Cricket Review 2010
This year was where the game of cricket was rocked by the spot fixing scandal. Now defunct News of the World carried out a sting operation and caught on camera players willing to deliberately send down no-balls during the Lord’s Test between Pakistan and England. An ICC inquiry and a criminal investigation followed and in the aftermath – Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Asif and captain Salman Butt were handed jail sentences and lengthy suspensions.

It was a big blow for someone like Amir, who was just 18 years old and was considered as the next big thing in cricket. Although Amir returned to international cricket six years later, he was a pale shadow of his former self.

Pakistan Cricket Board was less forgiving to Asif and Butt as they never represented the country again even after completing their sentences although they returned to domestic cricket.

The whole episode questioned the anti-corruption measures that were in place in cricket. Many felt that they were insufficient and may be even incompetent as it took a string operation by a newspaper to unravel one of the biggest scandals in the sport.

However, since the incident the anti-corruption arm of the sport has become stronger and a  record number of people have been charged and sentenced for corruption. Authorities also nowadays work extensively on stopping corruptors from getting closer to the players and these exercises have proved to be effective to keep cricket clean.

England won that series 3-1 with the spot fixing scandal unfolding in the final Test at Lord’s. It was such a shame for Amir, who was Pakistan’s most successful bowler with 19 wickets to his name.  

England toured South Africa that year and drew a four match Test series 1-1 but failed to regain the Basil D'Oliveira Trophy.

It was a highly competitive, exciting series witnessed by around 4000 England fans who tried to escape the winter back home.

Although the series ended, 1-1, South Africa felt that they should have won it 3-1. Both in Centurion and Cape Town they reduced England to nine wickets but failed to claim the last wicket.

In the first Test, England had been set a target of 364 in 96 overs. A draw was on the cards at the final drinks break with England having reached 194 for four with just one hour left in the game.

Graeme Smith opted for the second new ball more with hope than conviction. He had renowned quicks like Makhaya Ntini and Morne Morkel but it was the little heard Friedel de Wet, who turned the game on its head with a four-wicket haul.

England slumped to 218 for nine losing five wickets for 13 runs and with 20 minutes to go for stumps, South Africa were cock-a-hoop. But Paul Collingwood and Graham Onions batted out the remaining 20 minutes to ensure England got home safe. It was a great escape.

Durban favoured spin and Graeme Swann was all over South Africa finishing with a match bag of nine wickets as England won by an innings and 78 runs.

South Africa were confident of levelling the series in Cape Town as England had to survive for four and half sessions. The target of 466 was beyond their equation but there was some good old-fashioned grinding as the entire batting unit put out a solid show to ensure a draw.

South Africa kept chipping away and again it was left for the last pair to hang in for a draw negotiating some tricky moments.

England were lucky to lead the series 1-0 heading into the final Test in Johannesburg and needed one more rearguard action to clinch the series.

But once Dale Steyn blew them away for 180 in the first innings, England were playing catch up.

More Morkel then wrapped things up with a four-wicket haul in the second innings as South Africa won by an innings and 74 runs.

This was a period of an all-time high for South African cricket as they were blessed with some superb talents. In batting they had Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla and A.B. de Villiers while their bowling  comprised Dale Steyn, Makhaya Ntini and Morne Morel. Then there was of course Jacques Kallis, the greatest all-rounder since Sir Garry Sobers.

South Africa toured India that year as well and drew a series, something that Australia and England had failed to do those days.

They owed it largely to their premier batter Hashim Amla.

In the first Test, Amla walked in after Ashwell Prince had fallen for a duck and batted for 11 hours in posting 253 not out, the highest score by a South African in India.  

Providing good company was Kallis, who made 173. The pair put on 340 runs for the third wicket and missed the South African record for the third wicket by just one run. Eddie Barlow and Graham Pollock had posted 341 against Australia in 1964,

Incidentally, Amla and Kallis would break the record two years later when they put on 377 at The Oval.

Steyn was too hot to handle finishing with a seven wicket haul – his career best. South Africa enforced the follow-on and won by an innings and six runs with a day to spare. Steyn finished with a match bag of ten wickets. It was India’s first defeat under M.S. Dhoni.

India fought back in the second Test in Calcutta to square the series 1-1, but Amla won many hearts. The South African number three smashed twin hundreds in the game. Amla accumulated 494 runs in the two-match series and had been dismissed only once which meant that he retained an average of 494. It’s the second highest Test average in the history of the game behind Walter Hammond.

The drawn series against South Africa was somewhat of a disappointment for India, who are so strong at home. They stamped their authority in the home series that followed against Australia and New Zealand with comprehensive series wins.

The first Test against Australia wasn’t comprehensive at all as India were made to toil and in fact won with a wicket to spare.

This is a game Australia should not have lost after they reduced India to 124 for eight chasing 216 to win. An 81-run stand for the ninth wicket between Laxman and Ishant Sharma got India within 11 runs of victory.

Laxman with an unbeaten 73 saw India through with Pragyan Ojha to his company.

A Tendulkar double hundred in the second Test in Bangalore saw India securing the series 2-0.

New Zealand did well to draw the Ahmedabad and Hyderabad Tests were high scoring games. But they lost the plot in Nagpur crashing to a heavy innings and 198 run defeat.

Harbhajan Singh’s century in the first Test and Brendon McCullum’s double hundred in the second Test were the highlights in the drawn games.

Rahul Dravid’s 191 sealed the deal for India in the third Test.

South Africa also drew a series against Pakistan in UAE. Batters dominated on the docile tracks

A.B. de Villiers had an opportunity to go on to become the first South African to post a triple hundred in Test match cricket, but they were pressed with time and opted to declare. There was a good act of sportsmanship by captain Graeme Smith.

The last wicket pair of de Villiers and Morne Morkel had added 107 runs. The highest score by a South African in Test cricket was Smith’s 277 and the moment de Villiers went past that milestone; the captain declared the innings.

India toured Sri Lanka and drew the three match Test series. The first Test in Galle happened to be Muttiah Muralitharan’s last Test and he retired claiming a wicket off his final ball in Test cricket. It happened to be his 800th Test wicket.

A high scoring draw in the second Test saw Sri Lanka leading the series 1-0 heading up to the final Test at P. Sara Oval.

Set a target of 257, India were in a spot of bother at 62 for four, but V.V.S Laxman produced yet another masterclass to help India to a five-wicket win.

Laxman was struggling with a back injury but posted an unbeaten hundred to see India over the line.

The year also saw England emerging victorious in the World T-20 held in the Caribbean. England’s white ball fortunes had taken a bit of a beating in recent years and it was their first major title win.

The campaign didn’t start all that well for England. They lost their opening game to West Indies and their second game against Ireland was  a washout. But from thereon, they gained momentum beating Pakistan, South Africa and New Zealand.

In the semi-final they overcame Sri Lanka and in the final beat Australia comprehensively by seven wickets with three overs to spare.

Kevin Pietersen made a big difference and was named Player of the Series. England were also well skippered by Paul Collingwood.

After the disappointment of the 2007 World Cup, there were concerns how West Indies will conduct the 2010 World T-20. But they had learned from the previous event and put up a good show.