2018 Test team of the Year: The bowlers strike back

By Zaheer E. Clarke
Published January 7, 2019 in the Western Mirror

Which players deserved to be in the 2018 Test team of the year? See my picks and share yours below.

In a year when the bowlers in Test cricket dominated their batting counterparts in a fashion not seen in 59 years, the Test team of the year is littered with bowlers who produced excellent performances yearlong. Nonetheless, several batsmen made their mark with outstanding performances.

The criteria for my team of the year was simple. All players up for consideration had to have played five or more Test matches during the year for their respective teams. It would be unfair to consider a player for the team of the year who had played only a handful of games during the year. With New Zealand playing only seven Test matches all year and India playing a high of 14, a five-Test minimum was a fair compromise for the players to qualify for the team of the year. Here is my Test XI of the year.

 

1. Tom Latham (NZ)

Tom Latham
(Credit: Getty Images)

Tom Latham scored 658 runs for New Zealand, inclusive of two centuries and two half-centuries, at a batting average of 59.81 runs per dismissal in seven matches. In a year when batsman especially openers found scoring difficult, Latham was the only opener to average above 50 in Test cricket. In addition, Latham’s high score of 264 not out against Sri Lanka was the top score for all batsmen in 2018.

2. Dimuth Karunaratne (SL)

Dimuth Karunaratne
(Credit: Reuters)

Though missing out on the Test series in the West Indies, Dimuth Karunaratne amassed an impressive 743 runs, the highest aggregate by an opener in 2018. Karunaratne secured one century and seven half-centuries for Sri Lanka this year in nine Test matches, with his sole century of 158 runs coming in an innings total of 287 for Sri Lanka. His man-of-the-match performance, which also included a second-inning half-century, helped propel Sri Lanka to a series win against South Africa. In 2018, he scored his runs at an average of 46.43 runs per dismissal with a stirring strike rate of 56.63 runs per 100 balls.

3. Kane Williamson – captain

Kane Williamson
(Source: The Niche Cache)

Often the forgotten man in the debate for the best batsman of his era, Kane Williamson had an incredible 2018 as both a player and captain. Batting at number three in the batting lineup as always, Williamson scored 651 runs inclusive of two centuries and three half-centuries at a spectacular average of 59.18 runs per dismissal. As captain, New Zealand won all their Test series in 2018: 2-1 versus Pakistan, 1-0 versus England and 1-0 versus Sri Lanka.

4. Virat Kohli – vice-captain

Virat Kohli
(Source: The Free Press Journal)

Arguably the greatest batsman of his era and possibly one of the greatest batsmen of all-time, Virat Kohli topped all batsmen in 2018 by scoring 1,322 runs even while missing a game for India this year. He led all batsmen worldwide with ten scores of 50 runs or more, including five centuries and five half-centuries. He averaged 55.08 runs per dismissal at a strike rate of 54.33 runs per 100 balls. Without a doubt, his performances of the year came in the first and third Tests against England where he amassed 200 runs in each Test under extremely challenging conditions.

5. Henry Nicholls (NZ)

Henry Nicholls
(Source: Cricket World)

Henry Nicholls, a relative newcomer to Test cricket, had a breakout year in 2018 when he scored 658 runs at an average of 73.11 for New Zealand. Though he is often overshadowed by his more established teammates such as Latham and Williamson, Nicholls was an essential cog in New Zealand’s four Test match victories this year. One of his three half-centuries and all three of his unbeaten Test centuries came in wins for New Zealand.

6. Rishabh Pant (IND) – wicketkeeper

Rishabh Pant
(Credit: Getty Images)

Another newcomer to Test cricket, Rishabh Pant’s debut year in Test cricket was arguably the most successful of all wicketkeeper-batsmen for 2018. Pant scored 537 runs in 2018 at an average of 38.35 runs per dismissal, inclusive of one century and two half-centuries. Pant was also responsible for 42 dismissals with the gloves, which included 40 catches and two stumpings. Several pundits have picked Jos Buttler as the wicketkeeper-batsman in their team, but I cannot, given that Buttler stood behind the stumps in only one of the ten Test matches he played in this year.

7. Jason Holder (WI)

Jason Holder
©REUTERS / Action Images

West Indies Test captain Jason Omar Holder had the best year of his international career as an all-rounder and arguably one of the best years by a bowler all-time. Though missing three matches for West Indies, he averaged 37.33 runs with the bat while scoring two half-centuries. With the ball, he captured 33 wickets in six games, with four five-wicket hauls and one ten-wicket match haul at a mind-boggling average of 12.39 runs per wicket and an earthshattering strike rate of 27.3 balls per wicket. Holder had the best bowling average of all bowlers worldwide in 2018 and teams posted massive scores against West Indies only in his absence.

8. Kagiso Rabada

Kagiso Rabada
(Source: Sport 24)

South African Kagiso Rabada topped all bowlers in 2018 with 52 Test wickets in 10 matches. Rabada, the number one bowler in the world, was a modicum of consistency with only two five-wicket hauls and one ten-wicket haul at a bowling average of 20.07 and a strike rate of 38.2.

9. Mohammad Abbas (PAK)

Mohammad Abbas
(Credit: AFP)

Mohammad Abbas, the medium pacer from Pakistan, emerged as one of the bowlers of 2018. Abbas took 38 wickets in seven matches at an astonishing average of 13.76 runs per wicket and an economy of 2.27 runs per over. He captured three five-wicket hauls and one ten-wicket match haul. His demolition of Australia in their two-match series where he took 17 wickets at an average of 10.85 runs apiece earned him player-of-the-series honours.

10. Yasir Shah (PAK)

Yashir Shah
(Credit: Reuters)

The other cog in the Pakistani attack, Yasir Shah was the best spinner in 2018. Shah, playing in only six matches, took 38 wickets at an average of 23.52 runs apiece. Shah’s mindboggling 2018 was centred around the New Zealand series where he took 29 wickets in six innings with three five-wicket hauls and one ten-wicket haul at an average of 19.03 runs, yet Pakistan lost the series.

11. Jasprit Bumrah (IND)

Jasprit Bumrah
(Credit: Reuters)

Jasprit Bumrah has been the tip of the spear in the India attack. Bumrah is the pacer with the second most wickets in 2018 behind Rabada. His 48 wickets have come at an average of 21.02 runs per wicket including three five-wicket hauls.

Lies & Statistics Test Team of 2018:

1. Tom Latham (NZ), 7. Jason Holder (WI)
2. Dimuth Karunaratne (SL) 8. Kagiso Rabada (SA)
3. Kane Williamson (NZ) – captain 9. Mohammad Abbas (PAK)
4. Virat Kohli (IND) – vice-captain 10. Yasir Shah (PAK)
5. Henry Nicholls (NZ) 11. Jasprit Bumrah (IND)
6. Rishabh Pant (IND) – wicketkeeper

Until next time…

© Zaheer Clarke

Zaheer E. Clarke is a sports columnist, a freelance sportswriter, and a multi-award-winning blogger. He believes that if you picked your Test team and didn’t get the exact team as he did, then you didn’t do it right.

He can be reached at zaheer.clarke@gmail.com. Follow him on Facebook at Zaheer Facts, Lies & Statistics, or on Twitter at @zaheerclarke.

This blog article was published in the Western Mirror on January 7, 2019.

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