The Test team that I have picked for the year 2019 features four players from Australia, three from New Zealand, two from India, and one each from Afghanistan and England.
This team has only one player in common with the team I had picked for 2018 – India’s Virat Kohli.
Mayank Agarwal (India)
Having impressed with 76 on debut in the 2018 Boxing Day Test at Melbourne, Agarwal established himself as India’s first-choice opener within a year. His tally of 754 runs at 68.54 included three hundreds, of which two were converted into double centuries. The home series against South Africa saw him score 215 at Vizag and 108 at Pune, soon after which he compiled a colossal 243 against Bangladesh at Indore.
Tom Latham (New Zealand)
The left-handed Latham began the year with 161 against Bangladesh at Hamilton – the third successive Test in which he scored a hundred. His most significant effort came at Colombo’s P Sara Oval, where his 154 was instrumental in New Zealand’s series-levelling innings win over Sri Lanka. He further added a 105 against England – also at Hamilton – three months later, and finished the year with 601 runs at 50.08.
Marnus Labuschagne (Australia)
The top run-scorer of 2019 was Labuschagne, who made Australia’s number three spot his own by logging 1104 runs at 64.94. He scored 59 as a concussion substitute for Steven Smith in the Ashes Test at Lord’s, before striking three more 50s in the series. He then scored three tons in a row at home – 185 and 162 against Pakistan at Brisbane and Adelaide respectively, followed by 143 against New Zealand at Perth.
Steven Smith (Australia)
Coming back from a one-year ban, Smith produced a stellar match-winning effort in the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston. He scored a brilliant 144 in the first innings and 142 in the second, and if that was not enough, hit 211 at Old Trafford after missing a game due to a head injury. He scored a phenomenal 774 runs at 110.57 in the drawn series as Australia retained the urn. In all, he amassed 965 runs at 74.23 in the year.
Virat Kohli (India, captain)
The captain of this XI is the consistent Kohli, who led India from the front with 612 runs at 68.00 and ended the year as the top-ranked Test batsman. He notched a career-best of 254* (also his best first-class score) against South Africa at Pune, before scoring 136 against Bangladesh in the first day-night Test in India, at Kolkata. Under him, India had the distinction of being the only undefeated side in the year.
Ben Stokes (England)
With his stunning knock of 135* against Australia at Headingley, the talismanic Stokes provided one of the greatest innings in Test history. England were 9/286 in a chase of 359, but Stokes – having scored 115* in the previous Test at Lord’s – unleashed an array of astonishing strokes to steer the hosts to a stirring win by one wicket. His final tally for the year was 821 runs at 45.61, on top of 22 wickets at 35.45.
BJ Watling (New Zealand, wicketkeeper)
Not for the first time, the gritty Watling played a pivotal role in the Black Caps’ successes. At Colombo, his unbeaten 105 contributed towards New Zealand’s win by an innings. At Mount Maunganui against England, he recorded a career-best 205 – the highest Test score by a New Zealand wicketkeeper – that led to another innings win. The year saw him register 559 runs at 55.90, not to mention his 29 dismissals.
Mitchell Starc (Australia)
Starc made an early impact in the year, during which he scalped 42 wickets at 20.71 each. In the Canberra Test against Sri Lanka, the left-arm quick took 5/54 and 5/46 as Australia won by 366 runs. Though he missed out on four of the five Ashes Tests, he was at his best in the home season, with 6/66 in the first innings against Pakistan at Adelaide and 5/52 and 4/45 against New Zealand at Perth.
Rashid Khan (Afghanistan)
Although he played only three Tests, Rashid had a great influence on the fortunes of the newest Test team. The leg-spinner took 21 wickets at 15.76, and played his part with 5/82 in the second dig of Afghanistan’s maiden Test win, against Ireland at Dehradun. But he reserved his best for Bangladesh at Chittagong, taking 5/55 and 6/49 in a captain’s performance to spur Afghanistan to a memorable 224-run win.
Pat Cummins (Australia)
Cummins captured 59 wickets – 14 more than anyone else in 2019 – at 20.13, and ended the year as the number one Test bowler. The speedster played a key role in Australia’s retaining of the Ashes, as he topped the charts with 29 wickets at 19.62. His best effort came in the day-night Test against Sri Lanka at Brisbane, where he had figures of 10/62, including 6/23 in the second innings – both career-best returns.
Neil Wagner (New Zealand)
With 43 wickets at 17.81 in just six Tests, Wagner had a year to remember. The spirited left-arm pacer took 16 wickets in two home Tests against Bangladesh, 13 in two home Tests against England (with his best of 5/44 at Mount Maunganui), and has so far taken 14 in this summer’s Trans-Tasman series in Australia. Although his team lost the first two Tests, Wagner had the satisfaction of dismissing Smith all four times.