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Left-arm spin came back into fashion in 2012. But fast bowlers remained a force to be reckoned with
January 10, 2013
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7 for 55 v England
first Test, Dubai
This was some welcome for the world's new Test No. 1 side. At the forefront was arguably the world's best spinner. After losing the toss, bowling on the first day on a sound batting surface, Ajmal drove England to distraction with his beguiling mix of offspinners and doosras, bowling them out in the 73rd over to leave Pakistan firmly in command. Ajmal was the last Pakistan bowler to be introduced into the attack, but after ten deliveries he had figures of 3 for 1, having removed Andrew Strauss, Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen with his sixth, seventh and tenth deliveries. That was an impact England never recovered from.
7 for 64 v India
second Test, Bangalore
It was an exemplary display of good old-fashioned swing bowling from Southee, which gave New Zealand a great chance of winning a Test in India, a chance their batsmen squandered. Southee produced the perfect mix of outswing, bouncers, and the ball that he bowled with scrambled seam to bring it in. His scalps included Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kolhi, Suresh Raina, Gautam Gambhir and MS Dhoni. In one nine-over spell he took four wickets in three overs. The best of the lot was when he got a well-set batsman, Kohli, who had scored a hundred, to leave alone what he thought was an outswinger, only for the ball to come back in and trap him lbw.
6 for 25 v England
second Test, Abu Dhabi
Having lost the first Test by ten wickets, England bounced back in Abu Dhabi to be set a target of 145. Time to put the monsters to bed? Not quite. There was Rehman still, who got his first five-for in Tests, and with his fast, accurate turn, served a reminder to England that they were fighting not just the genius of Saeed Ajmal. It took Rehman just 10.1 overs to run through England, and that included the mandatory wicket of Kevin Pietersen.
6 for 62 v Pakistan
second Test, Abu Dhabi
Hours before Pakistan's unsung spinner made his presence felt, England's unsung spinner, Panesar, had given England a golden chance to level the series with his second-best showing in Tests. Accurate and drawing sharp turn, he took out Mohammad Hafeez, Misbah-ul-Haq, Younis Khan and Asad Shafiq, and then made sure there was no drama from the Pakistan tail.
6 for 81 v India
second Test, Mumbai
England had made the mistake of not playing Panesar in the first match, which they lost. Panesar had driven home the point that they had a mistake when he took 5 for 129 over the first two days of the Mumbai Test. The coup de grace, though, was delivered when he ran through India's second innings, showing the home spinners what they needed to be doing. He was accurate, but more importantly he had accurately judged that the pitch called for slightly faster deliveries, and gave them sharper turn. He bowled fast, put a lot of effort to turn every delivery, and fashioned one of England's best wins away from home.
4 for 50 v Sri Lanka
first Test, Hobart
This was a Test cut short by rain, and Australia needed to be swift amid resistance if they were to force a result. They were helped by a positive captain, who declared the first innings closed at 450 for 5. Yet Tillakaratne Dilshan thwarted them in the first innings, and they were eventually left with just four sessions in which to bowl Sri Lanka out. Enter Siddle, who had taken five wickets in the first innings, and now provided three key breakthroughs on the final day. First there was Mahela Jayawardene, who before lunch edged a ball that moved away from the bat and was caught at slip for 19. Then the big one - Kumar Sangakkara, lbw for 63. It was a perfect delivery, angling across the left-hander, pitching in line and straightening. Thilan Samaraweera provided plenty of fight after that, surviving until after tea, but Siddle jagged a ball back to have him lbw for 49. Siddle had already had Angelo Mathews caught behind for 19, and Australia were into the tail.
5 for 30 v England
third Test, Lord's
You are playing for the No. 1 ranking, you are at the final hurdle, you have set the opposition 346 to win, and one of your three strike bowlers removes Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook and Ian Bell in his first burst. It's a true pitch, though, and Matt Prior, as he often does, is holding you up, and threatening to pull off the impossible. The same strike bowler comes back and removes Prior. Next ball, he dismisses the last man to deliver a famous win. This in a Test in which the same strike bowler had contributed 61 and 35 handy lower-order runs. Philander, the latest South African sensation, who had been overshadowed in the series until then, well and truly emerged out of the shadows with this performance.
6 for 44 v New Zealand
second Test, Hamilton
Philander's phenomenal success continued in this, his sixth Test, where he demolished New Zealand to finish with 6 for 44 in the second innings, and 10 for 114 in the match. His fifth five-wicket haul shrank his bowling average to 13.6. Philander got balls to nip in back in (like the one Kruger van Wyk left, expecting it to move the other way, to be bowled), and moved them away (like the one Kane Williamson poked at to get an outside edge). Both captains felt Seddon Park was flat at the start of the game, but Philander was able to get something out of the surface by continuing to land the ball on the seam and in the channel just outside off.
5 for 72 v Sri Lanka
first Test, Galle
Anderson's skills when the ball swings conventionally have rarely been in doubt, but on a pitch traditionally favoured by spinners, he worked hard, swung balls new and old, in manners conventional and reverse, and kept England in the game with a five-for. In his second over of the series, he removed left-hand batsmen Lahiru Thirimanne and Kumar Sangakkara with away swing, and then came back later with reverse swing to take two more. The man who thwarted England, Mahela Jayawardene, too fell in the end to Anderson.
6 for 74 v England
first Test, Galle
In a year in which he was the leading wicket-taker in Tests, Herath became Sri Lanka's lead spinner beyond doubt when he delivered them victory against England in Galle. He may look innocuous and gentle, but the England batsmen will disagree - none more than Ian Bell, who was bowled by a beauty that drew him forward, turned and clipped the top of off stump. All of Herath's wickets were top-seven batsmen, except for Stuart Broad. Four of them fell lbw, and Jonathan Trott was done in the flight as he charged down the wicket.
4 for 40 v Australia
third Test, Perth
Australia had bowled South Africa out for 225 at the WACA and were sniffing the Test No. 1 ranking when they came up against a possessed champion, Steyn. He bowled with fire, with skill and with pace, to stun Australia. In his first over, he got rid of Ed Cowan. With his first ball the next morning, he accounted for the other opener, David Warner. Then he sent back the man who could do no wrong until then, Michael Clarke, with a beauty that seamed away to square him up and take the edge. For good measure, Steyn added three more in the second innings to seal the No. 1 ranking.
6 for 23 v New Zealand
third Test, Wellington
Morkel's best bowling figures in Test cricket were a show of will on a flat pitch, and they came quick. South Africa had less than a day to force the result, and they were not helped by a late declaration that left New Zealand 389 to chase. South Africa were leading in the series and didn't want to take risks on an unhelpful pitch, but Morkel wasn't going to rest easy. He unleashed yorkers and bouncers to produce a wicket every 16 balls he bowled. Three of his wickets came from searing yorkers. Brendon McCullum couldn't get his bat to one that would have hit leg stump, Dean Brownlie let one slip beneath his bat, and Daniel Vettori barely had time to register being at the crease before Morkel bowled him first ball. South Africa did run out of time, but Morkel had given a teaser for what a more positive declaration might have done.
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Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Sidharth Monga
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