In a Test match, every run is crucial. Every run scored adds pressure on the bowling team. You might have seen that when a top-order wicket falls in the last few minutes of a day, the teams often send a player who is not a specialist batter. He is usually someone from the lower order. Such a batter is called a nightwatchman. His primary job is to see off the opposition bowlers for the last part of the day and keep the specialist batter fresh for the next day. Scoring runs is his secondary job. But some nightwatchmen toyed with the bowlers and scored many in a match. Here are the Top 10 Highest Individual Scores by Nightwatchmen in Test Cricket-
1. Jason Gillespie (201*)
Bangladesh hosted Australia at Chittagong in 2006. The hosts were skittled out for 197 in the first innings. In reply, Australia lost Matthew Hayden in the last few minutes of Day 1. Jason Gillespie was sent as a nightwatchman. He showed the class of a classic batter to amass 201*. This stands as the only double-century by a nightwatchman in cricket history. Australia won the match by an innings and 80 runs.
2. Mark Boucher (125)
South Africa played against Zimbabwe at Harare in 1999. The hosts were blown away on 102 in the first innings. In reply, South African nightwatchman Mark Boucher scored 125 runs and propelled the Proteas to 462/9d. South Africa eventually won the match by an innings and 219 runs. This was Zimbabwe’s biggest Test defeat back then.
3. Mark Boucher (108)
This was one of the greatest matches in South African cricket history. England visited Durban in 1999. South Africa was asked to reply to England’s first-innings score of 366/9d. The Proteas were shot out on 156 and were asked to follow on. Gary Kirsten played a brilliant knock of 275 runs. He was ably supported by the nightwatchman Mark Boucher who hit 108. Both of them bailed their team out of a certain defeat.
4. Tony Mann (105)
India toured Australia in 1977. In the Second Test at Perth, Australia was given a target of 339 to win. At the end of Day 4, Australia was reduced to 25/1 with Craig Serjeant and nightwatchman Tony Mann on the ground. On Day 5, wickets kept tumbling at regular intervals on the other end. Tony Mann held on at one end but eventually got out after a superb knock of 105. Australia managed to eke out a 2-wicket win in the match.
5. Syed Kirmani (101*)
In 1979, Australia came to Mumbai to play against the World Cup champions India. At the end of Day 1, India scored 231/3, with Gundappa Vishwanath and nightwatchman Syed Kirmani at the crease. Kirmani and Number 9 batter Karsan Ghavri tormented the Australian bowlers to help India post 458/8d. Australia posted 160 and followed on to score 198. India won the match by an innings and 100 runs. This stands as India’s 3rd biggest margin of a Test victory over Australia.
6. Nasim-ul-Ghani (101)
England invited Pakistan on tour in 1962. In the Second Test at Lord’s Cricket Ground, Pakistan was trailing by 270 runs at the start of the third innings. A few overs before the end of Day 2, Pakistan lost a wicket, and that brought nightwatchman Nasim-ul-Ghani to play. Nasim-ul-Ghani and Javed Burki (the other overnight batter) both scored 101 each. However, they couldn’t save Pakistan from a defeat as England won the match by 9 wickets.
7. Alex Tudor (99*)
New Zealand visited Birmingham to play against England in 1999. In the fourth innings, England needed 208 runs to win. The nightwatchman Alex Tudor was batting with Mark Butcher when Day 2 ended. On Day 3, Tudor was very unfortunate to be stranded on 99* but his knock made sure that England defeated New Zealand comfortably.
8. Harold Larwood (98)
This knock came in the Ashes 1932-33, hosted by Sydney. As a reply to Australia’s first-inning score of 435, England’s Wally Hammond scored a century. But he was helped by Harold Larwood who scored a 98 as a nightwatchman and propelled England to take a 19-run lead. In the end, England won the match by 8 wickets.
9. Eddie Hemmings (95)
England clashed against Australia in 1983 at Sydney. In the final innings, England was asked to chase down 460 runs. Eddie Hemmings top-scored with a 95-run knock as the match eventually ended in a draw.
10. Jack Russell (94)
England hosted Sri Lanka for a one-off Test match at the iconic Lord’s Cricket Ground in 1988. In reply to Sri Lanka’s first-inning score of 194, England gave a befitting reply in the form of 429 runs. Nightwatchman wicketkeeper Jack Russell scored 94, the highest in the inning. England won the match by 7 wickets.