's captaincy and all round brilliance.

Some dream series that.

Moving away to the region where Christopher Columbus was supposed to travel to - the subcontinent. Pakistan travel to Sri Lanka for the 3 test and 5 ODI series.

In the first and second test, Pakistan was SO much close to winning that one can just close his eyes and say, the match is over... but then there was Rangana Herath, called in for Murali who was injured. And the orthodox bowler who showed no jet-lag on arrival from his English county stint, just turned the boards around in an hour of the fourth (was it fifth???) morning, which the whole world thought was a day of formality for Pakistan to knock off those runs. Same in the second test. The match swung from one side to the other more frequent than a man eating meals. Sri Lanka had the last laugh after Pakistan failed miserably again after their superb show in the first innings. Third test was more of Sri Lanka's own test to lose... they preferred not to lose and took the series home.

The ODI series was won by Sri Lanka at the end of the third game, and then Pakistan won the other two just to make the final tally look pretty even at 3-2.

So, up next - the all important Ashes, Australia vs England 7 match ODI series, the India-Sri Lanka - New Zealand tri series and the build up to the Champions Trophy

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

India tour of WI and the TESTing season

So... visiting team arrives before the home team. India was at Jamaica earlier than WI as they were eliminated before the knockout stages of the ICC world T20 that Pakistan won (refer my previous post). Shaken India to take on rejuvenated WI. This series got a little bit more importance for the Indian side as a recent discovery showed that the new age Indian top order was weak against bouncers. Something that kept them out of the T20 screenplay.

So, first one at Kingston, Jamaca and the Sabina Park crowd wanted a good contest. They got one! After a shaking start, the Indian batsmen rode on Yuvi's blitz innings to post a high total of 335, which they thought would be too easy to defend. But the WI batsmen were fighting very very well. Shiv, Morton, Gayle, Ramdin... all of them chipped in. Pressure got the better of them. They all succumbed to pressure. Shiv could've played a long innings but got carried away. Ramdin gave them hopes, but then, he ran out of partners and that was the end of the innings... They were just 20 runs short and had enough balls left to take away the match. Close one.

Same place, same condition, a bit more fast track and the indian batting collapsed, eight catches behind the stumps. A fighting partnership between Dhoni and RP Singh saved India the blushes. But Morton and co knocked off those runs in no time.

Series all tied at 1-1, the caravan moved to St Lucia where the sides were welcomed more by clouds than by local crowd, who were angry as their local hero Darren Sammy was not in the squad.

Nevertheless, the match had to be played.
It was a 50 over...err, 41 over....hmmm...39 over...grrr...27 over match. By the time the WI piled up a more than run per ball score in that time, more clouds gathered around to witness the already rain-curtailed encounter. So, when the indian top order was going fine, rain came in again, and NEWS - its gonna be a 22 over innings for India. And, as has been the habit off late, India was trying to get itself into trouble while chasing. A last over hoick over cow corner by Dhoni saved India from defeat, which was looming large on India till 21.2 overs.

Last match was washed away and India won the series 2-1 ( last time around, India lost 4-1 in a dramatic series).

Plus for India - Dhoni is in good form, Nehra has made a decent comeback.
Minus - weak against swing and short ball.

Plus for WI - Rampaul is in top form, WI might've just landed on their next big thing - Darren Bravo, who has not only showed that he can keep his cool even on his debut innings when the scoreboard is asking too much of him, he also quennches the cricket lovers' thirst of watching someone of the same beauty of Lara play. He is such wonderful and proven talent. Brother Dwayne has done his homework to bring his up well!
Minus - need someone to finish off the innings while batting, and need a good bowler at the death, the open slots of which are costing them dearly in recent times.

Well then folks, the cricketing world will rub their eyes clean off any dust, put their specs on and concentrate on the Ashes now. Its going to be one hectic series and McGrath has again predicted 5-0 in favour of Australia. He never changes, nor do his words.

Pakistan move to Sri Lanka to play three tests, five ODIs. The two sides fresh from T20 WC final will like to put to the back of their minds what happened earlier this year in Pakistan and get on to some gruelling sessions of cricket. Bangladesh will tour WI for 2 tests and an ODI series (3 matches I think).

LOTTTTTTTTTs of cricket waiting for you all.
And the good news is - its gonna be all test match cricket for quite a while... No more stupid shots, no more cheerleaders dancing over a dot ball, no more respect for four slow balls an over, no more field restriction, and more of slip cordon, shine on the ball, reverse swing, rivalries, sledging and tactics. Its gonna be test at its best...wherever it is played.

Adios Amigos, I'm being TESTed now :-)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Pakistan - T20 champions, in traditional style

Terror strikes, kept away from fun tournaments, boards declining to tour them, lack of preparation for the tournament, list of unfit players and new comers all seemed to bring the world to a conclusion that Pakistan won't repeat any of their heroics displayed in the previous version. But there they were - clinical display to better their last show and hence, become the T20 Champions 2009, second time lucky... More than luck it was sheer dominance and hard work.

If there was one team that was coming into the format with the same classical approach, it is Pakistan. Most other teams were depended on big hitters or bowlers of a different dimension. Pakistan introduced youngsters at the big stage and got the best out of them too. The big surprise to most people was the early exit of the Australians by their group members, WI and SL. Both teams had it easy against the Aussies who are now suffering their worst phase in cricket for atleast a couple of decades of my memory, which may worsen if they lose the Ashes this english summer.

Most other teams had it easy to the super 8 stages (Ireland beat Bangladesh in the run to the super8, the only exception otherwise). Four deserving teams - SA, WI, SL and Pakistan moved into the semifinal stage. South Africa were dominant in every department. West Indies, led by their captain Gayle and some inspirational performance by Simmon, Bravo and their pace batter complemented by Big Benn took them through to the knock out stages. SL banking on Dilshans 'hit over the keeper for freebies' tactics and spin twins helped them through easily to the top 4. Pakistan came from the ashes to beat NZ quite comfortably. This needs a special mention that Gul was the first bowler to rip a 5-for in T20. Michelle for him. Not many have had even a Michelle in T20s, let alone more than one 5-fors.

Semi finals. I was hoping to see a clash of cricket's two most beautiful art-schools, WI and Pakistan clash in the finals. While Pakistan were able to tame the South Africans in a good match, WI went down to Sri Lanka pretty much the same way as they did in their group match. So, though my wish wasn't granted, atleast i was happy Pakistan got a good team to prove its worth against.

The final, Lords. with a good all round performance, Lankan batsman were tamed and Lankan bowlers were milked and spanked to bring about the easy victory. Afridi was named the man of the match, and the leading scorer, Dilshan was given the man of the series award.

A great moment for Pakistan cricket. It was in tithers, and now its on top of the world. 'In their face' to anyone who kept them away from cricketing world! Its time to rebuild the team and start the journey again from where they left. Lot of plus from this tournament - Gul's presence helped sofen the tension, Afridi's calmness while batting ad bowling, Ajmal fitting into Saqlain's shoes! Its all coming together for Pakistan. Just one point is left to be proven - consistency. If only they could put on a consistent show in the years to come, the good old days will be back. As of now, they face an uphill task in their tour of the Emerald Isles.

In the women's edition... the English Ladies had an easy victory over the kiwis to cap their excellent run in the tournament that went parallel to the Men's edition.

Up & coming :-
India tour of WI - June 26th onwards, four ODIs
Bangladesh tour of WI - July, two Tests, three ODIs and one T20
Pakistan tour of Sri Lanka - July, three Tests, five ODIs and a T20
Ashes - July onwards - five tests. followed by the & match ODI series

Stay tuned. Test is best, and its back again on the cricketing map.

Monday, June 15, 2009

L.A. (Lakers) - Where amazing Happened. Viva la LAKERS

Seven years, since any reward, one hard year since the loss to the rivals Celtics, with stern determination and hunger and frustration, the Lakers had a point or two or three of many more to prove this season, and what a way to prove it!



Man, never gets so emotional.

First Championship in seven years. The years included the exit of perennial all-star Shaq, Lakers not making to playoffs and Kobe getting fussed up with his stay with the Lakers. But then, the team was threaded together by Coach Phil and Kobe. Fish came in, Odom joined us, Farmar and Ariza both UCLA, had a happy get-together again, Bynum was drafted, legendary Bill Walton's son, Luke joined hands with lakers. Gasol was the big catch. To fill Shaq's shoes is not easy, for him to have fitted very well into the side is very very very commendable.

Lakers had fire in their eyes... They had a great run in the regular season and finished on top by a country mile over the rest in the western conference. This included victories over Celtics at both Staples and the big Christmas present - VICTORY OVER CELTICS @ BOSTON. Whatta treat. Lakers were the first team to break the unbelieavable home record of the Cavs. Cavs missed Bulls' record of 40-1 at home when they lost their last home game to the Hawks :( . Lebron was the best in the regular season and was awarded the MVP of regular season. Congrats, King.

Now, the playoffs...
Lakers had to face Utah first up. With just a little hiccup in a loss, lakers mopped them up to set a clash with the Houston Rockets. Tough on paper, but there were tougher things to come.

Rockets pushed, pushed hard, pushed harder... They lost Yao and T-mac to injuries, but still kept their hopes of reaching the conf finals, but after both teams losing a home game each, Lakers went on to win the game 7 at home.

Next, what was supposed to be Lakers' biggest test - the Nuggets, was cooking up well. Elsewhere, Celtics found it tough to contain the Magic without the services of the star forward - KG. Magic to meet the Cavs. Mouth watering ppl, mouth watering.

First two games in either conference finals were closer than close can ever be. Cle and Lal lost a home game. Next up, lakers found form to win one at Denver and then Den pulled one back to tie it up at 2-2. This match had many other problems before it could be staged, that was some fight with the WWE to claim the Pepsi arena for the rare 'NBA Conf finals at Pepsi Arena'. NBA won, game was on. Moving on... Lakers held their nerves to go on to take the lead and make a trip to the Pepsi Centre again for game six. Beat 'em. Thats it. Finished off the nuggets in style and Lakers are yet again the Western Conference Champs. When you beat a team consisting of Mello, Billups, Kenyon Martins, JR Smith, in-form Andersen and their up and coming bench, you should back yourself to go on and win the championship.

The Magic had some heartbreakind defeats in the hands of the king's Cavs, including a buzzer beater three by Lebron himself over Hedo Torgoklu to seal victory from behind; but the Magic were too hot to handle for the Cavs, who once again lost in the conference finals.

