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Archive for March, 2009

England and New Zealand will contest the World Cup Final in Australia with both looking for their first tournament wins away from home (and the first ICC-sponsored Women’s World Cup).

England were much fancied at the start of the tournament, but their 17-match winning run was recently brought to an end by Australia (admittedly in a dead game), and New Zealand’s performances throughout the competition have earned them an increasing number of fans. The odds for the final suggest England are expected to win, but a close encounter is on the cards.

New Zealand’s hopes hinge on Suzie Bates (also an Olympic basketballer) and experienced captain Haidee Tiffen, who has won the trophy before.

For England, all eyes will be on Claire Taylor (widely regarded as the world’s best batsman/batswoman/batsperson) and captain Charlotte Edwards.

Although the competition hasn’t garnered as much media attention as it might have, but it seems to have been successful as a sporting event in itself. With luck, the final will live up to the high expectations that the recent performances of the two teams involved have raised.

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Lots of things have happened in the last 33 years. Punk, Margaret Thatcher, Chernobyl, a cloned sheep, and my entire life. Until today, that list didn’t include an Indian Test win in New Zealand.

India’s 10-wicket win in Hamilton was effectively sealed by Harbhajan Singh‘s 6 for 63 in the second innings, but it was Sachin Tendulkar who deservedly claimed the Man of the Match trophy following his sublime knock yesterday.

For India, the next goal is their first ever series win in New Zealand, which few would now bet against. For the Black Caps, getting anything out of the series will be an uphill struggle, especially given the poor showing with the bat so far from everyone other than Ryder and Vettori (without whom, New Zealand’s first innings would have been even more embarrasing).

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Ashwell Prince made a triumphant return to Test cricket, almost certainly becoming the first South African to make back-to-back Test centuries despite spending the intervening period between those two innings (the first against Bangladesh back in November) getting injured, being effectively dropped, being made captain, and then being demoted back again after expressing discontent about being forced to move up the order and open the batting.

The decision to have Prince open was generally regarded as a ‘gamble‘, but he seems to have made his peace with the relatively unfamiliar role, and South Africa will be pleased to have uncovered an interesting new partnership in Prince and Imraan Khan.

Bryce McGain, meanwhile, had a day to forget. There are worries circulating that he could turn out to be another Jason Krejza.

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In these troubled and unpredictable times, it’s comforting to have some constant, reliable events to fall back on: Liverpool being drawn against Chelsea in the Champions League, England being rubbish at Twenty20 cricket, and Sachin Tendulkar scoring centuries.

Sachin’s latest against New Zealand was his 42nd in Test cricket, and his 85th in international cricket overall. Enjoy the highlights of his partnership with MS Dhoni below.

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Bryce McGain finally made his long-overdue Test debut today at the grand old age of 36 years and 359 days (here’s the proof). He even got two bowl two overs, as the Australian batting order collapsed to 209 all out on the first day of the Third Test against South Africa.

Fotunately for Australia, the series is already won, but with four players (including Ponting and Hussey) making ducks, questions are still likely to be asked. Questions like: was it sensible to replace Marcus North with an extra bowler…should Haddin really be batting as high as 6?..by what stretch of the imagination is Andrew McDonald a Test number 7?

Nevertheless, McGain finally has his Baggy Green – here’s hoping he manages to pick up a few more before age finally catches up with him.

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Strangely for a player trying to find form, Michael Vaughan has played very little cricket over the winter. It may be that his central contract prevented him from playing in a Southern Hemisphere domestic competition, or that he ‘needed some time away from cricket’, but his last First-class match was way back in September, when he made a whopping 14 for Yorkshire against Somerset.

In any case (and leaving aside the question of whether the rest has done the trick, or the pitches out in Abu Dhabi are merely flatter than Norfolk), he’s finally back in the runs. The former England captain tonked 115 from 113 balls for his county as they beat Surrey in their opening match of the pre-season Pro ARCH Trophy out in the UAE.

There was more good news for the expert proponent of the textbook forward defensive with cartwheeling stump recently, when Duncan Fletcher came out in support of Vaughan returning to the Test side at number three. Whilst this is about as newsworthy as ‘Man drinks Guinness on St. Patrick’s Day‘, I’m sure Vaughan was pleased to see his name appear in a newspaper other than the Yorkshire Post.

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There are only two Albies who I have ever been made aware of. One of them is a racist dragon (who admittedly chooses to spell his name differently), and the other is set to make his Test debut against Australia, having apparently ousted his brother from the side.

It’s a shame Albie and Morne aren’t playing alongside each other, as I would love to hear commentators constantly referring to ‘the Morkels’, which sounds like it should be a slang term for a cricket-induced delirium (much like The D.T.s are to alcohol). “England’s defensive batting is giving me a severe case of the Morkels”, people would say.

Sadly, it seems I’ll have to wait a little longer to hear Mark Nicholas and Tony Greig inadvertently christen a new psychological condition.

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India’s Test record in New Zealand is surprisingly poor. They haven’t won a series away to the Black Caps since 1968. However, the tourists recently recorded their first ever ODI series win in New Zealand, so hopes will be high that they can deliver a long-overdue success.

Crucial to those hopes will be Test squad additions VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid, both of whom have been adjusting to conditions by playing in New Zealand’s State Championship (with Dravid making a ton for Canterbury). India haven’t lost a Test since their series defeat to Sri Lanka last August, so will certainly be the form team in the five-day format.

In contrast, the hosts haven’t won a Test since October, and couldn’t beat anyone apart from Bangladesh in the whole of 2008. The Black Caps’ Test squad is markedly different from the limited overs side, with Arnel, Franklin, Flynn, McIntosh and (somewhat controversially)Martin all coming in to the side for the longer format. History may be on New Zealand’s side, but it’s difficult to see their team of relative novices putting up any sustained resistance to India’s potential world-beaters.

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David Lloyd thinks it’s time for a new broom. “There are lads in England, young ‘uns, I’m talking young ‘uns, who can whack it”.

The rant actually works better better with odd pauses instead of questions from the studio, I think.

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Andrew Strauss hasn’t played a limited overs international since April 2007, but tonight he leads England in a Twenty20 international against a West Indies side superficially similar to the Stanford Superstars team that beat England by 10 wickets back when Allen Stanford was more likely to be asked ‘is it fun being a millionaire?‘ than ‘how do you plead?‘.

Cricinfo’s preview of tonight’s match expects Ian Bell to open the batting for England alongside Strauss. Yes, that’s right, Ian Bell.

England have never quite managed to get their Twenty20 opening partnership right. They have tried the following in the last four years: Geraint Jones and Marcus Trescothick, Strauss and Trescothick, Trescothick and Bell, Ed Joyce and Michael Vaughan, Alastair Cook and Matt Prior, Prior and Darren Maddy, Prior and Luke Wright, Maddy and Vikram Solanki, Wright and Phil Mustard, and Bell and Wright. That’s 10 different partnerships in a mere 14 matches.

I doubt that Bell and Strauss are the solution, but I will graciously suspend judgement until, ooh, maybe the fifth over of tonight’s match.

UPDATE: It now seems that England will try another opening pair – Steve Davies and Ravi Bopara. They seem more like a Twenty20 opening pair than Strauss and Bell, so let’s hope for some success.

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Less than a month before its scheduled start, the second season of the Indian Premier League is still in danger of postponement. The Indian Ministry of Home Affairs has told the BCCI that it “may not be feasible to play matches as per the [re-]submitted schedule” owing to fears that sufficient security may not be available due to the requirement of the country’s central security forces to maintain order during the country’s upcoming elections.

This means, in all likelihood, that the IPL will have to reschedule for a second time (having already done so earlier this month), increasing the financial and political pressure which the tournament is under given the global economic situation and recent events in Pakistan.

If a big-name player withdraws from the IPL on security grounds, a chain reaction could start which would see the competition seriously devalued (and literally so in the case of sponsorship), so it is in everyone’s interests to get the security arrangements right. The fact that cricket is now seen as a target by some terrorist groups makes it likely that the safety of the subcontinent will be judged by many based on the security of the IPL’s 2009 season.

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The ICC Women’s World Cup has now reached the Super Six stage. South Africa and Sri Lanka have been eliminated, which leaves:

  • Australia: The pre-tournament favourites lost to New Zealand in their opening match, but won their other two games to ensure qualification for this stage. Their performances so far haven’t been as convincing as might have been predicted, with their bowling in particular falling short of high expectations.
  • England: May now be favourites, having waltzed through the group stage with three comfortable victories (by 100 runs, 9 wickets and 8 wickets respectively against Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan). Their batting in particular has been a class apart so far.
  • India: So far, India have been the weakest of the four sides who made the semi-finals last time around, and a batting collapse against Sri Lanka suggests that they may struggle to progress to that stage again unless the side can settle.
  • New Zealand: That win over Australia boosted confidence, but the top order has struggled. Their match against England will be regarded by many as a potentialdress-rehersal for the final.
  • West Indies: The most likely challengers to the established four sides who made the semi-finals in 2005. Showed some fight against New Zealand, but need to beat India to progress, which will be difficult.

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