Mohinder Amarnath bats
© Getty Images

The top 50: 1-10 | 11-20 | 21-30 | 31-40 | 41-50

No. 41
Mohinder Amarnath: 91 and 80
West Indies v India, Bridgetown, 1983
Perhaps the best story about this performance comes not from reports but from the dressing room. Rookie legspinner and 12th man Laxman Sivaramakrishnan watched Mohinder Amarnath, nearly 33, just returned from hospital with six stitches in his jaw, wash the blood off his shirt. Amarnath had retired hurt on 18, after a short ball from Malcolm Marshall struck his mouth. A second-innings wicket fell. Amarnath pulled on the bloodied shirt and marched out, ready to face Marshall, Michael Holding, Andy Roberts and Joel Garner on a viper of a wicket. Amarnath had top-scored in the first innings, the only Indian batsman to make more than 30, while batting with his newly adopted two-eyed stance. He had battled for almost three and a half hours, hooking three sixes off his nose. When he returned to the field in the second innings to take on Marshall and the rest, Sivaramakrishnan ran out with an abdomen guard; in his enthusiasm to rejoin the fight, Amarnath had left it in the dressing room. "A fast bowler knows when a batsman is in pain," said Michael Holding, "but Jimmy would stand up and continue." - Sharda Ugra

Graeme Smith: Captain Unbreakable

Graeme Smith: Captain Unbreakable © Getty Images

No. 42
Graeme Smith: 154 not out
England v South Africa, Birmingham, 2008
Fourth-innings runs and England captains - just two of the things Graeme Smith likes for breakfast. South Africa's win at Edgbaston, achieved via the highest successful run chase at the ground, clinched their first series victory in England since readmission, and hastened Michael Vaughan into retirement. More importantly, it helped establish Smith as a man who really got going when the going was at its toughest. With Andrew Flintoff in elemental form - helped by a high arm that appeared to make the ball disappear above the sightscreen - and Monty Panesar aiming at the rough outside his off stump, Smith gritted the road to victory during a near six-hour battle on a fourth-day pitch where none of his team-mates could manage more than Mark Boucher's unbeaten 45. There was also the struggle with a bad back and tennis elbow, which required a cocktail of painkillers, anti-inflammatories and ice to get him through the day. Smith forged his own luck, riding an lbw appeal and a glove behind off Panesar, as well as a missed run-out, before taking the extra half-hour to finish the match with his 17th four. The fourth-innings master had produced his magnum opus. - Alan Gardner

Get Funky: Harbhajan takes the wicket of Colin Miller on day five in Chennai

Get Funky: Harbhajan takes the wicket of Colin Miller on day five in Chennai Shaun Botterill / © Getty Images

No. 43
Harbhajan Singh: 7 for 133 and 8 for 84; 3 not out
India v Australia, Chennai, 2001
By 20, Harbhajan had been suspended from the National Cricket Academy for indiscipline, reported for a suspect action, had lost his place in the Indian team, and his father, and contemplated driving trucks in the US for a living. Then he was picked for the series that changed his destiny and Indian cricket's, and Chennai, at 1-1, was a climax worth the word. To a gathering of indestructibles Harbhajan bowled long (80 of India's 213 overs) and hot (a streak of 6 for 26 in the first innings, 6 for 15 in the second). They could not quite read his length, or his other one, or the bounce summoned from a whirling, whippy wrist. Ponting's innings (plural) ended in novicehood, Gilchrist's (also plural) in simple defeat, Slater pawed a doosra, Waugh M was set up at leg gully, Waugh S sucked into a lunge. In the first innings, from 340 for 3 Harbhajan kept Australia down to 391; in the second, the target down to 155. As if 15 wickets were not enough, to secure victory he squirted a McGrath yorker through point for the most nerveless, joy-making two runs in Indian Test history. - Rahul Bhattacharya

