Scoring in a Test match in itself is a Herculean challenge. The challenge manifolds itself by leaps and bounds when you are scoring in the second innings because of a certain shape that the match has already molded itself in.
Yet there are icons of the sport who scores for fun and then there are cricketers whose desperate dive for a victory ends abruptly due to the Spartan ask that surrounds him or her.
In today’s story, we will be taking a look at five cricketers who tried desperately with a heroic swing of the bat and yet failed to take their team past the winning line, either due to the incompetency of their bowlers or the incredulous situations that were already rooted in the core of the match.
This will be a tale of the five highest scorers in the second innings, but those avenues went down in history as the last flail of the blade in a losing cause.
1. Nathan Astle – 222 versus England, 2002
This was arguably the best knock in a run-chase that couldn’t produce anything fruitful for the Black Caps. Pitted against England, the New Zealand bowlers were superb in the first innings. They were successful in restricting the English batting with a paltry 228. A combined effort from Chris Cairns, Chris Drum, Ian Butler and Nathan Astle ravaged the visitors.
However, what was to follow was way worse as New Zealand was bundled out for a questionable 147. Daniel Vettori and Craig McMillan tried to stitch together some resistance, but it wasn’t enough to bail something significant for themselves.
The match changed on its head in the second innings, as from a low-scoring thriller it suddenly shifted to a run-fest. Graham Thorpe and Andrew Flintoff conjured magical knocks to surge England to 468 with Thorpe blasting a double-century. Ian Butler was the pick of the Kiwi bowling line-up with three crucial scalps.
Mark Richardson fired the hosts to a decent start, but lacked support from another end as wickets started falling way too early. Stephen Fleming held the anchor at one end while Richardson continued the assault. Once Richardson was removed, Fleming partnered with Astle. Astle played a phenomenal knock single-handedly as there was absolutely zero support from the other end. Cashing 550, he propelled New Zealand to 451 but couldn’t cross that winning line.
2. Andy Flower – 199 versus South Africa, 2001
This was the opening Test of South Africa’s tour of Zimbabwe and the visitors were off to a rollicking start, thanks to three boisterous knocks from Herschelle Gibbs, Jacques Kallis and Gary Kirsten. Neil McKenzie and Lance Klusener were at the crease when the declaration came at 600.
The hosts were jolted to a rude awakening when the top order barring Dion Ebrahim was removed in no time. Flower arrived at the crease and stitched a sedulous partnership with the opener, only for their efforts to be snuffed out after some moderate resistance.
A late hurl by Travis Friend helped Zimbabwe cross 286 in the opening innings before they were skittled out. Andre Nel was the pick of the South African bowlers as he claimed four scalps to set Zimbabwe on a charted course of follow-on.
Despite being asked to follow on, nothing changed at all for the hosts as Pollock and Kallis gave South Africa an early advantage by taking three early wickets. Flower arrived at the crease and joined forces with Hamilton Masakadza and kept on fighting until the very end.
He stayed unbeaten on 199 when Douglas Hondo was dismissed by Andre Nel, putting an end to the Zimbabwean resistance and also the hopes of a double century for Flower.
3. Kumara Sangakkara – 192 versus Australia, 2007
Bowling first, despite prising out a couple of early successes for Sri Lanka, the bowlers couldn’t keep the pressure and a couple of boisterous knocks from Phil Jacques and Michael Hussey emancipated the hosts from the manacles that were imposed early.
Michael Clarke, Adam Gilchrist and Andrew Symonds joined the party late and blasted quickfire scores to set Australia in the driver’s seat. Dilhara Fernando was the pick of the lot with a couple of wickets.
Sri Lanka was exposed to early pressure as Marvan Atapattu and Micahel Vandort embarked upon a long walk to the pavilion in very short succession. Jayawardene and Sangakkara lingered around for a long time to stoke the Lankan hopes, but Brett Lee destroyed whatever remaining beliefs they had.
Australia was once again off to a fiery start in the second innings and fired a blitzkrieg to attain 210 for the loss of 3 and then declared for Sri Lanka to chase 507 runs.
