Kim Hughes bats

Kim Hughes: when in doubt, attack

© PA Photos

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

No. 21
Kim Hughes: 100 not out
Australia v West Indies, Melbourne, 1981
Boxing Day, 1981. Kim Hughes had not held a bat in a week, family having taken precedence, with his father-in-law seriously ill in hospital. He walked to the crease at 3 for 8, the pitch sporting more dodgy-looking green spots than a month-old sandwich found at the bottom of a school bag. The attack: Michael Holding, Andy Roberts, Joel Garner and Colin Croft. On a scale of 1 to 10, the level of difficulty of this innings looked about 20. Hughes decided that it wouldn't be long before something happened, so he might as well make it happen himself. He hooked, cut, pulled, drove - in short, he counterattacked one of the most fearsome attacks imaginable, on a pitch of unpredictable bounce. When the ninth wicket fell at 155, Hughes was on 71. He was joined by Terry Alderman. Better get on with it, he thought, and duly advanced to a shortish ball from Garner and pulled him for four. Somehow Alderman survived long enough for Hughes to reach an unbeaten 100. Hughes' father-in-law died a week or so after that innings, one that was in every way courage personified. - Brydon Coverdale

Steve Waugh: took a licking, kept on ticking

Steve Waugh: took a licking, kept on ticking © Getty Images

No. 22
Steve Waugh: 200
West Indies v Australia, Kingston, 1995
Australia's decade of dominance was not founded upon sledging or swashbuckling methods. The more accurate marker was Steve Waugh's dogged refusal to get out, even if he had to look ugly while doing so. As a younger, flashier batsman, Waugh was repeatedly shown up by the relentless lines and generous helpings of the short ball from West Indian fast bowlers. This time around, Mark Taylor led a side more confident in its own skin, but one that needed Waugh's steel to ensure Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath could do their best work. Australia were 73 for 3 in reply to West Indies' 265 when Waugh joined his brother. They were 531 when he was dismissed, more than nine hours later. Courtney Browne's drop is replayed many times, but so too is Waugh's volley of shots around the ground, and the many blows to his gloves, arms and ribs. Mark Waugh, Greg Blewett and Paul Reiffel contributed to key stands, while McGrath hung around long enough for Waugh to crest 200. Former Australian batsman Greg Ritchie, who was leading a tour group, charged onto the field to congratulate Waugh, prompting a Richie Richardson rebuke. "Get stuffed Richie, it's a great 200!" came the reply. A great innings, but also a sign of what was to come. - Daniel Brettig

After the marathon, the sprint: batting gluttons Atherton and Russell run off the field after sealing the deal

After the marathon, the sprint: batting gluttons Atherton and Russell run off the field after sealing the deal © Getty Images

No. 23
Michael Atherton: 185 not out
South Africa v England, Johannesburg, 1995
At a certain moment in England's history, the line goes, Christmas was identifiable as that time of year when Michael Atherton was saving a Test in some distant land. Though three weeks before Christmas, Johannesburg was the definitive Atherton match-saver; arguably up there in Hanif Mohammad territory, where sheer numbers are both enough and inadequate to grasp the scale of the achievement. An overly cautious declaration from Hansie Cronje had left England needing to bat out close to two days. Atherton was greeted by an Allan Donald spell that was, as Atherton recalled, "as quick as you can get". The top order succumbed to a strong pace attack, but Atherton ended on 82. The next morning - after a Japanese dinner - he found it difficult to get his feet going. But once he got his hundred, pulling Donald for four, he was more relaxed, celebrating it with unusual vigour. By the time Jack Russell was set in partnership, Atherton was in the zone, "a state of both inertia and intense concentration". After the second drinks break, the 12th man told team-mates Atherton was "fresh as a daisy". When a few hours later the deed was done, Atherton sprinted off celebrating, despite having batted for nearly 11 hours. - Osman Samiuddin

Graeme Pollock's 274 was one of the hallmarks of South Africa's final series before sporting isolation

Graeme Pollock's 274 was one of the hallmarks of South Africa's final series before sporting isolation © PA Photos

No. 24
Graeme Pollock: 274
South Africa v Australia, Durban, 1970
First came the whirlwind, then the prolonged pain. Barry Richards rattled the weary Australians with an unbeaten 94 in the first session on day one. But there was more trouble in store when Graeme Pollock walked in with one of the heaviest bats in the game, carted three fours and, as Ian Chappell recounts, glanced towards the pavilion as if to ask: How does that compare with Barry? A worried Chappell said to Keith Stackpole: "This bastard is going to see how many Barry gets and then he is going to double it."

Chappell was wrong, but only just. Richards finished on 140; Pollock went on to 274, a magisterial innings marked by cover drives so clinical that, at times, seven fielders on the off side could only watch the ball whizz by. The runs gushed forth. Pollock was on 80 at tea, 160 at stumps, and 240 at lunch on day two. He amassed the highest Test score by a South African, but a tinge of regret remained. "I could have probably got my 300," he said. "I was sorry that I gave it away." South Africa won 4-0, their last series before sporting isolation. Pollock, with an average over 60, would not play another Test. - Siddhartha Vaidyanathan

All's fair in friendship and cricket: Richards thrashed everyone, including best mate Beefy

All's fair in friendship and cricket: Richards thrashed everyone, including best mate Beefy Patrick Eagar / © Getty Images

No. 25
Viv Richards: 110 not out
West Indies v England, St John's, 1986
Style is arranging your wedding two days before your country's inaugural Test and then scoring a century in it. A statement is, five years later against the same opponents from the land that once ruled yours, at the same ground close to the prison where your father was once warden, smashing a century so history-making that it overtakes a 65-year-old record by 11 deliveries, so ahead of its time that it has not been bettered in the 29 years since. True the ARG is small, true the pitch easy, but this could only be Vivian Richards, and his stage was set. Four-nil going into the fifth Test, and 264 runs ahead as he, the captain, began his final innings of the series. England's declaration field, at times with nine men on the boundary, was met with such devastation, sixes and fours sometimes struck one-handed, that Ian Botham was prompted to suggest a fielder in the stands. The hundred, raised in 56 balls, was, according to Scyld Berry, "the moment that saw the fulfillment of the greatest cricketer of his generation". The next day the blackwash was complete. - Rahul Bhattacharya

We'll give you plebs: Fanie de Villiers gets Tim May on day four

We'll give you plebs: Fanie de Villiers gets Tim May on day four © Getty Images

No. 26
Fanie de Villiers: 4 for 80, 6 for 43
Australia v South Africa, Sydney, 1994
By the time South Africa began their tenth Test upon returning to the international fold, they had beaten India and Sri Lanka, and had resumed hostilities with Australia. This was a hard-fought tour that began with animosity over umpiring decisions in a practice match in Queensland. The needling reached its peak in the second Test, in Sydney, when, after the fourth day's play, having won 11 of 12 sessions, Australia needed 54 with six wickets in hand. Mark Waugh told the South Africans during the end-of -day beers: "Just put a couple of plebs in there, toss it up, and let's get this match over with." Hansie Cronje, standing in for the injured Kepler Wessels, instead put on Allan Donald and the larrikin from Transvaal, Fanie de Villiers. Earlier in the series, de Villiers had been fined for bringing a remote-controlled car onto the field. Now he remote-controlled the ball on a slow and low surface on which Shane Warne had taken 12 wickets. De Villiers made up for South Africa's lack of a match-winning spinner by bowling cutters and stifling the batsmen with his accuracy. Three of his six victims were either bowled or lbw, and the last was caught and bowled. - Sidharth Monga

Happy feet: in Mumbai, KP put the spin nightmare of Ahmedabad behind him with a series-turning performance

Happy feet: in Mumbai, KP put the spin nightmare of Ahmedabad behind him with a series-turning performance © BCCI

No. 27
Kevin Pietersen: 186
India v England, Mumbai, 2012
This was the moment when Kevin Pietersen cast off the shadow of reintegration and stepped once again into the dazzling light of adulation. His chequered career had reached one of its darkest junctures during the preceding home series against South Africa, when he was suspended for allegedly undermining his captain; Andrew Strauss subsequently retired but his successor, Alastair Cook, argued for Pietersen's inclusion for the tour of India. There was to be no instant gratification, however. Pietersen was twice defeated by Pragyan Ojha in the first Test, in Ahmedabad, his technique against left-arm spin exposed again, his stumps and nerves rattled. To Mumbai, 1-0 down, MS Dhoni calling for a pitch with even more turn: England up against the wall. Against India's three spinners, Cook laid the foundations for resistance but it was the team's bronca batsman who turned the fight and the series; a near-flawless performance in the searing heat taking England to a match-winning position. Pietersen's nimble footwork and long reach helped set a punishing tempo from the moment he drove his first ball for four. As the innings reached its crescendo he could be seen swatting his nemesis Ojha into the stands on both sides of the wicket. It was a rebel tour de force. - Alan Gardner

Virender Sehwag: big in Multan

Virender Sehwag: big in Multan © Getty Images

No. 28
Virender Sehwag: 309
Pakistan v India, Multan, 2004
Virender Sehwag had promised this. He had predicted this was coming, having scolded VVS Laxman for missing the chance to become India's first triple-centurion, in Kolkata in 2001. It came in the flat plains of the Pakistani Punjab, in a town known for its dust, heat, a profusion of shrines of Sufi saints, and lack of enthusiasm for Test cricket. Sehwag didn't mind - when India won the toss, he was into the bowling, maximising the flat wicket and rapidly frazzled pace attack. Neither Shoaib Akhtar's bouncers nor Shabbir Ahmed's effort to extract bounce held him back. Dropped on 68 and 77, and twice more off the industrious Shabbir when going past Laxman's 281, Sehwag walked the fine line between abandon and daring. The ball clattered to all parts, echoing around the empty ground, the scoreboard racing, records tumbling. A six took him from 99 to 105, and a mighty swing over midwicket, off Saqlain Mushtaq, rushed him past the triple. Of his 309, 192 were scored in boundaries, and his innings set up India's first Test victory in Pakistan. With Multan, Sehwag redefined the boundaries of what Indian batsmen could do, and became by himself, Mr Big. - Sharda Ugra

Tugga double-bill: Old Trafford was another of Waugh's back-to-the-wall classics

Tugga double-bill: Old Trafford was another of Waugh's back-to-the-wall classics © PA Photos

No. 29
Steve Waugh: 108 and 116
England v Australia, Old Trafford, 1997
It is surprising that the title Aussie Grit was still available when former Formula One racer Mark Webber penned his autobiography last year, for no phrase could better encapsulate the career of Steve Waugh. It would have been a fitting name for the 801-page handwritten memoir he released in 2005. And no episode from his career displayed his grit more than the Manchester Test of 1997. Australia entered the match 1-0 down in a six-Test series, and Waugh walked to the crease at 42 for 3 on the first day. Had he fallen cheaply, so may Australia have done in the series, and the Ashes may well have been handed back to England. Instead, he stubbornly refused to give his wicket away, and scored 108 out of Australia's 235. An attack led by Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath gave Australia a first-innings lead, and Waugh backed up with a second-innings 116, scored with a badly bruised right hand that he often pulled off the bat. The first batsman to score twin Ashes centuries for 50 years, Waugh ensured an Australian victory, which levelled the series 1-1. From then on the series, and the urn, belonged to Australia. - Brydon Coverdale

One of the England bowlers feared the world record was coming when Lara began to go ballistic. He was right

One of the England bowlers feared the world record was coming when Lara began to go ballistic. He was right © PA Photos

No. 30
Brian Lara: 375
West Indies v England, St John's, 1994
Brian Lara had scored only two centuries in his first 15 Tests before coming into the match in Antigua. When he was on 60, having come in at 12 for 2, Phil Tufnell told Michael Atherton that the world record looked in danger. Ask anyone who witnessed this innings live, and it is clear that there was a ridiculous inevitability to what Lara did. Tony Cozier says Lara always looked fresh, although he did his fair share of running - only 180 runs, all fours, came in boundaries. Jack Russell, who watched from behind the stumps, said nothing ever looked like missing the middle of the bat. Lara batted for more than two days, ended the first on 164 and the second on 320. In a 179-run third-wicket stand, Jimmy Adams contributed 59; Keith Arthurton managed only 47 in a 183-run partnership. It was a docile pitch and Lara was likely not setting up a win, but to make only one mistake in 766 minutes takes epic single-mindedness, concentration and mastery of strokeplay. Something Lara was earmarked for as a kid. - Sidharth Monga

Read Nos. 31-40 here

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

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