While the majority of the cricket world spent 2012 going round in crazy circles, with every team seemingly in transition, South Africa stood firm at the top of the international game with a (mostly) settled side producing (mostly) impressive results. In terms of attractiveness, their methods are more Shane MacGowan than Katie Melua but it’s hard to argue with the rankings: at the time of writing South Africa are top of the Test rankings, marginally second in ODIs and, er, seventh in T20s.
South Africa’s year was all about two big challenges – away trips to England and Australia – with a number of lesser hurdles to clear along the way, namely visits from Sri Lanka and to New Zealand. And those two big challenges were both completed with some aplomb. Victory in England put to bed debate around the real number one Test side and owed much to the relentless grinding into the dirt of the home side’s attack, particularly by Hashim Amla who enjoyed a splendid year (1,064 Test runs at 71), ably assisted by Jacques Kallis (944 at 67) and Graeme Smith (825 at 48).
South Africa’s main bowlers carried on from where they left off in 2011: Philander took 43 wickets, Dale Steyn 39 and Morne Morkel 38. After that though, things got somewhat amusing. After all the hype and buildup, Imran Tahir’s international career came crashing down amid record-breakingly bad figures in Australia while Rory Kleinveldt did little else other than remind us of when Neil Ruddock was at Swindon and had to have shorts specially made to fit his enormous arse.
And then there was the sad end to Mark Boucher’s career, hit in the eye by a bail dislodged, ironically enough, by Imran Tahir’s one decent delivery of the year. It left a huge hole in South Africa’s side, one that they’re yet to convincingly fill. We’ve already said more than enough about picking seven batsmen and making AB de Villiers keep for one year, but we may well have to come back to it in 2013.
Despite their successes in Test and ODI cricket, South Africa continued a longstanding tradition of being utterly crap at T20s, crashing out of the World T20 after spending the second group stage getting pasted by Pakistan and Australia before hilariously choking against India in a dead rubber. And yet it took until the very last game of the year before they finally dropped Richard Levi, who enjoyed an annus mirabilis, failing in 11 of his 13 innings. Plus he’s fat, and if we don’t get paid to sit around eating biscuits all day, we don’t see why anybody else should.