Sunday, February 28, 2016

Kohli Masterclass Saves India after Amir Opening Burst

India Vs Pakistan - Shere Bangla National Stadium, Mirpur, 27th February 2016 - Asia Cup Match Review

India Beat Pakistan by 5 Wickets with 27 Balls to Spare

The match was being held in Mirpur, Dhaka but cricket fans had thronged to the stadium hours before the match to catch the ‘Mother of All Battles’ take place between arch rivals India and Pakistan in the T20I clash in the Asia Cup 2016. MS Dhoni won the toss and elected to bowl first on another green pitch. Dhawan missed out due to a niggle while Pakistan were going in with 4 fast bowlers – Amir, Irfan, Sami and Wahab.

It was clearly to be a battle between the strong Indian batting line up and the fearsome 4 pronged Pakistani pace battery. Pakistan needed a score around 120-130 to be in with a shout on a pitch that has afforded much help to the faster bowlers. Hafeez hit a lovely square drive in the first over but Nehra scalped him on the 4th ball of the first over; the ball bouncing more than expected and took the glove.

Sharjeel Khan and Khurram Manzoor looked to be getting in to a bit of a groove when Bumrah got a slower delivery to bounce more and Sharjeel guided the ball to Rahane standing at a widish slip. Manzoor was then run out when Malik sold him a dummy, Kohli hitting the bulls eye! Malik himself departed in the very next over chasing a wide one off Hardik Pandya. When Yuvraj got Umar Akmal off the very first ball of his spell, Pakistan were tottering at 35-5 in the 8th over.  Afridi was run out off the last ball of the same Yuvi over when he tried to steal a second after hitting the ball to deep mid-wicket but a laser accurate throw at the top of the stumps by Jadeja meant that even a sprawling dive was not enough to save him.

Pakistan were in a real mess and although Sarfaraz kept them in a hunt with a 25 off 24 balls but that was never going to pose a major problem. Pakistan was bundled out for just 83 runs in 17.3 overs with Pandya taking 3 wickets. Ashwin went wicket-less in his 3 overs giving away 21 runs, the costliest of the Indian bowlers!

Going in to the break, everybody would have thought that this will be a cake walk for Team India but Mohammad Amir had different ideas. He bowled a toe crushing, in swinging yorker first up that hit Rohit flush but he survived a close leg before shout. The very next ball slanted across Rohit but curled back in at the last moment after pitching on a good length and after missing his inside edge hit him on the pads again. The umpire had no hesitation this time and Rohit departed for a duck. After Kohli got an edgy single down to third man, Rahane faced up to a fired up Amir and got another cracking in coming delivery that caught him right in front of his stumps and he too departed without troubling the scorers! India 2-2 after 1 and the match was on!!

Raina hopped around helplessly bur Amir put him out of his misery in his second over, Raina offering a tame scoop to Wahab stationed at mid-on. Kohli, at this point absorbed all the pressure and all that was thrown at him with an intense show of concentration and skill while Yuvraj struggled to lay bat to ball at the other end as he looked completely at sea against the moving ball. Virat plundered 15 off the 9th over bowled by Wahab and it was at this point that the match seemed to be in India’s grasp finally. Sami landed two more blows to India getting Kohli leg before to a fortuitous decision and Pandya caught in the slip by Hafeez for a duck but Dhoni ended it with a thumping boundary to set off wild celebrations among the Indian supporters all across the globe!!

It will be an engrossing duel in the ICC WT20 2016 at Dharamshala where the ball will certainly do a bit at the high altitude and with the picturesque snow clad mountains providing the backdrop I am eagerly awaiting Kohli Vs Amir lip smacking battle to resume!!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Old Enemies Clash in a Battle for Asian Supremacy

India Vs Pakistan - Shere Bangla National Stadium, Mirpur, 27th February 2016 - Asia Cup Match Preview

It’s that time of the year again!! India and Pakistan will finally meet on the cricket field after their mouth watering clash at the ICC World Cup 2015 at Adelaide when India convincingly defeated Pakistan by 76 runs. In many ways, this match is just a prelude before the bigger battle is fought in Dharamsala next month in the ICC WT20 2016. But then, no Indo-Pak match can be lamely termed as a just another game. There will be Bangladeshi fans flocking to the grounds and the streets in both the countries will be empty as the two Asian giants go head to head today at Dhaka in Bangladesh.

India has been in tremendous T20I form over the past 7 matches having lost just a solitary game against a touring Sri Lankan team on a green track in Pune. They brushed aside Australia 3-0 down under before giving Bangladesh a trashing in the opening game of the Asia Cup 2016. Pakistan on the other hand has been busy with the recently concluded PSL, where most of its stars took part.

It will be a lip smacking encounter between the Pakistani quick bowling and the in-form Indian batting line up. It is one thing taming an inexperienced Australian and Sri Lankan bowling line ups but Rohit, Dhawan and Kohli will not find bullying the returning but prodigious Amir, the giant Irfan and the venom spewing Wahab all that easy on a pitch which is expected to have a greenish tinge and offer help to the pace bowlers.

It might all come down to how the Pakistani line up faces up to the spin of Ashwin and Jadeja although batsmen like Hafeez and Shoaib Malik are probably the most equipped batsmen to play spin. Nehra and Bumrah might also fancy their chances against the brittle Pakistani batting if they can get swing and bounce like they managed against Bangladesh.

This match is very important not only in the context of how this Asia Cup pans out for these two teams but also because it will give a huge psychological edge to the winning team ahead of their clash on the 19th of March in the ICC WT20. Both the captains, Shahid Afridi and MS Dhoni, might insist that this just like another game for them but deep down they are aware of the pressures, the trials and the tribulations that come in the face of an India Pakistan clash.

Key Battles: India vs Pakistan, Asia Cup T20I 2016 at Mirpur in Dhaka

Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli Vs Mohammad Irfan and Mohammad Amir

Umer Akmal and Shoaib Malik Vs R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja

Yuvraj Singh Vs Shahid Afridi

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Impact of Sri Lankan Pace Bowlers in the WT20 2016, India

Fast bowling will be an important aspect in the ICC WT20 2016 even though the pitches are expected to be favouring the spin bowlers. Under lights, the ball is almost certain to dart around and even though the movement might last only for a few overs early wickets will mean that the opposition team will be under pressure right from the start. Sri Lanka have a strong pace bowling attacking comprising of the best T20 bowler ever, a bowler who can achieve banana swing on good days and a tear away quick who has impressed one and all in a short time. Let us analyse these three bowlers and the impact they are likely to create.

Lasith Malinga

A slingy round arm action, he is a genuine wicket taker both with the new ball and at the death with an older one. At his very best, he is capable of delivering 6 accurate high speed yorkers at the feet of the batsmen giving them absolutely nothing to work with. He has been on the international circuit for more than 10 years now and every batsman knows what’s coming but such is his accuracy and such are the variations which he has developed that he is still a force to be reckoned with. He has a couple of deceptive slower balls, a menacing bouncer and he is able to generate out swing to right handed batsmen on a consistent basis. When you throw in his unique action and the fact that he is remarkably accurate, he becomes a fire breathing monster for the opposition batsmen especially when they are under pressure to score quickly.

He is the only bowler to take three hat tricks in ODI cricket and remains the only man to have claimed 4 wickets off 4 successive deliveries in international cricket. He is returning from yet another knee injury and only time will tell if he can deliver high impact performances that he is known for.

Impact Rating – 8/10

Nuwan Kulasekara

The partner in crime with Malinga, Kulasekara has the ability to generate huge in-swing to the right handed batsmen while he is also capable to get it to snake away at the last moment. He can also bowl a lovely back of the hand slower ball and reverse the ball as well. It was Kulasekara, who along with Lasith Malinga bowled the wide of off-stump yorkers to perfection in the last WT20 final against India to strangle them in the death overs.

He is also a very capable lower order batsman who can hit big shots after getting his eye in. he has played 44 T20I’s for the Lankans claiming 48 wickets while giving away just around 7.25 runs per over.

Impact Rating – 6/10

Dushmantha Chameera

Chameera is an out and out quick bowler and I was very impressed by what I saw of him in the three T20I’s that he played for the Lankans against India earlier this month. He bowled with plenty of fire and generated disconcerting bounce that rattled the Indian batsmen even on slow tracks. He might not be a finished product by any means as he still lacks the consistency and accuracy at times but it will be exciting to see him unleashed along with Malinga for sure!

Impact Rating – 8/10

Sri Lanka has a great mix of pace bowlers who can be a big threat to any team and who will look to unsettle the opposition batsmen with pace and swing.

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

Impact of Sri Lankan Spinners in the WT20 2016, India

Spin played a big part in Sri Lanka winning the WT20 2014 in Bangladesh last year and this year again it is all set to play a huge role on the outcome of the matches. The Indian tracks are renowned for the assistance that can provide and Lankans will be looking to exploit the turn and variable bounce to spin a web around the opposition. They have picked up a veteran spinner, a spinner who is back after remodelling his action and a young leg spinner. Let us have a look at all three in detail and the impact that they will have on the ICC WT 20 2016.

Rangana Herath

Herath made his test debut way back in 1999 and I remember watching that game live on the television. He had a carrom ball back then but with Murli already in the side weaving his magic Herath was brushed aside in obscurity. It was when Murli retired that Sri Lanka went back to Herath and found that Herath had not lost his bite or guile. His ability to turn the ball from the stumps while at the same time cleverly varying his pace and flight along with using the bowling crease inventively has meant that he has been a leading spinner in world cricket since the last few years. He has bowled several magical spells that have turned the match on its head and he is a master of deception and slyness.

He has played just 9 T20I’s for Sri Lanka but has taken 12 wickets at a stunning economy rate of under 6 runs per over. Although he is primarily a test match bowler, who can forget his startling spell of 3.3-2-3-5 in the last WT20 against the Kiwi’s in a do or die match for the Lankans where he spun a web of magical left arm spin bowling them out for just 60. He also played a crucial role in the final match against the Indians bowling his 4 overs for just 23 runs while also bagging a wicket. If his creaky knees can allow him stand up for one last mega tournament for Sri Lanka, then he is bound to have a huge impact on the outcome of its result.

Impact Rating – 8.5/10

Sachithra Senanayake

Senanayake was also a key member of the Sri Lankan side that won the WT20 the last time around but since then he has had to remodel his action after it was found to be illegal. He has lost the bite and is now visibly less effective but he has continued to perform in the Lankan domestic set-up thus earning a place in the 15 man squad for the Asia Cup T20I’s and the WT20.

Senanayake can bowl with the hard ball in the powerplay and is not overawed by the batsmen coming at him. He is also able to generate extra bounce because of his height which is difficult to deal with. In 86 T20 matches he has scalped 96 wickets while his economy rate of just around 6 runs per over is exceptional.

Impact Rating – 7/10

Jeffrey Vandersay

Vandersay is a leg break bowler who made his debut just last year. He did not have an exceptional Super T20 Provincial Tournament where he picked up just 2 wickets in the four matches that he played in. He was in the squad for the three T20I’s that Sri Lanka lost 1-2 against India but did not get a single game.

Impact Rating – 4/10

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4 Fantastico Battles that could Impact the 2nd T20I between Eng and SA

The long tour of South Africa is finally coming to an end for the English with the final T20I slated to be played at the bullring in Johannesburg. It has been a keenly contested battle especially in the shorter formats of the game as South Africa eked out a 3-2 victory in the ODI series and then won a last ball thriller in the first T20I at Newlands. There have been plenty of fascinating sub plots which have unravelled and which have had a huge impact on the outcome of the matches so far. These two teams are slated to meet again at the group stage of the ICC WT20 and it would be a huge psychological advantage to the team winning this match going forward.

4 Fantastico Battles that could have an impact on the 2nd T20I between SavEng:

Alex Hales and Joe Root Vs Kasigo Rabada and Kyle Abbott

Alex Hales has been the man who has done most of the damage for the English at the top of the order while Root has supported him well with twin hundreds in the last two ODI matches. These two however failed in the first T20I and it will be imperative that they cash in against Kyle Abbott and Kasigo Rabada in particular. Rabada and Abbott have been the danger men for the Africans and Hales and Root are best suited to launch a counter attack against them.

Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler Vs Imran Tahir

Stokes and Buttler have been the catalysts who have been instrumental in England scoring rapidly in the middle and slog overs. Imran Tahir did not start the ODI series on a great note but he has been fabulous in the last ODI as well as the first T20I where he took 4 wickets for 21 runs to derail the English batting. Stokes and Buttler will need to reign themselves in and wait for the bad deliveries to smack otherwise Tahir can again wreck havoc if he sniffs blood. The impact that Stokes and Buttler can have when in full flow is huge but so is the case when Tahir is on song as he showed at Newlands!

AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis Vs Reece Topley and Chris Jordan

De Villiers is probably the best batsman among all current cricketers but for all his heroics he has been modest in the T20I's for South Africa. He can explore the whole 360 degrees on the field and he will look to take on Reece Topley first up as he will open the innings in the absence of Quinton de Kock. Faf du Plessis has a much superior record in the shortest format of the game and his battle with Chris Jordan, who took 3 wickets for just 23 runs in his 4 overs and nearly won England the game, will be exciting to watch.

David Miller and Chris Morris Vs Adil Rashid

Miller has not been in the greatest form and was left out of the ODI side but he hit a crucial four and a six in the dying stages of the first T20I at Newlands to bring the game closer home. It was Morris who took over after Miller departed and he blasted 17 off just 7 balls as South Africa stole the game from the jaws of a near defeat. Adil Rashid might not prove so easy for these big hitters to put away as he has good variations in his armoury. Morgan might consider saving an over or two of Rashid against the South African finishers.

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

Impact of Sri Lankan All-Rounders in the WT20 2016, India - Part II

As I have pointed out in my first post titled ‘Impact of Sri Lankan All-Rounders in the WT20 2016, India - Part I’, Angelo Mathews and Milinda Siriwardena will be the two key men that the Lankans will be banking on but they do have the services of two more all-rounders that can be drafted in depending upon the opposition and the conditions in general. Let us have a look at these two all-rounders and the kind of impact that they are likely to have on the mega tournament.

Thisara Perera

An attacking left hander, Perera has been with the Sri Lankan team for the last 6 to 7 years but is yet to truly fulfil the promise that he showed at school stage. He is a batsmen who can score at a blistering pace when set and he loves hitting in the arc between mid wicket and long on though he has worked on his off side game in the last year or so. He is capable of blasting a quick 30-40 in 15-20 deliveries to close the innings out and he was the catalyst that helped Sri Lanka win the ICC WT20 2014 in Bangladesh easily after he struck 3 huge sixes to score 23* in just 14 balls to seal the match for them.

He is also a bustling medium pace bowler who has variations of pace up his sleeve along with the disconcerting bounce that he sometimes is capable of generating. He recently claimed a hat trick against the Indians in the second T20I at Ranchi when he had Raina, Pandya and Yuvraj all caught out, becoming only the fourth bowler to do so in T20I format. He is also the only bowler along with Brett Lee to have claimed a hat trick in both ODI and T20I formats of the game. Perera can be a man who can unlock the answers to many questions simultaneously and be the high impact player for Sri Lanka in the ICC WT20 2016.

Impact Rating – 7/10

Shehan Jayasuriya

Shehan Jayasuriya made his international debut for Sri lanka late last year with a 40 off just 32 balls in a T20I against Pakistan at Colombo. He is an attacking left handed batsman who is capable of stepping on the gas and hitting the big shots. He particularly favours the off side and the area behind backward point is his favourite as he loves the cut shot.

He is also a right arm off break bowler who generally darts the ball into the batsmen’s legs cramping them for room and making shot making difficult. He has played 40 T20 matches so far scoring 698 runs at a strike rate of 114 runs per hundred balls and has taken 28 wickets at an economy rate of 7.23. His was a left field selection and not many within Sri Lanka are happy with it, Jayasuriya will have a lot to do to prove his critics wrong.

Impact Rating – 4/10

Thisara Perera and Shehan Jayasuriya might not play all the matches for Sri Lanka, but they do provide them with handy back up options in case they want to go with an extra medium pace or spin bowling all-rounder.

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

Impact of Sri Lankan All-Rounders in the WT20 2016, India - Part I

Players who can perform with both the bat and the ball and change the complexion of the game are worth their weight in gold as they lend flexibility to the side and provide the captain with multiple options in the field. Sri Lanka have one of the best all-rounder in the game today, another who has risen quickly and is now one of their mainstays and a third one who, though supremely talented has not made full use of his potential. Let us evaluate all these three men in question and find out what impact they are likely to have on the ICC WT20 2016.

Angelo Mathews

Ever since he burst on the scene with that acrobatic fielding effort in the 2009 WT20, he has been an unstoppable force and a player who has played several high impact innings in pressure cooker situations for the Lankans. He is a genuine all-rounder - a fearsome hitter lower down the order and capable of bowling a nagging line and length with clever variations to fool the batsmen. Mathew’s greatest strength is his imperturbable temperament and his calm stature at the crease. He has often shepherded the weak Lankan tail and won matches on his own through sheer bloody minded composure and the ability to sense the correct time to launch an assault.

He did not play the three T20I’s against India since he was injured but he is now back for both, the Asia Cup T20I’s and the ICC WT20. A lot will depend on Mathews as far as Sri Lanka is concerned and they will hope that he can deliver for them once again in the crunch situations.

Impact Rating – 8.5/10

Milinda Siriwardena

Siriwardena made his international debut last year but he is already an indispensible part of this young Lankan line up. Possessing the rare gift of timing, a mere caress of his bat often sends the ball scurrying towards the boundary. Strong both off the front and the back foot - an elegant cover drive and pull shots are his major strengths. He is a very calm figure at the crease unperturbed by the pressures of a rising required run rate. He has played several high class knocks coming in the lower order and bailed Sri Lanka out of tight corners with Mathews.

He can also bowl handy left arm spin although the Lankan side tends to under-use him in my honest opinion. Siriwardena has played 9 T20I’s for Sri Lanka making 168 runs at a strike rate of nearly 150 runs per hundred balls while also picking up 5 wickets with his slow left arm spin. He will be a vital cog in the Lankan machinery who has the ability of make an impact with his explosive batting and his economical bowling.

Impact Rating – 7.5/10

Siriwardena, along with Mathews, will be the two main trump cards up the sleeve of the Sri Lankans and their fans will be hoping that these two can combine to provide solidity and fire-power to a relatively weak middle order.

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

Impact of Sri Lankan Middle Order in the WT20 2016, India

The middle order will have its work cut out in the ICC WT20 2016 as the pitches in India will start to take turn and with the variable bounce factor also coming in, these men will have to put their heads down and score runs in an intelligent manner. Sri Lanka have a fairly inexperienced middle order, men who are yet to be established in this format at the highest level. There is no dearth of talent in three men that we will analyse but can they perform on the biggest stage remains to be seen.

Dinesh Chandimal

Dinesh Chandimal is a young man who has impressed one and all with his style and composure in the test matches and ODI formats of the game. When on song he is a difficult man to bowl to, he has all the proper shots in the book but at the same time he can be brutal and unconventional in his approach. One only needs to be remembered of his belligerent innings against the Australians in the 50 over World Cup in 2015 when his cameo nearly won them the match chasing a 350+ total. He cracked a high octane 160 against India last year to win Sri Lanka a match in which they had no business of even coming close to a win. The way he had man-handled Ashwin in that match still gives me chills.

But his aggression and flair always seem to go missing when it comes to T20 cricket as his stats show. In 34 T20I’s he has managed to score just 397 runs at a dismal average of 14.7 and strike rate just touching 100. His T20I stats might be down in the dumps but he sure has all the talent in the world to make a huge impact on the Lankan fortunes in the WT20.

Impact Rating – 6/10

Chamara Kapugedera

Kapugedera made his international debut as a teenager against the Australians and though he has been one of their star performers right from his school days he has not lived up to his talent on the international stage. He is powerful man and an ultra aggressive batsman who is strong all around the wicket but loves hitting the ball straight. He made a couple of decent contributions in the two matches that he played against India recently.

He is also a stunning fielder known for athletic saves in the circle and also for his out-fielding during the slog overs. He has not been in promising form recently but the Lankans will hope that Kapugedera can play to his potential which will be a huge plus for them in a middle order shorn of experience.

Impact Rating – 6/10

Dasun Shanaka

Dasun Shanaka played against India in all the three T20I’s and he is a clean striker of the cricket ball. He hit some big sixes in those three innings and though he could not make a big contribution, I loved his striking capability. He has a strike rate of over 160 in T20 cricket and he could be the joker in the pack for the Sri Lankans as a relatively unknown commodity; he can make a telling contribution. He is also a good medium pace bowler who grabbed 3 wickets when Sri Lanka defeated India on the green top in Pune.

