When Virat Kohli’s men take to the field in Kanpur in whites on Thursday, it will be another milestone in India’s Test match history. India’s match against New Zealand will be the country’s 500th, a feat achieved only by England, Australia and the West Indies. India are the favourites to win the series, if you go by the numbers, but chances are, especially considering the results of the warm-up games, that it could be an even contest. In the last home series against the Kiwis in 2012, India came out victorious, winning both the Tests. But the last time the two team met in New Zealand in 2014 the hosts won the two-match series 1-0. Since 1 January 2015, India has played four Test matches at home and won three out of them. New Zealand, in the same time, have played nine matches away from home winning three and losing four out of them.
Before the match starts though, here’s a look at India’s other landmark matches:
The very first Test: Versus England at the Lord’s in 1932
C.K. Nayudu led India in the first Test match the country played in 1932. The game against England was a three-day match that started on Saturday, 25 June, and had a rest day on Sunday. England lost the top three wickets inside the first 20 minutes and the scorecard read 3-19, the worst possible start that captain Douglas Jardine could have thought of after winning the toss and opt for batting first. Jardine and Wally Hammond stitched together a partnership before the latter played on to a yorker just after lunch. A couple of fifties by Jardine and Les Ames helped England reach a respectable total of 259. The standout performer though was fast bowler Mohammad Nissar from India who had claimed five wickets. Nayudu would later claim that Nissar bowled faster than the English pacer Harold Larwood; a few months after India’s tour, Jardine and Larwood would unleash the infamous ‘Bodyline’ strategy against Australia.
India conceded a 70–run first-innings lead and, as it turned out, the match at the end of the third day by 158 runs. But what the match did was made the cricket-playing world sit up and take notice of India, and Nissar in particular. Nissar would later leave India for the newly formed Pakistan, and set up the Pakistan Cricket Board.
50th Test: Versus Australia in Madras in 1956
India had won only five matches leading into the home series against the mighty Australians. Richie Benaud ran through the Indian batting line-up after Polly Umrigar won the toss and elected to bat in the five-day match that started on 19 October. India were bowled out for 161 within 100 overs. Australia then batted for 134 overs and amassed 319 before bowling out India again for a paltry 153, thereby winning the match by an innings and five runs. If it was Benaud’s leg-break that troubled the Indian batsmen in the first innings, it was Ray Lindwall’s fiery spell of fast bowling that destroyed them in the second. India showed some courage in the second Test of the series and managed to get a draw. But Australia won that series 2-0 after winning the final Test in Kolkata on a pitch where spinners took 35 of the 39 wickets that fell and the batsmen could only score 638 runs in about 300 overs that were bowled.
100th Test: Versus England at Edgbaston in 1967
Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi led the Indian side against the English in Birmingham on a pitch that was a rank turner and decided to play the famous spin quartet of Bishan Singh Bedi, EAS Prasanna, Srinivas Venkataraghavan and Bhagwat Chandrasekhar. It seemed like their only chance to avoid another heavy defeat. India had already lost the first two games of the three-game series, one of them by an innings. The team had registered only 10 wins leading to the Edgbaston Test. England won the toss and went on to score 298 runs in the first innings of the match. And on the second day, their bowlers ripped through the Indian batting, cleaning them up inside 40 overs for a paltry 92. England also did not enforce the follow-on, a decision that was criticised widely. They scored 203 in the second innings, giving India the target of 410 runs to win the match. India started their second innings well but 410 was a mammoth total, especially in the fourth innings, and it was just a matter of time before the team folded, giving England a 132-run victory inside three days. The match though will be remembered for the first innings dismissal of the legendary England opener Geoffrey Boycott. Bedi, a rookie left arm slow bowler playing his first series overseas, got Boycott stumped, one of the only two times the opener from Yorkshire got out in that fashion.
Five landmark moments in India’s Test match history
- India v England at the Lord’s in 1932: C.K. Nayudu led India in the first Test match the country played. England won by 158 runs. The standout performer was fast bowler Mohammad Nissar who claimed five wickets. Nissar would later leave India for the newly-formed Pakistan, and set up the Pakistan Cricket Board. Getty Images
- India v Australia at Madras in 1956: Polly Umrigar won the toss and elected to bat. Australia won by an innings and 5 runs. Richie Benaud’s leg-break troubled the Indian batsmen in the first innings and later it was Ray Lindwall’s fiery spell of fast bowling that destroyed them in the second. Wikipedia Commons
- India v Australia at Kolkata in 2001: Till this match, the Australian team led by Steve Waugh, had won 16 Tests in a row, a Test cricket record including the previous Test at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai by 10 wickets. India won this match by 171 runs after being enforced to follow on. The series is remembered for a valiant 281 not out by V.V.S. Laxman. AFP
- India v West Indies at Kingston in 2006: Three things stood out in the match. The wall that Rahul Dravid was and the spin bowling by Harbhajan Singh in the first innings and Anil Kumble in the second. India won the Test match by 49 runs, the last in the four-match series, and the series 1-0. It was India’s first series win in the Caribbean since 1971. AFP
- India v West Indies at Bridgetown in 2011: The second of the three-match series, the game is Barbados lost more than 120 overs to rains. Highlight of the match was Ishant Sharma’s fiery spell in which he took six wickets in the first innings. The match was drawn, but India eventually took the series 2-1. AFP
200th Test: Versus Pakistan in Lahore in 1982
This was the first in the six match series. Sunil Gavaskar was leading the Indian side that fielded after winning the toss. The rain-affected match was full of records. Zaheer Abbas’s double ton was his 100th century in first-class cricket, the ninth batsman from Pakistan and 20th overall to achieve this feat, his score helped the team garner 485 runs in the first innings. For India, Gavaskar passed the 7,000-run mark, a milestone only reached by Geoffrey Boycott, Colin Cowdrey, Wally Hammond and Gary Sobers before him. Boosted by Mohinder Amarnath’s century and supported by three more scores past 50, India scored an impressive 379 in the first innings. But the deciding factor was the rain that cost more than four hours in the first three days. A draw was inevitable, the first time India escaped a defeat in landmark Tests. Pakistan went on to win the series 3-0.
300th Test: Versus South Africa at Motera in 1996
This was a very interesting match with both the sides evenly poised on the dusty Motera track. The match was also an indication of how good a batsman VVS Laxman really was. On his debut, the wristy player from Andhra Pradesh scored his team’s only 50 in the second innings, a much needed one and something that became the trademark for the rest of his carer—his ability to score difficult runs in the second innings when the others failed, and string partnerships with the batsmen lower down the order. Sachin Tendulkar won the toss for India and decided to bat first. India was bowled out for 223 and South Africa scored 244 in their first innings, thereby taking a lead of 21 runs. But the story really unravelled in the second innings, in which, powered by Laxman’s half century, India scored 190 runs, setting the 170-run target for the Proteas to win the match. It was never going to be easy though on a pitch that was deteriorating fast. Javagal Srinath and Anil Kumble then took nine wickets between them to help Tendulkar’s team record a 64-run win over Hansie Cronje’s men, on a pitch that Cronje termed as unsuitable for Tests. India went on to win the three-match series 2-1 in Kanpur after losing the second match at the Eden Gardens.
400th Test: Versus the West Indies at Kingston in 2006
Three things stood out in the match. The wall that Rahul Dravid was and the spin bowling by Harbhajan Singh in the first innings and Anil Kumble in the second. Helped partly by the hosts’ ordinary performance, India managed to win the match, the last in the four-match series, and the series 1-0, India’s first series win in the Caribbean since 1971. It was a series dominated by the bat, with three 500-plus scores in the first three games. The pitch at Sabina Park was different though. India were bowled out for a mere 200, with quickie Jerome Taylor claiming five wickets. In reply, the West Indies collapsed for a paltry 103, with off-spinner Harbhajan Singh taking five scalps. India could only manage 171 in the second innings but they had a handy first-innings lead. Chasing 269 runs for a win, the hosts, led by Brian Lara, never looked convincing and ultimately fell short by 49 runs. Kumble took six wickets in the second innings.
450th Test: Versus the West Indies at Bridgetown in 2011
The second of the three-match series, the game is Barbados lost more than 120 overs to rains. A draw lurked till Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s brave declaration on the final day sparked some life into the game. But Darren Bravo’s resolute half century denied India a win. India took a 11-run lead in the first innings after Ishant Sharma’s fiery spell in which he took six wickets restricted Darren Sammy’s men to 190. Dhoni declared on the fifth day with the team’s score at 269 for 6 wickets, setting the hosts a target of 281 to win. But Bravo’s application and his 69-run, sixth-wicket partnership with Carlton Baugh sucked the life out of the match. Sharma took four wickets in the last innings but the hosts managed to escape a defeat. India took the series 2-1.