Cricinfo XI April 25, 2006

Digging their heels in

Andrew Miller and Martin Williamson
Andrew Miller and Martin Williamson recall 11 memorable nightwatchman performances

Jason Gillespie's astonishing double-century against Bangladesh at Chittagong last week has raised the profile of the humble nightwatchman, those long-suffering tailenders who are forced out of the comfort of the dressing-room at the end of a day's play to protect their senior partners. Here Cricinfo recalls 11 memorable nightwatchman performances. Please note, this list is not definitive, but send your thoughts anyway to feedback.



Harold Larwood shows his frustration after holing out for 98 © WCM
Harold Larwood, Australia v England, Sydney, 1932-33
Harold Larwood's pivotal role in the Bodyline series is well documented, but in the final Test at Sydney he was sent in as nightwatchman and made 98 in two-and-a-quarter hours, hitting a six, a five and nine fours and, according to Wisden, "drove in glorious fashion and treated the spectators to a great display". Only when he was within reach of his hundred did Maurice Leyland point out his score - Larwood had been oblivious. That unsettled him, and he limply chipped to 49-year-old Dainty Ironmonger who, despite being possibly the worst fielder in Test history, clung on to the catch. Larwood, the villain of the series, was cheered from the middle by the Australian crowd. But his delight was short-lived. He broke down in Australia's second innings and never played for England again.

Tony Mann, Australia v India, Perth, 1977-78
Legspinner Tony Mann was 32 when picked for an Australian side decimated by defections to World Series Cricket. He did little with the ball - after three wickets in his first innings he took only one more at 304 - but in his second Test he scored 105 in 184 minutes after going in No. 3 to set up a two-wicket win for Australia who had been set a target of 342 by India. "Mann batted splendidly," wrote Dicky Rutnagur in The Cricketer, "but India's bowling was particularly wayward against his left-handedness."

Peter Taylor, New Zealand v Australia, Wellington, 1989-90
An offspinner, and a durable left-hand batsman as well, Peter Taylor is best remembered for his surprise call-up against England in 1986-87 when most pundits thought the selectors had chosen the wrong Taylor (Mark being the more likely option). But he more than held his own, and in the one-off Test against New Zealand at Wellington in March 1990 he played the innings of his life to make 87 after being sent in at No. 4 in Australia's second innings. "His defence was sound," wrote Dick Brittenden in The Cricketer, "he drove powerfully and played some handsome shots off the front foot." With Allan Border, he added 103 for the fourth wicket, but it wasn't enough to save Australia from a nine-wicket hammering.

Jason Gillespie, India v Australia, 2nd Test, Chennai



Jason Gillespie's innings was a hairy, sweaty affair © Getty Images
Gillespie's double-hundred may be the sine qua non of nightwatchman performances, but if there are any purists in a huff about a tailender getting such a glut of runs, then at least it can be said that Gillespie is the most deserving candidate for such a record. On ten occasions he has been promoted up the order to protect a senior batsman, and on all ten occasions he has achieved his primary duty and returned for more in the morning. Of these, however, no performance was more bloody-minded and brilliant than his four-hour 26 at Chennai in October 2004. Played in the sort of heat that almost killed Dean Jones 18 years earlier, Gillespie added 139 for the fifth wicket with Damien Martyn, as Australia extracted themselves from a position of desperation at 145 for 4, an overall lead of just 4. "Unlike the top order, he is never in a hurry," wrote Peter English, "and this was a perfect day for tortoises."

Winston Benjamin, West Indies v Australia, 4th Test, Jamaica
He was mean and moody, and some way short of greatness in an era when West Indian fast bowlers ruled the roost, but Winston Benjamin's batting provided an important extra string to his bow. One of his earliest feats came in April 1988, when he produced a remarkable 40 not out from No. 9 to secure a series-levelling two-wicket win against Pakistan. Seven years later, however, another of his best efforts was, this time, not enough. Shoved up to No. 5 in the decisive innings of the epochal fourth Test against Australia at Sabina Park, Benjamin dug in to top-score with 51 from 118 balls. None of his team-mates managed to pass fifty, however, as Australia stormed to victory by an innings and 53 runs. In doing so, they claimed the Frank Worrell Trophy for the first time in almost 20 years, and with it, the unofficial world title.

