Top, from left: Kedar Jadhav, Joe Root, Fakhar Zaman, KL Rahul, Paul Stirling Bottom, from left: Rohit Sharma, Steven Smith, Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, Cheteshwar Pujara
Top, from left: Kedar Jadhav, Joe Root, Fakhar Zaman, KL Rahul, Paul Stirling
Bottom, from left: Rohit Sharma, Steven Smith, Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, Cheteshwar Pujara

From going bonkers from ball one, compiling a typical Test hundred with dead bat, counter-attacking like a modern-era batsman to making use of the slightest judgement in error gifted by the opponent, 2017 was a year that saw batsmen craft many a memorable innings. There were varied knocks and few of them came from relatively unknown players. While the Kohlis, Rohits, Smiths continued to roar, we saw new match-winners unearth under pressure. Aditya Sahay relives the best performances in short tell-a-tales:

Kedar Jadhav

A batsman’s dream is to rescue his side from shambles. They also want to make the most of playing in front of the home fans. On January 15, Jadhav utilised the opportunity to weave a memorable knock versus England at Pune. In a pursuit of 351, India were tottering at 63 for 4. The big guns — Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni and Shikhar Dhawan — were back in the hut. Virat Kohli, newly-appointed skipper, was in sublime touch before Jadhav stole his thunder.

I missed many chances to bat with Virat and watch him bat closely in the past, so today was the chance.

Jadhav counterattacked right away. He pulled, played the late cut to perfection and and with that strong bottom hand. The unique part of Jadhav’s 120 (off 76 balls) was that he amassed majority of his runs playing straight. He successfully managed to outplay or hog Kohli’s limelight in a mammoth run-chase. Jadhav played his best in home conditions, and enabled a stunning 3-wicket victory.

KL Rahul

After Steven O’Keefe ensured a 1-0 lead to Australia in 2016-17 Border Gavaskar Trophy, India had to bounce back in the second Test. The Bengaluru track offered considerable bounce and assisted the spinners. Nathan Lyon replicated his Adelaide heroics to stun India for 189. He extracted bounce and every bit of turn from the surface, along with a lovely dip. However, local boy Rahul’s gritty 89 showed the stomach to fight and held one end to take the total close to 200.

Rahul played proper shots to accumulate nine fours during his stay. He respected the spinners, and faced the gruelling pace of Mitchell Starc. Trailing by 87 runs, Rahul stood tall in the second innings with another fine half-century. His efforts instilled a fighting spirit in the Indian camp, and they fought back to win by 75 runs.

Cheteshwar Pujara

The third Test of Border Gavaskar Trophy was another intense battle. After Australia piled up 451, India were in a spot of bother at 321 for 6. Pujara was firm at one end but needed company, and thus began a monumental effort from Pujara and Wriddhiman Saha to attain a 152-run lead.

Pujara came out to bat at 91 for 1. He departed at 527 for 7. In process, he batted for more than 150 overs and toiled hard for 6 hours — the longest innings by an Indian. His 202 came on a turf not offering much for the bowlers. However, it was against an attack that didn’t concede easy runs. By far, it was a well-compiled innings.

Paul Stirling

Ireland were trailing Afghanistan 0-2 ahead of the third ODI of the five-match series. Rashid Khan had been their chief tormentor. On a flat track, Irish bowlers restricted Afghanistan to 264 for 8. Nonetheless, their batters had to negate Rashid’s threat and finish off the proceedings, something which they had failed to address till then. Stirling gave a fitting start and continued to impress against Afghanistan spinners. He kept Rashid at bay by playing him late, playing the sweeps and nudged him around for singles. Once Rashid returned wicketless, the track was a batting paradise. As a result, Ireland completed formalities to register a 5-wicket win.

Stirling was dismissed for 99 — consecutive score in 90s. He also stitched vital stands with Naill O’Brien and Andrew Balbirnie. Courtesy his knock, Ireland won their first game versus Afghanistan at their adopted home ground, Greater Noida.

Fakhar Zaman

Look at the smile on Fakhar Zaman’s face. Is this the bit of luck that gets him going?,” questioned one of the commentators during India-Pakistan Champions Trophy finale in June. Zaman made most of the dropped chance (he was also out off a no-ball) to register his maiden century in an all-important ICC final. Zaman’s innings took off slowly but gained momentum once the lateral movement went out of equation.

Zaman attacked, attacked and attacked. He did not give any respite to the Indian spinners after settling in. In addition, the left-hander smacked the fuller deliveries and cut loose against anything outside off stump. His 106-ball 114 led Pakistan to their inaugural Champions Trophy title.

Joe Root

Playing under a new captain in Root, England were in trouble against South Africa. At 76 for 4, they needed a big partnership. The captain and his deputy Ben Stokes joined together and led the revival. While Stokes fell for an impressive 56, Root guided the ship till it reached safe shores. He added another century-plus stand with Moeen Ali and helped England put up 451 all-out.

It’s nice to get the runs, a monkey off the back.

Root’s innings was filled with aggression. He made a statement by striking over 80. Root weathered the early storm posed by South African pacers. There was bounce and movement off the turf but Root continued the winsome, classy Root we know him for. By virtue of his knock, England took a 1-0 lead in the four-match series.

Did you know Root slammed the highest score by an English captain on debut?

AB de Villiers

Bangladesh came across an ABD special in the second ODI of the five-match series at Boland Park, Paarl. Put to bat, openers Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla gave a perfect start.

De Villiers consolidated from thereon, and hammered Bangladesh bowlers to pulp. A whirlwind 176 off 104 balls included 102 runs in boundaries (57.95 per cent).  The former South African skipper took a liking towards Mashrafe Mortaza and Taskin Ahmed.

Did you know that this was De Villiers’ second score in excess of 150?

Virat Kohli

A yearly, top-10 batting list cannot be concluded without mentioning Kohli. The Indian skipper had a ball in the calendar year. With 6 ODI hundreds and 3 double-centuries in Tests, Kohli bludgeoned runs across formats. Nonetheless, his highest Test score (243) stands out.

Kohli accumulated runs at 84.67 in the third and final Test versus Sri Lanka at Feroz Shah Kotla, New Delhi. No Lankan bowler posed any challenge. Kohli seemed to be batting in a different league, and tore the opposition attack into pieces. The balance, head position, timing and placements were implicit. He even surpassed 5,000 runs during his knock (fourth fastest by an Indian) and didn’t break a sweat during his stay.

Did you know that Kohli had amassed another double hundred prior to this innings a week before (second Test at Nagpur)?

Rohit Sharma

Mohali witnessed another Rohit masterclass. The right-hander paced his innings beautifully in the penultimate match of the three ODIs versus Sri Lanka in December. Rohit, also the stand-in skipper, began cautiously following the first ODI hammering. He stitched a 115-run stand with Shikhar Dhawan to set the tempo. Dhawan was the aggressor, while Rohit dealt in occasional boundaries.

Nonetheless, the momentum shifted after Rohit’s hundred. While the opener reached three figures in 115 deliveries, he went berserk from thereon. India added 115 runs in the last 7 overs with Rohit slamming 92 off 27. The madness began in the 44th over when he slammed Suranga Lakmal for 4 sixes. The over leaked 27 runs. Nuwan Pradeep conceded 18 in the next courtesy Rohit.

This was Rohit’s second mammoth knock versus Sri Lanka and third overall. He trails rest of the world in terms of ODI double tons by 3-4. Rohit’s maiden double-hundred came against Australia in 2013. Since then, he has never averaged below 45. He remained unbeaten on 208 (13 fours and 12 sixes).

I knew that unless I made a mistake I wouldn’t get out.

Steven Smith

England had piled up 403. Australia, in order to regain the urn, had to bat well. They were 55 for 2. Nonetheless, England were in for a two-day long leather hunt as Australia decimated them courtesy Steven Smith.

Precap

Smith had two centuries in 2016-17 Border-Gavaskar Trophy. He was Australia’s highest run-scorer in their 0-3 drubbing against Sri Lanka (2016). In addition, Smith was already among runs in Ashes 2017-18. An impressive 141 at Brisbane was followed by a career-best 239 at WACA, Perth. He stitched a 301-run partnership with Mitchell Marsh (181) and (almost) single-handedly reclaimed the coveted ‘urn’. England had no answer to his marathon knock.

Smith shuffled, kept his eyes on the ball till the last moment to negate the bouncers, left the balls outside off, forced English seamers to change their lines, flicked nonchalantly. He kept it simple, yet strategically weathered any challenges thrown at him. The idea was to tire the opposition attack, and bore them till they start conceding runs at will. Smith’s majestic innings resulted in an innings victory, and Australia regained the Ashes with two Tests to spare.

Evin Lewis

On a belter of a track at Sabina Park Jamaica, West Indies mauled India by 9 wickets in a one-off T20I courtesy Lewis. The left-hander, who also scored his maiden ton versus India, broke the shackles with 6 fours and 12 sixes. In a pursuit of 191, West Indies emerged victorious with 9 balls to spare.

Lewis smacked Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, humiliating the duo with 8 sixes. On the other hand, Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s pace posed no threat to the swashbuckling opener.

Did You Know that Lewis registered his name etched in the history books with highest T20 score while chasing?