Comebacks in cricket are frequently the most memorable and exciting moments in the game. They demonstrate a team’s or an individual player’s resilience, determination, and skill in changing the tide of a seemingly lost contest.
Comebacks enthral cricket fans and make a lasting impact, whether it’s a stunning batting display, bowling mastery, or a combination of both. Cricket has a lengthy history of teams or individuals staging one of the most memorable comebacks in Test matches or series.
Here are the ten best comebacks in Test cricket:
1. India beat Australia in 2001
Steve Waugh’s Australians had won a world record 16 Tests in a row and appeared set to etch a new record when they had India 232/4 in their second innings, behind by 42 runs after the skipper had enforced the follow-on.
Enter VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid, who turned the race on its head with one of the most historic partnerships in Test history. Laxman’s 281 was the highest score ever by an Indian at the time, while Dravid’s 180 was defiant as they joined for a 376-run fifth-wicket partnership.
India declared at 657/7, giving Australia a target of 384 to win, and Harbhajan Singh raced through them with 6 wickets to secure an incredible victory.
2. West Indies beat Australia in 2003
In 2003, Australia led the series against the West Indies 3-0 going into the fourth Test in Antigua. They had set a target of 418 runs and appeared to be on course to beat the West Indies 4-0 when the hosts were facing defeat at 165/4, with skipper Brian Lara returning to the pavilion.
However, Ramnaresh Sarwan (105) and Shivnarine Chanderpaul (104) both hit tons to resurrect the chase. The lower-order combo of Omari Banks (47*) and Vasbert Drakes (27*) then piled up 46 runs to complete a 3-wicket win and set the record for the most successful Test chase in history.
3. Sri Lanka beat South Africa in 2019
Kusal Perera of Sri Lanka rallied with the final batsman, Vishwa Fernando, to put on an unbeaten 11th-wicket stand of 78 runs to get Sri Lanka over the line and seal one of the greatest comeback victories in Test cricket history. Kusal scored 153 not out in one of the best Test innings of the century.
4. England beat Australia in 2019
England was down 1-0 heading into the third test at Leeds. They were dismissed for 67 in the first inning and were then assigned a difficult target of 359.
No one expected England to win, but all-rounder Ben Stokes (135*) stood alone among the rubble, leading England to victory. With England 286/9, defeat seemed inevitable, but Stokes united with last batter Jack Leach to build a match-winning partnership of 76 runs, leading England to a stunning comeback victory.
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5. Australia beat Sri Lanka in 2004
Australia, eager to impress under new skipper Ricky Ponting, fell victim to spin magician Muttiah Muralidaran (6/59) after Ponting decided to bat in the series opener. Sri Lanka seemed prepared to reveal the fragility of a side missing former skipper Steve Waugh and famed quick Glenn McGrath with 4 wickets down and 78 runs ahead the next day.
However, after the hosts took a 161-run lead in the first inning, Matthew Hayden (130), Damien Martyn (110), and then Darren Lehmann (129) piled on centuries to set a 352-run winning target. Shane Warne did the rest, taking his 500th Test wicket and finishing the match with 10 scalps to secure a memorable victory.
6. Sri Lanka beat India in 2015
When Sri Lanka was reeling at 5/3 and then 95/5 in their second inning after surrendering a 192-run lead in the first, an innings triumph appeared to be on the cards for a formidable Indian side.
Dinesh Chandimal, on the other hand, refused to lie down, making a magnificent 162* and setting India a classic ‘tricky’ chase of 176. And it was more than enough as Rangana Herath ran riot on a fourth-day pitch, taking 7/48 as India surrendered for 112 runs.
7. England beat New Zealand in 2015
England had no right to win this game after scoring 30/4 in their first inning and then 3 for an effectively 74 in their second. But there’s something about Ben Stokes when he’s up against it.
With a knock of 92, the all-rounder helped push the hosts to 389 in the first inning, but a Kane Williamson century quickly made that tally look tiny and gave the Kiwis a 134-run lead. Stokes then batted the fastest-ever century (off 85 balls) at the iconic Lords Stadium before dismissing both Williamson and Brendon McCullum to steal the match from his birth country.
8. South Africa beat Australia in 2008
South Africa’s aspirations of taking an unassailable 2-0 series lead appeared to be crushed after losing 8 wickets in their first innings and trailing behind by 143 runs. But Dale Steyn timed his career-best 76 well, putting up 180 for the penultimate wicket with the brilliant JP Duminy (166) to give the Proteas a 65-run lead.
Steyn didn’t stop there; he tore through Australia’s top order and finished with 5/67 to set up a chase of only 183 runs. The visitors cruised to victory, losing only 1 wicket on their way to their first-ever Test series victory on Australian territory and handing the hosts their first series defeat in 16 years.
9. Australia beat Pakistan in 2010
Mike Hussey and Nathan Hauritz were Australia’s heroes in this tense encounter, which spared the host team’s blushes after they were skittled for 127 on day 1. Pakistan responded with 333 and had Australia 257/8 in their second inning, with a 51-run lead.
However, Hussey (134*) found assistance in the unusual figure of Peter Siddle (38), and together they established a 176-run lead that proved sufficient when Hauritz took 5/53 on the last day.
10. South Africa beat Australia in 2011
When South Africa was bowled out for 96 on the second day, giving up a first-inning lead of nearly 200 runs, Australia was almost unbeatable favourites to take a 1-0 lead in the series.
The tourists were ripped out for 47 in their second innings, thanks to a historic performance by debutant Vernon Philander (5/15), with the last wicket pair of Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon more than tripling the score after the tourists had collapsed to 21/9.
After being completely deflated after 18 overs of batting craziness, Australia then leaked runs at more than 4.5 runs per over with the ball, allowing the Proteas to cruise to their winning target of 236 with only 2 wickets lost.