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Who got the big bucks and who got the left-overs

It has been less than six months when we were all just witnessing Mumbai Indians winning their fifth IPL title. The most by any team in the history of the IPL. And once again the buzz, the hype and the thrill is just around the corner. And everyone’s getting ready for the most expensive and the most celebrated tournament around the world. Last night was nothing like ever. The auction of IPL 2021 took place and it shocked everyone.

Big Betting on the Bowlers :

This year’s auction turned out to be in favour of pace bowlers. And mostly in favour of foreigners.

Rajasthan Royals created history by spending a huge amount of 16.25 cr for South African all-rounder Chris Morris. He is by far the most expensive player in the history of the IPL. It came as a shock to many as Chris Morris has not been in his best performance these past years.

The second most expensive bowler to be picked up in this mini auction was New Zealand’s fast bowler Kyle Jamieson. He got picked up by Royal Challengers Bangalore after a tough bid-fight with Punjab Kings. But he didn’t come easily. Bangalore shelled out 15 cr for an overseas who has never played in India and has only a little experience of playing in T20s.

Another fast bowler from Australia surprised everyone. Jhye Richardson was sold to Punjab Kings for a huge amount of 14 cr. One of the main reasons behind spending such a huge amount on a young player, is his recent performance in Big Bash League, 2021. He was the highest wicket-taker in the series.

Not only bowlers, even all-rounders like Glenn Maxwell and Krisnappa Gowtham were paid handsome amounts in the mini-auction. As always, most of the teams wanted Maxwell. So it was a tough fight but ultimately Bangalore bagged him at 14.25 cr. K. Gowtham, who performed very well last year with Rajasthan, got picked up by Chennai at 9.25 cr.

Even though many players got big bucks, the auction highlights two sides. Most of the foreign players got paid handsome amount but the country’s very own experienced players got very less than they deserved. Like, fast bowler Umesh Yadav was paid 1 cr and Mohit Sharma was paid only 2 cr. It’s ironic that Indian Premier League doesn’t value its own Indian players.

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Specials – England in Chepauk Tests, Part 3

In the third and final part of this series, we look back at England’s last three Test matches at Chepauk heading into the ongoing series against India, each of which resulted in defeat.

A tame series surrender – Second Test, 1992-93

Smarting from an eight-defeat at Calcutta, England were dealt a further setback when captain Graham Gooch had to pull out due to sickness, presumably due to eating prawns the previous night. Opener Navjot Singh Sidhu scored 106 after India elected to bat, sharing in stands of 108 for the second wicket with Vinod Kambli (59) and 147 for the third wicket with Sachin Tendulkar, who continued to add to the visitors’ woes.

Tendulkar put on 118 for the fifth wicket with Pravin Amre (78) before falling for a fine 165. Kapil Dev’s quickfire 66* swelled the total to 560/6, at which point India declared late on the second day. Stand-in captain Alec Stewart (74) and Graeme Hick (64) added 111 for the second wicket in response, before left-arm spinner Venkatapathy Raju (4/103) and off-spinner Rajesh Chauhan triggered a collapse from 157/1 to 179/6.

Neil Fairbrother (83) pushed the total to 286, after which India enforced the follow-on. Kapil removed Stewart and Hick for ducks early, and though opener Robin Smith scored 56, England crashed to 99/6. Chris Lewis, batting at number seven, hit an a rapid 117 on his 25th birthday, which took the match into the final day. England were duly bowled out for 252, with leg-spinner Anil Kumble collecting figures of 6/64.

A chase to remember – First Test, 2008-09

Andrew Strauss laid a strong platform for England in this first of two Tests through an opening stand of 118 with fellow left-hander Alastair Cook (52). But India fought back with regular wickets to have the score at 229/6, Strauss being fifth out for 123. Matt Prior propelled the eventual total to 316 with an unbeaten 53. India wobbled to 37/3 in reply, with debutant off-spinner Graeme Swann taking two of those wickets. 

Virender Sehwag was named Man of the Match in the 2008-09 Chepauk Test, for his 68-ball 83 that set the tone for India’s memorable chase against England (source – Times of India)

Captain MS Dhoni (53) was joined by Harbhajan Singh at 137/6, and the pair added 75 for the seventh wicket. But it was not enough to prevent England from taking a 75-run lead. England were then reduced to 43/3, before a fourth-wicket stand of 214 between Strauss (108) and Paul Collingwood (108) steered them to a declaration at 311/9. Strauss had the satisfaction of scoring twin hundreds, but it would be in a losing cause.

India’s target was a stiff 387. However, Virender Sehwag smashed 83 in just 68 balls in an opening stand of 117 with Gautam Gambhir (66). Just after lunch on the final day, Yuvraj Singh (85*) joined forces with Tendulkar at 224/4. They forged an unbroken stand of 163, with a four from Tendulkar (103*) bringing up his hundred as well as a famous six-wicket win for India. This is currently the seventh highest successful Test chase.

Record-breaking India run amok – Fifth Test, 2016-17

As was also the case in the fourth Test at Mumbai, England somehow went on to lose heavily despite a promising start. Their first-innings total of 477 eventually went down as the highest for a team losing by an innings. The visitors, already down by 3-0 in the series, slipped to 21/2 before Joe Root (88) and Moeen Ali put on 146 for the third wicket. Moeen kept going, and was the seventh man out at 321 for 146.

Debutant Liam Dawson (66) and Adil Rashid (60) frustrated India by adding 108 for the eighth wicket. India displayed their run-scoring intentions from outset, as openers Lokesh Rahul and Parthiv Patel (71) put on 152. Rahul also added 161 for the fourth wicket with Karun Nair, and agonisingly fell on the verge of a double ton, for 199. Nair was in his element, as he deflated England with an incredible performance.

Playing only his third Test, Nair became the second man to hit a Test triple ton for India. He stayed unbeaten on 303 from just 381 balls, sharing in stands of 181 for the sixth wicket with Ravichandran Ashwin (67) and 158 for the seventh wicket with Ravindra Jadeja (51). India amassed a gargantuan 759/7 – their highest Test total. The left-arm spin of Jadeja (7/48) dealt the final blow to England, who were dismissed for 207.

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Specials – England in Chepauk Tests, Part 2

Having revisited England’s first three Tests at Chepauk in the first of this three-part series, we move on further through the 1970s and into the 1980s in the second part.  

A commanding series success – Third Test, 1976-77

Holding a lead of 2-0, England pocketed the series with two matches left. They won the toss on a pitch with uneven bounce, but slumped to 31/3. Roger Tolchard retired hurt two runs later, at which point Mike Brearley (59) and captain Tony Greig (54*) joined for a stand of 109.Wicketkeeper Alan Knott chipped in with 45, even as Greig’s opposite number Bishan Singh Bedi (4/72) chipped away with his left-arm spin.

The innings closed at 262, which was to be the highest total of the Test by far. India had an even worse start, crashing to 17/3 against the pace duo of Chris Old and John Lever. Left-armer Lever ended up as the wrecker-in-chief with 5/59, as India conceded a substantial lead of 98. The innings was marred by controversy, when Lever was alleged to have made use of Vaseline to alter the condition of the ball.

Leg-spinner Bhagwat Chandrasekhar (5/50) and off-spinner Erapalli Prasanna (4/55) combined to bowl England out for 185, but a target of 284 was going to be a tall order. After Dilip Vengsarkar retired hurt, India caved in from 40/0 to 83 all out, then their lowest total at home. The pick of the bowlers was left-arm spinner Derek Underwood (4/28). This 200-run victory gave England only their second series triumph in India.

Viswanath shines in stalemate – Fifth Test, 1981-82

The streak of draws in the six-match series continued – India had prevailed in the first Test and would win the rubber 1-0. England scalped the openers to make the score 51/2, but Vengsarkar (71) put on 99 with Gundappa Viswanath before retiring hurt, bringing Yashpal Sharma to the crease. The pair shared a record stand of 316, then India’s best for the third wicket and still their all-wicket best against England.

Mike Gatting scored a career-best 207 in England’s nine-wicket win at Chepauk in 1984-85 (source – Bob Thomas/Getty Images)

Sharma fell for 140, but Viswanath carried on to 222, then the highest score by an Indian against England. Replying to India’s 481/4, openers Graham Gooch (127) and Chris Tavare put on 155. England were 279/3 late on the fourth day, but were bowled out for 328 early on the final day, left-arm spinner Dilip Doshi returning a tidy 4/69. India declared for the second time at 160/3, with debutant Pranab Roy scoring 60*.

Foster, Fowler and Gatting script famous win – Fourth Test, 1984-85

The five-match series was well poised at 1-1. Fine swing bowling from Neil Foster, playing his first Test in India, got rid of captain Sunil Gavaskar and Vengsarkar, which contributed towards reducing India to 45/3. Mohinder Amarnath (78) added 110 for the fourth wicket with Mohammad Azharuddin, while Kapil Dev hit a brisk 53. But Foster (6/104) kept striking to ensure that the hosts were restricted to 272.

The English top order cashed in on better batting conditions and poor Indian fielding. The left-handed Graeme Fowler added 178 with Tim Robinson (74) for the first wicket and 241 with Mike Gatting for the second, before falling for 201. Gatting piled the runs in a fourth-wicket stand of 144 with Allan Lamb (62), helping himself to 207, a career-best performance like Fowler’s. England declared at a colossal 652/7.

This is England’s highest total in India and the highest by a visiting team in a winning cause in India. The efforts of Amarnath (95), Azharuddin (105) and Syed Kirmani (75) were not enough, as Foster took 5/59 to notch his only Test ten-for. England duly achieved the target of 33 to win by nine wickets. The last Test was drawn, meaning that England became the first visiting side to win a series in India after being behind.

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Specials – England in Chepauk Tests, Part 1

Coming off series wins in Australia and Sri Lanka respectively, India and England will commence their four-Test battle for the Anthony de Mello Trophy on 5th February. The first two Tests will be played at the M.A. Chidambraram Stadium in Chennai (formerly Madras), more popularly known as the Chepauk Stadium because of the locality in which it is situated.

England have played 11 Tests in Chennai, of which nine have been at Chepauk (they played two Tests at the Corporation Stadium in 1961-62 and 1963-64). Their record at the ground stands at three wins and five losses, besides a draw. Through this three-part series, we look back at each of these nine Tests, some of which have featured significant results and performances.

Verity wreaks havoc – Third Test, 1933-34

This was the final match of the first ever Test series to be played in India. England, holding a 1-0 lead after having won by nine wickets in the first Test at Bombay, were provided with an opening stand of 111 between Alfred Bakewell (85) and Cyril Walters (59). At 167/1, England seemed to be aiming for a big total. However, the pace duo of Amar Singh and Lala Amarnath sparked a collapse to send the score to 208/7.

Captain Douglas Jardine, in what would be in his last Test, revived the innings by scoring 65 and putting on 97 for the eighth wicket with Hedley Verity, who made a valuable 42. Amar ended with figures of 7/86, taking the wicket of Harry Elliott to end the innings at 335. Verity’s left-arm spin then took centre stage – he captured 7/49 to condemn India to 145 early on the third day. No batsman scored more than 26.

Walters (102) cemented England’s position, enabling a declaration at 261/7. Amar’s new-ball partner Nazir Ali returned figures of 4/83. With opener Naoomal Jaoomal retiring hurt in the first innings, India were already a man short. Verity (4/104) and fellow left-arm spinner James Langridge (5/63) duly bowled England to victory by 202 runs, even as Amar (48) and the Yuvraj of Patiala (60) showed some resistance.  

India finally break the duck – Fifth Test, 1951-52

Vinoo Mankad returned match figures of 12/108 to star in India’s maiden Test win (source – indiatimes.com)

Prior to this series finale, India had not recorded a single win in 24 Tests since their debut in 1932. While England were led by Donald Carr in place of an unwell Nigel Howard, the hosts, under Vijay Hazare, made five changes from the side that played the fourth Test. Richard Spooner (66) and John Robertson (77) anchored the innings after England won the toss, guiding the score to 224/5 at the end of the first day.

The second day was declared as the rest day due to the death of King George VI. When play resumed, Vinoo Mankad made short work of the lower order. The great leg-spinning all-rounder snared the last five wickets on his way to a haul of 8/55, which helped restrict England to 266. When India batted, opener Pankaj Roy rose to the task with a fluent 111. But it was Polly Umrigar who diminished English hopes.

Batting at number seven, Umrigar hit an unbeaten 130, adding 104 with Dattu Phadkar (61) for the sixth wicket and a further 93 with Coimbatarao Gopinath for the seventh wicket. India declared at 457/9, after which Mankad (4/53) and off-spinner Ghulam Ahmed (4/77) secured India’s historic win by an innings and eight runs before tea on the fourth day. This result ensured that the series was drawn 1-1.

England succumb to spin – Third Test, 1972-73

The five-match series stood at 1-1 following India’s 28-run win in the second Test at Calcutta. England were undone by the spin trio of leggie Bhagwat Chandrasekhar (6/90), left-armer Bishan Singh Bedi and offie Erapalli Prasanna, who combined to leave the score tottering at 110/7. But Keith Fletcher (97*) rallied well with the tail. His ninth-wicket stand with Norman Gifford fetched 83, taking the total to 242.

India wobbled to 28/2 in reply, before the middle order shared in vital partnerships. Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, brought into the eleven at the expense of Abid Ali, came in when captain Ajit Wadekar (44) was third out at 89. The Nawab top-scored with 73, which was the cornerstone of the Indian total of 316. Armed with a handy lead, India rode on four-wicket hauls from Bedi (4/38) and Prasanna (4/16) in the second innings.

England managed 159, with Mike Denness (76) doing the bulk of the scoring. Set 86 to win, India were tested in the chase. Sunil Gavaskar did not open due to a finger injury, and with only 11 on the board, Chris Old ousted Farokh Engineer and Wadekar. Salim Durani steadied the ship, but Pat Pocock (4/28) gave a late scare. The off-spinner sent the score from 44/2 to 78/6, before India sealed a four-wicket win.

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In Focus – An exhilarating epic for the ages

Over the years, the Border-Gavaskar Trophy has had no dearth of extraordinary cricket and riveting drama. But what transpired in Brisbane on 19th January 2021 was in a different realm altogether. Embattled by injuries and forced to field a greenhorn bowling unit, defending champions India entered the fortress of the Gabba needing at least a draw to maintain their recent stranglehold on the trophy.

Between them, the quintet of Mohammed Siraj, Thangarasu Natarajan, Navdeep Saini, Shardul Thakur and Washington Sundar had played four Tests. On the other hand, Australia were at full strength. After having been bowled out for 36 in the first Test at Adelaide exactly a month earlier, India had been written off by many soothsayers. The talismanic Virat Kohli was gone, giving the reins to Ajinkya Rahane.

As the new year drew close with hope of better days ahead, Rahane led from the front in the Boxing Day Test with a century, underlining that with or without Kohli, this Indian team would be no pushovers. A fighting draw ensued at Sydney, but by the time the final destination of Brisbane arrived, India were shorn of each of their first-choice frontline bowlers. Australia were smelling blood…or so they thought.   

‘See you at the Gabba’, remarked a cocky Tim Paine to Ravichandran Ashwin from behind the wicket even as the off-spinner was steering India to safety along with Hanuma Vihari at the SCG. The Australian captain should have known that he was treading on slippery ground. Yet, his team appeared to be in the ascendancy halfway through the deciding contest. Responding to 369, India had been reduced to 186/6.

Thakur, playing his second Test, joined Sundar, on debut and playing his first first-class game in three years. The duo brought out the tenacity that embodied the spirit of the team, putting on a pivotal stand of 123. With Australia’s lead cut to 33, Siraj, who had debuted at Melbourne and was heckled at Sydney, let the ball do the talking through a haul of 5/73 that made him India’s highest wicket-taker in the series.

Not only were India left staring at a target of 328 on a pitch with uneven bounce, but also at long odds. A total of 300 or more had been successfully chased only 32 times in Test history. India had done it only twice. Australia had last lost a Test at the Gabba in 1988-89, to a West Indian side boasting of some stellar names. India had not tasted success at the Gabba in six Tests, though they had come close more than once.

Rishabh Pant gets congratulated by his teammates after scoring a match-winning 89* against Australia at the Gabba in Brisbane (source – AP/Tertius Pickard)

Back in 1967-68, India had lost by 39 runs while chasing 395. Ten years later, they had fallen short by just 16 runs in pursuit of 340. No visiting team had ever chased down more than 200 at the Gabba. But this Indian team was unburdened by the baggage of the past. As the final day commenced with anticipation in the air, Shubman Gill, another young debutant in the series, sparkled through the sunshine en route to 91.

With the tone set at one end, Cheteshwar Pujara did what he does best – sap the energy out of the bowlers by laying a platform strong enough to become a launchpad for the risk takers. In Rishabh Pant, India have a risk taker who can unsettle the best of bowlers in the tensest of scenarios. The spunky wicketkeeper, coming off a typically barnstorming 97 in the chase at Sydney, rose to the task once again.

When Pujara fell for 56, having occupied the crease for 211 balls, India were exactly 100 away. When Mayank Agarwal perished, the target had been whittled down to 63 off 80 balls. Sundar, having already exhibited his batting abilities, came out to face the seemingly indefatigable Pat Cummins. With 50 needed in eight overs and Australian shoulders drooping, Pant (89*) and Sundar unleashed the final onslaught.

At Sydney, India shut shop after Pant was dismissed, and rightly so. But at the Gabba, he was there till the end, carting and driving with merriment. Within a month, he had metamorphosed from being an uncertainty in the starting eleven to being the force behind a cathartic three-wicket win. A good three overs still remained when he charged for the winning four, culminating a most audacious breach of the fortress.  

We have seen South Africa chase down 435 in an ODI against Australia at the Wanderers. We have also seen a tied World Cup final at Lord’s. Yet, the magic of a great Test match is just something else, as it tantalisingly unfolds like a well-woven canvas delicately revealing its intricacies across five days. Add to that the situation in which India achieved the improbable, and you have no less than stuff of dreams.

As Rahane went forward to collect the trophy, moments after presenting a memento to Nathan Lyon for his 100th Test in a wonderful gesture, one could finally sense the fairytale sinking in. India’s victory was a fitting end to a gripping series. It boggled the mind and warmed the cockles of the heart at the same time, and deserves to be talked about as a glorious sporting triumph over adversity for years down the road.

Match Scorecard

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Record Book – Top Indian performances at the Gabba

With Border-Gavaskar Trophy holders India pulling off a gripping draw at the Sydney Cricket Ground, the battle for the series is still alive going into the fourth and final Test at the Gabba in Brisbane. The visitors, hit by a spate of injuries, face a tall ask at the venue, famously referred to as the ‘Gabbatoir’ due to Australia’s strong record there. Out of 62 Tests at the Gabba, Australia have won 40 and lost only eight.

Moreover, Australia have not lost a Test at the Gabba in over 30 years – their latest loss at the ground was against the West Indies in 1988-89. Since then, they have won 24 Tests and drawn seven. Though India’s record at the Gabba reads five defeats and a draw, they have often displayed grit. As we wait for the decider to unfold, here is a look back at Test centuries and five-wicket hauls by Indian players at the Gabba.

6/104 by Erapalli Prasanna, Third Test, 1967-68

Leading the four-match series 2-0, Australia gained a first-innings cushion of 100 to put themselves in a strong position. They then motored to 116/0, before off-spinner Prasanna pulled things back. He scalped opener Ian Redpath for the second time in the match, trapping him on the pads for 79, and went on to claim five of the last six wickets to fall. His 6/104 from 33.4 eight-ball overs helped limit India’s target to 395.

101 by Motganhalli Jaisimha, Third Test, 1967-68

This was Jaisimha’s first match on the tour, and he impressed with 74 in the first innings. He came in at 154/4 in the second dig, with India still needing 241 for an unlikely win. He made India believe for as long as he was there, adding 119 for the sixth wicket with Chandu Borde (63). But the last five wickets fell for 45 to give Australia a 39-run victory. Jaisimha was last out, having batted for nearly five hours.

5/55 by Bishan Singh Bedi, First Test, 1977-78

India had their best chance to succeed in Australia, what with the hosts missing several top players due to the Packer exodus. Skipper Bedi led from the front with his left-arm spin on the first day. He struck off his first ball and continued to befuddle a batting line-up featuring six debutants. Had it not been for 82 from Peter Toohey, one of the debutants, Australia would have ended up with a lot less than 166.

Sourav Ganguly played a captain’s knock of 144 at the Gabba in 2003-04 (source – Twitter)

5/72 by Madan Lal, First Test, 1977-78

Australia fought back with the ball to gain a first-innings lead of 13. But their second innings began in disastrous fashion, as Madan Lal got rid of openers Gary Cosier and Paul Hibbert with only six runs on the board. The score further fell to 7/3, but eventually recovered to 327. The medium pacer added three more wickets to finish with 5/72 from 19 eight-ball overs – the best return by an Indian pacer at the Gabba.  

113 by Sunil Gavaskar, First Test, 1977-78

Despite being in advantageous positions more than once, India were left to chase 341. Gavaskar lost fellow opener Dilip Vengsarkar cheaply, before sharing in stands of 81 with Mohinder Amarnath for the second wicket and 59 with Gundappa Viswanath for the third wicket. When he was sixth out for a 320-minute 113 with 12 fours, India needed 98. Syed Kirmani (55) battled hard with the tail, but India lost by just 16 runs.

5/95 by Zaheer Khan, First Test, 2003-04

Australia ended the first day of this rain-affected drawn Test at 262/2, with Zaheer taking the wickets of Matthew Hayden and Ricky Ponting. The left-arm seamer was not done yet, as he dismissed captain Steve Waugh (hit wicket for a duck) and Adam Gilchrist in successive overs before netting Simon Katich as his fifth victim. His 5/95 from 23 overs contributed towards Australia’s collapse from 268/2 to 323 all out.  

144 by Sourav Ganguly, First Test, 2003-04

Replying to Australia’s 323, India were 61/0 early on the fourth day. However, the key wickets of Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar fell for the addition of just one run. This wobble brought to the middle captain Ganguly, who went on the charge in the course of his sparkling 196-ball effort that included 18 fours. He added 146 for the fifth wicket with VVS Laxman (75), and helped his team to a lead of 86.

144 by Murali Vijay, Second Test, 2014-15

Keen to equalise after a thrilling defeat at Adelaide, India posted a healthy 408. Opener Vijay matched Ganguly’s score from 11 years earlier, facing 213 balls in about five and a half hours and striking 22 fours. He put on 124 for the fourth wicket with Ajinkya Rahane (81). But India’s inability to wipe the tail off (Australia went from 247/6 to 505) and a second-innings total of 224 meant that they lost by four wickets.

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Review – 2020 Test cricket recap

Like almost everything else, Test cricket bore the brunt of the unforeseen situation in 2020. The World Test Championship (WTC) saw several series postponed, which meant that the year saw only 22 Tests, 17 less than were played in 2019. As many as 19 of them ended in a result – of which 13 were home wins – and ten went into the fifth day. There was only one day-night Test, compared to four in 2019.

Team Overviews

Australia

Australia got to play only three Tests in 2020. They began in emphatic style, trouncing New Zealand by 279 runs at Sydney to complete a 3-0 sweep for the Trans-Tasman Trophy. In the first Test against India at Adelaide, they staged a stirring comeback, bowling the visitors out for 36 before winning by eight wickets. But their batting woes continued at Melbourne, and the four-match series entered the new year at 1-1. 

Moment to remember: Conjuring a come-from-behind eight-wicket win at Adelaide after Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood combined to bundle India out for 36.

Moment to forget: Going down tamely by eight wickets in the Boxing Day Test against India, with their totals reading 195 and 200.

Bangladesh

Among the ten teams that played Test cricket in the year, Bangladesh played the least number of matches. The Tigers lost the first Test against Pakistan by an innings, while the second Test had to be postponed. At home against Zimbabwe, they prevailed by an innings and 106 runs inside four days in the only Test. Their two-Test home series against Australia and New Zealand were deferred as well.

Moment to remember: Securing a dominating innings win against Zimbabwe at Dhaka.

Moment to forget: Losing to Pakistan by an innings and 44 runs at Rawalpindi.

England

As often is the case, England played the most number of Tests in the year. Down 1-0 in the four-match series in South Africa at the start of the year, they turned the tide to clinch the rubber 3-1 and retain the Basil D’Oliveira Trophy. In three-match series during the delayed home season, they beat the West Indies 2-1 after losing the first Test, and beat Pakistan 1-0 on the back of a tense three-wicket win in the first Test.  

Moment to remember: Beating South Africa by 189 runs in the final session of the second Test at Cape Town, a result that changed the course of the series.

Moment to forget: Losing to the West Indies by four wickets at Southampton, owing to an ordinary show in the first innings.

India

India played four Tests, all of them overseas. They endured a 2-0 walloping in New Zealand, where their batsmen came a cropper against the pacers. Their quest to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy began off the wrong foot, what with their record low at Adelaide. However, they bounced back admirably in the Boxing Day Test. As things stand, they face a stiff challenge from Australia and New Zealand in the WTC.

Moment to remember: Bouncing back to beat Australia by eight wickets at Melbourne, leaving the series at 1-1 with two matches left.

Moment to forget: Getting dismissed for just 36 – their lowest total and the lowest by any team in 65 years – en route to an eight-wicket defeat at Adelaide.

New Zealand

The Black Caps ended the year on the verge of toppling Australia in the Test rankings. They lost the final Test at Sydney to be blanked 3-0, but found their mojo at home. First up were India, who were soundly beaten 2-0. The result was the same in the series against the West Indies, and as the year ended, Pakistan became the latest team to be at the receiving end of New Zealand’s home run, in the first of two Tests.

Moment to remember: Bowling India out for 124 at Christchurch, which turned a first-innings deficit of seven into a series-sealing seven-wicket win.

Moment to forget: Suffering a 3-0 whitewash in the Trans-Tasman Trophy through a 279-run defeat at Sydney.

Captain Jason Holder and John Campbell embrace after the West Indies’ four-wicket win against England at Southampton (source – West Indies Cricket, Twitter)

Pakistan

Pakistan started the year with an innings win against Bangladesh. They put themselves into a great position in the first Test against England at Old Trafford, only to squander it with a shoddy second-innings display. This result made the difference, as the three-match series was lost 1-0. The last week of the year saw them go down to New Zealand by 107 runs in the Boxing Day Test at Mount Maunganui.

Moment to remember: Taking a first-innings lead of 107 against England at Old Trafford to raise hopes of victory.

Moment to forget: Eventually losing the Old Trafford Test by three wickets, failing to defend 276 despite having England at 117/5.

South Africa

The Proteas entered 2020 holding a 1-0 lead in the home series against England. But their hopes of regaining the Basil D’Oliveira Trophy were dashed, as they hurtled to defeats in the next three Tests. Thereafter, their scheduled two-Test series in the Caribbean was postponed. However, there was reason to cheer as the year ended, due to an innings win against Sri Lanka in the Boxing Day Test at Centurion.

Moment to remember: Posting a gargantuan total of 621, the highest of the year, on the way to an innings win against Sri Lanka at Centurion.

Moment to forget: Getting routed by an innings and 53 runs at Port Elizabeth, which put paid to their hopes of regaining the Basil D’Oliveira Trophy.

Sri Lanka

The Lions started off with a 1-0 win in a two-match away series against Zimbabwe, who are not part of the WTC. Their two-match home series against England was deferred just when it was about to begin, and it will now be played in early 2021. They came into the Boxing Day Test at Centurion on the back of four consecutive wins against South Africa, but a defeat by an innings and 45 runs broke the streak.

Moment to remember: Reaching a sturdy 340/6 on the opening day of the Boxing Day Test against South Africa at Centurion.

Moment to forget: Slipping to defeat by an innings and 45 runs after conceding a total of 621 at Centurion.

West Indies

The West Indies won the respect of the cricket world for committing to tour England when the international game resumed after a hiatus of nearly four months. They went on to win the first Test at Southampton, but ultimately ceded the three-match series 2-1. Their scheduled home outing against South Africa was forced to be postponed. Later in the year, they were outplayed by a rampant New Zealand away.

Moment to remember: Taking a 1-0 lead in the series in England thanks to a four-wicket win in the first Test at Southampton.

Moment to forget: Crumbling from 53/0 to 138 all out at Hamilton, which eventually lead to a defeat by an innings and 134 runs.

Zimbabwe

Though they are not part of the WTC, Zimbabwe did get to play Test cricket in the year, unlike Afghanistan and Ireland. At home, they took on Sri Lanka in two Tests, losing one and drawing the other. Away from home, they lost to Bangladesh by an innings and 106 runs.

Moment to remember: Taking a first-innings lead of 113 in the drawn second Test against Sri Lanka at Harare.

Moment to forget: Losing to Bangladesh by an innings and 106 runs at Dhaka.

Test Cricketer of the Year

Ben Stokes further established himself as England’s most potent force. Not only did he lead the batting charts with 641 runs at 58.27 (with a strike rate of 62.17 to boot), but he also chipped in with 19 wickets at 18.73 and captained against the West Indies at Southampton. He was the player of the series in South Africa, with a best of 120 at Port Elizabeth. He bettered this with 176 against the West Indies at Old Trafford.

The Cricket Cauldron Test Team of the Year

Dom Sibley (England)
Dean Elgar (South Africa)
Zak Crawley (England)

Kane Williamson (New Zealand, captain)
Ben Stokes (England)
Mohammad Rizwan (Pakistan)
Chris Woakes (England)
Ravichandran Ashwin (India)
Kyle Jamieson (New Zealand)
Stuart Broad (England)
Tim Southee (New Zealand)

Wishing everyone a happy and prosperous New Year.

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Review – 2020 Test Team of the Year

The Cricket Cauldron’s Test team for the year 2020 features five players from England, three from New Zealand, and one each from India, Pakistan and South Africa. This year’s team has only one player in common with last year’s team – England’s Ben Stokes.

Dom Sibley (England)

The start of the year saw Sibley notch his first Test hundred in his fourth match, at Cape Town, where his unbeaten 133 in the second innings contributed towards England’s momentum-shifting 189-run win. He also compiled a resolute 120 in the second Test against the West Indies at Old Trafford, putting on a crucial stand of 260 with Stokes. His patience at the crease brought him the reward of 615 runs at 47.30.

Dean Elgar (South Africa)

The left-handed Elgar was South Africa’s leading run-getter, with a tally of 317 runs at a healthy 45.28. His two half-centuries came in the first and last weeks of the year respectively. At Cape Town against England, his 88 was the top score in a total of 223, while at Centurion against Sri Lanka, his rapid 95 and an opening stand of 141 with Aiden Markram gave a flying start to South Africa’s match-winning first innings.

Zak Crawley (England)

Crawley had the distinction of recording the year’s highest individual score – batting at number three, he hit 267 in 393 balls and nine hours against Pakistan at Southampton. During this maiden Test century, he added 359 for the fifth wicket with Jos Buttler, which rescued England from 127/4. Besides, he struck three fifties (one of them as opener) and ended the year with an impressive total of 580 runs at 52.72.  

Kane Williamson (New Zealand, captain)

Despite playing only six innings, Williamson finished as the fourth highest run-getter of the year. The Black Caps captain’s 498 runs came at an average of 83.00 and included a career-best of 251 against the West Indies at Hamilton. Three weeks later, he scored 129 against Pakistan in the Boxing Day Test at Mount Maunganui. Earlier in the year, he scored a fine 89 in testing conditions against India at Wellington.  

Ben Stokes (England)

Stokes further established himself as England’s most potent weapon. Not only did he lead the batting charts with 641 runs at 58.27 (with a strike rate of 62.17 to boot), but he also chipped in with 19 wickets at 18.73 and captained against the West Indies at Southampton. He was the player of the series in South Africa, with a best of 120 at Port Elizabeth. He bettered this with 176 against the West Indies at Old Trafford.

Ben Stokes topped the run charts with 641 runs, and also took 19 wickets (source – AFP)

Mohammad Rizwan (Pakistan, wicketkeeper)

Rizwan made a successful Test comeback towards the end of 2019 and continued in the same vein with 302 runs at 43.14. In the rain-affected second Test against England at Southampton, his gritty 72 made him the player of the match. He captained Pakistan in the Boxing Day Test against New Zealand, shining in defeat with knocks of 71 and 60. His collections behind the wicket read 12 catches and one stumping.  

Chris Woakes (England)

Woakes had a productive return with the ball, scalping 20 wickets at 21.65 with a best of 5/50 against the West Indies at Old Trafford. But his most significant display came with the bat against Pakistan, also at Old Trafford. He came in when England were struggling at 117/5 in a chase of 277 and went on to score an attacking, unbeaten 84 to secure a three-wicket win for his team. His run tally for the year was 176 at 29.33.

Ravichandran Ashwin (India)

Ashwin might have played only three Tests, but he was the year’s most impactful spin bowler. The off-spinner netted 13 victims at 21.23, of which ten have come at an average of 17.70 – rather unheard of for a visiting spinner in Australia – in the ongoing Border-Gavaskar Trophy. His best figures of 4/55 were in the first innings at Adelaide, and he has so far got the measure of the prolific Steven Smith in the series.

Kyle Jamieson (New Zealand)

Standing at 6’8’’, Jamieson took 4/39 in his debut innings against India at Wellington. He also biffed 44 in his first outing with the bat. In the next Test at Christchurch, he was the player of the match for his 5/45 and 49 in the first innings. Against the West Indies, he scored 51* at Hamilton, grabbed 5/34 at Wellington, and was named the player of the series. In all, he snared 25 wickets at 14.44 and scored 196 runs at 49.00.  

Stuart Broad (England)

Dropped for the first Test against the Windies, Broad came back in style in the next two Tests, taking 16 wickets to end up as the player of the series. In the decider at Old Trafford, he had figures of 10/67 (6/31 and 4/36) and also passed 500 Test wickets. This, along with nine wickets in South Africa and 13 against Pakistan, made him the year’s highest wicket-taker with 38 wickets at 14.76.  He also logged 177 runs at 35.40.

Tim Southee (New Zealand)

Southee finished with 30 wickets – the second best tally – from just five matches, at an average of 17.03. He had match-winning figures of 9/110 (4/49 and 5/61) against India at Wellington and went on to be named as the player of the series for his 14 wickets. His best innings return of 5/32 came against the West Indies, again at Wellington. He reached the mark of 300 Test wickets with his last wicket of the year.

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Record Book – Highest individual T20I scores for Pakistan

Though Pakistan lost their T20I series in New Zealand by a margin of 2-1, veteran batsman Mohammad Hafeez continued his bright form by topping the batting charts for his team with 140 runs at 70.00. With his unbeaten 99 at Hamilton, the 40-year-old fell short of becoming only the second Pakistani to hit a T20I hundred. On that note, here is a look at the seven highest individual scores for Pakistan in men’s T20Is.

111* by Ahmed Shehzad v Bangladesh, Dhaka, 2013-14

Having notched the first 90-plus T20I score by a Pakistani seven months earlier, Shehzad bettered his own record in this World T20 group match. The opener batted through the innings, during which he faced 62 balls and hit ten fours and five sixes. He dominated a fourth-wicket stand of 83 with Shoaib Malik to lift Pakistan from 71/3 towards their eventual total of 190/5, which proved enough for a 50-run victory.

99* by Mohammad Hafeez v New Zealand, Hamilton, 2020-21

Hafeez became the fourth man to end up one short of a T20I ton, after Alex Hales, Luke Wright and Dawid Malan. Batting at number four, he held the fort as wickets fell at the other end – the score read 56/4 in the ninth over. He unleashed himself in the latter half and struck ten fours and five sixes in the course of his 57-ball stay, carrying the total to 163/6. However, the hosts took the series with a nine-wicket win.

98* by Ahmed Shehzad v Zimbabwe, Harare, 2013

Shehzad scored his second fifty in as many days (following 70 in the first match) to star in Pakistan’s 2-0 series sweep. His innings consumed 64 balls and featured six fours and as many sixes. His unbroken stand of 143 with captain Hafeez (54*) steered Pakistan to 179/1, leading to a 19-run win. With this, he went past Misbah-ul-Haq’s 87* against Bangladesh at Karachi in 2007-08 to make the highest T20I score for Pakistan.

Mohammad Hafeez scored an unbeaten 99 in the second T20I against New Zealand at Hamilton (source – Wikimedia Commons)

97* by Babar Azam v West Indies, Karachi, 2017-18

The stylish Babar played a key role in Pakistan’s 3-0 success against the West Indies at the National Stadium – he was named Man of the Series for his 165 runs as opener. His best came in the second match, where his second-wicket stand of 119 with Hussain Talat (63) boosted Pakistan to 205/3. His 58-ball innings included 13 fours and a six. The bowlers finished it off, condemning the West Indies to defeat by 82 runs.

94 by Umar Akmal v Australia, Dhaka, 2013-14

This was a crucial World T20 fixture for both teams, and it was Pakistan who prevailed by 16 runs. Coming in at 25/2 in the fifth over, Akmal belted nine fours and four sixes in a 54-ball knock before being dismissed in the final over. Staring at a total of 191/5, Australia were reduced to 8/2 in the first over. Glenn Maxwell’s blazing 74 threatened to take the game away, but Pakistan fought back with timely wickets.   

91 by Fakhar Zaman v Australia, Harare, 2018

Pakistan met Australia in the final of a tri-series also involving the hosts. Replying to 183/8, Pakistan were in trouble at 2/2. But Fakhar, who had scored 73 against Australia three days earlier, was in his element. The southpaw opener took charge, adding 107 with Shoaib Malik (43*) for the fourth wicket. His 46-ball gem was lit with 12 fours and three sixes, and helped Pakistan win by six wickets with four balls left.  

90 by Babar Azam v South Africa, Johannesburg, 2018-19

The opening pair of Babar and Fakhar gave Pakistan a promising start in their chase of 189, putting on 45 in just four overs. Babar added a further 102 for the second wicket with Talat (55), before being dismissed off the first ball of the 17th over. He faced 58 balls in all, striking 13 fours and a six. His wicket was the breakthrough that the South Africans needed, and they held on for a series-clinching win by seven runs.

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Specials – Milestone Tests for the West Indies

The West Indies completed their 550th Test match recently, going down to New Zealand by an innings and 12 runs at the Basin Reserve in Wellington. On that note, here is a look back at how they have fared in their milestone Tests over the years.

50th Test – lost to England by nine wickets, Georgetown, 1953-54

This was the third Test of a five-match series. England, down by 2-0, rode on captain Len Hutton’s 169 to post 435 – he added 150 for the third wicket with Denis Compton (64). Brian Statham (4/64) reduced the West Indies to 16/3 in reply, and despite Everton Weekes’ 94, the hosts followed on 184 in arrears. The second innings was a similar tale, with only John Holt (64) passing fifty, leaving England with a target of 75.

100th Test – beat Australia by 179 runs, Kingston, 1964-65

The West Indies slumped from 149/3 to 149/6 in this series opener, before debutant Tony White (57*) steered the total to 239. Laurie Mayne, also on debut, returned 4/43. Wes Hall then grabbed 5/60 to hand the West Indies a lead of 22. Conrad Hunte (81), Basil Butcher (71) and Joe Solomon (76) all starred in the second innings, setting a steep target of 396 for Australia. Hall duly collected 4/45 to complete his bag of ten.

150th Test – drew with England, Georgetown, 1973-74

With England looking to neutralise the hosts’ 1-0 lead in this fourth of five Tests, centuries from Dennis Amiss (118) and Tony Greig (121) gave them hope by ensuring a total of 448 across the first two days. However, rain played spoilsport, and only a total of 86.5 overs were possible on the next three days, including a washout of the fourth day. The West Indies were placed at 198/4, with Roy Fredericks scoring 98.   

200th Test – drew with England, Headingley, 1980

A rain-affected draw in this fifth and final Test gave the West Indies a 1-0 triumph. Play commenced on the second day, with the pace quartet of Michael Holding, Colin Croft, Joel Garner and Malcolm Marshall skittling England for 143. The West Indies responded with 245, after which England declared at 227/6 – the fourth day was entirely lost. This was the last of 62 Tests for West Indian gloveman Deryck Murray.

250th Test – drew with New Zealand, Wellington, 1986-87

Garner (5/51) led the way as New Zealand were bowled out for 228, even as John Wright made 75. The opening pair of Gordon Greenidge (78) and Desmond Haynes (121) put on 150, before New Zealand clawed back to limit the visitors’ lead to 117. Wright (138) and Martin Crowe (119) dug deep in the second innings, adding 241 for the third wicket to save the match. This was Holding’s 60th and final Test appearance.

The West Indies played their 550th Test against New Zealand at the Basin Reserve in Wellington

300th Test – drew with Sri Lanka, Moratuwa, 1993-94

Yet another rain-hit draw on the list, this time in the Emerald Isle. In what was the only Test on the tour and the last men’s international at the Tyronne Fernando Stadium, Sri Lanka were bowled out for 190, with the pace duo of Curtly Ambrose and Winston Benjamin sharing seven wickets. In response, the Sri Lankan spinners snared all ten wickets, restricting the West Indies to 204 (Carl Hooper scoring 62)

350th Test – beat Australia by ten wickets, Kingston, 1998-99

The first Test at Port of Spain had seen the West Indies crumble for 51 en route to a 312-run drubbing. A week later, they turned the tables remarkably. Captain Steve Waugh and his twin Mark scored 100 and 67 respectively, but found little support as Courtney Walsh took 4/55 to keep the total to 256. Australia soon took control, with a new-ball burst from Glenn McGrath (5/93) reducing the West Indies to a dire 34/4.

Jimmy Adams (94) joined fellow left-hander and captain Brian Lara at 56/4 early on the second day (nightwatchman Pedro Collins had to retire hurt), and the pair went on to add an incredible 322 for the fifth wicket. With his captaincy on the line, Lara hit a memorable 213 to propel his team to a lead of 175. The second innings belonged to debutant off-spinner Nehemiah Perry, whose 5/70 condemned Australia to 177.  

400th Test – drew with Zimbabwe, Harare, 2003-04

Tatenda Taibu (83), captain Heath Streak (127*) and Andy Blignaut (91) carried Zimbabwe from 154/5 to 507/9 (Fidel Edwards 5/133). The West Indian reply of 335 revolved around Wavell Hinds (79) and Daren Ganga (73), with Ray Price taking 6/73 (10/161 in the match). The visitors needed 373, and were on the brink at 204/9 with 12 overs left. However, Ridley Jacobs (60*) and Edwards held on to secure a tense draw.

450th Test – drew with New Zealand, Napier, 2008-09

A fifth-wicket stand of 163 between Shivnarine Chanderpaul (126*) and Brendan Nash (74) guided the West Indies to 307 (Iain O’Brien 6/75). Edwards netted 7/87, but New Zealand led by 64 due to a patient 136 from Tim McIntosh. The West Indies were at a shaky 106/4 in the second dig, when captain Chris Gayle (197) and Nash (65) put on 124, boosting the total to 375. Chasing 312, New Zealand were 220/5 at the close.

500th Test – beat Bangladesh by 296 runs, Gros Islet, 2014

The West Indies marked their 500th Test with a win that gave them the series 2-0. Openers Kraigg Brathwaite (66) and debutant Leon Johnson (63) put on 143, before Chanderpaul (84*) dragged the total to 380. A lead of 219 was ensured thanks to Kemar Roach (5/42). Chanderpaul (100*) and Jermaine Blackwood (66*) enabled a declaration at 269/4, after which Sulieman Benn (5/72) finished the proceedings.

550th Test – lost to New Zealand by an innings and 12 runs, Wellington, 2020-21

New Zealand recovered from 78/3 to amass 460, with Henry Nicholls (174) and Neil Wagner (66*) adding 95 for the ninth wicket. Tim Southee (5/32) and Kyle Jamieson (5/34) combined to bundle the Windies out for 131, with only Blackwood (69) showing fight. John Campbell (68), captain Jason Holder (61) and debutant Joshua Da Dilva (57) scored second-innings fifties, but it was not enough to avert an innings defeat.