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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Fleming will make a wonderful Black Caps coach: Vettori

New Zealand’s captain and de facto coach Daniel Vettori believes former skipper Stephen Fleming would make a wonderful Black Caps coach.

Vettori will lead the team to the United Arab Emirates for a one-day and Twenty20 series against Pakistan as both captain and coach following Andy Moles' decision on Saturday to step down as coach after a review process revealed he was ill-equipped to continue in the role.

With Moles not stepping up to the mark, Vettori has been effectively coaching the team for the past six months,

The Sunday Star-Times quoted Vettori as saying that he was happy to continue as player-coach for the next few months, including the home test series against Pakistan next month, but after that he would prefer to see someone come into the role.

"Stephen and I keep in regular contact and he's been quite a big help in going through all this stuff and some other things that have gone on. He has concerns about my workload and he wants to be a sounding board and do anything he can to help," Vettori said.

"He's definitely got coach written all over him and he could be an extremely successful one; it's just whether he wants to get back into that life of touring the world and in that regard it probably is too soon for him. But he would make a wonderful coach," he added.

New Zealand Cricket chief executive Justin Vaughan, when asked if Fleming was a coach candidate, said: "I don't think this is the right time."

In the short-term manager Dave Currie will have his leadership responsibilities upgraded to help Vettori, while current assistant coach Mark O'Donnell will remain with the team, reports.

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Australia beat India in one-day thriller

World champions Australia claimed a four-run victory in the opening one-day international on Sunday after India went close to reaching a daunting target of 293.

A plucky eighth-wicket stand of 84 by Harbhajan Singh (49) and Praveen Kumar (40 not out) almost gave India victory after they had slid to 201 for seven.

India needed nine off the last over from Peter Siddle but the paceman bowled accurately, conceding just four runs and clean bowling Harbhajan.

Earlier, Australian batsmen, led by captain Ricky Ponting, fed on some listless Indian bowling on a flat Reliance Stadium track to post an imposing 292 for 8 in the first of the best-of-seven-match ODI series here today.

Electing to bat, Australia suffered an early blow before recovering superbly through a near-century stand between Ponting (74) and opener Tim Paine (50).

The sound beginning was build upon by half centuries from Cameron White (51) and Michael Hussey (73) as the Indian bowling, which has struggled of late, was put to the sword in merciless fashion in hot conditions.

In the morning, the hosts struck an early blow by sending back Australian opener Shane Watson, on a high coming into the series with back-to-back hundreds in the semifinal and final of the Champions Trophy in South Africa.

The burly batsman straight-drove the first ball of the series from Praveen Kumar for a boundary but then was trapped in front by an incoming ball from Ashish Nehra in the second over to which he played back.

Watson's early dismissal left Australia at five for one after eight balls and brought in visiting team's skipper Ricky Ponting to the crease.

Ponting, on a roll in one-dayers since the best-of-seven ODI series against England with two centuries and four half centuries under his belt from his last 10 innings, and Tim Paine -playing for the first time in a ODI in India -dominated the bowlers.

The duo kept the run rate at a healthy five plus to raise the 100 of their innings in the 19th over when wicketkeeper Paine tried to slash Ishant Sharma to be caught behind for 50.

Paine, who struck nine fours in his 62-ball innings, and Ponting shared 97 runs for the second wicket in 107 balls.

Ponting looked in total command, striking the ball beautifully, and hooked left arm pacer Ashish Nehra for a six.

He looked good for a 100 when he left, trapped leg before by young left-arm slow bowler Ravindra Jadeja while trying to turn the ball to the leg.

The Australia skipper faced 85 balls and hit eight fours and two sixes, the second one off Jadeja over a leaping Nehra at long off, and his dismissal at team total of 151 in the 30th over brought down the scoring rate a bit.

But that was a brief respite for the home team as Cameron White (51) and Michael Hussey (73) again stepped up the run rate after the 35th over to help Australia reach 213 for three at the end of the 40th. They added 76 runs in 77 balls.

Australia added 54 runs in the last 10 overs to leave India with an asking rate of 5.86.

Hussey, out of form before this series and a question mark against his name for the next Test series against West Indies, departed in the last over after facing 54 balls and striking the ball cleanly to hit eight fours and a six.

Indian bowling was a mixed bag. Nehra impressed right through but Kumar was expensive though he was unlucky that twice he got the edge of Paine's bat but the ball did not carry to the slip fielders.

Kumar was hoisted over the roof of the pavilion by Hussey in the 49th over of the innings to end up with no wicket for 77 runs.

Ishant, who has struggled of late, started unimpressively but then settled down to show glimpses of what he is capable of when in rhythm in his opening spell. Coming back in the slog overs he leaked runs but picked up the wickets of Hussey and Brett Lee and ended up with figures of 3/50 from his 10 overs.

Another disappointment was spin spearhead Harbhajan Singh who bowled a poor line and was punished for 20 runs in his first three overs and 27 in his second spell of five overs. He ended up with the wicket of Adam Voges in the slog overs after conceding 57 runs.

Jadeja did reasonably well and got the prize wicket of Ponting, and ended with impressive figures of one for 39 from his nine overs.

The Indian fielding was generally below par with many slow movers in the line-up.

Earlier, India had to leave out Yuvraj Singh, who is recovering from a finger injury sustained before the start of Champions Trophy, along with Munaf Patel, Amit Mishra and Sudeep Tyagi.

Australia benched Doug Bollinger, Jon Holland, Ben Hilfenhaus and Shaun Marsh.

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People in Sports | Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant: He's just 21, but the Oklahoma City Thunder star sounds like a grizzled veteran when he notes that for all the potential his team has with himself, Jeff Green, Russell Westbrook and James Harden — all among the top five picks in the past three NBA drafts — there also comes peril.

"You're going to have highs and lows, especially with us growing as a team, us being young," he said. "But we've got to make up for that with working hard and playing hard in games. I think that'll limit that. It starts with me being a leader."

Durant averaged 25.3 points — sixth in the NBA in 2008-09 — but the Thunder led the league in turnovers.

The glimmer of hope comes from the end of last season, when the Thunder — in its first campaign since moving from Seattle — finished 20-30 after a horrid 3-29 start.

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College Football Sunday: TCU ready for the big time

After TCU’s dismantling of BYU it will be interesting to see where the Horned Frogs will be in the discussion for the BCS.

Personally, I think the Horned Frogs are one of the best teams in the nation. And before everybody starts sending emails telling me how the Mountain West doesn’t play anybody does anymore remember the beat down that Utah put on Alabama, from the all-mighty SEC, last year in the Sugar Bowl.

TCU can play with anyone in the country. They beat Clemson in Clemson earlier this year and they should run through the Mountain West. Their only tough game left on the schedule is Utah – but Utah isn’t the same team they were a year ago.

If TCU runs the table, and other teams have a loss, then they should play for the National Championship.

The Horned Frogs could give Florida or Alabama from the all-mighty SEC a run for its money.

The SEC prides itself on being the class of the college football world. If that’s the case why is their non-conference schedule full of Division 1-AA teams?

Alabama didn’t look so hot against Utah last year.

But, maybe, that’s the perception the SEC wants. Our conference is so tough that we have to play cupcakes in the beginning of the year.

How about next year Florida, Mississippi and a few others schedule some games that matter in September. Schedule a TCU, BYU or Boise State so we can really see how good you are.

More west talk: It might be Mountain West day here at College Football Sunday. We talked about Utah not being as good as last year, but they are still winning.

The four best teams in the Mountain West are TCU, BYU, Utah and Air Force.

Air Force is a tough team to play, just ask TCU and Utah, because of the dreaded triple option attack. Their triple option is a little different just because they are able to throw the ball more.

Army and Navy run 90 percent of the time out of the option, just ask Wake Forest as Navy ran the ball 64 times and didn’t attempt a pass, where the Falcons are more diverse.

The Falcons gave Utah fits and should have won that game. They also gave TCU fits and made the Horned Frogs battle till the end for that win.

Tide rolling along: Is Alabama the best team in the country?

They didn’t look like it on Saturday against Tennessee. The Tide looked a little sluggish in their win, but they won. I am not sold on Alabama being the best team in the country.

Right now I don’t know who is as Florida has looked sluggish in their last two wins. I think you could see one of these two teams lose a game before the SEC championship game.

If Georgia can right the ship on defense, then next week’s game against Florida could be a little interesting.

Metro’s top 5


Metro’s leading Heisman

Jimmy Clausen (Notre Dame)
Tim Tebow (Florida)
Colt McCoy (Texas)

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Bangalore beat Delhi by 8 wickets, both sides out of CL T20

Bangalore Royal Challengers and Delhi Daredevils crashed out of the Champions League Twenty20 after the formers' eight-wicket victory over their Indian Premier League opponents here.

In a dramatic League B Super Eight match played last night at the packed Chainnaswamy Stadium, Ross Taylor smashed a blistering 65 off just 38 balls to help Bangalore surpass the target of 139 with nearly five overs to spare.

Earlier, Royal Challengers Bangalore captain Anil Kumble led from the front by grabbing three wickets to restrict Delhi Daredevils to a modest 138 for six.

Bangalore were only playing for pride as they were already out of contention for a semifinal berth after Cape Cobras' victory over Victoria Bushrangers in another League B match yesterday.

The eventful day saw the first match being delayed by one hour and 40 minutes and reduced it to 17-over-a-side affair due to bomb scare.

The result of the second match between the two Indian Premier League sides meant none of them will play in the semifinals of the USD six-million tournament.

South African side Cape Cobras and Australia's Victoria Bushrangers made it to the semifinals from League B as both have collected four points each.

Delhi's last match at home against Cape Cobras tomorrow thus will be rendered inconsequential. Bangalore made a subdued start not wanting to take risk against Delhi opening bowlers Aashish Nehra and Dirk Nannes, who bowled consistently above 150 km per hour.

They also suffered a jolt in the second over as Manish Pandey retired hurt after a desperate lunge forward to reach the crease.

But, New Zealander Ross Taylor was in a punishing mood. He showed his intentions clear by hitting three fours off Glenn McGrath in the fifth over.

The actual run riot, however, began from towards the midway mark as he hit boundaries almost at will before he was out off Nannes for 65 in the 14th over. He hit six fours and our sixes in his 38-ball stay at the crease.

Taylor was though given life twice when he was on 18 and 32 -- the first by Nehra and then by Rajat Bhatia off his own bowling and Delhi had to pay a price for their mistakes.

The Kiwi hit two consecutive sixes off Amit Mishra in the 12th over and raised his 50 from just 29 balls from one such hit over the rope.

Bangalore were 68 for one after the 10th over but the run riot by Taylor and later by Dravid, who made unbeaten 32 off 26 balls (3X4; 1X6) and Virat Kohli, whose unbeaten 24 from 10 balls included five fours, ensured that Bangalore reach 139 in 15.1 overs.

Dravid ended the match in style hitting Nehra for a six.

For Delhi, Nannes took two wickets for 19 from his four overs. Amit Mishra was the most expensive, conceding 59 runs without wicket from his four overs.Earlier, Kumble, who celebrated his 39th birthday yesterday, was instrumental in puttingbrakes on Delhi Daredevils who were on to a rollicking start after he put the opposition in after winning the toss.

For Delhi, Virender Sehwag top-scored with an explosive 47 which he made from 29 balls with the help of four fours and
a six. Dilshan contributed 20.

Delhi openers Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir were intent to make Kumble pay for his decision by hitting a torrent of boundaries in the innings' initial overs.

The Delhi duo struck seven fours in the first five overs to take the score to 47 for no loss with Sehwag, who hit three consecutive boundaries off Praveen Kumar, contributing 31.

Sehwag struck two more fours off Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the fourth over but lost his opening partner Gambhir two overs later, edging a Dale Steyn delivery to Mark Boucher for 11.

Delhi lost way after the midway mark and once Sehwag was out in the 10th over, they failed to put up any worthwhile partnership.

Sehwag was going strong when he was out, holing out to Manish Pandey off Roelof van der Merwe at 77 for two.

Two wickets fell quickly, both claimed by birthday boy Kumble, which reduced Delhi to 91 for four in the 13th over.

Kumble introduced himself in 11th over and on his third ball dismissed Dinesh Karthik (2). Two overs later, he caught Dilshan off his own bowling to reduce Delhi to 91 for 4.

Owais Shah (17) and Manoj Tiwary (11) failed to contribute much.

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Footballers kick off World Cup anti-malaria fight

Footballers are teaming up with governments, companies and international health campaigners to push for action against malaria ahead of next year's World Cup finals in South Africa.

