England slip after 124-run opening stand
Mohinder�s tips helped Sachin too
Marital tiff forces Thorpe home
Plan was to upset their rhythm: Trescothick
AIFF in Rs 22 crore deal with London company
NFL kicks off today
Dhampur, Haldibari keep lead
Race Review / Antequera was hard put to win

Ahmedabad, Dec. 11: 

It�s a home series and things are already falling in place for the hosts. The spinners have rediscovered their golden touch, something that had eluded them in the series in South Africa, the batsmen are back among runs and it�s a great time for the fans.

England, having lost the first Test inside four days, tried to make amends here with some intelligent batting before Anil Kumble threatened to run through their middle-order. The leg-spinner�s 18th and second consecutive five-wicket haul rocked the visitors as they lost five wickets for 56 � 124 for none becoming 180 for five. Craig White�s disciplined approach along with James Foster prevented a total collapse.

Marcus Trescothick showed a lot of poise and determination before falling one short of what would have been his third hundred and it was through his and Mark Butcher�s efforts that England made a positive start to the second Test.

The pitch has played true on the opening day despite a couple of deliveries tending to keep low at one end. But as Trescothick said, �it will definitely turn and break as the match progresses�.

England collapses have become so frequent � their batsmen so vulnerable to Indian spinners � that the quick fall of wickets has lost the element of rarity and drama attached to it. It is another matter that umpire Ian Robinson compounded their woes with two questionable decisions.

The openers, however, seemed to have negated the loss of Graham Thorpe � who has decided to return home � after Nasser Hussain won the toss for the first time in 11 Tests. The Surrey batsman had been one of England�s finest players of spin and most experienced member with 70 Tests.

Besides a solid 62 that saved them the ignominy of innings defeat in Mohali, Thorpe had topped the batting averages with 269 at 67.25 in Sri Lanka last winter. He remained unbeaten in both innings, which included a hundred, in the series-decider in Colombo. The lefthander was also successful in Pakistan, hitting an unbeaten 64 in failing light to secure a dramatic series win in Karachi.

England coach Duncan Fletcher came up with a new theory in Sri Lanka � taking off-stump guard and padding away to Muttiah Muralidharan. The ploy didn�t work in the first Test against Kumble and Co.

The approach was different today as Trescothick and Butcher (51 off 120 balls, 9x4) never allowed them to settle to a line. Relying more on the sweep and using their feet, the openers played with soft hands, forcing the Indians to defend.

The runs came in thick and fast as the openers made most of the attacking field in the early stages. Trescothick (156 balls, 11x4, 1x6) looked relaxed during his 244 minute stay at the wicket.

A hardcore pro and perfectionist to the core, he has considerable experience of sub-continent conditions, having been part of A and under-19 teams. To perfect his technique against fast bowling, he had once resorted to practising with a narrower bat against tennis balls fired at him from a bowling machine at 90 mph.

Today, the left-hander drove and swept with elan against the spinners but when Jawagal Srinath bounced at him, he top-edged a hook that landed in �no man�s� land. Having reached his 50 in 95 balls, the Somerset batsman hoisted Harbhajan Singh over square-leg for a six and stayed positive throughout before edging one while trying to cut the fifth ball after tea from Kumble.

Butcher combined his streaky stuff, he survived in the slips once, with some fluent drives straight and through the covers but on completing his fifty after lunch he became Kumble�s first victim.

Nasser Hussain lasted just seven balls before being adjudged leg-before to a Kumble googly that appeared to be missing leg stump. Worse was to follow as Michael Vaughan, Thorpe�s replacement in the XI, was given out caught by Virender Sehwag at short-leg though the ball seemed to have struck him on the pad. Vaughan, without throwing any tantrums, did make his displeasure clear to umpire Robinson.

Kumble completed his five-wicket haul with his 13th victim of the series when Andrew Flintoff once again failed to read the top spinner and was caught by V.V.S. Laxman at silly point.

Mark Ramprakash played an entertaining knock but it was left to White to carry England to safety. As Trescothick stressed later, they will need at least another 50 to raise visions of a fightback.


Calcutta, Dec. 11: 
Mohinder �Jimmy� Amarnath is back in the news. And, while his tips to present India captain Sourav Ganguly have (predictably) made headlines, most seem to have forgotten the world�s numero uno batsman, too, took his advice exactly five years ago.

Indeed, just weeks after acknowledging Mohinder was the �right person� for tips on how to effectively pull and hook, Sachin Tendulkar (then the India captain) had an exhaustive session with the 1980s superstar in Durban.

�As you may recall, I was part of the commentary team on that 1996-97 trip to South Africa and, with the first Test (Durban) ending inside three days, both Sachin and I had time to discuss a few things,� Mohinder told The Telegraph this evening.

Speaking from his Mumbai residence, he added: �Actually, it�s when you engage in a general discussion on technique that something specific comes up� Also, in making one technical adjustment, other possible suspect-areas get covered as well��

Mohinder, who has been surprised by the attention given to his Sourav-specific lessons yesterday, reminded: �I don�t wish to take any credit at all, but Sachin did get that superb 169 (11th century) in the very next Test �Cape Town��

So, is he hopeful of Sourav, too, �repaying� him by posting his eighth century?

Mohinder laughed: �That, of course, will be nice� It�s a mind-game out there and Sourav needs one big score to get his confidence going. Other things will quickly fall into place.�

To go back to Sachin, it was in a signed contribution to Mohinder Amarnath �Grit and Grace, a book published to commemorate the stalwart�s benefit match in Mumbai (December 1996), that he talked of seeking advice.

Specifically, Sachin wrote: �If I want to score more runs, that [the pull] is definitely a useful shot� What I would like is to execute it better and can�t think of a better person to ask�

�I would also love to talk to him about how to hook and bring off the shot consistently� This is important for any batsman��

With the Sachins and Souravs only too keen to get tips from Mohinder, the one question is: Why didn�t the Board ever think of appointing him coach?

Well, for one, the Amarnaths have always been viewed �rightly or wrongly �as being anti-Establishment. In fact, back in November 1988, it was Mohinder who called the selectors �a bunch of jokers.�

If anything, that one statement alienated the Amarnaths even more. Incidentally, Raj Singh Dungarpur was then chief selector.

Then, though no one has gone on record, there reportedly was discord among the players over an exhibition game, in the late 1980s, where Mohinder was �co-ordinator.�

Clearly, the �rumblings� then obviously came in handy for those who didn�t want Mohinder to have a post-retirement role in Indian cricket.

Now part of the CBFS, the 51-year-old Mohinder is helping the Sharjah-based organisation in its Morocco venture.


Ahmedabad, Dec. 11: 
Marital problems have forced Graham Thorpe to return home without playing the second Test, which began today, of the current series versus India.

According to The Telegraph�s sources, differences with wife Nicole, which could ruin their marriage, have forced Thorpe to make the hasty return. It was decided late last night in consultation with the team management here and the ECB bosses in England.

With only one Test remaining, England are unlikely to seek a replacement.

Thorpe had faced similar problems a few seasons ago when he withdrew from the team�s tour of South Africa, a series marked by match-fixing allegations with England winning the last Test after both teams decided to forfeit their innings.

The team management here was tightlipped on the developments. �Pressing matters of a personal nature that require Graham�s immediate attention,� was cited as the cause for his return. �The team management requests that Graham�s privacy be respected by all,� the statement added.

Marcus Trescothick, speaking after the match, however said that they would be missing their most experienced player on the tour. �I wish to extend our moral support,� he said.


Ahmedabad, Dec. 11: 
To say that Marcus Trescothick was not disappointed after being dismissed for 99 would be an understatement. But it was not the first time the left-hander was going through such a trauma, having been out in similar circumstances in a first class match back home.

The Somerset opener, nicknamed Banger because of his liking for sausages, admitted he was nervous while taking guard after tea on 99. �I had planned my innings today. It was basically concentrating and playing positively,� he said.

�We played better. It was a matter of working out at the nets after the defeat in Mohali. We used our feet more against the spinners and yielded the benefits,� he added.

