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The Cricinfo Awards
A Sanga special, a Zaheer masterclass
January 30, 2008
Ian Chappell, Tony Greig, Geoff Boycott and Ramiz Raja hail the Test performances of the year
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Best Test Batting Performance

Sangakkara at Hobart: superb innings, shame about the ending © Getty Images

Kumar Sangakkara: 192 v Australia, second Test, Hobart

Ian Chappell: Kumar Sangakkara, I have always thought that he is a class player, and he proved that on the tour of Australia. Unfortunately for Sri Lanka, he missed the first Test due to injury. He came out in the first innings of the Test match in Hobart, and he battled his way to 50-odd, and by the end of that innings he was starting to show a bit of form. He then just continued on in that great form in the second innings.

Sri Lanka were set a mammoth task to try and win the Test match, and probably nobody gave them any chance. The fact that they got as close as they did - they got the target down to hundred ¬- could be placed fairly and squarely on Kumar Sangakkara's shoulders.

He is a glorious driver of the ball, but like all very good players, he can play the horizontal bat shots as well. He came up against Brett Lee, a bowler in terrific form, and it was a wonderful contest. He battled away with Lee, and it was a pretty even contest until Sangakkara was left with the tailenders. He then decided to go after the Australian bowling, and that included Brett Lee. He played some glorious shots, he took on the short-pitched stuff, he drove over the top of covers when the field was set deep, and he played magnificently.

Unfortunately, he had this string of double centuries, and he had this one in his grasp to continue the string. But he got a shocking decision, I couldn't believe that it was given out - attempting to play a pull shot, he was nowhere near the ball; it hit him on the shoulder and he was given out just eight runs short of his double-century. It was a magnificent innings by Kumar Sangakkara, and it just confirms that he is one of the premier batsmen in the world cricket.

Tony Greig: It is easy to be swayed in favour of those batsmen who are easy on the eye, especially if they happen to be left-handed. Kumar Sangakkara is such a player. His 192 in the second Test in Hobart was a big difference between what happened to Sri Lanka at Brisbane in comparison with Hobart.

Despite his wonderful innings, Sri Lanka were denied a fairytale ending. He has the ability to translate what seem like effortless pull and cut shots, which is understandable as he always starts on the back foot. Almost out of nowhere, then he is on the front foot, driving beautifully.

In Hobart, Sangakkara gave Australia a few nervous moments with a daring assault that ended with an unfortunate umpiring decision shortly before lunch. It is hard to predict how close Sri Lanka would have come had Sangakkara stayed at the crease. The way he was playing, he might just have got them home. Sadly for the visitors, Sangakkara was denied his third double-century in 2007. It was a disappointing finish to a superb display from a wonderful player who blasted 27 fours and one six in his remarkable innings.

Those of us present had witnessed something extra special from a very elegant stroke-maker. What a player. .

Best Test Bowling Performance

Stepping up: Zaheer earned the right to be called India's spearhead at Trent Bridge © PA Photos

Zaheer Khan: 5 for 75 v England, second Test, Trent Bridge

Ian Chappell: Zaheer Khan was in magnificent form in the series against England.

India were a bit fortunate to escape the first Test match with a draw, just hanging on by one wicket with a little bit of help from the weather. They went to Trent Bridge, a pitch that is renowned for being good for batting. But the ball swung, and Zaheer Khan showed the big improvement that he had come up with since he had been left out of the Indian side.

When he first came into the Indian side, he was able to swing the ball into the right-handers and angle it across. Then, for some reason or the other, he lost that inswing and he eventually disappeared from the Indian side. But, like all good cricketers, he went away, worked hard on getting the swing back, and he worked very hard on his fitness. And his fitness was most important in his performance against England at Trent Bridge.

To pick up five wickets for a fast bowler means that you have to bowl a lot of overs in the match. It means that you have to get early wickets. And that is exactly what Zaheer Khan did. But it also means that you've got to come back and get some important wickets later on in the innings. The most important wicket he got was that of the England captain. Michael Vaughan was in great form, he was battling away, and it was looking as though, with him and a bit of assistance from the tailenders, England could set India quite a task in the second innings. Zaheer Khan bowled a magnificent delivery: it bounced a bit, and he was perhaps a bit fortunate that it finished up hitting the thigh pad and going on to the stumps. It was a tribute to his fitness and to his ability to trouble all the England batsmen.

The other thing that he has added to his armoury - and he used it very well in the series against England - was to come around the wicket; to come around the wicket and then get the ball angling into the right-handers and then moving away. That really troubled, and in some cases confused, the Englishmen. It was a really gritty performance by Zaheer Khan, and the Indians will thank him for the memorable victory at Trent Bridge which allowed India to go on and win an exciting series.

Geoffrey Boycott: Zaheer Khan's performance, 5 for 75 against England in the second Test at Trent Bridge, was a little bit of a surprise. He has been in and out of the Indian side in the recent times. But suddenly he seems to have got himself really fit and is now bowling with aggression and a nice pace. Added to that, he has the ability, as a left-arm seamer, to go across the right-handed batsmen, which always causes problem because we don't see many of them. But he has this ability to go around the wicket now, and bowl left arm around the wicket - alter his line and still bowl well at the right-handers. I think if he had bowled like this for most of his career then he would have been recognised as a top-class bowler. At the moment, in the last 12 months he has come to the fore and his for 5 for 75 was an exceptional performance because it was a flat pitch and England were playing well.

Ramiz Raja: Zaheer Khan finally came to the party during the England series. A general perception has been brewing for a long time that even though there is talent there, Zaheer has not been able to live up to it. His career, unfortunately, has been marred by injuries and his presence on the field was never taken seriously up until that England tour. Not only did he show good fitness but bowled magnificently to come out of obscurity with a bang.

What was eye-catching about the spell was the use of the crease and angle that he developed to remain on top of the opposition. We saw control over line and swing from him. Importantly, at all times he knew what he was doing with the ball and altered his length smartly when bowling over and around the wicket. Bowling round the wicket can be a difficult proposition for left-arm seamers, but Zaheer showed what a versatile bowler he has become. It was a masterclass from Zaheer Khan and he richly deserves the award.

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