There are still three days to go in the year proper, but 2012 ended in a cricketing sense last night as Sri Lanka collapsed to a heavy innings defeat at the MCG. It’s an interesting year on which to look back; South Africa will certainly be the happiest as they returned to the number one spot in the Test rankings, but England finished on a high and Australia made the most of their very weak opposition for most of the year.
For my XI of the year I am assuming the Test is being played in South Africa as they are the number one ranked side. I have one spinner, therefore, and although all things being equal I prefer having five bowlers it is far more common to play four bowlers/six batsmen so I am using that balance.
Cook led all openers in 2012 with 1249 runs scored and was second in average at 48.03 runs per dismissal. He also hit four centuries, the most of any opener and the last one set a new English record for career centuries.
Smith had the best average amongst openers in 2012 with 48.52 and passed fifty more often than any other opener, eight times. He gets the captaincy in this XI after leading his team to the number one Test ranking.
Amla bats at three after 1064 runs at an average over seventy this year. His high point was the unbeaten 311 he scored as South Africa piled on the runs at the Oval, but he was brilliant throughout.
Comfortably the lead run scorer in 2012, Clarke finished the year by setting an Australian record with 1595 runs scored in a calendar year. He hit five centuries, three of them doubles and one a triple. Two of those double tons were also against South Africa, so it was not a case of weak opposition either.
AB de Villiers
De Villiers is a bit of a surprise; he bookended the year with centuries in Cape Town and Perth but had none in between. But he did still contribute consistently and averaged almost 57 in the middle order with 815 runs, fourth highest amongst middle order batsmen.
Taylor might remember this year for the captaincy debacle, but before that he scored 819 runs at an average over 54 and three centuries for good measure. The last of those came in a memorable win at Colombo.
Prior was still the best overall wicket-keeper in 2012; he scored the most runs of any wicket-keeper and had the most dismissals, though in both cases he was helped by playing in rather more matches than all of his competitors. But he was the only one to excel with both bat and gloves.
It was another excellent year for Philander; he took 43 wickets in nine Tests at an average just over 21. He was at his best early in the year, but he still took an important five wickets in the last innings of the Lord’s Test to ensure a series win for South Africa.
Roach was far from the most heralded bowler this year, but he took 39 wickets in only seven Tests at an average of 22. His zenith was the five wickets he took in each innings against Australia at Port of Spain in April.
Statistically this will not go down as Anderson’s best year, but that hardly tells the full story. Nine of the 14 Tests in which he played this year were in subcontinent conditions and he still proved a threat, taking thirty wickets at under 27 apiece. His spells in Galle, Calcutta and Nagpur in particular were incredible.
It was a very tough call for the spinner’s place between Ajmal and Ragnara Herath. Herath was actually the lead wicket taker in 2012, but Ajmal took 39 wicket in only six Tests and of course baffled England at the start of the year. Herath going wicketless in the last Test of the year finally tipped the selection to Ajmal.