Later, speaking to The Telegraph Trescothick explained the secrets of his success today after the team�s disaster in the first Test. �Well, basically we watched a lot of videos, analysed our mistakes and did some introspection as well. Basically, we had to try and read the situation before it arose. We expect the wicket here to turn a lot more and we have to be ready for it.�

Playing his 18th Test, the youngster is already being tipped as a future captain. But Trescothick is very much focused on the job at hand. �That�s not on my mind at the moment. We have a job to do here in India and I�m not thinking about that. Besides, Nas (skipper Hussain) is doing a pretty good job at the moment.�

Trescothick said that the plan today was not to allow the Indian spinners to settle to a line. �We aimed to keep the scoring rate flowing with boundaries and pick the gaps in between. The strike had to be rotated, to not allow the bowlers to settle into a rhythm.�

He feels Anil Kumble is gradually finding his lost form after the disastrous tour of South Africa. �He is finding his rhythm and is back to his best,� Trescothick declared. He also informed that they had studied closely Kumble and Harbhajan�s spells in South Africa.

�The wicket here is very different from the one in Mohali. Unlike in the first Test, the bounce is low and ball is coming slowly onto the bat. It�s been difficult for both the batsmen and the bowlers.�

He refused to be drawn into the controversy over the decisions meted out to Nasser Hussain and Michael Vaughan by Zimbabwean umpire Ian Robinson.

�It�s not within the rules for me to comment. You guys have seen it for yourself. I can�t change something that is out of my hand,� he signed off.


New Delhi, Dec. 11: 
The London-based Strata Sports Marketing today signed a five-year contract worth Rs 22 crores with the All India Football Federation (AIFF). The amount to be spent on the first year was not disclosed but AIFF secretary Alberto Colaco said it would be in excess of Rs three crores.

Colaco added Strata would keep 30 per cent of the profit as commission and share the remainder with the AIFF. Federation president Priya Ranjan Das Munshi informed the 12 participants in the National League will also get a part of the profits.

Strata, also a Fifa-certified match and players agent, will assist the AIFF in roping in a title sponsor for the sixth National League starting tomorrow. The company has started a professional league in Vietnam last year.

The AIFF secretary also released the prize money break-up for the ensuing edition the National League. As in the past, the winners will get Rs 40 lakh. However, the booty for the second-placed team has come down to 22 lakh. The third team gets 16 lakh, fourth nine, fifth five and the sixth three lakh. The winner of the Fair Play trophy will get Rs 2.5 lakh and the winning team in each match will be awarded R2 20,000.

The best defender in the League will get the Jarnail Singh Trophy and there will also be individual prizes for the highest scorer, best goalkeeper, best midfielder and best forward.

Nivia Shining Star is the official ball for the competition and Indian Airlines the official carriers. Every club and local organiser will be allowed to display two advertisement boards each for their home matches and keep the money they fetch.

Dr Pranab Dasgupta of East Bengal has been named vice-chairman of the emergency committee of the National League with Colaco heading the body. Umesh Sood of Delhi will head the disciplinary committee.

Meanwhile, Colaco said Doordarshan will telecast live 16 matches of the first seven rounds starting with the East Bengal-Mohun Bagan clash in Calcutta on December 16.

Matches to be shown live

Dec. 16: East Bengal vs Mohun Bagan. Dec. 17: ITI vs Tollygunge Agragami. Dec. 18: HAL vs Salgaocar. Dec. 21: Vasco vs Punjab Police. Dec. 22: Churchill Brothers vs ITI. Dec. 23: Salgaocar vs JCT. Dec. 27: East Bengal vs JCT (2.30 pm). Dec. 27: Salgaocar vs Punjab Police (6 pm). Dec. 28: Vasco vs Churchill. Dec. 31: ITI vs Mohun Bagan. Jan. 5: East Bengal vs ITI. Jan. 6: Salgaocar vs Tollygunge Agragami. Jan. 7: Mohun Bagan vs Vasco. Jan. 9: Salgaocar vs ITI. Jan. 10: East Bengal vs Vasco. Jan. 11: Churchill vs Mahindra United.    

Calcutta, Dec. 11: 
The sixth edition of the National Football League gets underway tomorrow with East Bengal meeting newcomers Punjab Police in Jalandhar. In Goa, former champions Salgaocar face FC Kochin.

Punjab Police are no pushovers, feels East Bengal coach Manoranjan Bhattacharya. It was also learnt that wing-back Falguni Dutta and medio Chandan Das are yet to reach the venue due to office commitments.


Calcutta, Dec. 11: 
Dhampur Sugar and Haldibari continue to maintain their position at the top of their respective groups having amassed 233 and 247 VPs respectively, at the end of Round 12 of the 17-round Swiss League for the Ruia Trophy. The league, part of the 43rd Winter Bridge Nationals is now being played at the Netaji Indoor stadium here.

Haldibari, who have been impressive with a score of over 80 per cent in group B seem almost certain to qualify for the pre-quarter finals. Haldibari is represented by D. Majumdar, R. Nag, S. Lahiri, A Kundu, A.B. Chakraborty and B. Saha.

They are followed by the Gupta�s of Bangalore (219 VPs), C.V. Rao �A� (219 VPs) and Formidables from New Delhi (218 VPs).

In group A, Dhampur Sugar represented by Ashok Goel, Ratan Lal Kejriwal, Sudhir Ganguly, Kamal Mukherjee, Prakash Kejriwal and Aloke Sadhu are also certain to qualify for the pre-quarter with a score of 233 VPs. They are followed by Bharat Petroleum (226), Pankaj Kapadi (226) and Kalpana Misra (226).


Calcutta, Dec. 11: 
Antequera may have to show a huge improvement in the coming weeks if the next target for the Green Forest-Silver Reflet three-year-old is the Kingfisher Calcutta Derby Stakes over 2,400m on January 6. The Darius Byramji-trainee has his reputation at skates following a narrow escape over a mile circuit in the 2,000 Guineas last Sunday. It was The Archer who breathed down his neck after galloping six-wide in the final four furlongs and further going out at the home-turn.

This was despite Antequera�s two and half-length lead established over the weakening pace-setter Alamito, up in the final straight and with The Archer further three lengths behind. However, The Archer and his jockey, C. Lemaire, could not have avoided the chartered course as the big-made colt by Broto out of Wanderland needs free galloping room and was clearly under instructions from trainer John Stephens to keep out of the troubled passage.

A close contest was, however, always on the cards as Antequera had no preparatory run before the Gui-neas. It therefore, left a nagging doubt about his fitness as he also carried poor looks into the seven-horse line-up that was further shrunk due to the withdrawal of the injured Angeles.

The Archer, on the other hand, flexed his muscles following his recent brilliant win over Alcalde who went on to score an emphatic victory in his subsequent start. But Antequera had placed a good fourth in the Mysore Derby behind Ansbach � who went on to lift the Bangalore 2,000 Guineas the previous day. The favourite�s superior class was never in doubt and a victory in the city Guineas was considered to be a mere formality for the odds-on favourite

The afternoon�s proceedings nevertheless, centred around jockey Cristopher Alford�s triumphs and failures. The champion rider booted home three winners while two of his hottest favourites � Accrete and Artistry � performed poorly. But again, if the highly-rated Accrete was returning to the race-track after nearly nine months, Artistry was out to make his debut run and the two three-year-olds clearly needed forward runs. Cristopher, however, displayed fine judgement and jockeyship to drive home the advantage on two of his three winners � Calabash and Callisto. Acceptor, on the other hand, in the Time Machine Cup had it easy as Amber Dancer, the 5-4 favourite, found her crushing impost of 60kg a bothersome load after recovering from a hoof infection that forced her to skip the fillies version of the Guineas.

Cristopher was in fine nick even on December 5, the mid-week fixture. The young jockey not only notched up four winners for himself but also helped trainer Vijay Singh with a treble through Acklins, Aherlow and Access All Areas; � a runaway winner of the Burdwan Memorial Cup over 2,000 metres. Cristopher, who also guided Bharath Singh�s Alcalde to a fluent victory, was hardly tested on his other rides.

It was veteran jockey Naresh Engineer who won hearts as he coaxed the favourite Bul Bul to score a short-head victory over Glass Slipper ridden by a relatively younger Robert Gowli. It was after a stringing duel between the two, virtually up the entire stretch.


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