As England take the field for their 500th overseas Test at Port Elizabeth (which was, coincidentally, the scene of their first in South Africa in 1899), ESPNcricinfo takes a look back at ten of their finest away wins, out of a current tally of 149.
The gold standard of England’s overseas Test wins. It wasn’t simply that this result was unexpected, it was beyond the bounds of possibility, as wild a sporting upset as you could wish to encounter. England’s record against West Indies going into the first Test of 1990 was played 15, lost 14, drawn 1. They hadn’t won a Test against them since 1974, and they arrived in the Caribbean off the back of a 4-0 Ashes drubbing with a squad that had been ravaged by Mike Gatting’s rebel tour of South Africa. But in Graham Gooch‘s first outing as full-time England captain, he inspired a rag-tag army to surpass themselves. Angus Fraser claimed 5 for 28 to skittle West Indies for 164; Allan Lamb produced a majestic hundred to ensure that advantage didn’t go to waste. Despite an anxious wait for rain to clear in the closing stages, Wayne Larkins sealed an incomprehensible win by nine wickets.
Only three teams in history have won a Test match after following on, and Australia have been on the receiving end on each occasion – most recently at Headingley in 1981 and Kolkata 20 years later, but also way back in the mists of time on Andrew Stoddart’s tour of Australia in 1894-95, when Wisden declared the first Test at Sydney to be “probably the most sensational match ever played either in Australia or in England”. Australia recovered from 21 for 3 to rack up a massive 586, with Syd Gregory‘s ninth-wicket stand of 154 with Jack Blackham remaining an Australia record to this day, before chiselling England out for 325 by the close of day three. The follow-on proved arduous for the Aussies as Albert Ward‘s 117 kept them in the field for 181 further overs, but a target of 177 ought to have been achievable. However, heavy overnight rain coupled with a steaming hot sixth day gave the pitch an attack of the vapours, and Bobby Peel required no second invitation – despite apparently needing to be stuck under a cold shower to ease the effect of his own overnight watering. “Give me the ball, Mr Stoddart, and I’ll get t’boogers out before loonch!” he is said to have declared. He wasn’t wrong. Australia collapsed from 130 for 2 to 166 all out, losing by ten runs with two minutes of the session remaining.
The events in Barbados in April 1994 are proof, if nothing else, that long before the World Test Championship was introduced to provide officially sanctioned “context”, each individual Test match counted for something irrespective of the series scoreline. At 3-0 down with two to play, England were dead and buried on their 1994 tour. Their one chance at salvation, in the previous Test in Trinidad, had been scorched by Curtly Ambrose in their 46-all-out debacle, and after being routed by a West Indies Board XI in a practice match in Grenada, the prospect of a third blackwash in ten years was a clear and present danger – especially as they headed for Fortress Bridgetown, a venue where West Indies hadn’t lost since 1935. But then the miracle started taking shape. Alec Stewart and Mike Atherton added 171 for England’s first wicket, with Stewart going on to the first of his twin hundreds, before Fraser pounded through West Indies’ defences with a career-best 8 for 75. It couldn’t change what had gone before, but in a decade featuring just nine away wins, this was right up there with the best.
Andy Flower, rarely one to let his guard slip, declared this to be nigh on the “perfect” England win, and despite the hyperbole, it’s hard to deny he had a point. This was a masterful initiative-seizing victory, a strike right at the heart of a rattled Australia team who had seen a routine win in the first Test at Brisbane quashed by the small matter of England’s second innings: 517 for 1. And Australia’s response to that indignity was calamity: a scoreline of 2 for 3 on the first morning as James Anderson snaked his way through the top order before Alastair Cook continued where he’d left off with another dry-as-dust 148. Enter Kevin Pietersen, who slapped a sun-baked attack for a punitive double-hundred, before Graeme Swann took his cue on the final day with five match-sealing wickets. To make it all the more perfect, the outfield was drenched by a thunderstorm barely half an hour after the finish.
It may all have ended in tears and recrimination, but like ABBA or Fleetwood Mac, Cook and Pietersen sure made some beautiful music when the mood took them. Two years after Adelaide, they reprised the same rhythm with another chalk-and-cheese alliance, and this time the impact on their opponents was even more stark. India had eased to victory in the opening Test in Ahmedabad, though not before Cook’s 176 in the second innings had shown his team the requisite bottle for Indian conditions. But when he repeated that dose in the first innings at the Wankhede, this time Pietersen was waiting to turn on the style. Newly “reintegrated” to the England team after the textgate row of the summer, he disintegrated India’s resistance with an astonishing onslaught – 186 from 233 balls included a firestorm of boundaries against spinners R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha. And talking of spinners, who should be waiting to ice England’s cake? Their own spin twins, Swann and Monty Panesar – the perfect combo for the conditions – who wrapped up the contest with 19 wickets between them.
Blows to the head aren’t generally advised in this day and age, but one of the most famous blows of all time is widely acknowledged as the catalyst for one of the great series turnarounds. Two years after winning the Ashes back on home soil for the first time in 19 years, Len Hutton‘s prospects of retention weren’t looking too promising after an innings thumping in the opening match of the 1954-55 series, in Brisbane. His key fast bowler, Frank Tyson, claimed 1 for 160 in that match, and his tour took another turn for the worse when he was knocked out by a Ray Lindwall bouncer in the second Test at Sydney. But from that moment on, the joke was on Australia. “I was a little cranky,” Tyson later admitted, as he blew through Australia with six second-innings wickets, to turn a 74-run deficit into a famous 38-run win. Two weeks later in Melbourne, he was in an even crankier mood – nothing could survive his second-innings 7 for 27, as Australia were wrecked for 111.
Okay, so the quality of the contest was a notch below the usual standards – Australia really were at a low ebb in this post-Lillee, pre-Warne era. But who could failed to be swayed by the optics? Like the cackle of Emperor Palpatine in the trailer for the latest Star Wars, the first Test at Brisbane heralded the rise of an Australian nemesis whose best endeavours had been buried for so long, you could only assume he was finished. But no! Back he strode to his throne of Ashes – revoltingly mulleted and broader at the midriff than in his heyday, but still possessed of an eye like a dead trout. Merv Hughes bore the brunt of Ian Botham‘s 14th and final Test century, as England seized an initiative that carried them to glory with a Test to spare. Can’t bat, can’t bowl, can’t field indeed…
England’s tour of South Africa in 2004-05 was a bruising, shattering bunfight – ideal preparation, in hindsight, for the ultimate test that awaited that summer against Australia, but at the time it seemed likely that the two teams would punch themselves to exhaustion. England might have been 2-0 up after two, but for South Africa’s epic rearguard at Durban, and instead it was 1-1 with two to play after a Jacques Kallis masterclass had set up an innings rout in Cape Town. Cue the craziest contest of the lot at the Wanderers, where Marcus Trescothick transformed a faltering third innings with a blistering 180 – including 58 priceless runs for the tenth wicket with Steve Harmison. The only trouble was… who was left to take the wickets? Harmison the bowler was on his last legs, and the rookie Anderson was out of his depth at this early stage of his career. Up stepped the shop steward, Matthew Hoggard, with an inspirational 7 for 61, including a first-ball outswinger to Kallis that has to rank among the greatest deliveries in English Test history.
“Stay in the game at all costs!” Nasser Hussain‘s exhortation was writ large across this magnificent heist, as his team of honest toilers gained their rewards at the end of an exhausting series dominated by slow and at times thoroughly tedious batting. But with the series deadlocked at 0-0 with just minutes left to play of the penultimate evening in Karachi, Ashley Giles unpicked the lock with the vital scalp of Inzamam-ul-Haq and England sensed their moment to strike. Pakistan lost their final seven wickets in just under 30 overs on the final day to leave England with a race against time – 176 runs before nightfall. Pakistan’s captain, Moin Khan, mocked their optimism, knowing full well that the encroaching winter darkness would save them before long, but umpire Steve Bucknor refused to give in to his time-wasting and insisted that play had to go on. Graham Thorpe anchored the chase with a masterful 64, as victory was sealed with an inside edge past the stumps, and through a Pakistan infield that could no longer see where the ball was going.
In a week when debate has raged about the relative merits of England’s great allrounders, here’s a compelling submission from the forgotten master, Tony Greig. His decision to join World Series Cricket in 1977 – and the concurrent rise of Botham – mean that his derring-do is too easily overlooked, but when his game was on song he was every bit the colossus. Needing victory to square the series in the final match of their 1974 tour of the Caribbean, Greig used every inch of his 6ft 6in frame to unleash his lesser-spotted offspin to devastating effect. He racked up 8 for 86 to restrict West Indies to a first-innings lead of 38, then added a further 5 for 70 in the second innings as the hosts, chasing 226, collapsed from 63 for 0 to 199 all out. It was the end of the road for Garry Sobers and Rohan Kanhai, two Caribbean greats, who never played again. But England wouldn’t win again for another 16 years, as Clive Lloyd and his mean machine prepared to roll into the region …
Edgbaston to become COVID-19 testing centre
Warwickshire have donated their Edgbaston stadium for the use of the NHS in a bid to help in the battle against COVID-19.
The ground – more specifically, the car park – will be used as a drive-through testing centre for NHS staff. Those requiring tests will drive in through the Edgbaston Road entrance and undergo the procedure while remaining in their vehicle. They will then leave via the Pershore Road exit.
Warwickshire also plan to offer NHS staff free entry to a Vitality Blast fixture later in the summer. Details of this offer will be released as and when the schedule for the 2020 season is announced.
The UK has witnessed something of an outpouring of gratitude towards NHS staff in recent weeks. As details of the severity of the crisis have become clear, it has also become apparent that many staff – some of whom are not especially well paid – are working in desperately demanding conditions without adequate protective equipment or access to testing. Sam Curran and Jos Buttler are among the England players who have begun their own fund-raising efforts for NHS related charities.
With little immediate prospect of cricket or any of the events that usually occupy Edgbaston, staff at Warwickshire have been looking for ways in which they could help the community through the pandemic. The offer to host a testing centre was gratefully accepted by the Department of Health and Social Care and will be utilised by staff throughout the West Midlands region.
“With our county cricket programme and conference and events business closed until 29 May, our staff have been exploring various options which enable the club to keep supporting our local community during these difficult times, whether that be through making calls to our elderly members and ex-players, volunteering and by offering Edgbaston Stadium for use in the wider civil contingency effort,” Neil Snowball, the Warwickshire chief executive, said.
“Whilst it is a small part to play in grand scheme of things, we are pleased that our stadium can be utilised to support the fantastic efforts being made by all of our NHS staff in response to the coronavirus crisis.
“We are also very grateful for the support that we have received in delivering this project from Patrizia and Homes England, our development partners.”
The NHS staff COVID-19 testing station will start operating within a few days and will remain at Edgbaston until further notice. While these are not the type of tests anyone expected to see at the ground, they will, at least, ensure Edgbaston continues to play some part in helping the local community.
‘It’s a scary time… no one knows how long this will last’ – Sam Curran
England allrounder Sam Curran had been expecting to spend April 2 preparing for Chennai Super Kings’ first home game of the 2020 IPL. Instead, like cricketers around the world, he is currently trying to keep his fitness up while remaining housebound in response to the coronavirus crisis, uncertain about when normal sporting commitments will resume.
As things stand, the IPL has only been pushed back to mid-April, with another postponement likely and the BCCI mulling options including a shortened tournament and playing without the involvement of overseas signings. But Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler said last week that they were still training with the T20 league in mind, and Curran added that he was prepared for a “two-week turnaround” if and when the situation improved.
“We’re just trying to keep fit and keep training like we usually do,” he said. “April 15 is the proposed date, but I think India has also gone into lockdown. But each day it changes. CSK have been in touch about trying to do what we can. All the CSK boys around the world, every country is in lockdown, so every cricketer is in the same boat. It would be silly not to keep fit because it might come to a two-week turnaround and we’re all on the park. Fingers crossed it’s soon.”
The situation at home remains equally unpredictable, with ECB chief executive Tom Harrison describing COVID-19 as the “biggest challenge” English cricket has faced in modern times. Harrison suggested that the loss of the entire 2020 season could cost the game more than £300m, and Curran admitted the uncertainty of the situation was “scary” for people in all walks of life.
