Sunday, June 18, 2017

ICC Champions Trophy 2017 : India vs Pakistan - The Finals

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 15, 2017

ICC Champions Trophy 2017 : India vs Bangladesh

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

ICC Champions Trophy 2017 : England vs Pakistan

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 12, 2017

ICC Champions Trophy 2017 : Pakistan vs Sri Lanka

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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 11, 2017

ICC Champions Trophy 2017 : India vs South Africa

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

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

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

La Decima for Rafa Nadal - The Clay Court King

As the volley from a weary Wawrinka sliced into the net, Rafa Nadal dropped flat on the court, all ends sprawled, eyes closed in ecstasy, as the red mud smeared his blue jersey - the King of Clay. Rafa Nadal had created an unprecedented history at French Open to own his La Decima - the 10th crown. It took a little more than just two hours of complete supremacy, as a hapless Wawrinka tried in vain to stem the flow of shots from the Spaniard, breaking his racquet in frustration, & in another moment putting up a resigned smile to walk away, applauding the sheer dominance. The crowd too, gasped in wonder & then break into a collective clap of applause, as Nadal would stretch to reach a ball, that he should not have & then unleash a down the line passing shot that would leave Wawrinka rooted to his spot, watching in fascination, the ball kissing red dirt at the far corner of the court - another winner for Nadal. In the final count the scoreline read 6-2, 6-3, 6-1. Wawrinka, in his fourth Grand Slam final had to lose for the first time, having no answer to Nadal's much superior play on the day.

After the defeat in the finals of the Australian Open this year to his good friend & legend, Roger Federer, one had seen pain in Nadal's eyes - he had allowed Federer to come from behind in the fifth set & take away the trophy. It was a well fought five setter, with both players looking good to claim the title, before Federer pipped Nadal to get his 18th Grand Slam. However, Nadal had mentioned back then, if he could take his good form into France, 'good things can happen' - & it did happen in style, as he stamped his supremacy at the Philippe Chatrier Court today. It was triumph over agony that lasted the most of 2015 & 2016, where a troubled wrist & a severe back pain had almost halted Nadal in his career & people started calling him as 'over the hill'.
Uncle Toni, Nadal's mentor over the years, had identified three areas of improvement, - strengthen the serve, get back the stunning forehand of the yesteryears & most importantly get back the hunger to win again - & Nadal had ticked each of these boxes, with able assistance from coach Carlos Moya.

Such was his dominance in the tournament, that he did not even play a tie breaker, let alone lose a single set through all the seven matches. He lost just 35 games through the seven rounds, second best after Bjorn Borg(who lost 32 games) in 1978, in the Open Era. Nadal has now won this tournament without losing a set, three times - incredible as it may sound !!! It was his 79th victory in 81 matches overall here, winning 10 out of 10 finals & claiming his 15th Grand Slam. He is now 2nd in the all time list, going beyond Pete Sampras & just behind Roger Federer, the legend with18 Grand Slams, who incidentally, also has staged a dream return this year.
In the semis he blew apart Dominic Thiem, the only player to defeat Nadal in Clay this year (at Rome), someone who had blasted defending champion Djokovic, in straight sets in the last eight - a match that was expected to test Nadal to the hilt, did not even last beyond 3 sets. Nadal had given the probable future champion a real spanking & a lesson in Clay Court play. Such was his scathing dominance, that one felt sorry for his opponent.
Perhaps, too one sided was Nadal's dominance in this tournament, as someone mentioned, 'too boring to watch him dominate', as Nadal climbs back to no 2 ranking with this win.

His fans all around the world like me, would love to see him now carry the 'good form' & triumph at Wimbledon & US Open too, & race to the No 1 slot, which was once his domain, not too many years back. Maybe too much to ask, but then, why not, such are stuff that dreams are made of, & right now, we all dream.... Rafa Nadal, its been a fairytale ..... please carry on. We are willing to wager a bet !!!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

ICC Champions Trophy 2017 : England vs Australia

England vs Australia at Birmingham today was a virtual knockout match for the Aussies. With England having already qualified for the last four, nothing short of a win would guarantee a semis spot for the Men in Yellow.
Eon Morgan won the toss for England & put Australia into bat - obvious plan to capitalise on the D/L methods in case of rain.

Warner & Finch started well, but once again Warner could not build on a start & got out in the 8th over for just 21 runs. Finch & Smith them settled down well to build a platform, but just when they were looking good for a big total, first Finch & then Henriques & Smith left in short inetrvals, leaving the Aussies stuttering at 818 for 4 in the 32nd over - Travis Head & Maxwell however had other ideas, as they got the measure of the English attack, as well as the pitch & both together set to build the innings. Its at this stage, that Maxwell got caught on the mid wicket boundary ropes, with Jason Roy managing to pluck a wonderful catch. The Aussies batting collapsed after that, & it was only some intelligent batting by Travis Head, who stayed unbeaten till end on 69 runs, that the score reached some respectability with 277 for 9 in 50 overs. One brilliant catch, just when Maxwell was looking to tear into the bowling, & the rest of the batting folding down. It was strange to see the Aussies get themselves into a hole, with wickets falling at regular intervals, failing to get past at least 300 runs. Surely not enough in a pitch which held no demons.
For England, Wood was fantastic with figures of 4 for 33 runs in his 10 overs, which included prized scalps of Warner, Smith & Maxwell, with very able assistance from Rashid, who too picked up 4 wickets in the middle order for just 41 runs, in his quota of 10 overs.

In the run chase, England got into trouble early in the innings, as the Aussie pacers scalped three quick wickets within the first 6 overs, with score reading a precarious 35 for 3. Rains came to the rescue of the home side as the match was halted for a while. But that was all the celebrations Aussies could lay hands on. On resumption, Capt Eon Morgan & Ben Stokes, in the middle stroked every delivery with gay abandon, scoring freely. It was as if they were feasting on some part time bowlers, as Starc, Hazelwood, Cummins, & others were just despatched to all parts of the ground. Morgan was unlucky to get run out for 87, but Stokes went on to get his third ODI hundred, as Butler joined him in the carnage. In the 41st over when rains came down again, this time rather heavily, England were sitting pretty at 240 for 4, way ahead of the D/L target.
In the end the match was called off & England were winners by 40 runs (D/L), shoving the current World Champions Australia out of this tournament. Hosts England certainly look to be in ominous form, having won all the games till now - the only team in the tournament to have maintained a clean slate.
Bangladesh by virtue of this result enter the semis along with England from Group A.
The focus now shifts to Group B, where India plays SA & Sri Lanka plays Pakistan - the winners qualify for the semis.

ICC Champions Trophy 2017 : New Zealand vs Bangladesh

New Zealand vs Bangladesh at Cardiff was expected to be a nail biter, as nothing less than a win was necessary for both the teams to stay in contention for the semis. 

Williamson won the toss & elected to bat. on a pitch which had seen rains n the morning - strange decision, as in such conditions, its better to chase & benefit for D/L methods. 
Anyways, the Kiwis innings started on a sedate note, with Ronchi & Guptill watchful in the opening overs. However, the bowlers kept a disciplined line & length, not allowing batsmen to freeze arms, & runs did not really flow. Ronchi got out first in the 8th over & Guptill too left in the 13th over, both getting a start, but not capitalising & it was again left to Williamson & Taylor to construct a partnership - they carried the score to 152 in the 30th over, before Williamson was run out brilliantly for a well made 57 by Shakib, & the Kiwis lost momentum. Taylor too got his half century, while Broom & Neesahm made some vital contributions, but the runs were difficult to come by & finally they ended quota of 50 overs with a total of 265 runs for 8 wickets. - certainly not a par total, with last 10 overs of slogging resulting in only 62 runs for 4 wickets. The middle order again faltering for the Kiwis in the tournament. 

