Amazing turnarounds in Test cricket

In 1997, West Indies suffered a humiliating defeat by an innings and 183 runs against Australia in Adelaide but picked themselves up to vanquish the hosts by 10 wickets in the next match in Perth. Is this the greatest come-from-behind victory in Test cricket? Here’s a list of best turnaround victories in Tests.

Brian Lara... a double-century in Kingston, followed by an unbeaten century in Bridgetown helped West Indies bounce back in the four-Test series against Australia after the host had suffered a 312-run mauling in the first match in Port of Spain.   -  Getty Images

The idea for this article came to me at the end of the Trent Bridge Test (July 14-17, 2017) between England and South Africa. There was a virtual 180-degree turn from the Lord’s Test. South Africa reversed a huge 200-plus-run defeat into a more emphatic 300-plus-run win. I started wondering, how often such turnarounds have happened in Test cricket. As often as it happens, a spark becomes a full article, based on in-depth analysis.

It would be wrong to use memory, knowledge and familiarity with the cricket scene to draw up a list of such turnarounds. I would, woefully, fall short. Hence, I used a metric that was jointly developed by my collaborator, Milind Pandit, and me. This is a top-down analysis of Tests, starting from the match, going through teams, innings, areas and ending at the player-levels. For this analysis, I will only use the top two levels.

Based on complex algorithms, I determine the TPPs (Team Performance Points) for each team for each Test. Since this encompasses a comprehensive analysis of all the factors connected with the Test, the TPP is an excellent tool to measure the performance of teams. (A brief explanation of TPP follows this article)

Definition of a turnaround

What is a turnaround? I have gone on the basis that the losing team needs an improvement of at least 45 TPPs for the Test to be considered as a significant turnaround. If I lower this cut-off value, too many Tests would qualify, and we would be saddled with too many ordinary reversals of fortunes.

Rahul Dravid during his classic knock against Pakistan in the Rawalpindi Test in 2004. After losing to Pakistan in Lahore, India, riding on Dravid’s 270, stormed back to hammer the host by an innings and 131 runs and win the three-Test series 2-1.   -  S. Subramanium

As a reference point for the readers, let me say that an innings loss, followed by an innings win, will have a TPP change of over 50. So the cut-off is approximately equivalent to a 9-wicket win followed by a 9-wicket loss. And it is understood that the turnaround has to happen within a series. It is not really a turnaround when Australia win the last Test at The Oval by a big margin, and England win the opening Test of the next series at the MCG by an equally big margin, two years later.

Analysis scenarios

Let us imagine a situation in which India have won the first Test by an innings, Pakistan the next Test by an innings, and India the third Test by 10 wickets. We have a double-turnaround here. Sort of (inverted) ‘V’ in terms of a performance graph. Such occurrences are quite rare, and I will feature all such instances.

Based on this tough criterion, 31 Tests qualify for further perusal and analysis. Out of these, the 12 Tests in which the change in TPP exceeded 50 points will be featured. The other 19 will only be listed.

It is true but amazing that there are only five occasions when an innings win was followed by an innings loss within a series. These will be highlighted.

Series with double-turnarounds

India and Pakistan played their first ever series as independent nations during 1952-53. In the first Test in Delhi, India scored a resounding win by an innings and 70 runs, with Ashok Mankad claiming 13 wickets, for a TPP equation of 78.5-21.5. Then the teams moved to the matting wicket in Lucknow, and there was a total change of fortune. Fazal Mahmood was virtually unplayable, as he captured 12 wickets. And the scores were almost identical to the first Test: 300-plus scores winning over 100-plus scores. Pakistan’s TPP points tally: 77.3-22.7. There was a change of 52.8 points. The caravan moved to Bombay and everything changed 180 degrees. India won by 10 wickets. This time the TPP values were 74.7-25.3 in India’s favour. A terrific double-turnaround indeed!

Unfortunately, the teams went on to play 13 consecutive draws after this exciting three-Test series. The word ‘winning’ was replaced by the phrase ‘not losing’ in the two teams’ mindset.

The next double-turnaround occurred over two decades later when West Indies toured Australia during 1975-76. Australia won the first Test in Brisbane by 8 wickets for a TPP score of 67.5-32.5. Next in Perth, Roberts, Holding and Boyce were devastating. West Indies had a huge innings win, with a TPP tally of 77.7-22.3 — a swing of 45.2 points. The third Test, played at the MCG, was won quite comfortably, if not overwhelmingly, by Australia by 8 wickets. The TPP score of 68.5-31.5 meant a change of 46.2 points. Afterwards, Australia took charge and defeated West Indies comprehensively in the next three Tests to win the series by an overwhelming 5-1 margin.

It took another two decades for the double-turnaround to be repeated. And it was enacted by the same two teams. Australia won the Brisbane and the SCG Tests comfortably. West Indies won the MCG Test by 6 wickets, with a TPP equation of 61.3-38.7. Australia exacted revenge in Adelaide with a huge innings win and with a massive TPP value of 82.2-17.8. This was a turnaround of 43.5 points. This win sealed the series. However, West Indies did not give up. They won the Perth Test by 10 wickets with a TPP score of 74.6-25.4. The TPP gain was a huge 56.8.

Incidentally, this is the greatest turnaround in the history of Test cricket. Australia won an exciting series 3-2. This is very creditable since West Indies achieved the double-turnaround while playing in an away series.

Eighteen years later, India toured Pakistan in 2004. Against all odds, the Indian team won the first Test in Multan by an innings and ended with a TPP value of 76.3-23.7. This was Virender Sehwag’s Test (309 runs off 375 balls). The wounded Pakistan rose to the occasion and won the Lahore Test by 9 wickets. The TPP changed to 71.7-28.3 in Pakistan’s favour and a differential of 48.0 points. Once again, against all odds, India won the Rawalpindi Test by a huge margin — innings and 131 runs — mainly due to Rahul Dravid’s masterpiece of 270. The TPP changed direction to 79.1-20.9. The turnaround was over 50 points. This is the only three-Test series that had a complete turnaround. This is also a very laudable achievement since India was playing away from home.

The next double-turnaround happened within six years when England visited Australia for the Ashes during 2010-11. The first Test in Brisbane was a ‘batting’ draw with the last 624 runs being scored for the loss of two wickets. Everything changed in Adelaide. England won the Test comfortably by an innings and had a TPP score of 77.0-23.0. Australia bounced back in Perth, won a low-scoring Test by a big margin, and gained 47 TPPs to finish with a tally of 70.1-29.9. When everyone thought that the series had turned, England won the next two Tests to take the Ashes 3-1. The fourth game at the MCG was the turnaround Test. England’s huge innings win fetched them a TPP of 81.0-19.0, with a turnover of 51.1 points. Another terrific away performance — this time by England.

The 2015 Ashes series was, arguably, the one with the maximum turnarounds, although not necessarily consecutive. This series was not a classic like the one a decade ago, but the 3-2 result was an apt reminder of what happened. The results and the TPP values are given below (England first). The yo-yo nature of the series becomes evident. However, it is clear that all five wins were comprehensive.

Cardiff: England won by 169 runs; 58.9-41.1.

Lord’s: Australia won by 405 runs; 28.1-71.9.

Edgbaston: England won by 8 wickets; 67.8-32.2.

Trent Bridge: England won by an innings and 78 runs; 78.7-21.3.

The Oval: Australia won by an innings and 46 runs; 23.3-76.7.

Finally, let us go back to the Test that started all these wanderings. As often as it happens, a Test kindles a spark within me and, respectfully, withdraws into the background. The Lord’s Test (July 6-9, 2017) ended with a TPP of 62.0-38.0 in favour of England, and the Nottingham Test had a TPP scoreline of 72.3-27.7 in favour of South Africa. The visiting team’s improvement of 34.3 was not enough to get this turnaround into the shortlist.

That is what I thought at the end of the Trent Bridge Test. Then came The Oval. This time the English looked like world-beaters and the South Africans showed signs of babes lost in the woods. The win by 239 runs was not enough to take England’s TPP value to 67.7 (which would have meant an improvement of 40 points). This Test finished with a TPP tally of 64.6-35.4. So this match also finished shy of making to the shortlist.

But wait, the two matches might have missed the 40-mark, but had the makings of a double-turnaround. South Africa moved up by 34.3 points and England moved up by 36.9 points. I decided to make an honorary inclusion of this 3-Test sequence as a double-turnaround.

Ahead of the fourth Test at Old Trafford, one wondered if there would be another turnaround, with South Africa bouncing back. Had South Africa won, it would have been a triple-turnaround — the first time ever in Test cricket history. That, however, did not materialise. England, a very strong side, especially at home, swamped the Proteas in the fourth Test to take the series in a convincing manner.

The biggest turnaround came when West Indies visited Australia in 1997. West Indies bounced back from an overwhelming loss by an innings and 183 runs to win the Perth Test by 10 wickets — Brian Lara’s classic 132 being the key.

I have already talked about the next entry: The turnaround effected by Pakistan during their inaugural tour of India in 1952. The next best turnaround has also been featured: Australia’s effort during the 2015 Ashes.

During the 1965-66 Ashes series down under, Australia responded to an innings win by England (third Test, Sydney, January 7-11, 1966) with an innings win of their own in Adelaide.

A similar thing happened a few months later in England, when the hosts responded to the West Indian innings win with their own innings victory. Tom Graveney’s classic 165, which helped England recover from a disastrous 166 for 7 to 527 all out was the highlight of the match.

In the 1981 series between Australia and Pakistan, the hosts won the second Test by 10 wickets. A few days later, Pakistan responded with an innings win, mainly through the efforts of Imran Khan, Sarfraz Nawaz and Iqbal Qasim.

The highlight of the 1999 series between West Indies and Australia was the all-time classic, match-winning innings of 153 not out by Lara in Bridgetown.

However, he had also played an equally astounding innings of 213 in Kingston to help West Indies win by 10 wickets after the hosts had suffered a 312-run mauling in Port of Spain. Lara helped West Indies move from 51 all out to 431 all out.

The Indian win in the double-turnaround against Pakistan in 1952 appears next. The Australian win by 229 runs — after they were dismissed in the first innings for 112 and were 167 for 8 in the second — against England in 1902 comes in next.

The table is completed by three Tests from the recent past: the innings win for India against South Africa in Kolkata in 2010, the massive innings win for England at the MCG in the 2010 Ashes, and the Dravid-inspired innings win for India against Pakistan in Rawalpindi in 2004.

 

Responding to innings defeat with innings win

As I have already mentioned, there are only five such instances. These are highlighted below:

1952: Pakistan’s win by an innings & 34 runs followed India’s win by an innings & 70 runs.

1966: Australia’s win by an innings & 9 runs followed England’s win by an innings & 93 runs.

1966: England’s win by an innings & 34 runs followed West Indies’ win by an innings & 55 runs.

2010: India’s win by an innings & 57 runs followed by South Africa’s win by an innings & 6 runs.

2015: Australia’s win by an innings & 46 runs followed England’s win by an innings & 78 runs.

Conclusion

Readers might be interested in a few famous terrific turnarounds, which are not featured here.

In 2001, Australia trounced India by 10 wickets in Mumbai and garnered a TPP score of 74.6-25.4. However, the next Test, the famous Calcutta classic, ended with India winning 57.7-42.3. The difference of 32.3 did not quite make it. The winning margin was, no doubt, an impressive 171 runs. However, it was not that great when compared to the match aggregate of 1485 runs.

In 1981, England’s win against Australia in Headingley was quite narrow and had no chance of making the cut. Similarly, in 2005, England’s win against Australia in Edgbaston was by a mere 2 runs.

England’s huge 10-wicket win against India in Mumbai in 2012, following their defeat by nine wickets in Ahmedabad, qualified comfortably with a gain of 46.2 points but did not make the cut for the final featured Tests.

The famous Ashes series of 1936-37, in which Australia came back from a 0-2 deficit to win 3-2, had only one turnaround. Australia lost the second Test by an innings and 22 runs and had only 24.2 TPPs to show.

Then they won the next Test by 365 runs, aided by Don Bradman’s all-time classic of 270, and gained 70.9 points. The improvement of 46.7 points puts them in the shortlist, but not in the featured collection.

During the 1965-66 Ashes series down under, Australia responded to an innings win by England (third Test, Sydney, January 7-11, 1966) with an innings win of their own in Adelaide. A similar thing happened a few months later in England, when the hosts responded to the West Indian innings win with their own innings victory. Tom Graveney’s classic 165, which helped England recover from a disastrous 166 for 7 to 527 all out was the highlight of the match.

Kevin Pietersen and his team-mates perform the ‘sprinkler’ after winning the fourth Test of the Ashes at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 2010. It was the turnaround Test for England which claimed the series 3-1.   -  Getty Images

India and Pakistan played their first ever series as independent nations during 1952-53. In the first Test in Delhi, India scored a resounding win by an innings and 70 runs. Then the teams moved to the matting wicket in Lucknow, and there was a total change of fortune, as Pakistan won the Test to draw level in the three-Test series. In the final Test in Bombay everything changed 180 degrees. India won by 10 wickets. A terrific double- turnaround indeed!

Ahead of the fourth Test at Old Trafford (AUGUST 4-7, 2017), one wondered if there would be another turnaround, with South Africa bouncing back. Had South Africa won, it would have been a triple-turnaround — the first time ever in Test cricket history. That, however, did not materialise. England, a very strong side, especially at home, swamped the Proteas in the fourth Test to take the series in a convincing manner.

The famous Ashes series of 1936-37, in which Australia came back from a 0-2 deficit to win 3-2, had only one turnaround. Australia lost the second Test by an innings and 22 runs and had only 24.2 TPPs to show. Then they won the next Test by 365 runs, aided by Don Bradman’s all-time classic of 270, and gained 70.9 points.

In 2001, Australia trounced India by 10 wickets in Mumbai and garnered a TPP score of 74.6-25.4. However, the next Test, the famous Calcutta classic, ended with India winning 57.7-42.3. The difference of 32.3 did not quite make it. The winning margin was, no doubt, an impressive 171 runs. However, it was not that great when compared to the match aggregate of 1485 runs.

HOW THE TPP IS DERIVED

The TPP (Team Performance Points) values are non-contextual. Home/away, team strengths, period, series status etc. are not part of the equations. These are based solely on scorecard data, and nothing more. As such, these are not ratings.

The cornerstone of these computations is that, only in the case of the two tied Tests the two teams would be accorded 50-50 TPPs. Everything else flows from this base.

Wicket resources are calculated based on an in-depth analysis of the 2200-plus Tests that have been played. There are draws, and draws: some draws are more equal than the others. All non-tied draws will be allotted points below 100. How close to 100 will be determined by how close to a result the match finished. The total match points could range from 0.38 points (Test #1907) to 98.36 points (Test #1420). The match is extended into the fourth dimension, so to speak, to get a handle on the nature of the draw and points allotted.

A team, which draws a match, would always score less than 75 points depending on the scores. The highest points acquisition for a drawn match has been by South Africa, with 74.5 points, in Test #616 (Australia: 143 and 148-8, South Africa: 332-9 decl.), in which they missed a win very narrowly. Test #1420, mentioned above, follows closely. Even amongst the two tied Tests, the tie in 1960 is the perfect one since all resources were exhausted. We cannot play a single ball more in any innings, in any dimension we choose. The tie in 1986 is an imperfect one since Australia lost only 12 wickets.

The Mumbai Test during 2011 was a draw with scores level. India get slightly more points since they had a very good chance of winning had the match continued for a few more balls. And there’s also the fact that they couldn’t have lost, come what may.

All matches that ended in a result will be allotted 100 points, to be shared between the two teams, based on a set of complicated formulae. There are two exceptions. The first is the contrived result based on the agreement between Nasser Hussain and Hansie Cronje. Only two innings were completed, and the two teams share only 50 points (Test #1483). The other is the Test conceded by Pakistan because of ball-tampering allegations (Test #1814). This is worked out based on the condition at the time of the abrupt conclusion of the match. The situation then was favourable to Pakistan. This is the only Test in which the ‘winning’ team gets fewer points than the ‘losing’ team. For all practical purposes, the ‘win’ is just not there. Not all identical wins are equal. A 100-run win with scores of ABC: 150, XYZ: 70, ABC: 100 and XYZ: 80 will be considered to be far more emphatic than another 100-run win with scores of ABC: 250, XYZ: 200, ABC: 300 and XYZ: 250. The reason is obvious. The win margin of 100 is a much higher percentage of the total match runs: 25% out of 400 and 10% out of 1000 in the two matches respectively.

Similarly, two wins by innings and 50 runs could have different TPPs for the winning teams depending on their single innings scores. A win with scores of ABC: 80, XYZ: 200 and ABC: 70 will be considered to be far more emphatic than another similar margin win with scores of ABC: 250, XYZ: 500 and ABC: 200. The reason is obvious. The win margin is a much higher percentage of the single innings score of the winning team: 50% out of 200 and 20% out of 500 in the two matches respectively.

It is not possible to predict a range for a win by runs since it depends on the scores and the final margin. The margins have varied between a 1-run win (Test #1210: scored 50.08-49.92 for West Indies) to a 675-run win (Test #176: scored 92.82-7.18 for England).

A team that wins by runs could easily score more points than even a big innings win depending on the scores: England: 85.95 points (Test #47: win by 288 runs) & 83.56 points (Test #48: win by an innings and 197 runs). In fact, the maximum points in a match has been secured by England, which won Test #176 by 675 runs, the target being 742. This has been referred to above.

A team that achieves an innings win would always score more than 75 points since the winning teams have always played only one innings. A team that wins by wickets would always score below 75 points since the winning teams have always played two innings.