It would be fair to say 2016 wasn’t the best of years for everyone. But on the cricket field at least there were plenty of highlights.
2017 Cricket Preview
There were more fireworks to come later in the year with, to name just a few highlights, a World T20 full of memorable moments, Bangladesh’s teenage off-spinner Mehedi Hasan spinning rings around England, and Middlesex winning their first County Championship title in 23 years in the most dramatic fashion.
So what does 2017 have in store for us? Here’s five things we can look forward to:
Kohli vs Kohli
Virat Kohli reigned supreme in 2016 as he racked up 2,595 international runs at an average of 86.50. This included seven centuries, three of which he converted into doubles.
He scored runs in Australia, the West Indies, and at home against New Zealand and England. He was the player of the tournament in the World T20 and his unbeaten 82 against Australia in Mohali is perhaps the finest T20 knock ever played.
Just for good measure he also obliterated the record for most runs in an IPL season as he scored 973 runs at an average of 81.08. This included four centuries – his first T20 tons.
So where can Kohli go from here? He is a fascinating batsman to watch as run-scoring for him always seems a means to an end. He wants to win every game he plays and 2017 offers him plenty of opportunities to further embellish his growing legend.
After a lengthy home ODI series against England and a Test series against Australia comes the opportunity for silverware. Firstly, it will be the IPL where Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore have yet to lift the trophy despite reaching the final three times. It is a record he will be determined to put straight.
After that comes the Champions Trophy in England where India are the defending champions. Kohli top-scored in the 2013 final and will have to step up again if India are to successfully defend their title.
The end of 2017 then sees India depart for a tough tour of South Africa. Kohli averages 68 from his two Tests there but he (and the rest of the Indian line-up) will be severely tested against the likes of Kagiso Rabada, Vernon Philander, and (if fit) Dale Steyn. Kohli’s captaincy will also be tested in conditions which are unlikely to be conducive to spin.
The World Cup Warm-Up (also known as the Champions Trophy)
The 2013 Champions Trophy was supposed to be the final one. The plan being to replace it with a Test World Championship starting in England in 2017.
With the ICC not able to get their act together, the Test World Championship has moved to the back-burner and the Champions Trophy has been brought back from the dead. And it will serve as an early indication of where teams are ahead of the 2019 World Cup, which will also be held in England and Wales.
With 15 matches being played in 18 days, the tournament will not suffer from fatigue in the same way the 2015 World Cup did owing to 49 matches being played over six weeks.
And with England’s ODI form being transformed after a shambolic performance in that World Cup we could yet see England lift their long-awaited maiden ODI trophy.
Marlon Samuels vs Ben Stokes
The West Indies will tour England in August/September for three Tests, five ODIs and one T20. In all honesty though anything less than a Test whitewash for the visiting side will be a big surprise.
We will therefore have to look to sub-plots to keep us entertained and they don’t get much juicier than the tempestuous relationship between Marlon Samuels and Ben Stokes.
The pair have clashed a number of times down the years following Samuels saluting Stokes after he was dismissed in Grenada. Tensions were further stoked following the World T20 final when, after a man of the match performance, Samuels called Stokes a “nervous laddie” in his post-match press conference. The Durham all-rounder responded in his autobiography by saying Samuels “lacks respect”.
If Samuels is picked by the West Indies – he was dropped for their recent ODI series in Zimbabwe – then expect some fireworks and a fair few mentions of a certain last over in Kolkata.
Women’s World Cup
Australia will start their World Cup defence as hot favourites. They won the Women’s Championship with ease to qualify for the World Cup. They have two of the outstanding talents in the women’s game in Meg Lanning and Ellyse Perry. And they are the top ranked team in the world.
However, last year’s World T20 showed that there was hope for other teams. The West Indies won that tournament with teenage sensation Hayley Matthews hitting 66 in the final as they won their first world title.
The West Indies will again be in contention with the talents of Matthews accompanied by the likes of Stefanie Taylor and Deandra Dottin.
Elsewhere New Zealand’s efforts will be spearheaded by 2016’s ODI and T20I Player of the Year Suzie Bates who gained plenty of experience in English conditions during her stint in the inaugural Kia Super League.
England meanwhile will be aiming to take advantage of being at home and will be looking towards their exciting opening combination of Tammy Beaumont and Lauren Winfield.
No team has successfully defended the World Cup since the 1980s and a number of teams will be confident of lifting the trophy at Lord’s on 23 July.
Just in case you weren’t aware, the Ashes are again up for grabs this winter. It is the 70th series between the fierce rivals and remarkably both teams have won 32, lost 32 and drawn 5 of the previous 69 contests.
The series is, of course, steeped in history, but with an eye to the future the Adelaide Oval will host the first day/night Ashes match.
Since Australia’s 16-year hold on the urn came to an end in 2005, the Ashes has been dominated by the home side with only England bucking the trend in winning 3-1 down under in 2010-11.
However with Australia in a state of flux and not looking as dominant at home as they are used to being, England will be optimistic of retaining the urn.
It promises to be a fascinating contest with several match-ups to whet the appetite including Joe Root vs Mitchell Starc, Steve Smith vs Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson, and of course David Warner vs Joe Root.