2020 has been a tough year for everyone and the world has crumbled down upon its knees to an alien virus and it still keeps on spreading unchecked, with no promising signs of inoculation. Though there is the news of happiness in bits and scraps, it is extremely hard to piece them all together and bloom a smile on someone’s face.
However, cricket, despite being pushed to an era of darkness all over the face of the planet for an indefinite period in the first place, found its footing slowly and adapted to the norms of the tough and brave new world.
In a year of doom and gloom, there were still thrills in the sport that saw the world getting exhilarated and excited until the very end of a game, a battle that was lost and won on the last ball or maybe in a one-over eliminator. Hearts were shattered and smiles on the other side of the television were turned into tears, while moments of being caged exploded into shrieks of laughter and unparalleled joys.
We are going to take a ride into five thrillers of this cursed year that still managed to keep the audience on its toes right until the end.
India versus New Zealand, 3rd T20, January
This was a crackling affair that needed a super over or in cricketing argot what they call a one-over eliminator to seal the fate of the game. India opted to bat first and was off to an absolute blinder as both the openers, Rahul and Rohit Sharma started storming the Kiwi bowlers into every nook and cranny of the park. India was flying at 89 when Colin De Grandhomme applied the first brake by removing KL Rahul.
Much to the woes of India, Rohit Sharma shortly followed suit as Hamish Bennett was successful in getting the better of India’s vice-captain. Trying something adventurous, India fell on its heels as Shivam Dube was shown the exit way too early. Kohli and Iyer did stabilize the innings as much as they could with the captain taking charge but what seemed like a 200-220 odd in the first place had drastically dropped to 165 at the most.
However, blitzkriegs from Manish Pandey and Ravindra Jadeja, in the end, saw India managing to post 179 runs from their quota of 20 overs. Despite a good start by the hosts, India managed to pull things back shortly after the powerplay as Martin Guptill and Colin Munro were shown the long path to the pavilion in quick succession.
Despite chipping in with a short cameo of 9 runs, Mitch Santner couldn’t make it big either and left the Kiwis reeling at 88 for 3. Colin De Grandhomme suffered a similar fate as he was scalped by Shardul Thakur for 5 runs but by the time he was dismissed, Kane Williamson had already found himself a footing and he was hoping for a minimal stand at the other end that came in the form of Ross Taylor.
The duo stitched together a partnership of 41 runs and almost saw New Zealand home with 2 runs needed off the last 3 balls. However, the tide of fortunes flipped in an unexpected turn in the favour of India as Shami struck twice in the last three balls that got rid of Kane Williamson and a set Ross Taylor on the last ball of the innings leaving the game in a tie.
In the super over that followed, New Zealand put themselves in a decent position as Kane Williamson continued with his heroics, hammering 11 from 4 deliveries while Martin Guptill scored 5 from 2. To win the match India had to score 17 that looked difficult in the first place with Southee swinging the ball but the Indian opening duo was up to the task equally.
Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul hacked their way to victory as they managed to score 20 runs in response to New Zealand’s 16, clinching the thriller on the last delivery.
India versus New Zealand, 4th T20, January
In a match that saw the upshot being decided by a Super-Over, who would have thought that the one ensuing the same will be nothing different, producing another thrilling encounter? In the fourth T20 of the series, India left New Zealand gutted with another Super Over victory. Batting first, India managed to post 165 on the cards.
KL Rahul led the charge from the front, garnering a brilliant 39 from 26 balls, but India’s batting line-up seemed to slim up at the other end. Sanju Samson, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, and Shivam Dube were all back to the pavilion way too early and India wobbled at 88 for 6.
With an imminent collapse lurking right around the corner, India challenged the oscillating hands of fate and Manish Pandey posted a brazen showdown with the help of Shardul Thakur that propelled India to 131 for 7.
Pandey took it upon himself to do the rest as Navdeep Saini chipped in with a crucial cameo of 11 runs in the end that provided the time to Pandey to inflict the necessary damage upon the hosts as India finished at 165 for 8.
Despite Jasprit Bumrah taking out Martin Guptill early, that was the beginning of misery for the Indians as Colin Munro and Tim Seifert put a flamboyant show of pyrotechnics, leaving the Indian bowlers ded and confused.
Finally, some stellar fielding from the Indians helped them to get rid of the set pair and the double dismissal saw India clawing their way back slowly into the game. It was once again a terrific fight from Ross Taylor that saw New Zealand garnering 165 for 6 from their quota of 20 overs.
Bumrah proved to be better this time as he managed to contain the Kiwis within 13 runs and he also produced the wicket of Tim Seifert.
