By Karthik Parimal
The year 2011 has been a rollercoaster year for cricket. An extremely talented nation like Sri Lanka has been on a downward spiral, whereas Pakistan’s never-say-die spirit and consistency came in the face of several off-field controversies. Australia’s win-loss record depicts a sinusoidal wave as they look to rebuild and be a force again. Zimbabwe justified its belonging in the Test arena, whereas the Bangladeshi players showed a few glimpses of brilliance in spite of often hitting rock bottom. England, South Africa and India look equally skilled, and it looks as though the throne can belong to anybody in the coming year.
Young bowlers dominated in equal amounts and showed that batsmen are not the only entertainers.
As this year draws to an end, let us reminisce on some of the most memorable bowling performances in Test cricket from the year 2011. Not surprisingly, most of them are young and with much promise:
Stuart Broad (England) – (6-46, Second Test – England vs India, Trent Bridge, Nottingham)
After India were ruthlessly humiliated by England in the first Test, many expected the visitors to hit back hard in the following matches. England was bundled out for 221 in its first innings of the second Test and the Indians looked solid to pile on a huge total when they were 267 for four. But Yuvraj Singh became Stuart Broad’s first victim with the new ball. Then came the start of something quite extraordinary as Broad dismissed Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh and Praveen Kumar for his first ever hat-trick in Test cricket. India were bowled out for 288 in the first innings and went on to lose the second Test by a record margin of 319 runs as the English seamers created havoc in India’s second innings.
Patrick Cummins (Australia) – (6-79, 2nd Test – South Africa vs Australia, Wanderers, Johannesburg)
Making his Test debut, Patrick Cummins played a crucial role in helping Australia level the series against formidable South Africa. After the maniacal first Test, cornered Australia desperately needed its bowlers to click - this time around in the third innings of the second Test. Cummins rose to the occasion as he effortlessly got the ball to move away from the South African batsmen and had the batsmen hopping like a cat on a hot tin roof to rip apart the middle-order. South Africa collapsed to 314 for nine from 249 for four, before setting Australia a target of 310. The Aussies eventually got there with two wickets to spare, thereby leveling the Test series. It is a shame that this young talent had to be sidelined from the series against India owing to an injury after playing just one Test.
Ravichandran Ashwin (India) – (6-47, 1st Test – India vs West Indies, Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi)
This was India’s first Test series after the humiliation they suffered at the hands of England. A lot of changes had been made to the Indian side. The most significant was the axing of Harbhajan Singh. Ravichandran Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha were given the green signal, and Ashwin impressed big time on his Test debut after Ojha’s brilliance in the first innings. Ashwin bagged the important wickets of Kieran Powell, Darren Bravo, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Marlon Samuels, Darren Sammy and Ravi Rampaul to restrict West Indies to a 180 in their second innings. India cruised to victory in that Test and lay to rest the nightmares of the English tour.
Vernon Philander (South Africa) – (5-15, 1st Test - South Africa vs Australia, Newlands, Cape Town)
There were quite a few outstanding bowlers in this bizarre, yet competitive, first Test between South Africa and Australia. After Australia managed 284 in their first innings, Shane Watson and Ryan Harris did a phenomenal job to bowl South Africa out for a paltry 96. The Aussies should have had this one in their bag, but what followed next was an hour of epic madness. A debutant in the form of Vernon Philander ripped through the Australian middle-order, and the visitors were shot out for just 47. Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla then ensured that South Africa reached home comfortably with eight wickets to spare.
Philander has performed exceptionally well thereafter, claiming 24 wickets in just the three Tests he has played so far with four five-for hauls. As if the South African bowling department wasn’t already fierce enough, Vernon Philander’s addition has strengthened this unit by leaps and bounds.
Doug Bracewell (New Zealand) – (6-40, 2nd Test – Australia vs New Zealand, Bellerive Oval, Hobart)
Not many gave New Zealand a chance to win a Test against Australia this time, leave alone the series. Australia were already in the driver’s seat, leading the series 1-0. Thereafter, New Zealand played some loose shots and managed a meagre 150 as they fell to James Pattinson in the first innings of the second Test. But the Kiwis fought back to restrict the Aussies to 136, before scoring 226 in their second innings. Australia now needed a comfortable 241 to win. But Doug Bracewell had other plans. He was the destroyer-in-chief as the Aussies slumped to 199 for nine from 159 for two. David Warner was the only batsmen to weather the storm, but the Aussies eventually fell seven runs short of the target and succumbed to 233, thereby handing the Kiwis their first victory in twenty years on Australian soil.
Unfortunately, Doug Bracewell lost out to David Warner for the Man of the Match award. But that does not take away any shine from Bracewell’s glorious performance under pressure. This 21 year old lad will only grow into a better bowler as time progresses.
There were other excellent performances too from fine players like Saeed Ajmal (6-42 against West Indies) and Darren Sammy (5-29 vs Pakistan), but the above mentioned were few of the bowling performances that stands out from the rest and will be remember for quite some time to come.
(If cricket is a religion and has many devotees, Karthik Parimal would be a primary worshipper. This 23 year old graduate student, pursuing his Masters in Engineering, could be an appropriate example of how the layers of what inspires, motivates and keeps one happy run deeply in our daily lives. He, unlike others, is not too disappointed about not making it big by playing for the country, but believes that he plays the sport every day with his heart by watching and writing on it)