The Bangladesh knew that chase would be no cake walk against this Kiwi attack, but they had in form Tamim, raring to go. But the start was disastrous, with Tamim getting LBW in the first over itself for a duck. Tim Southee was on fire & claimed three quick wickets, & Milne got Mushfiqur cheaply, leaving Bangladesh reeling at 33 for 4 in the 12th over. It looked all over for Bangladesh at that stage, when Shakib & Mahmudullah came to the crease. Both settled the nerves on crease as well as in the dressing room, playing sensible cricket. Slowly but steadily they gathered momentum to get one of the best partnerships stitched for 224 runs. Both got to well deserved hundreds, as Bangladesh eased to a very important victory with 16 deliveries to spare. Shakib gave away his wicket after getting to his century, but Mahmudullah carried his bat till the end, to knock the Kiwis out of the tournament - the first team to be so. The game was well fought, probably the first evenly balanced match of the tournament, where first Bangladesh were able to restrict the Kiwis to a manageable 265 & then New Zealand came back strongly to rock back Bangladesh in the chase, before the two heroes of the match slowly but surely took the Bengal Tigers home to victory. Shakib was named the Man of Match. 
This would certainly go down as another upset in this tournament, third in a row, as Bangladesh will now look forward to tomorrow's game between England & Australia, praying for the home team to win, which would allow them to sneak into the semis. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

ICC Champions Trophy 2017 : India vs Sri Lanka

Today was the 8th match of the tournament between India & Sri Lanka at the Oval. It was expected that India, in the form that are in, would steamroll the Lankans with ease, but the sprightly islanders pulled in the biggest surprise of the tournament till now, with an upset unexpected win.

With overcast conditions, the Lankan skipper Angelo Mathews won the toss & put India into bat.
Openers Rohit Sharma & Shikhar Dhawan were in control from the very beginning despatching the Sri Lankan bowling to all parts of the ground to put in a formidable opening partnership of 138 runs, before Rohit holed out to Malinga in the deep for a well made 78 runs, in the 25th over. Surprisingly, next in Virat got out for a rare duck & then Yuvi too perished for just 7 runs. Dhoni in next survived a very confident appeal & then settled down with Dhawan to milk the bowling. Dhawan completed his 10th century in the 40th over as the batsmen started to open up. 103 runs came for the last 10 overs, as Dhoni, Dhawan & later Kedar Jadhav flayed the Lankan attack. In the end, Dhawan got 125 runs, while Dhoni got himself a wonderfully made 63 of just 52 balls & Jadhav belted 25 runs in just 13 deliveries. All the Lankan bowlers were taken to cleaners, as India lost 6 wickets to amass 321 runs in the allotted 50 overs. A very good total under any circumstance, especially a pressure game in a tournament like this.

When the Lankans started their chase after the break, & the free flowing Dickwella was removed by Kumar in the 5th over with just 11 runs on board, it looked like a batting collapse on cards.
But there was rude surprise for India in store - & a big one. Indian bowlers could not make further inroads, as Gunathilaka & Mendis dug into the crease & started to play shots as well. They put 159 runs together without any fuss, before Gunathilaka was run out by a brilliant piece of fielding from Yadav & Dhoni. Almost immediately, the well set Mendis also got run out by Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, to give India some hope to come back into the game. But Skipper Angelo Mathews & Perera into the crease were completely in control to keep the scoreboard ticking merrily. Perera have to leave retired hurt, with a pulled hamstring (a very good decision to leave & let a more fitter batsman come in), & Gunaratne coming in played with supreme confidence to take their team to victory. Mathews got a well deserved half century, & hit the winning runs with calm assurance. It was a remarkable victory for the Lankans, by seven wickets & more than an over to spare, a pure team game, with one of their their best run chase ever in ODIs. Its a very young & inexperienced outfit, & they played fearless cricket, which got them home. Kusal Mendis was awarded the Man of Match for his 89 runs in 93 deliveries.
Certainly an upset for India, who were pre match favourites. they will have to take a serious look into their bowling, which could take only one wicket today, the other two being run outs. One would want to believe, that it was one off day for them, but certainly a huge warning, on what to expect.
The Group opens up to make the remaining outings, virtual knock out matches - India vs South Africa & Sri Lanka vs Pakistan - the winner moves to semis. All the four team have 2 points each now, & unless there is a wash out, its going to be a cracker of a contest.

ICC Champions Trophy 2017 : South Africa vs Pakistan

South Africa vs Pakistan at Birmingham today was a high octane match - a win would take the Proteas to semis, while a win for Pakistan would keep them in contention for the next round.

ABD, having won the toss decided to bat first & it was expected that the Proteas batting would take the wind out of sail from Pakistan. But, first Amla, then de Kock & then even ABD perished in quick succession, leaving them in tatters at 62 for 3 at the end of 15 overs. - ABD out for a first ball duck (first time in his ODI career), as the Pakistani fielders went cock a hoop in glee, as the spinners were weaving a deadly web.
It was expected that here on du Plessis & Miller would construct the innings, milking singles & occasional boundaries, but it was not to be. Barring Miller, all other recognised batsmen failed to stay & score. Morris & Rabada batted with some purpose towards the end giving Miller able support for the score to push beyond 200 mark & at the end of 50 overs, SA had scored 219 for 8. Miller was left unbeaten for a fighting but a rather laborious 75 runs, his slowest fifty ever in ODIs.
Pakistan bowlers were excellent with their length & line & the pitch assisted them with juicy bounce. Hassan Ali picked up 3 wickets, while Imad & Junaid took 2 apiece, with splendid figures. At some stage, even 175 - 180 was looking difficult, but for Rabada & Miller in the end, who carried the score to some respectability.

Pakistan started in earnest, with opener Fakhar going hammer & tongs - he also survived two hits on his helmet & a missed run out. But just when they looked like tearing the SA attack apart, Morkel removed both the openers in the 8th over & it was game on. The pressure built, caused the next 20 deliveries to go without any run as the batsmen struggled to get any rhythm. Tahir too was accurate with his spin, but Babar & Hafeez weathered the storm and gathered runs in bits - the target never beyond reach. Morkel struck again in the 24th over to claim Hafeez, but runs started to flow for Pakistan with Shoaib Malik coming to the crease, releasing the tension.
Rain halted the play at the end of 27th over, with Pakistan clearly ahead on D/L calculations by 19 runs.
The drizzle continued as the Pakistan supporters cheered & the SA supporters turned gloomier. The match was called off eventually after 2 hours of wait, with Pakistan the winner by 19 runs in D/L methods - clearly the first big upset of the tournament.
Pakistan certainly were a much improved bunch today, playing with purpose & a definite plan. Hassan Ali was declared the Man of Match, & rightly so - three crucial wickets for just 24 runs & a fantastic catch in the deep.
The tournament looks very open at this stage, though India looks comfortable to reach the semis from this Group B. SA have made their position tricky now with a game against India left, while Pakistan has come bouncing back - the match between Pakistan & Sri Lanka will be crucial to decide the semi final line ups. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

ICC Champions Trophy 2017 : New Zealand vs England

Key match this - New Zealand vs England at Cardiff. With two games of the group abandoned due to rains, the winner of this contest would almost certainly move to the semis. Both teams almost equal on paper, with England having the stronger batting line up, & New Zealand the better bowling pack.
However, in the final count, it was England who came on top of the Kiwis, & the contest not living upto the pre match billing.

