Scaling a target of 308 is some feat in Test cricket but doing it after being 248-8 and against two bowling giants, Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne, is the stuff of fantasy. Brian Lara materialised the dream as his enterprising innings earned West Indies a one-wicket victory and a special place in cricket history. Steve Waugh said it was the greatest match he had played in. Lara had scored 11 centuries prior to that, including 375 – the highest Test score at that time, but it was his undefeated 153 against the second greatest team to play the sport which established his status as a legend.
Australia were on a world record streak of 16 consecutive wins and had just routed India by 10 wickets in Mumbai. The seventeenth victory looked imminent when they enforced the follow-on in the second Test against India but VVS Laxman had other plans. He stood firm against the likes of McGrath and Warne and against all odds helped India to set a target of 384. Laxman’s 281, the highest India Test score at that time, was revolutionary in many ways. While it marked the third instance of team winning the Test after follow-on, “it also changed the cricket world’s perception of India.”
Laxman’s 281, the highest India Test score at that time, was revolutionary
That Sri Lanka is the only Asian team to win a series in South Africa is largely down to Kusal Perera’s heist in Durban. On a bouncy and turning wicket and against two esteemed fast bowlers Kagiso Rabada and Dale Steyn, Perera scored unbeaten 153 to chase a target of 304. The last 78 came in the tenth wicket partnership with Vishwa Fernando. No pair before had put that many runs for the last wicket to win a Test. According to Anantha Narayanan of ESPNCricinfo, it is the greatest innings in 142 years of Test history.
The Ashes does not get better than this. When Australia thought they were just a wicket away from retaining the Ashes, Ben Stokes batted like there was no tomorrow. With England 218 adrift in a chase of 359, Stokes came to crease in a Test mode. His first three runs took 73 balls. He steadied the innings in an ODI way and finally finished it off in a T20 style. The left-hander scored 74 off 45 balls in a 76 runs partnership for the last wicket with Jake Leach. The upshot was a historic one-wicket win for England and their highest successful chase ever.
It is tough being Kevin Pietersen. India found it out when his blistering 186 in Mumbai handed England a 10-wicket win and paved their way towards their first series win in India for 28 years. After winning the first Test in Ahmedabad, India put 327 on a challenging Wankhede surface in the first innings of the second Test. Pietersen countered India’s spinners with a great use of feet, sweeps and lofty shots. His 206 runs partnership with Alastair Cook took the game away from India, who were bundled out for 142 in their second innings.
Imagine conceding a hat-trick in the first over of the match and then being 39-6 with a series win on the line. That’s how Pakistan started the third and last Test against India in Karachi in 2006 but Kamran Akmal was unswayed. In one of the best counter-attacking innings played in cricket, Akmal drove the bowlers all around the National Stadium and had 115 runs partnership with Abdul Razzaq and 85 with Shoaib Akhtar to bring Pakistan back in the game. Akmal finished with 113 at a strike-rate of 76.35. Later, Mohammad Asif scythed through India’s top-order in both innings to hand Pakistan a famous series win.
Kamran Akmal was unswayed, driving the bowlers all around the National Stadium
In his second Test, Adam Gilchrist showed the world what he was capable of. He joined Justin Langer on the pitch with Australia five wickets down and 243 runs behind a target of 369. Gilchrist was up against one of the most lethal bowling attacks comprising Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Shoaib Akhtar and the wily spin of Saqlain Mushtaq. Not only did Gilchrist punish the bowlers with an unbeaten and match-winning 149, he did it at a strike rate of 91.41. It remains Australia’s second-highest successful chase in Tests.