For England, Ashes lights up testing year

For England, Ashes lights up testing year

London: England started 2009 by losing both their captain and their coach yet ended it having triumphed in an Ashes series which proved cricket still had nothing to rival Test matches for sheer drama.

Ricky Ponting’s men were ahead on almost every individual statistic yet it was England that won 2-1 after clinging onto a draw in the Cardiff opener where the Australia captain made a majestic 150.

The series was a triumph for England captain Andrew Strauss, parachuted into a leadership role after a falling out between former captain Kevin Pietersen and coach Peter Moores cost both men their jobs.

Injury meant Pietersen played little part in a series where Andrew Flintoff bowed out from the five-day game, because of fitness problems, in style.

Superb fast bowling from the all-rounder saw England beat Australia in a Lord’s Test for the first time in 75 years.

Ever the show-stopper, Flintoff ran out dangerman Ponting in the series finale at the Oval as England secured the Ashes with the aid of a debut century from Jonathan Trott.

But Trott, like Pietersen, learnt cricket in his native South Africa and it wasn’t just Australians who asked why he was playing for England.

Pakistan, a no-go zone after the Lahore attack on the Sri Lanka team on 3 March, won the World Twenty20 in England thanks to some brilliant displays, notably from Shahid Afridi.

A lively tournament, in marked contrast to the ponderous 2007 World Cup, saw the Netherlands beat England in a huge upset.

There was something similarly to the point in another non-stop year of international cricket about the Champions Trophy in South Africa where Australia defeated New Zealand in the final.

New Zealand’s Daniel Vettori appeared to be carrying his country’s fortunes on his suspect shoulder be it as captain, leading spinner, match-saving batsman and selector.

South Africa, as much through a lack of matches as anything, were unable to build on their Test progress and a major one-day trophy again remained elusive.

But in 2009 fast bowler Makhaya Ntini became the first black African to play in 100 Tests—a significant social as well as sporting event in post-apartheid South Africa.

West Indies, plagued by player-board rows, started to emerge from their administrative chaos with a home series win over England.

India ended the year as the world’s number one-ranked Test team, a position matching their standing as cricket’s financial powerhouse. But their series against Sri Lanka demonstrated how conditions around the world frequently, and excessively, favoured batsmen.

Crowds for Tests outside of “icon series" such as the Ashes were often meagre, prompting renewed talk, if as yet nothing more, about day/night Tests.

2009 will also be remembered as the year when the umpire’s decision ceased to be final with the introduction of a television referral system allowing teams to challenge verdicts.

But there were questions over whether the available technology was up to the task and if some television umpires were overruling too often, rather than merely eliminating the obvious howlers the system was designed to detect.

Traditionalists insisted the solution to the problem was better umpiring while modernisers said it was pointless pretending television did not exist.

But both camps were united in their sadness at the death in October of English former Test umpire David Shepherd.

International Cricket Council president David Morgan said of Shepherd: “The example he set as someone who took the art of umpiring very seriously while also enjoying what he did immensely will leave a lasting legacy for the game."