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S P O R T S

Table-toppers battle it out
Pune, May 21
Two teams with matching firepower will come face to face when table-toppers Delhi Daredevils take on second-placed Kolkata Knight Riders in what promises to be a high-voltage first qualifier of the controversy-ridden IPL here tomorrow.

Viru and Ross are fine, assures Delhi chief coach Simons
Pune, May 21
Delhi Daredevils head coach Eric Simons informed that skipper Virender Sehwag and New zealand batsman Ross Taylor have recovered from their bouts of flu and will be playing in the play-offs against Kolkata Knight Riders, here tomorrow.

Dravid: Not sure of my role in Rajasthan, have to think
Jaipur, May 21
With Rajasthan Royals ousted from IPL's playoff contention, skipper Rahul Dravid says he is not sure about his role in the side and would take a break to think over before making any commitment.


EARLIER STORIES


Awarding excellence: Windfall for ex-cricketers at IPL play-offs 
New Delhi, May 21
Sixty five former cricketers, including legendary Sunil Gavaskar, have been invited by the BCCI for the IPL play-offs where they would be handed over the cheques as a part of board's one-time benefit payment.

Cook, Bell seal England win over Windies
Englandís Alastair Cook plays a shot as heís watched by West Indiesí captain Darren Sammy during the first Test at the Lordís in London on Monday. London, May 21
Alastair Cook and Ian Bell led England to victory in the first Test against the West Indies at Lord's here today. England, set a target of 191 to win, were faltering at 57 for four before lunch on the fifth and final day.


Englandís Alastair Cook plays a shot as heís watched by West Indiesí captain Darren Sammy during the first Test at the Lordís in London on Monday. ó Reuters

Sharapova storms back to take Rome in thriller
Rome, May 21
Maria Sharapova saved a match point to beat Li Na in the Italian Open final on Sunday after a two-hour rain break effectively turned the match into a tiebreak shootout.

Nadal triumphs in latest duel with Djokovic to conquer Rome
Rome, May 21
Rafael Nadal won his sixth Rome Masters title in a rain-postponed final against Novak Djokovic here today, defeating the world number one 7-5, 6-3. It was sweet revenge for a straight sets loss to the Serb in last year's final and the win means that he will move back ahead of Roger Federer at number two in the world rankings.




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Table-toppers battle it out
High-voltage contest Dominant Daredevils take on fiery Knight Riders for pole position today




Battle of equals: If Delhi has the brutality of captain Virender Sehwag, Kolkata captain Gautam Gambhir has been equally inspirational for his team. In league stage, both the teams shared hounours with Delhi triumphing in Kolkata and KKR returning the favour when they visited the capital.

Pune, May 21
Two teams with matching firepower will come face to face when table-toppers Delhi Daredevils take on second-placed Kolkata Knight Riders in what promises to be a high-voltage first qualifier of the controversy-ridden IPL here tomorrow.

In a season which has been marred by unsavoury incidents off the field, the IPL's cricketing climax promises to be quite a treat with heavyweights making the last four.

And no better than Delhi and KKR to kick off the business end of the event as the two teams have without doubt been the most consistent performers in the Twenty20 league this season.

Both the teams boast of explosive batting line-ups. Their bowling attacks have also done exceptionally well in a format which is considered punishing for the bowlers.

When the two teams came face to face in the league stage, the honours were shared with Delhi triumphing in Kolkata and KKR returning the favour when they visited the capital.

On paper, the sides match up pretty well and it promises to be a battle of equals. If Delhi has the brutality of captain Virender Sehwag and David Warner, Kolkata have the answer in Brendon McCullum. If Mahela Jayawardene lends stability to Delhi's batting order, Kolkata captain Gautam Gambhir has been equally inspirational for his team.

In fact, both the teams have equally potent all-rounders in the line-up with Irfan Pathan rediscovering his old form for Delhi and Bangladeshi Shakib Al Hasan doing the job for Kolkata.

On the bowling front, Delhi have a pace ace in South African Morne Morkel, who has not just been miserly in conceding runs but has also been wrecker-in-chief when it comes to picking up wickets.

Ably supported by Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron, Delhi's pace attack has looked lethal with Morkel at the helm.

Kolkata also have an intimidating pace battery with Australian Brett Lee likely to make a comeback after sitting out in the last three games.

But with the likes of mystery spinner Sunil Narine, Iqbal Abdulla and Shakib in the rank, Kolkata will definitely have an upper hand over Delhi in the spin department.

Kolkata have their own match-winning bowler in mystery spinner Narine, who has been consistency personified.

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Viru and Ross are fine, assures Delhi chief coach Simons

Head coach of Delhi Daredevils Eric Simons.
Head coach of Delhi Daredevils Eric Simons.

Pune, May 21
Delhi Daredevils head coach Eric Simons informed that skipper Virender Sehwag and New zealand batsman Ross Taylor have recovered from their bouts of flu and will be playing in the play-offs against Kolkata Knight Riders, here tomorrow.

"We didn't have an extended practice session for them. They had light practice as both were recovering from bouts of flu. We are confident that they would be fine," Simons stated on the eve of his team's match.

The Daredevils have been the most consistent team in the group league stage but Simons would tell you that it won't have any bearing when the two teams square off at the Subrata Roy Sahara Stadium tomorrow.

"It is rewarding that we have finished on top but in Twnety20, you don't really get a platform. The match between RCB and Deccan Chargers yesterday showed that. There was one team that was doing great and the other team was struggling. Yet Chargers came on top." Asked about the mantra for success during crunch matches, Simons pointed out on a number of aspects that needs to fall in place.

"We have to be aware about where exactly we are emotionally and mentally. We have to do the basics correctly and it is important to end on the right side of the contest." In the past four seasons, Daredevils had made it to the last four in the first two editions and many believe that they are a "good semifinal team." "I would only be too happy if people start believing in that," Simons said in jest.

The former bowling coach of the India team had words of praise for opposition captain Gautam Gambhir and 'mystery spinner' Sunil Narine.

"KKR has been a consistent side in the league stages. Obviously Gautam has batted well and Narine has bowled well for them. But there have been a few others who have made significant contributions. We respect each and every player in their side. They have had the ability to put opposition under pressure."

Simons also feels that likes of Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron have evolved as cricketers in the past one year which has been key to team's brilliant show in the competition so far.

"When we left last year, we had a discussion as to how everyone needs to grow and mature as cricketers. From Morne and Irfan to Umesh and Varun, everyone has improved which has helped the team. The best part is that we have been calm as a unit. We haven't been caught up too much with what has been going around us. Our team changes have been consistent. We have had solid reasons whenever we have made changes." The Pune track hasn't exactly been a batting paradise but Simons isn't overtly bothered about the nature of the strip.

"We have been told that it will be a fresh wicket and which hasn't been used recently. We will have a look at the wicket. The main thig for each bowler will be to find their right area," the former South African pacer said. ó PTI

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Dravid: Not sure of my role in Rajasthan, have to think

Jaipur, May 21
With Rajasthan Royals ousted from IPL's playoff contention, skipper Rahul Dravid says he is not sure about his role in the side and would take a break to think over before making any commitment.

Talking to media after the humiliating 10-wicket defeat against Mumbai Indians, Dravid, who had bid adieu to Test cricket, said it was disappointing to lose in such a fashion.

"I really don't know. I will have to think over. I would take a break and decide about my role. I will talk to my family and also the management of the Rajasthan Royals about my role and then I would decide. My goal is to develop young players," Dravid said.

"We have youngsters like Ashok Menaria, Ajit Chandila, Ankit Chavan and Gajendra Singh. I am sorry about the local lad Gajendra Singh who is a fine bowler but couldn't get a chance to play," he added.

"It was a pleasure to lead the side and the support from the management and support staff has been top notch. As far as my own performance is concerned I played my role as the opener with Ajinkya Rahane to satisfaction. I feel batting is one thing and scoring runs is another thing." Dravid said the side now needs a youngster in the opening slot.

