Usually my all time XI posts are about selecting teams, but this one is a variation – I have selected what I consider to be the 11 greatest test matches I have personally witnessed. I start with the ‘twelfthy’ equivalent – a game that should have been a classic but was spoiled by cowardice on the part of one of the captains.
TWELFTHY – AUS V WI, ADELAIDE 2009
After four days this match was superbly poised, with the West Indies ahead by just over 320, Chris Gayle having made a superb second innings century to keep them in contention. When WI were all out Australia were left with 81 overs to score 330 on pitch that was still pretty flat and against a bowling attack that was pretty moderate – the only detectable threats were Kemar Roach, then lightning quick, and the possibility of turn for Sulieman Benn. However this match did not get the finish it merited as Aussie skipper Ricky Ponting made a cowardly decision not to make any attempt to score the runs as a result of which the game finished up as a draw.
11: BRISBANE 2021 – AUS V I
India had an injury hit squad, and had started the tour in disastrous fashion, being bowled for 36 in their second innings at Adelaide to lose from what had been a position of strength. They had fought back splendidly winning one and drawing one of the other two games, so the two sides assembled at Brisbane with the series poised at 1-1. India were faced with chase of just over 300 on the final day, and they went for it. Cheteshwar Pujara played a valuable early knock, meaning that the Aussies already had plenty of overs in their legs by the time the middle order got in. Pant and Sundar each played superb innings, and India got home by four wickets to win the series 2-1.
10: LORD’S 2000 – ENG V WI
Things did not look good when England were all out for 133 in reply to WI’s first innings score of 267. However, Gough and Caddick ripped through the WI second innings, skittling them for 54. England needed 188 to win, with the fourth innings of the match starting on the same day that the first innings had ended. England batted better second time round, but even so they only had two wickets in hand when they finally reached the target.
9: HEADINGLEY 2001 – E V A
England achieved what was at the time their largest successful chase on English soil, largely thanks to Mark Butcher who conjured a match winning 173 not out from nowhere.
8: HEADINGLEY 1991 -E V WI
England took a small first innings lead, but it nearly went to waste, as Ambrose commenced ripping through the England second innings. One of the front line batters survived the onslaught: Graham Gooch. England managed to rally to reach 252 all out, of which Gooch’s share was 154 not out. West Indies, needing the largest total of the match to win it never looked remotely like getting there.
7: THE OVAL 2005 – E V A
Australia had won eight consecutive Ashes series going into this one, and the series had already produced several classic matches. England were coming into this match off the back of a win at Trent Bridge that put them one up with one to play, meaning that a draw was enough for them, but Australia needed a win. England made 373 batting first, Strauss leading the way with a century. Hayden and Langer both made centuries for Australia, and when Australia somewhat illogically accepted an offer of the light which ended day three they were less than a hundred short of England’s total with nine wickets standing. England fought back on day four, actually claiming a small first innings lead, largely thanks to Flintoff. The weather terminated the day’s play early, and England knew that they would need to bat for most of day five to eliminate the Australian victory from the equation. England were five down at lunch time, and Kevin Pietersen had had a lucky escape when Warne at slip failed to hold a catch off him. Collingwood, selected in place of the injured Jones held out for a while, and then Ashley Giles offered Pietersen valuable support. By the time Pietersen was out for the second most important 158 ever scored by a South African born batter at The Oval England knew that they were safe. Giles completed a fine 50, and when England were all out Australia needed 342 off 18 overs, a chase that even they could not have taken on. As it happened the weather intervened very early in the Australian second innings, and terminated the match.
6: THE OVAL 2009, E V A
Another Ashes finale, this time with the series score level, and Australia having won 5-0 in 2006-7. England had won at Lord’s earlier in the series but came into this game having taken an absolute pounding at Headingley. Jonathan Trott had been called into the side to make his debut, and Andrew Flintoff was playing his final test match. England made a good but not great first innings score (332). Australia were 72-0 in reply at one point, before Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann got busy, bowling them out for 160. Jonathan Trott scored a century in the second innings of his debut test, helping England to an advantage of over 500. Australia fought hard, but were almost 200 short when the final wicket fell.
5: MCG 2010 – ENG v AUS
This was the fourth match of this Ashes series, and the series score was 1-1 going into, England having won comfortably at Adelaide and Australia having won easily at Perth to level the scores, with the series opener at Brisbane having been drawn. Many felt that England would be unable to pick themselves up from the Perth hammering, which made the events of the opening day all the more astounding. Australia slumped to 98 all out in the first innings, only just making it into the afternoon session of day one. By the close England were 157-0. England were eventually all out on third day for over 500, and Australia could not avoid the innings defeat, although they fared better with the bat second time round than they had in the first innings. That secured the Ashes for England, and another innings win at Sydney gave the series a scoreline which fairly reflected England’s dominance.
4: HEADINGLEY 2019 – E V A
I wrote in detail about this one at the time (see here). An epic last wicket stand between Ben Stokes and Jack Leach took England to victory after they had been rolled for 67 in their first innings. Australia messed up their use of DRS, burning their last review on one that was never going to be overturned when a few runs were still needed. This meant that a few minutes later when a decision that they would have been right to review occurred they could do nothing about it.
3: TRENT BRIDGE 2005 – ENGLAND V AUSTRALIA
The series was 1-1 going into this match, Australia having escaped with a draw in the previous game at Old Trafford, and made the mistake of publicly celebrating their escape, something that England used as a boost. A big stand between Flintoff and Geraint Jones got England out of a bit of a hole in the first innings, and they ended up with a total of 477. Australia were all out 218, with Simon Jones taking 6-53, the best test figures ever achieved by a Welsh bowler. Australia followed on, and managed to set England 129 to win. At 116-7 things were looking dicey for England, but Ashley Giles and Matthew Hoggard saw them over the line.
2: RAWALPINDI 2022 – P V E
The match that inspired this post. I have written about it in some detail already (here, here and here). Suffice to say that conjuring a result out of that surface was borderline miraculous and took some very bold captaincy from Stokes and hyper aggressive batting from England.
1: EDGBASTON 2005 – E V A
England had been thrashed at Lord’s to start the series. On the morning of this match Glenn McGrath crocked himself by treading on a cricket ball, but Ponting arrogantly decided not to alter his plan to put England in if he won the toss, even having lost his chief enforcer and having an absolutely guaranteed source of fourth innings wickets. England scored 407 on the opening day, led by 99 on first innings and were then saved by Flintoff from total disaster in their second innings. However, Australia needed a gettable looking 282 to win. At the end of the penultimate day Australia were 175-8, Harmison having brought the day to a close by bowling Clarke with a slower ball. When Warne was ninth out over 60 were still needed, but Lee and Kasprowicz (McGrath’s replacement) gradually whittled down the deficit. Finally, with just three runs needed for victory a ball from Harmison took Kasprovicz’s glove and went through to Geraint Jones. umpire Bowden raised his finger, and the series was well and truly alive at 1-1. The nature of the rest of the series can be gauged from the fact that two of the three remaining matches featured earlier in this XI.
My usual sign off…
3 thoughts on “All Time XIs – The Greatest Test Matches I Have Witnessed”
I really enjoyed this post!AMPS We’re invited to Helen’s for Sunday lunch. Probably arriving from Oxford more or less
See you then, with a late birthday present for Victor.