This annual parade down memory lane is always an exercise in cherry picking. The most memorable cricketing day of the year, of many a year, was at Lord's on a balmy Sunday in August. But it could never be anybody's favourite in a million years unless you were running an illegal betting syndicate on the sub-continent.
The story had been broken that morning that Pakistan had bowled no balls to order in England's first innings in the fourth and final Test of the summer. The taped and photographic evidence was compelling and the gravity of the misdemeanours was multiplied for having been committed at the most iconic ground in the world. The atmosphere at a packed Lord's was sepulchral as England did what they had to do to clinch victory in match and series.
Nobody cared about that and nobody cared either any longer about the superlative partnership which had helped to create it. Jonathan Trott, who would find it difficult to appear on any list of favourite cricketers, and Stuart Broad, who would be on almost everybody's, had assembled a world record eighth wicket partnership of 332 after England had been 102 for seven.
But that was forgotten now as the hot topic of match rigging reared its ugly head again. The whole shemozzle seemed the worse for having at its centre an 18 year old fast bowler called Mohammad Aamer, who seemed to have the world at his feet, but had been ensnared by the prospect of easy money.
Except that it was not match fixing. It was sharp practice all right and it was grotesque however it was scrutinised. But there was no trail back to illegal bookmakers in Mumbai or anywhere else, there was not a morsel of a suggestion that the no balls which had been delivered at pre-arranged times had been the subject of bets.
This, as it was set out, was a tale of a chap trying to impress businessmen - who were actually undercover reporters - that he could persuade Pakistan cricketers whom he managed to do his bidding in return for a large tranche of cash which the businessmen/reporters duly handed over. It was deeply disturbing, stomach churning in its implications but did not establish a link with systematic match fixing and illegal bookies.
Even now that day haunts the soul. Better to dwell on the game's beauties. There were two stirring exhibitions of fast bowling, one at Lord's given by Shaun Tait and the other in Perth by Mitchel Johnson last week. Tait ran in and bowled like the wind in a one-day international uprooting English stumps all over the place with his sheer velocity. For Johnson it was late swing that did it in the Third Test of the Ashes series in Perth. Like Tait, he knocked over the top orLike Tait, he knocked over the top or just like that. Without it, Australia would not have drawn level.
But to award this plaudit to two Aussie fast bowlers at this particular time is impossible. There is a difference between a favourite moment and an enduring one. The historic nature of what Trott and Broad did demands attention.
Similarly, the scoreboard at Brisbane in England's second innings of the First Test last month was unprecedented. The tourists had been staring defeat in the face for two days. Another Ashes series was doomed. England then proceeded to bat for two days and when eventually they declared their second innings they were 517 for one.
But sometimes, Test cricket, for all its inherent aesthetic beauty, has to take a back seat. Back in the spring of this year, England sent a team, or more accurately, a motley crew to the West Indies for the World Twenty20. England had given the game to the world but as with all other games, the world had taken it over.
From the start the team seemed oddly balanced. The batting was opened by two Twenty20 specialists, the team was captained by a part-timer, its bowling was led by a rickety old left-armer, it had an utterly unsung left-arm spinner. Yet from this was fashioned Twenty20 gold.
When they were beaten by West Indies in a shoirtened contest and had a squeaky no result against Ireland the writing seemed on the wall.
There followed two weeks of seamless short form cricket in which England showed the rest of the world a clean pair of heels. In the final they left Australia standing. It strikes this observer that they have never had their due benefit for those two weeks in May.
Kevin Pietersen, who missed a match while he flew home for the birth of his son, has never been more resplendent. Old sore bones, Ryan Sidebottom, had a lovely last hurrah, Eoin Morgan was delightful, Graeme Swann immaculate, Mike Yardy a revelation. It was perfect, it was a joy.Reuse content