Sunday, 1 January 2017

Nine predictions for 2017

The first international century of the years is scored by Hashim Amla
This one will be proved or disproved very quickly. Amla had two underwhelming years and is in a poor run of form, but his class is permanent, and the changing of the calendars frees him up to caress his way to a near run a ball hundred shortly after lunch on the first day of South Africa’s series

Alastair Cook will resign in tears after South Africa beat England
This is my most nailed on prediction. Cook has one foot out of the captaincy, but the long gap before the next set of Test matches against South Africa will convince him to try to continue until after the Ashes; though South Africa will have a different view of that. Tradition dictates that he’ll resign in a tearful press conference after South Africa have clinched the series (2-1, after a win in the last Test at Old Trafford, if you’re asking)

The India v Pakistan series in the Future Tours Programme will not happen
Ok, this is the most nailed on prediction. India and Pakistan haven’t played a bilateral series since early 2013 (ODIs, and T20s) and haven’t played a Test since 2007. The FTP has India scheduled to host Pakistan for a full tour in November and December, but India are already seemingly arranging a tour of South Africa in that time. Of course, India did sign a deal guaranteeing six series between the countries, between 2015 and 2023 - pending government approval - but that has turned out to be not worth the paper it’s written on.

England will lose in the final of the Champions Trophy and Eoin Morgan will resign as captain before he’s pushed
England storm through the group stages with three wins, including a thumping one over Australia. After winning a tight semi-final against South Africa, they come up against Australia again in the final, where a tight chase of 281 comes down to the final ball, with Eoin Morgan at the crease and four to win. Morgan swings and misses, Australia win yet another ICC ODI tournament, and Morgan never plays for England again.

Adil Rashid makes the England spinners job his own
This one is a bit of wishful thinking, but bear with me. England will find a spinning pitch at Old Trafford in the last Test of the series, and pick the extra spinner in Rashid. In a losing cause, he takes twin four-fers as Moeen Ali continues a series of struggle with the ball. As England take on West Indies at Edgbaston in a day night Test next up, Rashid is retained, and continues to chip in with wickets and ever improving control, and Moeen Ali gets to focus on his batting. Rashid goes to Australia the number one spinner and alternates Tests of struggle with match-winning performances at Adelaide and Melbourne as he finds the big grounds of Australia to his liking.

Kraigg Brathwaite dominates West Indies’ tour of England
After Alastair Cook resigns the England captaincy, Joe Root’s first job is a home series against the West Indies. On dry end of season wickets, the pace bowlers run themselves into the ground trying to get rid of Kraigg Brathwaite, who makes a double hundred at Edgbaston, a century at Headingley and a brave fourth innings 99 in defeat at Lords. He fails to get on the honours board this time, but even as West Indies struggle for incision with the ball, he forms the spine of their batting.

AB de Villiers, Misbah ul Haq, Dale Steyn, and Rangana Herath retire from Test cricket
Two of these are expected. Misbah looked a beaten man after Pakistan capitulated at the MCG, and although he’s confirmed he will captain the New Year Test at the SCG, few doubt that whatever the result, the retirement announcement will come shortly afterwards. Rangana Herath has two bad knees and six months before Sri Lanka play again, expect him to bow out after Sri Lanka’s tour of South Africa ends. Alternatively, it is possible he may play on to try to provide a fitting end in beating India at home in July and August. De Villiers and Steyn’s retirements will be a shock to all, both taking the injury induced option of curtailing their Test careers to make it to the 2019 World Cup, with the knowledge that the likes of Kagiso Rabada and Temba Bavuma leave South Africa with a strong future in which they are no longer as crucial as they used to be.

Bangladesh will achieve their first significant overseas Test win
According to the FTP, Bangladesh have two Test series’ arranged against Australia and South Africa later in the year. More concretely, they are currently in New Zealand, with two Tests to come there, and will tour India for one Test in February. Maybe India underestimate them, maybe Taskin and Mustafizur find the Australian or South African pitches to their liking, or maybe they are just better than New Zealand right now. Whichever way it comes, I see another breakthrough win on the horizon.

The year ends with an Ashes series locked at 2-2
England are an improving side, or a side in transition, or a good flawed team. Ditto for Australia. Two good but not great teams will face up in what will be similar to the 2009 and 2013 Ashes series’, exciting cricket, not always of the greatest quality. Australia will get their wins at the Gabbatoir and Perth, England will fight back at Adelaide and Melbourne. Ben Stokes will score one very quick century, Mitchell Starc will briefly bring back repressed memories of another Mitch at Perth. The series will be on a knife edge as we tumble into 2018.

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