Gritty Zimbabwe inch closer to �first target�
Grant action is perfect: Steve Dunne
Azhar treatment special: Madhavan
Digboi golf
Rebels firm on staying away
Kapoor leads with six-under
Single warm-up event for Paes

Nagpur, Nov. 27: 
India 609//6 decl.
Zimbabwe 359/6

The fears of an empty stadium during the Vidarbha bandh today never came true. If that was a welcome relief, the waning possibility of an outcome spread disappointment among the few thousands that turned up.

The wicket has shown very little signs of wear and tear after the third day, making it increasingly difficult for the bowlers to grab the initiative. A few dropped chances also did not help India�s cause.

Zimbabwe are only 51 runs away from avoiding the follow-on, and with Grant Flower having regained his touch, the visitors are confident of crossing the first hurdle. �A little bit of patient approach will be of great help,� Heath Streak said after the match.

Sourav Ganguly, troubled by a sore back � a result of his standing in the slips right through the day � looked jaded and was only hoping a new dawn would bring some luck to his side. The pain had led to his staying in the cool confines of the dressing room for an hour after tea. John Wright was, however, of the opinion that it was not of much concern.

The Indian bowling was inconsistent with Zaheer Khan, Ajit Agarkar and Sarandeep Singh looking good only in patches. The Punjab off-spinner bowled encouragingly against the left-handers, pitching the ball just short of that driving length. His line was probing as he bowled within his limitations.

While Jawagal Srinath was wayward, Zaheer made life difficult for the batsmen with his pace and bounce.

The aggression coupled with his yorkers, which he used sparingly, made it difficult to get him away. Andy Flower luckily survived a snorter which took the handle of his bat before flying over the slip cordon.

Used in short spells, Zaheer finally earned his reward with the second new ball when Vijay Dahiya dived full length to his left to bring off a brilliant catch to dismiss Dirk Viljoen. The dismissal ended a flourishing 62-run sixth wicket stand.

But the most impressive of the lot was Agarkar. He utilized his capacity to reverse swing the old ball, an aspect he seems to have mastered with much precision. The line was unfailing with the batsmen playing and missing too often. Had he not suffered the misfortune of witnessing two catches off his bowling go awry, he would have ended up with more impressive figures.

A superb dipping yorker removed Stuart Carlisle (51) in the morning when his partnership with Guy Whittall was adding to the frustration of the Indians. In trying to dig it out, he played it back to the bowler. The pair had added 101 runs for the second wicket.

Whittal (84 off 164 balls, 12x4) showed no signs of discomfiture in his new role as he stroked the ball with great aplomb and picked the gaps with consummate ease. But Sarandeep�s length proved a matter of much concern for Alistair Campbell.

Sarandeep was finally rewarded for his efforts after lunch. Campbell failed to keep down the ball and Sadagopan Ramesh, after spilling a chance in the earlier over, held onto the catch at silly point to give the offie his maiden wicket in Test cricket.

Sarandeep then accounted for Whittal. The bat-pad snick landed at backward short-leg.

But the most gripping part of the contest was when the Flower brothers got together. The pair added 96 runs for the fifth wicket but the 108-minute stay almost left the Indians clueless. Using their feet against the spinners, they blunted the attack. Sunil Joshi and Sarandeep were hoisted for two huge sixes. Until Andy Flower (55 off 92 balls, 4x4, 2x6) slashed at Agarkar outside the off-stump, it seemed the Indians were left with no chance.

Grant finally ended his run drought when it mattered most. His concentration and patience was awesome and he was determined not to play a loose shot during his 220 minute stay.

Showing the right attitude to score runs on this wicket, he was briefly troubled by Agarkar but the others hardly made an impression. Three huge sixes bear enough evidence to the authority he enjoyed. Nine runs away from his sixth century, he holds the key to Zimbabwe not gifting the Test away to India.    

Nagpur, Nov. 27: 
Barry Jarman, Match Referee for the ongoing India-Zimbabwe series, may have issued a written warning to left-arm spinner Grant Flower during the New Delhi Test questioning the legality of some of his deliveries, but it is unlikely the matter will be reported to the International Cricket Council.

According to umpire Steve Dunne, the ICC�s �neutral� doing duty here, Flower�s action is �perfect�.

�As far as we (Dunne and A.V. Jayaprakash) are concerned, his action is legitimate. We�ve arrived at the decision after seeing him in the middle and through slow motion replays taken from various angles,� Dunne told The Telegraph last evening.

Flower was no-balled by Australian umpire Darrel Hair during the series versus New Zealand in September.

According to section 24 (3) of the Laws of Cricket, the definition of a fair delivery is: �A ball is fairly delivered in respect of the arm if, once the bowler�s arm has reached the level of the shoulder in the delivery swing, the elbow joint is not straightened partially or completely from that point until the ball has left the hand. This definition shall not debar a bowler from flexing or rotating the wrist in the delivery swing.�

�If you look at Grant�s action by the naked eye, you will be silly not to say that there is something wrong. So what we have done is had a close look and satisfied ourselves that it is okay. I don�t think the opposition can raise any further objection,� the New Zealand umpire said.

