Saturday, January 15, 2011

Gul, Tanvir put Pakistan ahead in windy Wellington

Ross Taylor launches into a cover drive, New Zealand v Pakistan, 2nd Test, Wellington, 1st day, January 15, 2011




Pakistan's seamers punctuated spells of ordinariness with sparks of brilliance to dismantle New Zealand's top order and put their side ahead at stumps. Umar Gul and Tanvir Ahmed were lethal in the first hours of the first two sessions, and though Ross Taylor survived their bursts with a mix of caution and enterprise, the home batsmen suffered from a general lack of confidence that prevented them from counterattacking when the bowlers were on song, and from dominating when they weren't.
Gul began Pakistan's dominance with a new-ball spell that oozed intent from the outset. Resisting the natural urge to crank up the pace when aided by a breeze, he relied on subtle sleight of hand and a high release to probe away at the top order. In the first over, he got a swerving inducker to strike Brendon McCullum - who was not offering a shot - above the knee roll. Umpire Daryl Harper ruled in Gul's favour, though replays suggested the bounce was taking it over the stumps. Things were evened out in Gul's next over, when Martin Guptill edged a legcutter on its way to Adnan Akmal, unnoticed by Harper.
That delivery set the template for Gul, who relentlessly pinged uncomfortable lengths on and around off stump, serving up the odd legcutter to go with ones that held their line, carrying through at good height. In his seventh over, he nailed Kane Williamson with a carbon copy of the delivery that Guptill had edged.
Gul also threatened to dislodge Taylor early, beating his outside edge and inducing an inside edge within the batsman's first three deliveries. His opening burst was, however, coming to an end, and Taylor faced fewer challenges thereafter and approached the pre-lunch session with refreshing freedom. Every time Wahab Riaz offered width, Taylor attacked through the off side, driving square and through the covers, and cutting for boundaries.
Consigned to the Scoreboard End, Abdur Rehman resorted to a quick arm and flat trajectory while bowling into a wind that stiffened to 70kmh by lunch. Taylor settled down after the initial flourish and, along with a cautious Guptill, promised to push New Zealand ahead in the second session. Tanvir, however, had plans of his own.
Tanvir had an infuriatingly inconsistent day that was bookended by listless spells into the wind, with both new balls. In the middle session, though, he whistled in from the Vance End at the mid-130s, settling into a miserly rhythm that accentuated the threat of the occasional away-seamer. Guptill was gradually choked for runs and, after playing 12 successive dot balls, he flashed at one well outside off. Jesse Ryder came and went, nicking a ball that was dangled across him, bagging his second successive first-ball duck. James Franklin kept out the hat-trick ball, a scorching yorker that was aimed at the toes but, at 100 for 4, the force was with Pakistan.
Taylor spent most of Tanvir's rampant spell at the non-striker's end, facing only five deliveries from the seamer in the hour following lunch. His battles were against Rehman's teasing line of attack, straightening deliveries from leg stump without offering too much flight, while getting extra bounce. taylor attempted to disperse the crouching in-fielders with a lovely loft for six over wide long-on, and forced two men back on the leg side. However, with wickets falling at the other end, Rehman continued to attack with slip and short leg, and Taylor played within himself unless presented with a bad ball. When Rehman was marginally off-line, he glanced and cut for boundaries, and brought up his half-century by slapping Gul through point for three. As was the case with Tanvir, Gul too metamorphosed at the lunch break and posed no problems through the rest of the day.
Franklin sealed an end with compact defence, camping on the back foot, and keeping out a barrage of searching length deliveries that were angled across him. Along with Taylor, he seemed to have taken the sting out of the Pakistan attack, and when he creamed Tanvir for two early boundaries post tea, New Zealand's fightback seemed set to step up a gear.
Adnan Akmal shifted the momentum back in Pakistan's favour, though, with the best of his five catches in the day. He moved quickly to his right and showed admirable hand-eye coordination to grab a thin edge from Franklin. Riaz took the big wicket, after plodding through the day without courting the extremes like his seaming colleagues did. Returning to the attack for a final fling before the new ball became due, Riaz got Taylor to nick a harmless delivery angling across him and Adnan - scarcely reminiscent of his butter-fingered brother Kamran - pouched another one with elan, diving to his right.
Wind interruptions, and a shocking lack of urgency, meant that Pakistan were well behind the over-rates, forcing Rehman to operate for longer than they would have desired. Thus ensued a period of attrition, with both sides too encumbered to challenge the status quo. Vettori used the opportunity to play himself in, cutting and pulling Rehman for easy boundaries. Young was solid in defence, blocking his way to 7 off 59 balls, before opening up against the second new ball that leaked 36 runs in eight overs. Tanvir was visibly out of steam by now, and was duly taken for 21 in two overs as New Zealand ended the day with a flourish. The fact that they still finished a distant second, underlined just how far they had allowed an average attack dictate proceedings.

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World Cup places up for grabs

This match is being used to mark the 40th anniversary of one-day cricket, which began back on January 5, 1971 when Australia faced England at the MCG after the scheduled Test was abandoned due to rain. How times have changed. Floodlights, coloured clothes (and colour TV), white balls, Powerplays, HawkEye, the switch hit and much more. What hasn't changed, though, is Australia's desire to win and they haven't been doing a lot of it lately.
The Twenty20 victory on Friday was a welcome change of fortune and now the one-day series is the last chance to prepare before heading to the World Cup next month. But with the squads having to be named by January 19 in reality there is one game before the players will know their fate. Judging by the Australia selectors there are a few spots still up for grabs so there's plenty riding on performances at the MCG for the likes of David Hussey, Xavier Doherty and Shaun Tait.
England are a pretty settled unit after an upturn in their one-day form over the last 18 months. They will welcome back Andrew Strauss, who wasn't part of the Twenty20 squad, but he's the only change. James Anderson isn't around until the fourth match in Adelaide having popped home for a rest but Chris Woakes has already shown his ticker on his Twenty20 debut.
England's World Cup record since 1992, when they lost in the final against Pakistan, has been dire yet they are more than an outside bet this time. They beat Australia 3-2 during the English summer, which gave them some valuable hints for the Ashes, although they were rattled by the pace of Shaun Tait in the latter part of that contest. They won't want to concede any ground to Australia.

Finch sets up four-run win for Australia

One swallow doesn't make a summer, but one Finch made Australia's day at the MCG, where the hosts ended England's eight-match winning streak in Twenty20 games. In his second game for his country, the hometown batsman Aaron Finch muscled a promising unbeaten half-century that pushed the total to 7 for 147, and the seamers held their nerve to give Cameron White his first victory as Australia's captain.
In another tense finale after the final-ball thriller in Adelaide, England needed 13 off the last three deliveries, and Chris Woakes slammed Brett Lee over long-on for a crowd-silencing six that made the equation seven from two balls. But Woakes and Tim Bresnan couldn't repeat the dose against the pace of Lee, who bowled short at the end, and Australia's four-run win was confirmed with a pair of singles.
England's chase had started well, as Ian Bell cut and drove a pair of sizzling boundaries through point off Shaun Tait's first over, and he and Steven Davies reached 0 for 60 in the eighth over. England's Twenty20 record looked certain to extend to nine consecutive wins, but things became much tighter when Bell was yorked on 39 by Mitchell Johnson, who finished up with 3 for 29.
Kevin Pietersen fell in the same over as Bell, having driven Johnson to White at short cover, and it was game on. The loss of Paul Collingwood, who scooped Shane Watson to mid-off trying to lift his rate, added to England's problems, and he was gone for 6 from 10 balls. As he was in Adelaide, Watson was Australia's best bowler, keeping things tight while also collecting wickets, and he ended up with 2 for 17 from four overs.
A couple of overs later, Watson added Davies, who scored 29 from 26 balls, and was caught by David Warner at mid-on. Luke Wright (18) was sharply taken at mid-off by Steven Smith off Johnson and when Morgan, on 14, was caught on the boundary by Finch off Shaun Tait, it left the equation firmly in Australia's favour. Bresnan and Woakes were left needing 29 from the final two overs, and just fell short.
It was a fine result for Australia, after they stumbled to 5 for 80 from 12 overs. England's spinners strangled the runs following a brisk start from Watson and Warner, and it took the young Finch to set the innings in flight once again. Graeme Swann collected 2 for 19 from his four overs and Michael Yardy finished with exactly the same figures, and the spin duo was so successful that Paul Collingwood turned to Kevin Pietersen's offbreaks once Swann had bowled out.
Pietersen didn't have quite the same success, and was launched down the ground for six by Finch, who top scored with 53 not out from 33 balls. Finch and Steven Smith put on 51 for the sixth wicket, including several crowd-pleasing shots from Finch, notably an audacious scoop over his shoulder for four off Ajmal Shahzad.
A short but muscular batsman whose style resembles that of his fellow Victorian Brad Hodge, Finch also showed his power when he slapped a slower ball from Shahzad over midwicket for six just after Shahzad had Smith caught at cover for 13. They had come together with the score at 5 for 80, when a horribly scratchy David Hussey was put out of his misery for 8 from 16 deliveries when he pulled Yardy to deep midwicket.
Such was Hussey's struggle to time the ball against the spinners that even his hometown crowd was collectively groaning at every dot ball. Tim Paine scored much faster and made 21 from 12 balls, including a mistimed six to get off the mark when he drove Woakes down the ground to long-on, and Watson (17) had also launched two sixes off Shahzad and Woakes, while Warner worked his way to 30.
Perhaps the strong start was spurred by a bout of patriotism, after the pre-match build-up included the crowd supposedly setting a new world record for the most people simultaneously doing the chicken dance. The idea was sponsored by a certain company for whom the collective term for chickens is a bucket, and it was about as credible as the honorary colonelship given to Harland Sanders by Kentucky governor Ruby Laffoon in 193

