Lowest Test totals of the 21st Century

1st Test: South Africa v Pakistan Day 4
South Africa ran through Pakistan

Cricket has always been about a contest between bat and ball and it still is, even though the advantage has shifted towards the batsmen with heavier bats, flatter pitches, and smaller boundaries. However, that was not always the case.

In the earlier years, when the practice of covering the pitches was not a norm, pitches would often be spicy and favour the bowlers. There have been 6 totals of 40 or less in Test Cricket, and all of them came in the first 402 Test Matches. In the 88 years since there has been no total less than 40 over 1908 Test matches.

Given the shift in the balance between bat and ball, it is rare to see bowlers completely annihilate a batting order. But even in the era were scores in excess of 400 are being achieved in ODIs, there have been teams who have struggled to get past 40 in Test Matches on some occasions.

Here are the 5 lowest Test Totals observed in the 21st century.

#5 Pakistan 49 all-out vs South Africa, 2013

Having bowled out South Africa for 253, and finished on 6 without losing a wicket on the 1st day of the series, Pakistan would have been pretty upbeat that February evening. Little did they know what Dale Steyn had in store for them the next day.

In his very first over of the day, Steyn got the ball to move away after pitching and found the outside edge of Mohammad Hafeez's blade. 9/1. The first ball of his next over, he had one come in and pinned Nasir Jamshed in front. 12/2. The very same over, Steyn got the ball to swing a mile and had Younis Khan edge one to the slips. 12/3. Pakistan's nightmare had begun.

Misbah walked out to accompany Azhar Ali, and the pair added 24 runs in 83 balls, stemming the rot. But once Kallis got rid of Azhar Ali with a snorter, the floodgates opened up once again. 36/4. Kallis returned in his next over to send Misbah packing and Philander picked up a brace in the next over with two pretty wide deliveries. 39/7.

Steyn returned after lunch and struck with the very second ball of his spell. Another outside edge, another wicket. 40/8. The first ball of his next over, he had his fifth. Caught behind once again. 41/9.

A streaky outside edge to the fence was followed by a short-ball being hammered past mid-off in the next over of Philander. Those two boundaries meant that Pakistan were now 5 runs away from avoiding the follow-on. But then, they had to either see a Steyn over through or get them off him.

The very first ball once again, Steyn produced an edge that was gobbled up in the slips. 49 all-out. Dale Steyn's figures read 8.1-6-8-6.

#4 Australia 47 all-out vs South Africa, 2011

South Africa v Australia - 1st Test: Day 2
Vernon Philander was at his artistic best at Cape Town.

A masterclass from Michael Clarke, who finished on 151, helped Australia, who had been put into bat first on a pitch that aided the pacers, to a respectable 284. Their own pacers then strode out and blew South Africa away for 96, with Ryan Harris and Shane Watson sharing 9 wickets between themselves.

Australia were running away with the Test, but, they ran into the debutant, Vernon Philander. Steyn got the first breakthrough in the very first over of the innings, nailing Shane Watson with a fuller delivery. 4/1. Philander halfway into his third over brought one in and wrapped Ricky Ponting on the pads in front of the wicket. 11/2.

Morne Morkel replaced Steyn after the latter had bowled just three overs, and struck twice in his first over, sending back Hughes and Hussey. 13/4. Next over, Philander got the big fish, Michael Clarke, leg before wicket for just 2. 15/5. In his next over, he had Haddin nick one to the 'keeper. 18/6.

From the other end, Morkel got Harris to give Captain Smith some slip catching practice. 21/7. Philander added two more to his kitty in the next over and Australia were 9 down in the 12th over. 21/9. New Zealand's world record total- all of 26 runs, made in 1930, was in danger of being obliterated.

Some brazen pyrotechnics from Siddle and Lyon helped Australia avoid the biggest embarrassment of all as they more than doubled Australia's score before Steyn returned to end the sorry tale. 47 all-out.

South Africa returned to bat that very evening making it only the third instance of a part of all four innings of a Test being played on the same day.

#3 West Indies 47 all-out vs England, 2004

Stephen Harmison West Indies
Stephen Harmison rocked the Windies at Kingston

The first Test of the 4-match series between West Indies and England was turning out to be a closely contested game. England had been bowled out in the final session of Day 3 for 339, with a lead of just 28. The Windies had all the reasons to be upbeat for, at one stage, it had looked England would get more.

But, the giant figure of Steve Harmison loomed over them. The openers managed to see the first half an hour of the new ball off, before old Stevie struck, prising out Gayle. 13/1. In his next over he had Sarwan, and in the next Chanderpaul. 15/3.

The bulk of the Windies batting backbone was gone. Only Lara remained. And Hoggard knocked him over in the next over. 16/4. Hoggard soon got Dwayne Smith too, and it was only in the 19th over that the first bowling change was brought in.

Simon Jones replaced Hoggard, but Steve Harmison chugged on like a tireless workhorse. He ended the resistance offered by Ridley Jacobs in his 11th over and two balls later sent back Tino Best. 41/7. Jones got the better of Hinds, and Harmison cleaned up the tail to bowl the West Indies out for 47, setting England 20 to win in what had once been a closely contested Test Match.

Steve Harmison had bowled 12 and a half overs on the trot and his figures read 12.3-8-12-7.

#2 New Zealand 45 all-out vs South Africa, 2013

Vernon Philander was at it again at Cape Town

Cape Town again. South Africa again. Vernon Philander again. Brendon Mccullum won the toss and elected to bat. His team's batting line-up had been under fire recently, and he wanted them to get the first use of the pitch and settle into the game. He was about to find out soon how wrong he was.

Philander made the best of the early morning help and prised out Guptill in his first over with one that left the right-hander. 7/1. A couple of overs later, he had the captain cleaned up with one that came in. Four balls later, Brownlie edged one from Philander to the slips. 14/3.

The brittle Kiwi batting was grasping for breath 20 minutes into the Test. Next over, Philander made it 4, trapping a young Kane Williamson leg before. 27/4. It seemed like Philander would knock off a wicket every over as he sent Watling back with an unplayable outswinger. Watling had to play at it, and could only manage an edge. 27/5. Philander had all the five.

Morkel then got into the act, removing Franklin, before Dale Steyn cleaned up Doug Bracewell for his 300th Test scalp. 31/7. Morkel and Steyn then proceeded to wipe out the tail, bowling out New Zealand in the very first session of the Test.

#1 Bangladesh 43 all-out vs West Indies, 2018

Kemar Roach was too hot for Bangladesh to handle

West Indies won the toss and put the visitors in first on a grassy track at North Sound. Bangladesh had always been poor travellers, but this was a new age Bangladesh side resplendent with belief. They were up against a team that was struggling, both on the outside and on the inside. This was supposed to be a good face off.

Sadly for Bangladesh, and not so for the West Indies, Kemar Roach decided to dismiss any such presumptions. From ball one, he went full and attacked the stumps of the Bangladeshi batsmen. In his second over, he cut through Liton Das' defences, almost finding the inside edge. In his next, he found the outside edge of Tamim Iqbal's bat. First blood. 10/1.

Next over, he pitched one up again, inviting a drive, and inciting an edge. 16/2. In his next, he made it three in as many overs, trapping the seasoned Mushfiqur Rahim in front for naught. 18/3. Two balls later, he had the world's number one all-rounder edge one to the slip cordon. Gone for naught as well. 18/4.

Next ball, he made it 3 for the over! Angling it into Mahmadullah and then getting it to straighten. Another edge, another naught. Roach had five, West Indies had five. 18/5.

Damage done, Holder replaced Roach, handing much-needed rest to him for he was already hobbling and holding up his knee. Cummins and Holder cleaned up after him, bowling Bangladesh out inside 19 overs. 43 all-out.

The lowest Test score, since India's 42 in England, back in 1974. Bangladesh- the country, was a two-year-old back then!

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Edited by Sankalp Srivastava
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