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Five last-over thrillers in Tests from the 2010s

Starring Faf du Plessis, R Ashwin, Shaminda Eranga, Matt Prior and Tim Paine

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
Sri Lanka celebrate their series win over England, Headingley 2014  •  Getty Images

Sri Lanka celebrate their series win over England, Headingley 2014  •  Getty Images

Only in cricket can sides play for five days and still have everything come down to the last over. These are five of the most tense last overs of Tests from the past decade
England v Sri Lanka, Headingley, 2014
For 19 overs, Moeen Ali and No.11 James Anderson kept Sri Lanka at bay on the fifth day, with Ali getting a century and Anderson facing 50 balls without scoring. Angelo Mathews, the Sri Lanka captain, had tried everything, including his own medium pace and Mahela Jayawardene's offspin.
For the final over, he gave the ball to Shaminda Eranga, his new-ball bowler. Two slips, a leg gully, backward square leg, short leg and silly point were in place as Eranga went around the wicket to Anderson. Eranga went short, but Anderson kept out the first two. He went back over the wicket and went short of a length and then full. Anderson blocked twice more to roars from the crowd. Two balls to go, and Eranga delivered a brute of a bouncer. Anderson tried to fend it, but the ball went off the handle and looped to Rangana Herath at backward square leg. Anderson was left ruing what might have been as the Sri Lankans celebrated in a dog pile.
The 100-run win gave Sri Lanka their first series win in England (in 1998, they had won a one-off Test at The Oval). In the first Test, at Lord's, they had survived another final-over thriller, earning a draw with just one wicket left. In that game, Eranga had kept out six balls in the penultimate over and Nuwan Pradeep, his new-ball partner, had survived five in the final one.
Pakistan v Australia, Dubai, 2018
Pakistan gave themselves nearly five sessions to bowl out Australia, who were playing their first Test series since ball-tampering saga in Cape Town that led to one-year bans for Steven Smith and David Warner. In their absence, the batting order had looked brittle in the first innings, Australia making only 202 in 83.3 overs. In the final innings, though, Usman Khawaja stepped up and scored 141. More importantly, he faced 302 balls and spent eight hours and 42 minutes at the wicket, making it the longest fourth-innings knock time-wise this century. When he fell to Yasir Shah, there were still 15 overs to go and just four wickets left.
New captain Tim Paine was left to shepherd the lower order, but Mitchell Starc and Peter Siddle lasted only eight balls between them. For the remaining 50 minutes, Paine and No. 10 Nathan Lyon were resolute against Pakistan's spinners. Sarfaraz Ahmed, the Pakistan captain, put eight fielders around the bat as Shah ran in for the final over needing two wickets to deliver a win. Paine took twos off the first two balls and then dead-batted the next three, securing the draw. It was an important display of mental toughness from Australia during one of their most difficult times.
India v West Indies, Mumbai, 2011
A draw with the scores level. It took a while for cricket fans to process that result as India and West Indies completed a thriller.
The match was heading towards an unsurprising draw on the fifth morning when West Indies collapsed and were bowled out for 134, leaving India 243 to win with roughly 64 overs left to play. Both sides had a chance to win and the game seesawed till the end. Virender Sehwag's 60 gave India the early advantage, but then Sehwag, Tendulkar, and Rahul Dravid all fell within five overs. Virat Kohli scored 63 to keep India in the game. When he fell, India needed 19 to win off 4.5 overs, and West Indies needed three wickets. R Ashwin, who had made a first-innings hundred and taken nine wickets in the Test, took India close. They needed two off the final ball with two wickets in hand. Ashwin hit a Fidel Edwards ball to long-on and seemed resigned to getting just one. He turned around slowly for the second and was run out by a long way, meaning West Indies earned a draw.
New Zealand v England, Auckland, 2013
Matt Prior's heroic four-and-a-half-hour rearguard earned England an unlikely draw in a Test that New Zealand had dominated, but not before some late drama. With four overs left on the final day, Kane Williamson, who used to bowl his offspin regularly then, struck twice in three balls, removing Stuart Broad and James Anderson. Prior was left to bat with Monty Panesar, a man with a batting average hovering just above five.
Panesar nearly chopped on the first ball he faced. An over later, he punched Williamson past gully and set off for a quick single. But he dived early at the non-striker's end and would have been run out had the throw not been wide. Prior could not get a single off the final ball of the penultimate over, and Panesar had to face Trent Boult, who steamed in from around the wicket with four slips and two gullies in place. Panesar was beaten twice, but then got a full toss that he pushed to mid-off to get off strike. Prior saw off the final three balls and raised his arms in celebration.
It was a remarkable effort by England, who had been left four and a half sessions to bat out to save the Test and looked destined for a loss when they lost six wickets with nearly 60 overs left in the game. Ian Bell faced 271 balls for his 75, Prior got 110 off 182, and Broad made a vital contribution by playing 77 balls for his 6.
Australia v South Africa, Adelaide, 2012
"Don't worry, I've got this," Faf du Plessis told Morne Morkel when the No. 10 joined him to bat on the fifth evening. South Africa still had four overs to play out to complete one of the most famous blockathons in cricket history. AB de Villiers had curbed his natural game to make 33 off 220 balls as South Africa attempted to keep Australia out for four and a half sessions. The score was 45 for 4 when du Plessis, making his debut, joined de Villiers at the crease. When de Villiers fell, there were still nearly 60 overs left on the final day, but du Plessis blocked and blocked to frustrate Australia.
After the fall of the eighth wicket, du Plessis defended an over from Nathan Lyon and Morkel survived one from Peter Siddle. du Plessis played out another Lyon over but failed to get a single off the last ball, leaving Morkel on strike against Siddle for the final over. Morkel defended the first three balls and then pushed one past mid-off. The Australians let the ball go to the boundary to keep him on strike. But Morkel hit another boundary off the next ball and defended the last to save the game. South Africa had batted out 148 overs in the fourth innings, the most by any team in the 21st century. du Plessis ended with 110 off 376 balls, the longest fourth-innings knock in terms of balls faced this century.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84