Pakistan Vs India, 2nd Test, Kolkata, 1st day

Friday, November 30, 2007

India 352 for 3 (Jaffer 192*, Tendulkar 82, Dravid 50, Ganguly 17*) v Pakistan

Wasim Jaffer's bat sparkled brightest on a day of total dominance for India's batsmen, as they ground Pakistan into the Kolkata dust on the opening day of the second Test at Eden Gardens. Jaffer was undefeated on 192 when bad light ended play six overs early, but his fifth hundred was his most joyous yet. With support from Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar, he took India to 352 for 3.

For an ailing Pakistan, without their injured captain Shoaib Malik and hampered by a seriously unwell Shoaib Akhtar, it was, by some distance, one of their most dispiriting days in recent memory. Kamran Akmal led the way in the field with an untidy, fumble-ridden performance that included another dropped catch as their chances of winning this series ebbed away under a barrage of boundaries.

But their woes should not take away from a day that was lit up by the beauty of Jaffer. He is compact even on his worse days, and has real grace in his shots, but rarely has he put it all together at such pace. His back-foot punches through covers, the pulls and clips are well-appreciated, but rarely have they come in such quick succession, in such sustained bursts of boundary-hitting. If ever a batsman was in the zone, it was Jaffer at Eden Gardens on Friday.

He was gold from the very start, the early loss of his opening partner as much an inconvenience as a fly is to an elephant. No particular area of the ground was favoured over others and no particular shot over another: pulls, drives, punches, cut and clips were all played with that seductive upright elegance, elbows high, bat straight.

But if he favoured one bowler over another, it was probably Sohail Tanvir, to whom he showed no mercy. Having driven him arrow-straight early in the piece, he struck him for four fours in an over a little before lunch. Later in the afternoon, as India raced to their 200, he hit him for a hat-trick of fours. As the day neared its end, Jaffer continued doing so, mostly through the leg side as Tanvir's inexperience came out of the closet.

He was no less imposing, or elegant, against the legspin of Danish Kaneria, never more so than in the day's 49th over. In it, he reached his hundred with a push through the covers, before celebrating by clipping him twice in a row through midwicket for four.

So commanding did the shy-looking Jaffer become that his support - Dravid and Tendulkar - were mostly overshadowed in stands of 134 and 175 respectively. Dravid was more than willing to go unnoticed, putting together a studied fifty. He was brisk enough to begin, particularly against Kaneria, as he got caught in Jaffer's slipstream. But just as he was bedding himself in post-lunch, Billy Doctrove sent him back for a phantom edge: replays couldn't tell whether Akmal's take was worse or Doctrove's decision.

Tendulkar was more energetic and before he was bowled - by his own shot rather than Kaneria's googly - a hundred seemed a done deal. Alongside Jaffer, he took the wheels right off Pakistan in the afternoon. The pair scored at nearly five an over, Tendulkar by turn cheeky and impulsive, but never in less than total control. The one blot came in the first over after tea, an edge off Mohammad Sami, though Akmal was obliging enough to drop.

Pakistan had a day you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy, and compounded it with a comically poor performance in the field. They were effectively a three-man attack for much of it, the decision to play an ill and weak Shoaib always loaded with risk. He could only manage nine overs, and though the early ones had pace, by the end, he should have been running in with an IV drip.

Kaneria was inconsistent, mixing some ordinary overs with brighter ones and Mohammad Sami, also unwell, remained committed but without luck. Perhaps their plight was best captured by the sight of Tanvir, the new hot young thing on Pakistan's pace block, switching to left-arm spin halfway through the afternoon. It was an admission that poor fortune - in their catastrophic run-in to this Test - and a sublime Jaffer had emphatically won the day.


Pakistan skipper Shoaib Malik outlines injury woes

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Fast bowler Umar Gul will return home after failing to recover from a back injury, adding to Pakistan's fitness problems on the eve of the crucial second Test against India here on Thursday.

Pakistan, seeking to avoid their first Test series loss in India in more than two decades, were racing against time to find 11 fit players following injuries and illness in their 15-man squad.

Pakistan's last Test series defeat in India came in 1980. They trail 1-0 in the three-match series following their six-wicket loss in the opening game in New Delhi on Monday.

Ace paceman Shoaib Akhtar is still recovering from a chest infection, skipper Shoaib Malik from an ankle injury, and batsman Misbah-ul-Haq and fast bowler Mohammad Sami from viral infections.

"We have too many fitness problems in the team at the moment. I felt pain while jogging. I will have one more fitness test on Friday before I decide anything,"

said Malik, who was injured playing football after the first match.

"Gul bowled at the nets, but he felt pain. He needs treatment and that's why he is going home. We need four specialist bowlers for a Test match. I hope we might be able to manage it."

Malik said Akhtar was still under treatment and it was too early to say whether he would be available for the match.

Akhtar was the lone Pakistani bowler to trouble India in the opening match as he finished with six wickets, including four in the second innings. Gul has so far bagged 67 wickets in 16 Tests.

Pakistan now have only three fit bowlers -- spinners Danish Kaneria and Abdur Rehman, and seamer Sohail Tanvir, who has only played one Test.

"We have no option but to win this Test, but we are struggling with fitness problems. These are difficult times for us. We just hope the players will recover in time,"

said the Pakistani captain.

"We have given options (for replacements) to selectors. It's up to them to decide who to send."

India captain Anil Kumble vowed the turn the heat on the tourists, saying his team would like to wrap up the series with a second successive victory.

"It's important for us to maintain the momentum we gained in the previous match and turn the screws. It's a great opportunity for us to go 2-0 up and seal the series here,"

he said.

"We have to perform up to our potential and ensure we gain a 2-0 lead. There were a couple of areas where we could have done better in the previous game, like we should have scored more runs in the first innings."

India could manage only 276 in the first innings before achieving a 203-run target with ease on the fifth and final day.

"Overall, I was happy with the way we played in the last match,"

said Kumble, leading the side in his first Test series.

When asked whether the current Pakistani side were vulnerable, Kumble said:

"Probably they are missing Inzamam-ul-Haq who was the pillar of their middle order in the past."

"They still have a good team and that they had proved in the previous Test by extending the game into the last day. It could have been a closer game."

Inzamam quit international cricket after a two-Test home series against South Africa in September. Under his captaincy, Pakistan drew a three-Test series 1-1 on their last tour of India in 2005.


Shoaib Akhtar doubtful for second Test against India?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

NEW DELHI: Pakistani fast bowler Shaoib Akhtar was hospitalised Tuesday with a chest infection ahead of the second Test against India, an Indian news agency reported.

Shoaib Akhtar, who led Pakistan's attack against the hosts during their first Test match in New Delhi, was taken to a hospital in Kolkata city, the news agency said.

He was the most impressive Pakistani bowler, taking six wickets in the first match.

Shoaib, who had a high temperature, has been diagnosed with a chest infection, Pakistan team media manager Ehsan Malik told reporters.

"The doctor diagnosed a chest infection and said it was advisable to put him on injectible antibiotics and intravenous fluids. He has been admitted to the hospital," Malik said.

It was not immediately known whether the paceman would play in the second Test starting in Kolkata on Friday.

It is the latest concern for Pakistan who have skipper Shoaib Malik nursing an ankle injury suffered during a football game after Pakistan’s defeat in New Delhi.

Batsman Misbah-ul Haq is recovering from a fever and throat infection.

However, seam bowler Umar Gul has recovered from a back problem which kept him out in Delhi and is available for Kolkata.

Pakistan will be desperate to have both men fit as they bid to stop India winning their first home series against their neighbours since 1979-80.

