Test Season in Review

With the IPL all set to start up next week, this year’s Test “season” (such as it is) has come to a close.

Thankfully, it ended on a high note, but lots of other stuff worth noting happened, too.

(For the purposes of this exercise, I started the “season” on 26 March 2012 with England’s tour of Sri Lanka…I needed to draw the line somewhere.)

There were 48 Test matches, 36 of which produced a result.

In those matches, 50,655 runs were scored, 1,485 wickets were taken, and 97,410 balls were bowled.

197 total cricketers appeared at the batting crease. Cook, Prior, and Trott batted in the most matches (15), while Cook appeared in the most innings (28) and saw the most balls (2,935) (stop laughing).

Clarke was the top run scorer (1,280), Amla was second (1,321), and Cook was third (1,280).

The highest score of the season was Amla’s 311 not out, but the highest average was Chanderpaul’s 93.41 (five innings minimum; sorry, Shikhar Dhawan) and the highest strike rate was Sehwag’s 87.36. (Again, five innings minimum. Sorry, Mark Gillespie).

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Doing the same rundown for the bowlers is a bit easier, since you really only need to know two words: Rangana and Herath.

Jimmy Anderson participated in the most innings with 25 and Ashwin bowled the most maiden overs with 142, but Herath bowled the most overs (673.4), allowed the most runs (1,784), took the most wickets (80), had the most five wicket hauls (9), and the most 10 wicket hauls (3).

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Based solely on the above silliness, my cricketers of the year are Alastair Cook and Rangana Herath.

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AB de Villiers took the most catches with 43 so he is my fielder of the year.

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Team wise, South Africa were of course at the top of the pile: played 11, won eight, drew three, and lost none – but India were a close second: played 10, won seven, lost two, and drew one.

Those were the only two teams that won the majority of their matches.

Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Zimbabwe did not win a single Test between them. (Pakistan is of course punished by the fact that their 3-0 whitewash of England happened just before the cut-off…but I had to draw the line somewhere. Sorry, fellas).

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Actually constructing a table is of course impossible because every team played a different number of Tests, but I like to invent stats and here’s a new: loss percentage. Just simply number of losses divided by number of matches played; the lower the percentage, the better the season (not really but this is just for fun.)

Using loss percentage, the table shapes up like this:

Screen shot 2013-03-31 at 3.42.56 PMLooks about right.

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Anecdotally, we saw some really great cricket. Amla’s brilliance in England was a highlight for me, as was Cook’s leadership in India. We also saw India turn the tables on Australia and that brilliant final day in New Zealand.

And lest we forget that this season also brought us World Test Day: on 25 November 2012 there were four Test matches happening simultaneously:

That was a good day.

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The season ends with Australia in crisis, New Zealand and India resurgent, and England treading water. The upcoming season should be heaps of entertainment – and it all kicks off with New Zealand against England at Lord’s in May Zimbabwe vs Bangladesh in April.

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Guest Post – IPL Preview

A few days ago, fellow Minnesotan and cricket fan, JP Daugherty (on Twitter here, go give him a follow), e-mailed me a really fantastic 2013 IPL preview, and asked if I was interested in putting it up here on Limited Overs.

He said he wrote it as a guide for Americans interested in learning more about cricket and the IPL, but I thought all current cricket fans the world over would appreciate such a clear and succinct run down of the IPL season to come, and so I was more than happy to oblige.

And just as a heads up, JP is still in high school here in Minnesota (under 18), while his age really doesn’t matter in this case, I think it’s quite the reflection of the power of the T20 format and the IPL that a high school age American guy in Minnesota is interested in the IPL. His story of “discovering” cricket is similar to my own – see his comment on my post “Why Cricket?“.

Thanks again for sending the preview over, JP. Great work.

-mb

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IPL 6: Preview

In Brief: The defending champions, expect them to go far again this year.
Captain: Gautam Gambhir
Wicketkeeper: Manvinder Singh Bisla/Brendon McCullum
Best batsman: Gautam Gambhir
Kolkata’s captain is also their best batsman. Expect him to lead from the front by scoring big runs at the top of the order.
Best bowler: Sunil Narine
Narine was last year’s surprise package, becoming the tournament’s second-highest wicket taker with his medley of conventional off breaks, which turn into a right-hander, and his ‘knuckleballs’ which turn away from a right-hander.
X-Factor: Yusuf Pathan
After a down tournament last year, expect the big-hitting Yusuf to bounce back with both the bat and ball. He has destructive potential, as evidenced by his 100 off just 37 balls in 2010, the fastest 100 in the history of the IPL. Also a handy spin bowler.
Team prediction: 2nd

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File:Chennai Super Kings Logo.svg

In Brief: The most consistent team in IPL history, with two championships and a 2nd place finish. Finished runner-up to Kolkata last year.
Captain: MS Dhoni
Wicketkeeper: MS Dhoni/Wriddhiman Saha
Best batsman: Suresh Raina
A powerful middle-order batsman, he is the leading run scorer in IPL history.
Best bowler: Ravichandran Ashwin
He has improved tremendously in the last year, focusing more on traditional spin bowling instead of experimenting with his variations. By virtue of this, he has been rewarded with bags full of wickets for India.
X-Factor: Akila Dananjaya
The diminutive Sri Lankan spinner first made a name for himself in the 2012 World T20, where he helped Sri Lanka make the final. However, he is still a very new face as he is yet to face India, South Africa, or Australia.
Team prediction: 3rd

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In Brief: Finished 3rd last year after topping the group stage. In possession of the best fast bowling attack in the competition.
Captain: Mahela Jayawardene
Wicketkeeper: Naman Ojha
Best batsman: Mahela Jayawardene
Delhi’s captain is also their best batsman in the absence of Kevin Pietersen. Relies more on touch and placement of his shots than power.
Best bowler: Morne Morkel
The tall South African is the best member of Delhi’s outstanding pace attack. Looks to overwhelm batsmen with speed and awkward bounce.
X-Factor: Unmukt Chand
The captain of India’s victorious 2012 U19 World Cup team, Chand is an aggressive batsman who is not afraid to play his shots. Showed glimpses of his vast talent when he played for Delhi in the Champions League T20 last year.
Team prediction: 4th

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File:Mumbai Indians Logo.svg

In Brief: The glamor team of the IPL, their vociferous fans expect nothing less than a 1st IPL title this year.
Captain: Ricky Ponting
Wicketkeeper: Ambati Rayudu
Best batsman: Sachin Tendulkar
No explanation needed.
Best bowler: Lasith Malinga
‘The Slinga’ is coming off of a year where he was the 3rd highest wicket taker at the IPL and was one of the top 10 wicket takers at the World T20. Attempts to crush batsman’s toes with Yorkers that he delivers with a sidearm slinging action.
X-Factor: Ricky Ponting
The recently retired Australian giant has been scoring bucket loads of runs for Tasmania in 4-day cricket recently. Can he translate that form into runs for his IPL side?
Team prediction: 5th

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File:Royal Challengers Bangalore Logo.svg

In Brief: The perennial underachievers, they have reached the final twice, but never won. Is this the year they end the drought? They possess the best batting side in the tournament.
Captain: Virat Kohli
Wicketkeeper: Arun Karthik
Best batsman: Chris Gayle
Simply the best batsman in T20 cricket. Overpowers teams with his unparalleled ability to hit sixes.
Best bowler: Muttiah Muralitharan
Murali, the highest wicket taker in Test cricket, is still bamboozling batsmen even at the age of 40. Expect him to be a force, because he can turn the ball farther than anyone in world cricket.
X-Factor: Cheteshwar Pujara
Pujara has been scoring astronomical amounts of runs in India’s recent Test series with Australia. Can he translate his Test form onto the IPL stage?
Team prediction: WINNERS

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File:Kings XI Punjab.png

In Brief: Finished 6th last year, can they make the jump to join the IPL’s elite?
Captain: Adam Gilchrist
Wicketkeeper: Adam Gilchrist
Best batsman: Mandeep Singh
The 19-year old Indian dynamo lit up last year’s tournament with his dazzling stroke play. An India cap should not be far off.
Best bowler: Praveen Kumar
This canny Indian relies less on speed and more on swinging the ball. Look for him to get lots of wickets on his home ground, Mohali, which supports the fast bowlers.
X-Factor: Azhar Mahmood
This Pakistani has been traversing the world the past few years in order to play in various T20 leagues around the globe. Expect him to be a handful with his aggressive batting and useful fast bowling.
Team prediction: 7th

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File:Rajasthan Royals Logo.svg

In Brief: Winners of the inaugural IPL in 2008, they have not been able to reach the same heights since. They finished 7th last year.
Captain: Rahul Dravid
Wicketkeeper: Shreevats Goswami
Best batsman: Shane Watson
The powerful Australian was the MVP of the first IPL, and his aggressive batting style suits T20 cricket well. Expect him to score loads of runs on the flat Indian wickets being prepared for this tournament.
Best bowler: Shaun Tait
Nicknamed ‘The Wild Thing’, Tait can turn up the speed to almost 100 mph. However, he can be very erratic. But when he’s on, every batsman in the IPL will have trouble.
X-Factor: Kevon Cooper
The electric West Indian has made a name for himself in various T20 leagues around the world. He is a deadly finisher with the bat and a handy medium-pacer with the ball. Also one of the very best in the field.
Team prediction: 6th

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In Brief: Finished dead last last year in the absence of Yuvraj Singh, who was fighting cancer. He is back on the field this year.
Captain: Angelo Mathews
Wicketkeeper: Robin Uthappa
Best batsman: Marlon Samuels
The dashing West Indian singlehandedly led his team to a victory in the World T20 final in 2012 with some massive sixes.
Best bowler: Bhuvneshwar Kumar
This Indian medium-pacer made quite the entry into international cricket last year, taking 3 wickets on debut vs Pakistan.
X-Factor: Yuvraj Singh
A true inspiration to all, Yuvraj took the field at the World T20 last year after winning his battle with lung cancer. Can he return to full form in the IPL?
Team prediction: 8th

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File:SunRisers Hyderabad.png

In Brief: The IPL’s newest team, they formed out of the now-defunct Deccan Chargers.
Captain: Kumar Sangakkara
Wicketkeeper: Kumar Sangakkara/Parthiv Patel
Best batsman: Kumar Sangakkara
This Sri Lankan giant is a very stylish player who mixes placement and power. One of the best batsmen in world cricket.
Best bowler: Dale Steyn
The best fast bowler in world cricket. It will be interesting to see how he performs in his least favorite format and in unhelpful conditions.
X-Factor: Shikhar Dhawan
This Indian recently made headlines when he hit the fastest Test century by a person on debut (85 balls) against the Australians. His aggressive, yet classical, style of batting should suit him well in T20 cricket.
Team prediction: 9th

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Thanks again, JP. Cheers.

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All images fair use.

Jesse Ryder

There is a real pall over my day today, and a real pall over the day of cricket fans the world over.

Even though the vast majority of us do not Jesse Ryder personally, the news of his assault and its resulting injuries was still like a punch to the gut.

Here’s a post I wrote when Tom Maynard was killed last year that explains how I feel.

Here’s hoping Jesse pulls through, gets better, and gets back out on the cricket pitch.

A Life Without Cable

My name is Matt Becker, I am an American, I love European sport, I live in the midwest, and I do not have cable television.

Or a dish.

Or anything.

This is my story.

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Okay, that was overly dramatic, but the fact that I don’t I have cable or a dish I think is unique for most people who share my interests and my location. It’s just that my wife and I could simply no longer justify spending $200 a month on cable television. So a few years back, we cut the cord.

And despite the fact my two of my most favorite leisure time activities are A) watching cricket and B) watching Arsenal, two things that are made infinitely more difficult sans cable or satellite, we couldn’t be happier. We talk more, we listen to music more, we interact more, and we have $200 a month more in our pockets.

And I am still actually able to watch just about anything I want, with FoxSoccer.TV, Willow.TV, ESPN3.com, and various trips down to the pub when those options are not enough (no complaints there) – but the last few days have been a real challenge.

For one, the Mexico vs USA World Cup Qualifier was blacked out on ESPN3 because I do not have a cable package that includes ESPN’s flagship channel, or any cable package for that matter. And because the match did not start until 9:30pm, I did not feel like trekking down to the local watering hole, and so I was forced to watch the game via a legal, and free, stream on Univision.com – the only drawbacks of course being that the stream was not the highest quality, and the commentary was in Spanish.

It was better than nothing, but it was far from ideal.

Two days ago, the situation was more dire.

New Zealand vs England, day five. And I had no way to watch.

Sure, I could listen to Test Match Sofa like the majority of my compatriots were doing, but I wanted to watch!

Willow.TV used to have the rights to the New Zealand Cricket Board’s home matches, but they dropped them in favor of BCCI’s home matches, plus a slew of other rights, which in the end was probably the right call, but boy it was an annoying one on Monday night.

And, so, I did what millions of cricket fans the world over are forced to do: I found an illegal stream.

The quality was not the best, but the sound was good, the picture was okay, and it wasn’t the slightest bit choppy.

I normally avoid illegal streams, but Monday night was an emergency.

And while you might laugh at this, I really did feel bad about it. I do consider it at worst stealing and at best ethically murky.

But the point is, and here is the gist of this post: watching cricket (and international football) should not be this difficult.

Of course, I make it difficult for myself by not having cable, but even if one relies solely on the Internet, they should not be forced to hunt down Spanish language broadcasts or illegal streams, they should have access to every sporting event the world over – because that is the only way you will ever get rid of the illegal streams.

The access does not have to be free, but as long as the price is reasonable, people like me will pay for it. $20 a month? Reasonable.

The good news is everything seems to be changing in my favor, this week notwithstanding. I can order online packages for everything from the Tour de France to Aussie Rules Football to Major League Baseball – all for about $20 a month each.

This week, thankfully, was an aberration, the times they are a changin’, and most sports seem to be getting on board, we just need cricket and international football to join them.

And when they do, I highly recommend ditching your cable and your dish. It’s totally great.

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Along the same lines, cricket is slowly moving in the right direction, as the BBC announced just last week that it would be covering every ball of the County Cricket season via online radio and it is going to be available WORLDWIDE.

For free.

I cannot tell you how happy this makes me.

We are entering a golden age, truly.

Interviewed

Here’s a link to an interview I did with Aussie journalist Tristan Lavalette. We talk cricket and culture and writing. Check it out! 

And be sure to follow Tristan on Twitter at @stumped4aduck

An Open Letter to American Sports Fans

Dear American Sports Fan:

Last night, while you slept, on the other side of the world, 22 men battled to one of the most thrilling, nail biting, edge of your seat, and hard fought draws in recent memory.

That’s right, a draw. Not a tie. A draw. The two teams did not end with the exact same score. Instead, time and daylight ran out and one side couldn’t get the necessary runs to win whilst simultaneously the other side just could simply not get their opposition out.

You might scoff, you might dismiss me, and you might laugh: but it was the pinnacle of everything you love about baseball, gridiron football, and basketball.

You missed it. But you would have loved it.

The two teams involved were England and New Zealand. This was the 97th time the two teams had faced each other in a Test match. A history that dates back to 1930…

The game lasted five days. There were over 2,700 balls delivered. And yet somehow, despite all logic to the contrary, the game was not decided until the final ball was delivered…

The fifth and final day started at 10:30am Auckland time, mid-afternoon on the American east coast. You were still at work when it started, in other words, but it would be well after midnight on your watch before it was over.

New Zealand led England by an insurmountable total; and all they needed to do to win the match, and the series, and make history, was to get six more English batsmen out. All England needed to do was bat all day long. From the time you were still at the office until well after you were tucked in bed and dreaming…

And that is exactly what they did…

Matt Prior, England’s wicket-keeper, a hard nosed, blue collar cricketer, entered the game with England only having three outs left. The day was barely two-thirds over. And under immense pressure, he batted for almost four and a half hours, scoring 110 runs, and leading England’s inexperienced lower batting order across the finish line…

Stuart Broad, England’s vice captain, not known for his batting, still managed to stay out in the hot Auckland afternoon sun for over two hours. He blocked 77 balls bowled at anywhere from 30 mph to 80 mph. Some were at his head, some at his ankles, some bounced 20 feet in from of him, some tailed in the wind, some spun in the dirt. And yet, somehow, with a little bit of luck, he saw off nearly 13 of the 90 overs England needed to get through in order to save the match.

And with four overs left to get through, 24 more deliveries, New Zealand struck: Broad edged to a fielder in the slip position: out. Then James Anderson, another Englishman not known for his batting, did the same thing.

New Zealand was one out away. One out away from beating England in a Test series at home since 1985.

And on came Monty Panesar. A brilliant spin bowler, but thoroughly inept with the bat.

This was the scene, as New Zealand pressed Panesar and Prior for just one…more…out….

All 13 men on the field at the time, 11 fielders and two batsman, all within meters of each other. One side just trying to hang on, the other begging for one more out. It was easily the most the absorbing 20 minutes of sport I had ever experienced.

You would have loved it.

And somehow, England, despite all of the pressure of the moment, made it through, and saved the match. Matt Prior dragged his entire team over the line.

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Meanwhile, Brenden McCullum, playing with a severely pulled hamstring, hobbled around the pitch, positioning his fielders like a grandmaster chess player.

And New Zealand bowlers, on day five of play, steamed in again and again and again – each delivery more desperate and exhausting and knee pounding than the one before it – searching and searching and searching for that one magical delivery that never came. Tim Southee: 180 balls bowled in a day a half; Trent Boult 174; Bruce Martin 234…

…think about that next time your starting pitcher gets pulled on 85 pitches with a three run lead…

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Nine hours of brilliant sport, on the other side of the world, while you slept.

Too bad you missed it, but I will be forever grateful that I didn’t.

Switzerland

Today I was doing some extra-curricular writing and started thinking about my status as an entirely neutral cricket fan.

I have no dog, in any hunt, the world over. No County Cricket team, no IPL squad, no Test nation. No tournament, no tour, no trophy.

I also don’t gamble, so the outcome is always fine with me, no matter what it is (for the most part, of course).

There are two sides to this coin: not having a team to support leaves me feeling a little shallow in my cricket fandom at times, like I am missing out on complete immersion into the sport. I also feel like I am missing out on the best the sport has to offer.

Moments like this:

But at the same time, I am lucky enough to miss out on moments like this:

Today, for instance, even though it is not available to watch here in the States, I cannot wait for day five of the deciding Test between New Zealand and England to start. Can New Zealand beat England in a Test series for the first time since 1999? Or can Bell and Prior and company dig in and bat all day long and save the match and the series and England’s blushes? I honestly don’t care which happens, because I am a neutral. No matter what the outcome, it is going to be thrilling to watch and simply great for the Test format.

I get to be both this:

And this:

As a neutral supporter, I only want brilliant bowling, thrilling batting, great catches, five day battle royales, and last ball finishes. No matter who wins, loses, or draws, I am quite happy, as long as the cricket is fashionable and fun. And while yes I might miss out on the sheer monumental joy of supporting a cricket squad with my blood, sweat, and tears, I make up for that part of my sporting life with the Arsenal:

And so in that spirit: God Defend New Zealand, and God Save the Queen.

Should be a great day down in Auckland.