MS Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh lead India to victory

MS Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh lead India to victory

Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni shared a serene 148-run stand to help India win a battle of attrition on a sluggish track at the Feroz Shah Kotla and take a 2-1 lead in the seven-ODI series. Australia would perhaps rue the fact that they settled for 229 when they batted after winning an important toss.

"A total of 220 should be a good score on this pitch," Ponting had said and Australia's approach while batting reflected his mindset. Their bowlers did pick up three quick top-order wickets to leave India wobbling at 53 for 3 but Yuvraj and Dhoni batted with the knowledge that sufficient time spent at the crease would ensure a risk-free victory. The pitch was slow and not conducive to stroke making but it did not spin treacherously, despite the visibly dramatic wear and tear.
Before Hussey played his characteristic innings, Ponting and Watson played uncharacteristic ones to give the innings a steady start. With swing out of the question, the Indian seamers tried to win lbw decisions by bowling as straight as possible and the spinners slowed their pace and kept to an off and middle stump line. Ponting began cautiously, taking care to get his bat in front of the pads, and dealt in singles. Watson also batted in a similar vein and just when he was beginning to cut loose, he fell to Yuvraj after he was beaten by flight and turn and dragged his back foot out of the crease. Hussey came to Australia's rescue with an assured knock but it wasn't enough to stop India from going ahead in the series.


James Hopes to return home, Clint McKay called up

James Hopes to return home, Clint McKay called up

Australian allrounder James Hopes will not take any further part in the ongoing seven-match series in India due to a hamstring injury and is set to fly back home. Cricket Australia's selection panel has confirmed that Clint McKay , the Victoria fast bowler, will join the squad as cover.

Hopes' injury is the latest setback to the team which is currently 2-1 down with four games remaining. Hopes bowled just two overs in the first ODI in Vadodara before leaving the field after pulling his right hamstring.

"James has done everything he can with medical staff to try and make himself available for the remaining games of the tour of India," Kevin Sims, the team physiotherapist, said. "However due to the compressed nature of this tour and his speed of recovery so far, we feel now we have insufficient time to have James fully fit to take part in the remaining games of this series.

"Therefore a decision has been made that James will return to Australia where he will continue his rehabilitation from this hamstring injury."

McKay, 26, was impressive for Victoria during the Champions League Twenty20, which he finished as the tournament's joint second-highest wicket-taker (with Moises Henriques) with ten wickets at an impressive economy rate of 6 per over. In the 2007-08 FR Cup, he collected a remarkable 13 wickets at 14.76 from only five games.

"Clinton is a young promising bowler who performed well at inter-state level last season and has recent very good form for Victoria in the Champions League in India," Andrew Hilditch, the chairman of selectors, said. "He will be very well suited to Indian conditions and we believe he is another young player who benefit from the experience of being in the Australian team set-up during this tour.

"We also feel he has the ability to perform well at the international level. With Moises having played in the last ODI game and James Hopes going home, Moises will now remain with the squad in India for the duration of the series."

Hopes joins Australia's strike bowler Brett Lee and wicketkeeper Tim Paine, who have already flown home after picking up injuries. Lee was unable to complete his quota of overs in Vadodara - he bowled six - after complaining of a sore right elbow.

Paine broke his finger during the second game in Nagpur and was replaced by Graham Manou. Before the series began, Australia had already lost Michael Clarke, Brad Haddin, Callum Ferguson and Nathan Bracken to injuries.


Impressive Australia draw level

Impressive Australia draw level
Shane Watson took three lower-order wickets after scoring ...

It was India's game to lose after they restricted Australia to a par total of 250 on a good batting pitch, especially after the fiery start provided by Virender Sehwag. However, Australia won the vital moments during the chase to level the series in Mohali. Like in Vadodara, Harbhajan Singh and Praveen Kumar threatened to pull off a heist; like in Vadodara they failed.

It was a roller-coaster of a chase and whenever India appeared to be getting ahead, Australia fought back with a vengeance. It wasn't necessarily great bowling that did the trick but it was disciplined enough to force mistakes from under-pressure batsmen.

India were off to a cracking start. Sehwag looted 30 runs from 14 deliveries from Mitchell Johnson but no one took ownership of the chase and India slowly lost their way. The first turning point came when Ricky Ponting introduced spin in the 17th over. Nathan Hauritz stuck in his second over, earning an lbw decision against Sachin Tendulkar but the ball appeared to be missing leg stump.
Australia's task was made harder by the discipline of all the bowlers except Ishant Sharma. The new-ball bowlers, Praveen and Ashish Nehra, found enough movement to keep the top order quiet and both returned to choke the batsmen in the end overs. The spinners, too, found enough bite to cover up for Ishant's wayward spells. Harbhajan put in his best performance of the series, slowing up the pace and flighting on off and middle stump line. Harbhajan tried with the bat too but it was always going to be a tough for him to pull off the improbable.


Patient Bollinger grabbing his chance

Patient Bollinger grabbing his chance

Doug Bollinger is desperate to prove himself as international cricketer after stepping in to Australia's injury-depleted attack in India. And Bollinger made a good start, grabbing 3 for 38 in Monday's ODI in Mohali to help Australia level the series with a 24-run victory.

Bollinger has had to show immense patience over the past couple of years after going on Australia's Test tours of the West Indies, India and South Africa without breaking into the team. His only Test was against South Africa at the SCG this year and before this tour, three ODIs in the UAE completed the list of his games for Australia.

But a run of injuries to Australia's key fast men has given Bollinger an opportunity in India, and he intends to make the most of it. The squad began without Nathan Bracken and then lost Brett Lee and James Hopes mid-series, which meant Bollinger has had to step up over the past two games.
"Nobody wants to see anyone injured, especially Brett who's got 300 Test wickets and 300 one-day wickets ... but someone's injury is someone's opportunity," Bollinger told AAP. "I wish him all the best but I've tried to put my best foot forward and say 'this is my time', and I've tried to grab it as much as I can to try and make my own way through."

Bollinger bowled tightly in Delhi, where his ten overs cost 26 runs, and his three wickets in Mohali have helped make him a key member of the attack for the remainder of the series. It helped that he was already accustomed to the Indian conditions after playing for New South Wales in the Champions League Twenty20.

"The Champions League was a great stepping stone to this tournament because I'd bowled a bit over in Delhi and Hyderabad," he said. "I'm fit and well at the moment and I think I'm starting to climb a bit higher with my confidence in international cricket, and just in cricket in general."


India v Australia

India v Australia
Australia survive terrific Tendulkar

Nobody does solos better than Sachin Tendulkar, nor, perhaps, has anyone endured as much heartbreak during those solos. It was India of the 90s all over again: Tendulkar almost chased 351 on his own but, with the target in sight, he got out and the rest choked, falling short by three runs with two balls still to go. In Chennai in 1998-99, Tendulkar, having played an innings as incredible as this, left the last three wickets 17 to get; tonight he left them 19 off 17.
Then Australia were let to get their foot in. Them opportunistic Aussies. Raina top-edged and Graham Manou took a special catch running behind. Harbhajan went in the same over. Tendulkar and Ravindra Jadeja added 32 for seventh wicket, and with the Powerplay going on it seemed a matter of Tendulkar's staying there till the end. But with Australia, it always seemed a matter of getting Tendulkar out. There seemed more men around than there were before, more attempts at stumps ensued, Tendulkar started misjudging singles.

On came Clint McKay, the Victorian debutant, to bowl the 48th over with just 19 required. Tendulkar went to clear short fine leg. It was a slower delivery. He found Hauritz. It was all over. Jadeja ran himself out, Ashish Nehra holed out to long-on, and Praveen was run out in the final over.
After Watson's dismissal, Australia slowed down a bit, but picked off again in the 34th over. Australia didn't go wild slogging, yet managed at least a boundary hit each in the Powerplay overs, taken in the 35th. Forty-four came in those five, Marsh soon reached his maiden century, his strike-rate crossed 100 as he did so, suggesting a smartly paced innings.

For the innings as a whole to be considered smartly paced, Cameron White and Hussey added 79 in the last seven overs. And as it turned out, they needed every single one of them to survive Tendulkar.


India v Australia

India v Australia

'One of my best' - Tendulkar
Sachin Tendulkar has rated his dazzling 141-ball 175 in the fifth one-dayer against Australia as "one of his best" innings. While orchestrating a stiff chase of 351, Tendulkar looked on course to break the record for the highest individual score in an ODI innings but was undone by a slower ball from debutant Clint McKay in the 48th over, after which India ended four runs short.

"It was one of my best innings, I was striking the ball very well and we were chasing 351 so there was constant pressure," Tendulkar said. "We maintained the run rate and brought the game close, but in the end it was very disappointing."

After sliding to 162 for 4, India were put back on track for what would have been the second highest target achieved in one-dayers by a 137-run stand between Tendulkar and Suresh Raina. India were favourites after 42 overs, needing only 52 runs with a Powerplay still in hand and Raina and Tendulkar in top gear. However, a combination of clever bowling and tigerish fielding from Australia, and some inept running from India handed the visitors a 3-2 series lead.

One bright spot for Tendulkar was that on 7, he became the first to reach the 17,000-run mark in one-dayers. When asked how he stayed motivated over the course of an international career which is days short of being two decades long, he said: "The passion - I care about playing for India. It's always been a dream and I'm absolutely honoured that I've been able to do that for the past 20 years."

Sourav Ganguly, with whom Tendulkar formed the most prolific opening partnership in one-dayers, lauded Tendulkar for reaching the milestone and hoped there was more to come. "It's really a remarkable achievement", Ganguly said. "I wish he scores another 2000 runs by 2011 World Cup. Sachin knows best how to accumulate runs. Once he gets going he becomes unstoppable."


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Matsui becomes 1st Japanese-born World Series MVP

NEW YORK – Hideki Matsui took a meaty cut, watched the ball fly and winced when it hooked a foot foul.
That's about all that went wrong for him.
Matsui put the world in World Series MVP, earning the award by homering, doubling, singling and driving in six runs Wednesday night as the New York Yankees beat the Philadelphia Phillies 7-3 to claim their 27th championship.
Matsui became the first Japanese-born player to win the award that started in 1955. He hit .615 (8 for 13) with three home runs and eight RBIs. His performance in Game 6 matched the record for RBIs in a Series game. No one, however, had done it in a clincher.
"It's awesome," Matsui said through a translator. "Unbelievable. I'm surprised myself."
Standing on a podium in shallow center field, Matsui waved his new championship hat and shook hands with commissioner Bud Selig. Matsui won three titles in Japan and was eager to celebrate his first in the Bronx.
"I guess it's hard to make a comparison. When I was in Japan, that was the ultimate goal. Being here, winning the World Series, becoming world champions, that's what you strive for here."
"You could say that I guess this is the best moment of my life right now," he said. "It's been a long road and very difficult journey."
Matsui's two-run drive off Pedro Martinez in the second inning put the Yankees ahead for good. Nicknamed "Godzilla" back home, Matsui sent a shot to right field that banged off an advertisement on the facing of the second deck — fittingly, it was a sign for the Japanese company Komatsu, which makes mining and construction equipment.
After his hard foul, Matsui added a two-run single in the third and lined a two-run double off the right-center field wall in the fifth. The giant videoboard in center field showed fans holding Japanese signs and while the sellout crowd roared, he stood placidly at second base.
Fans cheered when Matsui's feat, matching Bobby Richardson's 1960 mark for RBIs in any Series game, was posted on the scoreboard.
Matsui drew a standing ovation when he came to bat in the seventh, and chants of "MVP! MVP!" bounced around the ballpark.
"He hit everything we threw up there," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.
Praised Yankees captain Derek Jeter: "Man, he looked like he wanted it bad, didn't he?"
"Matsu is one of my favorite players, one of my favorite teammates. He comes ready to play every day. He's a professional hitter," he said.
Watching Game 6 on TV in Tokyo, Masanori Murakami echoed that sentiment. He was the first Japanese player in the majors, in 1964 with San Francisco, and fully appreciated the magnitude of Matsui's honor.
"Ichiro Suzuki has had many accomplishments, but they've all been in the regular season. As the first Japanese to win an MVP in the World Series, this is a great accomplishment for Matsui and will have a huge impact," Murakami said.
"New York is a tough place to play, so this is a great achievement for him given all he has been through with injuries and missing time," he said.
Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher hollered Matsui's name during the clubhouse party.
"Matsu," Swisher yelled. "They're partying in Tokyo tonight, I know that. Man, what a great job Matsu did for us, been coming up clutch for us in situations all year long. He deserved that MVP trophy. There's no doubt about it."
An outfielder by trade, Matsui hasn't played the field since June 15, 2008, because of bad knees. He hit .274 this year with 28 homers and 90 RBIs, and wasn't much of a force in the AL playoffs against Minnesota and the Los Angeles Angels.
That changed against the defending champion Phillies.
Now strictly a DH and pinch-hitter because of his knees, Matsui accomplished a lot in a hurry. His 13 at-bats tied Baltimore's Rick Dempsey in 1983 for the fewest by a Series MVP (nonpitchers only, naturally), according to STATS LLC.
Matsui became the first player to win the award as a full-time DH in the Series. Toronto DH Paul Molitor played in the field when the Blue Jays won the 1993 title.
Matsui's eight RBIs were the most in a World Series since Reggie Jackson had the same total in 1977 and 1978.
"Just wonderful," Jackson said. "He struggles to play the field now. Great, great player. Represents his country well. He's a gentleman. He's a class act. Great player and to put on a performance like that in what may be his last time in Yankee Stadium, you just tip your cap and enjoy it."
Matsui left Japan and signed with the Yankees in 2003. At 35, his greatest achievement might've come in his final game in pinstripes.
This year wrapped up Matsui's $52 million, four-year contract. It remains to be seen what the aging Yankees will do with him. Whatever happens, he certainly left his mark.
"I hope so. I hope it works out that way," he said. "I love New York, I love the Yankees."


Ecstasy in the Bronx! Yankees win title No. 27

NEW YORK – The New York Yankees bolted from the dugout even before the last grounder was scooped up. After waiting nine years for championship No. 27, no one would dare hold them back.
"It feels better than I remember it, man," captain Derek Jeter said. "It's been a long time."
Hideki Matsui tied a World Series record with six RBIs, Andy Pettitte won on short rest and New York beat the Philadelphia Phillies 7-3 in Game 6 on Wednesday night, finally seizing that elusive title — the most in all of sports.
Paint the town in pinstripes! Nearly a decade after their dynasty ended on a blooper in the desert, the Yankees are baseball's best again.
Matsui, the Series MVP, powered a quick rout of old foe Pedro Martinez. And when Mariano Rivera got the final out, it was ecstasy in the Bronx for George Steinbrenner's go-for-broke bunch.
What a way for Alex Rodriguez and Co. to christen their $1.5 billion ballpark: One season, one World Series crown — the team's first since winning three straight from 1998-2000.
"The Yankees won. The world is right again," team president Randy Levine said.
The season certainly ended a lot better than it started — with a steroids scandal involving A-Rod, followed by hip surgery that kept him out until May.
"My teammates, coaches and the organization stood by me and now we stand here as world champions," said Rodriguez, who admitted using steroids from 2001-03 while with Texas. "We're going to enjoy it, and we're going to party!"
For Chase Utley and the Phillies, it was a frustrating end to another scintillating season. Philadelphia fell two wins short of becoming the first NL team to repeat as World Series champions since the 1975-76 Cincinnati Reds.
Utley tied Reggie Jackson's record with five home runs in a Series. But Ryan Howard's sixth-inning shot came too late to wipe away an untimely slump that included 13 strikeouts, also a Series mark.
Meanwhile, Phillies pitchers rarely managed to slow Matsui and the Yankees' machine.
"I told them that I loved the way they played. We're fighters and never quit," Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel said. "We want to keep what we got as far as attitude and chemistry."
For second-year manager Joe Girardi, a three-time Yankees champion as a player, it was the fulfillment of a mission. When he succeeded Joe Torre in October 2007, Girardi chose uniform No. 27, putting his quest on his back for all to see. His tenure didn't start out so well, with New York missing the playoffs in its final season at old Yankee Stadium following 13 consecutive appearances.
"To be able to deliver this to the Boss, the stadium that he created and the atmosphere he has created around here is very gratifying for all of us," Girardi said.
This championship came eight years to the day that the Yankees lost Game 7 of the 2001 World Series in Arizona on Luis Gonzalez's broken-bat single off Rivera.
Steinbrenner spent billions trying to win another Series. At long last, his team did.
Fittingly, it was dedicated to the 79-year-old owner, who has been in declining health and didn't make the trip from his home in Tampa, Fla.
Still, his presence was felt.
"Boss, this is for you," the giant video screen in center field flashed during postgame ceremonies while his son, Hal, the team's managing general partner, accepted the championship trophy.
For the Four Amigos, it was ring No. 5.
Jorge Posada, Jeter, Pettitte and Rivera came up together through the minors and were cornerstones for those four titles in five years starting in 1996.
Now, all on the other side of age 35, they have another success to celebrate. And surely they remember the familiar parade route, up Broadway through the Canyon of Heroes.
"It's an honor for me to win a championship with those guys. They are Yankee legends," Mark Teixeira said.
But, hey, Babe and Yogi, Mr. October and Joltin' Joe — you've got company. Teixeira, CC Sabathia and a new generation of Yankees have procured their place in pinstriped lore.
Moments after second baseman Robinson Cano fielded Shane Victorino's grounder and threw to first for the final out, Joba Chamberlain and Nick Swisher led a victory lap around the warning track, carrying flags that read "2009 World Series champions."
Players high-fived fans, then sprayed bubby behind the mound — the same sort of celebration Philadelphia enjoyed last year after beating Tampa Bay.
"We think we can be back here again and again. We have a great squad," Phillies closer Brad Lidge said.
New York wasted its chance to wrap things up in Game 5 at Philadelphia, then set its sights on clinching the World Series at home for the first time since 1999.
While nine years between titles is hardly a drought for most teams, it was almost an eternity in Yankeeland.
New York's eight seasons without a championship was the third-longest stretch for the Yankees since their first one, following gaps of 17 (1979-95) and 14 (1963-76).
Jackson's three homers in Game 6 against the Los Angeles Dodgers made the Yankees champs in '77. On this November night, Matsui delivered a sublime performance at the plate that made Mr. October proud.
"It's awesome," Matsui said through a translator. "Unbelievable. I'm surprised myself."
Playing perhaps his final game with the Yankees, Matsui hit a two-run homer off Martinez in the second inning and a two-run single on an 0-2 pitch in the third.
A slumping Teixeira added an RBI single in the fifth off reliever Chad Durbin, and Matsui cracked a two-run double off the right-center fence against lefty J.A. Happ.
A designated hitter with balky knees, Matsui came off the bench in all three games at Philadelphia. Still, he had a huge Series, going 8 for 13 (.615) with three homers and eight RBIs. His go-ahead shot off an effective Martinez in Game 2 helped the Yankees tie it 1-all.
Bobby Richardson was the only other player with six RBIs in a World Series game, doing it for the Yankees in Game 3 against Pittsburgh in 1960. Richardson had a first-inning grand slam and a two-run single in the fourth.
Matsui's big hits built a comfortable cushion for a feisty Pettitte, who shouted at plate umpire Joe West while coming off the field in the fourth. Still, Pettitte extended major league records with his 18th postseason win and sixth to end a series.
The 37-year-old left-hander, pitching on three days' rest, became the first pitcher to start and win the clincher in all three postseason rounds. He beat Minnesota and the Los Angeles Angels in the AL playoffs.
Pettitte lasted 5 2-3 innings, allowing three runs, four hits and five walks. Chamberlain and Damaso Marte combined for 1 2-3 innings of scoreless relief before Rivera secured the final five outs.
"You don't look at it as a failure," Howard said. "We had a great season. We just got beat by the better team."
It had been nearly a half-century since players had won five titles with one team. The last to do it? Of course a bunch of Yankees: Yogi Berra (10 titles), Mickey Mantle (seven) and Whitey Ford (six) in 1962, according to STATS LLC.


A-Rod finally a champion after year of turmoil

After the New York Yankees regained the title for the first time in nine years, after the podium presentation before a delirious crowd of 50,315 christened the new ballpark with a championship in its first year, A-Rod was the one to carry the trophy back to the clubhouse. He raised it high, showing it off to the fans, a triumph for the team and for himself.
"Look, a lot of people ran the other way. My teammates and coaches and organization stood right next to me. And now we stand together as world champs," he said a few minutes later in the clubhouse, under a shower of Moet & Chandon and Armand de Brignac. "It's been a special year. I know it started rocky for us."
He had piled up money in the bank and MVP awards on his mantle. Now he has the one and only prize he's ever wanted — a World Series championship ring.
"He's exorcised a lot of demons," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said a few feet from the podium. "There's no reason to take any 'He can't do this; he can't do that.' He's done it all now. So now, he can just continue to write history, because he's one of the greatest players to ever play this game."
After six seasons of hits and home runs, heartaches and headaches, he finally earned his pinstripes in the eyes of the fans the only way Yankees can — with a title.
"I'm so happy the way they treated me all year," he said. "They stood behind me. Walking around the City of New York, everybody was so supportive."
He arrived in spring training exposed and embarrassed, labeled a steroid user from his years with Texas. His news conference was the low point of his career.
"I just knew then when I had the 25 guys there standing next to me, and organization and my general manager, they meant the world to me," he said. "I said that day that this is going to turn out to be maybe one of the most special years of our lives, and it sure has."
Then, weeks later, he wound up on an operating table in Colorado, unsure whether he'd make it on the field.
When he returned from hip surgery, it was a season of superlatives. He homered on his first swing in Baltimore, rousing the Yankees from the slumber of a 13-15 start, and homered on his last of the regular season at Tampa Bay. His three-run homer and grand slam against the Rays that afternoon gave him 30 homers and 100 RBIs for the 12th consecutive year.
And then he did away with the 0-for-October reputation that had stuck to him as much as his three AL MVPs. Rodriguez put together a performance that matched those of the players he seems to most admire, Reggie Jackson and Derek Jeter.
"He's one of the big reasons we're here," captain Jeter said.
A-Rod had been 8 for 59 (.136) in the postseason dating to 2004 and hitless in 18 consecutive playoff at-bats with runners in scoring position.
But this was a new A-Rod, liberated and transformed in his 16th big league season. Finally starting to grow up at age 34, he shed the distractions caused by his $275 million contract and an entourage of handlers he picked up from Madonna. He glowed in his relationship with new girlfriend Kate Hudson.
"I saw Kate, she was smiling so much I barely recognized her," Jackson said. "I think he feels happy. Seeing him, he's just happy."
This A-Rod was a one-man highlight reel.
He chased the Minnesota Twins' starter with an RBI single in the postseason opener, tied the score in the ninth inning of Game 2 with a two-run homer off Joe Nathan and tied the score again with another home run in the seventh inning of Game 3. He hit a tying 11th-inning homer off the Angels' Brian Fuentes in Game 2 of the American League championship series, then homered again in Games 3 and 4.
His only World Series home run, awarded after a video review in Game 3, awoke the Yankees from a 3-0 deficit against Cole Hamels. He led the Yankees in the postseason with a .365 average, six homers, 18 RBIs, 15 runs and 12 walks. After an 0-for-8 start in the Series that included six strikeouts, he was 5 for 12 with six RBIs in the final four games.
When he first joined the Yankees in 2004, the Yankees spurted to a 3-0 lead against Boston in the AL championship series before the greatest postseason collapse in baseball history.


Pettitte helps Jeter, Rivera and Posada to title

NEW YORK – Jorge Posada tapped Andy Pettitte on the chest when it was time to leave. Derek Jeter watched from the mound, knowing exactly what it meant.
Along with Mariano Rivera, who was waiting in the bullpen, they have been the heart of the New York Yankees for 14 seasons.
And now after the Yankees beat the Philadelphia Phillies 7-3 in Game 6 on Wednesday night, the group finally has its fifth World Series championship.
"I've been blessed because I have four guys, we played for 15 years together," Rivera said, "and we have accomplished everything together."
The lone holdovers from the mid-1990s, when the Yankees began their run of four titles in five years were all fittingly involved in the win Wednesday. When Mark Teixeira caught the final out, Pettitte raced from the dugout, Jeter threw his hands in the air at shortstop and jumped, Rivera ran from the mound toward first base and pumped his fist, Posada leaped from behind the plate but stood back from the big scrum, taking it all in for an extended moment.
They were back on top.
"The funny thing about those four guys is the team in the 1990s couldn't have won without them, and the team now couldn't have won without them," said Paul O'Neill, a star of the four title-winning teams and a current Yankees broadcaster. "I don't think you'll ever see that again, four constants like that."
No player had won five titles with one team since Yogi Berra (10 titles), Mickey Mantle (seven) and Whitey Ford (six) in 1962, according to STATS LLC, did it as Yankees.
The core four have gone from upstart 20-somethings who brought a championship back to New York after a nearly two-decade absence to pushing 40. After the on-field celebration, Rivera and Pettitte sought out their families and Posada ended an interview and dropped his catching gear to hug his distressed young daughter — she didn't get to say hello to her dad yet.
"It's such a blessing to be a part of this group. I told Mo and Derek and Jorge and Andy that I feel very blessed, I feel so lucky to be a part of their fifth championship and my first," said Teixeira, a free-agent signee last offseason. "It's an honor to play with these guys."
Back in 1996 when Jeter was the Rookie of the Year, he told Berra that he was going to top his 10 World Series rings. But things didn't work out that way for baseball's last dynasty.
"Yogi didn't have the playoffs, though. He went straight to the World Series," Jeter said.
It took nine years for the bunch to make it back to the top and give Yankees owner George Steinbrenner the franchise's 27th title.
Since their run of three straight championships ended against Arizona in 2001, the Yankees spent $1.66 billion trying to win that elusive crown but time and again, as the Yankees failed, Jeter said the team is not the same as those that won in '96 and 1998-2000.
This group was also different, he said.
"We got contributions from a lot of different guys and for them to come in here and perform the way they performed, that's the reason why we're here," Jeter said.
Pettitte was 24 in 1996 when he beat Atlanta's John Smoltz 1-0 in Game 5, and he had an equally gritty start Wednesday on three days' rest, going 5 2-3 innings and giving up four hits and three runs. He secured the win in the clinching game in all three series victories in the 2009 postseason as a 37-year-old, who has talked about retirement after each of the past couple of seasons.
After New York's last trip to the World Series in 2003, Pettitte left for Houston. He returned in 2007 and admitted to using human growth hormone when the Mitchell Report was released in December.
"I'm a benefit of a lot of great teams I've been on. I've had a lot of wonderful players surrounding me," said Pettitte, who earned his playoff record 18th win. "This is what I came back for."
The 35-year-old Jeter had three hits Wednesday and reached base in all 15 games this postseason. The captain has always toed the Yankees line of measuring years by championships and no matter how well he played in the regular season he has not been satisfied since Luis Gonzalez blooped a winning single over his head to give the Diamondbacks the championship in Game 7.
This year he passed Lou Gehrig for the most hits with the Yankees and was selected the winner of the Roberto Clemente award, but he said it's the title he wants.
Jeter's best friend on the team, Posada, earned a ring in '96 but wasn't on the World Series roster. Manager Joe Girardi was the starting catcher then. But the 38-year-old Posada has been New York's No. 1 catcher since 1998. He's third on the Yankees list for most games caught behind Bill Dickey and, yep, Berra.
With one out in the eighth, the bullpen gate opened and Metallica's "Enter Sandman" blared as Rivera made one more run to the mound. Rivera, who will turn 40 on Nov. 29, was John Wetteland's setup man in '96, but has become the most dominant closer in postseason history with 39 saves — five this season. In the regular season, he and Pettitte have combined for the most win-save combos in big league history with 63.


Avalanche win fifth straight at home

DENVER – Feeling much better after a recent bout with swine flu, Peter Budaj made his long-awaited season debut.

Not that many were on hand to see it.

Playing in front of the smallest home crowd in Colorado Avalanche history, the backup goalie stopped 28 shots in a 4-1 victory over Phoenix on Wednesday night.

Milan Hejduk added two goals and Paul Stastny had three assists to help the Avalanche remain on top in the Western Conference standings and tie Pittsburgh for the overall NHL lead.

Despite their winning ways, the Avalanche only attracted 11,012 spectators Wednesday — all the empty seats quite noticeable.

A disappointment for a team that's been playing so well?

"Our job is to go out and play hockey, our job is to provide entertainment for our fans and to make sure the games are exciting," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. "I think we've done a good job of that this year."

Budaj was brilliant in goal, allowing only Ed Jovanovski's power-play goal midway through the third period.

That despite not playing in a game since the exhibition season.

The 27-year-old Budaj was scheduled to make his first start Oct. 23 against Carolina, but was scratched due to flu-like symptoms. It turned out to be swine flu, causing Budaj to miss four games.

He was growing quite anxious to get out there.

Even with the layoff, there wasn't a hint of rust.

"I felt great and the communication was great," Budaj said. "After a couple of saves you relax, you know you've been there ... Get back to basics and not do anything crazy."

With Budaj fully healthy, Craig Anderson finally got a night off. Anderson made a franchise-record 15 straight starts to begin the season, breaking the mark that belonged to Mario Gosselin, who made nine straight starts to open the 1987-88 season.

Marek Svatos had a goal and David Jones added an empty-netter as Colorado improved to 5-0 at the Pepsi Center, one win away from tying its best home start since moving to the Mile High City.

"At times, we were a little slow but Budaj played unbelievable and kept us in," Stastny said. "He's the main reason we were up one goal going into the third."

The Coyotes certainly had their chances, but couldn't sneak anything past Budaj.

"It was a pretty lackluster effort on our part for the better part of two periods," Jovanovski said.

Midway through the third period, the Coyotes picked it up, pulling within a goal. But they couldn't get the equalizer, despite a couple of quality shots by Matthew Lombardi.

"We've got to bury those chances," Lombardi said. "Couldn't make it happen."

Down a goal with just over a minute remaining, the Coyotes pulled goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, leading to Jones' breakaway.

Just 19 seconds later, Hejduk scored his second of the night.

Bryzgalov made 25 saves as the Coyotes dropped their second straight game. Bryzgalov has one of the top goals-against averages in the NHL, allowing less than two goals a game.

The Avalanche scored a power-play goal just 57 seconds into the game when Hejduk tipped in Kyle Quincey's slap shot from the blue line.

That set a solid tone, especially with Budaj playing at the top of his game.

As for any talk of a goalie controversy, Sacco quickly quelled it.

"I go on a game-by-game basis and right now Craig's done a good job for us," Sacco said.

NOTES: Avalanche F Darcy Tucker has started skating again and is listed as day-to-day. He has been out since he sustained a concussion on a check from Carolina's Tuomo Ruutu on Oct. 23. "His head feels fine after a couple of days of workouts," Sacco said. "I'm happy that his progress is probably farther ahead than I had anticipated. ... It will be nice to get him back." ... Jovanovski's power-play goal ended a string in which the Avalanche killed 25 straight penalties. ... The Coyotes are 5-3 on the road this season. Last year they didn't win their fifth road game until Dec. 10. ... Avs F Cody McLeod returned to the ice Wednesday after missing six games following an inadvertent stick to his left eye.


Watney shoots 64 to take lead at HSBC Champions

SHANGHAI – Making the first of two trips to China this month, Nick Watney made an immediate impression Thursday in the HSBC Champions by tying the course record with an 8-under 64 to build a two-shot lead.

As hundreds of cameras inside and outside the ropes tagged along to see Tiger Woods open with a 67, Watney quietly went about his business on a sunny afternoon at Sheshan International Golf Club with an accidental eagle and four straight birdies.

He was 9 under through 13 holes until settling into a string of pars and ending his round with a three-putt bogey from the fringe.

"The greens are so good that if you hit a putt on line, it's definitely going to go in," Watney said. "I was putting very well. Just tried to give myself as many chances as possible, and I was able to make a few."

Ryan Moore, who signed a new equipment deal Thursday, was in a group at 66 that included Shane Lowry of Ireland and Martin Kaymer of Germany, who is second in the Race to Dubai and facing a big week at this $7 million World Golf Championship.

Lin Wen-tang of Taiwan stirred the Chinese crowd with a 67, which left him tied with Woods, Anthony Kim and Paul Casey.

Still, it was Woods they came to see — and to photograph.

It started on the opening hole, with hundreds of fans surrounding the tee. Woods was flinching as he swung his 3-wood and dropped the club at impact. The shot was so short and to the right that his caddie, Steve Williams, had to walk 40 yards to find the yardage.

"The guy in the grandstand basically did almost a photo sequence," Woods said.

It was a frenzy for the opening hour, with marshals barking at the gallery not to take pictures, and Thongchai Jaidee's caddie having to walk up to a grassy hill and escort one photographer to the side of the ropes so his player could hit the shot.

Woods is ultra sensitive to cameras, and handled this day better than most. More frustrating was not knowing which way his ball was going, although he managed to take care of the par 5s and make enough putts for his 67.

"I got it around today," he said. "It wasn't my best ball-striking round for sure, but I made some putts, which was nice."

Phil Mickelson opened with two straight birdies and made the turn in 32, although he didn't make another birdie the rest of the way and had to settle for a 69. Defending champion Sergio Garcia made only one birdie in his round of 75.

Woods played the HSBC Champions twice, before it became a World Golf Championship, and both times he was runner-up. Mickelson is making his third straight appearance.

In some respects, Watney is the face of American involvement this week. For those who thought Americans would stay home this week because it doesn't count as official on the PGA Tour, he is among 13 players who made the long flight.

And the leaderboard was filled with Stars & Stripes — Watney, Moore, Kim around the top, Pat Perez at 68 and Brian Gay and Jason Dufner at 69. Jerry Kelly tried playing with new grooves for the first time and ground out a 71.

"Got my first shank out of the way," Kelly said with a laugh.

Sean O'Hair walked over to the side of the ropes to find out a World Series score. Upon learning the New York Yankees had won the title over his hometown Phillies, he made birdie on the par-5 eighth, although that didn't keep him from a 74.

Watney signed up earlier this year for the World Cup the week of Thanksgiving at Mission Hills Golf Club near Hong Kong. He tried to find something to do in the Far East during the two-week break between the HSBC Champions and the World Cup, then figured he might as well go home to Las Vegas and get some rest.

His game appears sharp at the moment. All but two of his birdies were inside 10 feet, and he made eagle on the par-5 14th by hitting it where he wasn't aiming. Watney meant to go toward the left side of the green, away from the flag and the water, but pushed his hybrid. It worked out fine, leaving him a 30-foot putt that he made for eagle to get his round going.

The 28-year-old American certainly has no qualms about traveling so far to play.

"The coolest thing about golf is being able to travel all around the world," Watney said. "And to get this opportunity to come here and then back to Hong Kong, I didn't think twice about it."

A cab ride into Shanghai's massive city center? That's different. Watney went Tuesday and hung on for life as his cabbie weaved in and out of traffic and around bicycles on the road.

And what did he find to eat in Shanghai?

"We actually went in to eat Texas barbecue," he said. "I felt a little bad about coming to China and eating Texas barbecue."

Kim was among the last to qualify through one of two spots from the world ranking, and he almost didn't make it. He spent all day Tuesday in Hong Kong trying to get a visa and missed the pro-am. He doesn't know his way around Sheshan that well, which might have helped him. Aggressive by nature, he dialed back on some of the par 5s and picked up birdies.


UN relocating about 600 staff after Afghan attack

KABUL – The United Nations said Thursday that it will send more than half its international staff either out of Afghanistan or into more secure compounds following last week's deadly Taliban attack against U.N. workers — the most direct targeting of its employees during decades of work in the country.

About 600 nonessential staffers will be affected by the move, the U.N. said. The announcement came as the head of the U.N. mission issued a stern warning to newly re-elected President Hamid Karzai that he must crack down on corruption and initiate reform or risk losing international support.

The U.N. is still reeling from the pre-dawn assault on a guesthouse in the capital that left five of its staffers dead.

The world body insists it remains committed to Afghanistan, but its actions show how much security has degraded in the country and raise questions about the future of its work if attacks continue.

The relocations follow a U.N. decision on Monday to suspend much of its work in the volatile northwest of neighboring Pakistan because of increasingly targeted attacks.

The 600 U.N. employees will be moved for three to four weeks to more secure locations both within and outside of Afghanistan while the world body works to find safer permanent housing, spokesman Aleem Siddique said. He said they did not know how many would actually be leaving the country.

"We are not talking about pulling out," the head of the mission, Norwegian diplomat Kai Eide, told reporters. "We are not talking about evacuation."

He said a number of options were being considered for those who have to leave the country, including Dubai — a typical destination for international workers in Afghanistan on rest breaks.

