Ganguly keeps SA at bay
India-South Africa series
‘Even 150 will be hard to get’
‘Bowlers need to restrict SA’
Jeev tied 21st after round 2
India XI rout World XI
Akhtar’s IPL dream fading
A1 Grand Prix
Sharapova through; Mauresmo out
Latif launches new cricket body
No Pak selector to go abroad with team
Asif blasts ICC for recalling Hair
Ganguly keeps SA at bay
Kanpur, April 12
The hosts recovered from a jittery 123 for four, in response to South Africa's first innings total of 265, to finish the second day on 288 for nine, managing a slender lead of 23 runs with one wicket in hand.
The elegant Ganguly held the innings together with a strokeful 87 off 119 balls while VVS Laxman (50), Yuvraj Singh (32) and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (32) chipped in with useful contributions in what turned out to be an engrossing battle between bat and ball.
The Indians have achieved the first task of overhauling South Africa's total but the match was still evenly poised as the hosts, who need to win the match to level the series 1-1, could not get a substantial lead to take firm control.
With three days left, the last wicket pair of S Sreesanth and Ishant Sharma need to try and increase the lead on the under-prepared Green Park track.
Dale Steyn drew first blood for the visitors by getting rid of the dangerous Sehwag who could hang around for just 21 minutes at the crease. Sehwag was trapped leg before by a delivery which was angled into the right-hander and the Indian opener hardly moved his feet to be trapped plumb in front.
The Indians suffered another jolt immediately after the first drinks break when Morne Morkel struck in his first over by accounting for Jaffer.
The stylish VVS Laxman immediately made his intentions clear by opening his account with a glorious straight drive off Morkel.
He thrashed him for three boundaries, one of them going through the slips cordon to the third man boundary.
While Laxman kept the scoreboard moving with a flurry of boundaries, Dravid was more circumspect at the other end as the uneven bounce of the track made batting difficult.
Dravid was dismissed by a ball that reared up sharply, hitting him on the wrist before ballooning up to AB de Villiers at gully.
Laxman was bowled by an incoming delivery by Morkel whose second spell figures read 4-0-12-2. Laxman's knock came off 103 balls and contained seven boundaries.
Laxman was given a reprieve when he was on 43 with Jacques Kallis dropping a difficult catch at first slip, spinner Paul Harris being the unlucky bowler. But that lapse did not prove to be costly as the batsman could add only seven more runs.
Ganguly came out in a positive frame of mind and went for his strokes straightaway, realising that it was not a track where one could survive for long by only defending.
The former captain picked up Harris for special treatment hammering him for two boundaries and did not hesitate to use his feet against the slow bowler.
Yuvraj Singh, at the other end, was equally aggressive. With both batsmen going for their strokes, the runs came quite briskly which led to some heated verbal exchanges between Yuvraj and Steyn. The two umpires stepped in quickly to diffuse the situation by talking to the players and South African captain Graeme Smith.
After tea, Yuvraj's belligerence was brought to an end by Harris who induced the left-hander to go for a big shot only to be caught at the mid-wicket fence by de Villiers.
Dhoni also played some delectable shots during his knock of 32 before a rush of blood cost him his wicket. He stepped out to Harris but missed the line completely to be stumped by Boucher. — PTI
India-South Africa series
As I expected, the curator has produced a result pitch in Kanpur. With two innings almost over in two day's time, there is no question that this game will see a result, either which way.
At stumps on day two, it's in a very delicate position. India have got a tiny lead, but they have just one wicket in hand. If South Africa can get that last wicket quickly on Sunday morning, which I think they will be able to do with the likes of Sreesanth and Ishant Sharma at the crease, they will definitely have a chance to win the game.
Getting Sourav Ganguly's wicket towards the end today was very important for us. If he was still there at close of play, India could have hoped to get a 50-60 run lead. So, the visitors' focus tomorrow would be to get that wicket as early as possible and then knock off whatever small deficit they have conceded.
Once they do that, and get ahead by over 200 runs, Proteas will definitely have a good chance of winning this game. India might feel they were a bit unlucky today and missed out on an opportunity of getting a bigger lead.
