Rating the 5 best Test bowlers of 2016 by their strike rates

England v Pakistan: 4th Investec Test - Day Three : News Photo
Chris Woakes was solid against Pakistan

Bowlers in this day and age are judged in all formats of the game by their economy, average or five-wicket hauls. However, the most real factor that judges a bowler's wicket taking ability, goes missing - the strike rate.

In Test match cricket, in particular, I feel strike rate is the best way to judge a bowler's performance given that in Tests, averages and economy do not matter as much as the ability to pluck out wickets.

But, there needs to be a clear criterion when judging the best bowlers based on strike rate. Mere sorting can pop up names likes Alastair Cook or Mark Boucher who have bowled just 18 and 8 balls respectively their whole career. As strike rate is balls delivered per wicket taken, Cook and Boucher, who have 1 Test wicket apiece can feature right at the top of the list.

Hence, a minimum number of overs criterion must also be considered.

To find the best Test bowlers of 2016, I will try to separate the dust from the gravel and keep a criteria of a minimum of five matches played and a minimum of 100 overs delivered. Keeping this filter, we come across five names sorted by their strike rates, who perfectly fit in as the best performers with the red cherry this year.

Have a quick look at their performances right through the year.

#5 Chris Woakes

The English all-rounder revelled in a year marked by the absence of James Anderson and Stuart Broad. Shouldering a lot of responsibility, Woakes has been a standout performer for England in Tests. He had two outstanding home series’ against Sri Lanka and Pakistan, taking over from Finn and Jordan as the no.1 back up bowler to Anderson and Broad.

His numbers in the year have been quite stunning. In 10 Tests during the year, Woakes has 39 wickets at a strike rate of 45.7 with two five-wicket hauls and one-ten wicket haul. His best performance came against Pakistan at Lord's where he picked 6/70 in the first innings and followed that up with a 5/32 in the second innings.

Admittedly, he could not replicate the same kind of success in sub-continental conditions and had a forgettable tour of Bangladesh, where England struggled to a tame 1-1 draw. Ben Stokes is close on his trail with 26 wickets in 9 games at a strike rate of 47.3.

CR WOAKES10297.28613911/10222.0745.721

#4 Ravichandran Ashwin

Ashwin spun his way to the top of the Test rankings

India's streak of home Test series’ have meant the biggest beneficiary is Ravichandran Ashwin. Capitalising on helpful wickets, Ashwin had a great year forming a potent combination with Jadeja and Mishra. His ability to work over batsmen with guile and intelligent bowling has been a sight to behold. While his record away from the sub-continent is still debatable, there is no questioning his miracles at home.

Ashwin had a great series in the Caribbean islands, where he plucked out 17 wickets in 4 Tests at a strike rate of 46.2. A sensational series against the Kiwis at home followed, in which 27 wickets across the three matches went to Ashwin. He has had a forgettable start to the England series at Rajkot but the record should get better as the series goes on.

He is the second highest wicket-taker in the year with 47 wickets in 9 matches at an overall strike rate of 44.2. Compared to his career strike rate of 50.6, Ashwin has had a much better year.

R ASHWIN934711044713/14023.4844.252

#3 Rangana Herath

Herath absolutely bamboozled the Zimbabweans

The veteran spinner has been Lanka's go-to bowler in Tests since the retirement of Muttiah Muralitharan. Despite being in the wrong side age-wise, he has led the way in terms of wickets this year, with 54 scalps in 8 Tests.

He started the year poorly, continuing his messed up run outside the sub-continent, picking just 7 wickets in 3 Tests in England. But a visit to his homeland from a clueless set of Aussie batsmen turned his year around. In a sensational series in which Lanka whitewashed Australia, Herath picked up 28 wickets in 3 Tests with a best of 7/64.

Also read: Stats: Rangana Herath joins elite club of bowlers with a five-wicket haul against all Test playing nations

Surprisingly, it turned out to be his second-best performance of the year as in the tour of Zimbabwe he grabbed a best of 8/63. 19 wickets in the two Tests took his overall tally for the year to 54 wickets. However, it remains to be seen how well his year ends given that Lanka are scheduled to tour South Africa at the end of the year.

R HERATH8367.39475413/14517.5340.852

#2 Mitchell Starc

1st Test - Australia v South Africa: Day 1 : News Photo
Mitchell Starc has had yet another great showing with the red ball

Despite Australia's pathetic show in Tests this year, Starc has been a big bonus, extracting late swing with the new ball and reverse swing with the old ball. He had a great year picking up 32 wickets in 5 Tests, with three of those Tests coming in the sub-continent against Sri Lanka.

In Lanka, he struck up front in most games and returned to create more havoc with the old ball. A best of 6/50 and 24 wickets in three Tests at a strike rate of 25.8 underlined his importance to the Australian Test team, missing the venom of the retired Mitchell Johnson.

He started on a good note against South Africa at home returning from injury, prizing out 8 wickets in the two completed Tests of the tour. That Australia won none of these five matches does not make Starc a lesser bowler as he has been right on the money from the start of the year.

M STARC51776283211/9419.6233.131

#1 Kagiso Rabada

1st Test - Australia v South Africa: Day 5 : News Photo
Rabada has been a revelation for South Africa

The teenage seamer has grabbed quite a few headlines with his searing pace and consistency in line. He has proved a handful for teams around the world, troubling them with pace and movement. In the absence of at least one of Steyn, Philander and Morkel for the most part, Rabada gave a good account of himself and has taken over the mantle of the leader of the bowling attack from Steyn.

39 wickets in 7 matches this year at a strike rate of 32.7 shows how good this lad has been for South Africa. He grabbed headlines with a career-best 13/144 at Centurion in the series against England in January. A 22 wicket tally in the series marked the arrival of Rabada in International Cricket. In the next home series against the Kiwis, he grabbed 5 wickets in two Tests, as Steyn did a bulk of the wicket taking.

Also read: Kagiso Rabada - a nation's hope

The tour of Australia put Rabada right at the top of the list, as he had a sensational game at Perth in the first match of the series. He currently has 12 wickets in the two completed matches of the series.

K RABADA7213.18223913/14421.0732.741

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Edited by Staff Editor
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