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On This Day in 1988: Hirwani Produces the Best Match Figures on Debut in Test Cricket History

India vs West Indies, 4th Test, Chennai, January 11-15, 1988: India were trailing 0-1 in the four-match Test series against the West Indies in 1988. India had to win in Chennai to draw level. Ravi Shastri, the Indian captain, won the toss and elected to bat. Arun Lal made a brisk 69 opening the innings for India but the highlight of the innings was a magnificent counter-attacking 109 off just 124 deliveries by the great all-rounder, Kapil Dev. India posted 382.

From thereon, the Test belonged to one of the four debutants of the match. Narendra Hirwani, Phil Simmons, Ajay Sharma and Woorkeri Raman were all playing their first Test match. But it was the leg-spinner who captured Chennai!

Kapil Dev and Shastri provided the initial breakthroughs to India getting rid of the West Indian openers – Desmond Haynes and Phil Simmons. But the visitors were looking to come back into the match through a half-century partnership between Richie Richardson and skipper, Viv Richards. Till a certain leggie bamboozled their batting line-up! Hirwani saw the back of Richardson for 36 – his first Test wicket.

That triggered a collapse with Hirwani right on top of the West Indian batsmen. Gus Logie then Cark Hooper and then the big wicket of Richards himself with Hirwani going through his defense. Richards exited for 68 off 102 deliveries. West Indies crumbled under the spin web of Hirwani and were routed for 184 giving the home team a massive first innings lead. Hirwani had returned with magical figures of 8-61 in 18.3 overs.

Raman, also on debut, scored 83 in the second innings as India declared on 217 for the loss of 8 wickets setting West Indies a target of 416.

Hirwani was at it again. He started from where he had left in the first innings. The West Indian batsmen had no clue on how to face his turn and guile. He foxed them in the air and with his variations. Simmons was the first to be dismissed with the score on 22. Haynes, Richards, Hooper – they all fell like 9 pins one after the other. It was a mighty collapse for a second time in the match. Some resistance from Logie and Clyde Butts helped West Indies to a score of 160. India had beaten them by a massive margin of 255 runs and drawn level the four-match series at 1-1. Hirwani was living a dream. He had again picked 8 wickets in the second innings.

Hirwani’s match figures of 16-136 in 33.5 overs are the best figures on debut in Test cricket history!

They are also the best bowling figures in a match by an Indian in Test cricket history and the third-best overall after Jim Laker and Sydney Barnes.

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