2020 will always be carved into our memories as an unpredictable year, one which forced all of us to rethink and restructure our lives. The world has been topsy turvy courtesy the pandemic, and cricket has been no exception.
The Covid-19 pandemic forced all cricket to come to a standstill for months. It was only the third time in the history of the game that all scheduled matches were called off and there was no cricketing action for fans and enthusiasts. The previous two instances of the gentleman's game coming to a halt were during World War I and World War II.
1. Introduction of bio-bubble by England Cricket Board (ECB)
Thanks to the ECB, the halt in cricket did not continue for as long as it did during the previous two instances. The cricketing board introduced all other boards to the concept of Bio-Secure Bubbles, and fans started enjoying live cricketing action once again amidst testing times of lockdowns and staying indoors.
2. Players taking a knee - The Black Lives Matter Movement
Covid-19 was not the only topic which grabbed headlines in 2020. The sad death of George Floyd caused a ripple effect across the globe. When cricket resumed in July with a Test series between England and West Indies, everyone present on the field took a knee to show their support for the Black Lives Matter Movement (BLM).
Honouring George Floyd and raising awareness by taking a knee became a norm in cricket and other sports soon. South Africa opted not to take the knee during the T20I series against England, and faced sharp criticism for the same.
3. West Indies defeated England in the first match
West Indies comprehensively defeated the England team in the first Test match at Southampton after the resumption of cricket. It might have well been the most heartwarming outcome of a cricket match this year, except for the English cricket fans.
As West Indies came within single digits of chasing down the score, Michael Holding, in the commentary box quipped excitedly,
“My phone is buzzing in my pocket. I can feel it vibrating with messages”. Such was the excitement!
England, however, came back strongly in the 3-match series. All-rounder Ben Stokes scored 176 off 356 deliveries in the second Test to keep his team above the Windies. He celebrated his feat with the popular bent middle-finger gesture, a tribute to his father who was battling brain cancer. Unfortunately, his father passed away in December 2020.
4. Major bowling milestones at the England camp
Stuart Broad became the third fast bowler to amass 500 Test wickets. Interestingly, his last set of 100 wickets came at an awe-inspiring average of just 22.6 runs per wicket!
A few Test matches later, Broad's bowling partner, James Anderson notched up his 600th Test wicket, becoming the first pacer in the history of the game to break the barrier. He completed his summer with exactly 600 Test scalps. Anderson grabbed a stump to keep it as a souvenir when the match ended in a draw.
5. A delayed start to the IPL
Mumbai Indians restored faith in a year of anomalies. The defending champions led by Rohit Sharma continued to be the best team in the mega T-20 tournament. They had an unperturbed run to the final, miles ahead of any other side, and added another title to their tally.
2020 was also a great year of first-time finalists Delhi Capitals, who shredded the unwanted tag of being the only side not to have played an IPL final.
6. Rahul Tewatia teaches everyone a life lesson
Rahul Tewatia stretched the boundaries of the popular phase ‘never say never’. Promoted to number 4, the all-rounder arrived at the crease with over 10 runs per over required for Rajasthan Royals to win.
His tussle to 17 off 23 balls pushed the required run-rate to 17 an over and echoed the demand of a provision to retire the struggling batsmen among cricket experts.
In a matter of six balls, Tewatia made them all sound absurd. He deposited Sheldon Cottrell for five sixes in the 18th over. He raced to a 30-ball fifty, eventually taking Rajasthan Royals past Kings XI Punjab’s 223, making it the highest successful run chase in IPL history.
7. A dark day for Indian Test cricket
A rather forgettable event for one of the stronger cricketing nations. Having worked hard on the first two days of the Adelaide Test to get their noses ahead, India were bundled out for their lowest Test score of 36 on the third day to concede the Test to Australia.
Coincidentally, it came exactly four years after they amassed their highest Test total, 759/7 against England in Chennai, India.
India came back strongly though in the next Test. Against all odds, they defeated Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground to level the series 1-1. Ajinkya Rahane led from the front as stand-in captain and scored a match-winning century to keep India ahead.
8. New Zealand becomes the No. 1 ranked Test side
New Zealand attained the number 1 Test ranking on the last day of international cricket in 2020. Pakistan's Fawad Alam scored a Test hundred after 11 years which put his team in a position to draw the Test. Pakistan’s last pair batted for eight overs before Mitchell Santner’s terrific one-handed off his own bowling won it for the Kiwis in the last hour of play.
New Zealand started the year with a heavy defeat - by 279 runs - against Australia but then won five Tests on a trot to attain the number one Test ranking for the first time in their history.
9. What happened in cricket in 2020 before the Covid-19 pandemic hit?
Rewinding the clock a little before the Covid-19 outbreak, Australian women won their 5th Women’s T20 World Cup title. They crushed a high spirited Indian side by 85 runs in the final world cup final to lift the trophy.
Before the Women’s T20 World Cup, young Indian stars reached the final of the Under 19 World Cup, that took place in South Africa earlier in 2020.
Firm favorites on this occasion, they were left startled by the zeal of their Bangladesh counterparts. India pushed hard for a win but could not break the spirit the Bangladeshi young guns, who went on to win a maiden U19 World Cup title for their country.
Cricket in 2020 was definitely a rollercoaster ride. As cricket fans we all hope that the pandemic subsides soon, so that the same old enthusiasm can be brought back to the sport we all love.