December 24, 2008

Defeated after declaring

Matches where declarations didn't quite work


Geoffrey Boycott led England to victory after Garry Sobers declared both of West Indies' innings in Trinidad in 1968 © Getty Images
 

A captain usually declares his team's innings only when he is certain that the opposition cannot win, or when he is desperate for a victory. However, every once in a while, he makes an error in judgment, underestimates what the other team is capable of, or watches his opponents pull off an unprecedented run-chase. This week we look at matches in which teams have lost after declaring their innings, like England did against India in Chennai recently.

Only twice has a captain declared both innings and lost the Test. Graeme Smith declared on 451 for 9 and 194 for 6, at the SCG in 2006, leaving Australia with a target of 288, which they achieved with eight wickets in hand. In Smith's defence, Australia were leading 1-0 in the three-Test series and it was a must-win match for South Africa.

Garry Sobers' decision to declare twice against England in Trinidad in 1968 is more difficult to understand. The series was level 0-0 going into the fourth Test and Sobers closed West Indies' first innings on 526 for 7. After securing a lead of 122, he declared his side's second innings on 92 for 2, leaving England with only 215 to chase in a little less than three hours on the final day. Geoffrey Boycott and Colin Cowdrey scored half-centuries and England won with seven wickets and three minutes in hand.

England's declaration in Chennai, setting India a target of 387, was only the 11th time a team declared in the third innings and lost. The first such instance was the Barbados Test between West Indies and England in 1935. Building on a lead of 21, the hosts reached 51 for 6 before Jackie Grant declared, setting England a target of 73, in an attempt to take advantage of a sticky wicket. Bob Wyatt countered by opening with tailenders to protect his batsmen, and Wally Hammond steered England to victory with an unbeaten 29 at No 6.

Declaring in the third innings of a Test and losing
Team Score Target Opposition Margin Ground Season Scorecard
West Indies 51/6d 73 v England 4 wickets Bridgetown 1934/35 Test 238
England 365/8d 404 v Australia 7 wickets Leeds 1948 Test 302
South Africa 187/3d 172 v England 3 wickets Port Elizabeth 1948/49 Test 313
West Indies 92/2d 215 v England 7 wickets Port of Spain 1967/68 Test 635
New Zealand 297/8d 345 v West Indies 5 wickets Auckland 1968/69 Test 648
West Indies 271/6d 403 v India 6 wickets Port of Spain 1975/76 Test 775
India 330/9d 339 v Australia 2 wickets Perth 1977/78 Test 811
England 300/9d 342 v West Indies 9 wickets Lord's 1984 Test 990
Australia 176/4d 315 v England 6 wickets Leeds 2001 Test 1556
South Africa 194/6d 287 v Australia 8 wickets Sydney 2005/06 Test 1780
England 311/9d 387 v India 6 wickets Chennai 2008/09 Test 1898

The SSC Test between Sri Lanka and Australia in 1993 makes another appearance in the List. Arjuna Ranatunga decided that a 291-run lead was more than enough and declared Sri Lanka's first innings on 547 for 8 even though the debutant Romesh Kaluwitharana was batting on 132. Faced with a target of 181 in the second innings, Sri Lanka collapsed for 164.

Declaring in the second innings of a Test and losing
Team Score Lead Opposition Margin Ground Season Scorecard
England 76/9d -124 v Australia 365 runs Melbourne 1936/37 Test 257
India 291/9d -103 v Australia 233 runs Melbourne 1947/48 Test 292
England 68/7d -160 v Australia 70 runs Brisbane 1950/51 Test 327
England 419/9d -64 v South Africa 71 runs Nottingham 1951 Test 334
Pakistan 574/8d 133 v Australia 92 runs Melbourne 1972/73 Test 705
Australia 395/8d -54 v West Indies 169 runs Perth 1988/89 Test 1110
Sri Lanka 547/8d 291 v Australia 16 runs Colombo (SSC) 1992 Test 1194
Zimbabwe 283/9d -52 v New Zealand 177 runs Harare 1992/93 Test 1199

The most recent match in which a team declared their first innings and lost was the Adelaide Test during the 2006-07 Ashes. England reached a seemingly impregnable 551 for 6 in the first innings before declaring. Only twice had teams lost after posting higher first-innings scores, so their decision was justified. England gained a slender lead but a third-innings meltdown left Australia with only 168 to chase, a target they achieved with six wickets in hand. England's first-innings effort was also the fourth-highest losing total in any innings and the second highest declaration in a defeat.

Declaring in the first innings of a Test and losing
Team Score Opposition Margin Ground Season Scorecard
Pakistan 387/9d v England 5 wickets Lahore 1961/62 Test 512
West Indies 526/7d v England 7 wickets Port of Spain 1967/68 Test 635
India 306/6d v West Indies 10 wickets Kingston 1975/76 Test 776
Australia 401/9d v England 18 runs Leeds 1981 Test 905
South Africa 248/8d v England 2 wickets Centurion 1999/00 Test 1483
Zimbabwe 422/9d v India 7 wickets Delhi 2000/01 Test 1515
West Indies 395/9d v England 7 wickets Manchester 2004 Test 1711
South Africa 451/9d v Australia 8 wickets Sydney 2005/06 Test 1780
England 551/6d v Australia 6 wickets Adelaide 2006/07 Test 1819

The four entries in the table below are Tests (excluding draws) in which teams have declared in the third innings and set their opponents the lowest total of the match as a target. The first such match, between England and South Africa in Port Elizabeth in 1949, had a thrilling finish. The hosts batted first and scored 379, to which England replied with 395. South Africa needed to win the match to level the series and so they declared on 187 for 3, setting England a target of 172 in 95 minutes. England rose to the challenge and Jack Crapp hit ten runs off three balls to secure victory with a minute to spare.

Declaring in the third innings of a Test with the target being the lowest score of the match (draws excluded)
Team Score Target Opposition Result Margin Ground Season Scorecard
South Africa 187/3d 172 v England lost 3 wickets Port Elizabeth 1948/49 Test 313
South Africa 308/6d 275 v New Zealand won 93 runs Auckland 1994/95 Test 1291
England 332/9d 325 v South Africa won 77 runs Johannesburg 2004/05 Test 1734
Australia 401/7d 333 v India won 122 runs Sydney 2007/08 Test 1857

The final table includes matches (excluding draws once again) in which a team declared its first innings while still behind their opponent's total. Australia declared their innings - a rarity in a timeless match - on 200 for 9 against England at the MCG in 1937 and sent their opponents in on a difficult pitch. England collapsed to 76 for 9 in reply before Gubby Allen also declared in the hope of returning the favour and getting some easy wickets on the sticky, making it the first time in Test cricket that both teams declared their first innings. Australia effectively used three nightwatchmen to see them through to stumps and a rest day, before their best batsmen came in to thrive in far easier conditions. Jack Fingleton made 136 at No. 6 and Don Bradman 270 from No 7 and led their team to 564. England had to chase 689 and fell for 323.

Declaring in the second innings of a Test without a lead (draws excluded)
Team Score Lead Opposition Result Margin Ground Season Scorecard
England 81/7d -21 v West Indies won 4 wickets Bridgetown 1934/35 Test 238
England 76/9d -124 v Australia lost 365 runs Melbourne 1936/37 Test 257
India 291/9d -103 v Australia lost 233 runs Melbourne 1947/48 Test 292
England 68/7d -160 v Australia lost 70 runs Brisbane 1950/51 Test 327
England 419/9d -64 v South Africa lost 71 runs Nottingham 1951 Test 334
Australia 395/8d -54 v West Indies lost 169 runs Perth 1988/89 Test 1110
Zimbabwe 283/9d -52 v New Zealand lost 177 runs Harare 1992/93 Test 1199
England 0/0d -248 v South Africa won 2 wickets Centurion 1999/00 Test 1483

If there's a particular List that you would like to see, email us with your comments and suggestions.

George Binoy is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo