ENG vs. PAK – 2nd Test Preview

After dominating in the first three days of the first Test, Pakistan will be disappointed that they are heading into the second Test, 1-0 down.

Despite captain, Azhar Ali saying otherwise, their second innings batting was a problem. Having a more than useful 107 run first innings lead, they should have batted England out of the game, but instead squandered their good position.

Experienced players like Azhar Ali (79 Tests) and Asad Shafiq (75 Tests) made no valuable contributions in the first Test, scoring a combined 54 runs in the Test. Simply not good enough. Pakistan’s middle order is their batting strength, and if this fails, so too will Pakistan.

Azhar Ali’s performance as captain was of concern too. His tactics left a lot to be desired in the field, especially when the pressure was on in England’s second innings. Odd field placements, not utilizing bowlers correctly and a lack of a killer instinct were all disappointing. With just a few days between Tests, how Azhar rallies his players will be important.

England however showed their depth in quality players. Even though captain Joe Root and Ben Stokes had been dismissed, Chris Woakes and struggling Jos Buttler proved they had the big match temperament to get England over the line.

What is key to England’s success of late is their never say die attitude. This is something other teams could learn.

Ben Stokes announced that he will not be available for the remainder of the Test summer, having to fly home to New Zealand for family reasons. While he will be missed by the England team, they will be delighted by the fact they have won their last two Tests without much contribution from him.

What changes could both teams make ahead of the second Test? For England, Stokes’ absence opens up the door for a specialist batsman. With Jos Buttler’s new-found batting form will England consider playing him as that specialist batsman, and perhaps bring in Ben Foakes as the wicket-keeper? Or will Zack Crawley, who many feel has been unfortunate to miss out on the previous two Tests earn a call-up?

Jofra Archer has struggled with his pace and consistency at times, and England are wary of over bowling him, they could therefore opt for an out and out quick in Mark Wood instead.

For Pakistan, I would be surprised if they changed their bowling attack, given the fact that Naseem Shah (17 years old) and Shaheen Afridi (20 years old) are both very young and should be able to get through back-to-back Tests without too much difficulty.

In terms of their batting, Pakistan should keep the faith in the players they have selected and trust that they will put in a better performance this time around.

If a second spinner is not necessary in the second Test, Pakistan could consider replacing Shadab Khan for Sohail Khan, who did impress in the warm-ups. Shadab is a very handy lower order batsman however, and scored some important runs in the first Test.

Both teams will be thankful that the first Test finished in four days, as there is not much time between Tests, so an extra rest day would have been welcomed.

A bit of rain is forecast in Southampton during the second Test, which will be a huge disappointment. But for now, we are all looking forward to another epic encounter between these very good sides.

The second Test kicks off on Thursday, 13th August, at 12pm SA time.

 


 

T20 World Cup – Should it be postponed?

It’s another week and another Cricket tour has been postponed because of the Coronavirus.

South Africa’s limited overs tour to Sri Lanka, which was scheduled for early June this year, and consisted of three ODIs and three T20Is, has been postponed for a later date.

This is increasingly worrying for the T20 World Cup, which is still scheduled for October this year, in Australia.

At this very moment, I am wondering that should the T20 World Cup still take place in October, would that be the correct decision?

Given the fact that so many tours, especially those consisting of important limited overs games are being postponed, would it be fair to ask teams to put forward a World Cup playing squad when they have had very little to no chance to see players in action, and formulate game plans based on player performances?

The players themselves would also have had very little opportunity to get game time and hone their skills, especially after such a prolonged break from the game. To their credit, players are doing well to keep fit and train at home, but there is no substitute for actual game time.

If Cricket doesn’t return until the beginning of October for instance, according to the Future Tour Programme, India would still have eight T20Is (including the Asia Cup) before the start of the T20 World Cup to use as preparation. Not ideal but better than most.

Australia and New Zealand would have six T20Is, Pakistan would have five, Bangladesh would have four, whereas England and South Africa would only have three T20Is to use as preparation.

After such a prolonged hiatus from the game, are a handful of rushed games adequate preparation?

As much as it pains me to say this, I feel the T20 World Cup should therefore be postponed until next year, so first and foremost, the Coronavirus can be stopped, and secondly, so all teams have the opportunity for a decent preparation period, one that will allow them to feel ready ahead of an important ICC tournament.

 


 

No crowd attendance for Cricket?

The Coronavirus pandemic has resulted in some talk around India’s tour of Australia later this year, consisting of four Tests, three ODIs and three T20Is being played in front of empty stands.

Given how inspirational it can be to have your fans behind you at a turning point of a game, how much could this affect the matches?

Think back to Headingly 2019, when Ben Stokes single-handedly took the game away from Australia, or when Joe Root was riling up the strong English contingent at Newlands earlier this year. Without the crowd support, would either of these games have gone the way they did?

Test Cricket is not only about how good of a player you are, but how well you can deal with other influences, like the crowd.

A player like Steve Smith for example, used the constant boo’s from the crowd to his advantage in the Ashes of 2019. He used the crowd to spur him on. If there had been no crowd, would he have had as much motivation?

One of the best things about watching Test Cricket is the crowd. Seeing a packed house, all there for the same reason, because they have a love for the game. A full house brings the vibe, the atmosphere, it brings the game alive.

A crowd is by no means essential to a Cricket game being played however, as we have seen in Pakistan’s “home” Tests in the UAE, where they play with almost zero crowd attendance. Despite a lack of crowd, the cricket is still exemplary.

For a Boxing Day or New Years Test however, I can’t quite imagine an empty ground. Those are Tests full of tradition and history. They deserve to be watched.

Each and every one of us needs to do our part to ensure we stay home during the lockdown, so that this virus does not have a chance to spread. Only then will we get our cricket back.


Building for the Future

When Cricket South Africa announced their national contracts for the 2020/21 season, there were a few notable names missing; Janneman Malan, Zubayr Hamza and Kyle Verreynne.

Janneman and Verreynne showed, with flying colours that international Cricket is not a step too far for them. While Hamza just recently won the Momentum One Day Cup Player of the Season award at the Cobras end of season awards, having scored two centuries and three half-centuries, while taking on the added responsibility of the captaincy.

What was a standout for me from Malan and Verreynne was their ability to not shy away from pressure. Under tough match situations, against a world class bowling attack, they stood up and were counted. Hamza has shown he has skill and maturity in Test Cricket, and given his stats in the Momentum One Day Cup, should be considered for one day selection too. They all need more chances. 

It is well known that South Africa are looking to rebuild their national team, both in the Test and One Day format, after their dismal World Cup performance and some high-profile retirements. They can do this by investing time into their young players, especially as the next World Cup is now less than three years away. 

It is promising that this trio of players have had a taste of international cricket but they need to be regulars in the team, gaining experience and learning how to deal with real-match situations, so that when they are faced with these situations in a big pressure game, like a World Cup semi-final, they are equipped to handle the big pressure moment.

I think back to the India Women’s performance in the Women’s T20 World Cup earlier this year. and in particular Shafali Verma. Despite her extremely young age, she had a phenomenal tournament, all up until the final, where the pressure got the better of her. She will learn from this experience and it will make her a better player. 

It is for this reason that young players in the South African set-up need to be given the chance to grow in the national team. They will make mistakes, but that is how they will grow and learn.

Despite these players not getting national contracts, it is my hope that when Cricket does return, these players are given their chance.

It was encouraging to see Cape Cobras coach, Ashwell Prince selecting such a young squad for the Cobras 2020/21 season. His aim was to select a team for all formats and for the future.

It is important for South Africa to use this time to form a solid core group of players, one that can not only travel to the World Cup in India in February 2023 but importantly, a group of players that can compete.


IND vs. SA – ODI Series Preview

All the way back when this India vs. South Africa series began in October 2019, India were on top of the world, and South Africa were a team in disarray.

Fast forward five months, and India have now suffered a whitewash Test and ODI loss against New Zealand. South Africa on the other hand, are fresh off a whitewash ODI series win against the mighty Australians.

Indian captain, Virat Kohli is in the middle of a rather uncharacteristic dip in form. He has now gone 22 international innings without a century. Is this the reason for India’s troubles? Are they too reliant on one player? Is this the series where he rediscovers his form?

Bhuvneshwar Kumar finally returns for India. After a long string of unfortunate injuries, Kumar is back in the Indian team. He is a classy competitor and his return could benefit Jasprit Bumrah, who has been suffering in white ball cricket of late. In 2020, of the six ODIs Bumrah has played, he has taken only 1 wicket in 56 overs, at a ludicrous average of 287. How well this pair works for India will be key to their bowling success.

Spin is always a threat to a South African batting line up, and with three spinners in India’s squad (Yuzvendra Chahal, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav), South Africa would be feeling weary. But with their former captain, Faf du Plessis back in the fold, he adds a great amount of experience and stability to their middle order.

An area South Africa should look to score is in those important middle overs. Far too often, they are too comfortable defending and don’t rotate the strike. This is something where Heinrich Klaasen has been exceptional in doing. The way he takes initiative and looks for the quick singles, keeps the scoreboard ticking, keeps the fielders on their toes, that is what is needed.

Lungi Ngidi has become an incredibly skillful death bowler, and it was evident how much the Proteas missed him in that final ODI against Australia. This is an area where South Africa have struggled and if Ngidi is now a genuine death bowler, this is promising.

While we should remain cautious and not get carried away with South Africa’s series win over Australia, we are hopeful that it is the start of something promising. If for nothing else, we are finally seeing players that we have been calling for finally getting their chance in the side, and they have not disappointed.

Janneman Malan and Kyle Verreynne are two of the best, young cricketers in South Africa and they are absolutely integral to the future success of the Proteas. The way they batted against a full strength Australian bowling attack, showing calmness, composure and skill was exceptional. To see them putting in great winning performances in tough situations was incredibly satisfying. They are finally getting reward for their excellent domestic performances, and that is thanks to the new backroom staff of Graeme Smith, Mark Boucher & Jacques Kallis.

Picking a playing XI for the first ODI will be tough. The experience of Faf is required, his ability to play spin, his calmness at the wicket, his natural leading ability. Without the captaincy weighing him down, he can now fully concentrate on his batting, and hopefully for South Africa’s sake, that equates to runs.

The way Klaasen played against Australia, the maturity at the crease he demonstrated, he is now vital in the middle order. Janneman played exceptionally well against Australia, but playing India in India is a whole different story, with Temba Bavuma back, would South Africa opt to open with him or would they put their trust in Janneman. After all, the only way Janneman can improve his performances against spin is by playing against the best spinners. With the next ODI World Cup in India, this may be the perfect time to get Janneman Malan comfortable against spin. George Linde thoroughly impressed in the final Test against India late last year, he has shown incredible promise and deserves his chance in the ODI side.

Given all these names that should be in the team, someone unfortunately has to sit out. I am grateful that I am not a selector.

This will undoubtedly be an incredibly difficult series. But as South Africa are looking ahead to the next World Cup, they should keep in mind what England ODI captain, Eoin Morgan expressed in the recent SA v ENG ODI series. Their aim was to identify potential players. Results were not the priority, the development of players was. This is what South Africa need to focus on now.

FIXTURES:

1st ODI – Thursday 12th March, 10am SA time – Dharamsala

2nd ODI – Sunday 15th March, 10am SA time – Lucknow

3rd ODI – Wednesday 18th March, 10am SA time – Kolkata


SA vs. ENG – T20 series Round-up

At the start of the summer, every South African fan was nervous about what the series against England would hold.

Most of us had renewed trust and faith in the set-up once the new coaching staff was announced and Faf du Plessis had confirmed his desire to remain as the captain of the Proteas Test team.

Four Tests, three ODIs and three T20s later, South Africa lost both the Test and T20 series, and drew the ODIs, all after taking a 1-0 lead in every format, and they are now without their captain Faf du Plessis, who today announced he is stepping down as the Test and T20 captain, with immediate effect.

“South African cricket has entered a new era. New leadership, new faces, new challenges and new strategies. I remain committed to play in all three formats of the game for now as a player and will offer my knowledge and time to the new leaders of the team.” said Faf.

It is disappointing but it is a selfless decision. A new young team is developing and he can now focus on playing purely as a batsman and leave all the off field nonsense behind him.

Back to the T20 series though, South Africa posted scores of 177-8, 202-7 & 222-6 in the 3-match series. Not a bad effort for a relatively inexperienced team. Where it however went wrong for the home side was with the bowling, particularly at the death.

The Proteas conceded 74 and 73 runs off the final five overs in the second and third T20s. That is quite simply inexcusable at this level. England conceded 57 & 58 runs in their final 5 overs of the same matches. What was the difference you may ask? Yorkers.

It is not a novel idea to bowl yorkers at the death of a limited overs innings, it is actually a simple yet effective strategy. You only need to look at how New Zealand and India bowl at the death to see how effective this delivery is.

The very fact that this has been an overarching problem for the Proteas for a number of seasons is worrying and it needs addressing. Their current bowling coach, Charl Langeveldt was famous for his ability to bowl yorkers at the death. This should be getting drilled into the bowlers at every training session.

If they cannot bowl a yorker, or don’t feel confident enough to bowl one, then practice.

Despite the series loss, there were positives to take from the T20 series. Given the strength of their opponents, South Africa managed to get all games down to the last over, largely thanks to their batting.

The opening partnership of Quinton de Kock (131 runs @ 44) and Temba Bavuma (123 runs @ 41) was exceptional. A problem for the Proteas of late has been their inability for the opening pair to put on a decent stand. de Kock and Bavuma however put on 92, 48 & 84 in the 3-match series and got the team off to the best possible start.

Rassie van der Dussen (85 runs @ 43) was also a positive. A player that continues to show his worth in the team, he can become the finisher the Proteas are looking for.

Once a full strength side is announced, one that includes the likes of Faf du Plessis, KG Rabada and Imran Tahir that suddenly adds an extreme amount of experience into the side, and also alleviates the need for specialist “finishers” like JJ Smuts, as the likes of Faf and Rassie can fill that role. Janneman Malan and Kyle Verreynne also need to get their chance in the Proteas T20 squad.

A squad with these experienced players, along with the exuberance of youth makes for a very strong and challenging team to beat.

There has been discussion regarding the inclusion of AB de Villiers in the Proteas T20 World Cup squad. Is it fair on the likes of Rassie or Heinrich Klaasen for example, to work hard to prove their worth in the T20 side, or on the young players looking to get into the team, like the Malans and Verreyenne’s of the world, to be left behind because a player that chose to leave, now wants to return?

AB is box office. He is a star. But would his inclusion fix what the ongoing issue is?

Adding an extra batsman, even if it is AB, is simply covering over the problem, and is not a solution. The solution is for the Proteas to finally learn how to bowl at the death of an innings.


SA vs. ENG – 3rd T20 Preview

After South Africa won the first T20 in thrilling fashion, by 1 run, who would have expected yet another tight finish on Friday evening?

That is exactly what happened as England won off the final ball of the match by 2 runs.

The final T20I is at SuperSport Park in Centurion with the series tied at 1-1 and it all to play for. With the T20 World Cup later this year, it would be an incredible boost to both teams to come away here with a series win.

Where it went wrong for South Africa was at the death and this is something they need to correct going forward.

