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Opinion

Ten classic innings from the past decade, Part 2

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12th January, 2020
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The last part of the decade featured some memorable innings.

This article covers the period from 2015 to 2019 and some of the best knocks to have occurred during this five-year period, including two of the greatest innings of all time.

Click here to read Part 1

Here are the best knocks in no particular order from the period (2015 to 2019).

1. Dinesh Chandimal ton against India – Galle, 2015
At 5-95 in the second innings and trailing by 97 runs, Sri Lanka were looking at an embarrassing innings defeat.

Before the innings started, Sri Lanka were trailing by 192 runs and had a difficult task to deal with a rank-turner at Galle.

Sri Lanka needed a moment of brilliance and it came from the classy bat of Dinesh Chandimal, who scored a brilliant 162 off 169 balls, which included 19 fours and four sixes.

The right-hander put on two valuable partnerships of 125 runs with Lahiru Thirimanne and 82 runs with Jehan Mubarak. Chandimal was at his fluent best, smacking the ball to all parts of Galle. He displayed serious wrist work and elegance in what proved to be a decisive innings.

Sri Lanka set India a competitive total of 175 on a tricky Galle wicket thanks to Chandimal’s innings. Sri Lanka ended up winning the match by 63 runs. Rangana Herath picked up a seven-wicket haul but the victory would not have been possible without Chandimal.

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For that effort, Chandimal won the man-of-the-match award for that majestic innings of 162.

2. Younis Khan ton against Sri Lanka – Pallekele, 2015
Pakistan had a difficult task of defeating Sri Lanka in Sri Lankan conditions, chasing 382 to win the third and deciding Test at Pallekele.

The visitors lost Ahmed Shehzad and Azhar Ali with only 13 runs on the board after six overs. For Pakistan to win the decider, they needed a big innings from someone.

They got that from the veteran Younis Khan, who scored a brilliant 171 off 271 balls. Khan put on 244 runs with Shan Masood and 126 runs with Misbah-ul-Haq. Khan helped Pakistan achieve the second highest chase in Asia.

Younis was severe on Sri Lanka’s specialist spinner Tharindu Kaushal, who went for 1-153 off 31 overs. Younis used the sweep shot to very good effect in countering the spinner.

I would rank the Younis Khan innings as one of the best Test innings by a Pakistani batsman in Tests, especially against a side that Pakistan struggled against in away conditions.

3. Cheteshwar Pujara ton against Australia – Adelaide, 2018
India were aiming to win their first Test series down under when they reached Aussie shores in late 2018. India came prepared and ready for the big series. The Indian squad featured many quality players including number three Cheteshwar Pujara.

India's Cheteshwar Pujara

(AP Photo/James Elsby)

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Pujara models his game in a similar vein to Indian great Rahul Dravid. He loves to accumulate time and drain the opposition bowlers. In hot and humid conditions in Adelaide, Pujara scored a brilliant 123 off 246 balls.

While wickets fell around him, Pujara stood firm and helped his team to a respectable score of 250. Pujara batted on a pitch that both sides struggled to bat on for the most of the game.

He was the only centurion in the match from both sides. In India’s first innings, the next top scorer was Rohit Sharma, with 37 off 61 balls.

He hit seven fours and two sixes and batted for six hours and 16 minutes in extreme heat and humidity on a difficult batting pitch. The 123 was vital in helping India take a 1-0 lead in the four-Test series, helping his side win their first Test series in Australia.

4. Steve Smith ton against England – Edgbaston, 2019
Steve Smith returned from a one-year ban at Edgbaston – a ground where Australia has struggled in the past.

This was Smith’s first innings back from suspension and it could not have come on a bigger occasion than the Ashes.

Smith came to the crease to a chorus of boos from the English faithful. Edgbaston has the most vocal crowd in England. It didn’t seem to affect Smith at all.

The former Australian captain orchestrated a brilliant 144 off 219 balls. The crafty right-handed batsman batted for five hours and 36 minutes and hit 16 fours and two sixes.

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Australia were 2-17 when Smith arrived at the crease. The Aussies were 3-35 after Usman Khawaja’s departure (13 off 23 balls). Smith built a vital partnership with Travis Head (35 off 61 balls) of 64 runs.

