December 9, 2013

It's a draw!

After Darren Bravo's superb effort in Dunedin, a look at some other famous match-saving innings in Tests

Hanif Mohammad
Probably the greatest - and certainly the longest - match-saving innings of all. Hanif opened Pakistan's follow-on in Bridgetown in January 1958 facing a first-innings deficit of 473. He went in near the end of the second of the game's six days, with the position seemingly hopeless: but, defying a West Indian attack spearheaded by the fearsome Roy Gilchrist, and the Caribbean sun, which burned layers of skin off his face, Hanif batted deep into the final day, surviving for 970 minutes in all in scoring 337, and Pakistan escaped with a draw.

Mike Atherton
Set 479 to win in Johannesburg in December 1995, England escaped with a draw, thanks to an epic innings from their captain, Mike Atherton, who defied Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock and friends for 643 minutes, finishing with 185 not out, the highest score of his 115-Test career. England might still have lost had Atherton not been joined on the final day by the similarly adhesive Jack Russell, who defended for more than four and a half hours himself in scoring 29 not out.

Andy Flower
Among Flower's many single-handed rescue efforts, the one in Nagpur in November 2000 stands out. Zimbabwe had followed on 227 behind, and were 61 for 3 when Flower came in halfway through the fourth day. He dug in against a handy Indian attack - including Javagal Srinath and Zaheer Khan - and was still there at the end, after 544 minutes and 444 balls. His 232 not out remains the highest Test score by a wicketkeeper.

Dennis Amiss
In Kingston in February 1974, England started their second innings 230 behind West Indies, and lost five wickets clearing the deficit. No one made more than 38… except the doughty Warwickshire opener Amiss, who was still there at the end with 262 not out after 570 minutes. When the draw was agreed, England had 432 for 9 - only the fact that Bob Willis remained not out prevented Amiss from claiming the record for the highest score by an opener carrying his bat.

Bruce Mitchell
The summer of 1947 is mainly remembered now for the run-soaked batting of Denis Compton and Bill Edrich. But although the South African tourists were outgunned in the Tests, they did have some batting heroes of their own: foremost among them was Mitchell, nowhere near as easy on the eye as Compo, but mightily effective. In the final Test, at The Oval, Mitchell staved off a 4-0 defeat with 189 not out, and in fact took South Africa - who finished with 423 for 7 chasing 451 - close to an upset victory. Mitchell had scored 120 in the first innings, too, and was only off the field for eight minutes during the entire match.

Willie Watson and Trevor Bailey
This famous double rearguard saved the 1953 Lord's Test, and allowed England to regain the Ashes after 19 years with victory in the final Test later in the summer. England were 12 for 3 in their second innings when Watson came in, and 73 for 4 when Bailey joined him. They stonewalled for more than four hours, adding 163, effectively saving the match: although Bailey - after the innings that established his reputation as a barn-door blocker - was finally out 40 minutes before the close, the tail remained firm.

Ricky Ponting
The match after the 2005 Edgbaston nail-biter served up another tense finish: Australia, set 423 at Old Trafford, would have sunk without trace but for a superb effort from their captain, Ricky Ponting. Batting almost throughout the final day, he made 156: victory was never really on, but he had all but ensured a draw when he was finally caught behind, ninth out with four overs left. Ponting thought he'd blown it, but the last pair - Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath - made sure his efforts weren't wasted.

George Headley
West Indies faced a unique situation against England in Kingston in April 1930: they needed the little matter of 836 to win. Against an attack including the 52-year-old Wilfred Rhodes - the oldest man to play a Test - they reached 408 for 5, of which the great Headley contributed 223. Headley's fine effort was enough to earn his side a draw, even though the match was supposed to be timeless and played out to a finish come what may: rain washed out the scheduled eighth and ninth days, after which the England team had to leave to catch their boat home.

Peter May
After conceding a first-innings lead of 288 in the first Test in Edgbaston in 1957, England were 113 for 3 when their captain, Peter May, was joined by Colin Cowdrey. The major problem was the mystery spin of the West Indian Sonny Ramadhin, who had taken 7 for 49 in the first innings and two more already in the second. May and Cowdrey decided to treat him as an offspinner and pad the ball away as much as possible: they put on 411 in a day and a half, May scoring 285 not out and Cowdrey 154. Ramadhin toiled through a record 98 overs, appealed himself hoarse, and was never the same threat again. The draw set England up for an eventual 3-0 series victory.

Hanif Mohammad (again)
Nearly ten years after his Bridgetown epic, Hanif was at it again, at Lord's this time, in July 1967. Now captaining a largely inexperienced but promising side, Hanif had to dig deep as Pakistan slipped to 139 for 7 in reply to England's 369. Helped by Asif Iqbal, who scored 76, Hanif hauled his side close to parity, scoring 187 not out from 542 minutes and 556 balls. It lasted deep into the fourth day, and did not allow England enough time to press for the win.

Alastair Cook
It currently seems hard to believe that it was only three years ago that, facing an unpromising position in the first Ashes Test in Brisbane - 221 behind on first innings - England sauntered to 517 for 1, with Cook helping himself to 235 not out and sharing big stands with Andrew Strauss and Jonathan Trott. England saved the match easily, and went on to retain the Ashes. Mitchell Johnson (whatever happened to him?) finished with 0 for 170 in the match, and was dropped for the next game.

Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2013

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on December 11, 2013, 21:55 GMT

    The innings from Dennis Amiss was one if not THE greatest rearguard performance ever....

  • Harsh on December 11, 2013, 12:50 GMT

    Majid Khan's 167 at Bridgetown that saved a test in 1977 was a classic after Pakistan had a 280 run deficit in the 1st innings.A great exhibition of controlled strokeplay.Another possible inclusion was Wasim Raja's century at Barbados in 1977,Sachin Tendulkar's match-saving century at Old Trafford in 1990 and Kapil Dev's similar effort at the Oval in the final test of the 1982 series in England.

    Alan Border's feats at Trinidad in 1984 are a sure inclusion and close behind are Amarnath's on the same venue a year before ,Majid Khan's 167 at Georgetown in 1977 and Wasim Raja's 117 n.o at Barbados in 1977.

  • Android on December 11, 2013, 12:38 GMT

    i think the best one in latest times was the innings by Inzimmam against Bangladesh.Pakistan won the match by 1 wicket.

  • Harsh on December 11, 2013, 10:50 GMT

    @Devadeep Dutta

    No doubt Gavaskar's 221 ranks amongst the best innings of all time but will be remembered for all but winning the game,against all odds.More than save the match he morally won the game for India when dubious umpiring decisions cost India a well -deserved victory.

    I also remember Sandeep Patil's 129 Old Trafford in 1982 and 174 at Adelaide in 1980-81. when India was in dire straits which saved both the games.It was marvellous batting from a technical and entertainment point of view.

  • Harsh on December 11, 2013, 10:44 GMT

    How can one forget Alan Border's herculean batting efforts to save the 2nd test at Trinidad in 1984 against the mighty West Indians when all seemed lost.He literally saved a sinking ship in a storm with the nerves of a great military commander.I will also list Mohinder Amarnath's century that saved the 2n d test at Trinidad in 1983 against the same calypso team displaying dour resistance .

  • Dummy4 on December 11, 2013, 1:54 GMT

    You are missing Faf du Plessis debut inning last yr against Australia.. Has to be one of the best match saving inning ever!

  • Android on December 10, 2013, 21:10 GMT

    No love for Faf du Plessis last year, or Ken Mackay and Lindsay Kline defying Wes Hall in the Tied Test series?

  • Shakti on December 10, 2013, 20:28 GMT

    @Devadeep Dutta.Sunil Gavaskar's 221 was in a losing cause & VVS Laxman's 281 was in a winning cause,not match saving!

  • Dummy4 on December 10, 2013, 20:09 GMT

    And Pakistan vs India 2004/5 Played at Punjab Cricket Association Stadium, Mohali, Chandigarh Kamran Akmal & Abdul Razzaq played a great i innings (109, 71) Pakistan are 200 runs behind in the first innings and they save the game

  • Dummy4 on December 10, 2013, 18:02 GMT

    Sunil Gavaskar's 221 @ The Oval in 1979?