Sunday, June 29, 2008

New Zealand back on the Cricket Map

The Kiwis ended the sultry summer on a high with a streak of victories to end the NATWEST Series of 5 ODIs, winning it 3-1. Should’ve been 4-1, had it not been for Collingwood’s wiliness and umpires’ delay in calling it a day in the 2nd ODI, just one over short of the Duckworth –Lewis requirement in an already shortened match.

The first one dayer was won by England in thumping fashion, defeating NZ by a huge margin of runs, having scored excess of 300 batting first. More was talked about the “switch hit” of Kevin Pietersen’s switch hit, an overblown story.

The second one dayer (Edgebaston, Birmingham) made people to wait till eternity to see the players on the field and then, the rain was in again, but not for long, and play resumed. The “not-so-high” target of 160 in 23 overs, given that T20 is more popular now, was given a good chase by McCullum, assisted by How, Taylor and later by Styris. But the umpires stopped the play as rain started lashing, just one more over to be bowled to get a result by Duckworth-Lewis. And the Kiwis were needing just 7 runs off that over (if no wicket falls). Yes, they were unhappy.

Now, the 3rd ODI, Bristol, and this was an excellent game. Oh boy! I loved it so much! With less than 50 on the board, the half the Kiwi side was already back in the pavilion, and as the 40th over approached, the side was 7-down for not more than 120. Grant Elliot was cautious till now and was holding fort on one end and he needed a partner to build a decet score. Kyle Mills was the answer. The under-rated lower order all-rounder had a point or two to make with the bat this time. Elliot’s half century and Mills’ 47 put up modest 182 on a seaming and swinging Bristol. England, with confidence of the series lead and the test victory behind their back, came in to face the NZ pace battery. Mills toyed with the ball too, and got rid of opener Wright and the “he was the one who did….” KP. Gillespy was merciless at the other end. Bell and Bopara started to play cautiously, something that would surely take them home, but one string of madness broke the English top order. Southee, the wrecker-in-chief. Oh boy o’ boy! The boy was breathing fire. Four wickets between him and Elliot when England put on just 2 runs, now 64-6, captain Paul in with Swann. Target still in sight, both began a slow approach, but within the limits. Pendulum was swinging England’s way when Styris got rid of Swann, and half an hour later, Collingwood was consumed by Southee. It was near run a ball contest, where a boundary could’ve seen happier faces in English dressing room, but, the Kiwis wasted no time, and won the match by 23 runs, more than 20 balls to spare.
How often do you get such a beautiful pitch? Take a bow, curator!

The 4th ODI, The Oval, London. Phew! Hot match! A good score of 245 was put on by the English batsmen, easily defendable by the English bowlers in the cir home conditions. The big hitters McCullum and Taylor out early, England seemed favourites. But, How and Styris steadied the Kiwi ship, and later, the comeback man, Oram played his part. With all these three out, the Kiwi hopes rested on their saviours last time ‘round, Elliot and Mills. And, they did put on a good show, until the drama happened. Sidebottom was to bowl to Elliot. Elliot tried to tuck the ball to the off side, but, didn’t see where the ball was (apparently edged it onto himself and the ball fell near him, in front of the crease). He responded to a confident call for a run from Mills and set off for the on-striker’s end, but collided into Sidebottom, whom Elliot hadn’t spotted. Both fell down, the ball between them. Elliot, in half a mind to run back to the crease, got up and limped but, Ian Bell threw the ball to KP who removed the bails before Elliot could even know what happened. The Umpires wanted Collingwood to think over twice on deciding to appeal or not. Elliot was nursing his bruise, but Captain ‘Wood appealed and sent him off, very un-sportive!!! But Mills carried on the bandwagon, though wickets kept falling at the other end. It was 12 needed from 2 overs, Mills facing Collingwood, and he sent one packing six over mid-wicket which got lost in the crowd. Mills sure had eyes full of revenge. It was 3 needed from the last over, Luke Wright to be England’s hero or zero. First ball, Mills managed a single. This was what England could’ve best hoped for, having a go at Gillespie would be easier than bowling to Mills. Four dot ball followed, Gillespie didn’t connect most of them. Now, the crowd was on its feet, quiet, biting nails, spilling beer, covering eyes, praying, and Collingwood seemed to be taking the time of his life to set the field…(hey, if you take that long to pull your fine leg in, send him to mid wicket and ultimately send him back to fine leg again, then you deserve that four match ban!!! – ie, 5th ODI vs Kiwi, at T20, and 2 against Protease). So, the last ball, Gillespie managed a touch to point, and they ran, Gillespie, well short of crease,….wasn’t run out!!! Hey, the bowler wasn’t covering up!!! So, bonus, Mills came back for overthrows. Kiwi win by one wicket, on the last ball. IPL final? Naaah… This match was a better thriller! And yeah, the rivalry between the teams was just getting bigger. Skipper Vettori didn’t even shake hands with Collingwood.

Fifth ODI, Mecca of Cricket, The Lord’s, London.
It was all down to this match for Kiwis to stamp authority over England. After a slow start, the Kiwis put on 266-5, thanks to stalwarts Styris who had a well paced, unbeaten 87 and Oram who made a quick 52. Elliot helped again towards the end. Now, it was up to Bell and Cook (in for the banned Collingwood) to give their side a good start. They did start off well, with a good run rate too. But, Gillespie took care of Bell’s long stay and Southee, with his very first over got rid of Cook. Captain for the day, KP, wanted to stay there, and help the team build its innings again. But, he left, trying to increasing the rate. Bopara fell to Vettori soon. With no Collingwood out there, Owais Shah had to do things all by himself. Bot Ambrose and Luke fell for cheap scores. Then on, it was easy for Kiwis to get rid of the batsmen. Southee came back to end the stylish knock of 69 by Owais, which sadly went in vain.
The Kiwis won the Natwest Series 3-1, yes, frustrated that it wasn’t 4-1, but a comprehensive series win, looking back at the dismal form in tests. Youngster, Tim Southee was adjudged the Man-of-the-Series.

The series had it all. Superb pitches, rain, pain, controversies, swing, spin, and, errrr…duh…switch hit! Now, England has got to regroup itself in time to face the South African team. Lets see how things go.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Asia Cup – Phase 1

Well, the 1st round of the Asia Cup Cricket tournament just ended. It was sort of a formality, so that some member nations of the ICC from Asia too get some international exposure. There weren’t any result based surprises in this tournament thus far, unlike in the UEFA Euro ’08. The first day had two games with very low fan-fare in both the National Stadium (Karachi) – hosting the game between Hong Kong & Pakistan and Gadaffi Stadium (Lahore) – hosting the game between Bangladesh and the UAE. Here’s an overlook:-
Pakistan, batting first, looked good to put on a good score, but faltered in the middle overs, courtesy, some good bowling by the spinners. But, Fawad Alam and Sohail Tanvir then proved thst Pakistan has found themselves two good all rounders, and helped the hosts reach 289, by no means low, but, lower than what was expected of the team. The bowlers did not have any problem in knocking out the opposition.
Bangladesh had it easy against their opponents, the UAE, and started off their campaign in style. Ashraful prevailed again and notched up a century to bring up Bangladesh’s second 300+ score. The UAE showed good talent with the bat, given their exposure. Khurram Khan brought up a stylish, well paced 78, but it was not enough to get the game into their kitty

Day 2
India faced off against Hong-Kong, and the Delhi openers made the Hong Kong bowling look bleak. It was only for Sehwag or Gambhir to donate their wicket. After the openers were sent back, which took a long time to happen (time seems to be passing slower than life when the Delhi duo are firing at all cylinders), the spinners managed to keep the run-rate under (relative) check. Rohit found the going tough and succumbed. Raina came in and started unleashing his stroke play, Dhoni joined in. both scored centuries and brought up a daunting task for Hong Kong to chase down a target of 375 (an Asia Cup record)! After a steady start (save the opener’s failure to Rudra’s ball…) Hong Kong were looking at playing the full quota of 50 overs. But, Piyush Chawla created the Hong Kong line-up’s downfall. In the end, India won emphatically, by 256 runs, another Asia Cup record.
Srilanka had a simlar day in trouncing Bangladesh. Jayasurya blunted the bowlers but fell short of another big score. Srilanka managed less than what they would’ve expected, but managed to win the game in a grand manner.

Day 3
India met, the hosts, Pakistan, in a great clash. Pakistan, electing to bat first, started slowly, reminding us of the match in Mirpur, few days ago. Here, Butt and Malik played cautiously till the 10th over, and then, broke the shackles. Butt fell for a cautious 38, but Younis kept the party going. Malik reached his 6th century in a very well paced innings comprising of handsome drives and good shots beyond the ropes. But, he was to leave the pitch soon, unconquered though, as he fell to an attack of cramps. Yousuf joined his favourite partner, but the “Yo-Yo” team work was not long lived and Younis fell to Yusuf Pathan on a day when Indian bowlers were finding it tough (again) to contain the Pakistani to order batsmen. But, by then, the tone was set, and all the batsmen coming in made sure, the total was another big one in the tournament. But what followed was a rampage by the Indian typhoons, Raina first and then, Sehwag, who blistered the attack, which already lost the services of Umer Gul early into the innings, and captain Shoaib Malik still nursing his cramps. Every bowler was made to earn for errr….a dot ball. Sehwag built his innings to bring up a century, long waited one. Raina’s heroics set the tone, but he missed out to cap the day of his brilliance in fielding with a century with his bat. The man-of-the-match, did of course end India’s worry of a top order batsmen, as Rohit was shaky during his tenures at the pitch.(Meanwhile, Srilanka won their match against the UAE thanks to Mendis, who got a 5 wicket haul, his first, to cut short the UAE’s batting, which had the highlight of their captain’s beautiful knock, all clubs should look to tag him). Back to Karachi, Yuvraj and Dhoni finished the cake that Raina and Sehwag couldn’t finish. Pakistan were very unlucky to miss both Umer Gul for his bowling and Malik’s captaincy as well as his bowling. We all hope, they get back to business soon. The tournament will have more serious encounters now on…

Pakistan and Bangladesh will have to win all their matches to move to the finals, while India and the Emarald Island can afford to lose a match (but, who wants to, when you’re on a run???).

Friday, June 20, 2008

Kitply Cup ’08. Bangladesh-India-Pakistan, a review.

The sub-continental neighbours – India, Pakistan and hosts Bangladesh played for the Kitply Cup at Mirpur in early June. Pakistan emerged champions, but with some harsh efforts.

The opening game between Bangladesh and Pakistan was reduced to a 40 over encounter. Pakistan, riding on Salman Butt’s form, galloped well from the start. 250 plus was on the cards, but the Bangladeshi spinners did well to keep the Pakistan total to less than 240. Comeback man, Khalid Mashud did well to capture 3 wickets. the chase started slow and steadily, but a partnership at the top was coming. But, soon, the top and middle order was rattled. Md Ashraful, very unlikely of himself, stayed at crease till the end to complete an unbeaten half-century at a very poor strike rate, given the situation and his characteristics as a batsman. The bowlers tightened their line and Afridi was very economical and venomous with the ball. Pakistan had a comfortable victory in the end.

Next game, the much awaited clash between India and Pakistan took place at Mirpur. The Indians, batting first were off to a flier with both the Delhi openers exploding with great footwork and strokeplay all over the park. 100 runs parntnership was raised in no time, with bowlers still trying to find their line and length right, and Pakistan already upset by ‘keeper Akmal’s integrity claiming Sehwag’s catch when he had put it down. After the fall of the openers, the middle order took some time settling in, took too much time to settle in, I say. What could’ve been capitalized on to make 350+ was finally to be a target of 330, low by no means, though. The Pakistan chase was jolted time and again by the young Indian pacer, Praveen Kumar, who actually hails from a family of wrestlers. He sure did wrestle some top order batsmen down. A good catch by Rohit Sharma in short-point to dismiss Butt was a scene worth watching dozen times an hour! The Pakistanis had paced their innings well, but had lost a lot of wickets in the process. Piyush Chawla chipped in with a few wickets for himself. In the end, India beat Pakistan by 140 runs, the best margin for India in a victory over Pakistan in ODIs.

The last league match was India facing off against Bangladesh. Bangladesh opted to bat first, but soon. Their top order fell to Indian opening bowlers, Praveen and Rudra Pratap Singh, who made a comeback in this match. The Bangladeshis started to stabilize their innings with Ashraful and Rakibul Hassan, who almost got his century. With a few small partnerships, Bangladesh managed to put on 222. the Indian batting once again kicked off in great fashion. This time, Sehwag outperformed Gambhir in the initial stages to race to his 50, but then, he threw away his wicket. Gambhir, built his innings well and accelerated it in time to reach his century. An easy victory for India, by seven wickets.

So, it was a roaring stadium for the finals, India vs Pakistan. Pakistan had to find solutions for their dismal performance against India in the league matches and then apply themselves for the finals. Pakistan electing to bat first, were more cautious this time, and the partnerships were coming well. Akmal played his part ell at the top of the order with Butt. After his dismissal, came in Younis Khan and straight away proved that class doesn’t die, with a picturesque front foot cover drive for a boundary. Applause came in from all directions. The 2nd wicket stand was pacing very slowly. At the halfway mark, the two batsmen in the middle had just started to feel comfortable to play their strokes freely. They had nearly all their wickets in hand were ready to accelerate up. Piyush Chawla had to face the whip initially, and later on all those who filled in for the 10 overs to be compensated by part-timers. Both Younis and Butt completed their centuries, and Pakistan managed a comfortable 315. The chase faltered this time as Sehwag fell early and as coach Gary Kirsten feared, plan B had to be used now. But, things were looking not so good as Rohit Sharma too followed suit. Yuvraj and Gambhir played well, but Yuvraj fell before he could take the pressure to the opposition. Yusuf Pathan was sent higher up the order, after showing some of his form carried from the IPL, he gave away his wicket, which made Gambhir to do the chasing more, by himself. The pressure soon consumed him and Raina. So, it was now, left to captain Dhoni and the tail to wag. Much they did try, but, Pakistani bowlers did have their share of excitement with regular wickets. In the end, Dhoni’s heroics weren’t enough, as India were bowled out for 290. Not a bad chase, in the end. But, winners, deservingly, Pakistan. Butt was awarded the Man-of-the-Series award for his superb form in the series.

It was a very good preparation for the teams who will now be eyeing the Asia Cup, starting 4th week of June in Pakistan. SriLanka will join the three teams. Hong-Kong and the UAE will also feature in the 6-team tournament. This tournament will test the consistency of the teams, where they may be facing off against deserving and competitive opponents, maybe even twice. Its going to be a great Asia Cup, once again.
Photo: Cricinfo

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


June 17 + Celtics’ 17 = Paul Pierce 34

The line says it all. On June 17th 2008, Boston Celtics took revenge against their archrivals, Los Angeles Lakers, to clinch their 17th title, their first since 1986, with excellent contribution from their captain, and the MVP of the finals, Paul Pierce (jersey 34)!!!

And, what a final it was! Stamping authority at home, the Celtics defeated the Lakers with a record margin for a decider, 131-92!!! The trinity of Pierce, Allen and Kevin Garnett, a.k.a. The Big 3, were on target together in this game. The Lakers were left rattled. Kobe’s little contribution and the odd 3 pointers shot in the final minutes by Lakers made no difference to the result of the game, as they gave away too many turnovers and had less assists. Rajon Rondo of Celtics had 6 steals in what turned out to be a good game for him. KG, top scored for the Celtics and also had a few assists to his name, to earn him the Player of the Match title. Lakers were drowned by the performances by Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen in the second half, with allen and Pierce contributing about 10 three pointers in that period alone. House from downtown, puts a few in!!! The Lakers’ defense just didn’t seem to exist, so pathetic, that coach, Phil Jackson had to express his anger in a very angry manner, by his standards. He said to the team at half time to not give the title away meekly, but what followed was like a practice for victory lap for the Celtics.

The Celtics defense was ecstatic. Players from the bench were good at defending the Lakers too. Kobe was well marked by Pierce and at times by Rondo, making him crave for space.

The arena went emotional as the shot clock had no more to show. It had taken them years to get this title, so many years of good performances went in vain. Then came in some prosperous sign ins. They started their season on top of the table in Eastern Conference, and never did they let it slip. They lost only 5 games at home in the regular season, and just one in the post season playoffs and finals. The championship title seemed to be heading their way all along. The “loudest arena” couldn’t have been any louder!

Some record breaking highlights from The Finals :-

Paul Pierce played more than 60 playoff games with Celtics before getting his maiden title, most by any player.

It was Celtics’ coach, Doc River’s first championship title in 6 seasons of coaching, 2nd year with Celtics. This prevented Phil from becoming the sole most successful coach in NBA, but he has to be satisfied to share the record with Celtics’ legendary coach, Red.

Ray Allen had 22 three-point FGs, most in the Finals history.

The 39 points margin was the highest in a decider at the NBA Finals.

18 steals in the game in favour of the Celtics is now the new record, overtaking Hornet’s 17 set way back in ’75.
Photos : NBA

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Aussies take the Frank Worrell Trophy

3rd match is over too, and West Indies just couldn't pull one back, even though they had the match in their hands at stages more than one. Australia, in their first innings, were trotting after losing their first few wickets cheaply, but Symonds save the day for Australia once again. But, the hosts struggled to put up a decent score and fell 35 runs short of not a high Australian total. In second innings, the openers did what they were to do, build a great foundation for the innings, and they did that in great manner. Katich went on to make a big century and Australia put a daunting target of 475 , which would be a record, if chased.

A vision of that test between the same teams, in which Sarwan's cameo and duel was overshadowed by their famous run-chase; came before me. The chase started well with openers playing confidently, but captain Gayle fell when he was needed to stay. Then, Sarwan put up a good partnership with Xavier Marshall, but missed his 50. Marshall's brilliant 85 was ended by debutant Casson. Bravo and Chanderpaul carried WI's hopes to give them the victory. They did so for most of the remainder of the match. But, during the afternoon of last day, just a few minutes of lapse of concentration did them in. Casson consumed Bravo who defended the chinaman delivery, but pocketed it to silly point. Then, with the new ball, Clark got a ball to zip back into Chanderpaul to trap him lbw, and then on, it was a collapse. Australian bowlers stuck to a stiff line towards the end to wrap up the series 2-0. Lee was severe in attacking the batsmen's ribs. It paid off very late, though. Casson was expensive at times, but managed to get the big names before damage could rise sky high.

All in all, the overall series was good by Australia, the bowlers and batsmen did their job perfectly when it mattered the most. The new keeper did a good job behind the stumps. You may want him to be bit more chirpy like 'ol Gilly, but lets wait and see how Haddin transforms. Casson has to do more than that to fit into MacGill's shoes. The tour of India will be his test. Katich had a good tour, coming in for Hayden, but fears he may lose his place back to the big man hen he returns from his injury layoff. Now the series moves to the one-dayers, and that picnic called Twenty20. Until then, the two teams will have to put things together and the think-tanks will bring their head together to sketch plans for the ODI series. Only time will tell what is in store in that dramatic series to follow!

