Throughout the history of professional sports there have been many great and memorable matches across a wide range of disciplines. As fans, we remember these moments long after having witnessed them and we tend to measure everything else against them. Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 point game against the New York Knicks in 1962, Michael Jordan’s game winning shot in the 1998 NBA Finals, Ben Roethlisberger’s dramatic late drive down the field to win Super Bowl XLIII and the 1980 US men’s hockey victory over the Soviet Union – all examples of great performances and great games which will long be remembered.
Over more than the past 130 years, cricket has given us some remarkable matches in terms of both team and individual play. Whether tournament, One Day International (ODI) or Tests, there have been many matches which have produced jaw dropping scorelines, heroic efforts in the face of seemingly impossible odds or just plain amazing play on the field. Of course, the Ashes are integral to much of any discussion concerning the greatest cricket matches. That said, many of the greatest matches often have Australia involved in one way or another. The Pakistan-India rivalry, fuelled by off-field events, politics and nationalism are always a heated affair and bound to produce some great moments. Driving all of these great matches are the greatest cricket players. From Shane Warne and Shaun Pollock to Wasim Akram and Glenn McGrath to Ian Botham and Muttiah Muralitharan, there have been some real stars who have been central to producing some of cricket’s most memorable moments and matches.
The following list looks at 10 of the greatest cricket matches to ever take place. Naturally, such a selection is highly subjective and you likely have a rough top 10 in your head. That said, the following matches have been picked based on importance, how dramatic they were and what sorts of scorelines and individual efforts they produced. Australia finds itself involved in eight of the following matches – don’t smile too broadly Aussies, there’s a fair share of losses included. Look at it this way, when you are one of the best teams in the history of the sport, you will always have a target on you. When teams beat the Australians, it was usually a big deal and the match was usually very tense and action packed. This sets it up perfectly to be included on such a list. Now, before we give too much more away, we’ll let you take a look for yourself and see if you agree with the Top 10 Greatest cricket matches of all time.
15 England vs Australia, Centenary Test, Melbourne, 1977
A non-Ashes competition, the Centenary Test of 1977 marked the 100th anniversary of the first Test cricket played in Australia. Played between the 12th and 17th of March, the Test saw Australia square off against old rivals England in Melbourne. On the Australia side, the story was all about the bowling of Dennis Lillee. Australia secured 138 runs in their first innings before England took over batting. Lillee sent a strong message by immediately taking the wicket of the first batsman and finished the innings with an impressive 6 for 26. England were out with only 95 runs. In the second innings, the bats of both teams woke up. Australia struck for a massive 419 and England responded with an equally impressive 417 which was driven by Derek Randall’s 174. Again, however, England ran into Lillee who took another five wickets, bringing his total to 11. Australia claimed the first of what would be two Centenary Tests by 45 points, the exact same result of the 1877 Test.
14 India vs Australia, 5th ODI, Hyderabad, 2009
Heading into this match, Australia were the reigning ODI powerhouse. Most people probably expected a one-sided result or, at a minimum, a clear Aussie victory. The crowd that watched Australia bat first were probably left unsurprised by the first innings on that 5th of November. Australia, as expected, batted very well and used their maximum 50 overs to score 350 runs. Scoring was shared among the batsmen with Shaun Marsh leading the charge with 112 runs. Facing the task of scoring 351 in 50 overs, India looked to achieve the improbable. Enter Sachin Tendulkar. The India batter remained standing while other batsmen were bowled or caught out. Australia’s nerve seemed rattled as their players started making mistakes all over the field. By the end, Tendulkar scored 175 runs and almost single-handedly made up the run gap. It was not enough as Australia took a nail-biter by a mere three runs.
13 West Indies vs Australia, Cricket World Cup Final, Lord’s, 1975
The first edition of the ICC’s World Cup took place in England from the 7th to 21st of June. The last day of the tournament saw the final played between the West Indies and Australia. Batting first, the West Indies struck for 291 runs. Driving the offense was a 102 run performance by Clive Lloyd and 55 runs by countryman Rohan Kanhai. Gary Gilmour did most of the bowling damage by Australia, taking five wickets. Australia, for the most part had a decent innings at bat but threw it all away with their running. Five Australia batsmen were run out after trying to push for more runs after fielding mistakes by the West Indies. In the end, it turned out to be significant as the West Indies took victory by a slender 17 runs. The first World Cup title went to the West Indies while Australia were left wondering what could have been if their batsmen had been just a bit more cautious.
12 India vs England, NatWest Series Final, Lord’s, 2002
One of the most thrilling and dramatic ODIs played at Lord’s is surely the NatWest Final played between India and England in July, 2002. England, having won the coin toss, elected to bat first. They made the most of their innings by hitting for a massive 325 runs. More than two-thirds of England’s production came from batsmen Marcus Trescothick and Nasser Hussain who both posted centuries. India responded with a memorable innings of their own. Run production was more evenly distributed by the Indian batsmen and included three half-centuries. Spectators at Lord’s watched as India chased down the English lead, the size of which had never been surmounted before, and win the final by just two wickets and three remaining balls.
11 New Zealand vs Australia, Chappell-Hadlee Trophy, Hamilton, 2007
The Chappell-Hadlee Trophy is a three ODI tournament played between New Zealand and Australia. In 2003, heading into the 3rd ODI, New Zealand sat at 2-0 in the series. The final match, played on the 20th February, turned into a real slugging match as both teamsbrought their bats in order to get bragging rights over their neighbor. Despite being without some of their main players, the Australians made a lot of noise during the opening innings by scoring 346 runs, including a fantastic individual display by Matthew Hayden who batted for 181 runs. Combined, six New Zealand bowlers could only take five wickets – Australia would, however, rue not taking advantage of this during their 50 overs. No New Zealand batsman could come close to Hayden’s record display. That said, led by Craig McMillan’s 117, Brendon McCullum’s 86 and Peter Fulton’s half-century, New Zealand stormed back to score 350, winning by 1 wicket.
10 Australia vs England, 1st Test, Kennington Oval, 1882
9 Essex vs Australia, Southchurch Park, 1948
8 Australia vs South Africa, World Cup Semi-Final, Edgbaston, 1999
7 India vs Sri Lanka, 1st ODI, Rajkot, 2009
6 Australia vs West Indies, WSC, Sydney, 1996
5 India vs Pakistan, Austral-Asia Cup, Sharjah, 1986
4 South Africa vs Australia, Fifth ODI, Johannesburg, 2006
3 England vs Australia, 2nd Test, Edgbaston, 2005
2 England vs Australia, 3rd Test, Headingley, 1981
1 India vs Australia, 2nd Test, Kolkata, 2001
Heading into the March 11th-15th 2nd Test between India and Australia, all indications were that the Aussies were going to add another victory to their impressive record. Up until that point, Australia had set a record 16 Test victories in a row and were rated the best team in the world. To make matters worse, in the 2nd Test, India had failed to score enough runs in their first batting innings that they were forced to follow-on – or take their second batting innings immediately. A betting man would not have put a cent on India winning the match. Trailing by more than 270 runs after their first batting innings, Indian batsmen VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid stepped forward and turned the Test on its head on day four. The two batted for the entire the day and gave India 589/4, a lead of 315 runs. The final day of the Test required Australia to achieve 384 in 75 overs. It couldn’t be done and India took home a 171 run victory over the favorites from down under.
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