Friday, December 28, 2012

The 10,000 club welcomes a new member

Exactly a year after Mahela Jayawardene become the first Sri Lankan to reach over 10,000 Test runs, fellow national Kumar Sangakkara has also shot into the record books – becoming the 11th man in history to make that coveted Test target.

During an intense opening day of the Boxing Day Test with Australia, Sangakkara hit a neat cover drive off Mitchell Johnson for four to ensure his place in cricketing history. He went on to make 58 in the first innings, a respectable score considering Sri Lanka mustered just 156 from their first assault.

Despite Australia finishing day one of the second Test in complete control, the day was reserved for Sangakkara, who received a warm reception from the Melbourne crowd when that four finally flicked over the boundary rope.

What makes Sangakkara’s feat so special is the speed in which he reached this milestone. For although he joins an elite group that boasts Ricky Ponting, Rahul Dravid and Jacques Kallis in its ranks, Sangakkara becomes the joint-fastest ever player to record the feat. He sits alongside Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar as men who have reached 10,000 runs on their 195th innings.

Ponting was just one innings short of that record when he made the required runs against West Indies in May 2008, while Shivnarine Chanderpaul needed 239 innings to make the target.

At 35 years of age, Sangakkara is unlikely to mount an assault on Tendulkar’s all-time record of 15,645 Test runs, but his feat nevertheless confirms his status as a true legend of Sri Lankan cricket. Along with Jayawardene, Sri Lankan fans have a player they can not only be proud of, but who will hopefully inspire a new generation of batsmen to take up the Test helm.

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Pietersen deserves new England deal

Kevin Pietersen is to be rewarded for an outstanding tour of India with a new contract from the ECB that will banish any suggestions over a wavering commitment to the England Test side.

Pietersen was superb in the England whites during their tour of India this autumn, scoring two half-centuries and a staggering 186 in Mumbai to win the second Test. Such a positive influence has the right-hander been on the squad that the ECB have rightly decided to extend his contract.

The contract wont be a problem, said selector Andy Flower. Kevin has been excellent in every way.

For him to score as quickly as he did there and put such pressure on the opposition bowlers really helped us turn the series around.

Indeed, Flower is right to praise Pietersen after some sublime performances with the bat against India. Before that Mumbai Test England were on the ropes. They had just lost by nine wickets in Ahmedabad and looked completely lost on the turning wicket. Pietersen came in and, along with Alastair Cooks century, steadied the ship.

There were certainly doubters in the betting world who suggested KP would not be given the chance to fully redeem himself after exile from the squad over the summer. Hopefully that Mumbai Test silenced these critics for good, for he was rightly called back into the team for the tour of India and had he not been present England would not have won that series.

We can now expect KP to be given a deal that at least extends to the end of the 2013/14 Ashes series. Over that time he will have his work cut out, with a tor of New Zealand, a home Ashes and a series Down Under to look forward to, but if Pietersen can keep his head down and perform like he did in India then the ECBs decision to bring him back will be vindicated.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Anderson starts thinking about Ashes

James Anderson will be a crucial part of England’s hopes in this summer’s Ashes series, and the fast bowler has admitted he is already beginning to think about the prospect of taking on Australia again. 

The seamer again proved his importance to this England team during the recent series victory in India, bowling over after over on pitches that were in no way suited to fast bowling and playing a key role in the tourists 2-1 series victory.

Head coach Andy Flower decided to rest Anderson for the one-day series, which is a break the bowler has definitely earned over the course of a gruelling four Test series in India. Anderson was the only England pace bowler to play in all four matches, and England will know keeping their premier bowler fully fit for 2013 will be critical to the team’s hopes of reclaiming the number one spot in the Test rankings.

While allowing the Ashes to enter their thoughts, Anderson has made it clear the squad is more focused on the upcoming tour of New Zealand.

"The guys are going back to India for the one-day series and then we've got a tough tour to New Zealand first. We've got to worry about the present rather than the future too much, but there's always an eye on the Ashes when it's less than six months away,” insisted Anderson.

The win in India was the perfect way to end a mixed year for England. The signs certainly look positive under Alastair Cook’s leadership, and there are a number of exciting young players knocking on the door looking to earn a chance to impress ahead of the Ashes.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Afridi challenged to earn Pakistan spot

Shahid Afridi has been challenged to win back his place in the Pakistan one-day side after the former captain was dropped from the squad ahead of the three-match series against India. The all-rounder has kept his place in the T20 squad that will play two games against the Indians, but a disappointing year in the 50-over format has resulted in Afridi being overlooked for the ODI party.

Despite making nearly 350 one-day appearances for Pakistan, Afridi has been told that he needs to rediscover his 50-over form if he is going to be able to break back into the squad. A dismal run of form this year has seen the 32-year old record just 182 runs from his 16 ODI appearances in 2012.

Chief selector Iqbal Qasim has admitted Afridi needed to show he was still committed to playing ODI for Pakistan if he was going to return to the team, revealing the team were looking to blood a number of younger options during the upcoming matches against India.

"If he performs in the Twenty20s then he can make a comeback into the one-day team. It was a difficult decision. He is a great player who can win matches, but in the interest of the team we have decided to left him out,” revealed Qasim.

"We have tried to infuse new blood into both teams as we feel the way forward in these formats is to try out new faces. We want to give exposure to more young players."

The upcoming series, the first between the two nations since 2007, gets underway with Twenty20 clashes in Bangalore and then in Ahmedabad. Following that, Chennai will host the first one-day international on 30 December, followed by matches in Kolkata (3 January) and New Delhi (6 January).

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