From World Cup gems, rearguard knocks and improbable efforts, we sift through the list and come up with the most memorable knocks of the year.
Shaun Marsh – 110, 2nd ODI, Hobart
Overlooked for Australia's World Cup squad, Shaun Marsh reminded the selectors of his abilities with a maiden ODI century after being called up as a replacement for Michael Hussey. He rescued Australia from two collapses and took them to a 46-run win, taking a 2-0 lead in the series.
England had reduced Australia to a hopeless 33 for 4, but a century stand between Marsh and Cameron White led the revival. He negotiated the tough passage by ensuring he held back on aggressive shots, and when the momentum had shifted, Marsh took on England’s spinners. His cutting and flicking was noteworthy, and when he danced down the track it was with authority.
A second collapse left the hosts at 142 for 8, but once again Marsh was to the fore. With Doug Bollinger (30) he put on a record ninth-wicket stand of 88 to get the total to 230. Marsh was dropped on 61 and proceeded to gallop from 84 to 101 in the space of one over bowled by Michael Yardy, the 45th of the innings, with two fours through midwicket and a six in the same direction to raise his century from 101 balls.
Andrew Strauss – 158, World Cup, Bangalore
Set 339 after Sachin Tendulkar's superb century, England were driven towards their target in emphatic manner by the captain, Andrew Strauss. His 158 not only silenced the partisan and boisterous crowd, but put India – firm favorites – on the defensive.
It wasn't an aggressive innings; it was calculated and simple. No hard shots, no ugly slogs, just pure methodical cricket. Anything wide was cut and steered, anything on the pads was tucked and nudged. The hallmark of Strauss' innings was his deft footwork, especially against spin. His sweeps and drives bullied India’s slow bowlers into changing their lengths and when they dragged short, Strauss unfurled stunning cuts and pulls.
It took one of the balls of the World Cup from Zaheer Khan to end Strauss' brilliant innings. His dismissal got India so charged up that they contrived to tie a match that was fully in England’s grasp when Strauss was in the middle.
Kevin O'Brien – 113, World Cup, Bangalore
Ireland were 106 for 4 in pursuit of England's 327 for 8 in Bangalore when a pink-haired Kevin O'Brien walked to the middle. When Ireland slumped to 111 for 5 in the 25th over, most people expected this to be another drubbing of the minnows. But what began as a bit of a hit-and-giggle innings soon turned into a stunning transformation as O'Brien smacked England's bowlers all over the M Chinnaswamy Stadium and towards an epic victory.
O'Brien began by striking a few big shots off the spinners, including lifting Graeme Swann over midwicket for two sixes in three balls. England didn't appear too worried, but the more O'Brien started to find the boundary, the more the bowling started to slack and the irritancy turned to despair.
O'Brien was on 35 off 22 balls when Ireland took the batting Powerplay and it was during those five overs that the chance of the impossible became possible as 62 runs surged onto the total. Pulls, cuts, drives and flicks were scattered all over as O'Brien stunned England with the fastest World Cup century, a magnificent 63-ball 113. He added a match-changing 162 with Alex Cusack, after which John Mooney played the inning of his life to script a famous win for Ireland.
Ross Taylor – 131*, World Cup, Pallekele
After 44 overs, three into the batting Powerplay, with the score 188 for 5, it appeared New Zealand were facing a total of about 240. Six overs later, they had piled up 302.
The reason was Ross Taylor, who celebrated his birthday by walloping 131 not out against Pakistan, transforming the tone of the match and setting New Zealand on their way to victory. Having been let off twice by Kamran Akmal, Taylor took stock of the situation and switched gears. In the last six overs Taylor broke free, taking 28 runs off a Shoaib Akhtar over to move from 76 to his century, and 30 – a tournament record – off one Abdul Razzaq over. In all, New Zealand plundered 114 off the last six overs, with Taylor's contribution being 63, to score 302. He and Jacob Oram had added 85 in 3.4 overs, with Oram's contribution being 25.
Mahela Jayawardene – 103*, World Cup final, Mumbai
This outstanding century in the World Cup final contained all of Mahela Jayawardene's characteristic silky elegance, but it was in truth a gritty effort formed under immense pressure. In the end Gautam Gambhir and MS Dhoni took the plaudits, but Jayawardene's century earlier was almost at par, as he played anchor and attacker in equal manner.
He featured in stands of 62 with Kumar Sangakkara, 57 with Thilan Samaraweera and 66 with Nuwan Kulasekara, and those formed the crux of Sri Lanka's total. Whenever Sri Lanka appeared to be coasting a wicket would fall, leaving Jayawardene to reassess the situation. Display a Steve Waugh-like ice cold temperament, Jayawardene shored up the innings and let loose at the end, getting Sri Lanka to a very competitive 274.
He got his innings going with two languid boundaries between point and where a slip could have been placed, and that was a sign of things to come. The slow pitch wasn't conducive to driving but Jayawardene displayed expert ability in tackling these conditions, using his agile wrists to steer the ball behind the stumps. The most impressive aspect of his innings was the manner in which he dismantled the slow bowlers. Clever dabs, a few late cuts, some cheeky sweeps and paddles were all on view as Dhoni was left to resort to Tendulkar and Virat Kohli, as well as bowling Sreesanth four times, before 34 overs were up.
When Sri Lanka looted 63 off the batting Powerplay – Zaheer Khan leaked 54 from his last five overs, 18 off the last – it appeared Sri Lanka had done enough to challenge India. Unfortunately for Sri Lanka and Jayawardene, the hosts had other plans.
Gautam Gambhir – 97, World Cup final, Mumbai
In an all-Asian World Cup final dominated by three splendid batting performances, Gambhir and Dhoni marginally outshone Jayawardene as India regained the World Cup after 28 long years. Gambhir's stubborn 97 helped India out of early trouble, before Dhoni promoted himself and took over with a brilliant innings.
However, it was Gambhir who soaked up the pressure when India were rocking at 31 for 2. It was he who prepared the stage for Dhoni's brilliance. Gambhir controlled the chase magnificently after the openers fell cheaply with a gritty innings, and along with Kohli, breathed life into the chase with an 83-run stand. He sized up the situation, stole quick runs and got through some tight overs. Occasionally, Gambhir scythed gorgeous drives and cuts through the off-side to release the pressure; when he danced down the track at will, even miscues ended up safe.
When in striking distance of a century, Gambhir sashayed down the track and was bowled for 97. With 52 needed from 52, India had enough in the tank to get across the finish line with 10 balls remaining.
MS Dhoni – 91*, World Cup final, Mumbai
Promoting himself up the order, Dhoni shrugged off a poor run in the tournament with the innings of his life. After the pain of 1996, the heartbreak of 2003 and the humiliation of 2007, India surged to their second title success on the back of Gambhir's knock and his alliance with Dhoni, which shut Sri Lanka out of the contest after they had reduced the favourites to 114 for 3 chasing 275.
Striding in ahead of the in-form Yuvraj Singh, Dhoni send a strong signal to the Sri Lankans, and it ushered in the defining partnership of the match. After a poor tournament, Dhoni too picked the biggest stage to turn up. When the seamers pitched full, he timed the ball excellently, with the highlight being his handling of Lasith Malinga. When he pitched full Dhoni drove down the ground and through cover; when Malinga banged it short, Dhoni responded very well with his shuffled shots off the hips. Gambhir continued to use his feet, and with Dhoni coming out and striking the ball sweetly from the off, India stayed on course.
After Gambhir departed, Dhoni cut six over backward point and despite a few nervy moments between the wickets, the end came rather comfortably amid a flurry of boundaries from Dhoni. The winning hit came via a monstrous six, cuing absolute pandemonium in the ground.
Shane Watson – 185*, 2nd ODI, Mirpur
It was an unadulterated massacre in manner that has rarely been seen on a cricket field. Bangladesh aren't the most menacing of opponents, but on home soil with a phalanx of spinners they are a handful. But Shane Watson treated them like club bowlers as he rewrote history books by making the highest score by an Australian batsman, beating Matthew Hayden's previous record of 181 against New Zealand and overtaking West Indies' Xavier Marshall's record number of sixes in an innings.
His unbeaten 185 included 15 fours and 15 sixes and came off 96 balls and set up a ridiculously easy victory for Australia. The target was achieved in the 26th over, leaving 144 deliveries and a batting Powerplay in hand. To imagine what Watson could have done with those overs available puts into context how exceptional his innings was. The hallmark of his assault was the manner in which he attacked left-arm spin: off the 55 deliveries bowled from around the stumps, Watson scored 115 runs, including 13 sixes.
Malcolm Waller – 99*, 3rd ODI, Bulawayo
Having lost the one-off Test and the limited-overs series, Zimbabwe found themselves chasing 329 in the third and final ODI at the Queens Sports Club. It needed something dramatic to overhaul that target, and that they managed to chase down more than 300 for the first time in an ODI owed plenty to Malcolm Waller.
Waller – the son of former Zimbabwe batsman Andy – hit an unbeaten 99 as Zimbabwe sealed a record-breaking one-wicket win over New Zealand. His match-winning innings, after Zimbabwe had been 183 for 5 in 30 overs, came off just 74 balls. The 27-year-old struck ten fours and a six in a marvelous fightback to give Zimbabwe their first win of the series, and first ODI success in eight matches.
Waller raced past his previous best international score of 63, sharing a 112-run partnership with Elton Chigumbura (47) to take the home team toward an unlikely victory. Even then, Zimbabwe had to scramble in a thrilling finish. They lost four quick wickets near the end - including Ray Price in the last over - before Waller held his nerve in a pressure situation to force a single off the penultimate ball to win with Zimbabwe's last two batsmen at the crease. To add to the drama, New Zealand captain Taylor dropped Waller twice off the first two balls of the last over.
Virender Sehwag – 219, 4th ODI, Indore
At 5.42pm on December 8, in front of a 40,000-strong crowd at the Holkar Stadium, with a perfectly-placed cut backward of point, Virender Sehwag became only the second batsman in ODI history to score a double-century in an innings.
Sehwag – who came into the fourth ODI of the series against West Indies with scores of 22, 26 and 0 in the three previous games – needed 140 deliveries to reach the landmark. His mood from the start of the match, having won the toss and opted to bat, was belligerent and Sehwag never took his foot off the pedal. His fifty came up in 41 balls with a six in the 15th over – his fourth of the innings – and he sped to a 15th ODI century in 69 balls. Sehwag proceeded to cruise past 150 in 112 balls and showed no signs of tiredness.
On 170, he offered a catch to the deep but West Indies captain Darren Sammy dropped an easy catch. That was just the lifeline Sehwag need to reassess the situation; a slew of boundaries and coolly-collected singles took him past 190, and a flick off a rank full toss from Kieron Pollard eased him to 195, in the process raising 8,000 career runs.
Two singles in two balls followed, before Sehwag sent the packed house into raptures by cutting the third ball of the 43rd over, bowled by Andre Russell, to the deep backward point boundary for his 23rd boundary to reach his double-century. Immediately he set off down the pitch in animated celebrations as his India team-mates and the fans stood as one to cheer on a most enthralling century. Sehwag's brilliance gave India the series.