Cricket New Normal: England Triumph In Closed-Door Tests!

Ethel Gonzales

Cricket in COVID-19 times started in England from the 8th of July 2020 in empty stadiums and with the strictest of norms and measures. The first 3-Test Series since the outbreak of the pandemic was played against the visiting West Indies. The visitors won the first test by 4 wickets on the fifth and last day of the closely fought encounter. However, the hosts came back stronger in the second and the third test matches, winning the second match by 113 runs and then routing the unpredictable, as ever, West Indies by 269 runs in the concluding match, thus winning the Test Series 2-1. In Test cricket, English seamer Stuart Broad became the 2nd seam bowler from England, the fourth fast bowler of the world and the seventh bowler overall of the world, to capture 500 wickets in the last encounter that concluded on the 28th of July 2020. Pity, no home supporters or any other supporters were there to cheer him and the team win! The most promising aspect of the New Normal Cricket was that no health-related issues daunted the efforts. And, cricket in empty stadiums continued.

Next came the team of Pakistan for a 3-match Test Series and a 3-match T20I Series against the hosts England. The first test match between England and Pakistan was played from the 5th of August, and England, keeping up the winning streak, won the match by 3 wickets. The match, played at the Emirates Old Trafford ground in Manchester, was a cliffhanger, and England managed eventually to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat on the final day, the hosts going 1-0 up in the series. Rains and bad light continuously interrupted proceedings of the second test at the Rose Bowl in Southampton, allowing only 150 overs to be bowled overall, and the match ended in a frustrating draw for both teams, particularly for Pakistan smarting under the shock defeat in the first match. The third and the final match of the series, a much-awaited showdown, started from 21st August 2020 at the same venue. England sealed the deal by putting up a mammoth score of 583 for 8 declared, and then going on to rout Pakistan for 273 in the first innings forcing them to follow on. Thanks to rain interruptions England could not go on to win, and Pakistan saved the match at 187 for 4 wickets. However, history was created in that Test match.

38-year-old English fast bowling stalwart, James Anderson, took his 29th five-wicket haul in Pakistan’s first innings and then captured two more scalps in the second innings to complete a record-breaking 600 wickets. The right-arm fast bowler became the first pace-bowler in international Test cricket to achieve the feat of 600 wickets leaving Glen McGrath of Australia in the second place with 563 scalps, and the fourth bowler overall, Sri Lanka’s Muralitharan sitting at the top with incredible 800 wickets, followed by Australia’s SK Warne with 708 in the second position and India’s Anil Kumble with 619 wickets in the third position. James Anderson made his ODI debut in 2002 and earned a place in the 2003 ICC World Cup squad, and he stamped his mark in international cricket. His Test debut came in 2003, and from then onward he played in 156 test matches for England till history was made on the 25th of August 2020. The tall pacer has often been criticized as ‘English-conditions-only’ seamer, and his career was interrupted often as he was either ‘rested’ or dropped due to external factors. However, he proved all his critics wrong, finally, and emerged as one of the finest bowlers of world cricket. Pity again, English fans or any other spectators could not be present at the Rose Bowl to cherish the historical moment. Anyway, the hosts won the series 1-0.

Pakistan is also scheduled to figure in a 3-match T20 international series against the hosts England. The first match on 28th of August, the second on 30th of August and the final match on 1st of September 2020.

Now to come in England’s archrivals Australia, for a 3-Match T20I Series and a 3-match ODI Series. The T20 matches will be played on the 4th, 6th and 8th of September while the one-day international matches are scheduled on the 11th, 13th and 16th of September 2020.

In a most likely extension of the New Normal Cricket India is set to begin their Tour of Australia 2020-21 from the month of October 2020. Cricket Australia has recently announced the full schedule of the matches between the two teams: the first of the 3-match T20I would take place on the 11th of October, followed by a 4-match Test Series from 3rd December and the 3-match ODI Series would begin from the 12th of January 2021. As per the discussion between the two Boards the second test starting from the 11th of December at the Adelaide Oval would be a day and night affair with the pink ball. Continue enjoying cricket from home!

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