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5 of test cricket’s greatest final innings

December 22, 2013

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The near-historic finish between South Africa and India in the first test on Sunday is likely to be remembered as one of the game’s best ever — even if the end result was a draw.

What a draw it was! Chasing a huge 458 to win, South Africa came within eight runs of the highest successful fourth-innings run chase ever in over 140 years of test cricket dating back to the 19th century before holding on grimly under late Indian pressure.

With South Africa down and out, Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers both made centuries in a 205-run partnership — a test record by any team for the fifth wicket in a final innings — before India snatched three wickets at the end and the South Africans were left to cling on.

No one expected South Africa to get vaguely close, but its 450-7 was the third-highest fourth-innings total anywhere in the history of the game and only just short of shattering the record for the best chase.

“Absolutely, cricket has won,” India’s Virat Kohli said.

Here are five other great test finishes:



England’s draw with South Africa in Durban in 1939 has mythical status in the game after the touring English team — on 654-5 and unbelievably not far off the mountainous 696 it needed for victory — was forced to catch a train across country back to Cape Town to make the ship home. The game was in its 10th day in an era when there was no time limit and both teams agreed to call it a draw so the English wouldn’t miss their ship. Paul Gibb and the great Wally Hammond made centuries and Bill Edrich a double-ton in England’s huge ongoing fourth-innings total, which is the highest ever in the last innings of a test and will likely never be beaten.



Another eight runs for South Africa at the Wanderers on Sunday and it would have overtaken the West Indies’ record 418-7 to win a test. The West Indians’ performance, set in 2003, still stands as the best successful chase — but only just. Spurred on by centuries from Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, they claimed a momentous win over Steve Waugh’s Australia, then the best team in the world, and still had three wickets in hand.



Cricket’s greatest ever batsman produced one of his many brilliant innings to lead Australia to Ashes series victory over England in 1948. Don Bradman made 173 not out at Leeds and ensured Australia overhauled the victory target of 404 with some ease to clinch the famous Urn, the game’s most important test trophy.



India very nearly pulled off an astonishing win over England in London in 1979 after being asked to chase 438 to win the match and save the series. Sunil Gavaskar hit 221 after opening the batting in the last-innings effort and helped India to within nine runs of victory. A target of 15 from the last over — the 151st of India’s chase — was only just too much as an immense five-day test came down to only a handful of runs.



Faf du Plessis has played his part in an epic fourth-innings fight for South Africa before Sunday. A year ago, he batted for nearly eight hours for a century on his test debut to save South Africa from certain defeat in the second test against Australia in Adelaide. South Africa only made 248-8 and was never in contention to win the match chasing 430, but Du Plessis’ marathon innings of stubborn defense and incredible concentration and stamina kept the series level and South Africa went on to win in Perth to take the three-match contest.

“Before Adelaide I didn’t believe I could bat for four sessions,” Du Plessis said after his Sunday heroics in Johannesburg. “You don’t think that’s possible, but you just have to believe.”


Follow Gerald Imray at www.twitter.com/GeraldImrayAP

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