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Stats Analysis

Which teams recovered from 24 for 6 and 26 for 6 to win Tests?

A comprehensive look at the greatest recoveries in Test cricket

Brendon McCullum became the first New Zealand batsman to score a triple-century, New Zealand v India, 2nd Test, Wellington, 5th day, February 18, 2014

The greatest recovery of them all? Brendon McCullum's 302 took New Zealand from 94 for 5 to 680 for 8 at the Basin Reserve in 2014  •  Getty Images

The place: Madras. The year: 1969. The teams: India and Australia. Australia were dismissed for 258 but still took a lead. They started their second innings and plummeted to 24 for 6 but recovered the next day and won by 77 runs.
Let us move 30 years forward and over 1000 kilometres northeast to Calcutta. The teams: India and Pakistan. Pakistan won the toss, batted first, and promptly slumped to a disastrous 26 for 6, but four days later emerged triumphant by 46 runs.
In this article I will be looking at such great recoveries across the ages. I will not limit myself to matches in which teams won from such situations. Often they lost, and equally often they managed to draw. The common thread running through these matches is that teams recovered magnificently from a disastrous situation, regardless of whether or not the match eventually went their way.
I will be looking at situations in which teams were anywhere between five and nine wickets down. When a team is four wickets down, they still have two top batters batting. That's not normally the case when the fifth wicket falls.
It is a complex task identifying such recoveries. If I set the bar too low, I will have over 50 Tests for each of these situations. I might have to consider a team going from 15 for 5 to 150 all out as a great recovery, while considering 290 for 5 to 450 all out as a routine, run-of-the-mill situation. I might have to classify a team going from 200 for 9 to 300 all out as a terrific recovery, but not one going from 275 for 6 to 500. Through many trials and inspections, I have set my qualification criteria.
These are high bars that also allow around 10-20 Tests to be selected. These take care of both medium-score and low-score situations. The key metric is FS/RW, which I have referred to in all the tables. It is derived by dividing the Final team Score by the Runs at Wicket. If the score was 24 for 6 and the team reached 153, the FS/RW is 6.4 (153/24). If the score was 117/9 and the team reached 280, the FS/RW is 2.4 (280/117). By keeping the runs at the fall of the relevant wicket as the denominator, the horrors of 15 for 5 or 24 for 6 are accurately reflected.
First, a special process for fourth-innings wins by teams that recovered from difficult situations between five and nine wickets down. For this, the cut-offs are lower.
- seven/eight/nine wickets down: FS/RW >= 1.75 or FS/RW >= 1.5 and Runs >= 100
- six wickets down: FS/RW >= 2.0
- five wickets down: FS/RW >= 2.5
Onwards to the other criteria for selection.
- nine wickets down: FS/RW >= 1.5
- eight wickets down: FS/RW >= 2.0
- seven wickets down: FS/RW >= 2.75
- six wickets down: FS/RW >= 5.0 or 300-plus runs are added for the last four wickets
- five wickets down: FS/RW >= 7.5 or 400-plus runs are added for the last five wickets
There are two other general conditions for these five situations. In all cases, at least 100 runs should have been added for the last x wickets. Also, I will not consider any match with a score of 300-plus at the fall of any of these wickets. In those cases, the teams would already have reached a situation of some comfort. A move from 300 for 6 to 500 is not really a recovery; it is a consolidation.
An important point is that if a match qualifies for consideration under multiple wickets-lost categories, the worst situation (normally the situation where the highest number of wickets were lost) is taken. For instance, in the famous Indian win in Mohali in 2010, they were 76 for 5, 122 for 7, and 124 for 8 - all qualifying under the criteria set. So the situation of 124 for 8 is selected, since it's the worst of the lot.
The article is current up to and including the second Test between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in Chattogram.
Let us move on to recoveries where teams were between five and nine wickets down in the fourth innings but won. In the fourth innings, there are no comeback possibilities. The matches are ordered on FS/RW.
Fourth-innings wins after being down and out
Arguably the greatest such win has been placed first. It is an innings with a high FS/RW of 5.48. Set a formidable 263 to win at The Oval in 1902, England slipped to 48 for 5. Gilbert Jessop walked in then and his magnificent 104 enabled them to recover resoundingly. After Jessop was dismissed well short of the target, George Hirst, with his invaluable 58 not out, took them to an incredible win.
