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  • Irfan to tie the knot with long time friend

    Indian pace star Irfan Pathan has decided to tie the nuptial knot with his long-time friend Shivangi Dev.

    Irfan, 24, met Shivangi, 22, in Canberra in 2003 when the Indian team was touring Australia and proposed to her when she was on a visit here three years back.

    Shivangi, daughter of a diplomat now posted in Spain, promptly said "Yes" when Irfan asked whether she will marry him, Irfan's father Mehbubkhan Pathan told PTI.

    "Miya bibi razi to kya karega Kazi" (if the boy and the girl are ready to tie the knot, what can anyone do), he said quickly adding the family has no objection to the marriage.

    But Irfan will have to wait for some time as the family is looking for a suitable match for his elder brother and team mate Yusuf Pathan, says his father.

    "We are in search of a good girl for Yusuf and after his marriage, Irfan's turn will come," he said.

    Irfan's mother Shamim Banoo is impressed with the simplicity and good nature of Shivangi, who also runs a dancing school in Canberra.

    A sprawling bungalow is being readied for Irfan in the posh Tandaja locality on the outskirts of the city, close to where the family is staying in a duplex house. The new house will have a 'cricket room'. .

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    ICC chief suggests four-day Tests

    David Morgan, the ICC president, has hinted that Test cricket may be reduced to four days to protect and enrich the game's oldest format in the face of lucrative Twenty20 leagues like the IPL. The suggestion comes in the wake of a few other changes that are being mooted, including a two-tier format and day-night Tests to attract more crowds.

    "Another thought that many people have, that we are examining is whether Test match cricket can be played over four days rather than five," Morgan told the India Today magazine. "I would be very surprised if within a year you haven't seen some significant changes in Test match cricket."

    Morgan felt it wouldn't be too difficult for players to make a mental shift from five days to four. He added that Test cricket needed many more adjustments, and that special cricket balls would have to be made to facilitate night Tests in white clothing.

    "We need better over-rates, better pitches that give a good balance between bat and ball and we need to consider day-night Test cricket," Morgan said. "There is great support for it, the issue is the colour of the ball and the quality of the ball. It would be a pity if Test match cricket - day-night - had to be played with a white ball and therefore coloured clothing.

    "We are looking very closely at ball manufacturing design that replicates a red ball, maybe an orange ball, a ball that could still allow us to play in white clothing and still at night."

    The two-tier structure was recently mooted by Dave Richardson, the ICC general manager for cricket, to divide the stronger and weaker teams and make the format more competitive. The ICC has also given the go ahead for the Umpire Decision Review System (UDRS) from October following trials in specific series over the last year. Umpires will have greater scope to decide on bad-light interruptions and the penalities for slow over-rates have also been increased.

    With so much emphasis on Twenty20 and the enrichment of Test cricket, Morgan was very confident of the survival of the 50-over game in its current form, now with batting Powerplays and free-hits added to spice it up. He also defended the presence of the Champions Trophy in an already crowded calendar, despite calls for it to be scrapped.

    The Champions Trophy, in South Africa in September, now features only the top eight teams and is a shorter tournament compared to previous editions.

    "It will be played over a shorter period and we are certain it will rejuvenate the Champions Trophy brand," he said. "The brand needed polishing, rejuvenating, it needed remodeling and this event will be a very, very exciting and successful event I'm sure. It will be the event that will give fifty overs cricket its profile back, give it a boost without a doubt."

    We misread the pitch - Dhoni

    India's poor batting display in their eight-wicket defeat in the second ODI in Kingston owed to a misjudgment on the part of their batsmen about the pitch, MS Dhoni has said. Dhoni played a captain's innings of 95, which rescued his team from a hopeless situation at 82 for 8, but proved woefully inadequate in the face of an attacking opening stand of 101 led by West Indies captain Chris Gayle.

    "We should have paid a little more respect to the bowlers," Dhoni said after the game. "The wicket was a bit difficult, it was swinging around a bit. We didn't judge the wicket well and just went around playing our strokes which really brought our downfall."

    Dhoni was involved in a 101-run stand for the ninth wicket with RP Singh, who chipped in with a valuable 23. It was the fifth instance of a ninth-wicket pair putting on a century-partnership, and it saved India's blushes after they were in danger of being bowled out for under three figures. "Once you lose too many wickets then the only thing that you are doing is catching up. RP and me had a partnership otherwise it would have been quite embarrassing," he said.

    India's top and middle orders were blown away by some disciplined bowling from the West Indian seamers, led by Ravi Rampaul, who finished with a career-best 4 for 37. India were in trouble as early as the second over, when Rampaul dismissed Gautam Gambhir and Rohit Sharma in a space of three deliveries, and West Indies retained the advantage for the remainder of the game.

    India's failure at the top, Dhoni believed, was decisive in their inability to post a challenging score, as the pitch had eased out by the time West Indies began their chase. "Later on, the wicket became better for batting," he said. "When you are batting first, initially you expect the wicket to do a bit and it is the first half an hour and after that you can capitalise if you get up a good start."

    While Yuvraj Singh was at the crease India were in a position to fight back hard, but Dhoni added that reliance on just one individual - Yuvraj made a century in the series opener - was not going to win them matches. "Yuvraj is the man in form, he is getting the run for us but we can't expect one individual to score in one and every game.

    "You can't expect to bowl the opponent out within 180, especially on a wicket like this. We just wanted to make it difficult. As long as we can stay on the wicket and make it difficult for them to score runs, that was the motivation."

    His opposing captain Chris Gayle was full of praise for the fast-bowling duo of Rampaul and Jerome Taylor, who set the stage for the series-levelling win.

    "It is nice to square the series. There were some good performances from the guys," he said. "Rampaul and Taylor set the game for us and from now we will look to go strength to strength. There was moisture in the wicket and Taylor and Ravi utilised it well, and the catching was also good, so we just need to keep working on our game."

    The West Indies selectors have retained the current squad for the remaining two matches. The teams get a four-day break before the third ODI at Gros Islet on Friday.

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    West Indies seamers seal comprehensive win

    The West Indies fast bowlers - even without Fidel Edwards - embarrassed the Indian batting line-up for the second time in three weeks, setting the foundation for a series-levelling win. They bowled aggressively and smartly, reducing India to 82 for 8 before a 101-run ninth-wicket stand between MS Dhoni and RP Singh kept the match alive. Chris Gayle and Runako Morton replied with a 101-run partnership of their own, ensuring there was no late drama in a game that was mostly dominated by West Indies.

    Two days ago 658 runs were scored on the same Sabina Park pitch by the same set of batsmen, but the early swing exposed some technical flaws with the Indian line-up. There were personal milestones for Ravi Rampaul and Denesh Ramdin along the way, Rampaul taking career-best figures of 4 for 37 and Ramdin five catches.

    Gayle's captaincy stood out early on. He employed two slips as soon as he saw some swing. Jerome Taylor didn't need any of the slips in the first over, when he bowled the perfect outswinger to Dinesh Karthik, shaping in, pitching off, moving away, making the batsman play, and getting the edge through to the keeper.

    If Karthik had no option but to play at Taylor, Gautam Gambhir and Rohit Sharma played unnecessary shots to Rampaul in the next over. Bowling to Rohit, Rampaul wanted the second slip out, but Gayle persisted. And how it worked. Rohit chased a wide outswinger, Ramdin went too hard at the catch, but the second slip took the rebound. Seven for 3 in 1.4 overs, and there was still a long queue outside the Sabina Park.

    By the time the crowd finally settled, Yuvraj Singh was promising another treat. By the end of 12 overs India seemed to have weathered the storm, only momentarily. Yuvraj had reached 35 off 32, quite a contrast to Dhoni's 11 off 31. It was all fine until then, because the partnership read 47 off 62.

    But neither Gayle nor Taylor was done yet. Taylor was asked to bowl his seventh over on the trot, and he got Yuvraj with the first ball. Gayle was not going to wait for mistakes now. Back came Rampaul, in came a leg gully and a slip, and out came the open secret: the bouncers. After an edgy nine-ball stay, Yusuf Pathan edged an accurate bouncer from Dwayne Bravo. Ravindra Jadeja repeated his dismissal from the first match, pushing at a delivery away from his body. After the second slump of the innings, India stood at 70 for 6, and Dhoni looking for some support from the other end.

    Harbhajan Singh and Praveen Kumar didn't show any appreciation of the fact that there were close to 30 overs still to go, getting out to flashy shots, and soon India were 82 for 8. But Rampaul's fourth wicket came in his tenth over, a maiden, and Taylor and Bravo were nearing the completion of their quotas as well.

    Dhoni took the batting Powerplay in the 23rd over, and farmed strike, even refusing singles to RP. Gayle got through the Powerplay overs without much damage, but had to opt against an all-out attack because Bravo and Taylor had only two overs each to go. He also seemed to have sensed that the pitch had eased out, and was happy to contain. Dhoni and RP, meanwhile, batted sensibly.

    Dhoni wasn't in the cleanest of touches, but took charge of the rescue work. RP hung around him, and between them they brought up only the fifth 100-run stand for the ninth wicket in ODI history. RP's 23 was his personal best, and Dhoni looked set for what would have been a fifth century. But Bravo and Taylor came back well, making sure India didn't play their full quota. Dhoni was the last to go, for a responsible 95, to a perfect slower ball from Taylor in the 49th over.

    If India thought they were carrying some momentum into the defence, they had another think coming. The maiden bowled at the top of the innings, by Praveen Kumar to Gayle, was a false start too. When Morton stood tall and slapped the first ball he faced for four, it confirmed that the pitch held no horrors, at least not after the first few overs in the morning.

    That being the case, Gayle took a liking to the medium-pace of Ashish Nehra, RP and Praveen. In the over after that maiden, Praveen's quick reflexes saved his life: the straight pull from Gayle reached the boundary even before one could say "thank god". Gayle immediately put his hand up to apologise.

    There was no sense of apology in the way he took the left-arm medium-pacers for 37 runs in their first five overs, killing the contest right there. When Gayle finally fell for a 46-ball 62, Morton had scored just 30. Morton stayed solid after his captain's fall, getting to his tenth fifty and taking West Indies home with 15.5 overs to spare.

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    Sehwag could miss Champions Trophy

    Virender Sehwag could miss the Champions Trophy in September as he recovers from the shoulder injury that kept him out of the ICC World Twenty20. Sehwag underwent surgery on June 11 after a lesion was identified in his shoulder, and is expected to be out of action for around 12 to 16 weeks.

    The Indian team physio Nitin Patel will monitor Sehwag's rehabilitation process and his stint at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore. Sehwag has to wear a sling for at least four weeks, and the lesion is expected to heal in six weeks. His shoulder will also be evaluated ten weeks after the operation to check whether he can throw a ball.

    The Champions Trophy, which starts on September 24, is India's next scheduled assignment after the upcoming short trip to the Caribbean.

    Sehwag had picked up the injury during the latter stages of the IPL, and there had been intense speculation over his fitness during the build-up to the World Twenty20. The uncertainty over his injury led to reports of a rift between him and the captain MS Dhoni, which prompted the team to make a dramatic public show of unity and emphasise their team spirit through a statement read out by Dhoni.

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    India snatch high-scoring thriller

    It ended dramatically at Sabina Park, with tension contorting the faces of anxious fans, both Indian and West Indian, as the hosts pursued India's massive total of 339 with tenacity. West Indies chased valiantly and stayed in the game throughout despite the regular fall of wickets but, in the end, their challenge lacked an innings combining aggression with longevity, two qualities that Yuvraj Singh blended perfectly during his match-winning 131 off 102 balls.

    India were succumbing to their bugbear, having lost early wickets to the short ball, when Yuvraj joined Dinesh Karthik to rebuild the innings from 32 for 2. His approach made up for the absence of Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Suresh Raina and allayed fears of weakness in the batting order. Yuvraj revived the Indian innings by adding 135 with Karthik for the third wicket, a partnership that laid the platform for only the second ODI total in excess of 300 in Jamaica.

    That two out of the three 300-plus scores at Sabina Park were made in this match despite a slow pitch and outfield spoke volumes about the mediocrity of the bowling attacks. West Indies' bowling disintegrated after Jerome Taylor's opening spell, losing discipline in line and length as they fed the Indian batsmen a diet of short or full balls. They conceded 22 runs in extras, and bowled three front-foot no-balls resulting in free hits, largesse they could ill afford. India's bowlers were worse, conceding 19 runs through wides, and bowling two no-balls: Chris Gayle deposited one of the free-hits over the long-on boundary. That they defended the target by 20 runs, was more due to the size of the total they were protecting and the West Indies' batsmen's ill-timed dismissals each time they got on a roll.

