Despite 2020 was limited to a handful of matches and very limited cricketing action, there were still shows of unrivalled brilliance from veterans of the sport. Here when we are talking about veterans, we necessarily do not refer to players who have aged over 40 and still chose to carry on. We are taking the experience into the count and that is how we wanted to glide in the history of this forgettable year as knocks of Herculean efforts popped up on the screens in the midst of a new normal that drained the life from several cricketers, reducing them to mere shadows of their formidable scintillating selves.
With so many new things coming into the picture that included the likes of the bio-secure bubble, COVID-19 norms and regulations, desolated stands, aligned pathways, zero hand-shakes, and an interminable list, the fans loved the way how these veterans came up with their very best to keep these zealots of the sport entertained to the very bone.
We will be looking at the five best batting knocks from veterans of the sport that pranced to the tunes of artistic cricket, leaving the bowlers and fielders, frustrated, dazed, and begging for a reprieve.
1. Rohit Sharma – 119 versus Australia, January
Chasing a steep total of 287 to win the series, India was off to an absolute blinder, thanks to a steady partnership between Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul. Sharma was the more destructive of the two as he contributed the lion’s share of the partnership with Rahul tagging along. Once Rahul was removed by Agar, Sharma came to all guns blazing at the Australian bowlers, hewing away at everything that was hurled at him.
With Kohli slowly getting into the groove, the Hitman was already miles away from the Australian bowlers and the velocity with which he shot rockets into the ropes left the visitors stranded a good mile short of their desired line. By the time Rohit was finally caught by Starc off Zampa, he has already done irreparable damage to the Australian hopes. India was ambling to victory at 206 for 2, thanks to a blistering ton from the vice-captain that comprised 8 fours and 6 sixes.
2. Kane Williamson – 95 versus India, January
This was a rip-roaring affair that needed a one-over eliminator to decide the fate of the game. India posted a contesting 179 on the board, courtesy of Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli’s fine knocks in the middle. Despite being off to a flyer, the Kiwis shortly came a cropper to some decent bowling from the visitors.
With wickets tumbling at regular intervals, New Zealand made life difficult for themselves. However, the one man who took a resolute stand until the very end was their captain, Kane Williamson. Batting until the very 20th over, he helped New Zealand to pile up 178, with his individual figures of 95 from 48, outshining others. In his long haul of 95, he smoked 8 fours and 6 sixes. Despite the Herculean efforts from the captain, the Black Caps could not win the game as India dominated the Super Over to walk away with the bragging rights.
3. Ajinkya Rahane – 112 versus Australia, December
After a humiliating crumbling down against Australia in the first Test match that saw India being skittled out for an ignominious 36, there was severe flak that surrounded the Indian management. With Kohli being sidelined with a nasty injury, India needed someone to step up to the mighty bowling of the Aussies, especially the menacing triptych of Hazlewood, Cummins, and Starc. After limiting Australia to a modest 195 in the first innings, India was in hot waters early in the innings as they went on to lose the top three of their batting order fairly earlier than expected.
This is when Ajinkya Rahane arrived at the crease and after weathering the initial storm and craft small but instrumental partnerships alongside Hanuma Vihari and Rishabh Pant, his crackling duo with Ravindra Jadeja took the game away from the Australians. He finally found himself short of the crease after stitching together a stunning 112 from 223 deliveries, gliding 12 fours in the process. This inning was special in its own way, given the pressure that was on the Indians to validate the fact that the 36 was nothing but a fluke and with Kohli out of the team, the captain had to soak in all the pressure to give the fighting chance to his compares.
It was one among the few veterans in the line-up Rahane who joined forces with Shubman Gill in the second innings to help India claim their leveller as they went on to beat Australia by 8 wickets.
4. Mohammad Hafeez – 99 versus New Zealand, December
The former Pakistani captain put up quite a show against a mighty New Zealand in the latter’s home turf that propelled Pakistan to a respectable position despite a batting fiasco from the others. Pakistan was jolted to a rude awakening as the Kiwi bowlers removed almost half of their top-order in a heartbeat with Tim Southee ripping through the Pakistani batting line-up.
It was then Hafeez who took over the reins and with minimal assistance from the others he went on to play some explosive strokes that kept Pakistan alive in the game. By the time the innings came to an end, Pakistan finished at 163 for 6 while Hafeez stayed unbeaten for 99 from only 57 deliveries that starred 10 fours and 5 sixes. However, Pakistan could not wring out a victory as Kane Williamson and Tim Seiffert destroyed Pakistan without any mercy.
5. Faf Du Plessis – 199 vs Sri Lanka, December
After a show of collective brilliance from the Sri Lankan batters that helped the Islanders to garner 396 in the first innings, South Africa started making up early grounds. Dean Elgar and Aiden Markram posted a rippling opening stand before the Proteas lost their first three wickets for 200 runs.
With instrumental help from Temba Bavuma, Wiaan Mulder, and Keshav Maharaj, one of the classy proteas veterans, Faf Du Plessis rode roughshod over the Sri Lankan bowling and piled up a scintillating 199. Much to his dismay, he missed out on his double-century by a solitary run as de Silva was successful in forcing him to commit an error.
In response to South Africa’s 621 in the first innings that saw them taking a lead of 225 runs in the first innings, Sri Lanka was bundled out for a paltry 180, thanks to collective efforts from all the bowlers of the Rainbow Nation. Du Plessis struck 24 boundaries in his knock that saw him amassing runs at a breezy strike rate of 72.10.