Lawrence Booth and Rob Smyth
The Wisden Forty, including the Leading Cricketer in the World, have been selected by Wisden as the top 40 cricketers in the game on the basis of their class and form shown in all cricket during the calendar year 2007. The selections were made in consultation with many of the world's most experienced cricket writers and commentators. In the end, though, they were Wisden's choices, guided by the statistics but not governed by them. The selection panel are no more infallible than any other selectors.
Ian Bell England
Graduation from promising youngster to top-order linchpin represented a new dawn, but it did not stop the critics from wondering, at times with exasperation, whether there was more to come. It was a reasonable nit-pick, highlighted by innings of 83 and 74 at Kandy: beautiful, but all too fleeting and, ultimately, part of a losing effort. His six Test hundreds have all come in England innings where there has been another century-maker. The definitive match-winning or match-saving innings would have to wait. Yet the class could not be denied and the most telling breakthrough came in the one-day game, where he relaxed sufficiently to take a maiden hundred off India at the Rose Bowl. No one scored more one-day runs for England, a statistic that made Warwickshire's decision to leave him out of their Friends Provident Trophy semi-final all the more baffling. In Test cricket, a record of one century and seven fifties told its own tale: fulfilment remained tantalisingly round the corner. But his fielding moved into the realms of world-class, except in the slips, and - promoted to No. 3 for the Tests in Sri Lanka - his batting, especially against the spinners, was not far behind.
2007: 11 Tests: 777 runs @ 40.89.
33 ODI: 1,080 runs @ 33.75.
1 T20I: 22 runs @ 22.00.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul West Indies
For much of the year, it looked as if Chanderpaul's one-man show in the middle order would be lost amid another morass of West Indian mediocrity. Then, in the Boxing Day Test at Port Elizabeth, he finally combined personal and team glory: his innings of 104 equalled the Test record of seven consecutive scores of 50 or more, and inspired West Indies to their first away win (excluding Bangladesh and Zimbabwe) since June 2000. It was no less than he deserved, not least because writers had given up comparing him to anything other than a crab or a limpet. His performances in England had gone beyond the call of duty: an unbeaten 116 in 100 overs on an Old Trafford turner which Michael Vaughan described as the best innings of its kind he had seen, followed by 136 not out and 70 at Chester-le-Street, where none of his team-mates managed more than 52. The absence of the retired Lara added further lustre to his efforts. His one-day batting, either as a reborn opener or a middle-order rock, took the definition of utility player to a new extreme.
2007: 4 Tests: 558 runs @ 111.60; no wicket for 43.
20 ODI: 912 runs @ 76.00.
4 T20I: 97 runs @ 32.33.
Stuart Clark Australia
The mature student of world cricket enjoyed such an outstanding freshman's year that there was only one significant caveat: how would he cope without McGrath? A modest series against Sri Lanka suggested there might be some temperamental deficiency when batsmen went after him, a view supported by the irregularity of his appearances in the one-day side. But a simply awesome display of seam bowling against India at Melbourne (30-13- 48-5 in the match) accentuated his qualities once again. By the end of the year he was, according to the ICC's official rankings, the best seam bowler in the world - as he kept on learning to do more with the ball than just seam it.
2007: 4 Tests: 56 runs @ 28.00; 17 wickets @ 23.23.
10 ODI: 17 runs without being dismissed; 14 wickets @ 26.14.
7 T20I: 12 wickets @ 14.75.
Michael Clarke Australia
The nickname "Pup" no longer seemed appropriate. By December he was leader of the pack, albeit briefly, and captaining Australia in a Twenty20 game against New Zealand. If his carpe diem tattoo suggested an eagerness that had once threatened to overwhelm him, he now channelled his desire with more maturity. Australia's prolific top order left him with limited chances to shine at the World Cup, but he still averaged 87, and his unbeaten 145 in the first Test innings of the Australian summer against Sri Lanka at Brisbane showed the Latin to be more than just words. The impression that here was a cricketer with the golden touch was confirmed in the first few days of 2008, when he took three wickets in an over with his left-arm spin to condemn India to a late, late defeat at Sydney.
2007: 4 Tests: 320 runs @ 80.00; no wicket for 10.
31 ODI: 981 runs @ 46.71; 9 wickets @ 36.77.
8 T20I: 66 runs @ 16.50; 3 wickets @ 28.66.
Alastair Cook England
A year of pluses and minuses ended comfortably in the credit column thanks to a steadfast innings of 118 at Galle, England's sole century in Sri Lanka and one which left Cook in exalted company: only Bradman, Javed Miandad and Tendulkar had previously scored seven Test hundreds before their 23rd birthday. Just as important, his two firstover dismissals in the First Test at Kandy could now be placed in the drawer marked "experience". The fact that only Pietersen scored more Test runs for England in 2007 was fitting reward for his natural diligence: after the Ashes tour he worked on covering his off stump, but fell across his crease and was pinned lbw by India's bowlers and Vaas. By the end of the series in Sri Lanka, however, he was more balanced and resembling the assured run-getter who had made hay against West Indies in the first part of the summer. His one-day cricket was less convincing, with several disappointments between an apparent breakthrough hundred against India at the Rose Bowl and a mature 80 in Colombo. Question marks remained, too, over his fielding, where he improved all-round without excelling in one position. Overall there was only one sensible conclusion: here was an England opener for the next few years and beyond, as well as a future captain.
2007: 11 Tests: 923 runs @ 43.95.
14 ODI: 403 runs @ 28.78.
2 T20I: 24 runs @ 12.00.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni India
It was the year in which the jock became the head boy, with outstanding results. In his first go as India's captain, Dhoni shrewdly led a vivacious young side to victory in the World Twenty20, where some hunches looked inspired - notably throwing the ball to Harbhajan at the key point of the semi-final against Australia, and not bowling him at the crunch in the final. The Test captaincy would have to wait for now, so Dhoni contented himself with more familiar roles in the longer game. While his glovework relied as much on natural athleticism as technique, his batting showed signs of newfound maturity, although he still hit more sixes in Tests than anyone. If red ink added some colour to his averages, there was no doubting the quality of his weightier contributions: an unbeaten 76 saved the Lord's Test, a relatively sedate 57 at Delhi helped win a low-scoring dogfight against Pakistan, while the 81-ball 92 that rubbed England's noses in it at The Oval was Dhoni at his freewheeling best.
2007: 8 Tests: 468 runs @ 52.00; 14 catches, 3 stumpings.
37 ODI*: 1,103 runs @ 44.12; 31 catches, 18 stumpings.
8 T20I: 163 runs @ 32.60; 1 catch.
* Includes 174 runs @ 87.00 and 3 catches, 3 stumpings for Asia XI.
Andrew Flintoff England
A ghastly year continued Flintoff 's dramatic post-2005 fall from grace. When he was fit he remained England's best bowler by a fair distance, but those times were fewer and further between, and he missed ten Tests in a row because of an ongoing ankle problem that required two further operations. If the fragments floating round the joint were damaging enough, the debris occasionally floating round his head did not help matters: Flintoff infamously capsized a pedalo in St Lucia after excessive drinking 36 hours before England's next World Cup game, an indiscretion for which he was dropped and stripped of the vice-captaincy, and it later emerged he had turned up drunk to training during the CB Series in Australia. His batting fell apart, too, but the main concern was whether his stronger suit would ever be the same again, particularly after he grimaced his way through four-over allotments at the World Twenty20. At the turn of the year he had reportedly given up drinking, but either way he was in the last-chance saloon.
2007: 1 Test: 96 runs @ 48.00; 1 wicket @ 56.00.
22 ODI: 387 runs @ 22.76; 36 wickets @ 22.16.
6 T20I: 70 runs @ 14.00; 5 wickets @ 29.20.
Sourav Ganguly India
At times during his ostracism at the hands of Greg Chappell, Ganguly might have wondered whether he would ever score another run in international cricket. In 2007, he scored 2,346, more than anybody else in the world. It was a story whose charm even Ganguly's old sparring partner Steve Waugh might have grudgingly acknowledged, particularly the chapters during the Pakistan series marked "Kolkata" and "Bangalore". If an emotional century in his own backyard at Eden Gardens was stirring enough - not to mention his first against major Test opposition for four years - his 239 at the Chinnaswamy Stadium was a maiden Test double-hundred and the highest score of the year. A series-clinching 91 on a dicey pitch in the second innings was glorious icing. It also exorcised the demons of 2005, when his role in India's defeat by Pakistan on the same ground presaged his demise as captain. A record of 12 fifties but no hundreds in one-day cricket was a source of frustration, but it was a barely noticeable cloud on this most Indian of summers.
2007: 10 Tests: 1,106 runs @ 61.44; 6 wickets @ 26.16.
32 ODI*: 1,240 runs @ 44.28; 7 wickets @ 54.14.
* Includes 120 runs @ 60.00 and no wicket for 14 in 2 matches for Asia XI.
Chris Gayle West Indies
Gayle was the unforeseen captaincy success of this or any other year. The self-styled dude of international cricket seemed an unlikely leader of men, and when he was chosen to stand in for the injured Sarwan it might have been some kind of absurd social experiment. Yet his calm, congenial brand of captaincy had an immediate impact on an often exasperating group of players: he inspired West Indies to a one-day series win in England and then, in South Africa, their first Test victory away to significant opposition since 2000. Under him, ill-disciplined cricketers became disciplined. In between, and back in the ranks, he cleaved the first international Twenty20 century, an effortlessly violent 117 from 57 balls against South Africa at Johannesburg. That, and a slapstick contretemps with Pietersen in the Lord's Test, proved that Gayle remained one of cricket's premier entertainers.
2007: 5 Tests: 315 runs @ 35.00; 6 wickets @ 47.50.
21 ODI: 611 runs @ 35.94; 13 wickets @ 38.07.
4 T20I: 183 runs @ 45.75; no wicket for 31.
Adam Gilchrist Australia
A last year before announcing his international retirement meant one thing to Gilchrist: an opportunity to break new records. He settled for three big ones. Gilchrist became the first man to hit 100 Test sixes, overtook Healy's record of 395 dismissals for Australia in Tests, and blasted the highest score in a World Cup final. That remarkable 149, made from 104 balls and with a squash ball inside his glove to modify his grip, redeemed a personally underwhelming tournament and did not deserve to be overshadowed by the subsequent farce. It was Gilchrist's sole century of the year, but he still averaged over 60 in Tests and scored his one-day runs at his obligatory strike-rate of over 100. The glovework was sometimes less impressive, and a sloppy performance against India at the start of 2008 might have helped him reach his decision to retire from the game at the end of the CB Series - but not before he had broken a fourth record and become the most prolific keeper in Test history with 416 dismissals.
2007: 4 Tests: 187 runs @ 62.33; 26 catches, 1 stumping.
30 ODI: 934 runs @ 34.59; 41 catches, 7 stumpings.
9 T20I: 230 runs @ 28.75; 16 catches.
Paul Harris South Africa
Pieces of the puzzle are rarely this sizeable. South Africa had hunted high and low for a decent spinner for nearly 20 years, but Harris, born in Zimbabwe and starting his international career late at the age of 28, did more than enough to make observers wonder what was the Afrikaans for "Eureka!" He contributed unobtrusively to the home victory over Pakistan, but it was in the return series that he really made his name, gathering 12 wickets at an average of 20.66 in two matches as South Africa won a major Test and series on the subcontinent for the first time in seven years. Harris's height provided the spinner's incalculable weapon of bounce, which his left-arm predecessor Boje did not possess, but his most striking achievement was to combine flight with thrift: his economy-rate of 2.32 was the best of those to bowl 100 overs in Tests in 2007.
2007: 9 Tests: 86 runs @ 7.16; 29 wickets @ 23.86.
Matthew Hayden Australia
At the age of 36, Hayden batted like a man possessed. If his Test figures were massaged by an almost inevitable century against India on Boxing Day, his sixth in his last seven Tests at Melbourne, then his one-day form was quite simply out of this world. He scored more runs than anyone in both 50- and 20-over internationals, was leading run-scorer at the World Cup and the World Twenty20, hit the most sixes (35) in one-day internationals, and went 20 one-day innings without a single-figure score: not bad for a man who could barely make the side in 2006. It was hardly his fault that his unbeaten 181 against New Zealand at Hamilton, an Australian limited-overs record, could not inspire his side to victory. If it wasn't already burnt into opening bowlers' psyches, the sight of Hayden advancing down the track to pull a quick bowler off the front foot was a recurring nightmare. In fact, it was probably as intimidating a tactic as any opening batsman has ever employed: a stroll past 8,000 Test runs - the fifth Australian to reach the landmark - seemed prosaic by comparison.
2007: 4 Tests: 320 runs @ 53.33.
32 ODI: 1,601 runs @ 59.29.
8 T20I: 302 runs @ 60.40.
Mike Hussey Australia
Successive Test hundreds late in the year against Sri Lanka, including a masterclass against Muralitharan, were an opportune reminder that Hussey's great strengths - enthusiasm, attention to detail and an apparently relentless desire for runs - remained intact following a strangely quiet World Cup. Since that came not long after Hussey had presided as stand-in captain over Australia's 0-3 humbling by New Zealand in the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy, the rest of the world basked briefly in the realisation that he was human after all. And yet he still ended the year with averages of 80 in Tests - second only to Bradman - and 57 in one-day internationals, where his strikerate was a heady 90: the kind of stats to take the breath away. If the year as a whole felt slightly below par, it was only because the standards he had previously set himself were so astronomical. In reality, he was still on course for one of the great international careers.
2007: 4 Tests: 374 runs @ 74.80.
27 ODI: 447 runs @ 31.92; no wicket for 12.
8 T20I: 105 runs @ 21.00.
Phil Jaques Australia
The second coming was worth the wait. Two Test caps in 2005-06 had been won only because of injury to Langer. Now, with Langer retired, Jaques blossomed into a more-than-competent replacement, passing 50 in all five Test innings and outscoring Hayden in four. He was determined not to waste his opportunity. In his first innings back, against Sri Lanka at Brisbane, he did not get off the mark until his 34th delivery; in the next, at Hobart, he managed just a single off his first 20 balls. The early circumspection proved well founded, and the left-hander's array of midwicket thumps and off-side scythes marked him out as keen to make up for lost time. If there was a criticism, it was that milestones seemed to disturb his concentration - his scores were 100, 150, 68, 66 and 51 - and he was stumped twice. If there was a doubt, it stemmed from his fielding: very few of the best modern batsmen have been so ordinary. For the moment though, after Langer's retirement had offered opposition new-ball bowlers a foot in the door, Jaques slammed it shut with relish.
2007: 3 Tests: 435 runs @ 87.00.
2 ODI: 4 runs @ 2.00.
Mahela Jayawardene Sri Lanka
Was there a more elegant run-maker in world cricket? In a golden year, Jayawardene made five Test centuries in eight first-innings trips to the crease, culminating in scores of 195 and 213 not out against England. It was typical of his understated ruthlessness that he should make immediate amends for getting out five runs short of a double-hundred in Colombo by completing the job at Galle. Less typical was a new-found edge to his public pronouncements, especially when criticising England's approach in the Test series: Arjuna Ranatunga, a predecessor as Sri Lanka captain, presumably approved. But perhaps his defining act was to hit an undefeated 115 off 109 balls in the World Cup semi-final against New Zealand, an innings full of glittering footwork and picture-postcard aesthetics that was bettered in the competition only by Gilchrist's assault in the final. All the while he took slip catches for granted, set intelligent fields and led with an easy authority. He was, in short, a genuine source of Sri Lankan pride.
2007: 8 Tests: 982 runs @ 98.20; no wicket for 4.
32 ODI*: 1,089 runs @ 37.55; no wicket for 19.
5 T20I: 159 runs @ 39.75.
* Includes 217 runs @ 72.33 and no wicket for 19 in 3 matches for Asia XI.
Mitchell Johnson Australia
For the man previously described by Dennis Lillee as a "once-in-a-generation bowler" came a once-in-a-lifetime burden. Yet while the task of being the neophyte in a post-McGrath/Warne world might have numbed lesser men, Johnson made an assured start to his Test career. He combined the left-arm angle that Australians had craved since the days of Bruce Reid with a natural control that facilitated match figures of three for 46 from 28 overs in a spectacular asphyxiation of India's batsmen at Melbourne. At 140kph and more, he swung the new ball into right-handers from over the wicket and reversed the old ball away from round. His one-day form was mixed: a fearful pasting in New Zealand in February meant he watched the World Cup from the bench, but he was back in India later in the year and helped Australia clinch the series with a majestic spell of five for 26 at Vadodara.
2007: 3 Tests: 15 runs without being dismissed; 11 wickets @ 26.09.
15 ODI: 35 runs @ 17.50; 26 wickets @ 24.00.
7 T20I: 14 runs @ 14.00; 10 wickets @ 17.20.
Anil Kumble India
Even after 17 years savouring the myriad sights of international cricket, there was new beauty for Kumble to behold. Nobody took more Test wickets, and a maiden Test century at The Oval carried both rich novelty and immense significance, as it rubber-stamped India's first series victory in England for 21 years. Then, after giving up one-dayers and Dravid's resignation, came his first stab at captaincy. Ducks rarely take to water so well: Kumble led India to their first home series win against Pakistan since 1979-80, taking seven wickets in the critical Delhi victory, and hardened their collective nose to such an extent that they held their own in Australia after the turn of the year. Most honourably, he combined the ideals of playing very hard and playing fair. While Kumble was around, the spirit of cricket, and the Indian team, were in safe hands.
2007: 10 Tests: 232 runs @ 25.77; 49 wickets @ 29.40.
4 ODI: 5 runs @ 5.00; 6 wickets @ 31.83.
VVS Laxman India
Batting at No. 6 in a side bursting with talent at times limited Laxman's chances, but somehow he still managed to turn heads, transforming the cameo into an art form in England before cashing in on a flat one at Kolkata to take an unbeaten century off Pakistan. A sequence of 241 runs without being dismissed - the Pakistanis took his wicket once in five innings - hinted at a steel some believed was confined merely to his wrists, and by the time the Test series in Australia in early 2008 was threatening to descend into all-out war, Laxman was quietly outperforming his more names-in-lights colleagues. India's faith in him, not always a given, especially where the one-day side has been concerned, was illustrated by his promotion to No. 3 at Melbourne after Dravid moved up to open, and there remained few sights as beguiling as his flick from outside off stump through midwicket.
2007: 8 Tests: 496 runs @ 55.11; 1 wicket @ 7.00.
Brett Lee Australia
Having spent years playing the role of temperamental younger brother in
Australia's pace attack, Lee came over all paternal in the wake of the
retirement of McGrath and the seemingly terminal decline of Gillespie. He
revelled in his new status, occasionally even swapping pace for accuracy to
take four wickets in every innings of the two-Test series against Sri Lanka,
plus six more in the win over India at Melbourne. His victims - a pickand-
mix of openers, middle-order batsmen and tailenders - did little to
detract from the suspicion that he had entered the most mature phase of
his career, although it was easy to forget that he had already taken more
than 250 Test wickets. An ankle injury ruled him out of the World Cup, but
his 30-year-old body appreciated the break; at times he bowled like a man
several years younger, now with the ability to swing the ball, a skill that
must have owed something to Australia's bowling coach Troy Cooley.
2007: 4 Tests: 16 runs @ 8.00; 28 wickets @ 17.28.
17 ODI: 56 runs @ 14.00; 25 wickets @ 26.76.
8 T20I: 17 runs @ 8.50; 10 wickets @ 22.30.
Glenn McGrath Australia
Did you expect him to go quietly? McGrath's final lap of international cricket was an absolute triumph, even if by now he was restricted to bowling below top gear. No matter: his combination of mouth, metronomy and mental strength was far too good for most batsmen. McGrath was the top wickettaker in the World Cup and, despite playing for only four months, took as many one-day wickets as anybody except Vettori and Zaheer. He showed an almost sadistic pleasure in getting the better of foes new and old. Pietersen, who had boasted about his contemptuous tactic of walking down the track to McGrath, had his rib cracked by a surprise bouncer; and in the World Cup semi-final McGrath picked South Africa apart with a devastating spell of 8-1-18-3. There was also the small matter of six wickets in his final Test, which helped precipitate the Ashes whitewash he had craved, including one with his last delivery on his home ground, the SCG, and a final scalp in the gloaming at the end of the World Cup final. As he prepared for a last payday in the Indian Premier League, it was impossible not to be in awe of one of the game's true champions.
