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Rahul Dravid made a fifty in his final ODI last week. We take a look at players who lit up their final matches
September 19, 2011
It doesn't get much better than leading your country to World Cup victory in your final match - and that's what Imran managed, in front of a huge crowd on a steamy Melbourne evening in March 1992. Just to put the icing on a very large cake he took England's final wicket to seal the triumph - and had earlier top-scored with a responsible 72 when Pakistan batted. The others whose final international match was a World Cup final victory were Rohan Kanhai for West Indies in 1975, and the Australians Paul Reiffel (1999) and Glenn McGrath (2007).
It was one of the great soap operas of 2010: Murali went into what he vowed would be his final Test match, against India in Galle in July, needing eight wickets to reach 800 in Tests. It looked as if he'd have no problems when he took 5 for 63 in the first innings, but wickets proved harder to come by in the second, and he had managed only two by the time India's last pair came together. After an incredibly tense period - during which Murali himself narrowly missed a run-out - the final wicket finally came, appropriately enough caught by Mahela Jayawardene, his 77th catch off Murali in Tests (another record). Sri Lanka soon knocked off the 95 runs they needed to take the lead in the series, and Murali could have a rest at last, with 800 Test wickets to his name.
The big Barbadian Nurse had already decided to retire after West Indies' 1968-69 tour of Australasia, and was as good as his word despite being in the form of his life: he started his final series, in New Zealand, with 95 and 168 in Auckland (the hundred coming as West Indies chased down a lofty 345 to win), and bowed out with a career-best 258 in the third Test, in Christchurch, with what Wisden called "a magnificent display of aggressive but responsible batting". Nurse refused all blandishments to continue, though a tour of England was only a few months away.
If Don Bradman hadn't come along, Ponsford, his fellow Australian, might now be remembered as the greatest batsman of all: two quadruple-centuries helped him maintain a first-class average of 65. Ponsford started his Test career with a century, against England in Sydney in 1924-25, and signed off with 266 - his highest Test score - at The Oval in 1934, when he shared a partnership of 451 (a world record at the time) with Bradman, who made 244. Australia totalled 701, and won by the small matter of 562 runs.
Surrey batsman Sandham was the first to score a triple-century in a Test, with 325 against West Indies in Kingston in April 1930. But it was his final Test: he was already 39, and could not displace the regular opening pair of Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe when the Ashes series started at Trent Bridge three months later. And Sandham's new Test record only lasted until July, when that man Don Bradman scored 334 at Headingley.
Fast bowler Gillespie was dropped during the epic 2005 Ashes series, so he probably knew he was on borrowed time when recalled for Australia's tour of Bangladesh early the following year. In the second Test he went in as a night-watchman at the end of the first day... and, helped by rain, was still batting on the fourth. After reaching a maiden Test century he extended his score to a barely credible 201 before Ricky Ponting declared. Gillespie never played another Test, but it was quite a way to go. He still signs his autographs "Dizzy 201".
The Somerset fast bowler Caddick had a ten-year international career, in which he attracted a surprising amount of criticism, considering that he finished with 234 Test wickets. Ten of those came in his last match, in Sydney in January 2003: with Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath absent with injuries, England walloped Australia by 225 runs. The bad news was that, given England's habitual poor form Down Under in those days, that only made the final scoreline 1-4. Seven for 94 in the second innings was the final scoreline for Caddick, too: a back problem kept him out for the rest of the year. He carried on in county cricket until 2009.
The tiny legspinner Grimmett bowed out of Test cricket with an astonishing haul of 44 wickets in what turned out to be his final series, Australia's tour of South Africa in 1935-36. By then he was 44 - his age was the main reason offered when he was overlooked for the following year's Ashes series, Don Bradman's first as captain - but he had showed no sign of decline in South Africa, taking 10 wickets in both the third and fourth Tests before signing off with 7 for 100 and 6 for 73 in the final one, in Durban.
Usually taking a hat-trick is a sign you have arrived in international cricket. At the very least it usually guarantees you a few more caps... but Stuart, a wiry pace bowler from New South Wales, took a hat-trick against Pakistan in Melbourne in his third one-day international in January 1997, and never played for Australia again. The game was the last one in the qualifying round, and since the Aussies, unusually, missed out on the finals of their tri-series that year, it was a while before they played again, by which time Stuart was out of form.
Tall and distinguished - he later became secretary of the Melbourne Cricket Club - Trumble ended a fine career by bowling Australia to victory in the final Test of the 1903-04 Ashes series, although England had already won the rubber. In the final innings at the MCG Trumble took 7 for 28, including a hat-trick just before taking the final wicket to end the match.
Like Ponsford before him, Chappell started and finished his Test career with a century. His farewell - which coincided with the Test retirement of two other great Aussie stalwarts, Dennis Lillee and Rod Marsh - came against Pakistan in Sydney in 1983-84. Chappell, always one of the most elegant of batsmen, made sure he savoured every moment of his final Test, batting for almost nine hours; during his innings he became Australia's leading Test run-scorer at the time, passing Don Bradman's 6996. Wisden paid due tribute: "Chappell's 182 just about summed up his career; it contained his full array of strokes, most notably his inimitable on-drive."
Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2011.Feeds: Steven Lynch
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