While discussions about whether England’s centrally contracted players could take a pay cut has dominated the headlines over recent days – Chris Woakes said on Thursday that talks involving the Professional Cricketers’ Association were ongoing – in the meantime, Curran has thrown his weight behind a fundraising operation in support of the NHS.
“It’s a scary time for anyone in any industry,” he said. “We flew out to Sri Lanka a few weeks ago and were back within 12 days. We are glad to be back with our families and loved ones throughout this time. It’s a scary time, thinking about the summer ahead and what the schedule might look like, no one knows, because this pandemic, no one knows how long it will last.
“The lockdown is three weeks at the minute and the county season has been delayed until the end of May, but no one is very positive about when we might bowl that first ball of the summer. As players, we’ve just got to keep ticking over and trying to be as fit as we can be because we all want to be out playing cricket. But there’s a lot more important things in the world going on right now which we should be focused on, putting the NHS and those people that are struggling first and hopefully we can find a way to get through this virus.”
“I’ve got family that have been involved with the NHS, and the whole world knows how good the work they do is, but I think it goes a bit under the radar for us at home”
To help do his bit, Curran has set up a GoFundMe page in aid of HEROES Help Them Help Us, an organisation backed by the British Medical Association, with the aim of supporting hospital staff in a variety of areas, from providing transport and meals, to goggles and masks, and psychological help further down the line.
“I was thinking, sitting at home as the days go by and watching the great work the NHS are doing. I spoke with a few people in the cricketing community, everyone saw what Jos Buttler’s doing with his World Cup shirt. I thought it was a great time for us to come together as a community and contribute some funds, whether a fan, player or staff.
“I’ve got family that have been involved with the NHS, and the whole world knows how good the work they do is, but I think it goes a bit under the radar for us at home. They are the ones going out to work every day in this terrible time that we’re all going through. It’s a great time for us to stick together and support them in any way possible. I thought the smallest thing we can do is set up a fundraiser and try to help them through this.”
The early return from Sri Lanka brought to an abrupt close what had been a successful winter for Curran, as he pushed his case for involvement in the T20 World Cup – whenever it might be played – and found himself an ever-present in the Test XI. Curran described the feeling of winning the Tests in South Africa, playing alongside fellow Surrey academy graduates Ollie Pope and Dom Sibley, as “pretty special”.
“It was an awesome winter,” he said. “I played those five T20s in New Zealand, making my debut. I thought I did pretty well in terms of my performance and it was such a young side, so many debuts and a lot of guys I played age-group cricket with – [Matt] Parkinson, Saqib Mahmood, and my brother as well. So it was pretty special, and to win the series 3-2 with that Super Over at Eden Park. It was pretty cool to play against New Zealand in another Super Over.
“The Tests, we lost the first and then had a draw – the wickets were pretty good, but it was a little bit disappointing. But I think we put it right in South Africa against a pretty strong attack. It was a pretty awesome series, to win that quite convincingly, and to be doing it with all my mates, I think that’s been the biggest take home from the winter. Zak Crawley, Sibbers, Popey, all my mates that I played age-group stuff with. To be walking out together is pretty special.”
And while an enforced break has given Curran the chance to think about weightier matters, the competitive spirit remains strong.
“Whenever cricket starts again there’s going to be some serious energy flying around. There’ll be no excuses about anyone being tired or unfit. In a month, two months’ time, or whenever it is, we will all come back firing. The World Cup’s in the back of my mind, when the cricket season comes you’ve just got to try and put performances in and try to be in that 15.”
‘If you are too self-centred, you are looking for ways to get out’ – Virat Kohli
Stats that make Indian captain Virat Kohli cringe each time he thinks of the 2014 Test series in England.
On Thursday, in an Instagram chat with former England captain Kevin Pietersen, Kohli said that tour was the lowest point in his career and it had come about because he was “too focused” on “doing well from a personal point” instead of putting the team first.
