Test careers can be fragile: the time period for which one enjoys a permanent fixture in the team can’t necessarily be an indicator of greatness.

While some finish their careers having played at the pinnacle of the game for over a decade, sometimes even two, others achieve greatness in much shorter periods. Whether it be through injury, late development or controversies, some of the most celebrated Test players packed their achievements into careers that lasted less than ten years.

With that in mind, here is the greatest XI of those players who ended their Test match careers having played the longest format for less than a decade.

Mark Taylor (1989-1999)

A sturdy left-handed opener who packed 104 Test matches into his career – which lasted less than a month short of a decade – Taylor forms one-half of the top two names on this team sheet. He took 157 catches in his Test career, no player has taken more while playing fewer matches, and finished with 7252 runs and 19 centuries. After inheriting the Australia captaincy from Allan Border, he led the side to a seismic victory over the West Indies. His final Test match hundred equalled Don Bradman’s best for Australia (334*), which was subsequently beaten by Matthew Hayden and David Warner.

Conrad Hunte (1958-1967)

Hunte was one of the most significant batters of his generation both on and off the pitch. His elegant stroke play at the top of the West Indies order in the 1960s was an indicator of the type of dominance which was to come. Along with Sir Garfield Sobers, he shared a 446-run stand in Kingston in 1958 and finished his career with eight centuries – one against each country he played against.

Michael Vaughan (1999-2008)

With the overarching narrative of being England’s captain for the 2005 Ashes, it’s easy to overlook just how good Vaughan the batter was. Authoritative and sturdy in his approach, he was England’s rock in the top order before a knee injury wrecked his post-2005 career. He finished his career with the most wins of any England Test captain before Joe Root overtook him by one match in 2022.

Kevin Pietersen (2005-2014)

Maverick, freak, flawed genius – or simply the best batter ever to represent England. Pietersen’s legacy is almost as contentious as his career. After he burst onto the scene in 2005 with an unforgettable hundred at The Oval, he went on to finish his career in the top-ten Test run scorers for England. Pietersen’s beauty was in the emotion behind his most memorable innings.

Against South Africa at Headingley before his infamous post-match interview, against India in Mumbai following his reintegration into the side, and a double against Australia in Adelaide after a near-two year century drought. Many argue, perhaps rightly, that Pietersen could have and should have played Test cricket for many more years than he did. But, the runs, the centuries and the drama are more than enough for the story of a modern-day legend.

Alvin Kallicharan (1972-1981)

Elegant in the middle order for the West Indies in the 1970s, Kallicharan was an integral part of the dominant Caribbean side in that era. His career was marked with controversy, including a run-out incident with Tony Greig during his Test high score in Port of Spain and Kerry Packer cricket. His Test career was cut short when he was banned by the West Indies after he agreed to play in South Africa in 1981.

Tony Greig (1972-1977)

England captain turned legendary commentator, Greig was a force of personality on the field. He scored runs against some of the most fearsome pace attacks ever constructed – centuries while facing the likes of Lillee, Thompson, Holding and Roberts. While his off-field controversies will hang over the memory of his career, he is one of only 14 players in history to take over a hundred wickets and score over 3,500 runs.

Adam Gilchrist (1999-2008)

Gilchrist’s indelible legacy on the Test game makes it hard to conceive that he only played it for just over eight years. In that time, he revolutionised the role of wicketkeeper batters and took an Australia side already considered the greatest of all time to even greater heights. He batted in every position from one to eight in Australia’s order over his career but made No.7 his own. He scored nearly 1000 more runs than anyone else at No.7 at a strike rate of 83.87. The 57-ball century he scored in Perth is still the fastest-ever in an Ashes Test and the fourth fastest of all time.

Andy Roberts (1974-1983)

The precursor to the fearsome West Indies attack of the 1980s, Roberts was not only a lethal fast-bowler in himself but he shaped the future careers of the likes of Courtney Walsh and Malcolm Marshall. The variations with which Roberts bowled, a deceptive slower ball before cranking up his speeds were what made him so destructive. He was recognised as one of Test cricket’s most skilled bowlers by the likes of Sunil Gavaskar and Ian Chappell.

Mitchell Johnson (2007-2015)

Johnson’s story is one of the great redemptive arcs in Test cricket. Pillaried and jeered by the travelling Barmy Army during the 2010/11 Ashes series, he roared back three years later. His bouncer terrorised the England batters on the doomed 2013/14 tour, the image of Johnson tearing in with his handlebar moustache the abiding one of that series. While that home summer and subsequent tour to South Africa was his pinnacle, he finished his career in the top five Australia Test wicket-takers of all time.

Allan Donald (1992-2002)

Terrifying pace. Donald’s spell to Michael Atherton at Trent Bridge is still spoken of in hushed, awestruck tones to this day. He was the first bowler to take 300 wickets for South Africa and led their international success after the Apartheid years. Now, he transfers his considerable knowledge to the current generation, as a respected coach currently in charge of Bangladesh’s fast-bowling cartel.

Saqlain Mushtaq (1995-2004)

The forerunner in off-spin variations, Saqlain’s 208 career Test wickets hide his truly significant legacy. He bowled with phenomenal control which allowed him to take 10 wickets in a memorable 12-run Pakistan win over India at Chennai in 1999. While his career ended after just 49 Tests, his legacy for Pakistan – and on off-spin bowling – was indelible for future generations.