The Kiwis won the toss & decided to chase. Put into bat, the English openers did not really fire, as Jason Ray failed again & Capt Morgan too went cheaply. However, Hales maintained his good form for a half century & Joe Root & Ben Stokes batted quite fluently to build the platform for the final assault. However, around the 41st over they were subdued at 230 for 6 & it looked like the Kiwis bowling had managed to tame the English lions. But Butler came up with a late flourish & carried the score beyond 300 with an unbeaten 61 off just 48 deliveries, before he ran out of partners. For the 8th wicket, he added a quick fire 49 runs in five overs along with Plunkett. Though they lost the last three wickets after that in a space of four deliveries, England managed to post a challenging total of 310 runs - certainly a match on. The batting is looking deeper for them with ability to go past 300 regularly.

Bowlers for England were spot on with length & line, especially Ball & Wood - new names into the side, but very impressive. The English weather, gloomy, windy & cloudy, did help them, but both of them deserve all the kudos for bottling up the Kiwi batting. The pinch hitting Ronchi failed up the order & Guptill too could not get a move on. It was left to Williamson & Taylor to construct a solid base, & they did put up 95 odd runs together, but this was not enough. Once Williamson left for a well made 87, others collapsed one after the other. Worst of the lot was Broom, coming in at the end of Williamson & wasting too many deliveries - the same can be said of Taylor also - so much experience of international cricket & yet dismal planning & application to the chase. It was disappointing to see players like Anderson, Neesham, Broom, Santner, all failing to make any mark with the bat. Kiwis missed someone like Brendon McCullum to hit against the line upfront.
What could've been a good contest between bat & ball, lost its sheen in these middle overs, as the asking rate kept piling up & batsmen kept losing wickets at regular intervals.
Liam Plunkett picked up 4 wickets to clean up the innings, while Jake Ball was adjusted Man of Match for excellent bowling on top with figures of 2 for 31 in 8 overs - splendid effort for sure.
In the end, it was all over for New Zealand as they were all out for 223 runs in the 45th over - a solid victory for England by 87 runs & they become the first team to qualify for the semis. 

ICC Champions Trophy 2017 : Australia vs Bangladesh

At the Oval, Bangladesh against heavyweight Aussies turned out to be a damp squib, - rains washing away a simple Aussie victory.
Bangladesh won the toss & elected to bat, as the sky then looked clear enough for a full match - sensible choice.
The interest in the game was to see if they could last the full quota of 50 overs & also whether they could put up a decent total to fight !! As expected, the Aussie bowlers peppered the batsmen with short stuff, choking them for runs from the very beginning. Zampa, too when brought in the 35th over, was on the mark with his spin & got rich dividends with two quick wickets. Starc cleaned up the innings with a 4 wicket haul, three of which came in the 43rd over. Bangladesh were skittled out for a paltry 182 in just 44.3 overs.
Tamim carried his rich form into this match & played a lone hand, scoring 95 runs & it was sad to see him miss getting back to back hundreds. He looked fluent in his strokes & hit three massive sixes off the spinners along with six boundaries. With his exit the Bangladesh innings folded in a hurry. Every other batsmen struggled.

The Aussie run chase did not actually get off to a flier, but the scoring rate was well ahead at all times. Though Finch got out in the 8th over, there was never a panic with Warner & Smith milking the Bangla attack at will. They were at 83 for 1 in 16 overs, when the sky opened up to bring the game to a grinding halt....agonising wait this, as at this stage Bangladesh praying for the rains to get heavier, while the Aussies begging for just another four overs of play !!! D/L method showing the Aussies way ahead of required runs, but need to bat another four overs to constitute a legitimate game & win in !!
The gloomy English weather prevailed, & showers continued at a steady pace, killing all possibilities of  a restart. Match abandoned & points shared.
Australia now have two points from two games, both abandoned, & frustratingly see their fortunes hanging in thin air for now. Another four overs of play would've given them a certain win. They have to defeat England in the last game to have any chance of making it to the semis. On the other hand Bangladesh have one point form two games & also have to win against New Zealand in their last game - a prospect which looks dim.

Newsflash : Meanwhile, Pakistani bowler Wahab Riaz, who sustained a bad ankle injury during the India match, has been ruled out of the tournament. 

News Flash **** News Flash **** News Flash

In other news, India decimated Pakistan all ends up in the Champions Trophy match at Birmingham on 4th June. 
Here are various reactions to this win:

*Pakistan Government* denies that it ever sent a cricket team to Birmingham. It says the evidence provided by India is doctored. It challenges India to produce "unequivocal evidence" and not merely claim it won the match yesterday.
*NDTV* has supported Pakistan's claim.
*Manishankar Aiyer* claimed "in fact Pakistan won the match"..... he was referring to the toss won by Pakistan. On probing further, he retorted, "that's exactly what I meant - winning the toss is winning the game - was he whining ??
*Arundhati Roy* has claimed that whilst Prima Facie there is no evidence that India defeated Pakistan, if it did so, it was a gross violation of the rights of innocent Pakistanis. She plans to go to International Human Rights Commission for getting this investigated. She is in fact already planning to write a short story on this - sources say, she's been promised adequate funding for this 
*Shashi Tharoor* has said it is an "exasperating farrago of distortions, misrepresentations & outright lies being broadcast by an unprincipled showman masquerading as a journalist". When the journalist tried to search for the meaning of Tharoor's words, the computer crashed & Mr Tharoor has been unavailable for further comments. 
*Nidhi Razdan* meanwhile ousted Sambit Patra from the debate when he claimed that Pakistan lost the match. She is rumoured to have contacted Omar Abdullah to intervene - Mr Abdullah has said - "it will embolden the stone pelters to sacrifice their lives by joining Pakistan cricket team." 
*Ravish Kumar* could not be seen since the screen was kept black in mourning
*Kejriwal* said that if Pakistan lost, it was probably due to "hacking of the scoreboard" and challenged ICC to have a rematch. For the rematch, he wants EVM machines (specially designed & experimented by AAP) to be installed for end results. 
*Prashant Bhushan* plans to take this to Supreme Court at around 2 am.
*Inzamam Ul Haq* was asked about the match. He said a lot, but all we could understand was: "The boys played well & everyone got a chance to bat".
*Rahul Gandhi* said he would have to analyze the results and meditate before commenting. He has already spoken of reading Gita & Upanisads. He is going to Bangkok for a month for the same purpose.
*Akhilesh Yadav*, when asked about the match first wanted to know how many players from Gujarat were in the winning team.
*Arun Jaitley* directly described the win as a result of demonetisation.
*Amit Shah* said this win is a proof that the people want BJP government in 2019.
*Yogi Adityanath* said Pakistan lost because it ate beef.
*Trump* has sent a confusing tweet congratulating India. It strangely reads: "Covfefe"
A correspondent tried to contact *Arnab Goswami* to know his reaction. He has since gone deaf, so we will never know Arnab's reaction.
- News Compiled by a bold anonymous correspondent, with some cosmetic changes by Yours Truly. 

Sunday, June 4, 2017

ICC Champions Trophy 2017 : India vs Pakistan

India vs Pakistan is always a nerve racking event - in any game, & cricket just keeps getting bigger & bigger between these two countries. The ongoing political tensions add fuel to fire & people all over stay on the edge - & today Edgbaston, Birmingham too had a boisterous crowd from both sides to add colours, as almost the whole of India glued themselves to the TV to follow the proceedings.

Sarfraz won the toss for Pakistan & put India in to bat - Rohit & Dhawan laid a solid foundation putting 136 runs for the opening pair without much of a sweat before Dhawan holed out in the deep for a well made 68. Virat in next looked at ease with Rohit, but then surprisingly the boundaries started to dry as Pakistan bowlers, especially Amir started to get a stranglehold on the scoring. Rohit into his 90s, got run out, looking lazy & not grounding the bat properly, bringing in Yuvi. At that stage, India was clearly struggling with even Virat hitting straight to fielders & runs coming at a trickle. Yuvi was vintage today & raced to his half century off just 29 deliveries to bring back the much needed momentum. He made the most of a spilled catch, early in his innings & made Pakistan pay heavily for this error. It was probably the turning point of the game, into advantage India. The stroke play ignited Virat too as he broke shackles with an over head six & the floodgates opened up. Pandya in next just clobbered three huge sixes in the last over as India amassed 70 odd runs in the last 4 overs to end the innings at 319 for 3 in 48 overs. In the end it was a magnificent batting display, with everyone contributing meaningfully. Rains did come in between to disrupt, but thankfully the match could be played on.

Chasing a real stiff revised target of 289 in 41 overs (D/L method), Pakistan started in earnest with Azhar Ali taking the attack to the Indian camp, but he got little support at the other end, as batsman after batsman struggled to push the scoring rate. Indian bowlers though pitching short were generally accurate & Pakistan lacked experience to counter this bowling, as wickets tumbled. There were brief cameos by Azhar Ali, Md Hafeez, Shoaib Malik & Capt Sarfraz, but none could go the distance as the asking rate kept creeping up steadily.
Indian fielding was atrocious to say the least, as runs leaked in the deep, run outs missed, & catches dropped galore - it was difficult to believe such drop in standards. India will have to seriously introspect this bit, as any other team would make them pay heavily in the tournament. Barring Jadeja & to some extent Pandya & Virat, almost all were struggling. As Virat said at the end of the game, it was dismal.
Pakistan however, could not capitalise on these lapses & folded in for only164 runs (Wahab did not come into bat), giving India a huge win by 124 runs. Umesh Yadav picked up 3 wickets, while Pandya & Jadeja chipped in with two apiece.
It was good to get a full match, despite three breaks due to rains & the crowd got their money's worth.
India was clearly the better team, & continued their dominance over Pakistan with another big imperious win, as Yuvraj Singh took the Man of Match award. India's record against Pakistan in ICC tournaments now stands at 13-2.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

ICC Champions Trophy 2017 : South Africa vs Sri Lanka

The 3rd match of the tournament was between potential Champions South Africa & regular dark horses Sri Lanka. The Isle islanders won the toss & put Proteas into bat - a very bold decision, with Capt Angelo Mathews sitting out due to injury.

Having restricted the South Africans from breaking loose & stifling them to a total of 299 runs, The Lankans started in whirlwind fashion & raked up 87 runs in the first 10 overs, for the loss of only one wicket. At that point, the South African bowling looked in tatters & completely listless & the Lankans looked good to stage an upset...maybe !!!
But, then in the 17th over, they first lost Chamdimal to a brilliant throw from ABD & then Tahir removed Kapugedera - the Lankans lost steam after that, & while step in Capt Tharanga battled to a half century & Perera scored 40+ runs, wickets kept tumbling at regular intervals & the target kept getting farther away. In the end, South Africa romped home with a 96 run win in the 42nd over. Tahir was sensational with 4 for 27 runs to bag the Man of Match award.

Earlier in the game, the Sri Lankan bowlers were very focussed & bowled well within their limitations & did not allow the situation to overawe them as the South African openers Amla & deKock found the proceedings difficult to get about - only 32 runs came in the first 10 overs & the normally fluent deKock struggled & eventually got out for a scratchy 23 runs off deliveries. Du Plessis came in & along with Amla got the momentum back & by the 30th over, the South African innings looked in good stead with 163 runs on board & both the batsmen chugging along merrily with half centuries under their belt. They stitched a valuable partnership of 145 runs, but then the innings stuttered again as wickets started to tumble & suddenly it was 7 wickets down for just 277 runs in the 47th over. Duminy with some lusty hitting towards the end took the score to 299 runs - a far cry from a certain 330 - 340 runs. Amla got a well deserved hundred becoming the quickest batsmen to reach 25 hundreds in 151 innings & Du Plessis got a nice 78. It was hard to see batsmen struggling to hit the big boundaries in the slog overs, as the pitch, though not a belter, held no demons & the sky was clear blue - it was not the clinical South African innings, that we normally see.
However, in the end, it turned out to be a good total to defend & start the campaign with an emphatic win.

ICC Champions Trophy 2017 : Australia vs New Zealand

The second match of this tournament at Birmingham, was expected to be a humdinger - always a cheeky contest between the two neighbours Down Under. But rain played spoilsport, just as the game was entering an interesting phase.

The Kiwis won the toss & chose to bat as clouds kept their gloomy presence. The openers Guptill & Ronchi started blasting boundaries, as runs came a scorching pace. Guptill left after a bright start & Capt Williamson came n to steady the ship. Ronchi delighted with some blistering hits all around as Williamson settled for a long haul. Ronchi departed for 65 & then Taylor compiled a well made 46, but it was the Captain who outshone everyone for a brilliant 100, before running himself out needlessly. Others could not capitalise on such a beautiful foundation & the innings lost momentum to finally fold at 291 in 45 overs. The Aussie bowlers found their rhythm a tad late but wrapped up the Kiwis eventually. Hazelwood was the star amongst them claiming 6 for 52 in 9 overs.
With rain playing the spoilsport, the target kept getting revised under D/L as the Aussies started the chase. Warner looked in hurry & got out caught behind & Finch and Henriques too got out trying to force the pace. Aussies were looking tattered at 53 for 3 in 9 overs, when the sky opened again & eventually play was called off. They would consider lucky to come out of a hole today with a draw.
Both the teams take one point each & the Kiwis would feel cheated of a win, as the Aussies looked uncomfortable.
It was a repeat of 2013, when both the teams had to content with a draw due to rains - same venue & same tournament !!! - strange are the stories of cricket.

Hope rain stays away as the tournament progresses.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

ICC Champions Trophy 2017 : England vs Bangladesh

The 8th edition of the ICC Champions Trophy tournament began in style with hosts England taking on Bangladesh. Good clean weather with a placid batting track at The Oval promising a high scoring match.

Eon Morgan won the toss & elected to bat, which looked like a good decision, as Bangladesh Buoyed by a 3rd wicket partnership of 166 runs between Tamim & Mushfiqur, Bangladesh ended up with a sound total of 305 for 6 wickets. At the end of 40 overs, at 223 for 3, the minnows looked good 330 - 340 runs, but faltered towards the end, around the 45th to 47th over & probably fell short by 25-30 runs. While Tamim put up a splendid century with 128 runs, Mushfiqur scored a breezy 79 runs.
This was Bangladesh's highest total against England in ODIs, & they could've gone further, but the last five overs were less productive, with Plunkett pulling back things for the hosts with four wickets.
There was an interesting skirmish between Ben Stokes & Tamim Iqbal in the middle, around the 32nd over - Stokes trying to rattle Tamim with some comments & then lightly tapping him on the shoulders, something the batsman didn't approve of - modern day sledging to unsettle the concentration of the batsmen ?? - looks like we may see quite a few of them in this tournament.
Good to see, Tamim keeping his cool & let his batting do the talking, & eventually getting a well deserved hundred.

England were quite organised in their reply & lost just two wickets in chasing the total, despite losing Jason Roy cheaply at the top - quite comfortably in the end with almost 3 overs to spare. Two solid century partnerships, first between Hales & Root for 159 runs & then another between Root & Morgan for 143 runs, got them home in style. Hales missed a well deserved hundred, holing out in the deep for 95, while Root was unbeaten till the end with a fantastic 133 to be adjusted the Man of the Match, as Capt Morgan piled up a brisk unbeaten 75.
Root, certainly was flawless & completely in control from the very beginning. Incidentally, this is the first time a total of 300+ has been chased successfully in Champions Trophy - the pitch looks like a belter & promises run feasts ahead.

Bangladesh will be ruing the lack of a quality fifth bowler in their ranks & ended up on the losing side, despite a well compiled 300+runs. I still think, they are capable of at least one upset this season.

England would be sending out a strong waring to all opponents on their batting depth & would relish home crowd support, as the tournament progresses.