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Aug 31, 2009

Victorious Sri Lanka turns focus on India

Having toyed with Pakistan & New Zealand, Kumar Sangakkara's Sri Lanka are eyeing India as their next scalp as the battle heats up to be the world's top Test team.

Sri Lanka defeated Pakistan & New Zealand by identical 2-0 margins at home to climb to the number Second spot in the official rankings with a rating of 120 behind number one team South Africa's 122.

With India just one rating point behind in Sri Lanka on 119 and Ashes Series losers Australia in fourth place with 116, the rush at the top could see a new number one by the end of the year.

Sri Lanka wants to win their three-Test series in India in November-December to overtake South Africa, while a 2-0 win for Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men will drive India to the top.

Sri Lanka have never won a Test match Series in India, let only a series, in seven previous visits across the Palk Straits, with 8 losses and 6 draws since their first Test there in Chennai in 1982.

It's a record Sangakkara, who has won 4 of his 5 Tests as captain since taking over from Mahela Jayawardene earlier this year, is firm to set straight.

"The Indian tour will test everyone, mentally, physically and skill wise," he told reporters.

"But if we do our homework right, be confident, prepare as best as we can and go out there looking to win, and if our attitude is positive, we will do well."

When they last played a series in India in December, 2005, Sri Lanka lost the 2nd Test in New Delhi by 188 runs and the 3rd in Ahmedabad by 259 runs after the first game in Chennai was washed out.

"One likes to play against the best and India will absolutely be a tough side to conquer," said Sangakkara. "It is not easy playing Test cricket in India."

Both sides get a chance to gauge each other's powers when India join New Zealand and Sri Lanka in a limited-overs tri-series in Colombo from September 8-14.

India and Sri Lanka are wan in different group for the Champions Trophy in South Africa in late-September, but could meet in the semi-finals if they qualify after the preliminary round.

Aug 24, 2009

England regain Ashes with 5th Test win

England get backed the Ashes with a 197-run win over Australia in the 5th and final Test at the Oval here on Sunday.

Victory, reached with more than a day to spare, saw England win the five-match series 2-1.

Australia, set what would have been a world record fourth innings victory total of 546, were all out for 348 with Michael Hussey last man out for 121, when he was caught close in by Alastair Cook off spinner Graeme Swann.

"It's a special moment. It hasn't sunk in yet. We had to dig in and fight," said England captain Andrew Strauss.

"When we were bad in the series, we were very bad but when we were good we were very good."

Australia skipper Ricky Ponting said: "We gave it all we could, but it wasn't enough. Full credit to England, they won the crucial moments and deserved to win the series.

"I think this series has shown that Test cricket is alive and well around the world."

From 327 for five, the end came fastly with four wickets going down for 16 runs in 32 balls, with fast bowler Stephen Harmison taking three for seven in 13 himself.

It was a remarkable turnaround for England, who'd lost the 4th Test by an innings and 80 runs at Headingley, and had only clung on for a draw in the series opener at Cardiff by a single wicket.

Australia had been making steady development at 217 for two before Ponting was run out by Andrew Flintoff's direct hit in the all-rounder's last match before his Test retirement.

Five balls later Michael Clarke was also run out, for nought, before England's progress was checked by a sixth-wicket stand of 91 between Hussey and Brad Haddin.

But just when England fans were starting to vex again, Haddin, on 34, went down the pitch to Swann, who took four for 120 in 40.2 overs, and hoisted a mistimed drive to Strauss at mid-wicket.

And 327 for six became 327 for seven when Australia lost another two wickets in quick succession.

Mitchell Johnson went for a seven-ball nought, brilliantly caught by diving second slip Paul Collingwood off his Durham team-mate Harmison.

Peter Siddle then got a leading edge off Harmison and Flintoff held a simple catch at mid-off.

Harmison made it two wickets in two balls when Stuart Clark was snapped up at short leg by Cook.

Ben Hilfenhaus survived the hat-trick but the end was nigh.

England had taken the new ball after tea with Australia 278 for five.

But Hussey's two off Stuart Broad saw him to a first Test century in 29 innings off 219 balls with 11 boundaries.

Flintoff and Strauss had amazed Australia with two run-outs, the first they'd suffered this series, before tea to dismiss Ponting and Clarke.

Aug 21, 2009

Yet another world record for Muralitharan

Sri Lankan spin legend Muttiah Muralitharan today surpassed Australia's Shane Warne in creating a new world record by bowling the most number of maiden overs in Test cricket.

Muralitharan, playing in his 128th Test currently happening against the New Zealand, overtook Warne's record by bowling his 1752nd maiden over at the Galle Stadium. Shane Warne has bowled 1751 maiden overs in his 145-Test career.

Muralitharan set up the record when he bowled the 79-th over of the first innings during the first Test for a maiden.

It was the 27th over of Murali and the batsman on the crease against whom the deliveries were bolwed was Jacob Oram.

Muralitharan is the top wicket-taker in both Tests and in ODIs. He took the wicket of Gautham Gambhir in February this year in Colombo, to surpass Wasim Akram's ODI record of 502 wickets.

The 37-year-old Muralitharan became the highest wicket-taker in Test cricket when he overtake the previous record-holder Shane Warne in December 2007.

Aug 19, 2009

We want to win it for Flintoff: Anderson

With England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff gearing up for his last Test, pace bowler James Anderson wishes to give his outgoing teammate a fitting farewell by winning the Ashes series.

The five-match Test Series is currently levelled 1-1 and England has to win the final Test, starting tomorrow at The Oval, to wring the urn from Australia.

"The team would like to give Flintoff something special to go out with. We want to win regardless, of course, but it would be fantastic if Flintoff could depart on a high," Anderson said.

"Having him back will help our ability of winning the game and give him opportunity to writing his farewell. After the Test career he has had that's what he deserves," he added.

After a knee injury forced him out of the fourth Test in Leeds, where the visitors handed England an innings and 80 runs mauling, Flintoff has been cleared for the decider.

"With Flintoff, you get a big spell out of him and sometimes, it can be a match-winning spell. He forced take only three wickets in the innings, and someone else gets the five-for, but it is Flintoff who made the difference," Anderson was quoted as saying in 'The Sun'.

The 27-year-old also feels he would miss sharing the England bowling assault with Flintoff.

"I love bowling in tandem with Flintoff. It benefits me as a bowler. He hits the deck and I swing the ball. It's a nice combination."

Aug 18, 2009

'Ravi Bopara's the future of English cricket'

After a run of poor scores that have seen him total 105 runs in 7 innings in the ongoing Ashes, Ravi Bopara has been drop for the deciding fifth Test at the Oval, but the batsman can take heart from the truth that the men who matter still see him as 'the future of English cricket'.

On Monday Bopara was named in three part limited-overs squads - which were also famous for the inclusion of injury-troubled all-rounder Andrew Flintoff and the uncapped Joe Denly, as well as the slip of key batsman Kevin Pietersen as he continues his revival from ankle surgery.

National selector Geoff Miller completed it clear how highly Bopara's talent was prized.

"Ravi Bopara is an exciting player," he told Sky Sports News.

"He has been released from this Test match but he is a quality player, and we see him as the future of English cricket."

England is hoping Flintoff's decision to focus solely on limited-overs cricket will pay dividends.

"We are hoping he is going to be able to play as many of those games as possible, because that is what he has set himself to do," Miller said of Flintoff.

Pietersen's first sensible target now is the start of England's Test and ODI winter in the country of his birth.

Wicketkeeper Matt Prior is back in the fold, after James Foster was preferred for the mid-summer World Twenty20 - and Owais Shah is retained.

Miller explained: "Matt Prior has showed himself as a very, very good all-round player. His wicketkeeping has improved, and he is a quality batsman."

Denly, meanwhile, is already hoping ODI cricket can prove a stepping stone for him.

"Test cricket is the ultimate for any cricketer," he said.

"I hope I can now push for a place in the Test squad."

Aug 5, 2009

Flintoff took sixth injection jab last night

England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff has taken six injections in the last 18 days to avoid his recurring knee injury from spoiling his dream run at the Ashes, in the last part of which the 31-year-old would bid farewell to Test cricket.

According to a statement in the 'Daily Mirror', "Flintoff is still confident about his chances of playing in Friday's fourth Test at Headingley, despite running repairs to his right knee which have turned him into an effective pin cushion."

Flintoff's fitness has become a main anxiety for England, which has a 1-0 edge in the series thanks largely to the all-rounder's heroic performances.

Flintoff had to take five injections during his man of the match winning heroic show in the Lord's Test and he took the sixth jab last night.

Flower, meanwhile, admitted that Flintoff did not look totally fit during the drawn Edgbaston match and is a doubtful starter for the 4th match.

"Fred personally is quite confident about playing, but he was moving gingerly in the field at Edgbaston," Flower said.

"We will have to leave our conclusion to the last minute again and trust him to give us good information about his own body, along with the advice of our medical staff. We all realize the situation and we know he is struggling, but we have our possibility plans ready and the people involved in those plans know where they stand.

"Although he is possibly less likely to play at Headingley than at Edgbaston in percentage terms, he is a strong bloke with a brawny mind and great willpower. If he is fit enough, he will play," he added.