Test bowling nominees

All hail the left-armers

Rahat, Herath, Junaid, Taijul and Johnson kept the flame burning for their breed in 2014
January 13, 2015

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Mitchell Johnson
7 for 68 v South Africa
first Test, Centurion
South Africa usually start their Test series in Centurion because that's where they believe they can gain an early advantage with the pace, bounce and carry. But this time it worked against them. They conceded 397 after putting Australia in and then were mere spectators as Johnson ripped through them. He started with a quick short ball that captain Graeme Smith could not evade, and then worked his way down the order. Among his wickets were the other opener, Alviro Petersen, and the two big guns - Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers. Johnson reached speeds in excess of 150kph and dismantled South Africa with brute force, leaving mental scars that contributed to them losing the series.

Ryan Harris
4 for 32 v South Africa
third Test, Cape Town
Australia set South Africa 511 to win the match, which sounds a tall order, but this was the same South Africa who had saved a Test in Adelaide by batting out the better part of two days. Shades of that stubbornness were visible when AB de Villiers spent nearly five and a half hours facing 228 balls for 43 runs. When Harris found the seam movement to finally defeat de Villiers, he was on his way to getting through South Africa. That he did it in his 15th over, when he was barely expected to walk, let alone bowl, speaks volumes for his determination. Harris bowled 24.3 overs in the end, and nipped out the tail to give Australia a series win and subject South Africa to their first series defeat in five years.

Morne Morkel
3 for 63 v Australia
second Test, Port Elizabeth
Often the most potent but least rewarded member of the South African attack, Morkel was at his menacing best in this game. South Africa were still smarting after going down in the series opener and but posted a healthy 423 at St George's Park and needed to show some intent with ball in hand. Morkel did it by ramping up the pace, finding the edge and bothering the batsmen, but he had nothing to show for it until he bowled the nightwatchman, Nathan Lyon, with a furiously fast short delivery. He also removed Steven Smith and Ryan Harris to give South Africa a 177-run first-innings lead, which ultimately helped them square the series. More than wickets, it was the fear Morkel created in the opposition that made this performance special.

Dhammika Prasad made up for his pair of ducks with a series-winning five-for © Getty Images

Dhammika Prasad
5 for 50 v England
second Test, Headingley
The least heralded of a Sri Lanka pace attack with a growing reputation, Prasad was returning after 18 months out of the Test side. He managed one wicket in the first innings and then completed a batting pair with a golden duck that visibly irked his captain, as Sri Lanka fought to set England a challenging fourth-innings target. But everything came up Prasad on the fourth evening as the 31-year-old rampaged through England's top order, taking the first four wickets in a display of pace and hostility. With each dismissal, his eye-popping celebration grew more energised and Sri Lanka's grip on the game grew firm. On the final day, Prasad completed his maiden five-wicket haul in Tests and Sri Lanka (eventually) pulled off a famous win.

Rangana Herath
9 for 127 v Pakistan
second Test, Colombo
An outstanding solo effort when the rest of the Sri Lanka attack appeared flat. Herath took charge and exploited the technical weaknesses of Pakistan's batsmen. Dilruwan Perera claimed the third wicket of the innings, but the rest were all Herath's, through subtle changes of pace and flight. It was another example of a fine performance from a bowler who has made every ounce of his talent count, and probably more than many expected.

Ishant Sharma
7 for 74 v England
second Test, Lord's
So often a figure of ridicule, Ishant produced a career-best display to deliver a famous Lord's victory and a brief series lead. He had two wickets by the close of the fourth day - the experienced duo of Alastair Cook and Ian Bell - but it was as the clock ticked up to lunch on the final afternoon that he played the vital hand. Joe Root and Moeen Ali had given England hope, surviving through a tense last morning, until, with the final ball of the session, Ishant produced a perfectly directed short ball that Moeen could only to fend to short leg. After the break, England came out like happy hookers and Ishant lapped up the gifts.

James Anderson
5 for 53 v India
third Test, Southampton
Going to Southampton, England were 1-0 down, and the leader of their attack had a disciplinary hearing hanging over him. Two strokes of luck allowed England to build a strong position: Alastair Cook won the toss and was then dropped by Ravindra Jadeja. Then Anderson got to work, proving the pitch was not as flat as India's bowlers had made it look. Bending the ball both ways and deploying a judicious bouncer, he set the highest standard to help chip India out for 330, his efforts spread over three days (he took the first and last wickets to fall). The sledging was absent but Anderson's ability spoke loudly to inspire England's series win from behind.

Dale Steyn: a master of subcontinental pitches © AFP

Dale Steyn
5 for 54 v Sri Lanka
first Test, Galle
His seven-for in Nagpur in 2010 had proved he could get something out of surfaces seamers are not supposed to profit on, and Steyn did it again in Galle. He stuck to his plan of trying to bounce subcontinental batsmen out and succeeded in doing so on their turf, where his well-directed short balls questioned the technique of some of the younger Sri Lankan batsmen. On an abrasive surface there was also a fair amount of reverse swing, which he used late in the innings to take three wickets in as many overs and ensure South Africa had a match-winning lead.

Stuart Broad
6 for 25 v India
fourth Test, Old Trafford
On an overcast day, on a lively pitch, Broad ensured England did not lose the resurgence that had begun the match before, in Southampton. Alongside his destroyer-in-arms, James Anderson, who bowled equally well if not better, Broad sliced through India. Gautam Gambhir and Cheteshwar Pujara were taken in the cordon, and then Broad returned to mop up the lower order just when MS Dhoni and R Ashwin began to threaten to take India to a competitive total.

