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Cricket News & Views

MCC rein in boundary acrobatics

SOME laws of cricket have been amended today to counter a trend of gamesmanship, and one spectacular aspect of the Indian Premier League has been whacked into the shrubbery.

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The sight of boundary fielders in the IPL turning seemingly certain sixes into catches will become rarer now that the Laws define the legality of certain fielding tactics. The MCC, custodians of the Laws, announced eight changes today, including a new 'bad light' convention, tougher penalties on pitch scuffing and restrictions on the sort of boundary acrobatics seen in Twenty20 cricket.

The Laws, a fourth edition of the 2000 code, now state that a fielder’s first contact with the ball must be within the boundary or, if he is airborne, his last contact with the ground must be within the field of play. Knocking 'sixes' back into play for a colleague to catch or gather cannot be done jumping from outside the boundary. The fielder may subsequently step outside the rope, but a four or six will be scored, as to be expected, if he makes further contact with the ball while still grounded outside the boundary.

Umpires will now be the sole arbiters of whether play should continue in poor light, as has been the case in first class cricket regulations. "The batting side will no longer have any say in the decision, which was often made for tactical reasons," the MCC said.

At the toss at least one umpire will be required to attend, and the winning captain must notify his counterpart of his decision to bat or field immediately. "Previously, captains could wait until 10 minutes before the start of the game, but in some cases this was being exploited to the losing side’s disadvantage – and therefore contravened the Spirit of Cricket," the MCC said.

Other Law changes aimed at achieving more fairness between the teams include giving batsmen who damage the pitch only one warning before penalty runs are issued, rather than two – to mirror the punishment for fielders. Bowlers are prevented from delivering the ball with their front foot beyond an imaginary line between the middle stumps, releasing the ball as though they were bowling round the wicket.

Bowlers are forbidden to bowl the ball into the ground to a team-mate, which damages the ball and may waste time. Fielders will no longer be able to practise with a twelfth man or coach outside the boundary during a game, as this affords them an opportunity to prepare that is not granted to the batsmen in the middle.

The two final Law changes deal with very rare forms of dismissal. Law 28.1 has been amended so, if a batsman’s bat breaks in the act of playing a shot and the broken part of the bat hits the stumps, he will now be out. A new sub-section has been added to Law 29.1 to protect a batsman who is well in his ground – for example a sprinting batsman who has run past his stumps, but whose feet and bat happen to be in the air as the bails are removed. He will now be deemed to be in.

To explain the Law changes, MCC have produced a video with clips of international and MCC Young Cricketers illustrating both legal and illegal practices.

www.lords.org

Posted by Charlie Randall
30/09/2010 16:00:18

Brian Lara to play at Lord's

THAT superb retired West Indies left-hander Brian Lara is due to return to big cricket when he plays for the MCC against Pakistan in a Twenty20 warm-up game at Lord's on June 27.

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Lara, making his MCC debut for the club's first 20-overs game, and Sourav Ganguly, these days captain of Kolkata Night Riders in the IPL, are two well-known names preparing for a contest that should attract a large Sunday crowd. The Pakistanis, making their first appearance on their summer tour of England, will be led by Shahid Afridi, returning to the Home of Cricket for the first time since his match-winning performance at the ICC World Twenty20 Final in 2009.

The MCC fixture at Lord’s will be the only Twenty20 match played by the Pakistanis in London this season. Also confirmed to play are Chaminda Vaas, the Sri Lanka opening bowler, Ian Harvey, the Australian limited-overs specialist, Aiden Blizzard, the hard-hitting Victorian batsman, and Glenn Querl, a current MCC Young Cricketer who is impressing for the Unicorns in domestic cricket.

Tickets for the MCC v Pakistanis game are on sale now, priced £20 for adults and £5 for Under 16s. They can be bought from www.lords.org/tickets or by calling the MCC Ticket Office on 020 7432 1000.

Posted by Charlie Randall
10/06/2010 12:44:06

England make impressive strides

THE question that Shane Warne has raised after England's impressive success in the final of the ICC World Twenty20 in Barbados focuses on The Ashes next winter. The Australians might have to play very well to win that Test series, and one might add 'especially while Andy Flower is in charge'.

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The problem for England is that perhaps only four of Paul Collingwood's 20-over side are certainties for the Test team -- Collingwood, Kevin Pietersen, Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad. As Australia could only count on a couple more than that for the longer format, predicting the fate of The Ashes is difficult.

Warne, writing in the Daily Telegraph , noted that the England mindset had changed from 'hoping' to win if they played their best. "Now they think 'we can beat this lot'. That feeling of being scared of playing Australia has disappeared," he said.

There is no guarantee that the winning psychology can transfer to Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook and company when they resume their stations in Test cricket, with Strauss as captain again. England's record in Australia for more than 20 years has been lamentable.

However, the look of fear and desperation on the Australian faces as England's batsmen faced them down in the Twenty20 final was intriguing. Craig Kieswetter and Kevin Pietersen were absolutely superb as they 'grafted' the hard yards to set up a comfortable finish. The Australian fast-bowling strategy, led by Shaun Tait, required intense concentration to combat.

Kieswetter and Pietersen picked them off with twos and singles and occasional boundaries until they felt comfortable enough to move through the gears towards a seven-wicket win with three overs to spare. It was a thrashing that exposed Australia's one-dimensional approach. They had no plan B.

Graeme Swann, praised by Warne as the world's No 1 spinner -- an accolade bestowed long ago by these pages -- gave England a distinct edge as Australia struggled with the bat. There is every reason for England to expect to win the World Cup on the subcontinent next year.

England's management has been guilty of not quashing the Pietersen stardom syndrome that the media like to feed on. In the past there has been too much 'serious blow to our hopes' talk when the South African has been unavailable. That would be my only mild criticism of Flower, the national coach, who is a refreshing influence in so many ways.

Flower's years of playing for Zimbabwe, where international players mingle with supporters in bars as a matter of course like normal cricketers, has equipped this articulate son of a schoolteacher with patience, honesty and an endearing humility. I noticed this when chatting to him in Harare Sports Club long before he became the world No 1 batsman. These qualities will almost certainly have rubbed off on to his England charges, even KP.

Though a top-notch batsman, Pietersen was barely missed during the 2009 Ashes victory in England. He was man of the series in the World Twenty20 in the Caribbean, but this format allows no individual to carry a team, because bowling is too important. England could cope without Pietersen if they had to, with Ravi Bopara waiting in the wings. And was Andrew Flintoff missed? Not at all, though he is a great bloke.

England: Michael Lumb, Craig Kieswetter, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Eoin Morgan, Luke Wright, Tim Bresnan, Michael Yardy, Graeme Swann, Stuart Broad, Ryan Sidebottom.

ICC World Twenty20 final (Barbados)

Australia 147-9 (20 overs; David Hussey 59, Graeme Swann 4-0-17-1)

England 148-3 (17 overs; Craig Kieswetter 63, Kevin Pietersen 47 off 31 balls).

England won by 7 wickets

Posted by Charlie Randall
18/05/2010 11:09:49

IPL needs to prove its integrity

THE SALE of two further franchises at Pune and Kochi for a combined price of $703 million for an eight-year term has underlined the fact that the Indian Premier League is here to stay. This is fine while the Board of Control for Cricket in India does remain in 'control', but the landscape will change soon.

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In 2012 the IPL is due to become a public company and the whole concept will become more aggressive. There were five bidders for the latest franchises and they were all described as "very high quality" by the IPL commissioner Lalit Modi.

The Pune franchise was bought by Sahara Adventure Sports Group for $370 million. This western town is quite close to Bombay where Mumbai Indians were bought by Reliance Industries for $112.9 million two years ago, the most expensive of the eight 10-year franchises that formed the inaugural IPL. One can easily assume that all franchises have at least tripled in value, and this fire-breathing dragon could eventually destroy cricket's structure. The IPL  needs to show it has lasting value to enhance the game, not destroy it.

Most of the franchises, perhaps all, make a profit in view of the television interest and large stadium crowds that boost merchandising income. The franchises share 72 per cent of the broadcasting rights, which have topped $1,000 million. If the IPL becomes a public corporation as planned, the circuit is bound to expand and overlap with seasons in other countries, causing friction that will not be oiled by altruism. The good of the game of cricket will not feature in the thinking.

It will be interesting to see how many viewers ITV4 will attract in the afternoon for their daily IPL matches. If the figures seem healthy, the ECB will have some data to tempt future terrestrial coverage of games from the English circuit. However, as the ECB are currently arguing strongly that a Sky monopoly is the only route to survival, ITV's interest in cricket comes at an inconvenient time.

There are drawbacks to the IPL, clearly a credible rival in world-wide appeal to Premier League football. The Twenty20 format is not actually ideal for television because the ball flies all over the place, forcing frequent camera switches. Unlike longer matches, the short format allows the highest quality players only a short time on view.

Most viewers are not particularly bothered which Indian team wins unless perhaps they are Asian, and the action can be crippled by bursts of gormless commentary. Hyperbole comes tumbling out -- "there it goes, waaaaay into the crowd" -- and the words are too often waaaay over the top. After all, sixes are not uncommon.

No one should be surprised at the success of the T20 format because, after all, cricket took root in the 18th and 19th Century as a game of coloured clothing and violent hitting with curved bat against underarm bowling. Matches were quite short and sweet, and betting was an important element among the crowds that attended. It was not cricket's fault that an age of elegance, close-mown pitches and over-arm bowling changed the game's earthy character.

Test cricket is bound to decline in importance, especially on the subcontinent, in the West Indies and probably in Southern Africa. Big-money 20-over leagues offer a big draw, despite the ICC's laudable determination to hang on to the status quo. The MCC chief executive Keith Bradshaw sees a future with fewer teams and players involved in Test cricket, coinciding with a near-doubling of international T20 sides in five years' time.

Writing in the April issue of The Wisden Cricketer magazine, Bradshaw said: "I consider myself optimistic, but it isn’t difficult to look ahead and see the pessimists’ apocalyptic version of the future of the game, where Tests are virtually redundant, Twenty20 saturates and players are globe-trotting mercenaries."

He continued: "We know several players have already forgone playing Tests to prolong more lucrative Twenty20 careers, but I believe the more covert long-term problem will be that young players will be schooled purely in the Twenty20 game and be unable to adapt to the demands of cricket played over three, four and five days. The transition from Test to Twenty20 cricket is much easier than the other way round, and the result could be far fewer players capable of playing five-day cricket."

Bradshaw said that while Test cricket remained the pinnacle of the game its position should not be taken for granted. "We have a warped sense of the well-being of Tests in England because they attract good crowds. Yet there is a real danger that the format could become the preserve of four or five countries unless efforts are made to reinstate a fairer balance between bat and ball, to work alongside rather than against Twenty20 competitions to ensure players do not have to choose between playing for their country and their club, and to attract new audiences.

"Twenty20 could sound the death knell for Test cricket, but it could also prove to be the perfect vehicle for the expansion of the game into other countries. The shorter the game, the greater the leveller and Twenty20 is an excellent pathway into the elite fold – just think of the fairy-tale qualification of Afghanistan for this year’s World Twenty20."

Looking ahead he said: "I firmly believe the next big step will be the growth of cricket in the United States and it’s not unrealistic to think there could be 20 countries capable of playing competitive Twenty20 cricket within the next five years – surely something to celebrate."

The April issue of The Wisden Cricketer celebrated Sachin Tendulkar’s historic one-day double century against South Africa by featuring the India maestro on the front cover. This sort of innings cannot exist in T20.

www.thewisdencricketer.com

Posted by Charlie Randall
24/03/2010 19:39:37

Here comes another annoying moth

MOTHS are back in the cricket news as a bigger threat than David Gower after the disclosure that chemicals will have to be used at Ahmedabad to rid Indian Premier League night matches of an annoying pest.

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The city's first IPL game on March 15 -- Rajasthan Royal's six-wicket defeat by Delhi Daredevils -- was spoilt by clouds of moths attracted to the floodlights at the lofty Motera stadium, and the Gujarat Cricket Association announced they would be using fogging machines to improve conditions for players, spectators and commentators alike.

Gower caused a stir by 'harassing' an England warm-up match in Queensland from a low-flying Tiger Moth during the 1991 Ashes tour. As Gower and fellow passenger John Morris were playing in the match at the time and had not told the management, they were in trouble, but real moths are proving much more irritating in the IPL.

The presence of insects can be clearly seen on television during matches at other venues, with Motera probably the worst affected due its riverside location. Players complained moths were finding their way inside batting helmets, and there seemed a constant danger of taking one in the open mouth. Shane Warne, the Rajasthan captain, said he was hit in the eye by a couple of moths while in the slips as Shaun Tait was bowling. It might be only a matter of time before a serious incident happens.

Virender Sehwag, the Delhi captain, said moths were distracting for batsmen. "It is difficult to focus on the ball when you are running, and it is scary when some moth comes and hits you in the eye," he said. The India opener wore night glasses in South Africa after an insect flew into his eye during the 2009 IPL tournament.

Another Delhi player, Amit Mishra, commented on the moths in the Hindustan Times. "It was difficult to keep the eyes open," he said. "But I doubt anything could have been done to avoid it. The situation got worse after the match got underway, but it was not possible to use insecticides. Such insects are common in February-Marc. It happens more so because the Sabarmati river is close by. There is a lot of greenery along the river and insects breed there."

While moths were besieging the Motera stadium, a political rally in Lucknow was spoilt on the same day by a swarm of bees - a familiar occasional daytime hazard for cricketers. Players had to lie flat on the grass to avoid danger at Kandy during a Test between Sri Lanka and England in 2007. England again had problems at Cuttack in 2008, and the following year two nests had to be removed from the Barabati stadium before an India versus Sri Lanka one-dayer. India and Australia were similarly inconvenienced at Delhi in 2008, and England A had to get down during a match against Zimbabwe A at Harare in 1990, knowing that an attack by African killer bees could result in very serious injury.

Posted by Charlie Randall
18/03/2010 13:43:46

Song releases Caribbean party time

THE official song for the ICC World Twenty20 in the West Indies, Bring It by a duet of Mr Vegas and Fay Ann Lyons, has been released and has already been given air time on Caribbean radio stations and dance halls. To many pop music lovers the sound might be disappointingly hip-hop until the song warms up about halfway through.

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And it is noticeable that soca queen Fay sings better than Mr Vegas, but the package should prove catchy enough when amplified at the cricket grounds in May. The ICC describe Bring It as "contagious", which might be taking the effect a bit far. Nearer would be 'slightly catchy'.

The audio of Bring It can be heard on www.iccevents.yahoo.com

Tickets for April 30 through to May 16 are all reasonably priced -- in fact dirt cheap by UK standards. They have been on sale since last October, and the ICC have reported a good take-up in the West Indies and from further afield for this popular global event, potentially the biggest contributor to the Caribbean economy for a long time unless the wounds of the last World Cup have not healed. It depends whether fans are prepared to forget the bad mistakes by the ICC in 2007 such as excessive restrictions on crowd behaviour and over-priced tickets that kept the locals away.

This time, everyone has been assured, will be different. The ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat said: "We want this event to be a celebration of nation-versus-nation cricket with all the atmosphere, fun and excitement traditionally associated with the game in the West Indies. So, we are calling on the people of the Caribbean to ‘Bring It’."

"We invite you to bring your biggest voices. We invite you to bring your loudest noise makers. We invite you to bring your most outrageous costumes and facepaint. The world will be playing. The world will be watching. It’s time for Twenty20 international cricket, West Indies style."

First-time visitors to the West Indies might be shocked at the frequent lapses of grammar they hear, but they will enjoy the experience after a few rum punches. And an official message to "the cricket fans of the world" has been broadcast on the event website by the Bring It Posse, the tournament's cricket-loving gang and the nearest equivalent to the Barmy Army.

In case you haven't noticed, we enjoy our cricket a little different in the Caribbean. We live it. We breathe it. We Bring It for every match. With that in mind, consider this an invitation - an invitation from some of the craziest cricket fans in the world to you. We invite you to bring your biggest cheers. We invite you to bring your loudest noise makers. We invite you to bring your most outrageous costumes and facepaint.

You call yourself a cricket fan? Well this is your chance to Bring It, West Indies style. The world will be playing. The world will be watching. It's time to Bring It!

Sincerely, The Bring It Posse

Ticket prices range from three US dollars for ground entry at single group stage matches to five dollars for double-headers and eight dollars for entry to Super Eight matches. Prices for the semi-finals in St Lucia range from $10-20, and general admission to the men’s and women’s finals in Barbados on May 16 will cost $20 with a premium stand ticket available for only $40. Under-16s will gain entry free of charge for all group stage matches and significant discounts at all other fixtures. Admission to the women’s group matches in St Kitts is free to all.

Supporters from overseas can choose from a range of official tour operators signed up with service provider Cricket Logistics.

UK: Gullivers Sports Travel, Howzat Travel, ITC Sports, The Cricket Tour Company, Sporting Getaways.

India: Cutting Edge, Pyramid Travels, Tui India, SOTC Sports, Kuoni Travel, Cox & Kings.

Australia: AST Sports, Cricket Australia, Sportsnet Holidays.

United States: PKT Tours.

United Arab Emirates: MMI Travel.

Ireland: Sadlier Travel.

If the general public would like to organise travel packages to the ICC Twenty20 2010 in the West Indies, they can find all the information they need at www.cricketlogistics.com

Any parties interested in becoming an official tour operator are asked to contact Shirley Rattray of Cricket Logistics by email on shirley@cricketlogistics.com for an information pack.

Group A: Pakistan, Bangladesh, Australia

Group B: Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Zimbabwe

Group C: South Africa, India, Afghanistan

Group D: West Indies, England, Ireland

Match schedule, ticket prices: www.iccevents.yahoo.com

Information on tour parties: www.cricketlogistics.com

Posted by Charlie Randall
09/03/2010 13:06:15

Napier no closer to just desserts

A CANTERBURY batsman who gave the touring England Lions a miserable time in North Island has been drafted into New Zealand's provisional squad for the ICC World Twenty20, but the mystery of Graham Napier, well respected on North Island, continues.

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Shanan Stewart lashed 88 not out off 39 balls against Rob Key's team at New Plymouth as New Zealand A piled up 227 for six off their 20 overs, a total never challenged. Stewart, from Christchurch, hit seven sixes that day and now appears among 30 names with newcomers Brent Arnel, a successful seamer against the Lions, Rob Nicol, Kieran Noema-Barnett and Bradley Scott.

Stewart's emergence at a relatively mature age of 27 puts the focus on England's strange insistence on omitting Napier, 30, from even their wider provisional twenty20 squad. He was in the main squad for the 2009 ICC World Twenty20 in England, but was never given a game. The promotion of former Essex team-mate Andy Flower to England coach has not worked in his favour.

The all-rounder was notably successful at Wellington in New Zealand during the 2008/09 winter and is still regarded as an exceptional short-form player in county cricket. Signed by Central Districts for 2009/10, he produced 73 not out off 29 balls to beat Northern Districts in a 50-over game against all odds at Palmerston North in December before returning to Mumbai Indians for the IPL's 2010 season.

Napier and the Essex club were very unhappy when England announced their selections. No one can hide from the fact he hit 152 off 58 balls against Sussex at Chelmsford in 2008, hitting 16 sixes over admittedly short boundaries. Will Luke, of cricinfo, aptly described the innings as "unabashed mayhem" in a focus on players 'born for twenty20'.

Napier said on grahamnapier.com: "I’m deeply disappointed not to be involved in the 30-man squad, having played well in Twenty20 cricket over the winter. I feel twenty20 is a form of the game that suits me well, and the more experience I’ve gained in it the more effective I have become."

It is a shame his form in the IPL will make no realistic difference to England's attitude. "There is an opportunity for me over the next few weeks – as one of only eight English players involved in the IPL – to show the England selectors what they are missing out on," Napier said.

"But my job now is to focus on being as good a player I can be for Mumbai Indians, Essex and Central Districts. I have always been told that if you work hard, you get your rewards. So I need to keep doing that." Unfortunately England might make an exception when it suits them.

www.grahamnapier.com

Provisional England Twenty20 squad: Paul Collingwood (capt), James Anderson, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Steven Davies, Joe Denly, Steven Finn, Craig Kieswetter, Michael Lumb, Sajid Mahmood, Dimitri Mascarenhas, Eoin Morgan, Graham Onions, Kevin Pietersen, Liam Plunkett, Matt Prior, Adil Rashid, Owais Shah, Ajmal Shahzad, Ryan Sidebottom, Graeme Swann, James Tredwell, Peter Trego, Jonathan Trott, David Wainwright, Chris Woakes, Luke Wright, Michael Yardy.

Posted by Charlie Randall
05/03/2010 11:24:19

Collapso cricket at the wrong time

THE West Indies have shown off their Twenty20 skills by losing to Zimbabwe, but they expect success as hosts of the ICC World Twenty20 in May -- at the discipline of partying.

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Preparations are well advanced for the tournament in Guyana, St Lucia, Barbados and St Kitts from on April 30-May 16, the director Robert Bryan is confident the Caribbean is ready to give visitors and teams a good experience.