This is a kind of pitch where as a batsman you are never in. Longer you stay on it, better you will feel. But a batsman, at the back of his mind, will always know that one good delivery, that pitches in a right area, or keep low, or bounce awkwardly, can send you back to the pavilion.
So it's very important that once a player gets in, he should try to make most out of it. Because not many are going to get in on this pitch. Batters need to wait for their chances, and should score on every possible opportunity.
Partnerships is a crucial part of Test cricket, and it is even more important on this kind of pitch, where run-scoring is not all that easy.
I believe we are going to see a lots of in-and-out field settings in the rest of this match. There will be fielders around the bat to get wickets, and there will also be men in the outfield to ensure that not many boundaries are conceded. It's such a tight game, where no team can totally dominate the other team.
In such a scenario, good fielding, clever field settings, tight bowling become very crucial factors of the game. A cameo innings of 30-40 runs can eventually make the difference between winning and losing.
Since it's not all that conducive for batting, I think the visitors will feel they are in with a chance, no matter what target they will set for India. Pitch is not going to get any better, and batting in the fourth innings is going to be quite difficult.
Spinners are tough to handle here, but so are pacers. So even though we have just one spinner in the team, Steyn, Ntini and Morkel are going to be equally dangerous.
It will be interesting to see what target the Proteas will set for India, and I am sure we will know it tomorrow itself. I can't see this match going the full distance. — PMG
Kanpur, April 12
Arthur said the match was heading for an exciting finish and it was important for his wards to stitch a couple of big partnerships to put pressure on India.
"The game is hugely tight at this stage, and it will go down to the wire. We have to first get the last wicket quickly and bat well to put pressure on India", he said after the second day's play which saw the hosts taking a slender 23-run lead by finishing on 288 for nine.
The South African coach said the key to the Indian innings was that they managed four consecutive fifty-plus partnerships.
"On a track like this, you tend to lose a few wickets when a partnership is broken. But they got four 50-plus partnerships in a row which helped them to take a lead," he pointed out.
Arthur, who was critical of the track even before a ball was bowled, said it had probably behaved a little better than expected.
"It has probably behaved better than we expected. It looks like a fifth day Test track on the second day."
Asked whether the South Africans are regretting going into the match with just one specialist spinner in Paul Harris, he said, "It was part of our decision making. We are quite comfortable with this bowling attack. The seamers can do a lot of damage on this kind of a track."
On the spinner, he said, "On another day, Harris could have finished with five wickets. But he was unlucky today."
On what would be a good target to set for the Indians, Arthur said, "A target of 150 or 160 will be pretty challenging in the fourth innings on this surface".
"India have a lead of 20 or so but it is not significant. But a lead of 40 or 50 will be quite a bit".
Arthur again said that they were expecting such a track to be prepared by the Indians since the hosts were under pressure to level the series.
"We fully expected India to go for such a track, but in a funny sort of way, it will produce a result which will be very exciting.
"I think the Ahmedabad track was ideal for Test cricket. It had something in it for the seamers, spinners and also for the batsmen. If the game had gone on for more than three days, the spinners would have got some assistance."
Arthur brushed aside the altercation between Yuvraj Singh and Dale Steyn and said it was not a serious issue at all.
"It was nothing. We have left it at that and it was not even discussed in the dressing room," he said. — PTI
Kanpur, April 12
Ganguly said it was imperative for the Indian bowlers to restrict the South African total in the second innings which would give the batsmen a realistic chance of levelling the three-match series, which the visitors lead 1-0.
"We are 23 runs ahead at the moment. We have to increase the lead a little bit more. If we bowl well in the third innings, we have a chance (of winning)," Ganguly said after the second day's play which saw the home team finishing on 288 for nine in response to South Africa's first innings total of 265.
The Indians were at a jittery 123 for four at one stage but a brilliant counter-attack by Ganguly, who missed what could have been his 16th Test ton, helped the team overhaul South Africa's total.
The former captain was understandably disappointed to miss out on a century but said it was one of his top Test knocks, considering the conditions of the track.
"I am very disappointed to miss a century, but it is one of the best knocks I have played. It gave me a lot of satisfaction because it was achieved under such difficult conditions", he said.
Asked whether India failed to take control of the game by not taking a substantial first innings lead, Ganguly said "On this surface you never know what can happen. The positive thing is that our batsmen played (Paul) Harris well."
On how he had planned to play on such a track, Ganguly said it was important not to worry too much about the uneven bounce on the track and play each ball on merit.
"It is no doubt a difficult pitch, but it is better not to worry about it. The South African seamers are quick and some balls explode. If you are lucky, you will survive. It is going through the top, so scoring runs will become difficult," he explained.
"I decided to be positive with my game. That was the only way to take the pressure off by attacking the bowlers.", he said.
Asked what was the target they would be comfortable with in the fourth innings, he said "the least, the better".
"We just have to hope that (S) Sreesanth and Ishant (Sharma) can do a bit of magic with the bat tomorrow. We should try for a lead of 50 or so and knock down a few wickets by the time they reach that score. That will be good." — PTI
New Delhi, April 12
After Rohan Bopanna and Prakash Amritraj won the opening singles yesterday, Leander and Bhupathi were expected to shut out the hopes of the Japanese, and the Indian Grand Slam duo did precisely that, though only after going through a few palpable moments.
The Japanese pair were in no mood to throw in the towel, and had it not been for Suzuki's weak returns, the contest would have stretched to the wire. The young Iwabuchi displayed a lot of pluck and energy to be game for a tough battle, as he served and returned brilliantly to fox the Indian pair.
With every point won, and every break achieved, Leander and Bhupathi exulted which showed how tight the going was.
India now move into the World Group play-off after a gap of five years. India's bid to get back into the elite World Group was dashed by the United States in 2003, and ever since India have been battling at the Asia Oceania level.
The World Group play-off groupings will be finalised only in September, and in between, the Indians will get busy with their Beijing Olympic Games campaign.
The significance of the victories notched up by Bopanna and Prakash could be understood in hindsight, as but for their success, Leander and Bhupathi would not have been in a confident frame of mind to tackle the doughty Japanese duo, particularly the athletic Iwabuchi, who packed a punch too many.
The visitors attacked the net with alacrity and covered the backcourt well too, but the Indian pair were experienced enough to make the most of their chances, despite encountering a few hiccups - like the loss of the second set, and a few close calls.
Mahesh set the tempo, firing two aces in the first game, and Leander tried to match as well, coming up with a few thundering serves to rattle the Japanese. But Iwabuchi served and moved with such confidence that India's hope of winning the tie rested on a narrow thread, by exploiting the chinks in Suzuki's armour.
Ironically, he was the most experienced grass court player in the Japanese team. With no quarters asked and none given, neither team could achieve a break in the first set, which was decided in the tie-breaker with Bhupathi firing on all cylinders.
Surprisingly, Bhupathi found his form dip when he committed four double faults in the fourth game of the second set, and saved two break points to hold serve, after it went to deuce six times. It was the longest game of the match, and Bhupathi's relief knew no bounds when Suzuki slammed into the net to give away the winning point. But Bhupathi's escape did not serve India's cause as Leander was broken in the sixth game, with self-inflicted wounds to boot, and the hosts failed to regain the lost ground in the set.
But in the third and fourth sets, Leander and Bhupathi were alert and agile, to push the visitors hard, and broke Suzuki in the eighth game of the third and seventh of the fourth.
Serving for the set, Leander double faulted twice, but aced as many times to hold serve and win the third set. The fourth set saw the Indians in an irrepressible mood and expectedly Suzuki was broken in the seventh game. Leander then served out the set in style with a booming ace, after leading 40-nil.
Jeev tied 21st after round 2
Augusta, Georgia, April 12
Jeev who was the Asian Tour's number one in 2006, battled tough playing conditions at Augusta National Golf Club, turning in 35 before dropping three bogeys, including two at the notorious Amen Corner.
''I drove the ball poorly. I was disappointed with that and lost confidence on the back nine. I tried to hit it too hard with my driver and I think that's what got me. It was one of those things. My rhythm became too quick,'' Jeev said.