“The lowest point in my career was the England tour in 2014 where that is one phase where I felt like, you know, when as a batsman you know you are going to get out in the morning when you wake up,” Kohli told Pietersen. “That was the time I felt like that: that there is no chance I am getting runs. And still to get out of bed and just get dressed for the game and to go out there and go through that, knowing that you will fail was something that ate me up. It just demolished me completely. And I promised myself I am never going to allow myself to feel like ever again in life.”
Kohli now wants India’s young cricketers not to commit the same mistake. “And that happened, for all the younger guys listening, because I was too focused on doing well from a personal point of view. I wanted to get runs. I could never think of what does the team want me to do in this situation. I just got too engulfed with England tour – if I perform here, Test cricket, in my mind I’m going to feel established and all that crap on the outside, which is not important at all. It just ate me up. I just kept going into a downward spiral and I just couldn’t get out of it. Horrible.”
Kohli said he was able to pick himself up and become the best all-format batsman in the world because he opened his mind and started focusing on what his team needed more than what he needed.
Later, when Pietersen inquired about whether Kohli’s training routine ahead of a match day, he said it was just a mental thing and once again warned against being “self-centered.”
“With technique also, everything is mental. You have played in a time where you were walking and hitting fast bowlers. Coaches don’t teach you that. So it’s innovation. It’s staying one step ahead of the opponent. If you are thinking about how to win the game for your team, these things come to you.
“If you are too personal in your approach, if you are too self-centered, you are just thinking about yourself, then you are just looking for ways to get out eventually because people are going to find you out. You are not getting out of your comfort zone because you don’t want to fail.”
When and why did Kohli turn vegetarian?
By the time Kohli returned for his next Test series in England, in 2018, he had not only improved his skill levels, he also decided to become a vegetarian. Pietersen, who had seen Kohli enjoy meat when they were team-mates at Royal Challengers Bangalore, was curious to know about the transformation.
“I wasn’t a vegetarian till 2018,” Kohli said. “When we actually came to England, I left eating meat just before the Test series started.”
Kohli went to talk about a medical condition that prompted him to become vegetarian. “In 2018 when we went to South Africa I got a cervical spine issue, while playing a Test match at Centurion…one of the discs in my cervical spine bulged out and it compressed a nerve which was running straight till the little finger of my right hand. So it gave me a tingling sensation, I could barely feel my little finger on the right hand. It was hurting like mad, I could hardly sleep at night. And then I got my tests done.
“My stomach was too acidic, my body was creating too much uric acid, my body was too acidic. What was happening was, even though I was taking calcium, magnesium everything, one tablet was not sufficient for my body to function properly. So my stomach started pulling calcium from my bones, and my bones got weaker. That’s why I got this issue. That’s why I stopped eating meat completely in the middle of the England tour to cut down the uric acid and the acidity in my body.”
The biggest difference that has made, Kohli said, was that it made recovery between matches quicker. “I’ve never felt better in my life, it felt amazing, it’s been two years, and the best decision of my life. I have never felt better waking up. I have never felt better when I have to recover after a game. If you make me play three games a week, which are intense, I am at 120% every game. I can recover within a day after a Test match and go on another Test match.
“It’s so much better than being on meat. Being vegetarian now made me feel, honestly I felt like why didn’t I do it before? I should have done it two-three years earlier, to be honest. It’s completely changed everything – you start feeling better, you start thinking better, your body is lighter, you are more positive, you have energy to do more, so, overall it’s just been an amazing, amazing change.”
Kohli’s most “fun” batting performance
Kohli has played perhaps the greatest innings by an Indian batsman in T20Is – a half-century against Australia in the 2016 World T20. That was right after he played a starring role in that same tournament against Pakistan with politicians, actors, everyone including his idol Sachin Tendulkar watching from the stands. But when asked what was his most “fun innings”, Kohli picked out a lesser known classic.
“It was against Kings XI in the IPL. It was I think, a 13… 14 over game or a 15 over game and I got a hundred in 12 overs. That was one of the days where I felt like Jeez, I’m just connecting everything and I just felt like I couldn’t get out. And I’ve never felt like that before. Just to be able to hit and not have that fear of getting out. It was amazing. So that has been my most fun innings.”
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