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Baggy green lost causes, Part 2: The ten best lone-hand batting performances

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Roar Guru
3rd September, 2021
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In Part 1, I ranked lone-hand performances by Australian bowlers in losses. Part 2 will undertake the same exercise for batsmen.

To identify them, I applied three simple criteria: that the side lost, that the player scored a high percentage of its runs, and that no teammate contributed significantly with the bat.

The initial list of 50 was dominated by batsmen who were great because they were able to succeed when others could not. They performed when either pitch conditions were unfavourable, or an opponent was strong, or their team’s situation was hopeless.

Perhaps predictably that list included Ricky Ponting (four times), Ian Chappell, Matthew Hayden and Victor Trumper (each three times), and Allan Border, Michael Clarke, David Warner and Steve Waugh (each twice).

Here is the final ten, ranked by quality of performance.

1. Victor Trumper, Australia versus England, the MCG, 1903-04
Trumper is one of the finest and most revered players of all time. In 48 matches he scored 3163 runs at 39.04, including eight centuries. Among Australian batsmen, his career scoring rate has been exceeded only by David Warner and Adam Gilchrist.

In this second match of the series England batted slowly in favourable conditions to reach an imposing 2-277. Subsequent rain then made batting almost impossible. Its innings ended at 315, with its last seven wickets adding just 38 more runs.

Trumper opened the home side’s innings and attacked as wickets fell around him. He was seeking to get the team past its follow-on target of 116 runs, and force England to bat again before the pitch dried.

(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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He was last man dismissed, for 74 runs from 80 deliveries in a team total of just 122. His ten partners collectively scored 47 with only one boundary. When England batted a second time it found conditions equally difficult and reached just 103.

On such a pitch Australia’s 297-run victory target was unreachable. It was duly dismissed for 111 to lose by 185 runs. Trumper’s share was 35 from 33 deliveries. Eight of his teammates did not reach double-figures. Four of them scored ducks. England’s Wilfred Rhodes returned match figures of 15-124.

Trumper’s performance has earned him first place on this list. He scored a record 61 per cent of his side’s first-innings runs, and 47 per cent of them in total. While the game’s last 36 wickets fell for 374 runs on an unplayable pitch, his share was 109 runs at a rate of 96 per hundred balls, the fastest in this list.

Australia’s next best contributor was its captain Monty Noble with just 31 runs for the match, the fewest by any supporting batsman in this list. Trumper’s teammates’ 20 innings produced just 124 runs in total. No other match in this list yielded fewer Australian runs than this one’s 122 and 111.

2. Stan McCabe, Australia versus England, the SCG, 1932-33
McCabe is one of Australia’s greatest attacking batsmen. In 39 matches he scored 2748 runs at 48.21, including six centuries. He particularly relished facing pace bowling.

This game was the first of the Ashes series of 1932-33, for which England captain Douglas Jardine had specifically developed Bodyline. Ironically the tactic’s catalyst Don Bradman missed it due to illness.

Australia batted first and slumped to 4-87. The bowling of Harold Larwood and Bill Voce was intimidating, and supported by leg-theory field settings.

McCabe counter-attacked with a superb 187 not out from just 230 deliveries. Of his 25 boundaries, 15 were the product of pull shots played in front of square.

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In the process he added a total of 278 runs with seven different partners in little more than four hours. He contributed 51 to a 55-run last-wicket stand in 33 minutes with Tim Wall.

Australia made 360, to which the visitors replied with 524. When the home side batted again, McCabe scored a further 32 runs in a total of just 164. England scored the necessary single run to win the match without loss.

Generic Ashes urn

(Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

McCabe’s performance has earned him second place on this list. At the time he was aged just 22 and yet to score a Test century. His opponents were of the highest quality, and using new tactics subsequently outlawed. It was the first match of an Ashes series.

No other Australian has scored more runs in a loss to England. McCabe’s 219 runs are the most by any player in this list. They were made in Bradman’s absence.

He scored 52 per cent of his side’s first-innings runs, and 42 per cent of them overall. He scored his century at a rate of 81 runs per hundred balls. His innings of 187 is the highest one in this list.

None of McCabe’s teammates was able to reach a half-century. The side’s next most successful batsman Jack Fingleton contributed just 26 and 40. That 153-run difference between the two highest scorers is the greatest for any match in this list.

3. Percy McDonnell, Australia versus England, Adelaide Oval, 1884-85
‘Greatheart’ McDonnell was one of Australia’s first outstanding batsmen. His footwork and wet-pitch skills were considered exceptional.

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After 12 matches he had scored three centuries and his batting average was 41.78, a record for that era. In 19 matches in total he scored 955 runs at 28.93. Unfortunately following chronic ill health he died aged just 35 from a heart attack.

This match was Adelaide’s inaugural Test, and the opening game of the first ever five-match series. Australia batted first and was well placed at 3-190. At that point McDonnell’s dismissal for 124 from 188 deliveries combined with a lack of batting depth contributed to a final score of 243. The visitors replied with 369.

The home side began its second innings promisingly to reach 2-125. However McDonnell’s wicket, run out by his partner after scoring 83 from 135 balls, again prompted a collapse. The team could total only 191, and England reached its 66-run victory target for the loss of just two wickets.

McDonnell’s performance has earned him third place on this list. He scored 48 per cent of his side’s runs in the game, the highest proportion ever by an Australian in a loss. For the first innings, that figure was 51 per cent.

He succeeded in each innings, with personal scores of 124 and 83. The latter innings is the best lower score by any player in this list.

He scored those 207 runs at a rate of 64 per hundred balls, while his teammates collectively managed 211 runs at a rate of just 29 per 100 deliveries. The team’s next highest contributor was Jack Blackham with just 77 runs, or 130 fewer.

4. David Warner, Australia versus New Zealand, Bellerive Oval, 2011-12
Warner is one of the most aggressive opening batsmen of all time. To date he has played 86 matches and scored 7311 runs at 48.09, including 24 centuries.

In this game, New Zealand batted first in bowler-friendly conditions and totalled 150 and 226. The home side reached just 136 in its first innings, to which Warner contributed 15 runs.

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Requiring a match-high 241 runs for victory, it ended the third day’s play well-placed at 0-72. The following morning Australia extended its score to 1-122 and then 2-159, and was at short odds to win.

David Warner

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

However Michael Clarke and Michael Hussey scored ducks, the latter dismissed by the first ball that he faced. More wickets reduced its score to 9-199, still 42 runs short of victory.

Warner then added 34 with Nathan Lyon before the latter’s dismissal secured the visitors a seven-run victory. Warner was left undefeated on 123 from 170 deliveries, including 14 boundaries. His teammates collectively contributed 89 runs from 212 balls.

Warner’s performance has earned him fourth place on this list. He carried his bat, and did so in the match’s fourth innings. It was just his second Test, and he had limited previous experience of such challenging conditions.

His century comprised 53 per cent of his team’s second-innings total, and was made at a rate of 72 runs per hundred balls. After his own 138 runs for the match, no other Australian exceeded Peter Siddle’s 38. Warner scored 3.63 times more runs than any teammate, the highest proportion by any player in this list.

5. Michael Clarke, South Africa versus Australia, Cape Town, 2011-12
Clarke is one of the best batsmen of the modern era. In 115 matches he scored 8643 runs at 49.10, including 28 centuries.

This match was the series’ first one. South Africa elected to field, and reduced the visitors to 3-40. Clarke counter-attacked by scoring 151 from just 176 deliveries, including 22 boundaries. He added 103 runs with Shaun Marsh, 39 with Mitchell Johnson and 59 with Peter Siddle. As a result Australia reached 284.

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The home side made just 96 in 24.3 overs in reply, avoiding the follow-on with its last pair at the crease. The visitors then crashed to 9-21 and were dismissed in 18 overs for 47, with Clarke contributing two runs. South Africa chased a 236-run victory target and reached it for the loss of two wickets.

Michael Clarke plays a cover drive

(Steve Christo/Corbis via Getty Images)

Remarkably the match’s third day featured 23 wickets, as well as all four innings. The home side’s Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and debutant Vernon Philander collectively took 20-247 for the match.

Clarke’s performance has earned him fifth place on this list. He led by example as captain, in an away match against a strong attack on a responsive pitch.

He scored 53 per cent of his team’s first-innings runs, and 46 per cent of all its runs for the match. His century was made at a rate of 85 runs per hundred balls.

The rest of his team managed just 178 runs from 20 individual innings. The side’s next most successful batsman was Shaun Marsh with just 44 runs, 109 fewer than Clarke.

6. Ricky Ponting, Sri Lanka versus Australia, Kandy, 1999-00
Ponting is one of the greatest batsmen of the modern era. In 168 matches he scored 13,378 runs at 51.85, including 41 centuries.

This game was the first of a three-Test series. Australia batted first and Ponting commenced his innings with its score 4-16. After a minor recovery to 7-60 he and Jason Gillespie added 107 further runs to enable the visitors to reach 188.

Ponting was last man dismissed. He scored 96 runs from 160 balls including ten fours and a six, leaving Glenn McGrath stranded on four not out.

The home side replied with 234 for a narrow lead. However the innings was most notable for a horrific outfield collision. Gillespie and captain Steve Waugh suffered a broken leg and nose respectively, and neither was able to take any further part in the match.

When Australia batted again its nine remaining players could total just 140. Ponting’s share was 51 from 118 deliveries including four fours and a six, and again he was the last man out. Sri Lanka required 95 runs for victory and attained it with six wickets in hand.

Ponting’s performance has earned him sixth place on this list. He achieved it in conditions tailor-made for a home side that included Muttiah Muralitharan. Two team members were absent for the match’s second half. In each of Australia’s innings his was the last wicket to fall, as he took risks with the bat.

He scored 45 per cent of Australia’s runs for the match, and 51 per cent for its first innings. After his own 147 runs for the game, Gillespie with 41 was the next best contributor. His teammates managed just 181 runs in total from 18 innings.

Ricky Ponting of Australia works the ball to leg

(James Knowler/Getty Images)

7. Colin McDonald, England versus Australia, Old Trafford, 1956
McDonald was a very reliable opening batsman with a successful record against bowlers of the calibre of Fred Trueman, Brian Statham, Wes Hall, Neil Adcock and Fazal Mahmood. In 47 matches he scored 3107 runs at 39.32, including five centuries.

This game took place with England seeking a win to retain the Ashes, on a dry and grassless pitch prepared to suit England’s finger spinners Jim Laker and Tony Lock. The visitors’ Richie Benaud and captain Ian Johnson struggled to also exploit it, enabling the home side to score 459 after batting first.

In Australia’s reply McDonald and Jimmy Burke shared a 48-run first-wicket partnership before McDonald’s dismissal for a watchful 32 from 92 balls. It precipitated a collapse to 84 all out. All ten wickets fell for just 36 runs in the space of 63 minutes. Jim Laker took 9-16 in one spell, and returned final figures of 9-37.

Following on the visitors improved slightly. McDonald retired hurt with a knee injury when the score was 0-28 and returned at 2-55. He scored 89 from 315 balls, but could only delay inevitable defeat. His team reached 205 to lose the game by an innings and 170 runs. Laker’s analysis was 10-53 from 51.2 overs, for record match figures of 19-90.

England’s Trevor Bailey wrote that: “We played on a beach and it became muddy as well because the rain came down. We were well equipped for a beach because we had two great spin bowlers.”

Teammate Peter Richardson stated that: “Given the conditions that was one of the best innings that has ever been played in Test cricket. He never got the credit.”

McDonald’s performance has earned him seventh place on this list. He achieved it away from home, against high-quality spin rather than pace, and on an unfair pitch. In total, he scored 42 per cent of his team’s runs.

After his own contribution of 121 runs for the match, the next best contributor was fellow opener Burke with 55. His teammates collectively scored just 168 runs from 20 attempts. Keith Miller and Richie Benaud scored ducks, and Ken Mackay a pair. Famed player of spin Neil Harvey also scored a pair, lasting only five balls and four minutes in total.

8. Allan Border, Australia versus the West Indies, Adelaide Oval, 1981-82
Border is one of Australia’s greatest batsmen, and led its late 1980s revival. In 156 matches he scored 11,174 runs at 50.56, including 27 centuries.

Australia led the three-match series 1-0, and would regain the Frank Worrell Trophy with a win or draw. The visitors’ attack comprised Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Joel Garner and Colin Croft.

The West Indies sent the home side in, and reduced it to 4-17. Border and Greg Chappell then shared a 105-run partnership, enabling their team to total 238. Border himself scored 78 from 227 deliveries with just five boundaries. The West Indies replied with 389, for a 151-run advantage.

Allan Border

(Credit: Ben Radford/Allsport via Getty Images)

In Australia’s second innings Border and Bruce Laird erased that deficit during a 166-run partnership. Border ultimately amassed 126 from 278 balls with nine boundaries.

Early on the match’s final day the home side was well-placed at 4-362 for an overall lead of 211 runs, and appeared likely to draw the match and win the series and trophy. Unfortunately it then lost its last six wickets for just 24 runs. The West Indies achieved their 236-run victory target with five wickets and 17 balls to spare.

Border’s performance has earned him eighth place on this list. It was made against arguably the most intimidating attack of all time. It almost delivered Australia the Frank Worrell Trophy. After his own 204 runs for the match, Laird with 80 was the team’s next highest scorer.

9. Graham Yallop, Australia versus England, the SCG, 1978-79
Yallop was a very capable left-hander who led Australia during World Series Cricket’s second summer. In 39 matches he scored 2756 runs at 41.13, including eight centuries.

This match began with England having already retained the Ashes. An inexperienced home side under Yallop’s leadership was comprehensively out-played and out-captained.

Batting first in ideal conditions, his team slumped to 2-19. Yallop then led by example with a counter-attacking 121 from 212 deliveries, including 13 boundaries. He was the ninth batsman out with the total on just 198.

At the other end each of the last seven batsmen failed to register double figures. Collectively they scored only 38 runs from 160 balls.

The team’s second innings realised just 143 of which Yallop’s share was a dogged 17 from 120 balls. The visitors reached their 33-run victory target with nine wickets in hand to complete a 5-1 series victory.

Yallop’s performance has earned him ninth place on this list. He achieved it as his team’s captain. His first-innings 121 represented 61 per cent of his side’s total, a proportion exceeded on this list only by Trumper.

His match tally of 138 runs was 40 per cent of his team’s overall aggregate. The next best contributor was Bruce Yardley, with innings of seven and a meaningless last-day 61.

Graham Yallop

(S&G/PA Images via Getty Images)

10. Marcus Labuschagne, England versus Australia, Headingley, 2019
Labuschagne may become one of Australia’s finest ever batsmen. In 18 matches to date he has scored 1885 runs at 60.80, including five centuries.

In this game England sent the visitors in and dismissed them for just 179. Labuschagne was his side’s top-scorer with 74 from 129 balls, and shared a 111-run partnership with David Warner. The home side then capitulated for just 67 to concede a 112-run first innings lead.

When Australia batted again it was restricted to 246 for an overall lead of 358 runs. Labuschagne again top-scored, this time with a patient 80 from 187 deliveries before being run out.

The target proved insufficient. Thanks to a remarkable innings by Ben Stokes, the home team won the match by one wicket.

Labuschagne’s performance has earned him tenth place on this list. His 154 runs for the match was 93 runs greater than his side’s next highest scorer, David Warner with 61. In total, he scored 36 per cent of all of his team’s runs for the match.

Honourable mentions
Other batsmen to perform exceptionally in losses included Ian Chappell against the West Indies at the WACA in 1975-76, Matthew Hayden in Chennai in 2000-01, Billy Murdoch at the Oval in 1880, and Kepler Wessels against the West Indies in Adelaide in 1984-85.

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