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The 'pair on debut' XI

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Roar Guru
26th November, 2022

Like many other things in cricket; the story of debut pairs in Test cricket started with the Grace family of England.

Fred Grace, one of the three brothers to play in The Oval Test of 1880, bagged a pair in his only Test match, but nevertheless made a small contribution in the England success by taking a difficult catch in the deep to dismiss Aus batter George Bonnor in the first innings.

Following his batting disaster, a greater tragedy fell on him soon as he died of pneumonia aged just 30.

Interestingly the next seven members of this ‘pair on debut’ club all come from South Africa; clearly the new member of Test cricket wasn’t quite ready for it yet. NZ and WI provided the next members – NZ in fact had two players (wicketkeeper Ken James and all-rounder Ted Badcock) who bagged pairs in the historic Christchurch Test.

The trend of new Test-playing nations frequently contributing new members to this club has continued till now.

Before going into my team, I would like to provide some additional information.

Obviously, the list is dominated by the bowlers but some excellent batters have joined it as well. At the moment the list contains 45 members, with all 12 Test-playing nations contributing. Eleven of these players can be considered as ‘one-Test wonders’ (I have included Abdul Malik of Afghanistan, who, at 24, can still look forward to more international cricket).

Gavin Hamilton had a miserable time in his only Test cap for England at Johannesburg in November 1999, but enjoyed greater success in white-ball cricket with Scotland.

Clarence Wimble, South Africa’s first member in the list, played just one Test and two first class matches. Len Butterfield and Gordon Rowe both played their only Test at Wellington against Australia in March 1946, and both found Tiger-Bill too difficult to handle. Of course, at the time they didn’t know that they had ‘achieved’ a Test pair; as the match was awarded Test status retroactively.

Finally, Chris Tremlett of England is the only player to achieve the feat at Lord’s, against India in July, 2007. However, Tremlett, a third generation cricketer, went on to perform well for England with the ball in his 12 Tests, and played a part in England’s reemergence as a major Test-playing nation.

Now, to my team.

Saeed Anwar (Pakistan)

The elegant left-hander from Karachi ended his Test career with a highly respectable batting average of 45 but his debut against the WI at Faisalabad in 1990 was a disaster as he looked hapless against the new ball attack of Curtly Ambrose and Ian Bishop.

Abdul Malik (Afghanistan)

Much was expected of Malik when he made his debut at Abu Dhabi against Zimbabwe in March 2021, but it became a disaster for the opener as he earned the dubious distinction of becoming the first Afghan cricketer to bag a Test pair.

However, he is only 24 and still has plenty of time to build his career as a Test batter.

Marvan Atapattu (Sri Lanka)

He had an abysmal start to his Test career, managing only 1 run in his first six Test innings. Yet, he was ‘rewarded’ with a promotion to the No.3 slot in the batting line-up. But eventually he succeeded as an opening bat.

He always remained a nervous starter, but once settled he was an extremely difficult batsman to dislodge.


Andrew Balbirnie (Ireland)

For Balbirnie, Ireland’s historic Test match against Pak became a nightmare, as he fell victim to the Pakistan medium pacer Mohammad Abbas on both occasions. But he has recovered well from this setback, and his 82 against Afghanistan and 55 against England (at Lord’s) give a paint a more accurate picture of his abilities.

Graham Gooch (England)

Just like Atapattu, Gooch made his Test debut in the middle order, before excelling as an opening bat. He bagged a pair at Edgbaston in 1975, but got a recall during the exodus of key players during the Packer era. He took the opportunity with both hands.

Graham Gooch

Graham Gooch (Photo by Graham Chadwick/EMPICS via Getty Images)

Gulabrai Ramchand (India)

Karachi-born GS Ramchand had a disastrous debut at Headingley in 1952 but eventually emerged as a reliable all-rounder. His right-arm medium pacers often brought his team vital wickets.

He also captained India in the five-Test home series against Richie Benaud’s Australia in 1959-60. It was a difficult time for Indian cricket but the home team fought well before eventually losing 1-2. At Kanpur, India recorded their first-ever Test victory over the mighty Aussies.

Ken James (NZ) (wk)

The first Kiwi wicketkeeper James had a forgettable debut failing to score in either innings. The fact that he only averaged 4.72 with the bat in 11 Tests would suggest that he was a real rabbit with the bat at Test level, but his batting improved considerably after he moved to England to play for the Northants before the outbreak of the war.


Allan Donald (South Africa)

South Africa’s premier fast bowler of the ’90s made an impressive Test debut with the ball at Bridgetown in SA’s return to the Test arena in 1992, but he failed miserably with the bat. In the collapse on the final morning, Donald was the last man out, bowled by Curtly Ambrose for a golden duck.

Alf Valentine (WI)

It was a mixed experience for the Jamaican at Old Trafford in 1950. He excelled with the ball, taking 11 wickets in the match including a career-best 8-104 in the first innings but at the end it was the England spinners Eric Hollies and Bob Berry who ensured a victory for their side.

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Mike Whitney (Australia)

Given a surprise call-up by the tour management, Whitney did okay with the leather, giving good support to Dennis Lillee and Terry Alderman. His first innings saw a seven-ball duck, but in the second innings, he delayed England’s victory celebration by 38 minutes before falling to Bob Willis.


Whitney continued to struggle with the bat in his start-and-stop Test career but his unbeaten 2 at the MCG in December 1987 has become a part of Australian cricket folklore.

Natsai M’shangwe (Zimbabwe)

Natsai is considered a highly capable all-rounder, a leg spinner who can bat a bit. But his Test record seven wickets at 62 and eight runs over four innings in two Tests fail to support that view. And at 31, time is running out fast for him.

12th man: Alamgir Kabir (Bangladesh)

Alamgir Kabir from North Bengal is a classic case of a young player struggling in the big arena playing for an emerging nation. A right-arm medium fast bowler, Kabir, in his three Tests or the Tigers, managed just 8 runs with the bat and failed to take a wicket