Picking the 2017 Test team of the year is not an easy task.
Several players excelled during parts of the year but also had significant flat spots while a team like India played eight of its 11 Tests at home, with the other three in Sri Lanka –
meaning similar conditions throughout the year.
Anyway, here we go.
Dean Elgar (RSA) 12 Tests, 1128 runs at 53.7, five centuries and four fifties
It was a breakout year for the left-handed Protea.
Heading into 2017, he had played 30 Tests for an average of 36.3.
A profitable 12 months has elevated his career average to 42.2.
His centuries were scored at Cape Town, Dunedin, The Oval, Potchefstroom and Bloemfontein.
He fell one short of a double century against Bangladesh in his innings at Potchefstroom.
His consistency was highlighted by the fact he made a century in each of the four series South Africa played during the year while he scored 31 in the one innings he played in the lop-sided two-day victory over Zimbabwe on Boxing Day.
David Warner (AUS) 11 Tests, 997 runs at 49.8, four centuries and four fifties
Warner is one of those who had a flat spot during the year, namely the tour of India where he averaged 24.1 in the four Tests.
That was counter balanced by his performance in the two-Test series in Bangladesh where he made a century in each match, a major breakthrough given his historic struggles on the sub-continent.
He started the year with a historic century against Pakistan at the SCG, becoming just the fifth batsman to score a century prior to lunch on the opening day of a Test and the first to do it in Australia.
He ended the year with a dour match-saving 86 off 227 balls at the MCG having made 103 in the first innings.
Cheteshwar Pujara (IND) 11 Tests, 1140 runs at 67.0, four centuries and five fifties
Only Steve Smith scored more Test runs in 2017.
His standout knock was his 202 against Australia at Ranchi having made 92 in the previous Test at Bengaluru.
He followed those performances with two centuries in Sri Lanka and another against the Sri Lankans at Nagpur.
He is very much a throwback to former days as he is a specialist Test batsman, having played only five ODIs alongside his 54 Tests.
His patient and dogged batting provided a solid backbone for his more free-flowing top order teammates.
Steve Smith (AUS) 11 Tests, 1305 runs at 76.7, six centuries and three fifties
The first picked, Smith continued his amazing run as the world’s leading Test batsman.
For the fourth calendar year in a row he amassed over 1000 runs at an average over 70.
He was brilliant in India, scoring three centuries prior to a quiet series in Bangladesh where he averaged just 29.8.
He returned to his imperious best in the Ashes, amassing 604 runs at 151.0 through the first four Tests on the back of innings of 141no, 239 and 102no.
That last innings was a defiant 275-ball effort at the MCG as Australia looked to save the match.
It further highlight Smith’s ability to change tempo depending on the match situation.
Virat Kohli (IND) ten Tests, 1059 runs at 75.6, five centuries and one fifty
Kohli’s conversion rate was outstanding not only converting fifties into centuries but three times went beyond 200.
He started the year with 204 against Bangladesh ahead of an extremely disappointing home series against Australia.
While Smith averaged 71.3 his counterpart could manage a mere 9.2, a number that would have been inconceivable pre-series.
Kohli would have been smarting after that performance and it was Sri Lanka that felt the wrath.
He averaged 53.7 in the away series including an unbeaten 103 at Galle.
It was in the return three-Test series that Kohli truly feasted – 104no at Kolkata; 213 at Nagpur; and 243 and 50 at Delhi.
Shakib Al Hasan (BAN) seven Tests, 665 runs at 47.5, two centuries and three fifties, 29 wickets at 33.4
A difficult pick for the all-rounder slot.
It was a photo finish between Al Hasan and England’s Ben Stokes who had a similar year with seven Tests for a batting average of 43.9 and bowling average of 31.3.
But it was Al Hasan’s match winning performances in two important Tests for his country that gets him the nod.
He made a century at Colombo which earned Bangladesh a victory and a drawn series in Sri Lanka.
At Dhaka, against Australia, he produced a stellar performance with scores of 84 and 5 and hauls of 5-68 and 5-85 to give the hosts a 20-run win.
He also made 217 against the Black Caps at Wellington.
Mushfiqur Rahim (BAN) eight Tests, 766 runs at 54.7, 2 centuries and three fifties, 14 dismissals
This is arguably the toughest position to choose.
South Africa’s Quinton de Kock effected the most dismissals with 50, ahead of Saha and England’s Jonny Bairstow (both 37).
De Kock (619 runs at 36.4), Bairstow (652 at 34.3) and Saha (423 at 42.3) all made contributions with the bat.
But they all fell well behind Rahim who averaged 54.7, making 159 against New Zealand and 127 in his country’s first win in India.
Behind the stumps, he was tidy but averaged only 1.4 dismissals per innings.
Nathan Lyon (AUS) 11 Tests, 63 wickets at 23.6, 5 5WI and one 10WM
It was a stellar 12 months for Lyon with his 63 wickets making him the most prolific bowler for the year.
He captured 19 wickets at 25.3 in India including a career best 8-50 in the first innings at Bengaluru.
In Bangladesh, he picked up 22 wickets in two Tests at 14.3 with returns of 3-79, 6-82, 7-94 and 6-60.
His form run continued when he returned home, with 17 wickets at 27.9 in the first four Ashes Tests.
His past 12 months has firmly entrenched him as Australia’s number one spinner, and as such, backed fully by his skipper to both put the brakes on the run rate and capture key wickets.
Josh Hazlewood (AUS) ten Tests, 34 wickets at 25.4, 2 5WI
In a year where spin bowlers provided six of the top eight wicket-takers, it was another reliable year from Hazlewood, combining a miserly economy rate (2.58) with crucial wickets.
He started 2017 at the SCG with match figures of 7-84 against Pakistan.
In unfavourable conditions in India, he toiled long and hard, averaging 32.8, taking a superb 6-67 at Bengaluru.
In the Ashes, he has been the standout bowler with 18 wickets at 24.6.
His consistent line and length means he is always in the game.
James Anderson (ENG) 11 Tests, 55 wickets at 17.6, 4 5WI
At 35 years of age, Anderson had the best year of his career.
With the Dukes ball at home he was devastating.
In the four-Test series against South Africa he captured 20 wickets at 14.1.
He then produced exactly the same average in the three-Test series against West Indies, claiming another 19 wickets.
Having traditionally struggled in Australia, he has easily been England’s best bowler in his fourth Ashes series down under with 16 wickets at 26.1 through the first four Tests.
He now has 522 career wickets, 41 behind Glenn McGrath, the only fast bowler ahead of him.
Kagiso Rabada (RSA) 11 Tests, 57 wickets at 20.3, 3 5WI and 2 10WM
Rabada has been a revelation since making his debut in November 2015. And he rounds out the XI.
Still only 22, he already has 105 wickets and is the heir apparent to the great Dale Steyn as the leader of the Proteas’ attack.
Only three times in his 20 innings with the ball in 2017 did he fail to take two wickets or more, finishing with a remarkable strike rate of 37.8.
Like Steyn in his prime, he has the ability to bowl controlled outswing at pace.
He picked up two ten wicket hauls – against Sri Lanka at Cape Town and Bangladesh at Bloemfontein.