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Monday, February 16, 2015

Joy to the Indians: India vs. Pakistan Match Report

Misbah ul-Haq on familiar sights as Mohammed Shami looks on.

Many Indians yesterday, on the 15th of February would’ve said “it’s okay if India don’t win the world cup, but India just MUST beat Pakistan” and likewise the Pakistanis. What really went around after the match though, was a series of #WeWontGiveItBack statuses on social networking platforms. That pretty much sums up how India came out of their bubble with far more intensity, and knocked an in-form Pakistan team down. The match was a brilliant display of how a team could change gears with the confidence gained from a single victory, in this case against minnows Afghanistan. India mowed down Pakistan not only with their patient, yet aggressive batting but also with their mere intensity on the field and energy which we haven’t seen in them since the Adelaide Test this summer.

The Indians started brilliantly with a good partnership between Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli (both, returning to form) who put on 129 runs for the second wicket. When Shikhar Dhawan fell for a well-played 73, India already had a strong platform. They were already going at about five and a half to the over, when Raina came in and launched himself. The Indian batting line up looked as strong as ever at the top, as Kohli and Raina put on another hundred run partnership quickly while Kohli scored a ton in the process. After that explosive batting, which was expected to ensure a 320+ total, the implosion began. During the last 7 overs, the Pakistanis bowled with intensity (courtesy of Sohail Khan’s 5-55) and restricted the opposition by taking wickets off slower balls and bouncers. India eventually imploded, but they already had a strong score 300/7 by the end of the innings.

The start of the Pakistan innings was a solid one, with the openers looking very cautious in their approach. But India stuck to a packed cover field and bowled in the right areas, to restrict Pakistan from any easy singles. Younis Khan was the first to go off a bouncer from Mohammed Shami as Pakistan were one down for 11 in the fourth over. Then Haris Sohail came along and looked really good for his 36. He scored quick and also allowed Ahmed Shehzad to settle in. But then, there still weren’t any easy singles available. The pressure was building as Ashwin bowled with good variations to both batsmen. Haris Sohail got out to a regular off spinner, edging to slip and eventually Ahmed Shehzad also perished in an attempt to release the pressure. But then following that, a series of Pakistani batsmen came in and went out. Umar Akmal got out to a controversial decision, and Maqsood got out first ball against Yadav, edging while trying to cut. When Misbah and Afridi came together, Pakistan were 103/5.  Misbah played slowly, ensuring that his wicket would remain,while Afridi played with his usual aggression. The Indians continued to build pressure by denying singles, doubles and boundaries by bowling to their field. The Indian Seamers and Spinners bowled barely any loose deliveries. Afridi eventually got out, and it was only a matter of time before the rest of the Pakistan batting collapsed around Misbah, who as usual gave the Indians a mini scare, but couldn’t do much in the end.

India won by a comprehensive margin of 76 runs and got ahead of the tailless summer they went through. This win would not only provide the Indian team with confidence, but also provide it with a positive mindset. If the Indians stick to the game they played yesterday, not letting boundaries through, being intense on the field and taking wickets by building pressure, their bowling weakling can be terminated. If they bat patiently like they did yesterday, India will be looking at large totals almost every time they come out to bat and can back it up with some sharp fielding and accurate bowling. They are upbeat, and have got their momentum going. Most of their batsmen also seem to be in form. Hence, it could be firmly said, that beyond the victory over Pakistan, India have made a strong statement to the world, that they are still in strong contention for the World Cup.
Meanwhile, Pakistan still haven’t beaten India at a World Cup game. 6-0.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Lyon roars as the Aussies snatch a thriller!

Emulating his debut performance in 2011, ‘Gaz’ ripped through the Indian batting order

It seemed so near, yet it was so far as Ishant Sharma attempted to break the shackles by dancing down the pitch, only to be beaten by Nathan Lyon as Australia scripted one of the most thrilling victories in Test History. In all ways, the last day of this match carried the reminiscence of the test between India and New Zealand in Auckland earlier this year, as the Indian middle order yet again failed to capitalize on the solid platform provided by their Top Order. In the end, they fell 49 runs short of what seemed to be an almost impossible task at the start of day’s play. This Australian victory seemed to have been written in the stars after the tragedy that shocked the entire sporting fraternity.

