Reviewing Each Bowler of the Month over Past Year: Why They Won, What Came Next
Following the inaugural awarding of Bleacher Report’s Bowler of the Month gong last August, much has happened to our various winners during the course of the past 12 months, some of it good, some not so.
And if a week is considered a long time in politics, then a year in cricket must be an eternity, as demonstrated by Australian paceman Mitchell Johnson not even being on the radar for such an award this time last year as England took a 3-0 lead in the Ashes.
However, just four months later the Aussie bowler was lapping it up as our December Bowler of the Month, along with these other 11 star performers from the past 12 months of action across the globe...
August 2013: Ryan Harris (Australia)
Australia fast bowler Ryan Harris picked up our first-ever award last August after claiming 24 wickets at a cost of just 19.58 in that summer’s Ashes series, second only to Graeme Swann, albeit from one less Test match than the England off-spinner.
And the highlight of the New South Wales paceman’s month came when he produced second-innings figures of 7-for-117 in the fourth Test in Durham, although it was still not enough to prevent England from winning the contest by 74 runs and retaining the urn.
Following that series, Harris then took a further 22 wickets at only 19.31 as Australia whitewashed Alastair Cook’s men 5-0 Down Under, before the Aussies capped off a quite remarkable turnaround in fortunes by beating the world’s No. 1-ranked Test team South Africa 2-1 away from home.
However, “Rhino” found the going slightly harder against the Proteas, although the 34-year-old still finished the series with a more-than-respectable 10 wickets at 31.80 and now sits in second place in the current International Cricket Council Test bowling rankings.
September 2013: Graham Onions (Durham)
Graham Onions was at his probing best as Durham won last season’s County Championship, with the ever-accurate paceman proving to be the driving force behind that title triumph with a string of devastating spells with the ball, none more so than in September, when he won our Bowler of the Month award.
In that month, the fast bowler snared 26 wickets from 130.3 overs at a miserly average of just 14.54, including eye-catching match figures of 9-for-85 to see off Derbyshire, followed by 7-for-88 to help overcome championship rivals Sussex.
Incredibly, though, those performances were still not enough to see Onions earn a call-up on England’s tour to Australia, with the 31-year-old spending his winter playing for the Dolphins in South Africa instead.
And while the seamer was summoned to act as a fast-bowling cover on the England Lions tour of Sri Lanka in February, Onions then suffered yet another back injury playing for his country three months later.
October 2013: Imran Tahir (South Africa)
South Africa leg-spinner Imran Tahir claimed last October’s gong thanks to a brilliant individual display that helped overcome Pakistan by an innings and 92 runs in the second Test and final Test in Dubai to earn the tourists a share of the series.
And it was the tweaker’s first-innings performance especially that helped the Proteas take control of proceedings as Tahir captured his first-ever five-wicket haul in Test cricket to help bundle the home side out for just 99, while his eventual haul of 8-for-130 was also the best match analysis of his international career.
However, despite Tahir continuing his impressive form with the ball in South Africa’s one-day international series that followed in the United Arab Emirates later that month, the leggie then struggled in his country’s home Test series with India, taking just two wickets at 58 in his one and only appearance.
As a result, the Punjabi did not feature as South Africa lost 2-1 at home to Australia earlier this year, although Tahir did top the wickets table with 12 victims as Faf du Plessis and Co. made it all the way to the World Twenty20 semi-finals in April, before earning a Test recall in Sri Lanka last month.
November 2013: Dale Steyn (South Africa)
South Africa paceman Dale Steyn was November’s Bowler of the Month on the back of a series of sensational limited-overs performances both home and away against Pakistan.
In four ODIs, the 31-year-old managed to capture 15 wickets at an average of just 8.53 and an economy rate of only 3.46 runs per over, while in a further four T20 internationals Steyn picked up seven more scalps at an average of 11 and at less than six runs per over too.
The world’s No. 1-ranked Test bowler then jointly topped the wickets table after capturing 10 victims at 31 as the Proteas beat India 1-0 the following month, including a man-of-the-match display in the decisive second Test in Durban, where Steyn returned outstanding match figures of 9-for-147.
And while 2014 has not proven quite as successful for the South African spearhead, the seamer still claimed 12 wickets at 26.41 at home to Australia, followed by 13 wickets at 17.46 in Sri Lanka, including a man-of-the-match performance in the tourists’ decisive first Test win in Galle last month, where Steyn ended the contest with figures of 9-for-99.
December 2013: Mitchell Johnson (Australia)
Australia left-armer Mitchell Johnson was the undoubted star last December after pulverising England’s terrified batsmen, as the fast bowler ended up with a hugely impressive 22 wickets at a cost of just 15.5 runs during that month’s three Ashes Tests.
And that included two man-of-the-match displays, with the paceman picking up five-wicket hauls in both the second Test in Adelaide (when Johnson recorded his second-best bowling figures in an innings of 7-for-40) and the fourth Test in Melbourne (5-for-63) as Michael Clarke’s men reclaimed the urn.
The Queenslander would go on to win both the Player of the Series award and the prestigious Allan Border medal after capturing an astonishing 37 wickets at only 13.97, with the Aussies whitewashing England 5-0.
Meanwhile, on Australia’s victorious visit to South Africa earlier this year, the 32-year-old topped the wickets table with 22 victims at 17.36, 12 of which came in the tourists’ first Test win at Centurion, with Johnson climbing 10 places up to No. 3 in the ICC’s Test bowling rankings since November 2013 as a result.
January 2014: Corey Anderson (New Zealand)
New Zealand all-rounder Corey Anderson was the standout bowler in the month of January after the 23-year-old helped the Black Caps thrash India 4-0 at home in their five-match ODI series.
Anderson may have featured in just the first three games, but that was still enough time for the youngster to pick up 10 wickets at 18.1, a total bettered only by the tourists’ Mohammed Shami, who captured 11 victims, albeit from two more contests.
And in those three internationals, Anderson was man of the match in the opener at Napier before claiming his maiden five-wicket haul in his last appearance in Auckland, although the player then went wicketless in the two-Test series that followed in February.
February 2014: Dale Steyn (South Africa)
South Africa paceman Dale Steyn became the only bowler to win this award twice during the last year after picking up his second gong in February thanks to yet another superb performance with the ball in the second Test against Australia.
With the tourists set 443 for victory, the Proteas were becoming more than a little jittery as openers Chris Rogers and David Warner put on 126 for the first wicket, only for that man Steyn to then claim 4-for-55 in 20 overs as the Aussies lost nine wickets after tea on Day 4 to be skittled for just 216.
And the 31-year-old went on to confirm his position as the world’s No. 1-ranked bowler in Test cricket by producing a man-of-the-match display in his country’s first Test win over Sri Lanka in Galle last month, with Steyn returning stunning overall figures of 9-for-99 as the tourists also returned to their position at the head of the ICC’s Test-match rankings.
March 2014: Ravichandran Ashwin (India)
India’s Ravichandran Ashwin was March’s Bowler of the Month on the back of an impressive World T20 campaign with the ball for the tall off-spinner, who ended the tournament in Bangladesh with 11 wickets at a mind-boggling economy rate of just 5.35 runs per over.
And it was largely because of those skilful displays that MS Dhoni’s side made it all the way to the final, only to then fall at the last to Sri Lanka.
However, unfortunately for the tweaker, that World T20 final loss in Dhaka was the last time that Ashwin appeared for his country in any form of the game this year, although the 27-year-old is expected to earn a recall to India’s side for this week’s fourth Test against England in Manchester.
April 2014: Sunil Narine (Kolkata Knight Riders)
Off-spinner Sunil Narine was in typically unplayable form during the Indian Premier League in April, with the 26-year-old turning in a number of eye-catching performances for the Kolkata Knight Riders in the initial stages of the competition.
However, none were better than the West Indian’s very first outing with the ball against the Mumbai Indians, with Narine claiming figures of 4-for-20 from his four overs to help see off the 2013 champions.
And the tweaker would go on to claim 21 scalps in total—just two behind leading wicket-taker Mohit Sharma—in 16 matches at an economy rate of just 6.35 runs per over, with his franchise claiming a second IPL triumph in the space of just three years by beating the Kings XI Punjab in the final in June.
May 2014: Mohit Sharma (Chennai Super Kings)
Chennai Super Kings’ Mohit Sharma was the obvious choice to be May’s Bowler of the Month after the paceman finished this season’s IPL with the cherished Purple Cap, an award given to the player with the most wickets in the tournament.
The Indian captured an eye-catching 23 victims in his 16 games at an average of 19.65 and an economy rate of 8.39 runs per over—including best figures of 4-for-14 to help beat the Mumbai Indians, the holders—with 15 of those wickets coming in the month in question.
And as a result of Mohit’s outstanding IPL campaign, the seamer was then picked by his country to tour Bangladesh in June, with the 25-year-old returning impressive figures of 4-for-22 to help bowl the home side out for just 58 in the second ODI in Mirpur.
June 2014: Liam Plunkett (England)
Yorkshire paceman Liam Plunkett was the pick of the bowlers in June after making an encouraging return to Test cricket in England’s series with Sri Lanka. The 29-year-old’s brilliant display with the ball in the second match at Headingley was the reason for him winning our award.
Plunkett, who made his first appearance in seven years in the opening contest at Lord’s, not only returned his best-ever bowling figures in an innings for his country of 5-for-64 to help dismiss the tourists for just 257 the first time round in Leeds.
However, the seamer also managed to then record his best match figures for England after finishing the second Test with 9-for-176.
Unfortunately for Plunkett though, he featured in only one more Test, against India at the home of cricket last month, before an ankle injury then sidelined him for Thursday’s fourth Test of the five-match series.
July 2014: Bhuvneshwar Kumar (India)
India’s canny swing bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar won July’s gong on the back of three brilliant showings with the ball against England which have seen the 24-year-old head his country’s wickets table going into the fourth Test of the five-match series in Manchester later this week.
Kumar kicked off the series by claiming his maiden five-wicket haul in Test cricket (5-for-82) in the home side’s first innings at Trent Bridge, before the player then repeated the trick in the next match at Lord’s after returning both his best-ever innings (6-for-82) and match figures (6-for-103) in the tourists’ memorable 95-run win.
And it was that man again who led the way in the third Test at the Rose Bowl, as Kumar finished with 3-for-101 in England’s first innings, although not even MS Dhoni’s best bowler so far this summer could prevent India from going down to a crushing 266-run defeat.