Wisden and Cricinfo writers pick their 2005 moments

Bvute's nemesis and Butt's graft

Cricinfo and Wisden writers select their best and worst moments from 2005


Telford Vice



Ozias Bvute: When the hunter became the hunted © Getty Images

Best

Retrospectively, all of those times before December 5 when Ozias Bvute, Zimbabwe Cricket's managing director, would answer my calls with a wickedly cheery, "Hello Telford - no, I'm not in jail." On December 5, he was arrested in connection with an investigation into foreign exchange fraud.

Worst

Most of the times the ICC opened its pompous and pathetic mouth. Being more concerned with forcing players to behave like schoolboys - Face the umpire! Don't argue! Cover that logo! - than with making any serious attempt to begin sorting out the Zimbabwe crisis is a dereliction of duty.

Telford Vice works for the MWP Agency in South Africa

Kanishkaa Balachandran



Salman Butt has proved that he is no flash in the pan © Getty Images

Best

The tenacity of Salman Butt in both innings of the 1st Test against England at Multan was a sign of Pakistan's resurgence as a Test side under Inzamam-ul-Haq and Bob Woolmer. Butt, still technically a raw player, shouldered the responsibility of guiding his team through both innings, where the body language of the rest seemed frustratingly mediocre and lethargic. Shoaib Akhtar may have polished off the last few England wickets to claim an unexpected 22-run victory for Pakistan, but the team had Butt mainly to thank. His invaluable contributions of 74 and 122 proved that he was no willow wielding flash-in-the-pan, unlike some of his other contemporary predecessors who promised plenty but fizzled out.

Worst

The ICC Super Series brought out a new meaning for the term 'world class'. Modelled on Kerry Packer's brainchild, (this time with the 'official' tinge to it), and with the World XI players suddenly gripped with a wave of individual patriotism, the end results were farcical at best. One meek surrender after another followed, prompting the ICC to abort the plan of staging the series every four years. It wouldn' t be fair to blame the ICC alone. The players just lacked the will and desire to topple Australia.

Kanishkaa Balachandran is editorial assistant of Cricinfo

Neil Manthorp



AB de Villiers had tried his hand at everything by the end of his first 10 Tests © Getty Images

Best

AB de Villiers made his debut as an opening batsman before keeping wicket and batting at number seven. He lost the gloves again and moved to number six. Then he was back partnering Graeme Smith at the top of the order. Then he was bowling ... and taking wickets! In his first 10 Tests he had wickets, gloveless catches, stumpings and centuries - three of them. Has anyone done that before? Ask Steven! Jacques Rudolph's defiant, match-saving, seven-hour century to save the first Test against Australia at Perth came close to snatching "the best" from de Villiers but the fact that AB can also play guitar and sing gets him my vote.

Worst

South Africa's quickest and most ruthless Test match victory. They bowled the opposition out for 50 by lunch on the first day and closed proceedings at 340 for 3, a century to captain Graeme Smith and a world record half-century, from just 24 balls, for Jacques Kallis. Victory, by an innings, was secured sometime around tea on the second day but it could have been much quicker. South Africa's self-proclaimed 'hard man', Mark Boucher, admitted they had "felt sorry" for their hapless foe who were, of course, Zimbabwe. Watching it was like going to the finest restaurant and tasting the rarest wine - and sitting completely and utterly alone. What was the point?

Neil Manthorp is a South African broadcaster and journalist, and head of the MWP Sport agency

Rahul Bhatia



In the money: The new regime in Indian cricket is aiming to boost the finances © Getty Images

Worst

For a change, the bad bit first: court case after court case, election-time politicking, whispers of television rights exchanged for company stock, paralysing infighting, debarred members, debarred members who go to court, politicians pulling strings. It's been an endless year that way.

Best

The good bit: the sudden and complete utilisation of sponsors and marketing. Lalit Modi's plan to wring out every last penny possible for Indian cricket was heartening, and regardless of what else the current establishment does, their respectful, enthusiastic and innovative approach towards moneymaking is appreciated. Within a month of their coming to power, the ideas of the last BCCI regime had begun to appear stale.

Rahul Bhatia is staff writer of Cricinfo Magazine


Daniel Brigham



Kevin Pietersen just got his hands out of the way of Glenn McGrath's hat-trick ball at The Oval © Getty Images

Best
Thank goodness for Billy Bowden. His decision, while under extreme pressure from the Australians, to give Kevin Pietersen not out on Glenn McGrath's hat-trick ball in the fifth Test at The Oval won England the Ashes. And what a brave decision it was. With England needing to bat all day to clinch the series, McGrath had just followed up the wicket of Michael Vaughan with Ian Bell first ball to leave England on 67 for 3. On his hat-trick, McGrath bowls a fierce bouncer into Pietersen's shoulder area, it's caught in the slips, cue wild appeals/celebrations. Only there's a problem - Bowden has noticed that Pietersen somehow got his bat and gloves out of the way. Decisions don't come much bigger or better than that - Pietersen went on to make 158.

Worst
The UK will be a slightly bleaker place to live next summer without Channel 4's cricket coverage. Whatever side of the fence you sit on, when it comes to the rights and wrongs of the ECB selling all live cricket rights to subscription television, Richie Benaud and Co will be sorely missed. Knowledgeable without being patronising, witty without being desperate, commentary without Bob Willis, cricket has never had better hosts.

Daniel Brigham is staff writer of the Wisden Cricketer

Osman Samiuddin



Lift off: Shahid Afridi blasted a 45-ball century at Kanpur © Getty Images

Best
Out of so many, there was realistically, only one and it came at Kanpur, from the bat of Shahid Afridi. Purely selfish the reasons for it; I had never seen his fastest hundred against Sri Lanka in 1996 and as one colleague sms'ed in its aftermath, like him, I too never quite believed how he had done it in Kenya. But after battering a better attack, on a sluggish pitch, in front of my eyes, for a century only eight balls slower than the fastest, I, we, the whole world (this was obviously more high-profile), suddenly found out just how he had done it the first time.

Worst
Karachi and the PCB's infuriating handling of the issue. After India had played there in March 2004 and Sri Lanka had played a Test there in October of the same year, Karachi should have looked forward to a full rehabilitation this year. Instead it regressed, marginalised further. It wasn't so bad that the ECB refused to play there - nothing should stop a visiting board from expressing what they feel is a genuine concern - but that the PCB did absolutely nothing to assuage those concerns and the fact they bent over backwards to avoid Karachi altogether was shameless and spineless. In light of what happened in London and even the bombings in Lahore during Australia A's visit, it should have proved that violence is not geographically restricted.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo


Paul Coupar



Kevin Pietersen and some Bundaberg makes for an intoxicating mix © Getty Images

Best
I'm sure everyone else has bagged the Ashes moments, so it has to be ... the restoration of that leafy delight, Queen's Park ground in Chesterfield, to its rightful place on the English first-class circuit. As pretty as a summer morning and as comfy as an old jumper, it has wowed men from Barnsley (Dickie Bird) and Bombay (Sachin), which takes some doing. Closely followed by sitting in the dead of an Australian night, watching the first England v Australia one-dayer on telly and becoming slowly intoxicated by Kevin Pietersen's strokeplay (also Bundaberg rum). Pietersen pulled England back from the brink and a weary 'here we go again' became an excited 'here we go!'

Worst
Seems the wrong year to moan.

Paul Coupar is assistant editor of The Wisden Cricketer

Will Luke



Steve Harmison made his mark on the first morning of the Ashes © Getty Images

Best
The first day of the Lord's Test against Australia was my coup-de-grace. Memories of Michael Slater biffing his way like a bulldog released from his kennel haunt England fans, especially this one. But all that changed. A single-minded desire to inflict early punishment on Australia's top-order left them bleeding, literally, on 87 for 5, with Steve Harmison in a deliciously venomous mood. Macabre it might be, but when Harmison struck Ricky Ponting on the cheek, it signalled to Australia that at last England had a plan to counter the steamrolling juggernaut.

Worst
How difficult is it to bowl with a straight arm? The ongoing saga of bowler's illegal actions blighted an otherwise unforgettable year. The introduction of a 15-degree permissible bending of the elbow was an admirable idea, but the recent banning of Shabbir Ahmed (for one year) suggests perhaps the ICC will, at last, take a tougher stance in 2006. Either that, or issue umpires with protractors to measure the 15 degrees and red-card the lot of them.

Will Luke is editorial assistant of Cricinfo


Rabeed Imam



Bangladesh's first Test victory was an emotional moment © Getty Images

Best
January 10, post lunch session at Chittagong. Mashrafe bin-Mortaza is on the edge of his run up with the last Zimbabwean pair at the crease. Bangladesh are just a wicket away from ending their five-year wait for an elusive first Test win. Mortaza takes a few steps forward, stops and then goes back to the top of his mark again. Another attempt to begin the run up also fails as tries in vain to hold back tears. It seemingly takes an eternity for Mortaza to finally finish that delivery and although it did not fetch him the wicket, those few seconds of inimitable emotion epitomised Mortaza's own struggles, overcoming immense odds, chasing dreams and turning them into reality.

Worst
Brimming with the confidence gained from that now legendary triumph against Australia, Bangladesh headed for Sri Lanka hoping to spring a surprise or two. The first warning came in the three-match ODI series in which they lost all the games handsomely. However, things looked rosy on day one of the first Test at Colombo as Habibul Bashar and Mohammad Ashraful dictated terms. Bangladesh reached 155 for 2 and then Ashraful played an outrageous shot to hole out at extra cover. It was a totally unnecessary and irresponsible act and that moment of indiscretion wrote the series script for Bangladesh. The next seven wickets went down for 33 and the Tigers never reached 200 in the remaining three innings.

Rabeed Imam is the editor of TigerCricket.com

Sriram Veera



Back on the attack: Sachin Tendulkar made a memorable comeback against Sri Lanka © Getty Images

Best
October 25, 2005 Sachin Tendulkar returns after eight months of endless visits to air conditioned clinics and what a return it was. Dancing down the track to Murali, pulling the medium pacers and once amazingly at the very last minute, he changed from an intended reverse sweep to an orthodox one. News filtered in later that during those dark eight months he had even thought about quitting. With that backdrop those two ODI innings against the Lankans were a joy. It was like suddenly bumping into your old true love and reliving some magical moments, but you are left with a mixed reaction; will she come back to you or is it just a one-off. 2006 will provide us with the answer.

Worst
The continuing crisis in West Indies cricket; the player contracts issue, sponsorship conflicts, board mismanagement and even when a ray of hope was offered by the billionaire Stanford, the reluctance shown by the different regions to accept the terms and the lack of vision to see beyond Chanderpaul for a leader. There has been collapse all round; public sector failure, mismanagement; the greed of private enterprise, holding the players to ransom. The great calypso music has now turned into a dirge, Lara alone turns on some style with a little bit of help from a young new Bravo but it's not enough to satisfy.

Sriram Veera is editorial assistant of Cricinfo

Anand Vasu



The bigger they are... Bangladesh stunned Australia when they won by five wickets at Cardiff © Getty Images

Best
Constantly shat-upon and repeatedly told they were not good enough, did not belong, and were a blight on the purity of the great game, Bangladesh's tigers roared loud enough for the cynical former cricketers to choke on their bournvitas in their retirement homes. In beating Australia, at Sophia Gardens, on June 18, Habibul Bashar's crew did not merely warm the hearts of their countrymen, they struck a blow for the underdogs the world around. To Australia, who have since won enough, despite losing the Ashes, to reaffirm their status as No.1, the game may have been one to forget. For a lot of others, though, it was a moment of hope, and will be etched in memory forever.

Worst
If you're constantly barracked, if your mother is insulted and your team is abused and your integrity is questioned, you will reach a point from where there's no return. Yuvraj Singh once ran into the stands, bat in hand, a la Inzamam, to sort out a spectator, but eventually calmed down. Harbhajan Singh has had his buttons pushed, and given back as good as he got. But for Greg Chappell, at Kolkata, to give someone - perhaps the crowd - the finger, was a moment where nobody won. Was it banter within the team, was it an angry response to disgusting crowd behaviour? Who knows. Any which way, everyone was poorer in the end.

Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Cricinfo

Andrew McGlashan



No contest: Zimbabwe were helpless against South Africa © Getty Images

Best
Sorry, another Ashes one, but for English cricket that is all that mattered about 2005. The series was an epic and the destination of the urn was unknown until the final session of the final day - you can't ask much more. However, the moment where I first started to believe England were finally sealing their crowning moment was when Kevin Pietersen laid into Brett Lee shortly after lunch on the fifth day at The Oval. It was a fearless counter-attack; Pietersen living on the edge. It worked and with every crunching boundary Australian heads dropped and the Ashes were coming home.

Worst
South Africa took on Zimbabwe at Cape Town in March, and the first day was painful to watch. There was no enjoyment to be had watching Zimbabwe crash for 54 before South Africa piled up 340 for 3 in 50 overs by the end of the first day. All but one of the Zimbabwean batsmen fell for single figures, then the helpless bowlings were panned. Graeme Cremer, a young legspinner, took 3 for 86 in nine overs. For goodness sake, Jacques Kallis even blasted the fastest Test fifty. This wasn't Test cricket, it wasn't fun, it was just sad to watch.

Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of Cricinfo


Edward Craig



Matthew Hoggard was fined for as 'lack' of appeal against Salman Butt © Getty Images

Best
I'm probably not unique in this but that over of Freddie's at Edgbaston was the best cricketing moment of the last 20 years. The crowd, the moment, the celebrations, the speed he was bowling and the look on Ricky Ponting's face when Freddie bowls a no-ball sixth ball. I still cheer when I watch it on the highlights.

Worst
Matthew Hoggard's fine for not appealing in the first Test in Pakistan when the batsman nicked it to the keeper. Over-zealous refereeing (Afridi apart) and umpiring did its best to ruin a wonderful (and friendly) series of exciting cricket. Hoggard's fine typified this - it was absurd.

Edward Craig is deputy editor of The Wisden Cricketer

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan



There were more downs than ups for Sourav Ganguly in 2005 © Getty Images

Best
This was an incredible setting: a run-of-the-mill Duleep Trophy game at dusty Rajkot, not being televised and played out at a ground resembling a construction site, becoming the epicentre of a nation's cricketing future. Sourav Ganguly had recently lost the one-day captaincy and obituaries had been penned. Considering Ganguly's previous flirtations with destiny, nobody could rule out a comeback and it promised a fairytale that was too tempting to resist. Watching Ganguly unveil a classic century stirred the heart. For two journalists, who watched the game thanks to an impulsive decision to board a train, purely because of the magnetic attraction towards the most fascinating cricketer in recent times, the experience was that much sweeter.

Worst
If the Rajkot experience was uplifting, the scenes at Bangalore, nearly seven months earlier, were simply depressing. As a Ganguly fan, one accepted his frailties against the short ball but never did one imagine that a man who consistently stuffed slow bowlers in the shredder would flounder against spin, being reduced to a bumbling tyro against Danish Kaneria and Co. He was dropped off the first ball he faced and stumped off the next. If that was saddening, two days later one sunk even lower as he pottered around for 13 balls, made two runs, before he attempted an expansive drive off Shahid Afridi and, inevitably, missed. It was spin, it was the off side, but both Ganguly and God had deserted us.

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of Cricinfo


Andrew Miller



Moment of glory: Mohammad Ashraful's hundred guided Bangladesh towards a famous win © Getty Images

Best
A degree of normality has returned to the world order, now that England have been humbled in Pakistan and Australia are back wiping the floor with all and sundry. But, no matter how much they try to write off the events of 2005 as an inconsequential fluke, there is one result that no Australian will ever be able to recall without a shudder. Remember Sophia Gardens? Mohammad Ashraful's hundred? Aftab Ahmed's final-over six? Jason Gillespie's forlorn mullet? That's right, Bangladesh 1, Australia 0. And how the world laughed!

Worst
The Ashes touched the heights, but at the other end of the alphabet, Zimbabwe continued to plumb the depths, where it was joined on the seabed by a disgracefully intransigent ICC. Even after Tatenda Taibu had been forced into hiding, Malcolm Speed, the chief executive, continued to insist at a press conference in Lahore that this was an internal selection issue that lay beyond their remit. Breaking news from Dubai. Sourav Ganguly to be reinstated as Indian skipper.

Andrew Miller is UK Editor of Cricinfo


Amit Varma



Making a virtue of neccessity: A tormenting elbow freed the artist completely in Sachin Tendulkar © Getty Images

Best
Sachin Tendulkar's half-centuries in Kolkata against Pakistan -- particularly the gem in the second innings that was cut short by poor umpiring -- gave testament to the genius of the man. Oh, he didn't drive on the up or hit through the line, and he didn't trouble the cover fielder much: his elbow, one of the vital cogs in any batting machine, was in too bad a shape for that, much worse than he let on publicly. But his late-cuts, flicks, glides to fine leg were strokes of the highest class, showcasing an artistry that too often has been overshadowed by the brutality that has accompanied it. It was a masterclass, but one that few students will be able to emulate.

Worst
The worst moments of the year happened off the field. First Sourav Ganguly betrayed the sanctity of the dressing room by reporting private coversations he had had with Greg Chappell in a crowded press conference. Then Greg Chappell showed the finger to a booing Kolkata crowd, was caught on camera, and denied it. It did not befit these two proud men, and it did a disservice to the game of cricket.

Amit Varma is contributing editor of Cricinfo

S Rajesh



Sourav Ganguly and Greg Chappell are talking, but we may not have heard the end of the saga © Getty Images

Best
When Brian Lara walked out to bat in the first innings at Adelaide, he was hardly at the top of his game - his six Test innings that season in Australia had fetched a meagre 143 runs. With Lara, though, the journey from poor to sublime is often made in the course of a couple of hours. Shane Warne and Stuart MacGill were taken to the cleaners and early on the second day he tapped Glenn McGrath to long leg to go past Allan Border's record and become Test cricket's highest run-getter. The crowd rose to a man to applaud another outstanding feat from an outstanding batsman, and just for that moment, all was well with West Indian cricket.

Worst
The Sourav Ganguly-Greg Chappell spat brought in the open all that is wrong in Indian cricket: an email which was strictly confidential and addressed to the board president was conveniently leaked, and from there started a trial by the media, which got more and more ugly and threatened to divide the Indian team down the middle. Ironically, in the midst of so much going wrong off the field, the Indian team managed to string together some emphatic wins on it and climb the rungs of both the Test and the ODI rankings, but with Ganguly still vying for a place in the Test squad, the last word may not have been heard on this controversy.

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo

Charlie Austin



Ricky Ponting smashed a brilliant century in the Asian tsunami appeal match at the MCG © Getty Images

Best
World cricket's response to the Asian tsunami was as swift as it was heart-warming. Galvanised by FICA, the world's player's association and supported by the ICC, the first World Cricket Tsunami Appeal match was played in Melbourne within just 15 days of the disaster, raising a total of £5.7m for emergency relief. Old rivalries were forgotten and new friendships were forged. When Muttiah Muralitharan, an aid-crusader back home Sri Lanka where he narrowly escaped the giant waves, was cheered to the crease by the same bellicose MCG crowds that have cruelly taunted him in the past you knew you were watching something special.

Worst
Great international sides are built on solid foundations - strong first-class systems, youth academies, fast bowling programmes, modern infrastructure, physiotherapy, sports medicine and biomechanical expertise. Back in April, though, Sri Lanka's players could only dream of such support systems as they prepared for their tour to New Zealand. Internal bickering within the cricket board, between a sacked elected committee and an incoming government-appointed interim committee, reached such farcical depths that practice balls could not even be organised for the national team's net sessions.

Charlie Austin is Cricinfo's Sri Lankan correspondent


Jenny Thompson



England's women captured their Ashes after a wait of 42 years © Getty Images

Best
Eighteen years without an Ashes series win - that's a long time. Now try 42. England's women finally did it at Worcester in September, and they came to the Trafalgar party, as well; jumping on the buses and then on to the stage with the men. Quite right, too. That victory crowned a great year for the women's game in which the IWCC merged with the ICC and players were paid - for the first time. Two giant leaps for womankind.

Worst
Why did it have to end? The moment England won the Ashes was both zenith and nadir - and not just because I missed out on the Greatest Party Ever TM through having my Wisdom teeth out. No - all our Christmases came at once during a scorching summer of sustained and never-to-be-repeated Test drama; it was truly breathtaking stuff. But now what? Well, my mouth has healed but a kind of numbness lingers.

Jenny Thompson is assistant editor of Cricinfo

George Binoy



Mike Hussey waited a long time for a Test career, and boy did he enjoy his first century © Getty Images

Best
There's something very pleasing when years of hard work are met with just reward. Michael Hussey's elation at capping 176 first-class matches worth of effort with a century in his second Test was thoroughly heart-felt and a pleasure to watch. It had the joy of a little boy who'd made the team for the first time. Though, at 30, his career may not have the longevity to make him an all-time great, it's a safe bet that he'd never trade that century at Hobart for a 10-year career.

Worst
The individual is never greater than the game. Several cricketers have had their careers cut short by a few years for the greater common good, but sections of the 80,000-strong multitude at Kolkata behaved like dropping Sourav Ganguly was blasphemy. Loud cheers for South Africa, believed only by the utterly naïve to be a sporting gesture, were drowned by deafening jeers targeted at India. It was a disgraceful moment, and one that will most certainly rank as one of the worst moments in the careers of the players.

George Binoy is editorial assistant of Cricinfo


Peter English



Shane Warne reaches 600 Test wickets, but even his immense efforts could not save the Ashes for Australia © Getty Images

Best
Too many Shane Warne moments to pick from - he had 84 wickets for 2005 before the South Africa series - but his England efforts win by the distance of Hampshire's Rose Bowl from Southampton. He easily out-performed Andrew Flintoff with 40 wickets at 19.92 and 249 runs, but his recognition was diluted by being on the losing side. Didn't deserve the defeat - or the drop of Kevin Pietersen at The Oval - after his back, knee and shoulder-straining efforts, but there was no sulking, kicking, screaming or, thankfully, retiring when it happened. Kissing the wrist band given to him by his daughter Brooke when taking his 600th wicket at Old Trafford was moving and the huge legspinner to remove and confuse Andrew Strauss was beautifully brutal.

Worst
The first two sessions at Lord's in July. Australia were dominated, the top three batsmen were struck, including Ricky Ponting's cheek being split by Steve Harmison, and they were all out before tea for 190. Nothing was done about the warning signs. Instead of recognising the problems caused by the brilliant opposition attack and devising strategies to counter them throughout the series, the performance was forgotten with Glenn McGrath's third-session of brilliance and the 239-run win. Many Australian players and supporters point out the narrowness of the Ashes loss to soften the defeat, but the costly misreading of England's bowlers was crucial to handing over the urn.

Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo

Anil Nair



Shoaib Akhtar's resurgence was key to Pakistan's success over England © Getty Images

Best
The born-again Shoaib Akhtar. Such calumny was heaped on him - Shoaib was a showboat, selfish, short of breath and a disruptive presence. But against England he demonstrated his staying power, his determination and, not least, his secret weapon. He turbocharged in over the same 30 yards, there was the usual copybook coiling of the shoulders and the astonishing amount of lean-back but, at the end of it, a 60mph delivery from the world's fastest bowler. It got into the nervous system of the England batsmen who had no way of knowing what was coming next: the Scud or, the equally cruel, Sidewinder.

Worst
The Freudian Id and the man-behind-the-mask are long past their use by date. Still, Greg Chappell's finger gesture at Kolkata was an abomination, an unguarded moment that exposed a mean streak beneath the suave exterior. His credentials as a player and captain were that of a colossus. And from what we have seen of him so far it ought to be no different as a coach. His stern persona as much as his exhortations on excellence project him as the ultimate rational man, one sure of his authority. Which made it all the more shocking that he should respond in kind to dire provocation.

Anil Nair is managing editor of Cricinfo in India


Sambit Bal



Two great sportsmen © Getty Images

Best
The Ashes was full of glorious moments, but the one that will stay with me took place minutes after the best match of the series was over. Chasing 282 to win at Edgbaston, Australia had looked dead at 175 for 8, but Brett Lee forged two stirring partnerships with Shane Warne and Michael Kasprowicz, getting his team within two runs, when Steve Harmison got Kasprowicz to glove to the wicketkeeper. After a soul-sapping session, it was a euphoric moment. But while England gathered in wild celebration, Flintoff turned to the vanquished who had fought as fiercely and as valiantly as him. The sight of Flintoff besides Lee, who sat hunched on the pitch, wrecked by that moment, added the perfect finishing touch to a match which was already classic.

Worst
What can be worse than a man who has earned the right to be considered a sporting icon in his country to be forced in to hiding? Tatenda Taibu is a remarkable cricketer whose dignity and courage has kept Zimbabwe cricket alive in the face of unthinkable adversity. That he felt compelled to give up his international career robbed the Zimbabwe Cricket Union of the last trace of credibility. That he should have feared for his life should shame the world cricket community in to action.

Sambit Bal is editor of Cricinfo and Cricinfo Magazine

Jamie Alter



At last for Sachin Tendulkar, century No. 35 © Getty Images

Best
Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar raising his eyes to the heavens - in respect to his deceased father - after breaking Sunil Gavaskar's record of 34 Test centuries. That Tendulkar seized the record from his guru and a fellow Mumbaikar, that the knock came after a six-month delay in action, that it set India up for a critical 188-run win over the touring Sri Lankans was secondary. The moment was the most humane seen on a cricket field this year; a compelling, emotional, and pure moment of respect so often forgotten on the battle field that is cricket these days. Tendulkar had reached a pinnacle and to see that his thoughts were with the man who guided him brought a tear to the eye.

Worst
New coach, new players, new season, new hope - same damning story. India's loss to New Zealand in the final of the Videocon Cup at Harare in September left a bad aftertaste in the mouth for the way in which the age-old chokers stuck to the same script. Sure, they scored 276, a total which can guarantee a side a win in most cases. But did anyone see how the many runs the last 10 overs produced? Yes, Nathan Astle played a gem of an innings, one that would make most batsmen proud. But there was little fight, less bite, and zero class in the way India bowled.

Jamie Alter is editorial assistant of Cricinfo


Martin Williamson



Heath Streak finally left Zimbabwe cricket behind, one of many dark days for the country in 2005 © Getty Images

Best
Ashes aside, a warm summer's evening at Lord's in June when almost 30,000 turned up to watch a Twenty20 county match between Middlesex and Surrey. It showed that if you get the product right, then cricket can still draw huge crowds. The commercial success of the short-format game - three hours of crash, bang, wallop - was repeated almost everywhere, even in Pakistan where domestic cricket has never attracted more than a smattering of spectators.

Worst
Zimbabwe. No doubt. Players have been intimidated and, to use their words, bullied by officialdom, nor have they been paid. The game has been grossly mismanaged, the accounts have more holes in them than a string vest, and local officials have been allowed to discriminate and persecute without censure. But worse than that has been the way the ICC has unashamedly refused to listen to the pleas of those battling inside Zimbabwe to save the game and pretended it is a local issue. It might be, but it is one we should all be ashamed of; and the guardians of cricket's spirit in Dubai more than most.

Martin Williamson is managing editor of Cricinfo

Vaneisa Baksh



Rising to the top: Brian Lara became the leading run-scorer in Test history © Getty Images

Best
The awesome record of Brian Lara's accomplishments has run parallel to an equally awful team record of defeats, so that his personal triumphs never carried the transformational edge that would have added reflective lustre. Still he remained aglow and conjured another unforgettable innings of 226, at Adelaide, as he became the highest Test run scorer. Enough signs had been posted in that Australia series to foretell an historical innings. Sensing the familiar pattern, I remained riveted, imperiously dismissing flawed umpiring, never fearful of a mistimed shot, faithful to the end that this was a day of reckoning. And so it came to pass.

Worst
The West Indies team has become a young one with much learning ahead, and that gives cause for optimism. The administrators of West Indies cricket are not young in the business but seem unable to learn as they continue to undermine the game's development. Dragging contract disputes onto the field before every match for years now, they've mismanaged to the core, making Shivnarine Chanderpaul a captain by default and expecting him to lead a team on whose side he did not stand in negotiations. Any leader would be hard pressed to manage under such circumstances, and Chanderpaul atrophied under the pressure, but given its history, this might well be the kind of leadership the WICB prefers.

Vaneisa Baksh is a freelance journalist based in Trinidad

Two Shanes - a champion and a comeback


John Stern



Never give up: Shane Warne gave his all for Australia and in the right spirit © Getty Images

Best
The look on Shane Warne's face as he prepared to bowl the final over of England's three-wicket win in the fourth Ashes Test at Trent Bridge. As he spun the ball from hand to hand, his grin betrayed the relish of a real competitor. Australia were poised to go 2-1 down but how he loved the fight and the challenge. He took the relentless barracking from Pommie fans with remarkably good cheer and simply came back for more. While other Aussies whinged and excused their Ashes defeat, Warne paid due respect to his opponents and to the game itself. He is quite simply a true champion.

Worst
The ICC's pronouncements. You cannot tell players how to behave and what spectators can and can't drink at a match while ignoring the implosion of Zimbabwe cricket.

John Stern is editor of The Wisden Cricketer

Dylan Cleaver



Shane Bond's return in Zimbabwe was a pleasing sight, but should New Zealand have even been there? © Getty Images

Best
In the great scheme of things it hardly rated a mention alongside the heroic deeds of Andrew Flintoff et al, but Shane Bond's successful comeback was a great against-the-odds story. Bond's career has been blighted by stress fractures to his back, the bane of fast bowlers' lives. Once more he defied the doomsayers to come back and bowl above 150km/h. A sight for New Zealand's collective sore eyes.

Worst
The fact he made his comeback on an awful tour of Zimbabwe where the term 'Test cricket', was stretched to its limit. Not only did the cricket range between poor and awful, but New Zealand Cricket took a hammering at home from the public and government, despite being put in an impossible position by the ICC's insistence of its future tours programme being fulfilled. Mind you, it would have been nice if the players offered an opinion on the subject rather than parroting that mindless mantra of "we're just here for the cricket".

Dylan Cleaver is senior sports writer of Herald on Sunday, New Zealand