Sydney – Virat Kohli joined the greats with three double-centuries as India dominated Test cricket in a year where ‘homeless’ Pakistan soared and dived and Australia grappled with crisis.
India’s cricket scaled new heights as the Test side reclaimed its world number one ranking during their 3-0 whitewash of the touring New Zealanders in October and remained unbeaten in all of their 11 Tests in 2016.
They crowned their year with a home series win over England with skipper Kohli in commanding form with a match-defining 235 in the fourth Test at Mumbai.
Kohli is among just five batsmen, including Don Bradman and Ricky Ponting, to amass three double-centuries in a single year.
“The future of Indian cricket rests on Virat Kohli … the world will be at his feet in a few years’ time,” hailed former India skipper Sourav Ganguly.
Pakistan, forced to play away from home over security issues, flirted with the number one status after drawing a Test series 2-2 with England in August before relinquishing top spot to India.
Pakistan has been a ‘no-go’ area for rival nations since gunmen opened fire on Sri Lanka’s team bus in Lahore in 2009.
But they finished the year with a two-Test series drubbing in New Zealand and went on to Australia where they have lost nine straight Tests since 1999, ahead of the first Test in Brisbane.
It was a traumatic 2016 for Steve Smith’s Australians, tumbling from world number one after a 3-0 series wipeout in Sri Lanka and a third straight home series loss to South Africa.
– Cook questions –
Five straight Test defeats led to upheaval with chairman of selectors Rod Marsh quitting, pressure on coach Darren Lehmann and six team changes in a bid to prevent rampant South Africa from an unprecedented series clean sweep.
Smith’s revamped team saw off the threat in winning the pink-ball third Test in Adelaide and then swept New Zealand 3-0 in their home one-day series.
South Africa’s year started badly with a home Test series loss against England and the resignation in mid-series of Hashim Amla as captain. But it ended on a high with a third successive Test series victory in Australia.
Faf du Plessis, who led the side in Australia minus their two injured leading lights AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn, scored a fighting century in Adelaide in the midst of being found guilty of ball tampering.
Television pictures captured him during the second Test in Hobart applying saliva to the ball when he had a mint sweet in his mouth.
Alastair Cook’s future as England captain was questioned late in the year after he admitted he was finding it hard to be apart from his family on long overseas tours.
Despite England’s series loss in India, coach Trevor Bayliss said he expected Cook to be in charge for the Ashes tour to Australia at the end of 2017.
– McCullum farewell –
New Zealand started the year bidding farewell to the mercurial Brendon McCullum who, in typically flamboyant style, bowed out with a world record for the fastest 100 (54 balls) on his way to 145 against Australia in his final Test.
But, they lost that series and also fell to South Africa and India before ending the year with a 2-0 home sweep against Pakistan.
Sri Lanka recorded their first series sweep against a major nation since gaining Test status in 1981 with their emphatic 3-0 home win over Australia in August. Veteran spinner Rangana Herath claimed 28 wickets in the three matches.
Once-mighty West Indies beat England to win the World T20 in April with Carlos Brathwaite providing the pyrotechnics with four consecutive sixes when 19 runs were needed in the final over of the match.
After coming close to winning the day/night opener against Pakistan in Dubai, the Windies earned a consolation victory in the final match in Sharjah, their first Test win in 19 months.
Bangladesh successfully hosted a Test series against England in October despite terrorist fears and pulled off a rare 108-run victory in the final Test in Dhaka to level the series.
Fellow minnows Zimbabwe played just four Tests in 2016 and lost the lot at home to New Zealand and Sri Lanka.
The year saw the passing of Pakistan’s ‘Little Master’ Hanif Mohammad, aged 81, popular Australian paceman Max Walker at 68 from cancer, New Zealand batting great Martin Crowe, aged 53 from lymphoma, former South African captain Trevor Goddard, 85, and legendary West Indian commentator Tony Cozier at 75.