2007: 1 Test: no runs without being dismissed; 6 wickets @ 17.50.
20 ODI: 6 runs @ 3.00; 39 wickets @ 18.92.
It was better late than never. At 33, and after four failed stabs at international cricket, Misbah seemed to have missed the boat, but the retirement of Inzamam gave him an opportunity that he took emphatically: the last four months of 2007 brought over 1,000 international runs. Misbah averaged 116 in India, where he turned a maiden Test century into an epic, unbeaten 161 on a Kolkata shirtfront, before following up with 133 not out at Bangalore. If Misbah was one-paced in Tests, with a distinctly 20th-century strike-rate of 42, he had no problem adapting to more modern forms of the game. He was one of the stars of the World Twenty20: an electric unbeaten 66 took care of Australia, and he led Pakistan to the verge of victory over India in the final in a blaze of sixes before scooping feebly to short fine leg in the final over. That was one of a disconcerting portfolio of slightly farcical dismissals - the most notorious came when he was run out in the Delhi Test after leaping to avoid Karthik's throw - but, given the volume of runs that invariably preceded the brainmelt, it was hard to be too critical.
2007: 5 Tests: 551 runs @ 78.71.
10 ODI: 272 runs @ 30.22.
9 T20I: 251 runs @ 50.20
Mohammad Asif Pakistan
The grumbles over his controversial acquittal after testing positive for nandrolone in 2006 rumbled on when he was omitted from Pakistan's World Cup squad, ostensibly because of an elbow injury. But there was no doubting the easy class he continued to bring to the new-ball attack - and the amount he moved any ball, new or old. Second-innings figures of 38-16-76-5 in the win at Port Elizabeth added stamina to his many qualities; the way he reduced India to 36 for four by himself in the World Twenty20 game at Durban was a tour de force. His growing stature in the dressing-room had already earned him the vice-captaincy for a one-day tournament in Abu Dhabi, but by the end of the year that right elbow was playing up again. Asif missed the tour of India, and keyhole surgery was required - the kind of precise surgical procedure to which batsmen facing him had grown all too accustomed.
2007: 5 Tests: 42 runs @ 8.40; 21 wickets @ 25.95.
12 ODI*: 15 runs @ 3.75; 12 wickets @ 47.16.
8 T20I: 4 runs without being dismissed; 10 wickets @ 24.80.
* Includes 5 wickets @ 40.20 in 3 matches for Asia XI.
Mohammad Yousuf Pakistan
If his one-day figures went up a notch, the overall impression was one of distraction. The record-breaking performances of 2006 gave way to an untypical lack of ruthlessness: he reached 18 without passing 32 in seven of his nine completed Test innings, and it needed a few not-outs to put a respectable sheen on his average. Matters were not helped when he was omitted from Pakistan's World Twenty20 squad on the grounds of age, and many interpreted his subsequent decision to sign for the rebel Indian Cricket League as a form of retaliation. The Pakistan Cricket Board persuaded him back into the official fold, but when Yousuf overreacted to a rare piece of sledging from Anil Kumble during the Bangalore Test, it was hard to escape the conclusion that not all was right with a player who the previous year had rubbed shoulders with perfection.
2007: 6 Tests: 368 runs @ 40.88.
24 ODI*: 1,042 runs @ 52.10; 1 wicket for 0.
* Includes 119 runs @ 39.66 in 3 matches for Asia XI.
Muttiah Muralitharan Sri Lanka
It was the year Muralitharan took sole charge of a world record many felt he would never relinquish. There was no denying the theatricality of the moment he bowled Collingwood at Kandy to pass Warne's tally of 708 Test wickets, nor the overwhelming nature of yet another statistical smorgasbord. But a less emotional reading of his performance discerned a Test year divided into thirds: all too easy superiority over Bangladesh (26 wickets at 10.84); a series-winning, but increasingly tired, performance against England (19 at 21.63); and, in between, the resurfacing of an old Achilles heel against Australia (four at exactly 100). Warne's supporters needed little encouragement to use his series haul in evidence as the debate raged about who was the better bowler; Murali's shrugged, and looked forward to an unprecedented march to 1,000.
2007: 8 Tests: 27 runs @ 9.00; 49 wickets @ 22.30.
13 ODI: 11 runs @ 5.50; 26 wickets @ 14.46
Makhaya Ntini South Africa
It was a cruel twist of fate that, just as the emergence of Steyn offered to ease the appreciable burden carried by Ntini for so long, its weight should begin to tell. Ntini remained a voracious hustler of batsmen, but the body could not always match the spirit and, as he reached the fast bowler's watershed age of 30, a marginal loss of nip threatened to prove terminal. He still took more Test wickets than any fast bowler except Steyn and Zaheer, but more than half of those came during an exceptional series against Pakistan early in the year, when he grabbed 19 in three Tests - including his 300th - at an average of 18.68. A dreadful World Cup followed, with Ntini dropped after taking only six wickets in seven games. His form improved by the end of the year, but in the Test victories over Pakistan, New Zealand and West Indies it was abundantly clear that Steyn had usurped his status as Graeme Smith's strike bowler.
