During my examination of 1675 or so scorecards for result Test matches, I couldn’t help but notice the odd coincidence and strange occurrence along the way with how matches end.
These next two articles are probably only for the very bored indeed, but here is evidence that cricket can indeed be a very odd pastime.
Do teams do better defending or chasing?
Most Tests are won by taking 20 wickets. In history of Tests teams are nearly twice more likely to win by a margin of runs compared to chasing down a total with wickets to spare (1058 wins by runs versus only 617 wins by wickets).
This compares to 782 Tests that have ended in a draw. This disparity has become more pronounced in recent years and successful chases are now slightly rare.
So in general it is easier to dismiss a team to win a Test, rather than chasing a target. Have any countries bucked this trend?
Well yes, actually although from a small sample size. The newest Test nation of Afghanistan has successfully chased twice, compared to only a single victory by runs.
Looking at the other Test nations, Bangladesh rarely win chasing and at the other end the West Indies win by wickets nearly as much as by runs.
Heavy involvement by a player in a series of results
On New Zealand’s 1958 tour of England, each of the first four Tests was ended via a dismissal by English spinner Tony Lock.
In each of these Tests Lock took two of the final three wickets to fall. In each of the first three Tests the third wicket was taken by his spin twin Jim Laker.
The following year England went to New Zealand and Lock took the final three wickets in the first Test to win the first Test as well.
When the West Indies toured Australia in 1931, Australian leg spinner Clarrie Grimmett took the final wicket to end three of the five matches.
In the fourth Test he also took the final West Indian wicket, although they had scrambled just enough runs to require the Australian openers to come out and finish off a ten-wicket victory.
When Zimbabwe toured Sri Lanka in 2002, Henry Olonga managed to be the last batter out as Sri Lanka won each of the three Tests in the series.
This has never happened before or since in a series of three or more matches, but was almost matched that same year by the West Indies’ Pedro Collins, who got himself bowled as last wicket to fall in both Tests of a two-Test series against Pakistan.
Zimbabwe’s Chris Mpofu also managed this feat against New Zealand in 2005, but he used his imagination and made his two dismissals memorable – stumped and run out.
In 1959 when India toured England, English fast bowler Fred Trueman took the final wicket to end three of the Tests. Unfortunate Indian batter Ramakant Desai was the final wicket in three of the Tests as well, falling to Trueman in two of those.
In the 1907-08 Ashes, English bowler Arthur Fielder was involved in the last play in four of the five Tests of the series.
Fielder was at the non-striker’s end as England won the second Test by just one wicket. It all went downhill thereafter as Fielder was the final batter dismissed in each of the last three Tests.
In the 1990-91 Ashes the partnership of Geoff Marsh and David Boon finished off two Tests with partnerships of 187 and 81 respectively.
Marsh was also at the crease, this time with Mark Taylor, for another win during the series, in a partnership of 157. Marsh’s three unbeaten scores were 72, 79 and 63.
When touring South Africa in 1949-50, the third Test was won by Australia by five wickets, with star batter Neil Harvey and spinner Colin McCool sharing a vital 106-run stand to win the Test.
After a drawn fourth Test, the same pair combined again to finish the fifth Test. This time the last South African batter to fall was caught Harvey, bowled McCool. Harvey was also at the crease to win the second Test.
In a golden period during the first half of 1951, English opening bat Leonard Hutton hit the winning runs in three out of four England Test victories, over Australia and South Africa, scoring 60, 12 and 98.
Between January 1970 and January 1971 Australia lost five Tests out of seven played against South Africa and England. In all five defeats, the last man dismissed was pace bowler Alan Connolly.
When the West Indies toured England in 1976, ‘Whispering Death’ Michael Holding ended each of the final two Tests by pinning Bob Willis LBW. You’d have to hand it to Willis for still being in line with the stumps.
In the final two Tests of the 1956 series against England, great South African bowler Hugh Tayfield took the last wicket in each win, both times having England tail ender Peter Loader caught at long on.
In South Africa’s 1960 tour of England the first two Tests were iced by English seamer Brian Statham, in both cases by clean bowling South Africa’s Neil Adcock. The unfortunate Adcock was also bowling when England won the third Test by eight wickets.
On the 1975 West Indies tour of India, the hosts won the third and fourth Tests. In each of these the final wicket was taken by great left-arm spinner Bishan Bedi, pinning Andy Roberts, once bowled and once LBW.
When Pakistan toured Zimbabwe in 1995, the hosts’ Bryan Strang must have felt pretty good in taking one of the final three wickets in their first Test victory.
He proceeded to be the bowler on hand as the tourists wrapped up the second Test by eight wickets and was last man out caught at slip to finish the third Test.
The West Indies’ tour of England in 2000 was not a happy one for great fast bowler Courtney Walsh. He was the bowler as England hit the winning runs in the second Test before being the batter dismissed in the fourth and fifth Tests as England wrapped up the series.
During that period, the West Indies lost by a margin of runs four times with Walsh being the last batter dismissed on each occasion, padding the figures of Dominic Cork, Darren Gough, Stuart MacGill and Brett Lee.
In Australia’s 1978-79 home Ashes defeat, Australia’s Alan Hurst was last man out for three defeats. In each case he was bowled, once each by John Lever, John Emburey and Bob Willis.
During India’s 2011 tour of England, Indian pace bowler S Sreesanth was the last man out in losses in three of the four Tests, but never to the same bowler.
Individuals who combined to win consecutive Tests
During Pakistan’s 2004 tour of Australia Ricky Ponting finished off both the Boxing Day and New Year’s Tests, in both cases by hitting a boundary off spinner Danish Kaneria, while Matthew Hayden looked on from the non-striker’s end.
During the 1954-55 Ashes series Australia spanked England by an innings and 154 runs in the first Test. The tourists responded by unleashing Frank ‘Typhoon’ Tyson, possibly the fastest bowler of all time.
Tyson tore through the Australians and finished the next two Tests in identical fashion – taking the two of the last three wickets to fall, with the last each time being Bill Johnston caught behind by Godfrey Evans. In each Test, Brian Statham took the remaining wicket of the last three.
During the 2009 Bangladesh tour of the West Indies, the Bangladesh pair of Shakib al Hasan and Mahmudullah took the final three wickets in the first Test as the tourists won by 93 runs.
They backed up to be the two batters at the crease as they won the second Test by four wickets, a unique effort.
During India’s tour of Australia in 1977-78, speedster Jeff Thomson managed to take the final wicket to win the first Test, and hit the winning runs to win the second.
Thommo’s luck ran out as he was the last man dismissed as India won the fourth Test.
West Indian Derick Parry matched him when the Australians toured the West Indies that year, finishing Tests off with bat (second test) and ball (fourth), but then also being the bowler when Bruce Yardley hit the winning runs for Australia in the third Test.
Australia played no Tests between the final Ashes Test in England in August 1948 and the first Test away in South Africa in December 1949.
Australia won these two Tests nearly 18 months apart with pace bowler Bill Johnston upstaging his more famous contemporaries, Keith Miller and Ray Lindwall, by taking the final three wickets to win both Tests.
In 1902 in the fifth Test in Melbourne, Australia defeated England with spinner Hugh Trumble taking the final wicket, and all-rounder Monty Noble the two before that.
They then got on a boat to England and, after two draws, the next result was Australia again bowling England out with Trumble once more taking the final wicket and Noble the two before that.
During the 1970s India were blessed with three gifted spinners, Bhagwath Chandrasekhar, Bishan Bedi and Srinivas Venkataraghavan.
When NZ toured India in 1976, both of India’s victories came with the big three sharing the final three wickets, one each. In both cases the unfortunate final batter was Peter Petherick.
When NZ toured Pakistan in 1990, the first and third Tests both finished with trademark Waqar Younis dismissals: Willie Watson pinned LBW both times.
The second Test was won by chasing, with Shoaib Mohammad and Saleem Malik at the crease, Shoaib hitting the winning runs.
Pakistan’s next assignment was against the West Indies and the first Test was again a successful chase with Shoaib Mohammad hitting the winning runs, while Saleem Malik once more looked on from the other end.
On Australia’s 1984 tour of the West Indies, after two draws, Gordon Greenidge and his opening partner Desmond Haynes were at the crease to win the third and fifth Tests, with Greenidge hitting the winning runs each time.
On the 1992-93 West Indies tour of Australia, the hosts led one-nil with two Tests to play and were within sight of victory in Adelaide.
Then it all came crashing down. For both the fourth and fifth Tests, Ian Bishop and Courtney Walsh shared the last three wickets and Craig McDermott was the last man out, caught behind and at slip.
In 1993 England were being tormented in India. After losing the first Test by eight wickets, the tourists managed to go down by the remarkably similar margins of an innings and 22 runs and an innings and 15 runs in their final two Tests.
In both cases Venkatapathy Raju took the final wicket for the match, after fellow spinner Anil Kumble had taken each of the previous two.
In Adelaide in 1997, unlikely all-rounder Michael Bevan took the final three West Indian wickets with his left-arm wrist spin to win the Test by an innings and 183 runs.
To show it was no fluke, just over a month later he travelled to South Africa and took the last four wickets (for only two runs) to defeat the home team by an innings and 196 runs.
When Australia toured India in 1998, Anil Kumble and Rajesh Chauhan shared the last three wickets on each occasion as India won the first two Tests.
In both Tests the final victim was Michael Kasprowicz, caught at slip.
When Sri Lanka hosted the West Indies in 2001, two of the three Tests were finished off by the Sri Lankan opening pair of Marvan Atapattu and Sanath Jayasuriya, with Atapattu hitting the winning boundary each time.
During England’s tour of the West Indies in 2012, part timer Marlon Samuels found himself bowling the last over in consecutive Tests, hit for four by Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott respectively.
Over his career other players to enjoy a winning boundary from Samuels include Ricky Ponting, Hashim Amla and Gary Ballance.
In 2013, English bowler James Anderson and wicketkeeper Matt Prior combined to finish the last Test against New Zealand and then the first Test against Australia, dismissing Trent Boult and Brad Haddin respectively.
When the West Indies toured India in late 2013, Mohammed Shami finished off both Tests by bowling Sheldon Cottrell and Shannon Gabriel respectively.
Neil Wagner repeated this feat in December 2020, bowling the rather limited Shannon Gabriel in consecutive Tests.
During India’s 2014 tour of England the final two Tests were both finished with Pankaj Singh being clean bowled by Moeen Ali then Chris Jordan.
When Australia toured the West Indies in 2015, Jerome Taylor managed to be clean bowled as the last man out in the first Test, and was then the bowler to be hit for the winning runs in the second.
He had company though because Kiwi Trent Boult suffered the exact same fate in 2016 when New Zealand toured Australia.
The final coincidence happened just a few weeks ago, when India steamrolled Sri Lanka in successive Tests with the final dismissals both being bowled Ravi Ashwin, caught Mohammed Shami.
Okay, so I have a few more. If the good people at The Roar will indulge me there will be one more article on this topic with a few more weird happenings in the world of finishing cricket matches.