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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Fullfilled my Dream: Yuvaraj

Ahmedabad, March 25 (AFP): Yuvraj Singh said he'd fulfilled a dream after his man-of-the-match-winning 57 not out saw India beat champions Australia by five wickets in the World Cup quarter-finals.

India, chasing 261 for victory, were faltering badly at 187 for five when skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni was out.

But Yuvraj and fellow left-hander Suresh Raina (34 not out) delighted frenzied fans in a 42,000 capacity Sardar Patel Stadium crowd with an unbroken stand of 74 that saw the co-hosts triumph.

The victory sets up a semi-final with arch-rivals Pakistan in Mohali on March 30.

Yuvraj, who joked it was the first time he had been applauded at a press conference, was asked if everything he was touching was now turning to gold.

"I think so. Last year, whatever I was doing was turning into mud," he said.

"I have been thinking about beating Australia in this World Cup for one year, that I would be there till the end and winning the game for India."

"I honestly thought about this 365 days of the year. I have been dreaming of this. Probably because Australia are three-time (successive) champions," explained Yuvraj.

The 29-year-old's fourth 50 in six innings, also including a hundred, took his average at this World Cup to an astonishing 113.66.

It also represented a remarkable turnaround after he'd not that long ago found himself out of the side, struggling for fitness and runs.

"This is a moment we live for," added Yuvraj, who mysteriously said he was playing this tournament for a "special person".

But he would only reveal the identity if India, bidding for a second World Cup title to add to their 1983 triumph, made it to the final.

In order to do that they must first beat arch-rivals Pakistan, who thrashed the West Indies by 10 wickets in their last eight clash in Dhaka on Wednesday.

Yuvraj, who also took two for 44 with his left-arm spin against Australia, said that would be another "dream game" for India.

However, asked about the tactics for that match, he joked: "I'm sure whatever plans we have for Pakistan, MS (Dhoni) will tell you at the next press conference."

"We are just doing the best we can."

Thursday, March 3, 2011

World Cup 2011, England v Ireland Awesome O'Brien laps up finest hour

On Wednesday night in Bangalore, an Irish legend was born. For 123 glorious minutes Kevin O'Brien burned more brightly than the floodlights that illuminated the stadium, as an increasingly impassioned crowd cheered each thundering crack off his bat with ever greater fervour. Ireland were floundering at a rudderless 106 for 4 in the 23rd over when he entered the fray, they were at the brink of the most famous victory in their cricketing history when he departed 211 runs later. The crowd rose as one to cheer him off and tearful pride was writ large on the faces of his parents, who had watched every ball from the stands.
"I'm still speechless to be honest," O'Brien said after his breathtaking innings. "There's two proud people up there in the stands, and there's probably 4 million proud people back home. It's a fantastic day, not just for Irish cricket but for any Irish sport. Any time Ireland beat England, it's massive. All I can say is that it's a tremendous day and we're all very proud. It's going to be a good night and we'll celebrate as long and as loudly as we can.
"That's a long way the best innings I've ever played," he added. "It even eclipses playing in the back garden with Niall, where hitting out of the garden was out. I think anyone is going to struggle to beat that innings to be honest, and I'll take a few fines for that. I'll say that all night, a hundred off fifty balls in a World Cup in front of a billion people under lights against England, it doesn't get any better.

It was fitting that O'Brien became Ireland's leading run-scorer in one-day cricket in the course of his innings. His record-breaking century - the fastest in World Cup history - sealed the biggest chase the tournament has ever seen, smashing a record that had stood for 19 years, and helped Ireland soar to their first ever win over England. William Porterfield, Ireland's captain and the man O'Brien eclipsed on that run-scoring list, was effusive in his praise for what he called "an unbelievable knock".
"There's not many games where a team will be 111 for 5 with 24 overs gone and chase 320-odd and knock them off with a few balls to spare," said Porterfield. "It's an unbelievable knock, it's the best knock I've seen. It's got to rank as one of the best, if not the best, World Cup knock."
Porterfield was equally enthused about the team's victory and its place in Irish cricketing history, adding: "I think it's the biggest win that Irish cricket's ever had. Obviously there's the win against Pakistan [in 2007] that put us through the group but in terms of a one-off win it's the biggest we've ever had, and one of the best. It's the biggest chase in World Cup history and it's the biggest chase we've had in a long time. It's the best win in Irish cricket's history for me."
While Ireland had managed to just about keep afloat after the disaster of losing Porterfield to the first ball of the innings, their pursuit of 328 had been drifting into mediocrity before O'Brien strode to the crease. He reached the boundary three times within the first 10 deliveries he faced, displaying remarkable self-belief, and never looked back.
"I Just went out and tried to be positive," he said. "Just back my own ability and if the ball's there to hit, try and hit it, and hit it as hard as I can. It was obviously a tricky situation, it didn't help losing the fifth wicket for 111. We were backs-against-the-wall but we took a chance and we got the ball rolling and from there I don't think England had any answers for us. They didn't really know what they were up to with their bowling plans and we took advantage of that."

