Saturday, January 22, 2011

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Good Week, Bad Week

Sachin Tendulkar, Jacques Kallis, Ricky Ponting, Mike Hussey, Stuart Broad, Zaheer Khan and Graeme Swann are just some of the players whose World Cup participation has been in some doubt over the last seven days as the absurd calendar takes its toll.
The bad news is that further players will certainly fall before the tournament starts despite the naming of provisional squads this week.
The good news is that the tournament has shrewdly built in a 44-game warm-up circuit before the real business begins with the quarter-finals. Key men need only be ready for the three matches crammed into nine days at the end of March.
Life Begins At 40?
Four decades since the first one-day international and plenty of silliness for the anniversary at the MCG. The boom in twenty20 has made a mockery of the infamous New Zealand v Australia fancy dress that marked the inaugural international in 2005, yet there was retro revival in Melbourne on Sunday.
Just a bit of fun or an indication that the 50-over format is no longer all that serious? It has been said widely that its future rests on a good World Cup.
But why? The number of 50-over games has declined somewhat in the last few years to make room for T20Is, but it remains far higher than in the first 25 years of one-day cricket. Sure the calendar could stand to lose a few matches but it maintains an appeal as a sporting and commercial spectacle.
If anything the problem is the other way around: it is the World Cup that is in trouble, and a good run of 50-over cricket is badly needed to save it. The last three instalments have been a shambles and the next in 2015 promises to be the worst yet.
One-day cricket will retain a large and interested audience, though perhaps at 40 overs. The World Cup cannot count on the same unless it does something to merit our commitment.
Bad week for...
Xavier Doherty
When the left-armer is the highest profile player to be dropped by Australia, you have to wonder how serious their challenge is.
Shaun Tait is unfazed - indeed he doesn't seem sure the holders need a spinner alongside himself, Brett Lee, Mitchell Johnson and Doug Bollinger.
'If you put that pace attack up against any in the world and I think it comes out No. 1," says Tait.
A first Test series win since 2006 should send a well-balanced squad to the World Cup with an added sense of coherence and confidence.
Unfortunately, that squad doesn't have a captain. Coach Waqar Younis has put forward the opinion that the PCB might select a captain sooner rather than later.
How did the lads react? By appointing a captain? Tush!
They have issued a notice demanding that Waqar explain his comments in view of a contractual obligation never to criticise the powers that be.
They remain the blazers to watch in 2011.

Marsh, Bollinger see Aussies go two-nil up

Shaun Marsh marked his return to ODI cricket with a match-winning century as Australia beat England by 46 runs in the second one-dayer in Hobart.
Marsh's second ODI ton saw the home side recover from 33 for four and then 142 for eight to post 230 all out. In response England were reduced to 184 all out, with Doug Bollinger claiming four for 28 to add to his batting contribution of 30 runs as Austalia took a two-nil series advantage in the seven-match affair.
Rain on Friday morning in Hobart had threatened to delay the start of play, but by the sun emerged and the action got underway as scheduled. England made two changes to their side from Sunday's opening ODI at the MCG, while Australia brought in three new players with the dust settling on the World Cup picks of the past week. For the tourists Matt Prior took the gloves from Steven Davies, while the injured Graeme Swann was replaced by James Tredwell. For Australia Nathan Hauritz, Shaun Tait and Marsh came in for Xavier Doherty, Mitchell Johnson and Mike Hussey respectively.
On winning the toss Andrew Strauss opted to take advantage of the early movement available at the Bellerive Oval, with his opening pair of bowlers vindicating his decision.
Ajmal Shahzad (three for 43) and Chris Tremlett (three for 22) were clinical with the new ball as Australia crept to 21 for three after the first 10 overs. Shahzad struck twice to dismiss both opening batsmen in similar fashion, with dangerman Shane Watson first to go and Brad Haddin following soon after, both batsmen edging onto their own stumps.
A bowling change brought further success for England, with Tim Bresnan's first over yielding the wicket of Michael Clarke for 10. The Aussie skipper's horrid run of form continued with the first bad ball of the day, cut straight into the grateful hands of Ian Bell at point. Tremlett was rewarded shortly after with his first wicket of the day, Dave Hussey snared by a fine Andrew Strauss catch, as the home side found themselves in a heap of trouble at 33 for four.
Cameron White, made to battle a nasty blow to the fingers, was uncharacteristically reserved as he went about rebuilding the innings with number-six batsman Marsh. The left-handed Marsh missed out on World Cup selection earlier this week but his impressive Big Bash form was enough to earn him a call-up for the ODI series in place of the injured Hussey.
Made to bat down the order instead of his preferred spot as an opener, the 27-year old looked comfortable from the start of his knock to share in an invaluable stand of 100 with White. The pair were let off the hook by Strauss, who, early in their stand, removed his seamers and brought Jonathan Trott into the attack in an experiment geared towards the World Cup. The move backfired for the England captain, with his spin pair of James Tredwell and Michael Yardy also proving largely ineffective.
Yardy, however, was able to remove White for 45 and the wicket triggered another clutch of quick scalps. Steve Smith, Nathan Hauritz and Brett Lee all continued the trend of getting out to poor strokes and at 142 for eight Australia were once again in huge trouble.
With Marsh still at the crease, Bollinger, with an ODI batting best of three runs, was required to simply hang around with a full 13 overs of the innings still remaining. Instead the Australian number 10 produced a remarkable knock as he clobbered 30 from 30 balls in a stand of 88 with Marsh. The duo claimed 36 runs from the batting Powerplay before Marsh hit two fours and a six off consecutive deliveries to power to his second ODI ton.
Chris Tremlett returned to claim the wickets of both batsmen with consecutive deliveries, but by then the recovery had been complete with Australia finishing 230 all out.
England would still have been confident of chasing down the target, even after losing Prior for a duck in the third over. Bollinger then made a second major impression on the game with a double-strike in his second over to remove Strauss lbw and Kevin Pietersen for a first-ball duck.
At 36 for three, Ian Bell joined Trott and the pair laboured to a 47-run stand from 15 overs, increased the pressure on all the batsmen to come. Both batsmen got out for 32, but with a long batting line-up England were still in the contest with the run-rate still below the six-an-over mark.
Eoin Morgan and Michael Yardy threatened briefly, but with Morgan (21) caught by a fantastic effort by Tait in the outfield and Yardy (22) run out due to his own ill-judgement the tourists hopes of victory faded. Bollinger returned to bag two more wickets and and Shahzad was the last man out, with England finishing 46 runs short and a full five overs unused.
Australia's victory was soured slightly by the double injury blow to Hauritz and Shaun Tait. Hauritz dislocated his right shoulder and had to leave the field, while Tait was forced to pull up in the middle of an over due to a groin strain

Southee demolishes Pakistan

Tim Southee took five for 33 and Jesse Ryder smashed 55 from 34 balls as New Zealand thrashed Pakistan by nine wickets in the first one-day international in Wellington.
Pakistan won the toss and elected to bat at the Westpac Stadium, but were dismissed for just 124 in 37.3 overs.
And the home side cruised to their victory target with more than 32 overs to spare to take a 1-0 lead in the six-match series.
Southee took the first three wickets to fall as Pakistan slumped to 29 for three and were never able to recover.
There was plenty of help in the pitch for the home bowlers and Hamish Bennett took three for 26 after threatening to complete a hat-trick.
Mohammad Hafeez (nought) was the first man to go, Southee luring him into an edge behind to wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum, and Kamran Akmal soon followed to leave Pakistan in early trouble.
Southee claimed his third wicket in fortunate circumstances when Asad Shafiq was given out lbw, television replays showing the ball would have comfortably bounced over the stumps.
Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq steadied the ship as they had done in the drawn second Test earlier this week, Younis making 24 from 35 balls before falling to Bennett.
Bennett then dismissed Umar Akmal for a golden duck but wasted his chance of a hat-trick with a terrible wide bouncer at new man Shahid Afridi.
Afridi made 15 and Misbah 50 from 88 balls before being last man out to give Southee his fifth wicket, but only three Pakistan players had made double figures in a massively sub-par total.
Any hopes of defending that total disappeared as Ryder and Martin Guptill put on 84 for the first New Zealand wicket, including 50 from the first six overs before tea.
Ryder in particular was in no mood to hang around as he hit six fours and two sixes before being caught off the bowling of Sohail Tanvir.
Guptill (40 not out) and Ross Taylor (23 not out) saw New Zealand home from just 17.2 overs and captain Daniel Vettori said: "It was a good performance, I think we bowled extremely well.
"There was probably more in the pitch than we thought. Tim Southee set it up for us with how he swung the ball. So far in this whole Pakistan series he has bowled very well."

Proteas set up Centurion finale

South Africa set up a potentially thrilling climax to the one-day series against India when they levelled the contest with a rain-affected 48-run victory at St. George's Park on Friday night.
Virat Kohli hit a sublime 87 not out for India, exhibiting the best strokeplay seen all series, but his fellow batsmen struggled in the face of a target of 266 and they were 142 for six when rain brought a premature end to the match.
The result means the two sides will go to Centurion for the final one-dayer on Sunday with the series tied at two matches apiece.
Although they recorded a comfortable victory in the end thanks to a disciplined bowling performance, the Proteas will still breathe a sigh of relief after a period of madness saw them lose four wickets for 12 runs in the space of four overs.
Two of those were needless run outs, and the middle-order collapse nearly saw them throw away a solid start of 106 for one after Hashim Amla had stroked his way to 64.
However Johan Botha (44) joined JP Duminy (71 not out) to add an air of calm to the batting, and the duo put on a partnership of 70 before Botha became Yuvraj Singh's third victim of the day.
In the week that he was named in South Africa's World Cup squad, Robin Peterson showed his batting abilities with a useful 31 before sacrificing his wicket in a mix-up with Duminy, leaving Dale Steyn to keep the latter company as the Proteas finished their 50 overs on 265 for seven.
That was about 25 runs more than what most deemed to be a good score on a sluggish wicket, and only Kohli truly threatened to make the contest a close one.
Openers Rohit Sharma and Parthiv Patel were ejected by Lonwabo Tsotsobe in the opening 10 overs, while a tight bowling performance saw India crawl to 32 for two in that time.
The visitors were always behind the required run rate, and the pressure created proved too much.
Yuvraj Singh hammered one six over long-on off Johan Botha, only for the off-spinner to respond by adjusting his length to have the left-hander brilliantly caught by Graeme Smith as an attempted paddle shot looped up in the air.
Suresh Raina got himself in, but two wickets in quick succession from Peterson pinned India right back, before Morne Morkel (one for 13 from six overs) produced a beauty to have the dangerous Yusuf Pathan caught behind.
That left India flagging on 128 for six and although Kohli continued to bat as if there was nothing untoward at the other end, the rain denied him what was likely to be classy, albeit fruitless century.
After a delay of 50 minutes the players were able to emerge from the dressing rooms and resume, but the action lasted just eight deliveries before another shower had the final say on the match, with the Proteas winning by a Duckworth-Lewis adjusted margin.
The only concern as the series goes to Centurion all square is the weather, with recent flooding and a dubious forecast threatening to ruin Sunday's match.

Friday, January 21, 2011

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Why Pakistan will win the World Cup

I had originally thought of writing a snarkfest on the inquiry in Doha. But on full reflection that comedy of stitch-ups can be dismissed with the swiftness of a Sehwag innings in South Africa. For, once again, the ICC have bungled it.
This little trial, with its officialdom and orderly calm, has had just the one plus point: the chance for three sportsmen to wear suits. (I am convinced sports stars don the two-piece and collar and tie at the first opportunity, to convince their mothers they have proper jobs.)
The ICC's main man, Michael Beloff, is fully deserving of his QC status, but this is like sending the world's best hostage negotiator to ask a six-year-old to return a McDonalds Happy Meal toy to his younger brother. This is playing with a straight bat when you need a reverse sweep over short third man for six. This is keeping it un-deceptively simple, and this is not going to work.
You want the truth from the fumbling, fudging, fibbing trio of Butt, Amir and Asif? Try this: put them in a room, one after the other, with Imran Khan. No one-way mirror, no lawyers, no Holy Quran for them to swear on. Just a table and two chairs. Let Imran ask the questions, flanked on one side by Javed Miandad, dressed in prison-guard uniform, and on the other, firmly in front of the exit door, Inzamam-ul-Haq, wielding one of those illegally wide tape-ball bats. The truth shall not just prevail but burst forth from the accuseds' lips like they were on Mount Olympus faced with the wrath of all the gods.
Having brushed aside legal minutiae with a sweep as easy and quick as Alastair Cook against whoever it was that bowled spin for the Aussies these past few weeks, let me tell you why Pakistan are going to win the World Cup.
Never before has this nation been so cornered and so gagging for sharp-toothed tigers. With this team, however, I think Pakistan, so often heralded as the unpredictables, but this time totally unfancied, will go all the way. These are my 11 men to snatch the cup from an unsuspecting world:
Kamran Akmal
Has hustled the entire world into thinking he is either a cheat or incompetent or both. It is all part of a four-and-a-half year masterstroke by the PCB and Kamran himself. For he is still there and he will make the World Cup and he will remind the world just how good we thought he was going to be back in early 2006.
Mohammad Hafeez
This man has survived a torrential storm of abuse from Shahid Afridi and come out alive. That takes some spunk, so no wonder he is now Pakistan's most reliable batsman. For those who don't get the reference, and who are over 18, type "afridi hafeez" in Youtube.
Younis Khan
This Khan is just pissed off that the best cricketer called Khan in the world right now is, apparently, an Indian. Oh dear, cricket world. You've said it now. Younis is a nice man, a wonderful man, the best of men, but some things cannot be forgiven.
This spot might ultimately be taken by one of the young guns - perhaps Asad Shafiq or Azhar Ali. But I want to see Misbah there. The Quiet Man of Pakistani cricket just broke his voice with the Test captaincy. No more last-ball scoop-sweeps. It'll be over well before then as Misbah combines MBA-trained calculation with straight drives over long-off. Inshallah.
Umar Akmal
I once thought him the new Viv Richards. I still do. Maybe I shouldn't drink so much and listen to all that psychedelic reggae.
Shahid Afridi
This mentalist plays well in India. Maybe it's the flat tracks, maybe the Indian actresses in the hotel lobbies, maybe it's the water and how it poofs his hair just right. Who cares? In India he is going to clear up because he always does.
Abdur Razzaq
Razzaq is the sniper of Pakistan cricket. He waits and waits (and we wait and wait) and then suddenly he kills the enemy general and wins the war. Opposition teams, with your plans and strategies and laptops, tell me this: what can you do about the killer you don't even see till he finishes you with a lethal blow?
Abdur Rehman
A year ago everyone (at least all my cousins) said Saeed Ajmal was the best limited-overs spinner in the world. Now Rehman takes the slot. Oh, how much can change in a year. Admittedly Mike Hussey is the main reason for this changeover, but Rehman does look pretty decent.
Wahab Riaz
Lahore has a new lion. Look at this guy prowl around, whether with bat or ball in hand. He has no discernible talent, and judging from the News of the World story, he is not a particularly discerning judge of character. It matters not. This man will be the star of the World Cup. You heard it here first. (You also must have heard that Page 2 is satire.)

Umar Gul
I have to say I do not understand Gul. He takes this Pakistani thing of swaying from great to godawful to extreme lengths. So if it's the latter, Pakistan can bring in Sohail Tanvir, the man who is such a big swinger he should've been born in the sixties.
Shoaib Akhtar
Like a cockroach, he never dies. Like a cockroach, he will crawl all over the subcontinent, making tough men back away like little girls, and then he will scamper around in limb-stretched celebration.
12th Man. Asad Shafiq
I have it on good authority that Shafiq is the most promising water-carrier since Didier Deschamps. In a hot subcontinental March, this will be the difference between dry-lipped gazes at the cup from a distance and drinking from it greedily, tasting the sweet nectar of victory, and awaking fresh from a five-year nightmare.

Historic series win beckons India

India are on the verge of a rare series win in a land where they have their worst win-loss record. Prior to this series, they had just won just three ODIs against South Africa in South Africa. It was that bleak. The start to this series hinted at more of the same as they capitulated against bounce in Durban. However, they bounced back in style, with a little bit of help from South Africa, to go 2-1 up.
The last pieces of the World Cup puzzle are slowly falling in place too. Yusuf Pathan sealed the No. 7 slot with a violent knock, and Virat Kohli continues to put pressure for a spot in the top order with impressive performances. It's the opening position that seems a bit wasted on players who aren't in the World Cup squad. And neither M Vijay nor Rohit Sharma has seized their chances. Vijay has combusted cheaply and Rohit has looked out of the depth. Will India replace one of them with Parthiv Patel in the next game? Rohit might stay for he offers an extra option with his offbreaks.
South Africa have lost two in a row now but there have been a couple of positives: JP Duminy played two responsible knocks and is beginning to show that he can lead the lower order through crisis situations and Faf du Plessis showed promise. He played a responsible and restrained knock in the last ODI and will have two more games to show his hitting prowess. Albie Morkel, who was drafted in for the last two games, has since been released from the squad, leaving South Africa without a suitable all-round option to replace the struggling Wayne Parnell. They may be forced to stop shielding legspinner Imran Tahir against India and give him a chance to prove his worth.
Form guide

South Africa: LLWWL
India: WWLWW

Pakistan favourites against unsettled hosts

Pakistan are in a pleasantly unfamiliar position, that of beginning a series as the favourites. In their last two one-day series, they managed to stretch far stronger opponents than New Zealand - England and South Africa - to the limit, while also dealing with an unending list of controversies on the side. This time, however, they have almost no distractions; the delay in the naming of the World Cup captain is almost a non-issue for a side that is used to anarchy. They have also managed to put the spot-fixing hearings out of their mind and, instead of making a big deal about the delay in the verdict, they have shown signs of moving on.
Misbah-ul-Haq deserves some of the credit for the newfound stability. Critics questioned the side's approach when their batsmen played for a draw in the final session of the Wellington Test, led by Misbah at his obdurate best. But the fact of the matter is that Pakistan sides of earlier vintage would invariably have gone after the target, only to collapse in a heap and concede the series lead. Pakistan can do with a dose of such calmness in the one-dayers too, yet Shahid Afridi's return to the helm of affairs will offer a counterpoint. The interplay between the two men - Misbah has been named vice-captain of the ODI side - promises to form an interesting sub-plot to this series, and the results could decide who will eventually lead Pakistan in the World Cup.
New Zealand have far bigger questions to address before they can think of the big event. They haven't won an ODI in 11 successive attempts, and John Wright knows only a radical change in approach and team combination can pull his side out of the rut. With batting in the middle overs being a major source of worry, Wright has already decided to change things around - Brendon McCullum will take guard at No. 6, breaking his successful association with Jesse Ryder at the top. Jacob Oram returns to the side, while James Franklin promises stability, so New Zealand have the pedigree to turn the corner. Will they kick the losing habit in Wellington?
Form guide

New Zealand: LLLLL
Pakistan: LWLWL
Players to watch out for …
New Zealand saw Abdul Razzaq at his menacing best in the third Twenty20, which preceded the Tests. In November last year, he smashed the South Africa attack in Abu Dhabi in one of the most stunning one-day innings of all-time. Razzaq's methods may not work too often, but when they do, they turn games in a matter of minutes. His smart assortment of legcutters and slower balls could also pose New Zealand problems on wickets that have tended to be slow and spongy in recent times.
Brendon McCullum is being sent down to No. 6, specifically to take advantage of the batting Powerplay. He has only played six of his 152 ODI innings at that position, though he has had reasonable success at Nos. 7 and 8. Like Razzaq, McCullum is an impact player, but he will go up against some of the smartest end-overs practitioners in the game, namely Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal and the irrepressible Shoaib Akhtar.
Team news
New Zealand have announced their XI, giving seamer Hamish Bennett a game and benching Jamie How. Martin Guptill will open the innings alongside Jesse Ryder, while McCullum will resume duty behind the stumps.
New Zealand: 1 Jesse Ryder, 2 Martin Guptill, 3 Ross Taylor, 4 Scott Styris, 5 James Franklin, 6 Brendon McCullum (wk), 7 Jacob Oram, 8 Daniel Vettori (capt), 9 Nathan McCullum, 10 Tim Southee, 11 Hamish Bennett
Pakistan are yet to finalise the XI, but have announced that Kamran Akmal will be opening their innings. If Wahab Riaz continues to suffer from the flu that curtailed his participation in the second Test, Sohail Tanvir could get a chance.
Pakistan (probable): 1 Kamran Akmal (wk), 2 Mohammad Hafeez, 3 Younis Khan, 4 Misbah-ul-Haq, 5 Umar Akmal, 6 Shahid Afridi (capt), 7 Abdul Razzaq, 8 Umar Gul, 9 Abdur Rehman / Saeed Ajmal, 10 Wahab Riaz / Sohail Tanvir, 11 Shoaib Akhta

