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Oddities and Curios: Celebrating the diversity of Test cricket.


1- England v Australia 1st Test Lord’s  1888

Australia (116 & 60) beat England (53 & 62) by 62 runs. 

The most bowler friendly match in Test match history. 40 wickets fell for 291runs, the highest team score was 116 and the highest individual score was 24 (W.G.Grace for the curious). All 4 innings were done and dusted in 132 6-ball overs and on the 2nd day. Both the bowlers and the batsmen had an average of 7.

2- England v South Africa 1st Test Port Elizabeth 1889  

South Africa (84 & 129) lost to England (148 & 67/2) by 8 wickets. 

This match became South Africa’s 1st Test match retrospectively. At that time this was just a tour match and would be considered so for a few more years. What makes it weirder was that this was the 1st First-class match played in South Africa. All the South Africans were making their First-Class and Test debut. In addition this weak English team also fielded 6 debutants, 2 of whom were making their First-class debut. Not surprisingly, England’s captain Aubrey Smith was also a debutant. He later made a name for himself in Hollywood though.

3- South Africa v England 5th Test Durban 1939

South Africa (530 & 481) drew with England (316 & 654/5)

Timeless Tests are no longer played and this Test was the reason for that. A flat pitch that offered little for the bowlers did not help the time limits much. The shortest of the 4 innings lasted 157 6-ball overs and a total of 5447 balls were bowled. In the end, the match was drawn on the 10th day after England realized that they could either win this match or be stranded in South Africa. Including rest-days, this match took 12 days and still England were 42 runs short of their target of 696.

4- Pakistan v New Zealand 3rd Test Dhaka 1955 

New Zealand (70 & 69/6) drew with Pakistan (195/6d)

As previously mentioned, the 50’s was a boring time and this Test epitomized that era. After 3 days were washed out, there was little scope for a result, Pakistan made a gist for it, bundling New Zealand for 70 (off 40 overs) and getting 195 (off 76 overs). New Zealand needed to bat out the 5th day to save the match. New Zealand probably cured thousands of insomniacs with their 2nd Innings. New Zealand scored only 69 runs off their 90 overs, playing out 55 maidens of mind-numbing tedium. A T20 innings played at the same rate would produce 15/1.

5- West Indies v England 4th Test, Trinidad 1968

West Indies (526/7d & 92/2d) lost to England (404 & 215/3) by 7 wickets.

Few captains have had the misfortune of their declarations backfiring on them but even fewer have lost after declaring twice. 2 to be precise, Gary Sobers and Graeme Smith. Sobers sadly paid the price for a very sporting declaration. After getting a 1st innings lead of 122, West Indies played out just 30 overs before giving England a quite gettable target of 215 from 54 overs. Unfortunately for Sobers, Geoffrey Boycott was in a rare belligerent mood as England reached the target with just 8 balls to spare.

6- England v Zimbabwe 1st Test, Bulawayo 1996

Zimbabwe (376 & 234) drew with England (406 & 204/6)

Probably one of the strangest results in Test history, England flippin murdered Zimbabwe but only managed a draw. Zimbabwe got 376 and England replied with 406. Then Zimbabwe were bowled out for 234 leaving England with a tricky target of 205 from 37 overs. In a helter-skelter chase, England needed 3 runs from the last ball, but Nick Knight could only manage 2 runs as the match was drawn and the scores were level.

7- India v Sri Lanka 1st Test Colombo 1997

India (537/8d) drew with Sri Lanka (952/6d)

The entire match was an exercise in shameless but very effective accumulation. Indians batted out the 1st 2 days and after centuries for Sidhu, Tendulkar, and Azhar, were probably looking at a good lead. Oh, how wrong they were. Jayasuriya and Mahanama in a 576 run partnership broke nearly ever partnership record in existence at that time and Jayasuriya established a personal best of 340. At 615/1, a result was never an option. So Sri Lanka proceeded to add another 300 runs and rubbed India’s face in the highest test total in history. To this day, Nilesh Kulkarni has nightmares of Jayasuriya on a flat wicket.

8- South Africa v England 5th Test Centurion 2000

South Africa (248) lost England (251/8) by 2 wickets.

This made a lot of news. At that time it was considered a positive step towards making Test cricket interesting by deriving a result from a match destined to be a draw. A few months later, it became a sordid tale involving shady dealings and unscrupulous players. It started innocently enough when just 45 overs were bowled in the 1st day and the next days were rained off. With play possible on the 5th day, Cronje approached the England team with an offer of a 4th innings chase. The deal involved that England would forfeit their 1st innings and South Africa would forfeit their 2nd innings so that England could have a 4th innings chase. After South Africa batted for a while during the 1st session, the match referee confirmed the legality of the decision and England had to chase a curiously simple 249 from 76 overs. And England nearly messed that up too. At one point, England has shut up shop but the introduction of part-time bowler Pieter Strydom put them back in the game. In the end, England won by only 2 wickets. It was to be a few months before the sad details that made the circumstances possible emerged.

9- Zimbabwe v South Africa 1st Test Cape Town 2005

Zimbabwe(54 & 265) lost to South Africa (340/3d) by an innings and 21 runs.

After a 1 year gap where a heavily weakened Zimbabwe abstained from Test cricket, they came back for an away series against a full strength South Africa. This was the Test cricket equivalent of the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”. And true to form, the 1st day was probably the most one-sided in history. An outclassed Zimbabwe were bowled out just after lunch for 54, with Kallis being the top wicket-taker. To compound their misery, South Africa raced to 340/3 from just 50 overs by stumps (Kallis got a 24 ball 50). After an overnight declaration, Zimbabwe was shown some mercy when Nicky Boje bowled 5 times as many overs as Shaun Pollock but it scarcely mattered. Perfect cricket match for people who love watching things being beaten into pulp.

10- ICC World XI v Australia Only Test Sydney 2005

Australia (345 & 199) beat ICC World XI (190 & 144) by 210 runs.

What happens when you take the No.1 ranked team and the best of the rest. Well, a pretty sad one-sided affair if you go by the “Super-Test” between the ICC XI and Australia. Of the many ideas that pop up from the ICC, this one at least in theory looked half-way decent. After being trounced by Australia in the preceding one-day series, it was thought that the 6-day Test would provide a semblance of a contest. Well, It did not. The ICC World XI collapsed to a hapless 144 while chasing 355. The genre of Dream XI articles took a severe beating and statisticians still bicker over whether this was an official Test or not.

11 - Pakistan v India 1st Test Lahore 2006 

Pakistan (679/7d) drew with India (410/1)

There are flat pitches and there are FLAT pitches and then there was the 2006 Lahore pitch. Only 220 overs were bowled over 5 days due to fog. When cricket was being played, 1089 runs were scored at a run-rate of 4.93 making this the fastest Test match in history. First Pakistan piled on the misery by plundering 679 runs from 143 overs which included 79 and 82 ball centuries from Afridi and Kamran Akmal. Then there was a lot of fog but in between Virender Sehwag thwacked 254 runs from 247 balls as he and Dravid got to an opening partnership of 410, just 4 short of the Test record before an unaware Sehwag got out and the match was called off after everyone decided that it was too pointless to continue.

12- West Indies v England 2nd Test Antigua 2009 

England (7/0) drew with West Indies

This “match” can be summed up in one word- Sand. And the Sir Viv Richards stadium had lots of it. The “outfield” as it turned out was a thin layer of grass over miles of silicate particles. Sand has its uses but being an ideal surface for Test cricket is not one of them. Consequently when Jerome Taylor and Fidel Edwards left ankle-deep footprints during the 10 balls of action, common sense prevailed and the match was called off. Rumours that an impromptu sand-castle building completion was held later were not confirmed.

13- Bangladesh v West Indies 1st Test St.Vincent 2009

Bangladesh (238 & 345) beat West Indies (307 & 181) by 95 runs.

A lot about this match was off. For one thing, Bangladesh had won only one match of their previous 60 and that was at home. Like every other team, West Indies was expected to roll them over except for a contract issue between the WICB and WIPA that pops out every now and then. Unfortunately for the Windies, the bickering did not stop before the series and the entire team withdrew en masse just before the 1st Test. A new team had to be created from scratch and it was hastily assembled mélange of has-beens, rejects and up-and-comers with a combined experience of 22 Tests. All of a sudden Bangladesh became the favorites. West Indies did put up a good fight, getting a first innings lead of 70 but for once Bangladesh dug deep and defended 277. The farce continued in the next test and Bangladesh won the series 2-0. The West Indies team of the previous series had played 20 times as many Test’s as this team had.

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