    India seemed unlikely, however, to reach such a large total on evidence of how they batted at the start. Taylor hurried the batsmen with pace and beat them with seam movement during his first spell. He unsettled Gautam Gambhir with a 92mph delivery from round the wicket that hurried the left-hander, whose feeble attempt to hook landed in Dwayne Bravo's hands at midwicket. Unfortunately for West Indies, the pressure Taylor created dissipated because there was none forthcoming from the other end with Lionel Baker, Dwayne Bravo and David Bernard unable to bowl economically for a sustained period.

    Even the batsmen who revived India survived nervous starts: Karthik was cut in half by Baker while Yuvraj was constantly beaten by short-of-length deliveries which seamed across him. The moment the length was full, though, the batsmen took advantage: Karthik drove Dwayne Bravo to the extra-cover boundary and Yuvraj was able to put away Baker's full offering to the point fence.

    After growing in confidence, Karthik added Twenty20 flavour to the sedate pace of 50-over cricket, reaching his half-century with a scoop that carried for six over fine leg against Bernard. He tried it again, on 67, but this time he was undone by Bernard's slower ball and scooped a catch to the wicketkeeper.

    Yuvraj, however, stayed firm and the momentum swung towards India in two phases, the first of which was when the spinners came on after the 20th over. He attacked Suleimann Benn and Gayle, pulling and slog-sweeping thrice over the midwicket boundary and India, largely through Yuvraj scored 70 runs between overs 20 and 27.

    The second period of acceleration was during the batting Powerplay, taken in the 34th over. India began the five-over spell on 191 for 3 and Yuvraj set the tone by carving Baker to the cover boundary off the second ball before launching sixes over cover and midwicket to take 16 runs off the over.

    Gayle turned to his best bowler but Yuvraj tore into Taylor's second spell, flicking him twice off the pads for four, and hitting him for sixes over cover, midwicket and long-on. MS Dhoni also went after him, shoveling a six down the ground. Taylor's two-over spell cost 37 runs and India scored 62 off the Powerplay. Taylor never recovered from the onslaught and finished with 1 for 74 after conceding only 16 off his first five overs.

    West Indies appeared hapless against Yuvraj until Dwayne Bravo found the edge of his bat as he tried to glance towards fine leg. Bravo raised hopes of a fightback by dismissing Ravindra Jadeja first ball but useful innings from Dhoni and Yusuf Pathan steered India past 300, and a six from Harbhajan Singh off the last ball took them to 339.

    Chasing 340 needed something special from Gayle and he began to deliver, muscling his way to 37 before top-edging a pull off Ashish Nehra to mid-on. Morton attempted to fill the void left by his opening partner and stepped up after his departure, steering West Indies to 70 for 1 after ten overs before he was unlucky to be given out caught down the leg side for 42. Despite the loss of both set batsmen, Ramnaresh Sarwan ensured West Indies kept abreast with the asking-rate, using his feet nimbly against the spinners to clear the boundary. In fact, Sarwan had just lofted Yuvraj for the most languid of straight sixes when he was run out for 45 the next ball while attempting an unnecessary second run.

    It was now down to Shivnarine Chanderpaul and he too stepped up to ensure the equation didn't get out of hand, carting Yuvraj for consecutive sixes and reaching his half-century with two whips to the fine-leg boundary off Ishant Sharma. However, Chanderpaul also fell immediately after hitting a six: he had smacked Yusuf Pathan over the square-leg boundary and was caught repeating the shot the very next ball. Chanderpaul's dismissal for 63 was a crippling blow and appeared to be the end of West Indies chances but they fought on determinedly. Denesh Ramdin threw his bat around, so did Jerome Taylor and David Bernard, fraying India's nerves to the limit. They couldn't quite complete what would have been an astonishing win, though, for they needed one of their more accomplished top-order batsmen to stay to stay a little longer.

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    India is capable of bouncing back: Ganguly

    Former India captain Sourav Ganguly feels India’s early elimination from the ICC World Twenty20 tournament is not a cause for worry.

    He also did not agree with coach Gary Kirsten’s fatigue theory and the non-availability of three key players, Sachin Tendulkar, Zaheer Khan and Virender Sehwag.

    Ganguly said the Indians had been playing well for the last one and a half months and one failure in the Twenty20 meet should not worry the team in the ensuing ODI series against the West Indies beginning on Friday.

    “Non-availability of three key players will have to be dealt with. I am hopeful that the team will recover quickly from the setback. The team is an experienced one as far as ODI is concerned,” he said during a function here on Thursday.

    “It is going to be a tough series in the West Indies and I am confident that the team will do well.

    Ganguly refused to single out that Chris Gayle was the only West Indian to be feared. “Gayle is not the only one to be contained. There are Ramnaresh Sarwan and Dwayne Bravo, both capable of playing well. The series will be a tightly contested one,” he predicted.

    The southpaw did not agree that players at that level hide injury. “I don’t think it is true. At this level, every player is honest while representing his country,” India’s most successful captain said.

    He also did not agree with coach Kirsten’s view that fatigue was a factor. “I don’t think fatigue is a concern for the cricketers who are professionals,” he said.

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    England set off for secret bonding session

    The 16 players named in England's preliminary Ashes squad have been told to report for duty in Birmingham tomorrow armed with their passports, as the management prepares to step up the intensity ahead of the first Test in Cardiff on July 8 by organising a team bonding session in a secret overseas location.

    An ECB spokesman confirmed that the trip was set to take place, but added that the exact details would remain undisclosed to enable the players to unwind without any cameras or TV crews tracking their movements. "This was something that the players themselves very much wanted to do as a unit," the spokesman told Cricinfo.

    Whatever the length or the destination of the trip, the players are due to be back in England next Wednesday, when the first XI takes on Warwickshire in a three-day fixture at Edgbaston, while the England Lions face the Australians in a four-day match at Worcester. And for Andrew Strauss, the get-together will mark his return to the England captaincy after he handed the reins over to Paul Collingwood for the recent World Twenty20.

    After a month away from the limelight, Strauss didn't shake off his cobwebs in the most conventional of manners, as he was chased around a boxing ring by the Olympic champion, James Degale, during a Vodafone sponsors' event in Loughton, Essex. By the end of the session, however, he had worked up enough of a sweat to prepare himself for the full heat of England's summer.

    "I've got seven weeks' work ahead of me, and it's going to be hard work," said Strauss. "More than anything I tried to charge the batteries during my time away, so that by the time we meet back together there's a lot of energy there, and we're ready to hit the ground running. The greatest challenge in an Ashes series is to go out and play your cricket despite the added interest. My job as captain is to keep the guys focused."

    One of the players who stands to gain the most from the team get-together is Monty Panesar, who has managed just six wickets at 90 in the County Championship this season since being usurped by Graeme Swann as England's No. 1 spinner. Cardiff, the venue for the first Test, is expected to favour the inclusion of a second spinner, but with Adil Rashid on the rise after impressing during the World Twenty20, Panesar's performance against Warwickshire could make or break his summer.

    Strauss, however, gave his full backing to a man who has taken 125 wickets in 38 Tests, at an average of 33.72. "You look at Monty's record for England, and it's exceptional," he said. "It's up there with some of the best spinners that have played the game. He's gone through a bit of a tough patch, but we've all been through that - I've been through it myself, and so have others in the squad - and you come back much better for the experience.

    "When you're going through a rough patch you question what you're doing, but I've got a lot of hope he'll come through this and be an exceptional bowler going forward. Hopefully the other members of the squad will give him the confidence to go out there against Warwickshire, take a bagful of wickets, and become an important member of the side again. People who've been writing him off are unwise. He's got a hell of a lot to give England in the future."

    Critics have seized on Panesar's lack of variation, particularly when compared to the more adaptable Swann, and Shane Warne memorably remarked that Panesar had played the same Test 38 times. But Strauss backed his man to showcase the skills that earned his first cap back in March 2006, and return to the forefront of England's Ashes plans.

    "I've spoken to Monty a lot about it, he's been in contact with Mushtaq Ahmed as well, and other members of the England management. He has been working on variations but the reality is that Monty has taken 99 percent of his wickets by bowling a very good left-arm spinner that turns and has good pace on it. That's his default and he shouldn't stray too far from it. It's like me triyng to bat like [Brian] Lara, it doesn't work. He shouldn't stray too far from that, and just do what he does well. If he does that, he's going to be a handful."

    Another man who will doubtless use England's mini-break to good effect is Andrew Flintoff, whose year has once again been blighted by injury. He missed the middle part of England's Test series in the Caribbean after picking up a hip complaint, and though he starred in the subsequent one-day series win with a hat-trick in the series decider in Gros Islet, he went on to sustain a knee injury during the IPL in South Africa, and has not played for England since.

    Flintoff remains crucial to England's Ashes plans, however, especially in light of his performances in 2005, and Strauss was ready to welcome him back on board. "Andrew seems very fit and is bowling at a good pace," he said. "It's obviously early in his comeback but we've got to assume he'll be fit for the five Test matches. It's a massive plus for us if he is. He adds balance to our side and we know the Aussies don't like facing him.

    "We're all hopeful that after a long period of bad luck he has the rub of the green for a while and produces a really good Ashes series. It will be fantastic to have him back."

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    India would seek to settle scores: Gayle

    Bested in the ICC World Twenty20, revenge-thirsty India would come down hard on West Indies in the forthcoming ODI series, believes home side captain Chris Gayle.

    West Indies not only beat India in the Super Eight stage of the World T20 but also laid bare its frailty against rising deliveries which was exploited well by England.

    Gayle believes the side under Mahendra Singh Dhoni, however depleted, would seek to settle scores in the four-match ODI series starting here on Friday.

    Big game

    “We have a big game on Friday against India. We’re all looking forward to it,” Gayle said.

    “India is always a good one-day team and they will be looking to beat us after their Twenty20 disappointment,” he added.

    Gayle said even though India would be without star batsmen Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag, the bunch is still good enough to make life miserable for the host.

    “Sehwag and Tendulkar are two world class players but they still have quality players to step up and they have a lot of experience in one-day cricket.

    “They still have quality players in Yuvraj (Singh), Harbhajan Singh, Dhoni, (Ishant) Sharma and a lot of guys to give us a lot of trouble,” Gayle said.

    Well supported

    Having led the side to the semifinals of the World T20, Gayle said he was happy with the support from all quarters.

    “The support has been brilliant. The guys gave me their full support and I gave them the same sort of support and respect which they deserve. It’s been enjoyable.

    “Captaining the West Indies has done a lot for me individually and I’m really happy and grateful to be captaining West Indies and the entire region,” Gayle said. “It’s a privilege and hopefully I can continue from strength to strength and give everyone something to cheer about. Hopefully we can wrap up this series and am looking forward to a lot of things,” Gayle said.

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    Gayle cautious against weakened India

    West Indies captain Chris Gayle has said he is not underestimating the Indians despite the visitors fielding an understrength team for the four-match ODI series in Jamaica and St Lucia.

    Sachin Tendulkar and Zaheer Khan have opted for rest while Virender Sehwag and Suresh Raina failed to make the short tour due to injury concerns. Looking ahead, Gayle said India's poor showing in the ICC World Twenty20 - they failed to win any of their Super Eight games - would have no bearing on the forthcoming ODIs. West Indies reached the semi-finals before crashing out to the Sri Lankans but Gayle insisted it was too early to jump the gun and pick a favourite.

    "It is never a walkover against India," Gayle told PTI. "There are a lot of guys still there to give us a lot of trouble, so we just have to stick to the game plan and make it a successful one."

    Gayle's team-mate Ramnaresh Sarwan also agreed. "The Indians are a very good one-day team and while they may be without a couple of their players, they will prove to be a handful for us," Sarwan said. "But we are in good form and have confidence in our abilities and hopefully, beginning Friday, we can get a good start to the series."

    The Indians haven't had the best of fortunes in the Caribbean over the last few years. In 2006, they were comprehensively beaten 4-1 before crashing out of the World Cup in the first round the following year.

    West Indies also announced changes to their one-day side for the first two games, the most notable casualty being their in-form bowler Fidel Edwards who's nursing a back injury.

    "There are a few changes in the squad, there is Darren Bravo and [Narsingh] Deonarine coming in and it is a good opportunity for them to play an important part against India," Gayle said.

    Despite bowing out of the semi-finals, Gayle was happy with his team's comeback after a lacklustre start to the tour, which included a Test and ODI series defeat to England.

    "It was a pretty decent performance. We tried our best but in the end it was not to be," Gayle said. "But I am not disheartened. In fact, I am proud of the guys, as at the championship, not many were expecting us to reach that far.

    "The aim was to bring home the trophy and make everyone happy, especially the fans. Having said that, however, it was a wonderful experience, one that I think will serve the team well going into the future and one that should serve us well when we host the next World Twenty20 Championship here in the Caribbean."

    Meanwhile, three Indian players - M Vijay, S Badrinath and Abhishek Nayar - are yet to depart for the West Indies as they are awaiting their UK transit visas. "They will get their visas today and are set to leave tonight (Monday)," a BCCI source told PTI. "They are scheduled to reach Jamaica by tomorrow evening local time."

    The series begins on Friday at Sabina Park.

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    Sania battles past Anna-Lena Groenefeld

    When she first arrived here — a starry-eyed little girl sporting a pony-tail, chaperoned by doting parents — to play in the girls’ singles championship all those years ago, Sania Mirza might have hardly imagined that the early part of her career as a professional tennis player would the play out the way it has — like a game of snakes and ladders.

    In a few packed, emotionally-draining years since making a breakthrough at the Australian Open in January 2005, Sania, aged 22, has been through it all in a hurry — form slumps, a series of injuries, spectacular surges, controversies on and off the courts — and it is hardly a surprise that she often sounds like a world-weary veteran after being forced by circumstances to live her life in fast forward.

    Annus horribilis

    The year 2008 was something of an annus horribilis for Sania as she started the year at No.32 and ended it just inside the top 100, at 99. A first right wrist injury early in the year required surgery and forced her out of the game for several weeks. This was followed by another right wrist injury just before the Olympics.

    In sport, as in life, sometimes it is necessary to plumb the depths to get a clear view of the way up. And Sania, still a long way from becoming the player she can be — the consistent winner that she wants to be in the process of discovering the limits of her own potential — did prove today that she is ready for the arduous task.

    In a first round match of the 123rd Wimbledon tennis championships, on a cloudy, warm afternoon, Sania quickly overcame a mid-match slump as she beat Anna-Lena Groenefeld of Germany 6-2, 2-6, 6-2 to make her way to the second round.

    After coming into the championship following her best tournament-run in a long, long time — a semifinal finish in the Aegon Classic on grass — the Indian star was unlikely to have been short on confidence. But after a dream start that saw her open up a 4-0 first set lead, Sania failed to impose herself on an opponent whose arsenal was mostly absent of heavy weaponry.

    Then again, even if she blew hot and cold on the No.14 court where every single seat was taken and quite a few Indian fans had to crane their necks standing on the walkways to get a glimpse of the action, the woman from Hyderabad regrouped superbly after taking a break at the end of the second set.

    Sania upped the ante on her serve, injected a strut into her court coverage and stepped in courageously for some rewarding fly-swatting on Anna-Lena’s second serves before finally blowing away her German opponent with an avalanche of blistering forehands.

    Overall, it wasn’t the sort of performance that elicited a constant volley of Oohs and Aahs from the stands but it was a thoroughly professional demonstration of getting the job done on a big stage without too many missed heartbeats.

    Last year, Sania, a bit rusty after coming in following a long injury-break, had failed to convert four matchpoints in the third set, losing to Martinez Sanchez, a qualifier in the second round.

    This time, she plays Sorana Cirstea of Romania in the second round.

    Not long after Sania returned to the locker room, the sport’s great summiteer got within six match victories of planting his Swiss flag on a peak no man has ever set foot on. Roger Federer, opening the proceedings on a brand new Centre Court in the absence of his friend and great rival Rafael Nadal, got past Yen-Hsun Lu from Chinese Taipei 7-5, 6-3, 6-2.

    “Monday 1 p.m. It is a very privileged spot. Gets your heart beating, that’s for sure. He was a tough opponent,” said the five-time champion, after playing for the first time since winning a title — the French Open — that had long proved vanishingly elusive. “Rafa had dominated the championship (French) for so long. For me it was an unbelievable feeling,” said Federer.

    Earlier in the day, Andreas Seppi of Italy upset James Blake (seeded 17) of the United States 7-5, 6-4, 7-6(5).

    ‘’This is something that has been my worst Slam, I don’t know why,” said a disappointed Blake. “Just didn’t feel like myself out there today.”


    Prefix denotes seeding Men: First round: 9-Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (Fra) bt Andrey Golubev (Kaz) 6-3, 5-7, 7-6(4), 7-6(5); Janko Tipsarevic (Ser) bt Jan Hernych (Cze) 6-4, 6-4, 7-6(4); Dudi Sela (Isr) bt Santiago Gonzalez (Mex) 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-3; 13-Robin Soderling (Swe) bt Gilles Muller (Lux) 6-7(4), 7-5, 6-1, 6-2; Andreas Seppi (Ita) bt 17-James Blake USA) 7-5, 6-4, 7-6(5), Marc Gicquel Fra) bt Adrian Mannarino (Fra) 6-2, 6-2, 6-4; 27-Philipp Kohlschreiber Ger) bt Florent Serra (Fra) 7-6(3), 6-1, 6-4; ; 2-Roger Federer (Sui) bt Yen- Hsun Lu (Tpe) 7-5, 6-3, 6-2; Mardy Fish (USA) bt Sergio Roitman (Arg) 6-3, 6-2, 4-1 retired; Dudi Sela (Isr) bt Santiago Gonzalez (Mex) 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 2), 6-3; Karol Beck (Svk) bt 21-Feliciano Lopez (Esp) 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, 4-6, 10-8.

    Women: First round: 27-Alisa Kleybanova (Rus) bt Sesil Karatantcheva (Kaz) 6-2, 7-5; 24-Maria Sharapova (Rus) bt Viktoriya Kutuzova Ukr)7-5, 6-4; Sania Mirza (Ind) bt Anna- Lena Groenefeld (Ger) 6-2, 2-6, 6-2; 28-Sorana Cirstea (Rou) bt Edina Gallovits (Rou) 7-5, 6-1; Daniela Hantuchova (Svk) bt Laura Robson (Gbr) 3-6, 6-4, 6-2; 31-Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (Rus) bt Petra Cetkovska Cze) 6-2, 6-2; 16-Jie Zheng (Chn) bt Kristina Barrois (Ger) 7-6(2), 7-6(4); 8-Victoria Azarenka (Blr) bt Severine Bremond (Fra) 6-2 retired; 14-Dominika Cibulkova (Svk) bt Julie Coin (Fra) 6-4, 3-6, 6-3; Raluca Olaru (Rou) bt Nathalie Dechy (Fra) 1-6, 7-6(0), 6-2; 2-Serena Williams (USA) bt Neuza Silva (Por) 6-1, 7-5.

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    Nehra in the squad for West Indies

    After a gap of 45 months, Delhi left-arm seamer Ashish Nehra (72 ODI matches, 92 wickets) has been recalled for the four-match one-day international series to be played against the West Indies at Kingston and Gros Islet from June 26 to July 5.

    Nehra played his last international against New Zealand at Harare in September 2005. His last Test was against Pakistan at Rawalpindi in April 2004.

    The 16 member Indian team for the short series in the West Indies was selected in London after a teleconference between Chairman of the committee K. Srikkanth, Raja Venkat, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and coach Gary Kirsten (in London) and three selectors — Yashpal Sharma, Surendhra Bhave and Narendra Hirwani — at the Cricket Centre here.

    Nayar, Badrinath in

    Mumbai left hander Abhishek Nayar has been included in the team. S. Badrinath who has played three one-day internationals against Sri Lanka and opener Murali Vijay (one Test against Australia) are also in the team.

    N. Srinivasan, Secretary, BCCI has said in a press release that Suresh Raina (hairline fracture in his left thumb) was not considered for selection and that the left-hander needs to rest for two weeks.

    Zaheer Khan has also been rested.

    Sachin Tendulkar is not in the squad either as he had requested the BCCI to rest him.

    The team: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Yuvraj Singh (vice-captain), Gautam Gambhir, Rohit Sharma, Harbhajan Singh, Pragyan Ojha, Yusuf Pathan, Murali Vijay, S. Badrinath, R.P. Singh, Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Abhishek Nayar, Ashish Nehra, Ravindra Jadeja, Dinesh Kartik.

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    de Villiers helps South Africa stay unbeaten

    On a spin-friendly Trent Bridge surface, South Africa's slow bowlers rubbed salt and some spices into India's gaping World Twenty20 wounds, defending a modest total of 130 with consummate ease. The real difference between the sides though was AB de Villiers, who batted quite magnificently for a 51-ball 63 on a pitch where no other batsman excelled. With the ball, Johan Botha took 3 for 16, and was superbly supported by Roelof van der Merwe (1 for 13) as India stumbled from 47 for 0 at the end of the Powerplay overs to 69 for 5.

    The two Punjabis, Yuvraj and Harbhajan Singh, briefly floated some hope, but Botha and Dale Steyn snuffed out the challenge to send South Africa through to the semi-final undefeated. They will face Pakistan at the same venue on Thursday. In conditions that could have been anywhere in the subcontinent, India will wonder just how they were so well beaten.

    They had started with some panache, as Gautam Gambhir creamed both Steyn and Wayne Parnell through the covers. Soon after, Rohit Sharma took over, clipping both Parnell and Albie Morkel through midwicket to keep well ahead of the asking rate. But as soon as spin was introduced, India fell apart.

    Gambhir spooned Botha to deep cover, and Suresh Raina clubbed one straight to long-on. Rohit then miscued a big heave off JP Duminy to point as South Africa restricted the Indians to just 17 from six overs. But the calamity didn't end there. MS Dhoni scratched around for 5 before deciding on a headless-chicken charge down the pitch with Yuvraj not remotely interested. Morne Morkel gathered Mark Boucher's throw and removed the bails.

    Yusuf Pathan may have been the scourge of spin in the IPL but he made no impression on this match, popping a van der Merwe delivery to short cover. Yuvraj pulled Steyn for four and went down on bended knee to swipe van der Merwe for six, while Harbhajan wound up and thumped Morne Morkel straight down the ground, but it was all a little too late.

    South Africa's innings had followed a similar sort of pattern. None of the other batsmen looked remotely at ease once the pace was taken off the ball, and India's pace bowlers were left to watch from the outfield until Zaheer Khan was called on to complete the innings.

    Despite losing Herschelle Gibbs to a inside-edged mow off RP Singh, South Africa had made a dominant start, racing to 44 from the first five overs. Both Graeme Smith and de Villiers cut powerfully, and there was one magnificent straight drive from de Villiers when Ishant Sharma pitched too full. That was enough for Dhoni to decide that his pacemen weren't the answer. Ravindra Jadeja came on and conceded only three in the last of the Powerplay overs, and thereafter Dhoni rotated his slow bowlers rapidly. Rohit, a bit of a bowling star in the IPL, came on, as did Yuvraj, but the breakthrough came courtesy the specialist as Smith top-edged a heave off Harbhajan to square leg. After that, it was a struggle.

    De Villiers scored with pushes and nudges, but only 36 runs came in the eight overs after the pace bowlers were taken off. Something had to give, and the push inevitably came from de Villiers, who lofted Yuvraj over cover before swiping one down to the midwicket rope. That stroke also took him to his half-century from 41 deliveries.

    When he then clipped Raina neatly for four more, a charge seemed imminent. But it wasn't to be. Duminy was stumped of Raina and the extremely accurate Jadeja shone again, taking a steepling return catch after a big miscue from de Villiers. Zaheer snaffled Mark Boucher in an 11-run final over, but with the resources in hand, India were favourites to chase down the 131 needed for a consolation victory. But in keeping with the rest of their Super Eights displays, they just weren't good enough. On this evidence, South Africa most certainly are.

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    ‘Next time, we probably would send Yuvraj up the order’

    Mahendra Singh Dhoni maintained chasing was the right idea after India’s three-run defeat against England that knocked the defending champion out of the ICC World Twenty20.

    The Indian captain said on Sunday, “We are disappointed because we felt 154 was a gettable score. We had also strengthened our batting order expecting to chase.

    “We felt the wicket gets better in the second half. The ball comes on nicely under the lights here and there is not much turn for the spinners.”

    Short-pitch blues

    On the Indian batsmen being troubled by short-pitched bowling by the England pacemen, Dhoni replied, “The bowler is allowed one bouncer per over and it’s a question of how you adapt outside the sub-continent. When you are thinking too much about the short deliveries, your game changes and you are not shaping up for the other deliveries of which you can score off. There are a few lessons to be learnt from this.”

    He added that the England pacemen were mixing up their bouncers well. “They were bowling the bouncers really well and mixing it up with a slow bouncer. It is not very easy to pick.”

    On Jadeja’s promotion

    On Ravindra Jadeja coming in at No. 4, Dhoni said, “Jadeja was looking to score from the first ball but they used the short ball against him very well. We never wanted the run-rate to go over nine or ten.”

    The Indian captain justified the decision to send Jadeja ahead of Yuvraj Singh. “We thought Jadeja can play a few overs and stabilise the innings and then we could go after the bowling with the kind of batting we have. It did not work out. Next time, we probably would send Yuvraj up the order.”

    Dhoni admitted that the later order batsmen were left with too much to accomplish. “Myself and Yusuf tried to score but it was too late by then and the ball was also reversing a bit.”

    No rift in the side

    Dhoni denied there was any rift in the side. “The dressing room environment is great and this gives us a chance to bounce back.”

    Asked whether the long-drawn IPL had left the players jaded, Dhoni replied, “IPL is demanding because you play at different venues. But I personally would not like to give this as an excuse.”

    The Indian captain conceded that he was not hitting the ball as cleanly as he used to. “I am not consistently clearing the park, that’s for sure. I am working on it,” he said.

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    England bounce India out

    'You're not Singh-ing anymore,' chanted some English fans, and India certainly weren't as they were dumped out of the competition that they won two years ago, with one Super-Eight game still to be played. With Lord's bathed in brilliant sunshine, a capacity crowd watched as England held their nerve for a three-run victory which ensured that new champions would be crowned on June 21. Around half of them would have gone home happy. Kevin Pietersen shared a 71-run partnership with Ravi Bopara, before Ryan Sidebottom and Graeme Swann picked up two wickets apiece to derail India's chase. MS Dhoni and Yusuf Pathan added 63 from six overs at the end as the game wound to a frenetic finish, but India had simply left themselves with too much to do.

    The turning point was the dismissal of Yuvraj Singh, superbly stumped by James Foster as he reached out to drive Swann. Yuvraj had smashed 17 - including two sixes - from eight balls prior to that, but Foster's quicksilver glovework ensured that India were left a Snowdon-sized peak to climb without their most explosive batsman. They whittled it down to 19 from Sidebottom's final over, but though Yusuf clubbed the fourth ball for a straight six to induce palpitations amongst the English support, a single off the next ball sealed India's fate.

    Much of the credit needs to go to Pietersen, who came to the crease after Luke Wright had ballooned a pull to short fine leg. With Bopara rotating the strike, the runs didn't come in a torrent but they came steadily enough. There were some eye-catching strokes too. Bopara played a stunning pull for four off RP Singh, while Pietersen said hello to Ishant Sharma with a contemptuous flick for four over midwicket. When Ishant followed up with a short delivery, Bopara deposited him into the stands behind square leg.

    With Pietersen then smearing RP down the ground for four, 40 came from the six overs of Powerplay. The entry of Yuvraj, who made a habit of dismissing Pietersen in India last winter, gave India no respite, as 20 came from his two overs. The cause wasn't helped by some poor fielding on the rope from Zaheer and a general air of listlessness. Harbhajan Singh managed to rein in the scoring rate, but by halfway, England had 71 on the board and nine wickets in hand.

    The complexion of the game changed with the introduction of Jadeja right after. Bopara was bowled going for the cut after a run-a-ball 37. Pietersen continued to scamper between the wickets with real energy, and when he hit a massive six over midwicket off Jadeja in his next over, England seemed poised for a late onslaught.

    It proved a bit of a false dawn though. The next ball arrowed into his pads, ending a 27-ball knock of 46, and Dimitri Mascarenhas and Owais Shah weren't quite Pietersen's match in the big-hitting stakes. Though Ishant proved expensive, Jadeja went through his spell for 26, and Harbhajan chipped in with the wicket of Shah to further stymie progress.

    The final flourish never came. Paul Collingwood clipped Zaheer Khan for one four, but was then leg before trying to be too cute. And with Harbhajan picking up both Foster and Swann in the final over, it took five wides to take England beyond 150.

    It was one of those in-between totals, and India's hopes took a hit early when Rohit Sharma played on while attempting a pull. By then, the English method was obvious, with nearly half the deliveries dropped short and directed at the body. And when Suresh Raina miscued a hook of Sidebottom minutes later, the tactics were further vindicated.

    What followed effectively basted the Indian goose and put it in the tandoor. Neither Gautam Gambhir nor Jadeja could seize the initiative, and by the time Gambhir paddled Mascarenhas to short fine leg, the 38-run partnership had taken seven overs. Yuvraj tried to inject some life into the innings, and there was a late flurry from the impressive Yusuf, but it was all a bit too late.

    Two years ago, Indian fans taunted Misbah-ul-Haq with chants of "Miss-ba five runs". On Sunday, it was their team that fell three short. No Singh-ing, no glory. Just time to go home, after playing the next game - against South Africa - for formalities' sake.

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    BCCI says it was aware of Sehwag injury

    India's cricket board said Thursday it was aware of the shoulder injury that forced vice-captain Virender Sehwag to drop out of the squad for the Twenty20 World Cup in England.

    In Images: Sehwag vs Dhoni - an avoidable issue

    Sehwag was injured while playing in the Indian Premier League for Delhi Daredevils last month, but featured in the Indian squad for the T20 World Cup until he was replaced Tuesday.

    The top Sports stories of the day

    The team management and Sehwag have been criticised by the media for hiding the injury, but Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) official Rajiv Shulka said that officials were aware of Sehwag's injury and expected it to heal in time for him to be able to play.

    Shulka, chairman of the BCCI's media and finance committee, said Sehwag was selected for the tournament "keeping in mind the report submitted by the physiotherapist.

    Full Coverage: T20 World Cup

    "The fitness report suggested that Sehwag had a minor injury which will heal in two or three days," Shukla said.