2007: 9 Tests: 24 runs @ 4.80; 35 wickets @ 28.28.
25 ODI: 37 runs @ 6.16; 32 wickets @ 31.96.
5 T20I: 4 runs without being dismissed; 2 wickets @ 62.50.
Monty Panesar England
Quantitatively, it was a significant success: Panesar was England's top wicket-taker by some distance and improved his bowling average marginally from his first year. Qualitatively, it was a significant trial. Almost all of Panesar's best moments came against a clueless West Indies side, for whom he had far too much bounce and savvy: there were 23 wickets in four Tests, including his first ten-for, on an Old Trafford turner. If the opposition was weak, and the umpires remarkably willing to give batsmen lbw on the front foot, Panesar did at least deserve huge credit for carrying the attack at a time when almost all of England's seam bowlers were either going down injured or spraying it down leg. But then reality's incisors - and the subcontinent's wristiest batsmen - got to work. In consecutive series against India and Sri Lanka, Panesar's average was the wrong side of 50, and by the end of the year he looked unusually grouchy and a little lost. His two chief weapons, accuracy and zest for the game, were not working, and he had few answers. He also failed to have the expected impact in one-day cricket, mainly due to an apparently pre-programmed tendency to bowl too defensively. But if his one-day future was insecure - he was left out of the series in New Zealand early in 2008 - nobody seriously doubted that he would come again in Test cricket.
2007: 11 Tests: 42 runs @ 4.20; 41 wickets @ 32.39.
26 ODI: 26 runs @ 5.20; 24 wickets @ 40.83.
1 T20I: 1 run @ 1.00; 2 wickets @ 20.00.
Kevin Pietersen England
Pietersen was still England's one batsman of genuine world class: the wicket designed to send the opposition into raptures. Critics lingered on the public pronouncements about fatigue, and cited his performances in Sri Lanka - no half-century in a Test series for the first time - as evidence that he needed a break. But there was bad luck amid the occasionally gung-ho shot-selection, and - almost as an afterthought - he ended up equalling Herbert Sutcliffe's England record of reaching 3,000 runs in 33 Tests. That dichotomy was typical Pietersen: the truth was he remained a notch above his team-mates. He was one of the few bright sparks to emerge from another gloomy World Cup, and his 226 against West Indies at Headingley was England's highest Test score since Gooch's 333 in 1990. A century against India at Lord's was one of his best, and assumed even greater value as England's struggles against India's swing bowlers became more apparent. More than that, an innings full of reverse-sweeps against Zimbabwe in the World Twenty20 was as close to arrogance as an England batsman could go without stretching the boundaries of taste. The stodginess of Sri Lankan conditions found him wanting, but it was only fair to judge him by the highest standards.
2007: 11 Tests: 1,007 runs @ 50.35; 1 wicket @ 129.00.
25 ODI: 889 runs @ 42.33; 1 wicket @ 15.00.
8 T20I: 224 runs @ 28.00.
Ricky Ponting Australia
As captain, Ponting could not have asked for more: he became the second leader to retain the World Cup (after Clive Lloyd), the first since 1920-21 to preside over an Ashes whitewash, and his side equalled the record of 16 Test victories. As a batsman, the bag was mixed: an average of 38.40 was his lowest in Tests since 1998, and he lost his apparently permanent place at the top of the ICC rankings to Sangakkara. In one-day cricket, however, he was untouchable: only Hayden and Jayawardene scored more runs at the World Cup, but the high point came late in the year, when Ponting, on one of his vengeance missions, lashed two regal, unbeaten centuries against New Zealand to regain the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy that had been surrendered humiliatingly in his absence earlier in the year. All seemed well with the world at that point, but in the Boxing Day Test a week later Ponting was out in single figures in both innings of a Test for the first time in six years. Then, at the start of 2008, he was cast as the principal villain in the Bollyline affair. For the surest thing in world cricket, life suddenly seemed worryingly insecure.
2007: 4 Tests: 192 runs @ 38.40.
27 ODI: 1,424 runs @ 79.11.
6 T20I: 184 runs @ 36.80
Kumar Sangakkara Sri Lanka
Relieved of wicketkeeping duties in the Test arena, Sangakkara embarked on the kind of run spree previously thought to have gone out of fashion with the retirement of Bradman. In fact, had it not been for a poor umpiring decision at Hobart when Sangakkara had 192, he would probably have become the first player to score double-hundreds in three successive Tests, a feat not even Bradman achieved. That the first two, both unbeaten, had come against Bangladesh only slightly detracted from the bouquets and garlands. Yet on he went. Following his Hobart heroics, ended by umpire Koertzen's misjudgment, innings of 92 and 152 against England at Kandy turned out to be a series-winning double, and he ended the year on top of the world rankings, having begun it in fourth. It was hardly a surprise that his brief stint with Warwickshire left him at the top of the county's averages. His form in one-day cricket, where he continued to keep wicket, was ordinary, but no one was overly bothered. While Sangakkara was batting in Test cricket, Sri Lanka looked unbeatable.
2007: 7 Tests: 968 runs @ 138.28.
26 ODI: 758 runs @ 31.58; 30 catches, 6 stumpings.
5 T20I: 104 runs @ 20.80; 2 catches, 2 stumpings.
RP Singh India
Zaheer stole the show, but he would not have been the same without his left-hand man. Especially during the tour of England, Singh's ability to swing the ball both ways, and late, confounded the batsmen. He also exhibited plenty of the mongrel so integral to the identity of the new breed of Indian fast bowler. If the statistical returns were sometimes modest, closer inspection showed a penchant for snaring the big wickets: of his 20 Test victims, 19 were in the top seven, and he nailed Pietersen twice in the decisive victory over England at Trent Bridge. Some splendid work at the World Twenty20 - four for 13 against South Africa and three for 26 against Pakistan in the final - confirmed a taste for the big occasion. And when Zaheer went lame during the Australia tour, he fearlessly took on the role of attack leader. At 22, he was a real prospect.
2007: 6 Tests: 34 runs @ 6.80; 20 wickets @ 30.45.
18 ODI: 26 runs @ 13.00; 24 wickets @ 32.83.
8 T20I: 1 run without being dismissed; 13 wickets @ 14.69.
Dale Steyn South Africa
Steyn's explosion on to the world stage was even enough to trigger talk of an international pace-bowling revival. That might have been optimistic, but Steyn's own figures brooked no argument: no fast bowler claimed more Test wickets, and no bowler of any description could match his strike-rate of 29. With Pollock fading and Ntini overworked, Steyn's ascent was a gift for South Africa, never more than when he was blowing away New Zealand with 20 wickets in two games. A stint at Warwickshire had already added savvy to his rough-but-dangerous edges and there was less tendency to waste energy growling at batsmen than in his first crack at international level. He was now South Africa's go-to bowler, as exemplified by a spell of 3-0-9- 4 in a losing Twenty20 match against West Indies. South Africa could barely contain their excitement at someone fast, if not tall, with outswing.
2007: 7 Tests: 82 runs @ 11.71; 44 wickets @ 17.47.
4 ODI: 8 wickets @ 22.50.
2 T20I: 1 run without being dismissed; 5 wickets @ 5.20.
Andrew Symonds Australia
Even though Australia played only four Tests in 2007, that body of work was sufficient for Symonds to have the words "one-day specialist" removed from his pigeon-hole. An emotional maiden century in the final Test of 2006 had blown away all the debilitating insecurity of old, enabling him to play the role of enforcer at No. 6 to nearperfection. Not that this development impinged upon Symonds's one-day impact: extraordinarily, he fused an accumulator's average of 62 with a slogger's strike-rate of 104. He was hardly needed at the World Cup, such was Australia's supremacy, but still managed to average 63. And when he was really tested, in India later in the year, he reeled off consecutive scores of 87, 89, 75 and 107 not out, shrugging off the racist goading of a few idiots. With the added bonus of his streetwise bowling - off-spin or medium-pace - and often breathtaking fielding, he was a shoo-in for any world one-day XI. But the fact that he was now a certainty for the Australian Test team probably gave him the most pleasure of all.
2007: 4 Tests: 230 runs @ 76.66; 3 wickets @ 30.00.
26 ODI: 808 runs @ 62.15; 6 wickets @ 63.33.
9 T20I: 251 runs @ 62.75; 3 wickets @ 68.00.
Sachin Tendulkar India
A year of plenty - only Hayden scored more one-day runs - was slightly stained by the fact that Tendulkar scored 22 fifties and converted only three into hundreds, particularly during a bizarre sequence in which he was dismissed in the nineties five times on the summer tour of the UK. He fell on three occasions for 99 in one-day cricket alone, once on the receiving end of a laughable umpiring decision, which he took with good grace. He batted for the team in England, seldom launching into off-side strokes and selflessly absorbing a barrage of bouncers for the greater good: his laborious innings of 91 and 82 in the first innings at Trent Bridge and The Oval enforced winning positions in first the match and then the series. Emancipation - and centuries - would come thrillingly in Australia in the new year.
2007: 9 Tests: 776 runs @ 55.42; 5 wickets @ 58.60.
33 ODI: 1,425 runs @ 47.50; 11 wickets @ 44.36.
Chaminda Vaas Sri Lanka
Vaas became only the third Sri Lankan - after Muralitharan and Jayasuriya - to win 100 Test caps, but there was nothing elder-statesmanlike about his all-round contribution. An unbeaten hundred against Bangladesh in Colombo and 90 against England at Galle underlined what he had always been capable of with the bat, but it was his left-arm swing bowling - steady, thoughtful, always probing - which continued to chip away, even if the Australians had his measure at Brisbane. Nothing better exemplified his old-pro's control than a 50-over economy-rate of 3.63, surpassed among regular bowlers only by Pollock. Vaas might have been past his peak, but his dismantling of Cook at Kandy and four for 28 against England in Galle revealed he had lost none of his tricks.
2007: 6 Tests: 261 runs @ 65.25; 18 wickets @ 29.33.
