A happy new year to you all from The Cricket Blog! There’s plenty to look forward to, not least in the form a World Cup and an Ashes series. There will, of course, be plenty more besides. 2014 was another enthralling year of cricket, so we shall start the New Year by looking back over the last and selecting our Team of the year.
As well as some fantastic cricket, 2014 also gave us one of the darkest hours in cricket’s history with the passing of Phil Hughes, the Australian batsman. The events around that have been well documented and also brought about a remarkable outpouring of grief on a global level. There will never be another 408 in baggy green. Hughes will never be forgotten.
As usual this is based upon events from the Test arena and we will kick off with our Team of the year which is Australia. They kicked off 2014 by wrapping up a 5-0 Ashes whitewash of England before setting sail for South Africa and another hugely impressive series win, this time 2-1, to reclaim the number on spot in the ICC Test rankings.
Player of the year was a very tough choice this year, with no one really standing head and shoulders above the rest. It was a good year for Sri Lanka, with Kumar Sangakkara outscoring he rest and Rangana Herath taking the most wickets. Brendon McCullum led New Zealand to their most successful year in Test cricket and Angelo Mathews led Sri Lanka with aplomb, not to mention the rise of Steve Smith for Australia.
If 2014 was to be his final full year in international cricket, however, Kumar Sangakkara has left us all with some great memories. No one scored more runs in Tests and, including all three formats, this was the most prolific year in the history of international cricket. To say that he will be missed by Sri Lanka is the biggest of understatements. He must be sorely tempted by the prospect of another year. Go on Kumar, you’d be missed by us all!
For our Performance of the year, we could not look beyond the majesty of Angelo Mathews’ 160 at Headingley, an innings which laid the foundation for a Test and series win by Sri Lanka, in England. Bar a one-off Test in 1998 – Muttiah Muralitharan inspired Sri Lanka to victory – this was Sri Lanka’s first series win in England and owed much to the performance of their skipper. As if the runs were not enough, he also took 4/44 with the ball in England’s first innings as Sri Lanka surrendered a 108 run first innings deficit. He limited the initial damage then inflicted fatal damage himself. It was a performance that should live long in the Sri Lankan memory.
This brings us onto our best XI from 2014. Unusually, there was not an awful lot of debating to be done and the stand out performers picked themselves, particularly in the bowling department. As always, however, we welcome and argument/debate about such matters, so please feel free to get involved at the bottom of the page!
David Warner 1136 runs @ 63.11 six centuries HS 145
He retains his spot in our XI from 2013 in convincing style. He attacks from ball one and an hour of Warner is enough to drive the opposition to distraction – he scored his runs in 2014 at a rollicking rate of 81.90 runs per hundred balls faced. He’s a left handed Virender Sehwag, there is no higher compliment to pay the man. He is not to everyone’s taste, however, with his suspect facial hair and aggressive demeanour, but there is no better opener in world cricket right now.
Brendon McCullum 1164 runs @ 72.75 four centuries HS 302
He does not always open, but the prospect of Warner and McCullum in tandem with what is to follow was too tempting not to put down on paper. McCullum became the first Kiwi to register a triple ton, against India, then added a double against Pakistan later in the year. He registered no scores of 50 – every time he got to 50, he turned it into three figures. He also skippered New Zealand’s most successful year in Test cricket.
Kumar Sangakkara 1493 runs @ 71.09 four centuries HS 319
No one scored more runs than Sangakkara in 2014. Across all three formats, no one in the history of the game has scored more international runs in a calendar year. As well as four Test tons, he registered nine half centuries – more often than not, Sangakkara got going. It is no wonder that the Sri Lankan cricket board is so desperate for him not to retire from international cricket next year.
Younis Khan 1213 runs @ 71.35 six centuries HS 213
Another elder statesman of the sport at the tail end of his career, Khan was in fine fettle in 2014, largely by way of an angry response to his cricket board for dropping him from the ODI side. In Pakistan’s successful 2-0 whitewash of Australia in October he scored 468 runs, including three centuries, at 156.00. It was the purple patch of the year, if not the decade.
Steve Smith 1146 runs @ 81.85 five centuries HS 192
It was a real coming of age year for Smith, a player we have long tipped for great things on the international stage. He has developed into a middle order batsman of real substance and variety; he has scored runs when Australia have been in a hole and he has scored runs when they have been looking to dominate. That he finished the year as Australia captain in the absence of the injured Michael Clarke speaks volumes for his development as a leader, too. He has cemented his place as a fixture in the Australia side for years to come.