Marsh and Bollinger star in Australian victory

Shaun Marsh wasn't deemed good enough to be in Australia's World Cup squad, but in his first outing as Mike Hussey's injury replacement he cracked a brilliant hundred to lift his team from a hopeless position to 46-run victory at Hobart. Marsh's 110 rescued the hosts from two collapses, then England put together a poor run chase as Doug Bollinger completed a fine all-round match with four wickets.
Australia's top order slumped to 4 for 33 and, following a 100-run stand between Marsh and Cameron White, they slipped to 8 for 142, before Marsh turned the game on its head. But his matchwinning effort wouldn't have been possible without Bollinger, who showed previously unknown batting prowess to hit 30 in an Australia record ninth-wicket stand of 88.
Marsh was given a life on 61 when Ajmal Shahzad dropped a return chance and went from 84 to 101 in the space of one Michael Yardy over, the 45th of the innings, with two boundaries through midwicket followed by a six in the same direction to bring up his hundred from 101 balls. The run chase should still have been within England's grasp but they never formed a solid foundation.
Bollinger was key to that when he extracted Andrew Strauss and Kevin Pietersen with consecutive balls. Strauss was struck on the back leg and was happy to take the umpire's lbw verdict, only to be talked into a wasted review by Jonathan Trott. Pietersen then got an inside into the stumps, although Bollinger missed a hat-trick when Ian Bell pulled wide of short fine-leg.
Bollinger later returned to snuff out any last-ditch charge from the lower order when he had Tim Bresnan, batting with a runner due to a calf strain, caught at third man and trapped James Tredwell lbw in a performance that has confirmed his World Cup credentials.
However, Australia's victory came at a cost. Nathan Hauritz suffered what appeared to be a dislocated shoulder when he dived in the outfield, and it was shocking luck for a player making his first appearance since the start of the Ashes. He left the field and went straight to hospital in serious pain. A short while later, Shaun Tait limped out of the attack five balls into his sixth over having pulled a muscle in his left thigh.
England's innings had made a poor start when Matt Prior marked his recall in opposite style to Marsh with a third-ball duck when he edged Brett Lee to first slip. There was no shortage of pace from the Australia attack and Trott had no clue about the bouncer from Tait which he gloved over the slips.
However, Trott and Bell began to settle the run chase only for it all to come unravelling as the evening closed in on Hobart's first floodlit one-day international. After the fire and brimstone from the quicks, the sight of Steve Smith would have been a signal to increase the tempo but instead Trott pulled his second ball straight to midwicket.
With Michael Clarke sensing a crucial moment he recalled Lee, who snaffled Bell with a wide delivery that was cut to point. It continued the trend in the early stages of this series of England handing Australia wickets on a plate. Yardy and Eoin Morgan suggested a fightback and their pair opted for the Powerplay in the 34th over only for Morgan to be superbly caught by Tait running towards the boundary and Yardy run out.
England will ask themselves some serious questions about how they twice let Australia off the hook. The pick of the attack was Chris Tremlett, another World Cup discard, who claimed 3 for 22 and Ajmal Shahzad also claimed three but the problem came in a lack of incisive support for the three main quick bowlers with the absence of James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann.
This was the same England pace attack that played against Australia A here in November when they were classed as the reserve unit to the Test trio, but with Anderson and Broad still away from the squad they are currently the main men. Shahzad found early swing and took Watson's inside edge into the stumps with Brad Haddin following in similar fashion as he tried to drive.
That left the out-of-form Clarke under pressure to steady the innings. It was a situation made for Test-style batting and Clarke battled against the moving ball without ever threatening fluency except for one flick over midwicket off Shahzad. However, the manner of his dismissal won't have done him any favours when he slapped a wide ball straight cover to leave Australia 3 for 21.
David Hussey was then well caught in the gully when he fended at Tremlett. Without his brother to guide a rescue mission Australia needed someone else to bail them out of trouble. The innings was first revived by White, who was struck a painful blow on the glove by Tremlett early on, and Marsh as they negotiated the tough period before cashing in against the reduced threat of England's spinners. Marsh did an excellent impression of the man he has replaced, Mike Hussey, as he latched onto anything loose and showed good footwork.
White is more of a stand-and-deliver batsman and they formed a productive pair which also benefited from the left-right-hand combination that made life tougher for the bowlers. The momentum was just switching to Australia with White using his feet to elegantly drive Yardy through the covers, but next ball pushed back a return catch on 45.
That began Australia's second slide of the innings and when Lee missed a straight ball from Yardy the end was coming quickly, but confidence is slowly returning to this team and they hauled themselves off the floor in emphatic style.

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

World Cup 2011: Afridi not happy with selectors decision

KARACHI: Pakistan's one-day captain Shahid Afridi on Friday questioned national selectors' decision to drop senior players Shoaib Malik and Kamran Akmal from the squad for New Zealand tour, saying that it would affect preparations for the 2011 World Cup.
"I am definitely not happy with the way we are preparing for this mega event. I think we need to have experienced players like Kamran Akmal and Shoaib Malik in the team (for the New Zealand tour)," Afridi told reporters.
The outspoken all-rounder said that the media should ask the Pakistan Cricket Board and selectors why Kamran and Malik were not included in the squad.

"I think the media should ask the board because we need experience players for a major tournament like the World Cup and you can't expect to go into such a big event with a young and inexperienced side," Afridi said.

The national selectors ignored senior players Kamran, Malik, Rana Naved and Danish Kaneria while announcing the Test and Twenty20 teams for the New Zealand tour starting this month.

Afridi also urged the selectors to announce a pool of players for the World Cup as soon as possible so that the players could gel together and start preparing for the mega event.

"We need to work with a pool of players as soon as possible," he said.

Afridi declined to make any predictions about how Pakistan would perform in the World Cup next year being held in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

"In modern day cricket, it is very difficult to make any predictions about who will win the World Cup. I know people don't have much expectations from us in the World Cup but I am positive about our performance and I will back my players to do well, even the younger ones," he stated.

Asked about the exclusion of Mohammad Yousuf from the Pakistan Twenty20 and Test squads for the New Zealand tour, the flamboyant all-rounder was quick to point out that the senior batsman did not deserve a place in the T20 team while as far as why he was not selected in the Test team, he (Afridi) had nothing to do with Test cricket.

Asked about bookmaker Mazhar Majeed's claims of having ties with Pakistan players, Afridi pointed out that he had no issues at all since he had never done anything wrong in his cricket career

