England secured an unlikely victory in the first Test against Pakistan at Emirates Old Trafford, with Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes coming together in a sixth-wicket stand of 139 after their team had slumped to 117 for 5. Here are five other improbable revivals from uncompromising scorelines.
Australia v Pakistan, Hobart, 1999
It's been more than 20 years since Adam Gilchrist announced his intentions to shred the Test-match batting manual with his often-imitated-but-never-bettered brand of lower-order violence, but as soon as the Buttler-Woakes alliance started stretching into ominous territory, "Hobart" was probably the ghastly reference point playing out in the minds of every Pakistani fan. There really have been few statements of intent quite like it. Gilchrist had been made to wait for his turn while the great Ian Healy played out his final days, but now, in his second Test, he was presented a stage that most combatants might have baulked at. Australia had slumped to 126 for 5 with 15 overs remaining on the fourth afternoon, with their target of 369 a pipedream. By the close, however, Gilchrist had almost lapped his steadfast partner, Justin Langer, in romping to 45 not out, and the following day he continued in the same belligerent yet chanceless vein. Saqlain Mushtaq, Shoaib Akhtar, Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram was about as fearsome as an opposition quartet could get, but in breaking their chase down to ten-minute intervals, Gilchrist and Langer turned all the pressure back on their vastly vaunted opponents.
West Indies v England, Trinidad, 1997-98
The diminutive David Williams is but a speck in the annals of West Indies' cricketing history. He started his career as an under-study to the mighty Jeff Dujon, and spent several series in Junior Murray's wake too before Ridley Jacobs' emergence. But in Trinidad in February 1998 he stood taller than at any other moment in his career, to thwart England in a hastily rearranged second Test, and set West Indies on course for the retention of the Wisden Trophy in a series that threatened to be closer than its eventual 3-1 scoreline. Days after the fiasco of the Sabina Park abandonment, the Caribbean was braced for further embarrassment as England took control in Port of Spain, largely through the indefatigable efforts of Angus Fraser, whose first-innings 8 for 53 had secured a precious 23-run lead in what promised to be a low-scoring dogfight. Alec Stewart's 73 set up an imposing target of 282, and at 124 for 5, following Fraser's 11th of the match, there could be only one winner. But then, fatefully, Fraser dropped Williams off the first ball of the final day, and as the target was whittled down to double figures, the belief began to ebb from England's endeavours. Williams knuckled down for a priceless 65, in support of Carl Hooper, whose 94 not out was further evidence of his late-blooming maturity. Though England bounced back to square the series at the same venue a week later, the missed opportunity would cost them dear.
New Zealand v India, Wellington, 1998-99
"It was just after Christmas," wrote Wisden, "but India rather overdid the gifts." The Boxing Day Test featured a brace of improbable New Zealand batting revivals. They rallied from 208 for 7 to 352 all out in the first innings, with Dion Nash digging deep for his career-best 89 not out, and the teenaged Daniel Vettori doing likewise for his second Test fifty. But it was their second innings that took the biscuit, as India - defending a middling target of 213 - belatedly found their A games to shred the top order at 74 for 5, effectively six, after Nathan Astle had had his hand broken by a Javagal Srinath lifter. But once again, New Zealand's lower-order stood firm, with Craig McMillan's fluent 74 not out being joined by a typically hard-hitting 61 from Chris Cairns, who cracked nine fours and a six in a sixth-wicket stand of 137 that only ended when he launched what had intended to be the winning runs straight to cover. Nash, however, made no mistake one ball later, as New Zealand closed out a contest that they had been dominating ever since Simon Doull's first-innings haul of 7 for 65.
New Zealand v Pakistan, Christchurch, 1993-94
Shane Thomson could have been a contender. At Auckland in 1990, he'd given a precocious account of himself as a 21-year-old debutant - no major runs or wickets to speak of, but the sort of Test-match bearing that implied he had a future as a spin-bowling allrounder, especially with Richard Hadlee only months from retirement and New Zealand in need of a new pivot in their lower-middle order. Yet seven years later his first-class career would be over, amid the realisation that his bowling just wasn't quite up to the standards required. He will, however, always have Christchurch - the scene of his one and only Test century, and a formidable knock at that, as he stared down the might of Wasim and Waqar in their prime, and in partnership with Bryan Young, who also reached three figures for the first time, transformed a lost cause with a buccaneering stand of 154 for the fifth wicket. Chasing 324 to avoid a series whitewash, the pair had come together at 133 for 4 - and given that Waqar had made the old ball talk in claiming his last five wickets for 19 in the first innings, the omens were hardly promising. Still, Young and Thomson endured to secure one of New Zealand's finest Test victories.
England v South Africa, Edgbaston, 2008
Legend has it that Graeme Smith mounts the heads of England Test captains on a pike outside his house to ward off intruders. Three times in three England tours, his presence coincided with the resignation of his opposite number. If the exit of Andrew Strauss in 2012 perhaps had more to do with Kevin Pietersen's antics than his opponents, then both Nasser Hussain and Michael Vaughan were hounded out of office by a pair of furiously committed innings. Smith's 277 at Edgbaston in 2003 was in many ways his statement innings - his highest score as well as his first century as South Africa captain, but his 154 on the same ground five years later was arguably his greatest innings. The series was up for grabs, but the challenge was stark - a target of 281 would be no stroll in the park against an England attack featuring Andrew Flintoff at his most lethal (his first-innings duel with Jacques Kallis was a bout for the ages) and the fingerspin of Monty Panesar, for whom the conditions seemed tailor-made. At 93 for 4, South Africa were up against it, and at 171 for 5 with AB de Villiers gone, their hopes of a late rally seemed to be fading. But Mark Boucher has always been a doughty combatant, and he was in no mood to shift. Smith, meanwhile, just kept grinding and grinding, eventually claiming the extra half-hour to bury his crestfallen opponents. A day later, Vaughan resigned in tears, aware that he could carry his team, and his career, no further.