Magis vs Lakers. Superman vs Mamba. It all came down to this

Game one - Lakers, at home, just wrote the Magic off with a splendid 100-75 crushing victory and it was becoming a big momentum building game.

Game two - Lakers found it difficult to handle the up and rising Magic, with their big 3 point shooting force, bolstered by the return of Jameer Nelson after 4 month layoff. Courtney Lee missed an alley oop with .6 sec left in the match that could've sealed game 2. Game goes into over-time and the Lakers get past the magic. 2-0 to Lakers and now a three game trip to Orlando.

Game three - Magic fans crying for a victory. How did they respond? With a record shooting percentage. 62.5% from the field is no joke! But still, they allowed the lakers to stay in the match. But the lakers kept missing their free throws. Kobe missed five. Ever heard oh him missing five, thirteen years down in his career? That was the pressurre the Orlando crowd had built on the Lakers. Nelson, Lewis, Alston (man, he was the X factor). So, the FT cost the lakers? Did the last turnover by Kobe cost the game? We do not know, but the lakers tried their best, and it was a loss, that happens to any team. But, the big tag to this game - Magic's first ever victory in a finals series. They were swept in their only other finals.

Game four - Looking for a second victory, the Magic pressed hard, matched and bettered the Lakers offencively and defensively. A close game till the end. Magic had a twelve point lead at half time, but then, Ariza sprang to life and put in 13 and Magic ended up scoring just 14 in the quarter, and Lakers led after 3rd Q. towards the end of the game, with 11 seconds left, Magic up by three, Kobe fouls D12. And would you believe it? Dwight Howard, the superman missed the two most important free throws of his life that will haunt him for a few years now, till he wins a championship for himself. Even one bucket would've made it a two possession play for the lakers. But then came the time out and the back court wide open inbound. Magic concentrated on Kobe, but then was our veteran hero- Derek Fisher, who was quite open and made one of those biggest threes of his career over the not-even-troubling Nelson. GAME TIED, 4.6 TO GO. Is this Stan van Gundy's biggest mistake in life? His brother Jeff feels a bit like that... the last shot was taken by Mickael Pietrus, not Hedo!!! Rashard lewis was invisible this game. Superman did all he could, 21 rebounds, 16 points, 9 blocks...never seen before sort of record performance in a finals. but he needed mopre support... None of which came in the overtime as Lakers ran away with the game when the Big Fish made another great three. He showed absolutely no emotion, it was his job, he did it... Kobe trusted him, Phil knew he had it in him, and he didn't dissappoint. 3-1, chance to win it in Orlando itself.

Game five - People from 216+ countries clung to their tv sets, getting up early, putting off sleep, skipping meals, this had to be the moment - either lakers end their biggest hunger drive here, or orlando make one last attempt to rise to the occasion. The answer? Read on...
Orlando with the early run and 9 point lead, with all the frontline players pouring in, AND all of them having atleast an assist. Lakers collected themselves in the second quarter and the third to go on a bucket spree and romp ahead of the Magic, who had absolutely no answer the offence of kobe, gasol, odom, ariza and fisher.
The victory was nearing...
The threes by the Magic were of pointless importance now that the Lakers had a comfortable 16 point lead in the dying minutes...
SVG still had plans, while Phil had some plans for the celebration on the other side of the court.
Clock expired and there it was....

Ladies and Gentlemen, The winners - Los Angeles Lakers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

One year of hard fought training, winning big matches, matching everyone eye to eye, making the big shots.

KOBE - The Finals MVP, for obvios reasons. 32+ ppg, 7+ rpg, 6+ apg this post-season, but he was more than that... he injured that fingure on his right hand and refused attention to it, saying, 'i want to feel the pain'. hunger unlimited. hunger satisfied

FISHER - the man for the big occasion. Lakers owe the championship to this little big man from Little Rock. Who knows what would've happened if not for those two series turning threes

GASOL - No game goes down without the mention of big Pow. Offence and defence, he was charged up. He wanted it more than anyone, he wanted the trophy. He blocked, he sank them, he dunked them, he caught up the rebounds, he was the big man in both halves of the court.

ARIZA - How this man improved from a not more than a bencher to a regular starter is a fairy tale story. great on the offense, shooting the big threem in with the attractive dunks, big rebounds, just the man Kobe would want on his side to assist him with the gaurd role. The big X factor this season for the Lakers.

ODOM - Candyman to the rescue. Bynum gets into the early foul trouble and Phil looks at this man and says show us what you got. This forward showed up why he is so much sought after with his big blocks and plays, and came up to surprise the defence with some HUGE threes in the playoffs.

BYNUM - young but determined, brings in the huge plays, send in the big dunks. Was a big part in keeping the big centres of the opponents down and quite.

WALTON - a complete player. whenever the chips are dow, he is ready to step up to the occasion.

FARMAR - the little fisher. amazing player with his amazing plays always kept the lakers up there on the charts.

This title is the best one the lakers have won in this decade, in this post-Shaq era...

This will be remembered for long, by all.
Thanks you lakers for this prize. We fans are always on your side, high or low...

