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MICHAEL TISSERA – THE LEGEND

Posted on 11 February 2018 by admin

 

by Ryhanna Salie – Courtesy: Sunday Observer.

Today, in our cricket history there are many who can be called legends of cricket, but, before Sri lanka gained Test status there were only a few who qualified for that title. One such true legend is Michael Tissera, a rare individual who has stayed true to the gentlemanly spirit of cricket.

He remembers playing cricket when he was a young student of S. Thomas’ College. “I played cricket from a very young age, and joined S. Thomas’ in 1950. I played in the Under 14 and 16 teams. Playing in the first eleven was a little bit of luck. I was in the boarding, and was playing tennis on the Warden’s Courts when I got a message to come and bowl to the first eleven. And I must have bowled fairly well that day, because they said, come again the next day, and the next thing I knew, I was playing on Friday in the First Eleven. So that’s how I started play in the first eleven.”

Tissera also captained S. Thomas’ College in the Royal-Thomian cricket matches. “I captained S. Thomas’ for two consecutive years in 1957 and 1958. The first year Michael Welle captained Royal, and in the second year Lorez Perera captained Royal. Unfortunately, both were drawn games. They were not really exciting encounters as such, because it was more of a batsmen’s game. I think Michael Welle got 100 in 1957 for Royal. Ronny Read got 65 in the first innings and 65 in the second innings for us. And so they were drawn games. They were not really very exciting games at the time, and we played only from 12 to 6 o’ clock in those days.”

Sawdust

Tissera captained Ceylon to its first victory over a Test-playing nation, India, in 1965, when his declaration in a low-scoring match led to victory over India by four wickets. He recalls, “That was a match delayed by rain. It was a four day game. The first day was rained off. There was rain on the second day as well, but just before tea on the second day, Pataudi came up to me and said, you know, there are 25,000 people in the stadium, shall we play? Conditions weren’t good because the wicket was wet, the outfield was wet and there was sawdust three quarters way to the boundary.

And I said, yes, okay, we’ll play. So as it went, India won the toss and batted first. I think they got about 180 or so, and then we batted and at the end of the third day with just one day left, we were a 140 odd for seven, about forty runs behind. We felt that because there was only one way to go, the wicket would probably play up in the morning because of the overnight dew and the rain. We had a team meeting and I suggested that we declare and everybody agreed. As it happened, it was a stroke of luck because we got India out for 66 in the second innings. Stanley Jayasinghe, Norton Fredrick and Darrell Lieversz bowled well.

Pollonnowita got some wickets and we had a 115 or so to get to win, but we were in a bit of a mess because Edwards got injured, and although we had a good opening stand we lost a whole lot of wickets. We were about 8 down for 90 odd because Edwards was not there, but Pollonnowita came in and he had scored runs in the first innings and he was not out.

Seeing him coming gave me a lot of confidence because I was batting at the time and together we managed to put singles here and there, and we eventually won.

It was naturally a great victory from our point of view, and to beat India in India is not easy, but at the same time I think we have to take into consideration that the conditions weren’t all that great for both sides. But, we decided to play because of the crowd.”

One of the highlights of Tissera’s career is the three ODIs he played in the 1975 World Cup in England. He says, “The 1975 World Cup was a fantastic experience. For one thing, on the day before the opening, all the teams stayed in the same hotel. So it was fantastic to meet all the international cricketers. And then there was a lunch at Lords at which the Duke of Edinburgh was the chief guest. After that, all the teams departed to their venues.

So, it was a really great experience. When the West Indies toured here just before the World Cup, we did very well against them at the Oval and the CCC, but in another match we lost the toss and Clive Lloyd, after much thought decided to send us in and we were bundled out for about 83 and the West Indies got it easy. The second game at the Oval was the highlight of the whole tour as far as we were concerned. We played Australia at the Oval. It was a superb wicket. Australia batted and got 320 or something and we ended up with 276 for 4 I think. We started off very well. We had a very good opening partnership, but unfortunately, Sunil Wettimuny and Dulip Mendis were both injured off Jeff Thomson’s bowling which set us back a little bit. But, we played well in that game and the 276 in the second innings with the score of 300 odd was the highest for many years before it was subsequently broken. That was really the highlight. All in all, it was a magnificent experience.”

Tissera also played cricket for NCC. “I reckon our Club cricket standard at that time was very high because we had only about eight teams playing in the first division and all the teams were strong. The NCC in those days had a very good side. I played from 1958 to about 1974 for the NCC. Vernon Prins was my first captain, and I was fortunate to get a 100 in my debut against Saracens. But, we had very strong sides at the NCC, and we won the Sara Trophy on a number of occasions, the Browns Trophy and the six a side. That was very enjoyable cricket.”

Tissera was responsible for managing the national team between 2005 and 2007. “Actually, I had no challenge because they were a good and disciplined side. We had for the most part an excellent captain in Mahela Jayawardane who was very good all round, with the team and strategy and policy. We had a very good coach in Tom Moody who did a lot for Sri Lanka cricket at the time, and also we had a very strong back up team of physios and trainers. I had a wonderful experience. I had no problems at all and from my point of view I was a bit reluctant to take it on in the first place but at the end of it I was happy I did, because it was a really good experience and we ended up being runners up in the World Cup in the West Indies.

Conditions change

So, in the West Indies in particular in that World Cup they played very good cricket and they were one of the most popular sides. Before that we had toured England, and we had beaten England five nil in the one dayers. All in all, that was a very good experience. I had no problems with the side and I think that was one of the better sides we had.” When asked to compare cricket during his time with what it is now, Tissera says, “It is very difficult to compare cricket of different eras. For one thing, conditions change completely. When we played cricket there were no covers. So, if it rained overnight, too bad, we had no play. So, conditions were completely different. These days with cricket being played right throughout the year, and three different types of games, one thing is that cricketers have to be super fit to be able to take part in all three. In fact, I think, one of the problems we have at the moment is that there is too much cricket and a lot of the cricketers are getting injured, particularly, our fast bowlers. Well, we enjoyed our cricket, it was different. These days, it’s a money game and people are paid and they are professionals, so it’s a completely different game. We were completely amateur. Even when I played the few matches for Ceylon at that time, I used to go to work in the morning and then go for the match. Now, it is different, where they are off all the time and training all the time. It’s a completely different game.”

When asked what the turning point for Sri Lanka cricket was, Tissera says, “I think the turning point was winning the World Cup in 1996. Sri Lanka always had good cricketers, and I reckoned, we should have got Test status probably a little earlier than we actually did. But having said that, we didn’t do too well at the start, and I suppose you can say that was acceptable, but latterly they built up a very strong one day side and the one that Arjuna Ranatunga led in the World Cup was a very strong side all round – batting, bowling, fielding, everything.

Then there was Dav Whatmore also who gave a very big input into that World Cup win. And besides Whatmore, they had Alex Contouri who was the physio. I think he made a huge difference to the side because players were getting injured and coming on and off the field, and in the little time that he was here he got them to a level where they were real professional cricketers. I think the 1996 World Cup was the turning point in our cricket.”

On the current state of Sri Lanka Cricket, Tissera says, “Unfortunately, we are going through a very bad patch. It happens, most teams have these cycles and we are having it too because when you get three or four top players retiring one after the other it affects the game and at the moment we have a team which is talented but with very little experience.

They probably will get better in maybe a year or so. They should be a much better force to reckon with. But I also think that with world cricket changing and so much being played and so many Test matches, the local tournament has to improve. Otherwise, you cannot expect a player from club cricket where you have 13, 14, 15 teams playing, to go from that level to Test level and be successful straightaway. It takes time.

So I think we need to strengthen our local cricket. I’ve been on a few interim committees and so has Sidath Wettimuny and we’ve been trying to bring about this provincial tournament where we have four or five sides so the cream will play each other. We had a very successful tournament in the first time we were in the interim committee in about 2000 or 2001.

But, for some reason as soon as the interim committee goes and there are elections and the club representatives come in, they think that the provincial tournament is going to take away from their Club cricket and so they knock it off. And I think that has been a great mistake because, had that provincial tournament gone on regularly, by now we would have had a very strong local tournament which would have helped cricketers at that level. But I’m told, they are trying to do something. The Minister is supposed to have an advisory committee of Mahela, Sanga and one or two others. So, I’m hoping the local tournament will strengthen quite a bit because otherwise we’ll find it very difficult.”

In 2014, Michael Tissera was honoured along with legendary Garfield Sobers by the cricket administration. “I was humbled by the honour. It’s a great honour, and to have it with somebody like Sir Garfield Sobers is just fantastic, because he is such a great cricketer and besides being a great cricketer, he is a great man too, I mean he is a very fine individual. So, that was a really humbling experience. I have to thank the Board for even thinking on those lines. This is not something that benefits only me. It is an honour for all the cricketers who played with me because without the rest of your team you can’t manage. So I think they should all be proud just as I am,” Tissera says.

Cricket elections

The advice that Tissera has to give to cricket administrators is, “I have always said and I still maintain that politicians should not be allowed to hold office in the cricket administration. Unfortunately, ever since the World Cup it is just two or three families who have dominated cricket administration in this country, and the way I see it, even cricket elections now have become like general elections where everybody is canvassing and everybody is promising this club money and that club money, and it’s got completely out of hand. So if you don’t keep the clubs happy, you won’t be elected.

A case in point was a few years ago, when Arjuna Ranatunga contested and he got two or three votes. It has become a case of keeping the clubs happy, but keeping the clubs happy at the expense of the standard of Sri Lanka cricket is something I don’t agree with. I don’t agree that you should be having these huge handouts to the clubs. You should help them but the clubs should help themselves as well. They can’t just sit back and expect the board to provide them with everything.” Tissera’s message to aspiring young cricketers in Sri Lanka is, “the message I have is that they have a great opportunity.

A lot of us played cricket here for a long time, but we didn’t have the opportunity of playing Test matches, internationals, one dayers and T-20s. So they have a great opportunity. They should grab it with both hands but they should realize also that their basic requirement is to play cricket for the benefit of your country and to honour the captain. Maybe, fortunately for them there is a lot of money in the game now, but I think that money is not the only thing. I’m quite happy for professional cricketers to be paid well, but they have to realize that the country must always come first and that’s where their loyalties should be.”

Pix: Vipula Amerasinghe 

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Stunning win for Sri Lanka in 2nd Test – bags series against Bangladesh

Posted on 10 February 2018 by admin

Second Test, Mirpur (day three):
Sri Lanka 222 & 226: R Silva 70*, Taijul 4-76, Mustafizur 3-49
Bangladesh 110 & 123: Mominul 33, Dananjaya 5-24, Herath 4-49
Sri Lanka won by 215 runs
Scorecard

AKILA DANANJAYA

Sri Lanka wrapped up a three-day win over Bangladesh in the second Test in Mirpur to win the series 1-0 – with a personal milestone for Rangana Herath. The veteran spinner took 4-49 to overtake Pakistan legend Wasim Akram as the most successful left-arm bowler in Test history, with 415 wickets.

Off-spinner Akila Dananjaya took 5-24, the best figures for a Sri Lankan on debut as Bangladesh, needing an unlikely 339 to win, crumbled for 123.

Mominul Haque top-scored with 33.

Sri Lanka v Bangladesh: Rangana Herath passes Wasim Akram in series win.

Earlier, Sri Lanka, who had begun day three on 200-8, made their way to 226 all out as rookie batsman Roshen Silva impressed again, with his performance earning him the man of the match and man of the series awards.

After a duck on his debut against India in December, the right-hander scored 74 not out, 109, 56 and 70 not out in his next four Test innings – giving him a batting average of 103 after three Tests.

"I want to thank the almighty God for helping [captain Dinesh] Chandimal win the toss on this wicket," Silva said.

The Mirpur pitch was in contrast to that of the drawn first Test in Chittagong, where 1,533 runs were scored for the loss of only 24 wickets across the five days – with the International Cricket Council rating the batting-friendly surface as "below average" and awarding it a demerit point.

The tour concludes with two Twenty20 internationals on 15 and 18 February.

Most Test wickets by a left-arm bowler
415 – Rangana Herath (Sri Lanka, 89 Tests, 1999-date)
414 – Wasim Akram (Pakistan, 104 Tests, 1985-2002)
362 – Daniel Vettori (New Zealand, 113 Tests, 1997-2014)
355 – Chaminda Vaas (Sri Lanka, 111 Tests, 1994-2009)
313 – Mitchell Johnson (Australia, 73 Tests, 2007-2015)

Day 2 Round-up: Roshen Silva hit an unbeaten half-century to put Sri Lanka in command of the second Test after stretching their lead to 312 against Bangladesh in Dhaka on Friday. The visitors reached 200-8 at stumps on day two in their second innings. The batting effort came after debutant spinner Akila Dananjaya led an inspirational attack to dismiss Bangladesh for 110 in the morning session. Silva was batting on 58, his second fifty in the game, which came amid a regular fall of wickets on what seemed a difficult batting pitch at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium. The highest successful run-chase at the ground is England's 209-1 against the hosts in 2010. Suranga Lakmal, who claimed three wickets with his pace bowling, was keeping Silva company on seven as the islanders kept building on their sizable first-innings  lead of 112. Paceman Mustafizur Rahman took three wickets while spinners Taijul Islam and Mehedi Hasan Miraz claimed two each. Opener Kusal Mendis was out early after veteran left-arm spinner Abdur Razzak trapped the batsman leg-before for seven. Left-handed opener Dimuth Karunaratne, who made 32, and Dhananjaya de Silva, who hit 28, got starts but failed to convert them into bigger scores. Silva got to the grind building crucial partnerships including a 51-run fifth-wicket stand with skipper Dinesh Chandimal, who made 30. Earlier Bangladesh, who started the day on 56-4 in response to Sri Lanka's 222, faltered against Dananjaya's mystery spin that rattled the hosts' middle and lower-order. Dananjaya, who is playing his first Test after 19 one-day internationals and nine Twenty20 games, returning impressive figures of 3-20. The 24-year-old Dananjaya has off-spin as his stock delivery but can can surprise the batsmen with leg-spin googly and carrom balls. Dananjaya cleaned up skipper Mahmudullah Riyad for 17, and got two more wickets in Sabbir Rahman — out for a duck — and Razzak to flatten the Bangladesh batting. Mehedi, who was sent in as nightwatchman on day one, remained unbeaten on 38 — the highest score in the Bangladesh innings.

The trophy is handed over to Chandimal who walks towards the stage and gives to the youngsters. A lot of smiling faces and they thoroughly deserved this, especially with the drubbing hat they had got at the hands of the Indians recently. But all that is past, they have kicked off the new year with a bang. Were down and out at the start of the Tri-Nation Series but then came back in a stunning fashion to win it. And then have continued the winning momentum to have their hands on the Test series as well. Well played, Sri Lanka.

Smiling Lankan skipper, Dinesh Chandimal is all smiles. Starts saying both the games was a nightmare – first one for the bowlers, second for the batters. Is happy to come out on top here. Informs they knew they are going to get a turning track in the second Test but opines they had experienced spinners in their armory to counter it. Lauds Roshen Silva for the way he has put his hands up. Has a word for Akila Dananjaya who had a dream debut and thanks the support staff as well. Ends saying it was a collective team effort from everyone.

Dinesh Chandimal – It was a really good series. The first Test was a nightmare for the bowlers and this one was a nightmare for batsmen. We executed all our plans and credit goes to the entire team. We felt that this pitch could assist spinners, but we were a bit surprised at the way it played. Credit to Roshen Silva, he had an outstanding series. Kusal Mendis and Dhananjaya de Silva batted well, our bowlers performed excellently, especially Akila Dananjaya – on his debut, the management also deserve some praise for all the backing.

Man of the Match and Series, Roshen Silva thanks the Almighty first and is happy that his side won the all-important toss. Feels the wicket was really difficult to bat on but he says he didn't think about that much and just played his natural game. Credits the lower-middle order (Lakmal, Herath and Dananjaya) to not its wicket away. States they hung in out there and added crucial 20-30 runs with him which is gold on such a surface.

Bangladesh skipper, Mahmudullah is really disappointed with their batting effort. Adds they knew the pitch will force a result but rues to not give a fight. Further adds on such kind of pitches it's important to do well in the first innings which unfortunately they couldn't and that is where they lost the game. Appreciates his bowlers for the way they have bowled. Appreciates Mominul Haque and reckons he is a good player of the spin. Ends by saying there are a lot of positives to take from this game and hopes they do well in future.

 

 

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Bangladesh vs Sri Lanka, 1st Test: Mominul Haque’s ton helps hosts force out a draw

Posted on 04 February 2018 by admin

Bangladesh's Liton Das, right, congratulates teammate Mominul Haque after scoring fifty runs during the fifth and final day of the first test cricket match against Sri Lanka in Chittagong, Bangladesh, Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018. (AP Photo/A.M. Ahad)

Liton Das and Mominul Haque forged a crucial partnership against Sri Lanka in Chittagong to help Bangladesh force out a draw. 

A 180-run stand between Mominul Haque and Liton Das stalled Sri Lanka's advance, and helped Bangladesh secure a draw in the Chittagong Test. In the course of that stand, Mominul became the first Bangladesh batsman to hit two centuries in the same Test and took his match aggregate to 281 runs. Liton got to within sight of a maiden ton, but was dismissed for 94.

Theirs, in fact, were the only two wickets to fall on day five. After they had fallen, Mahmudullah and Mosaddek Hossain soaked up almost 18 further overs, before Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal agreed to settle for the draw, with 17 overs remaining in the day. Bangladesh were 107 runs ahead at that stage, with five wickets in hand.

Bangladesh 513 (Mominul 176, Mahmudullah 83*, Suranga Lakmal 3-68) and 307 for 5 (Mominul 105, Liton 94, Rangana Herath 2-80) drew with Sri Lanka 713 for 9 dec. (Kusal Mendis 196, Dhananjaya de Silva 173, Roshen de Silva 109, Taijul 4-219)

 

Bangladesh vs Sri Lanka, 1st Test Day 5: The fifth day of the first Test between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka ended in a dull draw after Bangladesh ended the fifth day on 307/5 and a lead of more than 100. Earlier, Sri Lanka took a healthy lead of 200 runs on the fourth day and then decided to declare the innings at 713/9. Coming into bowl on the fourth day, Sri Lankan bowlers took 3 quick wickets to dismiss Mushfiqur Rahim, Tamim Iqbal and Imrul Kayes. Bangladesh lost three wickets with just 81 runs on the board, trailing Sri Lanka by 119 runs. However, Liton Das and Monimul Haque forged a crucial partnership to keep the Lankans at bay. Mominul Haque’s second century of the match especially came at a good time when Bangladesh were under pressure. Towards the end, both of them departed in quick succession but skipper Mahmudullah and Mosaddek Hossain remained unbeaten at the crease as the mandatory 15 overs were not taken and play was called off for the day. With the series level at 0-0 all to play for in the next match.

Bangladesh have secured out a draw. Both the captains shake their hands. Mahmudullah and Mosaddek Hossain remain unbeaten at the crease as the mandatory 15 overs are not taken. For his two centuries in the game, Mominul Haque is adjudged as man of the match. The first Test is drawn and the series is level at 0-0 and all to play for in the next encounter. 

The tedious nature of this Test is likely to prompt scrutiny of the Chittagong surface, on which 1533 runs were scored for the loss of only 24 wickets. On day five, occasional deliveries turned dramatically, but on the whole, batsmen could trust deliveries that pitched on the straight – away from the rough. Even wristspinner Lakshan Sandakan, who spun the ball harder than any other spinner in this match, was not gaining appreciably more turn on day five, than he had been on days one and two. It is the lack of wear on this surface that has largely led to such dull cricket.

Sri Lanka cricketer Dhananjaya de Silva (R) is congratulated by teammate Dinesh Chandimal after scoring a century (100 runs) during the first day of the third and final Test cricket match between Sri Lanka and Australia at The Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC) Ground in Colombo on August 13, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / ISHARA S.KODIKARA

However, Sri Lanka cannot say they made the most of their chances on day five. Batting on 71 just after lunch, Mominul sent an under edge to the wicketkeeper off a Rangana Herath delivery, but Niroshan Dickwella could not hold on. When Liton was on 62, the fielder at short midwicket grassed a tough chance. Another difficult opportunity came to Sandakan late in the second session, when Mahmudullah pulled aerially to cow corner, but the ball burst through his fingers, and Bangladesh's stand-in captain was reprieved on 6.

But those opportunities had come after lunch. In the morning session, Mominul and Liton had played the match situation more or less perfectly, neither counterattacking nor stonewalling, just batting securely and proficiently throughout. 

Mominul had some nervy moments early in the day, but he hit a handsome six off Herath in the fifth over of the morning, and was more or less at ease after that – the only exception being when he ducked into a Lahiru Kumara short ball midway through the session and required brief medical attention.

His innings, being a rearguard of sorts, was not so boundary-laden as his effort on day one, but he rotated the strike efficiently nonetheless. His half-century came off 78 deliveries, and his hundred off 154. Where in the first innings there had been an animated celebration, the expressionless raising of the bat in the second dig was more typical of Mominul. Not only was this his second hundred of the match, it was also the second occasion in which he had scored a match-saving century against Sri Lanka in Chittagong, having hit an unbeaten hundred at this venue in 2014.

 

Liton largely batted in the same vein, favouring the sweep to the spinners and the drive against the quicks, though he was not quite as adept at rotating the strike as Mominul. He brought up a half century – his third in Tests – with a crunching cover drive off Sandakan, and could have had a maiden ton, had he been a little more patient. Batting on 94, he ventured an almighty wallop off Herath, but had not got to the pitch of the delivery. Dilruwan Perera tracked the high chance back from mid off and completed a difficult catch.

Save for one unsuccessful caught-behind review by Sri Lanka, the remainder of the Test was uneventful. Mosaddek closed the shutters, making 8 off 53 balls. Mahmudullah -following some wild strokes in the company of Liton – was measured after the fifth wicket fell. He was unbeaten on 28 off 65 balls when the draw was confirmed.

 

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How South Africa’s superior bowling made the difference in the series against India

Posted on 02 February 2018 by admin

The Test-match leg of India's tour of South Africa consisted of three beguiling Test matches which were as challenging to read and they were enthralling to watch. None of the three pitches could be considered batting friendly. Though India lost 2-1, the series was probably as far away from a 3-0 wipeout as it was from a 2-1 Indian win.

A standard story is told about India's overseas tours in the public prints, involving some comment about the capacity (or lack thereof) of India's batsmen to face up to fearsome foreign fast bowling, and wonderment about how India's fast bowlers occasionally challenge the home batting. India's batsmen are expected to slay impossible demons regularly. India's bowlers are expected to impersonate demons only occasionally. Given that most of the writers who write about India's Test team are men, this storyline is a psychoanalyst's dream. Or perhaps, it is a psychoanalyst's cliche. The transcript of the Indian captain's press conference after the second Test match consisted entirely of questions about team selection and the performance of the batting. Much of the discourse was about how India's bowlers kept dragging the team back into Test matches, making up ground the batsmen were seemingly repeatedly losing.

 

By: Kartikeya Date – ESPN Cricinfo

The problem underlying all these storylines is an absence of information. Evaluating batsmen and bowlers on the basis of their careers averages is reasonable because over the course of a career, averages are a good proxy for quality of batting and bowling. Over a solitary Test match, though, this makes very little sense. But then, over the course of a single Test, no other systematic measurement has hitherto been available. In the past decade, ESPNcricinfo has maintained a record of all cricket matches it covers on a ball-by-ball basis. Apart from the commentary, they record the usual outcomes – how many runs, how many extras, whether or not a wicket fell, what was the line and length of the delivery. They also record a judgement: was the batsman in control of the delivery?

Control is an elegant binary measurement of batting and bowling, as opposed to runs and wickets, which represent the outcome of batting and bowling. It records whether or not the ball went where the batsman intended it to.

In the case of the South Africa-India series, the control measurement provides a less batting-centric picture. It shows that while India's batting coped admirably with the home bowling, it was the superior overall quality of the home bowling that proved to be the difference between the two sides.

The ball-by-ball record can be summarised in various ways, from the most specific individual bowler v batsman match-ups to innings summaries. Two measures are developed from the data. The first measure "In Control Per Not In Control" records the number of balls the batsman was in control for every ball that the batsman was not in control. This is designed to demonstrate the amount of control the batsman had over proceedings. Higher values show that the batsman was in control more, while lower ones show that the bowler created more uncertainty. The second measure "% Runs Scored Not In Control" gives the percentage of the total runs that came from deliveries where the batsman was not in control. This is designed to be a stand-in for "luck". Almost every single dismissal (run-outs excluded) occurs when the batsman in not in control. Finally, scoring rates (runs per six balls faced) for in-control and not-in-control delivery sets are presented.

Summarised by team innings, the control numbers reveal that the series consisted of two types of Tests. The first and third Tests were both unusually bowler-friendly. The second Test was far more conventional, with the bowlers gaining ascendancy as the match went on. It could be argued that the toss in the second Test was the most crucial one of the series, because judging by the control figures, the wicket in Centurion became progressively worse for batting as the match progressed.

The first Test was decided on the very first day. Despite three early wickets, India's bowling conceded runs at a rate neither side would achieve at any subsequent point in the series. Of the 440 balls bowled by India's bowlers, the South African batsmen were in control for 315. They scored at 4.6 runs per over from these 315 deliveries. For the rest of the series, they scored at 2.9 runs per over from deliveries where they were in control. Had India kept South Africa down to the in-control scoring rate which they managed for the rest of the series, the home side would have made 153 runs in those 315 balls instead of 240. The final margin of victory for the home team in the first Test was 72 runs. Later, Ravi Shastri observed that ten extra days of preparation in South Africa might have been useful. Perhaps he was right. That first day, when India's bowling looked underprepared, proved fatal. In light of what occured in the series, it could well be said that India lost the series on the first day.

A couple of claims made about India's batsmen are worth examining. First, it has been observed that Cheteshwar Pujara and M Vijay have a tendency to get stuck, even though they look secure at the crease. This is because they were extremely selective about the shots they were willing to play, especially as the series developed. But they were able to collect singles and get off strike from time to time. This has had very little effect on India's overall scoring rate. When in control, India's batting scored at about the same rate as South Africa's (excluding the first innings of the first Test).

Jasprit Bumrah offers pace, and a bit of novelty in terms of his action, but he conceded 3.5 runs for every six in-control deliveries he bowled AFP/Getty Images

Second, it has been observed that picking Rohit Sharma ahead of Ajinkya Rahane was an obvious mistake. This is not obvious, or possibly even a mistake. If one compares Rahane and Rohit over their careers, then their run returns suggest that Rahane is indeed the better overall Test batsman. But if one asks who is playing better currently, it is debatable. Rahane was not in control for 30 of the 96 balls he faced in Johannesburg. Rohit was not in control for 37 out of 190 balls he faced in the series. Rahane's cavalier approach brought India 57 runs at the Wanderers, but as with all other batsmen in that Test, the runs against his name were largely a measure of the amount of luck he enjoyed.

Rohit had a different problem. He defended superbly in both Tests he played, but of the 86 balls he faced in the first innings in Centurion and Cape Town, he did not score one single. The break-down of the deliveries he faced is: three fours, one three, three twos and 79 dots. If we consider every ball that a batsman is not in control to be a potential source of dismissal, or a mistake, then Rohit was dismissed on his 13th (in 59 balls), fifth (in 30 balls), third (in 27 balls) and 16th (in 74 balls) mistakes. Rahane was dismissed on his tenth (in 27 balls) and 20th (in 69 balls) mistakes. While Rahane is the better overall batsman, there's no evidence to suggest that he played better in this series. Despite Rohit's stroke-making ability, it was his inability to get off strike, rather than any defensive technical problem that proved to be his undoing in South Africa.

Overall, South Africa's superior pace attack was the difference between the two sides. The home fast bowlers created about 10% more uncertainty than India's did, and conceded 0.4 runs per over fewer when the batsmen were in control. The composition of the two sides was symmetrical in each Test. In the first two Tests, each side played five batsmen, one wicketkeeper, four fast bowlers and one spinner. In the third Test, each side replaced the spinner with a fast bowler. In the tables below, the players are classified as follows:

South Africa bowlers: Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj, Lungi Ngidi and Andile Phehlukwayo.

India bowlers: Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya, R Ashwin (The fast-bowler classification excludes Ashwin and Maharaj.)

South Africa top order: Aiden Markram, Dean Elgar, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis

India top order: M Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane

After the first two Tests, despite the fact that India lost both, there was a niggling feeling that they had not been outplayed. South Africa's superior control with the ball was decisive, but the Indian batting demonstrated that it could cope with the South African attack. Given that the pitches were prone to misbehaving, India kept collecting wickets regularly when they bowled. India required 11.4 not-in-control deliveries to get one wicket. South Africa required 11.2 not-in-control deliveries to get one wicket. Each side created three run-out dismissals. Given the nature of the pitches, it could be argued that South Africa's attack was better suited to the conditions. Neither side can claim to have been especially unlucky. But South Africa can claim to have bowled better.

India will be haunted by the fact that the series was decided on the first day, when their bowling was decisively under par. The current squad is such that in conditions where India don't play two spinners, they don't have clear idea what their best XI is. This is not their fault. It is not clear who India's three best fast bowlers are. Each has obvious limitations. It is easy to see why the selectors and the management find Jasprit Bumrah such a promising proposition, though he is far from the finished product. Bumrah has pace, seems to be tireless, and has an unusual run-up and action, which provide India with a little bit of novelty in their attack. He troubled the batsmen (only 2.6 in-control deliveries per not-in-control delivery) but also conceded a lot of runs when he didn't trouble them (3.5 runs per six in-control deliveries, unlike Ishant Sharma, who was very difficult to score off, conceding only 2.3 runs per in-control delivery). For a debut series, Bumrah's returns were spectacular. But India's team management will probably have noted his inability to draw edges for the slip cordon. The wickets in England will probably not be as quick as those in South Africa, and Bumrah is unlikely to get batsmen out fending in England as easily as he did in South Africa. Still, he has easily justified India's decision to give him a Test debut.

None of India's bowlers stands up in comparison to Kagiso Rabada, who, at 22, already has 120 Test wickets to his name. If there was one player who was the difference between the two sides, it was him. Steyn was lethal when he played, but Rabada was South Africa's mainstay, what with Vernon Philander having his problems with injury. As superb as Morne Morkel is (his Test record after 83 Tests is better than James Anderson's was at that stage), he has not succeeded Steyn as the spearhead of the South African attack. Rabada, with his pace, accuracy and ability to work a batsman over, is the undisputed South African all-wicket spearhead.

Philander and Bhuvneshwar Kumar had very good series in conditions that suit them. Philander controlled the scoring more effectively than Bhuvneshwar. Lungi Ngidi had a promising start to his career, bowling in a quartet with three experienced colleagues. It remains to be seen how he goes when the conditions are less helpful.

With a top innings score of 335 and 40 wickets falling in each Test, this was a bowler's series. The side whose bowlers created more uncertainty won it, fittingly, and the side that dropped the ball while bowling on the very first day.

 

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Sri Lanka wins Tri-Nation Series – beating Bangladesh by 79-runs

Posted on 27 January 2018 by admin

It was all over in the first ball of the 41st over. Sri Lanka rallied round with tight bowling to beat Bangladesh by 79 runs in the Tri-Nation Series. With this sensational win, Sri Lanka, ably led by Dinesh Chandimal has somewhat restored the faith of the selectors and boosted the spirits of its large fan base. Despite losing the first two games badly to Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, Sri Lanka fought back with a vengeance from that point forward and scored a triumphant win in Tri-Nation series concluded Saturday, January 27th in Dhaka. Chandimal won the toss and elected to bat that in retrospect proved to be a sound decision. Opener Upul Tharanga 56, Niroshan Dickwell 42, Kusal Mendis 28, and Dinesh Chandimal 45 helped take Sri Lanka to 221 that was considered a reasonably good score. Dushmantha Chameera blasted out the top order, Akila Dananjaya squeezed through the middle overs, and debutant Shehan Madushanka – playing only his seventh senior cricket match – closed out the tournament with a hat-trick. That the Sri Lanka attack had seemed incapable of menace in the first two matches of the series is a distant memory now. Defending 222, the bowlers constricted the Bangladesh chase, dismissed the opposition for 142, and propelled Sri Lanka to their third victory on the trot and the tri-series title.

Debutant Shehan Madushanka (a very surprising selection for this match) did well to take a hat-trick in the 41st over t end the host nation innings. What a fantastic debut for this young man. After taking the final wicket Madushanka raises his arms triumphantly and his team-mates jump around him even as his face is lit up by a 100-watt smile. He's had a dream debut taking 3 for 26 in 6.1 overs. He was thrown to the dogs in the final and he has more than held his own. The wickets may have come once the game was over, but mind you he bowled a pretty accurate first spell where he gave away little.

Final (D/N), Bangladesh Tri-Nation Series at Dhaka, Jan 27 2018.

Sri Lanka beat Bangladesh by 79-runs Sri Lanka – 221 (Upul Tharanga 56; Kusal Mendis 28; Niroshan Dickwella 42; Dinesh Chandimal 45)  Bowling: Rubel Hossain 4 for 46) Bangladesh – 142 (Mohammad Mahmudullah 76) Bowling: Dushmantha Chameera 2 for 17, Akila Dhananjaya 2 for 30 and Shehan Madushanka 3 for 26.

This is how it was relayed in the live commentary:

 

Madushanka to Mahmudullah, OUTin the aiiir and taken! A hat-trick for Madhushanka on international debut. And that seals it for Sri Lanka. And it's the priced wicket of Mahmudullah. A perfect finish to a perfect debut. This one's at a short of good length. Mahmudullah backs himself to clear the in-field with this slap but chips it off the splice to extra cover

Mahmudullah c Tharanga b Madushanka 76 (92b 6×4 3×6) SR: 82.60

Wickets fell, the pitch slowed, and the run rate began to falter. Sri Lanka's two senior batsmen – Upul Tharanga and Dinesh Chandimal – spent most time at the crease, scratching away for a combined 173 deliveries to return scores of 56 and 45 respectively. They had seemed to set Sri Lanka up for a bright finish, but Rubel Hossain and Mustafizur Rahman were accurate and intense through the back end of the innings. Mixing up his pace, and finding substantial grip for his cutters on a wearing surface, Mustafizur took 2 for 29. Rubel's, though, was the more impactful hand. His yorkers muzzled Sri Lanka at the death, and helped reap his 4 for 46. Bangladesh had bowled well throughout the innings, but they saved their best for the late overs. Mustafizur bowled Tharanga with a cutter, and later had Akila Dananjaya holing out to cover. Rubel hunted relentlessly for wickets. A sharp short ball ended the innings of Thisara Perera, before he could do any damage. Asela Gunaratne was trapped in front, ending a poor batting tournament for him. Chandimal and debutant Shehan Madushanka (a very surprising selection for this match) were bowled by searing, accurate yorkers. Thanks to the work of these two quicks, Sri Lanka went from being well-placed at 157 for 3 after 35 overs, to losing 7 for 64 in in the last 15.

Such is the nature of this surface that Sri Lanka will not be entirely displeased with a total of 221 – the last wicket falling off the last ball of the innings. But ideally, the visitors would have wanted a score north of 250. Their bowlers know they are in a fight.Bangladesh are struggling in their chase of 222.

Earlier, the hosts came out with a brilliant bowling performance to skittle Sri Lanka for 221 in 50 overs in the final of the tri-nation ODI series in Dhaka today. Upul Tharanga was the top-scorer for Sri Lanka with a 56 and the only one to score a half-century. Captain Dinesh Chandimal and Niroshal Dickwella also made useful contributions of 45 and 42. Rubel Hossain was the pick of the Bangladeshi bowlers, ending with figures of 4/46 from his 10 overs. Mustafizur Rahman was superb with 2/29 from his 10 overs. Both sides have beaten each other once in this tournament so far with Bangladesh finishing top of the table with three wins and one defeat. Sri Lanka, on the other hand, won and lost two each.

Player of the Match: Upul Tharanga (Sri Lanka) for his 56 runs

Player of the Series: Thisara Perera (Sri Lanka)

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TRI-NATION TOURNAMENT: Sri Lanka storm into final with emphatic win over hosts Bangladesh

Posted on 25 January 2018 by admin

Sri Lanka dismantle Bangladesh for 82 and storm into final!

Sri Lanka 83 for 0 (Tharanga 39*, Gunathilaka 35*) beat Bangladesh 82 (Mushfiqur 26, Lakmal 3-23, Chameera 2-6) by 10 wickets.

Bangladesh were riding high with three emphatic wins, only to be smashed back to earth today. At least this hasn't come in the final, so that's a saving grace. If they were under any false assumptions about their competition, those have been ruthlessly blown away by Sri Lanka. 

Suranga Lakmal decked the Bangladesh middle order, Thisara Perera swung blows in the middle, Dushmantha Chameera and Lakshan Sandakan wiped out the tail, and a hail of sixes carried Sri Lanka's openers to a paltry target of 83.

All up, Sri Lanka required only 35.5 overs to complete the 10-wicket win – 24 overs to dismiss the opposition, and 11.5 to run down their score. The hosts, meanwhile, were guilty of complacency perhaps, their place in the final long secured, and with little to gain from this game. It is these two teams who will now contest Saturday's final.

Having conceded 320 to the same opposition only six days ago, Thursday was a Sri Lanka bowling fantasy. The short ball proved profitable for the quicks again, as it had done against Zimbabwe on Sunday. Lakmal, Chameera and Thisara were sharp and intense, and Sandakan extracted rapid turn from a wearing Mirpur square. So effective were these four bowlers that Sri Lanka's other frontline spinner – Akila Dananjaya – was not required to bowl a single delivery. Lakmal took 3 for 21, and the others two wickets apiece.

It was in the third over that the mayhem began, when Anamul Haque threw his bat at a Lakmal delivery and redirected it to the stumps via his inside edge. This united Bangladesh's best batsmen of the series – Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal – but they would soon be parted by a piece of electric fielding by Danushka Gunathilaka. Tamim pushed a ball square on the off side and set off for the run, but swooping to his left from point, Gunathilaka pulled off a velvet-smooth pick-up and threw down the stumps, leaving Shakib several metres short of his ground. Tamim himself would soon be victim to another piece of Gunathilaka athleticism. Unable to control a bouncer from Lakmal, he sent the ball high off the splice, behind square on the off side. Tracking the ball from backward point, Gunathilaka dived to complete the catch.

Mushfiqur Rahim was the only Bangladesh batsman to make an attempt at piecing together the innings, batting securely for a while after his team had slipped to 34 for 4. His efforts, however, were not supported by the men at the other end. Sabbir Rahman soon ran at Thisara and hoisted him to mid-on. Abul Hasan then edged Thisara to the wicketkeeper, to leave Bangladesh at 71 for 6. Suddenly, with only the tail for company, Mushfiqur himself was soon out attempting a scoring shot, when he bunted a slower Chameera ball to short midwicket.

That was Chameera's first wicket in eight matches, and he soon had another – Nasir Hossain caught behind on the leg side. Sandakan, who had been menacing throughout his six overs, closed out the innings, spinning one ball past Mashrafe Mortaza's swing, before Rubel Hossain holed out to long-on.

Gunathilaka – playing this match in place of the injured Kusal Perera – ensured the chase began quickly, as he struck Mashrafe Mortaza for successive leg-side fours at the end of the first over. Upul Tharanga had himself began to open his shoulders when he was dropped at cover by Tamim, but the remainder of the chase was as smooth as it was fast-moving. Gunathilaka struck three sixes – off spinners and quicks – the most impressive of which was the swat off Mustafizur Rahman over deep midwicket. Tharanga's two sixes came down the ground, and all told, the pair hit 46 of their 83 runs in boundaries.

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The true story behind one of India’s darkest cricketing days: the 1996 World Cup semi-final against Sri Lanka

Posted on 18 January 2018 by admin

In this excerpt from his book ‘Imperfect’, Sanjay Manjrekar talks about one of India’s most controversial matches ever and debunks some conspiracy theories.

When it was time to turn up for the semi-final, a lot of us had not recovered from the euphoria of the previous game. Ajit Wadekar, our team manager, sensed that.

Wadekar carried an image of a happy-go-lucky character who bumbled his way through life. In reality, I found out he was the exact opposite, especially when in a position of responsibility – be it as the Indian captain or as an employee at the State Bank of India where he rose in the organisation to reach one of the top positions that any Indian Test cricketer held in the corporate world.

There was something about Wadekar. It is no coincidence that the famous 1971 triumphs in the West Indies and England came under him. He was one of those people who felt Indian cricket should be second to none. When he was made India coach, it was a surprise for everyone. He had been out of the game for a while, and at first didn’t seem physically ready to go through the rigours that s hands-on coach needs to. After a few days, though, he got himself fit enough to give us a 100 catches a day.

More importantly, Wadekar became the boss of the team. Indian cricket teams are generally run by the captain and one or two seniors. The coach is often like a prop on the stage, happy to keep his job and not rock the boat. Not Wadekar, though. For the first time in my career I knew who was taking important decision and he was happy to accept responsibility for that. He found it hard to accept defeats on earlier tours, like the one to South Africa in 1992-92. You could see that it hurt him, personally.

Wadekar was the first Indian coach who made sure everybody was making the most of the practice sessions; he didn’t let anyone take it easy for even a minute. For example, after the batsmen had finished their knock in the nets, they were immediately sent to relentless fielding drills: taking catches and attacking the ball when it was hit at you and then trying to hit the stumps directly. He was smart- he knew what Indian cricket lacked and made sure he was going to do something about it.

Importantly, Wadekar knew that the Indian team had the tendency to relax after tasting some success. I remember once when after winning a match, we were having some fun on the flight. That evening in the team meeting at the hotel, he shouted at us unexpectedly, ‘What do you think? You have the tournament or something? What was happening in the flight? What kind of behaviour was that?’

Before the semi-final against Sri Lanka, he sensed something similar and he called for a team meeting. It went on for quote long; Wadekar did most of the talking. Once he was done. Mohammad Azharuddin, the captain, spoke a few words. Although the meeting lasted an hour or so, around fifty minutes were spent on how to contain their openers Romesh Kaluwitharana and Sanath Jayasuriya. The duo had decimated us in a league match earlier in the tournament, chasing down 272 without any fuss. They had reduced Manoj Prabhakar to bowling off-spin, hastening the end of his career.

Imagine our surprise, then, when we got both out in the first over in the semi-final. I caught Kaluwitharana for a golden duck at third man off Srinath, and his new-ball partner Venkatesh Prasad caught Jayasuriya. Now we didn’t know what to do. Like Abhimanyu in Mahabharata, we had trained ourselves to get to the target in the ‘chakravyuh’ but didn’t prepare ourselves about getting out of it.

We relaxed, in a fashion typical of the cricket we played in the ’90s. If you look at our jubilation after getting Kaluwitharana and Jayasuriya out, it was as if we had won the World Cup. We basically took the eye off the ball, and Aravinda de Silva made us pay for it. Sri Lanka ended up scoring 251.

In the chase, Tendulkar and I had a 90-run partnership, and at no point did we think there were nay real demons in the pitch.

Now, a pitch should not change in ten minutes. But that’s what wickets do; a few fell quickly and the demons woke up.

Kumar Dharmsena bowled an off-break to Azhar that pitched outside off and ended with Kaluwitharana down the leg side – he had to collect chest high. It was called wide; I will never forget Dharmsena’s smile – to me it was the smile of the devil, but he had perhaps realised that the match was theirs now; they would go to Lahore for the finals, not India.

Apart from Dharmsena, they had three more spinners – Muttiah Muralitharan, Jayasuriya and de Silva, if needed. With Tendulkar gone and with him a couple of other top-order batsmen ba c k in the pavilion, we also knew in our hearts it was all over.

Since that night, there’s been lot of debate about our decision to bowl first after winning the toss. There have been accusations of match-fixing, accusation that Azhar went against what was decided in the team meeting. At its most charitable, the criticism held us guilty of misreading the pitch and going against the wisdom of having runs on the board in a big match.

Truth be told, there was no devious motive. I can vouch for that. The consensus in the team meeting was that Sri Lanka had been chasing extremely well, and they had walloped us when batting second in the league games. We didn’t want to them to chase. The approach was a little negative, but they had been riding this incredible wave of chasing and winning that we wanted to put them off their-comfort zone.

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We want Mathews to lead the side beyond 2019 – Labrooy

Posted on 09 January 2018 by admin

 

January 9, 2018.
 

article_image

by Rex Clementine

Less than six months after he graciously quit as Sri Lanka’s captain across all forms of the game, Angelo Mathews was reappointed as the team’s ODI and T-20 captain on Tuesday and there was overwhelming support for the 30-year-old.

Since Mathews stepped down, Sri Lanka have had seven different captains in the last five months. SLC President Thilanga Sumathipala elaborated that the Executive Committee unanimously backed the decision to hand the reins back to Mathews while Chairman of Selectors Graeme Labrooy wished that the all-rounder leads the team beyond the 2019 World Cup.

"When I stepped down, I thought that I will never take it again. SLC President, Head Coach and the selectors wanted me to reconsider my decision. I thought about it and there are few reasons for me to take it again. We need to have stability leading up to the 2019 World Cup which is less than 18 months away. This is an hour of need and if I don’t take it up now, I will feel bad in a few months time," Mathews told journalists.

The all-rounder said that his mentor Hathurusingha played a major role in convincing him to take up the captaincy again.

"I have known Hathu for a long time. I know how he operates. He is not here to survive. It is very easy to work with him as he has goals. He played a major part in me making this decision to take up the captaincy again. He is going to be an important part run up to the World Cup. The other countries are dying to take him as he is the best in the business. We have worked together with the ‘A’ team and then with the senior team as well," remarked Mathews.

When Mathews quit as captain after the series defeat to Zimbabwe, it surprised many. However, since he relinquished duties, Sri Lanka’s fortunes in ODI cricket hit rock bottom.

"When I stood down as captain, I did it hoping it will give the new captain a fair amount of time to prepare for the World Cup. All the captains we have had tried their best," Mathews explained. During his previous stint as captain, Mathews resisted pressure from board officials to compromise on selections and reminded that he will do it his way. "I will work for the interest of the team. Some may like it, some may not like it," he said.

Labrooy confirmed that Mathews will be Sri Lanka’s long term captain, having tried out several stop gap leaders. "He is going to be our long term captain. Ideally, we want him beyond 2019," Labrooy said before remarking that Mathews will only play as a specialist batsman during the Bangladesh series.

Meanwhile, Test captain Dinesh Chandimal has been recalled to the ODI side after being overlooked for the series against India. Kusal Mendis, another player dropped for the Indian tour also finds himself back in the side.

"We had a plan when we left Mendis out. The purpose was for him to get back to domestic cricket and get some runs. He has scored some big hundreds. The new captain and coach supported his inclusion a lot," Labrooy went onto say.

However, there’s no place for another bright young prospect Sadeera Samarawickrama, who had a tough tour of India.

Rookie fast bowler Shehan Madushanka has also been named in the squad.

"The coach has said that you can’t teach someone to bowl fast. It’s a gift bowling fast. Looking at long term, we are looking at someone who has got genuine pace. The average speed he clocks is 136 kmph and he has the ability to go beyond 140 plus kmph.

Sri Lanka ODI Squad: Angelo Mathews (Captain), Upul Tharanga, Danushka Gunathilaka, Kusal Mendis, Dinesh Chandimal, Kusal Perera, Thisara Perera, Asela Gunaratne, Niroshan Dickwella, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep, Dushmantha Chameera, Shehan Madushanka, Akila Dananjaya, Lakshan Sandakan, Wanindu Hasaranga.

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Ashes: The winners and losers from the 2017-18 series By Stephan Shemilt BBC Sport in Sydney

Posted on 08 January 2018 by admin

The Ashes have been won, Australia have lifted the urn in Sydney and England have once again had a miserable trip down under.

There are, though, other prizes to be dished out.

Before we start, it's taken as a given that Steve Smith is player of the series, the Australian of the year and Time magazine's man of the decade.

Here are BBC Sport's winners and losers of the 2017-18 Ashes series.

Moment of the series

Australia's Mitchell Starc checks on Joe Root after hitting the England captain on the head with a bouncer

Australia fast bowler Mitchell Starc hit England captain Joe Root on the helmet during a thrilling third evening at Brisbane

It may be that this series is more remembered for the moment of trouble involving Ben Stokes outside a Bristol nightclub than anything that happened on the pitch.

Of the action, substitute Peter Handscomb's wonderful diving catch to remove Dawid Malan in Perth, prompting a collapse of six wickets for 35 runs, can be pinpointed with hindsight as when England's hope of retaining the Ashes drained away.

But the most exhilarating, must-watch, hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck period of play came on the third evening of the first Test in Brisbane, when Australia's fast bowlers showed their teeth for the first time.

Mark Stoneman and Joe Root were given a torrid time, with Root taking a horrific blow to the grille from Mitchell Starc. The sight of Australian pacemen tearing in in front of a baying, raucous and partisan Gabba ground evoked memories of the Mitchell Johnson-inspired carnage of four years ago.

The drama never quite reached those heights again but, for an hour or so, it was what Ashes cricket in Australia is supposed to be.

Ball of the century

England's James Vince is bowled by Mitchell Starc

The delivery that dismissed James Vince would have gone down the leg side had it continued on its natural path

Shane Warne bowled the ball of the last century, but it could be that Starc has delivered the ball of this one.

In England's second innings of third Test, left-armer Starc, bowling round the wicket, almost defied physics to remove James Vince's off stump.

Admittedly, it hit a crack, but Starc can be given credit if that is what he was aiming to do. If the ball had not straightened after pitching, it would have missed leg stump. To hit the top of off was a 42cm deviation.

Vince, who had been batting beautifully, was befuddled. In one delivery, the gap between the two sides was perfectly illustrated.

Breakthrough performance

England's Dawid Malan celebrates scoring his maiden Test century in the third Ashes Test at Perth

Dawid Malan scored his maiden Test century at Perth and ended as England's top runscorer, with 383

Before the series began, England's biggest concern was the number of inexperienced players in their squad and, specifically, the greenness of three of their top five.

If the jury is still out on Vince and Stoneman, the tourists have certainly found a batsman in Malan.

The Middlesex left-hander had a wobbly introduction to Test cricket in the home summer, but has grown in stature at the crease with calmness, bravery and an off-drive you could take home to meet your parents.

The highlight was an emotional maiden Test century in Perth which, added to three half-centuries, made him England's highest runscorer of the series.

Malan could end up as England's next number three. His occasional leg-spin is useful, too.

Biggest disappointment

A graphic showing Moeen Ali scored 179 runs at 19.88 and took five wickets at 115

Moeen Ali was one of several senior England players to struggle in Australia

While we will always wonder what impact Stokes – perhaps at the peak of his powers – may have had on the series, it's reasonable to think even he would not have reversed a 4-0 margin.

The bigger pity is the collective failure of most of England's senior players,some of whom arrived down under with legitimate claims to be the best in the world at what they do, but have failed to make a telling impact when it matters most.

Root has carried himself impressively, yet his runscoring has been dwarfed by opposite number Smith.

Alastair Cook ground out an epic double century in Melbourne, but it was too late to alter the direction of the urn. His next highest score was 39. Wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow's century in Perth was the only time he passed 50.

Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes have both taken their wickets at almost 50 apiece, while Moeen Ali's awful tour with bat and ball has left him clinging to his place in the side.

Ironman award

James Anderson celebrates taking a wicket during the first Ashes Test at Brisbane

James Anderson was England's leading wicket-taker, finishing with 17 at an average of 27.82

Whenever Australia were batting (and, thanks to Smith, that was pretty much all the time), it seemed as though James Anderson was bowling.

The 223.3 overs he sent down were the most in a series in his career and the third-biggest workload of any pace bowler this century.

On a tour where, at all venues except Adelaide, England were begging the ball to move, Anderson was head and shoulders above the rest of the attack because of his skill, accuracy and age-defying stamina.

At 35, England's all-time leading Test wicket-taker is as good as ever and, thankfully for them, is targeting the home Ashes in 2019. They should be very worried about the day he retires.

Golden Lawnmower for biggest groundsman's gaffe

Groundstaff attempt to dry the pitch at Perth as Steve Smith and Joe Root inspect it

The start of play was delayed on day five at Perth as groundstaff tried to dry the pitch with leaf blowers

This isn't an award you can hand out every series, but this Ashes has provided more groundsman-related controversy than most.

The MCG was chastised for its lifeless pitch by the International Cricket Council, while Moeen was given out stumped in Brisbane in part because the painter of the crease couldn't manage a straight line.

However, both of those were trumped in Perth, where some unsecure covers jeopardised Australia's push to regain the urn.

When the covers blew away, overnight rain left wet patches on a length and resulted in one of the most bizarre sights ever seen in Test cricket. In bright sunshine, the only action was half a dozen groundstaff drying the track with leaf blowers.

All was well in the end, but, for a while, there was the prospect of England escaping with a draw.

Forgotten man

England bowler Jake Ball poses by the pool at the Gabba stadium in Brisbane

Jake Ball was dropped for the second Test at Adelaide in favour of Craig Overton

Gary Ballance and Ben Foakes are the only members of England's touring party to not play in a Test and, in Ballance's case, his drinks-carrying might not have been of a sufficient standard to get him on the tour of New Zealand.

For Australia, Handscomb was dropped after Adelaide, while Chadd Sayers, in the squad for the first two Tests, was asked before the second if he thought he would play. "No," was the reply.

However, to be truly forgotten, you first have to be remembered.

England were desperate for Jake Ball to recover from an ankle injury in time to play in the first Test, with the coaching staff saying he had long been identified as a bowler suited to Australian conditions.

He returned 1-115 and was only seen again as a substitute fielder. He was even overlooked for Tom Curran, a man who was the replacement of a replacement, for the final two Tests.

Most endorsed

England's Ben Duckett reacts after being dismissed against Bangladesh

Ben Duckett was suspended for pouring a drink over James Anderson on England's return to The Avenue in Perth

Some companies pay millions and millions of pounds to be mentioned in the same breath as a sporting event as big as the Ashes.

The Avenue nightclub in Perth did not cough up a bean (we think) and got more mentions than a sponsor could ever afford.

It was there where Bairstow 'headbutted' Cameron Bancroft, an incident which resulted in England being placed under a curfew.

Incredibly, on the first night that the curfew was lifted, they went back to the same place and Lions batsman Ben Duckett poured a drink over Anderson.You couldn't make it up.

The result is the Avenue becoming perhaps the most famous nightspot in the history of Ashes cricket. The Times even wrote a review of the place. 

Strangest moment

Moeen cuddling a koala was pretty standard for an England cricketer in Australia, Trevor Bayliss getting the ice creams in for his staff during a warm-up game was amusing, while the Anderson 'ball-tampering' controversy in Melbourne was a storm so small it couldn't fill a teacup.

However, by far the most surreal experience was Bancroft's explanation of the Bairstow headbutt after the first Test in Brisbane.

"He just greeted me with a headbutt. I was expecting a handshake," he said.

"He didn't knock me over. I've actually got the heaviest head in the Western Australia squad. There's an actual measurement for it."

Then, from a journalist: "Can you define, perhaps on a 1-10 basis, the difference between what happened to you and a headbutt?"

The reply…

"He connected with my head with a force that made me think 'wow, that's a bit weird'."

As Bancroft struggled to explain where Bairstow made contact, Smith had to intervene to tell the young opener that he was pointing to his forehead.

 

 

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THE ASHES: Dominant Australia seal Ashes 4-0, with Root crocked

Posted on 08 January 2018 by admin

Australia 7 for 649 dec (Khawaja 171, S Marsh 156, M Marsh 101, Smith 83, Warner 56) beat England 346 (Root 83, Malan 62, Cummins 4-80) and 180 (Cummins 4-39, Lyon 3-54) by an innings and 123 runs

 

Soiled as it was by the Melbourne draw on a poor pitch, this series was no clean sweep, no whitewash. Still, Australia finished the Ashes in the most comprehensive manner left open to them, bathing in the glory of a 4-0 result after thrashing England by an innings and 123 runs in the final Test at the SCG. After 25 days of cricket, the final outcome was confirmed when Josh Hazlewood bounced James Anderson and secured a caught-behind verdict soon after 2pm on day five.

Joe Root, laid low by viral gastroenteritis, did not emerge from the rooms to resume the innings he had already suspended twice, and England's hopes of salvaging a draw were officially over. Australia celebrated what was very much a team effort, especially with the ball, as evidenced by the final series wicket tally, topped by four Australians in close order: Pat Cummins with 23, Mitchell Starc with 22, and Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon each with 21.

That all five Tests went to a fifth day was a rarity, having not happened in an Ashes series since the 1994-95 campaign in Australia. It was also a series of slow scoring, the overall run rate of 2.95 the lowest in any Ashes series since that same 1994-95 tour. But despite England's fight, Australia dominated the majority of this contest, and a 4-0 outcome seemed a fitting result.

The day had started with Australia needing six wickets for victory, and with Root and Jonny Bairstow the not-out batsmen. By lunch, Root and Bairstow were still unbeaten, yet as if part of some kind of riddle, England had also lost a wicket. Root was hospitalised overnight due to his illness and had not resumed his innings at the start of play, walking to the crease only after Moeen Ali was lbw for 13, out to Nathan Lyon for the seventh time in the series.

 

Root battled hard and registered his fifth half-century of the series, but again failed to emerge after the lunch break due to his illness. England's fight was soon to fade. Bairstow was lbw to Cummins for 38, and two balls later Cummins bounce out Stuart Broad, who fended a catch that was skied to the wicketkeeper Tim Paine.

Mason Crane also fell to a short ball from Cummins, caught behind off his glove, curiously asking for a review despite clear evidence the ball had flicked a significant portion of his thumb on the way through to the wicketkeeper. Anderson's wicket was all Australia needed to secure the result, which was England's heaviest defeat to Australia in a Test since they lost by an innings and 148 runs at Headingley in 1993.

The post-match presentations rather summed it all up. Man of the Match was Cummins, for his eight wickets. Man of the Series was Steven Smith, for his 687 runs, more than 300 in front of the highest-scoring England batsman, Dawid Malan. And England's captain, Root, was unable to mount the dais to speak on behalf of his side, instead represented by the vice-captain Anderson. It was just one more thing that had gone wrong for England in a series full of them. Courtesy: ESPN Cricinfo.

Player  of the Match was Australian Pat Cummins while Player of the Series was Aussie skipper Steven Smith.

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