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2018 lookback – the breakout stars (men)

Feature

Here's a look at the top five breakout stars who rose to prominence through their performances in the year 2018 and starred for their teams.

The year 2018 was one of change in some ways. Test cricket got two new participating nations, Ireland and Afghanistan, with the latter shining through in limited-overs cricket as well by beating Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and playing out a tie against India in the Asia Cup.

Elsewhere, New Zealand registered their first-ever Test series win against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates, England clean swept Sri Lanka 3-0 away from home and Usman Khawaja led an Australian rearguard that saw them bat out close to two days to draw a Test match.

These results were made possible through the efforts of players, some of whom took centre stage in 2018 and rose as the breakout stars. Here are five of them.

1. Shimron Hetmyer

Video cwc19 06 Mar 18
CWCQ: Windies applaud Shimron Hetmyer's maiden ton

After graduating from Windies' victorious Under 19 side of the ICC Under 19 Cricket World Cup 2016, Hetmyer found a place in the senior team and made his Test debut in April 2017.

But he rose to prominence this year, with his swashbuckling, fearless approach with the bat that helped the Windies run India close during the limited-overs leg of the tour. Signs of what was to come later in the year were laid when he smashed a 93-ball 125 against Bangladesh at Providence in July.

Taking confidence from that knock, Hetmyer scored 106 (78) and 94 (64) against India in the first two matches of a five-match series, the second of which was tied. His 21-ball 37 in the third game helped Windies scale 283, which eventually proved too much for India.

Although the left-hander's returns diminished towards the end of the year, the world had taken note of his six-hitting ability – he hit 30 sixes in 18 one-day international innings this year – and he was snapped up by Royal Challengers Bangalore for IPL 2019 for a whopping INR 4.2 crore (1 crore = $0.14 million).

2. Prithvi Shaw

Video cwc19 13 Jan 18
FEATURE: Prithvi Shaw... the next Sachin?
Prithvi Shaw has only just turned 18, but already has more cricket experience than many aspiring young players will have in their whole career. Growing up idolising Sachin, Shaw exhibits prodigious talent and will be one of our #FutureStars to watch at the U19 ICC Cricket World Cup as he strives to emulate one of the greatest ever and ultimately make a name for himself.

It was a roller-coaster ride for the 19-year-old Prithvi Shaw. He began 2018 by leading India U19s to another ICC Under 19 Cricket World Cup title, made his IPL debut in April, Test debut in October where he hit a century against the Windies in October, but fell painstakingly short of playing his first Test in Australia after injuring his ankle and getting ruled out of the series.

Shaw's returns of 70 and 33* in the next Test of the Windies series, following his career-ascending 134, showed his hunger for runs and the desire to win games for the team.

With India's openers enduring a tough time after a 4-1 drubbing in England, a slot at the top of the order seemed to have come just at the right time for Shaw, who looked set to open for India in their final overseas tour of the year, to Australia.

But fate had other plans as Shaw injured his ankle while attempting a catch at the boundary during India's warm-up match in Sydney, days before the first Test, and was ruled out of the first two Tests, initially, and then the whole series.

3. Sam Curran

England found gold in Sam Curran and they realised it as soon as he piled up the rearguard efforts during their home series against India this summer where the top order wasn't quite up to the task.

Curran scored two half-centuries and three 40s in addition to picking up 13 wickets in the four Tests that he played in the series, and showed remarkable character and game awareness while batting with the lower order and rescuing England from positions of peril.

He was adjudged England's Player of the Series and received special praise from Virat Kohli at the end of the tourney, and suddenly, the 20-year-old was the latest England sensation. 

He continued his good run with the bat during England's victorious 3-0 campaign in Sri Lanka, hitting 64 and 48 in two Tests. Unsurprisingly, he was picked up by Kings XI Punjab for IPL 2019 for INR 7.2 crore.

4. Mohammad Abbas

Mohmmad Abbas picked up 17 wickets across two Tests against Australia
Mohmmad Abbas picked up 17 wickets across two Tests against Australia

Pakistan's knack for churning out fast bowlers produced their latest gem: Abbas. The 28-year-old is a relatively late bloomer, having made his Test debut only in 2017. But in 2018, he rose to be Pakistan's main pace threat.

It began with a nine-wicket match-haul against Ireland in Malahide and then eight wickets against England at Lord's, with both games won by Pakistan. While he had showed his first signs of brilliance against Sri Lanka back in 2017, when he returned to Pakistan's home grounds in the UAE, he really stepped up, with 17 wickets across two Tests against Australia on wickets in Dubai and Abu Dhabi that weren't helpful for pace.

An injury towards the end of the year ruled him out of one of the three Tests against New Zealand, and he missed out against South Africa as well.

5. Ali Khan

USA's Ali Khan won the CPL with Trinbago Knight Riders
USA's Ali Khan won the CPL with Trinbago Knight Riders

USA's Ali Khan is another Pakistan-born fast bowler, but has made a name for himself with his pace and accuracy in his adopted country.

While USA are placed in ICC World Cricket League Championship Division Three, Khan has had his taste of top-flight cricket through contracts in various T20 leagues including the Caribbean Premier League, the Afghan Premier League and the T10 league.

Khan has 17 wickets from 15 T20s at a strike-rate of 19.2 and 16 of them were picked during his victorious CPL run with the Trinbago Knight Riders this year. With his face already known in T20 circuits, the future looks bright for another 28-year-old late bloomer.

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