SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
S P O R T S

Bowlers give india edge
Durban, December 27
Spinner Harbhajan Singh and pace spearhead Zaheer Khan plotted a dramatic South African collapse to give India a vital 74-run lead in a topsy-turvy second cricket Test which seemed headed for a nail-biting finish here today.

Ashwell Prince is bowled out for 13 runs by Zaheer Khan on the second day of the second Test at Kingsmead Stadium in Durban on Monday.
Ashwell Prince is bowled out for 13 runs by Zaheer Khan on the second day of the second Test at Kingsmead Stadium in Durban on Monday. — AFP



EARLIER STORIES

New test,old failings
December
27, 2010
Series, pride at stake for India
December
26, 2010
Tame Amla or go down 2-0: Smith
December
25, 2010
Curator promises fair pitch
December
24, 2010
India looking for answers
December
23, 2010
Sachin back in ODI & T20 team
December
22, 2010
India fall flat on the face
December
21, 2010
Master BlaSTER Sachin
December
20, 2010
Strong reply by Indian openers
December
19, 2010


The ball is in their court now!

Kashmiri girls play rugby during a tournament at Bakshi Stadium in Srinagar on Monday. The J&K Rugby Association organised the first State level Rugby 7s tournament, which saw 20 teams participating in senior, junior and sub-junior categories.
Kashmiri girls play rugby during a tournament at Bakshi Stadium in Srinagar on Monday. The J&K Rugby Association organised the first State level Rugby 7s tournament, which saw 20 teams participating in senior, junior and sub-junior categories. Tribune photo: Mohd Amin War

Yearender 1: Region’s domestic cricket
Losing out to the lure of money
Writing about domestic cricket in these times of IPL, big-money endorsements and the glamour of international games seems a little odd. Not that one doesn’t like domestic cricket. On the contrary, I adore it.

Trott ton puts England on top
Melbourne, December 27
Jonathan Trott posted his third century in five Ashes Tests to propel England closer to a series victory in the fourth Test against Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground today.

Ponting fined over umpire row
Melbourne, December 27
Australian skipper Ricky Ponting was fined 40 percent of his match fee by the ICC today after clashing heatedly with the match umpires over an unsuccessful video review at the fourth Ashes Test. With his team struggling on the field against England, Ponting argued with Aleem Dar for some time and then spoke with the other umpire Tony Hill after Kevin Pietersen was adjudged not to have edged the ball for a caught behind.

Man U play Birmingham, Blues face Arsenal
London, December 27
Top of the Premier League, still unbeaten and starting to play with their familiar swagger, Manchester United's season could be about to get even better with Wayne Rooney rediscovering his spark. The England striker did not score in the 2-0 victory over Sunderland on Sunday, but as United prepare for their trip to Birmingham City on Tuesday there are signs that Rooney is emerging from the worst slump of his career.

Pakistan cricket captain Shahid Afridi Afridi slams Eden Park
Auckland, December 27
Pakistan cricket captain Shahid Afridi has said that the redeveloped Eden Park cricket ground here is okay for Twenty20 internationals, but not for 50-over one-day internationals. The pitch at the Auckland ground has been rotated 45 degrees clockwise, so that it runs parallel to where the halfway line of the rugby field would be. The result is longish boundaries square of the wicket, but short ones down the ground, stuff.nz.co reports.


Pakistan cricket captain Shahid Afridi

Sathish powers Tamil Nadu into semis with brilliant ton
Rohtak, December 27
Former ICL player Rajagopal Sathish hit a brilliant century as Tamil Nadu beat Haryana to enter the semi-finals of the Ranji Trophy by virtue of better run-rate at the Bansi Lal Stadium in Lahli, today.

Ex cricketers have ruined Pak: Sohail
Islamabad, December 27
Former Pakistan batsman and Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Game Development Director, Aamer Sohail, has slammed former team-mate Rameez Raja for saying that domestic cricket in the country is based on quantity over quality. "I don't know how Rameez Raja has the audacity to come on television and state that Pakistan cricket doesn't have quality, but it has quantity," PakPassion.net quoted Sohail, as saying.