Viva la LAKERS

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Chelsea, happy ending to an unlucky season

Switching of managers, drought of form, poor refereeing, and the Golden touch... That was the season for Chelsea FC.

Luis Philippe Scolari took over from Avram Grant to give Chelsea a big start to the season, when Chelsea won the games in emphatic fashion. Nicolas Anelka was in good touch and had to operate in the absence of Drogba who injured himself in the Champs league tie against Cluj. Then the downfall started... Chelsea lost three games at home in a short span. One, to Liverpool in premiership that stopped the big home unbeaten run. Second, to Burnley in League Cup, and then to Arsenal in a very unlucky fashion. This triggered the poor luck that shadowed the side for most of the season to follow. Poor refereeing saw most games slip away from the blues. While ManU were just happy winning the games 1-0 and Van der Sar cling on the a long period of clean sheets, Chelsea just couldn't climb up on the table and were stranded on third spot, just matching the results of Liverpool, but not bettering them. Scolari got sacked, without much a surprise. The pace with which he started off was not maintained in the later stages and the Big Phil had no answer to the ill-struck form of the side. In came Guus Hiddinks, a thick friend of Roman Abramovic, as the temporary head coach of the side till the end of the season. And, his golden touch sparkled the side again. The poor refereeing continued but the blues did better than the opponents and referees put together to get good results, late though it may be. Terry, Malouda and Drogba sprung to form. Drogba's spirits were lifted by Guus after Drogba was kept on bench for most games by Phil. Chelsea was almost in the finals, but for Iniesta's killer equaliser to push Barcelona through to a finals meet with ManU, and eventually win it. But, even that game was a bit,err, hugely controversial. Boy! 4 penalties disallowed is no joke... Barca were playing basketball and volleyball and taekwondo inside the box, and the referee was happily dreaming of God knows what. he needed security to escort him to a 'secret, safe location' after the match. Had he not been given that, he would surely have been in deep trouble next day. Anyway, the luckless blues had only one thing left for them - the FA cup. And the club showed all its anger Wenger's Arsenal and proved that not even the referees can stop them from entering the finals. It was a finals meet with one of the finest clubs in EPL, Everton. This match would be Guus' last game in charge of Chelsea and the blues wanted to give him a fitting gift, the silverware. But, the start to the finals was a bit of a shock when Saha shot in a 26th second goal to give Everton the all important lead, though the goal was built on an uncalled offside! But then, Chelsea who have come all the way through the FA cup, winning from behind, did so once again through quality goals from Drogba and Lampard. (And a Malouda goal disallowed, but aren't we used to it???) And, the sesason ends with the all so very important FA Cup victory!!!!! :-)

England sweep again...

West Indies found no real luck in the ODIs against England. The first ODI was washed off, and in the other two, WI got washed off.

The Leeds match was washed off, and the caravan moved to Bristol. WI, put in to bat, were rocked early by the most improving bowler in the English side, Broad, who accounted for opener Simmons and then, Sarwan in short span. Both out for nought! Gayle was playing in a typical Gayle-ish fashion and before long, he was gone too, leaving WI in a spot of bother. Shiv and Bravo made some amends but when things were looking good for them, they departed and the rest followed suit. What might have been a good platform for a decent total was wasted and the WI bowlers were left to defend a paltry 160. Without much trouble, the English top order secured a 6 wicket victory. Collingwood was named the man of the match for his all round performance. This victory boosted the team's confidence, which has been deprived of the presence of their two most attacking players in every sense, KP and Freddie. The dressing room didn't miss them.

Now, Birmingham's Edgebaston. Gayle, putting England in to bat, said at the toss that the pitch was a high scoring one and he wouldn't be surprised if he was chasing even 350. Good confidence, but can he show that WI could chase those targets? WI have been scoring similar runs in all forms of the game and are in the trench of a slump in form, after that famous victory in the first test in the Caribbean early this year. back to England now. Once again the top order clicked and the English side put on a grand total of 328 on the board. Gayle marched in along with Morton who was called in for the ODIs. Gayle didn't last long, nor did Sarwan. Morton's vigilance was cut short soon. Again, Shiv and bravo found themselves trying to set things right, when Bravo tried one too many. Ramdin was there, but mere presence mattered nothing now, as the required rate soared up and over the WI tail's capabilities. Prior was the man of the match

Broad was the man of the series for his good bowling.

So, WI have many more unanswered questions.
England sigh relief after surviving the scare of losing KP and Freddie.

Now, its time for the WC T20 in England

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

England gearing up early this summer, and more

The English summer saw an early start to this summer as WI toured them for the double header. The two test series (which just got over) will be followed by 3 match ODI series.

Ashes preparation started well in advance for the English side which wanted to get the winning formula right before the storm. England did not manage a single win in their tour of WI a little while earlier this year. Flintoff, Bopara, KP were called back. Flintoff injured himself in the IPL and had to sit out the test series. How costly can that be? Read on...

Graham Onions, Durham pace bowler was called in for a test cap and Bopara was given the nod ahead of Ian Bell. Good decision, I say, as England, put into bat by the most talked about Caribbean player, Gayle amassed good runs on the first day. Edwards did get the ball do the talking, but Bopara and co had things in control. After posting a decent total on a Lords pitch which is so allergetic to producing results, it was time for the English bowlers to warm up for the big times waiting for them in September. It was Swann who started to open up the bad phase of WI batting. With four left handers in top six/seven in the WI line up, Swann had a nice time posing challenges. Strauss brought in Onions in time to bring down the house. 5 wickets on debut, first three in a single over. Dream debut? Yes. WI made to follow on, were no different in the second innings. Just, a bit better than the first, but nowhere near a decent Lords' total. Nash and Ramdin tried to put something big on the board. Too little too late. All bowlers, except the rarely used Bresnan contributed well. Strauss and Cook mopped up the small target without wasting much time, and England went 1-0 up with the probing Swann getting the man of the match. BOY! Shiv getting out cheap twice to him was exceptional. We all know how he batted last time aound in England!!!

Chester-le-Street now. Lots of chit-chat between Strauss and Galye made this test a bit more spicy. England, batting first, piled up a HUGE total, thanks to Cook and Bopara. Now, Bopara has more or less rule Bell out of the Ashes equation. Poor bell... KP, Paul and Broad chipped in with more contributions down the line. WI attack was toothless. Their only big moment was when Gayle got rid of Strauss, as if to say, 'I had the last laugh'. Guess he didn't read his future. Now, it was Jimmy's turn to rip the top order. Three good wickets and WI were never in the hunt thereafter. Jimmy had five, Broad picked up three. Sarwan waged a lone man's battle. A neat century, but in vain. Received no big help from the other end and WI were forced to follow on again. And, Jimmy was at them again. Bresnan got three to assist Jimmy's four, and England pinned WI on the mat to secure an innings victory. Jimmy was the man of the match.

With two centuries in the series, Bopara was named man-of-the-series, which meant, Bell out-of-the-Ashes. Bopara has three centuries in his last three tests, one in each, first since Botham ( I think) to do so. All the very good for the English side.

Freddie is out of the Twenty20 World Cup too and its been worrying for England, though Paul Collingwood has reassured the side that they can beat the Aussies without Freddie too.

But why risk it? I so very much wish he hadn't playted the IPL. he could've played better T20 with Lancs than with the lusty IPL clubs. England bowling is coming good and batsmen have been in good touch. Bench strength will be tried and tested in the strenous county cricket.

WI will be reviewing the series. It was a complete failure of batting and bowling, those individual glitters set aside... A stready side has to be built and trusted with responsibility. Gayle's captaincy-quitting remarks were disturbing at a time when WI cricket is trying to recover from a low.

The cricketing world will soon be coming to England for the second edition of the Twenty20 World Cup. Much better than the money laden IPL.

Pakistan was removed as a host of Cricket World Cup 2011 for security reasons that caused rifts within the ICC. Pakistan is now helpless, from my point of view. Though its cricketing body ain't the reason for all this, they just can't change the scenario. Sad for them, their alternative solutions haven't reached the ears of the game's governing body either.

ICL players have been allowed by BCCI and other national cricketing body to return back to the "legal' side of cricket. BCCI has been a chicken and used its power to completely play ICL out of the equation.

Pakistan, barred from IPL is now gonna play a domestic T20 tournament to prepare for the World Cup. Pakistan, runner up in inaugral tournament are looking to make it big this time around too.

Only time will tell.
Just hang on...
The commercial tournament is not done yet in South Africa. WI-England ODI series will start soon. Twenty20 World Cup will follow.

Summer is HOT

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

those past weeks...

I'm far too behind on schedule and have to unfortunately just brief about what happened all this long. Sorry folks (anyone there???)...

WI lost ODI series to England in the Caribbean soil. Fredddie was going great I remember. Reverse fixture waiting for the two teams in the early summer, as early as May. Thats SOME preparation for the Ashes for he English side...

Down the other side of the Pacific ocean, the Indians, fresh from an ODI assault on the Kiwis held on to the momentum and went on to win the first test quite comfortably. Second and third were drawn with different scripts written for both matches. One was saved, thanks to the stellar knock by Gambhir, whose form, confidence, average, time at wicket, placement, class, etc etc etc are all reaching sky high and looking forward to outer space (lol :p ). The other match, people say could've been won by the Indians had Dhoni declared a bit earlier on day 4. Nevertheless, credits to Kiwis for not falling further back on the scoreline. After a long wait, a series win in New Zealand for India.

Australia tour of South Africa.
Rubbing the hands, tv remote and computer console all so very sorely beaten up and finally control over both of them. What a ripper of a test series. Missile Johnson, errrr...sorry, Mitchell Johnson. He would've been a driver back home, but he sure did drive the SA batsmen nuts with his line and length. Guss what? If that wasn't enough, he turned out to be Aus', rather, the tour's 3rd best (or was it 2nd best) run getter. Clarke was on top of the charts i remember. Aus were completely over the SA. Steyn's bursts were only in vain. Prince came in for the last test, opened, annd was ecstatic. SA got a consolation, but stylish victory. Aus debutants and other newcomers- Hughes, North, McDonald, Hilfenhaus (pardon me if I mis-spelt him) all came good.
On to the ODI series... Australia were completely taken out of the equation by the Proteas. So, test series went to aus 2-1 and they now regain the numero uno in test rankings.
Batting and bowling came good. The introduction of the young South African speedster, Wayne Parnell was a good gamble and it worked out. South Africans had no problem in beating Australia 4-1, again!!!