Impact Rating – 6/10

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Impact of Sri Lankan Openers in the WT20 2016, India

The opening combination for any team will be the most important in the ICC World T20 2016 as it will be imperative to make use of the hard new ball and the field restrictions in the first six overs before the spinners come in and put on the choke. The Sri Lankans have gone in for a new comer in the opening position along with the experience of a veteran. Let us see how these two will combine and what impact they are likely to have on the WT20 2016 in India starting next month.

Tillakaratne Dilshan

Tillakaratne Dilshan might be on his last legs but he still retains all of his class and flair. He is a destructive batsman who loves to make a bit of room, free his arms and trash the ball through the cover region. Strong on the cut and pull he is not one to shy away from a battle and loves to takes the bowler on as he showed in the 2015 World Cup when he slammed 6 fours in an over off the fearsome Mitchell Johnson. He is also known for his innovation and daredevilry, the famed ‘Dilscoop’, named after him!

Dilshan loves the big stage and he was the Man of the Series in the 2009 edition of the WT20 and has been a high impact player for the Lankans in all formats for more than a decade now. He did not fare well in the 2 T20I’s that he played against India recently, Ashwin had his number on both the occasions but he is a true champion and will be a big threat to every team that comes up against Sri Lanka. The fact that he can bowl canny off-spin and is still the best fielder in the side says a lot about his fitness and agility.

Impact Rating – 8/10

Niroshan Dickwella

Dickwella is an aggressive left handed wicket-keeper batsman who made his T20I debut against India recently. Although he made just 5 runs in the two matches but one could see that he had an aggressive streak about him. He charged Ashwin and got a single off the very first ball that he faced in the 2nd T20I and then charged again off the second but was stumped as he missed the ball by miles. The fact that he had the confidence to use his feet against the main threat that India possessed showed that that he at least had the guts to take a champion bowler on and not get dictated.

He was selected on the back of his tremendous performances in the recently concluded Super T20 Provincial Tournament back in Sri Lanka where he trashed 3 fifties in just 6 innings to score 179 runs at a monstrous strike rate of almost 175 runs per hundred balls. If he can find his range and get into his groove then he can form a very potent partnership with Dilshan.

Impact Rating – 6.5/10

The Lankans might be missing their regular wicket-keeper opening batsman Kusal Janith Perera, but they do have Dickwella, who might still be raw but can be a lethal weapon if he can get some confidence under his belt early on and with the experienced Dilshan to guide him from the other end.

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Fantastico McCullum Slams the Fastest Test 100 in his Final Test!!

Some men write their own destiny, end their careers on a high. Not many sportsmen can time it perfectly and almost every great hero lives just long enough to become a villain. Bradman needed just four in his last test innings to finish with a test average of 100, he made a duck. Javed Miandad and Aravinda De Silva, arguably the finest batsman their countries had produced, played their last matches in the World Cup in 1996 and 2003 respectively, both ending on the losing side and going out in anonymity.

This was Brendon McCullum's last match, his 101st and he walked in to bat with New Zealand in huge trouble at 32-3 in the 20th over. His successor, and master batsman, Kane Williamson was struggling to even properly lay bat on ball on a green pitch - he was on 3 off 44 balls when Baz walked out to a guard of honour given by the Aussie's.

McCullum heaved wildly off his first ball and missed and on the second attempt the ball flew over the slips for a fortunate boundary. This looked like it would end very quickly. When Smith called upon Marsh just minutes before the lunch break, McCullum launched a vicious attack on the bowler. A straight six, cuts, cover drives and to round off another gob smacking six over wide extra cover to take 21 off the over! Easy-Peasy!!

He slashed at a wide Pattinson delivery and Marsh flung himself to take a stunner but Pattinson had overstepped, Baz reprieved on 39. That was probably the break that he needed and the mood that he was in, his shots only got bolder and more outrageous! He brought up his fifty off 34 balls with a heave down the ground that flew over Bird's head for a straight six. McCullum was by now an almost unstoppable force, playing a high impact innings in his last test.

He kept swinging his willow like a madman but kept evading the fielder's. He brought up his 100 of just 54 balls, the fastest ever, with a four over extra cover and raised his bat to a standing ovation from the crowd at the Hagley Oval in Christchurch. He beat the record set by the enigmatic Viv Richards in 1985-86 against England off 56 balls and which was then equalled by Misbah ul Haq against the Australian's in 2014.

He eventually finished on 145 off just 79 balls and his 179 run partnership with Corey Anderson waltzed New Zealand to 370 in just 65 overs on a green top where the ball swung extravagantly but a determined batsman in his last test swung his willow more decisively in the end.

His cavalier approach and thrill-a-minute style will be sorely missed and one can only wonder why he did not choose to play the upcoming World T20! Captain Fantastico and a batsman who lived by the sword and died by it, Baz, you will be sorely missed!!

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

Fantastico Tahir, Morris Seal the 1st T20I for South Africa

After completing a remarkable come from behind 3-2 series win the South Africans were in high spirits and England looking to get their mojo back as both the teams clashed at Newlands in the first T20I of the two match series.

For South Africa, De Kock missed out due to a niggle which meant that De Villiers would have to take the gloves behind the wickets. Faf du Plessis won the toss and elected to bowl first with a slight bit of rain in the air and dodgy weather.

England got off to a swift start with both Hales and Roy taking on Rabada and Abbott as they missed their line and length. They whizzed to 36-0 by the third over but a back of the hand slower ball got Roy out, Rabada the beneficiary. It still looked like England were on course for a big total as they reached 50-1 after the power play. Imran Tahir got Hales caught brilliantly by Duminy, after he was tackled by Rabada, rugby style; thankfully no one suffered a serious injury.

At this point, England suffered a meltdown as they continued losing wickets to Tahir, by playing some senseless cricket. Tahir was Fantastico with his line and length and used his variations cleverly to leave England tottering at 81-6 after 13 overs. Tahir had figures of 3-0-16-4 and he had changed the entire game within a few overs. England now had only Jos Buttler left but even he struggled to find the boundaries. England eventually finished on 134-8 off their 20 overs, Tahir being the most impact player for South Africa with four wickets.

South Africa opened with De Villiers and Amla and they got off to a relatively brisk start reaching 25 in three and half overs when Topley got the outside edge of Amla's bat but Buttler grassed the chance. The English all rounder duo of Jordan and Stokes, though, brought England right back in the contest when they took out the openers in successive overs. The two bowled 4 overs for just 18 runs in addition to the two important wickets as South Africa reached 50-2 in eight overs. At the end of 12 overs they had reached 74-2 and with only a small target to chase, it was all going to plan for the Proteas.

Rashid got Duminy and Moeen Ali got rid of the Protea skipper Faf du Plessis to set the cat amongst the pigeons. Moeen Ali got Rilee Rossouw in the 18th over but Miller slugged a six and a four to restore some parity. Chris Jordan, in the penultimate over first got the dangerous Miller off the first ball and then Wiese off the fifth to seeing the match again in England's favour.

That left Reece Topley with 15 to defend off the final over of the match. Abbott got a single off the first ball and Morris creamed a four and a six off full tosses off the next two deliveries to bring the equation down to 4 off 3. The fourth delivery was a dot but Morris and Abbott scampered two's off the final two deliveries to seal the win for South Africa! Topley could have forced the match into a super over if he had collected the final delivery cleanly and knocked the stumps over to run the batsman out, but it was not to be as England were left ruing what could have been!

