2015 proved to be a mixed year in cricket. While the IPL scandal showed its ugly face with the suspension of Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals, plenty of legends bid goodbye to international cricket. The cricketing world also mourned the passing away of some of the legends of the game. But amidst all the gloom, the gentleman's game witnessed some memorable moments.
Here are Firstpost's top 10 cricketing moments of 2015.
Afghanistan register first ever World Cup win
"Just a few minutes after flicking the ball through square-leg to score the winning runs, Shapoor Zadran threw his helmet and bat on the ground. Then, he paused. Just for a moment but it seemed like an eternity. A few seconds later, he found his voice and roared. Just one, earth-shattering roar.
And then he ran and ran and ran. He was unstoppable."
The scenes after Afghanistan beat Scotland to register their first ever World Cup win encapsulated the passion of Afghanistan cricket team. It was their first ever World Cup appearance and they surpassed all the expectations. The win against Scotland was a historic one and it didn't come easy.
The pacers Shapoor Zadran (4/38) and Dawlat Zadran (3/29) had helped Afghanistan restrict Scotland to 210. In reply they were struggling at 97/7 then Samiullah Shenwari turned it around for Afghanistan with crucial 35 and 60-run stands with Dawlat and Hamid Hassan. Shenwari missed out on his ton by four runs and departed with 19 still to get and just one wicket remaining. But Shapoor and Hamid held their nerves to drag Afghanistan past finish line and send not only the nation but the entire cricketing world in delirium.
Wahab's devastating spell in World Cup
It's the quarter-final of the 2015 World Cup, Pakistan have been bundled out for 213, Australia have started off well at 44/1 from 8 overs with David Warner and Steve Smith looking good. It's all too easy for the batsmen but then Pakistan captain Misbah-Ul-Haq hands over the ball to Wahab Riaz and what follows is an half-hour passage that would go down as one of the most memorable ones in history of cricket.
Wahab produces a breath-taking spell of 6-0-24-2 which has the batsmen hopping, ducking and jumping for cover. A calm Australia were suddenly terrified as Wahab unleashed a string of rib-tickling short deliveries to rattle the batsmen. There were sarcastics claps, death stares and mimics which enthralled the full house at Adelaide Oval. He removed David Warner, Michael Clarke and then went after Shane Watson who had sledged him earlier in the day.
Watson was a rabbit in headlights against Wahab and finally when it looked like he would succumb to Wahab, Rahat Ali commited the cardinal sin of dropping a simple catch at fine leg off a top-edged pull. That proved to be the turning point. Watson survived the spell, he hit an unbeaten 64-run knock as Australia won by seven wickets.
Watson later described it as the most important knock in ODIs. "It was pretty nasty, I had a lot of luck to be able to get through that spell," Watson told Fox Sports. "He gave it everything all the way through the whole game. "We knew he was a danger man, he had his tail up and he bowled some nasty balls on the money, a lot of them," he added.
"That’s as good as I’ve faced in one-day cricket for a long time, there’s no doubt about it,' Clarke said about Wahab's spell after the match. "(It) probably gave us a good look at what it would have been like to face Mitchell Johnson throughout the Ashes."
AB de Villiers' fastest ton
In the 2nd ODI at New Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg, South Africa were cruising at 247/0 with Hashim Amla and Riley Rosssouw completing their respective tons. Jerome Taylor finally provided some relief by removing Rossouw in the 39th over. Hardly did he know that the relief would turn into more misery as AB de Villiers walked in at NO.3.
What followed was carnage and the match was taken away from the Windies even before they could realise what hit them. De Villiers romped to the fastest century in ODIs - off 31 balls - as he unfurled a range of audacious scoops, slog sweeps, pulls and lofted drives to shatter records after records. He hammered 16 sixes and nine fours in a breath-taking knock of 149 off 59 balls as South Africa ropmed to the 439. The match was over even before the West Indies innings started as the Proteas crushed Windies by 148 runs.
Later, De Villiers revealed that he wanted to send in David Miller but it was coach Russell Domingo who who convinced him to go ahead of Miller. "I approached Russell Domingo about four or five times saying, 'Are you sure me and not David Miller?' and he said 'Yes, sure,' and then two or three overs later, Sulieman Benn came back and I went to Russell for a final time and said 'Maybe him now?' and he still said, 'No, you'. Russell feels I can inject us with fuel, momentum, which I can do but I just felt David could do it better," de Villiers explained afterwards.
De Villiers went on to win the ICC ODI cricketer of the year award. If ever West Indies bowlers want to curse someone for the horror day, it has to be Domingo first and then de Villiers.
First ever Day-Night Test
Ever since the idea of Day-Night Tests was conceived, there were doubts whether the experiment would be successful. But all the doubts were laid to rest as Australia and New Zealand played out an exciting Test match with an impressive aggregate crowd of 123, 736 descending the Adelaide Oval over three days.
The early finish doesn't highlight the true story of Test as the spectators enjoyed some exhilirating cricket. The pacers dominated the Test with conditions favouring swing bowling, especially in the night. The Australia pacers - led by Mitchell Starc - bundled New Zealand out for 202 in the first innings. The Kiwis, however, bounced back but Peter Nevill's crucial 66 gave the hosts a slender lead. Josh Hazlewood led Australia's reply in the second innings with a six-for to bowl the Kiwis out for 208.
With 187 to win, Australia were comfortably placed at 161/4 but a late burst and a brilliant spell from Trent Boult brought the game to life as he had them on tenterhooks with a brilliant five-for. However, Peter Siddle and Mitchell Starc held their nerves to guide Australia past finish line with three wickets to spare.
A fascinating finish to a historic Test was the icing on the cake and it is fair to say day-night Tests are here to stay. And provide us the chance to see photos like this.
Starc's first over to McCullum and Australia's World Cup win
The two best teams in World Cup had made it to the finals. One of the most brutal hitters was up against a bowler at the peak of his game as New Zealand opted to bat after winning the toss.
New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum was in ominous form having hit four fifty-plus scores with some breath-taking hitting right from the word go. New Zealand had won the group-stage match against Australia by one wicket thanks to Kane Williamson's heroics.
In the final, McCullum was up against Starc off the third delivery of the first over. The Australia seamer bowled a very full inswinger first up and it beat McCullum's inside edge on the drive. McCullum then gave him the charge next ball but Starc followed him and beat him again with an inswinger. The next one is a fast 148 km/hr inswinging yorker which beat McCullum all ends up and cannoned into the off stump.
Starc went berserk, the MCG went berserk and New Zealand never really recovered. Australia bundled New Zealand out for 183 and then cruised to a seven-wicket win with 101-balls to spare giving captain Michael Clarke a fitting farewell who led from the front with 74 from 72 balls. Starc set the tone for the win in that first over. He was named the Man of the Series as he ended up as joint-highest wicket-taker with 22 wickets. Australia lifted their fifth World Cup at the glorious Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Australia 60 all out in The Ashes
One of the most fascinating opening sessions in Ashes history saw Australia crumble to 60 all out on first day of the fourth Test at Trent Bridge. The visitors came into the Test trying to save the series after being 2-1 down but Stuart Broad dealt the killer blow in the first session of the Test as he ripped through the Australian batting line up to scalp eight wickets and buldle them out for 60 in 18.3 overs - their seventh lowest in Test history.
Broad's immaculate lengths fraught with swing and some poor technique from the Australian batsmen meant that Australia lasted just 111 balls - the shortest-ever first innings in a Test. Joe Root then piled misery on Australia with a ton as England gained a mammoth 331 run lead. The Australian batsmen faltered again under pressure in second innings as England romped to an innings and 78-run win thanks to Ben Stokes' six-for and retained the Ashes after the 5-0 drubbing last year.
This was their fourth consecutive home series win over Australia - their best since 1896. Australia did fight back to win the last Test and managed to send Michael Clarke and Chris Rogers off on a high.
Bangladesh send England crashing out to qualify for quarter final of World Cup
2015 was a year where Bangladesh sent a message to the rest of the world that they can no more be termed minnows or underdogs. It all started with the World Cup where they added to an already burgeoning list of upsets as they knocked England out of the tournament at the Adelaide Oval. Mahmudullah set the platform as he finally broke his century duck in his 114th ODI with 102.
He along with Mushfiqur Rahim propelled Bangladesh to 275. Rubel Hossain and Mashrafe then reduced England to 163/6 before Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes led England's revival with a 75-run stand for the 7th wicket. But with 38 needed off 26 balls, pacer Taskin Ahmed struck a crucial blow to remove Buttler.
Chris Jordan was run out the next ball and the match turned in Bangladesh's favour. Woakes, however was still fighting it out but with 16 needed off 12, Mortaza brought Rubel back on and he sent the Bangladesh fans into a frenzy shattering the stumps twice in three balls - that of Stuart Broad and James Anderson - to pull off a famous win.
What made the win even more sweet was the fact that this was the first time they had qualified for the knock-outs. Bangladesh then went on to win ODI series against Pakistan, Zimbabwe, South Africa and India - making it a very memorable 2015, indeed
Oman qualify for their first ever ICC event
After Afghanistan's success, another inspiring story emerged out of 2015 as Oman qualified for ICC World T20 2016 in India. Oman went into the qualifiers as underdogs and emerged out as giant killers. Their campaign didn't get off to a good start as they lost to Kenya but a win against Canada turned it around for them as they won their next three matches and beating the likes of Netherlands and Afghanistan on their way.
23 July, 2015 turned out to be a historic day for Oman as they confirmed their World T20 qualification - their first ever major ICC event qualification as well as T20I status for the next four years. After electing to field Oman restricted Namibia to 148 in Dublin. Zeeshan Siddiqui led from front in the chase with 51* and finished off the match in style as Oman won comfortably with six balls to spare. It was a memorable moment, one which Oman will savour for a long, long time.
Elliott's helping hand to Steyn in a tremendous show of sportsmanship
Just minutes after Grant Elliott had deposited the penultimate ball of the 2015 World Cup semi-final from Dale Steyn over long on to send the fans into delirium, a picture went viral on social media - that of Elliott providing a helping hand to a devastated Steyn who lay on the 22-yard turf in tears.
It was a moment that made the World Cup special. The South African's were in tears and inconsolable and while other teammates had went berserk in celebrations, Elliott saw a hart-broken Steyn lay on the wicket, he walked up to him, stretched out his hand to pick him up. It was a great show of sportsmanship - one which perfectly symbolised the way New Zealand had played throughout the year.
Steyn later revealed the story behind the incident - "I was kind of lying on my back, trying to take stock of things that happened. You train for four years for that tournament and it disappeared like this... in a flash," Steyn told Mid-Day. "It was comforting to see a man stand and give out his hand. And it also takes a man to stretch out his hand and accept the humble gesture. I liked it, it was great. I felt I had spent enough time on the ground and it was time to get up (laughs). Grant was the perfect man to pick me up. It was a perfect moment."
"I hope such gestures happen often. It is something I would also like to do and expect my team to do. No matter what happens on the field, it should stay there. We appreciate good sportsmanship. It wasn't something that was planned. It was just so natural. It is one of my best cricketing moments," he added.
Mad-cap Chandimal blows away India
When Dinesh Chandimal came out to bat at 92/4 in Sri Lanka's second innings of first Test against India at Galle, the hosts were down in the dumps, still trailing by 100 runs. An innings defeat looked imminent with the Indian spinners spitting venom with turn and bounce on a third day pitch. It was looking bleak, it was looking painful for the Sri Lankan fans.
When you have nothing to lose, you go fearless and that's what Chandimal did. What followed was breath-taking stuff as Chandimal went on the counterattack to knock the wind out of the sails of Indian bowlers - 162 off just 169 balls with 19 fours and four sixes.
There were nervous moments, he was scratchy to start off and lucky as well with a couple of umpiring decisions but as his innings progressed, Sri Lanka gathered hope - Chandimal scored 44% of the runs but the best part was the way he unsettled the spinners employing sweeps, slog sweeps and reverse sweeps and also the way he shepherded the tail.
From being in a hopeless position to dreaming of a win, Chandimal had turned it around completely. Sri Lanka set a 176-run target and their spinners made sure that Chandimal's heroics didn't go in vain.
Amazing send off. So proud of the young team. @chandi_17 one of the best counter punching knocks I have seen. Rangana an Kaushi were amazing
— Kumar Sangakkara (@KumarSanga2) August 15, 2015
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