In a scintillating, see-sawing Test match at Bangalore, two top sides showed why Test cricket is here to stay. Meanwhile, Sri Lanka held fort well against a new-wave Bangladesh while the South Africa vs New Zealand Test match was hanging in the balance by stumps on Day 4.
Good matches, all of them. That is why all our cricketers of the week are from these games.
There have been phenomenal performances, quite a few, and hence some good ones missed out. Joe Root’s back-to-back influential innings in West Indies, Alex Hales’ comeback century against West Indies in the third ODI and centuries by Upul Tharanga and Kusal Mendis for Sri Lanka against Bangladesh in a home Test miss out despite being of high-quality.
Boult misses out as well despite an excellent spell against South Africa.
Here are the top 5 cricketers of the week, keeping in mind, the conditions, opposition and match situation.
#1 Dean Elgar (South Africa)
In the first Test between South Africa and New Zealand at Dunedin, Elgar rescued the Proteas with a resilient 140 after SA were reduced to 22 for 3 in 19 overs. Elgar then added 126 with his skipper Faf du Plessis (52) and another 104 with Temba Bavuma (64).
His dismissal resulted in a South African collapse as they went from 252 for 4 to 308 all out, courtesy Boult, who returned figures of 4/64 in the innings. Elgar’s hard work was far from being done. In the second innings, having conceded a lead of 33 to New Zealand, South Africa started poorly again losing opener Stephen Cook in the first over.
Elgar then scored a gritty 89 off 249 balls as South Africa battled out 102 overs to score 224 for 6 by Stumps on Day 4.
New Zealand could still win this Test if they skittle out South Africa early on Day 5 but that also opens up the possibility of SA winning the Test by bundling out NZ on a Day 5 pitch. One way or the other, SA are still in it thanks to Elgar.
#2 Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin (India)
India’s spin twins are jointly ranked No.1 on the ICC Test bowling rankings thanks to their consistent efforts over the last 12 months. It was Jadeja who saved India with his impeccable bowling in Australia’s first innings during the second Test at Bengaluru.
After India were all out for just 189, Jadeja prevented Australia from getting away with a big lead with figures of 6/63. The visitors still managed a lead of 87 but that could’ve been much bigger if Jadeja had not picked the massive wickets of Matt Renshaw, Steve Smith and Peter Handscomb, before cleaning up the tail.
Australia still amassed 276 but India’s second innings batting efforts meant they had exactly 187 to defend.
In the second innings, it was Ashwin who ran through the Australian batting line-up. Ashwin returned figures of 6/41 wrecking the Australian middle order. India won handsomely by 75 runs which was a huge margin for a low-scoring game.
Ashwin also picked up a couple of wickets in the first innings. This was the off-spinner’s 25th five-wicket haul and in the process, he became the fastest bowler to the landmark eclipsing the record set by Richard Hadlee by a huge margin.
#3 Kane Williamson (New Zealand)
New Zealand skipper played a brilliant knock, holding together the innings during tricky times. Williamson scored a 241-ball 130 adding 102 for the second wicket with Jeet Raval. New Zealand were in some trouble at 193 for 5 and Ross Taylor had retired hurt. But, the skipper added an impressive 84 runs for the sixth wicket with wicket-keeper BJ Watling who scored a half-century.
Williamson’s knock was the backbone for a New Zealand score that crossed 300 and gained a 33-run lead. Not only did that help New Zealand stave away a powerful South Africa side until day 4 but also gave them a genuine chance of winning the game.
Williamson’s knock was contextually even more important considering it was the first Test of the series and the home team was under pressure, given SA’s away record. The second highest knock in the New Zealand innings was Raval’s 52.
#4 Cheteshwar Pujara (India)
India were facing a deficit of 87 after both teams completed their first innings in the second Test at Bengaluru. In the second innings, India were still trailing on a tough track at 39 for 1 when Pujara walked in. The hosts were then in a spot of bother against 120 for 4 when Australia snaffled the prized wicket of Kohli and sent Jadeja packing soon after.
Pujara added 118 for the fifth wicket with Ajinkya Rahane, the first century-partnership of the series. In the process, the two batsmen played out the first wicket-less session of the series as well. Eventually, Pujara scored 92 in 221 balls, the highest individual innings of the match.
Those runs were gold dust as India managed to set a competitive target against Australia despite the new ball storm that saw them collapse from 238 for 4 to 274 all out.
#5 Josh Hazlewood (Australia)
With McGrath-like efficiency, Hazlewood kept Australia in the game by picking up six wickets in the second innings on a pitch that had variable pace and bounce. Hazlewood cleaned up India’s middle-order included the big fish, Virat Kohli.
With the new ball on Day 4, he got Pujara with a rip-snorter. Eventually, Hazlewood’s figures of 6/67 were a testimony of an immaculate line and length. The right-hander helped keep the target below 200, an achievable one, although India’s bowling coupled with the pitch conditions made it an impossible one.