Last week, Test Cricket lived again. Two simultaneous Test matches concluded in a manner that reiterated why this format remained cricket’s most enthralling and purest format – and no T20 and ODI tournaments can ever replace the ‘completeness’ of it.
West Indies defeated England at Leeds by 5 wickets. They leveled the series 1-1 after being annihilated in the first test by an innings and 209 runs. And a day later, Bangladesh won their first-ever Test match against World Champions Australia by 20 runs in Chittagong. It was only their ninth test victory in more than a 100 matches.
Two massive upsets, two results cricket desperately needed, and two shots in the arm for the sport in an era of slam-bam home-friendly 3-day results. Congratulations poured in from all over the world for the two ‘underdog’ teams that took down the Ashes giants in two different parts of the globe.
An upset in sports is one of the great emotions and sights. It involves a no-hoper toppling world order in a stunning turn of events that nobody – sometimes not even the no-hoper – expects at all. There have been many upsets in shorter forms – Bangladesh beating Australia in the 2005 Natwest ODI tri-series, Bangladesh beating India in the 2007 World Cup, Kenya beating West Indies in the 1996 World Cup, Ireland beating Pakistan in the 2007 World Cup, Netherlands defeating England in the 2009 ICC World T20, and India defeating giants West Indies in the 1983 World Cup Final.
But an upset in a five-day match of Test Cricket is rare for the kind of sustained endurance, skill, and excellence it requires over two innings by the minnows to completely outplay the seasoned favorites.
Here are FIVE major Test Cricket upsets in history:
West Indies beats South Africa at Port Elizabeth, 2007
A beleaguered West Indian team, led by new captain Chris Gayle, stepped into South Africa for a 3-match test series. They hadn’t won a test in South Africa ever before and they hadn’t won an away test in 7 years. More significantly, there was no Brian Lara anymore. Shockingly, they scored 408 in their first innings on the back of a Shivnarine Chanderpaul century and skittled an unprepared South Africa out for 195. Even a poor 175 in the second innings was enough, as South Africa, despite a Kallis 85, fell short of the target of 389 by 129 runs. Just like that, West Indies were 1-0 up in a series (they would eventually lose 2-1), and for a brief moment, fans dreamt glimpses of the glorious history they had come from. This was a shocking result on all accounts, given that South Africa were the best Test playing nation in the world at the time, and West Indies were spiraling into the depths of long-form oblivion.
Bangladesh beats England at Dhaka, 2016
In the last year alone, Bangladesh cricket team has defeated England, Sri Lanka and Australia in Test matches. They started their test revolution with this unlikely victory against Alastair Cook’s English team. They were to have a torrid winter with a further 4-0 bashing in India soon. Down 1-0 in the 2-match series, the hosts might have been forgiven for blowing a golden opportunity and falling short of a target of 286 by a mere 23 runs. It was a heartbreaking match for a team that had made giant strides in limited-overs cricket, but were frustratingly short of the line in the longer format. After conceding a 24-run first innings lead, Bangladesh scored a brave 296 in the second innings, leaving England with a tricky target. England had a century opening stand and looked to be cruising with just 173 to get with 10 wickets in hand. But post-tea, it became a nightmare. They lost all their wickets for 63 runs, with teenaged spinner Mehedi Hasan taking a six-for and old horse Shakib Al Hasan scalping four wickets. It was all over in a flash – and this match demoralized England, who had to end up sharing the trophy with Bangladesh for the first time ever.
India beats West Indies at Port of Spain, 1976
The tide had turned for Indian cricket six years before this timeless Test at the same venue. A phenomenal Test Series debut for Sunil Gavaskar (774 runs) had meant that India, under Ajit Wadekar, had won their first ever Test and Test Series in the West Indies (1-0 in the 5-match series). That was an upset, but what happened in March of 1976 was arguably one of the greatest upsets and results in Test history. Down 1-0 after two matches, India conceded a 130-run first-innings lead to the World Champions, who then declared at 270 to give a weak Indian batting order a target of 406. There seemed no chance. But Gavaskar awoke with a century, and Gundappa Vishwanath sealed things with another one, with India then pulling off a world-record chase with 6 wickets in hand. India finished on 406/4 – a stunning comeback against all odds. But they eventually lost the series 2-1 to the champions, though not without making a mark like this one.
Zimbabwe beats Pakistan at Peshawar, 1998
Alistair Campbell’s Zimbabwe were known to cause a few waves occasionally, but none greater than the tsunami they let loose in Pakistan during this tour. The minnows had arrived with zero expectations, while Pakistan were still in their golden era – with Saeed Anwar, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Mushtaq Ahmed and Aaqib Javed playing under captain Aamer Sohail. Their strong batting were shot out for 298 with Heath Streak taking 4 wickets. Zimbabwe replied with a spirited 238 through a Neel Johnson century, despite an Akram fiver. The miracle happened then. Streak, Olonga and Mbangwa tore through the volatile Pakistani batting order and bowled them out for a paltry 103. A target of 162 was chased down without any fuss, and 7 wickets in hand, to send shock waves through the cricketing world. Even better: Zimbabwe won the series 1-0, after the second match was drawn and the third washed out. It remains their only victory against Pakistan in test cricket.
West Indies beats Pakistan at Sharjah, 2016
Pakistan, World No. 1 test team for the first time in their history, were on a roll after drawing 2-2 in England. They won the first two matches of this 3-match series, and the third one was sort of a dead rubber. But there is no such things in Test cricket. Once again, it was Kriagg Braithwate at the forefront of the most shocking test result of the year – even if it was out of context, and didn’t alter the Series result. I believe it was the beginning of Pakistan’s spiral downward (they lost in New Zealand and Australia soon after), after West Indies shocked them by 5 wickets in Sharjah. Braithwate scored a century and 60, much like his Leeds performance with a century and 90. If Shai Hope and Braithewathe can lead the modern West Indian test team with such performances, there is no reason they can’t win at Lord’s in the final test of the series this week. A 2-1 series result would be magical.