Younus Khan and Mohammad Yousuf are the likeliest men to step in if Pakistan require a stand-in captain, but the PCB is confident Malik will be fit to play.

Pakistan trail 1-0 in the three-Test series following their six-wicket defeat in the opening match.


Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, 7th round, 2nd day

National Bank pile on the pressure for WAPDA

Group A

Riding on Naumanullah's career-best 176, National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) finished on an impressive 443 before restricting Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) to 121 for 3 by stumps on day two at the NBP Sports Complex in Karachi.

Table leaders WAPDA were faced with the danger of being forced to follow on by NBP currently placed at number two just behind their opponents in the 11-team Group A ranking. The 32-year-old Naumanullah, who had already crossed his 11th hundred on the opening day, was involved in a splendid second-wicket stand of 231 with the other centurion, 17-year-old left-handed opener Nasir Jamshed, who made 134. As NBP resumed at their overnight 278 for 3, Naumanullah started at 126 not out. His eventual 176 came off 330 balls in almost eight and three-quarter hours with 24 fours.

Later, however, only wicketkeeper Rashid Riaz made 52 from 82 balls down at No. 8, with seven fours and a six. His seventh-wicket partnership with Mansoor Amjad (28) yielded 78. For WAPDA, lanky left-arm medium-fast bowler Sarfraz Ahmed finished with figures of 4 for 70 while wicketkeeper Zulqarnain Haider snapped up five catches.

WAPDA soon lost three wickets with only 56 on the board. Then came an unbroken fourth-wicket stand of 65 between Nawaz Sardar (32) and captain Aamer Sajjad (31). WAPDA still need another 173 to make NBP bat again.

Habib Bank Limited (HBL), after managing a modest 233, hit back at Lahore Ravi, bowling them out for a mere 128 at the Lahore Country Club. After having taken a substantial lead of 105, Habib Bank extended that to 162 by reaching 57 for 1in their second innings by stumps.

In the Lahore Ravi first innings, in which only three batsmen reached double-figures, opener Kashif Siddiq top-scored with 61 runs off 151 balls in a minute short of four hours with seven boundaries. The Habib Bank bowlers performed superbly. Veteran pace bowler Sajid Shah, playing his first match of the season, returned figures of 4 for 50 in 12 overs. Left-arm Kamran Hussain and Fahad Masood picked up three wickets each, for 20 and 38, respectively.

At the at Sargodha Stadium, Faisalabad piled on the agony for Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) as they declared their first innings at a whopping 521 for 7. There were no individual hundreds but as many as seven batsmen crossed the half-century mark. Imran Ahmed, the middle-order batsman, top-scored with a career-best 84. SSGC were 52 for 2 in reply at the close, having started off needing a mountain to climb. They need to score 372 to make Faisalabad bat again.

Tall scoring was the order of the day at the Gymkhana Ground, where Multan rattled up a highly impressive 567 for 5 before applying closure. At 122 for 2, bottom-placed Pakistan Customs were left to score another 296 runs to avoid the follow on.

For Multan Rameez Alam, playing in only his second first-class match, scored an unbeaten 155 off 216 balls in five hours with 25 fours and two sixes. Rameez turns just 19 next month. Earlier, captain Abdul Rauf missed what would have been his career's maiden first-class hundred by a mere two runs. Sohaib Maqsood had a chance to score his second century in succession, but he fell at 96. His knock, however, came off just 63 balls and included 12 fours and four sixes in a 176-run fifth-wicket stand with Rameez.

Hyderabad's 20-year-old left-handed opener Aqeel Anjum, who had scored his first-class career's first century on day one, contributed a double-hundred in his team's 415 against hosts Sialkot at the Jinnah Stadium. No other batsman reached even fifty. Aqeel's monumental 204 was made off 375 balls in almost eight and a half hours and included as many as 33 boundaries. Sialkot were 48 for no loss at stumps.

Group B

Sui Northern Gas Pipeline Limited (SNGPL) continued to make sure that former Group B leaders Islamabad, who are now down at number three, stay where they are as they compiled an exact 400 at the Diamond Cricket Club Ground in Islamabad.

This total has given SNGPL, who are at number two in the 11-team Group B ranking, a big first-innings lead of 222. Islamabad were 25 for 1 in their second innings by the day's close. Middle-order batsman Khurram Shahzad followed his career-best 166 in a sixth-round match against Peshawar with another magnificent 145 not out, that took him a mere 134 balls to make with 18 fours and a six. With Tauqeer Hussain (58), his sixth-wicket stand was worth 135.

After only 41 overs could be bowled on the opening day, in which Lahore Shalimar limped to 143 for 8, 14 wickets fell on the second at the Sheikhupura Stadium after almost 70 overs were completed before fading late forced an early close. Lahore Shalimar, however, gained a slender first-innings lead of 22 as they dismissed Karachi Blues for a 135 in reply to their total of 157. By stumps the Lahore team were 83 for 2 having enhanced their lead to 105.

Karachi's woes started as their left-handed opener Shadab Kabir, a former Pakistan player, perished for a third-ball duck following scores of 167 and 84 in the previous match against Abbottabad. Sharjeel Ashraf top-scored with 37 while Faraz Ahmed chipped in with 25 down the order. There were 24 Extras but Lahore's 19-year-old right-arm fast bowler Mohammad Naved, playing in only his second first-class match, had the last laugh with career-best figures of 6 for 51. In his debut match, the drawn encounter against Rawalpindi, Naved captured 6 for 91 and 3 for 90.

Earlier, allrounder Tariq Haroon took 4 for 70 for Karachi while left-arm fast bowler Malik Aftab returned figures of 3 for 59. Asif Khan, Shalimar's opener, was unbeaten on 39 from 81 balls.

Both teams are certainly not in contention for a place in the tournament final. With 12 points from five matches, Karachi Blues are placed at number seven in the 11-team Group B table. Lahore Shalimar are even further down at the ninth spot with a mere nine points from six previous appearances.

At the Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) Stadium in Rawalpindi, table leaders Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) sailed past Quetta with a first-innings score of 276 for 5, that has laready given them a lead of 105 runs.

Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited (ZTBL) took their overnight 247 for 6 to 286 all out against Abbottabad at the Abbottabad Cricket Stadium. The home team were 184 for 4 in reply, requiring another 103 runs to attain the first-innings lead.

KRL took control of their match over hosts Peshawar at the Arbab Niaz Stadium, having made 452 runs for 6 declared. The left-handed Saeed Anwar, unbeaten at 86 overnight, went on to make 130 runs. Bilal Asad (105) and Yasir Arafat (100) made unbeaten centuries as the unbroken seventh-wicket stand produced 172. Medium-pacer Yasir, who made his unbeaten 100 off only 99 balls with eight fours and three sixes, then took 4 for 40 as Peshawar went in to bat. Peshawar then crashed to a poor 94 for 5. They need to score another 208 with five wickets in hand to avert the follow on.


Injury scare for Malik

Monday, November 26, 2007

Following their six-wicket defeat in the first Test against India in Delhi, there was further bad news for Pakistan as Shoaib Malik, the captain, injured his ankle during training after the match. Malik has had precautionary X-rays though the team management says it is too early to say if he would be fit for the second Test in Kolkata.

"The boys were playing football after the match when Malik twisted his ankle,"

Javed Akhtar, the team's media co-ordinator, told AFP.

"He was taken to a hospital for precautionary X-rays."

Malik's is the latest among Pakistan's injury concerns on this tour. Fast bowler Umar Gul, who missed the first Test, is likely to miss the Kolkata Test as well due to a troublesome back. Mohammad Asif, who pulled out at the start of the tour due to a elbow injury, is in the frame for selection for the final Test in Bangalore though that depends on how quickly he recovers.

The second Test begins from November 30.


Pakistan Vs India, 1st Test, Delhi, 5th day

RESULT: India won by 6 wickets.

Ind 203/4 after 61.1 overs.
Tendulkar 56* (110), Jaffer 53 (81).
Akhtar 4/58.

Akhtar pitches in a short delivery outside the off stump and the inform Tendulkar makes no mistake in cutting the ball past point to seal the win for India with a boundary. The fielder dived in despair but could not stop the ball as it flew off the bat.

It has been an interesting Test match as the balance of power shifted between the sides regularly but in the end it is India who have come out on top to take a 1-0 lead in this three match series. Through out the five days we have seen some magnificent cricket and the next match is sure to be as entertaining.

Man of The Match: Kumble was awarded the man of the match award for his seven wickets in the match and leading from the front as the new Indian captain.


Security tightens for Indo-Pak Test after threat: officials

Security was tightened at the ongoing Test match between India and Pakistan here on Sunday after an e-mail threat targeting the visiting team was reported by media outlets, officials said.

An e-mail sent to a television channel on Saturday, a day after a series of blasts in three northern Indian cities killed 13 people and wounded at least 40, threatened the safety of the visiting Pakistani team.

"Don't think it's a joke. We will attack you if you play (a) Test match with India,"

said the e-mail, according to excerpts published in the Indian Express Sunday, the fourth day of the first Test.

"Go back to your country."

Authorities were taking the threat seriously because a similar one was sent to lawyers around the same time as the blasts outside local courts in Uttar Pradesh state on Friday, said a Delhi and District Cricket Association official who did not want to be named.

Security, already extensive, had been tightened further on Sunday in wake of the e-mail, the official said.

Pakistan is scheduled to play India in a second match in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata starting November 30, with a third match set for Bangalore from December 8.

Earlier, an official from Indian cricket's regulatory body said the security situation was under control.

"I think adequate security arrangements have been made and proper cover has been provided to the players as well as the spectators,"
Board of Control for Cricket in India's vice president Rajeev Shukla told the Press Trust of India.


Pakistan Vs India, 1st Test, Delhi, 4th day

Sunday, November 25, 2007

India 276 and 171 for 3 (Jaffer 53, Tendulkar 32*, Ganguly 48*, Akhtar 3-41) need another 32 runs to beat Pakistan 231 and 247 (Butt 67, Misbah 45, Kumble 3-68)

Shoaib Akhtar briefly rocked the boat but India's batsmen played in pleasant contrast to their Pakistani counterparts, applying themselves and picking the runs when scoring opportunities came their way as they reached the doorstep of victory in the first Test.

First Wasim Jaffer and Rahul Dravid, and then Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly, occupied the crease with purpose as they knocked off 171 of the 203 runs needed for victory. When play was called off for bad light, only 32 runs stood between India and glory.

Without doubt India enjoyed a huge slice of luck as Dravid struggled early in his innings, soon after Dinesh Karthik had been dismissed. But that was the only loss India suffered in Shoaib Akhtar's first spell. It was Mohammad Sami who troubled Dravid, with the ball skidding onto the bat and occasionally hurrying Dravid. He was once trapped pretty palpably in front of the stumps but Billy Doctrove, as he has done all match, weighed the decision and ruled in favour of the batsman. Soon after, Dravid tried to fetch one from far outside the off stump and edged between the slip cordon and the gully fielder for a streaky boundary.

Once the nerves settled and the feet got moving, Dravid was rock solid, adjusting well to the slightly variable bounce and getting right behind the line of the ball. What helped Dravid along was the fluency with which Jaffer was batting. Although he was occasionally troubled by Danish Kaneria, Jaffer was regal against the quick bowlers, dispatching anything too straight to the on-side boundary. When the bowlers overcompensated and bowled outside off, Jaffer was quick to transfer his weight on to the back foot, and cut the ball behind point.

The early loss of Karthik, when he drove a good-length ball from Akhtar that seamed away a touch, with the score only on two, was forgotten as Jaffer and Dravid brought up the fifty partnership for the second wicket and pressed on. It took the re-introduction of Akhtar into the attack, just before the tea break, for Pakistan to get their second breakthrough. Jaffer, who brought up his half-century with a pleasing cut for four off Akhtar, could not resist the temptation of pulling a short ball, and failed to keep it down, finding Salman Butt at square leg with pin-point accuracy. At 84 for 2, in came Sachin Tendulkar to a roaring applause from a Sunday crowd.

In the knowledge that Akhtar was only in the harness for a short burst, Tendulkar and Dravid sought to play him out, and the scoring-rate dipped temporarily. But their efforts were partly in vain as, soon after tea, Shoaib produced an reverse inswinging rocket to squeeze through the gap between bat and pad and knock the leg stump back. Dravid had made 34 and India were 93 for 3. Sourav Ganguly then walked out to the middle and batted positively against extreme pace, playing a sensual cover-drive early on to ease the nerves.

With Ganguly scoring freely, Tendulkar was able to knuckle down and bring a solidity to the crease that frustrated the best efforts of Pakistan's bowlers. As he settled down, the runs began to flow more freely, and right towards the end of the day the boundaries came with such regularity that it seemed that India would knock off the required runs with haste. But with the light fading, neither Ganguly, on 48, nor Tendulkar, who in the course of his 32 overtook Allan Border to become the second highest run-getter in Tests, wanted to take any chances, having put together an unbeaten 78 for the fourth wicket. The crowd sighed its disappointment when the players walked off, but this only means that the players will have to come back on the final day to finish this game off.

India's job had been made easier by a brittle and mindless Pakistani batting performance earlier in the day. Kamran Akmal set the tone, choosing to chase a wide one from Zaheer Khan, hitting it straight to Yuvraj Singh, temporarily fielding at point, at perfect catching height.

Sohail Tanvir, who is regarded to be a handy lower-order batsman, was cagey at the crease from the first ball he faced, playing and missing and even edging between the slip cordon and gully. Zaheer bowled a probing line and when he dropped one short, wide outside the off, Tanvir went for a pull shot that should never have been attempted and ballooned a catch to Harbhajan Singh at square leg.

Misbah-ul-Haq was entirely assured at the crease, playing Anil Kumble with confidence, but he didn't get the support he needed at the other end. He too fell to recklessness once the new ball was taken, giving Ganguly the charge. Ganguly was good enough to shorten his length and the attempted heave over long-on was miscued; Karthik took a well-judged catch. With Misbah gone for 45, the end was near and Ganguly winkled out another wicket. Mohammad Sami, who had blocked so determinedly in the first innings, tried to slap Ganguly over midwicket and only managed a top-edge that Jaffer settled under.

Kaneria was never going to pose a massive threat but he ran himself out in circumstances that summed up the Pakistan innings. He played the ball to point and set off down the pitch without much purpose. Tendulkar returned the ball to Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who, facing away from the stumps, bent over and flicked the ball onto the wickets, dislodging the bails and ending Pakistan's second innings on 247. Pakistan's batsmen had played with no application whatsoever, and literally thrown away their wickets on the final morning, adding 35 runs for the fall of the last five wickets.


Asif recovering faster than expected

Mohammad Asif is recovering faster than expected from the injury that has forced him to sit out Pakistan's tour to India so far. According to one PCB official, there is even an outside chance that he might be in the frame for selection for the final Test in Bangalore, beginning from December 8.

Asif pulled out of the India tour at the very last minute, complaining of pain in his right elbow. It is a problem that has hounded him over the last 18 months, forcing him first to miss three Tests in England last summer as well as four of five ODI matches against South Africa last month.

