Archive for May, 2010

Playing their first match at Barbados, India made two blunders to kickstart their Super-8 campaign with a daylong hara-kiri. Piyush Chawla was rightly replaced but wrongly with Rohit Sharma. On a track offering pace and bounce, Vinay Kumar would have been a wiser choice. Next, Dhoni called right at the toss but made the wrong decision to bowl first. Including just two pacers (Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra) on a fresh early-morning pitch clearly showed that Dhoni was on the backfoot from the word go.

David Warner

Harbhajan opened the attack with a maiden, but it all changed dramatically once Jadeja was introduced in the fourth over. The last three balls of his over were deposited in the stands, signaling an intimidating Aussie onslaught. There was no stopping Watson and Warner after that who plundered 76 runs in 9 overs. Jadeja was brought back but nothing changed. This time, his first three balls went skywards and ended in the crowd.

It was Yusuf Pathan who quenched India’s wicket thirst by castling Watson in the 11th over, ending an opening stand of 104 runs. He scored 54 in 32 balls with one four and six towering sixes. However, Watson’s departure couldn’t plug the run-leak, instead it turned into a hemorrhage with Warner going berserk and David Hussey (35) following suit. Warner greeted Yuvraj with two huge sixes but luckily for India was dismissed in the same over having made 72 punishing runs in 42 balls with two hits to the boundary and seven flying over it.

Warner’s dismissal started a little Indian fight-back where they gave just 39 runs and took three wickets in the last five overs, which restricted the total to 185/5. Harbhajan (4-1-15-0) and Nehra (4-0-31-2) were particularly impressive, though the former’s wicket-less analyses in all the matches is starting to hurt India badly.

Gautam Gambhir

Time and time again, India’s vulnerability to short-pitch stuff has been exposed by opponents and Tait and Nannes were out there to make it public once again. They peppered the Indians with rib-crushers. None of the top three could fathom what was happening and were sent packing by the fourth over, leaving India at 17/3. When Yuvraj, Dhoni and Pathan failed as well, India was staring embarrassment at 50/7.

Ironically, Rohit Sharma – who seemed a wrong pick by Dhoni – was the only one able to answer the Aussies. His sublime undefeated knock saved India the blushes. He stroked 79 runs in 46 balls with four fours and six sixes. Harbhajan and Zaheer partnered him for 47 and 36 runs respectively, which minimized the defeat margin to 49 runs in the end. Nannes and Tait were the chief destroyers taking three wickets each.

With two matches left against West Indies and Sri Lanka, India have their task cut out. They not only have to win both but also keep an eye on the net run-rate.

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The Super-8s began on a fiery note yesterday when Kevin Pietersen made little work of Pakistan and South Africa took advantage of a Kiwi top-order failure.

England v/s Pakistan:

Kevin Pietersen

The first face-off of the day was always going to be Pakistani bowling firepower versus an invigorated English batting and when Pakistan failed to post even 150, the writing was more or less on the wall.

The Pakistanis started well reaching 71/1 in the 10th over but losing three wickets in the space of 6 runs pegged them right back to 77/4. The boom boom remained confined to the label on Afridi’s (0) bat and whatever little there was came from Salman Butt (34) and Umar Akmal (30).

After an initial thrust against Bresnan and Sidebottom, the middle and lower order failed miserably. The English bowlers shared the spoils, with Michael Yardy (4-0-19-2) and Stuart Broad (4-0-25-2) being the pick, which restricted Pakistan to 147.

England was always in control while chasing. A solid opening partnership of 44 between Lumb (25) and Kieswetter (25) meant there were no any early jitters, allowing Pietersen to ease into the task on hand. The father-to-be looked in a hurry as he attacked from the word go on his way to a match-winning unbeaten knock of 73 runs off 52 balls.

Saeed Ajmal (3.3-0-18-2) was the only one to check English scoring but a third-wicket partnership of 60 runs between Pietersen and Collingwood sealed Pakistan’s fate and England registered a facile 6-wicket win in the last over.

South Africa v/s New Zealand:

Morne Morkel

The second match between SA and NZ could have been closer than it actually turned out to be.

SA – though they didn’t lose early wickets batting first – weren’t able to break free until Albie Morkel joined AB DeVilliers in the 14th over. Before that, Kallis (31) and Gibbs (30) kept the scoreboard moving but could never accelerate.

It was Albie Morkel who hurt NZ the most with a punishing inning of 40 off 18 balls, including five sixes. Helped by DeVilliers’ 47 off 39 balls, Morkel rocketed the end score to 170, plundering 70 runs in the last six overs. None, but the Kiwi skipper Vettori (4-0-21-0), could stem the flow of runs and were taken for aplenty.

Much rested on the top four of the Kiwi lineup but once again only Ryder (33) was able to muscle a few. Brendon McCullum (6) failed yet again, while Guptill (18) and Taylor (19) didn’t make any sizeable contributions. Big-hitting Oram couldn’t get off the blocks and a late surge by Nathan McCullum (26 off 17) turned out to be a bit too late to be consequential.

Langeveldt, Morne Morkel and Botha took two NZ wickets each to keep them 13 runs short of target at the end.

Today’s Fixtures:

The clash between India and Australia is tipped to be the match of the tournament as both have been playing excellent cricket and are undefeated. Later in the day, Sri Lankans take on the host West Indies.

A couple of days of downpour, a few indigestible results and some nervy moments for tournament favorites have once again turned the focus of cricket world to Mr. Frank Duckworth and Mr. Tony Lewis – the two English statisticians who devised the Duckworth-Lewis (D/L) method that has been responsible for many a scorers suffering from alopecia.

