Famous Test Matches – England v South Africa, Old Trafford, 1998

  South Africa had stormed to a 1-0 lead in the series with a ten-wicket win in the second Test at Lord’s, and came into the third, played at Old Trafford from July 2 to July 6, 1998, riding on a wave of confidence. The visitors replaced opener Adam Bacher and pace bowler Shaun Pollock, both of whom were nursing injuries, with Gerhardus Liebenberg and Makhaya Ntini respectively.

  England, on the other hand, made three changes from the drubbing at Lord’s; Dean Headley and Mark Ealham made way for strike bowler Darren Gough, who was fit again, and uncapped Warwickshire left-arm spinner Ashley Giles, while Nick Knight came in for Stephen James to partner Michael Atherton at the top of the order.

  Hansie Cronje won the toss and made the wise decision of batting first on a slow surface which had little for the fast bowlers. Gough provided an early breakthrough by castling Liebenberg, but thereafter, Gary Kirsten and Jacques Kallis combined to grind the English bowling into submission. The duo saw through the rest of the opening day and steered South Africa to 237/1 at close of play.

  While the 22-year-old Kallis reached his second Test century on the first day, Kirsten completed the milestone early on day two. Together they stayed put for more than 96 overs, adding 238 for the second wicket, which was a new record for South Africa’s highest partnership for any wicket since their return from isolation. Kallis batted for nearly six hours before being bowled by Gough.

  Kallis’ 132 came from 266 balls and featured 16 fours, but his wicket was but a speck of consolation for the toiling bowlers. Daryll Cullinan came in at number four, and along with Kirsten, further frustrated the hosts by batting dourly and resolutely, effectively snuffing out any hopes that England might have had of gaining the upper hand.

   South African opener Gary Kirsten batted for nearly eleven hours to compile 210 at Old Trafford in 1998 (source – cricket.com.au)

  Kirsten went on to a maiden Test double hundred and was eventually out in the final session, caught behind by captain Alec Stewart off Angus Fraser, for a marathon knock of 210. He occupied the crease for ten hours and 50 minutes, then the longest Test innings by a South African batsman, faced 525 balls and hit 24 fours and a six. His third-wicket alliance with Cullinan fetched 176 runs.

  Nine overs later, Cullinan perished after a defiant effort of his own, 75 in nearly five hours, thus giving 25-year-old Giles his first Test wicket. South Africa finished the day at 487/4 and seemingly on course to bat England out of the match. Cronje collected an unbeaten 69 in the first session of the third day, before declaring his team’s innings one ball short of 200 overs, the total reading 552/5.

  With a considerable challenge staring them in the face, England’s batsmen let their supporters down, succumbing to pace and spin alike. The tearaway Allan Donald applied the pressure first up, snaring Nick Knight and Nasser Hussain to leave England at 34/2. The seasoned pair of Atherton and Stewart dug in to add 60 for the third wicket, before the former was dismissed.

  Atherton was caught behind by Mark Boucher, who pouched his third catch, off Ntini, the first black cricketer to play for South Africa. His 41 would remain the highest score of the innings. Stewart was soon bowled by Kallis, and the score was now 108/4. To worsen matters for England, Graham Thorpe was fighting a back injury and had to be shifted down the order.

  Left-arm chinaman bowler Paul Adams, known for his ‘frog in a blender’ action, took care of the middle order, scalping three wickets, including that of Thorpe for a duck, to tighten the noose around England. The hosts endured another torrid day, ending at 162/8 and were presumably down for the count. They were duly bundled out for 183 the next morning, with Adams returning 4/63.

  With England 369 runs behind and close to five sessions left in the game, Cronje had no hesitation in imposing the follow-on. The start to the second innings was woeful – Knight, caught behind off Donald, and Hussain, cleaned up by Kallis, were again back in the hut cheaply. For the second time in as many days, Atherton and Stewart were under the pump to salvage a fast-sinking ship.

     England’s captain Alec Stewart scored 164 in the second innings to engineer his team’s fightback against South Africa (source – gettyimages)

  England’s aggregate in their last three Test innings was fifteen runs less than South Africa’s first innings total here, and they now found themselves 11/2 against a charged-up bowling attack. To say they were in dire straits would be an understatement. The pair in the middle was utterly crucial for England in the context of the game, what with Thorpe’s lack of fitness.

  Atherton and Stewart delivered when it mattered the most, ensuring that the South Africans would not find any further success on the fourth day. Stewart was relatively brisker, and reached his century in the final session, remaining unbeaten on 115 at stumps. England began the final day in a much safer position, at 211/2, but by no means they were out of the woods yet.

  England were now trailing by 158, and with eight wickets still in the bank, they had reason to be optimistic of saving the Test as the fifth day commenced. Atherton, eyeing a hundred of his own, and Stewart prodded along with prudence, before the former was taken out halfway through the first session, caught by Ntini off Kallis for a valuable 89, which ate up over six hours and 280 balls.

  The third-wicket stand between Atherton and Stewart realised 226 runs, and more importantly, saw off 83 overs. Mark Ramprakash joined his captain at the fall of the third wicket, and as was expected, went into an uber-defensive mode right away. The total had inched to 293/3 an hour after lunch, with England still 76 short of making South Africa bat again, when Stewart finally buckled.

  England’s unflinching wicketkeeper-captain had done his bit for the team, batting out close to seven hours for a valiant 164 from 317 balls, with 24 fours. Like Atherton, he fell playing the hook shot, caught by Klusener off the indefatigable Donald. This key wicket doubtlessly reignited the ‘White Lightning’, as Donald was known, and he proceeded to give England a rude jolt.

  Thorpe capped a sorry Test with his second duck, bowled by Donald in his next over. To add to England’s distress, Adams ejected Dominic Cork soon after, and the score was now 296/6 – three wickets had fallen for as many runs in as many overs. Glamorgan’s Robert Croft joined Ramprakash, and another 20 overs were cleared before Donald had the latter leg before wicket.

     Speedster Allan Donald bowled his heart out for South Africa in the second innings, taking 6/88 from 40 overs (source – gettyimages)

  ‘Ramps’ held fort for over three hours, scoring 34. Fours over later, Donald collected his fifth victim in the form of Giles. England were now 329/8, with more than 25 overs left to be negotiated. Croft began to show that he was no pushover, stodgily defying whatever the South Africans threw at him. He found support in an equally obstinate Gough, and they set about to thwart the tiring visitors.

  Croft and Gough battled for more than 20 overs and 75 minutes, but when Gough was out, caught by Kirsten off Donald, there yet remained 7.1 overs and England were still two runs away from forcing the fourth innings. However, Croft was unmoved; he levelled the scores amid rising tension, thus covering two more overs, for the change of innings.

  Fraser, the number eleven, played out 13 deliveries at the other end without opening his account, and this last pair had somehow survived for 31 balls to deny South Africa. The draw was ensured in the penultimate over, as even if a wicket had fallen in the last over, South Africa would not have had sufficient time to bat. The Test finished with scores level as England dragged to 369/9 in 171 overs.

  Croft remained unbeaten on a heroic 37 from 125 balls, absorbing the pressure for three hours and ten minutes. Donald led the way for the South Africans, who were on the field for 253.1 overs, with figures of 6/88 in 40 overs. The choice of Kallis as man of the match was perhaps a wee bit surprising, though there is no denying the vital all-round role he played.

  Inspired by this epic escape, England produced a high-impact performance in the fourth Test at Trent Bridge, winning by eight wickets. It all boiled down to the decider at Headingley, which turned to be a gripping low-scorer that the hosts pinched by 23 runs, culminating in a special, come-from-behind series victory.

