Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Weather plays spoilsport on the fourth day of the Eden Gardens Test

In the hunt for a victory to level the series, India found the spoiler to its well-founded dreams in the form of weather gods that wrecked damage on the day four of the second test between India and South Africa. Play had just started at 10.30 a.m. and a delayed lunch at 1.45 p.m. saw the gloom darken, forcing the players to remain indoors, as the play again resumed only at 3.20 p.m.

India, so far, in its quest to maintain the home record as well as keep the No 1 ICC test ranking to itself had removed two architects of the South African batting line-up, as both Smith and Kallis were outwitted, and the first innings hero and debutant Alviro Petersen also fell cheaply. But, Hashim Amla on 49, in top notch form held forte, and being dismissed only once in this test series, Indian think tanks will have to come out with a novel idea to get the better of this man on the fifth and final day.

The weather forecast for Thursday remains to be encouraging for the Indians, and in theory, Indian bowlers have 98 overs to drive the final nail into South African batting coffin. An optimistic assessment lie in the wait in favor of an Indian resurgence, as the Indian bowlers now hold the key to the result of this second test match at Eden Gardens. The fourth day saw the skipper Dhoni shuffling around with his bowlers to extract further success after removing the three top order batsmen.

Mishra with tweaking leg breaks removed Smith with a delivery that turned viciously and had Kallis caught behind the wickets. Though Harbajan found the bounce favored by the Eden Garden pitch an advantageous proposition, he could just manage with a wicket to his name, with Zaheer failed to unleash magical spells to bring the South African doom at a faster rate.

Earlier Amla was nearly consumed by Harbajan when he played the bowler only to find Murali Vijay wanting, and in effect has enjoyed the reprieve to remain unbeaten on 49. South Africa was 115 for 3 at the end of the fourth day’s play at Eden Gardens. The fifth and final day is a day to witness vigorous competition between bat and ball, and if the weather holds good, an interesting fifth day’s play is sure to delight cricketing fans all around.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Lakshman and Eden Gardens – The romantic affair continues

VVS Lakshman, with a brilliant 143 and M.S Dhoni notching up 132 played their roles to perfection as the South Africans felt the heat when the pair consolidated India’s position on the third day of the second cricket test between India and South Africa. The South Africans were not their usual self, as the visiting team dropped many catches, with the seventh wicket partnership between Lakshman and Dhoni registering 259 runs, taking the total lead to 347.

It must have been a declaration made from sheer instincts, as Dhoni declared the innings and let the South Africans face five deliveries, who were 6 for no loss, before play was called off owing to poor light. Earlier, the day had plenty to offer as both India and South Africa were expected to battle it out to take control of the second test. Lakshman, the artistic wonder, played some lovely flicks and drives to the delight of the audience with Amit Mishra proving to be a thorn in the South African flesh. Dropped by Kallis, Amit Mishra dug his heels in to provide able support to Lakshman as the two helped India Inch ahead to a lead of 88 runs. Dhoni joined Laksman in the run hunt after Mishra departed, with the second new ball posing problems to both Dhoni and Lakshman.

M.S. Dhoni made his intentions clear as he batted with watchfulness, and treated bad deliveries with disdain, as they were dispatched to the boundaries with √©lan, as he pulled Dale Steyn as well employed the cut shot to grow in confidence. Both the Indian batsmen taking advantage of the reprieves, with the South African fielding looking off-color, helped themselves to remarkable centuries, as Dhoni started to go after the bowling when the hundred was up alongside his name. Though not technically the soundest, sheer guts and self-confidence has let Dhoni reach such heights, as he again proved his mettle with a ton to put India in the driver’ seat.

India would now be looking to square the series and the fourth day of this Eden Garden test is surely an acid test for Smith & Co.

Shewag and Tendulkar put India on top pedestal

Sachin is ageing, but like wine, with his stints at the crease providing the testimonial evidence, as he can be best described as a phenomenon in the world of cricket. The second day of the Eden Gardens test between India and South Africa witnessed classical centuries from the Master, Sachin Tendulkar, and from the breezy Shewag as India were 342 for 5 at the close of second day’s play.

A blistering 165 from just 174 deliveries by Shewag and a crafty 106 from Tendulkar saw India wrestle advantage from the South Africans, though a late comeback brightened the hopes of South Africa. India lost three wickets in quick succession, as Tendulkar, Shewag and Badrinath were back in the pavilion, within a space of three runs.