England scored a mammoth 79 runs off the final five overs, as Player of the Match, Mooen Ali played a scintillating knock, striking 39 off 11, which included four sixes and three fours. It was an incredible display of quality cricket shots, and his fifty partnership with the destructive Ben Stokes (47* off 30) off only 16 deliveries was instrumental to England posting the second-highest score at Kingsmead – 204-7.

South Africa’s effort of chasing the 205 target was admirable. Captain Quinton de Kock led the way with the fastest T20 half-century by a South African (17 balls) as South Africa got off to a blinder of a start, scoring their fifty in the fifth over.

However after both openers were dismissed in quick succession, this put added pressure on the remaining batsmen. David Miller (21), JJ Smuts (13) & Andile Phehlukwayo (0) were unable to make an impact.

Incredibly disappointing from Miller though was his inability to rotate the strike, and look for quick singles. For someone of his experience, he should be aware of the importance of keeping the scoreboard moving.

Rassie van der Dussen continues to prove his excellence in this team, no matter the format, no matter the situation. His innings (43* off 26) with Dwaine Pretorius (25 off 13) was brilliant, they kept the hope alive. They struck 44 runs in 19 deliveries to get the equation down to needing 3 off the final 2 balls.

There is only one delivery to bowl in a situation like this, and Tom Curran executed it perfectly, the yorker, something the Proteas failed to do at the death.

Having gone into the first T20 with a batting light team, it was surprising that South Africa opted for the same tactic on Friday. Even more surprising was the decision to drop Dale Steyn.

The JJ Smuts and Beuran Hendricks experiments were given a chance, but their time surely has run out.

As the only other genuine batsman in the squad, Reeza Hendricks should make the playing XI on Sunday for the final T20, as should the experienced Steyn.

SuperSport Park is traditionally a high-scoring ground, and one where you win the toss and bat first.

Thank you Durban for an exceptional game of cricket, and thank you to the incredible crowd that came to support the home team. What a game you experienced.

The final T20 is on Sunday in a bright and sunny SuperSport Park, at 14:30 with the toss promptly at 14:00.


My proposed playing XI:

Quinton de Kock (c & wk), Temba Bavuma, Reeza Hendricks, Rassie van der Dussen, David Miller, Dwaine Pretorius, Andile Phehlukwayo, Bjorn Fortuin, Lungi Ngidi, Tabraiz Shamsi & Dale Steyn 

 

SA vs. ENG – 1st T20 Preview

The Proteas face England in the first of three T20Is on Wednesday evening, in East London. With the T20 World Cup coming later this year, both teams will be looking to find their best playing XIs in this series.

It is a relatively inexperienced squad for the home side to choose from. South Africa will rely on the experienced heads of captain, Quinton de Kock and the returning Dale Steyn to lead the way in the batting and bowling departments.

de Kock has been named the captain of the T20 series, following on from his successful captaincy in the T20 series in India late last year, which the Proteas tied 1-1. As previously stated, the captaincy has added responsibility to de Kock’s game and as such, makes him a key player for the home side.

The return of Dale Steyn was met with excitement and joy. Playing for the first time in close to a year, Steyn will hopefully be itching to get out on the field against his old foes. As he demonstrated in the second edition of the Mzansi Super League last year, picking up 15 wickets at the phenomenal average of 15.13 and a decent economy of 7 runs an over, T20 still has a place for an experienced campaigner, and that will be vital to South Africa’s efforts in this T20 series.

While I am happy to see Steyn back, it is disappointing from my perspective that Janneman Milan misses out on T20 selection this time around. Given how successful he and de Kock batted together in the MSL last year, it seems that this is a partnership that needs to be nurtured and allowed the time to grow. It is my hope that given the chance to shine in the Momentum One Day cup, he will be included in the Proteas squad for the tour by the Australians later this month.

Kyle Verreynne is another that I feel should have been in the T20 squad. A fine young stroke maker and a genuine wicket-keeper, he seems the ideal candidate to, one day, take over the gloves from de Kock. With a view to look ahead to the T20 World cup, and the 2023 ODI World Cup, 22-year old Verreynne seems a worthy candidate.

England possess a much stronger T20 squad then they had in the ODIs and importantly, the likes of Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler are back in the squad. What a difference to a team they make.

Ben Stokes is the best all-rounder in world cricket at present, and whether he has the ball or bat in hand, he makes things happen. If he has a good match, England will too.

Buttler, since taking over the opening spot in T20s, has an average of 47 and a strike rate of 154. Buttler is destructive at the best of times, however, an area where South Africa could look to target is his performance against spin, especially early in his innings, where he averages just 33 compared to the 70 he averages against pace.

Bjorn Fortuin has experience of being used as an opening bowler and could very well find himself used in this role for the T20s against England. Fortuin is an exciting young spinning all-rounder who has a bright future ahead.

Lungi Ngidi struggled in the ODI series, both with consistency and fitness. After coming back from a lengthy injury, perhaps it is beneficial for him to go back to domestic cricket and gain match practice before coming back to the national side.

After being included in the ODI and T20 squads to face England, Sisanda Magala was subsequently withdrawn from the ODI squad, having not met fitness requirements. It is understood he has failed to meet these requirements ahead of the first T20 against England, and as such will not be considered for selection. To that end, Dwaine Pretorius gets the nod for me. A tidy bowler with the ability to surprise batsmen, a destructive lower order batsman and full of heart, he deserves to play.

There have only been two T20Is played at Buffalo Park, with an average 1st innings score of 163. With both teams possessing dynamic and electric opening batsmen, in Quinton de Kock and Jos Buttler, both teams will be looking to get off to an exciting start, especially with the small ground that is on offer.

With no rain forecast, get ready to buckle up, because it’s sure to be an exciting evening of cricket!

The first T20 kicks off at 6pm, with the toss at 5:30pm.


My playing XI for the first T20

Quinton de Kock (c & wk), Reeza Hendricks, Temba Bavuma, Rassie van der Dussen, David Miller, JJ Smuts, Andile Phehlykwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Bjorn Fortuin, Dale Steyn & Tabraiz Shamsi

SA vs. ENG – England win 2nd Test on Day 5

Day 5 of the New Year’s Test saw all three results possible. Could South Africa do the impossible and score 438 again, would England level the series or could we see a well fought-out draw?

Every South African fan would have been filled with nervous energy from this morning, I know I was. Could they show the fighting spirit that coach, Mark Boucher said they would come out with today?

They got so close.

The defiant, resilient and determined batting from inexperienced players, Pieter Malan and Rassie van der Dussen was simply outstanding.

The way Rassie walked away after every delivery in his 140 ball stay at the crease, showed you the concentration he had, it was reminiscent of a certain Gary Kirsten.

Malan top-scored for South Africa in the second innings with his 84. He showed exactly why we were calling for him to play, and his performance on debut makes him deserving of a proper run in the Test team. Aiden Markram will have to fight to get back in, but competition is good.

Where it went wrong for South Africa, unfortunately, as has been the case for some time, was with the experienced players. Captain, Faf du Plessis played a very poor shot that brought about his downfall after only 57 deliveries in the first session. What the team needed from their captain was to bat time and overs. What they needed, was a partnership between him and Malan.

It was disappointing that it was the captain of all people that was guilty of throwing his wicket away so easily. Where was the fight from Faf? The determination that he has been famous for in the past? The dogged resistance?

Quinton de Kock was brilliant in the middle session, playing against his natural game and showing fight to survive till the tea break in a defiant fifty run stand with Rassie. It gave us hope.

All his hard work was however undone with a rash shot shortly after tea that saw him dismissed for a 107-ball 50. If South Africa were to survive, they needed him to continue.

Take nothing away from England however. They were the better team from Day 1 and thoroughly deserved the 189 run win. They beat South Africa in the New Year’s Test for the first time since readmission and leveled the series 1-1.

Ben Stokes showed just why he is so special. His 2nd innings batting on Day 4 turned the game for England, and then his bowling late on Day 5 was simply brilliant.

Despite the disappointment, there are positives. South Africa fought hard, they showed the resilience that we wanted to see to take the game to the very end, and for the first time in a long time, we saw a solid opening stand and several partnerships throughout the innings.

It is however not the send-off Vernon Philander deserved in his final Test on his home ground, but South Africa can still win the series for him. They must win the series for him.

They must now show their bouncebackability in the third Test, which starts on January 16th.

At the end of the day, this was an enthralling Test with emotions running high and I for one, am happy to have witnessed it.

This Test also came at the exact right time. With all the talk of 4-Day Tests, this Test got to the final hour of the final day. If the ICC, ECB, Cricket Australia, and as it turns out, Cricket South Africa got their way, we would not have seen such an epic result.

Tests need to remain five days.

 


 

End of Year Leaders – Context Matters

Test Cricket is done for another year and we now know the leading run scorer and wicket-taker for 2019.

Australia dominate the leader boards with both Marnus Labuschagne and Pat Cummins being no.1 in both the batting and bowing departments, respectively. 

Marnus Labuschagne has played some exceptional cricket this past year in the Test format, he is the only Test batsman of 2019 to score over 1000 runs in the calendar year, of 1104 runs at an average of 65. Only Steve Smith (74), Mayank Agarwal (69), and Rohit Sharma (93) average more.

Labuschagne also scored the most fifties and centuries compared to every one else in the world, with 7 fifties and 3 centuries. He showed absolutely fantastic form, technique and determination to stay at the crease and score runs, and fully deserves his place as leading run scorer of the year.

Players like Joe Root and Rory Burns being in the top five leading run scorers of the year however is honestly a joke. Root scored 851 runs and Burns, 824 in the 12 Tests England played.

South Africa’s Quinton de Kock, who played 8 Tests in 2019, ranks number 9 on the leading run-scorers list with 713 runs, but what struck me was that his average for the year of 48, is significantly higher than that of Root who averages 37 and Buns, who averages 36.

Bear in mind that Quinton de Kock also comes in to bat lower down the order at 6 or 7, whereas Root and Burns are in the top 4.

If Quinton had had 8 extra innings to bat, like his current opponents had, he would have had a significantly higher chance to score more and could even have finished higher up on the list.

The difference in number of Tests between “The Big Three” and the rest of the world needs to be addressed.

Proteas captain, Faf du Plessis, after their win in the first Test against England in the ongoing Test series, pointed out this very thing, saying newly appointed Test nations, Ireland and Afghanistan struggle to get Test fixtures.

He was quoted as saying:

“There’s a lot of smaller nations not playing a lot of Test Cricket, they’re actually playing less”.

It’s not even just newly appointed nations not playing enough Test Cricket. Pakistan, a fully fledged Test nation played a total of six Tests this year, compared to Australia, India and England’s 12.

This is where the leading Test bowler for 2019 comes into the spotlight. Pat Cummins is the leading wicket-taker for 2019 with 59 wickets at an average of 20, after 12 Tests. New Zealand’s Neil Wagner is third on the list with an outstanding 43 wickets at an average of 18 having played literally half the number of Tests as Cummins.

Imagine if New Zealand had had the same opportunities to play Test Cricket as Australia did. Wagner would easily be the leading wicket-taker for 2019.

All this means is that when it comes to leading run scorer or leading wicket-taker for a calendar year, context matters.

Kagiso Rabada for instance was the leading wicket-taker for Tests in 2018, with 52 wickets at 20, after 10 matches. England and India both played 12 Tests in 2018 but KG’s dominance was such that he was the front runner.

I say again, context matters.