When Chris Woakes dismissed Head, Smith’s job of building a competitive total for his side became even more difficult. Australia collapsed to 8-122 before Peter Siddle came to the crease for Australia.

Smith put on two valuable partnerships of 88 runs with Siddle and 74 runs with the number 11 batsman Nathan Lyon. Smith looked like he was on another pitch compared to his teammates.

He fidgeted and moved all over the crease, crafting his way to his 24th Test match century. To date, this is Smith’s best innings, considering the occasion, the match situation, and the attack he was facing.

Steve Smith celebrates a century

(Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

5. Shai Hope second-innings ton against England – Headingley, 2017
Scoring one century is a special moment for a young player trying to establish himself in Test cricket. West Indies youngster Shai Hope scored two in 2017 against England at Headingley.

Hope scored a brilliant first-innings hundred, but it was his second-innings hundred that helped his side to a memorable victory over England.

The West Indies got hammered by an innings in the first Test of a three-Test series against England. Few people were expecting much of a fight from the young batting line-up, but Shai Hope came to the party for his team and scored two centuries.

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The second one came in a tricky chase of 322 at a ground that favours fast bowling. Hope had to deal with Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes and Ben Stokes in conditions that favoured England.

Hope became the first man to score a two tons in a Test match at Headingley. The West Indies were 2-53 when Hope joined fellow Barbadian Kraigg Brathwaite at the crease. The pair put on 193 for the third wicket with Hope in particular punishing the English attack to all parts in typical Caribbean style.

Hope remained not out, batting for five hours and 22 minutes for his score of 118 off 221 balls. Hope hit 14 wonderful fours. The victory was the Windies’ first Test victory in England since 2000.

It was an innings of pure class. Shai Hope has been up and down in Test matches since this match, but his ODI form has been brilliant in the last couple of years.

6. Steve Smith ton against India – Pune, 2017
The Aussie superstar has played many brilliant innings in this decade. However, the innings in Pune is one of his greatest knocks.

India is a difficult place to tour for foreign batsman. Only lost two teams have beaten India in India in a Test series in the last 16 years. The home side has not lost a Test series at home since 2012.

Playing on a dust bowl in hot weather in Pune, Australia’s task to contain India was difficult. India had three spinners in Ravindra Jadeja, Jayant Yadav and Ravi Ashwin at their disposal. Australia had a sizeable 155-run lead heading into their second innings.

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The Aussies were 3-61 at one stage in their second innings. Australia needed a special innings to put themselves in a strong position in the match. Steve Smith was at the crease with first innings top-scorer, Matt Renshaw.

Smith played an innings of pure class on a challenging batting track. To put the value of the innings into context, Smith was one of only four batsmen in the whole game from both sides who scored over 50 in the match.

The match also ended inside three days and Australia hammered India by 333 runs. While Australia kept losing wickets, Smith danced his way to a brilliant 109 off 202 balls with 11 fours to his name. He batted for four hours on a pitch where no one else lasted over three hours at the crease.

Yes, India dropped Smith three times, but you have to take advantage of the opportunities. Smith used his feet to counter the spin from all three of India’s spinners. The unorthodox style was on display as he fidgeted and danced his way to his 18th Test hundred and his best innings as captain.

7. Kane Williamson ton against Pakistan – UAE, 2018
The series was level at 1-1, and batting on the subcontinent against Pakistan, New Zealand had a challenging situation on their hands. Pakistan had only lost one series at home in the UAE in the last decade.

New Zealand had to deal with Pakistani leg-spinner Yasir Shah. Shah has a strong record in the UAE. The leg-spinner did well in the Test matches prior to this one.

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New Zealand was in serious trouble when Shaheen Shah Afridi removed Ross Taylor for a quick-fire 22 off 14 balls. Henry Nicholls joined his captain in the middle with his team struggling at 4-60 and trailing by 18 runs. New Zealand needed a solid partnership, and they got it from captain Kane Williamson and Henry Nicholls.

Kane Williamson of New Zealand

(AAP Image/Michael Dodge)

Williamson and Nicholls put on 212 for the fifth wicket. Nicholls played for his 126 off 266 balls. The New Zealand skipper played a genuine captain’s knock in foreign conditions.

He batted for a considerable time and reaped the rewards, scoring a brilliant 139 off 283 balls. Williamson hit 13 fours in his brilliant innings. The batting masterclass set up the game for his side, and set Pakistan a tricky target of 280 to win on the final day.

