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ESPNcricinfo Awards

ESPNcricinfo Awards 2018 Test bowling nominees: a bolt, a boom, a dip, a hiss

Our nominees asked several unanswerable questions of batsmen

Saurabh Somani
Trent Boult gets Dawid Malan to nick one to the keeper in Auckland  •  Getty Images

Trent Boult gets Dawid Malan to nick one to the keeper in Auckland  •  Getty Images

Click here for the Test batting shortlist
Vernon Philander
6 for 42 v India
first Test, Cape Town

A seaming, fast pitch at Newlands had almost backfired on South Africa when they were bowled out for 130, setting India 208 to win. They were also without Dale Steyn, who had limped off in the first innings. Enter Vernon Philander at his favourite ground. The way he set up Virat Kohli could form a fast bowler's case study. A succession of balls going away, drawing Kohli more and more across his stumps until the zinger arrived in the form of an in-dipper that trapped him in front. That was the crowning moment of six wickets for Philander, and an important win for South Africa.
Kagiso Rabada
6 for 54 v Australia
second Test, Port Elizabeth

Kagiso Rabada was a wall of fury, literally so, with the threat of suspension over him due to brushing Steven Smith's shoulder earlier in the match, and, figuratively, with the ball. He bowled with pace and hostility, beginning with a working over of David Warner, then removing Usman Khawaja close to stumps on day three, and finishing with three more wickets in a furious six-over burst on day four. His barrage to Warner set the tone for South Africa, breaching Khawaja's defences gave them the firm upper hand, and running through the tail ensured an easy fourth-innings chase. That Rabada had a similar burst in the first innings to end with 11 wickets made it a match to remember for his bowling alone.
Trent Boult
6 for 32 v England
first Test, Auckland

England were hit by Trent Boult almost before they realised a Test series was underway, bowled out in less than a session for 58. Boult held the ball on a string, swinging it in and out at will, creating angles by going wide of the crease, and playing England's batsmen like a puppeteer. Through his mastery of movement, the ball either found edges or crashed through the gaps to hit the stumps. In his first seven overs, he struck five times, having routed England's entire top order. He bowled unchanged through the innings with Tim Southee and the Test was as good as won in a session.
Shannon Gabriel
8 for 62 v Sri Lanka
second Test, St Lucia

The match was balanced when Shannon Gabriel took the new ball in the second innings, West Indies having eked out a narrow lead but faced with the prospect of batting last. Gabriel bowled with heart and pace through the innings, and was as comfortable going over the wicket as around, charging in at 90mph even in the last spell of the day. His line was exemplary, not giving batsmen leeway in the corridor, and he got the ball to jag back both ways. He got eight wickets in 20.4 overs, the remaining bowlers got two in 71.
Ben Stokes
4 for 40 v India
first Test, Birmingham

Virat Kohli hit an epic century in the first innings and threatened to repeat that in the second. It needed Ben Stokes to break the match open decisively. Returning for a third spell, Stokes knew that Kohli wanted to cover the movement of the delivery going away, and so he brought one back in. He had begun the innings with a ripper to KL Rahul, shaping in and then jagging away to catch the edge. He struck the Kohli blow in the middle and, for good measure, nicked off Hardik Panyda, India's second highest scorer of the innings, to finish the match. Stokes never flagged through the day, and his bowling was the difference between victory and defeat.
Mohammad Abbas
5 for 62 v Australia
second Test, Abu Dhabi

This was the performance that prompted Dale Steyn to say he saw a "new No. 1 bowler" coming in Mohammad Abbas. Abbas' first spell hadn't yielded wickets, but his second broke Australia's back after they had settled in reasonably. Hitting a beautiful length and making the ball move just enough to draw uncertainty, Abbas took four wickets in three overs, and suddenly, Australia's resistance evaporated. He showed why his deceptively simple bowling could be deadly effective by yanking bat away from body and creating doubt in batsmen's minds ball after ball. He would come back to add one more wicket, giving him ten for the match.
Adil Rashid
5 for 49 v Sri Lanka
third Test, Colombo

On a pitch without demons, where application by batsmen would result in runs, it needed Adil Rashid's wrists to give England a grip. Sri Lanka were coasting at 173 for 1 when Rashid began to make things happen. He had bowled only one over out of the first 41, but once he was brought on for his second spell, Rashid bowled unchanged until Sri Lanka had been spun out 96 runs in arrears. Dhananjaya de Silva and Dimuth Karunaratne were beaten by big turn, as was Kusal Mendis. Rashid kept making the ball swerve violently, and the Sri Lankans, who had looked comfortable till then, were undone on home ground by a spinner - a tribute to how well Rashid bowled.
Ajaz Patel
5 for 59 v Pakistan
first Test, Abu Dhabi

This will be one for the grandchildren. On debut, against a team known to play spin well, on their (adopted) home ground, defending a paltry fourth-innings total, Ajaz Patel delivered left-arm spinning cobras - seemingly - in a four-run win. Like most left-arm spinners, Ajaz was parsimonious, but that wouldn't have been enough on the day. He won at being mentally tougher too, preying on Pakistan's sudden doubts as a straightforward chase first stumbled, then faltered, and eventually sank. Fittingly, Ajaz struck the final blow, deceiving a set Azhar Ali with dip, turn and bounce to seal the win.
Yasir Shah
8 for 41 v New Zealand
second Test, Dubai

This was pure magic from Yasir Shah. It began before lunch on day three, and ended shortly after. A dazed New Zealand were spun out from 50 for no loss to 90 all out, eight wickets going to Yasir. He got the ball to dip, to turn, to stay straight when he willed it. The batsmen were sitting ducks, not knowing where the ball would drift or pitch or how much it would turn. Pakistan's coach, Mickey Arthur, later said it was some of the finest legspin bowling anyone would see, and it was hard to disagree.
Jasprit Bumrah
6 for 33 v Australia
third Test, Melbourne

The defining moment of a searing spell from Jasprit Bumrah was a quintessentially limited-overs ploy - a slower ball. Just before lunch on the third day, Bumrah disguised his pace so well that Shaun Marsh was almost falling over when the ball hit pad in front of the stumps. Two days of attritional batting by India had made people think there was nothing in the MCG pitch for the bowlers. Bumrah blew that notion away in a little over two sessions. Marcus Harris was worked over with hostile short balls, Travis Head was blown away by a fast inswinger, and the lower order were not equipped to deal with the pace he generated from a quirky action. It was a spell that won India the match and the series.
Click here for the Test batting shortlist

Saurabh Somani is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo