Decade Review 2009
Performances of the decade I

Ricky rampages, Shoaib sizzles

One of the greatest Tests of the decade, four World Cup performances, a seven-for, and a blazing double feature in the first part of our performances of the decade

Dileep Premachandran

Comments: 79 | Text size: A | A

Click here for part two

Adam Gilchrist congratulates VVS Laxman on his epic innings, India v Australia, 2nd Test, Kolkata, 4th day, March 14, 2001
Laxman: saved his best for Australia © AFP

Chris Cairns 102* v India
ICC KnockOut final, Nairobi, 2000
Despite a troublesome knee, Cairns had bowled the only maidens of the Indian innings and been his side's most economical bowler. When he came out to bat, New Zealand were abreast of the run-rate but losing wickets too quickly. When Roger Twose and Craig McMillan departed soon after, it was down to two old hands, Cairns and Chris Harris. They added 122 in steady rather than spectacular fashion before Harris was out with 11 still needed from nine balls. But Cairns kept his cool to bring up both his century and victory in the final over, finishing on 102 from 113 balls. A straight six off Sachin Tendulkar, and one into the car park off Anil Kumble, offered glimpses of his big-hitting potential, but by and large, this was an exercise in responsibility, one that secured a first-ever trophy on the world stage for his country.

VVS Laxman, 281 v Australia
second Test, Kolkata, 2001
This was the innings that halted a juggernaut that had won 16 Tests on the trot. Having scored a cultured 59 in a shambles of a first innings, Laxman was sent in at No. 3 as India followed on 274 in arrears. By the time he departed 631 minutes later, the match and series had been utterly transformed. He struck 44 boundaries along the way, none better than the inside-out drives through cover he hit off Shane Warne as he aimed at the leg-stump rough. The 376-run partnership with Rahul Dravid included 335 runs on the fourth day, when Australia's mighty attack was rendered utterly ineffective. It set the stage for a momentous victory, and was perhaps the first step on a journey that saw India take the No. 1 ranking in Tests at the end of the decade.

Harbhajan Singh, 7 for 133 and 8 for 84 v Australia
third Test, Chennai, 2001
He had gone for plenty on the opening day, when Matthew Hayden and Australia imposed their will on the deciding Test. It all changed with a moment's madness from Steve Waugh, who handled a ball that was spinning back toward the stumps. Ricky Ponting was stumped soon after, and from that point Harbhajan took 6 for 26 to wrap up the innings. Then, after Sachin Tendulkar and friends had managed to build a handy lead, he methodically set about the Australian batsmen again, taking the last six wickets to fall on his way to figures of 8 for 84. Not content with the 15-wicket haul, he then came out and struck the winning runs, squeezing a Glenn McGrath delivery past point.

Adam Gilchrist, 204* v South Africa
first Test, Johannesburg, 2002
When Steve Waugh was dismissed with the scoreboard showing 293 for 5, South Africa would have sensed an opportunity. Instead, their bowlers were subjected to the most horrifying indignities as Gilchrist and Damien Martyn pillaged 317 runs in just 62.1 overs. The afternoon session on the second day saw 190 being scored as Gilchrist started hitting fours and sixes for fun. One nearly hit an advertising hoarding offering a bar of gold to anyone that struck it. It was more than 100 yards away, but Gilchrist still went for it - and missed by about the width of the crease. No matter. He finished on 204 from just 213 balls. South Africa's challenge was over almost before it had begun.

Shoaib Akhtar, 3 for 51 and 5 for 21 v Australia
first Test, Colombo, 2002
After a luckless opening day, Shoaib had made his mark on the second, taking three wickets with turbocharged reverse swing as Australia lost their last five batsmen for just 10 runs. But it was on the third afternoon that he really came into his own. The stiflingly hot and humid conditions were hardly ideal for bowling fast in, and Australia had progressed steadily to 74 for 1, and a lead of 262, when he summoned up a spell for the ages. Ricky Ponting and Mark Waugh were bowled and Steve Waugh trapped leg-before in one frightening over, before Shoaib returned in the next to blow away Adam Gilchrist's stumps with a round-the-wicket yorker. When Shane Warne went leg-before, Shoaib had made it five wickets in 15 balls. Australia slid to 127 all out, and were left to rely on the excellence of their bowlers to save face.

Matthew Hayden, 119 v Pakistan
second Test, Sharjah, 2002
This is destined to be remembered as the match in which one man out-batted a team. Pakistan's batsmen produced two abject innings of 59 and 53 that lasted a total of 289 minutes. Hayden's vigil lasted more than seven hours. Though he was dropped twice, he was the only player to come to grips with the inhuman conditions - the mercury soared past 50 degrees Celsius. He may have reached his century with a six off Danish Kaneria, but this wasn't the belligerent Hayden who terrified bowlers for nearly a decade. It was like an oven out on the field, but it was Pakistan that ended up well and truly roasted.

World Cup, 2003 - Australia v England at Port Elizabeth, 2nd March 2003
Andy Bichel: a one-man band against England in the 2003 World Cup © Reuters

Andrew Symonds, 143* v Pakistan
World Cup, Johannesburg, 2003
Having left Steve Waugh out of the World Cup squad, Australia's preparations for their opening game were hit by the absence of Michael Bevan and Shane Warne's absence courtesy slimming tablets. When Symonds, ostensibly the man who kept Waugh out of the 30, came to bat, they were reeling at 86 for 4. He added 60 with Ricky Ponting, and then eased to a half-century from 60 balls before unveiling his full repertoire of bludgeoned strokes. Shahid Afridi was taken for four fours in an over as he cruised to a 92-ball maiden hundred, and Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis were both smashed for sixes. Symonds finished on 143 from just 125 balls. So much for missing Tugga.

Sachin Tendulkar, 98 v Pakistan
World Cup, Centurion, 2003
Even by India-Pakistan standards, this was the most eagerly awaited match in years. And when Saeed Anwar's century took Pakistan to a competitive total, it seemed as though India's charmed World Cup run against Pakistan might finally be over. Tendulkar, though, had other ideas. Long after the game, he would say that he hadn't slept for nearly a fortnight preceding it and Shoaib Akhtar's opening over saw Tendulkar make the most emphatic of statements: 18 runs came off it, including a six cut over third man and a gorgeous straight push down the ground. Reprieved on 32, he went on to 98 from just 75 balls before Shoaib returned to deny him a century. By then the asking rate was down to four, and Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh saw India home with time to spare.

Andy Bichel, 7 for 20 and 34* v England
World Cup, Port Elizabeth, 2003
When Ricky Ponting brought him on to bowl, England had 66 on the board from just nine overs. In less than an hour on a sluggish pitch that assisted seamers, Bichel had precipitated an English slide to 87 for 5. He returned later to mop up the tail and finish with 7 for 20. But Australia's batsmen found the going just as tough, and when Bichel came out at No. 10, victory was still 70 runs away. But with Michael Bevan playing the sort of innings he was famed for, they crept ever closer. James Anderson was given the penultimate over, with 14 still needed, and Bichel responded with a six and a four that sealed it with two balls to spare. His contribution was 34 from just 36 balls. Few Man-of-the-Match awards have been as easy to adjudicate. Nine days later, he and Bevan performed an encore against New Zealand.

Ricky Ponting, 140* v India
World Cup final, Johannesburg, 2003
The early damage had been done by the openers, with 105 on the board in 14 overs by the time Ponting arrived at the crease, and initially, he was content to let Damien Martyn seize the initiative, taking 74 balls for his half-century. Thereafter, India's bowling was pillaged. Harbhajan Singh's figures were ruined by two mighty heaves over midwicket, and Ashish Nehra then watched bemused as a one-handed cleave also cleared the rope. There were eight sixes in all as Australia piled on 109 in the final 10 overs. After taking just 29 balls for his second 50, Ponting then creamed 40 off the last 18 balls that he faced. India were down and very much out.

Graeme Smith, 259 v England
second Test, Lord's, 2003

The series had started with Smith being called Wotzisname by his counterpart. After his 277 in the draw at Edgbaston, no one was in any danger of forgetting who he was, but Smith reminded them anyway with another innings of stolid accumulation and power. Dropped by Nasser Hussain on 8, Smith shared century stands with Herschelle Gibbs and Boeta Dippenaar, and 257 for the second wicket with Gary Kirsten. In his 574 minutes at the crease, Smith passed 600 runs for the series and also Sir Donald Bradman's 254, the highest score ever made by a visiting batsman at Lord's. Whether it was biffing the ball through midwicket or bludgeoning it through the covers, it seemed as though he would go on and on. England lost by an innings.

Inzamam-ul-Haq, 138* v Bangladesh
third Test, Multan, 2003
Inzamam had gone into the series under a cloud, after a dismal showing at the World Cup. When Pakistan conceded a lead of 106 on a lightly grassed pitch that had something for the seamers, Test cricket's new boys had the whiff of success in their nostrils. But Inzamam, stolid and implacable, added 41 with Shabbir Ahmed and then 52 with Umar Gul as the fielders started to lose their nerve and make mistakes. Four runs when still needed when Gul departed, but after Yasir Ali, the 17-year-old debutant had survived four balls, Inzamam clipped one through the leg side to trigger a small pitch invasion from delirious home supporters. He had batted over five hours for his 138, on a wicket where only one other batsman went past 50.

Rahul Dravid, 233 and 72* v Australia
second Test, Adelaide, 2003
Less than three years after the Eden Gardens, the Indian batting's Simon and Garfunkel were at it again, adding 303 after they had slumped to 85 for 4. Dravid batted nearly 10 hours in the first innings to get India within range after Australia had stormed to 400 for 5 on the opening day. But he wasn't finished. Faced with a tricky fourth-innings chase on a pitch known to deteriorate suddenly, he had his moment of fortune when an edge off Brad Williams was grassed behind the stumps. He finished with an unbeaten 72 as India clinched their first win on Australian soil in nearly 23 years. By then he had spent 835 minutes at the crease over four days, for 305 runs. The ANZAC diggers would have approved.

Steve Harmison, 7 for 12 v West Indies
first Test, Sabina Park, 2004
At stumps on the third day, few could have predicted what would happen next. West Indies were 20 behind, but with all 10 second-innings wickets standing. The fun started in the fifth over the next morning. Chris Gayle slashed one hard into the slip cordon, and Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shivnarine Chanderpaul failed to bother the scorers. With Matthew Hoggard nailing Brian Lara from the other end, West Indies slid to a humiliating 47 all out. Harmison's spell wasn't even his quickest of the tour, but he pitched the ball up and the pitch and the batsmen did the rest. The 75 balls he bowled cost him just 12 runs. After the seven wickets, the ghosts of Trinidad and 46 all out, courtesy Curtly Ambrose, were at least partially laid to rest.

Harmison celebrates England's first wicket
Steve Harmison: briefly the new Ambrose © Getty Images

Matthew Hoggard, 5 for 144 and 7 for 61 v South Africa
fourth Test, Wanderers, 2005

Hoggard had toiled with his usual diligence for five first-innings wickets, but South Africa still finished eight runs ahead. After a monumental 180 from Marcus Trescothick, the hosts needed 325 for victory. More realistically, they needed to bat out two sessions for the draw. Soon, it was 18 for 3, with Jacques Kallis edging the first ball he faced to slip. With plenty of cloud cover, he was soon shaping the ball both ways and benefiting from the uneven bounce on a fifth-day pitch. Gibbs flailed away for 98 and Graeme Smith ignored medical advice to come out and compile a bloody-minded 67, but when Dale Steyn edged Hoggard behind just before the clock struck six, England had their first win at the Wanderers in nearly half a century. Another few minutes, and bad light would have stopped play. Hoggard's contribution? A mere 7 for 61.

Shahid Afridi, 102 v India
fifth ODI, Kanpur, 2005
The target was 250 and after two quiet overs Afridi got to work, clipping L Balaji off the pads for a six and a four. Six more down to long-off, followed by the unkindest of cuts for four. Enter Anil Kumble. Full toss slugged for six, and then a fetch from outside off stump that cleared the rope at midwicket. Kumble goes round the wicket. Over mid-off for four. Twinkle toes and a heave for six. A half-century from 20 balls, and a final tally of 102 from 46. In the 15th over, Pakistan's score was 131. They won with nearly eight overs to spare.

Click here for part two

Dileep Premachandran is an associate editor at Cricinfo


Comments: 79 
Posted by jol on (January 14, 2010, 23:30 GMT)

I agree with Gerry, although do not considerthe omission of Astle's innings as a glaring error. Rather, it is a a profund absurdity to leave it off the list by any measure. I have the DVD of that innings, and watch it from time to time to reaquaint myself with sheer joy. That innings should be on any list in the last 100 years. I know New Zealand lost the game, which perhaps has jaundiced the editor's perception of it, but still how does one ignore the fastest double 100 ( in 153 balls, with the second hundred coming in 39 balls!!!!), on a list of great performances. Editor, please explain yourself! Was it because NZ were playing England? Come on, how does Inzy get on the list with 138* against Bangladesh. This list lacks all credibility.

Posted by Greg on (January 13, 2010, 3:03 GMT)

Great list that makes interesting reading and brings back some fond memories; but of course there will be people dissapointed that one or more of their favourite moments/players are not mentioned. I'm sure there are plenty more that could be added.....but I have to say that Astles 222 vs Eng at Lancaster Park/Jade Stadium (whatever they call it these days) is a glaring omission. Those who witnessed it still rant about it...and so they should. It was quite simply incredible. I know people will talk about the ground being small, but Astle's shots would have cleared any boundary in the world. My late father watched alot of cricket, including Bradman, he saw this innings and said it was the most astounding thing he had witnessed on a cricket field. He died a happy man later that year.

Posted by . on (January 12, 2010, 23:22 GMT)

Left out that headache giving knock of Gilchrist vs India in that 1st in mumbai in 2001. Aus lost their command on the game being on 99-5 when he came in and murdered the bowlers. Might not have been that great a series if India had won 3-0....? Another knock by marlon samuels in the decider ODI against India in India. The series was 2-2 and the rest is a story to tell...i dont remember which year though. Murali's 13 back in 2000 i think...many performances.....McGrath's 12 for 26 something, dont remember when.

Posted by Binod on (January 12, 2010, 11:05 GMT)

Nice to read two episodes on this topic and evn better to recollect som memorable moments of decade but still I think lots of things missin so I reckon it wud b better if u continue it up to 3 or 4 part at most so as not to miss ne performance tht deserves a place out here. U can add a lot or som of thoze magic moments lookin at the comments from we ppl as well. Best of Luck!

Posted by Sheethal on (January 12, 2010, 9:22 GMT)

Thanks to Dileep for bringing the performances of the decade. I don't think u've missed even a single major performance. I think you've included all the important performances from the decade. Guys please remember by making runs on flat pitches in an unimportant match can't be included like jayasuriya's 189 vs Ind, Sachin's 138 vs SL(Final), Sachin's 118NO & 91 v/s Aus(final) in Australia, Sachin's 186NO vs NZ, Sehwag's tripple century on flattest wickets, most of pakistan's & srilankan's performance on their flat home pitches like Yousuf making tons of runs in pakistan but always fails whenever plays outside sub-continent(AUS-30,SA-29). Guys please remember T20 performances can't be taken seriously as it is hit & miss game(Yuvi's 6*6).

Posted by Paul on (January 12, 2010, 8:29 GMT)

CrazySilva is missing the point. Australia have been, by a long, long way, the dominant team of the decade, so you would expect them to have a lot of great individual performances from them. Also, great performances against them tend to provoke an emotional reaction, because there's that whole underdog thing to recommend them. And swamistyle, I'm hoping you're not Australian because, you're dead wrong - Australians love likening their sports heroes to ANZACs, and at least like to believe they're open-minded enough to extend the courtesy to brave opponents. And don't insult the New Zealanders by excluding them - what do you think the NZ in ANZAC stands for?

Posted by sam on (January 12, 2010, 8:19 GMT)

yes all of these are great.. but no mention of stephen flemings 274 not out.. could of easily broken nz highest test record but was a team man and declared.. Shane Bonds hatrick against the ozzys was great.. he got white then symonds then bowled bracken.. i do think the west indians were hard done by

Posted by sabbir on (January 12, 2010, 5:38 GMT)

For me , the best performance of the decade goes to Kumar Sangakkara 192 against Australia in hobert'2007.

Posted by Jason on (January 12, 2010, 5:08 GMT)

Good to see that cricinfo has managed to pick the real genuine achievements and not pandered to the sub-continent fascination of churning out cheap easy runs on flat as a pancake batting paradises against weak bowling attacks on tiny grounds- for example Sehwag's 300 at Multan was made against probably the worst bowling attack Pakistan has ever fielded, and he was dropped about 20 times on his way to that score, Yuvraj's six 6's in an over was made on a tiny cricket ground where at least 4 of the 6's wouldn't have made it anywhere near the boundary on a proper sized ground such as the MCG etc. VVS Laxman's 281 is indeed a genuine achievement, and in fact it is the greatest innings of the decade, if not of all time.

Posted by Nagesh on (January 12, 2010, 5:03 GMT)

Don't forget Saurav Ganguly's 144 in the first test at Brisbane in 2003-4 tour that not only gave India a lead in first test, but also set the tone for the tour, in which they won the 2nd test featured above.

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Dileep PremachandranClose
Dileep Premachandran Associate editor Dileep Premachandran gave up the joys of studying thermodynamics and strength of materials with a view to following in the footsteps of his literary heroes. Instead, he wound up at the Free Press Journal in Mumbai, writing on sport and politics before Gentleman gave him a column called Replay. A move to followed, where he teamed up with Sambit Bal, and he arrived at ESPNCricinfo after having also worked for Cricket Talk and Sunil Gavaskar and Greg Chappell were his early cricketing heroes, though attempts to emulate their silken touch had hideous results. He considers himself obscenely fortunate to have watched live the two greatest comebacks in sporting history - India against invincible Australia at the Eden Gardens in 2001, and Liverpool's inc-RED-ible resurrection in the 2005 Champions' League final. He lives in Bangalore with his wife, who remains astonishingly tolerant of his sporting obsessions.
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