Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Five Key Talking Points Of The IPL 2018 Season So Far

Little has gone to script in the new IPL season and fans have already been treated to a captivating blend of drama, intrigue and excitement. Pre-season favourites have flopped, new greats have emerged and a thrilling unpredictability abounds. Here are the five biggest talking points so far:

Superb Sunrisers
The Hyderabad Sunrisers’ pre-season preparations were plunged into disarray when skipper David Warner was banned for his role in the Australian ball-tampering scandal. It looked as though they would struggle to match last year’s performance, where they finished third in the standings and made it through to the playoffs, with some predicting a grim season. But the Sunrisers came flying out of the blocks and won their first three games in a row to soar to the top of the table. Kiwi batsman Kane Williamson has embraced the role of captain and his phenomenally talented bowling line-up has delivered in style. They have restricted the opposition to fewer than 150 runs in all three opening games, leading the team to a 100% start to the season. They now lead the way in the IPL markets and Williamson’s men certainly look like the team to beat this year.

Miserable Mumbai 
Last year’s champions could not have made a worse start to the defense of their crown as they lost all three opening games of the season to sit bottom of the ladder. The defeats were close, but two were in their own back yard and that will be worrying for everyone connected with the franchise. They are now the rank outsiders for glory this season, and it could end up as the worst defense of an IPL title we have seen.

There is still time for them to turn things around, and they have not played too badly, but to lose their first three games by a whisker suggests a lack of fortitude in the clutch, so they will need to improve in this department.

Rehman comes of age
Mujeeb Ur Rehman became the youngest IPL player in history when he made his debut for the Kings XI Punjab, and what a debut it turned out to be. The 17-year-old Afghan removed the number one T20 batsman, Colin Munro, on just his third ball, swiftly endearing himself to the fans. The fairy-tale start continued when he dismissed Rishabh Pant, and ended up with highly impressive figures of 2-28 in his quota of four overs. Kings XI have made a strong start to the campaign and captain Ravichandran Ashwin is likely to use the teenage Afghan sensation to devastating effect over the coming weeks.

Rahul bidding for the Orange cap
Lokesh Rahul was the most expensive player for Kings XI at the IPL auction and he quickly repaid some of that fee. He came to the crease with his team chasing 166 against the Delhi Daredevils in their opening game, and hit 50 off just 14 balls – an IPL record – to totally demoralize his opponents. He smashed every bowler he faced and hit 24 off Amit Mishra in one over. Rahul has been branded a Test cricketer before, but he has always insisted he can star in limited overs contests, and he has proved it this year. He is not a preferred opener for the Indian national team, but he is keen to wear the Orange cap and his clean ball striking should have given the selectors something to think about.

Kohli still the star attraction
Even when he is being outshone by the likes of Sanju Samson, Kohli is still the main man in the IPL. The fans worship him, fellow players are full of respect and his star quality shines brightly. West Indian all-rounder Dwayne Bravo likened him to the cricketing equivalent of Real Madrid soccer star Christiano Ronaldo this week. “For me as a cricket player to play against him and to watch him play when he represents India, even RCB, I admire the talent that he has, the passion he has for the game, for the sport when he plays. So hats off to him and he deserves all the achievement,” said Bravo. Royal Challengers Bangalore have made an inauspicious start to the season, losing two of their first three games, but there is still time to turn things around and they are the second favourites behind the Sunrisers to lift the trophy at the end of the season.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

IPL: Stop the Run Chase!

As the most popular T20 league, the IPL, takes over everyone's lives for the next 6 weeks or so, there is an IPL game in town that will take over everyone's social media lives.

With the IPL frenzy ongoing, Expedia India have launched an IPL based game called 'Stop the Run Chase!'.

The objective of the game is exactly as the name suggests - one needs to stop the runs from flowing and keep the points total down to win.

Interestingly, no team has been able to stop the run chase in the IPL yet with Mumbai Indians, Delhi Daredevils, Royal Challengers Bangalore, and Rajasthan Royals all failing to defend their totals.

However in Expedia's IPL game you can defend! All you have to do is tap on the 120 balls that are hit to different parts of India and defend your score.

It is quite an interesting and unique game that will keep IPL fans engaged on social media as they play to better their friends.

The balls coming your way are being hit towards different parts of India - specifically the 8 cities that are represented in the IPL. And your role is to stop the balls and keep the score low.

To obtain top position, you need keep the points total to under 120. And if your points total is above 360 you are at the bottom of the pile.

The different ranks are associated with the IPL teams based on their rankings in the previous edition of the IPL.

Can you beat the defending IPL Champions, the Mumbai Indians?

Play Expedia India's 'Stop the Run Chase' and find out if you can keep the total below 120 to be ranked top!

If you thought the IPL was exciting, you haven't experienced this IPL.

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Monday, April 9, 2018

IPL's leading performers

The 11th season of the IPL is upon us and Cricinfo have come out with some Smart Stats that they are going to use to measure and analyze performances of batsmen and bowlers during this elite T20 league competition.

This all sounds quite interesting as it will shed some new light on how the players perform in T20 in different conditions.

But as this all unfolds in front of us, here's a look at the some basic stats from the past decade of IPL.

IPL Champions
The defending champions are Mumbai Indians who have also won the IPL title more times than any other team - thrice.

Following them, with two title wins each, are Kolkata Knight Riders and Chennai Super Kings, who return to the IPL after serving the two year ban.

The other three seasons have witnessed Rajasthan Royals, Deccan Chargers, and Sunrisers Hyderabad win the IPL.

Who will win IPL 2018? Various quarters suggest that this will be the most competitive IPL till date and no one team is being marked as favorite.

The IPL today is the largest T20 league in the world and its title probably the most coveted T20 title that 8 teams will be vying for starting today!

IPL's Top Batsmen
Five batsmen have scored more than 4,000 runs in IPL with Suresh Raina at the top of the list with 4,540 runs at an average of 34.1 and a strike rate of 139.1.

The others with more than 4,000 runs are Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Gautam Gambhir, and David Warner.

Among all batsmen who have scored over 1,000 runs, only Chris Gayle and David Warner average above 40, with Chris Gayle's 41.2 being the highest average.

Chris Gayle also holds the record for most number of centuries (5), most sixes (265), and highest individual score of 175* in the IPL.

Gayle also holds the record for the fastest ever 100 scored in the IPL when he smashed one of just 30 deliveries, which is also the fastest 100 scored in all T20 cricket.

Gayle is a T20 phenomenon and for a decade he has been performing for the Royal Challengers Bangalore, however this season he will turn out for Kings XI Punjab.

The highest strike rate in the IPL for all batsmen with more than 1,000 runs is Glenn Maxwell's (164.4) followed by Virender Sehwag's 155.4.

The fastest 50 record is held by Yusuf Pathan and Sunil Narine, both of whom reached their 50 in just 15 deliveries.

Gayle's fastest 50 is off 17 deliveries, which is the third fastest in IPL history.

IPL's Top Bowlers
Lasith Malinga is the leading wicket taker in IPL with 154 wickets at an average of 19.01 and a strike rate of 16.6.

Malinga is miles ahead of other bowlers with a clear lead of 20 wickets over Amit Mishra who is second on the list with 134 wickets. He is followed by Harbajhan Singh (127), Piyush Chawla (126), and Dwayne Bravo (122).

Malinga's average is the best average among all bowlers with at least 40 wickets in the IPL. While Sunil Narine holds the record for the best economy rate (6.32) among all bowlers who have bowled at least 100 overs in the IPL.

The best bowling figures in the IPL belong to Sohail Tanvir whose 6-14 in the first season for the Rajasthan Royals remains the record even 10 years after.

Adam Zampa is the only other bowler to pick up a 6 wicket haul in the IPL with his 6-19 against the Sunrisers Hyderabad.

These batsmen and bowlers will be in action once again as season 11 of the IPL gets underway. It will be interesting to follow them and all the other talented cricketers that this league displays, especially with the new Smart Stats.

Let the games begin!

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Thursday, April 5, 2018

Pakistan - Dominant in T20s!

If you blinked during last week, you probably missed the 3-match T20 series between Pakistan and the West Indies that was played in Karachi.

Yes, Karachi finally hosted international cricket after 10 years, and it was a welcome return for international cricket to Pakistan.

The series ended up being a cake walk for Pakistan as the West Indies were missing most of their big players, resulting in a whopping 3-0 thrashing by Pakistan.

During the series, Pakistan registered two of their highest ever T20I scores of 205-3 and 203-5.

They also registered their biggest win in T20Is (by 143 runs), which is also the second biggest win by runs ever in all T20Is and the biggest in a game between two test playing nations.

Interesting to note that Pakistan feature in this table above on three different occasions with all three T20Is played against test playing nations!

No wonder they are the number 1 ranked team in T20Is. Pakistan truly deserve their number 1 ranking in T20Is given they have won more T20 internationals than any other team in the world and that they are one of the only two teams that have a T20 win percentage higher than 60%.

The man of the series in the just concluded Pakistan vs West Indies series was Babar Azam, Pakistan's brightest batting talent.

Babar notched up scores of 17, 97*, and 51, which propelled him to number 1 in ICC's rankings for batsmen in T20s.

Another well deserved ranking!

Babar currently possesses the highest average in T20Is among all batsmen, which is more than 2 runs higher than Virat Kohli's. Babar and Kohli are the only two batsmen who average above 50 in T20Is (among batsmen with at least 10 innings) and also the only two batsmen in the world who have an average above 50 in both ODIs and T20Is.

Shadab Khan, Pakistan's young leg spinner, also rose in the rankings to number 2 among bowlers in T20Is.

Shadab has an enviable record on T20Is with 24 wickets in 16 matches with an average of 15.4, which is the 4th best average ever in T20Is among all bowlers who have played a minimum of 15 T20 internationals.

Pakistan did well by blooding some new players during the series. Hussain Talat had an awesome run in the 3 T20Is and he looks like a future batting star already.

The left hander notched up 135 runs in the 3 games, which was the second highest tally in the series, behind only Babar Azam.

It was quite a promising debut for Hussain Talat in the first T20I of the series where he scored 41, took 3 catches, and also took a wicket with his 4th delivery in international cricket.

His 3 catches on debut was a T20I record and he also became only the third Pakistani, after Shahid Afridi and Shadab Khan, to pick up a man of the match award on T20 debut.

Pakistan are the number 1 T20 team in the world and they are the winners of the Champions Trophy making them one of the best, if not the best, limited overs team around these days.

Pakistan possess some fine young talent for limited overs. Besides Babar and Shadab, the likes of Fakhar Zaman, Hassan Ali, and Faheem Ashraf are stars in the making. With senior pros like captian Sarfraz Ahmed, Shoaib Malik, and Mohammad Aamer this is one dangerous team in the making.

Before signing off, here is one fact demonstrating Pakistan's dominance in T20Is, particularly under Sarfraz Ahmed.

Since Sarfraz took over as captain of Pakistan's T20 team in 2016, Pakistan have not lost a bilateral T20I series. This win over the West Indies was Pakistan's 7th consecutive series win in T20Is! And in 4 of those series, Pakistan did not lose a single T20I!

In the past 2 years under Sarfraz' captaincy, Pakistan have beaten England 1-0, West Indies thrice 3-0, 3-1, and 3-0, World XI 2-1, Sri Lanka 3-0, and New Zealand 2-1.

Great times ahead for this Pakistan team in Green!

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Friday, March 30, 2018

Ronchi owned the PSL

Luke Ronchi owned the Karachi Kings in the qualifier of the PSL 2018 with a blistering unbeaten 94 off only 39 deliveries. He was a hit away from scoring only the second century of the just concluded season 3 of the PSL, but Samit Patel's unintentional edge to the third man boundary denied him that chance.

Ronchi followed up that brutal assault with another scintillating half century in the Final of the PSL against Peshawar Zalmis. His 52 came off only 26 deliveries and included 5 sixes.

Ronchi owned this PSL with a tally of 435 runs in 11 matches, making him the leading run scorer of PSL 2018. He also finished the league with the highest average of 43.5 among all batsmen and his strike rate of 182.0 was second only to Darren Sammy’s 182.75 (among all batsmen with at least 10 runs in PSL 3).

Ronchi hit 24 sixes in the PSL, behind only Akmal's 28. He also hit 51 fours, which was miles ahead of anyone else.

I don't think that anyone would have bet on Ronchi being the top scorer in this PSL. This new site, Premium Cricket, wrote some really good cricket betting tips during the PSL and you should definitely check them out during the upcoming IPL.

Ronchi pretty much single handedly took Islamabad United to the top of the table in the group stages and then to the PSL title making Islamabad the only team to win the PSL twice.

He batted like a dream throughout the tournament. 

He dominated all opposition and spared no one. He hit the ball better than he ever has in his career.

His 94* in the qualifier of PSL 3 was an epic innings with a brutal assault on the likes of Mohammad Aamir, Usman Khan Shinwari, and Shahid Afridi, all bowlers who have typically been tough to get away this season.

I don't think he has ever batted this well at any point in his career, and I am sure Ronchi will be itching to play in more league and come back to the PSL next year!

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Monday, February 26, 2018

PSL Entertains!

Such is the charm of T20 leagues that in very short time they seem to throw so much entertainment at you that it all seems like a whirlwind. One can never really get bored!

We have witnessed only 4 days of action in the PSL and it already seems like so much action!

In just 4 days we have already witnessed:

Umar Akmal's genius and stupidity in the span of two games.

Why Mohammad Aamer is a notch above all the other bowlers.

Hopelessness that is Lahore Qalandars.

The future in the form of Umaid Asif and Ibtisham Sheikh.

Shahid Afridi stealing hearts with some quality bowling and a magical catch.

Reminders why Kumar Sangakkara retired too early.

Reminders why Mohammad Sami continues to play.

Darren Sammy vouching for Pakistani talent.

Potential finalists in Multan Sultans and Karachi Kings.

How Mohammad Hafeez continues to destroy mediocre bowling.

Imad Wasim (being the shoda that he is) copy a footballer's celebration.

A last over close finish.

A legendary hug.

Shoaib Malik showing why he is the best T20 batsman in Pakistan.

And so much more...

Even though we have witnessed only one close game out of the seven that have been played, there has been plenty of exciting entertainment.

The new boys in the league, Multan Sultans, look like the strongest team.

Multan along with Karachi Kings are my early picks for the two finalists. Their upcoming match on 10th March is something I am already looking forward to. It will be a cracker!

In two games, Ibtisam Sheikh has shown us that the art of leg spin will never perish from Pakistan.

It is quite amazing how a young kid can be discovered, drafted into the playing XI, and end up dominating batsmen on the world stage.

His Cricinfo profile says he is almost 20, Rameez Raja insists he is 16, and he looks not a day above 15!

Whatever the age, what a bowler Pakistan have found, and all of a sudden Pakistan is spoilt for choices when it comes to leggies.

Umaid Asif continued his form from where he left off in the recently concluded National T20 Cup where he was the leading wicket taker.

His debut 4 wicket haul showed everyone that he has the talent to succeed at the highest level.

In just 4 days, there has been plenty to cheer about in the PSL. 

But my moment of the Pakistan Super League in these 4 days has got to be this catch from Pakistan's biggest superstar who still continues to enthrall us! Lala bahit Aala!

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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Countdown to the IPL Extravaganza

Indian Premier League (IPL), a carnival of cricket, brings together cricketers from around the world to exhibit their talent for hefty moolah. The non-stop, action-packed event spanning over one-and-half months springs many a surprise - at times intense soft on other, but always exciting, energetic and entertaining.

IPL 2018 edition starts on April 07, and the final is scheduled to be on May 27 at Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai.

Potential Show Stealers

Chris Lynn
The Australian set the stage ablaze in last year's IPL edition, giving Kolkata Knight Riders explosive starts game-after-game. Lynn piled 384 runs at an audacious strike rate of 158. In the Big Bash League (BBL) this season, the volatile right-hander accumulated 127 runs in four matches at a staggering strike rate of 162.82.

Colin Munro
The New Zealander's brute display of sheer power-hitting and stellar form makes him a force to reckon with. In 2018 alone, the left-handed opener has amassed 367 runs at astounding strike rate of 192.14.

Mitchell Starc
Quick, at times unplayable, there is no bowler as fierce as the Australian. Royal Challengers missed the searing pace of Starc exceedingly in the last two seasons. If the left-arm quick remains available for the entire tournament, we are in for a treat!

Ben Stokes
There was nobody as sought after as Ben Stokes among fantasy cricket in India enthusiasts in last edition of IPL. Stokes has made plenty of headlines for the wrong reasons lately. The Englishman displayed great all-round skills in last year's edition to be chosen as the Most Valuable Player for Rising Pune Supergiant.

AB de Villiers
Mr. 360 AB de Villiers, the superman of cricket, is a cricketer with overflowing potential. So far in his IPL career, de Villiers has slammed 3 tons and has won 15 man-of-the-match awards. With Gayle's exit from RCB troop, the role of AB becomes all-important. Sure, he is the one who revels in responsibility.

Rohit Sharma
Rohit Sharma is more than an hot-blooded batsman who has 3 ODI doubles to his name, but an able leader with three titles in the bag in the space of 5 years. His batting ability and headship makes Mumbai Indians one of the favourites again this year.

Virat Kohli
There is no better run machine in the world. He is touted the only one who can reach the summit of Sachin's 100 hundreds. It would not be a surprise if we get to witness a repeat of IPL 2016 season, in which Kohli piled 973 runs in 16 innings, studded with 4 hundreds.

Jasprit Bumrah
Jasprit is in the mould of Lasith Malinga. Just like the latter, he has made himself a reputation for possessing an eerie ability to crush the toes and mastery in death bowling.

Teams that can go over the line

Mumbai Indians
If they play to their potential, there is no stopping defending champions Mumbai from going all the way. In Rohit Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Evin Lewis, Pat Cummins, Keiron Pollard and Hardik Pandya, they have an excellent mix to begin their title defence.

Royal Challengers Bangalore
Led by Virat Kohli, there is no other team that will be more frantic for IPL trophy. With AB de Villiers, McCullum and DeKock in their ranks, they are quite strong contenders this year.

Delhi Daredevils
No other franchise has bolstered their squad to an extent Daredevils did. They got hold of a proven leader in Gambhir besides T20 specialists like Jason Roy, Glen Maxwell and Colin Munro. Plus, they've got Chris Morris and Kagiso Rabada to complete a terrific overseas troupe.

Sunrisers Hyderabad
Sunrisers Hyderabad have balanced their squad right. In David Warner, they have a admirable commander who will be accompanied by in-form Dhawan at the top. With experience of Bhuvi, guile of Rashid khan and all-round capabilities of Shakib Al Hasan, Sunrisers are one exciting unit.

Can't wait for more Fantasy cricket predictions and off the field drama? Check out IndiaFantasy.

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Sunday, February 11, 2018

PSL 2018: All you wanted to know about Pakistan Super League Season 3 and the new exciting stars on the Horizon

Pakistan aren't playing enough international cricket, but the annual Pakistan Super League is right round the corner and this year, the league has an additional team - the Multan Sultans.

With the additional team, new and exciting players combined with the Pakistan and International stars, this year's PSL promises to be bigger and better than the two previous editions.

Here is everything you need to know about the teams participating in PSL 2018.

Captain: Sarfraz Ahmed
Pakistani Stars: Asad Shafiq, Anwar Ali, Mohammad Nawaz, Umar Amin
International Stars: Kevin Pietersen, Shane Watson, Jason Roy, Rilee, Rossouw, Mahmudullah, Albie Morkel
Player to watch our for: Jofra Archer

Jofra Archer

This 22 year old Barbados born English cricketer was recently picked up for over a million dollars by Rajasthan Royals for the IPL. He has no international experience but his domestic cricket exploits have been doing the rounds of the cricketing circles.

He consistently clocks at over 90mph, he was the highest wicket taker in division two country cricket in 2017, and he had all the batsmen jumping around in the Big Bash League where he was the second highest wicket taker with 16 wickets in 12 games.

He is a valuable pick for Quetta Gladiators and has the potential to rip through batting line ups in the upcoming PSL.

Captain: Imad Wasim
Pakistani Stars: Shahid Afridi, Mohammad Aamir, Usman Khan, Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan
International Stars: Ravi Bopara, Eoin Morgan, Lendl Simmons, David Wiese
Player to watch our for: Hasan Mohsin

Hasan Mohsin

This 20-year old allrounder from Karachi shone for Pakistan in the U19 World Cup in 2016, where he was among the leading run scorers and wicket takers in the tournament.

In U19 World Cup he scored 293 runs at an average of 98 and a strike rate of 96; and he picked up 11 wickets at an average of 15.

In domestic cricket since then, he has not flourished just as yet, but the PSL provides him the perfect stage to show the world his talent with both bat and ball.

Captain: Brendon McCullum
Pakistani Stars: Fakhar Zaman, Umar Akmal, Yasir Shah, Aamer Yamin, Bilawal Bhatti
International Stars: Chris Lynn, Sunil Narine, Mustafizur Rahman, Dinesh Ramdin, Mitchell McClenaghan
Player to watch our for: Shaheen Afridi

Shaheen Shah Afridi

He is only 17 and is already making waves in the cricket world. Standing tall at 6'6 and hailing from the same region as Shahid Afridi, this Afridi bowls at 150kph+ and recently had the world notice him in the U19 World Cup where he picked up 11 wickets at an average of 14.

He has played only 2 first class matches and his his debut first class match for KRL he rocked Rawal Pindi with a haul of 8-39, which immediately brought him to the forefront of the emerging fast bowlers in Pakistan's domestic circuit.

The PSL is the perfect platform for Shaheen to showcase his talent with the ball to the world.

Captain: Misbah Ul Haq
Pakistani Stars: Shadab Khan, Rumman Raees, Faheem Ashraf
International Stars: Sam Billings, Samuel Badree, Luke Ronchi, JP Duminy, Andre Russell, Alex Hales
Player to watch our for: Sahibzada Farhan

Sahibzada Farhan

With one season of domestic cricket behind him, this 21 year old from the Northern Areas of Pakistan has rapidly made a reputation of being a hard hitting opening batsman.

In 17 List A games for Peshawar he has hit 831 runs at an average of 49 and a strike rate of 88. In 9 T20 matches he averages 46 and has a strike rate of 111, which makes him an ideal batsman for the PSL.

He could be key at the top of the order for Islamabad United and a decent run in the PSL may give him the chance to partner with Fakhar Zaman in international cricket.

Captain: Darren Sammy
Pakistani Stars: Mohammad Hafeez, Kamran Akmal, Haris Sohail, Hasan Ali, Wahab Riaz, Hammad Azam
International Stars: Tamim Iqbal, Dwayne Bravo, Chris Jordan, Shakib Al Hasan, Andre Fletcher, Evin Lewis
Player to watch our for: Sameen Gul

Sameen Gul
He is only 19 and this past year has been his breakthrough year in First Class cricket. In only 13 matches, he has picked up 62 wickets at an average of 15 and a strike rate of 30.

He was part of Pakistan's U19 squad for the World Cup in 2016, where he did not shine as expected; however since then he has developed rapidly and has been taking big strides in Pakistan's first class circuit.


Captain: Shoaib Malik
Pakistani Stars: Ahmed Shehzad, Sohail Tanvir, Sohaib Maqsood, Junaid Khan, Umar Gul, Mohammad Irfan
International Stars: Kumar Sangakkara, Darren Bravo, Keiron Pollard, Imran Tahir, Thisara Perrera
Player to watch our for: Zahir Khan

Zahir Khan

This 19 year old left arm chinaman bowler from Afghanistan has been rocking it in the domestic circuit. Batsmen have been unable to pick him and he has been able to pick up a heap of wickets in all forms of the game.

He has a tally of 31 wickets in 6 first class matches, 12 wickets in 5 List A matches, and 15 wickets in 8 T20 matches.

He has a sub-20 average in all forms of the game and can prove to be a wildcard for the Multan Sultans.

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Thursday, February 8, 2018

Kohli's Remarkable 100

Watching Virat Kohli bat yesterday was a delight like never before.

He has scored so many hundreds in such short time that it almost feels like an every day occurrence. No doubt each of his century is a spectacle but yesterday's innings was in my view one of his best, if not THE best.

He was out there for 49 of the 50 overs, he faced more than half of those, and he remained unbeaten.

But that is not what made it such a delight to watch. Why I found this innings to be magnificent was the fact that Kohli scored only 60 runs in boundaries, meaning that 100 of his runs were scored by running between the wickets.

Yet he had a strike rate in excess of 100.

I have never seen a batsman as consistent as Kohli. His fitness, his timing, his running between the wickets, the way he paces his innings, and his ability to hit big - it is all top class.

Soon after his innings ended, I was amazed that he had made 100 runs in singles and doubles. I felt that it was quite a rare achievement and didn't think it happened many times in ODIs, if at all.

So this morning I tried to find out which other batsmen had achieved the feat of scoring 100 runs in an ODI by running between the wickets.

Turns out, it has happened only 4 times before, and Kohli's was the 5th such instance. Only 5 times in 3,971 ODIs!

Quite remarkable.

With every innings he inches closer to Sachin's record of hundreds in ODIs and overall. With every innings he shows why he is the best in the world.

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Friday, February 2, 2018

India Looking to Make Amends with the White Ball

The third and final Test played at the Wanderers between South Africa and India had it all as far as pulsating Test matches go: from a lively pitch, where 40 wickets fell in three and a half days, to the umpires stepping in and taking the players off the ground for their safety after a ball crashed into Dean Elgar’s helmet. The captains unanimously agreed that the show must go on and out the South Africans came to face the music on the fourth day.

A monumental collapse, where the Proteas lost 9 wickets for 53 runs, saw South Africa fall short of the 241 run target set by India. A consolidatory victory for India but that was about it as far as any real satisfaction goes as they eventually went down 2-1 to South Africa in the series.

Kohli will see the six-game ODI series as the chance to win a series in South Africa and salvage some pride before they head home and begin gearing up for an immensely tough fixture list during 2018. Shastri’s men will leave for England after the IPL comes to an end and will then travel to Australia towards the end of the year. That is about as tough as it comes for the Indians as far as touring fixtures go and having already been beaten in their first test series of the year by South Africa, the need to find some momentum is crucial.

The chance is there for India to use the momentum from the test in Johannesburg to their advantage as they tackle du Plessis' charges. Having already beaten India in the Tests, the Proteas could have their eyes on the Australians who touch down on South African shores for a four-Test series in March. Ottis Gibson’s men are 8/11 in the latest cricket odds to beat Australia at home for the first time since readmission, so India may have an opportunity to drive the knife in with the attention of the Proteas shifting towards the threat coming from Australia.

The Indian batsman will have to do a far better job of supporting Kohli than they did in the Tests if India they are to win the ODI series. The Indian captain was the leading run scorer overall during the Tests but still saw his side fail to capitalize on his brilliance at the crease by getting out cheaply and not showing the same hunger and fight Kohli had.

An ODI win in South Africa will help settle the Indians before their whirlwind year ahead picks up pace. Failure to do so will put them under an unnecessary amount of pressure and will have them with their backs to the wall going forward. Many of the batsman on the tour will be hoping to rekindle their touch with the willow and the change to the white ball may help as they are given licenses to come out and play, throwing off the shackles of fear that can arise in the test arena. 

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Friday, January 26, 2018

Virat Kohli - The Best Ever?

A few days ago, on one of my many Whatsapp groups for cricket, I was involved in quite a discussion regarding Virat Kohli.

It started off with whether Kohli was worthy of the ICC Award for ODI Cricketer of the Year, and then moved to his press conference at the conclusion of the second test against South Africa.

Some felt that Kohli had lost his cool and should not behaved the way he did. While others, including me, felt that the journalist was needlessly poking him and Kohli did nothing wrong.

Amidst all the discussion, I passed a statement (in context) about Kohli being the best batsman in the world at the moment.

One friend said it was debatable, to which I replied that among the current crop, he is far ahead of the likes of Steve Smith, Joe Root, and Kane Williamson and what is debatable is whether Kohli is the best ever batsman or not.

Average Across Formats

In my mind, there is absolutely no doubt that Virat Kohli is the best batsman in the world at the moment. The one fact that I always state to support that statement is that he is the only batsman in the world who averages above 50 in every format of the game.

There is no other batsman in the world, past or present, who has managed that.

Among the current crop of leading batsmen that play all three formats, only Joe Root and AB De Villiers average above fifty in two formats.

The 'Index' shown in the above table is an average that has been determined by assigning a weight of 50% to the test average, 40% to the ODI average, and 10% to the T20 average. This Index shows that Kohli is well ahead of the rest of the world.

Undoubtedly, Steve Smith has a remarkable test average is arguably the better Test batsman; however when it comes to adapting your game across formats, Kohli is the absolute champion.

Average in Subcontinent and Outside

The biggest criticism of batsmen from the Subcontinent is that they have inflated averaged because they score in batsmen friendly conditions at home and fail when batting in foreign conditions.

Strangely enough that argument is never used for batsmen from Australia and England when they pile on the runs at home and fail miserably in the Subcontinent.

Well, the table below will highlight that Virat Kohli is just as good in the Subcontinent as he is outside of it.

If anything, the table above shows that the Australian Pair - Smith and Warner - perform exceptionally at home and in similar conditions; however their average drops significantly in the subcontinent.

The South Africans are a strange anomaly as both AB and Amla average more in the subcontinent than they do outside of it.

Williamson and Root have the least difference between their averages in the two conditions.

Centuries Across Formats

The fact that impresses me most about Virat Kohli is his ability to score international hundreds.

Whether it is an ODI or a Test, whether his team is batting first or chasing, whether the match is played in home conditions or foreign, Kohli scores an international hundred on an average every 5.7 innings!

That is remarkable considering that no other batsman with at least 40 international centuries scores a hundred as frequently as every 6th inning.

Kohli has scored 53 international centuries. In ODIs, with 32 centuries, he is behind only Sachin Tendulkar. In tests he has a long way to go; however his combined tally is right up there with the best the world has ever seen.

Only Tendulkar, Ponting, Sangakkara, Kallis, and Amla have more international centuries than Kohli does. All of them have also batted in significantly more innings than Kohli has.

Barring Tendulkar, Kohli will surpass all of them in the next 3-4 years.

He has scored test centuries against all 7 opposition that he has faced. He has not played tests against Pakistan and Zimbabwe. Out of his 21 test hundreds, 10 have been scored in India and 11 outside India.

He has scored ODI centuries against all 9 test playing nations. Out of his 32 ODI hundreds, 14 were scored in India and 18 outside India.

This is his most remarkable feat. His ability to score hundreds frequently against all opposition and in all sorts of conditions.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Virat Kohli is the best batsman in the world currently and perhaps also the best ever to play cricket.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Latest Injury to Dale Leaves Stain on Newlands Test

Dale Steyn’s long-awaited return to the international test fold got off to the perfect start. The Phalaborwa Express removed Shikhar Dhawan after just 14 balls during his first comeback spell when he took a catch off his own bowling after Dhawan had ballooned a pull after being rushed by Steyn’s skidding pace.

The roar of the Newlands crowd reverberated around Cape Town and could be heard on even the highest peaks of Table Mountain once Steyn had safely held onto the catch. The collective joy of cricket fans would have been shared throughout the world as Steyn got his reward after being out the game for 13 agonizing months.

The celebrations didn't stop there and Steyn wasn't done yet. South Africa’s premier fast bowler trapped Saha LBW for a duck on the second day and took his test wicket tally for South Africa to 419 scalps, only two behind leading wicket-taker Shaun Pollock with 421.

The highs of the second day at Newlands completely vanished after Steyn had indicated to his captain Faf du Plessis at slip that he was experiencing a problem in his foot and needed to abandon the bowling of his over to seek further treatment. The diagnosis left fans of the Proteas and Dale Steyn shattered as word came through that the fast bowler would be outfor between 4-6 weeks.

It seems now Steynwill miss the remainder of the series against India as he begins yet another battle to regain match fitness. The blow to South Africa is a substantial one and leaves them in the lurch but they remain favourites to claim a series win still.

The talent pool in South Africa is vast with many good young quicks waiting in the wings. It may not be as easy but an overall victory will be what captain Faf du Plessis still has in mind. Punters who feel Steyn’s absence won’t affect the Proteas chasing of a whitewash can claim a £30 William Hill free beton Oddschecker with two more tests to go in the series, both to be played at fortresses in the rainbow nation; Centurion and Wanderers.

Provided Rabada, Philander and Morkel remain fit, it looks unlikely that India will be able to overcome the fearsome trio. Steyn’s long-term future, however, is in more doubt than it has ever been and no one will be more aware of that than Steyn himself.

Has the clock stopped in his career or will Steyn try and make a return for the series against Australia in March? Being only 3 wickets away from becoming the Proteas all-time leading wicket-taker may play a part in his decision making but the selectors may not share his sentiment after another yet another breakdown.

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Friday, January 12, 2018

England Test Team Must Regroup and Focus Ahead of New Zealand Battle

The England test team showed their inability to handle Australian conditions once again in the Ashes, a series in which they were comprehensively beaten 4-0 by the home side. That performance was simply not good enough from England, but it is more to do with the fact that they are unable to cope with conditions outside of their own, and that is something they need to address.

Next up for the test team is the short journey to New Zealand, a series which will not have as much focus as the Ashes, but will still be a tough test in similar conditions. The New Zealanders are nowhere near as good as the Australians, but they certainly have players who can trouble England with both the bat and the ball. After a poor result in Australia, morale in the England camp is sure to be low, but the players have to regroup and focus all their attention on the Kiwis, and how they can beat them.

England look like going with a very similar starting eleven in New Zealand, and it has already been confirmed that Mark Stoneman and JamesVince will keep their places in the squad. While it would have been nice to see the selectors freshen things up after such a disappointing performance against the Aussies, at least this opportunity gives players the chance to redeem themselves against slightly lower quality opposition.

When you look down the England lineup, there is hope that they can head to New Zealand and pick up a series victory against the Kiwis. Their batsmen should feel more at home on the pitches there, they don’t offer as much pace and bounce, and the bowlers running in at them don’t have the ability that a Mitchell Starc possesses. The latest cricket tips availablewill give an indication of what the experts think going into this new series, but expect to see a lot of support for England from them.

They are the better team on paper, and despite coming here on the back of a tough defeat, they have players with character and experience who can help turn things around.

"MarkWood" by Tim Felce (CC BY-SA 2.0)

One player who will help the England cause is MarkWood, who returns to the squad after injuries prevented him from playing in the Ashes. Wood has genuine pace and is the quickest England bowler available to them, so expect to see him take wickets on the pitches in New Zealand. He could bring what was missing from the bowling attack in Australia, and that is pace and aggression, expect to see him play well in New Zealand.

While the test on the field is not as tough, the trip to New Zealand is going to be a huge mental test for England, and we will see what their players are made of. They need to show mental toughness and character if they are to win against the Kiwis, a win they could really do with after such a disappointing Ashes series.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

What is going wrong with Pakistan's ODI team?

So after a 9-match ODI winning streak, Pakistan have now lost the first two ODIs in New Zealand and all has broken lose.

All of a sudden, the batting looks shaky, the captain looks concerned, and the bowling isn't good enough to contain the Kiwis.

So what has gone wrong?

Before that, lets first focus on what is right with this ODI team.

For starters, they have a world class modern day opener and one-down batsman in Fakhar Zaman and Babar Azam.

The bowling is top quality, at least on paper. Aamer, Hasan, Rumman, Faheem, and Shadab provide for great variety and potency.

In Shadab, Faheem, and Hasan, Pakistan also has depth in its batting, which will come to use if only the top order can fire.

Now then, what is going wrong?

The bowling leaked 315 runs in the first ODI and could not defend 150 in 25 overs in the second. That is definitely not top quality. Maybe the bowlers have not been able to find their feet yet in NZ conditions. Maybe Guptill and Monroe are too good for them. Could be a number of reasons.

But then, you can't afford to drop players like Kane Williamson, because they will take full advantage of the chances given to them and go on to score a century.

Pakistan also refuses to learn from its mistakes.

Azhar Ali has gotten out in exactly the same manner in both ODIs. His dismissal in the second ODI was so identical that one could be forgiven to mistake it for a replay of the first ODI.

Shoaib Malik continues to edge it behind the wicket whenever he bats outside Asia.

With Hafeez not bowling any more, Pakistan's ODI side may not be big enough for both him and Malik. Especially with the likes of Haris Sohail sitting on the sidelines.

Another issue that needs to be sorted is the captain's batting number. Six is not the right number for him and too low for a batsman of his ability.

He needs to bat in the top 4.

In 13 innings at number 6 in ODIs, he has scored 268 runs at an average of 26.8 with 1 half century.

In 9 innings at number 5, he has scored 421 runs at an average of 60.1 with 1 century and 3 half centuries.

In 7 innings at number 4, he has scored 197 runs at an average of 39.4 with 1 half century.

In 9 innings as an opener, he has scored 344 runs at an average of 43.0 with 1 century and 1 half century.

It is evident that Sarfraz is better at all other positions, besides number 6. He is best at number 5, which is where he batted when Azhar Ali captained the ODI team.

The reason he is lingering down at 6 is because of the presence of Hafeez and Shoaib Malik in the team.

I believe the batting order requires a reshuffle.

Sarfraz needs to be pushed up. Haris Sohail needs to be brought in. One of Hafeez or Malik needs to be dropped.

Or if one wants both Hafeez and Malik in the side, then drop Azhar and make Hafeez open.

This may somewhat improve Pakistan's batting performance and changes need to be made soon as we are only 18 months away from the World Cup in 2019.

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Sunday, January 7, 2018

Impressive 2017 for Pakistan Cricket with Lots More in Store...

2017 was quite a year for Pakistan Cricket.

They won the Champions Trophy for the first time joining India, Sri Lanka and the West Indies as the only teams to win all major ICC trophies.

Pakistan won their first ever Test Series in the West Indies as Misbah and Younis bid farewell to the game.

Fakhar Zaman hit a memorable maiden ODI ton in the final of the Champions Trophy.

Hasan Ali became the number 1 ranked ODI bowler becoming the first Pakistani pacer to reach that ranking since the hey days of Wasim Akram in the 90s.

Imam Ul Haq hit a debut ODI century giving Pakistan another talented batsman.

Babar Azam's limited overs stock continue to grow with more centuries.