But according to Shafqat Naghmi, the board's chief operating officer, Asif has started bowling again at the National Cricket Academy in Lahore.

"He is recovering faster than our expectations,"

Naghmi told The News.

"He has started bowling at the academy and says there is no pain in his elbow."

But before any hopes of a surprise comeback in Bangalore can be entertained, the bowler has still to go to Australia to seek a third medical opinion on the injury. Two doctors in Pakistan have given conflicting advice, one suggesting surgery, the other complete rest and treatment.

"Asif will be leaving for Australia in the next couple of days because we want him to see another specialist there just to be on the safe side,"

Naghmi said.

"Asif is an important player for us and we are trying our best to get him fit as soon as possible. If he is fit and is needed by the team, he might play in the Bangalore Test."


Pakistan Vs India, 1st Test, Delhi, 3rd day

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Pakistan 231 and 212 for 5 (Butt 67, Kumble 3-54) lead India 276 (Laxman 72*, Kaneria 4-59) by 167 runs

This has been a match of partnerships, right from Misbah-ul-Haq and Mohammad Sami's rearguard action to the VVS Laxman-Mahendra Singh Dhoni stand that resurrected India on Friday. On the third day an opening partnership for Pakistan, unlikely as that sounds, set the stage, but the spin pair of Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh picked up four wickets in the span of 47 runs to peg them back. And once again, it was a partnership, Misbah combining with Kamran Akmal, that restored the balance, with a rush of runs in the dying moments of the day taking Pakistan to 212 for 5, a threatening lead of 167.

The momentum has swung both ways in the course of this game, and when play began on the third day, the balance was delicately poised. Danish Kaneria decided to rudely upset it, picking three of the four wickets to fall, bringing the curtain down on the Indian innings for a lead of only 45. VVS Laxman was unbeaten on 72, the top score of the Indian innings, but he made little effort to shield the tail, and this meant a rather quick end to proceedings.

Anil Kumble, leading the side, and fresh from a Test hundred in his last match, against England at The Oval, can usually be counted on to resist. And he did not throw his wicket away. Rather Kaneria got one to bounce and turn a bit extra and the ball went off the shoulder of Kumble's defensive bat straight to first slip. The rest of the tail, however, did not even attempt to fight.

Harbhajan Singh was bowled attempting to flick Sohail Tanveer across the line, Zaheer Khan hit one six and then scooped to mid-off aiming to hit the ball out of the ground once more, and Munaf Patel swept off the stumps without having much idea where the ball was, trapped plumb in front. Laxman, through all this, was batting assuredly, but had not farmed the strike, and made 15 of the 48 runs added, pushing his own score to 72 not out as India closed on 276.

A first-innings lead of 100 and over, with so much time left in the game, would have put India in control, but their lead of 45 left the door open for Pakistan to come back into the game. Salman Butt and Yasir Hameed stormed through this door with an aggressive opening partnership. While not necessarily looking to clatter every ball out of the park, the intent was positive from both openers.

While Butt was merely translating his one-day form into Test runs, Hameed showed real promise, putting away loose deliveries almost unfailingly. Pakistan have juggled opening partnerships plenty in the recent past, but it is this combine that has looked the most likely to succeed, and even once put up 100 against Australia, the only such stand in the last three years.

On the day they were well on course to building something big, having got a good measure of the fast bowlers. When Kumble introduced himself into the attack, perhaps a touch late, things changed. There was a hesitancy in the batting, a tendency to not commit fully and the partnership was duly broken. Hameed (36) pushed firmly to off, but failed to keep the ball down and Laxman plucked the ball out of the air just inches from the ground.

The opening stand of 71 gave Younis a chance to express himself and he too looked to play aggressively, picking up boundaries against the spinners and fast bowlers. But the relentlessness of Kumble eventually won a positive result from Simon Taufel as a full ball struck Younis on the pad, getting past bat. Younis had made 23 in another mini partnership, but the pressure was beginning to tell on Pakistan, even with the score on 114 for 2.

Mohammad Yousuf then began his occupation of the crease, and just as he looked set for a long stint, the late introduction of Harbhajan brought joy for India. Yousuf looked to drive Harbhajan's first ball through leg and ballooned a catch back to the bowler. Then Kumble prised out Butt, who had made 67 vital runs. Bowling round the stumps Kumble floated in a googly that landed in the footmarks, Butt took the bait and flashed hard, edging straight to Dravid at slip.

When Harbhajan added a fortuitous wicket to his kitty - Shoaib Malik dragged one that bounced a bit extra onto his stumps via pad - Pakistan had lost four wickets for only 47 runs. But luck soon swung the other way as Misbah edged Kumble straight to forward short leg only for Wasim Jaffer to fluff the simplest of catches. Perhaps taking that as a sign, Misbah gave up the dour prodding, leaving that to Akmal, and began to counterattack. He lofted Harbhajan over the long-on and midwicket, as the shadows lengthened at the Ferozshah Kotla. Stumps were drawn not long after, with Pakistan on 212 for 5. India won't want the lead, which currently stands at 167, to swell into something much bigger, for chasing might just be tricky with Shoaib Akhtar steaming in.


Pakistan Vs India, 1st Test, Delhi, 2nd day

Friday, November 23, 2007

India 228 for 6 (Dhoni 57, Laxman 57*) trail Pakistan 231 (Misbah 82, Kumble 4-38) by three runs

A match that appeared to be drifting inexorably in Pakistan's direction in the afternoon session was left tantalisingly poised after a 115-run partnership between Mahendra Singh Dhoni and VVS Laxman pushed India back into contention. Shoaib Akhtar bowled with tremendous pace to dismiss both openers, and there were two wickets too for Sohail Tanvir on debut, but after slumping to 93 for 5, India would have been satisfied to end the day just three runs adrift.

Dhoni and Laxman eased the immediate pressure with scampered singles, a pattern broken only when Dhoni cut Mohammad Sami powerfully for four. Laxman then played two magnificent strokes down the ground off Tanvir, and Dhoni greeted Danish Kaneria's reintroduction with a savage cut for four, but at tea, it was still Pakistan that were dictating terms.

The complexion of the game changed after tea though, with Dhoni's straight swat off Kaneria revealing India's positive intent. Laxman laced some gorgeous shots down the ground and through midwicket, while Dhoni muscled the ball through the off side field whenever he was afforded the width.

Shoaib Malik rotated his bowlers often, using Shoaib's pace in short bursts, and both batsmen were largely content to see him off. Even then, the runs came at four an over as the partnership mounted rapidly. A push through cover took Dhoni to 50, but his movement thereafter was hampered by the ankle that he had injured in Jaipur.

John Gloster, the Indian physio, came on to give it some strapping, but it was clearly a factor as he charged a Kaneria leg break to get the thinnest of edges through to Kamran Akmal. His 57 had spanned just 93 balls, and been the dominant part of a partnership similar to that which saved the Lord's Test for India in July.

Laxman eased to his own half-century soon after, Anil Kumble played one flamboyant square drive off Shoaib, and the fag end of the day was all about consolidation. When the umpires offered the light at the scheduled close, with Pakistan well behind the over-rate, both Laxman and Kumble had little hesitation in walking off.

The situation when Dhoni arrived to a raucous ovation had been very different. Rahul Dravid, who had played some lovely shots in his 38, saw his off stump knocked back by a Tanvir delivery that pitched on middle and leg and left him a shade. Coming soon after Ganguly's departure - bowled off the inside edge to give Tanvir his first Test scalp - it put a severe dent in India's hopes of establishing a first-innings lead.

The unlikely figure of Mohammad Yousuf had provided a telling blow minutes earlier. A sizeable crowd had cheered Sachin Tendulkar all the way to the crease, but when there was a mix-up between him and Dravid over going for a second run, Yousuf's throw to the keeper found him inches short.

Another run-out, albeit a much more bizarre one, had precipitated the end of the Pakistan innings in the morning. Neither Munaf Patel nor Zaheer Khan could break through with the relatively new ball, and after 40 more minutes of being thwarted, Kumble brought himself and Ganguly on.

And it was off Ganguly's bowling that the 87-run partnership - a Pakistani record for the ninth wicket against India - was finally broken. Misbah-ul-Haq, who had faced 243 balls for his 82, played one to point and set off. He seemed to have made his ground when Dinesh Karthik's throw came in. But rather than get his body in the way, Misbah chose airborne evasive action and the ball struck the stumps. When the third umpire handed down his decision, the crowd erupted.

It took Kumble just two balls to clean up Kaneria, leaving India's vaunted batting line-up to chart their own course on a pitch predicted to be at its best for batting on the second day. Though Karthik went before lunch, fending at a Shoaib delivery that moved away, Dravid and Wasim Jaffer proceeded to put on 56 without too many alarms.

Shoaib was the biggest threat, combining the odd unplayable delivery with some wayward stuff. Clearly unhappy with the landing area on the pitch, he asked for sawdust, changed his boots and then kicked a ball away in frustration on his followthrough when he couldn't find rhythm.

The second coming proved to be luckier. Dismayed to see Billy Doctrove turn down a leg-before appeal against Jaffer in the opening over of the innings, he returned to thud one into the pads at serious pace. In the ensuing 6.2 overs, India would lose 4 for 22 and stumble towards an abyss. Fortunately for them, neither Laxman nor Dhoni were in freefalling mood.


Pakistan Vs India, 1st Test, Delhi, 1st day

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Day 1: Pakistan 210 for 8 (Misbah 71*, Sami 20*) against India

Anil Kumble's first day as India's Test captain went nearly perfectly for two sessions, but a spirited rearguard action from Misbah-ul-Haq and Mohammad Sami redressed the balance somewhat on an engrossing opening day at the Feroz Shah Kotla. Misbah, who had never gone past 41 in his previous seven Tests, batted more than four hours for his unbeaten 71, while Sami embarrassed more illustrious team-mates with a defiant 20 that spanned the entire final session.

After having picked up eight Pakistani wickets for 142 in the first two sessions, India ran out of steam after tea, with nothing more than half chances coming their way. The best of them came just before stumps, when Misbah pulled Munaf Patel to midwicket. Harbhajan Singh got his hands to it, but the ball was struck with such force that it burst through his fingers and went for two.

By then, with the partnership mounting and spin not providing an answer, Kumble had opted for the new ball, but by the time play was called off 4.2 overs early, the ninth-wicket pair had survived 31.4 overs while adding 68. The application that they showed was a far cry from the headless-chicken act that went before, with batsman after batsman pressured into mistakes by disciplined Indian bowling.

The key wicket arrived shortly after lunch, when Mohammad Yousuf played down the wrong line to Sourav Ganguly to be trapped in front for 27. He and Younis Khan had taken heavy toll on the Indian bowlers in recent times, but the failure of either to play a big innings here put Pakistan under severe pressure.

For Shoaib Malik, whose decision to bat first in overcast conditions had been most likely prompted by the reluctance to face Kumble in the fourth innings, it proved too much. Fortunate to survive a confident leg-before shout off the first ball he faced from Ganguly, he departed without making a dent on the scoreboard, fending at a Munaf delivery that left him a touch. When Kamran Akmal walked in with the score 83 for 5, he might have been reminded of the Karachi Test last year, when his brilliant century won Pakistan the game after they had slumped to 39 for 6.

He played a couple of cracking drives and flicks through midwicket, but when Kumble returned more than an hour into the second session, he had no answer to a delivery that shot through at shin height to knock back the off stump. It was reward for some disciplined bowling at either end, with Ganguly especially outstanding in his role as support seamer. Misbah tried to stem the relentless Indian tide with a superb six over long-on off Harbhajan Singh, but the support from the other end was paper-thin until Sami arrived.

The innings had started inauspiciously, with both Zaheer and Munaf bowling probing spells. Yasir Hameed had the scoreboard ticking with a lovely cover-drive, but Salman Butt was becalmed at the other end. His misery lasted all of 20 balls before Zaheer shaped one back in to beat a tentative prod.

Younis and Hameed tried to wrest the initiative with some singles, but Zaheer's second intervention of the morning put India firmly on top. Younis had committed himself to the front foot when Zaheer surprised him with a short ball at the body. The hook was a hurried one, and despite his reputation as not the most athletic of fielders, Munaf held on to the catch at fine leg.

Yousuf embarked on his innings with a steer to third man and a delightful off drive, but when Kumble and Ganguly came on to relieve the opening bowlers, the runs dried up again. Hameed flicked Kumble for a four through midwicket, but Ganguly's use of the seam was causing Yousuf problems at the other end.

A glorious cover-drive broke the shackles briefly, but when Yasir played all around a straight one from Kumble, it was again backs-to-the-wall for Pakistan. Yousuf ended the session with two magnificent square drives, but on a pitch that was hardly a minefield, it was clear that Pakistan would need to perk up after lunch.

They couldn't, and when Harbhajan and Kumble polished off Sohail Tanvir and Shoaib Akhtar in quick succession before tea, Pakistan were in danger of not being able to match the 150 they made here on their first tour 55 years ago. But as the sun started to shine and the pitch eased out, Misbah and Sami started to grow in confidence. A reverse paddle-sweep got Misbah his 50, and he then produced a gorgeous on-drive when Munaf overpitched with the new ball.

The real star though was Sami, doughty and unflappable in equal measure. A precise cut for four off Harbhajan showed what he could do, and the reintroduction of Ganguly only prompted a charge down the pitch and a massive six down the ground. It summed up India's evening, though they had every reason to be otherwise pleased with their day's work.


Kolkata Test to go ahead as scheduled

KOLKATA: The second Test between India and Pakistan in Kolkata, starting November 30, will not be rescheduled despite widespread violence in the city, the Board of Control for Cricket in India announced today.

The Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) has in turn assured adequate security for the teams after a protest by a minority organisation led to riots, prompting the army to take control.

"As far as the BCCI is concerned, the second Test will not be rescheduled,"
Rajiv Shulka, the BCCI vice-president was quoted in the Times of India.

"However, if the staging association (CAB) feels it's not in a position to hold the match, we will take a decision at the right time."

India and Pakistan last met in a Test at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata during the Asian Test Championship in 1999. However, the match was marred by riots inside the stadium as the spectators started burning newspapers in the stands, hurled stones, fruit and plastic bottles on to the field when India were on the brink of defeat. The match was held up for over three hours as about 65,000 people were removed by police and security men. India fell short by 46 runs chasing 279.


Two unbeaten tons help Pakistan U19s reply strongly

KARACHI: Rony Talukdar’s splendid century seems to have gone to waste, as the Pakistan Under-19s second-wicket pair contributed an unbroken stand of 212 runs, on the second day of the four-day, one-off Youth Test match against Bangladesh Under-19s, here at the National Stadium on Wednesday.

The touring side’s first innings total of 343 runs looked adequate enough, but the Pakistan juniors’ in-form batsmen Ahmed Shahzad and Umar Amin hit unbeaten individual hundreds as they helped their team reach 214 for the loss of only one wicket by the day’s close yesterday.

