ESPNcricinfo Awards 2008 Test batting nominees: Virender Sehwag sizzles, Graeme Smith stays solid
129 vs New Zealand
third Test, Napier
England were being swept away by debutant Tim Southee in the series-decider. Four of the top five fell in single-digits before Pietersen's commanding knock redressed the balance. Pietersen again proved that match-saving and crowd-pleasing need not be mutually exclusive, with a counterattacking hundred that ended a run of 10 innings without a fifty. After playing himself in, he took the aggressive route against the spinners, walking across the crease to pick out gaps in the leg side: Daniel Vettori was slog-swept and Jeetan Patel carved inside-out over extra cover. At the time of his dismissal, his 129 from 208 balls comprised 62% of the team total.
154 not out vs England
second Test, Old Trafford
New Zealand were threatening to fritter a rare solid start after they effectively lost five batsmen (Daniel Flynn had to retire hurt) for 56 runs, from 80 for 0. They were saved by Taylor's majestic 154, which hauled them to a solid 381. What made Taylor's performance all the more impressive was its speed and range of strokes: As ever, he was in top gear from the off, and he threaded the gaps with precision and panache. He kept up the frenetic pace through the innings, moving from 100 to 150 in 42 balls, smacking four fours and four sixes, the last of which sailed into the top tier of the stand at midwicket, before running out of partners.
201 not out vs Sri Lanka
second Test, Galle
Only two of his team-mates reached double digits, but Sehwag was on a different plane, carrying his bat to make a breathtaking double-century. The standout feature of his knock was his remarkable certainty against the spinners, Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis. He scored 128 of his runs off them; Mendis alone yielded 70 runs off 77 balls, including three sixes and five fours, and five fours were taken off against Murali. It was a mark of Sehwag's commitment to the team that he didn't attempt to reach his double hundred with a six and even denied himself an easy single on 199 when batting with the last man.
154 not out vs England
third Test, Edgbaston
South Africa were set 283 to clinch their first series win in England for 43 years. Three of their middle-order rocks - Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, and Ashwell Prince - were dismissed in single digits, but Smith clinched it with an unbeaten 154 that will go down in South African sporting history. It was an innings Wisden editor Scyld Berry said was " the finest in a fourth-innings Test run-chase". Smith wore a steely determination throughout his knock, playing on painkillers for a troublesome back, and combating a wearing surface, which offered particular assistance to Monty Panesar.
131 not out vs New Zealand
first Test, Brisbane
Australia were still smarting from a 0-2 defeat on the tour of India when they found themselves in trouble at 53 for 4 in the second innings against New Zealand. They were set on the path to victory by Katich, who became the first Australian in more than a decade to carry his bat in a Test. Only one of his team-mates made more than 20 in the innings, on an under-prepared Gabba pitch, but Katich's tremendous concentration and solid defence helped him survive. At the beginning of 2008 he wasn't sure he would get to play another Test, but this knock established him as Australia's No.1 opener.
83 vs England
first Test, Chennai
After Andrew Strauss' twin centuries had kept them on the back foot for much of the Test, India were left chasing 387 in a little under four sessions. An exhilarating assault from Sehwag provided just the start India needed; without him the chase would have been inconceivable. Inside the first five overs he had crashed seven fours and a six (upper-cut over third man), to send Pietersen scurrying for bowling changes. Sehwag went on to make the second-fastest Test half-century by an Indian, and helped his side race to 117 off 23 overs before he was dismissed.
103 not out vs England
first Test, Chennai
Even after Sehwag's blitz, India were a long way away from the 387 they needed to win in the first Test against England. Enter Tendulkar, who orchestrated the chase with a century of such serenity that he made the pressure-cooker environment seem like an afternoon in the park. On a deteriorating pitch, he remained entrenched, and massively focused, after he overcame a testing start against Andrew Flintoff. Tendulkar was more than happy to pick the runs off with a nudge here, a deflection there, and the odd paddle-sweep for variety. One of those paddle-sweeps brought up his century as well as a famous win. It was one of his finest innings, and filled a glaring gap in his CV - a match-winning fourth-innings knock.
108 vs Australia
first Test, Perth
South Africa looked down and out after Brad Haddin and the Australian tail had extended the lead to an imposing 413 on the fourth day in Perth. Smith didn't let an elbow injury or the fact that his side would have to pull off the second-highest successful chase in Test history to win bog him down. He refused to be broken by rain breaks, the size of the task, regular bowling changes, or Jason Krejza's exaggerated appeals following balls pitching outside leg. By the time he was dismissed, soon after having made his first century against Australia, the target had been whittled down to a more manageable 242.
AB de Villiers
106 not out vs Australia
first Test, Perth
Smith may have given South Africa the perfect start, but the fact remained that they hadn't beaten Australia in a live game in more than 14 years. De Villiers came to the crease with 235 runs still required, but the target didn't weigh on his mind. Small goals were set and partnerships built - first with Jacques Kallis and then with JP Duminy. He survived some shaky moments but picked up the singles at will, rarely needing to attempt a risky shot. So poised was he in engineering the chase that the mammoth target was overhauled with six wickets remaining and plenty of time to spare.
166 vs Australia
second Test, Melbourne
After two days of the Boxing Day Test, Australia were in a dominant position: South Africa were 198 for 7, nearly 200 runs behind and the greenhorn, JP Duminy, was their only specialist batsman remaining. By the end of the third day, Duminy's outstanding maiden century had people wondering how South Africa could have afforded to keep him out of the Test side for so long. He batted with the coolness of a seasoned veteran, and was involved in a courageous partnership of 180, the third-highest ninth-wicket stand in history, with Dale Steyn, which wiped out the deficit. It was so unexpected that even the 42,079-strong MCG crowd got behind the pair, despite the consequences for Australia.