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ESPNcricinfo Awards

ESPNcricinfo Awards 2014 Test batting nominees: The fastest hundred, and a fighting triple

From Sharjah to Centurion, Test batsmen were all grit and nerve in 2014

13-Jan-2015
Brendon McCullum: New Zealand's first triple-centurion  •  Getty Images

Brendon McCullum: New Zealand's first triple-centurion  •  Getty Images

Azhar Ali
103 vs Sri Lanka
third Test, Sharjah

A wonderfully paced innings as Pakistan chased down 302 in under 58 overs to earn a drawn series. Not a batsman known for his attacking flair, Azhar overcame Sri Lanka's negative lines of attack by reverse-sweeping Rangana Herath from outside leg stump. Azhar looked in such control from the start that there was a sense of inevitability about the outcome.
Brendon McCullum
302 vs India
second Test, Wellington

After scoring a double-hundred in the previous Test, the New Zealand captain became his country's first triple-century maker in Test cricket, finally exorcising the ghost of Martin Crowe's 299. But that only tells half the story. New Zealand were 52 for 3 when he walked in, still 194 behind India. They soon slipped to 94 for 5. Dropped on 9, McCullum proceeded to rewrite the record books in an innings spanning nearly 13 hours (559 balls with 32 fours and four sixes). Having slept on 281 after the fourth day, he was cheered through the final 19 runs by the Wellington masses on a historic day.
Shaun Marsh
148 vs South Africa
first Test, Centurion

Having bullied England into the dust during a 5-0 Ashes whitewash, Australia remained in the mood for confrontation. Put in to bat on a ground that South Africa considered a fortress, Australia won by a crushing 281 runs - a win that was spearheaded by 12 wickets from Mitchell Johnson. Marsh provided the foundation. Originally replaced in the squad because of a calf injury, he was called up the day after he top-scored in the Big Bash final. Less than a week later he was playing his first Test in two years. Australia were 24 for 2 and then 98 for 4, but Marsh held firm against Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel to record his second Test century and set Australia on their way to a series victory against the No. 1 side.
JP Duminy
123 vs Australia
second Test, Port Elizabeth

South Africa had already recovered from one collapse, after being 11 for 2 early on, but were far from comfortable, at 200 for 5, when Duminy came to the crease. He put on a 149-run sixth-wicket stand with AB de Villiers and then marshalled the tail to take South Africa past 400 against an Australian attack still on a high from their Centurion demolition job. Duminy negotiated Mitchell Johnson, who was armed with the second new ball, with class, and played Nathan Lyon with confidence, setting South Africa up for a series-levelling victory.
Michael Clarke
161 not out vs South Africa
third Test, Cape Town

Batting with a fractured shoulder (which was revealed only later), Clarke was worked over by a Morne Morkel bouncer barrage, which included two hits to the helmet. He not only survived the day but thrived, to end on 92. He received extensive overnight treatment and returned the next morning to see off the South African squeeze, score a century and gallop past 150 to take Australia to a towering first-innings total, and eventually a win in the match and the series.
David Warner
135 vs South Africa
third Test, Cape Town

Never mind the speedy scoring rate with which Warner brought up his seventh Test ton - more importantly, this innings proved he was no home bully. It was only his second century outside Australia. He was particularly effective against South Africa's much-lauded pace pack and took 80 off the 87 balls he faced from them to get Australia off to a threatening start in a match they went on to dominate.
Angelo Mathews
160 vs England
second Test, Headingley

Sri Lanka squeaked out of the first Test, at Lord's, with a draw and then conceded a 108-run first-innings lead in the second. When Mathews came out to bat again, they were ahead by only 68. When the seventh wicket fell, the lead was 169. He then proceeded to orchestrate one of Sri Lanka's greatest overseas victories with an innings that grew from a masterful rearguard into a belligerent cavalry charge. The captain clubbed his way to 160, adding 149 for the eighth wicket in partnership with Rangana Herath, and gave Sri Lanka a lead that would set up their first series win in England.
Moeen Ali
108 not out vs Sri Lanka
second Test, Headingley

