2021 in review – New Zealand’s golden year, Pakistan’s world championships and the success of the Women’s Hundred

New Zealand

They won each of the three ODIs they played in 2021 despite the forced absence of regular captain Kane Williamson. In some major changes, BJ Watling withdrew from test cricket and Ross Taylor was dropped from the T20I setup. However, a number of players emerged from the fringes and played vital roles for the side across formats, including Devon Conway, Daryl Mitchell, Will Young, Glenn Phillips and Rachin Ravindra.

Like Williamson, Lockie Ferguson, their leading fast bowler in white-ball cricket, was unavailable at various times due to an injury, but New Zealand still found a way to succeed thanks to their enviable depth. Their second-string T20I side even tested a full-strength Bangladesh away.

When New Zealand returned to full strength, they smartly adapted to the conditions in the UAE and advanced to the T20 World Cup final from a group that included Pakistan, India and Afghanistan. However, the final did not go according to plan, nor did the immediately following India tour.

Highlight

New Zealand became winners of the first WTC, two years after losing the ODI World Cup without actually losing it. It was quite fitting that the old firm of Williamson and Taylor sealed the victory under devilishly difficult conditions for batting in Southampton, after Kyle Jamieson, the novice of the attack, set it up beautifully with his swing, nail and jump.

Low point

While left-arm finger spinner Ajaz Patel made history by becoming only the third bowler to win all ten wickets in a test round, in Mumbai, the rest of the row fell away so badly that New Zealand’s ten-game unbeaten streak was interrupted. They started the year as the top-ranked test side and dropped to No. 2 at the end of it after losing 1-0 in India.

Pakistan

by Danyal Rasool
Pakistani cricket really brought its followers through stratospheric heights and depths below zero in 2021. The bottom line will tell you that this side, led by Babar Azam, won much more than they lost, and look like a team that has been revived.

T20I success was the main role in the narrative with home and away victories over South Africa, a delightfully dominant T20 World Cup campaign and a clean slate of the West Indies to end the year. A home Test series win over South Africa was perhaps the highlight of the red ball, an encouraging point was Hasan Ali’s return to form in testing. After Shaheen Afridi, Hasan has the most test wickets for Pakistan this year. Pakistan is currently nicely in the top two in the World Test Championship table.
However, it was not all rosy. A third-string England side purported Pakistan in an ODI series in July, and Zimbabwe beat them embarrassingly by 99 in a chase of 119.

In an administrative upheaval, Ehsan Mani and Wasim Khan were replaced as chairman and CEO by Ramiz Raja and Faisal Hasnain, in what still feels like an interim, experimental set-up. Head coach Misbah-ul-Haq and bowling coach Waqar Younis also traveled under somewhat controversial circumstances and have not yet been replaced full time.

Highlight

A ten-wicket dunk by India in the sides’ opening match at the T20 World Cup. Pakistan marched to the semifinals undefeated, where …

Sri Lanka

By Andrew Fidel Fernando
If you are optimistic, 2021 was a year of renewal for Sri Lanka’s best men’s team. In T20Is, the year flourished fully with Wanindu Hasaranga – currently the best T20I bowler in the world – the re-emergence of fast bowler Dushmantha Chameera, and the arrival of top-order date Charith Asalanka. In tests, Pathum Nissanka made a relatively smooth transition to top-level batting; left-arm spinner Praveen Jayawickrama and offspinning all-rounder Ramesh Mendis started promising; and the senior players also moved up a gear. Dimuth Karunaratne might now be considered one of the best openers of his era (however thin it may be), and Lahiru Thirimanne and Dhananjaya de Silva also averaged more than 50 for the year.

But here’s the pessimists’ view: many of these gains are fragile. Although the emergence of new talent was encouraging, Sri Lanka’s win-loss record in the formats with limited overs, especially ODIs, remains sad. This even though they have increasingly become a side against whom the top sides rest their frontline players. They turned their heads in the T20 World Cup, of course, but did not make a serious semi-final accusation. And despite all the experience in this Test top order, it produced some of the most tragicomic collapses of the year.

Sri Lanka is entering 2022 without a coaching staff, with SLC’s technical advisory committee, chaired by Aravinda de Silva, apparently keen to install new coaches. Will the new set-up be able to build on 2021’s gains?

West Indies

by Nagraj Gollapudi
Hope and despair. The West Indian fan knows these two conflicting feelings better than anyone else.

Their fortunes were similar in white-ball cricket. In April, Kieron Pollard’s team shook Australia with a 4-1 T20I series victory at home. On September 9, former New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum became warned in a tweet that the West Indies, the defending champions, had a “seriously strong squad” for the T20 World Cup in the UAE. But the team came a cropper, crashed out of the tournament in the group stage. All the big names including Gayle, Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Bravo, Andre Russell and Nicholas Pooran failed spectacularly. Pollard admitted it was “the end of a generation.”
Highlight

In February in Chattogram, Mayers and Bonner’s fourth wicket stand of 210 runs helped a second-string West Indies side surpass a record goal of 395 runs against Bangladesh. It was the fifth highest chase in Test cricket history. Their 4-1 defeat of Australia in the T20Is in July was their first limited-overs series win against Australia at home since 1995.

Women

by Annesha Ghosh
It was the best time. It was the worst of times.

In Australia, the WBBL had a record-breaking audience for the final and a record-breaking audience, confirming Cricket Australia’s decision to make all matches available on television for the first time in the competition’s seven-year history. The tournament featured its largest Indian contingent, though it was the South Africans who starred in knockouts, just as they did in Hundred.
India’s wild fluctuations in wealth were not all on the field. Next to the T20 World Cup 2020, they suffered a full year of inactivity and waited over 14 months to get their hands on the prize money from the tournament. So, after not playing tests for seven years, they had suddenly planned two for 2021, including their first pink-ball test, which inspired hopes that more teams beyond England and Australia would embrace the multi-format structure in bilateral.
Outstanding individual achievements included Sophia Dunkley becoming the first black woman to play Test cricket for England, Caribbean captain Stafanie Taylor becoming the youngest to make 8000 international races, India captain Mithali Raj reaching the top of the women’s international rankings, Ireland’s Amy Hunter broke the record for the youngest player to reach a senior international century, and Australian all-rounder Ellyse Perry became the first woman to double in 5,000 runs and 300 wickets.
Towards the end of the year, the game lost one of its pioneers, former English all-rounder Eileen Ash, who died at the age of 110.
Highlight

The ICC replaced the word “batsman” with the gender-neutral “batter” in all its playing conditions during the men’s T20 World Cup in October-November. The move, described by the governing body as a “natural and delayed development” in the sport, followed MCC’s changes regarding the term in the Laws of Cricket, which aimed to recognize cricket as “a game for everyone”.

Low point

The cancellation of the ODI World Cup qualifier in November-December. Sri Lanka had not played cricket between March 2020 and the qualifiers, and it cost them dearly after the team position came into play to determine the last three participants of the World Cup in 2022. Thailand, meanwhile, got a raw deal despite being a frontrunner for a top-five placement in the qualifiers, which would have ensured their inclusion in the next ODI championship cycle for women.

Ireland

by Peter Della Penna

After a mostly charming decade in the 2010s, the start of the 2020s has not been too kind to Ireland. Although they got test status in 2017, they have not played a match in the format since 2019, leaving many people in the Irish set-up wondering when another will happen.

They did not exactly cover themselves in glory in the formats with limited overs in 2021. The year started with Ireland losing an ODI to the UAE, and later in January they lost 3-0 in the ODI against Afghanistan. That result was not entirely surprising given Ireland’s historic problems against Afghanistan ever since Rashid Khan made his debut. But losing two out of three Super League ODIs to the Netherlands in Utrecht in July was a shocking result. They returned a bit, claiming 15 out of possible 30 points (ten from a win and five for a result without result) in each of their home ODI series later this summer against South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Ireland’s T20I form was undoubtedly worse. In a case of near déjà vu, the two out of three T20Is lost to the UAE in the weeks before the start of the T20 World Cup. So losing two out of three in the opening round – to Sri Lanka and Namibia – should not have been entirely shocking. Despite the gradual expansion of the format in the second round from the Super Eights, to the Super 10s and currently the Super 12s, Ireland have not progressed to the second round of the T20 World Cup since 2009. In the accusations that followed, head coach Graham Ford said up, puts an end to a term of office that started in 2017.
Highlight

Beating South Africa for the first time ever in ODI: A century of captain Andy Balbirnie drove Ireland to a 43-race victory in Malahide on 13 July.

Low point

Stumbles badly against Namibia in a win-or-go-home meeting on the final day of Group A games in Sharjah to bow out of the T20 World Cup before the second phase had begun.

Current statistics per. December 18, 2021

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