For the first four months, it was all about the World Cup, followed immediately by the cluster of domestic T20 leagues. Limited-over cricket sprouted up from every corner, and once again, Australia were crowned World Champions – for the first time in their own backyard. Test cricket only began in April, four months into the year, with many teams looking to rebuild and get some momentum going in the longest format of the game. It started with the Wisden trophy, where England toured West Indies, and has ended with the first test of England’s tour of South Africa. Though we haven’t seen as much test cricket as we would have liked this year, it had the Ashes and saw India play at home after two long, painful seasons overseas.
The game’s first day-night test was also played, between Australia and New Zealand in Adelaide, which Australia barely clinched by 3 wickets in 3 up-and-down days.
Let us take a look at each team’s test stats and performances, before we arrive at the conclusion of the Best Test Team of 2015.
After a disastrous few seasons, England played the maximum amount of test cricket this year. Out of the 14 matches they played, they won 6, lost 6 and drew 2. Notably, they won the Ashes at home 3-2, drew with New Zealand 1-1 at home, drew with the West Indies away 1-1 (which was perhaps their worst series in years), lost without winning a match to Pakistan in UAE once again by 2-0, and finally ended the year on a high by defeating World no. 1 South Africa at Durban. All in all, Alastair Cook’s men are moving ahead, and have transitioned into a bunch of confident, skilled and resourceful bunch of players. Very few teams win in UAE, but they came back to win that ODI series. It isn’t only the test team that is blooming with the likes of Moeen Ali, comeback kid Nick Compton and Joe Root, it’s also their ODI side that has undergone a revamp and has played exciting cricket since being dumped out of the World Cup in humiliating fashion.
RANK for 2015: 4
The World Champions played 13 tests this year, and transitioned through the retirement of Michael Clarke and Mitchell Johnson. They won 8 out of their 13, but lost the Ashes, which will hurt them until they win it back under new leader Steve Smith – who ended up as the highest run-getter in tests in 2015, and won numerous awards for his stellar year. They are yet to learn to win away on a consistent basis after their ‘down period’ for a few years, but they will be happy with their 2015, after beating West Indies twice, New Zealand and winning two of the 5 Ashes tests.
RANK for 2015: 1
Under new test captain Virat Kohli, India played 10 tests this year. They were unlucky to be involved in a rained-out test series in Bangladesh, before winning in Sri Lanka 2-1 and annihilating a shocked South African side 3-0 at home. They are tigers at home once again, and won 5 this year, and are profiting from a new leader, youngsters and a rejuvenated R. Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Ajinkya Rahane.
RANK for 2015: 3
The World no. 1 will not be the top-ranked side when 2016 begins, because Australia will have taken that spot after destroying a weak, hapless West Indies side at home. And deservedly, South Africa – who is struggling after the retirements of Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis – won’t be the best test side in cricket anymore. Their 9-year unbeaten streak away ended in India, and they won just 1 single test all year, out of the 8 they played – that too against a terrible West Indies side in the first test of the year at home way back in January. Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis and others will have a lot of soul-searching to do before they attempt to make a comeback against a well-rounded England side in the ongoing series.
RANK for 2015: 6
While their ODI team struggled to make any impact, the test team rose to the occasion and won 5 out of their 7 tests. They defeated Bangladesh in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka and defeated England 2-0 at UAE, ending the year as a very successful test side. Not many can win against them in UAE, their adopted home ground, and they have bowlers who have now won test matches abroad.
RANK for 2015: 2
The Kiwis played 7 tests in the year, drew in England 1-1, killed Sri Lanka at home again, but lost to Australia 2-0 away. They won 3 tests, but will be happy with the form of Angelo Mathews, the no. 1 ranked test batsman in cricket right now, as well as the comeback of Ross Taylor. Their captain Brendon McCullum will retire early in 2016 after the reverse Australia series at home, and they will have to turn to Williamson to take them into a bright future.
RANK for 2015: 5
The Lankans played 10 tests, lost home series to both India and Pakistan, lost away to New Zealand and only defeated West Indies at home. Angelo Mathews isn’t a happy man, especially considering the way they have been beaten in New Zealand – and losing their fortress to traditionally weak visitors India must have hurt more.
RANK for 2015: 7
They “played” 6 tests, out of which 4 were rained out, and the only complete series they played against Pakistan, they were defeated 1-0. Drawn series against India and South Africa may look good on paper, but the tigers know the truth. They fared much better in ODIs, and finished amongst the top teams in that format with series wins against Pakistan, India and South Africa in the ODI format, as well as a quarterfinal run in the World Cup down under.
RANK for 2015: 8
They rarely win more than one miraculous test a year, and that came against England just after the World Cup when Cook’s men were low on confidence on slow, low pitches. They played 9, lost 7 of them, and once again, present a fair case to involve the promotion-relegation tier system in test cricket. They’d be the first to go.
RANK for 2015: 9