Sunday, February 27, 2011

When Richards caught Australia short of their crease

A 23-year-old youngster, who would go on to scare the living daylights of opposition bowlers for two decades, had a pretty quiet World Cup. But as they say you can’t keep greats out of action for too long, and the same was the case with Vivian Richards, who fell cheaply to Gary Gilmour for 5 when West Indies batted first, but later came up with a sensational fielding performance which enabled his side pull off a 17-run World Cup-winning victory over Australia at Lord’s.

Richards proved why his fielding prowess should command utmost respect and was involved in three run outs of Alan Turner, Chappell brothers – Greg and Ian which largely made up for his overall disappointing run with the bat in the World Cup.

Richards’ first fielding scalp of Alan Turner came at a critical juncture when Australia were going along steadily in pursuit of West Indies’ formidable total 291 for 8, built around skipper Clive Lloyd’s majestic 102 and a workmanlike half-century from Rohan Kanhai.

Richards came up with a direct hit from backward square-leg which caught Turner short of his crease. Turner’s wicket was the key because he was looking good for his well-paced 54-ball 40 and was seeking to provide the early impetus.

Everyone present at Lords’ knew that the Chappell brothers had to play a big hand if Australia were to come anywhere close to the West Indies total. And the duo held fort to keep Aussies in the running before Richards came up with a superb direct hit to get rid of Greg Chappell who had a stop-start mix up with his younger brother.

Richards made a stark reminder of the famous saying ‘Never run off a misfield’ when he showed the pavilion way to Australian captain Ian Chappell. Chappell had worked the ball to the on-side and set off for a run, but hesitated on realizing Richards being stationed there. But seeing Richards fumble, Chappell started running but probably had underestimated the fielder’s quick recovery skills. Richards briskly got to the ball, turned and rifled in a return three feet above the stumps which Lloyd, the bowler did the needful as Chappell was caught well short of his crease.

His run out was best summed up by ace commentator Richie Benaud on BBC. “The old rule of never run on a misfield still holds good.”

Australia stood a realistic chance of chasing down West Indies’ 291 for 8 when they reached a score of 161 for 3, but the fall of Chappell’s wicket effectively derailed their chase. The impact of Richards’ three brilliant run outs was soon felt as Australia lost the initiative from there on and folded up for 274 in 58.4 overs.

Richards once recalled how his three run outs, which significantly shaped up West Indies’ maiden World Cup triumph, meant a lot more than just a win to West Indies cricket. “We are from the Caribbean region and there are times that we hear that we all think differently. But when we were able to lift that World Cup, I could imagine that the Caribbean came together then.”

Srinath’s extra motivation proved fatal for Sri Lanka

The dash of confidence permeating in the Indian ranks was not to be understated - five wins on the trot – Sourav Ganguly’s men were hungry as ever to keep its clean slate going when they squared up with Sri Lanka in a Super Six game at the New Wanderers Stadium.

And Team India’s splendid run seemed on track as they motored on a rollicking century opening stand between Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag to raise an imposing score of 292 for 6 off 50 overs. Tendulkar was at his exquisite best but was unlucky to miss his 35th ODI century by just three runs and also in the process became the highest run scorer in a single World Cup.

The strong Indian batting show rubbed off on their bowlers who were infused with an extra spring in the strides defending a tall score. Nobody was more pepped up than Javagal Srinath, who derived some extra motivation to come out with something special. He had to bring out his best for dear friend Hemant who had passed away in his early thirties in Mysore a week back. And what an inspired spell it was from Srinath - one that brought the Sri Lankan top-order on its knees.

Of course, his first wicket of Marvan Atapattu had more to do with the batsman’s indiscretion than anything else – the right-hander playing a loose drive to Mohammed Kaif in the covers.

Jehan Mubarak’s opening World Cup game ended on a forgettable note as Srinath enticed him to feel for one moving away to leave Sri Lanka’s chase plans in absolute disarray.

Then, there was vastly experienced Aravinda de Silva who would have wanted to go out on a high in his last international game against India, but came unstuck against a Srinath inswinger – becoming the fourth guy among the top five to get a duck as Sri Lanka were quivering at 15 for 4 in the fourth over.

Skipper Sanath Jayasuriya’s participation in the match was under a cloud of uncertainty– he played despite being hamstrung with a badly bruised arm and chipped left finger. And the apparent discomfort in Jayasuriya’s batting showed as he struggled to get going before Srinath finally ended his woes, spooning one to Mohammad Kaif who went on to pluck a record four catches in that game.

The writing was clearly on the wall for Sri Lanka. Srinath’s early damage – his opening spell read 7-1-24-4 was enough to swing the game in India’s favour and also sealed its semifinal berth.

The Lankan batsmen cut a miserable figure – that only four batsmen reached double-figures summed up their inept display. Sri Lanka were all out for 103 in 23 overs, handing India a massive 183-run win.

No wonder, former Sri Lankan World Cup winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga expressed his deep disappointment at their abject surrender. “Sri Lanka just weren’t good enough. Also, it didn’t help that Sanath (Jayasuriya) put India in on an excellent batting surface.

Srinath was named Man of the Match award for his bowling effort, and wasted little time in dedicating the recognition to his friend Hemant. “This is for him,” he declared after receiving the award.”

Obuya turns out to be the show-stopper at Nairobi bash

The tag of minnows may never sit comfortably with lesser-teams and Kenya is no exception. And when ICC president Malcolm Gray had announced during the 2003 World Cup that a Test status for Kenya is at least five years away, there were no prizes for guessing why Kenyans were a fired lot when they took on a Sri Lankan side that was coming off a run of three straight wins.

Kenya had someone like Kennedy Otieno who was prepared to throw his bat around at the Gymkhana Club Ground after they were asked to bat first by Sanath Jayasuriya. A swatted six off Vaas on the on-side showed the confidence of a man who was not going to allow the Sri Lankan bowlers settle into any kind of rhythm.

Otieno’s aggression at the top of the order was the key to Kenya posting a score of 210 for 9 in 50 overs. His innings assumed a lot of value considering Kenya’s next second-best score was 26 apiece from Hitesh Modi and Maurice Odumbe.

The match was soon turned into a family picnic. Otieno’s younger brother Collins Obuya bowled a dream spell of leg-spin bowling to stifle the Sri Lankans to doom. Of course, he should be indebted to his seamers for prising out openers Sanath Jayasuriya and Marvan Atapattu early not to forget their razor-sharp fielding which meant that Sri Lankans had to work hard for their runs.

The 21-year-old leg-spinner snared Hashan Tillekaratne, Mahela Jayawardene, Kumara Sangakkara to bog down the Lankans. Aravinda de Silva was the only one to offer resistance with a 53-ball 41 but he too became Obuya’s fourth victim when he went back to cut one and was snapped up by the keeper.

Obuya reached his most-cherished moment snaffling a 5-for getting rid of Chaminda Vaas. His 5 for 24 from ten overs set up a famous Kenyan win as Sri Lanka plunged from a healthy 71 for 2 to 119 for 7 before being bowled out for 157 off 45 overs.

“Obuya was excellent. I think he bowled the spell of his life,” Kenya captain Steve Tikolo said about his effort. And too many guesses weren’t required as to who the Man of the Match was.

The frustration of a major Test playing nation losing to a lesser-playing nation was apparent in how Sri Lankan skipper Sanath Jayasuriya summed up the match. “I think it’s one of the worst matches I’ve ever played. We did not play like professionals today, we played like amateurs.”

Croft crushes Pakistan dreams

The dominating presence surrounding the West Indies side instils fear in the minds of the opposition. The dash of arrogance, wave of confidence, bucketful of self-belief would seem like no team can even remotely challenge them.

The proceedings didn’t suggest anything different when West Indies and Pakistan squared up in the World Cup semifinals at Oval. Openers Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes quickly negated Asif Iqbal’s decision to insert them in, rustling up a solid century stand before cameos from Viv Richards, Clive Lloyd and Collis King propelled them to 293 for six off its allotted 60 overs.

Pakistan suffered an early jolt in the form of Sadiq Mohammad before Majid Khan and Zaheer Abbas showed the cricketing world how to combat fiery pace bowling and for the first time gave Windies a real scare of a semifinal exit with a 166-run stand in 36 overs.

The frustration in the West Indies ranks was clearly evident as Lloyd kept shuffling his bowlers around to break the partnership. He brought Colin Croft into the attack from the Vauxhall end and the move worked wonders.

Croft dislodged Zaheer, seven short of what would have been a well deserved century when the latter flicked one down leg into Derrick Murray’s gloves, much to the relief of the West Indians.

Bowling with his tails up, Croft prized out the well-set Majid caught by Alvin Kallicharran for 81 to significantly swing the balance of the game.

And the initiative was well and truly seized when Croft trapped Javed Miandad lbw for a first-ball duck as Pakistan disintegrated from 176 for one to 187 for four.

Croft, an air traffic controller during his playing days, who later qualified as a pilot, snared three wickets in twelve balls, conceding four runs in crucial spell of bowling to finish with 3 for 29 from eleven overs which nicely set up West Indies’ final entry as Pakistan lost their nine wickets for just 74 runs to be all out for 250 in 56.2 overs.

Cocky Pakistan said goodbye to final berth for the third straight time!

The Gaddafi Stadium at Lahore was buzzing with excitement in anticipation of Pakistan’s maiden World Cup final entry after being losing semi-finalists in 1979 and 1983. The stakes were indeed high for Imran Khan’s men to win the World Cup playing in their own backyard, and it was in this backdrop that Pakistan took on Australia, one of the most underrated teams at the 1987 World Cup.

It was Australia who pulled the early punches through a 73-run opening stand between Geoff Marsh and David Boon and ensured the hosts were kept at bay after Allan Border called it correctly. Boon consolidated the Australian innings in association with Dean Jones after the run out of Marsh as they prospered to 155 before the hosts tasted some success. Part-timer Saleem Malik had Boon stumped by makeshift wicketkeeper Javed Miandad, standing in for the injured Saleem Yousuf, followed soon by the departure of Jones.

In fact, Australia at one stage seemed to put up a score in excess of 300 but it only due to Imran’s penetrative three-wicket spell at the death that their scoring spree was kept in check, as Aussies finished at 267 for 8 in 50 overs.

A solid opening start was the need of the hour chasing 268 for victory but the Pakistan top-order made a mess of things, leaving the most experienced pros in the side – Javed Miandad and Imran Khan to turn around the fortunes of Pakistan. The duo milked the Aussie bowling nicely finding the occasional boundary to keep Pakistan in the running.

The general feeling around the Stadium was that Pakistan could pull this match off as long as Miandad and Imran were at the crease, as they raised 112 for the fourth wicket before Imran fell to rival skipper Border.

Pakistan’s hopes for a final berth, was dealt a killer blow when Miandad was cleaned up by Bruce Reid. The tailenders did their best to take Pakistan close to the Australian target but they always had their backs to the wall.

McDermott polished off the tail to bag a brilliant 5-for and condemn Pakistan to a 18-run defeat.

Pakistan’s defeat smacked off a sense of overconfidence in their ranks. This stems from the manner in which former Pakistan captain Zaheer Abbas took a swipe at the Australians on the eve of the World Cup semi-final calling them “schoolboys; mere club cricketers” in his newspaper column.

No wonder, Australia were fired up for the occasion and wanted to prove a point or two.