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  • Indian bowlers set up consolation win

    Until 5.21pm, September 30 was the most dramatic day of simultaneous ODI cricket a scriptwriter could have thought of. In Johannesburg, India tried their best to beat West Indies, while Pakistan pulled Australia back from what seemed a facile win in Centurion. For most of West Indies' innings, Australia's score remained the more important one. Chasing 206, Australia collapsed from 140 for 2 in 31.1 overs to 187 for 8 in 45.5 overs by the time India shot West Indies out for 129.

    To qualify for the semi-finals, India needed Australia to lose to Pakistan in Centurion, and then thump West Indies in Johannesburg. By the time MS Dhoni walked out for the toss, though, Pakistan were hurtling towards defeat, having wasted a solid start with the bat and then having let Australia get off to a flier. For good measure, Sachin Tendulkar had been ruled out of India's match because of a stomach infection.

    And then the game started turning in Centurion, and at the same time India kept making inroads. In the dressing room India's support staff, glued to Australia's choke, watched the visuals from Centurion as opposed to the live action unfolding in front of them. Soon as Praveen Kumar bounced out Gavin Tonge, his third wicket and the innings' last, the Indian players rushed to their balcony and crowded around the TV.

    Gautam Gambhir and Dinesh Karthik had to tear themselves from the action and start their chase, with Australia needing six off eight balls with two wickets in hand. Even a tie would be enough to knock India out. The Indian openers didn't watch Umar Gul bowl a special last over and Brett Lee scrambled through for the score-levelling single, off the penultimate ball, at 5.21pm. And out went the excel sheets to calculate net run-rates.

    West Indies, who until then were almost a non-party to the state of affairs, chose the time to announce themselves. Kemar Roach bowled Gambhir, and David Bernard came up with a sharp effort to run Rahul Dravid out. Roach and the three medium-pacers made Dinesh Karthik and Virat Kohli work hard for the win. Which they did: Kohli with a composed, and at times attractive, career-best 79 not out, and Karthik with a more laboured 34.

    For the first half of the game, though, West Indies hardly turned up. Dhoni's pace bowlers - minus Ishant Sharma - enjoyed the friendly conditions, getting consistent swing and ripping through a hapless top order. With Australia's win looking certain at that time, and India running out of Ashish Nehra and Praveen's overs, and with that choices to exploit the conditions, Dhoni decided to have some fun. Before the start of the 17th over, he gave his keeping gloves to Dinesh Karthik, and decided to bowl, something he does to good effect in the nets.

    The first two balls Dhoni bowled were long hops, and were duly pulled and cut for boundaries by Travis Dowlin. The fourth ball, though, was fuller, and took the inside edge onto the stumps. And everybody had a bit of a laugh. Dhoni then proceeded to merrily seam his way through one more over, and also had a difficult edge dropped by Karthik.

    If Dhoni was the surprise package, Nehra and Praveen expectedly exploited the helpful conditions. Praveen bowled a dream over to Andre Fletcher first up. Three outswingers, two of which beat Fletcher, were followed by two inswingers, one producing a close lbw shout. By now Fletcher should have been expecting an outswinger to cap off the over. He got one, but it started too close to the stumps for him to not play a shot. The edge was safely taken by first slip.

    West Indies got their first loose delivery in the fourth over, and with that their first runs. That delivery was the aberration as Nehra gave Kieran Powell the left-armer's version of the perfect outswinger. Two balls later, Devon Smith went chasing another delivery moving away, and West Indies were 27 for 3 in eight overs. Floyd Reifer then edged Praveen to make it 31 for 4.

    How Dhoni would have wished he had played another pace bowler on this pitch: dropping both RP Singh and Ishant on this bowling heaven was more a sign of exasperation, and an unsubtle message to the lacklustre bowlers. Abhishek Nayar, brought in to replace Ishant, couldn't extract much from the pitch, and meanwhile Australia kept inching closer to knocking India out. That, then, was the time for Dhoni to come on and take the fifth wicket.

    David Bernard and Darren Sammy staged a mini recovery with a 32-run sixth-wicket stand. But when Amit Mishra got Bernard to edge to slip, another slide started. Nikita Miller managed 17 runs in 13 balls, but ran out of partners as Nehra and Praveen finished what they started, and rushed to watch - like the rest of the world - the Australia-Pakistan match.

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    Places to play for in Irani clash

    The Irani Cup, that old institution which once made and broke careers, has unexpectedly found a fresh lease of life and interest because of the current bowling crisis that ails India. There are a bunch of contenders in Sreesanth, Munaf Patel and Sudeep Tyagi who have an opportunity to showcase their talent.

    The first step in an inevitable comeback from injury for Virender Sehwag will also be in focus. And then there's Rohit Sharma. No one doubts his talent but not everyone is convinced about his commitment. This game, the start of the upcoming first-class season, will give Rohit a chance to silence his critics. He has lost some weight during pre-season training and the Mumbai insiders say he is hungry as well. He has started the comeback process with another good step: acceptance of his mistakes during his stint with the senior team. "I tried to be what I wasn't," he said recently.

    There are also the usual suspects: S Badrinath for instance. No one questions his commitment but many seem to be a touch hesitant in giving him the India cap. He is old, they say; he isn't. He doesn't seem to have that X-factor to play for India, they say, but Badrinath is trying hard to prove them wrong. Perhaps that's his lot, but he doesn't think so and is ready to wage yet another battle for a national call-up.

    It's an opportunity for the left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha as well. He doesn't quite know why he was dropped by the national selectors but realises he has to raise his game above Amit Mishra's. There is also Manoj Tiwary who seems to have got past the disappointments of ill-timed injuries that derailed his career and is itching to move on.

    Rest of India's opponents are Mumbai, that great Ranji side of the past, wondering how their future will be. They are a proud team, as evidenced by the few words Wasim Jaffer spoke about winning the Irani Cup, but they a team lacking the superstars that once made winning the Ranji Trophy almost a mere formality. They still are a strong side, after all they are the reigning champions, but the aura isn't there anymore. They are similar to Australia, and are keen to make a fresh start.

    They have begun by dropping Amol Muzumdar, the old warhorse, and Sairaj Bahutule. Only four men with links to the past remain: the captain Jaffer, Ajit Agarkar, Ramesh Powar and that faithful servant of Mumbai cricket, Vinayak Samant.

    Team news

    Irfan Pathan will miss out because of the same knee injury which had kept him out of the Corporate Cup. Rest of India haven't asked for a replacement for Virat Kohli, who's in the Champions Trophy squad, and Bhuneshwar Kumar and Uday Kaul are likely to sit out of the playing XI. The team is strong and is easily the favorite to win the contest.

    Rest of India: (probable) 1 Virender Sehwag, 2 S Badrinath, 3 M Vijay, 4 Abhinav Mukund, 5 Ravindra Jadeja, 6 Manoj Tiwary, 7 Wriddiman Saha, 8 Sreesanth, 9 Pragyan Ojha, 10 Munaf Patel, 11 Sudeep Tyagi.

    Mumbai are yet to decide their XI but Jaffer talked about likely replacements for Muzumdar. Sushant Marathe, who featured in the Corporate Cup, Prashant Naik, the lad from Pune, and Omkar Khanvilkar will be given chances to stake claims for Muzumdar's spot. Mumbai's bowling is comparatively weaker but in Dhawal Kulkarni they have a bowler who is likely to make full use of the new ball and in Saurabh Netravalkar, who did well in the Corporate Cup, they have an emerging talent.

    Mumbai: (probable) 1 Wasim Jaffer, 2 Ajit Agarkar, 3 Ajinkya Rahane, 4 Sahil Kukreja, 5 Rohit Sharma, 6 Omkar Kanvilkar/Sushant Marathe, 7 Vinayak Samant, 8 Ramesh Powar 9 Iqbal Abdulla, 10 Rahil Sheikh, 11 Dhawal Kulkarni.

    Pitch and conditions

    There is a green tinge to the surface. The grass is well rolled to bind the track but, perhaps due to rain over the last two nights, patches of fresh grass have emerged. One has to wait and see whether it would remain on the match day. Wasim Jaffer hung to that lovely cliché: "A very good sporting wicket."

