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From Vishwa to Panesar - six great single-figures innings

After Jack Leach's heroics at Headingley, we look back at half-a-dozen other unlikely batting heroes

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
Monty Panesar and James Anderson scramble through for runs  •  Getty Images

Monty Panesar and James Anderson scramble through for runs  •  Getty Images

After Jack Leach's unbeaten innings of 1 off 17 balls secured his status as an England cult hero in the dramatic one-wicket win at Headingley, we pay tribute to six of the best innings in Test history that failed to extend into double-figures.
Geoff Allott, 0 (77) v South Africa, Auckland 1999
Daryl Cullinan's 275 not out had taken South Africa to a seemingly insurmountable 621 for 5 at Eden Park, before New Zealand collapsed from 210 for 2 to 251 for 7 in their first innings. Daniel Vettori and Simon Doull both provided the resolute Chris Harris with some company, before Allott marched out as last man hoping to delay the inevitable. He contributed a memorable 0 to a partnership of 32 with Harris, in a knock that lasted over 100 minutes - no mean feat for a man who had never faced so many as 20 balls in a Test innings - before eventually fending Jacques Kallis to slip, raising his bat to all corners of the ground on his way off.
While the pair failed in their attempt to save the follow-on, they took enough time out of the game to mean that New Zealand comfortably batted out 84 overs on the final day to seal the draw. "It was probably the best duck I'll ever score," Allott reflected afterwards. Either way, it was certainly the most memorable.
Monty Panesar, 7* (35) v Australia, Cardiff 2009
As Paul Collingwood fell for a brilliant rearguard innings of 74 with England still trailing by six runs with 11.3 overs left in the Test, ESPNcricinfo's ball-by-ball commentary thought the game was up for them: "Well Collingwood cannot believe it and the entire ground stand to applaud a truly determined, gutsy innings. They stand as one. That's it for England, you'd think, with just Monty to come. It's probably his first and only mistake of his innings."
But with James Anderson for company, Panesar blocked out Peter Siddle, Nathan Hauritz and Marcus North with men swarming around the bat for all of 37 minutes - with many of those spent taking on board water and changing gloves via the gleeful 12th man, Bilal Shafayat. He even managed to crash North square of the wicket for four on his way, before leading England off with a broad grin. He was dropped for the Lord's Test, and only rarely enjoyed any sort of run in the side again, though briefly reprised his last-man standing routine in Auckland four years later.
Courtney Walsh, 0* (5) vs Australia, Barbados 1999
Curtly Ambrose did his best at No. 10 to keep Brian Lara company in his epic, unbeaten 153, but was caught off Jason Gillespie with six runs still needed. In came Walsh, the No. 11's No. 11, to face Glenn McGrath - already with five wickets to his name - and he played with characteristic flair during his five-ball stay. He left one outside the off stump with a flourish, before defending with an enormously exaggerated stride down the pitch, and handed things over to Lara.
The next over, Lara stayed deep in his crease, and belted Gillespie through the covers - in an almost perfect mirror of Stokes' shot on Sunday - to seal an incredible win over the No. 1 side in the world.
Vishwa Fernando, 6* (27) v South Africa, Durban 2019
Striding to the crease at 226 for 9 with a fourth innings target of 304, an attack including Dale Steyn, Duanne Olivier and Kagiso Rabada to contend with, and five runs at an average of 1.25 in his Test career, Vishwa did not resemble a likely hero. As Kusal Perera smote a fearsome attack for boundary after boundary, Vishwa resolutely held up an end, as he blocked, ducked and left with growing confidence.
There was even a Leachian moment of madness, when Vishwa edged a full, wide ball from Steyn short of third slip, and was caught ball-watching as Perera called him through for a run. Dean Elgar collected, hurled at the non-striker's end where he was gone for all money, missed, and then saw his throw fly away to the boundary.
After Kusal steered wide of slip for a match-winning boundary, Vishwa charged down the track to give him a bear hug, knowing that he had played a part in possibly the great Test innings of all time.
Wilfred Rhodes, 6* (unknown) v Australia, The Oval 1902
England needed 15 for victory - an equation unthinkable when they had plummeted to 48 for 5 after being set 263 to win - as Rhodes walked out at No. 11, with the man he shared the new ball with at Yorkshire, George Hirst, for company. Hirst allegedly told Rhodes, "We'll get them in singles, Wilfred," although he disputed it afterwards. However they came, the pair got the runs required during their last-wicket stand.
"With the scores level," Wisden recorded, "Rhodes sent a ball from Trumble between the bowler and mid-on, and England won the match by one wicket." Admittedly, Rhodes was by no means a useless batsman - he averaged 30.19 in Tests and and batted everywhere from No. 1 to No. 11 - but this was only three years into a Test career that spanned 31, and he had started life primarily as a bowler.
Pragyan Ojha, 5* (10) v Australia, Mohali 2010
After Ishant Sharma had stuck around for nearly two hours alongside VVS Laxman, he was done by an offcutter from Ben Hilfenhaus which trapped him in front, and India were 11 short of a fourth-innings target of 216. Out came Ojha, who dug out a yorker first ball, then played-and-missed, defended and left to see out the over.
The hobbling Laxman - with Suresh Raina as his runner - stole a two off Mitchell Johnson to take the target down to single figures, and Ojha picked up his first run in Hilfenhaus' next over. Two more came off the next ball but there followed a near mix-up between Ojha and Raina that left Laxman spewing. It meant Ojha now had to face Johnson, who beat him first ball, and then smashed him on the pad off his second. Johnson went up, convinced he had his man, but Billy Bowden said no. It skewed out into the leg side, where Steven Smith turned and threw, but his shy was wild and flew away for overthrows.
Ojha blocked his next ball, before a leg-stump yorker deflected off the pads down to fine leg for the winning two, and the unlikely trio erupted in celebration.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @mroller98