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Cricinfo's senior editors on the best passages of cricket they watched in 2008
January 5, 2009
Osman SamiuddinMendis in the Asia Cup final
These bouts are difficult to explain. The National Stadium in Karachi had been a graveyard for the bowlers. Three hundred was the new 240. Two seventy-four was thus a gettable thing, and with Virender Sehwag in flow and India 76 for 1 in the 10th over, it threatened to be a miniscule total. Mendis - rested in the group game against India - came on, Sehwag charged a straight, wide one, missed, and was stumped. Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma also missed straight balls; they expected something to happen with that strange grip and yet nothing really did. Suddenly India were all out for 173. These things happen in such a sudden burst of flair.
There was about the whole spell, a very Pakistani air - something a Waqar or Wasim could do, but more pertinently something a guy like Mohammad Zahid from Gaggu Mandi, who only his parents had heard of, could do. Stuart Broad took a superb five-fer against South Africa last summer but it was all so pristine, so sanitised: straight-up swing; nice, coached upright action; edges to slip; boy who has worked his way through a structure.
This was nothing like it, because it induced in India a very visible panic and in everyone else the purest thrill, from a guy nobody knew much about. Fielders suddenly become more alert, batsmen more incompetent, balls turning who knows which way, and that is the joy of cricket surely, at its absolute base level: in a team game, one man changing the mood of a match, of entire countries, in a trice, just like that, as you or I might turn on a switch. Indeed, the best was that until the very end, nobody could say for sure that someone like Mahendra Singh Dhoni - an equal of Mendis in unorthodoxy - wouldn't do what Mendis had just done and switch it all back. Ajantha Mendis, long may he live and bowl; the glory of this region's cricket, long may it flourish.
Osman Samiuddin is the Pakistan editor of Cricinfo
Peter EnglishSession one at the WACA, Australia v South Africa
An out-of-form Hayden was uncertain outside off stump and edged to Ntini, who followed next ball by having a driving Ponting caught superbly by AB de Villiers in the cordon. Hussey avoided the hat-trick but was quickly lined up by Steyn's angle and de Villiers was sharp again. It was the sort of spell that excited neutrals, shocked Australian fans and gave South Africans hope.
It also did something that few teams manage Down Under, by getting the home players to doubt themselves. To achieve all that in half an hour was an incredible feat. While it set up the series, it did not gain South Africa immediate control, with the advantage swinging from side to side throughout the three sessions - and the entire game. The opening day couldn't match the start of the Ashes in 2005, but it was so addictive.
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo
Andrew MillerFlintoff to Kallis at Edgbaston
The over had a twin impact. Firstly, it was indisputable proof of Flintoff's enduring class at international level - at the age of 30, and after four ankle operations, seeing was believing, and for the packed Birmingham crowd that day, belief had rarely felt so good. Secondly, it reminded England that all the line-and-length merchants in the world cannot make up for the raw threat of a genuine 90mph speedster. For the next Test at The Oval, Kevin Pietersen's first in charge, Steve Harmison was recalled to the fold, and the improvement in the team was plain for all to see.
Andrew Miller is the UK editor of Cricinfo
Dileep PremachandranYuvraj v England's spinners in Chennai
Tendulkar starts Panesar's next over with a typically precise paddle sweep. As it streaks past Matt Prior and the helmet for four, the crowd finds its voice again. After a nervous Yuvraj sees off another over from Swann, Tendulkar targets Monty once more. This time, a short ball is dismissed to the rope at square leg. He seems to be warming into his role as Yuvraj's guardian.
But does the younger man need such cotton wool? Having been flummoxed by a Swann delivery that turns right across his bat and into Prior's gloves, Yuvraj decides to trust the attacking instincts that have served him so well in coloured clothes. A lovely back-foot push through the covers gives Swann reason to think, and when the next ball lands on leg stump, it's swept with awesome power for four more.
When Monty resumes, Yuvraj is out of his crease and lofting with confidence down to long-on. Pietersen swiftly calls off his spin twins and brings back Steve Harmison and Andrew Flintoff. The tide has turned, the Red Sea parted by a man who allegedly can't play spin.
Dileep Premachandran is an associate editor at Cricinfo
Sambit BalIshant v Ponting in Perth
After a bit of juggling I settled on Ishant Sharma's dismantling of Ricky Ponting over Ajantha Mendis' dumbfounding of Rahul Dravid in Colombo - if only because the first was a spectacle that lasted an hour. Already in the same Test we had seen a thrilling duel between the game's two premier players, Sachin Tendulkar and Brett Lee, but this was between a rookie and a master, and the master ended up looking like a rookie.
In the first over he bowled to him on the fourth day, Ishant could have had Ponting twice - one went away missing the outside edge by a fraction, and another jagged back and hit in front - but that he didn't only prolonged the drama. Ishant charged in over and over, hurrying Ponting with pace, getting him to fend with bounce, beating him with movement. Every over probably seemed like an eternity for Ponting, who couldn't even get off strike. The reward finally came in the eighth, which came about as a last-second change of mind prompted by Virender Sehwag, who had seen Ishant bowl long spells as his captain for the Delhi team. The ball pitched on off stump and rose while leaving Ponting, who could only edge it to Rahul Dravid at slip. That was Ishant's only wicket in the innings, but it was the one that mattered.
Sambit Bal is the editor of Cricinfo
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