Year-ender 2018: Ben Foakes to Virat Kohli, the top 10 Test innings

As the year comes to a close, here is a look back at ten memorable and match-defining Test hundreds of 2018.

Cheteshwar Pujara 123 vs Australia, Adelaide 

A first Test hundred for Cheteshwar Pujara in seven innings in Australia proved the difference between India being blown away for a small total and one from which they could attempt to put an inexperienced Australian batting order under the pump during the first Test. Pujara’s match-shifting 123 from 246 deliveries helped India get India to 250/9 by stumps on day one, reviving them from 19/3 and then 85/5. It took a stunning run-out from Pat Cummins to end his exemplary innings, and as it panned out that hundred – coupled with a very fine 71 in India’s second innings – made the difference in India’s 31-run victory. This is the third-longest Pujara innings, in terms of balls faced, in Tests outside of Asia. It was another an effort of limitless concentration, and one of the best from a visiting Indian batsman in Australia.

Jos Buttler 80 vs Pakistan, Headingley

Joe Root reckoned it was worth “120 or 130” on the Headingley surface rolled out for the must-win second Test against Pakistan in June, which came after a shellacking at Lord’s. Recalled to England’s Test squad after a series of strong performances for Rajasthan Royals in the IPL, Jos Buttler launched a violent assault on Pakistan’s bowlers in which he smacked 35 runs from his final 11 balls faced. His sparkling 80 took England to 363, a lead of 189 from where they beat Pakistan by an innings and 55 runs to level the series 1-1.

Dean Elgar 141* vs Australia, Cape Town

The Newlands Test of March 2018 will forever be linked with the ball-tampering scandal that saw Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft suspended and the reputation of Australian cricket smeared, but it also featured a remarkable hundred from Dean Elgar  that set up a crushing 322-run win for South Africa.

On an opening day that saw 266 runs scored and eight wickets fall, Elgar ground out runs in his own gritty manner to avoid a rout. Elgar had a slice of luck on 53 when Nathan Lyon dropped a catch at point when he was 53 and marched on to end the day on 121 amid South Africa’s late collapse, while becoming the leading run-getter in Tests since the start of 2017. It was a match-shaping hundred, with Elgar seeing off a probing new-ball threat, the testing Lyon and a superb evening spell from Pat Cummins that threatened to pull matters away from South Africa. In finishing on 141 not out in an eventual total of 311, Elgar became only the second opener in Test history to carry his bat through an innings on three occasions.

Sam Curran 78 vs India, Southampton

Sam Curran’s absence was massively felt as England lost the third Test by 203 runs, for the 20-year-old was instrumental in Indian batting’s collapse in the first two Tests while scoring vital runs down the order. A week later, Curran was drafted back into the side and straightaway left an impact. Coming in at 86/6, Curran played a counter-attacking innings of 78 that saved England the blushes and got them a reasonable total of 246. That England that was was majorly because Curran scoring 48 percent of the 160 runs that their last four wickets added before he was last out, bowled by R Ashwin when attempting a big heave. In the final result, that innings proved match-shifting as England sealed the series with a Test to spare.

Sam Curran's 78 at Ageas Bowl was a match-shifting innings
Sam Curran’s 78 at Ageas Bowl was a match-shifting innings. © Getty

Virat Kohli 97 & 103 vs England, Trent Bridge

Many more milestones await Kohli, but when he looks back at Trent Bridge 2018, he will smile for this match has confirmed him as one of the Test greats. Kohli came to England determined to prove he could bat there, after tallying 134 runs in ten Test innings in 2014. At Edgbaston, Kohli took a big step towards that with 149 and 51. At Trent Bridge, Joe Root’s decision to put India in played right into Kohli’s hands. He was furious when he fell to Rashid on 97 in the first innings, but atoned for that lapse of concentration with 103 in the second innings as India declared with a lead of 521. Kohli’s hundred – during which he became the sixth Indian batsman to score 400 runs in a Test series in England – stood out for its maturity and calmness and most importantly, contributed to an Indian win.

Usman Khawaja 141 vs Pakistan, Dubai

Australia, led by Usman Khawaja, eked out an epic draw batting for the longest time in the fourth innings in the 1st Test against Pakistan in Dubai, finishing on 362/8. Set a target of 462, or more likelier an approximate of 137 overs to survive, Australia were carried heroically by Khawaja’s second-innings hundred as he batted almost through the entire fourth innings on a wearing Dubai surface.

The left-hand batsman’s stunning rearguard came after Australia had lost three wickets for no runs on the fourth evening, and helped the visitors bat the longest they have ever had to in the fourth innings of a Test in Asia. Before the Dubai Test, Khawaja had a top score of 26 in nine Test innings in Asia and an average of 14. With Travis Head, Khawaja put on 137 for the fourth wicket and then came a partnership of 79 in 36.2 overs with Tim Paine (61* off 194 balls) as Pakistan were thwarted almost through the final session.

Usman Khawaja's eight-hour, 44-minute 141 helped Australia escape defeat to Pakistan
Usman Khawaja’s eight-hour, 44-minute 141 helped Australia escape defeat to Pakistan. @Getty

Henry Nicholls 126* vs Pakistan, Abu Dhabi 

This was a breakthrough year for Nicholls, who averaged 73.11 in 2018. Early win the year, the left-hand batsman scored a match-winning 145 not out in the first day-night Test in New Zealand. But outranking that superb effort was Nicholls’ unbeaten 126 in the deciding Test in Abu Dhabi, which gave the team their first overseas series win over Pakistan in nearly half a century.

Consider the situation: New Zealand conceded a lead of 74 and were 60/4, trailing by 14, when Nicholls walked to the crease to join Kane Williamson. That battling hundred helped New Zealand recover to 353/6 declared, with Williamson scoring 91 in a stand worth 212. Nicholls’ held up one end for 266 deliveries, a match-winning hundred in the deciding Test of a landmark series.

Mushfiqur Rahim 219* vs Zimbabwe, Mirpur

Stunned by Zimbabwe in the first Test at Sylhet – which was the visiting team’s first overseas win in 17 years – hosts Bangladesh landed at Mirpur needing a win to level the series. In quick time they were reduced to 26/3, exposing the middle order. Enter Mushfiqur Rahim, who with Mominul Haque (161) put on a stand worth 266 to revive the innings. On day two, moved from an overnight 111 to 219 not out when the declaration came at 522/7 – the highest score by a Bangladesh batsman and the longest individual innings in terms of balls faced and minutes batted. The wickets of Mahmudullah for 36 and Ariful Haque for 4 briefly lifted Zimbabwe, but then came a stand of 144 for the seventh wicket between Mushfiqur and Mehidy Hasan Miraz. With that match-winning innings, Mushfiqur became the first batsman from Bangladesh to register two Test double-centuries.

Man of the Match on Test debut, Ben Foakes soaks in “surreal few days”
Ben Foakes scored a century in his first Test innings. @Getty

Ben Foakes 107 vs Sri Lanka, Galle

Ben Foakes, who was a late arrival to Sri Lanka after being named as backup for the injured Jonny Bairstow, was named Man of the Series in a famous 3-0 England sweep of Sri Lanka. After landing in Colombo ahead of the first Test, Foakes was ushered into England’s XI in Galle and made an immediate impact with a century on debut and was Man of the Match, which he termed as a “surreal few days”.

Flown into Sri Lanka after Jonny Bairstow injured an ankle at practice during the ODI series, Foakes found himself keeping wickets in the first Test, but his biggest challenge came on day one when he had to steer England out of a hole. His 107 off 202 balls was the only 50-plus score of the visitors’ first innings and made Foakes the fifth wicketkeeper – and second England cricket after Matt Prior – to score a hundred on Test debut.

Angelo Mathews 83 & 120* vs New Zealand, Wellington

The pair of Kusal Mendis and Angelo Matthews have fashioned the second best stand for the fourth wicket in Sri Lanka’s history while boosting the visiting team’s hopes of avoiding an innings defeat against New Zealand Tuesday.

From conceding a lead of 296 to New Zealand on day three of the first Test at the Basin Reserve, with Tom Latham scoring a monumental unbeaten 264, Sri Lanka ended day four within 37 runs of erasing the deficit. From an overnight 20/3, Sri Lanka ended day four on 259/3 with Angelo Matthews and Kusal Mendis having extended their stand for the fourth wicket to 246 while denying New Zealand a wicket across three sessions. On day five, rain helped Sri Lanka escape with a draw when the match was called off with the score 287/3, Mathews ending not out on 120 and Mendis 141. Mathews head earlier top-scored with 83 in Sri Lanka’s first innings, making it a special match for him.