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

Impact of England All-Rounders in the WT20 2016, India

All-rounders are a much revered species in cricket and their value increases manifold when talking about T20 cricket. They bat at 5-6 providing the difficult job of closing out the innings with big hits and they are entrusted to bowl to batsmen in full flow and expected to get them out. England, at the moment, is blessed with several all-rounders who give them the flexibility to tinker with their playing 11 depending on the opposition and the conditions. Let us glance at the impact that the English all-rounders are likely to make in the WT20 in India.

Ben Stokes

England were desperately crying out for a good all-rounder since the retirement of Andrew Flintoff and during their disastrous Ashes tour of 2013/14 where they were blown away 5-0 in the face of Mitch Johnson, rose Ben Stokes. He blazed away to a century at Perth and he bagged wickets in almost every innings. He was the find of the tour and after a minor slump in 2014; he has risen again to firmly take his place in the lower middle order for England in all the formats of the game.

He is a clean striker of the ball and is not intimidated by a challenge. Capable of playing all around the ground, he showed his audacious hitting prowess by clobbering a 258 off just 198 deliveries in a test match against South Africa. He also made two quick-fire half centuries in the 5 match ODI series that followed – all this, in addition to the numerous wickets that he took along with his equally dazzling fielding efforts. Stokes is a high impact player and he will be the most important player from an English point of view who can win them a game with either the bat or the ball on his own.

Impact Rating – 8.5/10

Chris Jordan

Chris Jordan embodies the perfect all-rounder and a perfect Twenty20 cricketer - bustling medium pace bowler, a hard hitting batsman down the order and a magnificent athlete anywhere on the field. However for all his attractive qualities, he has often lacked in consistency and has thus far failed to deliver on his true potential. He was way below par in the three ODI matches that he played against South Africa recently picking up just a solitary wicket but he came back roaring in the first T20I to claim 3 wickets in his 4 overs while also going at less than 6 runs per over.

Jordan is a lively bowler who looks to befuddle the batsmen with his changes of pace and his batting is all about hard hitting and he is someone who does not take a backward step and does not avoid a battle. He has played 10 T20I matches for England and taken 12 wickets at an economy rate which is on the higher side of 8 runs per over while he has made 95 runs at a strike rate of almost 130.

Impact Rating – 7/10

England also has Moeen Ali, who is also a genuine all-rounder, bowling off spin and who will be an important cog in the English line up. Stokes and Jordan, along with Moeen Ali are all players that can have a great impact on the game and possess the talent to change its course in matter of a few overs.

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

Impact of England Pace Bowlers in the WT20 2016, India

Spin bowling will certainly be the key to success in the upcoming World Twenty20 in India but the role of fast bowlers cannot be brushed aside. Bowlers who have variations and who can reverse the ball (yes, it can happen even in 20 overs) and swing it under lights will be a difficult proposition on pitches which might be two paced and not conducive to hitting through the line. Let us have a look at the English pace bowlers and analyse the impact that they are likely to have in the mega event which begins next month.

Reece Topley

Reece Topley is a lanky left arm pace bowler capable of swinging the ball both ways at a decent pace. He also has a deceptive slower ball which is hard to pick up and given his height he will be a difficult customer to face on the uneven pitches of India. He had a stellar ODI series against the strong South African side where he finished as the highest wicket taker from either side, picking up 10 wickets in 5 matches. He will have to work on his control though as he went at more than 6 runs per over during that series and even in the first T20I he travelled at 9 runs per over.

Overall, he has played 53 T20 matches picking up 76 wickets at a strike rate of 15 and an economy rate of over 8 runs per over. He is a good find for England as he has the tendency to pick up wickets and even though he may be a bit expensive, having a genuine wicket taker in your ranks is always a positive.

Impact Rating – 7/10

Steven Finn

Steve Finn is also a lanky pace bowler like Topley but he bowls right handed. Finn, at the peak of his powers had the ability to trouble the best batsmen with his pace and uncomfortable bounce. But problems with injuries and his habit of knocking down the stumps at the non-strikers end in his delivery stride meant him having to change his action and left him low on confidence. But he has worked hard with the England Lions team and has come back rejuvenated and has gradually built up his pace as well. He has the ability to swing the ball and if he can get his act together, he will certainly be more than a handful even in India. He has played 21 T20I’s for England picking up 27 wickets at an economy rate of just over 7.

Impact Rating – 7/10

David Willey

David Willey is the son of former England all-rounder turned Peter Willey and is the preferred choice ahead of Finn at the moment for England. It is probably because he gives them the option of a hard hitting batsman lower down and because he is a very good fielder too. He has picked up just a solitary wicket in the four matches (3 ODI’s and 1 T20I) on the tour to South Africa and has not contributed much with the bat as well so his place will certainly under the scanner. But at his best, he is a good left arm swing bowler who can deliver at decent pace.

Impact Rating – 6/10

In addition to these three, England also have Ben Stokes and Chris Jordan who can be used as medium pace bowlers and who also provide them with batting fire-power as well.

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

Impact of England Spinners in the WT20 2016, India

Spin bowling is an area where English cricket has always lagged behind other teams and although Greame Swann provided them with all the natural guile and variations, he was more successful in tests than in the shorter formats of the game. Spin bowling will be the key in India as the pitches will surely help the slower bowlers get turn and bite and as the tournament goes deeper, the assistance will only increase thus making good spinners genuine impact players for any team. England, for once, has all the bases covered and boasts of a very decent spin bowling line up for the ICC WT20 2016 with a leg-spinner, an off break bowler and a slow left arm orthodox bowler, all in their ranks!!

Adil Rashid

Adil Rashid is a leg break bowler who has been on the radar of the English team since a very long time. He has a big turning leg break and a treacherous googly which makes him more than a handful for any batsmen. Throw in his changes of pace, the variations of flight and the dip that he generates – he becomes a menacing and a real threat. He has played 111 T20 matches picking up 124 wickets at an average of 22 and an economy rate of just over 7.

He has been in good form with several eye catching performances against the South African team both in the recently concluded ODI’s and the ongoing T20I’s. He has been economical in the middle overs while keeping his own against the likes of attacking batsmen like de Villiers and Duminy, pegging the run rate back while also picking up important wickets. He is also a handy lower order batsman capable of hanging around and hitting out when required.

Impact Rating – 7/10

Moeen Ali

Moeen Ali is an off break bowler who for all practical purposes is considered to be a part time bowler but he is in reality much better than that. England used him as an opening bowler in the last WT20 regularly and he did not bowl that badly. Moeen has the ability to turn the ball occasionally with his quick arm action but he usually darts the ball into the batsman’s pads, not providing him the room to swing the bat.

He has formed a potent partnership with Adil Rashid and both of them have been key figures for the English in the middle overs helping them keep the opposition in check and at the same time also picking up key wickets denting the opposition. The fact that he is also a very clean striker of the ball and can bat anywhere in the order, provides England both great flexibility and room to play around with.

