As Ireland prepare for their maiden Test match next May, we take a look at how the previous debutant nations fared in their first outings
When James Lillywhite Jr's England tourists squared up to a combined Australia XI for the "Grand Combination Match" at Melbourne in March 1877, they did so without many of their most established stars of the era, not least WG Grace, WW Read and AN Hornby. Nevertheless, the match that was retrospectively conferred as the first Test match was an occasion worthy of its billing, not least thanks to Charles Bannerman's remarkable feat of endurance at the top of Australia's order. In carrying his bat for 165 not out from a total of 245, he not only set up a 45-run win for the home side, he scored more than 67% of his team's total - a record ratio that, astonishingly, has never yet been beaten in more than 2000 subsequent Tests.
Another Test that was given its status retrospectively, although unlike the strides that Australia had been taking, there was little justification for South Africa's weak XI to be recognised as a fully-fledged team. England won their maiden encounter at St George's Park with ease, thanks in part to their captain, Charles Aubrey Smith (latterly a Hollywood legend), who claimed five first-innings wickets to bowl out the hosts for 84. "It was never intended, or considered necessary, to take out a representative English team for a first trip to the Cape," wrote Wisden of a tour that was conducted largely by ox-wagon, with South Africa's railways barely extending beyond the Cape at the time.
In 1923, an unofficial West Indies team had earned huge acclaim for winning 12 of their 26 fixtures on tour in England, but five years later - with full Test status now conferred on them - Karl Nunes' men were unable to match those lofty standards. They lost all three of their Tests by an innings, including their maiden encounter at Lord's, where an Ernest Tyldesley century proved more than sufficient to put the contest out of reach. West Indies' outstanding player of the tour was the mighty Learie Constantine, who claimed more than 100 wickets and struck over 1400 runs against all comers. However, he couldn't replicate that form in the Tests, with five wickets and 89 runs across the three games.
Australia's administrators raised eyebrows last season when they managed to schedule a T20 against Sri Lanka at Adelaide a day before the first Test against India at Pune. However, that wasn't a patch on MCC's double-booking in January 1930 when, in their eagerness to spread the love of cricket beyond its traditional borders, they chose to start two different Tests on consecutive days on opposite sides of the world. On January 10 in Christchurch, Arthur Gilligan's men took the field for New Zealand's maiden Test match - and were set on their way to an eight-wicket win by a Maurice Allom hat-trick. Over in Barbados 24 hours later, Freddie Calthorpe's England were held to a draw in West Indies' maiden home Test, thanks largely to George Headley's 176.
In 1932, it was India's turn to make their presence known at the top table, and (with the exception of Australia) they came closer than any other newcomer to upsetting the status quo - albeit briefly, as England slumped to 19 for 3 on the first morning at Lord's, thanks to two early wickets for Mohammad Nissar, who would finish with a five-wicket haul. Douglas Jardine, however, batted "uncommonly well" according to Wisden in lifting England to 259. Thereafter England's greater experience was brought to bear, despite a gutsy 40 from India's captain, CK Nayudu, who had suffered a painful hand injury while trying to catch Les Ames in the gully on the first day.
Five years after Partition, and with the scars still raw for both nations, Pakistan's cricketers embarked on an 11-week tour that would showcase a newly-minted nation of raw talent and natural resilience. Some - such as the captain AH Kardar - had represented India, in his case on the tour of England in 1946, but others - most notably the 17-year-old opener Hanif Mohammad - were making their first steps in international cricket. However, their maiden encounter at Delhi was dominated by India's Vinoo Mankad, whose first-innings figures of 8 for 52 condemned Pakistan to the follow-on and an innings defeat. A week later in Lucknow, however, Fazal Mahmood's 12 in the match squared the series in style, before India sealed a 2-1 win in Mumbai.
For some 150 years, Ceylon (as it was then known) had been a regular stop-over for England touring parties heading towards the Antipodes. However, it wasn't until July 1981 that Sri Lanka was finally elevated to being the eighth Test nation, and the first for nearly 30 years. Amid feverish excitement, Bandula Warnapura won the toss and chose to bat first, whereupon his side slumped to 34 for 4 on a dubiously damp wicket. However, Ranjan Madugalle and the teenaged Arjuna Ranatunga revived their fortunes, and England were limited to just a five-run lead when they themselves lost their last five wickets for 23. History beckoned at 113 for 1 in Sri Lanka's second innings, but England's spinners Derek Underwood and John Emburey ensured there would be no fairytale finish.
Zimbabwe's cricket has been through the mill in recent years, but back in 1992, they landed in the Test big-time as some of the most well-rounded newcomers that the game has ever seen. Their exploits at the 1992 World Cup had helped to harden their resolve, and at Harare in October 1992, they enjoyed the better of their maiden encounter against Mohammad Azharuddin's India. Dave Houghton, the team's elder statesman, made their country's maiden hundred, while a brace of fifties for the up-and-coming Flower brothers put the seal on an impressive first innings of 456. Then John Traicos, a relic of the pre-isolation South Africa side that had whitewashed Australia in 1969-70, claimed five wickets with his offspin to secure a 149-run lead. But the sluggish scoring on both sides condemned the match to a draw.
An extraordinary maiden outing that encapsulated the hope for the future that had helped propel Bangladesh's elevation to Test status, and the crushing disappointment that would epitomise their first decade at the top table. Life looked so rosy while Aminul Islam was creaming 145 out of a first-innings total of exactly 400. But India applied the reality check, first by stealth, and then with crushing efficiency. At 236 for 6, Bangladesh dared to dream of a healthy first-innings lead, but Sunil Joshi's 92 from No. 8 denied them that joy. And then the stage fright kicked in. A second-innings capitulation to 91 all out, and a 15-over romp to India's eventual eight-wicket victory.