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Tracing India’s performances in the first Test of an overseas series

It will be change of fortunes if Virat Kohli's ton in the first Test of the ongoing series sparks a win for India © Getty Images
It will be change of fortunes if Virat Kohli’s ton in the first Test of the ongoing series sparks a win for India © Getty Images

By Abhijit Banare

Virat Kohli’s 119 gave bright hope for India to start off the Test series on a good note, a match which India managed to escape with a draw by a narrow margin of eight runs. Historically, India have been poor starters and have struggled to make an impact early on in a Test series. This statistical analysis elaborates India’s performance in the first match of an overseas Test series and encapsulates some of the centurions in these matches. To begin with, India have played 71 matches (including the ongoing first Test against South Africa). One match has been excluded from the count i.e. the first Test of the 1998 series against New Zealand.

Performance of India in first Test of an overseas series

M

W

L

D

71*

12

34

24

*The first Test of the 1998 series of New Zealand was abandoned without a bowl being bowled. The numbers include the ongoing Test against South Africa.

We further look at how India has fared against each of the Test playing nations. It has been segregated into record against formidable overseas teams like England, South Africa, Australia and West Indies and subcontinent teams Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh along with New Zealand.

Table 1:

M

W

L

D

England

16

1

13

2

Australia

10

0

8

2

South Africa

6*

1

3

1

West Indies

10

1

3

6

*Considering the first Test against South Africa in 2013

Table 2:

New Zealand

7

3

3

1

Pakistan

7

1

0

6

Zimbabwe

4

2

1

1

Bangladesh

4

3

0

1

Sri Lanka

7

0

3

4

New Zealand is one of the countries were India have started off well in first Test. On India’s first overseas tour to New Zealand in 1967-68 and also in 1975-76, India have managed to win their matches. That should give a bit of confidence when they tour New Zealand in 2014. However, against formidable sides like England and Australia, India have struggled a lot. Against England, India have mustered just one victory in the first test. This only victory came against England in 1986 when a solid innings of 126 by Dilip Vengsarkar helped the visitors take a crucial lead and eventually complete a five-wicket win. However, till today, India have never managed to win their first Test in Australia.

However, against formidable sides like England and Australia, India have struggled a lot. Out of the 12 overseas victories, India have managed to secure only three wins against the tough teams mentioned in table 1. Three wins in 42 tests speaks a lot about the fact that India may have started of the series well on some occasions but they have a lot to prove while starting against formidable sides to be regarded as a fine Test team.

Even out of the three, the win against West Indies came in 2011 when the Windies were well past their prime with only Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shivnarine Chanderpaul part of the playing XI among the old guard involving players like Jimmy Adams, Courtney Walsh, Carl Hooper and others.

Against England, India have mustered just one victory in first Test. This only victory came against England came in 1986 when a solid innings of 126 by Dilip Vengsarkar helped the visitors take a crucial lead and eventually complete a five-wicket win. However, till today, India have never managed to win their first Test in Australia.

The first ever Test that India won on South African soil was also the first Test of a series. Till today, India have won only two matches in the rainbow nation with the other victory being at Durban in 2010. Indian batsmen have often been found wanting against the pace and bounce in South Africa. However, Kohli looked unperturbed and played a responsible innings.

Subcontinent, a comfort zone for India?

However, subcontinent has often been a comfort zone for India. Not only have they scored heavily, they have registered more wins in first Tests. Of the 12 first Tests India have won away from home, half of them have come in subcontinent. The number of draws played out has also been high. Out of the seven matches India have played against Pakistan, six have ended in a draw. Perhaps one of the better known drawn matches includes the one in November 1989 where Sachin Tendulkar made his debut. Sanjay Manjrekar had scored 113 in the second innings of the series.

Another remarkable first Test India played away from home in subcontinent was in the 1997 series against Sri Lanka, where India had two centurions in their first innings. Tendulkar and Mohammad Azharuddin score 143 and 126 respectively. But the quality of draw went to a different level altogether when the hosts slammed a record 952 runs. It was also the first and only Test where India had three centurions in an innings in the first Test of a series. In terms of losses, India have lost only three of their 18 matches.

Centurions for India in the first Test of a series against England, Australia, South Africa and West Indies:

Player

Opposition

Runs

Innings

Result

Year

Vijay Manjrekar

England

133

1st

Lost

1952

Polly Umrigar

West Indies

130

1st

Drawn

1953

Tiger Pataudi

England

148

2nd

Lost

1967

Dilip Sardesai

West Indies

213

1st

Drawn

1971

Sunil Gavaskar

England

101

1st

Lost

1974

Dilip Vengsarkar

England

157

2nd

Lost

1982

Sunil Gavaskar

Australia

166

1st

Drawn

1985

Dilip Vengsarkar

England

126

1st

Won

1986

Ravi Shastri

England

100

1st

Lost

1990

Mohammad Azharuddin

England

121

1st

Lost

1990

Pravin Amre

South Africa

103

1st

Drawn

1992

Sachin Tendulkar

England

122

2nd

Lost

1996

Sachin Tendulkar

South Africa

155

1st

Lost

2001

Virender Sehwag

South Africa

105

1st

Lost

2001

Rahul Dravid

West Indies

144*

1st

Drawn

2002

Ajit Agarkar

England

109

2nd

Lost

2002

Sourav Ganguly

Australia

144

1st

Drawn

2003

Wasim Jaffer

West Indies

212

2nd

Drawn

2006

Sachin Tendulkar

South Africa

111*

2nd

Lost

2010

Rahul Dravid

West Indies

112

2nd

Won

2011

Virat Kohli*

South Africa

119

1st

Draw

2013

Cheteshwar Pujara

South Africa

156

2nd

Draw

2013

(Updated after the first Test between India and South Africa at Johannesburg on December 22, 2013)

Centurions for India in first Test of series against Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, New Zealand and Zimbabwe:

Player Opposition Runs Innings Result Year
Sunil Gavaskar New Zealand 116 1st Won

1976

Surinder Amarnath New Zealand 124 1st Won

1976

Gundappa Viswamath Pakistan 143 1st Drawn

1978

Mohinder Amarnath Pakistan 109 1st Drawn

1982

Mohinder Amarnath Pakistan 101 1st Drawn

1984

Sanjay Manjrekar Pakistan 113 2nd Drawn

1989

Sanjay Manjrekar Zimbabwe 104 1st Drawn

1992

Navjot Sidhu Sri Lanka 111 1st Drawn

1997

Sachin Tendulkar Sri Lanka 143 1st Drawn

1997

Mohammad Azharuddin Sri Lanka 126 1st Drawn

1997

Rahul Dravid Zimbabwe 118 1st Lost

1998

Virender Sehwag Pakistan 309 1st Won

2004

Sachin Tendulkar Pakistan 194 1st Won

2004

Sachin Tendulkar Bangladesh 248* 1st Won

2004

VVS Laxman Zimbabwe 140 1st Won

2005

Sourav Ganguly Zimbabwe 101 1st Won

2005

Virender Sehwag Pakistan 254 1st Drawn

2006

Rahul Dravid Pakistan 128* 1st Drawn

2006

Sachin Tendulkar Bangladesh 101 1st Drawn

2007

Sourav Ganguly Bangladesh 100 1st Drawn

2007

Sachin Tendulkar New Zealand 160 1st Won

2009

Sachin Tendulkar Bangladesh 105* 1st Won

2010

Gautam Gambhir Bangladesh 116 2nd Won

2010

Virender Sehwag Sri Lanka 109 1st Lost

2010

Centurions

A total of 45 centuries have been scored on the first overseas Test of a series. There have been many memorable knocks which have rescued India under pressure. The first instance of an Indian scoring a ton in first overseas Test was Vijay Manjrekar’s 133 against England in 1952. Whereas, India’s first victory overseas in a first Test came against New Zealand in 1967-68.

There are many innings that rank better than that Kohli has played, considering the situation of the game. The notable ones are that of Dilip Vengsarkar scoring 157 against England in 1982 when India were following on; though India lost the game. Vengsarkar’s 126 in 1986 though helped India register their first win the first Test of a series in England, which has been described earlier in the article. Mohinder Amarnath has played two first Test century innings against Pakistan of which, in the 1984 match India escaped with a draw despite following on. Then there’s a debut ton by Virender Sehwag (105) at Bloemfontein. All of India’s fab four star in the list. Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid being the most impressive ones. The Master Blaster has nine centuries in the first Test of a series. Out of the four tons that Dravid has scored, his 112 against West Indies in the second Test is certainly the best which helped India  claw back and register a victory. Out of Ganguly’s two, his 144 at Brisbane in the 2003 series stands out. It was the closest India could have come to a win as they had gained an 86-run lead, but a good show from Australia in the second essay evened out the situation. In terms of runs scored, Wasim Jaffer’s double century against West Indies in 2006 turned out to be almost a match-winning innings. He scored 212 runs. The Windies managed to escape with a draw with one wicket to spare.

Kohli’s knock is certainly among the best ones you could see even though, as mentioned above, there have been better ones than that. Each innings has its value under circumstance. And we cannot forget that this was India’s first Test post-Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement. Things could have gone worse looking at the situation of batsmen in the One-Day International (ODI) series, but Kohli’s innings inserted a sense of self-belief and confidence that the visitors can fight it out. Even Cheteshwar Pujara struck a fine century in the second innings. Among the many overseas Tests that have started off with, this will go down as the finest in the history of the game; a thrilling draw with South Africa falling short of just eight runs. The result shows that this new Indian team has the potential to get going on overseas tour without waiting for things to happen and then pull up their socks.

(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)

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