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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 December, 2003, 08:50 GMT
Cricket's crystal ball: 2004 (Jan - June)
By Martin Gough

The cricketing world is beginning to realise that the BBC Sport crystal ball is more reliable than the ICC Test rankings - and far less complicated.

If the facts are sometimes hazy, the warnings are certainly there, as a look back over the last year shows.

We said Shane Warne's daughter would play in the Australia Test team - in fact neither Warne appeared after Brooke's daddy was handed a 12-month drugs ban.

MONTH BY MONTH
July - Dec out on Thursday
We said minnows Namibia would shock the Cricket World Cup - in fact minnows Kenya got through to the semi-finals.

We said Bangladesh would upset Pakistan for their first Test series victory - the tourists came within a single wicket of causing an upset in the third Test.

Truth is often stranger than fiction, so our crystal ball is often there or thereabouts.


January

Steve Waugh's reign as Australia captain ends in ignominy as India fight back from being forced to follow on to claim a 25-run victory in the New Year Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

VVS Laxman makes the most of his mental edge over the home side by scoring 342 not out, 324 more than any of his team-mates.


February

Shane Warne
Warne licks his lips at a return to action
The one-day VB Series in Australia ends in anti-climax as officials lose count half-way through the best-of-17 finals series, and allow India to share the trophy with the hosts.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) opt out of their October tour of Zimbabwe, claiming sponsors would be better served with a development tour to Iraq.

The Zimbabwe team boycott their home series against Bangladesh for moral reasons, claiming it would not be morally right to allow Khaled Mahmud to captain in another Test match (because he's so rubbish).

Shane Warne returns from his drugs ban to tour Sri Lanka, boasting of a new diet, consisting mainly of lard and gherkins, that has seen him add four stone in as many weeks.


March

England arrive in the West Indies to find Clive Lloyd has resigned his post as an ICC match referee and is instead planning to captain the home side in the forthcoming Test series.

Two warm-up matches against Jamaica become torrid affairs as a 50-year-old fast bowler named Holding runs riot, earning himself a Test place in the process.

Curtly Ambrose gets a late call-up, leading to a boycott from Jamaican fans who were championing home-town hero Courtney Walsh's cause.


April

Ian Botham
Botham: Captaincy material?
Already 2-0 down in the series, England take drastic measures by recalling Alec Stewart for the Barbados Test. The scorer of back-to-back centuries there in 1994 repeats his feats 10 years later.

But Ian Botham returns from the commentators' booth for the final Test to repeat his feat of captaining the side to an ignominious series defeat.

Record crowds attend the opening weekend of County Championship matches but after three hours the majority realise the Twenty20 Cup does not begin for another three months, and head home.


May

England miss their flight home from the Caribbean so the first Test is awarded to New Zealand by default.

Australia pull out of their tour of Zimbabwe on moral grounds, reasoning it would not be fair to tour companies to fly in and out on the same day with two Tests and three ODIs crammed in between.


June

New Zealand's achievement in fielding entirely different sides for the second and third Tests in England passes largely unnoticed as only skipper Stephen Fleming is recognisable.


Look out for the second half of our predictions for 2004 on Thursday.


SEE ALSO
Cricket's crystal ball: 2003 (Jun-Dec)
07 Jan 03  |  Funny Old Game
Cricket's crystal ball: 2003 (Jan - May)
03 Jan 03  |  Funny Old Game
Cricket's crystal ball: 2002
30 Dec 01  |  Funny Old Game



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