A nightwatchman’s tale of the greatest Test double ton

Jason Gillespie Columnist

By , Jason Gillespie is a Roar Expert

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    After defeating Bangladesh in Dhaka in the first Test in our 2006 tour, we moved to Chittagong for the second and final Test of the series. My Adelaide cricket club teammate Dan Cullen made his debut, which was great.

    We found ourselves bowling first and managed to knock Bangladesh over for 197. Personally, I was pleased to contribute to this by taking three wickets.

    Matty Hayden and Phil Jaques went out to open our innings. I was taking my boots off and about to shower when I got a tap on the shoulder – it was our esteemed No. 3 and skipper Ricky Ponting. He asked if I would mind putting the pads on? He just felt that (even though he was one of the best batsmen in the world) this Bangladesh attack posed too many threats and asked if I could do his job for him at number 3?

    I had to think about this, because it had now become very dark and overcast, which would aid the Bangladeshi seamers with plenty of movement through the air. On top of that, it was one of those rare pitches that not only had uneven bounce, but was seaming around and turning square on Day 1. Not for the faint hearted I can tell you.

    However, when your captain says he doesn’t fancy it and wants you to do his job, you just nod and say, “Yes Skip, no problem. I will step up and do your job.”

    So I strapped them on. No sooner had I done that than a wicket fell – Matty Hayden, out to the wily Mohammad Rafique, the brilliant left-arm spinner.

    Out I strode, number 3 for my country in a Test match, after opening the bowling and getting 3/11. Inspiring stuff!

    I take guard – middle stump to the left-arm spinner. Open stance so I don’t thrust my pad out in front of my stumps and get lbw; I need to back myself to hit the ball. I go through my little routine. Two bat taps behind me, three twirls of the bat in my hands, go into my stance and tap my bat three times, before looking up as the bowler is coming in. (This routine will be repeated over 400 times throughout the innings, but I’m getting ahead of myself.)

    I survive the first ball – play it back down the pitch to the “oohs” and “aahs” of the Bangladesh fielders.

    I managed to survive with Jaques to stumps. It really was an incredible effort considering the conditions. It was a hard graft and showed a lot of guts and character.

    The displays of hard graft, concentration, courage, guts and character were in abundance over the next few days. The Bangladesh bowlers were superb on a pitch that offered them all the assistance in the world, yet I was immovable – playing straight when the ball was at the stumps, and expanding my repertoire of shots to include a cover drive to complement the forward defence, the leave outside off stump, and the ‘tuck off the hip’.

    Any young aspiring Test number three who wishes to succeed in immeasurably tough Test match conditions should take notes.

    This innings was not without controversy. Although it was a nine-and-a-half hour masterpiece of concentration, there was a lapse – I might have run out the skipper.

    An innocent mistake: I was simply admiring my defensive shot that squirted out to backward point, when I looked up and saw Ricky halfway down the wicket looking for a single. I was disappointed that he did not once stop to admire perfection in my forward defence, but he wanted to keep the scoreboard ticking over. The nerve of him!

    I was no chance of leaving my crease, so I sent him back and unfortunately he was run out.

    After that I made the decision that I did not want to go back in that dressing room, especially after hearing the expletives Ricky was yelling as he walked off the ground.

    I committed to knuckling down and ticking off some milestones along the way. After 50, the next milestone was 61 – Glenn McGrath’s highest score! I actually raised the bat, much to the mirth of my teammates and confusion of everyone else at the ground.

    My good mate Damien Fleming was next with 71*, again I raised the bat.

    I reached the 90s. I had never been in this situation before in any form of cricket, so I decided to simply stick to my basic batting plan.

    I was desperate to get to 100 but knew I needed to be patient. In any case I had a goal – to raise my bat for passing Warney’s highest Test score of 99!

    I reached my hundred and raised my bat to the small crowd. I pointed my bat to the dressing room – desperate to get a glimpse of the great man. Unfortunately Warney had nipped out back for a fag, but the respect was there.

    What do you do when you find yourself in unfamiliar territory, in my case having never scored a hundred in any form of cricket? You simply continue what you are doing, so I continued to offer sound advice on the art of batsmanship to my junior partner, Mike Hussey. Although he was scoring at a quicker rate, I was the glue holding the partnership – and in fact the innings – together.

    I had to keep reining Huss in because when it got difficult (which was most of the time) he kept playing silly shots or going for suicidal singles so he did not have to face the bowling.

    My calming influence allowed him to get to 180 before the pressure got too much, and he perished. It was a decent knock – a shame he couldn’t go on and get a double century.

    I plodded on, passing legend after legend’s high score along the way – Mark Waugh’s 158, Darren Lehmann’s 178, Michael Vaughan’s 197 and Steve Waugh’s 200. Unfortunately, when push came to shove, these lads could not find a way to get to 200 and in Tugga’s case, he could not remain unbeaten. A shame really, such quality players not being able to dig deep and remain unconquered.

    The Bangladeshis had no answers – seam, swing, spin, it did not matter, it was all to no avail. They fed my cover drive, and my speed between the wickets in the searing humidity allowed me to pick off twos with ease.

    The big moment came when I tucked Rafique around the corner for 4 to go to 201*.

    Hysteria engulfed the ground, teammates and support staff on the balcony laughing in disbelief – not quite sure why, it was always on the cards.

    Michael Clarke was not out at the other end, and was very happy for me. As we walked off (we declared) I decided to give the young Pup a piece of advice after our embrace.

    “Son, that’s how you score a Test double ton.”

    This post originally ran as DIZZY: A true(ish) version of my 201* in 2014.

    Jason Gillespie
    Jason Gillespie

    After taking 259 wickets in 71 Tests to become Australia's sixth highest wicket-taker, Jason Gillespie has remained involved in cricket, coaching the likes of the Yorkshire County Cricket Club and the Adelaide Strikers. Follow Jason on Twitter @Dizzy259.

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