March 8, 2014

Forgotten Test innings: Readers' XV

A look at readers' choice of 15 forgotten but impactful innings in Tests

Michael Slater scored 123 out of Australia's total of 184, the second-highest percentage contribution to the team total by a batsman in an innings William West / © Getty Images

I had scheduled the Test HSI (High Score Index) article for this fortnight. However the response to the last article, on the "forgotten Test innings" was very good and the readers had come up with their suggestions, many of which were absolute gems and matched the evocative and wistful tone of my article. Consequently, I decided to do the follow-up article, based on reader responses now and publish the Test HSI article next week. So, to the delight of many readers, another anecdotal article gets the nod.

My sincere thanks to all the readers who came up with their suggestions, especially Kamran Wasti and Harsh, whose suggestions could have filled up an entire article, Arjun, Pawan, David, Gerry et al. When I say that I had a problem selecting 12 out of 32, had to increase this to 13, 14 and 15, readers will appreciate the quality of their contributions. I would venture to say that this is a more exciting set of innings than my selection.

In these matters I know that whatever I say is not followed. The theme of the article is to not to highlight great innings, match-winning innings, match-saving innings or high-HSI innings. What I have highlighted are the innings that are not talked about and have gone off cricket followers' radars.

I suggest that readers understand this important point before asking questions like, "Where is the 337?", "Why is the 221 not included?", "How can you miss the 213?" and even "You are biased because you have not considered the 136", and so on. The 337, 221, 213, 136, the double-50s of Rahul Dravid et al will not be discussed since every cricket follower knows about these. But I bet there will be quite a few comments on some of these numbers.

Let us now move on to the readers' selections: this time presented in chronological order.

Test # 599. Australia v England

Played on 7,8,10,11 January 1966
  at Sydney Cricket Ground.
England won by an innings and 93 runs

England : 488 all out RW Barber 185 (0.70) Australia : 221 all out Australia : 174 all out

These were the John Arlott-TMS and Alan McGilvray-ABC days. Wonderful to hear the commentary in those mellifluous tones! The short-wave radio was a permanent companion, even in classrooms. Bob Barber was an oddity in those Boycott-Lawry days. A score of 185 in 255 balls was Sehwagesque. A strong middle order contributed a sum total of 8 runs. But this stupendous innings, supported by John Edrich's sedate hundred, and late-order support, paved the way for a big innings win for England. It is poignant that towards the end of a very ordinary career, Barber essayed one of the finest away Ashes innings ever, the only time he crossed 100 in Tests.

Test # 613. South Africa v Australia

Played on 31 December 1966, 2,3,4,5 January 1967
  at Newlands, Cape Town.
Australia won by 6 wickets

Australia : 542 all out South Africa: 353 all out RG Pollock 209 (2.50) South Africa: 367 all out Australia : 180 for 4 wkt(s)

Graeme Pollock's 274 is remembered far more than his more valuable innings of 209. Although this was the only Test lost by South Africa in an otherwise dominant series, Pollock was magnificent. Facing a huge total of 542, South Africa slumped to 12 for 2, when Pollock walked in, and then to 85 for 5. He scored 209 wonderful runs out of fewer than 350 runs added while at crease. Pollock got good support from Peter van der Merwe and Peter Pollock. His 209 was not enough to avert the follow-on and a loss. Graeme's HSI was a phenomenal 2.50.

Test # 665. Pakistan v New Zealand

Played on 8,9,10,11 November 1969
  at Dacca Stadium.
Match drawn

New Zealand : 273 all out Pakistan : 290 for 7 wkt(s) New Zealand : 200 all out MG Burgess 119* (2.90) Pakistan : 51 for 4 wkt(s)

This was an evergreen classic, unearthed by Kamran. After two middling innings, Pakistan secured a lead of 17 runs. New Zealand slumped to 25 for 4 and faced certain defeat when Mark Burgess walked in. On the fourth (and last?) day, Glenn Turner departed early and New Zealand faced disaster at 101 for 8. Burgess rescued them, in company of Bob Cunis, with a stand of 96 for the ninth wicket. Pakistan did not have enough time to secure a win. A match-saving innings nonpareil. Look at the very high HSI of 2.90.

Test # 779. England v West Indies

Played on 8,9,10,12,13 July 1976
  at Old Trafford, Manchester.
West Indies won by 425 runs

West Indies : 211 all out CG Greenidge 134 (2.81) England : 71 all out West Indies : 411 for 5 wkt(s) England : 126 all out

This is a peculiar selection in that West Indies finally won the Test by a massive 425 runs. But their first innings was a one-man effort and but for that we would not know how the match would have gone. Gordon Greenidge opened and saw four wickets fall for 26. He controlled the innings beautifully and scored 134 runs out of a score of 193 for 8. The first-innings score of 211 proved a huge mountain to climb and England folded for 71 and 126. Greenidge helped himself to a second-innings hundred, but nowhere near the first-innings gem. Look at the very high HSI. 63.5% of the completed innings, to boot.

Test # 797. West Indies v Pakistan

Played on 18,19,20,22,23 February 1977
  at Kensington Oval, Bridgetown, Barbados.
Match drawn

Pakistan : 435 all out Wasim Raja 117* (0.39) West Indies : 421 all out Pakistan : 291 all out West Indies : 251 for 9 wkt(s)

This innings assumes importance because of what happened at the end of this exciting Test. Wasim Raja came in at 207 for 5 and against this hostile pace attack, Pakistan could easily have folded for 250. Wasim Raja controlled the second half of the Pakistani innings beautifully, adding valuable runs for each of the later partnerships. He remained not out on 117 and carried Pakistan to a potentially match-winning score of 435. Note the low HSI of this innings, which belies the value of this wonderful effort. Incidentally in the second innings, Wasim Raja and Wasim Bari added 133 for the last wicket to prevent a certain West Indian win.

Test # 841. India v West Indies

Played on 12,13,14,16 January 1979
  at M.A.Chidambaram Stadium, Chepauk, Chennai.
India won by 3 wickets

West Indies : 228 all out India : 255 all out GR Viswanath 124 (2.20) West Indies : 151 all out India : 125 for 7 wkt(s)

The two all-time classic 90s by the two stalwarts of Indian batting, Sunil Gavaskar's 96 and Gundappa Viswanath's 97*, tend to get talked about a lot more than many other top innings essayed by these two "giants". As such the top-class match-winning century of Viswanath in Chennai deserves a special look. West Indies finished with an average first-innings score of 228, thanks to a memorable 98 by Alvin Kallicharran, an innings worthy of being included in this list. Even though they had lost the big names to the Packer series, the trio of Sylvester Clarke, Norbert Philip and Vanburn Holder were not easy to face.

Viswanath, coming in at 11 for 2, anchored the Indian innings with a classical innings of 124, including an invaluable 70-run partnership with Syed Kirmani for the eighth wicket. The lead of 27 proved invaluable in the last innings, in which India chased a low target with difficulty. Viswanath's 124, with very little support, was the driving force behind the tough win.

Test # 873. New Zealand v West Indies

Played on 8,9,10,12,13 February 1980
  at Carisbrook, Dunedin.
New Zealand won by 1 wicket

West Indies : 140 all out New Zealand : 249 all out West Indies : 212 all out DL Haynes 105 (1.32) New Zealand : 104 for 9 wkt(s)

If ever a batsman nearly won a Test single-handedly, this was the one. In a match of low scores, Desmond Haynes was last out in both innings, participating in 20 partnerships for the match, as Arjun has pointed out. He scored 160 out of the team total of 352. In the second innings, he saw the score at a disastrous 29 for 4 and helped by two late-order partnerships, steered West Indies to 212 and a low target of 104. New Zealand almost did not make the target, thanks to excellent spells by Michael Holding, Joel Garner and Colin Croft. Haynes faced over 530 balls in the two innings, over 50% of the team balls.

Test # 901. West Indies v England

Played on 27,28,29,31 March, 1 April 1981
  at Antigua Recreation Ground, St John's, Antigua.
Match drawn

England : 271 all out P Willey 102* (1.08) West Indies : 468 for 9 wkt(s) England : 234 for 3 wkt(s)

This is a really forgotten innings by a journeyman cricketer. This might have been Antigua, but the bowlers were Andy Roberts, Holding, Garner and Croft, who could get the ball to talk on a concrete pitch. Peter Willey walked in at 138 for 5 and added 102 out of the 133 while at crease: one of the highest percentage of run contributions at 76.7%. This brave effort helped England reach a respectable total of 271 and safety in the match. Because he came in at 138 for 5, the HSI is relatively lower.

Test # 902. West Indies v England

Played on 10,11,12,14,15 April 1981
  at Sabina Park, Kingston, Jamaica.
Match drawn

England : 285 all out GA Gooch 153 (2.18) West Indies : 442 all out England : 302 for 6 wkt(s) DI Gower 154 (1.27)

The 154* at Headingley is one of the most talked about innings. Graham Gooch achieved immortality with that effort, against the might of the West Indies attack, to craft an unlikely win in a low-scoring match. A few years back, Gooch played an equally important innings, a run less. The bowling quartet of Holding, Malcolm Marshall, Croft and Garner were waiting for him at Sabina Park.

This innings of 153 suffers only in comparison to the Headingly innings. It was an equally great innings. Surprisingly Gooch was fifth out, having made his runs out of 249. Ninety-six of the runs were in boundaries. Geoff Boycott was the next highest scorer, at 40, giving Gooch's innings a very good HSI of 2.18. West Indies took a lead of 157 and then...

As I was writing up this effort of Gooch, I saw that an equally wonderful innings, matching Gooch's own 154, was played by David Gower. He essayed a 403-ball marathon effort that saved England. Two wonderful 150-plus scores in the same Test. No hundred from West Indies' batsmen to boot.

Test # 1096. West Indies v Pakistan

Played on 14,15,16,17,19 April 1988
  at Queen's Park Oval, Port of Spain, Trinidad.
Match drawn

West Indies : 174 all out Pakistan : 194 all out West Indies : 391 all out Pakistan : 341 for 9 wkt(s) Javed Miandad 102 (0.84)

Javed Miandad, purveyor of that most famous six of all time, in Sharjah, and the scorer of unbeaten 280. But I agree with Kamran that his most famous innings is his Port-of-Spain effort in 1988. Two average first innings were followed by an excellent West Indies score of 391, setting a daunting target of 372 for Pakistan with well over four sessions of play left.

The bowlers, a different foursome, no less fearsome: Marshall, Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh and Winston Benjamin. Miandad came in at 62 for 2 and played a patient innings of 102, departing at 288 for 7.

Test # 1360. South Africa v Australia

Played on 14,15,16,17 March 1997
  at Crusaders Ground, Port Elizabeth.
Australia won by 2 wickets

South Africa: 209 all out Australia : 108 all out South Africa: 168 all out Australia : 271 for 8 wkt(s) ME Waugh 116 (1.23)

While I agree that this match-winning effort of Mark Waugh is not entirely forgotten, there is no doubt that it does not strike the same chords as the 153* in Bangalore or the 138 on debut do. So I have taken the liberty of including a tough-as-nails classic from the seemingly softer brother.

After three rather listless innings, Australia was set a very difficult winning target of 270 on a pitch in which the average RpW (Runs per Wicket) for the first three innings was 16.

Mark Waugh entered at a difficult score of 30 for 2. Each of the next three batsmen participated in useful partnerships. However Australia were never sure of a win, even at 145 for 3 at close of fourth day's play. Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock, Jacques Kallis, Brian McMillan and Paul Adams formed a really difficult attack. Mark Waugh was out sixth at 258 when 12 runs were needed. Luckily for him, and Australia, Ian Healy took them to an improbable win.

Comparisons cannot be avoided. In many ways this innings was similar to Sachin Tendulkar's 136 in Chennai, where he was dismissed leaving India 17 runs to win. While the Australian late order obliged, the Indian late order did not. One can conclude that both batsmen did not complete the task.

Test # 1363. West Indies v India

Played on 27,29,30,31 March 1997
  at Kensington Oval, Bridgetown, Barbados.
West Indies won by 38 runs

West Indies : 298 all out S Chanderpaul 137* (1.77) India : 319 all out West Indies : 140 all out India : 81 all out

This was a pulsating Test match won by West Indies by 38 runs when India were set the low target of 120 to win. Ian Bishop, Ambrose and Franklyn Rose were unplayable. They did not even need Mervyn Dillon to bowl.

But the real outstanding innings of the match was played a few days earlier. West Indies scored 298 in the first innings and any lower score would have meant India would have won. The West Indian innings was anchored by Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who scored 137 runs, worth more than many a double-hundred. He received only sporadic support from the top order.

Chanderpaul entered at 10 for 1 and steadied the innings, which, at 193 for 7, looked doomed. In partnership with Ambrose, Chanderpaul added 65 for the eighth wicket. The value of the 298 was felt three days later.

Test # 1439. Australia v England

Played on 2,3,4,5 January 1999
  at Sydney Cricket Ground.
Australia won by 98 runs

Australia : 322 all out England : 220 all out Australia : 184 all out MJ Slater 123 (3.50) England : 188 all out

Michael Slater's career-best innings was essayed during the 1998-99 Ashes series. It is one of the best Ashes hundreds ever. Australia had a first-innings lead of around 100.

But this lead would have been worthless if Australia did not have Slater. Opening the innings, he scored 123 out of the team total of 184. The innings percentage of 66.8 has only been bettered by Charles Bannerman's 165. One other batsman reached double figures: Mark Waugh, with 24. It was not a slap-dash innings. Slater faced 189 balls in a dominating display of four and a half hours.

The HSI was a stupendous 3.50: one of the highest in Test history. More on that in the next article.

Test # 1797. Bangladesh v Australia

Played on 9,10,11,12,13 April 2006
  at Narayanganj Osmani Stadium, Fatullah.
Australia won by 3 wickets

Bangladesh : 427 all out Australia : 269 all out AC Gilchrist 144 (3.02) Bangladesh : 148 all out Australia : 307 for 7 wkt(s) RT Ponting 118* (0.66)

If anyone is asked to talk of Ricky Ponting's career, he would mention the 140, 257, 156, 120 and 143* et al. No one would remember the 118 against Bangladesh. But that, in my opinion, is one of the most important innings Ponting played in his career.

Bangladesh took a first-innings lead of 158 runs and set Australia an imposing 307 to win. After a good start Australia were wobbling at 231 for 6. Ponting steered them home with a top-quality, unbeaten innings of 118. This innings is important because it saved Australia from the greatest of upsets.

Tendulkar played a similar match-winning innings of 105 against Bangladesh. But I did not include it here since who has ever "forgotten" any innings Tendulkar played.

As I was going through this scorecard I realised that Adam Gilchrist, in the first innings, played an equally important innings. In response to 423, Australia were on the edge of the abyss at 61 for 4 when Gilchrist walked in. Soon they slumped to 93 for 6 and follow-on (?) looked imminent. Gilchrist scored 144, his innings studded with six sixes and reduced the lead to a manageable 158. And manage, they did.

Test # 1812. Sri Lanka v South Africa

Played on 4,5,6,7,8 August 2006
  at P.Saravanamuttu Stadium, Colombo.
Sri Lanka won by 1 wicket

South Africa: 361 all out Sri Lanka : 321 all out South Africa: 311 all out Sri Lanka : 352 for 9 wkt(s) DPMD Jayawardene 123 (0.62)

This time I have included a single innings from the modern era. Mahela Jayawardene's 374 is a much-remembered innings. The world record created, the world record missed, the two days spent by the vaunted South Africa attack on the field and so on. Very few people remember what happened a week later.

Seven days and probably 7km (Sri Lankans could correct me) separated the Tests. What a pair of Tests these turned to be. One a batting marathon and a win by an innings and over 150 runs and another which had four scores either side of 350.

South Africa, after taking a lead of 40, set Sri Lanka, an imposing 352 to win. Although Sri Lanka were sitting pretty at 120 for 2, soon wickets fell at regular intervals and they were never in complete control of the chase. Jayawardene held the innings together with an excellent innings of 123. Like Waugh did, Tendulkar did and Brian Lara did not, Jayawardene fell ten runs off the target and a few anxious moments later, Sri Lanka won by one wicket. An excellent innings under pressure, throughout.

This has been a whimsical and nostalgic journey through 13 decades of Test cricket. It is like a whiff of fresh air for me and, I hope, for many readers. It really does not matter which innings has been included or excluded. I could easily have substituted five of these innings with others and not lost the impact of the article. My sincere thanks to all the readers for their enthusiastic participation. It is a reminder to me that I should go anecdotal more often.

A brief note on the Newlands tour de force. Sriram, our son, who was in India recently made a fairly serious statement that Test cricket, due to changing times and the enormous revenue-generation of initiatives like the IPL (and, sadly, minus sentiment/history), was in danger of dying out in ten to 15 years time. My heart protested at this but my mind was endorsing the tough statement, especially since he is a serious student of the game and the people who run the game. It is my considered belief that the BCCI wants Test cricket to take a distant third place, to be tolerated and humoured rather than encouraged. So Sriram is probably close to the mark.

But let me say this. As of today (March 5, 2014) Test cricket is alive and kicking, and how. The last three hours at Newlands produced more genuine cricketing excitement than the entire IPL can produce. An average bowler who can bowl four overs of innocuous left-arm spin and keeps the runs conceded to 30, or one who can hit across the midwicket fence a few times will pocket a million dollars.

At Newlands, it was guts all the way. The whole match was symbolised by the limping Ryan Harris, who is going under the surgeon's scalpel next week, producing two magical deliveries to snatch a win from an equally exciting draw. Harris wouldn't get an IPL contract: he would go "unsold" at a minimum price of 100,000 dollars. He would not get a million dollars for selling male fairness creams. His four overs would go for 40 runs and he would warm the benches if at all he was picked. In all probability he may never play in a Test match again. But his name will be there, talked about when people talk of courage and guts. The knowledgeable cricket followers salute you, Ryan, the other ten Australians and the 11 South Africans. You guys have shown the courage and fortitude on the field that your administrators have not shown off the field. Michael Clarke, Ryan Harris, Vernon Philander, AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis, Dale Steyn, Kyle Abbott et al shine in this regard.

Incidentally, with a cut-off of 100 wickets, Ryan Harris has a better bowling average than Imran Khan, Keith Miller, Dale Steyn, Ray Lindwall, Croft, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Holding and Dennis Lillee.

South Africa deserved to come out with a draw. Australia deserved to secure a win. Both teams fought like tigers. It is possible that the way Australia bowled on a perfect batting strip on the last day and never gave up trying gave them the edge. Nothing was easy, not even the ninth wicket. If Test cricket could produce five classics in the past 80 days in Wellington, Auckland, Johannesburg, Newlands and Sharjah, maybe Sriram is wrong. Test cricket might very live well beyond me.

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