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ESPNcricinfo Awards

ESPNcricinfo Awards 2013 Test batting nominees: The Ashes, Joburg, and others

Several new faces in this year's Test batting shortlist, which goes to show it's not time to mourn the passing of legends yet

George Binoy
George Binoy
Brad Haddin was the key to Australia's fightbacks in the Ashes, never more so than in Brisbane  •  Getty Images

Brad Haddin was the key to Australia's fightbacks in the Ashes, never more so than in Brisbane  •  Getty Images

Shikhar Dhawan
187 vs Australia
third Test, Mohali

To win a Test after losing the first day to rain and with the opposition batting four sessions to post 408 requires an extraordinary innings. Dhawan played it on debut, against Australia. By the time he opened India's first innings, it was almost lunch on the third day; by the time he returned to the dressing room at stumps, he was on 185, having scored the fastest century by a debutant, reaching the landmark in 85 balls. India were 283 for 0 in 58 overs and on course to crush Australia for the third time in the series. Dhawan batted like he was possessed by the ghost of the man he had replaced in the Indian side - Virender Sehwag.
Darren Bravo
218 vs New Zealand
first Test, Dunedin

West Indies had been beaten inside three days in both Tests in India, and a fortnight later they were dismissed for 213 in their first innings in Dunedin, in response to New Zealand's 609. Following on, West Indies were 185 for 4, with the man who usually deals with such crises, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, dismissed for 1, and the best part of two days remaining. The odds of them saving the Test were minuscule, but they did thanks to Darren Bravo's maiden double-century: he began batting on the third afternoon and was dismissed only on the fifth morning. His nine-and-a-half hour innings was as important as the time lost to rain in leaving New Zealand stranded 33 runs from victory.
Brad Haddin
94 vs England
first Test, Brisbane

Australia had lost three consecutive series to England, and won only one Test in 2013, largely due to an unsettled and underperforming batting order. The talk from their camp in the build-up to the Ashes at home had been full of bluster, but on the first day at the Gabba, Australia were once again foundering like they had all year, at 132 for 6. Haddin, who had returned to the side in March after an absence of over a year and scored only two fifties in six Tests, was at the crease with Mitchell Johnson. He consolidated and then attacked during a 114-run stand, and went on to score 94. There was an opportunity for a first hundred in three years, but Haddin was the last man dismissed, run out trying to retain strike. He had led Australia to 295 and begun their resurgence.
Matt Prior
110 not out vs New Zealand
third Test, Auckland

The series was 0-0 and England, in the third and final Test at Eden Park, were battling for a draw, having been set a target of 481. At stumps on the fourth day, they were struggling at 90 for 4. Prior began his innings on the fifth day when England were 159 for 6. They had four wickets left and about 60 overs to survive. Prior did not bat quietly - Stuart Broad did that, scoring 6 off 77 balls - and hit 20 boundaries in his 110. Painstakingly, he led England towards safety but watched Broad and James Anderson depart in the space of three balls, leaving him with only the No. 11, Monty Panesar, for company. Three overs remained, and Prior faced 14 of those deliveries to ensure England survived.
Virat Kohli
119 vs South Africa
first Test, Johannesburg

India's batsmen had been scarred by South Africa's fast bowlers during two heavy ODI defeats, it was said, leading into the first Test at the Wanderers, India's first since Sachin Tendulkar retired. Kohli, Tendulkar's successor at No. 4 and the most openly combative of India's cricketers, proved otherwise. His 119 off 181 balls, against the best pace attack in Tests, was the product of a blend of steadfast defence and purposeful aggression. In leading his team to 280, Kohli threw the first punch in what turned out to be one of the great Tests, and assured India that their batting mantle had been passed into capable hands. To reinforce that, he made 96 in the second innings, so nearly becoming the first batsman ever to score two centuries in a Test at the Bullring.
Faf du Plessis
134 vs India
first Test, Johannesburg

