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Sport in 2020: A month-by-month review of the strangest year

T

ake a look back at our month-by-month review of sport’s most remarkable year…

The year began in relatively normal circumstances, no one aware of what was to come, but January still brought some extraordinary stories. Ben Stokes’ super-human efforts turned the Second Test against South Africa England’s way and set Joe Root’s men on their way to an historic series win, while Premiership Rugby confirmed Saracens would be relegated at the end of the season as a result of salary cap breaches. In one of the most shocking incidents of the year, NBA legend Kobe Bryant was killed – along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, in a helicopter crash in California.

All eyes were on the US in February, as Patrick Mahomes confirmed his rise to NFL supertsardom by leading the Kansas City Chiefs to their first Super Bowl in 50 years, while Tyson Fury gained revenge in his rematch with Deontay Wilder.

On the other side of the world, Novak Djokovic and Sofia Kenin were crowned Australian Open champions, while closer to home Mondo Duplantis soared higher than anyone had before as he broke the world pole vault record for the second time in a week in Glasgow.

Fresh from being hit with a two-year European ban (subsequently overturned) Manchester City continued their domestic dominance with a third-straight Carabao Cup. Australia won the women’s T20 World Cup in front of 86,000 at the MCG, while not too many fewer saw Al Boum Photo win a second successive Gold Cup at Cheltenham.

That would be the end of crowds of that size, however, as the coronavirus pandemic took hold and sport went into shutdown, with the Olympic Games in Tokyo the most high profile of the thousands of events across the planet to be postponed.

Two of England’s biggest sporting events were cancelled outright as Wimbledon and The Open both pulled the plug on their 2020 renewals.

With the nation in lockdown, there was controversy over sport’s use of the government’s furlough scheme, but sports stars and clubs across the country came together to support their communities and the NHS through the most remarkable, challenging of times.

With no live sport to fill our screens, an age of nostalgic ‘watchalongs’ was born.

Sport began to make preparations for a restart with a host of novel solutions, from cricket’s saliva ban to football’s five substitutes rule.

With stereotypical efficiency, the Bundesliga was the first major European football league to return, but several other organisations, including the WSL and Scottish Premiership, called an early end to their campaigns.

Racing became the first major UK sport to return from its shutdown and revelled in the limelight, with its showpiece Guineas and Royal Ascot meetings taking centre-stage.

Marcus Rashford’s campaigning forced the government into a U-turn over its plan to stop free school meal vouchers during the summer holidays, before actual football finally returned in the UK. Project Restart was not without controversy, its first game back featuring the kind of goalline howler we all thought had been eradicated for good, but for the red half of Liverpool it meant the wait was soon, finally, over as Jurgen Klopp’s men secured their first English top flight title in 30 years.

International cricket finally returned in an historic ‘bio-secure’ Test in Southampton as England and West Indies players took the knee together in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. The tourists won the opener but England roared back to a 2-1 series win, inspired by a revved up Stuart Broad, who became only the seventh man to take 500 Test wickets.

Sport was far from out of the woods as far as the pandemic was concerned, the Ryder Cup the latest to fall victim, but with the Championship season nearing its conclusion Leeds joined Liverpool in ending a generation-long wait as they returned to the Premier League.

There was glory at Wembley for Arsenal and Fulham, who saw off London rivals Chelsea and Brentford in the FA Cup and playoff finals, respectively, but there was no such joy for English clubs when the Champions League returned, Bayern Munich romping to victory after dismantling Barcelona 8-2 in the semi-final.

There was more British Grand Prix glory for Lewis Hamilton and a sixth snooker world title for Ronnie O’Sullivan, while at the other end of the spectrum 23-year-old Colin Morikawa won his first major at the USPGA.

In the bubble, cricket continued, Zak Crawley’s breakthrough 267 and James Anderson’s 600th Test wicket making the headlines.

At the US Open, Novak Djokovic was disqualified for hitting a line judge with a ball as Naomi Osaka and Dominic Thiem ruled Flushing Meadows, while Bryson DeChambeau conquered golf’s major of the same name, taming Winged Foot with the help of a few protein shakes.

Tadej Pogacar edged out countryman Primorz Roglic in a dramatic finish to the Tour de France as the new football season got underway just weeks after the last had wrapped up.

Rafael Nadal was the king of clay again at Roland Garros, while LeBron James was the king of the court once more as he led the LA Lakers to an emotional NBA Championship win.

There were first tastes of glory for Exeter, Champions Cup and Premiership double winners for the first time, and Tao Geoghegan Hart, the surprise British champion of the Giro d’Italia, as well as a taste of rejection, as football’s Project Big Picture plans were swiftly knocked back.

Lewis Hamilton equalled Michael Schumacher’s record of seven Formula 1 world titles, while Romain Grosjean had an incredible escape from a horror crash at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Dustin Johnson won Augusta’s first ever November Masters while the sporting world was plunged into mourning by the death of one of the greatest footballers of all-time, Diego Maradona.

Fans briefly returned to sports stadiums across the country at the end of a second national lockdown, but for most it proved a brief respite as Covid surged and strict measures returned.

England ended their cricket year back where they started it, in South Africa, but after sweeping the T20 series saw the ODIs axed without a ball being bowled because of a coronavirus scare.

Anthony Joshua returned after a year out of the ring to beat Kubrat Pulev, while Lee Westwood triumphed in golf’s Race to Dubai. 


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