Greg Chappell, 1984
Chappell enjoyed a misty-eyed exit of Cook proportions and their two final innings had notable similarities. Like Cook, Chappell scored a century in his first and final Test – they are two of only five batsmen to achieve the feat – and he too benefitted from overthrows at a key moment in his innings, a wayward shy at the stumps from a Pakistani fielder taking him past Bradman to become Australia’s record run-scorer. He signed off at the SCG with 182, becoming only the sixth player to pass 7,000 Test runs.
Muttiah Muralitharan, 2010
Aged 38, the Sri Lankan spinner’s body was creaking as he played his 133rd and final Test but with a historic 800th wicket in his sights he dug deep for one final epic spell at Galle. Having taken five in the first innings, he needed three in the second to reach the landmark. The first two arrived quickly on the final day but as 23 wicket-less overs ticked by, and Indian wickets fell at the other end, hopes of a fairytale finish were fading until Pragyan Ojha prodded forward and edged to slip, sending the country into delirium.
Brendon McCullum, 2016
After a career punctuated by extraordinary deeds, the Kiwi skipper was never likely to exit the stage quietly. “I thought I’d go out swinging,” said McCullum after coming to the crease at 32-3 on a green Christchurch seamer and dispatching Australia’s quicks for a 54-ball hundred – the fastest in Test history. His seven sixes in the match also took him to a career tally of 107, surpassing Adam Gilchrist’s record.
Jacques Kallis, 2013
Kallis had gone more than a year without a Test century when he announced that the Durban Test against India would be his last but he defied his poor form to produce one last monumental effort, batting for nearly seven hours to register a 45th Test hundred and pass Rahul Dravid to become the third-highest run-scorer of all-time.
Brian Lara, 2007
West Indies’ World Cup campaign was already sunk by the time Lara walked out for his final international innings in a dead rubber against England, but the Bridgetown crowd were desperate for one last encore. Marlon Samuels had other ideas, pushing the ball to mid-on and calling Lara through for a single before changing his mind and leaving his captain stranded as Kevin Pietersen shied at the stumps, dismissing him for 18.
Don Bradman, 1948
The Don was not a man known for sentimentality but the great John Arlott wondered whether “you see the ball at all” when “the opposing side has stood around you and given you three cheers and the crowd has clapped you all the way to the wicket”. Whether or not a tear in the eye led Bradman to miss his second delivery from Eric Hollies is a moot point but his duck at The Oval left him with the immortal batting average of 99.94.
As the second Test between Pakistan and South Africa in Lahore drifted towards a draw, all eyes were on Inzi. He needed six runs in his final innings to surpass Javed Miandad as Pakistan’s all-time leading run-scorer and supporters had packed into the Gaddafi Stadium to witness him reach the milestone. But on 3, facing the left-arm spin of Paul Harris, he set off down the wicket, seemingly intoxicated by the wall of sound that surrounded him, aiming an ugly hoick at a delivery which he got nowhere near. Mark Boucher whipped off the bails to keep Miandad’s record intact.
Graeme Smith, 2014
A dozen years on from his Test debut, South Africa’s captain announced that his final match as an international cricketer would be against the same opposition – Australia – and at the same venue – Newlands – as his first. Nice symmetry, but the cricketing gods weren’t shining down on Smith: he edged behind for 5 in the first innings and only managed 3 in the second before being seen off by Mitchell Johnson for the ninth time in his Test career. Australia romped to a 245-run win, taking the No.1 ranking off the Proteas, to cap a limp end to a colossal career.
First published in issue 13 of Wisden Cricket Monthly