Matches (12)
T20 World Cup (2)
County DIV1 (5)
County DIV2 (4)
SL vs WI [W] (1)
Stats Analysis

India's 36 all out, and other dramatic finishes to Tests

Matches that turned on their heads on the last day to produce a result

R Ashwin bowls to Ross Taylor, India vs New Zealand, World Test Championship (WTC) final, Southampton, Day 6 - reserve day, June 23, 2021

New Zealand batted carefully and controlled the 139-run chase to win the World Test Championship final against India in Southampton last year  •  Adam Davy/PA Photos/Getty Images

The seeds for this article were sown at 11pm IST on June 23, 2021 - a few minutes after the end of the World Test Championship final in Southampton.
At the end of the fifth (and penultimate) day's play, I had estimated there was a 75% possibility of a draw, a 10% chance of a New Zealand win, and a 15% chance of an India win - a possible fourth-innings collapse being the reason. Both teams had powerful batting line-ups and I did not expect a result. Everyone knows what happened next - excellent New Zealand bowling compounded by sub-par Indian batting, followed by a professional New Zealand batting effort meant that there was a result, a great one for New Zealand. I said to myself then that I should look into such abrupt and devastating turns of the game on the last days of Test matches.
It was easier said than done. I went through a combination of multiple program-created shortlists and perusal of scorecards. I needed to avoid routine matches that ended on the last day - when evaluating the situation at the close of the penultimate day; the possibility of a draw had to be well over two-thirds; only then could a match be selected. Neither team could be too far behind or too far ahead. The match had to be in the 45-55% range in terms of advantage for either team. As I went along, I realised that the list would be quite short and I needed to include Tests where the last day was not the scheduled last day of the match.
I finally had a list of 26 games, nine of these with "real" last days. That is a reasonable collection. However, I am certain I will have missed a Test or two. Readers can let me know if any Test was not selected, after making sure the criteria are met. The most important criterion is that the match should be evenly poised going into the last day.
I have classified the Tests into a few logical groupings below. Within these, the matches are featured chronologically.

When the last day of play was the last day of the Test

1. Australia vs England
Sydney, 1884-85

Australia 309 (Bonnor 128, Bannerman 51, Barnes 4-61) and 38 for 2 beat England 269 (Barnes 50, Bates 64, Giffen 7-117) and 77 (Palmer 4-32, Spofforth 5-30) by 8 wickets
Score at the end of day two: Australia 308 for 8 (1st inns)
At the start of the third day, the match was in the balance following two reasonable first-innings totals. But overnight rain and a drying pitch caught England off guard and they were bundled out for 77 by Joey Palmer and Fred Spofforth, who bowled unchanged. Australia reached the target in a hurry. The key point here is that the match did not look like it would end so quickly. Some reports suggest that this was a timeless Test, however, looking at the scores and the way the match went, I have decided that it was going to be a three-day Test.
An interesting thing I found out while reading reports of this Test was that the two teams batted on two different pitches and that they had the choice of pitch in the second innings. England played their second innings on the pitch that Australia had batted on (maybe expecting it would have improved for batting) and that was a mistake.
2. South Africa vs England
Durban, 1927-28

South Africa 332 for 7 dec (Catterall 119, Cameron 53) and 69 for 2 beat England 282 (Tyldesley 100, Hammond 66, Sutcliffe 51, Nupen 5-83) and 118 (Finlay-Bissett 7-29) by 8 wickets
Score at the end of day two: England 30 for 1 (2nd inns)
The English batting line-up that toured South Africa this season was a good one. The first two innings in Durban finished either side of 300. England, resuming at 30 for 1 in their second innings, were blown apart on a matting pitch by fast bowler George Finlay-Bissett. South Africa reached their meagre target much before the end of the third day's play, and levelled the series 2-2. This was a four-day match but the first day's play had been washed out.
3. New Zealand vs South Africa
Wellington, 1931-32