Kevin O'Brien smashed England all over Bangalore, England v Ireland, World Cup 2011, Bangalore, March 2, 2011
William Porterfield: "There's not many games where a team will be 111 for 5 with 24 overs gone and chase 320-odd and knock them off with a few balls to spare." © Getty Images

Porterfield suggested the turning point came when the Batting Powerplay was taken after the 31st over. The 32nd, bowled by Michael Yardy, was the most expensive of the innings until that point, but there was even more carnage to come. Three overs later O'Brien crashed James Anderson into the night sky and high over the midwicket boundary with scarcely believable force to smash another record, for the biggest six of the tournament, with a 102-metre behemoth. Five overs of fielding restrictions yielded 62 runs and with 99 needed at seven-an-over, for the first time the finish line became visible for Ireland.
"It was the turning point," said Porterfield. "We've obviously got plans and strategies before the game, but it's up to the lads in the middle to make that call [on taking the Powerplay]. They know how they feel out there and what they feel they can do, so I think it was a pretty good decision to take it then."
It was soon after that O'Brien truly began to believe that he could do more than simply bruise English egos, and that victory was actually achievable. "For me, it was probably at about 12 overs to go. We needed 80 or 90 off 12, about seven an over and the wicket out there was extremely flat, the ball was coming onto the bat nicely and it's a pretty small ground with a quick outfield. You pierce the ball through the infield and it's either two or four, and it helped that I was hitting the ball pretty cleanly as well."
There was a final twist to the tale, however, and when O'Brien was run out in the 49th over with 11 still needed one might have expected there to be some fluttering hearts in the Ireland camp. But O'Brien insisted that, even then, they felt victory was theirs for the taking.
"I knew John-boy [John Mooney] was there and he was hitting the ball extremely cleanly, and then Trent [Johnston] to come in. Trent's no tailender, he hits a big ball and he's a fantastic player coming in at No. 8 or 9 for us. I just knew if we didn't panic it was down to a run a ball, and they weren't really hitting their straps. They weren't hitting their yorkers and they were always giving us a four-ball - one an over - so we knew if we just sat on it, kept out the good ball and hit the bad ball that we'd walk to victory."
The win, with five balls to spare, was indeed ultimately a stroll, but Ireland's reaction was anything but. The Ireland changing room had bristled with increasingly nervous, fidgety energy until the explosion of emotion that came with Mooney's swat to the midwicket boundary, the players spilling onto the field in joyful delirium.
Ireland's cricketers, with an assortment of shaved, blond, blue and purple heads, brought colour and excitement to match England's epic against India at the same venue last week. O'Brien stood out more than most with his garish pink and blond mop, and his match-winning century will stand out in similar technicolor in the memories of all who saw it on a legendary night in Bangalore.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Trouble for Cricket Australia over Big Ben Ashes advertisement

 London, Oct 29 (IANS) Cricket Australia's (CA) provocative Ashes advertisement, 'Don't forget to pack the urn', featuring holographic images of Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke on the historic Big Ben, has backfired as the Westminster city council has threatened legal action.

'The Palace of Westminster is part of a Unesco world heritage site, and it's both inappropriate and insulting for this important location and its buildings to effectively be abused in this manner. It's also a criminal offence,' Westminster city council's deputy leader, councillor Robert Davis was quoted as saying by The Guardian.

'If an organisation wishes to display advertising on it, or any other building in Westminster for that matter, they should apply through the normal channels like any right-minded person with respect for the law. Although we've not prosecuted previously as such stunts are usually over quickly, we do feel now that enough is enough and we're considering legal action,' Davis said.

'We also fear that without taking a firm stance this style of guerrilla advertising will only increase, particularly in the run-up to (the London Olympics in) 2012,' he said.

Metropolitan Police also admitted that breach has been committed and they are investigating the matter.

I always enjoy playing in India: Shoaib Malik

Ranchi: Even though bilateral cricket series between India and Pakistan have dried up post Mumbai terror attack in 2008, but Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik said he always enjoys playing in India. "I enjoy playing in India in front of packed crowd," Malik said at the inaugurate of a state-of-the art Tennis Academy, set up by Jharkhand State Cricket Association (JSCA).

While the tennis academy was inaugurated by Chief Minister Arjun Munda, Indian tennis player Sania Mirza, who was accompanying her husband Shoaib, was the star attraction. Shoaib, who was not considered in the Pakistan squad for the ongoing limited overs series against South Africa in UAE, further said that there is hardly any difference between the two neighbouring nations.

"The language of both the countries is same and so is the cuisine. There is no difference," the former Pakistan skipper said, adding that he never feels being in another country when he is in India.

Responding to Malik's comments, Deputy Chief Minister Sudesh Mahto described the cricketer as "our country's son-in-law". The famed couple also exchanged a few shots with Munda and Mahto.

Meanwhile, JSCA President Amitabh Choudhary promised that a world standard cricket stadium, which is now under construction, would also be completed by 2011.

Buzz Up Chinese cricket a surprise package, says Pakistan great

New Delhi: Unfancied China should not be underestimated when cricket makes its debut at the Asian Games next month, according to Pakistan great Javed Miandad. China will play cricket on the world stage for the first time during the November 12-27 Games in Guangzhou, having qualified for the Twenty20 competition by virtue of being the hosts.

But Miandad, one of the mentors of the fledging sport in China, said the country's cricketers could prove to be the surprise of the tournament. "Cricket may not be very popular in China, but it is a known fact that when they decide to do something, they go all out," Miandad said.

"Same is the case with cricket. The Chinese are very quick learners. Just as an example, they have a player who until three months ago did not know what cricket was, he was completely clueless. But today he can bowl leg-breaks as good as many professional players. Their complete devotion to mastering anything is simply awesome. Something that is missing in Pakistan and India," the former batsman said.

Miandad, who says he will travel to Guangzhou to encourage his wards, has been in constant touch with former internationals, Rashid Khan of Pakistan and Aminul Islam of Bangladesh, who coach the Chinese men's team.

The women's team is coached by former India player Mamatha Maben. With India opting out of the competition and other top cricketing nations like Sri Lanka and Pakistan fielding second-string teams, China is hoping for a podium finish in Guangzhou.

Cricket was last seen at a major multi-sport event at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, but was dropped for the next three editions in England, Australia and India.

The sport will continue to be played at the Asian Games and will be part of the programme for 2014 in the South Korean city of Incheon.