Harbhajan rearguard steers India to victory
Focus on snubbed ECB
We were never in crisis: Sourav
Tolly floor Mahindra
Mohun Bagan look to avenge loss
Bagan move into last four
Ladies golf meet begins today
Our worst match this season: Rao
HTA overcome Indal
BHA League

New Delhi, March 4: 
Zimbabwe 329 & 146
India 354 & 126/6
MoM: Harbhajan
MoS: Kumble

It almost became darkness at noon for India, when the last recognised batsman, Rahul Dravid edged Raymond Price to the safe hands of Andy Flower at first slip. The canter to victory had been halted and the tension all over the ground was palpable. The odds on an Indian victory had suddenly plummeted. At 105 for six, with Virender Sehwag unable to bat, a crisis loomed large.

This was India’s fourth series win on-the-trot at home.

However, history repeated itself. About a year back, in the vital third Test against Australia in Chennai, India were struggling, having lost eight wickets chasing a target of a little over 150 for the match.

The plucky Harbhajan Singh was the saviour on that memorable day (March 22) with wicketkeeper Sameer Dighe at the other end.

Today, another Mumbai-based player, Sanjay Bangar (though he represents Railways) was Harbhajan’s partner during the crucial moments. Bangar, in just his third Test match played the sheet-anchor role, while Harbhajan went for the runs.

Harbhajan’s batting prowess was evident in that Chennai game when he confidently faced Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne. Oozing with confidence, after his match haul of eight for 132, the youngster from Jalandhar did a Javed Miandad and hit the winning runs with a straight six over long on.

Streak was trying to bowl yorkers but this delivery ended up being a half-volley. Two balls earlier, Harbhajan had struck Streak for a four, bringing India to 120 for six and the doorstep of victory.

Credit should be given to Zimbabwe, for their self-belief despite a limited attack. The rub of the green also did not go their way. At 108 for six, a Streak delivery struck Harbhajan on the pads. There was a vociferous appeal for leg before, but Sri Lankan umpire Asoka d’Silva, who had been quite liberal in doling out leg before decisions, turned this one down.

To rub salt into Zimbabwe’s wounds, the ball ricocheted off Harbhajan’s pads and darted to the third man fence for four leg byes. Bangar, who also kept a cool head, indicated to the umpires that India should be credited with four leg byes.

Two overs later, Harbhajan hit a Streak delivery to the covers and the batsmen scampered for a single. Realising the ball had gone straight to a fielder both hurtled back to their respective creases.

But Travis Friend, the fielder, threw at the non-striker’s end. However, the usually accurate Friend missed the stumps and gifted four overthrows to India. These two lucky boundaries, eased the pressure considerably and then came Harbhajan’s glorious six off Streak.

In the morning, a nail-biting finish hardly seemed likely. India started briskly, with Sachin Tendulkar carting Grant Flower for 12 runs in the very first over, hitting two boundaries.

This Sachin onslaught eased the pressure and denied Zimbabwe their hope of an early breakthrough. Sachin exorcised the ghosts of his first innings crawl and was at his attacking best today. Grant Flower dropped short and Sachin struck a mighty six over mid-wicket. He reached his 42 with seven fours and a six off just 52 balls.

However with India just 29 runs short of victory, Sachin fell to his nemesis, Raymond Price. For the fourth successive innings the little master was out to a left arm spinner. In the third Test versus England at Bangalore, Ashley Giles had Sachin stumped ten short of his century. Since then the jinx has continued.

The lanky Price has nabbed him thrice in the current series. He had him caught by Andy Flower in the Nagpur Test and twice got him out trapped leg before in this match with deliveries that kept low and skidded through. Ten runs later, the stocky Shiv Sunder Das got a dubious decision.

He was declared leg before to a Streak delivery which seemed to angle away from the leg stump. Das had batted sensibly and straight for over two hours but was the victim of another Asoka D’Silva error of judgement.

Rahul Dravid who scored an unbeaten 200 the last time Zimbabwe played India in Delhi, did not get to double figures in either innings this time. He edged Price to Andy Flower at first slip.

With the best batsmen dismissed Zimbabwe scented an improbable victory but Man of the Match Harbhajan and Bangar enabled India win by four wickets and wrap up the series 2-0.


Calcutta, March 4: 

ICC’s Supplementary Panel of Referees

Having been snubbed once, it is to be seen whether the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) continues to keep faith in the controversial Mike Denness.

Though the ECB nominated Denness for the ICC’s on-contract Elite Panel of Match Referees, Denness hasn’t found a place in the chosen-five (Chief Referee Ranjan Madugalle, Clive Lloyd, Gundappa Vishwanath, Wasim Raja and Mike Procter).

However, according to The Telegraph’s sources, the ICC also plans a “Supplementary Panel” of Match Referees, which will have one representative from each of the ten Test-playing nations. It’s here that the ECB may again nominate Denness, whose action in Port Elizabeth has already forced a divide within the ICC.

The Supplementary Panel, one understands, will be in place purely as a backup—just in case circumstances are such that none of the (full-time) Elite Panel Match Referees is in a position to officiate in a series/tournament. That being so, the ICC will then assign somebody from this Supplementary Panel.

Denness, of course, is on the ICC’s existing 19-member list of Match Referees—a line-up which will be disbanded April 1 onwards, when the Elite Panel takes charge.

Incidentally, not only did Denness not make the Elite Panel, sources are convinced he didn’t clear even the “preliminary screening” by Madugalle. The final selection by ICC Chief Executive Malcolm Speed and Sunil Gavaskar (chairman of the Cricket Committee, Playing) was, as is known, made on the recommendations of the former Sri Lankan captain.

Madugalle’s shortlist was 12-strong.


New Delhi, March 4: 
India skipper Sourav Ganguly denied his team was ever in a crisis while chasing a paltry 122 for victory versus Zimbabwe today.

Speaking to the media after a series-clinching four-wicket win in the second Test, he said, “Though it looked like a crisis, it was not. We probably got a few rough decisions this morning, one yesterday too. They added a bit to it.”

Sourav admitted “it is always difficult to bat on the fifth day, especially as we were one batsman short (with Virender Sehwag injured). We have to work on our batting order for the one-day series’

Commenting on India’s by-now customary hiccups before a win, Sourav said: “We have got used to that. We knew it won’t be easy but I was confident that just one partnership, in this case between Sachin and Das, would see us through.”

About future plans, Sourav said: “We are looking forward to winning overseas. The West Indies tour is coming up and it will be crucial.”

On his return to form with a century, Sourav added, “it is good to get a hundred when the team needs it most, and it gives confidence ahead of a tough series (against the West Indies).”

Coach John Wright said: “It is good to win 2-0 and develop the winning habit.” He also praised Zimbabwe for their bold challenge and excellent attitude.

About India’s performance he said, “the boys did well yesterday, but we knew chasing will be challenging in the fourth innings. It was good that we managed to win despite losing the toss.”

Stuart Carlisle, the Zimbabwe skipper said: “We showed great character to fight after being 0-1 down in the series.”

Anil Kumble, the Man of the Series for his 16-wicket haul in the series, admitted it was difficult to get runs on a crumbling wicket. He felt that the turning point of the match was the early dismissal of Andy Flower and “restricting them under 150 in the second innings”

Kumble who finished with seven for 146 in this Test, said: “It was satisfying to be among the wickets after a five-month lay-off due to injury.”

He was all praise for Harbhajan Singh. “Bowlers work well in tandem and it was good to have Harbhajan at the other end.”

On Deep Dasgupta’s keeping, he said: “Dasgupta works hard and it will be harsh to judge him by the performance on this wicket. It is not easy to keep wickets on such turning tracks. You miss some chances and you get some.”

With a record tally of 38 wickets from four Tests at the Kotla, Kumble has happy memories of this venue. He said: “You always feel good on entering some grounds and the Kotla is one of them.


Calcutta, March 4: 

The story has often diverted from the script in the Tata National Football League and Tollygunge Agragami today added another chapter to the growing tale of uncertainties.

Sadly, not many were present at the Salt Lake Stadium to witness Mahindra United’s fall from grace and the title-aspirants from Mumbai were distinctly lucky to get away with a 0-1 defeat. The 14th-round anti-climax left Mahindra on 23 points and Tollygunge on 18.

True, Mahindra missed a clutch of frontliners but there was a fair sprinkling of international experience in S. Venkatesh, Virender Singh and Raman Vijayan apart from three foreigners. What they did miss, clearly, was a navigator and looked quite like a well-armed battleship which didn’t know when and where to shoot.

It was one-way traffic once Tollygunge soaked up Mahindra’s early pressure and the unheralded herd of players under new coach Aloke Mukherjee missed a golden chance to further embarrass one of the most expensive teams in the country.

Akim Abolanle, with his eighth goal in the competition, once again emerged hero after his 89th-minute strike. But this Nigerian let go a serious chance of posting back-to-back hattricks after achieving the feat in the previous match against HAL.

Actually, it seemed Tollygunge would not glean full points despite outplaying their illustrious opponents and as it happens so often, a late substitution did the trick. After replacing Mehtab Hussain in the 80th minute, Adeola Adeyeri managed that final pass which found Akim in the open just outside the box. Akim kept his cool and beat the ‘keeper with a strong, low left-footer.

Before this, Akim had come close on several occasions but kept missing the mark somehow or the other. There was this pass from Moses Owira in the 15th minute, which he blasted away, a delightful through from Mehtab in the 34th that he failed to keep on target. He also forced a great save from Virender minutes after that. On most occasions, Akim showed a good first touch, which put him in great positions, but the accuracy was missing.

Tollygunge won the battle in the midfield by snatching and blocking almost everything there and also succeeded in bottling up the opportunistic Raman. To their advantage, Mahindra used Nigerians Bala Usman and Austin Okolo from the deep, which meant the deep defenders had less to contend with.

Mahindra’s only proper chance came completely against the run of play in the 45th minute when Raman got hold of a ball from the deep just outside the penalty box. With the ‘keeper rushing out to narrow down the angle, Raman flicked it towards the goal but it was a feeble attempt and a retreating Satish Bharti kicked the ball out.

There was little mobility in the Mahindra midfield and Okolo and Usman looked quite clueless there. Venkatesh was energetic to begin with but his enterprise died down gradually.

Central blockers Tapan Ghosh and Isa Musa were error-prone and that helped Tollygunge manage several looks at the goal, especially in the first half.

To their credit, Mahindra slowed down proceedings in the second half and partly succeeded in blocking the channels towards the goal. It looked as if they would hold fort and escape with a point but in the end, they had to concede. It was late justice, but justice nonetheless.


TOLLYGUNGE AGRAGAMI: Sandip Nandy; Amitava Chanda, Satish Bharti, Subhashish Roy Chowdhury, Reaz-ul Mustafa; Mehtab Hussain (Adeola Adeyeri, 80), Sandip Das, Moses Owira, Sashthi Duley (Khemtang Paite, 87); Ashim Biswas, Akim Abolanle.

MAHINDRA UNITED: Virender Singh; Biby Thomas, M. Suresh, Isa Musa, Tapan Ghosh; S. Venkatesh, Austin Okolo, Naushad Pari (Khalid Jamil, 77), Bala Usman; Avishek Yadav (Shabir Ali Mondal, 60), Raman Vijayan.

Referee: M.K. Roy (Assam).


Calcutta. March 4: 
Tollygunge Agragami have been, of late, demolishing a great many reputations. The last on their list have been HAL who had themselves registered victories over top clubs of the country in the early stages of the Tata National Football League. After their encounter with Tollygunge, though, HAL may have developed respect for the Maidan teams, and that could work to Mohun Bagan’s favour when the two clash here tomorrow.

However, Mohun Bagan coach Subrata Bhattacharya is sure that his team will have its hands full, handling the rather boisterous and effervescent Kyrgyzstan players in the HAL ranks. Raja Baliev Nurlan, Mulisa Jimmy and Daniar Abdriyamov created a good deal of flutter in rival ranks before they came across Tollygunge and Akeem’s hattrick.

That, in effect, also means that the two Sunil Kumars and Parameswaran, mainly responsible for guarding the HAL citadel, are susceptible to crack under pressure, especially from the likes of R.C. Prakash and Jose Ramirez Barreto. “We will decide tomorrow how we will tackle them, but there is no question of any level of complacency,” said the coach.

Mohun Bagan are now on 22 points from 13 matches, while HAL have 21 points from as many matches. Bagan lost 1-3 to HAL in the first leg, Nuirlan having scored two and Rajendra Prasad the other, while Barreto reduced the margin.

This time, on home turf, Bagan look for a decent-sized revenge.


Calcutta, March 4: 
Mohun Bagan beat Tapan Memorial by six wickets to enter the CAB knockout meet semi-finals today.

Utpal Chatterjee took four for 12 to bundle out Tapan Memorial for 117 and Mohun Bagan reached the target with 14.1 overs to spare. Utpal was not out on 23.

