Hail Test Cricket: 5 Modern Day Classics (Part – 1)
Test cricket turns 2000 as India take on England at Lords next week. The oldest format of the game carries on with its unparalleled legacy and reaches a monumental landmark in a time where Twenty20 rules the roost. So to mark this great occasion and celebrate test cricket, here’s a look back at five of best test matches during the past 15 years.
The Epic Heartbreak
This was the first test match between India and Pakistan after 9 long years. Played amidst massive security, after Hindu extremist vandalized the Delhi pitch and forced BCCI to shifted venue from Delhi to Chennai, the talk after the match was more about enthralling cricket and Sachin’s heroics rather than politics.
After winning the toss and choosing to bat,Pakistan, aided by half centuries from Yousuf Youhana and Moin Khan could only manage 238 in their first innings and were bowled out at the end of the first day. But they fought back valiantly to restricted India to 254 on the second day with Saqlain taking a five wicket haul and Afridi chipping in with three wickets .Both Dravid and Ganguly scored fifties and gave Indian a narrow lead of 16 runs before they were all out. The third day belonged to Shahid Afridi-the batsman, whose blistering 141 threatened to take the match away from India’s grasp. But Venkatesh Prasad’s best ever bowling performance engineered the most sensational collapse’s which sunk Pakistan from 275 for 4 to 286 all out.India were left chasing a target of 271 on a deteriorating Chennai wicket with two days of cricket still left. A see-saw contest for first three days made sure that a fascinating climax was on the cards.
Needing 271 to win and odds highly against them, India, were soon left tottering at 82 for 5 with Sachin Tendulkar and Nayan Mongia at the crease. With severe back pains and a jam packed Chidambaram Stadium to deal with, Tendulkar along with some stubborn resistance by Mongia structured a resilient fight back and put India back on course for a victory. Soon, Sachin reached one of his finest hundreds ever and Mongia reached a rumbustious half century. Sachin’s hundred was one of the best test innings ever merely because of the quality of Pakistan bowlers and the severe back pains he had to face during the course of his innings.
But when just 53 were left for a famous win, Mongia lost his head, and lost his wicket. Left with just the tail, Sachin tried to push hard for a win and started playing some aggressive strokes. When just 17 were left for a victory, Sachin tried to loft Saqlain for a six but was caught on the boundary by Wasim Akram. This opened the flood gates for a Pakistan win and they quickly claimed the last four wickets Indian wickets for just 4 runs and won the match by 12 runs.
The Chennai crowd, although heartbroken, rose up and gave a rousing ovation to the Pakistan team who then took a lap of honor around the ground. It was test cricket at its intriguing best where although the home team lost,but Cricket won in the end.
A Carribean Classic
This was the third test of the Frank-Worrell Trophy between Australia and West Indies played at Bridgetown, Barbados. After being thumped in the first test, West Indies, lifted by Lara’s brilliant double hundred at Jamaica went on to win the second test and level the series. This set up a fascinating third test, and in the end, the match certainly lived up as a thrilling nerve jangling contest.
After a shaky beginning, Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting led Australia to 490 in their first innings with Waugh scoring a brilliant 199 and Ponting scoring 104.West Indies replied poorly in their first innings and were reduced 98 for 6 before lunch on the third day. But their innings was resurrected by a superb 153 run stand between Sherwin Campbell and Ridley Jacob with both scoring a century and a half century respectively and avoiding the follow-on in the process. After Campbell got out, the lower order batted resolutely and propelled West Indies to a respectable score of 329. Trailing by 161 runs, West Indies, led by a brilliant 5 wicket haul by Courtney Walsh, fought back strongly to dismiss Australia to a meager 146 in their second innings. This meant that West Indies had to score 308 to register a win and take a 2-1 lead in the four test series.
West Indies began their chase well with a 72 run opening stand. But accurate bowling by Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespe meant that they were soon reduced to 105 for 5. At that time, victory seemed certain
for Australia. But Brain Charles Lara had other ideas. He stood like a rock between Australia and a chance to take an unassailable lead in the series. He along with Jimmy Adams put on a solid sixth wicket stand and brought West Indies closer to an unlikely win. Lara batted with astonishing skills and daring and kept on dominating the Australian attack with his aggressive stroke play. He went on to score arguably one of his greatest hundreds ever not only because of the situation his team was in, but also because of the quality of the opposition.
When 70 were left for a win, McGrath dismissed Adams and quickly followed it up with two more wickets. But Ambrose showed great resolve, and along with Lara took the West Indies total to 302. With just 6 left for a win, Ambrose got out to Gillespe and therefore Walsh, the last man, was exposed. Under great drama, Walsh repelled five McGrath deliveries and his each forward defensive strokes followed a great roar from the crowd. In the next over, Lara played his trade mark cover drive for four off Gillespe and got a famous 1 wicket win for his team.
The following day, The Daily Nation in Barbados headlined this as the Match of the Century . Steve Waugh described it as the greatest Test he had ever played in. Test cricket was never as thrilling as it was that day in Barbados.