With 2023 almost upon us, Metro.co.uk has looked back at some of the highlights from the world of cricket over the past 12 months, from Jonny Bairstow’s sensational form to an all-time classic between India and Pakistan.
TEAM OF THE YEAR – England
In January, England’s demoralised players watched on as Australia lifted the Ashes following an emphatic 4-0 win. In March they lost to West Indies and saw their long-standing captain Joe Root resign. But over the next nine months, England developed into one of the most formidable and exciting teams in the world.
The Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum partnership turned out to be match made in heaven, with ‘Bazball’ responsible for wins over New Zealand, India, South Africa and Pakistan. Beating those teams is one thing, to do so by playing aggressive, engaging – sometimes reckless – cricket is another. Oh, and the white-ball team won the T20 World Cup.
Australia Women deserve an honourable mention here, having thumped England in the Ashes and brushed their rivals aside at both the World Cup and Commonwealth Games. A hat tip to Gujarat Titans, too, for winning the IPL in their debut season.
BATTER OF THE YEAR – Jonny Bairstow
One of Yorkshire’s finest scored (or smashed, if we’re going to be pedantic) more than 1,000 runs in 19 Test innings. His tally of six centuries was the most of any player.
The Jonny Bairstow Summer will live long in the memory – he scored four of his tons in the space of 22 days and had at one point blasted 474 runs from his last 433 balls. This was in Test cricket, remember.
Even when England were on their knees in Australia and the Caribbean, Bairstow delivered, making an Ashes hundred in January and scoring 140 in Antigua. The only shame is that a freak accident and broken leg ruled him out of the T20 World Cup and subsequent tour to Pakistan.
A shout-out also to Suryakumar Yadav, the leading run-scorer in T20 internationals and one of the most prolific batters in the IPL. He averaged a smidge over 45 at a strike-rate of 176, with two tons.
England’s Nat Sciver also excelled, averaging 121 and 60 in Tests and ODIs respectively and making hundreds in both formats.
BOWLER OF THE YEAR – Kagiso Rabada
While South Africa endured a mixed year – beating India and Bangladesh at home but losing to England and Australia away – Rabada remained flawless throughout, taking 45 wickets in eight Tests.
Rabada’s tally has been bettered by just one player – Jack Leach – but it should be pointed out that the South African played six fewer matches than the England spinner.
The 27-year-old bowled with pace and venom but his consistency is an underappreciated aspect of his game. A case in point: Rabada took at least two wickets in 13 of the 14 times he stepped ontp a Test outfield in his bowling boots, the only anomaly coming during a straightforward England run-chase.
That’s the kind of consistency James Anderson has shown over the course of his 20-year career and continued to demonstrate in 2022. The 40-year-old looked as classy as ever, ending the year with 36 wickets at less than 20.
A word also for Sam Curran, who was named player of the tournament at the T20 World Cup. Thrust into the death-overs role, Curran showed all his tricks to stifle England’s opponents, taking 3-12 in the final against Pakistan. It’s hard to think of someone more deserving of a £1.85m IPL payday.
INNINGS OF THE YEAR – Jonny Bairstow (162 vs New Zealand)
It’s hard to separate a few of Bairstow’s centuries but we’ll go with his 162 in the thrilling run-chase against New Zealand at Trent Bridge.
Chasing 299 in 63 overs, England were stuttering at 139-4 at tea. Other teams would have gone into their shell and made sure not to lose, but Bairstow and Stokes only had one thing on their mind and proceeded to knock off the runs with 13 overs to spare.
Bairstow took down the Kiwi attack in brutal fashion, hooking and driving his way to a 77-ball ton, the second-fastest by an England player. He had blasted 136 from 92 balls – with 14 fours and seven sixes – when his innings finally came to an end. Bazball at its best.
Virat Kohli’s heroic effort to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in India’s T20 World Cup clash with Pakistan wasn’t far behind. Pakistan were all but celebrating a famous win over their arch-rivals before Kohli guided India home. He later called the unbeaten 82 from 53 balls his greatest white-ball innings.
If Kohli almost single-handedly ensured India would not be beaten, the same can be said for England captain Heather Knight, who scored 168 not out in a score of 297 in an Ashes thriller in Canberra.
Over at Grace Road, Leicester, Sam Northeast became just the ninth cricketer in history to score a quadruple century in first-class cricket. There was time left for Northeast to chase down Brian Lara’s record of 501 but 410 was deemed enough and Glamorgan declared, going on to beat Leicestershire in the final session.
SPELL OF THE YEAR – Liam Norwell (9-62 vs Hampshire)
Taking nine wickets should never be sniffed at, but doing so to prevent your team from being relegated is pretty special.
Warwickshire had to win their final game of the season to avoid relegation and send Yorkshire down instead, but time lost in the game meant they were forced to set Hampshire just 139 to win. That should not have been an overly daunting task for a Hants side who had challenged for the Division One title.
But Liam Norwell produced one of the great spells – finishing with 9-62 – to stun Hampshire and keep Warwickshire in the top-flight. His opening partner Oliver Hannon-Dalby got the ball rolling before Norwell, who bowled almost unchanged for 18.5 overs, proceeded to take the next nine wickets to clinch a breathtaking five-run win.
South Africa’s Shabnim Ismail enjoyed a day out against Ireland in June when she took 5-8 from eight overs in her side’s fourth-biggest win of all time. During the remarkable spell, Ismail become only the fifth bowler in the women’s game to reach 300 international wickets.
MATCH OF THE YEAR – India v Pakistan (T20 World Cup)
More than 90,000 spectators packed into the MCG and each and every one of them were treated to an absolute classic.
A game so good you lose track of some of the key moments, such as two early wickets from Arshdeep Singh, who knocked over Babar Azam first ball. There was a composed fifty from Shan Masood and a more destructive one from Iftikhar Amhed as Pakistan posted 159.
India, if you remember, collapsed to 31-4 in the seventh over and still needed 48 from the final 18 balls despite Kohli hitting Shaheen Afridi for three boundaries and Haris Rauf for back-to-back sixes (the first a barely believable back-foot punch over long-on).
It’s even easy to forget some of the details of the dramatic final over. The Pakistan fans were celebrating when India still needed 13 from three, but a Kohli six redressed the balance. The next ball – a free-hit – was wide and the one after that – still a free-hit – bowled Kohli, with the ball deflecting off the stumps and allowing India to scamper three precious runs.
Then there was a stumping as Kohli watched on from the non-striker’s end, before an increasingly rattled Mohammad Nawaz bowled another wide. It was Ravi Ashwin, in case you had forgotten, who held his nerve to hit the winning runs from the final ball. All in all a ridiculous, brilliant game.
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