The year in cricket might have had some sizeable holes in it, for obvious reasons. But the pandemic did not deprive cricket fans of their fix entirely.
There was more than enough time for players to create lasting memories, whether it be in a bio-secure bubble in the UK, at an IPL exiled to the Emirates, or in front of frenzied support in Kathmandu.
Here are 20 of the best moments cricket created either side of lockdown.
1. Rahul Tewatia in Sharjah
For all the luminosity of the IPL 2020 season in exile in the UAE, much of the cricket has probably already been forgotten. Tewatia's logic-defying innings to win the game for Rajasthan Royals against Kings XI Punjab in Sharjah should live long in the memory, though. It made a journeyman cricketer a star.
2. Naseem Shah’s hat-trick
Naseem Shah was already widely known about as a teen prodigy, when touring Australia with Pakistan last year. His effort in becoming the youngest player to take a Test hat-trick, aged just 16, against Bangladesh in February, suggested there is substance to go with the hype.
3. Ben Stokes still Mr Incredible
It needed a lot for Stokes to match his 2019 heroism, what with the World Cup final, Headingley, and all that. But he was still remarkable, in between lockdowns and compassionate leave. His high water mark was the Cape Town Test in January, when he broke catching records, score vitals runs, and forced the win with the ball.
4. West Indies restarting cricket
West Indies did the world of sport a favour by agreeing to leave the Caribbean – where few cases of Covid had been reported – to travel to play cricket in the hot-spot that was the UK in July. They gave the summer some indelible images, too, like when captain Jason Holder led his players' support of the Black Lives Matter cause.
5. Double Super Over
During the first Super Over of IPL 2020, Jofra Archer tweeted: "How could you not like cricket?" It captured the mood perfectly. Sundays became the most thrilling days. On October 18, both matches were tied, and the second – between Kings XI and Mumbai Indians – needed two Super Over deciders.
6. Shan Masood v James Anderson
The last time he toured England, Shan Masood might have feared that was him done with international cricket, such was the hold James Anderson had over him. He returned in 2020 as a player revived, though. His ton – which included navigating Anderson – at Old Trafford in August was his third in a row in Tests.
7. James Anderson’s 600
Anderson might have been briefly blunted by Masood, and generally struggled on his return to cricket following lockdown. But he found his stride by the end of the UK summer, and in August became the first seam bowler to reach 600 Test wickets
8. Stirling performance
Chasing 328 to avoid a clean-sweep against the world champions England, Ireland were written off in their ODI in Southampton. Not for the first time, they found a hero. For Kevin O’Brien at Bangalore in the 2011 World Cup, this time read Paul Stirling, who blazed 142 to bring about a remarkable win.
9. Nicolas Pooran’s gymnastics
Two of the 2020 IPL’s salient images came in the same match. Before Tewatia finished the game by launching a tirade of sixes into the road in Sharjah, Pooran had pulled off one of the most sensational pieces of fielding in the history of the sport. All to stop a six.
10. Zak Crawley betters Tendulkar
By the age of 22, and in his eighth Test, Crawley might have felt like he had completed cricket. His 267 in a drawn Test against Pakistan in August is higher than Sachin Tendulkar’s Test best of 248 not out.
11. Natthakan Chantam’s stop
Thailand’s leading batter was scarcely afforded a chance to show her worth after being recruited to play for Trailblazers in the Women’s T20 Challenge in Sharjah. She still caught the eye, though, via an extraordinary boundary stop in the final win against Supernovas.
12. Sandeep Lamichhane’s six-for
Nepal's first one-day international series on home soil finished in spectacular fashion in February, as they thrashed United States in record-breaking fashion in Kathmandu. Sandeep Lamichhane took 6-16 as USA were bowled out for just 35 – the joint lowest ODI score in history
13. Shaheen Afridi’s four in four
Shaheen Afridi made the most of the sparing opportunities 2020 afforded by establishing himself as Pakistan’s leading all-formats bowler. But his most stunning return came in an English county T20 match in September when he took four wickets in four balls to win a game for Hampshire against Middlesex.
14. Hardik Pandya’s belligerence
Some pundits had India down for beatings in all three series on tour in Australia. They failed to factor in the match-winning capabilities of Hardik Pandya, who was named player of the series for his excellence in the T20s in December.
15. Stuart Broad reaches 500
Bizarre to think, now, that Stuart Broad was out of the England side when cricket restarted after lockdown, and venting his frustrating with a TV interview during a match he was not playing in. After that, he dominated the summer, and took his 500th Test wicket in the process, against West Indies in July.
16. Alishan Sharafu’s rapid 100
Players in the Abu Dhabi T10 have spent four years trying to make a 10-over hundred. Chris Lynn, Jonny Bairstow, Alex Hales … all have got close, but fallen short. A 17-year-old schoolboy managed the feat in a T10 tournament in Ajman in December. Alishan Sharafu is one to watch in UAE cricket.
17. Babar Azam’s champion quality
Multan Sultans dominated the Pakistan Super League. Then it shutdown because of the onset of coronavirus just as it was reaching its business stage. When it was eventually restarted, nine months later, Babar Azam owned it instead, as he took charge of both the semi-final and final to take Karachi Kings to their first title.
18. Jos Buttler delivers
Only Jofra Archer has spent more time in quarantine than Jos Buttler this year. The time spent away from family might have been weighing on him during his Test struggles in the UK summer. Then he scored 75 and 113 in a comeback win over Pakistan, and all was right with the world again
19. Smriti Mandhana’s magic
Scoring on the slow Sharjah Stadium track proved tricky during the Women’s T20 Challenge in November. For all except Mandhana, it seemed. The opener smoked 68, the top score of the tournament, to set up the final win for Trailblazers.
20. Dawid Malan’s record
It was always going to take something special to dislodge Babar Azam from the top of the T20I ratings for batsmen. In the end, it took something record-breaking. Dawid Malan's 99 not out as part of England's 3-0 clean sweep of South Africa in November brought him a rating of 915 – the highest ever recorded in T20s.