The Test team that I have picked for the year 2018 features two players each from India, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, and one each from England, South Africa and the West Indies.
Two notable players to have missed out very narrowly are South Africa’s AB de Villiers and Australia’s Pat Cummins. This year’s team has two players in common with team I had picked for 2017 – Virat Kohli and Kagiso Rabada.
1) Dimuth Karunaratne (Sri Lanka)
The left-handed Karunaratne was the most consistent opener of the year, with a tally of 743 runs at 46.43.
He carried his bat for a brilliant 158* against South Africa at Galle, and backed it up with three fifties later in the series. He was Sri Lanka’s highest run-getter in the series against England as well, even as his team lost all three matches. His gutsy 79 at Wellington held Sri Lanka’s first innings together.
2) Kusal Mendis (Sri Lanka)
Partnering Karunaratne at the top is his compatriot Mendis, who was the year’s second-highest run-getter with 1023 runs at 46.50, including three overseas hundreds. He kicked off the year with a career-best 196 at Chittagong, and followed it up with 102 in defeat at Port of Spain and a match-saving 141* from number four at Wellington, where he batted out the entire fourth day with Angelo Mathews.
3) Kane Williamson (New Zealand, captain)
Captaining the XI is the the dependable Williamson, under whom New Zealand won each of their three series. The 28-year-old led from the front, collecting 651 runs at 59.18.
He scored 102 to play a part in England’s innings defeat at Auckland, but his best display came in the deciding Test at Abu Dhabi, where his innings of 89 and 139 paved the way for New Zealand’s first away win over Pakistan in 49 years.
4) Virat Kohli (India)
The irrepressible Kohli scaled new heights, producing several breathtaking performances to establish himself as the year’s best batsman with a run tally of 1322 at 55.08.
The Indian captain’s five hundreds included a stellar 153 at Centurion, a lone-ranger 149 at Edgbaston (he went on to score 593 runs in the series in England – 244 more than the second-highest), 107 at Trent Bridge and 123 at Perth.
5) Henry Nicholls (New Zealand)
The year gone by saw Nicholls gradually become an indispensable part of the Black Caps’ middle order.
The southpaw’s first Test innings in 2018 was 145* against England at Auckland, after which he played a crucial role in New Zealand’s triumph in the UAE with 126* in the second innings of the second Test. He finished with a career-best 162* against Sri Lanka, bringing his year’s return to 658 runs at 73.11.
6) Jos Buttler (England, wicketkeeper)
Though he kept wicket in only one Test, Buttler’s achievements with the bat were hard to ignore, thereby making him the top choice to take the gloves.
His total of 760 runs at 44.70 was the fifth-highest in the year, with a best of 106 against India at Trent Bridge – his first Test hundred. He contributed regularly in the series win in Sri Lanka, where he was England’s second-highest scorer with 250 runs at 41.66.
7) Jason Holder (West Indies)
Holder takes the all-rounder’s spot for his commendable showing of 336 runs at 37.33 and 33 wickets at just 12.39.
The West Indian captain scored 74 in the first innings and returned match figures of 9/60 against Sri Lanka at Bridgetown, albeit in a losing cause. He later bagged 11/103 against Bangladesh at Kingston, and despite being hit by injury, recorded his fourth fifer of the year at Hyderabad.
8) Kagiso Rabada (South Africa)
The leading wicket-taker of the year, with 52 scalps at 20.07, was the exciting Rabada, who is currently the world’s top-ranked bowler.
The speedster’s finest spell came in the second Test against Australia at Port Elizabeth, where he demolished the middle order en route to 5/96. For good measure, he added another 6/54 in the second innings. He led the bowling charts for that series with 23 wickets at 19.26.
9) Yasir Shah (Pakistan)
In a year that saw him become the fastest to 200 Test wickets, Yasir netted 38 victims in just six matches at 23.52 apiece.
The leg-spinner missed the tour of England due to injury, but returned to bamboozle New Zealand in the UAE. Though Pakistan lost the series, Yasir enhanced his reputation with 29 wickets at 19.03. The highlight was a stunning 8/41 in the first innings (14/184 in the match) at Dubai.
10) Mohammad Abbas (Pakistan)
Abbas displayed his bowling prowess with a haul of 38 wickets at 13.76. The seamer was instrumental in Pakistan’s first two wins of the year, with match figures of 9/110 against Ireland at Dublin followed by 8/64 against England at Lord’s.
He continued in the same vein against Australia in the UAE, where he snared a career-best 10/95 (5/33 and 5/62) at Abu Dhabi to end the two-match series with 17 wickets.
11) Jasprit Bumrah (India)
Armed with an unusual sling-arm action, Bumrah had a fantastic start to his Test career, with his 48 wickets at 21.02 being the third-highest tally by a bowler in his debut year. He grabbed eyeballs with 5/54 at Johannesburg, and later took 5/85 at Trent Bridge.
But he reserved his best of 6/33 for the Boxing Day Test at Melbourne, on the way to match figures of 9/86 – the best by an Indian fast bowler in Australia.