Wisden’s Test spells of the year, part of the 2021 in Review series, as picked by a panel of Wisden.com writers.
Wisden’s Test spells of the year, No.10: Jasprit Bumrah 2-27
England v India
The Oval, London
Only two wickets, but for all the discussions of five-fors and six-fors that dominated this debate, Bumrah’s match-winning burst at The Oval where he dismissed both Ollie Pope and Jonny Bairstow on a docile pitch and turned the match on its head just couldn’t be shaken from our memory. It was a spectacular display of fast bowling and the sheer control that Bumrah had over the ball and the England batting line-up that day is evidenced by him conceding just 27 runs from 22 runs. On a tour that ended with India a draw away from a series win, Bumrah bowled its defining spell, even if it only contained two wickets.
Wisden’s Test spells of the year, No.9: Axar Patel 5-32
India v England
There has rarely been a Test match where a single bowler has had such a strangle over an opposition. Opening the bowling in the second innings, and fresh off figures of 6-38 in the first, Axar clean bowled Zak Crawley with his first delivery, had Jonny Bairstow given lbw with his second (only for it to be overturned) and then beat Bairstow once more with his third to clean bowl him as well. Such was Axar’s dominance with the pink ball that the Ahmedabad Test match was the shortest completed Test in over 80 years. It was farcical, it was brilliant, it was Test cricket as we’d never seen it before.
Wisden’s Test spells of the year, No.8: James Anderson 6-40
Sri Lanka v England
Galle International Stadium, Galle
Within such a dramatic year of cricket, it would be easy to forget Jimmy Anderson’s mammoth effort right at the beginning of the year away in Sri Lanka. Bowling 29 overs, Anderson recorded fantastic figures of 29-13-40-6 as Sri Lanka posted a first innings score of 381. His figures stood in stark contrast to the rest of the attack whose combined figures were 110-14-341-4. Over the course of two afternoons, concerns over the 38 year old’s fitness and ability away from the green seamers of England were roundly answered with the raise of yet another match-ball above his head marking the 30th five-wicket haul of his career.
— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) January 23, 2021
Wisden’s Test spells of the year, No.7: Jayden Seales 5-55
West Indies v Pakistan
Sabina Park, Kingston
With Pakistan 30 runs ahead in the third innings and two wickets down, there was a glimmer of hope for them to gain a foot hold in the match. However, in the course of one over, Seales took that away as he dismissed both Abid Ali and Fawad Alam. To add to his double burst, Seales then cleaned up the tail to become the youngest ever West Indian to take a five-wicket haul in Test cricket. Incredibly, that wasn’t the end of Seales historic achievements that match, as he would play his part with the bat as well, scoring 2 not out at the end as the West Indies would win by just one wicket. An incredible game to match an incredible performance from the teenager.
Wisden’s Test spells of the year, No.6: Shaheen Shah Afridi 6-51
West Indies v Pakistan
Sabina Park, Kingston
Soon, we’re going to have to stop referring to Shaheen’s yorkers as something that even Waqar Younis would be proud of, and start looking back at footage of Waqar Younis’s yorkers and say that they’re something even Shaheen would be proud of. His dismissal of Kraigg Brathwaite in this Test was textbook Shaheen. Fast, full, swinging, stumps everywhere. Out. In all, his performance in this match was the halfway point of an exceptional run of form where he took 25 wickets in three games. And this innings in particular, bundling the Windies out for 150, was Shaheen at the peak of his powers.
Wisden’s Test spells of the year, No.5: Scott Boland 6-7
Australia v England
The MCG, Melbourne
Make it believable Scott, please. To call Boland’s debut a long-awaited one would be to imply it had in some way been expected. But aside from some comments in the press from former Australia opener Chris Rogers pushing the case for Boland’s selection, there had been little sense that Boland would be near the Aussie squad for the series. However, after injuries to Josh Hazelwood and Jhye Richardson, the “MCG Specialist” Boland was preferred to perennial 12th man Michael Neser, paving the way for him to take six second innings wickets for just seven runs and bowl Australia to victory. A dream debut. And one which he showed to be more than a fluke over the days that followed, with his uncanny consistency, useful pace and knack for finding just enough movement proving too good for England’s batters.
Wisden’s Test spells of the year, No.4: Mohammed Siraj 5-73
Australia v India
The Gabba, Brisbane
Five wicket hauls come in all shapes and sizes. But few have been as impressive as Mohammed Siraj’s return at the Gabba which set up the most famous of Indian victories. Leading the attack in just his third Test match, Siraj dismissed Australia’s numbers three, four and five as Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith and Matthew Wade all fell victim. Siraj then added Mitchell Starc to his list before claiming the final wicket of Josh Hazlewood to complete his maiden five-wicket haul.
Wisden’s Test spells of the year, No.3: Kyle Jamieson 5-31
India v New Zealand
The Ageas Bowl, Southampton
WTC Final, 19-20th June
A player-of-the-match performance in the first ever World Test Championship final cemented Kyle Jamieson’s growing legend within the modern game. Standing at six foot a million inches tall, Jamieson combines his height with the ability to swing the ball at good pace, making him one of the hardest bowlers to face in Test cricket. In Southampton, Jamieson strangled the Indian batters as he conceded just 31 runs off his 22 overs. At the point he claimed the vital of wicket of Virat Kohli, India had been 149-3 and well set in the first innings, but thanks to Jamieson, India would be bowled out for 217 as the fast bowler put his country on the path to being world champions.
Wisden’s Test spells of the year, No.2: Sajid Khan 8-42
Bangladesh v Pakistan
Shere Bangla National Stadium,
2nd Test, 7-8th Dec
Three Tests into his career and Sajid Khan had so far failed to set the world alight. With six wickets in three matches and an average of 37.83, there was little evidence for the miracle that Khan was about to perform. Rain during the game had meant that it was only ten overs before tea on the fourth day that Bangladesh would even take the field to bat as Pakistan declared on 300-4. This meant Pakistan’s only route to victory would be to bowl Bangladesh out for fewer than 100, make them follow-on and bowl them out again. 20 wickets required. In four and a bit sessions. Step up, Sajid Khan, as bar a run-out and the final wicket of the first innings, Khan would take all eight to bowl Bangladesh out for 87 and enforce the follow-on. The next day, Khan would bowl 32 overs in the final innings and take a further a four wickets, including the final one of the match, as Bangladesh were dismissed for 205 to end up losing by an innings and eight runs. At the close of day three of this Test match Sajid Khan had six Test wickets to his name. At the end of day four he had 12. And at the end of day five he would have 18 and be the hero of the most unlikely Pakistan victory.
In just his fourth Test, Pakistan off-spinner Sajid Khan has claimed the fourth best figures ever taken by a Pakistani Test cricketer.
— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) December 8, 2021