On 14th October 2005, the ICC World XI took to the field for the first and only time to play a Test match. Their opponent was the then number 1 team in ICC Test rating, Australia. It was a unique concept which ICC proposed and created widespread debate among ex-cricketers, cricket writers, and fans.
ICC’s idea was that after every four years cycle of the Test ratings, the number one team would play a series of ODIs and Test match against an ICC World XI with players selected from the rest of the countries. It was a noble concept in cricket but the champions vs rest matches are pretty common in other sports as well as in domestic tournaments like Irani Trophy in India. The main debate was regarding the international status of these matches as ICC announced that these matches would have international status and there were a big part of ex-cricketers and fans who were not keen to give these matches official ODI and Test status expecting a lack of seriousness. There were also fears regarding the public interest and crowd in the ground in early October in Australia.
The three ODI matches were mostly one-sided as Australia defeated the World XI with a 3-0 scoreline. The six-day Super Test which began on 14th October at Sydney Cricket Ground was expected to be more competitive, especially because the ICC XI had some great names. The final XI for the match was led by Graeme Smith and included Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Brian Lara, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Jacques Kallis, Mark Boucher, Andrew Flintoff, Daniel Vettori, Steve Harmison, and Muttiah Muralitharan. Before the days of IPL and other global leagues, it was a unique experience to see great players from so many nations playing as part of the same team. However, the team failed to deliver the goods against a very strong Australian team.
World XI made a good start with Harmison picking up the wicket of Justin Langer in the very first over. However, a century from Matthew Hayden and a strokeful 94 from Adam Gilchrist ensured they reach a respectable 345 in the first innings. The Ashes hero, Andrew Flintoff was the most successful bowler with 4/59 as Murali picked up two wickets.
Interestingly Australia picked up two leg spinners in Shane Warne and Stuart MacGill and both created lots of trouble for the World XI batsmen. World XI had a terrible start with Smith (11), Dravid (0) and Lara (5) went back to the dressing room even before 50 runs on board. Sehwag and Kallis added 91 runs before Sehwag was dismissed by Warne for 76, the top score for the World XI. Kallis scored 44 and Flintoff scored 36 with four sixes but there was not much support from the lower order and they were bowled out for 190. Warner and MacGill shared seven wickets between them for just 62 runs.
Australia had a collapse in the second innings as from 160/2 they were all out for 199 as Flintoff, Harmison, and Murali finished with three wickets each. For Australia, Hayden again top-scored with 77 and Ricky Ponting scored 54. Despite the collapse, the lead was 354 runs and a target of 355 in a slightly difficult pitch was not easy.
The World XI lost their openers cheaply and although there were some resistance from the middle order, Warne took care of both Dravid and Lara as MacGill ran through the lower order. The World XI were all out for 144 in 50 overs and lost the match by 210 runs. MacGill took five wickets in the second innings and his final match figure was 9/82 whereas Warne finished with 6/71.
It was a short-lived experiment from ICC and these matches have not been repeated again till now. But with the new Test championship to decide World Test Champions, there could be such matches in future if they can get a good market.