2018 was a result-oriented year in Test cricket. Out of 48 Test matches played, only five resulted in a draw. While two matches were drawn due to rain, two matches were drawn after a brilliant rearguard action. Only one Test remained resultless due to a one-sided batting track. In such a result-oriented atmosphere, we witnessed enthralling and pulsating encounters.
A great Test match is the one where both the sides gain advantage and eventually squander it. The see-saw keeps hinging towards one side after the other, ultimately settling down in one direction. These are the five Tests from 2018 where each team enjoyed an upper hand and suffered a downfall to snatch a victory from certain defeat.
#5 Windies versus Sri Lanka, Bridgetown, 23rd-26th January
The home side, Windies, stepped into the third and final Test match of series with a 1-0 lead over Sri Lanka. The visitors were missing three of their most prolific batsmen in Dinesh Chandimal, Angelo Mathews and Dimuth Karunaratne as they approached the day-night Test. The low-scoring thriller had an explosive start.
Suranga Lakmal and Lahiru Kumara sent back Windies top order cheaply and left them reeling at 8/3. Fighting against the Lankan bowling and incessant rain, Shane Dowrich and Jason Holder scored in excess of 70 each and posted the first innings total of 204. Sri Lanka also suffered a dismal start and ended the second day with a score of 99/5.
The third day of the Test proved to be a record-breaking one. It featured three separate innings as the teams lost 20 wickets in the day. Earlier Sri Lanka was folded up for 154 runs as Holder ran through the tail. Sri Lankan pacers then combined to skittle Windies for only 93 runs. Chasing 144 runs to win, the visitors found themselves at 81/5 when the tumultuous day ended.
Holder nipped a wicket early on the fourth day and completed his five-wicket haul. The Pereras, Kusal and Dilruwan, kept the fight alive and battled through varying bounce, outside edges and body blows. The Bravehearts added 63 runs together to claim a memorable series-equalling win for Sri Lanka. This also made Sri Lanka the first Asian team to win at the Kensington Oval, Barbados.
West Indies 204 (Holder 74, Dowrich 71, Kumara 4-58) and 93 (Rajitha 3-20, Lakmal 3-25) lost to Sri Lanka 154 (Dickwella 42, Holder 4-19) and 144 for 6 (Kusal Perera 28*, Dilruwan Perera 23*, Holder 5-41) by four wickets.
#4 South Africa versus India, Johannesburg, 24th-27th January
The third and final Test of the series between South Africa and India became famous for the treacherous track that it was played on. The Jo’Burg pitch had turned venomous by the end of the third day and umpires held the play to decide whether to continue or not. The fourth day threw up great drama that captured cricket fans all over the world.
South African pacers troubled India in the first innings. With half-centuries from Pujara and Kohli, the visitors somehow scrambled to 187. Jasprit Bumrah returned the favour and reduced the home side to 194 all out with a spell of 5/54. India began the third innings on the pitch which had started to unleash its inner devil.
Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane stood resolutely on the venomous track copping up with the blows. Late contributions from Bhuvneshwar and Shami set South Africa a target of 241 runs. Opener Dean Elgar was severely tested by misbehaving deliveries but he kept fighting.
The pitch petered out on the fourth day and South Africa sped to the score of 124/1. Ishant Sharma opened the door slightly for India by removing Hashim Amla. Bumrah eliminated the threat of AB De Villiers and Shami jumped in to spark the downfall. South Africa was bundled out for 177 runs as India surged to a famous win.
India 187 (Kohli 54, Pujara 50, Rabada 3-39) and 247 (Rahane 48, Kohli 41, Bhuvneshwar 33) beat South Africa 194 (Amla 61, Philander 35, Bumrah 5-54, Bhuvneshwar 3-44) and 177 (Elgar 86*, Amla 52, Shami 5-28) by 63 runs.
#3 New Zealand versus England, Christchurch, 24th-27th January
England had been trounced by the Australian Test team in Australia. Neighbours New Zealand had blown them away in the first Test for the score of 58. So, when England gained an upper hand in the see-saw Test at Hagley Oval, they went for the kill. New Zealand’s rearguard action then made the match memorable.
The hosts had England on the mat in the first innings at 164/7. A braveheart century from Jonny Bairstow and the knock of 52 from Mark Wood saw England complete their innings on 307. New Zealand also tumbled and found themselves in trouble at 36/5. BJ Watling, Colin de Grandhomme and Tim Southee fought back and kept the English lead down to 29 runs.
With aid of four half-centuries, England asked the Blackcaps to chase 382 in four sessions. At Lunch on day five, New Zealand was 124/4 and by Tea, they slid to 191/6. England pushed their cause with close-in fielders and relentless attacking overs but Grandhomme and Ish Sodhi stood tall. Ish Sodhi 56(168) and Wagner 7(103) later thwarted all English attempts to secure a hard-earned draw.
England 307 (Bairstow 101, Wood 52, Southee 6/62) and 352 for 9 dec (Vince 76, Stoneman 60, Root 54, de Grandhomme 4-94) drew with New Zealand 278 (Watling 85, de Grandhomme 72, Broad 6/54) and 256 for 8 (Latham 83, Sodhi 56*).
#2 England versus India, Birmingham, 1st-4th August
The five-match long Test series between England and India in England was the spectacle every one was waiting for in 2018. It pitted the world’s best batsman against the world’s best fast bowler. Kohli triumphed against Anderson but could not lift his side to a win. The drama began with the first Test at Birmingham.
Ravi Ashwin jolted England on the first day of the Test and thanks to his four-wicket haul, India contained the home side for 287. While Sam Curran ripped through the Indian batting lineup, Captain Kohli stood tall. With a masterpiece of 149, he warned England for the upcoming danger. India fell just 13 runs short of England’s first innings total.
Ashwin once again tore apart the English batting lineup and Ishant Sharma’s glorious five-wicket haul reduced the home side to 87/7. Sam Curran then launched a counter-attack that surprised the Indians and his 63 meant India had to chase 194 runs to win.
The Indian hopes were alive till the moment Virat Kohli was at the crease. Even at 141/6, Kohli’s presence kept the nation of billions in waiting. He was trapped LBW by Ben Stokes and England soon grabbed the Test by 31 runs.
England 287 (Root 80, Bairstow 70, Ashwin 4-62, Shami 3-64) and 180 (Curran 63, Ishant 5-51, Ashwin 3-59) beat India 274 (Kohli 149, Curran 4-74) and 162 (Kohli 51, Stokes 4-40) by 31 runs.
#1 Pakistan versus New Zealand, Abu Dhabi, 16th-19th November
The most thrilling and the most entertaining Test match of 2018 was played on the otherwise dead tracks of UAE. Unsurprisingly, Pakistan was one of the participating teams. It was a low-scoring thriller which at one point could have very well been a tied Test.
A combined effort from Pakistani bowlers helped them skittle New Zealand for 153 runs in the first innings. Pakistan then gained a significant lead of 74 runs as their middle-order fought bravely. Hasan Ali and Yasir Shah then shared the spoils in third innings to finalize their target as 176 runs.
Pakistan began well but faced a wobble as they tumbled from 40/0 to 48/3. They got back in complete control with Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq adding 82 runs for the fourth wicket. With Pakistan just 46 runs away from the win, Wagner sent back Shafiq at the stroke of lunch.
After lunch, Pakistan showed nerves despite being in control. Azam attracted a needless run-out, and they soon lost Captain Sarfraz as well. Bilal Asif, Yasir Shah and Hasan Ali gifted their wickets away while Azhar Ali stood at the other end helplessly. Along with number 11 Mohammad Abbas, Azhar had brought Pakistan within a shot away from victory. Just then, Ajaz Patel got rid of Azhar to clinch a famous win. It remains one of the narrowest wins in Test cricket.
New Zealand 153 (Williamson 63, Yasir 3-54) and 249 (Watling 59, Nicholls 55, Hasan 5-45, Yasir 5-110) beat Pakistan 227 (Babar 62, Boult 4-54) and 171 (Azhar 65, Patel 5-59) by four runs.