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Posts Tagged ‘champions league’

Two 19-year-olds have made Test centuries in the last week, both on Test debut, and both in a losing cause.

Umar Akmal, younger brother of Kamran, made 129 from just 160 balls in his first ever Test innings, which he followed up with a creditable 75, the highest individual score of anyone in Pakistan’s second innings total of 218, during the First Test against New Zealand. The youngster impressed observers with performances such as his century for Pakistan A in an unofficial Test against Australia A, and from what I have seen, he looks very promising indeed.

Adrian Barath made just 15 in his first Test innings for the West Indies against Australia in Brisbane, but he followed it up with 104 of the Windies 187 as the tourists fell to an innings defeat. Barath was one of the stars of Trinidad & Tobago’s Champions League adventure, and Brian Lara is a longstanding fan, so Adrian could be another star of the near future.

Here’s hoping these two are delighting cricket fans for many years to come.

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India are hosting Australia for a seven-match ODI series, which normally would have been hyped for weeks (if not months) in advance, but the Ashes (and its attendent ODIs) blurred into the Champions Trophy which blurred into the Twenty20 Champions League which only finished yesterday, so it’s almost as if the series has crept up on both sides.

For India, the headline news is the return of Virender Sehwag and the injury worries over Yuvraj, but it’s the bowling attack which is arguably under pressure after a poor run of late. Munaf Patel returns to give the seam bowling a little more control, whilst the pressure is mounting on Harbhajan to shrug off his recent slump and return to the form he showed before the Champions Trophy.

For Australia, there are fewer concerns, although the absence of Michael Clarke will probably necessitate some tinkering with the batting order. Most of the side will be familiar with Indian conditions through IPL and more recently Champions League experience, although the fatigue factor after exertions in the latter may come into play with regard to the likes of Brett Lee.

Although those Aussies who played for NSW in the Champions League will be a little on the tired side, I would expect Australia to have the upper hand in the series unless India significantly up their game. The hosts’ poor showing at the Champions Trophy has cast doubt on their ambitions to be the worlds’ best.

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With the Twenty20 Champions League now down to the last four, who’s going to win the thing?

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  • New South Wales, who had probably been the best team in the competition up to that point (and who may yet win the thing) were made to look foolish by Kieron Pollard when they should have cruised to victory. Could this be an Australian side choking?

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54 runs. In 18 balls. Enjoy:

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Part two of the Twenty20 Champions League Preview:

  • The Bangalore Royal Challengers have almost as many South Africans in their squad as the sides representing that country (even without the injured Kevin Pietersen). Jacques Kallis, Mark Boucher and Dale Steyn all feature, whilst Rahul Dravid demonstrated in this year’s IPL that there’s a role for him in Twenty20 cricket which doesn’t simply involve driving down the run-rate.
  • Somerset‘s preparation has been dominated by Marcus Trescothick’s return to India, with some of the coverage seemingly willing him to suffer a breakdown. Assuming all is well with Trescothick, he and Justin Langer make an experience opening pair, with possible future ‘England’ wicketkeeper Craig Kieswetter also capable of making quick runs. It’s difficult to assess how well the English sides will do, but at first glance it seems a mighty task for Somerset to win the tournament.
  • Sussex have a reasonably balanced side which was impressive during the English domestic Twenty20 Cup, with the batting of Michael Yardy and Ed Joyce and the bowling of James Kirtley particular highlights, with Luke Wright and to some extent Yasir Arafat capable both of adding runs and taking wickets at crucial moments. The side may struggle against some of the millionaire IPL teams, but perhaps greater experience of Twenty20 cricket will count in their favour.
  • Trinidad & Tobago are arguably considerably stronger than the side which is representing the West Indies at the moment, with Dwayne Bravo one of the stars of the (now presumably defunct) Stanford 20/20 competition alongside spinner Dave Mohammed, and with Windies wicketkeeper Dinesh Ramdin also in the side.
  • Wayamba have the experience of Mahela Jayawardene and the magic of Mendis. The latter will most likely bamboozle a number of players who are missing international experience, although he didn’t quite live up to his billing for Kolkatta in the IPL. The side look more like dark horses than front-runners, but, as I’ve already said, anything could happen over 20 overs.
  • Victoria might suffer for the loss of Dirk Nannes, but David Hussey and Brad Hodge have the class to make an impact with the bat. Bryce McGain has another chance to make an impact outside of Australia following his disappointing Test ‘career’.

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There’s been plenty of talk in recent months of the rise of the freelance cricketer, with first Andrew Symonds, then Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff being linked with the idea. Now it seems that the latter is set to lead the way, having turned down an ECB contract in favour of what some might call a mercenary existance.

On his official website, Flintoff has said that “I said when I retired from Test cricket that my ambition was to become the best one-day and Twenty20 player in the world and playing in all these different countries can only help”, keeping mention of the potential millions on offer if he plays for six teams on five continents as it has been suggested he might.

Just in case the IPL millions don’t quite cover Freddie’s bar bill, though, he is also set to take on a second job commentating for Eurosport on the Twenty20 Champions League next month. The retirement fund seems to be coming along nicely, although it remains to be seen whether Flintoff’s popularity with England fans takes a knock from this news.

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Sussex and Somerset are on their way to the Champions League after reaching the final of the Twenty20 Cup, with Sussex also being crowned champions for the first time after scoring an impressive 172 in the final.

The rewards on offer in India will dwarf the £50,000 or so that the winning county earns from the domestic competition, as well as providing a ‘shop window’ for players seeking the riches on offer in the IPL.

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The Twenty20 reaches its conclusion this weekend with the now traditional Finals Day. This year will be the last season of the current format, and will also see the first qualifiers decided for the Champions League after last year’s cancellation.

As well as the exciting prospect of the mascot race being commentated on by Phil Tufnell, the cricket should be of a high standard, with four good sides involved:

  • Somerset, like Kent, are former winners, and the quality of their top order (Trescothick, Langer, Kieswetter…) is beyond question. The bowling is not quite as strong, but if the batsmen make a big enough score that won’t matter too much, and the experience of the older heads will be priceless in the field.
  • Sussex may be missing Matt Prior for Finals Day, but they have quality bowlers in Yasir Arafat and James Kirtley, whilst Luke Wright can make an impact with bat or ball (or both). Defeat in the Friends Provident Trophy final may have sharpened their hunger for success, but Murray Goodwin will need to regain his form if they are to lift the trophy.

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Events in Mumbai

Confusion reigns in Mumbai at the moment, following yesterday’s terrorist attacks. As well as the obvious reaction of horror and concern for those involved, the cricketing world is starting to wake up to the realisation that it will be deeply affected by these terrible (and ongoing) events.

England are considering abandoning their tour (indeed some reports suggest they already have – not surprisingly as Britons were amongst those targeted), the Twenty20 Champions League may not go ahead, and the future of several other scheduled events in Indian cricket are also shrouded in uncertainty.

I fear that the situation may lead to Mumbai, and India in general, being considered by the outside world as an inherently dangerous place, with consequences similar to those seen recently in Pakistan.

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England’s slim hopes of salvaging something from the One Day series in India ended in dramatic fashion as the Fourth ODI was reduced to a 22-over slogfest. India, put in to bat by Kevin Pietersen, started their innings still expecting a 50-over match, but Sehwag behaved as if he was playing Twenty20 anyway, smashing 69 from 57 balls to take the home side to 106-1 after 17 overs.

A prolonged rain delay seemed at one stage to have ended all hopes of play resuming, but when it did India hammered 60 runs from their last five overs to take them to 166, a target inflated to 198 by the mystical workings of Duckworth/Lewis.

Nine runs an over was always going to be a struggle for England, and the only point in their innings when it looked attainable was whilst Owais Shah and Andrew Flintoff where smashing balls to all corners of the ground during their 79-run partnership. Once both had fallen, England had little to offer in the way of boundaries, and could only make 178 from their allotted 22 overs.

India win the series, and England’s attention may now drift towards the upcoming Tests. Shah’s knock at least bodes well for Middlesex’s chances in the upcoming Twenty20 Champions League.

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Following Lancashire‘s decision to ditch Stuart Law, their ICL-tainted captain, Surrey have announced that they will be releasing Saqlain Mushtaq due to the spinner’s Indian Cricket League links.

Far from a thawing in BCCI-ICL relations, the Indian Board seems as intent as ever on eliminating ICL-connected players from county cricket. The counties, keen to curry favour in the hope of opening up the EPL to Indian players (which will mean more money for the counties themselves), are happy to go along with this, especially if they otherwise face the threat of exclusion from lucrative events like the Twenty20 Champions League.

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