Field Umpires c ICC b TECHNOLOGY 2008

Now cricket has gone one step too far in using technology in the game. The latest – the teams can appeal against the umpire’s decision. The new rule is to be test fired by ICC this autumn, when India travels to SriLanka in September for 3-tests and 5 ODIs. About all cricket boards have accepted this decision of ICC, the English Cricket Board and South African Cricket Board are yet to give their consensus about the issue.

The decision was taken following complaints from Boards and players about the incorrect decisions given by the on-field umpires. Some times these decisions proved to be vitasl in the Game’s result.

The rules say that the two sides can have up to 3 appeals to against the umpires decision. If after the appeal, it is confirmed that the umpires decision was right, one of those 3 appeals is lost, but if their appeal is approved after the referral, it is replenished, i.e. they will still have the same number of appeals left as many as they had before the umpire declared his decision.

Now, is it required all? What is the use of having on field umpires, then? As it is, there are only a few umpires on the Elite Panel, and only a few other umpires look like making into the panel. Instead of coaching the umpires to hone their skills, use of technology for umpiring is going to have an impact on the umpires. Lesser people may want to take up the respected job of umpiring. The confidence of the present group of umpires would’ve sunk. Had the cricket boards enforced fine on players; who do not walk after they are out, or who claim dropped catches, batsmen who stay put after being caught at slip, or those who give wrong assurance to umpires while riding the boundary; this issue may not have been heard at all.

It is no use measuring the speed of the ball bowled, or how far the ball was hit, or what part of the field a fielder can protect, or how far the ball might have gone “had it spun” or “had it bounced”. The umpire has to be the best one on the field to give the decision, which remains final (or will remain so for only some more days). Enforcing the umpire to go for the TV umpire is not in the spirit of the game, no matter what may be the state of the match.

The best umpires in history, like Dicky Bird, and even some of those off late, like Srinivas Venkatraghavan, David Shepherd, Steve Bucknor did not refer to the Hawk-Eye or snick-o-meter or Hot-Spot to give their decision. And they were, and are still respected, world over.

I think the Boards should rethink this all over. At least, this should’ve been tried in all domestic circuits before being put into international scenario.

The Grass is Green, Wimbledon is Evergreen

And now, we move to Tennis' most prestigious event in a player's calendar, The Wimbledon. After many years, competition for the title in the Gentlemen category has reached a new height. The defending champion, Roger Federer is recovering from a minor slump in his form, but to many and himself, starts favourite for the event. He won his second title at the Gerry Webber Open beating the likes of former Australian open finalist Bhagtatis and also Kohlschrieber. Rafael Nadal, with yet another French Open in his kitty, started the grass court campaign with a win in Artois Championship, defeating a never-give-up Djokovic. The wimbledon will have its own share of Serbian army, with Djokovic in the Men's catogory, and Ivanovic and Jankovic in the Ladies Category. The return of the Williams sisters will add to the excitement, Venus, being the defending champion. Stiff competition will be expected also from Blake, Gasquet, Roddick, Ferrer, Sharapova, Hantuchova, Radwanska, Vaidisova and Safina, who wants to inspire her "Big" elder brother, Marat Safin to continue playing and strike form. The services of former World Number 1, Justin Henin will be sorely missed. The Indian star Sania Mirza will be back on Grand Slam charts this wimbledon.
The competition will serve a healthy work-out for preparations prior to the Olympics in Beijing, a month away from the end of the Wimbledon Championships. It is going to be yet another breath-taking competition. Be ready to top your summer extravaganza with Wimbledon 2008!
Game Set Match on!