Still, Eide made clear that the U.N. is concerned about the deteriorating situation in the country and the government's failure to stamp out corruption which helps fuel the insurgency.

"There is a belief among some that the international commitment to Afghanistan will continue whatever happens because of the strategic importance of Afghanistan," Eide said during a news conference in Kabul. "I would like to emphasize that that is not correct. It is the public opinion in donor countries and in troop-contributing countries that decides on the strength of that commitment."

The majority of the U.N.'s 1,100 international staff in Afghanistan lives in the capital, spread out in more than 90 guesthouses.

The plan is to consolidate those living arrangements to better protect staff, Siddique said. He stressed this was not a pullout or a scale-down in operations. About 80 percent of the U.N.'s staff in Afghanistan are Afghan citizens, and they will not be moved or halt their work, he said.

"We've been here for over half a century, and we're not about to go any time soon," Siddique said.

Much U.N. work in Afghanistan has been put on hold since the attack and employees have been given the option to take leave while officials consider how to better protect them.

Eide stressed that most of those who will be relocated are support staff, not those doing humanitarian work or leading urgent programs.

"We are doing everything we can do to minimize disruption of our work during this period," Eide said.

In the Oct. 28 attack, gunmen wearing suicide vests stormed a private guesthouse where dozens of U.N. staffers lived, killing five U.N. workers and three Afghans. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the assault, saying they intentionally targeted U.N. employees working on the recent presidential election.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon requested an additional $75 million to help with security improvements and crisis preparation in Afghanistan after the attack, spokesman Adrian Edwards said.

"There is no going back to the previous situation we were in. Our security clearly isn't up to the job of dealing with these kinds of attacks," Edwards said.

In Pakistan, the U.N. has suspended long-term development work — projects with a five-year or longer time frame — in the tribal areas and the North West Frontier Province, regions that border Afghanistan and have large areas under Taliban control.

The U.N. has lost 11 staffers in attacks in Pakistan this year, including last month's bombing of the World Food Program's office in Islamabad that killed five people.


New jobless claims drop to 512K, lowest since Jan.

WASHINGTON – The number of newly laid-off workers filing claims for unemployment benefits last week fell to the lowest level in 10 months, evidence that job cuts are easing as the economy slowly heals.

Still, companies are reluctant to hire and economists expect the unemployment rate will tick up to 9.9 percent when October's figure is reported Friday. The jobless rate hit a 26-year high of 9.8 percent in September.

The Labor Department said Thursday that first-time claims for jobless benefits fell by 20,000 to a seasonally adjusted 512,000. That's better than economists' estimates of 523,000.

Economists closely watch initial claims, which are considered a gauge of the pace of layoffs and an indication of employers' willingness to hire new workers.

The four-week average, which smooths fluctuations, dropped to 523,750, its ninth straight decline. That's 135,000 below the peak for the recession, reached in early April.

Despite the improvement, initial claims remain well above the roughly 400,000 that economists say will signal job creation.

The economy grew at a 3.5 percent annual pace in the July-September quarter, the government said last week, ending a record four straight quarters of decline and providing the strongest signal yet that the recession is over.

But economists worry that growth will slow early next year as various government stimulus programs wind down. That uncertainty has made many employers reluctant to hire.

On Wall Street, the better-than-expected jobless claims report gave investors hope that the monthly unemployment report also might beat expectations. The Dow Jones industrial average added more than 130 points in morning trading, and broader indexes also gained.

Many companies also are squeezing more production from their existing work forces. Productivity, the amount of output per hour worked, jumped 9.5 percent in the third quarter, the Labor Department said in a separate report. That's the sharpest increase in six years, and it enables companies to produce more without hiring extra workers.

Some economists were encouraged by the productivity report, saying that eventually companies will have to add jobs, rather than simply push their existing work forces harder.

Economists expect the nation lost a net total of 175,000 jobs last month, adding to the 7.2 million lost since the recession began in December 2007.

The number of people claiming jobless benefits for more than a week fell by 68,000 to 5.75 million, above analysts' estimates but the eighth drop in nine weeks. The continuing claims data lag initial claims by one week.

Another 4.1 million people claimed extended unemployment benefits in the week ended Oct. 17, the latest data available, an increase of about 100,000 from the previous week. Congress has added 53 weeks of emergency aid on top of the 26 weeks typically provided by states.

Still, as roughly 7,000 Americans run out of extended benefits every day, the House is expected to approve legislation that would add another 14 to 20 weeks. The Senate unanimously approved a similar proposal Wednesday.

The National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group, estimates that up to 1.3 million people would exhaust their benefits without the extension.

Many analysts expect the unemployment rate could rise as high as 10.5 percent before the recovery gains enough steam to start pushing it down next summer. The concern is that the recovery and consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of economic activity, could falter if households remain squeezed by layoffs, stagnant wages and depleted savings.

The Federal Reserve pledged Wednesday to keep interest rates low for an "extended period," which central bank policymakers can do because wage and general inflation pressures have vanished during the steep downturn.

Some companies are still announcing job cuts. Microsoft said Wednesday that it will eliminate 800 jobs on top of 5,000 layoffs that it announced in January. And Johnson & Johnson said it could cut up to 8,300 jobs as part of a restructuring.

Among the states, California reported the largest increase in claims, with 14,394, which it attributed to layoffs in the construction, services, manufacturing and agriculture industries. North Carolina, Oregon, Georgia and New York had the next largest increases. The state data lag initial claims by a week.


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