Eight teams are involved in four different series at the moment, making it a very exciting week for the cricket fans. New Zealand defeated Bangladesh in the second Test at Christchurch. India won the second ODI and lost the third against England at home. Australia won two ODIs handsomely against Pakistan and Sri Lanka finally registered their first win on their South African tour, beating the home team at Johannesburg in the second T20I by three wickets after losing the first T20I and the Test series.
In a week with as many matches, it was a particularly tough job to pick the top performers. Some good performances have been left out but we have tried to include the best ones under pressure based on the impact. Steve Smith and Eoin Morgan miss out of the list.
Morgan’s century in a chase came in a losing cause but more importantly, was edged out by a similar innings from Kedar Jadhav, who lacked support from a senior partner for a large part of his innings. Hasan Ali of Pakistan also misses out despite his impressive showing picking up 5/52 on a track where Australia scored 353.
Here are the five biggest performers from the past week (not in any particular order).
#1 Yuvraj Singh – 150 v England, Cuttack
At Cuttack, in the second ODI against England, Yuvraj turned back the clock with a blistering 150 off just 127 balls with 21 fours and 3 sixes, his highest ODI score against probably his favourite opponent, a Player of the Match performance under pressure. Yuvraj walked in at 22 for 2 and before long India were 25 for 3. He added a scintillating 256 runs for the fourth wicket with MS Dhoni and ensured India had a mammoth total on the board, 381, all of which was needed to keep England at bay.
That partnership was probably the difference between India and England in the series. Yuvraj made sure India scored at a high run-rate right throughout even though Dhoni took his time at the other end playing cautiously. It was vintage Yuvraj who pulled out all his classic shots – the carves over cover, the flicks to square leg and the gorgeous drives.
#2 MS Dhoni – 134 v England, Cuttack
MS Dhoni was the other half of the brilliant 256-run partnership that helped India post a defendable total at the Barabati Stadium in Cuttack. Dhoni was slow off the blocks, going at a strike-rate below 50 when three wickets had fallen quickly when he joined Yuvraj. But, he finished with 134 off just 122 balls which consisted of 10 fours and 6 sixes. Dhoni added 42 with Jadhav (in 3 overs) and another 35 with Hardik Pandya (in 2 overs) to ensure India got the final push for the big score.
Thanks to Dhoni’s pyrotechnics, India, looking to post about 325, ended up with 381, a score that was still hard to defend. England eventually lost only by 15 runs, demonstrating the significance of the Dhoni innings. This was Dhoni’s 10th ODI century and the first since he gave up captaincy.
#3 Kedar Jadhav – 90 v England, Eden Gardens, Kolkata
Kedar Jadhav nearly pulled off a victory from the jaws of defeat with his calm, composed 90 off just 75 balls. Jadhav walked to the crease at 133 for 4 and before long India was 173 for 5. He added 104 with Hardik Pandya for the sixth wicket, but India kept losing wickets at the other end. Jadhav kept India in the hunt till the end when they needed 16 off the last 6 balls.
He made victory look within Indian’s grasp by smashing a four and a six off Woakes’ first two deliveries but the bowler kept his nerve and ensured Jadhav couldn’t get the remaining six for a glorious victory. Nevertheless, the effort combined with his century in the first ODI under great pressure and a cameo in the second ODI won Jadhav the Man of the Series award.
#4 David Warner – 130 v Pakistan, Sydney
Warner has been in unbelievable form this season and continued his rich vein with another smashing century in the fourth ODI against Pakistan at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Warner scored 130 off just 119 balls adding 92 with Usman Khawaja for the opening wicket and 120 with Steve Smith for the second wicket.
Thanks to his breath-taking knock, Australia were 212 for 2 in just the 36th over and despite losing the skipper, Steve Smith and vice-captain Warner in the same over managed to score 353. That was also thanks to Maxwell’s 44-ball 78 towards the end of the innings. Pakistan fell short by 86 runs and Warner picked up the Player of the Match. This was Warner’s first century of the ODI series and 12th overall.
#5 Lakshan Sandakan – 4/23 v South Africa, Johannesburg
25-year old Sandakan, bowling left-arm chinaman, became Sri Lanka’s unlikely hero on debut, picking up four wickets against South Africa to set up a feasible chase in the second T20I between the two teams. Sandakan picked up a wicket each in the 7th and 9th over of the innings before picking two more in the 12th over to rock the Saffers and prevent them from getting any partnership going.
Eventually, South Africa managed 113. Sri Lanka huffed and puffed in the chase, finding themselves on 35 for 3 and later on 97 for 6 before their skipper Angelo Mathews pulled it off with an unbeaten 50-ball 53 despite twisting his ankle towards the end. Mathews won the Player of the Match but it was Sandakan who made the victory possible.