2017 is upon us and as we enter the new year, let’s take a look at the best cricket moments of 2016. It was a year in which Pakistan scaled great heights but also found some new lows; it was year that the inaugural PSL was played and loved by everyone; and it was the year where West Indies showed why they are the best in the business in the T20 format.
During one of the group matches in the PSL, Mohammad Nabi walked out to bat with 15 balls remaining and with Quetta Gladiators needing 30 runs more to win the game. Nabi faced 12 of those 15 balls and scored 30 runs. That innings from Nabi was according to me one of the best knocks in the PSL, with the high pressure situation in which the innings was played making it one of the best. Nabi knew that he had to go for it here as Anwar Ali was finding it difficult to get bat on ball and there wasn’t much to expect from the tail. Nabi showed high cricket IQ to keep the strike for most the last 15 balls and he delivered. A memorable innings to win one of the best matches in the PSL.
Fawad Rana (Lahore Qalandars’ owner) upset at his team’s defeat.
Brendon McCullum is one of the most destructive batsmen in modern cricket history, there is no stopping him once he gets going. So it was strange that he had never held the world record for the fastest century in any format. But when he walked out to bat against Australia in his last test, he changed that around. McCullum has always been one of the inspiring figures in the game and one who believes in playing his natural game, and he did not disappoint in his final test.
India were on the verge of getting dumped out of a WT20 they were playing at home. Bangladesh had needed 2 runs off 3 balls but a massive brainfart saw them needing 2 in 1 balls with the tail enders to face the last ball. Dhoni asked Pandya to bowl a slower ball bouncer, which was missed by the batsmen, but it was here where we realise how lucky India is to have such a captain who is street smart. He had already removed his gloves anticipating a miss, and instead of going for the throw he bet that he would reach the stumps quicker than the batsman. He managed to do just that to finish the game right there and kept India alive in the tournament.
West Indies has always been a strong T20 side. Their players are one of the best T20 players in the world and they ply their trade across the top T20 leagues in the world. Andre Russell for example has won the BBL, PSL, WT20, CPL, and he was a crucial element in all these wins. So it was not a surprise that they won the WT20, but what makes it the moment of 2016 was the way they did. West Indies were in a spot of bother in the early phase of the chase in the final against England, losing 3 wickets for 11 runs. It was upto Samuels to rebuild the innings and he found a partner in Dwayne Bravo. The pitch was not one where the West Indies could unleash their big hitters and for most part of the chase Samuels and Bravo had to play a game which was anti West Indies. Crucially however, the end came in typical West Indian fashion. With 19 runs to win 6 ball, England’s Ben Stokes came into bowl, having previously conceded 17 off his two overs. He was facing Carlos Brathwaite, an unknown entity whose only noteworthy contribution before this game was 10* against South Africa in a tense chase. The required target felt impossible when the over began and yet it ended with the commentator Ian Bishop proclaiming “Carlos Brathwaite - Remember the name”.
There has been a lot said about the fitness level of the Pakistani players and historically they have been one of the most unfit sides in world cricket if not the most unfit side. Their fitness has also been one of the deciding factors in many series in the past. Before their England tour however, the PCB for once took the right step and decided that the team needed to go through a boot camp with the military. They underwent some rigorous training and they developed on their fitness level, which paid off when they drew their series vs England. The Lord’s win in particular was one where fitness and discipline turned out to be the difference between the two sides. And it was only fitting that Pakistan paid tribute to those who helped them become fitter and more disciplined through celebratory pushups that took the world by storm.
Fielding is one of the most underrated aspect of the game in terms of the stats. Temba Bavuma, like every other player from South Africa, is a top fielder and he showed his value to South Africa by some brilliant fielding in the 1st test. That run out showed that why run outs should be considered as a genuine wicket taking option. Warner’s tendency to take quick runs and keep the runs coming at a quick rate was what let to his downfall. Warner just dropped the ball in the cover region and in swooped Bavuma who grabbed the ball in one motion and got his throw out of the way which just managed to find Warner short.
After the loss in Perth, there were some changes needed in the Australian side, so in came Callum Ferguson and Joe Mennie. But the end result didn’t change and in fact it got worse as South Africa dominated Australia from day one. What began this domination was the collapse in the first innings caused by the inability of Australian batsmen to let the ball go. The batsmen had no answers and no patience, and it left them with a total that stuck to them like a mark of shame.
After scoring 164 vs New Zealand in Sydney, Steve Smith made sure his intensity never dropped. And he showed it by taking an outstanding catch to dismiss NZ wicket-keeper BJ Watling. That catch was crucial as NZ were looking to rebuild with their chase and the wicket of Watling just added some pressure on the batsman to come.
Kohli knew that if India needed to be a dominating test side at home, he had to be contributing to the side’s cause with big runs in each innings and he did not disappoint. He scored a double century in every test series he played in 2016, improving his best score from 200 against West Indies to 211 against New Zealand and then a crucial 235 vs England. Kohli also captained the side well on the field by helping them express themselves and play positively. It was no surprise then that he led India to its longest (18*) unbeaten streak in Tests.
When Pakistan lost their last recognised batting pair chasing an impossible total at the ‘Gabba, they were 270 runs behind and Asad Shafiq was on 23. The Pakistani tail is renowned to be one of the world’s worst, but in Brisbane they showed that they have the capability to do much more as Pakistan added another 230 runs to their total, which was also 10 more runs than what the first 6 wickets managed to score. Of those 230 runs, it was Asad Shafiq who scored 114 runs and he had able partners in Amir, Wahab & Yasir Shah who combined scored just 3 runs less than him. It was a stellar fightback and confirmed Shafiq’s status as one of the most versatile batsmen around.
2016 has been a great year for cricket and we can’t wait to see what 2017 brings!