Tim Holt, who has been following the game since the 1950's, recalls some great innings over the years, recalls a few more classic in part two of his nostalgia:
Garfield Sobers - West Indies - vs England, Jamaica, 1968
Truth be told, I could have written about many of Sir Gary Sobers’s classics like his 132 in the 1960-61 tied Test or his innings of 254 for the Rest of the World against Australia at the MCG in 1971.
But my pick has been his innings against a rampaging John Snow and against the background of riots at the ground. Snow played havoc (7 for 49) to rout the West Indies for 143 in the first innings, in reply to England's 376. When Sobers walked out after West Indies followed on, the scoreboard read 174 for four. An innings defeat looked imminent as the pitch was very uneven and had cracks that were likened to the Grand Canyon. Sobers scored not only scored an undefeated 113 against Snow and Fred Titmus to help West Indies avoid an innings defeat but helped set a challenging target for England, who were finally happy to draw the Test at 69 for eight, chasing 159.
Brian Lara - West Indies - vs Australia, Barbados, 1999
This innings was not only the epitome of Lara's genius, but also a great display of his grit and determination. The West Indies were set an unlikely target of 308 against an Australian attack spearheaded by Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie with spin support in the form of Shane Warne and Stuart Macgill. At 105 for five, West Indies were staring at an imminent defeat and 248 for eight, he had just Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh to help him avoid what looked an inevitable defeat. But Lara battled on like a true champion as Ambrose stayed with him for nearly hour and a half to help add 54 for the ninth wicket and Walsh stayed put for 14 minutes to help his captain earn a sensational draw. Lara’s magnum opus was numerically worth 153 unbeaten runs, but that knock was worth a lot more for the West Indies.
Norm O'Neil – Australia - versus West Indies, Brisbane, 1960
The man touted as the next 'Bradman' when he was newcomer in the 50's never quite lived up to that billing. O’Neill was more like Doug Walters in his play; a cavalier stroke player who people would drop everything to watch.
In this historic Test at Brisbane, in reply to the huge West Indies first innings total of 453, O’Neill was truly regal while scoring 181 against a high-quality attack of Wes Hall, Gary Sobers, Alf Valentine and Sonny Ramadian to give Australia a 52-run lead. It was an innings that still ranks as one of the finest in Australian cricket history.
Adam Gilchrist – Australia - vs South Africa, Johannesburg, 2002
Gilchrist’s innings was truly mindblowing for its brilliance and carnage. That the unbeaten 204 came against the likes of Allan Donald and Makhaya Ntini makes it all the more special. His innings - at that time - was the fastest all time double century and included 19 fours and eight sixes.
Kapil Dev – India - vs Zimbabwe, Tunbridge Wells, World Cup 1983
This game was one of the biggest rescue missions witnessed in One-Day International history. It was all but over for India when Kapil Dev wrote what can only be termed as an unbelievable script. India were 17 for five when Kapil walked in to bat against Zimbabwean side that had beaten Australia in that World Cup. Kapil was at his brutal best as he plundered 16 fours and six sixes to score a World Cup record 175 not out. That knock help India gain the momentum to win the World Cup. It’s a pity that the BBC was on strike that day and a historic innings went unrecorded for posterity.
Sachin Tendulkar – India - vs Australia, Perth, 1992
It’s not easy to pick one innings when a man has 99 international centuries to his credit. I picked this one at Perth because it came on a very pacy track and against a battery of Australian fast bowlers – Craig McDermott, Merv Hughes, Paul Reiffel, Mike Whitney and Tom Moody. And Tendulkar was still in his teens when he scored that brilliant 114 when only two men in the top eight of the Indian line-up got into the 30s; and the line-up had men like Mohammad Azharuddin, Dilip Vengsarkar, Sanjay Manjrekar, Navjot Sidhu and Krishnamachari Srikkanth. Tendulkar’s backfoot play underlined the genius in him. The innings showed that this teenager was destined for greatness.
Herschelle Gibbs - South Africa - vs Australia, Johannesburg, 2006
Gibbs, in my opinion, was one of the most talented players in the modern era. But for whatever reasons, he never quite justified that huge talent and promise into consistent performances.
