ESPN Cricinfo’sThe Cricket Monthlyhas compiled a superb list of the 50 greatest Test performances of the last five decades, and today’s CBS Top Five highlights the best individual Test displays by Australian players according to Cricinfo’s expert jury, which includes the likes of Greg Chappell, Russell Arnold, Mark Nicholas, John Wright, Sanjay Manjrekar, Ramiz Raja, Tony Cozier and Malcolm Knox.
Remarkably, despite dominating lengthy periods of the last 50 years of Test cricket, Australian players only featured seven times in top 50 – and none inside the top 10. In contrast, 15 entries in the list were by players who starred in Tests against Australia, including five of the top seven.
5. Shane Warne – v South Africa, Cape Town (2002)
It would surprise most that the incomparable Shane Warne did not appear on this list until the 35th slot, but few would argue the leg-spin genius’ display in his 100th Test was not his best of all. After taking 2/70 in South Africa’s first innings, ‘Warnie’ contributed 63 to a vital 132-run seventh-wicket stand with Adam Gilchrist as Australia built a 143-run lead. With the Proteas amassing 473 in the Cape Town heat, Warne then claimed 6/161 in a herculean 70-over bowling performance. Fittingly, he was at the crease on 15 not out as Australia successfully reached the target of 331 to win by four wickets.
4. Steve Waugh – v England, Manchester (1997)
Steve Waugh landed in 29th spot for his twin tons in the Ashes Test in the third Test at Old Trafford in 1997. Only four other batsmen enjoyed half-centuries in a match dominated by bowlers, but Waugh stood head and shoulders above the rest with 108 in Australia’s first-innings total of 235 before crafting 116 as they reached 395 in their second dig. The 268-run win levelled the series at 1-all, and Australia triumphed in the next two encounters to clinch the Ashes.
3. Steve Waugh – v West Indies, Kingston (1995)
Coming in at No.22 on Cricinfo’s list was another Steve Waugh effort, his unforgettable 200 against the Windies in the fourth Test at Sabina. Waugh’s nine-hour knock – which included a 231-run stand with twin brother Mark – underpinned Australia’s victory by an innings and 53 runs, giving the tourists a series victory and signalling the end of the West Indies’ long-running domination of world cricket. It also marked the transition of Waugh from a talented, flashy batsman into the unwavering backbone of Australia’s batting order.
2. Kim Hughes – v West Indies, Melbourne (1981)
Hughes’ defining innings – rated the 21st-best display of the past 50 years – came against the backdrop of personal tragedy, lining up for the Boxing Day Test against the West Indies after spending the previous week with his gravely ill father-in-law in hospital. A combination of a shocking MCG wicket and the fearsome Windies bowling attack of Holding, Roberts, Garner and Croft saw Australia in dire straits on the opening morning. Enter Hughes with the score on 3/8. He grinded out an inspirational – and vital – 100 not out as the hosts scraped to a total of 198. Australia eventually secured a stirring 58-run win after the visitors were bowled out for 161 in the fourth innings of the match. Hughes’ father-in-law passed away a week later, but his gutsy effort has since been named as the ninth-greatest innings of all time by Wisden.
1. Allan Border – v West Indies, Port-of-Spain (1984)
The finest Test performance by an Australian (and the 12th-best by any player) in the past 50 years, according to Cricinfo’s panel, was by Allan Border, who produced arguably his grittiest and most heroic batting effort against the might of the West Indies at Queen’s Park Oval. ‘AB’ helped the inexperienced tourists save the Test via a pair of dogged innings, scoring 98 not out off 314 balls in Australia’s first innings and 100 not out off 269 balls in their second dig. In all, Border was at the crease for more than 10 and a half hours with the likes of Garner and Malcolm Marshall charging in at him. The first innings featured a famous century stand between Border and debutant Dean Jones.
Allan Border, 98 not out and 100 not out, wages heroic battle to help Australia avert defeat against all odds – http://t.co/JJaI7MXwam
— Abhishek Mukherjee (@ovshake42) March 21, 2013
Australia’s greatest fast bowler, Dennis Lillee, finished one place behind Warne in 34th for his 11-wicket haul in the 1977 Centenary Test against England at the MCG. Lillee took 6/26 in England’s first innings in a legendary Day 2 performance, before helping Australia secure a thrilling 45-run win with 5/139 in the tourists’ valiant second dig.
Warne received a second entry at No.46 – for another spell-binding display against South Africa, this time at the SCG in 1998. The leg-spinner nonpareil took 5/75 and 6/34 to spearhead Australia’s win by an innings and 21 runs.