From manipulating a match for a leather jacket to denying a demi-god a double, here’s a look at cricket’s most notorious declarations.
First published in 2012
10) Dravid denies Sachin
To deny Sachin Tendulkar the chance of a double century is close to treason in India, but that’s exactly what Rahul Dravid did against Pakistan in 2004. With India dominating the match at 675-5 in their first innings courtesy of a scintillating 309 from Virender Sehwag, Dravid called his batsmen in, leaving Tendulkar on 194*. It mattered not that India went on to record a comfortable innings victory; out came the effigies nonetheless.
9) Langer Lord’s it up
County Championship Division Two, 2007
Justin Langer’s nickname is ‘Alfie’, after an Aussie Rules player arrested for dancing in his underpants at a bar during a heavy night out. Arguably, if he had stripped off and done the same in the Long Room it wouldn’t have upset those at Lord’s as much as his first innings declaration did in 2007. With his side floundering on 50-8 as Middlesex ripped through them on a green pitch, Langer argued his ploy was designed to expose the hosts to the awkward conditions. But many disagreed, suggesting he declared to deny Middlesex a bonus bowling point. Whatever the reason, the hosts went on to record a seven-wicket victory in an ill-tempered match – minus that bonus point.
8) Hans in the till
Opposing captains are often praised for trying to force a result in rain-affected matches, so when Hansie Cronje offered Nasser Hussain the chance to do so in January 2000, it was seen as a victory for Test cricket. After both sides declared their first innings on 0-0, South Africa reached 248-8 in their second, before Cronje called his batsmen in. England chased down the modest total to record an unlikely two-wicket win, with Darren Gough hitting the winning runs. However, it later emerged that Cronje had accepted money (and a leather jacket) from a bookie to ensure there was a result in the match, leaving his reputation in tatters.
7) No Ather-ton for Hick
In the mid-Nineties, England’s cricketers were on a downer. But contriving to sabotage a positive position in an Ashes Test was some effort, even by their standards. After bowling Australia out for 116 to lead by 198 on first innings, captain Mike Atherton wanted quick runs to set the Aussies a stiff target and have time to bowl them out again. But irritated by Graeme Hick’s slow scoring – 36 runs in 80 minutes on the fourth afternoon – he declared with Hick just two runs shy of a maiden Ashes century. The match petered out into a draw, and Hick allegedly refused to speak to Athers for the remainder of the tour.
6) Sobering Defeat
The greatest all-rounder of all time was also something of a maverick when it came to captaincy. Known for his enterprising leadership, Sir Garfield Sobers would often make attacking declarations in order to force a result. With the fourth Test of the 1968 series meandering to a draw on the final day, and the West Indian batsmen showing little aggressive intent, Sobers declared on 92-2 believing it would be the last thing England would expect. While it certainly was unexpected, it also turned out to be misguided, as Geoffrey Boycott and Colin Cowdrey guided their side to a seven-wicket win. Sobers, of course, was unrepentant. Better to have a game than none at all, right?
“So there is no evidence to explain what happened that day, and yet from that first improbably uppish drive through the covers, something inexplicable, and magical, began to take shape.”
From the archives, 10 brilliant unexpected performances.https://t.co/4XBJhMYbcA
— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) July 26, 2020
5) Greenidge goes berserk
The second Test of the famous 1984 ‘Blackwash’ series, which saw the West Indies hammer England 5-0 on their own soil, was an entertaining affair. After seeing his side take a 41-run lead into their second innings, England captain David Gower made a rather conservative declaration on the final morning of the Lord’s Test with his side 300-9. Surely the West Indian batsmen couldn’t chase 341 in just over two sessions of play, could they? Unfortunately for the hosts, Gordon Greenidge had other ideas and smashed a brutal unbeaten double century – 214 from just 242 balls – to lead his side to a nine-wicket victory in just 66 overs. Worth 12 minutes…
4) Bedi’s Boycott
Bishen Bedi is famous for three things: colourful turbans, left-arm tweakers and hot-headedness. At Jamaica in 1976 in the deciding fourth Test, India’s captain was so appalled by what he perceived to be intimidatory bowling and biased umpiring that he decided enough was enough. And so with India five wickets down in their second innings and just 12 runs to the good, he refused to let his lower-order go out to face the music, effectively conceding the match in protest. After its completion, Bedi released a statement insisting that his team’s innings should be considered ‘complete’ and that the five ‘retired hurt’ absent batsmen were all legitimately unable to bat. That was his story, and he was sticking to it.
3) Gubby gets it wrong
Victories in the first two Test matches of the series left Sir Gubby Allen’s England side needing a win in the third Test to reclaim the Ashes. Batting first, the Australians made a respectable 200-9 in bowler-friendly conditions, which looked a good score when England found themselves 76-9 on day two. Gubby declared, believing they could grab some quick wickets in the testing conditions, but to counter this the hosts sent in four (four!) nightwatchmen. A rest day followed and the weather improved, leaving regular openers Jack Fingleton and Don Bradman – batting at numbers six and seven – to smash 136 and 270 respectively as Australia wrapped up a comfortable victory.
2) Fred’s fall
Brace yourselves. This one still hurts. England have fought back stirringly from their Brisbane defeat. At Adelaide in the second match of the 06/07 Ashes, Kevin Pietersen makes his customary 158 and Paul Collingwood a career-best double. Towards the end of the second day Australia are ragged. Flintoff himself is opening his shoulders, 38 not out. Another hour of merriment will extinguish any lingering hope of a freakish turnaround and an Australian win. But Fred wants to win, to be ‘pro-active’, and so he closes those shoulders and calls himself and Ashley Giles in. When Justin Langer nicks off just before the close, the decision looks sound. But the following morning, when Giles drops Ricky Ponting at deep square leg – the wicket would have reduced Australia to 88-4 – a dreadful feeling takes over. Ponting is reprieved, just as his team had been the previous night, and Flintoff is about to discover the consequences of letting a great team off the hook.
1) Nothing to declare
B&H Cup, New Road, 1979
Somerset need to avoid a heavy defeat to qualify for the quarter-finals of the Benson & Hedges Cup. Their skipper, Brian Rose, wins the toss and elects to bat. His openers walk out. They face an over. They score a run. Then he calls them back in again. Worcestershire take 10 balls to chase the two runs to win (steady away lads!). The game is over in 18 minutes, including the 10-minute break between innings. Most of the spectators haven’t even taken their seats before the game was over. Rose is heckled ferociously as he leaves the ground, and Somerset are booted out of the competition. And what of Rose? “I had no alternative,” he said.
First published in 2012