Phil Walker and Vithushan Ehantharajah run through some forgotten gems – the greatest innings to have been missed, overshadowed or unremembered.
First published in 2014
10) Jones helps Fred
Simon Jones: 12*, England v Australia, 2nd Test, Edgbaston, 2005
When a game is won by a handful of runs, we inevitably look to extras, untaken singles and fumbles in the field for our “what if” pub chats. When Edgbaston 2005 comes up – not often enough if you ask us – few acknowledge the role of Simon Jones, other than a shelled catch at third man as the game entered its thrilling conclusion. Warne had just claimed his fourth and fifth wickets of the innings when Jones joined Andrew Flintoff on 131-9, with England looking to set Australia a tricky fourth-innings target. Jones negotiated the hat-trick ball (hitting the following ball for four!) and went on to score 12 of a last-wicket stand of 51, giving the visitors a 282-run target. Correct us if we’re wrong, but we don’t think they quite reached that…
9) The Old ones are the best
Chris Old: 29, England v Australia, 3rd Test, Headingley, 1981
There are lots of things everyone remembers about Headingley ’81. Brearley’s return, Botham’s 149*, his jumper and his cigar, bustlin’ Bob’s 8-43, the young blond Dilley’s dashing maiden half-century (56). But equally crucial on that legendary fourth evening when England built an unlikely but ultimately telling lead was the second support act offered by Yorkshire quick Chris Old, whose 29 from No.10 came in a partnership of 67 alongside Sir Beef. Old was primarily a bloody good bowler, but also made six first-class hundreds, fielded in the slips, captained his county, and, one cloudy afternoon in July on his home ground, played his own vital part in English cricket’s greatest folk tale.
8) Slings and arrows
Thilan Samaraweera: 214, Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Lahore, 2009
The second match of this Test series at the Gaddafi Stadium marks the last time Pakistan played cricket in front of a home crowd. As the Sri Lankan team made their way to the ground for the third day, their bus came under fire. Of the players to be injured, Thilan Samaraweera came off worst as a bullet penetrated 12 inches into his left thigh. Less than 24 hours earlier, he was out in the middle celebrating a well-constructed double ton, having also scored 231 in the previous match at Karachi. Runs were now a moot point, as Samaraweera spent the next three months wondering whether he would recover, physically and mentally, for a return to professional sport. Three months later, he made his 50th Test appearance and went on to pass 1,000 runs for the calendar year for the first time in his career.
7) The King of Spain’s ascension
Ashley Giles: 59, England v Australia, 5th Test, The Oval, 2005
Maligned for his un-athletic demeanour and over-the-wicket negativity, Gilo became “Our Gilo” in 2005. After that ball to Damien Martyn and hitting the winning runs at Trent Bridge to put England 2-1 up, he continued his understated series in the final Test, bopping to the crease with England seven down in the second innings – nursing a lead of 205 – just as Kevin Pietersen had primed his canvas ahead of his first masterpiece. Gilo dotted and nurdled in an invaluable 109-run partnership, as KP stunned and wowed, before he brought up his half-century with back-to-back fours off Glenn McGrath once KP had departed. He then raised his bat with the awkward satisfaction of a lovestruck teen that only made you love him more.
6) If the Gaffer made a ton in an empty stadium, did it really happen?
Alec Stewart: 123, England v Sri Lanka, 3rd Test, Old Trafford, 2002
When, as a much-loved veteran, you stroke your way to a classy 123 from 190 balls to see your side to upwards of 500 in the first dig, you’d generally expect a decent reception. But when Stewie passed three figures on the third morning in Manchester, there was barely a soul there to see it. They’d all poured out from their seats to catch the early kick-off of England’s footballers’ second round World Cup tie against Denmark in Japan. Shame really, as it was a classic from the Gaffer, who took four balls going from 86 to 102 with four crunching boundaries. It evoked memories of Old Trafford in 1998, when Robert Croft and Angus Fraser took the plaudits for a dramatic draw against South Africa, after captain Stewart had made a brilliant and crucial 164 earlier in the day.
