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Off to a flyer: Players who shone brightest in their Test debuts

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You only get one chance at a first impression and these players made a big one on theirs.

Test cricket has been around for close to a century and a half, and over the years the sport has witnessed incredible performances by players on their international debuts. We take a look at some of the best ones ever below:

Hirwani wreaks havoc against the Windies

Trailing 1-0 in the Test series against the mighty West Indies during their tour to the sub-continent in 1988, India needed a victory in the 4th and final Test in Chennai to level the series.

On a rank turner, India bolstered their spin attack with the introduction of Narendra Hirwani in the playing XI and it proved to be a masterstroke as the right-arm leg spinner picked up eight wickets in each innings to help India register a 255-run victory over the two-time World Champions. 

Hirwani dismissed every batsman in the West Indies line-up at least once in the match and finished with figures of 16/136, the third-best in Test history. 

Rowe’s ravishing performance on debut

A whopping 108 batsmen have scored centuries on their Test debuts and five have scored double tons in their first ever outing in an international Test. But only one man has scored a ton and a double ton on his Test debut and that was West Indies’ Lawrence Rowe in 1972 against New Zealand at Sabina Park in Jamaica.

Opting to bat first, West Indies were off to a good start but lost their first wicket on 78 when opener Joey Carew was caught LBW by Bevan Congdon. In walked Rowe and forged a 269-run partnership with Roy Fredericks before the opener was dismissed on 163 by Hedley Howarth. Rowe, however, continued to shine on his debut and reached his maiden double-ton on his Test debut before being dismissed for 214.

The home side declared on 508/4 and the visitors finished with 386 in response on the back of a double-ton by Glenn Turner who remained not out on 233. The Windies came out to bat looking to set a challenging total but saw themselves down two wickets with just 57 on the scoreboard. Rowe, however, continued to shine on debut and smashed a century in just 153 balls as the West Indies declared 218/3 setting a target of 341 for New Zealand.

New Zealand finished on 236/6 at the end of Day 5 and the match ended in a draw but Rower set the record for most runs on debut with 314, which stands to this day.

Massie mauls the English

Sixteen years prior to Hirwani debut, another bowler scalped 16 wickets on debut. Australian pacer Bob Massie made his debut in the second Test of the 1972 Ashes series at Lord’s and bowled immaculately well to help his side level the series at 1-1.

Massie’s first Test wicket was perhaps the biggest of his career, as he dismissed Geoff Boycott for just 11 runs. Dennis Lillee picked the next two English scalps and then it was the Massie show as the right-arm medium pacer ran through the English batting line-up and finished with figures of 8/84 to bundle out the home side for 272.

In reply, half-centuries from Rod Marsh and skipper Greg Chappell, as well as a magnificent ton from Ian Chappell, helped the Aussies build a 36-run lead over England. In the home side’s second inning, Lillee got the first two scalps after which, Massie crippled the English batting line-up with his stellar performance, picking up all of the remaining wickets and dismissing the home side for just 116. Australia chased down 82 with ease and levelled the five-match series owing to a mind-boggling performance from their debutant.

Foster’s debut, the stuff of folklore 

While plenty of batsmen have made stellar starts to their career, none more so than Reginald Erskine Foster, better known as Tip Foster, who holds the record for the highest score on debut. 

Foster made his debut during England’s Tour of Australia in 1903 and came in to bat with England in a spot of bother at 73-3. The then 25-year-old smashed 287 off 419 balls, which included 37 boundaries, helping his team pile 577 on the scoreboard. Foster scored just 19 in the second innings, however, England won the contest owing to some brilliance with the bat from Tom Hayward and George Hirst in the second inning. Foster’s aggregate of 304 was the highest by a debutant till Lawrence Rowe broke the record in 1972.

Feature image courtesy: AFP / Vijay Kumar

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