Very often in Test cricket we see excellent bowling dismissing the top half of the batting line up. However then there is a dour rearguard action by the lower order batsmen. Nothing can be more frustrating to the Bowling side and its Captain.
The key advantages of runs by tailenders are (i) getting the team some valuable runs (ii) peps up the team to put in a good bowling performance (iii) keeping the team in the 5 day match, allowing a chance to come back and (iv) demoralizing an already battered opposition.
Who are top tailenders in Test cricket. A few names come to mind such as Shane Warne, Brett Lee, Shaun Pollock, Jason Gillespie, Stuart Broad, Jimmy Anderson, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh and so on. They are distinctly different from classic tailenders like Venkatesh Prasad and Glenn McGrath who when they come in to bat will make the bowling side reasonably confident that they are getting them out and coming out to bat.
The fact that Warne, Lee and Gillespie played at the same time no doubt contributed to Australia being such a devastating team. This is because even if their redoubtable batting order faltered, these 3 stubborn tailenders would combine with the best ever keeper-batsman in history, Adam Gilchrist to take the match away from the opposition. In fact the present English team too is strong as they have a similar long wagging tail instead of a feeble one.
Is Vettori a tailender batsman ? Is Shaun pollock one, though he has 2 test tons batting at 9, and is the only one to perform such a feat. Are Wasim Akram or Moeen Ali tailenders. In my opinion, No . They are all allrounders, and may be classified as bowling allrounders at most. The fact that they often batted at say number 8 or 9 is due to their team having a strong batting line up, rather than they being weak batsmen. Vettori in fact scored 4500 runs in test cricket @30 average with 6 hundreds, and he has , if required batted at Number 6 for the Kiwis.
After considering various tailenders, I zero in on the following 3 as my top Batsmen among tailenders
1 Jason Gillespie. He is the 1st nightwatchman to go on to score a Test 200. Jason was always a stubborn customer with the bat and valued his wicket very highly. It was always an issue getting him out. He once played an important role in saving a Test match at Chennai in 2004 by scoring 26 in over 4 hours at the crease and consuming more than 55 overs in a partnership with Damien Martyn. Overall Jason had ab average of only 18.73 in Tests with 1 ton (the 200 mentioned earlier) and only 2 50’s but he was much more valuable than what his figures suggest.
2 Shane Warne He too has a Test batting average of only 17.32 but has as many as 12 50’s. His highest test score was 99 and he has scored 3000 plus runs in Test cricket, the highest for any batsman without a 100. If Dizzy was obstinate, then Warne was exuberant. This exuberance cost him his 100 as he tried to get a big hit off the wily Vettori only to hole out to Mark Richardson. Sadly Vettori had bowled a huge No Ball but those days there was no DRS. Destiny that he would retire without a 100. However no doubt he was a dangerous batsman.
3 Anil Kumble. The memories with which one will remember Kumble is getting 10 wickets in a Test innings and bowling with a broken jaw at Anigua and dismissing Brian Lara. However Kumble was no mean batsman either. His average too was only 17 but he made it difficult to get his wicket. It took him 17 years to reach a Test 100 and that too he got it in England where traditionally Indian batsman do not fare too well. In that particular innings at the Oval, 6 Indian batsmen crossed 50 with Karthick, Sachin and Dhoni scoring 91, 82 and 92, but it was destiny that among them only Kumble would get a century. His grittiness makes me pick him above Bhajji who narrowly misses out.
These are my Top 3, Do u agree ?
As regards Jimmy Anderson and Ishant Sharma, maybe they will figure in my List of Top Number 11 batsmen, but well, thats for another time