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The best innings of all time in a losing cause – Wisden readers have their say

Ben Gardner by Ben Gardner 6 minute read

What is the best innings of all time in a losing cause?

That was the question put to the @WisdenCricket Twitter followers, and the responses were many and varied. Below are a selection of the candidates.

Dave Houghton: 142 v New Zealand, Hyderabad, 1987

In Zimbabwe and New Zealand’s first game of the 1987 World Cup, Zimbabwe slid to 104-7 in pursuit of 243, but were given hope anew by Dave Houghton and Iain Butchart. The former made 142, astonishing by itself, but especially so given the next highest score in the top eight was 12. The pair dragged their side within 23 runs of an incredible victory before Houghton fell, and Butchart was run out for 54 on the fourth ball of the final over with Zimbabwe still four runs from victory.

Sachin Tendulkar: 136 v Pakistan, Chennai, 1999

There were plenty of votes for knocks by Sachin Tendulkar, who seemed to save his best for losing efforts. This innings came in a highly charged encounter, with swings and collapses aplenty. Set 270 to win by Shahid Afridi’s third-innings century, Sachin seemed to have broken the back of the chase, helping India recover from 82-5 to 254-6. But after he fell, Pakistan surged through Saqlain Mushtaq, who finished with 5-93. India lost their last four wickets for four runs, and the Chennai crowd applauded the Pakistan side on a lap of honour in a show of good grace.

Sachin Tendulkar: 175 v Australia, Hyderabad, 2009

Chasing 351 in an ODI at Hyderabad, Sachin smashed Australia to all parts even as the rest of the line-up struggled – there were only three other double-figure scores in India’s innings. But with the finish in sight, the Little Master holed out off Clint McKay, and India fell four runs short.

Virat Kohli: 149 v England, Edgbaston, 2018

In his first Test innings in England since the tour he described as the “lowest point” in his career, Virat Kohli exceeded his 2014 tally in a single knock, proving once and for all he could succeed in all conditions. No other Indian batsman made it into the 30s, and as the rest faltered, Kohli excelled, smashing all but one run of a 57-run last-wicket stand by himself. Chasing 194 to win, Kohli once again top-scored with 51, but a burst from Ben Stokes secured a 31-run win for England.

Virat Kohli: 141 v Australia, Adelaide Oval, 2014

Another Virat Kohli masterclass, this time in a chase, his forte. The occasion was an emotional one, the first played following the death of Phil Hughes, and it was a game worthy as a tribute. On a spitting pitch which helped Nathan Lyon claim seven fourth-innings wickets, Kohli played as if on a different surface before pulling a long-hop down Mitchell Marsh’s throat.

Sunil Gavaskar: 96 v Pakistan, Bengaluru, 1987

India’s Test series against arch-rivals Pakistan was level, Sunil Gavaskar was playing his last Test innings, and 221 runs were needed to win. The stage was set for a fairy-tale, and for a time it seemed like it was coming, with Gavaskar grinding his way within sight of a farewell hundred. But, with a century one hit away, and only 41 runs needed to win, Gavaskar fell to Iqbal Qasim. His 96 was the only score above 50 in the whole Test.

Mohammad Azharuddin: 121 v England, Lord’s, 1990

Few present will argue that, despite Graham Gooch setting a still-unbeaten record for the number of runs in a single Test match, Mohammad Azharuddin’s hundred, which helped India avoid the follow on, was the most dazzling display of stroke-making on offer. Until Ben Stokes’ blitz against New Zealand in 2015, it was the fastest Lord’s ton.

Nathan Astle: 222 v England, Christchurch, 2002

The fastest Test double-hundred, and some of the most satisfying sounds off the bat you’ll ever hear. England were cruising when Chris Cairns joined Nathan Astle, with one wicket needed to win and the Black Caps still over 200 runs away. In the blink of an eye the target was under 100 and the tourists were sweating.

David Warner: 123* v New Zealand, Hobart, 2011

The knock that proved to many that David Warner’s T20 skill-set could succeed in Test cricket. With 240 needed to win, the Bull stood alone, carrying his bat for 123*, 100 more than the next best Australian score, and double the next best score in the match. He could only watch as Doug Bracewell’s 6-40 consigned the Aussies to a heartbreaking seven-run defeat.

Kumar Sangakkara: 192 v Australia, Hobart, 2007

The final margin might have been nearly 100 runs, but with Kumar Sangakkara batting on another level, anything seemed possible. The knock is embellished by the fact that umpire Rudi Koertzen apologised post-match to Sanga for his incorrect triggering. What might have been…

Derek Randall: 174 v Australa, Melbourne Cricket Ground, 1977

Played 100 years on from cricket’s first Test match, perhaps the only thing more remarkable than Derek Randall’s hundred was the fact that the result exactly mirrored that of the game this Test was commemorating, with Australia victorious by 45 runs both times. That England got so close on this occasion, having been bowled out for 95 in the first innings, was almost entirely down to the efforts of their No.3.

Moeen Ali: 108* v Sri Lanka, Headingley, 2014

England’s 2014 series against Sri Lanka might just be the most hotly contested two-Test rubber of all time. The hosts thought they had sealed the first game with the penultimate ball available, only for a review to save Nuwan Pradeep, and in the second found themselves in the opposite situation, two balls from safety after some heroics from Moeen Ali, who faced 281 balls in just his fourth Test innings, and James Anderson, who struggled to hold back his tears in the post-match formalities after falling for a 55-ball duck.

Chamari Atapattu: 178* v Australia, Bristol, 2017

Against one of the most dominant sides cricket has ever known, Chamari Atapattu’s 178* broke records aplenty and momentarily had unfancied Sri Lanka dreaming of the impossible. She contributed 69 per cent of Sri Lanka’s runs, a record in women’s ODIs by a distance and left Australia needing the highest-ever chase in a World Cup to avoid a massive upset.


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