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England’s Ben Stokes set the cricket world alight this Sunday after his freak unbeaten knock of 135 that helped England win a magical Ashes Test from an impossible situation. England was down and out at Headingley; being reduced to 286-9 while chasing 359. But Ben Stokes’ phenomenal counter-attack brought them back and earned England one of the most famous Test victories of all time.
Batting in the 4th innings is always considered the toughest task in Test cricket. Hence, Ben Stokes’ 135 vs Australia in Ashes 2019 will now be registered as one of the greatest fourth innings knocks in Test history. The game has seen a number of memorable performances by batsmen in the fourth innings in successful chases. Here is a look at a few of them.
Brian Lara, 153* vs Aus, Bridgetown, 1999:
This has of course become the stuff of legends now. Because the knock is generally recognized as the greatest ever knock in a 4th innings chase. It has epic written all over it – Brian Lara, one of the best batsmen of his times facing off against the mighty Australians in their prime and chasing a target of 308 on a crumbling 5th day wicket. The likes of Glen McGrath, Jason Gillespie and Shane Warne were giving it their all to thwart the ‘Prince’.
But he dug in, even as wickets kept tumbling around him. Lara played astutely with the lower order but didn’t curb his natural instincts – the flashy cuts, the drives and the flicks; he was in full flow. Lara first stitched a 133-run partnership with Jimmy Adams for the sixth wicket and then, after the team was down at 248-8, played with tail-enders Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose to remain unbeaten on a spectacular 153 with 19 fours and a six to take his side to an unforgettable victory.
Adam Gilchrist, 149* vs Pak, Hobart, 1999:
Chasing a formidable target of 369 against an attack that comprises of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Shoaib Akhtar and Saqlain Mushtaq on the last day of a Test can be a daunting prospect. It can become even more difficult if your team is staring down the barrel at 126-5 with almost all the main batsmen back in the hut. But Adam Gilchrist, playing only in his 2nd Test match, had other ideas.
The left-handed wicket-keeper batsman formed an outstanding 238-run partnership for the sixth wicket with Justin Langer (127) at Hobart to take the game away from Pakistan. Despite the Pakistani bowlers coming at him hard, Gilchrist counter-attacked beautifully – cutting, pulling and driving with disdain and never allowing the tourists to get back on top. Gilchrist eventually remained unbeaten on a sensational 149 off just 163 balls – his maiden Test hundred – with 13 fours and a six to take Australia home with four wickets to spare.
Kusal Perera, 153* vs SA, Durban, 2019:
It came out of the blue. No one expected it. Not even the most devout Sri Lankan fan. After all, this was an in-decline Sri Lankan side, playing against a strong South Africa and chasing a target of 304 runs on a fast Durban track.
What’s more, Sri Lanka was 110-5 at one stage in the chase. The match seemed going the home team’s way. Until Kusal Perera decided to stand up and produce an unforgettable performance. As it turned out, it ended up being one of the greatest 4th innings knocks of all time as Perera remained unbeaten on an incredible 153 off 200 balls to take his side to an unexpected and memorable win. It was a great counter-attacking knock, laced with 12 fours and five sixes as Perera smashed the bowlers around and put on a record-breaking last-wicket stand of 78 runs with Vishwa Fernando – the highest-ever in a successful chase.
Perera’s knock is eerily similar to Ben Stokes’ 135 vs Australia in Ashes 2019 – a 300-plus last innings target; a left-handed batsman taking control; a 70-plus last-wicket stand and an unbelievable victory.
VVS Laxman, 73* vs Aus, Mohali, 2010:
This was one of the more entertaining VVS Laxman knocks in more ways than one; packed with emotion, drama, and thrill and, of course, some coruscating strokes. Chasing a tricky target of 216 against Australia in the first Test of a two-match series at Mohali, India was reeling at 126-8 on a two-paced pitch with the only recognized batsman at the crease being VVS Laxman. But just as things looked all over for India, Laxman stitched together a splendid 9th-wicket stand of 81 with Ishant Sharma (31) to bring India back into the equation.
Laxman’s knock was ladled with some scorching drives through the covers and flicks through the leg-side. While Laxman maintain his composure throughout his innings, he lost his cool at No. 11 Pragyan Ojha as the two miscommunicated while going for an extra run. Eventually, however, Laxman took India home by one-wicket in a thrilling finish while remaining unbeaten on a marvelous 73 off 79 balls with 8 fours.
Gordon Greenidge, 214* vs England, Lord’s, 1984:
This deserves a place in this list for two reasons – firstly because it still remains the highest individual score in successful chases in Tests and secondly because for the brutality of it. Set a tough target of 342 in the 4th innings against England at Lord’s, West Indies had a task on their hands with bowlers like Bob Willis, Ian Botham and Derek Pringle in the opposition lineup. But opener Gordon Greenidge had no inhibitions as he cut loose and exhibited an array of jaw-dropping and barbaric strokes that punctured the English attack into oblivion. He smashed the ball to all parts of the ground and made a complete mockery of the target as he ended up on an unbeaten 214 off 242 balls with 29 fours and 2 sixes. West Indies chased the target down in 66.1 overs at a net run rate of 5.19. It was unimaginable in Test cricket and was achieved solely by Greenidge’s savage assault.
The names and the performances in this list makes it clear that Ben Stokes’ 135 vs Australia in Ashes 2019 will hence be remembered for decades to come because of the difficulty of situation it came in. Which is your favourite knock by a batsman in the last innings?