Compiling a list of the best cricket matches of all-time isn’t easy. Over the sports 100-year-plus history, there have been countless dramatic matches across the different formats, including shock victories, rearguard-action draws and jaw-dropping ties.
With the 2019 Ashes series fast approaching, this is as good a time as any to ponder which matches rank as the greatest ever.
The conclusion brought a combination of majestic bowling performances, extraordinary white-ball clashes and some astonishing fourth-inning displays.
There will be a few obviously left off this list, but that’s inevitable when there’s such a catalogue of special matches to choose from. Here are six of the greatest matches in the history of cricket…
Australia vs West Indies (1960)
Australia and the West Indies began their 1960/61 Test series in Brisbane.
A slow start for the tourists was rescued by a dazzling century from Garfield Sobers – the greatest all-rounder to ever take a cricket field – but the West Indies were still at a first innings deficit after Australia posted 505, thanks to Norm O’Neill’s 181.
A second innings collapse from the West Indies saw Australia set 233 to win. Playing eight-ball overs, the hosts had 69 overs to reach that score.
Australia crumbled to 92/6, with hope fading into despair. Richie Benaud and Alan Davidson rallied to pull the game back in their favour.
The West Indies went from disastrous to magical in the field. Three of the final four wickets were run outs, and the Australians lost three wickets in seven balls as they were bowled out for 232.
It was the first ever tied Test match and there has only been one more in the 59 years since.
England vs Australia (1981)
The 1981 Ashes series in England is iconic even by the high standards of Ashes cricket. Ian Botham put in one of the all-time great individual performances with the aid of his fast-bowling partner turned Sky Sports colleague Bob Willis at Headingley.
England were in almighty trouble when a 227-run first innings gap resulted in a follow-on. It got worse when they fell to 41-4 with Mike Gatting, Graham Gooch, Mike Brearley and David Gower all dismissed.
England were on the brink of going 2-0 down in the Ashes with three matches played. The fifth wicket fell and Botham, fresh off a first innings 50, strolled to the crease.
What followed was an onslaught on the great Australian bowling attack that gave England a sniff of victory – though they were still outsiders. Botham’s 149 set the Aussies 130 to win.
Willis then took centre stage. Bowling first change, Willis bowled like a man possessed. He wasn’t talking to anyone, he bowled, he snarled, he returned to his mark.
His 8/43 is one of the most famous spells in cricket history and set the platform for England to win the Ashes 3-1.
India vs Australia (2001)
In 2001, Australia were at the peak of their cricketing power. When they scored 445 batting first in Kolkata, and quickly skittled Indian for 171, the remainder of the Test seemed to be a formality.
VVS Laxman was the lone first innings resistance as he notched 50, which turned out to be a sign of things to come when Australia asked India to bat again.
Laxman, an elegant, orthodox batsman, was promoted from six to three. The openers fell for a combined 69 runs, and Sachin Tendulkar barely troubled the scorers. Sourav Ganguly got 48 to take India away from trouble and made it certain Australia would bat again.
Then came the partnership that spun the match. Rahul Dravid joined Laxman at 232/4. Laxman was batting superbly. Dravid, who had unbreakable concentration and a rock-solid technique, began to compile runs.
He made 180, Laxman got 281, as they put on 376 for the fifth wicket. But it wasn’t over there...
Australia were set 384 to win. Harbhajan Singh shone with six wickets, helped out by three from Tendulkar, as India completed one of the greatest turnarounds in Test cricket.
England vs Australia (2005)
In a spectacular 2005 Ashes series, the 2nd Test match at Edgbaston still stands out. England were 1-0 down after a collapse at Lord’s, but the momentum turned when Glenn McGrath tripped on a ball during the warm-ups.
Ricky Ponting still decided to bowl first, which has become one of the most famous captaincy blunders in recent history.
England raced off to a rapid start, taking advantage of batsman-friendly conditions. The hosts posted a score of just over 400 on the first day and had a 99-run lead after bowling Australia out. It was advantage England, a good second innings would set them up for victory.
Brett Lee and Shane Warne had other ideas. The pair put England in a tricky position with Geraint Jones and hero of the hour Andrew Flintoff batting together.
Flintoff was in pain with a shoulder injury. He counter-attacked, however, leading England to 182. Australia had a chance, but the match was England’s to lose.
The openers started well for the tourists. Then Flintoff, who went on to win man of the match, bowled the over of the series, and one of the best overs in Ashes history.
He removed Langer and had the skipper Ponting in a mess before getting him caught behind. It was in England’s hands.
As the game ticked over to a fourth day, it felt like a formality. Australia needed 107 runs with just two wickets remaining.
Warne and Lee put on a few before Warne was dismissed hit wicket to that man Flintoff. Michael Kasprowicz battled alongside Lee to take Australia to within three runs from victory.
Steve Harmison charged in at Kasprowicz, bowling a sharp bouncer at the number 11. He fended it away, causing the ball to scrape his glove. Jones made an athletic catch down the legside for England to claim a sensational win.
Replays showed the ball hit Kasprowicz’s glove when it wasn’t on the bat, so it shouldn’t have been out, but this was in the days before DRS and there was nothing Australia could do.
Australia vs South Africa (2006)
Before the 2019 World Cup final, Australia and South Africa’s run-fest in Johannesburg was widely considered the best ODI ever played.
Australia became the first team to pass 400 in an ODI, scoring 434 for the loss of just four wickets after choosing to bat first. To this day, it remains the sixth-highest ODI total ever.
That seemed unassailable and, at the time, was a ridiculous score between two of the world’s best white-ball teams.
South Africa’s chase got off to a flying start thanks to Graeme Smith, and an early wicket saw Herschelle Gibbs come to the crease. Gibbs proceeded to take the Australian attack to all parts of the Wanderers as he smashed 175 off 111 balls.
Despite Gibbs and Smith’s mammoth efforts, it went down to the penultimate delivery with one wicket left.
A late 50 from Mark Boucher, with Makhaya Ntini at the other end, saw the hosts win it off Brett Lee, sparking incredible celebrations.
England vs New Zealand (2019)
Led by one of the best performances in Cricket World Cup final history and some fortunate regulations, England beat New Zealand in the 2019 World Cup final.
England held New Zealand to 241 in their 50 overs thanks to some excellent bowling. The pre-tournament favourites were expected to cruise to the total, but had a nightmare start with Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root and Eoin Morgan all dismissed before the team reached 90.
Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler rebuilt the innings, batting carefully without taking too many risks. The pressure was all on Stokes when Buttler went in the 45th over.
The New Zealand-born all-rounder rode his luck as Trent Boult stood on the rope and Martin Guptill’s throw ricocheted off his bat for an unconventional six.
He stayed there to the end, though, retaining the strike in the final over to take England all the way to a tie. That meant a super over.
Stokes and Buttler came back out, scoring 15 off their six balls. Jofra Archer, England’s new bowling sensation, took the ball.
The first delivery was a wide. Two were scored off the second and the third went for six. New Zealand needed seven off four balls.
Archer was the coolest man in the ground as he kept his line and length almost perfect. Needing two off the last ball, he followed Guptill across the crease, forcing the Black Caps’ opener to tap it into the legside to Roy.
Roy delivered pinpoint throw to Butler who broke the stumps before Guptill could return for two.
England won the World Cup because they hit the most boundaries in the match in the most astonishing, bizarre final the sport has ever seen.
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*