Australia, India, South Africa, England, Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka on the field this week in cricket.
After thumping Sri Lanka in the T20Is, India go back to the format that they have enjoyed complete domination in (ok, let's forget the World Cups for a while) during the last few years. Their foes are no mere pushovers, though. The mighty Aussies won an ODI series in the country only last year when they beat India 3-2. In 2018, India had won the ODI series in Australia 2-1. The contrasting results away from home for both teams only underline their supremacy in the format and makes this series all the more mouthwatering.
Watch out for:
With 42 wickets in 21 ODIs in 2019, Mohammed Shami topped the wicket charts last year in the format despite not being consistently selected during the World Cup in England. A natural wicket-taker who has developed variations to use in the death overs, Shami will be a key figure in the setup, particularly with Bumrah's workload expected to be managed and Bhuvneshwar Kumar missing in the squad.
A well-poised Test series
2019 was the year of Ben Stokes and 2020 seems no different as he pioneered a terrific win for England at the Newlands in the second Test match of the series. Action now shifts to Port Elizabeth with the Proteas facing familiar challenges regarding their form and England once again hoping Stokes can conjure some magic to hide their evident fallacies in other departments. With two more Tests to go in the series, this rivalry is heading down to the wire and if it wasn't evident enough, Jos Buttler added some slurs from behind the stumps at Vernon Philander to make it clear at Newlands. The retiring pacer isn't one to sit back and take taunts and we can very well expect a decent backlash from the all-rounder.
Watch out for:
Aiden Markram could well be regretting the timing of his injury. The opener was replaced by domestic veteran Pieter Malan who boasts of over 10000 runs in first-class cricket. The experience showed as Malan thwarted England's veteran pacers with aplomb in South Africa's innings-saving effort at Newlands on debut. His 288-ball vigil, yielding 84 runs, offers promise for the rest of the series as Proteas launch counter-punching tactics.
Test cricket in Zimbabwe again
It's been four years since Test cricket was last played at Harare and three years since the red-ball game has been played at International level in Zimbabwe. Putting an end to Zimbabwe's toil with politics, a ban from ICC, and other concerns from players and the board, Sri Lanka tour Zimbabwe for a two-match Test series to be played at Harare. The unknowns are in plenty but Sri Lanka will fondly remember that the last time they toured the continent, they beat South Africa in a Test series. Zimbabwe, meanwhile nearly tested Sri Lanka in a Test match in the sub-continent before going into oblivion. This should make for a rather interesting series.
Watch out for:
The Sri Lankan skipper has been a rather understated, yet impactful opener in the longest format of the game in the last few years. While he had an underwhelming 2019, the left-hander still averaged 35-plus, making a century and three further fifties. With Zimbabwe not being the easiest place for openers, Karunaratne will have a big role to play to keep Lanka on top and resume their resurgence in Test cricket.
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Feature image courtesy: AFP / STR