Tip Foster: 287 vs Australia, Sydney, 1903
Standing top of the tree is this epic - the highest individual score on Test debut. Perhaps one of cricket's records that will never be broken. Tip Foster walked in with England 73 for 3 on the second day and proceeded to dominate the game for nearly seven hours. He added 192 with Len Braund but England were only 47 ahead when the eighth wicket fell. Foster then added 245 across the last two wickets alongside Albert Reif and Wilfred Rhodes, building a lead that was enough to overcome Victor Trumper's second-innings 185*. Of Foster's innings, Wisden said: "The third day was marked by the most brilliant and sensational cricket seen during the tour, R. E. Foster, with a magnificent innings of 287, beating all records in Test matches…the latter part of his innings was described on all hands as something never surpassed." Foster's 287 - which stood as the best Test score until 1930 - was the highest score by a visiting batter in Australia for 111 years until Ross Taylor made 290 at Perth in 2015.
Jacques Rudolph: 222* vs Bangladesh, Chattogram, 2003
No one has really got that close to overhauling Foster, although Jacques Rudolph might have done it if given the time. And his debut had quite the backstory. He had faced India at Centurion in late 2001 in the Test stripped of official status after India refused to play under match referee Mike Denness, and then had been in line to face Australia in Sydney before missing out because of the quota system. Eventually, batting at No. 3 in his first Test innings, the left-hander feasted on the Bangladesh attack alongside Boeta Dippenaar in an unbroken third-wicket stand of 429 before captain Graeme Smith called a halt to the run fest in order to ensure South Africa could push for victory. In the end, they won with more than a day to spare. Rudolph would score just five more Test centuries in 47 matches.
Lawrence Rowe: 214 vs New Zealand, Jamaica, 1972
Though his final numbers do not stack up against the greatest, Lawrence Rowe was one of the most stylish batters West Indies have ever produced. Against a weak New Zealand attack he not only marked his first innings with the double-hundred made across seven hours in the middle, he followed it with an unbeaten 100 in the second innings. He is still the only player to achieve that feat, although Yasir Hameed made twin centuries (170 and 105) against Bangladesh in 2003, and the 314 Rowe scored in that Test remains the most by any man on debut. "His was a phenomenal performance and he did not appear to have any technical weaknesses," Wisden noted of Rowe. "His subsequent failures in the next three Test matches were more than anything a question of temperament."
Mathew Sinclair: 214 vs West Indies, Wellington, 1999
Conway was not the first New Zealander to score a double on debut. That honour went to Mathew Sinclair 22 years ago in a nine-hour marathon at Basin Reserve. Having replaced the injured Matt Horne, Sinclair opened his account with an inside edge but not much else missed the middle of the bat in what was recorded as a chanceless innings. His century was a reasonably brisk 164 deliveries with the remainder taking 283 balls. In his 12th Test, he scored another double - 204 against Pakistan - having also made 150 against South Africa between them. However, he did not add to those three centuries - 34.74% of his Test runs came in the three knocks - and he finished with an average of 32.05.
Kyle Mayers: 210* vs Bangladesh, Chattogram, 2021
London buses? You wait ages for a double-century on debut then two come along almost at once. In February this year, Kyle Mayers marshalled a magnificent West Indies chase with a masterful display (he had shown promise with 40 in the first innings) to hunt down 395 after they were 59 for 3. In a side missing a host of first-choice players because of withdrawals around Covid-19, Mayers added 216 with fellow debutant Nkrumah Bonner. Overall, in a 310-ball innings, he struck 20 fours and seven sixes. "Some balls stayed low, some bounced. Guys were spinning the ball, they bowled arm balls. The wicket was all over the place," he said. "I just had to stick to my gameplan and try to play as straight as possible, and hope for the best."
Brendon Kuruppu: 201* vs New Zealand, Colombo, 1987
While this match had little to recommend it - Wisden said that Brendon Kuruppu's innings "sentenced this match to tedium" - it was nonetheless a feat of significant endurance for the wicketkeeper-batter who was on the field all five days (and did not concede a bye during New Zealand's 163-over innings). The innings, which included four lives, was also Kuruppu's first century in first-class cricket. He would only play three more Tests. A double-century on debut guarantees absolutely nothing.
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo