England Closing In On Australia

Will it be a tall order for England to qualify for the World Test Championship final?

England’s captain Joe Root holds aloft the Wisden Trophy after England won the Test series 2-1 against the West Indies. (© AFP)

The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown a spanner in the works of the ICC World Test Championship schedule and a few Test series have been already postponed this year. Nevertheless, England beat the West Indies 2-1 and Pakistan 1-0 in back-to-back three-match series, closing-in with Australia in the points table.

England are on 292 points, only four behind second-placed Australia, with whom they drew a five-match series 2-2. While England have completed four series, Australia have played three so far.

As mentioned in this column’s April issue, the dominance of Australia and India means that any series challenger for the top two positions would need to target around 500 points.

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Bart King

The only American Honorary Life Member of the MCC

John Barton King (1873 – 1965).

A few months after the 2015 World Cup, the MCC awarded the prestigious Honorary Life Membership of the club to the recently retired Mahela Jayawardena. Having captained Sri Lanka 183 times across all formats, he became the 15th Sri Lankan to be honoured, thus.

Elated with a favourite cricketer of mine winning yet another accolade, I shared the good news with a close friend and follower of the game, Dilan.

He joined in my joy, but seemed in a pensive mood.

When pressed, he came up with an unexpected subject and queried, ‘What do you know about American cricket?’

‘American what?’ I asked, surprised.Continue reading

Sir Garfield Sobers – Sri Lanka’s First Foreign Coach

Gary Sobers coaching Sri Lanka in the eighties

“When I came to coach [Sri Lanka] in 1982, I was told about a young kid. Then I went to the ground and saw him bat, and I was truly amazed about this boy’s talent. He is Arjuna Ranatunga” – Sir Garfield Sobers, photographed on his second stint as the coach in 1983, with Arjuna Ranatunga is seen in the background. (© Unknown)

The negotiation skills and political acumen of the late Gamini Dissanayake, back then a cabinet minister, helped achieve Sri Lanka’s much deserved and long-awaited quest for elevation to Full Member status of the ICC on 21 July 1981.

Dissanayake wearing two hats, also as the president of the country’s cricket board, then made some crucial moves to add value to Sri Lanka’s newfound Test status. He engaged the greatest all-rounder on record, Sir Garfield Sobers, to coach the Sri Lanka team.

“When I was in Australia, Gamini Dissanayake came over and said that he was going to England to apply for Test status. I was really excited,” Sir Gary later reminisced.

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To Whom Should We Refer the Third Umpire?

Pioneering efforts of the Third (TV) Umpire concept in cricket

TV Umpire in cricket

The beginnings of the third (TV) umpire (© Cricinfo).

Indisputably, the third umpire (or TV Umpire) plays an essential role in modern-day cricket. The concept of an off-field umpire making line decisions ̶ runouts and stumpings, debuted in the 1992/93 Test series when South Africa faced India. Sachin Tendulkar, who has many firsts involving his batting prowess, was incidentally, the first batsman to be given out (run-out) by the third umpire on 14 November 1992 in the first of those Tests.

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Malcolm Francke: An Unlucky Genius

An infant prodigy, so inspiring for aspiring cricketers to emulate

Malcolm Francke, a Genius

In 1956, at the tender age of seventeen, Malcolm Francke walked into the Ceylon Cricket Association team for the then prestigious Gopalan Trophy clash against Tamil Nadu. Named after the legendary Madras all-rounder M. J. Gopalan and inaugurated in 1952/53, the annual encounter between the State of Madras (Tamil Nadu) and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) was played on a home and away basis till 1975/76.

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Mighty Indians Blanked By The Kiwis

New Zealand may now be contenders for the World Test Championship

New Zealand may now be contenders for the World Test Championship

New Zealand’s Colin de Grandhomme celebrates after dismissing India’s Virat Kohli during the second Test between New Zealand and India at Hagley Oval in Christchurch on 01 March 2020.

New Zealand’s cricketers bettered their much-vaunted rugby peers, the All-Blacks’ recent performances, by subduing India 2-0 to record their sixth consecutive series win at home. It was the first series whitewash suffered in eight years by the current ICC World Test Championship leaders and number one ranked Test team, India and the first under Virat Kohli. So much so, that although they had steam-rolled opponents at home and in the West Indies last year, this was India’s third overseas series defeat in four tours since 2018.

By virtue of this series win, New Zealand jumped to the third spot on the World Test Championship table, taking their points tally to 180. Despite the defeat, India remain at the top of the points table with 360 points with seven wins and two losses, 64 points ahead of second-placed Australia. New Zealand had started the series with just 60 points and were in sixth place, but the series win had enabled them to leapfrog Sri Lanka, Pakistan and England.

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A Two Horse Race?

India and Australia are almost sure to make the 2021 World Test Championship final

India and Australia - World Test Championship favourites

Indian cricketers celebrate the dismissal of Australia’s Aaron Finch during day three of the third Test between Australia and India in Melbourne on 28 December 2018. (© AFP)

In January, Australia sealed-off a perfect home summer with an emphatic win over New Zealand in the third Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Before their 3-0 victory over the visiting Kiwis, Australia also whitewashed Pakistan (2-0). These two series victories have enabled them to narrow the gap with India in the ICC World Test Championship points table. At the halfway stage – three series apiece – India still lead the pack on 360 points, closely followed by Australia with 296.

Marnus Labuschagne led the Australian dominance with 896 runs in the five Tests. Every match against New Zealand and Pakistan finished inside four days. The victory margins suggested that they are almost certain to face India in the 2021 Test Championship final. Australia’s home series against India starting later this year may determine who finishes at the top of the table.

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India Steam Ahead

The front runners to make the 2021 World Test Championship final

India - The front runners to make the 2021 World Test Championship final

India clean sweep South Africa series 3-0 with massive win in the third Test in Ranchi on 22 October 2019. (© PTI Photo)

Just three months into the World Test Championship, India now have more points than all other teams combined in the tournament.

After beating the West Indies 2-0 away, India inflicted the worst series defeat for South Africa since their return to international cricket in 1992. The 3-0 drubbing was India’s 11th consecutive series win at home. It wasn’t on spinning “doctored” tracks, but a performance that displayed their capacity to win overseas.

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Will the Real Test Champs Win?

A closer look at how the points system can affect the contenders

ICC World Test Championship Series

The much-awaited World Cup for Test cricket is underway. Contested by the top nine teams in ICC rankings, it aims at adding relevance and context to all bilateral Test series. Sounds good, but dig deep, you wouldn’t stumble upon a treasure trove as such.

Each team will play only six bilateral series against mutually decided opponents, instead of playing eight. For example, Sri Lanka wouldn’t play two stronger sides, India and Australia; New Zealand would skip England and South Africa. Would it discount a team’s overall superiority?

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A Tall Order for ex-Kings

Sri Lanka’s bumpy ride to 2020 ICC T20 World Cup

Sri Lanka in 2020 ICC T20 World Cup

Sri Lanka: 2014 ICC World T20 Champions

Since the World Cup’s dramatic ending and with a glamour-less Test Championship in progress, the cricketing world has shifted its focus to the next big tournament. The global razzmatazz of Twenty20s will return with the seventh edition of the T20 World Cup scheduled for Australia in late 2010.

The top eight teams in the International Cricket Council (ICC) T20 rankings on 31 December 2018 have automatically qualified for the main event – the Super 12 stage. Full Members Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, and six other teams who will make it through from the ICC T20 World Cup Qualifier will compete in the first round to fill the remaining four slots of the Super 12s.

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