As we are a few months away from entering a new decade, I’ve been thinking about all the great Test matches that have occurred over the past ten years.
Part 1 will be looking at the great Test matches of 2010.
The annual new year’s Test match at the iconic Sydney Cricket Ground saw one of the greatest comebacks in Australian Test history. Leading 1-0 in the three-match series, Riky Ponting did not hesitate to bat first in order to put Mohammad Yousuf’s men under pressure. Oh boy did that backfire. Only two batsmen from Australia’s top seven reached double figures to send Australia reeling at 7-62. Despite Mitchell Johnson and Nathan Hauritz putting in handy contributions to wag the tail, Australia were bowled out for 127 with seam bowler Mohammad Asif taking 6-41 in the process.
Openers Salman Butt and Imran Farhat put up a solid 109-run opening stand to keep the Aussies under real pressure. The triple-digit scores allowed the likes of Mohammad Yousuf and Umar Akmal to attack the Australian bowlers fearlessly, cruising at 4-277 with a healthy lead of 150 runs. However, Doug ‘The Rug’ Bollinger dug deep and toiled away, taking four of the remaining six Pakistani wickets and bowling them out for 333. Pakistan were leading by a healthy 206 runs.
The pitch seemed to ease up after the demolition Mohammad Asif caused on Day 1, and Shane Watson and Phil Hughes started things very brightly with an opening partnership of 105 runs. Pakistan fought back and removed Watson for 97 – the Aussies were still 47 runs behind with seven wickets remaining.
Michael Clarke and Michael Hussey put up a 58 run partnership to take Australia into the lead, but Clarke’s dismissal brought a collapse, sending Australia spiralling to 8-257 as Danish Kaneria spun a web through the Aussie middle and lower order.
With a lead of only 51, it was up to Peter Siddle and Doug Bollinger to hang around with Michael Hussey to give the bowlers something to defend. And boy did Hussey get support from Siddle. The pair batted for 45.4 overs, adding 123 runs for the ninth wicket before Siddle departed for 38. Bollinger lasted for a solitary ball to leave Hussey stranded on 134 not out.
Australia would need to defend 176 on a turning pitch where Nathan Hauritz would need to deliver, just like Kaneria did for Pakistan, taking a 5-fer.
Pakistan’s openers started their small run chase aggressively before it was cut short by Doug Bollinger, who removed Imran Farhat for 22. Bollinger’s removal of Farhat saw Pakistan lose another two quick wickets, reeling at 3-51. The game was right in the balance and it would need something special from both sides to win it.
Captain Mohammad Yousuf and Umar Akmal battled until tea on Day 4, taking Pakistan to 3-77 – less than 100 runs behind and with seven wickets still in hand.
Nine balls into the third session and Nathan Haurtiz pulled off a great caught and bowled, wincing in pain as Yousuf smashed the ball right back at chest height. Misbah Ul Haq fell to Hauritz’s two balls, and Pakistan were 5-77.
Keeper Kamran Akmal joined his brother Umar at the crease and threatened to take the game away, but Johnson had him caught behind as Pakistan would need 73 runs with only four wickets left in the shed. Hauritz took three of the four remaining wickets while Bollinger removed Umar Akmal on 49. Australia had successfully defended 176.
While Nathan Hauritz had spun Australia to victory with figures of 5-53 in Pakistan’s second innings, Michael Hussey was judged man of the match for his 134, giving Australia a chance of winning the Test. Unfortunately there are allegations that the Test was fixed by a few Pakistani players. However, that should not diminish the effort the Australian players had put in after they were bowled out for 127. Rather, it shows the Australian spirit of never giving up, showcased throughout Australian sport.
Australia 127 (Johnson 38, Asif 6-41) and 381 (Hussey 134*, Kaneria 5-151) beat Pakistan 333 (Butt 71, Bollinger 4-72) and 139 (Umar Akmal 49, Hauritz 5-53) by 36 runs.
After being humiliated in an innings defeat at Nagpur, India were looking to level the two-Test series against Graeme Smith’s South Africa at the historical Eden Gardens. Prior to the Test it seemed there was a tinge of green on the pitch, negating any home advantage, as mentioned in Sachin Tendulkar’s autobiography Playing It My Way.
Electing to bat first, the decision seemed to have backfired when Zaheer Khan bowled Smith for four. Hashim Amla and Alviro Petersen recovered very well from the early setback, with both batsmen scoring centuries at a very fast pace. Khan had Petersen caught behind for 100. Little did the crowd at Kolkata know that the rest of day one would go India’s way. From 1-218, South Africa somehow collapsed to 296 all out as no-one bar the two centurions for South Africa had scored 20.
Virender Sehwag took the attack to the Proteas attack before Gautam Gambhir was run out for 25 and Murali Vijay nicked off to AB de Villiers for seven, leaving India to just settle down and bat long instead of slogging.
Tendulkar and Sehwag put up a 249-run partnership for the third wicket, but both batsmen dismissals saw India go from 2-331 to 5-336. Nightwatchman Amit Mishra held on for the rest of Day 2 before being dismissed for a quickfire 28 early on Day 3. Captain MS Dhoni battled with VVS Laxman as the pair put up a 259-run stand in 65.4 overs, leading to India declaring at 6-643 while Dhoni and Laxman scored 132 not out and 142 not out respectively.
India was leading by 347 runs with almost seven sessions to bowl out South Africa towards an innings victory or chase down a small total.
Smith, Petersen and Jacques Kallis were all dismissed in the 20s, but rain and bad light led to only 35 overs being bowled throughout South Africa’s innings for the remainder of Day 3 and whole of Day 4. The match was most likely turning into a draw or an India victory. Overnight batsmen Amla and Ashwell Prince dug deep in the first session of Day 5 before Harbhajan Singh had Prince caught at mid-on and De Villiers was trapped LBW by Mishra as the Proteas were 5-170 at lunch.
Singh was on song with the ball post-lunch, trapping JP Duminy and Dale Steyn, leaving the Proteas at 7-180 after 78 overs. Wayne Parnell toiled hard and supported Amla, who seemed to be running out of partners. Ishant Sharma provided the crucial breakthrough, taking Parnell’s wicket before getting Paul Harris to nick off to third slip.
South Africa were 9-264 and needed to bat 22.1 overs to draw the Test and win the series 1-0. Morne Morkel worked his arse off alongside Amla, defending most balls and putting away the rare bad balls bowled by the Indian bowlers. With ten balls to go, Harbhajan Singh had Morkel LBW, sparking wild celebrations from the Indian dressing room, the players and the fans as India levelled the series and retained their No. 1 Test ranking.
Despite Amla and the South African tail’s heroic efforts to draw the Test and win the series, Harbhajan Singh had found a way under pressure, bowling 48.3 overs with impressive figures of 5-59.
South Africa 296 (Amla 114, Khan 4-90) and 290 (Amla 123*, Singh 5-59) lost to India 6-643 declared (Sehwag 165, Morkel 2-115).
This was the Test of the year. From a draw being the most likely result, both sides had their moments as one somehow held their nerve in a thriller. On a typical Mohali pitch, which would be good for batting for the first three days before it would deteriorate on the last two days, Ricky Ponting did not hesitate to bat first.
Zaheer Khan struck early with the new ball, removing Simon Katich for six. Ponting and Shane Watson never looked out of touch, leaving the Indian bowlers struggling for answers as to their removal. The second-wicket partnership came to a halt when Suresh Raina ran Ponting out for 71.
Michael Clarke and Michael Hussey got starts but failed to convert them into bigger scores as the game was evenly poised on Day 1, Australia 5-222. Shane Watson added another 25 runs to his overnight score as the all-rounder was dismissed for an impressive 126 by Harbhajan Singh. Mitch Johnson, Nathan Hauritz and Ben Hilfenhaus stuck around with Tim Paine to help him score his maiden Test ton but fell eight runs short edging to second slip.
Australia batted for more than five sessions and were bowled out for 428, with Zaheer Khan the pick of the Indian bowlers with a five-fer.
Virender Sehwag got India to a flyer, as he has done on many occasions, but was dismissed late on Day 2 for 59 as India were 2-110 at stumps. Nightwatchman Ishant Sharma was the first man dismissed on Day 3 after battling for 18 overs before master blaster Sachin Tendulkar took to the crease. Half-centuries from Rahul Dravid, Tendulkar and Raina saw India in a comfortable position late on Day 3 at 5-382, but the loss of captain MS Dhoni for 14 saw a late flurry of wickets in the final hour of Day 3 as India collapsed to 405 at stumps.
Watson and Katich started very aggressively and their intent was clear: to get the Aussies to a lead of 300-plus and have a crack at India on Day 5. Ishant Sharma had provided the breakthrough India required, bowling Watson for 56 as Australia lost their first wicket on 87. Sharma would cause havoc as Ponting and Clarke were both dismissed for four runs, Australia 3-96.
Katich and Hussey put up a partnership of 42 before Ojha dismissed the Western Australian for 37. Singh and Ojha spun a web through the Australian middle order before Khan polished off the tail. Australia went from 0-87 to 192 all out, needing to defend 216.
Hilfenhaus provided Australia with the perfect start, trapping Gautam Gambhir for a four-ball duck. Dravid, Sehwag and Raina would follow at the hands of Hilfenhaus and Doug Bollinger. Khan came in as a nightwatchman and saw off the last few overs of Day 4 with Tendulkar as India were 4-55 at stumps. Khan would be the first man dismissed on Day 5 as Hauritz had him caught at first slip – India 5-76.
Enter VVS Laxman. Nursing a sore back, Laxman batted with a runner. Tendulkar and Laxman put up a 43-run partnership, threatening to win the Test themselves. However, Bollinger had other ideas, getting the key Indian wicket of Tendulkar. Dhoni didn’t do himself any favours as he ran himself out and Bollinger removed Harbhajan Singh for two as India looked down and out at 8-124.
The Aussies could sniff victory, but what would happen next was unexpected.
Ishant Sharma put a high price on his wicket, contributing 31 runs in the 81-run stand he had with Laxman. Hilfenhaus had him trapped LBW after his patient 92-ball knock, and India were 9-205. The tension could be felt in both dressing rooms and the crowd.
With six runs required for victory, Laxman completely lost it at last man Ojha for not taking a run when his runner Raina had run halfway down the pitch. Mitch Johnson thought he had Ojha LBW but it was given not out. To rub salt into the wound, substitute fielder Steve Smith fired a throw at the stumps, missed it and the ball raced away for four overthrows.
Two balls later, the ball thumped into Ojha’s pad and was running off to fine leg. India had run two and had won from a very precarious position.
In 2001 Laxman had stamped his name on the Indian Test team with a fine knock of 281 against a world-class Australian attack to beat the Aussies after they’d enforced a follow-on. This time he would torment Australia once again, even with a sore back. His 73 not out is his second-greatest Test innings after his 281.
But Ishant Sharma’s knock shouldn’t be forgotten either. To date he averages less than ten with the bat in Test cricket, but he has always fought out tough situations as a nightwatchman and as a tail-ender when the chips were down. His 31 at Mohali will forever be his greatest Test knock.
Australia 428 (Watson 126, Khan 5-94) and 192 (Watson 56, Sharma 3-34) lost to India 405 (Tendulkar 98, Johnson 5-64) and 9-216 (Laxman 73*, Hilfenhaus 4-57) by one wicket.