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A Sehwag blinder, a Steyn special
Cricinfo's experts on the best Test batting and bowling performances of 2008 (10:58)
January 16, 2009
Related Links » News: Cricinfo Award-winning knock Sehwag's 'best-ever' | Sehwag and Steyn win top Cricinfo Awards | Both barrels plus kitchen sink | Take five | The Statsguru Awards | The men of the year Players/Officials: Virender Sehwag | Dale Steyn
The jury on the Test winners
A Sehwag blinder, a Steyn specialJanuary 16, 2009
Best Test Batting Performance
Virender Sehwag: 201 not out v Sri Lanka, second Test, Galle
Sambit Bal: Sehwag scored big and fast through the year - the triple century against South Africa in Chennai was monstrous and his 83 against England at the same venue was breathtaking and match-winning. But for me, his double-hundred stands out as the exceptional innings of the year because it ticked all the boxes for a great innings. Sehwag's innings had outstanding skills, breathtaking strokeplay and it won India the match.
It came against huge odds - India had been completely outplayed in the first Test in Colombo, and more than anything else, the Indian batsmen had been completely outfoxed by the spinners. Never have I seen them so clueless against a couple of spinners as they were against Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis.
After Colombo, India needed something absolutely special and inspirational and Sehwag provided that. The last time he had played Mendis was in the Asia Cup final in Pakistan and there he came out of his crease to the second ball he faced and was stumped. Here, in Galle, he had played himself in by the time Mendis came on to bowl. He had also played Murali a bit by then, but for the first five balls he faced from Mendis, he didn't leave his crease. In the sixth one he did and he hit him for a six over midwicket. Two balls later he cut a googly for four.
Sehwag was also outstanding against Murali. Sri Lanka kept six men on the leg side - three of them were on the boundary - and Sehwag just kept working Murali on the off side. He would open the face of the bat and place the ball between cover and extra cover, past mid-off, and behind point. I have never seen anyone play Murali that well. Sehwag was driving against the spin and he kept taking on the risk - because Murali turns the ball a lot. Though Sehwag hit 22 fours and four sixes in that innings, to me what was really special was the way he manoeuvred Murali.
He scored 128 of his 201 runs against both the spinners. Against Mendis he scored 70 off only 77 balls. That, in a way, sent a message out to Sri Lanka: the Indian batsmen can play spin.
Most of all, he won India the match almost single-handedly: 201 in a score of 329 - what more can you ask from your opening batsman? The next highest score was 56, by Gautam Gambhir. Sehwag also scored a quick 50 off 52 balls in the second innings. The next-best score in the entire match was 86, by Mahela Jayawardene, and that sort of sent a message that throughout the match he was on a different plane from any other batsman in the game.
Tony Greig: Virender Sehwag's 201 not out was the most incredible innings.
It was incredible in the first instance because he was on his own with the bat throughout that Test. It was a breathtaking double-century and it came against a remarkable spin attack. Bear in mind that Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis are two of the best spinners in the world, and when they operate together these days, they are very difficult indeed. All the Indian batsmen, apart from Sehwag, found them to be exactly that.
Sehwag scored 128 runs off the two spinners. The feature of the innings was that he was able to play with such confidence against these two bowlers who had mesmerised the rest of the batsmen.
As far as I'm concerned, Sehwag is, and will be for a while, the most dangerous batsman in world cricket. He makes it very hard for the opposition captain to set a total if a declaration is on the cards. He is one of those players who can turn a Test on his own. On this particular occasion, his 201 very definitely did that.
Sanjay Manjrekar: I am very happy for Sehwag because that performance of his really stands out in a season where we had some exemplary batting performances from some of the stalwarts of world cricket. That is the kind of impact Sehwag has on the Indian team and that is why I hold him in such high esteem. It always bothers me that the world doesn't stand up and take its hat off to Sehwag.
This innings was played in Sri Lanka, where the home team is a very difficult opposition. I have watched Sri Lankan cricket closely for the last five years and most teams, except perhaps Australia, have struggled against them at home. This time round, it was even more difficult because of the arrival of one sensational talent - Mendis. After the first Test, he had the Indians in a quandary. His mystery spin was creating all kinds of problems for the Indian stalwarts, except Sehwag, and to an extent Gautam Gambhir.
In the second Test, Sehwag got 201 runs out of a total of 329. Just two batsmen reached double-digit scores apart from Sehwag - Gambhir, who got 56, and VVS Laxman, who got 39. Sehwag hit four sixes and 22 boundaries in his knock. It was a typical Sehwag innings and what was really great to see was that while all the other batsmen had no clue about how to play Mendis, Sehwag was the only one who was willing to attack him. He actually went down the pitch and hit him over the top on a couple of occasions. I thought that was simply exceptional.
It was an exceptional innings from an exceptional talent. Sehwag is the deserving winner of this award.
Best Test Bowling Performance
Dale Steyn: 5 for 67 v Australia, second Test, Melbourne
Ian Chappell: What a performance Steyn's was. He got 5 for 87 in the first innings and then, living up to his name, while South Africa was batting, he was terribly hard to dismiss, as he produced 76 runs - his highest score in Test cricket. He and Jean-Paul Duminy got together for a tremendous, important partnership that really gave South Africa a chance to win the game.
He then made certain that they would win, with some magnificent swing bowling in the second innings, to go with his five-wicket haul in the first innings.
He got rid of Matthew Hayden and Simon Katich. It is always important that a new-ball bowler gets the batsmen at the top of the order. Then, when Australia looked like they might get a partnership going in the middle order, he got rid of the very dangerous Michael Clarke. When Andrew Symonds went - beautifully caught at slip for a duck - that really put the cat among the pigeons for Australia. Steyn came back to finish off the match by having Peter Siddle caught behind for 6 to give victory to South Africa. They went on to win it by nine wickets, and it was thanks to this wonderful all-round performance by Steyn: 5 for 87 in the first innings, 5 for 67 in the second innings, and a handy 76 runs.
He was the deserving Man on the Match for that game and he wins the award for the best bowling performance of the season with some wonderful pace bowling. If you can swing the ball, at good pace, you are always going to trouble good batsmen. That is certainly what Steyn did at the MCG.
Peter English: What started off as a pace shootout between Steyn and Brett Lee ended up becoming a battle between Mitchell Johnson and Steyn after Lee was injured. Steyn won the battle over Australia quite comfortably.
While Johnson's 8 for 61 was the best figures of the series, it was Steyn's 5 for 67 that wins this award mainly for the way he toppled the Australian batsmen, who have been so strong for so long.
The most impressive thing about Steyn was the way he bowled short spells but showed that he could hit in bursts. In Australia's second innings he took Mathew Hayden and Simon Katich within a couple of overs, then he had a break and when he came back he got Michael Clarke and Andrew Symonds in the same over. The Australians were upset by his pace and his swing and it just showed how valuable a high-quality bowler is.
Australia had Johnson but they were missing Lee, while for South Africa Steyn just worked so well with Makhaya Ntini and Morne Morkel. What was more impressive was that Steyn had already picked up five wickets in the first innings, making it 10 wickets for the game.
Before the series, there was so much talk and so much hype about the damage Steyn could create - he did it superbly and it helped set up a South Africa victory.
Tony Greig: It was a fantastic performance.
There is absolutely no doubt that Steyn is the spearhead of the South African attack. Without his very fast outswingers, the South African attack looks… not ordinary, but not as destructive as it can be. We must also remember that Steyn made 76 with the bat in a memorable rearguard first-innings fightback, and he took five wickets in the first innings as well.
At the end of day South Africa played absolutely superbly thanks to Steyn and it was no surprise to me that he was named Man of the Match.
Steyn actually said after the game that he surprised himself with the bat in particular. Fast bowlers like Steyn are not expected to hang around with the bat but his performance, where he made 76 runs, was absolutely superb.
At the end of the day, he is there to bowl fast. And bowl fast he did in that game. He also swings the ball. Steyn is a superb performer.
Read what the jury had to say about the ODI winners here
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