International Wrap 2016
Fight for global supremacy intensified as Australia, India rallied in tumultuous year.
It was a sensational, mesmerizing and tumultuous year if you are an international cricket fan used to the global dominance achieved by the West Indies in the late 1970’s and 1980’s and early 1990’s and Australia’s glorious reign from 1995 to 2007.
If this had become only mundane and predictable, 2016 was a year characterized by an extraordinary dog fight for world supremacy. The ICC test Championship mace changed hands several times several times after slipping from South Africa’s grasp in January.
Steven Smith received the mace and US$1million in prize money for leading his side to the number-one ranking on the MRF Tyres ICC test Team Rankings on the annual 1 April cut-off date.
ICC Chief Executive David Richardson made the presentations in Pallekele to Smith, who captained Australia to 10 test victories over the 12-month period.
Yet, after that moment of glory, Australia’s fortunes took a turn for the worst in both tests and One Day Internationals.
Pakistan soared temporarily and made their presence felt at the summit of the global test rankings before they were eclipsed by India.
Virat Kohli’s team finished the year strongly by taking an unassailable 3-0 win against England after the fourth test.
It is hard to believe that South Africa was in possession of the mace a year ago, only to surrender their number-1 ranking in January upon defeat against England.
YEAR IN PICTURES
AUSTRALIA DOMINATE WEST INDIES
At the infancy stage of 2016, the Baggy Greens humiliated the out-of-sorts West Indies 2-0 in a three-test series.
The Caribbean team was able to capture a mere 12 wickets in the series as David Warner, Usman Khawaja and Adam Voges dominated.
Voges and Shaun Marsh fashioned the highest stand ever on Australian soil as they added 449 for the fourth wicket at the Bellerive Oval in the first test.
Voges also hammered 239 runs in the second test as Australia won handsomely by an innings and 52 runs.
The Australian momentum continued as they contested the Trans-Tasman Trophy against New Zealand, winning 2-0.
Brendon McCullum joined an elite brand of superb cricketers by scoring a century in his final test. He completed his ton off only 54 balls.
TOP 10 MOMENTS
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AUSTRALIA DOMINATE WEST INDIES, INDIA and NEW ZEALAND
Australia reigned supreme against India in a five-match One Day International (ODI) series, regularly eclipsing the visitors with the bat.
They chased down successive scores of 309 for three, 308 for eight and 295 for six in the first three clashes. In the fourth, the hosts hammered 348 for eight, which proved out of reach of the superb Indian top-order.
India managed a consolation win in the fifth.
Martin Guptill (59) and Grant Elliott (50) led the charge for New Zealand in the series-defining Chappell-Hadlee trophy match at Hamilton to power the Black Caps to 246 all out.
Amazingly, Australia was undone by Matt Henry, who claimed 3-60, while Corey Anderson was economical in his 2-16. The legspinner Ish Sodhi nipped out 2-31 and Australia crumbled to 191. The Kiwi’s won the decider by 55 runs.
Australia would avenge that defeat in style at the end of the year to reclaim the same trophy, whitewashing the Black Caps in comprehensive fashion.
PAINFUL LOSSES AGAINST PAKISTAN, SRI LANKA
Yet, Steven Smith and his colleagues suffered some painful losses during their topsy-turvy year.
They lost their grip on the number-1 position to Pakistan and later India after Sri Lanka romped to a 3-0 whitewash in Sri Lanka against Smith and his troops.
Rangana Herath mesmerized the Australians with his 28 scalps at an average of 12.75. Dhananjaya de Silva managed 325 runs in the series and Kusal Mendis assembled 296 runs.
It was Mendis who produced a pivotal 176 in the first test to set up the 106-run win at the Pallekele Stadium.
Thereafter, Australia was in turmoil as their batsmen failed to deal efficiently with the trial by spin as Herath and Dilruwan Perera turned on the heat.
Only Smith, with 247 runs in the series, responded adequately.
PAKISTAN REIGN IN TESTS
Pakistan had an Annus mirabilis in the test arena. Misbah-ul-Haq’s side become only the fifth team after Australia, England, India and South Africa to top the ICC test rankings since these were introduced in 2003.
The manner in which it was achieved will be remembered with glee in Pakistan for some time. Yasir Shah captured 10 for 141 in his first test outside of Asia and the United Arab Emirates to inspire Pakistan to a 75-run win against England at Lord’s.
England’s captain fantastic, Alistair Cook, rallied his troops at Old Trafford with an outstanding 105, while the debonair Joe Root smeered 354 to set up a comprehensive equalising win by 330 runs.
The hosts held sway in the third test.
In the fourth test at the Oval, Younis Khan hammered 219 and Asad Shafiq struck 109 in propelling Pakistan to 542.
England was dismissed for 253 as Shah announced his arrival as a world-class wrist spinner with 5-71 in the second innings. Pakistan notched up 42 for a 10-wicket win and a share of the spoils.
Consequently, Pakistan achieved the top-ranking after India, who had occupied the top-spot, failed to win the rain-affected final test against the West Indies in Port of Spain.
Ravi Ashwin tormented the West Indies with his 17 wickets in that series. The world’s finest offspinner also reigned supreme in the 3-0 whitewash of New Zealand as he captured 27 wickets, which included 13/140.
India displaced Pakistan as the No 1-ranked test team after their 178-run win against New Zealand in the second test in Kolkota. Their triumph in the second test gave them an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series.
India had begun the three-match series trailing Pakistan (111) by one point.
CARIBBEAN CRICKET REBORN
Although the West Indies were below-par in tests, 2016 signalled a year of renewal for cricket in the Caribbean. West Indies won the U19 World Cup and the Women’s World T20.
Darren Sammy and his men also became the first team to win two World T20 tournaments, having lifted the trophy in Sri Lanka in 2012.
Nobody expected anything but an England win in the final. Ben Stokes was ready to bowl the last over with 19 runs required for an unlikely win.
Marlon Samuels had 85, but he was at the wrong end.
Carlos Brathwaite dispatched the first delivery, a loose one, over square leg for six. A length delivery disappeared over long on. The Force was with Brathwaite and the third delivery cleared long-off. A single needed for a win? No trouble, Brathwaite punched another leg-side six and the West Indies celebrated in style.
England had played adventurous, never-say-die cricket to get into the final, lambasting South Africa and eclipsing 229 by reaching a momentous 230 for eight in the league phase.
Jason Roy powered them into the final with his 78 off 44 balls against New Zealand in the semifinal.
The West Indies required 80 off 41 balls to seal it against India and Lendl Simmons and Andre Russell executed the script perfectly to steal India’s thunder in the semifinal.
BANGLADESH HUMBLE ENGLAND
The major disappointment of that last over was not England’s only acrimonious moment of 2016.
Against Bangladesh in the second test in Mirpur, Mehedi Hasan Miraz captured 6-82 in the first innings.
England had raced to 100 for nought at tee in the second innings, but subsided to 164 all out in the space of an hour and 50 minutes in the post-tea session.
Miraz nipped out 6-77 in 21.3 overs in the second and the 19-year old spinner propelled the Tigers to their first-ever win against England.
The offspinner finished the two-test series with 19 wickets.
INDIA OUTCLASS ENGLAND
India has been rampant in the series against England, avenging the previous test-series win on Indian soil when Kevin Pietersen was at his supreme best, with some sumptuous batting by Virat Kohli.
The skipper has already blasted 640 runs.
India did not edge England. They outclassed and overpowered the hapless visitors, winning the second test by 246 runs, the third by eight wickets and the fourth by an innings and 36 runs.
Kohli struck 235 to lead the hosts to 631 in the fourth test.
Ashwin and Jadeja have taken 43 wickets in tandem, while Mohammed Shami has weighed in with 10 scalps.
Adil Rashid has received little slow-bowling support from his England colleagues.
