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CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
S P O R T S

India ready for challenge
Mohali, March 8
England were supposed to be easy meat for Indians in the first Test at Nagpur. After all, losing some of the key players, including the captain, the vice-captain and a key swing bowler, when the series had yet to start, was not an ideal way to go in the first Test against a team riding high on morale.

England cricket team during a practice session at the PCA Stadium in Mohali on Wednesday In Video
(28k, 56k)




England cricket team during a practice session at the PCA Stadium in Mohali on Wednesday.
— Tribune photo by Vinay Malik

Dravid defends bowlers
Mohali, March 8
Rahul Dravid defended Indian bowlers after their
non-too-impressive performance in the last couple of games. “Wickets here are a bit flat.




EARLIER STORIES

 

500th wicket beckons Kumble
Chandigarh, March 8
One player who must be keenly looking at the strip at the PCA Stadium at Mohali on the eve of the second Test between India and England beginning tomorrow to see how much help he can get from it is Indian leg spinner Anil Kumble, who is just four wickets short of the magical figure of 500 Test wickets.

Kaif most likely to sit out
Mohali, March 8
Mohammad Kaif, India’s saviour at Nagpur, is set to make way for a “proven performer” in the second cricket Test against England beginning here tomorrow. Captain Rahul Dravid today said it was always tough to tell a player that he would be sitting out, even more so when he had performed well.

Hoggard upbeat after Nagpur success
Chandigarh, March 8
Emphasising on accurate line and length while bowling, England’s Matthew James Hoggard said he did not feel like changing his bowling style for left-hander Yuvraj Singh. “I do not think I will have to adjust the line and length for Yuvraj Singh.

Virender Sehwag walks towards the nets at the PCA Stadium in Mohali on Wednesday Virender Sehwag walks towards the nets at the PCA Stadium in Mohali on Wednesday.
— A Tribune photograph

Dalmiya gets reprieve
Kolkata, March 8
Former BCCI President Jagmohan Dalmiya today got a reprieve when a city court stayed the show-cause notice issued to him by the BCCI.

Murali wrecks Bangladesh
Bogra (Bangladesh), March 8
Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan was two scalps away from the magic tally of 600 Test wickets after destroying Bangladesh in the second cricket Test  here today.

Dempo lose 1-3 in AFC Cup opener
New Delhi, March 8
Two late goals shattered Dempo Sports Club’s hopes of snatching a precious away point in their opening AFC Cup match against Al Nasr of Oman here.

Fransa hold Salgaocar
Panaji, March 8
Former champions Salgaocar Sports Club squandered winning opportunities and had to be content with 1-1 draw against Fransa Pax in the ONGC Cup 10th National Football league championship match being played at Duler ground today.

Polo extravaganza begins
Patiala, March 8
The game of the Maharajas made a comeback in this erstwhile princely town in all its royal splendour when the 55th Federation International Polo Ambassadors’ cup kicked of at the Patiala Polo and Riding Club here today amidst a high voltage opening ceremony.
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India ready for challenge
Gopal Sharma
Tribune News Service

Mohali, March 8
England were supposed to be easy meat for Indians in the first Test at Nagpur. After all, losing some of the key players, including the captain, the vice-captain and a key swing bowler, when the series had yet to start, was not an ideal way to go in the first Test against a team riding high on morale.

But what unfolded at Nagpur was virtually a revelation. The outcome of the contest must be weighing on the minds of Rahul Dravid and coach Greg Chappell on the eve of the second Test, which gets underway at the PCA Stadium here tomorrow.

Digging deep into their reserves and displaying professionalism, England served an emphatic warning to the hosts that even their depleted side was good enough to give India a run for their money.

England coach Duncan Fletcher was the first to put the things in the right perspective after his team’s show in Nagpur. “We have worked on our shortcomings noticed during the Pakistan tour. Now the players are more focussed on cricket and their morale is high after their performance in Nagpur,” Fletcher said immediately after the team’s arrival in Mohali.

An emboldened stand-in skipper Andrew Flintoff now says that his side is capable of winning the Mohali Test. And if Flintoff, probably the best all-rounder in the game at the moment, makes such an observation, it cannot be dismissed as wishful thinking. The flamboyant Flintoff is obviously basing his observation on the unexpectedly superlative display put up by Alastair Cook, Paul Collingwood, Matthew Hoggard, Kevin Petersen and Monty Panesar.

Originally selected to play for England A but summoned to India at a short notice, following the sudden withdrawal of Marcus Trescothick, Cook made a fairytale debut notching up a century and a half-century in the Nagpur Test. In fact, the reassuring manner in which he tackled Indian spin duo of Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble was a revelation.

Paul Collingwood proved that he is not just a one-day player, milking the Indian attack to notch up his maiden Test century. Hardworking Matthew Hoggard also showed what can be achieved even on a placid subcontinent track. He established an early stranglehold on the Indian batsmen and emerged easily as the best bowler of the match.

The Indian batsmen would be required to be more circumspect and bat cautiously if they have to score runs against the disciplined English bowling attack.

For India, the first Test highlighted certain areas which must be a cause of worry for skipper Rahul Dravid. The foremost among these would be the continued lacklustre performance of off-spinner Harbhajan Singh. Though Dravid defended Harbhajan after the first Test, the fact remains that Harbhajan, after his forgettable tour of Pakistan, struggled at Nagpur. In fact, both the Indian spinners looked off-colour on the track where debutant spinner Monty Panesar scalped the key wickets of Sachin Tendulkar and a well-entrenched Mohammad Kaif.

The cavalier manner in which Virender Sehwag got out in the second innings attracted some flak, while V. V. S. Laxman did not have a fruitful outing. They are proven performers and their success would be crucial to India’s prospects in the match.

The Mohali wicket, even if it has slowed down considerably over the years, will still provide bounce and seam movement, at least initially. Andrew Flintoff made the same observation while talking to mediapersons yesterday. Hence, Indians would do well to bolster their pace bowling attack to exploit their rivals’ relative inexperience in batting.

Munaf Patel, who bowled with a lot of aggression in the nets here and grabbed 10 wickets in the warm-up game against England, deserves a Test cap tomorrow. The strapping Gujarat youngster has been in good form this season and would only be keen to have a go at the rival batsmen on a helpful track.

Teams (from): India: Rahul Dravid (captain), Virender Sehwag, Wasim Jaffer, Sachin Tendulkar, V. V. S. Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammad Kaif, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Irfan Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Anil Kumble, Rudra Pratap Singh, S. Sreesanth, Munaf Patel and Piyush Chawla.

England: Andrew Flintoff (captain), Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Geraint Jones, Ian Blackwell, Liam Plunkett, Monty Panesar, Matthew Hoggard, Steve Harmison, Shaun Udal, Owais Shah, Matt Prior and James Anderson.

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Dravid defends bowlers
Gopal Sharma
Tribune News Service

Mohali, March 8
Rahul Dravid defended Indian bowlers after their non-too-impressive performance in the last couple of games. “Wickets here are a bit flat. This has also been one of the factors. Some of them are very young and inexperienced and have not played a lot of cricket at this level. But they are learning and getting better. We will chalk out a strategy how to take 20 wickets in the match and try to give our best,” Dravid replied.

Indian bowlers have been found to be struggling during the last couple of matches. Debutant Alastair Cook notched up a decent unbeaten century in the second innings and a useful half century in the first, while Paul Collingwood also frustrated the India bowlers and hit a ton.

Dravid, just one short of 100 Tests, refused to blame the wickets. “We have to play on the wickets provided. We have got to learn fast and adapt to the conditions,” he said.

Regarding the fitness of seamer S. Sreesanth, the skipper said that the Kerala youngster was a bit down. The right-arm seamer had a bout of vomiting late last night. He took part in the training session here today. The Kerala paceman, who made an impressive debut at Nagpur last week, looked a bit drained when he bowled in the nets at the PCA stadium.

Dravid refused to divulge the team composition saying that the playing eleven will be decided after assessing the conditions in the morning, hinting that five regular bowlers could play. “We have a lot of options with young players coming into the squad. They are doing well. We have the option of playing three spinners or three seamers and we will like to give them a chance.”

About England doing well despite playing an inexperienced and young side, the Karnataka batsman said England have always been a good side. They have been playing well as a unit for quite some time. He made special mention of left-arm spinner Monty Panesar and opener Alastair Cook, saying both the youngsters showed good character and adapted well to the conditions. “For Monty to be able to bowl round the wicket and restrict Indian batsman was creditable,” he said.

“Teams look forward to touring India as winning here is considered a big challenge. But nowadays there is a lot of exposure of playing here with tours involving Under-19 and “A” teams being organised more often. England have planned for the tour very meticulously, coming here in advance and playing a couple of practice games.”

Dravid denied there was any complacency during the Nagpur Test.

