Anantha Narayanan

Outstanding third innings bowling performances: 15 gems

A look at fifteen of the finest third innings bowling performances in Tests

Kapil Dev poses for a photograph, November 1, 1984

Kapil Dev:one of the best third innings bowling performances  •  Getty Images

This completes the quartet of anecdotal articles on the "second" innings batting and bowling performances. The "first" innings does not offer this level of variations and I will refrain from looking at the first/second innings performances.

The third innings bowling performances broadly fall into three categories.

1. In this case the third bowling team is bowling with a substantial deficit and only a truly great performance can help them win. About 4 such performances find their place in this list.

2. The second category is one in which the teams have finished within about 10% of each other's score and a powerful bowling performance helps the team to win. About 7 bowling performances belong to this category. There are obviously many more such performances but only the outstanding ones are selected.

3. Matches in which the third bowling team enjoys a huge first innings lead and the bowlers bowl with this cushion. It is immaterial whether this is a follow-on innings or not. The bowlers would have to come in with once-in-a-lifetime performances to get selected in this tough list. Only two bowler efforts in this category have been selected.

It is a fact that there could be truly great batting performances which help teams save tests (Hanif, Amiss et al). However normally great bowling performances help their teams win tests. Indeed it is almost impossible to win a test without capturing 20 wickets. However I have managed to locate two wonderful bowling efforts which ended in a draw and loss respectively.

I have the usual second XV. And this time I have earmarked the empty table containing Readers' selections and would fill as comments come in.

These match summaries are presented in the order of the type of matches already outlined. Within the type, the matches are presented in a random order. Do not draw any conclusions from the order of presentation.

First the matches in which the teams came back from a huge deficit in the first innings.

MtId: 1876 Year: 2008 Test# 2 of 3 (0-0) England won by 6 wickets

Nzl 381 all out.
Eng 202 all out.
Nzl 114 all out     (Panesar M.S: 17.0-5-37-6).
Eng 294 for 4 wkts.

England just about avoided the follow-on but were 179 runs in arrears. Anderson dismissed Redmond early but New Zealand recovered to 50 for 1. Then Panesar produced, inarguably, his finest spell for England. He captured the next six wickets and reduced New Zealand to 106 for 7. Sidebottom cleaned up the tail and New Zealand were dismissed for 114, leaving England to get a formidable 294 to win, which they did in style, winning by 6 wickets. One of the best come-back wins ever. Panesar, who has not done much otherwise, engineered this remarkable win.

MtId: 1677 Year: 2003 Test# 2 of 2 (0-0) Pakistan won by 7 wickets

Nzl 366 all out.
Pak 196 all out.
Nzl 103 all out     (Shoaib Akhtar: 18.0-3-30-6).
Pak 277 for 3 wkts.

This match is almost a replica of the first one. Pakistan just about avoided the follow-on but were 170 runs in arrears. Then Shoaib Akhtar produced, almost certainly, his finest spell for Pakistan. He captured six wickets for 30 runs and dismissed New Zealand for 103, leaving Pakistan to get a huge score of 274 to win, which they did in style, winning by 7 wickets. Shoaib Akhtar has done this on other occasions but this was amongst the best ever by this devastating bowler.

MtId: 1503 Year: 2000 Test# 2 of 5 (0-1) England won by 2 wickets

Win 267 all out.
Eng 134 all out.
Win  54 all out     (Caddick A.R: 13.0-8-16-5).
Eng 191 for 8 wkts.

The English bowlers seem to have specialized in these third innings bowling efforts. This time England trailed by 133 runs against an excellent West Indian bowling attack.then Caddick produced a dream spell, capturing 5 for 16, the only 5-wicket spell in this elite collection. West Indies, with Lara, Chanderpaul and Adams were a fair batting side. England struggled to make the 188 needed to win and lost eight wickets. Only Cork's brave 33 carried them to an unlikely win.