Bryan, a Jamaican, felt that the excitement was building up in the West Indies. "We’re definitely ready to ‘Bring It’," he said. "We’re expecting full houses so we get maximum capacity in the various venues across the West Indies. I think the ICC World Twenty20 will capture the fun, excitement and unique flavour of the Caribbean. I think we do believe there is no better place to throw a party than the West Indies. We’re looking forward to a really competitive series of matches."

Not that the West Indies team can start as favourites, even with the presence of Chris Gayle, probably the world's best batsman in this format. Without their captain they failed to chase down Zimbabwe's total of 105 all out in Trinidad on Feb 28, finishing on 79 for seven like prep school cricketers. Ottis Gibson, their embarrassed new coach, assured the media his team had not been complacent.

Earlier in the month in Australia the West Indies lost both 20-over games, even with Gayle at the front. The Hobart margin was 38 runs, but at Sydney the Australians won by eight wickets when they pssed 138 in only 11.4 overs. David Warner, the left-hander of Durham, Delhi Daredevils and new South Wales, smashed seven sixes in his 67 off 29 balls.

So the heat remained on Gibson, another Durham man, for the visit of Zimbabwe as supposed no-hopers, though the presence of Dave Houghton among the visiting management should always make the write-off men wary. Eight Zimbabwe batsmen failed to score, with left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn returning 4-2-6-4 on a slow pitch, but the West Indies fared worse, managing only three fours and a six in their 20 overs. Leg-spinner Graeme Cremer took 3-11 in four overs.

Perhaps the West Indians should stick to partying, which they do so well by reputation. For spectators, though, it might be worth a trip as ticket prices are low and the hotels should have learnt from the failure of their rip-off strategy in the 2007 World Cup.

Posted by Charlie Randall
04/03/2010 17:58:41

Ireland progressing to top table

IRELAND'S prospects of joining the circle of Test countries look even better with their qualification alongside Afghanistan for the World Twenty20 tournament in the West Indies this summer

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Presence in the Caribbean on April 30-May 16 gives the Irish another chance to defeat a Test country, as they did during the 2007 World Cup in Jamaica, where they upset Pakistan. This time in the shorter format they join England and the West Indies in a group.

Ireland’s formal expression of intent to apply for Full or Enhanced Membership of the ICC was put on hold at the February meeting in Dubai. The ICC announced that the board were opting for a three-step process recommended by the governance review committee, starting with a review of categories of membership. "When that work has been completed and consideration has been given to the process for dealing with applications, Cricket Ireland’s application for Full or Enhanced Membership of the ICC will be formally considered," a statement said.

Ireland finished as runners-up to Afghanistan in the qualifying tournament, having beaten Holland in the all-important semi-final. The Afghans, after eliminating United Arab Emirates, won the final by eight wickets. Afghanistan's victory in the final was their fourth win over the Irish this winter.

On the opening day Afghanistan made Ireland pay a heavy price for sloppy fielding and mediocre batting in a comfortable 13-run Group victory. The Irish dropped no fewer than half a dozen catches, then slipped from 52-1 to 78-5 in their 140-run chase and finally failed to finish off the game when requiring 16 runs off the last 11 balls with three wickets standing.

Afghanistan beat undoubtedly the best Associate side in the 50-over format, winning their World Cup Qualifier 2009 game in South Africa by 22 runs at Krugersdorp. Then they won the four-day ICC Intercontinental Cup match by seven wickets in Dambulla in January. This was a surprise as the Irish were champions and very adept in first class cricket.

Afghanistan have turned themselves into candidates for the big step upwards, despite the shambolic state of their domestic cricket during the Taliban war. Reports often suggest that the Taliban hindered the game, but the war itself is to blame. Cricket is just about the only leisure activity that has been endorsed by all governments in this ravaged country.

Apparently most of the Afghan international players are full-time professionals, and all their successes, including promotions through the ICC world leagues, have been rapturously received back home. The passion for cricket is undeniable, and one suspects they will be level with Bangladesh within the next couple of years.

One obstacle is a lack of cricket and exposure to foreign teams outside the ICC umbrella. In Kabul, for example, there is only one turf pitch, and terrorist bombs have made internal travel dangerous. There is no chance of playing matches against incoming teams on home soil, and tours abroad to countries such as England and Australia seem bound to run into visa problems.

Five players from the Afghanistan Under-19 squad, in Toronto for the junior world cup qualifying tournament last October, disappeared into the local expatriate community presumably to live illegally in Canada. Indeed a couple of players were later spotted at nets in Montreal.

A weakened Afghan side competed in the Under-19 World Cup at Christchurch in January and finished last out of 16 countries. The New Zealand government were reluctant to issue visas and probably would have barred them if it had not been an ICC event. All countries had to surrender their passports during the tournament and the Afghans were closely monitored by the immigration authorities.

In the final week immigration officials followed all players during leisure hours, and the final match in Napier was switched overnight from Nelson Park to McLean Park, apparently because McLean was enclosed and therefore more secure. The behaviour of the Toronto absconders has made travel more difficult than it should be for subsequent Afghan teams.

The senior Afghanistan side will be in a group with India (St Lucia) and South Africa (Barbados). The final at Dubai International Cricket Stadium was watched by a crowd of about 6,000, the vast majority of whom extremely vocal in their support for Afghanistan.

ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat congratulated both sides on the quality of their cricket. "Judging by what I have seen during this tournament," he said, "they will give some of the Full Members more than a few awkward moments during the event. One of the memorable aspects of this event has been the passionate support that Afghanistan and indeed other teams have attracted to this wonderful stadium in Dubai. It has been fantastic to see so many people at Associate and Affiliate cricket matches, and it completely surpassed our expectations."

Ireland, captained by the Gloucestershire batsman William Porterfield, are more familiar participants at this level, having competed in the ICC World Twenty20 in England in the 2009 summer and in the 2007 World Cup. But they were definitely second-best against Afghanistan in The Gulf, losing to them twice.

Player of the Tournament: Alex Cusack (Ireland)

FINAL

Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai Sports City:

Ireland 142-8, 20 overs (Nowroz Mangal 3-23; Niall O’Brien 28, Alex Cusack 28)

Afghanistan 147-2, 17.3 overs (Mohammad Shahzad 65*, Karim Sadiq 34)

Afghanistan won by eight wickets

SUPER FOURS

Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai Sports City:

UAE 100-9, 20 overs (Saqib Ali 24; Mohammad Nabi 3-17, Mirwais Ashraf 2-15, Hamid Hassan 2-21)

Afghanistan 101-6, 19.3 overs (Noor Ali 38*, Asghar Stanikzai 26; Fayyaz Ahmed 2-14, Silva 2-14)

Afghanistan won by four wickets

Ireland 151-6, 20 overs (Alex Cusack 65, Gary Wilson 29; Mark Jonkman 2-21)

Holland 86 all out, 15.3 overs (Ryan ten Doeschate 32; George Dockrell 4-20, Trent Johnston 2-14, Peter Connell 2-21)

Ireland won by 65 runs

Afghanistan 128-9, 20 overs (Raees Ahmadzai 28; Mark Jonkman 2-23)

Holland 132-6, 18.5 overs (Alexei Kervezee 39; Mohammad Nabi 3-23)

Holland won by four wickets

Ireland 152-7, 20 overs (Niall O’Brien 46; Qadar Nawaz 3-23, Saqib Ali 2-27)

UAE 130 all out, 19.1 overs (Saqib Ali 63; Alex Cusack 3-19, Andre Botha 2-21, Peter Connell 2-30)

Ireland won by 22 runs

Group A

Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi:

Afghanistan 131-7, 20 overs (Noor Ali 42, Mohammad Shahzad 30; Kyle Coetzer 3-25, Gordon Drummond 2-14)

Scotland 119-9, 20 overs (Neil McCallum 38, Gavin Hamilton 32; Hamid Hassan 3-32, Mohammad Nabi 2-27)

Afghanistan won by 14 runs

Ireland 202-4, 20 overs (Niall O’Brien 84, Alex Cusack 46, William Porterfield 45; Timroy Allen 2-29)

United States 124-6, 20 overs (Aditya Thyagarajan 72 not out; Peter Connell 4-14, Trent Johnston 2-17)

Ireland won by 78 runs

Afghanistan 131-7, 20 overs (Noor Ali 42, Mohammad Shahzad 30; Kyle Coetzer 3-25, Gordon Drummond 2-14)

Scotland 119-9, 20 overs (Neil McCallum 38, Gavin Hamilton 32; Hamid Hassan 3-32, Mohammad Nabi 2-27)

Afghanistan won by 12 runs

Ireland 202-4, 20 overs (Niall O’Brien 84, Alex Cusack 46, William Porterfield 45; Timroy Allen 2-29)

United States 124-6, 20 overs (Aditya Thyagarajan 72 not out; Peter Connell 4-14, Trent Johnston 2-17)

Ireland won by 78 runs

Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai Sports City:

Scotland 120-7, 20 overs (Gavin Hamilton 41; Kevin Darlington 2-19)

United States 121-4, 19.1 overs (Carl Wright 62, Lennox Cush 41; Ryan Watson 2-10)

United States won by six wickets 

Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi:

Afghanistan 139-8, 20 overs (Mohammad Nabi 43*, Noor Ali 42; Trent Johnston 2-18, Andre Botha 2-25)

Ireland 126 all out, 19.2 overs (William Porterfield 35, Paul Stirling 21; Karim Sadiq 3-21, Hamid Hassan 2-19, Mohammad Nabi 2-25)

Afghanistan won by 13 runs

Group B

Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai Sports City:

Canada 138-9, 20 overs (Ashish Bagai 36, Rizwan Cheema 32, Geoff Barnett 30; Nehemiah Odhiambo 3-16, Jimmy Kamande 2-18)

Kenya 141-1, 14.5 overs (Alex Obanda 79, Steve Tikolo 50*)

Kenya won by nine wickets

Holland 164-8, 20 overs (Daan van Bunge 76; Qasim Zubair 5-26)

UAE 168-4, 18.5 overs (Naeemuddin Aslam 60*, Khurram Khan 52*)

UAE won six wickets

Canada 138-9, 20 overs (Ashish Bagai 36, Rizwan Cheema 32, Geoff Barnett 30; Nehemiah Odhiambo 3-16, Jimmy Kamande 2-18)

Kenya 141-1, 14.5 overs (Alex Obanda 79, Steve Tikolo 50*)

Kenya won by nine wickets

Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi:

UAE 165-5, 20 overs (Arfan Haider 59, Saqib Ali 31, Khurram Khan 28; Lameck Onyango 2-32, Nelson Odhiambo 2-33)

Kenya 150-5, 20 overs (Collins Obuya 42*, Maurice Ouma 39; Ahmed Raza 2-17, Shadeep Silva 2-25)

UAE won by 15 runs

Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai Sports City

Canada 142-7, 50 overs (Ian Billcliffe 37, Geoff Barnett 36; Peter Seelaar 2-18)

Holland 146-4, 19.1 overs (Alexei Kervezee 39, Bas Zuiderent 39*)

Holland won by six wickets

Posted by Charlie Randall
14/02/2010 00:29:02

Sean Morris jumps ship to IPL

ANYONE wondering why Sean Morris resigned suddenly from the Professional Cricketers Association had their curiosity satisfied today when Rajasthan Royals announced his appointment as their new chief executive .

======STOP SUMMARY=====

Morris, 41, a former Hampshire player, lasted less than two years as the PCA's chief executive after the previous incumbent, Richard Bevan, had spent 11 years building a players association into a major support organisation, providing leadership with 80 commercial partners and a seven-figure turnover.

Bevan left to join the football managers equivalent with some typically perceptive comments about the ICC and the state of the world game. "The ICC is not a governing body, it is a facilitator of events," he said before leaving cricket behind. "It must move to an independent board structure based on good governance and accountability. Only strong ICC leadership devoid of political influence will have the ability to control and grow the game." But another comment strikes a chord in 2009 when he touched on the large sums spent on developing the game in new countries while allowing existing pillars to become marginalised. "The ICC says it is promoting cricket in 120 or so countries, but what about safeguarding New Zealand and West Indies?" Bevan said. This point was raised angrily in November 2009 by Joel Garner while managing the West Indies in Australia. Caribbean cricket was withering while the ICC pursued their grand schemes.

Morris began his post-Hampshire career with Dunlop Slazenger and after joining the PCA in January 2008 he was faced with a turbulent period in the game, most notably the terrorist atrocities in India and Pakistan, the explosion of heavily enriched Indian Premier League 20-overs cricket and the ECB's sacking of Peter Moores and Kevin Pietersen, the England coach and captain at the start of 2009.

Morris is to assume immediate responsibility for the Jaipur-based Rajasthan Royals, the first IPL champions in May 2008, and he will be focusing on developing the brand outside of India. Shane Warne, the Rajasthan Royals captain, said: "I am delighted that Sean will be joining the Rajasthan Royals management team. He is well respected by players around the world and we look forward to him helping us build on the phenomenal successes that we have enjoyed so far".

Posted by Charlie Randall
07/12/2009 19:34:00
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