Act Eleven – Test cricket witnessing an Asian resurgence

Well Ankit, it seems virtually impossible for Donald Trump to wrestle back the advantage from Hillary Clinton in the race to become the next President of the United States. As you rightly pointed out, Trump’s toxic rhetoric and incoherent policy initiatives have resulted in a major backlash from key GOP donors.

Speaking of wrestling back the initiative, the past two weeks have been incredible for test cricket playing nations in Asia. India took an unassailable 2-0 lead against the West Indies. Pakistan registered an emphatic win in the final test against England at the Oval to level the series at 2-2. And, Sri Lanka completed a 3-0 whitewash against Australia after winning the third and final test in Colombo.

Sri Lanka sweep aside hapless Aussies

Dark clouds hovered over Sri Lankan cricket on the eve of their three match test series against the number one test side in the world. It is well known that the Australians have traditionally struggled against Asian opposition in sub-continent conditions. However, they must have been quietly confident of overcoming the challenge of an inexperienced Sri Lankan side still reeling from the twin retirements of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. The departure of these two stalwarts of Sri Lankan cricket left a massive void in their batting lineup. It is also worth noting that, before the series began, Sri Lanka hadn’t won a single test match against the Aussies since 1999.

When Australia bowled out the hosts for a paltry total of 117 in the first innings of the opening test in Pallekele, it seemed as if the same trend would continue. However, a stunning 176 by the effervescent Kusal Mendis in the second innings turned the match on its head. Sri Lanka would eventually go on to register a 106 run victory over the erstwhile number one test team in the world.

Perhaps what made this success all the sweeter was the fact that it was accomplished on the back some excellent displays by its newer, younger breed of cricketers. Whether it is mystery spinner Lakshan Sandakan’s 7-wicket cameo in the opening test or Dhananjay de Silva’s match saving 129 run knock in the final test, Sri Lankan youngsters really made a name for themselves in the series. Sri Lanka’s grit and determination was personified by wicket keeper Kaushal Silva’s spirited century in the third test despite having six stitches in his hand.

However, the real force behind Sri Lanka’s 3-0 demolition drive was their majestic grey-haired spin doctor – Rangana Herath. The 38 year old left arm spinner bamboozled the Australian batsmen into submission with his trickery on the way towards picking up 28 wickets in the test series and scooping up the man of the series award for his efforts.

India overpower the Windies to seal series win

While many expected the Indians to overcome the challenge of a second string West Indian side, the series win still ranks as a worthy achievement for a team that has traditionally struggled to win test matches overseas. It is also the first time ever that an Indian team has won more than one test match against the West Indies on their soil.

The Indian batting lineup has been in dominant form all throughout the series. Impressive batting displays by Virat Kohli, KL Rahul, Ajinkya Rahane and Wriddhiman Saha consistently put India in the driving seat. Furthermore, Ravichandran Ashwin’s brilliant all round performances further solidified India’s dominance over a woefully inexperienced West Indies side.

However, notwithstanding the spectacular series winning efforts of India and Sri Lanka, Pakistan’s 2-2 draw with England was perhaps the most impressive achievement of the lot.

Pakistan banish past demons to level series

After winning the opening test at Lords, Pakistan went on to lose the next two matches in Manchester and Edgbaston. However, powered by Younis Khan’s scintillating 218 run knock in the first innings, Pakistan thumped England by 10 wickets in the final test at the Oval en route to levelling the series at 2-2. Asad Shafiq, Azhar Ali and Misbah ul-Haq also played important knocks during the course of the series.

Pakistan leggie Yasir Shah’s exploits during the 4 match test series pretty much epitomized his side’s fortunes in England. After picking up 10 wickets in the first test to set up Pakistan’s win at Lords, Shah went on to claim a combined total of 3 scalps in the next two matches. However, Shah bounced back spectacularly in the 2nd innings of the final test – picking up 5 wickets to inspire his side to a well deserved win over Alistair Cook’s men.

The last time Pakistan managed to avoid a series loss in England was in 2001. Their last two tours to England in 2006 and 2010 were marred by allegations of ball tampering and spot fixing.

Forced to play all their home matches in the UAE following the terror attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in 2009, a number one test ranking would be a monumental achievement for the Pakistan cricket team. “Sometimes people think it’s really easy for us playing in the UAE. They think the wickets suit us and we win there”, remarked Pakistan captain Misbah ul-Haq after his side’s win over England in the final test match at the Oval. “But just living every day away from your country, without your family and friends, and playing every game away from Pakistan, is really difficult. It’s mentally tough.”

In the years gone by, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have struggled to cement their position in the upper tiers of ICC’s test rankings table. However, the events of the past six weeks have gone a long way towards rectifying their collective deficiencies. Test cricket may indeed be in midst of witnessing an Asian resurgence.

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