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From Poirot’s sticky wicket to the Qadir nadir: The 15 worst collapses in Test cricket history

Collapses in Test cricket
Abhishek Mukherjee by Abhishek Mukherjee
@ovshake42 5 minute read

Australia lost their last nine wickets in 110 balls to concede the Delhi Test and the Border-Gavaskar Trophy to India. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at 15 other spectacular collapses in the history of men’s Test cricket.

While it is a game of five days (well, it is now), the course of a Test match can be altered in a single session, or perhaps two, as bowlers run amok. Sometimes a collapse can occur over the course of a day. And at times, an entire Test match can be one long procession.

Here is a look back at some of the most iconic collapses in the history of the format.


Oval 1882: A rivalry is born

Growing up, many of us have heard the story. Requiring a mere 85 to win the 1882 Oval Test, England seemed set for victory at 51-2, and even at 66-4, but Fred Spofforth (7-44) and Harry Boyle (3-19) eventually bowled them out for 77 in 55 four-ball overs in front of a packed, anxious Oval crowd, which included a man who gnawed through the handle of his umbrella.

“I left six men to get 32 runs,” WG Grace would later sigh. The collapse prompted Reginald Shirley Brooks of the Sporting Times to pen a mock obituary of “English cricket”, whose “body” would be cremated and “the ashes taken to Australia,” thus setting the tone for an international rivalry older than the modern Olympics.

Over 14 decades later, this remains the lowest successfully defended target in Test cricket.

Sydney 1894/95: A sobering experience

Following on, England had avoided an innings defeat, but could set Australia a target of only 177. Australia, 113-2 overnight, were on track… until it rained.

Yorkshire left-arm spinner Bobby Peel could be unplayable on wet wickets, but he had his problems with the bottle, and had a bit too much to drink that night. Now his teammates woke him up, and ‘Drewy’ Stoddart, his captain, put him under a cold shower.

It certainly worked, for Peel emerged with the words “give me the ball, Mr Stoddart, and I’ll get t’boogers out before loonch!”. Stoddart obliged, and Peel kept his word. England won by 10 runs.

Lord’s, 1934: Even Poirot is impressed

Throughout the 20th century (and a bit on either side of it), Australia lost only once at Lord’s; and that was because another Yorkshire left-arm spinner – the second on the list – decided to have a day out.

After bowling out England for 440, Australia were 192-2 at stumps on the second day. The Test match was over the next day – which took place after it rained on the rest day, for most of the Australians “had had no experience in England of such a pitch”.

Having taken a wicket on the second afternoon, Hedley Verity (7-61 and 8-43) claimed 14 of the 18 wickets to fall on the dramatic third day for 80 runs, including Don Bradman in each innings.

It even found way into the world of Hercule Poirot, though it must be mentioned here that the great Belgian got a couple of facts wrong.

Bridgetown, 1934/35: Things to declare

Some collapses from the era of uncovered wickets indeed seem remarkable today, but this was one where the collapse lasted the course of an entire Test match. England were 81-5 at stumps on day one – but that was after bowling out the West Indies for 102. Overnight rain left the pitch waterlogged, and then the sun baked it dry.

England declared on 81-7. Torn between maximising the target and getting England to bat as soon as possible, the West Indies declared on 51-6 on a pitch that was virtually unplayable by now. England, 48-6 at one point, scraped home without losing another wicket.

Old Trafford, 1952: Twice in a day

Fred Trueman was all over the Indians in his debut series, in the summer of 1952. Here, in the third Test match, England made 292-7 across two days of “cold, drab weather and showers” before declaring on 347-9 on the third morning.

Bowling with the wind, Trueman turned out to be too quick for the hapless Indians, who folded for 58 and 82 on the same day. Aided by excellent close catching, he finished the first innings with 8-31, which would remain his career-best figures, and got the first wicket in the second innings. Then he got a break, but Alec Bedser (5-27) and Tony Lock (4-36) prevented him from taking that elusive 10th wicket.

Auckland, 1954/55: Hutton’s prediction

After bowling out New Zealand for 200, England were 164-7 when Frank Tyson walked out to join his captain Len Hutton. “Stick around for a while, Frank, we may not have to bat again,” the great man predicted. Tyson was surprised he did what his captain had asked him to. He remained unbeaten on 27, stretching England’s lead to 46.

Led by Bob Appleyard (4-7) and Brian Statham (3-9), the England bowlers then shot out New Zealand for 26 – still the lowest total in Test cricket – in 27 overs of mayhem.

Headingley, 1981: A day of free Willis

With 6-95, 50, and 149 not out, Ian Botham had somehow kept England afloat even after they had followed on, but now they had to defend 130. So improbable was an England win that Ladbrokes had set the odds at 500-1, which seemed a valid prediction when Australia were 56-1.

Bob Willis had not been part of the original squad, and was a late addition. He had not even opened the bowling in the second innings. But when he did come on, he claim six quick wickets to reduce Australia to 75-8. Ray Bright and Dennis Lillee added 35 before Willis (8-43) bowled them out for 111 to seal a historic win.

Faisalabad, 1986/87: Qadir undoes West Indies

The West Indians did not lose a single series between 1975/76 and 1994/95, but they were challenged from time to time, particularly by Pakistan in the 1980s. The West Indies secured a lead of 89 runs here, but a young left-arm fast bowler established his batting abilities with an innings on 66, and the tourists were left to chase 240 in four sessions.

They got 43 in the first session – for the loss of nine wickets. They added another 10 the next morning. Bowling unchanged for 13 overs, Imran Khan took 4-30, but the wrecker-in-chief was Abdul Qadir, with 6-16. The highlight of the innings was an excellent diving catch by Ramiz Raja at short leg to dismiss Ramiz Raja.

SSC, 1992/93: Hollywood arrives

You do not lose after taking a 291-run lead in the first innings. You should not. Sri Lanka needed only 181 to win, and had as good as pocketed the Test match at 127-2 with almost 25 overs left. At this point, Aravinda de Silva, who had looked completely in control, tried to clear mid-on, only for Allan Border to take a spectacular catch.

That was all Greg Matthews (4-76) and Shane Warne (3-11, including a spell of 3-0 in 13 balls) needed to win the Test match. As Asanka Gurusinha watched in horror at the other end, Sri Lanka lost their last eight wickets for 37 runs in 17.4 overs.

Port-of-Spain, 1994: England run into Ambrose

Nearly three decades later, it seems almost unbelievable that England were favourites when they began their chase. Despite some resistance from the young Shivnarine Chanderpaul, 194 was all they needed.

But then it rained, which meant that only 15 overs remained in the day. It also meant that Curtly Ambrose (6-24) and Courtney Walsh (3-16) could come at full blast at the England batters. And come at full blast they did, bowling unchanged, to reduce England to 40-8 by stumps (Ambrose took six). Walsh took the last two wickets the morning after, and England were 46 all out.

Hamilton, 1999/00: Twenty wickets for 186

Perhaps the most bizarre collapse of them all. The tourists were on top after Adrian Griffith (114) and Sherwin Campbell (170) added 276 for the opening wicket in the first innings before they imploded for 365.

The score did not look too bad, especially after they bowled out New Zealand for 393, but now Chris Cairns ran through them with 7-27 to go with his 3-73 and 72. Having already lost their 10 wickets for 89 in the first innings, the West Indies did little better to get bowled out for 97 – and lose by nine wickets.

Lord’s, 2000: A curious quartet

The West Indies were 267-9 after the first day. After the second, England were 0-0  –  two full innings had taken place in between. England had been Curtly-and-Courtneyed for 134 in 48.2 overs, but even that paled when pitted against the West Indies collapse, of 54 in 26.4 overs. Darren Gough (2-17), Andy Caddick (5-16), and Dominic Cork (3-13) were the wreckers-in-chief.

Two matches later, Caddick would get 5-14 against them (including four wickets in the same over), but this was perhaps the more spectacular of the two collapses: for the first time in the history of Test cricket were all four innings played on the same day.

Cape Town, 2011/12: 47 all out

An even more dramatic four-innings-in-one-day Test match, where Michael Clarke’s 151 had helped Australia reach 284. Ryan Harris (4-33) and Shane Watson (5-17) bowled out South Africa for only 96. Australia were well ahead at this point – until they became 21-9 over the course of the next 70 balls before ‘recovering’ to 47.

Dale Steyn got 2-23 and Morne Morkel 3-9, but it was debutant Vernon Philander (5-15) who did most of the damage.

Trent Bridge, 2015: Broadway show

England were 13-0 when the first session ended – after Stuart Broad had routed Australia for 60. Bowling the first over in James Anderson’s absence, Broad took 19 balls (the joint-fewest in Test cricket) to reach his five-for. By the time he was done, he had 8-15.

The first of Broad’s eight wickets was perhaps the finest of them all. Bowling round the wicket, Broad brought it into the left-hander before moving it away: all Chris Rogers could do was edge to first slip.

Adelaide, 2020/21: The low of 36

It was 36-9, to be fair, which was a lot worse than 36 all out, because it ended in ruling out Mohammed Shami for the rest of the series. There have been only four lower totals in Test cricket and two other 36s, but none of them after New Zealand’s 26 mentioned above – this was the lowest since the lowest.

India did manage a 53-run lead, and even reached 15-1 in the second innings before Pat Cummins (4-21) and Josh Hazlewood (5-8) undid them. There was no double-digit score in the Indian card – a first, since South Africa’s 30 at Edgbaston in 1924 featured 11 extras.


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