The year gone by featured plenty of memorable action to keep Test match lovers hooked – from historic performances to sensational victories to impressive debuts, the past twelve months had it all. On that note, here is a look back at the eleven best moments from men’s Test cricket in 2021.
Incredible India breach Brisbane
Embattled by injuries and forced to field a greenhorn bowling unit, Border-Gavaskar Trophy champions India entered the fortress of the Gabba – where Australia had not lost a Test for 31 years – needing at least a draw to maintain their hold on the trophy. With the series locked at 1-1 ahead of this final Test, there was all to play for. Responding to Australia’s meaty 369, India were 186/6 when Shardul Thakur, playing his second Test, joined debutant Washington Sundar.
The duo added a pivotal 123 that helped limit Australia’s lead to 33. Mohammed Siraj shined with 5/73 in the second dig, but India were still left with a seemingly daunting target of 328 on a pitch with uneven bounce. What ensued was arguably the most surreal finish in recent memory – Shubman Gill charged at the top with 91 and Cheteshwar Pujara produced a gutsy 56, before the audacious Rishabh Pant blazed a sparkling 89* to drive India to an exhilarating three-wicket win.
Match Scores: Australia 369 (Marnus Labuschagne 108, Tim Paine 50, Thangarasu Natarajan 3/78) and 294 (Steven Smith 55, Mohammed Siraj 5/73, Shardul Thakur 4/61) lost to India 336 (Shardul Thakur 67, Washington Sundar 62, Josh Hazlewood 5/57) and 329/7 (Shubman Gill 91, Rishabh Pant 89*, Cheteshwar Pujara 56, Pat Cummins 4/55) by three wickets.
Black Caps win the World Test Championship
The final of the inaugural World Test Championship saw table-toppers India face off with New Zealand at the Rose Bowl in Southampton. In a gripping, rain-hit contest dominated by the bowlers, the Black Caps prevailed by eight wickets on the reserve day to clinch the coveted mace. Left-arm paceman Kyle Jamieson (5/31) and southpaw Devon Conway (54) starred in the first innings, while captain Kane Williamson (52*) and Ross Taylor (47*) anchored the chase.
Match Scores: India 217 (Ajinkya Rahane 49, Kyle Jamieson 5/31) and 170 (Rishabh Pant 41, Tim Southee 4/48) lost to New Zealand 249 (Devon Conway 54, Mohammed Shami 4/76) and 140/2 (Kane Williamson 52*, Ravichandran Ashwin 2/17) by eight wickets.
Patel’s ten-wicket wonder at the Wankhede
One of the most exclusive clubs in Test cricket welcomed a new member at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium. New Zealand’s left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel, playing in his city of birth, returned eye-popping figures of 10/119 in the first innings to become the third bowler after Jim Laker and Anil Kumble to record a ‘perfect ten’ in Test history. His match figures of 14/225, the second best for New Zealand, could not prevent India from achieving their biggest Test victory.
Match Scores: India 325 (Mayank Agarwal 150, Axar Patel 52, Ajaz Patel 10/119) and 276/7d (Mayank Agarwal 62, Ajaz Patel 4/106) beat New Zealand 62 (Kyle Jamieson 17, Ravichandran Ashwin 4/8, Mohammed Siraj 3/19) and 167 (Daryl Mitchell 60, Ravichandran Ashwin 4/34, Jayant Yadav 4/49) by 372 runs.
Mayers’ record-breaking debut
Missing a few first-choice players, the West Indies fielded three debutants against Bangladesh at Chattogram, including Barbadian Kyle Mayers. Late on the fourth day, the visitors looked down for the count at 59/3 chasing 395, when the left-handed Mayers joined fellow debutant Nkrumah Bonner (86). The pair put on 216, with Mayers going on to hit a stunning 210* and script a three-wicket win for his side, giving only the second instance of a Test double ton in a winning chase.
Match Scores: Bangladesh 430 (Mehidy Hasan Miraz 103, Shakib Al Hasan 68, Shadman Islam 59, Jomel Warrican 4/133) and 223/8d (Mominul Haque 115, Liton Das 69, Jomel Warrican 3/57) lost to West Indies 259 (Kraigg Brathwaite 76, Jermaine Blackwood 68, Mehidy Hasan Miraz 4/58) and 395/7 (Kyle Mayers 210*, Nkrumah Bonner 86, Mehidy Hasan Miraz 4/113) by three wickets.
Conway arrives with Lord’s special
Four months after Mayers’ brilliance, another left-hander notched a double century on debut. Opening for New Zealand against England at Lord’s, Devon Conway announced himself with a composed 200 to become the seventh batsman and the second from New Zealand after Mathew Sinclair to achieve the rare feat.
Match Scores: New Zealand 378 (Devon Conway 200, Henry Nicholls 61, Ollie Robinson 4/75) and 169/6d (Tom Latham 36, Ollie Robinson 3/26) drew with England 275 (Rory Burns 132, Tim Southee 6/43) and 170/3 (Dom Sibley 60*, Neil Wagner 2/27).
Root kicks off an exceptional year
England endured batting woes throughout the year, but the exception was their skipper Joe Root, who ended up with 1708 runs at 61 with six hundreds and four fifties – the second highest tally in a calendar year behind Mohammad Yousuf’s 1788 in 2006. He began with a bang, scoring 228 against Sri Lanka at Galle, and soon backed it up with a fine 218 against India at Chennai. His part-time off-spin had its moment too, as he grabbed 5/8 against India at Ahmedabad.
Match Scores: Sri Lanka 135 (Dinesh Chandimal 28, Dom Bess 5/30) and 359 (Lahiru Thirimanne 111, Angelo Mathews 71, Jack Leach 5/122) lost to England 421 (Joe Root 228, Dilruwan Perera 4/109) and 76/3 (Jonny Bairstow 35*, Lasith Embuldeniya 2/29) by seven wickets.
A bountiful debut for Jayawickrama
Yet another memorable debut, this time with the ball. The deciding second Test between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh at Pallekele saw left-arm spinner Praveen Jayawickrama befuddle the Tigers’ batting lineup twice on his way to match figures of 11/178 (6/92 and 5/86), as Sri Lanka won by 209 runs. This was the first time that a Sri Lankan captured ten wickets on Test debut.
Match Scores: Sri Lanka 493/7d (Lahiru Thirimanne 140, Dimuth Karunaratne 118, Oshada Fernando 81, Niroshan Dickwella 77*, Taskin Ahmed 4/127) and 194/9d (Dimuth Karunaratne 66, Taijul Islam 5/72) beat Bangladesh 251 (Tamim Iqbal 92, Praveen Jayawickrama 6/92) and 227 (Mushfiqur Rahim 40, Praveen Jayawickrama 5/86, Ramesh Mendis 4/103) by 209 runs.
Shahidi gets Afghanistan’s first double ton
Afghanistan bounced back from a ten-wicket defeat to square their two-match series against Zimbabwe at Abu Dhabi. While the talismanic Rashid Khan collected 11 wickets, Hashmatullah Shahidi created history by becoming the first Afghan to register a Test double hundred. The left-hander batted for nearly ten hours in making an unbeaten 200, and his fourth-wicket stand of 307 with captain Asghar Afghan (164) paved the way for Afghanistan’s highest Test total.
Match Scores: Afghanistan 545/4d (Hashmatullah Shahidi 200*, Asghar Afghan 164, Ibrahim Zadran 72, Nasir Jamal 55*, Ryan Burl 1/69) and 108/4 (Rahmat Shah 58, Ryan Burl 2/16) beat Zimbabwe 287 (Sikandar Raza 85, Prince Masvaure 65, Rashid Khan 4/138) and 365 (Sean Williams 151*, Donald Tiripano 95, Rashid Khan 7/137) by six wickets.
A thriller to remember at Kingston
A riveting, see-sawing Test between the West Indies and Pakistan culminated in only the 15th instance of a one-wicket result in more than 144 years of Test cricket. Fast bowlers from both sides had a good time, with Shaheen Shah Afridi returning match figures of 8/109 and Jayden Seales, named Player of the Match, scalping 8/125. Needing 168 to win, the Windies slipped to 151/9 before the last pair of Kemar Roach and Seales held their nerves and steered them home.
Match Scores: Pakistan 217 (Fawad Alam 56, Jason Holder 3/26) and 203 (Babar Azam 55, Jayden Seales 5/55) lost to West Indies 253 (Kraigg Brathwaite 97, Jason Holder 58, Shaheen Shah Afridi 4/59) and 168/9 (Jermaine Blackwood 55, Shaheen Shah Afridi 4/50) by one wicket.
Maharaj joins the hat-trick club
South Africa finished their 2019-21 WTC campaign on a high with a 2-0 sweep of the West Indies at Gros Islet. The second match featured the 46th hat-trick in men’s Tests, and only the second by a South African after Geoff Griffin’s at Lord’s in 1960, as left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj removed Kieran Powell, Jason Holder and Joshua Da Silva off successive deliveries en route to second-innings figures of 5/36.
Match Scores: South Africa 298 (Quinton de Kock 96, Dean Elgar 77, Kyle Mayers 3/28) and 174 (Rassie van der Dussen 75*, Kemar Roach 4/52) beat West Indies 149 (Jermaine Blackwood 49, Wiaan Mulder 3/1) and 165 (Kieran Powell 51, Keshav Maharaj 5/36) by 158 runs.
Australia retain the urn in style
As the year drew to a close, Australia retained the Ashes in quick time with a dominating show in the third Test at Melbourne. Adding to the list of dream debuts in 2021, local seamer Scott Boland cut through the English batting lineup in the second innings to finish with extraordinary figures of 6/7 in four overs. Trailing by 82 on the first innings, England caved in for a mere 68.
Match Scores: England 185 (Joe Root 50, Pat Cummins 3/36, Nathan Lyon 3/36) and 68 (Joe Root 28, Scott Boland 6/7) lost to Australia 267 (Marcus Harris 76, James Anderson 4/33) by an innings and 14 runs.