    "But another test in London discovered an additional tear in his shoulder, for which he was treated with injections," said Shulka.

    The decision to send for Dinesh Karthik as a replacement for Sehwag was made when "the shoulder injury showed no sign of healing"

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    South Africa crush poor England

    South Africa put in a display worthy of their tag as pre-tournament favourites as they cruised to a seven-wicket victory against England at Trent Bridge after skittling the hosts for 111 in their first Super Eights match. Dale Steyn and Wayne Parnell set the tone with wickets in their opening overs and were backed up by impressive spin and fine catching, particularly Roelof van der Merwe's effort to remove Kevin Pietersen, and although the run chase didn't set pulses racing the result was never in doubt.

    Only Owais Shah made a significant contribution for England as he made 38 off 33 with two sixes, but it was a forlorn effort as wickets fell regularly. When a scorecard reads as poorly as England's it's easy to criticise the batting - and some of the shot selection was poor - but South Africa were outstanding in every facet of their game. They could have charged down the small total, but chose to take their time on a surface that grew slower by the minute - a key factor in Paul Collingwood deciding to bat first - yet still eased home with 10 balls to spare as Jacques Kallis helped himself to an unbeaten 57.

    Winning a rare toss was about the only thing that went well for England. South Africa started the match in perfect style when Steyn removed Ravi Bopara with his fifth ball as an inside edge crashed into off stump. Luke Wright then found that opening against a top-quality attack was a different proposition from the Netherlands or lacklustre Pakistan efforts. He was beaten twice by the impressive Parnell, as he tried to crash the ball through the off side, then edged another attempt to the keeper to leave England 4 for 2.

    The scene was set for Pietersen, but it proved another case of KP failing and England failing with him. He opened his account by whipping his first ball from Steyn imperiously through midwicket and drove the next through mid-off as Steyn momentarily had problems with his run-up. Two more boundaries followed off Kallis's opening over, but the next bowling change was decisive.

    Albie Morkel's second delivery was a low full toss and Pietersen hit it pretty well and fairly straight, but van der Merwe went airborne to his left at mid-on and got both hands to a stunning catch. It was a huge moment for both teams, deflating for England and completely uplifting for South Africa. Morkel's successful over was the first maiden of the tournament and England's tally of 25 for 3 the lowest six-over total so far in the event.

    Shah and Collingwood had no choice but to opt for a period of consolidation as Graeme Smith quickly turned to his spinners. Shah injected momentary life into the innings when he launched a full toss from Johan Botha down the ground for six then he followed that by attacking van der Merwe's next over, launching him straight and taking two more boundaries through cover and midwicket, but the revival didn't last.

    Kallis returned to the attack and after Collingwood paddled him for four past the diving Mark Boucher, Kallis responded by clattering the stumps as the batsmen backed away to give himself room and then greeted James Foster with a rearing bouncer.

    Despite having been taken for 17 in his previous over, van der Merwe had the confidence of his captain and responded with an over which effectively killed off the innings. Foster tried to reverse sweep the first ball but just lobbed a simple catch to short third-man and Dimitri Mascarenhas lasted three deliveries before backing away to cut, losing his off stump.

    The last hope of England setting anything competitive lay with Shah, but he was undone by a sharp delivery from Kallis that moved away a fraction and took the edge. It meant the lower order was left having to try and bat out the 20 overs and they couldn't managed it when Parnell gave himself superb figures by cleaning up Stuart Broad and James Anderson in two balls.

    Smith fell early in the chase as he top-edged a pull and was well caught by Foster who ran towards short fine-leg. England actually bowled reasonably well, but the game had long since been lost during their innings. Kallis enjoyed the rarity of being able to bat within himself during a Twenty20 innings to reach fifty off 46 balls. This was an ominously slick display from South Africa but for the hosts, who lifted their game in the nick of time in the group stage against Pakistan, another huge improvement is needed to have a chance of progressing further.

    England innings (20 overs maximum)R MB4s6sSR

    RS Boparab Steyn2350040.00

    LJ Wrightc †Boucher b Parnell1860016.66

    KP Pietersenc van der Merwe b Morkel19201740111.76

    OA Shahc †Boucher b Kallis38523332115.15

    PD Collingwood*b Kallis19241920100.00

    S Fosterc Morkel b van der Merwe1140025.00

    AD Mascarenhasb van der Merwe1130033.33

    GP Swannc Morkel b Botha5760083.33

    SCJ Broadb Parnell919810112.50
    AU Rashidnot out916170052.94

    M Andersonb Parnell011000.00
    Extras(lb 1, w 6)7
    Total(all out; 19.5 overs)111(5.59 runs per over)
    Fall of wickets1-4 (Bopara, 0.6 ov), 2-4 (Wright, 1.5 ov), 3-25 (Pietersen, 5.2 ov), 4-78 (Collingwood, 12.3 ov),5-79 (Foster, 13.1 ov), 6-82 (Mascarenhas, 13.5 ov), 7-88 (Shah, 14.5 ov), 8-92 (Swann, 15.5 ov), 9-111 (Broad, 19.4 ov),10-111 (Anderson, 19.5 ov)

    DW Steyn401914.75(1w)

    WD Parnell3.501433.65(1w)

    JH Kallis302026.66

    JA Morkel11010.00

    J Botha402516.25(1w)

    RE van der Merwe403228.00(2w)
    South Africa innings (target: 112 runs from 20 overs)RMB4s6sSR

    GC Smith*c †Foster b Broad1115152073.33
    JH Kallisnot out57744951116.32

    HH Gibbsb Swann30423021100.00

    AB de Villiersc Collingwood b Rashid118120091.66
    JP Duminynot out2240050.00
    Extras(lb 1, w 2)3
    Total(3 wickets; 18.2 overs; 74 mins)114(6.21 runs per over)
    Did not bat JA Morkel, MV Boucher, RE van der Merwe, DW Steyn, WD Parnell, J Botha
    Fall of wickets1-17 (Smith, 3.3 ov), 2-91 (Gibbs, 14.5 ov), 3-108 (de Villiers, 17.3 ov)
    AD Mascarenhas402205.50
    JM Anderson3.202708.10(1w)

    SCJ Broad301414.66

    GP Swann402616.50(1w)

    AU Rashid402416.00

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