Shunning the follow-on
Rahul Dravid's decision not to enforce the follow-on against England at The Oval after India had secured a 319-run lead in the first innings evoked strongly divided opinions. Some thought that the move was too defensive while others appreciated the need to safeguard a precious 1-0 series lead. This week we look at other instances of a team batting again despite having taken a massive first-innings lead.
West Indies v England, 4th Test, Kingston, 1929-30
The four-Test series was level at 1-1 heading into the final timeless game in Jamaica. England batted first and, by the third day had ensured that they couldn't possibly lose the series. Andy Sandham, aged 40, batted ten hours for his 325 while Les Ames scored 149 off 174 balls as England piled up 849 - the highest Test total at the time. West Indies were dismissed for 286 in reply, giving England a lead of 563. The fact that it was a timeless Test and that several of his players weren't exactly young prompted Freddie Calthorpe, the England captain, to bat again. They declared on 272 for 9 with Sandham scoring 50 to take his match tally to 375 - a record that stood for 44 years. Defending an impossible target of 836, England would have had ample time to dismiss West Indies had rain not washed out the eighth and ninth days, by which time they had to catch their ship home. The match ended in a draw with West Indies battling on 408 for 5 in the final innings.
Australia v England, 1st Test, Brisbane, 2006-07
The build-up to England's Ashes defence after their thrilling victory in 2005 had been tremendous. It came to boiling point when Steve Harmision charged in to Justin Langer in front of 40,000 fans at the Gabba and let loose a dreadful wide outside the off stump. Australia never looked back; Ricky Ponting led the way with 196, and eventually declared on 602 for 9. England were rolled over for a feeble 157, giving Australia a lead of 445 with two and a half days remaining. Australia's decision not to ask England to follow on wasn't surprising. Since Steve Waugh retired, Ponting and Adam Gilchrist have enforced it only once out of seven opportunities - against New Zealand at Wellington in 2004-05 - and, thanks to bad weather, it was the only time that they didn't win. Langer's century led Australia to 202 for 1 in 45.1 overs. England offered more resistance in the final innings, but their 370 all out fell well short of the target of 648.
South Africa v Australia, 3rd Test, Durban, 1949-50
There are two entries in our table below where a team has not enforced the follow-on and gone on to lose the Test. Both matches involve South Africa and one of them was the infamous contrived result at Centurion in 2000. The other match was the third Test at Durban during Australia's tour in 1950. South Africa were ideally placed to pull one back after Australia had taken a 2-0 lead in the series. Eric Rowan scored 143 to lead South Africa to 311 before Hugh Tayfield took 7 for 23 in 8.4 overs with his offbreaks as Australia were dismissed for 75, 236 in arrears. Dudley Nourse, the South Africa captain, had the rest day to mull over the follow-on decision but eventually decided against it. South Africa batted again but their hopes of setting a crushing target vanished as they were skittled for 99. Chasing 336 in the final innings, however, was still a daunting task and Australia were soon reduced to 95 for 4. But Neil Harvey shelved his natural game and revived the chase with a patient 151. He remained unbeaten as Australia completed the victory on the final day with 25 minutes and five wickets in hand and took the series 3-0 with two to play.
Australia v West Indies, 5th Test, Sydney, 1968-69
Since the series was still undecided - Australia led 2-1 - the teams played the final Test over six days. West Indies, after putting Australia in, didn't do themselves any favours by dropping catches off both Bill Lawry and Doug Walters, who went on to score 151 and 242 respectively. Australia amassed 619 in the first innings and had effectively batted West Indies out of the game. Lawry could have asked West Indies to follow on after they were dismissed for 279 but, keeping in mind how they had fought in the second innings at Adelaide, he decided to build on the lead of 340. Walters scored 103 and became the first batsman to score a century and a double in the same Test. Ian Redpath also scored a hundred and Australia set West Indies 735 to win in ten hours. Garry Sobers and Seymour Nurse struck centuries but West Indies were dismissed for 352 after scoring at four runs per over.
|England||563||v West Indies||drawn||Kingston||1929/30||Test 193|
|Australia||445||v England||won||277 runs||Brisbane||2006/07||Test 1817|
|England||399||v Australia||won||675 runs||Brisbane||1928/29||Test 176|
|Australia||380||v England||won||562 runs||The Oval||1934||Test 237|
|Australia||340||v West Indies||won||382 runs||Sydney||1968/69||Test 646|
|West Indies||326||v England||won||289 runs||Georgetown||1929/30||Test 192|
|Australia||324||v New Zealand||won||213 runs||Adelaide||2004/05||Test 1723|
|India||319||v England||drawn||The Oval||2007||Test 1842|
|England||282||v India||won||171 runs||Manchester||1959||Test 477|
|Sri Lanka||281||v South Africa||won||313 runs||Colombo (SSC)||2004||Test 1710|
|West Indies||278||v India||won||295 runs||Chennai||1958/59||Test 465|
|South Africa||278||v England||won||196 runs||Cape Town||2004/05||Test 1732|
|India||275||v New Zealand||drawn||Ahmedabad||1999/00||Test 1465|
|England||270||v West Indies||won||256 runs||Port of Spain||1959/60||Test 488|
|England||266||v India||won||170 runs||Lord's||2002||Test 1610|
|Australia||259||v England||won||184 runs||Brisbane||1994/95||Test 1275|
|West Indies||252||v England||won||231 runs||The Oval||1976||Test 781|
|South Africa||248||v England||lost||2 wickets||Centurion||1999/00||Test 1483|
|West Indies||247||v England||won||140 runs||Kingston||1953/54||Test 380|
|South Africa||236||v Australia||lost||5 wickets||Durban||1949/50||Test 320|
|Australia||236||v India||won||47 runs||Adelaide||1977/78||Test 816|
|England||235||v Australia||drawn||Adelaide||1970/71||Test 678|
|India||231||v Australia||drawn||Sydney||2003/04||Test 1680|
|England||230||v West Indies||won||256 runs||Birmingham||2004||Test 1708|
|South Africa||230||v Pakistan||won||324 runs||Johannesburg||1994/95||Test 1283|
|New Zealand||230||v West Indies||won||204 runs||Bridgetown||2002||Test 1607|
Note: The lack of early Tests in our table is due to a couple of reasons. Before 1900 the follow-on wasn't an option; its enforcement was compulsory, which led to controversy in some county matches where the fielding side would deliberately bowl wides in order to avoid batting last on a worn pitch. Declarations were also not allowed in most circumstances at the time and so the batting side would deliberately throw away their wickets in an attempt to thwart the opposition's gamesmanship.
Also, it wasn't until the 1950s that three-day Tests were abolished. For a while after 1900, Tests in Australia had two follow-on targets, the first usually being 150 runs, where the follow-on was optional and the second being 200 runs, where the follow-on was compulsory.
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Travis Basevi is the man who built Statsguru. George Binoy is an editorial assistant on Cricinfo