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January 6, 2009
Graeme Smith, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Ajantha Mendis and Dale Steyn were the cream of the crop in the nominations for the Cricinfo Awards, which recognise the best performances in Tests and ODIs in 2008.
South Africa were clearly the best Test team of the year with a 11-2 win-loss record, and that dominance is reflected in the nominations, with four out of ten shortlisted batting performances. Their captain leads the way: Smith has been nominated for both his match-winning centuries in fourth-innings run-chases - an unbeaten 154 against England at Edgbaston and 108 against Australia in the astonishing Perth win. JP Duminy, who showed remarkable skill and poise in scoring 166 in Melbourne, and AB de Villiers are the other two South Africans. Virender Sehwag is the only other batsman with two nominations in this category, for his double-hundred in Galle and the utterly spectacular 83 against England in Chennai, the only non-century in the shortlist.
With 74 wickets in 13 matches Dale Steyn towered over the rest of the bowlers in Tests in 2008, which is reflected in the nominations: he gets two mentions in the shortlist of 11, including one for the fiery burst which destroyed Australia in Melbourne. Bangladesh lost all their Tests except one this year, but they did have individual performances to celebrate, and two of those - Shahadat Hossain's 6 for 27 against South Africa and Shakib Al Hasan's 7 for 36 against New Zealand - make the cut.
If South Africa lorded the Tests, then India were arguably the best ODI side of 2008, winning 19 games, including series wins in Australia and Sri Lanka. Four of the 11 batting nominations, and three out of 10 bowling ones, belong to them. Tendulkar's 117 and 91 in back-to-back finals of the CB Series are both in the list, as are Yuvraj Singh's two hundreds in successive games against England. Among the bowlers, Mendis steals the show with two nominations, including one for his extraordinary spell in the Asia Cup final, when his 6 for 13 ripped out a strong Indian batting line-up. Overall, India lead the way with 11 nominations, while South Africa, England and Sri Lanka have six each.
The 11-member jury, which includes Ian Chappell, Tony Greig, Darryll Cullinan, David Lloyd, Ramiz Raja and Sanjay Manjrekar, will vote on these performances to decide the winner from each category. The final results will be declared next week.
The Cricinfo Awards for best performances in a year were introduced in 2007. In its inaugural year, Kumar Sangakkara and Zaheer Khan won the Test awards in batting and bowling, while Adam Gilchrist and Lasith Malinga were the ODI stars.
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