Monday, April 03, 2006

Goa Jinx: India Won, Lead ODI Series 3 - 0 Against England

Paul Collingwood hit a defiant 93 after England had slid to 100-6 but Irfan Pathan took 4-51 as India ended up winning by 49 runs in the 49th over.

India batted first, making a ground record 294-6, Suresh Raina (61) putting on 142 in partnership with Yuvraj.

Kevin Pietersen was out with a stomach bug so England lacked some firepower.

India's score was the best total achieved in six matches played at the Nehru Stadium in Margao, which attracted a fair few England fans from the nearby beaches of Goa.

England coach Duncan Fletcher made it back from South Africa just before the toss, and the tourists made two changes from the line-up who lost in Faridabad.

Sajid Mahmood replaced Kabir Ali while Vikram Solanki came in for Pietersen.

For India, captain Rahul Dravid moved up to open the innings with Gautam Gambhir dropped.

Ajit Agarkar and Munaf Patel (on debut) made their first appearances of the series.

The wicket immediately looked unappetising for batsmen and it was no surprise when James Anderson struck in his fourth over, bowling Virender Sehwag through the gate.

The surface was slow and dry, and with the sun baking down began to crumble from the off - with any score over 200 would have been a decent effort.

But Dravid (46) played with typical intelligence and seemed set for a long innings before Collingwood bowled him off the inside edge.

That ended a more than useful 78-run partnership between the skipper and pinch-hitting number three Pathan (36).

Pathan, who had hit one big six off Ian Blackwell, also fell when tamely giving point a catch off Flintoff.

Almost immediately, Liam Plunkett then had the out-of-sorts Mohammad Kaif caught behind for a duck and India had to adjust their ambitions momentarily with the score on 131-4.

There then came a major let-off for the hosts when Geraint Jones missed a chance to stump Raina off Ian Blackwell for 13.

That would have made it 151-5, but instead Yuvraj and Raina made England pay.

Yuvraj was going at better than a run a ball and after reaching his fifty he swept Blackwell for a big six.

England's tactics went haywire in the heat. Mahmood - with no match practice and still struggling for fitness - was asked to bowl eight overs.

The last of those was smashed for 22.

Yuvraj, who faced just 76 balls, and Raina both fell to Flintoff in the final dash for runs in which Mahendra Dhoni finished with a cameo 13 not out.

England needed everything to go their way when they batted just to make a match of it.

But Pathan's slower balls and cutters saw the innings unravel immediately, with Andrew Strauss, Blackwell and Owais Shah all deceived by the left-arm seamer leaving England 47-3 in the 11th over.

Matt Prior played some nice shots but was then run out after a terrible mix-up with Flintoff, who promptly slogged Ramesh Powar's second ball to deep mid-wicket.

After Solanki had perished to Harbhajan Singh, Collingwood and Jones put on 105 for the seventh wicket, and both played some excellent shots.

The wicket appeared to have flattened down a little and for a short while the two right-handers were scoring at around 11 runs an over, the required rate.

But when each man was caught in the deep trying to hit sixes the fun was over for the day.

Source: BBC Sports


Fed Ex Double Delight

Ljubicic, the world number six, battled gamely throughout, taking all three sets to tie-breaks.

But Federer was able to raise his game when it mattered, winning the key points to claim a 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (8-6) win.

The victory gave Federer the Indian Wells-Miami Masters Series double for the second year in a row.

"To win back-to-back like this is unbelievable," said Federer.

"I never thought I'd do it again. It really feels great.

"It was tough today, he made me work very hard.

"He could have pushed me further if he'd played better on big points in the tie-breaks.

"But he was going for big serves with great variation. He made me work but I expected that - three tie-breaks is the most extreme you can have."

The Nasdaq-100 Open is often referred to as tennis' unofficial fifth Grand Slam and for Ljubicic it would have been the biggest title win of his career.

Despite the tight scoreline, Ljubicic never quite threatened to upset the form book.

He matched Federer blow for blow in the first set but the world number one took the tie-break 7-5.

It appeared Federer might run away with it when he took the first break of serve of the match midway through the second set.

Ljubicic battled back to earn another tie-break and then led by a break in the third set.

But he was unable to take advantage of his opportunities as Federer fought back in the third to wrap up victory.

"I played well but it's still a loss; it feels a bit rough," Ljubicic told reporters.

"He never misses in tie-breaks and comes up with his best shots when it's important."

Source: BBC Sports


Saturday, April 01, 2006

Kuznetsova Won Miami Title

Kuznetsova, seeded 12th, won the all-Russian final with a superior serve and dominating forehand.

She ended the one hour 30 minute match with her fourth ace to clinch her first title since 2004 and biggest win since capturing the 2004 US Open.

"I've been working so hard and I deserve to be here," she said.

The victory marked her sixth career singles title and will take her back to 10th in the world rankings.

She said her game plan against Sharapova was to play aggressive and control the pace.

"I had to get inside the court more. I was a bit defensive at times so I just tried to play my game," Kuznetsova said.

Sharapova reached the final after Tatiana Golovin retired in the third set with a left ankle injury.

"It was tough," said Sharapova, who was distracted by a small plane dragging an advertising banner for much of the first set.

"I couldn't put two points together. I was tired from my previous match and now I need some time off."

Sharapova had been bidding to become only the third woman after Steffi Graf and Kim Clijsters to win the back-to-back American events at Indian Wells and Miami in the same year.


Saturday, March 11, 2006

'I believe every ball can get a wicket' - Kumble

At the end of a satisfying day, one Anil Kumble will remember for long, he cut a cake with his team-mates in the Long Room at the Punjab Cricket Association stadium in Mohali. The bubbly was uncorked and the team celebrated with Kumble moments before he addressed a lengthy press conference

On getting to the milestone of 500 wickets

It's a great feeling to reach a milestone like this. What makes it more special is the fact that only four other bowlers have got to the 500-mark and I am the first Indian to do so.

On how he'd sum up his journey in cricket in 16 years

I'd say I've persevered. When I began people questioned my kind of bowling and even now people do. I guess after 16 years that has still not been answered and I find that strange. I've just gone into every game thinking I need to perform, to contribute something to the team.

On what has kept him going all these years

I've always had the self-belief that I can perform at this level. There have been doubts created by other people over my ability to perform. When you play for 16 years people are bound to create such doubts. But I have never doubted myself. And nor have my team-mates and my family. Coming back from my shoulder injury [in 2000-01] was crucial.

On what the next target is

Already the tally is 501. How many more wickets depends on my body and the schedule, so I can't really say what the target is. Warne has 659, Murali just got to 600 yesterday, hopefully I'll also scale those heights some day.

On setting up batsmen

When I bowl I believe every ball can get a wicket. That's my attitude. Obviously you try and set up a batsman, get him to play a few shots. Some days it works and some days it doesn't. You're always trying to play a mental game with the batsman. If you consistently ask questions of the batsmen you are bound to be successful.

On how he continues to strive to improve after 16 years in international cricket

You need to constantly evolve and bring up some variations because these days even before you step out, the opposition knows everything about you. I still try to bowl the classical legspinner, the classical flipper and the classical googly. That's the only way to enjoy yourself. The day I think I've had enough of trying out new things, I won't be playing the game.

On whether he had fears that he may never bowl again after his shoulder injury

There were fears that I may not bowl again, when I had the surgery. It took two months to just lift my hand. Playing cricket at the international level was a distant thought. That's when my wife, Andrew Leipus, Omkar [yoga expert in Bangalore] and Ramakant [Karnataka team physiotherapist] constantly motivated me and helped me in my rehabilitation. Also the thought that one day when I bowl there would be no pain was enough motivation. Srinath's coming back to international cricket after a similar surgery also gave me lot of strength.

On how he seems to be bowling at his best in the recent past

The last couple of years have been good. The experience that I've gained over the years and the way the ball is coming out of the hand has been good. The number of overs I have bowled over the last 16 years have helped me in understanding what needs to be done. The last three years have been really good.

On the memorable wickets along the way

The first wicket of Allan Lamb, which was where it all started. The 10-wicket haul against Pakistan in Delhi was special. Also the performance against Australia at Sydney [in early 2005] ... There have been many special moments. When we won against Australia at Adelaide ... the series win in Pakistan in 2004.

On whom he dedicates reaching this milestone to

I dedicate this to all those players who have played with me. To the fielders who took the catches, the fellow bowlers who applied pressure from the other end, to batsmen who put runs on the board ... I would not have got 500 wickets if they had not played their part.

On what Matthew Hoggard, Kumble's 300th victim, had to say when the wicket of Harmison fell

He suggested that I might have been more happy if I'd picked up the wicket of a batsman as my 500th.

By Anand Vasu, Assistant editor of Cricinfo


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Beaten Blues Aces Reject Flair Theory

Frank Lampard and John Terry believe Chelsea can conquer Europe without spending big money on a fantasy player like Ronaldinho.

The England duo reject the idea that Jose Mourinho must scrap his own tactical beliefs and accommodate a playmaker who can conjure something out of thin air.

Ronaldinho's magical goal in the Nou Camp may have sealed Chelsea's Champions League fate for another year but the Blues feel they have enough talent to compete with top teams like Barcelona.

Lampard said: "The difference at this level is so small and maybe Ronaldinho with a moment of brilliance is it.

"It was a great goal, great body movement and great skill. But he can do that week in week out.

