Sunday, June 18, 2017

ICC Champions Trophy 2017 : India vs Pakistan - The Finals

The mother of all battles as it was expected today, India took on Pakistan in the ICC Champions Trophy finals at the Oval.
A fresh pitch, looking good to hold on a sun drenched ground, both team kept their eleven unchanged from the semis.
Virat won the toss & put Pakistan into bat, keeping in mind that India are better at chasing - was that the first signs of nerves, or was it over confidence going into the game ?? Why wouldn't you bat first & post a big total to put opposition under pressure, rather than chase under pressure, was the question in mind, but at that stage, it looked good for India.

Starting the bowling, Bhuvi was spot on with his line & length as he put a stranglehold from the beginning, but Bumrah sprayed from the other end, as Fakhar got away with a caught behind on a silly no ball, & boundaries started to flow. At the end of first 6 overs, Pakistan were going full steam with 36 runs on board without a wicket & after the 1st Power Plays of 10 overs, it was 56 runs. The no ball caught behind & a couple of missed run out chances started hurting India. At the end of 17th over, when the 1st drinks break was called, Pakistan were sitting pretty with 93 for no loss.
By the 20th over,  both the openers had notched up their individual fifties As the total boosted to 114 for no loss - Pakistan had put up back to back opening century partnership & looking ominous, As Indian fielders started to look worried.
Finally in the 23rd over, Azhar Ali got run out to a instinct stop by Bumrah & return to Dhoni, who whipped the bails as the batsman was way out of the crease. Pakistan 128 for 1. The batting domination however continued as Fakhar went on to get his 1st ODI hundred in just 92 deliveries, but then gave away his wicket holing out Pandya to be caught by Jadeja with score reading 200 for 2 in the beginning of the 33rd over. However, even this did not help India's cause, as batsmen kept profiting from a placid wicket & runs just flowed. Md Hafeez, normally a sedate player went hammer & tongs as well, scoring a wonderful unbeaten fifty, getting 57 from just 37 deliveries, with some glorious hits to the fence, as Pakistan managed a huge total of 338 for just 4 wickets.
At the fall of Babar Azam in the 43rd over, It looked as if India might pull back, but Pakistan scored 71 in the last 7.3 overs, & went past 300 runs easily. It was only Bhuvaneshwar Kumar who bowled with purpose & a bit by Pandya, as rest of the bowlers just sprayed all over. Bumrah was simply erratic, over stepping continuously, which hurt India immensely, especially Fakhar, who escaped getting out when he was just 3runs & went on to score his century & help Pakistan build a huge total. India gave away 25 extras, which was too many for a final. Definitely a total that would bring smiles on the Pakistan bowlers face to defend. Halfway mark, Match on, with Pakistan on the advantage, & India regretting the decision at the toss.
Most of the experts, coming on air in the innings break, believed that India had the batting line up to chase this total, but it would be tough.

India started in the most horrific manner possible. They needed a good solid start chasing, but Amir had Rohit out, plumb in front of the wicket in the very first over for no score. The big fish Virat Kohli, known for excellent run chase records, looked tentative & nicked Amir in the slips, only to see that spilled - but in the very next delivery, he was snared by Shadab at point, off Amir. India's best hope for a win snubbed off. Wickets continued to tumble as in form Shikhar Dhawan went next caught behind & then veterans Yuvraj & Dhoni got out - the score looking a dismal 54 for 5 in the 14th over & it was all over the bar shouting.
Hardik Pandya did make a bold attempt to at least defy the Pakistan attack. He hit six sixes in his breezy knock of 76 runs in just 43 deliveries & showed, that batting conditions were not tough, before Jadeja stupidly got him run out & India's batting folded up without a fight after that to be all out for a paltry 158. In fact, its just because of Pandya, that India managed to go past 100 & then 150 runs. Indian batting looked sleep walking in distress & very very ordinary application against an inspired Pakistan bowling. In the end, it was a one sided victory for Pakistan, & that too against India after a very long time.
Md Amir had broken India's back with 3 wickets for just 16 runs in 6 overs, with scalps of Rohit, Virat & Shikhar - top three Indian batsmen in the tournament. Hassan Ali, too picked up three wickets for 19 runs. he certainly was the find of the tournament for Pakistan, & rightly declared the Man of Tournament; as was Fakhar Zaman, who got his maiden ODI hundred & was adjusted the Man of Match. India's sole consolation was Shikhar Dhawan getting the Golden Bat award as the leading run getter.
A tournament, where Pakistan were 8th seeded & no one had given them any hope of even reaching the last four, especially after getting thrashed by India in the first match.....they came back & how - winning against all the top teams, ....SA, Sri Lanka, England & finally against India - certainly a stupendous effort & a massive victory for them.
Back home, this could signal the last days of MS Dhoni & Yuvraj Singh, as they may have played their last here.

