Test bowling: the nominees
Dale Steyn: 6 for 72 v West Indies
Second innings, Durban
A South African win was on the cards, but the raw pace of Steyn was required to quell the resistance. West Indies' openers survived nearly 15 overs before Steyn worked out Brenton Parchment, sneaking in the in-dipper after having set him up with outswingers. On a true and flat surface, Steyn was truly superlative with the second new ball. Marlon Samuels, on 105, was bowled by an unplayable delivery that pitched on off and held its line. Darren Sammy offered a return catch, and sheer pace got rid of the tailenders, in a 15-ball spell of 4 for 0. On the day Shaun Pollock retired, Steyn showed he was more than ready to lead the attack.
Shahadat Hossain: 6 for 27 v South Africa
First innings, Mirpur
Shahadat bowled at a lively pace and with tremendous control for career-best figures. In an inspired spell late on the first day, he had Graeme Smith dragging one onto the stumps, trapped Neil McKenzie lbw with one angling in, and nearly got Jacques Kallis as well. He ripped through the lower order on the next day, and an imposing South African line-up was shot out for 170, their second-lowest completed total of the year.
James Anderson, 5 for 73 v New Zealand
First innings, Wellington
Anderson returned to the England side with a performance of pace, panache, confidence and intense skill. In favourable bowling conditions he ran through the New Zealand top order, troubling their batsmen with his natural away-swingers. Matthew Bell was bowled by an unplayable ball, and Jamie How and Matthew Sinclair fished lazily at away-going deliveries and were caught behind. Stephen Fleming was the next to go, offering a lethargic slap to point. It was the outswinger again that brought Anderson his fifth wicket, when he induced a careless prod from Ross Taylor. Anderson set England on their way to a series-levelling win after the abject defeat in the first Test, in Hamilton.
Ryan Sidebottom, 7 for 47 v New Zealand
First innings, Napier
On what was supposed to a batting paradise, Sidebottom sparked an astonishing England resurgence, claiming a career-best in the series-deciding Test. The performance included a marathon spell of 14.4 overs, in which he snared six New Zealand batsmen. He showed, too, that his game was constantly expanding: Three of his wickets came from round the wicket, an approach he had rarely used before at international level. Sidebottom's were the best figures by an England bowler since Steve Harmison took 7 for 12 in Jamaica in 2004, and cemented his place as the leader of England's attack.
Monty Panesar, 6 for 37 v New Zealand
Second innings, Old Trafford
England were facing a 179-run deficit on the first innings, but Panesar seized the initiative back for his side with a career-best performance, a splendid comeback after a poor first innings. He struck early in his spell, trapping Jamie How lbw. Hamish Marshall succumbed leg-before to a delivery that was quicker and flatter, and Brendon McCullum was plumb in front after he missed a sweep off a straightish ball. Vettori too perished off the sweep, caught at backward square leg, and Panesar got a wicket with conventional turn away from the right-hander when Taylor, the danger man, was beaten and rapped on the pads. That was Panesar's 100th Test wicket. He got a sixth as well, and England chased down 294 to cap a remarkable win.
Stuart Clark, 5 for 32 v West Indies
Second innings, Kingston
Clark produced arguably his best day of bowling in his Test career to give Australia a 95-run victory defending 286. He was almost unplayable on the final day, and finished with a career-best 5 for 32, with only Brett Lee providing decent back-up. Clark removed West Indies' top three for the second time in the match, and proved once again that raw speed was no longer the only useful weapon on Caribbean pitches. His nagging accuracy frustrated some of the batsmen - notably Ramnaresh Sarwan and Dwayne Bravo - into poor shots that brought about their dismissals.
Ajantha Mendis, 4 for 72 v India
First innings, Colombo, SSC
After having bamboozled India with his many variations in the Asia Cup final, Mendis made one of the most hyped Test debuts in recent years. He lived up to expectations, with a four-wicket haul in the first innings. The fast legbreak that nailed Rahul Dravid is a shoo-in for "Ball of the Year". Cricket writer Mukul Kesavan called it "a more significant moment in the history of Test cricket" than Shane Warne's "Ball of the Century" to Mike Gatting. Mendis' unconventional grip, variations and remorseless accuracy ensured that the Indian middle order - which contained four of the world's best players of spin - were never at ease against him.
Andrew Flintoff, 4 for 89 v South Africa
First innings, Birmingham
After England had folded for 231 in the first innings, Flintoff almost single-handedly kept their hopes alive with an evening burst that brought back memories of his golden days. Flintoff removed Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers, having earlier claimed his 200th Test wicket by shifting top-scorer Neil McKenzie for 72. The highlight was the duel with Kallis. Flintoff was at his most fired-up, and rattled Kallis with pace and swing. He should have had him lbw when a yorker arrowed into the batsman's boot in front of middle, but the appeal was turned down. Flintoff had barely calmed down when his next over came around, and this time he had his man, with a searing yorker that went under Kallis' bat and uprooted off stump.
Harbhajan Singh, 6 for 102 v Sri Lanka
First innings, Galle
After the quick bowlers had been taken apart by Sri Lanka's top order, Harbhajan came up with one of his best spells in recent times to keep India fighting. He looped the ball in, as opposed to darting it in on middle and leg, and also varied his pace well throughout the spell. The rampaging Malinda Warnapura and Kumar Sangakkara were first stifled, and then dismissed in successive overs. When two specialist batsmen were dismissed in one Harbhajan over - Thilan Samaraweera trapped by a slider and Tillakaratne Dilshan undone by one that bounced and turned - Sri Lanka had slid from 137 for 1 to 192 for 5.
Shakib Al Hasan, 7 for 36 v New Zealand
First innings, Chittagong
Shakib's performance, the best by a Bangladesh bowler in Tests, helped his side reach a dominant position against New Zealand after the first innings. Most of his deliveries were on a perfect line and length, and enticed the batsmen on to the front foot. What the batsmen found difficult to handle was his change of pace, and his ability to turn the ball on a slightly deteriorating pitch. Shakib capitalised on their defensive approach - Jamie How, Jesse Ryder and Jacob Oram were all caught by close-in fielders, and Aaron Redmond was trapped lbw while trying to block.
Dale Steyn, 5 for 67 v Australia
Second innings, Melbourne
After having taken five wickets, and made 76 in a memorable rearguard in the first innings, Steyn took another five in the second to drive South Africa within sight of a Test victory that would hand Australia their first home series defeat since 1992-93. Steyn bowled fast and with impressive outswing; he was used in short spells, but each time he returned, the batsmen were uncomfortable. The Australians' aggressive approach also worked in his favour: Matthew Hayden and Michael Clarke were caught in the covers, and Simon Katich was enticed into nicking an almost unreachably wide delivery to the keeper.