The 'United Against Malaria' campaign, which will start next month and run until the end of the World Cup, has won the backing of singer Bono, actress Ashley Judd and philanthropist Melinda Gates, wife of Microsoft founder Bill.

Players such as US captain Landon Donovan and the Ivory Coast team have already said they are behind the campaign, while other prominent footballers backing the movement will be revealed when the campaign is officially launched.

Malaria, which spreads through the bites from infected mosquitoes, kills nearly one million people a year, almost all in Africa where a child dies from the disease every 30 seconds.

The United Nations is trying to get universal access to diagnostic tests, mosquito nets and malaria medicine as part of its bid to cut the number of deaths to zero by 2015.

"Malaria is a disease that you have at household level. You use football to bring messages on prevention measures or how to treat people," Awa Marie Coll-Seck, executive director of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, told Reuters on Saturday.

"This will reach them as they will watch everything on football and if messages are linked to that it will be a very important vehicle for information for us," she said on the sidelines of FIFA's medical conference in Zurich.

The Roll Back Malaria Partnership comprises UN agencies, the World Bank, leading drug makers and aid experts.

Coll-Seck, who was in Zurich to present the campaign to representatives of countries from across the world, said that through football it was possible to gather more support from people in developed countries who could act as donors.

Malaria affects 247 million people each year, with 86% of cases in Africa.

Coll-Seck said there was a slight risk players could get malaria when they are in South Africa next summer but this could be reduced by informing people about the disease.

"It's not a part of Africa that has too many cases, but it can happen and people need to be careful," she said.

"We will make it clear why malaria matters. If you look at malaria, at least 40 percent of the world's population is at risk of this disease," Coll-Seck said.

"At the same time, it's a disease which affects particularly children and pregnant women and they are the vulnerable ones in our society. Malaria also has an impact on the economies of countries, on the education of people, on poverty," she said.

"It is also a disease that people can defeat because its treatable and preventable and if you have all this why not use all means, including football, to fight this disease," she said.

FIFA has recently introduced 'The 11 for Health' programme to teach the youth of Africa about the main diseases affecting the continent within the parameters of football and one of its messages includes using treated bed nets.

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Fergie asks Ferdinand to raise his game or forget World Cup

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has asked Rio Ferdinand to raise his game or else his World Cup dream could die. The Manchester United defender is having a miserable season and was badly at fault in England's 1-0 defeat in Ukraine a week ago.

"He has to get good form. That's an important issue for the coach to pick the right team. In defence you've maybe got more options than other positions. He will need to get his form right," The Sun quoted Ferguson, as saying. Ferdinand has dropped clangers in two matches for Fabio Capello's England.

"I'm sure he's taken the criticism on board. Do I think he'll go to the World Cup? Yes, of course," Ferguson said. Ferdinand, who has suffered a string of injuries during recent months, had admitted that he is sweating over whether he will make it to the World Cup Finals.

Ferdinand knows boss Fabio Capello will show no mercy when he selects the 23 players to play in the World Cup next summer. He has played in only 18 of the last 40 games for United and England since March and featured in only two internationals in the last year.

"I'd be foolish to think no one would ask me the question about injuries. For the last 12 months, every now and again I've had to miss games through injuries. There hadn't been a period before that, so it's going to stand out," Ferdinand said.

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I don't want to get into any trouble: Sreesanth

Shanthakumaran Sreesanth is back home in Kerala but the news that the Kerala Cricket Association has received a letter from the BCCI about his Level II offence left him shaken. Sreesanth was involved in a verbal tiff with Mumbai bowler Dhawal Kulkarni and was fined 60 per cent of his match fees during the Irani Trophy.

"I haven't seen this letter yet. I have tried my best to stay calm and cool on the field and that incident involving Kulkarni was an exception. I want to play as many games as I can and really don't want to get involved in such incidents," Sreesanth told

The fast bowler admitted that his performance in the past has been overshadowed by other things."I want people to talk about my bowling and my performance. I don't want to get into any trouble. I have been working hard and trying my best. I have paid the price for my Level-II offence and I won't do anything that earns me a Level-III offence," Sreesanth said.

Talking about what happened between him and Kulkarni, Sreesanth said that he did not "abuse" the Mumbai bowler.

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IPL teams blown away

For the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), Saturday's match against Delhi Daredevils was a dead rubber. However, Anil Kumble & Co. lit up the Diwali evening with a superb eight-wicket victory against Gautam Gambhir's boys. What this means is there will be no IPL team in the semifinals of the Champions League Twenty20.

Defending IPL champs Deccan Chargers were knocked out earlier in the tournament. The other two teams of League B -- Victoria Bushrangers and Cape Cobras -- are through to the last-four stage.

Taylor played a spectacular innings of 65 runs consuming just 38 balls including six boundaries and four sixes to pave the way for an RCB victory. But it was birthday boy Kumble who laid the foundation for his team with a phenomenal spell of 3 for 20 to restrict Delhi to 138 for six.

Chasing 139, RCB began slowly but steadily. Though openers Robin Uthappa and Manish Pandey -- who retired hurt with the scoreboard reading 7 for no loss -- failed to make a mark, the evergreen Rahul Dravid and Taylor stitched together a crucial match-winning 93-run stand.

Taylor was dismissed with 31 still required but Dravid ensured there were no more hiccups. The veteran remained unbeaten on 32 finished off the game with a huge six over long-off. Virat Kohli, who replaced Taylor, starred with a 10-ball 24 studded with five spanking boundaries. Asked to bat, the Daredevils looked like they would breach the 180-run mark with ease. Openers Virender Sehwag and Gambhir got off to a flier.

Sehwag, in particular, was in devastating form as he sent the fielders on a leather-hunt during his knock of 47. However, Dale Steyn put the brakes on the flow of runs when he had Gambhir caught behind for 11. Sehwag continued his onslaught and looked good for his CL T20 second half-century. His stay at the wicket, was however, cut short when he holed out to Pandey at long-off. Viru's blistering knock came off just 29 balls including six boundaries and a six.

With both the openers gone and Kumble getting into action, things were about to turn from bad to worse for the Daredevils. In his very first over, Kumble got rid of Dinesh Karthik. In his next over, he had Tillakaratne Dilshan caught and bowled. The veteran leggie then dismissed Owais Shah, but more importantly, Van der Merwe and he put the brakes on the scoring rate. The two gave away just 40 runs in eight overs. A late burst by Manoj Tiwary and Rajat Bhatia helped Delhi post a total of 138 for six.

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BCCI issues 'final warning' to errant Sreesanth

Indian cricket's enfant terrible S Sreesanth has been given a "final warning" by the BCCI to mend his on-field behaviour, failing which he would be suspended from domestic matches. The latest Board missive, dated October 5, was sent to Kerala Cricket Association (KCA) secretary TC Mathews to be handed to the player.

BCCI has warned Sreesanth against repeating the on-field misbehaviour he showed during the recent Irani Cup championship against Mumbai in Nagpur. "You are hereby given a final warning to ensure that you do not violate the BCCI Code of Conduct. Any repetition of such behavior will be dealt with severely by the BCCI including suspension from domestic cricket matches," the letter read.

"As an international cricketer, you have to set a good example for the youngsters who watch and follow the game," it said. "We have to bring to your kind notice that repeatedly you have been violating the BCCI Code of Conduct and your behaviour on the field of play is against spirit of the game of cricket," it added.

Sreesanth, playing for Rest of India team, was fined 60% of his match fee for abusing Mumbai all-rounder Dhawal Kulkarni, who was also warned.

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My dream rests in Hands of God

Phew, what a week that was! One of the most emotional ones of my life. There were more changes than I could handle, including moving cities and leaving behind too many friends. If that wasn't enough, dealing with worries about the qualification of Ivory Coast and Argentina for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa saw me at my emotional worst.

I've had to pack my bags and move thousands of kilometers north. Mumbai can be one of the hardest cities to leave. It was intimidating when I first came here six years back. But today, I feel more at home in its squalid lanes than anywhere else in the world.
In Mumbai, I grew to care about Indian football. Before that, the game was all about the Premier League, Jose Mourinho and Brazil.

It was at the Cooperage football ground that I first heard the thump of Baichung Bhutia's boots meeting the ball. The sound of the perfect kick can be as sweet as the ball meeting the middle of Sachin Tendulkar's bat.

It was in Mumbai that I realised Indian footballers don't just dream of a financially secure future but believe that great things are possible. They live in hope, not in desperation. And some of them, I honestly believe, are good enough to compete at the world level.

It wasn't just the goodbyes that were painful. Maradona really played havoc with my nerves and it was Didier Drogba who calmed them. Some months back, dear reader, I got lucky with the World Cup tickets for South Africa. I had applied for the T7 series, which gives the tickets of the team of your choice from the group stages onwards to the final. If your team loses in between, then you get the match ticket of the team that's beaten them.

I had applied for the T7 tickets of Ivory Coast, because of the love I have for Drogba and also because, in the first round, my application for Brazil and Argentina tickets was rejected. The validity of my tickets was subject to Ivory Coast's qualification for the tournament. And Drogba didn't let me down.

Ivory Coast qualified top of Group E in the African qualification after a 1-1 draw against Malawi. Drogba came off the bench to score the equaliser just two minutes after his introduction and helped secure my nerves and a second successive World Cup trip for the West Africans.

Maradona's appointment as Argentina coach was another reason I couldn't have missed this World Cup. However, their trip to South Africa almost got cancelled after losses to Brazil (1-3) and Paraguay (0-1).

But they've come through with wins over Peru (2-1) and Uruguay (1-0). Yet, Maradona's future as coach doesn't look secure. It's highly unlikely that the Argentina football association will trust the eccentric genius to lead the team in South Africa after the qualification fiasco. What can I say! My dream now rests in the Hands of God.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

New Zealand humbled in one-sided Champions Trophy final

AUSTRALIA claimed their second successive Champions Trophy title, beating New Zealand by six wickets in the final at SuperSport Park in Centurion.

Australia had a huge fight on their hands at 2-6 against some inspired Kiwi bowling, but Shane Watson again kept a cool head with his second successive unbeaten century to steer Australia (4-206) side past New Zealand's 9-200.

Watson (105 not out) hit successive sixes off spinner Jeetan Patel to score the winning runs - with 28 balls remaining - and reach three figures in style.

After Australia's early wickets, Watson and Cameron White (62) restored order with a partnership of 128, and despite wickets to Kyle Mills (3-27), the world champions were never in trouble.

Australia's victory created history, as they are now the only nation to have won this event twice, following their triumph in India three years ago.

Their win also earned a major windfall, as the team pocketed $US2 million ($A2.31 million). As runner-up, New Zealand earned $US1 million ($A1.15 million).

New Zealand entered the match rank outsiders, with a view that everything needed to go right for them to topple their trans-Tasman rival.

Instead, they lost skipper Daniel Vettori to a hamstring injury an hour before the game began, and then acting skipper Brendon McCullum - the side's most destructive batsman - fell for a duck in the fourth over, to Peter Siddle.

The Black Caps' innings never really took off, as they regularly lost wickets.

Siddle bowled superbly and had figures of 1-18 from nine overs while battling illness towards the end of his last spell, until his last over cost 12 runs.

Offspinner Nathan Hauritz also had a great game with the ball, as his 10 overs yielded good control and 3-37.

But Australia also experienced an injury setback, as young batsman Callum Ferguson wrenched his right knee in the field and was assisted from the field.

Ferguson was not needed to bat, as allrounder James Hopes went in ahead of him at No.6 and finished on 22 not out.

New Zealand started brilliantly with the ball, as Shane Bond removed Tim Paine (one) in the second over and Mills had Ricky Ponting (one) plumb in the next.

But Watson and White weathered the storm patiently - Australia were 2-19 after 11 overs - and had wrestled back control when Watson hit sixes in successive overs just after their partnership passed 50.

Watson played a mature hand when White departed with 67 runs still needed, and his fourth career ton followed his unbeaten 136 in the semi-final against England last Friday.

Watson ended the tournament the competition's second-highest run scorer (265), behind only Ponting's 288, which was a remarkable achievement given he began the series with successive ducks.

Australia's players will now head home for a short break before they depart for India, where they will play seven one-dayers against Mahendra Singh Dhoni's side.

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Andrew Flintoff in big demand

ANDREW Flintoff's declaration that he wants to play in Australia is likely to spark a fierce interstate bidding war for cricket's freelance gun for hire.

