Australian Open review; COVID over shadows build up

Football has fell victim to it, cricket has fallen victim to it, now tennis is feeling the fall out of the Coronavirus. There was the infamous Belgrade tournament, which Djokovic arranged and most of the competitors ended up getting the virus.

The Australian Open, which is due to start in early February, has seen the build up to the tournament over shadowed by several players having to isolate for 14 days in their hotels due to Covid concerns. Serb Djokovic did write a letter to tournament organisers, in the aim to try and improve conditions and get organisers to relax quarantine rules.

That move by the six-time Australian Open, was badly criticised by many, but the man himself has tried to clear any misunderstandings. Former Wimbledon champion Sir Andy Murray is one high profile name, who has been affected by Covid, which further emphasises the calibre of tennis players who have been affected.

In difficult circumstances, many players have been trying to improvise and get some training in. From playing with a tennis ball against the wall or even against the mattress, one thing I know is that a young me, if I was to do the same, I would get a forehand smash to the face.

When I was a kid, I was told to not jump on the bed, but was never told to not hit a tennis ball against the mattress, I have missed a gem of my childhood, by the looks of it. The players (some of them) have had to deal with rodent infestations, not quite the Jerry out of Tom and Jerry kind.

It’s not been an ideal build up, to this years Australian Open, but this is the world of Covid19, where nothing is normal. First and foremost is the safety of the players, we wish each and every one of them well.

Australia vs India, tourists win a classic

India won a gripping fourth test by three wickets, which helped them clinch the series 2-1 and retain the Border Gavaskar trophy in the process.

Tourists India, were injury hit and between their seamers of Thakur, Saini, Siraj and Natarajan (who made his debut), there was barely 10 international appearances between them.

The Indian’s were set a very tricky 328 to win this test and the series. To put this into perspective, the Asian side had last won at The Gabba since 1930, a record which they changed in some style.

Rishabh Pant and Shubman Gill (both who have impressed in this game and the series ), both fell short of centuries in the match .

As much as that personal achievement would have been nice been nice for either player, the contributions of both men, helped India win this one in what turned into nail biting circumstances.

The final day, was played like a One Day International, rather than a test match.

Hosts Australia, who are third in the World Test Championships standings after this test series defeat, had no answer to this Indian on slaught. Gill and Pant in particular, showed the Aussie attack that they weren’t settling for the draw.

After the game, captain Tim Paine said Australia were outplayed in this series, that in itself was a credit for this young Indian team that was lead superbly by Ajinkya Rahane. Home side Australia did have some good moments in this test, Marnus Labuschagne made another century (108) and captain Paine made a half-century.

India were not to be denied this historic win, and will go into their up and coming test series with fourth placed England, full of confidence.

The Asian side will most likely have first choice spin pair Ravi Jadeja and Ravi Ashwin back available for this one.

The world test series is really hotting up.

Australia vs India day one review

Marnus Labuschagne impressed again for Australia with yet another 100.

After failing to win the third test, Australia got their innings off to a solid start after the hosts made 274-5.

Tourists India, who have done well to put aside together after the injuries suffered in the drawn third test, were punished for two drop catches as Marnus Labuschagne made his fifth century.

The South African born Labuschagne who was dropped on 37 and 48, took full advantage of those reprieves and made his century off 204 balls.

The Asian side, who were without Hanuma Vihari and Ravid Jadeja, were arguably missing the presence of these two men on the field as India’s inexperienced bowling attack toiled on the first day.

The day did start well for the tourists as David Warner (5) and the recalled Marcus Harris (1) both fell cheaply. Hosts Australia were able to steady the ship through Steve Smith (36) and Matthew Wade (45).

Captain Tim Paine (38) and Cameron Green (28) put on 61 for the sixth wicket, as the world champions looked to press home their advantage. India’s inexperienced bowling attack toiled, even opener Rohit Sharma sent down one over.

On the flip side, should the visitors get an early breakthrough, they’re right back in this test match. It’s well documented that, the tourists have a depleted bowling attack, but they still have a very solid top order.