The next featured match is but a month old and still fresh in our memory. Let us tip our hats to Alex Carey, Mitch Marsh, Pat Cummins, and move on.
Then comes the famous win orchestrated by Brian Lara with his all-time-classic unbeaten 153 against Australia in Bridgetown in 1999. West Indies' nadir in that innings was 105 for 5.
The next match on the list is the Adam Gilchrist-Justin Langer show in Hobart a few months later: from 126 for 5 to 369 for 6 tells the story.
A couple of matches later comes the Kusal Perera classic in Durban in 2019, matching Lara's effort.
Among the matches featured later are the R Ashwin-Shreyas Iyer rescue from the brink in Mirpur in 2022; the one with the Glenn Phillips-Mitch Santner partnership at the same location a few months later; the last-ditch effort by Pakistan, driven by Wasim Akram, at Lord's in 1992; and the VVS Laxman-inspired cliffhanger in Mohali in 2010. I would put this Laxman innings on a pedestal, equal alongside his 281.
The list features two Pakistan recovery wins orchestrated by Inzamam-ul-Haq, in Multan in 2003 and in Karachi in 1994.
Recoveries after being nine wickets down
The team is one ball away from being dismissed and the senior batter left high and dry. A single taken by the senior batter off the fifth ball could spell disaster. It must be noted that, barring one exception, all the matches on the table below were drawn or lost.
The first game featured is the 2013 Ashes Test at Trent Bridge in 2013. From 117 for 9, Australia recovered to 280 thanks to a Phil Hughes-Ashton Agar partnership of 163, and took a useful lead, only to lose the match a couple of days later.
In 1980 at The Oval, England led by over 100 runs but slumped to 92 for 9 and were in danger of losing, only for Peter Willey to score a magnificent hundred, add over 100 runs for the tenth wicket (unbeaten), and save England. In Bridgetown in 1977, Pakistan fell to 158 for 9 after two matching first innings, and looked certain losers before Wasim Raja and Wasim Bari added over 130 runs. West Indies had to hang on for four overs at the end to save the Test.
At Eden Park in 1997, New Zealand, trailing by 131 runs, looked certain to lose, tottering at 142 for 9. Nathan Astle, while making a magnificent century, added over 100 runs in the company of Danny Morrison, who faced 133 balls, and the match was saved.
Joe Root's wonderful 154 saved England against India at Trent Bridge in 2014. In the company of Jimmy Anderson, who scored 81 runs, Root added a record 198 for the tenth wicket.
The only instance on the list of a team winning because of such a stand came way back in 1902. After two very low first-innings scores, Australia were reeling at 167 for 8 and 233 for 9. Clem Hill, Reggie Duff and Warwick Armstrong added 186 runs and set up an Australia win.
Memorable rallies after being eight wickets down
There is a significant difference between this scenario and nine wickets down. At least two batters are available. Granted, they could be Chris Martin (with a Test average of 2.36) and Ebadot Hossain (average 3.12) but the senior batter at the crease can plan his strategy with a tad more confidence.
At The Oval in 1967, Pakistan, faced with a 200-plus run deficit were 65 for 8 in their second innings when Asif Iqbal played one of the greatest late-order innings ever, of 146, and took them to 255. He added 190 for the ninth wicket with Intikhab Alam.
Recently South Africa, while chasing nearly 400 in Visakhapatnam, slumped to 70 for 8 and went on to achieve some degree of respectability, reaching 191 after Dane Piedt scored 56. In Dehradun the same year, Ireland disastrously slid to 69 for 8 on the opening day, but then, thanks to Tim Murtagh's 54, they recovered to 172. That all three teams still lost is of little consequence.
The only win appears next. In the 2019 Ashes series Australia were on the edge of the precipice at 122 for 8 on the opening day at Edgbaston. A vintage Steven Smith innings of 144, helped by Peter Siddle, took the score to 284 and Australia went on to register a huge win.
The first draw on the list came in 1998. South Africa were tottering at 166 for 8 against Pakistan on the opening day in Johannesburg. Pat Symcox, with a hundred, and Mark Boucher rallied the team to 364. The draw was mainly due to the last two days being washed out by rain.