17 ODI: 63 runs @ 10.50; 20 wickets @ 22.50.
5 T20I: 33 runs @ 33.00; 5 wickets @ 20.00.
Michael Vaughan England
Vaughan returned to Test cricket after a year and a half out injured, only to discover that the world had moved on in his absence. Mainly backwards: he found a new, struggling side, and though he overhauled Peter May's record of 20 Test wins as England captain, a more relevant statistic was that he lost his first series at home as captain, to India. Few of the old certainties were there, not least an attack that could take 20 wickets, and in the defeat in Sri Lanka he suffered from a tactical impotence not seen since his first year as captain. There was a refreshingly retro feel to Vaughan's batting, though: his 124 against India at Trent Bridge was one for the ages. Less endearing were a vaguely absurd tendency to refer to himself in the third person and a spat with The Guardian, both of which suggested he was taking himself a little too seriously. There were perils on the horizon, not least because of the split captaincy that he had reluctantly accepted in the aftermath of a diabolical World Cup. But it was hard to imagine England competing for the Ashes without him.
2007: 9 Tests: 761 runs @ 47.56; no wicket for 24.
12 ODI: 252 runs @ 21.00; 4 wickets @ 21.75.
1 T20I: 27 runs @ 27.00.
Daniel Vettori New Zealand
Vettori accepted one of the more poisoned chalices on offer - the captaincy of an apparently declining New Zealand side, who were slaughtered by South Africa in their only Tests of the year - but he also earned the garland for taking more one-day wickets than anybody. This was despite a modest World Cup, in which he claimed only seven at 46 in as many matches against Testplaying opposition. In the World Twenty20, however, he was magnificent: not once did he go for more than 25 in his four overs, and his spell of four for 20 to halt a rampaging India at Johannesburg was haute cuisine despite the fast-food format.
2007: 2 Tests: 78 runs @ 39.00; 3 wickets @ 67.66.
31 ODI: 110 runs @ 9.16; 43 wickets @ 26.11.
8 T20I: 41 runs @ 6.83; 13 wickets @ 13.53.
Younis Khan Pakistan
Even in a difficult year for Pakistan cricket, elegance and output remained in happy alignment - so much so that he even surpassed Mohammad Yousuf as the wicket opponents craved most. Younis top-scored in five Test innings out of 16, never more impressively than when making 126 out of 263 during an otherwise depressing defeat by South Africa at Karachi. Match-saving hundreds against the same opponents at Lahore and against India at Kolkata underlined his status as one of the modern game's best No. 3s. Although one-day cricket has not been his forte, there was an innings of 117 as Pakistan successfully chased down India's 321 at Mohali to suggest a growing versatility. Yorkshire fans will also recall his double of 106 and 202 not out at the Rose Bowl - the first such feat in the club's history.
2007: 8 Tests: 751 runs @ 53.64; no wicket for 34.
17 ODI: 617 runs @ 36.29; no wicket for 5.
10 T20I: 176 runs @ 19.55; 3 wickets @ 6.00.
Yuvraj Singh India
It was entirely in keeping with his penchant for the grand gesture that Yuvraj provided international cricket with its most explosive five minutes of the year. The six sixes he hit in a Stuart Broad over during the World Twenty20 were not merely cricketing eye-candy of a very 21st century kind, but epic retribution for the consecutive five he had conceded to Dimitri Mascarenhas a fortnight earlier. And if that was not juicy enough, his 30-ball 70 then knocked out Australia in the semifinal. Yuvraj's 50-over form was scarcely less glamorous, not least when he single-handedly gave Australia a fright at Hyderabad. A glittering 169 in the Bangalore Test against Pakistan encouraged notions of catharsis at the highest level, so it was frustrating that his next three innings ended in single figures. For all the clean hitting, his mediocre Test record remained a blot on the CV.
2007: 2 Tests: 176 runs @ 44.00; 2 wickets @ 10.00.
36 ODI*: 1,287 runs @ 45.96; 13 wickets @ 43.38.
7 T20I: 179 runs @ 35.80; 1 wicket @ 38.00.
* Includes 92 runs @ 46.00 and 1 wicket @ 67.00 in 3 matches for Asia XI.
Zaheer Khan India
No one claimed more international wickets in 2007 than Zaheer's 81, but rather than a single statistic it was his contribution to India's first series win in England for 21 years that left the greatest impression. Swinging the ball in and out from both around and over the wicket, Zaheer was unplayable at Trent Bridge, where he successfully channelled his indignation at the jelly-bean incident, and was still moving it both ways on the last day of the series at The Oval. As Michael Vaughan admitted: "We never really knew what was coming next." The BCCI did, upgrading Zaheer's central contract so that he now rubbed shoulders financially with the batting stars of the Indian dressing-room, and his new standing was such that a heel injury ruling him out of the last three Tests in Australia early in 2008 was considered a grievous blow to India's chances. See also Five Cricketers of the Year, page 74.
2007: 9 Tests: 52 runs @ 6.50; 41 wickets @ 25.73.
33 ODI*: 177 runs @ 17.70; 40 wickets @ 34.90.
* Includes 6 runs without being dismissed and 2 wickets @ 26.00 in 2 matches for Asia XI.