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The greatest Tests

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BBC Sport blog editor | 15:46 UK time, Monday, 18 July 2011

With England playing India at Lord's this week in what will be the 2,000th Test, the TMS team will be picking what they believe to be the greatest Test played in two special BBC Radio 5 live programmes.

BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew looks at five that could make the shortlist.

1. Headingley 1981, England v Australia

For sheer outrageousness it is the Headingley Test, which makes Test cricket the unique sport it is and the superior variety of cricket, when games turn on their heads.

It was all over, everyone knew it, the bookies knew it, England were still 92 behind with only three wickets left but then came an awesome innings by Ian Botham (149 not out from 148 balls with 27 fours and a six), aided by a fine fifty from Graham Dilley which often gets overlooked and astonishing spell of 8-43 by Bob Willis which is certainly often forgotten.

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It was a remarkable turnaround and the most amazing Test match from that perspective.

I remember watching it on TV, I had been playing cricket myself I think, but it gripped the country and did a huge amount for cricket all over the world.

Kevin Pietersen

England celebrated winning the Ashes in 2005 with a victory parade in London. Photo: PA

2. Edgbaston 2005, England v Australia

In terms of a nailbiting finish it is Birmingham in that amazing 2005 series. We thought Australia were going to do it on that Sunday morning, led by Shane Warne's impish, annoying innings.

There was Simon Jones trying to come in from third man to take a catch, not quite getting there, and the Australian team's last pair putting on 59 and almost inching their way to victory, just three runs short of their target.

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My main memory of that match is the crowd noise, the huge belly roar that shook Edgbaston and came through the commentary box window.

You don't often get that at a cricket match but the sheer force of the ground when Billy Bowden put his finger up for that final wicket was unforgettable.

Poor old Mike Kasprowicz probably would have got away with it nowadays if he had a review left, because his hand was not on his bat when he gloved through to the keeper but thank goodness for the series.

England had been spanked in the first match but it set up probably the greatest series of all time.

3. Lord's 1963, England v West Indies

For sheer romance it was Colin Cowdrey walking back out to bat, having earlier had his arm broken by Wes Hall.

It was all rather misty-eyed, as things were rather more then. Someone had to be there at the other end and Colin helped David Allen play out the last two balls of the match.

There was huge amount of admiration and respect for Colin, who talked about Christianity and was more than just a cricketer to the nation.

It added to the whole event and he was rightly hailed as a hero.

4. Old Trafford 1956, England v Australia

I remember when I joined a thing called the Cricketer Club as a child and one of the items in my presentation pack was a reprint of the newspaper report of the match, "Laker's Test", which I read and read over and over again.

That was another Test which had so many strands to it, the Australians being furious with what they thought was a rogue pitch, specially prepared for the England spinners, Jim Laker and Tony Lock.

I loved Laker's reaction every time he took a wicket, it was just a nonchalant shrug of the shoulders and a smile, maybe the occasional shaking of hands, he was such a lovely man.

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There was that lovely story of him driving home and he stopped off, in Derbyshire I think it was, or perhaps somewhere in the Midlands, for a pie and a pint in a pub.

Those were the days when sportsmen simply weren't seen or known. The locals were all in there watching the highlights in black and white, there was the man himself in there with them and they had no idea.

It was a remarkable achievement and I wonder if we will ever see anyone take 19 wickets in a Test match again.

5. Brisbane 1960, Australia v West Indies

The tied Test. I remember the great photographs of the jubilant West Indians after the last man was run out.

Australia had seemed certain to lose at 92-6 needing 233 but came so close to victory. Alan McGilvray the radio commentator, had given the game up and gone back to Sydney, I think he had to re-do his commentary from there!

Test cricket throws up these wonderful dramatic moments. There have been other great matches, and of course people will have their own favourites, but you need drama, unpredictability and brilliant individual performances.

The TMS panel will comprise a shortlist of the greatest Tests in a special programme on BBC Radio 5 live on Wednesday 20 July between 1930 and 2100 BST with their final choice being made during the lunch interval of the first day of the first Test on Thursday.


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  • Comment number 1.

    In regard to your number one pick- that Test has become tainted for me after all the stuff that came out later about the Australians betting on themselves to lose.

  • Comment number 2.

    Great blog. Great test matches. Great cricket. A tribute to the most historically fascinating sport ever.

  • Comment number 3.

    Don't disagree with the chosen tests from my own personal experience, but they do seem a bit England biased don't you think? I hope there are comments from commentators and players of other cricketing cultures on the programme as it would be interesting to hear about other dramatic tests.

  • Comment number 4.

    What about India vs Australia 2001, one of the greatest run chases of all time. Considering that 3 of the choices involve England begs the question of how much attention Mr Agnew pays to cricket outside of England after the 1960's, with the exception of the Ashes series.

  • Comment number 5.

    Mr Mountford I mean

  • Comment number 6.

    Good list. Worth considering are India beating Australia after following on, and England v West Indies Lords 2000 (nervy run chase which fluctuated all day)

  • Comment number 7.

    Sorry but you're wrong about Kasprowicz he was clearly out, the issue of the hand on the bat since that wasn't what the ball hit!

  • Comment number 8.

    Here's a few more :

    Australia v England - 1998/99 England win by 12 runs

    England are in the field for 4 hours as Austraila are bowled out for 162 chasing only 175 at the MCG

    West Indies v Australia - 2003 W Indies win by 3 wickets

    West Indies chase a world record to win the last test and prevent an Australian whitewash.

    England v West Indies - 2000 2nd test England win by 2 wickets

    The 100th Lords test had the only time where parts of all 4 innings took place in a day, and England winning a tense Test, by 2 wickets to level the series.

  • Comment number 9.

    Vox Populi - poor you!

  • Comment number 10.

    The Test match beginning on Thursday is the 1999th test. Obvious reasons that know serious cricket fan disagrees with.

  • Comment number 11.

    Bearders is turning in his grave!!
    The 2000th test according to Wisden and a vast body of opinion is England V India at Nottingham Jul 29-Aug 2, 2011. Please get your facts right and don't follow the hype.

  • Comment number 12.

    India vs Australia in 2001. India were enforced follow-on with 274-run deficit and they made 657/7 (decl) in second innings and bowled out Aus for 212 runs to win by 171 runs! And Australia of 2001 was one of the best the world ever saw with McGrath, Gillespie, Warne, both Waughs, Hayden, Langer, Ponting and Gilchrist. You can rarely get such a good combination to lose from a 274-run advantage of first innings.

  • Comment number 13.

    England v Australia, the Oval, 1953, remains for me the most memorable test of all. As English schoolboys, educated partly during WW2, we lived the post-war years in awe of Bradman, Hassett, Morris, Johnston, Miller, Lindwall... many more! Were they not "the Invincibles?" Then came that day in August when the prospect of an England victory arrived - seemingly out of the blue. Was that possible, that we would win the Ashes for the first time since the war?

    Next day we all piled into the Oval (for free!) and when Denis Compton hit Arthur Morris round the corner to take the match, the series and the Ashes, the Oval erupted. I remember sitting transfixed in amazement, watching grown men jump the boundary and set foot on turf we would not have dared touch with so much as a finger. Then we too jumped the boards and ran towards the pavilion, half scared we would be apprehended, half triumphant that Hasset's men had been beaten.

    Maybe this was not a "great test" in the sense that J. Agnew describes above. Unlike Headingly, 1981, it was no thriller; unlike Edgbaston, 2005, it was no nail-biter. On the final day England's victory was a mere formality (which is why schoolboys were admitted for free), but 1953 was a shot in the arm for all of us who had grown up in a world of searchlights, barrage balloons, doodlebugs and the frequent sight of dead bodies being carried from the rubble of houses demolished overnight.

    Two men, one a New Zealander, the other a Sherpa, scaled the unscaleable Everest in 1953. And eleven men of England beat the unbeatable Australians. - Uplifting!

  • Comment number 14.

    Good selection - can't see how one could ever really choose a definitive top 5 but these are certainly pretty fantastic matches. I think drama/tension has to be the main factor, rather than amazing achievements etc. Each to their own though I suppose.

    Will be fascinating to see how England can step it up a notch after Sri Lanka...

  • Comment number 15.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 16.

    So why do some people here think that the forthcoming Test is the 1999th and not the 2000th? Which Test match doesn't count?

  • Comment number 17.

    Surely West Indies v Australia at Bridgetown in the 1998/99 series merits a mention. West Indies were 161 behind on first innings against a Aussie team on its way to the top that included both Waughs, McGrath, Warne, Ponting, Healy, Gillespie and Langer. Walsh and Ambrose then bowled Australia out for 146 and West Indies made 311 to win by one wicket thanks to mind-blowing 153 not out from Lara and, of course, Courtney Walsh's 5-ball 0*.

  • Comment number 18.

    @ papasmurf - presumably Australia v World XI in 2005

  • Comment number 19.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 20.

    I was at the Edgbaston test in the 1981 series on the day that Botham got 5 for 1 in a spell, 5 for 11 overall I think. Wonderful day. I was nearly 10, sat behind an early form of the barmy army, banging their beer tins! That test also a contender, but Headingley perhaps pips it.

  • Comment number 21.

    All good picks. I was fortunate enough to be there in 1963 and it was more about Brian Close's heroism against the fearsome Hall & Griffiths that day. The great Frank Worrell had raced Shackleton to the bowler's stumps with two balls left and we all stood up for Cowdrey's entrance, his forearm in plaster. That was a great West Indian side , by the way, with Sobers, Gibbs, Butcher & Hunte all playing their parts too.

  • Comment number 22.

    First of all Jon you need to decide on a criteria for determining which are the greatest tests. Having set forth such, then we can see determine which tests are considered the greatest. Of course everyone will have their bias so choosing the top 5 will always attract criticism.
    However, let me point out that the tied test where both teams didnot deserve to lose after playing such fantastic cricket is worthy of mention, as well as the win by 1 run (Aus vs. WI) stands out as matches which could have gone either way. And lets not forget the world record chase by WI. But then again upon what criteria have I made my judgements? Jon you work is cut out for you, so please publish the criteria or face the wrath of the cricket pundits.

  • Comment number 23.

    There's some definite inadvertent English bias in that list, Aggers! As always, such lists are subjective, but a big and incredibly glaring omission from modern test cricket is:

    - Eden Gardens 2001, India vs Australia.

    The Australian side, possibly one of the greatest cricketing teams to ever take the field, and on a world-record run of 16 consecutive test victories, were undone by a special innings from VVS Laxman who was well supported by Rahul Dravid, as India won despite following on and trailing by 274 runs.

    There's also the great Brian Lara's splendid second innings 153* against Australia at the Kensington Oval, in what is possibly the greatest run chase ever. I'm sure there are also a number of classic tests whose impact has been dulled with time. The tied test in Madras is an example, surely worth considering.

  • Comment number 24.

    All fine matches but can't help but feel a slight English slant to this list. India v Australia in 2001 at Eden Gardens where we saw the first Indian to take a hattrick and a team winning after being forced to follow on. And the fact that it was one of the greatest test sides in history on the receiving end just adds to the special nature of that test.

  • Comment number 25.

    can BBC please get Sky to provide cricket highlights of international matches that don't involve England, a slight touch up on knowledge is clearly required by the looks of this blog.

  • Comment number 26.

    As a cricket lover as well as an England fan I'm very surprised by the bias towards the mother nation victories. What about India Vs Australia - Laxman's double hundred, Windies Vs Australia - Lara's 150 not out, Australia Vs Windies 1992/93 - Victory by 2 runs .... to name but a few.

  • Comment number 27.

    Could I just highlight one thing quickly. At the beginning of the article it clearly states that these are "five that could make the shortlist". Nowhere does it say that this is a definitive, comprehensive top 5 of all time. It suggests these are a few that may make a 2 part special. At least read the introduction to the article before you all jump on your bandwagon and question the logic of those involved!

  • Comment number 28.

    I have to say I'm not shocked that England features so much in these "Greatest tests" but I dont agree. South Africa's first series win down under, the test where Smith came out batter bruised and broken and lead the country to victory was awesome

  • Comment number 29.

    Are these greatest England test victories???

  • Comment number 30.

    it could've been oh so perfect list, had the 2001 match where mark butcher sigle handidly destroyed the Aussies been put in at no. 5.

  • Comment number 31.

    i am an indain , n i cannot diasagree wid d list , bt how can u miss out d eden garden test , it is jus nt possible , i am assumin i am d only one here hu witnessed dt test live from d stands , n i am dead sure it is certainly amongst d greatest tests of all time , if nt d greatest , sriusly , sir , did u nt watch dt test , n d impact it had ?????on d future of world criket , how india alwaz remained d final frontier fr steve waugh , still unconquered ??????? its shameful reallly , nt includin d test in ds list , of course i am biased , bt i am pretty sure even neutrals agree wid me on ds one !!!

  • Comment number 32.

    @18 Kubus
    I'm guessing England v SA at Centurion in 2000

  • Comment number 33.

    # 27 - well done - very clearly says these 5 could be in there - get off your high horse everyone and just offer up your own entries for us all to enjoy. I'm sure there are plenty more tests pre-TV that would be in there. Bradman's last test when he so narrowly missed out on a 100 average?

    Didn't realise till today, that 1981 was only the second follow on win ever and unlike Eden Gardens was totally out of the q when Botham started his slog. The Aussie may have had a flutter for a laugh but there's no way they threw the game. 1981 does win over Edgbaston as the second wouldn't happen without the first.

    Eden Gardens would get in though and if it wasn't the fact that it was a dead rubber the WI run chase would be up there even higher. Was glued for that one.

    Look forward to seeing a few others. Athers back to the wall effort to get a draw against South Africa shows don't even have to be decisive to be gripping. Jimmy Adams and Walsh, Monty/Jimmy's last stands. It can be a wonderful game,

  • Comment number 34.

    surely the timeless test which ended in a draw with i think england on 550/5 deserves a mention, if only for the fact that a timeless test ended as a draw (as they needed to catch the boat home)

  • Comment number 35.

    How dull. Someone writes a blog that might amuse us for a few minutes and get us thinking about our favourite test matches.

    Instead it descends into the usual nonsense. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly people are to jump on what is essentially an anti-England bandwagon.

  • Comment number 36.

    I have to say this is a rather poor blog all round. It is poorly researched and intuitively biased. I understand that these are possibilities to make the all time list, but the mere fact that you left out Aus v India 2001 and had four out of five selections including England detract from any credibility this blog may have had.

    #7 In fact you’re wrong. The ball hit Kasprowicz’s hand which was not in contact with the bat at the point of impact, therefore, by the laws of the game he was not out. It was still an amazing finale though.

  • Comment number 37.

    no.4 on that list is a great individual performance, not a great test match.

  • Comment number 38.

    Mr. Mountford's selections are made with blinkers! How about the Australia India test of 2001 in Calcutta, one of the greatest run chases of all time? India were made to follow on, but went on to win. Or the third test between India & England at the Oval in 1971

  • Comment number 39.

