The second XI: Wisden’s Nearlymen Team of the 2021-23 World Test Championship
It took nine teams nearly two years to decide the finalists of the 2021-23 World Test Championship. Given the volume of the contest, it was only fair that we made not one but two XIs of the league stage.
17 matches, 1208 runs at 52.52, HS: 175, 3 hundreds, 6 fifties
7 wickets at 23.71, BBI: 4-10
Not only did Head average in excess of fifty, but he also struck at 81 – a number next to only Rishabh Pant with a 500-run cut-off. After slamming four hundreds at home, he established his credentials with two forties on rank turners in India, followed by a 32 and 90. Amidst all this, he took 4-10 to help Australia win their first Test match in Sri Lanka for more than a decade.
12 matches, 992 runs at 47.23, HS: 160*, 3 hundreds, 4 fifties
The ice to Head’s fire, Shafique had the second-slowest strike rate with among batters with 500 runs. There were two hundreds in Rawalpindi, against Australia and England, but the magnum opus was the unbeaten 160 in Galle: at 524 minutes, this is the longest innings in a chase in the history of Test cricket. Of his 23 innings, 10 have been in excess of two hours.
22 matches, 1915 runs at 53.19, HS: 180*, 8 hundreds, 6 fifties; 31 catches
14 wickets at 48.00, BBI: 2-23
Root’s 1,1915 runs are 317 clear of anyone else’s tally in the World Test Championship. His eight hundreds – also the most – came in clusters: three in an early burst against India in 2021; two in consecutive innings on the West Indies tour of 2022; and three in the Bazball summer of 2022. The last of these included two in successful chases, against New Zealand and India.
14 matches, 1527 runs at 61.08, HS: 196, 4 hundreds, 10 fifties
Babar’s WTC has been one of attrition against quality attacks. The 196 against Australia in Karachi, his finest, was a seven-hour marathon against Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, and Nathan Lyon at their unyielding best, but the 119 in Galle when nobody else reached 20 was an effort of outstanding quality as well.
11 matches, 960 runs at 60.00, HS: 190, 4 hundreds, 5 fifties
No touring batter has scored more runs than Mitchell’s 538 in 2022 in a three-Test series on English soil. New Zealand were whitewashed, but that was despite Mitchell, not because of him. There were other performances too: he top-scored with 60 in Mumbai, and made 102 and 81 in the Christchurch classic against Sri Lanka.
12 matches, 1024 runs at 46.54, HS: 141, 3 hundreds, 6 fifties;
17 catches, 2 stumpings
Das kept wicket only seven times – a reasonable number to pick him as the gloveman, more so because he averaged 63.90 in these Tests. There were hundreds against Pakistan and Sri Lanka at home, but his finest performances – 86 in Mount Maunganui, 102 in Christchurch – came during Bangladesh’s historic 1-1 draw in New Zealand in early 2022.
13 matches, 444 runs at 23.36, HS: 61, 2 fifties
61 wickets at 19.67, BBI: 6-91, 2 five-fors
Ashwin took at least one wicket in each of the 16 times he bowled at home, and claimed at least three wickets in 13 of them. The count would probably have been more, had he not had to share his wickets with Ravindra Jadeja. With the bat, there were two fifties as well as 46 at Johannesburg, 42 not out in Mirpur, and 37 in Delhi.
11 matches, 306 runs at 20.40, HS: 59, 1 fifty
44 wickets at 22.38, BBI: 5-35, 1 five-for
Tall and left-handed, Jansen had the advantage of both angle and bounce, and he extracted both to the fullest to establish himself as one of Test cricket’s finest. He announced himself with a 19-wicket series against India, and was in outstanding form in both New Zealand and England. There were the cameos as we well, in Christchurch, Lord’s, The Oval, Melbourne…
Shaheen Shah Afridi
8 matches, 41 wickets at 18.19, BBI: 6-51, 2 five-fors, 1 ten-for
Only eight Tests for Afridi, but he averaged over five wickets a match. He toiled hard on the slow, low home pitches against Australia, but came to his own when there was some response, claiming 18 wickets in two Tests in the West Indies, 5-35 in Chattogram, and 4-58 in Galle. He was sorely missed in the subsequent home series.
13 matches, 53 wickets at 20.75, BBI: 5-49, 3 five-fors
The rapidly improving Robinson had 21 wickets in four Test matches against India in the summer of 2021, had 11 wickets at 25.54 when England lost the Ashes in Australia; and took nine wickets in two innings against South Africa. However, his finest performance was the 4-50 in Rawalpindi, where he helped England claim a historic win on a flat that offered little to any bowler of any genre.
15 matches, 58 wickets at 20.37, BBI: 5-60, 2 five-fors
He does not age, does he? Now 40, Anderson bowls under 35 overs on average in a Test – but why does he need to bowl more if he still gets four wickets every time? He played five different oppositions in the championship and averaged under 24 against each of them, and his overseas record match his performances on home soil.