In an expansive interview in England overnight, Flintoff insisted one of his last remaining cricket goals was to play in Australia where his explosive all-round talents would attract a pot of gold.

"I'm hoping to play more for Lancashire and in the Indian Premier League. Another ambition is to play in an Australian domestic tournament," Flintoff said.

Flintoff recently joined Australia's Andrew "Roy" Symonds in becoming a freelance short-game player when he rejected a second-tier contract from the England Cricket Board.

The man they call Freddy is out of action now after knee surgery but states are already lining up to secure his services as a Twenty20 player in the 2010-11 Big Bash competition.

South Australia last night confirmed they were "aggressively pursuing" Flintoff and one of their key selling points was the relaxed lifestyle in Adelaide for Flintoff, his wife Rachael and young family.

"We have made no secret of the fact that we are after Flintoff and we have already talked to him on several occasions," a SACA spokesman said.

Queensland is another state that is in the market for Flintoff after already showing interest in the world's premier allrounder.

Bulls coach Trevor Barsby says he would love to have Flintoff on deck but one sticking point could be the price the allrounder would demand.

It is believed Flintoff is seeking a two-year domestic deal in Australia and he would be able to demand a base price of at least $120,000 in the Big Bash.

That payment may be topped up by Cricket Australia who would be just as keen to see Flintoff playing in Australia after claiming they wanted to turn the Big Bash into a "Bigger Bash".

Queensland Cricket boss Graeme Dixon confirmed the Bulls' interest in Flintoff but said they did not have a bottomless pit of cash.

Other states such as NSW, which has already shown a liking for big-name international stars after recruiting Kiwi Brendon McCullum last season, are also likely to join the race to secure Flintoff.

Flintoff also wants to continue playing one-day cricket for England and become the world's best limited overs cricketer at the next World Cup in 2011. He denies he has done anything wrong by snubbing the ECB's contract offer.

"I'm comfortable in what I've done," he told The Guardian in England.

"I know what I'm doing, sincerely. I'm in a good position to know when I can play, and when I can't. I'll never duck out of an England game."

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Fantasy Football Week 5 Recap: Lions still lose despite plot and cast changes

Fantasy football can be sports entertainment at its finest, though there was very little that was entertaining about the Lions’ 28-20 loss to the Steelers.

Detroit adjusted the plot and cast for the game by first and foremost starting Daunte Culpepper at quarterback. However, look at these numbers and tell me if they remind you of another 2010 starting Lions’ QB? 23 pass completions, 37 pass attempts, 282 yards passing, 1 touchdown pass, 1 interception and one dramatic run for 32 yards for a 1st down.

The Lions quarterbacks have found a groove and isn’t a good one, because you still got to “win, baby” according to football experts, coaches and fans. And in an interesting plot twist, let’s add an injury suffered by prize wide receiver Calvin Johnson.

Sadly, though the plot, cast and game may ebb and flow, the outcome remains the same. The Lions remain the masters of the miscue and must find ways to eliminate the turnovers, offensive and defensive breakdowns and penalties.

Let’s take a look at what was said in the preview article last week and compare it with week #5’s highlights and sad moments:

“The Lion who will roar” – Major Groan: Which is worse being on the cover of Sports Illustrated or being picked as “The Lion who will roar”? “Calvin Johnson is going to have a stellar week and earn plenty of fantasy points” was the prediction. Well, he looked good in warm-ups and early in the game. But injuries happen in football and they aren’t unique to the Lions. Let’s hope C.J. recovers quickly and is ready to play soon.

“On Par Lions” – Bingo: The prediction was "expect Kevin Smith and Brandon Pettigrew to repeat their week 4 performances” and their week 5 fantasy numbers were ordinary. Smith ran for 53 yards on 20 carries and Pettigrew caught 3 passes for 27 yards. Jason Hanson didn’t kick 6 or 3 field goals as predicted, but he did attempt 3 and make 2 field goals.

“Bench that Lions” – Major Bingo: “Matthew Stafford needs some bench time” was the prediction (and probably a plea). It was a great decision by Schwartz and his staff to start Culpepper. Stafford couldn’t prepare adequately for the Steelers last week and why even attempt to put your #1 draft pick and quarterback on the field against a defense that is far from timid? Playing Stafford would have been a disaster.

For Detroit fantasy owners with players on other teams, here’s what was predicted and the results:

“I wish I had him this week” – Minor Groan:
• Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee – The Titans’ shining star was dimmed by his team’s ineffective offense. Before the Colts game, he averaged at least 15 carries a game. He carried the ball 9 times for 34 yards Sunday.
• Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota – The Vikings have proven that Peterson does NOT have to be spectacular for Minnesota to win a football game. Peterson scored 2 touchdowns, but he carried the ball just 15 times for 69 yards.
• Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh – “Big Ben” was the fantasy star of this group of picks. He was 23 of 30 passing for 277 yards and 4 touchdowns (3 to Steelers and 1 to Lions’ CB Will James).

“Expect a Downturn” – Bingo:
• Fred Jackson, RB, Buffalo – Jackson did carry the ball 13 times, but for only 30 yards in the Bills’ stunning 6-3 loss to Cleveland. How many double plays did the Browns turn in this game?
• Trent Edwards, QB, Buffalo – Edwards’ numbers were ordinary at best from a fantasy football perspective. He was 16 for 31 for 152 yards, no TD passes and 1 interception.
• Lee Evans, WR, Buffalo – Evans caught 2 passes for 11 yards and no touchdowns. As a sign of the Bills’ offensive woes, Evans and Terrell Owens have combined for 24 catches, 361 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns in 5 games.

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Football boosts NBC to Sunday win

Sunday night was all about football. The networks that had it, CBS and NBC, got a big boost. The networks that didn't, Fox and ABC, lagged behind last week.

NBC won the night with a 4.5 adults 18-49 rating and 12 share, according to Nielsen overnights, with CBS in second place with a 3.6/9.

ABC was third at 3.2/8, down from a 3.5/9 last week, and Fox finished fourth with a 3.0/8. Univision was fifth at 0.8/2.

It was the fifth straight Sunday win for NBC, which was buoyed by "Sunday Night Football" between the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans. The network won every half hour from 8 p.m. on, with the game peaking with a 6.0 at 9:30 p.m.

CBS had NFL runover at 7 p.m., when it won the hour with a 6.6.

Fox, meanwhile, did not have NFL overrun this week, and its average slipped 38 percent from last week, when it did.

"The Cleveland Show," the new season's No. 1 new comedy, slipped 14 percent from last week to a 3.8.

But Fox did have the night's No. 1 scripted show, barely. "Family Guy" averaged a 4.5 at 9 p.m., compared to a 4.4 for ABC's "Desperate Housewives" in the same hour.

As a reminder, all ratings are based on live-plus-same-day DVR playback. Seven-day DVR data won’t be available for several weeks. Thirty-two percent of Nielsen households have DVRs.

Also, ratings for football and ABC's NASCAR are approximate as fast nationals measure timeslot and not actual program data.

CBS led at 7 p.m. with a 6.6 for NFL overrun and the first 15 minutes of "60 Minutes." ABC and NBC tied with a 2.3 for NASCAR overrun/"America's Funniest Home Videos" and "Football Night in America," followed by Fox with a 1.4 for reruns of "The Cleveland Show" and "American Dad." Univision was fifth with a 0.7 for "Maria de Todos los Angeles."

At 8 p.m., NBC pulled ahead with the end of "America" and start of "SNF" with a 4.9, followed by Fox's "The Simpsons" (3.6) and "Cleveland" (3.8), CBS's "Minutes" and start of "The Amazing Race" at 3.4, ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" at 3.0 and Univision at 0.8 for "¡Viva el Sueño!"

At 9 p.m., "SNF" was first again with a 5.9, followed by ABC's "Housewives" at 4.4, Fox's "Family" (4.5) and "Dad" (3.4), CBS's "Race" and start of "Three Rivers" at 2.5 and Univision at 1.0 for "Viva."

At 10 p.m., "SNF" led with a 5.0, followed by ABC's "Brothers & Sisters" at 2.9, CBS's "Rivers" and start of "Cold Case" at 1.7, and Univision at 0.7 for "¿Quién Tiene la Razón?"

Among households for the night, CBS led with a 7.6/12, followed by NBC at 7.3/12, ABC at 6.1/10, Fox at 3.7/6 and Univision at 1.1/2.

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