The innings helped New Zealand win the Test and win their first series away against Pakistan in 49 years. The Kiwi skipper showed how to play spin on the subcontinent.

8. Usman Khawaja ton against Pakistan – UAE, 2018
Australia had lost both their main star batsmen before the start of this series. An inexperienced squad led by Tim Paine had a difficult task of defeating a team who were so strong in their backyard.

After conceding a massive 280-run first-innings lead, Australia’s position in the game got worse when Pakistan declared at 6-181 in their second innings. The Aussies required an improbable target of 462 to win the first Test.

Usman Khawaja played his best innings in the baggy green when he scored a brilliant 142 off 302 balls. He hit 11 fours in an innings that lasted six hours and 42 minutes in the searing heat and humidity of Dubai.

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It was an innings that helped Australia salvage a draw. The innings was classy, gritty and disciplined, and helped Australia accomplish a draw.

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9. Kusal Perera ton against South Africa – Durban, 2019
Few people gave Sri Lanka any hope of defeating the South African team when they toured there early last year. Australia and New Zealand had hammered them on their previous tours.

Sri Lanka had some youngsters in the touring squad and a new captain, opener Dimuth Karunaratne. To make matters worse, Sri Lanka were in a tough position in their second-innings chase.

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Sri Lanka were in trouble at 3-52 when Perera came to the crease. When Sri Lanka’s last batsman came to the crease to partner with Kusal Perera, Sri Lanka were 78 runs away from victory. At that stage, everyone thought South Africa would take a 1-0 lead in the two-Test series.

Perera and number 11 Vishwa Fernando pulled off a miraculous tenth-wicket partnership to take Sri Lanka to an unforgettable victory. Perera was brilliant against the likes of Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Duanne Olivier.

The flamboyant left-hander smashed 12 fours and five sixes in his knock of 153 off 200 balls and survived five hours on a difficult batting track.

When Perera hit the match-winning runs, South African commentator and legendary all-rounder Shaun Pollock was exclaiming with joy. The South African legend’s commentary was brilliant. It made the moment feel special and just added to the spectacle.

The spectators at Kingsmead in Durban and cricket fans worldwide witnessed brilliance from Kusal Perera.

Kusal Janith Perera’s innings will forever rank as one of the greatest knocks of all time, and for me, it is the greatest innings of the decade.

10. Ben Stokes ton against Australia – Headingley, 2019
Ben Stokes pulled off a miracle at Headingley on the August 25, 2019.

Ben Stokes celebrates winning the third Ashes Test

Ben Stokes (Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

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He helped his side to an unbelievable Ashes victory. The southpaw survived an onslaught from the Aussie bowlers for five and a half hours.

Ben Stokes scored 135 not out of 219 balls, spanking 11 fours and eight sixes. He put on 76 from 62 balls with last batsman Jack Leach, and saved England from losing the Ashes.

Jack Leach only scored one run from 17 balls. Leach survived one hour at the crease. Stokes farmed the strike from Leach and counter-attacked the Aussies.

He was three off 70 balls. Stokes struggled early in his innings and was on 29 runs off 100 balls before he took the Australian attack apart and won the game for his side.

He was 37 off 129 balls before he unleashed. His last 98 runs came off 90 balls. Stokes played one of the best strategical innings that I have witnessed in my time watching cricket.

Stokes drained the Aussie bowlers and attacked them at the right time. Plus, he farmed the strike from Jack Leach. Stokes batted for 45 deliveries out of the 62 deliveries from the last-wicket partnership.

Stokes played some unbelievable shots. He reverse swept Nathan Lyon for six and scooped Pat Cummins for six. When Stokes slammed a Pat Cummins delivery through the offside for four, the entire Headingley crowd were on their feet, screaming in joy. It was one of the loudest cheers that I have heard in my time watching cricket. Stokes screaming in joy is an iconic moment.

Those moments will remain etched in the memories of not only English supporters, but cricket supporters worldwide.

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Umpire Joel Wilson should have given Stokes out LBW to Nathan Lyon. Also, Australia wasted a vital review and there were opportunities for Australia to close the game out.

However, none of the above factors can take anything away from the fact that Stokes’ innings was one of the best of all time.