India clinched their ninth successive Test series win – equalling Australia’s all-time record – after the drawn third and final match against Sri Lanka in New Delhi on Wednesday.
AFP Sport highlights five talking points from the three-match series.
SMOGGY HORROR SHOW
Sri Lankan players wore face masks to combat severe pollution during the smog-shrouded five-day game, which saw fast bowlers Suranga Lakmal and Mohammed Shami vomiting on the ground, apparently after inhaling the noxious air.
Doctors slammed cricket authorities for putting players’ health at risk, and although play was halted for about 20 minutes on day two, the game resumed.
The fiasco could prove to be a death knell for Delhi as a Test venue at least during winter, when the capital’s air pollution is at its worst.
MORE RECORDS FOR KING KOHLI
Man of the series Virat Kohli plundered runs and records in all three matches. Nicknamed King Kohli, the prolific batsman is in the form of his life, hitting two double centuries in the series including a career-best 243 in Delhi.
He became the first player to score six Test double tons as captain, surpassing West Indies great Brian Lara. Accumulating 610 runs in three matches at an average of 152.50, Kohli said “self-belief” had been key to his success.
“It was a kind of a revelation that I can play in Tests the way I can do in ODIs… if you can believe in yourself, you can achieve anything in any format,” he said.
— ICC (@ICC) December 7, 2017
INDIA TARGET PERFECT 10
India appear well-equipped to chase a record 10th successive Test series triumph during their South Africa tour starting January – particularly given the strong form of their fast bowlers.
While spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja topped the bowling charts in the Sri Lanka series, pacemen Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma were lauded for their performances on a lifeless Delhi pitch.
Earlier Bhuvneshwar Kumar claimed eight wickets in the opener in Kolkata. “Shami and Ishant’s (bowling) rhythm was excellent and they were a revelation,” said India’s bowling coach Bharat Arun.
SRI LANKA CHAOS CONTINUES
A selection drama back home even while the Delhi Test was still in progress highlighted the chaos gripping Sri Lankan cricket.
The island’s sports minister stopped nine cricketers from flying out to India to take part in the upcoming one-day series – Dayasiri Jayasekera, who once called the Sri Lankan players fat following failed fitness tests, was apparently unhappy with the choice of the team.
Thisara Perera’s side was finally cleared to travel.
BITTERSEET FOR CHANDIMAL
Test skipper Dinesh Chandimal rounded off his series with a century in Delhi – but immediately learned he will play no part in the one-day matches.
Chandimal himself put on a brave face, saying: “I got enough matches in ODIs against Pakistan and I didn’t perform well … This period (outside the team) I will use to become a good ODI player.”
But for many others the omission simply proved he is the latest victim of whimsical changes intended to rejuvenate the team’s dipping limited-overs fortunes.
Provided by AFP Sport
India won a record ninth Test series in succession on Wednesday after drawing the pollution-tainted third and final Test with Sri Lanka in New Delhi.
Top-ranked India won the series 1-0 to equal Australia’s record of nine successive Test series victories, between 2005-2008.
The first Test between India and Sri Lanka in Kolkata had ended in a draw and the hosts won the second game by an innings and 239 runs.
But Sri Lanka salvaged some pride in the final match thanks to Dhananjaya de Silva and Roshen Silva, who defied the odds and held out for a draw.
The Test at the Feroz Shah Kotla ground was marred by severe pollution, with fast bowlers from both sides vomiting Tuesday amid thick smog.
In an unprecedented move, Sri Lankan players wore facemasks while fielding to combat the toxic air, which interrupted play on day two as the visitors protested the choking conditions.
“It was a tough time. The thing is, in Sri Lanka we are not used that, so that’s why we struggled (on) the first two days,” said Sri Lankan captain Dinesh Chandimal.
“But after that we needed to continue the game. We told the boys we have to forget about that and we need to play the game.
“Today is a fantastic day. It feels like Sri Lanka,” quipped the captain, referring to the less smoggy weather Wednesday.
The US embassy website on Wednesday showed concentrations of the smallest and most harmful airborne pollutants hit 234, better than a day earlier but still nearly nine times the World Health Organization’s safe limit.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India has said Delhi could be dropped as a venue during winter when pollution spikes.
Dhananjaya, who retired hurt on 119 due to muscle stiffness, and Roshen (74 not out) held Sri Lanka steady over three sessions of play on the final day, after the visitors were set a huge 410 victory target late on day four.
Roshen was batting alongside Niroshan Dickwella on 44 when the two teams decided to shake hands with just seven mandatory overs left for the day.
Spinner Ravindra Jadeja rattled the Sri Lankan top order with three strikes, including Angelo Mathews’ key wicket in the morning session.
But De Silva thwarted a persistent Indian attack with his third Test hundred.
He built crucial partnerships with Chandimal (36) and then with Silva, who had begun his Test career with a duck in the first innings.
Silva also combined with Dickwella in an unbeaten 94-run stand.
Indian skipper Virat Kohli praised the Sri Lankan batsman for digging their heels in on a wearing pitch.
“Always when you’re not able to finish the game off in the second innings, especially when you had them three down yesterday, feels a bit of (a) disappointment, but I wouldn’t say it’s a very bad feeling,” he said.
“They played well, firstly, credit to them. They really stuck it out. Their batsmen really applied themselves, showed composure and confidence and didn’t give our bowlers anything throughout the day.”
Kohli was named man of the series for his prolific performances including two double centuries.
It’s hard to believe that Rashid Khan only made his international debut as a 17-year-old teenager two years ago but his sheer potential has already got people discussing how great he could be.
Ever since donning the Afghanistan national colours for the first time in the 58-run ODI victory over Zimbabwe in October 2015, the only way has been up and his journey has been nothing short than a fairytale story.
A young man whose road began by playing tennis ball cricket in the streets of Nagrahar province of Afghanistan, Rashid has now emerged as the face of the national team.
Not bad for someone who is just 19.
From the outset, it would have seemed hard to top his 2016 season – which yielded 45 international wickets across ODI and T20 formats – but he has improved greatly this year.
The first chapter came in February during the IPL auction when Sunrisers Hyderabad splashed out Rs 4 crores to bring in the most-sought Associate nation cricketer.
When his biggest stage came in April, he didn’t disappoint. In fact, he could not have started the T20 league any better considering he took two wickets in the 35-run victory over Royal Challengers Bangalore on the opening day.
Mandeep Singh and Travis Head were the unlucky victims on that evening and by the time Rashid flew back from India at the end of the tournament, big names Brendon McCullum, Suresh Raina and Aaron Finch were among his 17 scalps from 14 matches.
But that was just the start of things to come with Guyana Amazon Warriors splashing out $60,000 for his services in the Caribbean Premier League (CPL)
Again he enhanced his reputation as one of the world’s best when he put himself into the record books by becoming the first bowler to take a hat-trick in the victory over defending champions Jamaica Tallawahs.
By that time, Rashid had already been labelled the ‘million dollar baby’ by his international team-mates and those dollars will certainly keep rolling in over the next three months considering Quetta Gladiators and Adelaide Strikers have snapped him up for their respective Pakistan Super League and Big Bash League campaigns.
In between his T20 league stints, Rashid has continued to excel for his country. His first T20 five-wicket haul (5-3) came against Ireland in March this year, which is the joint fourth-best in T20 internationals.
Another highlight came against West Indies in the 63-run victory at Gros Islet where he ripped through the batting order to come away with 7-18. Not only was it his second five-wicket haul of the year but his figures was the fourth best in ODI history.
So, it’s certainly been a busy and emotional 12 months for him but in his own words, it’s been a “memorable” year for him.
“I think you can say that this year is one of the most memorable years which has been a dream for me,” Rashid told Sport360° during Afghanistan’s ICC Intercontinental Cup match against the UAE at Sheikh Zayed Stadium last weekend.
“This year, I played in all the major T20 leagues and also played many times for my country. I made some records and recorded good bowling figures and it was a really good year for me.
“I really enjoyed myself and playing under different coaches and learnt from all of them as they have different experiences and knowledge. I played in the IPL, Caribbean Premier League and my country where we played in Zimbabwe and West Indies, and I got a lot of confidence. Inshallah, I’ll try my best to do the same in 2018.
“For sure the IPL was fantastic. It was only my second match against Gujarat Lions when I took the wickets of Suresh Raina, Brendon McCullum and Aaron Finch. They were three big wickets because they are the big players in T20 cricket. To get that in India and in the IPL was a proud moment for me and my country.”
He could well steal the limelight again in 2018 for Quetta Gladiators when the third edition of the PSL is held in the UAE. Sharing the dressing room with the likes of Kevin Pietersen, Jason Roy and Carlos Brathwaite is something he can look forward to.
But with Afghanistan set to play in the pre-2019 World Cup qualifiers in March, Rashid gave his strongest hint he could have to wait another 12 months to get a piece of the PSL action.
“I have been picked up by Quetta Gladiators but I don’t think I will play as we have a busy schedule for the upcoming months with Afghanistan,” he said. “So I don’t think I will be available for that tournament.”
Whether he plays in PSL or not, 2018 is already shaping up to be the most important year of his career.
With Afghanistan joining Ireland as the two newest Test nations, Rashid will have a chance to torment the elite batsmen on a more regular basis against the world’s best, rather than Associate nations.
Their 10-wicket triumph over the UAE on Saturday saw them regain the four-day ICC Intercontinental Cup and Rashid sent out another reminder that he can also be lethal in the five-day game by taking the man of the match award with his 8-152.
Discussions are already underway of when Afghanistan could make their Test debut with Zimbabwe mooted as a likely opposition.
And it’s an opportunity that Rashid is certainly looking forward to.
“It will be tough cricket for us,” he said. “We have just played with Associate members but now it will be a total change of scenario for us. The guys are working very hard on the field especially in fitness, bowling and batting. So we are preparing ourself for the bigger tests and challenges. Inshallah we can do well. We have the ability, we have the talent and we just to neutralise that in the right way.
Given he has achieved all this before he’s even reached 20, Rashid says his achievements so far is not just down to him alone.
“When I came to the national team set-up, the coaching staff and the coaching staff especially the skipper (Asghar Stanizkai) supported me. The senior guys told me I had the talent but I just needed to improve my skills more. So I got motivation from that and work hard and that’s how I try my best every day.
The chances of him captaining his national team in all formats one day in the future is very likely. “I have already been appointed vice-captain of the team. Asghar (Stanikzai) has been leading the team for the last four years and the way he has been leading the side has been amazing.
“I have been learning a lot from him on and off the field. Hopefully if I get the opportunity, Inshallah, I will try my best to lead.”