Junaid Khan
5 for 87 v Sri Lanka
second Test, Colombo
A classy performance, highlighted by reverse swing, in which Junaid exploited a dry surface. Kaushal Silva, his first wicket, was done in by the ploy of the bouncer followed by the full ball. Then, later on the first day, Junaid got the ball to reverse and take the edge of Lahiru Thirmanne's bat to the keeper. When the second new ball was taken, Junaid claimed a trio of lbws to remove the lower middle order and uphold his fine record against Sri Lanka.

Taijul Islam
8 for 39 v Zimbabwe
first Test, Mirpur
Playing in only his third Test, 22-year-old Taijul ran through Zimbabwe with the best figures ever recorded by a Bangladeshi. With the scores almost level after two closely fought days, Taijul's 17-over spell was full of teasing accuracy. Exploiting any turn off the Mirpur surface, the slow left-armer had five batsmen caught behind or at slip. Zimbabwe stood transfixed, collapsing to 114 all out. Taijul's work wasn't quite done, though. After Bangladesh slipped to seven down, chasing 101, he made an unbeaten 15, which included the winning boundary.

Taijul Islam now has the best figures by a Bangladesh bowler © AFP

Rahat Ali
4 for 22 v New Zealand
first Test, Abu Dhabi
One of those returns where the wickets column perhaps undervalues the skill and effort. It was a masterful display of control in pace bowling tailored to subcontinental conditions. After the opening session of the third day, Rahat had figures of 8-7-1-1 - and the run was off a no-ball. Two yorkers stood out, the first squeezing through Kane Williamson and the other jamming into Tom Latham's boot to end a fine century.

Mark Craig
7 for 94 v Pakistan
third Test, Sharjah
A Test match that continued, after a rest day, under the emotional cloud of Phillip Hughes' death meant New Zealand could not fully savour a crushing victory. They were struggling after the first day, but on resumption Craig, the latest in a long line of slow bowlers tried by New Zealand, collected the third-best figures by a Kiwi spinner. Not afraid to toss the ball up - which accounts for some expensive returns at times - he worked his way through the lower order, with the arm ball proving especially effective in finding the edge.

Nathan Lyon
7 for 152 v India
first Test, Adelaide
Haunted by the failures of fourth innings past, notably against South Africa on the same ground in 2012, Lyon continued to toss the ball up throughout a see-saw final day. He had one early success but then toiled without luck as M Vijay and Virat Kohli amassed 185 in 50 overs. Marais Erasmus seemed particularly disinclined to do Lyon any favours but when he finally gave the spinner an lbw decision with Vijay on 99, the floodgates opened. India lost 8 for 73 in the final session, with Lyon taking six, including the key wicket of Kohli. Added to his five in the first innings, it was a Man-of-the-Match haul in a Test studded with individual brilliance.

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Posted by Phillip on (January 14, 2015, 7:30 GMT)

@SixFourOut-Siddle & Harris dismissed Amla,not Mitch at Centurion while ABD was only dismissed twice to Mitch slogging away with the tail.AB had no support from any of his team mates & instead of remaining not out he hit away.Mitch only "scared" the likes of Mclaren.

Posted by A.J on (January 14, 2015, 2:07 GMT)

Mitch Johnson. SA has the two best batsmen in the world in Amla & AB.

Posted by Dummy4 on (January 13, 2015, 23:33 GMT)

It would have to be Johnson.

Posted by Dummy4 on (January 13, 2015, 22:13 GMT)

Either Herath or Tijul deserve it

Posted by Peter on (January 13, 2015, 20:03 GMT)

Again, outstanding efforts by all nominated. For pure terror & electrifying bowling, Johnson would be close, but Harris's effort was outstanding against the highest quality batting line-ups. But for other styles, Mark Craig efforts were a standout & a breakthrough for him. Anyone can get it as they are all deserving of recognition.

Posted by Gaurav on (January 13, 2015, 19:20 GMT)

broad's 6 for 25 must be removed. As it came against the then pretty fragile indian batting line up given quite unfamiliar conditions. More then these what suited Broad was anderson in prime form at other end. Ishant/Craig should lead as they performed against all odds and eventually proved to be Historic .

Posted by Dummy4 on (January 13, 2015, 18:31 GMT)

1. prasad amazing 5 wicket haul 2. stayen 5 in galle

Posted by Dummy4 on (January 13, 2015, 16:25 GMT)

For me it was Ryan Harris, last day, win to take Aus to #1. Johnson's 7 was on a deadly wicket

Posted by Nilesh on (January 13, 2015, 14:29 GMT)

My picks: 1. Johnson (7/68). 2. Mark Craig (7/94). 3. Ishant Sharma (7/74). 4. Nathan Lyon (7/152). Special Mention: Taijul Islam achieving this feat in only his 3rd Test. Great news for Bangladesh cricket.

Posted by Cliffontong on (January 13, 2015, 11:48 GMT)

Johnson surely! That was terrifying bowling against a great batting line up at home. He destroyed the SA team, plain and simple. Steyn was brilliant against Sri Lanka but because that game didn't feature Aus, India or Eng it won't win.

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The ESPNcricinfo Awards recognise the best individual batting and bowling performances in cricket over the calendar year. They are voted on by an independent jury of former cricketers, commentators, and ESPNcricinfo's senior writers. Previous winners have included Dale Steyn, Virender Sehwag, Shahid Afridi and Kumar Sangakkara.

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