From Rishabh Pant's Gabba masterclass to Rohit Sharma's maiden overseas ton: Here are the top 10 Test knocks of 2021

  • As the year draws to a close, we backtrack to top batting performances in the traditional format of the game. 
Rishabh Pant and Rohit Sharma(Getty Images)
Rishabh Pant and Rohit Sharma(Getty Images)
Published on Dec 25, 2021 01:36 PM IST
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By, New Delhi

2021 had many great things in store for Test cricket. Fans witnessed record-breaking debuts, match-winning innings, and superstars giving a testament to their batting prowess. While players like Kyle Mayers and Devon Conway shone in their maiden Test matches, Kane Williamson and Joe Root stamped their mark with the willow and Rohit Sharma conquered new territories with his first-ever overseas ton. As the year draws to a close, we backtrack to top batting performances against the cherry.

In this piece we take a look at the top 10 Test innings of the year:

Rishabh Pant 89* vs Australia

Rishabh Pant(Getty Images)
Rishabh Pant(Getty Images)

It was special and perhaps resembled the climax of a best-seller. As Rishabh Pant hit it down the ground for a boundary against Josh Hazlewood, he knew that the moment would be remembered for generations to come. The Indian fans jumped to their feet as India clinched the series 2-1 and retained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy for the second time in a row in Australia. The moment was epochal. It was the first instance of a team beating hosts Australia at the venue since 1988.

By breaching the Gabba stronghold and winning back-to-back Test series in Australia, the Indian team scripted history. Shubman Gill got a perfect score of 91 while Cheteshwar Pujara contributed with a defiant 211-ball 56. But it was Pant who stole the show in the end, hitting the winning boundary with just three overs to spare and helping India pull off their highest successful run-chase at the Gabba strip. 

Pant's innings was a concoction of fearless cricket, valour and a bit of luck. Pant got lucky when Tim Paine missed a chance to stump him off Nathan Lyon's bowling. The southpaw slammed a six on the very next delivery, much to the surprise of Lyon. There was a method to Pant's madness. While many would call it sheer luck, some would term it destiny.

Kane Williamson 238 vs Pakistan

Kane Williamson continued his purple patch in whites by hitting the fourth double-century of his career and his second of the summer. He notched up 238 against Pakistan in a nine-hour marathon inning. The Kiwi batting spearhead went to the crease in the 20th over of New Zealand’s innings early on the second day when it was 52 for one. The scoreboard read 585 for six 130 overs later with Williamson dropping anchor and stabilizing his side's batting approach.

Williamson also clocked multiple milestones en route to the double ton. At 123, he surpassed 7000 runs in Test cricket, joining former New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming and Ross Taylor in the elite list. He also became the second New Zealander after Brendon McCullum, his predecessor as captain, to score four double centuries in the longest format of the game.

Williamson's 369-run partnership with Henry Nicholls for the fourth wicket was also a stand to remember. It was New Zealand’s highest partnering against Pakistan and highest for the fourth wicket against all teams. The skipper's tenacious effort with the bat justified his recent outings in Test cricket, where he had mustered record-breaking 251 & 129 against West Indies and Pakistan respectively.

Kyle Mayers 210* vs Bangladesh

It was hailed as one of the greatest debuts in Test cricket. Shattering records en route to unbeaten 210 against Bangladesh on a fifth-day track, Kyle Mayers helped West Indies chase down 395 at Chattogram. It was also the fifth successful run-chase in the history of Test cricket.

It was a one-of-a-kind inning in whites. The world had not seen a debutant scoring a double hundred in the fourth innings of a Test before Mayers decided to up the ante. The left-handed dasher remained unbeaten on 210 and also scored the winning runs in the closing minutes of the Test.

It was also the sixth instance of a player scoring a double hundred in the longest format of the sport. Tip Foster, Lawrence Rowe, Brendon Kuruppu, Mathew Sinclair Jacques Rudolph were a part of the panel before Mayers broke into the list. Surprisingly, a Test debutant had scored a double hundred after 18 years. Mayers hit seven sixes and 20 fours during his stay at the crease, becoming the second player to hit 200 in a successful fourth-innings run-chase of a Test after Gordon Greenidge of West Indies.

Devon Conway 200 vs England

In a dream Test debut that broke multiple records, New Zealand's Devon Conway became only the seventh player to score a double century in his maiden game. The South African-born batter was on a record-breaking spree against England, breaking records that dated back to the 1800s. En route to his double century, Conway created the record for the highest score by a batsman on Test debut in England, surpassing legendary KS Ranjitsinhji on the list. He fell just six short of the highest score by a New Zealand player at the Lord's. Conway contributed over half the Black Caps’ total of 378 in the first innings.

Conway was run out by Joe Root four balls after he completed his double century with a hooked six off Mark Wood. Conway's innings was a treat to watch. It had all the effortless drives and brute pull shots by a player running high on adrenaline. He also broke Sourav Ganguly's 25-year-old record of highest Test score on debut at the home of cricket. The visitors' honours board at the Lord's has 'D.P Conway' etched in gold.

Rohit Sharma 127 vs England

Rohit Sharma (Getty Images)
Rohit Sharma (Getty Images)

Senior India opener Rohit Sharma finally ticked the overseas Test hundred box. Scoring his first-ever century on overseas soil, Rohit completed 11,000 runs as an opener across formats and 3000 runs in Test cricket. The elegant right-handed batter also became the first visiting opener to score a century across all three formats on English soil. He reached his fifty at the Oval in 145 deliveries but then took just 59 more balls to reach the three-figure mark.

Rohit had an impressive start as an opener in Test cricket in 2019. But a hundred away from home was one more feather in his Test cap. He was dropped twice but Rohit put up a show of immaculate defence against the English side. Playing close to his body and keeping eyes on the ball, it didn't seem like Rohit would falter. The 34-year-old Rohit brought up his maiden overseas Test ton with a six down the ground off Moeen Ali, notching up his fourth Test ton as an opener and eighth overall.

Rohit's 153-run partnership with Cheteshwar Pujara (61) for the second wicket propelled India to 236-1 and a lead of 137 against the hosts. The Indians put up 466 on the board before bundling the hosts for 210 and clinching a 157-run victory in Kennington.

KL Rahul 129 vs England

Dubbed among the most talented batters of the modern era, KL Rahul got his name etched on the Lord's honours board with a magnificent ton, becoming only the third Indian opener after Vinoo Mankad and Ravi Shastri to score a Test hundred at the mecca of cricket. After playing an anchor to fellow opener Rohit Sharma's early blitz, Rahul shifted gears after his partner's departure. The Karnataka lad put up an excellent display of controlled aggression to notch up his sixth Test century. He didn't fiddle much with incoming deliveries and left most of the deliveries aimed at the fourth off-stump.

It was also the first instance after 31 years where an Indian opener has scored a Test century at the Lord's. Overall, he was the 10th Indian to earn a place at the honours board at the home of cricket, with Rahul Dravid and Ajinkya Rahane being the last two names on the list.

Rahul, who became the second batsman to hit a hundred in the 2021-23 cycle of the ICC World Test Championship, helped India gain the hold of the Test. The Virat Kohli-led Indian unit went on to record a 151-run win and take a 1-0 lead in the series.

Joe Root 218 vs India

A dream run for Joe Root in Test cricket continued in India as he notched up added one more double century under his belt. He had scored a double hundred and a 186 against Sri Lanka before heading to the Indian terrain. Root continued his purple patch, becoming the first player in Test cricket history to score a double hundred in his 100th Test.

The English skipper frustrated the hosts' bowling unit as he appeared in complete control regardless of the subcontinent conditions. He started the day on 128 and launched a six off Ravichandran Ashwin to clock the 200-run mark at the MA Chidambaram stadium. The prolific batter made the highest score by an English player in India, surpassing Mike Gatting's 207 at Chennai in 1985. He also ended the decade-long wait of a foreign player scoring a double hundred on the Indian turf. Brendon McCullum of New Zealand had previously scored 225 in Hyderabad in 2010.

Having three consecutive 180-plus scores in Test cricket showed Root's extraordinary run with the willow. Root eventually fell for 218 -- a record-breaking innings that was laced with 19 fours and two sixes. On the back of Root's knock, England posted 587 on the scoreboard to put hosts India on the backfoot. They eventually went on to win the Test by 227 runs and gain a 1-0 lead in the series.

Dimuth Karunaratne 244 vs Bangladesh

Sri Lanka skipper Dimuth Karunaratne had a fantastic year in the longest format and his staggering numbers justify the sublime form. In just 13 Test innings, Karunaratne managed to score over 900 runs @55.74 with the highest score of 244 against Bangladesh.

In the high-scoring draw at Pallekele, the left-handed Test specialist notched up his maiden double hundred, helping his side post 648/8 on the fifth day of the Test. Karunaratne, who turned 33 on the first day of the match, stepped into the 34th year in style. In a marathon that lasted 11 hours, Karunaratne made 244 off 437 balls with 26 fours. At present, the Sri Lankan is just four away from Rohit Sharma in the list of leading run-scorers of the year.

Abid Ali 215* vs Zimbabwe

Abid Ali broke Younis Khan's eight-year-old record in Zimbabwe as he notched up 215* against the hosts in Harare. It was the best score by a Pakistan batter at the venue, with Younis' 200 being at the top of the list before Ali's splendid 215. He hit 29 fours in his marathon knock and became the first opener from his country to clock 200 in Zimbabwe.

It was Ali's 18th century in Test innings in the first innings. Since 2010, he has scored the joint-most Test tons for his country along with Younis Khan. Riding on Ali's record double ton, Pakistan posted an intimidating 510/8 on the board before bundling the hosts for 132 and 231 in both innings. Pakistan won the Test by an innings and 147 runs.

Along with Ali, Fawad Alam also had an incredible year with the bat, becoming the fastest Pakistan batter to hit five Test hundreds. The left-handed batter scored his fifth ton against West Indies only in his 22nd innings, which was six less than that of Younis' record. He was named in Pakistan XI in August 2020, for his first Test since November 2009, making a Test comeback after a decade. Fawad Alam hasn't looked back since then.

Travis Head 152 vs England

Travis Head of Australia(Getty Images)
Travis Head of Australia(Getty Images)

To wrap up the year in style, Australia's Travis Head became the third-fastest centurion in Ashes history after he scored his first century against England. Head joined the likes of Adam Gilchrist and Gilbert Jessop, who had registered their Ashes tons in 57 and 76 deliveries respectively.

Interestingly, Head's 112 runs came in a single session at the Gabba in Brisbane. He became the first player to score a ton in a single session at the venue, reaching the three-figure mark in just 85 deliveries. The left-handed dasher's ton currently is first in the list of fastest known Test century at this ground, with the previous fastest being Joe Burns' 102-ball ton against New Zealand in 2015.

Overall, it was Head's third Test ton in 32 innings in 20 matches. He was the last man to get dismissed as the hosts continued to pile on the misery on the English unit before taking the Ashes series opener by nine wickets.

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