By Abhijit Banare
Test cricket witnessed some fine action between great teams. Two Ashes were played which was largely dominated by bowlers. India too saw the rise of a young fast bowler Mohammed Shami. The world’s best spinners and the top bowlers were among the wickets. Below are a few highlights of the best bowling performances of the year.
10. Kyle Abbott’s dream debut against Pakistan; seven for 29
He almost missed his selection when he ignored the call by the national selector Andrew Hudson asking him to join the squad. The rest they say is history. Abbott was called in as cover for Jacques Kallis. After a point, it seemed Kallis would make the cut until he decided to pull out. Abbott managed to move the ball well and except for the one wicket which was leg-before, rest all of them went to the slips and gully. Abbott’s sensational debut not just floored Pakistan, but represented the abundant fast bowling reserves for South Africa. He picked seven wickets in an innings.
Result: Pakistan lost by an innings and 18 runs.
9. Saeed Ajmal’s 10 for 147 fails to save Pakistan from defeat vs South Africa
Pakistan were no match to the might of South Africa in their own backyard. But the world’s best spinner still proved too hot to handle for the Proteas, who are susceptible to spin. Ajmal did most of the hard work at Cape Town restricting the South Africans with a six-for, thereby getting a slender 12-run lead. The Proteas, chasing 182 batting fourth, were in a spot of bother after Ajmal struck with key wickets late in the chase. Though Pakistan lost by four wickets, Ajmal proved how effective he can be even when the chips are down and the conditions may not necessarily be in his favour.
Result: South Africa won by four wickets.
8. Trent Boult six for 68 vs England on a lifeless track
It wasn’t a pitch to keep the pacers interested. In fact, England, touring with some of the fine exponents of swing — James Anderson and Stuart Broad failed to find anything worthwhile. But Trent Boult showed his class generating swing by keeping his length full. He moved the ball more than any others and got key wickets of Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott and cleaned up the tail. Even in the second innings, he was difficult to get away with and turned out to be the most economical bowler while England played out a sensational draw with a century by Matt Prior. It was his best bowling performance in Tests.
Result: England managed to escape with a draw with one wicket to spare
7. James Anderson 10 for 158 vs Australia at Trent Bridge
When Brad Haddin reviewed a decision despite getting a thick edge, he was just delaying the victory set up by yet another impressive bowling performance by James Anderson. After England were bowled out for just 215 in their first innings, it looked like Australia could have their say in the match. But Anderson pushed the Aussies aside with a five-for. The performance in the second innings was even sweeter. He had done most of the hard work to reduce Australia to 231 for nine. But an inspirational fightback from Brad Haddin and James Pattinson kept the hosts nervous. Anderson completed a sensational win by dismissing Haddin and bagging a 10-for.
Result: England won by 14 runs.
6. Ryan Harris’s 7-for overshadowed by Stuart Broad
He was injured and was never in the thick of things for Australia to lead the bowling attack in the Ashes. But in the end, Ryan Harris (The ‘Rhino’) emerged as the most successful bowler in the series. He had a five-for at Lord’s, but this time around it was a brilliant display of bowling under pressure which gave Australia a practical chance of winning the fourth Test until the batsmen faltered. His seven-for also included the key one of Ian Bell who scored 113 (which proved to be match-winning). Harris ended the series with 24 wickets. He first ran through the top order and came back to clean the lower order.
Result: England won by 74 runs.
5. Stuart Broad’s 11/121 seals Ashes for England
Ian Bell had already hit a gritty ton to drag England to a healthy score and post a target of 299. Australia in reply were in pursuit of regaining their form and scripting an inspirational comeback in the series being 0-2 down. Chris Rogers and David Warner eased through to a century stand to unsettle the opposition as they headed for a victory. At 147 for one, a victory was well in sight. Graeme Swann and Tim Bresnan took a wicket each to even things out with Australia on 168 for three. From there on, it was Stuart Broad who rattled Australia and induced an embarrassing batting collapse. Having picked a five-for in the first innings, Broad ripped through Australian batting. Credit to the bowler, but the batsmen were equally reckless in their shots. The inspirational spell helped England take an unassailable 3-0 lead and seal the Ashes.
