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6 most underrated performances of 2017

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Underrated_performances_Cricket2017 has been a fantastic year for cricket in all formats. We witnessed some truly special performances that lit up the year. From Virat Kohli and Steven Smith’s sensational run spree and to Hasan Ali and Rashid Khan’s emergence as quality ODI bowlers, there was a lot of individual brilliance to celebrate this year.

However, no year is complete without the performances that didn’t get as much attention but were brilliant in their own way. Here is a look at six underrated batting and bowling performances of 2017. All of these should have been appreciated much more than they have been, but were overshadowed by the other more glittering efforts.

Younis Khan (Pakistan) – 175* v Australia at Sydney (Test):

There is something about Younis Khan. Despite his remarkable achievements, he has always been an understated cricketer quietly going about his job. He has been Pakistan cricket’s stalwart and has bailed them out on numerous occasions. In January this year, on Pakistan’s tour to Australia, Younis, in his 17th year in international cricket, did the same in the third Test of the series at Sydney.

Pakistan needed to get close to Australia’s mammoth first innings score of 538-8, but were in disarray at 197-5. Younis Khan once again stood tall and held the middle-order together. While the wickets kept falling around him, Younis kept accumulating runs with his typical punches down the ground and flicks and cuts.
He scored his 34th Test hundred and remained unbeaten on a superlative 175 with 17 fours and 3 sixes, helping Pakistan accumulate a respectable 315. That wasn’t enough, as the visitors lost by 22 runs, but Younis’ peerless performance was special.

Nathan Lyon (Australia) – 8-50 v India at Bengaluru (Test):

It is never easy for an overseas spinner to perform well in India. Even the legendary Shane Warne struggled for good results. That is why Australian off-spinner Nathan Lyon’s eight-wicket haul against India early this year deserves a lot of praise, despite it coming in a losing cause.

In the second Test of Australia’s tour to India, India had opted to bat first on a wicket with good bounce. Even though Lyon wasn’t getting much turn, he used the bounce in the pitch brilliantly and bowled probing lines outside off to trouble the batsmen. He gave the ball good drift and the batsmen kept committing mistakes in trying to tackle him.

Within no time, Lyon had run through the Indian batting order and finished with an outstanding career-best 8-50 off 22.2 overs. India was bowled out for just 189 courtesy this effort but Australia eventually lost the closely-contested match by 75 runs. Lyon’s effort, however, was exemplary.

Solomon Mire (Zimbabwe) – 112 v Sri Lanka at Galle (ODI):

This knock deserves to be on the list of best ODI batting performances this year but has been largely overlooked. At Galle, in the first ODI of Zimbabwe’s tour to Sri Lanka in July this year, the home side had posted a solid 316-5 on the board after batting first. The target looked ominous for Zimbabwe’s brittle batting order, but Solomon Mire took the challenge head on. The big-hitting opener took advantage of the true bounce in the pitch early on and smashed the Lankan bowlers around with disdain.

Zimbabwe needed a brisk start to chase this total down and that is exactly what Mire provided to the team. He punched plenty of shots down the ground and whipped a few to the on-side. Within no time, Mire brought up his maiden ODI ton. By the time he was finally dismissed, on a scintillating 112 off 96 balls with 14 fours, he had paved the way for the others. The target was overhauled with about three overs remaining and Zimbabwe hence registered a historic win on Sri Lankan soil courtesy Mire’s dazzling effort.

Trent Boult (New Zealand) – 6-33 v Australia at Hamilton (ODI):

Even though he is not considered in the same bracket as Mitchell Starc or Kagiso Rabada, Trent Boult truly is a terrific fast bowler. He proved this once again against the ODI world champions earlier in the year. In the third ODI of Australia’s tour to New Zealand in February, the home side had posted a strong 281-9 on batting first. The pitch at Hamilton was pretty good for batting and the Australian batting has pretty strong.

But Trent Boult was all over the Aussies as he swung the ball beautifully both ways and troubled the batsmen. He first got rid of Peter Handscomb and Travis Head, which shook Australia’s chase. Boult returned later to dismantle the Australian lower order with his array of varieties and yorkers. Boult ended with a splendid career-best 6-33 that stopped Australia at 257 and thus gave the Kiwis an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series with a 24-run victory. It was a superb seam bowling display on a good batting pitch against New Zealand’s arch-rivals and showed Boult’s best once again.
 
Dimuth Karunaratne (Sri Lanka) – 196 v Pakistan at UAE (Test):

Here is another low-key player who produced a very special Test knock this year that deserves recognition. Sri Lankan opener Dimuth Karunaratne’s fabulous hundred against Pakistan at Sharjah was the prime reason why Sri Lanka was able to clinch that Test and register their historic series win against the opponents.

In the second and final Test of Sri Lanka’s tour to Pakistan in September-October, the visitors opted to bat on a true Sharjah surface. However, Pakistan’s bowling lineup, including Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz, were quite threatening. But the left-handed opener, Karunaratne, exhibited great grit in facing the pace bowlers early on and in a very restrained manner, held the innings together. He plucked boundaries with his cuts and flicks and ran a lot between the wickets.

It wasn’t a very aesthetically pleasing performance, but it was more than effective as Karunaratne brought up his seventh Test hundred. Sri Lanka’s innings revolved around his steady knock and by the time he was dismissed for a career-best 196 (with 19 fours and a six), he had ensured that Sri Lanka would post a dominating total. Eventually, Sri Lanka posted 482 on the board and went on to win the match by 68 runs. Karunaratne’s defiant hand was certainly a major part of this series-clinching victory.

Moeen Ali (England) – 6-53 and 4-59 v South Africa at Lord’s (Test):

Who would have thought that someone who was being considered as only a part-time spin bowler not too long back would end up taking a 10-wicket match haul against the best Test batting line up? Moeen Ali has come a long way as a spinner these past few years and is no longer just a partnership breaker but a genuine attacking spin option now. His performance in the Lord’s Test earlier in the year against South Africa was testimony to that.

Chasing a target of 331 in the last innings of the 1st Test of their tour to England in July, South Africa were confident of pulling it off. However, captain Joe Root, sensing the bowling form Moeen Ali had with his excellent 4-59 in the first innings of the Test (including a ripper that got Hashim Amla), brought the spinner early.

Within no time, Ali spun a web around the robust South African batting unit. Utilizing the rough outside off to great effect, Ali got enough spice and bounce from the last day Lord’s pitch and ripped the South African middle-order in half. Ali ended up with a career-best 6-53 that toppled South Africa for just 119 and gave England a memorable 211-run victory. Moeen Ali’s brilliant 10-wicket match haul was one for the ages.

 

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