Match Scorecard

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Famous Test Matches – West Indies v Pakistan, Bridgetown, 1976-77

  Pakistan’s 1976-77 tour of the Caribbean was only their second to the region, following their maiden sojourn back in 1957-58, which remains the only Test series to have featured two triple hundreds. As was the case 19 years earlier, the opening Test of the 1976-77 series was also played at the Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados, from February 18-23, 1977.

  Going into this series, the West Indies had not played Test cricket for six months, with their last assignment being a significant 3-0 win in the five-Test series in England. Pakistan, on the other hand, had notched a comprehensive home win against New Zealand, followed by a commendable draw in Australia, in the preceding four months.

  Pakistan were led by Mushtaq Mohammad, younger brother of Hanif, who had scored an epic 337 the last time the two teams met at Bridgetown. He elected to bat after calling correctly, and his decision seemed vindicated as openers Majid Khan and Sadiq Mohammad – yet another of the Mohammad brothers – sedately put on 72.

  The West Indies had in their ranks two young fast bowlers on Test debut who would go on to have successful careers – Guyanese Colin Croft and Barbadian Joel Garner. The two were involved in the first wicket of the day, when Garner had Sadiq caught by Croft. Majid and Haroon Rasheed further added 76 for the second wicket, and at 148/1, Pakistan looked primed for a big total.

  However, Rasheed’s dismissal to off-spinner Maurice Foster led to a collapse engineered by the two debutants. Croft had Mushtaq caught behind by Deryck Murray for a duck, while Garner dealt a double blow, castling Majid for 88 and sending back Javed Miandad cheaply, out leg-before. Asif Iqbal’s wicket to Croft added to the visitors’ frustration, and they had now lost five for 85.

      Wasim Raja twice led Pakistan’s recovery, scoring 117* and 71 in the first and second innings respectively (source – brandsynario.com)

  Resuming at 269/6 on the second day, Pakistan had an undesired start, losing Imran Khan to Andy Roberts. Their hopes of bolstering the total now pinned on the left-handed Wasim Raja, who delivered with a fine century from number seven. He marshalled the tail expertly, sharing in stands of 64 with Saleem Altaf and 73 with Sarfraz Nawaz for the eighth and ninth wickets respectively.

  Raja’s unbeaten 117, including 12 fours and a six, powered Pakistan to a formidable 435. Garner bowled with purpose to collect 4/130, with Croft not too far behind with 3/85. In reply, the West Indian openers Roy Fredericks and Gordon Greenidge added 59, but both were back in the hut before stumps on the second day, the score reading 109/2.

  The pace duo of Imran and Sarfraz continued to trouble the hosts early on the third day, and at 183/5, with the key wickets of Vivian Richards and Alvin Kallicharan also taken, Pakistan clearly had the upper hand. One big hurdle however remained to be crossed – the West Indian captain Clive Lloyd, who came in at the fall of the third wicket.

  Lloyd found a willing ally in Murray, and the duo put the Pakistani attack to the sword with a much-needed restabilization job. Lloyd dominated the sixth-wicket stand of 151, unleashing his full range of strokes to lead his team’s fightback. Murray fell to Imran for a composed 52, but Lloyd was not done yet, and added another 70 for the seventh wicket with Garner, who cracked a breezy 43.

  The West Indian innings terminated at 421 with nine men out, as Vanburn Holder was absent hurt. Lloyd finished with a captain’s knock of 157, bedecked with 22 fours and three sixes. With only 14 runs separating the teams, the proceedings of the second innings would be critical to the outcome of the match. Stumps were taken on the third day with Pakistan at 18/0, leading by 32.

       West Indian captain Clive Lloyd rescued his team in the first innings with a commanding knock of 157 (source – gettyimages)

  The fourth day featured plenty of ebbs and flows that promised to set up an exciting fight to the finish. Croft (4/47) removed the Pakistani openers before they caused much damage, but at 102/2, the visitors could scarcely have imagined the mayhem to follow. Roberts (3/66) opened the floodgates by bowling Rasheed, and later added Mushtaq’s scalp to his tally.

  At the other end, Croft’s sustained pace got the better of Iqbal and Miandad, and the Pakistani innings was now in tatters at 113/6, the last four wickets having fallen for just 11 runs. Garner joined the party with two wickets of his own, and the match seemed West Indies’ to lose as Pakistan crashed to 158/9 in the second session, ahead by no more than 172.

  As it happened, Raja proved to be the home team’s bane again. The West Indian fielders, especially the wicketkeeper Murray, did not help themselves with a shoddy display. Raja was dropped four times, and he went on to score 71, the majority of those runs coming in a sensational tenth-wicket stand worth 133 with wicketkeeper Wasim Bari (68).

  This partnership was then the second-highest for the last wicket, and it changed the complexion of this already riveting Test. Murray was guilty of conceding 29 byes, largely contributing to the total of 68 extras, which created a new Test record at that time. The entire match would feature as many as 173 extras, which still stands as the Test record.

  The eventual target for the West Indies was a stiff 306, and matters were further complicated when Greenidge was out to Sarfraz with the score at 12. The hosts began the final day at 41/1, with all four results possible. Fredericks and Richards turned the tide towards their side, as their partnership blossomed to 130 in the opening session, making Pakistan uneasy.

      Colin Croft returned match figures of 7/132 on Test debut. He would go on to take 8/29 in the first innings of the next Test (source – gettyimages)

  Sarfraz did the star turn for the visitors, accounting for both, Fredericks (52) and Richards (92), who were trying to go on the offensive in their quest to make a victory bid. The middle order was severely dented by the pace trio of Sarfraz and Imran, as the West Indian score slipped from 142/1 to 185/5. It was soon becoming an increasingly tough battle of survival for the hosts.

  As if this was not enough, Altaf, the third frontline paceman, brought Pakistan closer to victory by grabbing the wickets of Kallicharan, Garner and Murray within the space of 11 runs. When the eighth wicket fell at 217, the mandatory 20 overs were yet to begin. Roberts and Holder, who was fit to bat now, defied by adding 20 runs in 45 minutes before the latter was cleaned up by Imran.

  Croft came out to join Roberts, with Pakistan one strike away from a crucial lead in the five-Test series. However, the two fast bowlers hung in as the overs went by, ensuring that the final nail in the coffin was not hammered. The West Indies had a narrow escape, ending at 251/9 amid great tension. Roberts consumed 95 minutes for his nine, returning to the pavillion as a saviour.

  Croft (7/132) and Sarfraz (7/204) both finished with seven wickets apiece in the match. This last-gasp draw was perhaps a fitting finish to what had been an absorbing Test match, filled with many a twist in the plot due to noteworthy rescue acts in all four innings. The West Indies took the series 2-1, after winning the deciding final Test at Kingston by 140 runs.

Match Scorecard

Famous Test Matches – India v Australia, Bombay, 1964-65

  India’s first two home series against Australia, in 1956-57 and 1959-60 respectively, had ended in disappointment as they managed to win just once in eight Tests. Their tormentor-in-chief was the legendary leg-spinner Richie Benaud, who snapped up a total of 52 wickets at 18.38 across both the rubbers.

  Thus, Bob Simpson’s Australians embarked on the 1964-65 tour with a view to achieve a hat-trick of series wins in India. Benaud, who had retired after the South African tour in the previous season, was no longer part of the team, but the visitors were fresh from their Ashes-retaining triumph in England. Moreover, Australia had not lost a Test series in the last eight years.

  India were led by the stylish Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, who at the age of 21 years and 77 days had become the youngest ever Test captain during the West Indian tour in 1961-62. The first Test at the Corporation Stadium in Madras saw him score a fine captain’s innings of 128*, but India went down by 139 runs despite holding a first-innings lead of 65.