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    Australia beat Pakistan by 2 wkts, end India's campaign

    Defending champions Australia pulled off a dramatic last-ball victory over Pakistan in a low-scoring thriller to romp into the semifinals of the Champions Trophy and bring a pre-mature end to India's listless campaign here on Wednesday.

    The Australians had to rely on their tail-enders to achieve the two-wicket victory in the very last ball in a nail-biting contest which saw fortune fluctuating from one team to the other till the very end.

    In a must-win encounter, Australia first restricted Pakistan to a modest 205 for six and then just about manage to scamper home on a spongy SuperSport Park track to knock India out of the eight-nation tournament.

    The Aussies were cruising along comfortably at 157 for three at one stage before five wickets fell in quick secession to completely change the complexion of the game.

    Needing four runs to win from the last five balls, Brett Lee and Nathan Hauritz took the team home much to the relief of a tensed Australian dressing room.

    The Aussies completed their Group-A engagement with five points and moved into the semifinals as the top team from their group. They had earlier defeated the West Indies while their match against India was washed out.

    It was a disciplined bowling display by the Australians who exploited the conditions well to restrict the free-flowing Pakistani batsmen with only Kamran Akmal (44), Mohammad Yousuf (45) and Misbah-ul Haq (41) being the notable scorers.

    The Aussies then rode on Michael Hussey's defiant 64 to scamper home, but not before some hiccups which provided a nail-biting end to the contest. Captain Ricky Ponting (32) and Tim Paine (29) also chipped in with useful scores.

    Put into bat, Akmal, Yousuf and Misbah-ul Haq provided a semblance of resistance on a tricky Centurion pitch to leave the Aussies to score at 4.10 runs per over to secure a berth in the semi-finals.

    Akmal's knock, during which he struck six boundaries, helped Pakistan recover from early jolts, while Yousuf tried to hold the innings together with a defiant 69-ball 45.

    Pakistan started on an attacking note with Shahid Afridi, promoted to open the batting, cracking two boundaries off paceman Peter Siddle in the second over of the innings.

    But Afridi (15), who struck three boundaries during his brief 18-ball stay, failed to make it big and became the first man to depart when his ambitious pull off Mitchell Johnson (2-45) found James Hopes in square leg region in the eighth over.

    Other opener Akmal then paired up with skipper Younis Khan (18 off 49) to stitch up a 45-run partnership for the second wicket, before Shane Watson sent Akmal packing in the 19th over.

    Akmal, who was handling the Australian bowlers with elan, went for a pull off Watson, but only managed to bottom-edge the ball which then fell onto the base of his leg stump.

    Australians, including the new-ball pair of Brett Lee and Siddle, maintained good line and length from the very beginning to keep Pakistan run-rate under check.

    Medium pacer Hopes inflicted the third blow by removing skipper Younis, who was slowly getting his eyes in, as Johnson pouched his mistimed shot in 14th over.

    After the 32nd over, when Pakistan was struggling in 123 for four and making 200-run mark looking a difficult task, Yousuf, who scored three boundaries, and Misbah-ul-Haq (41 off 53) chipped in with some valuable contributions.

    Misbah, who had cracked four boundaries before returning to the dugout after hitting his own wickets in the last over, pushed up Pakistan's runrate towards the end of the innings.

    Besides Johnson, Watson scalped two wickets for 32 runs, while both Lee and Hopes chipped in with one wickets each.

    Chasing the modest target, Australia got off to a good start as Shane Watson (24) and Paine produced a 44-run opening partnership, before Watson fell prey to paceman Umar Gul in ninth over.

    Australia suffered their second loss when Afridi's wicket-bound delivery found Pain's leg after three overs.

    Ponting came when Australia were at 59 for two and joined hand with Michael Hussey to add 81 runs to the board. Ponting (32), who struck just one boundary during his 64-ball stay, made some patient contribution.

    Hussey, who struck six fours and a six during the 87-ball innings, fell prey to Navel-ul-Hasan in the 41st over, leaving Australia at 174 for five.