Qadir: big-game hunter

Qadir: big-game hunter © Getty Images

No. 44
Abdul Qadir: 6 for 16
Pakistan v West Indies, Faisalabad, 1986
Remember what mothers used to tell us (us being children as imagined by Bollywood)? "Go to sleep, otherwise Gabbar Singh will come for you." For a while in the '80s, cricket had a similar warning for teams playing West Indies: "Make sure to have a leggie, otherwise they'll overrun you." The basis of this was the exploits of Abdul Qadir; in a couple of ODIs in Australia in 1984, he had spooked them. This spell, however, is the one most recalled when discussing West Indian kryptonite. West Indies had dominated until the third day's close, when Pakistan were effectively 94 for 4, but the sturdy lower order scraped together a target of 240. These were the days of Qadir's full swagger: the mullet, a little extra jauntiness in the run-up, those entitled appeals. Larry Gomes was bowled by a rare, big-turning legbreak, delivered from wide around the wicket. Two balls later Viv fell, caught wonderfully at bat-pad - this great slayer of pace, to slow bowling? What madness was this? Qadir ran through the lower order as if an afterthought to the main game of dismissing Viv. The greatest side in the world, all done for 53, in less than 26 overs. - Osman Samiuddin

Ambrose: wrath from on high

Ambrose: wrath from on high Shaun Botterill / © Getty Images

No. 45
Curtly Ambrose, 2 for 47 and 6 for 34
West Indies v South Africa, Bridgetown, 1992
This was a match that West Indies simply dared not lose: an inaugural Test against South Africa, at the Kensington Oval, the ground that had been their unbreachable citadel for 57 years. Given all the circumstances then, West Indies simply had to win. By the start of the final day, however, the game, as far as they were concerned, looked dead. South Africa were 122 for 2 overnight, needing a further 79, and were crowing. Was it more than simply pride that drove Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose that last day, elevating them to an irresistible force? A little over 90 minutes later, the game was over. Walsh made the incisions with a spell of 4 for 8 in 11 overs. Ambrose removed the rest to finish with 6 for 34. South Africa, with the scent of victory in their nostrils in the morning, had been swatted aside, the last eight wickets falling for 25 runs. This had been a superhuman effort from two great fast bowlers fighting for more than a cricket match. - Mike Selvey

Happy 300th: Warne takes Kallis on day four

Happy 300th: Warne takes Kallis on day four © Getty Images

No. 46
Shane Warne, 5 for 75 and 6 for 34
Australia v South Africa, Sydney, 1998
On day one, Shane Warne looked every inch the man who would submit to shoulder surgery four months later. Stiffness personified after pushing through 86 overs in the Boxing Day Test, his slightly overweight frame looked far from fresh, and his legbreaks did not fizz. A side-strung Glenn McGrath had been a minor factor in the match, leaving Warne to do more heavy lifting than usual. Somehow, roused by a drying wicket and the lure of 300 Test victims, Warne found sharp spin on the second morning. One legbreak to David Richardson pitched in the blind spot and spun venomously to flick off stump - Richardson looked disbelievingly behind as though he had been bowled around, instead of across, his legs. Greater sorcery was reserved for the second innings, when in the space of a rapturous hour Warne drifted past Hansie Cronje and Herschelle Gibbs, zipped through Brian McMillan and Shaun Pollock, then procured the most bewildered of return catches from Richardson. Rain and Jacques Kallis delayed the milestone wicket, but that only increased the sense of drama, until Warne dipped a topspinner from around the wicket to slide between Kallis' bat and pad. Warne's celebration was fittingly imperial; his mentor Terry Jenner's post-play prediction of 600 Test wickets a tad conservative. - Daniel Brettig

Jayasuriya: carried on from where he left off at the World Cup

Jayasuriya: carried on from where he left off at the World Cup Gemunu Amarasinghe / © Associated Press

No. 47
Sanath Jayasuriya, 340; 3 for 45
Sri Lanka v India, Colombo, 1997
The mid to late '90s saw Sanath Jayasuriya on a quest to set the pace. Having returned from the 1996 World Cup as the player of the tournament and trending revolutionary, he cut, whipped and stabbed his way to several one-day records, including the quickest hundred and the quickest fifty just a few weeks later. He had just begun transferring his mania to the longest format when India met him on a flat Premadasa Stadium surface in the August heat. For two entire days he and Roshan Mahanama made them sweat, creaming runs off Anil Kumble and Rajesh Chauhan, milking the seamers when they returned to the bowling crease, a little less peppy with each spell. They added by far the highest Test partnership at the time and departed within minutes of one another, Jayasuriya popping a catch to silly point 35 runs short of Brian Lara's record 375. The surface was so benign, a result had become virtually impossible by the end of the third day. But Jayasuriya's knock, and Sri Lanka's eventual 952 for 6 declared, were more surges in the wave that swept Sri Lanka from minnowhood to respectability. - Andrew Fidel Fernando

