Thursday, March 31, 2011

World Cup 2011 .... India vs Pakistan - 2nd Semifinal !!!

A billion sighs of relief must have pumped the late evening atmosphere, as the Men in Blue edged out the Men in Green to enter the finals of the ICC World Cup 2011. The match that was billed to be the mother of all contests, of course did not rise to dramatic proportions, as the quality of the game was mediocre, but the environment was electric & the presence of heavyweight politicians & popular faces added to the glitz & tension.
The bookies were holding India as firm favourites, but there seemed to be diplomatic pressures as well. The first one hour of the match gave rise to many speculations, of the match being fixed. When Dhoni dropped an inform Ashwin for Nehra, & chose to bat after winning the toss, eyebrows started to twitch. Sehwag & Sachin started in whirlwind fashion, & Pakistan's best bowler till date in the tournament, Umar Gul seem to lose his rhythm as he got plundered. Shewag took 21 runs from Gul in the 3rd over of the innings & vision of a total in excess of 300 looked imminent. Sachin escaped a vociferous LBW through UDRS & the very next delivery a near stumping chance, as he scratched for runs. At 114 for 1 in 18 overs, India looked set for a very big total, but Riaz brought Pakistan right back in the game by picking up two crucial wickets, getting Virat Kohli & Yuvi of successive deliveries & almost getting Dhoni out caught behind the very next ball. Meanwhile, Sachin kept enjoying lady luck's blessings as buttered fingered Pakistani fielders dropped him four times, at 27, 45, 70 & 81. It was bizarre, as if it was deal between Pakistan & India....." we will let Sachin get his 100th century & you let us win the match!!!" I guess, when Sachin finally got caught out by Afridi for a not so convincing 85, many Indians like me along with the whole of Pakistan heaved a sigh of relief. In the 2003 World Cup at South Africa, when India last met Pakistan, Sachin had mauled Pakistan with a brilliant 97, as opposed to today, when he looked rather patchy. The Indian innings stuttered & spluttered, & finally ended at 260 for 9, thanks to a late assault by Raina along with Bhajji & Zaheer, as everyone of us felt was a good 20-30 runs short. Wahab Riaz, picked by Afridi ahead of Shoaib Akhtar for this match, had responded well to his Captain's faith by picking up 5 wickets for 46 runs & restricting India. Gul was surprisingly smashed all over for 69 runs in 8 overs.

In reply Pakistan was sedate with Hafeez & Kamran Akaml staring the innings. However, Indians on the field held nerves better, as Pakistan collapsed in the run chase. All the bowlers, surprisingly bowled excellently & fielders were committed, & as the pressure kept mounting in the run chase, Dhoni was excellent with field placement & bowling changes. The very fact that India conceded the 1st extras only in the 37th over, reflects the commitment of the players in the field. In between, Umar Akmal was threatening to take the match away from India, hitting 2 sixes off Yuvi. With him at the crease, anything was possible, as Dhoni called Bhajji to bowl. The Turbunator immediately scalped Umar, & with that died Pakistani hopes of a resurgence. Finally Pakistan were bowled out for 231 in the last over of the match, as India celebrated victory by 29 runs. It was India's 5th consecutive win over Pakistan in the World Cup & 1st at Mohali. This also means the end of the road for Shoaib Akhtar, one of the World's best pacer of the modern era, as he has already announced his retirement from international cricket.
The streets of India all across, had thousands spilling out, shouting & ranting & drumming & rejoicing on the Indian victory against arch rivals Pakistan. It was as if we have already won the Cup !!!!

India are now in finals, & would meet Sri Lanka at Wankhade Stadium, Mumbai on 2nd April, Saturday. A final between Men in Blue of different shades !!! India has Sachin Tendulkar, the batsman with the most runs in cricket & Sri Lanka has Muttiah Muralitharan, the bowler with the most wickets in cricket, both at the twilight of their illustrious career, probably playing their last World Cup match.....What a contest on cards...a fitting finale !!!

Man of the Match : Sachin Tendulkar for his 85 runs with the bat. In my view he did not deserve this award, as he scratched for runs & was immensely lucky to get away with 4 missed catches & two close appeals.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

World Cup 2011 .... India vs Pakistan - 2nd Semifinal preview !!!

Billed as the mother of all contests, India take on Pakistan in a extremely high octane semifinal clash at Mohali tomorrow afternoon.
Under Afridi, Pakistan looks like a team reborn, after the various controversies have plagued them for more than a year. There is Shoiab Akhtar, who will retire from international cricket after this tournament, & despite creaking bones, is itching to end it with a glorious win; there is Younis Khan who has to control the middle order & overs for his team; there is Misbah ul Haq, who still smarts from the loss to India in the T20 World Cup finals two years ago, when he could have won for Pakistan; there is Umar & Kamran, the Akmal brothers, who are at their mercurial best one day & pedestrian the other; there is Umar Gul who has been the best pacer in the tournament till now; there is Hafeez & Razzaq who have the talent to win the game on their own, but have not really fired in the tournament till now & then there is Captain Afridi who seems to be getting better & better as a bowler, being the leading wicket taker till now, who can demolish any bowling attack with his savage batting. The team is simply laden with unbridled talent, but also very undisciplined talent. A country, which is perpetually on the verge of a civil war, poverty & terrorism, keeps on producing sportsmen oozing with mercurial talent. They have done well as an unit to reach the semifinals with conviction, having lost only to New Zealand in the group stages.

On the other hand, India has the batting order which would be the envy of any team, as any of the top seven batsmen can win a match on his own self.......Sehwag, Sachin, Gambhir, Yuvi, Dhoni, Virat, Raina / Pathan...each one of them. In bowling Ashwin has been a revelation, as Zaheer seems to be peaking at the right time & Bhajji providing with solidity in the middle overs. Its the 4th & 5th bowler slot that is a problem area, though Yuvi seems to be doing quite well as a back up, & fielding has been a constant worry.
Through the tournament till now, India seem to dazzle but also limp & at times choke, as batsmen have been guilty of not finishing 50 overs quota, bowlers leaking runs, & fielding quite below par. However, the win against champions Australia in the quarterfinals, should a good boost, as India almost did nothing wrong.
The pressures of the match between Pakistan & India & the hype created by the media, is the main concern & who ever holds nerves better will come out smiling. The pitch while being a belter, seems to have something for everyone,  & a pressure cooker match like this batting first & getting 280-290 would be
While bookies are rooting for an Indian victory, there are speculations that India might lose the match to gain diplomatic brownies,  as the Prime Ministers of both the countries are going to be watching the match in the stadium !!!
Interestingly, India has never won a match in Mohali against Pakistan, while Pakistan has never won a match against India in World Cups so far.

My prediction would be 52 : 48 in favour of India. Lets all keep our fingers crossed & look forward to a glorious game of cricket tomorrow, as the two countries would have come to a virtual stop from 2.30pm.

World Cup 2011 .... Sri Lanka vs New Zealand....semifinals !!!

So Sri Lanka has made it to the finals of the ICC World Cup 2011 & they will now await the winners of the 2nd semifinals clash between India & Pakistan.

The match at Premadasa Stadium started with New Zealand winning the toss & electing to bat. However, with big hitting McCullum gone in the 8th over, The Kiwis would always find it difficult to get a big score. Though Taylor, Guptill, Styris & Williamson got starts, they could not convert into a big score. While they were well placed at 161 for 3 in 39 overs, a perfect launch pad for the death overs, the batsmen lost control & wickets kept tumbling regularly, as New Zealand stuttered to a total of 217 all out in 49 overs. The last five wickets went for just 13 runs, as Mendis & Malinga ran amok amongst the batsmen. Mutiah Muralitharan claimed the dangerous Scott Styris LBW, with his final delivery on home soil....marking an emotional end to his legendary career !!! The crowd was euphoric as were his team mates. The Kiwis had looked good to cross the 250 mark, but fell way short at 217......certainly 30-40 runs less to put the Sri Lankan batting under any pressure.
Sri Lankan reply was emphatic to start with Tharanga & Dilshan continuing from where they left in the last match. Tharanga lost his wicket to a brilliant catch by Jesse Ryder at point, but Sangakkara & Dilshan looked like cruising to victory, with score at 160 for 1 in the 33rd over. But there was drama at the centre as Dilshan threw away his wicket to another stunning catch by Ryder at point, for a well made 73. Three balls later Mahela was trapped LBW by Vettori, & then Sanga lost his cool to hole out to Styris at third man, as Lanka had lost three crucial wickets for 8 runs in 22 deliveries. Chamara Silva & Samaraweera got into a shell, & suddenly the Kiwis looked lively & spritely on the ground, as the Lankans got themselves into a spot of bother. Chamara Silva played on to Southee, & nerves started to jangle as Angelo Mathews walked in. The Lankan dressing room looked tensed & worried, but Samaraweera along with Mathews managed to romp home, with 13 balls to spare. The Kiwis had managed to come back into the game, & would certainly rue at not having pit up another 20-30 runs, which could have got them closer to victory. It was once more an exit in the semis for them, as Sri Lanka marched into the finals for the 2nd time in succession.
They look a good unit in all departments of the game, with Dilshan, Sanga & Tharanga manning the batting at the top; Murali & Malinga along with Mendis & Mathews bowling well & as a team fielding with alacrity.

Man of the Match : Kumara Sangakkara for his brilliant 54 with the bat, & 3 catches while on the field. He also led his team well through the match, though he was lucky to win, especially after losing his wicket at a very crucial stage.

Monday, March 28, 2011

World Cup 2011 .... Sri Lanka vs New Zealand - 1st Semifinal preview !!!

Sri Lanka take on New Zealand in the 1st semifinals of the World Cup tomorrow at Premadasa Stadium, Colombo.