  There was only a two-day gap for the hosts to formulate their bid to level the series. The second Test began on October 10, 1964 at the iconic Brabourne Stadium in Bombay, a venue where India were yet to lose in 11 Tests. While Australia had form on their side, history favoured India. The stage seemed set for an enthralling contest, and so it proved over the next five days.

  Just after Simpson elected to bat first, India got a slice of fortune as Australia’s assigned number three Norman O’Neill was ruled out of the match due to an upset stomach. The bowlers built on the good news by reducing Australia to 53/3; Salim Durani – the only Test player born in Afghanistan – removed Bill Lawry while Bhagwath Chandrasekhar castled Brian Booth and Simpson.

  Bob Cowper joined Peter Burge in the middle and the two resurrected the innings with a fourth-wicket stand worth 89, before the former was out LBW to the stingy left-arm spinner Rameshchandra ‘Bapu’ Nadkarni, who had taken 11/122 at Madras. Burge, one of Australia’s Ashes heroes, went on to make a boundary-filled 80, an innings that was cut short by Chandu Borde’s leg-spin.

  The loss of the two set batsmen for just four runs meant that Australia were 146/5 at this point and in need of another substantial partnership. Tom Veivers and wicketkeeper Barry Jarman provided just that. It was not until the fag end of the first day that they were separated, when Rusi Surti dismissed Jarman for a spunky, career-best 78, ending a sixth-wicket alliance of 151.

  Having ended the opening day at 301/6, ten-man Australia lost the last three wickets quickly to finish with a total of 320. Veivers became the fourth batsman to fall to Chandrasekhar’s legbreaks and was eighth out for a patient 67. ‘Chandra’ returned neat figures of 4/50. In reply, Alan Connolly gave Australia a perfect start by seeing the back of Dilip Sardesai with the score at seven.

mak-pataudi

       Indian captain Mansoor Ali Khan ‘Tiger’ Pataudi scored twin fifties in the thrilling Bombay Test of 1964-65 (source – sportskeeda.com)

  Simpson put his leg-spin to good use as he had Durani caught behind to make it 30/2. Local lad Vijay Manjrekar, who was born in Bombay but was now playing for Rajasthan in the Ranji Trophy, then gave able support to opener Motganhalli Jaisimha as the duo stitched together a stand of 112 for the third wicket. It was Veivers who produced the breakthrough, bowling Jaisimha for 66.

  Manjrekar followed soon after for 59, also to Veivers. The persistent off-spinning all-rounder was rewarded with two important wickets at a crucial juncture in the match, and India were now 149/4. Pataudi strode out at number six and managed to see off the rest of the day along with Hanumant Singh as India reached 178/4 at stumps.

  Veivers continued from where he left as he got rid of Hanumant early on day three. At the other end, Johnny Martin, a rare chinaman bowler, kept things boiling by accounting for Borde’s wicket. India had stuttered to 188/6 and it was up to Pataudi to take charge from hereon. He responded to the challenge by  dominating a seventh-wicket partnership of 67 with Surti.

  Surti’s loss did not deter the skipper, who looked good for another century when he was caught by Graham McKenzie off Veivers for 86, eighth out with the score at 293. Nadkarni and wicketkeeper Kumar Indrajitsinhji – grand-nephew of the great Ranji – hung around to score valuable runs and stretched India’s total to 341. Veivers collected a career-best 4/68 and bowled as many as 20 maidens.

  India had eked out a lead of 21, narrow but valuable nonetheless, given that they would bat last on a surface conducive to spin. Lawry and Simpson soon wiped off the deficit with an opening stand of 59. Lawry was in good nick and steered Australia to a secure position of 112/1 by the close, with Cowper giving him company. The visitors’ lead was 91 and they had eight wickets in the bank.

  A key moment came on the fourth morning when Chandra took two wickets in successive balls. The talented 19-year-old first had Lawry trapped in front for 68 and then hit the top of off stump with a peach of a delivery to snare the in-form Burge for a duck. However, this double strike at 121 did not hamper Cowper’s focus. He joined forces with Booth to put Australia in the driver’s seat.

  The left-right handed batting pair began to take the game away from the Indians with an ominous partnership of 125 for the fourth-wicket. At 246/3 during the second session, Australia were holding the aces with a lead of 225 and six wickets still in hand. The Test took another turn when Cowper was caught behind off Nadkarni for 81, the top score of the innings.

  Cowper’s wicket opened the floodgates for India as Nadkarni and Chandra tore through the rest of the batting line-up. First-innings saviours Veivers and Jarman were both out without scoring to Chandra. Nadkarni (4/33) grabbed the last three wickets, including that of Booth, who was seventh out, stumped for 74. Chandra (4/73) ended with impressive match figures of 8/123.

  Australia were all out for 274 and their collapse of six for 28 ensured that India’s target was limited to 254. The innings started poorly again, this time thanks to Connolly, who had Jaisimha caught behind for a duck with the score at four. Late in the day, Durani and nightwatchman Nadkarni fell in quick succession, neutralising the second-wicket stand of 66 between Sardesai and Durani.

chandra

       19-year-old leg-spinner Bhagwath Chandrasekhar returned match figures of 8/123 against Australia at the Brabourne Stadium (source – gettyimages)

  The eventful fourth day concluded with India’s score at a wobbly 74/3. The batting order was rejigged with Surti ostensibly sent as another nightwatchman, ahead of the more accomplished batsmen. The final day coincided with the festival of Dussehra, a public holiday, which meant that an estimated crowd of 42,000 thronged to witness the proceedings, hopeful of a famous Indian victory.

  Surti did not last long and perished to Veivers, making the score 99/4. Australian pace spearhead McKenzie, who was the star performer at Madras with a match haul of 10/91, had gone wicketless in the first dig. To India’s worry, he sprung into action at the right time for the visitors. Sardesai, who was looking solid at 56, was struck on the pads by McKenzie; India were now 113/5.

  The spectators were further filled with dismay nine runs later, when Hanumant was bowled by McKenzie. The Test was Australia’s to lose as India limped to 122/6. The hosts were battling against the odds as well – no team had successfully chased down a target of more than 76 in a Test on Indian soil. India’s last four wickets had added 153 in the first innings. Was an encore possible?

  The assured presence of Pataudi and Manjrekar slowly revived Indian hopes, and lunch was taken with the scoreboard reading 146/6. The resilient pair dug deep in the second session, knowing that time was not an issue. Runs were reduced to a trickle. The Australians were not offering any freebies; Veivers in particular kept bowling tirelessly, but a third wicket in the innings eluded him.

  Pataudi and Manjrekar emerged from the post-lunch session unscathed, and managed to guide India to 215/6 at tea. They were now only 39 away from victory, whereas Australia still needed four wickets. As the final act commenced, Simpson’s decision to take the new ball paid off immediately as Connolly had Manjrekar caught at slip by the captain himself.

  At the other end, Pataudi reached his second fifty of the match, but soon after, much to the shock of the crowd, he too fell victim to Connolly, caught at backward point by Burge for 53. India were 224/8, and 30 runs still separated them from victory. Indrajitsinhji came out to join Borde at this stage, with only the teenaged Chandra – a quintessential number eleven – to follow.

  India were privileged to have the experienced Borde – scorer of two Test hundreds – batting for them at number nine. He determinedly set about achieving the target, and the best efforts of McKenzie, Connolly, Veivers and Simpson were not enough to dislodge him. The remaining runs were unwaveringly churned out amid great tension and rising excitement.

