1. Faf du Plessis’ 110 vs Australia at Perth
Faf du Plessis had a dream debut. After a good half-century in the first innings, the debutant found himself in the middle with his team in danger of conceding the Test match. It was a splendid sight to watch a youngster beat his initial nerves of playing on the international stage and deliver a match-saving knock. South Africa were chasing 430 and were four down by the end of fourth day with a defeat looking inevitable. But du Plessis came out and made his intentions clear. He stayed at the wicket for close to eight hours for his unbeaten knock of 110, showing great determination and immaculate ability to handle pressure at the highest level.
2. Kevin Pietersen’s 186 vs India at Mumbai
This knock marked Kevin Pietersen’s grand return to the England setup after months of frustrating events that could have brought an end to his Test career. Through this attacking innings, Pietersen proved that the differences with ECB were a thing of the past and that he was now truly reintegrated into the team. Pietersen displayed sheer brilliance on a wicket that was turning oddly and blazed away to 186 in just 233 deliveries. He put on a crucial partnership of 206 runs with Alastair Cook for the third wicket to give England an important lead in the first innings.
3. Kane Williamson’s 135 vs Sri Lanka at Colombo
New Zealand’s Kane Williamson has truly come of age. After a ten-wicket defeat to Sri Lanka in the first Test, where he scored 0 and 10, Williamson played a patient knock of 135 in the first essay. On an extremely slow wicket at Colombo, Williamson got his eye in, remained patient and worked hard for every single run in an innings that lasted for seven hours. He, along with captain Ross Taylor, put on 262 runs for the third wicket as the Kiwis posted 412 runs in the first innings. This partnership turned out to be the foundation for the visitors as they won the game by 167 runs to level the two-match series at 1-1.
4. Kevin Pietersen’s 151 vs Sri Lanka at Colombo
At a time when England batsmen were struggling to cope with slow spinning wickets of the sub-continent with Sri-Lankan spinner Rangana Herath running riot, flambouyant England batsman Kevin Pietersen was at his counter-attacking best. While England batsmen continued to fall prey to Herath’s spin, Pietersen stood tall and took the Sri Lankan bowlers to the cleaners. His unbeaten knock of 151 took just 165 deliveries and consisted of 16 boundaries and six sixes. This act of dare devilry helped England gain a massive first innings lead and eventually a victory.
5. Hashim Amla’s 311 not out vs England at Kennington Oval
Hashim Amla has been South Africa’s run-machine, scoring over 1000 runs in the calendar year of 2012. In the first Test against England, Amla set the foundation for South Africa’s innings victory over the home side. After bowling out England for 385, South Africa posted a mammoth 637, 311 of which came from Amla’s willow. South Africa’s innings featured two huge partnerships and Amla featured in both. First he put on 259 runs with Graeme Smith for the second wicket and then was a part of an unbeaten stand of 377 runs with Jacques Kallis for the third wicket.
6. AB de Villiers’ 169 vs Australia at Perth
AB de Villiers brought an end to 2012 in emphatic style as he helped his side beat Australia at Perth to ruin Ricky Ponting’s farewell Test. In what started off as a low-scoring affair, de Villiers played an aggressive knock scoring 169 off just 184 deliveries to push Australia to the brink. After starting the year amid criticism over his ability to handle glove work and batting together, he has signed off in style as South Africa won the Test at Perth to retain their number one status.
7. Michael Clarke’s 230 vs South Africa at Adelaide
Michae Clarke-led Australia needed a series win against South Africa to attain the status of number one Test team and he made his intentions clear from the Day One of the series. In the first Test at Adelaide, Clarke played out of his skin to score 230 off just 257 deliveries, an innings that was laced with as many as 40 boundaries. He put on a 272-run partnership with Michael Hussey for the fifth wicket and took Australia very close to victory, only to be denied by a South African debutant, Faf du Plessis on the final day of the Test.
8. Hashim Amla’s 121 vs England at Lord’s
Hashim Amla scored the most important century of his Test career against England at Lord’s. After conceding a slender first innings lead to England, South Africa needed to put enough runs on the board to dismiss England in their own backyard. After losing a couple of quick wickets in the second innings, it came down to Amla to pull the Proteas out of trouble and he gladly did. His century helped South Africa post a challenging target of 346 and win the game, after England fell short by 51 runs. This victory crowned South Africa as the number one Test side as per ICC rankings.
9. Alastair Cook 176 vs India at Ahmedabad
In spite of coming in a lost cause, Alastair Cook’s resilient knock 176 at Ahmedabad set the tone for England’s most successful tour of India in 28 years. On the flat wicket of Ahmedabad, the England batsmen failed to apply themselves while the bowlers could derive very little from the surface. In no time, they found themselves in a losing position, following on after being bowled out cheaply in the first innings. Cook’s valiant efforts in the second essay helped his side go past India’s first innings total and avoid an innings defeat. For Cook, that was the platform to read and understand the Indian spinners in order to negotiate them perfectly in the remaining matches.
10. Azhar Ali’s 136 vs Sri Lanka at Kandy
Azhar Ali’s second innings heroics helped Pakistan save the third Test match against Sri Lanka at Kandy. After being put in to bat first, Pakistan were bowled out for just 227 and conceded a 100-plus lead in the first innings. When Pakistan’ second innings began towards the end of Day Three, they desperately needed someone to play a big knock to steer their side out of danger and Azhar Ali was their man. He played an outstanding innings of 136, bringing up his third Test hundred of the year. Pakistan went on to draw the game on the final day.
(Prakash Govindasreenivasan is an Editorial consultant at CricketCountry and a sports fanatic, with a soft corner for cricket. After studying journalism for two years, came the first big high in his professional life – the opportunity to interview his hero Adam Gilchrist and talking about his magnificent 149 in the 2007 World Cup final. While not following cricket, he is busy rooting for Chelsea FC)
First Published: December 26, 2012, 2:54 pm