Friday, December 6, 2013

Pommies being thrashed yet again

It has been a while since an Australian captain has looked as serene during an Ashes Test as Michael Clarke did at the Adelaide Oval. During a period of England domination, the uncomprehending exasperation of Ricky Ponting has been followed by Clarke's lurking fear that his own Ashes story could be debilitated by injury.

Yet here Clarke was, the second day into the second Test, continuing his love affair with this ground with an unflustered century which with every graceful moment stated his intent to become the Australian captain who regained the Ashes. The blissful manner in which he dealt with the England attack, with his vice-captain Brad Haddin offering sterling support, will only quicken the belief in Australia that the balance is shifting irrevocably in their favour.

That sensation also resides in the figure of Mitchell Johnson, only more violently. Nothing England contrived came close to his immediate threat. He sand-blasted Alastair Cook aside with his 10th delivery, every ball above 148kph until the kill was applied, the ball searing past Cook's outside edge to strike off stump.

Michael Carberry and Joe Root stabilised England for the rest of the 20 overs they had to survive, but they were distinctly fortunate to survive some high jinks in the final over. Root's eagerness to see out the day drew him into an inexcusable off-side single which would have run out Carberry had Chris Rogers hit the stumps. Then Australia opted not to review the final ball of the day when replays showed Carberry would have been out lbw. Root had reason to be as relieved as Carberry.

Australia had hammered home their authority by the time they declared 10 overs into the final session. Clarke reached 148 in five and three quarter hours when he became the first Test victim for Ben Stokes, seeking to work him through square leg and chipping a gentle catch to short midwicket off a leading edge.

Clarke's stand with Haddin was worth 200 in 51 overs, a new record for the sixth wicket for any team in Adelaide. Haddin fell for 118 to Stuart Broad in the third over after tea, his fourth Test century reaffirming in aggressive fashion that he has turned the back-to-back Ashes series into one of the most productive periods in his Test career. England had designs upon dismissing Australia, 5 for 273 at the close of the first day, for around 350, only to become increasingly bereft as they gave up another 297 runs in 68 overs. England conceded 12 sixes, five to Haddin, a tally assisted by Adelaide's short square boundaries.

Australia's total was their highest in Ashes cricket since they amassed 674 for 6 declared against England in Cardiff in 2009, a match in which England also combined the spin of Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar with little reward. England had fielded two spinners in Australia for the first time for 33 years, but the gamble demanded that they remained in touch in the first innings in the hope of dividends later in the game.

By the time England followed up Clarke's dismissal with more consolatory wickets, a victory to tie the series at 1-1 looked an increasingly unlikely proposition. Mitchell Johnson hoicked Swann's offspin to mid-on and Stokes, occasionally revealing an ability to leave the right-hander off the pitch, had Peter Siddle caught at the wicket. But Ryan Harris deposited Swann for two successive slog sweeps into the members to keep Australian spirits high and after tea became the eighth Australian to pass 50 in a series that is not quite two Tests old. That statistic, above all, should trouble England.

Michael Clarke brought up his sixth Test century at Adelaide, Australia v England, 2nd Test, Adelaide, 2nd day, December 6, 2013
Michael Clarke brought up his sixth Test century at Adelaide at a higher average than even Don Bradman © PA Photos
Clarke's sixth Adelaide hundred in nine Tests, and his 26th of all, was his second in succession, following his century in Brisbane when Australia's domination was assured. This one was a perfectly-constructed affair with the Test in the balance, made all the more noteworthy because of occasional suggestions that first his back and then his ankle were troubling him more than the England attack. When he was dismissed, his average in Adelaide Tests was 104.75, a standard that even The Don - Adelaide's most revered figure - could not quite match.

Virtually everything that could go wrong for England in the morning did as Clarke and Haddin batted through the morning session with commendable enterprise. Stokes missed out on a first Test wicket because of a no-ball and the list of half chances to elude England grew as they failed to press home their hard-won position of equality from the first day. They were in a rush to take wickets with the new ball 10 overs old at start of play, but their threat softened even before the Kookaburra ball did.

England will reflect that the morning might have turned out differently. Clarke's determination to dominate the left-arm spin of Panesar from the outset almost went awry as he skipped down the pitch to his first ball of the morning and spooned it over extra cover, marking his fifty with relief as the ball evaded Stokes. But by the time Panesar was withdrawn after four overs, the mood was set.

England also had a glimmer of a chance to dismiss him when he was 91. Again Clarke's foot movement was ambitious, this time to the offspin of Swann, and his glance thudded through the hands and into the ankle of Ian Bell at backward short leg. A tough catch missed, Bell, and the wicketkeeper Matt Prior, then failed to gather cleanly to pull off a run out as Clarke dived back into his crease and rose with the sense that fortune was favouring the brave.

Haddin was an impressive accomplice, but he, too, had one or two moments which fell his way. James Anderson, with no swing to sustain him, looked listless, but when he produced a good bouncer to Haddin, on 30, the hook shot fell short of Panesar, who reacted cumbersomely at fine leg as the ball sailed out of the unfinished stand. It was barely a catch, although in keeping with the ground works, Panesar also seemed to be wearing concrete boots.

Stokes imagined that his first Test wicket had come in his third over of the day when he produced an excellent delivery to have Haddin, on 51, caught at the wicket. He had already fielded congratulations from his team-mates for his first Test wicket when replays showed he had overstepped.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Pointing ambitious to win for australia

Ricky Ponting has fired a warning shot to New Zealand ahead of next Thursday's first Test in Brisbane, insisting that a big score is just around the corner.
The 36-year-old showed glimpses that his best is not far away in a gritty 62 that helped Australia chase down 310 in the second Test against South Africa in Johannesburg last week.
Although that was his first half-century in 14 Test match innings, Ponting - who has scored 12,557 Test runs - is positive that his hard work will pay off sooner rather than later.
"Someone's going to pay at some stage," said Ponting.
"I'm working too hard for someone not to pay. That's the way I'm looking at it. I honestly believe in my own heart that I have still got what it takes to be one of the best players in world cricket.
"I'm searching high and low to find the answers to get me back to where I want to be. I saw glimpses of some really positive stuff through the South African tour. Obviously to get some runs in the last innings of the last Test was satisfying as well knowing how hard I had worked."
Ponting denied suggestions he would need to be tapped on the shoulder when it was time to retire with the Tasmanian adamant that he still had the drive and desire to play at the highest level for his country.
"I totally understand why I'm being asked the questions I'm being asked (about his future) but, at the same token, I believe I'm good enough to be in the team and that I'm good enough to win games for Australia," he said.
"If I keep doing the work that I'm doing and not getting the results, then maybe it's time but, at the moment, I don't feel that time is here just yet. I feel there's enough there to want to keep working hard.
"Having spoken to a lot of the other guys that have retired in the last few years, I was captain when (Justin) Langer, (Adam) Gilchrist, (Shane) Warne and all those guys stood down, so I know the things that were going through their minds.
"What they said about it was they just didn't have the drive or desire to work as hard as they needed to work to get their games back on track again. With me, there's no doubting that at all."
With Shane Watson, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris and teenage sensation Pat Cummins all ruled out of the Gabba Test, talk on Ponting's future has cooled, with the focus turning to just who will be called up for the opening Test of the Australian summer.
Ponting offered a glowing endorsement of Victorian quick James Pattinson and New South Welshman David Warner, with the pair likely to be two of a possible three Test debutants in Brisbane.
"James is a terrific young bloke and a very good bowler. His record for Victoria is getting better and better. He is one that has been around our group for a while. (He was) probably a little bit unlucky not to be in the Test squad on our last trip to South Africa, but he made room for Patty (Cummins) and we know what Patty has done over the last couple of weeks.
"He (Warner) is the sort of guy who is going to be able to step up to the next level.
"His last (Sheffield) Shield games ... he's scored a lot of runs and whenever he has played for Australia in Twenty20s or one-dayers he has generally done a pretty good job. He's been in pretty rare form of late as well. So we are all excited to see him play."

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Ind vs WI play a thrilling draw

India looked firm favourites heading into the final two overs of the match as they needed six runs to reach their victory target of 243, with three wickets in hand and first-innings centurion Ravichandran Ashwin and Ishant Sharma at the crease.
However, West Indies pacemen Ravi Rampaul and Fidel Edwards limited the home side to just five runs to help earn their side a draw as scores finished level.

During those two tension-filled overs Rampaul bowled Sharma for 10 and then, off the final ball of the match, Ashwin was run out for 14 going for a second run that would have won India the match, the hosts finishing on 242 for nine.

A draw looked the most likely outcome at the start of the final day, but few could have predicted the manner in which it came about - with all four results still possible even up until the last over as the match ebbed one way and then the other.

India appeared to have put themselves in control after spinners Pragyan Ojha and Ashwin had ripped through the tourists' batting line-up in the morning session.

Ojha finished with a career-best six for 47 while Ashwin snared the other four as the West Indies, having scored 590 in their first innings, lost eight wickets for 43 in a 60-minute spell before lunch to crash to 134 all out.

That stunning collapse set India a victory target of 243 off 64 overs and opener Virender Sehwag gave his side a flying start with a typically aggressive half-century, although he also rode his luck in the process.

The big-hitting opener survived three dropped catches as he powered his way to 60 at almost a run-a-ball, a knock that included eight boundaries, before he fell just after India had brought up their 100.

Sehwag's dismissal brought Sachin Tendulkar to the wicket but the home favourite, still chasing that elusive 100th international ton, could only make three before he was also sent back.

When West Indies made their third big breakthrough in quick succession as Rahul Dravid was sent back for 33, the match looked to be swinging back towards the tourists as India found themselves 113 for four.

Darren Sammy's men continued to plug away and the dismissals of VVS Laxman (31) and home captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (13) saw India reduced to 189 for six.

Still any result was possible at that stage, but Virat Kohli looked to have put India back in charge as he guided his side to within 19 runs of victory with four wickets remaining.

However, his exit for 63 then put the match back in the balance and although India still looked the likeliest winners in the closing stages, they could not get over the finishing line as the West Indies - particularly Rampaul (three for 56) and Edwards (one for 28) - kept their cool.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Praveen kumar ruled out of ODI series against WI

Praveen Kumar has been ruled out of the Barabati ODI as India eye domination over West Indies in the five-match ODI series starting on Tuesday.
"Praveen Kumar has a niggle so he is not available for first ODI. We expect him to join the squad tomorrow and be fit for the second match," Sehwag- the stand-in-captain said ahead of the match.

India, who are a dominant force in the 50-over format and the world champions, will be aiming for nothing less than a 5-0 whitewash, a winning margin they recently inflicted on a strong England side

With Mahendra Singh Dhoni getting some much-needed rest ahead of the gruelling tour of Australia, Virender Sehwag will lead the side. Sehwag has not seen any action in this format since the memorable ICC Cricket World Cup win on April 2.

Having missed out on the One-day series in England because of a hearing problem, Sehwag returned in recently concluded Test series against the Windies with his sparkling form intact even though a big score eluded him.

The 33-year-old Delhi player has led the side in seven matches, winning four of them, though he is yet to get a half-century as a captain with 44 as his best score.

When Sehwag last captained India in place of Dhoni, the side had chased down Sri Lanka's 316 in Kolkata in 2009.

Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma will form the three pillars of the Indian middle order and with the trio in fine form; the hosts can be assured of a good show from them.

Raina, who turned 25 on Sunday, scored his personal best of unbeaten 204 against Punjab in a Ranji Trophy match recently.

The stylish southpaw who has centuries in all the three formats will look to make it count with an in-form Kohli.

Fresh from his 175 against Railways and 100 vs Rajasthan in the recent Ranji Trophy matches, Rohit is also back in the one-day fold after missing out on England tour due to injury.

Following a double century and century in two matches, Bengal skipper Manoj Tiwary too retains the place alongside Ajinkya Rahane, even though the duo may not get a chance to figure in the XI till India seal the series.

In the absence of Dhoni, Parthiv Patel will be the man in charge behind the stumps while the middle order will also miss another star player in Yuvraj Singh who is battling a non-malignant tumor in his lung.

But even without the star powers of Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj and Dhoni, the Indian batting will remain India's main strength.

In fact, India have the prowess to bat as deep as number nine with all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja and off-spinner R Ashwin giving ample show of their talent with the bat.

Fresh from a century and a five-for in the same Test match, Ashwin will add that sting to the exciting batting line-up, while the Indians will not be short on bowling ammunition either.

The just concluded Test series saw the emergence of young Indian bowlers with the spin duo of Pragyan Ojha and Ashwin leading the attack remarkably well, taking 42 of the 60 West Indies wickets.

In the pace line-up, Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron too looked hungry for success as they played a perfect fiddle to pace spearhead Ishant Sharma.

With Ojha and Sharma not figuring in the one-day scheme of things, Ashwin will lead the spin front while leg-spinner Rahul Sharma will hope to make his ODI debut.

West Indies in their last one-day appearance were skittled out for a mere 61 against minnows Bangladesh and Indian spinners will once again look to stifle the spin-weary visitors.

Dew being a factor in the second innings, India will hope to win the toss and elect to field to chase a total, something they had done successfully in their last two outings in Cuttack.

"We will take all the precautionary measures like spraying and mopping, but dew cannot be ruled out," curator Pankaj Pattanaik said, predicting a total of around 300.

For West Indies, who lacked experience in the Test series, one-day format presents them a good chance to return home with some pride.

Windies defeated Bangladesh 2-1 in the ODI series before coming to India and barring the last match hiccup in Chittagong where they werer bundled out for 61 they showed fine mettle, something they can take confidence from before taking on heavyweights India.

The return of opener Lendl Simmons, who missed out the last ODI against Bangladesh and then India Test series due to an injury, will bolster the side.

Simmons, who totalled 177 from five ODIs against India in June at an average of 35.40, will look to give Windies a fine start along with Adrian Barath who too is in fine knick.

The middle-order will bank on the brilliance of Darren Bravo who sparkled with two centuries in three matches against India in the Test series, while Marlon Samuels experience will come in handy in the subcontinent conditions.

Presence of allrounders in Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell and skipper Darren Sammy will add susbstance to their side.

Pacers Ravi Rampaul and Kemar Roach may share the new ball while off-spinner Sunil Narine and leggie Anthony Martin will be the spin options for the Windies.

Narine impressed for Trinidad and Tobago in the Champions League here and thereafter won the Curtly Ambrose Trophy for topping the Super50 bowling as he would look to get a debut.

Unlike the Test series, India will enjoy the home crowd support with all the tickets sold out at the revamped 45,000-capacity Barabati stadium.

Teams (from):

India: Virender Sehwag (c), Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Parthiv Patel (wk), R Ashwin, Vinay Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron, Rohit Sharma, Manoj Tiwary and Rahul Sharma.

West Indies: Darren Sammy (c), Lendl Simmons, Adrian Barath, Danza Hyatt, Marlon Samuels, Darren Bravo, Denesh Ramdin, Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell, Anthony Martin, Jason Mohammed, Sunil Narine, Kieran Powell, Ravi Rampaul and Kemar Roach.

Field umpires: Tony Hill (NZC), Shavir Tarapore

Sunday, November 20, 2011

sachin helps me improve -- OJHA

India's new spin hero Pragyan Ojha on Sunday revealed that he gained heavily from the tips of Sachin Tendulkar, who helped him out with some finer points.
"Sachin always gives you that energy on the field. He advises me all the finer points like how to deceive a batsman. How to deceive in flight. His tips have helped me in getting at least 10-15 Test wickets," Ojha who is considered as a Test specialist told PTI.

"I remembered one sentence by Sachin Tendulkar who would tell me if you love the game, you don't need anything to motivate you. I always wanted to play and that kept me going," Ojha said.

"It was a very important series and a great comeback for me. The important thing was I could contribute to the team's win and played a major role. I knew it would be a very important series for me in a crucial phase of my career," he said after the hugely successful series against West Indies at home.

Ojha along with senior statemate VVS Laxman will be playing for Hyderabad in a Plate League match starting from November 29 as he is not playing ODIs.

"I did not play international cricket for about one year. But I never had that negative feeling. I always stayed positive which resulted in this performance."

He termed his county stint as something that changed him as a bowler.

"Even when I was not with the team and played county in England, I would practice with the Indian team touring at that point of time. In fact, Anilbhai played a key role in me getting a chance to play for Surrey. They were looking for an Indian spinner and Alec Stewart had got in touch with Anilbhai (Kumble), who had recommended my name. I'm really thankful to him," he recalled how his association with Surrey started.

Ojha credited his performance to hard work and perseverance and support from family.

Playing alongside Ravichandran Ashwin since his U-16 days has helped him a lot and that has reflected in their brilliant performance as they have taken 42 out of the 60 West Indies wickets even in the absence of Harbhajan Singh.

"I know him since my under-16 days. We have played a couple of matches together for the South Zone. So there is this element of understanding between us. We knew what we were supposed to do and just stuck to the plans. I try to keep things very simple.

"But I've to keep performing. My coach (Vijay Paul) has told me that never take your place for granted. You have to keep working hard every single day," the left-arm spinner seemed to be rooted to the reality.

About the tough Australia series beginning on Boxing Day, Ojha said: "Australia series would be a big one. I have never played there and have no idea about the conditions there. I just want to go there and give my 100 percent."

In the final Test, Ojha led the way to force a dramatic Windies collapse taking three wickets (Kraigg Brathwaite, Darren Bravo and Marlon Samuels) which made the final day interesting.

"Yesterday morning, My mind was blank but I was positive. We had a feeling that they may attack us, so it was important to stick to our plans. Thankfully, it worked."

Ojha hoped that it will be a 5-0 'whitewash' in favour of Virender Sehwag and his boys in the upcoming ODI series against the West Indies.

"I pray that it will be a 5-0 whitewash. But this West Indies side cannot be taken for granted. They are a good side and we should not underestimate their potential."

Friday, November 18, 2011

Ashwin the magical man with awards

Virender Sehwag has hoped that Ravichandran Ashwin India's best cricketer in the Test series against the West Indies will continue to perform well and get more awards in future.
The BCCI had announced Aswin's name for Dilip Sardesai Award after his series winning performance against the Windies.

Appreciating the Indian Cricket Board's decision to award Ashwin with Rs 5 lakh prize money, India's stand-in-skipper Sehwag said Ashwin was going in the right direction.

"It's really good for him. I am really happy for Ashwin because he has performed really well. It's good that his performance is appreciated by the BCCI," said Sehwag.

"May he get more awards in future. When you get award from the government that's the biggest achievement. Getting a national award like Arjuna or Padma awards is the biggest achievement for a sportsperson.

"I hope in coming years he performs well. I am sure that Ashwin will get those also," he added.

Ashwin picked 22 wickets in his debut Test series, besides scoring a century in three matches against the West Indies and picked up two man of the match awards en route to being adjudged the player of the series.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Dhoni requires better pitches at india

An incredible 17 wickets fell on Day Five at the Wankhede track and a baffled MS Dhoni is clueless, saying it offered nothing to spinners till the 4th day.
West Indies lost eight wickets in their second innings to collapse to 134 and India lost nine batsmen in pursuit of a victory target of 243 to eventually fall short by just one run on Saturday.
"Frankly, I don't know what happened. It started to turn in the morning. Till Saturday evening, everything was fine. It was among the flattest wickets. I'm seriously saying, I am not joking, something happened in the morning and it started to turn. Most of us thought it will be a draw, but somehow it turned into a tie. It was a close game, as the scorebook suggests," Dhoni said after winning the series 2-0.
The India captain said it became extremely difficult to play strokes as the ball was not coming on to the bat.
"There was a bit of bounce for the spinners and for the fast bowlers the ball was stopping a bit. Once you look to play a shot, you had to be careful that you are at the pitch of the ball. If you are not, you saw batsmen getting caught at mid-wicket or covers."
Dhoni said their strategy was to run as hard as possible to keep the scoreboard ticking over, as boundaries were hard to come by.
"It was quite easy to stay on the wicket but difficult to score runs. A few of us thought if we can rotate and get singles, it would become a bit easy as the game progresses. No one dismissal was the turning point, but it was a good game of cricket in the end."
Asked about Virat Kohli, who is scoring fifties but not converting those into big knocks, Dhoni said the Delhi youngster would learn with the time. Kohli scored 52 and 63 in the third Test.
"It's a learning phase for everyone, not only him. Next game he is in the same situation, he may bat in a different way. Even the most experienced players tend to make these kinds of mistakes, so nothing to worry."
Dhoni was also effusive in his praise of the spin duo of R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha, who finished with 22 and 20 wickets in the series respectively.
"The first two wickets he (Ashwin) took on the first day (Adrian Barath and Kraigg Brathwaite) were really good ones. After that he had to work hard. Both spinners did a very good job for us. Not to forget that our over rate in all three games for the first time ever was plus 15, plus 19 and some big number. Hope it carries on."
Dhoni, however, said it was not right to compare them with Anil Kumble or Harbhajan Singh at this stage of their careers.
"Ashwin has played three Tests, Ojha has played more and it's not right to compare them with Anil or Harbhajan. They bowled well and were able to put pressure. When nothing was there, they did not let the opposition to score. Overall, I am very happy with the kind of bowling they did throughout the series."
On Ashwin's maiden Test century, Dhoni said, "Let him take wickets, that's the priority. If he scores runs, that's a bonus for us."
The India captain, who has been rested for the five-match ODI series prior to the long tour of Australia, was also satisfied with the performance of Ishant Sharma.
"I think in this series, Ishant bowled consistently well. He was up in the pace area. And he was bowling in the right areas. Overall, I am very happy with the kind of bowling he did throughout the series," Dhoni said.
Dhoni did not hide his disappointment about the wickets used for the series and suggested that spin-friendly tracks should be prepared for home advantage.
"What we played on the fifth day wicket, I want the wickets to turn like that from the first day, that's when you send a bit of panic to the opposition dressing room. At the same time, you are under pressure to perform, which makes it interesting. I don't know when was the last time we really played on a wicket that was really turning square. The last time we played at the CCI (against Sri Lanka in 2009), maybe it was turning. I am hoping we will stick to our kind of wickets and it will turn from the very first day, so that the toss does not become important."
Asked about the team picked for Australia, Dhoni seemed happy with the players he had got.
"It looks like a very good side. From what we have seen of Umesh (Yadav) and Varun (Aaron) in the last three games, they can bowl quick. They must have learnt a lot from these games. Spinners have done well. Our batting order is at full strength. Looks like a good side and hopefully we will do well."
Dhoni also hoped that Zaheer Khan will be fit to spearhead the pace attack.
"Zak is giving his 100 percent, whenever he had to do some kind of rehab. We are hoping he's 100 percent fit for the Australia series. Once he goes and plays in a first-class game, that will help him judge to some extent how he feels. We had seen in the practice stint that he was quite fit, and I hope nothing happens in the next game he plays."