‘Greatest Match I’ve ever played in’: Kohli

For a man who was desperately out of touch in the tour of England and the initial stages of the home series against West Indies, Virat Kohli managed to regain his lost form at the same ground where he slammed his maiden ton three years ago. His impeccable stroke play and his wide array of shots have come as a welcome relief for many Indian Cricket fans who questioned their batting line up during failures abroad. Whilst breaking records in both the innings, Captain Kohli managed to put up one of the greatest fightbacks in cricketing history along with Murali Vijay on Saturday. They made a mockery of the Australian bowling attack in the Afternoon, before Vijay perished for one too many on 99. After this 185-run stand for the 3rd wicket, it was only a matter of time before the Kangaroos ripped through the Indian batting. At Teatime today, the equation favored India and Virat Kohli continued his aggressive game whilst bearing testimony to the incessant dismissals at the other end, as Australian turned the tables. Tragically, he fell to what was a short off-spinner to Mitchell Marsh at Deep Midwicket, thus ending the hopes of a billion. However, his love story with Adelaide didn’t cease to end as he made his best score in test matches as well With back-to-back tons and sublime technique, Kohli managed to silence those who questioned his form in the longer format. He also proved his worth as a captain with a few aggressive tactics up his sleeves and his ‘no-nonsense’ approach with sledging. This is a welcome sign for Indian cricket, and Virat will be the driving force for India in this tour.

Lyon roars in his own Den

For decades, Southern Australia has managed to produce some of the greatest players to have played this game, which includes the Chappell brothers and the Don himself. Lyon’s upbeat performance has proved why the club still continues to produce quality match winners for Australia. His ability to extract turn from a small portion of rough on a dry fifth day pitch had befuddled the Indian batsman, who are regarded as one of the best players of spin. Despite being carted to all parts of the ground by Kohli and Vijay, he was determined enough to pitch the ball up on the rough and wait for the batsman to make a mistake. He fought back hard after being attacked and he varied his length and his pace constantly after the tea break. After managing only 5 wickets in his dry run in the UAE, which is regarded to be a spinner’s paradise, his place in the team was questioned. He bounced back and silenced his critics with this stunning performance. This would certainly pep his confidence up before the next test in Brisbane and the remainder of the series. He had been the man to watch out for on the last two days of the test, and he was befittingly awarded the man of the match for his 12-wicket haul. He troubled the Indians in the same, if not better manner in which Moeen Ali tormented them in the English Summer.

Woes that need to be addressed in the Indian camp

Despite being a thrilling contest, one would definitely say that India had lost the game from an extremely comfortable position at Tea. Their middle order had disintegrated in both innings to crumble to scores that weren’t one bit expected by the fans when their top order had started out all guns blazing. The middle order conundrum has been chasing India ever since the retirement of the Big 4 (Laaxman, Ganguly, Dravid and Tendulkar).  They haven’t managed to fire at all, and there have been no great contributions from the middle and the tail even in England. Although Dhoni’s supposed return in Brisbane might just boost their strength, they still lack a stable all rounder and late middle order batsman. Rohit should be given another fair chance to showcase his progress in test cricket. He also has the experience of playing some amount of white ball cricket in Australia in the past. However, Ashwin must come into the side instead of Karn Sharma. In the press conference, he had stated that he had learnt from his poor performance in the last tour. Also, Ashwin is regarded as one of the best all rounders in business today. His stable and initially cautious technique has helped him lay the necessary foundations for decent scores in the past. The Indian opening combination has been a subject of debate for a few years now. Whilst Vijay has comfortably cemented his place in the team with two splendid performances, the trouble lies in finding an ideal partner for him. Dhawan would definitely love the Gabba, as the ball would come on to the bat a little more. He needs to learn from his partner and improve his level o patience. Indian Fans have desperately wanted a good 50-run opening stand in tests abroad, and the last time India managed to do so was in 2011 against England. Endurance and patience is the key. The openers need to be wary of Ryan Harris’ ability to swing the ball and Johnson’s pace. Dhawan is yet to bring out his complete potential. Its essential that he plays in a calm manner initially and then plays his natural attacking game. Finally, whether or not we’d all like to digest this fact, the current Indian bowling attack doesn’t have the capability to take all 20 wickets. Whilst Shami and Ishant showed promising signs in what was a lifeless track for the bowlers, Aaron did disappoint a little. Despite having the pace and carry, he doesn’t have complete control over his bowling, and he seems to run out of ideas when the batsmen are on the offensive. It’s time Umesh Yadav replaces him. Umesh showed prowess and skill on the previous tour to Australia, by picking 13 wickets with a decent average of 39.35. Umesh does have greater variation and control over his pace, and his recent performances against the Sri Lankans at home shows that he has found some good rhythm before this tour. 

