Two contenders stood head and shoulders above the rest in the field of ten in the list of Test batting nominees for the ESPNcricinfo Awards 2019. Click here for the Test bowling shortlist

Quinton de Kock
95 v England
first Test, Centurion

Heading into the series, pundits warned that England needed to beware the hosts, wounded as they were, but England found little resistance as they reduced South Africa to 111 for 5. de Kock started the turnaround with three boundaries in five balls against Sam Curran – England’s best bowler on the day – and took the lead in an 87-run stand with debutant Dwaine Pretorius. de Kock batted for just under three hours, but he got 95 of the 147 runs South Africa made in that time. It was the lower-order stretch that set up South Africa’s first win under their spiffy new administration.

Virat Kohli
254 not out v South Africa
second Test, Pune

This wasn’t a quintessential Virat Kohli innings – his first hour was a struggle, and he edged multiple times and survived. But then it hadn’t been a quintessential Kohli year either – this would be his first Test hundred in 2019. During his five-and-a-half-hour stay, South Africa were a gooey mess, unable to keep their fast bowlers on, struggling to back up throws, barely able to stand each other at some points, and possibly wondering how Kohli had inflicted those horrors on them without being at his complete best.

Kusal Perera
153 not out v South Africa
first Test, Durban

Perera was modest and understated as he spoke of this innings afterwards. He wasn’t nearly as restrained when No. 11 Vishwa Fernando (who finished on 6 not out off 27) joined him with 78 still to get. Against an attack of Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada, and Duanne Olivier, Perera unleashed the kind of shots that normally get him in trouble in Tests – swats at rising deliveries, slashes against ones on a length, hoicks when cramped for room – and gave Sri Lanka an hour of outrageous authenticity. The ripples lasted until the end of the Test series, which they won 2-0, and beyond.

Steven Smith
144 v England
first Test, Birmingham

Smith would have liked a return to Test cricket in damn near any other country on the planet than England, but he battled a difficult pitch and a hostile crowd – right up until the point he celebrated a hundred – and brought calm to a dressing room that had felt his absence during far too many collapses over 16 months. A dreadful 122 for 8 on day one of the Ashes became a seemingly respectable 284 for Australia. By the end of the game, it proved so much more than that.

Ben Stokes
135 not out v Australia
third Test, Leeds

Stokes didn’t have to look too far back for notes on miracles: it had been just over a month since he had brought home the World Cup for England under extraordinary circumstances. So out he came here with the last man, Jack Leach, 73 to get, nerveless throughout, and many will say fortunate once more. Except, Australia’s errors were all forced. Stokes was blistering. The boundaries came when he wanted, and even when he was expansive, he rarely looked out of control. In a year full of redemption stories, Stokes managed to sneak in a second entry with this knock.

Tom Latham
154 v Sri Lanka
second Test, Colombo

When you think Latham in the subcontinent, you think sweeps, flicks and glances. In this rain-hit match, he made only 60 runs in boundaries; the rest came in all his trademark ways – 99 of them on the leg side in all – but crucially, at a brisk pace. New Zealand were still in their first innings at the end of day four, but Latham’s strike rate of 61.35 ensured the lower-order cameos that came later would help them put on a big enough total to bat only once and save the series.

BJ Watling
205 v England
first Test, Mount Maunganui

It is a trope that you call upon Watling to grind the opposition down after they have taken early wickets in a Test in New Zealand. Even so, it was remarkable watching as Watling drained England empty with 11 hours of batting from 127 for 4. Watling’s method was simple as ever – punches through the off side, glances fine – but it did end up forcing 136 overs out of England’s seamers in total, and made them spend 201 overs in the field, while New Zealand put up 615. England stood little chance trying to avoid an innings defeat after that.

Steven Smith
211 v England
fourth Test, Manchester

Like at Edgbaston, Smith was forced to walk in early again and was last man out again. In between, another rearguard, and more remarkable chemistry with the lower order. Most importantly, he provided the counterpunch Australia needed after Ben Stokes’ Headingley heroics. One superstar against another. Smith shuffled, nudged, and left deliveries alone animatedly again – and again, he made the Ashes his own. A 2-1 scoreline at the end of the fourth Test was all Australia needed to keep their title.

David Warner
335 not out v Pakistan
second Test, Adelaide

Only two of Warner’s 24 Test centuries have come at a strike rate under 60. So it was clear after his 154 at 52.02 in the first Test of this series that he was looking to find his feet following a nightmare return during the Ashes. In Adelaide, it was back to boisterous business. There was little anyone could do as he carved Pakistan’s insipid and understaffed four-man attack under lights, merely a week after the other pink-ball Test had produced hooping, troublesome, helmet-tonking action. It was an unabashed return.

Marnus Labuschagne
143 v New Zealand
first Test, Perth

It only seemed like a passing gag that Labuschagne was the perfect like-for-like concussion replacement for Steven Smith, but by the end of the year, the comparison still had legs. In Perth, Labuschagne kept the strike ticking over and was especially resilient against a probing Neil Wagner, even if not fully comfortable. His boundary-hitting was as assertive as ever, but the hundred – the third of three in a row – was marked by his patience on a day in which Australia only scored at 2.75. Eventually, New Zealand went a bowler down and Labuschagne’s effort proved to be a match-winning one.

Click here for the Test bowling shortlist and here for ESPNcricinfo Awards 2019 home

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