Best Test matches of all-time: The top 5 ever

Flintoff helped England beat Australia in one of the greatest test matches of all-time.
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The greatest Tests ever played in cricket

Test match cricket is still considered by many as the best and purest form of the game. It lasts for five days and teams encounter a variety of conditions, in which they are tested to their limit. There are also comebacks because each team has two innings to bat and bowl in. Such means that only the best will prosper over the five days. In this article, we will be exploring the best Test matches of all-time.

These have been ranked on the quality of teams, the situation in which the game changed and individual brilliance. There are a lot of quality games that have just missed the shortlist.

So, which Tests make our top 5 ever?

1. Australia vs India, Kolkata 2001

VVS Laxman scored a fabulous 281 as India beat Australia in one of the greatest test matches of all-time.
11-15 Mar 2001: VVS Laxman of India pulls to the boundary on his way to a record 281 during the Second Test match against Australia played at the Eden Gardens in Calcutta, India. India won the game by 171 runs to level the three test series at 1-1. Mandatory Credit: Shaun Botterill /Allsport

Perhaps the greatest test match ever. Perhaps the best test match innings ever.

In what Steve Waugh described beforehand as “The final frontier” for his men, the 2001 Border-Gavaskar series lived up to its billing.

In context, Australia cruised to a very easy win in the first test match in Mumbai and were well on top in Calcutta. It was to be their first test series win in India for over three decades.

But VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid overturned a massive deficit of 274 and made Steve Waugh’s decision to en-force the follow on seem silly. The match has become so iconic that teams are now wary of taking the follow on in case such an event occurs.

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Laxman and Dravid combined in a partnership worth nearly 400 to change the entire history of Indian Cricket. India won both the game and the series.

Australia vs India, Kolkata 2001, is number one on our list of “Top 5 best Test matches of all-time.”

2. England vs Australia, Headingley 1981

LEEDS, ENGLAND – JULY 20: England batsman Ian Botham smiles as he hits out off the bowling of Geoff Lawson during his 149* during the 2nd Innings of the 3rd Cornhill Test Match between England and Australia at Headingley on July 20, 1981 in Leeds, United Kingdom. (Photo by Adrian Murrell/Allsport/Getty Images/Hulton Archive)

500-1 were the odds for England to overturn Australia and win at Headingley. England needed a miracle to win the test when Sir Ian Botham arrived at the crease. England were 7 down following-on.

In step Ian Botham. The superstar changed both the game and the history of test cricket. 221 further runs were added, including his personal 149*. Australia were set only 130 to win but Bob Willis ran through them to lead England to an 18-run victory.

Such is the enormity of the Test, it is played back each time the Australians visit England to compete in the Ashes. Botham resurrected England and inspired a generation of cricketers.

Australia vs England, Headingley 1981, is number two on our list of “Top 5 best Test matches of all-time.”

3. Australia vs West Indies, Barbados 1999

30 Mar 1999: West Indies captain Brian Lara celebrates after hitting the winning runs in the Third Test against Australia at the Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados. Lara scored an unbeaten century in the second innings as the West Indies won by 1 wicket to go 2-1 up in the series. Mandatory Credit: Ben Radford /Allsport

Australia were the overwhelming favourites to win the test match, despite the West Indies levelling the series in the game before. Australia were the best test side in the world, while the Windies were declining rapidly.

Australia scored 490 in their first innings, which seemed a bridge too far and it so it proved. The West Indies could only reply with 329 but managed to bowl Australia out for 146, giving them an outside chance of chasing 308 to win.

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Brian Lara top scored with a scintillating 153 and while wickets were falling around him, held the innings together. Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne, Jason Gillespie and Stuart MacGill were no match for him. He tucked into the leg-spinners with ease, dispatching them to all parts of the ground. As the winning runs came off Jason Gillespie, the crowd began to go crazy and invaded the pitch. The heist was over. West Indies had won.

Australia vs West Indies, Barbados 1999, is number three on our list of “Top 5 best Test matches of all-time.”

4. England vs Australia, Edgbaston 2005

BIRMINGHAM, UNITED KINGDOM – AUGUST 07: The England team huddle together before the start of play on day four of the Second npower Ashes Test match between England and Australia at Edgbaston on August 7, 2005 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Tom Shaw/Getty Images)

England had already been pummelled at Lords, despite dominating most of the first day. They simply had to win the second Test in order to keep the series alive, at least figuratively. They stroked themselves to 407 in the first innings and bowled Australia out for 308.

However, Shane Warne and Brett Lee ran riot in England’s second innings, reducing them to 75-6. Andrew Flintoff, though, remained steadfast and took the attack to the Aussies. His 73 from just 86 balls gave England a very competitive total of 281 to defend on a wearing pitch.

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Australia in reply were 175-8, with Clarke having fallen to a slower ball by Steven Harmison. It looked over at that stage but the lower-order dug deep to offer shrewd resistance. Incredibly, they took the game to within two runs before Steven Harmison produced one of the most iconic deliveries ever seen in Ashes Cricket. His uplifting bouncer had Michael Kasprowicz fending away to the wicket-keeper Geraint Jones. England were back in the series and they would go on to win a memorable contest 2-1.

Australia vs England, Edgbaston 2005, is number four on our list of “Top 5 best Test matches of all-time.”

5. Australia vs South Africa, Newlands 2011

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA – NOVEMBER 10: The scoreboard showing Australia all out of 47 runs during day 2 of the 1st Sunfoil Series Test match between South Africa and Australia at Sahara Park Newlands on November 10, 2011 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Perhaps the craziest match in recent history. The pitch at Newlands “Had more 180 degree turns than a Jason Statham car chase,” to use Ian Chappell’s words. Australia made 284 in their first innings, rescued by Michael Clarke’s 151. Ryan Harris and Shane Watson then ran riot, bowling the hosts out for just 96.

What happened next though was quite spectacular. With a lead of 188, Australia were overwhelming favourites to win the game. Even if they made 150 in their second innings, South Africa would require over 300 on a difficult track, in order to triumph.

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Debutant Vernon Philander had other ideas. His 5-15 from just 7 0vers helped annihilate Australia for a poultry score of just 47. They were 21-9 at one point, in real danger of being bowled out for the lowest score in Test history. Lyon and Siddle added some respectability but the game had changed. And how.

Smith and Amla then scored fabulous centuries to help South Africa cruise home by 8 wickets, on a pitch that was still offering plenty for the visitors. An unbelievable game of cricket.

Australia vs South Africa, Cape Town 2011, is number five on our list of “Top 5 best Test matches of all-time.”

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