The day a cricketer gets to be capped by his country on the field, it will be the most memorable of his entire life as he would go on to share this story for sure with his children, grand children or great grand-children for that matter. But the day would seem unsatisfying for him if he would not be able to make a big contribution from the team. And so when it comes to a batsman, a fifty or especially a hundred on debut will be even more worthy to remember, irrespective of the events about to occur later in his career.
Here are ten such batsmen who have been successful on their very first days of Test cricket in the last 10 years.
1) Virender Sehwag (India) – 105 vs. South Africa, Bloemfontein
Virender Sehwag made his Test debut in South Africa in the first Test of the three match series in November 2001. He was in good form following a 70-ball hundred against New Zealand in an ODI in Sri Lanka and so the stage was set for him to show his first glimpse of batting in the longer version of the game.
He came into bat at the No.6 spot, with his idol Sachin Tendulkar batting at the other end. India were still reeling at 68/4, and the conditions were predominantly overcast and the ball was doing its bit in terms of swing. Sehwag had to contend with a potent South African bowling attack comprising of Shaun Pollock, Makhaya Ntini, Jacques Kallis and Lance Klusener.
Yet he trusted himself to play his natural game and with Tendulkar at the other end, he did not have to be nervous. He bought up a stunning and counterattacking 105 off just 173 balls, at a strike rate of 60.69 and 19 fours throughout the innings. With the help of Tendulkar also scoring a hundred, India reached 379 all out which gave South Africa some fight, but in the end the hosts prevailed by 9 wickets.
However, this was a prelude to Virender Sehwag’s greatness in Test cricket with 22 more tons being scored from that day on and that too as India’s premier opening batsman.
2) Jacques Rudolph (South Africa) – 222 not out vs. Bangladesh, Chittagong
The South African made his debut at the age of 22 on the tour of Bangladesh in 2003 which was the first assignment of Graeme Smith as captain of a team which tried to bring about few changes. The first Test of the series was to be held at Chittagong, right after the ODI tri-series featuring India. Bangladesh won the toss and chose to bat first, but were bowled out for a paltry 173 which gave the visitors enough time to accumulate the maximum amount of runs as possible.
Rudolph came in to bat at the No.3 position, with the score being 38/1 in 7 overs. Bangladesh felt that they had South Africa on the ropes with the wickets of the opening batsmen. But the debutant alongside Boeta Dippenear made Bangladesh sweat, and by the end of the carnage Graeme Smith declared at 470/2 in the first innings, with a 429-run partnership for the third wicket.
Jacques Rudolph became only the fifth player in Test history after the likes of England’s R Foster, West Indies’ Lawrence Rowe, Sri Lanka’s Brendan Kurappu and New Zealand’s Matthew Sinclair to score a double century on Test debut. His 222 not out came off just 383 balls, as this innings helped South Africa inflict an innings and 60 runs defeat on the hosts, and went on to win the series 2-0. Rudolph won the man of the match award for his fine effort.
3) Andrew Strauss (England) – 112 vs. New Zealand, Lord’s
The current England skipper made his debut in the first Test of the three match series against the Kiwis in May 2004. It is because the then captain Michael Vaughan suffered a freak injury a few hours prior to the game, and England required an opener to partner the southpaw and the stand in captain Marcus Trescothick at the top of the order. Nobody would have ever thought that this match was to change England’s Test status forever.
Stephen Fleming, the legendary New Zealand captain won the toss and elected to bat first, which meant that Strauss was unlikely to get an opportunity to bat as quickly as possible, having to spend most of the first 1 and a half days on the field. But when he did get to bat for the first time in Test cricket and that too in his hometown, he took full advantage of the conditions.
He hit an enterprising yet sedate 112 off 215 balls which involved as many as 13 fours, and an opening partnership of 190 with Trescothick. Finally it was Daniel Vettori who dismissed him, but the innings proved to be crucial in giving England a handy first innings lead of 55 runs.
Strauss was not done yet however, and he played a cool-headed knock of 83 in the second innings as England chased down 282, winning by 6 wickets. That gave Nasser Hussain a fitting farewell from international cricket while Strauss won the man of the match award, and cemented his place as an opener so much so that Vaughan had to bat either at No.3 or No.4 on his return.
4) Michael Clarke (Australia) – 151 vs. India, Bangalore
The Australian captain also joins Strauss in the list of contemporary Test skippers to have scored a hundred on debut. It was against India at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore in the first Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in October 2004.
He came into bat at No.6, with Australia being 149/4 at one stage. Alongside with his friend-turned-foe Simon Katich, he guided the floundering Australian batting ship to safety. It was more of a counter-attacking innings rather than a nervous one and that too in hostile Indian conditions, with the opposition attack comprising of Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble, who were in their prime, Irfan Pathan who was an emerging bowler and ofcourse Zaheer Khan, the bowling spearhead.
His 151 came off just 248 balls, and in the style in which he attacked the spinners was reminiscent of Doug Walters and Mark Waugh to many. Australia went on to win by 217 runs, as that knock proved to be the biggest difference between the two sides. It also laid the platform for a series win in India for the first time in 35 years, that too without Ricky Ponting’s services in three of the four Tests and in the process making the Border-Gavaskar Trophy board a flight back to Australia.
The innings showed his special batting abilities, and a prelude to his success to be one of the rare Australian batsmen to play spin bowling very well, helping the team win in Sri Lanka as well.
5) Alastair Cook (England) – 104 not out vs. India, Nagpur
It was in March 2006 that England had a full-fledged tour to India. But the Test team was injury-stricken with many key players from the Ashes winning campaign at home missing out. So England came in as the underdogs in the first Test at Nagpur, with as many as three debutants playing in the game. Alastair Cook was one of them, drafted in to open the batting with Andrew Strauss in the absence of Marcus Trescothick as well as Michael Vaughan.
It must have definitely been a déjà vu situation for Strauss since Cook reminded him of his Test debut 18 months ago. Cook had an impressive game, although he was dismissed for a painstaking 60 in the first innings. Come the second innings and he proved that there is a bright future ahead for this English team with an unbeaten 104 off 243 balls. The batting plan was bravely made by captain Andrew Flintoff and coach Duncan Fletcher, which had Cook staying at the crease for as long as possible while the other experienced players would look to attack so that England could declare quickly to atleast deny India a chance to win the game.
Cook stuck to the plan and proved that England had a bright future for them in the longest format of the game. He went on to play a key role in England winning matches in New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Bangladesh in the years to come.
England achieved a rare draw in India and went to on square the 3 match series 1-1.
6) Matt Prior (England) – 126 not out vs. West Indies, Lord’s
Add another Englishman to this list. It is the wicketkeeper-batsman Matt Prior who owns atleast one memorable record of scoring a Test century on debut, despite batting as low as No.7. This came in the first Test at Lord’s; of the 2 match shootout against the West Indies in May 2007, at the beginning of another long home summer.
On a flat batting wicket which is usually unlike Lord’s pitches over the years, Prior seized the golden chance he achieved to his fullest potential and joined the party to destroy a mediocre West Indies bowling attack, although a little late since he batted way down the order. But the knock was a breath-taking one since his 126 came off only 128 balls, and did not look as if he was going to be dismissed any time in the match. They finished with 553 on the board, but eventually the match was drawn with some gritty batting from the visitors.
England have always had problems in finding a quality wicketkeeper-batsman in the longest format of the game since Alec Stewart, which explains their struggles in Test cricket over the years. Before Matt Prior, Geraint Jones and Chris Read were tried and tested but the selectors did not persist with those two for reasons they knew the best. But no one complained after watching this spectacle from Prior as he has never looked back ever since, solving this perennial problem and is one of the team’s ‘only-Test players’ which has improved his performances.
7) Jonathan Trott (England) – 119 vs. Australia, The Oval
The last Englishman on this list. Or should I say South African? Since he had earlier turned up for the South African U-19 team before migrating to England where he felt he would get his dues much sooner. Trott became the third foreign player to play in the England Test side for the final Ashes Test of the 2009 series at home, alongside captain Strauss and wicketkeeper Prior. Besides the man who he replaced was also a South African, Kevin Pietersen.
Yet, Trott deserved to play in this game due to his stellar performances in county cricket. But this was a huge gamble which paid off, despite the series squared at 1-1 and this being a must-win game for England to win the series and regain the Ashes which they infamously lost in Australia in 2007.
Trott was unfortunately run out for 41 in the first innings but made up for it in the second, when England needed him the most to do so. Apart from Strauss and him, the top 7 batters failed miserably. But in a nerveless display of batting, he turned the tables around and made sure that Australia were back to being demoralized as he scored a stunning 119 off just 193 balls, batting as low as No.6.
England did not miss Pietersen for sure as they went to win the game and he rightly deserved the man of the match award for a fantastic debut. Soon, he was promoted to bat at No.3, a position he has retained ever since in the Test team and has grown to become England’s Rahul Dravid, their ‘Mr. Dependable’ or ‘The Wall’ as his achievements were recognized by the ICC by declaring him the Cricketer of the Year 2011.
8) Umar Akmal (Pakistan) – 129 vs. New Zealand, Dunedin
It was in November 2009 that Pakistan travelled to play a long summer in the southern hemisphere, with their first assignment being a 3 Test series in New Zealand before 3 more Tests in Australia. This was their acid Test as they had to prove their standing in away conditions.
Umar Akmal made his Test debut for Pakistan in the first Test of the series at Dunedin, but had to see an excellent batting performance from the hosts as they ended with 429 runs on the board in the first innings. When it was his turn to bat, he proved to the world that he had the talent to become Pakistan’s future with a batting line-up then deprived of quality players following the retirement of Inzamam ul Haq and the not so good form of captain Mohammad Yousuf.
The middle brother in the cricketing family of the Akmals, Umar batted as if he was the eldest with a fabulous 129 run knock off just 160 balls in the first innings despite the pitch doing its tricks, which is typical in New Zealand. He decided that ‘attack was the best form of defence’ and the hosts were almost in shock with this innings as it gave Pakistan a chance of a rare away victory, as they folded for 332 in the first innings, behind by just close to 100 runs.
However, the batting line-up failed miserably in the second innings as Pakistan went on to lose by 32 runs chasing 250, but Akmal carried on his form with 75 and again top scoring in the innings. It was unfortunate that he did not receive the man of the match award as Shane Bond outdid him with a fine bowling performance throughout the game.
But now, Akmal has less chances of returning to the Test side following the team’s good showing in the last 12 months and his inconsistency in the format. Yet, in ODI cricket he is very much the key to bolster Pakistan in the batting department, which is their weakness.
9) Suresh Raina (India) – 120 vs. Sri Lanka, Colombo
It was expected that Raina would make his Test debut at some point of time, following his exploits in the IPL and in one-day internationals for India, not to mention he was captaining the team on the tour of Zimbabwe three months before this Test match took place. His dream came true in Colombo, where he replaced Yuvraj Singh as India’s No.6 batsman in the team.
The No.6 till date has posed a problem for India ever since the retirement of former India skipper Sourav Ganguly in October 2008 from Test cricket. For a period of time following this innings, Raina had cemented this spot in the team as he played a calm yet entertaining 120 off 228 balls. But what was great to watch was Raina not completely relying on his natural game to score runs, instead he looked at the situation and his partner at the other end to plan his scoring.
He played a fine supporting role to Sachin Tendulkar, who went on to score a 203 and involving in a massive 256-run partnership with the maestro for the fifth wicket. With the help of captain MS Dhoni scoring 76, India were bowled out for 707 which was enough to curb Sri Lanka’s pursuit of winning the series, as they hit 642 in their first innings. The match ended in a tame draw but Raina’s knock ensured that India went on to square the series 1-1 in the final Test.
Now, Raina finds himself out of favour in the Test team following his consistent failures in tackling the short-pitched delivery, with the fraility exposed the most in England. A below average year of 2011 gave Virat Kohli a chance to bat at this spot, and following his success so far, Raina has to warm the benches and wait for injuries or retirements of senior players to get back in the team.
10) Shaun Marsh (Australia) – 141 vs. Sri Lanka, Pallekele
And last but not the least is Shaun Marsh, the feisty Australian batsman. Like Raina, Marsh had also played enough of ODI and T-20 cricket as well as showed his talent in the IPL as well as domestic cricket, to make himself a worthy candidate for a Baggy Green cap. He achieved it in September 2011 in the second Test match against Sri Lanka in Pallekele, replacing Ricky Ponting who flew home to attend the birth of his second child, making him miss just this one Test match.
Marsh batted at No.3 and played as if he was participating in his 100th Test and not his first. The manner in which he handled the Sri Lankan batting attack proved that the wicket was not at all poor for batting, which the hosts were complaining about after they were bowled out for 174 in the first innings. He put up a 258 run stand with the in-form Mr.Cricket, Michael Hussey to bat Sri Lanka out of the match and so the series. Unfortunately, Marsh could not get to the 150 mark as he was dismissed for 141 by Suranga Lakmal, having faced 315 balls which is uncharacteristic of his style of batting.
But this was enough evidence that he can be a long-term Test level player for the former world champions and ofcourse their batting future with aging seniors such as Ponting, Hussey and Brad Haddin likely to call it a day anytime.
Since that innings, he pushed Ponting to bat at No.4 but has not been able to find that form which he had in Sri Lanka as he ended with just 17 runs in 6 innings against India in the recent Test series at home, which has now put his place in doubt for the upcoming tour of West Indies.
There have been other players from various countries to have scored a hundred on Test debut from 2001 to 2011, but these ten were chosen on the basis of their popularity across the cricketing globe.