1) Murali reaches 800 wickets: Nobody deserved this milestone more; not even the king of leg spin. In his final test, against the best players of spin, he needed 8 wickets to become the only man in history to get 800 Test scalps. He duly completed the feat; and fittingly, wicket 800 was achieved with the help of a familiar accomplice at slip. As they say, some stories cannot be scripted better.
2) Laxman’s 103* leads India to victory against SL: This was the year of Laxman. It all started with this innings in the final test of the series against Sri Lanka at Colombo. Laxman walked into 62/4, with India still needing 195 runs to win, and draw the series. Against a tricky attack comprising spin and sling, he exhibited a classy innings in a pressure situation and led India to victory. He was just getting started….
3) Jimmy swings it like the 60s; 6/17 vs Pakistan at Nottingham: Most people know that when Anderson is in the mood, he is one of the best exponents of swing bowling in the world. Pakistan encountered him in such a mood, when they walked out to their 2nd innings. Forget the target of 435; reaching 135 was going to be a challenge. They duly folded for 80, in a summer of collapses. That shouldn’t take any credit away from Anderson, who at full flight, was a delight to watch.
4) Trott and Broad put on 332 runs for the 8th wicket at Lord’s: This match will always be remembered for the spot-fixing scandal, and that is very unfair to Trott and Broad. Broad joined Trott, when England were 102/7, and 150 looked like a good score. Slowly and steadily, they turned the tables spectacularly on Pakistan, with a combination of skill, patience and sheer bloody-mindedness. Pakistan had no answers to the partnership, just as they had no answers a few days later, to more serious questions.
5) Laxman, Ishant and Ojha make Ponting sad: When Australia had India down at 124/8 with 81 runs to defend, Ponting could be forgiven if he relaxed a bit. Their arch nemesis was at the crease, but with two tail-enders to bowl to, victory seemed a formality. What followed instead was one of the most fascinating passages of Tests, I have seen. Laxman kept finding the boundary, even as Sharma morphed into a Dravid, and last man Ojha had a part to play as well. The last few moments of the match had it all – a wrong LBW given, a right LBW rejected, a missed run out, overthrows, Laxman threatening to bash Ojha’s skull in, and finally, the most poignant of them all: a grumpy Ponting.
6) Gayle scores 333 against Sri Lanka: If Gayle hates Test matches, this was one weird way of showing it. In his first match since he was removed as skipper, he played one of the most calculating innings of the year, as he mixed caution and aggression to decimate the Lankan bowlers. If that was not enough, he also had the most creative celebration upon reaching a milestone.
7) Chris Martin’s ‘Coldplay’ performance against India: (Ok, I just had to insert Coldplay into the title somehow.) When India came out to bat in their 2nd innings against New Zealand at Ahmedabad on the 4th day with only a lead of 28, few or none would have imagined the carnage which was to follow. 36 year old Martin bowled fast, swung the ball a bit, aimed bouncers at the body, and the net result – India in trouble at 65/6. If it was not for a 2nd innings specialist and a bowler/batsman (no one knows anymore), this would have been Martin’s finest hour. The match ultimately ended in a draw, but for a few overs, for Martin and New Zealand, ‘The World turned upside down’ (I have poor self-control!).
8) Mitchy briefly rediscovers his mojo at Perth: In a series characterized by bumbling selections by the Aussies, Johnson was dropped for the 2nd Test and immediately returned to the 3rd Test, with no convincing explanation offered for either. All that didn’t matter, when Johnson got into his stride on the 2nd day. The pace, the swing, the aggression, the chatter – they were all back. For a couple of days, the Australians were a transformed side and England didn’t know what hit them. They got to witness firsthand what the fuss about Johnson was all about. Fortunately for them, Johnson has sincerely returned to bowling rubbish since then, and the Ashes have been regained.
9) Steyn and Morkel welcome India to South Africa: India have always been poor starters to tours abroad. Steyn and Morkel are the best fast bowling pair in the world. These two inexorable facts combined for a devastating 1st day performance at Centurion. Together, they shared 8 of the finest scalps between them for a measly price of 54 runs. Swing, speed and bounce – India’s biggest failings over the past decades came back to haunt them and these two bowlers delivered the sucker punch to the much vaunted batting line-up, to roll them over for 136. If India are to win this series next week, their batsmen will have to find a way across these players first.
10) Laxman – ‘Again..how?’: Apparently, this was the first question posed to Laxman when he got to the press conference on the 3rd day of the Durban test. A valid question to a man who has consistently rescued India from precarious situations this year. Despite a healthy lead of 74, India were squandering their position at 56/4 when Tendulkar got out. Then, in the company of Pujara, Dhoni and Zaheer, he guided India to a strong position. He did this, in the manner he has been doing all year. Getting boundaries at crucial moments, guiding the tail and eventually wearing the bowlers out. While Tendulkar and Dravid keep breaking and making new records, Laxman has quietly ensured that India will remain one tough test team to beat.
There have been several other moments, notably from the Ashes, which I have omitted to mention. Despite my partiality towards India and England, from a pure cricket fan’s point of view, this has been my unadulterated Top 10 Test Cricket moments of the year.
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