Test cricket continued to hold its own in the year 2013 in spite of another onslaught of irrelevant limited-overs games and the disappointment of at least three Test series cancelled for various reasons. A total of 43 completed Tests were played in the year, of which 33 ended in a result.
South Africa were undoubtedly the leading Test team yet again, further cementing their place at the top with a home win against a determined India. Earlier in the year, they blanked both New Zealand and Pakistan at home before drawing against Pakistan in the return series. The Proteas have been undefeated in their last 14 series and have lost just one of their last 25 series.
India were unbeatable at home, registering wins against Australia and the West Indies before losing in South Africa, and now have gone 12 overseas Tests without a win, of which 9 are losses. England escaped with a last-gasp draw in New Zealand before beating them at home in the return series and also beat Australia at home to win the Ashes for the third successive time. But their ongoing tour of Australia has been a disaster – they surrendered the urn in the first three games and are currently 4-0 down, staring at a whitewash.
Pakistan began the year by losing poorly in South Africa and then were held on to an upset draw in Zimbabwe. They however bounced back a bit to hold South Africa to a draw in the return series in the UAE. Australia were woeful overseas and ruthless at home. They started the year by completing a sweep of Sri Lanka at home. Then a miserable defeat in India was followed by the Ashes loss in England. But in a sensational turnaround, they have annihilated England in the ongoing Ashes at home and have ended the year on a high.
Sri Lanka were guilty of filling in pointless limited-overs games at the expense of important Test fixtures, and played just three Test matches in the year. They lost the concluding game in Australia to be whitewashed before managing a scratchy win at home over Bangladesh. West Indies’ positives of 2012 were nullified by a forgettable year. After an easy home win over Zimbabwe, they suffered painful defeats overseas to India and New Zealand, stretching their barren away record further.
New Zealand had a mixed year – they were thrashed in South Africa, held England to a commendable draw at home, lost tamely in England, could only manage a draw in Bangladesh and ended the year with a convincing home victory against the West Indies. Zimbabwe gave their best despite all the off-field woes. They were rolled over in the Caribbean, but competed bravely at home, recording drawn series against Bangladesh and Pakistan, managing memorable Test wins over both the teams. Bangladesh again had a few fixtures, but showed signs of improvement. They went down fighting in Sri Lanka, drew in Zimbabwe after coming from behind and were neck-to-neck with New Zealand in a draw at home.
Highlights and Records
– World champions South Africa now have gone 14 series without a defeat, of which eight are wins. Incredibly, they have lost just one out of their last 25 series since 2006-07 and not lost an overseas series since 2006.
– The year saw many high-profile retirements. Indian legend Sachin Tendulkar quit in November after a record-breaking 24-year career, while South African great Jacques Kallis played his last Test in December, scoring a match-winning hundred to become the 32nd player to make a century in his last Test. Earlier in the year, Australia’s Michael Hussey too called it a day, while England’s Greame Swann surprisingly decided he had had enough in December. Others who announced their retirements were Tillekaratne Dilshan (Sri Lanka), Ajit Agarkar (India) and Matthew Hoggard (England).
– Australian captain Michael Clarke, as he had done in 2012 too, finished as the year’s highest run-getter with 1095 runs in 13 Tests. The only other batsman with more than 1000 runs was Ian Bell of England (1005 in 14 Tests). The leading wicket-taker was Stuart Broad of England with 62 in 14 Tests, followed by his countryman James Anderson (52 in 14). However the best bowler on display was South Africa’s Dale Steyn, who picked up 51 wickets in just 9 Tests to finish third.
– New Zealand’s total of 45 against South Africa at Cape Town in January was the lowest Test total in nearly 39 years since India were dismissed for 42 against England in 1974. New Zealand lasted just 19.2 overs, which is their shortest ever completed total.
– Pakistan recorded their lowest ever Test total when they were dismissed for 49 against South Africa at Johannesburg in February. Their earlier lowest was 53 scored against Australia at Sharjah in 2002-03.
– India managed a whitewash series win against Australia for the first time, when they won 4-0 at home in March. This series loss for Australia meant that they have now gone 11 Tests in India without a win stretching back to 2004-05, losing 9 of them.
– Sohag Gazi of Bangladesh became the first man in Test history to score a hundred and take a hat-trick in the same Test. Gazi achieved the feat by first scoring 101* and then taking the hat-trick en-route to 6/77 against New Zealand at Chittagong in October.
– Zimbabwe secured their first win against a higher-ranked team since 2001 when they beat Pakistan by 24 runs at Harare in September. This was their 11th Test win in 93 matches and the 5th against a higher-ranked nation. In April, Zimbabwe recorded their biggest ever win by runs when they beat Bangladesh by 335 runs at Harare.
– Bangladesh achieved their highest Test total when they racked up 638 against Sri Lanka at Galle in March, obliterating the 556 they made against the West Indies last year. During this feat, Mushfiqur Rahim recorded the highest Test score by a Bangladeshi (200), breaking Mohammed Ashraful’s knock of 190 in the same innings. Ashraful in turn broke his own record of 158* made against India in 2004-05.
– Australia’s Ashton Agar scored a sensational 98 on his Test debut while batting at No.11 against England at Nottingham in July. Agar’s score became the highest by a No.11 in Tests, ahead of West Indian Tino Best’s 95 made last year against England. In the same innings, Agar put on 163 with Phil Hughes for the tenth wicket, which is now the highest last-wicket stand in Test history. The previous record was 151, achieved twice.
– MS Dhoni broke Sourav Ganguly’s record of 49 Tests as Indian captain when he captained for the 50th time against South Africa at Johannesburg in December. Dhoni also broke Ganguly’s record of 21 wins as Indian captain when he won for a 22nd time against Australia at Hyderabad in March.
– Shikhar Dhawan’s 187 against Australia at Mohali in March became the highest score on debut by an Indian batsman and the sixth-highest overall. He broke the Indian record of Gundappa Viswanath, who made 137 against Australia in 1969-70. During the same innings, Dhawan scored the fastest hundred on debut (85 balls), moving ahead of Dwayne Smith of West Indies, who took 93 balls against South Africa in 2003-04.
– India’s Sachin Tendulkar became the first man to play 200 Tests, achieving the feat when he played his last Test against the West Indies at Mumbai in November. In the same match, West Indian Shivnarine Chanderpaul became only the seventh man to feature in at least 150 Tests.
– South Africa’s Dale Steyn became the joint-second fastest bowler to reach 350 wickets, taking 69 Tests. Meanwhile, India’s Ravichandran Ashwin became the fastest bowler in 86 years and the 5th-fastest overall to reach 100 wickets, achieving the feat in 18 Tests.
My Top Three..
Tests of the year – 1) South Africa v India, Johannesburg (drawn); 2) Zimbabwe v Pakistan, Harare (Zimbabwe by 24 runs); 3) New Zealand v England, Auckland (drawn)
Innings of the year – 1) Faf du Plessis 134 v India, Johannesburg; 2) 218 – Darren Bravo v New Zealand, Dunedin; 3) 153 – Cheteshwar Pujara v South Africa, Johannesburg
Spells of the year – 1) Mitchell Johnson 7/40 v England, Adelaide; 2) Dale Steyn 6/100 v India, Durban; 3) Dale Steyn 6/8 v Pakistan, Johannesburg
My Test Team of 2013
Greame Smith (captain, South Africa), Cheteshwar Pujara (India), Ross Taylor (New Zealand), Michael Clarke (Australia), Ian Bell (England), AB de Villiers (wicketkeeper,South Africa), Vernon Philander (South Africa), Stuart Broad (England), Dale Steyn (South Africa), Saeed Ajmal (Pakistan), Trent Boult (New Zealand)
Wishing everyone a happy and prosperous new year.