Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Highlights of 2014

Wednesday, 31 December 2014
I didn't think I'd write another post this year, but here I am with a little thing to round the year off. These are my personal highlights in English cricket this year - generally the ones I've found the most entertaining, exciting, or have just made me happiest.

5. Joe Root & James Anderson's last wicket stand

This won't be remembered as a particularly special match, as on the face of it, it was just a very dull draw and even finished with Alastair Cook bringing himself on to bowl. But it had its moments: India in their first innings putting on a century stand with batsmen number nine and eleven before England went even better, racking up a world record 198-run stand for the final wicket. It probably said a lot more about the pitch than anything else, but even so this was just so fun at the time - the sense of disbelief as Anderson first made it to his highest first class score, then his first fifty, coming so close to an improbable test century before eventually falling for 81. Joe Root's unbeaten 154* wasn't bad either.

4. Jos Buttler's ODI century

There aren't really any words that can describe this innings other than brilliant. Though ultimately in a losing cause as Sri Lanka came out as winners by seven runs, it took England a lot closer than they would have come otherwise. Buttler took England to the brink with a phenomenal 121 from 74 balls batting at number seven, and some of the shots he hit were just unbelievable. I was listening on radio at the time whilst cooking my dinner, and this was an innings that nearly made me burn it: I just couldn't drag myself away. Moreover, after such a miserable winter, this innings gave a glimmer of hope for the future; and by the end of the summer Buttler was no longer a limited overs specialist for England.

3. A new king of spin emerges

At the start of the year, the future looked bleak in many ways for England, and the problem of replacing a spinner as successful as Graeme Swann was a major concern. When Moeen Ali was called up to the test side, it was mainly as a batsman and a part time bowler - not all that trusted by the captain. That wasn't the case by the end of the summer, Ali taking 19 wickets at 23 against the team perhaps most known for playing spin - India. When he bowled India out in the third test at Southampton, taking 6/67 as they fell for just 178, his name was on everyone's lips. More than that, his attitude impressed - his composure, determination to better himself, and how unfazed he was by all the attention; qualities that should stand him in good stead for the future.

2. 8/4

There are moments you have to see to believe, and there are moments you struggle to believe even as you see them. This was the latter. In what was barely the blink of an eye, India's score of 8/0 became 8/4. The series stood at 1-1 at this point with two to go but England were finding their feet again, and from this moment the series seemed as good as theirs. Broad (6/25) and Anderson (3/46) ran riot on the first morning in near perfect conditions, dismissing India for 152 on the way to an innings victory. And English cricket really had a smile on its face again.

1. Yorkshire win the County Championship

I generally stick to the international game on this blog, but for me this was the cricket highlight of the year. I was seven years old when Yorkshire last won the competition, only just starting to become aware of the game and certainly not knowing much about county cricket. Since then there have been ups and downs, relegations, promotions and near misses, but 2014 was the year where Yorkshire put themselves firmly on top of the pile again. Across all areas they excelled, having the strength in depth to cope with the absences of players like Root, Ballance, and Plunkett on international duty, and with several others pushing for further places in the national side. I'm always hopelessly biased towards my county, but this was the moment that put the biggest smile on my face for days on end - so it has to be my personal highlight of 2014.

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