Startling the hosts, Sri Lanka proved to be much equal to the task, this time Atapattu was off to a blinder. He and Sangakkara stitched together a 143 run stand for the second wicket partnership.
Sanath Jayasuriya arrived late at the party and hammered a brilliant 45 to help Sangakkara continue with his brilliance. However, once Jayasuriya was removed, things started seeming bleaker for the Lankans.
A late surge of magnificence from Lasith Malinga threatened to take away the game from Australia, but once again surprisingly it was Kumara Sangakkara who got dismissed for 192 and the Sri Lankan hopes about claiming a remarkable victory fell short.
4. Vinoo Mankad – 184 versus England, 1952
India was in its nascence when this Test match was played. They were still to taste their first victory in the longest format of the game, and were hardly able to come to grips with the enduring ask of the format.
However, the dawn was at close and Vinoo Mankad gave out the first ray of the sun. Batting first, India could pile up a modest 235 with Mankad leading the charge, thanks to a fine of 72. Vijay Harare also displayed a commanding knock by stitching together a decent 69 to help India reach 235. Fred Trueman belted out a strong display with four wickets to dismantle an incipient India.
England was off to an absolute blinder as Leonard Hutton joined forces with Reg Simpson and Peter May. Tom Graveney came together later in the innings with Godfrey Evans to inflict further misery upon the Indians. England managed to amass 537 runs in the first innings, which demanded an extraordinary effort from the Indians to stay afloat.
It seemed like India was spiraling into a tailspin, but it was Vinoo Mankad who displayed exemplary command with the bat as he dished out a masterclass of 184. Vijay Harare and Gulabrai Ramchand desperately tried their best to keep India stabilized, but the effort was hefty enough to bail India out of this jeopardy. England easily managed to score the required runs in the second innings to condemn India to another defeat.
5. Brian Lara – 145 versus England, 1995
One of the batting virtuosos in the longest format of the game, Brian Charles Lara, came raining down upon England only to be handed a defeat in the latter stages of the game.
West Indies were off to a shaky start as they were bundled out for a paltry 216. Despite a rocky start, Lara and Jimmy Adams came together to stabilize the Caribbean innings. Thanks to a brilliant 87 from Lara, West Indies managed to score 216 in the first innings. Angus Fraser and Dominic Cork destabilized the Islanders with a fiery brand of bowling.
The English batting was absolutely dominant and stomped over the Caribbean force with an extraordinary display from Graham Thorpe, Robin Smith and Dominic Cork. Sadly, the West Indian bowlers were overtly magnanimous towards the English team as they gave out extras of 64 which featured 34 no-balls.
West Indies was off to a decent start, thanks to some boisterous hard-hitting from Sherwin Campbell who was joined by Lara to stitch together a strong stand of resistance. Sadly, that wasn’t enough for the West Indian force to defy the English odds, and they were left lingering around the fringes as England cruised to a tricky victory. At one point it seemed that a miracle may be on the cards but Jack Russell held a firm stand to win it for the Britons.
6. Vizay Harare – 145 versus Australia, 1947
This was a young rebel picking a few locks of destiny against the mighty Australians led by God himself, Sir Donald Bradman. Australia wrecked India with an extra-terrestrial brand of batting from Sid Barnes, Don Bradman, Lindsay Hassett and Keith Miller. Commandur Rangachari led the Indian bowlers with four crucial scalps.
Despite a shaky start, Vinoo Mankad and Lala Amarnath batted decently to help India stay afloat. However, the match was filled with varied colours as Vijay Hazare and Dattu Phadkar pitched in with a brilliant 190-run stand. However, that was the last of the Indian resistance, as the Australian bowling line-up ripped through the remainder of the Indian batting comprehensively.
Asked to follow on, India’s batting display aggravated for the worse as Vijay Hazare played a brilliant knock of 145 with minimal assistance from Gul Mohammad and Hemu Adhikari.
Sadly, that wasn’t enough for India to stay buoyed, as the Australian bowling was way too superior for Indians to manage a fightback.