By Orin Davidson
They don’t come much better than those of 2011.

Yes, within those 12 months cricket was blessed by a number of exceptionally outstanding performances as Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid , Michael Clarke and  Dale Steyn among others wreaked havoc with bat and ball in both Test and limited overs clashes around the world.

Former Australia batting great and captain Ian Chappell.

Tendulkar proved why he should be considered one of the most prolific batsmen of all time even at the golden age of 37 with one memorable innings, Dravid came through in tough circumstances with two epic knocks while Steyn took the skill of expert, express fast bowling to higher levels on more than occasion.

Former Australia batting great and captain Ian Chappell was around to witness some of those blockbuster performances and is among the panel of judges from espncricinfo.com  that will determine the website’s best Test and One Day International batting and bowling performances of the year .

And of all  the phenomenal displays he rates Michael Clarke’s match winning 151-run Innings against South Africa at the Newlands in Cape town  and  Nathan Lyon’s 5-34 versus Sri Lanka at Galle, as the best Test performances he saw in  2011.

An avid follower of the sport around the world, Chappell admires talent from wherever the performer originates, which is why sentiment was never an issue when he picked  the  feats of two compatriot Australians as his best in 2011.

“Clarke was exceptional, he batted in conditions that were tough and the bowlers were dominating,” stated Chappell in an exclusive interview with newyorkcricket.com.

Lyon, an unknown off spinner, raised eyebrows as he became one of the few  Australian match winners bowling spin, apart from  the legendary Shane Warne.

According to Chappell, the display was made even more special because the Aussie was playing his first Test match. “Lyon’s performance was terrific on debut on a pitch where the batsmen were dominating.”

The former star middle order  batsman also showered praise on newcomer Australian David Warner for his commanding  display in rattling up his debut Test century of 123 against New Zealand at Hobart. “It was a brilliant knock because Warner was forced to play a different style of innings,” declared Chappell.

The pitch conditions were also assisting the New Zealand swing bowlers.

Chappell had good words for Jacques Kallis’ 109 not out against India at Cape Town, the South Africa’s second century of the game, batting with an injured rib.

Tendulkar ‘s 146 against South Africa in the face of Dale Steyn’s assault on India’s batting, culminated in  his 5-75 haul. “These batsmen (Tendulkar, Kallis) have the ability to prosper as an innings grows old and have become very versatile over the years”, stated Chappell.

New Zealand’s Doug  Bracewell’s 6-40 in the said Hobart game, which helped  his team clinch victory  also impressed  the ex Aussie skipper. “Bracewell’s was a helluva good performance as there was not much runs to play with.”

Of all the dizzying batting displays in the ODI version of the game in a World Cup year, Chappell rates Kevin O’Brien’s match winning innings for Ireland off England and Mitchell Johnson’s bowling rout of Sri Lanka after the World Cup, top of the pile.

“We were going for dinner but could not stop watching. Ireland had no chance but he (O’Brien) kept going and going and brought Ireland back from the dead”, exclaimed Chappell. The classic knock ended in an improbably victory for Ireland and their best ever in the World Cup, thanks to O’Brien’s 63-ball 113 at Bangalore.

Johnson’s 6-31 that fashioned a seven-wicket win for Australia on a spinner’s pitch must have reminded Chappell of Australia’s glory fast bowling days headed by Lillee and Thompson under his leadership in the early 1970s. “Johnson was very, very good, bowled quickly after Sri Lanka had gotten a very good start,” Chappell said.

He also feels that Lasith Malinga’s 5-28 taken off Australia at Hambantota was so good it placed the Sri Lankan speedster in the same bracket as Pakistan demon duo Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. “Malinga is very good with the new ball and old ball, like a Waqar Younis, Waqar Akram type who do the same thing, and could come back and  polish off a  tail,” stated Chappell.

Cricket fans around the world including those from the United States can vote for their top performances at www.cricinfo.com.

Ian Chappell was speaking on behalf of espncricinfo.com as the cricket website announced its nominees for the 2012 ESPNcricinfo Awards

List of Performances:
Test (bowling)
Dale Steyn
5 for 75 v India
third Test, Cape Town

James Anderson
5 for 65 v India
first Test, Lord’s

Stuart Broad
6 for 46 v India
second Test, Trent Bridge

Nathan Lyon
5 for 34 v Sri Lanka
first Test, Galle

Junaid Khan
5 for 38 v Sri Lanka
first Test, Abu Dhabi

R Ashwin
6 for 47 v West Indies
first Test, Delhi

Shane Watson
5 for 17 v South Africa
first Test, Cape Town

Vernon Philander
5 for 15 v Australia

Pat Cummins
6 for 79 v South Africa
second Test, Johannesburg

Doug Bracewell
6 for 40 v Australia
second Test, Hobart

Test (batting):
Sachin Tendulkar
146 v South Africa
third Test, Cape Town

Jacques Kallis
109 not out v India
third Test, Cape Town

Kevin Pietersen
202 not out v India
first Test, Lord’s

Rahul Dravid
117 v England
second Test, Nottingham

Ian Bell
159 v India
second Test, Nottingham

Rahul Dravid
146 not out v England
fourth Test, The Oval

Michael Clarke
151 v South Africa
first Test, Cape Town

Graeme Smith
101 not out v Australia
first Test, Cape Town

David Warner
123 not out v New Zealand
second Test, Hobart

Thilan Samaraweera
102 v South Africa
second Test, Durban

ODI (batting):
Shane Watson
185 not out v Bangladesh

Andrew Strauss
158 v India

Ross Taylor
131 not out v Pakistan

Kevin O’Brien
113 v England

Mahela Jayawardene
103 not out v India

Gautam Gambhir
97 v Sri Lanka

MS Dhoni
91 not out v Sri Lanka

Malcolm Waller
99 not out v New Zealand

Ricky Ponting
104 v India

Virender Sehwag
219 v West Indies

ODI (bowling):
Mitchell Johnson
6 for 31 v Sri Lanka

Shahid Afridi
5 for 35 v Sri Lanka

Tim Southee
5 for 33 v Pakistan.

Wahab Riaz
5 for 46 v India.

Tim Bresnan
5 for 48 v India

Dale Steyn
5 for 50 v India

Stuart Broad
4 for 15 v South Africa
World Cup, Chennai.

Munaf Patel
4 for 29 v South Africa

Shahid Afridi
4 for 34 v Sri Lanka

Lasith Malinga
5 for 28 v Australia

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