Jayant Yadav, Parthiv Patel, Cheteshwar Pujara and Murali Vijay have been excellent aids to Kohli.
Among the England batsmen, Jonny Bairstow (302 runs) and Root (397) have not had enough backing from the rest of batting order against the magnificent slow bowling duo of Ashwin and Jadeja.
The year 2016 would be synonymous with excellent wicketkeeper/batsmen and world-class performances. Bairstow has already blasted 1420 runs - Just 37 more than his compatriot Root and marginally better than Alistair Cook’s 1211 in test cricket.
There were also useful contributions by wicketkeeper-batsmen like BJ Watling, Wriddhiman Saha and Shane Dowrich. Add to them the name of Quinton de Kock, who averages 65.44 for the test year and has also smashed 857 runs in One Day Internationals.
The Australians are at the summit with the ball in ODI’s, with Adam Zampa taking 30 wickets, with John Hastings second, having nipped out 29 batsmen.
Warner is at the pick in ODI’s with 1388 runs, while his Australian compatriot Smith has smashed 1184. Kohli has struck 739 runs at an awesome average of 92.37.
Mentioning the name of Warner is apt and apart from Ashwin, who has captured 74 test wickets in 11 tests, 20 more than Herath’s 54, his contributions have been heralded throughout the year.
INDIAN PREMIER LEAGUE
As captain, Warner was a talismanic figure in inspiring the Sunrisers Hyderabad to the Indian Premier League crown. They edged the Royal Challengers Bangalore by eight runs in a pulsating, high-scoring final.
Warner led from the front, inspiring his bowlers who deserved the accolade as the finest attack in the 2016-edition of the IPL.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar conceded a miserly 25 runs off four overs in the final while Chris Gayle (76) and Kohli (54) were attacking mercilessly.
Mustafizur Rahman received the emerging player award for his 17 wickets an economy rate of 6.90.
Warner hammered 848 runs at an average of 60.97 and a strike-rate of 151.42.
Kumar emerged with 23 scalps from 17 matches to take the Purple Cap.
YS Chahal and Shane Watson captured 21 and 20 wickets respectively for Bangalore. Yet Watson slipped badly in the final, conceding 61 runs in four overs.
Kohli was excellence personified, pounding 973 runs at an average of 81.08 to consolidate his status as the world’s premier T20-batsman.
In the first Qualifier at the M Chinaswamy Stadium in Bangalore, Bangalore coasted to 159 for six to beat the Gujarat Lions by four wickets with 10 balls to spare.
In the eliminator, the Kolkata Knight Riders was restricted to 140 for eight in pursuit of 162 for eight achieved by the Sunrisers.
In Qualifier Two, the Lions assembled 162 for seven, but Hyderabad soared to 163 for six with four balls to spare.
GUARDIANS STEP IN
If Australia floundered against South Africa in the One Day Internationals and India flourished against the West Indies, New Zealand and England, international cricket’s guardians also rallied to save the game from bullies (with mouth and bat).
Red cards could be introduced into the laws of cricket for the first time in 2017 following an MCC World Cricket Committee meeting in Mumbai.
The committee proposed a new law that players could be shown a red card by match officials for threatening an umpire, physically assaulting another player, umpire, official or spectator or for any other act of violence on the field of play.
Committee member and former Australia captain Ricky Ponting believes stricter deterrents are needed to ensure such acts don’t become a part of the game.
“It’s got to the state where something had to happen to prevent those things happening on the international stage,” Ponting told Foxsports.
“The modern player now understands their role in society, about being role models and want to play the game the right way for younger kids.”
The committee also debated punishments, including run penalties and sin bins for lesser offences, but decided that it would be difficult to achieve consistency. But it may introduce an appendix to the laws in order for governing bodies or leagues to implement their own system.
The committee also agreed that limitations to the sizes of bats should be added to the laws as it believes “the balance of the game has tilted too far in the batsman’s favour.”
The International Cricket Council in June recommended that bat sizes be limited, with too many mis-hits still going for four or six in the modern game.