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Apr 18, 2009

Ton-up Bell strikes home Test case

Ian BellEngland Test decline Ian Bell smashed a fine 172 to hit home his case for a Test Series recall on Thursday.

Ian Bell moved self-confidently from his overnight 84 to help Warwickshire reach 500 on second day of their opening county championship match against Somerset at Taunton.

Ian Bell, who missing his Test place to Owais Shah on the tour of the West Indies, put on 154 with Jim Troughton for the 4th wicket.

At stumps, Somerset sailed to 70 without loss on a flat pitch, Arul Suppiah triumphant on 31 and Marcus Trescothick 27.

Apr 8, 2009

Vaughan included in performance squad

England have included Michael Vaughan in a 25-man performance squad from which the team to contest this summer's Ashes series will be choosen.

Vaughan, 34, has not played international cricket since stepping down from the skipper's role in August 2008, during a losing home series against South Africa.

Vaughan, who holds one of 12 central contracts awarded by the England and Wales Cricket Board, was left out of the recent England tour to the West Indies.

Vaughan will have a chance to impress the England selectors tomorrow, when he plays for the MCC against Durham, at Lord's. He will be hoping to resurrect his Test career in the contentious No3 batting spot which Ian Bell and Owais Shah have failed to make their own.

"The selectors can name up to 30 players in the performance squad but we have decided to keep five places vacant in order to give ourselves greater flexibility," said the national selector, Geoff Miller. "We will reserve the right to add further players to the squad if their performances in domestic cricket merit it."

The 21-year-old Yorkshire leg spinner Adil Rashid is the only uncapped player in a squad that will also provide the team to play West Indies in two Tests, starting at Lord's on 6 May. The rest of the squad, which includes eight players who were involved in the 2005 Ashes victory, have played limited-overs internationals at least.

Essex's James Foster who had a tremendous domestic season is recalled as one of three wicketkeepers, the Lancashire pace bowler Sajid Mahmood may get another chance after impressing during the domestic games. The Danish-born seamer Amjad Khan has also made the line-up, after playing one Test and one Twenty20 match in the Caribbean.

"The performance squad is designed to allow us to monitor the development of international players and better prepare them for the demands of the international game," Miller said.

"In the case of someone like Amjad Khan, who impressed everyone when he joined the latter part of the Caribbean tour, it allows us to monitor his progress after [a recurring knee] injury."

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Dravid now world record holder of most catches

Rahul DravidIndia's Rahul Dravid Monday became the world record holder of most catches in Tests, surpassing Australian Mark Waugh, when he caught New Zealand opener Tim McIntosh at third slip for his 182 catch on the fourth day of the third and last cricket Test here.

He dived to his left to take a low catch of Tim McIntosh off Zaheer Khan for his record.

Dravid's record came in his 134th Test. Waugh's tally of 181 catches came from 128 Tests in a career spanning 11 years (1991-2002). Former New Zealand skipper Stephen Fleming is the third on the list with 171 catches in 111 matches.

V.V.S Laxman is the second Indian in all-time catching list at 18th place with 111 catches in 105 matches. Sunil Gavaskar has 108 catches in 125 matches while one of India's best slip fielders Mohammed Azharuddin held on to 105 catches in 99 matches.

By the end of the day's play Monday, Dravid added another to his tally as he removed Jesse Ryder and took his average to .74 catches per innings compared to Waugh's .73.

Dravid, who caught up with Waugh when he snapped up Martin in the New Zealand first innings of the first Test at Hamilton, had opportunities to break the record but dropped a couple of difficult catches in the subsequent innings.

The 36-year-old has shown good anticipation and quick reflexes over the years to etch his name among the best close-in fielders of the world.

Many like Waugh believe that Dravid is not a natural catcher, but has got immense concentration, one of the most important qualities of a good close-in fielder.

'You might only get one ball in the field all day and you've got to catch it an inch off the ground. That's a concentration thing, switching on and off between deliveries,' Waugh had said when Dravid equalled his record in the first Test at Hamilton.

'Dravid is good but he's got a funny style. He's not a natural catcher but he's got great concentration and he's in the right place at the right time,' Waugh said.

Dravid will keep the record for some years as his nearest competitors Ricky Ponting (148 catches in 131 Tests), Jacques Kallis (147 in 131) and Mahela Jayawerdene (142 in 102) are still at some distance to catch up with him.

Apr 7, 2009

India secure first New Zealand series for 41 years

India secured their first series win in New Zealand since 1968 on Tuesday after drawing the third Test.

Rain may have prevented the tourists thrashing the home side, but the draw was all they needed for the historic 1-0 series win.

New Zealand were poised on the brink of defeat at 281 for eight when rain started falling about half an hour into the session after lunch on the fifth day, and continuing showers prevented play resuming.

With only two second innings wickets remaining, New Zealand remained 336 runs adrift of the massive target of 617 set by India when they declared at 434 for seven early the previous day.

By Tuesday morning, the series result had not been in doubt with the visitors needing only a draw, coming into the final Test with a 1-0 lead after thrashing the hosts by 10 wickets in the first Test in Hamilton.

India's star-laden batting lineup proved too much for New Zealand's bowling attack and the home side's brittle batting line up came up short at crucial times.

The third test draw calls into question India's conservatism in deciding to bat on during the early part of the fourth day to extend their lead to 616, although rain on Tuesday had been forecast for several days.

The previous highest successful Test fourth innings run chase was 418 scored by the West Indies against Australia in 2003.

India's charge towards victory on Tuesday was led by offspinning star Harbhajan Singh, who took the prize wicket of New Zealand century maker Ross Taylor on his way to a haul of four for 59.

Sachin Tendulkar is known as the "Little Master for his batting but he showed he also knows a few things about bowling by taking two for 45 with his tricky leg spinners.

Taylor's dismissal for 107 signalled a mini-collapse that saw New Zealand slump from 226 for four to 253 for seven in the space of eight overs in less than an hour before lunch.

With allrounder James Franklin, Taylor provided a ray of hope for the scattering of New Zealand fans who braved gale force winds at the Basin Reserve.

The pair had put on 142 runs for the fifth wicket since coming together on Monday afternoon, when New Zealand was at risk of collapse at 84 for four.

Taylor's defiant fourth Test century was brought to an end when he was bowled by a beautifully flighted straight ball from Harbhajan.

His 165 ball innings over 261 minutes included 16 boundaries, as he mixed watchfulness with a willingness to attack any loose balls.

Tendulkar, bowling for the first time in the Test on Tuesday morning, had the New Zealand batsmen in trouble straight away, extracting plenty of turn on the Basin Reserve wicket.

He may have been lucky to get McCullum out for six, with replays suggesting the batsman may not have edged the turning ball before it deflected off wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni's gloves into the safe hands of slip Rahul Dravid.

A day earlier, the 36-year-old Dravid passed Mark Waugh's world record of 181 catches for a fieldsman in Tests and has since extended his record to 184.

Just minutes before lunch, Tendulkar also claimed the wicket of Franklin, trapping him lbw after a patient innings lasting more than four hours.

Tim Southee fell for three after lunch, becoming Harbhajan's fourth victim when he was given out caught by Dhoni, although television replays suggested he might also have been unlucky.

Apr 6, 2009

NZ 167-4 at stumps, day 4, 3rd test

Ross Taylor made the most of a peculiar reprieve to reach 68 not out and guide New Zealand to 167 for four at stumps on the fourth day of the third cricket test Monday, after India declared with a 616-run lead.

With James Franklin, who was 26 not out at stumps, Taylor had put on 83 for the fifth wicket to lift New Zealand from 84-4 in the mid-afternoon as India pressed closer, in cool temperatures and strong winds, to match and series victories

New Zealand was still 450 runs from its winning target at stumps, drawn almost an hour early because of bad light, and the match was largely under India's control.

India leads the series 1-0 after winning the first test at Hamilton by 10 wickets and after the second test at Napier was drawn. A win or draw from the final test at the Basin Reserve will seal India's first test series victory in New Zealand in 41 years.

That Taylor was still at the crease at stumps, and that New Zealand was still only four wickets down and not in a more desperate position, was due to the intervention of the television umpire earlier in the day.

Taylor was 9 and New Zealand 65-2 when the right hander turned a ball from Harbhajan to Virender Sehwag at short leg. India loudly appealed and Australian umpire Simon Taufel upheld the appeal, effectively leaving New Zealand 65-3 and in a state of collapse.

Taylor began to leave the field as Taufel appeared to consult his fellow umpire, compatriot Daryl Harper, and as initial television replays seemed to show the ball had bounced before reaching Sehwag.

The New Zealand batsman was two thirds of the way to the boundary when he stopped, apparently at a signal from his teammates, and stood watching a replay of his dismissal on the stadium's large screen.

Television umpire Tony Hill of New Zealand then appeared to relay to Taufel by radio his judgment that the ball had not carried cleanly to Sehwag and Taylor was recalled.

The decision awarded a small reprieve to Taylor and New Zealand though the home team's second innings still steadily decayed between lunch and tea as both Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan captured two wickets.

Rahul Dravid also claimed two catches to first set, then extend a world record from most test catches in a career, moving to 183 to eclipse the mark of 181 he had previously shared with Australia's Mark Waugh.

Dravid captured the outright record when he caught New Zealand opener Tim McIntosh for 4 when New Zealand was 30. He then caught Jesse Ryder off Harbhajan to leave New Zealand 84-4.

Ryder, who made a double century in New Zealand's only innings in the drawn second test at Napier, lasted only two balls before falling to Dravid and Harbhajan. Earlier in the same over opener Martin Guptill was trapped lbw by Harbhajan for 49.

The score was Guptill's highest in tests, beating the 48 he made in the first innings of the first test. Guptill has yet to make a half century in tests.

Taylor did so for the sixth time, reaching his 50 in 102 minutes from 66 balls with nine fours.

Zaheer bowled a spell of 15 consecutive overs on either side of lunch and had two for 50 at stumps, while Harbhajan found sharp turn on a deteriorating pitch and had 2-36 at the close of play.

Earlier Monday, India pushed its overnight score from 349-5 to 434-7 before declaring at the drinks break in the morning session. It led by 616 runs with five and a half sessions or a possible 168 overs remaining in the match.

Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was left 56 not out _ his 16th test half century _ Zaheer was 18 not and Yuvraj Singh made a quick 40 before the declaration. On Sunday Gautam Gambhir made 167 and Dravid 60 to swell the Indian total.

"Our strategy was to put as many runs on the board as quickly as possible and declare and have enough time to win the game," Yuvraj said. "We wanted to declare quickly and get 600 runs on the board so we could have enough overs to bowl at New Zealand.

"Fingers crossed, we should get enough overs tomorrow. The wicket has become a little slow suddenly and the batsmen are set and can get runs. We will have to work hard to get those last six wickets."

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Apr 3, 2009

Indian tail wags in Wellington to post respectable 375 for nine on 1st day

India finished the first day of the third Test match here at a respectable 375 for nine, after slumping to 190 for five at tea with the entire top order back in the pavilion.

India was asked to bat first after Daniel Vettori won the toss, and started in typical fashion, with both openers Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir looking in a punishing mood.

Both Sehwag and Gambhir clobbered the Kiwi bowlers all around the Basin Reserve park here, which saw India accumulating 68 runs in the first hour of play.

But once the partnership was broken, none of the middle order batsman stayed longer in the middle, barring the maestro Sachin Tendulkar, who once again proved that there are few better than him, as he hit a classic 62, including 11 fours.

With both Laxman and Yuvraj failing to reach even the double figure mark, it was once again captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni who did the rescue act along with Harbhajan Singh.

Dhoni looked calm and composed during his knock of 52, while Singh, in his spunky style, didn't allow the New Zealand bowlers to do further damage.

He hammered 60 runs in just 78 balls, including seven boundaries and a huge six.

Following Dhoni's dismissal to Tim Southee, Zaheer Khan took over the charge and gave splendid support to Harbhajan Singh, who was timing the ball with amazing perfection by the time.

Khan made 33, before Mc Cullum grabbed an almost impossible catch of the bowling of O'Brien.

The Indian lower order and the tail wagged superbly hitting 185 runs in the 35 overs of the last session of the day.

The last pair of Munaf Patel and Ishant Sharma was still on the crease with personal scores of 14 and 15 respectively.

For New Zealand, CS Martin was pick of the bowlers taking three wickets for 95 runs in 24 overs. Southee and O'Brien captured two wickets each, while Vettori proved costly as he gave away 47 runs in nine overs without any success.

Apr 2, 2009

India vow to chase win in decisive Test

But the Basin Reserve wicket is a bit of an unknown for the New Zealand captain.

"I've never seen a Basin pitch like this before," Vettori said. "I've not seen a Basin wicket as brown as this, or as dry."

While Dhoni is confident about tactics, he said he is still unsure whether he will play.

He was a late withdrawal from the second Test after suffering back spasms, and while his back now feels much better, no decision will be made until Friday morning.

Dhoni batted in the nets on the Test eve but it remains an unknown whether he would be able to keep wickets for long periods. Otherwise India have no problems with injuries.

New Zealand's only question mark is over batsman Daniel Flynn, who missed the second Test after injuring his hand in the first.

He batted in the nets Thursday and a final decision will be made on Friday morning.

India have vowed to chase victory in the third and decisive cricket Test against New Zealand starting here Friday, rather than seal the series by seeking a draw.

India lead the series 1-0, and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni is adamant his team will be trying for their 100th Test victory instead of a conservative draw that would ensure their first series victory in New Zealand since 1967-68.

"Once you have the mindset of going for the draw, you are not aggressive enough to win a Test match," Dhoni told reporters after India's final training session at the Basin Reserve ground.

"We will approach the game in the same way as the first or the second Test."

One down after the tourists took the first Test in Hamilton by 10 wickets, New Zealand -- who put up a massive 619 for nine declared in the drawn second Test -- have no choice but to take an aggressive approach.

"I think we realise that a 1-1 series would be a great result for us. And so any opportunity that we can get to win the Test match, I think we have to take," captain Daniel Vettori told reporters.

He said going for the win was the only option, even if it increased the risk of suffering a second loss.

The big question is whether New Zealand can dismiss India's talent-laden batting line-up twice.

The bowlers caught India napping in the first innings on a batting paradise at Napier to dismiss them for 305, but India recovered in their follow-on, finishing on 476 for four to salvage a draw.

Vettori says New Zealand's best chance will be to bowl first and try to dismiss India relatively cheaply in their first innings.

Their selection quandary is whether Jeetan Patel will stay in the side to partner Vettori as a second spinner, or be replaced by another pace bowler.

If New Zealand win the toss and decide on the strategy of taking advantage of any early favourable bowling conditions, Patel would likely miss out.

The 20-year-old pace bowler Tim Southee has returned to the squad after struggling in the one-day series against India, and he will be vying for the final place with Patel and pace bowler Kyle Mills.

The often windy conditions in Wellington may give the bowlers some assistance, and the cool autumn conditions in the New Zealand capital may favour the home team, who have won their last four Tests against India at the Basin Reserve.