But against an Australian side at Jo’burg that racked up an incredible 434 in their 50 overs, Gibbs believed the humungous total could be surmounted. He translated that belief into reality with sensational brilliance – an innings of 175 that included 21 fours and seven sixes that powered South African to arguably the greatest victory in ODIs.
Graeme Pollock - South Africa - vs Australia, Durban, 1970
To say Pollock was a genius was like saying ice is cold. In my near 60 years of watching cricket, I can't place a batsman above this South African. Barry Richards was rampaging at the other end, but it was Pollock’s master class of attacking play in his effortless 274 that stole the show. His innings included 43 boundaries and left everyone aghast at his genius. Pity the world could not see more of this master.
Peter May – England - vs West Indies, Birmingham, 1957
This was a back-to-the-wall epic innings. Built on technique, concentration and perfect choice selection and classy stroke play, May knock came under the pressure when England were trailing by nearly 300 on the first innings. May had batted for ten hours for his 285 not out when he declared the innings close at 583 for four to set up a chance at victory. Needing 296 for victory, West Indies finished at 72 for seven and were lucky to escape with a draw.
Mark Butcher – England - vs Australia, Leeds, 2001
Mark Butcher was one of those players who everyone knew had talent, but he never quite delivered consistently. On this day he was up against a great Australian attack comprising McGrath, Gillespie, Brett Lee and Warne and facing an unlikely target of 315 on the last day. This looked even more uphill when England lost their first two wickets cheaply. In stepped Butcher and treated the Australian bowlers like they were club class trundlers to score a 223-ball innings of 173 not out that had everyone rubbing their eyes in sheer disbelief. Butcher’s effort won England the match with 20 overs to spare and etched his name in Ashes folklore.
Zaheer Abbas - Pakistan vs India, Lahore, 1978
The mere mention of Zaheer Abbas’s name would send Indians into cold sweat. Few overseas treated India’s bowling attack with the disdain Zaheer showed quite consistently.
This innings at Lahore was no different. Zaheer was at his sublimel best as he cut, drove and pulled to score an unbeaten 235. If you ever want to see the epitome of elegance, try to find films of this great Pakistani batsman in action.
Azhar Mahmood - Pakistan vs South Africa, Durban, 1998
This innings was of the highest class, quite remarkable from a 23-year old in the infancy of his Test career and against a quality South African pace attack of Allan Donald, Fanie De Villiers and Shaun Pollock.
It was a pressure situation for Pakistan, reeling at 89 for five when Azhar came in. He batted as carefree as the kids in galli cricket, hitting Donald over his head arrogantly for boundaries or hooking him with disdain in front of square. He shielded the tail with the expertise of a veteran. The worth of his knock is best understood by the fact that he scored 96 of Pakistan's last 106 runs!
Sanath Jayasuriya – Sri Lanka vs England, Faisalabad, World Cup quarter- final, 1996
After England scored 235, it was thought they held the upperhand in the World Cup quarter-final. Luckily, nobody told Jayasuriya this! In what was one of the most brutal assaults seen at the World Cup, he truly took the English bowlers to the cleaners, scoring 82 off 44 balls to get Sri Lanka to 113 in just 12 overs, assuring them an easy passage into the semis.
Roy Dias - Sri Lanka vs India, Kandy, 1985
Roy Dias was an artist. His strokeplay was the epitome of elegance. Here in the final Test, with his team on the brink of their first Test series win against India, he showed his class in defensive stonewalling against the charging Indians.
Set a target of 377, Sri Lanka were reduced to 34 for three by Kapil Dev and Chetan Sharma. The stage was set for Dias to take centrestage with captain Duleep Mendis. Dias saw off 216 deliveries to score 106, before he was run out. He added 216 runs for the fourth wicket with Mendis which ensured that when the match ended as a draw Sri Lanka were within 70 runs of the victory target. The draw was enough for Lanka to hang on to their lead and win the series 1-0.
(Tim Holt was born in Northern Ireland in 1952. He found his love for cricket when he was sent to South Africa between 1964 and 1966. He is an unashamed cricket purist who feasts on Test cricket. His passion for the game cuts across geographical boundaries and into the domestic competitions. Tim, who has a background in journalism and teaching, has lived and worked in many places across the world)