 


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Bowlers give india edge

Durban, December 27
Spinner Harbhajan Singh and pace spearhead Zaheer Khan plotted a dramatic South African collapse to give India a vital 74-run lead in a topsy-turvy second cricket Test which seemed headed for a nail-biting finish here today.

After being dismissed for 205 in the first innings, the Indians turned the game on its head by bundling out the hosts for a paltry 131 in 37.2 overs with Harbhajan Singh (4/10) and Zaheer (3/36) being the chief wreckers. The Indians found themselves in a mess in the second innings as they were struggling at 92 for four at close on an eventful second day which saw as many as 18 wickets fall.

Virender Sehwag (32), Rahul Dravid (2) and Sachin Tendulkar (6) are among the batsmen dismissed. V V S Laxman and Cheteshwar Pujara were batting on 23 and 10 respectively with the visitors having taken an overall lead of 166 runs with six second innings wickets intact in the must-win game.

It turned out to be a bizarre day at the Kingsmead as fortune fluctuated from one team to the other till the very end. With wickets tumbling like nine pins, India's first innings lead of 74 runs could play a big role. With three full days left in the match, a result is certain.

Earlier, Dale Steyn (6/50) and Morne Morkel (2/68) took two wickets each in the morning as India, after resuming at the overnight score of 183 for six, lost their remaining four wickets for the addition of only 22 runs to the total in 10 overs.

Overnight batsmen Dhoni and Harbhajan struggled to counter the pace duo of Steyn and Morkel, who made batting extremely difficult for the Indians by generating considerable bounce from the strip.

Captain Dhoni and Harbhajan survived only the first four overs before Steyn ended the spinner's uncomfortable stay in the middle.

Harbhajan, who survived a chance in the second over of the day when Jacques Kallis dropped him at first slip off Morkel's bowling, looked extremely uneasy during his short stay at the wicket. Desperate to go for big runs, Harbhajan slashed hard but a thick edge flied to AB De Villiers who grabbed it by diving to his right to send him back for 21. In the every next over, Morkel sent back new batsman Zaheer Khan for a duck when he gave a simple catch to wicketkeeper Mark Boucher. — PTI

Scoreboard

India 1st Innings

(Overnight 183/6)

Dhoni c Petersen b Steyn 35

Harbhajan c de Villiers b Steyn 21 Zaheer c Boucher b Morkel 0

Ishant not out 1

Sreesanth c Boucher b Morkel 0

Extras: (B-1, LB-2, WD-4, NB-) 9

Total (all out, 65.1 overs) 205

Bowling: Dale Steyn 19-6-50-6, Morne Morkel 19-1-3-68-2, Tsotsobe 11-3-40-2, Kallis 8-2-18-0, Paul Harris 8-1-26-0.

South Africa 1st innings

Petersen b Zaheer 24

Smith c Dhoni b Zaheer 9

Amla lbw b Harbhajan 33

Kallis run out 10

de Villiers c Dhoni b Sreesanth 0

Prince b Zaheer 13

Boucher not out 16

Steyn c Dravid b Harbhajan 1

Harris c Pujara b Harbhajan 0

Morkel c Harbhajan b Ishant 10

Tsotsobe c Vijay b Harbhajan 0

Extras: (LB-2, WD-1, NB-12) 15

Total (all out in 37.2 overs) 131

Bowling: Zaheer 13-2-36-3, Sreesanth 8-0-41-1, Ishant 9-2-42-1, Harbhajan 7.2-2-10-4.

India 2nd innings

Sehwag c Boucher b Tsotsobe 32

Vijay c Amla b Morkel 9

Dravid c Boucher b Tsotsobe 2

Tendulkar c De Villiers b Steyn 6

Laxman batting 23

Pujara batting 10

Extras: (B-2, LB-4, W-4) 10

Total: (For 4 wkts in 30.5 overs) 92

Bowling: Steyn 7-1-27-1, Morkel 7-1-17-1, Tsotsobe 6.5-2-16-2, Kallis 6-1-18-0, Harris 4-1-8-0.

Dravid first to take 200 Test catches

Indian middle-order batsman Rahul Dravid today achieved a rare milestone in his career when he took his 200th catch in Test matches to stay on top of the list in the five-day format of the game. An accomplished slip fielder, Dravid achieved the feat when he brilliantly caught Dale Steyn off Harbhajan Singh, diving in a flash to his left, during South Africa's first innings in the ongoing second Test against India at Sahara Kingsmead Stadium here.

Dravid now tops the list of most number of catches in Tests. He registered the feat in his 149th match. Former Australia opener Mark Waugh is at the second spot with 181 catches from 128 Tests, followed by Australia skipper Ricky Ponting (174), former New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming (171) and West Indian batting great Brian Lara (164). Nicknamed "The Wall" for his stubborn and gritty display with the bat that holds the foundation of his team's batting line up, Dravid is also considered to possess the safest pair of hands in world cricket. — PTI 

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Yearender 1: Region’s domestic cricket
Losing out to the lure of money
Sunil Narula
Tribune News Service

Yuvraj Singh’s presence in the Punjab Ranji squad for a few matches this season failed to lift the team’s performance.
Yuvraj Singh’s presence in the Punjab Ranji squad for a few matches this season failed to lift the team’s performance.

Writing about domestic cricket in these times of IPL, big-money endorsements and the glamour of international games seems a little odd. Not that one doesn’t like domestic cricket. On the contrary, I adore it.

That is where the talent flows from, that’s where you learn the ropes and that’s where you put in all the hard hours. At least that’s the way it used to happen. But things have surely changed (and we can’t say for the better) and that’s why I’m feeling a bit odd.

When writers covering the game have started feeling odd about domestic cricket, can we blame the players if they don’t want to play Ranji Trophy and want to be on the IPL bandwagon instead?

When Punjab’s VRV Singh (for instance) can get Rs 25 lakh for bowling four overs per game in the IPL, should we really be blaming him for looking askance at Ranji Trophy matches, where he will have to bowl spells of 15-20 overs a day and be on the field for four days at a stretch and get only about ten percent of what he can make from the IPL? (He will also get injured). Doesn’t make sense to me. Nor does it make sense to VRV.

The fans too don’t want to have anything to do with a Ranji game when Yuvraj and Uthappa are playing at the PCA Stadium in Mohali, but are willing (almost agog) to spend hours in serpentine queues to get into the same stadium, to watch the same players -- but in an IPL match.

So, we can’t blame the players for thinking of Ranji Trophy as, well, a bit down-market.

In these circumstances, the domestic game takes a beating. That’s what has happened with most other State teams and that is what has happened with Punjab and Haryana. They have gone downhill.

Punjab and Haryana have both won the Ranji Trophy once each (Haryana in 1991 and Punjab in 1993). For Haryana, it is almost inevitable that Kapil Dev was captain when they won the title and for Punjab again it is kind of inevitable that Bishan Bedi was the coach when they won the trophy. Both were pillars of the game and honed their skills in the Ranji Trophy. Without them, both teams have never been able to replicate that success.

This season Punjab were knocked out in the preliminary stage itself, while Haryana fared a little better, losing in the quarter-finals.

Haryana made some smart choices -- like the one of getting Tamil Nadu’s Hemang Badani to play for them. Amit Mishra, their captain, proves to be a handful at the domestic level and they have some hardworking players in the shape of Joginder Sharma. (Yes, the same Joginder who bowled the last over in the T20 World Cup final against Pakistan in 2007. He has almost been forgotten). Haryana have kept their selection policy simple. That is one of the reasons why they have done little better than Punjab this time.

For Punjab, it’s been a case of too many cooks. Or shall we say too many selectors. There is a 12-member selection committee that picks the Punjab team (the Indian team has a five-member selection panel), the team has two physios, one batting coach, one bowling coach and one overall coach above all these people! Preparatory camps that keep running throughout the year. The team still failed to go past the league stage.