The visitors started the second day at their overnight 273 for seven, with Talukdar not out at 52. He dominated the Bangladesh later order batting, achieving his first century at the youth cricket level, his eventual 107 runs coming off only 141 deliveries in four minutes short of three hours with the help of 11 fours and two sixes.

Pakistan’s excellent new-ball bowler Mohammad Rameez finished the innings with figures of four wickets for 73 runs. Fast-medium Junaid Nadir and Ahmed Shahzad, with his leg-breaks, picked up two wickets each.

Although he was guilty of having conceded 14 byes in the Bangladesh score, Karachi’s 17-year-old wicket-keeper Mohammad Hasan was otherwise excellent behind the stumps. His three catches were right out of the top drawer.

In five minutes short of five hours, after opener and vice-captain Shan Masood had perished for a duck, Ahmed Shahzad and Umar Amin notched centuries without being separated.

Ahmed’s exact 100 not out has come off 200 balls with eight fours while Umar has hit an unbeaten 108 off 208 deliveries with 12 boundaries. Both scored their respective second Youth Test hundreds, their previous ones being on the England tour earlier this summer. The Bangladesh team, which has arrived in Pakistan after a delay of more than a week, will play a series of five Youth ODIs against the hosts following the ongoing Youth Test match.


Umar Gul ruled out of Delhi Test with back pain

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Pakistan seam bowler Umar Gul has been ruled out of the first test against India at Delhi on Thursday after feeling pain in his back and hip in training.

Left-arm seamer Sohail Tanvir is now sure to be handed his Test debut and partner Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Sami in a three-man pace attack. Leg-spinner Danish Kaneria and skipper and part-time off-spinner Shoaib Malik will provide the variety.

Gul’s practice at lunch time on Wednesday was interrupted when he was driven to a Delhi hospital to have scans on the injury. Team sources said the scans came back clear but the prospect of taking a half-fit seamer into such an important match was never going to be an option and he was omitted.

Furthermore, there were also reports that Gul, 23, felt pain in the left side of his hip so he is likely to undergo more tests. It is a bitter blow for Pakistan having been deprived of seamer Mohammad Asif already, when he was sent home because of a chronic elbow injury.

“We're going to consult with orthopaedic surgeons in India as well as back home so he is ruled out of the Delhi Test as a precaution,”

a team spokesman said.


ICC launches U-19 World Cup

Pakistan will start their defence of the Under-19 World Cup by playing the hosts Malaysia on February 17 as they bid to become the first team to win a hat-trick of titles. The tournament was officially launched in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday as the ICC announced the schedule.

Pakistan are the only team to have won back-to-back titles at this level, having triumphed in 2004 and 2006 in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka respectively and start as top seeds in Malaysia. India, the winners from 2000 and beaten finalist last year, are seeded second, with Australia (winners in 1988 and 2002) seeded third and England (winners in 1998) fourth as those two sides were losing semi-finalists in 2006.

All four will be in action on the opening day with Pakistan meeting Malaysia at Johor Cricket Academy in Johor, India facing Papua New Guinea (PNG) at Kinrara Cricket Academy in Kuala Lumpur, Australia taking on Namibia at Penang Sports Club in Penang, and England facing Ireland at Selangor Turf Club in Kuala Lumpur.

The 16 participating teams will be battling for a place in the final on March 2 in Kuala Lumpur. Besides the ICC's 10 full members and hosts Malaysia, five qualifiers - Namibia, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Ireland, and Bermuda - will take part in the two-week long tournament.

"I am looking forward to what should be a great tournament,"
David Morgan, ICC president-elect, said.

"Over the years, U-19 World Cup has proven to be a great breeding ground for some of the best players in the world. Many have progressed from this level into their respective senior teams and I've no doubt the experience of playing at this event helped them no end when they got their chance at the top level."

"For the first time, the event is being hosted by one of our Associate Members - and it is great to see Malaysia staging another ICC tournament. Another first is the fact that apart from hosting the tournament, Malaysia will be participating in their first World Cup. It will also be the debut performance of Bermuda, which qualified for this event through the Americas Region earlier this year."

YAM Tunku Imran, president of the Malaysian Cricket Association, said:

"We thank the ICC for recognising the development programmes that we have implemented and seeing the potential that Malaysia has as a cricketing nation.

"Through the years we have been able to host many international events and we believe that we will be able to host an event of this magnitude and prestige successfully. Furthermore, we have impressive cricket grounds of international standards complete with necessary facilities to accommodate an event of this nature."

Groups (seedings in brackets)

Group A (to be based in Johor) - Pakistan (1), Zimbabwe (8), New Zealand (9), Malaysia (16)

Group B (to be based in Kuala Lumpur) - India (2), West Indies (7), South Africa (10), PNG (15)

Group C (to be based in Penang) - Australia (3), Sri Lanka (6), Nepal (11), Namibia (14)

Group D (to be based in Kuala Lumpur) - England (4), Bangladesh (5), Bermuda (12), Ireland (13)

Major dates

February 10 - Teams arrives
February 11-14 - Warm-up matches
February 15 - Opening ceremony
February 17-22 - First group stage
February 24-March 1 - Super League and Plate competitions
March 2- Final


‘We will have to rely on specialists’

DELHI: Pakistan manager Talat Ali believes that his team will have to rely on specialists to pull it through in a tough Test series against India getting underway here at the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium from tomorrow.

Talat, a former Pakistan Test cricketer, hinted that the tourists will opt to open with specialist openers Salman Butt and Yasir Hameed and should also persist with Kamran Akmal behind the stumps.

“In Test cricket you need specialists,”
he said.
“All-rounders can play a useful role but at the end of the day it’s the specialist batsmen and bowlers who win matches for you,”
he added. After having sent Shahid Afridi and Fawad Alam back home following the one-day series, Pakistan do not have many all-rounders to choose from in the Tests, something that may pose problems for them if they opt to play with just four bowlers.

Skipper Shoaib Malik will be the fifth bowler if they do so but the all-rounder is still far from his best when it comes to bowling because of a shoulder problem. However, Talat played down the problem saying that Pakistan have the firepower to shine in the Tests.
“On paper, we are a stronger side than India,”
he said.
“If you compare player by player then we are a better side,”
he added.

His assessment was contrary to the popular opinion which says that this Indian team is a superior side when compared to Pakistan, something which underlined during the one-day series which the home team won quite convincingly.

Talat said that Pakistan are yet to decide their playing eleven for the opening Test saying that there is still some doubt over one or two positions. But expectations are that Pakistan will open with Salman and Yasir with Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf, Shoaib Malik and Misbah-ul-Haq forming the middle-order. Kamran Akmal will keep the wickets in spite of a remarkable debut by young wicket-keeper Sarfraz Ahmed in Sunday’s final one-dayer in Jaipur. Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul and Danish Kaneria will form the bowling attack either with Sohail Tanvir, Mohammad Sami or left-arm spinner Abdul Rehman.

Talat said that the Kotla wicket would as usual be a low and slow track that would assist the spinners on the last two days. He said that all the Pakistani players are completely fit ahead of the opening Test.
“Younis Khan was rested in the last one-dayer because he had a minor hip problem. He is completely fit now,”
he explained.


Asia Cup will go ahead as planned - Ashraf

Nasim Ashraf, the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), has said the Asia Cup will proceed as planned in June 2008 in Karachi, after the BCCI assured him of India's participation. The tournament, originally scheduled for April, had to be postponed since the inaugural Indian Premier League (IPL) is set to get underway in the same month.

"The Asia Cup is very much on,"

Ashraf told reporters in New Delhi.

"I've talked to BCCI officials about the tournament and they have promised that India would certainly take part in the tournament."

Ashraf explained that the dates had to be shifted taking into account Pakistan's busy international season - which includes a home series against Australia in April followed by a tri-series in Bangladesh - and also the fact that a few players would be participating in the IPL.

"Some of our top players will be taking part in the IPL,"

Ashraf said.

"Then another reason why we agreed to find new dates for the event was the fact that April didn't suit us because our players will be playing in a tough series against Australia just about the same time."

Ashraf also confirmed that the BCCI had floated the idea of contesting a tri-series between India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka instead of the Asia Cup to raise more profits but the PCB decided against it.

"Our contention is that it is not just about the money,"
he said.
"Next year would be the 25th anniversary of the Asian Cricket Council (ACC), which is why we want to assure that the Asia Cup is held in a successful manner in June."

The previous edition was held in Sri Lanka in 2004 but the biennial event had to be postponed in 2006 due to scheduling problems. Pakistan was slated to host it in February 2006 after India's bilateral series in Pakistan but the BCCI said it was unable to fit in another one-day tournament with England touring for a three-Test and seven-match ODI series.

The current edition of the Asia Cup features six teams, including Oman and United Arab Emirates, aside from the four Test-playing nations.


Pakistan bank on pace

One man can seldom make the difference in a three-match Test series, especially one who hasn't always lived up to lofty expectations. But Shoaib Malik, Pakistan's captain, was in little doubt as to where this series against India would be won and lost. Shoaib Akhtar is effectively on probation after his antics in the build-up to the Twenty20 World Cup, but Malik believes that he could well be the X-factor that decides this most keenly fought of cricket contests.

"If we're to win the series, Shoaib and Danish [Kaneria] will have a vital role to play,"

said Malik on the eve of the game.

"Shoaib's fitness level is good. He's our trump card for sure."

Malik disputed the assertion that Shoaib hadn't really found his rhythm in the one-day series.

"He was in rhythm,"

he said.

"He was consistently bowling at 150-plus [kph]. It was I who asked him to bowl with a shorter run-up because we had some problems with time [slow over-rate]."

The allegedly slow nature of the Feroz Shah Kotla pitch could draw the sting out of Pakistani pace, but Malik wasn't too perturbed by the 22 yards.

"Whatever cricket we've seen recently, even on spinning tracks, the fast bowlers have done well,"

he said.

"So we're not too worried."

Umar Gul is battling a back strain and is rated doubtful for the Test. That should mean a Test debut for Sohail Tanvir, though it's likely to be Mohammad Sami who shares the new ball with Shoaib. Despite the failure of the four-bowler plan against South Africa, Pakistan are likely to resist the temptation to play Abdur Rehman.

Malik was confident that Kaneria could match the Indian spinners.

"I wouldn't say either team has the edge in the spin department,"

he said.

"Anil [Kumble], Harbhajan [Singh] and Murali Kartik are all very good spinners. We have Danish. But our main strength is our pace bowling."

India's pace department has been considerably weakened by the injuries to Sreesanth and RP Singh, but Malik was taking nothing for granted in the build-up to the game.

"They have called up Munaf Patel, and they already have Zaheer Khan in the team,"

he said.

"Their spin attack is strong. There might be some change in their plans but it's still a strong attack."

Ever since Saeed Anwar retired from the international arena, Pakistan have struggled to find a semblance of consistency at the top of the order, but Malik stressed that there would be no experimentation before the first game of the series.

"We have two openers [Salman Butt and Yasir Hameed] in the squad and both of them will play."

Following the reverse in the one-day series, much had been said, especially back home in Pakistan, about the lack of spirit within the team and the captain's inability to rouse his men. Malik scoffed at such suggestions.

"Things have been said because we lost,"

he said brusquely.

"If we had won, none of these issues would have been raised."

Though it counted for little in the larger scheme of things, he was happy at the manner in which Pakistan had approached the dead rubber in Jaipur.

"We'd already lost the series, but the way we played was very encouraging,"

he said.

"Whenever you win, it's good for the morale."

For Malik, it will be his second bilateral series as captain, while his counterpart, Anil Kumble, leads India in a Test for the first time at the age of 37.

"Each day you learn something when you play cricket,"

said Malik when asked whether the difference in experience would be a factor.

"He has so much experience that I don't think it'll make a big difference to him."

Pakistan haven't lost a Test series on Indian soil since Asif Iqbal's team lost 2-0 in 1979. Malik called that little statistic a powerful source of motivation, and his underdog side appear quietly confident of upsetting the odds yet again in a contest that means just a little bit more than any other.

Pakistan (likely) 1 Salman Butt, 2 Yasir Hameed, 3 Younis Khan, 4 Mohammad Yousuf, 5 Shoaib Malik (capt), 6 Misbah-ul-Haq, 7 Kamran Akmal (wk), 8 Sohail Tanvir, 9 Mohammad Sami, 10 Shoaib Akhtar, 11 Danish Kaneria.


Shields reads Woolmer’s final email

KINGSTON, Jamaica: Bob Woolmer was a “little depressed” following his team’s exit from the World Cup and he was looking forward to going home, according to an email that may have been his final words before his death in Kingston, Jamaica last March.

The email, which was sent to his wife, Gill, was read to jurors at the inquest into Woolmer’s death.
“Hi, darling, feeling a little depressed currently as you might imagine,”
the message started.
“I am not sure which is worse, being knocked out in the semifinal at Edgbaston or now in the first round. Our batting performance was abysmal and my worse fears were realised ... I could tell the players were for some reason not able to fire themselves up,”
it added.

He went on to say that he was glad not to have to travel to Guyana and was looking forward to seeing his family again.
“I hope your day was better but I doubt it as you were probably watching ... not much more to add I am afraid but I still love you lots.”

Mark Shields, Jamaica’s deputy police commissioner who was at the heart of the investigation, read the email to jurors. He is among the final witnesses in the inquest which is expected to finish this week.

The fifth week of the inquest got off to a bizarre start when a subpoenaed witness failed to turn up. David Wong Ken, a local DJ who claimed to have evidence about Woolmer’s death, failed to appear under instruction from his lawyer.


Thank God I did all right, expresses Sarfraz

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

NEW DELHI: It was a debut that Sarfraz Ahmed will remember for the rest of his life. In front of thousands of Indian fans at the majestic Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur, the 20-year-old Sarfraz kept the wickets for Pakistan and didn’t take long in making a good impression on everybody watching the game.

“The feeling was better than what I’ve imagined,”
said the Karachi-born youngster, who led Pakistan to a title-winning triumph in last year’s Youth World Cup.
“To be playing for Pakistan against India in India was like a dream come true and thank God I did all right,”
he expressed.

Sarfraz had replaced the out-of-sorts Kamran Akmal in the final game of the series and gave a good account of himself with two catches. A talented middle-order batsman, Sarfraz didn’t get a chance to bat in the game that Pakistan won to finish the five-match series 2-3.

“For me the best part was that we won the match,”
he said.
“We really played well today and it was great to be a part of it,”
he added. Sarfraz, who was rushed to India last week after Akmal suffered from a finger injury, said that he took the field confidently after getting complete backing from the ‘captain, coach and other senior players’.

“Shoaib bhai sat down with me and told me that whatever happens in the match he would back me and that really helped. The coach was also very supportive and so were all the senior players and I must say that without their backing I couldn’t have played the way I did,”
he explained.

Shoaib Malik, the Pakistan captain, commended Sarfraz’s performance in his debut match and said that the youngster has a great future in international cricket.
“Sarfraz really did us proud,”
he said.

Team manager Talat Ali Malik described Sarfraz as a ‘natural’ wicket-keeper saying that he is a welcome addition to the Pakistan squad.
“Sarfraz is athletic and has the reflexes of a natural wicket-keeper,”
he said.
“The boy is still quite young and I’m sure with experience he would turn into a world-class player,”
he remarked.