By the time du Plessis' career was ten Tests old, he had already done what most accomplished batsmen have not: scored a century and batted for more than 90 overs in the fourth innings to save a Test, twice. Chasing 458, South Africa were 118 for 2 when du Plessis came in late on the fourth day, because the regular No. 4, Jacques Kallis, had bowled a lot. On a pitch with variable bounce, du Plessis batted 395 minutes, faced 309 deliveries, scored 134 despite a hand injury, and took South Africa within 16 runs of pulling off the biggest chase in Tests. He was then run out and India held on to draw the game. Du Plessis' career began with the Adelaide Escape, and he restated his credentials to cope with crisis at the Wanderers.
MS Dhoni
224 vs Australia
first Test, Chennai
India were struggling. Home wins against New Zealand and West Indies had done little to lift the gloom brought about by whitewashes in England and Australia, and a home defeat against Alastair Cook's side. And in the first Test of the return series against Australia in Chennai, Michael Clarke's side posted 380 and had India at 196 for 4 when Dhoni entered. By the time he left, having made his best Test score, India were 546 for 9. Dhoni had scored his 224 off 265 deliveries, most of those runs made with tailenders for company, and begun a run in which India went unbeaten till their last Test in 2013.
Ian Bell
109 vs Australia
first Test, Trent Bridge

First Test of the Ashes, and England had been certain of a first-innings lead until Ashton Agar stole it from them by scoring 98 from No. 11. After wiping out a deficit of 65, England were 121 for 3 when Bell began his innings, but they soon slipped to 174 for 5. Bell batted with a fluency that was at odds with the tenseness of the situation, and he took England from a position of danger to one of strength. His 109 helped set Australia a target of 311, and the eventual margin of England's victory - 14 runs - underlined the importance of his contribution.
Steven Smith
111 vs England
third Test, Perth

Australia had won the first two Tests of the Ashes, but their top order had been fragile in both games. In the third Test at the WACA, too, Australia slumped from 106 for 2 to 143 for 5 in the first innings, and England had a foothold. Smith, whose place in the Test side has been far from assured, gave them a bruised foot by playing a counter-attacking innings that swelled into a century. By the time he was done, Australia were well past 300 and England had been deflated by another lost opportunity. Despite David Warner and Michael Clarke scoring second-innings centuries, and Mitchell Johnson taking seven wickets, Smith's innings was the one that set Australia up and he was the Player of the Match.
Khurram Manzoor
146 vs South Africa
first Test, Abu Dhabi

Pakistan had just suffered a humiliating defeat in Zimbabwe, and were up against a team that had flattened them 3-0 earlier in the year. After South Africa scored 249 in the first innings, Pakistan were depending on a rookie pair to survive Dale Steyn and Co. Khurram surpassed expectations and built on an opening stand of 135 with Shan Masood to score his maiden Test hundred. He also steered Pakistan through the loss of two quick wickets and by the time he was dismissed for 146, they were ahead by 41 and had six wickets in hand. It was a platform from where Pakistan went on to beat the No. 1 Test side.
Graeme Smith
234 vs Pakistan
second Test, Dubai

Playing his first series after major ankle surgery, Smith had been dismissed for cheap in the first Test in Abu Dhabi, which South Africa lost to go 0-1 down. Pakistan were then shot out for 99 in the first innings of the deciding Test, and Smith ensured they were buried. Against a formidable bowling unit, South Africa's top order slipped at one end - they went from 91 for 1 to 134 for 4 - but Smith was solid. He batted through heat and pain - he was smashed on the helmet by a Mohammad Irfan bouncer that forced him out of the one-day series with post-concussion syndrome - and went on to score 234. South Africa were nearly 300 ahead when Smith was sixth out. The platform for a series-levelling innings victory had been laid.
Younis Khan
200 not out vs Zimbabwe
first Test, Harare

His opponents were only Test minnows Zimbabwe, but Younis was in a difficult situation. Pakistan had conceded a first-innings lead of 78 and then lost five second-innings wickets before their lead had passed 100. Younis then put on 118 runs with Pakistan's last recognised batsman, Adnan Akmal, and held the tail together to add another 132, rescuing Pakistan from the prospect of a humiliating defeat. His unbeaten double-century led his team to 419 and victory by 221 runs.
Mominul Haque
181 vs New Zealand
first Test, Chittagong

Bangladesh had conceded 469 to New Zealand in the first innings and then slipped to 8 for 2 in response, which brought 22-year-old Mominul to the crease in his fourth Test. He battled through a pressure situation, but Bangladesh suffered more setbacks to be reduced to 180 for 4. He finally found solid support from the lower-middle order and continued resolutely to score his maiden Test hundred - 181, which gave Bangladesh the first-innings lead and set the tone that would continue to deny New Zealand through the series.

George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo