Oh, 2020 has been rather a half and half, at times frustrating our lives with no sporting action while at the other times, providing us so much action that we couldn’t quite handle. From what we could handle, we present to you SportsCafe’s best performance of the year, from Healy to Nadal.
We, at SportsCafe, have handpicked the best individual performance this year during arguably the most turbulent year of sporting action. From Alyssa Healy’s staggering show in front of 85,000 plus people to Vivianne Miedema becoming the leading goal-scorer in the Women’s Super League while putting on a North London derby masterclass.
Alyssa Healy puts on a ‘spectacle’ in front of over 85,000 people at the MCG
75 off 39 balls (7 fours, 5 sixes) in the Women’s T20 World Cup final
After all that we have gone through this year, to imagine that we would have 85,000 people at the MCG to witness the Women’s World Cup final is surreal. Australia, after having gone down in the group fixture against India, had a point to prove and wanted to keep their legacy intact. But for that, they had to go against a strong side in India, who had anxiously made their way to the final via a wash-out. However, India were still unbeaten and hoped they could fly over the Australian hurdle when Healy stepped out to bat.
Every bowler, including Poonam Yadav, looked out of touch against Healy’s long-handles which just flew the ball up and beyond the stadium, making a bigger statement. To walk out and single-handedly take the game from the opposition was relatively unknown in the World Cup final but the right-hander made sure that every move was well worth the entrance fee. Five sixes, seven boundaries and after dashing India’s hopes, Healy departed to thunderous applause, a few rounds of Mexican wave and 39-ball 75 at the ‘G, a game that illustrates what a great performance it was.
It was indeed - a spectacle and Healy deserves every bit of appreciation for the knock and women’s cricket never was the same anymore, reaching new heights. And that innings began an endless discussion for the future of women’s cricket but one thing was assured - it is indeed in the right hands of the stars.
Sarfaraz Khan and a career redefined
Triple century vs Uttar Pradesh, January, Ranji Trophy 2019-20
A year that saw many memorable performances at the international and league level, it might seem odd that I am taking refuge in a domestic match but such was the audacity of Sarfaraz Khan. He started playing for Mumbai in the age-group cricket, moved to Uttar Pradesh, came back again, served the cooling-off period and then hit a triple century like nothing happened. If you are an avid domestic cricket follower, you would've already written off Sarfaraz in your head but that knock brought a lingering aftertaste as sweet as a Rasogolla.
He achieved the feat against the team he left his home city to play for and achieved it some style. Rinku Singh was the casualty as the Mumbaikar hit him for a six to reach his triple ton and joined the elite list of Sunil Gavaskar, Vijay Merchant, Wasim Jaffer, Rohit Sharma, Sanjay Manjrekar, and Ajit Wadekar in the Mumbai triple-century club. The entire course of innings spoke about his untapped potential and how channelling it in the right direction will do a world of good to his dwindling fortune.
The evening an immortal transcended human capabilities
Ben Stokes: 47, 72 and 3/35 vs England, Cape Town 2020
By Boxing Day 2019, Ben Stokes was no longer just another cricketer. For neutrals, he was a superhuman and for the English fans, he was their messiah. Every time he was on the field, he was expected to make a match-winning or turning contribution, and anything less was deemed a failure. So understandably there was genuine bewilderment when the South Africans made him look like a mortal in the first Test in Centurion. Come the second Test in Cape Town, though, he summoned the spirit of Headingley and became omnipotent.
Stokes deemed a 47 with the bat - England’s second-highest score - and 0/39 with the ball in the first innings as mediocre, by his standards, so he wanted to make amends. No, you don’t understand. He didn’t just want to make amends. He wanted to MAKE AMENDS. And he did.
First, he struck a 47-ball 72 - 7 fours; 3 sixes; SR 153.19 - that enabled an early declaration and also put the target out of reach for South Africa, who had some 145 overs to survive. But he wasn’t done. In fact, he was only getting warmed up. What then followed was the finest final-day bowling performance of the year. By 17.10 local time, South Africa had survived 137 overs and they were fairly confident that the body of Stokes, who was into his 24th lung-busting over, would break. It didn’t. What instead did was their resistance. The mad-lad had done it. Once again. Headingley wasn’t a once-in-a-lifetime performance anymore.
Life can change in an instant if you don't give up
Rahul Tewatia’s 53 vs KXIP, Sharjah, IPL 2020
You are struggling at 17 from 23, after being sent with the team needing 124 from the last 11 overs to chase 224. The whole world is against you, they want you to get out, the team which promoted you is cursing its decision somewhere, the match is going fast out of hands and you can't even do a freaking thing. What does one do next? How does one tap out? Rahul Tewatia, with a million thoughts in his mind, decides to take a long breath, and do what he knows best. The next seven balls he faces read- 6, 6, 6, 6, 0, 6, 6. 30 runs off seven deliveries. The Royals win easily with three balls to spare after needing 51 off 18 at one stage. The whole of India erupts. This is straight out of a fairy tale Bollywood movie about Rahul as the protagonist with the only difference- it's not scripted.
If you are struggling in life and about to give up, just watch this innings from Tewatia and your belief in - "Life can change in an instant", if you fight out overwhelming situations, will get reinforced. For journeymen like Rahul, IPL often ends up making villains, but he made a hero out of himself with his self-belief and a carnage of six-hitting at display. The 31-ball-53 will stand the test of time for the romance of struggle, the glory of the most unbelievable turnaround and a beacon of hope.
Rafael Nadal’s sweep in 2020 French Open final
Being Rafael Nadal isn’t so easy at times, continually coping up with action-less months of Tennis due to his injuries - guess what? We as fans have learnt to live with it. But, we have inculcated the habit of extracting the maximum pleasure when he does get along well (not talking only about the French Open). That he had saved his best performance for his familiar clay court slam’s pinnacle clash was not unexpected, but the fashion in which he executed amazed us once again - even though the Spaniard was chasing his 13th Roland Garros title. It could have been anyone on the other side of the court, but it was his nemesis Novak Djokovic aiming for a similar prize.
Well-wishers from either halves were aware of past records or recent form - none of it would have actually changed the fate of the game. As it happened, Rafael Nadal demolished his competitor with straight sets, registering scores of 6-0, 6-2, 7-5, to equal Roger Federer’s tally of 20 grand slams - what better can we have asked for. In a year marred by the global pandemic, the clinical performance by one of the greatest ever to grace the game was much-needed solace.
Vivianne Miedema takes over North London and becomes the FAWSL's all-time top scorer
Arsenal 6-1 Tottenham, October 18th, 2020
In a crazy year, there have been quite a few performances to talk about and by quite a few, I mean we can go all day long and it wouldn't even break page one. From Jack Grealish tearing apart Liverpool to Thiago’s midfield masterclass every time he plays against anyone to Marcus Rashford's 15-minute Champions League hattrick. It has been some year but for me, this has to go to Vivianne Margaretha Marina Astrid Miedema for her record-breaking hattrick against Tottenham.
Now had this been the best performance of a season, then Miedema would have still gotten my vote because of her ten-goal part in an 11-1 victory over Bristol City, the largest in the WSL history. But this performance against Tottenham was equally brilliant and it showcased everything Miedema could do. From a left-footed daisy-cutter to prove she has no weaker foot, to a right-footed near post smash before capping off the hattrick with a simple tap in.
The kicker? She became the first player to score 50 goals in the WSL and at the same time became the all-time top-scorer with 52 goals in 50 appearances, leapfrogging Nikita Parris in the process. All this at the age of 24 and Miedema is far from done with her scoring seven more goals since. BTW, she also happens to be the all-time Dutch top scorer, for both men and women, with 70 goals in 91 appearances.