The 12 best innings against Australia since 1980 (part 1)
Date: February 15, 2013 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell
Over my next two columns I am turning my attention to the finest 12 innings against Australia since 1980.
As always, it is bound to cause dissension, if not dissent!
What the hell, here we go with the bottom half of my dozen.
12 – Bruce Edgar, 161 at Auckland, 1981-82
Heading into the second Test at Eden Park in March 1982, New Zealand had recorded just one victory against Australia – at Christchurch in February 1977 – in its 13 matches against its Trans-Tasman rival.
That win record was doubled at Auckland thanks in the main to an innings of extreme concentration and doggedness from opener Bruce Edgar.
After a heavily rain affected draw in the opening encounter at Wellington – 154 overs were bowled over the scheduled five days – Australia was favourite to go one-up in the series with the belief that its three-pronged pace attack of Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson and Terry Alderman would prove too strong for the Kiwi batting line-up.
Sent in, the visitors could manage only 210, yet many felt it would still be enough to acquire a first innings lead.
That proved to be an illusory target for Greg Chappell’s men thanks in the main to Edgar’s resolute innings.
In a feat of supreme application the left-hander weathered the best Australia had for 513 minutes and faced 418 deliveries in compiling 161 in an innings total of 387.
It left Australia 177 in arrears and staring down the barrel of an embarrassing defeat.
Edgar’s innings was punctuated by nine rain delays which forced him to refocus each time in his bid to deny the Aussie quicks.
Batting a second time, the tourists were dismissed for 280. The Kiwis ran down the 104-run target for the loss of five wickets.
Had it not been for Edgar it could have been a very different outcome.
Australia easily had the better of the final Test with the series ending all square at 1-1.
11 – Michael Vaughan, 183 at Sydney, 2002-03
The 2002-03 Ashes series was not a happy one for England. It brought a 4-0 deficit into the final Test at Sydney.
Very few players from the touring party had managed to hold their own against a formidable Australian line-up which was at the peak of its powers. The exception was opener Michael Vaughan who looked a cut above all of his teammates.
By the time he reached Sydney he had already scored centuries at Adelaide (177) and Melbourne (145). Against an attack that included Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne, Jason Gillespie, Brett Lee and Stuart MacGill, he shone like a beacon.
He left his best to last that summer with a sublime 183 at the SCG.
His vigil in England’s second innings lasted 399 minutes, during which time he struck 27 fours and a six.
The tourists entered their second innings with tenuous one-run lead.
It was his seventh Test century in eight months and his aggregate of 633 at 63.3 was the best by an Englishman down under in 32 years.
On the back of his effort the hosts were set an improbable 452 for victory, falling well short by 225 runs.
10 – Sachin Tendulkar, 114 at Perth, 1991-92
Tendulkar’s first tour of Australia was made as an 18-year-old although from his demeanour at the crease you would never have picked it.
In the third Test at Sydney, Warne’s debut, he scored an unbeaten 148, the youngest to reach three figures in a Test in Australia. It was a pitch that was familiar for the diminutive Indian with the pitch low and spin friendly.
Perth, the venue for the fifth Test was anything but what he was accustomed to. For such a green Test batsman he batted with a wisdom and technique on a fast and bouncy pitch that belied his age.
In conditions completely foreign he raced to 114 off just 161 balls – an innings memorable for the ferocity of his cut short – before falling to Mike Whitney.
His innings was a precursor of many more than would torment Australia over the next two decades.
9 – Gundappa Viswanath, 114 at Melbourne, 1980-81
The MCG in the 1980s was often a minefield for batsmen with the quality of pitches highly questionable. Test centuries in that era were worth their weight in gold and each was hard-earned.
In the 1980-81 series a gem was produced by the diminutive Viswanath.
In an attempt to hold the pitch together the curator left a generous swathe of grass.
Upon winning the toss, Greg Chappell inserted the opposition. It paid off with Dennis Lillee and Len Pascoe reducing the visitors to 6-115.
Standing tall, figuratively, amongst the chaos was Viswanath who singlehandedly tamed both the attack and the conditions. Coming in at 2-22, he departed nine-and-a-half hours later after one of the grittiest innings seen in this country.
A combination of sparkling footwork to the spinners and a sublime late cut to the quicks his 114 came in a total of 237.
Set 143 to win, Australia was humbled, with Kapil Dev claiming 5/28 as the hosts were knocked over for just 83.
8 – Gordon Greenidge, 226 at Bridgetown, 1990-91
Greenidge announced his arrival on the Test stage with twin innings of 93 and 107 in his maiden Test against India at Bangalore in November 1974.
He was still going around at Test level in 1991 when the Australians arrived in the Caribbean.
Eleven days shy of his 40th birthday his position in the side was under severe scrutiny by the time the teams gathered at Bridgetown for the fourth Test.
His previous six Tests had produced just 139 runs at 13.9. His cause wasn’t helped when he fell for 10 in the first innings in a team total of 149. It was enough however to gain a first innings lead as the tourists were removed for a mere 134.
With his career on the line, Greenidge then wound back the clock and batted with a mixture of solid defence interspersed with a ferocity that had been a hallmark of his game.
With 32 boundaries, the majority of which came through punishing cut and pull shots, he batted for 677 minutes as he amassed 226 – his highest Test score – in a team total of 9 declared for 536.
With the visitors subsequently dismissed for 208, the Windies posted a 343-run victory.
Greenidge played the last Test of the series at Antigua (6 and 43) before drawing the curtain on his 108-Test, 17-year career.
7 – Viv Richards, 146 at Perth, 1988-89
In full flight Richards was a frightening sight if you were a bowler. It was almost a case of releasing the ball and hoping for the best.
The second Test at the WACA Ground in 1988-89 provided one of those occasions where the bowlers felt powerless to stop the onslaught.
Batting first, Richards put on a rollicking display as he batted with abandon in racing to his half-century, reaching 95 not out at stumps on day one.
The next morning he blasted 51 runs in 40 minutes before falling to Geoff Lawson. In all, he faced just 150 balls, striking 21 fours and three sixes.
One of those sixes was particularly memorable.
The match was prior to the construction of the Lillee-Marsh stand at the river end of the ground. In its absence Richards struck a straight six that disappeared out of the ground, flew over four lanes of traffic and struck the police building on the full on the far side of the road.
It was vintage Richards – menace, swagger and withering blade.
So, there you have it, the bottom half of my dazzling, and at times dour, dozen.
My top-6 will be published on Saturday.
And again, in it is likely to cause conjecture.
But hey, that is what The Roar is all about.
First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 14 February 2013