As England battled to escape a defeat that had looked certain from the moment they slipped to 57 for 5 on the penultimate evening, one batsman stood serenely above it all. No team had ever saved a Test after going into the final day five wickets down, but Moeen's maiden century was the principle reason that England got to within two balls of doing so. In only his second Test, he forged an innings of supreme control and self-denial, remaining unbeaten after 281 deliveries. With England nine down, James Anderson channelled some of his partner's resolve and kept out 54 balls during a 20-over stand, but Sri Lanka's dramatic breakthrough at the end had the final say.
Kane Williamson
161 not out vs West Indies
third Test, Bridgetown
Starting their second innings 24 runs behind, New Zealand lost Tom Latham with the score on 1. Williamson walked to the crease with the series on the line and dug in to form four patient half-century partnerships. He waited for balls that could be hit behind square or through midwicket - and received plenty - but was willing to ignore the rest. Only Jimmy Neesham contributed anything else greater than 29, which meant Williamson's innings was the major reason New Zealand were able to declare and ultimately win the match and a rare away series.
Ajinkya Rahane
103 vs England
second Test, Lord's
After a flat pitch at Trent Bridge, England's seamers licked their lips when India were put in to bat on a green top at Lord's. Carnage was expected. India were reduced to 145 for 7, but the prey continued to kick. Rahane found a nuggety partner in Bhuvneshwar Kumar and unleashed a flurry of shots to bring up his second Test hundred, again scored in overseas conditions. His first fifty having come from 101 deliveries, the next came at a run a ball. It was the innings that set India up for a memorable away win, their first in three years.
Hashim Amla
139 not out vs Sri Lanka
second Test, Colombo

South Africa won the first match in Galle against expectations but it was thought that would be the only surprise of the tour, as Sri Lanka looked to restore order on home turf. On a dead track at the SSC, they piled on 421 and then had South Africa 13 for 2 in response. In just his second Test as captain, Amla shouldered almost all the responsibility of saving the game, embarking on a blockathon, aided by the weather, to keep Sri Lanka's spinners at bay. His innings lasted eight hours and six minutes over two days, as he shepherded the tail to eat up time. South Africa were bowled out 139 runs behind but drew the match, won the series and retained the Test mace.
Younis Khan
103 vs Australia
first Test, Dubai
How would Pakistan's batting line-up stand up to Australia's pace bowling? Fine and dandy, as it transpired, and much of that was down to the prolific presence of Younis Khan. The tone was set on the opening day of the series as he marshalled Pakistan from a precarious 7 for 2 in the fourth over. His 106 was a lesson in defence against pace and controlled aggression against spin. He reached his hundred with a six over long-on against Nathan Lyon, and though he was lbw to the new ball shortly afterwards, Pakistan's belief would not be broken.
Misbah-ul-Haq
101 not out vs Australia
second Test, Abu Dhabi
Was this one of one the most cathartic innings of all time? A player whose position is forever, it seems, under debate - and whose strike rate in the one-day game is forensically scrutinised - surged his way to a record-equalling 56-ball hundred, level with Viv Richards' Test record. The lead was vast when Misbah entered, the pressure, for once, nowhere to be seen, and he pummelled the visitors with rare abandon: his first ball went for four, he was dropped off the next, took 22 off a Steven Smith over and was flying. The fastest fifty came and went, and in the blink of an eye three figures were raised with an edge to third man.
Virat Kohli
141 vs Australia
first Test, Adelaide

Although India trailed throughout an emotion-streaked Test played two weeks after the death of Phillip Hughes, Kohli's belligerence almost helped them pull off what would have been one of the greatest fourth-innings chases. Leading the side in MS Dhoni's absence, Kohli's first-innings hundred - coming after a truly miserable tour of England - set a positive tone and demonstrated that India would not roll over in the manner they had in Australia three years previously. He followed that up with a glorious assault on the final day, at one stage making India favourites in their pursuit of 364 in 98 overs. Kohli fell attacking Nathan Lyon's offspin, but not before having become only the second batsman to score twin centuries on captaincy debut.