Final ODI called off, India win series 2-1

05 July 2009

St Kitts:India made amends for their World Twenty20 debacle, winning the one-day international series against West Indies 2-1 after torrential rains washed out the fourth and final ODI at the Beausejour Stadium here on Sunday.

The match started an hour late following heavy rains just after India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni won the toss and elected to field, forcing the umpires to reduce it to a 49-over-a-side affair.

West Indies were 27 for one when rain interrupted play for the second time after they had lost the crucial wicket of skipper Chris Gayle for a duck.

Runako Morton (12 not out) and Ramnaresh Sarwan (12 not out) were at the crease when play was called off.

With this victory, India registered only their second bilateral series triumph in the Caribbean. Last time they won a series in West Indies was in 2002 under Sourav Ganguly's captaincy.

India had earlier won the first match of the series by 20 runs, while West Indies cameback strongly in the second, hammering the Dhoni-led side by eight wickets.

However riding on Dhoni's brilliance, India took the unassailable 2-1 lead, winning the third ODI by six wickets with a ball to spare.

Electing to field, Ishant Sharma gave India the dream start, picking up the vital wicket of Gayle in the second ball of the innings, caught behind by Dhoni with the hosts failing to open their account.

From there on, the West Indian batsmen found runs hard to come by against the accurate bowling of Ishant and Ashish Nehra. The hosts' struggle can be gauged from the fact they failed to struck a single boundary in the 7.4 overs they faced.

Yousuf guides Pakistan to 50-run lead against Lanka

GALLE: Mohammad Yousuf hit a fluent century on his return to big-time cricket to put Pakistan ahead in the first Test against Sri Lanka on Sunday.

Yousuf made 112 and Misbah-ul Haq chipped in with 56 as Pakistan, replying to Sri Lanka's 292, recovered from 80-4 to post 342 in their first innings on the second day at the Galle International Stadium.

Sri Lanka, trailing by 50 runs, failed to score from the one over bowled by Mohammad Aamer in their second knock before stumps were drawn for the day.

Pakistan's lead left the match evenly poised on a wicket that appeared to have eased out after helping the seamers with bounce and movement on the first day.

Yousuf, who turns 35 next month, was playing his first Test match since December 2007 after being banned by the Pakistan board for his involvement with the unauthorised Indian Cricket League.

But the prolific right-hander was rehabilitated with a call-up for the current tour after breaking links with the rebel body and repaid the selectors' faith with his 24th Test century.

The bearded 80-Test veteran hit 11 boundaries en route to his first Test hundred against Sri Lanka when he was run out in the final session attempting a cheeky single.

Sri Lanka were convinced Yousuf should have departed on 57 when he edged left-arm spinner Rangana Herath and the ball carried off the batsman's bat and pad to makeshift wicket-keeper Tillakaratne Dilshan.

Television replays showed Yousuf was out but Australian umpire Daryl Harper turned down the confident appeal from the bowler and close-in fielders.

Pakistan, who began the day at 15-2, lost two quick wickets before Yousuf and Misbah resurrected the innings by adding 139 for the fifth wicket.

When Misbah fell shortly before tea, caught in the slips off Herath, former captain Shoaib Malik (38) helped Yousuf put on 75 for the sixth wicket.

Kamran Akmal hit 31, but Pakistan lost their last five wickets for 48 runs.

Seamer Nuwan Kulasekera finished with 4-71, but mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis went wicketless from 25 overs in which he conceded 89 runs.

Abdur Rauf, who took two wickets on his Test debut on Saturday, proved his batting worth as a nightwatchman by scoring 31 of Pakistan's first 40 runs in the morning session.

Rauf put on 50 for the third wicket with skipper Younus Khan when he fell to Kulasekera, caught by Dilshan just before the drinks break.

Dilshan was forced to don the gloves because first choice Prasanna Jayawardene was unavailable due to injury and skipper Kumar Sangakkara, the One-day 'keeper, preferred to guide the bowlers from the outfield.

Dilshan took his second catch four overs later when debutant Angelo Mathews struck in his first over to remove a tentative Younus for 25.

The three-match series is the first between the two nations since armed gunmen attacked the Sri Lankan team bus in the Pakistani city of Lahore on March 3 while the squad was en route to resume a Test match.

The attack injured seven Sri Lankan players and killed eight local security men.

The two teams recently contested the World Twenty20 final in England where Pakistan beat Sri Lanka by eight wickets.

Bodyline, the series that rocked cricket

SYDNEY: There have been plenty of flashpoints in cricket in the more than 75 years since an England team led by Douglas Jardine and under the auspices of Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), arrived in Australia.

Even so, few have been as controversial as the 1932/33 Bodyline series where Jardine's despised tactics not only threatened the future of Test cricket but undermined the bonds of the British Empire.

Jardine, a cold, calculating product of Winchester and Oxford, devised a strategy of dangerously short-pitched bowling using his two fast bowlers, Harold Larwood and Bill Voce, to combat Don Bradman, Australia's sporting hero of the Depression-ravaged times.

"The Don" had been rewriting cricket's record books since his Test debut in 1928 and when the Australians won the five-Test series 2-1 in England in 1930, Bradman amassed 974 runs at a batting average of 139.14, an aggregate record that stands to this day.

Jardine's theory of directing his bowlers to bowl at leg stump and make the ball rear into the batsman's body became known as "Bodyline.'

When Jardine was appointed England captain for the Australian tour, one of his former Winchester schoolmasters, Rockley Wilson, is said to have warned he might win the Ashes but he would lose a dominion in the process.

Passions became so inflamed that during the third Test at the Adelaide Oval in January 1933, seething spectators threatened to jump the fence as anti-English feelings soared.

Bill Woodfull, Australia's gentlemanly captain, was twice struck by bumpers and wicket-keeper Bert Oldfield edged a ferocious delivery from Larwood on to his temple, collapsed beside the pitch and was carried from the field unconscious.

It produced one of the immortal quotes in Test cricket when Woodfull told the English management: "There are two teams out there, and only one of them is playing cricket."

Behind the scenes there were frantic political negotiations to save the tour and restore frayed diplomatic relations between Britain and Australia.

The British coalition government's Dominion Secretary JH Thomas later described Bodyline as the most troublesome affair of his ministerial career.

England's emphatic 4-1 series victory brought both opprobrium and praise for Jardine.

The campaign curbed Bradman's batting average to 56.57. He scored just one century in his four Tests with a series aggregate of 396 runs.

Without the Bodyline series, Bradman would have finished his career with a Test average of 104.76 instead of 99.94.

Larwood, the former Nottinghamshire coalminer, claimed a series-high 33 wickets at 19.51 but events soured him. The 28-year-old paceman never played for England again.

Larwood later migrated to Australia with his wife Lois, and his five daughters and lived in Sydney until his death in 1995, at the age of 90.

Jack Fingleton, who played in three of the Bodyline Tests, echoed the feelings of others in the Australian team when he later wrote: "I do not think there was one single batsman who played in most of those Bodyline games who ever afterwards recaptured his love for cricket."

It says much for the series that Bodyline remains the only chapter in cricket's history that film-makers have thought worth dramatising, with a television mini-series first broadcast in Australia in 1984.

Jardine resigned as England captain before Australia's 1934 Ashes tour and retired from first-class cricket aged 33.

That same year MCC outlawed systematic bowling of fast and short-pitched balls at batsmen standing clear of their wicket.

Bradman, once lauded as the greatest living Australian, died in Adelaide on February 25 2001 aged 92, while Jardine died from lung cancer aged 57, in Montreux, Switzerland, in June 1958.

Captaincy is like facing an oncoming train: Pietersen

04 July 2009

London: Captaincy had bogged down fiery English batsman Kevin Pietersen to such an extent that he now equates the job to facing an oncoming train and says it gets worse when the team performs badly.

"All day every day, it's like facing an oncoming train.It absolutely hammers you," Pietersen told The Daily Telegraph.

"Then if you're not playing well, like we weren't in India, it's just negative press conference after negative press conference and eventually it affects the way you play.It just weighs you down," he added.

Pietersen's was a controversy-ridden stint during which he had a public spat with coach Peter Moores before both were asked to step down.

Looking back, the South African-born batsman said he wasn't as politically correct as was required of him.

"The fact is, some guys obviously do it better than others. Some guys are more politically correct than others.For me it was a great chapter in my life that I enjoyed. But you know, it's a tough, tough job. I promise you now, the moment I became captain, my mobile phone did not stop.

Pietersen said he also got tired of the various off-field duties of a captain which included attending innumerable meetings.

"The stuff you have to sort out for the team, things for the England and Wales Cricket Board, you have functions to go to, you have to pop into a captain's meeting, you have to have the captain's picture taken with the trophies before a match," he said.

Talking about next week's Ashes, Pietersen said the bigger the stage, the better geared up he is to perform.

"The bigger the occasion, the greater the pressure, the more I love it," he said.

"I'm not worried. No way. I can't wait. Bring it on. It's going to be huge. And that's what I love."

Pietersen said he has realised the importance of being part of the national team and would do all he can to remain in the side.

