India have defeated England in the Anthony De Mello Trophy by a margin of 3-1. This result confirms that India and New Zealand will face off on 18th June in Southampton to decide the first World Test Champion.
The ICC World Test Championship has been the culmination of International Cricket Council’s efforts over the last decade to create a premier world tournament in the Test format. The World Test Championship panned out in the form of a league of nine Test sides with the top two playing a one-off decider.
This will be a historic moment for Test match cricket, for this is the first time a world title will be contested in the format. Some may claim that this change has come too late, for a lot more needs to be done to enhance the popularity of Test matches. Nevertheless, this is an important step taken by the authorities to keep the format relevant.
Interestingly, this isn’t the first time that a multi-team tournament has been held in this format and there have been a few occasions when multilateral tournaments in Test cricket have been played.
Test cricket tournaments of the past
1. 1912 Triangular Tournament
The first ever international Test tournament was held a full 18 years before the first Football World Cup took place. A triangular series, it featured nine tests between England, Australia and South Africa in a round-robin format.
The eventual winner was England, who won four Tests and drew two, as compared to Australia’s two wins, a loss and three draws. South Africa lost all their games apart from a draw against Australia.
While the tournament failed to catch the imagination of the people, it did feature a record by Australian Jimmy Matthews, who managed to pick up two hat-tricks in the same Test match.
2. 1999 Asian Test Championship
This tournament was organised by the Asian Cricket Council. The participants were India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The matches were played in a round-robin format, before a final between the top two sides.
Each of the three nations hosted a Test, before the final which was to take place in neutral Bangladesh. The tournament also had a points system, where bonus points were alloted to respective teams.
The tournament got off to cracker of a start at Kolkata, where Pakistan defeated India by 46 runs in a close encounter. This Test featured brilliant performances such as Saeed Anwar’s classy 188 and Javagal Srinath’s 13/132.
Unfortunately, the rest of the series was not able to live up to the hype. The next two Tests were drawn, while the finals was won by Pakistan in a resounding fashion.
Another notable fact was that this tournament featured two back-to-back hat-tricks by Wasim Akram in Lahore and Dhaka. These also came against the same opposition, Sri Lanka.
3. 2001-02 Asian Test Championship
Played between August 2001-March 2002, it featured Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. India did not participate in the tournament due to internal reasons. Pakistan and Sri Lanka beat Bangladesh in their respective matches quite comfortably.
Then they decide to call off the final group game and instead play a final directly. Sri Lanka won the final at Gaddafi stadium in Lahore by 8 wickets.
This was the last time that an Asian Test Championship took place.
There is a lot of debate around the relevance of Test match cricket these days, and it won't be a bad idea to reintroduce this tournament, given that Afghanistan are also playing Tests.
Perhaps a knock-out format would do justice to this proposed five-team tournament.
4. Special Mention- 1900 Summer Olympics
This is the only time Cricket featured in the Olympics. Although the format wasn’t Test match cricket (or even first-class, for that matter), it was still a legitimate game of cricket.
The two teams representing Great Britain and France (athough, originally Belgium and Netherlands were also set to feature), played a match over two days and in the end Great Britain trumped France by 158 runs. However, the two sides weren’t representative teams and instead made of touring cricketers and those who played club cricket in France.
Great Britain were given the gold medal and France were awarded the silver medal.
Cricket has since featured in the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games, however the games were played in the limited-overs format.