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Wisden Almanack 2024

The Wisden Trophy 1946-2023: Almanack picks best Test performance in every year

Wisden Trophy winners: 1946-2023
by Lawrence Booth and Steven Lynch 10 minute read

The Wisden Trophy is awarded every year to the cricketer – man or woman – who has produced the outstanding Test performance of the previous 12 months. The 2024 edition of Wisden Cricketer’s Almanack also announced the retrospective winners from 1946 to 2023. The 2023 Almanack had chronicled the same for the years 1877 to 1939.

Lawrence Booth

Briefly, it seemed a case of plus ça change. When the Almanack named the pre-war recipients of the new Wisden Trophy last year – awarded to the best individual Test performance of the calendar year by a man or woman – Don Bradman was the only three-time winner. And when we began assembling the post-war list he won again in 1946 and 1948. So much for a new world order.

But his retirement opened things up. As the 1940s became the 1950s, there were more options for our selection panel to consider. India added quickly to their seven pre-war Tests, New Zealand to their 14, West Indies to their 22; in 1952/53, Pakistan joined the fold. There were more games, greater depth and breadth: in the first nine years after the war, all seven of the teams who had Test status provide a winner. It may be a coincidence, but bowlers breathed more freely after Bradman – in the 1950s, only South Africa’s Dudley Nourse is nominated for runs alone (208 at Trent Bridge in 1951). Since then, four cricketers have matched Bradman’s pre-war haul of three: Imran Khan, Ian Botham, Steve Waugh, Dale Steyn. And, unlike last year, both genders appear on our list.

England top the table again, if less decisively. After providing 27 of the 54 winners before the war, it’s now 15 out of 78: Botham and Graham Gooch have five between them. Australia were clear runners-up between 1877 and 1939, with 23, but joint-third, with 11, between 1946 and 2023, when Travis Head won for his 163 against India in the World Test Championship final.

South Africa’s tally of 13 post-war winners, despite ineligibility from 1971 to 1991, catches the eye: before exclusion, Bruce Mitchell, Nourse, Hugh Tayfield, Eddie Barlow, Graeme Pollock (twice) and Denis Lindsay; after reintegration, Allan Donald, Jacques Kallis, Steyn (three times) and Hashim Amla. But no South African has won since Steyn blew away Pakistan at the Wanderers more than a decade ago. Now that T20 is their focus, how many more winners will they produce?

Three other teams make their presence felt, with West Indies unlucky to have only 11 winners. Garry Sobers was so brilliant, so often, that a pair of triumphs – in 1962 and 1968 – feels like slim pickings. And Viv Richards might well have won in 1976 for his 291 at The Oval had not Michael Holding taken 14 wickets in that game on a batter’s surface. (Richards does win in 1986, when he hit England for a 56-ball hundred on home turf in Antigua.) Only one of Brian Lara’s two Test records, both against England in Antigua, earns him a gong: his unbeaten 400 in 2004 succeeds where his 375 a decade earlier does not. The 1994 prize goes to Devon Malcolm, whose “you guys are history” nine-for at The Oval had the extra value of squaring England’s series against South Africa.

India have 11 wins, too, starting with Vinoo Mankad’s tour de force at Lord’s in 1952, and encompassing the likes of the Nawab of Pataudi Jr, Sunil Gavaskar, Anil Kumble and Ravichandran Ashwin. There are places for VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid and Ajinkya Rahane, but not Sachin Tendulkar or Virat Kohli. And, like Sobers, Virender Sehwag is unfortunate: one of his triple-hundreds (against Pakistan at Multan in 2004) is squeezed out by Lara’s quadruple, the other (against South Africa at Chennai in 2008) by a ten-wicket haul from Steyn, plus 76 runs, to help South Africa to a first series win in Australia. But Sehwag does get his name in lights a year later, for his 293 against Sri Lanka at Mumbai, including 284 on the second day.

Pakistan, who have ten selections, begin with a nod to one of their most celebrated victories: Fazal Mahmood’s 12-wicket haul at The Oval in 1954. Sarfraz Nawaz (like West Indies’ Curtly Ambrose 14 years later) is honoured for a spell of 7-1 in Australia, while the second and third of Imran’s triumphs occur in successive Tests against India either side of New Year 1983: a pair of 11-fors at Karachi and Faisalabad, where he also scored a century. Between 1977 and 1983, the Botham-Imran duopoly is broken only by Sarfraz. Richard Hadlee wins for his 15 wickets at Brisbane in 1985. Of the great 1980s all-rounders, only Kapil Dev is absent.

