Long before South Africa reintroduced the world to the concept in the 2010s, England nearly pulled off an epic blockathon in the first Test of the 1934 Ashes series. Set an improbable 380 in a little under five hours, England came within ten minutes of a draw. A little under five hours doesn't sound like much now, but given the over rates of the day, and that the legspin duo of Clarrie Grimmett and Bill O'Reilly did the bulk of the bowling, England got through 107.4 overs of batting and still failed to prevent defeat. Batting at No. 9, the left-arm spinner Verity spent 25 minutes at the crease, defended stoutly for 31 balls, and finished unbeaten on 0.
This match is largely remembered for the 411-run fourth-wicket partnership between Peter May and Colin Cowdrey, and the pad play they employed to quell the previously unplayable Sonny Ramadhin. Less remembered is that West Indies, left only the last two hours and 20 minutes of the final day to bat out, nearly lost the Test match, ending it seven down for 72. They escaped by the skin of their teeth, thanks in large measure to their captain, Goddard, who came in at No. 8 and batted through the last 40 minutes without scoring a run, "constantly putting his pads to the ball," in the words of Wisden. He had, evidently, picked up a thing or two from May and Cowdrey.
Bakht shouldn't be on this list, really. He faced just three balls and was run out without scoring in a fairly big defeat for Pakistan. But what gets him a mention is the sheer length of time he spent at the crease: 37 minutes. Of all Test innings with recorded ball counts, it's the third shortest to have lasted at least half an hour - and there seem to have been lengthy stoppages in play in the two above him. In those 37 minutes that Bakht did very little in, Asif Iqbal, that canny middle-order hustler, swelled Pakistan's second-innings score from 263 for 9 to 285 all out. Australia ended up easily chasing down the target of 236.
Looking for a consolation win in the last game of a six-match series India had already sealed, Pakistan were set 265 to win. It seemed doable when they were 154 for 4 with captain Asif Iqbal and Javed Miandad at the crease, but both fell in quick succession, early in the final hour of the fifth day, and suddenly Pakistan were looking to save the game. They managed to do this without too much of a fuss, with Imran Khan finishing not out on 19 off 48 balls, and the wicketkeeper, Bari, on 0 off 43.
In the fifth Test of what would come to be known as Botham's Ashes, the man himself had scored 118 off 102 balls in the second innings, to help set Australia 506 to win. Australia lost half their side for 206 before their lower order rallied magnificently around Allan Border, who was batting with a broken finger. Rod Marsh, Ray Bright, and Dennis Lillee all did their bit, but England were in sight of an unassailable 3-1 lead after Australia lost their ninth wicket with the score on 378. Border and last man Whitney kept them waiting a little longer - 38 minutes - and extended Australia's total beyond 400 before Bob Willis finally had Whitney caught at short leg. It was the end of a strange and memorable debut for Whitney, who, after being called into an injury-ravaged side, had his first spell last just one ball, after which play stopped for rain. He took the wickets of David Gower and Chris Tavare in the first innings and Botham and John Emburey in the second.
Caddick, Peter Martin, Phil Tufnell, Devon Malcolm. Surely a candidate for worst tail ever. So, when England were in effect 98 for 6 in the second innings of the final Test of the 1997 Ashes, it looked like Australia would be chasing not much more than 100. Caddick, though, survived 37 balls and added 22 for the seventh wicket with Mark Ramprakash, to make the target 124. Australia collapsed to 104 all out, with Caddick taking a five-for, and England saved face, losing the series 3-2 instead of 4-1.
After aggressive declarations by both captains in a rain-affected match, New Zealand were set 288 to win with two sessions remaining. After a seesaw chase, New Zealand were left nine down with 66 to get in 38 minutes. No. 10 Simon Doull and last man O'Connor hung on for that duration to secure a tense draw, scoring only one run (Doull made 1 not out off 35 balls to O'Connor's 0 not out off 31) in that time.
After the miracle of Kolkata came the nerve-wracking thrills of Chennai, but it might well have been Australia who ended up 2-1 winners if things had gone slightly differently on the manic fifth day. From 76 for 1, India had slipped to 135 for 6, and the target of 155 looked a long, long way away. Wicketkeeper Sameer Dighe needed someone to stay with him, and he found that man in Khan, who hung in stubbornly for just over half an hour, against Colin Miller, Jason Gillespie and Glenn McGrath. By the time he edged McGrath to second slip, India needed only four more to win.
When O'Brien came to the crease, there was next to nothing left to play for: New Zealand were eight down and needed another 134 runs to avoid innings defeat. But sometimes it's about the individual battles. Sledged by Ricky Ponting after a wild slog off his first ball, O'Brien decided he was going to stick around and guts it out. And that's what he did; by the time he was lbw to Brett Lee, he had faced 38 balls and spent 54 minutes at the crease. In that time, he had added exactly 50 with Brendon McCullum.
This was nearly the most astonishing of escapes. Sri Lanka needed just two wickets to win in a possible 28.4 overs. Despite England's best efforts at wasting time - Stuart Broad went off for a toilet break to add a few minutes to the final drinks break - they still had 20.2 overs to bat out when Broad was dismissed for 0 off 24 balls (an innings that could have been a candidate for this list) and last man Anderson walked in. For the best part of 81 minutes, Sri Lanka could not get Anderson out, and when he faced up to the 55th ball of his innings, England were two balls away from saving the Test match. Shaminda Eranga dug in a short ball, Anderson fended at it, and Rangana Herath, at square leg, took the catch. It was the second-longest duck in Test history, both in terms of balls and minutes, but it was scant consolation for Anderson, who broke down at the post-match presentation.
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo