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Review: Cricket in 2021

Review: Cricket in 2021

Synopsis

The year 2021 was also marred by Covid-19. Though the world had started to return to normalcy, it was still not completely customary. The sporting activities started to restore this year, but there were only few events possible at the beginning of the year.

Review: Cricket in 2021

A yearly roundup of how things went on the field for all the Test-playing nations, in particular for Pakistan

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The year 2021 was also marred by Covid-19. Though the world had started to return to normalcy, it was still not completely customary. The sporting activities started to restore this year, but there were only few events possible at the beginning of the year.

Cricket was no exception. The action in the sports was limited as only 35 Test matches were played during the 12-month period. Moreover, merely 71 One Day Internationals (ODI) took place, of which five ended without any result. The reason for the cancellation of the games was sometimes rain and at other times a Covid outbreak in the camp of one of the teams.

As many as 331 T20 Internationals were organised in the span, which included games between International Cricket Council’s (ICC) Associate Nations as well as Full Members. In the shortest of the game, five games ended as no result.

Although there was a limited amount of cricket being played during the year, it was exciting and full of action.

The world witnessed an intriguing contest between New Zealand and India in the in the all-important final of the inaugural edition of the World Test Championship in Southampton in the month of June. The Kiwis outclassed the Men-in-Blue in the contest by eight wickets to be crowned the champions. It was Black Caps’ first major ICC title after winning the Champions Trophy in 2000.

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Later in the year, there was an ICC T20 World Cup that took place in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman. The competition was originally scheduled to be organised in India but because of the coronavirus situation in the country, the tournament was shifted to the Middle East.

The tournament was filled with breathtaking action. As the tournament took place in the UAE, it was expected that Asian teams — especially the likes of India and Pakistan — will do well.

However, completely opposite happened in the event where three of the four non-Asian teams made it to the last-four.

The Men-in-Blue — who entered the event as the favourites — had a forgettable campaign and were knocked out from the first round.

Pakistan played impressively to reach the semifinals without conceding a single defeat. In the last-four contest, they faced Australia, who came out on top in a nerve-wracking contest by five wickets, courtesy of Matthew Wade’s blistering knock.

It was Australia’s second T20 World Cup final and they ran through New Zealand on the big occasion. They clinched the victory by eight wickets while chasing 173 runs to earn their maiden T20 title.

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As the year 2021 is coming to a close, let’s have a look at teams’ performances in international cricket across different formats.

Test matches

As many as 35 Tests were played during the year with England, India and West Indies playing the most number of games — 14, 13 and 10, respectively.

Pakistan remained the most successful team in the longest format of the game in 2021, maintaining the healthiest loss/win ratio of 3.5. The Green Caps locked horns in nine Test matches, of which they won seven and lost two.

Furthermore, New Zealand maintained a decent winning ratio with 3. They played six matches and won three of them. The Kiwis did lose one fixture and drew two.

On the other hand, the Men-in-Green’s arch-rivals played 13 matches with the red ball and emerged victorious on seven occasions. Moreover, the World Championship runners up conceded defeat in three, while they drew as many games.

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Meanwhile, Australia played four contests in whites and they were winners in two of them. They also drew one and lost one.

England played the most number of Tests this year, but they did not have the best of outcomes. Joe Root’s men competed in 14 five-day contests, only managing to win on four occasions. They went on to lose eight matches and drew two encounters.

Apart from these teams, the Caribbean Giants played 10 matches, winning three, losing five and drawing two, while Sri Lanka played nine, winning three, losing three and drawing three.

In terms of individual performances, India’s veteran off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin emerged as the most successful bowler in Tests with 52 wickets against his name, which included three five-fors.

The second and third most lethal bowlers of the year were Pakistanis. The Men-in-Green’s ace pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi and Hasan Ali picked 47 and 41 wickets, respectively.

Shaheen’s wicket tally consists of three five-wicket hauls and a ten-wicket haul. Meanwhile, Hasan took five wickets five times in the year and managed to take ten wickets in a game once.

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India’s Axar Patel and England’s Ollie Robinson also remained prominent performers with the ball in hand, hunting 36 and 35 batters, respectively.

When it comes to batting, England Test captain Joe Root was far ahead of any of his contemporaries, piling up 1,630 runs in 27 innings with the help of six tons and three half-centuries. He maintained an astounding average of 62.69.

He remains a serious candidate to break Pakistan’s former batter Mohammad Yousuf’s record of scoring 1,788 runs in a calendar year, he still can surpass him if he scores 158 runs in the Boxing Day Test against Australia.

India’s Rohit Sharma and Sri Lanka’s Dimuth Karunaratne stood as the second and third highest run-getter with 906 and 902 runs in 21 and 13 innings.

One Day Internationals

As the world was engulfed by the pandemic, cricket activities could not really return to routine. Therefore, the number ODIs some teams played was incredibly low, for example, New Zealand and Australia only played three 50-over games in the space of 12 months.

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Sri Lanka, Ireland, Bangladesh and South Africa were the only sides to featured in more than 10 fixtures, with 15, 14, 12 and 10 games, respectively.

Meanwhile, England made the mark during the year as the most successful team, bagging six wins and two defeats in nine games. India, South Africa, and Bangladesh maintained their win/loss ratio at 2. The two subcontinent sides won four and eight games out of 12 and six matches, respectively.

Sri Lanka put forth arguably the most disappointing show during the span as they registered only four wins in 15 matches, while one game ended without a result.

Pakistan were another unit that could not perform to their potential in the 50-over format. The Green Caps stepped into the field to play ODI six times and ended up at the losing end on four instances.

Though the Islanders let down their fans during 2021 in the ODI cricket, Dushmantha Chameera stood as the most successful bowler with 20 scalps in 14 games. Ireland’s Simi Singh was the second-highest wicket-taker of the year with 19 wickets in 13 matches, while Bangladesh’s seasoned pacer Mustafizur Rahman took 18 wickets in 10 games.

In the meantime, Ireland experienced opening batter Paul Stirling shone with the bat, scoring 705 runs in 14 innings, courtesy of three hundreds and two fifties.

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In terms of average, South Africa’s Janneman Malan stood out, scoring 509 runs at 84.83 in seven innings with the help of two centuries and as many half-centuries. Moreover, Bangladesh’s seasoned campaigner Tamim Iqbal was once again in his groove during the span and managed to put on 464 runs on the board in 12 innings. His heroics comprised one century and four half-centuries.

Twenty20

The 20-over format was the most played in 2021 where all the teams enjoyed nearly equal number of opportunities to showcase their talent.

Pakistan played the most number of T20Is in the year and their performance also stood out. The Men-in-Green featured in 29 T20Is, of which they won 20, the most number of wins in the format in a calendar year, and three matches ended without a result. Shaheens only lost six matches, which took their win/loss ratio to 3.33.

The next best in the format were South Africa, who played 23 matches, winning 15 and losing eight. Moreover, the reigning ODI champions England competed in 17 contests and won 11 of them.

Though Pakistan completely dominated the cricketing world in the shortest format of the game throughout the year, none of their bowlers was among the prominent performers.

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Sri Lanka’s leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga remained the most successful bowler with 36 wickets at an impressive economy rate of 5.44 in 20 matches.

Meanwhile, Proteas’ Tabraiz Shamsi also removed 36 batters at an economy rate of 5.72 in 22 matches, which made him the second-most successful bowler.

Mustafizur Rahman, Bangladesh’s premium fast-bowler, also played 20 games, where he sent 28 batters back to the dressing room, conceding runs at an economy rate of 7.

Pakistan ruled the battlegrounds in the shortest format of the game because their batting seemed invincible, particularly their opening pair.

The batting duo of Mohammad Rizwan and Babar Azam was almost flawless throughout the year. Rizwan scored 1,326 runs at an average of 73.66 with a strike rate of 134.89 in 26 fixtures, which made him the highest scorer of the year.

On the other hand, his batting partner, the ever-reliable Babar, put on 939 runs, maintaining an average of 37.56 with a strike rate of 127.58.

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This opening pair did not allow any other team to get even close to their side in this form of cricket.

New Zealand’s Martin Guptill, Australia’s Mitchell Marsh and England’s Jos Buttler made 678, 627 and 589 runs in 18, 20 and 14 innings, respectively. The numbers show Babar-Rizwan dominance with the bat.

Pakistan vs the rest

Shaheens had an underwhelming 2020. During the Covid-affected year, Pakistan played five Test matches and managed to win only one of them, drew two and lost three. Moreover, they only played three 50-over games, that too against Zimbabwe, and stood victorious in two of them, while tied one.

In the shortest format of the game, they won seven out of nine matches. However, it is important to mention here that of the nine contests, six were against Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and West Indies, while the other three were against New Zealand and South Africa.

Seeing the previous year’s performance, the local cricket fans were not excited about the upcoming assignments and they expected an ordinary year.

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However, what the Pakistan cricket team delivered was surprising, in a positive way, and overwhelming for the game enthusiasts.

Pakistan in whites

The Green Caps maintained their dominance in the five-day cricket and the numbers suggest exactly how they managed to do it.

Pakistan batters looked in sublime touch in Test cricket throughout the year. They scored at an average of 32.64, second-best in the world behind Australia’s average of 36.15.

Moreover, the Green Caps’ batters scored big as they piled on seven centuries and 19 half-centuries.

In the same format, Sri Lanka’s batters averaged 31.77, Bangladesh’s 30.7, New Zealand’s 29.15, India’s 28.93 and England’s batters only managed to maintain an average of 23.44.

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Moreover, Pakistan’s batting line was perfectly backed by the bowlers as well, which helped the team win seven out of nine contests.

Their bowlers picked 11 five-wickets and three 10-wicket hauls in 2021, a glimpse of their brilliance throughout the year.

The potent bowling attack took 153 wickets in nine Test matches at an average of 24.2, second to only South Africa’s outstanding average of 20.97 during that time. Moreover, Pakistan bowlers also hunted with the second-best strike rate during the year, 50.5, just behind South Africa’s 44.3.

Meanwhile, England and India, who played the most number of Test matches in the year, 14 and 13, respectively, maintained averages of 24.44 and 30, respectively, while their strike rates were 53.1 and 59.7.

Shaheen and Hasan played a significant role in handing Pakistan the success they had in red-ball cricket. The destructive duo of fast bowlers hunted 98 batters together. The performance just freshened up the memory of the legendary pair of Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, who hunted 97 batters together back in 1990.

Pakistan pacers have rattled through batting lines, taking 107 wickets of the total of 153 in nine Test matches in 804.2 overs. On the other hand, spinners had little to contribute as they dismissed 46 batters in the same number of matches with an average of 29.5 in 484.5 overs.

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Pakistan in ODIs

In the 50-over format, the 1992 Champions had a forgettable year. They played six games and lost four. The team did not do well in any aspect of the game, be it batting or bowling.

In the six contests, the batters scored with a modest average of only 28.94, better than just the likes of Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Australia, West Indies and Zimbabwe.

In fast-paced cricket, their batters could not keep up with the run rate and scored at 5.43 runs per over, fifth-best in the world.

They struck a boundary at every 11.4 deliveries and a six at 48.97. Though the runs per over and the frequency of scoring boundaries is not as bad, it is the consistency and average that cost the team.

The Asian Giants are known for their destructive bowling, however, this year, their biggest letdown in ODI cricket was their bowlers. The Men-in-Green maintained the worst bowling average among the Full Member Nations, which was 60.

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On the other hand, teams like Bangladesh, Ireland, South Africa, England and India, who played significant matches maintained averages of 26.81, 31.63, 35.48, 29.53 and 37.4, respectively, clearly shows where it all went wrong for the Men-in-Green in the 50-over format.

Similarly, their economy rate has also been on the expensive side. Pakistan bowlers conceded runs at an economy rate of 6.1, again the poorest among all. Ireland, Bangladesh and West Indies bowlers were the most economical ones with 4.76, 4.81 and 4.86 runs per over.

As long as the pacers are concerned, they took 32 wickets in the year at an average of 38.53; however, they proved to be expensive as they leaked runs at an economy rate of 6.29. Meanwhile, the slow bowlers took just seven wickets throughout the year, but they managed to contain the flow of runs as they had an economy rate of 5.68.

Pakistan in T20Is

Pakistan’s dominance in T20Is in 2021 was mainly due to their opening pair of Babar and Rizwan. Courtesy of the duo’s unreal performances throughout the year, the Men-in-Green’s batting average was elevated to 28.51, just behind India’s mighty batting lineup, who scored at an average of 29.76.

Moreover, due to consistent solid starts given by the openers, the Green Caps’ batters were able to score freely and maintained a healthy scoring rate of 7.87 per over in the 20-over format, only second to England’s 8.18 and Afghanistan’s 7.93.

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Once again, the influence of Rizwan and Babar was evident in Pakistan’s boundary scoring pattern. As the pair possess the conventional batting style, they are more capable of hitting fours than sixes.

Pakistan batters struck a four on an average of every 8.84 deliveries. The four per balls ratio was third-best in the world, while they hit a six on 20.86 deliveries, which is just better than South Africa, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Ireland.

On the other hand, Pakistan bowlers were quite ordinary in the format. They averaged 23.2, behind Afghanistan, Bangladesh, South Africa, New Zealand and England. Moreover, they conceded runs at an economy rate of 7.76, which is ridiculously high and is just better than the West Indies’ 8.07.

The pacers, in the likes of Shaheen, Hasan and Haris Rauf, were effective in taking wickets, but they were slightly expensive. The fast bowlers took 107 wickets at an average of 23.17, which was the third-best in the world behind Ireland and Bangladesh. However, Pakistan pacers conceded runs at an economy rate of 8.11, the fourth-worst in the world.

Moreover, spin bowlers took 67 wickets for the team at an average of 23.23 and leaked runs at an economy rate of 7.26., which was fifth and third-worst, respectively, in the world throughout the year.

If Pakistan want to do better in the future in the 20-over format, they need to end their over-reliance on their batting, especially on the pair of Rizwan and Babar. Moreover, their bowlers need to step up and take wickets and control the flow of runs.

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