The system is a mathematician’s delight as it involves mind-numbing calculations to reach a target score for the rain-curtailed second innings in one-day internationals (ODIs) and more recently T20s.

Flipping through the pages of history tells us that the ICC first used this method in1996 and after a testing period of 5 years officially embraced the system in 2001. Before that, the method employed was the ‘best-scoring-overs’, which was coffined after the infamous 1992 World Cup semi-final between England and South Africa. The ridiculous climax of that match saw South Africa being asked to score 21 runs off one ball after rain stopped play at 22 runs from 13 balls.

But even the D/L method couldn’t escape criticism, with the most common of it being that it’s too complex, carries the risk of  being misunderstood and gives way too much importance to wickets than overs, which has been experienced many a times.

The ongoing World Twenty20 in the Caribbean has once again brought out knives opposing the method. England’s loss to West Indies via the D/L method after scoring 191 in 20 overs almost showed them the exit door. Interestingly, it was the same D/L method that came to their rescue against Ireland where the Englishmen just scored 120 batting first. Same was the case in Sri Lanka and New Zealand’s narrow wins against Zimbabwe. In fact, Zimbabwe has been ousted without finishing either of their two league encounters, courtesy Mr. Duckworth and Mr. Lewis.

While I tried to unravel the intricacies of the D/L method, I came across an interesting piece on the web that completely unlocks it for the benefit of cricket enthusiasts. You can take a look at it here.

An alternate that the ICC has on hand is the Jayadevan’s system that was employed in the mutinous Indian Cricket League (ICL), but whether ICC shakes hand with a rebel is a question only it can answer.

For the third edition in a row, the International Cricket Council (ICC) seems to have failed to give some meaning to the league phase of the Twenty20 World Cup. On the argument that it’s making the game global, the apex body has consciously sacrificed the enthusiasm we come to associate with the T20 format.

Nothing against the participation of Bangladesh & Co., but while that is done, the ICC has to make sure that the ‘big matches’ between the top teams remain consequential. At present. picking eight teams out of the four groups is nothing more than a layman’s job; thanks to the presence of Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Ireland and Afghanistan in their respective groups. Their presence makes matches like India v/s South Africa and Australia v/s Pakistan a meaningless affair.

On the contrary, playing the minnows assumes greater significance in the league stage, as a loss there may spell doom for a possible tournament favorite. For instance now, England and South Africa – who are due to play Ireland and Afghanistan respectively– may not see the dawn of Super-8 should they lose. To make matters worse, while progression of Ireland and Afghanistan would be good for the game, it won’t be in the best interest of a tournament of this stature.

The story of Bangladesh is the prime example before us. Despite graduating to the Test level way back in 2000, they are still at best party-poppers in every format. The team does have some big wins under its belt but the transformation from boys to men and inconsistent to consistent is yet to be seen. To me, Ireland, Holland and recently Afghanistan are not that far behind Bangladesh. I would go to the extent that Zimbabwe – whose Test status currently stands revoked – is still an overall better team than Bangladesh.

Coming back to what was being originally discussed, these lesser teams should be contesting more against each other and win consistently before making it to the big stage. Their induction into the big league should be measured more on a ‘consistency scale.’ The ICC, no doubt, is doing great work in evaluating the performance of these nations through its High Performance Programme (HPP) and the details can be read here.

The only thing ICC needs to keep in mind while working with these nations is that Bangladesh is a glaring precedent that need not be repeated. Plus, organizing a qualifying tournament for entry into the World Cups is certainly not the way forward for these teams.

Never have I seen an ICC event open at such a low ebb in my cricket-loving life. The amalgamation of West Indian islands tried to add the most vibrant of colors and the crispiest calypso beats to revive the missing pulse of the opening ceremony, achieving trivial success, if any. I felt the organizers missed a trick in scheduling the opener. It should either have been the home team or India playing the inaugural match to add spark to the docile vibes.

Cricket, as always, was the knight in shining armor. Although the pitch didn’t allow Sri Lanka and New Zealand to play those high-fliers, Mahela Jayawardene’s 81 off 51 balls and the penultimate-ball finish made up for it.

Batting first didn’t turn out a favorable decision as none other than Mahela had answers to Kiwi bowlers on a slow, low track. Dilshan seemed to have exported his IPL form to the World Cup and Sangakkara looked like searching for consistency. Debutant Dinesh Chandimal (29), however, had an impressive outing and gave Mahela company for 59 runs that helped the team reach 135/6. Nathan McCullum was the star for New Zealand taking a wicket and three catches.

With runs on the board and an attack in sync with the pitch, Sri Lanka backed themselves and began on the right note when Mathews took out the dangerous Brendon McCullum for a naught in the first over. It was Jesse Ryder that provided the much needed momentum with a 27-ball 42. He found useful support from Guptill (19) to stitch a 62-run partnership for the second wicket.

Wickets kept falling at regular intervals after that, courtesy a tight leash by Muralitharan and Jayasuriya. Mendis and Malinga, though, kept leaking runs that resulted in useful little contributions from Styris (17), Vettori (17) and Oram (15). But the final thrust came from the star of the day Nathan McCullum.

Needing 10 off the last over by toe-crusher Malinga, McCullum finished the match one ball early with six over long off. His wicket, three catches and 16 off 6 balls proved to be the unrivaled performance of the match that took New Zealand home.