Euro 2008

This year, the Alps are melting at a faster pace. The reason – the football fans of Europe is zeroing to Austria and Switzerland for the Euro 2008. And what a tournament it has been thus far!!! The Dutch and the Spaniards are playing with stern authority. Germany and Portugal had highs and lows, but will make it to the next round. France and Italy are still fighting for a quarter-final spot. Turkey made a dramatic entry into the quarter-finals by defeating the Czech Republic in the last few minutes of the game. The Turks were down by 2 goals to nil and then, scored 3 quick goals to emerge victorious, and in what manner.Russia, with the magical coach, has had a good run thus far. The hosts will be a bit disappointed as they didn’t qualify for the next round, but they did enjoy their games. The Swiss ended on a high note with a win.
Very soon, the result of the tournament will come forth; surprises will not cease to appear. It has been a terrific tournament for any football fan, neutral or national fan.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

NBA 2007-2008 Finals

This time, in the finals, Celtics face off against Lakers. Till now, 4 games have been played and Celtics are reigning supreme, the form they have been carrying from the regular season is seen here.

Game 1, Boston
Celtics romped home a 10 point victory with Lakers’ worst score in their Finals’ history. The Big 3 fired for the Celtics, and Kobe was looking for support and Lakers in all, had a very poor FG percentage and gave away too many fouls when it mattered the most. 3rd quarter rampage was Celtics’ point of authority.

Game 2, Boston
Celtics edged out Lakers in a close, 100+ points game. Celtics averted a LA surge in the 4th quarter to hold on to their lead. Again, Kobe was quiet, Gasol not at his best. Interesting point was when Perkins injured his team-mate, Pierce early in 2nd half and when he returned; he stole the show with 15 flawless points in 3rd quarter to push Lakers out of the game. Powe was the surprise package with 21 points in 15 minutes! Wow! What was he eating in the bench. The loudest arena of NBA became louder! Now, the Finals’ moves to LA for the next three games.

Game 3, Los Angeles
Finally, something came the Lakers’ way. Lakers tasted victory in sweet fashion, smoothly riding to victory on Kobe, Vujacic, Fisher and Gasol’s combined efforts. They were lacking Odom’s contribution, who had committed too many fouls too early in the 3 finals yet. The Celtics Big3 were not firing at all, and it was down to Rajon Rondo to bring the Celtics some pleasure.

Game 4, Los Angeles
As a Lakers fan, I was shocked to see that the LAL surrendered to the visitors so meekly, one may just wonder how they entered the Finals! The Lakers had 21 point first quarter lead, and also a 24 point lead in the 2nd quarter. But the result – Celtics win by 5 in what seemed like a meteorical surge in scoring after the 1st quarter. Celtics had their lead for the first time in the game when only 4 minutes were left in the game, and they didn’t let it go. Pierce and Posey played excellent part in Celtics’ chase to cut down the lead. Odom struck form early into the game, but after 1st half, Lakers seemed to have relaxed just a bit too much.

Lakers seem to have surrendered the title to the Celtics in the game’s biggest rivalry, last seen with Lakers beating the Celtics twice in ’85 and ’87. Before that, it was Celtics conquering the Lakers, not once, not twice, but 8 times!!!

So, now, game 5 will tell if Lakers can show something better to stop Celtics in the 2nd half, and if Kobe magic can be seen again in 4th quarter.

Game 5, Los Angeles
Lakers pull one back to make it 3-2. Kobe made a decent scoring, but more contributions came from Odom, Gasol and Fisher. The Celtics were resurgent once again and almost had a runaway in the 2nd half, but, Lakers finally pulled their defense up to hold on to their lead which they lost once. The Celtics had foul-trouble with KG, Pierce and Posey having committed 5 fouls each with more than 3 minutes to go in the game. They played safe but, couldn’t seal the season at the Staples Centre. Ray Allen, Posey and Pierce were in a good scoring flow in the 2nd half. Kobe was good in 1st quarter, with 4 3pts.
History has it that no team has won trailing 1-3. We now move to Boston to see if history remains unaltered or not!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Kiwis didn’t fly in England either!

The New Zealanders flew to England to enjoy the English summer, which they couldn’t do in the recently concluded test series. They were beaten 2-0 in what could be seen as the Kiwis’ worst series in this decade. They were just not in the thick of the things. Having lost some big names like Stephen Fleming, Nathan Astle, and Craig McMillan due to retirement, the team had more to miss – the players who were dumped from the squad as they had signed up with ICL, the “Rebel League”, as termed by the BCCI – top order batsman Lou Vincent and pace bowler Shane Bond. The visitors never seemed to have the best of the opening partnerships. Only the likes of McCullum, Oram and Taylor stayed at the crease for reasonable amount of time, with good contributions at times by Kyle Mills and skipper, D.L. Vettori. Bowlers were shuffled and tried, only Martin and Vettori keeping up consistency, along with tight bowling by Oram, the Gladiator. But all this was not enough, as the England found things easy throught the series.

This series saw Strauss (Man-of-the-Series) and captain, Vaughan coming to form. Pietersen was there to help when, the team was in trouble. The ‘keeper, Ambrose, contributed well with the bat. Bell, Collingwood summed up the batting, and lower order vigilance by Broad helped at times. Panesar turned the games to England’s ways. When the three locals came together at Trentbridge, Notts, they fired and the Kiwis were skittled to paltry scores. Jimmy was swinging the ball like a banana and Sidebottom was troubling the batsmen enough with his swing. Broad chipped in with good bounce, line, length and swung the Duke well.

The teams now face each other in the ODI series pretty soon. The Kiwis are to trust their strength and experience as they move into the 2nd phase of their English tour. England look confident after their test victory. It is to be seen if the selectors look at Ravi Bopara who has been been good this domestic season and has a bashing ODD double hundred to his name. Masceranhas and Luke Wright may be seen again.

Australians in Caribbean Isles

Two tests gone , all that I can say is the Windies are yet to find their best bowling quartet to trouble any side. Their openers seem to be more shaky than the trees in the Caribbean backyard. The return of Gayle should add some strength at the top of the order. The dependence on Sarwan and Chanderpaul is increasing beyond measures, and should be controlled, though they did save the 2nd test, after having surrendered the first to the visitors.

Aussies seem to be enjoying the northern summer at Jamaica, and for most of the time at Antigua. Lee is in good form and is reversing the ball well. With Clark and Johnson supplementing him, the bowlers are finding it easy to penetrate the West Indian line up. As for their batting, Jacques and Katich are just able to manage well in the absence of the big man, Hayden , who returned home due to injury. Ponting returned to excellent form in good time, and the middle order strength in Symonds and Clarke added to Aussie prowess.

Indian Cricket, Version 2008.0.5

Its 2008, and a lot has happened for Indian cricket in the year which is barely half completed. First, India did get revenge for the test against the Kangaroos (lost 2-1, though put up a good fight which might have made it 1-1, but for Clarke) by winning the CB series. That was the last series of its kind in Australia, and India had the last victory lap of the tournament. Two superb finals preceded by good battles to reach the finals, the tournament had its share of spices. Sachin’s long awaited century was delivered, and what timing!? Ishant Sharma and Rohit Sharma got into the limelight, and Gambhir proved his worth. Pravin Kumar was the pick of the finals, I should say. For the Aussies, Hopes carried the hopes of Gilly and Bradley Hogg to win the game and move to Adelaide from ‘Gabba, so that they can have one more game in their career. Sadly, Pathan had other ideas for Hopes.

Later on, South Africa visited India for a test series, which I didn’t follow much for some personal reasons. Of what I could make, Viru got into prime sub-continental form and got his second triple ton, the only thing to look at the otherwise run-loaded Madras match. The Proteas won the second one to put the pressure on the Indian. Luckily for the Indians, the Green Park had been tailor made to suit the Indian bowlers, favouring them to pull the series 1-1.

Then came the IPL… Blah blah blah. More bat thwarting, blind hitting, body throwing, cheer-leaders, controversies, finds, lows, hots-and-nots, and at the end of it all, the under-rated Royals from Jaipur, under the coach-cum-captainship of wily ‘ol Warne, bagged the 1.2 million $ suitcase.

Now, the lab is in Mirpur, Bangladesh to test the effects of the IPL on the players, when India, Pakistan and hosts Bangladesh lock horns in an ODI series.