Test batting nominees January 13, 2011

Rescues by Huss and VVS

And other applause-worthy innings feature in our Test batting shortlist

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VVS Laxman 73 not out v Australia
first Test, Mohali

Three situations in which Laxman loves batting: when the team's in a crisis, against Australia, and in the second innings. All three conditions were met in Mohali, and just to provide an extra challenge, a sore back was hampering his movements. Australia were scenting victory when they had India at 124 for 8, still 92 short. With a dogged Ishant Sharma for company, Laxman set about whittling down the target. Even as the tension ratcheted up, he serenely picked the gaps with his trademark wristiness, or pulled with certainty. The abiding image of the innings will be the usually unflappable Laxman waving his bat and screaming hysterically to admonish last man Pragyan Ojha for not being an alert runner during the tense finale.

Alastair Cook 235 not out v Australia
first Test, Brisbane

All the chatter in the run-up to the Ashes had been about England's perfect preparation for the series and how Australia were in disarray. Three days into the series, an all-too familiar theme played out as Peter Siddle's hat-trick and centuries from Michael Hussey and Brad Haddin had England on the mat. Then something unfamiliar happened: instead of rolling over, England resisted. Alastair Cook was at the forefront of the fightback, as his double-century blunted the Australian attack, which rarely found its mojo again in the series. With the help of centuries from Andrew Strauss and Jonathan Trott, England saved the game and sent out a strong statement. The Ashes could have turned out very differently without Cook's innings.

Azhar Ali 92 not out v England
third Test, The Oval

Pakistan cricket was dealing with what at that point seemed to be its biggest crisis in 2010 - the disciplinary ban that had led to several senior players being banned. A young batting unit was finding the swinging pitches of England troublesome, and had subsided for double-digit totals in the previous two Tests, leading to heavy defeats. Middle-order batsman Azhar, playing only his fifth Test, stepped up to make a determined, unbeaten 92 which steered Pakistan past 300 for the first time in the season. That built the foundation for a win which would raise the spirits of long-suffering Pakistan fans, but the euphoria lasted only a week as the spot-fixing controversy soon brought more despair.

Ian Bell 78 v South Africa
third Test, Cape Town

More than 50 Tests into his career, questions persisted about Bell. Sure he had loads of talent, but did he have the temperament for testing times? Was he a freeloader who cashed in - either against easy opponents or when his top-order mates had already done the hard work? Bell provided the answers with his defining international innings, a near five-hour vigil that helped England pull off their third last-wicket draw in eight Tests. Dale Steyn was producing his unplayable late swing, Morne Morkel his discomforting bounce, and, at times with the spinners, there were eight men round the bat, but Bell doughtily kept them all out till three overs to stumps.

VVS Laxman 103 not out v Sri Lanka
third Test, P Sara Oval, Colombo

India went into the final game of the series trailing 0-1, and missing Zaheer Khan, Sreesanth and Harbhajan Singh. Still, the bowlers did their job and the big names of the Indian batting were left needing 257 in the final innings to level the series. At 62 for 4 early on the fifth day, Indian fans were worrying it would be MS Dhoni's first Test series defeat as captain. They needn't have, not with Laxman around. Combating back spasms, Mendis' googlies, Malinga's mix of yorkers and bouncers, Randiv's bounce, and a testing track, Laxman proved the perfect relaxant for fraying nerves. Sachin Tendulkar did the early groundwork and Suresh Raina provided the finishing touches, but Laxman's 16th Test hundred was the centrepiece.

Michael Hussey 134 not out v Pakistan
second Test, Sydney

Hussey doesn't know when to give up. The team's eight down in the second innings and only 51 runs ahead? Still a chance. Pakistan were sniffing their first victory in Australia in a live Test since the Packer days, but were denied by a scrapping Hussey. He wasn't at his fluent best but he was helped by a placid pitch, some baffling tactics from Mohammad Yousuf - posting eight fielders in the deep to allow singles - and three dropped catches from wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal. The record 123-run ninth-wicket stand with Peter Siddle sparked one of the great Test turnarounds, and settled lingering doubts over Hussey's place in the side.

Hashim Amla 123* v India
second Test, Kolkata

The year 2010 was Amla annus mirabilis, and the high watermark was the Eden Gardens Test in February. Not according to him, though. This is what he said after backing up his first-innings century with an unbeaten eight-hour-and-19-minute epic in the second: "I am feeling tired. I am very disappointed in losing this game. We could have saved it." The series and the No. 1 ranking would have been South Africa's if Amla's team-mates had managed to keep him company for nine more deliveries. The next highest score in the innings was 23, but Amla never looked like getting out, seeing off 53.3 overs in the company of the last three batsmen to nearly consign India to their first home series defeat since 2004.

VVS Laxman 96 v South Africa
second Test, Durban

The top two sides in the world had been bowled out for 205 and 131 on a track Laxman called "one of the most challenging" he had played on in his career. India's top order faltered in the second innings and the series was slipping away when Laxman produced his seemingly customary second-innings gem to defy South Africa's bowlers and put India in control by swelling the lead towards 300. There was some luck involved - a chinese cut just missed the stumps, and several edges fell short - but against the quality bowling of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, and in a match where no one else made a half-century, he made sure he made the most of it. Laxman had already established himself as India's crisis manager, but there were some questions over whether he could firefight outside the subcontinent. Not after this innings.

Michael Hussey 116 v England
third Test, Perth

Australia had been hammered in the second Test in Adelaide before a magic spell from Mitchell Johnson brought them back into contention in the first innings of the next Test in Perth. But with the home side at 64 for 3, England were clawing back, before Hussey dragged Australia to the verge of a series-levelling win and reacquainted himself with the mountainous numbers he achieved in his Test youth. The standout shot on a tricky WACA pitch was the pull, and he dealt with the short-pitched bowling with a calmness that eluded most of his team-mates.

Virender Sehwag 109 v Sri Lanka
first Test, Galle

Sri Lanka had piled up 520 in the first innings, and India's top order had not started well in reply, with Gautam Gambhir falling in the first over. Rahul Dravid misjudged a run to be dismissed early, and Sachin Tendulkar missed a sweep off a full ball to be trapped lbw cheaply. While those wickets were tumbling, Sehwag was crafting another of his lone-wolf innings, crashing boundaries at will. Malinga and Murali were negotiated without trouble, after which Sri Lanka tried to tie Sehwag up with three men deep on the off side and bowling wide. That didn't stop the runs, three boundaries in four deliveries taking him to a century, which had India sprinting at five an over. His dismissal soon after turned the match, and gave Murali the perfect farewell Test.

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Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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