Impact Rating – 7/10

Liam Dawson

Liam Dawson is a slow left arm orthodox bowler who is perhaps in the squad only to cover for Rashid and Ali. He has been given a chance after catching the eye of the selectors with his performances for the England Lions team, both with the ball and the bat.

Impact Rating – 5/10

England definitely has the goods to become a nuisance to other teams with this line up of spinners. Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali will be the key men for them and Morgan will hope that the duo can keep up with their recent impressive outings against the Proteas.

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

Impact of England Middle Order in the WT20 2016, India

The middle order of England seems to be in very good health with three very different batsmen occupying the slots 3-5. The middle order batsmen in the World Cup are all set to be severely tested by spin bowling and England have batsmen who are capable of holding their own against the slower bowlers on turning pitches. Let us analyse each of them and what they bring to the table and the impact they are likely to have on the English performance.

Joe Root

He is a naturally gifted played capable of playing on any surface and excelling in any format of the game. He has a water tight technique along with a calm head and unflappable temperament that helps him shine in all situations. He can score quickly through conventional shots but has unorthodox shots like the reverse sweeps and paddles in his armoury as well. Root has played 13 T20I’s for England scoring 311 runs at an average of over 34 and a strike rate almost touching 130 runs per hundred balls. He is also a very deceptive off break bowler who is rarely called upon but provides the team with a breakthrough on most such occasions.

His maturity and calmness at the crease might just be the tonic that England needs to prosper amid all the big bashing batsmen that they have strewn all around their batting line up. He could be the gel that binds the innings together with sensible batting while the others can do all the violence and try to bash everything in orbit!

Impact Rating – 7.5/10

Eoin Morgan

Eoin Morgan is the English captain and an inventive and audacious striker of the cricket ball. Known for his sweeps and reverse sweeps he is adept at facing spinners and creating havoc in their line and lengths. He is also a very clean hitter straight down the ground against the quicker bowlers.

Known for his calming influence at the batting crease, he is seldom ruffled by all that is happening around him and is considered to be amongst the best finishers of the game by the English management. He has a very good record for England in the T20I’s playing 55 matches for almost 1300 runs with the strike rate in the 130’s but he has been in wretched form during the limited overs leg during the South African tour. England will hope that he can rediscover his form and magic in time before the World Twenty20 begins next month.

Impact Rating – 7/10

Jos Buttler

Jos Buttler brings to the table innovative and expansive batting, which is both brutal and full of flamboyance. He has two of the fastest ODI hundreds for England and he recently smashed a 73 ball ton against South Africa as England ramped up 399 runs at Bloemfontein. Buttler is a master of innovation and his fearless approach in the middle order has served him and English cricket well up until this point. Consistency is one feature that he needs to work on though, as after a manic hundred and a 48* off 28 balls in the first two ODI’s against South Africa, his form tapered as he made 0, 1, 0 in the last three matches.

Impact Rating – 8/10

This middle order is strong enough and can be extremely dangerous especially if they are given a good launching pad by the English opening batsmen.

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Impact of England Openers in the WT20 2016, India

England are a team that, traditionally, does not play spin bowling very well and hence the onus on its openers to provide a rapid start while the ball is still new and hard, and fast bowlers are probably in operation is all the more imperative. England has one opener who is in the form of his life and hitting the ball as sweetly as anyone else in the world while the other spot is debatable. Let us look at the impact that the English Openers will have on the ICC WT20 2016.

Alex Hales

Alex Hales had a horror run in the four match test series against South Africa where he struggled to lay bat to ball but he has been in punishing form in coloured clothing, making 5 consecutive half century scores in the ODI series that followed, including a hundred and a 99. He hits the ball cleanly and likes thrashing the ball straight, a virtue that helps him keep his body shape intact. He is also strong on the back foot and likes cutting and pulling anything which is even remotely short. He has all the shots in the book and will be the key man for England while opening the innings.

His whirlwind 64 ball 116* in the last WT20 helped England beat Sri Lanka, the eventual champions, in the group match. Hales has played 38 T20I’s for England and has an impressive average of over 34 and a strike rate almost touching 140 making him a high impact player for the English in the shortest format of the game.

Impact Rating – 8/10

Jason Roy

A hard hitting and an extremely destructive opener, Jason Roy is an English opening batsman born in South Africa. A clean striker of the cricket ball down the ground, he also revels in playing unconventional shots like the switch hits. He started the ODI series against South Africa with a bang, smashing 48 off just 30 balls but his form has since deserted him. Consistency is always a difficult virtue for attacking opening batsmen, only a few are able to maintain that for long. Roy has played 7 T20I’s and with a highest score of just 29 is yet to carry his domestic form to top flight cricket.

He will be under severe pressure from James Vince, a batsman in the mould of Ajinkya Rahane who plays more conventional shots but has an impressive record. Jason Roy might have one last chance to prove himself in the second T20I which is slated for tomorrow night.

Impact Rating – 5/10

James Vince

James Vince is a young man who has been tipped to do well in all formats for England by those who have seen him. He made an impressive debut for England in T20I’s against Pakistan where he made 125 runs at an average of 41 in the three matches. He represented Karachi in the ongoing PSL and had only an average outing, not making a 50 in 7 innings.

Impact Rating – 5/10

England will have to choose between Roy and Vince for the second openers slot considering the form that Hales is currently in and him bedding his place down.

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

Friday, February 19, 2016

3 Fantastico Battles that could Impact the 1st T20I between Eng and SA

South Africa completed a remarkable turnaround in the ODI series by winning the last three games to clinch the series 3-2. There were plenty of amazing performances from both the teams and now the two teams meet again in the shortest format of the game in a bid to fine tune their game ahead of the ICC WT20 which will start next month in India.

3 Fantastico Battles that could have an Impact on the 1st T20I between SavEng:

AB de Villiers and Quinton de Kock Vs Reece Topley

Quinton de Kock was the destroyer in chief for the South Africans in the ODI series where he cracked two swashbuckling hundreds, both filled with enterprising strokes and flair. De Villiers had a more subdued series but he still managed to finish in the series with over 200 runs at an average of more than 72. It will be an explosive opening if these two get their act together, they are capable of taking apart any bowling attack in the world and bring any team to its knees. Trying to stop these Fantastico batsmen will be Reece Topley, the left arm seamer who finished as the highest wicket taker in the ODI series. He is capable of swing the ball and with the left armers angle might prove to be a handful for even De Kock and De Villiers!

Alex Hales and Joe Root Vs Kasigo Rabada and Kyle Abbott

Alex Hales and Joe Root had a super ODI series, with both of them scoring over 350 runs in the five match series and ending up one-two in the run chart. Hales scored 4 fifties and a ton while Root made a fifty and two tons. These two in form batsmen will be up against two in form bowlers, Rabada and Abbott, who were one of the main reasons why the Protea team could snatch the series 3-2 after being two down after the first two games! These two picked up regular wickets and kept the run scoring in check, they bowled with fire and aggression and conquered the entire English team expect Hales and Root. It promises to be another fascinating battle when they meet again, this time in the T20 format!

Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes Vs David Wiese and Chris Morris

Jos Buttler started ODI series with a bang, making an audacious hundred and then cracking a 20 ball 40 odd to win the second ODI from the jaws of a defeat. Ben Stokes made a couple of attractive fifties of his own coming in life down while also picking up important wickets with the ball. But these two men also three ducks between them and thus let the game slip from the English point of view. Wiese and Morris played a key role in the Protea renaissance, picking up crucial wicket at important junctures of the match. They both are also hard hitting lower order batsmen who contributed in the ODI matches. Their battle with Stokes and Buttler will be intriguing and one to look out for!!

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Fantastico Malinga, Mathews Return for WT20, Asia Cup

Sri Lanka finally announced their 15 Man Squad that will take part in the Asia Cup T20I’s and the subsequent World Twenty20 that follows in India in March-April. The young and green team that lost to India was given a minor makeover with several of the injured seniors making a much anticipated comeback to the national side ahead of the big tournament.

Sri Lankan skipper and their talismanic bowler, Lasith Malinga; his partner in crime, Nuwan Kulasekera; their vice-captain and middle order stalwart, Angelo Mathews; and their lead spinner, Rangana Herath have all been named for both the events. All these Fantastico players had missed the three match T20I series that was recently played in India which the Lankan team had convincingly lost 2-1.

Wicket-keeper batsman Niroshan Dickwella, who failed in both the matches that he played in India, has also been picked ahead of Dhanushka Gunathilaka who also had an ordinary series. Kusal Janith Perera remains suspended over a doping offence and his status on the same remains unclear. He was a key link to providing Sri Lanka with explosive starts at the beginning of the innings and he will be a huge loss for the Lankans in my opinion.

Sri Lanka retained Jefferey Vandersay, the leg spinner who did not play a single match in India, while Kasun Rajitha, the fast bowler who was the man of the match in their victory at Pune was dropped. Veteran fast bowler Dilhara Fernando who played the third T20I against India was not picked in the squad either. Sachithra Senanayake has also been picked along with off spinning all-rounder Shehan Jayasuriya, who is a big hitter down the order.

Dilshan will be the key at the top of the order and Sri Lanka will hope that he can rediscover his form and flair at the right time. Dinesh Chandimal, Kapugedera and Milinda Siriwardena are also all in the squad although I am not too sure about Chandimal’s selection as he looked totally lost in the T20 format up until now. Seam bowling all-rounder Dasun Shanaka has also been named in the squad and I loved his peppy hitting in the India series and he should open with Dilshan in my view and Dickwella should be pushed down in to the middle order.

The Sri Lankan bowling which lacked penetration against India will be significantly bolstered by the returning Malinga and Kulesekera who will team up with the tearaway quick Dushmantha Chameera and wily left arm spinner Rangana Herath. They will be ably supported by Angelo Mathews, a superb all-rounder while players like Siriwardena, Dilshan and Shanaka can all roll their arm over as well giving Malinga with plenty of options.

Although to the naked eye it might seem a bit light in the batting department, this is a pretty decent side with some high impact players, who, if they get on a roll, will be very hard to stop.

Sri Lanka 15 Man Squad for World T20 2016 and Asia Cup:
Lasith Malinga (captain), Angelo Mathews (vice-captain), Dinesh Chandimal, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Niroshan Dickwella, Shehan Jayasuriya, Milinda Siriwardana, Dasun Shanaka, Chamara Kapugedera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Dushmantha Chameera, Thisara Perera, Sachithra Senanayake, Rangana Herath, Jeffrey Vandersay.

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

3 Fantastico Battles that could Impact the 2nd Test between Aus and NZ

Australia won the first test convincingly but the no ball fiasco surrounding umpire Richard Illingworth, where he adjudged a Bracewell delivery to be a no ball, off which Adam Voges was cleaned bowled for just 7, and then went on to make a game changing 239, hogged most of the post-match discussions and headlines.

The second and the final match in this two match series will be the Kiwi captain McCullum's final test and the entire New Zealand team will be keen to give their inspirational leader a farewell victory just like they had done in the final ODI match of the Chappell-Hadlee series, defending 246 runs with all their heart and might.

Let us look at the 3 Fantastico battles that might impact the outcome of the second test between Australia and New Zealand.

Josh Hazlewood Vs Kane Williamson

Josh Hazlewood has been a consistent performer for the Australian team since the past one year or so. His ability to keep the ball on and around the off stump and then swing it both ways has led to the downfall of many a batsman in recent times. He was their best bowler in the Chappell-Hadlee ODI series and in the first test he wreaked havoc on the Kiwi top order snaffling 4 wickets in no time in their first innings.

Kane Williamson is one batsman who is well equipped to play the swinging ball and come out on top but he too had an average first test making just 16 and 22, as he fell to Hazlewood in both the innings. It was Williamson who had tormented the Aussie bowlers in their two test series last year with an avalanche of runs and proving almost impossible to dislodge. Williamson will have to play a high impact innings so that the Kiwi's don't lose a bunch of wickets in the middle overs since it is already significantly weakened by the absence of Ross Taylor.

Nathan Lyon Vs Brendon McCullum

Nathan Lyon might seem to the naked eye to be an innocuous bowler and somebody who could be easily handled. But with a classical off spinner’s action he manages to put enough revolutions on the ball to spin it viciously. He also gets dangerous drift and dip which can be very difficult to negotiate for any batsman along with the extra bounce which he generates due to his high arm action. Brendon McCullum is someone who likes to go after the bowlers and he will certainly not hold back in his final international appearance for the Black Caps. A Lyon-McCullum battle promises to be a fascinating one, with Lyon on the top of his game as a spinner, not afraid to flight the ball, and McCullum not one to hold back and known for his outrageous hitting.

Trent Boult and Tim Southee Vs The Aussie Top Order

Southee and Boult are a dangerous bowling pair - right and left handed, ability to swing the ball both ways and always homing in on the batsman's stumps. It has been their Fantastico pairing that has been one of the biggest reasons for the upsurge of the Kiwi's under McCullum. The Aussie top order will be constantly under fire and pressure when these two champion bowlers will have the ball in their hands and it will be important for them to not loose early wickets to this pair because if that happens then they are most likely to run through their entire batting line up. It promises to be another lip smacking battle that is on the cards when the second test between the Trans-Tasman rivals starts.

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Fantastico 5 who made 3-2 Come-From-Behind Series Win against England Possible!!

South Africa were two down after the first two matches in the five match ODI series and needed some heroes who could stand up and be counted to avoid a home series loss. England was playing a very positive brand of cricket and the Protea's seemed to be having too many out of form players to match the English side.

But cometh the hour and cometh the men, let us look at the Fantastico 5 who put their hands up and made telling contributions that had a great impact on the series, turning it on its head, as South Africa went on to win the next three games in a row to complete a remarkable turnaround to win the series 3-2.

Kasigo Rabada

Kasigo Rabada did not play the first ODI match when South Africa was run ragged by Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes and England had made a huge 399 runs batting first. He returned from the second match and immediately made an impact. Although he failed to pick up any wicket in the second ODI, he was economical and remained a threat throughout. He took 4, 2 and 3 wickets respectively in the remaining three games to peg the English back with important strikes. The two times that Buttler made a first ball duck, it was Rabada who managed to snaffle him. He played a key role in the reversal of South Africa’s fortune.

Kyle Abbott

Like Rabada, Abbott too did not play the first match but when he returned from the second ODI, he immediately gave a more threatening and penetrative look to the African bowling. He always pulled the burgeoning English run rate back with his accurate bowling while also taking important wickets. In all, he took 8 wickets in the four matches and along with Rabada, who took 9, played a decisive part in the Protea win.

Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla

Quinton de Kock nearly helped the South African team chase down Mt. 399 with his audacious hitting when he made 138* off just 96 balls in the first ODI as wickets fell around him and before the rain ultimately had the final say in deciding the fate of the match. De Kock was at it again in the third ODI when, chasing 319 to win the match, he made a Fantastico 135 off just 117 balls to kill the chase along with Hashim Amla, who also made a ton (127 off 130 balls). De Kock and Amla played a big role in the turnaround with their 239 run partnership in the third ODI and they finished with 326 and 196 runs respectively in the series.

AB de Villiers

AB de Villiers was not in the best of the form, at least not by his lofty standards, as he struggled for the usual fluency and flair that he is known for. Still, he made 218 runs in the series at an average of almost 73 and it was in the last ODI, with the series locked 2-2 and England very much in the ascendency having reduced South Africa to 22-3 after setting them 237 to win, that he played an innings of high class under immense pressure. He restrained his natural hitting instincts and made an absolute gem of a hundred to guide the chase home and bring home the trophy!!

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Fantastico 3 who made 2-1 Come-From-Behind Series Win against Sri Lanka Possible!!

India needed to win both the games in Ranchi and Vizag after their meltdown in Pune to the swinging ball on a green pitch. And win they did, in style, securing a come from behind 2-1 victory over the depleted Sri Lankan side in the three match T20I series. This series win was very important because it gives them the bragging rights ahead of the bigger and tougher multi nation events like the Asia Cup T20I's and the World T20 where they might again run into the Lankan side.

There were several architects who made this series win possible for India. Let us look at the Fantastico 3 who made the greatest impact on the Lankans with their skills.

R Ashwin

India did not have a big score to defend at Pune and the pitch was green, aiding the pace bowlers, but that did not stop Ashwin from spinning a web around the Lankan batsmen. He claimed 3-0-13-2 to scare the Lankan's and made sure that they did not stroll to a victory. At Ranchi, on a dry pitch which offered him assistance, Dhoni called on him to open the bowling. He responded in style picking up the dangerous Dilshan in his first over and returned later to claim Shanaka and Perera to return with astounding figures of 4-0-14-3.

But it was at Vizag that he showed his full repertoire after Dhoni decided to bowl first on a batting pitch. Ashwin claimed Dilshan and Dickwella in his first over while snaffling their captain, Chandimal in his second and Gunaratne in his third over to kill the Lankan innings. His figures of 4-1-8-4 were the best ever in T20I's by an Indian bowler. He had a Fantastico series and kept the Lankan batsmen on a tight leash, they failed to read and decipher his variations completely.

Ashwin is a bowler who is at the peak of his powers, able to land the ball in the right areas with flight and guile using the multitude of variations to fool the opposition batsmen. He bowled 11 overs in total taking 9 wickets at a strike rate of only 7 while giving away only 35 runs in the bargain. He was the most impact player for India who played the biggest part in the 2-1 victory.

Shikhar Dhawan

Shikhar Dhawan is probably the weakest link in this Indian batting line, who had a modest T20I record prior to this series but he was the highest run getter in this series and sealed his spot at the top of the order with his big hitting which helped India seize the initiative in both their victories. He blasted a 25 ball 51 at Ranchi to give them a rousing start while Rohit was struggling at the other end while making an unbeaten 46 in 46 balls while chasing the small total in the last T20I.

He made 103 runs at an average of 53 with a strike rate of 126 runs per hundred balls on pitches which were not easy to bat on this playing a very important role in India's series victory.

Ashish Nehra

He had made a dream comeback against Australia last month and had impressed with his swing and wicket taking ability with the new ball playing an important role in India's whitewash over the Australian team. But question marks remained if he would be able to bowl well on the flat Indian pitches and he responded in style by picking up 5 wickets in the three games.

He swung the new ball and provided India with an early breakthrough in every game thus pegging the Lankans back at the very start of their innings.

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Liam Dawson the only New Face in England's 15 Man Squad for the WT20 2016

England announced their 15 man squad that will take part in the ICC World Twenty20 2016 to be held in March-April in India from next month. There were not many surprises in their squad which comprised of just one uncapped player – Liam Dawson, a slow left arm orthodox spinner from Hampshire.

Eoin Morgan will be in charge of a youthful and energetic side, featuring peppy young players, all of whom are known for their fearless brand of cricket, a far cry from the days when England looked lost in the shorter formats of the game. The most notable omission from the squad was Kevin Pietersen, whose inclusion might in any case have been a long shot, considering his squabbles with the English board and Andrew Strauss, once a team-mate of Pietersen and now the Director of England Cricket.

Their batting will be led by the exuberant Jason Roy and Alex Hales who will be well supported by the next big thing in English Cricket, Jos Buttler. Captain Eoin Morgan and Joe Root will take care of the middle order while the hard hitting and high impact all-rounder’s Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali will be expected to provide the finishing touches to the massacre. They also have Sam Billings and James Vince as a back up to these established players and both of them are playing in the PSL which will certainly stand them in good stead with regards to the conditions that can be expected in India.

There is plenty of flair in the bowling department as well even with the omission of Stuart Broad who was a part of their victorious campaign in the West Indies in 2010. The two left arm bowlers who are currently doing very well for them in the ongoing ODI series against the Protea’s, David Willey and Reece Topley are both there in addition to Steve Finn whose pace will give England plenty of room to work with.

The spin bowling department, which was once their Achilles heel, is also brimming with a lot of talent and flair. There is the leg spinner, Adil Rashid, who after a brilliant Big Bash League is continuing his splendid form in the ODI matches against the South Africans. Then there is Moeen Ali, a very under rated off break bowler but perfectly capable of picking up wickets with his guile and variations. Then there is the uncapped Liam Dawson, a slow left arm orthodox bowling all-rounder who has done very well recently with the England Lions team.

It is a very competent 15 man squad that the English have announced with plenty of impact players and they will also have the assistance of Paul Collingwood (the 2010 WT20 winning captain for England) and Mahela Jayawardena (Former Sri Lankan batsmen and captain who was a part of the WT20 winning team in the last edition), both of whom will certainly lend plenty of advice on batting and the Indian conditions in general.

England WT20 2016 Squad: Eoin Morgan (Middlesex) (Captain), Moeen Ali (Worcestershire), Sam Billings (Kent), Jos Buttler (Lancashire), Liam Dawson (Hampshire), Steven Finn (Middlesex), Alex Hales (Nottinghamshire), Chris Jordan (Sussex), Adil Rashid (Yorkshire), Joe Root (Yorkshire), Jason Roy (Surrey), Ben Stokes (Durham), Reece Topley (Hampshire), James Vince (Hampshire), David Willey (Yorkshire)

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.