Just like Test cricket, the menace will also gain context due to the new championship
ICC Test Championship was mooted as an idea way back in 2013 but it didn’t come to fruition for a long time. The 2013 and 2017 editions were converted into Champions trophy and finally, cricket’s governing body decided to start the Test Championship from 2019.
The Ashes (England Vs Australia) and India’s tour of West Indies next month will kick off the championship. The main motive of this championship structure is to give greater context to bilateral matches. Till now, Test and other forms of bilateral cricket were being played without any reward/penalty. This was especially the case during dead rubber matches (matches which are left in a series after a particular team has won already). For 50-overs cricket, an ODI league has been created similarly to give more context and also to act as a qualification pathway for the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2023.
However, considering that the ODI league is a year away from now, it would be prudent to mainly focus on the Test Championship.
So, what is the format and the rules governing this Test Championship?
The championship will be played over a period of two years. Each team will play six different teams (three at home and three away). These series’ can involve matches ranging from two to five Tests.
After the league stage comes to end, the top teams in the table will contest the final of the Test championship in England in June 2021.
Scoring in the Test championship
Points scoring for test championship
Since all the series’ won’t consist of the same number of matches, the ICC has tried to make sure that teams who play a lesser number of matches don’t get affected by the points system. As a result, points for each series has been capped at 120. In a two-match series, each win will fetch 60 points whereas 20 points will be awarded for each win in case a five-match series is played.
If a Test match gets tied, then both the competing teams will get half the points that would have been available for a win. For a draw, one by third of the points that would have been available for a win will be given to each team. This has been done to discourage teams who play to draw matches.
Recently, ICC also announced that teams will lose two points for every over that is bowled beyond the regulation time. This has been done to avoid incredibly slow over-rates in the past few years.
On the whole, the upcoming Test championship promises to be an engrossing one for both the players and fans with the game’s governing body always on the lookout for ways to make Test cricket marketable.
As usual, the league will feature eight teams and Siechem Madurai Panthers will enter this edition as the defending champions. After finishing 2nd in the points table, the Panthers comfortably won the knockout matches to seal their first title. KB Arun Karthik starred for the side with 472 runs in 10 matches while Abhishek Tanwar and Varun Chakravarthy lead the bowling attack with 15 and 9 wickets respectively.
“Going into a competition as defending champions is a great feeling. There will be enormous pressure to continue the good vein of form we showed last season. I will want the boys to enjoy being part of this tournament and play good solid cricket as that’s what won us the trophy last year,” Arun Karthick said during the team event in Chennai on Wednesday.
When does the tournament start?
The 4th edition of the TNPL will begin on 19th July, Friday with Dindigul Dragons taking on Chepauk Super Gillies at the former’s home ground, NPR College ground. The match will begin at 7.15 pm.
What are the other venues?
Apart from the NPR College ground, matches will also be played at the Indian Cement Company Ground in Tirunelveli and the state’s most famous ground in Chennai, the M.A Chidambaram stadium.
Will the tournament be broadcasted?
Yes, Star Sports network will broadcast the tournament on Star Sports 3 and some select matches on Star Sports Tamil too. Meanwhile, Hotstar will stream all the matches.
Australia v England – ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 Semi-Final
Hosts England booked their place in the World Cup final on July 14th, Sunday with a convincing 8-wicket win over arch-rivals Australia at Edgbaston, Birmingham.
England’s bowling attack put in their most well-rounded bowling performance as they skittled the Aussie top-order. Only Steven Smith and Alex Carey put in some fight as Australia crawled towards 223. Then Jason Roy came out all guns blazing and made an already under-par total look like a no-show from Australia. Skipper Eoin Morgan and Joe Root finished off the match with impressive cameos to help England reach their first World Cup final after a gap of 27 years.
A target of 224 was never going to be enough against this English batting line up and Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow put on a terrific 124 run opening stand to further reduce the competitive value of Australia’s total. That partnership put the game away from Australia completely and even though Roy and Bairstow fell in quick succession, skipper Eoin Morgan and Joe Root continued from where the previous two batsmen left.
Australia were ill-disciplined and lacked penetration right from the word go. They were too many bad balls especially from the team’s trump card Mitchell Starc and that came back to haunt against a relentless England batting line up. So, in the end, England’s batting excellence coupled with some poor bowling from Australia ensured that the home team reached the final with an 8-wicket win.
Earlier in the day, Australia won the toss and chose to bat first. However, England’s bowling attack put on an all-round performance and restricted Australia to a total of 223 after 50 overs. Only Steven Smith with his 85 and Alex Carey stood up for Australia. Just when Australia looked like they had a chance of reaching 250, Smith and Mitchell Starc who came up with a handy 29-run knock fell in a matter of few balls and England managed to bundle out their arch-rivals in the 49th over.
England, on their part, were terrific with their new-ball bowling. Chris Woakes and Jofra Archer combined to have Australia on the mat at 14-3. The team’s lone specialist spinner, Adil Rashid started to spin a web during the middle overs just when Australia were looking good for a recovery. Such disciplined bowling meant that Australia could never get away.
Mitchell Starc broke Glenn McGrath’s record for most wickets in a single World Cup by picking up one wicket against England. Jofra Archer too improved upon his tally with his superb 2-wicket spell while Mark Wood also picked up a lone scalp.
Australia will take on England in the 2019 World Cup second semi-final on Thursday with the hope of earning a spot in the grand finale at the Lord’s, London on July 14th.
England came into the tournament as favourites but had a topsy-turvy group stage with six wins from nine matches. Australia, on the other hand claimed seven wins from nine matches and finished second on the points table.
Prior to this game, Australia have beaten England on two occasions, first during the warm-up games and one the other occasion, during a group stage match of the ongoing World Cup, a game which Australia clinched by 64 runs.
In the league phase, an Aaron Finch century helped Australia post 285-7 after 50 overs after which the left-arm pace duo of Jason Behrendorff and Mitchell Starc combined to take nine wickets that derailed England’s chase.
Apart from the importance of the knockout fixture, the fact that these two teams are arch-rivals will automatically spice up the match that is certain to bring out some mini-battles that could have a massive impact on the outcome of the game.
Here, we have a look at four battles which could come to the fore from this game.
#1 Pat Cummins Vs Joe Root
This is one battle that is set to feature England’s most technical batsman and Australia’s most improved limited-overs bowler. Although Pat Cummins hasn’t been in scintillating form (13 wickets in 9 matches) in this World Cup, Australia will back him to dismiss a batsman who could get England out of any troublesome situation.
Joe Root has also had a terrific 2019 World Cup by scoring 500 runs so far. When it comes to previous battles between these two, Cummins has the upper hand, having taken Root’s wicket on 3 occasions in 7 innings.
#2 Mitchell Starc Vs Jason Roy and Eoin Morgan
Mitchell Starc will be a big weapon for Australia against two of England’s best batsmen, Jason Roy and Eoin Morgan. Starc can look to add to his four dismissals against Roy by bringing back the ball at pace like he so usually does. He also has a good record against Eoin Morgan due to the fact that the English skipper tends to be susceptible against short-pitch bowling. Morgan tends to generally struggle against left-arm pacers and this will be a key battle.
#3 Chris Woakes Vs David Warner
David Warner has been one of the most in-form batsmen in this World Cup. He looked to be batting at 60-70% of his best earlier in the tournament but has slowly come back at his very best. His knock against South Africa was his most fluent effort in the World Cup and England will want him back in the hut within the first five overs.
England’s new ball bowler Chris Woakes will be handled with the responsibility of doing that and will take heart from the fact that he has taken Warner’s wicket on three occasions in 10 innings.
#4 Adil Rashid Vs Aaron Finch and Steven Smith
England’s leg-spinner Adil Rashid will be a key component against Aaron Finch and Steven Smith. Rashid has an incredibly good record against both Finch and Smith, having dismissed both the batsmen on nine occasions combined.
Rashid and most other leg-spinners haven’t had a great time in the World Cup but the 31-year-old would hope to come back strong against two of Australia’s vital cogs in their batting line up. Smith’s wicket will be especially important, considering that the two batsmen who line up after him, Marcus Stoinis and Glenn Maxwell haven’t been in great form.
After coming into the 2019 World Cup with high hopes, Afghanistan endured a harsh lesson in terms of both off-field and on-field professionalism. But most of Afghanistan’s problems can be attributed to turbulence off the field. There have been constant changes within the administration, shocking alterations within the national team and this has hurt the team immensely. If these issues continue, Afghanistan might have the danger of falling down the pecking order quickly like Kenya and Zimbabwe. While teams like Ireland, Scotland and the Netherlands are rapidly improving with their performances, they also don’t have ego, corruption among their officials.
While this may give a gloomy picture to Afghanistan’s future, their talent reservoir promises to defeat the system and rise up the ladder. Like most other South-Asian countries, Afghanistan are also a cricket-mad nation and that will ensure that they stay afloat in international cricket. A glimpse of Afghanistan’s talent was seen when their U-19 team reached the semi-finals of the World Cup last year.
Apart from that, the country also has a lot of talent within its domestic circuit. Even Afghanistan senior team skipper Gulbadin Naib indicated the same during a post-match talk after their last World Cup game against the West Indies. He said, “Ikram AliKhil isn’t the only talented cricketer in Afghanistan, there are a lot of other youngsters back home.” So, let’s have a look at five of the best upcoming Afghanistan players.
BBL – Hurricanes v Renegades
Off late, Afghanistan seem to have built the reputation of being a spin-bowling nursery. In that regard, Qais Ahmad is next in line to make his debut for the national team. The young leg-spinner has already featured for Hobart Hurricanes in the Big Bash League, St Lucia Stars in the Carribean Premier League and Rajshahi Kings.
In addition to his exploits in the shortest format of the game, Qais also has a really good record in First-Class cricket. He has taken 64 wickets in just 10 matches and that shows his ability to be an all-format bowler. Recently, he even returned match figures of 10/145 against Bangladesh A in Khulna. When compared to Rashid Khan, Qais is more of a traditional leg-spinner with him relying more on flight and variations in pace to deceive the batsmen.
Darwish Rasooli walking back after playing a match-winning knock against Pakistan U-19
While Afghanistan have many talented spinners, Afghanistan will hope that Darwish Rasooli solves the nation’s problem with respect to the dearth of quality batsmen in the senior team. Rasooli used to be a star for the U-19 team with his aggressive knocks and he will look to carry that into the international arena.
Last year, the 19-year-old scored 213 runs in the Afghanistan Premier League to further force the selectors to consider him for higher honours. He has also notched up an incredible 1073 runs in the 2018 Afghanistan First-Class tournament to top the run charts. Rasooli has been in and around the national team in the recent past and one would think his first international cap wouldn’t be far away.
Naveen Ul Haq
Naveen Ul Haq getting ready to bowl
Naveen-ul-haq, the youngster who led Afghanistan to the semi-final of the 2018 U-19 World Cup semi-finals is someone who has been on the fringes for the national team for the last 2-3 years. Naveen made his international debut against Bangladesh in 2016 but he hasn’t been able to get another cap after that series.
With Afghanistan struggling to complement their spinners, Naveen might be shouldered with the responsibility of leading the pace attack very soon. He is especially valuable in limited overs cricket due to his variations. So far, he has taken 30 wickets in 9 first-class matches.
Baheer Shah representing the Afghanistan U-19
Generally, emerging cricketing nations tend to produce a lot of talented batsmen but ones without international level technique. Afghanistan also fall in the same category given that they seem to churn out players like Hazratullah Zazai and Mohammad Shahzad with ease. However, as time goes on, such players will be found out given the level of analysis that goes behind the scenes. So, the need of the hour for the rising nation would be to develop batsmen with good technique who can go onto play big knocks.
