On behalf of Sports-Nova, let me first wish a very happy birthday to the most famous twins to play international cricket – the renowned Australian pair of Mark and Steve Waugh. And in their honour, let me raise a toast with this occasional piece.
Born minutes apart at Canterbury in Sydney on this day in 1965, the Waugh brothers have between them some 35000 runs and 400 wickets in international cricket. Dissecting it farther, the fraternal twins have scored 73 centuries for Australia. Coming to their joint undertakings, they rank sixth among the top partnership aggregates for Australia. The duo had put on 5339 runs from 127 innings at an average of almost 45. 14 times they built a century stand while 24 other times they added over fifty but failed to take them to three-figures.
Batting for their national sides, neither of the Waugh brothers could boast of another partner apart from their pedigree with whom they had better partnership stats. And more importantly, 13 of their 14 century stands came in wins – a testament to how crucial the pair was to their side. Hence on their 52nd birthday, let us revisit five of their best stands that mesmerized us in their playing hey-days.
231 for the 4th wicket v West Indies, Kingston Test, April 1995: In what eventually transpired into a historic victory that ended the Caribbeans domination over Australia since the late 1970s – seven series win out of eight, the other was shared – it was the Waugh brothers who scripted its climax. Having won the first Test at Bridgetown, the hosts came back from behind to level the series at Trinidad to set up a winner takes all at Jamaica. After the home side put up 265 on the board in what was their best for the tour that was dominated by the bowlers. After losing the top three for 73, Steve joined Mark and the two batted for 57 overs to take the team 40 past the West Indian tally before the more handsome of the brothers fell to Carl Hooper after scoring a sublime hundred – his 126 came off just 192 deliveries with the help of 12 boundaries. At the other end, Steve too raked up his eighth Test ton and managed to remain in the middle at stumps on the second day at individual score of 110. Night-watchman Greg Blewett (69) and tailender Paul Reiffel (23) gave him able company as the crisis man took Australia to 500 and later reached his maiden (and only) double of his career. He was the last to be dismissed before Australia were all out for 531 – the Waugh brothers accounting for 326 of those. Reiffel started to dig the graveyard on the third evening – slewing the top three of the cone including Brian Lara – before Australia regained the Frank-Worrell trophy by an innings and 53. Till date, Australia are yet to lose this one in eleven series since then.
207 for the 3rd wicket v Kenya, Visakhapatnam ODI, February 1996: In the World Cup group game against the minnows, the famed Aussie batting line-up experienced an in initial blip with skipper Mark Taylor and Ricky Ponting cutting a sorry figure. It was then Steve joined Mark – the latter opened the batting – for another sensational epic as the duo inscripted the first partnership of 200 and above in the World Cup almanacks. Their 207-run stand came rather quickly from just 32 overs. Mark scored 130 off 128 with 14 fours and a six while Steve relied more on running to make 82 from 88 with 5 boundaries and a maximum. A target of 305 was always beyond the African side from start and Australia managed to pull off a 97-run victory without much sweat.
197 for the 3rd wicket v England, Oval Test, August 2001: Coming to another win for Australia in the later years of the duo, this was the tourists’ second at the venue since Don Bradman’s farewell victory at the Oval. The only other time Australia won in 1972, the Chappell brothers – Ian and Greg – scored tons and added 201 for the third wicket to finish the series on level. This time around too, another pair from the same family notched up three figures. With the historic urn already in pocket, Steve Waugh’s men got off to a good start – Justin Langer scored a hundred while Matthew Hayden and Ricky Ponting managed sixties each. The brothers joined hands in the final hour before stumps and the duo would continue well into the next day post-lunch in an association that lasted more than 50 overs. Mark would earn his 20th Test milestone in his 120 while Steve’s unbeaten 157 was his 27th and propelled him to third in the all-time list of most centurions at that time. Australia’s 641 for four declared was countered well by England before they fell 10 short of the follow-on score. With a similar to six-month old Eden disaster unlikely, Waugh pushed the bat again button and the strategy clicked for him to heap the rewards of an innings defeat.
190 for the 4th wicket v England, Sydney Test, January 1999: In another final Test of the Ashes, Australia needed a stalemate at best to win. Precariously placed at 52 for three, the Waughs batted for almost 53 overs to take the hosts to safety. This time, Steve was the first to fall on his individual account of 96 while Mark would continue for an hour and half more to amass 121 to take the Aussies over 300. While it was sweet 16th for the younger Waugh, the older one earned his ninth 90 – a record at that time. Stuart MacGill would be the talk of the town for the rest of the match as he recorded his career best by picking up 12 for 107. Australia won the Ashes 3-1 – emerging victorious at the S.C.G. by 98 runs.
153 for the 5th wicket v England, Birmingham Test, August 1993: Coming to another Ashes classic, Australia already won the series before they take their trip to Edbagston. After England were bundled out for 276, Australia too found themselves in a spot of bother when they lost four of their top order for a mere score of 80. Prior to this, the Waugh siblings had batted thrice together in Tests. Never before did they accumulate a stand of substance that was required from them that day. And, the brothers did not disappoint either – Mark butchering the English bowlers for his 219-ball 137 that was made with 18 fours. Steve, on the other hand, took a cautious approach especially after he survived a missed stumping off the second delivery he faced – the big brother rather meandered to his 59 off 175. It was the first century stand in Tests between the brothers and the second in all internationals after their 113 at Hobart against Zimbabwe a couple of seasons earlier.
153 for the 4th wicket v New Zealand, Perth Test, November 1997: Four years down the line, the New South Wales duo would once again built an identical partnership – this time against their trans-Tasman rivals for a series-clinching effort. After the Kiwis were clipped off their wings for 217, Australia too had a few early hiccups to stay three down for 71. The Waughs would once again resort to counter-attacks as they added almost a run a minute to take Australia past the New Zealand score. Mark’s 86 would come off 149 balls in his aggressive demeanour while Steve would on this rare occasion appear to be quicker of the two as far as scoring rates are concerned – with a score of 96 from 161. Australia’s sumptuous lead of 244 would mean they would never have to bat again in the Test match as the visitors succumb to an innings defeat.