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Australia won seven of their 11 Tests in 2012 and lost just one.

No nation won as many Tests yet Michael Clarke is the only member of that mostly successful team to be named in _The West Australian _'s Test team of the year.

And he was an automatic selection after a withering 12-month period in which he became the fourth-highest run scorer in a calendar year and routed bowlers from across the globe.

It is an indication of the poor quality of much of their opposition, and the considerable churn of players through the team, that so few Australians could be considered.

South Africa and England, on the other hand, are the top two ranked teams in the world and each have supplied five players to the 2012 team of the year.

That seven other teams were not able to provide a single player indicates the growing gulf between Test cricket's best and the rest.

The identities of the spinner, third seamer and sixth batsman were the most testing issues selecting the best Test XI.

Several high-quality candidates were available for each discipline but the eventual selection - in each case an England player - came down to their individual contribution to victories in the toughest circumstances.

Stellar years from a group of captains - Clarke, Graeme Smith and the newly-minted Alastair Cook - made them automatic members of the team and solved any issues over the opening partnership.

Smith was only 10th on the runs list for the year but his ability to lay a foundation for his team, as much as his calm and precise leadership, was essential in South Africa's five victories and series wins in England and Australia.

Maintaining the recent trend of left-handers taking on the new ball, Cook matched Clarke by using the extra responsibility of captaincy to lift his personal form to a career-best level.

South Africa's dominance of the world stage meant that several of their most hardened and consistent performers were picked with little need for debate.

Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander lead the most potent attack in the game, while Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis shore up Test cricket's most reliable top order.

Steyn's figures may be down - 39 wickets was only his fourth-best annual return - but his fundamental task is to win Test matches and he did that on five occasions, including the world heavyweight title bout at the WACA Ground where he was the pivotal figure.

Though AB de Villiers has overcome the murmurings about his wicket-keeping detracting from his batting, England's Matt Prior retained his place after a solid year with willow and gloves.

That left the three vacancies but given that the primary criteria for selection was impact on victories, batsman Kevin Pietersen, off- spinner Graeme Swann and swing bowler James Anderson were able to see off stiff opposition.

First, the final batting spot after Smith, Cook, Amla, Kallis and Clarke.

If anyone could match the indefatigable Mike Hussey's output, which brought 898 runs at 59.87, four hundreds and at least double figures in each one of his 18 innings, it was fellow grey beard Shivnarine Chanderpaul, whose 19th year of Test cricket produced 987 runs at 98.70 and valuable contributions to his team's four consecutive wins.

But for all the output of Hussey and Chanderpaul, and de Villiers' class, none of those batsmen could match Kevin Pietersen's ability to turn a match as he did in spectacular fashion in Colombo, Headingly and Mumbai.

In a best XI, the third seamer can be a genuine strike bowler rather than fill the pack-horse role that Peter Siddle has shouldered so well for Australia.

Steyn and Philander are genuine strikers, and Kallis can still change the momentum of a match with a spell as he did in Adelaide only a few weeks ago, but the other quick can also bring something special which explains Anderson's selection ahead of Siddle, Morne Morkel and Kemar Roach, who has been a prominent part of the West Indies' success.

Anderson is deadly with the new ball, reliable at home and abroad and is now at the peak of his powers. He will have a considerable say in the fate of the dual Ashes series next year.

And Swann saw off Sri Lankan left-arm orthodox Rangana Herath and Pakistani off-spinner Saeed Ajmal, who were prolific wicket-takers but claimed the bulk of their scalps in short bursts against mediocre batting.

Swann's 634 overs in the year was nearly a century more than the next bowler.

He regularly claimed wickets away from home and, most pleasingly, he bowls with a straight arm which makes him a rarity in Test ranks.

It also emphasises the quality of his achievements on mostly flat pitches against rocket-powered bats.

Did you know? 634 The number of Test overs Englishman Graeme Swann bowled in 2012