Published on April 4th, 2013 | by Jack Marshall0
Test cricket’s modern day willow artists
“Scoreboard pressure runs to play with, being able to bowl to attacking fields as opposed to frugal, defensive setups: all are things orchestrated by the architects of Test cricket – the batsmen. Ahead of an International break from Test cricket, we’ll take a look at ten of the most prolific run-makers over the past 12 months.” Writes Jack Marshall
As the old cricketing adage goes: bowlers win matches! It’s true, without taking 20 opposition wickets; a victory is an impossibility, no matter how many hundreds of runs are stacked up by the batsmen. But, despite the fact that bowler’s contributions can be considered more intrinsically vital to actually winning a Test match, runs on the board set up said victories. Scoreboard pressure runs to play with, being able to bowl to attacking fields as opposed to frugal, defensive setups: all are things orchestrated by the architects of Test cricket – the batsmen. Ahead of an International break from Test cricket, we’ll take a look at ten of the most prolific run-makers over the past 12 months.
Michael Clarke – Australia:
It has been a fruitful year for the Australian skipper, despite the animosity and controversy surrounding his declining team. His leadership has flourished, as has his batting in tandem, demonstrated by the fact that in 2012 he broke the Australian record for most runs scored in a calendar year. Since April last year, the stylish right-handed maestro has registered 1366 runs, four centuries, and five half-centuries at an imposing average of 68.30 – all the more impressive considering the next best return from his compatriots (apart from the retired Mike Hussey) is that of David Warner, who managed just 844 runs at 35.16. One has to look far back indeed to find the last time an Australian team relied so heavily on a single batsman ahead of an Ashes series.
Hashim Amla – South Africa:
From his record-shattering 311 not out against England at The Oval to his masterful 196 against Australia at Perth, Hashim Amla has been in irresistible form for much longer than a year now. The world’s most reliable number three has simply clicked over that past two and a half-year, and as a result his career stats have soared. 1321 runs, five centuries, four half-centuries, and an average of 82.56 have made the past year particularly fertile for the batsman with the best beard in cricket. It is certain that, along with impressive bowling displays, it has been Hash’s form that has shot the Proteas up the Test rankings to replace England as the number one Test side. And he shows no signs of slowing down either.
Alastair Cook – England:
When England were at their peak – against Australia in 2010/11 – their bowling was merciless and their batting was airtight. Nowadays, the bowling is looking increasingly toothless, while the once concrete pillar of a batting line up is looking worryingly brittle. But one thing has remained constant: Alastair Cook’s imperious form. England’s young skipper has scored 1266 runs, five centuries, and two half centuries in the last year, and has managed to do it all at an average of 51.20, which, is ever more impressive given his role from England. It is worthwhile remembering that Cook regularly faces strike bowlers bowling at full pelt with the new cherry, while those batting lower in the order are afforded a modicum of respite in this regard.
Kumar Sangakkara – Sri Lanka:
Is it just me, or is Kumar Sangakkara one of the most unappreciated batsmen of this generation? While others eulogize Ponting, Lara, Tendulkar and Kallis, Kumar Sangakkara – whose scarily good average of 56.98 eclipses those of all the above – is hardly ever mentioned. Such a heinous crime is an insult to Sri Lanka’s left-handed cricketing demigod, whose return in the past 12 months reads as 1125 runs, 5 centuries, four half centuries, and an average of 75.00. Cricket writers could wax lyrical endlessly about the suave Sangakkara (his cover drive is the batting equivalent to melted chocolate), but what is so admirable is that Sanga is not only stylish; he’s ruthlessly efficacious to boot.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul – West Indies:
No one sticks so vehemently to the crease as Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who has been in and around that game for so long that he recently played a first class match with his son, Tagenarine. Shiv has defied textbook guidelines for almost two decades of Test cricket, but at 38 and in his twilight years, the Guyanese left-hander clearly still has it, corroborated by his record of 1121 runs, four centuries, five half centuries, and an average of 93.41 in his last 11 Tests. The scuttling Chanderpaul is currently bidding to join Brian Lara as the only West Indians with 30+ Test hundreds, and his value and importance in the middle order, surrounded by youth and potential, is still immeasurable.
Cheteshwar Pujara – India:
Filling the shoes of one of Test cricket’s most prolific and reliable batsmen is no mean feat, but so far in his fledgling Test career, Pujara has gone some way to justifying Indian excitement surrounding his potential as Rahul Dravid’s successor. Excellent in defense, and with a temperament acutely adjusted to know just when to strike out in attack, the young right-hander is sure to form an important part of a new generation of Indian batsmen, and he is well on the way already with 1073 runs, 4 hundreds, and 2 fifties at an average of 82.53 in this last year. The fact that such a young man already looks secure and settled in the world’s most scrutinized batting lineup is a telling barometer of his potential
AB de Villiers – South Africa:
Not content with only being involved in the game when batting, AB de Villiers’ foray into wicket keeping has gone as smoothly as one would expect from the man who would be equally as comfortable representing his country in tennis, rugby, cricket, or even at the Eurovision song contest. Amazingly, De Villiers has not only succeeded in retaining his effectiveness as a batsmen whilst in possession of the gloves, he has stepped his game up yet another gear, scoring three hundreds, as many fifties, and 907 runs in 11 Tests at an average of 60.46. For a long time, he has been one of the world’s most entertaining players. Now he’s one of the world’s most dependable as well.
Marlon Samuels – West Indies:
It took him a while, and he has had to overcome plenty of obstacles to get here, but Marlon Samuels has finally arrived as a Test cricketer. In the last 12 months, the Jamaican has scored three of his five Test centuries, five of his 18 fifties, 943 of his 2767 runs, and has averaged 78.58 – a far cry from his usual average of 37.39. He started in England last year, and has oozed class and sophistication at the crease ever since (in Test cricket, that is. We’ll not mention his mishap with Shane Warne in the Big Bash). Now as crucial a cog as any in the Windies XI, Samuels has the chance to forge the Test career he would’ve always wanted, albeit a bit later than he would’ve wanted.
Faf du Plessis – South Africa:
‘Who is this guy? Is he even on Cricinfo?’ This was Aussie skipper, Michael Clarke’s, facetious remark in the field when Francois du Plessis came to the crease on Test debut against Australia. Du Plessis went on to make a three-hour 78 in the first innings, before bringing up his maiden ton – an unbeaten 110 – in the second. South Africa’s latest superstar – in the typical South African style: classy, stoic batsman and lightning in the field – graduated from the same high school as AB de Villiers, and now that his Test career has gotten of to the start it has – 558 runs, 2 centuries, 2 fifties, and an average of 69.75 after ten innings – he can lay claim to as dazzling a record as his side’s ‘keeper as well.
Virat Kohli – India:
Indian batting talent is akin in depth to a bottomless pit, but when it comes to the required marriage of batting pedigree and the steady temperament required in Test cricket, the deluge is thinned to a trickle. Virat Kohli is, however, an exception to this rule and one that the Indian selectors have managed to extract from the depths, and the young right-hander who, despite stuttering against England last year, appears to be repaying the faith shown in his potential. 684 runs at 52.61 with three hundreds and as many fifties in ten Tests describes Kohli’s most fruitful period of Test cricket so far, and one would not bet against the 24 year-old from Delhi to kick on from here and cement his place in India’s new-look order.
(Note: minimum requirements: 5 Tests, 500 runs, 50.00+ average, 2 hundreds)
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