Here is a bunch of stuff that happened in 2021. It is not an exhaustive list, because an exhaustive list chronicling the activities of multiple people across an entire year would take far longer than a year to read. It is just a selection of striking cricket moments from the year just gone.
There is a bit of an England-focus, because this is a UK website. It would honestly be quite nice if England played a bit less and we could spread our attention wider.
Australia hadn’t lost at the Gabba for 32 years. India went into the match without Ishant Sharma, Virat Kohli, Mohammed Shami, KL Rahul, Ravindra Jadeja, Hanuma Vihari, Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah and R Ashwin. Then, halfway through the match Navdeep Saini got injured.
No problem, they said. We’ll just chase 328 to win with who we’ve got left.
January brought us a truly incredible Test bowling performance when Dom Bess delivered one of the flukiest five-fors you’re ever likely to see. The CricViz boffins reckoned that Bess’s bowling against Sri Lanka warranted 0.18 wickets and yet he somehow emerged with 5-30.
It’s hard to pick a favourite wicket. Niroshan Dickwella being deceived by the longest of hops was good and Dasun Shanaka caught off Jonny Bairstow’s heel too, but it’s hard to look past PWH de Silva moving out of the path of the ball so that he could play an air reverse sweep.
Pretty soon after this, Bess was demoted to third-choice spinner, a position that very quickly saw him back in the Test team.
Who says England are Test no-hopers with a broken domestic structure that no longer produces players of sufficient quality?
They’re holders of the Moose Cup powered by Daraz, for crying out loud!
Squad rotation is A FAILURE. Or at least it’s a failure if you’re already not-that-great at Test cricket. Back in June, New Zealand had the better of England in a drawn first Test, then made six changes so that key players would be fresh for the World Test Championship final. Despite this, they easily won the second Test.
England don’t really have the strength in depth to get away with this kind of thing in Test cricket. Speaking back in March, in the wake of a diminished Test tour of India, Eoin Morgan said that he and fellow England captain Joe Root wouldn’t rush to judge the squad rotation policy. “If you sat both of us down at the end of the year and we won the World Cup or came close, or challenged Australia or came close, the both of us would be very, very happy with the decisions that are made,” he said.
Now that we’ve reached that point, Morgan is presumably happier than Root – although that ain’t saying much, is it? The simple truth is that England need a greater number of really good players if they’re going to continue playing as much as they do.
England won a Test match in India last year. That sentence has become sufficiently incredible to warrant typing out. It came at the start of February off the back of Joe Root’s third hundred of the year, which also happened to be his second double.
The highlight of the match came from James Anderson though. In India’s second innings, he bowled Shubman Gill with one of the finest clean-bowleds you’re ever likely to see. Then he almost exactly replicated the dismissal – perhaps even improved on it – to dispatch Ajinkya Rahane.
England then lost the next three Tests, delivering successive scores of 134, 164, 112, 81, 205 and 135, so excuse us if we take our joy where we can.
There was a moment of excitement in the third Test when England briefly appeared to be fighting back thanks to Joe Root’s finest performance of the year (he took 5-8).
That excitement reached its crescendo when Dom Sibley caught Axar Patel…
A quick word for New Zealand’s Devon Conway, who made 200 in his very first Test innings, reached the mark with a six and was then run out – but against the odds, his wasn’t the best Test debut this year.
Back in February, Kyle Mayers made the second-highest individual score in a successful fourth innings run-chase when the West Indies beat Bangladesh. He came in at 59-3 and made 210 not out to deliver the fifth-highest run-chase in Test history.
Later in the year, in amongst all the Yorkshire terribleness, former England captain Michael Vaughan was accused of actual, out-and-out, explicit racism. Underpinning the case against him was his long-standing tendency to say some really dumb shit. His March column about some “whispers” he’d supposedly heard about Jofra Archer was a prime example.
The old “natural talent” trope has given rise to a series of false conclusions about Archer. “He makes the game look easy” becomes “he finds the game easy” becomes “he doesn’t need to try” becomes “he doesn’t try”. You probably shouldn’t build a column around whispers if a lot of those whispers are rooted in this sort of thinking and likely to exacerbate it. Vaughan, however, saw fit to go even further than “he doesn’t try” and take it into “he doesn’t care about Test cricket”.
“You simply cannot beat the feeling of winning a Test,” responded Archer.
New Zealand became Test champions and beaten captain Virat Kohli immediately suggested that the tournament needed to be a lab experiment, measuring and weighing every facet of excellence.
No, it doesn’t, Virat. New Zealand won. Try again next time.
The definitive “go fetch it” shot. Perfect.
When Kent played Glamorgan, 45-year-old Darren Stevens walked in at 80-5 and hit 15 sixes on his way to 190 off 149 balls. His dismissal ended a partnership with Miguel Cummins that was worth 166. Cummins contributed exactly one run to that partnership.
Next ball, Matthew Quinn walked in and hit a six, which meant that he was instantly outscoring a guy who’d just been one half of a century partnership. It was a magnificently cricket moment and even though he was no longer on the pitch, no-one had contributed more to it than Stevens.
There was much moaning about the more obvious elements of The Hundred (its existence). This overshadowed some of the smaller things, like the use of an intuitive runs v balls scoring system throughout matches.
We truly believe that the concept of the over unnecessarily complicates limited overs scoring. We’d like to see ‘X runs off Y balls’ or ‘X needed off Y balls’ visible throughout every white ball match, whether the innings is due to last 100 balls, 120 balls or 300 balls.
“Playing the top two teams in the world, in New Zealand and India, is perfect preparation for us as we continue to improve and progress towards an Ashes series in Australia at the back end of the year.”
An incredible thing to say at the time and a comment that has somehow aged badly too.
R Ashwin went to Devon.
There is so much we like about this.
England have broken all sorts of records this year and a large proportion revolve around the making of ducks. This habit arguably peaked on the first day of the India series, when they had four batsmen dismissed without scoring. At that point, it was the third time they’d suffered four ducks in an innings in five Tests.
It wasn’t the last time though.
Ain’t no run-out appeal like the run-out appeal that comes in the immediate aftermath of a drop.
This vies with the Anderson over as our highlight of the year.
England picking four right-arm fast-medium bowlers and a spinner for an Ashes Test Down Under is an actual nightmare that we have. This time around they dispensed with the spinner and selected five.
There were many low moments during the first half of the Ashes, but this was the only time England consciously and deliberately transcended nightmares.
Needless to say, they failed to bowl Australia out in either innings.
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