Mohun Bagan will meet Netaji Subhas Institute for a place in the final. The other semi-final pits East Bengal against Wari.

BRIEF SCORES: Tapan Memorial 117 (Ajoy Das 41; Utpal Chatterjee 4/12, Shib Shankar Pal 2/26). Mohun Bagan 118/4 in 30.5 overs (Subhamoy Das 29, Utpal Chatterjee 23 n.o.). Mohun Bagan won by 6 wkts.

J.C. Mukherjee meet

Shyambazar bowled out Rajasthan for 229 and reached 43 for two at stumps on Day I of their two-day J.C. Mukherjee Trophy tie.

BRIEF SCORES: Rajasthan 229 (Sanjay Agarwal 73, Sayan Dey 50; Anirban Chatterjee 4/52, Rupak Banerjee 3/69). Shyambazar 43/2.

IFA cuts free tickets

The IFA is planning to abolish a section of free tickets for exhibition matches at Salt Lake Stadium. The current practice is distributing 6,000 complementary tickets apart from 10,000 free tickets to SOS and donor members. Of the 6,000, half goes to the state government.

At its governing body meeting today, the IFA discussed doing away with these 6,000 tickets with effect from the upcoming season. SOS and donor members will continue to get their share of free tickets.

The IFA will now meet government officials before implementing this.


Calcutta, March 4: 
The 12th Taj Trophy ladies golf meet will be held over the Tollygunge Club course from tomorrow to Thursday.

The meet, being organised by the Tollygunge Club Ladies’ Golf Union, is a 54-hole strokeplay event with the maximum handicap allowable being 29.

Invitation kabaddi

Japan KF today beat Howrah District KA 28-21 in the West Bengal Kabaddi Association’s golden jubilee women’s invitation meet at the association court. The event has been showcasing the Japanese’s interest in the rather desi sport, and the youngsters from the Orient shwoed fine agility and tenacity in their win over a team that can hardly be called weak.

The meet, in league format, ends Thursday evening.


Calcutta, March 4: 
The City of Joy proved to be a sad one for Mahindra United. Having landed here with high hopes of collecting six points from two games, they are returning to Mumbai with none.

There was something to take home from the 1-2 setback against East Bengal, but their cup of woes was overflowing after today’s pathetic performance against Tollygunge Agragami. Coach Harish Rao was the first to admit that.

“Our worst match this season, without doubt,” Rao’s confession summed it up. He did say the absence of a number of regular players contributed to the defeat but hastened to add that was no excuse.

Asked whether these losses would seriously dent Mahindra’s chances of claiming their maiden NFL title, Rao avoided a direct answer. “Our focus has always been on winning home matches. We knew away games would be tough and that’s exactly how it’s been. But we are still close to the top and many matches remain.” He added his team was fortunate to avoid a heavier defeat.

Amid jubilation in the Tollygunge camp, coach Aloke Mukherjee said his team’s plan was to defuse Mahindra’s supply line and keep a sweeper just behind the deep defender. “It worked, their strikers hardly got anything,” said Aloke.

He added that Tollygunge’s commendable performance improved the chances of East Bengal and Mohun Bagan. “The teams we are beating are title-contenders. The Big Two must be delighted that we are snatching points from them.”

About today’s match, Aloke said he started thinking of winning once his team took charge after Mahindra’s early thrust. “Even though we missed a few sitters, I always felt we would score.”


Calcutta, March 4: 
HTA, M.N. Dastur, Berger, O&M and The Telegraph posted wins in the losers’ plate quarter finals of The Telegraph Merchants’ Cup badminton meet at Saturday Club today.

HTA beat Indal 21-10, 21-10, M.N. Dastur defeated Infar 21-5, 21-8, Berger beat Eveready 21-11, 19-21, 21-13, while O&M got the better of Wockhardt 21-3, 14-21, 21-10. The Telegraph beat PricewaterhouseCoopers 8-21, 21-5, 21-12.


Calcutta, March 4: 
Hardip Singh scored in Punjab AC’s 1-0 win over Police AC in a group B tie of the BHA league today. West Bengal Police defeated Belgachia United 2-1 with goals from Abhijit Dey and Sanjib Gurung. Amal Das scored for Belgachia.

In second division action, Tapan Saha scored in Young Society’s 1-0 win over Real Sports. The match between Calcutta Wanderers and Kalyangarh HTC ended 1-1.


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