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  • New South Wales, who had probably been the best team in the competition up to that point (and who may yet win the thing) were made to look foolish by Kieron Pollard when they should have cruised to victory. Could this be an Australian side choking?

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In honour of Umar Gul’s remarkable 5-6 yesterday (youtube here), here are four more of the best-ever T20I bowling performances:

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It’s more than a year now since I named my 11 to watch, so it’s probably time to weigh up (briefly) who’s lived up to their potential and who hasn’t:

Nasir Jamshed is still under 20, but had little chance to impress this year given Pakistan’s effective exile from international cricket; Virat Kohli made some waves, and is still well-placed for a call-up to the Indian Test side after some good ODI performances and a strong showing in domestic cricket; Tamim Iqbal has shown some promise, but Bangladesh’s continued position at the bottom of the cricketing pile has frustrated his ability to shine; Fawad Alam is probably the one that got away; Steve Davies has finally been called up to the England side, and looked good for a while when he got his chance; Adil Rashid has also won some recognition from the ECB, and will probably play Test cricket in the next year or two; Beau Casson has sunk from the international picture seemingly without trace; Sulieman Benn gave England a torrid time in the Tests and looks set to be a part of the Windies side for some time to come; Tim Southee hasn’t quite lived up to the early hype but still shows promise; Ishant Sharma continues to scare batsmen (especially Ricky Ponting) the world over; Mitchell Johnson continues to do the same to everyone that isn’t Australian.

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So, that was 2008, then. Pretty exciting, by all accounts. As for 2009, there’s quite a bit to look forward to:

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The ICC handed out their awards today, in a ceremony a bit like the Oscars, but with fewer tears and less photogenic winners:

  • Ryan ten Doeschate won Associate Player of the Year, which was nice for him as the Impressive Name Award was not included this year (and he probably would have lost out to Vernon Philander on that front anyway).
  • There were other awards, about which I am less motivated to write, which you can see here.

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More cult figures, this time from A Land Down Under:

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Another batch of cult heroes, this time of the umpiring variety:

  • Billy Bowden is also well known for his occasionally eccentric behaviour on the pitch, with his unique signals, especially the infamous crooked finger. The fact that a flamboyant character such as Bowden can still officiate at the highest level brings a smile to the face on a regular basis.

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It’s been four months since I plucked these eleven young cricketers from various levels of obscurity and cursed them with the tag ‘ones to watch’. How have they been getting on?

  • Tamim Iqbal is over in England at the moment with Bangladesh A, but there hasn’t been much news of him recently. Hopefully there will be more to report soon.
  • Sulieman Benn has overcome the apparent West Indian anti-spin bias to show some promise whilst going for quite a lot of runs, but he needs to play more cricket against sides that aren’t Australia before he can be properly assessed.

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More cult figures, this time from Pakistan. These ones are all top-class players as well (sort of):

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This is the first in a very occasional series (in no way stolen from the BBC) looking at cult heroes from various cricketing nations. The criteria for selection are entirely made up and subject to change at any time.

  • Ronnie Irani is another player known more in some quarters for his sense of humour than his cricketing achievements. Perhaps remembered best as an England player for making 53 and taking 5-26 in the same match against India, Irani only played in three Test matches, but his transition from Lancashire lad to ‘Mr Essex‘ cemented a loyal following in the South-East (as well as, like Tufnell, a burgeoning media career).

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Normally, I might consider it a little impetuous to review a competition a mere two weeks in, but this is 20/20 cricket, where speed, noise and aggression are everything. I feel qualified to offer at least one of those.

So who is right about the IPL? The naysayers (and there are plenty), the cheerleaders (not those ones), or the John Davidsons? Here are some points that I’d like to make:

  • The boundaries arms race is threatening to make bowlers little more of an attraction than the umpires. This provides a great opportunity for world-class bowlers to show their quality, but also for youngsters to innovate, as anyone going for less than eight an over will probably be hailed as some sort of genius

I have plenty more to say on the IPL, but for now I’ll just say that whatever the merits and weaknesses of the format, I’m still watching…

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