Cricket Review 2011
The World Cup hosted by the sub-continent in 2011 was a grand success. India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh co-hosted the tournament with India getting the lion’s share that included a quarter-final, a semi-final and the Grand Final.

India went on to win the tournament after beating Sri Lanka in Bombay. It was an epic game and a grand send off to India’s icon Sachin Tendulkar.

India were deserved winners having beaten defending champions Australia in the quarter-finals and arch-rivals Pakistan in the semi-final. Sri Lanka had a rather easy passage to the final beating New Zealand and England in the knockouts in their own backyard at RPS.

In the final, Sri Lanka struggled to balance their side without Angelo Mathews, their premier all-rounder. Mathews was injured during the semi-final.

Muttiah Muralitharan too was struggling with a groin injury although he played the game.

A total of 276 was a match winning one after Mahela Jayawardene had posted a stunning 103 off 88 balls.

When Lasith Malinga removed Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag early, it was game on Sri Lanka.

Then captain M.S. Dhoni promoted himself ahead of Yuvraj Singh, who was later named Player of the Series, and played a blinder.

Dhoni hit 91 off 79 and finished things off with a six and Ravi Shastri’s words ‘Dhoni finishes off in style’ was music to ears of over a billion Indians. Meanwhile,  20 million Sri Lankans went to bed thinking it was a bad dream.

Under Dhoni’s captaincy India also drew a Test series in South Africa. They started off poorly losing the first Test in Centurion by an innings but bounced back in Durban winning the second Test.

V.V.S Laxman starred in India’s win with a fabulous 96. In fact, it was the only half-century in the whole game. Every batter struggled, but Laxman made to look as if he was batting on a belter. Everyone talks about the grace with which Laxman batted, something very native to most Hyderabadis be it Mohammad Azharuddin or Hanuma Vihari. But Laxman’s batting feats for India sadly aren’t spoken in the same breath as some of the other Indian greats like Sunil Gavaskar or Tendulkar.

The decider in Cape Town was marred by rain and bad weather. Otherwise, it would have produced a spectacular contest.

The game is known for Jacques Kallis twin hundreds. India had a two-run lead in the first innings and were eventually set a target of 340 to win the game and the series on the final day.

But India opted for a draw with Gautam Gambhir batting for nearly five hours to make 64.

Kallis was fabulous, finishing the series with 498 runs in five innings.

England retained the Ashes by winning a series in Australia for the first time in 24 years. Since then, England have not won a Test series in Australia. Their margins of wins were big too with the Adelaide Test and the Boxing Day Test being won by an innings.

England had to thank their opening batsman Alastair Cook for the series win as he scored heavily  - 766 runs in seven innings. Cook averaged 127 in the series and made three big hundreds– 235 not out, 189 and 148. The double hundred came at the Gabba in the first Test and England’s captain in waiting broke Sir Don Bradman’s record for highest score at the venue.

Cook was well backed up by rest of the batters as six of the top seven made at least one hundred in the series and England posted 500 plus totals on four occasions.  

Although England won the series 2-1, the start was hardly an indication of what was to follow.

Peter Siddle claimed a hat-trick in the first innings of the first Test to bowl out England for 260. Australia had taken a first innings lead of 221 runs and England were destined to lose the game. They finished day three on 19 for no loss in the second innings and with two full days to go, Australia were smelling a win. But what followed was a fine rearguard action in a bid to save the game.

Cook batted for ten and half hours as England ensured a draw. Some called it great escape, but to be honest, Cook’s concentration powers, defense, patience and temperament were all displayed in this valiant effort. It was a truly remarkable one and one of the great knocks by an England opener. Cook was knighted after retirement.

Kevin Pietersen’s career best 227 helped England set up a total of 620 for five declared in Adelaide and Australia crashed for an innings loss.

The WACA was the only venue where England’s batting was tested with Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris sharing 18 wickets between them. It was a display of outstanding fast bowling as Australia won by 267 runs to square the series.

England quicks avenged the defeat in the Boxing Day Test where Australia were bowled out for 98 in the first innings with James Anderson and Chris Tremlett sharing four wickets apiece. It was their lowest total in an Ashes contest at the MCG. Once England posted 513 in their first innings, the game was gone from Australia and they suffered an innings loss inside four days to surrender the Ashes to England with a game to spare.

Not much was going right for captain Ricky Ponting, who had managed 118 runs in eight innings with just one fifty. To make matters worse, he was involved in an altercation with the umpires and copped a heavy fine.