''I was disappointed with 13. I had a lob wedge in and turned it into a bogey. I was trying on every hole. I had a goal of not shooting over par on any of the four days but I did that today,'' he added.
''I missed some good birdie chances but I made a few putts too, so no real complaints. I'm here for the weekend and I'm going to give it a go. I'm comfortable on the golf course and I love the way it sets up.
''I'm still alive for the weekend and we'll see what happens. I'm pretty happy with the invitation (from Augusta National) and if I can finish in the top-15 or top-20, I think that will justify that. That's the goal now. I don't feel like I have to justify the invitation but if I can do it, I will feel good about it.''
After saving par from 12 feet on the seventh hole, Jeev got to red numbers with a two-putt birdie on the par five eighth hole.
But he gave the shot back on the 11th hole, the first of a three-hole stretch that forms the notorious Amen Corner, after sending an errant drive into the pine trees.
Jeev hit an exquisite approach into the par three 12th but failed to convert the six-foot birdie chance and was disappointed to drop another shot on the par five 13th hole when he sent a lob wedge approach into the greenside bunker.
His fine performance saw him maintain his perfect Masters record where he is now two-for-two for cuts made in the year's opening Major. He will enter the weekend rounds in tied 21st position with US Open champion Angel Cabrera and British Open winner Padraig Harrington and nine shots behind leader Trevor Immelman of South Africa.
Daniel Chopra of Sweden(72, 78), the other professional in the field with an Indian connection, failed to make the cut as he totaled six over 150 for the first two rounds.
Meanwhile, Tiger Woods (72, 71) moved into tied 13th place with a total of one under 143. — UNI
India XI rout World XI
Chandigarh, April 12
Batting first, India XI batsmen came out with flying colours as the side posted an impressive 163 for 8 in the stipulated 20 overs. The target proved insurmountable for World XI as they finished at 119 for 8 in 20 overs, falling short by 44 runs.
Binny, the Player of the Match, was a revelation while G. Vignesh was also no less impressive. Batting late in the batting order, Binny boosted the innings with a breezy 16-ball 21, which included two fours and a six. Vignesh was in terrific form. Opening the innings along with I. Khaleel, he bludgeoned a 10-ball 24 studded with two fours and as many sixes.
A. Jhunjhunwala, enjoying a fruitful run in the tournament, chipped in with 27, while S. Abbas Ali was the highest scorer for the Indians with 44.
Chasing the 164-run target, World XI were never in the hunt, losing wickets at regular intervals. Abu Nachin Ahmad and G. Vignesh jolted them at the start of the innings to send back both the openers. Young Ali Murtaza was brilliant in the middle order. Returning with the best analysis of the match, he dealt twin blows sending back Marvan Atapattu and Damien Martin.
Wickets kept on tumbling thereafter as Binny claimed the crucial wickets of Sri Lankan duo of Russel Arnold and Upul Chandana. This is India XI’s second successive win.
ICL India XI:
ICL World XI:
Karachi, April 12
Given the busy schedule of the chairman of the appellate tribunal Aftab Farrukh, retired judge of Lahore High Court and now a practising barrister, it is unlikely that the case will be decided in a hurry.
The IPL starts on April 18 and organisers have said Akhtar, who was to play for Kolkata Knight Riders, would not be eligible to play in the Twenty20 tourney until the Pakistan board removes the ban imposed on him on disciplinary grounds.
"I don't think we are going to have a situation where the appellate tribunal will reach a decision after one or two sittings and given the busy schedules of the chairman and Salman Taseer the hearings could drag on beyond a month," a PCB official told PTI.
The tribunal, which had former Test player Haseeb Ahsan and former federal minister Salman Taseer as other members, was set up last week and has a minimum of seven and maximum of 30 days to reach a decision on Akhtar's appeal.
Akhtar was handed the five-year ban for breach of the players Code of Conduct, having publicly criticised various board policies after he was overlooked for a central contract in January.
