Top 10 Test Bowlers of the Year 2015
Some years are about one-team domination, a year where numbers are entirely dominated by players from that team. 2015 thankfully was a great year for cricket, giving us some amazing Test series, the inaugural Day-Night Test played with the pink ball, some brilliant Test innings and some excellent bowling spells.It is also the first time in a long while that Dale Steyn wasn’t one of the top 10 Test bowlers in the world, having played just 5 Tests to pick 17 wickets. It explains to some extent why South Africa as a team isn’t at the top of the charts, having lost four of their last five Tests. However, 2015 will be remembered for quite a few things:Spinners were back occupying four of the top 10 slots and two of the top 3. There was variety too with two off-spinners, a leg-spinner and a left-arm orthodox spinner in that list.It was not the usually celebrated names that dominated the list – more the unsung heroes who finally found some limelight.The averages were a beauty to watch, clearly showing that the ball can still hold its sway. Of the 10 bowlers, only two had an average over 30, one of them marginally tipping over.6 of the 10 bowlers boasted of an impressive strike-rate of below 50 balls.The top 10 bowlers hail from as many as six different countries. Three of the top 10 bowlers, though, are from Australia and we haven’t included the great Mitchell Johnson. It is to the credit of the two English bowlers in the list and the backup crew that England still managed to win the home Ashes convincingly.Let us look at the top 10 bowlers. Mind you, it is not an out and out order based on wickets taken this year or lowest averages and strike-rates. It is a subjective list based on all of the parameters, which is why Moeen Ali, who has 39 wickets, 9th highest, misses out of the list, considering his unimpressive average of 39.94.
#10 Rangana Herath
Herath is the only bowler apart from Ashwin to pick 10 wickets in a match this year. He ended 2015 with 37 wickets at 35.59 apiece, having played 3 Tests fewer than Ali who picked up 39.
By Herath’s standards, these are ordinary numbers but the left-arm spinner won a Test for Sri Lanka against India at home with a brilliant 7/48, while Ali, his nearest competitor hasn’t managed a single five-wicket haul.
Herath is standing on the verge of retirement at close to 38 years, having played 67 Tests and picked up 297 wickets at 29.87. Herath managed just 4 wickets in 2 Tests in New Zealand, at the end of the year and time is running out on the wily left-armer with deadly accuracy.
Nevertheless, he may get a few more games, considering Sri Lanka haven’t exactly unearthed another spinner who can pick wickets and also be inexpensive when playing away from home.
#9 Trent Boult
Trent Boult was one of the best bowlers for New Zealand in the 2015 World Cup that saw them reach the finals. He has also been Brendon McCullum’s go-to man in whites, considering Tim Southee has been up and down all year, alternating bursts of great fast bowling with mediocre performances.
Boult picked up 36 wickets in just 8 Tests at 31.5 apiece with 2 five-wicket hauls. The 26-year-old left-arm fast bowler is still young in his career with just 37 matches under his belt but is closing in on 150 wickets with a career average under 30, the hallmark of a great bowler.
More importantly, Boult has shown, along with a capability of swinging the ball, the discipline to bowl good lines and lengths all day, day after day. He finished a recent series against Australia at home with 13 wickets, same as Hazlewood and Starc with a five-wicket haul that almost won New Zealand the game.
#8 Dhammika Prasad
Bowling on the hard sub-continental wickets could be torturous for fast bowlers. But Sri Lanka’s lion-hearted new ball bowler, showed he can still be the spearhead of the bowling attack after Muralitharan’s exodus.
Prasad is nippy and can move the ball both ways and in 9 Tests he picked up a very respectable 41 wickets at an excellent average of 24.95. His strike-rate of 44.3, mostly under hot demanding conditions adds value to his performances.
Prasad picked 15 wickets against India in 3 Tests, the most by a fast bowler in that series, a performance that stood out during the year.
#7 Nathan Lyon
Lyon has been, for a long time, the unsung hero of the Australian Test side. He inexplicably missed out of the World Cup winning squad but has continued to prove his value in whites in a side teeming with fast bowlers.
Nevertheless, Lyon has continued to pick wickets even in Australia’s pacy and bouncy conditions. He ended the year with 48 wickets in 13 Tests at 28.72 apiece with a decent strike-rate of 55.9.
Lyon never really grabbed headlines considering he hasn’t managed a single five-wicket haul, which makes his contributions and consistency all the more noteworthy. With a fairy-tale entry into Tests, Lyon has settled down nicely as Australia’s first choice off-spinner, recently completing 50 Tests, having picked up 182 wickets.
#6 Mitchell Starc
Mitchell Starc is the best limited-overs bowler in the world, without a shade of doubt. However, 2015 saw his resurgence in whites where he has been largely unpredictable and generally expensive.
This year, he managed to pick 46 wickets at 25.06 in 11 Tests also ending up as the second highest wicket-taker at the Ashes with a six-wicket haul in a losing cause. However, he had a strike-rate of 44.7, next only to Ashwin amongst the top 10 wicket-takers, proving his worth to the team.
Starc had a great World Cup and a scintillating IPL and he seemed to have carried that confidence along with him, making a name for himself for his in-swinging toe-crusher. Starc looked jaded midway through the Ashes but managed to pep himself up against New Zealand in a 3 Test home series which saw him break the 160kph barrier.
That ball to Ross Taylor definitely put him in an elite group. Starc, who has picked up 91 wickets in 25 Tests in his short career in whites, is young and has all the ammunition to be great if he can keep himself free of injuries.
#5 James Anderson
Anderson missed out on two Tests in the Ashes and one more against South Africa at the end of the year due to injury. Nevertheless, he finished the year with 46 wickets in 11 Tests at just 22.65 apiece, his average only second to Ashwin’s amongst the top 10 wicket-takers.
5th on the ICC Test Bowlers’ rankings, Anderson showed his skill and temperament when he managed to pick 13 wickets in 3 Tests in UAE, next only to Yasir Shah’s 15. No other fast bowler picked more than 8 wickets in the series.
He also seemed in decent form in the Ashes until injury ruled him out, picking 10 wickets at 27.5 in 3 games. His highlight performance came against West Indies when he picked 6/42 only for his team’s batting to undo his efforts, in a losing cause.
This year will also be special for Anderson as he broke into the prestigious 400 Test wickets’ club, now sitting pretty at 426 and with a genuine opportunity to overtake Courtney Walsh with at least couple of more years of cricket left in him.
#4 Josh Hazlewood
Hazlewood is almost threatening to fill Glenn McGrath’s shoes in times to come. The tall lanky bowler is a machine capable of bowling line and length all day. He ended the year with 51 wickets, one of only three bowlers this year to cross the half-century mark.
The wickets came in 12 Tests at 23.35 apiece with 2 five-wicket hauls. Hazlewood has been the workhorse keeping one end tight allowing Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc to intimidate the batsmen from the other end.
Hazlewood has some tough competition from James Pattinson who has come back well after a long injury layoff. Hazlewood had a good Ashes as well picking 16 wickets in 4 Tests although he was dropped for one Test in favour of Peter Siddle.
However, the retirement of Mitchell Johnson means that Hazlewood will be part of a four-seamer attack and would mostly don the responsibilities of bowling the new ball, with which he is generally immaculate.
#3 Yasir Shah
The year didn't end on a good note for Yasir Shah, because of a ban caused by doping issues, an inquiry which is ongoing. However, that shouldn’t take away the fact that Yasir Shah brought charm back to the art of leg-spin which was impoverished due to the exodus of quality leg-spinners like Shane Warne, Anil Kumble, and Stuart MacGill.
Shah finished the year with 49 wickets, in just 7 Tests, the highest wickets-per-Test average this year. He got his wickets at 23 apiece with a strike-rate of 48.3. His 3 five-wicket hauls put him second only to Ashwin as he showed his skills against Sri Lanka (Sri Lanka) and England (UAE).
In the recently concluded series in the UAE against England, Shah picked up 15 wickets in just 2 Tests. He was also instrumental for Pakistan’s away series win against Sri Lanka, announcing himself at the international stage. Shah is one of those tweakers with an absolutely clean action and that adds to his likeability.
#2 Stuart Broad
Broad’s 8/15 that wrecked Australia, who collapsed in under 20 overs on a cold English morning, will go down as one of the best spells of fast bowling by an Englishman. However, that is more an example than a lone case of his year, a year when he came out of the shadow cast by James Anderson and probably became England’s most reliable bowler on all kinds of surfaces.
Broad ended the year on a good note as well in England’s astonishing win in the Boxing Day Test against South Africa. Broad finished the year with 56 wickets at 23.82 apiece, boasting of a strike-rate of 48.2.
He is also the only bowler in the top 20 wicket-takers to play 14 Test matches, proving his match-fitness, something England would have dearly loved given Anderson’s patchy year with injury concerns.
A hit-the-deck bowler primarily, Broad slipped effortlessly from a support role to the lead role depending on the need of the hour, as seen in UAE when he picked 7 wickets in 3 Tests and kept one side tight for Anderson’s magic to work.
The year also saw Broad showing the glimpses of the all-rounder he was expected to be, but didn’t with short ball concerns. He was the No.3 all-rounder on the ICC Player Rankings. But Broad will probably like the fact that he finished as the Ashes’ top wicket-taker with 21 wickets in 5 Tests at 20.9.
#1 R Ashwin
Ashwin had a great year in all formats of the game. In the ODI World Cup, he was remarkable and showed signs of what was to come in Tests later, with a better action, a greater inclination to bowl off-spin, a more impressive pivot and better guile and deceit in the air.
Even Bishan Singh Bedi will be proud of Ashwin, who has after Bedi, become the first Indian bowler in more than two decades to top the wickets chart at the end of the year. Ashwin finished on 62 wickets in just 9 Tests at an average of 17.20 and a strike-rate of 36.4, 6 wickets ahead of Broad who played 5 Tests more.
Ashwin won the Man of the Series in India’s away series victory against Sri Lanka and then steamrolled South Africa in a 3-0 home series win for India, equalling Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag’s record of 5 Man of the Series Awards in just 12 series.
Ashwin also finished on top of the ICC All-rounders’ list despite underachieving with the bat, where he clearly has plenty of talent. Ashwin is picking up 5 wicket hauls at the same rate as Muralitharan (considered an unbreakable mark) with 7 this year.
The next highest is Yasir Shah’s 3. Ashwin is also the only bowler to pick 2 10-wickets-in-a-match hauls this year with 12/98 being his best performance. The good news is that he finished the year on a high and he is expected to continue this upswing in his career.