Review-06: Hair, Ponting, Yousuf hog the limelight

Published: Monday, December 11, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Mumbai:Australians were at the heart of two of the biggest cricketing stories of 2006 with controversial umpire Darrell Hair excluded from the ICC elite panel after Pakistan blamed him squarely for their forfeiture of the Oval Test in August.

Australia's world champion team proved the strongest of the year, winning eight out of eight Tests and clinching the Champions Trophy, the only one-day title to have previously eluded them.

Pakistan became the first country in Test history to forfeit a match after refusing to take the field after tea on the fourth day against England.

Hair, no stranger to controversy, and fellow umpire Billy Doctrove had penalised Pakistan for alleged ball tampering, docking them five runs and changing the ball.

In a move, which divided world cricket, Hair was sacked from the International Cricket Council's (ICC) elite panel of umpires.

Forgettable year for Pak: Pakistan captain Inzaman-ul-Haq was cleared of ball-tampering although the ICC banned him for four one-day internationals for bringing the game into disrepute.

In a difficult year for Pakistan, their fast bowlers Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammed Asif became the first international cricketers to test positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

Shoaib and Asif were banned from cricket in November after testing positive for nandrolone but were cleared a month later when a Pakistan tribunal ruled they had not received sufficient warning that supplements they were taking could be contaminated by the banned steroid

Aussie juggernaut rolls over : Ricky Ponting, named ICC player of the year, has led Australia on an astonishing streak of 13 victories in 14 Tests since last year's 2-1 Ashes loss in England.

Ponting has been in sublime form and his run making opened the door to victory for his team time and again.

Australia won Test series at home and away against South Africa before crushing Bangladesh. They went on to clinch the elusive Champions Trophy in India in November.

With two Ashes Tests remaining before the year-end and Australia 2-0 up in the series, the Tasmanian, who celebrates his 32nd birthday next week, has amassed 1,249 runs with seven centuries in just eight Tests.

The Adelaide Test win against the old foes was remarkable in that both teams had scored 500-plus in the first innings, but Australia, inspired by leg spinner Shane Warne, bundled out England for 129 in the second innings and raced to their victory target of 168 with 19 balls to spare and six wickets in hand.

"I've played in a lot of good wins before but this beats the lot. It's one of the all-time great Test wins as far as I'm concerned," Ponting told a news conference.

Roller coaster ride for England:England has had a number of hiccups since ending Australia's 18-year-old Ashes domination last year.

As the second best team in the Test ratings, they creditably squared a rubber in India and another against Sri Lanka before beating Pakistan.

Unlike Australia, however, England's one-day record has bordered on the dismal.

Wanderers' wonder: The outstanding match of the year - Test or one-day - was the amazing run-chase by South Africa in the bullring of the Wanderers in March.

Australia became the first team to cross the 400-run mark in one-day cricket when they posted 434 for four in the decider with Ponting leading the way with a superb 164.

Their record lasted for a mere three-and-a-half hours, however, as South Africa scored 438 for nine, with Herschelle Gibbs getting 175, to win with a ball to spare.

Sri Lanka subsequently surpassed the record for the highest score in one-day cricket when they posted 443 for nine against Netherlands in Amstelveen in July.

Yousuf, Ponting on song: Pakistan's Mohammad Yousuf broke West Indian Viv Richards's 30-year-old record for the highest aggregate runs in a calendar year and created a new record of scoring nine centuries.

The 32-year-old Yousuf amassed 665 runs against West Indies, a Pakistan record for most runs in a three-Test series, to bring his total for the calendar year to a record 1,788.

Yousuf is being challenged every step of the way by Ponting, who at the start of the year became the only batsman to score a century in each innings of his 100th Test.

The Australian captain scored his 33rd Test century in Adelaide to move to fourth in the list of most century-makers behind Sachin Tendulkar (35) and Brian Lara (34), who equalled Sunil Gavaskar's mark (34) this year.

West Indies fluctuated between the ordinary and exceptional when they emerged as surprising finalists in the Champions Trophy, while India flattered to deceive yet again, spiraling from one defeat to another.

Indians, who had a very good run in ODIs and Tests previous year with home wins against Sri Lanka and South Africa. This is a forgettable year for India but for Test series win in Caribbean islands nothing went right for them. They lost ODI series against Windies, South Africa besides the dismal show in Malaysia tri-series and ICC Champions Trophy.


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