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Starting strong: An XI of 21st century players who starred in their debut Test series

by Wisden Staff 4 minute read

Axar Patel has had a pretty phenomenal start to his Test career – in the space of two matches he has delivered three five-wicket hauls, 18 wickets in total, and two wins for his country.

With that in mind, we’ve taken a look back at other players who enjoyed fine debut series this century.

Included in this XI are players who all played in at least two Tests in their debut series, and managed to show almost immediately that they belonged at the highest level.

Rohit Sharma – India

India’s in-form opener got his Test chance in Sachin Tendulkar’s final international series, and it couldn’t have gone much better for him. In his maiden knock he rescued India from 83-5 against West Indies with a knock of 177 to help deliver an innings win. In the following Test, India were required to bat just once again, with Rohit delivering an unbeaten 111 off just 127 balls in Mumbai. His record at home in Test cricket has remained phenomenal ever since, with his average a whopping 81.05 after 17 matches in India.

Shaun Marsh – Australia

With Ricky Ponting away for the birth of his second child, Marsh debuted for Australia against Sri Lanka at Pallekele in 2011. A 315-ball 141 in was followed by a knock of 81 in another draw in the next and final match of the series, with Australia claiming a 1-0 series victory in Michael Clarke’s first Test tour as captain. Australia haven’t won a Test series in the subcontinent since.

Michael Clarke – Australia

Clarke himself had enjoyed a fine start to Test cricket in Asia seven years earlier. As Australia looked to seal their dominance in the world game with a series win in India, Clarke opened up his Test account with a match-winning 151 at Bangalore. At Nagpur, he helped seal a series win with a pair of half-centuries, and while India gained a thrilling 13-run consolation win in the final Test, Clarke managed to sparkle with the ball, taking extraordinary figures of 6-9 in the space of just 6.2 overs.

Faf du Plessis – South Africa

By announcing his retirement from Test cricket earlier this month, du Plessis closed the book on a story which began dramatically. On debut in the second Test between South Africa and Australia at the Adelaide Oval in 2012, du Plessis followed up a knock of 78 in the second innings with a phenomenal match-saving 367-ball 110* in the fourth, a vigil that meant he was out in the middle for 127 overs in the final dig. With the series level at nil-nil, du Plessis hit another crucial fifty in the next Test as South Africa thumped Australia by 309 runs to fly home with a 1-0 win.

Kevin Pietersen – England

Pietersen announced himself on the Test stage in a historic Ashes series in 2005 with two eye-catching displays in London. While England crumbled in the series opener at Lord’s, Pietersen was still able to mark his debut with a pair of aggressive half-centuries. With a draw then needed at The Oval for England to regain the Ashes, Pietersen delivered a famous 158 to deprive Australia the chance of rescuing the series.

Umar Akmal – Pakistan

Aged just 19, Umar Akmal seemed set to become a Pakistani batting giant. It hasn’t worked out that way, but those first three Tests in New Zealand in 2009 were memorable affairs. On debut, there were knocks of 129 and 75 in a narrow loss, before a 48-ball 46 was followed by a 33-ball 52 in a 141-run a few days later. In a draw at Napier to round off the series, Akmal delivered a more patient 144-ball 77 in Pakistan’s second innings.

Ben Foakes (wk) – England

With Jonny Bairstow injured, Foakes made his debut on England’s 2018 tour of Sri Lanka and impressed with both bat and gloves. He reached three figures in his maiden innings and continued to contribute key cameos in 3-0 series win. Collecting eight catches and two stumpings too, Foakes was named Player of the Series.

Ravichandran Ashwin – India

India’s talismanic off-spinner opened and closed his maiden Test series against West Indies in 2011 with two nine-wicket match-hauls. His ability with the bat was also on show, with a century racked up in the third Test at Mumbai.

Jofra Archer – England

On the back of delivering England a 50-over World Cup at home, Archer set about terrorising Australia with the red ball in 2019, stunning the Lord’s crowd on debut by flooring Steve Smith with a bouncer. Before Ben Stokes’ miraculous knock at Headingley, Archer delivered match figures of 8-85, while a six-wicket haul followed at The Oval as England squared the series at 2-2.

Stuart Clark – Australia

Called upon to make his Test bow on Australia’s 2006 tour of South Africa, Clark fitted in seamlessly to a world-beating side, taking nine wickets on debut and 11 more across the next two Tests. As a replacement for the absent Glenn McGrath, Clark had no issue filling such big shoes as he was named Player of the Series in a 3-0 win.

Ajantha Mendis – Sri Lanka

Though the mystery in his bowling was eventually decoded, Mendis was in mesmerising form at the start of his international career. In his first series, he spun Sri Lanka to a 2-1 home win over India, with 26 wickets taken across the three Tests.

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