Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Asia Cup: Alam, Tanvir lead Pakistan recovery to 288-9 against Hong Kong

Pakistan Won their First match against Hong Kong.

All-rounders Fawad Alam and Sohail Tanvir both struck half centuries Tuesday to rally Pakistan to 288 for nine off its 50 overs against Hong Kong in their opening group match at the Asia Cup.

The 20-year-old left-arm spinner Nadeem Ahmed's took four for 51 off 21 deliveries, reducing Pakistan to 161 for seven in the 30th over before Alam (63 not out) and Tanvir (59) joined to add 100 runs for the eighth wicket.

Alam was unbeaten in 77 balls while Tanvir holed out in the deep in an attempt to accelerate the scoring late in the innings.

Ahmed, who had played just one limited-overs match against Pakistan — at the 2004 Asia Cup, thrashed the experienced Pakistan middle order before Tanvir and Alam came to the rescue.

The Alam-Tanvir partnership broke the tournament record for an eight-wicket stand, surpassing the 52 by India's Ajay Jadeja and Ajit Agarkar against Pakistan in 2000.

Pakistan slumped quickly after captain Shoaib Malik won the toss and elected to bat. Medium fast bowler Afzaal Haider found a big edge off opener Salman Butt's bat with his third delivery.

Younis Khan (67) and Malik (35) added 67 runs before the Pakistani captain was caught by Butt Hussain at point.

Ahmed began his surge when Mohammad Yousuf (28) top edged a sweep, and Khan was stumped after hitting eight fours and a six in his 65-ball stand.

Ahmed also trapped Misbah-ul-Haq (4) leg before wicket and then took a low return catch to dismiss Shahid Afridi (7).

India also is in Group B with Pakistan and Hong Kong. Two teams from the group advance to the Super Four Stage.

Link : http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/06/24/sports/AS-SPT-CRI-Pakistan-Hong-Kong.php

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Will.i.am on His Wolverine Role

Source: Bub
June 21, 2008

MTV caught up with Will.i.am, who revealed a bit more about his character in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, coming to theaters on May 1, 2009.

"I'm a teleporter. ... I'm here, I'm there, I'm everywhere. Boom, boom, boom!" Will revealed. "My character's name is John Wraith. He's a black Texan. He's not a cowboy, but his gear suggests that he is. He's just a badass who'll whoop your ass."

For more of the interview, click here!

Pakistan include Ajmal for Asia Cup

Pakistan have named offspinner Saeed Ajmal in their 15-member squad for the Asia Cup, which starts on June 24.

Ajmal, 30, made a mark in the 2007-08 first-class season, taking 38 wickets in 12 matches at an average of 29. "Ajmal has impressed with his wicket-taking ability and can also bowl one which goes out like former spinner Saqlain Mushtaq and we hope he does well in this tournament," chief selector Salahuddin Ahmed said.

Pakistan didn't have a specialist spinner in their squad for the one-week long Kitply Cup, which they won after beating India in the final. Shahid Afridi and Fawad Alam were used by captain Shoaib Malik, who himself didn't bowl due to a sore shoulder. However, he will have more options for the Asia Cup with Ajmal and legspinning allrounder Mansoor Amjad in the team.

Kamran Akmal had been left out of Pakistan's list of 20 probables for the tournament, with the selectors opting to hand the wicketkeeping gloves to Sarfraz Ahmed. Akmal had been Pakistan's regular wicketkeeper since November 2004, when he took over from Moin Khan, playing virtually non-stop in all three formats. However, his inconsistency behind the stumps since the 2006 tour to England has finally cost him the place in the side.

Other players to be dropped from the squad for the Kitply Cup are batsmen Bazid Khan and Naumanullah and fast bowler Sohail Khan.

Pakistan play their opening game of the tournament on June 24, against Hong Kong in Karachi.

Pakistan squad

  • Shoaib Malik (capt), Misbah-ul-Haq, Fawad Alam, Iftikhar Anjum, Mohammad Yousuf, Nasir Jamshed, Salman Butt, Shahid Afridi, Sohail Tanvir, Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz, Younis Khan, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Mansoor Amjad, Saeed Ajmal

Jane McGrath dies of cancer

Jane McGrath, the wife of former Australian cricketer Glenn McGrath, has died after complications resulting from a surgery. McGrath,42, had battled breast cancer and a brain tumour, and had also campaigned for cancer awareness, setting up the McGrath Foundation with her husband.

"It is with deep sadness that the family and friends of Jane McGrath, beloved wife of former Australian cricketer Glenn and loving mother of James and Holly, must announce she passed away at her home this morning," a statement issued by the McGrath Foundation said. "With Glenn and their two children by her side, Jane's wonderful life ended peacefully after a sudden decline in her health over the past week."

Australia's Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, paid tribute to McGrath while offering his condolences to the family. "Jane's courageous struggle touched all Australians," he said in statement. "Jane was an inspiration whose legacy will continue to benefit so many others."

James Sutherland, the CEO of Cricket Australia, also offered his condolences. "Jane was well-known, loved and admired throughout Australian cricket and was one of the most respected and admired members of the Australian cricket team family group during Glenn McGrath's playing days.

"All of us who met her were charmed by her dignity and good humour as she tackled her battle with her illness for more than 10 years," he said. "We also greatly respected the work she and Glenn did through their foundation, work which brought and will continue to bring tangible comfort to so many others."

Friday, June 20, 2008

Asif returns to Pakistan

Mohammad Asif has returned to Pakistan after being deported from the UAE, where he was in detention since June 1 for suspected possession of an illegal substance. The case against him was dropped by the Dubai public prosecutor on the grounds of "insignificance."

"First of all, I am thankful to God and I am happy to be back in my country. Now I am not going anywhere," Asif said at Lahore airport, where he arrived after taking a connecting flight from Karachi.

Asif maintained that he was innocent. "I did not use any banned substance. During the Indian Premier League, I underwent two doping tests, and cleared both of them," he said. "If I had been tested positive, the ICC would not have cleared me."

He also credited those who had worked for his release. "I am thankful to our ambassador in Dubai, Ahsanullah Khan, who put in a lot of effort, and when Nadeem Akram [the PCB's director - human resources] arrived, it gave me lots of encouragement."

Meanwhile, Asif is set to face an internal enquiry from the PCB, which earlier in the day issued a press release to confirm the case against him had been dropped. "The drug tests conducted on Asif during the investigations in Dubai were clear and negative for any contraband substance."

Dubai drops case against Asif

The case against Mohammad Asif, who was detained in Dubai on June 1 for suspected possession of an illegal substance, has been dropped by the Dubai public prosecutor and the fast bowler will be deported soon, according to a report in the Gulf News.

The report quoted the public prosecutor, Mohammad Al Nuaimi, as saying the case was being dropped due to "insignificance".

The Pakistan board issued a press release to confirm the case against Asif had been dropped. "The drug tests conducted on Asif during the investigations in Dubai were clear and negative for any contraband substance." However the board said it intended to conduct an enquiry in to the matter as soon as it received official records from the UAE authorities. Even if the PCB doesn't take action against Asif, it is likely the ICC might. They have been monitoring the situation and it is possible that Asif will face penalties under the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA), of which the ICC is a signatory, once he is released.

Aamir Bilal, media advisor to the PCB, told Cricinfo that Asif would be in Pakistan by midnight on June 20.

"He [Asif] will be deported as soon as the police finalise the procedures," Mohammad Al Nuaimi, the public prosecutor who handled Asif's case, told Gulf News. "It is definite that he committed the crime as he was caught red-handed ... however in certain cases and for a faster litigation process the Public Prosecution drops a case due to insignificance and deports the suspect."

Pakistan's ambassador to the UAE, Ahsanullah Khan, also confirmed to the BBC's Urdu service that Asif would return to Pakistan, but refused to specify the legal position on the charges of possession of contraband. He also said that the PCB and the Pakistan embassy had played a significant role in this matter.

Dave Richardson, the ICC's acting chief executive, had said that they had asked the PCB to keep them updated on the Asif issue. "As far as we know he has not been charged as yet," Richardson said. "But since the ICC is a signatory of WADA regulations if he is charged then he is liable to penalties under WADA code of conduct."

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Mars team ponders whether lander sees ice or salt

By ALICIA CHANG, AP Science Writer

LOS ANGELES - Is the white stuff in the Martian soil ice or salt? That's the question bedeviling scientists in the three weeks since the Phoenix lander began digging into Mars' north pole region to study whether the arctic could be habitable.

Shallow trenches excavated by the lander's backhoe-like robotic arm have turned up specks and at times even stripes of mysterious white material mixed in with the clumpy, reddish dirt.

Phoenix merged two previously dug trenches over the weekend into a single pit measuring a little over a foot long and 3 inches deep. The new trench was excavated at the edge of a polygon-shaped pattern in the ground that may have been formed by the seasonal melting of underground ice.

New photos showed the exposed bright substance present only in the top part of the trench, suggesting it's not uniform throughout the excavation site. Phoenix will take images of the trench dubbed "Dodo-Goldilocks" over the next few days to record any changes. If it's ice, scientists expect it to sublimate — or go from solid to gas, bypassing the liquid stage — when exposed to the sun because of the planet's frigid temperatures and low atmospheric pressure.

"We think it's ice. But again, until we can see it disappear ... we're not guaranteed yet," mission scientist Ray Arvidson of Washington University in St. Louis said Monday.

Even if it's not ice, the discovery of salt would also be significant because it's normally formed when water evaporates in the soil.

Preliminary results from a bake-and-sniff experiment at low temperatures failed to turn up any trace of water or ice in the scoopful of soil that was delivered to the lander's test oven last week. Scientists planned to heat the soil again this week to up to 1,800 degrees, said William Boynton of the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Phoenix landed in the Martian arctic plains on May 25 on a three-month, $420 million mission to study whether the polar environment could be favorable for primitive life to emerge. The lander's main job is to dig into an ice layer believed to exist a few inches from the surface.

The project is led by the University of Arizona and managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The lander was built by Lockheed Martin Corp.


On the Net:

Phoenix Mars: http://phoenix.lpl.arizona.edu/index.php

Sunday, June 15, 2008

India v Pakistan, final, Kitply Cup, Mirpur

Different methods, similar outcomes

George Binoy in Mirpur

There are different ways of setting a match-winning total and the approaches adopted by India and Pakistan during the Kitply Cup were outstanding examples of contrasting methods which produced the same result - a total in excess of 300. India were 143 for 0 at the end of the 20th over in the first match against Pakistan; at the same stage in the final, Pakistan were 75 for 1 and yet they scored only 15 runs fewer than what India did in the end.

In the league match, India's openers - Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir - carted Pakistan's wayward attack all over the Shere Bangla National Stadium. Their rapid partnership set up a solid platform for the rest to build on without worrying about the run-rate.

Pakistan, on the other hand, chose caution over aggression during the Powerplay overs in the final. It was their capitulation to 26 for 3 that had shut them out while chasing 331, and today, Salman Butt and Kamran Akmal were watchful against Praveen Kumar, the bowler who took the first four wickets in their previous meeting.

After Akmal fell, Younis Khan and Butt continued to build a steady foundation. More significantly for Pakistan, they carried on and seized the initiative. "They were 100 for 1 after 25 overs," Mahendra Singh Dhoni, India's captain, said. "After that they took on the bowlers and played some good shots. It really put the bowlers under pressure. And under the circumstances, we couldn't recover from that."

With Praveen having wrecked Pakistan and restricted Bangladesh in India's earlier games, the rest of the bowlers had the advantage of bowling to under-pressure batsmen trying to rebuild. But today, India's support bowlers were faced with the task of making inroads. Although he dismissed Akmal, Irfan Pathan failed to create any pressure, conceding six boundaries in his first spell of six overs. Piyush Chawla, who had taken 4 for 40 to clean up Pakistan's lower order in the earlier encounter, haemorrhaged runs once Younis and Butt consciously began to attack. The four part-timers Dhoni used were also ineffective: Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Yusuf Pathan and Suresh Raina conceded 71 for no wicket between them.

Faced with an attack lacking incisiveness, Younis and Butt shifted seamlessly from first to fourth gear. Their approach was that of a calculated assault - aggression with minimal risk. They batted with authority, picking out the gaps. Younis and Butt scored 84 runs between deep midwicket and long-on, but surprisingly the gap was never plugged.

"He [Younis] was scoring through square leg as well, he was sweeping," Dhoni said. "You hardly have fielders in that zone, you know the country [the area between deep midwicket and long-on] area. Having a long-on and a country is difficult. He was picking it from outside off and most of the times he cleared the boundary. He took on the bowlers and he was successful."

Between overs 20 and 40, a period heavily criticised for its lack of intensity after the arrival of Twenty20, Younis and Butt plundered 150 runs, even more than what Sehwag and Gambhir had managed during the Powerplays on Tuesday. When Younis finally got out, Pakistan had eight wickets in hand for the last eight overs, a luxury that allowed them to bat with a carefree approach.

Dhoni admitted there was not much that could have been in the wake of a superlative batting performance. "It [scoring] was really hard to control, you try many fields, you try many lines. There were errors from the bowlers but you can't really blame them. They were batting well and scoring off good balls."

Call it cautious or old-fashioned, Pakistan's methodical approach gave India no footholds from which they could climb back into the game. They came out with a plan, which according to Shoaib Malik, their captain, was to "survive initially and then accelerate", and executed it with precision.

George Binoy is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Saturday, June 14, 2008

India v Pakistan, Kitply Cup, final, Mirpur

Younis gets off the mark

George Binoy in Mirpur

June 14, 2008

Younis Khan celebrated his first run of the series ... and the 100th © AFP

Appeals of the day
Shahid Afridi's delivery beat Yuvraj Singh's attempted sweep and struck him low on the pad in front of the stumps. He began the appeal confidently and was incredulous when he realised Nadir Shah's finger wasn't going up. That ball may have pitched outside leg but it was a tight call. A couple of deliveries later, Yusuf Pathan was struck on the pad as he pushed forward; once again Afridi roared an appeal and looked dumbfounded as Shah gave it as runs. In his next over, Afridi hit Suresh Raina plumb in front after he missed an attempted sweep. This time the ball had pitched in line but Shah remained unmoved.

Akmal's antics
Pakistan began their innings slowly and, in the tenth over, Kamran Akmal decided to improvise against Irfan Pathan. He walked across his stumps and created the line to hoist a short ball to the midwicket boundary. When he attempted to do it again the next delivery, Irfan altered his length and bowled it full. Akmal played across the line and the outside edge was held by Dhoni.

Younis finds his mojo
Younis Khan's tournament went from bad in the first match - out without facing a ball - to worse in the second - two dropped catches and a first-ball duck. Walking out to bat after Pakistan had made a quiet start in the final, Younis punched his first ball, off Irfan, elegantly through extra cover for four. He raised his bat to the crowd in good-humoured celebration of his first runs of the tournament. He would celebrate again, many overs later, on reaching a century which spurred Pakistan to a formidable total.

Caught the other day, dropped today
Rohit Sharma, fielding at a short cover point, had pulled off a sharp one-handed catch low to his left to dismiss Salman Butt in the league match against Pakistan. He was stationed in the same position in the final and once again Butt cut the ball low but this time to Rohit's right. He attempted it with one hand but was off balance and couldn't hold on.

A disciplined display
India did not concede a single extra in the first 16 overs of Pakistan's innings. The first leg bye came in the 17th over when Ishant Sharma hit Younis on the pad. Ishant also bowled the first wide, at the start of the 36th over, when he sprayed it outside Butt's off stump.

c Pathan b Pathan
It nearly happened in the 41st over when Younis skied Irfan towards long-on. Yusuf Pathan came sprinting in off the boundary and dived forward, barely getting his hands under the ball before it spilled out.

Substitute with safe hands
Nasir Jamshed hasn't had much to do in the Kitply Cup but today he had to field after Butt cramped up towards the end of his innings. Stationed at deep-backward square leg, Jamshed watched Rohit play a half-chip half-pull and as the top edge swirled towards him, he settled under it comfortably and took the catch to end India's promising second-wicket partnership. Minutes later, now at deep point for the left-hand Gambhir, Jamshed judged a skied cut to perfection to dismiss India's in-form batsman. He also pouched the title-clinching catch at the same position.

The doctor joins in
Nasim Ashraf, the chairman of the PCB, had written a letter to the Pakistan team blasting their performance during the league-match defeat against India. He flew into Dhaka and had meetings with the team ahead of the final. Whether it had an effect or not, Pakistan's batsmen flourished and Ashraf was seen sitting with the players towards the final overs of Pakistan's innings, applauding the boundaries.

George Binoy is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Friday, June 13, 2008

NASA: "Mystery" Object Floating Near Shuttle Identified, No Problems

A metal clip fell from Discovery's brakes on Friday but NASA said it won't delay the space shuttle's scheduled landing on Saturday.

The astronauts reported to Mission Control earlier Friday that they saw a rectangular object, about 1 to 1 1/2 feet long, floating away from the tail of the shuttle. It turned out to be one of three metal clips around thermal insulation.The insulation is in the shuttle's rudder speed brake, which is used to slow the spacecraft as it comes in for a landing.NASA says the missing clip isn't critical for landing. It's used to protect the speed brake from high temperatures during the shuttle's launch."Orbiters have come back with those missing. It's just not a factor for entry," Mission Control told the shuttle crew.Discovery's crew had also reported seeing something sticking out from the left side of the shuttle's rudder. But Mission Control said it was probably just an optical illusion because of the rudder's angle and the lighting. "There's no worry at all. Discovery is in great shape," shuttle commander Mark Kelly said in media interviews later Friday.Discovery's crew of seven is returning from the international space station after delivering and installing a new science lab named Kibo, Japanese for hope. Mission Control told the astronauts the weather looked good for landing at 11:15 a.m. EDT Saturday in Florida.On Thursday, the shuttle's heat shield was given a preliminary thumbs up for the return trip to Earth after engineers finished scrutinizing all the images of it on the wing and nose, which were collected Wednesday with a laser-tipped inspection boom.Discovery's heat shield was expected to be given formal clearance for landing Friday afternoon.The thermal survey -- an exhaustive search for damage -- was conducted later than usual because the astronauts had to wait until they got to the space station to retrieve their inspection pole. There wasn't enough room aboard Discovery for the pole at liftoff because the Japanese lab the shuttle delivered to the space station had taken up nearly all the room in its payload bay.The inspection is one of the safety measures put in place by NASA after the 2003 Columbia accident. Columbia was destroyed during re-entry as a result of a gashed wing.Besides delivering the new lab, the shuttle also dropped off Gregory Chamitoff, the station's newest crew member. He traded places with Garrett Reisman, who lived on the station for three months. Chamitoff will stay on the station for six months."We had a very successful shuttle mission, with the Japanese module attached. It's a very big facility now," Chamitoff told German President Horst Kohler on Friday during a call between the space station's three-man crew and German officials.On Friday, NASA continued investigating what caused extensive damage at the launch pad used to shoot Discovery into orbit two weeks ago. About 5,300 bricks flew off the pad during the May 31 launch, exposing a thick concrete wall underneath.The pad was built for the Apollo moon shots, and the bricks might not have adhered properly to the wall of the flame trench when they were installed in the 1960s, said LeRoy Cain, chairman of the mission management team.The flyaway bricks posed no danger to Discovery, but NASA wants to fix the flame trench -- designed to deflect the exhaust of the booster rockets -- so it does not get worse. Cain said he's confident it will be repaired in time for the next shuttle flight in October

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source Link : http://www.wftv.com/news/16597235/detail.html

Oram out injured as England bowl

England won the toss and decided to bowl against New Zealand
Live scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Tim Ambrose makes his one-day debut for England at Old Trafford © Getty Images
Now, as the saying goes, for something completely different. From the longest form of the game, England and New Zealand have switched to the shortest. Twenty20 is the talk of the cricketing world - and even beyond - after the success of the IPL and the announcement of Allen Stanford's series of US$20 million matches.

For England's players the significance of Stanford's involvement stretches much further than a one-off encounter with a £7000 prize at the end. This is the chance for some of the fringe players to stake their claim for a seat on that plane to Antigua, and for the established stars to ensure they aren't pushed aside.

England's squad - except the three Nottinghamshire players and the injured Alastair Cook - appeared for their counties this week to prepare for this match. England haven't always switched easily into limited-overs form and face a New Zealand side with five IPL players in the line-up. Leading the way is Brendon McCullum, who launched the IPL with his breathtaking 158, and is the most destructive batsman on either side.

With the aim of trying to boost their scoring rate early on, England have again fiddled with the top order. Luke Wright gets a chance to open, alongside Ian Bell, while Kevin Pietersen is at No. 3 followed by the in-form Ravi Bopara. Ryan Sidebottom misses out as England opt for a deep batting order with Stuart Broad at No. 10. England do have some IPL experience to draw upon, albeit restricted to Dimitri Mascarenhas's one match for the champions, Rajasthan Royals.

For New Zealand, McCullum will open alongside Jamie How, after Jesse Ryder was ruled out last month, but they have suffered a late blow after Jacob Oram pulled his hamstring. He is replaced by Peter Fulton, but the remaining bowlers will be under pressure. The middle order, though, is boosted by the return of Scott Styris, who is no longer available for Tests but remains central to New Zealand's one-day cricket.

When these two sides last played Twenty20, in February, it went emphatically England's way as they claimed the two-match series 2-0. They have the momentum this time around after their Test successes, but New Zealand are dangerous once they change the white kits for black.

England 1 Ian Bell, 2 Luke Wright, 3 Kevin Pietersen, 4 Ravi Bopara, 5 Paul Collingwood (capt), 6 Owais Shah, 7 Dimitri Mascarenhas, 8 Tim Ambrose (wk), 9 Graeme Swann, 10 Stuart Broad, 11 James Anderson

New Zealand 1 Jamie How, 2 Brendon McCullum (wk), 3 James Marshall, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Scott Styris, 6 Daniel Flynn, 7 Peter Fulton, 8 Daniel Vettori (capt), 9 Kyle Mills, 10 Mark Gillespie, 11 Michael Mason

Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Under-pressure Lawson talks tough

Less than a week ago, Pakistan were the in-form team having recorded 12 consecutive victories, the joint second-longest winning streak in ODIs. In the five days since, they have crashed to their worst defeat in history against India, received a strongly-worded email from their board chairman criticising the performance, and head into Saturday's final as underdogs.

If the attitude of Geoff Lawson, the coach, on the eve of the final was any indication, Pakistan are charged up and ready to prove they can beat any team, and not just weaker opponents. Lawson was confrontational and even a little snappy as he answered questions from the media. Although he said the result in the first game against India might have been different if the teams had "swapped luck", in reality Pakistan were a distant second in each discipline.

Pakistan's bowlers conceded 29 runs in wides and no-balls against India, an inexcusable offence. In an attempt to rectify those errors, Pakistan's bowlers practised bowling on a strip parallel to the centre pitch at the Shere Bangla National Stadium. Lawson placed markers on good-length areas for both spinners and fast bowlers and they ran in repeatedly during the hottest afternoon of the week, trying to keep it in the zone. Sohail Tanvir was especially accurate, hitting the single-stump target repeatedly.

"As professional players, we've got to work on aspects of our game," Lawson said. "We had a really long session yesterday [Thursday], which was much longer than today. We had a three-hour session yesterday and we worked hard on fielding, had very good centre-wicket practice and things came out alright."

As generous as they were with extras, Pakistan's bowlers did create wicket-taking opportunities with the new ball and India's opening stand of 155 would never had been if the fielders had held on. "We created opportunities in the last game," Lawson said. "Hopefully we'll take our catches. Hopefully Virender Sehwag won't play and miss 20 times, he'll actually nick one. We weren't unhappy with the way we bowled; things just didn't go our way. We created chances but didn't take them, that is our fault."