Pakistan's Kaneria targets Tendulkar scalp

Monday, November 19, 2007

Pakistan leg-spinner Danish Kaneria said he will target all India's batsmen in the forthcoming Test series but getting the wicket that has eluded him so far -- Sachin Tendulkar -- would be a dream.

"I have not dismissed Tendulkar and perhaps this will be the last time I will be up against him so I wish to get his wicket,"

Kaneria told AFP before leaving for India on Monday.

Besides Kaneria, batsman Faisal Iqbal and paceman Mohammad Sami will join the Pakistan squad in India where the first of three Tests start in New Delhi from Thursday.

Pakistan won the fifth and final one-day game by 31 runs Sunday at Jaipur but India clinched the series 3-2.

Kaneria, 26, said playing against India was always a tough challenge.

"India pose one of the biggest challenges for us, and playing against them in their own backyard is more challenging because they have world class batsmen like Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and many others,"

he said.

The bubbly spinner has grabbed 31 wickets against India in eight Tests but has yet to dismiss Tendulkar.

"He (Tendulkar) is a master and I came close to dismissing him in the 2005 series at Mohali. I thought it was a bat-pad but the umpire thought otherwise and his wicket eluded me.

"The world knows how good a batsman Tendulkar is and it would be like an empty cupboard without his wicket so the first thing in all the innings would be to get his wicket and it's always the key."

Kaneria said he would target all Indian batsmen with the ploy he usually unfolds against the archrivals.

"Since you know Indians play leg-spin, well, you have to use a different ploy against them so I have that in my mind and I want to play my part as the main bowler and help Pakistan win the series,"

said Kaneria, only the second Hindu behind Anil Dalpat to play for Pakistan.

Kaneria said scoring big would be the key to victory.

"Since they have a very deep batting line-up the opposition needs to score big and then only you can pressurise India. If we score big then we can attack them like we did against them at Bangalore in 2005,"

said Kaneria, who has 208 wickets in 48 Tests.

Pakistan squared the series 1-1 with a come-from-behind win at Bangalore in the third Test two years ago.

Kaneria felt Pakistan will badly miss former captain Inzamam-ul Haq in the batting department.

"Inzamam was like a big brother to every player and he infused a fighting spirit in the team so not only as captain but also as a key batsman he will be missed. But we now have Younis Khan and Mohammad Yousuf to shoulder our batting."

The other two Tests will be played at Calcutta (November 30-Dec 4) and at Bangalore (December 8-12).


Fifth ODI, Pakistan Vs India, November 18,2007, Jaipur in Photo Index

Fifth ODI, Pakistan Vs India, November 18,2007, Jaipur
Pakistan win by 31 runs & 1 ball in spare


Fifth ODI, Pakistan Vs India, November 18,2007, Jaipur

Malik and Tanvir earn Pakistan consolation win

Pakistan 306 for 6 (Malik 89, Yousuf 74, Sreesanth 3-52)

India 275 (Sharma 52, Yuvraj 50, Tanvir 4-53, Malik 3-61)

Shoaib Malik excelled with both bat and ball as Pakistan notched up the consolation win that reduced India's margin of victory in the one-day series to 3-2. A 168-run partnership with Mohammad Yousuf revived Pakistan's stuttering innings, and he then picked up the key wickets of Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Rohit Sharma as an under-strength team outlasted an Indian side that had also rested four regulars.

By the time Malik arrived in the middle, Sreesanth had struck in each over of his second spell to transform a promising start (65 for 0) into a decidedly rocky one (77 for 3). But with Yousuf in the sort of form that fetched him an unbeaten 99 in the previous game, the innings was steadily rebuilt, first with singles, and then with big hits over midwicket and through the covers.

Malik's innings was laced with some good fortune too, with top-edged pulls off Sreesanth and Praveen Kumar, the debutant, falling safe, but the manner in which he and Yousuf took on India's slow bowlers completely changed the complexion of the innings.

Yousuf was again at his unhurried, classy best. He picked the gaps on the leg side cleverly and cut the ball behind point fluently when the bowlers erred. He was well on track for the century that he had missed both in Guwahati and Gwalior, but was flummoxed when the previously expensive Yuvraj Singh spun one past the bat as he lunged forward.

Malik's 82-ball 89 had ended in similar fashion just minutes earlier, with Murali Kartik deceiving him in the flight. But Misbah-ul-Haq and the impressive Fawad Alam finished with a flourish to ensure that the exit of the two established batsmen didn't really affect the final total.

India's reply was doomed almost from the start, with Sohail Tanvir and Iftikhar Anjum doing the damage. Sourav Ganguly was among the four rested, and it was Gautam Gambhir who emerged to open with Sachin Tendulkar. He cut and flicked Tanvir for two fours, but was fortunate to be reprieved when a thick edge just brushed the fingertips of second slip. His luck didn't last though, and when he played down the wrong line, he was plumb in front.

Tendulkar got going with two gorgeous cuts for four off Umar Gul, but Robin Uthappa, promoted to No. 3, struggled in conditions where the ball moved around. Anjum was dismayed when a flashing edge was put down by Misbah at slip, but he didn't need to frown for long. With his feet statuesque, Uthappa repeated the shot, and this time Misbah's fingers weren't slippery.

Tendulkar was carrying on where he left off in Gwalior, cover-driving and flicking Tanvir with superb timing. But when he was drawn to play one that angled well away from him, Misbah was on hand once again to take the catch. That put India on the back foot, and it was backs-to-the-wall moments later when Virender Sehwag had a grotesque dart at another Tanvir delivery that angled across. Sarfraz Ahmed took his first catch in ODIs, and India were in disarray at 62 for 4.

Yuvraj struggled horribly early on, getting off the mark from the 11th ball he faced, a fortuitous inside edge for four. His timing was awry, and when Anjum thumped him on the helmet with a well-directed short ball, it exemplified India's travails. But Rohit Sharma played himself in and then proceeded to play some gorgeous shots, including a six on-the-walk over mid-off, as an 81-run partnership revived Indian hopes.

But a tame loft to long-on ended his innings, and when Yuvraj, who had overcome early jitters to post yet another 50, was given out caught off the arm, Malik and Pakistan sensed their moment. Dhoni, who appeared to damage an ankle while running a single, lost patience and miscued one to cover, and Kumar made little impact. It was left to Irfan Pathan to reduce the margin as the match petered out.

Sharma's composure and class apart, India could take some comfort from the performances of Kumar and Sreesanth. Sreesanth struggled for line and fluency against the left-hand Salman Butt, and it was Kumar who was clearly more impressive in the first spell. Bowling in the low 130s for the most part, he got some movement and troubled both batsmen with his accuracy before a couple of wayward deliveries at the end of the spell allowed the batsmen to score a few.

Sreesanth went for 20 in his first three overs, but when he returned, it was a different tale. Butt miscued a pull to short mid-on, and Yasir Hameed was also undone by steep bounce outside his off stump. Imran Nazir had been largely becalmed on his way to 20, but when a slower ball came his way outside off stump, he couldn't resist the temptation. The swipe came straight back at Sreesanth, who took a smart catch.

That was as good as it got for the capacity crowd. Malik and Yousuf wrested the initiative, and a young pace attack along with Alam - who showed nice variations despite going wicketless - made light of the absence of Shoaib Akhtar to script an emphatic victory. For Malik, the star of the show, it was the perfect note with which to end one campaign and prepare for a more testing one.

Will Pakistan Premier League gain success just like Indian Premier League ?