January 5, 2013

The teams of the year

The Test, ODI and T20I XIs of 2012, as picked by ESPNcricinfo staff

Test XI

Alastair Cook: 1249 runs at 48.03
The first name on everyone's team sheet. The second-highest run-scorer of 2012, behind Michael Clarke. Cook took over the captaincy full time after Andrew Strauss retired following the home series against South Africa. Three of Cook's four centuries came in India, where his batting was the cornerstone of England's series win. His 176 in Ahmedabad couldn't save the game, but his next two tons were in winning causes, and he became the first England captain to win a Test series in India since David Gower in 1984-85.

Graeme Smith, 825 runs at 48.52
Smith had the distinction of leading South Africa to No. 1 in the Test rankings, and his side had series wins in New Zealand, England and Australia in 2012. He didn't have a bad year as a batsman either, scoring 131 in the innings win at The Oval and top-scoring with 122 in the first innings in Adelaide.

Hashim Amla, 1064 runs at 70.93
With four centuries, including a triple-hundred, Amla was in sublime form, and finished third on the run-charts. His 311 at The Oval deflated England at the start of the Test series and was a symbol of South Africa's dominance. He returned to haunt England with 121 at Lord's. Amla started the Australia tour with a century in Brisbane, and finished it with 196 in Perth - an innings that helped take the game and series away from Australia, and in the course of which he nearly scored 100 runs in a session.

Michael Clarke, 1595 runs at 106.33
The leading run scorer in 2012, with an astonishing three double-centuries and a triple-hundred. Clarke launched the year with an unbeaten 329 against India in Sydney, followed it up with 210 in Adelaide, scored back-to-back double-centuries against South Africa, and rounded off the year with 106 against Sri Lanka in Melbourne. In the process he broke the Australian record for the most runs in a calendar year.

Kevin Pietersen, 1053 runs at 43.87
It would be hard to sum up Pietersen's 2012 in 140 characters. After an audacious 149 against South Africa at Headingley - one of the best innings of the year - he announced a shock retirement from international cricket when he was dropped for the next Test over text messages he allegedly sent to South African players. After a reconciliation, he was included for the Test tour of India, where his presence was pivotal to his team's success. His 186 in Mumbai was the turning point of the series; its impact was similar to that of his 151 against Sri Lanka in Colombo in April, which helped England square the Test series.

Marlon Samuels, 866 runs at 86.60
Samuels likes to remind everyone of the two years he missed due to match-fixing allegations. He seemed determined to make up for lost time in 2012, establishing himself as one of West Indies' best batsmen. He scored 386 runs in five innings in England and followed it up with a century against New Zealand and a double-century (his highest Test score, 260) against Bangladesh. He said after the World Twenty20 final that Test cricket was his No. 1 priority.

Matt Prior, 777 runs at 38.85, 29 catches and seven stumpings
Possibly the most dependable wicketkeeper-batsman in world cricket. His 36 dismissals in 2012 were the most by a wicketkeeper in the year. Prior struggled for consistency with the bat at the start of the year but made up for it with fifties in all three Tests against South Africa and 258 runs against India.

Vernon Philander, 43 wickets at 21.11
He may not have the pace of Dale Steyn or Morne Morkel, but Philander has the accuracy, swing and the discipline with which to nip out wickets in helpful conditions. After his dream start to Test cricket at the end of 2011, Philander took his good form to New Zealand, where he picked up 21 wickets in three Tests. He wasn't as consistent in England, till the final Test at Lord's, where his 5 for 30 in the second innings helped South Africa seal the series. And he was rather unlucky to walk away empty- handed at the ICC Awards.

Saeed Ajmal, 39 wickets at 20.56
Ajmal edged Rangana Herath out for the specialist spinner's spot in the XI. He spun England out in the UAE, with 24 wickets in three Tests, helping Pakistan sweep the series. He took 15 in the three Tests in Sri Lanka but was let down on occasion by poor umpiring. His bosses and fans cried foul when he failed to make the shortlist for the ICC Test player of the year.

