Top 10 Captains Knocks of all Times in Tests

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Test cricket is regarded as the purest form of cricket which promises uninhibited contest between bat and ball. It requires grit, talent, resilience and extreme mental toughness to succeed in Test cricket; throw in the added responsibility of captaincy and you get a new dimension of pressure. Over the years there have been many stellar performances by Test match captains- both while batting and while fielding but in this article you will be presented with the best Test match innings played by captains over the course of more than 100 years of cricket.

10. Sachin Tendulkar 169v South Africa, Cape Town, 1997

This was an innings of such quality that even the opposition couldn’t help but admire the genius of Sachin Tendulkar as he set about the task avoiding the follow on for his team after India had slipped to 58-5 in reply to South Africa’s mammoth 529 in the first innings. In a display of unabashed aggression Tendulkar took on possibly the best bowling attack at the time- inclusive of Donald, Pollock, Klusener and McMilan- and simply cut them to shreds. He scored a brilliant 169 in an exhilarating 5 and half hours and stroked 26 boundaries. With India losing wickets in a hurry Tendulkar was caught at the boundary in an effort to up the score before they were all out. However, by then India were safely past the follow on target of 329 but the tragedy of the game is that India ended up losing the Test match by a massive 282 runs. But for those of you, who have watched this innings will remember the touch of a leader written all over it but those who haven’t can have a look on YouTube to watch this Tendulkar special.

sachin

9. Imran Khan 136v Australia, Adelaide Oval, 1990

You might have been wondering if Imran Khan had played any odds defying knock whilst he was a captain or not and the wait ends as at number 9 is a crucial match saving innings by the inimitable Pathan. In this absorbing Test match at the Adelaide Oval, Pakistan were tottering at 22-4 in the 3rd innings after having already conceded an 84 run first innings lead. The odds were heavily in favour of an early Australian victory when Imran Khan took the responsibility of guiding Pakistan out of the spot by playing an innings of rare technical aptitude and patience. The normally flamboyant Imran curbed his instincts and hit only 10 fours in his 485 minutes marathon as Pakistan scored 341 to be enough ahead of Australia to force a draw. You can watch more of Imran’s special batting skills in hundreds of videos which are available on YouTube.

imran

8. Denis Atkinson 219v Australia, Bridgetown, 1954

At number 8 is another heroic leader’s knock for you from the sunny shores of the West Indies and the opponent are the Australians yet again. In the 4th Test of that series the Australians piled up a massive 668, but the West Indian reply went horribly wrong as they were staring helplessly at the follow on with the scoreboard reading an abysmal 147-6. The stage was set for a rout but the West Indian captain Denis Atkinson showed remarkable defiance in the face of adversity as he dropped anchor at the wicket and inspired the wicketkeeper Clairmonte Depeiaza to play along with him. The captain scored a brilliant 219 in just under 6 hours as the West Indies consumed enough time to eventually claim a draw. You can imagine the nature of the challenge facing Atkinson when you consider the fact that he defied the deadly duo of Ray Lindwall and Keith Miller.

denis-atkinson

7. Brian Lara 213v Australia, Kingston, 1999

Another great captain’s knock by Brian Lara during that memorable series between West Indies and Australia finds its place in this list. The Australians had won the first Test and the West Indies were desperate for a win to square the series in Kingston, Jamaica, where the second Test was to be played. After the Australians had been dismissed for 256, the West Indies were left reeling at 34-4 when their captain Brial Lara put his head down and played a superb counterattacking innings to wrest the initiative back with the West Indies. Lara scored a sublime 213off 344 balls which included a mind boggling 29 fours and 3 sixes. The West Indies scored 431 and eventually ended up winning the Test by 10 wickets to square the series.

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6. Sourav Ganguly 144v Australia, Brisbane, 2003

It was the innings that shaped the Australian summer of 2003-’04 in which the visiting team dominated the host in one of the rare occasions in that era. The Australians had already started playing their regulation mind games by stating that they were going to dish out some ‘chin music’ to the Indian captain Sourav Ganguly, even before the Indian team had arrived. The first Test was being played on one of the fastest pitches in the world in Brisbane and once India found themselves at 62-3 in response to Australia’s first innings total of 323, all eyes were on the captain Sourav Ganguly as he took guard. Ganguly responded by taking on the Australians in their own game by playing a supremely attacking innings of 144 which included 18 boundaries and came off 196 deliveries. India did not only avoid a collapse but ended up taking the lead over Australia which was to set the tone for the rest of the series. Do catch a video of that innings on YouTube to witness a breathtaking display of courageous batting.

sourav

5. Steve Waugh 199 v West Indies, Bridgetown, 1999

This Test match might have been won by one of the greatest captain’s knock of all time by Brian Lara (No. 2 in the list) but in the first innings of the match Steve Waugh played an enthralling captain’s knock to set up the match as it was. Australia were teetering at 36-3 in the face of the combined menace of Walsh and Ambrose when Steve Waugh walked in to bat. Waugh weathered the storm admirably, first in the company of Justin Langer and then with Ricky Ponting. He defended stubbornly but kept playing his strokes when the opportunity arose and in the process scored 20 fours and a solitary six. When he finally departed after scoring a masterly 199, Australia were well on their a huge first innings total of 490.

SteveWaugh

4. Michael Atherton 185* v South Africa, Wanderers, 1995

In a Test match that was completely dominated by the South Africans and their pace battery, it needed a special effort from the England team to stave off defeat and keep their honour intact. However, that effort came from the captain and opening batsman Michael Atherton as he played like a man possessed and proved almost impossible to dismiss against the likes of Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock. Chasing an improbable 4th innings target of 479 England had cart wheeled to 145-4 and the curtains were on their way down but Michael Atherton defiantly went about occupying the crease to save the match and clinch a draw. Eventually he ended up playing for more than 10 hours and scored an unbeaten 185 to claim a famous draw for England. This knock remains one of the best match-saving efforts of all time.

atherton

3. Greame Smith 154* v England, Edgbaston, 2008

Greame Smith’s superlative effort in the English summer of 2008 comes in a close third because the bowling attack he faced was not as menacing as the bowling attacks faced by Gooch and Lara. Chasing a daunting 281 in the 4th innings South Africa quickly found themselves in trouble at 93-4 and the visions of an English victory were palpable. However, the South African captain Greame Smith, who had watched the carnage from the other end, had other ideas as he put his head down and started to rebuild first with A.B. DeVilliers and then Mark Boucher. He scored the bulk of the runs and struck 17 exquisite boundaries. England tried everything that day but Smith stood in their way like a rock to snatch one of the most famous victories in recent times.

graeme-smith

2. Brian Lara 153* v Australia, Bridgetown, 1998-99

Brian Lara has played numerous dazzling innings in his illustrious career but this one against Australia should rank right up there with his very best. The game looked all over for the West Indies when they were reduced to 105-5 chasing 308 for victory by the combined might of McGrath, Gillespie, Warne and Macgill but Brian Lara took the game by the scruff of its neck as he slowly started to rebuild the innings in the company of the pragmatic Jimmy Adams. Slowly but surely the strokes started to flow as the Australians wilted under pressure- a rare occurrence, but the West Indies kept losing wickets to still keep the opposition in the hunt. With only one wicket in hand and 1 to get Lara struck a brilliant cover drive to seal an improbable victory for the West Indies. He hit a staggering 19 fours and 1 six in this memorable innings and the only reason why Lara’s innings comes in second is because Gooch played his innings in conditions which were tailor made for fast bowling. However, do catch a video of this unbelievable innings to relive the drama and the mastery of Lara.

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1. Graham Gooch 154* v West Indies, Headingley, 1991

This Graham Gooch effort ranks as the number one in the list due to the fact that not only was it against the then mighty West Indies or that he carried his bat through the innings but also because he helped England win the match. The West Indies attack at the time were the best in the world and Gooch stood up to them for more than 450 minutes to blunt them out and score the greatest captain’ knock ever in Test cricket and that too in the second innings. The innings personified resilience, superb technique and temperament in the face of adversity. To put the innings and the bowling attack in perspective, the next best score in the entire England second innings was a modest 27 runs. You would hardly get to see a better captain’s knock than that one in Test cricket.

gooch

CONCLUSION

Hopefully, you have enjoyed the short time travel across eras and the heroic deeds of some of the great leaders in the game. Surely you are itching to get into a debate about the rankings, aren’t you? No worries, the comments section is waiting for your thoughts.

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