Happy New Year to you all! Here at The Cricket Blog we’re hoping it’s every bit as successful and enjoyable as 2012. To kick things off then, where better to start than a look back on last year with our Team of the Year 2012…
The cricket was often overshadowed last year as the world’s media focussed its attention on events in London during the Olympics. I say the world’s media, residing in England as I do, it certainly felt as if the entire world was transfixed.
There was action and surprises from the off, though, on our hallowed oval fields. The world’s number one ranked side, England, travelled to the UAE to face Pakistan and was duly humbled 3-0. South Africa went on to assume the top ranking by inflicting further suffering on England in what proved to be a very mixed year for the Three Lions.
The Proteas have since strengthened their grip on the top spot, but Australia proved their credentials throughout 2012. Indeed no side won more Tests than the Aussies with seven. South Africa remained unbeaten in 2012, the only side to achieve that feat. Victory in Australia rounded off a most memorable year for Graeme Smith and co.
I fully expect to see South Africa retain top ranking in 2013. In putting together the team below, I tried to conceive a World XI that could go to South Africa and win. I couldn’t. They have strength all over the pitch and nothing screams this fact louder than the presence of AB de Villiers batting at seven.
It was very straightforward to select South Africa as our Team of the Year 2012. Runs and wickets flowed freely and series wins duly arrived in England and Australia.
Another simple selection was that of Michael Clarke as Player of the Year 2012. Four double centuries in one year. Four. It is a record that will take some beating. Clarke also scored more runs than any other with 1595. He’s also building a very strong Australian team around his own talents and the future looks very bright for Australia where it looked bleak only a couple of years ago.
With Clarke leading from the front, prepared to gamble in order to win, Australia look best placed alongside England to tussle with South Africa for top spot. With back-to-back Ashes series this year, it’s going to be a good one!
Performance of the Year 2012 was a little harder to select. Mahela Jayawardene played out a match winning 180 in Galle to defeat England. The next best score was 27 in Sri Lanka’s first innings 318.
Tino Best delighted everyone with a rampant 95 at Edgbaston. It’s the highest score in Test cricket’s history by a number 11.
Hashim Amla’s 311* at The Oval was also right out of the top order. It asserted South Africa’s dominance over England and was the first step towards a series win.
It was in that series, however, that Kevin Pietersen played one of the most extraordinary innings ever seen at Headingley. He crashed, banged and walloped Steyn, Morkel and Philander all around Leeds with a swashbuckling 149 runs. There was no reply from the tourists as KP entered the zone and refused to depart. He was untouchable and his stroke play elevated him to the upper echelons of the game’s elite. His press conference afterwards marked him out as a troubled genius.
That evening Jessica Ennis, Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah lit the blue touch paper in Great Britain’s Olympic year. KP’s performance that afternoon was every bit as impressive.
Team of the Year 2012
Everyone has their own ideas about this sort of thing. My selection is based upon Test cricket for the reason that it’s my favourite format. I love it. It also separates the wheat from the chaff: there is nowhere to hide in Test cricket, you have to stand up to be counted.
There are some notable exclusions to this side, but I’ve chosen those players that have stood up to be counted and made a real difference to their side’s fortunes. I’ll doff my cap to the near misses at the end.
Graeme Smith – 825 runs @ 48.52 3X 100 hs 131
Smith led the Proteas in a fantastic, unbeaten year. He led from the front, laying solid foundations for his flashier teammates. He’s often painful to watch, but he isn’t half effective. No one took more catches (23) either.
Alastair Cook – 1249 runs @48.03 4X 100 hs 190
Assuming the captaincy ahead of a tricky tour to India, Cook kept his composure and took to full time leadership like a fish to water. It was a tricky start to the year, but he finished it with aplomb. Would you want to bowl at an opening combo of Cook and Smith?
Hashim Amla – 1064 runs @ 70.93 4X 100 hs 311*
He just keeps on improving. England were sick of the sight of Amla and his beard, stuck to the crease like a limpet last summer. A pivotal part of South Africa’s rise.
Marlon Samuels – 866 runs @ 86.60 3X 100 hs 260
The West Indies showed signs of improvement in 2012 despite a couple of heavy looking losses to Australia and England. The improvement was exemplified by Samuels, who found some truly extraordinary form and looked to enjoy every minute of it. I know this side is based on Tests, but what a performance in the final of the World T20…
Michael Clarke – 1595 runs @ 106.33 5X 100 hs 329*
More runs, more centuries, more double centuries, a higher average than anyone else in 2012… He also scored faster than anyone else with 550 or more runs. It was a year the great Don Bradman would rightly have been proud of.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul – 987 runs @ 98.70 3X 100 hs 203*
How do you get shot of Chanderpaul? He just keeps on going. Just when he looks like perhaps he’s had enough, he pulls a few top performances out of the bag and continues to frustrate all and sundry who have to bowl at him.
AB de Villiers – 815 runs @ 58.21 2X 100 hs 169 and 18 dismissals (17 catches and one stumping) @ 1.64 dismissals per innings
Many, myself included, questioned whether de Villiers could keep up his run scoring exploits whilst donning the keepers’ gloves following the sudden retirement of Mark Boucher following a horrific eye injury. The answer was that he could.
Vernon Philander – 43 wickets @ 21.11
Big Vern, as well as being a terrific bowler, can also bat a bit. He’d make a very useful number eight in this company. He’d also make a very useful new ball partner for…
James Anderson – 48 wickets @ 29.50
The Lancastrian has been at the top of his game for the past four years now. He’s taken wickets everywhere and troubled everyone. He’s the first name on England’s team sheet and a certainty for hypothetical sides such as this.
Kemar Roach – 39 wickets @ 22.25
I’ve gone for a third seamer and I’ve gone for Roach. He impressed in 2012 and if his partners can find his levels of consistency then West Indies could be a match for anyone.
HMRKB Herath – 60 wickets @ 23.61
He’s not the outstanding spin bowler in world cricket but sometimes you just can’t argue with stats. No one took more wickets in 2012. No one took more fiver-fers (seven) and no one took more 10-fers (two).
The nearly men…
Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott were the only others to score more than 1,000 runs last year. Jacques Kallis also enjoyed a terrific year and ran Samuels close in my final selection, as Michael Hussey ran Chanderpaul close, too.
Cheteshwar Pujara impressed everyone against England, but only played six Tests in 2012. I fully expect him to feature very soon. Ross Taylor also had a tremendous year in the face of adversity, at the end of which he was stripped of the New Zealand captaincy in controversial circumstances.
Matt Prior was the best out and out wicketkeeper but having de Villiers at seven was a luxury one simply could not ignore. Prior also failed to notch a century in 2012.
Graeme Swann would replace Roach in the above if the conditions called for two spinners. He rediscovered his mojo on the subcontinent and ended the year in fine fashion in India.
Saeed Ajmal would have walked into the side, but Pakistan only played six Tests. He ruined England almost alone, but didn’t have the same success in Sri Lanka.
It wasn’t a vintage year for bowling and the reserve seam options aren’t brilliant. Peter Siddle is a tough competitor, but has his fitness issues. Stuart Broad ended the year by getting dropped and Dale Steyn wasn’t at his fearsome best. He’d make a handy reserve for this side, though!
I hope you enjoyed reading this and please feel free to let us know if you agree/disagree with any of the selections. Here’s to an enthralling 2013!!
By Miles Reucroft