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Friday, January 14, 2011

Pakistan Vs Newzealand 2nd Test at Wellington 03:00PKT

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hussain double-strike hurts PIA

The final of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, Pakistan's premier domestic first-class tournament, will be played under lights with the use of coloured balls, an unprecedented event in Pakistan first-class cricket.
David Richardson, ICC's general manager, cricket, expressed his support for the experiment. "This concept has been trialed in other countries and it is part of our wider policy of investigating the possibility of introducing day-night Test matches," Richardson said. "Just like we need to find ways to promote and protect Test cricket, this initiative shows the intentions of the PCB to promote the longer form of the game in Pakistan and try to make cricket even more popular than it already is. We are very pleased with how this trial is to be implemented and we will be very interested in the results."
Pakistan International Airlines and Habib Bank Limited, will clash at the National Stadium in Karachi from January 13 for the five-day final after jointly topping the Division One table, tied on 57 points.
First-class cricket has been played under lights in India before while the start of the English domestic season, in Abu Dhabi, featured pink balls. "This innovation is in line with the initiatives that the PCB has been taking to improve the standard of the domestic game in Pakistan," Ijaz Butt, the board's chairman, said in a release.
"The success of this event will bode well for our domestic structure as it could have positive implications for holding matches during the summers in Pakistan," Javed Miandad, former Pakistan captain and current director general of the PCB, said.
The total prize money for the final is Rs.1.75 million, with the winner taking home Rs.1 million.

Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid


Following four consecutive Copa del Rey triumphs between 1905 and 1908, Madrid were given their royal title in 1920 and became one of the founding members of the Liga on its 1929 inception. A team including legendary goalkeeper Ricardo Zamora were champions in 1931/32 and 1932/33.

• With the Chamartin Stadium in ruins following the Spanish Civil War, board member Santiago Bernabéu led construction of the venue that now bears his name, opening in 1947. The club then pulled the masterstroke of signing Alfredo di Stéfano, and with Francisco Gento and Miguel Muñoz, Madrid set about dominating European football.

• Los Merengues won the first five instalments of the European Champion Clubs' Cup, and completed the quintet in memorable fashion in 1960. Spearheaded by Di Stéfano and Hungary's Ferénc Puskas, Madrid beat Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3 in the Hampden Park final. Winger Gento went on to play in the European Cup victory of 1966, with new stars such as Amancio and Pirri.

• The next classic Madrid side came in the 1980s with the 'Quinta del Buitre', The Vulture Squad, led by Emilio Butragueño, winning successive league titles between 1986 and 1990. The dominance of Johan Cruyff's FC Barcelona overshadowed Madrid in the early 1990s, but the emergence of Raúl González heralded a new beginning. Madrid won the 1997/98 UEFA Champions League, Predrag Mijatović scoring the only goal of the final against Juventus. A more convincing 3-0 victory against Valencia CF followed in the 1999/2000 showpiece.

• The likes of Ronaldo, Luís Figo and Zinédine Zidane led Madrid to a ninth European Cup in 2001/02, the latter scoring a memorable winner to see off Bayer 04 Leverkusen 2-1 in Glasgow. The summer of 2009 brought a new influx of stars with Kaká, Cristiano Ronaldo – for a world record €94m – and Karim Benzema brought in to stem Barcelona's emerging dominance, but the title eluded them.

Kamran, Misbah-ul-Haq in ODI squad to play NZ

Wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal has finally returned to a Pakistan squad, picked on Wednesday for the ODI series against New Zealand. The squad for Pakistan's last assignment before the 2011 World Cup is effectively a shadow squad for the tournament; Akmal changes places with his younger brother Adnan, who misses out.
Test captain Misbah-ul-Haq, who played only two ODIs last year, against South Africa in the UAE before he was dropped for the final three, also returns. That means no place for the veteran Mohammad Yousuf, who has been effectively dropped from both Test and ODI cricket over the last month or so. His chances of appearing in the World Cup, at this stage, appear slim. Opener Ahmed Shehzad returns to the side, suggesting he is a serious contender for a World Cup berth.
Kamran has not been part of the national side since the summer tour of England and his absence had been surrounded by confusion, which his return does little to clear up. Speculation linking him to the spot-fixing scandal has been rife, but in October he received written clearance from the ICC stating that he had no ongoing cases against him in the ICC.. Since then, he has been scoring heavily on the domestic circuit. However, he was not "given clearance" to play the Tests and Twenty20s in New Zealand by the PCB's integrity committee, which did not provide details about why that decision was taken.
The 19-year-old Shehzad, who made a promising debut last year against Australia in the Middle East, played all three Twenty20 games against New Zealand, scoring 83 runs at an average of 27.66 and a strike-rate of 150.90, with a top score of 54.
Misbah made 14 and 17 in his two ODIs against South Africa and did not feature in the Twenty20 games against New Zealand. Shahid Afridi has been retained as captain. Pakistan will play six one-dayers against the hosts, with the first game taking place in Wellington on January 22.
Pakistan ODI squad: Shahid Afridi (capt), Muhammad Hafeez, Kamran Akmal (wk), Younis Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq, Asad Shafiq, Umer Akmal, Abdul Razzaq, Abdul Rehman, Saeed Ajmal, Shoaib Akhtar, Umer Gul, Wahab Riaz, Sohail Tanveer, Tanveer Ahmed, Ahmed Shehzad

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Arsenal vs Ipswich

Arsenal may have been off the pace in the inaugural Premier League season in 1992/93, but they made up for it by winning both the FA and League Cups.
The Premier League crown eluded them until 1998 - two years into manager Arsene Wenger's tenure - when they did the league and FA Cup double. Under the Frenchman, the Gunners shook off their "boring" image and began to play some of the most attractive football in England.
In eight of his 14 seasons at the club, Arsenal have finished first or second. And together with star players such as Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Dennis Bergkamp, Wenger took Arsenal to another "double" in 2002.
The Gunners reached the Champions' League final in 2006, becoming the first London team to do so, but lost to Barcelona. Their Barclaycard Premiership title in 2003/04 saw them become only the second team to win the league without losing a match - earning them the title "The Invincibles." Overall they went 49 matches unbeaten, which is a national record.

QEA final to be a day-night affair


The final of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, Pakistan's premier domestic first-class tournament, will be played under lights with the use of coloured balls, an unprecedented event in Pakistan first-class cricket.
David Richardson, ICC's general manager, cricket, expressed his support for the experiment. "This concept has been trialed in other countries and it is part of our wider policy of investigating the possibility of introducing day-night Test matches," Richardson said. "Just like we need to find ways to promote and protect Test cricket, this initiative shows the intentions of the PCB to promote the longer form of the game in Pakistan and try to make cricket even more popular than it already is. We are very pleased with how this trial is to be implemented and we will be very interested in the results."
Pakistan International Airlines and Habib Bank Limited, will clash at the National Stadium in Karachi from January 13 for the five-day final after jointly topping the Division One table, tied on 57 points.
First-class cricket has been played under lights in India before while the start of the English domestic season, in Abu Dhabi, featured pink balls. "This innovation is in line with the initiatives that the PCB has been taking to improve the standard of the domestic game in Pakistan," Ijaz Butt, the board's chairman, said in a release.
"The success of this event will bode well for our domestic structure as it could have positive implications for holding matches during the summers in Pakistan," Javed Miandad, former Pakistan captain and current director general of the PCB, said.
The total prize money for the final is Rs.1.75 million, with the winner taking home Rs.1 million.

Eyes on World Cup spots as ODIs begin

The Test series between the top two teams in international cricket was meant to be this tour's biggest draw, but the ODI series that starts on Wednesday is almost as significant. Bilateral one-dayers are an after-party to a grand event, though not in this case with the World Cup just over a month away and with the teams required to finalise their fifteen-member squads for the event by January 19. Three of the five games in this series - the last official 50-over preparation for the two sides ahead of the World Cup - will be played out before the deadline and they are likely to influence the composition of the final squads.
Injuries to Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir have led to call-ups for Rohit Sharma and M Vijay for the ODI series, though Virat Kohli appears to have done enough in the middle order for his place to be in any risk. There is more competition in the bowling, with a possible tussle between Sreesanth and Munaf Patel for a spot alongside Zaheer Khan, Praveen Kumar and Ashish Nehra in the fast-bowling attack. Praveen's eleventh-hour injury gives Ishant Sharma, who had an ordinary Test series, another go at the one-day level, though he is almost certain to miss the first game. Piyush Chawla returns to the 50-over format after more than two years, but R Ashwin is the favoured second spinner in the squad, while Harbhajan Singh will look to build on his performance in the Tests.
South Africa have roped in legspinner Imran Tahir and left-arm spinner Robin Peterson, as potential slow-bowling partners to Johan Botha; Colin Ingram, who scored a century on ODI debut, fills in for the injured Jacques Kallis at No.3, and could be in the running for a top-order spot in the World Cup, while David Miller will possibly be fighting for a middle-order slot along with the leg-spinning allrounder Faf du Plessis. The battle for the third seamer's position will be between Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Wayne Parnell, though Ryan McLaren, not playing this series, has also done the job in the past.
South Africa, at home on lively tracks, go in as the favourites. The team coming on top will go into the World Cup on a high, but individual performances in this series could be just as important as the scoreline itself.

Tasmania demolish Victoria by nine wickets

Tasmania have demolished the reigning champions by nine-wickets in a rain-reduced clash at the Bellerive Oval to go to the top of the Big Bash table.
Standing in for the absent Tim Paine, 22-year-old debutant Jonathan Wells thumped an unbeaten 51 from just 33 balls to guide Tasmania to their target of 108 in just 11.3 overs.
Play was delayed initially by 40 minutes of persistent drizzle, reducing the contest to 15-over-a-side fixture, but once the covers were removed, George Bailey had no hesitation in inserting Victoria when the coin fell his way.
It proved a masterstroke when the visitors lost Glenn Maxwell and acting captain Brad Hodge in the opening two overs. They slumped to 3 for 20 when Matthew Wade fell to Rana Naved-ul-Hasan. They could have, and perhaps should have, been four down if Ashes hero - turned Victoria signing - Matt Prior was held at slip by Mark Cosgrove, but the Englishman made the most of the life producing an entertaining 29-ball 51 to push the Bushrangers towards a competitive total.
But superb late-over bowling by Jason Krejza (3 for 13) and Naved (3 for 18) restricted the total to just 8 for 107.
It looked like a tough chase was in store early as Dirk Nannes zipped the ball around at 140kph-plus. But once Wells and Rhett Lockyear gathered the pace of the wicket they raced to 49 from 6.1 overs before Lockyear was caught behind off John Hastings.
It would be the only breakthrough for Victoria as Man-of-the-Match Wells continued to find the middle of the bat, striking seven boundaries and a wonderful lofted off drive for six in his half-century on debut, while his captain Bailey cashed in on anything short, cracking three of his five boundaries through midwicket to see his side home with 31 not out.
Tasmania now rocket to the top of a very even Big Bash table, while Victoria have an uphill battle to progress to the last three, particularly without their two regular leaders in Cameron White and David Hussey who, like Paine, are absent on national duty

Lee, Tait and David Hussey in ODI squad

Brett Lee, Shaun Tait and David Hussey have all been given the chance to press for World Cup selection after being named in Australia's squad for the first ODI against England. The match in Melbourne on Sunday will be the only one-day game Australia will play before their 15-man World Cup group needs to be finalised, so there is plenty at stake for several fringe men.
Nathan Hauritz was also chosen, having not been part of Australia's team in any format since he was axed before the first Ashes Test. Hauritz, Xavier Doherty and Steven Smith are all in the 14-man squad, and with the World Cup to be played on spin-friendly subcontinental surfaces, they will all be keen to impress in the 50-over format.
Michael Clarke, who last week announced his retirement from Twenty20s, will captain the side with Ricky Ponting still sidelined by his finger injury. Brad Haddin was picked and will be Australia's first-choice gloveman at the World Cup, despite the selectors giving Tim Paine the vice-captaincy for the two Twenty20s against England this week.
Lee will be aiming to play his first ODI since October 2009, after a severely injury-disrupted 2010, and he has already made clear his ambition to be part of Australia's World Cup defence. He will form part of a quick attack with Tait, Doug Bollinger and Peter Siddle forming the rest of the fast-bowling group.
One of the most interesting selections was that of David Hussey, who hasn't played an ODI since a one-off match against Scotland in August 2009, and has been considered a Twenty20 specialist by the national selectors since then. Despite having scored only 143 runs at 23.83 in the split-innings Ryobi Cup this summer, Hussey has been give a chance ahead of his Victorian team-mate Brad Hodge, who is the competition's leading run scorer.
There was no room for Callum Ferguson, although that might be because he is already considered a lock-in for the World Cup, while Shaun Marsh was also overlooked. A new squad will be chosen for the remaining six ODIs against England, and that is likely to comprise the 15-man World Cup group, as it will be their final hit-out before flying to India.
"We've given David Hussey the opportunity to push for inclusion in the World Cup squad as we think he will be well suited for the sub-continent conditions which will be faced in the World Cup," the chairman of selectors, Andrew Hilditch, said. "Ricky Ponting is recovering from a finger injury sustained during the Ashes, which gives Michael Clarke another chance to lead the one-day side.
"His vice-captain will be Cameron White, who has had a real impact on this form of the game in the last year and Cameron will be coming off leading Australia in the two Twenty20 internationals this week. We have some explosive fast bowling with Shaun Tait, Brett Lee, Mitchell Johnson, Doug Bollinger and Peter Siddle all selected in this squad. Shaun and Brett will therefore have an opportunity to impress in this form of the game before World Cup squad selection.
"We've included Nathan Hauritz, who has been a key part of our one-day side for some time now and Xavier Doherty in this squad, who played well against Sri Lanka at the start of the summer. This gives us a chance to look at both of them prior to the World Cup."
Squad Shane Watson, Brad Haddin (wk), Michael Clarke (capt), Cameron White, David Hussey, Michael Hussey, Steven Smith, Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Hauritz, Brett Lee, Xavier Doherty, Peter Siddle, Shaun Tait, Doug Bollinger.

Australia bat as Finch and Woakes debut

Cameron White has won his first toss as Australia's Twenty20 captain and chose to bat at Adelaide. Aaron Finch, the Victoria batsman, will make his debut for Australia and Chris Woakes, the Warwickshire seamer, gets his first cap for England while Ian Bell returns for his first Twenty20 since 2008.
Woakes, who replaced the injured Stuart Broad in the England squad, made his senior debut against the Prime Minister's XI in Canberra on Monday and claimed 2 for 63 from nine overs. He has been preferred to Chris Tremlett with Michael Lumb, the specialist Twenty20 opener, is also on the sidelines.
Australia have a bowling attack full of pace with Shaun Tait, Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson primed to unleash on the batsmen. James Pattinson is the man to miss out from their 12.
England are chasing a world-record eighth consecutive Twenty20 victory having followed their World Twenty20 success with back-to-back wins against Pakistan. Australia, meanwhile, have collected four defeats on the bounce including the loss to England in Barbados during May.
Australia 1 David Warner, 2 Shane Watson, 3 Tim Paine (wk), 4 David Hussey, 5 Cameron White (capt), 6 Aaron Finch, 7 Steve Smith, 8 Steve O'Keefe, 9 Mitchell Johnson, 10 Brett Lee, 11 Shaun Tait
England 1 Ian Bell, 2 Steven Davies (wk), 3 Kevin Pietersen, 4 Paul Collingwood (capt), 5 Eoin Morgan, 6 Luke Wright, 7 Michael Yardy, 8 Tim Bresnan, 9 Graeme Swann, 10 Ajmal Shahzad, 11 Chris Woakes

Tribunal defers verdict till February 5

Three Pakistani players will have to wait until February 5 to discover the eventual outcome of the spot-fixing charges laid on them by the ICC. A six-day hearing in Doha, Qatar failed to come up with a verdict on the various corruption charges that Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir face over incidents in two Tests last summer against England.
The very fact that the Oval Test was also under investigation, in addition to the Lord's Test, provided a late twist to the final day of an ultimately anti-climactic six-day hearing. The players will remain provisionally suspended until they reconvene in Doha to hear the judgement of the ICC tribunal formed to deal with the spot-fixing case.
At the end of a day of fevered speculation that concluded the hearing, Michael Beloff QC, the head of the tribunal and ICC code of conduct commissioner, finally made a statement alongside fellow tribunal members Albie Sachs and Sharad Rao.
"The tribunal has been constituted to hear charges against Butt, Amir and Asif brought under the ICC's anti-corruption code in relation to two Tests played during August 2010 between Pakistan and England, the Oval Test and the Lord's Test," Beloff said.
The tribunal had not arrived at a verdict because, Beloff said, there had been representations made to the tribunal, "to reserve any decision on the charges... until it (the tribunal) has had sufficient time to give the issues careful consideration and until it is able, at the same time as handing down its decision, to provide written reasons." The task of studying the issues at hand, arriving at a decision and issuing an in-depth hand-written reason for its decision, said Beloff, "would not be feasible in the timeframe agreed for this hearing in Doha.
"The tribunal has therefore determined to continue its deliberations and hold a further hearing in Doha on the fifth of February of this year, at which its decisions will be handed down to the parties and any consequential matters will be dealt with. Until that date, all three players will remain suspended from all cricketing activities."
Until today a definitive decision had been expected from the lengthy tribunal hearings. In fact, it is believed that the ICC's legal team was keen on having a verdict out today. But the gravity of the possible sanctions - which range from five years to a lifetime ban - the desire of the players' lawyers to defer a verdict and the sheer weight of a six-day, 45-hour proceeding which featured oral and written testimonies and tapes, video recordings as well as forensic submissions, made a quick verdict impossible.
The ICC's lawyers, though, expressed "happiness with the way hearings have gone," It is understood that in a bid to press for a verdict on Tuesday they withdrew all charges relating to the Oval Test, bar one against Butt.
The hearings began last Thursday and were held behind the firmest of closed doors. There were no official statements were made at all during the hearings, though as proceedings continued, it became clear that differences between the defences of Butt and Asif had emerged, possibly hampering the cases of both players.
An apparent contradiction, however, materialised soon after the tribunal's statement. Though Beloff said that "all charges relating to the Lord's Test remain under consideration," Asif's London-based legal firm said that on one charge relating to that match, Asif had, in fact, been acquitted.
A statement from their office said that Asif was, "delighted to have been acquitted of the charges brought against him under article 2.4.1 in relation to the Lords Test Match, also played in August 2010."
"Mohammad Asif has co-operated fully with the ICC investigations, and is now looking forward to a timely and satisfactory outcome in relation to the outstanding matters brought against him under the ICC's Anti-Corruption Code for Players and Players Support Personnel."
The particular charge against Asif states that the code "prohibits providing or receiving any gift, payment or other benefit (whether of a monetary value or otherwise) in circumstances that the Player or Player Support Personnel might reasonably have expected could bring him/her or the sport of cricket into disrepute."
The charge, carrying a punishment of a six-month ban, appears a minor one compared to the other charges that Asif is facing. But the acquittal is thought to stem from the fact that no money was found in Asif's hotel room in London during police investigations.
Amir's lawyer, Shahid Karim, who had earlier pushed for the deferment, indicated that the extra time would help his client prepare better to deal with the verdict. "The request we made to the tribunal has been accepted," Karim said. "On February 5th if the punishment is harsh then we will discuss it with them so we will prepare for that. It is a hearing.
"I am happy with the procedure of the hearing. The ICC code of conduct has a clause which points to looking at the player's age and past disciplinary record and Amir is young, so we hope the tribunal will keep this in mind."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The over-priced, the steals, the toppers and the unsold

The dust is settled, the final hammer blow has fallen. IPL-4 will get underway with a whole lot of changes in personnel - some expected, some unexpected, some baffling, some daft, and some even inspired.

Of all the players who formed part of the auction, the ones who are likely to be the biggest talking points are the ones who fall in either of the following four categories: unsold heavyweights, over-priced players, under-priced 'steals', and the players who bagged the biggest pay-checks.

Over-priced players: Ravindra Jadeja fetched 950,000 USD, Johan Botha had the same, and Piyush Chawla walked away with 900,000 USD. A bit lower down the scale, Umesh Yadav had 750,000 USD, and Venugopal Rao had 700,000. None of these five are bad players, and all of them could form useful parts of their teams' armouries. However, only they or their immediate family, will feel that the prices they have got really justify what they bring to the table.

Every IPL auction throws up its share of players who seem grossly over-valued, and so far in its short history, none of the players who have fallen in that bracket have done anything to live up to their prices. Think Ishant Sharma, think Tyrone Henderson, think JP Duminy, think Mashrafe Mortaza. For their sake, hopefully Jadeja, Botha, Chawla, Yadav and Venugopal will have the kind of seasons that justify their price-tags. But don't bet on it.

The 'steals': The under-priced 'steals' are also a staple feature of every IPL auction, and this one had its fair share of them. For my money, the best bargains were Eoin Morgan for USD 325,000, Murali Karthik for USD 400,000 and Daniel Vettori for USD 550,000. Granted, the figures are not miniscule, but neither are they in the jaw-dropping category. Vettori's bowling, batting, fielding and leadership ability combined should have made him part of the millionaire club, but Bangalore bagged him for half the price. Eoin Morgan had an average IPL-3, but he can tranform a game in a matter of minutes. He can also keep wickets and Kolkata will feel fortunate in having got him for the price they did. Murali Karthik had the mortification of being unsold the first time around, and he was only snapped up by Pune at the end. He has been the forgotten man of Indian cricket, and was amongst the only consistently brilliant performers for the previously ill-fated Kolkata team, with an economy rate that was astounding in such a weak team. Given better support with the bowling, his bowling strike-rate is also sure to improve. Also important is his nationality: with so few quality Indian players to spread around in ten franchises, and each one having to field seven in the playing eleven, Karthik has even more value, given his proven quality.

The payday kings: Amongst those who breached the million-dollar mark, there were several expected names. All the big Indian players were certain to do it, and Gambhir, Yusuf Pathan, Robin uthappa, Rohit Sharma, Irfan Pathan, Yuvraj Singh and Saurabh Tiwary all fetched upwards of 1.5 million. Rohit Sharma and Robin Uthappa could be considered a tad over-valued after breaking the 2-million barrier, but the demand for proven quality Indian players was always going to be high. Gambhir and Yusuf Pathan were expected to be the biggest draws at the auction, and they didn't disappoint, though the amounts they got were beyond the most optimistic expectations. Amongst the foreigners, Dale Steyn, AB de Villiers, Cameron White, Jacques Kallis, Muttiah Muralitharan, Ross Taylor and Mahela Jayawardene are all quality match-winners and their high price tags are deserved. About the only one who seems out of place in the millionaire club is David Hussey, who has not exactly set the IPL alight with his exploits.

The Unsold heavyweights: The most prominent amongst the unsold players were Sourav Ganguly, Chris Gayle, Brian Lara, Graeme Swann, James Anderson and Tamim Iqbal. While Swann and Anderson have had stellar years with England, the franchises rather surprisingly, seemed either oblivious to their talents or didn't expect them to be available for large parts of the IPL season. Performance certainly cannot be a criteria for not selecting the duo. Tamim Iqbal's non-selection was the most baffling. At a base price of only USD 100,000 he was a steal. Playing for Bangladesh means he has always had to face attacks stronger than his team's and in spite of that, he has acquitted himself superbly. His swashbuckling game seems ideally suited to the shorter versions, and it was a pity that no franchise thought him worth an investment.

Chris Gayle's was the most shocking omission. Here is a player who can rival Virender Sehwag while batting, can chip in with overs and has refused to sign a contract with his national board, thus making him available to play in leagues such as the IPL. Why no franchise bid for him is likely to remain a mystery unless the question is put to them point blank. Reports seemed to suggest that franchises were worried about Gayle's availability, but if that were true, the franchises did some very careless research. And it beggars belief that all the franchises could have skimped over the research and not taken Gayle. The case of his erstwhile captain, Brian Lara was more straightforward. Once a batsman without parallel, the fact that Lara hasn't played competitive cricket for a while and didn't perform with too much distinction in the defunct ICL coupled with his high base price, discouraged franchises.

Sourav Ganguly's omission did not fly in the face of cricketing logic, but it's likely to be the most controversial one. Keeping the controvery aside, from a cricketing stand-point, Ganguly's overall strike-rate during the last IPL - which was his best with the bat - was a very low 117.66 (run-rate - 7.06). He did score a lot of runs, but scoring runs is never independent of the speed of scoring in Twenty20 cricket, and having aged a year and being retired, it was always going to be tough for Ganguly to get picked. Moreover, he had raised his base price to the highest bracket of USD 400,000 and no franchise was willing to spend that much on what was at best a risky investement.

Even amongst the runs he made in 2010, against quality bowling attacks he found the going tough. In the initial match against Mumbai, he made 31 off 34 balls - snail's pace in T20 cricket, while in the return match, with Mumbai resting Zaheer, Harbhajan and Malinga, he made 42 off 36. Against the Bangalore attack of Steyn, Kallis, Kumble and co, he made 23 off 22 and 33 off 32. Against Chennai when they had Bollinger, Ashwin and Murali he made 10 off 12. The fact is, those kind of strike-rates at the top of the order will harm team's chances of victory, even if runs are scored.

Fans may feel emotional about his omission, but they must remember that it was not just one franchise that rejected him - all ten did. And if all ten did, they clearly thought that he was not worth the money that they would have to shell out for him.

A decade ago, Sourav Ganguly would have probably fetched more than Gautam Gambhir did at the auction. He wouldn't even have been in the auction - he'd have been retained with his franchise willing to pay him whatever it took. Today, he found no takers. Sad? Undoubtedly so. Unexpected? Not really.

Amir's lawyer requests deferred verdict

Mohammad Amir's legal counsel has requested the ICC's three-man tribunal examining the charges of spot-fixing to take more time to study the case before announcing its verdict. The closing statements of the six-day hearing were presented on Tuesday morning and while the verdict was expected later in the day, Amir's laywer Shahid Karim was hoping for a deferment.
"We have requested the judges to look at the case carefully and properly and with due consideration before they announce the verdict," Karim told Geo TV. "This is up to them, and if they have looked at it with thought and consideration, then after we finish they'll tell us if the verdict is announced today or at a later date.
"I am satisfied that the hearing has been very good and impartial, and I can say from our point of view at least we are hopeful. The onus is now on the judges."
Amir, who was alleged to have bowled no-balls to order in the Lord's Test, was philosophical. "When the nation's prayers are with you, you don't feel so scared and there is hope. It's been difficult to sleep over the last few nights but my eyes are open now and when good news comes I will hopefully be able to close them properly.
"We are satisfied with how things have gone, and my family's prayers are also with me. I'm feeling good and am hoping for some good news."

Monday, January 10, 2011

Andy Flower eyes World Cup win

Team director Andy Flower believes England can win the upcoming World Cup.
England will begin their lead-up programme with a 50-over match against a Prime Minister's XI in Canberra on Monday, before meeting Australia in two Twenty20s and seven one-day internationals.
Those matches will form the bulk of their preparation for the World Cup on the sub-continent, which begins with their opening group game against Holland on February 22.
While Flower concedes playing on the harder surfaces in Australia is not ideal ahead of the spin-friendly dust bowls in Asia, he still believes his team have the capacity to follow their World Twenty20 success of a year ago and clinch the 50-over crown for the first time.
"I think it's possible, but it's going to be very difficult," Flower said.
"I'm not sure where we're rated in one-day internationals but I think the brand of cricket we're playing we've got a chance.
"We'll have to switch on to the sub-continent conditions and thrive very quickly. Even the Bangladesh conditions will be very tricky - they've just beaten New Zealand 4-0.
"That's going to be a tricky match in itself."
England are pooled in Group B for the tournament where, amongst others, they will face India and Bangladesh on their home soil.
With that in mind Flower admits the matches in Australia will provide a completely different challenge to what they will face on the sub-continent, where the twin-spin threat of Graeme Swann and Michael Yardy is more likely to prosper.
Flower though is unwilling to dismiss the chance to meet the Australians, the three-time defending world champions, before the World Cup as he looks to fine-tune his side.
"We're playing against a good side - the number one ODI side in the world - and that's great opposition leading up to the World Cup. That's a big plus," he added.
"But the conditions are very different so it makes things slightly tricky because the make-up of the side could be different. It makes the lead in not perfect but we'll make the most of it.
"In training definitely we'll be combining it with looking to the World Cup, it's pertinent."
He added: "It's a strange run-in, yes, we'll be playing one-day cricket but in Australian conditions.
"The type of cricket we'll need to win in sub-continent will be different, different skills, different make-up to the side maybe, perhaps a slightly different batting order."
With England's Ashes success still fresh in the mind, Flower has little time to focus the minds of his players for a limited overs programme that holds such significance with the World Cup so close.
The match against the Prime Minister's XI, who will be led by new Australia Twenty20 captain Tim Paine, will at least allow them the chance to ease back into the shorter formats.
Flower will, however, call on an under-strength pace attack will the injured Stuart Broad out for the entire series, while James Anderson will be rested for the opening three games to manage his workload after he was the only seamer to play in all five Ashes Tests.
"If we don't rest him right now there is a significant chance he will break down," Flower warned.
"He has just played five Tests in a row and that's a magnificent achievement in itself. So he has to rest now."
But without two of his key bowlers, Flower is expecting a tough series against an Australian side smarting under the weight of public criticism following their Ashes humiliation.
"They are the number one ODI side and we are languishing in mid-table," he added.
"It is a huge challenge for us and we won't have two of our premier strike bowlers in Anderson and Broad, so it's a challenge for our bowling attack, but also an exciting opportunity for them and for us."
Andrew Strauss will be rested for Monday's warm-up match in Canberra, with the skipper set to fly to Melbourne where he has a house, meaning Paul Collingwood will lead the team.

Lankan President wants best 15 for WC

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse urged the selectors to pick the best team for next month's World Cup.
A presidential statement said that no player must be left out of the team due to personal preferences of individuals.

"It will be selection committee's responsibility to pick the best 15," president was quoted as saying.

The veteran opening batsman Sanath Jayasuriya who is now a ruling party parliamentarian has been included in the provisional squad of 30 players which will be pruned down to 15, later this month.

Jayasuriya's inclusion at 42 years and that of Chaminda Vaas' have raised eye brows.

Both were stars of Sri Lanka's successful 1996 World Cup campaign.

Both have not figured in Sri Lanka's recent successes in the one day arena.

Kumar Sangakkara's younger outfit was able to beat Australia Down Under for the first time in Sri Lanka's cricketing history last November.

WC tickets at Eden may get dearer by 20 percent


If the West Bengal government has its way in imposing entertainment tax, then the prices of World Cup tickets for the four matches scheduled at Eden Gardens might shoot up by 20 per cent.

But the hosts, the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB), will make an appeal at the state government as a team led by its president Jagmohan Dalmiya will meet the state finance minister on Wednesday.

The tickets for the India-England match on February 27 has been fixed at Rs 1500 and 1200 while for the remaining three non-India matches it will be sold at Rs 1000 and Rs 700.

But if the state government imposes the entertainment tax, the price will go up by 20 per cent, CAB chief Jagmohan Dalmiya told reporters.

"We will make an appeal to not levy entertainment tax on a premier event like the World Cup," Dalmiya said.

Criticising the state government's decision to levy tax, CAB joint-secretary Biswarup Dey argued that the World Cup is not a commercial tournament like the IPL.

"Even the government had waived off entertainment tax in Commonwealth Games, Asian Games. At least in the last 10 years, I have not come across a situation like this.

"This is an international tournament with the highest stature. We will make an appeal to the state to waive off the tax," Dey said.

CAB has also decided to agree on a 40 per cent reduction in the quota of tickets sold to the 121 affiliated units as the 87,000-capacity Eden Gardens will be shrunk to 63,000 after the ongoing renovation.

Earlier, each unit was entitled to buy out about 200 to 300 tickets as club quota.

Beside this, the International Cricket Council (ICC) has also fixed a quota of 10,000 tickets.

"The members unanimously agreed on the reduction of the number of quota tickets. A final figure on the number of tickets that will be available for sale is yet to be ascertained," Dalmiya said.

