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As Sachin Tendulkar gears up to play his farewell Test on November 14, 2013, Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at how some of the other greats of the sport have performed in their last Tests.
We’re almost there: nearly a quarter-of-a-century’s love and affection, criticism and brickbats later we have finally arrived at Sachin Tendulkar‘s last Test. Some others, like him, had announced their retirements beforehand; some others have announced afterwards; and others were dropped for good unceremoniously.
So how did the other great batsmen of world cricket perform in their last Tests? Let us find out in the first instalment of the two-part series.
WG Grace farewell: June 3, 1899
The grand patriarch of modern cricket, ‘The Doctor’ was almost 51 when he played his final Test. A Test average of 32.29 speaks more of the quality of the pitches and conditions of the era than his batting skills: for decades in the second half of the 19th century, WG Grace was the undisputed numero uno of batting.
It was the first Test of the first ever five-Test rubber on English soil. Trivia: Two of the all-time greats — Wilfred Rhodes and Victor Trumper — made their debuts in the Test. Leading England and opening batting for them Grace scored 28 and one, but England managed to save the Test thanks to an excellent 93 not out from KS Ranjitsinhji.
Grace had realised that he was getting too old for the sport at the highest level — especially because of his increasing bulk. Before the second Test, he asked CB Fry whether Archie MacLaren should play in the second Test. When Fry responded in the affirmative, Grace said “that settles it” and announced his retirement from international cricket.
Scores in final Test: 28 & 1
KS Ranjitsinhji farewell — July 26, 1902
One of the most graceful yet efficient batsmen of all time, Ranji made his debut under controversial circumstances, famously lighting up Old Trafford with 62 and 154 not out. Come 1902 — one of the greatest series of all time — and Ranji found himself woefully short of runs.
Having missed the previous Test at Bramall Lane Ranji was drafted in for the fourth Test at Old Trafford. He was not at his best against Hugh Trumble, and fell for two and four. Trumble and Jack Saunders then bowled brilliantly to help the tourists to a three-run victory, and with it, the Ashes.
Ranji was dropped for the last Test at The Oval that England famously won by one wicket. He was never recalled.
Scores in final Test: 2 & 4
Victor Trumper and Clem Hill farewell: March 1, 1912
With the rare ability to destroy any bowling on his day, Trumper is typically the name cricket connoisseurs (especially Australians) bring up while comparing batsmen who had matched Don Bradman. He was probably the most elegant batsman of the Golden Era of cricket — which is saying something.
In what turned out to be his last Test, Trumper fell for five in the first innings at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG). Chasing 363 for a victory he set up a base for the hosts, adding 88 for the first wicket with Syd Gregory. He was eventually third out for a 118-ball 50 studded with four boundaries. Australia lost easily and conceded the series 1-4.
Probably the first great left-handed batsman, Hill led the Australians in Trumper’s last Test; it also turned out to be his last Test, in which he had scored scoring 20 and eight.
The ‘Big Six’ rebels of Warwick Armstrong, Trumper, Clem Hill, Hanson Carter, ‘Tibby’ Cotter, and Vernon Ransford opted out of the 1912 tour of England; Australia did not play another Test before World War I; and Trumper passed away from Bright’s Disease in 1915 at an age of 37.
Scores in final Test: Victor Trumper 5 & 50; Clem Hill 20 & 8
Jack Hobbs farewell: August 22, 1930
Jack Hobbs averaged 56.94 in an era when cricket was largely played on underprepared wickets, and The Master often had to bat on terrible ‘stickies’. The first professional cricketer to be knighted, Hobbs played on till an age of 47, and the build-up before his last Test was matched only by Bradman’s and, of late, Tendulkar’s.
With the series levelled at 1-1 Hobbs started with Herbert Sutcliffe; between the two they had formed the greatest opening partnership of all time. Hobbs fell to Tim Wall for 47, dominating an opening partnership of 68. Going out to bat with England 290 runs in arrears Hobbs walked out to bat amidst tumultuous cheer from the crowd and three cheers from the Australians.
He was bowled by Alan Fairfax for five and England crashed to an innings defeat. The Master gave way to another great —who, on his first tour of England, had provided an indication of how he would change the world of cricket for good.
Score in final Test: 53
Archie Jackson farewell: February 14, 1931
Termed ‘The Keats of Cricket’ by David Frith, Jackson was referred to by many as a batsman better than Bradman. In contrast to the great man’s single-minded accumulation of runs, Jackson was aggressive panache at its level-best. In his last Test against West Indies at MCG, however, he fell for 15.
With Australia 4-0 ahead the selectors dropped an out-of-form Jackson for the fifth Test, which turned out to be West Indies’ first Test victory against Australia. In just over a couple of years’ time he died of tuberculosis.
Score in final Test: 15
Bill Ponsford farewell: August 22, 1934
One of the iconic characters of post-World War I, Compton became the first man to two First-Class quadruple-hundreds. He had scored 110 in his debut Test at SCG in 1924-25; close to a decade later he ended his career with a humongous 266 in his last innings, adding 451 for the second wicket with Bradman — then a world record.
Despite leading by 380 Bill Woodfull did not enforce the follow-on; Bill Ponsford added 22 more to his tally before England slumped to a 562-run defeat, relinquishing the Ashes. Ponsford’s innings of 266 and match tally of 288 remain the second-best (after Andy Sandham’s 325 and 375 respectively) for anyone in their last Test innings.
Scores in final Test: 266 and 22
Herbert Sutcliffe farewell: July 2, 1935
The fact that Herbert Sutcliffe’s Test batting average never dipped below 60 is probably the greatest testimony to his machinelike consistency. A perfect foil to Hobbs, Sutcliffe emerged as the senior opener for England in the first half of the 1930s.
Sutcliffe had scored 61 in the first Test against South Africa at Trent Bridge. In the second Test at Lord’s, however, he fell for three in the first innings as the hosts conceded a first-innings lead of 30. Chasing 309 for a victory Sutcliffe was fourth out for 38; England collapsed to 151, and he emerged as the top scorer.
He missed the next Test at Headingley due to a leg injury and was never recalled as England wanted to bring in ‘fresh blood’. Unfortunately, England could not level the series.
Scores in final Test: 3 & 38
Wally Hammond farewell: March 25, 1947
The greatest misfortune of someone as great as Wally Hammond was the fact that his career coincided almost entirely with The Don’s. He had chosen, of all places, Christchurch as the venue of his last Test. The Test is usually remembered as the first where an extra day was added to the Test when a day’s play was washed off.
Like Hobbs, Hammond was cheered all the way through to the wicket. Earlier in the Test he had pulled off an outstanding one-handed slip catch to dismiss Verdun Scott off Alec Bedser; buoyed by the applause, Hammond broke open, with his famous booming drives flooding Lancester Park. When the boundaries dried up he ran extremely sharp singles for a man of his age.
Just when it seemed he would exit with a hundred Hammond holed out to Bert Sutcliffe off Jack Cowie for a 79 with 10 fours. Rain intervened soon to bring the Test to a halt for good.
Score in final Test: 79
Don Bradman farewell: August 18, 1948
One relatively lesser known bit of information about Don Bradman’s last innings is whether his eyes were full of tears or not. There have been speculations, and the great man has denied it on most occasions. Also, Eric Hollies was bowling from the Vauxhall End, and Bradman had played the first ball he had faced to Allan Watkins at silly mid-off.
Score in the final Test: 0
Bruce Mitchell farewell: March 9, 1949
One of the greatest South African batsmen before their ban, Mitchell had earned a reputation as a resilient grafter as well as a classical stroke-maker. He played in all 42 of South Africa’s Tests from 1929 to 1949. In his final Test at St George’s Park Mitchell missed out on a hundred when Alec Bedser had him caught-behind for 99.
South Africa conceded a 16-run lead, and willing to push for a win, Dudley Nourse declared the second inning closed at 187 for three, Mitchell adding 56 to his 99. England survived Athol Rowan and ‘Tufty’ Mann to reach home with three wickets in hand.
Scores in the final Test: 99 & 56
Dudley Nourse farewell: August 18, 1951
It was unfortunate that the powerful Nourse’s best years were taken away by World War II. Nourse’s final Test came in the 1951 tour of England at The Oval where the South African captain fell for four in each innings — to Freddie Brown in the first innings and to Jim Laker in the second. England won by four wickets and took the series 3-1.
Scores in the final Test: 4 & 4
Vijay Merchant farewell: November 7, 1951
Vijay Merchant had never played any country other than England, but he was good enough to finish with an average of 47.72, which indicates that his First-Class average of 71.64 was no fluke. In his last Test at The Oval, played over five years back, Merchant had scored an immaculate 128.
Merchant returned for the first Test of 1951-52 at an age of 40; after ‘Sadu’ Shinde bowled out the tourists for 203 Merchant scored 154, then the highest by an India (Vijay Hazare went past him in the same innings with 164). Watkins managed to save the Test for England, but India’s first Test victory came later in the series.
He opted out of the second Test because of an injury and never came back.
Scores in the final Test: 154
Vijay Hazare farewell: April 4, 1953
The captain to lead India to their first Test victory, Vijay Hazare was the rival for Merchant as far as the title for the first great Indian batsman was concerned. In the Sabina Park Test that turned out to be Hazare’s last, however, three Indians scored hundreds, but none of them turned out to be Hazare. He finished with 16 and 12.
Scores in the final Test: 16 & 12
George Headley farewell: January 15, 1954
The first of many great batsmen to have come out of the West Indian barracks, George Headley was one of the greatest back-foot players of all time, and few people saw the cricket ball later than him. Headley’s career should probably have ended in 1939, but he made a post-World War II comeback, playing three Tests with below-average success.
The selectors brought him back at an age of 45 for the Sabina Park Test against England; Headley failed, scoring 16 and one, but his advice to Jeff Stollmeyer to not impose the follow-on and stick to a leg-theory in the fourth innings helped the hosts win the series by 140 runs. He never played another Test.
Scores in the final Test: 16 & 1
Len Hutton farewell: March 28, 1955
Len Hutton was the first professional to lead England; just like he ended his career in New Zealand, albeit on a different ground — Eden Park. After the hosts were bowled out for 200 Hutton walked out at five, scored a typically dogged 53, and added a crucial 37 with Frank Tyson for the eighth wicket.
New Zealand were then shot out for 26 — less than half of what Hutton had scored. It still remains the lowest team score ever. On his return to England he was affected with lumbago, resigned from captaincy, and retired subsequently.
Score in the final Test: 53
Denis Compton farewell: March 5, 1957
The flamboyant, versatile Denis Compton was one of the men who defined post-War cricket in England, and was played a significant role in restoring cricket to its earlier popularity. His form, however, was on the wane towards the mid-1950s, and the great man made his exit with a whimper against South Africa at St George’s Park.
Compton was bowled by Neil Adcock for a second-ball duck in the first innings; in the next he batted at six, crawling to a 49-ball five before falling to Hugh Tayfield. Chasing 189 England were bowled out for 130 as South Africa squared the series 2-2.
Scores in the final Test: 0 & 5
Everton Weekes farewell: March 31, 1958
Few careers had scaled the heights Everton Weekes’ had, and an average of 15 hundreds from 48 Tests and a batting average of 58.61 bear testimony to that. He strode out to bat at two for two in his last Test against Pakistan at Queen’s Park Oval Weekes carved out an innings of 51 before falling to Khan Mohammad. He scored nine more and Pakistan won by an innings, though they had already lost the series.
A persistent thigh injury meant that Weekes had to call it quits.
Scores in the final Test: 51 & 9
Clyde Walcott farewell: March 31, 1960
Clyde Walcott averaged 56.68 with the bat, but while not keeping wickets it rocketed up to 64.22. Possibly the least ‘glamorous’ of the trinity, Walcott was also the most successful of them. Batting against Pakistan at Queen’s Park Oval he scored a crucial 53 before Gerry Alexander declared the innings closed 55 runs behind.
Chasing 406 the hosts decided to shut shops early, but not before Walcott fell to the innocuous leg-breaks of Ken Barrington for 22. He retired at 34 — a lot of which had to do with his dissatisfaction at how cricket was run in West Indies.
Scores in the final Test: 53 & 22
Neil Harvey farewell: February 20, 1963
Hailed by many as the greatest left-handed batsman since Hill, Neil Harvey had started his career as the ‘baby’ of the 1948 Invincibles. He ended his career in the home Ashes of 1962-63; he scored 22 and 28 as the Test ended in a draw. To make up, Harvey held six catches in the Test.
Scores in the final Test: 22 & 28
Frank Worrell farewell: August 26, 1963
The most influential of the three Ws, Frank Worrell retired after the 1963 tour of England; he scored nine in the first innings, and did not bat as Conrad Hunte and Rohan Kanhai saw West Indies home by an eight-wicket margin. On the other hand he was at his best as a leader, when he convinced Charlie Griffith to stop bowling bouncers and stopped an argument with umpire Syd Buller.
Griffith picked up six for 71 and three for 66; perhaps Buller should not have intervened.
Score in the final Test: 9
Bert Sutcliffe farewell: June 1, 1965
Had Bert Sutcliffe played for a stronger outfit he would have been remembered as the best batsman in the history of New Zealand. That was, however, not to happen, as New Zealand never won a single of the 42 Tests he had played in.
Sutcliffe had retired at an age of 36, only to make a comeback five-and-a-half years later. He went to India and Pakistan before his final tour of England. After England scored 435 at Edgbaston the Kiwis were bowled out for 116; Sutcliffe was hit on his right ear by Fred Trueman, and soon had to retire for two as he felt dizzy while running a three for his partner.