South Africa 410 (Balaskas 122, Viljoen 81, Christy 62, Vivian 4-58) and 150 for 2 (Christy 53, Mitchell 53) beat New Zealand 364 (Vivian 100, Dempster 64, Badcock 53, Cromb 51*, McMillan 5-125) and 193 (Vivian 73, Quinn 4-37) by 8 wickets
Score at the end of day two: South Africa 410 for 9 (1st inns)
This was only a three-day Test and at close on the second day, not even the two big first innings had been completed. South Africa took a lead of 46 and their bowlers, led by Neville Quinn, dismissed New Zealand in just under four hours. South Africa needed 148 in just over two hours to win, and they romped home in style with plenty of time to spare. Impressively, New Zealand bowled over 40 overs in under 100 minutes. Today, teams seem to bowl about 20 overs in that time.
4. South Africa vs England
Port Elizabeth, 1948-49

England 395 (Mann 136*, Rowan 5-167) and 174 for 7 (Mann 4-65) beat South Africa 379 (Wade 125 Mitchell 99, Nourse 73, Bedser 4-61) and 187 for 3 dec (Mitchell 56) by three wickets
Score at the end of day three: England 390 for 9 (1st inns)
There was no chance of a result at the close of the third play's play. Then Dudley Nourse injected fresh life into proceedings by making a sporting declaration, leaving England 95 minutes to score 172 runs. Let us not forget that the first ODI was about 22 years away and the first T20 56. England took up the challenge and won with a minute to spare, losing seven wickets in the process. The great thing again was that South Africa bowled 24 eight-ball overs in an hour and a half. This was a challenging declaration and South Africa had their chances.
5. West Indies vs England
Port-of-Spain, 1967-68

England 404 (Cowdrey 148, Knott 69*, Boycott 62, Butcher 5-34) and 215 for 3 (Boycott 80*, Cowdrey 71) beat West Indies 526 for 7 dec (Kanhai 153, Nurse 136, Camacho 87) and 92 for 2 dec by seven wickets
Score at the end of day four: West Indies 6 for 0 (2nd inns)
England responded to West Indies' 526 with a competitive 404, and a dead draw was on the cards. There was a delayed start on the final day and then Garry Sobers, gambler extraordinaire, declared mid-afternoon, leaving England 165 minutes to score 215. That was a good bet since England had Geoff Boycott, Colin Cowdrey and Ken Barrington - none of whom were known for quick scoring. But England reached the target with three minutes to spare. Do we blame Sobers? How can we if we accept the similar declaration by Nourse in the previous entry? Sobers was positive in his attitude and was going for a win. He probably did not make allowances for his bowling attack losing its sting because of injury to Charlie Griffith. Personally I would not fault Sobers' decision to declare.
6. India vs Australia
Kolkata, 2000-01

India 171 (Laxman 59, McGrath 4-18) and 657 for 7 dec (Laxman 281, Dravid 180) beat Australia 445 (Steve Waugh 110, Hayden 97, Langer 58, Harbhajan 7-123) and 212 (Hayden 67, Harbhajan 6-73) by 171 runs
Score at the end of day four: India 589 for 4 (2nd inns)
At times I've been unpopular because of my long-held view that Sourav Ganguly did not really think India would win this Test. If he had believed they might, he would have declared either at the close of the fourth day or when VVS Laxman got out on the fifth day. He had India bat on for over an hour longer and lost valuable time, giving them just under five hours to bowl Australia out. He might have had regrets when Australia were three down at tea. That they lost another seven wickets was indeed a miracle. The credit for India's rescue should go to Laxman and Rahul Dravid, but that they won was because of Harbhajan Singh and Sachin Tendulkar.
7. Australia vs England
Adelaide, 2006-07

Australia 513 (Ponting 142, Michael Clarke 124, Hussey 91, Gilchrist 64, Hoggard 7-109) and 168 for 4 (Hussey 61*) beat England 551 for 6 dec (Collingwood 206, Pietersen 158, Bell 60) and 129 (Warne 4-49) by 6 wickets
Score at the end of day four: England 59 for 1 (2nd inns)
After scoring 551, taking a useful lead and being 59 for 1 in their second innings, England would not have expected to be at the receiving end of an Australian comeback of epic proportions - caused by that magician Shane Warne. England were dismissed for 129 but consumed 54 overs on the final day to reach this total. Even the last wicket added only ten runs but batted for ten overs. That left Australia only 34 overs to score 168, but they won with two overs to spare.
8. Sri Lanka vs Pakistan
Galle, 2014

Sri Lanka 533 for 9 dec (Sangakkara 221, Mathews 91, Silva 64, Jayawardene 59, Ajmal 5-166) and 99 for 3 beat Pakistan 451 (Younis Khan 177, Shafiq 75, Sarfaraz 55, Rehman 50, Perera 5-137) and 180 (Sarfaraz 52*, Herath 6-48) by 7 wickets
Score at the end of day four: Pakistan 4 for 1 (2nd inns)
Two big scores meant that it was likely to be a dull finish. However, Pakistan, starting at 4 for 1, were bamboozled by Rangana Herath and were dismissed for 180, after which Sri Lanka got to their 99-run target quite comfortably. Maybe what happened on the last day was not a surprise in view of Galle's history of complete turnarounds in pitch behaviour over the last day(s).
9. India vs New Zealand
Southampton, 2021

New Zealand 249 (Conway 54, Shami 4-76) and 140 for 2 (Williamson 52*) beat India 217 (Jamieson 5-31) and 170 (Southee 4-48) by 8 wickets
Score at the end of day five: India 64 for 2 (2nd inns)
We now come to the match that started this project off. How many people thought that the seriously rain-affected WTC final would end in an emphatic win for one team? Everyone was looking at a draw, the sharing of the trophy, and pontification that neither team deserved to lose. An incisive spell from Kyle Jamieson changed this. Once the key wickets were captured, Rishabh Pant's resistance only delayed the end. New Zealand handled the chase beautifully and the additional overs available at the end helped them control the chase. A well-deserved win and one that would go some way towards erasing the heartbreak of the World Cup final two years before.

When the last day of play was not the last day of the Test

One could say that these Tests belong to this classification by proxy, but it is a fact that in all of them, things suddenly moved fast during a day's play.
Test won by team bowling last
These are the only two Tests in which the team bowling last dismissed the opposition. In these matches such a result normally does not come to pass; usually the last batting team controls the match effectively.
10. England vs Australia
Lord's, 1888

Australia 116 (Peel 4-36) and 60 (Peel 4-14, Lohmann 4-33) beat England 53 (Turner 5-27) and 62 (Turner 5-36, Ferris 5-26) by 61 runs
Score at the end of day one: England 18 for 3 (1st inns)
The match started only around tea time on the first day, but there was enough time for 134 runs to be scored and 13 wickets to fall before stumps. The second (and last) day was a day of records: 27 wickets fell and England barely got halfway to their very low target of 124. It was indeed an amazing day of Test cricket. In three hours on the second day, 100 four-ball overs were bowled and there was a wicket every 15 balls.
11. India vs Australia
Wankhede, 2004-05

India 104 (Gillespie 4-29) and 205 (Laxman 69, Tendulkar 55, Michael Clarke 6-9) beat Australia 203 (Martyn 55, Kumble 5-90, Murali Kartik 4-44) and 93 (Harbhajan 5-29) by 13 runs
Score at the end of day two: India 5 for 0 (2nd inns)
This was as much a match from the fourth dimension as the previous one, 116 years ago, was. Two strange innings were played on the first couple of days. One was around 100 and the other was around twice as many. On day three, India managed to go past 200 and Australia, left with a measly target of 107, fell 14 runs short. Left-arm spinner Murali Kartik dismissed three top-order batters, while Harbhajan pocketed the rest. Some people might say it was dead-rubber syndrome, since Australia had already won the series. I would say a very poor pitch and very poor batting were the causes for Australia's defeat. Earlier on the last day, Laxman and Tendulkar had shown that the pitch was a difficult one but not as impossible to bat on as Australia's fourth innings indicated.
Tests won by team batting last
12. England vs Australia
Headingley, 1938