5) King’s at Lord’s
Collis King: 86, England v West Indies, World Cup Final, Lord’s, 1979
With his glazed eyes and long handle, Collis King loped out to join Viv with the Windies in trouble. England had knocked four away for 99 when King joined the king. The great man himself was struggling as England’s schemers Hendrick, Botham and Old applied the strangle. It needed Collis to let loose and when Boycott came on, round the wicket with his cap on, looking to dob it on a length, he went postal, peppering the tavern with proto-IPL disregard for the occasion and the boundary rope. Viv relaxed, and when Collis departed, his 86 from 66 changing the complexion of the match, the master took over on his way to 138*. Collis sloped off soon after, rarely playing again for the West Indies, while England have still never won a World Cup…
4) De Silva supported by the Guru
Asanka Gurusinha: 65*, Sri Lanka v Australia, World Cup Final, Lahore, 1996
For Sri Lankans, “de Silva” and “’96” hold the same reverence as “Hurst” and “’66”. While de Silva, rightly, takes the plaudits for an astonishing knock that brought history and a sense of purpose to a war-ravaged island, he owes much to No.3 batsman Gurusinha, whose classy, attacking approach countered the early loss of the fellow left-handers Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana. That his contribution is often overlooked may have something to do with his career post-World Cup. At the end of the year, he turned his back on Sri Lankan cricket to accept a three-year contract from the North Melbourne Cricket Club. He has lived in Australia ever since, giving up the game altogether after six seasons on the club scene. He now works as a sales manager.
3) Some Pring Special
Derek Pringle: 27, England v West Indies, 1st Test, Headingley, 1991
In his light blue lid, XXL sweater and toothpick Duncan Fearnley bat, Suggs stood whimsically resolute at the other end as Graham Gooch – his teammate for England and Essex – took on the might of Marshall and his pack. It was dark at Headingley, the clouds dank with the weight of history – England had not won a home Test against the West Indies since 1969. Gooch was on course to play one of Test cricket’s great innings, an authentic annals-botherer, carrying his SS for 154* from 252 all out. But without Pring’s weirdly impudent and utterly English 27 from a partnership of 98 for the seventh wicket, the legend of Leeds and the grandeur of Gooch would never have come to pass.
2) Mo’s masterpiece
Mohammad Azharuddin: 121, England v India, 1st Test, Lord’s, 1990
The monstrous heft of Gooch’s throbbing triple dominated the patrons of NW8 to such a terrifying extent that what followed felt like a back alley peep show compared to the captain’s Last Night at the Proms, but in truth his opposite number, in his olive green helmet and dangling necklace, all wrists and feet and Pacino shrugs, played the game’s truly masterful knock. Azharuddin, India’s captain, leant back to crash half volleys off the back foot, whipped short wide ones through square leg and climbed into the 41-year-old Eddie Hemmings with a chutzpah rarely seen at Lord’s. His 88-ball hundred lit up the Saturday, before nice guy Eddie got his man with a ripper through the gate. One of the great lost innings at HQ; Gooch may have taken the title, but Azhar got the girl.
1) Stan the man beats Bodyline
Stan McCabe: 187*, Australia v England, 1st Test, SCG, 1932
In the most famous series of all, dashing 22-year-old Aussie strokemaker Stan McCabe made a miraculous early impression. The Don wasn’t playing the first Test, but McCabe’s 187 at Sydney was a masterpiece that quickly got buried under all the Bodyline bolshiness. It has been scandalously consigned to the margins ever since, pushed out by Bradman-mania and the creeping mythologising of Jardine and his serf attack dog, the searingly quick Harold Larwood. It’s a shame that the cult of personality wins out over a wiry man with glistening cheekbones and sunken eyes who can play one of Test cricket’s greatest and bravest innings and be largely forgotten about because he’s not a readymade icon. But Stan’s the man as far as we’re concerned.
First published in 2014