Tuesday, 30 December 2014

The Year in Review

2014 was overshadowed for me by the death of Philip Hughes. It was a shocking year to be a cricketer, and especially an English one at that. The form of our national team mirrored that of our captain, and despite a few bright lights such as the emergence of Moeen Ali, or that amazing hundred by Alex Hales in yet another dismal tournament, the year was about as much fun as sitting next to Grandad on Christmas afternoon after he had been at the sprouts. Here, let's look at ten things that encapsulated 2014 for me.

Mo...a great year
1. Philip Hughes - an injury that rocked the cricket world. Over the years we have seen the likes of Phil Simmons, Andy Lloyd and others suffer sickening injuries but the young Australian remained forever on 63 not out. Even six weeks after it happened, I still can't believe it. Michael Clarke handled himself brilliantly, and was described on these pages as "not being only a leader of his country, but an ambassador for cricket".

2. Yorkshire - what a year for the Tykes. Decent opening pairs make a side and the batting with Adam Lyth and Alex Lees, along with Middle Stump interviewees Jack Brooks and Ryan Sidebottom with the ball, led the way. Jason Gillespie has been the most successful man in management in Leeds this year, thanks to the chairman of the city's football club, but from Chief Executive to Academy, this could be the new era for Headingley as a fortress.

3. Chris Rogers - the only side to beat Yorkshire this season in four day cricket was Middlesex and this was largely due to one of the finest knocks seen at Lord's ever, by the Australian opener. His 241 not out was relentless and no doubt was far more enjoyable than when he was hit in the crown jewels the other day. BOXing Day it most certainly was, and like the bloke next to me at Tesco's this morning, Rogers had an unexpected item in the bagging area.

4. England - what a shocking year for the national team. It started with getting whitewashed in Australia, and finished with the skipper getting his P45. In between, a poor T20 World Cup losing to the might of the Netherlands, a home Test series defeat to Sri Lanka was also on the menu along with the usual crap served up in the one day arena and Alastair Cook paid for it with his job. Higher up the food chain, Downton and Moores were criticised while someone described Giles Clarke as pretentious. It was almost enough to make him choke on his Fruit Infusion Twinings.

Pretentious? Moi?

5. Moeen Ali - the one bright light in the England side this year, the Beard that's Feared, became the Beard that's Revered to England fans. Mighty Mo spun England to victory and became a much better bowler, whilst his stylish batting was a joy to watch. Reminiscent of an Asian David Gower or is it an English Saeed Anwar? Respect for the wristbands he wore in support of the Palestinian people too.

6. Kevin Pietersen - despite playing very little cricket, you couldn't keep the man out of the headlines and his book published in October was explosive. The divides of the Australian tour were laid bare for all to see, and the chances of Kev being sent a Christmas card by Matt Prior were about as slim as an anorexic Bruce Reid. The England batting line up looked brittle without him in the side it has to be said, and despite him playing T20 in the Big Bash League in Australia, it will be interesting to see what the next move is for him.

7. MS Dhoni - the Indian skipper who had about as much success in playing away in 2014, as a celibate monk called it a day at the end of the year in Test cricket. India, with one win away from home in three years, have been about as much use as Anne Frank's drum kit in the five day game outside of Asia. Dhoni, hasn't looked particularly interested recently, but his retirement signals the end of an era. India under him have become the most powerful nation in cricket, most definitely off the pitch and his retirement signals a new era for the country. I wouldn't bet against him lifting the World Cup in 2015 though.

Adios Dhoni

8. Jonathan Agnew - Aggers had a funny old year. An interview with Paul Downton went down like a shit sandwich with KP's lawyers, but that was nothing compared to his spat with KP's wife, Jessica Taylor on Twitter. Aggers, showing the maturity of David Mellor in a London cab, flounced off the social media site only to return a few days later. Test Match Special also had its critics, as more listeners tuned in to alternative cricket commentaries such as Guerilla Cricket.

9. Jack Shantry - one of the nicest blokes in the game and a good laugh at that, Jack had a match to remember as Worcestershire clinched their return to the top tier. In a massive game with third placed Surrey, victory for the Pears would clinch promotion whilst defeat would have meant Division One status for the Brown Hatters. Tail ender Jack slapped a quick hundred before following it up with six wickets, as the Surrey batsmen struggled with his left arm seam. Needless to say, elite four day cricket will be played on the banks of the River Severn next year as opposed to under the gasometer of the Oval. I bet one or two ales were imbibed that night.

10. The Middle Stump - in a year when Liam left the site to concentrate on his semi professional football career, the Stump doubled in Twitter followers and now stands at just under 10,000, with certain tweets trending worldwide at times. Over 150,000 people read this site this year and interviews with the likes of Piers Morgan, Mike Proctor and Alan Butcher were very popular. In addition, a live show at Headingley in September with Jack Brooks, Jonny Bairstow, Ryan Sidebottom and Steve Kirby, all in aid of Melanoma UK went down like a White House intern in the 90's (rather well), and 2015 promises much of the same as hopefully we will do another one in London. Characters of Cricket is published in March next year too, and not being the type of person to shamelessly plug the crap out of it, you can get your grubby mitts on it pretty soon via The History Press.

Thank you everyone for reading, and for your support over the year. Have a good one!

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