Robin Marlar, Surrey v Rest of England, The Oval, 1955
Robin Marlar had few pretensions as a batsman, and those consisted of trying to hit every ball as far as possible. An oft-repeated story tells of the time Doug Insole, his captain, sent him in as a nightwatchman much to Marlar's disgust as, according to a version of the tale told by Stephen Chalke, he had already changed into evening dress. Despite protestations, Marlar was sent to the middle, heaved his first ball for six and was stumped by some distance off the second. "As I was saying," he remarked to Insole. "I am not a nightwatchman." His actions were not unusual ce for a man who a contemporary recalled was followed onto the field by his side while captain of Sussex "only out of curiosity".

Derek Underwood, England v Pakistan, The Oval, 1974
Deadly Derek Underwood had no equal on wet or worn wickets, but he was a poor batsman - he only passed fifty three times in more than 700 first-class innings. However, he could hold up an end and so, when England lost an early wicket replying to Pakistan's 600 for 7, in he went. On a docile wicket, he lasted the night, and past lunch the next day, making 43 in over three hours and adding 100 for the second wicket with Dennis Amiss. "He produced some good attacking shots," Wisden noted, "and it was not until Pakistan used their sixth bowler, Wasim Raja, that he was finally tempted into error." It wasn't so much the runs that mattered as the message to the rest of his side that the pitch held no threats.

Alex Tudor, England v New Zealand, Edgbaston, 1999
An enigma like few others, Alex Tudor's bowling was quick enough to rattle Steve Waugh's stumps on debut, and had it not been for his persistent battles with injury and a perceived mental fragility, he would probably have been spearheading England's Ashes campaign last summer. It was his batting, as much as anything else, that set him apart from his peers, not least at Edgbaston in 1999, during an extraordinary home debut against New Zealand. His 32 not out in the first innings had saved England from humiliation at 45 for 7, and then, second-time around, he creamed 99 of the finest nightwatchman runs ever scored, as England made mincemeat of what should have been a challenging run-chase of 208. Some of his off-side play was pure calypso, and long before the match had been sealed, the home crowd sensed that a remarkable maiden hundred was there for the taking. Enter Graham Thorpe, with a party-pooping performance that few have managed to rival. Of the 38 runs still required when he came to the crease, Thorpe scored 21 at a run a ball, leaving Tudor stranded despite his last-ball four.

Ian Salisbury, Pakistan v England, Faisalabad, 2000-01
The Pakistan tour in 2000-01 was a triumph for England, but torment for Ian Salisbury. He was selected for all three Tests, in the vain hope that continuity might settle his nerves, but his confidence ebbed away at an alarming rate as the Pakistani batsmen tucked into a glutton's diet of long-hops and full-tosses. He conceded 193 runs from 69 overs, and when he finally picked up his solitary wicket of the series, The Telegraph correspondent, Michael Henderson, cruelly wrote: "It was as if a backward child had suddenly learned how to spell his name and deserved a treat." What Salisbury did get right, however, was his batting. In a series that England stole at the last available moment, his 84 runs at an average of 42 were a crucial and unsung part of the narrative, not least his stand as nightwatchman at Faisalabad, where he and Graham Thorpe added 97 precious runs for the fourth wicket.



So near ... Eddie Hemmings troops off after being dismissed for 95 © Getty Images
Neil Foster, England v West Indies, The Oval, 1988
Graham Gooch was England's last leadership appointment in the summer of four England captains, a thankless task indeed, as England were already 3-0 down and floundering by the time his turn came at The Oval. And, as if a hefty defeat on debut was not galling enough, Gooch was even upstaged during his second-innings 84 by his Essex team-mate, Neil Foster. Having come in as nightwatchman at a dicey 55 for 3, Foster was dropped first-ball the following morning by Carl Hooper at slip, and thus emboldened, began hogging the strike so supremely Gooch managed just two runs of the next 44. "The new skipper dug in to an almost exaggerated degree," wrote Christopher Martin-Jenkins in The Cricketer. At 430 minutes, it was the longest Gooch had batted without scoring a century.

Eddie Hemmings, Australia v England, Sydney, 1982-83
One of modern cricket's unlikelier characters, Eddie Hemmings was a moustachioed, rather portly offspinner with little batting ability. In the final Test against Australia in 1982-83, which England had to win to retain the Ashes, they were set an unlikely 460 and lost Geoff Cook in the first over of the three they faced on the fourth evening. Hemmings, promoted from his usual No. 9 berth, saw out the day, and then resumed the next morning "as if," wrote WCM, "the runs could be knocked off by teatime." He slowed down as the heat took its toll, finally departing for 95 shortly before tea. He had effectively saved the match and, briefly, raised hopes of a dramatic win. In his final Test, at Sydney eight years later, he made 0.