The first of three female winners is Australia’s Betty Wilson, who had match figures of 11-16 against England in Melbourne in 1958, made a century (the game’s next-highest score was 26), and saw off competition from, among others, Hanif Mohammad’s 337 for Pakistan against West Indies at Bridgetown. England’s Mary Duggan (1963) and Enid Bakewell (1969) complete the list, while Bakewell is unlucky that her final Test, against West Indies at Edgbaston in 1979, coincided with Sarfraz’s heroics at the MCG: her 68, 112 not out and match haul of ten wickets remain the mother of all farewells.

Many of Test cricket’s great bowling feats get their due. All three ten-fors (Jim Laker, Kumble, Ajaz Patel) are here. So are three hauls of 16: Bob Massie at Lord’s in 1972, Narendra Hirwani at Madras in 1988, Muttiah Muralidaran at The Oval in 1998. Jasu Patel’s 14 at Kanpur in 1959 include perhaps the game’s most easily forgotten nine-for (he finished his Test career with a total of 29 wickets), in India’s first win against Australia.

Two Headingley-related picks caused debate. Botham’s 149 not out or Bob Willis’s 8-43 in 1981? Botham’s all-round efforts steal it: six wickets in Australia’s first innings, and the only half-century in England’s. Then there’s 2019, and a pair of dramatic one-wicket wins: Ben Stokes’s Ashes 135 not out, or Kusal Perera’s unbeaten 153 for Sri Lanka in Durban? The fact that Sri Lanka had won only one previous Test in South Africa swung it Perera’s way. Lists of this kind can feel counter-intuitive. Denis Compton does not feature, despite the Summer of ’47; the batting records of Sobers in 1958 and Matthew Hayden in 2003 both miss out. Pollock’s 125 beats John Edrich’s undefeated 310. Roy Fredericks makes the cut, despite West Indies’ 5-1 defeat in Australia in 1975/76. Wasim Akram is there for his batting, not his lethal left-armers. Shane Warne is absent altogether. But the beauty of Test cricket is that numbers don’t always tell the whole story. We’ve done our best to read between the lines.

The winners, 1946-2023

Steven Lynch

1946 DG Bradman Australia v England at Sydney
After 187 in the previous Test, Bradman made 234 and shared a stand of 405 (with Sid Barnes).

1947 B Mitchell South Africa v England at The Oval
On the field for all but eight minutes of the match, Mitchell ensured a draw with 120 and 189*.

1948 DG Bradman Australia v England at Leeds
His 29th and last Test century, 173*, helped chase down 404 on the final day.

1949 MP Donnelly New Zealand v England at Lord’s
A classy 206 (NZ’s first double-century) was the apogee of a seven-Test career interrupted by war.

1950 AL Valentine West Indies v England at Manchester
Took the first eight wickets on the first day of his debut.

1951 AD Nourse South Africa v England at Nottingham
Set up victory with 208 in 555 minutes, despite a recently broken thumb.

1952 MH Mankad India v England at Lord’s
In between scoring 72 and 184, took 5-196 from 73 overs.

1953 AV Bedser England v Australia at Nottingham
Collected 7-55 and 7-44 in a rain-ruined draw.

1954 Fazal Mahmood Pakistan v England at The Oval
Match figures of 12-99 as Pakistan squared their first series in England.

1955 FH Tyson England v Australia at Melbourne
Skittled Australia for 111 with 7-27 as England went 2-1 up.

1956 JC Laker England v Australia at Manchester
An astonishing double – 9-37 and 10-53 – still unapproached in first-class cricket.

1957 HJ Tayfield South Africa v England at Johannesburg
Clinched a 17-run victory with 9-113, after four wickets in the first innings.

1958 ER Wilson Australia v England at Melbourne (St Kilda)
Betty Wilson took 7-7 and 4-9 either side of scoring 100.

1959 JM Patel India v Australia at Kanpur
Claimed 9-69 and 5-55 with sharp off-breaks in India’s first Test win over Australia.

1960 AK Davidson Australia v West Indies at Brisbane
Took 11 wickets and scored 44 and 80, in the first tied Test.

1961 FS Trueman England v Australia at Leeds
Figures of 5-58 and 6-30 included a second-innings spell of 5-0.

1962 GS Sobers West Indies v India at Kingston
After scoring 104 and 50, completed a series whitewash with 5-63.

1963 MB Duggan England v Australia at The Oval
The captain hit 101* and had match figures of 61-31-82-7 as England’s women took the series.

1964 EJ Barlow South Africa v Australia at Adelaide
Scored 201 and 47*, and took 3-6 to end Australia’s resistance.

1965 RG Pollock South Africa v England at Nottingham
Came in at 16-2 and hit a masterful 125 of the next 162; added 59 in the series’ only result.

1966 DT Lindsay South Africa v Australia at Johannesburg
Attacking knocks of 69 and 182, and eight catches, in SA’s first home win over Australia.

1967 Nawab of Pataudi Jr India v England at Leeds
Followed 64 with a magnificent 148 to steer his side past 500, when following on.

1968 GS Sobers West Indies v England at Georgetown
In a gallant attempt to square the series, scored 152 and 95*, and collected six wickets.

1969 E Bakewell England v New Zealand at Christchurch
Scored 114 and 66*, and took 3-68 and 5-56, as England’s women went 1-0 up.

1970 RG Pollock South Africa v Australia at Durban
A coruscating 274 helped South Africa to 622 – and an innings victory.

1971 SM Gavaskar India v West Indies at Port-of-Spain
Innings of 124 and 220 in a draw that sealed India’s first series win against West Indies.

1972 RAL Massie Australia v England at Lord’s
On debut, swung the ball prodigiously for 8-84 and 8-53 in a big victory.

1973 Mushtaq Mohammad Pakistan v New Zealand at Dunedin
Followed a career-best 201 with 2-15 and 5-49 in an innings win, the only result of the series.

1974 AW Greig England v West Indies at Port-of-Spain
Abandoning seam for off-spin, took 8-86 and 5-70 in an unlikely series-squaring win.

1975 RC Fredericks West Indies v Australia at Perth
A legendary assault – 169 off 145 balls – brought West Indies their only win in a 5–1 defeat.

1976 MA Holding West Indies v England at The Oval
Lightning-fast and laser-straight on a good batting pitch, to take 8-92 and 6-57.

1977 Imran Khan Pakistan v Australia at Sydney
Announced himself as a world-class quick with 12 wickets in Pakistan’s first win in Australia.

1978 IT Botham England v Pakistan at Lord’s
Scored 108 in England’s only innings, and claimed 8-34 in Pakistan’s second.

1979 Sarfraz Nawaz Pakistan v Australia at Melbourne
Took 7-1 in 33 balls, finishing with 9-86 in a rare Pakistan victory Down Under.

1980 IT Botham England v India at Bombay
Dominated the Golden Jubilee Test with 6-58, 114 and 7-48.

1981 IT Botham England v Australia at Leeds
After being replaced as captain, took 6-95, then scored 50 and 149* to stand the series on its head.

1982 Imran Khan Pakistan v India at Karachi
Eleven wickets, including 8-60 in the second innings, in a thumping win.

1983 Imran Khan Pakistan v India at Faisalabad
In the match after the one above, made 117 and took 11 more wickets in another thrashing.

1984 CG Greenidge West Indies v England at Lord’s
Made mincemeat of a target of 342 with 214*, the highest in a successful fourth-innings chase.

1985 RJ Hadlee New Zealand v Australia at Brisbane
Took 9-52 (and caught the tenth) and 6-71; also hit 54 in NZ’s first Test win in Australia.

1986 IVA Richards West Indies v England at St John’s
Tamed a good England attack with a 56-ball century, not bettered in Tests until 2016.

1987 Abdul Qadir Pakistan v England at Lahore
A superb exhibition of leg-spin bamboozled England to the tune of 9-56 and 4-45.

1988 ND Hirwani India v West Indies at Madras
Bespectacled leg-spinner took 8-61 and 8-75 in an emphatic victory on debut.

1989 SR Waugh Australia v England at Leeds
Extended a long-awaited maiden Test century to 177*, to set up a conclusive win.

1990 GA Gooch England v India at Lord’s
Set a record for individual run-scoring in a Test with 333 and 123.

1991 GA Gooch England v West Indies at Leeds
Arguably the greatest captain’s innings of all, carrying his bat for 154* and bringing victory.

1992 AA Donald South Africa v India at Port Elizabeth
Twelve wickets, including 7-84 in the second innings, in the only positive result of the series.

