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The best two-and-a-half-day wonders in Test history

No one has come close to Sir Don Bradman, and no one ever will. (AP Photo, File).
Expert
31st July, 2015
16

England convincingly defeating Australia in two-and-a-half days in the Birmingham Test made me go for a walk down memory lane.

Australia routed England by an innings in two-and-a-half days in the Leeds Ashes Test in August 2009.

These are not the shortest Tests. Nineteen Tests have ended in two days in the 138-year history of Test cricket.

The first such instance was between England and Australia at The Oval from 28 to 29 August 1882, with Australia winning the mini thriller by 7 runs.

All three Ashes Tests in the 1888 series ended in two days. Australia (116 and 60) vanquished England (53 and 62) by 61 runs at Lord’s, but lost by innings at The Oval and in Manchester.

At one stage in Manchester, Australia was 6 down for 7 runs, the worst start in Test annals. The first four Aussie batsmen made ducks. This was the shortest Test, England completing their 21-run victory before lunch, at 1.55 pm, on the second day.

The next two Tests between South Africa and England at Port Elizabeth and Cape Town in March 1889 also ended within two days, England winning both times. Thus five Tests in a row from July 1888 to March 1889 had finished in two days.

Fifteen of the 19 two-day Tests were played before 1947 when the pitches were not covered and rain made them batsmen’s nightmares.

For 54 years between 1946 and 2000, there were no Tests which ended in two days, but the new millennium produced four such micro Tests. England beat West Indies at Leeds in August 2000, Australia beat Pakistan at Sharjah in October 2002, South Africa beat Zimbabwe at Cape Town in March 2005 and New Zealand beat Zimbabwe at Harare in August 2005.

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All four of these two-day wonders were won by an innings.

My selection of six of the best two-day Tests are as below.

1. Fred Spofforth grabs 14 (England vs Australia, The Oval, 28 – 29 August 1882)
Australia won the toss, batted first, were routed for 63 and yet won. England was dismissed for 101, ‘Demon’ Spofforth capturing 7 for 46. Despite 55 by opener Hugh Massie, Australia collapsed for 122.

England needed a token 85 to win and were cruising at 2-51 with WG Grace on 32. But incredibly they lost their last 8 wickets for 26 runs to be shot out for 77, Spofforth bagging 7 more scalps to finish with 14-90.

Australia won by seven runs.

After this Test the legend of the Ashes was born when The Sporting Times carried a mock obituary notice, stating that the body of English cricket would be cremated and the Ashes taken to Australia.

2. Fred Martin’s amazing debut (England vs Australia, The Oval, 11-12 August 1890)
In this the second Test of the series Australia won the toss, batted and were shot out for 92. Making his Test debut, England’s left-arm medium pacer Fred Martin took 6 for 50.

England led by eight runs. Martin struck again with a six-wicket haul for match figures of 12 for 102 and the visitors toppled for 102. Needing 95 to win, England was 8 for 93 and any of the four results was possible – a win, loss, draw or tie.

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The home team won by two wickets from an overthrow when Australian fielder John Barrett missed an easy run-out.

3. Bradman outscores the Windies (Australia vs West Indies, Melbourne, 13-14 February, 1931)
Australia’s stout and awkward Herbert ‘Dainty’ Ironmonger was a left-arm medium-pacer who spun the ball. He took 7 for 23 and 4 for 56 in this intriguing Test and shot out the touring Windies for 99 and 107.

Any suggestion that the pitch was unplayable was challenged by Australian skipper and opener Bill Woodfull (83 run out) and Don Bradman (152) adding 156 runs for the second wicket. Australia declared at 8 for 328 and won by an innings and 122 runs.

George Headley, the Windies’ master bat nicknamed ‘Black Bradman’, could manage only 33 and 11.

4. ‘Tiger’ tames Kiwis (New Zealand v. Australia, Wellington, 29-30 March, 1946)
This was the first Test between Australia and New Zealand and they did not play another one until 1973-74.

Perhaps the Kiwis’ mauling by an innings and 103 runs within two days was the reason. The home team erred in batting after winning the toss on a rain-affected pitch. They were rolled out for 42 and 54, ‘Tiger’ O’Reilly snatching 5 for 14 and 3 for 19, bowling his fast spinners with fire and brimstone.

Australian captain and opener Bill Brown scored 67, more than New Zealand in either innings, and declared the innings at 8-199.

5. Caddick grabs four wickets in an over (England v. West Indies, Leeds, 17-18 August, 2000)
This was the first two-day Test in 54 years. The touring West Indians were dismissed for 172 and England took a round 100 runs lead, Michael Vaughan top-scoring with 76.

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In an amazing collapse, the tourists were routed for 61, the lowest total at Leeds. The reason for the Windies’ collapse was the tall seam and swing Somerset bowler Andy Caddick.

His analysis read 11.2-5-14-5, capturing the last 5 wickets for 5 runs off 15 balls. This included 4 wickets in one over, a wicket off first, third, fourth and sixth balls. England won by an innings.

6. Hayden beats Pakistan by an innings (Australia v. Pakistan, Sharjah, 11-12 October 2002)
Pakistan won the toss and batted on a batting paradise on a neutral venue but was bundled out for their lowest ever total for 59. This record lasted for only a day as they were spun out for 53 in the second innings.

Shane Warne was the destroyer taking 4 for 11 and 4 for 13 with his slider deliveries. There was no devil in the pitch as Australia amassed 310, opener Matthew Hayden scoring 119 runs.

The temperature was 50°C and Hayden thought he was in an oven and publicly wondered whether hell was any hotter.

He reached his century with a six. As Pakistan totalled 112 in two innings, it can be surmised that Hayden (119) had beaten Pakistan by an innings and seven runs off his own bat.