December 18, 2008

Fourth innings, fifth gear

Frenetic innings in run-chases in Tests

India's fairly comfortable chase of 387 in Chennai was set up by Virender Sehwag's innings of genius and madness. We take a look at more such frenetic knocks in the fourth innings that sealed unlikely victories

Gordon Greenidge blasted an unbeaten 214 at Lord's in 1984, with 29 fours and two sixes © Getty Images

Hansie Cronje, 82, South Africa v Sri Lanka, Centurion, 1997-98
In reply to Sri Lanka's 303, South Africa were shot out for 200 in the first innings before Sri Lanka crumbled to 122 in their second to set a teasing target of 226. The openers, Gary Kirsten and Gerhardus Liebenberg, took South Africa to a comfortable 89 before Muttiah Muralitharan decided to gatecrash their party. Three quick wickets, including a duck for the first-innings centurion, Daryll Cullinan, left South Africa reeling at 99 for 3. It was then that Hansie Cronje decided to launch into a furious assault. He repeatedly played his favourite slog-sweep, and hit Murali for three consecutive sixes to bring up a thrilling fifty in 32 balls - the second fastest Test half-century at the time. In all, he hit six sixes and eight fours, and his 82 came in 70 minutes and 63 deliveries, and South Africa stormed home in style.

Roy McLean, 76*, South Africa v Australia, Melbourne, 1952-53
It was a team of no-hopers that toured Australia in 1952-53. In fact, Louis Duffus, the doyen of South African cricket journalists, called the South Africans "unwanted, unheralded and unsung", and waged a one-man campaign for the tour to be cancelled. But South Africa, led by their inspiring captain Jack Cheetham, stunned everyone, especially with their brilliant fielding, during the course of the series. They won the second Test - their first victory over Australia for 42 years - and entered the final day of the fifth and final Test, needing 297 to level the series 2-2. At 191 for 4 the chase was in the balance, but Roy McLean came to the fore with an unbeaten 76 in just 80 minutes. Cheetham had sent McLean out to score quickly but without risks. "Don't worry, Pop. I will get them," McLean had said. To help him along, he was dropped first ball by Arthur Morris. "I just carried on from there," McLean remembered. That he did, hitting 76 out of 106 and charging South Africa to an astonishing series-levelling win.

Viv Richards, 61 West Indies v India, Kingston, 1982-83
With West Indies needing 172 from 26 overs to win the Test on the final evening, Viv Richards hit a violent half-century to turn a draw into a win. He had a painful shoulder, and entered at the fall of the second wicket, at 65. His first scoring shot was a six, and he hit three more to reach 61 from 36 balls. Mohinder Amarnath was hit for 17 runs in an over, and even Kapil Dev, who bowled well to pick up four wickets, ended up conceding 73 runs in 13 overs. When Richards got out, West Indies needed 16 from 15 balls. They got home with four balls to spare.

Javed Miandad, 62, Pakistan v India, Karachi, 1978-79
Sunil Gavaskar had hit a magnificent 137 in India's second innings to set Pakistan a target of 166 in 100 minutes. Gavaskar might have thought he had done enough to draw the game, but Javed Miandad had other ideas. Miandad, who was promoted up the order after Zaheer Abbas was injured, joined Asif Iqbal at 14 for 1, and the duo hustled India with their running between the wickets. When the mandatory overs started, Pakistan needed 137 runs to win. They added 97 in no time, most of those resulting from their furious running, and India's unimaginative field placements. Iqbal fell, but Imran Khan hit Bishan Bedi for two sixes and a four in the 16th mandatory over to finish the game, and take the series 2-0. Bedi was sacked as captain after the defeat.

JT Brown, 140, England v Australia, MCG, 1895
The series hung on the fifth and final Test match after England won the first two Tests and Australia stormed back to win the next two. England were set 298 to win, but slipped to 28 for 2. JT Brown walked in and Archie McLaren was padded up to come in next, but following them were men who averaged less than 20 in the series. Brown, however, let rip. The ball flew all around the park as he brought up his fifty in 28 minutes. When on 88 he gave his only chance, which was dropped by George Giffen at slip off Harry Trott. Brown reacted to the reprieve by lifting Trott into the members' pavilion. His 100 came up in 95 minutes, and by the time he was out for 140, he had added 210 with Albert Ward. England went on to win the match and the series. "The spectators rose in a body and cheered Brown again and again as he came in after his grand innings," the Sydney Morning Herald recorded.

Gordon Greenidge, 214, West Indies v England, Lord's, 1984
England declared at 300 for 9 in the second innings to set West Indies a target of 342 to win in less than a day. A limping Gordon Greenidge then embarrassed the hosts with a savage assault, driving, pulling, and cutting merrily. Greenidge had 84 runs in his six previous innings against England, but he hit a violent 214 not out here, with 29 fours and two sixes, adding an unbeaten 287 for the second wicket with Larry Gomes as England were thrashed by nine wickets. Gower, the first English captain to have lost after declaring in 36 years, was typically laidback, stating "it was a shame to lose". Wisden noted: "It was Greenidge's day, the innings of his life, and his ruthless batting probably made the bowling look worse than it was."

Gilbert Jessop, 104 , England v Australia, The Oval, 1902
One of the great hundreds in a chase - certainly the innings that epitomised cricket's Golden Age. Chasing 263 to win the final Test, England's big-hitting Gilbert Jessop arrived with the score at 48 for 5 and proceeded to destroy the fast bowlers, lofting them into the pavilion three times. He also hit 17 fours and an all-run five, and the sixth-wicket stand of 109, (to which his partner, FS Jackson, contributed 18) swung the game around. England won by one wicket, but the innings would have attained greater significance had the Ashes not been decided already.

Ramnaresh Sarwan, 105, West Indies v Australia, Antigua, 2002-03
The target was an immense 418 and West Indies lost Brian Lara, the one man who usually won games for them, with the score on 164. But Ramnaresh Sarwan scripted a memorable victory in the company of Shivnarine Chanderpaul. Sarwan hit 17 fours, took 139 balls to score 105, eyeballing Glenn McGrath along the way, to lift West Indies to 288. Chanderpaul took it to 372 before Omari Banks and Vasbert Drakes steered them home. "One hundred and five against Australia is very special to me. It's the best I've batted in Test cricket," Sarwan said later.

Adam Gilchrist and Justin Langer bask in a memorable victory against Pakistan in Hobart © Getty Images

Adam Gilchrist, 149*, Australia v Pakistan, Hobart, 1999-00
Chasing 369, Australia were tottering at 126 for 5 when Adam Gilchrist did a Jessop. Justin Langer dropped anchor to allow Gilchrist the license to go for the jugular, which he did, exploding to one of his most thrilling hundreds ever, carving 149 from just 163 balls as Australia recorded what was then the fourth-highest chase in history. It took Gilchrist only 110 balls to get to his maiden Test century, the second fifty of which came from 38 balls. The innings wasn't without controversy, though. Wasim Akram was left fuming at Peter Parker's decision to give Langer not out off a caught-behind appeal early on the fifth morning. Australia were 237 for 5 then and went on to win the game while a devastated Wasim refused to turn up for the post-match press conference.

Ricky Ponting, 100*, Australia v South Africa, Cape Town, 2001-02
Australia were set a target of 331 and got off to a confident start, courtesy Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer. South Africa fought back to nip out Steve Waugh and Damien Martyn in successive overs, and it suddenly became even tighter when Adam Gilchrist was out cheaply. But Ponting hit a sublime 100 with 17 boundaries and took Australia home. "I certainly took it upon myself once the top few batters were out, and I wanted to make sure I was there at the end to give ourselves the best chance to win the game." It was an innings of a future Test captain.

Clive Lloyd, 77*, West Indies v Australia, 1981-82
Joel Garner took 4 for 5 in nine overs on the morning of the final day to leave West Indies 236 to win in four-and-a-half hours. Following the early loss of Desmond Haynes, a scintillating partnership between Viv Richards (50 from 56 balls) and Gordon Greenidge looked like taking them to a comfortable victory, but both departed within seven runs of each other to leave the game hanging in the balance. Clive Lloyd survived a dropped chance to hit a vital 93-ball 77, and guided West Indies to a win with 17 balls to spare. The three West Indian fast bowlers, Michael Holding, Garner and Colin Croft, chaired Lloyd off the field.

Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo