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Five moments to remember from ODI cricket in 2018


ODI_Cricket_2018Bangladesh’s home series against the West Indies was the final act of 2018 as far as men’s ODI cricket is concerned, bringing the number of ODIs played in the year to 128. From the roller-coaster World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe to the exhilarating Asia Cup in the UAE, the year offered plenty of action to keep fans of the 50-over format hooked. Here is a look back at five special ODI moments from the year that will be remembered for long.   

February – India prevail in South Africa for the first time

India had fallen short in the Test series in South Africa, but the bumper six-match ODI series that followed gave them the perfect opportunity to make amends. Moreover, history beckoned for Virat Kohli’s youthful outfit – never before had India won a series of any sort on South African soil. Kohli hardly put a foot wrong throughout the series, which he began by slamming a well-paced 112 at Durban to help the visitors chase down 270 with six wickets and 27 balls to spare.

India further imposed their dominance with a crushing nine-wicket win in the second ODI at Centurion, where leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal (5/22) and chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav (3/20) bundled the hapless Proteas out for 118. Three days later, an equally convincing 124-run triumph at Cape Town handed India an unassailable 3-0 lead. Kohli, with a breathtaking 160*, paved the way for a formidable total of 303/6. Chahal and Yadav did the rest, grabbing four wickets apiece.

South Africa edged a rain-hit fourth ODI at Johannesburg by five wickets, but it was but a blip for India, who sealed the series with a 73-run win at Port Elizabeth thanks to Rohit Sharma’s 115. Another Kohli ton (129*) led to another big win (by eight wickets) at Centurion, duly ensuring a thumping 5-1 margin. Kohli plundered 558 runs at 186.00 – the most by a batsman in a bilateral ODI series – while Kuldeep and Chahal finished with 17 and 16 wickets respectively.  

March – Afghanistan pull off the mother of all heists

Prior to the start of the World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe, in-form Afghanistan were backed by a good number of pundits to finish in the top two and thereby confirm a berth at the preposterous ten-team 2019 World Cup. However, things did not quite go according to plan at the outset, as Afghanistan lost to Scotland by seven wickets in their opening game. Up next was a two-run defeat at the hands of Zimbabwe, followed by a near-fatal 30-run reversal against Hong Kong.

Jolted by three defeats on the trot, Afghanistan not only had to win all of their remaining games to stay alive, but also depend on the fortunes of other teams. To their relief, they beat Nepal in their last group game, before Nepal in turn beat Hong Kong, thus enabling them to sneak into the Super Six round. Afghanistan put their campaign back on track by dispatching the West Indies and the United Arab Emirates, but even then, they had to hope for the UAE to defeat Zimbabwe.

As fate would have it, Zimbabwe were knocked out after going down to the UAE by three runs. This meant that the last Super Six contest between Afghanistan and Ireland was a shootout to decide the second qualifier to join the West Indies. Not only did Afghanistan secure qualification by vanquishing the Irish by six wickets, but they also went on to the clinch the trophy with a seven-wicket over the Windies in the final. The stars had aligned for the Afghanistan – and how.  

June – Spirited Scots topple the old enemy

Scotland’s World Cup Qualifier campaign, which had begun with a lot of promise, ended in heartbreak as they missed out by a whisker – they lost a knockout encounter to the West Indies by just five runs on the D/L method, made all the more gutting by umpire Paul Wilson’s erroneous LBW decision against Richie Berrington at a critical juncture in the chase. Through their performance, the Scots made a strong case for regular fixtures against higher-ranked teams.

One such rare one-off fixture took place three months later, when England, the top-ranked ODI side, arrived at the Grange in Edinburgh, hoping for a good workout ahead of their five-match series against Australia. As it happened, the Englishmen ended up getting a lot more than they had possibly bargained for. The tone was set after Scotland rode on a blazing start by their openers, wicketkeeper Matthew Cross and captain Kyle Coetzer, who put on 103 inside 14 overs.

Calum McLeod took charge thereafter with a stellar 140* from just 94 balls that took Scotland to a mammoth 371/5. England, served by Jonny Bairstow (105), sped to 220/2 in 27 overs in reply, before Scotland fought back to reduce the score to 276/7. An eighth-wicket stand of 71 between Moeen Ali and Liam Plunkett posed a fresh threat, but the Scots held their nerve, scripting a historic six-run victory when Safyaan Sharif had Mark Wood out leg-before with seven balls left.

June – England raze their own world record

It was only in 2016 that England had created a new record for the highest total in men’s ODIs, amassing 444/3 against Pakistan at Trent Bridge. Two years later, at the same venue, it was Australia’s turn to bear the brunt, as England broke their own record by a fair distance in the third match of a five-ODI series that they would go on to win 5-0. Openers Jason Roy and Bairstow provided the perfect base after Australia decided to field, adding 159 within 20 overs.

Roy fell for 82, but Bairstow (139 in 92 balls) and Alex Hales (147 in 92) pounded the Australian bowlers in the course of a second-wicket stand of 151 in less than 15 overs. Captain Eoin Morgan added to the onslaught, smashing 67 off 30 balls, as the total ballooned to an astounding 481/5 after 50 overs, inclusive of 41 fours and 21 sixes. Australia folded for 239, the margin of 242 runs resulting in their biggest ODI defeat and also England’s biggest ODI victory.

August – Nepal announce their arrival on the big stage

An eighth-place finish in the ten-team World Cup Qualifier was enough for Nepal to achieve ODI status for the first time. The manner in which they qualified for the Qualifier itself was highly dramatic – needing to beat Canada in their final league game of the World Cricket League Division Two in Namibia, they rose from the dead to win by one wicket off the last ball. Nepal’s first ODI series was slated for August, a two-match affair against the Netherlands in Amstelveen.

Though they lost the first match by 45 runs, they recorded their maiden ODI success in the second. After Sompal Kami’s 61 helped Nepal recover from 135/6 to 216, the Nepali spinners, led by the talented leggie Sandeep Lamichhane, reduced the hosts to 143/6. The Dutch however brought it down to the last ball, off which two runs were required. Skipper Paras Khadka, who bowled the last over, fittingly ran out the non-striker to seal a pulsating Nepalese win by one run.

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Rustom Deboo is a cricket aficionado and freelance writer from Mumbai. He is an ardent devotee of T...

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