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Archive for Cricket

England tops Test rankings

England beat India in the third Test at Edgbaston and in doing so became the number one cricket Test team.

Its been a journey for England and I remember how they came to Australia in the summer and successfully defended the Ashes and they were clearly the superior team.

I thought India were going to give England a tough time but England were too good for them.

In the third Test, for example, England scored 710 for seven wickets with Alastair Cook scoring a marvellous 294.

Now I would like to see how long England will reign.

The fourth Test will start on August 18 at The Oval.


Zimbabwe wins on Test return

The Zimbabwe cricket team won its first Test on return to the Test arena after beating Bangladesh at the Harare Sports Club.

Zimbabwe won the Test by 130 runs to make a successful return to the Test fold.

I wonder whether the result shows how good Zimbabwe are or how bad Bangladesh are.

If Zimbabwe are that good then the break was the while but I think we will see when Zimbabwe hosts Pakistan next month.

I think Pakistan will offer a sterner test and that match will be able gauge Zimbabwe's improvement.


India ends Australia's reign in Ahmedabad

India beat Australia in the 2011 ICC World Cup quarter-final match played in Ahmedabad by five wickets to end Australia's reign in the cricket one day World Cup.

Australia had won the last three World Cups and before the last group match against Pakistan had a 34 match unbeaten streak.

If Australia had reached the final it would have been the fifth consecutive final for the defending champions.

I think Ricky Ponting answered his critics by posting a commanding 104 runs, his first century in international cricket in thirteen months, but that was not enough to get Australia to the semis.

India reached the 261 target with 14 balls to spare and have now set what will be an explosive semi against Pakistan.

India's win means that there will be at least one team from the sub-continent in the final.

In the other half of the draw, South Africa will play New Zealand and Sri Lanka will entertain England.

The winners between these two will play in the semis for the right to play either India or Pakistan.


No end to one sided matches

With the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup entering the quarter-final stage I thought we had seen the last of the one-sided matches but the Pakistan/West Indies match proved otherwise.

The West Indies lost by ten wickets after batting first and managing only 112 runs in 43.3 overs.

Pakistan reached that tally in just 20 overs and did not lose a single wicket.

I wasn't expecting that kind of match although I expected Pakistan to win it especially after the way they stopped Australian's 34-match unbeaten streak.

Pakistan's win means that they will now play either Australia or co-hosts India and that should be a very interesting match.

I think that India as co-hosts are under a lot of pressure to win their match against Australia. Australia are the defending champions but I think they haven't been as dominant.

However, a rematch for Australia against Pakistan could be an appetising encounter.

Lets hope we have now seen the last of the one sided matches.


Muralitharan reaches 800

Muttiah Muralitharan took his 800th Test wicket on the last day of first Test against India in Galle.

Muralitharan started the Test needing eight wickets to reach 800 and he took five in the first innings.

With India forced to follow on, the leading marksman took another three in the second innings to reach the 800 milestone.

He now leads Shane Warne on 708 and Anil Kumble on 619.

Its interesting to see that no currently active player has more than 400 Test wickets.

I think this is one of those records that will take a very long to break if its ever broken.


Thendulkar notches one day double ton

India's Sachin Thendulkar became the first player to score a double century in a one day international when he scored 200 runs in the on-going series against South Africa.

Before Thendulkar's double century the highest score was 194, a record which was jointly held by Zimbabwe's Charles Coventry and Pakistan's Saeed Anwar.

Its interesting to note that Thendulkar's previous highest score was a 186 noy out which he scored against New Zealand in 1999.

I think its fitting that Thendulkar has created this record for himself after having played so well at the top level for a long time.

I also think that this will be a record that will take some time to match and overtake.

South Africa lost the match by 153 runs.


Lee retires from Tests

Australian bowler Brett Lee has decided to retire from Test cricket in order to prolong his career which has been been besot with injuries.

Lee will continue to play the short form of the game in one day and Twenty20 internationals.

Its sad to see that Lee has decided to retire from Test cricket but I think he has taken a decision that can at least see him play cricket in the one day international arena for a lot longer.

I think for a long time Lee was overshadowed by Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath in the bowling department but when these two retired I expected him to be the leading bowler and take the shine.

But that is when injury struck and he has been on and off from the Australian team for the last two years.

Meanwhile Australia finished the summer of cricket without suffering any defeat.

Australia played the West Indies and Pakistan in all forms of cricket but most of the matches were one-sided contests which in the end I just lost interest.

Apart from the last two Tests against the Windies, the only other competitive match I can remembers was a Twenty20 match against Pakistan and that was all.

I hope to see better cricket next summer when Sri Lanka and England visit.


Vics grab Big Bash

It was a sweet victory when Victoria beat South Australia in the Big Bash Twenty20 final by 48 runs at the Adelaide Oval.

The Bushrangers were missing five first choice players in Cameron White, Dwayne Bravo, Clint McKay, Peter Siddle and Ross Taylor and I thought that it was going to be another beating from the red hot Redbacks.

The Redbacks had earlier this month beaten the Bushrangers by 91 runs at the Adelaide Oval.

The Vics batted first and got a good total of 166 and it was good that when the Redbacks went in to bat they lost a wicket from the first ball.

I think the key for Victoria was Aiden Blizzard's unbeaten 42 from 19 balls because that got the total to figure that could be defended.

I think this year's Big Bash has been a huge success and I think its due to the reasonable pricing and the inclusion of imports in the teams.

Cricket Australia did well to come up with a price of $10 per person or $25 per family and I think because of that it was easy to make a decision to go and watch the Big Bash matches.

Also the inclusion of foreign stars was a big hit as that proved also another attraction.

Its good to see the Bushrangers winning the competition which means they are able to go the Cricket Champions League again and lets hope that this time they will emulate New South Wales and bring that trophy home.


Australia one up after MCG Test

Australia won the first Test at the MCG after beating Pakistan by 170 runs.

I think this was a very good Test match and better than what I had anticipated at the beginning.

Also the Test went into the fifth day where Pakistan started with a good chance of a draw but that meant batting all day especially as there was going to be no rain.

I think the first innings was the key to the hosts winning as Australia declared at 454 for 5 wickets which didn't look like a high total at the time of declaration.

The tourists had poor first innings but just managed to avoid the follow-on by four runs. Australia's second innings was not as impressive as the first but it was just good enough and I think a better opponent would have taken advantage of that.

This Test was captain Ricky Ponting's 42nd win and therefore he becomes the captain with the most wins.

I think from here he will set a record that will take a long time to match or supercede.

The next Test will be in Sydney as the SCG and I hope its going to be as interesting as the first one.


Australia face Pakistan next

Australia will face Pakistan in another three match Test series after seeing off the West Indies in the first series of the summer.

The first series ended up being very interesting after a less than competitive first Test at the Gabba which ended after three days.

I was surprised to see the Windies turnaround in the Adelaide and Perth Tests where the Windies were quite good and I think they had a good chance of the winning the third Test.

But Australia did well especially in bowling to make sure they won the series 2-nil. Given the way the series was going it would have interesting to see what could have happened in the fourth Test.

Unfortunately the Test series could easily be remembered for indiscipline in both the Aussies and Windies ranks and lets that's the last we will see of that this summer.

That brings to the three Test series against Pakistan which start in three days time at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Pakistan has finished a tour of New Zealand where they drew the series 1-1 after a draw in Napier in the last Test.

The third and last Test will be at the Bellerive Oval in Hobart, Tasmania and its good to see a Test match being played in Tasmania.


Australia wins Gabba Test

Australia easily won the first Test against the West Indies at the Gabba by an innings and 65 runs on the third day.

This was far easier than I thought and the Windies were no match to the Aussies from the onset.

Ricky Ponting declared his team's first innings after scoring 480 runs and losing eight wickets.

The Windies managed to get only 228 runs in their first innings and were asked to follow-on and the second innings was even worse.

Adrian Barath scored a superb century for the Windies but the problem is that none of his team-mates was able to score 25 runs or more.

In fact only three batsmen reached double figures and therefore the Windies could not force the Test into the fourth day.

The Windies have their work cut out for the remaining two Tests if they are to be competitive at all.

The second Test begins on Thursday in Adelaide and the Third and final Test will be in Perth.


Australia clinches series

Australia clinched the one day international series against India after winning the sixth match by six wickets.

Australia had gone into the match leading the series 3-2 and needing a win the series and India struggled in its innings to score just 170 in 48 overs.

I knew that kind of total was never going to trouble Australia and the tourists reached with nearly nine overs to spare.

So far this has been an interesting series even though the last match will now be a dead rubber.In fact I think this particular match has been probably been the worst.

I think what makes this victory so significant is the fact injury plagued Australian team has gone to the sub continent and won a series so convincingly.

After this series I will now look forward to the summer Test series against the West Indies and then later on Pakistan.

The one day triangular series in January and February 2010 will also involve the West Indies and Pakistan.


All square against India

The seven match one day international series is now pegged at 1-all after India won the second match this morning.

Australia won the first match of the series which had a thrilling end but still managed to win by four runs.

I think this an evenly balanced series and it could be decided near the end of the series.

In the last seven match series Australia played against England I lost interest after a few matches because you could see that it was one sided and England only managed to snare a win in the last match.

Meanwhile in the Twenty20 Champions League final, NSW had a 41-run win over Trinidad & Tobago to claim the inaugural trophy.

It was good to see another cricket trophy come to Australia after Australia won the ICC Champions Trophy earlier this month.

In the meantime I am hoping that Victoria will qualify again for the tournament next year.


Australian team in Twenty20 final

There will be an Australian team in the Champions League Twenty20 final because Victoria is going to play New South Wales in the semis.

Victoria won its group and will meet the Blues who finished runners up in their group, League A.

The other semi-final match will be between Cape Cobras and Trinidad and Tobago.

I thought that the Cobras were going to win League A but their loss to the Delhi Daredevils meant that the Bush rangers won that group.

I hope that the Vics will win so that they feature in the final and once in the final I think it will anybody's game. Either way its good to see that an Australian team will be in the final and cup could be coming Down Under.


Bushrangers cruising well

The Victorian Bushrangers beat the Royal Challengers Bangalore by seven wickets in their opening second round match.

I have been following with interest the progress of the Bushrangers in the inaugral Champions League Twenty20 tournament and its good to see that they on the brink of reaching the semis.

In their first match of the tournament, the Bushrangers also to beat another Indian Premier League(IPL) side the Delhi Daredevils.

Its also good to see that New South Wales reached the second round as well and in their next match tonight they will play Trinidad and Tobago.

I thought that the IPL teams would be the dominant force in this tournament but it looks like its not going to be that way.


Australia retains ICC Champions Trophy

Australia retained the ICC Champions Trophy after beating New Zealand by six wickets.

Shane Watson was probably the difference between the two teams as he scored an unbeaten 105.

In the semis against England he had been even more impressive scoring a superb 136 for a resounding victory over England.

I think this has been a largely interesting tournament with lots of surprising results along the way.

I was surprised by India and Sri Lanka's performance. The hosts South Africa also performed poorly when I expected them at least to make the semis.

Sri Lanka were also off their usual best as they failed to make an impact at this tournament.

It was good to see Australia continuing with its form from the one day international series in England which Australia won 6-1.

After reaching the semis I think England were unfortunate to meet Australia again because I think that had they met another team chances are high they would reached the final.


England avoid series whitewash

At last England won a match and avoided a series whitewash after beating Australia by four wickets in the last match of the series.

I could see that England were so determined to avoid a series whitewash and when they won the toss it was not surprising to see them decide to field so that they could chase whatever total the tourists got.

For Australia only captain Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey gave some resistance when the captain scored 53 runs and Hussey just missed half a century by one run.

I hope that next time there will be a triangular series instead of an unending seven match series. If there is no available third team then a five match series is good enough.

The next stop for both teams will be the ICC Champions Trophy being hosted by South Africa. I t think it is here where Australia's strength will be tested while England players have a chance to quickly redeem themselves after the 6-1 loss.


Whitewash looming for England

The one day international series between England and Australia comes to an end on Sunday with England trying hoping to win to avoid a series whitewash.

England has lost the first six matches and at Riverside it must com out with a win or it will be a whitewash and that will be very embarrassing especially a whitewash over seven matches.

I always thought that this one day series was rather too long with seven matches and I haven't been following the series very closely but I will eagerly follow the last one.

Australia lost the Ashes series earlier and a complete whitewash will give the team lots of confidence going into ICC Champions Trophy to be played in South Africa starting next week.

I think England will be hoping for better luck in that same tournament but given the way they have played against Australia a miracle is needed to come up with a decent result. Hope I am wrong.

Ponting opts out of Twenty20

Australian cricket captain Ricky Ponting this week announced that he was retiring from international Twenty20.

The reason given is that he wants to prolong his cricket career and so I think that will give Michael Clarke a chance to captain one Australian side.

This retirement is just for international cricket and so Ponting will still play for Tasmania and Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League.

I think this is a very good chance for the other Australian cricketers to step up and cover the gap left by Ponting.

I am bit surprised he retired from Twenty20 because there doesn't seem to be a lot of Twenty20 matches but a lot of one-dayers like the seven match series currently going on in India.


England wins Ashes

England regained the Ashes series after winning the final Test at the Oval by 197 runs.

This has been a see-saw series with both teams either playing so well or so badly and then there was the rain mix which helped get the two series.

After Australia's massive win at Headingly I was confident a win was possible at the Oval but scoring 160 runs in the first innings did not help.

In that first innings the openers did very well scoring 84 runs between themselves more than half the total from there the highest score came from Peter Siddle.

Once England declared 373 in their second innings to set a chase of 545 for the tourists with two days to go I knew the best result from then would have been a draw assuming the rain came in.

But this time the rain did not intervene leaving England to regain the Ashes after bowling Australia out for 348.

Its interesting to see that England did not lose a match with Andrew Flintoff in the side and also they did not have Kevin Pieterson for the last four Tests.

I am now looking forward to the Twenty20 matches which will then be followed by the one day matches and I hope they are going to be just as interesting.

England on the ropes

Its looking very good for Australia at the moment in the fourth Test at Headingly and the tourists should soon wrap victory.

Last week I wrote about the importance of winning the fourth Test and now unless something dramatic happens Australia should win comfortably.

England had a very poor first innings scoring just 102 runs and with 445.

Now England in the second innings are on 82 for 5 and still trail Australia by 262 runs.

This is only after day two and therefore it doesn't look that good for England and they may well start preparing for the fifth Test.

Marcus North, Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting shone for Australia in their innings whilst Peter Siddle took five wickets in England first innings.

I hope this Test will over on the third day and now there will be a showdown at the Oval to see who takes the Ashes.

Headingley Test critical for both teams

After the third Ashes Test was drawn at Edgbaston, the fourth Test at Headingly has now become very critical with Australia needing to avoid a loss to stay in the hunt.

An England win would hand over the Ashes to the home team because that will mean a 2-nil lead at that stage but a draw wouldn't be that bad either for England.

For Australia I think this is a must win Test even though a draw could be good enough but that would require winning the last Test.

I think the rain helped make sure that the third Test was a draw with really noone having an upper hand.

While the tourists had a poor first innings, I think Michael Clarke helped Australia to a commendable second innings with his century and that should help going into the fourth Test.

Whilst England talked about victory the moment they bowled Australia out for 263, I think they didn't manage to get a good enough lead in their own innings.

I wonder what would have happened had one day not been lost to rain altogether.

Lets hope we see most of the action in the fourth Test and less of the covers.

Victoria grouped with Wayamba, Daredevils

Victoria has been drawn in the same group as Delhi Daredevils and Wayamba in the Champions League Twenty20 which will be played in October in India.

There are four groups each with three teams and Victoria is in group D where it will play the the teams from Sri Lanka and India.

I think the idea of the cricket champions league is a very good one and I am keen to see how the Bush rangers will stand up to opposition from the sub-continent and especially in the sub-continent itself.

The two teams from England are going to be decided at the end of this month and have therefore been placed in the draw as team 1 and team 2.

The idea of placing the yet to be decided teams in the draw as teams 1 and 2 is a very good one and I think that's what the Asian Champions League should also follow when it comes to the participating teams from Australia's A-League.

The draw for the Asian Champions League is conducted before the season ends in the A-League but instead of using teams 1 and 2 until the teams are decided, the previous years winners are chosen instead.

Back to cricket I am hoping that Victoria will do well especially as the competition starts before the domestic competition is in full swing here in Australia.

England go one up

England won the second Ashes Test at Lord's by 115 runs to inflict a rare loss to Australia at Lord's.

Whilst I think England were saved by the rain in the first Test in Cardiff, at Lord's they were a complete side and deserved the victory.

I thought Andrew Flintoff with his five wickets in the second innings made a huge difference and was probably the difference but I think the victory was crafted in the first innings.

In the first innings captain Andrew Strauss scored a superb 161 and when Australia came to bat they didn't have a particularly good first innings.

Only Mike Hussey managed to get a half century with half a dozen players getting single digits. Whilst the second innings performance was much better with Michael Clarke's innings it was a bit too late.

So England are one up going to third Test at Edgbaston in Birmingham. I think its critical for Australia to avoid another defeat in the Midlands.

Going one up can you give a psychological edge but I think Australia should be able to rise up and square the series especially if the top order batsmen can start firing again.

England salvage draw from first Test

England got a hard won draw in the first Ashes series Test played at Sophia Gardens in Cardiff after Australia failed to bowl them out on the fifth day.

The early play on the fifth day went Australia's way as England lost key wickets and victory looked so certain but Paul Collingwood's stay on the crease made sure that England snatched an unlikely draw.

I think that on their performance on the last day England probably deserved a draw because it was Australia's duty to bowl them out and they failed to do so.

The tourists had just one innings were four players scored centuries. Simon Katich, captain Ricky Ponting, Marcus North and Brad Haddin all scored centuries.

I also think that the rain breaks were good for England and especially on day four when play had to finish early because of the weather.

The drawn first Test means that this could be yet another interesting Ashes series. The second Test begins at Lord's on Thursday.


Pakistan Twenty20 champions

Pakistan won the World Twenty20 tournament after beating Sri Lanka by eight wickets in the final.

I think Sri Lanka faltered where it mattered most after only managing 138 runs at Lord's and Pakistan managed to chase that total and lost just two wickets in the process.

Also Pakistan had eight balls to spare which suggests that maybe 10 to 20 more runs who have been enough for Sri Lanka.

But it was a good turnaround by a Pakistan team that started the tournament slowly and just managed to reach the Super 8 stage.

Also in the semis Pakistan had a shock win over South Africa who up until then seemed destined to reach the final.

In both the semi-final and final it was Shahid Afridi who played very well and was probably the difference as he made 54 not out.

For Sri Lanka, only Kumar Sangakkara had a respectable innings but with two top batsmen Tillakaratne Dilshan and Jehan Mubarak both scoring ducks it was a big challenge against an in-from Pakistan team.

So congratulations to Pakistan and I hope this will be a start for good times for the Pakistan team.

Sri Lanka to meet Pakistan in final

Sri Lanka beat West Indies by 57 runs to book a place in the final against Pakistan in the World Twenty20.

When Sri Lanka managed 158 runs in their innings I knew that the West Indies were going to struggle to reach that total and I was proved right with the Windies only managing 101 runs.

Its been a good run in this tournament for the Windies but they stood no chance against an in-form Sri Lanka team who I think will go and win the final.

For the Windies only opener Chris Gayle managed to get double figures and four players got ducks and one player got just a single run.

On the other hand for Sri Lanka, Tillakaratne Dilshan scored a superb 96 runs which is nearly the total score for the whole Windies team.

Lets hope its going to be a competitive with the best team on the day winning.

Pakistan reach Twenty20 final

Pakistan reached the ICC World Twenty20 final after beating South Africa by seven runs.

I have been following the World Twenty20 tournament for most of this month and its good to see how unpredictable the tournament has been.

This semi-final was also a big surprise for me because I thought South Africa would easily reach the required 150 runs but they failed shot by seven runs.

Also the defending champions India failed to reach the semis and Australia even failed to reach the Super 8s.

Pakistan will play the winner between Sri Lanka and the West Indies. I have been impressed by Sri Lanka so far and I hope the final will be between Pakistan and Sri Lanka.


Pakistan loses hosting rights for 2011 World Cup

The International Cricket Council(ICC) has announced that Pakistan will no longer be hosting matches at the 2011 Cricket World Cup.

I think this is hardly a surprising decision given what happened to the Sri Lankan cricket team but its good to see that the ICC has taken this decision with at least two years to go rather than at the last minute.

At the same time its also sad to see that Pakistan will miss out on hosting the matches in the 2011 World Cup and now it will be down to India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The ICC statement did not say how the 14 Pakistan matches will be shared among the remaining three hosts but I am sure we will hear more about it soon.

Flower for England

Former Zimbabwean batsman Andy Flower has been appointed the new England coach to replace Peter Moores.

During his playing days for Zimbabwe, Flower's outstanding ability as a batsman made sure that the Zimbabwean team was a decent one and since he retired the team has been in a free fall.

Although he was caretaker coach in England's tour of the West Indies I still think he is still untested at this level of competition and he will not wait long to be tested as Australia will be touring England in the winter.

Before the Ashes series England will have played the West Indies and also the ICC World Twenty20 and so Flower will have some experience when England tries to regain the Ashes from Australia.


South Africa takes one day series

South Africa beat Australia by 61 runs in the fourth one day international match to take an unassailable 3-1 lead going into the final match on Friday.

South Africa has now won three matches in a row after losing the first match.

Australia won the the Test series that preceded this one day series but South Africa won the Twenty Series.

I think the difference between the two teams was Herschelle Gibbs who scored 110 runs from 116 balls.

Australia were bowled out in 45th over and I think the good start by the first three batsmen who all scored half centuries was ruined by the rest of the other batsmen with only David Hussey and James Hopes managing double digits.

The last match will be in Johannesburg and I hope we are going to see a better Australian performance to end the series in some style.

South Africa gets IPL

South Africa will host this year's edition of the Indian Premier League(IPL) after security concerns in India forced organisers to seek an alternative host.

This is the second tournament that South Africa will host which was meant to be hosted on the sub-continent.

Last week the ICC announced that South Africa were going to host the ICC Champions Trophy which had been scheduled to be hosted by Pakistan but security concerns meant that it had to be moved elsewhere.

This is going to be good for the South African cricket fans and I hope they will go and attend these matches and enjoy world class cricket.

I am keen to see the schedule and see what the times will be like for Melbourne but I am sure we will be able to watch the night matches in the morning here.

Meanwhile South Africa saved face by winning the last Test by an innings and 20 runs.

Next in line will be the Twenty20 series followed by five one day matches.

Champions Trophy to South Africa

At last the ICC Champions Trophy will be run but this time it will be hosted by South Africa.

Its unfortunate that because of the security problems in Pakistan they can't host the tournament but its fair to say that the ICC has tried to delay as much as possible but they cannot keep on postponing the event.

So the tournament will start late September and finish in early October.

I am keen to see what the ICC will do with the 2011 Cricket World Cup. I think its better to give Pakistan as much time as possible but at the same time I think its not a bad idea to think of what will happen should they not be part of the 2011 showcase event.

I think its going to be a difficult issue for the ICC but a time will come when they have to make a decision and I will wait and see what they will do.

This tournament will mean yet another tournament for South Africa because in June South Africa will host the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup and then next year will be the big one - the 2010 FIFA World Cup.


Australia clinches series win

Australia clinched a Test series win over South Africa after beating the home side in Durban by 175 runs.

Australia won the first Test in Johannesburg by 162 wins and I thought South Africa were going to fight back in Durban but they have failed to do that.

South Africa won the Test series played here in the summer and it looked like they were going to win the current series given that they were playing in their own backyard but they have failed to do so.

In their two innings in the first Test the home side failed to reach 300 runs. They managed to do so in the second Test in the second innings when they scored 350 but that came after a lowly 138 in the first innings.

On the other hand the tourists have been superb and have shown why they are number one.

Philip Hughes has been exceptional and I hope he can maintain his form going into the third and final Test and he could be crucial especially when Australia tours England in winter.

Also on the bowling side its been a good all round performance with everyone grabbing a couple of wickets and also restricting South Africa to fewer runs.

I would like Australia to win the third and final Test to complete a whitewash.

Ponting overtakes Waugh

Ricky Ponting overtook Steve Waugh to be the the fourth highest run scorer in Test cricket.

In the ongoing Test match against South Africa in Durban, Ponting made 81 runs from 106 balls and has now amassed a total of 10,948 runs.

Waugh who was in fourth place has 10,927 runs in his name. Ponting is now also the second highest Australian run scorer and is now just 226 runs behind Allan Border who made 11,174 runs.

I will not be surprised to see Ponting in number three overrall after the Ashes tour in England because I cannot see him failing to make 226 runs in the next twelve innings or so.

Another player making history for himself in the same match was Phillip Hughes who became the youngest player in Test history to score two centuries in the same match.

Hughes scored 115 runs in the first innings and is still unbeaten on 136 in the second innings.

I expect Australia to win this series after this match because I cannot see South Africa making a recovery at this point to force a draw.

Australia has played far much better than they did in the home series in the summer and I think the success of the opening bowlers Simon Katich and Hughes has helped a lot.

South Africa must now know that they have a lot of work to do to overhaul Australia at the top of Test cricket because before the Test series started this looked like their best chance.


Summer ends on a high

The Australian cricket team's summer ended on a positive note after the one run win over New Zealand in the Twenty20 match at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

In fact the summer started quite well with a win over New Zealand in a two match Test series but South Africa came and spoiled all that by winning both the Test series and the one day series.

South Africa's rare double over Australia did not surprise me that much but I expected more of a fight from Australia.

Now Australia will tour South Africa starting from the end of this month and I will not be surprised if the hosts win all the matches.

Stuart Clark is not going and so once again Australia will be relying on a very inexperienced bowling line-up and bowling out the Proteas twice is going to be very difficult indeed.

In the batting department the problem has been that if captain Ricky Ponting fails nobody has been able to steer the team to safety and I am hoping that Michael Clarke will be able to step up to get some decent results.

On a positive note I hope the South African tour will prepare Australia for the Ashes.

Murali breaks one day record

Muttiah Muralitharan broke the record on the number of wickets taken in one day cricket when he overtook Wasim Akram record in the on-going series against India.

Murali passed Akram's 502 wickets record when he took the wicket of Gautam Gambhir in the fourth one day match in Colombo.

Now Murali holds both the Test and one day records. He has now taken 769 Test wickets.

Murali breaking the record could be the only highlight for Sri Lanka where they have already lost the series 4-0 and need to win the last match to avoid a whitewash.

Hayden calls it a day

It was hardly surprising to hear today that Matthew Hayden announcing that he was retiring from international cricket after his performances this summer.

But I still think he only needed one good innings to be able to go to South Africa and then after that defend the Ashes in winter in England.

In five Tests after the Indian series he had to get at least one good innings but in the end the highest he got was a 39 at the Sydney Cricket Ground when the Test series had already been lost.

I think that by then he was already under a lot of pressure and under that kind of pressure everything tends to be magnified.

But there is no question he is a great batsman who has a highest score of 380 runs and I wish him well in his retirement.

South Africa wraps up series

South Africa wrapped up the Test Series against Australia on the fifth day after successfully chasing the 183 run target set by Australia to win by nine wickets.

This was a very interesting Test match and the match seemed to swing from one team to the other until the end of the third day.

On the first day it looked like South Africa were on top after the Australian top batsmen failed to click but Australia's tail managed to get the score to 394 on the second day.

But I think the real drama was on the end of the second day when it looked so likely that South Africa were going to struggle and possibly lose. South Africa ended day two on 198 for seven and that was 196 runs behind Australia's first innings total and it looked like South Africa would be dismissed early on the third day.

But up stepped Jean-Paul Duminy who scored 166 runs and together with Dale Steyn's 76 took South Africa's tally to an unimaginable 459.

I think that was the turning point for the match because from then on I think the worst South Africa could get was a draw.

I think Australia's biggest problem is in the bowling department. At the moment there is so much reliance on magic moments but there is no consistency.

This is not surprising especially given it will take some time to replace Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne.

This is the first time for Australia to lose a series at home since 1992/93 in the loss to the West Indies.

Now the third and final Test is a dead rubber but I am hoping that it wont be a series whitewash.

A draw could be a good result at the SCG at the moment.

Hauritz for Boxing Day Test

Nathan Hauritz will replace Jason Krejza when Australia play South Africa in the second Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).

Australia has to avoid defeat in the MCG Boxing Day Test because that will make South Africa win the series after their six wicket win in the Perth first Test.

Normally the MCG Test is the fourth Test when Australia plays a five Test series in the summer but this year its a three Test series against South Africa after Australia first won two easy Tests against New Zealand.

It is in the bowling department where I think Australia is facing its greatest challenges. Krejza did not play any worse in terms of wickets at the WACA because he took just one wicket but so did Peter Siddle and Brett Lee.

But Krejza conceded the highest number of runs yielding 204 runs in nearly 50 overs and this was more than any other bowler and I think that's why he is being replaced by Hauritz.

But I am keen to see what Hauritz will do at the MCG and this is a good chance for him to prove his worth in what is proving to be a problem area for Australia.


Deserved win for India

India won the Test series against Australia after winning the fourth and last Test in Nagpur by 172 runs.

Going into the final day I thought Australia had a good chance of at least securing a draw but Australia were all out for 355.

Matthew Hayden was the only player to shine in Australia's second innings with his 77 with no other batsmen managing to go past 30 runs. Harbhajan Singh was once again Australia's tormentor taking four wickets.

I think in terms of the whole series India did well when it mattered most and had the better all round team.

I still think that Australia should have won the drawn first Test because I think thats where they played their best cricket and from there I think it just went downhill.

For me the highlights for the fourth Test was Jason Krejza's eight wickets in the first innnings and also Sachin Thendulkar's century which was his 40th.

The next Test series for Australia will now be against New Zealand and I think its a good Test for Australia to redeem themselves before facing South Africa in the main series of the summer.

Dehli Test ends in a draw

The third Test between India and Australia ended in a predictable draw after some high scoring from both sides and and its now down to the final Nagpur Test to determine the winner of the series.

To win the series India will need to either win or draw but for Australia to square the series they will need to win the last Test.

I think India had a very good first innings and I thought they were on a winning trail when they declared on the second day but Australia also showed how good they are with the bat scoring 577 runs in return to India's 613.

From there I could see that the match was headed for a draw unless something dramatic happened.

I think the highlight from this Test was to see two Indian players score double centuries in the same innings. VVS Laxman scored 200 and opener Gautam Gambhir scored 206.

For Australia I think Michael Clarke's century was crucial especially when chasing such a high total. I always thought that the key for Australia was to avoid a follow on.

Possibly the biggest news of the series so far came when Indian bowler and captain Anil Kumble announced that he was retiring from Test cricket.

He retires having a total of 619 wickets putting him in third position overall behind Muttiah Muralitharan and Shane Warne in terms of Test wickets taken.

I am looking forward to the fourth and final Test and I hope it will be more entertaining.

Tough remaining Tests in India

India won the second Test against Australia by 320 runs in Mohali and I think the remaining two tests are going to be tough going for Australia.

The next Test will be played in Delhi starting next week and India now needs to win just one of the two remaining Tests to clinch the series.

The final Test will be played in Nagpur and it will start on 6th of November and it will be good if Astralia can go to that Test without having lost the series.

I thought Australia played very well in the first Test but in the second one it was clear that India outclassed Australia in every department.

India scored 469 runs in its first innings and in reply Australia managed just 268 with only Shane Watson and Mike Hussey going past the half century.

I think its in the second innnings where the difference in class began to tell because Australia could only take 3 wickets for India's 314 runs. I think Stuart Clark was sorely missed.

Micheal Clarke was the only one to show some resistance with a superb 69 but apart from him nobody else passed 40 runs and hence a total of 195 runs in the second innings.

The loss is not very surprising but the draw in the first had sort of given some hope but we will have to see what happens in the third Test next week.

Thendulkar breaks Lara's record

India's Sachin Thendulkar yesterday broke Brian Lara's record for the number of runs in Test cricket when he want past Lara's 11,953 runs.

Thendulkar only needed 14 runs to equal the record on day one of the second Test against Australia.

After another 47 runs Thendulkar became the first player to reach 12,000 runs and I think we will be saying this for some time as he reaches milestone after milestone.

I think by the time he retires he will have set a very big record which will take a long time to beat if anybody can beat it.

At the moment the nearest contenders from current players are Rahul Dravid and Australian captain Ricky Ponting.

Siddle debut in second Test

Peter Siddle will make his debut for Australia in the second Test against India in Mohali.

Siddle will replace paceman Stuart Clark who did recover in time from a shoulder injury to make it for the second Test.

I actually think Australia did very well in the drawn first Test and I think they deserved to win the match.

After all the talk from India about Australia having no spinners India did nothing to suggest that they had the better bowlers.

Looking at the scorecard, Australia had two players make centuries captain Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey whilst on the Indian side their highest score of 57 was achieved by a bowler in Zaheer Khan in the first innings.

I will be expecting a much tougher second Test especially if Indian captain Anil Kumble is fit but if he plays injured again then Australia could be one up after the second Test.

So lets see how Siddle will perform in his debut Test.

Champions Trophy year delay

The ICC announced over the weekend that the ICC Champions Trophy will be delayed by at least a year but the event will still be held in Pakistan.

That in itself is good but what I don't understand is what makes them think that the same security concerns will be gone in a year's time.

At the moment General Pervez Musharraf has just resigned and I assume there must be some tensions in the country because of that and I think that the ICC hopes that next year it will all be good.

Its good also to see that the ICC has mentioned that the location could be moved if the security concerns persist. I think that will be better than yet another delay.

Next year England will host the 20Twenty Championships and with the addition of the Champions Trophy it looks like an already busy calendar for the teams.

I hope that the tournament will go ahead as now scheduled and that all teams will participate because I think it will be good for the Pakistani fans.

South Africa gets draw at Lords

South Africa managed to get a draw after what looked like a certain defeat after the end of their first innings when they were all out for 247 runs.

I am bit interested in this Test Series between England and Australia because South Africa will be touring Australia this summer and I am keen to see how good they are before committing myself to go and watch the Boxing Day Test.

I think they did very well to save the Test after having a very poor innings and were forced to follow in. They managed to score only 247 runs compared to England's 593/8 declared.

But South Africa had a superb second innings with three players Hashim Amla, Neil McKenzie and Graeme Smith all scoring centuries.

The question to ask is what happened to the English bowlers in South Africa's second innings? They have a lot of work to do in the case in the second Test which starts on Friday.

In the end South Africa had four century makers compared to England's two for a difference of just 47 runs and that's not too bad but I think the second Test will be a tight contest.

Cricket gets Champions League

Cricket will get its own form of Champions League when eight Twenty20 teams from four countries compete in a tournament later this year.

Unlike the football champions league, the cricket one is actually a tournament where all the matches are played over 10 days.

The eight teams are going to come from Australia, India, South Africa and England. The English teams will be decided next month but the other teams already in are Victoria, Western Australia, Titans, KwaZulu Natal Dolphins and Indian premier league teams Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super.

I don't know whether in the future there will be teams from countries like Sri Lanka, Pakistan and New Zealand and also whether the number of teams will then be increased.

If the number of teams is increased that will have an impact on the already congested cricket calendar and also on the prize money.

It will be fair though I think to increase the number of participating leagues because you can't just have only four but then all the other things have to be reviewed.

I think this kind of tournament is now only possible because of the popularity of Twenty20 cricket and the good thing is that it gives something different.

I will be waiting to hear where the tournament will be held but for now I am just happy to see that the Bushrangers are in it.

IPL ends first season

I should say that I didn't watch much of the inaugural Indian Premier League (IPL) season once I realised that the broadcast time was always going to be in the early hours of the morning Melbourne time.

However, I managed to follow the league through the match reports and it would appear like it was a great success.

It was good to see so many Australians do so well in the competition and Shane Warne's team, the Rajasthan Royals beat Chennai Super Kings in the final.

I don't think a lot of countries a lot of countries can run a similar league but India could do it because they have the numbers and also they got lots of sponsorships in order to attract the best players.

It was good to see a number of Australian players do well in the tournament especially with Shaun Marsh get the highest run scorer award with 616 runs for his team the Kings XI Punjab.

I hope that Channel Ten the IPL broadcaster here in Australia will be able to show a highlights package everyday at a time most people can watch but I doubt very much that will happen.

MacGill quits internationals

I should say I was surprised to read that Australian leg spinner Stuart MacGill had quit international cricket after now getting the spinners place because of Shane Warne's retirement.

For a long time McGill stayed on the fringes of the Australian team because when Australia had to choose one spinner that choice was always Warnie.

But now that he was in the team more or less as first choice I thought he would take the opportunity with both hands but he has decided to retire from internationals.

He says he is not happy with his performance so far but I think he should have given himself some more time to see if he could add to the 208 wickets he has taken so far.

I don't know how long he will continue playing for New South Wales but I also wonder whether Warne will come out of retirement and take his place. I would rather have him stay in retirement and give somebody else a chance.

Ponting reaches 10,000

Australian captain Ricky Ponting reached the 10,000 run mark in the second Test against West Indies to become only the seventh player to do so.

It looks like a good Test for Ponting so far after getting his 35th century in the first Test and now he has become the third Australian player to reach 10,000 runs.

The other Australians to reach that mark are Allan Border and Steve Waugh. Border finished with 11,174 Test runs whilst Waugh amassed 10,927 Test runs.

I think Ponting could be the first player to get 40 Test centuries if he maintains his form. The only player who could beat him to that is Sachin Thendulkar who seems to have injury concerns at the moment.


Indian Premier League starts

The long awaited Indian Premier League will start tonight Melbourne time and I am keen to see how this Twenty20 cricket competition will go.

There has been so much coverage in the media over how much players are going to earn through their participation but I think its good to see players from different countries playing in different teams more or less like what happens in football.

In Australia Channel Ten has got the rights to the IPL coverage but a quick look at the TV guide shows me that the matches will be shown very late at night or in the early hours of the morning. It will be very hard for me to watch these matches especially during the weekdays.

There are number of Australian players playing the league with Ricky Ponting and David Hussey playing for Kolkata Knight Riders and also John Buchanan is the coach there.

Andrew Symonds and Adam Gilchrist will play for Deccan Chargers and I think that makes that team very strong already because these two players can hit runs very quickly and this is what is needed in Twenty20.

Another team of interest could be Jaipur based Rajasthan Royals where the two Shanes Warne and Watson will be playing.

It would be good if this league could be accommodated within the ICC calendar so that it doesn't disturb tours by national teams.

Already India cancelled its tour of Zimbabwe where they were scheduled to play some one-day internationals in June and this has been re-scheduled for some later time.

Pakistan tour off for now

Cricket Australia early this week announced that the planned tour of Pakistan was being postponed to sometime next year or the year after.

This came as no surprise to anybody as there have been talk of the tour being cancelled for some time now but it would have been good had the tour gone ahead.

I think its the right decision though and I hope a slot can be found sometime next year and that the situation on the ground in Pakistan also improves so that a tour can actually take place without any fears.

Australia last toured Pakistan ten years ago in 1998 and I am sure the cricket fans in Pakistan will be looking forward to seeing the world champions in action on local soil.

Pakistan will be one of the hosts for the 2011 Cricket World Cup and I hope that all matches scheduled to be played in that country will go ahead as planned.


India wrap up series

India won the Commonwealth Bank one day triangular series after beating Australia by 9 runs at the Gabba.

I think India saved their best cricket for last although I have to say that Sachin Thendulkar was once again the real difference as he fell short just nine runs to score a second successive century against Australia. But his runs helped India batting first to requires Australia to score 249 to win.

Australia had struggled with the bat for most of the series and relying on the bowlers most of the time, but this time they came close and could have forced a deciding match at the Adelaide Oval.

One consistent thing though was captain Ricky Ponting's lack of form as he only managed one run this after scoring the same in the first match at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Adam Gilchrist again failed and contributed just two runs.

So the summer of cricket controversy comes to an end and I actually look forward to the next time India visits these shores maybe with a bit less controversy.

India one up as Thendulkar shines

Tonight India beat Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) to go one up in the Commonwealth Bank triangular series with Sachin Tendulkar in commanding form.

There is no doubt the star of the match was Thendulkar but it was interesting to hear that the century he scored was the first one against Australia in Australia in the one day competition.

Without looking at the statistics its easy to assume that he had scored a century before against Australia in Australia and the century was his 42nd.

His unbeaten 117 made sure that India reached the target of 239 with four overs to spare.

For Australia Matthew Hayden scored an impressive 82 after a dreadful start where top order batsmen Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist and Michael Clarke all failed to reach double figures.

Tuesday will see the next match in this finals series at the Gabba in Brisbane and Australia has to win to force a third and deciding match in Adelaide but if the batting remains to be poor then Australia will fail to win the triangular series for the second year running having lost to England last year.

India reach finals

Last night India reached the finals where they are going to play Australia to decide the winner of the ongoing triangular between also involving Sri Lanka.

I have been disappointed with Sri Lanka so far and now they have just one game left to play against Australia which will mean nothing with the finals confirmed when Sri Lanka lost to India by seven wickets.

Some of their matches have been rain affected like last week's match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) and even when they have not they have not played as well as I expected them to do.

On the other hand Australia have shown some real talent in the bowling department and its no surprise that Brett Lee won the Allan Border medal last night.

The bowlers have really helped poor totals especially the sub 200 ones and they will need to do the same against India in the finals.

Last year Australia lost the triangular series finals to England and so it will not be good to lose two in a row and I will be following the finals series with a lot of interest. It will be good if the final if the final is decided in a third game.

Meanwhile there is a bit of controversy again after Matthew Hayden described Harbhajan Singh as an "obnoxious little weed" and Cricket Australia have charged him with breaching of Cricket Australia's code of conduct.

Australia top triangular series

Australia have won the last two triangular series matches despite scoring low totals and the latest match was today in Adelaide where India lost by 50 runs.

I have watched the last two matches Australia has played against Sri Lanka and then India and in both cases I thought Australia would lose but they somehow managed to defend what looked like small targets.

At the Waca Australia batted first and could only manage 236 runs thanks to Adam Gilchrist's ton but Sri Lanka could not reach that target as they lost by 63 runs. Kumar Sangakkara starred for Sri Lanka scoring 80 runs.

At the Adelaide Oval today, Australia only managed 203 runs after another top order collapse but India still lost by 50 runs and its now safe to say that Australia will be in the series final.

The Australian top order batsmen are failing to get the runs but the bowlers are saving the day for them. It looks like its a question of in-form bowlers and off-form batsmen but at the moment its working alright.

I think Sri Lanka now have a lot of work to do in order to reach the final but their first step is to beat India in the next match.

Harbhajan in the clear

The International Cricket Council(ICC) dropped the racial abuse charge against Harbhajan Singh after he was found guilty by the match referee Mike Procter soon after the second Test in Sydney.

Appeals commissioner New Zealand Justice John Hansen decided to significantly reduce the three-match ban imposed on Harbhajan after dropping the charge of racial abuse at the ICC code of conduct appeal hearing in Adelaide.

Harbhajan was then charged with a lesser offence of abusive language and as a result handed down a fine of 50 per cent of the match fee.

The Indian team seem happy with the new offence after they said that they will now continue with the tour.

The worst thing about the whole affair were the on-going threats to abandon the tour if the original charge was upheld and I think its not good for the game of cricket. Those threats show that India know that they are very powerful financially in cricket circles and knew the threat would be taken seriously.

But I wonder whether other countries will also be allowed to use those kind of threats, not that it is good, but India has set a precedent.

I think they should have presented all the evidence and say that they would go with whatever judgment was passed on and not issue threat after threat.

I think in the end Justice Hansen had good reasons to drop the charges but I don't think he needed a cloud of threats to come to his decision.

I hope that this is the last time we have such a thing in cricket and teams must simply trust the procedures for appeal that are already laid down and prepare all the evidence that they have to make sure they come with the judgment they will be seeking.

India stuns Australia

India stunned Australia by winning the third Test at the WACA by 72 runs on the fourth day.

If India had drawn the second Test in Sydney, the fourth and last Test in Adelaide could have been a series decider but I think India will go into the fourth Test with more confidence than Austrlia.

Ricky Ponting's men were also searching to equal the record of 17 consecutive Test wins set by Steve Waugh's team but the signs were not good when he was dismissed early on the fourth day.

In an earlier post I pointed out that India could win after setting a big total but in the end they could only set a target of 413 after Australia had the better of the third day in the field but that target was good enough to bring an Indian victory five years after the last one on Australian soil.

I think Australia were let down by their batting in this Test with Michael Clarke scoring the highest score of 81 in the second innings but that was not good enough to save the Test especially with only Mike Hussey and Ponting managing to get past 40 in that innings.

I think India started slowly and their bowlers have been quicker to adjust and now it looks like the final Test in Adelaide could be a thriller.

Kumble reaches 600

Anil Kumble, the Indian captain took his 600th wicket when he took the wicket of Andrew Symonds on the second day of the third Test against Australia at the WACA.

Kumble is the third highest taking wicket taker behind Muttiah Muralitharan and Shane Warne who are on 723 and 708 respectively. Kumble later on took the wicket of Shaun Tait to reach 601.

Its good to see that the focus is back to cricket in the third Test and India having bowled out Australia for 212 seem to have the upper hand at the moment and all they have to do now is increase their lead on the third day and part of the fourth day and then plan to bowl out Australia on the fourth and fifth days.

India had a good start to their first innings but could only manage 330 runs after struggling later on in the innings but with Australia falling short by 118 runs they have a good advantage which they can turn into a win to record India's first victory in this series.

The ICC must stand firm

The third Test match at the WACA between Australia and India is now in doubt after India decided to suspend their cricket tour of Australia pending the outcome of an appeal against a three-match ban handed to spin bowler Harbhajan Singh.

It looks like to me that if the appeal fails then the tour will be cancelled but if the appeal is successful then the tour will proceed.

I think that the International Cricket Council (ICC) must stand firm and make the right decision for the sport instead of weighing on the tour cancellation and therefore I hope the ICC will stand firm if they have to uphold the initial decision made on Monday morning.

There were a lot of errors during the five day Test and a lot of them seemed to favour Australia and I think that has caused the emotions to rise and this Singh's ban has just inflammed an already volatile situation.

As I said in an earlier post a draw would have been a fairer result given the number of errors made by the umpires but then there was the dramatic Australia win which now looks like was aided by errors rather than being the better team over the course of five days.

Normally the errors seem to even out but I think in this case they did not even out. Andrew Symonds should probably have been out at 30 but was not given out, Mike Hussey maybe should have been out at 40 but was not given out and yet Dravid was given out when he probably should not have been out and the list goes on.

But at the same time if Singh called Symonds a 'monkey' then the ICC should act according to its zero tolerance policy on racism. Whether the ban should be 3 matches or not I don't know but a ban to me looks very appropriate in that case. But if he didn't say that then that's a different story.

Its also good that Ricky Ponting told the umpires once he realised something inappropriate had been said to one of his players and I think all captains should do the same. I don't think Ponting complained to the umpires for the sake of it or just to make sure that Singh gets some punishment.

I am eager to see what the result of the appeal will be but the ICC should stand firm and not be pushed around by any team or indvidual because none of that is bigger than the sport. Racism in cricket and in any other sport for that matter must be tackled and its up to the players to uphold the sport's code of conduct.

Thrilling end to second Test

The second Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground came to a thrilling end when Michael Clarke took three wickets when the match seemed to be heading a for a draw to make Australia win by 122 runs.

Maybe a draw would have been a fair result especially in such a match where there was so much controversy. Indian off spinner Harbhajan Singh has been banned for three Tests after the International Cricket Council ruled that he racially abused Australia's Andrew Symonds.

I am keen to see what India's appeal to the decision will yield but I am happy to see that the ICC is at least doing something about racism in the game.

The positives from this Test were Symonds match saving first innings score of 162 not out especially when you consider that he went on the crease when Australia was reeling at 134-6. Mike Hussey and Matthew Hayden later scored centuries in the second innings but I think to give India

Another highlight was Sachin Thendulkar's 154 not out which helped India reach 532 first innings score. VVS Laxman also scored a century in the first innings to continue his good record against Australia.

The third and last Test will start in Perth at the WACA and that looks like its going to be another interesting episode.

India's lame fight

India's lose first Test I was not surprised by Australia winning the first Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground by but I was surprised in the manner in which the Indians seemed to offer not much of a fight.

Before this Test match in the ICC Test championship table Australia was ranked first with 143 points and India was ranked joint second with 109 points and as such I expected a much tighter contest possibly extending to the fifth day but that did not happen.

India failed to reach 200 runs in both their innings and that tells a story on its own but it did not look that bad on the first day on Boxing Day when India managed to restrict Australia to just 343 runs but India's first innings fell short of that target by 147 runs.

Sachin Tendulkar's 62 runs made the score look not that bad but then Australia had an even better second innings declaring on 351. India's batting went from bad to worse and in the second innings none of the batsmen managed a half-century.

I don't know whether India's performance had anything to do with lack of preparation in Melbourne as they had just one tour match before the first Test and that match did not go all the three days because of rain.

I am looking forward to second Test at the SCG and lets hope its going to be a tighter contest but it will need the Indian batsmen to put some runs on the board as I think that their bowlers led by captain Anil Kumble did a decent job in both innings.

Meanwhile, its interesting to see that the West Indies have beaten South Africa to win their first Test in South Africa and also their first Test win in two years. There are two more Tests to go in that series and I am sure South Africa will fight back to avoid a series defeat.

Murali overtakes Warne

Sri Lanka's Muttiah Muralitharan today overtook Shane Warne's haul of 708 wickets when he took two wickets on third day of the first Test series against England being played in Kandy.

On the second day Murali managed to equal Warne's record when he took the four wickets he needed to reach that figure but on the third day he created his own record when he took the wicket of Paul Collingwood.

I think it was good that he broke the record in his own hometown of Kandy because that gave his home supporters a chance to celebrate with him that milestone. Before the series against Australia there was a suggestion that he could break the record on Australian soil but that never happened as he only managed to take just four wickets in the whole series when he needed nine.

I think Murali is capable of reaching between 800 and 900 wickets but I am not sure about the 1,000 wickets he talks about. In England's first innings he managed to take six wickets and that is the reason why he is able to take so many wickets and it will not be surprising to see him take more than ten wickets in this first Test alone. That I think is what helps him get the numbers up so quickly.

For the next few years I will wait and see where he will leave the mark at and at the moment there seems to be nobody challenging him for that record but for now congratulations Murali!

No surprises in Hobart

There were no surprises in Hobart in the second and final Test between Australia and Sri Lanka as Australia went on to win by 96 runs.

Kumar Sangakkara scored a superb 192 and gave hope to Sri Lanka for an unlikely victory but I think that in the end Australia were by far a better team and deserved to win the series. It was also sad to see that Sangakkara was wrongly given out because it would have been good to see where he would have taken his innings.

I think Brett Lee had a great series and he took eight wickets in the second Test. I still think that the new Australian bowling line up was not tested very much by Sri Lanka and I am keen to see what will happen in the next Test series against India.

The much talked about Muttiah Muralitharan's record attempt came to nothing as he only could get four wickets in the entire series but he now needs just four runs to pass Shane warne's 708 haul. Possibly the good news is that he will be able to do so before his home fans in the upcoming three match Test series against England.

The next Test series for Australia is going to be against India and I am looking foward to that one. On paper it should be competitive but many teams have come here and just looked ordinary and I hope India will not do that.

Gilchrist shines in Hobart

Sri Lanka are continuing to struggle in the second and final Test in Hobart and with all eyes on Muttiah Muraritharan beating Shane Warne's record it was Adam Gilchrist who came with a record of his own.

Gilchrist became the first player to get 100 sixes in Test matches when he hit two consecutive sixes off Muralitharan's bowling in Australia's first innings. That was probably the highlight of the second day as captain Ricky Ponting declared at 542 for five wickets.

Sri Lanka has been very poor with the team all out for 246 in its first innings despite Mahela Jayawardene's century. Credit to Brett Lee for taking four wickets and with no follow-on imposed this time Australia are doing very well at the end of day three with 111 runs for just one wicket.

Murali's tally is now on 704 and lets see what the fourth day will provide.

Easy run at the Gabba

Australia coasted to victory winning by an innings and 40 runs after Sri Lanka were forced to follow on after their first innings of 211 which was 340 runs short of Australia's total.

Only the rain that stopped the match twice in the last two days could have made it a draw.

I was keen to see how many wickets Muttiah Muralitharan would take to edge closer to Shane Warne's record of 708 wickets but with Sri Lanka losing by an innings, Muralitharan only managed to get two wickets to get to 702.

He will now need seven more wickets in Hobart if he is to overtake Warne's total on Australian soil. After Hobart, Sri Lanka next Test will be against England at home and I am sure he will be able to break the record then if he doesn't in Hobart.

But it was good to see Phil Jaques get his maiden Test century when he opened the match. Michael Hussey and Michael Clarke were the other Australian batsmen to notch centuries.

A discussion of this Test will not end without talking about Reuters, Agence France-Presse and Associated Press who did not cover the Test due to a dispute with Cricket Australia. I wonder when this dispute will be resolved.

This was Australia's first Test without Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Justin Langer and lets what happens in the second in Hobart.

Sour end to India series

The seven match one day international series between India and Australia ended yesterday on a sour taste after the racial abuse directed at Andrew Symonds in the last two matches in particular.

The series wasn't what I expected because I thought India would push Australia all the way but that did not happen and in the sixth match Australia wrapped up the series with a 4-1 lead with one match to go.

I am keen to see what action the International Cricket Council (ICC) will take after what has happened so far. India will be one of the hosts of the 2011 Cricket world cup and unless this racial abuse is ended soon then it will not be an interesting world cup at all. I am sure the majority of Indian fans have nothing to do with this but it is that small minority that spoils it for everybody.

I believe that when this kind of racial abuse happens in any sport, the idea is to unsettle the players on the other team and hence gain an unfair advantage over that team. As a result I believe teams must be punished for the action of their fans when this happens.