�I�ve got to say that he has a different sort of action but it�s before it gets to the horizontal. And from the time it gets to the horizontal, it�s straight. And when it comes over, it remains straight and that comprises what the law says,� he explained.

The viewing of his action was done by Jarman along with the two umpires for the second Test before the match got underway.

�I had a look in Sharjah three weeks ago during the Coca-Cola triangular series. I had some more look since I have been here and nothing has changed. We�ve thus come to the conclusion that it�s perfect,� Dunne clarified.

Some good news for the visitors at last.    

Calcutta, Nov. 27: 
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) commissioner, K.Madhavan, has been particularly severe (in his report) on Mohammed Azharuddin, and hasn�t sought to camouflage that.

A copy of the report, which is with The Telegraph, has the following: �I have to necessarily distinguish the case of Azhar from the case of others... A leader has to lead by example. While this is the modern theory in management, this was well-known to our ancestors also...�

Azhar, in fact, didn�t impress Madhavan. This is evident from this one observation: �... From this single but significant denial itself, it is clear that Azhar has been legally advised to deny before me most of what appeared in his statement recorded by the CBI.�

Actually, there�s lots in Madhavan�s report. For now, though, we will focus only on his player/physio-specific assessment.

AJAY SHARMA: (i) I agree with the CBI that there is no evidence of any role by him in fixing matches in which he had played.

(ii) I agree with the CBI that he had close contacts and nexus with bookies/punters M.K. Gupta and Ajay Gupta and his associates and acted as a conduit between players and the betting syndicates in fixing matches.

(iii) Irrespective of the allegations established as above, he is guilty also of unbecoming conduct amounting to misconduct as a national level player in as much as he maintained frequent and undesirable contacts with bookies/punters.

MANOJ PRABHAKAR: (i) There is no evidence of any role by him in match fixing.

(ii) I agree with CBI that he had close contacts and nexus with various bookies/punters.

(iii) Irrespective of the allegations established as at (ii) above, he is guilty of unbecoming conduct as a national level player in as much as he maintained frequent contacts with bookies/punters.

MOHD AZHARUDDIN: (i) He had close contact and nexus with bookies/punters like M.K. Gupta, Ajay Gupta, Gyan Gupta and Ameesh Gupta etc. and was involved in match fixing.

(ii) He is guilty of unbecoming conduct and misconduct as a national level player in maintaining such frequent contacts with bookies/punters.

(iii) In his case the misconduct is aggravated, as he was the Captain of the Indian team for long and let down the country and cricket loving public in a despicable manner.

AJAY JADEJA: (i) He had very close undesirable contacts and objectionable nexus with various bookies/punters.

(ii) He is guilty of unbecoming conduct and misconduct as a national level player on account of his maintaining such frequent contacts as set out above with bookies/punters.

NAYAN MONGIA: The charge against him is not proved and he is exonerated.

Dr ALI IRANI: (i) He acted as a conduit between Mohd Azharuddin and the betting syndicate, including in accepting payments of large amounts of cash on behalf of Azharuddin.

(ii) He had close contacts with bookies/punters like M. K. Gupta and Anil Steel in this regard.

(iii) Irrespective of the allegations established as above, he is also guilty of unbecoming conduct as the physiotherapist of the Indian team for maintaining frequent contacts with bookies/punters.    

Calcutta, Nov. 27: 
As a golfer trudges along the green with his caddie, there is a possibility that they�ll confront a leopard or an elephant. When 76 professionals tee off for the Servo Masters title at Digboi Club Golf Links on December 5, there will be more than birdies and eagles participants have to look for. The stars are holder Rohtas Singh, Mukesh Kumar, Vijay Kumar, Shiv Prakash, S.S.P. Chowrasia and Feroz Ali.

Race on Brahmaputra

As part of the centenary celebrations of the commissioning of Digboi refinery, a boat race on the Brahmaputra will be held in January.    

Calcutta, Nov. 27: 
The Indian Premier Football Association (IPFA), Indian soccer�s rebel body, remains firm in its decision to boycott the National Football League (NFL), scheduled to begin December 10 as announced by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) yesterday.

�We cannot possibly participate in the NFL. The IPFA is firm that none of its players will participate in any matches organised by the AIFF which does not comply with the requests placed by the IPFA,� the rebel body�s president, Vijay Mallya, said in a statement issued today.

Terming the decision to start the NFL on December 10 �wrong�, Mallya said it contradicted an earlier agreement that that the NFL would be held after the December 16 AIFF elections.

The IPFA, however, said the nine clubs will take part in the NFL once a formal MoU, incorporating its demands, is signed.

Representatives of the rebel clubs are scheduled to meet in New Delhi on December 2 and the meeting assumes significance following AIFF�s downright rejection of IPFA�s demands and subsequent announcement that the NFL would start on December 10.

Anjan Mitra, Mohun Bagan secretary and IPFA vice-president, however, said that in case all heads of the renegade clubs are not able to make it to Delhi on that day, this meeting could take the sahape of a tele-conference. The safety valve

Mitra, who is also an invitee to the AIFF emergency meeting on December 5, a day before the parent body is slated to release the new NFL schedule, seemes to have also devised a sort of alternative. He hinted that this meeting could also be a catalyst in reaching a truce between the warring bodies, paving the way for participation of IPFA member clubs in the league.

�In essence, we will not take part in NFL till the AIFF agrees on signing a MoU with us,� Mitra said today. He added that the IPFA members will conduct matches �without disturbing the AIFF�.

However, according to sources, the AIFF has been successful in roping in some of the national clubs, who had earlier pledged to stand by the rebel organisation. This development has put the IPFA in a slightly difficult position over defying the AIFF out and out and run a parallel league.

Certain soft attitudes on the side can also be accentuated by the fact that the IPFA is worried about the legal implications of a rebel movement. �We are united and without us, the AIFF cannot run the league,� Mitra said, but hastened to add: �We are keeping all options open and are still hopeful that everything will come to a mutual understanding.�    

Calcutta, Nov. 27: 
S.K. Kapoor, 49, excelled on the penultimate day of the Wills Cup first round action with a six-under 64.

Kapoor finished a stroke ahead of 65-year-old Raj Kumar Burman who returned an admirable five-under 65. In joint third place were Govind Atwal and Arun Nandy (67 each). The second round will be held from Wednesday.

Floodlit tennis

Abdesh Roy upset seventh seed Varun Oberoi in three sets in the boys� under-18 event of the Saturday Club floodlit meet today. The other ranked players, including top two seeds Manoj Sewa and Rupesh Roy, won without conceding a game. Sabyasachi Bose, top seed in boys� under-14, beat Utsav Goswami 6-1, 6-0 to reach the quarters.

Gymkhana best

Calcutta Gymkhana won the BTA inter-club tennis league beating South Club 2-1 in the final today. RESULTS: Gymkhana bt South Club 2-1 (Rana Banerjee & Jagjeet Gandhi bt H.L. Bhandari & Satyajit Burman 7-6, 7-5; Amiya Bhattacharya & Dilip Kumar bt Somnath Bose & A.C. Khan 6-3, 7-6; Ajay Das & lost 0-6, 0-6 to Enrico Piperno & Sayandeb Chakrabarty).

Dhawan excels

Maj. Sandeep Dhawan of Assam Rifles won gold in the NEC showjumping Puissance (advance grade) astride Master. He also bagged a silver in the NEC showjumping intermediate grade, which was won by Nek Ram astride Hercules.

The show jumping normal (sub-juniors) event was won by Amandeep Singh on Shenshah.    

Calcutta, Nov. 27: 
Leander Paes will have no more than a solitary event to warm up for the Gold Flake World Doubles Championship. Out of action for three weeks, Paes plans to play a Challenger in Costa Rica next week before flying to Bangalore for the season-ending world meet (December 13-17).

Paes hasn�t played competitive tennis since injuring his knee at the Charleroi Challenger early this month. He is getting himself treated in Orlando and, according to his father, hasn�t yet resumed practice.

�He doesn�t want to risk a bigger injury and thus jeopardise his chances of playing next year,� Dr Vece Paes said.

Paes and Bhupathi, who have played just five tournaments together this year, are placed 55th in the team rankings and nowhere near direct qualification for the world championship. They will, however, be very much there in Bangalore thanks to a first-ever wild card entry at a world championship.

Leading the field at the $750,000 event will be Rick Leach and Ellis Ferreira. The 36-year-old Leach will be looking for the perfect farewell before retiring at the end of the year.

Kafelnikov not coming

With No. 1 pair Woodies having opted out quite some time back, the teams ranked No. 2 to 8 should have automatically qualified along with Paes and Bhupathi. But there have been two more pullouts � fifth-ranked Yevgeny Kafelnikov-Wayne Ferreira and sixth-ranked Jiri Novak-David Rikl.

Filling those gaps will be Donald Johnson-Piet Norval and Jaime Oncins-Daniel Orsanic. While Johnson (US) and Norval (South Africa) have won three titles this year, Oncins (Brazil) and Orsanic (Argentina) reached the semi-finals of the French Open.

Swedes Aspelin and Landsberg are the �alternates� and will get into the draw if the event of another pullout from among these eight pairs.


(Team rankings in parentheses)

Ellis Ferreira & Rick Leach (2); Paul Haarhuis & Sandon Stolle (3); Alex O�Brien & Jared Palmer (4); David Adams & John-Laffnie de Jager (7); Joshua Eagle & Andrew Florent (8); Donald Johnson & Piet Norval (11); Jaime Oncins & Daniel Orsanic (14); Leander Paes & Mahesh Bhupathi (55).    


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