Player of the Year – 2005

The year 2005 was wonderful for international cricket. It was a year riddled with classic matches, memorable moments and brilliant individual performances. The centrepiece of the year – The Ashes – was one of the great series in living memory. A brilliant sub-continental tussle in India and a stunning effort from Pakistan to defeat England were relegated to secondary entertainment, while either might have highlighted another year. Such an exciting year of cricket yielded numerous individual performances worthy of great recognition, and selecting a single player as the best of the year is a difficult task.

Andrew Flintoff was a dominant force during the Ashes series. Bringing to mind Ian Botham’s stunning series in 1981, Flintoff had a hand in deciding each of the last four tests, and it is a telling indication of his significance that the one test in which he did not perform was the only one that England lost during the series.

He stamped his authority on proceedings in the second test at Edgbaston, adding to a half-century early in the test with a mammoth all-round effort on the third day. Flintoff smashed an electric 73 runs batting with the tail to set Australia a competitive target, then followed it up with two wickets in a brilliant first over with the ball. He ultimately took the Man of the Match award for his worthy efforts in England’s win. It never let up from there, as Flintoff dominated with wickets and runs in every test, culminating in a six wicket burst in the final test that staved off any significant chance of an Australian victory, which would have squared the series. England regained the Ashes for the first time in almost two decades, and one man was at the heart of every blow the English landed.

Inzamam-ul-Haq has often been relegated to a secondary mention when discussing the best batsmen of the age, outshone by the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara and Steve Waugh throughout the 90s, and Ricky Ponting and Rahul Dravid today. In 2005, though, he lived up entirely to the reputation he has had for so long in his own country. Pakistan were the big movers in test cricket in 2005, and each major success they achieved was highlighted by a captain’s effort from Inzamam, leading from the front with runs in the most difficult circumstances.

When he was missing with injury, Pakistan slipped to a series draw against the lowly West Indies. However, he inspired a stunning fightback in India with a brilliant 184 in the final test, and against England he was simply immovable, not being dismissed for a score under 50 at any time in the series. Added to that, he smashed twin centuries in the second test to prevent any hope of an England victory. In a year’s work, any criticism of his tactical mind or his ability under pressure have been well and truly silenced.

For all the impact that these two men had on cricket in 2005, it was an Australian’s effort in a losing series that perhaps stunned more people than any other. If it had been suggested to the casual cricket fan that Shane Warne would have a dominant 2005, few would have thought to disagree. Indeed, to imagine that he would eclipse all his prior efforts and stun even his most loyal fans with newfound brilliance seemed impossible. The year began relatively quietly for Warne, as he attempted to prove to home fans that he was still as dangerous as ever at 36 years of age after his drug ban. He was outbowled by Stuart MacGill in the first test of the year at Sydney, and his 17 wickets in New Zealand, while impressive, paled in comparison to Glenn McGrath’s average in the low teens.

Even in the first Ashes test, he was pushed aside by McGrath’s five wicket haul in an hour on the first evening. It was not until the month of August that Warne stamped his authority on cricket for the year. He managed 22 wickets in three tests, but far outstripping even those impressive numbers with his huge all-round impact on the field of play. Warne’s ten wickets in arguably the best Test match of the year (at Edgbaston) were accompanied by typical Warne unpredictability with the bat. He fell to a ludicrous stroke in the first innings and then stroked a hopeful innings of 42, giving Australia a chance at victory, only to tread on his stumps before he could put his team in a winning position.

At Old Trafford, he showed that his improvement with the bat was no myth, falling agonisingly short of a deserved century and helping Australia avoid the follow-on. As though wickets and runs were not enough in these huge matches, at Old Trafford Warne put the hearts in the mouths of all England fans. He took a flurry of wickets to turn a simple fourth innings chase into an agonising struggle across the line.

Warne said goodbye to England with 12 more wickets in the final test, a soon-to-be-legendary dropped catch, and the biggest compliment the Barmy Army can pay – the chant of “we wish you were English”. Warne’s year was far from over though.

After becoming just the sixth man in test history to take 40 wickets in a series, he took a further 6 against the World XI at home, spun webs around the West Indies, and even managed to improve his record at the WACA – his least favourite home ground. The venue was to become witness to a huge moment, as Warne broke Dennis Lillee’s decades-old record for wickets in a calendar year. Warne finished with 96 wickets, leaving Lillee’s record well behind, and he proved, simply, that it is impossible to ever write him off as a force.

An aging body, off-field controversies and a year out of cricket with a drug ban did nothing to diminish the brilliant cricket mind, the unflappable temperament, or the unparalleled skills of Warne. His performances this year would stand out regardless of what or who you chose to compare them to.

Cricket Web’s Player of 2005: Shane Warne

Shane Warne Tests (2005):
Matches: 15
Innings: 22
Not Outs: 2
Runs: 416
Average: 20.80
50s: 2
100s: 0
HS: 90

Matches: 15
Overs: 722.4
Runs: 2114
Wickets: 96
Average: 22.02
5w: 6
10w: 2
BB: 6/46

Cricket Web Players of the Month

Jan 2005 – Matthew Hoggard
Feb 2005 – Kevin Pietersen
Mar 2005 – Younis Khan
Apr 2005 – Brian Lara
May 2005 – Boeta Dippenaar
June 2005 – Mohammad Ashraful
July 2005 – Glenn McGrath
Aug 2005 – Andrew Flintoff and Shane Warne
Sep 2005 – Greg Chappell
Oct 2005 – Sachin Tendulkar
Nov 2005 – Inzamam-ul-Haq

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