South Africa’s hard-fought victory against England on Sunday marked the end of an unprecedented decade for Test cricket. Although success with the red ball continues to be the holy grail for most players, the longest format of the game has still had to fight a tough battle for survival.
The start of the decade saw T20 cricket grow from strength to strength. The shortest format now has plenty of leagues across the world and continues to draw the biggest crowds. And with three One-Day International World Cups played as well over the past nine years, white ball cricket consolidated its position as the centerpiece of the sport.
This left Test matches with a mighty battle to remain relevant. In order to sustain fans’ interest in the format and see better turnouts in stadiums, three major changes were introduced: the ICC World Test Championship, day-night Test matches with pink balls, and name and numbers on the back of players’ jerseys. These steps surely managed to grab attention, but time will tell how meaningful they really are.
Over the past ten years, Test cricket has faced a constant predicament. While it struggled to attract viewership (outside, perhaps, England and Australia), it still managed to be the priority for top players like Virat Kohli.
At the end of it all, Test matches in the 2010s will definitely be remembered for some fascinating battles on the field. Several modern day greats came into their own in this decade and there was a lot to be hopeful about for the purists.
Here is a look back at the decade gone by in men’s Test cricket:
(Note: All numbers in this article are for men’s Test matches after January 1, 2010, till December 29, 2019, and sourced from ESPNCricinfo’s Statsguru. To view the tables in full swipe left or scroll right on your mobile/computer screens).
In terms of win/loss ratio, India were the most successful team in Test cricket in the 2010s. First under Mahendra Singh Dhoni and then with Kohli as captain, India continued to be dominant at home. A historic series win in Australia and several other overseas victories helped India consolidate their position as the No 1 side in the rankings.
Another formidable team in this decade was South Africa. They may be going through a difficult phase at the moment but for the better part of the past ten years, under the leadership of Graeme Smith, the Proteas won much more than they lost.
Pakistan, Sri Lanka and West Indies, though, were three big teams who struggled to find success on the field, with each of them notching up more defeats than victories.
Best overall win/loss ratio this decade
As mentioned above, India were almost indomitable at home in this decade and continue to be the final frontier for most teams and players. Kohli and Co have won a record 11 home Test series in a row now and have defeated every top team while playing in India. Their win/loss ratio in home Test matches is by far the best and more than twice as good as that of second-placed Australia.
Best win/loss ratio at home this decade
The biggest challenge for any side, of course, is achieving success in Test matches that are played away from home. And in this regard, South Africa have the best win/loss ratio for the decade that’s about to end. Afghanistan may be at the top of the list below, but it was the Proteas, with Smith as captain, who were the most consistent among the big teams. India, too, will be encouraged by their third-place finish on this list. There is little doubt that their overseas performances have seen a steady growth.
Best win/loss ratio away from home this decade
The 2010s saw a handful of batsmen set themselves apart from the rest of the pack in the longest format. While the ‘big four’ – Kohli, Steve Smith, Joe Root and Kane Williamson – emerged as the leaders, there were a few others, like the now-retired Alastrair Cook, Australia’s flamboyant opener David Warner, and South African great Hashim Amla, who stood out as well.
Top 10 run-getters in Tests this decade
|Alastair Cook (Eng)||111||201||8818||294||46.41||46.93||23||37|
|Joe Root (Eng)||89||164||7359||254||48.41||54.37||17||45|
|Virat Kohli (Ind)||84||141||7202||254*||54.97||57.81||27||22|
|Steve Smith (Aus)||72||130||7164||239||62.84||55.59||26||28|
|David Warner (Aus)||83||153||7088||335*||48.21||73.04||23||30|
|Hashim Amla (SA)||85||146||6695||311*||49.96||50.48||21||27|
|Kane Williamson (NZ)||78||137||6379||242*||51.44||51.55||21||31|
|Azhar Ali (Pak)||77||146||5885||302*||42.64||41.82||16||31|
|Cheteshwar Pujara (Ind)||75||124||5740||206*||49.48||46.69||18||24|
|Ross Taylor (NZ)||76||133||5486||290||48.12||60.12||15||25|
There were as many as eight triple-centuries hit in this decade. The highest individual score in the last ten years, though, came just over a month ago from the bat of Warner. The left-handed opener pummeled a young Pakistani attack and remained not-out on 335. No surprises that there are some greats of the game mentioned in the list below.
10 highest individual Test scores this decade
|David Warner (Aus)||335*||Pakistan||Adelaide||Nov 29, 2019|
|Chris Gayle (WI)||333||Sri Lanka||Galle||Nov 15, 2010|
|Michael Clarke (Aus)||329*||India||Sydney||Jan 3, 2012|
|Kumar Sangakkara (SL)||319||Bangladesh||Chattogram||Feb 4, 2014|
|Hashim Amla (SA)||311*||England||The Oval||Jul 19, 2012|
|Karun Nair (Ind)||303*||England||Chennai||Dec 16, 2016|
|Azhar Ali (Pak)||302*||West Indies||Dubai (DSC)||Oct 13, 2016|
|Brendon McCullum (NZ)||302||India||Wellington||Feb 14, 2014|
|Alastair Cook (Eng)||294||India||Birmingham||Aug 10, 2011|
|Ross Taylor (NZ)||290||Australia||Perth||Nov 13, 2015|
When it comes to most centuries hit in Test matches in this decade, it’s none other than Kohli and Steve Smith, arguably the two greatest batsmen of this generation, who top the list. And it isn’t just the total number of hundreds hit by them that is staggering, it’s their consistency and conversion rate from 50s to 100s that truly sets them apart.
Most centuries hit in Tests this decade
|Player||Innings||100s||Fifty-plus scores||Conversion rate from 50s||Innings taken per 50||Innings taken per 100|
|Virat Kohli (Ind)||141||27||49||55.10%||2.88||5.22|
|Steve Smith (Aus)||130||26||54||48.15%||2.41||5.00|
|Alastair Cook (Eng)||201||23||60||38.33%||3.35||8.74|
|David Warner (Aus)||153||23||53||43.40%||2.89||6.65|
|Kane Williamson (NZ)||137||21||52||40.38%||2.63||6.52|
|Hashim Amla (SA)||146||21||48||43.75%||3.04||6.95|
|Cheteshwar Pujara (Ind)||124||18||42||42.86%||2.95||6.89|
|Joe Root (Eng)||164||17||62||27.42%||2.65||9.65|
|Azhar Ali (Pak)||146||16||47||34.04%||3.11||9.13|
England’s new-ball bowlers James Anderson and Stuart Broad were the top two highest wicket-takers in this decade. They are followed in this list by the spin trio of Nathan Lyon, Rangana Herath and Ravichandran Ashwin, who were all simply phenomenal in home Tests. These three however, are the only spinners in the list below.
Top 10 wicket-takers in Tests this decade
|James Anderson (Eng)||200||429||24.35||2.65||54.9||20||3|
|Stuart Broad (Eng)||207||403||27.65||2.92||56.6||14||2|
|Nathan Lyon (Aus)||182||380||32.11||3.01||63.9||16||2|
|Rangana Herath (SL)||133||363||26.41||2.75||57.5||30||9|
|R Ashwin (Ind)||131||362||25.36||2.83||53.6||27||7|
|Dale Steyn (SA)||108||267||22.29||3.04||43.9||15||2|
|Trent Boult (NZ)||123||256||28.01||2.97||56.4||8||1|
|Tim Southee (NZ)||122||255||28.83||2.98||57.9||8||1|
|Morne Morkel (SA)||125||248||25.99||2.98||52.3||7||0|
|Mitchell Starc (Aus)||107||240||27.08||3.37||48.2||13||2|
Herath, with a sensational nine-for against Pakistan in 2014, registered the best bowling figures in an innings in this decade. The now-retired Sri Lankan left-arm spinner also got an eight-for against Zimbabwe in 2016. South Africa’s Keshav Maharaj, another left-arm spinner, was the only other bowler to bag an eight-wicket haul in an innings over the past ten years. No Indian managed to make it to the top ten list below.
Best bowling figures in an innings this decade
|Rangana Herath (SL)||33.1-3-127-9||Pakistan||Colombo (SSC)||Aug 14, 2014|
|Keshav Maharaj (SA)||41.1-10-129-9||Sri Lanka||Colombo (SSC)||Jul 20, 2018|
|Stuart Broad (Eng)||9.3-5-15-8||Australia||Nottingham||Aug 6, 2015|
|Taijul Islam (Ban)||16.5-7-39-8||Zimbabwe||Dhaka||Oct 25, 2014|
|Yasir Shah (Pak)||12.3-1-41-8||New Zealand||Dubai (DSC)||Nov 24, 2018|
|Devendra Bishoo (WI)||13.5-1-49-8||Pakistan||Dubai (DSC)||Oct 13, 2016|
|Nathan Lyon (WI)||22.2-4-50-8||India||Bengaluru||Mar 4, 2017|
|Roston Chase (WI)||21.4-2-60-8||England||Bridgetown||Jan 23, 2019|
|Shannon Gabriel (WI)||20.4-6-62-8||Sri Lanka||Gros Islet||Jun 14, 2018|
|Rangana Herath (SL)||23-6-63-8||Zimbabwe||Harare||Nov 6, 2016|
It was the pacers who struck most consistently over this decade. In the list below of top ten bowlers with best strike rates, not a single spinner features. Another surprise is the absence of Anderson and Broad, the highest wicket-takers of this decade. Mohammed Shami’s fifth-place finish on this list shows the kind of impact he has despite playing mostly on sub-continental pitches.
Best strike rates among top bowlers this decade
|Kagiso Rabada (SA)||75||190||40.0||9||4|
|Dale Steyn (SA)||108||267||43.9||15||2|
|Pat Cummins (Aus)||55||139||47.2||5||1|
|Mitchell Starc (Aus)||107||240||48.2||13||2|
|Mohammed Shami (Ind)||91||175||49.1||5||0|
|Vernon Philander (SA)||114||220||49.9||13||2|
|Mitchell Johnson (Aus)||82||176||50.0||8||2|
|Umesh Yadav (Ind)||88||142||50.6||3||1|
|Ryan Harris (Aus)||52||113||50.7||5||0|
|Steven Finn (Eng)||66||125||51.2||5||0|
Once again, when it comes to most five-wicket hauls in this decade, it is Herath who tops the chart. He is followed closely by Ashwin, who has been consistent for India in home conditions. The top ten list below has an equal mix of spinners and fast bowlers.
Most 5-wicket hauls in Tests this decade
|Rangana Herath (SL)||133||30|
|R Ashwin (Ind)||131||27|
|James Anderson (Eng)||200||20|
|Nathan Lyon (Aus)||182||16|
|Yasir Shah (Pak)||71||16|
|Dale Steyn (SA)||108||15|
|Stuart Broad (Eng)||207||14|
|Vernon Philander (SA)||114||13|
|Shakib Al Hasan (Ban)||74||13|
|Mitchell Starc (Aus)||107||13|
The top two all-rounders this decade, based on numbers, were Ravindra Jadeja and Shakib Al Hasan. While Jadeja excelled as a spinner in home conditions and also grew significantly as a batsman, Shakib emerged as one of the finest Bangladeshi batters and also continued to strike with the ball. This list, however, will be incomplete without the mention of England’s Ben Stokes, who is widely regarded as the best all-rounder in the world at the moment.
Top all-rounders this decade based on ave. diff
|Player||Matches||Runs||Bat Ave||Wickets||Bowl Ave||Ave diff|
|Ravindra Jadeja (Ind)||48||1844||35.46||211||24.64||10.81|
|Shakib Al Hasan (Ban)||42||3147||42.52||162||31.97||10.55|
|Jason Holder (WI)||40||1898||32.72||106||26.37||6.34|
|R Ashwin (Ind)||70||2385||28.73||362||25.36||3.36|
|Vernon Philander (SA)||61||1700||24.63||220||21.99||2.64|
|Ben Stokes (Eng)||60||3787||35.72||139||33.13||2.58|
|Shane Watson (Aus)||44||2758||33.63||52||33.42||0.21|
It may come as a surprise to some but BJ Watling has been the most successful Test wicketkeeper in this decade. The New Zealander, who tends to fly under the radar, has been consistent with both the gloves and the bat. South Africa’s Quinton de Kock, too, can be proud of his record behind the stumps since his debut in 2014.
Most wicket-keeping dismissals this decade
|BJ Watling (NZ)||111||226||218||8|
|Matt Prior (Eng)||103||198||187||11|
|Quinton de Kock (SA)||79||187||176||11|
|Jonny Bairstow (Eng)||90||181||169||12|
|Brad Haddin (Aus)||83||180||174||6|
|MS Dhoni (Ind)||91||174||154||20|
|Sarfaraz Ahmed (Pak)||94||167||146||21|
|Tim Paine (Aus)||58||137||131||6|
|Wriddhiman Saha (Ind)||70||103||92||11|
|Niroshan Dickwella (SL)||61||100||80||20|