Earlier the South Africans put on 30 runs, after resuming play at 266 for 9, when Zaheer Khan struck for the Indians with the wicket of Wayne Parnell. Zaheer with figures of four for 90 and Harbajan with three for 64 tasted maximum success with the ball. The visitors played for 15 minutes in the first session before their innings came to an end. With Gambhir and Shewag setting up the fireworks, the South Africans were clueless to the initial onslaught. Shewag thumped Morkel for boundaries on the off-side and Gambhir, out of sorts in the previous test, decided to play a waiting game by rotating the strike. Gambhir was dismissed when the score was 72, as he became a run out victim for a personal score of 25.

Murali Vijay received a hostile welcome, as Morkel surprised him with a quick bouncer which struck him on the helmet. Murali Vijay didn’t last long as Morkel ended his stay at the crease when he was caught behind the wickets by the stand-in wicket keeper AB de Villiers. Shewag and Sachin steadied the Indian innings with the total reading 232 for 2 at tea. The final session saw India loose three wickets with the elegant VVS Lakshman and night watchman Amit Mishra battling it out till the close of play. The Indians finished the second day at 342 for 5, with a lead of 46 runs to their credit.

The third day is sure to test both the teams, as both would be playing to outwit the other.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Zaheer and Harbajan bring India back into the game

South Africa seemed to be sailing pretty, as they were well placed at 218 for one, after Graeme Smith had won the toss and elected to bat. With Hashim Amla (114) and debutant Alviro Petersen (100) exhibiting a sparkling batting display, South Africa seemed to be cruising along to reach a comfortable total to scuttle an Indian victory, and with it to re-conquer the Number 1 spot concerned with the ICC Test rankings.

But Zaheer Khan and Harbajan Singh had different ideas altogether, as Zaheer sent both the centurions back to the pavilion with Harbajan scalping three victims. India, with the influence of the electrified atmosphere at the Eden Gardens that worked to is advantage reduced South Africa to 266 for 9, when stumps were drawn for the day.

The pitch offering enough bounce produced a marked influence on Zaheer Khan, as he sent the off-stump of the South African captain, cart-wheeling, but, both Ishant and Zaheer failed to be consistent to produce a significant impact during the earlier stages of the South African innings.

Petersen, the debutant, with the right mix of sublime stroke-play and classical defence scripted a wonderful century, as Amla and Petersen, who made his entry into the XI after Mark Boucher hadn’t recovered from the back strain, were on the run hunt with some explosive ball-hitting display. Petersen was brilliant with his wrist play, as the balls directed at the leg and middle, were played with panache to positions anywhere between the fine-leg and that of the deep mid-wicket. Amla, carrying on with the same confidence, produced some enlightening off-side drives, but enjoyed a reprieve, when VVS Lakshman, the safest of catchers, floored a catch at slips as when Amla had edged Harbajan.

Ishant Sharma with some lively bowling punctuated by the hot pitch deliveries seemed to have injected the confidence back into the Indians, as India after tea tasted success as when Zaheer removed both the centurions. Harbajan, foxing Kallis into a mistimed sweep was quick enough to remove Ashwell Prince and J.P. Duminy, with Duminy crediting him with the 350th test wicket.

The last South African pair were quiet happy when the offer for light by the umpires were taken with delight. The second day holds the key to the result of this test match as it could swing either way. It now takes a run-hunting spree on the part of the Indians to bat South Africa out of victory and to hold on to the Number 1 spot in the ICC Test rankings.

Dhoni and Smith sing in unison – IPL has helped foreign teams

Both Dhoni, captain of the Indian team, and Smith, the South African captain on separate occasions have alluded to the IPL cricket, which according to them has lent a helping hand to the foreign teams to get adapted to the Indian conditions in a better way.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who represents the Chennai Super Kings for the IPL tourney opined that the South Africa’s first test win over India at Nagpur resulted from some fine batting display on the part of South Africa, and particularly batsmen handling the spin attack proved to be the decisive factor for South Africa to clinch the test match, which according to him was made possible due to the exposure to spin bowling as while playing in the IPL.

Graeme Smith, on the other hand, who plays for the Rajasthan Royals in the IPL, was quick to admit that the South African team had made a study of Indian cricketers from footages related to the Indian Premier League, ahead of the test that had commenced at the Eden Gardens.

It becomes even clearer as to the reasons behind the starting of the IPL in India, which had been presented in the guise of sharing knowledge pertaining to the game, and India could feel the pinch as it could work to its own disadvantage.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Shoaib Mallik and Mohammad Yousuf wash dirty linen in public

Shoib Mallik is a worked up victim of accusations after having been blamed by skipper Mohammad Yousuf as one of the players who had let the team down with sketchy performances. Mallik has now decided to battle it out with Yousuf in the open, after his name has been dragged into the muck.

The former captain is in no mood to accept this blame game after Yousuf had ruffled his feathers by coming out in the open to accuse him of his shoddy performance, which had been one among the many reasons for the disastrous defeat at the hands of the mighty Australians. He has instead vowed to expose Yousuf to the public eye, and has gone as far as to say that Yousuf had attacked him after he was made the captain for the Twenty 20 matches against Australia.

He has reiterated that he has been a team man all along and that he hadn’t muddied the dressing-room atmosphere, as he has opined that the allegations made are utterly baseless. Earlier, Yousuf had accused Mallik of exhibiting disrespect for the senior team members as well as for wanting to take a shift to the ICL.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Graeme Smith, a doubtful starter for the Kolkata test

Hurt by the ligament damage to one of his fingers, Graeme Smith is a doubtful starter for the second test starting from February 14 at Kolkata. At a fielding practice session, Smith had injured the little finger pertaining to his left hand, and the swelling could force him to miss the test, though the medical team had expressed their confidence about the subsiding of the swelling.

Meanwhile, VVS Laxman will again don the Indian cap in this second test at Kolkata after the recovery from that of a finger injury. This elegant and key middle-order batsman is expected to strengthen the Indian batting brigades, which is still missing the services of ‘The Wall’, Rahul Dravid, as well that of the flamboyant Yuvraj Singh.

South Africa thrashing India in the first test will again grab the number one spot as with Test ranking if they manage to hold the Indians at bay during the second test. The first test between the two countries witnessed stellar performances from Jacques Kallis, who made 173, and Hashim Amla, who scored a brilliant 253, as he remained unconquered too, with Dale Steyn walking away with the bowling honors with a match figure reading 10-108, as South Africa proved too much for the Indian team in the first test.

The second test is expected to throw exciting cricketing moments, as both the teams will be vying for the honors. Can India restore the pride of its cricketing abilities by thrashing South Africa? The second test is sure to provide spectacular displays of cricketing abilities.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Will Greg Chappell be appointed as the Pakistan Coach?

After the humiliating defeat at the hands of the mighty Australians, the Pakistan Cricket Board is looking for a new coach for the Pakistan Cricket team, and there have been speculations indicating Greg Chappell to fill the spot as replacement for Intikhab Alam, the present Pakistan Cricket team coach.

The PCB insiders have hinted that the pathetic performance of the team entwined with increasing indiscipline could catapult Greg Chappell to the post owing to his worthy credentials that reflect a tough taskmaster in Greg Chappell. Though no official word trumpeting the appointment of a foreign coach has been heard, the word from the horse’s mouth, as from Wasim Bari, the Chief Operating Officer of the PCB has provided clear notions as to the intentions of PCB, as the board stays open to all options for the nonce.

Greg Chappell on the other hand expressed his keenness to don the mantle of a coach for the Pakistan Cricket team and to join the team as their official coach before the Pakistan team leaves for England, late in July.

Greg Chappell had experienced an unpopular stint as the Indian team coach from 2005-2007 and had to quit the coach’s post after the tiff with senior players, which included the former skipper Saurav Ganguly, and the shocking first round departure of India in the 2007 World Cup.

Pakistan is not new to appointing foreign coaches as the late Bob Woolmer as well as Geoff Lawson have served as foreign coaches.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Pakistan names Shoaib Mallik as T20 captain

The former Pakistan skipper, Shoaib Mallik will don the role of a captain again as he has been chosen to lead the Pakistan team in the Twenty 20 contest against Australia, which is scheduled to take place on February 5 at Melbourne. This decision comes at the wake of a match ban imposed upon Shahid Afridi, the regular T 20 captain, who was reprimanded for a ball-tampering incident that took place at the last of the ODIs at Perth.

Mallik becomes the third captain in this Australian tour after Afridi and Yousuf, the captain for the test team, who doesn’t figure in the Twenty 20 squad. Another ace Pakistan cricketer with rich experience, Younus Khan, had earlier announced his retirement from the T 20 format after the 2009 World Twenty 20 victory. Kamran Akmal had also been overlooked, after he didn’t find a place in the final ODI at Perth.

Mallik had earlier captained Pakistan in all of the three formats of the game, as he had captained the side for three tests and for 36 ODIs, after he had been appointed captain following the disastrous performance by Pakistan in the 2007 World Cup. Younus Khan then had taken over the captaincy from Mallik in 2009. Shoaib Mallik in the role of a skipper had tasted more success in the Twenty 20 games, as he had also led the side to the Twenty 20 world cup final in the year 2007. Mallik’s bowling and batting averages have been reasonably higher during his stint as the captain of Pakistan.