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500th wicket beckons Kumble
Abhijit Chatterjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 8
One player who must be keenly looking at the strip at the PCA Stadium at Mohali on the eve of the second Test between India and England beginning tomorrow to see how much help he can get from it is Indian leg spinner Anil Kumble, who is just four wickets short of the magical figure of 500 Test wickets.

So far only four bowlers have crossed the 500-wicket mark and if Kumble is able to get past the mark at Mohali it will indeed be a magical moment for Indian cricket.

Kumble has so far claimed 496 wickets at an average of 29.01 from 104 matches. He has claimed five wickets in an innings on 31 occasions and has had 10-wicket match hauls eight times. He also has a perfect 10 against his name, a feat he achieved against Pakistan at the Ferozeshah Kotla in Delhi in February, 1999. Only one other bowler, England’s Jim Laker, has achieved this feat in the history of cricket.

To add to this is his 329 wickets in 264 one-day internationals, though of late he is not finding a regular place in the one-day squad, probably because of his age. In fact, quite a few pundits have said that Anil Kumble still deserves a place in the one-day team although the national selectors seem to have other ideas.

Leading the pack of bowlers who have claimed 500 or more wickets in Test cricket is Australian Shane Warne with 659 wickets under his belt. At second place is the Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan with 598 wickets, after grabbing five for 79 in the second Test between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, currently on at Bogra, in Bangladesh. Also in the august company is another Australian Glenn McGrath with 542 wickets and the now retired former West Indies captain and fast bowler Courtney Walsh with 519 wickets.

Anil Kumble, who made his international debut against England way back in 1990 at Manchester, has so far played six Test matches at the Mohali stadium and has claimed 27 wickets at an average of 34.59. While it must be remembered that traditionally the Mohali strip has helped the fast and seam bowlers, Kumble returned innings figures of six for 81 against the same team in the 2001-02 season.

Thursday’s match will be Kumble’s 105th Test and at 35 his jest for the game has not diminished a bit. At Nagpur, Kumble did not have a very profitable outing with the ball, claiming just two wickets for 189 runs (one for 88 in the first innings and one for 101 in the second) but to compensate for that he scored a gritty 58 at a time when the chips were down for the home team.

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Kaif most likely to sit out

Mohali, March 8
Mohammad Kaif, India’s saviour at Nagpur, is set to make way for a “proven performer” in the second cricket Test against England beginning here tomorrow. Captain Rahul Dravid today said it was always tough to tell a player that he would be sitting out, even more so when he had performed well.

“It is not easy. But we try to be honest. We tell him that they are in the scheme of things but not for this particular match. Sometimes you have to give way to an experienced player who is a proven performer,” Dravid said on the eve of the match.

Dravid’s comments assume significance in view of the fact that there is a toss-up between Kaif and the veteran V.V.S. Laxman for a place in the middle-order. — PTI

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Hoggard upbeat after Nagpur success
G. S. Paul
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 8
Emphasising on accurate line and length while bowling, England’s Matthew James Hoggard said he did not feel like changing his bowling style for left-hander Yuvraj Singh. “I do not think I will have to adjust the line and length for Yuvraj Singh. I will probably bowl as I did in the first Test at Nagpur,” he said.

Matthew’s bowling on a flat, dry and slow paced pitch at Nagpur cannot be forgotten. He rattled the Indian top order and claimed six wickets in the first innings. Speaking about the Mohali pitch, the Yorkshire swing bowler expects it to be tough for the bowlers.

Preparing himself for the high-profile India-England second Test, Hoggard is confident about his team’s potential to win this Test. He said he was enjoying this tour and also remembers his last tour during 2001-02.

Hoggard has claimed 191 wickets in 49 Tests. Under the tutelage of Duncan Fletcher and Nasser Hussain, he grew to be a senior bowler of the England quartet that swept all before them in 2004.

Voted as the ‘Bowler of the Season’ by readers of Wisden cricket monthly, Hoggard stole the limelight with a brilliant hat-trick at Barbados in April, 2004, and then an exceptional 12-wicket haul at Johannesburg, where he single-handedly bowled England to a series-clinching 2-1 lead.

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Dalmiya gets reprieve

Kolkata, March 8
Former BCCI President Jagmohan Dalmiya today got a reprieve when a city court stayed the show-cause notice issued to him by the BCCI.

Prabir Kumar Sarkar, sixth judge of the city civil and sessions court, restrained the BCCI from giving effect to their notice dated February 27 till disposal of the injunction application made by Dalmiya challenging the notice. — PTI

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Murali wrecks Bangladesh

Bogra (Bangladesh), March 8
Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan was two scalps away from the magic tally of 600 Test wickets after destroying Bangladesh in the second cricket Test here today.

The off-spinner grabbed 5-79, his 50th five-wicket haul, as the hosts were shot out for 234 after electing to bat at the Shaheed Chandu stadium, Test cricket’s newest venue in northern Bangladesh.

Sri Lanka groped to 25-2 in reply by stumps, losing opener Michael Vandort and nightwatchman Malinga Bandara cheaply to the new ball.

Upul Thilanga (12) and Thilan Samaraweera (seven) were the two unbeaten batsmen at the crease.

Seamers Lasith Malinga and Dilhara Fernando hastened Bangladesh’s downfall with two wickets apiece, but Sri Lanka’s man of the moment was the prolific Muralitharan.

The star bowler, who turns 34 next month, spun a web around the Bangladesh batsmen on a dual-paced wicket that kept low at times.

Muralitharan moved to 598 wickets, inching towards Australian leg-spinner Shane Warne’s record tally of 659.

Bangladesh captain Habibul Bashar top-scored with 69 but found no support at the other end. Opener Javed Omar made 35 while Mohammad Rafique boosted the total with a defiant 32 after his team was reduced to 186-6.

Openers Omar and Nafees Iqbal put on 52 runs for the first wicket before Muralitharan stepped in to remove both batsmen.

Bangladesh have lost 36 of their 41 Tests so far with four draws and a lone victory against Zimbabwe.

Scoreboard

Bangladesh (1st innings)

Omar lbw Muralitharan 35

Iqbal lbw Muralitharan 26

Bashar c Tharanga b Muralitharan 69

Nafees c Sangakkara b Malinga 9

Ashraful b Bandara 24

Rahim lbw Muralitharan 2

Mashud c Sangakkara b Malinga 12

Rafique c Muralitharan b Fernando 32

Hossain c Muralitharan b Fernando 6

Haque not out 3

Rasel c Bandara b Muralitharan 0

Extras (b-3, lb-5, nb-8) 16

Total (all out, 76.5 overs) 234

Fall of wickets: 1-52, 2-85, 3-106, 4-157, 5-172, 6-186, 7-208, 8-231, 9-233.

Bowling: Malinga 20-1-73-2, Maharoof 4-0-22-0, Fernando 9-4-24-2, Muralitharan 30.5-8-79-5, Bandara 13-1-28-1.

Sri Lanka (1st innings)

Vandort lbw Rasel 0

Tharanga batting 12

Bandara c Iqbal b Shahadat 2

Samaraweera batting 7

Extras (b-4) 4

Total (2 wkts, 11 overs) 25

Fall of wickets: 1-4, 2-13.

Bowling: Rasel 5-4-2-1, Shahadat 5-1-19-1, Rafique 1-1-0-0. — AFP

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Dempo lose 1-3 in AFC Cup opener

New Delhi, March 8
Two late goals shattered Dempo Sports Club’s hopes of snatching a precious away point in their opening AFC Cup match against Al Nasr of Oman here.

The teams were locked 1-1 till 80 minutes but the Goan team’s defence gave way thereafter allowing the hosts to register a decisive 3-1 result at the Salalah Sports Complex yesterday.

The match which remained goalless at half-time came to life in the 57th minute when Al Nasr’s Mohammed Matoona connected with a Mubarak Mohamed cross from the right to put his side ahead. Both the players had been introduced as substitutes to add more teeth to the hosts’ attacks.

Dempo restored parity against the run of play when they received a penalty after a rash foul by Al Nasr custodian Abdul Fael. Nigerian Ranty Martins scored from the spot to level the score in the 73rd minute.

This raised hopes in the NFL champions’ camp of an away point but their inability to deal effectively with opponents’ crosses proved their undoing.

After neat interplay with Mubarak, Matoona rose to head a perfectly weighted cross for his second goal of the match which restored the hosts’ lead in the 79th minute.

Another cross from Mubarak created confusion in the Dempo defence with John Dias turning the ball into his own net with four minutes to go. — PTI

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Fransa hold Salgaocar

Panaji, March 8
Former champions Salgaocar Sports Club squandered winning opportunities and had to be content with 1-1 draw against Fransa Pax in the ONGC Cup 10th National Football league championship match being played at Duler ground today.

Salgaocar could have won outright had they utilised the gilt-edged opportunities before them in the first half.

Both the goals came in the second half through Saikchom Shanta Singh in the 61st minute for Fransa, while Salgaocar’s Samson Singh equalised in the 68th minute to make it. 1-1.

With this drawn match, Salgaocar increased their points tally to six from seven outings, while Fransa remained at the bottom with three points from six outings.

Salgoacar’s Agnelo Colaco was today adjudged the man of the match. — UNI

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Polo extravaganza begins
Ravi Dhaliwal

Horsemen carry flags of different countries during the opening ceremony of the Ambassadors’ Cup polo tournament which began in Patiala on Wednesday
Horsemen carry flags of different countries during the opening ceremony of the Ambassadors’ Cup polo tournament which began in Patiala on Wednesday.
— Photo by Rajesh Sachar

Patiala, March 8
The game of the Maharajas made a comeback in this erstwhile princely town in all its royal splendour when the 55th Federation International Polo Ambassadors’ cup kicked of at the Patiala Polo and Riding Club (PPRC) here today amidst a high voltage opening ceremony.

Today’s programme of the five-day polo extravaganza was reserved for the 90-minute opening ceremony which went off with clockwork precision, much to the relief of the organisers, including officials of the North Zone Cultural Centre, who were responsible for planning and executing the high profile event witnessed by the high and mighty of the region.

The ceremonial part of the ceremony commenced when the Chief of the Army Staff, Gen J.J Singh, was brought to the venue in the horse driven “Patiala coach” in the presence of the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, and other dignitaries which included his wife and Patiala MP Mrs Preneet Kaur, President of the International Polo Federation (IPF) Mr Guerrand Patrick Hermes, the IPF’s outgoing President, Mr Glenn Holden, and the federation’s founder president, Mr Marcus Uranga.

Prominent among others who remained riveted to their seats were Maharaja Gaj Singh of Jodhpur, the Vice-President of the Indian Polo Association (IPA), Lt Gen Daljit Singh, Punjab Ministers, bureaucrats and their spouses, all of who had converged at the venue in a big way.

Once the Chairperson of the PPRC, Mrs Preneet Kaur, delivered her speech, Gen J.J Singh formally declared the event open. This was followed by breathtaking horse trick riding show presented by the young riders of Punjab Public School (PPS), Nabha, and horsemen of the 61st Cavalry.

The highlight of the trick riding display, apart from the non stop witty commentary delivered by Col Ruby Brar (retd), was the tactical acumen and the control displayed over the horses by Dafadar Ajay Sawant of 61st Cavalry and Master Dilbagh Singh of PPS who, riding atop Toofan, had the audience in a bind with his pyrotechnics.

This was followed by the some slick horsemanship displayed by the Nihangs who were referred by Col Ruby Brar as the “stormkeepers of the last Sikh guru Guru Gobind Singh.” What took the breath away of the audience was Nihang Sube Singh who delicately balanced himself simultaneously on two horses and rode like a storm in front of the dignitaries, raising a loud cheer from them.

The cultural component of the programme, was scripted by famous Punjabi poet Surjit Pattar and featured items relating to Punjabi culture. More than 350 artistes took part in the ceremony and they were directed by NSD alumni Bansi Kaul.

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 BRIEFLY

Sania partners Sugiyama
NEW DELHI:
Pairing with Japanese pro Ai Sugiyama, Sania Mirza takes on the duo of Stephanie Forentz of France and Antonella Serra Zanetti of Italy in the doubles first round match in the $ 2.1 million Pacific Life Open tournament starting at Indian Wells on Thursday. — UNI

Hockey meet
Ludhiana:
Top outfits of the region will be seen in action during the All-India Guru Gobind Singh Gold Cup Hockey Tournament to be held at the Prithipal Singh Stadium at Punjab Agricultural University here from March 12 to 16. Teams such as Punjab Police, Namdhari XI, ONGC, Dehra Dun, Indian Airlines, BSF and Signal Corps, besides others will be taking part in this meet. — OSR

Adampur wins
Jalandhar:
The Adampur Air Force Station continued its winning streak in the Western Air Command Inter-Area Badminton Championship being held at Adampur Air Force Station to reach the semifinals. Adampur beat Ambala area in singles 15-3, 15-7 and in doubles 5-15, 15-10 and 15-10. In their quarterfinals tie Halwara Area beat Srinagar Area 15-5 in the singles and 5-15, 15-10 and 15-10 in doubles. Bathinda area beat Suratgarh in singles 15-0,15-3 and in doubles 15-1 and 15-2. Kasauli area beat Sirsa area in singles 14-7 and 14-7 and in doubles 15-5 and 15-11. — TNS
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