Cricket Review 2021
The year marked the sport bouncing back from the pandemic with several series that were postponed being played in 2021. Several cricketers were generous as well donating funds to COVID based charities while others helped in smaller ways distributing dry rations at a moment the world had come to a standstill due to the deadly pandemic.   
There was one misfortune as the Women’s World Cup Qualifiers in Zimbabwe being called off after several players tested positive. This meant that none of the teams that were involved in the Qualifying round could progress to the main event the following year.  

The ICC had set up a COVID fund to the tune of US$ 5 million so that boards that wished to conduct cricket in bio-secure bubbles could go ahead with their efforts. First Class cricket almost all across the world returned in full scale with the boards funding these efforts but smaller competitions were still feeling the pinch.  

The highlight of the year was of course the World Test Championship with New Zealand and India going through to the finals.  

Lord’s was the preferred venue for the grand occasion, but the authorities were forced to play the game at Rose Bowl due to COVID restrictions.  

The game happened behind closed doors and New Zealand were worthy winners with the match stretching for the reserve day due to rain. India finished runners-up and were awarded US$ 800,00 while the Kiwis won the Test Championship mace and the US$ 1.6 million prize money.  

The other highlight of the year was the T-20 World Cup. The event was shifted from India to UAE with Oman hosting some of the Qualifying round games.  
Australia had been the most successful team in ICC events but one title that had eluded them was the T-20 World Cup. They made it count this time around with a spectacular effort beating Trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand in Dubai.

Australia were so clinical in their performance and lost just one game in the tournament to England. Head Coach Justin Lanager deserved an extension for the excellent job he had done with the team.  
There was one game in the T-20 World Cup that received more attention than the final itself and it was the India – Pakistan clash in Dubai. Tickets had been sold out within hours of going for sale and fans from both countries were desperate to get hold of tickets as they flew in from all across the globe.  
On match day, traffic came to a standstill in Dubai around the stadium as Pakistan put out a splendid performance beating the nuclear armed neighbours by ten wickets.  
Opening batters Mohammad Rizwan and Babar Azam pulled off the run chase with more than two overs to spare but the hero for Pakistan was Shaheen Afridi. The quick picked up two wickets in his first two overs when he sent away K.L. Rahul and Rohit Sharma and then returning for a fresh spell accounted for the big wicket of Virat Kohli.
England captain Joe Root put up a terrific performance in Galle to help his team to a 2-0 series win when he scored 228 and 186 in the two Tests putting the Sri Lankan bowlers to the sword.
The Galle pitch usually favours spin bowlers, but Root was exceptional with his footwork and his attacking style of play forced the Sri Lankan captain to set defensive fields. Eventually England spinners Jack Leach and Dom Bess had an impact and so did Root whose part-time off-spin not only did the containing job but produced wickets too.
Two weeks later when England toured India, Root’s wizardry in playing spin was showcased again as he hammered another double hundred in Madras as England won the first Test.  
But after the opening game India managed to keep him quiet and as a result went onto secure a thrilling 3-1 win.  

During this series, COVID restrictions were gradually released as spectators were allowed back into ground although full houses were still out of bounds.
India travelled to England for the return series later in the summer and drew 2-2 but many expected them to win the five-match series.

They were leading 2-1 heading into the final Test at The Oval and were 190 for four in the second innings and were sitting pretty with a lead of 322 and six wickets in hands. They should have put the game away from England’s reach but collapsed losing the last six wickets for 55 runs.  

Still, they managed to set a target of 378, but the bowling let them down as the hosts won by seven wickets.  

West Indies, meanwhile, were involved in some close Test matches as they beat Bangladesh by 17 runs. Before pace took over, spin used to be West Indies strength with the likes of Sonny Ramdhin, Alf Valentine and Lance Gibbs spinning them to some famous victories.   

This time it was the trio of Rahkeem Cornwall, Jomel Warrican and Kraigg Brathwaite who starred in West Indies win. The first Test too was a nail-biting one with West Indies winning by three wickets but what was even more exciting was their one wicket win over Pakistan in Kingston later that year.  

Needing 168 to win, West Indies were 151 for nine when last man Jayden Seales joined Kemar Roach. They were involved in a nervous 17 run partnership to pull off a win from the jaws of defeat.  

It was a rare blemish for Pakistan who had won seven of their nine Tests in 2021.

Joe Root capped off an excellent year in Test cricket scoring 1708 runs that included two double hundreds, four hundreds and four half-centuries. Rohit Sharma was a distant second with 906 runs.  

Ravichandran Ashwin was the highest wicket taker in the year with 54 scalps to his name and strangely for some games India overlooked him and it proved to be costly.

Three players were inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2021. South African legend Shaun Pollock was joined by Sri Lankan great Mahela Jayawardene and former England women’s cricketer Janette Brittin.

Former Sri Lanka captain Ranjan Madugalle reached a rare mistletoe when he officiated in his 200thTest match in 2021. Madugalle had represented Sri Lanka in their inaugural Test match and had a brief spell as Test captain before prematurely retiring at the age of 29. He joined the ICC in 1993 and has stayed with them for 30 years now in a long, unblemished career.

The year also saw some high-profile retirements with the most notable ones being those of A.B. de Villiers, Dale Steyn and Dwayne Bravo.  
Cricket also saw the death of some prominent cricketers in the year 2021 like Bandula Warnapura, Ray Illingworth and Ashely Mallott.