One such player might be Baheer Shah who has had an incredible start to his domestic career. His exploits in the 2017-18 Afghanistan first-class tournament were so incredible that he broke many records on the way to scoring 1096 runs. He became the second-youngest player to score a triple hundred (after Javed Miandad), most runs in first six first-class innings and second-fastest to score 1000 runs (both records held by Bill Ponsford). Given that Baheer is just 19-years old, there will be a lot of hopes on him to become one of the best batsmen to come out of Afghanistan.
Azmatullah Omarzai about to deliver a ball
Azmatullah Omarzai is another youngster who was part of the talented 2018 U-19 World Cup batch. He introduced himself in the international arena with a 23-ball 66 run blitz against New Zealand in the World Cup quarter-final. Apart from his big-hitting skills, the 19-year-old is also a handy medium pacer who has the ability to crank up the speed gun to 135 kph and above. His raw potential is something which has excited Afghanistan fans for quite a while. The nation will hope that Azmatullah keeps on improving and takes the all-rounder’s spot in the senior team.
Pakistan v Bangladesh – ICC Cricket World Cup 2019
Pakistan bowed out of the 2019 Cricket World Cup after posting a convincing 94-run win over Bangladesh at the Lord’s stadium in London.
Imam Ul Haq’s 100 and Babar Azam’s 96 powered Pakistan to an impressive 315-9 after 50 overs. The 18-year old Shaheen Shah Afridi then delivered a remarkable spell of bowling to pick 6 wickets for the cost of a paltry 35 runs. This effort from Shaheen Afridi helped Pakistan to dismantle Bangladesh for a mere 221 runs.
Even though the target was huge, Bangladesh would have been positive about this chase especially given they tracked down a target of 322 against West Indies in just 41.3 overs. However, Bangladesh’s essay went nowhere as Pakistan struck at regular intervals. Only Shakib Al Hasan managed to score a fifty while his teammates failed to convert their starts.
For Pakistan, Shaheen Shah Afridi was the star of the show as the youngster managed to get wickets whenever Sarfaraz Ahmed called him up for a spell. Eventually, the 19-year old finished with his career-best figures of 6 wickets for 35 runs. With this Pakistan also wrapped up their campaign with a 94 run.
In the first inning, Pakistan averted Fakhar Zaman’s early dismissal with Babar Azam and Imam Ul Haq combining to stitch a massive 157-run partnership. Unfortunately, Azam got out for 96 but Imam didn’t miss his chance to score a hundred. After that, Imam got out hit wicket and this started a collapse but Imad Wasim’s late 43-run cameo helped Pakistan reach 315-9 after 50 overs. The major reason for Pakistan’s collapse was Mustafizur Rahman as the youngster restricted them with his excellent death-bowling skills
Shakib Al Hasan ended the World Cup with yet another impressive performance as he scored 64 runs off 77 balls. This helped him regain the top spot in the ‘Most Runs’ list once again.
From Pakistan’s side, Babar Azam scored a 98-ball 96 as he rose up one spot to occupy the 7th position in the list.
This match between two talented youngsters show their immense potential as Shaheen Shah Afridi and Mustafizur Rahman starred for their respective sides with 6 and 5-wicket hauls.
With figures of 5 for 75, Mustafizur Rahman became the second highest wicket-taker in this World Cup.
On the other hand, Shaheen Afridi took career-best figures of 6 for 35 and entered the ‘Most Wickets’ list at the 6th spot.
Afghanistan will hope to use this experience to come back as a better team in the next World Cup
This was Afghanistan’s second World Cup campaign and a lot of excitement was building amongst both Afghanistan and cricket fans all over the world alike. The likes of Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi and Mujeeb Ur Rahman were household names in the T20 circuit and they were expected to continue with their exploits in England.
However, two months prior to the World Cup, Afghanistan shockingly sacked Asghar Afghan as captain as Gulbadin Naib was chosen to lead the team in the World Cup and beyond. In spite of this, Afghanistan started off their time in England with a confidence-boosting win over Pakistan in the first warm-up match. Unfortunately, that confidence didn’t translate to the main tournament as Afghanistan failed to put up competitive totals on a consistent basis. Their batsmen only managed to score 6 fifties out of which none were converted into a hundred.
It was only in the latter half of the tournament that Afghanistan started to put in respectable performances as the pitches favoured their style of play. The #10 ranked team managed to get to the brink of historic wins against India, Pakistan and West Indies but inexperience meant that they didn’t manage to get over the line. As a result, the rising team finished with zero points in the World Cup.
Afghanistan’s best player from the World Cup could be one among Rahmat Shah, Najibullah Zadran and Mohammad Nabi.
The 25-year old Rahmat Shah had an impressive yet frustrating campaign. A lot of experts appreciated Rahmat’s classy strokeplay but his tendency to throw away attractive starts was also under the scanner. Despite being untroubled throughout the World Cup, Rahmat found a way to get dismissed in soft ways. This is reflected in the fact that he managed to score only one fifty in 9 matches.
While Rahmat Shah wasted his chances, Najibullah Zadran didn’t receive enough to express his ability in the World Cup. Najibullah was probably the most fluent Afghanistan batsman in the initial matches but he was shockingly dropped for the match against South Africa. Even though he played all the other eight matches, Afghanistan constantly underutilised the southpaw by slotting him at No. 7 or even 8. He eventually ended the World Cup with 230 runs from 8 matches.
In terms of Afghanistan’s bowling attack, there were a few decent individual performances, but no one was as consistent as the experienced Mohammad Nabi. He took 10 wickets while also controlling the run flow by conceding just 4.61 runs per over.
Afghanistan v West Indies – ICC Cricket World Cup 2019
Clearly, Rashid Khan was the biggest disappointment for Afghanistan in the World Cup. Fans and experts expected Afghanistan’s hopes to be on Rashid’s shoulder, but the 20-year old couldn’t make much of an impact with both ball and bat. Bowling wise, Rashid was highly erratic with his length as he either bowled too short or overcompensated by providing slot deliveries.
Given his useful contributions with the bat for both Afghanistan and the various T20 teams he was part of, Rashid was required to chip in with important cameos down the order. However, Rashid failed to do that too, whenever Afghanistan were in trouble. He swung and missed more than the number of runs he scored.
Interestingly, Mohammad Nabi can also be considered an underperformer given his paltry returns with the bat. Nabi only 107 runs from 9 games and that is very poor considering his potential with the bat.
Areas to work upon
Afghanistan have to work on quite a few important aspects of the limited overs game. The team’s fielding was seriously under par when compared to the general standards in the World Cup. Even some excellent fielders like Rashid Khan and Najibullah Zadran misfielded and dropped catches on quite a few occasions.
Another aspect to improve will be the ability to convert starts to something substantial. Overall, Afghanistan batsmen got out for scores between 20-50 on 29 occasions in the World Cup. These batsmen also have to find a balance between big-hitting and playing safely. Good strike rotation will help to find the balance as Afghanistan batsmen tend to get into a shell after scoring few runs. This pressure then makes them play poor shots and they lose their wickets as a result.
Bangladesh v Afghanistan – ICC Cricket World Cup 2019
Strange decisions from Afghanistan and Gulbadin Naib
First of all, the controversy involving Mohammad Shahzad was strange for people outside the Afghanistan team management. Shahzad was ruled out of the World Cup after Afghanistan’s second game against Sri Lanka. However, the wicket-keeper batsman went back to Afghanistan and alleged that he was sent back despite being fully fit.
Further, the usage of Najibullah Zadran and Ikram Ikram Ali Khil surprised many viewers. Both the batsmen were underutilised by batting them at positions like No. 8 and No. 9. While Najibullah showed his quality throughout the World Cup, Ali Khil showcased his potential with 86 runs against West Indies after he was promoted to No.3
Gulbadin Naib’s decision to over bowl himself at important positions also cost the team quite a bit. Naib decided to bring himself on when Pakistan required 46 runs off 30 balls. The skipper went on to conceded 18 runs in that over and Afghanistan suffered as a result.
Another strange decision was to give veteran Hamid Hassan a farewell game in the team’s penultimate World Cup match against Pakistan. Hamid couldn’t even finish the match because he pulled up with a hamstring injury after bowling just 2 overs.