World Cup 2011:Final 15 men squads of All 14 teams for WC 2011

New Delhi: Most World Cup teams have opted for experience with many risking injured players for the upcoming tournament to be played in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
The deadline for the 14 teams to announce their final 15-man squads to the International Cricket Council ended on Wednesday ahead of the February 19 start of the event.
Final squads of the 14 participating teams:
Ricky Ponting (capt), Michael Clarke, Doug Bollinger, Brad Haddin, John Hastings, Nathan Hauritz, David Hussey, Mike Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Brett Lee, Tim Paine, Steve Smith, Shaun Tait, Shane Watson, Cameron White.
Shakib Al Hasan (captain), Tamim Iqbal, Imrul Kayes, Shariar Nafees, Zunaed Siddique, Mohammad Ashraful, Raqibul Hassan, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mahmudullah Riad, Abdur Razzak, Naeem Islam, Shafiul Islam, Suhrawardi Shuvo, Rubel Hossain, Nazmul Hossain.
Yet to announce.
Andrew Strauss (Captain), Jimmy Anderson, Ian Bell, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Paul Collingwood, Eoin Morgan, Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior, Ajmal Shahzad, Graeme Swann, James Tredwell, Jonathan Trott, Luke Wright, Michael Yardy.
MS Dhoni, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Piyush Chawla, Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel, Ashish Nehra, Praveen Kumar, Harbhajan Singh, Ravichandran Ashwin, Yusuf Pathan.
William Porterfield (captain), Andre Botha, Alex Cusack, George Dockrell, Trent Johnston, Nigel Jones, Ed Joyce, John Mooney, Kevin O'Brien, Niall O'Brien, Boyd Rankin, Paul Stirling, Albert van der Merwe, Gary Wilson, Andrew White.
Jimmy Kamande (captain), Seren Waters, Alex Obanda, David Obuya, Collins Obuya, Steve Tikolo, Tanmay Mishra, Rakep Patel, Morris Ouma, Thomas Odoyo, Nehemiah Odhiambo, Elijah Otieno, Peter Ongondo, Shem Ngoche, James Ngoche.
Peter Borren (c), Adeel Raja, Wesley Barresi (wk), Mudassar Bukhari, Atse Buurman (wk), Tom Cooper, Tom de Grooth, Alexei Kervezee, Bradley Kruger, Bernard Loots, Pieter Seelaar, Eric Szwarczynski, Ryan ten Doeschate, Berend Westdijk, Bas Zuiderent
New Zealand:
Daniel Vettori (captain), Brendon McCullum, Jesse Ryder, Jamie How, Martin Guptill, Ross Taylor, Scott Styris, Kane Williamson, James Franklin, Jacob Oram, Nathan McCullum, Tim Southee, Kyle Mills, Hamish Bennett, Luke Woodcock.
Shahid Afridi, Misbah-ul-Haq, Mohammad Hafeez, Kamran Akmal, Younis Khan, Asad Shafiq, Umar Akmal, Abdul Razzaq, Abdur Rehman, Saeed Ajmal, Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz, Sohail Tanveer, Ahmed Shahzad
South Africa:
Graeme Smith (captain), Hashim Amla, Johan Botha, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Colin Ingram, Jacques Kallis, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Robin Peterson, Dale Steyn, Imran Tahir, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Morne van Wyk.
Sri Lanka:
Kumar Sangakkara (c/wk), Mahela Jayawardene (vc), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Dilhara Fernando, Rangana Herath, Chamara Kapugedera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Angelo Mathews, Ajantha Mendis, Muttiah Muralitharan, Thisara Perera, Thilan Samaraweera, Chamara Silva, Upul Tharanga
West Indies:
Darren Sammy (captain), Adrian Barath, Carlton Baugh Jr., Sulieman Benn, Darren Bravo, Dwayne Bravo, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Chris Gayle, Nikita Miller, Kieron Pollard, Ravi Rampaul, Kemar Roach, Andre Russell, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Devon Smith.
Elton Chigumbura (c), Regis Chakabva, Charles Coventry, Graeme Cremer, Craig Ervine, Sean Ervine, Greg Lamb, Shingirai Masakadza, Chris Mpofu, Ray Price, Ed Rainsford, Tatenda Taibu (wk), Brendan Taylor, Prosper Utseya, Sean Williams

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

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Yusuf shines as India win thriller

Yusuf Pathan swung the game India's way with three brutal shots and Harbhajan Singh sealed the win with two violent game-breaking hits. Morne Morkel had threatened to derail India's chase with an inspired performance but it was India who held their nerve, and took a 2-1 lead in the series. India were 104 runs adrift of the target when Yusuf cemented his World Cup spot by biffing Johan Botha for three sixes in an over to push India ahead. When he fell, 39 runs short of the target, Harbhajan crashed Wayne Parnell and Morne for stunning sixes at vital moments of the chase to clinch the game, with 10 balls to spare.
India had lost five wickets and looked down for the count on a sluggish pitch where stroke-making wasn't easy when Yusuf launched a violent assault on Botha. He muscled three sixes, the last of which flew out of the stadium, to loot 19 runs in the 30th over. Yusuf added 75 runs with Suresh Raina, who threw his wicket away with a wild shot in the 37th over, before falling in the 40th to a stunning catch by Morne, who arched back to pouch an upper cut over his head at third man. His dismissal put South Africa ahead but Harbhajan seized the moment. He added 26 runs with Zaheer Khan before stitching together another 15 with Ashish Nehra to take India home. Harbhajan took the Powerplay in the 43rd over, smote Parnell for a six over wide mid-off in the 45th, and flat-batted Morne, bowling his last over, beyond long-off in the 47th to kill the contest.
Control was a loose concept during the match as whenever South Africa got ahead, India pulled them back and vice versa. In the end Yusuf's innings proved the difference. Yusuf's strength is his mental tenacity. His short-ball woes are well documented but he rarely lets a delivery in his hitting arc go unpunished. Unlike Raina, he doesn't hang back and expect bouncers every ball, and today, too, that temperament was on display.
Until that game-breaking 30th over bowled by Botha, it was South Africa who held the edge, courtesy of Morne. He dismissed the in-form Virat Kohli to put India in trouble early, later got rid of Raina to resuscitate fading hopes, and grabbed a stunning catch to dismiss Yusuf, but still had to end up on the losing side.
In hindsight, South Africa will feel they were 25 runs short. A shaky Graeme Smith was the reason South Africa dawdled at the start, and it was also due to him that they stayed afloat for a while. However, his dismissal in the 23rd over left them wobbling at 90 for 4, but JP Duminy and the debutant Faf du Plessis showed admirable maturity to revive the innings and give it respectability.
du Plessis' serenity under pressure was reflected by the fact that he hit his first boundary - a crisp cut off Yuvraj Singh - after he had reached 39. It's not a criticism but a tribute to his mature approach that there were just two shots that stood out in his innings: the first was that cut shot and the second, which came after his half-century, was a skillful one that hinted at a larger repertoire that he had deliberately held under check. He went down the track to Munaf Patel, adjusted to the slower one, and managed to punch it on the up and over mid-off. Mostly, he kept things risk-free like an experienced pro and dealt in calculated nudges and pushes. He brought up his half-century with a dab to the on side and brought up the century partnership with Duminy, in the 44th over, with a swatted pull through midwicket.
For his part, Duminy, who set off South Africa's collapse in the second ODI at the Bull Ring by holing out to long-on, too remained patient and worked the angles. He flicked and square drove and adjusted to the slow pace. The ball didn't come on to the bat neatly but he waited on the front foot, to steer and dab his way through the difficult period. However, both batsmen fell in the space of four deliveries, after they took the Batting Powerplay in the 45th over, and South Africa crumbled in the end overs, losing their last six wickets for 20 runs.
It was a torrid time for Smith, first against Zaheer, and soon against everyone. However, perhaps due to the brittle nature of the lower order, he never dared to hit his way out of trouble. During a sequence of 11 deliveries from Zaheer when he was beaten nine times, Smith actually looked at the bowler and smiled. There was a touch of embarrassment in it but it was also a smile of a man who seemed to have accepted the situation he was in; he chose to graft and was willing to look ugly from then on. Considering what happened in Johannesburg, where Smith made 77 but the batting collapse after he was out, it was perhaps the right thing to do as his team needed its leader to fight. Inspired by his grit, Duminy and du Plessis batted with care to propel South Africa to a fighting total but Yusuf and Harbhajan did enough to chase it down

Misbah, Younis set up drawn match and series win

Pakistan weathered a hostile opening spell that reduced them to 42 for 3 in the first hour, worked their way to safety in the second session, and made a half-hearted attempt to win the Test before settling for a draw that gave them the series 1-0. It was their first victory outside the subcontinent since the triumph in New Zealand in 2003-04, and their first anywhere since 2006-07. It was another impressive result for a team that has managed to hold its own on the field - with Test wins against England and Australia, and a drawn series against South Africa - despite facing a mountain of problems off it.
Pakistan's resistance was led by Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan for the second time in the match, after Chris Martin and Tim Southee had hustled out the top three. The action unraveled at a furious pace in the morning before settling into classic Test-match grind during the afternoon. New Zealand's woes were compounded by Daniel Vettori's disappointing show, on a pitch where even Mohammad Hafeez's part-time fare had turned viciously on day four. As things transpired, Pakistan adopted the path of complete caution, which ultimately left them short of time to push for a win against an attack that withered, despite a late surge from Vettori in his last Test as captain.
New Zealand's bowlers began in stark contrast to the manner in which they finished. Martin bounded in from wide of the crease and bent his inswingers into the right-handers, while Southee got his legcutters to straighten lethally. Their menacing rhythm crippled Pakistan's chase before they could find their bearings.
Taufeeq Umar succumbed first ball, as Southee got one to land on off stump, straighten and burst through the forward press to hit the back pad. Martin got the inswingers going, and mixed them cleverly to plant seeds of doubt in the batsmen's minds. Hafeez was conscious to push forward and negate the inward movement, but ended up groping for the ones that held their line. He played one off a thick outside edge through the covers, and survived a possible edge off Martin that umpire Rod Tucker did not spot.
Tempers frayed, and words were exchanged between Southee and Hafeez following a couple of pacy short balls that were dispatched to the boundary, but Martin plugged away without a fuss. Azhar Ali walked into a flick to be trapped by another inswinger, and Younis barely survived a couple of deliveries that whistled past his outside edge. Hafeez eventually ran out of luck, as Martin enticed him to edge one behind, and the dejected batsmen slapped his helmet with the bat in admonishment as he walked off.
Younis overcame the uncertain start to settle down with an assurance that justified his enviable fourth-innings record. With the ball losing its shine, Martin's inswing disappeared, allowing Younis to pick him for boundaries behind square, straight and through gully. Vettori held the key, but his ineffectiveness was epitomised by the fact that his only weapon was the quicker one that skidded through. Younis handled him with clear and decisive footwork, while Misbah resorted to playing inside the line with soft hands.
With the main bowlers failing in their opening spells after lunch, Vettori resorted to James Franklin who nearly produced the breakthrough. With the score on 108, Misbah carved him uppishly past the covers, his only major error on a day of immense resolve. On either side of that blemish, Misbah was so efficient that he was almost completely unnoticed. He only opened up with tea in sight, pulling and steering Southee off the back foot to take his side past 150.
Misbah's approach meant the spotlight was completely on Younis, and his trademark flourish shone through despite the dullness of the proceedings. His hallmark in the first innings was his shot selection, but today it was his judgment. Brent Arnel tested him with a slew of full deliveries, but Younis played him out before capitalising on a half-volley. When the spinners - Vettori and Martin Guptill - came back in search of turn, Younis pounced, stealing five boundaries to leave New Zealand worried. His dismissal at the stroke of tea, edging a harmless delivery behind, was completely out of character and against the run of play, and it decisively altered Pakistan's approach after the break.
The final session was an anti-climactic period of attrition, with both sides more anxious to avoid defeat than to push for a victory. With Younis gone, Misbah fastened the shutters he had already downed. Defending 114 in a minimum of 33.2 overs, New Zealand were not keen on a full frontal attack, either. Asad Shafiq was on a pair for 22 balls before opening his account with a six and a four through Vettori's open straight fields. He later unfurled a couple of pleasing hook shots when a tiring Southee pitched short. Misbah was not tempted so easily, scoring almost exclusively when he was fed on his pads, to move to his sixth successive half-century, three of them unbeaten.
Realising that Pakistan had shut shop, Vettori brought some fielders close in and removed Shafiq in the 84th over. It was the first time in the day that he had managed to look threatening, and it had come too late for his side. His loud appeals as the game sputtered to a close were in contrast to Misbah's unwavering calmness. The battle may have ended in stalemate, but Misbah had won the war for his side.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

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Pakistan squad for WC 2011

  Shahid Afridi, Misbah-ul-Haq, Mohammad Hafeez, Kamran Akmal (wk), Younis Khan, Asad Shafiq, Umar Akmal, Abdul Razzaq, Abdur Rehman, Saeed Ajmal, Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz, Sohail Tanvir, Ahmed Shehzad

Faf du Plessis debuts as SA bat

Graeme Smith chose to bat on a slow track in the third ODI against India in Cape Town. "We have to take responsibility for what happened in Johannesburg," Smith said at the toss. "But today is a fresh day and we will have to do well." India sneaked home by one run in the second ODI in Johannesburg and the five-match series is currently tied at 1-1 after South Africa won the first match in Durban.
There is some grass covering on the pitch but it is dry in nature. The experts reckon there might be some assistance for the bowlers but it could play a touch slow in nature, and also, aid some turn later.
South Africa have replaced David Miller with allrounder Faf du Plessis. MS Dhoni said that Rohit Sharma will open the batting and Yusuf Pathan will bat in the lower order.
India: 1 M Vijay, 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Suresh Raina, 6 Yusuf Pathan, 7 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 8 Harbhajan Singh, 9 Munaf Patel, 10 Zaheer Khan, 11 Ashish Nehra
South Africa: 1 Graeme Smith (capt), 2 Hashim Amla, 3 Colin Ingram, 4 AB de Villiers (wk), 5 JP Duminy, 6 Faf du Plessis, 7 Johan Botha, 8 Dale Steyn, 9 Wayne Parnell, 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Lonwabo Tsotsobe

New Zealand marginally ahead after riveting day

The Basin Reserve Test sparked into life on a fourth day filled with twists, turns and momentum shifts, as one side inadvertently pushed the other to swap game-plans several times. Pakistan began with unimaginative bowling at unacceptable over-rates, spread-out fields, and sloppy fielding. New Zealand cashed in, with their openers adding 120 enterprising runs, before Pakistan's spinners rallied to reduce them to 208 for 5. For the second time in the match, though, Ross Taylor responded with a composed innings to help his side recover despite an inspired sortie from Umar Gul before stumps.

With 273 to defend, New Zealand will begin as favourites on the last day, but Pakistan can take heart from the fact that seven years ago, they successfully chased the same target at this very ground. If they fall short, they will have their lacklustre start to the day to blame, a period when Brendon McCullum and Martin Guptill were allowed to dictate terms.

Pakistan's fast bowlers came out without intent, spraying the ball around and gifting easy boundaries as McCullum and Guptill settled in before Abdur Rehman came on. Rehman attacked the rough with a slip, silly point and short leg, with Adnan Akmal imploring him to bowl the 'magic ball'. One forceful shot from Guptill, a crunched back-foot cover drive, was enough for silly point to be removed. An over later, the magic ball came, stopping and turning sharply from leg stump to take Guptill's edge before landing in the now vacant silly-point region. Pakistan had paid for their lack of proactivity.

McCullum's eagerness to dominate was counterbalanced by the state of the match and New Zealand's recent batting woes. Rehman tossed them up, inviting the drive over mid-off, with men waiting close in for the edge. McCullum resisted, lunging forward to the flight, and working the odd arm-ball off the back foot to the leg side. Rehman almost broke through, getting McCullum to prod with hard hands, but Asad Shafiq dropped the chance, again at silly point. McCullum ran down the track to the next ball and clattered a flat six over long-off, before pulling a short ball for four more. Pakistan's best bowler had been negated, with some luck, but he was not done for the day.

Worried by the opening session, Pakistan came out with a plan in the second. Gul harried Guptill with bounce and movement, clunking his helmet with a bouncer in the first over after the break, and getting him to edge a legcutter in his second, but Adnan spilled the opportunity. Guptill altered his approach, hanging back in the crease, but resisting the impulse to pull.

