From calculated centuries in big chases, audacious efforts and rearguard efforts, we sift through the list and come up with the most memorable knocks of the year in one-day international cricket.
Alastair Cook – 137, 1st ODI, Abu Dhabi
After a 0-3 loss in the preceding Tests, England needed something special as they entered the ODI leg of their tour of the UAE. They got it from the top, in the form of their captain. Cook's 137 off 142 balls was a finely crafted innings, and the only century of the match (the next highest scores of the match were Ravi Bopara's 50 and Shahid Afridi's 28). The England opener was a class ahead of the rest, playing spin and pace with a confidence sorely missing from the Test series. It set the tone for a 4-0 whitewash.
From calculated centuries in big chases, audacious efforts and rearguard efforts, we sift through the list and come up with the most memorable knocks of the year in ODIs.
Kevin Pietersen – 111*, 2nd ODI, Dubai
Pietersen snapped a century-less run that dated back to November 2008 with a quite splendid innings as England romped to a nine-wicket win. With Cook providing solidity with an innings of 80, Pietersen returned to his audacious ways. Opening the innings, he waded into Pakistan's bowling attack with a series of hard-hit shots and, dropped on 45, proceeded to score his first century in 37 innings. Along the way, Pietersen crossed 4000 ODI runs with a big six off Mohammad Hafeez. The shots came thick and fast and Pietersen finished not out on 111 off 98 balls.
AB de Villiers – 106*, 1st ODI, Wellington
South Africa were 35 for 3 in the tenth over of their chase of 254 when de Villiers walked to the crease. He remained not out on a run-a-ball 106 to finish the job with six wickets in hand, as South Africa took a series lead over New Zealand. De Villiers outscored his partner JP Duminy, who came to the crease almost six overs earlier, and was smart in his sense of judging singles. He ran hard and did not take too many chances, instead relying on an ability to pierce the infield. The bad balls were duly put away, and de Villiers only truly opened in the 40th over with successive sixes off Rob Nicol. But that time he was into the nineties, and reached his century with a single. It was one of the coolest innings of the year, delivered from one of the coolest players around.
Virat Kohli – 133*, 11th CB Series match, Hobart
Kohli's unbeaten 133 off 86 balls, his ninth ODI century and sixth in a chase, was outstanding and testament to his reputation as a match-winner in limited-overs cricket. To chase down over 300 inside 40 overs is a stiff ask, and the manner in which Kohli collected his century was stirring.He walked out at No. 4 with India just having lost Sachin Tendulkar and coolly, defiantly ensured that there were no half measures. Having reached his fifty off 50 balls, Kohli took 83 off his next 42. He saved his best for the woeful Lasith Malinga, who he hit for 44 runs in 15 deliveries. Consecutive boundaries off Malinga in the 37th over sealed the most incredible of chases, and with it Kohli raised his stature by another notch.
David Warner – 163, 1st CB Series final, Brisbane
On a run-filled day at the Gabba, Australian opener Warner scored his maiden ODI century to set up a 15-run win over Sri Lanka. It put an end to a lean run of 155 in six previous innings, and gave Australia the early advantage in the best-of-three finals. His 163 off 157 balls spanned the duration of Australia's innings of 321 – he was bowled off the last ball – and was highlighted by some smashing strokeplay through midwicket and past extra cover. Warner set himself in for a big innings; he reached his half-century off 61 balls and three figures in 111. He ensured he was there until the end, collecting 13 fours and two sixes. It was the sixth-highest score by an Australian in ODI cricket.
Virat Kohli – 183*, 5th Asia Cup match, Dhaka
Three innings after his Brisbane century, Kohli scored an audacious, career-best innings that helped India chase down Pakistan's 329. After a shambolic effort in the field, India needed something special to chase down 330 and they found that in their in-form batsman. Kohli's 183 off 148 balls delivered India their highest successful run-chase in ODIs, and was the highest score by an Indian batsman in a chase. As MS Dhoni noted afterwards: "He didn’t slog at all; those were all proper cricket shots". It truly was a high-quality innings, laced with 22 boundaries off an attack comprising one of the best pace bowlers in the game, Umar Gul, and another talented left-arm quick, Wahab Riaz, as well as the No. 1 ODI bowler in Saeed Ajmal.
Kieron Pollard – 102, 4th ODI, St Lucia
Pollard's second ODI century was a ballistic effort, but more importantly one that delivered West Indies a 2-1 series lead over Australia. The big-hitting allrounder was in bullish mood at the Beausejour Stadium, smacking 102 off 70 balls to drive the hosts to what proved a match-winning total of 294 for 7. He walked in at No. 6 in the 26th over with West Indies at 106 for 4 and proceeded to collect eight sixes and five fours in what Shane Watson termed an innings of "individual brilliance". It wasn't without fortune, as Peter Forrest and Xavier Doherty dropped catches, but Pollard backed his instincts and walloped the bowlers. His fifty came up in 49 balls but his next 51 needed just 21. Of those 21 balls, six were maximums.
Ian Bell – 126, 1st ODI, Southampton
Bell found himself in an unusual spot on June 16 at The Rose Bowl. He had just been recalled to England's ODI squad in the immediate aftermath of Pietersen's surprise retirement, and shunted up the order to open alongside Cook. Seizing the opportunity, Bell stroked 126 off 117 balls – his first ODI century in five years – to set up a 114-run win over West Indies. It was an innings bristling with determination. Bell's first boundary was a six down the ground during an 18-run Andre Russell over, and he kept the momentum going. His timing and placement were exquisite but more than the manner of his shots, it was the confidence with which Bell returned to the ODI format that gave England reason to believe.
Angelo Mathews – 80*, 5th ODI, Colombo
Amid questions over his place in Sri Lanka's ODI team, Mathews produced a thrilling, career-best knock that sealed a 3-1 series win over Pakistan in June. The hosts had just lost two wickets in two balls, that of Kumar Sangakkarra for 40 and Mahela Jayawardene for 0, when Mathews walked in at No. 6. He immediately went about absorbing the pressure of a chase of 248, and was not flustered by the wickets of Dinesh Chandimal and Thisara Perera in the space of three runs. From 136 for 6 it looked in Pakistan’s favor but Mathews kept his cool to seal a two-wicket win with two deliveries remaining. Sri Lanka needed 12 off five balls when Mathews deposited Mohammad Sami over long-on for six, and with four needed off three, he smacked four over point to seal victory.
Chris Gayle – 125, 2nd ODI, Kingston
Three ODI matches into his return from international exile, Gayle smacked 126 off 107 balls, his 20th century in the format, to set up a 55-run over New Zealand. It was a brutal innings, inclusive of nine sixes and eight fours, and took Gayle past Brian Lara's West Indies record of 19. He dealt out punishment early in the innings: Kyle Mills was hit for three sixes in the fifth over, Nathan McCullum and Tim Southee clattered with disdain. Gayle's fifty came up in 42 balls and he celebrated by thumping Tarun Nethula for six over the sightscreen. There was also a dose of smart running and deft placement, but nothing beat Gayle's sheer bullishness. He galloped from 86 to his century in seven balls and looked set to eclipse his career-best 153 before flicking a full toss to deep midwicket. His home crowd was treated to a fine innings.
MS Dhoni – 113*, 1st ODI, Chennai
The final ODI of 2012 saw India's captain play his finest innings in the 50-over format. Against arch rivals Pakistan, after being asked to bat on a Chennai surface with a bit of juice in it, India were in the doldrums at 29 for 5. The first four batsmen had been bowled, and the surface was not one on which to go hard at the ball. The situation was ripe for an embarrassment for India, but Dhoni played an innings of immense skill and determination. He struggled to time the ball initially, and was given a life on 16 when the Pakistan captain spilled a head-high catch at midwicket. Summoning his deepest resolve, Dhoni began laying a platform with Suresh Raina. He reached his fifty off 86 balls, and then sped to three figures in 32. In fact, his last 39 balls faced produced 61 runs. Battling intense pain, Dhoni stuck around to the end, reaching his eighth ODI century with a six over extra cover. His ability to conserve his energy was admirable, and even when he could barely stand Dhoni managed to run manic singles and doubles. For his ability to absorb the pressure of 29 for 5 and take India to 227 for 6, Dhoni's innings was one of the best in 2012. Unfortunately for India it wasn’t enough to set up victory.