Who said Test matches are boring?
West Indies’ 1-wicket victory against Pakistan and India’s comeback at Lord’s have added another couple of great matches in our memory banks. We have seen some exhilarating Test cricket in the past couple of years.
If there was ever any doubt on the quality of Test cricket, here are 12 matches that have revived Test cricket in the past 4 years.
1. Pakistan tour of West Indies, 2017 (3rd Test)
Result/ Scorecard: Pakistan won by 101 runs
Match Summary: Pakistan: 376 & 174/8 declared; West Indies: 247 & 202
Player of the Match: Roston Chase
After 95 overs of resistance, with only 7 balls to go for a valiant draw, Shannon Gabriel heaves Yasir Shah and gets bowled. Roston Chase stranded on 101* (239) after batting for an epic 366 minutes. Strategic stroke or brain fade from Gabriel?
“Got him! Why did he do that? Unbelievable.” You can watch the magic moment here.
Pakistan’s first ever series win on West Indian soil as they claim the the series 2-1. Misbah-ul-Haq & Younis Khan retire in style in this famous “Mis-You” series.Embed from Getty Images
2. Australia tour of UAE, 2018 (1st Test)
Result/ Scorecard: Match Drawn
Match Summary: Pakistan: 482 & 181/6 declared; Australia: 202 & 362/8
Player of the Match: Usman Khawaja
In their first innings, Australia had collapsed from 161-1 to 202-10. In the second innings, they had 462 runs to chase or 140 overs to bat. And 140 overs they batted. The man of the hour was Usman Khawaja – 85 (175) & 141 (302), batting for a total of 766 minutes (around 13 hours) to give Australia one of their most savored draws.
“It was assumed that Australia would lose that Test match. What Australia was looking for…was a test of character” – Amazon Prime The Test
This was Australia’s first true moral victory since Steve Smith & David Warner were banned. Usman Khawaja had never truly solidified his place in the Australian XI, but this innings ensured his career would always be remembered due to this legendary knock.Embed from Getty Images
3. Sri Lanka Tour of South Africa, 2019 (1st Test)
Result/ Scorecard: Sri Lanka won by 1 wicket
Match Summary: South Africa: 235 & 259; Sri Lanka: 191 & 304/9
Player of the Match: Kusal Perera
In a mammoth chase of 304, Sri Lanka were struggling at 110/5. What followed was a knock for the ages. Kusal Perera hit a miraculous 153* (200) with 12 sixes & 5 fours. The last wicket partnership between Perera & Vishwa Fernando was 78*, with only 6* (27) coming from Fernando’s bat.
“He’s done it! He absolutely does it. One of the greatest see from a Sri Lankan outside Sri Lanka…What a historical day at Durban.” Watch the winning moment here, a contender for the greatest Test match innings of all time.
Sri Lanka go on to win the series 2-0. First time an Asian team won a Test series in South Africa.Embed from Getty Images
4. Ashes 2019 (Entire Series)Embed from Getty Images
Match Summary: Australia: 179 & 246; England: 67 & 362/9
Player of the Match: Ben Stokes
Despite being a wonderful series to watch all around, the thunder was stolen by Ben Stokes’ 135*, Jack Leach’s glasses, Nathan Lyon’s run out opportunity, and Tim Paine’s missed DRS review. A 76* (62) partnership for the final wicket. Oohs & Aahs. Reverse sweeps, scoops, and hoicks. Just a great day to be a cricket fan. One of the greatest innings of all time.
“Cut away. Cut away for 4. What an innings. What a player. Take a bow Ben Stokes. The Ashes well and truly alive because of one cricketer & that cricketer is Benjamin Stokes.” (Nasser Hussain) Entire Day 5 minute highlights
This series had so many moments. Stuart Broad 23 wickets & dismissed Warner 7 times. Steve Smith’s legendary masterclass was breathtaking. 774 runs, 3 tons, 3 fifties, best of 211, 110.57 average. Jofra Archer’s Test debut, Smith’s concussion, and Marnus Labuschagne’s entrance as cricket’s first concussion substitute—353 runs, 4 fifties at 51.00. Not a bad start, I say. Ideal beginning for the World Test Championship, a 2-2 Ashes series.Embed from Getty Images
5. West Indies Tour of England 2020 (1st Test)
Result/Scorecard: West Indies won by 4 wickets
Match Summary: England: 204 & 313; Sri Lanka: 318 & 200/6
Player of the Match: Shannon Gabriel
It was a Test match that went all the way to session 3 of Day 5, which became a common theme for Test matches post the COVID break. After Shannon Gabriel’s 9-fer & #1 all-round Jason Holder had given West Indies the advantage, they characteristically lost it on the final day. The Windies had collapsed for 27/3 in a chase of 200. Then an inspirational 95 by Jermaine Blackwood 2.0 brought WI back with the supporting cast of a hobbling John Campbell & the engine room—Roston Chase, Shane Dowrich, and Jason Holder.
Commentary/Winning Moment (None other than than Ian Bishop)
“Victory for the West Indies. A most significant moment for Jason Holder and his team. Great credit to their skill, their commitment. The West Indian people and world credit owes them a great debt…” Commentary Video
The coronavirus had hit and ravaged the world. Worldwide lockdown was in-effect and sports had closed its doors for months. Thanks to the West Indies & England cricket boards, players, the support staff, & essential works, cricket made a comeback via bio-bubbles.Embed from Getty Images
6. Pakistan Tour of New Zealand, 2020-21 (2nd Test)
Result/Scorecard: New Zealand won by 101 runs
Match Summary: New Zealand: 431 & 180/5 declared; Pakistan: 318 & 200/6
Player of the Match: Kane Williamson
With a chase of 373 at hand in tough New Zealand conditions, Pakistan were 4/2 at tea on Day 4. One of those one-sided home victories for New Zealand again? Not this time. Not with Fawad Alam. With support from the ever dependable trio Azhar Ali, Mohammad Rizwan, and Faheed Ashraf, Alam scored 102 over 6 and a half hours. Yet a Pakistan-esque collapsed followed after surviving 123.3 overs. Pakistan lost with only 4.4 overs to go. What a jumping catch by Santner as well for the last wicke.t. The drama.
“[Catch it] Oh he’s done it. He’s pulled a hander! Mitchell Santner has done it! Mitchell Santner has finished the game for New Zealand. Look at the scenes!” Commentary Video
Last match of the decade. Turning point for Test cricket. Brilliant rearguard effort despite the loss. And Fawad Alam. What a story. Dropped after 3 Tests despite scoring a 168 on debut. Criticized for scoring hard, ugly runs with a weird stance. Left out for a decade. . Grinded in domestic cricket. Runs after runs. Till he could be ignored no more. Has now scored 4 hundreds since his comeback. Patience is, indeed, the key to success.Embed from Getty Images
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7. India Tours of Australia, 2018/19, 2020/21 (Border-Gavaskar Trophy)
Match Summary: Australia: 369 & 294; England: 336 & 329/7 (4th Test, Brisbane).
Player of the Match: Rishabh Pant
Player of the Series: Pat Cummins
India had won the 2018 series 2-1 on the back of Pujara’s toil – 521 (1258). Could they repeat the magic in 2021 with Warner & Smith?
It began with the 36 All-Out at Adelaide. Spectacular bowling performance from Australia. Then Rahane’s century & calm captaincy rejuvenated India at Melbourne. Show of resilience and immense mental strength followed from Vihari-Ashwin after the Pujara-Pant show to secure a draw in Sydney. Finally the young brigade breached the Gabba Fortress. Shubman Gill, Shardul Thakur, Washington Sundar, Mohammad Siraj, and Rishabh Pant the stars.
“Pujara, to a younger generation is just a curiosity. As the game moves more and more towards T20, which is the modern savior of our game, the word resilience starts to go out because there is no time for resilience. ” – Harsha Bhogle on Pujara in Amazon Prime’s The Test
The 2018 victory was the first instance an Asian team has won a Test series in Australia. The 2021 series? Arguably the best Test series since Ashes 2005—This series had everything—bowling excellence, centuries, youngsters, experience, banter, sledging, draws, collapses, and chases. Even with a so-called injured ‘third string,’ squad, whenever India were down, they came back with new hope & stars.Embed from Getty Images
8. England Tour of Sri Lanka 2021 (1st Test)
Result/Scorecard: England won by 7 wickets
Match Summary: Sri Lanka: 135 & 359; England: 421 & 76/3
Player of the Match: Joe Root
The Joe Root Vs Lasith Embuldeniya series. On paper, does not look too close, but the 1st Test was actually engrossing to watch. In chase of 74, England were 14/3 with Joe Root run out (the only way he can get out these days). Jonny Bairstow & Dan Lawrence took England home but the tension was high. 4 innings, 446 runs for Root, 15 wickets for Embuldeniya. Individual brilliance.
“Massive, massive. This is massive. England in a spot of bother.” (After Root’s dismissal) Commentary Video
Start of Root’s magical year; English fan stranded in Galle cheers from the fort; England won the series 2-0 to extend their overseas winning streak to 5 after they had won 3-1 in South Africa earlier. They would win another in Chennai before Axar Patel decimated England’s subcontinental dreams. (England had also won the 2018 tour of Sri Lanka 3-0 in this same timeframe).Embed from Getty Images
9. West Indies Tour of Bangladesh 2021 (1st Test)
Result/Scorecard: West Indies won by 3 wickets
Match Summary: Bangladesh: 430 & 223/8 declared; West Indies: 259 & 395/7
Player of the Match: Kyle Mayers
Imagine that you are not sending your 1st XI to Bangladesh, a spin-heavy nation that has had an impeccable record in the past 5 years. No expectations before hand. Bangladesh would have been happy with their effort with centuries from Mehidy Hasan Miraz & Mominul Haque. They even declared in the second innings.
A successful chase of 395 runs followed in 127.3 overs with two debutants, Kyle Mayers (40 & 210*) & Nkrumah Bonner (86) sealing it for the West Indies with a remarkable partnership of 216 runs. Fourth innings match-winning double century on debut in the subcontinent. Wow.
Commentary/Winning Moment (Ian Bishop Again)
“A win to warm the hearts of every West Indian wherever you are in the world! New heroes have emerged from the ashes..” Commentary Video
West Indies won the series 2-0 in Bangladesh with a depleted squad. The greatest chase of all-time?Embed from Getty Images
10. World Test Championship Final 2021
Result/Scorecard: New Zealand won by 8 wickets
Match Summary: India: 217 & 170; New Zealand: 249 & 140/2
Player of the Match: Kyle Jamieson
Under difficult batting conditions and rain all around, both teams fought it out till the very end. The WTC Final was expected to be a boring draw two rains and bad light. Instead, it became a thriller that went deep into Day 6, final session. With a chase of 139, Latham-Conway had departed to spin trial by R Ashwin. Reversed DRS decision, maidens, and a dropped catch later. At 44/2, anything could have happened the way Ashwin was bowling. When the time came, the experienced duo Kane Williamson & Ross Taylor came together, soaked in the pressure, and after took New Zealand home safely.
Commentary/Winning Moment (Ian Bishop Again)
First major victory for Kiwis in an ICC event. BJ Watling retires on a high, Taylor-Williamson finish, Jamieson shines, 6th Day finish, rain—what else do you need?Embed from Getty Images
11. Pakistan Tour of West Indies 2021 (1st Test)
- Memorable Moment: Kemar Roach & understudy Jayden Seales seal a 1-wicket victory in a tense finish; Both teams with a chance of victory at the end of the fourth session
Result/Scorecard: West Indies won by 1 wicket
Match Summary: Pakistan: 217 & 203; West Indies: 253 & 168/9
Player of the Match: Jayden Seales
168 target. West Indies collapse to 16/3. After a classic 55 by Jermaine Blackwood, West Indies slip to 114/7. Pakistan needed 3 wickets. West Indies 54 runs. Then Kemar Roach came to the party and had to the take the responsibility of ‘batting with the tail.‘. Roach’s 30* and a valiant 17-run partnership between the mentor-protege pair, Roach-Jayden Seales guided West Indies to a memorable 1-wicket victory.
Commentary/Winning Moment (Ian Bishop Screaming)
Embed from Getty Images
12. India Tour of England 2021 (2nd Test)
Result/Scorecard: India won by 151 runs
Match Summary: India: 217 & 203; England: 253 & 168/9
Player of the Match: KL Rahul
Day 5, All Results possible. England Favorites. India, not known for their tailender run-machines, unleash Mohammad Shami (56*) & Jasprit Bumrah (34*). 89* partnership as India declared with 2 sessions to go. Then, the pacers fire in unison as India wreck England for 120.
“Unbelievable performance from India. They were up against it. England were favorites coming into Day 5. Kohli an his men have turned it all around.” Commentary Video
Victory at Lord’s. Another display of fighting it out and not giving up for Team India. Australia tour was not a fluke. This Indian team is on the rise.Embed from Getty Images
Why Are We Seeing Close Test Matches So Frequently?
For an away team to win a Test match, it takes an immense amount of effort and equal amount of fightback from the home team. Hence, winning an away Test usually means going deep into the 4th of 5th Day, which makes for an interesting viewing. On the other hand, home team in friendly bowling conditions mean Test matches can end within 3-4 days (even 2 days).
More away victories or draws means more close Test matches.
What do you remember about Test cricket in the 2010s? Mitchell Johnson 2013, the advent of the Day-Night Test, Smith-Warner saga, South Africa’s blockathon in Delhi, and excellence from the South African team, Dale Steyn, Anderson-Broad, Boult-Southee, Starc-Hazlewood-Lyon-Cummins, Jadeja-Ashwin, Virat Kohli, Joe Root, Steve Smith, and Kane Williamson.
Above all, though, I remember disproportionate margins by which home teams won. India losing in England 0-4 (with RP Singh flying from Miami due to excessive injury list) & Australia 0-4 (2011). India came back to England with 1-3 (2014), and 1-4 (2018). Their record in South Africa and New Zealand, remains disastrous till today. England and Australia were either swept apart or struggled to make a mark in India or Bangladesh. Meanwhile, Pakistan had made UAE their fortress under Misbah-ul-Haq.
Post the 2010-12 England generation (think Alastair Cook Ashes 2010 & England victory 2-1 in India), except for South Africa, no other team seemed competitive overseas. Only Faf du Plessis’ Adelaide debut & England’s defiance via Matt Prior against New Zealand (2013) stretched to the end of Day 5.
From the list above, we can see that the tide is finally turning. Even in England’s disaster tour of India earlier this year (1-3), they won the first Test in Chennai.
Rise of Away Wins, Sporting Declarations, and Pakistan/West Indies
So why have we seen a resurgence of overseas victory?
It can be attributed to 4 factors – (1) Increase depth in cricket teams in general, (2) sporting declarations (#1, #2, #5, #8), (3) captains like Virat Kohli focusing their resources and energy on Test cricket, (4) the rise of the West Indies/Pakistan.
One might argue that West Indies still have a dismal Test record. However, we can see that they made it in this list 3 times. They have definitely become a competitive force under Jason Holder although consistency is now needed. ‘Second tier Test’ teams like West Indies, Pakistan, Bangladesh, South Africa and Sri Lanka punching above their weights and winning overseas matches adds to the excitement (A Relegation-Promotion System in the World Test Championship might help out).
Anyway, here is to more great Test matches. Yes, live audience in Test cricket is decreasing and overkill of cricket/new formats might threaten Test Cricket, but as long as the cricket is good, Test matches will remain alive.
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© Copyright @Nitesh Mathur and Broken Cricket Dreams, 2021. Originally published on 08/27/2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Broken Cricket Dreams with appropriate and specific direction to the original content (i.e. linked to the exact post/article).