Finch fires Australia back into World Cup contention
MUMBAI, April 1, (RTRS): India have finished at the top of the International Cricket Council (ICC) Test rankings and taken home the purse of $1 million for a third consecutive year, the governing body said on Monday. India, who registered their first series victory in Australia at the turn of the year, finished with 116 points on the April 1 cut-off date, eight points ahead of New Zealand who finished second and took home $500,000. South Africa finished third with 105 points while Australia finished with 104 points to finish fourth, a few decimal points ahead of England. “Retaining the ICC Test championship mace once again is something we are all really proud of,” India captain Virat Kohli, who won the ICC’s cricketer, Test and one-day international player of the year awards in January, said in a statement. “Our team has been doing well across formats but it gives us extra pleasure to come out on top of the Test rankings. We all know of the importance of Test cricket and of how only the best can prosper in the format.” The ICC’s world Test championship begins in August, after the 50-over World Cup in England, with nine Test-playing nations taking part in 71 Test matches spread across 27 series to reach the final in 2021.
ICC Test Team Rankings (as of April 1, 2019):
1. India 116 points
2. New Zealand 108
3. South Africa 105
4. Australia 104
5. England 104
6. Sri Lanka 93
7. Pakistan 88
8. West Indies 77
9. Bangladesh 69
10. Zimbabwe 13
Meanwhile, six months after being slammed by critics, Australia’s one-day team is building nicely in the lead up to the Cricket World Cup with all the players singing from the same song sheet, captain Aaron Finch has said.
Resurgent Australia completed a 5-0 whitewash of Pakistan in Dubai on Sunday, with all top four batsmen posting half-centuries in a commanding 20-run win, the team’s eighth in succession.
The turnaround, which included a 3-2 series win in India prior to the United Arab Emirates tour, is all the more remarkable given that it comes in the wake of a six-series losing streak dating back to January 2016.
“If you think back to six months ago, a lot of people were slamming us, a lot of people were writing us off for not just one-day cricket but all forms of cricket,” Finch told reporters.
“When you’re building towards something and you’ve changed a bit of your strategy and game plan, I think it can take a little bit of time to develop.
“It took a bit of time for guys maybe to fully buy into it and believe that it was the right way to play one-day cricket and the right strategy to go with.”
As Australia stumbled through a dreadful 2018 in the wake of the Cape Town ball-tampering scandal, Finch’s poor form with the bat was emblematic of the team’s struggles.
The stocky opening batsman has played a huge part in the team’s revival, however, smashing 451 runs at an average of 112.75 against Pakistan to top the runs list and be named player of the series.
Finch was dismissed for under 50 just once against Pakistan and fell only 27 runs short of George Bailey’s Australian record of 478 for the most runs scored in a bilateral series.
“It was probably my most consistent (series) as a batter,” said Finch.
“I think if you look back through my career, there’s been times when I’ve got a couple of hundreds an there will be some really low scores in there as well.
“It was nice to get a good start each game and still kicking myself at a couple of chances, (and innings) where I could have gone on and got some really big match-winning scores.”
Finch’s opening partnership with Usman Khawaja has been a huge success, with the latter third on the runs list with 272 at an average of 54.40 against Pakistan after also dominating with the bat against Virat Kohli’s India.
Australia’s rejuvenation has come without opener David Warner and former captain Steve Smith, who were suspended for ball-tampering until March 29, and minus injured first-choice fast bowlers Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood.
Warner, meanwhile, has given selectors a headache by hammering a 55-ball century in the Indian Premier League on Sunday, continuing his brilliant start in the Twenty20 tournament with Sunrisers Hyderabad.
“We know categorically there are going to be one or two guys brutally unlucky not to get selected because they’re all going so well,” Australia coach Justin Langer said of the World Cup squad, slated to be named next week.
“The blokes in the squad at the moment will be praying it’s not them.”
Furthermore, injury troubles have kept James Pattinson out of the Australian Test side for three years but the fast bowler issued a timely reminder to selectors ahead of the Ashes as he guided Victoria to their fourth Sheffield Shield title in five years on Sunday.
Having grabbed three wickets in the first innings against Queensland, the Melbourne man tore through the top order in a devastating spell, his match haul of 7-71 leaving him with 26 wickets at an average of 18.92 for the competition.
With first-choice quicks Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood battling injuries, 28-year-old Pattinson will look to continue his revival when he heads to England to play for Nottinghamshire in the county championship.
Once seen as a potential 100-test player, Pattinson returned to first class cricket for the first time in 15 months in November having undergone major back surgery.
The paceman played the last of his 17 Tests away to New Zealand in February 2016 but has remained patient and determined through a number of injury setbacks.
“It’s been a journey to get to this position over the last few years and at times I thought I would never be back,” said Pattinson, who has suffered a litany of back problems and soft tissue injuries through his stop-start career.
“I never doubted my ability when I could get back and bowl.
“All the hard work, all the doubts that creep in to your mind, these are times that make it worth it.”
Selector Trevor Hohns was at Melbourne’s Junction Oval to watch the Shield final and would have likely been impressed by the performance of the once-menacing Pattinson, who has 70 Test wickets at an average of 26.15.
“We’d love to see him (with Victoria) for every game but I think he deserves to be with the big boys as opposed to playing with us,” said Victoria captain Travis Dean.
Test cricket would be a big step up from the loads bowled in Shield cricket, and Pattinson will have to get through the county season unscathed to be considered for the Ashes starting in August.
“They have never really had an issue with the way I bowl, it’s just about staying on the park,” Pattinson said of the national selectors.
“I need to get through a few more games … The test will come once I start bowling more. I have spoken to the selectors in recent times about the Ashes and that’s my goal.”