Ponting ruled himself out from the final Test in Sydney and Michael Clarke hence went on to become the 43rd man to captain Australia in Test match cricket.

An absorbing Test series took place in New Zealand with Pakistan clinching a hard-fought 1-0 series win.

In Hamilton, Pakistan took a 1-0 lead with left-arm spinner Abdur Rehman claiming six wickets.

In the second Test at the Basin, captain Daniel Vettori batting at number eight posted a hundred helping New Zealand score 356. Pakistan managed a slender lead and the highlight of the innings was captain Misbah-ul-Haq being given out leg before wicket when on 99. It was a big call by umpire Darrel Harper in the pre-DRS era and the height seemed to be an issue.

New Zealand made 293 in their second innings setting a target of 274 on the last day and a thrilling contest was on the cards.

With 92 overs at their disposal, Pakistan were fancying a 2-0 series win. Misbah and Younis Khan were involved in a 118-run stand for the fourth wicket and Pakistan needed just over 100 runs to win with seven wickets in hand. However, the dismissal of Younis for 81 cast doubts in Pakistan minds.

Once Asad Shafique fell as the fourth wicket, Misbah was convinced that a win was out of the equation and played out a draw.

England continued their dominance with a 4-0 clean sweep of India. This was a tour where very little went right for India and they conceded the number one rank to England slipping to number three.

India suffered a huge blow in the morning of the first Test at Lord’s as Zaheer Khan had to withdraw with injury. Kevin Pietersen starred with an unbeaten double hundred in the opening Test match as England took a 1-0 lead.

That became 2-0 when Stuart Broad stamped his authority with a hat-trick at Trent Bridge.

Alastair Cook showcased his appetite for big runs with 294 at Edgbaston. At the same time, India’s opener Virender Sehwag was going through a bad patch and picked up a king pair in the Test match.

India’s batting was a  disaster. With the exception of Rahul Dravid, who posted three hundreds in eight innings to finish with 461 runs, none of the other batters put their hands up.

In fact, apart from Dravid no other Indian batter managed a century in the series. The batters’ failure is highlighted by the fact that leg-spinner Amit Mishra  topped the batting averages after Dravid.

Australia arrived in Sri Lanka for a three match Test series with Michael Clarke confirmed as their new captain. Sri Lanka were under a new captain as well. T.M. Dilshan took over from Kumar Sangakkara but struggled in the post Muralitharan era.

On a Galle wicket that was turning square, Mike Hussey showed his class with a sound 95 and Australia went on to post a total of 273, which proved to be a match winning one.

Sri Lanka were shot out for 105 in their first innings. On debut was Nathan Lyon, who claimed a wicket off his first ball in Test cricket. It was no ordinary batsman too – Kumar Sangakkara.

Sri Lanka fared much better in the second innings with Mahela Jayawardene posting a hundred despite the pitch being challenging. But a target of 379 proved to be too much for them.

Australia held onto the lead drawing the next two Test matches to clinch the series 1-0.

There were several highlights during the series. Shaun Marsh scored a hundred on debut in Kandy with his father and former Test cricketer Geoff Marsh watching. Sri Lanka were without  a Head Coach at that point and the senior Marsh was interviewed by the board after the game and he went on to be appointed as Head Coach two months later.

Kumar Sangakkara getting dismissed by Mike Hussey was another highlight.

Hussey had such a massive impact in the series he was named Man of the Match in all three Tests and was the obvious choice for Player of the Series.

The final Test in Colombo saw Angelo Mathews posting a maiden Test hundred.

Australia then toured to South Africa and were involved in a tough contest.

Cape Town witnessed a sensational Test match. Michael Clarke scored 151 from a total of 284 before being last man dismissed. Australia then shot out South Africa for 96 with the last seven wickets falling for 47 runs.

With a lead of 188 in the first innings, Australia were looking to put the game beyond South Africa’s reach. But the end result was they were shot out for 47 runs in just 18 overs as Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel ran riot.

South Africa then needed 236 to win and Hashim Amla and Graeme Smith centuries ensured an eight-wicket win.

Pat Cummins debuted for Australia at The Wanderers and came up with a match winning performance.

Sharing the new ball with Mitchell Johnson, Cummins accounted for Amla in the first innings and ran through the middle order claiming six wickets in the second essay.

Set a target of 310, at 215 for six, it was South Africa’s game. But Johnson with an unbeaten 40 saw Australia over the line. Cummins contributed with the bat too making 13 not out.