Cricket365's Team of the Month – November

Graeme Smith makes up the numbers at the top of the knock, Darren Bravo impresses through the middle order, Ravichandran turns the tables on Harbhajan Singh and Pat Cummins and Vernon Philander announce their arrival on the Test stage.

<B>1. Graeme Smith (South Africa)</B><BR><I>Close, but no: Tillakaratne Dilshan (Sri Lanka)</I><BR>It was slim pickings at the top of the knock this month, with South Africa's captain cracking the nod almost solely thanks to his century in Cape Town. Rolled for 96 in their first innings, in which Smith top-scored with 37, the hosts bounced back to have the Australians all out for a record-low 47. The double-figure infamy might've continued into the third and final day, but the stalwart Smith dug in for the long haul – and now sports the most number of fourth-innings centuries in a winning cause.

<B>2. Virender Sehwag (India)</B><BR><I>Close, but no: Gautam Gambhir (India)</I><BR>Back to propel India to lofty heights, the hard-hitting right-hander would've liked to graduate at least one of his slew of half-tons into a century this month. Despite this lack of conversion, though, Sehwag's presence returns to the Indian order a threatening dynamic sorely missed in recent months. Given the nail-biting nature to the end of the third Test in Mumbai, his quickfire 60 in the final innings proved of particular importance.

<B>3. Hashim Amla (South Africa)</B><BR><I>Close, but no: Kirk Edwards (West Indies)</I><BR>The bearded right-hander had racked up a string of tons against the world's Test-playing nations, but lacked a maiden century against the Aussies going into the two-match affair in Cape Town and Johannesburg. Somewhat of a quick fix was in order, then, with Amla duly lavishing 112 at Newlands and 105 at the Wanderers – pity the latter was in a losing cause.

<B>4. Kumar Sangakkara (Sri Lanka, wicketkeeper)</B><BR><I>Close, but no: Rahul Dravid (India)</I><BR>Tough call, this, in putting the Sri Lankan in the side ahead of Mahendra Dhoni. But the team needed a wicketkeeper-batsman rather than just a wicketkeeper and, while October belonged to the Indian captain, Sangakkara certainly came to the party with the willow this month. The tourists were near hopeless without his prolific contribution in the United Arab Emirates, where the pitches didn't quite cough up the batting tarmacs that were initially anticipated.

<B>5. Darren Bravo (West Indies)</B><BR><I>Close, but no: Shivnarine Chanderpaul (West Indies)</I><BR>While comparisons to the legendary Brian Lara were premature on the back of his 195 against Bangladesh, it's safe to say that Bravo's track record is starting to resemble that of his fellow left-hander at the start of his illustrious career. The middle-order batsman filled his boots against India, including two big centuries, and now averages well in excess of 50 across 24 Test innings. The real test is still to come, though. "Darren has got to understand now that a lot of the opposition will start looking at him – the Australians, the English – because he's now a recognised player, and he will come under a bit of pressure. Hopefully, he has the maturity to come out of it," insisted Lara.

<B>6. Misbah-ul-Haq (Pakistan, captain)</B><BR><I>Close, but no: Michael Clarke (Australia)</I><BR>It was really difficult to leave Rahul Dravid out of November's XI, but the veteran Indian, despite his fine form, really didn't outshine the preceding five. Sticking him at number six would be an insult to the classy right-hander too, so we've settled on the Pakistan's captain. Misbah led from the front on numerous occasions across all three formats against Sri Lanka and is yet to concede a Test series since taking over the captaincy. The legacy is likely to continue against Bangladesh.

<B>7. Shahid Afridi (Pakistan)</B><BR><I>Close, but no: Mahendra Dhoni (India)</I><BR>No man in the history of the game has taken a five-wicket haul and scored a half-century in the same ODI more than once, other than Afridi. Straight out of conditional retirement in the wake of Ijaz Butt's departure from the PCB ranks, the former captain is back to his best. Savaging a cavalier 75 and then sniping through a five-for across just 22 balls in Sharjah, the all-rounder's admission that he is more of a bowler than a batsman these days is a fine balance.

<B>8. Vernon Philander (South Africa)</B><BR><I>Close, but no: Doug Bracewell (New Zealand)</I><BR>Lonwabo Tsotsobe's nemesis had a month to remember – and took it all in his stride by insisting that he had put in the hard graft of domestic competition and deserved his place in the Proteas Test unit. Somewhat of a surprise pick for the series opener at Newlands, and afforded the new ball ahead of Morne Morkel too, Philander came to the party with eight wickets on debut across a truly mad, three-day Test. Johannesburg brought him six more wickets, though in an a lot more trying fashion and, at the end of the it all, the Man of the Series award and a fat cheque.

<B>9. Ravichandran Ashwin (India)</B><BR><I>Close, but no: Devendra Bishoo (West Indies)</I><BR>One of two survivors from October's XI, Ashwin had another fine month. Harbhajan Singh's fall from favour has never looked more promising. Top of the wicket-taking stakes with 22 victims after the three Tests against the Windies, the aspirant all-rounder threw in a century at the Wankhede Stadium for good measure. He is sure to pick up a bag load more in the one-dayers against the same opposition, but the tour to Australia later in the year will really test his mettle. If he can step up Down Under, then the 25-year-old truly will be worthy as a long-term replacement for the discarded Harbhajan.

<B>10. Pragyan Ojha (India)</B><BR><I>Close, but no: Saeed Ajmal (Pakistan)</I><BR>While Ravindra Jadeja continues to prove the Ying to Ashwin's Yang in limited-overs competition, Ojha is the complementary force in the five-day fold. His 20 scalps against the men from the Caribbean came a fraction cheaper than his partner in turn's average, with the left-armer's variation key to India's cause across Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai. For once and for all, finger spinner Ojha has shown himself to be the better bet than leg-spinner Amit Mishra.

<B>11. Pat Cummins (Australia)</B><BR><I>Close, but no: Dale Steyn (South Africa)</I><BR>Let's not hail the teenager as the real deal or the next Brett Lee yet, but he certainly went a long way in fixing himself to Australia's future with a fine performance against South Africa. Promising in the preceding one-dayers, the right-arm fast bowler generated genuine pace at the Wanderers, securing a second-innings six-for. Captain Michael Clarke has waxed lyrical about how the 18-year-old will have to be managed appropriately if Australia want to avoid another speedster breaking down. With the right-armer ruled out of the series opener against New Zealand by a heel injury, Clarke's warning will need heeding regularly.

<B>Jonhenry Wilson</B>