2007 in review: Staffers' picks - 3 January 2, 2008

A dark end, and the joy of six

ESPNcricinfo staff
Wretched limited-overs tournaments, upset wins, Gilly's hundred, Sangakkara's run, and more

More Cricinfo staffer picks of the best and worst of 2007

Australia v Zimbabwe: 'blow by blow, run by run, a miracle' © Getty Images

Sambit Bal

Best: Zimbabwe beating Australia
It is not a coincidence that some of the warmest sporting memories happen to involve heroic feats by underdogs. Victories for Ireland and Bangladesh were the only redeeming feature of the 2007 World Cup, but the best of them was without doubt Zimbabwe's stunning upset of Australia in the World Twenty20 in South Africa. The shortest format of the game is said to bring the teams closer. Still, the gap between Australia and Zimbabwe was so wide that it was virtually insurmountable. But blow by blow, run by run, a miracle unfolded. A few of the Australians fell to arrogant strokes, but the Zimbabwe bowlers held their line and the batsmen their nerve - none more spiritedly than Brendan Taylor, who marshalled the chase and managed to knock off the 12 runs needed off the last over.

Worst : The end of the World Cup final
The whole World Cup will qualify - it seemed to carry on forever, soullessly and joylessly - but zeroing in on one moment isn't that difficult. Australia and Sri Lanka ended up playing out a farce in the dying moments of the final because four ICC officials - three umpires and a match referee - couldn't correctly interpret a rudimentary law. Thirty-three overs had been bowled in Sri Lanka's run-chase when fading light forced the players indoors, and that should have been that: 20 overs had been completed, the minimum required for a result to count, and Australia were ahead on run-rate. But after the officials insisted that a further three overs had to be played the next day, and the players emerged to play out a charade in near-darkness. Australia's spinners lobbed the ball down and the Sri Lankans patted it back. It was a fitting end to a dire tournament.

Sambit Bal is editor of Cricinfo

Kanishkaa Balachandran

Best: New Zealand winning the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy
Battered after being eliminated in the CB Series in Australia, New Zealand had an opportunity to redeem themselves before the World Cup with a three-match formality at home against a depleted Australian side. The world could scarcely believe what followed, as Shane Bond, Ross Taylor, Peter Fulton, Craig McMillan and Brendon McCullum combined to script an incredible 3-0 whitewash and bring smiles to millions of fans sickened of Australian supremacy over the years.

Without their stars, who were either rested or injured, Australia got a taste of what was to come in Wellington when they were rolled over for 148. At Eden Park, New Zealand overhauled the target of 336 with room to spare, and sealed the series. In Hamilton, Australia made 346, but it still proved inadequate, as the two Macs, Craig McMillan and Brendon McCullum, bailed New Zealand out of trouble from 116 for 5 and got to the finish line with three balls to spare. Ross Taylor made it to the front page of the country's leading newspaper for his hundred in the second game, and McMillan, who had earlier contemplated quitting the game and starting a new career as a salesman, had announced an emphatic return.

Virender Sehwag and AB de Villiers go through the motions in the Afro-Asia Cup © AFP

Worst: The Afro-Asia Cup
The ICC had its heart in the right place, conceiving the tournament as a means of pumping funds into developing the game in lesser-privileged countries in Asia and Africa, but it failed to generate enough crowds and excitement. The primary reason was the scheduling - April is easily the worst month in which to play an outdoor sport in India. The news of star players from either side pulling out was a big turn-off. Then Nimbus, the broadcaster pulled out, and worse still, the Asian team couldn't find sponsors. The sapping weather in Chennai, which hosted two of the one-dayers, took a toll on the Africans: four players were reportedly unwell for the last match. Apparently the venue-rotation policy of the Indian board was to blame for the scheduling. And while the games were well contested, a 3-0 victory to the Asia XI was a poor advertisement.

Kanishkaa Balachandran is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Andrew Miller

Best: An ICC hoarding falling on Malcolm Speed
After an apology of a World Cup, the world was finally given an apology - but it didn't quite go as intended. On the morning after the farcical twilight finish to the tournament, the ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed faced the media to grovel on behalf of his organisation. But at the very moment the word "sorry" was passing his lips, the fold-up ICC hoarding behind his head decided to fold up. Slowly and inexorably it teetered forward, as journalists shouted their warnings and Speed braced for impact. In the end it merely brushed his shoulder but the moment was captured on camera and formed the centrepiece of a thousand news bulletins. It was arguably the most symbolic moment of the tournament.

Worst: The death of the ARG
Earlier in the World Cup I took a tour around the husk of the Antigua Recreation Ground. Once, it had been the most vibrant focal point of the island, arguably even of the Caribbean. Now it was a decaying hulk, with paint and splinters peeling off the stands, and weeds and rubbish spilling out of every nook and cranny.

Sir Viv Richards' house was just a brisk walk down the road; the newly built stadium that bears his name, however, was half an hour's drive out of St John's. A grand design, maybe, but oh so soulless, and perpetually disowned by the island's people. Nowhere was the World Cup's betrayal of the West Indian heritage better encapsulated.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo

Nishi Narayanan

Best: Gilchrist's 100 Test sixes
If records could be held only by those who symbolise the feat in question, then no one deserves a hundred sixes in Tests more than Adam Gilchrist. He reached the landmark during the second Test against Sri Lanka in Hobart with back-to-back sixes off Muttiah Muralitharan. "There is a point in time when you and you only know - the rest know it a second later - and it's the best feeling as a batsman," he said later.

A six is not only one of the most exciting sights in cricket but also one that most often brings the spectator into the game for a brief moment. Gilchrist has allowed spectators to be part of the proceedings a hundred times over, and that is what sets him apart from the other top batsmen in the world.

Make it big: Sangakkara made just under a thousand runs, including two double-hundreds and two scores of 150-plus © Getty Images

Worst: India's fielding in the ODIs against England
India went into the one-dayers having won the Test series 1-0. They had the momentum, the confidence, and the team to take a lead and clinch the series against a side with a very patchy one-day record. Instead, they chose to forego the advantage and lose their confidence with some very shoddy fielding. Their throws from the outfield were weak, they allowed singles to be converted to twos, dropped catches and mucked up run-outs. By the end of the third game, in Edgbaston, India had conceded 134 runs through errors on the field, while England had given away only 42. England won the series 3-2, but if India's fielders had anything to do with the close result, it was contributing considerably in the three defeats. What is worrying is that there seems to be no difference in India's quality of fielding four months on.

Nishi Narayanan is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Ashok Ganguly

Best: Sangakkara's golden run
Kumar Sangakkara produced two of the finest innings of the year on his way to becoming the No. 1 Test batsman in the ICC rankings. One was his valiant 192 against Australia in Hobart and the other his 152 against England in Kandy. With that he became the first batsman to make 150-plus scores in four consecutive Tests.

Sangakkara's batting in Australia was magnificent. He displayed fortitude while adding 107 runs for the fourth wicket with Sanath Jayasuriya, but it was only after reaching his century, when five wickets fell for 25, that he launched his assault. His shots were executed with pinpoint precision. Farming the strike to ensure that Lasith Malinga stayed on, he carted the fast bowlers over the covers, and when the ball was pitched short, pierced the packed slip cordon with remarkable frequency. Bad luck robbed him of his double-century, when Rudi Koertzen did not see the ball miss bat and brush his shoulder.

Sangakkara's prolific run continued at home. His 92 in the first innings at Kandy carried Sri Lanka to 188 when they batted first. They had conceded a 93-run lead, which was made insignificant in the second innings, where he continued his tryst with the off-side boundaries and made England pay for dropping him on 98.

Graham Ford changing his mind about coaching India
Graham Ford plunged Indian cricket into further chaos when he declined to become coach days after accepting the job. His reason: family, which was why he declined a a stint with Sri Lanka in 2003. The Indian board was left red-faced after going to the press about his credentials; the one thing that missed their eye was his staying power. Ford is now enjoying his low-profile stint as director of Kent's academy.

Ashok Ganguly is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo