Saturday, 27 December 2014

India 108 for 1 at close, trailing Australia by 422

India were 108 for one at the close of the second day and trailing Australia by 422 runs in the third Test in Melbourne on Saturday.

New Zealand's deadly tag team

There's a gentle cadence to a Tim Southee-Trent Boult dual spell. One swings the ball away, the other brings it in. A right-armer and a leftie, both tall, sharp and slim. They're each sleek in their approach too, no wasted energy, no vortex limbs. Through the crease like stones skipping over water. By the time the ball reaches the other end, the batsman is dodging a grenade.

Day two's Hagley Oval crowd wasn't quite the 8000-strong bumper crop from the previous day. They saw nothing as historic as a 134-ball 195. But throughout the morning and just after lunch they watched the game so closely that they were practically inhaling the action. This is no ordinary New Zealand team, they know now. It is a team whizzing around the planet, counting off deflated oppositions and bested foes. New Zealand were imposing with bat in hand on day one, but perhaps the Hagley crowd realises that their team never seems more potent than when two quick bowlers, 25 and 26, are laying waste to oppositions, from either end.
The team knows it too, so they field like demons in the early overs. No run, or quarter given freely. It's athletic intimidation. No glares or sledges required. Trees on the ground's periphery, grass on the pitch, Asian batsmen swaddled in sweaters, fidgeting between balls; New Zealand are in their element. The slips, who cover practically every inch from the keeper to point, so good are the gully fielders, is more a fortress than a cordon.
Boult, the more suave of the two, began Sri Lanka's innings with a ball well wide of off stump, to show the batsman the swing. The next ball to Dimuth Karunaratne was eight inches closer to the stump, moving deliciously late, like someone in the slip cordon was holding a ball-magnet. If this over had a soundtrack, the big, ominous drum would have already begun, because the dismissal next ball almost seemed inevitable. Another big banana, shaping away, but pitching in line with the stumps and hitting off, if the batsman's front pad hadn't been in the way.
At the other end, Southee wasn't outdone for swing, or control. Kaushal Silva, the only right-hander in the Sri Lanka top four, kept stabbing at balls going away for him, desperate to get a left-hander on strike. "You deal with him, I've got Boult covered," he seemed to be saying. Until a piece of inspired inswing bowling, straightening a surprise delivery down a leg stump, from Boult nailed Kaushal too; the batsman offering no stroke, then reviewing - his mind still not caught up with the swindle Boult had pulled off.
When Boult had Sangakkara caught well at third slip he sought out Southee in the huddle, flashed a smile and gave him a pat on the backside. "It's me today," he seemed to say, "but it could just as easily have been you." It has often been said that Boult and Southee complement each other, but that is clearly also a double entendre, because when they face the press, the two can't stop talking each other up.
"It's all about bowling partnerships in our eyes and if one is bowling well and the other is taking the wickets, we're perfectly happy with that," Boult said of bowling opposite Southee, at the end of day two. "Even as a unit that's the motto. The glory doesn't go to one person, it's a team job and we're all doing it well. Everyone deserves credit for what happened."
They are no longer just bright prospects now. Both 100-wicket bowlers, theirs is a partnership that will soon rival Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, or James Anderson and Stuart Broad. Unlike the other pairs, they are not spearhead-and-enforcer, but twin threats of equivalent style and ability. Within minutes of an opposition innings' beginning, their spells melt together in the mind. Symmetry and synchronicity pulled together with a simple, repeatable method. When Boult is playing, Southee's bowling average dips by over five runs. For Boult, Southee's presence betters his average by about two.
"Bowling well is about starting well and building pressure," Boult said. "Not trying to search too much and think it's all going to happen like it did early today. It's looking for that assistance, swinging the ball and getting it to move from the wicket."
Shane Bond, the man who fully weaponised these two, often watches from beyond the boundary at long off. On a day like Saturday, he is less combing for flaws, more admiring his handiwork. He was through the crease like silk too in his prime, but he never had a partner-in-crime like his pupils do. Even at this age, Boult and Southee have already played many more matches, and claimed more scalps.
Southee and Boult thrive on swing, seam and accuracy for now, but before long they will have to add more arrows to their quiver, say on tours of India or Australia. Brendon McCullum, Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor are coming into their own too, in this New Zealand team, but in Boult and Southee, New Zealand have one of the great cricket partnerships in the making.
ESPN Sports Media Ltd. (ESPN-Cricinfo)

India firm on short-ball plan for Haddin

Here in Melbourne, Haddin found a way to overcome the Indian plan of bowling into his armpit from round the wicket with a long leg, a leg gully and a forward short leg in place. He kept moving, staying leg side of the ball, and kept pulling the tired Indian bowlers in front of square. India's plan meant Haddin had to mainly watch out for only his mode of dismissal, and not worry about nicking the ball. R Ashwin, though, doesn't think Haddin was comfortable out in the middle.

Pakistan replace Moin as World Cup manager

Pakistan on Saturday appointed retired top military officer Naveed Cheema as manager for next year's cricket World Cup, replacing former captain Moin Khan.

Pakistan's Ajmal withdraws from World Cup

Ace Pakistan spinner Saeed Ajmal announced he will not feature in next year's World Cup after he failed to completely correct his bowling action which led to his suspension three months ago, an official said Saturday.
The 37-year-old Ajmal appeared before a Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) committee on Saturday before taking the decision.

Rain dampens South Africa's chances

Faf du Plessis completed his fourth Test century and was dismissed immediately afterwards on a rain-hit second day of the second Test between South Africa and the West Indies at St George's Park on Saturday.
Only half an hour's play was possible in Port Elizabeth, during which six overs were bowled and South Africa moved from their overnight 270 for two to 289 for three.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

It was my kind of situation: Shahid Afridi

Mirpur: His blistering 25-ball 59 helped Pakistan beat Bangladesh by three wickets and reach the finals of the Asia Cup and Shahid Afridi on Tuesday said he was always confident of scoring the required runs as the situation gave him the license to play shots.

Misbah-ul-Haq predicts Shahid Afridi will light up World T20

Mirpur: With the World Twenty20 beginning here in less than a fortnight's time, explosive allrounder Shahid Afridi's ominous form augurs well for the Pakistan side, skipper Misbah-ul-Haq said on Tuesday.

Unsold at auction but Brett Lee remains Indian Premier League fan

New Delhi: He might have gone unsold at the players' auction this year but retired Australian pacer Brett Lee on Wednesday said he remains a huge fan of the Indian Premier League and the Twenty20 event could throw up the elusive fast-bowling talent that India desperately needs.

Virat Kohli laments mistakes that cost India heavily in Asia Cup

Mirpur: India skipper Virat Kohli said it was difficult to keep the motivation level high coming into an inconsequential contest against Afghanistan and lamented crucial mistakes in the matches against Sri Lanka and Pakistan that cost them heavily in the Asia Cup.

Asia Cup: Sunil Gavaskar Slams Indian Team For Fielding Same Playing XI

MIRPUR: Sunil Gavaskar on Wednesday slammed the Indian team management for fielding an unchanged XI in the dead rubber against Afghanistan and wondered whether the "fear" of bench players succeeding over current favourites has prompted it to play the same team.

Asia Cup: India beat Afghanistan by 8 wickets

Mirpur: India beat Afghanistan by 8 wickets and ended their Asia Cup campaign with a win and a bonus point. With the chance to make it to the final was out of question, India outplayed Afghanistan in this game.

De Villiers unsure of taking over as Test captain

World's No.1 batsman AB de Villiers is not sure he would take over as the South African Test captain succeeding Graeme Smith, who will be retiring from international cricket after the third and the final Test against Australia.

Kallis admits was 'little taken aback' at Smith's retirement announcement

Former South African all-rounder Jacques Kallis has expressed his surprise at the retirement announcement by Test captain Graeme Smith, saying that he was a 'little taken aback' by Smith's mid-Test announcement of his retirement from international cricket.

All professional cricketers from England, Wales 'hair-tested' for illegal drugs

All professional cricketers in both England and Wales have reportedly been 'hair tested' for illegal drugs, marking a significant increase in the scope of testing in domestic cricket, which employs over 400 players.

Swann backs Giles to help England regain 'world-beaters' status

Retired England off-spinner Graeme Swann has backed limited-overs coach Ashley Giles as the ideal person to replace Andy Flower as England's head coach and make the team 'world-beaters' again.

Gavaskar blasts India's favouritism after Pujara, Pandey get benched again

The India team management were at the receiving end of an unusually vocal Sunil Gavaskar who questioned the logic of not giving bench players a game against Afghanistan.

Mohammed Shami becomes 2nd fastest Indian to take 50 wickets in ODIs

Mohammed Shami has completed 50 wickets in one day internationals. In the 9th match of Asia Cup 2014 between India and Afghanistan, Shami picked up two wickets which helped him to reach the landmark.

Injured MS Dhoni takes his Harley Davidson for a spin

India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni who underwent rehabilitation after sustaining a left side-strain injury during the second Test in New Zealand, was seen embracing his Harley Davidson bike in Ranchi.

Smith strikes as Australia close on victory

Part-time leg-spinner Steve Smith took the key wicket of Faf du Plessis as Australia closed on a series-deciding victory on the fifth day of the third and final Test against South Africa on Wednesday.

West Indies bowl in deciding ODI against England

West Indies captain Dwayne Bravo won the toss and chose to bowl against England in the deciding third and final one-day international at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua on Wednesday.

India bow out of Asia Cup with easy win

World Cup champions India ended their disappointing campaign in the Asia Cup with an eight-wicket romp over minnows Afghanistan in their final league match in Dhaka on Wednesday.