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Opinion

The combined Test team of match winners

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Roar Guru
12th May, 2021
12

As in my previous articles on ‘combined’ Test teams, only one slot is allocated for each Test-playing nation. The criteria are simple: to be considered for this team the player must make a significant contribution in his side’s maiden Test victory.

In most Test victories the bowlers play a significant part. Here to keep the balance of my team, I had to overlook some match-winning bowling efforts from Tom Kendall (Aus), Fazal Mahmood (Pak), Baron Constantine (WI), Heathstreak (Zim) and others.

Given that this article is about historic achievements, it’s quite appropriate that we start with the man, who made the opening day of Test history virtually his own.

Cricket balls

(Credit: Wolliwoo/CC BY-NC 2.0)

Charles Bannerman (Aus): (MCG, March 1877): The Kent-born NSW opener faced the first ball in Test history, scored the first run, was probably the first man to be dropped while batting in a Test match.

He certainly was the first man to score a Test 50, 100 or 150 – and he was the first man to retire hurt; certainly an eventful time for the 25-year-old.

His 165* remained a Test record before Billy Murdoch’s double ton at the Oval in 1884; but his record of scoring 67.34 of his team’s first innings total of 245 still remains intact.

No other Australian batsmen scored more than 20 runs in an innings in the match; and despite Bannerman’s first innings heroics, on the fourth afternoon it seemed that the tourists were heading for an easy victory.

They needed only 154 runs to win, but left arm medium pacer Tom Kendall from Victoria took 7- 55 as the hosts won by 45 runs.

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The Englishmen played a part in their own downfall by enjoying a rather sumptuous lunch prior to their second innings batting; anticipating an easy run chase to victory.

Nazar Mohammad (Pak): (Lucknow, Oct 1952): From Melbourne to Lucknow, in north western India. The second Test match of the 1952-53 series saw the Pak boys create history. They bounced back from their heavy defeat in the first Test, by inflicting an innings defeat on their neighbors.

Fazal Mahmood, the medium pacer from Lahore, who had earlier turned down an offer to tour Aus in 1947-48 because he had already decided that his cricket future lied with Pakistan – not India – was the bowling hero here with figures of 5-52 and 7-42.

But it was the batting of Nazar Mohammad, also from Lahore, that had made sure that Fazal’s effort didn’t get wasted.

He opened the innings with the teenager Hanif Mohammad, and when the Pak innings ended after eight and a half hour of batting; he was still their unbeaten on 124.

The value of his innings can be judged more properly if we consider the fact that the next highest score was only 41.

There were lots of starts and stops in the Pak innings; but at one end Nazar remained unperturbed.

This was his only Test series; a domestic accident ended his cricket career rather abruptly. Pakistan had to wait another 26 years for their next Test success against India. And Nazar’s son, Mudassar Nazar, played a part in that success with the ball on the final afternoon.

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Rahmat Shah (Afg) (Dehra Dun, March 2019): While Rashid Khan and Co. restricted the Irish batting, it was Rahmat Shah who held the Afghan batting together in both innings. First his 98 helped the Afghan’s take a significant first innings lead.

He seemed to be on course to become the first Afghan century maker in Tests; but then on 98 he became a victim of the nervous 90s; he was bowled by Tim Murtagh as he attempted an angular bat shot and only managed to drag the ball on to his stumps.

Undaunted, he played a measured knock of 76 in the second innings. On a turning track, the Afghan target of 147 looked a bit tricky initially; but Rahmat Shah led them to a seven wicket win.

At Chittagong, in Sep. 2019, Rahmat Shah eventually became the first Afghan to score a Test ton as his `102 on the opening day led to another impressive victory for his side.

George Headley (WI) : (Georgetown , Feb. 1930): While the inclusion of Rahmat Shah at the no.3 slot may raise a few eyebrows; no one I presume would question this inclusion.

The Panama-born Jamaican right hander, the first great Test batsman to emerge from the Windies; was at his majestic best scoring 114 and 112. Admittedly, it wasn’t the strongest England team he was playing against, but the magnitude of his efforts still remains great.

Apart from Headley, opener Cliff Roach (209 in the first innings) and all-rounder Learie Constantine (9 wickets in the match) played significant roles in the 289 run victory for the home side.

Back to Headley, after the four Tests of this series his Test average stood at 87.87. This was a few months before the ‘Bradman Summer’ in England.

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Andy Flower (Zim): (Harare, Feb 1995): The Flower brothers were part of the Zim team even before their country becoming a full member of ICC, and it was quite appropriate that they would play a significant role in their victory over Pakistan.

The brothers’ 269 run fourth wicket stand helped the home side recover from 3-42; and while Grant scored a patient 201*, Andy was adjudged the MOM for his more aggressive 156. Grant’s batting gave the Zim innings the required solidarity; it was the aggression of Andy that gave the first suggestions that the home side was not here just to play a for a draw.

Guy Whittall also scored a ton, as the home side declared on 4-544. Then Heathstreak’s nine wicket in the match, combined with some indiscreet batting by the Pak batters resulted in an innings victory for the hosts.

Vinoo Mankad (Ind): (Madras, Feb 1952): For me, this was an obvious pick. The Jamnagar born all-rounder played a big part in first five victories in Indian Test history. He scored more than 500 runs and took more than 40 wickets in these Tests.

At Chennai, he did most of the damage during the Eng first innings. A painfully slow effort by the Englishmen saw them score 266 runs from 122.5 overs with Vinoo taking 8-55. None of the Englishmen had any clue on how to handle him.

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The Indian batting at the time was a bit fragile; but here, the opener Pankaj Roy scored an uncharacteristic aggressive hundred to give India the initiative.

Polly Umrigar, with an unbeaten hundred, consolidated India’s position. After that, Vinoo and Ghulam Ahmed, the Hyderabad off spinner, took four wickets apiece as England suffered an innings defeat.

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