Published on January 1st, 2019 | by Abhishek Mukherjee1
2018 year-ender: The Top 10 Test debutants🕓 Reading time: 5 minutes
Not every cricketer takes the world by storm like Bob Massie or Narendra Hirwani or Lawrence Rowe or Bruce Taylor. Some – Don Bradman included – have made ordinary debuts but have marked their impacts later in the season. There have been impressive debuts and “first years” in 2018 as well. Here is a list.
Read also: 2018 year-ender: The Top 10 Test bowlers
10. William Somerville: 1 Test, 7 wickets at 18.14, best 4/75
Somerville was undoubtedly the unlikeliest debutant of the year. Born in Wellington, Somerville used to play for Otago before migrating to Australia and having a decent career for New South Wales. He returned to play for Auckland this season. He was picked to tour UAE after 3 First-Class matches – at the age of 34.
He debuted in the decider at Abu Dhabi and took 4/75 and 3/52 with his off-breaks to help New Zealand pull off a historic series win. Six of his wickets were of top-order batsmen. He has not played since.
9. Kasun Rajitha: 3 Tests, 11 wickets at 27.63, best 3/20
Sri Lankan fast bowlers are extremely unlikely to get home Tests early in their career. Despite an impressive start (11 wickets from 2 Tests at 14.54), Rajitha was left out in favour of the vastly experienced Suranga Lakmal and the genuinely quick Lahiru Kumara, but he made the most of what he had.
Rajitha may not look quick, but his action helps him generate bounce off a length. That, combined with the ability to move the ball off the seam, makes him a dangerous bowler. Unfortunately, he failed to make the most of his third chance, at Wellington.
8. Ajaz Patel: 5 Tests, 13 wickets at 35.84, best 5/59
Thirty-year-old debutant left-arm-spinners rarely win Tests for New Zealand, but Ajaz did exactly that. On his debut, he took 5/59 to derail Pakistan. Chasing 176, they were bowled out for 171 after being 130/3.
More accurate than devastating, Ajaz did well in the series for his 13 wickets at under 30 apiece. There was little he could do in the unhelpful conditions back home, but his 43 overs across the two Tests went for only 81.
7. Jack Leach: 4 Tests, 20 wickets at 24.90, best 5/83
Leach made his debut in New Zealand, never a spinner’s paradise. He toiled hard for 51 overs with frugal returns. After missing the English summer with a thumb fracture, he came to his elements when England whitewashed Sri Lanka at their den.
He took 18 wickets in the series from 3 Tests, at 21.38. England’s wins were not easy – two of the margins were under 60 runs – but Leach and Moeen Ali did brilliantly to swing things their way.
6. Rishabh Pant: 8 Tests, 537 runs at 38.35, HS 114; 40 catches, 2 stumpings
Only 20 at the time of debut, Pant was drafted into the Indian XI midway through the England tour. Living up to his reputation as a fearless hitter, Pant lofted the second ball he faced in Test cricket for a six. Two Tests later he scored 114 in the fourth innings at The Oval and followed with two 92s against West Indies.
Pant also crossed 25 in each of his six innings during the ongoing series in Australia. The glovework needs improvement, though he did equal the world record of 11 dismissals at Adelaide and set a new Indian record of 20 in a series – with one Test to go.
5. Lungi Ngidi: 4 Tests, 15 wickets at 19.53, best 6/39
Ngidi burst into Test cricket at Centurion early this year as a replacement for the injured Dale Steyn. He ripped through the Indians to take 6/39, maintaining serious pace without compromising on accuracy. He later took 5 more wickets against Australia at Port Elizabeth.
Injuries have been a problem, but if he sorts them out, the world may witness yet another entry to the list of outstanding South African fast bowlers.
4. Ben Foakes: 3 Tests, 277 runs at 69.25, HS 107; 8 catches, 2 stumpings
Foakes made his debut when Jos Buttler was in the side; he played on even when Jonny Bairstow returned. England had wasted the 1990s making Alec Stewart keep wickets and dropping Jack Russell, and the 2000s by picking Matt Prior ahead of Chris Read.
Now they have a candidate who is an excellent batsman and probably the best gloveman in the country. He played his matches in unfamiliar conditions, keeping wickets to spin, but was outstanding behind the stumps. He also scored an excellent hundred on debut and reached double-figures every time he batted.
3. Jasprit Bumrah: 9 Tests, 48 wickets at 21.02, best 6/33
Eyebrows were raised when Bumrah made his Test debut in South Africa. He silenced the doubters almost instantly, taking 7/111 to help India pull off an excellent win at Johannesburg. All his Tests have come in alien conditions, and he took at least 3 wickets in every single match.
Over the year he emerged as the spearhead of a surprisingly intimidating Indian pace attack. Never did he bowl as superbly as he did in the first innings on a slow Melbourne pitch, ripping through the Australians with his variations (including a slow yorker).
His unusual action helps him make the ball take off from a length, often putting the wrists and forearms of the batsmen in the line of attack. The economy rate of 2.65 is a testimony to his accuracy.
2. Sam Curran: 7 Tests, 404 runs at 36.72, HS 78; 14 wickets at 25.14, best 4/74
With ball, Curran did brilliantly at home (13 wickets at 23.23) but failed in Sri Lanka (1/50 from two Tests), where conditions did not suit his type of bowling. While he has been excellent with the ball and has provided crucial breakthroughs, he is yet to be tested with long back-breaking spells when things did not go his way. He has bowled only 15 overs per Test, and only thrice has he bowled more than 10 overs in an innings – though he can hardly be blamed for that.
His batting has been exemplary. He never batted at above eight, which meant that he almost always had to bail England out of situations where they were six down for not very much. He made it past 20 on nine out of 11 times he got out this year.
1. The entire Afghanistan and Ireland teams
Though Ireland did far better than Afghanistan on debut, it will be unfair to bracket them separately. No country has risen in international cricket as rapidly as Afghanistan, and they are perhaps the only nation who mean the phrase “cricket is more than a game” when they utter it.
Both nations were granted Test status in 2017. Both sides followed-on on debut, Ireland at home against Pakistan, Afghanistan in India. However, while Ireland saved the innings defeat and had Pakistan three down early in their chase, Afghanistan lost the Test, inside two days.
Nevertheless, the year witnessed two inductees into cricket’s most elite club. Both teams will undoubtedly go from strength to strength over time.