Top 5 Test centuries in a losing cause

Author : Tushar Agarwal

A test century is the dream of every batsman. And whenever century is instrumental in securing victory for the team, then the satisfaction is doubled altogether. But then there also have been instances where people came up with exceptional efforts with the bat, but the opponents came out victorious because they were able to produce better performances. This can be very frustrating for the ones who got the runs but still ended up losing, because test tons don’t come easy.

Here are some splendid performances with the bat which entertained everyone but could not ensure victory for their sides.

5. Paul Collingwood 206 vs Australia (Ashes, Adelaide, 2006)

Paul Collingwood raises his bat to the crowd after falling for 206

Paul Collingwood

This was a superb effort by Collingwood in the 2nd test of the series. England won the toss and opted to bat on a wicket that favoured batsmen here at the Adelaide Oval. The openers, Strauss and Cook, however, were dismissed cheaply leaving Bell and Collingwood at the crease. They rose to the occasion, and while Bell got out after scoring a 60, Collingwood went on to score a double ton (16 fours) and built a 4th-wicket stand of 310 with Kevin Pietersen who scored 158. This was a relatively quiet double ton, involving more of resolute defensive shots than boundaries, his innings having lasted 392 balls. He did most of the scoring running between the wickets. Even his first hundred runs were competed on the second day, while the 200 mark was crossed before tea.

There wasn’t much life left in the test match with England playing their 2nd innings after a lead of 38 in the first innings, and only a day of play left with the score standing at 59/1. But it proved to be time enough for Australia as they dismissed England for a cheap 129 just before tea on the 5th day (Warne took 4 wickets) and scored the required 168 runs in the final session of play. Centuries by Collingwood and Pietersen went in vain as Ricky Ponting lifted man of the match award for his 124 in the first innings and his 49 not out in the second that saw his team home.

4. Brian Lara 221 vs Sri Lanka (West Indies in Sri Lanka, Colombo, 2001)

Brian Lara acknowledges the crowd after completing his double century

Brian Lara

West Indies came in to bat and lost their openers early. Lara walked in at number 4 and along with Sarwan (who got 69), built a near 200 run stand that took the score of the team past 200, when it was 17/2 at one stage. Lara carried on after Sarwan got out, and was part of a 136 run-partnership with Carl Hooper, who also scored a half-century. After this the wickets fell in a heap. Apart from Lara and the two half-centurions, nobody else really contributed to the scoring and the final score was below 400, even though Lara had contributed 221 of those runs. He hit 23 boundaries and 2 sixes. He got the maximum of his runs against the wily customer Muralitharan, whom he hit for 90 runs.

Sri Lanka replied with a huge total of 627, Hashan Tilakaratne scoring a double hundred. West Indies just managed 262 the second time they batted (Lara getting a hundred this innings as well), and the Sri Lankans only needed 26 runs in the final innings of the game, which was a mere formality. Chaminda Vaas took 7 wickets in each of the innings and was given man of the match jointly with Lara who tried hard both times to put on the runs for his team, but was unsuccessful in averting the loss as he was left alone trying.

3. Ricky Ponting 242 vs India (Border-Gavaskar Trophy, Adelaide, 2003)

Ricky Ponting blows a kiss to his wife

Ricky Ponting

This was another double hundred at Adelaide that went in vain. This test match, which saw Irfan Pathan make his debut, also witnessed the classy and famous double ton that Dravid scored and the second 300-plus run stand between Dravid and Laxman (148), when India were batting in reply to the Aussie 1st innings total of 556, that aided in India to turn the match on its head after Australia were in the driver’s seat by the afternoon of the second day having put up 500-plus runs.

Ponting hit 31 fours for his double ton. He took full advantage of the batting conditions, the small boundary and the sluggish bowling. He got the largest portion of his runs against Kumble, to whom he eventually got out after scoring 242, edging one to man of the match Dravid in the slips. Ponting took the crease at 22/1, and was there till the last run was scored. He was part of 7 partnerships, 5 of which yielded more than 50, 2 of those being worth more than 100 runs.

Australia started their 2nd innings before lunch on day 4, and were all out before the day was over owing to some inspiring bowling by Agarkar, who took 6/41 in his 16 overs, leaving 233 runs for India to get. Dravid once again was top scorer with 72 and he was the one who hit the winning runs as India got the required runs on the last day to complete a historic win.

2. Kumar Sangakkara 192 vs Australia (Warne-Muralitharan Trophy, Hobart, 2007)

Kumar Sangakkara celebrates a fine hundred at Hobart

Kumar Sangakkara

This comes so high up the list ahead of those double hundreds because it came chasing, and that too an impossible 500-plus total, almost helping Sri Lanka in going all the way. Australia eventually won the game, and also the series (2-0).

Australia came up with an impressive display of cricket, as a result of which they were able to set a stiff target of 507 for Sri Lanka to chase in the last innings of the match which started before lunch on day 4 itself. This was the occasion that Kumar Sangakkara chose to put up one of the most gritty displays of stroke play-in one of the most difficult situations for a batting side. He started slow, his half-century took more than a 100 balls to come batting alongside Atapattu, with whom he shared a 143-run stand. The hundred was completed relatively quickly with Jayasuriya at the other end. Day 4 ended when both of them were still there, and Sri Lanka had scored almost half the runs needed and looked like creating history on the final day.

But that was not to be. Jayasuriya was dismissed early the next day, after which the Lankans lost another 4 wickets within25 runs. Sangakkara was unaffected to say the least, and kept the runs coming with number 10 Lasith Malinga who complemented the wicket-keeper with a cameo of 42 runs (3 sixes). Sangakkara contributed 58 of the 74 runs in the stand, scoring at better than a run a ball keeping the situation in mind that needed some fast run scoring, Sri Lanka having only two wickets left. But luck favoured Australia, as he was given out edged on a Stuart Clark delivery that had only brushed his shoulder. Thus ended an innings that lasted 282 balls and saw 27 fours being hit, and took the hopes of a Sri Lankan win with it when it ended. Muralitharan and Malinga did have some fun batting for the last wicket as they added 46 runs in just 5 overs, but they could not prevent the inevitable as man of the match and man of the series Brett Lee hit the spinner’s stumps to give Australia victory by 96 runs.

1. Nathan Astle 222 vs England (England in New Zealand, Christchurch, 2002)

Nathan Astle celebrates his double-century against England in 2002

Nathan Astle

This was the quickest double hundred in the history of test cricket, coming off just 153 deliveries. And it came in the fourth innings, when the Kiwis needed 550 to win. Nathan Astle almost accomplished the impossible. England won the test match by a mere 98 runs, after setting a mammoth 549 for the Kiwis to chase, which they almost did. England came up with some brilliant performances that won them the match- man of the match Graham Thorpe who got a double hundred in the 2nd innings, and among the bowlers Caddick and Hoggard who got 9 and 8 wickets in the game respectively.

New Zealand started their chase on the end of day 3 itself. Astle started his innings with the team total a little above 100, and held up one end as wickets kept tumbling at the other, and NZ were 9 down when Chris Cairns joined him at the crease with still a good 217 needed to win. Nobody- neither the English bowlers, nor the crowd, not even the New Zealanders in the dressing room themselves were ready for what was to follow.

Nathan Astle weighed his options and decided to take on the bowling with no one to bat after the current pair. He first targeted Caddick (who had already been successful 6 times in the innings), and treated him with utmost contempt- scoring 38 off the 11 balls that he faced from him, hitting 2 boundaries, and 5 biggies- one over third man, one over square leg and the rest over the cover boundary. Hoggard also got the beating of his life, going for 46 in the 16 balls that he bowled to Astle. Cairns played the role of a partner well, and got to a quick 20 at almost as many balls. The 10th wicket stand was worth 118 and it came of just 69 balls, which was enough to scare the opposition.

New Zealand went from 350 to 400 in just 20 deliveries and to 450 in the next 39. England really felt the heat when the required margin was reduced to below a 100 runs, and with the rate those two were going and all the time in the world left, England seemed to be heading towards an impossible loss. They heaved a huge sigh of relief when Foster caught Astle for 222 off the bowling of Matthew Hoggard who got his only but most important wicket of the innings.


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