Fanie's finest and Tugga's Last Stand
After our correspondents, it's your turn, and the entries have been coming in about as quick as a Shoaib Akhtar special. We asked you to pick out the greatest Test you had ever seen (or one you wished you had), and the responses ranged from the predictable (Kolkata 2001, Headingley 1981, Bridgetown 1999) to the not-so (The Oval 1976). Over the next week, we shall publish the best entries we receive. Entertaining cameos, rather than Chris Tavare marathons, are easier on the eye. We welcome you to pick your own greatest Test and send us a paragraph on it.
Fanie's finest hour
Gysbert Engelbrecht on Sydney 1993-94
I had to switch my days and nights around to watch South Africa play Australia - I would sleep during the day and watch the cricket in the early hours of the morning, alone. The first Test was a washout and this game wasn't going our way at all. The South Africans were inexperienced and were totally outplayed for the first 4 days. Shane Warne took 12 wickets in the game and it looked as if he would take one with every ball he bowled to us. In the end, we set Australia 117 runs to win. On that fourth afternoon, Australia were cruising on 51 for 1. And then Fanie [de Villiers] came back to bowl. He had this irrepressible spirit, and three quick wickets later, Australia closed the day with four down and about 60 runs to get. The odds were still heavily with them. On the fifth morning, Fanie bowled from the start. And this time, Allan Donald joined him, taking three wickets of his own. Australia were wilting under the intensity. They just couldn't score any runs. Damien Martin looked like a hare caught in the headlights, and got out to perhaps the only stroke he played all morning, having faced almost 60 balls for his 6. Fanie just kept pegging away. At last, he bowled to Glenn McGrath. This was back when McGrath had no illusions about his ability with the bat and a tentative prod from him sent the ball looping gently back to Fanie, who grabbed it with glee. Australia were short by five runs, and it felt as if Fanie's sheer force of will beat them. I woke up my whole family and we celebrated till morning.
That game that resuscitated cricket
Des Wood on Brisbane 1960-61
The greatest Test by the length of the straight is the Brisbane tie. The background was almost as important as the game. Cricket had almost died with the battles of attrition of the previous few years. West Indies, stacked with brilliant individuals, had never really achieved because of outside factors. Australian cricket still had a Bradman hangover. In this game the West Indies, wonderfully led by its first black captain Frank Worrell, attacked from the outset scoring before lunch more runs than had been scored by England in the whole day in the previous Brisbane test. Australia responded in kind under Benaud. The match had some of the best players ever to have played the game at their peak. It fluctuated throughout. It was a great game even before the final over - the last over on the last day with any of four results possible. That last over is unrepeatable. There has been no contest like this. There can be no contest about its standing.
Tugga's Last Stand
John Robertson on Sydney 2003-04
Until this Ashes series, arguably no match has been more crucial to preserving the Australian's current legacy than the final home test against India in 2003-04. Like Old Trafford, it took an epic five-day effort for survival by Australia against another unexpectedly rampant challenger. Having lost to India so closely on the subcontinent in 2001, Australia were looking to this home series to re-assert their supremacy ahead of the quest for their holy grail - a series win in India - later in 2004. To add to the drama, this was Steve Waugh's final series. By the final Test, though, what should have been a triumphant farewell for Waugh was a mess. A second-innings debacle by Australia at Adelaide gifted India an unexpected series lead. A seriously undermanned Australia then had to scrap hard in Melbourne to level the series again. Now India had a sniff of unexpected glory. The Indian batsmen had taken a particular liking to the generous wickets on offer, and they also had a new star in Pathan. India batted first and made a modest 705. Tendulkar broke free for his magnificent 241. Australia's clung on, just, with a valiant 474 in reply. Simon Katich anchored the innings with a superbly grafted maiden Test century, helped by another limpet-like effort from Jason Gillespie with the bat. India still had enough time to give the under-strength Australian bowling another quick caning, though, and bat Australia right out of the match. Just as at Old Trafford, Australia had to bat out a full fifth day to save the series. By mid-afternoon, despite several good starts, Australia were on the edge at 4-196. Again, enter the Australian captain as the hero. Steve Waugh's dogged 80 was not in the same league as Ricky Ponting's 156 at Manchester, but with another fine knock from Katich in support it was enough to get Australia home. Waugh's rash slog-sweep into retirement and Gilchrist's quick dismissal that followed caused some late flutters at 6 for 342, but Katich held his nerve through to stumps. Australia scraped out of the series 1-1 and on to the subsequent triumphs in Sri Lanka and India in 2004. Fittingly, Waugh exited the game unbowed. Old Trafford may now make this look like a routine final day's survival, but on the day it was every bit as tense as what we have just seen.
TMS and the German connection
Sebastian Altenhoff on Edgbaston 1997
Although my favourite match has received some attention during the last few weeks, it would, for all its class, not feature in the lists of most other cricket lovers. It was more of a personal experience for me, which was to have a tremendous significance on my life. The Test I have in mind is Edgbaston 1997. Coming to England as a 17-year-old German in February to spend five months at a Northumbrian school, I was completely unaware that something like Cricket even existed. I had decided, however, to soak up anything that looked, smelled, or tasted English, prompting me to spend my lunch breaks and a full weekend in front of a television set watching the likes of Atherton, Hussain and Caddick hammer the Aussies. Not that I understood much about cricket then, but the hype and the excitement had already found their way into my head. Because of my returning to Germany, I wasn't even able to follow the remainder of the series more closely, yet the images of my first Test match will remain in my memory forever. You could wake me at three o'clock in the morning and ask for the innings totals and the final scoreline, and I would give these figures to you on the spot. By the day we won that match (you do notice that I write "we", don't you?), cricket - and England - had gained a most dedicated fan. Imagine a German getting stomach pains from listening to TMS.
Near-part-timers conquer Lloyd's destroyers
Dylan Cleaver on Dunedin 1980
West Indies and their famed and feared foursome - Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Joel Garner and Colin Croft - had breezed past Australia 2-0 in a three-match series and probably viewed New Zealand as an unwanted and unworthy addendum to their tour. Indeed, Viv Richards was given dispensation to skip the New Zealand leg of the tour and Roberts missed the first Test. However, New Zealand, led by county pro Geoff Howarth and spearheaded by Richard Hadlee, were in the process of gathering the self-belief to become one of the hardest teams to beat at home during the '80s. This Test was the spark that ignited that belief. Played at Carisbrook, dreary and cold, the Windies were bundled out for 140 with only a Desmond Haynes half-century saving complete embarrassment. Bruce Edgar played a similar role for New Zealand with Hadlee's hitting at the end providing a 109-run lead. Haynes scored a gritty 300-ball century in the second but when West Indies were again bundled out cheaply, New Zealand needed just 104 to win. Suddenly, it seemed to dawn on West Indies that they might lose to this bunch of predominantly part-timers, and they bowled with a fury never seen on these shores. Howarth had his helmet knocked off twice and wickets tumbled regularly. Just three fours were scored as New Zealand inched their way to glory. Lance Cairns top-scored with 19, though he was bowled without the bail dropping much earlier, but was the ninth man dismissed with four needed. Gary Troup and Stephen Boock, one of the world's great bunnies, eked out three singles before Boock's front pad provided the most cherished leg bye - via a missed run-out opportunity - in New Zealand cricket history.