Despite the popularity of limited overs cricket, 2016 has been a great year for the 5-day format, and teams have produced some exciting test matches.
As the year draws to a close, we look back at five of the best knocks played in 2016.
Ben Stokes – 258 vs South Africa
Ben Stokes’ year is marred by the final over of the T20 World Cup final. But despite that, he has emerged and established himself as one of the best all-rounders currently in the world. He had a fantastic start to the year, smashing a double century against South Africa at Cape Town. His innings of 258 at #6, was only the 10th occasion when a batsman has gone on to score a double century batting at that position. That was not the only record the Durham batsman broke. He became the second fastest double centurion in Tests, overcoming Virender Sehwag’s 168-ball record by five. His 198-ball innings included 31 boundaries and 11 sixes, at a strike-rate of 130! England were not able to seal the victory in the game, but his innings will certainly go down as one of the best knocks played by an Englishman in Test cricket.
Azhar Ali – 302* vs West Indies
With four fifties and three centuries, Azhar Ali has had a dream run at #2 for Pakistan in 2016. He made history this October by becoming the first batsman to score a triple century in Day-Night Test matches, a knock which included 23 boundaries and two sixes. His unbeaten effort of 302 helped Pakistan post a mammoth 579 in the first innings. It was a nervy ending to the test for the home side as they were nearly outplayed by West Indies in the final two days of the game, but they managed to pull through thanks to Mohammad Amir and Yasir Shah to register a 56-run win.
Karun Nair – 303* vs England
Karun Nair did not have a great start to his Test career. He was runout due to a miscommunication with Virat Kohli in Mohali, which was followed by getting dismissed LBW in Mumbai. The 25 year-old walked out to bat in Chennai knowing well that he may not be back in the playing XI in the next game, when Ajinkya Rahane regains fitness. But he made sure that Rahane’s return will not be an easy swap, as he went on to become India’s second triple centurion in Test matches. The Karnataka batsman scored 303 runs in the first innings, which included 32 boundaries and four sixes. His partnership along with KL Rahul and the lower order helped India post a massive lead of 282 at the end of Day 4, and the bowlers did the rest on the last day as India won the test by an innings and 75 runs.
IND vs ENG 2016, 5th Test : Karun Nair’s magnificent triple ton
Virat Kohli – 235 vs England
Virat Kohli has had a phenomenal year. His limited overs game has scaled new heights, he has been prolific in the 5-day format and his captaincy has improved manifolds. Among the three double hundreds he has scored this year, the one in Mumbai ranks above the rest. The Indian captain batted for nearly four and a half sessions and got his side to a commanding 231-run lead, after England managed to score 400 in the first innings. Kohli finished on 235, his highest score in Tests, which included 25 fours and one six. England crumbled in their second innings on Day 5 and conceded the series to India at Wankhede, and Virat Kohli deservedly was declared player of the match.
Younis Khan – 218 vs England
If ever Pakistan are in a crisis situation, Younis Khan jumps (pun intended) into action to save his side. Trailing the series 2-1 and conceding 328 runs in the first innings, Pakistan were facing an uphill task at the start of their innings on Day 2. Their position became worse after losing three early wickets, and still needing 201 runs to erase the deficit. Younis Khan entered The Oval and produced a masterclass. He put together an excellent partnership of 150 runs for the fourth wicket wth Asad Shafiq, who scored his ninth Test hundred. The lower order combined with the 38 year-old to get the team score past 500 as he went on to score his sixth 200-plus score. His innings of 218 runs included 31 boundaries and four maximums, which helped Pakistan take a first innings lead and go on register a famous 10-wicket win to square the series 2-2.
If there ever was a consolation prize in cricket, Asad Shafiq deserves it for his valiant century against Australia in Brisbane. His 137 brought Pakistan close to a famous win, but a Mitchell Starc special denied him the chance of doing so. Nonetheless, it was an innings worth keeping in your memory.
Brendon McCullum retired from international cricket in 2016 and he bowed out the only way he knows – go out swinging! He did it so effectively against Australia at Christchurch that he smashed an entertaining 145, in the process becoming the fastest century-maker (54 balls) in Test cricket!