Rising from the ashes September 1, 2005

Great series fightbacks

Some of our correspondents have written about great series fightbacks from the past. We'd love to hear from you about similar fightbacks

What an incredible summer's cricket we have had. When the Ashes was one Test old, with Australia 1-0 up, it seemed like more of the same old template of Australian domination. But England fought back in a way we're likely to remember 50 years from now, and after three more exhilarating Tests, they now lead 2-1. It's the kind of fightback that exemplifies the best of what cricket means for its fans: the drama, the emotions, the edge-of-the-seat wide-eyed astonishment at what 22 men can get up to on a cricket field.

Some of our correspondents have written about other such series fightbacks from the past. We'd love to hear from you about similar series fightbacks that move you, so do write in to us. The best entries will be showcased on Cricinfo.

Up from the downward path

Peter English on Australia v England 1936-37



Don Bradman conjured up a Houdini act in the 1936-37 Ashes © Getty Images

Two Tests into his captaincy, Don Bradman's reign was in rain-soaked tatters. Boosted by wet wickets, England opened the 1936-37 series with victories by 322 runs and an innings and 22 to place his leadership in doubt. "After the second Test in which Bradman scored 0 and 82 I heard many strong opinions to the effect that the great man was on the downward path," wrote Neville Cardus in Australian Summer. Not after the next match, or the two that followed it. The weather broke again at Melbourne for the third Test, but Bradman employed the shrewd tactic of turning the order around so his batsmen could escape the pitch's dangers. Arriving at No.7, Bradman struck 270 in a sixth-wicket partnership of 346 with Jack Fingleton, which is still a Test record. Scores of 26, 212 and 169 followed as Bradman's Australia not only retained the Ashes, but won three matches in a row to take the series. "His performances in these games stagger credulity," Cardus said. Could the phrase "leading by example" been coined from this series?

Freddie starts a habit

Sambit Bal on England v South Africa 2003



Andrew Flintoff went bananas against South Africa at The Oval in 2003 © Getty Images

England were playing catch up through out the series after Graeme Smith, South Africa's fresh-faced but passionately driven captain began the series with back-to-back double-hundreds. South Africa dominated the first, won the second and, but for a shocking last-innings batting collapse, should have won the third. Gary Kirsten played his last great innings on an unreliable pitch at Headingley to take South Africa ahead, and at 290 for 1 at more than four runs per over on the first day of the Oval Test, they seemed to have sewn up the series. But after spanking 35 fours and a six, Herschelle Gibbs heaved across the line to get himself out and England somehow managed to dismiss South Africa for 484, hardly a pittance. Marcus Trescothick put England on par with a muscular 219, but England were only 18 in the front when the 8th wicket fell. Andrew Flintoff had scored a hundred in the previous Test throwing his bat about when all had been lost. But here he played his first truly significant Test innings, scoring a scorching 95 off 104 balls. The ninth wicket produced 99 runs to which Steve Harmison contributed only six. England then chipped away at the South African batsmen to dismiss them for 229 and raced away to a series-leveling victory. South Africa had no business losing the series and it was all downhill for them from here. For England, it was the beginning of the Michael Vaughan era.

The Black Cap resurgence

John Stern on England v New Zealand 1999



Chris Carins's allround efforts left England gasping in 1999 © Getty Images

It was a four-match series after the World Cup, not on the face of it one of the epic Test encounters. Yet on both sides of the fence the result resonated for years to come.

For England the writing should have been on the wall. They had a new captain (Nasser Hussain) and no coach (Duncan Fletcher had been hired but would not take charge until October). They had bombed out of their own World Cup at the first hurdle.

But somehow they won the first Test despite trailing by 100 on first innings (226 to 126). Andrew Caddick bowled his compatriots out for 107 and then England chased down 208 as if it was a benefit game losing only three wickets. They even found a new hero, the fast bowler Alex Tudor who had come in as nightwatchman and finished on 99 not out with 21 fours.

New Zealand lost their pace bowler Simon Doull through injury and England started dream of a comfortable series win. And they started to under-estimate New Zealand, which is just how the Black Caps like it.

England continued their hateful relationship with Lord's losing by nine wickets and losing their new skipper with a broken finger. England were outplayed again at Old Trafford with Mark Butcher in charge but saved by the rain. Selectors Mike Gatting and Graham Gooch resigned in an increasingly gloomy atmosphere.

Chris Cairns was the difference in the decider at The Oval, rescuing New Zealand's floundering second innings with 80 off 94 balls to set England 246 to win. At 123 for 2 they were in with a shout but collapsed yet again to 162 all out, Dion Nash taking four for 39.

It was only the ninth time in Test history that a side has won a series of fewer than five matches after going behind.

For England the result meant they were officially the worst Test side in the world. And the rebuilding started in South Africa two months later. New Zealand felt aggrieved that they had not been given due credit for their achievement, a resentment that seethed for three years until Hussain's England took on Stephen Fleming's New Zealand in 2002.

Rejuvenating the rabble

Osman Samiuddin on West Indies v Pakistan 1987-88



Javed Miandad chipped away at the mighty West Indies bowling line-up and inspired a memorable fightback in 1988 © Getty Images

For a month, between March and April 1988, Pakistan's tour of the West Indies seemed a typically Pakistani rabble. Imran Khan, aged, jaded, retired and disinterested had been coerced into returning as captain by President Zia-ul-Haq; fitting that one dictator called back another.

Matters and morale plummeted further when Imran publicly questioned the record of the man he perennially replaced as captain, Javed Miandad. Without a century against the West Indies, Miandad, in Imran's eyes, didn't warrant comparisons with the greatest batsmen. The ODI series was ominous, a 5-0 blanking only suggesting that the worst was yet to unveil itself, something not many were inclined to disagree with.

Then, at the first Test at Georgetown, arrived first some fortune and eventually a rare, stirring Pakistani retort. With Malcolm Marshall and Viv Richards both out injured, Imran forgot a bruised toe, willing himself to his last great bowling performance, an amalgamation of new-ball and reverse swing to dismiss the home side for 292. Whether indignation drove him we will never know, but Miandad then grafted a near seven-hour century. Saleem Yousuf, about to have his nose re-arranged courtesy Marshall two matches later, spanked a fifty, helping Pakistan to a 143-run lead.

With Abdul Qadir in tow, Imran again wrecked the West Indians. And when a target of 30 was reached in just over three overs, somehow against possibly even their own expectations (although it is doubtful Imran and Javed between them ever doubted anything much) Pakistan became the first side to win a Test in the Caribbean in the 80s. And it set up what remains, arguably, one of the best Test series from the decade, between the two best teams of that time.

Bouncers, walkouts and a hamstrung hero

Dileep Premachandran on Australia v India 1980-81



Kapil Dev's heroic bowling efforts at the MCG in 1981 led a rousing Indian fightback © Getty Images

India has succumbed by an innings in the opening Test at Sydney, with Greg Chappell scoring a magnificent double-century in his first Test against them. Sandeep Patil had been one of the few batsmen to show defiance in the face of fearsome fast bowling from Dennis Lillee and Len Pascoe, but he had to retire hurt on 65 after being felled by a vicious bouncer from Pascoe. His response was a glorious counterattacking 174 at the Adelaide Oval, a knock ultimately responsible for India keeping the series alive - they finished with eight wickets down and nails bitten to nothingness after being set 331 for victory.

The MCG crowd saw more Australian dominance on the opening four days of the third Test. Allan Border's hundred gave them a big first-innings lead, but India had wiped off 165 from the arrears when Rex Whitehead's umpiring once again came to the fore. Having upset the Indians with one debatable decision after another throughout the series, Whitehead raised the finger after Lillee had rapped Sunil Gavaskar on the pads with one that jagged back sharply. Gavaskar gestured to his bat, and was incensed when Lillee resorted to fruity language to suggest that he exit stage left. The team management had to step in and prevent a farce after Gavaskar tried to drag Chetan Chauhan off with him, and the volatile atmosphere had much to do with India adding only a further 159.

The sense of injustice inspired the team, though, and after the much under-rated Karsan Ghavri had bowled Chappell behind his legs on the penultimate evening, a spellbinding display from Kapil Dev - bowling after painkilling injections for his hamstring - set up the unlikeliest of victories. Set 143, Australia slumped to 83 all out as Kapil scalped 5 for 28 to give India a share of a series where they had been outplayed from ball one. Kolkata and Adelaide may resonate more with young Indian hearts, but it was the MCG that first saw the phoenix rise.

Now it's your turn. Write in to us and tell us about a series fightback that you remember. We'll showcase the best entries on Cricinfo.