In a year with many centuries and individual contributions of brilliance, we pick ten innings that really stood out.
Jacques Kallis – 161 v India, 3rd Test, Cape Town
In a year with many centuries and individual contributions of brilliance, we pick 10 innings that really stood out.
On the second day of the first Test of the year, an in-form Jacques Kallis provided the innings of the three-match series. With the series leveled coming into the Cape Town Test, Kallis was called on to steer South Africa out of early trouble at 34 for 2 in difficult conditions. Having scored 81 on the opening day, Kallis weathered a testing new-ball passage en route to his 39th century. The next highest score was 47.
It was a masterclass in how to see off the moving ball with impeccable technique, as well as how to bat with tail-enders. Looking on as South Africa slumped from 262 for 4 to 283 for 8, Kallis summoned all his inner strength and batted superbly to get the team to 362. He scored the majority of the 79 runs that he and the last two batsmen put on, finding an amazing ability to defend the first few deliveries of an over and than collect boundaries from the last few when the fielders came into try and prevent singles.
His 161 was his 12th score of over 150 in Tests, the most by a South African batsman, and earned Kallis the Man-of-the-Match award.
Sachin Tendulkar – 146, 3rd Test, Cape Town
The second outstanding effort with the bat in the Cape Town Test came from Sachin Tendulkar, who almost single-handedly carried India in their first innings. His 146 earned its place among Tendulkar's best centuries because of the way he was worked over by a hostile Dale Steyn on the third day, and how he withstood that superb spell to score his 51st Test century.
Beaten repeatedly by Steyn's outswing, Lonwabo Tsotsobe's significant bounce and Morne Morkel's sharp in-cutters, Tendulkar weathered the severe test with aplomb. Whatever the South Afican quicks hurled at him, he somehow saw off. Sometimes he looked ungainly, sometimes hurried and sometimes the epitome of class as he found the strength to drive and cut, but what was unmistakable resolve not to succumb. How he survived Steyn's spells only Tendulkar will know, but it made for absorbing viewing.
After a 176-run stand with Gautam Gambhir, Tendulkar looked on as India lost four wickets for 43 runs. He didn't blink, and with Harbhajan Singh put on 76 for the eighth wicket to help India inch forward. He eventually fell with India 21 runs behind South Africa, but without him it would have been impossible to stay alive in the face of such hostile bowling.
Rahul Dravid – 112 v West Indies, 1st Test, Kingston
The most experienced player in India's Test squad for three Tests in the West Indies this past summer, Dravid came to the fore in the first Test of the series.
On a Sabina Park track with abundant turn and erratic bounce, Dravid gave a resonant reminder of his value to the side with his 32nd Test century that put India on top.
It was an innings of utmost concentration, with Dravid's technical nous ensuring India posted 252 in their second innings, a total that proved too much for West Indies. In energy-sapping heat, Dravid batted over seven hours, displaying his fitness and desire. Sweat dripped down his face but Dravid's focus never wavered. For 402 minutes and 274 balls he carried a depleted side – the second highest score was Amit Mishra's 28 – and reminded all of his value. It truly was an excellent display of classical Test batting.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul – 116 v India, 3rd Test, Dominica
India's quest for a 2-0 series win was denied by the man who has most troubled them whenever they've come up against West Indies, Shivnarine Chanderpaul. On the final day of the series, Chanderpaul grafted his way to a 23rd Test century and was able assisted by Fidel Edwards in a critical 37-over passage that left the Indians ruing their ineffectiveness with the ball.
Yet again, Chanderpaul stood head and shoulders above most of his batting team-mates. His immense patience changed the complexion of a day that began with India in charge, as well as one on which he became the most-capped West Indian player. Having taken wickets on the fourth evening, India were boosted by the run-out of Ravi Rampaul on the fifth morning. Then they ran into Chanderpaul, who went onto the offensive with an array of drives and flicks before settling into a stubborn groove when Edwards joined him. It was another rock-solid century from Chanderpaul, who refused to budge. West Indies earned a creditable draw, which would have been impossible without him.
Kevin Pietersen – 202* v India, 1st Test, Lord’s
The tone for England's 4-0 drubbing of India was set in the series opener at Lord's, with Kevin Pietersen surging to an unbeaten double-century. Pietersen was the toast of the England dressing room and admitted that he had 'never worked so hard' after hitting an unbeaten 202 - his 18th Test century and his fifth at Lord's - as the hosts declared on an imposing 474 for 8 in their first innings.
Pietersen came into the Test in patchy form, and early in his innings played and missed and edged. But 326 deliveries later, he was the proud owner of a third double-century having driven, cut and pulled the Indian attack all over Lord’s in a spectacular effort. In doing so, Pietersen silenced critics who questioned his form and hunger. Having spent 134 balls for his first fifty runs, Pietersen gathered steam: the second fifty needed 82 balls, the third 75, and the last fifty just 25 as he stormed to his double-century. India never recovered from that onslaught.
Alastair Cook – 294 v India, 3rd Test, Edgbaston
It spoke volumes of his appetite for runs when Alastair Cook, after batting for 12 and three-quarter hours – the second longest Test innings by an Englishman – said he was disappointed that he didn't make it to a triple-century.
"It's mad, isn't it, how you can still be disappointed when you score 290-odd," he said. "Only cricket can do that for you. I'm really thrilled that I put a really big score together but there is a tinge of disappointment."
Cook's 545-ball 294, a career-best effort surpassing his 235 in Brisbane in November 2010, helped England pummel India and take an unassailable 3-0 series lead. Before lunch on day three he brought up his 200 from 378 balls and ticked milestones over. When he went to 247 it gave him the second-highest score by an England batsman against India, with only Graham Gooch ahead of him with 333, and Cook's 250 - which came from 485 balls - was the first such score for England since that 1990 epic by Gooch.
Ian Bell – 235 v India, 4th Test, The Oval
By the time the bandwagon reached The Oval, India were deflated. But that took nothing away from Ian Bell's maiden double-century, a boundary-filled 235 that set up the 4-0 whitewash. And, poignantly, it came at the ground where he bagged a pair in the 2005 Ashes.
Bell continued his good form for the summer, and this epic 364-ball knock took him past Cook as the leading run-scorer for the year. It was a fluent, chanceless innings and went a long way in enhancing Bell's credentials as a tough competitor. His focus was intense, and his accumulation of runs remorseless.
Following Cook's exit, Bell laid the groundwork with solid defensive, adept placement of the ball to keep singles ticking over, and turned good deliveries into boundary balls. In a season in which he averaged over 100, Bell's 235 was the piece de resistance.
Michael Hussey – 95 v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Galle
The opening day of the three-Test series between Sri Lanka and Australia was a fascinating one. On a slow and low track, where the ball spun sharply and the Australians struggled, Michael Hussey’s grit and determination was exemplary.
Where his team-mates struggled, Hussey was superb. Each of the Australian top order reached double figures, but only Hussey really came to terms with the conditions. Coming to the crease at 91 for 3, with rebuilding the need of the hour, Hussey began watchfully as he sussed out the tricky surface. Once settled, he began sweeping with the turn, watching the ball like a hawk as it left the bowler’s hand, and ensuring he got to the pitch whenever possible.
As he progressed, Hussey allowed himself the liberty of attacking shots, including three sixes off Suraj Randiv. Though he missed a century by five runs, Hussey had taken Australia to 273, which proved a match-winning total. He went on to score centuries in both the remaining Tests, but for sheer determination and value, his 95 in Galle was the turning point of the series.
David Warner – 123* v New Zealand, 2nd Test, Hobart
Though Australia lost a nerve-wrenching Test by seven runs, they had found a hero in David Warner, a 25-year-old Twenty20 specialist in his second Test. Warner carried his bat in an unbeaten 123 off 170 balls, outclassing Ricky Ponting, Hussey and Clarke by rising to the occasion and putting a price on his wicket. He batted with a ferocity that would have done his illustrious baggy green-wearing predecessors such as Allan Border and Steve Waugh proud.
As wickets tumbled, Warner refused to allow the New Zealand attack to settle. He punched through the off side and down the ground with power and cut anything short and wide. But these weren't Twenty20 shots; they were clinical strokes played by a rookie opener displaying immense powers of belief. When he was joined by the last man, Nathan Lyon, Australia still needed 42 runs for victory. Warner refused to hog the strike and backed Lyon, who in the end survived for 43 minutes before he was bowled by Doug Bracewell. Australia had lost, but a nation had found a hero in Warner.
Thilan Samaraweera – 102 v South Africa, 2nd Test, Cape Town
Recalled to Sri Lanka's Test squad for the tour of South Africa, Thilan Samaraweera came to his team's rescue in the first innings of the second Test, after the visitors had been steamrolled in the series opener. Sri Lanka were in dire need of inspiration, having failed to win a Test in 15 attempts.
On the first day of the Newlands Test, Samaraweera walked to the middle with the scoreboard reading 84 for 3, with South Africa's fast bowlers running in with their tails up. It was here that Samaraweera set in motion the mechanism for a famous overseas win, and Sri Lanka’s first on South African soil. His patience and perseverance halted a collapse, and when he was finally out for 102, Sri Lanka had made 338, their second highest total of 2011.
It was a tremendous effort from Samaraweera, and one that changed the way Sri Lanka took the field. His century instilled a sense of belief in a flagging side, and inspired the bowlers to come out and bowl South Africa out for 168 on the way to victory. Rangana Herath's nine wickets made him the Man of the Match, but it was Samaraweera's excellent innings that paved the way for Sri Lanka's resurgence