  The winning moment arrived when Borde hit a straight drive to the boundary off a full toss from Veivers, sending the packed house into delirium. India reached 256/8 with half an hour left in the game and Borde, unbeaten on 30, returned to the pavillion as a hero. The series was eventually drawn after a stalemate in the deciding third Test at Calcutta.

  This two-wicket win was indeed special for Indian cricket, especially considering that Pataudi’s men had to fight back twice from perilous situations in the second innings. The Indian captain himself played a major role in the stirring victory, and unsurprisingly, mentioned it as ‘the most satisfying I have known as captain’ in his 1969 autobiography Tiger’s Tale.

Match Scorecard

Review – 2016 Test cricket recap

  Test cricket continued to provide indelible moments and arresting performances in a year that saw 47 matches played in the longest format. As many as 40 matches ended in a result, of which 25 were home wins.

Teams Overview

India

  As the year rolled on, India steadily cemented their unbeaten run dating back to August 2015 and are now placed at the top of the Test rankings, a good 15 points clear of the next best side. They have not lost in their last 18 Tests and given their recent exploits, this streak could well be extended further. Their final Test of the year also saw them rack up their highest Test total of 759/7.

  India won more than one Test in a series in the Caribbean for the first time as they took the four-match rubber 2-0. In familiar home environs, they preyed on New Zealand, who were swept 3-0, and England, who could only manage a sole draw before losing four on the trot. Led by the zealous Virat Kohli and served by the talismanic Ravi Ashwin, India were the the team of the year.

Moment to remember: The Anthony D’Mello Trophy was regained in emphatic fashion, as the unrelenting Indians won by an innings and 36 runs in the fourth Test at Mumbai to clinch their first series win over England in eight years.

Moment to forget: In what was a near-perfect year for India, the closest they came to defeat was on the the final day of the Rajkot Test against England, when they lost six wickets in two sessions during the fourth innings.

Australia

  The year began and ended with impressive series wins for Australia – in New Zealand and at home against Pakistan respectively. However, two demoralising defeats in between raised many questions, especially with regard to their batsmen’s capabilities against high-quality bowling, be it spin or swing.

  Australia had lost just once in 26 Tests against Sri Lanka in a span of over three decades stretching back to 1982-83. In 2016, they lost thrice to the Islanders in three weeks. If this 3-0 humbling was not bad enough, they surrendered to South Africa at home, losing the first two Tests. They remained unbeaten in day/night Tests though, beating both South Africa and Pakistan under lights.

Moment to remember: Despite conceding a total of 443/9 in the first innings, Australia produced a great team effort to beat Pakistan by an innings and 18 runs in the Boxing Day Test at Melbourne, thereby securing the series win.

Moment to forget: Under pressure after losing the first Test, Australia’s batting sensationally caved in on the opening day of the second Test against South Africa at Hobart. The hosts crashed to 17/5 before eventually getting bundled out for 85.

India's captain Virat Kohli, second from left, carries a wicket as he celebrates with his team players after their win over England on the fifth day of the fourth cricket test match between India and England in Mumbai, India, Monday, Dec. 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

      Indian players celebrate after winning the fourth Test against England at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai (source – AP photo/rafiq maqbool)

Pakistan

  Pakistan had a healthy diet of overseas fixtures after quite some time, and the results were mixed. A commendable drawn result in England was neutralised by back-to-back reversals in the Antipodes, where they lost four consecutive Tests – two each in New Zealand and Australia.

  In between, they had their only home series of the year in which they beat the West Indies, but not before surviving a scare in the first Test and losing the third. Staying true to their tag of unpredictables, their performances, particularly on the batting front, often swung from the sublime – they came within 39 runs of a world record chase at the Gabba – to the mediocre.

Moment to remember: The momentum was against them after two losses in succession, but Pakistan, guided by Younis Khan’s 218, showed great resolve at The Oval to trounce England by ten wickets and draw the series 2-2.

Moment to forget: A draw was there for the taking for Pakistan on the final day of the second Test at Hamilton, but their batting simply imploded from 158/1 at tea to 230 all out. This series defeat was their first to New Zealand in 32 years.

South Africa

  The Proteas had a lacklustre start to the year, but bounced back in the second half. They lost 2-1 to England at home, with the solitary win coming in the final Test at Centurion, by which time the rubber was lost. Centurion also saw them clinch the short home series against New Zealand, under stand-in captain Faf du Plessis.

  Their big moment came later in the year as they sealed their third successive series victory in Australia. Bereft of star players such as A.B de Villiers and Dale Steyn, South Africa scored memorable wins at Perth and Hobart to win 2-1 under the inspiring leadership of du Plessis, who was deservedly awarded the full-time captaincy after de Villiers resigned from the post.

Moment to remember: Buoyed by a 177-run win in the opening Test at Perth, South Africa went a step further and demolished Australia by an innings and 80 runs before lunch on the fourth day at Hobart to seal the series.

Moment to forget: A manic second-innings collapse at Johannesburg cost South Africa the series against England. Trailing by just ten on the first innings, the hosts were 16/0 at lunch on the third day. Just after tea, they were shot out for 83.

England

  England showed promise at the start of a busy year by bearding the South Africans in their own den, but found themselves ending the year with a run of six defeats in their last eight matches. Following the win in South Africa, they did well at home – outplaying Sri Lanka and settling for a drawn result with Pakistan – before the wheels came off in the subcontinent.

  They suffered their first Test defeat to Bangladesh, with whom they drew the two-match series 1-1. In India, after an encouraging draw, England’s fortunes took a turn for the worse as they were beaten 4-0 – the last two matches were lost by an innings despite them reaching 400 in the first innings, which put the bowling attack as well as Alastair Cook’s captaincy under immense scrutiny.

Moment to remember: A Stuart Broad special gave England a series-winning seven-wicket win in three days against South Africa at Johannesburg. The lanky paceman took 6/17 to help bowl South Africa out for 83 in the second dig.

Moment to forget: While they endured many a travail in India, England’s worst display came in the final session on the third day of the Dhaka Test against Bangladesh, where they lost ten for 64 in just 22.2 overs to crash to a 108-run defeat.

bangladesh-v-england

     The Bangladesh team erupt in joy at Dhaka after beating England in a Test match for the first time (source – theguardian.com)

New Zealand

  The Black Caps could not consolidate on the gains of the past two years and ended the year at sixth place in the Test rankings. Their popular captain Brendon McCullum bid farewell with a record-breaking century in his final Test, but that was not enough to prevent his side from losing both the home Tests against old foes Australia.

  As Kane Williamson took over the reins, an African tour followed. While New Zealand easily beat Zimbabwe 2-0, South Africa proved to be a different kettle of fish . Their most trying time came in India, where they were whitewashed 3-0. An impressive home win against Pakistan gave them a much-needed boost as the year drew to a close.

Moment to remember: New Zealand won their first Test series against Pakistan since 1984-85. An eight-wicket win at Christchurch was followed by the series-clinching 138-run triumph at Hamilton, where they took nine wickets in the last session.

Moment to forget: With the series already lost, New Zealand came into the third Test at Indore hoping to salvage some pride. Instead, they were flattened by 321 runs – their second heaviest defeat in terms of runs.

Sri Lanka

  A series in England beginning in May is never easy for a touring side, and it was no different with the Sri Lankans, who suffered a tame 2-0 defeat in the three-Test series. However, two months later, this seemed like a distant memory as Sri Lanka went on to achieve one of their most glittering Test series wins.

  Having beaten Australia only once in their Test history thus far, Sri Lanka spun them out thrice in a row to complete a memorable whitewash. Wily veteran Rangana Herath led the hosts’ charge by grabbing 28 wickets. Both the Tests in Zimbabwe were won as well, with Herath as stand-in skipper. The year ended with a defeat to South Africa, as they lost the Boxing Day Test at Port Elizabeth.

Moment to remember: The catalyst for Sri Lanka’s eventual whitewash of Australia was a remarkable turnaround in the first Test at Pallekele, where they ended up winning by 106 runs despite being bowled out for 117 o the first day.

Moment to forget: A listless Sri Lanka were thumped by an innings and 88 runs in less than three days at Headingley, with their totals reading 91 and 119 in the first and second innings respectively.

West Indies

  A four-match home series against India presented the West Indies with a chance to redeem themselves, but they failed to win a Test and went down 2-0, stretching their winless run against India to 19 Tests and 15 years. Their best effort of the series came at Kingston, where they salvaged a hard-fought draw despite trailing by 304 on the first innings.

  Not surprisingly, the series against Pakistan in the UAE ended in defeat for the Windies, but they secured a rare win in the third and final Test at Sharjah and also came within 56 runs of victory in the opening match at Dubai. A series win against a higher-ranked team thus remained elusive.

Moment to remember: The West Indies’ five-wicket win at Sharjah was their first in an away Test against a higher-ranked side since 2007-08. Kraigg Brathwaite became the first opener to remain unbeaten in both innings of a Test.

Moment to forget: Needing to win to stay alive in the series, the West Indies were bowled out for 108 after lunch on the final day at Gros Islet to lose by 237 runs. They lost their last seven wickets for just 44 runs.

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      Indian off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin’s consistent all-round performance was a major factor in India maintaining an unbeaten run (source – AP/indiatoday)

Bangladesh

  The Tigers played a mere two Test matches in the entire year, and went without an overseas Test for the second year in succession. Their only series, against England, ended with exultant scenes as they notched their most significant Test win.

  After losing narrowly by 22 runs at Chittagong, Bangladesh grabbed their next opportunity with both hands as they took ten wickets in a session at Dhaka to beat England for the first time in whites and level the series 1-1.

Moment to remember: 19-year-old off-spinner Mehedi Hasan Miraz, playing just his second Test, left England reeling with a match haul of 12/159 as Bangladesh sealed their most memorable Test win at Dhaka by 108 runs.

Moment to forget: It could well have been a series win against England, as Bangladesh fell short by just 22 runs at Chittagong. Requiring 23 with two wickets hand, Ben Stokes struck twice in three balls to break Bangladeshi hearts.

Zimbabwe

  Zimbabwe hosted New Zealand for more than a single Test for the first time since 2005 and Sri Lanka for the first time since 2003-04. However, they could not take advantage of the four home matches as they were defeated by wide margins in each of them. The first Test against Sri Lanka at Harare was their hundredth Test.

Moment to remember: Zimbabwe’s lower order showed admirable grit in recovering from 139/6 to 373 in the first innings against Sri Lanka at Harare, with captain Graeme Cremer scoring 102* from number eight.

Moment to forget: In what was their first day of Test cricket at home in two years, Zimbabwe crashed to 72/8 against New Zealand at Bulawayo, eventually losing by an innings and 117 runs.

Test match of the year

  Bangladesh and England played out an enthralling, see-sawing battle in the first Test at Chittagong. Teenaged debutant Mehedi Hasan Miraz took 6/80 to keep England to 293, to which Bangladesh replied with 248, losing their last six wickets for 27 thanks to a late burst from Ben Stokes.

  England were on the mat at 62/5 in the second innings, before Stokes came to the rescue again with a knock of 85. Chasing 286 for victory, Bangladesh looked good at 227/5. However, they lost their last five wickets for only 36 to give England a 22-run win. Stokes fittingly took two wickets in three balls early on the final day to seal the game.

Test cricketer of the year

  Much of India’s success in the year revolved around Ravichandran Ashwin’s all-round prowess. He was the leading wicket-taker in 2016, with a tally of 72 wickets in 12 Tests at 23.90. If that was not enough, he chipped in with 612 runs at 43.71, justifying his position as the world’s leading Test all-rounder. His return of 13/140 against New Zealand at Indore was a new career high. 

 Ashwin went from strength to strength, starting with a man-of-the-series performance of 235 runs ( including two centuries) and 17 wickets in the West Indies, and then snaring 27 wickets against New Zealand and another 28 wickets as well as scoring 306 runs against England. Reliable with the ball as well as the bat, he has grown to become the most valuable player in the Indian team.

The Cricket Cauldron Test Team of the Year

1) Kraigg Brathwaite (West Indies)
2) Azhar Ali (Pakistan)
3) Joe Root (England)
4) Virat Kohli (India, captain)
5) Steve Smith (Australia)
6) Jonny Bairstow (England)
7) Ravichandran Ashwin (India)
8) Mitchell Starc (Australia)
9) Rangana Herath (Sri Lanka)
10) Neil Wagner (New Zealand)
11) Kagiso Rabada (South Africa)
12) Ben Stokes (England)

  Wishing everyone a happy and prosperous New Year.

Specials – Best of the Tests: New Zealand v Pakistan

  Pakistan’s 13th Test tour of New Zealand is underway, with the first of two Tests having been played at the Hagley Oval in Christchurch. New Zealand has been a happy hunting ground for Pakistani teams over the years – prior to the start of the ongoing series, they have won ten and lost five of the 29 Tests they have played there.

  Overall, the two sides have met 53 times, with Pakistan winning 24 matches to New Zealand’s eight. New Zealand have won only two series against Pakistan, and the latest of them came 32 years ago. In this post, we relive five of the best Test matches played between the two teams, in chronological order.

Third Test, Dunedin, 1984-85

  Pakistan had beaten New Zealand at home in December 1984, and found themselves southbound for a return series the very next month. New Zealand were up 1-0 coming into this final Test of the rubber at Carisbrook. The second Test at Auckland had seen the debut of Wasim Akram, who would go on to become the most successful visiting bowler in New Zealand.

  Pakistan’s first-innings total of 274 was built around a third-wicket stand of 141 between Qasim Umar (96) and captain Javed Miandad (79). The last eight wickets fell for just 33, with Richard Hadlee (6/51) doing the bulk of the damage. 18-year-old Wasim then showed the first glimpse of his fast bowling prowess, taking 5/56 to help bowl New Zealand out for 220.

  Umar top-scored for the visitors in the second dig as well, compiling  a solid 89 that aided in a recovery from 76/4 to 223. Set 278 to win, New Zealand were in disarray at 23/4 as the top order caved in to Wasim. Martin Crowe (84) and Jeremy Coney staged a remarkable comeback, putting on 157 for the fifth wicket.

  Yet, at 228/8, Pakistan were in pole position to level the series. Coney, who remained unbeaten on a lionhearted 111, and Ewan Chatfield however put paid to the visitors’ hopes – they added 50* to script a two-wicket win for their side. Wasim grabbed 5/72 to return a haul of 10/128 and earned the man of the match award. This remains New Zealand’s only series win at home against Pakistan.

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       Waqar Younis (left) and Wasim Akram combined to bowl Pakistan to a sensational win at Hamilton in 1992-93 (source – wellpitched.com)

Only TestHamilton, 1992-93

  A brilliant exhibition of pace bowling handed Pakistan an extraordinary victory in this one-off Test at Seddon Park. New Zealand started on a bright note – they reduced Pakistan to 12/3 after winning the toss. Skipper Miandad came to the rescue with 92, with the eventual total being a respectable 216. Left-arm pacer Murphy Su’a returned a career-best 5/73.

  In reply, the hosts rode on a sedulous century from opener Mark Greatbatch. He showed great application, batting for seven hours in making 133 – more than half of the team total of 264 – and shared in an opening stand of 108 with Blair Hartland. Wasim and Waqar Younis served an appetiser of what was still to come, by sharing seven wickets between them.

  Bolstered by New Zealand’s valuable lead of 48, Danny Morrison (5/41) jolted the top order early on the third day. Inzamam-ul-Haq rose to the challenge, as he uplifted his team from the pits of 39/5 with a pugnacious 75. His partnership with Rashid Latif, worth 80 for the sixth wicket, carried Pakistan to 174. New Zealand faced a routine target of 127 with more than two days left.

  Wasim ensured that the chase had a dicey start, as he pinched three cheap wickets to leave New Zealand at 39/3 at the end of day three. As the fourth day commenced after a rain delay, Andy Jones and Adam Parore battled to take the score to 65/3 before Younis removed the former. Wasim soon sent Parore back, and suddenly the road to the target was looking arduous.

  From that point onward, it was mayhem – Wasim (5/45) and Waqar (5/22) combined to produce a breathtaking effort, rendering the Kiwis helpless with their combative pace and deadly swing. New Zealand lost 7 for 28 to capitulate to 93 all out; Mr. Extras top-scoring with 22. Waqar, playing his 20th Test, also reached the 100-wicket mark wickets during his spell.

Third Test, Christchurch, 1993-94

  Pakistan had already secured the series after comprehensive wins at Auckland and Wellington. The two Ws – Wasim and Waqar – proved to be New Zealand’s nemeses yet again in the first two Tests, bagging 20 and 11 wickets respectively. However, New Zealand salvaged pride at Lancaster Park, achieving a record five-wicket win early on the final day.

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         Bryan Young (left) and Shane Thomson struck maiden centuries in New Zealand’s highest successful run chase, at Christchurch in 1993-94 (source – odt.co.nz)

  Openers Saeed Anwar (69) and Aamir Sohail (60) laid a strong platform for Pakistan by adding 125 runs, before Basit Ali (103) continued the good work, racing to his first and only Test hundred. The visitors accumulated a robust 344 on the board and New Zealand had their task cut out.

  The hosts were going well at 109/1 with Andrew Jones (81) looking in fine fettle, but Waqar, not for the first time, inspired a collapse that gave Pakistan a first-innings cushion of 144. The ‘Burewala Express’ sped to a return of 6/78. Pakistan themselves folded for 179 on the third day, failing to recover from 53/4 despite Basit’s 67. Morrison took 4/66, extending his match analysis to 8/171.

  New Zealand were thus set 324 to win with more than two days still available. Opener Bryan Young dropped anchor at one end, but Pakistan were firm favourites at 133/4. Shane Thomson came in at number six, and went on to share in a match-winning partnership of 154 with Young. Both ultimately reached their maiden Test hundreds.

  While Young was out for 120, Thomson remained unbeaten on the same score, steering New Zealand to their highest successful Test chase. They played contrasting innings – Young batted for nearly seven hours, soaking the pressure, whereas Thomson struck at 72 runs per 100 balls. The duo adeptly negated the threat of Wasim and Waqar and were successful in denying Pakistan a clean sweep.

First Test, Lahore, 1996-97

  New Zealand began the series with a rare success in Pakistan – they had won only once before in the country, which was also at the Gaddafi Stadium, during their first ever series win in 1969-70. Moreover, they ended a barren run of 15 winless Tests – eight defeats and seven draws – over the last two years.

  Wasim, who was now the captain, missed the match due to a shoulder injury and Saeed Anwar took over in his stead. Lee Germon called correctly, but his team’s batsmen could not cope with the low bounce of the pitch. New Zealand crashed to 83/6 and on to 155 all out, with Waqar and leg-spinner Mushtaq Ahmed taking four wickets apiece.

  However, towards of the first day, New Zealand were right back in the contest after having reduced the hosts to 37/5. Medium pacer Simon Doull was the wrecker-in-chief as he made short work of the the top order, eventually ending with figures of 5/46. A spunky 59 from Moin Khan revived the innings to an extent and ensured a narrow lead of 36 for his team.

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     Shane Bond dismisses Mohammad Yousuf caught and bowled at Dunedin in 2009-10. New Zealand won by 32 runs (source – wikiwand.com)

  In the second innings, New Zealand were in a worrying position of 101/5 early on the third day. Ahmed was proving to be difficult to negotiate, until Chris Cairns joined Stephen Fleming. They stitched together 141 for the sixth wicket to turn the game. Fleming scored 92*, while Cairns hit 93 at better than a run a ball. When on seven, Cairns was dropped by Inzamam at gully.

  New Zealand were bowled out for 311, with Ahmed taking 6/84 (10/143 in the match). Chasing 276, Pakistan were on the mat at 46/5 by stumps, which became 60/6 on day four. Debutant Mohammad Wasim gave his side some hope, scoring 109* from number seven. But he could not find enough support and Pakistan lost by 44 runs. Dipak Patel took 4/36 while Doull ended with 8/85 in the match.

First Test, Dunedin, 2009-10

  The University Oval witnessed an exciting Test match that had its share of twists and turns. Pakistan’s pace attack had done well to have New Zealand at 211/6, before Brendon McCullum (78) and captain Daniel Vettori (99) took charge with a seventh-wicket stand worth 164. Earlier, Martin Guptill (60) and Ross Taylor put on 117 for the third wicket.

  These efforts enabled New Zealand to swell their total to 429. Pakistan began poorly in reply, slipping to 85/5 courtesy some fine bowling from speedster Shane Bond (5/107). 19-year-old Umar Akmal, who went on to score a breezy 129 on debut, joined forces with his elder brother Kamran (82) and the pair added a vital 176 for the sixth wicket, boosting Pakistan’s total to 332.

  Pakistan’s pacemen delivered timely blows in the second innings as well, and this time there was no lower-order fightback. Only Taylor (59) showed up as New Zealand were bundled out for 153 early on the final day, thus setting up an interesting chase. Mohammad Asif took 4/43, giving himself 8/151 in the match. Pakistan required 251 for victory.

  Bond and Chris Martin had Pakistan at 24/3 before Umar Akmal (75) put his hand up again. He shared in stands of 71 with captain Mohammad Yousuf for the fourth wicket and 66 with Shoaib Malik for the fifth. But at 195/5, he was caught and bowled by Bond (who had a match haul of 8/153 in what was his last Test). The last five wickets fell for just 23, leaving New Zealand victors by 32 runs.

Specials – Best of the Tests at the Bellerive Oval

  Tasmania got its first taste of Test cricket in December 1989, when Hobart’s Bellerive Oval hosted the second Test between Australia and Sri Lanka. Since then, the ground has been an occasional fixture on the Australian Test calendar, having hosted a total of 12 Tests – four against New Zealand, three each against Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and two against the West Indies.

  Australia’s record at the ground, which is also known as the Blundstone Arena, is impressive – they have won nine games and lost just once. With South Africa – who are making their maiden appearance in Hobart – taking on the hosts in the second Test of their ongoing series, let us look back at five memorable matches played at this venue, in chronological order.

Australia v Sri Lanka, Second Test, 1989-90

  This match marked the Test debut of the Bellerive Oval, which had hosted an ODI each in the previous two seasons. Sri Lanka came into this final Test of the series on the back of a confidence-boosting draw at the Gabba, where they took the first-innings lead thanks Aravinda de Silva’s 167.

  Fast-medium pace bowler Rumesh Ratnayake produced an excellent spell of 6/66 as Australia were bowled out for 224 on the first day after being inserted by Arjuna Ranatunga. No batsman could manage a fifty. Sri Lanka crashed to 18/3 in reply before de Silva (75) joined forces with Roshan Mahanama (85) to share in a stand of 128 for the fourth wicket.