The Super Over provided another late twist to the tale as Rahul got out o the fifth ball of the over, jeopardizing India’s hopes of a victory. However, with Kohli at the other end of the crease managed to smash the winning runs that helped India claim a brilliant victory on the last ball of the super over.
England versus Ireland, 3rd ODI, August
Ripping off a simile from the 2011 World Cup, where Ireland successfully chased down a monumental total of 327, the Irish brutes once again managed to thump the Three Lions inside out. In the last and an inconsequential ODI of the series, England and Ireland duked out a nail-biting thriller.
Batting first England managed to pile up 328 on the cards. They were off to an extremely shaky start that saw Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, and James Vince falling in short succession. Eoin Morgan and Tom Banton started with the overhaul and the contrasting duo of a veteran and a rookie set the stage ablaze with some expressive and belligerent strokeplay.
Morgan piled up 106 from 84 deliveries while Banton fired 58 from 51 balls. David Willey and Tom Curran built another crucial stand towards the end of the innings that saw the English players amassing the aforementioned total.
Despite losing Gareth Delaney early in the innings, Paul Stirling and Andrew Balbirnie joined forces in orchestrating the symphony of destruction for their English counterparts. The duo posted a mammoth partnership of 214 runs that saw Stirling spearheading the charge with 142 runs from 113 deliveries while the skipper Balbirnie smoking 113.
Harry Tector and Kevin O Brien played out a calm partnership, in the end, to see Ireland comfortably home.
England versus West Indies, 1st Test, July
In an era of fast-paced battles where T20 and ODI rule the roost, Test cricket has lost its enthralling charm. However, if we actually tend to bat an eye towards the most enduring version of the game, we will still find oodles of thrillers deluging the cricketing roster.
In one such encounter, England and West Indies fought out a thrilling contest until the last day and the last session of the Test match to chronicle an emphatic victory for the visitors.
Batting first England was skittled out to a paltry 204 with Shannon Gabriel and Jason Holder wreaking carnage through the English batting line-up. Rory Burns, Ben Stokes, Dom Bess, and Jos Butler managed to put up as much resistance as they could but it was never enough for the English players to make a comeback.
West Indies wasn’t that superior either but with Kraigg Braithwaite and Roston Chase scoring the highest, West Indies managed to amass 318 runs in their first innings. Leaving everyone nonplussed England was equally woeful in the second innings as they were bundled out for 313 runs. Rory Burns, Dom Sibley, and Zak Crawley were the best but the rest of the English batsmen couldn’t live up to the expectations.
Shannon Gabriel once again emerged as the supreme one, with him claiming a fiver in the second innings of England. With 200 to win, West Indies was jolted to a rude awakening as they lost their first three batsmen within just 27 runs. Jofra Archer was breathing fire that insinuated an imminent collapse of the Caribbean batting order. However, Roston Chase and Jermaine Blackwood started fighting on all fronts, as the duo helped the West Indians to reach 100.
With Chase removed, Shane Dorwich and Jermaine Blackwood continued with the herculean chase. England was not simply willing to give in to the resistance of the West Indies. With the scoreline reading 168 for 5, England kept on attacking the West Indian batsmen with everything they had. However, Jermaine Blackwood played the innings of his life as his valiant 95 from 154 deliveries saw West Indies through an extremely tough phase that seemed impossible in the first place.
In order to witness such miracles in Test cricket, one must have the patience to watch the players stitching together such heroics in a string.
India versus Australia, 2nd T20, December
This was a befitting reply to Australia’s ODI series win that saw India clinching the T20 series with a game to spare. Batting first, Australia managed to score 194 for 5. Matthew Wade spearheaded the batting with 58 runs while Steve Smith scored 48 at a breezy rate to propel Australia to 194. Glenn Maxwell and Moises Henriques made some noise, in the end, to smoke the Indian bowlers in all corners of the park.
KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan started with some early strokeplay that intensified the frowns on the Australian faces. Virat Kohli joined to dance in the same tones and Australia was pushed further to the backfoot. Things took an upside down turn when Kohli was dismissed and India still had to get 46 runs from 23 balls.
This is where Hardik Pandya walked in and started dispatching the Australian bowlers into the stands with zero mercy. Despite the best of attempts from the Aussie bowlers, Pandya was in no mood to relent and saw India crossing the finishing line with pomp and vigour as he stayed unbeaten for 42 from 22 balls, smoking 3 fours and 2 sixes.
To make matters merrier, India finished the year on a high note as they scripted a historic win at Melbourne, leveling the Test series with Australia.