Posts Tagged ‘zimbabwe’

A Busy Week In Test Cricket Lies Ahead

It might be cold and dark here in the UK but in warmer climes, we have a busy week in the world of cricket ahead as three Test matches get underway.

In Adelaide, Australia take on India as they bid to seal a 4-0 series clean sweep although on a pitch expected to take turn, could this offer India a chance at reacquanting themselves with a winning feeling and will Sachin Tendulkar score his 100th international century?

Then in Abu Dhabi, Pakistan take on England in high spirits following their ten-wicket win in the opener in Dubai. England must improve on their performance if they are to stay in the series and must play especially well to overcome a well-discplined and well-drilled unit.

Finally, New Zealand meet Zimbabwe in Napier. Having almost produced an upset win in Zimbabwe when these two teams met last year, this match could well be worth watching. New Zealand have named uncapped players Kruger van Wyk and Sam Wells in their squad and they will not be taking Zimbabwe lightly.

Tillakaratne Dilshan

Tillakaratne Dilshan - captain no more

New Zealand’s last outing was a memorable win against Australia and they will hope that victory can be the springboard to further success.

Going one step further than New Zealand with their team selection is Australia. They have named an uncapped player – George Bailey – as their new Twenty20 International captain.

They play India in two T20s on 1st and 3rd February and have also recalled 40-year-old left-arm spinner Brad Hogg. Uncapped James Faulkner also makes the squad as erstwhile captain Cameron White and ‘Mr Cricket’ Michael Hussey miss out.

White is not the only player to become an ex-captain this week after Tillakaratne Dilshan resigned as Sri Lanka skipper to be replaced by Mahela Jayawardene.

For Australia, the road to the ICC World Twenty20 later this year starts here. But what are you most looking forward to watching this week?

Positive Signs For Cricket in 2011

With the cricketing year now over following the conclusion of the two Boxing Day Test matches, it is time to reflect on what the past 12 months have meant for cricket as sport. There have, of course, been low points as well as high, with the spot-fixing trial in October a particularly sobering one that laid bare the stranglehold that corruption has on our sport.

However, a New Year is not usually a time to dwell on past misdemeanours, and this one is no different. While there have undoubtedly been low points, it is my opinion that 2011 has witnessed a record number of high ones. From the increasingly excellent performances of all of the Test-playing nations, through to the positive signs at board level in Pakistan and Zimbabwe, and including the re-emergence of fast-bowling as a force to be reckoned with, 2011 has provided many enlightening moments.

The Test game has shown signs of rebirth, with many of the matches closely fought, as teams such as Zimbabwe – who enjoyed a triumphant second coming in August against Bangladesh; the West Indies and Pakistan - seemingly showing a much steelier resolve under their new captains; New Zealand – who triumphed over Australia; and even Sri Lanka - showing signs of moving on from the Muralitahran era – all combining to make Test cricket more competitive and less predictable. The underlining factor amongst all of this is surely that the game’s administrators have finally grasped the need to produce more ’sporting’ pitches.

The appointment of Zaka Ashraf as PCB chairman to replace the discredited Ijaz Butt is also a positive sign for the administrative side of the game, as is the ICC’s determination to make member boards less political in their make-up. Indeed, Ashraf has already shown an admirable resolve to move on from the isolationism that accompanied Butt’s final months in charge and is already making positive noises about restoring cricketing ties with India and bringing international cricket back to Pakistan by the means of a home series against Bangladesh.

However, for me, the most reassuring sign coming out of 2011 has been the sight of the first shoots of the game’s regrowth in Africa. Zimbabwe’s better-than-expected return to the top table has been well documented, but it is the organisation of that country’s domestic structure that is most exciting for the future of the game. In spite of cricket all but disappearing during the middle of the last decade, it has re-emerged as a more vibrant beast and is now much more representative of the broader Zimbabwean population. The selection, this time on purely meritocratic grounds, of black cricketers such as Keegan Meth, Brian Vitori and Njabulo Ncube, and seeing them playing under a captain such as Brendan Taylor, who clearly understands the weight of responsibility placed on his shoulders, is a sight that should give hope to cricket lovers everywhere.

And it is not just in there where African cricket is thriving. Kenya, led by their talismanic CEO Tom Sears, have finally got around to organising a meaningful domestic competition, while the player/board disputes appear to have finally been resolved; and Uganda has continued its steady, and thus far unnoticed, ascent towards cricket’s top table. Indeed, the two Ugandan teams that were invited to participate in the Kenyan domestic competition more than held their own. Nigeria, Ghana, Botswana and Namibia are also showing tentative signs of growth and are providing a timely nudge to the ICC, which seems intent on forcing cricket on America, as to the where cricket’s future may lie.

Cricket In Zimbabwe Is Thriving.

Zimbabwe’s descent from the top table of cricket in the first part of the last decade was one of cricket’s most saddening and depressing stories, but its comeback since then is surely one of the game’s most heartwarming. Whilst the country itself is still gripped by political instability, the cricket team is leading the way forward.

They made a successful return to Test cricket earlier this year and won their first match back against Bangladesh, and have since re-established themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the international cricketing arena.

However, without its revamped domestic structure that came into place in 2009, none of this would’ve been possible, and it is to this that attention in Harare will focus tomorrow as the five franchises do battle in the Stanbic Bank T20. The tournament itself is short and sweet and will be completed within a fortnight - perhaps a lesson here for the ECB and BCCI? – and will welcome some of the best players from all over the world.

Chris Gayle is the star signing – he will play for the Matabeleland Tuskers – but several English county players are also involved. Rory Hamilton-Brown, Paul Horton, Tom Smith, Adam Wheater, Ned Eckersley, Ryan ten Doeschate, Phil Mustard, Riki Wessels, Andrew Hall, Phil Mustard and Peter Trego will all be taking one of the four overseas places in each franchise’s starting eleven. There they will rub shoulders with the established Zimbabwe players such as Brendan Taylor and Hamilton Masakadza, as well as mixing with some of the exciting young talent that is emerging from the country such as promising 18 year-old batsman Kevin Kasuza and fast bowlers Nathan Waller and Tendai Chatara.

Four of the teams are closely matched, with Southern Rocks the rank outsiders, but the Tuskers – led by Lancashire opener Paul Horton - are tipped as slight favourites at this early stage.

Matches begin at 0800GMT tomorrow when the Mid West Rhinos take on the Mountaineers, and Cricket World will have a review of the tournament when it finishes on 4th December.

ICC Reacts To ‘Fictional’ Claims Of Corruption

ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat has been moved to react to a news story published in the Times of India alleging incidents of corruption in the ICC Cricket World Cup match between Australia and Zimbabwe.

While Australian openers Shane Watson and Brad Haddin started their innings slowly in that match, few seasoned cricket viewers and anybody who had been watching much of the tournament, thought anything untoward was going on. Both players were taking their time on a slow pitch against a wily operator in Ray Price and the team were making their first appearance of the tournament.

Most will have reacted as Haddin did to suggestions that his side were under any sort of scrutiny from the ICC’s Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) – by laughing it off as nonsense.

However, the fact that we are still discussing the issue this deep into the tournament, and long since Zimbabwe have returned home, goes to show how seriously any allegations are being taken at the moment.

In a strongly-worded statement, Lorgat said: “An article by Mr Dayal in yesterday’s newspaper made a number of claims about an ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 match between Australia and Zimbabwe that can only be described as fictional.

“We do not comment on the activities of the ICC’s Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) and for good reason. However, after several misleading and downright false stories appearing in recent weeks it is time for us to show our displeasure and expose those responsible for affecting the integrity of the media.

“It is also patently false of the reporter to claim that the ICC ever suggested to it that the match was corrupted. The ICC confirms that, in terms of its policy, at no stage did anyone from the ICC speak to the journalist on this topic.”

It is unusual for the ICC to so much as pass comment on such speculation and articles but it does show how important they feel it is to prove that the game is as clean as they can possibly make it.

The last thing this World Cup – which to be fair has produced some great entertainment – needs is any hint of corruption or wrongdoing, particularly in the wake of Pakistan players Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif all being banned following spot-fixing late last year.

And that is why the ICC has felt it important to condemn what it calls such ‘wild claims’ of corruption in order to protect the integrity of cricket.

A Topsy-Turvy Cricket World Cup Week

It’s been a topsy-turvy few days at the Cricket World Cup 2011. We’ve seen Ireland topple England to register the tournament’s first upset, Canada push Pakistan hard before the West Indies dismissed Bangladesh for just 58 in a match that we expected to be a lot closer.

Bangladesh’s fans partied after their own victory against Ireland as if they had won the World Cup but their mood changed following the West Indies match and reports emerged that they had thrown stones at the West Indies team bus, breaking a window.

They thought they were attacking their countrymen, so lauded a few days earlier for a hard-fought 27-run win against a team that would go on and down England in fine style.

Kevin O’Brien’s 50-ball century and innings of 113 in 63 balls will live long in the memory of all who saw it as he helped his side recover from a precarious position of 111 for five chasing 328 to see his team over line with balls to spare.

He may never play as well again, but he helped Ireland write their own piece of World Cup history with the highest run chase ever achieved.

England, who are chasing an unlikely hat-trick of Ashes, ICC World Twenty20 and World Cup success, have some serious questions to answer having conceded, on average, more than 300 runs in each of their matches so far.

They were almost turned over by the Netherlands, escaped with a tie against an Indian side that has similar bowling issues and finally embarrassed by Ireland, who were completely deserving victors and good value for their victory.

Ireland’s win did the campaign to keep the Associate and Affiliate nations out of the World Cup no favours either. However, with the skills they showed in Bangalore, don’t rule out Ireland making big impacts in future ICC World Twenty20 events.

Following the excitement of the England-Ireland game, we unfortunately had to sit through some one-sided games – New Zealand thumping Zimbabwe and South Africa hammering the Netherlands but a plucky Canada showed plenty of grit and determination to bowl them out for 184.

They were therefore very much in the game but their hopes were extinguished by another fine performance in the field – led by the (other) man-of-the-moment Shahid Afridi, who took his second five-wicket haul.

Finally, if Bangladesh’s disappointing loss at the hands of the West Indies proved anything, it is that even a match between two Test-playing nations can end up being dreadfully one-sided.

That is the beauty of sport – the underdog will have its day but on others, evenly-match teams can produce games that don’t live up to their billing.

Back in August, New Zealand beat India by 200 runs in a One-Day International. Was anyone then claiming that India shouldn’t be playing ODI cricket?

What Can We Expect From The Opening World Cup Games?

Just hours away from the opening ceremony now and excitement levels ahead of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 are being ramped up to a very high level. Although the opening stage of the tournament is set to pit a number of highly-ranked sides against the lower-ranked associate nations, there are some potentially interesting match-ups early on.

The first game of the competition sees Bangladesh play India. While India are the overwhelming favourites to win the game, Bangladesh famously beat them in 2007 and dumped them out of the competition, so India will be taking nothing for granted.

Then we have New Zealand against Kenya – although New Zealand enter the tournament with little in the way of form, they should be too strong for Kenya, an outfit far removed from the team that reached the semi-finals in 2003.

Sri Lanka, who many are tipping for overall glory, then meet Canada and although the Canadians gave England a serious fright in a warm-up game, with home advantage, and coming off the back of a winning run, Sri Lanka should boss the game and take some early points.

Australia then play Zimbabwe and although the four-time champions aren’t playing at their best at the moment, undoubtedly missing Mike Hussey in the middle order, neither are a Zimbabwe side that has been badly hit by injuries. They stand a chance if their big players – Brendan Taylor, Tatenda Taibu and Elton Chigumbura – all fire with the bat but Australia should be too strong.

England will be wary of their opening match against the Netherlands following their embarrasment at the hands of the men in orange in the opening match of the 2009 ICC World Twenty20. It would be an even bigger upset if the Dutch beat them over 50 overs but they do have recent victories over Bangladesh and Kenya under their belt so will be nothing if not confident going into the encounter.

Despite the six-week competition being yet to get underway, we’d like you to make your predictions – who do you think will win the tournament overall? Check out what Cricket World’s John Pennington and Jim White think below – and then leave us your views.