"We need a young and talented player who could open the innings with Rahane. He might be with some other franchise but we would try and rope him for the next season. We also have god players hopefully we would make it to the play offs next year," Dravid said.

Reflecting on Rajasthan's campaign in the event, Dravid said losing close games hurt the team badly.

"We had lost a few close games like the ones against Delhi, Deccan and Chennai and that hurt us. The previous night was also a tough one for us. We did get some chances but could not get the breakthrough," he said.

"I feel our performance today on ground and bowling was the worst. I am disappointed but there are some positives too.

We couldn't make it to play offs but have played good cricket," he added.

When asked whether the decision of playing Shaun Tait, who gave away 40 runs, backfired, the skipper insisted that the Australian was his strike bowler.

"When we play him people ask why he was included and when we don't play they ask otherwise. You can't have it always right.," said Dravid. ó PTI

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Awarding excellence: Windfall for ex-cricketers at IPL play-offs

New Delhi, May 21
Sixty five former cricketers, including legendary Sunil Gavaskar, have been invited by the BCCI for the IPL play-offs where they would be handed over the cheques as a part of board's one-time benefit payment.

The BCCI had recently announced that around 160 domestic and international cricketers who have retired before 2003-04 would be awarded cash bonanza as part of it's one-time benefit scheme from the IPL surplus money, a gesture which would cost the board Rs 70 crore.

The board said in a release today that it was not possible to invite all the beneficiaries and those not invited would be sent cheques. Widows of four former cricketers have also been invited to collect cheques in Chennai on the day of the final match on May 27.

"Some of the beneficiaries have been invited to the DLF IPL 2012 Play-off venues. They will be presented their respective cheques before the start of the Play-off Matches.

It is practically difficult to invite all the beneficiaries for the matches and hence, the others will be sent their cheques," BCCI President N Srinivasan was quoted as saying in the release.

Under the BCCI's scheme, cricketers who have played more than 100 Test matches will get Rs 1.5 Crore while those who have played between 75 and 99 Tests will receive Rs 1 crore. Those who have played between 50 and 74 Tests will get Rs 75 lakh while those between 25 and 49 Tests will receive Rs 60 lakh.

Cricketers who have played between 10 and 24 Tests will be handed Rs 50 lakh while those between one and nine Test matches and who have played their last international match before 1970 will get Rs 35 lakh.

Cricketers who have played 100 and more first class matches will get Rs 30 lakhs while those who have played between 75 and 99 matches will receive Rs 25 lakhs.

The one-dayers played by the cricketers will be added with three ODIs being counted as one Test match. But for this, the cricketer will have to play at least one Test.

They will be honoured as per the following schedule.

At final match in Chennai on May 27: Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri, S Venkataraghavan, Javagal Srinath, N S Sidhu, BS Chandrasekar, BS Bedi, FM Engineer, Shivlal Yadav, Abbas Ali Baig, Madhav Mantri, A G Milkha Singh, Rajinder Goel , Amarjeet Kaypee, S Hyder Ali, K Bhaskar Pillai, G Inderdev, M P Pandove, V Sivaramakrishnan.

At the Second Qualifier in Chennai on May 25: K Srikkanth, Madan Lal, Robin Singh, Chetan Chauhan, Salim Durani, L Sivaramakrishnan, WV Raman, Abey Kuruvilla , Chandrakant Pandit, V V Kumar, P Bhandhari, Kailash Gattani, L S Rajput, D Vasu, V B Chandrasekar, Sambaran Bannerjee.

At the Eliminator in Bangalore on May 23: Venkatesh Prasad, Roger Binny, Yashpal Sharma, E A S Prasanna, Rajesh Chauhan, Arun Lal, S Vishwanath, B S Sandhu, U N Kulkarni, Kawaljit Singh, Sudhakar Rao, MV Sridhar, Daljit Singh, Sanjeev Sharma, P Mhambrey.

At the first Qualifier in Pune on May 22: Chandu Borde, Sanjay Manjrekar, Nari Contractor, Ajit Wadekar, Anshuman Gaekwad, Bapu Nadkarni, Arshad Ayub, Madhav Apte, M R Rege, Srikanth Kalyani, P Shivalkar, T Arothe, Surendra Bhave, SS Sugvekar, Venkat Sundaram.

Widows of former cricketers: Nirupama Mankad, Eknath Solkar, Ramakant Desai, Kripal Singh. ó PTI 

BCCIís largesse

n Cricketers who have played more than 100 Test matches will get Rs 1.5 crore while those who have played between 75 and 99 Tests will receive Rs 1 crore.

n Those who have played between 50 and 74 Tests will get Rs 75 lakh while those between 25 and 49 Tests will receive Rs 60 lakh.

n Cricketers who have played between 10 and 24 Tests will be handed Rs 50 lakh while those between one and nine Test matches and who have played their last international match before 1970 will get Rs 35 lakh.

n Cricketers who have played 100 and more first class matches will get Rs 30 lakh while those who have played between 75 and 99 matches will receive Rs 25 lakh.

n The one-dayers played by the cricketers will be added with three ODIs being counted as one Test match. But for this, the cricketer will have to play at least one Test.

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Cook, Bell seal England win over Windies

London, May 21
Alastair Cook and Ian Bell led England to victory in the first Test against the West Indies at Lord's here today. England, set a target of 191 to win, were faltering at 57 for four before lunch on the fifth and final day.

But Cook (79) and Bell (63 not out) shared a fifth-wicket partnership of 132 that saw England, the world's number one ranked Test side, to the brink of victory before left-handed opener Cook was out with two runs needed when caught in the gully off West Indies captain Darren Sammy.

Bell though struck the winning boundary for a win that gave England a 1-0 lead in this three-match series heading into the second Test at Trent Bridge starting Friday.

England resumed today on 10 for two after Kemar Roach had taken two wickets for seven runs in eight balls to remove England captain Andrew Strauss ó a first innings century-maker ó and nightwatchman James Anderson yesterday. Both left-handed opener Cook and Jonathan Trott had yet to score.

Roach struck again today to remove Trott for 13 with a good length ball that squared him up and took the edge with Sammy, diving to his left, holding a good catch at second slip.

And 13 also proved an unlucky number for Trott's fellow South Africa-born batsman Kevin Pietersen.

He had just pulled Test debutant Shannon Gabriel's third delivery of the innings for four when, to the fast bowler's next ball ball, he tried to repeat the stroke and got a bottom edge to wicket-keeper Denesh Ramdin.

England were in trouble but Cook got them going again. He completed a 78-ball fifty featuring eight fours when he late cut off-spinner Marlon Samuels and after lunch Bell followed him to the landmark in 84 balls.

That West Indies, who hadn't won a Test match outside the Caribbean against major opposition since defeating South Africa in Port Elizabeth in 2007 and came into this game with a record of just two wins in 30 matches, started the last day with even an outside chance of victory owed much to Shivnarine Chanderpaul.

Officially the world's best batsman, the Guyana left-hander made scores of 87 not out and 91 while spending more than 10 hours at the crease in this match.

Together with Samuels (86) he put on 157 for the fifth wicket in the second innings as the West Indies gave their bowlers a target to defend and a chance of a first win in 15 Tests in England.

For England, this match was a personal triumph for Stuart Broad. The fast-medium bowler took a Test-best seven for 72 in the first innings and four for 43 in the second for a match haul of 11 for 165.

Broad, who made 169 against Pakistan at Lord's in 2010, became just the fourth player to take five wickets in an innings, 10 in a match and score a century in Lord's Tests. ó AFP

SCOREBOARD

West Indies (1st Innings) 243

England (1st Innings) 398

West Indies (2nd Innings) 345

England (2nd Innings)

Strauss c Powell b Roach 1

Cook c Edwards b Sammy 79

Anderson c Ramdin b Roach 6

Trott c Sammy b Roach 13

Pietersen c Ramdin

b Gabriel 13

Bell not out 63

Bairstow not out 0

Extras (b-4, lb-3, nb-11) 18

Total (5 wkts, 46.1 overs) 193

Fall of wickets: 1-1, 2-10, 3-29, 4-57, 5-189.

Bowling: Edwards 8-0-24-0; Roach 13-2-60-3; Gabriel 5-1-26-1; Sammy 10-1-25-1; Samuels 10.1-0-51-0. 

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Sharapova storms back to take Rome in thriller

Russia's Maria Sharapova celebrates after winning her final match against China's Na Li at the Italian Open in Rome on Sunday.
Russia's Maria Sharapova celebrates after winning her final match against China's Na Li at the Italian Open in Rome on Sunday. ó AP/PTI

Rome, May 21
Maria Sharapova saved a match point to beat Li Na in the Italian Open final on Sunday after a two-hour rain break effectively turned the match into a tiebreak shootout.

Heavy rain sent the players running for cover at 6-6 in the decider, shortly after the Russian had fended off a match point with a winning forehand. When they finally returned on a damp night in the Italian capital, Sharapova won the first three points of the tiebreak. Although China's Li battled back to 4-4 and 5-5, the second seed grabbed the last two points for victory.

"This is a great win for me going into Roland Garros," Sharapova told reporters. "I know the level she played there last year and the level she can play on clay, the way she defends and moves around and gets herself back into position, she's just a great player on any surface really. So this gives me a lot of confidence."

The rain break merely added to the drama of a match which swung first one way and the other, with Sharapova saving a match point at 5-6 to force the deciding tiebreak.

With defending champion and world number two Sharapova making far too many unforced errors, eighth seed Li had led by a set and 4-0 before losing her way. In steady drizzle, Russian Sharapova then won eight straight games on her way to leading 4-1 in the final set before letting Li back in.

After a short break at 5-5, 30-30, a determined Li saved a break point to stay ahead. With both players hitting top form, the Chinese then forced a match point on the Sharapova serve but the Russian saved it with a forehand winner.

As heavy rain began to fall, Sharapova held for 6-6 and with the lines becoming slippery, the umpire took the players off court at 4.40pm local time.

Li is still without a title since winning her first Grand Slam title at Roland Garros almost a year ago. ó Reuters

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Nadal triumphs in latest duel with Djokovic to conquer Rome

Spainís Rafael Nadal celebrates with the trophy after winning the Rome Tennis Masters on Monday.
Spainís Rafael Nadal celebrates with the trophy after winning the Rome Tennis Masters on Monday. ó AFP

Rome, May 21
Rafael Nadal won his sixth Rome Masters title in a rain-postponed final against Novak Djokovic here today, defeating the world number one 7-5, 6-3. It was sweet revenge for a straight sets loss to the Serb in last year's final and the win means that he will move back ahead of Roger Federer at number two in the world rankings.

It was also the perfect preparation for the defence of his French Open title with the tournament due to get underway in Paris on Sunday and takes his career head-to-head with his rival to 18-14 in his own favour.

It meant that Nadal won claycourt titles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome with his only loss coming in Madrid where he went down to compatriot Fernando Verdasco.

Djokovic failed to win a claycourt title as he prepares to go into Roland Garros where he is aiming to make it four Grand Slam titles in a row after winning Wimbledon and the US Open crowns last year and the Australian Open early this year.

In a final held over from Sunday because of rain, Nadal immediately pounded out two break points on the opening Djokovic serve, but the Serb saved both with powerful backhands.

There were two more break points for the Spaniard in the fifth game as Djokovic made a mess of an overhead smash and Nadal converted the second of these, easily running down a poorly-executed Djokovic drop-shot.

But just as Nadal seemed to be taking command, Djokovic earned his first break point of the match in the following game which he took as an out-of-position Nadal flopped a forehand into the net. ó AFP

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