New Zealand is a bits & pieces team, having players like Brenden McCullum, Guptill, Ross Taylor & Jesse Ryder, who on their day can post a big total or chase a big total, with the bat. When this adds to the all round performances of Jacob Oram & Daniel Vettori, the team looks formidable on paper. Add to this, their superlative win against favourites South Africa in the quarterfinals, & you would like to think that they are a strength to reckon with. Their fiedling was like dream against South Africa, where Oram took a fascinating running catch to dismiss Kallis & then Guptill ran out AB de Villiers, one of the fastest runners between the wickets....both the batsmen were well set & were coasting the Proteas to a easy victory when this happened, & the rest of the batsmen collapsed in a surprising heap.
However, the team, has been very very scratchy in their performances over the last one year. They have been thrashed by India, Sri Lanka, & Bangladesh in the subcontinent, & Pakistan also defeated them back home, down under. Some say, they were lucky to be in Group A, to manage a place in the last eight, & then faced South Africa, who have always choked in the knockout stages.
That said, the Kiwis would certainly have to be superlative & sensational to pull out an upset against Sri Lanka, & the country is hoping Daniel Vettori, pulls out a cat from the bag.
In contrast, the Sri Lankans are looking good & confident. They are gelling as a unit & batting, bowling & fielding is stacking up quite nicely. They are a little too dependent on their top four batsmen, but then, these four have been performing regularly & they also have Angelo Mathews, Chamara Silva & Samaraweera drawing up a formidable middle order. Dilshan, Tharanga & Sangakkara are amongst the top five batsmen in this tournament, & they have enough firepower to blow away the Kiwis attack, which lacks depth. Bowling looks facile & strong with Malinga, Kulasekhara bowling well  upfront & in the death overs, along with Murali & Mendis finding form. However, Murali struggled with his hamstring injury in the quarters, & there is quite a possibility that he may have to rest. In my opinion, Sri Lankans are formidable without him as well, & the think tank would be well advised to rest Murali & get him fit for the finals. His presence is more important for them in the finals, where, if they reach, they would have to face either Pakistan or India, both of whom are good against spin bowling.

My prediction would be 65 : 35 in favour of Sri Lanka

Sunday, March 27, 2011

World Cup 2011 .... Sri Lanka vs England - Quarterfinals !!!

Thankfully there were no surprises in store for the last quarterfinals between Sri Lanka & England, being played at Premadasa Stadium, Colombo. After the rude shock of South Africa self destructing themselves against New Zealand in the last match, & a lot of hue & cry amongst bookies that England would win the cup this time around, one was a bit wary on results.
However, Sangakkara led Sri Lankans, ensured there were no rude surprises in store.
England team has been wobbly from the beginning of this tournament & have won matches or lost matches rather unconvincingly up till now. They team looked jaded & tired....maybe a reflection of their mind after overpowering the Aussies in the Ashes....this added with injuries of key players, it was difficult to believe that they would go beyond this stage.
Having won the toss, England decided to bat, but were immediately put on the back foot, with surprise bowler Dilshan claiming Andrew Strauss & then Mathews getting Bell, with score reading 31 for 2 in 9 overs. Trott & Bopara did some damage control & later Morgan & Prior got some lusty hitting, as England limped to 229 runs for 6 wickets. Trott benefited some dropped catches to score 86 runs, with only two boundaries.
For the formidable Sri Lankans this was not a challenging total, unless there were some early loss of wickets. However openers Dilshan & Tharanga, took time to settle down & did not let the English bowlers take any upper hand. they scored when they got a bad delivery & defended when then faced a good one. Runs kept piling & both eventually reached their respective centuries, as Sri Lanka romped home in only the 40th over, without losing a single wicket. It was a complete Lankan domination, as England bade farewell to their Cup aspirations.
Lankans now face New Zealand in the semis, who had earlier shocked South Africa. Again barring a huge rude shock, I don't see anything stopping the Lankans from making it to the finals for the 2nd successive time. They are clearly peaking at the right time & look a happy unit.

Man of the Match : Tilakratne Dlishan for his magnificent 108 unbeaten runs & 1 wicket.

Friday, March 25, 2011

World Cup 2011 .... Sri Lanka vs England - preview !!!

The last quarterfinals tomorrow is going to be between Sri Lanka & England. On paper, Sri Lanka should win hands down, but after what has happened tonight between South Africa & New Zealand, one would be wary to predict.
The Lankans have an excellent bowling attack, with Murali & Malinga, ably assisted by Kulasekhara, Mendis, Mathews etc, with a good fielding unit to back up. The batting up till now has been a little top heavy, with too much of dependency on Dilshan, Sanga & Mahela. This is also the last World Cup for Murali & he would like to end it in style.
The England team has been huffing & puffing & causing the most of the exciting matches. They have won against South Africa from nowhere, tied up with India, a match they should have won, & lost to Bangladesh. Their entry into quarterfinals does not inspire confidence, but then they have it in them to surprise their opponents. The team is heavily dependent on Andrew Strauss, Trott & Bell for batting. The bowling & fielding is in bits & pieces. Iwth Peterson & Broad injured & back, the team looks rather wobbly.

According to one of my friends, who probably has links with the bookies, however, prediction is for England to win the Cup this time!!!!! I would probably stop talking about cricket if this comes true. I would then believe that matches are rigged, & its the big bucks which determine the results!!!! So for the love of the game, I sincerely hope England loses today, & Sri Lanka go to the semis as a worthy team. However, may the best team on the day win.

My prediction would be 65:35 in favour of Sri Lanka.

World Cup 2011 .... South Africa vs New Zealand - Quarterfinals !!!

South Africa has done it again, CHOKED at the knockout stages of the World Cup. Clear favourites by all & sundry & easily coasting to victory till about the last 23 overs of the match, team Proteas simply panicked & choked & gifted a World Cup semifinal slot to the Kiwis. It was simply unbelievable & bizarre, as eight wickets fell in a heap for just 64 runs in a space of 20 odd overs.
At the beginning of the match, when Kiwis batting first, lost the dangerous McCullum & Guptill with 6 overs for just 16 runs, it looked like South Africa will steamroll through, & it will be a no contest. But Taylor & Ryder added 114 runs for the 3rd wicket & then the score ambled to 221 run for 8 wickets in 50 overs. For the first time in the tournament, South Africa could not bowl out a side. Was that the premonition that stuck them & they gave away the plot????
Chasing 222 looked easy, even in this spin track & the Proteas had enough firepower. So when they lost inform Amla cheaply & then Smith, the match looked very much in their grip. At 108 for 2 in 24 overs, with Kallis & AB de Villiers in the middle, things looked quite hunky dory for South Africa. One felt that the match would get over quite soon, when CHOKE came into play. In a bizarre twist to the tale, one after the other wickets just fell, in absolute mayhem, and batsmen forgot to bat. The Kiwis, buoyed by a Jacob Oram catch that dismissed Kallis almost at the midwicket boundary, started fielding & bowling as champions. Kallis, AB & Duminy went within a space of 24 balls, & the middle order collapsed. Steyn, Peterson, Botha, Morkel, all of them capable of scoring heftily on their own, looked like caged chicken ready to be grilled.....they looked resigned to if death was knocking. It was all over before one could gather. New Zealand had stormed into the semifinals with a 49 runs victory over South Africa.
It was probably the belief in the mind that was missing, as South Africa have now not won a single game in the knockout stages for six World Cup tournaments, since 1992.
A team laden with such talent & capability, its surprising that they have not been mentally strong to handle knock out stages...its like a nightmare that never seems to end.....

Man of the Match ; Jacob Oram, for taking 4 wickets with the ball & two splendid catches, which sealed the fate of South Afrcia.

World Cup 2011 .... South Africa vs New Zealand - preview !!!

South Africa take on New Zealand today in the 3rd quarterfinals of the tournament, being held at Mirpur, Dhaka.
Known to choke at the knock out stages, the Proteas look a better unit this time around. They bat very deep & with conviction though Captain Graeme Smith is yet to fire, the bowling has the firepower both in pace & spin to meet the subcontinent pitches, while fielding has always been their strength. Their only loss in the tournament thus far has been to England in the group stages, where they choked unexpectedly while chasing a rather easy target, but they quickly got the act right & chased successfully against a mighty Indian total to get the rhythm back. That victory would have done the morale a world of good & they seem to be uniting very well & peaking at the right time.
New Zealand, this time around have been scratching & prodding, & have made to the knockout stages rather unconvincingly. Though they defeated Pakistan in the group stages, they don't look the team which will go the distance. With Daniel Vetorri coming back after an injury, the team composition looks better, but not good enough.
Unless the Proteas, self destruct & self defeat themselves, I don't see the Kiwis winning.

My prediction would be a 65 : 35 in favour of  South Africa.

World Cup 2011 .... India vs Australia - Quarterfinals !!!

One Billion hopes of die hard Indians translated into overcoming the Yellow fever in World Cup Cricket, as India convincingly outsmarted & outplayed World Champion Australia at Ahmadabad, a la 'Chak de' episode getting etched in history for a long time coming.
Shane Warne's twitter prediction that Australia will win by 17 runs, went abegging, while, Saurav Ganguly's prediction that India will this time prevail came true -- these snippets would probably do a lot of rounds across the length & breadth of the country for the next couple of days, as India goes delirious on this victory.
True Australia is not the same powerhouse as it has been for the last decade, which made them invincible champions for three times in succession; true the team lacked bowling firepower of McGrath & Warne, batting lacked the depth of Gilchrist & Hayden at the top and Symonds & Martyn in the middle; but still Australia has been the no 1 ODI team till now, & beating them out of World Cup surely would make every Indian rejoice.

Ponting won the toss & as expected, decided to bat first. He showed the world the class act that he is by holding the Aussie innings together with a masterful century. He had been in scratchy form till now in the tournament, & when he walked into the middle at the fall of Watson, he did not look confident. But he dug in & held on & played with grit to reach his 30th ODI hundred & mentally challenged the Indian team on field yet again. It was Zaheer & Yuvi getting valuable wickets at crucial stages with the ball, along with able assistance from Ashwin & Bhajji, that restricted Australia to a par score of 260 for 6. They probably fell short by 20-25 runs though.

In reply, India started well, with Sehwag customarily hitting the first boundary & Sachin getting into the stride. The Aussies tried hard, as they usually do, but the Indians looked a better side today, & even when Dhoni perished and India were 5 down with still 70 odd runs to get, Yuvi along with Raina looked confident to take India through. They did not disappoint the vociferous crowd by allowing another middle order collapse, & when Yuvi hit Brett Lee through the covers for the winning boundary, the stadium exploded in joy & cheering. Aussie bowlers lacked bite today, as Tait & Johnson sprayed the ball all over, & Kreiza could not do justice to his spinning ability. As a milestone, while Yuvi went past 8000 runs in ODI, Sachin completed 18000 runs in ODI today, as he got to his 94th half century. Where will this man, nay GOD of cricket stop!!!!! This was also Captain Dhoni's 100 ODI match as a Captain & he would certainly remember this victory till the end of his career.
Indians today were a determined lot, bowling with venom, batting with depth & most importantly and probably fielding to their best abilities. India now moves into the semis to meet Pakistan in what would be another mouth watering contest at Mohali.
A bleeding Bret Lee towards the final overs of the game, epitomised the Aussie spirit of never giving up, but also reflected on how the Champions are a bleeding unit now going downhill. Despite a brilliant century by Captain Ponting, this could well be his last ODI match, & certainly his last World Cup match. Hats off to a Champion cricketer, who carried the Aussie baggy green cap rather well. That he was blessed with an extremely gifted & talented bunch of world beating cricketers, when Steve Waugh handed over the captaincy to him, he certainly had marshalled his resources well. However, I have always disliked Ponting for his unsportsmanlike behaviour over the years. Even today, he forced the Umpires to have a relook when he took a bounced catch off Gambhir. He likes sledging & putting pressure on the opposition & Umpires, & would like to win by hook or crook, without a qualm, a typical Australian. On the other hand, our Sachin walked again today after Tait got him, as he did in the last match against West Indies. This Australian team will now probably have to build back brick by brick, as Allan Border had done for them way back in 1987, & Border will always be one of the very respected Aussie cricketer, for playing the game straight, like Adam Gilchrist & very unlike Ponting or Greg Chappell.
Life really comes in a full circle.