Australia vs Pakistan, Dubai & Abu Dhabi, UAE.
Pakistan wth lots of security issues and etc etc finally managed to get a series on their calendar. In their second home, they face the wounded Australians. Having won the first ODI, Pakistan was high on confidence. Why not? That was Australia's 10th loss in 16 matches in 2009. Australia won just 5 and were in the verge of losing the 11th had rain God not saved them against NZ not so long ago. Messed up season it sure is for them. Clarke, leading the side that is missing the likes of Ricky, Mike Hussey and Mitchell Johnson, all gearing up for the English summer of you-better-know-what series, found the best reply to the sub-standard Australian form, and along with the return of Symonds and peak form of all-rounder Watson, Aus piled up 3 consecutive victories and sealed the series. Pakistan got its consololatory victory to make it look more close at 3-2 in favour of the Australians at the end of the series. Good series for the bowlers in all, who were able to contain the batsmen to miser runs for most parts of the game.

So, thats it I guess..

As of now, the money cow, IPL is being milked in South Africa.
My suggestions
*If in South Africa, wear helmets, a cover drive may send the ball over midwicket fence and over your head. "kuch bhi hota ha"
*Turn down the tv volume, else wear an earmuff. The commentary is selling itself.
*Watch something else
*Send in your views about KKR's excellent consistency this season. Its the hottest topic with the wildest range of answers. So, all you writers, grab your pens, throw away your thinking caps, and start...

See ya all after the slug fest is over in SA, hopefully with something interesting from the WI's tour of England. One thing, WI were looking hopeless in first test (Lords....surprise!!!!)!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Hit-men in NZ

Hit-men, yeah... all that happened was just hitting the ball around in the miniature parks, relaid as belters... India is in New Zealand for five match ODI and three test series. Oh, ya, there were a couple of trailers, T20s too... the T20s were pocketed by the Kiwis, I wasn’t surprised, not like I was even bothere about a T20 party, it only makes the game more complex than whats required. Ok, now. All that done and disposed. I can just wrap up the two games, saying McCullum was at his best in both T20s, playing carefully, carrying his bat, and seeing his team till victory himself. That is very heartening for the Kiwis. For the Indians, Ishant injured his shoulder and was doubtful for a couple of ODIs atleast.

“Lets move on to the ODIs, shall we?”, says a voice in the back of my head. Agreed...
First ODI, Battling inconsistent weather, the groundsmen did a good job to make the match so good. A few rain interventions did shrink the match a bit. But, the Indian top order was not to shrink their attacking mood for anything. Sehwag and then Dhoni had a nice time out in the middle. Sehwag was...you know what he’s like off late, don’t you? Dhoni played a captains innings, and saw that India made a big total. The New Zealand chase was cut short by the Indians, who played their first series in their new colour-kit, a dark navy blue sort of colour, with orange patches that my sister finds very funny... Back to on field events... India up 1-0, and now, to _______. More rain, and more rain and more rain ensured India entered game 3 up 1-0.
Third ODI, i missed most of it, but I don’t regret it. It was a veryyyyyyyyyyy boring game. Hit hit hit hit hit... sachin had to so many hit to and beyond the fence that his body could take any more and an internal bleeding resulted. He had earlier taken a blow on his ribs. He had paced his innings perfectly for a possible two hundred. Taking a cue from flashy innings by Yuvraj, sachin started ‘hit at will’ and made a mockery of the Kiwi bowlers. Century for young Tim Southee, sad for him, the dubious record was a part of his bowling figures, not on the batting score card of his. Then came the Kiwis, chasing an improbable 390+ for victory. The word improbable was questioned soon by Jesse and Brendon. They scored at the exact same rate and were raising hell in the little cricket bowl. A silly run out of brendon then triggered a fall of wickets... a late flurry of runs off the willow of Mills and Southee (trying to make amends) was in vain. And so, another high scoring match. India 2-0 up, atleast one hand on the trophy.
Fourth ODI. Dan was away, as he was gonna be a father that day (congrats!). Stand in captain, McCullum was playing as a batsman after he injured his hand last ODI. Domestic talent, Peter McGlashan was to fill in as the keeper. Kiwis posted a good total, a very competitive total of 270 in 47 overs was very encouraging, after what had been happening to the NZ side in the past few games, they were happy to see a good opportunity come by. The target was revised to 281 due to rain curtails. But, there was one man who had absolutely no respect for any bowler. They newbie Ewen Thompson, the fast off-cutter did not have a good start to his career. Sehwag, added another record to his kitty, being the fastest Indian to reach the three-figure mark, taking only 60 deliveries to do so. The rampage continued, and no matter how much more tough every rain break made the target, Sehwag’s outrage, and Gambhir’s sage like innings saw India through, and left Kiwis clueless.

Last one... I don’t know how, but Kiwis defeated the same Indian side in a very comfortable manner. For the first time this series, I thought, there was a classical New Zealand track. Seamers, plus Ryder destroyed the Indian line up to less than 150, and the Kiwis wasted no time in reaching the paltry total. Nevertheless, India wins the series 3-1, but Kiwis will like to build on the momentum they just gathered. Test series should be interesting, as usual. So, hang on for the beauty of the test series.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

WI are back!!!!

Caribbean summer might not have been this good in recent times!!!

A four match series, an extra test made to fit in to compensate the cancellation of another test, gripping fight for the series till the second last ball of the series, and absolute battle for 19 days!!!!

First match, at Kingston, Jamaica. The Sabina Park was in for a big surprise. England had decent practice matches coming into the series (except the onslaught by Lendl Simmons). A not so great first innings score by Eng, majorly powered by KP's near-century was not enough to contain WI. Skipper, Gayle and Sarwan scored centuries to take WI to a small lead of 70 plus, early on day 4. Til, this point, one would give credit to the centurions, and to Big-Benn. But, now, evolves the new hero. Never seen WI bowling be so snaring since the departure of the deadly Walsh-Ambrose duo. At one end, on this day, Jerome Taylore was RIPPING England top order apart, while at the other end, Benn was ready to not let the grip off. Wickets tumbled faster than dominos. Eng were 26-7, and after a small period of revival (during this time, the picture had sunk into everybody), the tail was mopped up. Taylor read 9-4-11-5 in two spells, and Benn had 4 wickets again as WI skittled Eng for a paltry 51!!! Innings defeat. Could anyone have imagined that??? NOPE!!!! Surprise it sure was! By the time the news about WI rampage spread and crowd came to fill in, it was all over... They only got to photograph their stars...

So, a week off, and it was time for business again...
Antigua! Sir Viv Richards Stadium. Start....ten balls... Stop! Bad sandy outfield due to a recent storm rendered the ground unfit to be played on... So, the match was shifted to ARC, and so came the fifth match of the series, out of emergency.

So, two days after the havoc, the third match, starts at the ARC... England pile runs big runs... Almost everyone contributes, Strauss and Collingwood notch up centuries. Swann helps England restrict WI to a score less than 300, though Sarwan battled hard for his 94. Quick 22 in the second innings by Eng saw the declaration coming in an hour before tea on day 4, and England posted a target of 500+. Improbable, yes, but important to see how WI survives the test of time... England were looking to come back into the series. The fourth day ends at a nervous 143/3, Shiv and Sarwan at the center... Last day, England kept coming at the WI. The two veterans kept the WI wagon going till lunch. It was all about patience. Just before tea, WI lost the plot and both Sarwan and Shiv fell in quick succession! Tension built up. Eng kept picking up wickets... Last wicket pair, Powell and Edwards dramatically negotiated 66 balls to deny England victory. The draw was a moral victory for the Windies! So much drama!!!

Barbados, next, Kensington Oval. Picturesque backdrop, but England needed to craft something better than that on the pitch to etch its name on the tour map. Irritated captain, Strauss, won the toss and batted, and batted and batted and batted to pile up 600 runs. Strauss and Ravi with centuries, Collingwood and Cook, failing to cross the 100 mark. So, can the English side finally get its victory? No, said Sarwan! Whose near triple century took the game away from the English camp. Along with able century from 'keeper and Vice-Captain Ramdin, WI piled 749 and declared, with a wicket left, as if to impose superiority! Another draw. Another match fought off by WI.

Fifth one, Queen's Park Oval, Port of Spain, Trinidad. We are in for a ripper!

Same story with the toss and the first innings heap of runs. WI came up with an equally good run fest and the new face WI middle order batsman, Nash notched up his first century, stylish one, while Shiv plundered runs at will. End of day four, England are 82 runs ahead, three wickets down, and need to do something fast to get a result out of this. They need to post a target, neither too high for WI to give up the chase, nor too low to gift it to the WI... Plus, they have to first score those runs. So, there go KP and Prior on a leather hunt! Defencive field set didn't help Gayle much as England plundered at more than run a ball to set WI a target of 240 runs. The WI chase had to be careful, as first innings centurion opener, Gayle was injured and wouldn't bat until it is a 3rd degree emergency. Simmons and Smith opened. it was all looking good till Simmons fell to Jimmy, edging one to slip, trying to play across the line, and what a catch it was to get him! Wickets kept falling and WI were 3 down by tea! Some 35 overs to negotiate, and Swann was ferocious with the ball. Shiv, Nash and Hinds left soon and England was counting its chances at getting one hand at the trophy. Gayle came in to battle it out, with Ramdin. The two stayed there... Just stayed there. Throw anything at them, they won't even flinch! When was the last time you saw Gayle scoring 4 from 42 (when he ultimately fell to the over-emotional Monty, leaving 9 overs at stake)??? Powell gave Ramdin company for 6 overs. It was just a matter of twenty balls...three overs...two....one... Last over, Monty chosen over Swann (!?!?!?!??!?). And, Edwards was ever so calm... Two balls left. Edwards nudges this one to the leg side. WI dressing room is chaotic! Their first series win in 5 years!!! Strauss saw all this and called it a game...

What a finish to the game, err, to the series!!!

New-dad, Prior was man of the match for fighting innings (twice) and man of the series was the run machine Sarwan, who I think amassed more than 800 runs, I'm not sure...

Its ODI series up next :)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

What happened to NZ tracks????

What has happened over the past two or three years in the New Zealand Isles???? So many 300+ scores!!! There was a period when 200 was defendable. Now, 350 ain't safe!!!

Almost all pitches seem to have been reformed. As it is most NZ grounds are small, which is enough help for the batsmen. I haven't seen much grass on the pitch at all... Those Tuffey, Nash, Cairns, Doull days when the Kiwi pace battery was feared for their swing and pace together are gone. Though the Kiwi pace attack is still good, the swing factor seems to be missing. NZCA seems to be letting go off their "home advantage". More batsmen whacking the ball all over, like crazy... But, there still are bowlers who'd love to have a few slips to feed, with new ball in hand!!! 9 out of top 10 scores on Kiwi tracks have been scored since 2007 Jan!!! The only other entry is atleast 5 years stale!

Somehow, if the tracks are back to their kiwi best,then cricket would be even more interesting in the best ever place to play the game on earth... New Zealand is literally, Heaven on Earth! Breathtaking backdrop, flush green field, wonderful stadium, mind boggling weather conditions and not but not the least, a superb cricket team with a league of fantastic fans right behind them.

Wishing for Kiwis to fly sky high!!!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

NBA, regular season

Lakers on top of the Western by a mile's distance over spurs.

Cleveland and Celtics are very close atop the Western.

West won All Stars (Phoenix) in style and Nate Robinson, won the Slam Dunk Contest!!! Surprised? Yes? NO? I wanna see the expression on your face after the little fella dunked over 'superman' MAGICian Dwight Howard!!!!

All and more on NBA's website... Too many games, so too difficult toupdate you all on the day to day happenings.

Some other notable news -

CLE are on their way to the best regular season finish record at home. They are currently 27-1 at home. Their 24 or so streak at Quicken's Arena was broken by the Lakers.

Bynum, Garnett, Stoudemire are injured presently. Stoudemire, till the end of the season.

Wade is the top scorer by far, followed by Le Bron. And, the best voted All-Star, Dwight Howard has been the best with rebounding...

Utah Jazz has had this sudden sprng in form, winning 11 of their last 12 games since Feb- 1st. This has boosted them to the 6th spot.

With Amare missing, Sun will have a tough time. They are 9th and need to put in some effort to reach the zone in which the Mavs, Hornets, Jazz and Blazers are fighting a close battle.

Close season this is gonna be for sure...

Ref!!! Whats all this nonsense?

its become more of a referee's game than players'.... Bloody referees have ruined Chelsea's chances at the title after few, err, some, err, many, err, a LOT of wrong decisions, yellows and reds and etc etc that has led to home losses (London bridge falling down, said my friend once, which I had to irritatingly accept). Chelsea lost Coach Big Phil, and Roman replaced him with his friend Guus Hiddinks. Is there any magic that he is gonna weave with the London top flghters? Time will tell.

Empty two months...

This blog needs some serious updation, said many. Yup, agreed...

Too many things to fill in...

Australian summer, long gone and forgotten... First, they swept the Kiwis in the tests and lost fort to the South Africans. That was SOME series. Pls check the details on the website I've referred to on the side-pane... I lost touch big time...

Then the ODI series, in which the South Africans again took the honours, and left Australia in misery with too many retirements and injuries. SA moved to number one in ODIs and are breathing down the back of Aus for the peak in the tests.

West Indies toured NZ for two tests and five ODIs. Test series was pretty much washed away, and ODI series was won by the not so experienced Kiwis.

Next, NZ toured their neighbour for the ODI series and sent some shivers down the Aussies when they won the first two ODIs. Aus brought two back and rain saved the Aussies from losing the decider. Hence, Australians get to keep the Chappel-Hadlee trophy as they had won the previous series (also held in Aus 3-0 early in 2008).

Elsewhere, Sri Lanka had won the trination tournament in Bangladesh (after having lost round robin match to the hosts). Zimbabwe was the other invited team. Lankans rode on Dilshan's impeccable form to win 2-0 in the test series against Bangladesh.

India refused to tour Pakistan and hence, Sri Lanka toured them, and wanted India to tour SL for a compensatory ODI tour. SL won 2-1 in Pakistan and made a mockery of their decision to force India tour them again in less than 7 months and were thrashed 4-1. SL went back to Pakistan for the test series.

Some series...no not much of cricket...bowlers were already scorching for wickets... Some 7 or 8 days of play yielded not many wickets... Pakistan pitches are becoming un-sportive. Crowd was quite disappointing yet again. And the very purpose SL toured Pakistan, to show the world that this place is safe for anybody to play, WAS PROVEN BLOODY WRONG!!!!!!!!! Nasty shootout by lethargically armed gunmen, at the SL team bus early in the morning was a very upsetting news. As many as six Sri Lankan players including Vaas, Samaraweera, Sangakkara, Paranavitana (gosh! He had an unbelieavably forgettable tour! Golden duck to kick start his career, and then the terrorist... really pity him), Mendis and captain Jayawardene (about to step down from captaincy to let a new captain build a good team for the WC'11). If this is going to be the security level, I don't see any possibility of International matches to be held in Pakistan for a looooooooooooooooooooooooong time. World Cup seems impossible! Pakistan may be playing 'home' matches at neutral venues, prominently in the Gulf.

Currently, West Indies are hosting England, India is touring New Zealand ( I've been waiting for this for years, long time since this happened), and the revenge double header Aus tur of SA is gonna be some high voltage encounter.

Cling on for more, I hope to fill in soon.