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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Watch India vs Australia Live Match - Will it be Another High Scoring Match?

Handicapped by the poor form of some of their key bowlers, India will be under intense pressure as they go into the do-or-die sixth cricket one-dayer against an upbeat Australia on Wednesday, fully aware that any slip-up at this stage could cost them the series. Cricket lovers may have doubts over the fate of the sixth ODI between Indian and Australia, after back-to-back washouts at Ranchi and Cuttack. However, it seems players will get to sweat out at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium, Nagpur on Wednesday, with the weather expected to be dry and humid.

It is quite assured and assumed that there will be no rain pouring down in Nagpur. Only fours and sixes. The new Jamtha stadium is known for its flat pitches in ODIs. Of the six ODIs played here, first-innings totals in five have been more than 290. Netherlands scored 292 here against England, India failed to defend 296 once. Add to it the new regulations of two balls from each end, and only four fielders outside the circle probably it’s going to be another run feast.

Australia lead the series 2-1 and are just a win away from clinching the series. They will come into the Nagpur game with less pressure, as they will still have one more chance to win the series. However, pressure will build up if they loss the sixth ODI.

India, on the other hand, will come into contest, well aware of the fact that another loss would mean a series defeat. They need to win both the remaining games to avoid a series loss and it won't be easy, despite boasting a strong batting line-up.
The questions around the team combination remain the same since there wasn't a ball bowled in the previous ODI. Mohammed Shami and Jaydev Unadkat should retain their places, with Bhuvneshwar Kumar possibly replacing R Vinay Kumar.

The sixth ODI at Nagpur is expected to be a great contest with both teams having players with good form. They are expected to score big, like in the previous games, and no total seems to be too big for these teams, which has been the beauty of this series.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Watch England vs India, 2nd ODI Live Streaming

Injured India still seeking elusive win

September 5, 2011

Match facts

James Anderson warms up for an England net session, Rose Bowl, September 5 2011
James Anderson does the hard yards in training at The Rose Bowl

September 6, Rose Bowl
Start time 1400 (1300 GMT)

Big Picture

At Chester-le-Street on Saturday, and at the sixth time of asking, India's cricketers finally enjoyed the better of one of this season's international tussles with England. However, with England on the ropes at 27 for 2, chasing 275, the victory that MS Dhoni's men were surely anticipating was thwarted by the onset of grim autumnal weather, and the match finished as a dispiriting wash-out.

Now, 48 hours later, the squads have relocated from the country's northern-most venue to its most southerly, Hampshire's Rose Bowl, where the series resumes in earnest at 0-0 with four to play. India's resolve in the Durham opener was a timely reminder of the class they still exude in limited-overs cricket, even with an injury-ravaged squad that now includes Rohit Sharma, whose finger was broken by Stuart Broad on Saturday, and Sachin Tendulkar, who missed the match with a foot injury, and is flying home from the tour.

However, England will recognise the errors that they made in that opening contest, and besides, their captain, Alastair Cook did not accept the widely-held view that his team would have lost had the match been played to a conclusion. Certainly, after the start that they enjoyed, in which England's short-pitched approach was found out in a solid 82-run opening stand from Parthiv Patel and Ajinkya Rahane, India might have hoped to get closer to 300. However Tim Bresnan and the ever-improving Jade Dernbach regained a decent measure of control at the death.

It is with the bat that England have rather more to prove. Cook's own failure can be mitigated by the glut of runs he racked up in the ODI series against Sri Lanka earlier in the year, but it is his opening partner, Craig Kieswetter, who is looking more of a problem. His stiff-armed technique was mercilessly probed by the swing of Praveen Kumar, and a return of 6 from 19 balls was not what England required from such a devastating striker of a cricket ball.

A flatter track at the Rose Bowl could aid him in that respect, but with Kevin Pietersen rested for this series, and the youngster Ben Stokes still awaiting his first significant international innings, there's a shortage of proven power-hitting to bolster England's ambitions. If they want to be taken seriously as an ODI outfit - and that is one of Andy Flower's stated aims since reaching the Test No.1 status - then the opportunity to get one over the 50-over World Champions is not something that England will want to pass up.

Form guide

(Most recent first)

England NWWWL

In the spotlight

Eoin Morgan's one-day pedigree is not exactly in doubt, but as England start to build towards the 2015 World Cup, it is increasingly clear how central to their plans he is going to be. This season began with the quiet confirmation of his vice-captaincy role in the Twenty20 team, and continued in Dublin last week with his first experience of leadership - a hard-fought victory in which his 59 earned the Man of the Match award. As for the coming contest, no England batsman is more at home at the Rose Bowl. In three appearances, he's never made less than 43, and against Australia and Pakistan last summer, he bossed the games with a brace of brilliant unbeaten hundreds.

Praveen Kumar's joie de vivre was one of India's few redeeming features in the Test series, but in the 50-over format, his hard-to-handle swing bowling looks like adding another degree of menace, particularly in English conditions. He bowled four of India's 7.2 overs at Chester-le-Street, in which time he delivered 20 dot-balls and two key wickets, as neither Cook or Kieswetter found a viable method to negotiate him. With little pace on the ball, and substantial lateral movement to thwart any attempts at aggression, he has the ability to thrive in the Powerplay overs, so long as his impeccable line and length does not waver.

Team news

Graeme Swann ought to be fit for selection after fighting a virus at Chester-le-Street. Ben Stokes, who dropped a catch at gully in his only meaningful contribution to that match, is likely to be given another chance to stake his claim in the middle order.

England (possible) 1 Craig Kieswetter (wk), 2 Alastair Cook (capt), 3 Jonathan Trott, 4 Ian Bell, 5 Eoin Morgan, 6 Ben Stokes, 7 Graeme Swann, 8 Tim Bresnan, 9 Stuart Broad, 10 James Anderson, 11 Jade Dernbach

Rohit Sharma's broken finger necessitates yet another middle-order rejig, although neither of the two batting replacements, Ravindra Jadeja nor Manoj Tiwary, have yet linked up with the squad, which means Amit Mishra - who impressed with the bat in the Test series - could feature. Tiwary could, at a pinch, be thrown into the game straight off his plane on Wednesday. Tendulkar's absence means Rahane stays at the top of the order

India (possible) 1 Ajinkya Rahane, 2 Parthiv Patel, 3 Rahul Dravid, 4 Virat Kohli, 5 Suresh Raina, 6 MS Dhoni (capt/wk), 7 Amit Mishra, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Praveen Kumar, 10 Munaf Patel, 11 R Vinay Kumar

Pitch and conditions

Clear skies for the preview day, but there's yet more rain forecast for the match itself. The pitch is hard and true, and potentially loaded with extra bounce, if the Sri Lanka Test is anything to go by.

Stats and trivia

  • India have played two previous internationals at The Rose Bowl ... and the first came against Kenya in the Champions Trophy in 2004, when Rahul Dravid - the only survivor from that fixture - made 30 not out from 16 balls in a 98-run win

  • England have played in six of the 12 ODIs at the venue, and have won four of them, including each of their last two games against Pakistan and Australia.


"There is no point me trying to become something I'm not. I have to play to my strengths. I have to pick the gap like I do in Test cricket."
Ian Bell wants to play his one-day cricket with the same poise that he has shown in Tests in recent months.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Watch Sri Lanka vs Australia, 4th ODI Live Streaming

Revitalised Sri Lanka look to even series

August 19, 2011

Match facts

August 20, Colombo
Start time 1430 (0900 GMT)

Lasith Malinga ran through Australia, Sri Lanka v Australia, 3rd ODI, Hambantota, August 16, 2011
Lasith Malinga took five wickets in Sri Lanka's comfortable win in the 3rd ODI

Big Picture

A lot has changed in Australian cricket over the past 24 hours but one thing remains the same: the team is in Sri Lanka trying to win a one-day series. The players have been briefed on the Argus report, which has resulted in Andrew Hilditch and Greg Chappell being removed from the selection panel, and the captain and coach being made selectors. Chappell remains in Sri Lanka with the side, and will pick the team for Saturday's match. It might be difficult for the players to retain their focus amid such turmoil, but given how impressive Sri Lanka were in the third match, they will need to shut out all distractions.

Tillakaratne Dilshan and his men found a spark to keep the series alive in Hambantota, and victory in Saturday's game in Colombo will level the series. The teams met at this venue during the World Cup but the match was washed out. The pitch had offered plenty of spin on that occasion, which should give the hosts some confidence.

Form guide

(Most recent first)

Sri Lanka WLLWL
Australia LWWWW

In the spotlight

Lasith Malinga's five-wicket haul in Tuesday's victory was overshadowed by Upul Tharanga's century, but it was just as impressive. At his best, Malinga is fast, accurate, and gets late swing that means a batsman cannot afford to play the wrong line. He will be a key weapon throughout the rest of the series.

Doug Bollinger has been in excellent form for Australia so far in this series, having taken taking eight wickets at 13.87, yet he's not part of the squad for the Test matches coming up after the one-dayers. He has used his pace, bounce and angle to great effect in the first three games, and was easily Australia's best bowler in the loss in the third match. Bollinger might not exactly be able to bowl himself into the Test squad, but if he keeps his form up, he'll have every chance of being the first backup if any of the bowlers break down in the longer format.

Team news

Sri Lanka might have won the third ODI, but not all members of their team have pulled their weight, and three men have been dropped from the squad. Of those, Dinesh Chandimal was the only one who played in the victory, and his axing should mean Chamara Silva retains his spot. The uncapped legspinner Seekkuge Prasanna has been rushed home from England, where he was playing for Sri Lanka A.

In Hambantota, Sri Lanka played just the one specialist spinner, Ajantha Mendis, with Jeevan Mendis playing a supporting role. But with the action shifting to Colombo Dilshan said in the pre-match press conference they would play two spinners. He also said Prasanna could be handed a debut though he will be competing for a spot with Suraj Randiv. Dilshan admitted Sri Lanka may consider dropping Jeevan Mendis since they had given him plenty of opportunities, and he has not produced with either bat or ball in the series.

Angelo Mathews has been ruled fit after missing the third game.

Sri Lanka (probable) 1 Upul Tharanga, 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan (capt), 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Chamara Silva, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Jeevan Mendis, 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Suraj Randiv / Seekkuge Prasanna, 10 Ajantha Mendis, 11 Lasith Malinga.

Australia's main concern surrounds the out-of-form Brad Haddin, but with no other gloveman in the squad, they have no option but to retain him. One possibility would be to bring Shaun Marsh in to open and push Haddin down the order, perhaps squeezing out Steven Smith, who has delivered little with bat or ball so far in the series. But Australia are loath to tinker, and a more likely scenario if the conditions are suitable would be a straight swap of the allrounder John Hastings for Smith, with Haddin to stay at the top.

Australia (probable) 1 Shane Watson, 2 Brad Haddin (wk), 3 Ricky Ponting, 4 Michael Clarke (capt), 5 Michael Hussey, 6 David Hussey, 7 Steven Smith / John Hastings, 8 Mitchell Johnson, 9 Brett Lee, 10 Xavier Doherty, 11 Doug Bollinger.

Pitch and conditions

The Hambantota pitch didn't offer as much assistance to the spinners as might have been expected, but expect the ball to turn in Colombo. Dilshan said the track looked slow.

Stats and trivia

  • Kumar Sangakkara will play his 300th ODI, the sixth Sri Lankan to reach the milestone.
  • Upul Tharanga needs one more century in 2011 to equal the Sri Lankan record for most ODI hundreds in a calendar year for the second time. The record is jointly held by Tharanga and Sanath Jayasuriya, who made five each in 2006.
  • Australia fare better under Michael Clarke when he loses the toss. They've lost four of nine ODIs when he's won the toss, and only three of 21 games when he's lost the toss.


    "The difference between the other teams and the Australians is if you take their fast bowlers, they have speed and ability to swing the ball and, more than other teams, they pose a massive challenge."
    Upul Tharanga

    "We know that if we can make inroads in their top order, we've got a good chance."
    Australia coach, Tim Nielsen doesn't think Sri Lanka bat deep

Monday, August 8, 2011

Watch Sri Lanka v Australia, 2nd Twenty20 Live Streaming

Lessons aplenty for the visitors

August 7, 2011

Steven Smith is stumped by Kumar Sangakkara, Sri Lanka v Australia, 1st Twenty20, Pallekele, August 6, 2011
Australia were schooled in the first match, can they learn quickly?

Match facts
August 8, Pallekele International Cricket Stadium
Start time 19:00 (13:30 GMT, 23:30 EST)

Big Picture
There is no substitute for match conditioning. This much was clear after the first Twenty20 between Sri Lanka and Australia in Kandy, as the hosts showed the benefits of a testing tour of England, as opposed to the training camps in Brisbane and net sessions in Colombo that served as the visitors' preparation for the tour opener. The Sri Lankans also showed far better knowledge of the conditions, bowling plenty of spin on a surface that offered turn, while Cameron White preferred to use his pace bowlers in the latter stages and saw them belted out of sight by his opposite number Tillakaratne Dilshan.

Australia's coach Tim Nielsen described it as a "frustrating" start to the tour, but there will be more gnashing of teeth in store for the tourists if they do not tighten their fundamentals and show a little more understanding of the conditions that confront them. Shaun Marsh and David Hussey in particular looked out of sorts against the accurate spin of Dilruwan Perera, while Mitchell Johnson's first spell of the tour was disheartening in its inconsistency. More encouraging was the bowling and batting of Steve O'Keefe, and the slugging power of David Warner.

Australia need to show the capacity to learn quickly from the reverses of the first match, while Sri Lankan will seek to extend a psychological advantage.

Form guide
Sri Lanka WWWWL
Australia LWLLL

In the spotlight
Tillakaratne Dilshan was the undisputed star of the first match, and the Australians will need to find better ways of coping with his combative attitude and inventive strokeplay. Dilshan was not placed under too much pressure as a captain in the field either, as his bowlers kept the Australians in check. Cameron White said he had resorted to adjusting his field to counter the 'Dil-scoop' and thus created other gaps for the Sri Lankan captain, a rare admission.

Mitchell Johnson was attacked mercilessly towards the end of the innings, and was unable to find consistent line or length, let alone any swing. His work with the new bowling coach Craig McDermott is key to Australia's success in future matches on this tour, and he will want to improve his performance after a shoddy start.

Team news
Sri Lanka seem unlikely to make many changes to a team that performed so soundly and evenly in game one. For the Australians, Aaron Finch's pugnacity may be useful after some of the batsmen struggled for traction in the opener, and James Pattinson could be in line for a T20 debut.

Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Mahela Jayawardene, 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan (capt), 3 Kumar Sangakkara, 4 Dinesh Chandimal, 5 Jeevan Mendis, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Dilruwan Perera, 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Dhammika Prasad, 10 Rangana Herath, 11 Suranga Lakmal.

Australia (probable): 1 David Warner, 2 Shane Watson, 3 Shaun Marsh, 4 David Hussey, 5 Cameron White (capt), 6 Steven Smith, 7 Brad Haddin (wk), 8 Steve O'Keefe, 9 Mitchell Johnson, 10 Brett Lee, 11 James Pattinson.

Pitch and conditions
The surface for the first match confused the Australians somewhat by offering some bounce but also plenty of spin, a combination the Sri Lankans were far quicker to adjust to. Match two will be played on a similarly equal-opportunity surface.

Stats and trivia

* Tillakaratne Dilshan's century was the fifth in T20 internationals
* Dinesh Chandimal was the fifth batsman to be out hit wicket in T20I matches
* Sri Lanka had not previously won a T20I at home, losing their first four such fixtures
* Dilruwan Perera achieved the rare feat of taking wickets in each of his first three overs in international cricket

"I had the confidence to play it. It worked and I think after I played the Dil-scoop they changed the field and I felt [it was] more easy to score more runs in other areas."

Tillakaratne Dilshan succeeded in dictating terms to Australia's bowlers in game one

"If anyone scores a hundred off 57 [55] balls it will be hard work to win the game from there. But look, there were some disappointing aspects of the game from our end as well."

Cameron White knows the Australians need to sharpen up after looking rusty in the opener.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Watch Sri Lanka v Australia, 1st Twenty20 Live Streaming

Setting the tone for a tough tour

August 5, 2011

Tillakaratne Dilshan bats in the nets, Pallekele, August 4, 2011
Sri Lanka's captain Tillakaratne Dilshan will want a victory, and some runs to go with it

Match facts

August 6, Pallekele International Cricket Stadium
Start time 19:00 (13:30 GMT, 23:30 EST)

Big Picture

Australia commence their tour of Sri Lanka under a captain, Cameron White, who will be flying home once the Twenty20 matches have concluded. Sri Lanka, by contrast will be led in all three formats by Tillakaratne Dilshan, leading the team at home for the first time after taking over the reins for the England tour earlier this year.

Until a narrow victory over England in the second of two T20 matches following the Ashes, Australia's form in the shortest format had been poor, losing comfortably to the Sri Lankans in Perth last October and suffering a 2-0 series reverse against Pakistan in England during the 2010 northern summer. Michael Clarke's retirement from international T20 matches handed the captaincy to White, and he will now be hoping to get the tourists off to a strong start in Kandy.

The Sri Lankans have done rather better of late, defeating England in England, but that was their first T20 international since the aforementioned defeat of Australia at the WACA. Lasith Malinga's unavailability is a significant loss for the hosts, particularly as the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium and its new pitches have the potential for greater pace than most other surfaces on the island.

Both sides will want to set the tone for the tour with a first-up victory, as much to build confidence in their transitional teams as to get their opponents worried.

Form guide

Sri Lanka WWWLL
Australia WLLLL

In the spotlight

Angelo Mathews missed the Test series against Engalnd due to injury but eased his way back into some form during the subsequent limited overs matches to demonstrate why he was entrusted with the vice-captaincy before his 24th birthday. Explosive with the bat and intelligent with the ball, he played a key role in lifting the Sri Lankans to a memorable ODI victory over Australia at the MCG last year and will want to repeat the dose on home soil.

Steve O'Keefe, like his captain White, is only in Sri Lanka for the T20 matches, and is intent on showing that he should have been allowed to stay on. Peculiarly, his first-class bowling record is far better than any of his spin bowling rivals in Australia, but thus far the national selectors have declined to employ him further. O'Keefe has made no secret of his desire to push for bigger honours, and he can make a start by performing capably here to back-up the 3-29 he took on his T20 debut for Australia against Pakistan in 2010.

Team news

Sri Lanka's squad includes no fewer than six capable bowlers of spin, while the pace attack looks thin without Malinga, meaning Mathews or Nuwan Kulasekara can be expected to operate with the new ball. Aaron Finch is expected to be available having recovered from a rolled ankle suffered in training, and James Pattinson could be in line for a T20 debut.

Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Mahela Jayawardene, 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan (capt), 3 Kumar Sangakkara, 4 Angelo Mathews, 5 Chamara Silva, 6 Jeevan Mendis, 7 Dinesh Chandimal (wk), 8 Thisara Perera, 9 Nuwan Kulasekara, 10 Suraj Randiv, 11 Suranga Lakmal

Australia (probable): 1 David Warner, 2 Shane Watson, 3 Brad Haddin (wk), 4 David Hussey, 5 Cameron White (capt), 6 Shaun Marsh, 7 Steven Smith, 8 Steve O'Keefe, 9 Mitchell Johnson, 10 Brett Lee, 11 James Pattinson

Pitch and conditions

The Australians have been delighted by a hint of pace in the Kandy practice wickets and are hopeful for more of the same from the match strip. The Sri Lankans have trained in the evening to prepare for any moisture that may be present for a 7pm start.

Stats and trivia

  • This is Australia's first T20 international in Sri Lanka
  • It is also the first such fixture at the Pallekelle International Stadium
  • Sri Lanka's captain Dilshan is the oldest man on either side at 34, shading the Australian fast bowler Brett Lee by a little more than a month
  • Dilshan will be looking for a greater share of his team's runs, having made a meagre 23 in the five ODIs against England


"Australian usually play very hard. They may be a bit inexperienced. But they are tough opponents."

Tillakaratne Dilshan is not underestimating the Australians

"Definitely I think the way a series should be run, or a tour should be run, is that you start with your Twenty20s, then your one-dayers and then your Test matches."

Brett Lee says the tourists are happy with their Sri Lanka program.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Watch Kings XI Punjab v Rajasthan Royals Live Streaming, IPL 2011

Warne v Gilchrist in Mohali

Match facts

Thursday, April 21, Mohali
Start time 2000 (1430 GMT)

Life's good, especially with 700 wickets under your belt: Shane  Warne receives congratulations from Adam Gilchrist on taking his 700th  Test wicket, Australia v England, 4th Test, Melbourne, December 26,  2006
Colours have changed, teams have changed, but life's still good

Big picture

Adam Gilchrist contributed to 59 of Shane Warne's Test wickets either through catches or stumpings, one more than Ian Healy did. And then there were the endless plans that the two would have worked out together. On Thursday, they will be using their cricket expertise and their knowledge of each other's games to try and beat the other guy's team. More than other captains, perhaps, Gilchrist and Warne have left deeper imprints on teams they have led in the IPL. They have won the thing once each too.

This year, Gilchrist seeks to leave his imprint on a new side, the Kings XI Punjab, while Rajasthan Royals have loyally retained Warne. They have had contrasting starts to their campaign. Rajasthan began with two wins before running into two defeats at the hands of Kolkata Knight Riders. Punjab lost their first game, didn't bowl exceptionally in their second, but then Paul Valthaty changed it all, winning them that game and the next. While Punjab will look to carry on that momentum, Rajasthan will look to arrest the slide.

Team talk

The last time Rajasthan played, they missed the injured Rahul Dravid and Johan Botha. While Dravid should walk into the XI if he is fit, it will be interesting to see if Rajasthan drop Shaun Tait for Botha. On current form, and considering the all-round skills of Botha, they should. Amit Paunikar hasn't got going as an opener, and his place could also come under scrutiny.

In their last game, Punjab brought in an extra seamer in Vikramjeet Singh Malik. It will be interesting to see if they persist with that winning combination in Mohali.

In the spotlight

At the moment, Paul Valthaty seems to be incapable of committing a mistake. In the last two games, he has scored a century and a fifty, and has also taken four wickets with his split-finger slower balls. If he keeps going in this vein, he is likely to stay on the winning side.

Shane Watson was one of the cornerstones of the success that Rajasthan Royals tasted in their first season. This time, though, he has got off to a slow start, scoring only 33 in two games. Rajasthan will look for some of what he did in Bangladesh immediately before coming to the IPL.

Prime numbers

  • Valthaty needs 36 runs to take back the orange cap from Sachin Tendulkar.
  • Rajasthan's leadin run-getter, Johan Botha with 118, is only the 15th best in the overall list. That represents some of Rajasthan's problems.

The chatter

"He is known to spring surprises on the opposition. So we have to be ready for the challenges thrown at us."
Adam Gilchrist need not be warned about Shane Warne.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Watch India v Pakistan Live Streaming, 2nd Semi-final, World Cup 2011

Mercurial outsiders v solid favourites

March 29, 2011

Match Facts

March 30, Mohali
Start time 1430 hours (0900 GMT)

Shahid Afridi is overjoyed after bowling Harvir Baidwan, Canada v  Pakistan, Group A, World Cup 2011, Colombo, March 3, 2011
Shahid Afridi has been at the forefront of Pakistan's imperious turnaround from the spot-fixing crisis.

The Big Picture

Beyond the hype this contest can perhaps be best viewed through the prism of the two captains. Shahid Afridi is the passionate, exhibitionist leader who doesn't mind showing his emotions on the field. He will shout, cajole, plead, laugh, roar and feel every pulsating moment of the contest. It's exactly what this Pakistan team needs after all those controversies, someone who can remind them of the school-boyish joy that this game can provide.

MS Dhoni is the uber-cool captain and, while he can be vocal while dealing with the press, he is almost invisible on the field. Silent nods of appreciation, a quiet word in the ear, calm instructions, a shrug of the shoulder is all you will get from him. And again, it's what this star-heavy team needs. Someone who can be calm and remind them of the basics of the game.

Pakistan - who told their players they could be here in the semi-finals? - almost renews itself with each crisis. That's how it has been always: Controversies. Paralysis. Rebirth. Success. And more controversies. This was a big tournament for the survival of Misbah-ul-Haq, in the middle of a great comeback. In a sense, the spot-fixing saga and its sordid aftermath was actually a blessing in disguise since it paved the way for his return. For Younis Khan, too, survival instinct, as a batsman facing a dip in form before the tournament, would have helped in dealing with that crisis. Playing his last tournament, Shoaib Akhtar knew this was the time to let his game do the talking. And for that man Afridi, mentally almost perennially young, this was the best chance to dazzle on the biggest stage. He has taken that chance and led the team with great passion. Kamran Akmal lives and breathes in amnesia. Bad memories don't haunt him - who else could have recovered so well after that nightmarish effort against New Zealand?

And yet nothing much has changed with the way they play cricket on the field. It's still the bowlers who win the games for them. For all that is mercurial about them, Pakistan have lost just one game in this tournament.

India have occasionally limped, at times choked, sometimes dazzled, before beating Australia to reach to the semi-finals. The progress card has the bowlers in the red, the batsmen guilty of not finishing the job, and the fielding has always been almost beyond redemption. Their mode of progress should actually have freed them up in some ways. The batsmen must have realised that they can't try too hard to cover up for their bowlers' weakness, by trying to pile on too much, with the batting Powerplay pulling the rug from under their feet a few times. The bowlers showed they are learning from the serial hiding by putting up a pretty disciplined effort against Australia. In some ways, the pressure must be off them, as not many would be surprised if they leak 300 runs.

It's the batting India depend on. Is there any chink in it barring those Powerplay debacles? Gautam Gambhir hasn't been at his personal best - were he playing at his optimum, he would have rendered Virat Kohli superfluous at No. 4. Yet Gambhir's slightly iffy form has made Kohli vital in that middle order. Prior to the tournament, it was felt that Kohli would be a misfit in the lower order, where Suresh Raina and Yusuf Pathan would be more dangerous, and that he might be wasted even further up. But Gambhir hasn't been at his fluent best and India have turned to Kohli to take them through the middle overs. Gambhir has always raised his game against Pakistan and his form will be crucial on Wednesday as it would then give the middle order the licence to attack.

Form guide

(completed matches, most recent first)

Pakistan WWWLW

Watch out for...

Virender Sehwag In the past few games Sehwag has - curiously, for a batsman so wonderfully innovative as him - tried to hit every spinner through the off side. He would back away and try to drive, slice or cut and has fallen a few times in the process. Pakistan might well have a spinner bowling at him early and it will be fascinating to see whether Sehwag will retain that off-side bias or be more inclusive, and open, in his approach.

Umar Gul's yorkers: After Lasith Malinga, Gul has probably the best control over the yorker in world cricket today. There have of course been days when the radar has been awry but more often than not he has got them right. The Indian lower middle order will be fully tested by the yorkers, slower ones and the bouncers that he loves to bowl.

Sachin Tendulkar v Abdul Razzaq: Bowlers like Hansie Cronje and Razzaq, more than the Umar Guls and the Shoaib Akhtars, have been reasonably successful against Tendulkar. Cronje used to tease Tendulkar with deliveries shaping away from a length outside off while Razzaq specialises in the opposite: he slides the ball back in, looking for that lbw. He hasn't always had success, but it will be a mini-battle worth watching. Will Tendulkar opt for all-out attack or will he bat with relative care against Razzaq?

Zaheer Khan v Kamran Akmal: Kamran loves to square drive and Zaheer has been able to bend the ball back in to the right-hand batsmen this tournament with the new ball. This contest should be fun.

Umar Akmal v spin: India will rely a lot on the slow bowlers during the middle overs, and Umar is the middle-order batsman who loves to attack spin. He has laid into the likes of Daniel Vettori on the tour of New Zealand and is always itching to cut and slog-sweep.

Team news

The signs are that Ashish Nehra is likely to replace Munaf Patel. Even Yusuf Pathan has been sweating it out in the nets raising speculations that he might push R Ashwin hard for a spot in the team. Ashwin has been really good in the games he has played and has added some teeth to the attack while the nature of the patta track has made India think about bringing in Yusuf.

India (probable): 1 Virender Sehwag, 2 Sachin Tendulkar, 3 Gautam Gambhir, 4 Virat Kohli, 5 Yuvraj Singh, 6 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 7 Suresh Raina, 8 Yusuf Pathan / R Ashwin, 9 Harbhajan Singh, 10 Zaheer Khan, 11 Ashish Nehra

Pakistan are thinking of playing three seamers. The choice of the third seamer is between Shoaib and Wahab Riaz. Afridi said Shoaib wasn't 100% fit today but a decision will be taken on the evening preceding the match.

Pakistan (probable) 1 Kamran Akmal (wk), 2 Mohammad Hafeez, 3 Asad Shafiq, 4 Younis Khan, 5 Misbah-ul-Haq, 6 Umar Akmal, 7 Shahid Afridi (capt), 8 Abdul Razzaq, 9 Saeed Ajmal / Abdur Rehman, 10 Umar Gul, 11 Wahab Riaz / Shoaib Akhtar.

Pitch and conditions

It's a batting pitch but what's eating up everyone is the dew factor. Read here for a report on the pitch.

Heavy storms, lightning and rain lashed Chandigarh late on Tuesday evening, immediately adding a light shroud of doubt over the game. For the whole day there were no signs, not even a hint of rain playing a spoil-sport but around 9PM, there were rumbling sounds of thunder accompanied by high-speed winds. The velocity of the winds were so strong that the heavy iron barricades manning the team hotel were blown away.

The weather forecast for Wednesday suggests sunshine during the day with minimal chance of heavy rain. Punjab Cricket Association officials said that they had studied the forecasts for the period ending March 31 and there was "zero precipitation" expected. In simple terms, there were no strong rains expected on the day of the match.

Stats and trivia

  • Afridi is the first bowler in World Cup history to take four wickets in a match on four different occasions in a tournament.

  • MS Dhoni is the only wicket-keeper captain who has played in 100 ODIs.

  • Zaheer Khan is the second Indian bowler after Javagal Srinath (44 wickets) to take more than 40 wickets in World Cups.


    "I feel I have been batting really well. It is just that in some situation I could not bat flamboyantly. If you bat at 5, 6 or 7, and if the top order does really well, it does not give opportunity to lower-order batsmen. The last game was an ideal game where I could have got a bit more runs which were needed at that point of time. So form has been a worry it is just that sometimes there were not many opportunities and when there was an opportunity and there were times I was not able to score in a particular game".

    MS Dhoni on his own batting form.