    Surely on any list, BOTH tied tests deserve a spot.

  • Comment number 40.

    Vox - off all the teams in all the world, the Aussies would always try their hardest. As far as I know, it was only Dennis Lillee and Rodney Marsh that had that bet, as well as the England keeper (Bob Taylor or Allan Knott). Lillee and Marsh were two very important players in that Aussie team, but I think that even if they hadn't been trying their hardest then it wouldn't have made much difference. Call it lady luck, skill, being "in the zone" or whatever you want, England won and it rightfully sits as one of the best tests in history.

    As for the criticism for Mr Mountford, he has picked 5 tests that COULD make the short list of 20. I'm sure that both tied tests will be in that list, as well as the India vs Aussie run chase, not to mention some of the stormers between Aussie and WI. Maybe Bangladesh's first test win will make an appearence? Lets leave up and wait and see the final list.

    P.S. my favourite is either Eng v Aus in 2005...possibly I'm biased as I'm an Englishman or maybe the famous match between India and Australia in 2001..what a win that was.

  • Comment number 41.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 42.

    #13, the first time I watched tv, I saw days 4 and 5 of that 1953 test. magic, my hero Compton getting the winning runs.

    England v India Oval 1979 could have been an all-time great, India should have won with a world record fourth innings but threw away the chance after Gavaskar's double century, sending in two failed pinch-hitters rather than sticking with (from memory) Venkatraghavan (approx), who would have been ideal given that the required run rate wasn't excessive. From memory they finished about six runs short with two wickets left. A great last day of the series.

    I agree with those who say that India-Australia at Eden Gardens 2001 should make the list.

  • Comment number 43.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 44.

    How about this one, Pakistan vs West Indies, Faisalabad, 1986? Saleem Malik also had a broken arm, but came in and batted one-handed for 14 balls against the best fast bowling attack in the world. Then Abdul Qadir took six wickets and Imran Khan at his unplayable best the rest... Just look at that WIndies lineup...

  • Comment number 45.

    Kubus is right (17). That was one hell of a test!

  • Comment number 46.

    India vs Australia in 2001 is the greatest test match ever! Full Stop

  • Comment number 47.

    Blimey, a cricket blog in the summer! Pigs might never cease!

    I'd go for Edgbaston 2005. Pure subjectivity. I'd want England to be in it and to be the winners. In 1981 I was serving in the Army and never got to see much Test cricket. My chief memory of 2005 is Brett Lee absolutely caning a square cut which I think everyone, including myself, had gotten through to win the game. But in fact it was well-fielded by....erm....Giles? Cannot recall.

    But that initial feeling of loss suddenly became the life-line which Harmison clung onto. Awesome game in an awesome series. Granted my cricket bias over all other sports, the series was the finest sporting spectacle that I've ever seen.

    Looking forward to India and think England have enough to béat them at home. Indian 'preparation' has bordered on the insulting. I think they'll pay. As we did in the winter of 2006/7.

  • Comment number 48.

    @46. Bobsy123.

    Do you mean Calcutta? Both Waughs playing. Slats. Even in the second Aus innings they got off to a flying start despite losing. You're right about one thing. Best Test or not, that was a cracker. And it showed Aussie vulnerabilty right at the height of their powers.

  • Comment number 49.

    How amusing that posters are bellyaching that 'it's too 'England' orientated' or 'I don't agree with the inclusion of this or that test' or 'what about this test you've missed'.....

    ....there are nearly 2000 tests to pick from. It is always going to an exercise in subjectivity trying to select just 5 and, as such, not a bad effort Mr. Mountford. I'm sure anyone else's choice would encourage similar trite reaction.

  • Comment number 50.

    In my lifetime, West Indies versus Australia at Barbados in 1999 had it all.

    If people haven't seen this game, go to Youtube and watch the final day highlights.

  • Comment number 51.

    @10. Check out a recent article by Scyld Berry (DT on-line). He puts the figure around the 1930s mark. Berry also bemoans the ICCs having given Aus/RoW official Test status.

  • Comment number 52.

    India-Australia, Eden Gardens 2001 and Windies-Australia Barbados 1999 were epic.

    But Australia-SA Sydney 1994 was my favourite, and Don Bradman at the time called it one of the greatest he'd ever seen.

  • Comment number 53.

    What made Headingley '81 great was not just the fortunes of the individual test, but the circumstances. England had recently lost two test series to West Indies at the start of their period of dominance, with Ian Botham as captain. England had lost a low-scoring first test in the Ashes series to an ordinary Australian team, and after a draw in the second test at Lord's, Mike Brearley replaced Botham as skipper. In the third test England conceded a first innings deficit of 227, and more underachievement from England was on the cards...

  • Comment number 54.

    Not a test as it was from an associated nation, Ireland v England was some game at the last world cup. I hope Kevin O'Brien sticks with Ireland, especially since we have a chance to qualify for the next world cup even thou we are ranked higher (ODI) than the lowest test nation. Great to see an organisation being shamed into making the correct decision as they did a great disservice to the game for commercial reasons! Won’t be surprised if I moderated!

  • Comment number 55.

    I don’t see what everyone’s problem is with Agger’s choices.

    He is an Englishman writing a blog for the BBC (the clue is in the company name), there is obviously going to be an English slant to his choices.

    I am sure Richie Benaud's choice would have an Australian slant when writing for an Australian broadcaster and Viv Richards would give a W.Indies inclination for a Caribbean broadcaster. This is purely down to what we have access, in terms of media coverage.

    If you could attend every test match ever played and then choose your favourite 5 it would still be YOUR choice and people would disagree. This is Agger’s choice, his opinion and not the views of the entire cricket community, so please guys show him some respect.

  • Comment number 56.

    interesting stuff but no one appears to go back before the secod world war. The question is not about Test Matches witnessed by correspondents but all Test Matches. So what about the fourth Test Match between England and Australia, Old Trafford 1902. The first Test match witnessed by Neville Cardus; Victor Trumper (the greatest ever batsman?) scores 100 before lunch on the first day (the first time it was ever done and only repeated three times since) on a wet wicket which, today would be deemed unplayable; Fred Tate, in his only Test Match, makes a pig's ear of dropping Joe Darling in the second Austarlian innings when the Aussies are on the ropes and then, as last man, is bowled leaving Australia victorious by three runs and clinching the Ashes to boot. A fantastic game of cricket played by now long forgotten but true legends of the game

  • Comment number 57.

    This may be a spanner in the works but watching footage of the '81 Headingley test - Dilley was almost certainly out LBW to Dennis Lillee ealry in his innings. Thankfully it was not given but nowadays it may have been very different.

  • Comment number 58.

    It clearly states 5 that could make the list from Aggers ...the word "COULD" before everyone starts jumping on their high horse saying its bias..not like the recent select the greatest test XI on the ICCB page which was

    Sehwag, Gavaskar, Bradman, Lara, Tendulkar, Kapil Dev, Gilchrist, Ambrose, McGrath, Warne,Akram

    So omitted from this list which is astonishing

    Richards - everyone feared him when he walked to the crease thats scandalous
    Sobers - the first all rounder and averaging 58 with the bat higher than everyone the list bar Bradman
    Imran Khan or Botham surely either are better all rounders than Dev !
    Richard Hadlee first man to take 400 wickets !
    Dennis Lillee - an absolute menace
    Murali - no mention at all
    Steve Waugh - no better dependable middle order batsman
    Hobbs played against better bowling with an average higher than Sehwag !

  • Comment number 59.

    thank goodness for some sanity from some of the posters

    You've said most of what I wanted to say, I get so bored/annoyed with the "look at the English/British bias on these blogs"

    I checked the opening statements on the selection and can't seem to find the "this is the definitive list so lump it" section but it does say "here are some matches that could make the shortlist" wow controversial stuff...... not

    Some great comments on tests from all over the world, there is nothing quite like a tense test match, I wonder how easy it would be to suggest the top 5 20/20 matches or even one dayers. I love these forms of the game too but 5 days for me over and above.

  • Comment number 60.

    Kasparowicz should not have been given out in 2nd test at Edgebaston but had England lost the series would have been over there and then !

    the laws state that the glove has to be in contact with the bat to be given out. the ball hit kasparowicz on the left glove which was away from the handle but to the naked eye it looked out from where the umpire stood - Richie Benaud said it was the only decision that could have been given

    Kasparowicz being a good sportsman said he would have been devastated if that was not given out if he was bowling !

    Incidentally Headingley 1981 was signficant because it was the first time a team won following on and for 4 out of the 5 days it was all Australia despite the fightback

    It was the catalyst for Botham and England to turn the series and remarkable as well the way the Aussies absolutely capitulated

  • Comment number 61.

    I think people need to read behind the subplots of HEadingley 1981 to see why it was memorable and not just for the 500-1 odds given which Marsh and Lillee foolishly betted but thats the Aussies problem

    it was the recession - thousands jobless because the mines kept closing

    Botham the great messiah was under scrutiny for poor form taking on captain drawing 4 and losing 8 matches with no century or 5 wicket haul

    the selectors said to him test by test review - sheer madness

    he got a pair at Lords and did not get acknowledged by the MCC on his way back.

    he resigned afterwards and Alec Bedser as chairman said he would have sacked him anyway

    Recalling Brearley looked like desperation from retirement

    Come Headingley Beefy played like a man who had a new lease of life and the crowd were behind him.

    After his heroics he could not resist having a dig at the doubters and the critics

  • Comment number 62.

    I would like to offer some alternative Tests – perhaps not for their nail-biting qualities, but for legendary events that took place during their duration…

    So, Jessop’s century at the Oval in 1902 (taking England from 48/5 to victory, he made 104 out of 139 in 75 minutes) should be considered, as should the Adelaide Test in the Bodyline series of 1932…

    Leaping forward, the first Test at Sabina Park in 1986 was apparently the most brutal and quickest assault of fast bowling ever witnessed on a cricket field (though there doesn’t appear to be much footage left of it) and who can forget the final Test of that series in which Viv hit the fastest hundred?

    Again, all England matches, but I’m openly biased and not all of these resulted in the desired result – more a case of capturing the spectacular…

  • Comment number 63.

    BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew looks at five that could make the shortlist.

    Note that the optimum word is 'COULD', it's not definitive.

  • Comment number 64.

    Headingley 1981. Everyone forgets the 29 Chris Old scored whilst at the crease with Sir Beefy

  • Comment number 65.

    PeterK - probably the reason that Ireland England didn't make the list is that it was an ODI not a test match - DOH!!!!!!

  • Comment number 66.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 67.

    I'm a bit confused: Why is Jonathan Agnew writing Adam Mountford's blog?

  • Comment number 68.

    So biased,it seems only three nations have played great test cricket - england,australia and west indies.Every test nation has been involved in great test matches.A more fitting approach would be to look at the great test matches played by each nation.Bothams hundred to a pakistani is no greater than Kamrans hundred against india in karachi or Laxmans double hundred against australia in Kolkatta to an indian is equally as great.

  • Comment number 69.

    I'm a bit confused: Why is Jonathan Agnew writing Adam Mountford's blog?


    I think Mountford is introducing the subject of the Greatest tests and he's just writing what tests Agnew thinks might be included.

  • Comment number 70.

    Why is it people write comments on BBC blogs without actually reading them properly? Right at the start of it there's this sentence "BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew looks at five that could make the shortlist."

    Nowhere does it say definitive list or his top five. Just five that could make the shortlist. All five may not even be in his list. The end of the blog says: "Test cricket throws up these wonderful dramatic moments. There have been other great matches, and of course people will have their own favourites, but you need drama, unpredictability and brilliant individual performances."

    A lot of people on here are seeing things that are simply not there. It riles me because its means the debate gets side-tracked instead (accusations of bias blah blah blah).

    I think what most people would like to see what matches COULD also be included and the reasons for it.

  • Comment number 71.

    Keith, I stated it wasn't a test but a great game, no sure what your point is as I wasn't pointing out it should make the list... it looks like you just repeated what I said...

  • Comment number 72.

    Great post from FJH about the 1953 Ashes.

    Barbados 99 is another stand out for me.

    A personal favourite is Gooch's rag bag of county stalwarts and a few longstanding unsuccessful England colleagues beating the great West Indians in Jamaica, 1990. The most unlikely England win I've known including the unforgettable wins (and draws) of 05.

  • Comment number 73.

    Don't get too precious about this blog - it hardly pretends to be the last word in identifying the greatest tests, does it? Just a sketch designed to provoke comment.

    I think a certain measure of objectivity can be brought to bear on the question - a great test match must almost by definition be close - very close, ideally. This immediately qualifies both tied tests, and the tests won by ultra-narrow margins between Australia and England in 2005, Australia and the West Indies in 1992-93, South Africa and Australia in 1993-94, and so on.

    [An exception that proves the rule is the India-Australia test at Calcutta in 2001 - the final margin of victory was actually quite wide, but for obvious reasons there is no denying the greatness of this match).

    They must be balanced between bat and ball. Scorecards such as England vs Australia at The Oval in 1938 or Sri Lanka vs India in 1997 may look amazing on paper, but matches dominated by the bat are usually deadly dull, and matches dominated by the ball unsatisfying.

    They must feature a high standard of play. Sounds obvious, but a match between two school teams can be close and an even contest between bat and ball, so those conditions are necessary but not sufficient. This means that agonisingly close matches such as Australia vs. England at Melbourne in 1982-83 may not make the grade as the overall standard of the players involved was not the highest.

    Don't be distracted by great individual performances - huge innings or hauls of wickets are impressive feats, but are likely to make a match less close and competitive, not more. Great tests may well happen to include outstanding solo performances - e.g. Dean Jones at Madras in 1986 - but they don't depend on them.

    A perfectly reasonable starting short list of five would contain both tied tests and all three follow-on victories, with the long list including the ultra-narrow victories discussed above (maybe five in all).

    Personally, I think Edgbaston 2005 and Calcutta 2001 are the two strongest candidates. I'm biased towards them by having seen (at least some of) them, and having exulted in the former, but IMO test cricket in the past ten years has been far more exciting than in almost any preceding decade, certainly since the 1950s at least, so we shouldn't be shy about biasing the sample towards more recent contests. Apart from anything, realistically we cannot evaluate matches that took place over a hundred years ago, which were not filmed, that no one now alive watched or even heard described by someone who did. Possibly each generation must content itself with rating matches that happened within its own frame of reference and not attempt to compare them with ones that happened too long ago to be anything but memories of memories (the availability to future generations of videotapes will of course make this less of a problem from now on).

  • Comment number 74.

    Not aware about long history of cricket but I think, India Vs Australia in 2001 at Eden Garden, Kolkata certainly deserve place in this list.
    With no hope of returning of back of game after mammoth follow on and then India defeated Oz and demolished dream of great Steve Waugh for 'Last Frontier' in 5 days pulsating thriller. The test still persist in every India Cricket fan which gave birth of most stylist batsman in modern Cricket.. the Very Very Special Laxman.

  • Comment number 75.

    Also, since 606 closed, there has been no interactive online element to the BBCs coverage of cricket.

    Surely it is within the BBCs remit to allow conversation on the state of the national team, and its place in the wider cricketing world?

    This is extremely disappointing. Not only that 606 had to go, for reasons we might now call into question. But there has not been even a sliver of access in its place.

  • Comment number 76.

    Kolkata would of course make a shortlist. Both tied Tests. The Spofforth Test. Bodyline, the most famous series of all. Ramadhin and Valentine....

    There's a lot out there. We don't have to get too precious about our own favourite.

  • Comment number 77.

    the COULD brigade is here by the looks of it. well, COULD one of you's tell the rest of us, why a match won by an innings and 170 runs was so great? A Great individual performance not a great match, as it was so one sided.

  • Comment number 78.

    I think you made a mistake with number 5, no England??

  • Comment number 79.

    @75, Gabriel Oak

    I'm inclined to take your criticism of the BBC (regarding cricket) much further. This site has become virtually static whilst cricket moves on apace. The recently posted Harper story is old hat, though serious and has recieved no discussion here (BBC Cricket).

    The womens' game was ignored save sporadic scoreboard updates. Blogs are far and few between at the height of the season and on the eve of a crucial series. I could go on but frankly have lost the will. This is not a dig at BBC personnel in particular.

    One of the few recent stories to appear was Flower's defence of Strauss' captaincy, which came under the microscope due to a Simon Hughes-chaired article in the Daily Telegraph. Indeed, England were criticised as being too dull. Pringle was among the detractors....yes Pringle, who is unlikely ever to have been responsable for the relocation of a pair of buttocks (e.g. from a bar stool to a cricket ground at which he was appearing).

    The only way to follow cricket is to go to the match.

  • Comment number 80.

    Parts of the BBC website, including the cricket, seem to have become deliberately moribund. The BBC is a national resource. It cannot be replicated elsewhere on the web. It should be the centre of the national debate, as it is our shared resource. It is such a shame what has happened to it. it seems to just want to direct you elsewhere.

  • Comment number 81.

    The Ashes test at Adelaide in 2006 was better than any of the 3 Ashes tests mentioned here. Australia shouldn't have had a chance of winning but did thanks to an awesome performance with Warne to the fore.

  • Comment number 82.

    Surely oval 2009 must be up there with freddies run out, hussey's 100 and punter nearly getting knocked out!

  • Comment number 83.

    India v Australia in Culcutta..... Following on India won the test.... Only third time in history a team has won following on...

  • Comment number 84.

    It has to be Egbaston doesn't it? What a test and what a series. Maybe the forthcoming series will produce something of a similar calibre!

  • Comment number 85.

    So many cloying english suburbanites here, jumping on the bandwagon to note their deferential support of Aggers' choices, it is enough to make one rather ill. Who cares if it says "could" in the introduction? The fact is, cricket coverage is known, especially TMS, for it's bipartisan coverage. It is part of what makes the game so special. A respected journo and commentator such as Aggers 'could' be reasonably expected to suggest matches that go beyond the parochial view. Particularly when there are some clear and glaring omissions, which have been repeatedly pointed out on these pages. Tis all.

  • Comment number 86.

    Great list.

  • Comment number 87.

    I find my scathing criticism of the blog was a bit too much to digest...It gave a case of loosies...never mind the india aussie humdinger at kolkata tops it all...

  • Comment number 88.


    Uruguay beat Peru in one semi final on Tuesday night but look at the BBC site and you wouldn't even know the tournament was taking place.

    If you want to know how Dumbarton got on in their friendly with Partick Thistle - no worries. Uruguay/Peru, from the continent that brought us Pele, Maradona, Alfredo de Stefano, Lionel Messi? Look elsewhere because you'll find nothing here!

    (Dumbarton beat Thistle 4-1)

  • Comment number 89.

    @85, jamois

    I'm afraid you have the advantage over us. We dull-witted, "cloying english suburbanites", unlike your good self, are not very fascinating. You, on the other hand, have it in spades; you are fascinating from the clinical point of view.

    I suspect that you manage, in the ordinary scheme of things, to contrive offense or personal injury in an otherwise innocuous and well-intentioned Christmas card.

  • Comment number 90.

    3rd Test: WEST INDIES versus AUSTRALIA
    Barbados 1999

    Australia 1st innings: 490 (S Waugh 190, Ponting 104)
    West Indies 1st innings: 329 (Campbell 105, Jacobs 68, McGrath 4-128)
    Australia 2nd innings: 146 (Walsh 5-39)
    West Indies 2nd innings: 311-9 (LARA 153*, Adams 38, McGrath 5-92)

    Man of the Match: B C LARA

  • Comment number 91.

    Surely the India vs Australia 2001 test begs a mention! One of the greatest test matches of all time!

  • Comment number 92.

    I think Kolkata will make the full list. This is just a taster. I suspect the BBC has an eye on the home audience which is likely to have fond memories of the England games, more so than those of other countries. It isn't likely that some of the games mentioned won't feature in the programme linked with this blog.

    A personal pick, one that is unlikely to resonate with the fans of other countries, is Gooch's win in Jamaica in 1990. He took an unlikely side of England stalwarts with many years of failure behind them, and a few county faithfuls, and beat the 1990 West Indians at Sabina Park. The unlikeliest England win in my lifetime.

    Only (shamefully) slow over rates prevented England winning in Trinidad as well. England went on to lose the series, but this /loss/, for me, is England's second best Test performance (after 05) of my lifetime.

    Those players are legends to me just for this: Gooch, Larkins, Stewart, Lamb, Smith, Hussain, Bailey, Capel, Russell, Small, Fraser, Malcolm, Defreitas.

    If we hadn't lost Gooch and Fraser to injury, who knows.

    Not games that are likely to figure though. Few seem to remember this series with much regard.

  • Comment number 93.

    Great matches, but surely and also looking at the comments, India vs. Australia at Calcutta in 2001 should be there in this list

  • Comment number 94.

    Also India vs. Australia at Mohali last year 2010... India win by 1 wicket
    India vs. South Africa at Calcutta 2010... Indian win with 2-3 overs left

  • Comment number 95.

    I think of recent times the most exciting game i saw was Old trafford Eng vs Aus 2005.

    Vaughan Classy ton followed by Warne 500
    Then Warne's dramatic 90 odd followed by Strauss's second innings ton
    that final day was then ignited by the first ball wicket of Langer to bring in Ponting.. His 156 was an innings that lasted from the second ball of the day till the last few dying overs. .. the dramatic ending of that day and the test made the series poised brilliantly .. fantastic game

  • Comment number 96.

    Looks like the author only watches english tests. There are more exciting tests involving south africa, india, pakistan, SL and australia than the brits. Ashes 2005 was a big hype and won by a great England allrounder (one man team) and more importantly the ball that slipped under Mcgraths foot which caused him to miss tests 2 and 4. M. Vaughan as a captain and batsman was average.

    Also Eng won in australia when the best of australia's generation were down and out. South africa won first in 2009 and india won in 2001 and drew in 2003 when they were at the peak.

  • Comment number 97.

    Thanks IL_LEONE for expanding on my contribution. An all-time Test XI and 2nd XI as selected by former skippers are given on the Cricinfo website.

    While others (especially Willis) contributed to the unexpected England victory, Headingley '81 was perhaps the game which more than any other enshrined the Botham legend. Thereafter, whenever he took the field against the Australians, he put the fear of God into them. Botham made an immediate impact as a test player, and as a consequence he appeared for most of his career to be never quite as good as he was, but between '79 and '82 he was awesome. He took 13-106 (and scored 114) in Bombay in 1979-80, and scored a double century at close to a run a ball against India at the Oval in 1982.

    Other instances where Test matches are memorable see long unbeaten records ended: by South Africa in Australia in 2009, and by Australia in West Indies in 1995; by England in Karachi in 2000-01, and at Lord's in 2009 against Australia; and also any England series win in Australia (1954-55, 1970-71, 1978-79, 1986-87, 2010-11)...

  • Comment number 98.

    90.At 10:39 20th Jul 2011, CollisKing wrote:

    3rd Test: WEST INDIES versus AUSTRALIA

    Barbados 1999

    Australia 1st innings: 490 (S Waugh 190, Ponting 104)

    West Indies 1st innings: 329 (Campbell 105, Jacobs 68, McGrath 4-128)

    Australia 2nd innings: 146 (Walsh 5-39)

    West Indies 2nd innings: 311-9 (LARA 153*, Adams 38, McGrath 5-92)


    Man of the Match: B C LARA

    Agree with Collis, great game, the drama enhanced by the fact that one of the world's worst batsmen, Courtney Walsh, was batting with one of the best, Mr Lara, at the end. Walsh kept doing those extravagant leaves, and at one stage the roof almost came off the venue I was in (the Star & Garter pub in Soho, London) just because a hapless Aussie bowler had bowled a wide...

    This discussion is great, but I disagree strongly with the premise behind it - that this week's game is the 2,000th test. Rubbish, as mentioned above - there have been 1,998 tests and six 5/6-day exhibition games in the history of international cricket. Surprised the BBC is falling in line with the self-serving hype of the ICC - this series does not need it, and it is an insult to the memory of Bill Frindall, who was vehemently opposed to the so-called Super Series 'Test' in 2005 being included as official...

    Lastly, on a happier note, English viewers can watch a great-sounding Botham progreamme tonight at 9pm. Splendid!

  • Comment number 99.

    Michael in Cheshunt

    Whilst I find it hard to look beyond a tied test, I would suggest Melbourne 82/83 England win by 3 runs with Botham taking winning catch on the rebound as Chris Tavare dropped it.

  • Comment number 100.

    I think the third test match between West Indies and Australia in 1999 should certainly be in the top 5 best test matches of all time. That innings played by Lara, one of the greatest batsman ever to play the game was indeed a gem. The sort of pressure Lara played under in that game and in that series on a whole, makes it even more remarkable. That test match has to be one of the best of all times.


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