Punjab coach (the overall coach, that is) Bhupinder Singh does not want to panic. And he shouldn’t, I suppose. These things happen. “We have had some injuries to players and that hasn’t helped. (What were the two physios doing?) Luv Ableesh was our main bowler but he could not play a single game this time. We don’t want to make excuses. The boys did not play to their potential. But we do not want to chop and change too much. They are a good bunch. We have to give them time and they will deliver,” says Bhupi pa (as he is fondly known in these parts). It seems a fair enough assessment by the coach.

But insiders tell a different story. Not all players are happy that veteran Pankaj Dharmani should be captain. Uday Kaul has been the best performer, young batsman Mandeep Singh is a great prospect and for some strange reason talented Bipul Sharma was given only one game this season and so on…there is even talk of former player Vikram Rathore getting associated with the Punjab set-up in some capacity next season.

In the end though – and this is one of the charms of sport -- the story about the Punjab and Haryana Ranji teams is simple. It doesn’t really matter what everybody else thinks and says. It doesn’t matter whether the selection committee is too big or small, or whether the team has three coaches and two physios. If either team wins the Ranji Trophy in the coming years, then they are back. If Punjab can clinch the title, they will achieve what only Bedi as coach could do. If Haryana do it, they will emulate something that only Kapil Dev as captain could ever do.

If they cannot win again, then their standards have declined. Then they are only concerned about the IPL and the sheen of domestic cricket has faded away.

There is a clarity to sports that is both refreshing and cold.

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Trott ton puts England on top

England's Jonathan Trott salutes the crowd after scoring a century during the second day of the fourth Ashes Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Monday
England's Jonathan Trott salutes the crowd after scoring a century during the second day of the fourth Ashes Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Monday. — Reuters

Melbourne, December 27
Jonathan Trott posted his third century in five Ashes Tests to propel England closer to a series victory in the fourth Test against Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground today.

The South African-born right-hander helped swell the lead to 346 runs after the tourists batted out the entire second day to take full advantage of Australia's record lowest total of 98 in 133 years of Ashes Tests at the famous ground. Trott, who hit 119 on his debut in last year's fifth Ashes Test at The Oval, has proved to be a thorn for Australia in this series with an unbeaten 135 in the first Brisbane Test and today's hundred despite taking a painful blow to the knee.

At the close, England were 444 for five with Trott defiant on 141 and Matt Prior on 75 in a ground record unbroken sixth-wicket stand of 158 to kill off the Australians' hopes of salvaging the Test. The pair eclipsed the previous English record wicket partnership at the MCG of 140 between "Patsy" Hendren and Maurice Leyland in 1928-29.

Andrew Strauss's team need to win only one of the remaining two Tests to retain the Ashes and capture their first series Down Under in 23 years. Trott, who has now amassed 418 runs for the series at 104.5, had some luck along the way and needed a referral to avoid a tight run-out decision on 46, just beating home Ricky Ponting's throw from the deep.

The quirky number three recharged the England innings after fast bowler Peter Siddle had revived Australian hopes alive with three wickets and two catches. The big-hearted paceman single-handedly had kept the Australians in the contest with the wickets of Alastair Cook, Strauss and Kevin Pietersen, before taking two great catches at fine leg off Mitchell Johnson's bowling. Siddle had Cook caught at first slip by Shane Watson for 82 to end an English opening stand of 159 and then had Strauss brilliantly caught one-handed by a leaping Michael Hussey in the gully for 69

Danger batsman Pietersen was trapped lbw to Siddle for 51 after raising his 21st Test half-century.

Pietersen was given out and conferred with batting partner Trott about whether to seek an umpire's review, but walked from the wicket after a few words. Pietersen was the subject of an Australian referral for caught behind off Ryan Harris on 49 after wicketkeeper Brad Haddin persuaded skipper Ponting to seek a review.

But "hot-spot" replays showed no edge and Pietersen stayed, much to the annoyance of Ponting, who argued heatedly with both umpires and had sharp words with Pietersen about the decision, believing he had made contact with the ball. Paul Collingwood's series woes continued when he fell for eight off a poor hook shot straight to Siddle in Johnson's first over of a new spell. Collingwood has scored just 70 in five innings in the series, putting pressure on his place for next week's final Sydney Test.

Siddle was on the spot again to snap up a low diving catch at fine leg to dismiss Ian Bell for one off Johnson. Prior also had some good fortune when he was called back by umpire Aleem Dar when he walked after being caught in the slips when on five. Dar consulted with the third umpire and it was proved that Johnson had over-stepped for a no-ball, giving the England wicketkeeper a reprieve. — AFP

Scoreboard

Australia 1st innings 98

England 1st innings

(overnight 157 for 0)

Strauss c Hussey

b Siddle 69

Cook c Watson b Siddle 82

Trott batting 141

Pietersen lbw b Siddle 51

Collingwood c Siddle

b Johnson 8

Bell c Siddle b Johnson 1

Prior batting 75

Extras: (b-10, lb-1,

w-3, nb-3) 17

Total: (5 wkts, 136 ovrs) 444

Bowling: Hilfenhaus 29-9-72-0, Harris 25-7-83-0, Johnson 25-2-103-2, Siddle 26-8-58-3, Watson 10-1-34-0, Smith 18-3-71-0, Clarke 3-0-12-0. 

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Ponting fined over umpire row

Melbourne, December 27
Australian skipper Ricky Ponting was fined 40 percent of his match fee by the ICC today after clashing heatedly with the match umpires over an unsuccessful video review at the fourth Ashes Test. With his team struggling on the field against England, Ponting argued with Aleem Dar for some time and then spoke with the other umpire Tony Hill after Kevin Pietersen was adjudged not to have edged the ball for a caught behind.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) said Ponting pleaded guilty to a charge of "arguing or entering into a prolonged discussion with the umpire about his decision." Ponting's fine equates to around USD 5,400.

The ICC said the matter had been determined by match referee Ranjan Madugalle without the need for a full hearing. "Ricky's actions as captain of his country were unacceptable," Madugalle said in a statement. "A captain is expected to set the example and not get involved in a prolonged discussion with the on-field umpires and question their decision.

"While pleading guilty to the charge, Ricky understood that the discussion went far too long. "He apologised for his action and stated that he has nothing but respect for the umpires and his on-field actions were not intended to show disrespect to Aleem Dar or Tony Hill." Cricket Australia chief James Sutherland was reluctant to pass judgment on Ponting's on-field behaviour, which drew a disapproving slow-handclap from sections of the crowd.

"At this stage, I wouldn't be saying whether it's good for the game, let's see what the actual substance was," he said, speaking before the ICC announced its decision. "The match referee is effectively the tribunal, if you like. If there is a report, he's the one who hears the report and makes a judgement on it." Pietersen was on 49 when wicketkeeper Brad Haddin persuaded Ponting to go for a review.

But "hot spot" replays showed no edge and Pietersen stayed, much to the annoyance of Ponting, who argued with both umpires and had sharp words with Pietersen about the decision, believing he had made contact with the ball. Australian fast bowler Peter Siddle weighed in as Ponting clashed with Dar, wagging a finger at the Pakistani match official.

It was the first of two reviews to go against Australia before tea on the second day of the fourth Test at the MCG, with Dar calling on the third umpire to rule that Matt Prior was not out. Pietersen had played and missed at a Ryan Harris delivery, with the ball going between bat and pad. Wicketkeeper Haddin appeared to be the only Australian player who appealed for the "catch" and persuaded Ponting to call for the review. — AFP 

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Man U play Birmingham, Blues face Arsenal

Wayne Rooney (R) in action against Sunderland on Sunday.
Wayne Rooney (R) in action against Sunderland on Sunday. — AP/PTI

London, December 27
Top of the Premier League, still unbeaten and starting to play with their familiar swagger, Manchester United's season could be about to get even better with Wayne Rooney rediscovering his spark. The England striker did not score in the 2-0 victory over Sunderland on Sunday, but as United prepare for their trip to Birmingham City on Tuesday there are signs that Rooney is emerging from the worst slump of his career.

He was instrumental in some fluent United football against Sunderland and almost scored with a sublime chip. Manager Alex Ferguson believes the goals will come soon. “Wayne had a couple of tries against Sunderland," Ferguson told MUTV. "He was very unlucky with the chip and there were a couple of shots saved by the goalkeeper. "He is getting there. The important thing is he is playing well. That is refreshing."

