Wall of Honour
Batting for Hours is keen to recognise cricketers who manage to bat for extended periods of time in high pressure situations – the finest innings that involve a sustained stay at the crease, with the batsman immovable in defence, exhibiting relentless defiance. The Wall of Honour represents the pinnacle of batting achievement, with no other accolade in the world parallel to it. Possibly. Below are the individuals who have proven impossible to remove, and thus have deservedly earned the right to be named on this historic list.
110* (376) SR 29.25, 464 minutes, 127 overs at the crease, to earn a draw in Adelaide, and keep the series at 0-0.
Faf du Plessis arrived at the crease with the score 44/5 in the fourth innings, needing to bat for pretty much four more sessions to have a chance of saving the game. Quite an unlikely scenario, especially given that he’d require support at the other end. But the unlikeliest of draws was salvaged. His monumental knock lasted for a magnificent 386 balls, an exhibition of masterful temperament, and the execution of perfect defence. Du Plessis was more renown for his one-day prowess, but possessed enough talent to work on the aspects of his game that would enable him to thrive in Test Cricket. This innings instantly made people sit up and take notice. It was not without turbulence, however – he was twice saved by DRS, having been incorrectly given out on two occasions, to the increasing despair of the Australians. Two factors did favour him – the loss of James Pattinson to injury, as well as the flat nature of the pitch; but in such a position, with a vast length of time left to bat, and the pressure of the situation constant, surviving is no easy task at all. Not only did Faf perform admirably, but this wonderful defensive effort prevented Australia from taking a lead in the series, with only one match to go. The draw was crucial, as it meant SA were able to go on and win the final Test, and with it the series. It mentally drained the Aussie side, who felt so certain of victory going into that final day. It is for those reasons that Du Plessis’ phenomenal effort deserves its reward, earning a place on this Wall of Honour – the first great knock of defiance since its inception in 2012.
Bell, 75 off 271, in 352 minutes with SR 27.67; Prior, 110* off 182, in 269 mins with SR 60.43, to save the game on the final day in Auckland, and draw the series 0-0.
90/4 going into the final day, with pretty much everyone having written off England’s hopes of salvaging something from the game. Bell blocked his heart out on day four, finishing with an overnight score of 8 off 89 balls. Bell occupied the crease stoically with Joe Root until the new ball, when Root was trapped lbw by a superb inswinger from Trent Boult. A panic-stricken last over before lunch saw Bell offer a chance to gully, where the ball was put down. After lunch, Bell continued to resist, passing 50. He played few shots as he steadily accumulated runs, but more importantly saw off each ball he faced. Before tea, when approaching six hours at the crease, he offered a drive at Neil Wagner which was this time caught in the slips. He sank to one knee, devastated, but had to depart. It was a fantastic effort that laid the foundations for the successful attempt to salvage the draw.
Matt Prior had joined Bell at the crease after Bairstow was caught at slip shortly after lunch. His approach was markedly different to Bell’s playing a number of shots that sometimes got him into trouble. Up until tea, it was an innings fraught with good fortune. Two major moments stand out. He played a dangerous pull shot which skied off the splice of the bat, and only just cleared the fielder scampering back from mid-wicket. Wagner also dug in a great bouncer, which stuck his bat handle and shoulder, looped over his head an hit the stumps on the way down, bounced, struck them again and settled on the ground, yet the bails remained unmoved When its your day… After tea, he continued to attack the short ball at times, probably because its better than his defence, which seemed suspect. He motivated Broad particularly well, and marshaled the tail as well as he always does. Almost fell into the short-ball trap when pulling to reach his hundred, but it had been an excellent knock. To withstand that pressure in the final session was immense. His attitude as much as anything is admirable. He batted showing such passion, determination. To survive through the last few overs as well was magnificent, particularly when panic set in as Monty arrived. He blocked the final few deliveries, turned to the Barmy Army and raised his arms. A defiant, fantastic gesture, encapsulated the fight he showed in his innings.
As the match progressed, the tension grew and grew. Whilst these on the face of it appear to be two decent innings, their place on The Wall is deserved given the huge pressure they came to be under, the will to succeed, and the fight they showed. One of the great finishes to a Test match, and to withstand that pressure both innings deserve recognition. Prior’s will be remembered more as he marshaled the tail and motivated his partners, as well as scoring a great hundred, but Bell’s was vital in laying the platform to draw the game. Two superb rearguard innings. And what a Test match.
Brendon McCullum – New Zealand: 302 (559)
302 (559) SR 54.02, 775 minutes, becoming the first New Zealander to make a triple century in Test Cricket, whilst also saving the match.