Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Cricket in 2013

As we approach the end of 2013, I thought I would briefly reflect on the cricketing year.

In the minds of most England (and Australia) supporters must be the double Ashes year - the first time since 1975 that home and away Ashes series have been played. The contrast in fortunes, with England winning at home 3-0 but being totally out-played in the current away series and (at the end of the year) trailing 0-4, have been marked, and all credit must go to the Australian team for turning themselves around in such a short time: it can't simply be the presence of Mitchell Johnson in the side that's made the difference, can it (?). Serious questions are already being asked of the England set-up, and need to be if England are going to be in any state to entertain India & Sri Lanka next Summer.

As a proud and long-time member of Yorkshire CCC it has been good (in some respects) to see a number of the county players being called up for international duty, and a particular delight to see how well, on the whole, Joe Root has adapted to Test cricket. His maiden Test hundred, on his home ground, was a joy to watch - though I missed him actually reaching the milestone, due to a call of nature - and he has faced more deliveries in Test matches this year than anyone except Alistair Cook & Ian Bell. Maybe 2014 will see his county colleague Gary Ballance follow him into international colours.

Yorkshire celebrated their 150th year in style, but fell short of clinching the County Championship, ending second behind a very impressive Durham side who showed a better ability to produce results than any other team (only 2 drawn games). In the shorter format Yorkshire consistently lacked the killer punch and had what can best be described as a pitiful season. Congratulations go to Notts & Northants who lifted the 40-over & 20-over trophies respectively.

The end of 2013 has seen the departure from the world stage of two great ambassadors of the game, and another somewhat mercurial member of England's set-up. Graeme Swann at his best was a game-changer: he had the knack of taking wickets early in a spell - often in his first over - and could deceive even the best batsmen. His batting was explosive in the lower order, often providing vital runs scored at a faster pace than anyone else in the side: his strike rate of 76.49 was higher than Pietersen (61.74), Prior (61.81) & Broad (63.27).

Sachin Tendulkar played Test cricket in 4 decades, beginning at the age of 16 in 1989 and retiring in November at the age of 40, having played more Test matches (200), scored more runs (15,921) and more hundreds (51) than anyone else. He was the first man to score a double century in Limited overs International cricket, and ended his career with 100 international centuries in all forms of the game. He will probably be remembered as the second greatest batsman after Sir Don Bradman, and rightly so, and as the first overseas player to play for Yorkshire!

Jacques Kallis ended his Test career yesterday: third on the list of run-scorers behind Tendulkar & Ricky Ponting and second behind Tendulkar in the list of Test centurions, with 45 - the last of which he scored in his final innings. In terms of the great all-rounders in Test history, Kallis comes a good second to Sir Garry Sobers, with Sobers ahead in four of the five criteria I have chosen below.

Runs per Innings: Sobers 50.20; Kallis 47.46
Runs per Match: Sobers 86.37; Kallis 80.05
Matches per hundred: Sobers 3.58; Kallis 3.69
Wickets per match: Sobers 2.53; Kallis 1.76
Catches per match: Kallis 1.20; Sobers 1.17

Even so, Jacques Kallis has been a wonderful advertisement for the game, a loyal servant of South African cricket and one of its greatest exponents.

We wait to see what 2014 will bring us.