From Ben Stokes to Kusal Perera: Top three Test innings of 2019

While there were several run feasts, 2019 stood out as a year when batsmen fought the odds in difficult circumstances and scored runs that mattered
135 not out: Ben Stokes, England v Australia, Leeds, 2019
135 not out: Ben Stokes, England v Australia, Leeds, 2019

There were many batsmen who shone, but three among them made 2019 their own by their grit, determination and passion. As we enter 2020, let us look at the three best Test knocks played in the last 12 months.

Perera's 153 not out stuns South Africa

153 not out: Sri Lanka v South Africa, Durban, 2019

January saw Kusal Perera compile one of the greatest innings in Test history when his stunning 153 not out guided Sri Lanka to a remarkable one-wicket win over South Africa in Durban.

Sri Lanka still needed 78 more runs for victory when last man Vishwa Fernando joined Perera in the middle.

Perera was then 86 not out and the only realistic hope was that Fernando would hang around long enough for him to get a hundred.

He did rather more than that though while Perera, who hit five sixes including two off fast bowling great Dale Steyn, managed the strike superbly to see Sri Lanka to their target of 304. 'It was a superman effort,' said South Africa captain Faf du Plessis.

Stokes's Headingley heroics

135 not out: Ben Stokes, England v Australia, Leeds, 2019

England had already been bowled out for a woeful 67 in their first innings when last man Jack Leach joined Stokes with the hosts still needing 73 more runs to reach a victory target of 359 in the third Test at Headingley.

But Stokes, in an innings that mixed defensive resilience with attacking flair, hit an unbeaten 135 that saw England to a stunning one-wicket win, arguably even more extraordinary than their celebrated 1981 Ashes victory at Yorkshire's headquarters, although it would have been a different conclusion had not Australia's Nathan Lyon fumbled a clear run out chance with Leach stranded.

Star batsman Smith returns

Steve Smith - 144 England v Australia, Birmingham

Doubts over whether Steve Smith was still the same Test batsman following a 12-month ban for his role in the 'sandpaper' ball-tampering scandal in South Africa that cost him the Australia captaincy were settled in the Ashes opener at Edgbaston where he marked his comeback with a superb innings of 144 and 142 during a 251-run triumph.

It was the start of an extraordinary run spree that saw Smith score 774 runs at an average of 110.57.

Australia retained the Ashes as five-match series ended all square at 2-2, with the blow to the head Smith suffered after being struck by a Jofra Archer bouncer during the drawn second match at Lord's eventually seeing Marnus Labuschagne become Test cricket's first concussion substitute.

What to watch in 2020

October and November will see the men's World Twenty20 take place in Australia, with the hosts looking to win the one major global trophy that has so far eluded them as holders West Indies bid for a third title. 

(With inputs from AFP)

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