Saturday, December 18, 2010

England in tatters after Hussey sets up Australia

Australia are closing in on a series-levelling victory at the WACA after ripping out five England wickets during the final session to back up Michael Hussey's 116 which continued his phenomenal series. Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris both struck in the final five minutes of play to finish with two apiece while other scalp, the key one of Kevin Pietersen for 3, went to the hardworking Ben Hilfenhaus as England lurched to stumps on 5 for 81.

Those final few moments did huge damage to England who were already struggling. Jonathan Trott had played well for 31 before fencing at Johnson and, in a sign of how fortunes have changed, Ricky Ponting parried the ball at second slip only for Brad Haddin to snap up the chance. Ponting immediately left the field for treatment on a finger so missed the final-ball drama when the out-of-form Paul Collingwood edge Harris to third slip, the ball after nightwatchman James Anderson declined a single to take the strike off Collingwood.

Hussey and Shane Watson, who fell five runs short of his hundred, were chiefly responsible for building Australia's strong position as they extended their fourth-wicket stand to 113. After that, England staged a fightback with Chris Tremlett claiming his maiden five-wicket haul as the last six wickets fell for 55 but, despite the positive talk of a repeat of South Africa's 414-run chase in 2008-09, history was always unlikely to repeat itself.

Australia were mightily pumped up for the final session, knowing the quick bowlers could go full throttle. Ponting wasn't afraid to switch the bowlers around and it was a change of ends for Harris that brought the first breakthrough when Alastair Cook was struck on the back leg. Cook asked Andrew Strauss if it was worth a review, but wasn't supported by his captain. The ball would have clipped the bails.

Johnson had been brought on in the sixth over and offered a couple of boundary balls, then tightened up to off stump and found Strauss's edge which flew comfortably to Ponting at second slip. Whereas Hussey had given a lesson in what to leave, England's batsmen were far less certain.

Pietersen also chased a wide delivery that he poked to first slip to give Hilfenhaus his first wicket since the third ball of the series. Pietersen had escaped a pair with a pull to fine leg but hadn't settled when he hung his bat out, although it was nothing less than Hilfenhaus deserved for a probing spell. For Pietersen it was his lowest contribution when he has batted twice in a Test. Like his team, it's been quite a comedown from Adelaide.

Throughout the match it has been tough for batsmen when they first come in, which emphasises the importance of the lone hundred so far from Hussey. His latest masterclass made him the first batsman to hit six consecutive fifty-plus scores in a Ashes Tests, a run dating back to his futile hundred at The Oval in 2009. He also became the leading run-scorer in the series, overtaking Cook, and made this the most prolific series of his career. Not bad for a player who nearly lost his place before it all started in Brisbane.

He brought up his hundred with a crunching pull, the manner in which many of his boundaries arrived as England maintained the plan of feeding his strength. He was barely troubled by any of the short-pitched offerings, which although working against some of his team-mates were a futile and wasted effort to Hussey.

Hussey has an impressive conversion rate of fifties to hundreds, but the same can't yet be said of Watson. He'd barely put a foot wrong during his innings, unfurling some thumping drives against Steven Finn as he moved carefully to 95 and within sight of his third Test century. Tremlett then got one to hold its line on middle which Watson missed, but the batsman called for a review thinking he'd hit the ball.

It was a small window for England, which looked to have become a little bigger when Steven Smith was given caught at slip off an inside edge by Billy Doctrove, but this time the UDRS worked in Australia's favour when no nick was detected and the ball was also heading over the stumps. It was a skittish innings from Smith, who could also have been run out, before Tremlett's move to round the wicket worked as Smith gloved down the leg side

Haddin began with a sweep for six over midwicket against Swann, who only bowled five overs in the day and struggled, but got an inside edge into the stumps to give Tremlett a fourth. The lower order couldn't offer Hussey much support as Johnson drove to cover, Harris pulled to deep midwicket and Siddle edged to third to slip to hand Anderson his 200th Test wicket.

Hussey finally departed to the pull, when he picked out deep square-leg to give Tremlett a deserved five-wicket haul, but his innings had set up victory that will arrive on Sunday. And from the position Australia were in on the first afternoon, that's an astonishing turnaround.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Solid South Africa assume complete dominance

India's away record may have improved dramatically over the past decade but, so far in Centurion, they have looked like the terrible travellers of the pre-Sourav Ganguly era. On a sunny second day at SuperSport Park, along with the clouds, the demons on the pitch had gone missing and South Africa were set for a massive lead after blunting India's attack in the first couple of sessions.
The openers, Graeme Smith and Alviro Petersen, made half-centuries to take their side close to the lead, before two of their middle order run-machines, Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis, increased the advantage to 100 by tea.
India's vaunted batting order had been dismantled on the first day, and there was more punishment in store as Smith and Petersen went mostly untroubled during the course of a century partnership. Sreesanth and Ishant Sharma got the new ball to move, and though the batsmen swished and missed a few times, there were no genuine chances through most of the session.
Petersen was scratchy early on, and it was Smith who did the bulk of the scoring in a watchful start. After six overs, South Africa had moved to 9 for 0 and it was the introduction of 19-year-old rookie Jaidev Unadkat that increased the run-flow. His third delivery was a gentle half-volley that Smith drove fluently past mid-off for four. Bowling in the late-120s, his bouncers didn't trouble Smith, who pulled one of them powerfully for four.
With Petersen also finding his touch, and unleashing some lovely drives, the run-rate began to rise, and Dhoni turned to spin in the hope of a breakthrough. Harbhajan Singh didn't have the best of starts though, slapped for a couple of fours in his first over and dispatched over midwicket for six in the next. Smith used the cut effectively against Harbhajan, toying with the spinner to pick off three more boundaries. It was the cut that caused his downfall, though, three minutes before lunch, as a ball that bounced extra took the top edge to the keeper with the score on unlucky 111.
The second session began with Petersen stabbing a wide delivery past point for a boundary, and set the tone for another two hours of domination as India looked woefully short of firepower. With the aid of a bunch of lovely drives, he went on to his second 50-plus score in three innings against India.
Keeping him company was Amla, who with the confidence that comes from scoring a wagonload of runs, played an adventurous knock. He kept looking to pull the quicks from outside off, and paddled Habrhajan from outside off, in an innings that also had his trademark drives and late glides towards point.
In a rare spell where the South African batsmen were troubled, Harbhajan nearly had Amla caught at short leg after getting one delivery to turn in sharply from outside off. The response from Amla? A swipe over midwicket for six next ball. Harbhajan did break the stand, though, getting Petersen to inside-edge to short leg, the batsman walking when in sight of a century though it looked like a very fine edge.
That brought in Kallis, who was in an aggressive mood, being particularly harsh on the part-time offerings of Suresh Raina, smashing him over deep midwicket for a couple of sixes. With the frontline bowlers not making an impact, Sachin Tendulkar was called on to bowl his all-sorts, which didn't curb the runs either - 125 runs coming in 28 overs of the second session.
The batting battering continued the perfect start to day provided by Morne Morkel. He removed MS Dhoni on the third ball of the day - the Indian captain walking after being struck in front of middle stump. Morkel finished with career-best figures of 5 for 20, and India finished on their overnight score of 136, their third-lowest total in South Africa

'I'm cooperating with PCB for clearance' - Kaneria

Danish Kaneria the Pakistan legspinner, has said he is confident of returning to the national side pending clearance by the Pakistan board. Kaneria was speaking after a meeting on Wednesday with the board's integrity committee, which he described as "fruitful and positive."
"I am providing the board with whatever details they have asked for," Kaneria said. "Now it is just a case of waiting for their decision. I am cooperating in every way. Obviously I am keen to have this stigma off my name and play for Pakistan again."
He said the board had asked him to submit details of his bank accounts and other assets and he had already provided them with some at Wednesday's meeting.
Kaneria was the subject of a criminal investigation in August by Essex police over allegations that he was involved in spot-fixing during a county game. He was released without charge in September.
Despite his clearance in that case, the PCB stopped Kaneria at the last minute from going to the UAE to play the Test series against South Africa. He had been named in the original squad and attended the team's training camp, but he was informed just before he was about to leave for the airport that he would not be on the tour. He was then left out of the squad for the Test series in New Zealand, along with Kamran Akmal and Shoaib Malik, who have also not been cleared by the PCB. The board did not give any reason for Kaneria's exclusion.
Kaneria has taken 35 wickets in five matches at 18.02 in this season's Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. He said he was glad the board had not place any restriction on him playing domestic cricket. "Playing in domestic cricket means I am fit and in form and ready to play for Pakistan anytime." Kaneria has taken 261 wickets in his 61 Tests.
Kamran and Shoaib had both expressed disappointment with the PCB's decision to not clear them for the New Zealand tour. Kamran had received clearance from the ICC, after he wrote to them asking if he was under investigation, but was still not named in Pakistan's squad. Pakistan have delayed their announcement of the squad for the ODI series in New Zealand as well as the 30 probables for the World Cup and have said they want to further consider the clearances of some of their players. So, Kaneria could still be included in those two squads if he receives clearance in time.

Johnson's six gives Australia advantage

An enthralling day of action moved the third Test along in fast forward at the WACA with Mitchell Johnson reviving his career and Australia's Ashes fortunes with a brutal 6 for 38 to dismiss England for 187. However, the home side didn't extend the advantage without further top-order failures as Steven Finn and Chris Tremlett caused problems although by stumps Shane Watson was unbeaten on 61 and the lead was 200.
After eight days of England dominance this one went comprehensively to Australia and how desperately they needed it. If the visitors had batted throughout the day the Ashes would have been hard to save, but by the close Australia's belief was being restored after the efforts of their most mercurial cricketer. Johnson's morning burst of 4 for 7 knocked the stuffing out of England's previously prolific line up. The whole feeling of the series changed with each booming inswinger and all ten wickets fell for 109.
Conceding an advantage of 81 on a lively surface left England playing catch-up, but they aren't without hope if the bowlers can leave a target under 350. In 2008-09, South Africa chased down 414 on the way to topping Australia's home record - after Johnson took 8 for 61 in the first innings - although that was a flatter surface.
England's quicks did their best to even the ledger during the final session. Phillip Hughes was worked over for the second time in the match before edging to third slip off Finn, who went for 14 in his first over but continued the knack of picking up wickets. His next was Ricky Ponting as his poor form continued with a glove down the leg side which was ruled out on review.
Michael Clarke began by pulling his first ball for four and added three more boundaries as he tried to impose himself on the attack with the bowlers overdoing the short balls. Clarke, though, paid the price for his approach when he dragged Tremlett into his stumps to leave Australia 3 for 64 and England scenting further evening inroads. But Watson played positively, latching onto to the loose deliveries, to reach another half-century and the run machine of Mike Hussey was setting another platform in a stand of 55.
The 81-run advantage Australia earned during the first two sessions could become priceless. After a Test and a half of churning out runs by the bucket load, England's batting subsided after a promising opening stand of 78. Johnson's introduction changed the complexion as rediscovered the swing which makes him such a deadly prospect when he's on song.
His hours in the nets since being dropped have clearly worked and he also rode on the confidence of his batting effort to produce a wonderful spell of 9-3-20-4, which included a burst of three wickets in 12 balls to crash through England's previously formidable top order. The scalping of Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott, and Paul Collingwood were classic left-armer to right-hander dismissals as the batsmen were beaten by sharp movement.
Cook looked set to continue his prolific series before driving at a full delivery which shaped away, giving Hussey a low catch in the gully. Trott only lasted eight balls when Johnson beat a flat-footed drive with one that swung back into the right hander and would have taken off stump.
Pietersen's stay was even briefer as Johnson followed two off-stump deliveries with another inducker which struck the batsman in front of middle and leg. His request for a review was a waste. Initially, Collingwood was given not out when he was beaten by pace and swing, but Johnson persuaded Ponting to use a review and it proved the right call. Johnson returned in the afternoon to take out the final two wickets, shattering Tremlett's stumps and winning his duel with Anderson, and appeared a cricketer reborn.
He was well supported by his fellow quicks. Ben Hilfenhaus, who hasn't taken a wicket since the third ball of the series, deserved something but instead it was Ryan Harris who took the spoils, ending attractive half-centuries from Andrew Strauss and Ian Bell. Strauss was offered a life on 16 when Watson and Brad Haddin both left it to the other to hold an edge, but after reaching a positive fifty edged a good ball that climbed off a length.
No one in the England team, though, is playing better than Bell. He launched his innings with a perfect straight drive and showed outstanding composure to weather the initial Johnson storm. His timing remained perfect whenever the bowlers strayed in a display that showed how much he has developed since four years ago in Australia.
At stages some of Australia's tactics were curious, especially when they persisted with the short ball but the plan did bring Matt Prior's wicket. The ball after being hit on the shoulder by Peter Siddle, a ball struck his body, bounced back onto the glove and down onto leg stump. It was Siddle's first wicket since the opening day in Brisbane when he took six.
Graeme Swann offered solid support to Bell in a useful stand of 36 and received plenty of short stuff which he handled reasonably well. However, Harris returned the attack, after treatment on a minor calf problem, to find the edge and Bell felt he had to attack when he edge a booming drive which was superbly held by Ponting at second slip. Bell's departure guaranteed Australia a sizeable advantage and suddenly the Ashes series was back in the balance..

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Injured Sohail Tanvir out of New Zealand series

Sohail Tanvir, the Pakistan fast bowler, has been ruled out of the New Zealand tour that starts later this month due to a knee injury. His place in the Twenty20 squad will be taken by 24-year-old top-order batsman Asad Shafiq, while no replacement has yet been named for the Tests.
"He is not fully fit, he tried hard in the camp, but he requires more time as he faces problems while fielding," the Pakistan team manager, Intikhab Alam, said. The squad is currently taking part in a preparatory camp in Lahore ahead of the tour.
Tanvir, 26, burst onto the scene during the inaugural World Twenty20 in 2007, surprising batsmen with his awkward wrong-footed delivery, but has struggled with injuries over the past couple of years. He suffered a back injury after the World Twenty20 in 2009, and was out of action for four months this year after knee surgery.
The tour kicks off with three Twenty20s, starting on December 26 in Auckland, followed by two Tests and six one-day internationals. Pakistan are yet to name a squad for the one-dayers, and deferred the announcement on Wednesday. The board also postponed the naming of the 30-man preliminary list for the World Cup.
"A meeting of the selection committee and integrity committee was held in Lahore and all the issues relating to the clearance of players came under discussion," a PCB statement said. "The committee decided that further consideration of this matter is required. The one-day squad for New Zealand and that for World Cup will be announced at a later date."
The World Cup probables have to be named by December 19. Three players - allrounder Shoaib Malik, wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal and legspinner Danish Kaneria - were left out of the Test and Twenty20 squads for the New Zealand after the PCB refused to clear them for the series. Three other players - Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif - have been suspended by the ICC over charges of spot-fixing that arose during Pakistan's tour of England in August.

Australia show fight after Tremlett strikes

Chris Tremlett's impressive return to Test cricket helped give England the advantage on the opening day at the WACA as Australia reached tea on 6 for 179. That, though, represented a fightback from the hosts after they'd slumped to 4 for 36 after being put into bat. Tremlett claimed two in his first spell and was well backed up by James Anderson, but it was Graeme Swann who claimed the vital afternoon breakthrough to end Mike Hussey's counterattacking 61.
Although not quite matching the drama of Adelaide, it didn't take England long to make early inroads as Tremlett struck in his first over to win the battle of the recalled players against Phillip Hughes. Ricky Ponting fell to a stunning catch at third slip and Michael Clarke failed again in the first innings to give Tremlett his second scalp.
When Steve Smith edged Tremlett to first slip shortly after lunch Australia had lost half their side for 69 and could have crumbled. However, the recovery came from a familiar partnership as Hussey and Brad Haddin - a pair that have given England more problems than the rest of the batting order put together - added 68, taking a particular liking to Steve Finn who limped out of the attack with a calf problem, before Swann got one to bounce and take Hussey's edge.
Andrew Strauss made a brave decision to bowl first, because Perth pitches have a history of lulling captains into believing they'll be livelier than it proves, but Ponting said he'd have done the same having picked four frontline quicks. On this occasion, though, Strauss was fully vindicated as his pace attack was once again outstanding with the new ball and exposed further frailties in the Australia top order.
If it wasn't for the UDRS, England would have struck in the first over but Watson was reprieved when replays showed the ball had struck thigh pad and not glove on the way down the leg side. However, the visitors didn't have to wait long as Tremlett immediately made an impression and showed why he was the correct selection ahead of Tim Bresnan. After a couple of short balls to Hughes he pitched one fuller which the left-hander tried to play to leg and was bowled.
Tremlett almost added Ponting without scoring when extra bounce found the edge but it flew between third slip and gully, before Ponting responded with a pull through midwicket. The Australia captain clearly wanted to be positive, but after another boundary through the leg side fell to a stunning one-handed catch by Paul Collingwood at third slip. Forcing outside off, the ball flew high and fast to Collingwood, who dropped a few earlier in the tour, and Ponting had to drag himself off for another low score.
Pressure is growing on Clarke to prove he is part of Australia's future and faced with Tremlett's bounce could only offer a horribly weak poke which gave Matt Prior his 100th catch in Test cricket. It might not have been 3 for 2, but 3 for 28 wasn't very good either. Like at Adelaide, Watson was left with Hussey to try to rebuild the innings but Watson was pinned in front by Finn's well-directed yorker and this time UDRS couldn't save him.
Smith supported Hussey until the lunch interval before being superbly worked over by Tremlett and England sensed a quick kill. However, after a period of weathering the storm they started to open their shoulders and Haddin used his feet in Swann's first over to drive a four and a six. Hussey took three boundaries off Finn's next over, the first taking him to his fourth his fifty of a prolific series from 98 balls, and it needed a superb delivery from Swann to end his stay. Initially the umpire didn't give the decision, but Prior was so convinced he signalled for the review while celebrating and Hotspot proved him spot on. 

Reference : cricinfo

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