In a year like no other, cricket still delivered.
Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, there was another ironman display from Ben Stokes in Cape Town as well as over 86,000 fans in attendance at the MCG for the Women’s T20 World Cup final.
Then, when cricket was able to resume amid the outbreak, England and their summer opponents – West Indies, Ireland, Pakistan and Australia – produced thrilling game after thrilling game across all formats.
There were also powerful demonstrations, too, following the death of George Floyd – none more so than from Michael Holding and Ebony Rainford-Brent, who spoke with searing honesty about systemic racism.
On the final Cricket Show of 2020, host Rob Key and guests Nasser Hussain, Michael Atherton and David Lloyd reviewed the year and looked at some critical moments on and off the field…
Michael Holding & Ebony Rainford-Brent’s powerful words
The Sky Sports commentators spoke of the need for institutional racism to end during their Black Cricketers Matter segment on day one of the first Test between England and West Indies, before Holding continued the conversation with, as Nasser said, a “surgical dissection of racism”…
NASSER HUSSAIN: The week before, our director of cricket had asked Ebony to speak to us on a team meeting about what she had been through. Ebony spoke passionately, like she did in the piece that went out on air, for five or 10 minutes and there was silence. You could hear the raw emotion in her voice and we just ended the meeting. There was no comment because we knew something needed to be said and done and Ebony and Mikey absolutely nailed it. Mikey’s surgical dissection of racism was phenomenal. We had a rain delay so he could go off on one. He did and it was outstanding. Ian Ward was also outstanding. He stood there and let Mikey talk and when Michael Holding talks everyone listens. The world listened that day. It was an incredibly powerful statement from Mikey and Ebony.
MICHAEL ATHERTON: I was in the commentary box listening. The rain delay was the luckiest break in a way because all that focus was then at the start of the day, when the piece was initially due to go out at lunch. Everyone was watching and, like Nasser, I was silent. My response on this particular issue throughout the summer has been to listen. I think it is important to do that. Listen and take it on board.
BUMBLE: Ultra impressive people with such a big voice. Ebony is the heart and soul of any conversation and Mikey is Mikey – and that is passion.
Having lost the first Test against South Africa last Christmas, England drew level at 1-1 in January in the Cape Town fixture, with Stokes scoring a quickfire 72 in England’s second innings and then bagging the final three wickets during a tireless spell in front of an army of England supporters…
ATHERS: That win said everything about Ben Stokes as a cricketer. His runs in the second innings were rapid and gave England time and he then bowled a bone-jarring spell at the end of the fifth day with James Anderson off with a broken rib. He takes himself to another level at critical moments in the game. It was a great Test match, a great performance from Stokes, a full house, a great ground, sun shining. Test cricket as it should be.
NASSER HUSSAIN: It was a ground Stokes knows and loves, probably his favourite in world cricket. There was no way Joe Root was taking the ball out of his hand while Ben’s dad was in hospital. He was very emotional. Stuart Broad was walking around the outfield with blood pouring out of his toes, so he put in a monumental effort. Anderson had busted his rib and came back on trying to bowl. England’s catching was magnificent as was the crowd reaction for every wicket that fell. Root was also under pressure having lost the first Test, a few people were starting to question his captaincy. But nearly every move he made worked. I think that week at a special venue was a turning point for England’s Test side.
BUMBLE: You think back to Andrew Flintoff and when he was thrown the ball when the team needed something, the crowd rose to him. Stokes is the same. People watching know there is something going to happen because he is going to give it 100 per cent from ball one.
500th Test wicket for Broad, 600 for Anderson
In a milestone summer for England’s long-serving new-ball partnership, Broad – controversially left out of the first Test against West Indies – and Anderson claimed their 500th and 600th Test wickets respectively…
BUMBLE: They have so much knowledge of how to bowl in given situations and they have really streamlined actions so they can keep going. Age is only a number. Everyone will say at a certain age that you lose your nip but these two haven’t. They are constant, and because they have great pride, are constantly learning and wanting to get better. Anderson is a real athlete, he looks after himself. Like Shaun Pollock and Glenn McGrath, Anderson is not rapid but he knows exactly where the ball is going. You never know as a batsman whether to stick or twist. The thing that will murmur along is ‘will Anderson play in the Ashes?’ You ask Anderson and he will give you short shrift. Of course!
Australia win Women’s T20 World Cup at packed MCG
Australia claimed their record-extending fifth Women’s T20 World Cup crown after thumping India by 85 runs in the final – in front of over 86,000 fans at the MCG and with Katy Perry performing…
NASSER HUSSAIN: I was there and it was incredible. Over 86,000 fans at the ground. Australia were by far the best team. They started slowly but once Alyssa Healy found her form they were absolutely unstoppable. They absolutely walloped India that day. Then we had a bit of Katy Perry and the Australian players dancing. It was a very well put-on tournament – Australia do women’s sport magnificently. They don’t just pay lip service to it. It was the back four or five pages of every newspaper dedicated to women’s sport, not just the cricket. They put on a brilliant tournament.
The young batsman recorded the 10th-highest score ever by an England batsman in Tests with a stunning 267 against Pakistan, leaving his mentor, Sky Cricket commentator Rob Key, delighted…
ATHERS: It was an amazing innings from Crawley. Keysy has been banging on for years telling us how good this kid is. We all knew he could play but I certainly didn’t think he could play an innings like this. The power, the timing, the range of stroke and then the determination to keep going.
NASSER: When Crawley walked off, every single Pakistan player went up and congratulated him and every single member of backroom staff stood up and applauded him. Keysy, in the corner of the commentary box, was a blubbering wreck, crying his eyes out, showing everyone the footage of him feeding balls to Crawley at Maidstone Cricket Ground or Dartford Cricket Ground or wherever. Telling everyone this was down to him, saying ‘I made Zak Crawley’. That was the moment of the summer for me!
The Hussain and Key Cricket Show will return at 6pm on Thursday, January 7 on Sky Sports Cricket.
Plus, don’t miss live cricket from 7.55am on Boxing Day as South Africa and Sri Lanka begin their two-Test series.