1993 CEL Ambrose West Indies v Australia at Perth
A first-day spell of 7-1 in 32 balls all but decided the match.

1994 DE Malcolm England v South Africa at The Oval
Responded to being clonked on the helmet with 9-57, the best figures by a genuinely fast bowler.

1995 SR Waugh Australia v West Indies at Kingston
Ensured a first series win over West Indies since 1975-76 with a career-best 200.

1996 Wasim Akram Pakistan v Zimbabwe at Sheikhupura
Smashed a Test-record 12 sixes in 257* from No. 8 to take his side from 183-6 to 553.

1997 SR Waugh Australia v England at Manchester
Made 108 and 116 – no team-mate passed 55 – as Australia levelled the series.

1998 M Muralidaran Sri Lanka v England at The Oval
Took 7-155 and 9-65 (the other wicket was a run-out) in Sri Lanka’s first win in England.

1999 A Kumble India v Pakistan at Delhi
After warming up with 4-75, bowled his side to victory with all ten for 74.

2000 GD McGrath Australia v West Indies at Brisbane
Frugal match figures of 33–21–27–10 led to a big win on Test cricket’s first drop-in pitch.

2001 VVS Laxman India v Australia at Kolkata
Laxman’s 281, and stand of 376 with Rahul Dravid, brought India victory after following on.

2002 Inzamam-ul-Haq Pakistan v New Zealand at Lahore
A monumental 329, with 38 fours and nine sixes, before New Zealand collapsed for 73 and 246.

2003 R Dravid India v Australia at Adelaide
Made 233 and 72* as India won by four wickets, after Australia started with 556.

2004 BC Lara West Indies v England at St John’s
Reclaimed the Test record with 400* as his side avoided a whitewash.

2005 Younis Khan Pakistan v India at Bangalore
Made 267 – putting on 324 with Inzamam-ul-Haq – and 84* as Pakistan levelled the series.

2006 DPMD Jayawardene Sri Lanka v South Africa at Colombo (SSC)
A towering 374 – and a Test-record stand of 624 with Kumar Sangakkara – in a shellacking.

2007 JH Kallis South Africa v Pakistan at Karachi
A double of 155 and 100* in only Pakistan’s second defeat at the National Stadium.

2008 DW Steyn South Africa v Australia at Melbourne
Ten wickets – and a rollicking 76 from No. 10 – clinched SA’s first series win in Australia.

2009 V Sehwag India v Sri Lanka at Mumbai
“Hurricane Sehwag” (Wisden) smashed 284 of his eventual 293 on the second day.

2010 DW Steyn South Africa v India at Nagpur
Ten wickets in a comfortable win, including 7-51 in the first innings.

2011 R Ashwin India v West Indies at Mumbai
Made 103 and took nine wickets in a match that ended with the scores level when he was run out.

2012 HM Amla South Africa v England at The Oval
A silky 311* in South Africa’s first win in 14 attempts in south London.

2013 DW Steyn South Africa v Pakistan at Johannesburg
Led the rout of Pakistan for 49 with 6-8, and added 5-52 in the second innings.

2014 MG Johnson Australia v South Africa at Centurion
Returns of 7-68 and 5-59 flattened the top-ranked Test nation on home soil.

2015 SCJ Broad England v Australia at Nottingham
His 8-15 demolished Australia for 60 in 18.3 overs, the shortest completed opening Test innings.

2016 KC Brathwaite West Indies v Pakistan at Sharjah
The first Test opener to remain unbeaten in both innings, with 142* and 60* in a win.

2017 SD Hope West Indies v England at Leeds
The first to hit twin centuries in a first-class match at Headingley: 147 and 118*.

2018 KS Williamson New Zealand v Pakistan at Abu Dhabi
Innings of 89 and 139 set the platform for a rare victory in Asia.

2019 MDKJ Perera Sri Lanka v South Africa at Durban
Dominated a last-wicket stand of 78*, making 153* to seal a remarkable away win for Sri Lanka.

2020 AM Rahane India v Australia at Melbourne
After taking over as captain, scored 112 and 27* to anchor a series-levelling victory.

2021 AY Patel New Zealand v India at Mumbai
Only the third to take all ten wickets in a Test innings – for 119, in the city of his birth.

Formal award introduced

2022 JM Bairstow England v India at Birmingham
Followed 106 with a rapid 114* as England hunted down a national-record target of 378.

2023 TM Head Australia v India at The Oval
Took control of the World Test Championship final with a pulsating 163 off 174 balls.

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