A nice easy one for a slightly hung over New Year’s Day: my 10 cricketing predictions for the year ahead. It’s a mixture of events I believe may have a chance of happening and some that are perhaps more wishful thinking. I’ll leave it up to you to decide which category each prediction fits into. I’m no Russell Grant, so if 1 out of the 10 comes to fruition I’ll consider myself the next Nostradamus
1: The start of 2015 will be all about the World Cup. Being played in antipodean conditions and with the added intrigue of a number of drop-in pitches, we can perhaps expect a run fest from the ICC flagship event. With home advantage often both a burden and an incentive, both New Zealand and Australia will be hoping to put on a show for their home spectators. Key to the Black Caps’ success at the tournament will be their new batting hope – Kane Williamson. I’m convinced that he will finish as New Zealand highest ever run scorer in both Tests and ODI’s but for a more 2015 focussed prediction, I’m betting that he will finish the World Cup as leading run scorer and catapult his side into the final at the very least. His languid stroke play and confidence against serious pace will play into his hands and make him a mountain of runs.
2: In a year when England will play a startling number of Tests (17 if you include the New Year series in South Africa), it seems reasonable to forecast that the winner of the ICC’s Test cricketer of the year will likely be an Englishmen. Considering that only a handful of players will play in all 17 Tests, it seems a very reasonable guess to suggest that Joe Root will walk away with the gong. He is one of only a select few Englishman who have seen their stock rise during a tumultuous 2014. His propensity for crease occupation will stand him in good stead during a jam-packed calendar. He is also an astute player of spin and with 3 Tests in the UAE to contend with, that’s a valuable asset.
3: On the domestic front, it is hard to see past Yorkshire retaining their County Championship title. The depth of their squad is incomparable in the English domestic game and with Jason Gillespie leading a large bunch of local lads; there is a considerable amount of goodwill around Headingley at the moment. The only caveat to be offered is the threat of England call-ups, with Root and Gary Ballance certain starters and the likes of Liam Plunkett, Jonny Bairstow and Alex Lees all in contention. But with the evergreen Ryan Sidebottom leading the attack, I can see the White Rose rising to the top once again.
4: As the Big Bash League has got underway during the final weeks of 2014, there has been an outpouring of differing opinions on social media as to the relevance of the English offering – The T20 Blast. Critics of the English model have pointed towards the huge attendances in the BBL and attributed it to free-to-air TV, cheap tickets and global stars amongst other factors. Indeed, during the winter, the stock of the T20 Blast seems to have fallen considerably. I’m sure that this will continue on into the summer and the debate will rumble on. But the Blast will be played in front of numerous sell-outs this summer and with a few marquees signings the competition will find a new lease of life. Of course the detractors will still argue for a franchise competition, but there’s life in the English model yet.
5: The main event of the English cricketing summer will once again be The Ashes. But, in my opinion, this year’s series will be closer to the battle of 2009 than 2005 or even 2013 series. It will, in short, be a slug-out between two mediocre sides. Both teams are currently unsure of their best XI’s and may even be led by 2 rookie captains; if things don’t go Cook’s way in the West Indies. Even if the skill levels are lower, that doesn’t mean it won’t be an entertaining series. I’m expecting a close series with plenty of twists and turns and it certainly won’t be as easy for England as 2013. It will be a clash of two mediocre cricketing giants.
6: Maybe this is a bit outlandish, but if forces conspire in a beautiful way, Moeen Ali will be finishing his year by being crowned Sport’s Personality of the Year for 2015. After guiding England to a surprise World Cup victory in Australia, Moeen will take a hatful of wickets on the Caribbean bunsen’s and return for the summer as England’s main man. After an indifferent start to the summer he will come good in the deciding Ashes Test, becoming the first man to score a triple century and take a 10 wicket haul. After that, out-bowling Pakistan’s spinners in the UAE and taking on Steyn and co. with swashbuckling hundreds will be a walk in the park for the nation’s favourite cricketer.
7: Ok, let’s talk about Kevin. After flattering to deceive in the on-going Big Bash season, Pietersen will still find himself on the receiving end of a hefty IPL contract. Despite scoring heavily in the opening rounds of the IPL, his rash stroke play and dicky knee will cost him dear as he finishes the season out of form, out of the side and out of luck. No county will see him as a viable, value for money option and as such he will be left with a barren year with little cricket.
8: In the polar opposite of Pietersen, beleaguered England Test skipper Alastair Cook will win back the admiration of the English public by lashing his way to 5 glorious hundreds during the summer Tests. He will become the first Englishman to make 30 Test Hundreds and will win the Ashes for a fourth time and second time as captain. After making his 30th century and clinching the Ashes he will produce a note for his pocket, which will simply read ‘yea KP talk nah’.
9: Heading back to domestic cricket, this will be the year that Somerset finally get their hands back on a One-Day trophy. The elusive County Championship may still be out of their reach, but with Matt Maynard at the helm and a few astute signings, a One Day double is perfectly attainable. With a fearsome, youth and experience style pace attack of the Overton twins, Lew Gregory, Alfonso Thomas and Peter Trego coupled with a rejuvenated Trescothick and new signing Jim Allenby the cidermen look good bets for both trophies.
10: I can’t finish my predictions without casting an eye on proceedings with the Indian team. Virat Kohli is surely going to score a colossal amount of runs as skipper and batting lynchpin. But it’s his captaincy style that will intrigue me more as the year wears on. He is to say the least, a combative player on the field and his style may well land him in hot water on a few occasions. But I’m safely predicting a volatile year for Indian cricket in which they marry enormous home victories with continued overseas disappointments and many a hint of controversy along the way.
That’s my predicting done then, if more than one actually happens I’ll consider it to be pretty successful. Although Moeen’s already a shoe-in right?
I’d love to hear what you were predicting for the year ahead, just leave a comment on my blog or respond via Twitter.
Many thanks to Jack for allowing us to reproduce this blog on The Incider. You can read Jack’s daily musings on cricket and football at: http://jackvittles.wordpress.com/ or follow him on Twitter at @JackVSport