Inzamam ul-Haq and Aravinda de Silva have played some memorable innings © Getty Images
Inzamam ul-Haq and Aravinda de Silva have played some memorable innings © Getty Images

 

By Tim Holt

 

Tim Holt, who has been following the game since the 1950’s, recalls some great innings over the years:

 

Kim Hughes – Australia vs West Indies, MCG, 1981-82:

 

The MCG track was a minefield. To put it in context, a yorker-length ball could leap and smash against the batsman’s skull, while the next ball delivered at bouncer-length could roll along the ground!  And when the opposition has a bowling line-up that has the likes of Michael Holding, Andy Roberts, Colin Croft and Joel Garner, it was like facing death from both ends for the batsmen.

 

Under the circumstances, one can imagine the thoughts of the batsmen walking out in the middle with the scoreboard reading eight for three! Kim Hughes must have felt like going unaccompanied to the gallows!

 

But the Aussie was made of sterner stuff as he challenged the situation and the West Indies headhunters with rare master class. He scored one of the most breathtaking and courageous centuries in the history of the game.

 

Hughes got hit, but he was unfazed; he square cut, he advanced down the wicket to the quicks, he cut and hooked in brilliant defiance. He stepped out and swatted Garner to the boundary to bring up an unforgettable hundred in a total of 198. Hughes truly etched his name in the annals of legendary cricket knocks.

 

Barry Richards – South Africa vs Australia, Durban, 1969-70

 

For me, the South African side of this era would have gone down in history as the greatest ever had the nation not being banned for its then apartheid policies.

 

I followed Barry Richards’s innings on BBC. It was the great man’s first Test century – 140 off 164 deliveries – and it was as perfect as a batsman can get from a technical point. In my time, I could not think of a player more technically perfect as Barry Richards.

 

Richards took a decent Australia attack to the cleaners, playing every shot in the book. It’s a pity that this was his first and last Test series.

 

The fact that we didn’t see Richards’ full career at the highest level was one of the greatest tragedies in the games history.

 

Inzamam-ul-Huq – Pakistan vs New Zealand, Auckland, World Cup semis

 

In 1992, a score of 262 in ODIs was considered huge. To make matters for the team chasing, this score was put up by the team batting first in a World Cup semi-final. Talk of pressure!

 

Pakistan just lost their fourth wicket with the score on 122 when rookie Inzamam walked in. His team needed 122 off 15 overs and the odds of Pakistan getting to the target were overwhelmingly stacked against them.

 

Throughout his career Inzamam was seen as a player with ice in his veins and a man for a crisis, and this was his first exhibition of that what the world saw a lot later. A 37-ball 60 with seven fours and a six saw Pakistan surmount the New Zealand total and power them into the 1992 final, which they eventually won.

 

This knock by Inzy is hailed as one of the classics in World Cup history.

 

Ian Botham, England, vs Australia, Old Trafford, 1981

 

In the context of this series and England‘s eventual victory, Botham’s iconic 149 at Leeds in a previous Test was a better innings. But I love this innings of 118 because I’m a huge fan of batsmen taking on genuine pace bowlers, especially when they bring out the hook shot. Check out the video on YouTube and you will realize you will appreciate how Botham took on one of the very best in the history of the game in Dennis Lillee.

 

Chris Cairns, New Zealand, vs Australia, Wellington, 2000

 

Cairns, I believe, was potentially one of the best batting all-rounders. Due to injuries the cricketing world never saw him live up to his talent. This innings showed his batting talent against bowling icons in Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne after coming in with his Team at five down for 66. Cairns scored 109 and treated Warne with the kind of disdain not many non-Indian batsmen have.

 

Aravinda de Silva – Sri Lanka vs Australia, Lahore, World Cup final 1996

 

This hundred by Aravinda, in my opinion, is the best-ever in ODIs. When he came in to bat, Sri Lanka had lost their key strengths – their openers – with not much on the board against a very good Australian attack. Everything was against Sri Lanka. Aravinda stayed showed exceptional composure in the pressure-cooker situation to firstly steady the innings, then solidify and lastly guide it through to victory. For pure skills, shot selections and the right pacing between defense and attack, this innings 107 not out was an absolute masterpiece.

 

VVS Laxman, India vs Australia, Kolkata, 2001

 

I struggle trying to think of an innings better than this one. To me being as a purist, this innings was the epitome of perfection. Right through his innings of 281 runs – without a six – Laxman’s timing, footwork and placement was as perfect as perfect could be. That this knock came against a high-quality Australian attack and under unimaginable odds when defeat looked imminent for India, makes this knock as among the finest seen in a Test match anywhere in the world. This innings surely gets ten out of 10 because it paved the way for turning a certain defeat into victory.

 

(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)