Test batting nominees January 13, 2010

A Napier marathon, two London corkers

Sehwag minus the power-hitting, Dravid minus the slow scoring, and Gayle minus the glamour are on our Test batting shortlist

Ramnaresh Sarwan 106 v England
third Test, St John's
A day after it became public that he had lost the million dollars he had made from the Stanford 20/20 for 20, Sarwan scored a responsible century to save West Indies against England and salvage their 1-0 lead in the series. Needing to bat more than four sessions, the rest of West Indies' top order wasted starts, but Sarwan adopted a positive attitude even in defence. He was compact and controlled at the crease, and determined not to give his innings away, as he had done with a wild slog on 94 in the first innings.

Phil Hughes 115 v South Africa
second Test, Durban
In just his second Test, following up after a fourth-ball duck on debut, Hughes played a major role in the swift revenge Australia exacted for their home series loss to South Africa, by scoring two centuries in Durban. Hughes had been targeted by South Africa coach Mickey Arthur in the press over his perceived shortcomings against short bowling, but Hughes seldom looked troubled during his 151-ball stay at the crease in the first innings, taking full advantage of a low Kingsmead pitch and inoffensive South African bowling.

Daniel Vettori 118 v India
first Test, Hamilton
At 60 for 6 in the first session of the series against India, New Zealand were facing humiliation in Hamilton when out came their most reliable batsman, Vettori. Along with Jesse Ryder, he went about rebuilding the innings, at a quick pace. Vettori drove beautifully down the ground and through the covers and he swept and dabbed effectively against Harbhajan Singh. By drinks in the second session, with the recovery staged and Vettori nearing one of his three hundreds of the year, the DJ at Seddon Park was playing "Bridge Over Troubled Water".

Gautam Gambhir 137 v New Zealand
second Test, Napier
This was a match-saving 643-minute marathon, after India were left with two days and a session to bat to save the Napier Test (and with it, their ambition of winning a series in New Zealand for the first time in 40 years). No man had batted longer in the second innings in close to 10 years. It was the fifth-longest effort in second innings in all Test cricket, and made all the more remarkable by the normally impulsive nature of the batsman in question.

Mohammad Yousuf 112 v Sri Lanka
first Test, Galle
Going into the Test, Yousuf had not played Test cricket for 19 months, had only trained casually, and had had little batting practice (and that was with his club side). Pakistan were 55 for 3, and soon to be 80 for 4, after their bowlers had restricted Sri Lanka to 292. After close to three hours of typically serene batting, Yousuf put Pakistan in a position to dominate. When he got to his century, his first in and against Sri Lanka, and 24th overall, he did the sajda, but it was the bowling that had been brought to its knees.

Fawad Alam 168 v Sri Lanka
second Test, Colombo
Fawad had never opened in a first-class game till this match, and there was nothing to suggest a debut century was on its way: his big shuffle left him suspect against the moving ball, he had scored 16 in a total of 90 in the first innings, and Pakistan were trailing by 150 when they started the second innings. In scoring 168, Fawad showed that he could make up for faulty technique with temperament. He put Pakistan in a position from where they could control the game - though only for them to collapse again and lose the series 0-2.

Andrew Strauss 161 v Australia
second Test, Lord's
Days after England had saved the Cardiff Test by the skin of their teeth, they stunned Australia at Lord's. At the forefront was the captain, scoring an unbeaten 161 out of 364 for 6 on the first day. It was not just Strauss's runs, it was his stoic batting that averted what very nearly was a middle-order collapse. And he managed to score at a strike rate of 60-plus. That the innings came at Lord's, where England had not beaten Australia for 75 years; that it came with the series still alive; and that most of it involved blunting the attack before it could dictate terms to England, made it a major turning point of the Ashes.

Jonathan Trott 119 v Australia
fifth Test, The Oval
Debuts don't come much better than ones that produce decisive centuries in an Ashes decider. More so when your team needs a win and the opposition can retain the urn with a draw. In just those circumstances, at 39 for 3 in the second innings, out came Trott. He left at 373 for 9, having scored 119 off 193 in the knock of an instant veteran. His skill, determination and confidence made the men around him in England's middle order look like international novices, and his nerveless shot selection provided the scaffolding for a series of carefree cameos at the other end.

Chris Gayle 165* v Australia
second Test, Adelaide
Gayle spent much of 2009 being panned for his supposed lack of interest in Test cricket, and derided for supposedly not being a good leader, and his side was the object of derision after they caved in in the first Test against Australia. They had a 35-run lead in the second with two days and two innings to go in the match, and it seemed at that point that there was enough time only for them to lose the match - a fate many touring sides have met in Australia after getting a slender first-innings lead. But the fourth day was when Gayle showed he cared - for Test cricket, for his team, for high-level competition. He carried his bat through, playing with utmost discipline, and made sure his team would not lose. The next-best score in the innings was 27.

Rahul Dravid 177 v Sri Lanka
first Test, Ahmedabad
There was some swing in the air early on the first morning and India thought it was excuse enough to be 32 for 4. Dravid then played a knock - both unlike him and typical of him - that rescued India, and ultimately saved the Test. Without it, India wouldn't have gone on to be the No. 1 Test team by the end of the year. It was typical Dravid because it came in a crisis. It was unlike him because he almost outpaced Yuvraj Singh, and kept up with MS Dhoni: he kept finding the boundary, getting to 50 in 79 balls, 100 in 158, and 150 in 216. Dravid's pace - 110 of his 177 came in boundaries - allowed India's run-rate to stay over four almost through the day.

Umar Akmal 129 v New Zealand
first Test, Dunedin
So you're a 19-year-old Pakistani making your Test debut in New Zealand, on a windy day, with your side 85 for 5 and Shane Bond bowling at a scorching pace. Bring it on, you say, and smack 129 runs in 160 balls, pulling sensationally, cutting and driving emphatically, slog-sweeping Daniel Vettori disdainfully: basically asking your senior and more accomplished team-mates what the fuss is all about. You also score a much more mature 75 in the second innings, but are let down by the rest again and end up on the losing side.

Virender Sehwag 293 v Sri Lanka
third Test, Mumbai
Even a bad back couldn't slow Sehwag down at the Brabourne Stadium. He scored at such breathtaking speed that India made their highest innings score ever, 726, in well under two days. Throughout the second day of the Test, when Sri Lanka tried to plug one hole, Sehwag rushed in through the other. For the most part it was no monotonous power-hitting but a delightful and clever exercise in finding the gaps in defensive fields. Think Twenty20 highlights but with the batsman playing lovely inside-out chips, straight lofts, reverse-sweeps to beat leg-side fields, and flicks to beat off-side fields. Once he saw himself in, the longest Sehwag went without a boundary was 12 balls.

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo

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