10: Dizzy’s double
Jason Gillespie was already a cult hero because of his flowing mullet and crazy eyes, but he cemented his status as a legend with his double ton over three days at Chittagong in 2005. He came in as nightwatchman at first drop and didn’t leave for nine and a half hours and 135 overs, racking up 201* with 26 fours and even two sixes.
Matty Hayden made a bet with him that the two of them would do a nudie run if he got the double — thankfully that didn’t happen — and Gillespie was dropped for the next Test and next never played another one, adding to the cult status.
9: Slater smashes the Poms
Slats was Davey Warner when Warner was bullying kids around Matraville Primary School’s oval, and the last thing that England — already missing Devon Malcolm through a bout of chicken pox — needed at the start of the 94/95 Ashes was to come up against him in a destructive mood.
But that’s what they copped. Phil DeFreitas’s first ball was an old school loosener and Slater’s square cut to the boundary was the definition of disdain, and he didn’t slow down from there. He racked up 176 off 244 balls — lightning for the time — and the Poms were done by the end of the first day of the series.
8: Hussey's MCG epic
The Aussies were staring down the barrel of an average total against a strong South African side in the 05 Boxing Day Test when they plummeted from 3/207 to 9/248. However, Mike Hussey was still there on 27 and proceeded to play the Mike Hussey-est innings of a distinctly Mike Hussey-esque career.
Hussey effortlessly changed gears during single overs, defending early, attacking in the middle, and finding singles late; he contributed 95 in a last wicket stand of 107 that had the dual effect of dragging Australia to a decent total and demoralising the Saffer attack. A masterclass in balancing attack and defence.
7: Davey carries his bat
Davey Warner has heaps of great centuries — the first session ton against Pakistan was close to this list — but his best was his first. The punchy opener faced a monumental task in his just his fourth Test dig, with Doug Bracewell (seriously) running riot on a Hobart green top. Chasing 241, the Aussie middle order collapsed (sound familiar?), losing 7/40 at one stage, and only Warner held his nerve.
Defying his typecast as a T20 slogger, he carried his bat throughout the entire innings for a restrained and patient 123*, scoring over half of Australia’s runs — when Bracewell seamed one through Nathan Lyon’s defences, the Aussies were just eight runs short. It was the dig that showed that Warner could very much hack it at Test level.
6: Mark Waugh drives us home
There’s a lot of terms you associate with Mark Waugh: elegant, stylish, gifted stroke player. One you hear less frequently is ‘mental fortitude’, but he displayed reserves of strength that his twin brother would be proud of in this knock.
Chasing 271 on a Port Elizabeth green top, Waugh came to the crease at 2/30 and grafted out surely his finest hour. Staring down a fire breathing Allan Donald on a pitch that no batsman was ever truly in on — the next highest score was 49 — Waugh didn’t curb his strokeplay, driving, cutting and flicking lavishly, but he was more judicious in his application. He reeled off 17 fours and a six while holding together a collapsing middle order to guide Australia to a very tough total, and while he fell just before the Aussies got there an Ian Healy six sealed one of the great overseas victories — one that owed everything to ME Waugh.
5: Phil Hughes announces himself
The Phil Hughes story ended in tragedy, but the first chapter of it was as thrilling as you could imagine. The little man with the spring-loaded technique — at that stage just 20 years old — looked like he was having the time of his life as a pace attack of Dale Steyn, Makhaya Ntini and Morne Morkel simply couldn’t get him out. He smeared 19 fours in the first dig and brought up the ton with a pair of impudent sixes off spinner Paul Harris before Kallis got him with a short wide one.
In the second dig the Aussies already had a lead of over 200, meaning Hughes had licence to do as he pleased. He cracked an imperious 160, including a monster six off Steyn to bring up his 150, and it looked like the Aussies had a Test opener with a 15 year career ahead of him. These two innings were on repeat in a lot of houses in late November, 2014.
4: Gilly gets it done
It was tempting to go with Gilly’s knock where he tonked Monty Panesar around the WACA, but like Warner, his first Test ton will go down as his finest hour. Facing an all-time great Pakistan attack — Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Shoaib Akhtar and Saqlain Mushtaq — Gilly joined Justin Langer at the crease at 5/126 chasing 369.
In just his second Test, he decided against shelving his attacking instinct and unfurled a remarkable counter attack, rinsing an incredible 149 off just 163 balls to rescue the Aussies from a seemingly disastrous position. It was the innings that announced Gilchrist as a Test superstar and changed the game for all keepers going forward.
3: Steve Waugh singlehandedly ruins the Poms
Steve Waugh had the kind of mental strength and us against them mentality that can only come a persecution complex fostered by being dropped for your twin brother, and showed every ounce of his it to get through these two knocks of supreme concentration and application. Australia were in a perilous position at 3/42 in the first innings after Mark Taylor chose to bat at 1-0 down in the series. Waugh was rapped on the pads early on and could have been given out but didn’t give another chance on the way to a peerless 108.
His innings and Shane Warne’s bowling meant Australia had a small (but not insignificant) lead of 73, which they’d only added 39 to in the second dig when he came to the crease to pull the Aussies out of the shit again. He just went again, with his style — more outhouse than his brother’s arthouse — lending itself perfectly to a grafting situation. He made 116, the Aussies set the Poms a nominal target of 369 which they fell well short of and Steve Waugh had basically won the Ashes by himself. It wasn’t the first and wouldn’t be the last English team that Waugh murdered with his mind.
2: Clarke stands tall
Clarke played some immense innings for Australia — his 151 on debut in India, the 151 at Cape Town in 2011 to name just two — but this innings, also at Cape Town, is by far the most meritorious. Australia were 1-1 against a very strong South Africa side that had made a habit of knocking the Aussies off at home, and Clarke was greeted by a searching display of short bowling from Morne Morkel when he made it to the crease.
He was hit on the helmet and had a particularly vicious ball break his shoulder early on, but he battled on, making a not particularly fluent but incredibly tough 161* that allowed the Aussies enough time for a battled-weary Ryan Harris to take two wickets in his final over in Test cricket to get the Aussies to a series win.
1: Punter saves the day
Ricky Ponting could have filled this list out by himself — the double century against India at the MCG and the smoking century in the 2003 World Cup final stand out — but this is his finest hour. The Poms had the Aussies on the ropes in the third Test of the 05 Ashes, with poor batting and bowling in the first two innings meaning that they had to bat over 100 overs to escape from Old Trafford with a draw.
Punter came in during the 12th over and set up with his typical hairy-armed, steely-eyed intensity and ensured England simply could not get him out. He frustrated all attempts and held together a crumbling middle order faced with the highest pressure — no partnership got to more than 81. By the time he eventually went, gloving down the leg side for 156, the final pair needed to survive four of the tensest overs in Ashes history. When they did, the Aussies celebrated as if they’d won the Ashes. They hadn’t and didn’t, but Ponting’s fighting masterclass kept them alive.
Rudi is a bitter misanthrope who isn't biased against your team; he just hates everyone equally