Rehman eventually found a way past McCullum, luring him to miscue to long-off after beating him in the flight. The run-rate dropped and Pakistan finally found their voice as Guptill got into a tangle against some well-directed bouncers from Wahab Riaz, the biggest culprit in the day's no-ball stakes. Guptill barely survived the spell and then attacked Rehman, slicing an off-drive past a diving Tanvir Ahmed at mid-off, and teeing off down the ground for six. Rehman was not to be denied, though, and he eventually pinned Guptill in front with a skidder, an over after Kane Williamson had perished to an ungainly drive against Tanvir.

Jesse Ryder avoided a third successive first-ball duck but was bowled by Mohammad Hafeez off the first ball following a brief rain interruption. New Zealand suddenly were in strife, at what was effectively 172 for 4. For a brief while, Hafeez transformed into Muttiah Muralitharan, producing a few unplayable deliveries that had New Zealand befuddled and Pakistan worried. Taylor survived one that turned in a mile, and James Franklin wasn't good enough to edge another than turned across him and jumped over his stumps. He didn't last long, nicking Hafeez to Younis Khan at slip before Shafiq dropped another crucial chance, lunging late from short leg as Reece Young poked nervously.

Having taken a close look at Hafeez's fare, Taylor dug deep to reverse the momentum once again. He negated the spinners with assured feet, late shots and soft hands, frustrating them into drifting onto his legs. When they did, he moved his front pad decisively across to flick and sweep into his favourite scoring areas. His first boundary came after 45 balls of caution, by which time his discipline had tired Rehman into errors. Hafeez also lost his sting, and Taylor asserted himself with a trademark slog-sweep over midwicket. Young held his own with a straight bat and a steady head for the second time in the game, and the 60-run stand turned the tide once again in New Zealand's favour, but the day had some more surprise in store.

Azhar Ali took a blinder close in to end Young's effort before Gul charged in with an 86-overs-old ball and resorted to his most loyal weapon - reverse swing. He struck Taylor in front with an inswinger before rearranging Daniel Vettori's stumps with a yorker. Brent Arnel came and went first ball, barely seeing a laser beam that pinged his toes. Chris Martin got the wildest applause of the day when he kept out the hat-trick ball, and Tim Southee connected with a couple of swings before becoming Gul's fourth scalp as New Zealand were bowled out

Sunday, January 16, 2011

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Vettori ton gives New Zealand the edge

Daniel Vettori embellished his record against his favourite opponent with a century that was exemplary for the smoothness of its gear-shifts and guided New Zealand from their dodgy overnight position to a score of 356. New Zealand's progress centred around the 138-run stand between Vettori and Reece Young, who made his maiden half-century, as Pakistan's attack played into the home side's hands with an unimaginative approach during the morning session. Their batsmen, however, showed more enterprise, with Taufeeq Umar and Azhar Ali making half-centuries to lead a strong response. Taufeeq's late exit left Pakistan at 134 for 2, and the game evenly balanced going into the third day.
New Zealand's seamers came out with purpose after Vettori's heroics, and plugged away on a length outside off despite not getting much help from the wicket. Bowling into the wind, Tim Southee got one to nip away from Mohammad Hafeez, who hit his pad with the bat as he shaped to drive. Umpire Rod Tucker upheld the appeal, triggering another round of debate around the inconsistency in the implementation of the UDRS.
Having found his bearings in the session leading up to tea, Taufeeq checked in with two delectable shots in Southee's first over of the final session, driving square when he was offered width, and straight when he wasn't. When the seamers angled into his pads, he made them pay almost every time, while also leaving well throughout his innings, both on line and length.
Azhar was more subdued and survived a couple of outside edges, the second of which carried low to a late-reacting Ross Taylor, standing wide at first slip. Despite the odd stutter, Azhar showed glimpses of the determination that marked him out in the tours of England and South Africa. The highlight of his effort was a back-foot square drive off Southee, so delicate that it wasn't noticed by an unfortunate pigeon in the deep-point area that had its feathers ruffled.
With the fast bowlers struggling for impact, New Zealand turned to their captain for inspiration once again, and he nearly intervened in his first over, the 26th of the innings. Young appealed without conviction after juggling a thin inside edge from Taufeeq, which no one else seemed to have noticed. Unperturbed by the reversal, Vettori settled into a searching spell, getting the ball to misbehave occasionally from the rough outside Taufeeq's off stump. Without the aid of the bowlers' foot marks, he set up a fascinating tussle with Azhar, testing him with flight and drift, and it was down to the batsman's fortune that he managed to survive Vettori's best.
When Vettori threatened to tie him up with his variations, Azhar stepped out to launch him inside-out over long-off for his first six in Test cricket. The respite was temporary, and Vettori nearly accounted for him twice, beating him through the air with subtle variations in flight, inducing a couple of miscues that landed safely. Taufeeq was easily the more assured of the two, but succumbed with stumps in sight, jabbing Vettori into the slips for 70. His dismissal reignited New Zealand's hopes, which had flagged a touch after a dominant morning.
Pakistan's early woes were exemplified by Gul, who showed little of the craft and presence of mind he had displayed on the first day. Then, he had used the wind behind him to hustle the batsmen, while getting the ball to deviate disconcertingly from a length. Today, his average length was at least a foot shorter, and he wasted the new ball with a slew of bouncers and wide deliveries. Vettori and Young were happy to stay back in the crease and pick gaps in the field when they were forced to play. With Wahab Riaz indisposed, Abdur Rehman took over duties at the Scoreboard End and got several deliveries to drift prodigiously into Vettori, but did not have enough spin to work with.
Vettori mastered the conditions and the one-dimensional line of attack, to set himself up for a rich harvest. He steered one of Gul's many harmless, short deliveries for four through the off side, and off the next ball, brought up his first half-century in nearly 10 months, shuffling across to off stump and turning round the corner. When Gul made way for Tanvir at the Vance End, Vettori welcomed him with a crisp on-drive for four more.
At the other end, Young showed enough poise to promise a long stint in the national side. He survived his only error in the first hour, top-edging a pull off a Tanvir bouncer behind the wicketkeeper's head, and brought up his fifty with a thick edge through gully for four more. His dismissal, with lunch round the corner, gave Pakistan an opening, but Vettori was not done with them yet. He seamlessly shifted from the initial brief of crease occupation and produced a raft of innovative strokes to swell New Zealand's score.
Tanvir followed up the ball that dismissed Young with a sharp bouncer that rattled Southee's helmet, and there were a couple more bumpers from Gul after lunch. Southee did not last long, falling to a fuller one, but Vettori's innovation earned New Zealand 34 from their last two wickets. He moved across to off stump to nudge Gul's lifters to the leg side, trotted out of the crease to launch Rehman straight for six, and later reverse-swept him against the spin. Vettori had reached 96 when Gul snaked an incutter through Brent Arnel's defences. Martin survived four deliveries in fortuitous fashion, working the home crowd into a frenzy of applause, and they soon repeated the routine for Vettori's well-deserved ton. His batting put New Zealand on top in the morning, and his bowling refused to allow Pakistan to dictate terms thereafter.

