Batting October 25, 2010

Baker's dozen of epochal third innings

A look at few of the classic third innings batting performances over the years

VVS Laxman: one of the top third innings knocks © AFP

After four or five fairly heavy analytical articles, I feel it is time I did an anecdotal post, this time from the heart. My Resident editor would also be quite happy since he has been pushing me for such articles once in a while. Sitting in cold Minneapolis, this would make Sriram's day.

The first innings of a test match is a completely open-ended one. What should one aim at. What is a good score. Should one consume time or attack more. Is 225 for 1 at close of play on the first day better than 300 for 4 or vice versa. No one can forecast with any degree of certainty the answers to these questions.

The second innings at least is more defined. There are some targets to aim at. If the opponents score 500 or thereabouts, the first target is to avoid follow-on. If the score in front is around 350, the normal target is to overhaul it. If the first batting has scored 200, the second batting team has to be wary of a difficult pitch but, in general, looks for a substantial lead.

The fourth innings is the purest one. Whatever the team started with is the winning target. It could be 1 or 836 (both are actual targets in test matches). This number is clearly available to both teams. While time/overs/weather are factors, this target never changes. In my earlier article I had looked at epochal fourth innings.

The third innings is the most fascinating one of all. If a team has followed on or trails by a substantial deficit, the first target is to clear the deficit and then build on setting a reasonable target. If the two first innings are comparable, then a substantial target score has to be aimed at. If the team is batting with a substantial lead, then it is only a question of timing the declaration, leaving enough time to win. However the third innings is the one where serious strategizing starts. The seeds of the result aimed for are sown here.

One constant factor which is present in most of these winning third innings knocks is that these do not lead to wins by themselves. It still requires great bowling efforts, such as that of Willis, Harbhajan, Trott and Hauritz et al to complete the winning process.

In this article I have looked at a baker's dozen of epochal performances in third innings. Before the reader sharpens his keyboard skills to shoot off a comment, note the adjective used, "epochal", not "greatest". These are my selections, mostly using objective analysis such as Wisden-100 tables, but also incorporating some from the lower reaches of the table, innings which were truly great.

Let me mention that most of the the top 10 from the third innings performances from the Wisden-100 table find their place here. The Wisden-100 itself is heavy with great third innings performances, with 4 of the top-6 coming in the third innings. There are 10 winning performances, 2 from drawn matches and 1 from lost matches. There is a fair distribution across ages and teams. If I have missed out a team, it is only because I am trying to push in a litre of liquid in a pint bottle.

As I have already said, this is my selection, 75% objective and 25% subjective. Readers will have their own favourite fourth innings and are welcome to send in their comments referring to these innings. The only requirement is that you have to take the trouble of looking up the concerned scorecard and give some details. Rather than posting comments such as "What about Inzamam's 95", the comments which are likely to get published are the ones where a better insight into the concerned innings are provided. Do not get upset that one specific performance is not in this list or in the nearly-made-it list. Put up your cases in a nice and emphatic manner.

Let us look the performances. These are published in no particular order so that no one says why is this in first position or not in first position.

1. MtId: 1171 (1991) 1 of 5 (Eng: 0-0) England won by 115 runs

Eng 198 all out.
Win 173 all out.
Eng 252 all out (Gooch G.A: 154*).
Win 162 all out.

After two sub-200 innings, England started 25 runs ahead. Then Gooch, an under-rated batsmen if ever there was one, played one of the greatest innings ever against a bowling attack of Ambrose, Patterson, Marshall and Walsh. He scored 154 out of 252. There were two other innings of 27 and nothing else. Look at the % of score, 61.1%. To boot, he remained unbeaten. He added 98 for the seventh wicket with Pringle. England won by 115 runs. I think this innings stands comparison with any of the modern classics.

2. MtId: 1535 (2001) 2 of 3 (Ind: 0-1) India won by 171 runs

Aus 445 all out.
Ind 171 all out.
Ind 657 for 7 wkts (Laxman V.V.S: 281).
Aus 212 all out.

What does one write about this innings. Half the cricket followers would anoint this classic as the best Test innings ever and they would not be far away from truth. The support of Dravid was as important as Harbhajan's bowling on the last day to effect this amazing win. In many ways this innings and win was the watershed in the Indian cricket teams' attitude and start of a new phase of self-belief.

3. MtId: 0257 (1937) 3 of 5 (Aus: 0-2) Australia won by 365 runs

Aus 200 for 9 wkts.
Eng  76 for 9 wkts.
Aus 564 all out (Bradman D.G: 270).
Eng 323 all out.

The first two days were played on gluepot pitches. England declared 124 behind in a bid to cash in on the treacherous nature of the pitch. Bradman countered by sending in his late order batsmen and Australia were 97 for 5. Then Bradman and Fingleton got together and added 346 runs. After that everything was downhill. Australia won by a massive margin of 365 runs. As much a tribute to Bradman's strategic skills as to his batting. It should not be forgotten that Australia were trailing 0-2 with 3 to play. Starting with this test, they won the next three tests and won the series 3-2. The only time this has happened in history of Test cricket, as mentioned in my last article.

4. MtId: 1716 (2004) 1 of 2 (Pak: 0-0) Sri Lanka won by 201 runs

Slk 243 all out.
Pak 264 all out.
Slk 438 all out (Jayasuriya S.T: 253).
Pak 216 all out.

A recent masterpiece. After two middling innings, Sri Lanka were behind by 21 runs. Jayasuriya anchored the innings with an outstanding effort of 253 in 348 balls. He was ably supported by two fifties from Sangakkara and Jayawardene. Jayasuriya's high innings was still nearly 60% of Sri Lankan score. Sri Lanka then won comfortably despite being without Muralitharan. It must be mentioned that this was at the feather-bed in Faisalabad.

5. MtId: 0905 (1981) 3 of 6 (Eng: 0-1) England won by 18 runs

Aus 401 for 9 wkts.
Eng 174 all out.
Eng 356 all out (Botham I.T: 149*).
Aus 111 all out.

A similar test to the 2001 Calcutta classic. England followed on 227 behind. Then the scripts diverge. Unlike Calcutta, England were soon hanging by a slender thread at 135 for 7. Botham counter-attacked and was ably supported by Dilley with 56 and Old with 29. Even then Australia were left with a meagre target of 129. Then Willis took over and England won by 18 runs. "Botham's Ashes" was born.

6. MtId: 1458 (1999) 4 of 4 (Eng: 1-1) New Zealand won by 83 runs

Nzl 236 all out.
Eng 153 all out.
Nzl 162 all out (Cairns C.L: 80).
Eng 162 all out.

This was an away match for New Zealand. Even though they took a first innings lead of 83, they slumped to 39 for 6 when Chris Cairns walked in. He counter-attacked, scoring 80 in 93 balls and added 40 with McMillan and 70 with Nash, departing at 149. He scored 80 out of 110 runs while at crease. New Zealand set England a task of 245 to win but won by 83 runs for a memorable away series win.

7. MtId: 1945 (2010) 2 of 3 (Aus: 1-0) Australia won by 36 runs

Aus 127 all out.
Pak 333 all out.
Aus 381 all out (Hussey M.E.K: 134*).
Pak 139 all out.

I would appreciate no snide comments on this test. Insinuations should not mar the wonderful innings played by Michael Hussey. Pakistan took a lead of over 200 runs and Australia were barely in front with 8 wickets down. Siddle played the unlikely support role to help Hussey add 123 for the ninth wicket. Hussey remained not out on 134 and gave his bowlers some chance against an unpredictable Pakistani batting lineup. They obliged by collapsing for 139.

8. MtId: 1444 (1999) 1 of 4 (Ind: 0-0) Pakistan won by 46 runs

Pak 185 all out.
Ind 223 all out.
Pak 316 all out (Saeed Anwar: 188*).
Ind 232 all out.

Pakistan recovered from 36 for 6 to 185, thanks to Moin Khan. India took a small lead. Then Saeed Anwar played a Gooch-type innings although the bowling was probably not comparable. He carried his bat for 188 and there was only one other fifty, by Yousuf. Saeed Anwar scored nearly 60% of his team's total. As often happens, the bowlers completed the job and Pakistan won by 46 runs. Spare a quiet thought for Srinath who is one of four bowlers who captured 13 wickets in a Test and still finished on the losing side.

9. MtId: 1169 (1991) 4 of 5 (Win: 1-0) West Indies won by 343 runs

Win 149 all out.
Aus 134 all out.
Win 536 for 9 wkts (Greenidge C.G: 226).
Aus 208 all out.

Two very small first innings led West Indies ahead by a mere 15 runs. Then the innings changed completely, thanks to Greenidge's patient 226, lasting over 11 hours. He was well-supported throughout, with five of the first six batsmen crossing 25. Not an innings as attacking as Jayasuriya's but no less valuable. The West Indian pacemen ensured that Greenidge's innings did not go in vain and they won quite comfortably.

10. MtId: 0058 (1899) 1 of 2 (Saf: 0-0) England won by 32 runs

Eng 145 all out.
Saf 251 all out.
Eng 237 all out (Warner P.F: 132*).
Saf  99 all out.

England were behind by 106 runs. Then Warner batted his way through the England second innings and scored 132, carrying England to a total of 237. Even then South Africa needed to score only 132 runs to win but collapsed for 99. Shades of this innings in Gooch's and Saeed Anwar's innings.

11. MtId: 0446 (1958) 1 of 5 (Win: 0-0) Match drawn

Win 579 for 9 wkts.
Pak 106 all out.
Pak 657 for 8 wkts (Hanif Mohammad: 337).
Win  28 for 0 wkts.

This is the first of two innings which helped their teams draw the test from way-behind situations. Pakistan followed on, 473 runs behind, that too at Kensington Oval and few would have given them any chance of avoiding a massive innings defeat. Hanif, the other little master, had other ideas. In an amazing display of stamina, concentration and temperament, he batted for just over 16 hours and scored 337 runs before being 8th out at 649. Pakistan saved the test and this is the innings against which other rear-guard efforts should be measured.

12. MtId: 0732 (1974) 2 of 5 (Win: 1-0) Match drawn

Eng 353 all out.
Win 583 for 9 wkts.
Eng 432 for 9 wkts (Amiss D.L: 262*).
Win DNB.

This was similar to the previous test I have referred to. Only difference being that England trailed by 230 runs. Amiss remained not out with 262 after a near 10-hour vigil and England saved the test quite comfortably. The two interesting points on Amiss' innings were the high % of team score (60.6%) and the lack of support, the next highest innings being Jameson's 38. This innings certainly matches Hanif's effort. The series was kept alive and England manage to save the series by winning the last test.

13. MtId: 1206 (1992) 3 of 4 (Saf: 0-0) South Africa won by 9 wickets

Ind 212 all out.
Saf 275 all out.
Ind 215 all out (Kapil Dev N: 129).
Saf 155 for 1 wkts.

This is the lone third innings effort in this selection which could not save the test. I debated a lot between this innings of Kapil Dev and Asif Iqbal's 146 against England. Finally what tilted Kapil Dev's innings for selection was the fact that his brave effort was performed in South Africa and he helped India set a target of 155. Granted that South Africa achieved this comfortably but at least there was a total to defend. Asif Iqbal's effort is equally praise-worthy and another time I might select that. Kapil came in at 31 for 6 and Asif came in at 53 for 7. The South African bowling was, however slightly better.

Now for the innings which almost made it. All these are wonderful innings and would have graced the top selection list. There are given in no particular sequence. Before readers come in with their own selection, they are advised to check this list also.

155 Tendulkar     1405 (1998) IND vs Aus
180 Trescothick   1734 (2005) ENG vs Saf
144 Taylor        1170 (1991) AUS vs Win
102 Vengsarkar    1047 (1986) IND vs Eng
73  Flintoff      1758 (2005) ENG vs Aus
237 Saleem Malik  1269 (1994) PAK vs Aus
150 Randall        840 (1979) ENG vs Aus
76  Rhodes        1243 (1995) SAF vs Aus
118 Saeed Anwar   1403 (1998) PAK vs Saf
159 Armstrong       76 (1902) AUS vs Saf
152 Chamara Silva 1822 (2006) SLK vs Nzl
146 Asif Iqbal     623 (1967) PAK vs Eng
26  Gillespie     1714 (2004) AUS vs Ind

The last selection might cause a few eye-brows to be raised. I feel that this was an all-time classic late-order innings which saved the day for Australians who went on to win the series. If Gillespie had departed early on the fourth day, India would have won comfortably well before rains opened up. 165 balls on a turning wicket against Kumble and Harbhajan was no mean task. The dead-bat defensive technique of Gillespie is today emulated by another tall, gangly, long-haired fast bowler, Ishant Sharma.

As I have mentioned in my comment, I have started a "Readers' Bakers' dozen". The first cut is presented below. Will be fine-tuned as we go along. Not in any particlualr order.

Thorpe 200 vs Nzl
Sobers 198 vs Ind
Slater 123 vs Eng
Kirsten 275 vs Eng
Trumper 159 vs Saf
Hammond 177 vs Aus
Pietersen 158 vs Aus
Laxman 167 vs Aus
May 285 vs Win
Afridi 141 vs Ind
Nourse 231 vs Aus
Richards 110 vs Eng
Imran 136 vs Aus
Compton 184 vs Aus
M Crowe 299 vs Slk

and a tribute to the minnows (outside the Xiii).
Andy Flower's 199 or Whittall's 188
Ashraful's 114 vs Slk or Khaled Mashud's 103 vs Win

Anantha Narayanan has written for ESPNcricinfo and CastrolCricket and worked with a number of companies on their cricket performance ratings-related systems

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on November 11, 2011, 14:10 GMT

    Thanks Ananth - well, in that case... gotta stick a couple of Alan Border match-saving classics in here two: (1) 2nd test v India melbourne 1985 - i think india with a lead of 180, and Border got 160-odd not out and prolonged the 3rd innings until tea with the tail to deny India the win (along with the rain) (2) 4th test v England Old Trafford 1985 - Eng huge lead after 1st innings, and AB just batted and batted - though weather helped... cant remember his score, maybe 140-ish not out Allan Border in the 1980s was the greatest 3rd innings matchsalvager in test cricket, I reckon! PS - Ananth, I cannot tell you how much I enjoy your work

  • testli5504537 on September 13, 2011, 14:36 GMT

    doubtful that comments still open, but really wanted to put Derek Randall's 150 in the 4th Ashes test of 78-79 on the record here. True a packer-less aussie bowling lineup, but huge deficit and series on the line - I think singlehandedly got Eng up to 350 and a 200 run lead and they rolled the Aussies for 130-odd to win the game. If memory serves, Yallop devoted a chapter in his book to how he was plumb lbw to Dymock on not many - and that one decision cost Australia the Ashes! [[ It does not matter how late the comment comes. Valuable comments always get published. Ananth: ]]

  • testli5504537 on November 14, 2010, 19:02 GMT


    Apologies for coming so late to the party (so to speak).

    Looking at all the postings I remembered one innings everyone else has failed to meantion and what's more I saw all of it.

    J. V. Coney 173* 1st test v. England 1983. Martin Crowe made his maiden test century in the same innings but after he left Coney still had to put on 100 for the 8th or 9th wicket to save the game for the Kiwis - setting up the debacle in Christchurch and our first series win over England.

    What made it even more impressive, Coney hadn't made a first class century for 6 years (let alone a test 100).

  • testli5504537 on November 9, 2010, 15:21 GMT

    Harbhajan has broken through into this list!

  • testli5504537 on November 1, 2010, 18:45 GMT

    Something has to be said for Carl Hooper's 106 vs Pakistan in Karachi,1997 3rd test. It was a dismal tour for West Indies. They lost the test series 3-0 by wide margins. Yet examining the innings on its merit it has to rank as a top notch test innings against W. Akram,W.Younis,S.Mustaq and M.Ahmed. 77 balls faced, strike rate 117.77, 50% of WIndies innings total of 212. No other bat made more than 33% of his score. Might there not have been a consideration?

  • testli5504537 on November 1, 2010, 18:38 GMT


    A very interesting read. I love the fact that we have Almanack reports for all these matches old matches which took place before I was born. Just a general advice to make things easier for the readers - Instead of giving us just the match ID , could you make it a click-able link so that it redirects you to the match scorecard page? I am not sure how easy or difficult it is, but would definitely make things easier. Also, the 1999 Calcutta match, who can ever forget that ! Pakistan were actually 26-6, though eventually they did reach 36-6, as your article points out. Keep up the good work, look forward to your posts. [[ Gaurav I do not have access to Cricinfo's data base. So I do not know the link. They should provide the same although I fear it is a lot of extra work. Ananth: ]]

  • testli5504537 on October 29, 2010, 10:05 GMT

    Another South African slightly disappointed that we didn't get a mention, especially as Kirsten's 275 following on is probably always going to be etched into my memory, that said I can't pick an innings you should drop so I reckon you have probably got it as spot on as possible. [[ Michael Don't forget Rhodes' 75 and Kirsten is now there in the Readers' XV. Ananth: ]]

    I would like to mention Kallis saving a test against the West Indies with a lone hundred in almost 6 hours (Test 1745) and also Taylor's excellent 176 to beat England after a first innings deficit, a lone effort which changed an otherwise low scoring game. (Test 148)

    As always thanks for entertaining me on Friday mornings

  • testli5504537 on October 27, 2010, 21:21 GMT

    What are you trying to say that you don't understand even the elementary hindi ? thats not real, plus this not about the language but the content of the post that is important [[ Why, is it a crime to say I do not understand Hindi. And how do I know the content if I do not understand what is written. And let me say with certainty, if a comment is to be published, it has to be in English. Ananth: ]]

  • testli5504537 on October 27, 2010, 17:13 GMT

    Ananth: I am not able to locate a link to your Baker's dozen in the 4th innings (batting). Did you include Jessop's 104 in it? Anyway, I gladly present more compelling golden age 3rd innings:

    1. Clem Hill: 160 vs Eng ("Timeless" Test #98). On Day 4, a flue-ridden Hill walked in at 180/7 (effectively 102/7) and pulled a Michael Jordan (Game 6 at Utah '97) on England.

    2. WW Armstrong: 159 vs SA (Test #76). To put it in perspective, the team-mates _and_ opposition, together, of this spiritual grand-father of Clive Lloyd made only 230 or so in both teams' second innings.

    Also worth a mention in Top-100 in this category:

    3. Patsy Hendren: 205* vs WI (Test #189) won the match. 4. G Headley: 176 vs Eng (Test #187) saved the match. These 176 runs, unlike SRT's, had no VVS to lend the support!

  • testli5504537 on October 27, 2010, 15:03 GMT


    1. If Gambhir's 137 is being talked about, shouldn't Crowe's 299 (Test #1162) deserve a mention? He walked in at 2 down with a deficit of 140 and batted out the last 2.5 days. [[ Yes, we all seem to have forgotten this Marti marathon effort. Ananth: ]]

    2. A must-have innings: Bradman's 212 (Test #258) ... what a Jan '37 he had! Back-to-back 3rd innings classics in 270 and 212!

    Bradman also has a truly violent 3rd innings 167 vs SA in the face of a 200-run deficit. Such performances (and not just 99.94) are the reason why it is just plain wrong to compare any batsman to the Don. [[ Ha you are inviting trouble. But what you say is true. It is not that others did not produce such innings. It was the frequency with which he delivered these innings which sets him apart. I must say, not a great bowling attack, though. Ananth: ]]

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