‘United we stand-Divide we fall’ doesn’t hold more appropriately if not in a team sport specially one like Cricket. If a piece of individual brilliance can effectively turn the tide, a hand in a partnership or a ‘one-two’ could do wonders toward the side’s consequences. A Gordan Greenidge or a Rahul Dravid’s contributions towards a team’s causes are often part of fairy-tale scripted victories, while a Vivian Richards or Sachin Tendulkar might actually walk away with almost all the honours in such a win.
2015 has seen individuals make their mark. The Williamsons and the Warners have made giant strides, but the Rahanes or Tom Lathams have come of their own with contributing to the ‘team cause’ being the uppermost thing in their head. Here’s a look at such performances of 2015.
The first of the Freedom trophy tests at Mohali was played on a relatively hard wicket with no real demons in it, but the Indian batting capitulation in the first innings meant that the onus was on their bowlers and the batsmen (in the second innings) to deliver to pull out a result. The bowlers did their job, but only just to eek out a slender run lead.
Then in the second innings, the wicket actually became dry and the conditions proved tough. Pujara joined Vijay at 9/1 and trodded along, slow and steady compiling a hard fought 77. Pujara’s knock may not be the biggest in terms of runs but was of top quality. The spinners eventually ran South Africa through to give India a comfortable 108 run victory, but the run cushion (target) was delivered to them by a special knock by Cheteshwar Pujara.
England regained the Ashes in an innings and 78 run thrashing of Australia earlier in the year at Nottingham, riding on Stuart Broad’s sensational 8/15 which dismantled the visitors for 60 in their first innings. While the world stood in awe admiring the brilliance of Broad and also the inefficiency of the Aussie middle order, the remainder of the test match was still for the taking for the English, when their all rounder Ben Stokes stepped up.
The surface has relatively eased up and the Australians looked to make the most of it, batting second chasing a deficit of 331, and were on course with an opening wicket stand of 113. Stokes got into the act immediately prizing out both the well set openers and then rushed through the lower middle order to finish with scintillating 6/36. With an economy of 1.21, Stokes earned his wickets in typical test cricket style of ‘building pressure’ to help his romp home in spectacular fashion.
The English home series against World Cup runner up New Zealand proved to be one of the most exciting ODI series of the year. The traditional swing and bounce on English tracks seemed to vanish, with the batsmen coming to the party regularly in these high-octane, high -scoring thrillers. With the series levelled at 2-2, going into the decider, England had lost their explosive wicket-keeper batsman Jos Butler to injury and the Yorkshireman Jonny Bairstow was called up.
Chasing a moderate but tricky total of 196 of 26 overs(under D/L method), England were left reeling at 45/5, when Jonny Bairstow was joined by youngster Sam Billings. Counterattacking brilliantly Bairstow put the Kiwi bowlers to the sword in breathtaking effort of 83 from just 60 deliveries, sealing the victory for England. The series is remembered for its extraordinary batting performances by Kane Williamson and Joe Root, but it was the skill of Jonny Bairstow that mattered at the end for England.
In an excellent year for Bangladesh cricket, the Tigers have found many heroes throughout their ‘purple patch’ of 2015. Mahmudullah, Mustafizur Rahman, Soumya Sarkar are a few who came to the party when the team needed it the most. Beating India in a bilateral was one of the Asian nation’s historic achievements of the year, and while the limelight shone rightfully on the young Mustafizur Rahman, it was the an old fox who did the trick in the all the important 2nd ODI at the Sher-e-Bangla stadium.
Chasing 200 from 47 overs, Bangladesh were having hiccups as their middle order was left with a job in hand at 98/3, when the experienced duo of Mushfiqur Rahim and Shakib-al-Hasan came together. The pair put on a calm 54 run stand to steady the ship but it was Shakib who captained the ship all along and never allowed India back in the game. With a sensible innings of 51 of 62 deliveries, the old war-horse took the Tigers home and help them create their moment of history.
In an epic series win against the Lankans, Pakistan experienced one of their highs of 2015, largely due some of their raw and young talent. The third test at Pallekele was the series decider and Pakistan ended having to chase down 377 on a tricky wicket in the fourth innings to win the test. What unfolded thereon at the Pallekele International Stadium was nothing short of pure magic. Pakistan chased down their highest ever fourth innings target in some style, as veteran Younis Khan was the hero with an unbeaten 171.
However the foundation was laid at the top by the young Shan Masood en-route his patient and career defining 125 in 233 balls. The partnership of 242 between Masood and Younis was the fourth highest in a successful run-chase and also Pakistan’s best in the fourth innings of a Test. Joining Masood in the middle when Pakistan were in trouble at 13/2, Younis Khan guided the youngster through his magnificent innings. Masood patiently played out the Sri Lankan pacemen and took the attack to the spinners in a methodical fashion to help his side win a series in Sri Lanka after 10 years.