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ESPNcricinfo Awards

ESPNcricinfo Awards 2021 Test batting nominees: the Rohit, Fawad and Joe show

Doubles from Root and Conway, and a series-winning classic from Rishabh Pant

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
18-Jan-2022
Joe Root was unstoppable in 2021. In Sri Lanka he made 426 runs in two Tests  •  SLC

Joe Root was unstoppable in 2021. In Sri Lanka he made 426 runs in two Tests  •  SLC

Rishabh Pant
89 not out vs Australia
fourth Test, Brisbane

A match before this innings, in Sydney, Pant dug in, got to 97 and got out trying to heave one over cover. Luckily for him, India saved that Test and he had a chance at making amends at the Gabba, where Australia hadn't been beaten for 32 years. Facing a final-day chase many termed impossible, Pant produced an innings for the ages against a full-strength Australia attack of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon. It was one of the most famous wins of them all. Only a month before, Pant wasn't even in the starting XI, his fitness and form under question. For him to have turned it around the way he did spoke volumes about his temperament and application.
Joe Root
228 vs Sri Lanka
first Test, Galle

The tour of Sri Lanka was something of a prelude to England's bigger battles in India, and if England needed their captain to make a statement, he couldn't have done better. Root's previous century in Sri Lanka was a majestic in Kandy, full of deft touches, reverse sweeps, slaps and swipes. In Galle, by the time he came in to bat late on the first day, the surface had already started to play up and down. When day two dawned, balls were shooting and scooting around, but Root waltzed his way - if sometimes riskily - to a magnificent double to set up a first-innings score that allowed England's spinners to carve out an impressive win.
Fawad Alam: the art of coming back to the Test side after a decade out of it
Fawad Alam: the art of coming back to the Test side after a decade out of itAssociated Press
Rohit Sharma
161 vs England
second Test, Chennai

India had been smashed in the first Test on a slow-burner Chennai track that appeared to wake up after two days of slumber. The curator got to work on the surface for the second Test, ensuring that the spinners came into their own from the first session. Out came Rohit, sweeping magnificently with and against the turn to produce a stunning assault against England's spinners, Jack Leach, Moeen Ali and Joe Root. His counterattacking innings set the tone for India's dominance. As the Test progressed, it was apparent the conditions were not as easy as Rohit had made them look: India's spinners ran through England twice and the series was levelled at 1-1.
Devon Conway
200 vs England
first Test, Lord's

An effort that spanned close to ten hours brought Conway a double-century on Test debut, the kind of moment he had likely not dared to dream of when he decided to leave South Africa in 2017 to start afresh in New Zealand. It was a fluent innings, marked by adept footwork and superb cuts and pulls, but Conway also shelved his natural game at times to negotiate the challenges posed by James Anderson and Stuart Broad. He became the 12th New Zealander to make a hundred on Test debut, and the third overseas player to make a hundred on debut at Lord's.
Fawad Alam
124 not out vs West Indies
second Test, Kingston

Two runs, three wickets down. Alam walked into a crisis, after Kemar Roach and Jayden Seales had scythed through the Pakistan top order, and immediately showed he belonged. Under blistering, hostile conditions he took blows, ducked, and weaved out of trouble, playing with soft hands and making sure he didn't chase anything away from his body. Three players were forced off the field, and Alam himself had the cramps at points, but he held his composure and stitched together a 158-run stand with Babar Azam to drag Pakistan back into the match, which they eventually went on to win.
Joe Root
109 vs India
first Test, Nottingham

England began the fourth day 70 behind with all ten wickets intact, but it was clear they needed either rain or Root to rescue them. The latter delivered, standing tall against a fiery India attack, batting with assurance and optimism to make sure England drove the game forward when they could have easily gone into their shells instead. Root was seemingly intent on wiping out the lead as soon as he could. There were four fours in his first 18 balls, and as the innings progressed, he brought out late cuts, sweeps, and even a ramp over the cordon. This was no flat deck but Root appeared to be batting on a different surface to the others. His innings helped England gallop into the lead, though the potential potboiler of a final day was washed out.
KL Rahul
129 vs England
second Test, Lord's

Coming into this, the second Test of the series, Rahul had left more deliveries alone than he had in five full Tests in 2018. He was on the tour as a reserve middle-order batter but was thrust into the opener's role after concussion ruled Mayank Agarwal out of the series opener. By the time he got to Lord's, Rahul had already shown enough of a change in his technique from three years before to be reckoned with as a regular opener for the entire series. He was tight in defence, played close to the body, shelving his trademark flamboyance for long periods to bide time and construct his innings brick by brick. In 2018, two hours of bad batting cost India the Test at Lord's three years on, a methodical approach upfront against the swinging ball set the tone for a win for the ages.
Rohit Sharma
127 vs England
fourth Test, The Oval

It was eight years in the making, and when it finally arrived, it was a moment to savour. Rohit's first Test hundred away from home took India into a position from where they could push for a 2-1 series lead - which they went on to do. The innings was typical Rohit: he was watchful early, and once set, produced an array of exquisite shots all around the dial, in the process taking the conditions and the surface out of the equation. He was reprieved twice, on 6 and 31, but unfazed by those lapses in concentration, he made England pay.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo