Cricket Review 2018
Test cricket that was reduced to ten members until 2018, saw the game being further expanded that year with Ireland and Afghanistan joining the elite teams. The sport was no longer restricted to handful of teams. It was the first time in almost two decades a new member had been granted Test status. For a change this time there were two members coming into the fold.  

Ireland, of course, had been knocking on the door for a while now. Many Irish cricketers had excelled in County Cricket and a few of them had gone onto play Test cricket for England having switched alliance. Afghanistan were granted Test status following their exploits in white ball cricket. Pretty remarkable run for a team that could not play home games.  

The year started with Australia stamping their authority over England completing triumph in The Ashes winning the series 4-0. The traditional final Test in Sydney gave Australia an innings and 123 run win.  

The margins of the series does not reflect how well this Ashes contest was fought out. All five Tests went to the final day and England could have changed the scoreline with a bit more fighting spirit.  

Australia are no longer a team dominated by one superstar like Shane Warne or Steve Waugh. They are  a side that rely heavily on teamwork as evident by the number of wickets each bowler took. Pat Cummins ended up with 23 scalps while Mitchell Starc had 22 to his name and Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon claimed 21 wickets each. James Anderson’s 17 wickets were the most by an Englishmen.  

Similarly, three Australians were top of run charts as well. While Steve Smith finished with 687 runs Shaun Marsh (445) and David Warner (441) scored big runs too.  

India’s determination to improve their records in England, Australia and South Africa had seen them take some drastic measures. Under Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri, they experimented by leaving more grass on tracks and backing their quicks in home Test matches.

When they went to South Africa in 2018, they were expected to win their first Test series in that country. While their quicks like – Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishan Sharma and Bhuvaneshwar Kumar didn’t disappoint them, the batters struggled to compete and lost the series.  

Virat Kohli still emerged as the top run scorer in the series with 286 runs to his name including a top score of 153 at Centurion. In this series no South African managed a hundred either and that showcases why Kohli is the best batter in the world. He will master any condition and any attack be it extreme pace or prodigious spin.  

Although no South African scored a hundred, there were lots of half-centuries for them and three of them compiled more than 200 runs in the series.  

After Kohli, most runs for India in the series came from Hardik Pandya – 119. Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Shikhar Dhawan and K.L. Rahul were all a flop in a series dominated by fast bowling.  

Soon after the India series, there was quite a lot of build up as Australia toured South Africa for a four Test series. This was Australia’s first four Test series in South Africa since their readmission to cricket.  

Australia started off the series by winning the first Test, but South Africa bounced back winning the subsequent three Tests.  

This was one of the most controversial cricket series ever as television footage during the third Test in Cape Town indicated that Australia’s close in fielder Cameron Bancroft maybe involved in ball tampering.  

Match Referee Andy Pycroft called for a hearing where captain Steve Smith and Bancroft admitted to ball tampering.  

There was a public outcry back in Australia and the sprot’s governing body was forced to replace Tim Paine as captain for the rest of the game as Smith was relieved of his duties.  

After the Test match, Bancroft, Smith and vice-captain David Warner were all flown out of South Africa after intense criticism back home about the conduct of the team. Head Coach Darren Lehmann wasn’t spared either and he announced that he would step down after the series.  

Warner and Smith were suspended for one year while Bancroft received a nine-month suspension. The incident resulted in the whole governing structure of Cricket Australia being changed as the public were suspicious that the Australian team did not engage in fair play.

James Sutherland, one of the most respected figures in cricket and CEO of Cricket Australia for 18 years found it all too tough to take and announced his retirement.  

While Bancrfot was new and Warner was no stranger to controversy, this was quite a come down for Smith, who had been held in high esteem all over the world. He was in tears on his return home to Sydney and did well to earn back the respect of his peers and opponents.  

The series marked the end of Morne Morkel, who had gone onto become only the fifth South African to take 300 Test wickets.  

This was a year infamous for ball tampering.  

Sri Lanka were in St. Lucia playing West Indies and umpires were suspicious about the methods Dinesh Chandimal’s side was using to maintain the ball and upon viewing television footage, there was enough evidence to find the tourists had been tampering with the ball.  

Chandimal was charged on the third morning of the Test match. Sri Lanka protested not entering the field for almost two hours and after much deliberation and convincing from home, they agreed to continue the game.  

This did not go down well with the ICC. While Chandimal was banned for the third Test in Barbados, Head Coach Chandika Hothousing, Manager Asanka Gurusinha and the captain were charged for a more serious Level 3 offence which dealt with bringing the game into disrepute. They were later suspended for two Tests and four ODIs by the ICC.  

India’s troubles touring overseas continued as they suffered a 4-1 series defeat in England. Once again Kohli’s brilliance stood out as he scored 593 runs in the series. The next best batter was Jos Buttler, by quite a distance, having scored 349.  

This series marked Alastair Cook’s swansong and he retired with a hundred in his final Test and became only the fifth man in the history of the game to have scored a hundred on debut and his last Test match.

In a career spanning 161 Tests, the former England captain had amassed 12,472 runs, most by an Englishman and the fifth highest in Test cricket.  

In their earlier tours of Sri Lanka, England had struggled to counter the spin and been troubled by the heat. By 2018, they had a blueprint to succeed in the island and it helped Trevor Bayliss, who had spent four years in Sri Lanka as the Head Coach was in their ranks now.

Cricket is a funny game. Ben Foakes was not in England’s plans for the Test series although he was part of the squad. But Jonny Bairstow was injured lead up to the game and it was decided to hand Foakes his Test debut.

It proved to be a godsend. Foakes played Sri Lanka’s spinners expertly scoring a hundred on debut becoming only the fifth wicketkeeper to do so on debut. His keeping was flawless too.  

Eventually, although Bairstow returned to the side, Foakes kept the wicketkeeping gloves. And guess what, he finished as the highest run getter in the series from either side as England completed a 3-0 sweep. He was named Player of the Series.  

The series marked the retirement of Rangana Herath from Test cricket. The spinner quit after the first Test in Galle having claimed 433 wickets, most by a left-armer.  

It was England’s first ever series whitewash overseas in a three or more Tests since beating New Zealand in 1963.  

Pakistan’s efforts to bring international cricket back to the country had gained momentum and with overseas players happy to be involved in Pakistan Super League, which was fully played in that country, there was room for full international cricket returning there.  

They were very close to bring down New Zealand, but eventually it was decided to play the series in UAE, Pakistan’s adopted home since 2009.  

New Zealand went onto complete a 2-1 series win, the first time they had beaten Pakistan away from home since 1969. The series also marked leg-spinner Yasir Shah becoming the fastest bowler to take 200 Test wickets and breaking a record that had stood for 82 years. Yasir achieved the milestone in his 33rd Test while fellow leggie Clarrie Grimmett had got there in 36 Tests.

This year also marked Bangladesh’s emergence as a strong white ball unit although they failed to win any major title. The Asia Cup in UAE saw them beating Pakistan and Sri Lanka, both former champions. They also went onto tie their game against India. Although they lost the final to India, a new force in ODI cricket had emerged.  

There was also a major win for Scotland in ODI cricket as they beat England for the first time in history. The one-off game in Edinburgh saw Scotland posting 371 for five against an attack that had Wood, Plunkett, Willey, Rashid and Moeen. England were bowled out in 48.5 overs seven runs short of the target.  

Despite such impressive feats, Scotland failed to qualify for the World Cup. The Scots had started off the Qualifiers well winning their first three games, but faulted towards the tail end of the competition losing to West Indies and Ireland and were knocked out.