Impossible to Possible - The Ultimate Fightbacks!
LONDON – AUGUST 23: Andrew Strauss of England lifts the Ashes urn as team mates Paul Collingwood (C) and Graeme Swann celebrate victory during day four of the npower 5th Ashes Test Match between England and Australia at The Brit Oval on August 23, 2009 in London, England.
Test Cricket, which is considered to be the purest form of the game by pundits, has seen many heroes who have fought back against the odds, snatching victory from jaws of defeat. They have been rock solid, putting the opposition bowling to shame. Like Phoenixes who rise from the ashes, these players have risen, taking their game up by several notches and turning an almost lost match on its head, giving the opposition a slap for being callous, stinging them hard for not tightening up the screws when needed. These batsmen are the pillars of Test cricket, showing the worth of genuine Test cricket to the world, announcing that it does not have to be bang – bang cricket for people to sit up and notice. It can be the sheer defiance, the will power to stand up against the force of opposition, the brilliance to take the match away from the team on top.
These are the biggest attributes that one can associate with a class player.
There are many such players in world cricket who have played and are playing even now. I am listing a few of those mind blowing fight backs that I have had the pleasure to witness over the years :
The defiance of the English:
It was the first Ashes test in the year 2009. England
having made 435 batting first let Australia muscle past for 674 runs, thanks to centuries from Ricky Ponting
, Simon Katich, Jade North and Brad Haddin. England were in dire straits, needing to draw the match at any cost. But things seemed to go downhill when they lost half the side for just 70 runs on the board. The fightback then came in the form of a dynamic fielder, the man who was at the helm when England had won their only T20 trophy in the West Indies.
Collingwood led the English fightback. Joining hands with the lower middle order batsmen and the tail-enders, he fought for almost six hours to salvage a draw for the team. He batted for 245 balls before getting out for 74. It might not be significant in terms of runs scored, but he defied the fiery Australian bowling and kept them at bay for more than 6 hours, determined even more whenever a wicket fell at the other end.
It might not be a performance worthy enough to go down in the history books, but it is this innings that helped England save the Ashes. Had they lost the first match,the series would have ended in a draw and the Oz would have walked back home with the urn.
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 04: JP Duminy of South Africa bats during day three of the International Tour Match between Australia A and South Africa at Sydney Cricket Ground on November 4, 2012 in Sydney, Australia.
Oz ‘Dum’ Struck :
The test series between South Africa and Australia in 2008 gathered lots of attention due to the epic run chase by the Proteas in the firstTest. Expectations were high from this series, which was turned on by the sheer brilliance of the South African batsmen in the first Test. The second Test commenced at Melbourne on the 26th of December. Australia batted first and made 394 runs and put the South African batsmen to test. They were ruthless and picked up six wickets for less than 150 runs on the board.
The Proteas were down and out and it seemed like they wouldn’t be able to take the lead when Duminy,who was still a rookie, walked in and played a fearless brand of cricket which was hailed as one of the best in cricket circles back then. He’d set himself up quite nicely, negotiating the fast bowlers with caution. He played some extravagant shots and was not afraid of the bouncers on a fast and pacy wicket which is the tradition in Perth.
Steyn joined him at the fall of the eighth wicket and together, they steered South Africa out of trouble. Steyn was on song and he thrashed the bowlers all around the park. Though he was fearless and aggressive, Duminy was the man who stole the show. He made a mammoth 166 runs and helped the Proteas seal the series. His efficient batting saw the Aussies lose a series at home after many years, thereby ending the Aussie domination at home.It was an alarm to the other countries,a wake up call to show that the Aussies were not completely invincible.
In that regard,this innings deserves a mention on this list.
WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – APRIL 03: Gautam Gambhir of India hits the ball during day one of the Third Test match between New Zealand and India at the Basin Reserve on April 3, 2009 in Wellington, New Zealand.
The Iron Man :
The first test between India and New Zealand at Hamilton in 2009 was bagged by India comfortably. The second test saw a valiant fightback from the Kiwis who amassed 619 runs in the first innings. India in reply were bundled out for just 305 runs and were asked to follow-on. The match was almost over for Team India when a young man with nerves of steel, fought tooth and nail in alien conditions to defy New Zealand for more than 10 hours.
, the lad from Delhi batted amazingly well to pull the match back in their favour. He played 436 balls and made 137 priceless runs which helped India clinch the series 1-0 at the end. Without his brilliance, India would have one less trophy in its cabinet.