We're more concerned with looking after our own performances than what other people think about it. We're not concerned about emails, we're concerned about our cricket performances

Another problem area for Pakistan, and one PCB chief Nasim Ashraf mentioned in his letter, was the composition of the team. They played only four regular bowlers against India - Umar Gul, Tanvir, Wahab Riaz and Iftikhar Anjum - Shahid Afridi the fifth with his legbreaks. This left Shoaib Malik, who hasn't been bowling because of a dodgy shoulder, with no options to fall back on if one of his bowlers goes for runs, as Riaz did. Batting allrounder Fawad Alam, who bowls left-arm orthodox, is the other spin option but there is no place for him in Pakistan's top seven. Lawson, however, downplayed the importance of spin in these conditions.

"This has been a really good one-day pitch," Lawson said. "It has a bit of bounce for the fast bowlers but the ball hasn't spun much. There's good bounce and it's a terrific pitch to play on. But to suggest that it takes spin more than other wickets is, in my professional opinion, not true. We're very fortunate to have a number of fast bowlers and spinning allrounders."

Pakistan's top-order collapse against India didn't receive much flak after the defeat but the fact that they lost three wickets within the first five overs while chasing 331 effectively ended their challenge. Malik held the middle order together with a half-century but they were dismissed in the 36th over, a collapse which prompted Ashraf to write the "strategy after losing early wickets should have been to bat out the 50 overs. No one applied themselves to build partnerships". Lawson, though, played down the controversy stirred up by Ashraf's letter. "Sometimes people get overtaken by the consequence of cricket matches," he said. "That [loss to India] was uncharacteristic of how we've played recently and the guys know that.

"That's why, when people over-react to those sorts of losses, you tend to dismiss it because you actually know what the guys are doing. We're more concerned with looking after our own performances than what other people think about it. We're not concerned about emails, we're concerned about our cricket performances."

The talk was tough from Lawson and the intensity was evident while the bowlers trained. However, with Ashraf attending Saturday's final, the stakes and the pressure on Pakistan is more than what it is for India.

George Binoy is a staff writer at Cricinfo

India confident of executing final plans

Everything's peachy for India going into Saturday's final against Pakistan. There were concerns over a team coming right out of the IPL, but India have made the transition from Twenty20 to 50-over matches with two clinical victories. The batsmen have scored at more than six an over and the bowlers have dismissed the opposition in both league matches.

"There are no issues," Gary Kirsten, India's coach, said. "The team's playing well at the moment. We've had to remain focused on our preparation and at the same time give the guys rest. We've tried to balance the two and everyone's feeling good about tomorrow."

Both of India's innings in the tournament have got off to terrific starts. Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir added 155 in 21.3 overs against Pakistan and 85 in 10 against Bangladesh. Both have scored more than fifty on each occasion and their success has left the middle-order with not much to do.

"It [the opening partnership] is important but we're not expecting too much," Kirsten said. "It might happen such that we don't get that partnership. It will obviously be nice to have it because they [Sehwag and Gambhir] score at a good rate and it sets our innings up. We've also got to be willing to know that we might lose a wicket early on. But we've got quality [middle-order] batsmen who can apply themselves in that situation."

It is an area which Pakistan can look to capitalise on: take out Sehwag and Gambhir early and put the middle order under pressure. Another aspect of India's play which Pakistan can target is the fifth bowler. In their previous encounter, Praveen Kumar's four-wicket burst with the new ball crippled Pakistan's innings but, if they can keep wickets intact, their batsmen could play aggressively against Yusuf Pathan, Yuvraj Singh and Sehwag.

An area where India scores heavily over Pakistan, however, is in the field. Yuvraj, Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina cover plenty of ground between them in the inner circle and fielders such as Yusuf and Irfan Pathan have strong arms from the boundary. "It [fielding and fitness] is certainly an area that we're working very hard on," Kirsten said. "It's nice to have a lot of youth because there's energy and enthusiasm, which is great. They are very keen to prepare well physically. We're placing a lot of emphasis on that. We're still a long way from where we want to be but we're heading in the right direction."

The key for India, therefore, is to ward off complacency. Both Kirsten and Mahendra Singh Dhoni said if they played to potential, India would win more often than not. However, Kirsten expected a different and far more competitive Pakistan outfit for the final. "They are going to be motivated and determined and we know they can play good cricket. We like to try and stay away from worrying about the opposition too much apart from expecting them to play at their best. We feel if we can execute our plans the way we want to, we are going to be difficult to beat."

The last final between India and Pakistan was at the World Twenty20 in Johannesburg and memories of Misbah-ul-Haq scooping the last ball to Sreesanth at short fine leg are still vivid. Dhoni said India had got the better of Pakistan over the last four years or so. His team would look to do the same come Saturday.

George Binoy is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Thursday, June 12, 2008

PCB chief blasts team management for poor show against India

By Mohammad Yaqoob

LAHORE, June 11: Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Chairman Dr Nasim Ashraf has blasted the team management in Dhaka for the spineless display against India on Tuesday which saw Shoaib Malik’s side getting thrashed by 140 runs in the tri-nation fixture.

Criticising the performance of the Pakistan team, the chairman on Wednesday wrote a strong-worded letter to manager Talat Ali, raising objections over team selection, Malik’s captaincy, coach Geoff Lawson’s weak role and excessive number of extras.

In his letter, a copy of which was obtained by Dawn, the chairman asked the team management to immediately hold a meeting to draw up the strategy for the expected final between Pakistan and India on June 14.

“Last night’s performance against India in which we lost by over 100 runs was embarrassing. It is not a question of losing a match but our overall performance and the lack of resolve and commitment bothered me the most,” wrote the chairman.

“I am writing this to you in your capacity as chairman of the touring selection committee with copies to Geoff Lawson and Malik. Please discuss these points today and give us your considered response within the next 24 hours so that timely action can be taken before the next match against India on the 14th which will be the final.”

Giving his observations on Tuesday’s performance, the PCB chairman further added:

“1. Selection of the playing eleven for this match against India: The previous game against Bangladesh had clearly highlighted the characteristics of the track in Dhaka, that the spinners were going to play crucial role. The team selected for India game had four fast bowlers. Also, you clearly told me that Malik was 100 per cent fit and therefore was the second spinner in the side. What happened to that? Why did Malik not bowl?

2. After the Indian opening pair started to hit us all over the park in the first 3 to 4 overs, it was fairly obvious that something needed to be done to break their momentum. We dropped some catches in the beginning as well but, watching from here, one felt that we were paralysed in the field. Nobody suggested to the captain that he must have a mini conference with the vice-captain and other players — junior or senior — and take corrective action. Even the commentators were talking as to the possibility of changing the bowling and bringing in Shahid Afridi at an early stage.”

3. Even if that was not the strategy, at least the fast bowlers should have been advised not to over extend themselves (more than 22 wides and a total of 38 extras) on a track like this. Rather, they should have been instructed to bowl strictly to a line and length and to contain especially when the batsmen were in such full cry. It seemed as if we were just continuing with tactics that were clearly not working! We need to be more proactive on the field!”

4. Wicketkeeping was pathetic, especially after Kamran Akmal dropped the catch and pretended that he had held on to it. This is unsporting behaviour but perhaps one has to give him the benefit of the doubt as he may not have realised that the ball had slipped out from his hand, which was picked up by the cameras. I do not want such behaviour from any Pakistani player. Please warn everyone! We ought to be looking at playing another ‘keeper.

5. Except for a few on the field, the body language was not competitive. We were smiling and joking as if we were some junior team which was happy just to be given the privilege of playing a top team. This has to stop.

6. As I said earlier, the fast bowlers were just trying too hard on a dead track, resulting in wayward line and length. If you look at Sehwag run map, he almost had 50 runs on the leg side which is something that he has never done in the past.

7. The positives were that Afridi bowled very well and Malik got his 50 but then Afridi threw his wicket away in a most irresponsible manner.

8. At least our strategy after losing early wickets should have been to bat out the 50 overs. No one applied themselves to build partnerships,” the chairman argued.

“I can go on with a lot of other match details and analysis but this should be enough.”

Giving his suggestions for the expected final on Saturday, the chairman wrote:

a) The touring selection committee needs to have a meeting and decide regarding the playing 11 i.e how many spinners and who?

b) Malik must undergo a complete fitness test with regards to his bowling tomorrow so as to determine clearly whether he can bowl full 10 overs.

c) If the touring committee decides that they want to ask for another spinners from Pakistan, you can decide and let us know immediately so we can arrange for the player to join the team. It could either be a left-arm spinner or another right-arm spinner.

d) The bowlers should work extra hard for the next two days and correct their no balls and wides. This is simply unacceptable and the coach must address this.

“I intend to reach Dhaka on Saturday, Inshallah, at noon time and would like to have a meeting first with you, the captain, the coach and the vice-captain immediately, and then later in the evening a meeting with the full team. Please get back to us by calling me with your decision regarding the spinner, etc.

I have full confidence that we can beat India on the 14th if we get our act together, Inshallah. May God be with you all,” concluded Dr Nasim Ashraf.


Saturday, June 7, 2008

Twenty20 Champions League confirmed

The inaugural Champions League tournament, involving the domestic Twenty20 finalists from England, Australia, South Africa and the IPL, will take place over a 10-day period in late September and early October with US$5 million on offer for the winners.

The fine detail is yet to be confirmed, but the event will feature 15 matches over 10 days, and will take place in either the Middle East or India. Alongside the huge sum for the winners, there will be significant prize money for the teams finishing second, third and fourth.

Western Australia and Victoria from Australia, Rajasthan and Chennai from the IPL along with the Dolphins and Titans from the Pro20 in South Africa have already qualified. They will be joined by the two finalists from the English Twenty20 Cup, which starts next week.

Following meetings late last week between the ECB, represented by chairman Giles Clarke and chief executive David Collier, Cricket Australia's chairman Creagh O'Connor and chief executive James Sutherland, an agreement was reached yesterday between Clarke, IPL commissioner and BCCI representative Lalit Modi, and Cricket South Africa president Norman Arendse.

"We are extremely grateful to our great friends from Australia, India and South Africa for their hard work and determination to get this tournament off the ground," Clarke said. "The Twenty20 Cup will be even more fiercely contested this season in the knowledge that the two teams who reach the final will qualify for the Champions League and the chance to win US$5 million.

"We are already aware of a number of broadcast and commercial partners who are anxious to become involved with cricket's latest exciting venture."

Link : http://content-www.cricinfo.com/ci/content/story/353961.html?CMP=OTC-RSS

Pakistan Premier League seeks unique identity

The Pakistan Cricket Board is keen that the proposed Pakistan Premier League (PPL) has an identity of its own, considering that it will held in the aftermath of the Indian Premier League, and will soon reveal details of the Twenty20 tournament.

"We want the PPL to be a bit different from the Indian Premier League. We want the PPL to be distinguished by itself," Shafqat Naghmi, the PCB's chief operating officer, told Samaa TV, an Urdu news channel. "We plan to announce our concept and plans during or after the Asia Cup."

Naghmi said that one of the PCB's proposals was keeping a cap of five foreigners in the playing XI. "We don't want to exactly copy the IPL. So we are thinking about allowing teams to play five overseas players instead of four in the IPL." Another proposal being considered is each side being allowed to sign overseas players from only one country.

The PCB, had last September, announced its intention of setting up a Twenty20 league, consisting of six franchises owned by various corporates.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Pakistan pick full-strength 16-member squad

Pakistan have stuck largely with the tried and tested in a 16-man squad for what will effectively be their toughest assignment of the year so far, the tri-series in Bangladesh involving India as the third side.

Disappointingly perhaps, of the many new faces trialled against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh earlier this year, only opener Nasir Jamshed and left-arm bowler Wahab Riaz find space on the plane to Dhaka.

Promising youngsters, such as openers Khurram Manzoor and Khalid Latif, fast bowler Sohail Khan and wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed have been left behind. The last three are on the reserves list and will instead form part of a camp in Lahore for a pool of players to be considered for the Asia Cup and the ICC Champions Trophy later in the year. The trio, in particular Sohail, remain in contention for the Asia Cup, say the selectors..

"It is the best available team and a well-balanced squad," Salahuddin Ahmed, chief selector, told Cricinfo. "We are aiming for some continuity in selection and that shows with the selection of players such as Nasir Jamshed and Wahab Riaz."

The team was chosen after extensive discussions between the selection committee and Shoaib Malik, the Pakistan captain. The coach Geoff Lawson, however, wasn't present, having not arrived in time from Sydney. Lawson has had, at times, a testy relationship with the selection committee and his absence, it is believed, has not gone down particularly well with the PCB.

Though the squad was largely agreed upon, certain positions and players will be under the scanner during the tri-series, with the selectors keen to plan ahead for the Asia Cup and ICC Champions Trophy later in the year.

It is learnt that Kamran Akmal will open the innings with Salman Butt, a combination that Malik has publicly backed. But it has also been made clear, according to one of the selectors, that this is the last chance for Akmal to make an impact as an opener and failure could mean ouster from the team.

Shahid Afridi's form with the bat will also come under scrutiny during the tournament, one source close to the meeting suggesting that the captain was keen on Mansoor Amjad replacing the veteran all-rounder.

Bazid Khan, who made a fifty in his last ODI against Bangladesh is retained in the squad, as is Naumanullah, the middle-order batsman who made his debut against Bangladesh in the last ODI of the series in Karachi. Naumanullah has been among Pakistan's leading domestic run-scorers in the last five seasons, though at 32, an international debut appeared to have passed him by. It was felt he deserved another chance, having batted lower down the order on his debut.

Pakistan will be pleased that they can at least call on the services of their three premier fast bowlers in Umar Gul, Sohail Tanvir and Mohammad Asif, who has seemingly recovered from an injury to his bowling hand, sustained during the IPL.

Pakistan squad: Shoaib Malik (capt), Salman Butt, Nasir Jamshed, Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf, Misbah-ul-Haq, Shahid Afridi, Kamran Akmal (wk), Mohammad Asif, Umar Gul, Sohail Tanvir, Rao Iftikhar, Wahab Riaz, Fawad Alam, Bazid Khan, Naumanullah