Ducks and single-digit dismissals galore as opening the batting in Test cricket reached a new low in 2018.
“Oh, it was such a bad year. I tell you.”
“Really? You think you have had a bad year? “
KL Rahul in Test cricket had nine single digits scores of the 12 occasions he didn’t make it to even twenty in 2018. The five times he got there, he went past fifty just once. 13 of his 18 innings lasted less than his Koffee with Karan episode alongside Hardik Pandya. He had an identical mode of dismissal in both the innings in 4 matches. He got caught and caught in Centurion and Adelaide. He got bowled and bowled at The Oval and at Perth.
Rahul’s terrible year coincides with the worst year in terms of average runs for Test match openers in this century. 2018 saw the most of number openers tried at the highest level who combinedly registered 37 ducks. Which is not only the most number ducks you can eat in a lifetime but it also the second worst number of ducks scored by number one and two, since the inception of the game. Those ducks are a part of 142 single digit dismissals last year which is the worst, ever.
And here’s a fact that might rather should make captains worry.
2018 was the worst year for openers with 48 or more matches.
Not just Rahul but Murli Vijay too was cursed.
He had 15 innings for India and didn’t reach double digits a grand seven times. In August, he reached England and was trapped plumb in front in both the innings at Birmingham and never recovered from it. His next scorers for the year were zero, zero,18,11,20, zero and had to be dropped. Being adjudged LBW was the theme for openers last year. In 70 innings that were given out LBW, was the second highest ever after openers had gotten out 79 times in the same manner in 2004.
In June last year, when West Indies hosted Sri Lanka. This was a series that highlighted the real plight of West Indies’ openers in 2018.
The Third Test match of that series captures the essence of this article let alone the opening conundrum in a significant manner. The West Indies batted first. Their openers Kraigg Brathwaite and Devon Smith scored two runs each.
Sri Lankan opener Kusal Perera got a duck and Mahela Udawatte scored four.
Brathwaite then repeated his first innings score and Smith was out for naught. In the fourth innings, it was Udawatte’s turn to get out for zero.
But the visitors decided to open with Danushka Gunathilaka who ruined the pattern by scoring 21. Gunathilaka, who got to double figures in all of first six innings in 2018 filed in single digit figures in each of his last five innings.
He even got out caught nine out of the 11 innings when he opened for Sri Lanka.
That told, Kraigg Brathwaite’s form should ideally worry him for two reasons instead of one. Not only is he the vice-captain of a team for which he vastly underperformed, but he should also introspect that how, despite scoring 2 centuries in the middle of the year in Tests, he ended up with a lowly average of 24.
The further we enquire about the form of openers in 2018, the more we understand how deeper they seemed out of touch.
In fact, in 208 innings that the openers were out caught in 2018- is the seventh highest in number across all years.
Even though India tried the most number of openers in Test cricket last year, Bangladeshi openers were poorest in terms of numbers.
Did anyone know the real Bangladesh plight?
Liton Das, Imrul Kayes, and Tamim Iqbal all registered four single-digit scores each as 43 percent of all Bangladesh innings lost at least one of their openers before getting to ten.
It comes across as little surprise given the travesty opening batsmen fetched their team, that 2018 was the third worst average for openers in Bangladesh’s nineteen years of Test cricket.
Dimuth Karunaratne got zero and three on his first two outings in 2018. But things changed quickly for him when he made four back-to-back fifty-plus scores against South Africa, three consecutive half-centuries against England in his next five test matches at home. That made him 2018’s most successful opener. And even his last three scores of the year read 10, seven and zero, just exactly how it had begun.
“So, gladly no. You didn’t have a bad year. But the openers in Test Cricket did.”