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World Test Championship

The Ultimate Test Series: Quarter-finalists revealed

The Ultimate Test Series

The votes are in. Welcome to the quarter-final stage of The Ultimate Test Series challenge.

Ahead of the ICC World Test Championship Final, we’re looking to crown The Ultimate Test Series – a Test series that would stand out in any era for both its significance to the sport’s rich history and the level of cricket played.

Over the past four days we have invited you to vote on your favourite series from a shortlist of 16. Now it is time for the quarter-finals.

Across the next few days, we'll call for votes on each quarter-final across our social channels. 

For now, here is a quick look at the four clashes.

INDIA-AUSTRALIA 2001 vs AUSTRALIA-SOUTH AFRICA 2008/09

India vs Australia, 2001
2-1 to India across three Tests

Australia arrived in India with captain Steve Waugh determined to conquer what he had labelled the ‘final frontier’. Firmly cemented as the world’s best Test team, Australia were on course to do just that after winning the first Test handsomely, thanks to centuries from Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist.

That was their record-extending 16th straight Test victory and they were on track for a 17th when they enforced the follow-on at Eden Gardens. For the better part of two days, VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid conjured a miracle, and captains have feared the follow-on ever since. The pair put on 376 runs together, with Laxman scoring a double-century. India would go on to win that Test with stumps closing in quickly on day five, cementing the match’s status as one of the greatest in cricket history.

In the series decider, Hayden stepped up for Australia again, scoring a brilliant 203 in a total of 391. It turned out to be an effort in vain, as India replied with 501 in their first innings, thanks to a century from Sachin Tendulkar and fifties from SS Das, Sadagoppan Ramesh, Laxman and Dravid. The Australians did well to push India all the way from there, with the hosts scraping to victory by two wickets in the end.

 

An iconic moment from an iconic duo.
An iconic moment from an iconic duo.

 

Australia vs South Africa - 2008/09
1-2 to South Africa across three Tests

Australia had not lost a Test series at home since 1992/93 when Graeme Smith’s South Africa arrived in 2008.

That record didn’t look to be at risk when they set South Africa a target of 414 – just four runs fewer than the highest successful chase of all time - to win on a cracking WACA deck. Carried by centuries from Smith and AB de Villiers, the Proteas pulled it off with six wickets to spare as JP Duminy impressed with an unbeaten 50 under pressure on debut.

A Test later and Australia’s unbeaten series run at home came to an end as Dale Steyn took twin five-fors at the Melbourne Cricket Ground and Duminy scored a brilliant 166. This time around the Proteas only had to chase down a target of 183.

Australia went on to take out the final Test – a match that will always be remembered for the sight of Smith walking out to bat at No.11 with a broken hand.

AB de Villiers starred in an incredible series for South Africa.
AB de Villiers starred in an incredible series for South Africa.

INDIA-PAKISTAN 1999 vs AUSTRALIA-NEW ZEALAND 1985/86

India vs Pakistan, 1999
1-1 across two Tests

An enthralling contest was expected between the two arch-rivals during their clash in 1999, and the series well and truly delivered its fair share of drama. 

Sachin Tendulkar’s memorable knock of 136 was in vain as India fell short by a mere 12 runs in the opening Test match in Chennai while chasing down a target of 271. The close encounter was a treat for the fans witnessing it as it pitted Sachin’s mastery against the skills and wizardry of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Saqlain Mushtaq. The Pakistanis pulled off an incredible comeback to win the Test, with India collapsing from 254/6 to 258 all out following the dismissal of Tendulkar.

The second Test in Delhi would turn out to be another unforgettable encounter, with Anil Kumble etching his name in the history books. With Pakistan chasing down a total of 420, Kumble would scalp all 10 Pakistan wickets as he bowled them out for 207. He would become only the second bowler in history after Jim Laker to accomplish this feat. 

Pakistan went on to win a third Test between the two teams a fortnight later, but that match was a part of the Asian Championship.

 

Australia vs New Zealand, 1985
1-2 to New Zealand across three Tests

A series win unlikely to ever be forgotten by New Zealand. A tour in which they managed to seal a series victory against their Trans-Tasman rivals away from home - their Test only success in Australia to date. 

The visitors started off with a bang in Brisbane, registering a comfortable victory by an innings and 41 runs. Martin Crowe played a mammoth knock of 188 and Richard Hadlee would scalp 15 wickets in the match to set up the win. 

Australia would bounce back at the Sydney Cricket Ground with David Boon’s 81 helping them chase down a total of 260. 

Hadlee was then back to his lethal best in Perth, with his 11-wicket haul helping the Kiwis triumph in a six-wicket victory. Despite their best efforts, no Kiwi side has yet matched the feat accomplished by the side which visited Australian shores in 1985.

Martin Crowe was key to New Zealand's series win.
Martin Crowe was key to New Zealand's series win.

AUSTRALIA-INDIA 2020/21 vs AUSTRALIA-ENGLAND 1936/37

Australia vs India, 2020/21
1-2 to India across four Tests

India went into the 2020/21 campaign as the Border-Gavaskar Trophy holders, having won the last time they toured Australia. This time, however, the Australians had back the services of Steve Smith and, belatedly due to injury, David Warner. India on the other hand would be losing star captain Virat Kohli after the first match of the series due to the birth of his first child. As it turned out, Kohli’s departure would be just one of their worries.

Few gave India any chance of taking the series after they were rolled for 36 at Adelaide Oval, losing a Test they had largely been in control of. To make matters worse for the tourists, alongside Kohli they also lost pace spearhead Mohammed Shami for the remainder of the series due to injury.

It was at the MCG the comeback began as they rallied to level the series on the back of a century from Ajinkya Rahane. It came at the cost of another frontline quick, with Umesh Yadav breaking down. The injury toll got worse at the SCG, where they pulled off a remarkable draw, while losing Jasprit Bumrah, Hanuma Vihari, R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja to further injuries.

At the Gabba, deep into their reserves, they did the unthinkable, winning the match and the series off the back of an incredible 89 not out from Rishabh Pant.

An incredible moment for Indian cricket.
An incredible moment for Indian cricket.

Australia vs England, 1936/37
3-2 to Australia across five Tests

A series that is remembered both for Australia’s dogged fighting spirit and Don Bradman’s innovation as captain. 

Having tasted back-to-back defeats in Brisbane and Sydney, the Australian side were on tenterhooks, staring at a series defeat at home going into the third match. In the first Test they had been blown away by 322 runs as Bill Voce took 10 wickets for the match and in the second they had lost by more than an innings after a Wally Hammond double-century.

A tactical masterstroke by Sir Don in the third Test paid huge dividends: he reversed the batting order in the second innings. The move was thought out by the Australian skipper to counter the wet pitch at the end of day two and make full use of the rest day, allowing the surface to dry out under the sun. It worked wonders as Bradman himself would score an incredible 270 in the second innings and Australia wound up winning by 365 runs. 

The momentum would carry on in the fourth and fifth Test matches as the hosts registered comfortable victories in Adelaide and Melbourne to complete a remarkable turnaround with a 3-2 series win.

Don Bradman's captaincy was key in a 3-2 comeback for Australia.
Don Bradman's captaincy was key in a 3-2 comeback for Australia.

 

ENGLAND-AUSTRALIA 2005 vs  ENGLAND-AUSTRALIA 1981

England vs Australia, 2005
2-1 to England across five Tests

Going into the 2005 series, England had not won an Ashes campaign since 1987, with the Australians taking out each of the past eight series between the two sides.

In 2005, England finally won back the urn.

That did not look a likely result when the Australians dealt them a 239-run defeat at Lord’s in the series opener off the back of a nine-wicket match haul from Glenn McGrath.

However, things took a drastic turn at Edgbaston, where the Australians lost McGrath to a rolled ankle before a ball had been bowled. In one of the sport’s tightest ever finishes, England went on to win that Test by two runs. In trouble at 175/8 and then 220/9 in the chase, the Australians almost pulled off the improbable.

At Old Trafford, the Australians just barely held on for a draw thanks to a century from captain Ricky Ponting, before England took a 2-1 series lead Trent Bridge after an Andrew Flintoff ton. A draw at the Oval was followed by an open-top bus parade for England’s triumphant outfit.

The urn returns.
The urn returns.

England-Australia, 1981
3-2 to England across six Tests

The 1981 Ashes is fondly remembered in England as ‘Botham’s Ashes’ - such was the impact the all-rounder had on the course of the series.

The Australians came out on top in a low-scoring encounter at Trent Bridge to start the series, with Dennis Lillee taking nine wickets for the match, before a draw at Lord’s.

Botham had been relatively quiet across the first two matches but came out of his shell after relinquishing the captaincy ahead of the third Test.

At Headingley, he proved devastating with both bat and ball. Having taken six wickets in Australia’s first innings total of 401, Botham came out swinging after England were forced to follow on, blasting 149 at better than a run-a-ball. That was enough to help the hosts set a target of 130, which proved 19 too many for Australia as Bob Willis took eight wickets.

The result galvanised the English unit as they mounted another comeback victory in the fourth Test match in Edgbaston before sealing the series with a 103-run victory in the fifth Test match in Manchester.

The sixth and final Test at the Oval in London would end in a draw, with Lillee snaring 11 wickets and Botham 10. Botham finished the series with 399 runs and 34 wickets.

Ian Botham's Ashes.
Ian Botham's Ashes.



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