Test cricket is an ultimate reflection of life. For, no other form of the game constantly challenges you to achieve things, where the odds are heavily stacked against you. It tests your patience, your character, your ability to persist against adversity and most importantly your hunger to come out unscathed as a fighter.
One of the many challenges- and perhaps the most difficult of them all- that Test cricket poses is chasing down totals in the fourth innings. Unlike limited-overs cricket, chasing in Test match cricket, especially 300-plus totals, on a fourth or fifth-day pitch is a different kettle of fish altogether. So, rare are these instances that once they happen, they get impinged in the folklore for a lifetime. Remember Brian Lara’s 153 at Barbados? I’m sure you do. We all do.
On that note, here is a look at the greatest 300+ run-chases in Test cricket since 2000
5. South Africa v Australia, Perth, 2008
South Africa’s AB de Villiers and Jean-Paul Duminy celebrate victory against Australia at the WACA. (Photo by Jon Buckle – PA Images via Getty Images)
Venue: W.A.C.A, Perth, Target: 414, Result: South Africa won by six wickets
South Africa vs Australia. Australia vs South Africa. Test cricket. 1992-2007. Where? Well! Anywhere to be honest: in South Africa, Down Under, at Kingsmead, at Adelaide. at Jo’Berg or at Perth, if you are a cricket fan of the vintage of the early 90s or 2000s, you’d know it well than the post-2008 cricket watching generation that, so one-sided were the Test matches involving South Africa and Australia back then that it did not really matter where the teams were playing.
Since their re-admission to cricket in 1992, South Africa emerged as one of the leading sides in world cricket courtesy a plethora of insanely naturally gifted cricketers and lethal pace bowling attack. In limited-overs cricket, South Africa and Australia consistently provided edge-of-a-seat nerve janglers: Edgbaston 1999, Wanderers 2006, to name a few. But, in the purest format of the game, the story was ironically different. Australia consistently beat South Africa- both home and away- between 1992-2007 with Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath being their regular nemesis.
The year 2008 proved to be an inflection point in the history of SA v AUS Test cricket. The retirement of the likes of McGrath, Warne, Gilchrist, Langer, Martyn coincided with the subsequent rise of players like AB de Villiers, Dale Steyn, JP Duminy, Hashim Amla under the guidance of Graeme Smith, and it was really that miraculous run-chase at Perth- 414, the second-highest in the history of the game, that kick-started an era of dominance for the Proteas over the Aussies henceforth. Coming back to the match: Australia, after having gained a 94-run lead after the innings courtesy Mitchell Johnson’s 8-61, set the Proteas an improbable-if-not-impossible target of 414 in the fourth innings.
To chase anything beyond 300 in fourth innings of a Test match- that too in overseas conditions- requires one batsman to play out of his skin with everyone around him playing the supporting cast. Add 114 runs more to it, and you need more than one superhuman performance to win it for you. On that day in Perth, South Africa got those superhumans in the form of Graeme Smith  and AB de Villiers [106*], ably supported by the likes of Amla , Kallis  and the debutant Duminy [50*]. The win in Perth kickstarted what has now been a hat-trick of series wins [2008, 2012 & 2016] for the Proteas Down Under.
4. India v England, Chennai, 2008
Sachin Tendulkar celebrates after hitting the boundary to win the 1st Test match between India and England at MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai. (Photo by Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty Images)
Venue: M.A Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai, Target: 387, Result: India won by six wickets
This was an emotional rollercoaster. For, no game in my memory at least, have had so much of context attached to it and none of it was related the on-field action. The sickening 26/11 terror attack in Mumbai had affected people from all walks of life and cricket was no exception to it. At the time of the Mumbai attacks, England was playing the 5th ODI of the seven-match rubber. The ODI series was canceled midway, putting the status of the two-Test matches that were to follow, in jeopardy.
But in an attempt to thwart what was a cowardly attack, the English team decided to return to India for the Test matches. The first Test was held in Chennai and the visitors dominated the match for a major part of four days, giving Indian an arduous, 387 to chase in the fourth innings. The Indians got off to a rollicking start, courtesy Virender Sehwag, who, in what turned out to be match-defining counterattack, flayed the English bowling attack to all corners of the Chepauk Stadium.
Such was the psychological impact of Sehwag’s 67-ball-83 on the English bowlers that the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh were too to cash in on the opportunity and grind the English bowling into the dirt. Tendulkar went on to continue his love-affair with the Chepauk, completing a masterful hundred in the process and ensured that unlike Chennai 1999, he was at the crease hitting in the winning runs.
“By no means, India winning a Test match could compensate the lives lost. But for our team, we had succeeded in bringing a fraction of a smile on the faces of the people. That is why the hundred in Chennai Test match will be the best (of my career),” Tendulkar said to The Hindu in 2008
For Tendulkar, the hundred in Chennai was more than just a three-figure score; it was emotional, it was sacred; one that he would go on and rate as his best Test hundred; and there are 51 of them.
3. England v Australia, Leeds, 2019
Ben Stokes. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)
Venue: Leeds, Headingley, Target: 359, Result: England won by one wicket
There. There THERE. With that square drive off Pat Cummins, Ben Stokes. Sir Ben Stokes. Lord Ben Stokes, call whatever you want, forever etched his name in the Ashes folklore. It was the incarnation of Headingley 1981 all over again if there even can be one, much to the utter misery of the Aussies and needless to say absolute ecstasy for the Englishmen. For, it has not only kept England’s dream of regaining the Ashes alive, but it has also infused a new lease of life to the series, which had increasingly looked to being done and dusted with every wicket that the hosts lost on day 04.
From blocking the hell out of everything (3 off first 72 balls) to smashing the daylights out of the Aussies in the second half- which included switch-hits, reverse paddle, square-cuts, ferocious hooks- of his innings, besides pacing the innings in between, Stokes virtually played every single gear that a batsman can operate in, to give England their first-ever successful 350+ run-chase in Test cricket. That, after having being bowled out for 67 in their first innings and reduced to 9/286 in the second.
And, for all the heroics from Benjamin Stokes, one should not forget the importance of the knock 1*(17) played by Jack Leach. The wiping of his specs before facing Pat Cummins is now a part of folklore, giving him the cult that he so deserves. The Test match did not end without its fair share of drama though. Such was the impact Stokes’ counter-attack that everyone’s brain and hands- including Paine, Lyon, and Umpire Joe Wilson- had frozen. While Nathan Lyon missed a simple chance to run-out Leech at the non-striker’s end, Umpire Joe Wilson failed to give Stokes LBW the very next ball.
The replays confirmed it would have been three reds and a win for the Aussies, had they not burned their review in the last over when there was no way that the ball would have been pitching in line off the bowling of Pat Cummins.
2. Sri Lanka v South Africa, Durban, 2019
Kusal Perera. (Photo Source: Twitter)
Venue: Kingsmead, Durban, Target: 304, Result- Sri Lanka won by one wicket
If you are a batsman from a subcontinent, scoring runs- and match-winning runs- in a country like South Africa, which historically has been a graveyard for a lot of your predecessors, remains at the highest pedestal of your bucket list as an international cricketer. And, what if you score almost 51% [50.32 to be precise] of your teams total [9-304], stitch a record 78-run 10th wicket stand and pave the way for your sides [the first side from Asia, infact] maiden Test series win on South African soil? That’s the stuff of dreams, right?
Kusal Perera lived that dream with open eyes on that miraculous day at Durban in February of 2019. It was an innings no one saw coming. Not South Africa. Not Sri Lanka. Not even Kusal Perera, to be honest, when he would have strolled out to crease with his team reeling at 3-52 which was soon to become 5-110 and then finally 9-226: still 78 runs away from the target.
The diminutive Sri Lankan, in a masterclass on how to pace your innings while batting with the tail, added a world-record 78 runs for the 10th wicket with Vishwa Fernando, who like Jack Leach of England, played a perfect supporting role, to enable Perera to play what is now regarded as one of the greatest Test innings of all time.
Perera’s ridiculous innings of 153* laid the cornerstone for Sri Lanka becoming the first Asian side ever to win a Test series on South African soil as they backed their win at Durban with a clinical performance at PE [won by eight wickets] to wrap up the two-match series: 2-0.
1. West Indies v Australia, Antigua, 2003
Ramnaresh Sarwan of the West Indies celebrates his century. (Photo by Hamish Blair/Getty Images)
Venue: St John’s, Antigua, Target: 418, Result: West Indies won by three wickets
There is something about the Aussie bowlers and the record-breaking feats of either individuals or their teams’. Botham’s Headingley Miracle; the genius of Laxman and Dravid at the Eden Gardens in 2001; Highest run-chase in ODI cricket ; the latest Stokes miracle; and off-course two all-time highest run-chases in Test history: 414 & 418, all of them have come against the mighty Aussies.
Successful fourth inning run-chases are as rare as India losing a Test match at home. And, if you’re up against the best team in the world, one that has already swept the series 3-0 and boasts of bowlers like McGrath, Gillespie, Lee and Stuart McGill, it becomes even more arduous. But, as they say, adversity and the improbability of the situation, sometimes tend to bring out the beast in you. It certainly did bring that beast out of certain Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shiv Chanderpaul that day. Coming back to the match: With the first innings of both teams’ ending at 240, the Test match was basically reduced to a one-inning shootout.
The Aussie openers in Justin Langer  and Matthew Hayden  laid the cornerstone with a 242-run stand for the World Champions to set the Windies, a world record 418 to chase in the final innings. With the pitch showing signs of wear and turn, the hosts needed something special. And, they found something special in the form of Ramnaresh Sarwan  and Shivnarine Chanderpaul , who with an able supporting role from the likes of Vasbert Drakes [27*] and Banks [47*], guided the hosts towards the impossible. That Magical Number. 418. The highest fourth-inning run-chase in the 142-year-old history of Test cricket
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