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Global action a delight

Posted in World Cricket

Vernon Philander

Vernon Philander enjoyed a dream Test debut as South Africa skittled Australia for 47 in Cape Town yesterday

After the English domestic and international calendars reached their conclusions, you could be forgiven for thinking that was the end of cricket for another year.

However, anyone suffering withdrawal symptoms can be comforted by the fact there is still an array of top-class action being played during the winter months.

With England, the number-one ranked Test and Twenty20 team, not scheduled to compete again until the New Year, their rivals have been given an opportunity to showcase their talents.

And that is exactly what they have done. Whether it has been South Africa against Australia, India hosting West Indies, Zimbabwe taking on New Zealand or Sri Lanka and Pakistan fighting it out in the United Arab Emirates, the entertainment on show has been gripping so far, even as a neutral.

The Proteas started their quest to close the gap on England at the top of the International Cricket Council Test rankings in emphatic fashion with a pulsating eight-wicket victory over Michael Clarke’s side in Cape Town.

Australia, who secured a 2-1 victory in the preceding one-day series, seemed to be in control after bowling their hosts out for just 96, securing a first-innings lead of 188 following Clarke’s fantastic 151 from 176 deliveries.

With a lead of that magnitude, some would say it was game over. But Graeme Smith’s fired-up outfit thought otherwise and there followed an unbelievable chain of events that kept fans all over the world on the edge of their seats.

Debutant Vernon Philander ripped through the tourists at will, taking 5-15 from seven overs, and Australia looked to be on the verge of posting the lowest Test total of all time as they slumped to a scarcely-believable 21 for nine.

Only a 10th-wicket stand of 26 from determined duo Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon saw them pass the embarrassing milestone, with their total of 47 leaving South Africa 236 for victory.

Despite the early loss of Jacques Rudolph, playing in his first Test for over five years, Smith and Hashim Amla each scored centuries to ease their side to victory inside three days and brush aside any concerns about the much-publicised pitch that had raised eyebrows following the spectacular events on day two.

Considering the excitement provided by the opening Test, it is a crying shame the series only has one more five-day match to offer.

Pakistan continued their revival under the captaincy of Misbah-ul-Haq with an intriguing 1-0 victory over Sri Lanka.

Kumar Sangakkara

Sri Lanka suffered a 1-0 series defeat against Pakistan, yet the evergreen Kumar Sangakkara was undoubtedly the outstanding performer on either side, scoring 516 runs at an average of 86

Batsmen from both sides cashed in on a series of docile wickets, with four centuries and two double centuries, both of which came in the first match, being scored in the three Tests.

Kumar Sangakkara once again held things together for Sri Lanka, scoring 211 and 144 respectively in the first and final Tests, while Pakistan opener Taufeeq Umar compiled a personal-best 236.

India, looking to bounce back in the premier form of the game after their 4-0 drubbing in England, won their first match in seven, beating West Indies by five wickets.

In another enthralling match that swayed both ways, India looked to be on the back foot after conceding a 95-run first innings lead. But the hosts’ class shone through and they reminded the English faithful what they were missing during the summer, with spinner Ravichandran Ashwin claiming 6-47 to leave Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s side 276 to win.

In a fine exhibition of how to chase down a tricky total, the experienced trio of Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, still searching for his 100th international century, and VVS Laxman all struck half-centuries to guide India over the line.

Zimbabwe continue to excite and impress following their return to Test cricket and pushed New Zealand all the way, eventually losing by just 34 runs in a one-off Test in Bulawayo.

Chasing 365 for victory, the youthful Zimbabweans were never overawed and Brendan Taylor continued his remarkable form with a century to edge his side closer to their target.

The captain has recently accumulated scores of 50, 75, 107 not out, 128 not out, one and 50 not out to highlight his importance to the progress of Zimbabwe cricket.

Despite Taylor’s stubborn resilience, Doug Bracewell, who took 5-85 on Test debut, and the experienced Daniel Vettori shared eight wickets to help the Kiwis nervously edge home.

With all this in mind, I have a message to all the people down in the dumps after English cricket signed off for the year.

Take note of what is happening around the world. You will not be disappointed!