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Cricket news - Eleven to envy: Visiting best for a Test in Asia

No other visiting player scored as many runs in Asia as much as Cook with 2710.

No other visiting player scored as many runs in Asia as much as Cook with 2710.

In a new series, we pick a playing XI across eras around a particular theme based on stats. In the first one, we picked an all-time Asia XI in Teststo tour Australia, England, West Indies, South Africa, and New Zealand. This week we are picking a visiting XI to play a Test series in Asia.

A bit of history...

Tours to the subcontinent were far and few in the first few decades (the first Test played in 1933-34) and often would be on the return voyage after Ashes tours. Australia and West Indies succeeded in winning often in India and less so in Pakistan till the end of the 1960s but the home sides kept raising the standard of their game in their own backyard. The home fortress of India and Pakistan have been more difficult to breach since the beginning of the 1980s and any such successful endeavor is considered tour de force. If Pakistan was the team to beat in the 1970s till mid-1990s, India proved to be impregnable in the last three decades with the task getting tougher as seasons pass by. Sri Lanka too had a great run in the 2000s when their put their best side comprising of some of the most illustrious names on the field.


Alastair Cook & Matthew Hayden

No other visiting player scored as many runs in Asia as much as Cook (2710) and few have been as consistent as him across the four Asian countries. Cook averages 51.45 in India, 55.36 in UAE, 48.33 in Sri Lanka and 61.57 in Bangladesh. He was the rock on which England built their 2012-13 historic series win in Indiawhen he hit 562 runs in four Tests at 80.28. He can bat time as good as anyone and his match-saving knocks in Galle and Abu Dhabi testify the claim. Five of Cook's nine hundreds in Asia have come in the second innings which highlights the fact he has the game to succeed when the conditions get tougher for batting.

Cook, a predominant back-foot player, will be joined by the imposing Matthew Hayden whose front foot play will complement the former well. Hayden scored runs at the toughest places against the best attacks - be it his magnum opus in India in 2001 when he amassed 549 runs in the historic three-Test series or his second innings century against Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas at Galle when Australia were trailing by 161 runs after the first innings. In sweltering heat in Sharjah against Waqar Younis, Shoaib Akhtar, Saqlain Mushtaq and Danish Kaneria, he single-handedly outscored Pakistan team's entire tally in the Test.

Other contenders: Graeme Smith, Gary Kirsten, Dennis Amiss

Middle order

Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis & Viv Richards

The crucial No.3 and No.4 slots will be occupied by the South African duo of Hashim Amla and Jaques Kallis - the two most important batsmen behind South Africa's sustained success in these parts of the world between 2007 and 2014. Amla has scored 1364 runs at one down at an average of 64.95 hitting six hundreds. In early 2010 in India he scored 490 runs in three innings including an unbeaten 253 in Nagpurin a rare innings win for a visiting side in India. In his first 17 Tests in Asia till 2014, Amla averaged a whopping 62.51 but his returns dwindled since averaging just 14.25 in his last eight Tests.

Apart from Cook, Kallis is the only other batsman to aggregate 2000-plus runs in Asia and he did so at a very fine average of 55.62. His 129-ball unbeaten 36at the Wankhede and the second-innings 87 in Kandy, both in the year 2000, stamped his class in his early forays to the subcontinent. India was the toughest place to tour in the last 30-odd years and Kallis had a major hand in inflicting the three innings defeats which they suffered at home in this period. His best series came in Pakistan in 2007-08when he hit 155, 100*, 59 & 107* in South Africa's 1-0 series win.

With two solid batsman at three and four, the flamboyant Viv Richards will follow at No.5 and can play the role of an enforcer. Richards made his debut in India in 1974-75 and the world witnessed the glimpse of what was to follow in just his second Test as he hit an unbeaten 192 against an attack of Bedi, Chandrasekhar and Venkatraghavan in an innings win in Delhi - a match in which no one else crossed 75. His 364 runs in Pakistan in 1980-81 paved way for West Indies' only series win in Pakistan in history which included a 120, with a leg strain, in the crucial final Test in Multanwhen no one else from his side passed 40.

Other contenders: Brian Lara, Gary Sobers, Clive Lloyd, AB de Villiers, Allan Border, Michael Hussey, Damien Martyn, Stephen Fleming


Andy Flower

Flower's stability pips him over Gilchrist's ability to play blinders. Flower averages 53.80 across 21 Tests in Asia and in the 18 Tests he kept wickets, the averages rises to 55.73. His best efforts came in the seemingly toughest conditions in India where he has hit 820 runs in five Tests across three rubbers at 117.14 with three hundreds, including a record unbeaten 232 while following on. His mastery over the sweep shot against the spinners - both conventional and reverse - makes him an important resource in the middle order.

Other contenders: Adam Gilchrist, Alan Knott, BJ Watling


Richie Benaud & Graeme Swann

Shane Warne is the highest wicket-taker among visiting bowlers in Asia but his lack of success in India stuck out like a sore thumb and made the strongest argument for his exclusion. His fellow countryman and legspinner Richie Benaud takes the spot thanks his exploits in the three series in Asia between 1956 and 1960 where he picked 23, 18 and 29 wickets respectively at a sub-22 average. His tally of 29 wickets in the five-Test rubber in India in 1959-60 series remains unsurpassed among spinners for a rubber in Asia. Having led Australia to series wins in India and Pakistan, he will lead this XI as well.

Swann made an unimpressive debut in India in late 2008 but in his four subsequent tours to Asia, he picked a handful of wickets each time never averaging more than 26 and striking once under every ten overs. He was instrumental with the ball in England's triumph in India in late 2012 where he finished as the leading wicket-takerwith 20 wickets at 24.75. His ten-wicket haul at the P Sara Oval in 2012 earned the visitors a series leveling victory though the effort has got much overshadowed under Kevin Pietersen's belligerent 165-ball 151 in the same Test.

Other contenders: Shane Warne, Lance Gibbs & Derek Underwood

Steyn is the leading wicket-taker among foreign speedsters in Asia with 92 scalps.

Fast bowlers

Dale Steyn, Richard Hadlee and Malcolm Marshall

It is ironic that the visiting pacers have out-bowled their spin counterparts with plenty from the ilk producing good numbers in rather placid tracks of Asia. Picking three from the lot was tough and we went with three who can run through the opposition on a given day and has exceptional numbers in victories.

Steyn is the leading wicket-taker among foreign speedsters in Asia with 92 scalps at a brilliant strike-rate of 42.90. With pitches in Asia providing little assistance, his ability to move the ball in the air - both conventional and reverse swing - has proved vital in the batting era which he has played in. He has won Tests across the four Asian countries, be it Karachi 2007, Dhaka 2008, Ahmedabad 2008, Nagpur 2010, or Galle 2014.

Steyn is joined by the two of the greatest seamers, not just in their playing period in 1980s but across the annals of Test cricket folklore - Richard Hadlee and Malcolm Marshall. Hadlee is the only seamer with two ten-wicket hauls in Asia, both ending in wins for New Zealand - at Colombo CCC in 1984 and at the Wankhede in 1988. The latter effort came when Hadlee was well over 37 years old and it remains New Zealand's last Test win in India.

Marshall, on the other hand, led the famed West Indies pace quartet in the 3-0 drubbing of India in 1983-84where he amassed 33 wickets - most by a visiting bowler in a series in Asia. Pakistan ran West Indies the closest in their dominant 1980s decade and Marshall was the common denominator in West Indies' three hard-fought victories in Pakistan in this decade. His second-innings figures of 4-25 in Faisalabadwas crucial in the only Test that produced a result in the series. After getting walloped in Lahore, his first-day spell of 5-33 in Lahore helped the visitors to a series-leveling win. Four years later in Faisalabad again, his spell of 4.2-9-24-4 paved way for another West Indies winafter trailing in the series.

In the 16 Tests wins in Asia between the trio, Hadlee averages a ridiculous 8.32 (SR 22.0) followed by Marshall's 11.72 (SR 27.5) and Steyn's 13.25 (SR 26.8).

Other contenders: Courtney Walsh, Glenn McGrath, Wes Hall, Alan Davidson, Jason Gillespie

The final XI

Alastair Cook, Matthew Hayden, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, Viv Richards, Andy Flower (WK), Richard Hadlee, Richie Benaud (Captain), Malcolm Marshall, Graeme Swann & Dale Steyn.

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