Test Cricket, the longest format of the game, offers character, fight, and determination from players and teams. And when it comes to all these, my mind instantly takes me back to India’s series win in Australia in 2021. The way the Indian team made a comeback to win the series was remarkable.
And this prompted me to look back at some of the sensational comebacks Test cricket has ever seen.
So, in this article, we’ll talk about five extraordinary comeback victories in Test cricket.
Five Extraordinary Comeback Victories in Test Cricket
1. India vs Australia, Kolkata, 2001
The India and Australia Test at Eden Gardens, Kolkata, was one of the most thrilling Test matches.
Having lost the first Test in Mumbai, India was on the brink of losing the second Test and the 3-match series. But VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid rose to the occasion (like heroes from the Marvel movie) and levelled the series at 1-1.
Australia, after winning the toss, elected to bat first and went on to score 445 runs in the first innings. In reply, India’s innings ended with a meagre total of 171 runs.
Then Steve Waugh decided to enforce the follow-on on India. While batting in the second innings, India was at 232/4, still behind Australia’s lead by 42 runs. Then the world saw the masterclass of Laxman and Dravid.
Both put on a 376-run partnership for the fifth wicket, which turned out to be vital in India’s comeback. Laxman scored a stunning 281 runs, while Dravid amassed 180 runs, helping India declare the second innings on 657/7.
With a target of 384 runs to win, Australia started on a good note, but then Harbhajan Singh’s spin trap helped India restrict the Aussies to 212. India registered a win of 171 runs and put a break on Australia’s winning streak of 16 consecutive tests.
Moreover, India became the second team to win a Test match after being asked to follow on.
2. West Indies vs Australia, Antigua, 2003
The 4th Test between the West Indies and Australia saw the highest successful run chase in a Test match. The West Indies were 0-3 down in the 4-match series, and it seemed like Australia would hand them a 4-0 clean sweep. But the Windies batters gave a gutsy fight.
Australia, after dominating the Windies in the previous 3 matches, was the favourite to win this match as well. Batting first, the Aussies could only manage to score 240 runs. And even the West Indies ended up scoring exactly 240 runs in the first innings, with neither team taking a lead. (Windies to Aussies: Same pinch :P)
In the second innings, however, Australia put up a mammoth score of 417 runs, thanks to openers Justin Langer (111) and Matthew Hayden (177). The West Indies, while chasing the target of 418 runs, found themselves at 165 for 4.
After losing the wicket of Brian Lara, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shivnarine Chaderpaul put a break on the falling wickets. Both scored centuries, which brought the Windies closer to victory.
Then the Windies tailenders, Omari Banks and Verbert Drakes, helped chase down the big total, registering a record comeback victory in the final match.
3. South Africa vs Sri Lanka, Durban, 2019
Everyone talks about the heroics of Ben Stokes against Australia in the 2019 Headingley Test, but few talk about Kusal Perera’s match-winning 153*.
Having put in to bat first, South Africa was reeling at 28 for 3 in 12 overs. But, thanks to valuable contributions from Temba Bavuma (47), Faf du Plessis (35), and Quinton de Kock (80), they put a reasonable 235 runs on board.
In reply, Sri Lankan batters couldn’t stand in front of the South African bowling attack, scoring 197 in the first innings.
South Africa then started their second innings with a lead of 44 runs. They scored 259 runs, with captain Faf scoring 90 runs and de Kock adding 55 runs.
When other Sri Lankan batters were struggling in pursuit of the target of 304, Perera scored an incredible 153* runs. And he also stitched a partnership of 76 runs with No. 11 Vishwa Fernando that helped them win the match.
This remarkable last-wicket partnership sealed one of the best comebacks for the Sri Lankan team.
4. Australia vs India, Brisbane, 2020/21
Before this Test, no team had beaten Australia at the Gabba in Brisbane since 1988! And considering India’s inexperienced team, no one believed that India had a chance to conquer the Gabba.
In the 4th Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, India was struggling to field the best team as many senior players were grappling with injuries. However, India performed at their best when most of the experts had written them off. Believe me, some even said India would lose by 4-0.
In the first innings, the Aussies, batting against the inexperienced Indian bowling attack, put 369 runs on board.
In response, India managed to score 336 runs, with two fighting knocks from Washington Sundar (62) and Shardul Thakur (67).
Mohammed Siraj’s 5-wicket haul restricted Australia to 294 runs in the second innings.
India started the challenging chase of 328 runs by losing opener Rohit Sharma early on. Then Shubman Gill and Cheteshwar Pujara took matters into their own hands. And both stitched together a partnership of 114 runs for the second wicket.
After losing both of them, Rishabh Pant kept the scoreboard moving with Sundar on the other end. Pant’s entertaining 89 and Sundar’s crucial 22 runs helped India cruise to victory, winning the series 2-1.
India also handed Australia their first Test defeat at Gabba in 32 years. And Vivek Razdan fittingly said while commentating, “Tuta hai Gabba ka ghamand!” (iconic line)
5. New Zealand vs England, Wellington, 2023
The most recent encounter between New Zealand and England was at the Basin Reserve in February 2023. This match was the fourth instance of a team winning a Test after getting a follow-on. The hosts beat the Bazball tactics of England by just one run and made history in Wellington.
In the first innings, England scored quick runs and declared their innings on 435 for 8. Harry Brook played a blistering knock of 186 off 176 deliveries, along with Joe Root scoring 153*.
In reply, the Kiwis managed to score only 209 runs as captain Tim Southee (75) fought a lone battle. As England had a lead of 226 runs, captain Ben Stokes decided to enforce a follow-on.
In the second innings, New Zealand bounced back strong and posted 483 runs, with Kane Williamson scoring 132 runs. Opener Tom Lathom (83), Devon Conway (61), Daryl Mitchell (54), and keeper Tom Blundell (90) also scored valuable runs to set a target of 258 runs.
While chasing the target, England lost quick wickets and were reeling at 80/5. Then Root and Stokes built a partnership to move closer to the target.
However, England lost Stokes on 201, and then they kept losing wickets in a bunch. Although keeper Ben Foakes kept fighting, he couldn’t take his side home.
With 2 runs to win, James Anderson edged Neil Wagner’s delivery behind the wickets to keeper Blundell, and the Kiwis won the match by 1 run. (By the barest of margins!)
This thrilling Test comeback helped New Zealand draw the series 1-1 and share the trophy with England.
With that, it’s a wrap! And don’t forget to share your favourite comeback victories in the comments.
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