"I'd carry the water for England. We're in such a privileged position to play international sport that for us to go negative is ridiculous.

"I made some comments three years ago about being tired and wanting a break, and I regret that now, it was silly. I put my head down after that. I made the decision to play as hard as I can for as long as I can. Just live the dream."

Pakistan likely to recall Asif for Champions Trophy

Karachi : Pakistan is seriously considering recalling Mohammad Asif in the 30-member preliminary squad for this September's ICC Champions Trophy after the International Cricket Council (ICC) said it would not raise any objection against the pacer's inclusion once he completes his doping ban.

An ICC spokesman has said that once Asif completes his one-year ban on Sep 22 this year, he will be eligible to take part in any international event including the ICC Champions Trophy to be held in South Africa. The biennial tournament is scheduled to get underway Sep 24.

A senior Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) official said that the board is seriously considering the idea of clearing Asif for the 30-man provisional squad for the Champions Trophy. Pakistan is planning to announce the preliminary squad on July 23.

Saleem Altaf, PCB's chief operating officer, said the board will soon take a decision about Asif's inclusion in the national team.

The 26-year-old Asif was banned last year after he tested positive for banned anabolic steroid nandrolone while featuring in the inaugural season of the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Earlier this week, the decks were cleared for Asif to return to national duty when the PCB fined him Rs.1 million for a 19-day detention in Dubai over possession of a small quantity of opium.

The PCB also announced that the fast bowler will be eligible for national duty after his one-year ban for doping expires.

It was comforting to have Dhoni at the crease: Kirsten

Gros Islet : As nervousness gripped him during India's thrilling chase in the third one-dayer against West Indies, coach Gary Kirsten said he drew comfort from skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni's presence at the crease.

"Someone like MS Dhoni can hit the ball out of the ground at any time so it was comforting knowing that we had him at the crease controlling the game," said Kirsten.

Man of the match Dhoni, hit an unbeaten 46-run knock to take India through in the rain-truncated third ODI and take an unassailable 2-1 lead in the four-match series.

The wicketkeeper batsman hit a six in the last over when the team was needing 11 runs to win.

"He's had a magnificent series and he's played some really good one-day cricket for us. When it comes down to the wire it can go either way, the most important thing is that you have game breakers and match-winners in at that situation," said Kirsten.

Kirsten said the chasing in a rain-truncated match helped India's cause.

"It definitely helps a team batting second in this type of set up. It did suit us to be batting second because you can dictate the game a little better when the overs are shortening in terms of what you need," he said.

"It became a Twenty20 game and you know that when you are chasing more than a run a ball and (the required run rate) is up at eight and nine and you have one bad over, you're behind a little bit," Kirsten added.

The electronic scoreboard on the ground had stopped functioning towards the end of the match but Kirsten said he ensured that the batsmen in the middle were well aware of the target, that was revised twice over.

"It was mind-blowing to be honest, but the umpires were giving them notice every over so they knew what was going on," he said.

"They were fully aware from us what the Duckworth-Lewis totals were so we were pretty much in control of that," he added.

India aims for second ODI series triumph in West Indies

Gros Islet: India would be aiming to notch up only their second ODI series triumph in the Caribbean when they take on the West Indies in the fourth and final one-dayer here on Sunday.

The thrilling six-wicket triumph in the rain-truncated third one-dayer has given India a 2-1 lead in the series and a win tomorrow would give the team a second series triumph here and partly make amends for the early exit from the Twenty20 World Cup in England.

The last time India won an ODI series in West Indies was 2002 when Sourav Ganguly led them to a 2-1 triumph in a five-match series, two games of which were abandoned due to rain.

But the hosts extracted revenge in 2006 when they hammered the Rahul Dravid-led Indians 1-4.

In the ongoing series, the visitors, under Mahendra Singh Dhoni, have not been too convincing.

The hosts almost chased down the over 300 runs target that the Indians had set in the first match.

The next game was total humiliation for Dhoni's men when pace surprise Ravi Rampaul exploited the Indian susceptibility against the short ball and wrecked havoc with a career-best four-wicket haul.

The visitors were humbled by eight wickets before scraping through in the final over to win the third match on Friday.

Had it not been for Dhoni's last-over heroics, the team might just have ended on the losing side in a match where target was revised twice after five rain interruptions in all.

"Overall, I am quite happy with the performance," said Dhoni.

"When it comes down to the wire it can go either way, the most important thing is that you have game breakers and match-winners in at that situation," added coach Gary Kirsten.

The West Indies have been no less inconsistent and have been expectedly relying too heavily on skipper Chris Gayle in batting.

But the likes of Dwayne Bravo and Ramnaresh Sarwan have also made their presence felt with crucial contributions.

The bowlers, though, came in for mild criticism from Gayle yesterday as the skipper felt they weren't aggressive enough in the lost match.

The likes of Rampaul and Jerome Taylor, who peppered the Indians with short balls in Kingston, failed to get much out of the wicket here.

The hosts would be desperate for a win to prevent India from taking the full honours.

For the Indians, a win tomorrow would help them bury the demons of their Twenty20 World Cup debacle and silence some of the criticism that followed the disastrous campaign in England.

Pakistan's young brigade rattles Sri Lanka

Galle:Teenage fast bowler Mohammad Aamer led Pakistan's spirited new-look attack to bowl out Sri Lanka for 292 on the opening day of the first cricket Test here on Saturday.

Pakistan were 15-2 in reply at stumps with skipper Younus Khan on seven and nightwatchman Abdur Rauf yet to score after openers Salman Butt and Khurram Manzoor had fallen in the first four overs.

Butt was bowled by Nuwan Kulasekera off the second ball of the innings and Manzoor was trapped leg-before by Thilan Thushara to set up a thrilling contest ahead.

Aamer, a 17-year-old left-armer, grabbed three wickets and fellow debutant Rauf picked up two after Younus sent Sri Lanka in to bat on a wicket freshened up by early morning rain.

Younus himself took 2-23 while wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal claimed four catches and a stumping as Sri Lanka slipped to 194-6 before the lower order fought back.

Left-handed opener Tharanga Paranavitana was Sri Lanka's saviour with 72, adding 75 for the third wicket with Mahela Jayawardene (30) and 43 for the fourth with Thilan Samaraweera (31).

Sri Lanka's lone debutant, Angelo Mathews, boosted the tail with a sparkling 42 off 57 balls during a 47-run stand for the seventh wicket with Kulasekera, who made 38.

The three-match series is the first between the two nations since armed gunmen attacked the Sri Lankan team bus in the Pakistani city of Lahore on March 3 while the squad was en route to resume a Test match.

The attack injured seven Sri Lankan players and eight local security men were killed.

The match began less than a fortnight after Pakistan defeated Sri Lanka in the World Twenty20 final in England on June 21.

Aamer, one of Pakistan's heroes in the triumphant World Twenty20 campaign, justified his Test debut at the expense of seasoned all-rounder Abdur Razzaq.

The left-armer struck with the last ball of his first over in Test cricket when he bowled opener Malinda Warnapura for two as the batsman was beaten by pace and chopped the ball on his off-stump.

The hosts slipped to 21-2 as Aamer removed skipper Kumar Sangakkara in his third over, forcing the star batsman to edge a short ball to Shoaib Malik at third slip.

Aamer should have had two more wickets but Malik dropped Paranavitana, then on four, and Akmal let off Jayawardene before the batsman had scored a run.

Akmal made amends 90 minutes later when he snapped up Jayawardene off Rauf, but not before the former Sri Lankan captain had partnered Paranavitana in the rescue act.

Rauf had Paranavitana caught by Misbah-ul Haq at first slip midway through the post-lunch session, before Younus dismissed Samaraweera through a catch by the wicket-keeper.

Aamer removed Tillakaratne Dilshan (28) with the first delivery after tea as Malik took a smart catch at gully to end a 34-run stand with Mathews.

Umar Gul, the only specialist bowler in Pakistan's ranks with previous Test experience, earned his first success soon after and debutant off-spinner Saeed Ajmal claimed the last two wickets.

Dhoni helps India take a 2-1 lead

03 July 2009

Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni played another responsible knock of 46 not out as India took an unbeatable 2-1 lead in the series, winning the third One-day international by six wickets according to the Duckworth-Lewis (DL) Method with just one ball to spare here on a rain-marred Friday.
India capitalised on a good start by openers Dinesh Karthik (47) and Gautam Gambhir (44) and Man of the Match Dhoni played a composed innings off 34 balls as the visitors achieved the rain revised target of 159 in 22 overs at the Beausejour Stadium.

India skipper opted to bowl but the start was delayed by over two hours due to rains and when the game started persistent rains interrupted the game thrice.

Ramnaresh Sarwan’s fine 62 off 59 balls went in vain even as West Indies made a challenging 186 for seven in 27 overs. But India were set a target of 195 according to the DL method.

But another spell of shower in the 14th over during India’s innings revised gave the target to 159 in 22 overs.

However, it was the 84-run opening run stand that always kept India ahead of the run rate and Dhoni ensured that he stayed till the end as India scampered home to win in the penultimate ball. Dhoni’s only six came in the last over and it reduced the equation to four from four balls that India achieved easily.

Earlier, Sarwan’s 62 lifted the West Indies to 186 in 27 overs in the rain-shortened match. Left-armer Ashish Nehra led India’s bowling with 3-21 off five overs while Harbhajan Singh took 2-35.

West Indies skipper Chris Gayle then blasted off six fours to score a quickfire 27 off 14 balls before he fell on the resumption of the game after the first spell of shower.

Sarwan and Runako Morton (22) then stitched a 51-run stand for the second wicket before a fine piece of stumping by Dhoni off Harbhajan ended Morton’s stay.

Sarwan kept on playing his shots while Shiv Chanderpaul (15), Dwayne Bravo (14) and Darren Bravo (21) made valuable contributions. Denesh Ramdin remained unbeaten on 14 from six balls as the West Indies achieved the challenging total courtesy the Duckworth-Lewis Method.

The fourth and the final ODI will be played here Sunday.

New Zealand delay team announcement for Sri Lanka tour

WELLINGTON:New Zealand Cricket (NZC) have delayed naming their squad for next month's tour of Sri Lanka because the itinerary is still to be ratified.

NZC had planned to announce their squad on Friday but will wait until next week when the fixtures are due to be confirmed, the New Zealand Press Association reported.

Offspinner Jeetan Patel is expected to be available for selection after his injured knee was not bad as initially feared.

Patel was released by his English county side Warwickshire after hurting his knee but will return home next week and be available for selection.

"Jeetan just needs a couple of weeks to recuperate after suffering a sprain to the medial collateral ligament of his right knee," New Zealand team manager Dave Currie said.

"He will rest the knee for a short while but will resume training within a couple of weeks and should be bowling in the nets soon thereafter.

"We are confident that he will be back to full fitness in time to be available for the Sri Lanka tour."

Shiv Sena threatens IPL games over domestic event


Rightwing Hindu party Shiv Sena has threatened to disrupt Indian Premier League (IPL) matches next year unless the cricket board restored a key one-day tournament to the domestic calendar, local media reported on Friday.

Shiv Sena workers protested outside the board headquarters in Mumbai on Thursday after it scrapped the event named after the late D.B. Deodhar, a respected batsman who hailed from Maharashtra, the party stronghold.

"The BCCI has insulted the pride of Maharashtra by aborting the tournament named after Professor D.B. Deodhar," a party spokesman told DNA newspaper. "If the decision is not reversed, Shiv Sena will not allow a single IPL match in the state."

Indian media had widely reported that the Deodhar Trophy was axed from next year's crowded calendar to fit in IPL matches.

The board scrambled to ward off any possible trouble.

"We are trying to squeeze in the Deodhar Trophy somewhere," its chief administrative officer Ratnakar Shetty told local media.

Buchanan denies loyalties; will be backing Ponting

London: Ricky Ponting might be disappointed with John Buchanan's new job as an advisor in the English board, but the former Australian coach will be backing Ponting to win the Ashes.

Buchanan said that Ponting can lead the team to a win in the series and atone for their loss in 2005. Incidentally, Buchanan was in charge of the Australian team that lost the Ashes in 2005 in England.

"He (Ponting) is determined to turn the tables for [the defeat in England in] 2005. When he led Australia in the past two Ashes, he was surrounded by good lieutenants, but he is now ready to take the captaincy issue forward and move from a consultative style to one of more direct leadership," Buchanan was quoted as saying by The Times, London.

Australia have only four players in side - Ponting, Brett Lee, Simon Katich and Michael Clarke - who were a part of the team that lost the Ashes in 2005 after 18 years.

"I've always been a great fan of Ricky. He is an outstanding team man and he brings that to his leadership style, but it is clear this is now his team," Buchanan.

Buchanan, who coached Australia to three Ashes series victories from four and two World Cup titles, is here to observe the way the game is run.

"After that, I'll sit down with David Parsons (the ECB performance director) and work out a way forward," Buchanan said.

He has also been asked by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to find out his role as a coaching consultant and Buchanan admitted that he is keen to start as soon as possible.

Ponting in search of missing Ashes triumph

London: Australia captain Ricky Ponting heads into the upcoming Ashes series against England looking to erase the one blot on a CV filled with outstanding achievements.

Ponting, one of the most talented batsmen of his and many another generation, has yet to captain his country to Ashes glory in England.

He was in charge when Australia lost their first Ashes series in nearly 20 years when England won 2-1 on home soil four years ago.

"I was disappointed to lose the Ashes in 2005 as the entire touring group were," said Ponting. "I've been lucky to play in an era of Australian cricket that's been very dominant.

"One thing I haven't been able to achieve as captain is to win an Ashes series in England and I'll make sure that I get that point across to the rest of the guys."

Will he ever.

The fact the Tasmanian was in charge when Australia regained the Ashes 5-0 'Down Under' in 2006/07 won't lessen his determination to do well now.

His captaincy skills have been repeatedly 'bagged' with former Australia fast bowler Jeff Thomson stinging in his criticisms again this week.

But Thomson also said Australia had the better line-up and that may yet prove to be true even though they are now without retired stars Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Justin Langer, Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist.

The loss of leg-spin great Warne and accurate paceman McGrath, who between them took 49 wickets in the last Ashes series, has made life harder for Ponting in the field, as it would for any captain.

Even so he still led Australia to a Test series win in South Africa after the Proteas had had to perform brilliantly to win the preceding series in Australia.

They don't have those legends they had but the guys that have come in have done a good job and they will be determined to make their own mark in Australian cricket," said England captain Andrew Strauss.

In left-arm quick Mitchell Johnson and the emerging Peter Siddle, Australia have a lively pair of fast bowlers.

Meanwhile the way veteran quick Brett Lee reverse-swung the ball to take five wickets against England Lions at Worcester on Thursday suggested a skill that proved their undoing in 2005 has been mastered by at least one Australian.

But the question is have Australia's batsmen got better at playing it? Left-hander Gilchrist was driven to distraction by Andrew Flintoff's bowling in 2005 and Australia's top order contains several of his fellow southpaws.

However, taking 20 wickets in a Test has proved a problem for England in recent times.

Flintoff, England's hero four years ago, is coming back from a knee injury while star batsman Kevin Pietersen heads into the Ashes under the cloud of an Achilles problem.

England do at least appear to have more and better spin options than Australia although it will be up to the home side's batsmen to give the likes of Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar something to bowl at, even on a Cardiff pitch for next week's Ashes opener which has a reputation for taking turn.

Off-spinner Nathan Hauritz, an unusually conservative selection by Australian standards, has rarely looked like taking a wicket so far on tour, a vindication of the damning assessment of former Australia captain Ian Chappell that containers should remain the preserve of the shipping industry.

"One of the great strengths of Australian cricket has been how adaptable we've been over a long period of time," said Ponting.

"Yes Swann has done a good job in the games he's played but I see him as being fairly similar to Nathan Hauritz. They are not overly big spinners."

If Australia do leave Hauritz out, it will mean Ponting having to fiddle overs from the likes of Michael Clarke and Marcus North if his quicks are not to run the risk of burnout.

Australia opener Phillip Hughes burst on the scene in South Africa with back-to-back hundreds in only his second Test but the unorthodox left-hander was roughed up by fast bowler Stephen Harmison against the Lions.

Having said that Harmison, equally capable of sending the ball to second slip as he is of sending down a blistering bouncer, is currently out of the England side and may not feature in the Ashes at all.

In Strauss, England have a captain who helped unify the side after the fall-out from Pietersen's enforced resignation from the post.

A sound opener it will be up to him and fellow left-hander Alastair Cook to give England a solid platform at the top of the order.

New England No 3 Ravi Bopara looked good against a lacklustre West Indies but how he goes during the Ashes remains to be seen - as indeed does the latest chapter in cricket's oldest international rivalry.

Nazir may return for ODI series against Lanka: Bari

Karachi: Pakistan's acting chief selector Wasim Bari has hinted at the return of opener Imran Nazir to the national fold.

Nazir is one of the four Pakistani players to have shunned ICL but the PCB Chairman Ejaz Butt had said Nazir would not be considered for national selection because of his behaviour in the final of the national Twenty20 championship.

Bari said that Nazir had been cleared by the Board over the incident in the final when the opener had shown dissent towards an umpire, who ruled him out.

"He was cleared on June 30 over the discipline issue in the RBS Cup. That means that he is now in contention for selection in the ODIs and T20s against Sri Lanka," Bari, who is the chairman of the interim selection committee, said in an interview to a cricket website.

Mohammad Yousuf and Abdul Razzaq have already returned to the national side and are touring Sri Lanka.

Bari also said that he would have picked Imran Nazir in the Twenty20 squad for the World Cup.

"If I had anything to do with the selection of the T20 squad then I'd have picked Imran Nazir. The first five overs of a Twenty20 game are crucial and Imran is an explosive player who could give us a much needed boost at the start of the innings.

"Not to forget that he's a brilliant fielder and really lifts the team with his efforts," he said.

PCB allow Tanvir to play for Rajasthan Royals in charity match

Karachi:The Pakistan Cricket Board has given a green signal to all-rounder Sohail Tanvir to play for his Indian Premier League franchise Rajasthan Royals in a charity match against Middlesex at Lord's on July 6.

The sports management company, which represents Tanvir, said in a statement that Tanvir would represent the Rajasthan Royals in the match being played for the British Asian Trust.

Tanvir was the best bowler of the IPL in the first season and played a key role in his team's title win.

However, he could not play the second edition after the Pakistan foreign ministry advised the PCB not to send its players to India due to security concerns arising out of the tense relations between the two countries after the Mumbai terror attacks last November.

The IPL was later moved to South Africa but by that time the IPL franchises had either terminated or suspended the contracts of the Pakistani players due to their unavailability for the second season.

Portfolio world, the sports management company also quoted Shilpa Shetty the co-owner of the Rajasthan Royals as saying that she was excited to have Tanvir back in the team.

"He was truly missed in the IPL second season," Shetty was quoted in the statement.

Tanvir, the left arm pacer, struggled in the recent World T20 in England and was dropped from the playing eleven.

Sri Lanka, Pakistan return to Tests after attack

Colombo:Four months after a deadly terror attack on the Sri Lankan team in Pakistan, the two nations will renew their Test cricket rivalry when the first Test starts at Galle from Saturday.

Their last meeting in a Test grabbed world headlines for a bloody ambush outside Gadaffi Stadium that killed six police officers and a driver and wounded seven Sri Lankan cricketers.

The Sri Lanka team bus was approaching the ground for the third day's play of the second Test when more than a dozen heavily armed men ambushed the vehicle.

The incident forced the visiting team to return to Colombo immediately and the match was abandoned.

Sri Lankan batsman Thilan Samaraweera's rare feat of scoring two consecutive double-hundreds was a highlight of the series along with Younis Khan's triple-hundred for Pakistan in the first Test.

Samaraweera had a bullet lodged in his thigh in the attack, raising concern for his cricket future. But the bullet missed important tissues and ligaments in the leg, allowing him to make a comeback.

Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara, who is leading the national team for the first time in a Test match, says Samaraweera has fully recovered and has prepared well for the series.

"He has made a good return to cricket. He has played in some practice matches. We are enthusiastically looking forward to see him play in the first Test," Sangakkara told a news conference ahead of the series.

Opening batsman Tharanga Paranavitana, who sustained a chest wound in the attack, will also be taking part in an international match for the first time since the ambush.

Among the other wounded players, Ajantha Mendis and Sangakkara have already played in the recent World Twenty20 and the Indian Premier League.

With memories still fresh, Sri Lankan authorities are providing the two teams with a security equal to that of a head of state, including restrictions on the fans.

Sri Lanka Cricket says spectators are banned from consuming alcohol or lighting firecrackers inside the venue at Galle.

Spectators are no longer allowed to bring in musical instruments, although the match sponsor will arrange for music in order to keep a cricket match tradition in Sri Lanka alive, cricket board secretary Nishantha Ranatunga said.

The two sides have played 34 Test matches previously, with Pakistan winning 15 and losing seven of those. Pakistan have only lost one Test in Sri Lanka, winning six and drawing five.

Abhishek, Eklak to play for next IPL

Kolkata: Having cut ties with the rebel Indian Cricket League, Bengal batsman Abhishek Jhunjhunwala and left-arm medium pacer Eklak Ahmed are all set to play in the next edition of the Indian Premier League.

While Jhunjhunwala has been contacted by Rajasthan Royals and is doing duties for them in England, Eklak has got a call from Mumbai Indians after he accepted BCCI's amnesty offer.

Eklak and Jhunjhunwala were among the 79 rebel players who benifited from the BCCI's amnesty offer that allowed them to return to the domestic fold.

"I have been approached by Mumbai Indians and I am most likely to join them in the upcoming season," Eklak said. He had represented Royal Bengal Tigers for three seasons and bagged most of the wickets last season for the side.

The stylish Bengal batsman, Jhunjhunwala, on the other hand, had attended a weeklong training camp for the IPL champions in Jaipur.

The camp, which concluded on Wednesday, was conducted under the supervision of Darren Berry, the team's coach, and former Indian team physio John Gloster and it prepared the side for their T20 charity match with English T20 champions Middlesex Panthers at Lord's on Sunday.

After the November ICL tournament was scrapped due to the non availability of Pakistan players in the league, Jhunjhunwala headed to England to play for the Essex leagues where he was spotted by Rajasthan Royals

Genes behind uncle Lara's reflection in Darren Bravo

Kingsotn: Legendary West Indies batsman Brian Lara's reflection in compatriot Darren Bravo is not a coincidence or a conscious effort on the youngster's part to copy the former captain but it's all in their genes.

The 20-year-old Bravo, who made his international debut against India in the on-going four-match one-day series, is actually Lara's nephew, revealed his mother Earlene Bravo.

"Brian's (Lara) mother is my father's sister. So we are first cousins," Earlene was quoted as saying in the media.

"From the time he was young, he had those antics just like Brian, it's in his genes.

"I was on a taxi in Jamaica on the way to cricket and the guy didn't know who I was. Darren (Bravo) was just going out to bat and the guy kept saying 'Why this guy trying to be like Lara?' and I was so annoyed," she added.

Earlene said Darren, who is the step-brother of Dwayne Bravo, was passionate about the game from his childhood.

"From very young this boy just love cricket. He would be batting in his sleep. On mornings he pretends he is playing a match with himself. At Fatima School he would carry the ball, the stumps and bat and play all day. He did well in school, but it is cricket that my son has always been keen about.

"Everyday these boys used to talk about and play cricket. Dwayne just use to play cricket by himself. He even uses to score in a book. And I would say to Dwayne, 'boy, who you scoring for?' and he would say 'mommy, I'm playing a game'," she said.

PCB accuses India, Aus of sidelining Pak in draft FTP

Karachi: Pakistan Cricket Board has accused "big nations" India and Australia of trying to "marginalise" the strife-torn country in the draft Future Tours Programmes from 2012 to 2020.

The PCB had raised strong objection to the FTP drafted by the BCCI since it does not include any bilateral series between the arch-rivals and refused to sign the same unless the Indian board revises the draft.

"The draft was placed before the ICC for ratification by the executive board last month but we resisted because we were being marginalised in the new FTP," a PCB official said in condition of anonymity.

The official also accused India of being the apparent driving force behind the new draft FTP, in which they had not slotted any series against Pakistan or Bangladesh.

"We protested strongly and made it clear that we would not sign the draft FTP submitted by the four big nations," he said.

"Due to the strong protest by us, other nations including South Africa conceded Pakistan was not being given proper representation in the new FTP," the source added.

The PCB's chief operating officer Saleem Altaf said, "The ICC President David Morgan has assured us that no injustice would be done with the smaller Test playing nations and Pakistan, being a leading cricket nation cannot be allowed to be marginalised in the FTP."

However, Altaf did not reveal more details of that meeting.

The PCB source said that the four big nations had not even bothered to send copies of the draft FTP to Pakistan before it was tabled for discussion.

"That is why we protested. And we have told India they have to schedule Test series against us regardless of the political situation between the two countries," the source said.

More Indians will be added to ICC Hall of Fame: Morgan

The presence of just three Indian cricketers in International Cricket Council's Hall of Fame may have generated a controversy in the country but the game's governing body on Friday made it clear that more Indians would be added to the elite list.

The ICC said that the list would be updated annually and would have an adequate Indian representation.

"This is not the final list. I do believe that a number of magnificent Indian cricketers deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. We will soon develop a mechanism and have plans to add more players to the list on an annual basis," ICC President David Morgan said in a telephonic interview from London.

Former captains Bishan Singh Bedi, Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev are the three Indians in the 55-strong list that includes 22 Englishmen, 11 Australians, 13 West Indians, three from Pakistan, two South Africans and a lone New Zealander.

Strangely, not a single Sri Lankan made it to the list. Morgan said when updated, the list would look balanced.

"There would be balance among nations, on merit," he added.

The list does not contain cricketers who have retired post-1995.

The eminent Indian cricketers missing from the list include C K Nayudu, Lala Amarnath, Vijay Merchant, Vijay Hazare, Vinoo Mankad, Polly Umrigar, Subash Gupte, Erapalli Prasanna, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar and Gundappa Viswanath.

Among the Englishmen, W G Grace, one of the pioneers of the game, has been included but not Ranjitsinhji, who invented the leg glance and scored close to 1000 runs for England.

Morgan also took the opportunity to rubbish notions that India has been a bully inside ICC, arm-twisting the governing body because of its financial clout.

"I have never regarded India as a bully at the ICC. I refer to my experiece with India at the ICC under the leadership of Mr Dalmiya, Mr Pawar and now Mr Shashank Manohar. I do not accept that India acts in a bullying fashion," Morgan said.

He also sought to dispel the fear of an Indian takeover of the ICC when Sharad Pawar succeeds him as the ICC President.

"I have another year in office and have every confidence in Sharad Pawar that he would be a good leader when he takes over in a year's time," Morgan added.