After the top bowlers and top batsmen list of 2012, we now move on to the list of teams, in ascending order, that have owned the year. These lists will be a far cry from the days when Australia dominated world cricket often winning 15 tests in a row over 2 years, leaving no doubts back then. But the team that tops this list has done it the conventional way, winning home and away- and managing to draw when down and out. There has, once again, not been a clear winner- as it has been for the last 4 years after Australia’s decline- with great test teams often falling over in the limited overs format.
But that remains the charm of 2012- through the ups and downs, top cricket teams can still be rated not only through their results, but the way they’ve pulled themselves together after major disappointments.
4. Sri Lanka
Perpetual inhabitants of any batting list of most years, this team have established themselves as home bullies who are still finding their feet away- much like India of the 90s. Their consistency in the limited overs format is what helps them make this list again, despite falling at the last hurdle in the VB series down under as well as the World T20 Championships (again). Their major test highlight of the year was the 1-0 home win over Pakistan in the 3-match series, otherwise falling to disappointing 1-1 draws to England as well as a weakened New Zealand side during their normally-stellar home season. Beginning the year with a rare test win in South Africa helped their cause too.
Despite having one of their worst years in test history (total of 6 test losses against Pakistan, South Africa and India), England have shown the tenacity and skill of an ex no. 1 team that is determined to overcome their transition with hard work and introspection. The reason they make this list instead of Pakistan (who beat them 3-0 in Abu Dhabi) is because they have played many more games that showcase a trend that could take them into a good 2013. They ended 2011 as the no. 1 Test team in the world, and they will end 2012 as the no. 2 Test team- not bad for a country that was falling to bits against an entire genre of bowling. Add to that their impressive 4-0 ODI victory over Pakistan, 4-0 ODI series win against Australia and a 2-2 against South Africa and it demonstrates their ability to secure a smooth transition after Andrew Strauss’s retirement along with Pietersen’s comeback. Cook and his boys thoroughly deserve the 2-1 cushion they enjoy in India right now, after a trial-by-fire 2012. Ending the year with a test win against India, or even a draw, could seal the greatest team turnaround in recent history.
If not for South Africa refusing to lose tests this year, this young Australian side still in transition would have ended the year as the all-around best team in the world. They have been consistent in all formats, securing impressive Test series victories against India (4-0), West Indies (0-2), along with a 2-1 ODI series win in Abu Dhabi and the VB tri-series win at home. Their low points of the year include a 4-0 ODI thrashing by old foes England, as well as a disappointing 2-2 ODI series against West Indies. The highlight has been their Test and ODI captain Michael Clarke leading from all fronts, having a record-shattering year- and their test team can be proud despite the 1-0 home series loss to South Africa.
1. South Africa
Easily the most consistent team of 2012, South Africa have won everything except another ICC event. They have cemented themselves as the best bi-lateral series team of the decade, with test series wins over England in England, New Zealand in New Zealand, Australia in Australia. They have not lost a test for 365 days, and rightly finish as no. 1 in the world. ODI wins over New Zealand (3-0), Sri Lanka (3-2) and a drawn series against England (2-2) take away the disappointment of not even coming close yet again in the World T20 Championships again. An ICC event win could take them to another level of dominance, for which they will have to wait a couple of years. But Under Smith (for a decade) and De Villiers, they have always aged well and achieved the smoothest transitions out of all the teams for the past 20 years.