"That kind of player can always make a difference but I don't think it's a case of us not having a Ronaldinho.

"We have special players who make goals out of nothing and we're a very strong team with a strong spirit.

"What happened to us this year is what happened to Barcelona last year. We are two of the best teams in Europe."

Skipper Terry agreed and added: "It is very unfair to say we need to bring in players who can play off the cuff.

"If you look at our squad, we have three or four individuals, including Damien Duff, Arjen Robben and Joe Cole who can change a game and create something out of nothing.

"Barcelona have the same going forward. We knew it would be very tight and we said at half-time we had to go out and really give it a go, but we could not break them down."

Chelsea drew 1-1 in Barcelona but went out on aggregate after losing the first leg 2-1 at Stamford Bridge.

Boss Mourinho insisted the first game was decisive because his team were forced to play more than half the game with 10 men after Asier del Horno was sent off for a tackle on Lionel Messi.

Lampard said: "If you come to the Nou Camp in the Champions League and draw 1-1, you normally go home more than happy.

"I'm not going to stand here and make excuses because Barca are a great team but we did play the first leg for 60 minutes with 10 men which was a hard call.

"We did it very well, going 1-0 up, but then the legs went a little and because Barcelona are a great attacking side they scored two goals.

"I don't know what the difference between the sides was but it was small."

Chelsea, 15 points clear at the top of the Premiership and in the FA Cup quarter-finals, will now focus on winning the double for the first time in their history.

But the players vowed to return next season to make another serious bid to lift Europe's ultimate club trophy.

Terry said: "Everyone at Chelsea wants to win the European Cup and we will happily play Barcelona again next term and go for it again.

"You want to compete against the best sides in the world and whether we got them in the first round or the semi-final, we would take that.

"It is the worst feeling ever to lose a game but a big one such as last night's, on such a great stage, leaves you gutted.

"We will pick ourselves up. We desperately want to win the FA Cup, we said that right from the start, and we need to keep winning to maintain our lead in the league."

By Matt Barlow, PA Sport Chief Football Writer


US tennis to launch instant replay

New York: The US Tennis Association and the ATP and WTA Tours announced on Monday that tournaments in North America will begin using instant replay starting at the NASDAQ-100 Open in Miami on March 22.

The 2006 US Open will be the first Grand Slam to use instant replay to double-check officiating. Hawk-Eye Officiating will be implemented in Miami, which hosts an elite men’s Masters Series and women’s WTA Tier One event.

"It’s not only a way of better officiating, it’s also a great way to stimulate interest and to retain the sense of strategy and jeopardy in the sport," ATP chairman Etienne de Villiers said.

"To me it was always crazy that with modern GPS technology, we could tell where a person is within to yard or a meter on Planet Earth, and yet we can’t tell whether a tennis ball is in and out. So technology is going to help us do that."

They system will be based on player challenges. Each player will receive two challenges per set to review line calls. If he is correct, he will retain the same number of challenges, but if he is incorrect, one will be lost.

In addition, each player will receive one additional challenge in tiebreakers, but challenges may not be carried over from one set to another.

"Introducing this technology will make our sport more TV and fan friendly," WTA Tour CEO Larry Scott said. "Given the stakes in professional tennis, the ability to have more accurate line calls that can change a match is great news for players."

Gayle Bradshaw, the ATP’s administrator for rules and competition, said replays will not be intrusive.

"There’s going to be two video boards on the center court that will be visible by the players, the chair umpire and all the spectators," Bradshaw said.



Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Federer, Nadal to renew rivalry

Indian Wells, California: Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are poised to renew their rivalry in the California desert as they headline the Tennis Masters Series tournament that starts here on Friday.

Switzerland’s world number one Roger Federer arrives to defend his title after falling to Spain’s Nadal last Saturday in the final at Dubai.

Nadal snapped Federer’s 56-match hardcourt winning streak by rallying for a 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory, the 19-year-old claiming his 13th ATP Tour title, three shy of Bjorn Borg’s record for a teenager.

With the triumph, the Spaniard improved to 3-1 against the 24-year-old Federer. Nadal also beat Federer in last year’s French Open semi-finals en route to claiming his first Grand Slam title. Even before he left Dubai, Federer was looking ahead.

"I’m pretty much pleased with my performance," he said, "and I now look forward to the hard courts in America." The top 32 men have first-round byes, as do the top 32 women in the WTA tier one event that is also part of the Pacific Life Open.

In his opening match, Federer could face either reigning Olympic gold medallist Nicolas Massu of Chile or Agustin Calleri.

Australian Lleyton Hewitt, runner up to Federer here last year, is seeded ninth. He won back-to-back titles here in 2002-03.

While he comes into the tournament seeking his first title in more than a year, Hewitt posted runner-up finishes recently in San Jose, California, and Las Vegas, Nevada.