With the three concurrent Boxing Day Tests around the globe done and dusted, an eventful year in red-ball cricket has drawn to a close.
India ended the year as the top-ranked Test outfit with their dream of a maiden series victory on Australian soil now one step closer to reality while skipper Virat Kohli finished as the undisputed No1 batsman.
Here, we take a look at the best Test XI of 2018.
The New Zealand opener had a sensational end to 2018 with an unbeaten 264 in the first Test against Sri Lanka before following it up with a 176 in the second at Christchurch. With a batting average of almost 60 in the calendar year, Latham is shoe-in for the opener’s slot.
The Sri Lanka youngster is one of only two batsmen to bring up 1,000 runs in the calendar year along with Kohli. His resurgence in the Test format will be music to the ears of Sri Lankan fans with his unbeaten 141 in the Wellington Test against New Zealand being one of the stand-out knocks of the year.
The New Zealand skipper is let down by the lack of Tests his side plays because he has always looked a class apart. Like Latham, Williamson has averaged almost sixty with the bat this year. His standout performance came in the series decider against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi where his 19th Test ton paved the way for a historic series win.
Virat Kohli (captain)
It has been the year of Kohli in Test cricket with the India skipper registering as many as five tons in the calendar year. Four of them came in the overseas tours of South Africa, England and Australia which makes the India superstar’s 2018 all the more remarkable. Perched as the No1 ranked batsman with the highest rating points achieve by any Indian in history, Kohli is the automatic choice for captaincy as well.
The third Kiwi batsman to make the cut, Nicholls has turned around his Test career in some style in 2018. The middle-order batsman had only one Test ton to his name in 17 matches heading into 2018 but has added three more to his kitty in the last seven games. He holds the highest average (73) among all batsmen to have played a minimum of seven Tests in the calendar year.
Jos Buttler (Wicketkeeper)
For the wicketkeeper’s slot, there is no need to look beyond Jos Buttler whose Test career has been resurrected after a fine showing in the IPL with Rajasthan Royals. Since making his comeback to the England Test squad, Buttler has bailed the side umpteen times already with his lower-order contributions. Six half-centuries and one ton completed a phenomenal year for Buttler.
While there are many candidates for the sole spinner’s slot, it is Sri Lanka’s Dilruwan Perera who makes the cut for picking up 50 wickets in the calendar year. The 36-year-old veteran is finally getting his dues in the international arena and was instrumental in Sri Lanka’s home win over South Africa.
The Australia pacer was unlucky to end up on the losing side in the Boxing Day Test against India after putting in a stellar all-round display. He started the year by picking up 22 wickets in Australia’s now infamous tour of South Africa and ended it with another stupendous showing against India. His 44 scalps have come at an average of under 20 and a strike-rate just below 43.
The South African started the year by becoming the youngest bowler to attain the top ICC ranking and has not looked back since. Rabada ended 2018 as the highest wicket-taker with 52 scalps to his name from just 10 Tests. Even more impressive are his average and strike-rate of 20 and 38 respectively. It is hard to believe that Rabada is only 23.
Only two pacers in history have picked up more wickets in their maiden year in Test cricket than India’s Jasprit Bumrah. The 25-year-old picked up 48 wickets in just nine Tests at an average of just 21 and has played a starring role in all of India’s overseas victories in South Africa, England and Australia in 2018. Finished off the year with a man-of-the-match display in Melbourne where he blew away the Aussies with raw pace.
The Pakistan seamer’s absence was felt in the Boxing Day loss to South Africa after his sublime displays in the tour of England and the ‘home’ series against Australia. He picked up a staggering 38 wickets from just seven matches in 2018 with an unreal average of less than 14.
Becoming the fastest Pakistan pacer in history to bring up 50 Test scalps, Abbas showed an ability to perform in a variety of conditions, be it the seamer-friendly tracks of England to the slow tracks in the UAE.
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