Was it the greatest Test knock in a chase? Was it the greatest innings of all time? Was it the greatest Test of all time?
Ben Stokes’ outlandish 135 not out that clinched a series saving win in the third Ashes Test at Leeds for England is without doubt one of the finest ever efforts in Test cricket.
So where does Stokes’ innings stand among all-time great knocks in the fourth innings? Here are three equally, maybe even more, great knocks in a chase in Tests.
Brian Lara – 153*
WI v Australia, 1999
The Windies needed 308 to win the Barbados Test. The hosts’ batting was Brian Lara and nothing much else. Against an attack that had Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie, Shane Warne and Stuart MacGill at their peak, the Windies’ batting crumbled in the final innings.
No batsman apart from Lara crossed the 40-run mark. From 105-5, Lara carried the home hopes on his shoulders, hitting 19 fours and one six.
McGrath took 5-92 from 44 overs and Lara kept him at bay. He went after the leg-spinners, scoring half the required runs himself as the Windies clinched a one-wicket win. It was the ultimate one-man show as the Windies took an unassailable 2-1 lead in the four-match series.
Kusal Perera – 153*
SL v SA, 2019
In February this year, the odds were stacked against Sri Lanka when they took on South Africa in the Durban Test.
The islanders had been in disarray for some time and faced a target of 304 in the final innings against an attack of Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada and a red-hot Duanne Olivier. No other Sri Lankan batsman reached fifty in the chase; it was all about Perera.
Kicking into overdrive after the fall of the ninth wicket for 226, Perera ended up smashing an unbeaten 153 off 200 balls with 12 fours and five sixes. He added 78 runs for the last wicket. The stunning win laid the foundation of a historic Test series win.
Nathan Astle – 222
NZ v ENG, 2002
This one ended in defeat. But for the sheer audacity of the innings, Astle’s assault has to rank as one of the most incredible innings ever played.
It was an incredible game, with a quick double ton from Graham Thorpe setting hosts New Zealand a target of 550 to win the Christchurch Test.
With just one batsman reaching fifty and regular batsman Chris Cairns injured and forced to bat at No11, Astle launched into the most audacious knock ever played. Hitting 28 fours and 11 monstrous sixes, Astle hit 222 of just 168 balls to take the Kiwis to 451. It remains the fastest double century in history.
India skipper Virat Kohli believes that managing the workload of the pace battery will be key if the side are to make a big splash in the inaugural ICC World Test Championship (WTC).
Kohli and his men have made an excellent start to the maiden two-year cycle of the WTC with a massive 318-run win over West Indies in the first Test at Antigua. Pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah was the chief architect of India’s big win on Sunday with the 25-year-old finishing with sensational figures of 5-7 in the second West Indies innings.
The India pacer had been rested for the preceding T20 and ODI clashes in the West Indies and Kohli feels India need to take a similar approach going forward with the fast bowlers in the side.
“That’s probably the most important thing for us right now, managing player workloads,” Kohli stated after India’s 318-run win in the first Test.
“That’s why he (Bumrah) didn’t play any white-ball cricket after the World Cup because we wanted him to be fresh for the Tests. He is going to be a key factor for us as long as the Test championship continues.
“We know how good a bowler he is. And the impact he can make in a spell.”
India’s formidable pace arsenal has impressed on successive overseas tours of South Africa, England, Australia and now the West Indies but Kohli stressed on the need of managing the workloads carefully if the performances are to be kept up.
“Mohammed Shami is the same (as Bumrah). Ishant Sharma is a banker for years now. And he can make an impact in any spell he bowls,” the India skipper said.
“Those three together are bowling really well. Umesh Yadav hasn’t had a game, and we have Navdeep Saini, who can bowl 150 clicks, waiting in the wings.
“We are pretty settled as far as our bowling options are concerned. Managing workloads and the number of overs we bowl is going to be a key factor for us.”
Kohli and India will now look to seal the series against West Indies when they take on the hosts in the second and final Test beginning at Kingston on Friday.
Australia skipper Tim Paine has revealed that he will delegate all future Decision Review System (DRS) calls to other players after he was left to rue his massive blunder in the third Ashes Test against England at Headingley.
Hosts England levelled the Ashes in dramatic style on Sunday with Ben Stokes’ unbeaten 135 helping them pull off their record final innings chase (359) in Test cricket with just one wicket to spare.
It could have been all so different for the visitors if they had a review in hand when Stokes was struck on the pads by a Nathan Lyon delivery with England still two runs away from victory. On-field umpire Joel Wilson turned down Australia’s vociferous appeals with replays then going on to show that a review by the visitors would have overturned the decision.
Unfortunately for the Aussies, they had wasted their final review in desperation in the previous over when Pat Cummins struck Jack Leach on the pads. That costly blunder was a bitter pill to swallow for Paine who also questioned Wilson’s decision to turn down Lyon’s appeal.
“I can’t fathom why or how that wasn’t given out at the time,” Paine told the Nine Network.
“Because England had … referrals left, so if it was (incorrectly) given out, the correct decision is then made from upstairs.
“But that’s OK, it happened. We’ve got to control what we can control. We’ve got to use our reviews better. But that one in particular is hard to take at the moment.”
The DRS error at Headingley was not the first one Paine has made in the ongoing Ashes series with the Australia skipper at fault in the preceding Lord’s Test as well. The wicketkeeper had failed to take a review against Stokes in the second innings of that drawn clash before the England all-rounder went on to slam an unbeaten ton. Stokes was batting on just six runs at the time and it was one among several notable non-referrals by Paine at Lord’s.
“I don’t think I’ve got a referral correct the whole series, so I can’t sit here and bag the umpires,” Paine rued.
“To sit down and single out an umpire is unnecessary. He (Wilson) is no different to everyone else, he is allowed to make mistakes.
“I’ve got every review wrong so far, so I’m going to give up and give it to someone else.”
A win in the Headingley clash would have seen Paine become the first Australia skipper to retain the Ashes series on English soil since 2001. With the five-match series now locked at 1-1, there is all to play for in the fourth and penultimate Test which will begin at Old Trafford on September 4.