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Pietersen helps England to 294

Kevin Pietersen marked his return to England's one-day side with 78 to help them reach 294 in the opening one-day international at the MCG, their highest score against the hosts in Australia, although the total could have been even stronger without some loose cbatting. Australia missed six clear-cut chances, including three stumpings by Brad Haddin, but managed to chip away regularly.
Pietersen's departure came four balls into the batting Powerplay and meant England couldn't make the most of the fielding restrictions. Tim Bresnan played sensibly for his 28, which included a neat pull off a Brett Lee slower-ball bouncer, but consistent with the pattern of the innings carved to third man just before his job was done. However, a late six apiece for Ajmal Shahzad and Chris Tremlett pushed them close to the 300 mark.
Andrew Strauss had set a solid platform with 63 but it was vital somebody controlled the middle of the innings after he fell. This was Pietersen's first fifty-plus score in one-dayers since he made an unbeaten 111 at Cuttack in November 2008, although due to injury and being dropped he has only had 17 innings in that period. Still, having been brought back at the expense of Paul Collingwood, who paid for his poor Ashes form, he needed to justify that faith and it went to plan until Mitchell Johnson's superb soccer skills found him well short.
England were gifted a 90-run opening stand in 12 overs by some loose bowling and shoddy fielding but after that they gave wickets away steadily. Pietersen and Ian Bell added 43 for the fourth wicket before Steve Smith struck two important blows by having both Bell and Eoin Morgan (8) caught at cover during a three-over spell to leave England 5 for 186 in the 33rd.
However, Haddin had a shocking day and the third of his misses reprieved Pietersen on 37 moments after the loss of Morgan. Pietersen yorked himself against David Hussey, but Haddin couldn't gather an opportunity that would have left England battling to reach 250. Instead, Pietersen responded with consecutive straight sixes off Hussey to move to his fifty and later added a third when he drilled Xavier Doherty into the sightscreen.
Michael Yardy helped Pietersen add 50 for the sixth wicket to steady the innings although Yardy's contribution was just 9 when he pulled to deep square-leg. Pietersen responded to the dismissal with a frustrated slam of his bat into his pad, a rare show of emotion at a team-mate's failure.
Steve Davies was the main beneficiary of Australia's earlier generosity as he was handed four lives. He should have become the second batsman, after Simon Katich in the Test at Adelaide, to fall for a diamond duck during this tour, but Smith couldn't hit the stumps with his flick from about a meter away after gathering a return from short fine-leg.
Two overs later Lee thought he'd broken through when Davies pulled to deep square-leg but the umpire, Bruce Oxenford, wanted to check for a no-ball and Lee was well over the line. Things got no better for Australia when Shane Watson failed to hold a sharp chance at short cover and Brad Haddin missed a stumping with Davies on 24.
As well as chances being spurned there was little control from the bowlers. Bollinger's first spell cost 24 and Johnson's opening two overs went for 20 as Michael Clarke used five options in the first 10 overs. It needed David Hussey to restore some order when he bowled Davies and had Jonathan Trott (6) caught behind.
The onus was then on Strauss to anchor the innings and he, too, was given a life on 48 when Haddin missed a regulation stumping off Doherty before reaching fifty from 51 balls. However, as with the Twenty20, the pitch was on the slow side and it was this lack of pace that brought Strauss's downfall when he was early on his shot against Lee.
It will annoy the England captain that he didn't show the way by converting his solid effort into three figures, but this total will be a tough test for Australia.

Munaf clinches stunning win for India

South Africa made a mess of what should have been a comfortable chase of a below-par total at Wanderers, stumbling in the batting Powerplay and then sinking to a dispiriting defeat in a thrilling finish. In conditions less favourable for batting than what the venue has offered in the past, Graeme Smith had put South Africa on course with a positive innings but his wicket in the 33rd over triggered a collapse that was a product of panic, ill-luck and some needling Indian bowling. Munaf Patel's spell proved decisive as he dislodged Smith and ended the South African innings with two wickets in the 43rd over, when the hosts were just a shot away from victory.
The game was still South Africa's when Munaf began bowling the 43rd over. Four runs were needed with two wickets in hand but what clinched the game for India were two short-of-a-length deliveries that the tailenders, Morne Morkel and Wayne Parnell, who had batted calmly until then, felt were too good to resist. With three needed for victory, Morkel slashed one straight to the substitute fielder Yusuf Pathan at point and, off the last ball of the over, Parnell, keen to finish off the game, cut Munaf to Yuvraj Singh, sparking wild celebrations in the Indian camp while leaving South Africa shell-shocked at their sudden capitulation.
The result had seemed unlikely with Smith's assured presence at the crease. He had been ruthless in his treatment of the bad balls, which the Indians doled out more often than their opponents had earlier in the day, and had eased the pressure despite periodic breakthroughs at the other end. Munaf was punished for consecutive boundaries through mid-off and point, while Zaheer Khan was pulled through midwicket when he pitched short. Initially a little rusty against Harbhajan Singh, Smith stepped out to the offspinner to combat the turn and take the ball off a length. He kept threading the gaps in the outfield to squeeze boundaries off the seamers and went past 6000 runs in ODIs.
Smith's shaky yet productive stand with Colin Ingram, a fluent partnership with JP Duminy and an increasingly threatening association with David Miller had continued the one-way traffic set up by South Africa's bowlers. But at 152 for 4, in the second over of the batting Powerplay, a reversal began.
South Africa's bowlers had exploited the movement off the pitch in restraining India, and Munaf had managed to prise out the wicket of Hashim Amla with a delivery that nipped back in. In the 33rd over, he managed to dart one back in from outside off towards Smith, who played on. In the next over, after he had been flicked to the fine-leg boundary, Zaheer shortened his length and dismissed Miller with an offcutter that the batsman failed to pull and gloved to short fine leg. And when he returned in the 36th over, Zaheer was fortunate to dismiss Johan Botha, who was given out lbw playing back to a good-length delivery, when it seemed the ball had only made contact with the outer half of the bat, not with the pad.
Parnell calmed the nerves of a capacity Wanderers crowd with a square-cut boundary and a promising vigil with Dale Steyn. But Steyn's attempt to risk a single and retain strike for the 39th over resulted in a run-out when Yuvraj barely managed to break the stumps before the ball slipped out of his hands. From 177 for 8, Parnell and Morkel braved a determined spell from Zaheer, managed a streaky boundary off part-time offspinner Suresh Raina and took South Africa to within four runs of a 2-0 lead. Only to throw it all away in the next over from Munaf.
South Africa's bowlers may have unable to finish the job with the bat but they had impressed with disciplined bowling performance under overcast skies on a slowish track. India approached their innings cautiously and, using the movement, South Africa's bowlers capitalised on their circumspection. Lonwabo Tsotsobe was the best. His role in ODIs has largely been a containing one but his accuracy amid India's pressure to accelerate earned him his best match haul of 4 for 22. India, too, faltered in their batting Powerplay, losing four wickets for 14 runs to undermine what Yuvraj and Dhoni had achieved during their fighting recovery stand.
The pair had to build from scratch following the wickets of Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli in quick succession. Displaying little signs of getting bogged down, neither batsman felt compelled to take undue risks and instead ensured a steady scoring-rate by working the field. Both used the sweep and the paddle, while Yuvraj often drove straight to pinch twos because long-on that was wider than usual. Bad balls were a rarity but Yuvraj was prompt to punish them when on offer: he slashed Morkel over point and glanced Tsotsobe to the fine-leg boundary to raise his half-century. The stand was worth 83 and with 13 more overs to go, a score of 240 was on. India didn't get that far, though given the manic developments towards the end, they didn't need to.

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