Defeated after declaring
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.
|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.
|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.
|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.
|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.
|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