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Sunday, Nov 17th

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Indian Premier League champions Kolkata Knight Riders have stretched their winning streak to 11 straight games after beating the Pakistani champions Lahore Lions by 4 wickets in a tight finish in Hyderabad.

Having been put into bat, the Lahore Lions posted an under par 151-7, having failed to capitalize on an excellent start as the KKR spinners spun a web around their batsmen in the middle overs. Ahmed Shehzad led the way for the Pakistani champions, smashing 59 from just 41 balls, sharing a 50 run partnership with Nasir Jamshed (10) in a little over 6 overs before Kolkata stormed back into the contest.

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The Indians began their England tour on a very positive note as they finished on a strong 333-4 at stumps on Day 1 of the first of their two warm up games against Leicestershire, as their batsmen got some important exposure to alien conditions, and plenty of runs!

MS Dhoni won the toss and elected to bat first, but the Indian openers struggled initially with Shikhar Dhawan afforded a reprieve in the very first over of the day when he was dropped in the slips. Dhawan and Murali Vijay looked to settle in for a bit, but Vijay was dismissed by Anthony Ireland for 20, with the scoreboard reading 46-1.

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The Chennai Super Kings continued to climb up the IPL standings winning yet another low scoring contest as they triumphed over the disintegrating Kolkata Knight Riders by 4 wickets in front of 70,000 boisterous fans at the Eden Gardens. The men in yellow survived a middle order hiccup as 'Sir' Ravindra Jadeja showed the world that IPL is not only about Gayle-storm, taking three crucial wickets before smashing a 14 ball 36 that was studded with three vicious sixes to seal it for the men in yellow.

This was the first time these two sides came face to face after the final of IPL 2012. Kolkata skipper Gautam Gambhir drew first blood by winning the toss and electing to bat first under overcast conditions. Asked what he would have done had the coin landed in his favor, Dhoni confessed he too would have batted first.

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An organized and efficient team effort from Kings XI Punjab nullified Kolkata's individual contributions to pull off a surprising 4 run win over the defending champions at the PCA stadium in Mohali as KXIP picked up their second win of the season.

Sunil Narine's hat-trick, the tenth overall in the IPL and Gautam Gambhir's 60 runs from just 39 balls were overpowered by a late hurricane from Manpreet Gony lower down the Punjab innings and a tidy effort with the ball by Azhar Mahmood and Praveen Kumar. The sea-saw battle witnessed the momentum shift in favour of the Knight Riders quite a few times but the Punjab seamers held their nerve in the final moments of the game to hand Kolkata another frustrating loss.

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The Eden Gardens was subjected to an Irish feast, as the home team rode the Morgan-wave, cruising to a humongous 48-run victory and registering their second win in IPL 2013. Valuable contributions from Manvinder Bisla, Gautam Gambhir, Jacques Kallllis and Eoin Morgan ensured a victory for the home side in a must-win encounter with the Sunrisers Hyderabad.

The decision to bench the million-dollar Brendon McCullum once again was a highly debatable one, however, Bisla and Gambhir dispelled any such doubts by propelling the Kolkata Knight Riders to a crisp start; they made 48 in the powerplay, keeping their wickets intact. Bisla perished soon after, for a well-made 28 off 24 balls, however, the skipper carried on, dispatching the spinners to the fence and notching his second consecutive half-century off 39 balls. Kallis – the subdued contributor – was happy to knock the ball around for singles, and managing to find that odd boundary. Gambhir’s dismissal was against the run of play, with Ashish Reddy’s persistence with the slower ball getting the skipper out for a 45-ball-53 – an innings that earned him the Man of the Match.

 

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virender_sehwagI must confess I'm a huge Virender Sehwag fan. While his impeccable ability to get himself out time and again regularly frustrates me, his mere presence at the crease is enough to force me to drop everything else I do and just watch cricket. He's the one cricketer in the Indian team who has the ability to change the complexion of a game by just spending 30 minutes at the crease and quite simply takes Test cricket in particular to a level at which you dare not miss a single ball.

However, the reality of playing competitive sports is that no one is guaranteed a place in any side. You need to earn your spot on merit, and your past glories can only take you so far. The BCCI's announcement today that Sehwag had been dropped from the squad for the remaining two test matches against Australia would not have surprised anyone, and the fact that they have a readymade replacement in Shikhar Dhawan already in the squad and don't need to pick another player means it could have even been choreographed to the extent that the selectors were waiting for him to fail so that they could hand over the mantle to Dhawan.

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A hot and humid Thursday was bound to lead to an extremely overcast Friday in Chennai. While dark clouds covered the city along the Coromandel Coast since early morning, the thunderstorm that washed away the practice session closer to noon was not expected to be as ferocious as it turned out to be.

What, however, was on expected lines was a pre-match press conference sans Gautam Gambhir. The India-A captain was amongst the lucky few batsmen who managed a hit in the nets before the heavens opened up. Usually the skipper addresses the media on the eve of the match, but the under pressure (former) India opener gave it a skip and it was coach Lalchand Rajput who came out to address the limited media in attendance.

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