Before Ben Stokes and Kusal Perera combined with the No.11s to produce the most thrilling of heists in 2019, there were plenty of other last-wicket stands in years gone by that captured the imagination. Phil Walker and Steve Coleman take us through the best of the lot.
First published in 2010
10. Andrew Flintoff & Simon Jones
England v Australia
Second Test, Edgbaston 2005
A 99-run first innings lead was being squandered by a nervy England, but from the debris of 131-9 one man stood ramrod straight. With Simon Jones for company and a throbbing shoulder, Flintoff got to work. First scratchily through third man, and then through the off side until, raucously, the “Hello MASSIVE!” six over long on, followed up by a four and another maximum. All the while, Jones blocked for his life, surviving at least one hilariously stone-dead leg-before and occasionally bunting the ball through the covers. The pair put on 51 in 45 balls. Those runs turned out to be rather important in English cricket history.
9. Inzamam-ul-Haq & Mushtaq Ahmed
Pakistan v Australia
First Test, Karachi 1994
Batting down at eight on a raging turner against a boy named Warne, a hunched enigma held firm. Inzamam-ul-Haq, World Cup star, had yet to get to grips with Test cricket. But here at Karachi, in the best match Dickie Bird says he ever stood in, he would find out what it was all about. Fifty-six runs were still required to scalp the mighty Australia when Mushtaq Ahmed joined him at the crease, but the pair nudged and pushed and tickled, ticking them off one by one, until only three were needed. Inzamam was one hit away from causing a sensation. Sensing this, Warne left mid-wicket open. Waltzing straight into the trap, Inzamam came down the track as the ball spun between bat and pad. He turned round to see the stumps broken… by Ian Healy’s boot, after the furious keeper had let the ball slip through for four byes. Pakistan had won by one wicket, and it was good enough to take the series 1-0.
8. Nick Knight & Alan Richardson
Warwickshire v Hampshire
County Championship, Edgbaston, 2002
Number 11 staple Alan Richardson made 806 runs in 121 first-class innings. Somehow, he made almost an eighth of those in an innings where nobody else bar Nick Knight passed 22. The left-handed opener turned pundit may have ended up with a sensational and unbeaten 255 at the other end, but Richardson was no support act. In no time he had passed his previous highest score (a monumental 17), before hitting 10 fours and a six on his way to 91. Only when the partnership had reached 214 in a little over four hours – one of 11 200-plus last-wicket stands in history – did he finally make a mistake, tempted down the track to be stumped off the bowling of part-timer Giles White. The match was a draw, Richardson never got near to passing 50 again, and White never took another first-class wicket.
7. Larry Gomes & Malcolm Marshall
England v West Indies
Fourth Test, Headingley, 1984
An Orwellian nightmare of a summer for England, oppressed 5-0 against Big Bird’s big little brothers and humiliated in the extreme by that pocket genius Malcolm Denzil Marshall, pre-eminent fast bowler of the Eighties. At Headingley, England foolishly thought they’d got away with it when Marshall broke his thumb fielding in England’s first innings. But with the Windies nine down in their second innings, out strode Maco, left arm encased in plaster, right hand holding a bat, to ferry Larry Gomes, surely the coolest white-suited Cuban jazz stylist lookalike ever to bat three for any team, to his hundred. Marshall even hit a one-handed four, to really take the mick. It was almost the final slap for England’s bedraggled triers; almost, but not quite. Marshall’s one workable hand was still plenty good enough to grab the ball and take seven English wickets in their desperate final innings.
6. Monty Panesar & Jimmy Anderson
England v Australia
First Test, Cardiff 2009
Given 11.3 overs to survive with one wicket left and the nation in bits, it just had to be Monty. A full 37 minutes of arse-nipping agony later, he and Jimmy Anderson left the pitch having prodded and poked their way to a wonderfully implausible draw. The big moment came when Anderson angled consecutive balls to the third man boundary to drag England past Australia’s monumental score. Meanwhile, Panesar blocked and evaded like the doughty opening batsman we all knew him really to be. As great escapes go (England lost 19 wickets in the match to Australia’s six!), it was up with the best. A week later England pasted them at Lord’s…
5. Brian Lara & Courtney Walsh
West Indies v Australia
Third Test, Barbados 1999
Chasing 311 against the Australians in one of the great Test matches, when Curtly Ambrose was ninth out with six still required every heart in the Caribbean sank. At least Lara was still there. In came Courtney Walsh, the world’s funniest batsman, to survive five balls from Glenn McGrath. If he was nervous, it certainly didn’t show in his magnificently leggy forward defensive shot (think an Edinburgh street act in pads and gloves). Courtney cuffed all that McGrath could throw at him, leaving Lara to edge a catch to Warne at slip (dropped) and then smash the next ball off Gillespie through the covers to complete a match-winning, genius-soaked 153*.
