SOLID KALLIS STEADIES
Rajasthan look to extend Ranji Trophy dream run
Coach Sandhu has high hopes from Olympics
Plenty of Indian interest at ATP event
Khawaja is a step in the right direction
72 Oz players in IPL auction
EPL clubs lining up for Beckham
‘India lacks good coaches’
Cape Town, January 2
Earlier, a half-century by Hashim Amla and fluent batting from Jaques Kallis ensured that South Africa had reached 200 for 4 after tea.
Amla scored 59 before a poor shot from him off S Sreesanth's bowling helped India get back the momentum at the tea interval. But seasoned Kallis held firm at the other end anchoring the SA innings.
Earlier, a 72-run third wicket partnership between Amla (59, 80 balls, 9x4, 1x6) and Jacques Kallis (22 batting) off only 15 overs was the highlight of the South African innings.
Only 37 overs of play was possible in the first two sessions with only nine overs being bowled in the first session due to inclement weather.
At the tea break, Kallis had AB de Villiers (14 batting) for company.
Although the Indian pace trio of Zaheer Khan (one for 52), Sreesanth (one for 50) and Ishant Sharma (one for 18) shared the spoils, the first two bowled a lot of boundary balls as the home team has hit as many as 16 boundaries.
Amla, who tasted a rare failure during the Durban Test, was back in his element as he played the pace trio with a lot of conviction, especially after second rain break before a moment of madness did him in.
The hosts were in a tricky situation at 61 for two in 21 overs at the second rain break. Amla made his intentions clear in the very first over after that break as he clipped Zaheer for three boundaries. The senior pacer was guilty of bowling juicy half volleys on Amla's pads and got duly punished in the process.
When Sreesanth bowled outswingers, Amla drove through covers. When the temperamental Kerala speedster dug one short, South Africa's most consistent batsmen over the last season got into perfect position to pull-it over fine-leg for maximum to complete his 19th half century in Test cricket with the help of eight fours and a six.
However, Sreesanth had the last laugh when Amla fell for the bait going for another pull-shot. Cheteshwar Pujara was stationed at deep mid-wicket for this particular shot and he took a simple catch.
As play resumed post-lunch, Ishant Sharma got into the act as he got Alviro Petersen (21, 47 balls, 3x4) to drive on the up and the snick was taken easily Mahendra Singh Dhoni behind the stumps.
Earlier, Indian captain Dhoni finally found some luck going his way as far as the spin of coin is concerned.
Dhoni won the toss for the first time in the series and put South Africa on to bat as he wanted his bowlers to make full use of the overcast conditions.
Pace spearhead Zaheer moved the ball both ways during his five over-spell.
It was no surprise that Zaheer finally got his bunny Graeme Smith (6) once again trapping the Proteas skipper plumb in front.
The delivery held its line after pitching on the off-stump as Smith played thinking it to be an away swinger.
The ball kept low and hit him on the back leg. This is the 11th time that Zaheer has dismissed Smith in all formats taken together.
Just nine overs were bowled in the pre-lunch session due to persistent rain. Hashim Amla (1) and Alviro Petersen (13) were at the crease for the hosts.
Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni finally found some luck going his way as far as the spin of coin is concerned. — PTI
South Africa 1st innings:
Petersen c Dhoni b Ishant 21
Smith lbw Zaheer 6
Amla c Pujara b Sreesanth 59
Kallis batting 61
De Villiers c Dhoni b Sreesanth 26
Prince batting 19
Total for 4 wkts 199
Bowling: Z Khan 17-3-57-1, Sreesanth 17-0-61-2, Ishant 13-2-32-1, Harbhajan 15-1-44-0
Jaipur, January 2
The hosts, who have surprised all by climbing up from the bottom of the Plate group to the semifinal stage, have gained in confidence after their fine performance against Mumbai in the quarterfinal here on the same ground.
They had never gone past Mumbai in the past and the last-eight win over the team fancied has given Rajasthan a shot in the arm.
With momentum on their side, Rajasthan are suddenly the favourites against a side which is clearly not in the best of forms.
The onus would once again be on Akash Chopra, Hrishikesh Kanitkar and Rashmiranjan Parida who have been in great form.
Former Indian opener Akash Chopra has a triple hundred under his belt apart from few other gutsy knocks.
Skipper Kanitkar also has a double hundred apart from a few other good knocks this season.
Rashmi Ranjan Parida has been among the runs as well though he missed a double ton earlier. Vineet Saxena was a revelation as he plundered 143 against a strong Mumbai attack.
The bowling of the hosts also seems to be penetrative with Pankaj Singh again at his best. He has shown his hunger to perform against top teams of the elite group.
The upcoming Deepak Chahar, who hogged the limelight after taking 8 for 10 to send Hyderabad packing for 21, has been improving with each outing.
On the other hand, Tamil Nadu as a team has been not living up to its glorious past but has good players in the likes of Sathish, Dinesh Kartik, S Badrinath and L Balaji who have propelled them to the semifinal.
Tamil Nadu would also miss spinner R Ashwin, who has taken 24 wickets this season, as he is on national duty in South Africa.
Both sides have met thrice earlier and have won a match each besides drawing one.
Karnataka confident against UP
Vadodara: A cracker of a contest is on the cards when last year's runner-up Karnataka take on a resurgent Baroda in the four-day Ranji Trophy semifinals at the Reliance stadium here tomorrow. Karnataka, six-time Ranji champions, who last won the coveted title in 1998-99, have had a good season thus far with a brood of talented youngsters performing consistently with the bat and ball. 2000-01 Ranji champion Baroda, on their part, will be looking to exploit the home advantage to inch a step closer towards realising their dreams of reaching the final. Karnataka have been the team to watch this Ranji season, winning three Super League matches including one by an innings and 33 runs against Orissa and getting the better of Madhya Pradesh in the quarterfinals at Indore last week. In the absence of senior India batsman Rahul Dravid, who is playing in the ongoing series-deciding third and final Test against South Africa, the responsibility lies on the shoulders of Robin Uthappa and Manish Pandey to spearhead the young guns who have been in blazing from right through the season. In the pace department, the fast bowling trio of R Vinay Kumar, Abhimanyu Mithun and Sreenath Arvind have done commendably well, accounting for 65 wickets between them while veteran left-arm spinner Sunil Joshi has grabbed 25 wickets . —
Vadodara: A cracker of a contest is on the cards when last year's runner-up Karnataka take on a resurgent Baroda in the four-day Ranji Trophy semifinals at the Reliance stadium here tomorrow.
Karnataka, six-time Ranji champions, who last won the coveted title in 1998-99, have had a good season thus far with a brood of talented youngsters performing consistently with the bat and ball. 2000-01 Ranji champion Baroda, on their part, will be looking to exploit the home advantage to inch a step closer towards realising their dreams of reaching the final.
Karnataka have been the team to watch this Ranji season, winning three Super League matches including one by an innings and 33 runs against Orissa and getting the better of Madhya Pradesh in the quarterfinals at Indore last week.
In the absence of senior India batsman Rahul Dravid, who is playing in the ongoing series-deciding third and final Test against South Africa, the responsibility lies on the shoulders of Robin Uthappa and Manish Pandey to spearhead the young guns who have been in blazing from right through the season.
In the pace department, the fast bowling trio of R Vinay Kumar, Abhimanyu Mithun and Sreenath Arvind have done commendably well, accounting for 65 wickets between them while veteran left-arm spinner Sunil Joshi has grabbed 25 wickets . — PTI
Coach Sandhu has high hopes from Olympics
Patiala, January 2
Giving this information here today, national boxing coach GS Sandhu, who has recently been nominated to the coaches’ commission of the International Boxing Association (AIBA), said for that to happen the boxers will have to focus hard for next 14 months.
Sandhu said the litmus test of the Indian pugilists would start in August, 2011 when the boxers appear in the qualification rounds of the 2012 Olympics. “Our boxers would go to Russia in August and the second qualification rounds are expected in 2012 January. Indian boxers would have a tough time and we want atleast 5 of our boxers in the Olympics”, he stated.
Talking about Indian Olympic medalist Vijender, Sandhu told The Tribune, that Vijender still has a few years of boxing left in him, though hard work is the key. “I firmly believe that he can continue till 2012 Olympics and with experience alone, he is capable of bagging another medal for India”, he said.
Speaking for the first time after his AIBA duty, Sandhu said that the setting up of various boxing academies in the world is on the prime list of things to do by AIBA. “For that an academy is already near completion in Canada and Kazakistan, where boxers and coaches would undergo courses and training ranging from a week to a couple of months”, he added.
Claiming that there was an acute shortage of coaches in the country, especially at the district level, Sandhu said that the Sports Authority of India and the various state governments should join hands to spot talent at the grass root level.
“Usually the talent is available in all villages and the best place to locate them and catch them young is during the village sporting fairs. Coaches can go there and try to get that talent into the ring at the right age”, he said.
Meanwhile, Sandhu said that the boxers are doing good by facing the camera in the glamour world as they are promoting boxing. “However the boxers should be careful as the balance has to be maintained between sport and entertainment as they are at a crucial stage of their careers”, said Sandhu.
Chennai, January 2
After winning the singles gold medals at the Commonwealth and the Asian Games, Somdev has raised expectations and a singles ATP Tour title, which is still eluding him ever since turning pro in 2008, would certainly be on his mind.
It will not be easy for Somdev, considering the tough field -- four top-30 players in fray -- but he has the penchant for achieving the difficult aims.
He has a special liking to Chennai courts where he recorded his best ever ATP performance — a summit clash appearance in 2009 — and also eked out memorable Davis Cup victories.
Top seed and world number six Thomas Berdych of Czech Republic, who derailed Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon, though would though start favourite.
World number 14 Marin Cilic of Croatia is bidding for his third successive here and will open his campaign against Japan's Kei Nishikori. — PTI
Sydney, January 2
But the Sydney Test starting tomorrow offers the enticing prospect of its first Ashes series win on Australian soil since 1987. That achievement, laudable in itself, would take it closer to its longer-term goal of attaining the world's No.1 ranking in Test cricket.
Australia enters the final test of an unsuccessful series under an unpopular stand-in captain, but will be eager to square the series, save some face and begin a much-needed rebuilding process.
Michael Clarke, who is deputising for injured skipper Ricky Ponting, announced the Australian starting lineup today, confirming that Pakistan-born Usman Khawaja would make his debut, and likely bat at No. 3, and left-arm spinner Michael Beer would also get his first cap, preferred to paceman Doug Bollinger.
"We still have so much to get out of this last test match. We can't regain the Ashes, but we can level the series," Clarke said.
"The least we can do is show that Australian fight, which everyone in that dressing room has." Clarke said his aim was to start the new year with a win and build momentum lost during an inconsistent 2010 for Australia.
"It's a new focus, a new year. We're really looking forward to this test match," he said. "We've spoken a lot about what's gone before us. But we need to be focussed on right now. This test match. Individually, getting out there and facing this challenge head on." While teammates have rallied around Clarke and pledged their support, newspaper polls have shown only eight percent of Australians support his promotion to the captaincy.
Ponting is not a universally popular captain, but is admired for his past successes and embodying the qualities of doggedness, grit and fortitude associated with the captaincy since the days of Allan Border and Steve Waugh.
Clarke, 29, is more of a flamboyant character with his bleached hair and very public breakup with his former model fiance.
Teammates have worked this week to alter that image, to paint Clarke as a more mature and driven individual.
"He's got a very good cricket brain, he thinks about the game very well, he'll be an aggressive captain," Mike Hussey said.
"He'll always be looking to take wickets out there, he'll be looking to make changes to the field, changes to the bowlers, searching for a wicket all the time and he'll always want the game going forward."
Hussey said Clarke had been an energetic captain when leading the national side in limited-overs games.
"I guess the challenge for him is to be able to maintain that over the five days of a test match. It's going to be hard graft but we have 100 per cent confidence in him." Wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, who will be Clarke's vice-captain, said the public perception of Clarke could quickly change.
"The reaction with the public with all our players changes from week to week," he said. "You're one good innings away, or sometimes one good cover drive away, from the support being with you.
"Michael's a very strong character so things will be okay. He's got a very good cricket brain.
He'll do Australia proud." England has been able to enjoy a relatively untroubled preparation for the final test, its players showing every sign of delight at Australia's discomfort.
Off-spinner Graeme Swann twisted the knife a little yesterday, saying he was at a loss to understand Australia's decision to omit its most experienced spinner, Nathan Hauritz, from its Ashes squad.
Swann suggested Hauritz's absence had helped England.
"I honestly don't understand how Australian selection works," Swann said. "It's obviously different to how it works in England.
"I don't know why he (Hauritz) was dropped in the first place and why he's not been brought back in.
"I genuinely feel sorry for him because I don't think he deserved to miss out on this whole series. He bowled well against England two years ago and he was a guy who caused a few of our players some problems."
Australia lineup: Michael Clarke (captain), Shane Watson, Phillip Hughes, Usman Khawaja, Mike Hussey, Steve Smith, Brad Haddin, Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus, Michael Beer. — AP
Khawaja is a step in the right direction
Australian cricket has appreciated all the sage advice offered by its friends in the Old Dart! England won fair and square and that's the end of it.Driven by ambition, Andrew Strauss's men will challenge for first place in the Test rankings and press for World Cup victory. It's been a superb turnaround. Money has been wisely spent, good appointments have been made and the team has been shrewdly selected. Not that the victors are without headaches. That four of the top seven batsmen were born in Africa is either an astonishing coincidence, as most apologists insist, or else instructive.
Contrastingly, Australia have more headaches than a rugby team on tour.
After dominating both formats for 15 years, the green-cappers have sunk to the middle of a lop-sided table. Nor is there any immediate prospect of a rally. Indeed, the malaise runs deep. The trouble goes from top to bottom.
Australia can't find a spinner worth backing. Fast bowlers keep breaking down, opening batsmen are as few and far between as cyclists in Venice, and Shield and grade cricket are shadows of their recent selves. The craving for youth endures but the production line has been compromised.
Nor do the leaders pass muster. Ricky Ponting, the country's only remaining great player, is in decline and Michael Clarke, his deputy, is regarded as a nark. Both alternative leaders are wicketkeepers, while the coach is honest but limited. Attendances and ratings have been falling, a setback hidden by the heightened interest created by the Ashes. The situation was so bad that, in August, Cricket Australia called the cricket community together for a crisis meeting. Not that CA have impressed. They could not find an internal candidate capable of taking a senior role at the ICC, over-police their cricket grounds, deny players proper preparation and employ flapping media men.
Four years ago, England were so paranoid that they sent security men to inspect every nook and cranny a player might consider visiting. Now the Poms are relaxed and full of beans. They are a grown-up side with a strong work ethic and a high sense of fun.
All things considered, Australia appear doomed to a long period of poor results. It ain't necessarily so. Dropping Marcus North and Nathan Hauritz might have seemed reckless but it told of a community aware that ordinary players can be a bigger encumbrance than poor players because they last longer. The message was clear. Australia were prepared to risk losing in order to start building a team that might stir a nation. As Andy Flower is telling his charges, the Ashes are not everything. It's a mistake to measure success by performances against one opponent. Not that Australians expected to be mauled. England were underestimated. Now the selectors have taken another crucial step by promoting the country's first Muslim cricketer. Usman Khawaja is witty, popular, bright and skilful, and that is not true of all his colleagues. He is also brown, tee-total and unavoidably the representative of large settler communities hitherto inclined to support visiting sides.
Waleed Aly, a writer, cricketer and Melbourne Muslim, says the excitement is palpable and the sense of belonging is suddenly stronger. Every sport needs to utilise the entire population - rich and poor, black and white, male and female. In that regard, English cricket has succeeded better than its Antipodean counterpart. A glance at the Yorkshire cricket team settles the issue.
Khawaja might not solve every problem on the field but his inclusion is a fillip. The next phase has begun. Australia will take a young team to England in 2013. It would be a mistake to discount their chances.
— By arrangement with The Independent
Sydney, January 2
Wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, batsman Callum Ferguson and spin bowlers Xavier Doherty and Jason Krejza could also be playing for the first time should they be selected at the auction, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. Adam Gilchrist, Brett Lee and Shaun Marsh are the only Australian players in the highest pay bracket, with a minimum price of 400,000 dollars per season.
Tait and all-rounder Andrew Symonds are in the 300,000 dollar price band, Bollinger and Michael Hussey are in the 200,000 dollar price band, while Hilfenhaus would be worth 100,000 dollars.
Most of the other 64 Australians are in the two lowest pay brackets, 50,000 dollars and 20,000 dollars, as a means of encouraging teams to bid for them. Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Mitchell Johnson, Glenn McGrath and Mathew Hayden are the few star players missing from the list. — ANI
London, January 2
Securing his services would be worth millions of pounds in sponsorship to a Premier League side, the Daily Express reports.
"As a player Beckham is not up there with the Rooneys any more. His best days are past but as the world's most famous footballer he will sell a lot of shirts and corporate tickets," PR guru Max Clifford said. — ANI
Agartala, January 2
The tennis ace was at a function in his home State.
The 25-year-old Devvarman belongs to Tripura's erstwhile royal family. — ANI
Clashes as fans queue for World Cup tickets
Sports scribe Vijaykar no more
Afridi to appear as witness
Freddie says Colly should be axed