How are you guys? What a fascinating week of cricket we’ve had! After all, a week with some quality Test cricket across the globe is hardly ever quiet. There are always new heroes to be discovered, incredible victories to savour, and some low moments to feel as well. This week also had some hustling, bustling T20 league cricket happening in different parts of the world, along with the Under-19 World Cup, so there are a lot of miles to cover!
Let’s get right into the most comprehensive and zesty weekly cricket recap there is!
What’s happening ON the field?
> England defeated India in the first Test of the ongoing five-Test series by 28 runs. This was only the fourth defeat for India in a Test at home after the 2012 Test series against England. Batter Ollie Pope (196) and debutant left-arm spinner Tom Hartley (7/62) were absolutely stunning in Hyderabad, taking England to a memorable victory.
Pope was adjudged the Player of the Match.
> The West Indies stunned the cricket world on Sunday by registering an 8-run victory against Australia in the second Test at the Gabba in Brisbane. The Men in Maroon last won a Test in Australia all the way back in 1997.
Joshua Da Silva and Kavem Hodge started the turnaround with the bat for the Windies, scoring 79 and 71, respectively, in the first innings. Shamar Joseph once again became the hero as he picked up seven scalps in the second innings despite an injured toe. The two-Test series ended 1-1, and Joseph was both the Player of the Match and Player of the Series.
> South African Women created history in the second T20I in Canberra as they defeated Australia for the first time ever in history. Skipper Laura Wolvaardt shone with the bat with a 58 off 53 balls.
> The Indian U-19 team defeated the USA by a huge margin of 201 runs to make it to the Super Sixes of the ongoing ICC U-19 World Cup in South Africa. They are scheduled to play New Zealand and Nepal in the tournament's next stage.
Meanwhile, South Africa’s Steve Stolk created a new world record on Saturday (January 27) by scoring the fastest fifty in the history of U-19 World Cups. He took just 13 deliveries to bring up his half-century against Scotland. Rishabh Pant previously held the record.
> The Durban's Super Giants are leading the points table of the SA20 league in South Africa with six wins in eight games. Their recent 125-run victory against the Paarl Royals strengthened their position at the top of the table, almost ensuring them a place in the final four.
> With each passing match, Ryan Rickleton's season is getting better and better and is currently the highest run-scorer in the league, with 382 runs in just seven innings. Lungi Ngidi is leading the wickets charts with 13 scalps.
> Meanwhile, the MI Emirates have been playing some scintillating cricket in the International League T20 in the UAE. They are leading the points table with four wins in five games. Muhammad Waseem is currently the highest run-scorer, while Trent Boult leads the wicket-takers charts with ten scalps.
> In the fourth round of the Ranji Trophy 2023/24 plate group match, Tanmay Agarwal flattened Arunachal Pradesh with a humungous knock of 366 from just 181 balls, shattering a tall table of records on his way.
Most notably, his century was the fastest in the entire history of first-class cricket.
What’s happening OFF the field?
> India’s spin-bowling all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja and middle-order batter KL Rahul have been ruled out of the second Test in Visakhapatnam, starting on February 2. Jadeja sustained a hamstring injury while batting on day four of the first Test. Meanwhile, Rahul complained of right quadriceps pain after the game on Sunday.
Sarfaraz Khan, Saurabh Kumar and Washington Sundar have been added to the Indian squad for the second Test. All three of them were part of the India A squad, currently involved in a red-ball series against England Lions.
> After their 28-run defeat against England in the first Test in Hyderabad, India have dropped to No. 5 in the World Test Championship (WTC) points table.
They were second before the Test, only behind Australia. South Africa, New Zealand and Bangladesh are now all placed above them.
> India’s ace paceman Jasprit Bumrah has been reprimanded for breaching Level 1 of the ICC Code of Conduct on day four of the opening Test against England. Considering this was his first offence in 24 months, one demerit point has been added to his record.
The incident occurred in the 81st over of England's second innings when Bumrah deliberately stepped in Ollie Pope's way as he went for a run, leading to inappropriate physical contact.
> Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) finally has some good news from the International Cricket Council (ICC) regarding their suspension. “The ICC Board has today lifted the suspension of SLC with immediate effect”, announced a news statement by the SLC.
The board was earlier suspended for political interference, which is a serious breach as an ICC Member.
> England players Heather Knight and Lauren Bell have withdrawn from the upcoming season of the Women’s Premier League (WPL) 2024.
It’s notable that some of the England players will have to miss the start of the five-match T20I series in New Zealand, starting March 19, if they stay in India until the end of the franchise-based tournament.
> Cricket West Indies (CWI) and the West Indies Players Association (WIPA) have signed a “groundbreaking” four-year Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to solidify their commitment to promoting gender pay equity within West Indies cricket.
The MoU is for the period 1 October 2023 to 30 September 2027 and captures all agreements regarding player remuneration, and updated terms and conditions across the West Indies system.
> Kane Williamson and Rachin Ravindra are part of the New Zealand squad for the two-match home Test series against South Africa, starting on Sunday (February 4) in Mount Maunganui.
Ravindra will take the place of veteran Henry Nicholls in the middle-order. The young all-rounder played the last of his three Tests in January 2022.
> Australia skipper Pat Cummins has won the Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy for the ICC Men's Cricketer of the Year 2023 at the annual ICC awards.
Virat Kohli took home the ICC ODI Cricketer of the Year after a stellar 2023. Meanwhile, Suryakumar Yadav was awarded the ICC T20I Player of the Year award, while Usman Khawaja took home the honour in Tests.
Netherlands all-rounder Bas de Leede has been named the ICC Associate Cricketer of the Year 2023. He is only the second Dutchman to win this prestigious award after Ryan ten Doeschate, who took home the prize in 2008 and 2011.
> Along with the ICC, the BCCI also had its annual award function, which was back after the pandemic for the first time.
Shubman Gill was adjudged the best international cricketer (Men) for the 2022-23 cycle and was given the Polly Umrigar Award. Deepti Sharma bagged Best International Cricketer (Women) for the 2019-20 and 2022-23 seasons in women's cricket.
The BCCI also conferred the coveted Colonel C.K. Nayudu Lifetime Achievement Award to the dashing wicketkeeper batter Farookh Engineer and Ravi Shastri.
> As many as five Australian players were included in the ICC Test team of the year, with Pat Cummins named captain after a stellar 2023, that saw him lead his side to a WTC title and also retain the Ashes.
Interestingly, Nathan Lyon, who finished as the leading wicket-taker in 2023, was overlooked, and instead, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have found a place in the XI - the only two players from India.
ICC Test team of the year 2023: Usman Khawaja (Aus), Dimuth Karunaratne (SL), Kane Williamson (NZ), Joe Root (Eng), Travis Head (Aus), Ravindra Jadeja (Ind), Alex Carey (wk, Aus), Pat Cummins (c, Aus), R Ashwin (Ind), Mitchell Starc (Aus), Stuart Broad (Eng)
> Following a stellar show in One-Day Internationals (ODI) and the World Cup, as many as six Indian players have been selected in the ICC ODI team of the year. Rohit Sharma has been named captain of the side, which consists of Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Mohammed Siraj, Kuldeep Yadav and Mohammed Shami.
ICC ODI team of the year: Rohit Sharma (c), Shubman Gill, Travis Head, Virat Kohli, Daryl Mitchell, Heinrich Klaasen (wk), Marco Jansen, Adam Zampa, Mohammed Siraj, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami.
> Zimbabwe Cricket banned its allrounders Wessley Madhevere and Brandon Mavuta from all cricket for four months for recreational drug use. Batter Kevin Kasuza has also been suspended from all cricket activities for four months with immediate effect.
In the Spotlight
“Shamar Joseph wasn’t in Australia’s plans when they walked out to complete the run-chase on day four at the Gabba.
After what happened on day three, when Shamar had his toe crushed, wishes had already started pouring for the 24-year-old all over the internet.
But then, like how The Undertaker returns time and again from such adversity, Shamar also made the ultimate comeback. The only thing missing was a theme song, which by the end of the Test series surely would become a mandate for the 24-year-old every time he runs in to bowl.”
That’s how my colleague Aakash Sivasubramaniam described Shamar Joseph’s heroic seven-wicket haul that has invigorated the entire cricket world. You won’t find a soul in this cricket world who isn’t inspired by Joseph's journey from Barbice to Brisbane. Shamar Joseph is an euphemism for hope for Test cricket and cricket in general.
India’s head coach Rahul Dravid called it “an exceptional innings”, and skipper Rohit Sharma called it “one of the best [innings] that I’ve seen in Indian conditions by an overseas batter.” His own skipper, Ben Stokes, called it the greatest innings played in the subcontinent by an English batter.
Many batters have scored 190 or more in Test cricket, but Ollie Pope’s 196 has gained another level of adulation for the manner and the context in which these runs came. The Indians had a 190-run first innings lead. The pitch was turning, and Pope looked completely at sea against the Indian spinners in the first innings.
However, Pope batted in such a single-minded and positive fashion that he not only took England to a winning total, but dished out the ultimate display of sweeps and scoops ever seen on Indian soil. No one deserves the spotlight as much as him.
Tom Hartley had the worst of debuts possible until the first innings of the Hyderabad Test. Jack Leach’s knee was swollen, and he had to bowl much more than he would have anticipated. What’s worse is that Yashasvi Jaiswal took a full toll on him. His figures improved a bit after Jaiswal’s dismissal, but still 131 for just 2 wickets at an economy rate of 5.24 doesn’t inspire any confidence no matter how you look at it.
But in the second innings, when India were chasing a challenging total, Hartley bowled like a proper champion spinner in the fourth innings. He got the ball to bounce, turn, and spit out of the pitch. He was not only accurate, but he also used angles on the crease expertly.
The result was seven wickets for just 62 runs at an economy of 2.35. That’s how much Hartley improved in a single Test, and for that reason alone, he deserves to be in the spotlight this week.
Controversy of the Week
Shoaib Bashir's visa conundrum
When Usman Khawaja’s visa was delayed before the Border-Gavaskar Trophy last year, it was considered a one-off incident involving a Pakistani-origin cricketer in India. However, when Shoaib Bashir’s visa (whose parents are of Pakistani heritage) was delayed before England’s test tour to India, some tough questions started being raised about India’s visa policy.
It’s notable that people of Indian and Pakistani origin have been facing visa issues while travelling to both India and Pakistan for quite some time now. However, a visible pattern in this regard made the English media question the Indian authorities quite loudly.
Meanwhile, Bashir had to return to England to complete some formalities related to his visa. Finally, on January 24, his visa to India was sanctioned.
Picture of the Week
Batman in Brisbane?
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