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 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 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.