There was a time in Test cricket when there was something called the home advantage. But 2012 turned that upside down. With the exception of South Africa and Sri Lanka, most teams actually lost a Test series on home soil! It was definitely the year of the visitor.
India: When the Poms visited India, history was against them. India had lost just 3 Test series in the last 25 years and England were among the poorest visitors. England were denied facing spinners during the practice matches and they went down in the first Test.
Indian fans were licking their lips and shouting “4-0!” But then in one of the greatest turnarounds on Indian soil, England won the next two Tests convincingly. They forced a draw in the final Test to take a series in India after 28 years.
The curious part of the victory was the fact that for the first time it was the Indians who looked as if they couldn’t play spin as Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann ran through the entire batting line-up.
Alastair Cook played a captain’s knock on more than one occasion to emerge the man of the series.
India now look to 2013 with a resurgent Australia as their first Test opponents and could be thrashed yet again if they do not get their act together.
Australia: When South Africa won the No. 1 Test ranking for the first time, then they lost it within months. England also collapsed after getting the same ranking. History seemed to be repeating itself when the Proteas won the top title again.
In the first two Tests in the series in Australia, South Africa was the team playing catch-up and was lucky to escape with draws. In the final Test, SA was a precarious 75-6 when a fighting 78 from Faf du Plessis took them to a decent total of 225.
(Debutant du Plessis had in the previous match hit a marathon 376-ball 110 not out to help save the day for South Africa.)
SA managed to take a first innings lead and then turned the screws in the second innings to set Australia an impossible target of 632. The Australian bastion fell yet again.
England: The newly crowned Test champions couldn’t stop smiling and before they knew it, Pakistan had thrashed them in Abu Dhabi-Sharjah. But when England returned home for a home series with South Africa, they couldn’t even put up a fight.
The Proteas scored a mammoth 637-2 in their very first innings, thanks to Hashim Amla’s Test triple century as he became the first South African to do so. In the end, England were thrashed 0-2 on home soil.
West Indies: This once formidable fortress fell by the wayside years back and this year it was no different. Australia beat them on home soil by a margin of 2-0.
New Zealand: The Kiwis are generally very tough fighters at home, but it was the South Africans again who spoiled their party. The world champions narrowly won their three Test series 1-0 in New Zealand.
Bangladesh: Bangladesh generally do lose at home, but one would have thought they would have given a fight to the weak team that is West Indies. But that was not so as the Caribbean team thrashed them 2-0.
Sri Lanka: They also struggled on home soil and were held by both England and surprisingly New Zealand to a tied series. 0-1 down in the final Test, Kiwi batsmen Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor hit fine centuries and were involved in a 262 run partnership that shut out Sri Lanka, which eventually lost the Test by 167 runs.
The only teams missing from this list are South Africa, Pakistan (who haven’t played a Test series at home since 2009) and Zimbabwe (which didn’t have a home Test series in 2012).
The trend of winning regularly started with the introduction of neutral umpires and later with computer analysis and teams studying visiting countries more minutely. 2012 was a very good year for visiting Test teams indeed.
Of course the standout team was South Africa, which did most of the winning abroad to spoil everyone’s home parties.
The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.
He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/