Back to the cricket its good see Australia winning on the sub continent and this is particularly good with the next World Cup going to be on the sub-continent. India played well in the Twenty20 tournament but they could not carry this form into the one day international series to the disappointment of their fans.

Interestingly the next match is going to be a Twenty20 match and lets see what happens then and I hope that after that all we will talk about will be cricket.

England too good for Sri Lanka

Over the past week or so, I have been following the one day international cricket series taking place in Sri Lanka between Sri Lanka and England.

I have been keen to see how England would perform in an away series after winning their last home series against India. After last night's win in Colombo, England have now secured that series and this is quite an achievement given the fact that Sri Lanka are a very good one day team and have never lost a one day series to England before.

The unassailable 3-1 lead means that England go into the final match having secured the series but it didn't look like it was going to be that way after the first match which Sri Lanka won by 119 runs. Since then England have won the remaining matches which was achieved with good performances with the bat and ball as evidenced in the fourth match.

Sri Lanka have found the runs hard to come by so far apart from the first match where they scored 269 runs. In the second match they could only get 169 runs as they lost by 65 runs.

I look forward to the Sri Lanka tour of Australia next month and I am hoping that it will be a competitive two match Test series. Its good that they are going to have Muttiah Muralitharan in their ranks who hasn't played so far in the current series due to injury.

India clinch thriller

India beat Pakistan by five runs in a thrilling World Twenty20 final to cap what has been an entertaining tournament and one that has been very interesting to follow over the past fortnight or so.

Gautam Gambhir's 75 got India to a good start but Pakistan came very close to actually winning the match as they just needed six runs from from four balls before the last wicket was taken and so this match could easily have gone either way.

After 16 overs, India managed to reduce Pakistan to 104-7 but the good work from Misbah-ul-Haq meant that Pakistan came as close to winning the match as possible as Misbah-ul-Haq got 43 runs off 38 balls.

It was good for once to have a competitive and exciting cricket final after the boring and one-sided finals in the last three World cups.

I think India deserved their win given the way they played throughout the whole tournament. They beat Australia convincingly and against England Yuvraj Singh got the six sixes and then drew against Pakistan in their group match.

I also think that India benefited a lot from the seven match one-day series against England and they carried their form from there into the World Twenty20 tournament.

After the debacle of the Cricket World Cup in the Caribbean, I think the ICC have redeemed themselves with the way they have organised this one and I hope it wont be long before Australia also hosts this tournament.


Yuvraj six sixes

There have been a few records set at the ongoing ICC World Twenty20 championships but one of the most impressive I think is Yuvraj Singh's record of being the first player to score six sixes in just one over in international Twenty20 cricket.

Yuvraj scored the six sixes under the bowling of Stuart Broad as England went on to lose that match by 18 runs. It is not surprising therefore that Yuvraj reached his half-century off just 12 balls.

Because this is a new format of cricket there have been a few records set as a result. Brett Lee claimed the first international Twenty20 hat-trick to help restrict Bangladesh to just 123 runs. Lee took the wickets of Shakib Al Hasan, Mashrafe Mortaza and Alok Kapali to clinch the hat-trick.

The other record worth noting is the highest Twenty20 innings total achieved by Sri Lanka when they made 260-6 when they beat Kenya in the group stages.

Lets hope to see more records broken as the tournament reaches the semi-final stage.

Zimbabwe shock Australia

Its not often these days that there is something good to write about when it comes to Zimbabwe cricket but this morning's result is really good news for Zimbabwean cricket as the Southern African nation beat Australia by five wickets in a World Twenty20 championship match played in Cape Town.

Australia were restricted to just 138 runs and Zimbabwe reached that target with just one ball to spare. Australia's tally didn't look that big but given that the opponents were Zimbabwe it seemed like it was going to be enough but Zimbabwe just got there to record a shock result.

Its only two days so far and the inaugural World Twenty20 championship is proving to be very interesting already. With just twenty overs there is not much room for error and you have to score runs as quickly as possible and that leads to the spectacle.

In the other matches played yesterday, I thought Scotland did very well but once Pakistan went beyond 150 runs I just thought that they would struggle to reach that kind of target and they did. In the end Scotland fell 51 runs short Pakistan's total of 171. New Zealand therefore had no problems hauling Kenya's meagre total of 73 runs and I am surprised they even reached that total.


England getting it right

I have been following the Natwest One day international series between England and India and I think the fourth match played at Old Trafford has been the most interesting so far.

India were restricted to just 212 runs but at one it looked like that was going to be enough especially when England were 114-7 but Ravi Bopara and Stuart Broad managed to get the runs to get past India's total.

After a disappointing World Cup, it looks like England are on the way up in the one-day game. I think the return of Freddy Flintoff from injury has helped the team with confidence although he hasn't been exceptional so far.

With three more matches to go, India will need all of them in order to win the series but England needs only one more win to secure the series.

India will tour Australia in the summer and so far its very hard to tell how strong they are but I think it will be a better summer of cricket than last year.

Tendulkar reaches milestone

The Indian batsman Sachin Tendulkar reached 11,000 runs in the second Test being played at Trent Bridge when he scored 91 but all he needed was 25 runs to reach the 11,000 mark.

I have always followed with some interest cricket matches played at Trent Bridge and Edgbaston because these are the two English grounds that I am most familiar with but it was a long wait on the first day as play only started after midnight Melbourne time.

Tendulkar would have a scored his 38th century had he scored an extra nine runs but Paul Collingwood made sure that didn't happen.

The other batsmen to have scored more that 11,000 runs are Brian Lara with 11,953 and Allan Border with 11,174. I think Thendulkar will be able to pass Border soon because he only needs another 108 runs to do so but I think it will be a while to overtake Lara's haul .

Back to the second Test, I think England will be hoping that the weather will come to their rescue this time just like it did for India in the first Test but they have started their second innings well and could well salvage a draw without the weather's intervention.

Murali gets to 700

Sri Lanka's Muttiah Muralitharan got his 700th Test cricket wicket when he took the wicket of Syed Rasel in the third and final Test match against Bangladesh.

Sri Lanka dominated this three match Test series winning all the matches by an innings but the third Test was made extra special with Murali notching his 700th Test wicket and he is now just eight wickets behind Shane Warne who retired in January tis year with a total 708 wickets.

The Test series was marked by poor Bangladesh first innings. In the first Test, Bangladesh scored 89 runs in their first innings and then scored a paltry 62 in the first innings of the second Test and they scored their highest first innings score in the last Test when they scored 131 runs. Its not surprising why they lost all three Tests by an innings.

Sri Lanka's next Test is against Australia in November here in Australia and there is a good chance that Murali could pass Warne's record then. He has taken five wickets in an innings sixty times and 20 times he has taken more than ten wickets in a match.

Murali has now taken a total 1155 wickets international cricket combining the Test and one-day international wickets and with the rate with which he is taking wickets I will not be surprised to see him reach 800 soon.


Rumblings about Australia's tour to Zimbabwe

One of the hot topics this past week has been the issue of abandoning the Australia's cricket team scheduled tour of Zimbabwe later in the year.

I think the good thing so far in this issue is the willingness on the part of the Australia government to pay any fine that the International Cricket Council (ICC) may impose on Cricket Australia should they abandon the tour. Its not good to advocate abandoning the tour and then let the sporting body foot the bill.

From a cricket perspective ignoring the political side of the story, Zimbabwe playing Australia is a total mismatch and I don't know what the ICC thinks will be gained from this tour. Recently Zimbabwe lost all its matches against lowly ranked Bangladesh and they also failed to win a single match at the World Cup and playing Australia can only lead to some records which just distort the existing records.

Zimbabwean cricket reached a peak at the World Cup in South Africa but since then problems on and off the pitch have meant that the cricket itself, the sport, has taken a back-seat. It is in this context that Australia touring will bring a mismatch which nobody really wants and I think Zimbabwe should be playing sides like Kenya and Ireland more often and then play the Test playing nations later when its form and standard has improved.

At the moment its hard to see this tour going ahead but all the same I will be following the developments closely and I am keen to see what the ICC's response will be should the tour be abandoned as expected.

Australia retain World Cup

Australia this morning retained the ICC World Cup after beating Sri Lanka by 53 runs using the Duckworth/Lewis method to lift the cup for the fourth time.

I had hoped to watch the start of this match and with no play past midnight I just gave up on it but managed to get up to watch the ending where there was so much confusion on when exactly the match would end.

Australia's vice-captain Adam Gilchrist carried the day for Australia with a world cup final record score of 149 runs from 104 runs and that was the major difference between the two teams apart from the weather conditions.

Its rather unfortunate that the weather played a big part in this final but having said that very few would doubt that Australia deserved their crowning again as champions as they totally dominated all their matches at this world cup. It is therefore not surprising that Australia last lost a world cup match against Pakistan in 1999.

Sri Lanka also have been very consistent and played in some of the most interesting matches of this world cup especially the matches against South Africa and England.

This match also saw the retirement from cricket of Glenn McGrath from cricket and he has had a wonderful tournament and deserved to be the player of the tournament.

So congratulations to Australia and I hope in four year's time there will be more competition.

Sri Lanka meets Australia in Final

Sri Lanka will meet defending champions Australia in the ICC Cricket World Cup final after the Australia beat South Africa by 7 seven wickets in the second semi-final match.

For the second time in this tournament South Africa lost to the defending champions only that this time the defeat was heavier. None of the South African batsmen could manage a half century with eight of them only managing single digits including captain Graham Smith who could only get two runs with all rounder Jacques Kallis only scoring only five and that in a way explains South Africa's lowly total of 149.

Glenn McGrath took the wickets of Ashwell Prince and Mark Boucher before they could register a run. Watching this match, one couldn't believe that this was a tussle between the number one and two ranked teams because the erratic South Africans looked out of sorts.

On the other hand the Australian bowlers did a wonderful job with McGrath taking three wickets and Shaun Tait four. The excellent bowling explains why Australia has managed to bowl out every team they have played the full match in this tournament. The only team not bowled out was Bangladesh but this was a reduced overs match.

This now sets up a very interesting match up against the Sri Lanka team who must be bubbling with confidence after beating New Zealand in the first semi-final. While South Africa has lost three times at the semi-final stage, for the Kiwis it is actually five and they lost a match in which they threatened to win up to around the 20th over.

Whilst Austrlia are hot favourites to retain the Cup, I think Sri Lanka will prove a handful and I won't be surprised if there is an upset. Sri Lanka will bring their bowlers Muttiah Muralitharan, Chaminda Vaas and Lasith Malinga who missed the Super 8 match between the two teams and I am sure this trio will cause problems to the Australian batsmen.

Australia too good for Sri Lanka

Australia maintained their unbeaten world cup record stretching back to the last World Cup by beating Sri Lanka by seven wickets at the 2007 ICC Cricket World cup.

The match that I was looking forward to turned out to be a no contest with Sri Lanka deciding to rest their key bowlers Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas and Australia chasing 227 against such an attack was an easy task and hence Australia reached the target with seven overs to spare.

Amid all this its easy to forget that Australia's bowlers did a very good job restricting Sri Lanka to just 226 runs and Nathan Bracken in particular was impressive getting four wickets for just 19 runs in 9.4 overs.

I am now just wondering whether New Zealand will also decide to rest their key players against Australia because they will need a win plus a good run rate to overtake Australia at the top. Finishing second or third for them will not make much of a difference because either way it will set up a semi-final match against Sri Lanka.

There is one match though where nobody will be rested and this is the South Africa/England match in Barbados tonight. This will be South Africa's last Super 8 match and they will need to win it to reach the semis whilst on the other hand England with four points and another match against the West Indies still to come, would need a win to steal a march to the semis.

Meanwhile, in an earlier post, I gave Ireland no chance against Bangladesh but Ireland proved me wrong by beating Bangladesh by 74 runs. Ireland are now off the bottom of the Super 8 ladder and its good to see them at least score points and this level and they have more than justified their presence in the Super 8 stage.

Australia, NZ and Sri Lanka reach semis

New Zealand this morning joined Australia and Sri Lanka in the semi finals of the 2007 ICC Cricket World Cup after beating South Africa by five wickets.

After losing to Sri Lanka in their previous match New Zealand rebounded with a win over South Africa which was actually quite close despite the sub 200 target of 195. The Kiwis reached that target with just ten balls to spare and this shows that had South Africa scored 30 or 40 more runs they could have won this match.

South Africa's next and last match is against England and they have to win it to entertain any hopes of the semi-finals. I think South Africa will be able to overcome England who are themselves so inconsistent you can't tell what to expect from them match to match.

Ireland have a chance to restore their pride after the massive loss to Australia when they meet Bangladesh in Barbados. I think Bangladesh will win this match to maintain their slim hopes of a semi-final place.

Meanwhile Australia's last two matches are very interesting in that Australia will meet Sri Lanka and New Zealand. These are the two teams who are going to give Australia a real test and I can't wait for Monday night's match against Sri Lanka.

A win is very important for both teams because both teams will be vying to finish top of the ladder at the end of the Super 8 stage. The team that finishes top will play the team that finishes fourth and this increases the chances of reaching the final especially when the fourth team is likely to be South Africa or England.

South Africa back on track

South Africa's win against the West Indies in the ICC Cricket World Cup Super 8 puts them back in track to reach the semis of the competition.

After a poor batting performance against Bangladesh which resulted in a loss of 67 runs plus the number one ranking status, South African knew that only a win would give them a comfortable sail into the semis. Its not done yet as theoretically the other four teams below them can still reach semis.

Later today England will play Bangladesh and a win for either side will strengthen the team's quest for the semis. Bangladesh's win over South Africa has increased its chances of reaching the semis and a win will increase their chances even more.

England's captain Michael Vaughan once again failed with the bat as England lost Australia and this time he knows that his side has to win all the remaining matches or they will watch the semis from home.

World Cup hots up

With the two day break at the 2007 ICC Cricket World Cup in the West Indies, maybe its time to take stock and review the action of the last few days and look ahead at the coming crucial matches which will decide who reaches the semis and who goes home.

I think England had a good chance of winning against Sri Lanka after good work by their bowlers who managed to restrict Sri Lanka to just 235 runs but the Sri Lankan bowlers did very well to defend the target. I think England were let down by their opening batsmen who didn't give their team a good start. Michael Vaughan could only manage 10 and Ed Joyce went out for a duck and the team had to once again depend on Kevin Pietersen but it was Ravi Bopara who nearly got home the victory.

The result means that Sri Lanka now have six points and are joint top with Australia and New Zealand. I actually think that these three teams will be in the semis plus possibly South Africa.

England have two points at the moment and to get to the semis they will need to start winning matches and to kick start that they will have to beat the Australians in their next match. I think they can do that because they beat Australia three matches in a row just a few weeks ago but they are playing an Australian side bubbling with confidence at the moment.

South Africa should see off Bangladesh on Saturday to get two points that will take their points tally to six and its looking very likely now that the two unseeded teams still left in the competition, Bangladesh and Ireland, will prop the ladder in the end but its only the order that will be determined in the coming weeks.

A South African loss though against Bangladesh would give hope to the West Indies whose next match is against the southern African nation.

Away from the action, Greg Chappell has resigned as India coach following their group stage exit. I am not really surprised by this but I don't know what the coach could have done when India's experienced players just failed to fire.

So there is still so much to look forward to and I hope that we will be able to witness some more riveting matches like the England/Sri Lanka one.

Windies slipping away

The West Indies succumbed to their third straight defeat at the Super 8 this morning after losing to Sri Lanka by 113 runs.

This leaves the Windies with just the two points which they got from the group stages and in real danger of leaving the stage before the semi-finals. It was good to see a big crowd for once at this World Cup but the crowd could only watch as the home team's batting once again failed to produce many runs.

The Windies have so far failed to reach 200 runs in the Super 8 stage and they have also failed to utilise all their fifty overs. As the home team it would have been good for them to be in the semis but this looks very unlikely now.

While the Windies have already played three games, New Zealand, Bangladesh, England, Ireland and South Africa have so far played just one match which brings into question the whole scheduling of these matches. At least New Zealand and Bangladesh play tonight but after that New Zealand's next match will be in a week's time against Ireland.

The time delay could be explained by there being no matches on Thursday and on Good Friday but it would have been better to make sure that no team plays their third match before more than half the teams have played their second. After three matches in six days, now the Windies have to wait eight days for their next match.

The scheduling could surely have been better than this.

Australia continue good form

Australia continued its good form at the ICC World Cup beating the host nation, the West Indies by 103 runs when the match continued this morning after the rain disrupted the match the previous day.

The hero of this match will always be Matthew Hayden who scored an Australian world cup record score of 158 runs. The West Indies never came near to Australia's total of 322 as they were dismissed for 219 in forty-five overs with Brian Lara top-scoring with 77 runs.

Hayden's score underpinned Australia's innings because the next best score after that was Michael Clarke's 41 but the result should have made Australia's intentions of defending the cup clear. This win increases Australia's chances of reaching the semis but there are still some tough matches to come.

In the other match this morning South Africa went back to winning ways after beating Sri Lanka by one wicket. Sri Lanka never got going like they did in their last three matches only managing to score 209 runs and South Africa should have sensed victory then. This is the first time in this cup that Sri Lanka have failed to score more than 250 runs.

With the match seemingly coming to an obvious end at 206 for 5, Lasith Malinga became the first bowler to take four wickets in four balls in international cricket. That record breaking performance did not however help Sri Lanka win the match but I think it will be talked about for a long time to come.

Australia's next match will be against Bangladesh and I don't that this will give the Australians a lot of problems whilst tomorrow England will face Ireland.

Australia upstage South Africa

Australia produced a good all round performance at the ICC World Cup this morning to beat South Africa by 83 runs.

In one of the most anticipated matches since the draw was made, the match was quite interesting especially when South Africa had 184 runs on the board halfway through their innings for the loss of one wicket.

But after such a good start, South Africa could not maintain the momentum as they went on lose their last nine wickets for just 74 runs. South African bowlers had no answer to superb bowling by Australia and Shaun Pollock could not even manage a wicket.

Matthew Hayden had a particularly good game scoring 101 runs from 68 runs and Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke chipped in well with 91 and 92 runs respectively.

Meanwhile England easily reached the Super 8 stage after comfortably beating Kenya by seven wickets. With Andrew Flintoff back in the side, England had no problems chasing Kenya's target of 177 runs with Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood leading England home after some good work by Ed Joyce who scored 75.


India face World Cup exit

India look set to make a shock exit from the 2007 ICC World Cup after losing to Sri Lanka by 69 runs.

Needing a victory to stay in the tournament, India's top batsmen could not repeat their record breaking performance against Bermuda against an in-form Sri Lanka team. Sachin Tendulkar scored a duck on a day when runs were needed from every member of the team.

Sri Lanka now go into the Super 8 stage with six points and they are going to be joined by the West Indies who also have six points after beating Ireland by eight wickets with Shiv Chanderpaul scoring a superb 102 from 113 balls.

Looking at the coming fixtures, the big match for Australia against South Africa is going to be played tomorrow morning and this will check Australia's return to form. South Africa are playing some very good cricket at the moment and neither team is prepared to drop points and it should be an exciting encounter.

England and Kenya both have a chance to be in the Super 8 and whoever wins this match will be there. So its a final before a final for these two teams. I would expect England to win this one but Kenya will give them a run of their money.

The last group match will see Bermuda battle Bangladesh to decide who will join Sri Lanka in the next stage in group B. Before the tournament started, the match looked like a non-event because by then most expected India and Sri Lanka to have qualified but that hasn't happened and so its now the most anticipated match in this group.

The good news is that there will be only one match on this day and so I hope to give this match my undivided attention.

Will India's 413 be enough?

India beat Bermuda by 257 runs in the ICC World Cup after scoring a world cup record score of 413 but the question is will India be able to reach the Super 8 stage?

I think India were very fortunate in that Bermuda won the toss but then decided to field and India knowing that their fate could well be decided by run rate went on to score a superb 413 runs for the loss of five wickets. With two points on board now and a run rate of 2.5 India will have to beat Sri Lanka in order to stay in the Cup.

Bangladesh are playing Sri Lanka tomorrow and they can take comfort in the fact that their last match is against Bermuda. I don't think they will take the match against Sri Lanka's lightly though because a win will almost assure them of Super 8 stage.

On the other hand Sri Lanka has to beat Bangladesh because with their last match being against India, on paper this is the easier of the two matches.

Meanwhile in Group D, the West Indies reached the Super 8 stage after beating Zimbabwe by six wickets. Zimbabwe made the Windies work for the victory but in the end they could not stop Brian Lara's side from taking all the points. Now Zimbabwe will have to beat Pakistan in order to have a chance of reaching the next stage.

Hodge shines in Cup win

Australian Brad Hodge scored his maiden one-day international century against The Netherlands in the ICC Cricket World Cup.

Australia beat The Netherlands by 229 in a one sided match in which the Dutch team could only score 129 runs in 26.5 overs. They were chasing Australia's score of 358.

But the day belonged to Hodge who scored 123 runs off just 89 balls. Michael Clarke also had a good game scoring an unbeaten 93.

Brad Hogg was the pick of the bowlers taking four wickets for 27 runs. This is however, the end of the easy matches with South Africa going to be a real litmus test.

With the South African match coming next, its interesting to see who is going to be dropped to make way for Andrew Symonds. I am wondering whether Hodge's performance will help him keep a place in the team or will Mike Hussey be dropped instead.

In the other day's match England without Andrew Flintoff managed to beat Canada whom I thought gave some very good resistance. Canada lost by 51 runs after scoring a respectable 228 runs chasing England's 279.

However, it was a sad day for cricket as a whole with the death of Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer.

Ireland sends Pakistan packing

Pakistan became the first seeded side to go out of the 2007 ICC World Cup when they lost to Ireland by three wickets.

Having already lost to the West Indies in their first match, Pakistan needed to win to keep their hopes of a place in the Super 8 stage but this shock loss means that the maximum points they can get from this World Cup is two which in not enough with Ireland already on three and for the next group match a West Indies win will give them four points whilst a Zimbabwe win will give them three points.

I actually had thought that Pakistan had a good chance of reaching the final yet again this year but this loss means they will now have to turn their attention to the 2011 World Cup in the sub-continent instead.

Pakistan's top order didn't perform on the day with Imran Nazir top scoring with just 24 and Younis Khan a duck. Only Kamran Akmal did the Pakistan innings any good with his lowly 27 but still the best of all the Pakistan batsman.

On the Irish side Niall O'Brien had a superb performance scoring 72 and you can understand the significance of that score if you think that the next best score after this was 16 scored by Kevin O'Brien.

If Ireland had beaten Zimbabwe in their first match they would have been the first side to reach the Super 8 stage but still at this moment in time I think they have a better chance than Zimbabwe of reaching the Super 8 stage.

Anybody who discounted the minnows now has to think again.

Bangladesh shock India

Bangladesh shock India Bangladesh beat India this morning in the 2007 ICC World Cup by five wickets after an excellent bowling performance.

Bangladesh managed to restrict India to just 191 runs in 49.3 overs and then reached the target with 9 balls to spare. In my preview of the World Cup, I said this was a group were a seeded team was likely to miss out on the Super 8 stage and this looks like a possibility now.

The fact that only one Indian player Sourav Ganguly managed to score a half century tells the whole story about India's batting on the day. On the Bangladesh side, three teenagers Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur Rahim and Saqibul Hasan scored half centuries to help Bangladesh reach the 191 target.

At the moment the advantage is with Bangladesh with their next match being against Sri Lanka and the last match against Bermuda. So Bangladesh are most likely going to finish with a minimum of four points and everything being equal what could stop them from qualifying for the Super 8 stage would be the run rate.

India on the other hand can expect a maximum of four points now and their next match is an easy one against Bermuda but it is the final group match against Sri Lanka that's going to be pivotal. Lose that and they will be heading home.

Yesterday New Zealand easily dismissed England after another less than convincing display by England. What got me thinking is the possibility of England losing to Kenya. Will that be possible or will England rise and get the all important two points?

The other match between South Africa and the Netherlands will be remembered as a match in which Herschelle Gibbs scored six sixes in one over. This is the first time this has ever happened in international cricket.

Australia too good for Scotland

After all the talk about facilities not being ready on time, the 2007 Cricket World Cup begun in earnest yesterday with the group D match between the West Indies and Pakistan.

I thought Pakistan was going to overhaul the Windies target of 242 but they fell short due largely to the Windies excellent bowling.

This morning as expected Australia beat Scotland in the first Group A match by 203 runs. This is the problem of some of the group matches because it was very unlikely that Scotland would pose any problems for Australia. However, the same cannot be said for the other match between Canada and Kenya which is the one I watched instead.

Kenya played well to beat Canada by seven wickets . I have always wondered how long it will take Kenya to get to the big stage of cricket because at the last World Cup they played reasonably well and I also remember the 1996 famous victory over the West Indies.

Maybe Kenya needs to play the bigger teams more often to gain experience and possibly later on gain Test status.

Looking ahead tomorrow morning Sri Lanka will take on Bermuda and Zimbabwe will play Ireland. The Sri Lanka/Bermuda match looks like a no contest to me but the Zimbabwe/Ireland match could be very interesting.

Although Zimbabwe cricket hasn't had the best of times lately they should able to beat Ireland and should they fail then Zimbabwe is more likely to leave the tournament winless.

The 2007 Cricket World Cup preview

The 2007 ICC Cricket World Cup starts in the West Indies on Sunday 11 March with the opening ceremony but the first match will be on Tuesday the 13th of March when the hosts West Indies take on Pakistan in a group D match.

The ICC Cricket World cup has a very interesting setup whereby there is a group stage and then there is a Super 8 stage. There are four groups each comprising of four teams, two seeded and two unseeded and the the top two teams in each group will reach the Super 8 stage.

I will be very surprised if any of the seeded teams fail to proceed to the Super 8 stage and that for me makes the group stage rather predictable and somewhat boring if you can call it that. But that doesn't mean there are no interesting matches in the group stage. There are some appetising ties in the group stage, for example Australia versus South Africa but unlike in other World Cups where finishing top is very important here what matters is just finishing in the top two positions and I will explain why.

The reason is that the Super 8 stage schedule is already decided with the team's ranking. Take for example Australia, they are ranked first and therefore designated team A1, A standing for group and 1 being the ranking. Australia only needs to finish first or second and they will maintain their A1 tag and will proceed and play those matches scheduled for A1.

I think where it becomes interesting now is when a seeded team fails to finish in the top two positions. The unseeded team will take the seeding of the team they have displaced. So in the case of Australia, in the event that they fail to finish in the top two and either of Scotland or the Netherlands does, that team will inherit the A1 tag and play the matches scheduled for A1.

Its hard to see a group where such a scenario may happen but I think the closest where it could happen could be in Group B where Bangladesh could possibly oust one of India or Sri Lanka.

In Group A, Australia and South Africa should be too strong for the Netherlands and Scotland and in Group C I would expect England and New Zealand to see off Kenya and Canada.

Lastly but not least in Group D, Pakistan and the hosts the West Indies should be too good for Zimbabwe and Ireland.

It is important to note though that points gained from the group stage will be carried over to the Super 8 stage and therefore its very important to get those points on board because the Super 8 stage is not easy at all.

I hope there will be one or two upsets to make the group stage very interesting and I also hope we will see some interesting cricket over the coming few weeks.

The Chappell-Hadlee whitewash

The Chappell-Hadlee Trophy one day international series finished yesterday with another Australia loss stretching Australia's losing streak to five straight matches. Ironically the last win was against New Zealand.

I thought Australia were completely outplayed in the first match when they could only score 148 runs which New Zealand had no problems chasing. As for the second and third matches I actually thought that Australia played quite well and the losses were due to New Zealand just being a lot better on the day.

However, this series has shown that Australia really struggle without Ricky Ponting and Andrew Symonds. Although Adam Gilchrist and Brett Lee were also missing, the later through injury, it is Ponting and Symonds who were actually missed. Gilchrist has been struggling for form anyway and it was better that he be rested.

Looking at the series now, it looks like a lost opportunity for Australia to actually prepare for the Cricket World Cup in the Caribbean. I think at the time decisions were made to leave out Ponting and Gilchrist, it was possibly seen as a walkover series but with the whitewash the real work now is to lift up the players for the World Cup.

It was unfair for Matthew Hayden to score a fantastic 181 and end up on the losing side and this brings another point. For two consecutive matches Australia has failed to defend high scores of 336 and 346 respectively. That may mean that the bowlers in the team are not doing a good job and for this reason I don't see why Stuart Clarke is not going to the World Cup.

In the first match Australia failed to take a single wicket in 27 overs. In the second match Nathan Bracken and Shaun Watson together took five wickets when New Zealand were chasing 336 to win. It was a much improved performance in the last match and it worth noting that Glenn McGrath did not play in the last match and he and Brad Hogg came back wicket-less for the bowlers who bowled at least 10 overs in the series.

I hope the team will re-group and be able the defend the World Cup crown won in South Africa.

A final flourish for England

England stunned Australia last night when they won the second one day Commonwealth Bank International series finals match at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) winning by 34 runs using the Duckworth/Lewis method to win the tournament.

This result was unthinkable when the series started soon after the Australia's Ashes Test series triumph and was even more unthinkable when England succumbed to Australia after scoring a paltry 110 runs in Adelaide on Australia Day.

I think the tide changed when England beat Australia at the SCG in a match where England had to win to stay in contention for the finals and from there onwards England have now established a four match unbeaten.

Apart from last night, in all the previous three matches an English batsman has scored a century something that has been a rarity for some time. Paul Collingwood scoring back to centuries has been has been great for England.

Not so long ago Australia's coach John Buchanan claimed Australia's bowling and fielding were suffering because their opponents were batting poorly but when the opposition's batting has been good the bowlers haven't been very convincing.

I think Australia must consider taking Stuart Clarke to the World Cup especially after he took a career best 8-58 for NSW against Western Australia at the weekend. He is a bowler in form who took part earlier in the series and maybe now is the time to recall him and make him part of the World Cup 15.

Also all rounder Andrew Symonds is sorely missed and I hope he will recover in time to take some part in the World Cup even if it means playing in the later stages of the World Cup assuming Australia reaches those stages. The team has struggled without him.

Collingwood has been the shining light for England scoring back to back centuries and also taking two wickets at the SCG. This is what every one day team needs - somebody who can score many runs and the rest of the team chip in around him.

After these four wins England suddenly are looking good for the World Cup especially if you consider that Kevin Pieterson and Michael Vaughan will be added to the squad.

Australia will now face New Zealand in the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy series and its now important for the team to win that series to go to the World Cup with confidence.

England victory at last

At last I witnessed what I thought I would never witness all summer - an England victory over Australia. England beat Australia in the Commonwealth Bank International Triangular series match by 92 runs at the SCG tonight.

This was going to be the last match between the two teams because had England lost they would have been out of the finals for which Australia has already qualified. With this win, England are still in the mix but have to beat New Zealand next Tuesday and if that happens then there would be at least two more matches against Australia.

Ed Joyce scored a rare England century to give England an edge with a total of 292 runs and this 292 is the highest one day score England has scored this summer so far. Throughout the summer I think England has lacked that one batsman who can go out there and score a huge score and let others add to it around him. Joyce did that with Ian Bell chipping in with a decent 51.

With Australia captain Ricky Ponting not playing, Australia were early in trouble losing two quick wickets in the opening two overs and I could see that England could sense that a face saving victory was in the offing.

I think this victory may have come too late though because New Zealand are on a roll right now and to me they look the most likely team to be reach the finals next weekend. Lets wait and see.

Yet another Australian win

Being Australia Day, there were a lot of things happening including Australia Day celebrations, citizenship ceremonies, fun and games but also yet another one-day international between Australia and England.

For me, I was hoping for a few things to happen. One, that England would win the toss and then two that England would then elect to bat. So both things happened which was very good. Failing that then, Australia winning the toss and then electing to bowl.

England batting first would mean that the match would be far shorter especially when looking at previous matches between the two teams. That would mean less than 50 overs for the first innings and in total at least less than 80. Such as has been the state of this Commonwealth Bank International triangular series that those wanting a dose of a good game of summer cricket have now turned to state cricket and haven't been disappointed.

England won the toss and started brightly. Ian Bell was the best of the batsmen and scored 35 runs including a six that was maybe in my opinion the highlight of the whole innings. The moment he left bowled by Stuart Clark, it seemed everybody wanted to follow him back to the pavilion and after 34 overs and 110 runs England were all out.

Australia's innings were quick and the target was reached in just after 24 overs with the loss of one wicket. So in total we had 58 overs, not exactly Twenty20 but nearly.


Australia continue winning form

Australia continued this summer's cricket winning form with an emphatic win over England in last night's Twenty20 international match at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Australia won by 77 runs in a match where you could easily tell who the winner would be just halfway through England's innings.

The change of captain to Michael Vaughan failed to inspire the team as England were dismissed for 144 runs chasing 222 runs to win.

I never got a chance to write about the fifth Ashes Test but in the end it was an embarrassing whitewash for England. Before the series begun it was said to be the most anticipated Ashes tour in Australia for some time but it turned out to be just ordinary especially for the last two Tests. Its not surprising that for the Boxing day test at the MCG, most probably the best thing about it was that we were spared going again for the fourth day and in the end we got our full refunds instead.

The turning point of the series I believe was the Adelaide Test. This is the Test where England had a very good first innings and had they got a draw or a win they could have gone to the WACA for the third Test with more belief. But going to the WACA knowing that they had to win at least two of the remaining Tests and add to that the manner in which they lost the Adelaide test a whitewash was on the cards even then because I think all the confidence had just disappeared.

It will be debated for sometime whether Monty Panesar should have played from the first Test and I think he should have but by the time he came into the fray the Ashes had already but gone.

We saw Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Justin Langer playing Test cricket for the last time in this tour and I think they bowed out with a very good win to add their glittering careers.

Finally I was impressed by the Barmy Army support for England. They stuck with their team even in difficult circumstances and also created a very good atmosphere especially in the chilly conditions of the MCG. I think they deserved at least one win but that never came which is a bit of a shame really.

Whitewash looms as England falter

The prospect of a whitewash after England's dismal performance at the MCG looms large after England lost fourth Ashes Test by an innings and 99 runs.

On the third day which eventually became the last day with England's loss, there was nothing much to cheer for England apart from in the morning when England took three wickets to restrict Australia's first innings to 419 and were left trailing by 260 runs.

Despite the excellent vocal support from the travelling England supporters, the England batsmen just lacked bite and only Andrew Strauss managed to score more than 30 runs.

I was particularly impressed by Brett Lee and Stuart Clark performances taking a combined seven wickets and on the England side I was impressed by Monty Panesar who scored a quick 14 runs from 19 balls. Lee and Clark are the future of Australia's bowling and on their performance today it looks bright.

Unless something dramatic happens on the English side it looks very likely that England will lose the fifth and final Ashes Test resulting in a 5 nil whitewash.

Another legend to retire

In my last post I talked about Shane Warne's retirement. Now Glenn McGrath has followed suit as he announced his retirement from all forms of cricket at the end of the 2007 Cricket World Cup to be played in the West Indies.

McGrath has so far taken 555 wickets and I think he went about his job queitly without drawing headlines in the press. Its good that he will play his last Test before his home crowd at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

It will be a totally different bowling attack when Australia next plays a Test match after the Ashes series without both Warne and McGrath. I think this will give a chance to other bowlers especially Stuart MacGill and Brett Lee will now take a more prominent role having been in the shadow of cricket stalwarts McGrath and Warne so far.

Australian leg finished for Warne

Its always great to go whilst you are at the top especially when you have been so good and Shane Warne will do just that as he announced today that he would retire from international cricket as well as Australia's domestic cricket. He said he will still play for the English county side Hampshire.

With 699 wickets to his name and one more required to be the first bowler to take 700 wickets, his retirement announcement has brought another dimension to the Ashes Boxing Day Test at the MCG.

Not only are we hopefully going see his 700th wicket but we will also be seeing Warnie for the last time playing for Australia at the MCG. That should be appetising in itself.

I should point out that Sri Lankan bowler Muttiah Muralitharan is only 25 wickets behind at this stage and will possibly overtake Warne's haul soon.

Warne has entertained the crowds showing so much passion for the sport he loves so much. It will be a totally different Australian side when Australian next fields without Shane Warne.

With Glenn McGrath rumoured to be retiring at the end of this series as well, Australia will have to go through a mini team rebuiling exercise in the bowling department but what a legacy Warne has left not only for Australia but the whole cricket world at large.

Australia regains Ashes

Australia regained the Ashes at the WACA ground today in Perth after beating England by 206 wickets thus attaining an unassailable 3-0 lead in the five match Ashes cricket series.

England's resistance in the second innings ended when captain Andrew Flintoff went off after scoring 51 runs because after that the batsmen who replaced him could only muster a total of five runs.

Australia won this third Test with their commanding second innings where Ricky Ponting's men scored 527 runs thereby establishing a lead of 556 runs.

When Australia were all out for 244 in the first innings I thought England had a very good chance of taking a first innings lead but with only Kevin Pietersen achieving a half century a big chance went begging.

Although Monty Panesar was included in this test, England's bowling was still not sharp enough. Australia had five different bowlers take 18 wickets whilst for England only three bowlers managed to take all their wickets, 14 of them.

Now the fourth test is going to be in Melbourne and I will have a chance of watching that one live at the MCG. It will be a battle for England to avoid an embarrassing white wash but with the way they are playing a whitewash looks increasingly likely.

In the end, I think it looks too easy but I don't think it was meant to be like that - England were expected to put on a fight.

Baffled by Martyn

A day later I am still baffled by Damien Martyn's decision to retire from all forms of cricket with immediate effect.

Just three or four weeks ago I watched Martyn in a television interview saying how much he was looking forward to the most anticipated Ashes series in Australia and then suddenly he now lacks the motivation. Talk about how quickly time moves.

But having said I respect his decision and I think he has made the right decision for himself and I wish him all the best in the future.

One would have thought retiring after the end of the Test series would have better but unless there is something else I think he thought retiring after the amazing Adelaide test win was even better.

Easy for Bangladesh

This morning Bangladesh won the five match one day series against Zimbabwe after taking an unassailable 3 nil lead.

Matches between Bangladesh and Zimbabwe are a bit interesting because these are sides of nearly equal strength and therefore the contests could be hard fought sometimes. At this moment in time Bangladesh should be the stronger of the two because they are still playing Test cricket and they have a more stable side.

On a positive note for Zimbabwe Sean Williams has reached half centuries in the last two matches and in both matches he came in on number five. In the first match he came in on number 3 and he only scored 2 runs.

On the other hand Bangladesh has won these matches without having to bat the full fifty overs. Shahriar Nafees has excelled averaging 69 so far but the highlight should be his 105 runs from the first match.

Zimbabwe now has two matches to avoid a whitewash and from their showing in the third match they could well avoid it. The last two matches will be played this coming Friday and Saturday in Fatullah.

Australia stun England

Australia won the second Ashes Test against England in Adelaide in a match which I thought England could only draw at worst.

I expected England to go through the last day at their own pace and then declare at some stage when they knew the test was safe but that wasn't to be because Sharne Warne rattled England batsmen and in the end England second innings of 129 was not enough.

Its good to see that Australia believed that they could still win the match on the fifth day and just went on searching for victory. Although Australia lost four wickets, with an hour to go you could tell that victory was the only result.

As if they didn't know before, England should now know that its not enough to play excel in the first innings and then do nothing in the second one. A paltry score of 129 and a top score of just 34 by Andrew Strauss was never going to be enough against a confident Australian side.

If we go back to the first day all talk was about England winning the toast and then Kevin Peitersen and Paul Collingwood in particular did their bit to pile up the runs putting England in what looked then like a comfortable total which was followed by a declaration.

Now when Australia got the chance to bat England's bowlers Steve Harmison, Ashley Giles and James Anderson failed to take wickets and restrict Australia to a lower total and I think that was where the Test was lost.

Australia now need to win one more test to regain back the Ashes whilst for England its now an uphill struggle requiring at least two wins and a draw to retain the Ashes. To me that sounds like an impossible task.

If you look at this Adelaide test again maybe it was a question of snatching defeat from the jaws of a draw!

Australia draws first blood

Australia won the first Ashes Test today at the Gabba in Brisbane and I wasn't very much surprised by the result especially after the first day but what surprised me is that the Test went on to the fifth day.

This could be attributed more maybe on Ricky Ponting not enforcing a follow-in after England 's first innings tally of 157 plus of course the mini England fightback led by Kevin Pietersen on day four.

That fightback England helped not make this Test a one-sided encounter and spill into the fifth day and had the rain come who knows it could have ended up in one unfair draw.

