Sunday, June 28, 2015

Special Performances in Landmark 100th Test

Not enough foreign tours, no international cricket at home, no international cricket against India, not enough tests in a calendar year; despite all this, if a Pakistani cricketer manages to appear in 100 tests, it is an achievement like no other. Definitely a bigger achievement than it is for cricketers from other test playing nations. Especially the ones from the so called "Big 3".

Only 62 cricketers have appeared in at least 100 tests, with Younis Khan being the 62nd. England (13) has the most cricketers who have played at least 100 tests, followed by Australia (12), India (10), and West Indies (9). That is no surprise considering the amount of test cricket England and Australia have played, and the amount of test cricket that India has been playing since the turn of the century. In contrast, South Africa (6), Pakistan and Sri Lanka (5), and New Zealand (2) have far less contributions to the 100-test club.

For Pakistanis it is even more special considering that only 4 cricketers before Younis played in 100 tests - Javed Miandad, Salim Malik, Wasim Akram, and Inzamam Ul Haq. Even the iconic Imran Khan (88 tests), despite a career that spanned 21 years, did not manage to play 100 tests. Whereas two other legendary cricketers, Mohammad Yousuf (90) and Waqar Younis (87), could have easily played 100 tests for Pakistan if it wasn't for injuries and team politics.

Where it has taken cricketers like Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Andrew Strauss, and Michael Clarke around 8 years to play 100 tests, Younis Khan achieved the landmark after 15 years of test cricket! Almost double the time. Players like Andrew Strauss and Kevin Pietersen, who debuted after Younis and have left the game several years ago even played 100 tests.

Younis Khan's test record is phenomenal. Not many batsmen have scored as many runs as Younis has after 100 tests. Only Brian Lara scored more. It is so unfortunate that Pakistan do not play enough test cricket. While Younis could not make his 100th test more special, there have been other cricketers who have made this special occasion even better by producing a special performance.

Here are some of these special performances in 100th Tests:

Javed Miandad
He celebrated his 100th Test by scoring 145 against his favorite opposition - India - and also became the first cricketer in the history of test cricket to score a century in his debut test and his 100th test.

Gordon Greenigde
Missed a 150 by only 1 run against England, but a score of 149 ensured a win for West Indies and placed Greenidge alongside Miandad as the only two batsmen in the world to score centuries in their debut and 100th tests.

It has been 25 years since Miandad and Greenidge managed this special feat; but no other debut centurion has joined their ranks yet.

Ricky Ponting
To date, Ponting remains the only batsman in the world to score centuries in each innings of his 100th test. He truly made his 100th test special by scoring 120 and 143* against South Africa and leading Australia to a test win. He was also captaining his team.

Inzamam Ul Haq
Inzamam was also captaining Pakistan in his 100th test, which was against India. He produced a remarkable performance by scoring 184, which remains the highest score by any batsman in their 100th test. His inning also ensured victory for Pakistan in a test in India. It doesn't get more special than that.

Greame Smith, Alec Stewart, and Colin Cowdrey are the other 3 batsmen who have scored a century in their 100th test.

The spin trio - Shane Warne, Anil Kumble, and Muttiah Muralitharan - are the only bowlers who delivered special performances in their 100th tests. While Murali picked up 9 wickets against Bangladesh including a second innings haul of 6-54 leading Sri Lanka to victory, Kumble picked up 5-89 vs Sri Lanka in the second innings to lead India to a test win. Warne not only managed wickets but scored some runs as well on his special occasion. Against South Africa, he picked up 2-70 in the first innings and then scored 63 while batting; he followed that up with 6-161 in the second innings and remained unbeaten on 15 as Australia chased down the target successfully.

While these 10 cricketers will always be part of history for their performances in their 100th tests, there are some cricketers who would want to forget their 100th test appearance forever.

Allan Border (b Ambrose), Dilip Vengsarkar (b Bracewell), Alastair Cook (b Ryan Harris), Stephen Fleming (c&b Ntini), and Mark Taylor (b Cork) were all dismissed for a duck in their 100th Test. Alastair Cook has the unfortunate distinction of being dismissed of the first ball of the innings. Interestingly, all 5, were also captaining their respective teams.

Another batsman who would like to forget his 100th test is Justin Langer. He faced the first delivery of Australia's innings, like he had done for most past of his career as a test opener, from Makhaya Nitini. The ball was pitched short. While trying to duck, Langer got hit on the back of the helmet and collapsed to the ground. He was taken to the hospital for a check-up and did not bat again in the match.

100 test matches are indeed a special achievement, however only a few cricketers have made their special achievements memorable by producing performances that will remain etched in memory forever. While Pakistan has produced only 5 cricketers who have appeared in 100 tests, 2 of those cricketers hold records for 100th Test Match appearances that may never be broken.

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