MtId: 0692 Year: 1971 Test# 3 of 3 (0-0) India won by 4 wickets

Eng 355 all out.
Ind 284 all out.
Eng 101 all out     (Chandrasekhar B.S: 18.1-3-38-6).
Ind 174 for 6 wkts.

Next the matches in which the teams were more or less equal in the first innings.

England were 71 runs ahead in the first innings and were expected to stream-roller India in this deciding Test match. However, Chandrasekhar produced what is, arguably, the best bowling performance by an Indian spinner abroad. He broke the back of English batting with three top order wickets and then cleaned up the late order, to finish with 6 for 38. England were dismissed for 101, leaving India to score 173 to win. This was not easy, but was achieved by contributions from all batsmen. India had won their first test series in England.

MtId: 1687 Year: 2004 Test# 1 of 4 (0-0) England won by 10 wickets

Win 311 all out.
Eng 339 all out.
Win  47 all out     (Harmison S.J: 12.3-8-12-7).
Eng  20 for 0 wkts.

After two matching first innings, England had a lead of only 28 runs. It was expected that West Indies would wipe out this lead quickly and go for a win. Instead Harmison produced a vintage fast bowling performance, capturing 7 for 12 in 12 overs of devastation. West Indies lost half their side wiping the deficit and were finally dismissed for 47, their lowest total in Test cricket. One of the great modern day bowling efforts.

MtId: 1673 Year: 2003 Test# 2 of 4 (0-0) India won by 4 wickets

Aus 556 all out.
Ind 523 all out.
Aus 196 all out     (Agarkar A.B: 16.2-2-41-6).
Ind 233 for 6 wkts.

This was probably the only moment of greatness in Agarkar's otherwise journeyman Test career for India, forgetting the throwing-the-bat 100. Two huge first innings of 500+ left Australia with a lead of 33 runs. Then Agarkar had his few hours in the sun, capturing 6 for 41, including three top order wickets. India managed the chase of 233 reasonably well and India had won a historic test after conceding 556 in the first innings. Agarkar more than made up for his sequence of zeroes.

MtId: 1266 Year: 1994 Test# 3 of 3 (0-1) England won by 8 wickets

Saf 332 all out.
Eng 304 all out.
Saf 175 all out     (Malcolm D.E: 16.3-2-57-9).
Eng 205 for 2 wkts.

Another English bowler !!! After two middling first innings England finished 28 short. Then Malcolm produced one of the greatest ever bowling performances by an English fast bowler, capturing 9 wickets for 57 runs. He captured the first three wickets for no run in 2 overs. Gough captured the other wicket. Malcolm's bowling performance has been bettered by two fast bowlers only, Hadlee and Lohmann.

MtId: 1159 Year: 1990 Test# 2 of 5 (1-0) Australia won by 8 wickets

Eng 352 all out.
Aus 306 all out.
Eng 150 all out     (Reid B.A: 22.0-12-51-7).
Aus 197 for 2 wkts.

After two 300+ scores Australia were 52 runs adrift. England were sitting pretty at 103 for 1. Then Bruce Reid destroyed England capturing 7 for 51 and got them all out for 150, that too on a good MCG batting track. Australia chased the target comfortably by 8 wickets. Bruce Reid was an under-rated left arm pace bowler. His is the only Australian performance featured here, ahead of greats like Warne, Lillee, Spofforth, McGrath et al.

MtId: 1477 Year: 1999 Test# 1 of 2 (0-0) New Zealand won by 9 wickets 1477 1999 Cairns C.L New Zealand Win 28 22.5 10 27 7

Win 365 all out.
Nzl 393 all out.
Win  97 all out     (Cairns C.L   : 22.5-10-27-7).
Nzl   70 for 1 wkt.

New Zealand led by 28 runs. West Indies were nowhere the dominating side they were during the 80s or early 90s. However they were also not the pathetic side of the 2000s. Cairns produce a devastating spell of 7 for 27 which included 4 top wickets. West Indies were blown off for 97 and New Zealand won comfortably. Let us not forget that Cairns also captured 3 wickets in the first innings and scored 72. One of the truly great all-round performances ever.

Finally the matches in which the teams had a huge lead in the first innings.

MtId: 1423 Year: 1998 Test# 1 of 1 (0-0) Sri Lanka won by 10 wickets

Eng 445 all out.
Slk 591 all out.
Eng 181 all out     (Muralitharan M: 54.2-27-65-9).
Slk  37 for 0 wkts.

This time Sri Lanka had a huge first innings lead over England of 146 runs. Then Muralitharan wove his magic and captured 9 wickets for 65 runs in 54 overs. If Stewart had not been run out, Murali might very well have captured all ten wickets. All this, at Oval, London. And on a pitch on which over 1000 runs had been scored in the first two innings. The fact that Murali conjured 9 wickets on a batsman-friendly pitch has made this performance a stand-out contender.

MtId: 0128 Year: 1912 Test# 8 of 9 (0-0) England won by 10 wickets

Saf  95 all out.
Eng 176 all out.
Saf  93 all out     (Barnes S.F: 16.4-4-29-8).
Eng  14 for 0 wkts.

Two low scores meant England were ahead by 81 runs. Then S.F.Barnes, certainly in the top group of all-time best fast medium bowlers, bowled unchanged. He bowled 16 overs and captured 8 for 29. South Africa were dismissed for 93 and England won in a canter. Barnes had another equally great third innings spell of 9 for 103 a few months later in a match where England had a big lead.

MtId: 0428 Year: 1956 Test# 4 of 5 (1-1) England won by an innings and 170 runs

Eng 459 all out.
Aus  84 all out.
Aus 205 all out     (Laker J.C: 51.2-23-53-10).

And the matches which were drawn or lost.

This is the only performance in this collection by a team leading by million runs in the first innings. There is a reason. The first 10-wicket haul by a bowler. Laker bowled 51 overs and captured 10 wickets for 53. What is amazing is that the other bowlers, Statham and Lock, no mean bowlers themselves, bowled 71 overs and did not pick up a wicket. This was the bowling performance of multiple life-times. Not to forget the small matter of 9 wickets in the first innings.

MtId: 0436 Year: 1957 Test# 3 of 5 (0-2) Match drawn

Eng 218 all out.
Saf 283 all out.
Eng 254 all out     (Tayfield H.J: 37.7-14-69-8).
Saf 142 for 6 wkts.

This is the only drawn Test match performance in this collection. South Africa led by 65 runs. Then Tayfield produced an excellent spell of classical off-spin bowling, capturing 8 for 69 runs. South Africa had about 4 hours to score 190 runs and, readers note, England bowled the equivalent of 77 overs. Today, the Dhoni-led India, with two spinners, bowls 26 overs in two hours. South Africa struggled and finished 48 short to earn a good draw. In the course of Tayfield's spell, he bowled 119 consecutive score-less balls, and 19 in the second innings, a world record.

MtId: 0967 Year: 1983 Test# 3 of 6 (0-1) West Indies won by 138 runs

Win 281 all out.
Ind 241 all out.
Win 201 all out     (Kapil Dev N: 30.3-6-83-9).
Ind 103 all out.

The only losing performance in the third innings is featured here. Again it is the turn of Kapil Dev. This was a forgettable match for India, barring a fighting 90 by Gavaskar and this bowling performance by Kapil Dev. India were only 40 runs behind in the first innings. Then Kapil Dev captured 9 for 83 in what is, undoubtedly, the greatest display of pace bowling by an Indian and the most memorable on Indian grounds. Haynes was dismissed by Sandhu. West Indies were dismissed for 241 leaving India to get a reasonable target of 242. However West Indies, still smarting under the World Cup loss a few months before, blasted India out of the park for 103. But Kapil Dev cannot be blamed for the batting failures.

In this selection, bowlers like Panesar, Cairns, Agarkar, Reid, Harmison and Caddick would not rank amongst the great bowlers. The bowlers in this group other than Cairns would not figure amongst the top-10 of their teams. However when there was a need they produced once-in-lifetime performances and find their well-deserved place in this list.

The second XV of third innings bowling performances

MtId Year Bowler          For          Vs   Deficit   Analysis
1812 2006 Muralitharan M Sri Lanka Saf -40 46.5 12 97 7 1796 2006 Mohammad Asif Pakistan Slk -109 12.0 6 27 5 1747 2005 Ntini M South Africa Win 51 19.5 7 37 7 1539 2001 Harbhajan Singh India Aus 110 41.5 20 84 8 1248 1994 Wasim Akram Pakistan Nzl -27 16.1 4 43 6 1206 1992 Donald A.A South Africa Ind 63 28.0 4 84 7 1040 1986 Bracewell J.G New Zealand Aus -56 22.0 8 32 6 0874 1980 Botham I.T England Ind 54 26.0 7 48 7 0699 1972 Massie R.A.L Australia Eng 36 27.2 9 53 8 0527 1962 Gibbs L.R West Indies Ind 217 53.3 37 38 8 0372 1953 Bedser A.V England Aus -105 17.2 7 44 7 (Match drawn) 0320 1950 Johnson I.W Australia Saf -236 17.0 2 34 5 0234 1934 Verity H England Aus 156 22.3 8 43 8 0138 1921 Mailey A.A Australia Eng 105 47.0 8 121 9 0128 1912 Barnes S.F England Saf 81 16.4 4 29 8

This is my selection, 75% objective and 25% subjective. Readers will have their own favourite third innings bowling performance and are welcome to send in their comments referring to these innings. The only requirement is that you have to take the trouble of looking up the concerned scorecard and give some details. Rather than posting comments such as "What about Imran's 8-wkt spell", the comments which are likely to get published are the ones where a better insight into the concerned innings are provided. Do not get upset that one specific performance is not in this list or in the nearly-made-it list. Put up your cases in a nice and emphatic manner, without resorting to abusive language, unfortunately used in a few mails recently.

The Readers' selection third innings bowling performances, in order of comment acceptance.

1906 2009 J.E.Taylor  Win (Eng) 9-4-11-5 (Balaraman)
0991 1984 M.D.Marshall  Win (Eng) 26-9-53-7 (Alex)
0765 1975 AME Roberts  Win (Aus) 14-3-54-7 (Alex)
1110 1988 Hughes M.G  Aus (Win) 37-9-87-8 (Shane) loss
1554 2001 Warne S.K.  Aus (Eng) 18-5-33-6 (Karthik)
0032 1889 Briggs J  Eng (Saf) 14-5-11-8 (Alex)
1444 1999 Srinath J  Ind (Pak) 27-6-86-8 (Adil) loss
1377 1997 Kasprowicz  Aus (Eng) 16-5-36-7 (Karthik) loss
1654 2003 Pollock S  Saf (Eng) 18-4-39-6 (Venkat) loss
1615 2002 Shoaib Akhtar  Pak (Aus) 8-2-21-5 (Yasir) loss
0172 1928 G.F.Bisset  Saf (Eng) 19-5-29-7 (Ad)
0677 1969 Bedi 23-11-37-5 & Prasanna 24-10-42-5 Ind (Aus) (Arjun)
1719 2004 Kaneria  Pak (Slk) 60-20-118-7 (Arjun)
1356 1997 Warne Aus (Saf) 28-15-43-4
0443 1957 Lock GAR Eng (Win) 16-7-20-6 (Abhishek)
1630 2002 Lawson JJC WIn (Bng) 6.5-4-3-6 (Arjun)
0876 1980 Iqbal Qasim Pak (Aus) 42-22-49-7 (Ad)
0427 1957 DS Atkinson 40-21-53-7 WI (Nzl) (Ad)
1747 2005 M Ntini  Saf (Win) 20-7-37-7 (Mayank)

I have really enjoyed doing these series of four anecdotal articles. My editor probably more. As many a reader has pointed out this has opened the door on wonderful efforts of the past. I myself have learnt a lot. The readers' response has been terrific.

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