Following on, Sutcliffe walked out at seven, and his 53 was the second-highest score of the innings (he added 103 with Vic Pollard for the seventh wicket) as he helped New Zealand save the innings-defeat. However, he did not field, opted out of the remaining Tests of the series, and retired thereafter.
Scores in the final Test: 4 RT and 53
Ken Barrington farewell: July 30, 1968
The teams went to the Headingley for the fourth Test with Australia 1-0 in the Ashes. After Australia scored 315, Ken Barrington helped England reach 302 with a typically obdurate 49; after England were set 326 for a victory Barrington finished with 46 not out as stumps were drawn with the score on 230 for four.
He was dropped for the last Test at The Oval as the selectors felt the hosts needed to score fast. Barrington was named for the subsequent tour of South Africa which was called off.
Scores in the final Test: 49 & 46 not out
Hanif Mohammad farewell: October 27, 1969
The first great batsman of Pakistan, Hanif Mohammad was the seniormost of the greatest cricket family of Pakistan. He scored 22 and 35 in the Karachi Test against New Zealand in the 1969-70 series, but was subsequently omitted for the remaining Tests at Lahore and Dacca. His Test career thus came to an unceremonious end.
Scores in the final Test: 22 & 45
Barry Richards and Graeme Pollock farewell: March 10, 1970
The numbers of both Barry Richards and Graeme Pollock suggest two unfulfilled careers among many others. As Ali Bacher’s team completed the whitewash against Australia at St George’s Park, Richards smashed the tourists with 81 and 126 while Pollock failed with one and four. It did not matter, since Mike Procter and others helped the hosts romp to a 323-run victory.
Scores in the final Test: Barry Richards 81 and 126. Graeme Pollock 1 & 4
Bill Lawry farewell: February 3, 1971
With England dominating the 1970-71 and on the verge of retaining the Ashes overseas, Bill Lawry did not change his mindset in the sixth Test at Adelaide. He scored ten in the first innings, and when England set the hosts a target of 469 Lawry simply refused to go for the chase, scoring a 93-ball 21 himself as Australia meandered to 328 for three.
Lawry was sacked and dropped for good. Ian Chappell was appointed captain for the last Test at SCG, and though Australia lost the Test it started the advent of a new era.
Scores in the final Test: 10 & 21
Garry Sobers and Rohan Kanhai farewell: April 5, 1974
Even if one ignores Gary Sobers’ ability to switch between three forms of bowling, he would still have walked into any side by virtue of his belligerent strokeplay and outrageous performances with the bat. Sobers was the leading run-scorer in the world when his two-decade-long career ended at Queen’s Park Oval in 1973-74.
Rohan Kanhai, on the other hand, was that rare mix of flamboyance, power, and temperament. He could tear any bowling apart on his day, but when he decided to put his head down, there would be few more difficult batsmen to get out.
His last Test turned out to be a damp squib as he fell for a duck in the first innings and scored 20 in the second as Tony Greig’s 13-wicket haul sunk West Indies; however, he returned figures of one for 44 and two for 36 in the Test, which sort of made up for his poor performance with the bat.
Leading West Indies in the same Test Kanhai scored two and seven. England successfully defended a target of 226 and squared the series 1-1.
Scores in the final Test: Sobers 0 & 20. Kanhai 2 & 7
Colin Cowdrey farewell: February 13, 1975
Colin Cowdrey had quit cricket in 1971, but the helpless English selectors brought him back in the 1974-75 to combat Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson. Arriving with the intention to ‘have a lot of fun’, Cowdrey decided to give it back to the hosts; he did not score much, but the willingness to counter pace at an age of 42 says a lot about his character.
In his last Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Cowdrey, opening batting, scored a 35-ball seven before he was caught-behind off Max Walker. England won the dead rubber Test 1-4.
Score in the final Test: 7
Bobby Simpson farewell: April 12, 1978
Bobby Simpson had retired from international cricket in 1967-68 but was recalled to lead his country in the Kerry Packer era. He led Australia to a series victory against India at home before taking them on a tour to West Indies. West Indies won the series 3-1.
The last Test at Sabina Park was drawn; batting at six Simpson scored 46 in the first innings and did not bat in the second; the declaration was almost well-timed as the Test ended with West Indies nine wickets down. Thus ended the career of the resilient 42-year old.
Score in the final Test: 46
(Abhishek Mukherjee is a cricket historian and Senior Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He generally looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – though not as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the sport with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers that cricket has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks in street cricket, and blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in. He can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)
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