Cricket: Aussies' gamble pays off

NORMAN DA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:18 PM ET

Michael Clarke is the talk of the cricketing world after his young Australians pulled off an astonishing come-from-behind victory over the West Indies in the first Test at Barbados.

Clarke's decision to declare when his team was still 43 runs behind had experts shaking their heads. However, the innovative Clarke gambled he had the firepower to put the hosts under pressure. And his bowlers delivered. After basking in the glory of that three-wicket victory, the Aussies will be looking to press home their advantage and seal the three-match series when the second Test opens in Port of Spain, Trinidad, Sunday.

Not only did Clarke's team become the first Australian team in the game's 135-year history to win a Test after declaring when behind, they may have also delivered a demoralizing blow to the confidence of Darren Sammy's Windies.

In this incredible encounter, West Indies declared at 449 for nine and were then bundled out for 148. The visitors scored 406 for nine and 192 for seven. It was Australia's tail that stung the home team as it was on the ropes at 285 for eight, but man-of-the-match Ryan Harris (68 not out) and No. 11 batsman Nathan Lyon (40 not out) took the score to 406.

With the picturesque Port of Spain pitch expected to be spin friendly, the Aussies are contemplating dropping a member of their vaunted pace attack of Peter Siddle, Hilfenhaus and Harris to field two spinners -- Lyon and Michael Beer. If Australia takes this route it will mark the first time in four years it will field two spinners in the same match.

Sammy faces a similar dilemma. He has three spinners in Shane Shillingford, Devendra Bishoo and Narsingh Deonarine that he can call on, but who would he drop out of his batting lineup that isn't as solid and dependable? The Windies will eventually likely go with two by bringing in off-spinner Shillingford for Bishoo while it is almost certain Ravi Rampaul will return in place of fellow-speedster Fidel Edwards.

SWIPE AT DHONI

India's former captain Mohammad Azharuddin is full of praise of Mahendra Singh Dhoni's skills when it comes to the two shorter versions of the game. However, in the same breath, he takes an uncomplimentary swipe at Dhoni's leadership of the five-day game.

"He (Dhoni) has always been a very good captain in ODIs and Twenty20s but in Test cricket, he lacks a bit of intelligence. Maybe when it comes to taking instant on-field decisions," Azharuddin told the Press Trust of India. Dhoni led India to the World Cup a year ago, but then the wheels came off with two embarrassing Test defeats by England and Australia . . . Yuvraj Singh, unanimously voted player of the World Cup tournament last year, has returned to India following cancer treatment in the U.S. "I want to see the team India logo on my cap again," said the 30-year-old all-rounder. "It will be a big achievement if I can play for India again, but I can't say when I will return to the field." He was operated on for a malignant growth between his lungs.

ENGLAND 'JEALOUS OF IPL'

The Indian Premier League is attracting huge television ratings in cricket playing nations, including Canada. But there is little or no interest in the United Kingdom. Delhi Daredevils's Kevin Pietersen claims "it's down to a lot of jealousy." Pietersen, who is paid $750,000, is one of only two England stars selected to play in the money-spinning tournament, the other being Eoin Morgan. "It's down to a lot of jealousy I think, which is sad.'' Pietersen ruffled some Aussie feathers as well. "There are world-class players who are sitting in England wanting to play in the IPL while you've got second-rate Australians getting gigs.'' . . . Fast bowler Tim Bresnan, who Pietersen felt should be in the IPL, spent some harrowing hours a day before his wedding in the Maldives. "Just sat around reception with a life jacket on waiting for the tsunami to hit. Not ideal the day before my wedding," Bresnan tweeted The Daily Mirror in England. The warning came after an earthquake hit Indonesia, but the Maldives were spared any damage.

'JOBS FOR THE BOYS'

The British Broadcast Corporation (BBC) stirred a hornet's nest when it hired former England captain and now cricket broadcaster Michael Vaughan to cover the U.S. Masters golf tournament. Fans accused the respected broadcaster for creating "jobs for the boys."

The London Sun quoted one of the fans' tweet: "Painful embarrassment for clueless BBC Sport." Another fan asked: "Can you not get even vaguely professional people to interview top world golfers?" BBC's response: "Michael plays golf and knows it well."

MOORTHY NEW BOSS

Cricket Canada has a new man at the helm. Toronto's Ravin Moorthy takes over from Ranjit Saini, while Calvin Clarke, the knowledgeable and hard-working secretary, is back for another term. "I would like to thank the board of directors for showing their confidence in me to lead Cricket Canada through this important period of growth and development,'' said Moorthy . . . Canada settled for a 1-1 tie against Namibia in the ICC World Cricket League series at Windhoek. Canada won the first game behind a solid 49 from Jimmy Hansra and Durand Soraine's three for 25. In the second, skipper Rizwan Cheema recorded his best-ever bowling figures by taking six for 34 in Namibia's 154. But Cheema's effort was all in vain as Canada was shot out for 133.

U.S. ON A STICKY WICKET

The USA Cricket Association is in such disarray that the International Cricket Council has stopped funding it. The ICC says that USACA was cut off because "it did not meet the membership criteria." As a result of not holding its AGM in the past year the U.S. forfeited a grant of $500,000. Unconfirmed reports say that infighting between rival associations for control of the parent body has resulted in $500,000 in legal fees in the last two years. Despite this disgraceful scenario, ICC has announced New Zealand will travel to the U.S. to take on the West Indies in two Twenty20 matches in Miami in June prior to the Kiwis moving on to the West Indies.

normandacosta@hotmail.com


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