Tomorrow’s first session will be very important, one thing is for sure is that this test promises to be a classic.

India secure battling draw in third test against Australia

India managed to survive the last day and secure a thrilling draw in their third test against Australia in Sydney.

The tourists India battled against the odds and were indebted to Rishabh Pant (97) and Chasteshwar Pujara (77) for helping them have an improved showing with the bat.

When both men fell in quick succession, Hanuma Vihari and Ravi Ashwin came together to show further defiance to frustrate the hosts Australia.

What made the draw all the impressive, was that Vihari suffered a hamstring injury, his 23 was scored off 161 balls.

The Sunrisers Hyderabad man is almost certain to miss the fourth test in Brisbane.

Fellow spinner Ravi Jadeja is also likely to be absent for the fourth test after the 32-year old all-rounder suffered a fractured thumb. As impressive as this spirited draw has been, it seems to have come at a cost for India.

As for the hosts Australia, their usually potent bowling attack was blunted by India’s rearguard. Three drop catches by Aussie skipper Tim Paine, didn’t help their cause.

What the world champions can take from this performance is that debutant Will Puckovski scored a debut 50 and looks like he belongs at this level, and Steve Smith returned to form after a barren scoring run in this series.

So as disappointing as this draw was there were some positives for sure. Australia produced a brilliant battling display to come back from the disappointment of the second test.

As entertaining as the third test was, there was an incident of apparent racism. India players reported that members of the crowd. This is an allegation at this point, one would hope this isn’t the case.

Australia, have hosted a brilliant test series, and the last thing we want is for this test to be remembered for matters off the pitch. The fourth test between the two sides starts on 15th January.

Australia vs India; third test preview

After battling back, to win the second test, India have had to make some enforced changes coming into this one. Natarajan, who impressed for Sunrisers Hyderabad in this years IPL, comes in for the injured Umesh Yadav, who injured his calf during the second test victory.

The build-up to this test has been marred by an apparent breach of Covid protocols, where five Indian players (Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Shubman Gill, Navdeep and Pritvi Shaw) were seen in a video circulated over social media where the quintet were seen outdoors eating in a Sydney restaurant.

Despite this breach, it’s believed there hasn’t been any travel restrictions on the five, and they will be able to travel with the rest of the squad for the third test. This match, with the series squared at 1-1 will be crucial. At the top of the order has been a problem for India with Mayank Agarwal and Pritvi Shaw both struggling.

The return of Mumbai Indians skipper Sharma, will give the tourists some much strength needed up top, it will be hoped Rohit Sharma’s return, will take some pressure and the scoring burden off stand-in skipper Ajinkja Rahane, Rishabh Pant and Hanuma Vihari in the middle.

Australia, who were well beaten in the second test have dropped Joe Burns, who has had indifferent series. Burns has been replaced by the returning David Warner, who has shaken off his groin injury. Will Pucovski, has impressed in the Sheffield Shield, but concussion issues have plagued the 22-year old. Selector Trevor Hohns has confirmed that Pucovski has been symptom free for sometime.

Fast bowler and all-rounder Sean Abbott who has recovered for a calf strain, has been recalled. The third test, which begins at 23:30, will be played at Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney.

Australia vs India 2nd test; India level series

After the embarrassment of falling to 36 all out in the first test, where they ended up being beaten by eight wickets , India’s cricketers restored pride in the second test with an eight wicket win over their own.

For India, they had to contend with out their talismanic captain Virat Kohli, who was attending the birth of his first child.

Deputising for Kohli, was Ajinkya Rahane. The 32- year old Rahane took to the challenge of captaining his country like a duck to water.

Batting first, Australia could only muster 195 all out. It could have in fact been worse for the hosts if wasn’t for Marnus Labuschagne (48) and Travis Head (38).

In response to that disappointing total, India fresh off that infamous 36 all out, atoned for the 2nd innings failings in the first test by finishing on 326 all out.

Shubman Gill on debut (45), Ravi Jadeja (57), and a quite brilliant innings from stand in captain Rahane (112), put India in the ascendancy.

Having conceded a 131 runs lead in the first innings, hosts Australia having dominated the first test, were up against it in the 2nd.

Unfortunately from the Australian point of view, they crumbled badly in the 2nd innings too by Scoring 200 all out.

Matthew Wade made a start (40) as did Cameron Green (45) , but there wasn’t too much else to shout about as the tourists were left with just 70 needed to win the second test.

Despite a couple of early wickets, India achieved their target with relative ease, duly winning the match by eight wickets.

Captain Marvel, Ajinkja tames Aussie attack on day two of Australia vs India

After enduring a humiliating defeat in the first test, India went some way to restoring some pride to on day two of the second test of the four match series against Australia.

The tourists, at the end of day one were on 36-1 with debutant Shubman Gill going nicely.

A clutter of wickets would fall, KKR batsmen Gill for a well crafted 45 and Pujara for 17, who fell victim to a brilliant catch by wicket-keeper Tim Paine.

The Aussies were no doubt sensing a first innings lead, despite their low total. Scores from Hanuma Vihari (21), Rishab Pant (29), Ravi Jadeja, (40 not out) and a brilliant unbeaten 104 from stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane helped India have some much needed cheer in this test series.

Rahane, was indeed dropped twice, but the sheer determination of the 32-year old Rahane, helped the Delhi Captials batsmen get to three figures.

So India finished on 277-5 for the day, a massive improvement on the first test. Australia already seem to be facing an uphill task to save the game at this early stage of game.

Australia vs India day one; visitors on top after day one

After the disappointment of losing the first test convincingly by eight wickets, India’s cricketers started the second test in positive fashion. In the first test, the 2011 World Cup winners were well beaten and were skittled out for just 36 in the second innings.

That effort in the second innings for India, was their lowest score in their proud test match history. The lowest score before their effort in the first test, was a paltry 42 against England in 1978. India, were coming into this test, very much looking to restore their pride.

This task was made all the more difficult after regular captain and star-batsmen Virat Kohli played his last test match of the tour (attending the birth of his first child). If trying to get back into a series on Australian attack against an Australian attack that includes Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon and the brilliant Josh Hazelwood wasn’t tough enough.

The hosts Australia, after an initial wobble at 38-3, were able to recover with a fourth wicket stand of 88, but the partnership between Marnus Labuschagne and Travis Head would be broken by the irreplaceable Jasprit Bumrah, who had the latter caught by stand-in test captain Ajinkja Rahane for 38.

At that stage the score was 124-4, and there appeared to be no reason for any panic stations. What unfold would be what can only be described as utter chaos as six wickets would fall for just 71. So, after a brilliant bowling performance where Ravi Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj, helped restrict the hosts, India got their innings off to the worst start.

Mayank Agarwal, who impressed in the Indian IPL, has struggled in the test series so far, being dismissed for a duck. Any hopes of India repeating their 36 all out, look to have been dispelled with Shubman Gill, who also impressed in the IPL, scoring 28 on debut.

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India is that you?

After World Cup wins in 2007 (World T20) and in 2011 (50 over one day international tournament and a 2013 victory in the Champions Trophy, India towards the latter years of the start of the decade, and the early years of the last decade, established themselves as a cricketing world super power.

The success of the India team, wasn’t just restricted to the limited overs format. The Indian’s even managed to achieve the lofty status of being World number one in tests too.

The sky was the limit, what could go wrong? Well a lot actually. A disappointing semi-final defeat to New Zealand in the World Cup semi-final and a defeat at the same stage in the World T20 semi-final to now two-time winners West Indies.

To rub further salt in the wounds, a chastening defeat to arch-rivals Pakistan in the 2017 Champions trophy was just another example of some disappointments in Indian cricket.

Being a British born Pakistani, some might think I am revelling, seeing Kohli’s men in their current plight.

As a fan, yeah a little bit (I can’t lie, being a Pakistan fan and all). But the cricket purist side of me, says it’s tough to watch.

That kind of score is reminiscent of my school cricket team. It’s difficult to watch seeing a talented side like India being skittled out for 42, which broke a 48 year-old record.

Surely India haven’t sunk that low, but to see the former world champions be humbled like that (eventually going on to lose the match by eight wickets) was quite something.

The next test between the sides will be resuming on the night of the 25th December, for India that can’t come quick enough.

Unfortunately for them, they will have to manage in this game and for the rest of the series without their captain supreme, Virat Kohli.

The RCB captain, will be returning home for the birth of his first child. India will be hoping for a change of fortunes this time out.

This tour for India will make a man out of one their batsmen and bowlers. Let’s see who’s man enough then?

Can Pakistan Become The Number One Test Side In World Cricket?

Under Misbah Ul-Haq's captaincy Pakistan are now ranked third in test cricket . With the talent in the squad they could get higher.

Under Misbah Ul-Haq’s captaincy Pakistan are now ranked third in test cricket . With the talent in the squad they could get higher.

There is an old saying in the English language ‘the only way is up’. We take a look to see if such a scenario could be applied here for Pakistan’s cricket team. The Asian side under the leadership of Misbah Ul-Haq have had steady progress and after the 2-0 test series win over Australia Pakistan are now at the ‘dizzy heights’ of being third ranked in the world in test cricket.

In the case of the 1992 world champions is the only way up? Pakistan have been quite brilliant at their new ‘home ground’ Abu Dhabi. The Arab state has been their ‘adopted home’ of recent years due to the ploitical turmoil that has been happening in Pakistan, but never the less the South Asians have excelled here.

Wins against England when the English were the number one test side and most recently Australia being very impressive. Pakistan due to the political goings on haven’t been able to play as much cricket as the other nations, but on current form seem quite impressive.

A mixture of youth and experience leaves this team with a good balance. At the top of the order epitomises just that, Ahmed Shazhad and Mohammed Hafeez open the order. What’s been of slight concern is that this opening partnership has not scored heavily as of yet, which has lead oppurtunites for opposition to strike.

Unfortunately for Australia in the recent series there after it was a struggle, Younus khan, Misbah Ul-Haq and Azhar Ali all scoring heavily. To be fair to Ahmed Shazhad he did score a hundred in this series.

The batting line up then does seem very strong with Hafeez and Shazhad opening the batting, followed by Azhar Ali, Younus Khan and then captain Misbah Ul-Haq. Very impressive batting line up indeed and I haven’t even mentioned Sarfraz Ahmed yet! The wicket keeper batsmen had a brilliant series with the bat where others failed, at 27 Ahmed is at the peak of his powers.

The bowling is ‘just as good’ Zaulfiquar Babar was excellent as was Rahat Ali and Imran Khan. There are slight concerns that I have however with this Pakistan side, as good as it is to have experience in the side, there are players who are on the’wrong side’ of 30.

Zaulfiquar Babar as excellent as he was in the recent series win over the Aussies, in the longer term will need replacing, as will Younus khan and captain Misbah Ul-Haq. What Pakistan are blessed with is talented youngsters however, let’s not forget Umar Akmal has ‘talent in abundance’- but isn’t in the side at the moment.

As for potential replacements for Zaulfiquar Babar Pakistan do have some alternatives for Babar and even for Saeed Ajmal in the longer run, if the 34 year old is cleared to play any time soon (Ajmal has been banned for an illegal bowling action).

As far as the present is concerned, Pakistan will be preparing for the test series against New Zealand – who I am sure will present a different challenge. The Kiwi’s haven’t had the best record against Pakistan over the years – but having said that, this series could still be a tricky one for the ‘hosts’ as many will expect them to win.

Series like this one against New Zealand will be the challenge, many might expect Pakistan to win so let’s see how Pakistan embrace the ‘favourites’ tag.

Pakistan do undoubtedly have the potential to be the worlds best side in test cricket, but in the longer run will need to replace key players like Younus Khan. For now though they need to concentrate on the present which is against New Zealand, the series starts on Sunday 9th November.