Australia 242 (Bradman 103, Barnett 57, Farnes 4-77) and 107 for 5 beat England 223 (Hammond 76, O'Reilly 5-66) and 123 (O'Reilly 5-56, Fleetwood 4-34) by 5 wickets
Score at the end of day two: England 49 for 0 (2nd inns)
Granted that there were two sub-250 scores in the first innings, but when England started the third day with all their wickets intact, there was no indication of the mayhem to come. Bill O'Reilly and Chuck Fleetwood-Smith destroyed them for the addition of only 74 runs, and Australia reached their target comfortably. Don Bradman's first-innings 103 was one of his best innings, made in very difficult conditions.
13. England vs Australia
Headingley, 1961

England 299 (Cowdrey 93, Pullar 53, Davidson 5-63) and 62 for 2 beat Australia 237 (Harvey 73, McDonald 54, Trueman 5-58) and 120 (Harvey 53, Trueman 6-30) by 8 wickets
Score at the end of day two: England 238 for 4 (1st inns)
England started the third day just ahead of Australia, with six wickets in hand. They took a useful first-innings lead of 62. Australia, at 99 for 2, were seemingly in a comfortable position, at which point, Fred Trueman went ballistic, taking 5 for 0, and Australia lost their next eight wickets for 21 runs. Such collapses cannot be explained since the pitch suddenly did not turn unplayable. England reached their target with ease.
14. West Indies vs India
Port-of-Spain, 1970-71

India 352 (Sardesai 112 Gavaskar 65, Solkar 55, Noreiga 9-95) and 125 for 3 (Gavaskar 67*) beat West Indies 214 (Davis 71*, Prasanna 4-54) and 261 (Fredericks 80, Davis 74*, Venkataraghavan 5-95) by 7 wickets
Score at the end of day three: West Indies 150 for 1 (2nd inns)
West Indies were sitting comfortably at the end of the third day, having wiped out the deficit, and with two top batters, Roy Fredericks and Charlie Davis, at the crease. Everything changed the next day. Offspinner S Venkataraghavan was the chief destroyer but left-arm spinner Salim Durani took a couple of key wickets. India reached their target of 124 with ease. A complete turnaround resulting in the collapse of a team that had Garry Sobers and Clive Lloyd in their ranks. It made you think how valuable the two fifties by Sunil Gavaskar were.
15. England vs Pakistan
Lord's, 1992

Pakistan 293 (Sohail 73, Mujtaba 59, Malik 55, Malcolm 4-70) and 141 for 8 beat England 255 (Stewart 74, Gooch 69, Waqar 5-91) and 175 (Stewart 69*, Akram 4-66) by 2 wickets
Score at the end of day three: England 52 for 1 (2nd inns)
After two middling totals in the first innings, England had wiped out the deficit and were comfortably placed with nine wickets still available. On the third day, the feared Pakistan fast bowlers, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, aided by legspinner Mushtaq Ahmed, destroyed the strong England line-up for 123 additional runs. This is the first match in our collection so far where the batting team struggled to reach a small target (138) in the fourth innings. Chris Lewis dismissed three top-order Pakistan batters for ducks, and then legspinner Ian Salisbury took three more. At 95 for 8, this match could very well have ended in my middle group. However, the unlikely batting pair of Akram and Waqar took them home.
16. Australia vs West Indies
Melbourne, 1996-97

West Indies 255 (Adams 74*, Chanderpaul 58, Murray 53, McGrath 5-50) and 87 for 4 beat Australia 219 (Blewett 62, Steve Waugh 58, Ambrose 5-55) and 122 (Ambrose 4-17) by 6 wickets
Score at the end of day two: West Indies 233 for 9 (1st inns)
At the end of the second day in this one, West Indies were ahead of Australia's low total by a few runs. They established a useful lead of 36, and then the bowling trio of Curtly Ambrose, Kenny Benjamin and Courtney Walsh went to town, dismissing the strong Australian line-up - one of the strongest ever - for a paltry 122. West Indies managed to reach the small target, albeit with some hiccups en route.
17. Sri Lanka vs England
Colombo (SSC), 2000-01

England 249 (Thorpe 113*, Vaas 6-73) and 74 for 6 (Thorpe 32*, Jayasuriya 4-24) beat Sri Lanka 241 (Jayawardene 71, Croft 4-56) and 81 (Giles 4-11) by 4 wickets
Score at the end of day two: England 175 for 4 (1st inns)
Totals of 241 and 175 for 4 did not give any indication of the mayhem that was going to be inflicted the next day. First, England lost their last six wickets for 74 runs. Then Ashley Giles, with his seemingly innocuous bowling, spun webs around Sri Lanka and they were back in the pavilion for 81. Left with the simple task of scoring 74 for a win, England did their best to make the match exciting, losing six wickets. A total of 22 wickets fell on the day. Graham Thorpe was undefeated in the match, scoring 145 runs in all - one of the greatest away batting performances by an English batter.
18. West Indies vs England
Bridgetown, 2003-04

England 226 (Thorpe 119*, Edwards 4-70) and 93 for 2 beat West Indies 224 (Sarwan 63, Chanderpaul 50, Flintoff 5-58) and 94 (Hoggard 4-35) by 8 wickets
Score at the end of day two: West Indies 21 for 1 (2nd inns)
An almost identical situation as in the earlier matches. West Indies, slightly ahead with nine wickets in hand at the start of day three. The England trio of Matthew Hoggard, Steve Harmison and Andrew Flintoff destroyed them for a sub-100 score and England reached the target with ease.
19. India vs South Africa
Kanpur, 2007-08

India 325 (Ganguly 87, Laxman 50) and 64 for 2 beat South Africa 265 (Smith 69, Amla 51) and 121 (Harbhajan 4-44) by 8 wickets
Score at the end of day two: India 288 for 9 (1st inns)
On day three, India added a few more runs to their overnight total to secure a useful first-innings lead, and then the unlikely combination of Harbhajan and Virender Sehwag skittled South Africa out for 121.
20. Sri Lanka vs Pakistan
Colombo (P Sara)
, 2009
Sri Lanka 240 (Sangakkara 87, Gul 4-43, Ajmal 4-87) and 171 for 3 (Warnapura 54) beat Pakistan 90 (Kulasekara 4-21) and 320 (Alam 168, Younis 82, Kulasekara 4-37, Herath 5-99) by 7 wickets
Score at the end of day two: Pakistan 178 for 1 (2nd inns)
While the situation might be similar, at least this time the scores were totally different. Pakistan conceded a first-innings deficit of 150, but proceeded to wipe it off by the end of day two, sitting pretty at 178 for 1. The next day, Fawad Alam and Younis Khan took the total to 285 for 1 and everything pointed to a big Pakistan total and a difficult chase for Sri Lanka. However, the home bowlers, led by Herath, made sure that no other Pakistani batters reached double figures, and Pakistan lost their last nine wickets for 35 runs. Sri Lanka controlled the chase of a not-too-low target very professionally.
21. India vs Australia
Delhi, 2012-13

India 272 (Vijay 57, Pujara 52, Lyon 7-94) and 158 for 4 (Pujara 82*) beat Australia 262 (Siddle 51, Ashwin 5-57) and 164 (Siddle 50, Jadeja 5-58) by 6 wickets
Score at the end of day two: India 266 for 8 (1st inns)
At the end of the second day in Delhi, the first two innings were still not finished. Then Ravindra Jadeja, aided by India's other spinners, dismissed Australia for 164. India batted in the fourth innings as if it was the last day of the match and aced the 155-run target at a run rate of 5.04.
22. Bangladesh vs Zimbabwe
Mirpur, 2014-15

Bangladesh 254 (Mushfiqur 64, Mahmudullah 63, Mominul 53, Panyangara 5-59) and 101 for 7 (Chigumbura 4-21) beat Zimbabwe 240 (Raza 51, Shakib 6-59) and 114 (Taijul 8-39) by 3 wickets
Score at the end of day two: Zimbabwe 5 for 0 (2nd inns)
How often have we seen this story here: two scores of around 250 and the team batting first is reasonably placed. Then the bowlers strike and the match is over in a single day. Zimbabwe, at 5 for 0, and almost at par, would have thought they had every chance. Only for left-arm spinner Taijul Islam, the unlikely destroyer-in-chief, taking 8 for 39 to bowl them out for 114. Still, Zimbabwe showed a lot of fight, dismissing the top three Bangladesh batters with the score at 0. Bangladesh recovered and managed to eke out a narrow win.
23. Australia vs India
Brisbane, 2014-15

Australia 505 (Smith 133, Johnson 88, Rogers 55, Starc 52) and 130 for 6 (Rogers 55) beat India 408 (Vijay 144, Rahane 81, Hazlewood 5-68) and 224 (Dhawan 81, Johnson 4-61) by 4 wickets
Score at the end of day three: India 71 for 1 (2nd inns)
India's 400-plus score was answered by Australia's 505 and India were in a familiar situation at the end of the third day - just behind with nine wickets in hand. But they could not handle Australia's three-pronged pace attack and were bowled out for 224. Australia made heavy weather of the 128-run chase but won by four wickets.
24. South Africa vs England
Johannesburg, 2015-16

England 323 (Root 110, Stokes 58, Rabada 5-78) and 74 for 3 beat South Africa 313 (Elgar 46) and 83 (Broad 6-17) by 7 wickets
Score at the end of day two: England 238 for 5 (1st inns)
This time there were two 300-plus first-innings scores, indicating a reasonable pitch. England completed their first innings only on day three, after which Stuart Broad produced one of the most devastating away bowling efforts for England, an amazing 6 for 17 - his victims were the top six batters. South Africa folded for 83 and England had no problem finishing the match on the same day.
25. Australia vs India
Adelaide, 2020-21

Australia 191 (Paine 73*, Ashwin 4-55) and 93 for 2 (Burns 51*) beat India 244 (Kohli 74, Starc 4-53) and 36 (Cummins 4-21, Hazlewood 5-8) by 8 wickets
Score at the end of day two: India 9 for 1 (2nd inns)
This match is fresh in everyone's memory, not only for what happened on this day but what happened over the month that followed. India managed to get a 53-run first-innings lead and were comfortably placed at the end of the second day's play. Then from 9 for 1, they plummeted to 36 all out, destroyed by Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins. It goes without saying that Australia were not going to miss the chance.
26. Sri Lanka vs England
Galle, 2020-21

England 344 (Root 186, Buttler 55, Embuldeniya 7-137) and 164 for 4 (Sibley 56*) beat Sri Lanka 381 (Mathews 110, Dickwella 92, Perera 67, Chandimal 52, Anderson 6-40) and 126 (Bess 4-49, Leach 4-59) by 6 wickets
Score at the end of day three: England 339 for 9 (1st inns)
Another recent match. Sri Lanka posted a very good first-innings total, and on the fourth day, England came close to it. Then, against the seemingly innocuous spin of Jack Leach and Dom Bess, the home team collapsed for 126. England completed a totally unexpected win, which had been unthinkable eight hours earlier.
By now, readers will have understood how tough making this list was. There have been many matches in which the scores have been 250, 260 and 25 for 2/3/4, where the match ended the next day in favour of the team batting last. The dice were loaded against the team batting in the third innings. Or cases of 250, 250, 50 for 0/1, and the second-innings scores going big. These matches do not fit here. I did not want the losing teams to be far behind. In all cases I have made sure that the losing team had lost a maximum of one wicket or that the second batting team was still batting, going into the last day of the match. That way, one could say that the match was evenly poised and the selection of the match is justified. The key words are "evenly poised". Neither team should enjoy anything better than a 55-45 advantage in the Test.
Talking Cricket Group
Any reader who wishes to join the general-purpose cricket ideas-exchange group of this name that I started last year can email me a request for inclusion, telling me their name, place of residence, and what they do.
Email me your comments and I will respond. This email id is to be used only for sending in comments. Please note that readers whose emails are derogatory to the author or any player will be permanently blocked from sending in any feedback in future.

Anantha Narayanan has written for ESPNcricinfo and CastrolCricket and worked with a number of companies on their cricket performance ratings-related systems