The CAB has 121 affiliated units including 37 first division clubs, 57 second division clubs, 17 districts, eight universities and one West Bengal Office Sports Federation.

Eden Gardens is scheduled to host four group matches - India vs England on February 27, Ireland vs South Africa on March 15, Ireland vs Netherlands on March 18 and Kenya vs Zimbabwe on March 20.

PCB meets Afridi on selection matters

Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ijaz Butt held a lengthy meeting with Shahid Afridi to pick the World Cup squad.
Afridi later told reporters that it had been a very good meeting.
"Such a meeting was due and a lot of positives came out of it. The chairman was briefed on everything and he was very receptive to what I had to say on different issues," he said.
The skipper made it clear that he had no intentions of stepping down despite criticism from some quarters on his leadership.
"I don t know exactly what anyone is saying but I try to learn if some great players like Wasim Akram or Imran Khan speak," Afridi said.
"But everyone has to realise that the present team is very different from the one we had in the 90s when we won the World Cup. Today things are different and the situation is different and we have had to manage in difficult circumstances in the last one year," he added.
He said that Pakistan has the ability to do well in the World Cup and in the coming ODI series in New Zealand.
"I know some people are disappointed and not sure about what is going to happen in the World Cup but I want to assure them that this team will give it its best shot," Afridi said.
The flamboyant all-rounder also made it clear that the team required complete support and backing of former players.
"I am ready to learn from anyone but I just don't like criticism for criticism’s sake. Criticism should be valid.
I just think that our former players now need to back this team for an important event like the World Cup. These are the same set of players we have to rely on so everyone needs to support and encourage them," Afridi insisted.
The national selection committee is due to meet on Tuesday to announce the World Cup probables as well the ODI squad for New Zealand.

Ex Pakistan players hail selectors

Pakistan's former Test players have supported the selectors for picking a well balanced World Cup preliminary squad.
Former chief selector and Test leg-spinner Abdul Qadir, however, criticised the selection of former captain and senior batsman Mohammad Yousuf in the preliminary squad.
"If captain Shahid Afridi pressed the board and selectors to recall Yousuf then he is wrong because Yousuf is no longer fit enough for the one-day version. His fielding is just not up to the mark," Qadir said.
The selectors on Tuesday recalled Yousuf for the World Cup squad while ignoring another former captain Shoaib Malik.
Qadir said the decision to recall Kamran Akmal and Rana Naved was a good one and it would pay dividends for Pakistan team.
"They are experienced players and they will be useful in the World Cup. But I would urge the selectors to also give the younger players in the side a chance to play in the mega event instead of just naming them in the preliminary squad," Qadir added.
Former captain Zaheer Abbas also backed the recall of Kamran Akmal but expressed disappointment over the exclusion of Malik.
"I don't know what has happened behind the scenes but I would have liked to see Malik in the World Cup squad because he is an ideal player for the pitches in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and India," Zaheer said.
He said it was a good sign that the selectors have named six to seven newcomers in the side and said this was a step forward for Pakistan cricket.
He also felt that if the selectors had included Yousuf in the World Cup squad they should now send him and some of the newcomers to New Zealand for the one-day series to test them out.
Yousuf, 36, who has played 90 Tests and 288 One-day Internationals was dropped for the tour to New Zealand because of lack of fitness after he had earlier returned home from Dubai without playing the tests against South Africa due to a strained muscle.
Former Test batsman Basit Ali said he was surprised at the omission of leg-spinner Danish Kaneria and dashing openers Shahzaib Hasan and Khalid Latif from the preliminary squad.
"Kaneria is one of the most experienced spinners around and would have been ideal for the pitches in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. If Kamran Akmal can be cleared for selection then why the Board have not cleared Kaneria and Shoaib Malik for selection," said Basit.
He also expressed surprised that the selectors have forgotten Hammad Azam who was even sent for the T20 World Cup.
"This is how we waste our young talent. I just hope the newcomers in the side get proper opportunities to prove their worth.

Lee may quit if not picked for WC

Brett Lee hinted that he may end his cricketing career if he was overlooked by for the upcoming cricket World Cup.
Lee while expressing his desire to lead the Australian bowling attack during the mega event said, "I hope that I am in it, and want to lead the attack for Australia."

Lee, who has already announced retirement from the Test cricket, was last month named in the provisional 30-man squad which is supposed to be altered to a 15 member unit during this month.

The fast bowler however remains positive of making a comeback in the ODI side after being overlooked by the selectors for the series against Sri Lanka earlier.

"Hopefully I can bring some experience and different blood back in the team. I'm ready to play, and if I'm chosen, it will be great; if [not] I'll work out plan B," Lee told Sydney Morning Herald.

The 34-year-old, who was picked by Kolkata Knight Riders for the IPL-IV, insisted that he has recovered from the injury that kept him out of Twenty-20 World Cup in West Indies earlier last year and said that he was feeling better than ever.

"I've been bowling 12 overs each match in the 45-over competition, which is more overs than I could bowl in a 50-over match," he said while elaborating on his stint with the New South Wales.

"I'm really happy with the way the ball has been coming out.  It's easier on my body not bowling five days straight," Lee said.

The speedster added, "My pace is back to 150km/h so I'm really happy with where it is at. I don't look at [myself being] 34 and think I'm past it. I think there are a few good years ahead of me."

Lee, who is supposed to stage a comeback against a spirited English side during the Wednesday's T-20 international, has been an important component in shaping Australia's fortunes in the 50-over game.

Kangaroos have won 11 of their 13 ODI internationals in late 2009 while Lee was at the peak of his form but could only manage to triumph in nine of 21 games while the speedster was sidelined.

PCB undecided over WC skipper

Pakistan Cricket Board will not decide on who will captain Pakistan in the World Cup before January 9.
Although flamboyant all-rounder Shahid Afridi has been leading the team in Twenty20 and One-day Internationals since last year but in recent days there has been a debate in the media over whether the board is going to retain him for the World Cup.

The fact that Butt called Afridi over to Lahore for a meeting soon after he returned from New Zealand after leading the team in the Twenty20 series has increased speculations over captaincy.

Ijaz Butt now himself has added to the confusion by stating that the board had still not decided who would be captain in the World Cup.

Butt went one step further by stating that Afridi was not a certain choice for the World Cup captaincy.

"We will take a decision on the captaincy for the one-day series in New Zealand and the World Cup after January 19 when the Test series ends in New Zealand," Butt told the Express newspaper.

Afridi has come under attack from some former players, including ex-captain Aamir Sohail, for his leadership skills and individual form although he was the leading run-scorer in one-dayers for Pakistan last year with 601 and also claimed 19 wickets with Shoaib Akhtar.

When it was pointed out that changing the captain at such a late stage before the World Cup could harm the team interests, Butt said, "The media is going create a ruckus if we announce it now and if we do it later. So it's better if we wait."

"If we announce the captain now this would be made an issue in the media so we are going to wait and take our time," he added.

Butt said every stakeholder in the board would be taken on board before announcing the captain and also expressed his satisfaction over the performance of the team in the recent series in New Zealand .

"There are some new players in the side and they are shaping up well and the most important thing is there is now a more disciplined culture in the team," he said.

Thierry Henry back with Arsena

Arsenal great Thierry Henry has begun a training stint with the club in order to keep fit during the Major League Soccer off-season.
Henry, who plays for the New York Red Bulls in MLS, remains a favourite with Gunners fans after scoring 226 goals in a highly successful spell with the club between 1999 and 2007.
The 33-year-old left Arsenal to join Barcelona in the summer of 2007 before signing for New York in July last year.
A statement on Arsenal's official website read: "Thierry Henry is back at Arsenal.
"The Gunners legend returned to London Colney on Monday to train with Arsene Wenger's squad. The short-term arrangement will help Henry maintain his fitness ahead of the new MLS campaign, which begins in March.
"Henry joined the New York Red Bulls last year and helped them reach the play-offs, where they lost on aggregate to San Jose Earthquakes in November.

Korea vs Bahrain 16:15GMT

The Taeguk Warriors are Asia's most successful World Cup campaigners, having progressed to the finals on eight occasions and last year reaching the knockout stage outside their own country for the first time.
However, Asian Cup glory has eluded them since 1960 and the importance of making a winning start to the tournament against Bahrain in Group C tomorrow has not been lost on coach Cho Kwang-rae.
"The first match of the tournament is the most important," he said. "We have prepared well for this with a training camp in Abu Dhabi and I am confident the players will do a good job against Bahrain.
"I have watched videos of them and also seen them play live so our analysis is done. They are a strong team in general so I am sure it will be a difficult game for us."
This year's tournament looks set to be the last for influential captain Park Ji-sung, who seems almost certain to end his international career to focus on his commitments with Manchester United.
And the 29-year-old plans to utilise his vast international experience to help some of the younger members of the squad, who are playing in a major tournament for the first time.
"We have a number of young players without international experience so I will tell the boys to enjoy the game and once they are comfortable I am sure they will have no problem," Park said.
"All the players in the squad are in the right condition to win this tournament and everyone is focused on achieving our target."
Bahrain, meanwhile, are waiting to discover if captain Salman Isa will be passed fit to play.
With key players Mohammed Salmeen and Hussain Salman having missed out on the tournament due to injury, coach Salman Sharida is hoping he will not receive further bad news as he bids to improve on Bahrain's previous best performance at the tournament in 2004, when they finished fourth.
"Salman Isa is under treatment now and his condition is improving by the day," Sharida said. "He took part in training today so there is around an 80% chance of him playing."

India vs Australia 13:15GMT

The Socceroos went into Asia's showpiece competition, their first after switching to the Asian Football Confederation, as strong favourites to claim the title on the back of a strong 2006 World Cup and boasting a squad laden with top-class talent.
However, Tim Cahill's injury-time equaliser salvaged a disappointing draw in their opening game against Oman before Graham Arnold's side went down 3-1 to Iraq.
Victory over Thailand saw them make the quarter-finals, where they went out on penalties to a Japan side they had beaten 12 months previously in Germany, leading to a barrage of negative headlines.
Galatasaray defender Neill stressed the lessons from that experience will stand Australia in good stead in Doha when they play India at Al Sadd Stadium.
"The previous tournament was disappointing for us. The negativity and the experience from that we've turned to a positive and used it to our advantage now," Neill said.
"Our preparation has been extremely good and thorough, our mindset is to take it game by game. Every team goes into the tournament wanting to win it and in the back of our mind we still are in this tournament to try to win it but the first game is India and that's all we'll concentrate on."
New boss Holger Osieck has not had much time with his full squad prior to the month-long tournament in Qatar on account of England's hectic festive programme, but the German is confident they are fully prepared for their Group C opener against India.
"A few weeks would be ideal but we haven't started from square one," Osieck said.
"It was important that everyone turned up healthy and in good physical condition. Some of the boys from England had a tough schedule over Christmas, we know that, but they came into camp with no problems while the boys from Australia also looked pretty sharp."
For India, a near-impossible task has been made even harder because veteran Baichung Bhutia is ruled out with a calf injury while fellow striker Sushil Kumar Singh is suspended for the opening two games following a red card against North Korea in last year's AFC Challenge Cup.
"Everybody who plays against Australia in this tournament will have great respect for them, they're a good team, a very experienced team. I could name you five players who have collectively played more than 1,000 games in the Premier League in England," said India boss Bob Houghton.
"There's no other country playing in this tournament that would have that pedigree. They've still got to get that together and I'm sure they will, I would think they're the favourites to win the tournament."
Ranked 142nd in the world, there are some who have questioned India's direct entrance into the Asian Cup due to their 2008 Challenge Cup win but Houghton was quick to defend his side's participation.
"We can justify our presence because we've won the AFC Challenge Cup so it's an automatic qualification," added the Englishman.
"So we don't have to justify our place here, we have qualified. If you wish to challenge the AFC's decision to put the winners into this tournament, that's not a question for coaches. We will see how we do."

AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2011 Fixtures


Mon, 10 Jan 2011 19:15  - Group C
KOR
KOR
: BHR
BHR
 Al Gharafa Stadium

Tue, 11 Jan 2011 16:15  - Group D
PRK
PRK
: UAE
UAE
 Qatar Sports Club Stadium

19:15  - Group D
IRQ
IRQ
: IRN
IRN
 Al Rayyan Stadium

Wed, 12 Jan 2011 16:15  - Group A
UZB
UZB
: KUW
KUW
 Al Gharafa Stadium

19:15  - Group A
CHN
CHN
: QAT
QAT
 Khalifa Stadium

Thu, 13 Jan 2011 16:15  - Group B
JOR
JOR
: KSA
KSA
 Al Rayyan Stadium

India win despite van Wyk fifty

Morne Van Wyk defined irony on a lovely Durban night at the marvellous Moses Mabhida Stadium. On the day where he went unpicked by the IPL franchises, van Wyk hit a cultured 39-ball 67 to threaten to overhaul India's strong 168, but he fell in the 11th over to trigger a collapse and India closed in quickly. South Africa had deployed three spinners on a slow, low surface, but Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina propelled India to a match-winning total.
Van Wyk had the crowd in screaming in delight with his strokeplay: He looted 25 runs from six deliveries, spread over two overs, from Munaf Patel: There was a stunning pick-up shot over midwicket boundary, a pulled six and a cut boundary but the best shot was a scorching square drive to a ball that landed just short of the blockhole. And when he crashed R Ashwin for a four and a slog-swept six in the final over of the Powerplay, South Africa had reached 59 for 2.
It took an unlikely run out to switch the momentum India's way. Aashish Nehra relayed a throw from the deep to Suresh Raina, who fired a direct hit from midwicket to catch AB de Villiers short of his crease in the 10th over. JP Duminy fell three balls later, trapped by Yuvraj Singh, and things got worse for the hosts in 11th over, when van Wyk flicked Praveen Kumar straight to Nehra at deep square-leg. It was the beginning of the end, as no one barring Johan Botha, to an extent, could adapt to the slow track.
The football stadium hosted its first cricket international and Makhaya Ntini's last. It wasn't quite a perfect night for Ntini, but he had his moments to savour: He caught Rohit at the long-on boundary and faced the penultimate delivery of the game before he was cheered off by the Indians.
The slow pitch and the design of the stadium, with its short square-boundaries, dictated the style of play. The new ball and seamers leaked runs, the spinners pegged back the run-rate, and the batsmen heaved square to collect boundaries. India raced to 57 in six Powerplay overs, another 57 came in the next eight overs, bowled by the spinners, for the loss of three wickets before Suresh Raina pushed India ahead.
The openers, M Vijay and Virat Kohli, set the ball rolling with a few trademark hits: M Vijay unfurled a flamboyant lofted hit to long-on off Ntini and Kohli put his signature swat-flicks to great use, but it was Rohit who gave a solid foundation to the innings. He started with an edgy drive through the slips but almost immediately played a stylish pick-up shot for a six over midwicket off Ntini. He was dropped by de Villiers, the keeper, after being beaten in flight by Botha, and celebrated that reprieve by looting 16 runs in the 12th over, also bowled by Botha. He heaved a couple of boundaries to midwicket and hit a scorching inside-out cover drive. Rohit provided the crowd a moment to celebrate when he holed out to long-on, where Ntini caught the ball just inside the boundary to trigger huge cheers.
India slipped from 109 for 3 to 136 for 5 after Yuvraj Singh was run out and Yusuf Pathan edged an intended big hit on to his stumps but Raina ensured India reached a competitive score. He kept going for his slog-sweeps and swung Ntini and Rusty Theron for sixes and though the run-rate dipped a notch in the end overs, 168 was always going to be a strong total on this surface

Wright urges patience after crushing defeat

John Wright, the New Zealand coach, has called his team's performance in the Hamilton Test as "unacceptable" but has urged "patience" from fans following the crushing three-day defeat. New Zealand lost all ten second-innings wickets in a session to be shut out of the game that, until tea on the third day, had been closely fought. The Test was Wright's first major assignment in his new role as coach, after he replaced Mark Greatbatch following New Zealand's forgettable one-day campaigns in the subcontinent.
"I'm a little bit older and wiser," Wright, who was formerly India's coach, told Radio Sport. "It's certainly been an interesting experience. You've got to have a look at things and I suppose in reality you're looking at the challenge which lies ahead of you. Everybody understands pretty clearly that the performance was unacceptable."
New Zealand's ten-wicket humbling came on a pitch that was favourable for batting. The key, Wright said, was to find batsmen capable of occupying the crease for extended periods of time. "It's going to take some time and we need to find batsmen that are prepared to be very patient and really want to stay at the crease.
"The talent's there but we've got a bit of teaching to do. New Zealand sports fans do have big expectations, I understand that, and I can say to the public from all of us it was totally unacceptable and we've got to do a lot better. But show us some patience. If I can do my job properly and the boys respond, we'll get there."
Wright backed New Zealand to turn the tables in Wellington, the venue for the next Test, but praised Pakistan for their win which was achieved despite the absence of several first-choice players for various reasons. "They're very rich in playing talent and they've always, over the course of their history, managed to field a good team. They've got great fast-bowling stocks and they're a good team, but they're beatable.

Second-oldest cricketer of all time dies aged 103

Syd Ward, the oldest known surviving first-class cricketer and the second longest-lived ex-cricketer whose age has been incontestably established, died at his home in Wairarapa, New Zealand, on New Year's Eve at the age of 103.
Born in Australia, Ward moved to New Zealand at an early age and worked in Wellington as a jeweller. A top-order batsman, he played ten matches for Wellington between 1929-30 and 1936-37 scoring 282 runs at 14.84. The highlight of his career came in December 1935 when he was in the Wellington side which beat the touring MCC by 14 runs.
Ward was also an accomplished rugby player for the state before his career was ended in 1933 by a badly-broken ankle.
He had no children but his nephew said he had been "a bit of a larrikin" in his earlier days "but he never had a bad word for anyone and always had a smile on his face".
The longest-lived cricketer remains Derbyshire's Jim Hutchinson, who was 196 days older than Ward when he died in 2000.

England keeper Keith Andrew dies

Keith Andrew, who died on December 27 aged 81, kept wicket twice for England in a career which spanned 14 seasons between 1953 and 1966.
Both his appearances were marked by England slumping to heavy defeats. His debut came at Brisbane in 1954-55 when Godfrey Evans, whose presence was the largely the reason Andrew played so little, was incapacitated. It was an ordeal by fire as Australia ran up over 600 and England wilted, losing the Test by an innings. His second appearance was nine years later, against West Indies, and again he kept during a 500+ innings, conceding three byes.
With other wicketkeeper-batsmen, especially John Murray, to the fore, Andrew's relative inability with the bat counted heavily against him in the minds of the selectors. Always tidy, if not spectacular, behind the stumps, he also captained Northamptonshire for five years with success, steering them to eighth, seventh, third, second and fifth places in the Championship. In 1965 he kept seven matches (900+ runs and 2132 runs) without conceding a bye.
In 390 first-class matches Andrew scored 4230 runs at 13.38 as well as taking 723 catches and making 181 stumpings.
He was made an honorary member of the MCC after retirement, and for a period was NCA director of coaching

Spot-fixing hearing endgame begins

The endgame has begun at the ICC's hearing into the spot-fixing inquiry involving three players from Pakistan. The anti-corruption tribunal will hear closing statements from the ICC and lawyers for Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir from Monday and is expected to reach a verdict on Tuesday.
Sunday, day four of the hearings taking place in Doha, Qatar, began with the completion of the cross-examination of former captain Butt by the ICC's lawyers. The focus then shifted to Amir who presented his defence, questioned first by his lawyer Shahid Karim before Jonathon Taylor and Ian Higgins, the ICC's lawyers, began their questioning; Amir used an interpreter, who was present through the hearings.
It is believed that the broad strategy of Amir's defence relies on the burden of proof being on the ICC to prove their case. Indications throughout, reinforced by those familiar with the case, have been that a previously unblemished disciplinary record, and his youth, might be played upon to buffer against potential sanctions; the possibility of precisely such mitigating circumstances is present in the ICC's anti-corruption code of conduct.
Such a strategy would be, legal practitioners in Pakistan observe, entirely in keeping with Karim's reputation as an astute litigation expert. Nevertheless, Amir's day of questioning is thought to have been middling, neither disastrous nor outstanding for his prospects.
But as the days pass and a picture of proceedings slowly emerges from a hearing which has, in the fullest sense, been held behind closed doors, it appears that the equation between Butt and Asif could be vital to how events pan out.
Already it has played a part. In their opening remarks on the first day, it was reported by the BBC, Asif and Butt's reasons behind the deliberate, pre-planned no-balls allegedly bowled in the Lord's Test last year differed. It also emerged that Butt, as well as being cross-examined by the ICC's lawyers, was also questioned by Asif's lawyer Alexander Cameron. Significantly, Amir was not questioned by either Butt's or Asif's lawyer on Sunday.
Butt's own defence had what was described as a "tough" cross-examination on Saturday. There are suggestions also that the questioning of one particular witness by Butt's lawyer Yasin Patel earlier in the hearing may have hurt his client's stance. In any case, the equation is likely to become clearer on Monday, when Asif begins his defence and will presumably be open to questioning by the ICC as well as Patel.
Butt and Amir left together at the end of a day that extended nearly half an hour beyond its scheduled time. Asif, as has become usual, was the last to leave and he arrived on Sunday nearly one and a half hours before the hearing began at its scheduled time of 9 30am.
After Asif completes his defence, both the ICC and the players' lawyers will be expected to make their closing statements - and the former appear perky enough ahead of it - before the three-man tribunal of Michael Beloff QC, Justice Albie Sachs and Sharad Rao deliberate over the verdicts

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The KFC Twenty20 Big Bash 2010/11.

Fixtures:

Thu Dec 30
09:30 GMT | 17:30 local
17:30 WST | 20:00 CST | 20:30 EST Western Australia v Tasmania
Western Australia Cricket Association Ground, Perth N/A

Sun Jan 2
08:00 GMT | 19:00 local
16:00 WST | 18:30 CST | 19:00 EST Victoria v Queensland
Melbourne Cricket Ground N/A

Tue Jan 4
08:30 GMT | 19:00 local
16:30 WST | 19:00 CST | 19:30 EST South Australia v New South Wales
Adelaide Oval N/A

Fri Jan 7
09:00 GMT | 19:00 local
17:00 WST | 19:30 CST | 20:00 EST Queensland v Tasmania
Brisbane Cricket Ground, Woolloongabba, Brisbane N/A

Sat Jan 8
08:30 GMT | 19:00 local
16:30 WST | 19:00 CST | 19:30 EST South Australia v Victoria
Adelaide Oval N/A

Sun Jan 9
08:00 GMT | 19:00 local
16:00 WST | 18:30 CST | 19:00 EST New South Wales v Western Australia
Stadium Australia, Sydney N/A

Tue Jan 11
08:00 GMT | 19:00 local
16:00 WST | 18:30 CST | 19:00 EST Tasmania v Victoria
Bellerive Oval, Hobart N/A

Thu Jan 13
09:30 GMT | 17:30 local
17:30 WST | 20:00 CST | 20:30 EST Western Australia v South Australia
Western Australia Cricket Association Ground, Perth N/A

Sat Jan 15
09:00 GMT | 19:00 local
17:00 WST | 19:30 CST | 20:00 EST Queensland v New South Wales
Brisbane Cricket Ground, Woolloongabba, Brisbane N/A

Tue Jan 18
09:30 GMT | 17:30 local
17:30 WST | 20:00 CST | 20:30 EST Western Australia v Victoria
Western Australia Cricket Association Ground, Perth N/A

Wed Jan 19
08:00 GMT | 19:00 local
16:00 WST | 18:30 CST | 19:00 EST New South Wales v Tasmania
Stadium Australia, Sydney N/A

Thu Jan 20
08:30 GMT | 19:00 local
16:30 WST | 19:00 CST | 19:30 EST South Australia v Queensland
Adelaide Oval N/A

Sat Jan 22
08:00 GMT | 19:00 local
16:00 WST | 18:30 CST | 19:00 EST Victoria v New South Wales
Melbourne Cricket Ground N/A

Mon Jan 24
08:00 GMT | 19:00 local
16:00 WST | 18:30 CST | 19:00 EST Tasmania v South Australia
Bellerive Oval, Hobart N/A

Tue Jan 25
09:00 GMT | 19:00 local
17:00 WST | 19:30 CST | 20:00 EST Queensland v Western Australia
Brisbane Cricket Ground, Woolloongabba, Brisbane N/A

Thu Jan 27
08:00 GMT | 19:00 local
16:00 WST | 18:30 CST | 19:00 EST Tasmania v Western Australia
Bellerive Oval, Hobart N/A

Fri Jan 28
08:00 GMT | 19:00 local
16:00 WST | 18:30 CST | 19:00 EST Victoria v South Australia
Melbourne Cricket Ground N/A

Sat Jan 29
08:00 GMT | 19:00 local
16:00 WST | 18:30 CST | 19:00 EST New South Wales v Queensland
Stadium Australia, Sydney N/A

Tue Feb 1 Preliminary Final - TBC v TBC
Venue TBC N/A

Sat Feb 5 Final - TBC v TBC
Venue TBC

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