Turner: stuck it to the neighbours

Turner: stuck it to the neighbours © Getty Images

No. 48
Glenn Turner, 101 and 110 not out
New Zealand v Australia, Christchurch, 1974
Australian cricket's disregard for their trans-Tasman neighbours was such that the two did not play a full series for more than 40 years after New Zealand gained Test status. When they finally agreed to a full Test series in New Zealand, they were surprised and humbled by a 1-1 result. New Zealand's win in Christchurch was largely thanks to Glenn Turner, who became the first New Zealander to score twin centuries in a Test. He achieved the feat on a pitch that offered a bit for the fast men - Australia's legspinner Kerry O'Keeffe didn't bowl a single ball in the match. In the first innings Turner scratched and scraped his way to 99, before spending an agonising 34 deliveries until he moved to a century. A far greater hundred came in the second-innings chase of 228. Turner played a perfect, chanceless innings in compiling 110 not out, and along the way dealt with some sustained verbal abuse from Australia's captain, Ian Chappell. Turner was there at the end of a match that thrilled the New Zealand fans, just the country's eighth win in 113 Tests. And their first over the big brothers from across the ditch. - Brydon Coverdale

Kapil Dev: went down swinging

Kapil Dev: went down swinging © Getty Images

No. 49
Kapil Dev, 41 and 89; 5 for 125 and 3 for 43
England v India, Lord's, 1982
A comfortable defeat showed as well as any triumph could what Kapil Dev - his skill, spark, heart, lungs - meant to Indian cricket. At Lord's in 1982 he bowled 43 overs of swing, took five of the top six, and yet England got to 433. He went in to bat at 45 for 5, made a brisk 41, and helped India to the extricable depths of 128. Following on, he arrived at the crease facing an innings defeat. Now he stroked an astounding 89 (out of the 117 that India added) and was on course, at 55 balls, for what would have been at the time the fastest Test century in history. In defence of 65, he then had England at 18 for 3 - till he could carry the team no further. "Test cricket can seldom have seen such exuberance," is how Wisden's Cricketer of the Year entry appraised Kapil's 89. "When he finished off his evening's work by taking England's first three wickets in four overs, he had enjoyed as glorious a session of play as any immortal of the game." - Rahul Bhattacharya

Beefy with Graham Yallop (red shirt) and Geoff Boycott after the match

Beefy with Graham Yallop (red shirt) and Geoff Boycott after the match © Getty Images

No. 50
Ian Botham, 3 for 28 and 2 for 86; 118
England v Australia, Manchester, 1981
The most invincible cricketer of his generation at his most invincible. Headingley may harbour the legend but the essence of Ian Botham was on display two Tests later at Old Trafford - an innings that the man himself believes that he never bettered in the course of his rampant career. The "pure village-green slogging" that had turned that summer's Ashes on its head had been replaced, session by session, victory by victory, by a devastating sense of certainty. Botham's performances at Headingley and Edgbaston, where his 5 for 1 spell had snatched another victory from the jaws of defeat, may have stemmed from his inability to know when he was beaten. At Old Trafford, however, he knew he could not be beaten. And the subtlety of that shift would prove devastating. Three shots in particular summed up his balls-to-the-wall mood. Three savage bouncers from Dennis Lillee, three duck-and-swat sixes, middled high over square leg. Darth Vader himself could not have used the force more malevolently. Sixty-six runs came in eight overs before tea as Botham, aided and abetted by the strokeless self-parody, Chris Tavaré, launched a calculated assault on the new ball that doubled as the series knockout blow. It was an onslaught as indelible as the legend it cemented. - Andrew Miller

The top 50: 1-10 | 11-20 | 21-30 | 31-40 | 41-50

06:45:37 GMT, December 28, 2015: Venue in Harbhajan Singh picture caption corrected.

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