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!!!!)!