When India and New Zealand take the field in Kanpur on Thursday for the first of three Tests, it will be the 500th Test played by the Indian cricket team. Of the 500, 112 were played with against England, inventors of our beloved sport, while it will be the 55th time India and New Zealand will lock horns in a five-day match. The first Test between these two cricketing nations was in 1955, when New Zealand toured India. It took the hosts two Tests to register their first victory, and a Vinoo Mankad double century in the first innings of the Bombay Test gave them the advantage.
Since then, India has been the dominant side, winning 18 and losing just 10 matches to the Kiwis, while 26 ended in draws. India has also won 10 out of the 19 series that were played, although New Zealand won the last series 2-0 in 2014, when MS Dhoni and Co fell prey to one of the greatest innings ever played by a New Zealander, Brendon McCullum's 302 in Auckland.
The two nations have played each other in historically significant matches, be it India's first overseas win in Dunedin, or its 500th Test, here. With such a promising series on the line, here's our take on the five best encounters between the two cricketing nations:
Wellington, February 2014:
After losing the first Test of the series at Auckland, MS Dhoni and Co were looking to make a strong comeback in the second Test, and they almost did so. Thanks to Ishant Sharma's six-wicket haul, India bowled out the hosts for a paltry 192 in the first innings, then took a lead of over 300 after posting 438 in their first innings. In the second innings, New Zealand was 94 for five, and with only Brendon McCullum and the tail left, India were on the cusp of a series leveling win. But the New Zealand skipper scored the first triple century for the Black Caps and ensured safety for his side.
With an Indian win all but impossible, India's Virat Kohli responded with a century of his own, and the visitors played out the 52 overs they needed to, to ensure the match was drawn.
Dunedin, February 1968:
India's first series abroad was in England way back in 1932. But it took them over 36 years and 11 more series away from home before they finally registered a win on foreign soil. Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi's India achieved this historic feat on 20 February, 1968, as Erapalli Prasanna's six-wicket haul ensured India was set a 206-run target. Ajit Wadekar then top scored with 71, and experienced campaigners Motganhalli Jaisimha and Chandu Borde chipped in with valuable runs, as India secured an important victory.
An emotional Prasanna said, "It (first overseas win) marked the first instance we played as a team. Before that, most of the Indian wins were all about a few individual performances."
The 1968-69 tour of New Zealand also marked India's first series win in away conditions as they emerged victorious in the third and the fourth Tests as well, to clinch the series 3-1.
Ahmedabad, November 2010:
It felt like both the teams were listening to commentators, who have a habit of routinely mentioning the fact that partnerships build or break a match. as three vital partnerships proved to be the biggest talking points of the match. India started the Test brilliantly, with Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid putting up a 237-run partnership, both of them scoring tons.
In reply to India's 487, Kane Williamson scored a century on Test debut and partnered Jesse Ryder, who also scored a century, for a 194-run stand. The match seemed to be evenly poised until India's top order crumbled against Chris Martin and suddenly Dhoni and Co found themselves in a spot of bother, from where they could have lost the match. But that's when Harbhajan Singh had his, "Cometh the hour, Cometh the man" moment.
Harbhajan, who has often helped India with the ball, turned saviour with the bat on this occasion. With scores of 69 and 115, Bhajji, with VVS Laxman for company, helped salvage a draw for the hosts. It was also the off-spinner's first Test century. "Kaafi Mazaa aaya batting karne me! I have never dreamt of a Test hundred, I need to thank Sachin and Viru," said the elated Turbanator after the match.
Hamilton, December 2002:
Windy conditions and bouncy pitches. Two things which perfectly sum up this Test. It was a treat for fast bowlers, and can also qualify as one of the best low scoring thrillers these two nations have ever played. The four scores in the match read — 99, 94, 154 and 160, even though the entire first day's play was cancelled, the match was over in double quick time.
When play finally began on Day Two, India was asked to bat first. This Test would certainly go down as one of the most bowler-friendly conditions a Test has ever taken place in. Ultimately, New Zealand did find themselves to be lucky enough to bat on the final day, when conditions were better to bat on.
However, had it not been for skipper Stephen Fleming's innings, the story could have yet been different. He was the highest scorer for New Zealand in a small chase of 160. His 58-ball-32 was pivotal in ensuring the Black Caps earned a four-wicket win.
Hyderabad, August 2012:
Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravichandran Ashwin teamed up to hand India a victory in the first Test. Pujara scored 159 in the first innings and half-centuries from Virat Kohli and skipper MS Dhoni helped the hosts score 438 in the first innings, which proved enough for Ashwin and India's bowlers to bowl the visitors out twice and earn India an innings win.
Visiting sides succumbing to foreign conditions in the first Test of a tour has more or less become a certainty in the last decade. And this is exactly what happened in Hyderabad as well, as the Black Caps lost 18 wickets to the spin of Pragyan Ojha and Ashwin. India won the Test match by an innings and 115 runs, and went on to triumph in the second match at Bengaluru too, thereby clinching the series 2-0.