South Africa celebrated their long-heralded arrival at the summit of Test cricket in 2012 while West Indies enjoyed their first world title since the team's 1970s heyday with a maiden Twenty20 trophy.
The giddy heights proved too much for England whose year-long reign as the number one test nation ended at Lord's with a 2-0 series thumping by Graeme Smith's South Africa in August.
The Proteas appear determined to build a dynasty as they backed up their coronation with a 1-0 series win in Australia to finish an exhausting year unbeaten in 10 tests, with nine of them coming on tour.
Smith, who became the most-capped captain of all time during 2012, could rely on world-class performers throughout his side.
The fearsome fast bowling trio of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander were supplemented by the evergreen all-round talents of Jacques Kallis while Hashim Amla can lay claim to being the most consistent batsman in world cricket.
West Indies have had little to celebrate since their all-conquering days ended in the early 1990s, but victory over hosts Sri Lanka in the World Twenty20 final gave the Caribbean side their biggest prize since the one-day championship in 1979.
Marlon Samuels blasted a 56-ball 78 after flamboyant Chris Gayle failed with the bat in the 36-run win. But Gayle made amends with his rendition of the horse-riding dance made famous by South Korean pop sensation Psy in his hit "Gangnam Style".
Sri Lanka's master batsman Kumar Sangakkara was named ICC cricketer of the year in September after scoring 1,444 runs in 14 tests and Australia captain Michael Clarke became the first to score four double-centuries in a calendar year.
Clarke started the year with an unbeaten 329 against India in Sydney, added 210 against the same team in Adelaide and torched South Africa with double tons in consecutive home tests.
The captain's heroics were not enough to defeat the Proteas whose 309-run win in the third and final test in Perth spoiled Ricky Ponting's last international match.
The hard-bitten 38-year-old signed off his career with only eight runs in his final innings to finish with 13,378 runs in tests, the second-highest tally after Sachin Tendulkar.
While Ponting strode off into the sunset after naming his final test, the 39-year-old Tendulkar hung on, his declining output of runs flattered briefly by his 100th international century in a one-day match against Bangladesh in March.
With the retirements of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, the untouchable