Back to the cricket, England's bowling was at its worst with declaring both innings helping them get Australia out. Australia scored a total of 804 runs for just ten wickets and that says a lot about the English bowling.

Maybe Monty Panesar is now needed for the Adelaide Test but there isn't much time to decide with the second Test starting Friday. Harmison could only manage just one wicket in 42 overs.

But hats off to Australia for an excellent start to the Ashes Test and I hope the team will be consistent and get another victory in Adelaide to go 2 nil up.

England suffer Trescothick blow

England opener Marcus Trescothick left for England last night after suffering a stress-related illness.

This is a big blow to England as they have lost one of their best performing batsmen in the last Ashes series. I think its also not good for the series as I would rather have both Australia and England field their strongest sides and I hope there will be no more withdrawals from either side with the Ashes series starting next week in Brisbane.

Trescothick is a key and experienced player for England and there are times when he has been the stand-in captain and England will now have to make do without him. Earlier this year he didn't take part in the proceedings in the test series in India and England drew that series but I am hoping that this time England will be able to cope better without hime and make this forthcoming series as competitive as ever.

Australia crowned champions

Australia won the ICC Champions Trophy for the first time after dismissing dissapointing West Indies in the ICC Champions trophy final in Mumbai, India early this morning.

The west Indies went on to a flying start reaching 49 runs for no wicket but it was downhill after that thanks to Nathan Bracken who started the Windies collapse.

after five overs the West Windies had scored 49 runs but for the next twenty five overs they they could only add a further 89 runs and that sums it all.

On the other hand Damien Martyn and Nathan Bracken starred with the bat for Australia with man of the match Bracken scoring an unbeaten 57.

Its very hard to tell whether the Champions Trophy victory has any bearing on the Ashes test but it should give the Aussies that bit of extra confidence.

Australia face West Indies in final

Australia will play the West Indies in the ICC Champions Trophy final on Sunday in Mumbai, India after the West Indies dismissed South Africa's challenge winning by six wickets in the semi-finals.

The West Indies have been in top form in this tournament losing to Sri Lanka in a pre-qualifying match and then to England after they had already qualified for the semis. This makes a mockery of the need for them to go through the pre-qualifying tournament in the first place but maybe that gave them more preparation for the tournament proper.

Chris Gayle shone for the West Indies scoring an unbeaten 133 and on the South African side Herschelle Gibbs top scored with 77 runs but it is their bowling that let them down. South Africa could only take four wickets in the match with Shiv Chanderpaul retiring because of injury.

Australia/West Indies match should be an intriguing one and their group match is still the only match that was played over the full one hundred overs in the tournament. Its difficult to see where this final will go but but given their form, I think the West Indies will be slight favourites to me.

Australia dismiss New Zealand

Australia early this morning beat New Zealand by 34 runs to reach the ICC Champions Trophy final for the first time.

Australia had a poor start in its innings having been sent by New Zealand to bat first and for a while I thought New Zealand were on fire but Australia managed to hold on and score 240 runs.

New Zealand were let down by their top order batsmen with the top five batsmen scoring a paltry 23 runs and fifteen of those 23 runs were scored by the captain Stephen Fleming. But this was also due to the fact that back in form McGrath took three wickets.

In the end 206 all out was a respectable score especially for a team that at one was 35-6 thanks largely to the middle order batsmen and in particular Daniel Vettori who scored 79 which was the highest score of the match.

Now Australia awaits the winner of the West Indies/South Africa match in the final on Sunday.

Aussies set up Kiwi date

Australia will now meet New Zealand in the ICC Champions trophy semi-finals after dispatching host side India this morning in Mohali. With India's big guns failing to fire apart from Virender Sehwag (65) and captain Rahul Dravid (52) despite the tremendous home support, they could only manage a total of 248 runs.

Australia reached the target with four overs to spare and now set up a semi-final date with trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand. On paper you would think that Australia will win this match but New Zealand played quite in their last match against Pakistan and if they reproduce that form I won't be surprised to see them in the final.

I was impressed with England's victory over the West Indies. With nothing at stake for England they played quite well to get England's only victory in the tournament. When the West Indies scored 272 in their innings I thought that was it for England but they came back and scored more than 200 runs for the first time in this tournament. Maybe it was a question of performing well when not under pressure.

The other semi-final will feature the West Indies and South Africa. Despite the loss to England I will still put my money on the West Indies to reach the final for the second time in a row.

Windies stun India

The West Indies joined the Kiwis in reaching the semi-finals of the ICC Champions Trophy tournament by beating India by three wickets in Ahmedabad, India. I think this was the most entertaining match so far in this tournament.

The Windies did well to keep India's haul at 223 and I think India never recovered from the moment they were 69 for three. The West Indies showed that their beating of Australia was no fluke and on this form they could see themselves in the final once again.

The West Indies have Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan though to thank after both hit half centuries to stun the vociferous Indian crowd. But the highlight of the match for me was towards the end of the West Indies innings when the Windies needed just ten runs from two overs.

Now the match between Australia and India on Sunday has suddenly become more like a final with either team needing a win to stay in the tournament. India will have the crowd support behind them and against Australia they will every bit of it.

On the same token Englandís tournament is now over and their last match against the West Indies will just be playing for pride.

New Zealand storm into semis

New Zealand became the first team to reach the ICC Champions Trophy semi-finals in India early this morning when they beat Pakistan by 51 runs.

I thought Pakistan were going to beat New Zealand especially after Pakistan's impressive performance against Sri Lanka but New Zealand posted a good score of 274 for seven wickets when they went in to bat first. In reply Pakistan could only manage 223 runs.

Now Pakistan will need to beat South Africa to reach the semis and this will be a match in which whoever wins will reach the semis. This is because South Africa beat Sri Lanka by 78 runs despite the best efforts of the Sri Lanka bowlers who restricted South Africa to only 219 runs.

I still think Pakistan will reach the semis but on their day the South Africans can just about surprise anyone and so this looks like its going to be an interesting contest.

Champions Trophy so far

Now that the first round of matches for the Champions Trophy is finished, I think its time for me to look back and review what has happened so far.

The most surprising result for me was the defending champions Windies victory over Australia. I thought Australia had done well to restrict the Windies to 234 runs in their innings but that run total was enough for the Windies to win the match.

Now Australia has to be beat England in their next match to try and reach the semis. I wasn't very much surprised by England's 125 runs against India. Its very hard playing against the hosts but scoring 125 doesn't help as well and so the England/Australia match has suddenly become very massive.

When New Zealand went all out for 195 runs against South Africa I thought South Africa had the game in the bag but South Africa's response wasn't up to scratch scoring a lowly 108 runs in reply. Unless something drastic happens its very hard to see South Africa reaching the semis especially when they still have to play the consistent Sri Lanka and the impressive Pakistan.

Its interesting to note that so far only the West Indies/Australia match has been played over the whole one hundred overs with all the other matches falling short of that number. I am hoping that in the next round of matches we will see some more entertaining cricket.

Sri Lanka dismiss Zimbabwe

I should start by saying that this was a much improved Zimbabwe performance against Sri Lanka compared to the match against the West Indies but it was far below the expected standards. Managing to restrict Sri Lanka to less than 300 runs was good in itself and the inexperienced Zimbabwe bowlers did quite well to achieve that and the fielding wasn't bad either.

But it was the same old story in the batting department. The three top order batsmen scored a total of tens runs and this does not come anywhere near Sri Lanka's top three who scored a total of 123 runs.

If the West Indies beat Bangladesh today then they and Sri Lanka will go through to the main stage of the Champions Trophy.

Windies blow away inept Zimbabwe

Last night I decided to watch the ICC Champions Trophy match featuring Zimbabwe and the West Indies which was played at Ahmedabad, India. Normally with these matches I would watch the first innings only because by then it will be time to go to bed but this time the whole match was finished before 10:30 pm Melbourne time. This time less than forty five overs were required to settle the match in the Windies favour.

It confirmed to me that this Zimbabwe team has a very long way to go before starting to compete on the highest stage. I think it will be a similar result against Sri Lanka and the match can only be lengthened if Sri Lanka bat first because then they would most probably bat the whole 50 overs.

As you can imagine for a total score of 85, only three Zimbabwe players managed to reach double figures with captain Utseya scoring 27 and the other two were Mufambisi and Chigumbura who scored 18 and 10 respectively.

Controversial end to Test series

England won the fourth and final test series match against Pakistan at the Oval but in controversial circumstances. I am sure we will hear more about the ball tempering allegations in this match but it wasn't the best way end a series that has been quite exciting.

England did not have a good first innings scoring a lowly 173 but Pakistan replied in their innings with a commanding 504 runs. So the England second innings were quite crucial and until the drama it looked like the match at that stage could go either way.

I was looking forward to an exciting fifth day in a match that I thought Pakistan had probably the upper hand. All Pakistan had to do to win was bowl England out and then chase whatever total there was to come up with face saving victory.

Now the next test England will play will be against Australia in Brisbane.

England on the up

England beat Pakistan by 167 runs overnight and I think this was by far the best match of the series so far. It was a good all round England performance although I think Pakistan also had a good chance until they lost Mohammad Yousuf who was run out and then Younis Khan . Once again Monty Panesar continued with his fine form taking a total of six wickets in the match.

Suddenly this summer's Ashes series now has got another angle - a battle between first and second teams in the ICC rankings. After this series win England are now ranked number two on the ICC Test rankings.

With the way England has played in the last two matches and also without Flintoff it now looks like they are on the way up and should be a real number one and two battle. I will wait and see what happens in the last Test at the Oval before coming up with my final verdict.

England overwhelm Pakistan

England overwhelmed Pakistan in the second test at Old Trafford when they beat Pakistan by an innings and 120 runs. Suddenly England has a new hero in Monty Panesar who took a total of eights wickets in this test and most importantly the key ones especially in the second innings where he took the wickets of Imran Farhat, Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf and Inzamam-ul-Haq.

The scorecard looks very interesting with all Pakistan's wickets being taken by just two English bowlers, Panesar and Steve Harmison. It was a much improved England performance but having said that it was always going to be difficult for Pakistan to come up with anything once they scored only 119 in their first innings and then fail to bowl out England.

All in all Pakistan didn't perform at all and its interesting to see what happens in the third test, hopefully Pakistan will re-group and provide a better contest.

Another Sri Lanka world record

Sri Lanka set a new world partnership record when captain Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara partnered to get 624 runs in Colombo in the first test against South Africa. Sri Lanka's rich vein of form has continued since the last test series it played against England last month.

In the process Mahela Jayawardene set a new Sri Lanka batting record and also the third highest indvidual score of 374 runs and its fitting for a batsman who has been around for the last nine years. Sangakkara's 287 eclipsed his previous highest score of 270.

This world record comes hot on the heels of another record which Sri Lanka posted against the Netherlands in Amstelveen when they reached 443 runs early this month. This was the highest one day total and interestingly that time they were beating a record set earlier by South Africa of 438 runs.

Let's hope that Sri Lanka goes on to win this first test.

England settles for a draw

England settled for a draw in the first Test at Lord's against Pakistan. It was a better England performance compared to the last Test against Sri Lanka and in the end captain Andrew Strauss made sure that his declaration could only lead to a draw at worst or a win at best in favour of England.

I think for this Test the decisive day was the first one when Pakistan dropped Paul Collingwood and Alastair Cook. Its one thing to drop a catch and then the batsman gets under fifty runs and another when you drop a catch and then the batsman goes on and gets 186 runs.

Pakistan's Mohammad Yousuf also kept them in the match with his 202 runs in the first innings and Pakistan could argue that they had a good chance to win had the declaration been set earlier.

Hopefully Andrew Flintoff will be back for the second Test and we will begin to see the kind of England team that is going to tour here for the Ashes this coming summer and this is the main reason I will once again be following the second Test match at Old Trafford.

Twenty20 popularity contest

I read with interest the news that the Newcastle Knight rugby league player Andrew Johns is going to play for New South Wales in the Twenty20 competition next January. While its undoubted that Johns is an excellent rugby league player and therefore popular, I think the selection of the team should be based on merit and not on popularity stakes.
Its also denying up and coming cricket players a chance to play at state level even though this is only for two and possibly three games. I can imagine how the player who is going to miss out just because a popular rugby league has been drafted into the team feels about this. Are we also going to see Harry Kewell included in the NSW team especially with his popularity with the Socceroos?
I hope Victoria doesn't go this way by drafting popular AFL players into the Bushrangers squad. It just doesn't send the right signal to youngsters trying to choose a sport when they know they could lose out to a popular player from another sport despite their best efforts. We will see what happens in January.

The scramble for Ashes tickets

Now that I finally have my tickets to the fourth Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) in December, I can now start looking forward to the actual cricket come Boxing Day. This is said to be the most anticipated Ashes test series in Australia for years and justifiably so because England won the last series and got the Ashes and now is the time for Australia to reclaim the Ashes.
But for me, having watched the way England played against Sri Lanka in the just ended three match series I am now thinking that this may not be an exciting series after all but a one sided series with Australia in charge. The England that we watched last year getting the Ashes doesnít seem to be the same with the England playing now. When England toured the sub-continent I expected them to struggle a bit and I therefore didnít read too much in the results but I expected them to play better against Sri Lanka at home and they didnít. Whether they missed Michael Vaughan too much or not I just donít know.
On the other hand, since losing the Ashes, Australia has gone from strength to strength notably winning back to back tests against South Africa and should be able to easily contain England. This is why when I look at the ticket for the third day I just wonder whether I will actually use it but its up to England to prove me wrong.
I therefore wait with bated breadth for the four match test series that England is going to play against Pakistan next month. Hopefully Vaughan will play and it is my hope that the series will give us a good indicator of how our own cricket of summer will unfold and whether I will be able to use the third day MCG test after all.