Thursday, December 30, 2010

YEAR 2010: TEST CRICKET IN REVIEW

With Shahid Afridi's googly to clean up Kyle Mills and Pakistan a 103-run win in the 3rd Twenty20 International, the international cricket action for the year 2010 has come to an end.

Like all other years before it, 2010 has also seen lots of highs, a number of lows, exhilarating action, tense finishes, crazy battles, moments of madness and everything possible. However, two things happened in 2010 that have never happened before... a 200* in ODIs by Sachin Tendulkar and a 201* in the Centurion Test for Jacques Kallis... both very special moments.

The year started by Sehwag calling Bangladesh an ordinary Test side. Over the year, Tamim Iqbal led Bangladesh's spirited reply to prove Sehwag wrong. Eventually, I am sure he must have convinced a lot of Englishmen that Bangladesh is not an ordinary side.

The year saw the retirement of the legendary Muttiah Muralitharan with 800 wickets in the game of Test cricket. He bowed out on a near-perfect script. It would have been a completely perfect script had it been an innings win for the Lankans... and that wicket of Ojha would have been the final act of the Test match. That was not to be and the Sri Lankan openers had to come out to bat again. But Murali must have still been obviously delighted.

On that same island later in the year, Chris Gayle joined Sir Don Bradman, Brian Lara and Virendra Sehwag as a batsman to have scored to 300+ scores in Test cricket. But it was sad that the tour of West Indies to Sri Lanka turned out to be such a farce... with weather dictating the results of all the three Tests.

India did enough to hold on to their No. 1 position in Test cricket with 8 wins, 3 losses and 3 draws during the year and no series losses. Sachin Tendulkar topped the Test run-scoring charts for the year and entered his 22nd year in international cricket.

England performed exceptionally well and have shown that they are ready to challenge for the No. 1 spot in the coming year. They have retained their priceless urn in Australia for the first time in 24 years. They have a brilliant bowling unit with excellent reserves to stand up and be counted when required.

South Africa also had a good year... 5 wins, 2 losses and 4 draws. The fact that both their losses this year came against India... at home and away in two completely different sets of conditions... has put a dampener in their claim to being the best side in Test cricket.

Bangladesh, though they don't have the results to show for it, did take a few good strides in the right direction in their journey towards becoming a competitive Test unit. Shakib Al Hasan continued to show that he is truly a phenomenal character and Tamim Iqbal matched him well.

Australia, on the other hand, slipped badly on the Test ladder. They started the year decently with 5 wins in first 5 Tests against Pakistan and New Zealand. However, since then, things have changed dramatically for them. It was followed by 3 consecutive losses before they failed to regain the Ashes at home. For the first time in history, Australia have lost 2 home matches by an innings margin in the same Test series. They were also bowled out twice this year for sub-100 scores.

New Zealand and West Indies has expectedly bad performances during the year... though I must say that New Zealand did perform very well to draw the first 2 Tests in India (aided by the highway pitches). Nevertheless, Chris Martin's prodigious in-swingers to rattle India's top order on such a highway pitch was one of the highlights of the year for me.

And now, Pakistan. What can be said? They had four different Test captains this year. This in itself should be a crisis. But when you say that this was definitely not the biggest crisis that Pakistan cricket faced over the year, then it becomes unthinkable. No international cricket at home was already affecting them adversely before the spot-fixing scandal completely shook the world. Just when the world was beginning to take notice and be impressed by the raw talent of the teen-aged Mohammed Aamer and the cool demeanour of Salman Butt as a captain, there came the new allegations. To top it all, Pakistan's cricket suffered even away from the field... with Ijaz Butt as the head of PCB.

It has been a fulfilling year for Test cricket lovers and followers because there were plenty of reasons to smile. Lets hope that 2011 does give us more of the same.

1 comment:

cricsphere said...

Nice analysis, I completely agree with you on it, the fight for the number 1 team in the test will go on between England, India and South Africa and so we'll be able to watch good competitive day of test cricket, as far as Pakistan's concern, now Allah is only the Saviour of it until Butt is there

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