In the ongoing first Test match between England and West Indies at Bridgetown, Barbados, England was unexpectedly bundled out for 77 runs in the first innings, in reply to West Indies' first inning score of 289. England inning lasted for just 30.2 overs. England lost 2 wickets at the score 44, 2 more at 48 and one at 49 effectively losing 5 wickets for 5 runs.
For West Indies, Kemar Roach took 5 wickets in 11 overs. Technically speaking, the West Indies could have enforced the follow-on if they wished to. A total of 18 wickets has fallen on the dramatic second day as West Indies reached 127 for 6 in the second innings at close of play on the second day.
If one observes the timing of the collapses, most of these collapses happened in the recent past. One of the reasons for such collapses might be due to the increased number of T20I matches that have been played in this era. Some of the players are part of both their T20I and Test teams and are finding it difficult to adapt to two different formats of cricket.
Comparatively, the bowlers are finding it much easier to switch over between formats.
While England is fighting hard to save the Barbados Test, England’s collapse in the first innings brings back memories of such sudden recent collapses in Test matches.
This article is about 5 such recent collapses in Test matches.
#5 South Africa (79) Vs India at Nagpur in 2015
This was the third Test match of the series. India won the first Test at Mohali and the second Test at Bengaluru was washed out.
On a tailor-made square turner at Nagpur for the third Test, India played 3 spinners in the form of R.Ashwin, Amit Mishra and Ravindra Jadeja. India won an important toss and elected to bat. India made 215 in the first innings. The technical inadequacy of the South African batsmen against quality spin was waiting to be exposed.
South Africa was first reduced to 12 for 5 with Ashwin claiming 3 and Jadeja 2. South Africa’s total would not have crossed 50 but for J.P. Duminy’s 35. Finally, South Africa was skittled out for 79 in 33 overs. Ashwin took 5 for 32 while Jadeja finished with 4 for 33.
Set a target of 310 to win, South Africa did fairly better in the second innings, scoring 189. Ashwin took 7 wickets and India won that low scoring match by 124 runs. The Indian spin trio shared all the 20 South African wickets in the match. While Ashwin took 12 wickets, Jadeja and Amit Mishra took 4 apiece. The only pace bowler in the team Ishant Sharma bowled just 17 overs in the entire match.
India went on to with the fourth Test at Delhi and the series by a 3-0 margin.
# 4 South Africa (73) vs Sri Lanka at Galle in 2018
This was the first Test match of the series. South Africa was set an impossible target of 352 in the fourth innings on a turning track. The Sri Lankan skipper did not waste much time bowling himself and opened the bowling with the two spinners, Rangana Herath and Dilruwan Perera.
South Africa started the innings on a disastrous note, losing half the side for just 36 runs on the board. Herath and Perera bowled unchanged for 14 overs each and South Africa was shot out for 73 in 28 overs. Vernon Philander was South Africa's top scorer with 22 and Aiden Markram made 19. Apart from these two, only Quinton De Kock could reach double figures. In the entire innings, there were only 4 fours and 2 sixes.
While Perera took 6 wickets, his senior partner Herath finished with 3 wickets. Perera had match figures of 10 for 78. Sri Lanka won that Test match by a massive margin of 278 runs. The match got over in two and a half days.
For Sri Lanka, Dimuth Karunaratne carried his bat through in the first innings with an individual score of 158. South Africa, as a team, could not score more than his individual score and were all out for 126 & 73 in the first and second innings respectively.
In the second innings, Karunaratne scored 60 and South Africa’s match aggregate of 199 runs was short by 19 runs to Karunaratne’s match aggregate. Such was the total domination of Karunaratne and the Sri Lankan spinners in this match.
#3 Pakistan(49) vs South Africa at Johannesburg in 2013
This was the first innings of the first Test match of the series in 2013. South Africa batted first and scored 253 in the first innings. Pakistan bowlers, as always, have restricted South Africa to a reasonably modest score. Now, it was up to the Pakistani batsmen to complement their bowlers.
Unfortunately for Pakistan, Dale Steyn was at his brilliant best on that day. Steyn started off in his second over by removing the ever-tentative Mohammad Hafeez for 6. Steyn had the wickets of Nasir Jamshed and Younis Khan in his third over. With Pakistan reeling on 12 for 3, suddenly the follow-on target of 54 seemed to be too far away.
Steyn could not cause any damage in his next 3 overs and was replaced by Jacques Kallis. Pakistan limbed to 36 for 3 before Kallis struck twice with the wickets of Azhar Ali and Misbah-ul-Haq. At the other end, Vernon Philander accounted for Asad Shafiq and Umar Gul in one over. Pakistan was 39 for 7 still 15 short of the follow-on target.
Steyn was re-introduced into the attack immediately after lunch and with the second ball of his new spell, he forced a wicket when Saeed Ajmal edged one behind. In his next over, Steyn got rid of Sarfraz Ahmed for 2. Off the first ball of his ninth over, Steyn finished off the Pakistan innings for 49, well below the follow-on margin. Steyn returned with remarkable figures of 8.1-6-8-6. Pakistan could bat through 29.1 overs only.
In the Pakistan innings, only Azhar Ali (13) and Misbah-ul-Haq (12) could reach double figures. The rest of the 9 Pakistan batsmen combined to contribute a mere 24 runs. There were as many as 3 ducks in the innings.
The South African captain Graeme Smith chose not to enforce the follow-on and in the end, South Africa won that Test match by 211 runs. Steyn took 5 wickets in the second innings and had match figures of 11 for 60. Truly exceptional bowling performance.
# 2 New Zealand (45) vs South Africa at Cape Town in 2013
New Zealand Captain Brendon McCullum was all at smiles when he won the toss and happily chose to bat first. At that time, he did not know what was coming.
Vernon Philander, playing on his home ground, took 5 wickets in his first 5 overs including the wickets of McCullum and Kane Williamson. Philander was virtually unplayable on that day. At the end of 10 overs, New Zealand was 28 for 5. Philander had exceptional figures of 5-3-5-5. If Philander had not been replaced at the bowling crease after 5 overs, he could very well have challenged Anil Kumble's "Perfect 10" record.
Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn joined the fun and in no time New Zealand was rooted for 45 runs in 19.2 overs. Morkel took 3 wickets in 6 overs and Steyn 2 in 7 overs. New Zealand did not last the first session of that Test match. In the entire New Zealand first innings, only Kane Williamson managed to reach double figures.with the rest of the batsmen combined to contribute just 25 runs.
After that, it was all too easy for South Africa as they won that Test by an innings and 27 runs. New Zealand showed a lot of fight in the second innings scoring 275 with a century from Dean Brownlie and a half-century from Brendon McCullum. But the Test match was lost within the first hour of the match.
#1 Bangladesh (43) Vs West Indies at North Sound in 2018
West Indies captain Jason Holder won the toss and chose to bowl. Bangladesh lost 3 wickets at the same score on 18 and were staring down the barrel at 18 for 5 barely into the ninth over of the Test match.
Kemar Roach got going in his third over with the all-important wicket of Tamim Iqbal. In his next over, he took another wicket. However, at the end of the fourth over, Roach was struggling with his right knee. Braving the agony, Roach came on to bowl his fifth over.
With the second delivery, Roach had Mushfiqur Rahim plumb in front of the wicket and the review could not save the batsman. Off the fourth delivery, Roach had Shakib Al Hasan caught in the slips for a duck. Off the very next delivery, Mahmudullah was caught behind and suddenly Roach was on a hat-trick.
Though Roach could not complete the hat-trick, he took 3 wickets in his fifth over to break the back of the Bangladesh middle-order. Roach could not continue his bowling after that due to his knee injury. But he had already done enough damage claiming 5 wickets in his 5 overs conceding a mere 8 runs.
For Bangladesh, Liton Das was the top scorer with 25 out of the team's total of 43.
Roach could not take any further part in the proceedings of that Test match. Roach might have created a record of sorts in a Test match when he caused the maximum impact in a match within a short span of 45 minutes. That was the exact time that Roach spent on the field in the entire match to turn the match upside down.
Jason Holder and Miguel Cummins continued the good work and Bangladesh was all out for 43 in 18.4 overs. It was their lowest score in Test matches. Bangladesh went on to lose that Test match by a massive margin of an innings and 219 runs.
To sum up, of late, there have been more regular collapses in Test matches leading up to the matches finishing off in two and half days. The collapse has been triggered by the spinners on sub-continental pitches and fast bowlers elsewhere. Whether this regular collapse is due to the technical deficiency of the modern-day batsmen or due to the nature of the wicket or the supremacy of the bowlers or due to the increased number of T20I is a separate topic for discussion for another day.