Thoughts on England vs South Africa

The series I have been anxiously awaiting all year is about to commence this Thursday, and it involves two of the world’s best sides in the longest format. England’s last test series resulted in a crushing loss against India, whereas South Africa beat New Zealand on their own turf to show that they are still a force to be reckoned with. England will be without Chris Woakes for the first test and potentially the second, and whilst this is a huge blow as Woakes is arguably England’s most valuable player, it does give the opportunity to trial some up and coming fast bowlers who could be seen as future replacements for the likes of Broad and Anderson. It will therefore be intriguing to see how Toby Roland-Jones and Mark Wood do in the first Test at Lords.

South Africa are currently a difficult side to gauge. They have not been able to find a successful opening partner to accompany Dean Elgar at the top of the order, with the likes of Stephen Cook, Stiaan van Zyl, and Theunis de Bruyn not making great accounts for themselves in the opportunities they had. Heino Kuhn is set to be the latest opener to join Elgar, and he is coming off the back of imperious form for the South Africa A team, with a double century and a couple of fifties to his name recently. In the middle order, they will yet again be lacking AB de Villiers, whose retirement from Tests appears imminent, and they have yet to find a star quality batsman to fill his role in middle order-(which is admittedly very difficult), but it appears as if de Villiers will no longer be around, which forces South Africa to trial new batsman. They could make the move of pushing Quinton de Kock up the order, as he is currently the best young batsman in the world, and would thrive being up the order. However, he is also probably the best gloveman in the world as well, and with the amount of comparisons that have been made between him and Adam Gilchrist, it seems only right that he stays at 7 and keeps on with the wicket keeping duties. They also have the problem of Temba Bavuma who seems completely devoid of runs, but somehow keeps making his way back into the squad. Do they stick with Bavuma and bank on him coming good, or do they go for a different option and play someone such as de Bruyn or Markram in the middle order? The Proteas bowling outfit looks menacing as always, even without the injured Dale Steyn. Kagiso Rabada is the most exciting prospect in cricket right now, and will lead the attack aged only 22. Last time he played against England in a Test Match, it was disastrous for England, as Rabada tore through their albeit much different top order, on similar pitches to what he will play on here. Vernon Philander is the experienced campaigner who has a vast amount of County experience and will be deadly with the new ball. They will be expected to play Morne Morkel, and his bounce that he generates will undoubtedly cause England’s batsmen many issues, as he has done in the past. Their spinning option is a lot stronger than England’s as Keshav Maharaj is an actual spinner. He cut through New Zealand’s batting line up in March, which although isn’t really saying much, was still very impressive on notoriously seamer friendly wickets. All in all, South Africa look a very strong outfit, but there are definite weaknesses in their batting which can be exposed.

England come into this series off the back of a catastrophic defeat in the semi final of the Champions Trophy against the lowest ranked team in that competition. But, a new format brings new hope, and the players that were involved in that competition that are now in the Test squad, will be looking to bounce back immediately. At the top of the order, Alastair Cook has been in sublime form for Essex, scoring hundred after hundred, and this could be alarming for South Africa, as Cook is now a man free from the responsibility of captaincy, and could start repeating his form from 2010-2011. The worrying drop in form from Haseeb Hameed has forced England selectors to leave him out of the Test squad, and go with Keaton Jennings as the new opener, who edges out Mark Stoneman, Nick Gubbins and Hameed to become Cook’s partner. The burden of expectation will no doubt fall upon the new England captain Joe Root who will want to start off his new era with a hatful of runs. Root will need to shake off the problem of not being able to convert 50’s into 100’s if he is to emulate the other players of the so called “Big Four”, Steve Smith, Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson, who are all captains of their respective nations. Root has 11 hundreds and 27 fifties in his Test career so far, which wen compared to Steve Smith who has 20 hundreds and 20 fifties, pales in comparison. His Yorkshire teammate Gary Ballance will have all the eyes on him as he makes yet another return to the squad. His inclusion was inevitable, over 900 runs in Division 1 this year at an average of over 100- only the unstoppable Kumar Sangakkara boasts better stats. Ballance will likely bat at number 3, which in my opinion is the right call, but has lead to many to say that he will be exposed again by the fast bowlers, and that he is better off down the order. England don’t really have any problems with their middle order, as Jonny Bairstow is England’s best batsman at the minute, and Ben Stokes is the best out and out cricketer currently playing. Moeen Ali is a player that cannot really be relied upon, as he is as inconsistent as they come- only with the bat, as his bowling is always consistently abysmal, and then their is a long tail that could be exposed. Hopefully England will not include two spinners in their team and play Liam Dawson, who could be considered as one of the most fraudulent cricketers going around at the moment. Dawson is another bits and pieces player like Moeen, who doesn’t really excel at batting or bowling, rather is just mediocre in both departments. I personally would have loved to see England include a proper spinner, someone like Jack Leach from Somerset, or the young leggie Mason Crane from Hampshire, who impressed on his T20 international debut last month, claiming AB de Villiers as his first ever international wicket. However, it seems the selectors are hellbent on including players such as Dawson, who let’s hope for England’s sake doesn’t get awarded his second Test cap on Thursday. As far as their real bowlers go, England look very dangerous, with Jimmy Anderson back to full fitness, and Stuart Broad coming in off the back of impressive performances for Nottinghamshire. It is likely that England will go with both Roland Jones and Mark Wood for this Test, which leaves England with the frankly unnecessary option of having 5 seamers in their side- Anderson, Broad, Wood, Roland-Jones and Stokes. Roland-Jones will be making his Test debut at his home ground, and many people, including myself, will say that it’s long overdue. Mark Wood is England’s quickest bowler, and gives them that variety that they need of the extra pace. He took a 5fer in Durham’s most recent match, and England will be hoping that he will trouble the shaky South Africa top order.

Overall, it promises to be a tremendous series, with both teams matching each other in terms of skill and ambition. Thursday cannot come soon enough!

RPSG vs MI Match 2 Review

Match 2 of the IPL brought about the first nail biting finish of the tournament, as Pune prevailed over the Mumbai Indians with two sixes off the last two balls of the match to win the game.

Mumbai were put into bat first by Steve Smith, and gave a surprise promotion to the top of the order to Jos Buttler, who was opening with Parthiv Patel. The two got off to a flying start, Buttler smashing 3 sixes, and looking in ominous form. He came up against his English teammate Ben Stokes, and responded by smashing him over long on for six, and then ramping him over fine leg the next ball for another maximum. Patel was dismissed for 19, bowled round his legs by Imran Tahir, and this caused a flurry of wickets to fall. The Mumbai captain Rohit Sharma was next to go, bowled by a straight one by Tahir, and then the electric Buttler was out in the same over, unluckily given out lbw to one he inside edged. Mumbai were three down and needed to rebuild. They didn’t really get a big partnership throughout the middle overs, only Nitish Rana stayed at the crease for a sustained period of time, and he was eventually out for 34. With two overs to go, Mumbai were languishing on 145, and desperately needed some impetus towards the back end of the innings. Luckily for them, they got just that. Hardik Pandya smashed his way to 35 off 15 balls, including 30 runs off the final over bowled by Ashok Dinda. Mumbai ended up on 184 after their 20 overs. Imran Tahir was the standout bowler, picking up 3 wickets from his 4 overs, and Rajat Bhatia also impressed with 2-14 off 3 overs. The rest of the bowling was not much to shout about though, Dinda conceding 57 off his 4 overs, and the million dollar man Ben Stokes being quite expensive in his overs.

In response, Pune needed a quick start in order to keep up with the run rate, and Ajinkya Rahane, who came in off the back of good form in the India test series, was fantastic up front, giving Pune the start they desired. Mayank Agarwal didn’t hang around long as Rahane’s partner, going for just 6 in the 4th over, but this brought Steve Smith to the crease, who has been exhibiting Bradman-esque form over the past few years. Rahane outscored Smith in the partnership, and Rahane reached his fifty off just 27 balls. Rahane made a further 10 runs, before he was caught quite superbly by Nitish Rana, attempting to pull a short delivery over the ropes, but mistiming it slightly. Smith was joined by Stokes, and it didn’t take long for Stokes to start hitting out against the bowling. But the star of the show was definitely the Aussie captain. Smith was so precise in his placement, the ball just gliding off his bat into the gaps, and flying to the boundary. Smith reached fifty off 37 balls, and knew that he needed to go big if Pune were to see it out. Stokes departed for a quickfire 21, and it brought former skipper MS Dhoni to the wicket. This situation was Dhoni’s bread and butter, with Pune needing 40 off the last 25 balls. Dhoni went about his work quietly, finishing 12 not out from 12 balls, but it was Smith that won the game for Pune. When it came down to the last over, Pune needed 13 runs to win, and with no boundaries from the first 3 balls, Smith took it upon himself as captain to finish it off. He smashed Pollard over long on for a 92 meter six, and then followed it up next ball with a whip off his pads way over midwicket for six to win the game. It was a fitting end from a fine innings by Smith, and gave Pune the winning start they desperately needed after a rough year last year.

MI Batting:

Buttler 38 (19)

H Pandya 35* (15)

RPSG Bowling: 

Tahir 3-28

Bhatia 2-14

RPSG Batting:

S Smith 84* (54)

Rahane 60 (34)

MI Bowling:

Southee 1-34

H Pandya 1-36

SRH vs RCB Match 1 Review

The IPL kicked off with a contest between last years finalists, and in many ways, this game was very similar. Sunrisers batted first, and captain David Warner looked threatening early on, smashing the first six of the tournament in just the third over. However, Warner was dismissed shortly after, and it was left to Shikhar Dhawan and Moises Henriques to steady the innings and build a partnership. The two did just that, with Dhawan making 40, and Henriques going past 50 to become the first half centurion of this years competition. Henriques was good against the spinners, placing the ball into gaps, and even lofting one high over long on off Travis Head. Henriques has been coming off great form in the BBL and in Aussie domestic shield matches, and it showed with his innings here today. After Dhawan was dismissed trying to hit Stuart Binny for a maximum over long on and holing out, Yuvraj Singh came in and dominated right from the beginning. It was like watching the Yuvi of old, with the way he struck the ball so cleanly and hard, especially through midwicket when the RCB bowlers dropped their length too short. He had a bit off luck too, being dropped when on 26- a simple chance that really should have been taken. They say catches win matches, and when you drop a player as dangerous as Yuvraj, you only have yourselves to blame when he punishes you for it. Yuvi went on to make 62 off 27 balls, and with the help of late hitting from Deepak Hooda and Ben Cutting, Sunrisers made 207 in their 20 overs.

RCB were missing their two biggest stars in their run chase in Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers, and subsequently this was always going to be a difficult target for them. They got off to a decent start, Chris Gayle looked in good nick, hitting 3 sixes in his innings of 32. When Gayle was dismissed, it brought Kedar Jadhav to the crease with Travis Head. Jadhav and Head have both been in great form internationally, and they looked to be taking the game away from Sunrisers during their partnership in this game. However, a brilliant piece of fielding from Ben Cutting put a halt to Jadhav’s innings, and this seemed to be the catalyst for RCB’s collapse. As the wickets continued to tumble, only Shane Watson looked like he had the ability to bring the game back for Bangalore, but even that proved a task beyond him, as he was out caught for 22. RCB were bowled out for 172 without completing their 20 overs, and it was a disappointing start to the competition from a team with so much potential. 18 year old Afghan bowler Rashid Khan was a mixed bag on debut, picking up two wickets, but also bowling several rank long hops that got dispatched to the fence. The star of the show with the ball was last years leading wicket taker Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who picked up 2-27 off 4 overs, and was very accurate with his death over yorker bowling.

Overall, it was a fantastic, energetic, dramatic match to set the pulses racing for this years IPL, and this served as a wonderful curtain raiser for this year.

SRH Batting:

Yuvraj 62 (27)

Henriques 52 (37)

RCB Bowling:

Binny 1-10

Chahal 1-22

RCB Batting:

Gayle 32 (21)

Jadhav 31 (16)

SRH Bowling:

B Kumar 2-27

Rashid Khan 2-36

IPL Preview

It is almost time for one of the biggest spectacles in the cricket and sporting world. The IPL is undoubtedly one of the main attractions for cricket viewers in the yearly calendar, and rightfully so. The world’s best players pitted against each other, in a format which creates huge excitement and drama. This year will be no different, and with even bigger names added to the list, it should be a great season. Here is a preview for all 8 teams competing this year.

Delhi Daredevils: Predicted placing-3rd

Despite the injury setbacks that the Double D’s have received already-Quinton de Kock and JP Duminy being ruled out, and Angelo Mathews carrying a knock, they still have a very strong line up going into this year. The balance of their team is looking very strong, with promising young Indian talent in Rishabh Pant and Shreyas Iyer expected to play a crucial role at the top of the order, and strong middle order players in Karun Nair, Sanju Samson, Sam Billings and Corey Anderson. I think Billings truly needs to stand up for his team this year, with an opportunity being given to him to impress with the injury setbacks to de Kock and Duminy. They have a strong bowling line up as well, and with Pat Cummins and Kagiso Rabada added to their line up, their pace bowling attack seems even more menacing than ever, especially with Mohammed Shami and the captain Zaheer there as well.

Gujarat Lions: Predicted placing-5th

Gujarat were the dark horses of last years competition, managing to get to the playoffs, and putting on a strong showing during the group stage. They have added the dynamic English opener Jason Roy to their ranks this year, and the prospect of Roy and McCullum opening the batting will have the fans salivating. Gujarat also have a very strong balance in their team, and with the number one ranked bowler in the world Ravindra Jadeja in the form of his life, they will no doubt be relying heavily on match winning performances from him. They were relatively quiet in the auction, and didn’t make any eye catching additions to their bowling ranks, but with James Faulkner, Dhawal Kulkarni, Praveen Kumar and Jadeja, they can be expected to perform well with the ball. However, I don’t think they will be as good this year as the previous year, especially with their captain Suresh Raina falling so far down the national team’s stocks.

Kings XI Punjab: Predicted placing-2nd

Whilst it may appear from the outside that KXIP don’t have the strongest squad, I believe that they are capable of pulling off one of the great shocks of the IPL, and will make it all the way to the final this year. They are without Murali Vijay this year, and while this is a big loss to them, I believe that Vijay is probably more suited to the longer form of the game, and perhaps gives Punjab the option to play a younger, more explosive player in his absence. They are under new leadership this year, with Aussie Glenn Maxwell being trusted to captain the team, and bring them back from two struggling years in the competition. In the middle order, they have David Miller who has returned to form over the past year, and the England ODI captain Eoin Morgan, who we know can be destructive during the back end of the innings. Punjab acquired young Indian talent T Natarajan to bolster their bowling ranks this year, and have only just announced the addition of Indian test bowler Ishant Sharma to their line up, who will add experience to their roster. Overall, despite this sounding quite optimistic, it is looking promising for KXIP this year, especially with the fact that there are no real expectations on their shoulders.

Mumbai Indians: Predicted placing-8th

Mumbai this year do not look a very strong team. They seem to be looking to over reliant on Rohit Sharma and Jos Buttler, whilst their strong overseas performers from previous years Kieron Pollard and Lasith Malinga, are not looking anywhere near as threatening as they have previously. They do have a relatively strong bowling attack, with the two Mitchells-McClenaghan and Johnson expected to provide new ball strength, and Jasprit Bumrah to deliver the goods at the death. Mumbai have been so dominant in previous years, but I believe, and I could be completely wrong, that they will have their worst ever season this year.

Kolkata Knight Riders: Predicted placing-1st

In my opinion, Kolkata have the best team on display this year at the IPL. They have the incredibly reliable duo at the top in Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa, and they have also increased their bowling power, with Trent Boult and Chris Woakes coming in to their side this year. However, I believe KKR’s season relies on their use of Chris Lynn. In past years, they have not given Lynn nearly enough opportunities to flourish at the top of the order, despite his credentials. He has been unbelievably explosive at the top of the order for Brisbane Heat in the BBL, earning himself national selection, and on his day, he can hit the ball further than any other player on the planet. If they select Lynn, their batting looks very threatening with the added bonus of having players like Manish Pandey and Yusuf Pathan to come in down the order and get them the runs. Boult and Woakes are great additions to this side, as is the like for like replacement for Andre Russell-Rovman Powell. The Jamaican can hit the ball miles, and also has very good bowling stats, and while he may not be a first choice selection, he can definitely provide some decent performances if he is called upon at any point in the tournament.

Royal Challengers Bangalore: Predicted placing-6th

RCB always look to have the strongest team on paper, but always fail to deliver in the crunch games. This year will be even trickier for them, with Virat Kohli set to miss some games through injury, AB de Villiers out for a while with a back injury, and KL Rahul to miss the whole tournament. While they do still have the power in Chris Gayle and Shane Watson, it can be said that they are looking heavily depleted this year. RCB will have to depend on domestic Indian players performing such as Kedhar Jadhav, Stuart Binny and Mandeep Singh. They have added English pace superstar Tymal Mills to enhance their fast bowling, and with a million pound price tag lingering over his head, he will definitely be under pressure to deliver for his side in his inaugural IPL year. When de Villiers and Kohli return, RCB will probably be dominant-it’s hard not to be with the two best limited over batsmen in the world, but whether they can perform at the start is another question.

Rising Pune Supergiant: Predicted placing-7th

Pune undoubtedly have the best players going into this IPL. Their batting line up on paper is unstoppable-Ajinkya Rahane, Faf du Plessis, Steven Smith, MS Dhoni and Ben Stokes will terrify opposition bowlers if they all click together. But that is the main question that lingers over Pune. They didn’t perform well at all last year, and now they are lead by Steve Smith instead of Dhoni, which could lead to more pressure on the side. Stokes is the obvious key addition to this side, with them shelling out over £2 million for him in the auction. Stokes can be destructive with the bat, and can be very effective with the ball, unless it’s in the last over bowling against Carlos Brathwaite of course! Their bowling is what looks weak this year, despite them signing Imran Tahir. Pune’s fast bowling is not going to threaten opposition teams, and I can see them conceding huge totals this year.

Sunrisers Hyderabad: Predicted placing-4th

Last year’s winners have the difficult task of retaining their title this year-something which has only ever been done once, by Chennai Super Kings in 2010 and 2011. Last season, David Warner was the MVP of the tournament in my opinion, as he virtually carried his team over the line, with over 800 runs, and brilliant captaincy. This year, he is coming off the back of a difficult Test Series in India in which he was not able to contribute as much with the bat. With the friendlier pitches of the IPL, he might be able to find his form again, and put in more match winning innings for his franchise. SRH also have the New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson, who I believe should be utilised as an opener instead of the number 3 role in t20. Williamson is in the top 10 ranked players in international t20, and can be a very useful player to have during the powerplay. SRH were very active in the auction, adding two Afghanistan players to their team in Mohammad Nabi and Rashid Khan. He might not look it, but Khan is only 18, and has produced many eye catching bowling performances for his international side in recent times, including a 5fer in the recently concluded Afghanistan vs Ireland series. If they play Khan, he could catch batsmen out with his variations and mystery.  Overall, SRH do have a very strong team, but I believe the burden of retaining the title will befall them this year.

IPL Predictions

League Stage:

1: Rising Pune Supergiants

2: Royal Challengers Bangalore

3: Kolkata Knight Riders

4: Delhi Daredevils

5: Sunrisers Hyderabad

6: Gujarat Lions

7: Mumbai Indians

8: Kings XI Punjab

 

Finals: RCB beat RPSG, DD beat KKR, DD beat RPSG, DD beat RCB.

Overall winner: DD

 

Leading run scorer: Virat Kohli

Leading wicket taker: Tymal Mills

Most sixes: AB de Villiers

Fastest 50: Chris Lynn

Fastest 100: AB de Villiers

Highest individual score: KL Rahul

Best individual bowling: Amit Mishra

 

5 players KXIP should sign in the IPL Auction

With the IPL auction coming up very soon (3 hours to be precise), there is much speculation on where each player up for auction will end up. There is obviously going to be many that go unsold, but there is certainly some big names among the list, and as such, will demand a high price.

Kings XI Punjab finished rock bottom of the table last year, and will subsequently be looking to improve massively on that with clever signings in the auction. They have the most money to spend, and a lot of places to fill, and therefore we can expect big things from them in the auction. Here are 5 players who I believe should be signed by KXIP in the auction.

5: Angelo Mathews

The Sri Lankan captain did not take part in last years IPL, and was missed by many franchises for his all round ability. Mathews is undoubtedly one of the best batsmen in the world, and he adds to that with his solid bowling, and captaincy. KXIP sorely missed a captain and leader last year, with David Miller failing miserably as a captain, and Murali Vijay not being any more inspiring either. Mathews could be the key to leading Punjab to a new era in the 2017 IPL.

4: Prithvi Shaw

Punjab severely lacked in local Indian batting talent last year, and there overseas “stars” also failed to turn up. This is one of the areas in which they need to massively improve on this year, and 17 year old sensation Prithvi Shaw could be the answer. He has recently scored centuries for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy, and for India Under 19’s against England Under 19’s, which just underline his promise. I first saw Prithvi Shaw bat when he was 13 in a local Lashings World XI match in England- why he was playing I have no idea, but it was so obvious even then that he was head and shoulders above everyone else in terms of talent. If Punjab want to bolster their Indian batting talent, then Shaw may be a great way to start.

3: Mohammed Siraj

Not much is known about this young Indian pacer, but he boasts impressive stats for a 22 year old bowling in notoriously tough conditions for a pacer, with a T20 bowling average of 17 and an economy of just over 7. Punjab severely lacked in the bowling department as well as batting last year-is it really as surprise as to why they finished bottom? Whilst Sandeep Sharma bowls well at the front, swinging it well, and occasionally picking up wickets, he was very expensive at the end, and would often lose control with his line. He is also not completely threatening with his pace, and someone like Siraj, who can bowl 140kph+, can definitely improve their fast bowling woes this year.

2: Imran Tahir

Whilst Punjab’s spinners aren’t the weakest part of the team, they also aren’t anywhere near as strong as they could be. Axar Patel has fallen slightly off the radar after rising through the ranks to represent India a year or so ago, and there is not much depth underneath him. The world’s best limited overs spinner could be an inspired pick at the auction, with Tahir being probably one of the most valuable players available. He is coming of the back of a 5 wicket haul against New Zealand the other night, and is ranked very highly in the rankings in both ODI’s and T20I’s. Tahir will cost a fair amount, but with Punjab having the most money, it should be a no brainer for their selectors.

1: Ben Stokes

Stokes is definitely the biggest name in the auction, and is undoubtedly going to fetch a huge price. He is devastating with the bat, can take wickets up front, and bowl yorkers at the death (we’ll just ignore the World t20 final last year), and he is also one of the world’s best fielders. Punjab have lacked, for many years, that one huge star in their team, who can win them games with the bat and the ball. Stokes may only be available until the end of May, but that will give him enough time to play pretty much all of the games, and will allow him the time to completely change around KXIP’s fortunes in the IPL.

 

As a KXIP fan, I can only hope that they make the right choices in the auction, and if any of these players are signed, I will be more than happy.

 

 

The 5 best batsmen in the world right now

We are blessed currently to be witnessing an era in which the batting standards have increased hugely and there are many batsman on the circuit who impress in all formats. Here are my personal top 5:

 

5: David Warner: Test batting ave: 49.16   ODI batting ave: 44.84

David Warner is undoubtedly one of Australia’s finest opening batsman of all time, and he still has plenty of his career left. He is very similar to Virender Sehwag in his style- an opener who is very aggressive and plays his shots right from the outset. Warner is one of the most exciting and dangerous batsmen in the world when he is on form, and his recent form suggests that 2017 could be a huge year for the Aussie vice captain. Just last month, he became just the fifth player of all time to score a century before lunch in a Test against Pakistan. Once he gets going, he is incredibly difficult to stop, and with a crucial tour coming up against India, Warner will have to be in top form if Australia are to be successful.

 

4: Kane Williamson: Test batting ave: 50.07   ODI batting ave: 46.65

It is undeniable that Kane Williamson is the classiest batsman in the world right now. It is difficult to remember the last time Williamson played an ugly shot, or a shot that’s not in the coaching manual. There is nothing unorthodox about Williamson, and after Brendon McCullum’s retirement in 2016, Williamson has had to take over the role of captain, and pretty much carry a mediocre New Zealand team on his shoulders. It was widely expected of Williamson at the beginning of his career, that he would be solely a Test player due to his slower approach to batting, however, he has achieved phenomenal success in One day matches for New Zealand. He bats fluently at a good strike rate and proves that you don’t have to be a Chris Gayle type hitter to do well in One Day. His real test from now will be how he manages to balance the captaincy burden, and his individual batting.

 

3: Virat Kohli: Test batting ave: 50.10   ODI batting ave: 53.11   T20 batting ave: 53.40

Kohli is probably the most talked about cricketer in the world right now, due to the fact that he is Indian, and the fact that he has extraordinary talent. I believe that in the years to come, Kohli will become the best batsman in the world, but as of right now, he still needs to prove himself in conditions where the ball moves about. He is the only batsman to average over 50 in all formats, which is a feat that is just completely unthinkable, yet Kohli has still managed it. He is a prime example of what can happen when a talent works hard, and despite still having years ahead of him in his career, he has amassed tons of runs so far. He has only recently come into his own in Test cricket-managing to record three double centuries in Tests in 2016, including a dazzling 235 against England in December. Kohli himself has acknowledged that he is not the best batsman in the world right now, but he is focused on his game, and in the years to come, expect this name to be right at the centre of cricket still.

 

2: Steve Smith: Test batting ave: 60.15   ODI batting ave: 43.67

No I did not make a mistake with his average, he really does average 60+ in Tests with over 4500 runs. One of the most unlikely players to succeed, Smith was thought of as a mediocre leg spinner who could bat a bit when he came into the Australian team in 2010. No one could have predicted that he would be the number one ranked test player in the world 6 years later, and certainly no one would have expected him to have the stats that he does right now. He ditched the leg spinning, and focused on adopting one of the most unorthodox techniques in world cricket right now. I was torn between putting Joe Root on this list, but he didn’t make it due to his problem of converting 50’s into 100’s. Smith has no such problem. 17 hundreds and 20 fifties in tests show that once he gets in, he stays in, and the Australian captain will need to continue making those hundreds on the upcoming tour of India where he will go head to head with Kohli in batting and captaincy.

 

1: AB de Villiers: Test batting ave: 50.46    ODI batting ave: 53.93

Ab de Villiers is hands down the greatest player I have ever seen. Virtually every other cricketer in the world acknowledges AB as the best, especially Kohli who constantly reminds people during the IPL that AB is still at the top. Bob Willis said that de Villiers is the best batsman he has ever seen, and that he is better than the great Vivian Richards. AB is so dominant in One day cricket- holding the record for the fastest fifty (16 balls), the fastest hundred (31 balls), and the fastest 150 (64 balls), that it is easy to forget how good he is in Tests as well. Over 8000 runs at an average of 50 with 21 hundreds is an incredibly impressive feat. It does seem however that AB has put test cricket on hold at the moment, ruling himself out of all tests in 2017 until November-December. Whilst we won’t see him play tests for a while, we will still be blessed with seeing him in One Dayers for South Africa, including the highly anticipated Champions Trophy in England in the summer, and of course, the greatest domestic competition in the world, the IPL, where he will be wishing to give his team RCB their first ever IPL title.

 

 

Australia’s next big thing?

Despite being 26 years, which although still young, could be considered on the more experienced scale of players, Chris Lynn is by far the most exciting batsman in the domestic game of Australia. His dominating, electric performances in the Big Bash League has lead to an almost cult like following of supporters that would pay top dollar to see him perform. In the Big Bash this year, Chris Lynn has scored 309 runs 5 innings at an average of 154 with a strike rate of 177. It cannot be brushed off as being a one season wonder, as last year, he was the overall leading run scorer in the competition with 378 runs at an average of 54 and a strike rate of 173. Both seasons, he has amassed more sixes than fours and has looked at such ease striking the ball with such power over the ropes, that he has seen comparisons made to Chris Gayle in terms of ball striking ability. His power and ability to hit a long ball was exemplified in a match earlier this season when he hit a 121 meter six off Shaun Tait out of the stadium at the Gabba against the Hobart Hurricanes. Lynn seemed almost emotionless at the fact that he had just hit one of the biggest sixes in cricketing history, but this is a testament to his character, he rarely shows his emotions on the field, and lets his bat do the talking for him.

Lynn made his One Day International debut last night against Pakistan at his home ground in Brisbane. He made 16 runs off 12 balls, including one six, which served us all a reminder of why he had made the team. One has to feel for Lynn in the situation that he was put in. Australia were 20 odd for 2, with their two star batsman David Warner and Steve Smith being dismissed cheaply within two balls. He said that the Australian team had told him to go out and play the way he has played in the lead up to getting selected, but this put him in the uncomfortable position of not being sure whether to attack or defend, with his instinct being to attack, but the team situation crying out for someone to build an innings. Lynn looked positive at the crease, and lit up the crowd for just the one delivery when he smacked Hasan Ali into the deep midwicket stand for a 97 meter six. Lynn’s dismissal came about from a rash shot-he skied an attempted long hit down the ground straight up into the air and was caught by the wicket keeper. Naturally, everyone viewing the game except Pakistan fans were incredibly disappointed and this is yet again a testament to Lynn’s reputation that he is one of the most exciting prospects in Australia, if not the world.

Overall, I, amongst many others, will be watching Chris Lynn with excitement and anticipation, and the first step to that is the second One dayer between Australia and Pakistan tomorrow night. There may be a suggestion to drop him down the order to number 5 or 6, and utilise him as a finisher, but I firmly believe that Lynn is so incredibly effective at the top of the order, that he needs to be in the top 4 to get the best out of him. This message should also go out to the selction committee at the Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL, who seem to believe that not only is Chris Lynn less worthy of a spot than a mediocre 45 year old spinner, but they also seem to think that his best batting position in a t20 is at 6 or 7. Lynn will establish himself as a Gayle type force in the IPL if utilised successfully, and perhaps a change of team might do him well-I’m sure the Kings XI Punjab could do with a batsman that can actually score some runs!

My prediction for Chris Lynn is that within the next 5 years, he will establish himself as not only a one day and t20 force amongst the top domestic teams and international teams, but he will also establish himself as a test player as well, with his first class average of 45 showing that he is definitely no slouch in the longer format of the game either.

England vs India 1st Test Preview

As England prepare to undergo another trial by spin in Rajkot, there will surely be a lot of eyes cast upon their batting department-particularly the top order, and their bowling department-particularly the spinners. India come into the series off the back of a 3-0 thrashing of New Zealand with captain Kohli leading the way spectacularly with the bat, and Ashwin producing the kind of match winning spells that has taken him to the top of the ICC Test Bowling rankings. England come straight from their 1-1 draw with Bangladesh, where they were not in the slightest bit convincing in subcontinent conditions. They have the same problem they’ve always had, in the fact that they always find themselves 50-3 with the bat, and their spinners are erratic, and too often get dominated by batsman. It will surely be a captivating series for England and India fans, as well as the neutrals.

Players to watch:
England have confirmed in the build up to this Test that 19 year old Haseeb Hameed will make his Test debut tomorrow and will become England’s youngest ever opening batsman. There will be a lot of pressure on his shoulders as he bares the responsibility of becoming England’s latest attempt at trying to find a successful opening partner with Alastair Cook. However, he has shown that he is more than capable of handling pressure, when he became the youngest player to score twin hundreds in a Roses match earlier this year.

Virat Kohli has notoriously struggled against England in the past, with his previous tour of England resulting in him not registering a single score above 50 in the entire Test series. Since that series however, he has significantly improved his game in all formats, and currently stands alongside Ab de Villiers as the most feared batsman in world cricket. He has shown that he has the ability to dominate in every single format of the game, and his recent surge in Test cricket- 2 double hundreds in his last 2 series, shows that he is a batsman that is definitely capable of taking the game away from England.

 

Predicted England XI:

1:Cook, 2:Hameed, 3:Root, 4:Duckett, 5:Moeen, 6:Stokes, 7:Bairstow, 8:Woakes, 9:Broad, 10:Batty, 11:Finn

Predicted India XI:

1:Vijay, 2:Gambhir, 3:Pujara, 4:Kohli, 5:Rahane, 6:Pandya, 7:Saha, 8:Ashwin, 9:Mishra, 10:Ishant, 11:Umesh

Predicted result: England win by 2 wickets

England’s Dhoni?

Before the One Day International series kicked off between England and Bangladesh, there were many eyes cast upon the “stand in” skipper of the England side, Jos Buttler. Would he crumble under the immense pressure that surely is international captaincy. Or would he take it in his stride as calmly as he has done everything else in his career so far? Buttler seemed extremely composed before the first match, and was very nonchalant, and almost dismissive about any talks of the captaincy. Eoin Morgan has done such a brilliant job as captain of this flourishing England side in the last 15 months, that it surely would be a massive test of this England sides character to see whether they would be able to perform without their leader at the helm. It could be especially important for England to be able to quickly adapt to a new captain, and in many ways, a blessing in disguise that Morgan decided to skip this tour, because England just may have found their next superstar leader.

For a few years, Buttler has carried the tag of being a “bit of a slogger” down the back end of an innings. In more recent times, he has managed to demonstrate that he is much, much more than this and experiencing the biggest tournaments in the world such as the IPL can do such things to a player. On Friday, during the first ODI between England and Bangladesh, England were struggling towards the end of the innings with Stokes looking exhausted, and players like Moeen and the rest of the lower order unable to provide the explosive finish that England desired. Step forward the captain. Whilst every other player in the England team managed their runs at under a run a ball, or just over it in the case of Roy and Stokes, Buttler crashed 63 runs off just 38 balls with three fours and four sixes. At one point, Buttler was on 25 off 27 balls, until he decided it was time to push it on. It was his accumulating of ones and twos to get to 25 off 27 which was so reminiscent to MS Dhoni in his prime. Dhoni would always typically knock the ball into gaps with his unorthodox technique, running the ones and twos hard, and then just be able to flick a switch and hit boundaries at will. It seemed during the innings that Buttler just had the ability to decide whether a ball was going to go over the ropes or just into the outfield for a quick couple, which exemplifies what an outstanding talent he has become. Buttler definitely has an appreciation for throwing the old, classic English batting textbook out of the window, and following in the way in which someone like Dhoni bats.

Aside from his batting, Buttler also had to keep wickets and captain the side, like a certain number 7 from India always did, and in the One day format, still does. During the beginning of the innings, Buttler remained cool and collected, rotating his bowlers well, and knowing when to bring on spin, and bring on pace. As the innings progressed however, it looked increasingly likely that England were going to lose to Bangladesh with an impressive partnership between Shakib and Imrul Kayes putting England on the back foot. It looked increasingly worse when Buttler dropped what he described as “possibly the easiest catch in the history of international cricket”. Despite this, there was still a sense of anticipation that England were going to pull something special out of the bag, and that happened when Buttler brought on Jake Ball, and Ball won the game for England with a 5 wicket haul on debut.

Whilst it didn’t go as flawlessly as it possibly could, all the signs are there that England have unearthed a gem in Jos Buttler, and a possible captaincy candidate for all three formats, should Joe Root decide to simply focus on his batting in Tests and not the captaincy. Buttler’s captaincy will be further scrutinised in the following ODI’s starting on Sunday, and should he continue to impress, then England may well have found themselves their very own MS Dhoni.