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20 Players on the Rise in Test Cricket in 2014

Tim CollinsFeatured ColumnistJune 19, 2014

20 Players on the Rise in Test Cricket in 2014

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    Harry Engels/Getty Images

    As Test cricket returns to prominence in the wake of the recent ICC World Twenty20 and 2014 Indian Premier League season, it's an apt moment to examine some of the format's emerging stars. 

    Interestingly, periods of transition have either ended or are just beginning for a vast array of the world's Test outfits, meaning the rise of new talents is inevitable. 

    England, of course, are the outfit enduring the most notable changes after a torrid time in Australia during the winter.

    But changes to the international landscape keep coming.

    From South Africa's leadership handover to the new generations emerging in India and New Zealand—not forgetting the next era that awaits Sri Lanka—Test cricket is ready to be seized by a collection of rising players. 

    Across the following slides, we examine those who are beginning to climb the game's pecking order. 

Chris Jordan

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    Tom Shaw/Getty Images

    Country: England

    Age: 25

    Playing Role: Third seamer/Bowling all-rounder

    England's Chris Jordan looks set for a big year in 2014, making an impressive debut against Sri Lanka at Lord's after his quick emergence in the limited-overs formats.

    Sharp and unrelenting, the 25-year-old should complement James Anderson and Stuart Broad nicely, helping to relieve some of the heavy burden from the former in particular. 

    Jordan's skills with the bat will also be key to his ongoing rise, given that he possesses the technical quality to become an extremely useful bowling all-rounder at No. 8 for this England side. 

Jimmy Neesham

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    Arnulfo Franco/Associated Press

    Country: New Zealand

    Age: 23

    Playing Role: All-rounder

    Two Tests, two hundreds: That's where Jimmy Neesham's record stands at present. 

    New Zealand will be hoping for more of the same.

    Indeed, as a lower-order batsman, the left-hander has already shown his ability to take matches away from the opposition, crunching quick centuries against both India and the West Indies this year.

    And although the 23-year-old's bowling performances haven't been to the same standard, his first-class average of 32.51 suggests he has the capacity to become an extremely useful component of a revitalised Kiwi side.

Steve Smith

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    Gallo Images/Getty Images

    Country: Australia

    Age: 25

    Playing Role: Middle-order batsman

    Steve Smith is no longer that blond Australian kid who bowls a bit of leg spin and owns a shoddy batting technique. 

    Rather, the 25-year-old has cemented his place in Australia's middle order for the foreseeable future with a string of sterling performances against England and South Africa. 

    The most notable aspect of Smith's run-scoring has been it's timely nature: His big scores have typically come when his team has been under pressure. 

    When Michael Clarke eventually retires, don't be surprised to see Smith named as Australia's captain.

Kane Williamson

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    Phil Walter/Getty Images

    Country: New Zealand

    Age: 23

    Playing Role: Top-order batsman

    Young Kiwi batsman Kane Williamson has been at the heart of New Zealand's recent surge in Test cricket, settling in at No. 3 in his side's suddenly strong line-up. 

    Although the 23-year-old has been a part of this New Zealand side since 2010, the last six-to-eight months have really seen the emerging batsman blossom. 

    With hundreds in the first Test in three of the Kiwis' four recent series, Williamson is now pushing Ross Taylor and Brendon McCullum for the title of New Zealand's finest batsman. 

Angelo Mathews

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    Tom Shaw/Getty Images

    Country: Sri Lanka

    Age: 27

    Playing Role: Middle-order batsman

    Sri Lanka's Angelo Mathews certainly isn't new to Test cricket, but the middle-order batsman is making a charge as his team's captain.

    Since taking the leadership in March last year, Mathews has averaged 76.00 with the bat across 14 innings to become a vital cog in his team's line-up.

    Against Pakistan in December, the right-hander compiled a superb 157 not out, while his smooth 102 against England at Lord's confirmed his growing stature in the game. 

James Pattinson

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    Morne de Klerk/Getty Images

    Country: Australia

    Age: 24

    Playing Role: Third seamer

    James Pattinson's Test career was temporarily stalled in 2013 by a back injury, but the aggressive right-arm seamer appears set for an extended run in Michael Clarke's Australian outfit. 

    Selected to replace the tiring Peter Siddle for Australia's third Test against South Africa in Cape Town, Pattinson provided the high-energy, hostile impact that was needed at the conclusion of a long summer. 

    Also useful with the bat, the 24-year-old Victorian will help to relieve the wicket-taking burden from Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris. 

Trent Boult

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    Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

    Country: New Zealand

    Age: 24

    Playing Role: Front-line seamer

    Trent Boult has been a player on the rise since the beginning of 2013 and doesn't look ready to slow down anytime soon.

    With superb series against England, West Indies and India since the middle of last year, the left-armer has risen to prominence in a New Zealand side that finally appears set to challenge the game's heavyweights.

    Along with the contrasting angle provided by his left arm, Boult's control of swing and seam is exemplary, which should see him thrive in most arenas outside the subcontinent. 

Cheteshwar Pujara

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    Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

    Country: India

    Age: 26

    Playing Role: Top-order batsman

    Recognition for India's Cheteshwar Pujara has been late in coming thanks to his nation's long line of batting phenomenons. 

    However, as India's batting line-up enters a new phase without pillars Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, Pujara's excellence is beginning to stand out in the Test arena.

    In just 19 matches to date, the right-hander has raced to 1,650 runs at an average of 58.92—a record that already includes two double centuries.

    After a memorable 153 against South Africa in Johannesburg in December, the 26-year-old is likely to be his side's rock in England this summer. 

Ajinkya Rahane

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    Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

    Country: India

    Age: 26

    Playing Role: Middle-order batsman

    Although he's a top-order player by trade, Ajinkya Rahane has quickly proven himself as a valuable and versatile member of MS Dhoni's Indian outfit. 

    Since making his debut against Australia last year, the right-hander has shown his class with a pair of smooth innings on foreign soil against both South Africa and New Zealand. 

    Like Pujara, the 26-year-old Rahane looks capable of supporting India's superstar, Virat Kohli, during his nation's time of transition. 

Ahmed Shehzad

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    Francois Nel/Getty Images

    Country: Pakistan

    Age: 22

    Playing Role: Top-order batsman

    Despite having played a lot of limited-overs cricket for Pakistan, Ahmed Shehzad didn't make his Test debut until the final day of 2013.

    Needing a talented top-order performer to calm the team's batting volatility, the 22-year-old quickly impressed in white clothing in his only series to date against Sri Lanka. 

    After reaching a half-century on his debut in Abu Dhabi, the right-hander compiled a sterling 147 in his third Test to propel Pakistan to victory. 

Nathan Lyon

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    Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

    Country: Australia

    Age: 26

    Playing Role: First-choice spinner

    Australia's spinning merry-go-round became almost comical in the years after Shane Warne's retirement in 2007. 

    But after trialling almost every slow bowler in the country to some extent, off-spinner Nathan Lyon has settled nicely into the role for the world's No. 1 side. 

    While not prolific, the 26-year-old has perfectly complemented the brazen hubris exuded by the other members of Australia's attack, becoming the man who regularly captures a key wicket while drying up the scoring. 

    Alongside Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris, Lyon's gradual rise shouldn't be underestimated in his country's renaissance.

Ben Stokes

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    Gareth Copley/Getty Images

    Country: England

    Age: 23

    Playing Role: All-rounder

    Ben Stokes' rapid emergence that began in Australia has been temporarily put on hold by injury, but expect the aggressive all-rounder to continue his impressive rise as 2014 wears on. 

    With the bat in hand, the 23-year-old looks to have the technical ability and temperament to become a world-class all-rounder, while his bowling has already proven itself to be of international standard. 

    In Stokes, England may just have their finest all-rounder since Andrew Flintoff. 

Mohammed Shami

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    Phil Walter/Getty Images

    Country: India

    Age: 24

    Playing Role: Front-line seamer

    Being a seamer in India isn't easy. Nor would it be fun. On desolate pitches under the baking Indian sun, bowling with the seam up in that part of the world is the least enviable job in cricket. 

    Yet shouldering that challenge impressively is Mohammed Shami.

    After bursting onto the scene with blistering spells against the West Indies, the right-armer has entrenched himself in his national side with strong follow-up performances in South Africa and New Zealand.

    With the capacity to reverse-swing the ball at good pace, Shami is perhaps the brightest fast-bowling talent to emerge from India since Zaheer Khan. 

Kaushal Silva

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    Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

    Country: Sri Lanka

    Age: 28

    Playing Role: Top-order batsman

    Since being recalled to Sri Lanka's Test side late last year, Kaushal Silva has earned himself a long-term position at the top of his team's order.

    Through an incredible work ethic and a dogged desire, the 28-year-old has compiled five 50s and one century in just 11 innings after a two-year hiatus from the national side. 

    That tenacity was on display against England at Lord's, as Silva struck two half-centuries to help his team claim a draw against the heavily favoured home side. 

Junaid Khan

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    Eranga Jayawardena/Associated Press

    Country: Pakistan

    Age: 24

    Playing Role: Front-line seamer

    Pakistan's Junaid Khan has been on a steady rise since his Test debut in 2011, but more exciting times await the talented left-armer as he prepares to take on the No. 1-ranked Australia in the United Arab Emirates later this year. 

    Perhaps what is most impressive about Junaid in his endurance. Regularly one to bowl 50 overs or more across a Test, the 24-year-old has rapidly become Misbah-ul-Haq's most reliable seamer. 

    Like the previously mentioned Trent Boult, the Pakistani's unique angle as a left-armer creates headaches for batsmen which combined with his superb control of swing and seam has helped Junaid to rise up Test cricket's pecking order. 

Mominul Haque

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    A.M.Ahad/Associated Press

    Country: Bangladesh

    Age: 22

    Playing Role: Middle-order batsman

    At just 22 years of age and amid of period of instability for his country, it's likely that Mominul Haque will endure his fair share of up and downs over the coming months. 

    That, however, shouldn't detract from the recognition his talent deserves, given that he's averaging 75.50 at Test level after just seven appearances. 

    Incredibly, the emerging left-hander has struck three hundreds and three 50s in just 13 innings, failing to reach double figures just once in his career thus far.

    Mominul could be the brightest batting talent to emerge from Test cricket's newest nation. 

Gary Ballance

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    Tom Shaw/Getty Images

    Country: England

    Age: 24

    Playing Role: Top-order batsman

    Gary Ballance has some enormous shoes to fill after moving into the vacant No. 3 spot left by Jonathan Trott in the current England side. 

    Pleasingly, the Zimbabwean-born left-hander got off to a strong start in his new role, reaching an unbeaten century at Lord's against Sri Lanka last week. 

    While obvious issues exist with Ballance's technique, he showed the composure that was necessary to guide his team away from trouble in their second innings against the Sri Lankans.

    Run-scoring under pressure simply can't be ignored. 

Tom Latham

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    Phil Walter/Getty Images

    Country: New Zealand

    Age:

    Playing Role: Top-order batsman

    Yet another New Zealander to feature on this list, Tom Latham has quickly impressed at the top of the Kiwi order in his three Tests to date.

    With three consecutive scores of 73 or more against the West Indies, the young left-hander looks to have secured his position at the top of the order in Brendon McCullum's team. 

    An aggressive shot-maker, Latham is also the owner of a strong first-class record despite his tender years, making his successful entrance to Test cricket hardly surprising in a rising New Zealand outfit. 

Tim Southee

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    Phil Walter/Getty Images

    Country: New Zealand

    Age: 25

    Playing Role: Front-line seamer

    Big things were expected of Tim Southee after claiming 5/55 on debut against England in 2008.

    Strong, tall and capable of late swing, the right-armer was expected to become his nation's pre-eminent bowler after Daniel Vettori and Shane Bond.

    But it has only been in the last 12 months that Southee has begun to find the consistency long expected of him, forming a potent partnership with Trent Boult.

    Since the beginning of his visit to England last year, the 25-year-old has 47 wickets in his last eight Tests. 

Joe Root

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    Tom Shaw/Getty Images

    Country: England

    Age: 23

    Playing Role: Middle-order batsman

    After yo-yoing up and down the order, Joe Root may have just found his position in this England line-up. Or perhaps he should just bat at Lord's. 

    Either way, the talented 23-year-old is undoubtedly being marked as a key figure in England's future, and, provided his current trajectory continues, could one day inherit the leadership from Alastair Cook. 

    Certainly, his smooth double century against Sri Lanka last week indicated that Root remains one of Test cricket's brightest prospects, despite enduring a difficult time in Australia last winter.

     

    All statistics and match data courtesy of ESPN Cricinfo.

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