April 1, 2013

You shall not pass

England's great escape in Auckland was the 21st time a Test ended with a team nine wickets down in the fourth innings. Here are 11 such cliffhangers
  shares 22

Harare, 2003-04
West Indies faced one of their most embarrassing defeats when, chasing 373, they dipped to 204 for 9 against Zimbabwe. Fidel Edwards - whose batting ability can be gauged by the fact that Corey Collymore (highest score in 157 first-class matches: 23) went in before him - had 11.5 overs to survive. In company with the reliable Ridley Jacobs, Edwards hung on, helped slightly by poor light, which meant the faster bowlers couldn't be risked. "By the close all the fielders were within about five yards of the bat, but the batsmen did their job marvellously," wrote John Ward on ESPNcricinfo. A few years later, in 2008-09, Fidel featured in two more cliffhangers at home to England.

Adelaide, 1960-61
In the fourth Test of one of the greatest series of all - the one that started with a tie in Brisbane - West Indies looked set to square the rubber when last man (and noted rabbit) Lindsay Kline joined the adhesive Ken Mackay with an hour and 50 minutes still to play, and Australia well adrift. But the pair clung on, and on... Kline scraped his way to 15 not out, which remained his highest Test score. Amid rising tension Wes Hall bowled his second vital final over of the series (he'd also been there at the Gabba). Mackay gritted it out, even taking the last ball deliberately on the body to avoid any chance of giving a catch.

Old Trafford, 2005
Victory in the third Test would have put England 2-1 up in this epic series, but Australia lived to fight another day. When Ricky Ponting fell for a superb 156, last man Glenn McGrath had four overs to survive, but he did, sparking scenes of celebration on the Aussie balcony that suggested they'd actually won. Michael Vaughan used the sight of that to gee up his troops, and England really did win at Trent Bridge, before a draw at The Oval meant the Ashes returned home after 16 long years.

Cardiff, 2009
The first match of the 2009 Ashes - and the first Test in Cardiff - had a heart-stopping finish. After England conceded a first-innings lead of 239, Paul Collingwood played an almost lone hand as England tried to stave off what seemed inevitable defeat (in only the third innings of the match this time). And when Collingwood was finally out, with about 45 minutes still to play, local hopes were not entirely reassured by the sight of Monty Panesar ambling to the crease. But Panesar somehow hung on with James Anderson, the pair surviving 69 balls in all. They earned one great cheer for equalling Australia's score (meaning a vital ten minutes, for a change of innings, would be chalked off) and an even bigger one when they were still there at 6.42pm and there was no time for any more heart-stopping entertainment. England had survived, and they went on to win the Ashes again.

Centurion, 2009-10
England cornered the market in last-pair finishes around this time, following that Cardiff epic with another nail-biter in their first Test of the winter, in South Africa. That man Collingwood was at it again, surviving 159 minutes for 26 not out, but the No. 11, his Durham team-mate Graham Onions, was left to face the final over. It was bowled by Makhaya Ntini, in his 100th Test, but there was no fairytale for him: Onions kept out all six balls - including one that shot along the ground - and pumped his fist in triumph/relief at the end.

Cape Town, 2009-10
And then it happened again: after England turned the tables to win the second Test, they were up against it again in the third. Chasing 466, they declined to 290 for 9 when Ian Bell was out with 17 balls remaining. Once more Onions marched in, and once again he held firm. His partner was Graeme Swann - but again Onions was left to face the final over, this time from Morne Morkel. And again he hung on, unfazed even by an unsuccessful review for caught-behind off the fifth ball after a huge appeal. One delivery later, Onions could reprise his Centurion fist-punch. But England had run out of resistance: South Africa won the final Test easily to draw the series.

Old Trafford, 1998
Possibly mesmerised by having to watch Gary Kirsten bat for nearly 11 hours, England made a poor fist of chasing 552 in the first innings of this third Test, crashing to 183 all out. After two quick wickets in the follow-on, the Cricketer's then editor, Richard Hutton, announced that he couldn't stand any more and was going home - and he wasn't alone. Alec Stewart (164) led the rearguard, but when Darren Gough was out at 367 for 9 there were still 7.1 overs remaining - unless England could reach 369, which would knock two overs off that by requiring South Africa to bat again. Somehow they got there, Angus Fraser survived a sizzling last over from Allan Donald to force the draw. It left England still only one down - and they surged back to win the fourth and fifth Tests in memorable style to steal the series. This was only the second Test to end drawn with the scores level, after Bulawayo 1996-97 (when England almost beat Zimbabwe); a third happened in November 2011 in Mumbai (see below).

Adelaide, 1968-69
Set 360 by West Indies to win a high-scoring match - 17 individual scores of 50 or more remains a Test record - Australia seemed to be sailing home at 304 for 3. But panic set in after Ian Chappell fell for 96: three of the next six wickets fell to run-outs, and in the end the last pair - Paul Sheahan and a famously poor batsman, Alan Connolly - had to hang on for 26 balls, which they did.

Melbourne, 1987-88
A seesaw Boxing Day Test seemed finally to have tipped New Zealand's way when Australia, needing 247 to win, slipped from 209 for 5 to 227 for 9. Richard Hadlee had taken five wickets in each innings: could he conjure up one more? Home thoughts of victory were gone: Nos. 10 and 11, Craig McDermott and Mike Whitney, needed to keep out the last 4.5 overs to pinch a draw. They did it, in an atmosphere of high tension but good spirits, as Wisden records: "When Whitney, playing in his first Test since 1981, dug out Hadlee's final ball of the match, the New Zealand fast bowler walked down the pitch to the exuberant batsman, put an arm around his shoulder and shook his hand."

Georgetown, 1967-68
Garry Sobers copped a lot of criticism in the Caribbean for a sporting declaration that allowed England to win the fourth Test. Now, in the fifth and final one, he tried almost singlehandedly to make amends and square the series: he scored 152 and 95 not out, and took three wickets in each innings. But it wasn't quite enough. England's last pair, Alan Knott and Jeff Jones, hung on, with Jones defying a testing final over from offspinner Lance Gibbs, who took 6 for 60 on a helpful pitch.

Mumbai, 2011-12
For once it was the bowling side that had the broader smiles: India had looked certain winners when, chasing 243 to complete a clean sweep of the three-match series, they reached 224 for 6. Even when Virat Kohli was out, they needed only 19 from 4.5 overs. That boiled down to two off two balls, with two wickets left - and although R Ashwin missed the fifth ball, that at least meant India couldn't lose. Ashwin connected with the last ball - but was run out going for the winning second run, leaving India level at 242 for 9, and sparking wild West Indian celebrations.

Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2013. Ask Steven is now on Facebook

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Moppa on April 3, 2013, 6:55 GMT

    I find it hard to fathom that the same team, England, managed three of these escapes in the space of less than 12 months, and then has done it again about three years later. Fingers crossed this run comes to an end in the coming months...

  • Medium69 on April 2, 2013, 8:59 GMT

    Such results and incidents are required to keep Test Matches alive ! In this era of dominance of T20 cricket does one see the need to instill viewership into Tests.

  • 4test90 on April 2, 2013, 3:19 GMT

    The MCG Test in '87 mentioned above was very tense, and just to give it even more tension, Hadlee had equalled the world record for the most Test wickets. Just one more would have given him the world record, NZ their first win at the MCG and denied Australia their first series win against anyone for 4 years. It wasn't to be !! Remarkably NZ have not played a Test at Melbourne since.

  • on April 2, 2013, 1:23 GMT

    pakistan/west indies 1977 1st test in Bridgetown

  • on April 2, 2013, 0:08 GMT

    ENG v NZL Eden Park 1997. DK Morrison is his last test batted 2 hours 45 minutes with N Astle. Record partnership for NZL v ENG for 10th wicket. I was there.

  • on April 1, 2013, 21:32 GMT

    I object to the phrase "The Ashed returned home", inferring that the home of the Ashes is England rather than Australia. The Ashes belong in Australia! They will be "returning home" in a few months

  • AvmanM on April 1, 2013, 19:45 GMT

    Smh. The sub-headline clearly mentions there were 21 occasions when this happened, but 11 of them are featured in the article. Yet, people keep complaining that "you left out X vs Y at Z in 20XX".

  • on April 1, 2013, 17:40 GMT

    You've left out the Antigua Test of 2006 when WI's last pair denied India a win

  • on April 1, 2013, 16:24 GMT

    what about the match between wi vs eng in 2009. Fidel edwards and darren powell survived nearly 12 overs to save the game.

  • on April 1, 2013, 16:12 GMT

    Pak Vs West Indies port of Spain 2nd test..... abdul Qadir player the last 5 ball of vivi Richards and save the match for Pakistan

  • Moppa on April 3, 2013, 6:55 GMT

    I find it hard to fathom that the same team, England, managed three of these escapes in the space of less than 12 months, and then has done it again about three years later. Fingers crossed this run comes to an end in the coming months...

  • Medium69 on April 2, 2013, 8:59 GMT

    Such results and incidents are required to keep Test Matches alive ! In this era of dominance of T20 cricket does one see the need to instill viewership into Tests.

  • 4test90 on April 2, 2013, 3:19 GMT

    The MCG Test in '87 mentioned above was very tense, and just to give it even more tension, Hadlee had equalled the world record for the most Test wickets. Just one more would have given him the world record, NZ their first win at the MCG and denied Australia their first series win against anyone for 4 years. It wasn't to be !! Remarkably NZ have not played a Test at Melbourne since.

  • on April 2, 2013, 1:23 GMT

    pakistan/west indies 1977 1st test in Bridgetown

  • on April 2, 2013, 0:08 GMT

    ENG v NZL Eden Park 1997. DK Morrison is his last test batted 2 hours 45 minutes with N Astle. Record partnership for NZL v ENG for 10th wicket. I was there.

  • on April 1, 2013, 21:32 GMT

    I object to the phrase "The Ashed returned home", inferring that the home of the Ashes is England rather than Australia. The Ashes belong in Australia! They will be "returning home" in a few months

  • AvmanM on April 1, 2013, 19:45 GMT

    Smh. The sub-headline clearly mentions there were 21 occasions when this happened, but 11 of them are featured in the article. Yet, people keep complaining that "you left out X vs Y at Z in 20XX".

  • on April 1, 2013, 17:40 GMT

    You've left out the Antigua Test of 2006 when WI's last pair denied India a win

  • on April 1, 2013, 16:24 GMT

    what about the match between wi vs eng in 2009. Fidel edwards and darren powell survived nearly 12 overs to save the game.

  • on April 1, 2013, 16:12 GMT

    Pak Vs West Indies port of Spain 2nd test..... abdul Qadir player the last 5 ball of vivi Richards and save the match for Pakistan

  • Bilal_Choudry on April 1, 2013, 15:47 GMT

    come on steve how can u forget Pak WI series 86, 88, 91 ... all filled with matches like the ones mentioned above ... or Pak Aus clash in 88 when tauseef ahmed denied mcdermott

  • Dannymania on April 1, 2013, 14:00 GMT

    Pak vs Bangladesh..that match when Inzi single handedly won the match for pakistan. It wasnt a draw but that was a real cliff hanger thats for sure.It would've been the most shameful defeats of all time for pakistan!

  • on April 1, 2013, 12:55 GMT

    You also forgot to include Pak VS Bangladesh when Great Inzi saved the game along with Gul when Bangladesh required only 1 wicket to win in fact eventually Pakistan win that Test Match.

  • JG2704 on April 1, 2013, 12:37 GMT

    There are 2 examples in Ashes series - one in 2005 and one in 2005 where the side who clung on had differing fortunes for the rest of the series. In 2005 - I thought the momentum might swing back to Australia after they clung on but alas Eng went on to win the series. In 2009 it worked the opposite way. Eng seemed to take the momentum from the Cardiff test to go on and win the series. Also seem to recall Athers and Fraser holding out vs SA back along or was I dreaming that one?

  • Gopalakrishna on April 1, 2013, 12:31 GMT

    The Lord's test 2007 between India and England was a rain affected test. India was saved by rain which did not relent after it started at Tea. Thus India drew the match - HR Gopalakrishna - Statistician - Bangalore

  • Gopalakrishna on April 1, 2013, 12:27 GMT

    Gopikrishnan is right, Lord's 2007 against England is the second occasion when India managed a draw after losing nine wickets in the fourth innings. Mr.Lynch has detailed out eleven cliffhangers of the 21 instances. India's ninth wicket fell at 263 {90.6} and it held on to a draw by making 282 for 9 {96.0). The last pair of MS Dhoni {76*} and S Sreesant {4*} batted for five over without being separated - HR Gopalakrishna - Cricket Statistician - Bangalore

  • DeckChairand6pack on April 1, 2013, 11:47 GMT

    Good spot Ravi, epic rearguard by Faf. But the Proteas were 'only' 8 down, so by definition, that does not qualify for the article. What amazed me was the way england and their fans celebrated their two draws in SA in 09/10. You would swear they had all been told they'd just won the lottery and been given the night off to go and watch foxy boxing. The fans I can excuse, cold castles in the sun do that to you. Doubtless the Green Machine will have referred to those games for motivation when they set the record straight last year.

  • CricketPissek on April 1, 2013, 11:34 GMT

    Why isn't Tendulkar on this list? I demand it! :-D heheh. Jokes aside, Sri Lanka surviving against England in 2006 at Lords was another example of a great escape. There have been loads. The author has picked his most memorable 11. Stop taking it so personally!

  • Lara213 on April 1, 2013, 9:38 GMT

    How could you possiblly omit probably the most exciting and dramatic 4th innings cliffhanger of all time, Lara's finest hour and the last hurrah of the great West Indies before their sorry decline in the Third Test against Steve Waugh's all-conquering Aussies at Bridgetown in March 1999? As Waugh himself - no stranger to epic performances - said it was the most exciting match in the best series he'd ever played: http://www.espncricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/420690.html

  • on April 1, 2013, 8:29 GMT

    Nice cliffhangers of Test matches. But you have forgotten about the epic Innings by debutant de Plusis of SA fighting for a draw with tailenders at Adelaide in Nov.2012. What an innings by de Plusis! Australians were frustrated by not being able to clinch victory in this Test. And mind you the Proteas went on to win the Final test at Perth and win the series 1-0 and poor Aussies left bemused. So, this is one of the finest Cliffhangers of Test matches in recent memory.

  • Lmaotsetung on April 1, 2013, 8:03 GMT

    The author did not forget. Like he mentioned there are 21 such instances and he just happened to pick out 11 of them. Not everything revolves around India. Besides bad light helped a lot in that 2007 India v Eng match unlike the last 4 tests that England saved which went the distance.

  • on April 1, 2013, 7:37 GMT

    U forgot the draw between India and England in 2007 at Lords,i think.......where India were 9 down and managed a draw with MS Dhoni not out on 76 and Sreesanth,the no.11 not out on 4....India went to win the next test match and the series 1-0 under Rahul Dravid.

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • on April 1, 2013, 7:37 GMT

    U forgot the draw between India and England in 2007 at Lords,i think.......where India were 9 down and managed a draw with MS Dhoni not out on 76 and Sreesanth,the no.11 not out on 4....India went to win the next test match and the series 1-0 under Rahul Dravid.

  • Lmaotsetung on April 1, 2013, 8:03 GMT

    The author did not forget. Like he mentioned there are 21 such instances and he just happened to pick out 11 of them. Not everything revolves around India. Besides bad light helped a lot in that 2007 India v Eng match unlike the last 4 tests that England saved which went the distance.

  • on April 1, 2013, 8:29 GMT

    Nice cliffhangers of Test matches. But you have forgotten about the epic Innings by debutant de Plusis of SA fighting for a draw with tailenders at Adelaide in Nov.2012. What an innings by de Plusis! Australians were frustrated by not being able to clinch victory in this Test. And mind you the Proteas went on to win the Final test at Perth and win the series 1-0 and poor Aussies left bemused. So, this is one of the finest Cliffhangers of Test matches in recent memory.

  • Lara213 on April 1, 2013, 9:38 GMT

    How could you possiblly omit probably the most exciting and dramatic 4th innings cliffhanger of all time, Lara's finest hour and the last hurrah of the great West Indies before their sorry decline in the Third Test against Steve Waugh's all-conquering Aussies at Bridgetown in March 1999? As Waugh himself - no stranger to epic performances - said it was the most exciting match in the best series he'd ever played: http://www.espncricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/420690.html

  • CricketPissek on April 1, 2013, 11:34 GMT

    Why isn't Tendulkar on this list? I demand it! :-D heheh. Jokes aside, Sri Lanka surviving against England in 2006 at Lords was another example of a great escape. There have been loads. The author has picked his most memorable 11. Stop taking it so personally!

  • DeckChairand6pack on April 1, 2013, 11:47 GMT

    Good spot Ravi, epic rearguard by Faf. But the Proteas were 'only' 8 down, so by definition, that does not qualify for the article. What amazed me was the way england and their fans celebrated their two draws in SA in 09/10. You would swear they had all been told they'd just won the lottery and been given the night off to go and watch foxy boxing. The fans I can excuse, cold castles in the sun do that to you. Doubtless the Green Machine will have referred to those games for motivation when they set the record straight last year.

  • Gopalakrishna on April 1, 2013, 12:27 GMT

    Gopikrishnan is right, Lord's 2007 against England is the second occasion when India managed a draw after losing nine wickets in the fourth innings. Mr.Lynch has detailed out eleven cliffhangers of the 21 instances. India's ninth wicket fell at 263 {90.6} and it held on to a draw by making 282 for 9 {96.0). The last pair of MS Dhoni {76*} and S Sreesant {4*} batted for five over without being separated - HR Gopalakrishna - Cricket Statistician - Bangalore

  • Gopalakrishna on April 1, 2013, 12:31 GMT

    The Lord's test 2007 between India and England was a rain affected test. India was saved by rain which did not relent after it started at Tea. Thus India drew the match - HR Gopalakrishna - Statistician - Bangalore

  • JG2704 on April 1, 2013, 12:37 GMT

    There are 2 examples in Ashes series - one in 2005 and one in 2005 where the side who clung on had differing fortunes for the rest of the series. In 2005 - I thought the momentum might swing back to Australia after they clung on but alas Eng went on to win the series. In 2009 it worked the opposite way. Eng seemed to take the momentum from the Cardiff test to go on and win the series. Also seem to recall Athers and Fraser holding out vs SA back along or was I dreaming that one?

  • on April 1, 2013, 12:55 GMT

    You also forgot to include Pak VS Bangladesh when Great Inzi saved the game along with Gul when Bangladesh required only 1 wicket to win in fact eventually Pakistan win that Test Match.