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Wisden’s ‘Is Test cricket even hard?’ XI

by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

To celebrate Scott Boland’s remarkable start to Test cricket, we’ve come up with an XI of active men’s Test cricketers currently enjoying dream starts to their Test careers.

Even the players at the very top of the game have endured the odd hiccough here and there, here we’ve picked an XI who have yet to experience any:

Devon Conway

623 runs @ 69.22, three hundreds


Conway’s first five first-innings scores in Test cricket read: 200, 80, 54, 122 and 109. It has been a scarcely believable introduction to Test cricket for the left-hander, who has already played key roles in securing a series win over England on their own patch (the first side to do so in seven years) and in claiming the first edition of the World Test Championship. He keeps and opens in this side due to a lack of obvious alternatives.

Pathum Nissanka

427 runs @ 42.70, one hundred

The numbers aren’t quite as eye-catching for Nissanka, but the 23-year-old Sri Lankan has enjoyed an excellent start to his Test career, passing 50 in five of his first 10 innings in the format – a tally that includes his maiden Test hundred against West Indies. His first-class batting average is 63.47 – if he comes anywhere near replicating that in the Test arena, Sri Lanka will be delighted.

Marnus Labuschagne

2,171 runs @ 58.67, six hundreds

We’re cheating slightly here as Labuschagne was dropped shortly after his introduction to Test cricket at the end of 2018, but since his return to the side during the 2019 Ashes, everything he’s touched has turned to gold. Only 22 Tests into his career, he is already the No.1-ranked Test batter in the world.

Shreyas Iyer

202 runs @ 50.50, one hundred

Iyer enjoyed a spectacular debut Test, registering a century and a fifty –he top-scored in both innings – as India finished one wicket away from beating the world Test champions at Kanpur. Remarkably, his Test debut was his first first-class game in nearly three years.

Fawad Alam

953 runs @ 47.65, five hundreds

Put aside the decade-long wait for another chance and this remains an on-field career that has had few issues so far. Ruthlessly discarded not long after scoring 168 on Test debut, Alam has made up for lost time since his return to the side in 2020. He has an impressive five hundreds from 15 Tests, all against different opposition.

Washington Sundar

265 runs @ 66.25, no hundreds

Known primarily for his bowling, it is with the bat that Sundar has come to the fore in Test cricket. One of the unlikely heroes from India’s dual 2020/21 winter triumphs, Sundar was a persistent nuisance for opposition bowling attacks, registering scores of 62, 85* and 96* in his first four Tests to rescue his side from a trio of tricky situations. Given India’s embarrassment of riches in both the batting and spin-bowling department, his route back into the side is not clear.

Shardul Thakur

232 runs @ 25.77, no hundreds
24 wickets @ 20.33, one five-for

An enigmatic force who, until the recent Wanderers Test, was somewhat of a good luck charm for India. Thakur has made a major contribution with either bat or ball in nearly every Test he’s played in and helped secure famous victories in Australia and England.

Kyle Jamieson

54 wickets @ 17.11, five five-fors

The final piece of the jigsaw for New Zealand ahead of their ultimately successful World Test Championship run-in. The giant seamer has brushed aside pretty much every challenge to come his way so far in his Test career.

Axar Patel

36 wickets @ 11.86, five five-fors

Five five-wicket hauls in five Tests for Axar; it’s hard to recall a bowler enjoying such a start to Test cricket. With Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja still ahead of him in the pecking order, Patel has exclusively played at home at this point in his career – so far he has made the absolute most of familiar conditions.

Ollie Robinson

37 wickets @ 21.16, two five-fors

The emergence of Robinson was a rare bright spark in an otherwise dark year for English cricket. Tall, accurate and skilful, Robinson has the handy knack of being able to dismiss the opposition’s best batters, often when the pitch isn’t doing much. Expect him to be around the England set-up for many years to come.

Scott Boland

14 wickets @ 8.64, one five-for

What odds would you have got at the start of this winter’s Ashes for Scott Boland finishing the tour as the series’ leading wicket-taker? He’s not quite at the top of the charts just yet but he’s got every chance of doing so with just the Hobart Test to go, despite not participating in the opening two games of the series. His Ashes-clinching 6-7 on debut will live long in the memory and his pair of performances at Sydney demonstrated that his MCG burst was no abberation.

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