Man of the Match : Yuvraj Singh for his unbeaten 57 runs to take India to victory & 2 wickets for 44 runs while bowling. This is his 4th Man of the Match award in the tournament, as he is currently the Most Valued Player of the tournament with one hundred, 3 fifties & 11 wickets till now.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

World Cup 2011 .... India vs Australia - preview !!!

India takes on Australia tomorrow at Motera, Ahmedabad in the 2nd quarterfinals, a match that is being billed as the titanic clash of the tournament. For Australia it is a case or stamping their World Cup authority while for India, it is a case of revenge from the 2003 World Cup final's loss. Both the teams would have wanted this clash to happen on 2nd April, at Mumbai in the finals, but are now slated against each other in quarterfinals.
Going by present form, Australia is certainly not a clear favourite. In batting they have only Shane Watson along with Haddin at the top, & to a lesser extent Michael Clarke, who have found some form. Captain Ricky Ponting is clearly struggling to score, while, Cameron White is yet to fire in the death overs. Inclusion of Mike Hussey certainly adds depth to this fragile batting line up, but this team lacks the hunger & fire power which has kept the Aussies as Champs over the last three World Cup events. In bowling, Brett Lee seems to have found his lost rhythm & is bowling beautifully. But he is not backed enough by Shaun Tait or Johnson or Watson to blow away a strong opposition. Aussies would do well to include David Hussey in place of Cameron White to bolster their middle order & also get a spinning option.
India on the other hand has an exceptionally strong batting line up, & even if three out of seven batsmen score, they would have put up a huge total. Sachin & Sehwag are amongst the top four batsmen in the tournament so far & Yuvraj Singh seems to be finding his silken touch just about at the right time. Add to that the presence of Gambhir, Dhoni, Virat & Yusuf or indeed is a potent line up, with each one having the capacity to win the match on his own. However, the worry is that the team has not been able to bat the full quota of 50 overs, & there have been too many collapses in the last few matches. Also, the use of batting power play has been miserable. In bowling, barring the exception of Zaheer, who spearheads, India has looked weak & vulnerable. Bhajji has been good in patches & Nehra & Munaf  have been below par. The inclusion of Ashwin should boost the bowling, as he brings in an unknown element for the Aussies to tackle.
India's bane has been fielding, & as Dhoni rightly says, we cannot improve overnight. Therefore, as a unit, we need to bat deep & score runs & then allow the bowlers to add pressure on opposition to crumble. We need to play to our strength. For Sachin, it is his last chance to win the elusive World Cup & he would be really fired up to perform. However, Sehwag is still nursing an injury & may have to sit out, which is a jolt to Indian hopes.

India has to win the toss & bat first & put up a total beyond 280 runs, which means, one of the top order batsman has to play a long innings & score a hundred. Then & only then can they pressurise the Aussies to crack, as Ashwin, Bhajji can then make good use of the turning track, with Zaheer doing some early damage. For Aussies, they would also like to bat first & put up a total that their pace battery can defend.
Both teams have a struggling middle order..... one has a potent opening pair, while the other is in bits & pieces, has a good pace attack while the other has better spinning options, has an athletic fielding unit, while the other is struggling. In all both the teams are plagued with inconsistencies, but have the fire power to go the distance. It will certainly depend on who holds the nerves better. The Aussies known for their sledging, have already started, with Ponting taking a dig at Sachin. While Australia will take courage from World Cup history, India would remember the warm up match before this tournament at Bangalore, when they comprehensively defeated the Aussies, with spin.
In their last encounter at the World Cup finals 2003 at Johannesburg, South Africa, Aussies had clearly mauled the Indians. Zaheer, Nehra & Bhajji in bowling were blasted to all corners by Hayden & Gilchrist first & later by Ponting & Martyn, though Bhajji managed 2 wickets. In batting Sachin had an off day & Yuvi fell short after a start. It was only Sehwag who fought out manly, as India lost the match by 125 runs, a defeat which still rankles in the mind of the Indians. Ponting would clearly carry memories of that match for mental support & build up. We had lost a great opportunity to defeat the Aussies that day & win the Cup, but we got too carried away & overawed by the occasion.
History does favour the Aussies, as India has won only once in seven matches against the Aussies in a World Cup, & that too way back in 1987.  Also, India has lost their last four games at Motera, three of them batting first. However, in a crunch match like this, home advantage does matter, as the deafening roar from the crowd should fire the Indians on field & distraught the Aussies. Its now once again the Men in Blue against the baggy green & yellow Aussies from Down Under.

Despite history, my prediction would be 60 : 40 in favour of Indians.

World Cup 2011 .... Pakistan vs West Indies - Quarterfinals !!!

West Indies won the toss & chose to bat. However, they got into trouble immediately, as Umar Gul removed the dangerous Gayle & Hafeez removed Smith & Bravo, within the first 6 overs, as the score card read a dismal 17 for 3. All the top three batsmen back in the pavilion, as Sarwan & Chanderpaul were left with a huge task of resurrecting the innings. It was probably too much to ask from the two veterans, & their best efforts could only delay the inevitable. After Sarwan fell, it was a sorry tale of wickets falling to spinners, as Chanderpaul hung on to one end with sheer grit. In the 37th over the score read 100 for 8. The final score was 112 in 43.3 overs, with old warhorse Chanderpaul left stranded at 44 unbeaten runs. This was a sorry display of applications from the Windies batters, as Afridi in his rediscovered diva as a bowler in the tournament claimed 4 wickets for just 30 runs to rip through the innings. Hafeez who opened the bowling with spin, ended with dream figures of 2 for 16 in 10 overs. Since winning the toss, nothing went right for the West Indies. It was a sorry parade of batsmen back in pavilion as Gayle, Bravo, Smith, Pollard, Sammy, Thomas, all got out with practically nothing on board. The first ball of the match was cut to point boundary by Smith & then Gayle hit two good boundaries. But the Windies batting faltered to deceive, as wickets simply tumbled. Sarwan & Chanderpaul resisted for a while, with practically no runs getting added on, & Pakistan tightening the shackles. Once Sarwan fell, it was a downward spiral.

Reply for Pakistan could not have been easier, as Hafeez & Kamran Akmal raced to 43 for no loss in 5 overs. The target too little too easy to be bothered with. Pakistan romped home in just 21 overs, without losing a wicket. Hafeez completed a well deserved fifty, ending with unbeaten 61 runs, while Kamran Akmal kept him good company with 47 runs. In the end a very easy victory for Pakistan, as they storm into the semi finals, looking more than dangerous now. Even the batting that had earlier looked brittle, has come good today. For the bowlers, there was hardly a target to defend & they needed early inroads which did not happen, as Hafeez & Akmal played without any pressures. In the end it was a blatant one sided affair for Pakistan, which would give them huge confidence going into the semifinals. They would now await the winner of the titanic clash between hosts India & champions Australia, scheduled for tomorrow.

For West Indies, it was a disappointing day, as nothing at all worked for them. Batting let them down miserably after Umar Gul had removed the dangerous Gayle, & Sammy as a leader failed to inspire a team which had potential match winners. It was a question of combining as a unit, which did not happen.

Man of the Match : Mohammed Hafeez for his excellent bowling initially & then the half century with the bat.

World Cup 2011 .... Pakistan vs West Indies - preview !!!

Today is going to be a match between the two most unpredictable teams in the quarterfinal line ups....Pakistan vs West Indies.

Pakistan arrived for the world Cup on the backdrop of match fixing scandals, where three of their key players were slapped a ban by the ICC. To add to this was the Captain controversy. The country, itself has been strife with politics, terrorism imbroglio of late. Despite all of this, the team oozes with talent & confidence. On their day, they can probably maul the best team on earth with ridiculous ease. Under Afridi, the team has been combining well & have surprised a lot of cricketing pundits by achieving the top slot of Group A, beating the mighty Aussies & favourite Sri Lankans.  Their only loss was to New Zealand, where they just crumbled in the run chase. In batting, Pakistan has looked a little vulnerable & indecisive. It revolves around the Akmal brothers, Younis Khan & Misbah, & though there have been glimpses of brilliance, none of them have shown consistency as yet to gain confidence. However in bowling, Pakistan has a wonderful combination. Umar Gul along with Shoaib & Razzak in pace & then Afridi & Hafeez with spin looks a potent unit. Afridi has been a revelation with his bowling, being the leading wicket taker of the tournament thus far. If they manage to win this match, they would be supremely confident to go the distance.

On the other hand, the Windies have been blow hot & blow cold. They pulled out incredible defeats against England & India from nowhere. Any other team would have laughed their way to victory, & yet the Windies just crumpled. The batting is far too dependent on the outcome of Gayle & Pollard. However, they have good batting talent in Darren Bravo, a la Lara reminisce & Devon Smith, along with the experience of Chanderpaul & Sarwan. Bowling looks good with Roach, Rampaul, Russell in pace & Benn and Bishoo in spin. They need to believe in their capabilities & demonstrate that intensity on field. They would need to play out of their skin to defeat the mercurial Pakistanis.

In my assessment, if Windies bat first & put up a total in access of 260 runs, they should be able to put pressure on Pakistan & have a good chance of winning. However, this would mean Gayle has to bat long & Pollard has to do a final assault, while Bravo & Williams need to hold the innings together. If they fail to do so, Pakistan would walk away with the match. They have too much of arsenal in their kitty to prevail.

I feel its a 65:35 in favour of Pakistan for this match.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

World Cup 2011 .... Quarterfinal line ups !!!

The month long league saga is over....the minnows have been eliminated. There have been a few close matches, Ireland amongst all lesser teams, impressed all & sundry with their capabilities on the field. This team should surely do much better in the next edition of world Cup, as long as they keep their intensity going. Stage is now set for the battle of the Champion contenders, as the knock out quarterfinals start from wednesday :

The fixtures are :
1) Pakistan vs West Indies - 23rd Mar'11 at Mirpur, Dhaka, Bangladesh
2) India vs Australia - 24th Mar'11 at Motera, Ahmedabad, India
3) South Africa vs New Zealand - 25th Mar'11 at Mirpur, Dhaka, Bangladesh
4) Sri Lanka vs England - 26th Mar'11 at Premadasa Stadium, Colombo, Sri Lanka

I shall be putting up a pre match review & my assessment on each team's capabilities / chances.

Let the best team win the World Cup......

Monday, March 21, 2011

World Cup 2011 : India vs West Indies...

India met West Indies at Chennai, for the last match of the group league. The outcome of the match was to decide the quarterfinals line up, & also build in the necessary confidence going into the knockout stage.
Having won the toss on a pitch that was expected to take spin later in the day, India decided to bat first. With Sehwag rested & Ashwin included in place of Nehra, Sachin strode in along with Gambhir.
On the other side, the Windies had surprisingly rested Gayle & Roach, two of their potential match winners & fielded Edwards & Ravi Rampaul. 
Sachin went out early, to a thin nick off Rampaul......he actually walked, despite the umpire giving him not out. An excellent gesture towards sportsmanship, as the crowd went silent. Yuvi batted with purpose along with Virat & together they set up a 122 runs partnership, which took India to safety. Yuvi made the most of the two missed chances, as Sammy dropped him twice, once at 9 & the other at 13, and went on to make a scintillating century, as India posted a total of 268 runs. From a score of 218 for 3 in 42 overs, India collapsed to 268, with the last 7 wickets falling for just 50 runs. The batting powerplay yielded only 28 runs for the loss of 4 wickets, which is obviously a worry for the Indians. Rampaul, made best of his return to the sidein place of the injured Kemar Roach, & bowled excellently to claim 5 wickets for 51 runs. He would certainly now be in contention for the team in the knockout stage.
In reply, buoyed by a good finish with the ball, the Windies came out to bat very positively. Devon Smith led the chase & runs kept coming at a fast clip, as the total reached a commanding 146 for 2 in 27 overs, without any worries. In fact the Indian camp looked hassled & frowns were becoming wider, as Dhoni looked for inspiration form his two front line bowlers, Zaheer & Bhajji. Reposing the confidence, Bhajji managed a maiden over & the Zaheer struck, getting the dangerous Smith out bowled for a brilliant 81. The rest of the batting panicked, & as has been the bane of the Windies batting in recent times, they lost the last 8 wickets for just 34 runs, as India in the final context, won the match by 80 runs. The Windies, had once again made a mess of the chase & lost, as they had conceded the match to England a few days ago. I think, sending Pollard up the order was a bad move, as his early loss cost Windies the match. Maybe a Thomas at that stage would have held the innings well with Sarwan & then Pollard & Sammy could have come in with about 50 -60 runs to chase, & got home with a victory.

For India, the worry has been their batting, the strength are, not sustaining for the full 50 overs, putting enormous pressure on the bowling & fielding, which is not the best in business. The inclusion of Ashwin, would however give Dhoni reasons to cheer, as the off spinner did well in this encounter.
India now faces Australia in the quarterfinals at Motera, Ahmedabad on thursday, & West Indies take on Pakistan on Wednesday.

Man of the Match : Yuvraj was the automatic choice with his 113 runs while batting & also 2 for 18 while bowling. A truly inspiring contribution as an all rounder.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

World Cup 2011 : Australia vs Pakistan...

In the 2nd game of the day, Pakistan took on Australia. Both having already qualified for the next round, the winner would take the top slot of Group A. Ponting won the toss & decided to bat first on a slow double paced wicket. Pakistan looked a determined lot taking field today. there was spunk & agility & the bowlers were disciplined. Umar Gul started bowling an in form Shane Watson in the 5th over, score reading 12 for 1. The Aussies struggled to score from there on, as wickets tumbled. Barring Haddin, who top scored with 42, Clarke, who got 34, & to a lesser extent Smith, later in the order, no one had the measure of the pitch & the mighty Aussies stuttered for the first time in this tournament. They were finally bowled out for a meagre 176 in 46.3 overs. All the bowlers were amongst wickets, & specially Gul who took 3, & Razzak who scalped 2 were simply superb. In this tournament, the Aussies had escaped against the Lankans with a rain truncated draw & today against a quality bowling attack, the batting simply crumbled.

Pakistan started their run chase cautiously, as Kamran Akmal & Md Hafeez took guard in the middle against Tait & Lee. It was Brett Lee who looked in supreme form & he made life real difficult for the batsmen. First he had Hafeez caught & bowled brilliantly & then later had Kamran LBW to reduce the Pakistani innings to 45 for 2 in the 9th over. With little support from the other end for Lee, Asad Safiq & veteran Younis Khan settled down to stitch a partnership. With the match almost slipping away, Ponting once again brought in Lee & he immediately responded by scalping Younis & the Misbah off successive deliveries, caught behind, as the score slipped to 98 for 4 in the 23rd over. In walked Umar Akmal, the younger brother to Kamran & started stroking from the middle of the bat. Along with Asad, he started to take Pakistan to victory, when again there was a twist & Asad got out in the slips to Johnson. Captain Afridi came in & immediately holed out with an irresponsible shot,  caught by Brett Lee in the deep & Pakistan were again staring into the barrel. The score was 142 for 6 in the 33rd over, with another 34 runs to get, as Abdul Razzak came in. Ponting tried his best to psyche the batsmen to commit an error, but Umar Akmal unbeaten with 44 runs & Abdul Razzak unbeaten with 20 runs, after some anxious moments, got Pakistan home with a 4 wicket win. The mighty Aussies had finally lost a game in the World Cup after 34 wins. Very coincidentally, their last loss was again to Pakistan in the 1999 World Cup group matches.
For the Aussies, Brett Lee bowled with venom & spirit as he took 4 wickets for just 28 runs, & pushed Pakistan to the limits. However, with practically no support at the other end, & a low score to defend, he could not prevent the Pakistani batsmen from scripting a historic win.
This win takes Pakistan to the top of the Group A, & they will now play the 4th team from group B.

Man of the Match : Umar Akmal for his unbeaten 44 runs & taking Pakistan to a victory.    

World Cup 2011 : Bangladesh vs South Africa...

Bangladesh took on South Africa at Mirpur in a must win match for them to qualify to next round. South Africa, however, having already qualified, decided to rest three key players, AB, Steyn & Morkel for Tsotsobe, Parnell &
Winning the toss, on a pitch which looked to get slow & spin as the match proceeds, South Africa decided to bat in first. Openers Amla & Smith settled down for a solid foundation & added 98 runs, when a sudden rush of blood cost Smith his wicket in the 21st over & then Amla, just after getting to his fifty, played on to Abdur Razzak, with the score at 107 for 2. Next man Duminy looked in good nick, but he too unnecessarily top edged a wayward bouncer to the keeper, with  score at 141 for 3 in 30 overs. However, Kallis in the middle kept cool & ensure that the Proteas don't fall in a heap, as the score reached 165 for 3 from 35 overs, at the drinks interval. 200 runs came in the 42nd over, as Kallis & du Plessis combined well in the middle. With Batting Powerplays yet to come, it was a good launching pad for the Proteas.Kallis however fell caught & bowled to Shakib ul Hasan for a workmanlike 69 off 76 deliveries, at the beginning of the Powerplays, with score at 223 for 4 in the 45th over. However, 52 runs came of the powerplays for the loss of 3 wickets, & a late flourish by Peterson, 22 off 9 deliveries, got the Proteas to a imposing total of 284 for 8 in 50 overs.

Bangladesh needed a flourish up the order to make any fight of the target. However, Tsotsobe, getting him first match in had other ideas. He tore into the Bangladeshi batting line up & snared 3 wickets for almost nothing, as the top order simply crumbled. In the 22nd over, Bangladesh were reeling at 58 for 6, with only Skipper Shakib waging a lone battle at one end. Once he got out for a well made 28 runs, the resistance did not last long, as the Proteas were very intent on the field, & Bangladeshi ordeal ended at 78 runs in 28 overs. It was a comprehensive victory for South Africa by 206 runs, as they ended the league games, topping the group with 10 points.
In bowling, Robin Peterson picked up 4 wickets for just 12 runs in 7 overs. For Bangladesh, it was the end of the road, but they surely have some positives to carry from the tournament.

Man of the Match : Tsotsobe for his brilliant 3 wickets for 14 from 5 overs, to destroy any Bangladeshi hope at the beginning of the innings. This was his first match of the tournament & he was bang on the target.       

World Cup 2011 : Sri Lanka vs New Zealand....

At Mumbai Sri Lanka took on New Zealand to decide on the Group A standings. It was also a test of the two teams capabilities ahead of the knock out stages. Batting first the Lankans lost both their openers Tharanga & Dilshan cheaply, with only 19 runs on board in the 5th over. However Captain Sangakkara & Mahela Jayawardene came together, & stitched a crucial partnership of 145 runs. Mahela was lucky to get the benefit of doubt of a catch taken by Nathan McCullum, in replays, & went on to make 66 runs. Sanga went on to make his century, his first since June 2008, one that took him 64 matches. However, after he was out for 111 in 128 deliveries, in the 42nd over, with score at 210 for 4, the Lankan innings did not flourish & they lost five wickets for just 55 runs. the final score was 265 for 9, & that largely came due to a belligerent 41 unbeaten runs by Angelo Mathews, for just 35 balls, in the end.
For the Kiwis, Southee picked up 3 wickets as Captain Ross Taylor employed eight bowlers in an attempt to stall the Lankan innings. 

In reply, New Zealand needed a solid start at the top, which was not to be & the batting faltered against some disciplined bowling. No one could really dig in & build a long partnership, as spinners Murali & Mendis ripped through the middle, taking 6 wickets between them for just 59 runs in 14 overs. The wetness of the pitch made scoring more difficult & finally Kiwis folded for just 153 in just 35 overs.
The Lankans were victorious by 112 runs & ended their group level matches with 8 points. With the last match of the group between Pakistan & Australia yet to come, the Lankans would probably end as 2nd in the group & most likely meet England in the quarterfinals, who just scraped through yesterday, with a win against the Windies. The Kiwis would probably end as the 4th team from the group & meet the 1st team of group B.

Man of the Match : While Murali picked up 4 wickets for just 25 runs & was virtually unplayable today, it was Captain Sangakkara, who became the man of the match for his excellent century & taking the Lankans to safety.  

World Cup 2011 : Ireland vs Netherlands...

