Year-ender 2018: CricketCountry’s Test XI of 2018

As 2018 closes out, we sifted through the scorecards and statistics to dig out the 12 most impactful Test cricketers of the year.

Happy reading (and debating).

1. Dimuth Karunaratne (M 9 I 17 Runs 743 HS 158* Avg 46.43 100s 1 50s 7)

The most successful Test opener of 2018. This, despite tallying 36 runs in three innings in Bangladesh and 96 in four in New Zealand. Speaks of his inconsistency, but with one century and seven fifties in 17 innings last year, Karunaratne was successful and influential. In Sri Lanka’s 2-0 sweep of South Africa, Karunaratne was dominant with 158*, 60, 53 and 85. In the 0-3 loss to England, he collected three fifties to offer some resistance.

2. Kusal Mendis (M 12 I 23 Runs 1023 HS 196 Avg 46.50 100s 3 50s 4)

The second-highest run-getter of 2018 – and second to reach 1,000 runs – Mendis was used as an opener in five of his 23 Test innings and did the job exceptionally with two hundreds and a fifty for an average of 74.50. His 196 against Bangladesh at Chittagong helped Sri Lanka piled up 713/9 declared, his first-innings 68 at Mirpur helped lead the team out of a jam. At Port of Spain, Mendis batted 210 balls for his 102 out of a second-innings total of 226 when the next best was 31. In a year where specialist openers struggled, Mendis gets the nod because of his versatility and consistency in the job.

3. Kane Williamson (capt) (M 7 I 12 Runs 651 HS 139 Avg 59.18 100s 2 50s 3)

In six fewer Tests, Williamson scored 186 runs less than the other batsman in consideration for the No 3 slot, Cheteshwar Pujara. That too while leading New Zealand across three winning series – they did not lose a series all year – and up to No 3 in the ICC Test rankings. This made him impossible to overlook. He began the year with a silken 102 that helped crush England by an innings at Auckland, scored 63 and 37 in the epic four-run win over Pakistan in Abu Dhabi and a match-winning 89 and 139 in the decider and then, back at home, eased to 91 off 93 balls in the drawn Wellington Test versus Sri Lanka. Had New Zealand played more Tests in 2018, Williamson could have notched up more runs.

Virat Kohli: leading run-getter of 2018 with hundreds in each overseas tour.
Virat Kohli: leading run-getter of 2018 with hundreds in each overseas tour.

4. Virat Kohli (M 13 I 24 Runs 1322 HS 153 Avg 55.08 100s 5 50s 5)

The leading run-scorer of the year, with the most centuries (five) of any batsman. Scored hundreds in South Africa, England and South Africa. In England, where India lost 1-4, Kohli banished the memories of 2014 while becoming the second most successful Indian batsman in a Test series in England. Scored 200 runs in the first and third Tests, with exceptional hundreds in each. Featured in each of India’s three century stands, as well as one of 92, and finished the five-match series with 593 runs. In Australia, where India are currently up 2-1, Kohli made a sublime 123 in defeat at Perth and then a stoic 82 at the MCG while battling back stiffness.

5. Henry Nicholls (M 7 I 12 Runs 658 HS 162* Avg 73.11 100s 3 50s 3)

Nobody averaged more than New Zealand’s middle-order crisis man in 2018, who in his first innings of the year scored an unbeaten 145 to set up a series-leading Test win over England and in his last, scored 162 not out to set up a series-clinching victory over Sri Lanka. In between were vital fifties and a superb unbeaten 126 in the deciding Test against Pakistan in the UAE. Nicholls was huge in New Zealand winning a record four successive Test series, truly making his mark last year. As 2018 ended, Nicholls moved up to seventh place in the ICC Test rankings.

6. Jos Buttler (M 10 I 18 Runs 760 HS 106 Avg 44.70 100s 1 50s 6)

Since being recalled to England’s Test team in June after a bumper IPL run, Buttler scored 760 runs to finish 2018 at sixth place among all batsmen, with a maiden century and six fifties. He made 14, 67 and 80* in the drawn two-match series against Pakistan and against India scored 0, 1, 24, 39, 106, 21, 69 and 89 to be his team’s leading-run getter of the series. In the landmark 3-0 sweep of Sri Lanka, Buttler 250 runs in six innings. His 760 runs are second to skipper Joe Root’s 948 for England last year.

Since being recalled to the Test team, Jos Buttler made 760 runs
Since being recalled to the Test team, Jos Buttler made 760 runs. @Getty

7. Rishabh Pant (wk) (M 8 I 14 Runs 537 HS 114 Avg 38.35 100s 1 50s C 42 St 2)

The third most successful wicketkeeper of 2018 after Quinton de Kock (47) and Tim Paine (43), Pant made a mark in his first year in Tests. His wicketkeeping is a work in progress, but in setting a few milestones the rookie did enough to hold down his place.

