Ben Stokes’ Headingley heist to Rohit Sharma’s Kolkata Mayhem: 12 innings of the decade

Arun Rawal

Carlos Brathwaite struck four consecutive sixes off Ben Stokes to help West Indies win T20 World Cup in 2016

This decade has been exceptional for cricket. There have been several changes and innovations in the shorter formats which have changed the game in ways we never expected to.

One thing that never changes, however, is that when the chips are down, temperament remains a major factor in how a batsman paces his innings. In each format, there have been innings that have rewritten history books. Even the ones who said 'Test cricket is dying' were left speechless by some of the most gritty, passionate, magnificent innings of this decade.

Here's a look at four best innings from each format:

T20I cricket

Marlon Samuels' 'never give up' knock

Marlon Samuels made 85 in the World T20 final in 2016. (File Photo/Reuters)

Marlon Samuels doesn't get enough credit for how West Indies have performed in the shortest format of the game. In an age where people are obsessed with strike rates and boundary percentages, Samuels showed why it is crucial to hold on to one end and anchor the innings.

Chasing a target of 162 in the final of the 2016 World Cup 2016 at Eden Gardens against England, Samuels fought hard, with five other batsmen registering single-digit scores. Rescuing West Indies from 11/3, Samuels shared a partnership with Dwayne Bravo to keep the run chase alive - until Carlos Brathwaite walked in.

Samuels scored 85 runs from 66 deliveries, including nine fours and two sixes. A night when big-hitters Chris Gayle and Andre Russell disappointed, Samuels led his team to victory from the front.

Carlos Brathwaite's supreme cameo

Carlos Brathwaite broke English hearts by smashing four sixes off Ben Stokes in the last over of the 2016 World Cup final. (File Photo/Reuters)

It is apt to follow-up the Marlon Samuels innings with Carlos Brathwaite's finishing act in the 2016 World Cup final. Brathwaite walked in to bat in the worst possible scenario, but his knock would redefine the term 'cameo'.

In the 16th over, with Andre Russell and Darren Sammy having departed, and West Indies still needing 49 runs from 27 deliveries, most would have bet their money on Ben Stokes in the last over - with 19 runs to get off 6 balls.

In the break between overs, Samuels asked Brathwaite to 'aim for the hills' and that's exactly what he did. Stokes was clueless as the Caribbean all-rounder hit him for four sixes in a row.

Virat Kohli's peak-level athleticism 

MS Dhoni walks up to Virat Kohli as he seals a famous win for India vs Australia in the 2016 World Cup. (File Photo)

Chasing a modest total of 161 in a must-win game against Australia in the 2016 World Cup, India were struggling, with the required run rate climbing.

Getting the perfect partner at the other end when MS Dhoni came in, Kohli started running between the wickets at the speed of light, with ones and twos bringing the target within achievable bounds.

With 67 runs needed from six overs, Kohli took on Nathan Coulter-Nile and James Faulkner. Smashing boundaries at will, Kohli also pushed himself to take the one extra run to stay on strike most of the times. In the end, India chased down the target with five balls to spare in Mohali. Kohli had scored 82 runs from 51 deliveries.

Aaron Finch's daddy hundred

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Aaron Finch scored 156 vs England to register the then-highest score in T20 cricket. (File Photo/Reuters)

One player can take the game away in T20I cricket and Aaron Finch's 156 vs England is a testimony to that. It was an absolute massacre as Finch did not spare any English bowler. The Australian opener scored 156 runs from 11 fours and 14 sixes. It was an exhibition of brute force.

The Aussie scored the then-highest T20I score, the first 150 in the format. He took just 63 balls to pile on a mountain of runs. Five years later, he followed it up with a knock of 172, the current highest score in T20I cricket. 


Rohit Sharma's mayhem

Rohit Sharma's 264 vs Sri Lanka is the highest individual ODI score. (File Photo/AFP)

This Rohit Sharma's innings teaches cricketers the magnitude damage dropped catches have. Rohit was dropped in the fifth over of the innings. The Indian opener did not start hitting the ball a long way from the first delivery he faced, he eased into it ball by ball. There was the initial caution followed by a shift in gears followed by absolute mayhem, that would haunt Sri Lankan bowlers for years.

Towards the end of the innings, all Robin Uthappa had to do was give the strike to Rohit. The Mumbai batsman found a way to hit a boundary on every other delivery. He scored 264 runs from 173 deliveries laced with 33 fours and nine sixes. It is the highest ODI score and second List A score till date.

The ABD show

AB de Villiers went berserk vs West Indies. (File Photo/AFP)

Since the advent of T20I cricket, the approach to ODI cricket has changed but a batsman entering in the 39th over and ending up scoring 149 remains a feat that defies belief. AB de Villiers, like many times before, made us believe in the impossible. As if West Indies bowler had not suffered enough at the hands of openers Rilee Rossouw and Hashim Amla's 247-run opening partnership, De Villiers multiplied the damage manifold.

The then-South African skipper walked out to bat at No.3 and started hitting balls to all corners of the ground with the craziest shots one can think of. West Indies bowlers were mere bowling machines in front of him as he scored the fastest half-century and century in the same innings. Mr 360 degree hit as many as 16 sixes in his innings. He batted at a strike rate of 338.63, he scored 149 runs from 44 deliveries. Had he not got out off the fourth ball of the final over, the record of fastest 150 would have been broken as well.

Gautam Gambhir's greatest moment 

Gautam Gambhir (File Photo/Reuters)

There was no big-hitting involved in this innings. Gautam Gambhir did not even get to the three-figure mark in this innings but he got the job done at the biggest stage under immense pressure. Gambhir's knock of 97 in World Cup 2011 final against Sri Lanka at Wankhede Stadium is one of the most underrated innings. It was MS Dhoni who got India home but it was Gambhir who laid the foundation, helping India recover from the early wickets.

Chasing a target of 275, Gambhir stitched a crucial partnership with Virat Kohli to get the run chase back on track. He scored 97 runs from 122 deliveries including nine boundaries. It was his grit that helped India bring back the trophy after a huge gap of 28 years and surely his best innings in the format.

Ben Stokes' stroke of luck

Ben Stokes celebrates after winning the 2011 World Cup final match between England and New Zealand. (File Photo/PTI)

A chase of 242 in the World Cup 2019 final. England were considered favourites before the chase started as they had the home advantage. The chase got complicated after England lost four wickets for 83 runs in the fourth over. New Zealand bowlers continued to increase the pressure with dot balls as the required run rate kept on increasing. The fifth-wicket partnership between Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler brought them back into the game. Buttler did the bulk of scoring in that partnership but it was Stokes who soaked all the pressure and carried on the chase after his wicket.

Stokes' timely strikes helped England stay in the game. While the lower order crumbled, the all-rounder squeezed runs with a stroke of luck in the death overs. The 28-year-old could not get his team over the line but helped them stay in the game as it led to a tie followed by a super over as England won their maiden 50-over title. Stokes contributed in the super over as well with eight runs from three deliveries. The English all-rounder redeemed himself in the best way possible after an unfortunate last over in World Cup 2016.

Test cricket

Ben Stokes' Headingley heist

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England's Ben Stokes and Jack Leach celebrate winning the Headingley Test. (File Photo/Reuters)

Ben Stokes emerged as a modern-day great in 2019 across formats. After the match-winning knock in the ODI World Cup final, Stokes came up with one of the best innings in Ashes history. England were bundled out for a mere 67 in the first innings as Australia took a 112-run lead. The Tim Paine-led side scored 246 in their second innings. With a target of 359 on the board, England were not favourites to win the match. The run chase got off to a horrible start as England lost both their openers early. Skipper Joe Root and Joe Denly scored half-centuries but their wickets left the run chase in disarray.

Stokes continued to block in his partnership with Jonny Bairstow. With Bairstow's wicket, the run chase went down the slide as Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes followed him back to the pavilion after scoring just one run each. With wickets falling at the other end, Stokes took charge of the run chase, treating the Headingley crowd to one of the best displays of red-ball hitting. The 28-year-old had a stroke of luck when he survived a run out and an lbw decision went his way. Stokes scored 135 runs from 219 deliveries, helping to keep Ashes 2019 alive with a win at Headingley.

Kusal Perera's Durban magic

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Kusal Perera played the innings of his life as Sri Lanka defeated South Africa in Durban. (File Photo)

The equivalent of Stokes' innings for Sri Lanka. To beat South Africa in South Africa is a big task. Even the No. 1 Test team led by Virat Kohli could win one out of three Tests on their 2017-18 tour. South Africa scored 235 and 259 in their first and second innings respectively. Sri Lanka scored just 191 runs in their first innings and needed 304 in their second innings to win the Test. Chasing is never easy in Test cricket, but Kusal Perera was set to play the best innings of his career.

Perera came to bat when Sri Lanka had lost three wickets for 52 runs. The longest partnership he shared was with Dhananjaya de Silva of 96 runs. After Silva's wicket, the chase was in troubled waters as Sri Lanka lost nine wickets for 226 runs with 88 more runs to win. Vishwa Fernando survived the South African bowling attack whereas the left-handed batsman turned on the attacking mode. He did the heavy lifting in the last-wicket partnership. He hit 12 fours and five sixes against a potent Proteas pace attack including Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada and Duane Olivier. He batted for five hours and nine minutes to get his team home, an innings that will go down as one of the best innings of the decade.

Steve Smith storm in dust-bowl Pune

Steve Smith mastered Pune's spin-friendly track as Australia beat India in 2017. (File Photo/Reuters)

Hailed as the best batsman in the world, Steve Smith had a lot to prove when Australia toured India in 2017. There were doubts that Smith would not do well on spin-friendly pitches of India. The Pune pitch was assisting the bowlers from the Day 1 of the Test. He scored 27 in the first innings. India did themselves no favours by being bundled out for 105 in first innings. Irrespective of lead Australia had, it was a tough pitch to bat on.

Smith did not let Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Jayant Yadav dominate him. The Australian batsman showed application when facing the spinners and went on to score 109 runs from 202 deliveries, more than India's score in each innings. It was a massive defeat for India as they lost by 333 runs.

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