India and England produce a thriller

What an exhilarating match of one-day cricket that was! India and England produced batting of the highest quality and superb death bowling in one of the most memorable matches of recent times. The tied encounter showed the promise of one-day cricket and that it is here to stay.

Faced with a mammoth 339 to win the crucial Group B match at a packed Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore, England approached the task in right earnest. Kevin Pietersen and skipper Andrew Strauss punished the Indian seamers with runs behind square. Harbhajan missed a catch off Strauss in the 6th over which turned out to be very costly for India. Munaf Patel was not as effective with the new ball as he was with the old ball against Bangladesh in Mirpur.

Pietersen played a couple of beautiful straight drives to keep the asking rate within reach and then cut over point and glanced behind square for boundaries as he looked in ominous touch. In the 10th over, Pietersen could not keep a straight drive down and Munaf Patel fumbled with the catch on his follow through but succeeded in holding it in the second attempt. It was a very vital wicket for India.

As the spinners – Piyush Chawla and Harbhajan Singh – came into the attack, Strauss and Trott swept them for boundaries. In the 17th over, Chawla pitched one on leg stump and the ball turned back into the right handed Trott and hit him on the pads in front of middle and leg and was given out lbw. The Indians seem to have struck at the right time. However, Strauss had other ideas. He continued to attack, pulling and sweeping Yuvraj for four.

In the last ball of the 25th over, Ian Bell played well forward to a ball from Yuvraj and the ball rapped him on the pads. The Indians were convinced he was out but the umpire Billy Bowden was not. A review was called for and replays showed that the ball would have hit the stumps even though the distance between the impact and the stumps was more than 2.5 meters. The third umpire ruled Bell not out to the utter shock of the Indian camp. The game was on.

Strauss duly brought up a well deserved hundred off just 99 balls in the 28th over. As the partnership grew, the Indian shoulders drooped and the fielders started making mistakes. Strauss launched Yuvraj straight down the ground for a massive six in the 33rd over and in the very next over Bell lofted Chawla to the long on boundary for another six to bring up his fifty. With the batting Powerplay not taken yet, England looked comfortably placed to achieve the target.

The batting Powerplay was taken in the 43rd over when England were 280/2 and well on course for victory. Dhoni handed the ball to Zaheer who struck immediately. First, he had Bell miscue a shot into the air and the ball went to Virat Kohli at mid off who did not make a mistake this time after he had dropped a sharp chance at slip earlier. The very next ball, Zaheer fired in a yorker and trapped Strauss in front of the wicket. Two wickets in two balls and India were back in to the match.

In his very next over, Zaheer struck again as he pitched the ball on a length and Paul Collingwood tried to play a cross batted swipe but missed and saw his stumps in disarray. England were having a horrendous batting Powerplay. Michael Yardy was sent ahead of Tim Bresnan to score some quick runs. Matt Prior then decided to heave Harbhajan but the ball popped up straight to midwicket where substitute fielder Suresh Raina took the catch.

In the 48th over, Yardy tried to pull the ball over fine leg but only succeeded in giving a catch to Sehwag at short fine leg. It looked like the Indians would shut England out but fortunes had swung wildly in this match and there was time for another of those swings. Dhoni opted for a spinner – Chawla – in the 49th over. He was forced to do so as Zaheer had finished his quota of overs. Graeme Swann and Tim Bresnan struck a six each in the over to bring down the target to 12 off the final over, though Bresnan was dismissed off the last ball attempting another big shot.

England held their nerve admirably in the last over. Ajmal Shahzad hit a six to bring the equation down to 5 in 3 balls. They finally needed 2 off the last ball and had to be content with one and the match was tied.

It would not have been so close had India shown some more discipline in batting through the last 5 overs after winning the toss. 338 was a very good total but the Indians could easily have scored 360 but their lower order batsmen committed hara-kiri as they lost 7 wickets in the last five overs for only 46 runs.

Sehwag’s stay at the crease was eventful. The first ball that he faced was edged though slips for four, and two leading edges in the same over did not carry. He carried on in his inimitable fashion and the runs came quickly enough for India. Tim Bresnan, who came on as first change, had Sehwag edge behind for Matt Prior to take a good catch. That started the most productive partnership for the Indians.

Tendulkar had got his eye in and did not open up until the 9th over when he flicked a ball to square for four and followed that up with a glance past short fine leg for another four. Gambhir used his feet against the spinners as he lofted Swann to the long on boundary for four runs and later lofted the same bowler over cover for another four. Tendulkar, too, chose to attack Swann as he hit a four straight over the bowler’s head.

The introduction of Paul Collingwood into the attack prompted Tendulkar to shift his gears a higher notch. He launched the bowler for a six over the long off boundary in the 18th over. He continued to attack Collingwood and hit a six over midwicket and brought up his fifty off 66 balls. The carnage continued as he lofted Swann for consecutive sixes in the 27th over – one over long-on and the next over midwicket. Boundaries flowed freely as England wilted under the attack. Gambhir brought up his own fifty off 59 balls courtesy an inside edge that went for four runs.

Soon, Gambhir was dismissed. He tried to play down the off side, missed the ball and lost his stumps. He had changed his bat the previous delivery and did this contribute to the dismissal? In a strange move, Dhoni sent Yuvraj ahead of the in-form Kohli. Yuvraj showed that he was in fine nick through an on drive which fetched four runs. Tendulkar brought up his 47th one-day century in the 35th over with a glance down to the fine-leg boundary. He celebrated that with his fifth six, this time again over long on.

The Indians opted for the batting Powerplay in the 37th over. Regular boundaries followed before Sachin got a leading edge off James Anderson only to see Yardy pouching the opportunity running from mid-on. The wicket slowed the momentum a little as the Powerplay yielded only 32 runs.

Dhoni and Yuvraj took the mantle of scoring the runs and India was sitting pretty at 292/3 in the 45th over. Some impressive death bowling by Tim Bresnan and some insensible batting by the tail resulted in India being bowled out for 338 in 49.5 overs. The last pair was separated by a run-out when they went for a second run. However, the umpire called one short, so the one run that the pair had taken was disallowed. This coupled with the fact that they wasted the last ball of the over, will come to haunt India.

India probably had to settle for a tie because of the above as well as Dhoni’s poor choice of Chawla for the 49th over. He inexplicably finished off Zaheer Khan’s spell earlier which meant if Chawla went for runs it was going to be very difficult. The bowling department have some major improvements to make as they were left exposed. India will not win the World Cup with this bowling attack unless they make drastic improvements to the way they are going to bowl at batsmen.

England will also need to ponder their bowling, especially that of James Anderson. He was pathetic today as he was against Netherlands the other night. Shahzad is no match for Broad so England will pray Broad is fit for the matches ahead. England were saved today only because Strauss played a majestic innings and Bell was not given out in that strange incident.

Pakistan overcome Sri Lankan challenge

The R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo witnessed a match of great intensity between two teams keen to press home the advantage. Pakistan and Sri Lanka fought for two crucial points that come with a win in their Group A match. In the end, Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi’s fine bowling effort saw them prevail by 11 runs.

Chasing a formidable target of 278 under lights to win the match, Sri Lanka got off to a slow start in the face of some disciplined bowling by the Pakistan seamers Shoaib Akhtar and Abdul Razzaq as they gave nothing away. Upul Tharanga struck a beautiful cover drive off Akhtar in the fourth over to ease some of the pressure. He then played an imperious cut through point in the 10th over and looked in good touch. Tillakaratne Dilshan, on the other hand, looked uncomfortable and survived a leading edge behind square that did not carry. He settled soon and eased a shot past cover for a boundary in the 6th over.

The introduction of Umar Gul and Mohammad Hafeez ensured some runs for Sri Lanka as the 50 came in 11.2 overs. Tharanga, however, fell in the 15th over when he could not keep a drive down and saw Afridi at mid-off take a smart catch. This was just the breakthrough that Pakistan needed. Dilshan soon followed suit as he tried to cut Afridi square of the wicket but ended up inside edging the ball on to his stumps. Sri Lanka were in trouble when Shoaib Akhtar got a length delivery to reverse swing and beat Mahela Jayawardene’s defences. Further trouble was to follow as Thilan Samaraweera was drawn outside the crease by a beautiful delivery from Afridi but the ball turned sharply and the batsman couldn’t get his feet back in time to prevent the stumping. 4 wickets had fallen in 7 overs for just 20 runs.

Chamara Silva and skipper Kumar Sangakkara then set about to prevent further damage. The pair consumed a lot of dot balls, especially Silva, which turned out to be very crucial at the end. The pair added 73 runs for the fifth wicket but took 16.2 overs. Sri Lanka took the batting Powerplay in the 34th over as soon as the ball was changed. Sangakkara was finally dismissed trying to force the pace against Afridi and only succeeded in giving a catch to Ahmed Shehzad at long on.

Silva had a life when Abdur Rehman failed to hold a skier and it looked like Pakistan would have to pay for this as he started opening up. He swept Rehman for a four behind square and followed that up with one more boundary which went finer. The 200 was up in the 43rd over but Angelo Mathews was dismissed soon giving a catch to long off and Afridi his fourth wicket of the match. Silva reached his fifty in the 45th over and Sri Lanka still had hope.

However, two quick wickets dented their chances severely. Thisara Perera was castled by a full delivery from Shoaib Akhtar and Rehman got his revenge when he tempted Silva with a wide ball and had the batsman stumped by wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal. Kulasekara tried spiritedly but the target evaded Sri Lanka.

Afridi had won the toss in the afternoon and decided to bat on a good batting track. Ahmed Shehzad did not stay long though he promised much. He edged behind to a Thisara Perera delivery that had extra bounce. However, Mohammad Hafeez and Kamran Akmal flayed the attack and Sangakkara erred by exposing the leg side to the Pakistani batsmen. Hafeez lofted Kulasekara audaciously over square leg as if he was a spinner and then followed it with a scoop to the boundary. A lot of runs were scored in the region between square leg and long on as Pakistan accelerated.

The stand was broken through a comical run out. Hafeez swept Muralitharan to short fine leg and Kamran immediately set off for a non-existent single while Hafeez stood rooted to his crease. Jayawardene threw the ball to Sangakkara who then inexplicably threw the ball over the bowler’s head. Fortunately for Sri Lanka, Rangana Herath stopped the overthrow and passed it on to Murali who whipped the bails at the non-striker’s end. Hafez was given out after consultations with the TV umpire.

Kamran then repeated his mistake against Kenya when he charged down to Herath and was duly stumped by Sangakkara. For the second time in as many matches, he threw his wicket away when well set. This brought Misbah-ul-Haq to the crease and Pakistan recovered slowly and steadily through his fourth wicket partnership with Younis Khan. Again, most of the runs came on the leg side. Younis Khan reached his fifty in the 35th over.

Pakistan had reached 209/3 in 40 overs and were looking good to get past 300 since they had not yet taken their batting Powerplay. Misbah-ul-Haq also reached his fifty in the 41st over and the momentum was with Pakistan. However, Sri Lanka came back into the match strongly in the last 10 overs through some superb death bowling. Herath got Younis Khan to sweep and the top edge carried to short fine leg. The batting Powerplay was taken in the 44th over but this yielded only 36 runs for the loss of Umar Akmal’s wicket. Umar, in an effort to force the pace, slog swept Muralitharan to deep midwicket only to see Dilshan take the catch. Just 68 runs were scored by Pakistan in the last 10 overs for the loss of 4 wickets. They fell at least 20 runs short but it turned out that the total was just enough to save the day.

Sri Lanka will look back and find that they lost the match through some injudicious batting in the middle overs. The way they played Afridi was a bit of a concern. Constantly, they tried to play the conventional cut shot against him but never realized that the late cut would have been a better option. Also, the choice of Silva over Kapugedera in the playing eleven was baffling as Kapugedera is a far more attacking batsman than Silva. Their bowlers had an off day and need to regroup and learn from the mistakes in the matches ahead.

Pakistan will be pleased with their batting but need to shore up the bowling. Umar Gul was sloppy and they always depended on Afridi for the wickets. Their fielding and catching also has a lot to improve if they are to progress further in the tournament. Nevertheless, the dark horses are on a roll and the other teams would be wary of them now.

Bangladesh hold their nerves to pull off a thrilling win

Why do low scoring games have more thrills than high scoring games? Ireland and Bangladesh produced what has been the most exciting match of this World Cup so far at the Sher e Bangla stadium in Mirpur yesterday. The ferocity with which both the teams played their cricket was a treat to the eyes.

I had pointed out that Bangladesh had made two mistakes against India which cost them that match – Tamim Iqbal’s subdued batting and the lack of discipline on the part of their seamers. They perfectly ironed out these mistakes yesterday and reaped the rewards though their batting still needs a lot of improvement.

Bangladesh captain Shakib Al Hasan won the toss and chose to bat first. They were given a flying start by Tamim as he scored two boundaries in the very first over – a drive through point and another straight through mid-off. He struck five more boundaries in the next four overs as Bangladesh reached fifty in just 5.4 overs. Tamim’s contribution to this fifty was 38 runs with seven boundaries. However, John Mooney struck in his second over as Imrul Kayes lost his balance trying to flick a ball down the leg side and was stumped by Niall O’Brien.

The wicket silenced the batsmen for some time as the Irish bowlers realized that lesser pace brought more rewards. Junaid Siddique ran himself out in the 9th over as Bangladesh slid to 61/2. Andre Botha then got Tamim to drive to point where skipper William Porterfield took a catch and the crowd was suddenly silent. Shakib started off with a crisp straight drive which went all the way to the boundary and followed that up with a boundary off a full toss in the next over.

Just when Shakib was looking good, he played early at a ball from Andre Botha and returned a catch back. Mushfiqur Rahim and Raqibul Hasan then added 61 for the 5th wicket with most of the runs coming through ones and twos as the Irish bowlers kept a tight leash on things. The teenaged left-arm spinner George Dockrell was particularly impressive. The batsmen had a hard time reading his spin which was well suited for the pitch. Rahim decided to play an ill-advised sweep against Dockrell and was caught by Andrew White at backward short leg. Mohammad Ashraful was dismissed in exactly the same manner in Dockrell’s next over.

Johnston and Botha shared the rest of the spoils as Bangladesh lost their last five wickets for only 58 runs. 205 was a disappointing total and Ireland were in with a chance to win this match. But the Bangladesh spinners had other ideas.

William Porterfield started the chase with an exquisite carve through point for four in the first over. Bangladesh attacked with Razzaq and it was evident that the runs were hard to come by. A combination of spin at both ends made matters more difficult for Ireland. The first breakthrough came in the form of Paul Stirling who was undone by a smart stumping from Mushfiqur Rahim as he fumbled against a full length delivery from Razzaq.

Shakib brought himself on in the 10th over and struck with his first ball as Porterfield could not keep a flick down and gave a catch to midwicket. Niall O’Brien started with two boundaries to keep things under control. He, along with Ed Joyce, ensured a steady trickle of runs to keep the Irish camp hopeful. Mohammad Ashraful, whose batting was poor, got a leading edge from Joyce whom he gleefully caught and the celebration was as if his team had won the World Cup. He then got Andrew White who erroneously played back and lost his stumps. The crowd was on its feet now and Bangladesh believed they can win this.

O’Brien, who until then was playing very well, then tried to work a ball to square leg but played it airily and Tamim took a marvellous catch as the ball was hitting the ground. Ireland were in deep trouble here and Bangladesh were going for the kill. The wicket brought Niall’s brother, Kevin O’Brien, to the crease and he made his intentions clear by attacking Ashraful. A straight six over long off was followed by three boundaries through midwicket, third man and cover. Shafiul Islam was brought back to the attack and Kevin straightaway pulled a ball to square-leg where substitute fielder Suhrawadi Shuvo made no mistake.

When John Mooney and Andre Botha were dismissed in the space of three balls, it was looking very difficult for Ireland. Shafiul Islam duly cleaned up the tail to set up a morale boosting 27 run win for Bangladesh. Shafiul ended up with 4 wickets for only 21 runs as he learned from his mistakes against India.

Bangladesh have hope now of making the quarter finals with their spinners reaping rich. They need to sustain this momentum in the coming matches and need to work on their batting. Ireland bowled very well but was found wanting in batting. They lost a close match and showed that they can compete at this level.

Johnson shines as Australia secure second win

A strong bowling performance from Mitchell Johnson enabled Australia to cruise to a second consecutive win in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011. Their second match against trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand promised a stirring encounter but was sadly one-sided due to a poor show by the Kiwi batsmen.

The day was slightly overcast and Ricky Ponting decided to bowl first. Brett Lee bowled tight lengths while Tait was picked for boundaries by Brendon McCullum. However, Tait had the last laugh when he forced McCullum to carve a ball straight to the fielder at third man. The burly Jesse Ryder and Martin Guptill carried on when Shane Watson got a ball to keep low and uproot Guptill’s stumps.

Ryder hit two consecutive boundaries in a Mitchell Johnson over as New Zealand reached the end of the first Powerplay. Soon after, Johnson got Ryder to poke half-heartedly at a good length delivery and wicketkeeper Brad Haddin took an easy catch. New Zealand were asking for trouble here and soon they slid to depths from which a recovery seemed impossible. James Franklin returned to the pavilion two balls later as he chased a wide delivery from Johnson only to find an edge through to Haddin again.

Scott Styris was the next to go in the very next over as he too was guilty of playing away from the body. Haddin pouched his third catch and Australia were cock-a-hoop now. Ross Taylor continued his poor form with the bat as he had no clue to a full delivery from Tait. Inexplicably, he tried to play across the line and promptly lost his stumps. New Zealand were 73/6 at this stage and an early finish was on the cards.

Nathan McCullum and Jamie How began the repair job taking singles at every opportunity but more importantly rotating the strike. There was the odd boundary as well. The pair had added 48 runs in 12 overs when How was caught in front of the crease to a ball from leg-spinner Steven Smith that straightened after pitching. Skipper Daniel Vettori now joined McCullum at the crease. McCullum played well nudging the ball for runs and cashing in when the ball was pitched short as all of his boundaries came off short deliveries. He reached his fifty in the company of his captain.

Mitchell Johnson was brought back for another spell and struck immediately. He landed a ball in line with the stumps and the ball kept its line till it hit McCullum’s pads and would have gone on to hit the stumps. The umpire had no hesitation in giving the batsman out which was confirmed by the TV umpire as the Kiwis opted for a review.

A total of 200 looked out of reach for the Kiwis but Vettori opened up after the fall of the 8th wicket. A reverse sweep and a pulled full toss fetched welcome boundaries. He was dismissed by trying a pull shot to which he got only an inside edge as Haddin picked up his fourth catch. Southee tried an ambitious hoick but only succeeded in giving a catch to Ponting and the Kiwis were bowled out for 206 which was not enough on a nice batting track. Johnson followed up his four wickets against Zimbabwe with another four here and is now the leading wicket taker of the tournament.

The Australian chase was given a flying start by their openers Shane Watson and Brad Haddin. Haddin was the more enterprising of the two as he picked three boundaries in three overs. Watson too joined the fun in the 8th over as he picked Hamish Bennett for a boundary to long leg. The 100 partnership came in only 14 overs as the chase gained momentum.

Haddin had earlier reached his fifty in the previous over and Watson overtook him as he picked up three fours in four balls off Vettori. Haddin was dismissed in the 19th over off a slow delivery from Bennett which he only succeeded in spooning to midwicket. With another slow delivery two balls later, he beat Watson’s cross batted shot and castled him. Two quick wickets brought the cheers back on the Kiwi faces.

Ponting and Michael Clarke slowly chipped away at the target when Ponting was lured out of the crease by a Tim Southee delivery down the leg side and missed the ball. McCullum was quick to whip off the bails and Ponting walked back to the pavilion. Cameron White and Clarke then ensured there would not be any more hiccups as Australia cantered home by 7 wickets with a whopping 16 overs to spare.

Australia will be very happy with their display in this game. Their batsmen, bowlers and fielders did a good job and they would want to continue in this good form. New Zealand, on the other hand, have a lot of work to do. It was only the depth in their batting that carried them to 200 and coach John Wright will need to have extended sessions with his batsmen to get them back on track.

Bold South Africa overcome West Indies challenge

An unusually bold team selection and a clinical bowling performance enabled South Africa to overcome a West Indies side in their opening fixture of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011. It was evident both the teams were raring to go and wrest the initiative.

South Africa captain Graeme Smith won the toss and decided to field first. In a bold and surprising selection, they decided to leave out their in-form seamer – Lonwabo Tsotsobe – and bring in the uncapped but highly rated leg-spinner Imran Tahir. It turned out to be an inspired move as well. Never before had South Africa played a match with three specialist spinners in their playing eleven.

Smith made another bold move by opting to open the attack with a spinner – Johan Botha. His off-breaks immediately paid rich dividends for them. In only the third ball of the over, Botha got to turn the ball away from the dangerous Chris Gayle. Gayle only succeeded in edging the ball to first slip where Jacques Kallis took a good catch.

Devon Smith was joined by the young Darren Bravo at the crease. It was clear immediately that Bravo was a batsman with a lot of promise. He has been compared to the legendary Brian Lara so early in his career, but the only similarity I saw with Lara was the high backlift when going through with this shots. One shot summed up the fact that Bravo was a thinking cricketer – Jacques Kallis bowled a short ball which the batsman realized cannot be pulled the traditional way so he made a slight adjustment and pulled the ball over the mid-on region.

Smith and Bravo slowly but steadily accumulated the runs. They attacked the seamers realizing that the spinners would be a different proposition. 111 runs were added in the partnership when Bravo played a poor shot against Botha and was trapped in front of the crease. This was just the breakthrough that South Africa needed. They followed this up with another wicket in the very next over. Imran Tahir, who was expensive in his first spell, came on for a second and foxed Smith with a flighted delivery which he only succeeded in returning back to the bowler whose joy knew no bounds.

Ramanaresh Sarwan did not last long as he was trapped in front by another flighted Tahir delivery. From 113/1, West Indies had slid to 120/4 but recovered to 178 through the ever-reliable Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Darren Bravo’s elder brother – Dwayne Bravo. A horrendous run-out ended the partnership just when it was threatening to grow. There just was no chance of a run on that occasion. They soon slid to 222 all out in the face of some attacking bowling by Tahir and Dale Steyn who polished off the tail. Tahir finished with an impressive 4 wickets for 41 runs on his ODI debut.

South Africa’s chase was wobbly as Kemar Roach got Hashim Amla with a delivery that nipped back and drew the inside edge for wicket-keeper Devon Thomas to take diving to his left. Soon after, Jacques Kallis fell to a beautiful piece of bowling from the left arm spinner Sulieman Benn. Benn got the ball to turn and got an outside edge from Kallis’ bat which the West Indies captain Darren Sammy pouched at slip. It seemed that West indies were making a good effort with the ball.

AB De Villiers, another promising young man, strode out to join his captain at the crease. It was evident he was not going to waste any time getting his eye in. Three boundaries in an over of Roach – a push kind of shot and two gorgeous drives square of the wicket – signalled the fact that it would not be easy for the bowlers to contain this explosive batsman.

Smith supported De Villiers in a crucial stand of 119 runs. De Villiers brought up his fifty with a six of Gayle and followed that up with an even bigger six against Benn. Smith was dismissed against the run of play as he was bowled by Kieron Pollard. JP Duminy and De Villiers continued the good work for South Africa with a match-winning partnership of 84 runs during the course of which De Villiers got to his century – his second in World Cups. South Africa had plenty of overs left when they won the match by 7 wickets.

The bold moves were inspirational for South Africa who will have to determine whether to stick to this winning formula in the coming matches as well. Their batting looks assured and the calm manner in which they chased under lights was a good sign. On the other hand West Indies did not up the ante after the initial two wickets and paid the price. They have some injury concerns as Dwayne Bravo seemed to have hurt his knee badly. The batsmen will have to play around Darren Bravo and Chanderpaul who looked the most comfortable against South Africa’s bowlers.

Pakistan starts its campaign in style

After the meek capitulation in the first match against New Zealand, Kenya did nothing to improve its image in its second round-robin match against Pakistan at Hambantota. They were out of sorts in a display that once again underlined the difference in standards between the heavyweights and the minnows.

Kenya’s abject batting failure continued though they improved upon the performance against New Zealand. This time they scored 112 runs and lasted 33.1 overs. The first three wickets added 73 runs in 22.2 overs but their last seven fell for just 39 runs as they not only failed to make a match of the 318 run target set by Pakistan but more importantly, did not last 50 overs.

The first wicket added 37 runs cautiously before Seren Waters was run out off a fine direct hit from Umar Akmal who was quick to reach the ball. Six runs later, fellow opener Maurice Ouma edged a good length delivery from Umar Gul to return to the pavilion. Collins Obuya, the most assured Kenya batsman on view, then added 30 for the 3rd wicket with veteran Steve Tikolo.

Once Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi brought himself on to bowl, things changed quickly. He got Tikolo to step down the track but the ball held back a little which resulted in Tikolo playing the shot early. The ball beat the gap between his bat and pad and hit the stumps. Afridi went on to pick up 4 more wickets and hastened the misery for the Kenyans.

Pakistan also was in a spot of bother at the start of their innings after they decided to bat on winning the toss. Mohammad Hafeez fell to an astounding catch by Waters when the scoreboard read only 11 runs and Ahmed Shahzad who had a torrid time at the crease was dismissed soon when he got a leading edge trying to play across the line and gave an easy catch to Jimmy Kamande at mid-off.

That brought Kamran Akmal and Younis Khan to the crease. They steadily re-built the innings with a stand of 98 runs. Kamran was the more aggressive and innovative of the two and he once went outside his off stump and swung a ball over midwicket for a four. Soon after reaching his fifty, Kamran threw it all away by charging down against Shane Ngoche, the spinner, and was duly stumped. Younis then got an able ally in Misbah ul Haq who made his intentions clear straightaway with a straight six of Tikolo.

Pakistan lost Younis Khan also soon after he had reached his fifty as he was trapped in front trying to sweep a ball. The young but out-of-form Umar Akmal strode into the crease and the pair began to accelerate. In only 13 overs, they plundered 118 runs off a tiring attack. The batting Powerplay was taken in the 44th over as Haq and Akmal waded into the attack with some astounding strokeplay. The 5 overs of Powerplay yielded 70 runs for Pakistan and the final two overs of the innings went for a further 30 runs and Pakistan ended with a hefty total of 317/7 in 50 overs, one that would be out of reach for the hapless Kenyans.

Kenya will have to work hard in their remaining matches to regain their pride. They have worries in both batting and bowling. Their batsmen need to learn to bat through 50 overs. The fact that Kenya conceded 46 extras – 37 wides, 3 no-balls and 3 leg-byes – was proof enough of their bowling lacking control and discipline. The wides and no-balls together contributed an extra 6.4 overs. This should give them enough food for thought.

On the other hand, Pakistan had an easy outing and was never really tested. However, the opening batsmen would do well to pull up their socks because they next play the formidable Sri Lankans who would gladly cash in on such opportunities.

Oranjes prove Associates are no walk-overs

The player names on the back of the Dutch players’ shirts were unusually small unlike the other teams who choose to indicate it in large characters. And they proved that names do not matter, it is the performance on the field that matters. It was a case of so near yet so far for the Netherlands against England in the Group B fixture of the ICC Cricket World Cup in Nagpur which is incidentally the city of Oranges!

Ryan ten Doeschate played the innings of his lifetime scoring 119 of just 110 balls against an English attack which did not look the part with the exception of the off-spinner Graeme Swann. It was hard to believe that the bowling attack that retained the Ashes was being put to the sword by a team that had limited international exposure. Doeschate took his time to get off the mark and get his eye in but he proved that his ODI average of 65 was no fluke.

Peter Borren, the Dutch captain, won the toss and decided to bat. They were provided a solid platform by the hardworking Alexei Kervezee and the dynamic Wesley Barresi. The duo put on 36 in only 6 overs before Bresnan got Kervezee courtesy a top edge off a short delivery. Barresi played some nice shots to keep the scoreboard moving before he was undone by a smart stumping by England wicket keeper Matt Prior.

Tom Cooper and ten Doeschate strung together a good partnership of 78 in less than 17 overs to keep the momentum going for Netherlands. Cooper played a stunning pull shot off Bresnan – he just used the pace of the ball and closed the face of the bat at the right time. Doeschate also played some lovely shots and the partnership was looking good for more when Cooper sent a full delivery from Paul Collingwood straight to the hands of short midwicket. Bas Zuiderent couldn’t do much and ended up spooning a catch to midwicket of Swann. England seemed to have come back into the match nicely but more problems lay ahead of them.

The innings was given a further boost by Tom de Grooth along with Doeschate. The pair added 64 runs in only 10 overs – a sign that the Dutchmen were starting to open up. The batting Powerplay was taken in the 43rd over – a decision vindicated by what was to follow. De Grooth lost his stumps to a straighter one from Stuart Broad but that did not deter Doeschate as he dispatched the bowlers for boundaries at will. He was ably supported by his captain Peter Borren who chose judiciously to rotate the strike. The Powerplay yielded 50 runs for the loss of just one wicket and ten Doeschate brought up a remarkable century.

England were struggling to contain the runs at this point and it was evident they were stunned with the strokeplay as James Anderson leaked three consecutive boundaries in the 48th over. Netherlands ended their quota of 50 overs at 292/6 – a big total. This was truly sensational and an upset was on the cards.

Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Strauss began the England innings in right earnest as they plundered 12 runs of the opening over. Their partnership provided England not only with the runs but also the hope that they could win this game after a poor bowling performance. Pietersen was dismissed, though, in the 18th over when he couldn’t help holing out to cover off the impressive left arm spinner Pieter Seelaar. Strauss was looking good and with the company of the in-form Jonathan Trott, began slowly chipping away at the target when he decided to pull a short ball unconvincingly and gave Tom Cooper a catch at deep square leg.

Doeschate wasn’t done for the day. With his bowling he picked up two quick wickets – of Trott and Ian Bell – to mount the pressure on England. But Paul Collingwood and Ravi Bopara ruled out an upset with a clinical assault that helped them clinch the issue with 8 balls to spare. The Oranjes lost the match in the city of Oranges but won the hearts of all. The Associates’ cause certainly got a big boost with this performance after the disappointments of Sunday.

England will have to work very hard as they still seem to be in the Ashes hangover. They need to get their bowlers to bowl good line and lengths – they should now realise that they are now bowling in India and not Australia. I’m not too sure if Pietersen is the right man to open the batting for England because that just leaves a gaping hole in the middle order which a better bowling attack will be able to exploit. They need to really think a lot for the coming matches.

As for the Dutchmen, they’ve got the belief now. They need to sustain this going forward and give more teeth to their bowling. I’m sure they can spring a few upsets. My friends in Amsterdam would be really proud if they did so in this tournament.

Australia get the better of Zimbabwe

Ricky Ponting, the Australian captain, has not lost a World Cup match as captain. His team came out against Zimbabwe in their opening Group A match of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 at Ahmedabad yesterday to extend their impressive record.

And extend they did with their battery of pace bowlers a little too hot to handle for the Zimbabwe batsmen after Australia had set them a target of 263 to win. Charles Coventry, the Zimbabwe opener, tried to force the pace off Brett Lee and Shaun Tait and even hit Lee for an audacious six but couldn’t last long. Lee banged in one short and Coventry’s unconvincing pull shot went no further than silly mid-off where Lee himself took the catch.

Brendan Taylor and Tatenda Taibu hung around for five overs but without adding much to the total. Taibu edged to Shane Watson at slip off Mitchell Johnson and this started a procession of wickets as Zimbabwe slid from 40/1 to 44/4. Taylor couldn’t pick a faster one from Tait as the ball brushed his pads before taking out the stumps. Craig Ervine was caught plumb in front of a full length Johnson delivery – a decision that was reviewed by the Australians as the umpire had initially announced a verdict of not-out.

Captain Elton Chigumbura and Sean Williams started resurrecting the innings with a partnership of 44 in 9 overs. The introduction of Jason Krejza, the off spinner, saw Zimbabwe score some welcome runs but Krejza got one to pitch well outside the off stump to which Chigumbura played a sweep but succeeded only in getting an edge to wicket-keeper Brad Haddin. Tait then fired in a full length delivery at Williams who hung his bat out and edged low to Shane Watson at slip. Zimbabwe was running out of steam now.

Krejza added the wicket of Regis Chakabva before Prosper Utseya and Graeme Cremer came together to add 49 runs for the eighth wicket. Ponting introduced the spin of David Hussey in a bid to break the partnership. Hussey did exactly that in his second over when he had Utseya popping an easy catch to Ponting at midwicket. Johnson returned to get the remaining batsmen in no time and Australia cantered home.

Things were not looking as rosy in the afternoon, though. Ponting won a crucial toss and decided to bat. The first Powerplay yielded only 28 runs for Australia as they were tied down by some good bowling by Zimbabwe. Soon after they broke the shackles with a 17 run Mpofu over, Brad Haddin was trapped in front to a ball that spun sharply. This brought Ponting to the crease and together with Watson added 79 in only 12.3 overs as Watson began to find his timing and played some sweet shots.

Watson was the next to go against the run of play. He was caught in front of the crease to a ball that was straight. He made 79 with a six off Cremer and eight fours. Ponting was run out in the next over to a direct hit from Mpofu who was stationed at deep midwicket. Australia were only 144 at that time and it looked like Zimbabwe’s spinners who bowled very well would restrict Australia to less than 250.

Cameron White added 63 with Vice-captain Michael Clarke but this was not threatening to break free from the grip which Zimbabwe had on the match. White is not in the best of form these days. He plays best when he is able to dominate the bowling. Today he was not able to do that and ended up inside edging a slower delivery on to his stumps.

At the 45 over mark and at 207/4, one again thought Zimbabwe would be able to restrict Australia in the whereabouts of 250 which would have given them a good chance to win the match. But David Hussey changed all that in a cameo innings in which he struck a six of Sean Williams and a four off Utseya in consecutive overs and Clarke joined the fun scoring 15 runs of an Mpofu over. The pair had added 34 runs in only 3 overs and was looking good for more when Hussey missed a straighter one from Ray Price and was castled.

Steven Smith did not waste any time getting his eye in and scored 10 runs off the first two deliveries that he faced – a straight six and a slog sweep for four. Australia were past 250 now and Zimbabwe were concerned. Smith was dismissed off a full toss in the final over but Clarke and Johnson ensured Australia posted 262/6 at the end of their allotted 50 overs. 55 runs had come off the last 5 overs. It turned out to be more than enough for Australia as an inexperienced Zimbabwe batting were clueless against some high quality pace bowling.

Australia will need to work hard on their batting in the remaining matches, especially the way they play spin. Mitchell Johnson is a good candidate to be promoted up the order for some quick runs, especially when the spinners are operating. Teams with quality spinners are waiting to have a go at the Australia batsmen. If they are found wanting, it will be an uphill task to maintain their unbeaten run in World Cups even with the kind of lethal bowling that they have.

Zimbabwe will also have to work very very hard on their batting. They are missing someone like Andy Blignaut who could tear the bowling apart. Their spinners will do well in the tournament but if they are to proceed to the quarter finals they will need to get their batsmen to score big runs. Charles Coventry needs to back himself to score quickly at the top so that the middle order can play without pressure. Chigumbura needs to shed his indifferent form with the bat and should do what he knows best – take the bowling apart. They also need to have Craig Ervine at No.3 instead of Taibu who can be a slow starter.

New Zealand and Sri Lanka make mincemeat of their oppositions

Kenya were not probably prepared for what came their way today at the M A Chidambaram stadium in Chennai in their opening Group A match of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 against New Zealand. Their performance showed the gap between the regular ICC members and the Associate teams and would have lent credence to ICC Chief Haroon Lorgat’s assertion that Associate teams should not be a part of the World Cup in 2015.

Jimmy Kamande, the Kenyan captain, won the toss this morning and elected to bat first on a pitch that was expected to play slower in the afternoon. Their openers – Alex Obanda and Seren Waters began as if they were playing a test match. It was true that the Kiwis bowled accurately but there was no effort from these two to break the shackles.

The batsmen were undone by some good bowling by the Kiwi seamers – Tim Southee, Hamish Bennett and Jacob Oram. Bennett was particularly impressive getting four wickets giving away only 16 runs. He landed the balls on a full length attacking the stumps which the Kenyan batsmen were unable to cope with. Tim Southee and Jacob Oram picked three wickets each as Kenya got bowled out for only 69 in 23.5 overs.

The Kenyan bowling also said a sorry tale – they bowled too short and wide enabling the Kiwi batsmen to go through with their shots comfortably. Martin Guptill and Brendon McCullum – the Kiwi openers – did not waste any time in chasing down the target – they got to it in only 8 overs thereby ensuring a very big net run rate which could come in handy later on in the tournament.

The Canadians also did not do much for the Associates’ cause. They capitulated against an incisive Sri Lankan bowling attack in their Group A match at the picturesque Hambantota. Thisara Perera was the most impressive bowler on view. He took the wicket of John Davison off his very first ball in a World Cup and followed that up with two more wickets. He proved last year that his bowling is lethal and should now edge out Mathews at No. 7 in the remaining games for Sri Lanka.

The only resistance for Canada came from Rizwan Cheema who made every effort to take the bowling apart. There were a couple of sixes from him that pushed the team past the 100 run mark. But the rest of the batting looked pedestrian and they were never really in the chase after the Davison wicket.

Kumar Sangakkara had earlier won the toss and had no hesitation in deciding to bat. Lasith Malinga was left out thereby giving a chance to both Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perera to prove their worth. Sri Lanka got off to a slow start against some disciplined bowling by Canada. Their bowlers did not give much width to the batsmen and Dilshan and Tharanga had to work for their runs. Eventually, Tharanga was run out in the 12th over after seeing Dilshan not responding to his call for a single in a dismissal that was reminiscent of Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal yesterday.

Sangakkara was dropped at short third man by the substitute teenager Nitish Kumar off the bowling of Rizwan Cheema in the 18th over. This turned out to be a very costly lapse for Canada as he and Mahela Jayawardene rebuilt the innings after being in some trouble at 88/2 in the 20th over. The pair was brought together when Dilshan, immediately after reaching his fifty, threw his wicket away holing out to deep point off Cheema.

The pair initially nudged the balls around for ones and twos before opening up against an inexperienced attack. Jayawardene’s runs mostly came on the leg side as he swept efficiently against the spinners. Sangakkara, after the initial edginess, started finding his groove and the partnership grew to threatening proportions. The captain had not scored an ODI hundred for close to three years and was looking good to get it this time but returned an airy drive straight to bowler John Davison.

Jayawardene registered the fastest 100 by a Sri Lankan in a World Cup soon after. His hundred came off only 80 balls. Immediately he swept to short fine leg where Balaji Rao made no mistake. Angelo Mathews, Thisara Perera and Thilan Samaraweera then swung their bats at everything possible and got Sri Lanka to 332/7 in 50 overs which turned out to be far beyond Canada’s reach tonight.

India prevail over disappointing Bangladesh

When Shakib Al Hasan dived to stop Sachin Tendulkar’s drive and then threw the ball back to the keeper to run him out the crowd at the Sher e Bangla stadium in Mirpur erupted in joy. That was the only joy they would derive on a disappointing night for their team.

Chasing an imposing 371 to win the opening Group B match of the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup against co-hosts India, their innings never took off after the electrifying start provided by Imrul Kayes and Tamim Iqbal. The pair put on 50 in only 4.5 overs, 24 of these coming from one Sreesanth over. Once Kayes played away from his body and dragged a Munaf Patel delivery to his stumps, the scoring rate dropped and Bangladesh never looked like achieving the target.

A strangely subdued Tamim and Junaid Siddique put on a partnership of 73 but it consumed a lot of deliveries that the asking rate climbed to unattainable heights. Siddique had a life when Yusuf Pathan dropped him in the 13th over off the bowling of Munaf Patel. However, he couldn’t capitalize on this and was dismissed by a beauty from Harbhajan Singh. The off-spinner drew the batsmen a shade forward but the ball turned just enough for it to beat the bat and Dhoni effected a very smart stumping.

Only after reaching his fifty did Tamim show signs of opening up. But his dismissal in the 33rd over – he chipped a ball to Yuvraj Singh who took an easy catch at midwicket – made the task all the more difficult as the pitch was playing slower and slower. Skipper Shakib Al Hasan played very well for his fifty but did not have any support to carry the fight to the Indian camp. He ended up slog sweeping Yusuf Pathan to Harbhajan Singh at deep midwicket in a desperate attempt to force the pace. The rest of the batting caved in to the impressive Munaf Patel and Zaheer Khan.

Earlier, Shakib al Hasan won the toss and put India in to bat on a strangely colored pitch. Frayed nerves were evident in the Bangladesh bowlers as Virender Sehwag opened the World Cup with a boundary. The over from the poor Shafiul Islam cost 12 runs and that set the tempo for the innings. Sehwag and Tendulkar put on a fifty partnership before the needless run-out of Tendulkar. Gambhir didn’t look very convincing in his stay at the crease but was quick to punish the bowlers whenever they erred in length. He was bowled off a ball that straightened after pitching. The lucky bowler was Mahmudullah.

That brought the in-form Virat Kohli to the crease. Sehwag and Kohli put on a big, sensible partnership that took Bangladesh out of the game. The way Sehwag paced his innings was remarkable. He started off aggressively against Shafiul and Rubel Hossain but was tied down for sometime by Abdur Razzaq. He got to his fifty with a six in the 15th over and then picked the singles and twos. He got to his hundred in the 32nd over of 94 balls and soon after opened up by playing a flurry of strokes. The next 75 of his runs came off just 46 balls.

Sehwag’s innings was not without chances, though. Shakib missed a chance to run him out in the 2nd over, then he played early at a ball and almost returned a catch to Razzaq. The last chance was a chip that just eluded the hands of midwicket. It was Sehwag’s day today and no one but himself could stop him. He ended up dragging a wide ball from Shakib on to his stumps in the 48th over. By then India had scored 355 runs.

Virat Kohli played a gem of an innings and justified his position in the team ahead of Suresh Raina. He did not try anything fancy but picked the runs at a very good strike rate. Some of his cover drives were a treat to the eye. The way he leans on the ball to caress it through covers is impressive. He got to a well deserved hundred off just 83 balls on his World Cup debut in the final over of the Indian innings. The last 10 overs gave India 94 runs and it was evident that they would record their first win of the tournament, which they duly did three hours later, by 87 runs.

The only worry for India in the match was the performance of Sreesanth. He was wayward, listless and sprayed the ball all around for the Bangladesh openers. He will need a miracle to play for India again in this World Cup. That is because Munaf Patel has laid strong credentials for the spot of the third seamer once Nehra is back picking up 4 wickets for only 48 runs. The good thing about Munaf is that he is a line and length bowler and this has paid rich dividends for him. It is another matter whether India needs to play three seamers and a spinner in the upcoming matches or play an extra specialist spinner instead of a third seamer.

Bangladesh would take their batting display as a positive and they probably lost the match because of two factors – Tamim Iqbal did not take the attack to the bowling after Kayes’ dismissal and they failed to take the batting Powerplay soon after the ball was changed in the 34th over. This combined with a little more disciplined approach from their fast bowlers early on in the innings would have seen them in a better light at the end of the evening.