February 2004

The XI greatest rearguards

Steven Lynch battens down the hatches and finds the best defensive displays of all time

Steven Lynch battens down the hatches and finds the best defensive displays of all time

Pads the way to do it: Peter May and Colin Cowdrey return to the pavilion during their stand of 411 © Getty Images
1 May and Cowdrey
England v West Indies, Edgbaston, 1957
England had been bamboozled by Ramadhin and Valentine in 1950 and seven years later history seemed to be repeating itself. But then Peter May came up with a cunning plan: play Ramadhin as an off-spinner, push the front pad down the track, reasoning that they would not be bowled by the off-spinner and would miss the leggie. May (285*) and Colin Cowdrey (154) put on a record 411 while Ramadhin appealed himself hoarse during the course of 98 overs. He was never quite the same bowler again.

2 Hanif Mohammad
West Indies v Pakistan, Bridgetown, 1957-58
Following on 473 behind, Pakistan left Barbados with an unlikely draw thanks to 23-year-old Hanif, who resisted for what Wisden says was 970 minutes (Hanif himself swears it was 999 and has a recording to prove it). He compiled 337, had skin burned off by the sun but was kept going by jingoistic messages from his captain AH Kardar such as: "You are the only hope to save Pakistan". He was. And he did.

3 Watson and Bailey
England v Australia, Lord's, 1953
Chasing 343, England were 20 for 3 overnight and floundering at 73 for 4 early on the final day when Trevor Bailey, in the series that he earned the nickname The Barnacle, joined Yorkshire's Willie Watson. Somehow they survived Lindwall and Miller for more than four hours, to earn an unlikely draw. Bailey made 71 in 257 minutes, Watson 109 in 346.

4 Astle and Morrison
New Zealand v England, Auckland, 1996-97
England sensed a comfortable victory when New Zealand, only 11 ahead, lost their ninth wicket with 53 overs remaining. The last man, Danny Morrison, owned the record for most Test ducks at the time but by the close he was still there with Nathan Astle after an unbroken stand of 106 in which each had faced exactly the same number of balls, 133. Morrison's reward? He was dropped for the next Test and never played again.

5 Mackay and Kline
Australia v West Indies, Adelaide, 1960-61
The fourth Test featured a defiant rearguard between Ken `Slasher' Mackay (noted stonewaller) and Lindsay Kline (noted rabbit). Against Wes Hall at his fastest and Lance Gibbs after a first-innings hat-trick they survived more than 100 minutes to draw. Mackay took Hall's final exocet on the body to make sure he did not give a catch.

6 Giles and friends
Sri Lanka v England, Galle, 2003-04
England were gone for all money at 170 for 7 shortly before tea on the final day of the first Test. But somehow Ashley Giles (17* from 107 balls) held on, with help from Gareth Batty (26 from 70 balls) and Richard Johnson (3 from 35). With a nation watching from behind the sofa, Matthew Hoggard survived until the umpires decided it was too dark to continue.

Michael Atherton and Jack Russell head off, a job well done © Getty Images
7 Atherton and Russell
South Africa v England, Johannesburg, 1995-96
Chasing an unlikely 479, England were 75 for 2, then 145 for 4, and looked out for the count when Robin Smith went for 44. But Mike Atherton blunted Donald and Pollock, lasting 643 minutes for his highest Test score of 185 not out. But that might not have been enough if Jack Russell had not been truly dogged with 29 in 274 minutes.

8 Dennis Amiss
West Indies v England, Kingston, 1973-74
Trailing by 230 on first innings, England needed something special - and got it from their opener Dennis Amiss, who repelled 563 balls in 570 minutes on his way to 262 not out, his highest Test score. During the final tea interval Amiss uncharacteristically downed a large brandy. No one else passed 38 but Amiss's antics were enough to force a draw.

9 Inzamam and Mushtaq
Pakistan v Australia, Karachi, 1994-95
Pakistan had never lost at Karachi but were in trouble at 258 for 9 needing 314. Gradually Inzamam-ul-Haq and Mushtaq Ahmed - not a noted batsman - inched them towards an unlikely victory. Finally, with three needed, Warne lured Inzamam down the track and beat him, the ball flicking his pads, beating the keeper Ian Healy and going for four leg-byes to cap the largest 10th-wicket stand to win a Test.

10 Ring and Johnston
Australia v West Indies, Melbourne, 1951-52
Sonny Ramadhin and Alf Valentine had bowled West Indies to the verge of a series-levelling win at the MCG when last man Bill Johnston came out to join Doug Ring with 38 needed. Johnston was no batsman but West Indies did not crowd the bat, Ring (no great shakes himself) took a few risks and, to general amazement, they scampered the winning single.

11 Border and Thomson
Australia v England, Melbourne, 1982-83
Finally one that did not come off. An England win seemed a formality when Australia, chasing 292, collapsed to 218 for 9. Allan Border and Jeff Thomson made half the 74 runs required for victory on the fourth evening, and next morning got to within one boundary of the target. They had added 70 when Thommo edged Ian Botham to Geoff Miller at slip below, via a white-faced Chris Tavare. The 18,000-odd people admitted free at least saw the climax live. When that fateful final ball came down, quicker than expected, the TV was still showing an advert for spanners.

This article was first published in the February 2004 issue of The Wisden Cricketer. Click here for further details.