A disappointing end to India's bid to retain the trophy, but a fantastic win for Pakistan. Congratulations !!!

PS - For Indian fans, some consolation to derive, India thrashed Pakistan 7-1 in the Hockey World League semi finals, today evening, one of their biggest victories, & in badminton, Srikant Kadambi won the Indonesian Open 21-11, 21-19. So two huge victories against one major loss - though the loss in cricket hurts the most probably !!!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

ICC Champions Trophy 2017 : India vs Bangladesh

Under overcast conditions at Edgbaston, Birmingham, the 2nd semifinals between neighbouring countries India & Bangladesh got underway. Kohli won the toss & put Bangladesh into bat, obviously influenced by the fact, that chasing has been relatively under control in this tournament, as well as advantage under D/L scenarios. However, clouds, though threatening, & rains coming in brief, light showers, the game went on without any interruptions. The crowd had their monies worth, as both teams gave in their best, though India on this day was a couple of notches ahead.

Bangladesh started in earnest, knowing that the only way out is to play fearless. Though Bhuvi bowled out Soumya Sarkar in the first over itself, Tamim & next man in Sabbir kept hitting against the line to get crucial boundaries. Bhuvi again got Sabbir caught sharply by Jadeja at point, with score reading 31 for 2 in the 7th over. Next in Mushfiqur along with Tamim then got on to build the innings with a hundred run partnership, taking the score to 154. Both looked well set & threatening to run ragged the Indian bowling & build a huge total, when Tamim missed a straight ball from makeshift bowler Kedar Jadhav to be bowled out in the 28th over. Tamim, who survived being bowled out on a no ball, scored 70 runs, while Mushfiqur got a useful 61 runs. India was back in the game & got three quick wickets, as Bangladesh went past 200 runs in the 40th over. But Bangladesh prospered, as India again let them off the hook after claiming the big wickets. Capt Mashrafe Murtaza along with Taskin Ahmed, added 35 valuable runs for the undefeated 8th wicket in the final 5 overs, as Bangladesh got themselves a credible 264 runs for 7 wickets at the end of 50 overs. They had looked good to go past 300 runs at one stage & then slipped to get contained to 250, but again managed to add vital runs in the slog overs.
Indian fielding was rather scratchy, with occasional slip ups, & that costed them a good 15 - 20 extra runs. However, at this stage, it still looks India's game to chase successfully.

Indian openers, Rohit & Shikhar started the run chase after the lemon break. With no demons in the pitch, & no pressures of a high total, both batsmen eased into the scoring. While Rohit was sedate, & silky in his drives & pulls, treating the crowd with his lazy elegance, in form Shikhar was severe on anything pitched up as the runs came at a fast clip. Some of the shots played were simply breathtaking, as 10 overs of power plays produced 63 runs, with Bangladesh bowlers creating no impact at all.
Shikhar was more adventurous & paid the price by giving away his wicket for just 46 runs, with the team score at 87, in the 15th over, when he was looking good for much more. However, for the records, he went past Saurav Ganguly to become the highest scorer for India in the Champions Trophy & also the leading score in this edition of the tournament.
Next in Capt Virat, got into the groove almost immediately & along with Rohit eventually took India home to an easy victory. It was a solid partnership of 178 runs in just a little over 25 overs, as India achieved the target with almost 10 overs to spare. The batting looked unhurried, compact & in total control.
Rohit completed his 10th century, while Virat remained unbeaten at 96, hitting the winning boundary. He also crossed 8000 runs in ODI, in just 175 innings, becoming the fastest player to achieve that mark. He went past Saurav Ganguly as the fastest Indian & past AB deVilliers as the fastest in the world. He displayed true professionalism in concentrating on team victory than getting his hundred - truly phenomenal.
Rohit Sharma was adjusted the Man of Match for his unbeaten 123 runs.
It was a clinical finish, outclassing Bangladesh in all counts. India looks in good nick to enter the finals where they meet the arch rivals Pakistan. - its expected to be a cracker of a game on Sunday

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

ICC Champions Trophy 2017 : England vs Pakistan

On a sun drenched morning at Cardiff, Sarfraz won the toss & put England into bat, as the 1st semifinals of this edition of Champions Trophy got underway.

Pakistan made two bowling changes in their team, with Rumman Raees making his debut, replacing an injured Md Amir & spinner Shadab Khan coming in for Faheem Ashraf. For England their was one expected change, with out of form opening batsman Jason Ray replaced by Jonny Bairstow.
Midway though the innings, England were off to a sedate start, with score reading 118 for 2 in 25 overs. Bairstow, playing his first game got a well made 43, before holing out to an adventurous shot, & Alex Hales getting out early for just 13 runs. Next in, Capt Morgan & Joe Root, looked good to build a partnership & platform for a later assault, but they could not sustain the momentum or intensity. In fact, it was the Pakistan pace attack that showed purpose & intensity, as the English batsmen kept making cardinal errors one after the other. Wickets tumbled at regular intervals, & finally the struggle ended in the 50th over as England posted a paltry 211 runs. It was a miserable performance by the hosts, who were runaway favourites in the pre match analysis by all & sundry.
For Pakistan, Hassan Ali was once again superlative with his line & length, picking up three wickets for just 35 runs in his 10 overs, & he was ably assisted by Junaid & debutant Raees, who chipped in with two wickets apiece. It was an excellent, disciplined display by the men in green, & they executed their plans to perfection. Pakistan has a strong bowling attack, but one expected England, with such a strong batting line up, to get 250 - 270 runs at the least. Root, Bairstow, Morgan, Stokes, all got starts, but could not convert that into a big score. Stokes, in fact notched up an infamous record, when he batted for 64 deliveries, without hitting a single boundary - most by any batsman in Champions Trophy !!

With no obvious pressure of run chase, Pakistan openers started in whirlwind fashion, & at the first break for drinks after 18 overs, the score read 105 for no loss - Fakhar Zaman having completed his fifty & Azhar Ali at 42, both unbeaten & looking in no trouble. Though, both the openers got out eventually, Pakistan had no trouble to go past the target of 212 runs, as Babar Azam & Md Hafeez, took them home & completed a resounding victory in just over 37 overs. They had successfully ousted hosts & title favourites England to enter the final, for the first time. They read the pitch well & played to their strengths, & are now looking in ominous form.
The bowling is looking sharp & on the buzzer, the batting is shaping up & the intent in the field is worth applauding - the team looks organised in the middle. Hassan Ali was rightly adjusted the MAn of Match.
For England, it was a wasted opportunity - the team was good, & they were the only unbeaten team till now - but it all went down the drain, as the players committed hara-kiri of sorts to lose out.

Pakistan now await the winners of India & Bangladesh in the 2nd semifinals tomorrow.

Monday, June 12, 2017

ICC Champions Trophy 2017 : Pakistan vs Sri Lanka

Knockout match between the two sub continent teams, Pakistan & Sri Lanka at Cardiff, surely had to be a humdinger, as the winner would enter the semis & the loser go out of the tournament.

Sarfraz won the toss & surely enough put Sri Lanka into bat on a dry, but new wicket.
Batting first, Sri Lanka did not get off to a flier, as Amir & Junaid were bowling with fire & keeping runs at check. Three wickets fell rather cheaply, as the Lankans struggled at 83 for 3 around the 15th over. Capt Mathews & opener Dickwella, then got down to construct the innings & slowly the batting recovered. But just when, they looked good for a big commanding total, they lost four wickets in a heap, & from 3 for 160 they slid to 7 for 167 in the 35th over - opportunity to get a winning total, lost. The last three wickets tried hard with Gunaratne & Lakmal getting some crucial runs under their belt, & finally the innings folded up for 236 all out - certainly well below par. Keeping in mind, that at one stage, they looked good to reach 320 - 330 runs, the Lankans surely fell short by more than 70 - 80 runs. The team, that had batted with such assurance against Indians to win the game, today, just lost their way, after building a decent platform.
For Pakistan, all the bowlers were very disciplined, with Hassan Ali & Junaid picking up three wickets each, while Amir & Fahim scalped two each.

Pakistan started their run chase, with Fakhar going on a rampage right at the start, while Sri Lankans were surprisingly way below par in fielding. Catches dropped, run outs missed, as Pakistan were merrily scoring runs & the opening pair put up 76 runs, before Fakhar was caught in the deep in the 12th over. The Lankans, did come back strongly into the match after that, & some good bowling had the Pakistan gasping for dear life, as they slid down to 7 for 162 in the 30th over, with only Capt Sarfraz as the last recognised batsman in the crease. Target looked a long long way, out of reach, with around 74 runs still to get, & the Lankans were back on top, needing just three more wickets. However, they let slip the match away from here, with some horrendous fielding, Thisara Perera, being the biggest culprit, dropping a sitter, when Sarfraz mistimed Malinga & the easiest of the catches was dropped at long on.... he was pathetic while batting, giving away his wicket cheaply & now, dropping the Pakistan Captain at such a critical juncture. This definitely was dropping the match & the tournament. More catches were dropped & runs outs missed, as Sarfraz & Amir stitched an unexpected 75 run partnership to take their team to victory & into the semis. Sarfraz, was named the Man of Match. He had his luck & he made the most of it, by taking his team to victory. It was a game, where it seemed as if both teams were trying hard to lose - Pakistan by giving simple chances & Sri Lanka by dropping them - watching the match was indeed an agony.
A game, which was nail biting alright, swinging from one side to the other, but extremely disappointing to see the Lankans field so very poorly. Lasith Malinga, who probably played his last ODI, saw with dismay, as opportunities created by him went begging.
Surely the Sri Lankan selectors will chop a few players from this team for good - most obvious of them being, Thisera Perera. They are a young unit with a lot of potential & under Angelo Mathews, they should build a strong team ahead.

The semifinal line up is complete now.
Pakistan play hosts England at the same ground, Cardiff on 14th, while India take on Bangladesh at Edgbaston on 15th. Three of the four teams are from the subcontinent, which defines their supremacy over world cricket currently. 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

ICC Champions Trophy 2017 : India vs South Africa

India vs South Africa, a virtual quarterfinals for this tournament, promising a real nail biter of a match at Oval, turned out to be quite a disappointment.

India won the toss & put South Africa into bat, under a clear sky. The openers, de Kock & Hashim Amla started quite well for the Proteas putting up 76 runs, before Ashwin tied Amla into nicking behind for Dhoni to snap a catch, as the score read 76 for 1 in the 18th over. de Kock tried to settle the nerves with next in du Plessis, but was bowled through his pads by Jadeja, just after completing his half century. Suddenly panic had set into the Proteas batting, as wickets just kept tumbling one after the other, with needless run outs, or silly strokes, it was simply madness in the middle. They could not even bat the allotted 50 overs, & were all out for a paltry 191 in the 45th over. The no 1 team in ODI, but always known to choke & panic in pressure situations, were down on their knees. India were superb in their fielding & bowling, very disciplined, not leaving an inch for the opponents. The last 8 wickets had gone for just 51 runs.

India had the easiest of the chases to get along with, needing 192 runs at less than 4 runs per over. Though Rohit got our early to Morkel, caught behind, the chase was always under control, as Dhawan & Virat tore open the SA bowling attack to shreds taking the score to 151, before Dhawan holed out to Tahir in the deep. Virat & Yuvi then finished the game, with 12 overs still left. Dhawan & Virat got their half centuries, as India knocked out SA & entered the semis.
The match turned out to be a damp squib, & supporters form all over were rather disappointed with such a lame performance from the South Africans. Once again, they collapsed under pressure.
India is looking good in all departments, with Ashwin making a successful come back into the playing eleven. Jasprit Bumrah was adjusted the Man of Match for figures of 2 wickets for 28 runs in 8 overs - he was spot on with his accurate yorkers & length bowling & along with Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, broke the Proteas batting spine. However, according to me, it was Shikhar Dhawan with his 78 runs, who deserved the award more - he is now the leading run getter in the tournament with 271 runs, which includes a century & two half centuries.