In an inconsequential match at Kolkata, Ireland took on Netherlands, in a high scoring affair.
Netherlands batting first, with no pressures scored freely, getting 306 runs in their allotted 50 overs, thanks to a wonderful century by  Doeschate, his 2nd in the tournament. He scored a wonderful 106 off 108 deliveries, as there were useful contribution from Captain Borren, who scored 84 off 82 balls, & Barresi scoring 44 runs.
In reply, the Irish batting too relished the conditions, & the opening partnership got 177 runs from just 27 overs, as Captain Porterfield got 68 runs & Stirling got a belligerent 101 in only 72 balls. This was good enough a platform for the next batsmen & the O'Brien brothers, NJ & KJ finished off in style with 14 balls to spare.
It was a clinical finish, as Ireland clearly stamped themselves as the best team amongst the minnows. They should most certainly do better in the next World Cup, as most of their players are regulars in the English County. They certainly entertained the crowd through the tournament & looked good in almost all their matches.

Man of the Match : PR Stirling for his excellent 101 runs helping Ireland to their 2nd victory of the tournament.

Friday, March 18, 2011

World Cup 2011 : West Indies vs England...

It was a do or die match for England against the mercurial West Indies at Chennai.
England won the toss & elected to bat on a slow wicket. Against a disciplined attack, Andrew Strauss & Matt prior started quite well, putting 48 runs for the opening partnership, before Prior was bowled by Russel in the 10th over. Runs came but wickets fell too, as England limped towards 150 mark in the 32nd over having lost half the side. From there on, it was a late assault by Luke Wright along with Bresnan who pulled the score to 243, before getting all out. Russell & debutant spinner Bishoo, had kept the batsmen in tight control throughout the innings, along with Kemar Roach.  Russel finished with 4 wickets, while Bishoo scalped 3 & Roach got 2. For England, it was a par score, though they would have wanted another 25 odd runs more to be secure.

West Indies started their chase in typical Calypso style as Gayle got going. Runs flowed as hapless English bowlers had no clue. 50 runs came in just 29 balls, & Gayle looked in ominous touch. But as has been in the past, he lost cool & got out for 43 runs off just 21 balls in the 7th over, with score reading 58 for1. From there on, runs came but wickets fell as well, & what seemed to be an easy target, became difficult. When Pollard got himself out LBW to Swann, it was 150 for 6 in the 28th over, & England looked good to wrap the match. However, there was further drama, as Russell came to the crease & along with old warhorse Sarwan, took Windies to the doorsteps of victory. In the 42nd over, with just 22 runs required off 54 balls, Russell on 49 & Sarwan on 30, it looked dead & buried for England. But the final twist was yet to come. The Windies could only self destruct themselves, & that's exactly what they did. Strauss looking for divine intervention, turned to spin, with Tredwell & Swann having one over each left. It turned out to be a master stroke, as most inexplicably Windies lost their last 4 wickets for a mere 3 runs in the space of  24 deliveries, leaving England victorious by 18 runs. England can now be almost sure of making it to the quarterfinals with this win, as it is highly improbable that Bangladesh can win against South Africa & that too by a huge margin.
For the Windies, it was another frustrating defeat pulled from the clutches of victory, & they have only themselves to blame for it. They would in most likelihood make to the quarterfinals, due to good net run rate, though they have one more match left against hosts India in the same venue coming Sunday.

Man of the Match : James Tredwell for his match winning bowling of 4 for 48 in 10 overs. This being his first match at World Cup, it was a sterling performance that brought England back into reckoning from the brink of elimination.  

Thursday, March 17, 2011

World Cup 2011 : Australia vs Canada...

In a rather inconsequential match, Australia took on Canada at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore today.
Canada, won the toss, decided to bat, & surprisingly batted with gusto against the Aussie pace battery. Patel & Davison opened with a positive note & it was 41 runs in 4 overs, before Davison fell to Lee. Patel kept the big hitting on, as the score raced to 100 in just 16.1 overs. However, it was too good to last, & once Bagai fell at 150 for 3 in the 29th over, the resistance dried up. The innings which had shown glimpses of a fight, started to fade away & in the end, Canada was all out for 211 in the 46th over. Lee had picked up 4 wickets while Kreiza & Tait scalped 2 each. For Canada, Patel hit a whirlwind 54 off just 45 deliveries, which included three massive sixes.
This was too easy a target for the mighty Aussies, given the fact that Canada attack lacks bite. The openers Watson & Haddin enjoyed scoring freely in the middle & when finally Haddin got out for 88 runs, the score read 183 for 1 in the 29th over. Watson missed out on a deserving century, getting out for 94 runs in 90 deliveries, including 4 sixes, & skipper Ponting failed once more with the bat, as Australia romped home in the 35th over, with 7 wickets to spare.
This win ensures a quarterfinal berth for the Aussies, who are now unbeaten in 34 World Cup matches.
Somehow, I feel the Aussies are going to fail in one of the knockout matches ahead. they have yet not been seriously challenged & may crumble under pressure.

Man of the Match : Shane Watson for his 94 runs with the bat, & 1 for 22 with the ball. He is certainly one of the finest all rounders in the game today.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

World Cup 2011 : South Africa vs Ireland...

Finally a World Cup match at the famous Eden Gardens, Kolkata. This one between South Africa, looking to seal the quarterfinal place and Ireland, looking to end the tournament with a high.

Ireland won the toss & put the Proteas into bat. Amla & Smith started well, but did not last long & in the 10th over the score read 52 for 2. Next in van Wyk & Kallis too struggled, as South Africa reached 100 runs for 4 wickets, in the 22nd over. Duminy took charge of the middle order & along with Ingram who had replaced an injured AB de Villiers for this match, scored fluently to take South Africa to safety. When Ingram left for 46 off only 43 balls, missing out on a well deserved fifty, the score read a healthy 204 for 6 in 40 overs, with Batting Power Play still to come. Duminy was now with Botha & together they tore into the bowling attack to take the score to 272 for 7 in 50 overs. Duminy sadly missed his century, getting caught out to a brilliant catch by Kevin O'Brien in the deep, for 99 runs in the last over of the innings. Considering, they were at 117 for 5 around the 27th over, 272 was a good score for South Africa to end up at. Keeping in mind the drift in the air towards the evening in Kolkata, Irish batting could find Steyn & Morkel too hot to handle. For Ireland, every bowler, except Dockrell got hit all over the park.

In reply, Ireland lost their Captain Porterfield in the very 2nd over, as Morkel got him to edge into slips, where Smith made no mistakes, as the score read 8 for 1. Morkel however, dropped a straightforward catch in the very next over at third man off Steyn, as Stirling escaped with a boundary. The dropped chance did not help the Irish batting, as they lost wickets in quick succession, & at the drinks interval the score read, 67 for 4, in 15 overs, the required run rate going beyond 6 per over. With Kevin O'Brien getting out in the 3rd & Wilson in the 5th delivery of the 22nd over, at 92 for 6, Ireland were staring into the barrel, without respite. In fact it would have been worse, had Kallis not dropped Mooney in the last delivery of the same Peterson over. Wickets kept falling ahead as well, & in the final outcome, Ireland were all out for 141 in the 34th over. No Irish coffee to savour today, as South Africa completed a convincing win by 131 runs, & assured themselves of a quarterfinal berth, with one match against West Indies still pending. They seem to be peaking well in this tournament, & look good to go the distance.

Man of the Match : JP Duminy for his selfless 99 runs, which took the South African innings total to safety.

Land of the Rising Sun or TSunami.....

Millions across the world watched with growing fear & concern, as the devastating earthquake & tsunami hit Japan's fragile landscape last friday in the afternoon. The 8.9 Richter scale quake, which centered around the east coast of Japan, located off Miyagi Prefecture, has caused unfathomable damage to lives, infrastructure & economy. The extent of the loss is yet to be ascertained & would surely take months to do so, as survivors are grappling with the situation at hand.
Shocking pictures on TV, as if in slow motion, showed huge waves gushing in & then flowing like lava across the land, wash away anything & everything, consuming buildings, vehicles, ships etc in their path. Huge walls of water from the ocean, sweeping across rice fields, engulfing entire towns, dragging huge houses & tossing vehicles of all shapes & sizes like toys. It was like what you see in Hollywood movies, only this was real....very very real....& very very scary.
Ariel views showed smoke bellowing from high rises, as fire broke out, adding to the chaos. To add to all of this has been the explosions in the Fukushima nuclear power plant, leading to widespread fear of radiation hazards, the extent of which could be more serious than the Chernobyl disaster !!!

People of Japan are probably facing their biggest challenge & disaster since World War 2, as they still carry the scars of the Hiroshima / Nagasaki carnage. From that nuclear holocaust & aftermath for generations, they had practically built themselves into one of the super powers of the World, which even the mighty Americans came to admire & accept. A land that has always been prone to natural calamities, a thin strip on the Pacific prone to volcanic eruptions, quakes, & what  nots, with hardly any natural resources to fall back on, Japan houses one of the calmest bunch of people. More than 70% of land in Japan is forests, mountains & unsuitable for agricultural, industrial or residential use. As a result, habitation is mainly located in the coastal areas, with high population densities. Yet, we witness a gentle bow, a gentle smile, a quiet resolve of steel,......Japanese are a lesson to the world, an example of how to handle crisis. Even in this scale of calamity, they are orderly & composed. News clippings show, how they are patiently queueing up for basic needs like water, food & medicines, as authorities manage distribution across the strife areas. There are thousand of people who have gone missing, already thousands dead in the debris, a huge hole in their economy & an uncertain future ahead to tackle. It is simply amazing that Japanese in various parts of the world continue their Social developmental activities & commitments, despite, their own country under such duress & in such difficult times.
As I write this article, news trickle of another aftershock; another blast at the Fukushima reactor site. Something like this would have been crippling in any other part of the world. But Japs have immense reservoir of patience, courage & faith. The authorities are attempting to cool the reactors with sea water, knowing fully well that these reactors would have to be abandoned for good.
With thousands of people getting evacuated, there is an obvious shortage in supply of essentials like water, food, medicines, blankets & electricity. The authorities are announcing sustained blackouts to conserve power, which needs to be saved for the relief activities. Yet people keep faith in their authorities, they keep faith in their God. There is no sign of loot or arson or corruption. They are all willing to share the burden of the calamity. Such stoic calm & discipline....completely unheard or experienced of, especially in a disaster of this proportion. This is what would make Japan rise out of the ashes once again, & reach the zenith. I share their belief ....I share their faith !!!!

We the people in India & the rest of the world need to join hands together in helping Japan in this moment of crisis, in any form that we can. I personally would be happy to associate myself with any relief operations there. Meanwhile, let us all pray for a speedy recovery & normalcy, because  prayer connects, & is very powerful !!

Hats off to the people in Japan.....the Land of the Rising Sun Tsunami !!!!!

World Cup 2011 : Pakistan vs Zimbabwe...

In a rain curtailed match at Pallekele, Pakistan overcame little resistance from Zimbabwe to post a 7 wickets win, by D/L method.
Batting first, Zimbabwe could manage only 151 runs in 39.4 overs, losing 7 wickets, thanks largely to a fighting 52 by Ervine & 32 not out by Chigumbura, as Umar Gul restricted their scoring with a haul of 3 for 36. The Zimbabwean batting could never take off, & the overcast conditions did not help either.
Batting second, on a D/L target, Pakistan though made heavy weather initially, but had little difficulty in reaching the target of 164 runs. Shafiq with an unbeaten 78 & Hafeez with 49 runs, ensured that the team in green reach the target without much of a bother. The only blemish was Captain Afridi, promoting himself up the order, could not get useful batting practice.

This win takes Pakistan safely into the quarterfinals.
Man of the Match : Umar Gul for his 3 for 36.

Monday, March 14, 2011

World Cup 2011 : Bangladesh vs Netherlands...

It was a buoyant Bangladesh taking to Netherlands at Chittagong, where they had scripted a historic victory against a much fancied England, three days back.
Netherlands won the toss & elected to bat. However, a rejuvenated Bangladeshi bowling was accurate & nagging, as the slow pitch assisted the spinners. Shafiul Islam, after his batting heroics from the last match, was lethal with his seam bowling today & completely strangulated the Dutch scoring. Wickets tumbled under pressure & it was only Doeschate, who stood amidst the ruins for Netherlands with an unbeaten 53, as they crashed to 160 all out in 46.2 overs. While Shafiul was unlucky not to get a wicket despite being brilliant with the ball, his counterpart Abdur Razzak took 3 for 29, as the team in Orange struggled throughout.

In reply, Bangladesh lost their mercurial opener Tamim with no score on board in the 1st over, but Imrul Keyes along with Junaid steadied the ship & did not allow the Dutch bowling to cause any more concerns, taking the score to 92, before Junaid got out. Keyes remained unbeaten with a patient 73 runs, as Bangladesh romped home with a 6 wicket win in 41.2 overs. It was a clinical effort by the hosts & now they have 6 points in their kitty with a match against South Africa left, & a sniff of a chance for the next round. If England loses to West Indies, surely the Bengal tigers are in the quarterfinals.

Man of the Match : Imrul Keyes for his 73 unbeaten runs & taking Bangladesh to a victory. This being his back to back Man of the Match award.

World Cup 2011 : Australia vs Kenya...

Australia took on lowly placed Kenya at Bangalore, with an obvious plan of getting as much batting practice as possible. So winning the toss by Ponting, meant batting first, & almost everyone, expect Cameron White got some useful time in the middle. Haddin, Clarke & newly joined Mike Hussey, got good fifties under their belt, while others too got a chance to wield the willow. For the fifth wicket, Hussey joined Clarke in a wonderful 114 runs partnership, which must have given the Aussie camp a lot of confidence with their middle order line up. The final score was 324 for 6.
The target was too steep for Kenya to cause any concern to the Aussie attack, & soon the score read 36 for 3 in the 10th over. However, Obuya put a stiff resistance along with Mishra & took the score to 161, when Mishra unfortunately got run out. He made a brilliant 72 off 89 balls. Obuya was finally left stranded at 98, missing out on a century he so richly deserved, as the innings folded for 264 runs. Kenyans can take pride at fighting so courageously against the World Champions & not giving up till the end. The match ended with Australia winning by 60 runs.
The Aussies have maintained their unbeaten record for the 33rd match in World Cup now.

Man of the Match : Collins Obuya for his outstanding & fighting knock of 98 unbeaten runs. He had also taken 1 for 33 while bowling for Kenya.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

World Cup 2011 : New Zealand vs Canada...

Weekend matches were a bit of a bore, as New Zealand took on Canada at Mumbai. Canada won the toss & elected to field, as McCullum & Guptill took stance at the crease. The Canadian attack had no teeth to bite into the Kiwis batting, as runs were score in gay abandon. McCullum got his hundred, his first in World Cup, while Ross Taylor got his fifty, & then the late order assault in the death overs, saw a total of 358 for 6. The Batting Powerplay yielded 74 runs, as the last 10 overs cost Canada 122 runs, too much for them to chase.
In reply Canada were in deep trouble with score reading 4 for 2, before Bagai & Patel resurrected the innings. Bagai went on to make a spirited 84, his highest in World Cup, & along with Jimmy Hansra put up 125 runs for the fourth wicket. Hansra was cramping & he retired hurt for 53, as the spirited Canadian reply started to fade. Hansra came back to bat again & remained unbeaten for 70 runs, as Canada finally got to 261 for 9, losing the match by 97 runs.

Man of the Match : Brendon McCullum for his 101 runs.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

World Cup 2011 : India vs South Africa...

India took on South Africa at Nagpur today, in what has been billed as one of the most explosive matches of the tournament. A win for India would give them a definite top berth in the quarterfinals, & a win for the Proteas, would give them the necessary turn around after their shocking loss to England, & help remove the tag of Chockers.
India won the toss & chose to bat first, on what looked like a flat track. Sachin & Sehwag were in a murderous mood, as they went hammer & tongs against the South African attack. Runs flowed like a gushing river, as Steyn, Morkel, Kallis, all were blown apart to all corners of the ground. 50 runs came in just the 7th over, & 100 came in the 12th over. Sehwag had raced to his fifty in just 44 balls, & Sachin too went past the same, in only 33balls.  When Sehwag was bowled, trying a lazy cut, it was 142 for 1 in the 18th over. Gambhir came in & he too settled into a good rhythm. At the 2nd drinks interval, India was sitting pretty at 215 runs for 1, in 32 overs, as runs piled on relentlessly. Sachin eventually got his 48th ODI hundred & 99th overall, in the 36th over, as the crowd roared in delight. Gambhir got his fifty in the very next delivery, as the hapless South Africans looked on. The 100 partnership came in 115 balls, as the score now read 243 for 1 in 37 overs. What a wonderful launching pad for batsmen to follow. Tendulkar finally relented, getting out to Morkel, at point for a brilliant 111 in 101 balls. With Batting Powerplays on, in came Yusuf Pathan. In the very next over, Gambhir too holed out in the deep. Next to go was Pathan for a duck, with Smith plucking out a catch at mid off. Yuvi hoicked a big six off Botha, but attempting another, holed out at long off. The powerplays yielded just 30 runs but importantly conceded 4 wickets for India. the score now 283 for 5 in 43 overs. Virat Kohli got caught & bowled to Peterson, as the score slid to 286 for 6. Wickets kept tumbling one after the other in a shocking heap, & India got shot out for 296 all out in 48.4 overs. They were 266 for 1 at one stage & looked good to cross at least 350, & most inexplicably got all out for 296......9 wickets for just 30 runs, how more bizarre could it get!!!!!. Dale Steyn picked up 5 wickets for 50 runs. South Africa went into the innings break, feeling much better, after the pounding they took from Sachin, Sehwag & Gambhir early on.

In reply, South Africa needed a solid start & thats waht they aimed at, as Smith & Amla walked in. Zaheer as usual was very accurate & runs were hard to come by. Smith was consumed by Zaheer in the 9th over, bunny as usual. Amla & Kallis steadied the innings, both getting their half centuries & took the score past 100, but the run rate kept increasing, as runs were a toil & Indians seemed determined. However AB de Villiers came in & the score started to get a move on, as he too got a well deserved fifty. He fell to a brilliant catch in the deep by Kohli, as he threatened to take the match away from the Indians. Every wicket down was getting cheered by the capacity crowd, but each batsmen looked determined to fight, & no one looked like panicking, which has been the bane of the Proteas over the years. While the run rate mounted to over 9 an over, the batsmen still kept their cool & did nothing stupid. It was as if the Proteas batting had a clear game plan, which they executed to near perfection. At the end of 47th over, South Africa still needed 31 runs, & they had Botha & du Plessis in the middle. Botha hit Patel for 14 runs in the 48th over, but was caught out by a brilliant Raina in the deep, leaving the target of 17 runs from 12. In the next over, Zaheer was cool as a cucumber & conceded only 4 runs. Dhoni chose Nehra to bowl the final over as 13 runs were needed. But Nehra disappointed, as Peterson smote him all around with two boundaries & a six & the Proteas had romped home with 2 balls to spare. They had put the chokers tag to rest, at least for some time into the future now.
This loss should hurt India, as they seemed to be determined to lose. Barring the first 30 odd overs of the match, when Sachin, Sehwag & Gambhir were toying with the bowling, the Indians were just not in the game. Contrastingly, while India lost 4 wickets for a mere 30 runs in the batting powerplay, the South Africans scored 52 runs losing just 1 wicket. In a battle of nerves & Chokers tag, the Proteas had prevailed over the Indians.

India's bowling & fielding was always a worry, but now its famed batting is also showing nervous signs of brittleness. Its ok to lose a match, but manner of loss should hurt the Indians. Dhoni would have to do something special to rejuvenate the unit. For Sachin, it was one more century wasted in a losing cause. He along with Sehwag & later Zaheer were the only Indians today who were at par on the ground.

Man of the Match : Dale Steyn for his 5 wickets haul to orchestrate the Indian batting collapse & bring the Proteas back in the game.

Friday, March 11, 2011

World Cup 2011 : Bangladesh vs England...

Hosts Bangladesh took on England, at Chittagong, with both sides desperate for a victory to stay in the reckoning of the tournament. Shakib ul Hasan won the toss & put England to bat. The decision turned out to be good, as the English batsmen found it difficult to force the pace. Proir & Strauss struggled early on, & runs were hard to come by. Wickets fell to pressure & suddenly it was 53 for 3 in the 17th over, with Strauss, Prior & Bell back in the pavillion. Eoin Morgan, who replaced injured Peiterson, along with Trott started the building act & took the score to a respectable 162 before getting out in the 39th over. He contributed a well made 63 in 72 balls, before a brilliant catch in the deep by Imrul Keyes got him out. Batting Powerplay was taken in the 42nd over, as Bopara joined Trott. With pressure building, Trott fell, for a neat 67 to Shakib, as the score read 182 for 5. Bopara, the last match's hero was the next to go, as the England batting started to stutter. It was 195 for 6  in the 45th over, as Collingwood stepped in, surprisingly at no8. 200 runs came up in the 46th over, as the Batting Powerplay had yielded 33 runs for 2 wickets. Swann was out next, trying to force the pace, caught & bowled by Shakib, & then Rubel Hossain claimed Bresnan. Collingwood was getting wasted at the runners up end, as wickets kept falling, & finally England were all out for 225 runs. For Bnagladesh, Abdur Razzak was the pick of the bowlers with 2 for 32 in 10 overs, with able assistance from Naem Islam, Shakib & others.
This does not look like a 300 runs pitch & Bangladesh would need Tamim to fire at the top & need a win to remain in the contention.

