2017 - Year Review

Aislabie

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Additionally, an Associate review which for the first time since before I was old enough to care does not include Afghanistan or Ireland.

Batting Category

Best Batsman

:ned: Roelef van der Merwe - He showed the sort of batting form that had made him one of the Sunfoil Series' leading runscorers. His crushing 175 against Namibia was one of two first-class hundreds this year, but his most notable batting effort came for Somerset: he peppered the off-side boundary to record a match-winning 165* from number seven, turning 22 for five into a successful chase of 292. He will be a key part of the Dutch ODI team in the upcoming 13-team league. This is perhaps quite controversial as he wasn't as consistent as either of the next two batsmen below, but at his best nobody could live with him.

Best Youngster (23 and under)
:hkg: Anshuman Rath - Something I never would have expected when I played against him and was frankly more impressed with his left-arm spin, Anshy Rath has shown himself to be a dependable member of the Hong Kong top-order, averaging 89 in the I-Cup and 99 in the WCLC, though this is a small sample size of only ten innings across both formats. He perhaps isn't someone who bowlers will fear yet, but could develop into just such a player.

Most Improved Batsman
:hkg: Babar Hayat - In his pre-2017 career, he had batting averages of 39.50 (first-class) and 40.88 (List A); in 2017, he averaged 118.75 and 73.83 in each respective format. He only narrowly missed out on the "Best Batsman" category, largely because I didn't personally get to watch him at his best. He's also increasingly versatile, if his Everest Premier League performances were anything to go by.

Best Innings

:hkg: Babar Hayat's 214* - This was an absolute statistical freak of an innings. Only one other batsman passed 50 in the entire match: if Hayat's score was expressed as 214/0 from 70.1 overs, every other player in the match aggregated from 404/30 from 180.4 overs (there were 49 extras). It was a close contender for my overall best innings of the season by any batsman anywhere.

Biggest Disappointment
:hkg: Mark Chapman has been lost to New Zealand - Some truly astonishing performances for Auckland in white-ball cricket, including a Twenty20 hundred that has since been removed from YouTube, highlight just how good a Hong Kong top five of Atkinson, Rath, Hayat, Chapman and Nizakat could have been.

* * *

Bowling Category

Best Bowler

:ned: Logan van Beek - It rather pains me to pick out someone who hasn't shown any great commitment to their Associate nation (van Beek has made no secret of his New Zealand ambitions) but the season he's had cannot be ignored. 37 first-class wickets at 23.27 (I-Cup and Plunket Shield) and 26 List A wickets at 24.23 (WCLC and Ford Trophy) are hard to ignore though, and very few Associate bowlers can match up to that kind of record.

Best Youngster (23 and under)
:sco: Mark Watt - This year has seen Watt flourish into a very proficient white-ball spinner, especially in WCLC matches where he has taken 13 wickets at 22.69 this year, crucially while conceding only 3.7 runs per over. Given that Scottish pitches tend to be green and damp, those numbers are all the more impressive. Hopefully he develops into more of a Scholtz than a Dockrell with the ball.

Most Improved Bowler
:uae: Zahoor Khan - It might seem odd to pick someone with Quaid-e-Azam Trophy experience, but that's a tournament where a positively ancient Aizaz Cheema averaged nine with the ball this season. But since being picked for the Emiratis, Zahoor has experienced a resurgence: 17 ODI wickets at 10.11 apiece, as well as 10 wickets @ 14.30 against Zimbabwe 'A', suggest that there may be more to come from a man who seems to be a specialist death bowler.

Best Innings
:uae: Zahoor Khan's 13-ball six-for - Wilson (foxed by a slower ball), Porterfield (unplayable yorker), McBrine (trapped by a full, straight one), Dockrell (nicked behind), Thompson (also nicked behind) and Young (caught at long-on) all lost their wickets in the space of 13 balls of Zahoor Khan's magical death bowling.

Biggest Disappointment
:ned: Ahsan Malik - For a man who once took five South African wickets, he was woeful this year. Two List A matches (17-0-125-2) and three Twenty20s (9-0-93-1) were all he got through before being banished for good to the depths of the Hoofdklasse.

* * *

Team Category

Best Team

:ned: Netherlands - They earned their place as close to the top table as they're allowed by winning the WCLC and third behind Afghanistan and Ireland in the I-Cup. Put simply, they are the leading Associate now by all measures.

Most Improved Team
:hkg: Hong Kong - They've finished the year with an impressive run of wins, built around a core of players (especially Hayat and Rath) who have really come of age. They also have Irfan Ahmed coming back from a ban if they want him.

Biggest Disappointment
:nam: Namibia - For a team with the support of Cricket South Africa, who have allowed them a place in their domestic scene for years, it is disappointing to see that there is apparently no new generation of talent coming through to replace the increasingly geriatric Snyman and Williams, and the late Ray van Schoor.

* * *

Miscellaneous

Best Tournament

:afg: The Desert T20 Challenge - Held in the UAE, this tournament was short, sharp and high-standard. I hope we see it again.

Best Match
:sco: Scotland finally got their win :zim: - Finally, Scotland got their win over a full-member, and they did so in a properly high-quality cricket match that was very nearly turned on its head by Malcolm Waller.

Biggest Shock
:afg: Afghanistan and Ireland finally getting Full Membership :ire: - It was always the logical choice, but the ICC have rarely if ever been called logical.

* * *

Team of the Year

Again, a team for all formats, comprising any player who has represented an Associate nation in 2017.
  1. :hkg: :ar: Anshy Rath
  2. :sco: :bat: Kyle Coetzer
  3. :ned: :bat: Ben Cooper
  4. :hkg: :bat: Babar Hayat
  5. :ned: :ar: Ryan ten Doeschate
  6. :ned: :ar: Roelef van der Merwe
  7. :sco: :ar: Richie Berrington
  8. :sco: :wk: Matty Cross
  9. :ned: :ar: Logan van Beek
  10. :ned: :bwl: Timm van der Gugten
  11. :uae: :bwl: Zahoor Khan
 

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