Meanwhile, PCB chairman Nasim Ashraf, Disciplinary Committee chairman Muneer Hafeez and Akhtar will appear before the Senate Standing Committee on Sports and Culture on April 14 for a hearing called to look into cricket matters and the events leading up to the ban imposed on Akhtar. — PTI
A1 Grand Prix
Shanghai, April 12
The Team India driver, who had a 10th and ninth place finishes in New Zealand and Mexico, respectively, in his last two appearance, used all his experience to battle through all odds to emerge fourth in the Sprint Race and fifth in the Feature Race to ensure advantageous position for the side in tomorrow's race at the Shanghai International Circuit here.
Swiss driver of Indian origin and championship leader Neel Jani got a rare double as he snatched pole positions in both Sprint and Feature races.
In the Sprint Race, Karthikeyan improved upon his performance in the second chance with a timing of 1.34.688 sec but managed to retain the same fourth spot that he had got in the first qualifying clocking 1.34.933 sec.
The second Sprint qualifying was more intense as Canadian Robert Wickens registered a huge improvement in his performance - from 1.35.229 sec to 1.34.682 sec - to get past Karthikeyan narrowly.
In the Feature Race, the Indian ace had a lowly 12th place in the first attempt with a timing of 1.35.737 sec, but in the next two laps he fought back well to grab the fifth place with 1.35.195 sec.
"We are really pleased to be in the top six as last four races were pretty bad for us. Hopefully, we are out of the doldrums and from the fourth and fifth position in the grid you can have a shot at it (podium finish). We will try and do the best we can," Karthikeyan said after the qualifying sessions.
"We have good enough qualifying positions in both to secure podium finishes. Our race pace is quite okay. I think we will be improving on Sunday. I can't say I am aiming at 3-2-1. We have got good qualifying spots so if we can move up, good for us. If we stay at same that we will also get good points. Hopefully we don't go down," he said.
On the technical problem of the car, Karthikeyan said, "Actually (the car) was changed a lot from last night to this morning, the mechanical set up. That made a huge difference. Anyway, everything is under control and hopefully we can get some good tally of points tomorrow." He, however, was worried because of the rain forecast for tomorrow.
"It's good visibility but tomorrow the weather is going to be a bit tricky. There are chances of rain and if it happens, it will be a big gamble. I think everybody would prefer a dry day as it's so slippery out here as the tracks have not been in much use. So once it rains, all the dirt will come up." Meanwhile, Jani was delighted with his team's showing and said at the worst he would aim to gather some valuable points to retain Switzerland's lead before the final race of the season in Grand Hatch, England.
"It depends on the start, if it's good nothing like it. If it's not, then guys next to me are sensible enough to attack me. So I will play on to get some points," he said. — PTI
Amelia Island, Florida, April 12
Cornet beat 13th-seeded compatriot Virginie Razzano 6-4 6-2 while Cibulkova beat France's Amelie Mauresmo 6-1 7-6.
Sharapova, who needed three sets and three hours, 27 minutes to beat Anabel Medina-Garrigues on Thursday, needed another three sets and almost three hours yesterday to beat Bondarenko.
''I'm fine I guess. I thought I recovered pretty well considering it was a short turn-around,'' Sharapova told reporters. ''Mentally, I was prepared but you never know how you're going to feel physically.
''I actually surprised myself a little bit, even after losing that first set, I didn't give up. I was very well aware that the match wasn't over yet and that I still had many more opportunities and chances.'' Sharapova had a mixed service game, combining 11 aces with eight double faults though her serve was conclusive in the third set when she won 93 per cent of her first serve points.
''I started slow with everything, not just the serve,'' said Sharapova. ''Even though my serve let me down a few times, I think it saved me a lot more than let me down.''
Bondarenko won the first set when she capitalised on a number of unforced errors from the Russian, but the momentum of the match turned in the sixth game of the second set when Sharapova broke Bondarenko's serve with a succession of forehand winners.
The Ukrainian's composure evaporated, smashing the court with her racquet several times after the game and she never recovered, winning just three more games in the match.
In the late match, Cibulkova won the first set in just 36 minutes, but had to rally from 5-3 down in the second to force a tiebreaker.
She lost the first three points and later trailed 5-3 in the tie-break before she rattled off the next three points and sealed victory when Mauresmo double faulted.
''Even when I went down 3-0 in the tie-breaker, I was still believing in myself,'' Cibulkova said. ''I was fighting for every ball.'' Cibulkova had never met Mauresmo before Friday's match although she practiced with her during the Miami tournament.
''I had never played against her. When I was little I would always see her on TV so she was like an idol to me.
''So it was different for me to play against her. That's why it means a lot to me (to beat her).'' — Reuters
Karachi, April 12
Latif announced the launch of the Karachi Regional Cricket Association (KRCA) with himself as chairman and said it was formed according to the constitution of the Pakistan Cricket Board.
"The PCB constitution has no place for a city cricket association. The constitution defines and recognises only district and regional cricket associations," he said after the launch.
The former wicketkeeper-batsman said he would soon approach the PCB for formal registration of the KRCA with the board as per the Board constitution.
"We will very soon disclose names of other office bearers who are all former players. Players are fed up with the attitude of the KCCA officials," he said.
Latif, who runs Rashid Latif Cricket Academy here, said KCCA despite claiming to be the representative body of cricketers in Karachi has done nothing for them.
He claimed that while cricketers of all other regions had got from the PCB their annual contractual payments through their regional associations, Karachi players were still waiting for their money.
"Karachi has a population of around 2 crore and I don't think there is anything wrong in having another association in the city," Latif added. — PTI
Karachi, April 12
Sources in the board confirmed to PTI that after the fiasco resulting from the dispute between chief selector Salahuddin Ahmed and the team management comprising coach Geoff Lawson and captain Shoaib Malik in India over the replacement players, PCB had decided against sending selectors on foreign tours with the team.
"Till the recent past, the board policy was to send one selector on a foreign tour and he used to give his inputs in the team meetings on selection of players. Salahuddin did this job in India. But now the policy has been changed," the source confirmed.
"Under the new policy, the board has decided that no member of the senior or junior selection committee will go on foreign tours and the tour selection committee will be responsible for all selections," he said. The selectors would coordinate with the team management on replacement players from home but the final decision would rest with the team manager and captain.
Pakistan faced an embarrassing situation on the Indian tour when the team management announced that pacer Abdul Rauf would be joining the team for the injured Umar Gul but the selectors told media that Rao Iftikhar was flying out to India.
The selectors have also clashed with Lawson and Malik on a number of occasions in recent months and at the last governing body meeting of the board in March, PCB Chairman Nasim Ashraf and other members mediated a truce between the two parties.
"It was also decided at the governing body that the captain and coach should have more say in selection matters even though the decision of selecting playing elevens at home would be with the selection committee," the source said. — PTI
Asif blasts ICC for recalling Hair
Lahore, April 12 ''I cannot convince myself that this decision (of the ICC to reinstate Hair) is in any way in the best interests of the game, for it carries potential of conflict and much unpleasantness both on and off the field,'' Iqbal was qouted as saying by the local media. ''Pakistan is not the only Asian side that feels less than comfortable when he is officiating. Why must a man who makes some teams uncomfortable be forced on them?'' he added. ''The fact that some international sides clearly have problems with him should be enough to keep him out of the Panel. ''Surely, principle must be to appoint someone who enjoys confidence of both contesting teams. It is this principle that brought about the entire concept of the Elite Panel of umpires.''
Lahore, April 12
''I cannot convince myself that this decision (of the ICC to reinstate Hair) is in any way in the best interests of the game, for it carries potential of conflict and much unpleasantness both on and off the field,'' Iqbal was qouted as saying by the local media.
''Pakistan is not the only Asian side that feels less than comfortable when he is officiating. Why must a man who makes some teams uncomfortable be forced on them?'' he added. ''The fact that some international sides clearly have problems with him should be enough to keep him out of the Panel.
''Surely, principle must be to appoint someone who enjoys confidence of both contesting teams. It is this principle that brought about the entire concept of the Elite Panel of umpires.'' — UNI
Younis pulls out ODI series against B’esh
Vipul, Ashish excel