In the 145-year-old history of Test cricket, fans have witnessed several innings of class and destruction go in vain. Losing a game after toiling hard and playing a great innings is a peculiar feeling. In this article, we will look at the five best Test innings in a losing cause.
#5 Virat Kohli – 141 vs Australia, 2014
Arguably the greatest ever fourth innings knock by an Indian batsman, Kohli’s 141 should have ideally resulted in a historic victory. India needed in excess of 300 during the final day and not many gave the Indians a chance against a truly world-class Australian bowling lineup. Kohli stitched a memorable partnership with Murali Vijay and counter-attacked with such ferocity that the Australians looked scared at one point.
Kohli hit 16 fours and a six and did not back from playing shots against the turn whenever Nathan Lyon came to bowl. India needed just 60 runs when he departed, but Lyon spun a web around the tail-enders and ensured an Australian victory. But this special knock from Kohli remains as one of the best Test innings in a losing cause.
#4 Sachin Tendulkar – 136 vs Pakistan, 1999
A mad day of Test Cricket that an Indian cricket fan can never forget ended in agony as Pakistan narrowly clinched victory despite Tendulkar’s heroics. India were 2 for 6 when Sachin came out to bat and India’s hopes declined further as Azharuddin and Ganguly departed soon after.
Wincing in pain due to a back injury, Sachin produced a one-man show of great quality and composure. He batted for 278 deliveries against Waqar, Wasim, Mushtaq and Afridi on a pitch that was turning square and almost took India over the line.
#3 Brian Lara – 202 vs South Africa, 2003
A double hundred in South Africa against Ntini, Pollock, Kallis and Nel would have been any other players greatest ever innings. But for Brian Lara, this knock is strangely forgotten, probably because of an easy victory for South Africa. Lara walked out to bat during day three after the departure of Sarwan.
Lara did not shy away from attacking South Africa’s bowlers and reached his fifty in just 74 balls. He formed a century partnership with Chanderpaul that took West Indies closer to the Proteas’ first innings total. His double-century included 32 boundaries and two sixes.
#2 Brian Lara – 226 vs Australia, 2005
Lara’s best often came against Australia, a team that was completely dominating world cricket at that time. In 2005, he lit up Adelaide on day one with a terrific counter-attack against one of the greatest bowling attacks of all time. He started cautiously but accelerated quickly to reach his century.
After reaching his century, Lara did not throw away his wicket and formed decent partnerships with Dwayne Bravo and Denesh Ramdin. He reached his double century just before the end of day one. Lara also took a lot of singles in sweltering heat as only 88 runs came off boundaries.
#1 Nathan Astle – 222 vs England, 2002
Chasing an improbable target of 550, Astle came in at number 5 and scored the fastest double century of all time. He formed a half-century partnership with Fleming and kept scoring at a rapid pace even when he was losing partners at the other end.
At one point, England were 333/9 and the match looked done and dusted. Astle had other ideas as he upped the ante even further and stitched a century partnership with Chris Cairns. Judging by the pace at which Astle was going, New Zealand looked set to pull off an astonishing victory. Hoggard dismissed Astle to save England’s blushes, but Astle’s knock is arguably the greatest Test innings in a losing cause.