To have established themselves so firmly at the top of the league despite Rooney scoring just once in the league this season is a testament to United's strength in depth and their defensive solidity.

With his shock declaration that he wanted to leave the club now a fading memory and a few weeks in the Dubai sunshine in the tank, a revitalised Rooney will have the effect of a "new signing" in the January sales as United step on the gas.

Manchester City are emerging as a genuine title threat, having bounced back from their home defeat by Everton to beat Newcastle United 3-1 on Sunday. The problem for manager Roberto Mancini is that his side

have been far more impressive away from Eastlands where they have struggled to score goals.

With Carlos Tevez looking hungry, City will hope to improve that situation against Aston Villa on Tuesday and then against Blackpool on New Year's Day. “We have an incredible four games in 10 days and we will make changes against Villa because we must recover in the 38 hours and that is not an easy thing to do," Mancini said.

Third-placed Arsenal and fourth-placed Chelsea, who meet later on Monday at the Emirates, will be wary of City and with United looking stronger as each week goes by, they have precious little room for error. Chelsea are at home to a dangerous Bolton Wanderers side on Wednesday while Arsenal travel to Wigan Athletic.

Tottenham Hotspur complete the top five after a 2-1 victory at Aston Villa on Sunday and are on a nine-match unbeaten run in all competitions. — Reuters 

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Afridi slams Eden Park

Auckland, December 27
Pakistan cricket captain Shahid Afridi has said that the redeveloped Eden Park cricket ground here is okay for Twenty20 internationals, but not for 50-over one-day internationals. The pitch at the Auckland ground has been rotated 45 degrees clockwise, so that it runs parallel to where the halfway line of the rugby field would be. The result is longish boundaries square of the wicket, but short ones down the ground, stuff.nz.co reports.

"I must say it's small, but the people who are coming for Twenty20 cricket, they want to see some big shots, so for Twenty20 I think it's a perfect ground." Afridi didn't think the new layout made the arena of adequate standard for one-dayers.

New Zealand skipper Ross Taylor had a different view. Taylor believed bowlers would still get reward in ODIs if they bowled well and to a plan.

"Those boundaries square are some of the bigger ones in the world." He also said the previous alignment made Eden Park a ground that favoured left-handed batsmen, whereas now things had probably been evened up. — ANI

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Sathish powers Tamil Nadu into semis with brilliant ton

Rohtak, December 27
Former ICL player Rajagopal Sathish hit a brilliant century as Tamil Nadu beat Haryana to enter the semi-finals of the Ranji Trophy by virtue of better run-rate at the Bansi Lal Stadium in Lahli, today.

Tamil Nadu will now meet Rajasthan in the semi-final to be played in Jaipur from January 3-6. In another fog-hit day when 55 overs were possible, Tamil Nadu finished the proceedings at 285 for six in 79 overs courtesy Sathish's ton (106, 15x4, 131 balls) and his 91-run fifth wicket stand with skipper Dinesh Karthik who found some touch back with an useful half century (57, 95 balls, 8x4).

Amit Mishra and co, have every right to feel upset that Tamil Nadu were lucky enough to scrape through to the semis after having one of the most indifferent seasons in recent times. It was even more tragic that despite having upperhand during most of the sessions, Haryana would in any case have lost due to poor run quotient had a ball not been bowled today. It was pity that foggy weather became their undoing.

Even on the day, Haryana new-ball bowlers Joginder Sharma and Sanjay Budhawar did well to dismiss two in-form batsmen in Abhinav Mukund and K Shrivasudevdas respectively. While Mukund (34) was caught by Dhruv Singh off Budhawar, the wily Joginder rattled Shrivasudevdas' stumps as Tamil Nadu were reeling at 91 for four in the 34th over. But Sathish came in and started playing shots from the word go.

Rajasthan knock Mumbai out

Jaipur: The match was all but over by the end of second day itself but Rajasthan players had to wait till Monday evening when they officially knocked out defending champions Mumbai to enter the semi-finals of the Ranji Trophy. They will now meet Tamil Nadu in the semi-finals which will be played at the Sawai Man Singh Stadium from January 3-6.

Having already batted Mumbai out by the second day and further consolidating with a healthy 232 run lead by the penultimate day, it was just a case of going through the motions on the final day. Former India U-19 captain Ashok Menaria completed his maiden century.

Menaria scored 121- an innings that was studded with eight boundaries and five towering sixes. He was the last man out but only after Rajasthan has batted for another couple of hours and taken their total to a mammoth 589.

Baroda in semis

Baroda: Railways fought their heart out but Baroda qualified for the Ranji Trophy semifinals on the basis of their first innings lead as their quarter-final clash ended in a draw here today. The average first effort, both in batting and bowling, cost Railways dear as they were always doing the catch up job after that, though their performance improved as the match progressed. — PTI 

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Ex cricketers have ruined Pak: Sohail

Islamabad, December 27
Former Pakistan batsman and Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Game Development Director, Aamer Sohail, has slammed former team-mate Rameez Raja for saying that domestic cricket in the country is based on quantity over quality. "I don't know how Rameez Raja has the audacity to come on television and state that Pakistan cricket doesn't have quality, but it has quantity," PakPassion.net quoted Sohail, as saying.

"Ex cricketers like Rameez have ruined Pakistan cricket, because when the likes of Rameez were introducing the current format of domestic cricket, they should have thought about introducing teams like Quetta to the first class structure and why they gave Quetta first class status and why they didn't give other more deserving regional teams first class status, if they were keen on increasing the number of first class teams." — ANI

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 BRIEFLY

Sardara to play in Belgian league
New Delhi
: Experienced full-back Sardara Singh, the only Indian player to find a place in the recently-announced International Hockey Federation's All Star men's team, will make his debut in the Belgian Hockey League next year. Sardara had signed a contract with Brussels based Lauven club, who has also invited star drag-flicker Sandeep Singh. "I have signed a contract with Lauvens club and will play for the first time in Belgium Hockey League. I hope it will be a learning experience for me and will be handy before the Olympic qualifiers," Sardara said. — PTI

Lawson is Kochi coach: Source
Mumbai
: Contrary to news reports, former Australian fast bowler and ex-Pakistan team coach Geoff Lawson has already been named as the coach the new Kochi IPL franchise in the T20 League's 2011 edition. "We have already informed the Cricket Board (which owns IPL) that Lawson will be the coach. The details of his contract are being worked out," a Kochi franchise source told PTI today. The source was not willing to discuss anything further on franchise Kochi Cricket Pvt. Ltd or the upcoming IPL players' auction at Bangalore on January 8 and 9. — PTI

Saina requests video conference
New Delhi
: Ace India shuttler Saina Nehwal has requested the Badminton World Federation to conduct a video conference after the BWF insisted her to meet the media even if she misses the Super Series Finals in Chinese Taipei due to injury. The BWF has accepted Saina's plea for injury as the reason for skipping the season-ending championship, which is an exclusive event for the top-eight players in Super Series rankings but still asked her to meet the media in person before the start of the tournament. — PTI

Rafi out of Asian Cup squad
New Delhi
: Promising striker Mohammed Rafi got the axe as India today announced a 23-member squad, to be captained by Bhaichung Bhutia, for the Asian Cup football tournament starting on January 7 in Doha, Qatar. Apart from the omission of the Churchill Brothers striker, selection was on expected lines as there was not much option left after injury hit several key players during the nearly two-month long camp in Dubai since early November. Rafi, who was named the best player of 2009-10 I-League, was laid low for a while due to injury in October, before the Indian players left for Dubai, but later played in the international friendly matches last month. — PTI

Indian tennis player fined
CHANDIGARH
: Indian Tennis Player Gursewak Amritraj Singh has been fined $250 by I.T.F. for not participating in a tournament and for not providing Visa in time. Gursewak said, "I have suffered a great deal because Indian tennis authorities showed no interest in this regard and asked me to contact USTA or I.T.F. It is the prime duty of Indian Tennis authorities to interfere in such situation and find out the solution on behalf of the player. In no other sport is a player asked to pay out of his own pocket?" — TNS

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