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10 dream debuts: From Dhawan to du Plessis

Wisden India logo Wisden India 26-09-2016

Over the years, there have been many cricketers whose maiden foray has not just defined the outcome of the game, but also found them a place in the history books. Here are the ten most recent players who have had a fairy-tale start to their Test careers.

Shikhar Dhawan (India)

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When Australia toured India in 2013, Shikhar Dhawan played only a cameo role – not being picked for the first two Tests, playing one innings in the third, suffering a hand injury while fielding and being ruled out of the fourth – but that one innings was enough to create history. Replacing an out-of-form Virender Sehwag at Mohali, Dhawan and M Vijay shared a record 289-run stand for the opening wicket after Australia scored 408 in the first innings. Dhawan raced to a century off just 85 balls – the fastest on debut in Test history. In an innings that consisted of 33 boundaries and two sixes, he finished with 187 off 174 balls, breaking the long-held record of the highest score by an Indian debutant. However, he didn’t bat in the second innings of the Test after suffering a hand injury he picked up while fielding. Despite that, Dhawan’s feat resulted in him being the highest impact player of the match. This knock was the highest impact performance of his Test career thus far. In addition, the knock was the eleventh-highest impact batting performance on debut.

Mustafizur Rahman (Bangladesh)


After his impressive debut in One-Day Internationals, where he claimed 18 wickets in his first six matches, Mustafizur Rahman was handed a Test cap when Bangladesh took on South Africa in July. Although rain was the literal dampener in the match, Bangladesh made plenty of gains, more so in the form of Mustafizur, who was a significant addition to Bangladesh’s bowling attack. Accounting for South Africa’s middle order namely, Hashim Amla, the captain, Temba Bavuma, JP Duminy and Quinton de Kock, including a triple strike in one over, Mustafizur was named Man of the Match. With that, he became the first player in history to win the award on both ODI and Test debut. Unsurprisingly, he was also the highest impact player in both debuts.

Rohit Sharma (India)

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Rohit Sharma and Mohammed Shami were handed Test debuts against West Indies in 2013 in Sachin Tendulkar’s farewell series. More than Tendulkar, the first of the two Tests ended up being about both debutants, who impressed with milestones of their own at the Eden Gardens. Shami picked up nine wickets in the match, which was the most by an Indian pacer on debut, while Rohit Sharma, coming in at 83 for 5, became the 14th Indian to score a Test century on debut. While his 177 took India to 453, it also was the second-best score by an Indian on debut behind Shikhar Dhawan. After his unbeaten 111 at the Wankhede Stadium in the second Test, he became part of a list of only three Indians with consecutive centuries in their first two Tests. Predictably, he was the highest impact player of the match with that being the highest impact performance of his Test career. However, he narrowly missed out on the series-defining title for two high impact performances in the series. The knock was also the third-highest impact batting performance on debut in the history of Test cricket, and the fourth-highest impact overall performance on debut.

Kyle Abbott (South Africa)

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Picked in the squad with the intention of gaining experience, Kyle Abbott was drafted into the playing XI quite suddenly after Jacques Kallis was injured and was rendered unavailable for the third Test against Pakistan in February 2013. Full of nerves to begin with, Abbott spun a fairy tale by recording the ninth best figures for a debutant in Tests. After South Africa scored 409, Abbott led the way with a stunning spell that gave him returns of 7 for 29 to help bowl Pakistan out for 156 and enforce a follow-on. With that, he became South Africa’s second-most successful debutant. In the second innings, he picked up two wickets and finished with 9 for 68 for the match to cap off a dream debut. However, despite being named Man of the Match, his was the second-highest impact performance of the match.

Adam Voges (Australia)


Adam Voges had to wait 35 years for the baggy green. After a stellar domestic season where he scored 1358 runs at an average of 104.46 for Western Australia, when he finally got his chance, he made sure it was worth the wait. In the first Test against West Indies in 2015, Voges came to Australia’s rescue with a stunning century on debut after the side was struggling at 126 for 6, taking them to 318. Voges thus became the oldest man in 138 years of Test cricket to score a century on debut and had the eighth-highest impact batting performance on debut. His unbeaten 130 was also the highest score at the Windsor Park in Dominica. Since his debut, Voges has failed in four of his subsequent five Tests on the Impact Index charts, and it’s no surprise that his highest impact performance in a so far short six-Test career remains his debut.

Dane Piedt (South Africa)


There are only 18 cricketers who picked up a wicket off their first ball in Test cricket. Dane Piedt joined that elite list in a dream debut, picking up Mark Vermeulen in the one-off Test against Zimbabwe in August 2014. Accounting for four wickets among Zimbabwe’s top five, Piedt helped bowl the side out for 256, bagging 4 for 90 in the first innings. He backed that with a splendid 4 for 62 in the second innings to finish with match figures of 8 for 152, the best match haul by a South Africa spinner on debut. Incidentally, it remains the only Test he has played thus far.

Faf du Plessis (South Africa)

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Someone’s pain is someone’s gain, but in this instance, JP Duminy’s pain turned out to be Australia’s as well. After Duminy was ruled out with an Achilles tendon injury, Faf du Plessis was drafted into the South African playing XI at Adelaide. With a century on debut, he helped pull off a thrilling draw against Australia in November 2012. Du Plessis provided a remarkable result for South Africa by batting out four and a half session, after South Africa had been set 414 for victory. South Africa were batting for a draw, which was evident in AB de Villiers’s innings – a 220-ball 33. Du Plessis played the main hand, holding fort throughout the innings, spending 466 minutes in the middle, to remain unbeaten on 110 when stumps were drawn on the final day of the second Test with his side eight wickets down, ensuring the scoreline stayed 0-0. That knock was du Plessis’s second-highest impact performance of his Test career, but narrowly missed out on being a series-defining performance despite his high impact performance in the deciding third Test. He was, however, the second-highest impact player for South Africa and the fourth-highest impact player of the match. 

Mark Craig (New Zealand)


From a last-minute call-up to replace Jeetan Patel, who was unavailable for the first Test against West Indies in 2014, it didn’t take too long for Mark Craig to become New Zealand’s go-to spinner. After New Zealand scored a mammoth 508 in their first innings, Craig, in tandem with Tim Southee, helped bowl the home side out for 262, with figures of 4 for 91. He continued from where he left off in the second innings, playing a vital part in New Zealand’s 186-run rout of West Indies with another four-wicket haul (4 for 97). In a Man of the Match effort, he had match returns of 8 for 188 in the Test, the best by a New Zealand debutant. In addition to that, Craig fashioned another record, but this time with the bat. He became the first cricketer in Tests to hit a six off the first ball he had faced. However, he was the second-highest impact player of the match.

James Pattinson (Australia)

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James Pattinson was one of Australia’s more promising prospects in their rather large stock of pace bowlers. Handed a baggy green against New Zealand in Brisbane in 2011, he repaid the selectors’ faith in him after he became the youngest Australian to take five wickets at home on debut. After picking up one wicket in the first innings, he came on to bowl in the second when New Zealand were trailing by 115 runs. He removed Martin Guptill, Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor within the space of four balls to reduce them to 17 for 4 with a triple-wicket maiden. He bagged returns of 5 for 27 as Australia bowled the visitors out for 150. He was the third-highest impact player for Australia in the match and it was the third-highest impact performance of his 13-Test career.

Pat Cummins (Australia)

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In most dream debuts, a player excels usually in one of the two disciplines; it seldom happens that he plays a significant part in both. Pat Cummins, making his debut against South Africa in the second Test in 2011 at the age of 18, can tell you otherwise. After accounting for just one wicket in the first innings, Cummins proved why there was so much excitement with regards to his selection. He returned figures of 6 for 79 in the second essay to become the second youngest Test cricketer to take six wickets in an innings, which included three crucial wickets at the top, and then cleaned up the tail. But that was not all that his dream debut consisted of. With the bat, he helped Australia chase the highest ever fourth innings total at the Wanderers, scoring an unbeaten 13 and hitting a boundary to score the winning runs in a thriller in 2011. Despite being the second-highest impact player of the match, his all-round performance was a series-defining one as Australia came back from behind to level the two-match series 1-1.

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