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Feature

Whispering Death and the miracle in Barbados

We asked you to pick out the greatest Test you had ever seen (or one you wished you had), and the responses ranged from the predictable to the not-so

Cricinfo staff
16-Aug-2005
After our correspondents, it's your turn, and the entries have been coming in about as quick as a Shoaib Akhtar special. We asked you to pick out the greatest Test you had ever seen (or one you wished you had), and the responses ranged from the predictable (Kolkata 2001, Headingley 1981, Bridgetown 1999) to the not-so (The Oval 1976). Over the next week, we shall publish the best entries we receive, starting with this set. Entertaining cameos, rather than Chris Tavare marathons, are easier on the eye. We welcome you to pick your own greatest Test and send us a paragraph on it.


The bowler's Holding, the stumps are flying © Getty Images
Viv and Mikey make Greig grovel
Roger Enock on The Oval 1976
Memorable for many quite different reasons, this was the summer of the great drought, Viv Richards' first tour to the UK and the beginning of the new-look West Indies side - Greenidge, Holding, and Lloyd as captain. Tony Greig had said before the series that England were going to make them grovel, and how wrong he was. This match had everything, and more. West Indies batted first and scored a mountain of runs, with Richards imperious, Bradmanesque, in scoring 291, making it 892 runs in four Tests that summer. Four consecutive century partnerships. England's Dennis Amiss was making his comeback with an entirely new technique of playing fast bowling - moving back and across the stumps as the ball was being bowled. It worked, as he too scored a double hundred. England's 440 was not enough to save the follow-on but West Indies decided to bat again and Greenidge and Fredericks massacred the bowling for two hours, putting on 182 for no wicket. It was during this partnership that Greig got onto his hands and knees and grovelled in front of the West Indian spectators, who went wild, this being back in the day when The Oval was really a home game for them. The match was heading for a draw until Michael "Whispering Death" Holding produced probably the best fast-bowling perfomance of all time to skittle England out on the fifth day and take eight wickets - 14 in all during the Test, and all but two bowled or lbw. All this on a flat track with sheer speed the key. There were pitch invasions, and non-stop sunshine.
Botham rocks Headingley
Mark Halliwell on Leeds 1981
As a 15-year-old at the time, I remember being at school, but lessons were secondary. I was sat at the back of each lesson, wearing a surreptitious earpiece, following the match, rather than bothering with maths, science and French. On the final day, we had a games lesson, but instead of being marched out to our school's decrepit cricket nets to try manfully to impersonate Botham, Gower, Hughes and Border, we were marched into the school hall and watched the match on TV. The games master later admitted that he wanted to watch the game rather than watch our pathetic cricketing attempts, and we actually stayed there for the rest of the afternoon, not bothering that the bell went and we should have been in a geography lesson learning about rocks. Watching Bob Willis destroy the Aussies for 111 to win the game by 18 runs was mindblowing. We were cheering so loud that the crowd in that hall in a Cheltenham comprehensive school grew and grew. By the end, the head and half the staff were there with us. It was amazing, and that memory has stayed with me. Watching the Tests at Edgbaston and Old Trafford recently has made me wonder if those scenes were repeated in more school halls. I hope so, as Headingley '81 cemented my love of cricket, and I hope that Ashes 2005 is doing the same for more children aged 15 and below.
Genius thwarts Australian might
Romel Ollivierre on Bridgetown 1999


Irresistable force meets immovable object © Getty Images
In order to understand fully the greatness of this Bridgetown drama one must first understand the disastrous condition of West Indies Cricket at the time. The boys had just returned from a nasty 5-0 licking in South Africa and just did not seem to be able to put up a challenge against your local primary school under-15s, leave alone mighty Austraila. The Caribbean people wanted Brian Lara's head, but because there really was no one else to take the mantle, the selectors reappointed him captain. The entire team was on "two-Test probation". The first went as expected as the West Indies were bowled out for a record low of 51, but the genius of Lara emerged in the second Test as his 213 ensured an amazing 10-wicket win in Jamaica. Nothing prepared the cricketing world for the drama to follow. The third test was one of the greatest battles the cricketing world has ever seen. Amazing performances abounded, with heroic knights fighting for the supremacy of their kingdom. Steve Waugh's brave 199 was ably supported by Ricky Ponting's 104. Then Sherwin Campbell's 105 still left the Windies 161 behind at the end of the first innings. It was Ambrose and Walsh who gave us a semblance of a chance bowling the Aussies out for 146, leaving an improbable 308 to win. Enter Lara. The man whom everyone wanted out of cricket a few weeks earlier mastered the mighty Shane Warne, a nasty McGrath and an unplayable Gillespie. I remember the drama when he was hit on the head by a nasty McGrath bouncer - the two icons had to be separated by the umpires - and the sound of the next ball as it crashed into the midwicket boundary. When Lara truck the winning four to the cover fence to carry him to 153, he was proclaimed by Tony Cozier as the "Prodigal son turned Messiah". The last 63 runs came with Ambrose and Walsh at the wicket.
The birth of the juggernaut
Tony Ogden on Hobart 1999
The previous Test at Brisbane had seen the debut of Adam Gilchrist, replacing Ian Healy in front of Healy's home crowd. His whirlwind innings of 81 off 88 balls was over before anyone even had a chance to think about a century on debut; the one-off innings of a one-day slogger, some thought. Now in Hobart, the Australians were in trouble. Halfway through the second day, they were cruising at 1 for 190 in reply to Pakistan's 222, when an inspired spell from Saqlain Mushtaq saw the last nine wickets fall for 56. Pakistan's second innings declaration put the heat right on the Aussies; 369 to win in a day and a half. At the time, it would have been the third-highest fourth-innings score to win a Test match. At 5 for 126 an hour after tea on the fourth day, it wasn't looking too promising. Justin Langer greeted Gilchrist with a philosophical, "You never know what can happen". At stumps, Gilchrist had scored 45 of the 62 added that evening. The next day, the pair completed a 238-run partnership to win the game. Gilchrist, 149 not out, went from 50 to his first Test century in 38 balls. Langer scored 127 - as always, the understudy, but underrated. The expectations at the start of the final day had been minimal; as the partnership continued to not just resist, but to take on an attack of Wasim, Waqar, Shoaib, and Saqlain, radios and TVs across the country became the focus of rapt attention. A very special talent had arrived, and a player of great character had helped him get there. Although Australia's sixteen-match winning streak had begun two Tests before, in Zimbabwe, this was the one that really kick-started the feeling of invincibility. After winning from here, they could win from anywhere. A juggernaut was born.
A Tendulkar epic and Saqlain's doosra
Kamran Hasan on Chennai 1999


Saqlain acknowledges the triumph in his distinctive way © Getty Images
Saqlain Mushtaq's wizardry with the ball enabled Pakistan to win what could possibly be described as one of the greatest Test matches in the subcontinent's own version of the Ashes. Indian cricket supporters will forever wince in pain at the memory of Tendulkar stepping out to Saqlain and holing out to Wasim Akram in the second innings with just 17 runs required for victory. It all began with Pakistan scoring a modest 238 in the first innings. India replied with 254. Shahid Afridi scored his maiden century as Pakistan scored 286 in their second dig, setting India a target of 271 for victory. With wickets falling like ninepins all around him, Tendulkar played one of his greatest innings, defying both the probing pace and the spin of the Pakistani bowlers. He eventually succumbed to back pain and the wiles of Saqlain in his prime, with India at the doorstep of a monumental victory. The legend of the 'doosra' was born.
We welcome you to pick your own greatest Test and send us a paragraph on it. The best written entries will win either of these DVDS: India v Aus 2001, Edgbaston 2005 or Botham's Ashes, 1981.