Given a Test debut in England after Dinesh Karthik endured two poor matches, Pant announced his arrival with a six and became the first Indian wicketkeeper to take five catches in an innings on debut. Ended his debut series with 15 catches and a thrilling 114  that helped India give England a scare in the dead rubber. At home against West Indies, he smacked two brisk nineties before chucking away hundreds on both occasions, and then in Australia completed six catches in the home team’s first innings to draw level with MS Dhoni’s India record achieved in 2009, and then became the first Indian wicketkeeper – and third overall – to hold 11 catches in a Test. At 21, Pant’s cult is indeed on the rise.

8. Dilruwan Perera (M 11 I 21 W 50 BB 6/32 Avg 29.32 SR 56.4 5×3)

Surprised to read Perera’s name here? Don’t be. The Sri Lankan offspinning allrounder finished 2018 as the second highest wicket-taker with 50 from 11 Tests, at a better average than Nathan Lyon (49 wickets at 34.02) and lower strike-rate (Lyon’s was 75.3). The first half of Perera’s year was quiet – eight wickets in four Tests – but he roared with 16 as South Africa were swept 2 – including 10 in Galle – and then carried Sri Lanka’s attack during the 0-3 loss to England, claiming 20 wickets. Struggled on unresponsive tracks in New Zealand, where he became just the fourth Sri Lankan bowler to reach 150 Test wickets.

9. Kagiso Rabada (M 10 I 20 W 52 BB 6/54 Avg 20.07 SR 38.2 5×2)

The most successful bowler of 2018. Rabada was impactful in each series he played last year: 15 wickets in the series win over India, 23 in the series win over Australia, eight in the 0-2 loss in Sri Lanka and six in the Boxing Day Test victory over Pakistan. Claimed 11 wickets in the win over Australia at Port Elizabeth, his best performance of the year, gave Sri Lanka a tough time in Galle and as the year ended, Rabada added to a three-day win over Pakistan. Always quick, always aggressive and always taking wickets.

Kagiso Rabada is 2018's most successful Test bowler.
Kagiso Rabada is 2018’s most successful Test bowler. © AFP

10. Jasprit Bumrah (M 9 I 18 W 48 BB 6/33 Avg 21.02 SR 47.4 5×3)

With 48 wickets in his first year of Test cricket, Bumrah is the find of the year for India despite having played 62 limited-overs games before he made his Test debut in South Africa in January. With five-wicket hauls in South Africa, England and South Africa, Bumrah emerged as the leader of India’s pace attack.

After claiming 14 wickets in three Tests in South Africa, he missed the first two Tests in England. Slotting back for the third at Trent Bridge, he had a huge role in India’s 203-run victory with seven wickets. In Australia, Bumrah has so far claimed a series-leading 20 wickets in three Tests while consistently proving a threat. His deliveries to get Faf du Plessis on debut, bowl Jonny Bairstow at Trent Bridge and the dipping yorkers the accounted for Shaun Marsh and Travis Head either side of lunch at the MCG were terrific. During his career-best 6/33 in India’s win at the MCG, Bumrah eclipsed a 39-year-old Indian record.

11. Mohammad Abbas  (M 7 I 13 W 38 BB 5/33 Avg 13.76 SR 36.3 5×3)

In an excellent year, the Pakistan pace sensation had several match-winning performances. In his first Test of the year – which wasn’t until May – Abbas claimed nine wickets as debutants Ireland were beaten by five wickets. In June, he was named Player of the Series after the 1-1 draw in England where he took 10 wickets including eight in victory at Lord’s.

Abbas was Man of the Series for the second occasion in a row after bowling Pakistan to a 373-run win over Australia in Abu Dhabi last month, claiming 5/62 on the fourth day to take his tally for the match to 10/95 – the first time any fast bowler managed that in the UAE. Managed two wickets in defeat to New Zealand and then picked up an injury that saw him go wicketless in Pakistan’s win in Abu Dhabi and ruled him out of the team’s next two Tests of 2018.

12th man: Pat Cummins (M 8 I 16 W 44 BB 6/27 Avg 19.97 SR 42.8 5×2)

What a cricketer. His bowling was fast and accurate, his lower-order batting the stuff of steel that put to shame several of his team-mates. Cummins began 2018 with eight wickets against England at the SCG and ended with nine versus India at the MCG, in the middle claiming 20 wickets in three Tests in South Africa. With the bat, he averaged 17.92 wth two fifties and a few handy scores in the twenties.