Harbhajan back among wkts
No feather in the cap for Indian debutants
Bengal cruise to eight-wicket victory
FCI edge past George 1-0
Ladies’ golf tees off today
Track Trials/ Antequera shines

Mohali, Dec. 3: 
INDIA 24/1

Beware the Englishmen! The young Sardar from Jalandhar is on the prowl once again.

His fifth five-wicket haul — and the first in seven Tests since the historic Australia series early this year when he took 32 wickets in three matches — helped India regain the initiative after England had threatened to nullify the disadvantage of losing the toss.

A home series always brings to the fore the near invincibility of the Indians. Harbhajan’s guiles proved as alien to the visitors as the difference between a patka and a turban.

A wicket off his first ball in the England second innings will earn him the rare distinction of having two Test hattricks. He dismissed Richard Dawson and Matthew Hoggard off consecutive deliveries today to end the visitors’ first innings at 238.

In between, he also completed 50 wickets in the current year.

Nasser Hussain had stressed on discipline to make a mark in the series and once it deserted them after tea, the writing was on the wall. Self-confidence was lacking, they hardly showed any character or grit to hang around, and it seemed like they were overawed by the circumstances.

It would be wrong to suggest that the wicket was turning on the opening day. Rather, it was the bounce and the variations the off-spinner produced that rattled the visitors.

The slide was inexplicable. The last six wickets fell for 14 runs, with Harbhajan taking five.

The first session, however, had left India rueing about their decision to drop the experienced seamers. Debutants Iqbal Siddiqui and Sanjay Bangar made very little impression and only Tinu Yohannan looked suited for this level.

Over the years, Kerala has given the country several sporting heroes and the six feet-plus pacer could be the next in line. He has a high arm action, a smooth run-up and, more importantly, bowls within his limitations.

There were very few loose deliveries as he stuck to the basics of line and length. With the raw pace and the bounce he generates because of his height, he could prove to be menacing.

The away swinger is his main weapon but has to work on the incoming ball to survive in the circuit. Mark Butcher could not keep his bat away from the fourth ball of the day, while Marcus Trescothick judged it wrongly after lunch.

Two vital scalps for the newcomer — the first gave him the confidence, the second ended the threatening second-wicket partnership.

In tailormade conditions for seam and swing bowling, Siddiqui and Bangar were disappointing. They seemed to forget the basics and became easy fodder for Trescothick (66 off 107 balls, 13x4) and Hussain (85 off 147 balls, 13x4). Siddiqui paid the penalty for bowling short with the England skipper cutting and pulling with panache. The selectors would have been forced to do a lot of explaining had Harbhajan not changed the course of the game.

The Trescothick-Hussain association was posing to be intimidating and Sourav Ganguly, unwilling to take any chances, introduced spin in the 15th over. But Kumble struggled with his rhythm once again.

Things seemed to go out of Indians’ hands as runs came at a brisk pace and both batsmen challenged the leg-spinner efficiently. The Indians had started to look rusty on the field — shoulders drooping and no clue to abort the partnership. Hussain and Trescothick’s 125-run stand off 207 balls, though, failed to inspire the later order.

What followed was an insipid display of batsmanship. The chinks were showing after Hussain’s departure as Mark Ramprakash looked circumspect against the spinners, playing only from the crease. Harbhajan had him caught at silly point when he failed to read the one that turned the wrong way.

It was time for the visitors to press the panic button. Andrew Flintoff miscued an attempted drive to point, James Foster failed to tackle a faster one and the rest fell into place.

The crowd went berserk as the boy from their state had chosen his homeground to return to form. His last spell read: 7.3-3-6-5.

The celebrations got slightly sour when Shiv Sundar Das left early, misjudging a Butcher delivery. Deep Dasgupta, in the opener’s role once more, did show a lot of promise and resolve during his 45-minute stay.

The Englishmen wasted no time after stumps. Their plans to tackle Harbhajan had gone awry and it was time to go back to the drawing board and chalk out fresh tactics for the remainder of the series.


Mohali, Dec. 3: 
Three Indians made their Test debut today, but none of them was formally handed over the national cap.

Normally, it is the captain who does the needful as a sign of reward and encouragement to the newcomer. “No one in particular handed me over the national cap this morning. It was left in front of my room along with the kit supplied for the match yesterday,” Tinu Yohannan said after stumps on Day I.

It was learnt that Sanjay Bangar and Iqbal Siddiqui also suffered the same fate. Ironically, Nasser Hussain handed over the England caps to England debutants James Foster and Richard Dawson before play started today.

A spokesperson for the Indian team pleaded ignorance on the issue and refused to comment.

Sources, however, revealed that it happened because of a communication gap between the team management and the sponsors. The entire kit, which contained the cap as well, was given to the players on the eve of the match and, so, no one came forward to formally hand it over to them. None from among the administrators also reminded the captain about the tradition. A bizarre way to welcome a newcomer!

This apart, it was quite a satisfying day for Yohannan. “I was a bit nervous initially. But the wicket in the very first over did settle my nerves,” the medium-pacer from Kochi said.

“It’s a dream for any pacer to open the bowling in his debut game. I learnt about it at the ground this morning,” he informed. Marcus Trescothick was all praise for him. “The hardest among the bowlers I played was Yohannan,” the England opener said.

The son of the legendary long jumper T.C. Yohannan said he had spoken to his father last night once he learnt of his selection.

The message was simple: Do well, don’t try anything out of the ordinary. Tinu did just that and reaped the benefits.

In fact, it was his father who brought Tinu to cricket at the age of 12 despite his doing well in athletics at the state level. “Maybe my knack was more in cricket,” the junior Yohannan said.

His two-wicket effort, however, was overshadowed by one Harbhajan Singh. The off-spinner’s five-wicket haul set in motion the England collapse. Harbhajan, though, didn’t want to describe today’s performance as a return to form. “I bowled well in South Africa too. It’s because of the wickets that I’m getting noticed here,” he said.

He did not want to concede that the SG balls here (compared to the Kookaburra used in South Africa) had played a role in his success.

Harbhajan’s performance has already set the Englishmen thinking. “We’ll have to work out something from the next innings. The problem has to be addressed pretty quickly,” said Hussain.

“We’ll have to fight back and not sit back and let it happen. We have performed well against Muralidharan and Saqlain Mushtaq in the subcontinent in the past. So there’s no reason why we can’t tackle Harbhajan.”


Calcutta, Dec. 3: 
Assam 249 & 206
Bengal 299 & 159/2

Bengal’s eight-wicket victory over Assam on the last day of their East Zone Ranji Trophy match was almost a foregone conclusion, yet it was special for more reasons than one.

Bengal had last beaten Assam three years ago in Guwahati, where Devang Gandhi — who is not playing this game due to a back injury — hit a triple hundred. Today’s triumph was also made memorable by the affable Utpal ‘David’ Chatterjee’s feat of emerging Bengal’s highest wicket-taker in Ranji Trophy.

The dismissal of Nisanta Bordoloi took Utpal past Dilip Doshi’s existing mark of 318 wickets.

In a touching gesture, he was gifted a bat signed by members of both teams. Utpal, however, was his usual humble self. “I never counted how many wickets I had claimed till I reached 290. From there to here is not a tough count,” he said.

A quintessential teamman, he was all praise for his junior partner Sourashish Lahiri, with whom he bowled in tandem for the better part of the match. “Bowling with him helped. He is a much more polished cricketer now. We have great hopes of him,” he said. Incidentally, Lahiri finished with seven wickets in the match, one less than Utpal.

Resuming their second innings this morning on 147 for six, Assam reached 206, helped largely by a fighting 44 from D.J.Gokulakrishnan. The medium-pacer ultimately fell to the guile of Utpal, who took three of the four wickets to fall today.

The Bengal opening pair of Humza Ferozie and Arindam Das, chasing 157 for victory, got off to a staid start on a wicket which had deteriorated considerably. They put on 62 before the Bengal ‘keeper was caught-behind off Ganesh Kumar. Arindam soon followed his opening partner, caught-behind to one from Sukhvinder Singh that rose sharply and kissed his gloves.

The scoring, which had been a trifle slow all this while, picked up with Rohan Gavaskar and Nikhil Haldipur taking advantage of some lethargic fielding. The Assam players, who had looked sharp initially, seemed to throw in the towel after Bengal crossed the 100 mark.

With Gavaskar and Haldipur settling in, the Assam skipper tried a number of bowling changes and shuffled ends but to no avail. Haldipur, in particular, looked more comfortable compared to his short and tentative stay at the crease on Day II. Scoring freely, he notched up his half-century with six nicely struck fours and a six. It was Haldipur who scored the winning runs.

Gavaskar was all praise for his team and said more than the eight points, what counted was getting into the winning habit. On being asked whether his team could have earned a bigger lead, he said: “I am totally satisfied the way we batted on a wicket which deteriorated considerably. Everybody gave 120 per cent.”


Calcutta, Dec. 3: 
FCI beat George Telegraph 1-0 in a Super Division relegation-leg match at the Mohun Bagan ground. Abdur Khan hit home the winner.

State volleyball

Calcutta Port Trust and Natunpukur Association won their matches in the men’s and women’s sections, respectively, in the senior state volleyball meet.

RESULTS: Men’s — CPT bt West Bengal Police 3-0; Women’s — Natunpukur bt K.D.B.S. 3-2, Academy for Sports and Games bt Salkia Association. 3-0, Santoshpur Unnayan Samity bt Naihati AC 3-0, Bijoyee Sangha bt Panpur Milan Samity 3-0.

State basketball

Eastern Railway will meet B.B.Y.S. in the women’s final of the Eveready 21st senior state basketball meet. Eastern Railway beat Blue Jays 56-26 while Rakhi Sangha lost out to B.B.Y.S. 61-51.

Inter-university soccer

Jadavpur University beat Viswabharati University won by virtue of a golden goal in their match at the East Zone inter-university soccer meet today.

RESULTS: Guru Ghasidas bt Kalyani 7-6, Jadavpur bt Vishwabharati (1-0), Ravishankar Shukla bt A.P.S.Rewa 1-0, Veer Kanwar bt M.G.Kashi Vidyapith 2-0, North Orissa bt I.G.Krishi 5-0.

Floodlit tennis

Karina Ahuja, Hina Valechha and Soma Banerjee won their pre-quarter final matches in the ladies open category of the floodlit tennis tournament at the Saturday Club today.

Karan Dhillon, Farid Alam, D.Biswakarma, Sabyasachi Bose and Hiteshwar Singh won their pre-quarter final matches in the boys’ under-18 category.

Sub-junior cricket

Benrec entered the final of the Priyak memorial sub-junior cricket meet defeating Peara Bagan Milan Sangha by 164 runs at the Shantinagar grounds today. Benrec scored 265 for six in their 35 overs but Peara Bagan were all out for just 101 in 27 overs.    

Calcutta, Dec. 3: 
As many as 84 top women golfers from across the country will be participating in the 40th Eastern India Challenge Cup and Open meet, which tees off at the Tollygunge Club course tomorrow.

Defending champion Irina Brar leads the ranks of golfers like Anjali Chopra, Parnita Grewal and Vandana Agarwal among others.

Thirteen-year-old Bhavana Sethi from Bangalore is the youngest participant.

Digboi meet

Sanjay Kumar will defend his title against top golfers of the country in the Rs 8.5 lakh Servo Masters golf tournament, which tees off at the Digboi Golf Links in Assam from December 13.

Mukesh Kumar, Vijay Kumar, Uttam Singh Mundy, Harmeet Kahlon, Firoz Ali and Rahil Gangjee complete a star-studded field at the only 18-hole golf course in Assam.

The four-day meet forms the 12th leg of the Hero Honda golf tour this season.


Calcutta, Dec. 3: 
Antequera was impressive from among the following horses exercised today:

Outer sand track

1,400m: Antequera (Kader) and Altenberg (Bird) in 1-50s; (400m) 28s. Former was 4 ls better.

1,200m: Amber Dancer (Connorton) in 1-28s; (400m) 29s. Former far better. Aklovic (Bird) in 1-31; (400m) 29s. Easy.

800m: Flamebird (Gowli) in 55s; (400m) 28s. Fit. The Archer (Rutherford) in 53s; (400m) 27s. Good. Lady Shirley (Som S.) in 1-0s; (400m) 32s.

600m: Anokato (Connorton) and Secret Adversary (Yasin) in 48s. (400m) 33s. They were level. Arristo (Bird) in 44s. (400m) 29s. Touch of Elegance (Brij S.) in 45s; (400m) 28s. Star Selection (Connorton) and Social Girl (Connorton) in 47s; (400m) 31s. They were level. Addab (Upadhya) and Finders Keepers (V. Jaiswal) in 43s; (400m) 28s. Former was a length better.

Sand track

1,200m: Cupid Arrow (F. Khan) and Cupola (K. Kumar) in 1-28s; (400m) 30s. They were level.

600m: Tajik (P. Alford) in 40s;.(400m) 26s. Heavens Blessing (Shanker) in 38s; (400m) 24s. Moved well.    


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