4. Brett Lee & Michael Kasprowicz
England v Australia
Second Test, Edgbaston 2005
The final morning of the greatest match begins with England all set for victory, but inwardly we’re scared, very scared. We know deep down that such an extraordinary match will have to produce an extraordinary finale. Just two wickets needed, but this is Australia. And how quickly the true emotions – fear, sickness, disbelief – come to the surface. Catches go down, Chinese cuts elude leg stump, thick edges trickle for four; each shot sending the Brum crowd into meltdown. Brett Lee has been battered, thumped, cut and sconned, but there he stands, unbreakable, just like his partner, the last man Kasprowicz. They have stood tall through 59 of the 62 runs needed. We are all feeling sick. They’ve blown it. Here it is then. Three to win. Unbelievable. A knackered Harmison runs in one last time…
“Jones…Bowden…Kasprowicz the man to go!”
Never. Gets. Old.
— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) May 10, 2020
3. Alan Kippax & Hal Hooker
Victoria v New South Wales
Sheffield Shield, Melbourne 1928
At 113-9 in response to Victoria’s 376, New South Wales would have been hoping that Alan Kippax and Hal Hooker might chip away up to 150. While Kippax was an international batsman, Hooker was a confirmed rabbit who batted 11 for his club side. More than five hours later, the innings closed on 420, the pair having put on a ridiculous 307. That Kippax made 260* was astonishing enough, but the bigger story was Hooker’s 304-minute 62. He hit just three boundaries, and did not offer a single chance until his dismissal. It was a feat made all the sweeter for, when Hooker strolled to the crease, the Victoria keeper had chuckled, “Have a go, Hal, the bowling’s easy.” Sometimes it’s best to keep a lid on it.
2. Viv Richards & Michael Holding
England v West Indies,
First ODI, Old Trafford 1984
The West Indies were in a rare mess when Michael Holding moseyed out to join the great man at Old Trafford in 1984. At 166-9, England were in danger of competing with the Carib Boys, but the genius in the Rasta band was still there, and Holding’s appearance was Viv’s cue to get dancing. One by one, England’s seamers were hoisted out of the park. One good-length delivery from Bob Willis sailed into the top tier. Botham and Foster went north and long, and at the end of each over Holding would stroll up the middle of the pitch, flash that diamond grin and rap his man on the knuckles: slaughter with a smile. The fast bowler’s personal contribution was 12 from 27 balls in a partnership of 106. Richards finished with 189* from 170 balls. Viv used to do this a lot to England, but never quite like this.
1. Nathan Astle and Chris Cairns
New Zealand v England
First Test, Christchurch 2002
The number 11 slot is traditionally the domain of the problematic bowler with a tricky past (binge drinker/cad/left-arm spinner etc). But every so often a real batsman will injure himself during a match and have to limp out at last drop. He will have murder in his eyes and be feeling dangerous. Meanwhile, resting on his bat at the other end, the last not-out batsman will stir, and hold back comradely tears.
When the injured Chris Cairns hobbled out to join Nathan Astle at Christchurch in 2002 England were already feeling spooked. Astle was behaving oddly. He had already smashed a wild hundred from 114 balls as New Zealand pursued a seemingly pointless 550 target, but when the ninth wicket had fallen they were still 217 runs short, and that should have been that. Except Cairns could play. The drop-in pitch had gone completely dead and two monstrous hitters were ominously together.
Unleashed by Cairns, Astle went ballistic. His second hundred came up in a 69-minute blaze of whirling arms, mows and golf-swing bunts. England were scared witless. Two overs from Matthew Hoggard went for 41; three from Andy Caddick reaped 45. It was carnage. Cairns had been out there for 55 minutes, during which time the pair had circumspectly mullered 118 off their target. One more hour, just one more hour.
The target had just dropped under 100 when the fateful moment came. The 93rd over was to be bowled by Hoggard (24-5-136-0), and while it was inevitable that Astle would launch his eleventh six from the first ball to go to 222, few saw what was coming from the third, for The Persevering Hoggard (to give him his full name) had had a sudden and powerful epiphany: the slower ball. Astle was through with his shot, the ball spooned high in the air, and suddenly it was done, over: the greatest run-chase that never was.
First published in 2010