Highest 5th Day Run Chases in Test Cricket

In Test cricket, few situations test a team’s mettle more than having to chase down a formidable target on the final day of a match. The crumbling pitch, tired bodies and immense pressure make even the most modest 5th day targets highly challenging.

But over the years, there have been some outstanding rear-guard efforts from teams who successfully knocked off improbable run chases on the last day of riveting Test matches. Let’s relive some of the highest 5th day run chases in Test cricket history.

The Immense Challenges of 5th Day Chases

Before we discuss the specific instances, it is important to understand why batting in the 4th innings of a Test is toughest on the 5th day. Some key factors that make 5th day chases incredibly challenging are:

  • The pitch is at its worst on Day 5, with uneven bounce, cracks widening, and assistance for spin/reverse swing bowling.
  • The outfield is sluggish after 4 days of wear and tear, enabling easy catches.
  • Bowlers are fresher having had a night’s rest while batsmen are mentally and physically drained.
  • The fielding captain attacks with close-in fielders, keeping the pressure at full intensity.
  • With no second innings to make amends, the chasing team has their backs against the wall.
  • Crowd support, weather conditions, poor light etc. also impact the chasing team’s chances on the 5th day.

This makes any decent sized target chased down on the last day a commendable achievement. Let’s look at some famous examples:

West Indies Chase 418 in 4th Innings Against Australia in 2003

The highest run chase ever in Test history, 418 by West Indies versus Australia at Antigua in 2003, was also the highest 5th day chase.

In one of the most unforgettable Test matches, Australia declared their 2nd innings at 229-5 on Day 4, setting West Indies 418 to win. Normally that would be an impossible target.

But the likes of Sarwan, Chanderpaul and Lara had other ideas. With Gayle and Smith giving them a start, Sarwan (105) and Chanderpaul (104) put on a match-winning partnership. Omari Banks hit the winning runs as West Indies astonishingly got home with 3 wickets remaining.

Chasing over 400 runs on the 5th day against one of the most lethal bowling attacks was a superhuman effort from the Caribbean side. This chase showed anything is possible in Test cricket.

England Scale New Heights with 332/4 Against Australia in 2010

England’s highest successful run chase came on the 2010-11 Ashes tour when they incredibly knocked off 332 runs on the final day at Brisbane.

After conceding a first innings lead of 221 runs, England had to pull off their best ever chase at the Gabba fortress to win the first Test. Openers Strauss and Cook defied the odds with a 188-run opening stand on Day 5.

Jonathan Trott then showed immense concentration and technique to remain unbeaten on 135, guiding England to a stunning 1-wicket victory. Scoring over 300 runs in a single day to beat Australia in their own backyard was a special achievement.

India Chase Down 361 Against England at The Oval in 1979

India’s greatest Test victory came in 1979 against England at The Oval when they successfully chased down 438 in the fourth innings, over 150 of which were scored on the final day.

England had set India a mammoth target of 438 thanks to Ian Botham’s century. India ended Day 4 at 76/3, needing over 300 runs. Viswanath (33) and Yashpal Sharma (33) resumed India’s chase on the 5th morning in spectacular fashion.

Kapil Dev raced to India’s fastest Test hundred then to set the stage for Gavaskar (43*) and Amarnath (46) to hit the winning runs in an unforgettable Test match. Scoring over 150 runs on the final day against top quality English bowlers highlighted India’s determination.

Australia Chase Down 404 on Final Day at Headingly in 1948

Another remarkable Ashes chase came in 1948 when Don Bradman’s Australia incredibly chased down 404 runs on the final day at Headingly after being forced to follow on.

England had enforced the follow on after bowling Australia out for 258 in response to their 498/4 declared. Australia ended Day 4 at 183/3 needing over 200 more runs.

Sensationally, opener Morris (182) and Barnes (141) did not lose their wicket the entire day in a 301-run unbroken stand. Bradman hit the winning runs as England were shellshocked. A near impossible chase was completed by Australia with amazing resilience.

South Africa’s Historic Chase at The Oval in 1951

South Africa’s first Test win in England was secured via an epic 4th innings chase of 314 at The Oval in 1951 thanks to an extraordinary 5th day rearguard effort.

England had set the Proteas a challenging target of 343 runs after twin fifties from Hutton and Washbrook. By the end of Day 4, South Africa were 97/1 needing over 240 runs on the final day.

Opener John Waite batted all day for an unbeaten 137 while Russell Endean struck 81 as the duo shared a match-winning partnership. South Africa clinched a three wicket win in the last over, losing just 3 wickets. Their 5th day fight signified a historic result.

Pakistan Chase 302 at Sharjah Against Sri Lanka in 2014

Pakistan’s highest ever successful chase in the 4th innings came on the final day at Sharjah in 2014 when they knocked off 302 runs versus Sri Lanka.

Thanks to centuries from Younis Khan and Azhar Ali, Pakistan ended Day 4 needing 302 runs with all 10 wickets in hand. Openers Ahmed Shehzad and Sarfraz Ahmed got them off to a flying start on the 5th morning.

Skipper Misbah then waged a lone battle scoring a match-winning 63* as Pakistan got over the line in the final session with 6 wickets in hand and only 4 overs remaining. This famous win underscored Pakistan’s 5th day tenacity.

India’s Heroics at St. John’s in 2002 Against West Indies

The Indian team engineered a great escape in 2002 at St. John’s, knocking off the 171 runs needed on the final day to beat West Indies after following on.

Having conceded a first innings lead of 138 runs, India were set a stiff target of 276 on a crumbling pitch. But the batting shone on the 5th day propelling India to a historic win.

Dravid and Sarandeep Singh shared an unbroken 100-run stand as India pulled off a miraculous run chase by getting home with 2 wickets in hand. Dravid remained unbeaten on 68, one of his many fourth innings rescue acts.

England Chase 282 Against New Zealand at Edgbaston in 2004

We end with England’s then highest successful run chase in their own backyard coming against New Zealand at Edgbaston in 2004 as the hosts chased down 282 runs on the final day.

The platform was set by openers Trescothick (63) and Strauss (106) who put on 107. The experienced Graham Thorpe (62*) kept his cool to guide the tricky chase after quick wickets.

Geraint Jones (59) provided the finishing spark to help England breach New Zealand’s total just 4 wickets down. It was a remarkable 5th day batting display on a wearing Old Trafford pitch against a formidable Kiwi attack.

Conclusion

These limitless acts of human willpower and skill tell us that nothing is impossible in cricket when teams put their mind to chasing down a target. Be it the Caribbean flair of the West Indies, Pakistan’s knack for thrillers or England’s resilience at home, we have witnessed some all-time great rearguards on enthralling final days.

Any respectable total knocked off on the 5th day requires immense physical stamina, concentration and belief from batters. Those incredible successful run chases in the dying moments of matches underline that with courage and commitment, miracles can happen even in most hopeless circumstances.

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