Since the arrival of T20 cricket, the traditional fervor of test cricket had starting diminishing and this lost its impact to the point that watching test cricket has become irksome task. The longest format’s roots can be traced back to the nineteenth century. Test cricket has retained its traditional spice in England and Australia but in sub continent the situation is very dismal. However rather than talking about discrepancies of this format, let us relive the greatest moments that the test cricket had offered us over the course of time. Well it is rightly said that the test cricket is the ultimate test of the cricketer’s technique, skill and temperament. Even though T20 can have greater entertainment and fun but it can never have the amount of trauma, emotions, jubilation, endurance and passion that is feature of the five day cricket.
#1. Australia vs. West Indies in 1999 at Kensington oval Barbados
West Indies is a proud cricketing nation and perhaps no other country has given to the game as much as the West Indies had. In 1999 Kangaroos toured the West Indies for complete tour and this tour witnessed one of the memorable test mach owing to the brilliance from the Brian Lara. The series was level at 1-1 and in third match, Aussies won the toss and elected to bat first with Steve Waugh lead from the front and scored 199 against the bowling line up which contained the iconic pair of Walsh and Ambrose.
Australia after scoring 490, struck early with the ball and West Indies were reeling at 98-6 but the partnership between Sherwin Campbell and Ridley Jacobs kept West Indies in the game. After getting bowled out for 329, West Indies were left with the deficit of 161 runs. That’s when the great Caribbean duo comprising of Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose stood up and delivered the goods and they had done so often in the past and restricted Aussies to the 2nd innings total of mere 146 runs. West Indies needed to chase 308 runs in the 4th innings because of the 1st innings deficit. Chasing in the 4th innings has always been a daunting task and when the opposition’s arsenal contains the giants like McGrath and Warne, it becomes doubly difficult. But fortunately for West Indies, in the time of crisis they could always look up to one man for inspiration and that was none other than the Caribbean batting king Brian Charles Lara.
After a decent opening partnership of 72 runs, West Indies left wanted at 105-5 with 203 runs still left and only 5 wickets in hand. It was time for Brian Lara to step to the occasion and he demonstrated that why he is the best in the business. He played fearless cricket and took on the likes of McGrath and was not afraid of coming down the track against Shane Warne. With the support from Jimmy Adams at the other end, Lara brought West Indies back in to the contention. However wickets continued to tumble from the other end. West Indies lost their 8th wicket at 248 with 60 runs still left. Lara took West Indies single handedly near to the course when Ambrose got out with 6 runs still to get. Courtney Walsh walked in as number 11 batsman but fortunately he was able to defend the 4 balls of Gillespie’s over before Lara could seize the moment for West Indies and they won by 1 wicket with Lara remaining undefeated at 153 and was fittingly called man of the match.
2. Pakistan VS India at Chennai 1999
India Pakistan cricket has always been the ultimate block buster and when the two countries have not played a test match against each other for a decade then the occasion can be marked as a historic one. The arch rivals locked horns against each other in the closing years of 20th century when Pakistan toured India for a bilateral series for the first time since 1987. The excitement was like never seen before and the opening fixture was in South India in Chennai. The players had to keep their cool not because of the blistering temperature of Chennai but due to tradition hype of playing against the arch rival and getting attention and expectations from all quarters.
Wasim Akram called the coin correctly and opted to bat on the pitch which was by no means conducive for fasting bowlers. But despite the benign batting conditions Pakistan lost half their side for 91. Partnership between Muhammad Yousuf and Moin Khan took Pakistan to the 1st innings total of 238 but it was by no means a comfortable position to be in considering the strong batting line up of India.
As Indian innings unfolded, contrary to expected assault from Wasim and Waqar, it was the wily off spinner Saqlain Mushtaq who did the real damage. He wonderfully disguised Sachin Tendulkar with his doosra and picked him up for duck. His five wicket haul in the 1st innings kept Pakistan in the game and India was dismissed for 254 which contained skill of Ganguly and perseverance of Dravid. In the 2nd innings Pakistan’s top order showed lot of promise with Afridi getting 100 but the lower order collapsed again and Pakistan ended up with the second inning s lead of 270 runs.
It was obvious that 270 won’t be an easy total to chase on Chennai wicket which was turning more and more as the game went by. India’s chase didn’t start well as both the openers Ramesh and Laxman were picked up early in the piece by Waqar Younis. The game was perfectly set up for the final day with India needing 231 runs to win and Pakistan needing 8 wickets. The entire sub continent held its breadth and the pressure was immense. Pakistan struck early in the final day and India were at 82-5. Only Sachin Tendulkar was standing between Pakistan and victory and he was batting with the expectations of a billion people on his shoulder. But he truly explained the meaning of the phrase “cometh the hour, cometh the man”. He stood firm and determined against Wasim, Waqar and Saqlain and smashed them to all corners of the ground. He was supported brilliantly by Nayan Mongia. Tendulkar reached his 100 and was looking unstoppable. He took India mighty close to the victory. India still needed 17 runs with 4 wickets in hand. But Sachin was trapped again by Saqlain’s doosra and he was dismissed at a score of 138. It was one of the greatest innings he had played but he was not able to finish the game. The game had reached its climax and the tension was as high as it could have been.
But Saqlain and Wasim were too good for Indian tail enders and took rest of the 4 wickets for just 4 runs and clinched the memorable win. Saqlain completed the fifor in the 2nd innings as well and ended up with 10 wickets in the match. The Chennai crowd showed a great and very unlikely gesture by giving a standing ovation to the Pakistan team and hence cricket won in the end.
#3. England vs. West Indies at Lords in 2000
In the summer of 2000, West Indies toured England and the 2nd test match of the series played at the home of cricket turned out to be a nail biter.
England won the toss and put West Indies in to bat to make use of the typical Lords wicket which always does a bit on the first day. West Indies managed to put 267 runs on the board with Campbell and Wavell Hinds getting half century each. In response, English batting display was a letdown and the innings was wrapped up at 134 due to destructive bowling from West Indian pair of Walsh and Ambrose as both took 4 wickets each.
From this point onwards, the drama began to unfold and adrenaline started pumping. West Indian batting was taken to the cleaners in the 2nd innings as the whole team got out on meager total of 54. Andrew Caddick was the star bowler for England, picking up 5 wickets for 16 runs.
Chasing a total of 188, England were 119-2 when things started to happen and they were in a spot of bother at 149-7. But thanks to the Darren Gough heroics with the bat England were able to sneak through with 2 wickets to spare.
#4. India vs. Australia 2001 at Kolkata
This match can be defined as the turning point in the history of the Indian cricket. A match from where India was no shyer of being aggressive. The match was being played in Kolkata and Aussies were as ruthless as ever.
Australia after winning the toss opted to bat first and the captain Steve Waugh led from the front and scored 110 unbeaten runs and his side putting up 445 runs. But the highlight of the innings was a guy from Chandigarh called Harbhajan Singh. He became the first Indian to pick a hat-trick in test cricket by picking Ponting, Gilchrist and Warne in successive deliveries. In response India fell down like house of cards and was not able to avoid follow on.
Smelling the blood, Aussies went for the kill and enforced follow on. India came out to bat for the 2nd time and things were not looking very rosy. But then came the most breadth taking and scintillating partnership between VVS Laxman and the wall Rahul Dravid. The partnership was worth 376 runs with Laxman scoring 281 and Dravid with his solid 180. This turn of events put India in a mighty strong position as they were able to set a target of 384 runs to chase on the final day of the match.
Indians came out to defend the total oozing with confidence. Even the mighty Australians were not able to sustain the pressure of Indian bowling and the fanatic Eden Gardens crowd. Indian bowler made sure that they do not let the efforts of the batsman to go in vain. Bowling out Australia for 212 and completing the victory by 171 runs. This was only the third time since 1877 that a team was able to win the match after being enforced follow on. No doubt that this game will be written in history books as day of resurrection of Indian cricket and also the beginning of legacy of the captain Sourav Ganguly.
#5. Pakistan vs. Australia 2002 Sharjah
As you have seen that the games featuring in this article have turned out to be a nail biter in one way or the other. But this game is far away from being anything close to that.
Australia as we know were at their ruthless best in 2002 and Pakistan has always been a mercurial side. And when these two teams met in a test match at neutral venue at Sharja in 2002, it turned out to be a memorable in its own way.
Pakistani skipper Waqar Younis opted to bat first under the blistering sun at Sharja. But what followed next was an absolute disaster and the unpredictability tag associated with Pakistan team got solidified. Pakistan were bowled out on an embarrassing 1st innings score of 59 and none of the batsman was able to show resistance against strong yet playable Aussie attack.
But unfortunately, the story did not end here as Aussies came out to bowl again on 2nd day after getting dismissed for 310. This time around the batting display was even more pathetic from Pakistan side as Aussies penetrated the fragile batting line up and dismissed them for mere 53 to complete the humiliation for the hosts by defeating them by an innings and 198 runs within two days.
#6. West Indies vs. Australia 2003
Well I guess Aussies have got a knack of appearing again and again in iconic test matches and this is very understandable as Aussies are known for setting up the highest standards in the game.
This is another classic which happened in 2003 and was a recap of 1999 fixture between the two sides. St John’s Park at Antigua was the venue.
After winning the toss, Australia managed to put 240 on the board. West Indies were able to negate Australia any lead and managed to equalize the 1st innings total. In 2nd innings, brisk and dynamic partnership between Langer and Hayden, Aussies were able to set a mountain for West Indies to climb.
The target was 418 runs and no team had ever chased this much in the 4th innings of test match. But thanks to the determination and solidity of Chanderpaul and Sarwan, West Indies were able to pull out a miracle and they created the history by chasing 418.
#7. Australia vs. England in 2005 at Birmingham
England had not won the Ashes series since 17 years and 2005 was the year for the change of fortunes for England. England as usual was hammered in the 1st test at Lords and it looked very unlikely that the 2nd game at Edgbaston would be any different. But the pendulum swung big time. England being put into bat by Ricky Ponting got off to a solid start thanks to Trescothick and Strauss. Even though there was a wobble in the afternoon but the blistering partnership between Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen was the reason England was able to put 400 runs on the board in the single day. England bowled with consistency and patience in the first innings and was able to dismiss Australia for 308 runs to have an advantage of 99 runs.
The 2nd innings of England was not as impressive as the earlier one but never the less they were able to set the target of 282 for the Kangaroos due to floridity of Flintoff.
Chasing 282, Aussies had a decent start but once again Flintoff came to the party and bowled a devastating over picking up both Langer and Ponting. From there, the game turned towards England and Aussies kept on losing wickets and ended the day 3 with 175-8 needing 107 runs with 2 wickets in hand. It appeared that that England would wrap up the tail quickly but there jubilation was soon to be turn into agony as Warne and Lee were determined to fight their heart out. Warne lost it when the score was 220 and in waked Michael Kasprowicz. But the game was not over yet and Lee and Mcgrath ensured that they took the game to the wire. There partnership of 60 runs took Australia to 280-9 needing just 2 runs for victory and it looked as if England had missed another opportunity to down the Aussies but Steven Harmison from somewhere was able to gather all his courage to bowl one in the ribs of Kasprowicz and win the closest test match ever with 1 run. The euphoria was obvious in England and Flintoff was named man of the match for his heroics with both bat and ball.
#8. Sri Lanka vs. England in 2014 at Leeds
Sri Lanka had never won the test series in the England and 2014 was the year when the jinx was going to be broken forever. After the narrow escape in the 1st test match, Sri Lanka was all up for the challenge in the 2nd test match at Headingly Leeds.
After dismissing Sri Lanka for 257 in 1st innings, England was able to take a healthy lead of 108 runs in the 1st innings. This meant that Sri Lankans had to bat out of their skins in order to chase set up a demanding total for England to chase. So they did and their captain Angelo Mathews lead from the front and scored 160. Sri Lanka finished at 457 runs and gave England a total of 350 runs.
Given the amount of time left in the match, England was playing for draw and was able to drag the match in the final moments. It was very anxious time for the hosts and the number 11 batsman was in. The game was in the last over and England needed to survive 6 more balls. Unfortunately for England, Moin Ali was at non strikers end and hence James Anderson had to face the music. Eranga was able to bang in a short and Anderson could not keep it down and was caught at backward square.
Sri Lankan team was euphoric about the result and with this win; they completed their 1st ever seires win in England.