July 25, 2011

Tied Tests and other tales

In our celebration of 2000 Tests, we look at some of Australia's more memorable Tests: Ashes classics, and wins over West Indies and India among others

Picking memorable Australia Tests was the most difficult of the lot - I could have chosen XI great Bradman Tests (now there's an idea!), or XI from the last couple of decades. So apologies in advance if any personal favourites have been left out.

v England, The Oval, 1882
The match in which an Australian side overthrew the full might of England for the first time. In a pulsating game, England needed only 85 to win - but the "Demon" Spofforth shook the home batsmen with 7 for 44, and they were all out for 77. Such was the tension that one spectator died of a heart attack, while another apparently chewed through the handle of his umbrella. Shortly afterwards a newspaper published a mock obituary lamenting the death of English cricket, and joked that the body would be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia... and the greatest of all sporting contests was born.

v England, Old Trafford, 1902
An otherwise wet summer was enlivened by two thrilling Tests. In this one, the fourth of the series, England needed only 124 to square the rubber at 1-1 after bowling the Aussies out for 86. But from 68 for 1 - and later 107 for 5 - wickets tumbled regularly, and it was eventually left to the last pair. But it was all too much for Sussex's Fred "Chubby" Tate, playing his only Test: with just four runs needed the No. 11 swished at left-armer Jack Saunders, was bowled, and departed in tears. England hit back with an equally exciting one-wicket victory at The Oval - the last pair George Hirst and Wilfred Rhodes, two canny Yorkshiremen, supposedly said they'd get the winning runs in singles - but it was too late to salvage the Ashes.

v England, Lord's, 1930
A flawless 254, the innings Don Bradman thought was his best - "Every shot went exactly where I meant it to" - lifted Australia to 729 after England had made what had seemed a respectable total of 425, based around a captivating century from the Indian-born KS Duleepsinhji. With their captain Percy Chapman also making an attacking hundred, England reached 375 in their second innings - but that meant Australia needed only 72 to win, which they quickly achieved. The Don was becoming a problem for England - and remained a formidable one for the best part of 20 years.

v England, Headingley, 1948
Don Bradman's last great Test innings helped his side to a tremendous victory in the fourth Test in Leeds. Norman Yardley's declaration early on the final morning left Australia 404 to win, an unprecedented winning total at the time. But with Bradman (173 not out) and opener Arthur Morris (182) piling on 301 for the second wicket, and helped by some undistinguished bowling and fielding, they sailed home by seven wickets with about 15 minutes to spare, to take a winning 3-0 lead in the series. Their fourth-innings record stood for almost 30 years: not for nothing did this side become known as the Invincibles. Wisden solemnly intoned: "By the astonishing feat of scoring 404 for three wickets on the fifth day of the match when the pitch took spin, Australia won the rubber. Until that fatal last stage England were on top, but a succession of blunders prevented them gaining full reward for good work on the first four days."

v West Indies, Brisbane, 1960-61
An absorbing match, graced by superb centuries from Garry Sobers and Norman O'Neill, boiled up to a dramatic climax, with all four results possible as the imposing Barbadian fast bowler Wes Hall hurtled in to bowl the last over of the match. And it all ended with the least likely result of all - Test cricket's first tie - when Joe Solomon hit the stumps from side on to run out Ian Meckiff as he tried to complete the winning run. This was the first match of a superb series, which contained two other nail-biting finishes as well. At the end of the tour the popular West Indians, led by Frank Worrell, were given a tickertape farewell procession through Melbourne.

v England, Lord's, 1972
Probably the greatest debut performance by a bowler: Australia's Bob Massie, bending the ball this way and that at a lively pace, took eight wickets in each innings of his first Test to send England crashing to defeat and level a seesaw series, helped by Greg Chappell's superb century. I was there, an impressionable schoolboy imagining he was watching a future all-time great. But Massie played only five further Tests: the real all-time great was bowling at the other end... Dennis Lillee.

v England, Melbourne, 1976-77
Cricket's greatest party - anyone who had played an Ashes Test was invited, to celebrate 100 years of international cricket - looked like a damp squib when England made only 95 in response to Australia's modest 138. The Aussies then applied themselves rather better for 419, meaning England required an unlikely 463 to win. They also needed to survive deep into the fifth day to ensure that the Queen wasn't looking at an empty stadium when she popped in for an official visit. But thanks to Derek Randall, who made a sparkling 174, Her Majesty had something to watch - and it was nearly an amazing England win. In the end, though, Dennis Lillee's 11th wicket wrapped the match up with exactly the same result as the inaugural Test it was commemorating: an Australian victory by 45 runs.

v India, Madras, 1986-87
Dean Jones defied crippling heat (he ended up on an intravenous drip) to score 210, which lifted Australia to 574 - a total that ought to have insured them against defeat. But after India made 397 - a rollicking century from Kapil Dev averted the possibility of a follow-on - an enterprising declaration from Allan Border left them 348 to win. With Sunil Gavaskar (90) leading the way, India almost got there... only for last man Maninder Singh to be adjudged lbw to the penultimate ball of the match with the scores level (he's still convinced it wasn't out). Bob Simpson, who played in the first Tied Test in 1960-61, was Australia's coach in this one.

v Sri Lanka, Colombo, 1992
After conceding a first-innings lead of 291, Australia's thoughts were on avoiding defeat as they started their second knock. No one made more than David Boon's 68 - but also, no one failed to reach double figures, and the eventual 471 set a tricky target of 181. Sri Lanka were sailing along at 127 for 2, but then Aravinda de Silva holed out after an irresponsible shot, and the wickets started to tumble. Allan Border enterprisingly threw the ball to his young legspinner, who had had figures of 0 for 107 in the first innings: now he took 3 for 0 in 13 balls, and Australia sneaked home by 16 runs. Shane Warne had arrived.

v West Indies, Kingston, 1994-95
Beating West Indies had proved beyond a succession of Australian teams - Allan Border famously never won a series against them in his long career - but that all changed in the 1994-95 series in the Caribbean. The teams were locked at 1-1 before the final Test, but after West Indies posted a below-par total the Aussies responded with a massive one, the centrepiece a stand of 231 between the Waugh twins. Mark made 126, but Steve went on to his only Test double-century. It was enough: with Paul Reiffel and Shane Warne taking four wickets apiece West Indies never looked like avoiding an innings defeat, and the Frank Worrell Trophy was hoisted aloft by Australia for the first time in almost two decades. It was West Indies' first series defeat anywhere since 1979-80. "The great wall crashed at last," enthused Wisden. "After 15 years and 29 series, world cricket's longest-lasting dynasty was overthrown by the relentless, underestimated Australians - the most distinguished run of triumphant success gone with the Windies."

v India, Sydney, 2007-08
One of the most controversial Tests of recent times boiled up into an exciting finish. The middle of this second Test was overshadowed by an unpleasant argument between Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds, who claimed the Indian spinner had called him a monkey (Harbhajan was initially banned, then reprieved on appeal - but not before the Indian authorities had threatened to call off the tour). On the final day India looked to be hanging on for a draw before Ricky Ponting tried the seldom-used left-arm spin of Michael Clarke - who promptly took three wickets in his second over to spirit his side to a stunning victory with less than 10 minutes remaining. India bounced back to win the third Test (Australia had already won the first), then the fourth and final Test was a run-soaked draw in Adelaide, giving Australia the series 2-1.

Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2011.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on July 28, 2011, 15:58 GMT

    If we are talking about "Memorable Tests" and not Winning Tests of Australia, What about the 2001 Classic - Laxman-Dravid Match!!! Wasn't that Memorable?

  • Alan on July 27, 2011, 12:19 GMT

    I agree that the seletion of Sydney 2008 is a strange one. Remember what Anil Kumble - a player of great integrity - said at Sydney about their being only one team there who was playing cricket? I think that the great Australian side of c.1999-2007 deserves better than to be characterised than by this bad-spirited affair, perhaps instead by Adelaide 2006, Edgbaston 2001, the first test against South Africa in 2002 (when Gilchrist got his double hundred) or the ground-breaking series victory in India in 2004.

  • Mark on July 26, 2011, 23:56 GMT

    Yes the famous Test Match against Australia in August 1992. The Test which launched Shane Warne's career. Had Sri Lanka won that Test Match in Colombo. Put it this way had Aravinda De Silva not got out and seen Sri Lanka home with maybe another hours batting without loss. Sri Lanka would have won. Shane Warne would have been probably dropped as a one test wonder never to play again. We wouldn't have seen the incredible career of Warne take off. So maybe Shane Warne should really thank Aravinda De Silva for the subsequent career warne has had. I remember following that match.To this day I don't know how Sri Lanka lost a match you would bet your house on to win. The Test series was significant as it was Sri Lanka's first Test match at home for five years. Australia were one of the best cricket sides in the world at the time and Sri Lanka at home gave Allan Border's australians a torrid time who just won back to back ashes almost toppled the WI in WI came to SL and almost ,shouldve lost.

  • Dummy4 on July 26, 2011, 12:23 GMT

    Every test is worth in this list except Sydney 2008.It was not a memorable win for the Aussies.Rather the beginning of their downfall.

  • Trishu on July 26, 2011, 11:48 GMT

    I think the Adelaide test of 2006/07 Ashes should definitely be there - very few team concede more than 500 runs and still win the test. The Pakistan test in Sydney (2010) is also a deserved mention (though Pakistan really gave this on the platter).

  • Dummy4 on July 26, 2011, 6:55 GMT

    Little Australians beat Mighty English in 1882 was astonishing!!! By that time, England was so powerful that they trashed all test teams. What a shame for England. R.I.P One spectator who died from heart attack.

  • christy on July 26, 2011, 3:31 GMT

    no mention of epic AUS vs NZ tests...

  • Dummy4 on July 26, 2011, 1:11 GMT

    @danube Great call about dutchy Holland's test in 84/85 against the all conquering Windies. An often forgotten moment in that game was Murray Bennett's arm ball dismissal of Viv Richards, do yourself a favour and check it out on YouTube, one of the best deliveries ever to a great batsmen in his prime.

    Two games worthy of a place on this list, Aust win over SA at port Elizabeth in 1997. The other is the 1 run loss vs the Windies at Adelaide 1992/93

  • Daniel on July 25, 2011, 23:19 GMT

    Personally, I'll never forget our great win over the all conquering West Indies side in Sydney in the 84/85 series. Australian cricket was at it's lowest ebb with the resignation of Kim Hughes, recent form against the Windies reading w-0, d-1, l-6 and the South African rebel tour imminent. The boys got off the canvas to post a total well over 400 against the pace of Marshall, Holding, Garner and Walsh, and then spun out the visitors on a Sydney turner, their first defeat in around 20 tests or something. May have been a consolation victory, but a great morale booster nonetheless!

  • Matthew on July 25, 2011, 22:39 GMT

    No mention of Greg Matthews in the tied test??? He took 5/103 from 28 overs in the second innings to bowl us to the tie - including the last wicket - all the while bowling in his jumper!

  • No featured comments at the moment.