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Test nuggets: the best of the best


Nitin Chouhan,Cricketnext.com
Jul 18, 2011 at 04:16pm IST

New Delhi: There are a lot of moments in the 134-year history of Test cricket that remain etched in our memories. It’s not only the sheer individual brilliance but the impact they had in the context of the game that makes them truly special. We look back at some of those moments that leave us in awe whenever we think about them.

Donald Bradman's duck

Playing his last match, Donald Bradman was cheered to the echo by fans when he went to the crease. The master batsman needed just four runs to ensure a career batting average of 100. Facing leg-spinner Eric Hollies, Bradman blocked his first ball but was bowled by his second. And though Australia continued their dominance by clinching the match and series 4-0, the win would have been sweeter had Bradman reached the magical figure in his last innings. Though the disappointment hardly affected Bradman's popularity, it would have added another feather to his already record-laden cap. His average of 99.94 in 52 Tests, which includes 29 centuries, still far from achieved by any of the batmen followed him.

Test nuggets: the best of the best

A flashback of some of the magical moments in the 134-year history of Test cricket that remain etched in our memories.

Jim Laker’s 19 wickets in a Test

At any point of time in cricket history, not many would have given a heed when a thought of claiming all ten wickets in an innings popped up. But Jim Laker, the former England off-spinner did just that. In the third Test of the 1956 Ashes series in Manchester, England had scored 459 in their first innings while bowling Australia out for a meager 84 in their first essay. Laker, who claimed nine of the ten Aussie scalps, went one better than his first innings effort by taking all the ten in Australia’s second innings, which folded up for 205. The tourists were completely inexperienced to face off-spin, forget playing the quality spin of Laker, and fell like ninepins on the Old Trafford wicket which was so much devoid of grass that it would have challenged any of the sub-continent tracks. Laker, by returning with figures of 19-90, earned himself a record which still is intact 55 years after it entered the history books.

Sunil Gavaskar’s five-figure milestone

Just before the start of the famous home series against Pakistan in 1987, the countdown had started in real earnest as Gavaskar needed another 173 runs to cross the 10,000 runs in Test cricket. He started off with 91 in the Chennai Test but didn’t play the next one at the Eden Gardens in Calcutta. The Little Master got just 24 runs in all in the third Test before moving to Motera for the fourth. Needing 58 to reach the five-figure mark, Gavaskar finally reached the unconquered milestone playing in his in his 212th innings of the 124th match. And after achieving everything that he possibly could in his 17-year long international career, Gavaskar bowed out from the game.

Shane Warne's 'Ball of the Century'

Not many Englishmen knew about Shane Warne before he came on to bowl in the first Ashes Test in 1993. His first ball drifted well outside Mike Gatting's leg stump, then turned so sharply that it missed both bat and pad to clip the bail on the off-stump. Gatting couldn't believe his eyes and took an eternity to get back to the pavilion. Warne went on to take four wickets in the first innings and finished with match figures of 8-137 in his first attempt on English soil. Australia registered a convincing 179-run victory in the Test. The more you see that delivery the more it enchants you even now and, calling it the 'Ball of the Century' is the best tribute one could have given to that magical moment that led to the renaissance of spin bowling in years to come.

Brian Lara’s thumping 400

Barely six months passed when Mathew Hayden had broken Lara's record of 375 by scoring a power-packed 380 against Zimbabwe at Perth in 2003-04, but the Trinidadian snatched that record from Hayden by clobbering 400 against England at St. John's. Facts that made the innings more monumental was that Lara achieved the feat in the latter part of his career, ten years after he broke Gary Sobers record at the same ground and when most of the game's pundit had discarded outwardly that the mark would ever be achieved. It was also the first quadruple century ever scored in Test cricket.

Kapil Dev goes past Hadlee

India's 1983 World Cup-winning skipper Kapil Dev added the greatest achievement to his records’ tally by becoming world's leading Test wicket-taker in 1994. Kapil, who equalled Richard Hadlee's mark of 431 wickets during the second Test against Sri Lanka in the previous series, moved clear of the New Zealander's tally in his 130th Test in Hamilton. The all-rounder's ability to achieve the landmark at the age of 35 showed the command he had over his bowling. It also illustrated the consistency he maintained throughout his 16-year long international career.

Kumble’s perfect ten

Legendary Indian leg-spinner Anil Kumble assured himself a place in the history books by taking all ten wickets in an innings in the 1999’s Kotla Test in Delhi against arch-rivals Pakistan. Kumble’s feat was only the second such incident after England off-spinner Jim Laker did it in 1956. Kumble, also an engineer by profession, ended up with figures of 10-74 as India routed Pakistan by 212 runs after a 101-run opening partnership between Saeed Anwar and Shahid Afridi.

World Test Championship – Australia vs World XI in 2005

The dream idea of fielding the world's best XI against the marauding Australians shattered in reality as the then Test No. 1 team had to sweat a little to inflict a defeat on the start-studded opposition. Australia showed from the outset that why they are the best team of their generation. After posting 345 in their first innings and 199 in their second, Aussies shot off their opponents inside the 200 run mark - 190 and 144 - in both essays, thus winning the contest easily by 210 runs. The concept turned out to be a flop show as it hardly gathered the eyeballs in Australia and around the world, which it was expected to do. It also illustrated the fact that the assimilation of even the best bunch of players just few days before an important contest doesn't guarantee a success. And players who work day in and day out with each other can easily master even the best in the business with their cohesiveness.

Murali's magical 800

Before the 2010 home series against India, the Lankan spin doctor Muttiah Muralitharan declared that the first Test at Galle would be his last. At that point, the wrist spinner had foxed 792 batsmen with his variation and guile, needing eight in his 133rd and last Test to reach 800. India caved in to Murali in their first innings, letting him chip away with five wickets. After toiling hard in most part of the India’s second innings, he finally struck in the form of Yuvraj Singh and later increased his wickets' tally to two by castling Harbhajan Singh. Soon India were nine down and Murali stranded at 799. But the length ball he bowled outside the off stump of Pragyan Ojha turned out to be his last in Test cricket. It kissed Ojha's bat and settled into the palms of Mahela Jayawardene, triggering celebrations on and off the field.

Sachin Tendulkar's 50th Test ton

It was the moment many cricket aficionados waited for with bated breath. After being the statisticians' delight for over two decades, the little master was on the cusp of writing another record to his name – the 50th century in Test cricket. India on a tour of South Africa, the one frontier they had never conquered, and after being the No. 1 Test side, not many were writing them off this time around. But the series started in the customary fashion for India, who looked at sea on the opening day of the Centurion Test. They were skittled out for a mere 136 in their first innings which was followed by elephantine 620/4 by the hosts. Batting to avoid an innings defeat, India started off better than the first innings but the onus fell once again on Tendulkar to dig India out of the rap. The maestro, who faced a barrage of bouncers from both Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel in his 80s and 90s, reached the landmark by squirting one between cover and extra cover. He celebrated his 100th run in a typical Sachin fashion by raising his bat and helmet while looking at the skies, thanking the Almighty. And though his valiant effort was not sufficient to save the Test for his countrymen, it was enough to give them at least a moment to cheer in an otherwise gloomy outing.

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