New talents like Faheem Ashraf, Shadab Khan, and Rumman Raees continued to shine.

But the moment of the year for Pakistan cricket was surely this...

Aamer got Kohli twice in as many deliveries in a year when not many bowlers could claim to have got him even once.

It was an exceptional spell of bowling by Aamer as he dismissed the tournament's top 3 leading run scorers - Kohli, Rohit, and Dhawan - inside the first 10 overs and sealed the final for Pakistan.

Team Performance in 2017

In 2017, Pakistan's limited overs team had quite a turnaround with impressive performances in ODIs and T20, unlike in prior years.

Definitely that had something to do with the injection of new blood.

At the same time, Pakistan's test performance declined with the departure of stalwarts and despite winning their first ever series in the Caribbean, Pakistan also lost their first ever series in the UAE since it became their adopted home.

As you can see, Pakistan was the best performing T20 team, the 4th best in ODIs, and a low 7th in tests.

Batting Performance in 2017

In Tests, Pakistan's batting did not do much to write about. Azhar Ali was the leading run scorer with an average of 42.00. With the departure of Misbah and Younis, the likes of Azhar and Asad will have to take charge as the new blood will surely take time to settle down in international cricket.

In ODIs and T20s, Babar Azam emerged as Pakistan's new star. He was among the leading run scorers in the world in both formats - 9th in ODIs and 2nd in T20s. Surprisingly, Ahmed Shehzad was also one of the top scorers in T20s.

In ODIs, Babar's average was behind only Kohli, Sharma, and Root. And his tally of hundreds was behind only Kohli and Sharma.

Bowling Performances in 2017

In Tests, Yasir Shah continue to shine for Pakistan ending the year with 43 wickets to his name in only 6 test matches. Imagine how many he would have taken had he played as much as some of the other bowlers.

Yasir was the only bowler to pick up an average of 7 wickets or more in the tests he played. No other bowlers averaged even 6 wickets per match.

ODIs were dominated by Pakistan's newest pace sensation - Hasan Ali - who improved with every game that he played.

No pacer came even close to his tally of wickets, average, and strike rate. He even had the most 5 wicket hauls in the year.

The only bowler who had a better average and strike rate than Hasan was Afghanistan's spin maestro Rashid Khan.

In T20s, it was young leg spinner, Shadab Khan, who impressed finishing the year with the 5th highest wickets. He had a very impressive economy rate as well, which was bettered by only Rashid Khan.

It seems like Pakistan's test team will take some time to get back to the heights they had reached with Misbah at the helm, coupled with Younis as the guiding force for the batting line up.

However, in limited overs, Pakistan should continue to impress with all the new youngsters standing up to be counted.

Pakistan's ODI team has not been this exciting since the 90s.

They have a talented opener in Fakhar Zaman and another one waiting in the wings - Imam Ul Haq. They have one of the most impressive batsman produced by the country in Babar Azam. The bowling stocks are abundant with spinners like Yasir Shah, Imad Wasim, and Shadab Khan; and a pace battery comprising Mohammed Aamer, Hasan Ali, Rumman Raees, Faheem Ashraf, Mohammad Abbas, and plenty waiting in the wings.

To top it all, the likes of Hassan, Faheem, Imad, and Shadab are all quite handy with the bat.

Surely we are in for some exciting times for Pakistan Cricket.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Examination Down Under Will Show How Strong Root Is

A baptism of fire is almost guaranteed for any new captain who is overseeing his first Ashes series as the man in charge. The microscope focus is intense and both sets of fans and pundits unforgiving when the going gets tough. At 2-0 down in the series, it is safe to say the going will be getting close to unbearable for Root with his decision at the toss in Adelaide being crucified.

"Australia v England (2nd Test, Adelaide" (CC BY 2.0) by mertie.
Root’s decision to bowl first is being seen by many as the critical mistake that led to the Three Lions losing by 120 runs to Australia. Counterpart Steve Smith made a rather audacious declaration with the Baggy Greens at 442/8 on the second day after Root had put them into bat, which highlighted the perceived foolishness of the young Yorkshireman’s decision at the toss.

Mistakes are there to be made and are all part of the learning curve a captain must experience on the journey to becoming a hardened leader. In this particular instance, it may cost England the Ashes as the win in Adelaide gave Australia a 2-0 lead as they head on to the WACA for the third test.

The last time England won at this historic ground was 1978 and they have lost their last seven tests against Australia there. A win for Steve Smith’s men here and they will take an unassailable lead and recapture the Ashes. It doesn't bear thinking about for Joe Root and he desperately needs to find a way to inspire his troops as they look to complete mission impossible.

"1st day, 3rd Test, AUS v RSA" (CC BY 2.0) by www.davidmolloyphotography.com
The Australian camp will feel that they have one hand on the famous and ancient urn already. Root said after the Adelaide test that England were still “massively in the series” but deep down he will know they are staring down the barrel and will need a combination of luck, skill and hard work if they are to get something out of this series.

From whatever angle you look at it, it is hard to see England winning the next three tests. As it stands, they are 4/1 to win at the WACA but that may change as the game goes on should Root and his troops deliver an inspired performance against Australia; tipping and betting sites such as sportsbet.io will keep punters up to date with ongoing proceedings in Perth as England aim to fly out the traps and defy history.

There is a lot on the line for the young Root during the remainder of the season. It won’t be the end of the road for his captaincy even if they lose 5-0. There will be a lot of scrutiny going forward but he will live to see another day. If he turns this around then his future as England captain will be secure for as long as he plays the game.

In Joe Root's career, there won’t be many bigger tests of his captaincy than the one in front of him. All eyes will be on Root to see if he strengthens or withers. 

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