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10 most iconic match-saving partnerships in Tests

Du Plessis and De Villiers shared an invaluable partnership
Du Plessis and De Villiers shared an invaluable partnership

Partnerships save matches. In Test cricket, some partnerships are so important that even if the match is drawn, it feels like a win and if it is won, it feels like the greatest win in the history of the sport. Over the years, several majestic partnerships have been built in Test cricket but there have not been many which have saved matches.

There have been a few though and we take a look at 10 of the best.

#10 Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers vs Australia at Adelaide, 2012

South Africa toured Australia for a 3-match Test series during the end of 2012. The first Test at Brisbane was drawn and the two teams would then face-off at Adelaide. Australia batted first and thanks to skipper Michael Clarke’s 257-ball 230 coupled with centuries from David Warner and Michael Hussey, put up 550 in their first innings.

In reply, the visitors could only manage 388 with Graeme Smith scoring 122 and Alviro Petersen, debutant Faf du Plessis, and Jacques Kallis scoring half-centuries. In the second innings, Australia declared at 267/8, setting the Proteas a target of 430.

South Africa had half of day 4 and the entire fifth day to chase down the total. However, the Proteas lost four early wickets, tottering at 45/4. At this stage, du Plessis and AB de Villiers deployed a very defensive approach to make sure the Proteas lost no more wickets. The duo batted the remainder of day 4 and more than an entire session of day 5, adding 89 runs from 408 deliveries. De Villiers, who is generally an aggressive batsman, scored 33 off 220 deliveries. The partnership was finally broken by Peter Siddle when he got rid of ABD but Du Plessis kept at it and eventually scored his maiden Test century.

The match was drawn as South Africa ended their innings on 248/8 with Faf remaining unbeaten on 110. The partnership between du Plessis and de Villiers was crucial in South Africa saving the match after they lost so many early wickets.

#9 Colin Cowdrey and Peter May vs West Indies at Edgbaston, 1957

Cowdrey and May put up a mighty stand of 411 to help England salvage a draw against West Indies
Cowdrey and May put up a mighty stand of 411 to help England salvage a draw against West Indies

West Indies toured England in 1957 with a very strong side consisting of the three Big Ws (Everton Weekes, Frank Worrell, and Clyde Walcott), Rohan Kanhai, a young Gary Sobers, Wes Hall, and Sonny Ramadhin.

The first Test was held at Edgbaston and England batted first, being bundled out for just 186 thanks to Ramadhin’s 7/49. The Windies replied by scoring 474 in their first innings thanks to Collie Smith’s 161 and fifties from Clyde Walcott (90), and Frank Worrell (81).

In their second innings, England were given a pretty decent start by openers Peter Richardson and Brian Close. However, Ramadhin once again put the hosts in a spot of bother, dismissing Richardson and No. 3 Doug Insole in quick succession.

After Close’s dismissal, England were 113/3, with captain Peter May and Colin Cowdrey at the crease. They were trailing by 175 runs and the presence of Ramadhin, who was spitting fire, meant another low total or even an innings defeat was possible. However, May and Cowdrey batted sensibly, milking the Windies bowlers and ensuring Ramadhin shouted himself hoarse with fruitless lbw appeals.

The duo batted for a day and a half, putting up a mammoth stand of 411 for the fourth wicket before Cowdrey was dismissed for 154 from 500 balls. May declared England’s innings at 583/4 after scoring a 600-ball 285 himself which was his highest score in Test cricket.

England nearly won the match as the likes of Fred Trueman, Jim Laker, and Tony Lock applied the pressure on the Windies batsmen. However, some patient batting by skipper John Goddard (0 from 40 balls) saved the West Indies as they ended the final day on 72/7.

#8 Willie Watson and Trevor Bailey vs Australia at Lord’s, 1953

Watson and Bailey produced a stellar performance to save the match for Australia
Watson and Bailey produced a stellar performance to save the match for England

The first Test of the 1953 Ashes at Trent Bridge ended in a draw and the second Test was played at Lord’s. Australia batted first and put up 346 in their first innings thanks to a century from 40-year-old skipper Lindsay Hassett and fifties from Neil Harvey and Alan Davidson.

In reply, England scored 372 thanks to Len Hutton’s 145 and fifties from Tom Graveney and Denis Compton. In the second innings, Australia scored 368 thanks to Keith Miller’s 109 and Arthur Morris’ 89. England were given a target of 343.

However, they got off to a disastrous start as they lost skipper Len Hutton, Don Kenyon, and Tom Graveney for single figure scores. Willie Watson and Compton put up 61 for the fourth wicket but that partnership was broken by Bill Johnston who dismissed the latter for 33.

Australia were in deep trouble but their innings was rescued by Watson who was joined by Trevor Bailey. They batted calmly for over four hours, adding 163 for the fifth wicket and by the time Watson was dismissed by Doug Ring for 109, less than an hour's play was left.

Bailey was eventually dismissed for 71 by Ring with only 40 minutes left but England managed to survive, ending with 282/7.

#7 Martin Crowe and Andrew Jones vs Sri Lanka at Wellington, 1991

Crowe and Jones set the record for the then highest partnership in Test Cricket
Crowe and Jones set the record for the then highest partnership in Test Cricket

This partnership was scripted at the Basin Reserve in Wellington and is undoubtedly the most iconic partnership at the ground.

It was the first Test of Sri Lanka’s tour of New Zealand in 1991. Sri Lanka won the toss and skipper Arjuna Ranatunga sent in the hosts to bat first. Some terrific bowling from Rumesh Ratnayake and Graeme Labrooy (both took 4 wickets each) limited the Kiwis to only 174 in their first innings.

In reply, a massive 267 from Aravinda de Silva assisted by fifties from Asanka Gurusinha (70) and Arjuna Ranatunga (55) took the visitors to 497 and a lead of 323 runs.

New Zealand were in a decent position in their second innings with John Wright scoring 88 and putting on a 134-run opening stand with Trevor Franklin. However, Champaka Ramanayake dismissed both openers meaning the hosts had two new and unsettled batsmen at the crease in skipper Martin Crowe and Andrew Jones. Still trailing by 175 runs, they needed something special to save the match.

They got just that as Crowe and Jones stitched what continues to be New Zealand’s highest Test partnership of 467 from 924 deliveries, lasting more than nine hours. Both batsmen batted with a lot of composure and New Zealand were assured of a draw by the time the partnership was broken by Ranatunga, who dismissed Jones for a career-best 186 from 454 deliveries.

The match ended in the most agonizing manner for Crowe as he was dismissed for 299 by Ranatunga on the final ball. Crowe may have missed out on his triple century but his mammoth effort along with his partnership with Jones helped New Zealand draw a match that they looked like losing for the most part.

#6 Brendon McCullum and BJ Watling vs India at Wellington, 2014

McCullum and Watson added a then record of 352 for the 6th wicket
McCullum and Watling added a then record partnership of 352 for the 6th wicket

After thrashing India 4-0 in the 5-match ODI series, the Kiwis took a 1-0 lead in the Test series by winning the first Test at Auckland by 40 runs. Wellington was the venue of the second Test and the hosts were bundled out for just 197 in the first innings thanks to the brilliant bowling of Ishant Sharma (6/51) and Mohammed Shami (4/70).

India, in reply, scored 438 in their first innings thanks to Ajinkya Rahane’s 118. He shared a partnership of 120 with skipper MS Dhoni (68) and Shikhar Dhawan also contributed with 98.

Trailing by 246, New Zealand were in a tricky position in their second innings at 94/5 and at this point, the possibility of an innings win for India was looking likely. However, Brendon McCullum and BJ Watling saved the match for the Kiwis through their brilliant batting as they added 352 for the 6th wicket, thus breaking the record for the highest 6th wicket partnership set by Mahela and Prasanna Jayawardene in 2009.

McCullum and Watling’s partnership lasted 738 deliveries with the former scoring 302 and the latter, 124. The partnership was broken when Watling was dismissed by Shami. New Zealand eventually ended their innings on 680/8, giving India a target of 435. India scored 166/3 and the match was drawn.

#5 Dennis Amiss and Patrick Ian Pocock vs West Indies at Kingston, 1974

Dennis Amiss and Patrick Ian Pocock held their nerves to save England from defeat
Dennis Amiss and Patrick Ian Pocock held their nerve to save England from defeat

After losing the first Test to the Windies at Port of Spain, England travelled to Kingston to play the second Test. England won the toss and skipper Mike Denness opted to bat first. The visitors scored 385 in their first innings thanks to fifties from Geoffrey Boycott and Denness.

In reply, West Indies scored a mammoth 583/9 thanks to Lawrence Rowe’s marvelous 120 and fifties from Roy Fredericks (94), Alvin Kallicharan (93), Bernard Julien (66), and Gary Sobers (57). In the second innings, none of the England batsmen managed to stay at the crease except for Dennis Amiss who batted brilliantly. England though were reeling at 271/7, leading by only 41 runs with Amiss running out of partners.

At this point, it looked like the hosts would take the three remaining wickets in no time and chase down a low total to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series.

However, Amiss did find assistance in Chris Old and the duo added 72 for the 8th wicket before Old was dismissed for 19. England still had a lead of only 113 and another two quick wickets would ensure a win for the hosts.

However, Patrick Ian Pocock held his ground, blocking and leaving deliveries with determination while Amiss did the run scoring. Pocock and Amiss added 49 for the 9th wicket with the former scoring just 4 from 88 deliveries. This partnership ensured that England had batted long enough to prevent the Windies from having a crack at the target in the few overs that remained.

Pocock was dismissed eventually but England did not lose their final wicket, endeding the final day on 432/9 with Amiss scoring 262.

#4 Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath vs England at Trent Bridge, 2005

Lee and McGrath held their nerve to draw out Australia's Ashes game against England in 2005
Lee and McGrath celebrate after saving the Test for Australia

The 2005 Ashes was all-square going into the third Test at Nottingham. England put up 408 in their first innings and Australia responded with 308.

In England’s second innings, Shane Warne’s spell of 6/46 limited them to just 182 and Australia needed 423 to win the match with more than a day’s play remaining. However, they lost Justin Langer early on the final day. Ricky Ponting batted doggedly but barring Matthew Hayden and Michael Clarke, none of the other batsmen gave him any assistance.

Following Clarke’s dismissal, Jason Gillespie was sent back for nought and Australia were left struggling at 264/7 with 27 overs to play. England, meanwhile, needed just three wickets to take the lead in the series. However, Warne and Ponting added 76 for the eighth wicket before the former was dismissed for 34. Soon, Ponting was dismissed for 156 and England just needed to dismiss one of Brett Lee or Glenn McGrath in the four overs that remained.

However, Lee and McGrath not only held their nerve but also hit a few boundaries, adding 17 for the final wicket. Australia finished on 371/9 with the match ending in a draw. This was one rare occasion where one of the world’s deadliest fast-bowling duos had saved a match with their batting.

#3 Ken McKay and Lindsay Kline vs West Indies at Adelaide, 1961

Ken McKay scored a patient 62 and added 66 runs for the final wicket with Lindsay Kline
Ken McKay scored a patient 62 and added 66 runs for the final wicket with Lindsay Kline

After three Tests, West Indies’ tour of Australia in 1961 was all square with both teams having won a match each. While Australia registered a comfortable 7-wicket win in the second Test at Melbourne, the visitors thumped them by 223 runs in the third Test at Sydney.

The penultimate Test was played at Adelaide and West Indies won the toss, electing to bat first. Rohan Kanhai’s 117 and fifties from skipper Frank Worrell (78) and Gerry Alexander (63) took the visitors to 393, with Richie Benaud taking five wickets for the Aussies.

In reply, the hosts piled on 366 with Bobby Simpson, Richie Benaud, and Colin McDonald registering half-centuries, scoring 85, 77, and 71 respectively. Lance Gibbs was the pick of the Windies bowlers, with 5/97.

In the second innings, the Windies scored 432/6, with Kanhai managing 115 and Alexander, Conrad Hunte, and Worrell all amassing fifties. Australia were given a mammoth target of 460 to chase down.

The hosts began their second innings terribly, losing the wickets of Colin McDonald, Les Favell, and Bobby Simpson quite early. However, Norm O’Neill and Peter Burge scored 65 and 49 respectively to keep them in the game. Following the dismissals of both batsmen, Wally Grout added 42 but he was sent packing as well with a host of others following suit. This left the Aussies at 207/9 with Ken McKay and Lindsay Kline at the crease. The duo batted exceptionally and saved the match for Australia by adding 66 for the final wicket. McKay ended with 62 from 223 balls while Kline scored 15 from 109 balls.

#2 Mike Atherton and Jack Russell vs South Africa at Johannesburg, 1995

Atherton and Russell's patient batting guided England to a draw against South Africa from a difficult position
Atherton and Russell's patient batting guided England to a draw against South Africa

The first Test of England’s tour of South Africa in 1995 at Centurion witnessed three days of intense rainfall which resulted in the match being drawn. The second Test would be played at Johannesburg.

The hosts batted first and put up 332 in their first innings thanks to Gary Kirsten’s 110 and Daryl Cullinan’s 69.

In reply, England could only manage 200, with Robin Smith scoring 52 while Alec Stewart and Graham Thorpe added 45 and 34 respectively. In their second innings, the Proteas scored 346/9 thanks to Brian McMillan’s 100 and Cullinan’s 61.

England were set a target of 479. Skipper Mike Atherton batted brilliantly but did not receive much support from his teammates, leaving England floundering at 232/5 and still requiring a good 247 runs for victory. At the crease were Atherton and wicket-keeper Jack Russell.

Their patient batting frustrated the likes of Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock and they added a partnership of 119, with the England skipper scoring a career-best 185 from 492 deliveries after batting for nearly 11 hours. Russell ended with 29 from 235 deliveries after batting for more than four-and-a-half hours.

#1 Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman vs Australia at Kolkata, 2001

India v Aust X.jpg
Laxman and Dravid built one of the greatest partnerships in India's Test history

This is undoubtedly one of the most important partnerships in Indian cricketing history. After losing the first Test to Australia at Mumbai during their home series in 2001, India had to face off against the most powerful team in the world at Eden Gardens.

Australia put on 445 in their first innings thanks to Steve Waugh’s 110 and fifties from Matthew Hayden (97) and Justin Langer (58). The only positive for India during that innings was Harbhajan Singh who picked up 7 wickets, becoming the first Indian to take a hat-trick in Test cricket.

However, Australia’s bowling attack skittled India out for just 171, with Glenn McGrath picking up four wickets and Shane Warne, Jason Gillespie, and Michael Kasprowicz picking up two each.

Steve Waugh enforced the follow-on and India had to bat again. In the second innings, Sourav Ganguly made a move that changed India's cricketing fortunes forever. He sent VVS Laxman in at No. 3 instead of Rahul Dravid. Ganguly and Laxman added 117 for the fourth wicket before the former was dismissed for 48.

India were 232/4 when Dravid came in to bat at No. 6. What followed was one of the most iconic partnerships in Test cricket history, built by two of India’s most reliable batsmen. Dravid and Laxman batted extraordinarily for more than a day, taking India to safety. The duo added 376 for the 5th wicket, with Laxman scoring a special 281 which at the time was the highest score by an Indian in Test cricket.

They treated the likes of Warne and McGrath with disdain. The partnership was eventually broken by McGrath when he dismissed Laxman. However, by that time, India had taken a 308-run lead. Dravid was later dismissed for 180.

At the beginning of Day 5, Ganguly declared the Indian innings, setting Australia a target of 384 to win. Harbhajan and Sachin Tendulkar's brilliance with the ball meant Australia were dismissed for 212, ending their 16-match winning streak. India thus became only the third team to win a Test match after following on.

This win remains India’s most memorable Test victory and it was made possible by the 376-run partnership for the 5th wicket shared by Dravid and Laxman. It remains the second-highest 5th-wicket partnership in the history of Test cricket behind Don Bradman and Sid Barnes' partnership for Australia in 1946.

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Edited by Arvind Sriram
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