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Not all follow-ons end well

Last updated on 28 Feb 2023 | 09:13 AM
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Not all follow-ons end well

On Tuesday, New Zealand became only the third team to win a Test after being asked to follow-on

A win after you were asked to follow-on is rare, so rare that it has happened only four times in the history of Test cricket. And, one of those four wins came on February 28, 2023, with New Zealand defeating England by just one run in Wellington. 

The Black Caps not only became the third team to win a Test after being asked to follow-on but also became only the second team to win a Test by a margin of one run. West Indies did it in 1992/93 when they got the better of Australia by the "barest of margins" in Adelaide.

We will talk about the other three incidents when a side won the Test match despite being forced to follow-on, but let’s first give you a glimpse of what happened at the Basin Reserve. Thanks to centuries from Joe Root (153*) and Harry Brook (186), England slammed 435/8 (decl) in their first innings.

James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Jack Leach then wreaked havoc with the ball and bundled out New Zealand for 209, giving England a lead of 226 runs. England have played an entertaining brand of cricket under skipper Ben Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum and the former thought they have enough lead on the board to enforce a follow-on. 

New Zealand batters, who have struggled throughout the series, finally showed up in the second innings and managed to put the pressure back on England. Tom Latham (83), Devon Conway (61), Daryl Mitchell (54) and Tom Blundell (90) all scored half-centuries but it was Kane Williamson who stood above all with his 132.

A target of 258 was still not a daunting one for this England side, but New Zealand have always been known for their fighting spirit. England lost four early wickets on day five and were reduced to 80/5 before the end of the first session. However, that’s when Joe Root and Stokes joined hands and put on 121 for the sixth wicket before Neil Wagner dismissed them in the space of two overs.

The game then went down to the wire, with England’s last pair James Anderson and Jack Leach needing seven runs to keep England’s six-match winning streak alive. However, Wagner (4/62) was having none of it and took the decisive wicket of Anderson to help New Zealand create history and level the two-Test series.

Alright, now let’s talk about those other three games where England (twice) and India achieved the same feat.

England v Australia in 1894

The first time a team managed to pull off a win from such a scenario came way back in 1894, with England defeating their arch-rivals Australia by 10 runs in Sydney. Andrew Stoddart and his men defended a target of 177 after Australia dominated the majority of the Test. 

Syd Gregory (201) and George Giffen (161) first helped Australia amass 586 in their first innings before the latter also chipped in with the ball, taking 4/75 to dismiss England for 325. Having taken a lead of 261, Australia decided to enforce a follow-on, but England's batters stepped up and got 437 in the second essay.

Albert Ward (117) scored a hundred, while Jack Brown (53), Bill Brockwell (37), Stoddart (36), Francis Ford (48) and Johnny Briggs (42) all made handy contributions. Australia would have still fancied chasing down 177, but left-arm spinner Bobby Peel scalped six wickets in the final innings, and the hosts were bowled out for 166.

England v Australia in 1981

87 years later, it happened again, and it was once again England and Australia who were involved in the historic affair, with the former once again emerging victorious. To be honest, it was more like Ian Botham v Australia in the first three innings before Bob Willis made his presence felt in the last innings with an eight-wicket haul.

After Australia declared on 401/9, England were bundled out for 174, with Botham being the only one to touch the 50-run mark. The flamboyant all-rounder wasn’t done yet, as he almost single-handedly brought England back in the game in the second essay. The right-hander smashed 149* off 148 deliveries and helped his team set-up a target of 130.

That’s when Willis took over, and the tall paceman dismantled Australia’s batting line-up. John Dyson (34) was the only one to put up some fight, as Willis registered figures of 8/43 in 15.1 overs. Kim Hughes and Co. were eventually bowled out for 111, giving England an 18-run victory.

India v Australia in 2001

Unarguably one of the most dominating comebacks in the history of any sport. Winning a Test after being asked to follow-on is in itself a MASSIVE task, but doing it with a margin of 171 tells you something extraordinary would have surely taken place. Here, it was the famous 376-run stand between VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid.

Steve Waugh’s men were on a 16-match winning streak after they thrashed India by 10 wickets in the first Test in Mumbai in February 2001, and looked well on course to win the second Test at Eden Gardens. But that’s when Laxman and Dravid happened.

India were skittled out for 171 after Australia put up 445 in the first innings. Laxman had already scored a stroke-filled fifty in the first innings and, as a result, was promoted to No. 3 in the second innings. He was once again fighting the lone battle, with SS Das, Sadagoppan Ramesh and Sachin Tendulkar already back in the hut. Sourav Ganguly (48) did add 117 runs with Laxman but was dismissed before the end of day three.

Considering how dominant Australia had been over the last few years, it looked like it was going to be just a matter of time before they would wrap up the match, possibly, with a day to spare. However, Laxman and Dravid dug their heels and didn’t allow Australia to take a single wicket on day four. 

Laxman got 281, while Dravid crafted 180 as India finally declared after scoring 657/7. Australia were set a target of 384 with just over two sessions to survive, but Harbhajan Singh (6/73) made Australia dance to his tune and bundled them out in the final session, giving India a win to remember.

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