Monday, June 2, 2008

Rajasthan win the IPL Final

A galaxy of international stars might have added fizz to the IPL but it was India's most improved domestic player who sparkled in the tense final. Few outside India might have heard of Yusuf Pathan before this tournament but he imposed himself on the grand stage, snaffling three wickets before smashing a scintillating 56, setting the stage for the inspirational Shane Warne to pull off the last-ball thriller.

It was fitting that the most consistent side in the tournament held their nerve to clinch a nailbiter. Chennai summoned every ounce of their reserves to take the match to the last ball but a calm swat from Sohail Tanvir, when one was needed off the last ball, sparked some heady celebrations in the Rajasthan dug-out. The least expensive side in the league had completed the coup that had them winning 13 of their 16 matches.

It was a cat-and-mouse battle at the DY Patil Stadium. Unlike in the two semifinals, neither team held a clear advantage at the end of the first innings. The Chennai Super Kings paced their innings well, not trying anything too rash, and a collective effort took them to a fighting 163.

Rajasthan Royals, who chose to field after winning their 11th toss, weren't as dominant with the ball as they've usually been but Yusuf Pathan's three strikes ensured that the game never really got away. The surface was expected to help the faster men but it was bowlers with variety who prospered as the ball occasionally stopped on the bat. A slow outfield hindered the batting side early on but Suresh Raina's meaty hitting rendered it redundant by the end.

A glittering closing ceremony preceded the game but neither team dazzled early on. The game was played out on an elastic band with both sides vying for the advantage - just as Chennai's batsmen appeared to have sized up the conditions, Rajasthan would strike back with a wicket. Parthiv Patel went about laying the platform sensibly, interspersing judicious glides with clean slaps, before Raina and Mahendra Singh Dhoni took them to a competitive total.

Dhoni had offered a cautionary warning to his batsmen: "The previous games here have not produced too many big totals," he said at the toss, "so it's important that the batsmen realise that and play accordingly." Chennai accordingly ensured they didn't lose the plot - as Punjab had done last night - and did their bit to thwart a sharp bowling attack.

Rajasthan tried to use the short ball against S Vidyut but he backed away and slashed over the third-man region instead, a shot that brought the first six of the match. It was clear that Vidyut was going to get after the bowling as Parthiv playing a steady hand. But his attempt to smash Yusuf out of the ground didn't come off - charging down the track, he wasn't to the pitch of the ball and holed out to deep midwicket, where Ravindra Jadeja snapped up a sharp catch diving forward.

Raina and Patel, the duo who took Chennai to victory last night, put on a useful 25-run stand but it was more accumulation than attack. Parthiv's dismissal, edging to the wicketkeeper and watching Kamran Akmal juggle before completing the catch, allowed Albie Morkel to inject some urgency into the innings. His two sixes over midwicket livened the atmosphere but Yusuf ensured there was no extended fireworks. Akmal held on to a skier from Morkel but the bad news for Rajasthan was that he collided with Mohammad Kaif, who had to leave the field with an injury.

Raina motored along, before holing out to long-off, but it was strange to see Chamara Kapugedera being sent ahead of S Badrinath. Kapugedera pottered around for a 12-ball 8 and it was down to Dhoni to up the rate. Shane Watson's 17th over, where he conceded just 3 and picked up a wicket, appeared to tilt the scales but a few mighty hits from Dhoni took them past 160. Mumbai's match-winning 162 against Delhi has been the highest score on this ground and Dhoni might just think that his side have done enough to put up a serious fight.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Rajasthan take top spot

The Mumbai Indians lost their third successive nail-biter to leave their semifinal hopes hanging by a thread in the Indian Premier League. With 43 needed off the final three overs for the Rajasthan Royals to protect their 100 per cent home record, youngsters Niraj Patel and Ravindra Jadeja kept their nerve -- while several more experienced Mumbai players lost theirs -- to win it off the final ball at the Sawai Man Singh Stadium in Jaipur on Monday.

The result means Delhi Daredevils become the third team to make it to the semifinals and if the Chennai Super Kings win their match against Deccan Chargers on Tuesday, Mumbai will be out of contention.

When Shane Watson was dismissed with 69 runs still needed off 48 balls and no big-name batsmen to come on a pitch not conducive to stroke-making, Mumbai were in command. The Mumbai bowlers maintained a tight line-and-length and runs came mainly in singles. With Niraj and Jadeja hardly threatening, the equation became a difficult 43 off the final three.

A streaky inside-edge for four and a misdirected yorker which deflected off the pads to the fine-leg boundary left Rajasthan needing 34 off the last two. Jadeja then clubbed Rohan Raje over cover for six off the first ball and a couple of twos followed in the over. Raje's final delivery should also have gone only for a couple, but shoddy work at the bowler's end -- one among Mumbai's several elementary fielding errors -- gave away a crucial, extra run.

Four runs came off the first two balls of Dilhara Fernando's last over and Rajasthan required 11 off the final four balls. A flat, powerful six over long-on from Niraj got them closer but only two runs were scored off the next couple of deliveries and three were needed from the final ball. Fernando, an experienced international, then sent down a leg-side wide and Niraj mistimed the last delivery to mid-on. Only one run should have been taken but the batsmen chanced their luck and set off for the second. Sanath Jayasuriya, another experienced campaigner, fumbled the throw from the deep to fluff a simple run-out opportunity and hand Rajasthan yet another victory.

After choosing to field, on a pitch where was keeping low, Rajasthan restricted Mumbai to 145, a modest total that was reached thanks to Yogesh Takawale's eight-ball 24. Rajasthan's bowlers held sway for most of the innings, and man-of-the-match Sohail Tanvir reinforced his status as the tournament's best bowler with a four-wicket haul that earned him the purple cap.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

IPL umpire suspended for commenting on Sreesanth’s behaviour

The Indian Premier League (IPL) on Tuesday suspended umpire Amish Saheba for two matches for speaking his mind to a newspaper about Kings XI Punjab pacer S. Sreesanth's on-field behaviour against Mumbai Indians in Mohali on Friday night.

Apart from the IPL, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has also sought an explanation from Saheba for his comments.

Saheba, who was umpiring the eventful match along with Pakistani Aleem Dar in which Mumbai Indians stand-in skipper Harbhajan Singh slapped Kings XI Sreesanth, said the Kerala pacer was behaving like a "petulant school boy" ceaselessly sledging the Mumbai Indians players.

"Sreesanth was sledging Mumbai batsmen right from the start. In fact, I along with my colleague Dar twice warned him. We also warned his skipper Yuvraj Singh. Sreesanth was really going over the top," Saheba told a local newspaper.

Contrary to Saheba's statement, Match Referee Farokh Engineer, in a hearing on Monday, said the incident was completely unprovoked but still warned Sreesanth to curb his on-field antics.

Harbhajan has been banned for the rest of the IPL season and has been fined 100 percent of his match fee.