2021 has been a remarkable year for cricket fans as the number of series getting cancelled for Covid-19 greatly decreased and most importantly they witnessed some terrific cricket in the ICC Men's T20 World Cup held in the UAE and Oman as well in the Test arena.
It was difficult for us to choose the 10 best moments from international cricket this year. We had to exclude moments like a Nathan Ellis hat trick in T20I debut, Asif Ali's incredible finishes and Jos Buttler's hundred against Sri Lanka in the World Cup, Joe Root's masterclass in Sri Lanka, Ireland's shock win over England and many more.
Here are The Business Standard's ten biggest moments in international cricket in 2021.
1. A new dawn for New Zealand
Two years ago, New Zealand were agonisingly close to their first world title but they lost it to England despite not actually losing the match. Earlier this year, they got another chance in the same country - England - to stamp their authority although the format and opposition were different. But bad weather meant only three and a half days of play was possible but India and New Zealand - two quality sides - made a match out of it. On the final day of the final of the World Test Championship (WTC), New Zealand were given a target of 139 in 53 overs. R Ashwin sent back the openers early but the experienced duo of Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson stuck together and ensured no more harm was done before they chased it down successfully.
2. Australia get the elusive trophy
Australia maintained their unbeaten record against New Zealand in major ICC event knockouts as Aaron Finch's men beat the Black Caps convincingly by eight wickets in the final and won their maiden T20 World Cup title. For the record five-time winners of the Cricket World Cup, the T20 Cup was a trophy that was not present in their showcase. Six years after Australia's crushing win in 2015 final, they repeated the feat in the T20 format in Dubai. Mitchell Marsh and David Warner's magnificent performance with the bat helped the Aussies lift the title. Kane Williamson played a masterclass of an innings but ended up being on the losing side. Marsh top-scored for Australia in the final with an unbeaten 77 off 50 balls.
3. Boland has a ball on debut
Scott Boland created history even before he bowled a ball on his debut at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) in the third Ashes Test as he became only the second indigenous Test cricketer representing the Australia Men's team. England were 82 runs behind after two innings were completed in the match. Boland ensured they did even overcome the deficit. He bowled just four overs in the second innings and returned an astonishing six wickets for seven runs. Boland completed his five-wicket haul in only 19 balls which was the third-fastest five-for in Tests. Boland also created a new record for the fewest number of runs conceded while picking up a five-wicket haul on Test debut - 7 runs.
4. India's incredible comeback
After India were bundled out for a paltry 36 in Adelaide, their regular captain Virat Kohli's departure was a massive blow. During the tour, they lost a host of players to injury. But the visitors scripted a comeback for the ages despite the odds not being in their favour. After a scintillating win in the second Test in Sydney, India managed to draw the third match in Sydney. Although he could not get his team home in the third match, Rishabh Pant turned out to be the hero for India in the fourth Test at the Gabba. His unbeaten 89 helped India chase 328 and it was the first time since 1988 that a team had defeated Australia on that very ground. From being 1-0 behind, a depleted India won the series 2-1 against Australia in Australia.
5. Patel's perfect ten
New Zealand's slow left-arm bowler Ajaz Patel became the third bowler in the history of Tests to pick up all ten wickets in an innings against India in Mumbai, the town where he was born. Patel, whose parents emigrated to New Zealand from India in 1996, finished with 10 for 119 in the first innings. Before him, only Jim Laker and Anil Kumble had achieved the feat. Although New Zealand lost the match by a massive margin, Patel had a tremendous match, picking up as many as 14 wickets in the match. His match figures of 14 for 225 was the best performance by any bowler against India.
6. Dananjaya bags hattrick, then gets hit for six sixes by Pollard
Sri Lanka's Akila Dananjaya experienced the extremes of T20 cricket in the same match as he was hit for six sixes in an over after bagging a hattrick. He dismissed Evin Lewis, Chris Gayle and Nicholas Pooran in consecutive deliveries in a T20I in Antigua. But he had little time to reflect as he was hit to all parts of the ground by Kieron Pollard in his next over. The West Indies skipper became the second batter after Yuvraj Singh in T20Is to hit six sixes in an over. Dananjaya finished with three for 62 in his four overs. Pollard's 11-ball-38 helped the West Indies chase down 132 in 13.1 overs.
7. Shaheen's over to remember
Shaheen Shah Afridi's blistering opening spell against India was certainly the talk of the town during the 2021 ICC Men's T20 World Cup. Shaheen picked up three of India's most dangerous batters - Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and Virat Kohli. Rohit and Rahul fell in the first over. Rohit was pinned leg-before off a deadly yorker while Rahul was cleaned up off another full and swinging delivery. His first over set the tone for Pakistan and they went on to beat India by a massive margin of 10 wickets and it was the first team Pakistan defeated India in any World Cup. Pakistan, before that, had never won a T20I match by 10 wickets.
8. Campher's double hattrick
Ireland all-rounder Curtis Campher, in the first round of the 2021 ICC Men's T20 World Cup, joined modern-day greats Lasith Malinga and Rashid Khan in the illustrious list of cricketers who picked up four wickets in four balls in international cricket. He also became only the second bowler after Australia's Brett Lee to register a hattrick in a T20 World Cup game. Against the Netherlands, Campher got rid of Colin Ackermann, Ryan ten Doeschate, Scott Edwards and Roelof van der Merwe in consecutive balls in the 10th over and created history. The Netherlands were, all of a sudden, 52 for six from 52 for two. Campher achieved the feat of bagging a hattrick as the first Irishman in international cricket.
9. The rise of Namibian cricket
The astonishing rise of Namibian cricket was certainly the story of this year's T20 World Cup. They came into the World Cup as the lowest-ranked team in the tournament and were placed in Group A along with Sri Lanka, Ireland and the Netherlands. They, on paper, were the weakest side in the group and not many predicted that they would progress to the Super 12s. But they beat stronger opponents in the form of the Netherlands and Ireland in the first round. Namibia not only qualified for the main stage but also won their first-ever game in the Super 12s against Scotland. It's a feat that hasn't been achieved even by the likes of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. They did not win more than one game in the tournament but it was still a creditable effort from the Namibians.
10. Mayers' Chattogram miracle
Chasing a mammoth 395 on a day five Chattogram pitch against Bangladesh, what debutant Kyle Mayers did was nothing short of a miracle. Mayers got an ally in Nkrumah Bonner, also on debut. These two added 216 important runs which was the second-highest partnership ever between two debutants in the history of Tests. Even after Bonner's dismissal, Mayers continued to pounce on the bowlers and got his team over the line.
He remained not out on 210 and in the process became the sixth player on debut to smash a Test match double hundred. Mayers' unbeaten 210 was the second-highest individual score in a successful run-chase and his innings helped the West Indies script the highest successful chase in Asia.