The shorter versions in the game of cricket, especially T20 cricket, gives the smaller nations a better chance to beat even stronger oppositions. The shortest format, in fact, makes it a level playing field as the contest can be won or lost in a matter of few balls. Kenya in the 2003 World Cup, Bangladesh and Ireland in 2007, and Ireland and Bangladesh in the 2011 edition of the World Cup have produced results which only the very optimistic would have predicted.
Test match cricket brings with it a set of completely different challenges, testing the team’s skill and capability over a span of five days and the team that sustains the pressure and delivers the goods consistently come out on top. Thus, when an ‘underdog’ team goes on to defeat a heavyweight in a Test match, it is a serious upset.
Here we have a look at the top 5 major upsets in the last 20 years of Test match cricket.
#5 Zimbabwe beat Pakistan by 7 wickets, Arbab Niaz Stadium, Peshawar, 1998
Zimbabwe toured Pakistan in 1998 under the captaincy of Alistair Campbell. In the first match of the three-match series played at the Arbab Niaz Stadium at Peshawar from 27-30 November, the hosts batted first and scored 296 with half-centuries from Ijaz Ahmed and Yousuf Youhana.
Heath Streak took four wickets to restrict them to a modest total. In reply, Zimbabwe rode on the back of a maiden century from Neil Johnson to reach 238, Wasim Akram (5-52) and Waqar Younis (4-78) being the wicket takers.
Despite gaining a lead of 58 runs, the home team could not set a daunting target for the visitors as they were bundled out for a paltry 103 in their second innings. Henry Olonga was the destructor-in-chief as he picked up 4-42 leaving the Zimbabweans with 162 to win their first test on Pakistan soil. A watchful 73* from Murray Goodwin ensured that Zimbabwe went on to upset the Asian giants, winning the contest by 7 wickets.
The victory also helped the African nation to clinch their first series win in overseas conditions as they went on to win the series 1-0. Johnson was named Man of the Match for his game-changing knock.
#4 Bangladesh beat West Indies by 95 runs at Arnos Vale Stadium, Kingston
In most unusual circumstances, the Caribbean team wore an entirely different look as the West Indies Cricket Board had to field a second string squad after their fallout with the West Indies’ Players Association, leading the first choice team players to go on strike. Nine of the 15 member West Indies squad had never before played a test.
In the first Test at Kingstown, played between 9-13 July, Bangladesh batted first, managing just 238 in their first innings with none of their batsmen able to convert starts. The home team replied with 307 runs with 94 coming off the bat of debutant Omar Phillips. Tamim Iqbal’s masterful 128 in the second innings helped the visitors to 345, posting a target of 277 for the hosts.
David Bernard’s second half-century of the match went in vain as Mahmudullah’s five-for helped the Bangla Tigers to clinch their first victory overseas.
In the second Test played at St. George’s, West Indies were put in to bat, folded for 237, courtesy the spin trio of Shakib Al Hasan, Mahmudullah and Enamul Haque Jr. who combined to pick up 9 wickets.
Kemar Roach’s excellent spell of 6-48 ensured that the visitors did not get the first innings lead as they fell short by five runs. Shakib then picked up five wickets in the second innings leaving Bangladesh with 214 runs to achieve their first overseas series win. The made history by winning the Test, riding on the back of a brilliant 96* from just 97 deliveries by Shakib himself.
The 22-year-old Shakib was awarded the Man of the Series for his all-round performance which helped his team to a historic series victory.
#3 Bangladesh beat England by 108 runs, Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium, Dhaka, 2016
After narrowly escaping defeat in the first test of the series, England were under the pump ahead of the second Test at Dhaka. Batting first after winning the toss, Bangladesh folded for a meagre 220 courtesy a fine spell of spin bowling by Moeen Ali (5-57).
Their only contribution was a fluent century from opener Tamim Iqbal (104 off 147 balls). A half-century from Joe Root and lower order contributions from Chris Woakes and Adil Rashid helped England gain a first innings lead of 24 runs. The home team fought back with 296 in the second innings, Imrul Kayes (78), Mahmudullah (47), Shakib (41) and Tamim (40) contributing with the bat.
Set 273 to win the match and series, England looked on course to easily eclipse the target as they were 100-0. What happened in the next 22.3 overs could be termed as the finest hour of Bangladesh cricket as the 19-year-old Mehedi Hasan Miraz spun a web around the English batsmen, claiming his second five-wicket haul of the match, bundling out the Englishmen for just 164.
The Bangla Tigers thrashed the English lions by 108 runs to square the series. The 19-year-old claimed 19 wickets in the series, being awarded the Player of the Series award.
#2 Zimbabwe beat Pakistan by 24 runs, Harare Sports Club, Harare, 2013
Pakistan toured Zimbabwe in 2013 to play a two-test series and won the first match comfortably. The ninth-ranked home team showed no signs of giving the Pakistanis any competition before the beginning of the second match. But what unfolded between 10-14 September at the Harare Sports Club infused a new life in Zimbabwe cricket players and fans.
Batting first, the hosts compiled a decent 294 with fifties from experienced players Hamilton Masakadza and captain Brendan Taylor. Left-arm pacer Brian Vitori bowled a brilliant spell of 5-61 to restrict the visitors to just 230, giving his team a vital first innings lead of 64. However, Zimbabwe faltered in their second innings, managing only 199, courtesy a five-wicket haul by Rahat Ali.
Set a target of 264, Pakistan kept losing wickets at regular intervals. Captain Misbah-ul-Haq was the lone warrior for his team, remaining unbeaten on 79 as he lost all his batting partners.
Man of the Match Tendai Chatara’s spell of 5-61 was instrumental in helping his team cross the line and cause what could be called one of the major upsets in recent history.
#1 Bangladesh beat Sri Lanka by 4 wickets, P. Sara Oval Stadium, Colombo, 2017
One can argue that Bangladesh have taken enough giant strides in international cricket to not be called underdogs anymore. The current Sri Lankan team is also not as threatening as it used to be in the yesteryears of Jayawardene, Sangakkara and Muralitharan.
However, to breach their strong fortress takes a lot of grit and any team has to be on top of their game to do so. But Bangladesh were determined to shine in their 100th test.
The Lankans batted first, and after a wobbly start, were resurrected by Dinesh Chandimal’s effort of 138, ending their innings on 338. A pristine century by Shakib (116) and half centuries by debutant Mosaddek Hossain (75), captain Mushfiqur Rahim (52) and opener Soumya Sarkar (61) helped the visitors take a decisive first innings lead of 129 runs.
Batting under pressure, the Lankans rode on a century effort from opener Dimuth Karunaratne (126) and valuable lower order contributions from Dilruwan Perera (50) and Suranga Lakmal (42) to compile 319 runs. Chasing a tricky 191 on a fifth-day sub-continent wicket against the likes of Ranagana Herath, Bangladesh’s start was shaky. The experience of Man of the Match Tamim Iqbal came in handy as the opener scored 82, scripting a beautiful victory for his country.
Bangladesh rose to the occasion of playing their centennial Test, becoming only the fourth country after Australia, West Indies and Pakistan to come out on top in this momentous match.