The Wisden.com quartet of Yas Rana, Aadya Sharma, Manoj Narayan, and Ben Gardner pick Wisden’s Test Team of the Year as part of the 2020 in Review series, based on performances in Tests starting between December 11, 2019 and December 11, 2020.
Words: Ben Gardner
It’s been an up and down year for the Test game, with the Covid-19 pandemic cutting swathes through large parts of the maiden edition of the World Test Championship, and matches played in bio-secure bubbles in front of empty stands. Still, there were several mouth-watering big-ticket clashes, especially pre-virus, with New Zealand losing to Australia before beating India, confirming that the world rankings, as they stand, perhaps get it right.
With Wisden Cricket Monthly‘s regular Teams of the Year series moving online for 2020, we pick out the best performers from December 11, 2019, until now, with performances in the upcoming Border-Gavaskar Trophy series counting towards next year’s team.
2020 in Review: Wisden’s Test Team of the Year
Stats in bold refer to Tests starting between December 11, 2019 and December 11, 2020
Dom Sibley – England
10 matches, 648 runs @ 43.20, 2 100s, HS: 133*
Having started the qualification period with his technique under the microscope, Dom Sibley more than proved his unique method could succeed at the top level. Hundreds against South Africa and West Indies stood out, but the value of the solidity and comfort he provides England atop the order is nearly immeasurable.
Best knock: 133* (311) v South Africa, Cape Town, January 3-7, 2020
England only had a slender lead when the third innings kicked off in Cape Town, but Sibley dug in and then expanded as much as he could to ensure they built a match-winning advantage. Given the quality of the attack and the rising questions from sections of the media, it was a superb effort.
Shan Masood – Pakistan
6 matches, 419 runs @ 46.55, 3 100s, HS: 156
Three tons in three consecutive innings earn Shan Masood his place in this team, even if he tailed off somewhat alarmingly against England.
Best knock: 156 (319) v England, Old Trafford, August 5-8, 2020
England began exceptionally before lunch on day one, and Masood rode it out. Then, even as the home bowlers erred, he couldn’t quite cash in. But on day two, as Pakistan slid to 176-5, he came into his own, slowly opening his shoulders as his batting partners dwindled. Having struggled against England previously – his 156 was more than he managed in four previous Tests against them combined – Masood’s should have been a match-winning knock, but Chris Woakes and Jos Buttler had other ideas.
Kane Williamson – New Zealand (C)
5 matches, 405 runs @ 50.62, 1 100, HS: 251
The career-best knock against West Indies stands out, but an 89 in the first Test against India – the next highest score in the game was 58 – was arguably even more valuable. Captaining New Zealand to a whitewash against the world’s No.1 side, and leading them to the brink of the same ranking, also bolsters his case.
Best knock: 251 (412) v West Indies, Hamilton, December 3-6, 2020
At first, the pitch seemed as green and as seam-friendly as any seen in Test cricket for a long time. But when Williamson batted on it, he made it look a road, barely playing a shot in anger or putting a foot wrong until well past the double. The struggles of the rest of New Zealand’s batsmen, especially on day two, and West Indies’ after them, showed it was Williamson making the surface look good, rather than the other way around.
Babar Azam – Pakistan
6 matches, 600 runs @ 100, 3 100s, HS: 143
All told, that’s not a bad average. Babar Azam made sure the return of Test cricket was a joyous, triumphant one, and it was fitting that he, a player who had already inspired such hope in the country, should provide even more. That he’ll be disappointed with his exploits in England, despite averaging just under 50, shows how high his standards now are.
Best knock: 143 v Bangladesh, Rawalpindi, February 3-7, 2020
The most important of Babar’s knocks in terms of the match situation. Having come in at 93-2, he breezed past a century in quicktime, setting up a match-winning lead.
Marnus Labuschagne – Australia
3 matches, 549 runs @ 91.50, 2 100s, HS: 215
Marnus Labuschagne only played three matches in the qualification period, all in Australia’s home series against New Zealand, but still did enough to make the cut, turning what on paper should have been one of the closest series of the year into a rout for the Aussies. Only once was he dismissed for less than 50.
Best knock: 143 v New Zealand, Perth, December 12-15, 2020
The double in the last game stands out for sheer volume, but Labuschagne’s first-Test ton shades it, setting the tone for a thrashing. While he did receiv support, he was the only batsman to kick on – Travis Head’s 56 was the only other fifty-plus score. Had he fallen, New Zealand might have felt in the contest.
Ben Stokes – England
8 matches, 690 runs @ 53.07, 2 100s, HS: 176; 21 wickets @ 18, BBI: 4-49
What more is there to be said about this freak of a cricketer? The top run-scorer in our qualification period, despite missing England’s last two Tests, Stokes showed, if we needed further proof, that his bursts of indescribable brilliance are now allied with boring consistency. And he averaged 18 with the ball too.
Best game: 47 (77) & 72 (47), 0-34 & 3-35, six catches v South Africa, Cape Town, January 3-7, 2020
An important contribution in the first innings, a record-equalling five catches in the second, a blistering knock in the third, taking the pressure off Sibley and giving England just enough time to force a result, and then that ending, removing each of the last three batsmen to fall when South Africa were in touching distance of a draw. And he had the temerity to try and give the Player of the Match award to Dom Sibley.
Quinton de Kock – South Africa (WK)
4 matches, 380 runs @ 47.50, HS: 95
As the wreckage of South African cricket smouldered around him, Quinton de Kock had a series to be proud of against England, making a half-century in every game and only one score below 20.
Best knock: 95 (128) v England, Centurion, December 26-29, 2019
A supreme counter-attack on a tough surface, having come in at 97-4, which soon became 111-5. Rory Burns’ forlorn 84 in the fourth innings was the only other innings in the game above 50.
Kyle Jamieson – New Zealand
4 matches, 20 wickets @ 14.55, 2 five-fors, BBI: 5-34; 164 runs @ 54.66, HS: 51*
A stunning debut year in Test cricket for the lanky New Zealand all-rounder. Kyle Jamieson set up both New Zealand’s wins over India with first-innings runs and wickets, and continued in much the same vein against West Indies. Where have the Blackcaps been hiding him?
Best game: 5-45 & 0-18, 49 (63) v India, Christchurch, February 29-March 2, 2020
India had been caught by surprise in the first Test, but looked to have gotten up to speed in the second, making their way to 80-1 having lost the toss. Then Kyle Jamieson intervened, dismissing both half-centurions, Prithvi Shaw and Cheteshwar Pujara, before returning to scythe through the lower order. New Zealand then found themselves 153-7, in danger of conceding a big first-innings lead, only for Jamieson to notch 49 and keep the Blackcaps in contention. Another skittling and a whitewash beckoned.
Stuart Broad – England
9 matches, 43 wickets @ 15.37, 1 five-for, BBI: 6-31
Merely competent in South Africa, the pain of being left out for the first Test of the English summer spurned Stuart Broad on to bowl perhaps as well as he has for England. He rediscovered which end of a bat to hold onto, scoring at above a run a ball for the qualification period.
Best performance: 6-31 & 4-36 v West Indies, Manchester, July 24-28, 2020
On paper the last two Tests look like hammerings, but with weather around West Indies almost got close to stealing a series draw against England. In the third Test, it was an irresistible Broad that won the day, finishing with frankly absurd match figures of 10-67.
Tim Southee – New Zealand
6 matches, 38 wickets @ 18.89, 3 five-fors, BBI: 5-32
Tim Southee could hold his head high after New Zealand’s thumping in Australia, claiming nine wickets in the first Test defeat. Back on home shores, he was untouchable, taking nine in the first India Test, and four and five in the two West Indies first innings. He might quietly now have moved to the position of New Zealand’s attack leader, ahead of Trent Boult.
Best performance: 4-49 & 5-61 v India, Wellington, February 21-24, 2020
India came to New Zealand with hopes of another sizeable overseas triumph. In the first Test they were bundled out for under 200 in both innings, with Southee the chief architect of the chaos.
Nathan Lyon – Australia
3 matches, 20 wickets @ 17.25, 2 five-fors, BBI: 5-50
Another Australian to make the XI, despite them only playing three Tests in the cut-off. Nathan Lyon took the most wickets of any spinner, and had the best average of any spinner with more than 10 wickets. While the Blackcaps might have expected to be blown away by pace, it was the not-so-gentle off-spin of the GOAT that sent them packing.
Best performance: 5-68 & 5-50 v New Zealand, Sydney, January 3-6, 2020
Lyon lopped off the top and tail of New Zealand’s batting order in the first innings, and ran through the middle in the second to seal a crushing whitewash for Australia.
2020 in Review: Wisden’s Test Team of the Year
1. Dom Sibley
2. Shan Masood
3. Kane Williamson (C)
4. Marnus Labuschagne
5. Babar Azam
6. Ben Stokes
7. Quinton de Kock (WK)
8. Kyle Jamieson
9. Stuart Broad
10. Tim Southee
11. Nathan Lyon