At Lord's in 1975, Australia were 133 for 8 in response to 315 and were rescued to 268 by Ross Edwards and Dennis Lillee. Then it became a high-scoring draw.
Fightbacks after being seven wickets down
In the first of these matches, back in 1927 in Johannesburg, South Africa were on the brink at 38 for 7, batting with a deficit of 117 runs. Cyril Vincent and Shunter Coen rallied them to 170. But it must be said that this only avoided an innings defeat.
The next featured match is totally different. England dropped like a ton of bricks to 102 for 7 when Stuart Broad joined Jonathan Trott. Those two each then made 150-plus scores and added 332 runs for the eighth wicket. Pakistan were demoralised and lost by an innings and plenty.
In 1910, South Africa, already outplayed in the match, found themselves at 49 for 7 in Sydney and recovered to 174, only to be dismissed for 240 in the second innings and lose by an innings.
There are two other wins in this collection of Tests apart from the 2010 match. The first was England's recovery from 166 for 7 to 383 for 8 and then another partnership from 399 for 9 to 527, in 1966 against West Indies at The Oval. Tom Graveney and John Murray were the rescuers. West Indies, not helped by a first-ball-duck to Garry Sobers, lost by an innings.
The other win came in Adelaide in 1908. Australia, after conceding a lead of nearly 80, were floundering at 180 for 7. Clem Hill, scoring an invaluable 160, took them to safety at 506. England lost by a big margin.
Comebacks after being six wickets down
At six-down, you are likely to have century-making lower-order batters like R Ashwin or Daniel Vettori coming in with determined looks and broad bats. They are good to bat in both supporting and leading roles. Because of this, the bar gets moved still higher.
The first match in which a team found itself in such a situation and made their way to a win is a famous one. Pakistan played India at Eden Gardens in 1999, and batting first, they went down to the Karnataka pace-twins - Venkatesh Prasad and Javagal Srinath - and found themselves at 26 for 6. They then recovered to 185, through a masterful innings of 70 by Moin Khan. In their second innings Saeed Anwar played an all-time great innings of 188 and Pakistan won by 46 runs.
Thirty years earlier, a strong Australian team toured India and found themselves in a tough spot in the third innings in Madras, at 24 for 6, with Erapalli Prasanna and Mohinder Amarnath running riot. Despite the lead of 95, this was indeed a precarious position. They then recovered to 153 and managed to win the Test comfortably. These are the two Tests referenced in the headline of this article, which feature on this list of six-down situations.
When West Indies played in Galle in 2021, they were set a formidable 348 to win and were soon 18 for 6. The spectre of 26 all out loomed large. They recovered to 160 through Nkrumah Bonner and Joshua Da Silva, though they could not avert defeat.
In Port Elizabeth in 1992, India, after conceding a first-innings lead of 63, found themselves at 31 for 6 and an innings defeat beckoned. Kapil Dev played a Bat-100 classic of 129 and took them to 215. South Africa won comfortably but Kapil's innings will not be forgotten in a hurry.
In Lahore in 1955, Pakistan were floundering at 111 for 6 in response to New Zealand's 348. Waqar Hasan and Imtiaz Ahmed added over 300 runs, and aided by useful stands for the last three wickets, took the score to 561. Pakistan won with some difficulty.
Unexpected fightbacks after being five wickets down
When a team is five wickets down, they will likely have a top-order batter and an allrounder or a wicketkeeper at the crease. Many a time the team will be hoping for hundreds from these two supporting players. So the bar is raised to a much higher level.
In 2010, after two 400-plus innings in the Ahmedabad Test against New Zealand, India had a nightmare start against Chris Martin and slumped to 15 for 5. Laxman (91), first in the company of MS Dhoni (22) and then with Harbhajan Singh (115), took the score to 266 and India managed to draw the Test. The FS/RW for this innings was an astounding 17.7, the highest ever.
Mushfiqur Rahim (175), in the company of Liton Das (141), led the recovery from 24 for 5 to 341 in Mirpur in 2022, while Moin Khan (117) almost single-handedly moved the score from 15 for 5 to 212 in Sialkot in 1995. Both matches, against Sri Lanka, were lost.
In Colombo in 2016, Sri Lanka dropped like a stone to 26 for 5 against Australia. Dinesh Chandimal (132) and Dhananjay De Silva (129) took them to a match-winning total of 355. Australia responded well but failed against Rangana Herath in the last innings to lose by a wide margin.
A couple of other Australian away wins were orchestrated by Andrew Symonds (79 against West Indies in 2008) and Damien Martyn (89 against New Zealand in 2000) respectively.
I would be failing in my duty to readers if I do not make a special mention of arguably the greatest recovery of all of this kind. In Wellington, New Zealand started their second innings 246 runs behind and were down for the count at 94 for 5. Brendon McCullum, while scoring 302, added nearly 600 runs for the next three wickets and saved the home team. The FS/RW is 7.23. This is an unbelievable value since it is based on a high denominator of 94.
Among Tests not featured on the list here, India recovered from 6 for 5 to 98 in 1952 at The Oval.
Tests with multiple recoveries
I looked for any Test in which there were two such recoveries. However, the 80 recoveries featured in the tables above came in 80 different Tests. So there are no instances of multiple recoveries, based on the parameters set.
At the overall level, there was one such recovery per 32 Tests. Remember this as we look at the summary tables.
Qualifying performances analysed by team
Australia leads in such recoveries with 19 instances. England have 13, followed by New Zealand and Pakistan with 11 each. In terms of frequency of recoveries among teams with over 150 Tests, Pakistan are on top, followed by New Zealand and Australia . Historically, England, India and West Indies do not seem to recover that well from such situations. And let us give credit to Bangladesh for their four recoveries in not many Tests.
Qualifying performances analysed by period
The first period of Test cricket history, 1877 to 1939, is the best in terms of the frequency of recoveries. Maybe because the pitches were uncovered and the early wickets were often lost quickly. The current period of the last decade is not too far behind. Possibly because late-order batters take their batting seriously these days.
In the two periods from 1945 to 1985, there were only 13 qualifying performances, in no fewer than 733 Tests. Perhaps top orders in that phase did not fail all that often because of firm batting wickets, a risk-free approach, and relatively slow scoring.
What do I think is the greatest recovery of all time? I was oscillating between the Mohali miracle inspired by Laxman, the recent Carey-Marsh-Cummins show in Christchurch, the Basin Reserve save by McCullum, and the Oval steal by Jessop and Hirst. After a lot of deliberation, I have zeroed in on the McCullum match - from the absolute nadir of 94 for 5 to 680 for 8. Other than McCullum's magnificent 302, there were two other centurions, BJ Watling and Jimmy Neesham. The sheer scale of the recovery makes me lean towards this Test.
Readers could write in to me about any other Test that they feel would qualify. But only after ascertaining for themselves the reason why the concerned Test match has not been featured here.
Quirky stats
In each of my articles, I present a numerical/anecdotal outlier relating to Test and ODI cricket. This time I present a selection of quirky records relating to runs scored or conceded by teams, batters, and bowlers, in Tests and ODIs. (The answers cover all matches up to and including the Chattogram Test earlier this month.)
1. No Test batter has made a score of 229.
2. On the other hand, there are no fewer than 11,380 instance of Test batters scoring 0 (including not-outs); and 4520 of 1 run.
3. No Test bowler has conceded 198 runs in an innings.
4. For some reason Test bowlers have conceded nine runs in an innings 632 times.
5. The lowest score never made by a Test team in an innings is 18.
6. But 296 has been scored 44 times in an innings.
7. No ODI batter has scored 155 runs.
8. There have been 8408 ODI scores of 0 (including not-outs); and 5018 scores of 1 run.
9. The lowest figure that no bowler has conceded in an ODI innings is 109.
10. There have been 1425 instances of ODI bowlers conceding 38 runs in their spells.
11. In Tests, it is possible to have a fourth-innings target as low as, say, two runs. But not in ODIs. Keeping this in mind and knowing that the lowest completed ODI score is 35, I found that the score of 39 has never been achieved.
12. The ODI innings score of 211 has been reached no fewer than 78 times.
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Anantha Narayanan has written for ESPNcricinfo and CastrolCricket and worked with a number of companies on their cricket performance ratings-related systems