Memorable Test Cricket Encounters in 2021

Test Cricket met with some engrossing encounters in 2021, and there are still two games to be played

Test Cricket matches are always memorable, irrespective of the margins between both sides. The test of character in Test Cricket is unmatchable, and the fixtures seen over the last year are prime examples of why Test Cricket remains the ultimate format of the game.

Through the year, which still has two boxing day Tests to go, there has been some nail-biting games. From India hanging on for dear life in Sydney to Pakistan losing a match which swung like a pendulam against West Indies, to Kyle Mayers epic knock, and Ajaz Patel’s historical ten-wicket haul, Test Cricket has provided some memorable moments.

The format has also crowned its first champion, with New Zealand winning the World’s Test Cricket Championship. After witnessing a magnificent effort from Jos Buttler, who fought hard to try and get a draw in the second Test, we will now look at some of the best encounters in Test Cricket this year.

As the list includes just five Tests, there are a few honorable mentions, for matches that miss the cut. The Lords Test in August, WTC Final, and England’s recent effort to save a Test match are the ones that miss the cut.

5) Sydney Test, Australia Vs India, January 2021

Ashwin and Vihari hold on as India salvage a draw in a tough game of Test Cricket

36 all-out, a victory in Melbourne, and a series of unfortunate events in Sydney, left India in a tough situation on the final day in Sydney. Australia was in a dominating position, with Steve Smith making a strong century. India on the other hand, batting second, conceded a 94-run lead. Pant, and Jadeja also suffered injuries in the first innings, and Jadeja’s injury was bad enough to keep him out of the rest of the game.

Australia gave India a target of 407 to chase in 130 odd overs. India began positively, with Rohit making a nice half-century, but both openers were dismissed at stumps. Coming into the final day, the game seemed in Australia’s pocket. With two Indian batters uncertain, a win seemed likely, and it was a matter of how long India would survive.

India however, rose up to the challenge. Rahane was dismissed early in the morning, and Rishab Pant came in. With Pujara looking to save the Test, Pant went on the attack and made a quick 97. He attacked Nathan Lyon, and while he was there, a win looked possible. Pant was dismissed a few overs before the new ball, and Hanuma Vihari came to the crease. The innings put Australia on the back foot, and an Indian win seemed like a slight possibility. However, a hamstring injury to Vihari, followed by the wicket of Pujara shortly after erased any possibilities of an Indian win.

With nearly 42 overs to survive, Ashwin and Vihari went into a shell and successfully saved the game. After 132 overs, the teams couldn’t be separated. Both batters took a lot of blows, and Ashwin injured his rib as well in the process, but there was an immense display of character, which helped India save an epic Test Cricket match.

4) Brisbane Test, Australia Vs India, January 2021

The aftermath of Sydney’s efforts saw some drastic changes to the side. Bumrah, and Ashwin were injured after having a heavy workload in Sydney, and India was left with a very inexperienced bowling attack. They had Siraj, who played two Tests, Saini, and Shardul with one Test, and Natarajan and Sundar on debut.

Australia on the other hand had a near full-strength side, with Warner suffering from a groin injury. The odds were heavily against India yet again. Playing in a venue where Australia haven’t lost a game of Test Cricket since 1988, while possessing a very inexperienced bowling line-up made the situation look very bleak.

Australia won the toss, and Marnus Labuschagne set the tone with a classy century. He dug in nicely, and tired the Indian bowlers, as they lost Navdeep Saini to injury mid-innings. In response, India lost early wickets, and looked like they were going to concede another big lead. A rescue act from Shardul Thakur, and Washington Sundar brought India back in the game. Both made counter-attacking 60s, and got India to within 33 runs of Australia’s score.

Australia was still ahead of the game, but a magnificent effort from Siraj, who took five wickets, and Shardul Thakur helped India stay in the game, as they were left with 329 to chase in another final day shoot-out.

On the final day, India got off to a bad start with Rohit Sharma dismissed early. Shubman Gill however, took on the bowlers, and went after Mitchell Starc in particular. He attacked the short ball well. On the other side, Cheteshwar Pujara continued to do what he does best. He absorbed the best deliveries and took nearly ten body blows on his way to a match-saving half-century. With Pujara securing one end, the others looked to counter, and kept India with a chance of winning.

Following the dismissal of Gill, Rahane came in and played a momentum-turning cameo, before Pant entered the stage. Pant came in, and continued from where he left off in Sydney. He cleared the rope with ease, and handled the pressure well while building key partnerships with both Pujara, and Sundar. He built on Gill’s 97, and made a spectacular 91, as India breached fortress Gabba, to win by three wickets in a historic Test Cricket match.

3) Chattogram Test, Bangladesh Vs West Indies, February 2021

Test Cricket
Kyle Mayers comes of age in his first game of Test Cricket

West Indies hold the record for the highest score chased in Test Cricket. Contributions from Chanderpaul and Sarwan helped them chase 418 in 2003, while two youngsters came to the fore in 2021. Bangladesh was brilliant throughout the Test Cricket match, and gave West Indies a target of 395. Chasing in Test Cricket is never an easy task, and to do so in the subcontinent is even more difficult with the amount of turn on offer.

To make things tougher, West Indies lost three wickets early, and were left with a mammoth target. The game was over, and it was only a matter of time before Bangladesh could celebrate. However, a silent partnership began to build between Kyle Mayers, and Nkrumah Bonner.

Bonner played a patient hand, and absorbed the pressure, while Mayers countered the bowling, and hit seven sixes in his innings. Bonner’s patient knock took West Indies within touching distance, and after his dismissal, Mayers continued to attack, and before Bangladesh could realize what happened, the West Indies pulled off a victory from nowhere. They completed one of the best chases in the subcontinent, and did so with a pair of young cricketers, while only having three wickets in hand.

2) Kingston Test, West Indies Vs Pakistan, August 2021

Pakistan is known to be one of the most unpredictable sides in Cricket history. They were also one of the busiest sides in 2021, and found themselves in the Caribbean playing a Test series against West Indies. Pakistan batted first on a tough and uneven track, which kept the bowlers in the game nicely. The encounter was a low scoring one. Pakistan made 217 and 203 in their batting efforts, and conceded a first-innings lead of 36 runs, before setting a target of 168. The target wasn’t a very high one, and should have seemed straightforward.

Pakistan however, brought their unpredictability to the fore and competed hard. They took three early wickets and kept chipping away as the match quickly reached a position where Pakistan couldn’t lose. With two wickets left, the West Indies still needed 26 runs, and all of a sudden Pakistan were favorites. The pendulum didn’t stop swinging though. The last two wickets saw small, but crucial partnerships as West Indies snatched the game away from Pakistan with just one wicket to spare.

1) Dhaka Test, Bangladesh Vs Pakistan, December 2021

Sajid Khan Gets of to a great start in Test Cricket

The Dhaka Test was one of the most one-sided games of 2021 but still managed to dish out a thriller. Sizeable parts of the game were lost to rain, and barely two days were available. Pakistan though were determined to make sure they did not lose an opportunity at gaining World Test Championship points. They won the first Test comfortably and looked in good nick. With less time in the game, Pakistan batted first and got 300 in the first innings.

They then bowled aggressively to dismiss a frail Bangladesh line-up for 87, with Sajid Khan taking eight wickets., and enforced the follow on. In the follow-on innings, Bangladesh again lost early wickets and was left with a huge task of saving the Test Cricket match. The top-four was dismissed cheaply, but the middle-order hung around and made Pakistan sweat.

They took the game into the final hour, with strong defense, and the tail continued to defy the bowlers. Bangladesh had four wickets going into the final hour, and Babar Azam decided to try his hand with the ball. The move worked as he took his first international wicket off his second delivery, bringing life back to the bowling attack. The light was fading, limiting Pakistan’s options, but they continued an unrelenting pursuit and finally managed to win in the last few overs of the game. Pakistan won by an innings and eight runs, in a game that lasted just two days and 215 overs, and secured some valuable points in the process.