“Test cricket is like a main course and will always be. The other versions are like starters and desserts. If you asked 10 cricketers, I wouldn’t be surprised if 8 say that Test cricket is on top, then comes the rest”, the God of cricket Sachin Tendulkar came up with these wonderful lines on Test Cricket, the purest form of cricket.
Cricket purists around the world keep an eye on their television screens as the action unfolds over the course of five days. Advancements in the formats have been a regular part in the cricketing world, with the arrival of new formats such as T10 and the 100-ball game, the focus on Test cricket has decreased.
The five-day format produces emotions like no other, one session, your team is on top, dominating the proceedings. Three sessions later, your team is succumbing to the pressure from the opposition, there have been instances where teams have come from behind to make exceptional comebacks in Tests. We all remember India’s 2001 Kolkata triumph, don’t we?
On this note, let us take a look at five greatest comebacks in the history of Test Cricket.
#5 Australia v Pakistan, Sydney, 2010
The Sydney Cricket Ground(SCG), cold winds were blowing across the ground as the sun was missing out from the action, the cloud cover was on as the Australians won the toss and elected to bat first on a green pitch, a pitch which would assist the pacers. Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Sami had the new red cherry in hand, Phillip Hughes and Shane Watson were up against the lethal Pakistani duo.
Sami dismissed the top three batsmen as Asif ran through the middle and the lower order. Asif ended with figures of 6 for 41 as Australia were dismissed for 127. Pakistan responded wonderfully as the openers added 109 runs for the first wicket, Pakistan scored 333 as Salman Butt top scored with 71.
In their second innings, Australia scored 381 as Michael Hussey showed immaculate resilience, all-rounder Watson fell short of his hundred as Gul had the better of him. Pakistan was chasing a modest total of 176, a win seemed evident but Australia’s Nathan Hauritz and Johnson had other plans as they dismissed the visitors for 139, Australia won the game by 36 runs as Hussey won the man of the match award.
#4 England v Australia, Leeds, 1981
This game is known as Botham’s Ashes test, a match where Australia dominated proceedings for the most part of the game, an Australian win seemed inevitable in this game but England’s Ian Botham had other plans. Australia scored a massive total of 401 after batting first, England in their first innings were all-out for 174.
Following on, at 135 for seven still 92 behind, England seemed to be down and out. Ian Botham had no plans of giving up, he smashed 149, with help from bowlers Graham Dilley, Chris Old, and Bob Willis, leaving Australia 130 to knock off. But Willis was magnificent on the day, his eight for 43 carried England to an improbable 18-run win, it was only the second time in tests that a team following on had won the game.
#3 England v India, Lord’s, 2014
One of India’s most famous victories, India batted first on a pitch which seemed green and had assistance for the pacers. England’s dangerous bowling line-up was led by James Anderson as he scalped four wickets, India was dismissed on 295 as Ajinkya Rahane showed promise to register himself on the Lord’s honors board.
England in reply were bundled out for 319 as Bhuvneshwar Kumar picked up 6 wickets. With a 24-run deficit, India had to post a strong total on the board and with Vijay’s help, they were able to do the needful. Vijay top scored with 95 as Jadeja and Bhuvi scored half-centuries to guide India to 342.
The target for England was 319. The Indian bowlers reduced the English side to 72 for 4 before Moeen Ali and Joe Root stitched a partnership together. Ali was dismissed on the stroke of tea, what followed was chaos for England. After tea, Ishant Sharma started attacking the batsmen with bouncers.
Runs were flowing as the commentators criticized Dhoni’s approach. Root pulled one to the deep as Binny held on to the catch, Sharma created havoc with his bouncers as he scalped 7 for 74, India won a game at Lord’s after 28 years.
#2 Bangladesh v England, Dhaka, 2016
England was touring Bangladesh for a two-match test series. The visitors had defeated Bangladesh in the first test. In the second test at Dhaka, Bangladesh batted first, England’s Moeen Ali did the trick as England bundled out the hosts for a mere total of 220.
Bangladesh’s bowlers responded well as Mehidy Hasan scalped 6 wickets to dismiss England for 244 with Root top scoring with 56. The lead for England was only 24 but the psychological pressure was on Bangladesh, in their second innings they were dismissed for 296 as Adil Rashid picked up 4 wickets.
England had to chase 273 to win the series. Duckett and Cook started in fine fashion as the duo added 100 in 23 overs. Bangladesh looked out of sorts as Mehidy came to the fore picking up 6 wickets for 77. England was dismissed for 164 as Bangladesh levelled the series 1-1.
#1 India v Australia, Kolkata, 2001
The most obvious choice in the list. Australia, led by Steve Waugh were unbeaten for 16 successive tests. Australia batted first and scored a humungous total of 445, McGrath gave India the early blows as they were dismissed for 171 in their first innings. Now, India had to follow on with a deficit of 274.
India lost 4 wickets for 232 as Rahul Dravid joined VVS Laxman in the middle, history was being written as the spectators clapped on every run. Dravid and Laxman batted together as Australia failed to pick up a single wicket on day 4. Dravid scored 180 as Laxman scored 281. The Aussies had to chase 384 to win the game.
Time was on Australia’s side as they looked to play for the draw but the Turbanator Harbhajan Singh spun the bowl as the Aussies were left clueless. Bhajji picked up six wickets, including a hattrick as Australia was bundled out for 212. Tendulkar picked 3 wickets which pushed the Kangaroos to the back foot.
This, to date, is the best comeback that Test Cricket has ever witnessed.