Tim Ellis hands out the Nearly Man, Pantomime Villain, Longest Farewell, Most Unloved Team awards – and more.
<b>The Nearly Man Award – Ravi Bopara</b><br>Despite a string of underwhelming performances on the Test stage against the Australians in 2009 and the South Africans last year, Bopara was finally fulfilling his potential during the Champions Trophy. He was all set to be the hero too, swatting Ravindra Jadeja and Ishant Sharma into the Edgbaston stands during a rain-affected final against India. Then, as victory beckoned, the Essex man drilled one right into square-leg's hands. If you can't cash in when the force is with you…
<b>The Geoff Boycott Over My Dead Body Award – Faf du Plessis</b><br>After his monumental 376 ball stay over four sessions to save the Adelaide Test in November 2012, du Plessis almost usurped that effort in South Africa's chase of 458 at Johannesburg on Sunday. 395 minutes of intense concentration ended with an unlikely run out that stymied the victory charge. With typical understatement, Du Plessis suggested his latest marathon "was a little harder" than his effort in Australia.
<b>The Pantomime Villain Award – Stuart Broad</b><br>Taking somewhat after his father in his inability to leave the crease, Broad brazenly stood his ground at Trent Bridge in the first Ashes Test when clearly nicking the ball to Michael Clarke via Brad Haddin's gloves. Clarke said afterwards: "I don't think any less of Stuart". That was either jolly decent of him or a coded warning that something nasty might happen when the Aussies got back to their place.
<b>The Longest Farewell In History Award – Sachin Tendulkar</b><br>Going, going and finally gone after seemingly tons of columns inches that constituted the longest chequered flag possible. It was almost a dream finish, though, with the "Little Master" finishing 26 short of a farewell hundred at Mumbai. He didn't get a chance in the second innings. The opponents were the West Indies…
<b>The Consistent Collapse At Will Award – West Indies</b><br>They've been doing this for the best part of two decades, but it is still shocking to witness. The Windies were never going to be party-poopers at Tendulkar's leaving party. Then take the last series against New Zealand. Darren Bravo fought gamely with the aid of the weather for a heroic draw in Dunedin. What follows? A collapsible tower of a team that posted three risible scores of under 200. Hang on, that sounds a bit like England.
<b>The Most Unloved Team Award – England</b><br>Even after taking out the Aussies 3-0 in the Ashes Part 1, something did not feel not right about the way England went about their work in 2013. Some of the sharper criticism was undeserved, but the malfunctions have translated into an internal fallout in the last few weeks. Perhaps this will reignite the flair that has been somewhat choked recently.
<b>The Most Guttural Gurn Award – Peter Siddle</b><br>No one tries harder than Siddle and certainly no one bellows louder. After his latest dismissal of Kevin Pietersen at Perth, 'Vicious' let off a roar that was more primeval than anything from the Jurassic age. Neil Wagner might be a worthy contender but the main gong has to go to the guy who keeps coming in all day on the strength of 20 bananas.
<b>The 'Look At Me, I Am A Star' Award – Virat Kohli</b><br>Kohli could be the new FIGJAM as Kevin Pietersen's career begins to go into reverse. The Indian batsman certainly has the swagger and arrogance that KP used to thrive on. The Delhi dasher almost came to blows with Gautam Gambhir earlier in the year and made a finger salute at the SCG in 2012 while his team were crashing to defeat. The boy has got some attitude, but feel the force of his ability. We just hope he doesn't go down the path of Vinod Kambli. He's got more hair for a start.
<b>The Best Wicketkeeper-Batsman Award – <strike>Matt Prior</strike> AB de Villiers</b><br>While Prior has been cursed ever since he received England's player of the year award in May, AB de Villiers has been inspired since he took over the gloves from the unfortunate Mark Boucher. Scoring more than 100 runs in five of his last six Test matches, including an epic century at Joburg, de Villiers is now the embodiment of Team South Africa.
England have the edge. Just about. Maybe.
Day one in PE really was a great advert for five-day Test cricket.
Decent signing for Yorkshire.
Paul Stirling sets up a thrilling win for Ireland.
What nonsense have these two sides got in store for us today?
Just bring in the Virat Kohli Award instead of this nonsense. He’s worth it.
A timely f***ing piece on why sledging makes cricket great.
He did have quite a year.
Five days good, four days bad, says MCC.