Cricket Review 2017

The year 2017 saw several Day-Night Test matches being played and it looked to be the trend for the longer format of the game. However, Day-Night Tests haven’t flourished for a variety of reasons although excellent spectator turnouts had promised good times ahead.

A day-night Test match involving Zimbabwe and South Africa had been reduced to four days from its customary five days and the move was criticized but this was some indication of growing trends globally. Apart from countries like England, Australia and India where Test match cricket still attracts lot of interest, the longer format was struggling in other parts of the world. Not that the reduction of days in that Test match mattered as South Africa finished off the game inside two days with an innings and 120 run win.

Bangladesh had been making steady progress in Test cricket but most of their wins had come at home on wickets that turned square. Their victory against Sri Lanka in 2017 made quite a statement.

Sri Lanka were sitting pretty having won the first Test in Galle, but in Colombo’s P. Sara Oval they conceded a first innings lead 129 runs and were playing catch up and a couple of dropped catches hurt them dearly.

Shakib-al-Hasan starred with a hundred and six wickets as Bangladesh won by four wickets to square the two-match series.

That wasn’t the only giant killing performance by Bangladesh in 2017. They humbled Australia recording a first ever win over Test cricket’s most successful team ever.
In what was a low scoring thriller, Australia had been set a target of 265 in Dhaka. Despite
David Warner’s belligerent 112, the Aussies failed to get over the line losing their last six wickets for 57 runs in a dramatic collapse.

No prizes for guessing Bangladesh’s hero in the win – Shakib al Hasan. He took a match bag of ten wickets and posted a crucial 85 in the first innings after the side had been reduced to ten for three. Australia bounced back to square the series winning the second Test.

The Border-Gavaskar Trophy was one of the highlights of the year and India did well to bounce back to win the series after starting off the contest on the wrong foot.

India suffered a humiliating 333 run loss in Pune as left-arm spinner Steve O’Keefe with a match bag of 12 wickets helped Australia to bowl out the opposition for 105 and 107,

However, soon India’s spinners made an impact bouncing back in Bangalore. Australia had
claimed an 87-run lead in the first innings and had to only chase a target of 188 to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the four-match series. However, Ravichandran Ashwin with six wickets helped India to finish off Australia for 112 runs to complete a 75-run win.

Ranchi was a high scoring draw and it was all set up for the final game and India went with the extra spin option of Kuldeep Yadav and it proved to be a good decision as they completed an eight wicket win  to maintain their unbeaten record against Australia at home since 2004.

It is South Africa’s fast bowlers who generally set up Test wins for them but for a change, spin came to the fore during their tour of New Zealand as Kesha Maharaj with his left-arm spin starred in Proteas’ 1-0 win.
Many spin bowlers have come and gone for South Africa, but none had established his place in the side and that is why Hugh Tayfield, an off-spinner who played between 1949 to 1960, is the most successful spinner for South Africa with 170 Test wickets. He is also the ninth highest wicket taker for South Africa in the history of the game.

Maharaj gave some assurance that he is there to change it. He had debuted only five months ago and on his second overseas tour finished with a rich haul of 15 wickets including eight wickets in the Wellington Test which South Africa won to secure the series.

South Africa couldn’t maintain their winning momentum overseas as they suffered a 3-1 defeat to England. They had their moments like when they won in Trent Bridge by 340 runs to square the series.
But they suffered big losses at Old Trafford and The Oval to surrender the series as Moeen Ali had a huge impact picking up 25 wickets and making 252 runs. He was the highest wicket taker and eighth highest run scorer from either side.

Sri Lanka played 13 Test matches in the year, quite a lot by their standards and had a year of mixed fortunes. They were whitewashed by India in their own backyard forcing Head Coach Graeme Ford to step down. But in their next series, they created quite an impact.

Since UAE became Pakistan’s adopted home in 2009, Pakistan had maintained an unbeaten run in the gulf never losing a Test series. UAE’s extreme heat is pointed as one main reason for teams struggling to compete there. Sri Lanka came well prepared and beat them 2-0 in the Test series to end Pakistan’s reign in the gulf.

Spin bowlers Rangana Herath and Dilruwan Perera with 28 wickets between them played a key role in Sri Lanka’s win and so did opening batsman Dimuth Karunaratne, who compiled a back to the wall 196 in the pink ball Test in Dubai.

West Indies toured New Zealand over Christmas for a multi format tour and it turned out to be a disappointing one as one of cricket’s strong forces returned home without winning a single game. They were routed across all three series and ran into several problems.

It didn’t help that they didn’t have the services of captain Jason Holder, who was suspended for the second Test after maintaining a slow over rate in the first Test.

The matter, however, came for discussion at the ICC Cricket Committee and the first steps to stop banning captains when the team has been late to finish off the overs on time were taken here.

In limited overs series, Sri Lanka suffered three 5-0 whitewashes in the year 2017. It all started when they lost to South Africa 5-0 in January and then suffered a whitewash at home to India before going down to Pakistan by the same margin in UAE. It was a painful year for Sri Lanka in limited overs cricket as they suffered a first ever ODI series to Zimbabwe and captain Angelo Mathews stepped down.

The highlight of the year in white ball cricket was the Champions Trophy. Pakistan had started off awfully in the tournament but like Imran Khan’s cornered tigers did in the 1992 World Cup, Sarfraz Ahmed’s side fought tooth and nail to go onto win the championship.

India had handed Pakistan a 124-run defeat in their opening game and Sarfraz and Head Coach Mickey Arthur were under tremendous pressure. But they turned things around from thereon and an eight wicket win over hosts Engand in the semi-final rejuvenated them.

Television revenues were soaring as India and Pakistan booked a berth in the grand final at The Oval and it was a packed house.

Fakhar Zaman had been caught behind early in his innings and started walking back but it emerged that Jasprit Bumrah had overstepped. He made India to pay with a swashbuckling 114 that came off 106 balls as Pakistan posted 338 for four.

It was going to be a tall order for India and they were shot out for 158 in 30.3 overs as Pakistan completed a 180-run win. That evening in and around Kennington resembled like Lahore or Karachi with fans holding Pakistan flags roaming all over the streets.

India captain Virat Kohli capped off an excellent year and was named Cricketer of the Year by the ICC. Australia’s  Ellyse Perry was named Women’s Cricketer of the Year.

Kohli scored over 1000 runs each in Test and ODI cricket and was helping India to dream big. His innovative thinking of using wrist spinners to succeed in white ball cricket rather than finger spinners was a masterstroke. The idea was borrowed by other teams as well for a while. Wrist spinners were effective earlier on but before long teams countered that ploy too targeting them before they could get into their groove.

South African cricket was rocked by a scandal as well as it appeared that several of their leading players were retiring prematurely to take up KOLPAK deals in England that enabled them to register themselves as local players in County Cricket. Kyle Abbott and Rilee Rossouw were lost for South African cricket in 2017 and lot of others would follow suit soon.

The year also marked two of Pakistan cricket’s stalwarts quitting the game. Misbah-ul-Haq was 42 when he played his last Test match against West Indies. He was the nation’s most successful captain after the great Imran Khan.

It was also Younis Khan’s last Test match. Javed Miandad may be considered the best batsman produced by Pakistan, but Younis Khan went to places where even the great Javed couldn’t.  
Younis had become the only Pakistan cricketer to score 10,000 runs and to date he is the highest run getter for his country in Test match cricket. Babar Azam with 3898 runs to his name is a long distance away from catching up to the great man. Babar is 29 already and you wonder whether he will break that record?