    The contest took an interesting turn when Mohammed Asif, playing his first match after the end of year-long ban, struck twice in the 42nd over.

    After dismissing Hopes (1), Asif also scalped Cameron White (5) just after three balls in the same over.

    However, Lee and Hauritz held their nerves to complete the task for Australia.

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    Champions Trophy 2009- Ind vs Pak Higlights Video

    Do you want to see the Champions Trophy - Ind vs Pak Higlights Video?
    follow the link to see that video

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    ‘ICC has guaranteed an India-Pak series after every 2 yrs’

    International Cricket Council has guaranteed that India and Pakistan would play a bilateral series after every two years even if were to be held at neutral venues, according to PCB chairman Ejaz Butt.

    Butt said in Johannesburg where he has gone to attend the ICC Executive Board meeting that Pakistan and India would play four series in the coming eight years.

    "The ICC has given guarantee for the series that would be organised after every two years. They have also accepted that the series could be organised at neutral venues till the time the situation improves in Pakistan," Butt said.

    The PCB chairman in the report also thanked the Pakistan government for supporting the idea.

    "I am grateful to our government for its support. They have accepted our request to host this important series at neutral venue. Pakistan ambassador to India Shahid Malik has played very important role in this," he told 'The News'.

    Butt also indicated that England may host the first ever Pakistan-India series in the coming summer.

    "This series has the potential of revenue generation and is one of the main attractions for the sponsors," he said. After initially refusing any bilateral series against Pakistan in the new Future Tours Programme that runs from 2012 to 2020, the Indian Cricket Board agreed to series against Pakistan in the revised FTP draft, according to the PCB.

    Pakistan had lodged a protest with the ICC and refused to accept an FTP without bilateral series with India.

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    Champions Trophy - Malik, Yousuf set up important win

    It was a vintage Pakistan show. The near relic formula of doubling the 30-over score worked for them, as Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Yousuf accelerated from 139 for 3 after 31 overs to score 163 in the last 19. Then the ugly side of Pakistan showed up: their pace bowlers gave away 33 runs in no-balls and free hits to let India in. Yet they opportunistically pounced on two run-outs to end up comfortable winners in a chase that stayed tense for at least 40 overs.

    For the best part of the day, it seemed another classic would be added to the long list of classics played between India and Pakistan. Coming face to face for the first time in close to a year and a half, the two teams matched each other blow for blow for 90 overs, in terms of play both inspirational and ordinary. In the end, though, India made one mistake too many, and as is often the case with these high-pressure matches it was the mistakes that counted.

    Harbhajan Singh would wish this day had never happened: he failed to cover for a low-on-confidence pace attack, giving away 71 runs for one wicket (he now has 10 wickets in 15 ODIs against Pakistan), and then ran Rahul Dravid out in what was the final turning point of the match. A valiant Dravid had kept the chase alive, and despite a regular fall of wickets India needed 67 runs in 49 balls when Dravid was called for a non-existent third and was sent back.

    The slower bowlers proved to be the difference on a day that - barring Ashish Nehra and Mohammad Aamer - the faster men refused to learn from their mistakes. India's two spinners, Harbhajan and Yusuf Pathan, went for 127 in their 20 overs and took two wickets, while Shahid Afridi and Saeed Ajmal combined to take four wickets for 70 runs in their 18.5 overs. That despite the dew troubling them in the later half of their efforts.

    What seems like a long time ago, the stage was set for Harbhajan to come on and take charge of a remarkable comeback by the Indian bowlers after they had bee carted around for 51 runs in the first seven overs. At 65 for 3 after 15, though, MS Dhoni delayed the introduction of Harbhajan, and tried to get through some cheap overs from the part-timers. He needed all the cheap overs he could get from the part-timers because one of his main bowlers, RP Singh, was completely off tune (Dhoni later said it felt like he was three bowlers short).

    At that time, Malik looked like going nowhere. His score at various stages of the innings read 3 off 16, 10 off 31, and then 34 off 69. But during that period he didn't throw it away, and was set by the time Harbhajan arrived. On the other end, Yousuf was his usual silken self, reaching 35 off 45 almost unnoticed, having hit just one boundary, that too off a rank long hop from Virat Kohli.

    And then Yousuf signalled intent, not with a big winding shot, but with a deft late cut off Yusuf Pathan in the 32nd over. Malik followed suit, and guided Harbhajan to the third-man boundary in the next over. In the over after that both Yousuf and Malik cut Pathan for boundaries, and suddenly the Indian bowlers started getting rattled.

    Shoaib Malik's wagon wheel, India v Pakistan, Champions Trophy, Group A, Centurion, September 26, 2009
    Malik's wagon wheel © Hawk-Eye
    It was a complete mockery of the view that middle overs in ODIs have become formulaic and boring. Even without looking to hit powerful shots, the two just milked the bowlers with ease. Malik became severe, welcoming Ishant Sharma back with three boundaries in one over. Dhoni then brought RP back, and he went for back-to-back boundaries against Malik, who had started toying with the unimaginative bowling, going over extra cover, beating third man on both sides, and also hitting the odd straight shot.

    Yousuf was not exactly slow at the other end, his boundaries through point and over extra cover, both off RP, were a treat to watch. Their 206-run stand took just 188 legal deliveries and broke their own record for the fourth wicket against India. While Yousuf missed his century by 13 runs, Malik went on to get his first ton since last year's Asia Cup. Now four of his seven centuries have now come against India, and his average of 52.24 against India is a stark contrast to his 35.27 overall. He also crossed 5000 ODI runs during the innings, and 1515 of those have come against his favourite opposition.

    A charged-up Gautam Gambhir then gave India's chase a sensational start, but his first error, a lazy piece of running, hurt the chase about as much as it had helped it. His 46-ball 57 had taken India to 90 for 1 in the 14th over, when Dravid hit firmly to a close mid-off, called him for a single and sent him back. Gambhir didn't make a desperate effort to dive or sprint back, and was undone by a direct-hit from Younis Khan. Replays showed a dive could have saved his wicket. All the way back Gambhir kept admonishing himself for leaving the job unfinished.

    Two quick wickets to Afridi later, Suresh Raina launched a stunning assault, hurting Pakistan's spinners who by now had started having trouble gripping the ball. The 72-run fifth-wicket stand between Dravid and Raina, who scored 46 off 41, was interrupted by a fast yorker from Ajmal. The situation was still under India's control, with 98 runs required in 15 overs, and the Powerplay yet to be utilised.

    Pathan then played an insensible shot to Aamer, edging a big heave to wide slip, and then the final fatal run-out happened, which proved to be one invitation too many for Pakistan.

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    Opening the innings has changed my life: Dilshan

    Tillakaratne Dilshan, who scored a brisk 106 against South Africa, said opening the innings for Sri Lanka has played a pivotal role in his improved batting.

    "I am in good form for last six month or one year and I want to deliver in this tournament also. I have changed my batting order. I think this is the turning point for me.

    "I open the innings which gives me opportunity to play my strokes and take chances during the powerplays so that is the turning point I feel," he added.

    Dilshan was dropped from the ODI side September last year after his average slipped to 25.87 in 21 matches. When he returned early this year to team, he was asked to open in ODIs and he never looked back after that.

    Dilshan got the Player-of-the-Series award after amassing 317 runs at an average of 52.83 in the Twenty20 World Cup. Sri Lanka skipper Kumar Sangakkara urged his teammates to capitalise on the victory against the hosts in the opening match.

    "This game is gone. Whatever have happened its gone. So we have to go back to square one, back to the drawing book and see how we can improve and get better as the tournament goes on. We have got a good start but if we don't capitalise on it, this match will be worthless," Sangakkara said.

    Sri Lanka registered a 55-run victory over South Africa via Duckworth Lewis method in the rain-interrupted first one-day of the Champions Trophy here last night. jantha Mendis claimed three crucial wickets to help his team win and Sangakkara said the spinner was one of the few bowlers whom the batsmen struggle to read.

    One good thing about Ajantha is that even if you see him on and off in a couple of games but still it is a big challenge playing him," Sangakkara said. The Lankan skipper believes his side has match-winners in Ajantha, Muttiah Muralitharan and Lasith Malinga, whom he considers not a mystery but a little unorthodox.

    "Especially with him (Ajantha) and with Murali and Lasith in our side, there is a lot of unorthodox, mystery not as much, but unorthodox match-winners. So we have our bowling attack in place as long as we can back that up with good fielding and minimise extras," he said.

    Sangakkara said it was a big challenge to rattle up a big score against South Africa.

    "It was a challenge trying to build a defendable total. History says that batting first or second is not of a difference here so it was a case of doing our basics right and getting the partnership going."

    South African skipper Graeme Smith said they failed to implement their game-plan but hoped to come back strongly against New Zealand on Thursday.

    "We can't make a excuse. We didn't get our basic right tonight (Tuesday)," Smith said.

    "We got to improve very quickly and we have one day in between before we meet New Zealand on Thursday and we have some planning to do for that game and hopefully we will get the performance which we know we are capable of," he added.

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    Sehwag quits Daredevils captaincy, Gambhir to take over

    Explosive opener Virender Sehwag on Monday stepped down as the captain of Indian Premier League team Delhi Daredevils, which appointed Gautam Gambhir as his replacement.

    Sehwag, who is currently nursing a shoulder injury, cited his desire to focus on his batting as the reason for stepping down. Gambhir will now lead the side in next month's Champions League Twenty20.

    "Viru has been a source of great strength and inspiration to the team. When he expressed a desire to step down in order to fully focus and concentrate on batting, we respected his decision and accepted his request," Daredevils owner GMR's chairman Srinivas Bommidala said in a statement.

    Dinesh Karthik has been appointed Gambhir's deputy. Sehwag thanked GMR for accepting his request, saying he would now solely focus on his batting.

    "I would like to thank GMR for their understanding in accepting my request to step down. Personally, I would like to concentrate on my own batting and contribute to the team," he said.

    "Gautam did a great job of captaining Delhi and also during IPL-II in South Africa this year. He has shown very good leadership skills and will bring fresh energy into the Delhi Daredevils," he added.

    Gambhir, on his part, said he would draw from his experience of leading the Delhi Ranji team on some while captaining the Daredevils.

    "I am delighted at my selection as captain of Delhi Daredevils and I am committed to deliver my best. I have always looked up to Viru. He has been a guide and friend for me. It is always difficult to fit into the shoes of someone as illustrious as him," he said.

    I have led Delhi in the past in Ranji Trophy and we won the title. I have also had the opportunity to lead the Delhi Daredevils in IPL-2 when Viru was injured. It was an enriching experience and hopefully I can put into practice all that I have learnt," he added.

    Gambhir said he would also seek Sehwag's advice as and when needed during his stint.

    "I can always turn to Viru for any advise, as also to the other seniors in the team. We have had great camaraderie in the side and this will help reach greater heights," he said. Karthik, who has led Tamil Nadu in Ranji Trophy, said he would give all he can to the new job.

    "It is a great honour to be made the Vice-captain. I have enjoyed responsibility within the team and we have a great team which can deliver good results," Karthik said.

    Gambhir, who led Delhi to a superb Ranji Trophy title win in the absence of Sehwag then with the Indian team in Australia, did so again this year in South Africa during IPL-II.

    Sehwag was not available because of injury and Gambhir led the side in four matches, of which Daredevils won three.

    The Delhi Daredevils squad for Champions League T20:

    Gautam Gambhir (Captain), Dinesh Karthik (Vice-captain), Virender Sehwag, AB De Villiers, Tilakaratne M Dilshan, Daniel Vettori, Paul Collingwood, Ashish Nehra, Amit Mishra, Dirk Nannes, Owais Shah, Rajat Bhatia, Pradeep Sangwan, Vijaykumar Yo Mahesh, Mithun Manhas

    Coach/Officials: Coach - David Saker; Manager T A Sekar; Asst Manager Aashish Kapoor; Physiotherapist – Justin Steer; Trainer Rob Walter; Performance Analyst: Trent Woodhill; Cricket Operations: Sunil Valson.

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