Cricket Review 2019
The year 2019 was heavy on cricket and quite a bit of focus was on England as during the summer they were hosting not only the Ashes but the ICC Cricket World Cup too. England and Wales Cricket Board put on a show and both events were well attended and audiences grew by many folds.  

The year started with India winning the Border – Gavaskar Trophy beating Australia 2-1 in their own backyard, the first time India had won a series in Australia. It didn’t help that Australia were without their two premier batsmen – Steve Smith and David Warner, serving suspensions for their involvement in ball tampering in South Africa.  

Nevertheless it was an hard fought victory. Not many teams go to Australia and come out victorious. For decades India have depended on their spinners to win them matches. While this works at home and in Asia, overseas they cut a sorry figure. But under Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri they had changed their methods and were reaping rewards.  

For home series, they even left grass on the wicket and encouraged fast bowlers. As a result, the batters had to work hard for their runs and quite a few new fast bowlers emerged. This stood in good stead when India toured overseas. The win in Australia is testament for that.  

With this series win started India’s dominance of Test cricket. To their credit, India went onto win a subsequent Test series in Australia when the opposition were at full strength.  

Test match cricket that had been dominated by West Indies in 1970s and 1980s and had changed hands to Australia for the next two decades. India were emerging as the new powerhouse, but their dominance was not as lengthy as that of Clive Lloyd’s, Allan Border’s or Steve Waugh’s sides.  

It was a year Asian teams were making their impacts in other part of the world too. No Asian side had won a Test series in South Africa. In fact, no team other than Australia or England had won a Test series in South Africa. Sri Lanka put an end to this following their 2-0 series win.  

It was Kusal Janith Perera, who set up the win with his audacious stroke play with an unbeaten 153 in Durban, considered by many as the best ever knock by a Sri Lankan in Test match cricket. Set a target of 304, Sri Lanka were down and out at 226 for nine, but a last wicket partnership of 78 runs saw them over the line.  

They wrapped up the series by winning the second Test in Port Elizabeth with Kusal Mendis starring this time. The fact that Sri Lanka achieved this win without their two premier batters – Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal – was a feather in their cap. By the way, this was no ordinary attack. It comprised Steyn, Rabada, Philander and Olivier. It was quite an achievement.  

It was a remarkable year for India as well as they ended the year with an unbeaten record in Test cricket. They featured in eight Tests winning seven and drawing one. They well and truly deserved the number one rank in Test cricket.  

There was much anticipation during The Ashes. Australia were back to full strength following the return of Warner and Smith. This is also the first series of the newly launched Test Championship cycle.  

Edgbaston marked Smith’s return to Test cricket. Since being sent home in disgrace from Cape Town, he hadn’t played a Test match for 17 months. Edgbaston crowd, as expected, gave Smith a hostile welcome. However, he made his return a memorable one with twin hundreds. Big hundreds in fact; 144 and 142 as Australia won the first Test.

In the second Test at Lord’s Jofra Archer floored Smith with a vicious bouncer and the batsman had to retire hurt. Eventually the concussion sub came in with Marnus Labuschagne replacing him. Thus, Smith became the first player in international cricket to be replaced by a concussion sub.  

That didn’t stop Smith from scoring heavily. He amassed a total of 774 runs in the Ashes averaging 110. The greatest batter from Australia since the dawn of the new millennium had made his impact on his return to cricket well and truly.  

England played some good cricket as well despite starting off the series badly. Headingly as usual provided the setting for some dramatic cricket in the third Test. England had been shot out for 67 in the first innings and Australia were looking good to secure a 2-0 lead.  

Chasing 359 to win, England were done and dusted at 286 for nine. Ben Stokes then played a blinder. He stitched a 76 run undefeated partnership with Jack Leach to give England victory from the jaws of defeat. Stokes’ unbeaten 135 contained 11 fours and eight sixes.  

Within six months, Test cricket witnessed two games ending in one wicket wins, one of the barest margins in the game.  

Australia won the fourth Test to retain the Ashes. England won the final game at The Oval and series was drawn 2-2, first time an Ashes series had ended in deadlock since 1972.  

The ICC World Cup was the other highlight of the year. Although the tournament had been reduced to ten teams, it proved to be a long World Cup as each team had to play the other in the group stages and India, Australia, New Zealand and England progressed to the semi-finals.  

New Zealand’s superior pace attack overcame India in a rain affected game. The semi-final at Old Trafford also marked the end of M.S. Dhoni’s glittering international career.  

The former India captain had won every trophy on the planet be it the World Cup, T-20 World Cup or the Test Championship. Age catches up with even the best of athletes and to see the super athletic Dhoni being run out in his swansong was a bitter pill to swallow. Not many knew though that this was Dhoni’s last game for India. As he’s done throughout his career, determinedly low profile, India’s most successful captain and richest cricketer faded away without much notice.  

England played some outstanding cricket and overcame Australia in the second semi-final at Edgbaston.  

The final at Lord’s was going to present a new World Champion as both New Zealand and England had never won the trophy.  

The final was an anticlimax and there was no winning run scored. The game was tied and went for a Super Over. Even the Super Over was tied and not many had an idea how the champions will be determined. It was decided on technical grounds. The team that had scored the most boundaries were declared champions and so England won the World Cup.  

However, soon after the tournament ICC changed the tournament rules announcing that if a World Cup is tied from hereon both winners will be declared joint champions.  

England had lot of luck going their way. New Zealand earned the respect of all and sundry for the manner in which they conducted themselves during some tensed moments in the final.  

In 2019, ICC made some key decisions. They gave international status to all T-20 games involving Associate Members and that meant Romania, Czech Republic, Turkey, Papua New Guinea and even a football powerhouse like Argentia could engage in international cricket. It was a good move as it allowed more teams to be involved in international sports and the game reached more people.  

Zimbabwe were suspended by the ICC in 2019 for breaching the ICC Constitution and their team was barred from taking part in any ICC events. As a result, they were knocked out from taking part in the 2021 T-20 World Cup. It was the first time a Full Member had been suspended by the ICC.  

Marnus Labuschagne of Australia was the only player to pass the 1000 run mark in 2019. He finished on 1104 at an average of 65.  

India’s Rohit Sharma (1490) and Virat Kohli (1377) had a prolific year in ODI cricket finishing as the two top run scorers that year but couldn’t fire in the crunch World Cup semi-final for their side.

Pat Cummins was the leading wicket taker in Test cricket with 59 wickets to his name while India’s Mohammad Shami was the leading wicket taker in ODIs with 42 wickets to his name.