ESPNcricinfo Awards

ESPNcricinfo Awards 2017 Test batting nominees: from Bangalore to Brisbane

The best Test batting performances of the year span venues from across the continents

Alagappan Muthu
Alagappan Muthu
Steven Smith celebrates a fighting hundred, India v Australia, 1st Test, Pune, 3rd day, February 25, 2017

Five of the ten peformances on the Test batting shortlist are from the Ashes or India vs Australia, including Steven Smith's Pune hundred  •  AFP

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Steven Smith
109 vs India
first Test, Pune

Off the same square inch, one ball would turn and another straighten. It was the third innings of the match: all a spinner needed to do was land it - not even in the right areas - for it to assume unplayable proportions. Batting in Pune was like deciphering a foreign language with the help of a toaster. Smith was handed a few lives, but for the time he was at the crease, he made one of the weakest Australian sides to visit the subcontinent live up to their dynasty and look like world-beaters. He made more than India could, using their ten lives twice.
KL Rahul
90 vs Australia
second Test, Bengaluru

It was in Australia that Rahul found his footing as a Test cricketer, and it was while playing against them that he became a match-winning asset. He walked out onto his home turf and realised he was up against the toughest conditions of his career, for in addition to wild variations in turn, and seam movement for the quicks, there was no guarantee about the bounce. He was battered by Mitchell Starc. He was spun around by Josh Hazlewood. He watched his team-mates succumb to Nathan Lyon one by one. But he persevered. For 205 deliveries, he stood a class apart.
Quinton de Kock
91 vs New Zealand
second Test, Wellington

De Kock is the little brother of the team. Pictures of him online invariably feature him being smothered by AB de Villiers or Dale Steyn or Faf du Plessis. He could well have been the trouble-making wild child, but young, gifted and fluent in monosyllabic answers, de Kock is the model teenager. His primary job, in 2017 at least, was picking up after the seniors. In this match, for example, he came in at 94 for 6, took aim at every New Zealand bowler in sight, struck 58 of his 91 runs in boundaries and took South Africa to a 359 that set up a comfortable eventual win.
Joe Root
190 vs South Africa
first Test, Lord's

Being England captain comes with baggage, and carrying it is often more taxing than the sum total of what happens on the field. The scrutiny - from home and abroad, in the press and on social media - leaves precious little personal space. Root's first step into this amped-up reality was a doozy. He took on the best touring team this side of the millennium, Morkel, Philander, Rabada and all, and killed them softly. To the tune of 190 runs. In his very first innings in charge. At Lord's. The golden boy was all grown up.
Shai Hope
118 not out vs England
second Test, Headingley

Hope unfurled two of the greatest innings in West Indies history within days of each other, and every time he hit the ball through cover, mouths dropped in disbelief. Soon after his 118 sealed their second-highest successful chase against England, the first match where one batsman had made two hundreds at the venue in all of first-class cricket, he walked up to the mic, showing no emotion whatsoever, and matter-of-factly said he always knew he could win. #Swagger.
David Warner
123 vs Bangladesh
second Test, Chittagong

The subcontinent: a place where his peers somehow kept racking up centuries while he - a man who had scored one in less than a session - couldn't. Something had to be done. So Warner found restraint to go with his fury. He accepted the value of playing with softer hands. He acknowledged that his technique needed retrofitting. And in accomplishing that, he scored his only century in Asia, and it was an effort that went a long way towards winning Australia the game on a nightmarish turner.
Dimuth Karunaratne
196 vs Pakistan
second Test, Dubai

Pink balls. Bright lights. Test cricket at night. And even if people were becoming used to all of those things, Pakistan being 0-1 down at their UAE fortress was a dead giveaway that the world was somewhat topsy-turvy. The cherry was placed on the upside-down cake when Karunaratne made a rare first-innings century. He had managed only two of those in 43 tries, but with the series on the line, and Sri Lanka's reputation in desperate need of a mend, he made 196 of his finest runs to cap the first time a team had whitewashed Pakistan in the UAE since they moved to playing their home games there in 2010.
Steven Smith
141 not out vs England
first Test, Brisbane

Smith would go on to all but win the biggest trophy in Australian cricket on his own, and the first step was taken in Brisbane, when he made his slowest hundred in Test cricket. He spent 326 deliveries, over eight and a half hours, at the crease, defying England and all of their plans. When awestruck journalists asked him to explain exactly how he did that, he said: "I just love batting."
Shaun Marsh
126 not out vs England
second Test, Adelaide

There were raised eyebrows and loud mutterings when Marsh was picked over Glenn Maxwell for the Ashes squad. But after Marsh made a century in a Test where no other batsman scored over 67, grittily trudging along at half a run a ball on a tricky pitch where the bowlers held sway for the most part, the selectors were vindicated and there was an outpouring of support. "Righto can everyone leave @shaunmarsh9 alone again now..... never in doubt!" tweeted Alyssa Healy, Australia women's keeper.
Alastair Cook
244 not out vs Australia
fourth Test, Melbourne

"You can forget, when batting, that the first 30 minutes can feel like the longest time, then the next minute you've been batting for four hours," Cook said. Indeed, he found a way to spend a further six hours in the middle during an epic double-century that probably made his wife fear for their marriage. Though the series was dead, he issued a reminder that his lust for runs was as healthy as ever. And that the well that he goes to in search of the strength to bat oppositions to dust still had a bit of magic potion in it yet. He finished with the highest score by a visitor at the MCG, putting Viv Richards in the shade, and moved past Mahela Jayawardene, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Brian Lara on the all-time Test run-getters' list.
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Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo