What a year it has been – and while mostly that has been for all the wrong reasons, there have been plenty of highlights too!
That has certainly been the case on the cricket field with England involved in a number of remarkable matches across all formats and no shortage of standout performances.
So as 2020 draws to a close, Sky Cricket’s David Lloyd looks back on a year that will live long in the memory and reflects as only he can as he dishes out the prizes…
Test player – Stuart Broad
I go back to England in the West Indies last year and in Barbados, they left Stuart Broad out and opened the bowling with Sam Curran. Big mistake. No 1, Stuart Broad would be angry, he’d be seething but he’d also be hurt that there was that doubt cast about him. He’s the type of lad who will just roll his sleeves up and say, ‘well, I’ll show you!’ He did that in spades this year, he has been absolutely fantastic. At times when the accepted leader, Jimmy Anderson, hasn’t played, Broad has taken that mantle and been a magnificent leader of the attack for England.
Broad and Anderson are England’s best ever pair, there is absolutely no doubt – and that is saying something when you go back through Caddick and Gough, Statham and Trueman, Botham and Willis. But these two are top of the tree. Stuart Broad, by performance, has been outstanding; he is driven and he is a wonderful professional, who does the right things.
Obviously, he took his 500th Test wicket over the summer but before that there was the interview after he was left out of the first Test this summer, and I absolutely loved that. Don’t give me any media speak, just tell me what you think. The public are not fools, they see media speak but they also see when someone is being honest. He wasn’t happy at being left out and was left thinking ‘crikey, what are they doing!?’ He made his point with the ball for the rest of the summer.
ODI player – Adil Rashid
He just gets better and better, he’s like one of these vintage wines that people that drink wine talk about. He has all the skills, he’s got a lovely, rhythmical action, he’s got a googly that’s difficult to spot and, as Shane Warne would say, he’s got all the tools.
Teams know that they have to get after the other England bowlers because they ain’t getting after him! Going back to yesteryear, when we played one-day cricket we played what I would call stopper bowlers; they bowled their 10 or 12 overs, whatever it was at the time, and maybe go at three and a half an over but not get anybody out. Even when teams try and play safe against him, Rashid gets people out.
When Eoin Morgan is picking his team, I’d bet he starts with Rashid and then just goes up and down from him. He takes wickets consistently and he’s at the height of his powers at 31 years of age, he knows everything about leg-spin and googly bowling and is quite rightly the one-day international performer of the year.
T20I player – Dawid Malan
Malan is a very interesting character, he’s very much his own man. You can read between the lines that all wasn’t well at Middlesex so he ups sticks and goes to Yorkshire. At the end of last year, he scored a brilliant hundred in New Zealand but didn’t run off the last ball and Morgan came out after the game and said he didn’t like that sort of selfish play.
He’s got a strong personality and I reckon that he will question management decisions but when he goes out there in the middle, he’s a fearless player, a powerful player and, you might say, a slightly selfish player but he does the job.
Perhaps he is learning on that though, he took the single to win the last T20 in South Africa which left him on 99 rather than turn it down and try to hit the boundary to reach his hundred. At that stage he will have had Morgan’s words from his previous press conference in his ear: we don’t do that. You’ve also got to be some player to say that Joe Root really has to fight to get into this team because that is the spot he would occupy.
Performance of the year – Ben Stokes in Cape Town
He continues to deliver. Whatever the situation – I don’t think he looks at the board – he has three letters in front of his eyes: WIN. You see it in everything that he does. He’s a champion of the cricket supporters and, it’d be fair to say, I’m talking about cricket supporters worldwide.
He’ll be an absolute hit in Australia, they’ll love him – it’s that love-hate but a lot of love. His rise has been phenomenal; the way that he’s worked on his fitness, to be the fittest bloke around, the dedication he puts into his practice with bat and ball and his catches – he takes some unbelievable catches! You look at his hands and they’re all gnarled and knobbly and I can tell him that in later life, he is going to be in arthritis city!
At Newlands, he was brilliant. Five catches in the first innings, a fabulous 70-odd in no time at all to set it up and then getting the ball to reverse to take three wickets to win the game in the last hour.
Knockin’ down the door award – Sam Billings
He’s a grand lad, is Sam. Very confident and he’s waited his turn. He got in the team and there was a bit of a fanfare then he had a lull in his performance and form but grabbed an opportunity this summer. That is so important. If somebody drops out or the selectors say ‘we’re resting him’ then somebody else has to be ready to play and that’s Sam Billings.
That’s fair enough but Billings then has to perform and he’s done fantastically well this year. What he’s done is given the players who weren’t selected a nudge, he’s given the selectors a massive nudge and said ‘don’t just play him again, look at me and what I’ve done!’
He’s an innovative player but, above all, confident. You can tell that he’s a confident lad.
Young player of the year – Zak Crawley
I’d heard all about Zak Crawley from mates before I saw him play. Sky then did a one-day game down at Canterbury and that’s where I saw him for the first time. After about 10 minutes I said, ‘he’s a proper player, this bloke.’ He looks in command at the crease, he’s a tall lad, he’s got a beautiful flow to his batting and his concentration to score double hundred in a Test match at that age is telling you that he’s got an insatiable appetite for batting. Then having met him, to meet up with him is an absolute pleasure; he is a lovely, grounded lad. He takes things as they come, he won’t beat himself up if it doesn’t just happen and that is really important.
We’ve had players who weren’t like that, I love him to bits but Mark Ramprakash would beat himself up if it didn’t happen. And there’s not a lot that you can say. I think it is a real plus for a player if when it doesn’t happen or you make a mistake, just move on and I think Zak Crawley is going to be adept at doing that.
And of course, everyone was willing him past Rob Key’s highest score, he did that and he will eventually be England’s Test opener.
Honourable mention for Tom Banton, he’s just a precocious talent. See ball, hit ball and I’ll hit it a long way! He’s brilliant to watch and it is fantastic to see these young players coming through without a care in the world and ‘let’s see how far I can hit it’ – I love it!
Catch – Jofra Archer – Rajasthan Royals vs Mumbai Indian
Jofra Archer is a magnificent athlete. He reminds me so much of Chris Lewis, just a fantastic athlete. He bowls at a really excellent pace but you watch a lad like that in the field and he is so athletic, so lithe and his anticipation and his skill – just out of this world catches! The IPL one is a case in point, a fantastic effort. There is nowt better when that happens than to see a big smile and Jofra Archer is bloody good at smiling.
Will play 100 Tests award – Ollie Pope
Ollie Pope looks a lovely player – and look at his record in first-class cricket for a young kid! Slot him in at No 6 for England, eventually he’ll move up to No 4 or 5, he’ll move around a bit but he’s going to be a real player. He’s a complete player, he’s got the lot.
He’s just been held back by injury and it’ll be interesting to see how he comes back from that because he’s missed out on knowledge and experience. But he’s done it before and you just see him stand and the crease and you just say ‘he’s a proper player’.
Match of the year – first bio-secure Test between England and West Indies
It were Phil Collins who sang ‘Against All Odds’ and it’s a fantastic song and it’s a tear-jerker! And when the West Indies came to us, my god to we owe them – big time! They’re a team and a governing body that are financially strapped; the whole of international cricket should take that on board. As I said, we owe them big time because without them we would have had it (Test cricket this summer?). Jason Holder is a magnificent leader, I like Shannon Gabriel with his pace and power, they’ve got some good young batters coming on, it was a pleasure to see them you can’t get away from the fact that we owe them.
The whole situation snowballed through Black Lives Matter. Our own Ebony Rainford-Brent and Michael Holding have both been given the Freedom of the City of London – and I can tell you because I’m a freeman of Accrington – they can now take their sheep through the centre of town – it’s just a pity it’s not horses for Mikey! But they were both stunning in what they said ahead of that Test match.
Funniest moment – Nasser Hussain’s silky skills
You needn’t go any further than the bloke who’s got a foot like a coat hook, our very own Nasser Hussain, former Leeds United and current Arsenal supporter, trying to doing keepy-uppies harbour-side in Cape Town. If I didn’t know that he drinks very little, I’d have thought he was under the influence! Lee Dixon, an Arsenal stalwart and England international, made a plea to Hussain that he go and support someone else because in Lee Dixon’s words he only did half a keepy-uppy – not even a full one! The ball flew out into the ocean somewhere.
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Back in the day, I remember taking a lad on from another school – so this really is back in the day! – and I did 450! Half a keepy-uppy…
Rules is rules award – ECB official at Old Trafford
I was seconded to do a pitch report at quarter to 10. I arrived out on the pitch at 9.44am and was told by an ECB operative that I was a minute early! I asked what we had to do now then and he said ‘you’ll have to go to the side of the pitch and I’ll call you on when we’re ready’. So I walked to the boundary edge, turned around and he waved me back on!
I can make fun of this but I do fully understand the importance of the COVID protocols inside the bubble – but I thought that was stretching it a bit! I only wanted to say it was an Old Trafford pitch like it always is!
Stitch-up of the year – Key and Warne hairstyling caught on camera
This goes to the coiffures… When I was a lad, there was a bloke called Teasy-Weasy around in London. But caught on camera, adjusting their follicles were Shane Warne and Rob Key. I mean, Key – just look at him! He’s got a bigger forehead than Ant and Dec, his hairline is going further back by the day! And Shane has arrested that thing by having something planted on it! There they were, moving bits around. Not a thing that afflicts Atherton, who has never owned a comb in his life!
Commentary rant of the year – David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd
I’m giving this one to myself because no one else will say it: I’m not a fan of three-in-a-row commentary in one-day cricket, T20 especially. Can I make a plea that the lead commentator just calls what’s happened that delivery, just tell us what has happened – and then shut up and let the other two have their two-pennyworth. Otherwise, the other two might as well clear off to McDonald’s or any other fast food outlet because there is nothing left for them to say. This is one for producers worldwide: get the lead commentator to just call the action and shut up. Rant over!
Domestic highlight – Bob Willis Trophy
Every cloud – and this was a massive cloud, our great mate Bob passed away last year – has a silver lining. So domestic cricket this summer was put together in honour of Bob Willis and they played for the Bob Willis Trophy.
For many of us that knew Bob, that was a real lump in the throat moment and a wonderful gesture by the ECB to do that and recognise Bob. He was a colossus of a man, a fantastic man. I just hope that in the future that we will continue to play for the Bob Willis Trophy because the format is a winner.
One to watch – Dan Lawrence
There have been some great Lawrences: DH Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia and young Dan looks a proper player to me. He’s been given an opportunity with England and if he plays his cards right (Bruce Forsyth), he could end up England’s No 3 for a long time. He’s an absolute bolter.
Frank Sinatra award – Jimmy Anderson
We’ve had so many awards now and I’ve barely mentioned England’s greatest, the best ever, numero uno. James Anderson receives the Frank Sinatra Award for the oldest swinger in town, and he just keeps getting better.
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