Enough alone is happening in cricket right now to warrant a 32098-word article, but the tennis and F1 seasons are at the cusp of culmination too. Everyone’s attention is back on something apolitical and uncomplicated: sports. There’s now a lot of (invisible) pressure on India to perform and win a test series to improve the mood in the country. Kidding, nothing India does in a test series (unless it’s a World Cup of tests) will ever distract the national mood. In any case…
After the first day of the second test match between India and England at Vizag, Virat Kohli <yawn> is on the verge of yet another test double-century <yawn> – his third of the year if he does it. Even if he doesn’t he now has 40 international centuries. 26 in ODIs, 14 in tests. And he’s 28. It seems like only yesterday he hit the scene later than Rohit Sharma, and yet, here he is. His test average is finally closing in on 50, too. After Cheteshwar Pujara’s third consecutive test century on the bounce at home (of course, on home soil), India put themselves in a good position despite another Ajinkya Rahane failure and KL Rahul’s comeback duck. That’s two ducks in a row for Indian openers this series (Gambhir scored a duck at Rajkot in the second innings). James Anderson, England’s highest wicket-taker in tests, is finally back, and picked up three crucial wickets. Either way, we’re set for a good four days ahead, and hopefully a decisive result.
Elsewhere, Australia lost their fifth test in a row, as well as the second of a home series, succumbing to South Africa – and going through their worst spell of cricket since, well, the 1980s. Immediately, Rod Marsh resigned from his post as chief of selectors, all but four of the team are insecure about their place, coach Darren Lehmann whose contract was extended till 2019 suddenly looks dispensable, and the Ashes next year look like a walkover. Steve Smith feels like a lone ranger with David Warner, yet even he will be befuddled by the recall of Greg Chappell as the ‘interim’ selector. The other players of the squad were sent – in an unprecedented move of desperation – back to Sheffield Shield 4-day cricket BEFORE the final test at Adelaide. In the process, Adam Voges suffered a nasty blow from a bouncer and pulled out due to concussion, making it easier for the selectors to “drop” him for the final test after he averaged 13 in the last five test matches. Can Australia avoid their sixth defeat in a row? We’ll know next week, in only the third day-and-night test of all time.
Further elsewhere, after a minor earthquake, Pakistan are waiting to start their test series against New Zealand at Christchurch, rain pending. The first day was washed out, tarnishing a series between two very competitive teams in some very interesting conditions.
Further, further elsewhere, the tri-series in Zimbabwe between the hosts, Sri Lanka and West Indies is being watched by exactly forty forty-three in the world – including the teams on the pitch. A second-string West Indies side (when are they ever not?) defeated a third-string Sri Lankan side in a low-scoring ODI, with captain Jason Holder again proving his worth as a bowler. Sri Lanka conceded a bonus point after winning a bonus point against Zimbabwe in the first match – demolishing them by 8 wickets, continuing their minnow-bashing ways.
In the ongoing World Tour Finals, the monster in Novak Djokovic has woken up again. The now World no. 2 lost the first set of the tournament to Dominic Thiem, before hitting back and winning that match, as well as the next two against Milos Raonic and David Goffin, proving that he finishes a season fresh like nobody else except, perhaps, the new World no. 1 and the other guy in the next group, Andy Murray. Djokovic reached the semis again, gunning for his sixth title here. Murray won tricky fixtures against Marin Cilic and then Kei Nishikori to virtually book his place in the semis, and is likely to face either Raonic or Thiem, depending on who finishes second to Djokovic in the group. Either way, we’re set for a mouth-watering, all-or-nothing season-ending clash between the two best players on the planet in the final at London. The winner will finish the year as World no. 1. The loser will finish the year second – and Murray doesn’t want to be there…again.FOOTBALL
On Saturday, English Premier League action returns – with Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United set to face Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal for the first time this season. United is sixth in the table, while Arsenal is fourth – six points ahead of United. Two points separate the top four teams.