Bangladesh started their reply in whirlwind fashion, as Tamim tore into the English attack. The first 7 overs yielded 46 runs, as Strauss turned to his probably best bowler Greame Swann. It was however Bresnan who made the first breakthrough, as he bowled the dangerous Tamim for a quickfire 38 in 26 balls, as the score read 52 for 1 in the 9th over. Two more wickets fell quickly, & at the end of 15 overs, the score read 75 for 3. It was now upto Captain Shakib ul Hassan to take him team ahead towards victory. Kayes eventually got to his fifty & looked like coasting, when a horrid run out cost his wicket, as Bangladesh score read 156 for 4 in 32 overs. It was a gift to the harried English players on the field, as Mushfiqur came in. Runs simply dried, as for 25 deliveries, there were just 5 runs scored. Pressure got to Bangladeshi skipper & he was bowled by Swann, as the score crawled to 162 for 5. The match was even now, as runs were hard to come by. Someone would have had to score for the hosts, as wickets were falling in a heap. It was suddenly 166 for 7 in 38.1 overs, still 60 runs to get. Ajmal Shahzad had picked up 3 wickets to get England right back in the game. Since the dismissal of Keyes, only 11 runs had been added, as 4 important wickets were lost. At 169 for 8 in the 40th over, it seemed done & dusted for Bangladesh, as crowds started to thin away. But for the 9th pair there was drama in store. From nowhere, came the spirited Shafiul Islam & Mahmudullah & rose like Sphinx. Both defied the English attack & also scored precious runs. Shafiul especially was severe & scored runs from almost nowhere, as the pair added 58 runs in 9.2 overs to take Bangladesh to a completely improbable win by 2 wickets, with 6 balls to spare. A belief that took them home & brought them right back in the tournament. A very close match, where the Bengal tigers got the better of the English. Shafiul was carried to the pavilion on the shoulders of his team mates, as the grounds men joyously did a lap of honour.
This means now, the Group B opens up now, & the toss up for the 4th team could be well between Bangladesh & England.

Man of the Match : Imrul Keyes for his very important 60 runs, & the catch to dismiss Eon Morgan, when England were going strong. However, I would have wanted Shafiul to get this award for not giving up & batting like a dream to get his side a victory.

World Cup 2011 : West Indies vs Ireland

West Indies met giant killers Ireland at Mohali today, in what was a do or die for both the teams. Ireland won the toss, & keeping in mind their brilliant run chase victory against the England, they chose to field. For the Windies, mercurial Gayle was out with an injury & veteran Chanderpaul opened the innings with Devon Smith. Both were cautious at the beginning to ensure that there are no collapses, & runs came in a trickle. The opening pair, put up 89 valuable runs, before Chanderpaul was caught by Porterfield off Kevin O'Brien, for a well made 35. Next man Darren Bravo failed to add to the total, & was out in the same over for a duck, leaving the score at 89 for 2. Sarvan, in next, tried to build with Smith & took the score to 130, before getting out in the 32nd over. It looked like another Windies collapse, as runs were hard to come by & wickets were falling. Big man Pollard came in next & batting power play was taken. This paid off for the Windies, as Pollard smashed the Irish attack all over the park, as he does, & along with Smith at the other end also getting a momentum, 57 runs came in the power play. Suddenly the score was looking good & Pollard in ominous form. However, Smith fell against the run of play, just after getting his maiden hundred, with the score at 218 for 4 in the 43rd over. The Windies looked poised for a huge total, but just after Smith, Captain Sammy & then keeper Thomas too fell in quick succession & suddenly the innings started to stutter. Pollard looked the only hope, as the score read 248 for 6 at the end of 47 overs. 48th over was huge, as Pollard launched into Kevin O'Brien hitting two sixes & a four, as the over yielded 20 runs. Pollard had marched into his 90s, looking in murderous form. But in the very next over from Mooney, Pollard holed out at long off for an outstanding 94 off just 55 deliveries, inclusive of 5 massive sixes. Russell, in his debut was bowled the very next delivery, & again the Windies innings stuttered, with score at 267 for 8. What looked good for a total in excess of 300, finally ended at 275, all out. 4 wickets had fallen in the last two overs, including that of Pollard which restricted the innings.
For Ireland Kevin though expensive, picked up 4 wickets for 71 runs & Mooney got 2. The Windies innings revolved around Devon Smith with 107 from 133 balls, Keiron Pollard with 94 magnificent runs off just 55 balls & old warhorse Chanderpaul with patient 35 off 62 balls up the order.

The Ireland run chase got into trouble early on as Stirling was plucked by Sammy off Benn, with total reading 6 for 1 in the 2nd over. However, Captain Porterfield & Joyce steadied the innings & at the end of 10 overs, the score read, 40 for 1, as Ireland cautiously approached their run chase. However Porterfield was out soon in the 12th over, with the score at 42 for 2. Neil O'Brien was out for 25, as the score read 86 for 3. 100 runs for the innings came in the 24th over, as Joyce steadied the ship with Wilson at the other end. At drinks it was 148 for 3 in 36 overs, a good launching pad for the Irish to overhaul the Windies target. However, Joyce fell for a very well complied 84, as the score read 177 for 4 in the 38th over. Ireland still needed another 99 runs from 75 deliveries with 6 wickets in hand & Kevin walking in. However, KOB could not light up the stadium, as he fell prey to a Sammy delivery & Pollard took a marvellous catch.....187 for 5, as Cusack walked in. It was now 85 runs to get in 60 deliveries, with 5 wickets in hand. Sammy got the well set Wilson LBW in the 42nd over, as referral confirmed the decision. The score 199 for 6, & the asking rate at 9.62. Benn claimed Cusack in the next over, as Thomas behind fumbled but in the end made a smart stumping. 200 runs came on board in the 43rd over, as the target was now 75 runs from 42 deliveries. However, the resistance kept depleting, as Botha got run out by Sammy. Finally it was all over in the 49th over, as Benn picked up his 4th wicket bowling out Dockrell, & the Irish challenge ended at 231 runs all out. The Irish camp would be sore about the decision which sent back a set Wilson, though it was going to be an uphill task even then. The Windies had registered a sound victory with 44 runs, even in the absence of Chris Gayle & are now looking good to reach the quarterfinals.

Man of the Match : Keiron Pollard for his superb 94 runs with the bat.

World Cup 2011 : Sri Lanka vs Zimbabwe

Sri Lanka took on Zimbabwe at Pallekele, with a clear intent of cementing the quarterfinal slot. Zimbabwe won the toss & elected to field, a decision, they would have rued later. Both Tharanga & Dilshan came into bat with clear intentions of hitting out. The platform was there for takings, as these two launched into a weak Zimbabwean attack. 77 runs came in the first 10 overs, & at the first drinks break, the score read 106 for no loss in the 17th over, as Dilshan was going berserk. His 50 came in 43 balls. Tharanga soon completed his fifty, as the Lankans raced to 150 in the 25th over. Dilshan posted his century in 95 balls, as 200 of the innings came up. At the 2nd drinks break, the Zimbabwean attack was still looking for the 1st wicket, & the score was 217 for no loss in 36 overs. Tharanga soon completed his century as well, & the opening partnership carnage continued against the hapless bowling attack till the 45th over, when Tharanga got out to a tired lofted shot in the deep. The opening partnership had amassed 282 runs, falling short of the highest ever opening of 286 runs. Dilshan probably lost his rhythm & interest in the innings after that & he too holed out in the deep in the very next over. By the he had mauled the bowling for a fabulous 144 off just 131 balls. Wickets started to fall regularly now, as the innings approached end & finally the score ended at 327 for 6. A mammoth total for Zimbabwe to chase. For Zimbabwe, Mpofu was the most expensive bowler, though impressive as well, as he took 4 wickets for 62 runs, in 7 overs.

The reply was strong & purposeful, as Brendon Taylor & Chakabva stitched a brilliant partnership for the opening wicket. When the 1st wicket fell at 116, as Murali bowled Chakabva, the pressure of the target got to the batting, & wickets started to crumble against a probing Lankan attack. Taylor left for a brilliant 80 off just 72 balls, with the total at 132 for 3 in the 25th over, & with him went away the zeal to put up a fight. The team was all out for 188 in the 39th over, as Dilshan chanced his arm with the ball as well. He claimed 4 wickets for a mere 4 runs in 3 overs, to severe the batting card. Murali chipped in with 3 wickets & Angelo Mathew picked up 2. It was all over, with the Lankans victorious by 139 runs. A berth in the quarterfinals assured now.

Man of the Match : Without a doubt, Tilakratna Dilshan for his 144 runs with the bat & 4 wickets with the ball. He is now finding form, which is going to be extremely important for the Lankan cause.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

World Cup 2011 : India vs Netherlands...

India took on Netherlands at Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium, Delhi, clearly looking at a win to cement place in the quarterfinals. Borren won the toss for Netherlands & elected to bat in a sluggish pitch. The watchful batting paid dividends, as the score crossed 50 runs in the 14th over, with out a loss. However, as spin was introduced, Piyush Chawla claimed Szwarczynski immediately, with the score at 56 for 1. Baressi got out soon after & Doeschate also did not last long, as the innings started to stutter. it was 100 for 4 in the 30th over & 151 for 8 in he 43rd over. Captain Borren used the long handle to hit out & Bukhari to chipped in for the 9th wicket to take the score to 189 all out in the 47th over.
In bowling Zaheer, as usual was accurate & quick, claiming 3 for 20 runs, while Yuvi & Chawla chipped in with two wickets apiece.

The chase looked easy & simple, but the Indians made quite a heavy weather of the same. Sehwag got out in the 8th over, for 39 in 26 deliveries & Sachin left in the 11th over for 27 off 22 deliveries. Both scoring quickly but did not last long. Pathan, Gambhir & Kohli too left after making decent starts, as the innings stood at 139 for 5 in the 24th over. Finally, Yuvi along with Captain Dhoni took the team to victory in 37 overs, for 5 wickets, as Yuvi got his successive fifty, as Dhoni laboured to keep ends in control.
The victory takes India to the top of the group B, & assures the quarterfinal berth.

Man of the Match : Yuvraj Singh for his 51 unbeaten runs in 73 balls & 2 wickets haul while bowling. Satisfactory & decent but not really illuminating, as a performance.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

World Cup 2011 : New Zealand vs Pakistan...

New Zealand took on Pakistan at Pallekele Stadium, Sri Lanka, knowing fully well, that a loss here could upset their World Cup campaign ahead. When Vetorri won the toss, he was clear about batting first & putting up a total.
As Mucullum & Guptill walked into the middle, Shoaib started the bowling for Pakistan. McCullum smote the 3rd ball of that match for a huge six, but the very next delivery knocked his off stump, as the men in green huddled in delight. The danger man was gone, without much damage. How & Guptill pushed the score to 55 in the 13th over, when  How got out LBW to Umar Gul, for a scratchy 4. Taylor came in next, & looked set for a big score. Guptill completed his fifty & the got out, with the score reading 112 for 3 in the 29th over. Franklin fell immediately after, as Ross Taylor took charge. With Styris, Nathan  & Oram lending him the  much needed support, Taylor made the Pakistani attack pay for loose deliveries, as runs started to leak. Taylor remained not out till the end for a brilliant 131 in just 124 deliveries, including 7 over boundaries, as the total reached a formidable 302 for 7. The 47th over by Shoaib Akhtar was murdered by Taylor for 28runs. Every bowler, barring Umar Gul was hit all over the park. For the 7th wicket partnership between Oram & Taylor, 50 runs came in just 15 deliveries. Gul had impressive figures of 3 for 32 in his 10 overs. Kamran behind the stumps had a horrendous day.
Reply by Pakistan was simply disastrous, as wickets tumbled like nine pins. By the 18th over it was 66 for 6. Against a 300 + target to chase, the batting on display was unbelievably brittle. Some late order long handle by Abdul Razzaq brought some semblance to the score, as it went past 100 & then 150. Razzaq ended with a fighting 62 & Umar Gul contributed a meaningful 34 unbeaten runs, but it was all over as Pakistan innings folded for a paltry 192 all out. Southee took 3 wickets, while, Mills, Nathan & Styris claimed 2 apiece.
This Pakistani team is very good on a day & equally bad the other. Very very unpredictable.

Man of the Match : Ross Taylor for his brilliant 131 unbeaten runs.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

World Cup 2011 : India vs Ireland...

India took on giant killers Ireland at Bangalore today. It was a packed stadium, after the Irish team's stupendous victory over England. Having won the toss, Dhoni chose to field.
Zaheer started the proceedings for India, & got immediate purchase from the pitch, as he forced Porterfield to nick one to slip in the very 3rd delivery of the match. Yusuf Pathan missed the catch, as the first run came on board. However, Zaheer, coming full steam bowled Stirling, in the very next delivery, as the crowd roared to life. In the 3rd over, Zaheer, had Joyce nicking one again, & Dhoni made no mistake behind, the score reading 9 for 2. Ireland looked in trouble, but did not give up. Porterfield along with Neil O'Brien, started to build a partnership & took the score past 100 in the 23rd over. Neil however, fell prey to a brilliant run out by Kohli for a well made 46, in the 27th over & the score at 122 for 3. With spin introduced, runs were difficult to come by, & Yuvi with his spin cast a spell over the Irish batsmen. Hero of the last match, Kevin O'Brien fell to a return catch to Yuvi, failing to control the shot, & the slide started. From a situation, where 250 looked well on the cards, the Ireland innings ended at 207, in the 48th over. Captain Porterfield contributed with a valiant 75. Most of the wickets fell to soft dismissals, as the Indian bowling lacked punch. It was Yuvi with a record haul of 5 for 31 along with Zaheer with 3 for 30, that tamed the Irish batters. These two had saved India, from an otherwise ordinary bowling effort.

Indian reply was hard fought, as Sehwag & Gambhir failed at the top. Tendulkar too got LBW playing a sweep shot, & the score read 87 for 3 in the 21st over. The Irish fielders were livewire on the ground, & runs were hard to come by. Kohli got run out needlessly, after a misunderstanding with Yuvi, & the score was 100 for 4 in the 24th over....match on. However, Yuvi along with Dhoni & later with Yusuf Pathan got India home, victorious. Pathan, actually eased the pressure with 3 massive sixes, as Yuvi patiently completed a well deserved half century. In the end, target was achieved in the 46th over, & India had won the game by 5 wickets. Yuvi became the first ever player to claim 5 wickets, his career best effort in ODIs, & score fifty runs in one match, in a World Cup encounter. Viv Richards & Paul Collingwood are the only two players, who have claimed 5 wickets & have scored a century in World Cup.

Man of the Match : Yuvraj Singh was the obvious choice with 5 wickets haul & a half century.

World Cup 2011 : South Africa vs England...

Weekend Dhamaka with South Africans taking on England at Chennai.

Strauss won the toss for England & decided to bat first. The decision backfired in the very first over, as Graeme Smith got Peterson to open the attack with spin. The 3rd delivery consumed the English Captain & in form Andrew Strauss for a duck as he holed out to AB at deep midwicket, & then in the last delivery of the over, Peiterson snicked the ball to Kallis standing at slip. Double blow for England as the score read, 3 for 2. In the 5th over again it was Peterson, as he claimed Ian Bell, caught & bowled, with score tottering at 15 for 3. Next in Bopara & Trott struggled as runs were hard to come by, but they grimly held the wicket. However, in the 30th over, just after he had reached his fifty, Trott fell, caught & bowled to Tahir, with score at 114 for 4. Bopara continued to fight & eventually got to his well deserved fifty, but the fall of wickets continued. At the end of 40 overs, it was 149 for 6, when batting power play was taken. However, it did not improve anything for the English batters, as wickets tumbled, with Tahir claiming two in the 44th over. Swann did hit some lusty blows towards the end, & finally the innings came to an end at 171, in the 46th over.
Barring Trott, Bopara & Swann, no one looked comfortable in the middle, as England slumped against a very disciplined attack.
For the Proteas, Imran Tahir claimed 4 wickets, as Peterson got 3, Morkel 2 & Steyn got 1, as Captain Smith used as many as 7 bowlers.

In  reply, the Proteas started cautiously, & for the 1st wicket, added 63 runs, before Smith was caught behind off Swann for 22. Amla was the next to go, bowled by Broad for a well made 42, as the score was 75 for 2 in the 18th over. Kallis's poor form continued as he scratched for his 15, before getting out with score at 82. AB de Villiers & du Plessis joined in the middle to resurrect the innings, & the South African camp looked headed comfortably to victory, but there was more drama in the game. In the 32nd over, AB was bowled by Anderson, & then du Plessis was smartly run out, & Duminy was bowled by Anderson again....all this in the spate of 11 deliveries, without a run added. The score was 124 for 6. Peterson too was caught behind soon after, reducing the score to 127 for 7 in 37 overs. The chokers tag was coming to haunt the Proteas again.....pressure getting to the batting line up, & suddenly looking extremely brittle. Dale Styen in with van Wyk batted with resolute & added 33 runs to revive the innings. But Wyk bowled by Bresnan in the 47th over, tilted the match back & then in then in the next over, Stuart Broad cleaned the Proteas resistance getting both Steyn & Morkel, as South Africa were left stranded at 165. In the end England victorious by 6 runs. Phew, what a match.
Disappointing to see South Africa crumble under pressure yet again. At one stage they were well on top with 124 for 3 in 31 overs, but they choked yet again to lose the game like this. Understandably, the pitch was not very conducive to batting, but then you are expected to take that in stride. for England it was a do or die match, & they came winners, mostly due to a much improved bowling performance.

Man of the Match : Surprisingly Ravi Bopara for his match top score of 60 runs. I would have felt that Stuart Broad should have earned this award for bowling England to victory with his very crucial 4 for 15 in just 6.4 overs.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

World Cup 2011 : Australia vs Sri Lanka...

Sri Lanka against Australia...a mouth watering contest, between the two finalists from the last World Cup in the Caribeans, ending in a tame tie due to rain.

Sangakkara won the toss & elected to bat, with a clear intention of putting up a formidable total & then challenge the reigning Champions. Brett Lee & Shaun Tait started the bowling for the visitors, as Dilshan & Tharanga took guard at the centre. In the 2nd over itself there was enough evidence of the fierce competition between the two teams. Tait steaming in to Dilshan & getting dispatched for a boundary....immediate exchange of heated words.....however, Dilshan lost the fight as he edged one to Cameroon White in the 2nd slip. It was 6 for 1, as the Aussies huddled for a mini victory. Next man in Sanga, decided to take the fight to the Aussies, as Tharanga tried keeping things quiet at the other end. However, in the 7th over, Steve Smith took a blinder, as Tharanga cut Lee towards was a stunner of a catch, & suddenly, the Lankans were on the back foot, score reading 31 for 2. At crease the most experienced Lankan pair, Sanga & Mahela, obviously had a tough task of building the innings.
However, Mahela fell to a brilliant run out orchestrated by Steve Smith against the run of play & the Lankans looked in a spot of bother with the score at 75 for 3 in the 16th over. As Samaraweera came in & joined Captain Sanga in the middle, the sky was turning dark, with prospects of rain imminent.
Anyways, Sanga completed his fifty in style , as rain started to pour in. By the 33rd over the score read 146 for 3, with Sanga on 73 & Samarweera at 34, looking at a recovery. However, rain forced the Umpires to call off play, & that was that for the day. The match finally abandoned as a tie. A shame to lose this match to weather conditions, as it had all the makings of a humdinger.

Friday, March 4, 2011

World Cup 2011 : West Indies vs Bangladesh...

West Indies against Bangladesh at Mirpur was expected to be a close encounter, as both the teams needed a win to consolidate progress to next stage.
Shakib Ul Hasan won the toss, much to the roar of the crowd & elected to bat. Having defeated Ireland last week in a low scoring thriller, Bangladesh were expected to stretch the Windies attack. However, the din in the stadium simply vanished into a hushed silence, as the 3rd delivery of the match from Roach, was nicked by Tamim to Sammy in the 2nd slip for a duck. This kind of let the cat amongst the pigeons, as the Bangladeshi batsmen went one after the other, in harakiri. barring Junaid Siddique, who made 25 & Ashraful who made 11, no one reached double figures. In a mere 18.5 overs, the hosts were all out for a shameful 58. Lowest total ever by a  Full Member nation in the World Cup. The Windies needed the services of only three bowlers, Roach who took 3 for 19, Benn who took 4 for 18 & Captain Sammy who chipped in with 3 for 21.

In reply, the Windies wrapped up the proceedings in 12.2 overs, losing one wicket, that of Devon Smith. Gayle hit a breezy 37 off 36 deliveries to complete the mis - match.
With England's loss to Ireland, the winner of this match would be quite firmly placed to reach the quarterfinals.

Man of the Match : Kemar Roach for his fiery 3 for 19 in just 6 overs. His 2nd award in successive matches.