Angelo Mathews 1317 runs @ 87.80 three centuries HS 160
We have covered his 160 already, but Mathews has really blossomed as a leader for Sri Lanka in 2014. He was looking like something of a bits and pieces all-rounder until last year, but he really led the way with the bat and chipped in with the odd wicket, too. With Mahela Jayawardene having called time on his international career and Sangakkara looking likely to follow suit, it will be a tough period for Sri Lanka after the world cup, but in Mathews they at least appear to have the right man at the helm, a hero in waiting.
AB de Villiers 631 runs @ 48.53 13 catches as wicket keeper
The selection of de Villiers here is something of an indulgence. This was the only hotly debated position in the XI. There were better wicket keepers out there and better batsmen as well, but is there a better all-rounder in this regard? The prospect of de Villiers coming in at seven really bolsters this fictional XI and you could always have a quiet word with McCullum or Sangakkara to take the gloves for a bit, too.
Mitchell Johnson 47 wickets @ 23.27
From bullying England, Johnson went over to South Africa and bullied the number one team in the world with 22 wickets at 17. He may have struggled on the slower surfaces of the UAE, but he got back to something approaching his best against India. He has spearheaded Australia’s revival as a force in Test cricket and strikes fear into opposition batsmen, particularly tail enders – a very useful attribute at a time when tail end runs have been on the rise. You won’t find many lingering last wicket stands with Johnson about.
James Anderson 40 wickets @ 22.15
After a poor Ashes series, Anderson found some home comforts against Sri Lanka and India with 22 wickets at 20 against the latter. He reduced the Indians to rubble at times, witness their dramatic collapse to be 8/4 at Old Trafford. He also found time for some runs, 81 against India at Trent Bridge, although the Headingly Test ended in despair, with Anderson being the last man out in the final over of the day to hand Sri Lanka victory.
Dale Steyn 39 wickets @ 19.56
The undisputed king of fast bowling, he hass never failed to make our team of the year! There is not a lot left to say about Steyn, accept that you should enjoy him whilst he is here. As he edges into his 30s, it seems decreasingly plausible that he will be able to play in every game for South Africa, nor that he will carry the same threat.
Rangana Herath 60 wickets @ 27.45
Herath has emerged from Muralitharan’s shadow and currently stands as the premier slow bowler in the world. No one came close to his tally of Test wickets in 2014 and as some of his more illustrious counterparts fell foul of the ICC testers, Herath’s arm remained straight and true. It was a busy year, though; Herath’s 610.2 overs bowled dwarfed everyone else, with fellow spinner Nathan Lyon coming second in that tally with 404.5 overs bowled. At 36, however, this only serves as testament to Herath’s stamina and importance to the Sri Lankan XI.
Agree with all of those? We only doubted the inclusion of AB de Villiers, the temptation being to pass the gloves to McCullum or Sangakkara and bring in a genuine all-rounder. The problem with that plan was that there was only one that stood out – Shakib Al Hasan. He claimed 27 wickets at 26.51 and notched 424 runs at 47.11 from his five Tests. Three of those were against Zimbabwe. We think that AB would be better served as a specialist gloveman in this line up.
The XI also has four front line bowlers plus Mathews. If you were really short, Smith could send down a few overs as well.
The selection of the bowlers was incredibly clear cut. The only one who can really consider himself unlucky is Ryan Harris, who took 26 wickets at 22.42, including a series winning spell for Australia against South Africa in Cape Town. His creaking body just did not allow him to take a full part in the year, though.
In the batting department there were a few more who put their hands up. Mahela Jayawardene, 1003 runs at 55.72 was the only other to pass 1000 runs for the year in his final year in Test cricket. He will be missed by us all.
Misbah-ul-Haq, 882 runs at 63.00 included the joint fasted hundred in Test history, from just 57 balls, against Australia. He has been the glue that has held Pakistan cricket together these past two years. Joe Root (777 runs at 97.12) and Gary Ballance (729 runs at 60.75) enjoyed stellar years for England, both cementing their places in that XI. Kraigg Brathwaite, the young West Indian opener, also underlined his promise with 701 runs at 77.88.
From 2013’s Team of the year http://www.thecricketblog.com/team-of-the-year-2013/ there are a number of changes here. Graeme Smith departed due to retirement, whilst Cheteshwar Pujara, Michael Clarke, Ian Bell, Ross Taylor, R Ashwin and Stuart Broad were not even considered for re-selection based upon form alone. We also tipped at this stage last year that Virat Kohli would feature in our 2014 team. Whilst he ended the year in blockbuster fashion Down Under, he experienced a wretched tour of England that left him well short of the world elite for the year.
By Miles Reucroft