By Kanishkaa Balachandran/The Hindu
Test cricket was born on March 15, 1877. We look back at some significant milestones in the game’s longest format.
It all began at the now iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground on March 15, 1877 when Australia took on England for the first ever officially recognised Test match. The first ball was bowled by Alfred Shaw to Charles Bannerman, who scored the first ever Test hundred, with 165. Australia won by 45 runs. The teams played a Test in 1977 at the same ground to mark 100 years of Test cricket. Australia won that game too, by 45 runs. Eerie!
The birth of the Ashes
The oldest and greatest rivalry in Test history was ironically born from an obituary! When Australia beat England narrowly by seven runs at the Oval in London in 1882, a mock obituary appeared in the Sporting Times lamenting the death of English cricket. It added: “The body will be cremated and the Ashes taken to Australia.” The contents of the urn are reputed to be the ashes of a wooden bail used for a Test match in Sydney in 1883.
South Africa say hello, goodbye and hello again
South Africa have a storied history as a Test playing nation. They were welcomed as the third Test team in 1889. However, the South African government’s apartheid policy, and the cricket board’s whites-only policy, caused the team’s isolation from international cricket from 1970. They were readmitted into international cricket only in 1991.
Welcoming the Caribbean Kings
Test cricket welcomed its fourth team, West Indies, in 1928. A composite team from several Caribbean islands toured England. The tourists were beaten in all three Tests.
The Kiwis are on board
Australia’s Trans-Tasman neighbours, New Zealand, became the 5th Test playing nation, in 1930.
On June 25, 1932, India played its first Test match, against England, at Lord’s in 1932. India were captained by CK Nayudu. The game lasted only three days but the Indians put up a fight. England won the one-off game by 158 runs.
In order to counter the mighty Australian batsman Don Bradman, England captain Douglas Jardine came up with a controversial tactic. During the 1932-33 Ashes, he instructed his fast bowlers to bowl bouncers directed at the batsman’s body, with a ring of fielders on the leg side. This tactic, known as “leg theory” was later coined “Bodyline”. Several Australian batsmen suffered serious injuries and the reputation of the “gentleman’s game” took a beating. England won the series, but lost many friends.
The most famous duck of all
Don Bradman was an unstoppable force through his career, notching up hundreds, double-hundreds and even triple-hundreds, for fun. Ironically, his last ever Test innings, in 1948, ended with a duck, bowled second ball by Eric Hollies at the Oval. Needing just four runs for an average of 100, his career ended with an average of 99.94.
Pakistan get on board
Five years after the partition of India in 1947, Test cricket welcomed its next team, Pakistan, in 1952. Pakistan headed across the border to Delhi to mark this historic occasion. Interestingly, their captain, Abdul Kardar, had played for India during the pre-partition era.
Taking all ten
A bowler taking all 10 wickets in a Test innings has happened only twice in 140 years of Test cricket! England offspinner Jim Laker did it against Australia in 1956. Forty three years later, India’s Anil Kumble matched that feat, against Pakistan in Delhi.
It’s a tie!
Only two ties have occured in 140 years of Test cricket. Australia were involved in both. The first was against West Indies in Brisbane,1960 and the second against India in Madras, 1986. On the first occasion, Australia lost their final wicket off a run-out, still needing one run to win. In the second, they benefitted off a controversial lbw appeal.
Make West Indies “grovel” at your own peril
Ahead of West Indies’ tour of England in 1976, England captain Tony Greig made a controversial remark saying he would make West Indies “grovel”. The remark, believed to have had racist undertones, fired up the West Indians. They won the series and it began a long period of world domination in cricket by the Caribbean giants. Between 1980 and 1995, they were undefeated in 29 Test series.
Please welcome Sri Lanka
In 1982, Sri Lanka became the 8th country to play Test cricket. The team, captained by Bandula Warnapura, took on England at the P Sara Oval in Colombo.
The 10,000 mark
In 1987, one of world cricket’s finest opening batsmen, Sunil Gavaskar, became the first to score 10,000 runs in Test cricket. He achieved the feat in Ahmedabad against Pakistan.
Zimbabwe play their first Test
Zimbabwe marked this historic occasion with a Test match against India in Harare in 1992. They didn’t do too badly. They became the first side since Australia in 1876-77 to avoid defeat in their maiden Test.
The genius of Lara
Brian Lara, possibly the greatest ever West Indian batsman, has a few batting masterclasses to his credit. For starters there’s his 375 against England in 1994, breaking the world record for the highest individual score. If that wasn’t enough, ten years later, against the same team at the same venue, he scored 400. Nobody has surpassed that.
Bangladesh make it 10
In 2000, cricket-mad Bangladesh became the tenth Test team. Their neighbours, India, took them on. Incidentally, Bangladesh are currently playing their 100th Test.
India’s Eden miracle
Down 0-1 in the series against Australia, India looked certain to botch the Test match in Kolkata and lose the series. Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman staged a miracle partnership to take the game away from Australia, before Harbhajan Singh pocketed wickets on a gripping final day to hand India a victory.
Murali takes his 800th
Bradman may have missed an average of 100 by a whisker, but Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan ensured his career didn’t end with a similar story. In his final Test, against India in Galle, he was on 799 wickets with India nine down in the second innings. Murali, fittingly claimed that wicket and ended on a neat 800.
Test cricket celebrated a big milestone at the home of cricket, Lord’s, in 2011. The match between India and England was the 2000 th.
Thanks for the memories, Sachin
Perhaps the greatest player of the modern era, Sachin Tendulkar, signed off his international career in 2013. A short Test series was organised at home, against the West Indies, to mark his farewell. The final Test, in his home ground in Mumbai, was also his 200th. He ended his career with 15,921 runs with 51 centuries. His emotional speech marked the end of an era.
(The featured image at the top shows Don Bradman ,the legendary Australian batsman whose career average of 99.94 may never be surpassed)