Folks flock to England-India Test

NORMAN DA COSTA, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:32 AM ET

One usually thinks of rock fans lining up all night to grab the best seats. Never thought cricket fans and, I mean Test enthusiasts, would ever do that. The fervour surrounding the four-match series against India has apparently hit unprecedented heights with Test devotees in England lining up as early as 2 a.m. for tickets. The scramble for ducats is being compared to the hysteria that engrossed England in 2005 when it stunned the Aussies to claim the Ashes.

What has gripped the imagination of the nation this time around is that England has the opportunity of unseating India as the world’s No. 1 Test team following its one-sided 196-run win at Lord’s last week in the first match. Tickets for the five-day matches range from $50 to $150 a day.

Kevin Pietersen, who slammed a double century at Lord’s, said there is a big difference between playing Australia and India.

“There’s a genuine hatred between the English and the Australians so that feel for us in the dressing room in terms of the cricket being played is totally different to playing an Ashes series.

“But India are a fantastic team so it’s going to be a tough series and with the public interest in one way it’s going to be pretty much similar (to 2005) I suppose.”

The packed gallery at Nottingham’s Trent Bridge had lots to cheer on the second day of the second Test Saturday as England roared back into the game, thanks to Stuart Broad who became the 12th English bowler to take a hat trick. The seamer took the wickets of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh and Praveen Kumar as India crashed from 267 for four to 288 all out to give India a slim 67-run lead. Broad, who finished with six wickets for 46 runs, also topped England’s batting with 64.

While all eyes were on India’s Sachin Tendulkar as he hunts for his 100th century, it was his teammate Rahul Dravid who stole the limelight yet again. The Wall, as Dravid is known, crafted a brilliant 117, his second century in two matches, and he thrilled the fans with his breath-taking square drives. Dravid received good support from VVS Laxman (54) and Yuvraj Singh (62) before the tail collapsed.

Dhoni bat a hit

The bat that launched a thunderous six and sent a country of two billion into frenzy has been auctioned for $160,500 US in London. We are talking about Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s prized willow that he used to lead India to the World Cup in April. The auction was to raise funds for Dhoni’s wife’s charitable organization — Sakshi Foundation — that works with under-privileged children in India. The bat was bought by RK Global, an Indian investment group. Dhoni scored an unbeaten 91 and sealed the title with a six off Sri Lankan seamer Nuwan Kulasekara.

Monty under fire

England has no desire to allow Tendulkar to give it the Full Monty. England coach Andy Flower called spinner Monty Panesar, who was not picked for the series against India, “naive” after he was spotted bowling to Tendulkar in the nets at Lord’s last week. “He did bowl to him in the nets before Lord’s and I think that it is quite a naive thing to do,’’ Flower said. Panesar, who has played 39 Tests for England, said he was doing it to improve himself against “a wonderful batsman and person.” Hope Monty picked up a few tips.

Youthful Aussie lineup

A year ago, Nathan Lyon was a groundsman at Canberra. Next month, the 23-year-old off-spinner will be suiting up for Australia during the three-Test series in Sri Lanka. He is one of four uncapped players in the 15-man squad and the media has taken the selection committee to task because it feels he is not ready for Test cricket. Lyon’s selection came out of left field, as he was picked ahead of the experienced duo of Jason Krejza and Steve Smith. The others in line for their first caps are batsman Shaun Marsh and pacemen Trent Copeland and James Pattinson. Also omitted from the team to be led by new captain Michael Clarke are veteran seamers Ben Hilfenhaus and Doug Bollinger. Former skipper Ricky Ponting has retained his place. . . . New Zealander Michael Hesson, widely regarded as one of the finest young coaches, is Kenya’s new coach. The 36-year-old faces an uphill task, taking over a team that’s in turmoil after four of its senior players were fired.

Hansra takes charge

Jimmy Hansra, fresh from leading Canada to victory in the ICC America’s T20 Championship last week, takes over from Ashish Bagai as captain of the national team. His first assignment will be against visiting Afghanistan and Trinidad and Tobago in Toronto in August. Canada’s experimental squad in the T20 tournament in Miami finished with a 5-0 record by drubbing Suriname by 77 runs in its final match. Canada piled on 138 for four with Khushroo Wadia slamming 75 not out. Satsmaranjit Dhindsa captured two for eight runs to restrict Suriname to 77 for seven ... Nitish Kumar took his bat to the Scots in the Under-19 World Cup qualification tournament in Dublin Friday. His 100 and Rayyan Pathan’s unbeaten 42 off 24 balls carried Canada to 212. It was then the turn of Jobanjot Sidhu (four for 39) to restrict Scotland to 206 ... Pandit Basdeo Maharaj, former president of the Maple Leaf Cricket Club and a familiar face in local cricketing circles, passed away last week. International umpire Clyde Duncan, 57, who was undergoing treatment for cancer, has died in Trinidad and Tobago at the age of 57 ... My column on the All-time Dream Test XI last Sunday created quite a stir and, as I expected, most were stunned that West Indies great Garfield Sobers was omitted.


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