There is something heroic, something special, something spectacular about successful fourth innings chases above 300 – and not surprisingly these have been a rare commodity in Test cricket.
There have been just 30 instances of successful fourth-innings chases above 300 in Test history – these are well documented.
But equally rare, and almost as interesting are close draws where more than 300 runs have been scored in the fourth innings.
There have been just 23 instances in Test history where a team batting fourth has lost more than six wickets (i.e. more than half their side), scored above 300 runs and salvaged a draw or a tie.
So, what Tim Paine’s men managed to achieve on the final day of the Dubai Test against Pakistan, courtesy largely the efforts of Usman Khawaja, Travis Head and the captain himself, was special. Australia lost their fifth wicket in the 90th over. They lost their sixth in the 126th but then lost number 7 and 8 in the 128th. Paine and Lyon played out 73 balls and secured a dramatic draw for Australia.
Six of these 23 innings have featured Australia, India (5), England (4), West Indies, South Africa and Sri Lanka – two each and Pakistan and New Zealand feature once.
The most famous amongst these was, of course, the tied Test in Chennai in 1986.
Australia, courtesy a double ton from Dean Jones and hundreds from Boon and Border amassed 574/7 in the first innings. India were bowled out for 397. Kapil Dev smashed a quickfire hundred from Number 7. Australia declared their second innings at 170/5 setting India 348 for victory. India’s top-order fired and at 251 for 3, they looked set for an improbable win. But Azharuddin’s departure triggered a collapse. Shastri’s cameo (48 in 40 balls) almost pulled it off for India. But with the scored level, Maninder Singh was trapped leg before wicket to Greg Matthews – it was the second tie (and till date remains so) in Test history.
Interestingly, 5 of these matches were played in the 2000s – the maximum for any decade and 4 each in the 1980s, 1990s and 2010s. This suggests that batting has become easier in the fourth innings in the new millennium.
India came mighty close in 1949 against West Indies in Bombay when Vijay Hazare (came out to bat at 81 for 3) scored 122 and took India to 285 before he was the sixth batsman to be dismissed. India, chasing 361, fell just six runs short at 355 for 8.
India again came tantalizingly close at The Oval in 1979. Set 438 for a win, Gavaskar and Chauhan stitched an opening partnership of 213. Vengsarkar paired with Gavaskar and took the total to 366 before he exited. His wicket triggered a collapse and India ended at 429 for 8. Gavaskar scored 221 – his highest score outside India.
Sachin Tendulkar’s first Test hundred (unbeaten 119) helped India save the second Test at Old Trafford in 1990. Tendulkar came out to bat at 109 for 4 which worsened to 183 for 6. He put together an unbeaten match-saving stand of 160 for the seventh-wicket with Manoj Prabhakar. India finished at 343 for 6, chasing 408.
The most recent of these matches (before Pakistan vs Australia in Dubai) featured a heroic hundred by Jason Holder (103 in 149 balls) and an unbeaten 56 run stand for the eighth wicket (partnership deliveries 110) with Kemar Roach against England at North Sound in 2015. West Indies ended with 350 for 7 (target 438) and saved the Test after being down in the doldrums at 189 for 6.
Another exciting encounter featured India and South Africa in Johannesburg in 2013. South Africa, set 458, gave India a real scare courtesy hundreds by Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers. The home team fell eight runs short at 450 for 7.