Results, results, and more results
Out of the 47 Tests played in 2016, 40 produced results. Even the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne, which seemed to be heading towards a certain draw going into the last day, produced a dramatic Pakistan collapse. The overall percentage of result Tests in 2016 was 85.11%, which was impressive even in this age of result-oriented Test matches. Among all the years that have hosted ten or more Tests (there are 74 such years in Test history), only once has the result percentage been higher, and even that was marginal. In 2002, 46 out of 54 were decisive Tests, a percentage of 85.18.
Among the seven draws in 2016 were both New Year Tests - in Cape Town and Sydney. Thereafter, there were only five more through the rest of the year - two in the West Indies, and one each in England, South Africa, and India.
With a 31-11 win-loss record across all formats in 2016, there was no doubt about which was the team of the year. In Tests, India finished the year with a 9-0 record; only twice have teams won more Tests in a year without losing any: England in 2004 (11-0), and Australia in 2006 (10-0).
The next best team in the year across formats was South Africa, and the gulf was fairly substantial: they lost as many games as India did, but won ten fewer than India.
India's Test numbers were what stood out more than anything else. Out of their 12 Tests, they won two in the West Indies and seven at home - all by huge margins: three by an innings, five by more than 175 runs, and one by eight wickets. The difference between their batting and bowling averages was 21.14; the next best for any team was South Africa's 10.08.
A year for the wicketkeeper-batsmen
Jonny Bairstow scored a whopping 1470 Test runs last year, 425 more than any wicketkeeper has ever scored in a calendar year. Some of that was because of England's busy Test schedule in 2016, which allowed Bairstow to bat 29 times, but his numbers, along with those of Quinton de Kock, BJ Watling and a few others ensured that wicketkeepers generally had a year to remember with the bat. Their overall average for the year was 39.93, the second-highest in any year in which more than one Test has been played. The only year when they averaged more was in 2013, when they scored 40.03 per dismissal.
Apart from the three wicketkeepers mentioned above, India's Wriddhiman Saha contributed useful runs - 366 at 40.66 - while Shane Dowrich was a huge improvement over Denesh Ramdin for West Indies, scoring 307 runs at 38.37.
Kohli's unique year
Virat Kohli started his international year with scores of 91, 59, 117 and 106, and finished it with scores of 167, 81, 62, 6*, 235 and 15. In between, he scored runs in the West Indies, in the World T20, in the home series against New Zealand, and in the IPL. In international games, Kohli totalled 2595 runs at a stunning average of 86.50, with 20 fifty-plus scores in 41 innings. Only six batsmen have ever scored more international runs in a calendar, and none of them have done so at an average close to Kohli's. In fact, there have been 72 instances of batsmen scoring 2000-plus runs in a calendar year, and Kohli's average of 86.50 is the best among them all.
In 2016, Kohli averaged more than 75 in all three international formats - 75.93 in Tests, 92.37 in ODIs, 106.83 in T20Is (and, for good measure, he averaged 81.08 in the IPL as well) - a statistic that has never before been achieved in international cricket. The closest any player has come to this was Kumar Sangakkara in 2013, when he averaged 85.33 in Tests (512 runs), 63.21 in ODIs (1201 runs), and 91.50 in T20Is (183 runs). With a 750-run cut-off in Tests and 500 in ODIs, only Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers have averaged 75-plus in both formats, in 2010.
Kohli's domination can be further gauged from the fact that, with a 750-run cut-off in Tests, 500 in ODIs and 350 in T20Is, he tops the batting averages in all three formats. No other batsman makes it to the top five in more than one format.
Year of unusual defeats, and batting collapses
Coming into 2016, there had been only four instances of teams losing a Test after scoring 400-plus runs in their first innings - in 1930, 2001, 2004 and 2011. In three weeks in December, three more such defeats occurred, two for England and one for Pakistan. The Boxing Day result was the most remarkable of those, as Australia pulled off a last-day heist despite large amounts of time being lost due to rain.
Apart from second-innings collapses in those games, there were also other instances of teams falling in a heap. Ten times in 2016, teams were bowled out for fewer than 125 in Tests, and each of these instances were by one of the top eight teams. Sri Lanka alone met this fate four times this year, Australia twice, and England, South Africa, West Indies and Pakistan once each. Excluding such collapses by Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, the last time there were more totals of 125 or fewer runs in a year was way back in 1888, when there were 11 such instances.
In 2016, there were also 11 instances of teams losing ten wickets for fewer than 100 runs (which means the total runs added for partnerships from the second to the tenth wickets were fewer than 100). It happened three times each to Australia and England, twice to Sri Lanka, and once each to South Africa, Zimbabwe and Pakistan. This is the second-highest such occurrence in any calendar year.
The spin thing
In 2016, spinners took 1474 international wickets, which is more than they had taken in any previous year - their highest before last year was 1432, in 2010. In both Tests and T20Is, spinners took more wickets than they had taken in any previous year. The two leading wicket-takers in Tests were spinners - R Ashwin finished with 72 and Rangana Herath with 57 - while the ODI list also had a spinner - Adam Zampa - on top.
The overall bowling average for spin in Tests, though, was 35.11, which is only ninth best in the last 17 years since 2000. While Ashwin, Herath and Ravindra Jadeja took plenty of wickets at excellent averages, there were others who bowled a lot but with less success. Yasir Shah's 46 wickets cost him almost 39 each, while Moeen Ali's 37 came at 53 apiece. Fast bowlers took relatively fewer wickets - 12th highest in any calendar year - but at a better average.
The limited-overs numbers
For the first time in a calendar year, the number of T20 internationals exceeded the number of ODIs, which is a clear indication of the direction in which the game is moving. The total number of ODIs in 2016 was 99, only the second time in the last 21 years that fewer than 100 ODIs were played in a year. Meanwhile, the T20I aggregate touched 100 for the first time; the previous highest in any year was 82, in 2012, which was also the year when the difference between the number of ODIs and T20Is was the least, before 2016.
In terms of the matches themselves, 2016 was a record-breaking year in both formats. England's 444 for 3 against Pakistan in August went past the earlier record for the highest ODI total, while Australia went past the previous T20I mark with their total of 263 for 3 against Sri Lanka just a week after England's run-binge.
The overall ODI run-rate for the year was a healthy 5.43, which is the second-highest of all time, next only to 5.50 in 2015. The last three years have witnessed three highest run-rates in any calendar year, while the ten 150-plus scores equaled the record for any year.
With so many T20Is played in 2016, it wasn't surprising that new marks were set for both runs scored and wickets taken in this format in a year. Kohli set the batting benchmark with 641 runs, while Jasprit Bumrah's 28 wickets went one past the earlier record of 27, by Dirk Nannes in 2010. In fact, the top three batting aggregates for any year were all in 2016.
Misleading stat of the year
60.60 Ross Taylor's batting average in Tests in 2016: he scored 606 runs including three centuries, and was dismissed ten times. However, 364 of those runs came in three innings in Zimbabwe, when he wasn't dismissed once. In his 12 remaining innings he scored only 242 runs at 24.20, as problems with his left eye severely hampered his batting. However, he finished the year with an unbeaten 102 against Pakistan in Hamilton, and after an eye surgery later in the year, he will hopefully be back to his best.
More numbers from 2016
70 Test dismissals for Bairstow in 2016, the most by any wicketkeeper in a year. The previous record was 67, by Ian Healy in 1993 and by Mark Boucher in 1998.
3 Double-centuries in Tests for Kohli in 2016, which makes him only the fifth batsman, and the third captain, to score three or more doubles in a year. Michael Clarke, Brendon McCullum, Ricky Ponting and Don Bradman are the other batsmen to achieve this.
7 ODI hundreds for David Warner in 2016, the joint second highest ever in a year; only Sachin Tendulkar, with nine centuries in 1998, has more.
8 Five-fors in Tests for R Ashwin; only two bowlers have taken more in a calendar year: Malcolm Marshall (nine in 1984), and Muttiah Muralitharan (nine in 2006).
17 Tests England played in 2016, the joint second-highest for any team: India played 18 in 1983, and 17 in 1979.
3 Allrounders who achieved the double of 30 wickets and 500 runs in Tests in 2016 - Ashwin, Ben Stokes and Moeen. It is only the second time that three allrounders have achieved this in a year: in 2001, Jacques Kallis, Shaun Pollock and Heath Streak did the double.
1921 Runs added by England's sixth-wicket pairs in Tests in 2016. Only once in any year have more runs been added by a team for a wicket: in 2006, Pakistan's third wicket added 2341 runs in just 21 innings at an average of 117.05. England's first sixth-wicket stand of 2016 set the tone for what was to follow, as Stokes and Bairstow added 399 against South Africa in Cape Town, a record for that wicket.
29 Century partnerships for the last five wickets in Tests in 2016, the highest in any calendar year. The previous best was 27, in 2010 and 2001.