Leaving runs on the field

Not scoring enough runs and losing narrowly is bad. So is having too many wickets in hand and falling just short of the target.

Hashim Amla and David Miller return to the pavilion after South Africa had posted 266 for two in the first One-Day International against Pakistan in Port Elizabeth in January. Amla’s hundred consumed too many deliveries and Pakistan won with only five balls to spare.   -  Getty Images

The wonderful game of cricket has brought out many beautiful phrases and words. I can think of a few immediately — “corridors of uncertainty,” “the sweet sound of the ball leaving the bat,” “one could see the maker’s name on the bat,” “he late cut the ball almost behind the stumps,” “the battle between the willow and the leather,” et al. Recently I heard another beautiful phrase, “leaving runs on the field.” The commentators captured exactly what many cricket followers were thinking. I am referring to the first One-Day International match between South Africa and Pakistan on January 19 in Port Elizabeth in which South Africa scored 266 for two and lost narrowly.

Beautifully enunciated the phrase was, it also set me thinking on the lines of the history behind such matches. These are matches in which very few wickets are lost and not enough runs are scored. I realised that there is scope for an article on these lines. In this article, I would like to chronicle such matches in which the teams “left runs on the field” and lost narrowly.

Not scoring enough runs and losing the match narrowly

The criteria for selection are simple and are outlined below:

  • Loss of three wickets or fewer in the first innings.
  • A first innings total below 320. After all, you cannot complain about batsmen who put up a total, which gives a winning chance of 90.3 percent (270 wins out of 299).
  • There should be a successful chase.
  • The balls available to be fewer than 12.

The last condition is important. When Pakistan scored 220 for two in World Cup 1992 and the West Indies chased this down with over three overs to spare, it was clear that they had a lot left in their tank and could easily have chased down another 30-40 runs. Similarly, when Sri Lanka scored 171 for three in 33 overs and Pakistan reached the target in 29.2 overs, it was clear that it was quite a comfortable chase.

At this point in time, I am also not interested in matches in which the team scored, say, 232 for three and won the match as happened in 1994 at Johannesburg between South Africa and Australia. Even though they left a few runs on the field, their bowlers were good enough to defend the total.

I got a list of 12 matches in which the teams left runs on the field and rued afterwards. The table is given below. I will briefly chronicle these matches. These are presented in reverse chronological order.


The first match is the one that started this thread. It was clear during the latter part of the South African innings that the team was not pushing hard. Hashim Amla’s hundred consumed too many deliveries and Rassie van der Dussen, in his debut match, had a slow start despite coming in at a comfortable position. At the end, it was clear that South Africa might have left more than 20 runs on the field, and that proved critical. Pakistan won with only five balls to spare. They would certainly have struggled to chase 290 or so. I should mention that these words are not critical of the teams or players concerned. However, it is gospel truth that 300 for six is any day better in an ODI match than 266 for two. In Tests, it would be very important to be at 266 for two, but not in limited-overs matches.

At Perth in 2016, India scored 309 for three and Australia chased this down with only four balls to spare. There is a case for concluding that once a team reaches 300, the match should be excluded from this analysis. However, I am being to true to the concept and not making any exceptions. Could Rohit Sharma have speeded a bit more, considering that he faced 163 balls to score 171 runs? Shikhar Dhawan’s nine in 22 balls cost a little. Even Virat Kohli’s 91 was below run-a-ball. Once again repeating that there is no laying the blame. However, what was called for was 330 for six instead of 309 for three.

It was a similar match between Australia and India at Visakhapatnam in 2010. Australia’s total of 289 for three was chased by India with seven balls and five wickets to spare. The Australian innings was enhanced by Cameron White who scored 89 in 49 balls. The openers, Shaun Marsh and Tim Paine, scored nine in 35 balls at the top. Even Michael Clarke’s 111 took 28 more deliveries. Australia scored only 16 runs in the first eight overs.

At Johannesburg in 2004, the West Indies scored 304 for two and lost to South Africa which had only two balls to spare. Chris Gayle scored a run-a-ball 152 but Shivnarine Chanderpaul consumed 29 extra balls. Powell’s cameo pushed the Caribbeans past, 300 but it was clear that a few more runs were needed.

Rohit Sharma took 163 balls for his 171 and skipper Virat Kohli 97 for 91 in the Perth ODI against Australia in January 2016. India’s 309 for three was chased down by the home team with four balls to spare. India should have pushed on to 330.   -  AP


At Kochi as the millennium dawned, South Africa, despite the presence of two good hundreds from the openers, Gary Kirsten and Herschelle Gibbs, finished on 301 for three. India huffed and puffed to cross this total with only three wickets and two balls to spare. It was clear that another 20 runs would have made the chase quite tough. Maybe Jacques Kallis, Lance Klusener and Hansie Cronje who consumed 54 balls while scoring 56 runs could have gone past cruising speeds.

A year earlier, at Adelaide, it was an almost identical match. England’s 302 for three was a similar 20 runs short. Graeme Hick’s hundred was better than run-a-ball. However, Nick Knight was woefully slow (45 in 74) and the flourish did not come at the end from Neil Fairbrother. Sri Lanka struggled right through and a holding innings by Mahela Jayawardene saw it through. It won with two balls to spare, but with the last pair at the crease. Even a dozen more might have been enough for England.

The next ODI is the only one which was played in a World Cup, the 1996 edition, held in India. And the home team was the one that fell short. In an important group match, India scored only 271 for three. Sachin Tendulkar was good with a perfect run-a-ball hundred. However, he was let down by a woeful 7 in 36 by Manoj Prabhakar and a pedestrian 32 in 46 balls by Sanjay Manjrekar. Mohammad Azharuddin’s 72 in 80 was not enough. Sri Lanka took the chase deep into the 49th over and India lost a key match.

Now we move on to the safe, solid 1990s and beyond.

Back in 1993 at Jaipur, India huffed and puffed to 222 for three in the allotted 48 overs, and no team which bats like this deserves to win. Vinod Kambli’s 100 took all of 149 balls and Azharuddin’s six consumed 28 balls. In the circumstances, Tendulkar’s 82 in 81 balls was like an oasis in the desert. Even though England made heavy weather of this chase, it finally achieved the win off the last ball of the innings. But it lost six wickets in the process.

England reached a seemingly impregnable total of 330 in 50 overs at Southampton in 2017 with Ben Stokes (in pic) cracking a century. For South Africa, almost everyone batted well and scored quickly. Unfortunately, the team fell two runs short — maybe Farhaan Behardien’s tardy 17 off 25 in the late order was the cause.   -  Getty Images


At Bridgetown, Barbados in 1990, England batted in a featureless manner right through and reached only 214 for three in the allotted 38 overs. The opening batsmen’s scores reads like a horror movie: David Smith — five in 31 and Larkins — 34 in 73. Alan Lamb’s blistering 55 in 39 took the team past 200. However, let us face it. The bowling was something special: Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh and Malcolm Marshall. The West Indies, in turn, managed the chase very well and despite losing six wickets, had three balls to spare.

At Jamshedpur in 1987, India scored 265 for three in 44 overs. This was one of the innings where we cannot really fault any particular batsman. Sunil Gavaskar and Prabhakar were okay scoring a reasonably paced 50 and 100, respectively. Dilip Vengsarkar scored his 54 in only 42 balls and those were the days when 265 was a good total. Pakistan batted steadily throughout and overhauled the target with four balls to spare, Javed Miandad playing one of his typical belligerent innings.

At Port of Spain, in 1986, the West Indies scored 229 for three in a 37-over match. Just imagine, this innings contained one of the greatest attacking innings of all time by Viv Richards who scored 82 in 39 balls. Unfortunately, Carlisle Best’s painfully slow 10 in 44 balls totally cancelled out Richards’ magnificence. Graham Gooch played a beautifully paced anchor innings of 129 in 118 balls and England cantered home with an over to spare. One can imagine the conversation between Richards and Best in the dressing room.

In the Benson & Hedges World Series Cup in 1985, Australia scored a highly competitive 271 for three, despite a slow 101-ball fifty from Steve Smith (Sr). In those days, this was an eminently defendable total, especially as Australia had Geoff Lawson, Craig McDermott and Rodney Hogg in its ranks. Despite a rare failure by Richards, great cameos by Gus Logie and Jeff Dujon took West Indies home, with four balls to spare.


Keeping too many wickets and losing the match narrowly

Now we come to the other end of the spectrum... The matches in which teams had a lot of gas left in the tank but did not complete a successful chase. The only criteria is losing five or fewer wickets and losing by very few runs.

England reached a seemingly impregnable total of 330 in 50 overs at Southampton in 2017. For South Africa, almost everyone batted well and scored quickly. Unfortunately, the team fell two runs short — maybe Farhaan Behardien’s tardy 17 off 25 in the late order was the cause.

At Perth in 2007, Australia reached a huge total of 343. No team was going chase that down. Moreover, when New Zealand could only reach 198 for five in 35 overs, 145 in 15 overs seemed impossible. Jacob Oram scored a magnificent 101 off 72 balls and took New Zealand to within eight runs.

Pakistan pacer Sarfraz Nawaz raised hackles with a flurry of bouncers in the Sahiwal one-dayer against India in 1978.   -  The Hindu Photo Library


At Dambulla in 2004, Sri Lanka could only score 245 on a sticky pitch. Australia struggled despite a good 93 by Matthew Hayden and finally fell a single run short. Andrew Symonds’ unbeaten 36 off 52 balls was a poor effort. At Sharjah in 2002, Sri Lanka could only reach 239 for six due to some terrific bowling by the Pakistani pace battery led by Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. Pakistan fell nine runs short with Rashid Latif’s 11 off 23 balls, coming in at No. 7 being a completely forgettable effort.

South Africa’s 232 for three was way below par at Johannesburg in 1994. This could easily have gone into the first list. Australia fell five short mainly due to its top five batsmen consuming 80 balls more than runs scored. It was a poor effort overall. At Chandigarh, well before Virat Kohli was born, in 1985, England scored 121 in a 15-over match. This seemed insufficient. India, however, fell seven runs short. In a chase like this, it is difficult to blame one or two batsmen.

The final featured match is a highly controversial one. I will only describe what happened without being critical of one team or the other. We must remember that very few ODI laws were in force during 1978. The umpires had no clear-cut instructions to go by. Pakistan scored 205 in 40 overs in Sahiwal. India was chasing this quite comfortably and was at 183 for two with three overs to go. In Bill Frindall’s own words, “The latter’s (Sarfraz Nawaz) last four deliveries were bouncers and none of these was called a wide.” India chose to walk off citing that Sarfraz Nawaz was bowling too many bouncers. It was an unfortunate result and one cannot be judgmental about anything that happened. From its point of view and with no clear laws in force, Pakistan was trying to win. India, and especially Bishen Bedi, felt that they were hard done by and the doughty Sardar did not hold back. Let me leave it at that.

The moral clearly is, “Do not leave runs or wickets on the field.”