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2017 Best Test XI

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Best_Test_XI_2017_Cricket(Statistics as on 25th December, 2017)

2017 was an entertaining year for Test cricket. We witnessed some sterling individual efforts from players of many different teams. Some underrated talents rose up, but there was also opportunity for established stars to further reinforce their status as the best.

With the year coming to a close, let’s take a look at the year’s best Test eleven.

Openers

No. 1. Dean Elgar (South Africa):

In his quiet, understated way, without much fuss, South African opener Dean Elgar has risen to the top of the Test batting charts this year. With 1097 runs in 11 Tests, Elgar is the third-highest scorer of the year and was the only South African to breach the 1000-run mark in 2017. He made 5 centuries and 4 half centuries with an average of 54.85. His best innings was the classy 199 he struck against Bangladesh at Potchefstroom. The sturdy left-handed opener with a solid technique was instrumental in giving South Africa good starts throughout the year.

No. 2. David Warner (Australia):

Yes, another left-handed opener. The performances of most other Test openers in 2017 have not been satisfactory. David Warner, with his ability to change the game and having had a decent year, makes the cut. The swashbuckling Australian opener scored 808 runs in 10 Tests in 2017 at an average of 44.88 and with 3 hundreds and 3 fifties.

He had a poor series in India, but was brilliant against Pakistan earlier in the year and his outstanding 123 against Bangladesh at Chittagong on a raging turner was his best performance. Warner is improving steadily with each new season and the attacking opener would be an asset to any Test side.

Middle-order:

No.3 Steve Smith (Australia):

He is in a zone that every batsman dreams of. Steve Smith is unstoppable. He has owned 2017 with an array of peerless performances that established him as the best Test batsman of this era. In just 10 Tests this year, Smith accumulated 1127 runs – crossing the 1000-run mark in Test cricket for the fourth consecutive year – at an average of 70.43 with 5 hundreds and 2 fifties.

Despite his unusual batting stance, Smith exhibited magnificent consistency and scored everywhere, around the ground and around the world, ending the year as the 2nd highest run-scorer in the world. While he had plenty of exceptional performances this year, it was Smith’s outstanding 141* at Brisbane in the 2017/18 Ashes that was him at his best. It was the quintessential Smith knock – replete with grit, gumption and endurance.

No. 4. Virat Kohli (India):

Not far behind from Steve Smith this year was India’s Virat Kohli. After a mediocre series against Australia at home, the Indian captain found form later on in the year and made it count. In 10 Tests, Kohli accumulated 1059 runs at an incredible average of 76.24 with 5 hundreds and 1 fifty. This displayed Kohli’s remarkable conversion rate and how much he has progressed as a Test batsman over the years.

While his highest score was the career-best 243 against Sri Lanka at Delhi, his best Test knock of 2017 was the majestic unbeaten 104 he struck against the same team at Kolkata. Not only has Kohli improved his technique as a No.4 Test batsman, he scored briskly and always ensured the team never fell apart with him at the crease.

No. 5 Cheteshwar Pujara (India):

While England’s Joe Root would have been ideal for this slot (905 runs in 10 matches in 2017), it was simply impossible to ignore Cheteshwar Pujara’s truckloads of runs this year. The Indian batsman, at the time of writing, was the leading run-scorer of the year with 1140 runs from 11 Tests at an average of 67.05 and with 4 hundreds and 5 fifties.

Pujara was consistent throughout the year. He was the rock who stood solid when his team needed him. His best innings was the glorious 202 he struck against Australia earlier in the year at Ranchi. While he comes in at No.3 for India, with his mastery of technique, Pujara would excel at any position in the middle-order.

Wicket-keeper

No.6. Jonny Bairstow (England):

Bangladesh’s Mushfiqur Rahim almost made the cut for this position, but England’s Jonny Bairstow just barely clinches it because of his superior performances against better bowling attacks in the year and his improved wicket-keeping skills.

Bairstow is slowly proving himself a top-notch middle-order batsman and his performance in 2017 reinforced that belief. In 10 Tests, Bairstow scored 630 runs at an average of 35 with a hundred and 3 fifties. Two knocks of his stood out – 119 against Australia at Perth when his team was in doldrums; and the gritty 99 against South Africa at Manchester. Both came against the best Test bowling line ups in the world and hence showcased Bairstow’s growing excellence as a batsman. As a wicket-keeper, too, the Englishman was very good and effected 33 dismissals (31 catches + 2 stumpings) behind the stumps.

All-rounder

No.7 Shakib Al Hasan (Bangladesh):

Shakib Al Hasan has often flattered to deceive and not lived up to the great talent and potential he possesses. But 2017 was extremely productive for the Bangladeshi superstar. He was by far the best all-rounder in Test cricket this year, equally effective with both the bat and his spin bowling.

At the start of the year, Shakib perhaps produced the Test knock of the year with a sparkling 217 against New Zealand at Wellington that gave Bangladesh hope for a maiden Test victory on foreign soil. As a bowler, Shakib was in his elements this year. The canny left-arm spinner troubled several batsmen with his accurate lines and subtle variations.

Shakib’s best performance was the 5-68 against Australia at Dhaka, which he followed up with another five-wicket haul (5-85) in the second innings, helping Bangladesh achieve their maiden Test victory against Australia. In all, Shakib scored 665 runs from 7 Tests at an average of 47.50 with 2 hundreds and 3 fifties and scalped 29 wickets at an average of 33.37 with 2 five-wicket hauls.

Bowlers

No.8. Nathan Lyon (Australia):

There was tough competition for the spot of the lead Test spinner this year. Ravichandran Ashwin (56 wickets in 11 Tests), Ravindra Jadeja (54 wickets in 10 Tests) and Yasir Shah (43 wickets in 6 Tests) were all superb in their own way. But Nathan Lyon of Australia really stood out.

With 60 wickets in just 10 Tests at an average of 22.91, Lyon was simply exceptional this year, ending as the leading wicket-taker of 2017. The off-spinner was probing with his lines and bowled relentlessly in the channel outside off-stump. Lyon also got good bounce and has had a distinct improvement in his wicket-taking ability that was missing previously. He produced 5 five-wicket hauls in the year with an exceptional, career-best 8-50 in the Bengaluru Test against India as his finest moment.

No. 9. Kagiso Rabada (South Africa):

This 22-year-old has now well and truly proved himself as one of the best new pace bowlers in world cricket and 2017 was another landmark year for South Africa’s Kagiso Rabada. The tall fast bowler continued to torment batsmen everywhere with his prodigious bounce and generous seam movement. Rabada’s ability to move the ball both ways at pace came in handy as he captured 54 wickets in 10 Tests at an incredible average of 20.96, with 3 five-wicket hauls and 2 ten-wicket hauls. His best bowling was the match-winning 6-55 against Sri Lanka at Cape Town.

No. 10.  James Anderson (England):

Even at 35 years of age, England’s James Anderson has not lost his zing and continues to be a potent force. In 2017, Anderson was the sole English bowler to capture 50 wickets and one of only two fast bowlers to do so. In 10 Tests this year, Anderson claimed 51 wickets at a terrific 16.86 with 4 five-wicket hauls.

His best bowling performance was the fantastic 7-42 against West Indies at Lord’s that helped England win the match and the series. Incidentally, that was also Anderson’s career-best performance; given that this came in the 14th year of his international career, it is testimony to the kind of form the great English swing bowler enjoyed this year.

No. 11. Trent Boult (New Zealand):

He managed to leapfrog Mitchell Starc for this position with a slightly better performance in a similar number of matches. New Zealand’s Trent Boult has been around for a while now and is consistently doing well. While he played just 5 Tests in 2017, Boult still took 27 wickets at an average of 24.77. His best bowling effort came against South Africa earlier in the year at Dunedin where, on a pretty flat surface and against the world’s best batting line up, he got 4-64.

Though Boult did not have any breakthrough performance, he was consistently picking wickets and with his ability to generate swing at decent pace. Boult clocked over the 140 km/h mark a number of times and was always at the stumps. The Kiwi pacer would have thus made the perfect third seamer in this team.

This year, there were options galore to select from for every position. Unfortunately, a lot of talented players missed out as only eleven could make the cut (honourable mentions abound in the above article). But this esteemed Test eleven of 2017 – with an array of the best gifted cricket stars from around the globe – would certainly make for magnificent viewing on the field. 

 

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