Pakistan started day 2 with 3 wickets down and 60 runs ahead. With a day to bury the demons of their 88-all out debacle, Australia clawed back early - Mitchell Johnson removed the dangerous Umar Akmal only 5 overs into the day for just 20, leaving Pakistan at 171/4. Umar Amin didn't last much longer, ducking a Ben Hilfenhaus bouncer but leaving his bat in the air. The ball clipped the exposed bat and gently looped to square leg, where Marcus North took one of the easier catches of his career. Kamran Akmal and Shoaib Malik took Pakistan to lunch (with Mike Hussey dropping a tough, but catchable chance off Kamran Akmal) at 218/5, a lead of 130.
Pakistan's first "home" series since losing hosting rights got off to an interesting start. First there were the Twenty20 victories against Australia, a team that tormented them earlier in the year, then traumatized them in the World Twenty20 semi-final. But how would Pakistan do in Test matches? First came the crushing defeat in the first Test, with Australia sealing a comfortable victory by 150 runs. Things seemed back to normal for Australia and Pakistan, but it's never easy to tell with Pakistan. Australia found this out the hard way on the first day of the second Test.
Even before it started, this third game between Australia and England was set up to be one of the more interesting cricket matches in recent memory (maybe even since the Twenty20 World Cup final between these two teams). After ruling cricket with an iron paw for a decade and a half, Australia had gradually been ceding territory to their old enemy - first losing the Ashes in 2009, then losing the Twenty20 final, and now facing a 3-0 scoreline to England, of all teams. This, the (more or less) same Australian team which humbled the (more or less) same England team 6-1 only a year ago.
Louis Oosthuizen, a South African golfer, just didn't win, he won big, sixteen shots under. He is the champion by seven strokes better than his next challenger Lee Westwood, -- and the man who is still, according to stats, the number one golf in the world, Tiger Woods --- Oosthuizen left him far back in the pack.
Joy in Spain and sorrow in the Netherlands. The Dutch were so disappointed. I wonder if there were enough handkerchiefs to go around? The Dutch should have prepared themselves. Their loss was foretold. The Octopus Paul predicted the Spanish victory. The Dutch only have themselves to blame, if they didn't stock up on tissue and get in a good supply of crying towels.
The question on everybody's mind was, "Can lightning strike twice?" Like the truism, it can happen, but you still don't want to put money on it. England were 1 up in the series, already some way to erasing the humiliation of last year's 6-1 thrashing. Australia have never been used to the taste of defeat, and the strategic placement of this series - after the World Cup final loss to England and before the Ashes - meant that every result would be seen in a larger context. Being one down to England added pressure - and incentive - on Australia to draw blood.
Sri Lankan off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, one of the most controversial and accomplished figures in cricket, announced that the upcoming Test match against India in Galle, Sri Lanka, will be his last. Choosing to concentrate on the shorter formats of the game, Murali will walk away after 133 tests. His figures currently stand at a record 792 wickets, a best-innings return of 9/51, a best-match haul of 16/220, and an average of 22.71, with 66 five-wicket sets and 22 ten-wicket sets.
The figures, impressive, legendary and record-breaking as they are, tell only half the story. He holds the record for the most wickets in international Test & ODI cricket, has taken more five-fors than any other bowler in history, and was called the "best bowler ever" in the 2002 edition of the Wisden Cricketer's Almanac. Wisden also called him "the leading cricketer in the world" in 2006. He's taken a 5-for against every Test-playing country, and has taken 50 or more wickets against all of them - England, Australia, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, South Africa, New Zealand and Zimbabwe. He's the only player to have taken 10 or more wickets in four consecutive games, and he's done that on two occasions. "b(owled) Muralitharan" is the most common dismissal in Test cricket. Matthew Hayden and Kevin Pietersen have singled out Murali as the toughest bowler they've faced.
England and Australia had the honor of kicking off the one-day international phenomenon all the way back in 1971, and the same two teams met again in ODI # 3,000 in the first of a five-game series. As a sequel to the World Twenty20 final, and a preview of the upcoming Ashes series, more was riding on this series than you'd normally expect. And it was Andrew Strauss' men who drew first blood, sealing a comfortable victory over their arch-nemeses thanks to Eoin Morgan's sparkling century, and making some headway in putting to rest the 6-1 drubbing they received from Australia last year.
Amidst the fanfare, hype and drone from vuvuzelas emanating from South Africa now, a smaller tournament was quietly taking place in Sri Lanka. I say "quietly", because despite the baila rhythms and cheers from respectable crowds, you wouldn't have known that cricket's only regional international tournament crowned a new champion. While the eyes of the world were fixed on the action in South Africa, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh tussled for the 2010 Asia Cup. India won what turned out to be a surprisingly one-sided final, while Sri Lanka had to settle with three wins out of four games. Pakistan's games against India and Sri Lanka gave us some of the most exciting cricket we've seen in a while, and Bangladesh didn't fail to disappoint - again.
Sri Lanka - even before the tournament started, the home team came in on a high: semi-finalists at the Twenty20 World Cup, broke new ground by playing the first international Twenty20 in the United States, and won the Micromax Cup in Zimbabwe. The exclusion of Sanath Jayasuria and Ajantha Mendis raised eyebrows, but Tillekeratne Dilshan returning to form was hard to argue with. No big scores were on offer from him, but his quick starts helped chase down a stiff target from Pakistan, and an easy one in the first game against India. Farveez Maharoof's hat-trick and five-for in that first game made him the best bowler in Sri Lanka for all of one game, being reduced to very ordinary status in the final against India. The fielding, which is usually one of Sri Lanka's strengths, also failed, and the latest chapter of the endless saga of Sri Lanka-India games ended with an Indian victory.
It was another India/Sri Lanka encounter, and another final between these two teams, but India reversed the recent trend by thumping the home team to lift the Asia Cup for the fifth time. In what was ultimately a one-sided contest, all of India's guns finally clicked simultaneously, and Sri Lanka were left to rue errant shot selection against a brilliant Indian seam attack, led by Ashish Nehra, who ripped through the upper middle order and never gave Sri Lanka a chance to chase down a challenging Indian total.
Ghana, Black Stars is the only remaining African team left in the tournament and will be the home crowd favorite. As the Associated Press reports, the footballing hopes of a continent are resting on Ghana's shoulders. See the video.
Go Ghana. Win.