ODI World Cup finals
The finals may not all have been closely contested, but each was studded with unforgettable moments. MS Dhoni's six to seal the 2011 tournament (have you already brought that iconic photograph to mind?) helped launch cricket's new powerhouse into perhaps their most productive decade ever. In 2015, New Zealand's manic, magnetic World Cup campaign came to a screeching halt with talisman Brendon McCullum's disastrous three-ball innings.
Months later, the last hour of 2019's final still feels like a fever dream. Trent Boult treading on the boundary when he had caught tougher catches through the tournament and could have easily tossed the ball to Martin Guptill; Ben Stokes accidentally timing and placing the pants off Guptill's throw from the outfield in the course of completing a second run; the umpires flubbing what perhaps is an untenable law in the most vital circumstance; the tied match; then the tied Super Over; then the ludicrous boundary countback. We have never seen a limited-overs match so electrified with drama, and you're joking if you think we ever will again.
Bowlers biting back
The age of the batting bores is over. Long live our new bowling overlords. A supercut of Test cricket in the aughts would feature batsmen driving on the up, hooking on the front foot, charging down the pitch to quicks, and punching gloves ad nauseam, while hundreds, doubles, triples and a quadruple-century - many of these inconsequential to the result - were racked up at dizzying rates. Thankfully, about halfway through this decade, bowlers were re-fanged. Dead Test pitches were dug up, along with skeletons of bowlers who had been made to toil to their deaths. Teams almost everywhere became more unabashed pitch doctorers. The Dukes ball was adopted in the Caribbean. And the island of Sri Lanka produced an as-yet-unbroken 26-Test long streak of consecutive results.
Some suggest that batsmen's collective failure to bat time in Tests is down to how T20 has ravaged defensive techniques. Okay, but so what? Almost every side is capable of comically collapsing. Tests are so much more fun to watch.
Carlos Brathwaite's big night in Kolkata
Marlon Samuels has played two epic World T20 final innings, Lasith Malinga has derailed any number of oppositions, and Virat Kohli has often carried India, but for pure spectacle, no T20 over was as electric as the one Ben Stokes bowled to Brathwaite to end the 2016 T20 World Cup final. The first six - a leg-side half-volley mowed over the deep square-leg boundary - only heightened the tension. West Indies required an unlikely 19 runs before that ball. Now the equation was 13 off five, and had moved into the realm of possibility. The next blow, way over long-on, put West Indies firmly in control, Eden Gardens stirring into party mode. The third six was the best of the lot, Brathwaite's wrists whipping to get under a ball that should never have been got under, sending it high into the Kolkata night, the elation of tens of thousands rushing up to meet it. West Indies needed only one more run to win with three balls remaining, but it was inevitable - it did not seem like Brathwaite scored his runs any other way. The moment the ball left the bat, ecstasy descended and carried long into the night.
From the suspensions and subsequent imprisonment of Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Asif and Salman Butt, to this October's bombshell ban of Shakib Al Hasan for failing to report approaches, this has been a deflating decade on the corruption front. In the intervening years, there was the fall of Mohammad Ashraful; Rajasthan Royals' and Chennai Super Kings' two-year suspension from the IPL, with various players, including Sreesanth, being caught up in charges; and moments of reckoning for former New Zealand players. In the past two years, Sri Lanka has been at the centre of an Anti-Corruption Unit probe as well - Sanath Jayasuriya was banned for two years from cricket activities as a result. High-profile fixing scandals have been part of the game since at least the '90s, but in no decade has there been such an array of tainted stars.
Harmanpreet Kaur devours Australia
Women's cricket made headway in the media as never before during the 2017 World Cup, and no innings of that event was more memorable than Harmanpreet's one-woman demolition in the semi-final. The stats are staggering. She scored 61% of her team's runs; none of her team-mates scored even 40. In the best partnership of the match - her fourth-wicket stand with Deepti Sharma - Harmanpreet smoked 106 runs off 48 balls in a stand worth 137. She slammed seven leg-side sixes, reaped 19 fours, screamed at team-mates, made the opposition seem utterly hapless, and produced a box-office passage of play that helped make women cricketers bona fide stars at home.
The death of Phillip Hughes
No event shook cricket's soul like Phil Hughes' death. The sadness of team-mates and coaches was profound. Fans around the world grieved with them, as #putoutyourbats and #63notout trended. Five years on, this tragic lesson about both the fragility of life and the danger cricket puts its purveyors in has helped make stem guards on helmets and concussion subs the norm in international cricket. Maybe, if only for a while, cricket was a kinder sport in honour of Hughes as well.
Or how captain Misbah-ul-Haq inherited a shambles and led Pakistan back to credibility and often excellence. Home support counts for a lot in Test cricket. So does familiarity. Pakistan had only bad imitations of either, and yet, in Misbah's best years, Pakistan made a fortress out of the UAE, leading eventually to that glorious drawn series in England, followed by that brief stint at the top of the Test rankings. That they achieved all of this away from home (in addition to a Champions Trophy win and a late sprint to the top of the T20 charts) is impressive enough, but they also did it without a truly great bowler - a first for them in several decades.
The Big Three power grab
India were looking to flex their newly developed economic muscles under N Srinivasan's BCCI presidency. The ECB and CA, with Giles Clarke and Wally Edwards at the helm respectively, made pained faces in public, but went along with the BCCI's plan with no little glee, you suspect. Reports out of those early 2014 meetings were positively sinister. Directors of smaller boards reported being shuffled into meeting rooms and press-ganged. Almost everyone said they were offered deals and increases in payments from the ICC. Enough boards were eventually convinced and a new world order that primarily benefited the Big Three was formed, with notable abstentions from the PCB and SLC in the final vote.
Thankfully, the new arrangement lasted only about three years. ICC president Shashank Manohar (a former president of the BCCI), was instrumental in rolling the changes back in 2017. In their three boom years, though, the Big Three boards did grab loot that wouldn't be returned. England hosted both the 2017 Champions Trophy and the 2019 World Cup. India hosted the 2016 World T20 and will also host the 2023 ODI World Cup. Cricket Australia get next year's T20 World Cup.
The sandpaper scandal
Within cricket, it is widely whispered that almost every team bends the rules when it comes to managing the ball in Test cricket. Australia's fault was that a) they were engaging in a particularly brazen version of tampering, b) they got caught, and c) they lied about it at first, and then handled the fallout exceptionally poorly. Even now, the long bans on Steven Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft seem an overreaction. In the days after the scandal, though, cricket witnessed one of the rarest phenomena in our sport: an Australia team in full-blown crisis.
The Fab Four (three?) run grab
Virat Kohli has never met a limited-overs chase he doesn't want to grab by the collar. Steven Smith, originally miscast as Warne-lite has now left the stratosphere and is en route to planet Bradman. Kane Williamson of New Zealand makes hundreds before most of us have even had a chance to wake up. Joe Root… well, he's fallen off the train of late. Maybe he'll catch up later. Or maybe Babar Azam will replace him in the foursome. Cricket has seen the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Jacques Kallis, Kumar Sangakkara and AB de Villiers exit stage during the course of the 2010s, and this young set of all-format stars have slipped happily into those vacant spots on the batting charts.
The return of trendy beards and moustaches
Mitchell Johnson had that handlebar moustache during his fearsome Ashes series, and the likes of Martin Guptill, Lockie Ferguson, David Warner and Mitchell Starc followed suit with hair on their upper lips. But it was with India's cricketers that the whole thing truly caught on, from Shikhar Dhawan's and Ravindra Jadeja's Salvador Dali impressions, to Virat Kohli's and Ajinkya Rahane's closely cropped beards. Even MS Dhoni ended up wearing a salt-and-pepper job. Now it's almost like they won't even let you into the top order without some variety of facial hair.
More in the decade in review, 2010-19