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ESPNcricinfo Awards 2011 Test batting nominees: Dravid's epics and other heroic tales

Batsmen were thoroughly tested in 2011. Some emerged battle-scarred but triumphant

Rahul Dravid: opens, carries bat, and then opens in the follow-on © Associated Press

Sachin Tendulkar
146 vs South Africa
third Test, Cape Town

On January 3 and 4, Dale Steyn, the best fast bowler in the world, bowled high-quality outswing for long periods, with occasional seam thrown in. Often the ball pitched leg and missed off. Once, it even hit off without dislodging the bail. He took five wickets, and would have taken South Africa to an easy series win had the best batsman in the world not denied him. Tendulkar scored 146 to put India in a position from where they could contemplate winning. He stood out of the crease, played at nothing if he couldn't play it under his head, and took 48 off 66 balls in two of Steyn's best spells of the match.

Jacques Kallis
109 not out vs India
third Test, Cape Town

India were denied that win by Kallis' second century of the match, which was scored completely out of his comfort zone. South Africa were 53 for 3 when he walked out, and were soon reduced to 130 for 6. He came out at No. 5 because a blow to the ribs in the first innings had already put him out of cricket for two weeks. With the batting crumbling, with four to five painkilling injections in his system, with the temperature at a merciless 35 degrees Celsius, with puffs of dust when the ball landed in the rough, with the series on the line, Kallis bettered his elegant first-innings century.

Kevin Pietersen
202 not out vs India
first Test, Lord's

It was the most anticipated cricket match between India and England since the semi-final of the 1987 World Cup. The sides began by sizing each other up. The English openers got a start but got out; Zaheer Khan got wickets but got injured. The situation was crying out for someone to grab it by its throat. Enter Pietersen, without a century at home in the last three years, with critics calling for head. He went on to score his slowest hundred before shifting gears and beating the bowlers to a pulp. Two hundred and two unbeaten runs later, India were a deflated side.

Rahul Dravid
117 vs England
second Test, Nottingham

India were without their regular openers, on a pitch on which they had bowled England out for 221, and up against a fiery England attack. Dravid volunteered to open, and showed impeccable discipline, courage and skill in scoring his third century in five Tests. Along the way he was hit on the wrist, popped a painkiller, and resumed his vigil. Forty of his first 51 runs came in boundaries. Thanks to his effort, India secured a 67-run lead despite two slides of 3 for 46 and 6 for 21.

Ian Bell
159 vs India
second Test, Nottingham

Bell came back to his No. 3 position with England 67 runs behind and Jonathan Trott's shoulder injured. Two wickets fell even before England reached parity. Bell then opened up the counterattack. He didn't ever feel the need to graft for runs as Dravid had. Bell had a strike rate of over 70 against every specialist Indian bowler, an indication that no one troubled him. The scoring was all around the wicket, and India were powerless to prevent the glut of boundaries. He scored 84 out of England's first 130, and kept dominating until India had been batted out of the match and the series. It was the day the baton was handed over.

Rahul Dravid
146 not out vs England
fourth Test, The Oval

India were bruised and battered by the time the final Test of the series rolled around. As the captain said, all that could go wrong had gone wrong. Operating like ghosts, they conceded 591 runs and were expected to provide little resistance to England's push for a whitewash. Opening once again, Dravid carried his bat to take India to their first score of 300 in the series. It was one bloody-minded man against a well-oiled, professional unit waiting to run over everything in its way. Dravid made them wait and wait, and ten minutes after six hours of isolated mastery, he walked out to open in the second innings to hearty applause from all of England. His best was not to be enough, though.

Michael Clarke
151 vs South Africa
first Test, Cape Town

Newlands' second Test of the year was played in similarly difficult conditions for batting as the first, and provided another classic. Steyn was there, wreaking havoc once again, and this time it was Australia's No. 5 who thwarted him with a belligerent counterattack. In conditions that made free strokeplay extremely risky, if not outright dangerous, Australia's captain never seemed in undue haste - though he did get to his hundred in a mere 108 balls. Clarke scored 151 of the 244 runs that came during his stay at the crease. The next two team innings in the match didn't add up to his score.

Graeme Smith: fourth century in a victorious chase © Getty Images

Graeme Smith
101 not out vs Australia
first Test, Cape Town

None of Smith's 23 Test hundreds has come in a defeat. He has scored more runs and centuries in successful chases than any other batsman. In Tests like this, with a tricky fourth-innings chase to be negotiated, don't look beyond him. On this day he crossed 1000 runs in successful chases, with his fourth century in such circumstances. Amla had enjoyed some luck through two drops; Smith's effort was chanceless. That he pulled out this innings in a season when he was booed by home fans was the cherry on top.

David Warner
123 not out vs New Zealand
second Test, Hobart

In one of the year's most riveting Test matches, Warner played one of the year's most memorable innings - albeit one that ended in agony for him. Showing that his positive approach and technique was made as much for the five-day format as for Twenty20, in which he first burst onto the scene, Warner almost single-handedly took Australia close to victory on a track he mastered but his partners didn't. New Zealand's bowlers got considerable movement and swing, and though he kept losing company at the other end, Warner retained his calm while progressing towards the target of 241. His punches through the off side, with minimal effort, stood out, and with the team in crisis, and in the company of a No. 11, he went over the in-field and drove confidently. With just eight needed to win, his partner, Nathan Lyon, dogged until then, was bowled by Doug Bracewell. As Lyon sank to his knees, ruing his dismissal, it was Warner who had greater cause for distress.

Thilan Samaraweera
102 vs South Africa
second Test, Durban

Kumar Sangakkara described this innings as "make or break" for Samaraweera, whose patient century marked Sri Lanka's most improved batting show on the tour and was to prove significant in helping them win their first Test in South Africa. He was a late addition to the Test squad for the tour, after being initially overlooked, and batted solidly against a bowling line-up boosted by the inclusion of debutant Marchant de Lange, who bagged seven wickets. Samaraweera had his fortunate moments but used his feet well against legspinner Imran Tahir, and played determinedly in the company of Dinesh Chandimal, with whom he added 111. The partnership helped Sri Lanka get to 338, a total that put enough pressure on South Africa when they came out to bat.

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Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo