After Steven Finn’s heroics with his (un-sponsored) bat last week in Dunedin, I put my thoughts back to the best nightwatchman innings of all time, I’m sure you all know who I am talking about. As well as how disappointed thankful James Anderson will be at relinquishing the post.
Finn, the 6″8 Middlesex bowler, held out for 286 minutes after Captain Cook was removed late on the 4th day. He stood by his partner, the centurion Compton, all night and until tea the next day. It was in fact Compton who was dismissed before the giant bowler, Compton lasted just 45 minutes into the final day before being judged LBW, bringing to an end his maiden Test century. I expect none were happier for Finn than Jimmy Anderson, the previous England nightwatchman who held the post since 2007. Luckily for Finn, his tall frame means evasive action may be less needed than it was for Anderson, who surely got complaints from his helmet provider after asking for a new one per match due to breakage. It will be interesting to see how Finn holds up on the bouncy pitches of Australia with Aussie blood-thirsty pace bowlers running in.
Jason Gillespie – For a nightwatchman to score a 50 is a ‘I was there’ moment, seen as heroic, as Finn did. For them to score a hundred is nearly unheard of, with only fellow Aussie Tony Mann having reached this feat in 1977 (not including Nasim-ul-Ghani in 1962 as he was batting at number 6). But when they hit a double-century, then they are on this well conditioned Aussie’s level. Lacking his signature long locks, in 2006 Gillespie strode out to the wicket against Bangladesh, after removing Bangladesh’s top three that very same day, he surely expected holding the fort for the night, returning at the morning session, a few bludgeons of the ball and a relaxing 3 days while Ponting, Hussey and co. knocked the ball around Chittagong. Instead 3 days later, he was close to a milestone that eluded his previous Australian captain and cricketing legend, Mark Waugh. Two sixes and 26 fours were struck from Gillespie’s awkward yet straight bat. A declaration on the stroke of his 201* drew the curtain on a 425 ball innings, spanning over nine and a half hours and even overshadowing Mike Hussey’s highest ever Test match score of 187. None were more surprised than Gillespie, who could only manage the celebration of a sarcastic 10-year-old, with a out-stuck tongue, a few expletives and a slow raise of the bat towards the Australian dressing room. His double-hundred celebration was slightly more enthusiastic. Sprinting towards the Australian dressing room waving his bat and jumping in the air. He completed his festivities by walking back to the wicket saluting around the ground, before realising Ponting had declared and took the plaudits on his return to the dressing room. Now forever in cricketing history as the greatest nightwatchman of all time, good old Dizzy.
Please leave your opinion on the best nightwatchman innings ever, it would be great to see if I missed anyone out!