Top 5 Test Innings of 2012
The year of 2012 was a mixed bag for Test Cricket. Though lots of big names bowed out, new ones emerged ensuring that the Golden age of Cricket shall not be missed. The quality of cricket too was top notch. There were very few “boring” draws or one-sided victories. The classical format of the game showed us that in spite of the plethora of T20 being played around the world, Test Cricket will survive.
South Africa was well and truly the best team by quite some margin. England had a topsy-turvy year, starting with a 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Pakistan and losing their No.1 status to South Africa, but finished their year on a high with their first series victory in India since 1986. Australia was on the rise. Barring the second consecutive series defeat to South Africa at home, they were quite dominant throughout the year. Pakistan played few tests. The whitewash of the then No.1 test team, England, was the highlight of their cricketing calendar. West Indies have shown some signs of resurgence. India, New Zealand and Sri Lanka failed to have their voices heard, as they had to endure a fairly uninspiring year. They will be looking to make amends in 2013. Test Cricket has exciting times ahead of it.
2012 also had quite a few instances of individual brilliance which enthralled the cricket fraternity. Their team rejoiced, the neutrals were left spell bound and the opposition speechless. There were quite a few knocks spread across the year which were special and important in the context of the game. Most of them led to victories, few led to hard fought draws and the rest were saving grace in defeat for their team. Taking into account various factors (Quality of opposition, Pitch, Home/Away, Match position and the sheer brilliance of the innings), these are the 5 best test innings of 2012.
1. Faf Du Plessis 110* (SA vs Aus, 2nd Test, Adelaide):
After a rain-hit draw in the first test, the series headed to Adelaide with both teams hanging in the balance for the No.1 Ranking. Chasing 430 in the 4th innings on a slowly crumbling Adelaide pitch, the team’s main batsman Kallis had a hamstring problem and was to bat only if absolutely necessary, the team was reduced to 4-45 in 20 overs with Amla and Smith, both back in the hut and 128 overs more to survive. It was time to play the innings of a lifetime for one of South Africa’s batsmen. AB De Villiers and Kallis were the prime suspects.
Instead, it was Faf Du Plessis on his debut who chose to play a dream innings. Ably supported by De Villiers and Kallis, Faf helped South Africa to a draw and the No.1 ranking was still officially theirs. He made 110 of 376 balls and was there at the crease till the end. There were a few factors which helped him in his endeavour. Faf survived 3 reviews and an edge, Pattinson was injured and the uncharacteristically docile Adelaide pitch offered little for the Aussie bowlers. But being a naturally attacking batsman, to be able to stonewall for a day and a half, on his debut, against a committed bowling attack was an extremely commendable effort. This has to be the best innings of 2012.
2. Hashim Amla 311* (SA vs Eng, 1st Test, ):
One of the 2 triple hundreds in International Cricket this calendar year and the first ever by a South African batsman. Hashim Amla had ensured that South Africa got to a solid start in their quest to reach the zenith of Test Cricket. Two huge partnerships, first with Smith and then with Kallis, grinded England to submission. The English were never able to get back in the series and eventually surrendered the mace to South Africa.
Hashim Amla’s 311 of 529 balls would perhaps be the most beautiful triple ton ever. He looked at amazing ease and hardly put a foot wrong. He hit 35 boundaries in all, each one was picture perfect. He came in with the score at 1-1 and never left till South Africa declared their innings at 637-2. He had spent more than 13 hours at the crease. It was perhaps Amla’s way of reminding us that in this age of slam bang T20 cricket and the flashy T20 leagues around the globe, there is still place for classical cricket and test match batting will always be the true measure of a batsman’s ability.
3. Kevin Pietersen 149 (SA vs Eng, 2nd Test ):
This test match was a case of 2 extremes for Kevin Pietersen. He produced a blinder of an innings to bring England back into the match and the series. It was also to be the start of the standoff between KP and the English team, which led to him being dropped for the 3rd test and subsequent series.
After South Africa racked up yet another big score in the 1st innings, the onus was now on England. Kevin Pietersen pulled the rabbit out of the hat and produced a trademark, brash, brilliant innings against the best pace attack in the world. The way he plundered the Saffers as if he was playing against a school team was brutal to watch. His straight six of Dale Steyn was one of the shots of the year. Kevin Pietersen’s 149 of 214 balls did not lead to England winning, but it ensured that England went into the third test with hopes of clinging on to the No.1 ranking. It was a shame that controversy crept in and he was not a part of the final test which England duly lost.
Though it has found its way into the Top 5 innings of the year, it was not KP’s best.
4. Michael Clarke 259* (SA vs Aus, 1st Test, ):
Clarke had 4 double tons this year, the only batsman in history to have achieved the feat in the history of Cricket. One of them was a triple against an insipid Indian bowling attack, hence it did not make the cut. But this innings was sheer class from Michael Clarke. It was scored against the best pace attack in the world and at a decent strike rate.
Having conceded 450 and down to 40-3, the pressure was on Clarke. As he had done so often in the recent past, he did not let the pressure get to him. In company with Ed Cowan and Mike Hussey, Clarke dominated the South African bowling. For the first time in 6 years, South African bowlers had gone through an entire day without picking up a wicket. Clarke’s 259* came of 398 balls and gave Australia a sniff at victory. Rain played spoilsport and Australia had to settle for a draw, not before they gave South Africa a scare in the dying moments of Day 5. His innings was definitely the best Captain’s knock of the year.
5. Kevin Pietersen 186 (Ind vs Eng, 2nd Test, Mumbai):
After an abject performance in the 1st test, England headed to Mumbai with their tails between their legs. India were granted their wish for a rank turner and were going into this game with 3 spinners, with Harbhajan making his comeback. It was expected to be a story of compounded misery for England. A reintegrated Kevin Pietersen had other ideas.
Restricting India to 327 , courtesy a good bowling performance by the English spinners, it was England’s turn to face some sweet spin music. After a sedate start, England were 68-2 in 34 overs when Kevin Pietersen walked in. Cook was on 39 and was continuing his rich vein of form. KP, on the other hand, had been castled by Ojha in both the innings of the 1st test and was not necessarily in the best frame of mind. But what came next was one of the most audacious and compelling test innings ever played. Pietersen made 186 of 233 balls on a pitch that was turning square and tailor made for the Indian spinners.
He made the Indian spin brigade look ordinary. He was supported by Alastair Cook who made 122, but it was KP who plummeled India into submission. This innings did not just change the complexion of the match, but the series as well. India never got back as England wrapped up a 2-1 series win in India.
A special mention goes out to AB De Villiers 33 against Australia in the 2nd test at Adelaide. With his team at 45-4, De Villiers knew that he couldn’t risk playing his natural game and hand Australia another wicket. He curbed his natural instincts and played probably the best ever test innings that wasn’t a half century or a century. He gave tremendous support to Faf Du Plessis for 68 overs. His 33 came of 220 balls, with not even a single hit to the boundary, a record for most balls in a completed innings without a boundary. It was stonewalling at its best. What made this even better was that in the very next test, De Villiers was back to his attacking best. He pulverized the Aussie bowlers and made 169 of just 184 balls, ensuring that they had no way back into the test. He showed with his versatility why he might be the most sensational cricketer in the world today.
Apart from these innings, there were a few more which were worthy contenders for Top 5 who just about missed out.
- Michael Clarke 329* against India
- Kane Williamson’s 102* against South Africa
- Abul Hassan 113 vs West Indies
- Marlon Samuels 260 against Bangladesh
- Cheteshwar Pujara 206* against England
- Alastair Cook 190 against India
Let me know of your Top 5 picks and if I have missed out on any other sensational innings played in 2012.