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Johannesburg – While antics off the field had dominated headlines over the last few years, Cricket SA and the Proteas had plenty to celebrate in 2012.
“It's been an incredible year. We set our sights on becoming the number one team in the world and then to hold that position,” said Proteas coach Gary Kirsten after South Africa returned from Australia in November, maintaining their place as the premier Test side in the world.
“It's a very special occasion for the Proteas and South African cricket, and it should not be taken lightly.”
The year started with a home tour against Sri Lanka, which included a 2-1 Test series victory.
The series was levelled at 1-1 after the hosts had won the first match in convincing style in Pretoria, by an innings and 81 runs, before suffering a humiliating defeat in the 2011 Boxing Day Test in Durban when the visitors exacted their revenge, astonishingly beating the Proteas by 208 runs.
In the decider, at Newlands in January, the home side emerged victorious, taking the series thanks to a double-century from Jacques Kallis, 160 not out from AB de Villiers and 109 from Alviro Petersen.
In March, the Proteas travelled to New Zealand for three Tests.
Drawing two of the matches, they won the second Test inside three days, crushing the Kiwis by nine wickets.
Vernon Philander returned match figures of 10/114, including 6/44 in the Black Caps' second innings.
Bursting into the Test arena in November 2011 against Australia, Philander became the fastest cricketer to reach the 50-wicket milestone, taking just seven Tests.
After an alarmingly long break, the boys travelled to England in July for another three-Test series.
The tour began on an emotional note when veteran wicketkeeper/batsman Mark Boucher's career was brought to a premature end by a freak accident. After playing 147 Tests for his country, during which he was responsible for 555 Test dismissals, a bail hit him in the eye during a warm-up game, causing permanent damage to his sight.
Despite the loss of one of their most experienced campaigners, the Proteas won the first Test at the Oval by an innings and 12
Notable milestones in South Africa's only innings of 637/2 declared were skipper Graeme Smith’s ton in his 100th Test and Hashim Amla’s unbeaten 311 – making him the first South African to score a Test triple-century. Kallis chipped in with 182 as the pair shared an unbroken 377-run stand.
After a draw in the second Test, a tension-filled third game played out at Lords.
Both sides had unremarkable starts but another superb century from Amla (121) left England needing 346 to win. Philander stepped up and his 5/30 propelled his side to a 51-run victory and a 2-0 series win.
Their triumph abroad saw the Proteas leapfrog their hosts and emerge as the number one Test playing nation in the world. It was also the first time South Africa had won two consecutive away series in England, after their 2-0 victory there in 2008.
In November, the Proteas found themselves on the back foot in the first Test against Australia in Brisbane, but despite an unbeaten 259 from Michael Clarke, the match was comfortably drawn.
It was the second Test in Adelaide which was ranked as one of the greatest draws in Test history.
After another double-century by Clarke, South Africa required 430 for victory and looked in serious trouble when they began the final day on 77/4.
Faf du Plessis, making his Test debut because of an injury to JP Duminy, played a superb innings to save the game for the Proteas.
Following his 78 in his first knock, he finished on 110 not out as South Africa batted 148 overs to salvage the draw and take the fight out of the tired Aussie bowlers.
The momentum swung in South Africa’s favour for the third and final Test in Perth where speedster Dale Steyn, who had yet to shine in the series, captured 4/40 and Robin Peterson picked up three wickets with his left-arm spin as Australia slumped to 163
The Proteas went on to make 569, for a lead of 631 runs. Amla was out for a brilliant 196, while AB de Villiers found his form with a superb knock of 169.
South Africa won the match by 309 runs and with it the series which was another first for Graeme Smith and his men Ä winning back-to-back series on Australian soil.
As the ICC mace remained in the Proteas’ hands for what purists regard as the elite form of the game, the one chink in the armour was South Africa's repeated failure on the world stage in the shorter formats.
In September, ranked as one of the favourites going into the ICC World Twenty20 tournament in Sri Lanka, they were dumped out of the competition after failing to win any of their three Super Eight matches.
Meanwhile, CSA's administration was working hard to clean up its act after being plagued by financial misconduct over the last few years.
“We've been criticised for not getting it right when it comes to our governing structures but we’re fixing it,” said acting CEO Jacques Faul.
“We've got a lot of good people in cricket on an operational level and we need to acknowledge that we cannot all be painted with the same brush.” The year began with the sports ministry appointing the Nicholson inquiry, which led to the eventual sacking of former chief executive Gerald Majola, although not without a fight.
As another consequence of the inquiry, the year ended with a newly appointed CSA board comprising a minimum of five independent members, for the first time.
Sponsors had returned and the sport's tarnished image, which had reached an all-time low 12 months ago, was in the process of being repaired.
At domestic level, the Cape Cobras were the form team, bagging the One-Day Cup and T20 titles in the 2011/12 season, while the Titans won the SuperSport Series first-class competition.
The first trophy of the 2012/13 season was shared between the Cobras and the Highveld Lions after two washed out T20 finals at the Wanderers in December.
On the women's front, South Africa finished bottom of Group B at the Women's World T20 in Sri Lanka, despite earning a historic six-wicket win over the hosts.
The SA women went on to book their place at the 2014 World T20
tournament after a hard-fought five-wicket win over Pakistan in Colombo. – Sapa