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ESPNcricinfo Awards

ESPNcricinfo Awards 2021 T20I bowling nominees: Agar's six, Afridi's three, and Nortje's one

The T20 World Cup dominates our shortlist, with three spells by Pakistan bowlers in contention

Sreshth Shah
Sreshth Shah
Ashton Agar is only the fourth bowler from a Test-playing nation to take a T20I six-for  •  Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images

Ashton Agar is only the fourth bowler from a Test-playing nation to take a T20I six-for  •  Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images

Dwaine Pretorius
5 for 17 vs Pakistan
second T20I, Lahore

In his first 11 T20I innings, Pretorius had taken only seven wickets. But in his 12th, on this day, he added a handful more to his kitty. He began by trapping Babar Azam lbw in his first over with a nip-backer. With two slower balls in his next spell, he got Iftikhar Ahmed and Mohammad Rizwan to miscue shots to midwicket and long-off respectively. And in his final over, he had Khushdil Shah edge a wide yorker to the keeper, and bowled Mohammad Nawaz with one that crashed into the base of off stump. Pretorius' first five-for was also South Africa's best bowling performance in the format.
Ashton Agar
6 for 30 vs New Zealand
third T20I, Wellington

New Zealand were at 109 for 3 in 11 overs chasing 209. Agar had gone for three fours in his first over but took three wickets in his next one - Glenn Phillips was caught at long-on trying to slog against the turn; Devon Conway mistimed a sweep to deep midwicket; and Jimmy Neesham was caught behind off a ball sliding across him. At that point, New Zealand needed 99 off seven overs with four wickets in hand. By the time Agar finished his quota, they needed 65 off three with one wicket remaining: Tim Southee was caught chipping a loopy length ball to long-off; Mark Chapman followed a six with a top edge to short third; and Kyle Jamieson was trapped lbw by a straight one. His performance made Agar the first Australian bowler, male or female, to take a T20I six-for.
Shaheen Afridi
3 for 31 vs India
T20 World Cup, Dubai

In his first T20I against India, Afridi produced a new-ball spell for the ages to set up Pakistan's maiden win against their subcontinental rivals in senior World Cups. On his first ball, Rohit Sharma was welcomed with a yorker that swung into his pads and trapped him lbw. KL Rahul was bowled when he tried to play one to leg with the angle as it came in to him. And as Virat Kohli looked to push India towards a reasonable total in the 19th over, Afridi got him to top-edge a slow bouncer to the keeper. They were only three wickets, but Afridi's victims were India's best three batters.
Anrich Nortje
1 for 14 vs West Indies
T20 World Cup, Dubai

It's not often that a one-wicket haul earns a bowler a nomination for T20I performance of the year. The remarkable thing about Nortje's four overs against the defending champions was how he stuck to his strengths. Cutters? None. Slower balls? Just two. For the rest of the time, he steamed in at around 150kph, beating beat West Indies' top-order batters with pace. Lendl Simmons struggled to a 35-ball 16 after Nortje troubled him in his first spell. And at the death, Nortje went to his yorker to get the big wicket of Andre Russell. He finished with 14 dots in 24 balls to restrict West Indies to 143.
Haris Rauf
4 for 22 vs New Zealand
T20 World Cup, Sharjah

After Afridi starred in Pakistan's opening World Cup game, against India, it was time for another fast bowler to make his mark in their second. Late bloomer Rauf got the first breakthrough with a 148kph length ball that ricocheted off Martin Guptill's thigh to take out the off stump. With New Zealand struggling to accelerate at the death, Rauf dismissed Devon Conway and Glenn Phillips off slower deliveries in the space of three balls. Rauf ended the innings by bowling Mitchell Santner with another slower one, restricting New Zealand to an under-par total that Pakistan's batters chased down comfortably.
Tabraiz Shamsi
3 for 17 vs Sri Lanka
T20 World Cup, Sharjah

Shamsi's job for South Africa isn't to contain. For that, they have Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje. But in this game, the left-arm wristspinner strangled Sri Lanka's top order with attacking deliveries that were hard to put away. His first over went for one run. In his next two, he had Bhanuka Rajapaksa and Avishka Fernando caught and bowled - Rajapaksa trying to play against the turn, Fernando scooping a straight catch back. In his final over, Shamsi got Wanindu Hasaranga to hole out at long-on and finished his quota with South Africa five down for 91.
Chris Jordan
3 for 17 vs Australia
T20 World Cup, Dubai

It's not too often that a 32-ball 71 (from Jos Buttler in this case) does not take a Player-of-the-Match award. That's because the foundation of England's eight-wicket win over Australia was set by their bowlers, right-arm quick Jordan in particular. It started with a short and wide one that Steven Smith toe-ended to mid-on. Then came Jordan's array of variations, stifling the run-scoring. In the 19th over, he picked up Aaron Finch's wicket thanks to a stunning Jonny Bairstow effort at long-off, and immediately followed it with a yorker that had Pat Cummins glued to his crease. In all, Jordan sent down 12 dots, conceded one boundary, and bowled at an economy rate of 4.25, which helped ensure England had just 126 to chase - which they did with more than eight overs to spare.
Ish Sodhi
2 for 17 vs India
T20 World Cup, Dubai

Both sides were looking for their first win of the tournament. India tried to spread their best batters around by pushing Rohit Sharma to No. 3, but the plan bore no fruit thanks to legspinner Sodhi. The first wicket was a tad fortuitous as Rohit didn't get enough into his pull and was caught off a short and wide one. The ball that got Virat Kohli was all guile, though, an inviting legbreak that dipped on the batter, who sliced it high to long-on. Sodhi finished a tidy spell with an economy of 4.25, and New Zealand were left to chase only 111 to effectively send India home after only two games.
Adam Zampa
5 for 19 vs Bangladesh
T20 World Cup, Dubai

Zampa's performance is the second best in T20Is by an Australian male bowler. Bangladesh were already in trouble at 33 for 4 at the end of the powerplay when he came on to bowl, and he put the boot in, dismissing Afif Hossain with a googly off his first ball. Later in his first spell, he got Shamim Hossain to edge to the keeper and trapped Mahedi Hasan lbw off the next ball. In the 15th over, Zampa took the last two wickets, wrapping up Bangladesh's innings for 73.
Shadab Khan
4 for 26 vs Australia
second semi-final, T20 World Cup, Dubai

Legspinner Shadab Khan did all he possibly could to set Pakistan up for a spot in the final by picking up the wickets of David Warner, Mitchell Marsh, Steven Smith and Glenn Maxwell. A big legbreak took Marsh out as he miscued a slog sweep trying to play against the turn. Smith fell in similar fashion. Warner edged one to the keeper after being tempted to drive a ball that was angling away from him. And Maxwell - the king of the reverse sweep - fell over trying to clear deep square leg. However, Shadab's heroics were overshadowed by a special innings from Matthew Wade, whose hat-trick of sixes prevented Pakistan from making it to their third T20 World Cup final.

Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @sreshthx