It was quite a year. There were some stunning individual performances, heroic triumphs and heartbreaks. Most of the teams were in transition across formats and it reflected in the results as not one team played consistently well throughout the year.
Even so, there was no dearth of action and here I recall the most memorable ones.
De Villiers goes berserk
The year started in spectacular fashion. South Africa took on West Indies in the Johannesburg ODI and wicket-keeper captain AB de Villiers decided to have some fun after openers Hashim Amla and Rilee Russouw added 247 for the first wicket. What followed was the most carefree batting seen on a cricket field as de Villiers hit the fastest ODI century of all time, consuming just 31 balls to reach the milestone.
McCullum dazzles the world
Kiwi Brendon McCullum knew this was the year to make a lasting impact, as the World Cup was being held Down Under. He only scored 328 runs from nine games at the showpiece event but those came at an astounding strike rate of 188.50. More than his runs, it was the cavalier attitude that inspired the Kiwis to play in a carefree manner that saw them storm their way to the World Cup final.
Starc settles the World Cup in first over
One over and the trophy was in the bag. Aussie left-armer Mitchell Starc opened the bowling with McCullum ready to launch. The first two balls went in a flash as McCullum struggled to connect. The third beat McCullum for pace and swing as his stumps were rattled even before his bat could come down. And the World Cup was sealed.
Broad is gr-eight
England were missing James Anderson in the crucial fourth Ashes Test at Trent Bridge. Australia were sensing an opportunity. But in 18.3 overs on the opening morning, it was all over. Stuart Broad ripped the heart out of Australia in one spell, picking up eight wickets. The lasting image of the day was Broad covering his mouth with his hands as he celebrated with his team-mates. For England, life without Anderson was not an unthinkable proposition anymore.
At the end of last year, Alastair Cook was given the news that he would not be a part of the World Cup squad. Also, he had not scored a single Test ton in 2014 and was starting to feel the pressure. But he scraped his way back into form, scoring centuries against West Indies and New Zealand. Then came the Ashes where he not only guided his side to a hard-fought 3-2 series win, he also made regular contributions with the bat. His big moment came in the Abu Dhabi Test against Pakistan where he cracked 263 to cap a fruitful year, amassing more than 1,300 runs in 14 Tests.
For a painfully long time, India spinner Ravichandran Ashwin had been experimenting with his bowling, trying to bring in new variations and not focusing on his stock delivery. But this year saw more orthodox bowling from Ashwin as he got the loop and drift back into his bowling. Success soon followed as he was the standout bowler in the series win in Sri Lanka and the wrecker in chief during the 3-0 thumping of South Africa. His 62 Test wickets were just reward for sticking to the basics.
Captain Kohli comes of age
This was the year Virat Kohli took over as the full time captain of the Indian Test team. And it became clear that aggression was his mantra. His positive intent rubbed off on the rest of the team as India rallied to win in Sri Lanka. Then came the big series against world No1 South Africa. While spin friendly wickets helped India take a 2-0 lead, Virat’s unrelenting attitude helped India eke out a win in Delhi on a flat pitch and underlined his captaincy credentials.
Bangladesh’s sensational hat-trick
It was an excellent year for the Tigers in the ODI format. First they made it to the quarter-finals of the World Cup. Then they went on an unprecedented winning run at home against three top-class sides. They blanked Pakistan 3-0 before stunning India (2-1) and the mighty South Africans (2-1). And in the process, they unearthed an absolute gem of a seamer in Mustafizur Rehman, who now has 26 ODI scalps in nine games.
Williamson the run machine
While the whole world was going ga-ga over McCullum, Kane Williamson went about plundering runs across formats. In eight Tests in the year, he clocked 1172 runs at an incredible average of 90.15 with five centuries. Add to that his 1317 runs from 26 ODIs and you get the most prolific scorer in the world at the moment.
Legends bid adieu
Another clutch of legends called it a day and left the game that much poorer. Sri Lankan greats Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara had already announced that they would retire this year and they did, after the World Cup and India Test series respectively. India’s World Cup winners Zaheer Khan and Virender Sehwag had been sidelined for some time and simply completed the formalities. However, the retirements of Aussie greats Michael Clarke and Mitchell Johnson were felt the most. Pup made his announcement after losing the Ashes while Johnson decided it was enough as he struggled to keep pace with fellow left-arm quick Starc.
For five years, the cricketing world tried to forget him. But Mohammad Amir came back after the ICC lifted its sanction and he almost immediately made an impact. He took 22 wickets in four non firstclass games, 34 in the domestic Quaid-e-Azam trophy and 14 in 11 BPL T20 games. He was called up to Pakistan’s national camp and that attracted protests from Azhar Ali and Mohammad Hafeez, which was later withdrawn. It now looks like Amir will be the first convicted match fixer to return to international cricket. Just brace yourself.
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