It does not end there. India had not won a test series in New Zealand for more than 30 years and it was very special to the players and fans alike to have yet another feather in their cap.
18-22 Oct 1992: Andy Flower and Kevin Arnott of Zimbabwe walk out to start the First Test match against India at Harare Sports Club in Zimbabwe. The match ended in a draw.
The raging Flower :
It was the second Test between India and Zimbabwe at Nagpur in 2000. The Indian team, batting first,made 609 runs.Zimbabwe in reply were bowled out for 382 runs and were made to follow-on. Zimbabwe looked lost when three wickets fell for just 61 runs. That was when Andy Flower came in to bat. Flower, along with Campbell put on a huge partnership of 209 runs. Flower was solid in his technique, batting against the likes of Javagal Srinath, Sunil Joshi and Ajit Agarkar. He played extremely well, waiting for the loose balls to score runs. It was impossible for the bowlers to get to him since he was moving his feet very well, getting behind the ball and playing it to perfection. He made 232 runs in that innings, also one of the proudest moments in the history of Zimbabwean cricket.
LONDON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 29: Mohammad Asif of Pakistan shakes hands with Jonathan Trott of England after England defeated Pakistan during day four of the 4th npower Test Match between England and Pakistan at Lords.
The dangerous duo part 1 :
Pakistan were fighting with their backs to the wall, trailing 1-2 in a four-match test series against England. It was the final Test at Lords and Pakistan needed to win the match in order to square the series. Pakistan were riding on the confidence from the previous match which they’d won comfortably. It was a horrible start for the English, losing seven wickets for just 102 runs on board .Mohammad Amir was at his fiery best, bagging six wickets, devouring the best English batsmen in their own backyard. Jonathan Trott was waging a lone battle, trying to resist the pace trio of Amir, Asif and Riaz when Stuart Broad joined hands with him. They both staged an incredible fight back. Trott was his usual calm and composed self, building his innings block by block by playing some orthodox cricket.
Broad on the other hand, helped Trott in rebuilding the innings. He played safe till the conditions got better and then started playing some flamboyant strokes to take England to safety. They put on a partnership of 334 runs,which was one of the best partnerships seen in the history of test cricket. England went on to win the match and the series 3-1. Though this match was tainted by the match fixing allegations over Asif, Amir and Butt, this innings has its significance and will remain a part of the history in the years to come.
14 Mar 2001: VVS Laxman of India hits out, during day four of the 2nd Test between India and Australia played at Eden Gardens, Calcutta, India.
The dangerous duo Part 2 :
The epic test match,the mother of all fight backs, the day when history was rewritten, the records smashed by two extraordinary batsmen from the Indian Cricket
team. The second test match between India and Australia at Kolkata in 2001 is remembered as the best of encounters by all cricket fans even after all these years. Sourav Ganguly
was leading a young team who were eager and raring to go against the mighty Australians who were the world beaters back then. They were riding on 17 consecutive Test victories and were eyeing the 18th when Laxman and Co. decided to spoil their party.
Batting first, the Aussies put up a total of 445 thanks to a brilliant century from then Aussie skipper Steve Waugh (110). In return,India were bundled out for a paltry 171 and were asked to follow on. India lost four wickets for just 232 runs and were looking down the barrel when Dravid and Laxman joined together. The most scintillating piece of cricket, the sheer brilliance of the duo and the dominance they had over the Aussie bowling simply took the game away from the Australians. Laxman was caressing the ball using his rubber-like flexible fists, kissing the ball gently to the boundary. He was in full flow, making the Australian bowlers work hard. His defense was solid and he punished the Aussie bowlers even if they bowled a few inches away from good length. He dealt the arrogant Aussies with his arrogant batting which did all the talking on the ground. The Aussies never seemed like picking Laxman’s wicket, while he was busy ploughing away for runs.
Dravid, on the other hand, gave excellent support to Laxman. He was his usual orthodox self and played a trademark Dravid knock easing the pressure off Laxman. Both had the natural flair and technique which made the task even more difficult for the Aussies. The rest as they say is history. India won the match comfortably and bagged the series 2-1 to end the Aussie supremacy in World Cricket.
These are the innings that I’ve seen, innings which took the cricketing world by storm, innings that defined the career of some of these players, which defined the fate of an entire series and rivalries. There are many noteworthy innings that I might have left out. But according to me, these were the best.
They will stand the test of time and be an example for other aspiring cricketers.
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