4. Mohammed Shami’s 9/118 on debut vs West Indies
There were three interesting points to note for an Indian cricket fan: a) Here was a bowler who could run in and bowl 140kph consistently b) India had rarely seen a fast bowler who ran in hard and knocked down the stumps of the batsmen c) Finally India has a fast bowler who could bowl both with the new and old ball effectively. Moreover, he became a champion of reverse swing.
Mohammed Shami had a dream debut. He was right on target and rarely looked nervous. The only thing he seemed to see clearly was the stumps. Such was his accuracy that six of his nine dismissals were bowled and one of the remaining ones was a leg-before wicket. Shami just went from strength to strength and cemented his place in the Indian squad. His ability to bring the ball back in at a good pace troubled the batsmen. He even sealed the victory for India by knocking down the stumps of Sheldon Cottrell.
Result: India won by an innings and 51 runs
3. Tendai Chatara scripts surprise win over Pakistan with 5/61
Pakistan had already conceded a 64-run lead. However, against a team like Pakistan, such a slender lead may not be enough to convince a team to think of victory. The scorecard may show an all-round performance from Zimbabwe. But the moment that mattered was to put pressure on Pakistan in the fourth innings. Tendai Chatara did just that. Pakistan faltered in the last innings chasing 264. Misbah-ul-Haq was yet again the lone warrior. Low bounce and ability to mix up deliveries worked for Chatara. The hosts could have easily messed up the situation but they did well to hold on after Chatara struck the wickets of lower order batsmen. Zimbabwe had defeated Pakistan for the third time and it took 15 long years to achieve the feat. A moment to remember in Zimbabwe’s cricket history.
2. Dale Steyn blows Pakistan away with 6/8
It’s fun to discuss Dale Steyn the No 1 bowler in the world, but everyone is left in awe when he is steaming in and knocks the opposition down with his pace and swing. It was a dream spell from Steyn, bundling a hapless Pakistan for 49 runs, their lowest score in Tests. It was Steyn’s 20th five-for. Steyn not just forced Pakistan into submission but ensured that they remain haunted by his presence (and Mohammad Hafeez in particular). Even in the second innings, Pakistan stared at a 480-run target and then scared by Steyn’s lethal bowling. The pacer got a five-for even in the second innings to complete with 11 for 60.
1. Mitchell Johnson’s thunderbolts at Adelaide vs England; 7 for 40
There’s absolutely no doubt that Mitchell Johnson has been the best bowler of the Ashes down under with his thunderbolts knocking down batsmen. Even before he cast his spell in Ashes, Johnson was in red hot form in the Indian Premier League as well as in the limited overs series against India. Coming into the Adelaide Test match he had already announced himself with a nine-for at Brisbane and bagged a Man of the Match. At Adelaide, in the first innings, England batsmen looked like a goat waiting to be slaughtered. Johnson started with the first wicket of Alastair Cook who was completely beaten by the pace. At 90 miles per hour, Cook had no idea how it straightened up and went past his defence knocking the stumps down. However what turned out to be the gamechanger was a period of five overs where Johnson sniffed blood removing five wickets for 17 runs. Three of the five came in just one over with Ben Stokes, Matt Prior and Stuart Broad; all gone in a matter of minutes. It was just a matter of time as Johnson snared up two more removing Graeme Swann and James Anderson. He finished the innings with the wicket of Monty Panesar. That spell of Johnson gave his team a massive 378-run lead.
Result: Australia won by 218 runs.
There were many other impressive bowling performances. Graeme Swann bid adieu from international cricket after a poor run in the Ashes Down Under. But his 10-wicket haul against New Zealand at Headingley and a nine-for against Australia at Lord’s were noteworthy. Ravichandran Ashwin bagging 12 for 198 on his homeground Chennai against Australia. Shane Shillingford was impressive against the Indians when he toured for the two-Test series. Dale Steyn’s breathtaking bowling which pulled back India in the final Test at Durban.
(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)
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