Australia also has its fair share of woes

To start out, both teams didn’t deserve to lose this contest, as they showed prowess, skill. In Adelaide, both teams did expose their individual weaknesses. Australia ended up being the happier side with greater concerns. To begin, their opening partnership hasn’t been all that great as well. Chris Rogers does seem to have a problem playing the moving ball, and he hasn’t been in great nick recently. He didn’t provide the necessary support that Warner needs from the other end. He underperformed in Australia’s recent tour of the UAE as well, scoring just 88 runs in 4 innings. It’s essential that Rogers finds his nick and supports Warner by playing in a calm manner at the other end. Michael Clarke has long been regarded as the backbone of this Australian batting line up. His outstanding ton in the first innings showed his willingness and determination to carry on with the game. His loss would surely hurt the Australians. Shaun Marsh’s weaknesses were completely exposed by the Indians in the their last tour of Australia, and he averaged a mere 2.83 in that 2011 series. He had showed some skill in their tour of South Africa earlier this year, when Australia reclaimed the ICC test championship. Aussie fans would certainly hope that he avenges the Indian bowlers in this series for the manner in which they had troubled him in 2011. Shane Watson hasn’t fired after his comeback, and its essential that he steps up as a senior player and makes his bat do all the talking at the top of the order. Mitch Marsh has proved to be a great find for the Aussies this summer, and he has been a perfect all-round performer for the Australians, with the cameo in the second innings and the all important catch of Kohli that sealed the victory. It’s also essential that Brad Haddin contributes with the bat in the late middle order. With the additional responsibility of captaining the side, one would have to wait to see how Haddin responds to the situation. His aggressive field settings and his determination to push for Nathan Lyon in the final day was something commendable. Finally, Mitchell Johnson didn’t appear to be much of a threat for the Indian Batsmen. Not so long ago, It was in the same venue where he tore the English batting line up apart with figures of 7-40. However, one could argue that this wicket was much flatter than that one. Johnson would enjoy bowling at the Gabba, and Australia’s hopes for early strikes are pinned on him.

We had witnessed one of the greatest matches ever played this weekend, and one would certainly hope that such quality of cricket continues for weeks to come, so that people keep their minds off the tragedy that had occurred. Good cricket is the only healer to these turbulent times. The young India showed signs that they were here to prove a point by trying their best to chase victory, and these are positive signs for a country whose test team has seen major shuffles and revamps in the last couple of years. It’s only a matter of time before they settle in and get the knack of winning tests away from home. What India lacks is a clear set of all rounders, one that isn’t an area of concern for the Australians. So, it’s essential for both teams to find the right equation before Tuesday and move on. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Catch Bolt

Update - 03/09/2014

The Yuvraj Singh vs. Usain Bolt charity match is now officially over and in what style! Needing 10 to win from 2 balls, here's Usain Bolt doing a Yuvraj Singh.

Update - 30/08/2014

The Catch Bolt contest is now officially over, but you still have a chance to meet the legends. So here's what you have to do -
Update - 28/08/2014

The passes for the game are now available!


Ever wanted to play with an international cricketer? How about with an international sports legend? Now you can do both!  

Send a picture of your best Usain Bolt pose using hash tag #CatchBolt and get a chance to field for @usainbolt vs @YUVSTRONG12 cricket match. Contest open for every one in India. Winners will be be flown in to Bangalore by @pumacricket.

So what are you waiting for? Start posing!

Watch this space for more. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

There's a Storm Coming

There’s a storm coming

The Indian batsmen were reduced in less than 3 hours in their second innings in their 4th Test.

Britain might be battling Hurricane Bertha, but MS Dhoni has his own hurricanes to battle internally when it comes to Team India and it’s poor show in the 4th Test match of the Investec Series in Manchester. Moeen Ali, a Batting All-Rounder from Worcestershire who was less known till the start of this summer, has left the Indian top order clueless, carrying forward his good form from Southampton. He carries the reminiscence of Muralidharan from the 90’s, and has earned massive appreciation from critics and colleagues. He certainly has been the Trump Card for English Cricket this summer. His fighting century against Sri Lanka in the second test match proved that he is a composed batsman who’s got the ability and technique, and he has risen above ranks to be the star performer and a match winner for England. His spin’s befuddled the likes of Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli, and judging him by his performances in the last two Test Matches, no one would certainly term him as a part timer. He has taken more wickets than what Graeme Swann had in the 2011 India-England Series, and that’s reason enough to prove why England doesn't need a mainstream spinner.

There’s been a massive turnaround after the Lord’s drubbing for the English team. Cook and Bell have got their share of runs in Southampton, and their spearheads, Anderson and Broad, haven’t failed to impress them throughout the series. The fact that England was able to bowl out India for a mere 161 without Stuart Broad (Figures of 6-25 in the 1st innings) is something commendable and noteworthy. Anderson’s swing and Ali’s spin have left the Indian Batsmen looking like they’re a part of some C-Grade team. This is the bitter truth. Over the last two test matches, one could certainly say that the English Camp’s been more determined and dedicated. Anderson’s excellent bowling despite his ill health on the 3rd day at Old Trafford is something remarkable. Changes have happened in both teams over the last two test matches, and England’s certainly got the right combination. The addition of Jos Buttler has brought in more stability to the middle order, and his bat has done the talking. Chris Woakes is another Bonus. His pace and his batting technique have certainly proved to be a great asset for England. He also headed the pace attack along with Anderson in the 2nd innings, and he had bowled impressively. It was a great opportunity for him to showcase his potential. Jordan, on the other hand, hasn't made much of an impact with the ball, and Steven Finn is a more convincing bowler, given his height and pace. Jordan hasn't been an impact player, and his heroic against Sri Lanka in the ODI series was the sole reason for his selection. Jordan somehow seems more convincing as a limited overs cricketer. The key to England’s success at Manchester was the fact that they didn't change their winning combination, and that was what had lead to India’s downfall in Southampton. Ishant Sharma’s change was an unavoidable one, but they should have retained Binny, whose heroics in the 1st test saved the game for India. Varun Aaron should've played instead of Pankaj Singh in Southampton, given the fact that the pitch had more pace and bounce on it.
MSD will have to rack his mind up and create a clearer combination for the game at The Oval. The slip cordon for instance, needs extra attention. Although this is a relatively young side, they do have a bunch of excellent and energetic fielders. It’s all in the mind. Jadeja was always seen at a position like point in the limited overs, and I believe that it’s best that he remains there. Jadeja’s role in the team is another issue that needs to be sorted out specifically. As Kapil Dev rightly said, MSD must sort out each person’s role appropriately. Bringing back Ishant and Binny for the test at The Oval would give India a glimmer of hope for securing a win and get a face-lifting series draw. Virat Kohli’s woes against swing bowling are also issues. His footwork needs to improve. He has timed the ball well, but his foot hasn’t been moving across to the pitch of the ball. His interpretation of Anderson’s line has gone completely awry this series. Every player in cricketing history has been through a lean patch, and the expectations are high on Kohli. England has also had a list of underperforming batsmen such as Alastair Cook and Sam Robson, but their underperformances have been overshadowed by the team’s victories, as Shane Warne had rightly pointed out. So it’s high time the Indian batting addresses it’s concerns.

The Opening Combination is also another issue. In my opinion, Rohit Sharma and Murali Vijay should open the innings. Rohit has impressed us with his excellent performances as an opener in the shorter format of the game, and it’s about time that he’s promoted to that level in Test matches as well. From what we've seen in these 4 matches, Anderson and Broad find it easy to trouble left-handers since they've got natural outswing. Dhawan has failed with the bat, and he needs some amount of rest to cope up with the stress before the ODI series. He’s more of a limited-overs cricketer. On the other hand, Rohit has shown some grit through his performances against the Windies at home and against the Kiwis as well, and he has an average of 48.9, compared to Dhawan’s 38.7. Despite his failure at Southampton, Rohit should be given another chance up the order, and this might just boost his confidence. India should stop being conventional and they shouldn’t mind having openers who aren’t a right-left combination. Australia’s openers, Warner and Rogers are both left-handed batsmen, and they have had a successful time with the bat recently.

It’s high time Team India puts in some extra effort and battle out the English bowing attack with caution and aggression to set new standards for themselves. They’ll have to learn quickly from what the Sri Lankans did correctly in their series triumph in England, and accordingly attack them. No doubt in my mind, there’s a storm coming, and by all means, MSD and Co. need to brace themselves for it.

Credits: Shrinivas Uppili

Monday, July 28, 2014

Early Indicators for the 2015 World Cup

Early Indicators for the 2015 World Cup
By: Matthew Harris (Sky Sports and Huffington Post)

Test cricket currently dominates the international schedule but with the 2015 World Cup looming, attention will soon turn to the One Day form of the game. The tournament itself starts in February 2015 so, with little more than six months remaining, which countries are in form ahead of the first ball?

Home advantage
Australia and New Zealand are joint hosts for the 11th One Day World Cup and as you may expect, the Aussies are favourites at 3.20 with Betfair to lift the trophy. After demolishing England on their winter tour, Michael Clarke’s men climbed to the top of the ICC ODI rankings and the side will have a busy schedule leading up to the tournament, starting with the Triangular series against Zimbabwe and South Africa in August.

Australia haven’t played a one day international since their final game against England at the end of January but all signs were good. Aaron Finch and David Warner form the most explosive opening partnership in world cricket and if Michael Clarke and Mitchell Johnson can stay fit, the Aussies will be the side to beat.
New Zealand continue to perform strongly in all forms of the game and their batting will be strong in 2015. Brendon McCullum, Ross Taylor, Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson will be supported by Jimmy Neesham and Corey Anderson in the middle order and if the bowlers can keep things tight, the Kiwis should progress to the knockout stages at the very least.

Recent Series
Traditionally, South Africa do not travel well, particularly to the subcontinent but AB De Villiers’ side were hugely impressive in taking a 2-1 series win over Sri Lanka in July. HashimAmla was in supreme form, scoring two hundreds in the series while Quinton de Kock and De Villiers also made tons as their team passed 300 on two separate occasions.

Australia and New Zealand will also offer favourable conditions for South Africa’s strong bowling attack led by Dale Steyn. The Proteas have yet to win a major ICC trophy but judging by the form shown in the Sri Lanka series, this may finally be their time.

Sri Lanka themselves will have been disappointed by those recent performances, particularly after defeating England by three matches to two in a controversial series earlier in the season. Angelo Mathews’ men will now play Pakistan before hosting the English again at the end of 2014.

As for England’s hopes, it’s clear that they are undergoing a ‘transitional period’ under Peter Moores and little is expected from them at the 2015 World Cup. There are criticisms of a relatively pedestrian opening partnership of Alastair Cook and Ian Bell and perhaps the selectors need to be brave and to introduce a power hitter such as Alex Hales at the top of the order.

Upcoming clashes
Before England and Sri Lanka do battle again, Cook will lead his side in five ODIs against the touring Indians. MS Dhoni’s men have been poor away from home and a 4-0 reverse against New Zealand in January suggests they will struggle to retain their trophy.

Elsewhere, Pakistan will always threaten with their bright, if inconsistent brand of One Day cricket while West Indies currently seem to prefer the T20 format, almost to the complete exclusion of all other forms of the game.

Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Ireland, Afghanistan, Scotland and the UAE will also travel to Australia and New Zealand in 2015 but while they are capable of providing the occasional upset, it’s hard to see any of these sides progressing beyond the groups.

The forthcoming World Cup promises to be the most entertaining and possibly the closest tournament ever but can these recent ODIs really help us to pick a winner?


Matthew Harris is freelance journalist who writes for the likes of Huffington Post and for some of the larger sports bookmakers such as Sky Sports.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Cricket: The basics of the game

Cricket is one of the most popular and amazing sports in the world. Very few athletic competitions can charge up the atmosphere like a game of cricket. This enticing pastime inspires millions of fans worldwide. The rules of the game seem complicated at first, but once you get around to knowing the basics, you will see that’s actually one of the most fun sports you can watch or play.

The game is played on a cricket field with a pitch in the middle. The pitch is in the shape of rectangle and is exactly 22 yards in length. The entire playing area goes way beyond it, but the pitch is where most of the action is happening. The pitch is sometimes referred to as a wicket. Wicket is a term you need to remember – it not only refers to the pitch sometimes, but it is also the name of a construction of three stumps and two bails near the ends of the pitch. Finally, wicket is also one of the ways a batsman is being dismissed. There is no other sport where the sentence, “A wicket occurs when the batsman loses a wicket near the end of the wicket” would make sense. One more thing we need to explain about the field are the creases – lines signifying the borders where the batsmen and the bowlers have to stay.

The game is played with 22 people –2 teams of 11 players each. There are two halves of the game, called innings. One team is batting while the other team is fielding in the first inning, and then they switch roles in the second one. The batting team has two batsmen on the field at all times – their job is to guard the stumps (or the wickets) using the bat to hit the ball, as well as to score a run. Once the batsman hits the ball, he has to reach the other end of the pitch, thus scoring a run. Both batsmen stand at the ends of the pitch facing each other so they can score runs. If a batsman hits the ball so hard that it reaches the boundary of the field, his team is automatically rewarded 4 runs and if it leaves the boundaries without touching the ground – they’re rewarded 6 runs. All the runs the batsmen make during the inning is recorded and summed up. The opposition has to make more runs during the second inning if they want to win.

The fielding team has to prevent runs and dismiss batsmen. This can be done by hitting the wickets, catching the ball before it touches the ground or returning the ball to the end of the pitch before the batsman has finished their run. The inning is over once all batsmen have been dismissed.

This is a brief overview of the rules – the game is actually way more complicated and this is what makes it so interesting. It’s amazing that something that looks so simple from the side can hold so much complexity into its core. When you begin to understand the game, you will find that it’s one of the most amazing sports you can watch.

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