James Anderson, 48 wickets at 29.50
One of the best new-ball bowlers in the world, Anderson only took one five-for (5 for 72) in 2012, but he was consistent for England through the year - and nowhere was it more apparent than on the tour of India, where he took ten wickets in the last two Tests and was the best fast bowler on both sides.

Dale Steyn, 39 wickets at 29.71
He may have been overshadowed by Philander, but Steyn was just as effective in 2012, spearheading South Africa's seam attack. Two performances stood out. The first was his five-for at The Oval that led to England's collapse in the second innings. The second was his match haul of seven in Perth, which put Australia on the back foot. Steyn mostly bowled within himself and saved the top-drawer swing and speed for when the team needed them the most.


Tillakaratne Dilshan, 1119 runs at 41.44
Dilshan gave up the captaincy after the South Africa tour, and he seemed to bat with greater freedom in the CB Series, scoring a career-best 160 - incredibly, in a losing cause. He smashed another century in the second final to help Sri Lanka draw level. Still one of Sri Lanka's most valuable players in the limited-overs format.

David Warner, 840 runs at 35.00
Warner made a career-best 163 in the first CB Series final, against Sri Lanka, and followed it up with an even 100 in the second. He has established himself as an opener in all three formats, and would form a destructive partnership with Dilshan.

Virat Kohli, 1026 runs at 68.40
After topping the ODI run-makers' list in 2011, Kohli proved in 2012 that that achievement was no fluke. Two innings defined his year. He clobbered an unbeaten 133 against Sri Lanka in the CB Series to help India get a foot in the door to the finals. The second was his 183 against Pakistan in the Asia Cup. At 24, he already has 13 ODI centuries with an average of over 50, and is edging close to 4000 runs. He provided the silver lining in an otherwise ordinary year for India.

Hashim Amla, 678 runs at 84.75
One of South Africa's most consistent batsmen in Tests and ODIs, Amla started the year with a century against Sri Lanka. He was consistent during the tour of England, where he scored a career-best 150 in Southampton and was the leading run scorer in the series, with 335 runs in five games.

Kumar Sangakkara, 1184 runs at 43.85
The top ODI run scorer in 2012. His 102 in Johannesburg helped Sri Lanka to a consolation win. He was also consistent in the CB Series, in the course of which he went past 10,000 ODI runs, and in the home series against Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

AB de Villiers, 645 runs at 107.50
Makes it to the line-up for that average. De Villiers played 13 games, scored two centuries, both of which were unbeaten, and went past 5000 ODI runs in 2012.

Thisara Perera, 246 runs at 18.92, 32 wickets at 26.84
The pick for the allrounder's slot, Perera has established a reputation as an "impact player", breaking partnerships at the start of a new spell and muscling runs lower down the order when needed. He was one of the stars of the home ODIs against Pakistan, taking a career-best six-for (including a hat-trick) and orchestrating a spectacular batting collapse in Colombo. He was the third-highest wicket-taker of the year (a list his team-mate Lasith Malinga topped, with 47).

Saeed Ajmal, 31 wickets at 21.12
The only player in all three XIs, Ajmal was the fourth-highest ODI wicket-taker of the year. He started with a five-for against England in Abu Dhabi and went on to get on top of Australia in the one-day series in the UAE, where he was the leading wicket-taker with 10 (including a match-winning 4 for 32 in the second one-dayer).

Steven Finn, 25 wickets at 20
Finn took 25 wickets in the year, which puts him seventh on the ODI list. That included identical 4 for 34s in successive matches against Pakistan at the start of the year and a 4 for 37 at Chester-le-Street that swung the series against Australia England's way.

Sunil Narine, 34 wickets at 17.64
Narine was in prime form in home conditions in the West Indies, with a four-wicket haul against Australia and a five-for against New Zealand. He also proved just as potent in helpful conditions in Bangladesh, taking eight wickets in three games. He finished the year as the second-highest wicket-taker in the format.

Morne Morkel, 20 wickets at 21.15
Morkel started the year with 4 for 10 in Sri Lanka's sensational collapse for 43 in Paarl. He then took 4 for 38 against New Zealand in Napier, and ended the year as South Africa's leading ODI wicket-taker.


Chris Gayle, 368 runs at 46.00, SR 144.88
When Gayle patched up with the West Indies Cricket Board, his team had everything to gain - particularly in T20s. He promptly smashed an unbeaten 85 against New Zealand in Lauderhill, Florida, and followed it up with three fifties in the World Twenty20, where his destructive, unbeaten 75 was responsible in getting West Indies to the final. He may have flopped in the final, but his unique celebrations reminded the rest of the world how much they had missed him, both as a batsman and a character.

Shane Watson, 406 runs at 40.60, SR 143.97, 17 wickets at 15.82
Man of the Tournament in the World Twenty20 with 249 runs at 49.80 (including three fifties). And he picked up wickets in all but one of his 11 T20s in the year. Watson may struggle to hold his Test spot due to frequent injuries but he remains one of the best allrounders in T20.

Virat Kohli, 471 runs at 39.25, SR 132.67
The second-highest run scorer for the year, just one run behind Martin Guptill. Kohli scored four half-centuries, including an unbeaten 78 in the win against Pakistan in the World Twenty20.

Brendon McCullum, 459 runs at 30.60, SR 135.69, two catches and two stumpings
His standout innings was his 123 against Bangladesh in the World Twenty20. In his previous game, against India in Chennai, he fell nine short of a hundred. Consistency remains a problem, but when he is in form, McCullum is hard to control.

Marlon Samuels, 325 runs at 40.62, SR 143.17, 9 wickets at 24.11
Played the innings of his life in the World Twenty20 final, where his 78 lifted a faltering West Indies and took them to a match-winning total. He scored more than half his team's total of 137, and his bowling kept West Indies alive in the tournament when he swung the one-over Eliminator against New Zealand West Indies' way. He finished the year with an unbeaten 85 against Bangladesh.

Yuvraj Singh, 224 runs at 28.00, SR 141.77, 15 wickets at 11.93
Yuvraj looked cancer in the eye and lived to tell the tale in one of modern cricket's more remarkable comebacks from illness. To cap the dream return, he nearly took India to victory in his first full match back, against New Zealand in Chennai. He ended the year with a match-winning 72 against Pakistan, and was also effective as a wicket-taking bowler, outperforming some of India's specialist spinners.

Dwayne Bravo, 260 runs at 43.33, SR 133.33
Bravo may have cut down on bowling to protect himself from injury but he remains destructive as a lower-order batsman. He smashed 37, with three sixes, in the World Twenty20 semi-final. The top-class fielding is a bonus.

Steven Finn, 17 wickets at 16.77
Finn tied with Graeme Swann for the most T20I wickets by an England bowler in a year, taking wickets in all but one of his 11 games. That included two three-wicket hauls, both in winning causes.

Mitchell Starc, 14 wickets at 13.71
Starc sent Pakistan crashing for 74 with 3 for 11 in a one-sided T20 in Dubai. He bowls a mean yorker and is particularly potent when the ball is swinging. Part of Australia's plans in all three formats, he is one of their most promising young fast bowlers.

Saeed Ajmal, 25 wickets at 15.64
The top T20I wicket-taker of 2012, six ahead of his team-mate Umar Gul, Ajmal took two match-winning four-wicket hauls, against England and New Zealand. Wickets aside, he finished the year with an impressive economy rate of 6.10. He bowled his full quota of overs in all his matches, and conceded less than 20 on three occasions.

Sunil Narine, 16 wickets at 18.37
After going wicketless in his first three matches of the year, Narine hit back with seven in his next two games, including 4 for 12 against New Zealand. His most telling contribution was in the World Twenty20 final, where he took 3 for 9 to spin Sri Lanka to defeat. He ended 2012 with an economy rate of 6.16.

Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo