Like every sport, cricket has tried to make the best of a bad situation in 2020.
The coronavirus pandemic forced the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup to be postponed, the Indian Premier League to be delayed and a host of domestic competitions to be scrapped entirely.
Most of the cricket that was played was done so behind closed doors, but we were still treated to some brilliant international fixtures, a record-breaking Women’s T20 World Cup, a full IPL campaign and a first Bob Willis Trophy.
But who were the stand-out players of 2020? Who produced the best innings of the year? And who was the breakout star? Here, Metro.co.uk looks back on a year like no other in the world of cricket.
Best Test Player – Ben Stokes (England)
The leading run-scorer in Tests, Stokes averaged close to 60 for England in red-ball cricket, scoring two centuries and two fifties.
As always with Stokes, though, the numbers hardly tell the whole story. He smashed 72 in the second innings of the Cape Town Test back in January, for example, which set the platform for the win.
He bowled England to victory with three late wickets in that match and finishes the year with 19 wickets at an average of less than 20. Stokes took a joint-record five catches in Cape Town and no player took more catches than him during 2020.
Stokes’ best performance with the bat came against West Indies in Manchester, where he scored a brilliant 176. While his form fell away towards the end of the English summer, he was still undoubtedly the best Test player of the year.
Honourable mentions: Stuart Broad (England), Kane Williamson (New Zealand)
Best ODI Player – Steve Smith (Australia)
Australia’s run machine finished the year as the second-leading run-scorer in one-day internationals, but surely would have surpassed team-mate Aaron Finch had he played the same amount of games.
Averaging more than 50 is nothing new for Smith, but his strike-rate for the year was almost 108 and indicates his improvement in white-ball cricket.
In just nine innings in this format, the 31-year-old scored three centuries and two fifties, including back-to-back tons in the recent series against India.
Honourable mentions: Aaron Finch (Australia), Adam Zampa (Australia)
Best T20 Player – Rashid Khan (Afghanistan)
Rashid only played three T20 internationals this year – he took five wickets in Afghanistan’s series against Ireland in March – but played in a host of tournaments around the world and was the stand-out bowler.
He was the second-leading wicket-taker in 2020 with 53 scalps, but it was his economy rate of 6.34 which really leapt off the page.
The top-ranked T20 batsman in the world, Dawid Malan, certainly deserves a shout-out, as does Pakistan captain Babar Azam and Indian Premier League star Jofra Archer, but Rashid just gets the nod.
Honourable mentions: Dawid Malan (England), Mohammad Hafeez (Pakistan), KL Rahul (India), Babar Azam (Pakistan), Heather Knight (England)
Breakout Star – Zak Crawley (England)
It seems ridiculous to say now but Crawley was under some pressure ahead of the second Test against Pakistan in Southampton.
While he had made a decent enough start to his international career – scoring three fifties in seven Tests – he was yet to cement his place in the team with a match-defining innings.
That all changed at the Ageas Bowl in August, when he scored a magnificent 267 against a more than decent Pakistan attack.
Crawley batted with such authority and ease that it appeared as though Len Hutton’s England record of 364 may have been under threat.
While that never materialised, it was still one of the best breakthrough innings from an English player and suggested he has long and fruitful international career ahead of him.
After returning to county cricket towards the end of the summer, the Kent star also notched up tons in the Bob Willis Trophy and T20 Blast. The future certainly looks bright for Crawley.
Honourable mentions: Thangarasu Natarajan (India), Cameron Green (Australia), Kyle Jamison (New Zealand)
Best Innings – Alyssa Healy (Australia)
Perhaps we should have sensed wicketkeeper-batsman Healy was about to produce a special innings when she smashed the first ball of the Women’s T20 World Cup final for four.
She found the rope twice more in an eventful first over, which also saw her dropped on nine. Healy took full advantage of her reprieve, smashing the fastest fifty in the final of any ICC competition – men’s or women’s – to essentially win Australia the match.
The 30-year-old, who is the niece of Australia legend Ian Healy, was dismissed in the 12th over having scored 75 from 39 balls, including seven fours and five sixes.
It was a superb innings in front of more than 86,000 fans at the Melbourne Cricket Ground and helped Australia win their fifth T20 World Cup on International Women’s Day.
Honourable mentions: Zak Crawley (England, 267), Kane Williamson (New Zealand, 251), Paul Stirling (Ireland, 142), Dawid Malan (99*)
Best Bowling Performance – Australia vs India (Adelaide)
India were more than competitive for the first six sessions of the opening Test against Australia in December. After one session of day three, however, the game was done.
The Adelaide pitch was spicy but this was no minefield, and yet Australia proceeded to bowl India out for 36, their lowest-ever score and the joint-fifth lowest in the history of Test cricket.
At one point, India were 15-5 and the all-time lowest total of 26 appeared under threat. The tourists scrambled past that figure but did not last much longer, as every player was dismissed for less than ten.
Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins were incredible, taking figures of 5-8 and 4-21 respectively, and India’s collapse was further proof that this Australia attack is not only the best in the world, but one of the best of all time.
Honourable mentions: Stuart Broad (England vs West Indies, Manchester)
Best Moment – Michael Holding and Ebony Rainford-Brent challenge racism
Only a handful of overs were bowled on day one of the first Test between England and West Indies, but Michael Holding and Ebony Rainford-Brent more than made up for the lack of action.
West Indies legend Holding and Rainford-Brent, the first black woman to play for England, drew widespread praise after recounting on Sky Sports their experiences of racism.
At a time when players were taking the knee in support of Black Lives Matter and the world was coming to terms with the killing of George Floyd, it was a powerful and emotional segment, and a reminder of the work that still needs to be done to combat racism.
Honourable mentions: Women’s T20 World Cup final, James Anderson reaching 600 Test wickets, Stuart Broad nominated for Sports Personality of the Year
Team of the Year – Mumbai Indians
Mumbai have been touted as the best T20 team of all time and surely their victory in the 2020 Indian Premier League puts that argument to bed.
The franchise have now won five of the last eight IPLs and became only the second team in history to defend the title.
Mumbai Indians cruised through to the play-offs, winning more group matches than any other team, before clinching emphatic victories over Royal Challengers Bangalore in the semi-final and Delhi Capitals in the final. They are unstoppable.
Honourable mentions: England, Essex, Australia Women
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