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The best last-wicket stands in one wicket wins

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Last_wicket_partnership_Test_CricketThe first Test between South Africa and Sri Lanka at Durban in 2019 was a true classic, which the visitors ended up winning by one-wicket. Kusal Perera played the innings of a lifetime to save his team and went on to achieve one of the all-time great Test wins for Sri Lanka, which became a 2-0 series victory.

While Perera’s epic unbeaten 153 will be talked about for ages, the highlight was the partnership he shared with No. 11 Vishwa Fernando. When Sri Lanka lost their ninth man, they still needed 78 more runs for victory. But Perera batted fearlessly with Vishwa to set a new record for the highest last-wicket stand in a one-wicket win in Tests. That partnership took the game away from South Africa. It was unexpected, nail-biting and thrilling stuff.

We look at five other instances from Test history where the last-wicket pair frustrated the opposition, against all odds, and earned famous wins for their teams.

Inzamam-ul-Haq and Mushtaq Ahmed (Pakistan) 57* v Australia at Karachi, 1994:

This was one of the great Test thrillers of all time and isn’t recalled as often as it should be. It was the first Test of Australia’s tour to Pakistan, in late 1994. At Karachi, the visitors, led by Mark Taylor, had played well on a spinning surface. Pakistan needed a daunting 315 runs for victory in the final innings against the likes of Shane Warne.

At 236-8 and then 258-9, the home team was almost done and dusted. But Inzamam-Ul-Haq (58*), batting down at No. 8, held the fort staunchly along with last man Mushtaq Ahmed (20*). They mixed caution with aggression superbly, and as the Australian bowlers’ frustration kept growing, the duo kept adding runs despite the mounting pressure.

With three needed for a win, wicketkeeper Ian Healy missed a stumping opportunity off Shane Warne, and the ball drifted off to the boundary for four byes, giving Pakistan a stunning one-wicket victory. Inzamam and Mushtaq added 57 runs for the last wicket, which at the time was the highest in a one-wicket win in Tests.

Dave Nourse and Percy Sherwell (South Africa) 47* v England at Johannesburg, 1906:

In the 1st Test between South Africa and England at Johannesburg, the home team was set a target of 284 runs for victory. After having been bowled out for 91 in the 1st innings, this seemed like a herculean task on a spicy Johannesburg pitch.

South Africa lost wickets at regular intervals in the chase and was struggling at 105-6 and then 239-9. A win looked unlikely. But all-rounder Dave Nourse (93*) did not lose focus. With steady captain Percy Sherwell at the other end, they kept collecting runs. The duo eventually took South Africa to a famous one-wicket win, adding 47 unbeaten runs.

Sydney Barnes and Arthur Fielder (England) 39* v Australia at Melbourne, 1908:

At Melbourne in the 2nd Ashes Test of 1908, Australia had set England a target of 282 for victory in the final innings. The Frederick Fane-led England side, which had already lost the first Test, had a decent batting unit, but began crumbling under the pressure of the chase. After a solid opening partnership of 54 runs, wickets fell regularly and England was soon reduced to 209-8 and later 243-9.  

With 39 runs still needed for victory, there were just bowlers Sydney Barnes and Arthur Fielder at the wicket now. Australia sensed victory, but Barnes (38*) dug in and played freely along with Fielder (18*) who gave him able support. Despite the pressure, the two tail-enders did not get ruffled and stoically took the team home and leveled the series.

Doug Ring and Bill Johnston (Australia) 38* v West Indies at Melbourne, 1952:

The 4th Test between Australia and West Indies at Melbourne in 1952 was thoroughly entertaining, with myriad ebbs and flows. After having lost two Tests in the series, the visiting West Indian side was desperate for victory. On a fast Melbourne pitch that assisted seam bowling, neither team could surpass a total of 300 in the first three innings.

Australia, needing 260 to win the Test in the final innings, were done in by left-arm spinner Alf Valentine (5-88) who had them reeling at 222-9. With just fast bowler Bill Johnston and leg-spinner Doug Ring at the crease, West Indies were confident of achieving a win. But the tail-ender duo thwarted the West Indian bowlers brilliantly. Ring (32*) was the more assertive of the two and got most of the runs while Johnston (7*) maintained his composure at the crease by defending well. They eventually pulled off a stunning one-wicket victory, remaining unbeaten on 38 runs for the final wicket, and earned Australia a series triumph.

Jimmy Adams and Courtney Walsh (West Indies) 19* v Pakistan at Antigua, 2000:

By 2000, the West Indies were already in a decline but still had some fire in them. In the 3rd and final Test of their home Test series against Pakistan, West Indies needed 216 to win the match and the series. With a relatively small score to chase, the West Indies, sans Brian Lara, motored along to 144-3 and had their sights set on a comfortable win. But then came the infamous West Indian collapse and they slipped to 197 for 9 within no time as a rampaging Wasim Akram (5-49) making life hell for the batsmen on a difficult St John's wicket.

With only captain Jimmy Adams and Courtney Walsh standing, Pakistan sniffed the chance of a famous win. Walsh, a typical tail-end batsman, had shown a year earlier in his famous partnership with Brian Lara against Australia that despite his limited abilities with the bat, he could hang around if needed. Here, too, he did the same, with the captain showing at the other end.

An umpiring error saved Walsh and there was a missed run-out chance that escalated the tension. But Adams (48*) showed great spirit to stay on for 212 balls. The last-wicket pair went on to add 19 runs in 72 minutes together and eventually took West Indies home in emphatic fashion. 



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