Thursday, March 31, 2011

India scrap their way into World Cup final

In the end, India's 260 for 9 was enough as their bowlers did a fine job, but had Pakistan helped themselves, the target could have been so much more gettable. Sachin Tendulkar was dropped four times in his 85, MS Dhoni was put down once and while Wahab Riaz was extremely impressive in collecting five wickets, Umar Gul had one of his most forgettable days, wilting under the pressure of a World Cup semi-final.

By contrast, India's display in the field was much more professional, and that was the difference in a match that lived up to the extreme pre-match hype. The decision to leave R Ashwin out to make room for Ashish Nehra was an odd choice on a pitch offering plenty of spin, but Nehra and his bowling colleagues built the pressure and gave Pakistan's batsmen little to attack after they made a promising start and reached 70 for 1.

The Indians didn't give away an extra until the 37th over of the innings, and the way they put together strings of dot balls and tight overs was key to their success. Munaf Patel picked up two victims and Yuvraj Singh made up for his golden duck with a pair of wickets, but the most important breakthrough came when Harbhajan Singh bowled Umar Akmal for 29.

Akmal had struck a pair of sixes off Yuvraj, driving him over the sight screen and pulling him over midwicket, and anything was possible while he was at the crease. But Dhoni called on Harbhajan to replace Yuvraj, and with the first ball of his spell he came around the wicket and pushed one across Akmal, taking the off stump when the batsman played for the spin.

Shahid Afridi also fell to Harbhajan when he skied a catch off a full toss, and the obdurate Misbah-ul-Haq was left to steer the chase. He found it difficult to lift his tempo and was the last man out, caught on the boundary for 56 in the final over, but he ate up 76 deliveries and had he shown some more intent earlier, Pakistan might have had a chance.

It was a disappointing end for Pakistan after their top order gave them hope. Mohammad Hafeez made an encouraging 43 before a string of eight dot balls from Munaf brought a brain-fade as Hafeez tried a premeditated paddle sweep from outside off stump and edged behind to Dhoni.

Soon after, the loss of Asad Shafiq brought the Mohali crowd to life, when he tried to cut a Yuvraj delivery that was much too full and straight, and the middle stump was knocked back. Shafiq had made 30 and had displayed a cool temperament until that point, but the required run-rate started to balloon, and Pakistan never recovered.

But while India have booked a place in the final, they must hope they haven't used all their good fortune too soon. Tendulkar might be the finest batsman of his generation, but today he was the luckiest, dropped on 27, 45, 70 and 81. It seemed as though he was going to bring up his 100th international century with one of his least convincing innings.

Misbah at midwicket was the first to put him down, before Younis Khan spilled a regulation chance at cover, both off the bowling of Afridi. The third opportunity came when Kamran Akmal didn't move his hands quickly enough to a thick edge, again off Afridi, and while that was a tough opportunity, a pull to Umar at mid-on from the offspin of Hafeez should have been taken.

Before he had any of those lives, Tendulkar had survived two very tight calls on 23: an lbw decision that was given out by Ian Gould but on review proved to be spinning down leg, and a near-stumping the next delivery when he just got his back foot down in time after losing his balance reaching outside off. When Tendulkar was finally taken at cover by Afridi off the bowling of Ajmal, Pakistan's relief was evident.

Soon after, a scratchy Dhoni, who was also dropped by Kamran, made the mistake of challenging Simon Taufel on an lbw decision. Dhoni had 25 when he missed a Riaz delivery that pitched just in line and was hitting the stumps. It was the second outstanding call by Taufel, who had given Virender Sehwag lbw in a similar fashion earlier, even though the left-armer's angle meant pitching outside leg was a possibility.

Riaz was the man who Afridi had to thank for keeping Pakistan in the contest after India made a strong start and reached 114 for 1 off their first 18 overs. After Gautam Gambhir was stumped wandering down the pitch against Hafeez, Riaz grabbed two wickets in two balls - Virat Kohli caught at backward point and Yuvraj bowled by a low full toss for a golden duck.

Nobody looked as fluent as the crease as Sehwag, who took 21 off Gul (0 for 69) from the third over of the innings. What looked like a 300-plus total in those early overs became 260 when Suresh Raina helped them recover from their middle-order failures.

It was enough, but India's batsmen will need to improve if they want to lift the trophy on Saturday. For now, they can dream of their first World Cup in 28 years. Criinfo

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

India, Pakistan heading closer to Cup collision

Bitter rivals India and Pakistan are on a World Cup collision course, but the two neighbors still have quarter-final hurdles to overcome as the marathon tournament enters its sixth week.

India take on defending champions Australia in Ahmedabad on Thursday while a resurgent Pakistan face an inconsistent West Indies in Dhaka to kick-start the last eight stage on Wednesday.

Victory for both Asian giants will set-up a semi-final blockbuster in Mohali on March 30.

But Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi insisted he was not even thinking about the semi-finals.

"Our focus is on the quarter-finals, we have to win that to reach the semi-final, so we are not thinking that far. First we have a must-win match against a dangerous opponent," Afridi told AFP.

New Zealand and South Africa meet in Dhaka on Friday before Sri Lanka and England clash in Colombo on Saturday as the World Cup, which staged its opening ceremony on February 17, comes down to the world's eight top-ranked sides.

Despite criticism of the length of the tournament and the succession of one-sided matches, International Cricket Council president Sharad Pawar claimed on Monday it is potentially the greatest ever.

"We have surely been treated to a real feast of 50-over cricket with some outstanding games," said Pawar, as the World Cup enjoyed its first rest day.

"The standard has been impressive and there's no doubt that 50-over cricket has a real attraction and an amazing appeal for players, spectators in the grounds and the hundreds of millions watching around the world."

India's 80-run win over the West Indies on Sunday handed Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men a quarter-final against Ricky Ponting's Australians.

India have lost to Australia in nine out of 15 matches played on home soil in the last five years.

"Australia are a very strong side and very expressive on the field," said Dhoni.

"But it's about how we prepare. Preparation is very important and we are just thinking about that particular day and match rather than thinking about the result."

Pakistan, meanwhile, topped their qualifying group with 10 points.

They will be overwhelming favourites to defeat West Indies who squeezed into the quarter-finals by virtue only of a superior run-rate over Bangladesh.

Afridi said that his team's win over Australia at the weekend, where they ended the champions' 34-match unbeaten World Cup run, had restored his country's image after a series of bodyblows.

"We knew that beating Australia would be very important for us and this win has enhanced our image, sending a good signal to the cricket world that we can win despite our difficult situation," Afridi told AFP.

The West Indies are enduring a roller-coaster tournament.

They were on the brink of victory against England in Chennai when, chasing a modest target of 244, they were comfortably placed at 222-6 before losing their last four wickets for three runs.

Against India on Sunday, they caved in again as eight wickets fell for 34 runs after they were 154-2 and lost by 80 runs.

The West Indies, who have now lost 18 successive matches against the leading nations, will be returning to Dhaka where their bus was stoned earlier this month.

But Dhaka police commissioner Benazir Ahmed told AFP the West Indies would be provided with the "highest security" possible.

"The West Indies are our valued guests and we will ensure the highest state-level security to them, he said.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Mike Hussey comes back!

Australian striker Mike Hussey, who was dropped a few days before World Cup, now returns to the Australian squad. Hussey had an injury which resulted his exit from the team. Now, Mike Hussey is declared fit and will replace Douge Bollinger who is also injured.

Australia will meet Pakistan at Columbo in its last important pool match. Pakistan has bitter memories associated with Mike Hussey in the semi-final of T20 World Cup 2010 where he turned into a nightmare for Green Shirts and snatched the semi-final out of their hands.

Eyes rolling at Hussey!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Save Andy Flower! ;)

World Cup 2007: Ireland made an upset, defeated Pakistan. Pakistani Coach Bob Woolmer found dead in his hotel next day.

World Cup 2011: Ireland had upset win against England, thought about English Coach Andy Flower? Tera kya hoga kaalia? :)

Ireland breaks in with another World Cup upset...!!!

ICC World Cup 2007 was a nightmare for Pakistan. The Green Shirts not only lost the cup in earlier rounds but also an upset game against minnow Ireland. History repeated itself and this time its England. The English team which has world-class cricketers like Strauss, Collingwood, Swann and Anderson has been defeated by the Irish.

The match was the game of world records. Ireland's Kevin O`Brian emerged as the master blaster of the match. He scored the fastest hundred of World Cup history (50 balls) and ended up with 113 on just 63 balls, also hitting the biggest six of the tournament. Ireland ultimately succeeded to chase the biggest target of World Cup history (328) losing 7 wickets. English men couldn't stop them, what a performance!

The historic break through by an associate team like Ireland was very unexpected. Critics are now expecting much more from this team.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Butt seeks inquiry into Warne's 'tie' prediction of India-England WC match

Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Chairman Ijaz Butt has called for a strict inquiry into Australian spin legend Shane Warne's prediction of tie about the India-England World Cup match.

India and England set alight the 2011 World Cup on Sunday after a record-breaking run-feast ended in a dramatic tie on the last ball of the match played at the M. Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore.

Warne had predicted the result via Twitter before the match began. "Looking forward to the game between India and England, today should be a cracker. My prediction [is] a tie!" he wrote on Twitter.

After the match was over, Warne wrote: "Can't believe my prediction 7/8 hours ago was right ... didn't think it would happen but hey, not bad."

Butt urged the matter to be taken up in an ICC meeting to be held in Mumbai, Geo News reported.

Expressing anger over the prediction, he said the matter should be strictly dealt with, and that Pakistan would discuss this issue in the upcoming ICC meeting.

Butt spoke positive about the fate of the Pakistan cricket team in the ongoing World Cup. Pakistan, though going great, still needs improvement in the fielding and bowling sections, he added. (ANI)