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Posts Tagged ‘sri lanka’

It’s a cliche to say that you can’t judge a pitch until both sides have batted on it, but it certainly seems that India have made better use of the Kanpur pitch than Sri Lanka managed.

Sreesanth marked his comeback by tearing through the latter’s batting line-up, taking 5-75 as the tourists were bowled out 413 runs short of India’s first innings total, and then dismissing Dilshan in the second innings as Sri Lanka ended Day 3 on 57/4 following on, still 356 behind. He found movement off the seam in the morning session, reverse swing in the afternoon, and – perhaps most tellingly – consistency more or less throughout the day.

Given Sreesanth’s past temperament, it’s worth noting that, by and large, his trademark theatrics seem to have been absent today – perhaps Indian cricket’s prodigal son is ready to live up to his potential.

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It may be an innocuous pitch, the bowling may not have been great, but 417 runs for two wickets in one day is still pretty special. Virender Sehwag‘s 131 from 122 balls was spectacular enough, but Gambhir (167 – his seventh century in nine Tests) and Dravid (85 not out) got in on the act as well as India scored the most runs they have ever scored in a day of Test cricket.

Hopefully, this isn’t just the first day of another run-filled bore draw – the pitch is expected to prove helpful to the spinners in the coming days. It didn’t seem to help Sri Lanka much today, as Muralitharan and Herath both went for more than 5 an over.

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The build-up to India’s Test series with Sri Lanka has been somewhat overshadowed by the continuing coverage of Sachin Tendulkar’s 20th year in international cricket, but with top spot in the ICC Test Rankings up for grabs, the contest has much to offer.

Sri Lanka’s record in India suggests that the tourists will face a tough task. The bulk of responsibility for scoring runs is likely to fall on the usual suspects, who have in the past made huge scores on benign pitches but struggled in difficult conditions. As for the bowlers, only Murali has a strong track record in India, so the others will need to step up if the side are to succeed. Herath should edge out Mendis for the second spin slot, although the latter’s magical showing against the same opposition last year may inspire his inclusion at some stage.

For the hosts, Zaheer Khan’s return (along with Sreesanth) should revitalise the pace attack, whilst a chief concern could be adjusting back to Test cricket after more than six months of limited-overs matches. The lack of Test matches has been picked up on by the man of the hour, and many of the players in the side may take some time to realign their approaches.

This is a key series for India in their mission to become the best side in the world, and a series victory for the home side will be widely expected.

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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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Something has happened to England’s batsmen – have they been replaced by replicas grown from plantlike pods, identical in every way apart from their ability to pace an innings and remain steady under pressure?

Certainly, Owais Shah demonstrated a seldom-glimpsed ability to keep his head, making 98 (OK, he didn’t maintain his composure long enough to make a century) of England’s 323 against South Africa. Eoin Morgan also continued the swashbuckling form he displayed against Sri Lanka, knocking off 67 from just 34 balls to keep the pace up after Shah and Collingwood’s 163-run partnership came to an end.

The contrast with the pathetic displays of the late summer could hardly be more striking. With typical timing, England seem to be getting serious about 50-over cricket just as the format is on its deathbed.

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Yesterday, few (including myself) would have given England much of a chance of victory against Sri Lanka. However, thanks partly to their suddenly revitalised and potent pace attack and partly due to a fluent innings from Eoin Morgan, that’s exactly what they managed to pull off.

The unexpected six-wicket triumph throws Group B of the Champions Trophy wide open, with only New Zealand yet to win, and no-one managing more than one win so far. Who knows, maybe England will even reach the Semi-Finals?

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It may feel like Ajantha Mendis has been around for ever (he’s already had a dramatic arrival on the international scene, followed by a relative fall from grace and then a minor resurgence), but it’s only about 15 months since he took 6-13 in the Asia Cup final. In that time, he is yet to bowl England’s batsmen, who nervously await in tomorrow’s Champions Trophy match.

Mendis bamboozled Graeme Smith with his first ball of Tuesday’s curtain-raiser, ending up with 3-30. With England struggling with the bat throughout the latter part of the summer, he may get a similar return tomorrow. Even if it doesn’t turn, Andrew Strauss’ stomach might.

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  • South Africa have always been the nearly men of 50-over cricket, but they did win the Champions Trophy back in 1998, since when they have developed a reputation as big tournament bottlers. This is South Africa’s best chance in years to win some ICC silverware, as well as to cast off the ‘chokers‘ tag.
  • Sri Lanka could be dark horses, with Dilshan‘s firepower matched by the steadying hands of veterans Jayasuriya, Jayawardene and captain Sangakkara. The return of Murali and the recent form of the pace attack will worry opposing batsmen, but the side will need to take a step up to taste glory.
  • England, having been humiliated in the ODI series against Australia, and without their two best limited overs players in Flintoff and Pietersen, will do well to win a match. The batsmen seem to fail whenever the bowlers succeed and vice versa, so expectations, it’s fair to say, will be easy to live up (or down) to.

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India, having very briefly ascended to the top of the ICC ODI rankings after yesterday’s victory over New Zealand, came crashing back down to earth as they were crushed by Sri Lanka in Colombo, with the home side being bowled out for a mere 168, 140 runs short of their target for victory.

Sri Lanka had made over 300 mainly thanks to the efforts of ‘Uncle’ Sanath Jayasuriya (98 from 79 balls) and Thilina Kandamby (91 not out from 73 balls). India’s reply was the victim of Angelo Mathews’ best-ever haul of 6-20.

If the battle for Test supremacy is hotting up between several countries, so too is the competition to be the best at 50-over cricket, even if the format itself is under threat from supporter indifference.

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Sri Lanka’s 2-0 series win over New Zealand now means that, if things don’t work out for South Africa against South Africa B England this winter, Kumar Sangakkara’s side could potentially end the year as the world’s top-ranked team if they win the series in India. If India were to win the series 2-0, then they would take the top spot.

India’s home record against Sri Lanka is impressive, with the tourists never having won a Test, but the side which is likely to tour will be very strong indeed. The emergence of Rangana Herath as a genuine spin threat in the series against the Black Caps means that there’s less dependence on Murali to constantly take wickets (which is handy, given Ajantha Mendis’ struggles), whilst the batting order has looked assured.

Thilan Samaraweera in particular has been making centuries with impressive regularity of late, and Dilshan’s elevation to opener seems to be a smart move. Could Sri Lanka be the world’s best? On their day, quite possibly.

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Now that Australia have slumped to fourth in the ICC rankings, what does the future hold for Test cricket?

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I’m not sure Tillakaratne Dilshan has fully grasped the concept of what an opening Test batsmen is supposed to do. Filling the role for the first time in the First Test against New Zealand, he ‘steadied the ship’ after Sri Lanka had lost two early wickets by hitting 92 from 72 balls, including the fastest ever Test fifty by a Sri Lankan.

It’s difficult to imagine many other Test openers reacting with in quite such an aggressive approach (certainly not any of England or New Zealand’s openers). Whilst it could be argued that Dilshan was playing high-risk cricket to a degree which is often unsuitable for the longer format, his positivity certainly turned the match in his side’s favour (from 16/2 to 134/3).

Who knows? Test Cricket may just need more crazy openers – what price Afridi to open for Pakistan?

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