The cricketing experts always say that Test cricket is the toughest format of the game. Even though it is the oldest set-up, still batting in Tests is not easy at all. It evaluates batsman’s character, endurance, stamina, and of course, technique and skills. A batter has to face the difficult task of pace, swing, and spin mixed up with extreme conditions.
Over the vast history of Test cricket, there have been numerous batsmen who have batted with resilience and grit. And it is the biggest reason that red-ball cricket has produced so many legends. To name a few batsmen like Sir Don Bradman, Sir Viv Richards, Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara and Ricky Ponting have not only been an inspiration but also a trendsetter in their respective eras.
Even modern-day cricket superstars have pretty well carried the legacy of such great batters. One could say that the benchmark has been set really high by players like AB de Villiers, Virat Kohli, Steve Smith, Kane Williamson, and Joe Root.
Although each innings of a Test match poses a different challenge but a real battle is when a batsman shows immense courage and plays better for his team in the fourth innings. In maximum cases, the fourth innings is played on the fifty day of the match, and by that time, the pitch cracks become visible which isn’t a pleasing sight for a batter at all. More often than not, on the last day, a ball spins a lot, so the opposing skipper tends to place fielders around the batsman, which increases the chances of outer edges.
However, there have been few batsmen who despite playing in the fourth innings excelled and outperformed all the obstacles. Let’s have a look at five such outstanding players who have reached the maximum individual score while batting in the fourth innings of a Test match.
5.) Gordon Greenidge (214 against England, 1984)
The cricket pundits believe that they have never seen any batter playing a better square-cut than the great Gordon Greenidge. Some even say that the cricketing world hasn’t seen a more willing and able hooker than the Barbados giant.
In 108 Tests, Greenidge accumulated 7558 runs at an impressive average of 44.72. The Hampshire cricketer smashed 19 phenomenal hundreds and 34 half-centuries. One of his batting brilliance came against England at Lords.
The inspirational right-handed batsman showed his all class during the West Indies tour of England in 1984. In the fourth inning of the second Test at the Mecca of Cricket, the Caribbean opener demolished the English bowlers as he scored an unbeaten 214 off 242 balls with 29 fours and two sixes. It is the fifth-highest score in the fourth innings of a Test match.
4.) Bill Edrich (219 against South Africa, 1939)
A splendid hitter of short-pitched fast bowling, William John Edrich, commonly known as Bill Edrich was an immensely talented batsman from England. In first-class cricket, he had scored 36,965 runs, at an average of 42.39 with 86 centuries, nine of them double-centuries. Edrich also took 479 wickets and 526 catches. His highest score was 267 not out for Middlesex against Northamptonshire at Northampton in 1947.
Speaking about the highest score, then Edrich’s highest international score came against South Africa in 1939 when England was on the tour of South Africa.
Edrich smashed a double century, scoring 219 in the fourth innings of the fifth Test. Overall, he played 39 Tests and amassed 2440 runs at an average of 40 with six centuries and 13 half-tons. He also bagged 41 wickets with 8/172 being his best.
3.) Sunil Gavaskar (221 against England, 1979)
The first man to get 10,000 Test runs and 30 centuries, Sunil Manohar Gavaskar, was India’s spinal column in the 70s and 80s. No wonder, Gavaskar was perhaps the greatest batsman of the cricketing world. The thing which made Gavaskar so special was the quality of his immaculate defence, and at the same time, he had the capability of hooking and pulling the most fearsome bowlers of all-time.
In 125 Test matches, Gavaskar reached a landmark of 10,122 runs with a mind-boggling average of 51.12. He slammed 34 hundreds and 45 fifties in the longest format. In first-class cricket, Gavaskar sits really high with a huge tally of runs he has scored. In 348 games, the right-handed batsman smashed 25,834 runs with 81 centuries and 105 half-tons.
Sunny’s one of the most impressive Test knocks came against England in 1979 when at The Oval he scored a double-hundred. Gavaskar made 221 off 443 deliveries with 21 boundaries in the fourth innings of the 4th Test match.
2.) Nathan Astle (222 against England, 2002)
The attacking batsman from New Zealand, Nathan Astle was known for his fearless attitude. It was the year 2002 when Astle literally ripped up the record books with his 222 against England, at Christchurch. It was the fastest double century in Tests, which came up off only 153 balls. Imagine the brilliance of the knock that it still remains as the fastest double century in red-ball cricket.
England’s Ben Stokes did come close during the game against South Africa in Cape Town in 2016, but even he couldn’t break the record as the English all-rounder ended up scoring his double ton off 163 balls.
Coming back to Astle’s outstanding knock, the Christchurch-born eventually scored 222 off 168 balls with 28 fours and 11 sixes. Astle achieved the feat in the fourth inning of the first Test match. The right-handed batsman overall played 81 Tests and clubbed 4702 runs with 11 hundreds and 24 half-tons.
1.) George Headley (223 against England, 1930)
The first man on the list is George Headley from West Indies. The phenomena of Headley can be understood with the fact that he was called ‘The Black Bradman’. However, his admirers responded to this denomination by calling Bradman’ The White Headley’. Such was the class of Headley.
One can imagine the amazingness of Headley by the fact that he scored 2190 runs in just 22 Tests, including 10 centuries, out of which eight came against England. The right-handed genius finished his Test career at a breathtaking average of 60.83. Headley was the first to score a ton in each innings of a Test at Lord’s in 1939. From a period of 1929 to 1939 the Jamaican cricketer did not have a single bad Test series.
During the home Test series against England in 1929-30, Headley scored 703 runs in four matches. His most special knock also came in the same series. In the fourth game, Headley scored a double hundred in the fourth innings. He smashed 223 off 385 balls with the help of 28 boundaries. Even after so many years, it still remains as the highest individual score in the fourth inning of a Test match.