  However, the visitors lost their last six wickets for just 28, thus conceding a narrow lead of eight runs. After an eventful second day, Australia were 25/2 in their second innings and the match seemed to be heading towards an exciting conclusion. But the Australian batsmen had other ideas as they went about piling the runs in right earnest.

  While Mark Taylor (108) and captain Allan Border (85) added 163 for the fourth wicket to put their team in the driver’s seat, Dean Jones (118*) and Steve Waugh (134*) ensured that the innings went into overdrive mode with an unbroken sixth-wicket partnership of 260 at 4.5 an over. The declaration came at 513/5, leaving Sri Lanka with a target of 522.

  Sri Lanka put up a brave fight, but it was never going to be enough. Resuming the final day at 166/3, they were bowled out for 348 in the final session after losing their last four wickets for 16. De Silva, who was rightly named man of the series, starred again with 72, while Ravi Ratnayake top-scored with 75. Merv Hughes led the way for the hosts with 5/88.

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    The Bellerive Oval in Hobart has hosted 12 Test matches since 1989-90, of which Australia have won nine and lost only one (source – abc.net.au)

Australia v New Zealand, Third Test, 1997-98

  Australia had sealed the series with convincing wins at Brisbane and Perth, and nearly made it three out of three at Hobart. In what was a rain-affected Test, Australia totalled 400 after batting first. The cornerstone of the innings was a second-wicket stand of 197 between Matthew Elliott (114) and Greg Blewett (99). Mark Waugh chipped in with 81.

  With the match petering out to a draw, Stephen Fleming dangled the carrot in front of the Australians late on the fourth day. The New Zealand captain declared his team’s first innings at 251/6, in which Matthew Horne (133) was the standout performer with a maiden Test ton. Host captain Mark Taylor himself declared at 138/2 at lunch on the final day.

  Two sessions now remained in the match, with New Zealand needing 288 runs to win and Australia ten wickets. The Kiwis got off to a flyer, with openers Horne and Nathan Astle blasting 72 off 52 balls. It was too good to last though, as the score quickly slid to 95/4. Shane Warne was coming into his own and the visitors thought it wise to give up their victory hopes.

  Adam Parore and Roger Twose had almost steered their team to safety with a seventh-wicket stand of 66, but a final twist was in store. Three wickets fell for six runs and New Zealand had only one wicket in the bank with 38 minutes to play. A whitewash was narrowly averted as the last pair of Simon Doull and Shane O’Connor defied the wiles of Warne (5/88), the innings ending at 223/9.

Australia v Pakistan, Second Test, 1999-00

  After clinching a ten-wicket win in the series opener, Australia looked certain to lose before an amazing last-day fightback from Justin Langer and Adam Gilchrist gave them a famous win. Steve Waugh inserted Pakistan in and his bowlers did not disappoint, limiting the total to 222. Opener Mohammed Wasim made an attacking 91.

  In reply, Australia were in a commanding position at 191/1 with Michael Slater (97) and Langer (59) in ominous form. But Pakistan somehow conjured a comeback, guided by off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq (6/46). Australia were dismissed for 246, losing their last eight wickets for 40.Pakistan then took control of the game with a solid batting display in the second innings.

  Saeed Anwar (78) took charge at the top before Inzamam-ul-Haq (118) and Ijaz Ahmed (82) put on 136 for the fourth wicket. Shane Warne (5/110) bowled impressively, but Pakistan went on to score 392. Australia needed 369 to win the Test and the series, which looked a distant dream when they fell to 126/5 on the fourth evening.

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      Playing only his second Test, Adam Gilchrist smashed 149* off 163 balls to help Australia chase down 369 against Pakistan in 1999-00 (source – yahoocricket)

  They began the final day at 188/5 and Pakistan were well on top. But the overnight batsmen, Langer and Gilchrist, were not deterred and went on to add a record 238 runs for the sixth wicket. While Langer made a solid 127, it was Gilchrist’s assault that jolted Pakistan. The wicket-keeper cracked an unbeaten 149 off 163 balls – a marvellous knock given the situation.

  The Australians eventually reached 369/6 – then the third-highest fourth-innings victory chase – as Pakistan were left to rue their misfortune. There was controversy early on the final morning, when Langer appeared to have been wrongly reprieved following a caught-behind appeal off captain Wasim Akram. Australia went on to sweep the series 3-0.

Australia v Sri Lanka, Second Test, 2007-08

  Australia won the two-Test series 2-0, but not before Sri Lanka made a valiant attempt to chase down a massive target. The home batsmen put the Sri Lankan bowling attack to the sword after winning the toss, amassing 542/5 before Ricky Ponting decided that they had batted enough.

  Opener Phil Jaques struck a career-best 150, and was involved in a third-wicket partnership of 152 with Michael Hussey, who made 132. Michael Clarke, Andrew Symonds and Adam Gilchrist hit brisk fifties to further put Sri Lanka under the pump. Captain Mahela Jayawardene stood up to the task by scoring 104, but his side faced a deficit of 296 after the first innings.

  Australia opted to bat again and galloped to 210/2, declaring before lunch on the fourth day. Marvan Atapattu (80) and Kumar Sangakkara showed resolve in pursuit of an unlikely 507, as they put on 143 for the second wicket. Sangakkara was looking in great touch and ended the day at 109*, Sri Lanka’s score reading 247/3.

  Australia, hungry for their 14th successive Test match win, wrested the initiative on the fifth day, sparking a collapse to send Sri Lanka from 265/3 to 290/8 even as Sangakkara batted on with assurance. The ninth wicket fetched 74 runs, as Sangakkara and Lasith Malinga engaged in an entertaining counterattack.

  Only a poor umpiring decision stopped Sangakkara from reaching his seventh double hundred, as he was adjudged out for a brilliant 192 after the ball deflected from his shoulder and hit the helmet before being snapped in the slips. Sri Lanka were eventually dismissed for 410. Brett Lee, who was named man of the match and series, finished with 4/87, taking his match figures to 8/169.

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     Doug Bracewell celebrates a wicket at Hobart in 2011-12 even as David Warner looks on. New Zealand won a thriller by just seven runs (source – pakistantoday.com.pk)

Australia v New Zealand, Second Test, 2011-12

  Coming into this match, Australia were favourites to take the rubber after an easy nine-wicket win in the first Test. Michael Clarke had no hesitation in putting New Zealand in to bat on a grassy wicket. The hosts’ pace trio of James Pattinson (5/51), Peter Siddle and Mitchell Starc proceeded to destroy New Zealand’s top order – they crashed to 60/6 in the first session itself.

  Dean Brownlie stemmed the rot with a gutsy 56 from number six. He shepherded the tail and was the only one to cross 20. The innings wound up at 150 before the first day ended prematurely due to rain, Australia being 12/1. The second day was again dominated by the bowlers as the Australian batsmen failed to cope with the visiting bowlers’ pace and swing. 

  The batting order imploded as the score slid to 75/7. Chris Martin, Trent Boult and Doug Bracewell took three wickets each. It took a 56-run stand for the eighth wicket between Siddle and Pattinson to revive the final total to 136. With New Zealand leading by just 14, the Test was now akin to a second-dig shootout. They lost their top three with 73 on the board in the second innings.

  Captain Ross Taylor steadied the ship, scoring 56. From 171/4, New Zealand regressed to 226 all out, which left Australia with seven sessions to score 241. By stumps on the third day, openers Phil Hughes and David Warner cruised to 72/0, thus providing the perfect start to the chase. At 159/2 and with Warner and Ricky Ponting in the middle, the game was Australia’s to lose.

  However, 21-year-old Bracewell, playing only his third Test, went on to bowl a game-changing spell. He finished with 6/40, scalping Ponting, Clarke and Michael Hussey – the latter two in successive balls – even as Warner fought on. Three wickets had fallen for no run and the game was wide open. Except for Warner, no batsman crossed 23.

  Another catastrophic slide from 192/5 to 199/9 seemed to be the final blow for the hosts. But Warner, who carried his bat in vain for 123 off 170 balls, and Lyon added 34 to ignite hope among the spectators before Bracewell castled Lyon with tea approaching to script a seven-run win for New Zealand – their first against Australia in 19 years.

Famous Test Matches – India v Australia, Kanpur, 1959-60

  With India’s 500th Test match underway at Green Park in Kanpur, the time is apt to relive a significant result achieved by them at this venue, more than half a century ago. This was the second Test of Australia’s second visit to India; the visitors having won the first Test at Delhi by a massive innings and 127 runs.

  India had never got the better of Australia in nine attempts since 1947-48, and following the humbling at Delhi, the odds were clearly stacked against them coming into this Test, which was played from December 19-24, 1959. Gulabrai Ramchand had taken over the reins of the Indian captaincy for this series.

  Ramchand’s opposite number was Richie Benaud, who had starred at Delhi with a match haul of 8/76 and remained the biggest threat to the Indian camp. India had not won a Test in four years – their latest assignment being a catastrophic 5-0 whitewash in England. A new hero was needed, who eventually turned up in the form of a little-known off-spinner from Ahmedabad.

  Jasubhai Patel had a passable record of ten wickets in four Tests, at an average of 31, and had last played for India more than three years ago. The 35-year-old received a surprise call-up for the Kanpur Test from chairman of selectors Lala Amarnath, who believed that he could pose a considerable threat to the Australians on a newly-laid, spin-friendly surface.

  Openers Pankaj Roy and Nariman ‘Nari’ Contractor sedately added 38 runs after India won a crucial toss. It was not long before Benaud got into the act, however. The leg-spinner dismissed both the opening batsmen, thus initiating a wobble in the Indian batting. India slipped to 77/4 and never recovered from these early setbacks.

  Alan Davidson, the impactful left-arm paceman, dealt vital blows to the middle and lower order, finishing with a neat return of 5/31. Benaud continued his good tour by taking 4/63. India could muster only 152 on the board, and the fact that no batsman crossed 25 underlined the control that Australia’s bowlers maintained throughout the innings.

  Australia, resuming from 23/0, seemed to be moving ahead fast in the game on the second day as their openers Colin McDonald and Gavin Stevens produced a stand of 71. Though Patel removed the latter, the dependable Neil Harvey joined McDonald in the middle and the duo steered their team to a strong position of 128/1 at lunch.

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       Indian off-spinner Jasubhai Patel produced a stunning performance and created new bowling records in the Kanpur Test against Australia in 1959-60 (source – wikipedia.org)

  Patel was made to change ends after lunch, and this had a remarkable effect on his bowling and as a result, on the Australian batting. Exploiting the slow track and the footmarks on it to the fullest, he bamboozled the visitors with generous turn and drift. McDonald (53) and Harvey (51) were both clean bowled, and this was just the beginning.

  At the other end, Chandu Borde sent back Norman O’Neill – the only wicket in the innings that did not fall to Patel. Ken ‘Slasher’ Mackay was struck on the pads for a duck and Australia had now lost 4 for 31 to be 159/5.  Davidson bravely attempted to grind at one end, even as Patel, who had brought India right back in the contest, was running amok at the other.

  Such was Patel’s accuracy that none of the batsmen to ensue were allowed to settle in, and they sooner or later succumbed to his guile. Davidson’s resistance ended when he was the ninth man out, bowled for 41 with the score reading 219. Last man Gordon Rorke was caught by Abbas Ali Baig, restricting Australia to a lead of 67 and giving Patel a nine-wicket haul.

  Patel’s analysis read an astonishing 35.5-16-69-9. He single-handedly destroyed the Australian line-up – only one of his nine wickets was assisted by a fielder’s catch. These were the new best innings figures by an Indian, bettering Subash Gupte’s 9/102 against the West Indies at the same ground a year ago. The record stood until 1998-99, when Anil Kumble collected his famous 10/74.

  The onus to perform now lay on the batsmen if India hoped to nudge ahead in the Test. It was Contractor who rose to the challenge, compiling a fine 74 – his best Test innings according to him – to give India a positive start. With Davidson at his best, this knock provided belief to the rest of the batsmen to tackle his pace and swing.

  When Contractor was caught by Harvey off Davidson, India were 121/3; the lead being 54 and the match tantalisingly poised. Australia appeared to have the upper hand at 153/5, before the Mumbai pair of Borde (44) and Ramnath Kenny (51) put on 61 for the sixth wicket. The tide was slowly shifting towards the hosts.

  An even more crucial partnership followed for the seventh wicket, for which Kenny and Bapu Nadkarni (46) shared 72 runs. The displays of Patel and Contractor had undoubtedly rubbed on to the middle and lower order, leaving Benaud increasingly worried with every passing over.

  The last four wickets however fell for just five runs, as India were bowled out for 291, which was a great improvement from their first innings. Davidson bowled his heart out to return 7/93, giving himself 12/124 for the match – both career-best figures. This match haul is still the best by an Australian bowler against India.

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       Nari Contractor scored 74 in the second innings, a knock that enabled India to bounce back after conceding a 67-run lead (source – thehindu.com)

  Australia’s target of 225 was always going to be a difficult proposition on the wearing, final-day pitch. Patel expectedly struck early, dismissing Stevens with only 12 on the board. Late in the day, Polly Umrigar’s off-spin delivered the important wicket of Harvey, caught by Nadkarni in the slips. Australia ended the fourth day at 59/2.

  Umrigar (4/27) also accounted for O’Neill early on the fifth day, without any addition to the score, before consigning Mackay for his second duck in the match. Australia were now 61/4 and staring at a quick submission to spin. A double disaster occurred with the score at 78, as Patel added the scalps of Davidson and Benaud. This effectively sealed the game.

  McDonald top-scored for his team again, churning out a patient 34 before being the ninth man out at 105, stumped by Naren Tamhane off Patel. This was the final wicket, as Rorke was absent hurt. Patel fittingly had the last say as he finished with 5/55 in the second innings, his match figures being an outstanding 14/124.

  India had astoundingly turned the tables to record a historic win by 119 runs – their first ever against Australia. Patel’s startling recall from the wilderness proved to be a coup de maître. Though this match will always be remembered as ‘Patel’s Test’, one must not forget the invaluable contributions of Contractor, Kenny and Umrigar.

  Patel’s match return was a new Indian record as well, surpassing Vinoo Mankad’s 13/131 against Pakistan at Delhi in 1952-53. It was in turn improved by Narendra Hirwani, who took 16/136 on debut against the West Indies at Chennai in 1987-88. India’s best return against Australia currently is Harbhajan Singh’s 15/217, at Chennai in 2000-01.

  Australia bounced back to win the five-Test series 2-1, thanks to another big win – by an innings and 55 runs – in the fourth Test at Chennai. Benaud led from the front, taking 29 wickets at 19.58. Davidson performed even better, with 29 wickets at 14.86. As for Patel, Kanpur was his only moment in the sun as he never played for India again after this series. 

  Given India’s position in world cricket at that time, the ‘miracle at Kanpur’, as it was christened by the media back then, was a pivotal moment in their cricketing history. Two years later, India won their first series against England under the leadership of Contractor, while a maiden overseas series victory followed in New Zealand in 1967-68.

Match Scorecard