Test Cricket's Triple Centuries: Reliving 28 Iconic Innings

Alex TelferFeatured ColumnistJuly 13, 2014

Test Cricket's Triple Centuries: Reliving 28 Iconic Innings

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    Ross Setford/Associated Press

    Scoring a hundred in Test cricket is an achievement in itself, but going on and racking up a triple century requires an incredible combination of skill, luck, patience and stamina. 

    Ever since Andy Sandham's effort in 1930, up to and including Brendon McCullum's effort against India in February, it has only happened on 28 occasions.

    And although it is a significant individual milestone, whether a triple century is a good thing or not in terms of the game is an interesting question. Out of all the matches in which one has been scored, just 10 have produced results.

    Additionally, another curious statistic can be seen in the following table:

     Number of Triple Centuries
    1877-199915
    2000-201413

    Sure, the amount of Test cricket has increased in later years, but clearly something in the format, whether quality of wicket or quality of batsman, has shifted.

    Anyway, this is the brief story behind each and every triple century recorded in Test cricket so far.

    *statistics courtesy of espncricinfo.com unless specified.

1. Andy Sandham

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    Andres Leighton/Associated Press

    Occasion and Date: West Indies vs. England, 3rd-12th April 1930

    Venue: Sabina Park, Kingston, Jamaica

    Runs Scored: 325

    Result: Match Drawn

    England's Andy Sandham, who for so much of his career played second fiddle to Sir Jack Hobbs, took full advantage of a supposedly "timeless" Test to register the format's first ever triple century.

    But those fans who braved all nine days of this "yawn-athon" clash will have been left disappointed when, with the Windies being set the small matter of 835 to win in the final innings, the match ended as a draw.

    Unfortunately, the eighth and ninth days were hit hit by rain, meaning the Captains had to shake hands in order for England to catch their boat home.

     

    Fact

    Aged just 90 days short of his 40th birthday when he played his epic innings, Sandham unsurprisingly remains the oldest triple centurion in history.

2. Don Bradman

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    Associated Press

    Occasion and Date: England vs. Australia, 11th-15th July, 1930

    Venue: Headingley

    Runs Scored: 334

    Result: Match Drawn

    Pinch-hitting is supposedly a relatively modern element of the game, so it would be interesting to know how the traditional Headingley faithful responded to this sensational 1930s Ashes innings.

    Aged just 21 years  and playing just his fifth Test match, Don Bradman smashed England's high-calibre bowling attack all round the park to score a triple century in just a single day.

    Containing 46 fours and coming from just 448 balls, the knock launched the Australian on to the world stage and the rest, as they say, is history.

     

    Fact

    Bradman's feat remains the only instance in Test cricket where a batsman has scored 300 runs in single day.

3. Wally Hammond

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    Wally Hammond courtesy of Wikipedia
    Wally Hammond courtesy of WikipediaLen Putnam/Associated Press

    Occasion and Date: New Zealand vs. England, 1st March-3rd April, 1933

    Venue: Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand

    Runs scored: 336 Not Out

    Result: Match Drawn

    Wally Hammond was renowned for his graceful batting style, but the England legend put that to one side for this powerful innings against an admittedly weak New Zealand side in what was a rare three-day Test match.

    Hammond blasted 44 boundaries including 10 maximums—a quantity of sixes which remained a record until 1996—and amazingly went from 200 to 300 in just 47 minutes.

    Although Hammond finished on a new world-record Test score of 336, due to the quality of the opposition, the knock didn't get as much respect as The Don's (see slide 2) three years previously.

     

    Fact

    In his two innings of England's 1933 two-Test tour of New Zealand, Hammond scored 227 and 336 not out to finish with a series average of 563, which remains a record today.

4. Don Bradman

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    Associated Press

    Occasion and Date: England vs. Australia, 20th-24th July

    Venue: Headingley, Leeds

    Runs Scored: 304

    Result: Match drawn

    Before going out to bat in this Test match, Don Bradman was reminded that the law of averages suggested he wouldn't make another big total at the same ground on which he'd scored a rapid triple century just four years previously. 

    But Bradman's and defiant reply, from The Book of Ashes Anecdotes by Gideon Haigh, "I don't believe in the law of averages," proved to be correct, as he once again put England's beleaguered attack to the sword in Yorkshire.

    The Don scored huge totals for fun and registered 12 double centuries to go alongside the two triples. But who knows how many runs he would have scored if he'd played at Headingley on a regular basis?

     

    Fact

    Four players have scored a pair of triple tons, but Bradman is the only man to have produced both of his at overseas venues.

5. Len Hutton

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    Getty Images/Getty Images

    Occasion and Date: England vs. Australia, 20th-24th August, 1938

    Venue: Kennington Oval, London

    Runs Scored: 364

    Result: England won by an innings and 579 runs.

    Occupying the crease for the small matter of 13 hours, Len Hutton's epic innings against the old enemy helped England post an intimidating total of 903/7 in this timeless Test.

    Whether the Australians were bored senseless after spending 335.2 overs in the field or simply exhausted, they folded meekly to be bowled out twice in less than 90 overs and lose by a very heavy margin.

     

    Fact

    To this day, Hutton's innings is the longest ever recorded in Test cricket in terms of number of balls faced.

     

6. Hanif Mohammad

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    STACEY BENEDICT/Associated Press

    Occasion and date: West Indies v Pakistan, 7th-23rd Jan, 1958

    Venue: Kensington Oval, Bridgetown, Barbados

    Runs scored: 337

    Result: Match drawn

    Cricket fans have had to watch some dull passages of play over the years, but special commendations should be given to the fans who endured Hanif Mohammad's 1958 innings of 337 in Barbados.

    Lasting an incredible 970 minutes (just over 16 hours), the Pakistani ensured this six-day Test match ended in a draw after his country began their second innings 463 runs adrift.

    Remarkably, the right-hander's knock contained just 24 boundaries, all of which were fours, meaning 241 runs or that 72 percent of his runs were literally run. 

     

    Fact

    Until Brendon McCullum's 2014 knock, Mohammad's innings is the only instance of a triple century being scored in the second half of a match.

7. Garfield Sobers

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    Associated Press

    Occasion and Date: West Indies vs. Pakistan, 26th Feb-4th Mar, 1958

    Venue: Sabina Park, Kingston, Jamaica

    Runs Scored: 365

    Result: West Indies won by an innings and 174 runs.

    Just a few weeks after Hanif Mohammad's triple century, Sir Garfield Sobers, taking six hours less and scoring 28 runs more, replied with one of his own.

    After making his Test debut in 1954, aged just 17 years, Sobers had struggled to capitalise on his natural talent.

    Until, that is, four years into his Test career, at which point he not only reached three figures for the first time but also remarkably turned it into a triple ton.

     

    Fact

    At 21 years and 216 days, Sobers is the youngest player to hold the individual highest score record and to score a triple century.

8. Bob Simpson

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    Hamish Blair/Getty Images

    Occasion and Date: England vs. Australia, 23rd-28th July, 1964

    Venue: Old Trafford, Manchester

    Runs scored: 311

    Result: Match Drawn

    Legendary Australian batsman, captain and coach Bobby Simpson registered his name on the hypothetical triple centurion's honours board with a crucial treble ton that helped his country retain the Ashes.

    The Baggy Green's skipper led by example to score an ultra-patient 311, to help his side bat for almost three days and to put England out of the match and series. 

    Surprisingly, this was the 28-year-old Simpson's first ever three-figure score in Test cricket, but he would go on to score nine more at the highest level.

     

    Fact

    Simpson's innings was the longest ever by an Australian in terms of time (762 minutes) but also attracted controversy, with the Baggy Greens batting for as long as possible, making no attempt to win the game.

9. John Edrich

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    Laurence Harris/Associated Press

    Occasion and Date: England vs. New Zealand, 8th-13th July, 1965

    Venue: Headingley, Leeds

    Runs Scored: 310 Not Out

    Result: England won by an innings and 187 runs.

    Due to his own monumental knock and New Zealand's frailties with the bat, England's John Edrich was on the field of play for every single ball of this Test.

    Batting first, the classy right-hander clocked up a belligerent unbeaten triple century to help his country register an intimidating first-innings score of 546 in rapid time.

    This proved too much for the Black Caps, who folded meekly twice, barely scoring more than Edrich's individual efforts combined.

     

    Fact

    Edrich broke the record for number of boundaries in a single innings, hitting the ball to the rope 57 times and scoring nearly 77 percent of his runs without actually having to physically run.

10. Bob Cowper

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    Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

    Occasion and Date: Australia vs. England, 11th-16th Feb, 166

    Venue: MCG, Melbourne

    Runs scored: 307

    Result: Match Drawn

    More concerned with making money than runs, Bob Cowper came, saw, conquered and then fled to the hills at the age of just 28, possibly robbing cricket of another legend.

    Before becoming a successful banker, however, he made history with this Ashes triple century.

    Damp conditions made scoring fluently difficult, with the Australian describing his knock to fans as "the most boring innings you've had to sit though," but it helped lead his country to an unassailable position.

     

    Fact

    Due to a wet outfield, Cowper's innings contained just 20 fours but an astonishing 23 threes. I was unable to verify it, but surely this is a cricket world record.

11. Lawrence Rowe

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    Adrian Murrell/Getty Images

    Occasion and Date: West Indies vs. England, 6th-11th March, 1974

    Venue: Kensington Oval, Barbados

    Runs scored: 302

    Result: Match Drawn

    Lawrence Rowe enjoyed a fairly short spell at the upper echelons of cricket, but his classy triple ton against England was unsurprisingly the highlight.

    And what a highlight. Described by cricketcountry.com as arguably the "most elegant triple century of all-time" the West Indian batsman put England to the sword in a knock that absorbed 430 balls.

    Possessing a back-foot drive to die for, Rowe blasted 37 boundaries to help his side take a first-innings lead of 201, although the visitors managed to hang on for a draw. 

     

    Fact

    Rowe hadn't even scored a first-class century when he made his Test debut. But unfazed by the higher stage, he registered a double and single century in a remarkable opening gambit.

12. Graham Gooch

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    Stephen Wake/Associated Press

    Occasion and Date: England vs. India, 26th-31st July, 1990

    Venue: Lord's, London

    Runs Scored: 333

    Result: England won by 247 runs

    This innings by Graham Gooch must have done wonders for Stuart Sturridge bats, with the brand becoming engrained on youngster's minds after seeing the maker's name proudly displayed almost on repetition for over 10 hours.

    And spare a thought for the Indian wicketkeeper Kiran More, who dropped the Essex stalwart when he had made just 36 runs. This turned out to be the most expensive dropped catch in the history of cricket!

    Adding a rapid century in the second, this one match lifted Gooch from the bracket of good players into the elite.

     

    Fact

    Gooch's match aggregate of 456 runs is the highest ever in Test cricket and the second highest ever in first-class cricket.

13. Brian Lara

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    K M CHAUDARY/Associated Press

    Occasion and Date: West Indies vs. England, 16th-21st April, 1994

    Venue: Antigua Recreation Ground, St Johns, Antigua

    Runs Scored: 375

    Result: Match drawn

    The dusty-brown Caribbean pitch, the broken and battered England bowlers, and the crowd invasion that followed Brian Lara's boundary that made him the first player to break the Test-innings record in 36 years stick in the memory.

    But what many didn’t see was that upon playing the record-breaking stroke, Lara’s heel scraped the bottom of his stump. Fortunately for the Trinidadian run machine the bails stayed on.

    Like so often when a triple century is scored, the actual match proves to be a complete waste of time with the game barely advancing beyond the start of the Windies seconnd innings.

     

    Fact

    Lara's innings didn't contain a single six, emphasising the gifted stroke-maker's classical technique based on timing and placement rather than brute force.

14. Sanath Jayasuriya

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    Hamish Blair/Getty Images

    Occasion and date: Sri Lanka vs. India, 2nd-6th August, 1997

    Venue: R.Premadasa Stadium, Colombo

    Runs scored: 340

    Result: Match drawn

    When one side makes 537 for 8 and the other registers 952 for 6, it is fair to say that the wicket is good for batting on. And Sanath Jayasuriya took full advantage blasting 340 runs from just 578 balls with 36 fours and two sixes.

    Despite the impressive feat of crease occupation, the actual game produced just 14 wickets over the course of five full days of play.

    And why Sri Lanka didn't declare at say, 150 in front, in order to put India under pressure in their 2nd innings remains a mystery.

    Fact:

    A plethora of records were broken during this game but Sri Lanka's astonishing team score, just 48 short of a thousand, remains the highest ever recorded in Test cricket.

15. Mark Taylor

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    COBUS BODENSTEIN/Associated Press

    Occasion and date: Pakistan vs. Australia, 15th-19th October, 1998

    Venue: Arbab Niaz Stadium, Peshawar, Pakistan

    Runs scored: 334 not out

    Result:  Match drawn

    Baggy Greens' skipper Mark Taylor was praised for declaring his team's first innings despite being 334 not out overnight against Pakistan in Peshawar.

    Forsaking an opportunity to surpass legendary Don Bradman as Australia's highest scorer and perhaps even the world record highest score, "Tubby" put the match first and felt the time was right for his side to have a bowl.

    As it turned out the game fizzled out into a dull draw but the left-hander's selfless gesture and incredible 564-ball knock increased his stature in the sport.

    Fact:

    In scoring 92 in the second innings, Taylor became just the second batsman to score 400 runs in a single game.

16. Inzamam-ul-Haq

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    THEMBA HADEBE/Associated Press

    Occasion and date: Pakistan vs. New Zealand, 1st-3rd May 2002

    Venue: Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore, Pakistan

    Runs scored: 329

    Result: Pakistan won by an innings and 324 runs

    New Zealand conceded a huge 570 run first innings deficit in this Test thanks largely to Inzamam-ul-Haq's treble century that helped his side post a colossal 643.

    At that stage of his career, the burly Pakistani batsman was considered an underachiever, but this rapid knock which came off just 436 balls and contained nine huge sixes, changed that.

    Unfortunately for the Black Caps, after spending nearly two days in the field, their own first innings was done and dusted after just 182 balls thanks largely to an inspired Shoaib Akhtar.

    Fact:

    Interestingly, New Zealand skipper Stephen Fleming denied a cramp-stricken Inzamam a runner for the last 137 minutes of his knock perhaps preventing Brian Lara's record of 375 from being passed.

17. Matthew Hayden

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    Hamish Blair/Getty Images

    Occasion and date: Australia vs. Zimbabwe, 9th-13th October, 2003

    Venue: WACA, Perth, Australia

    Runs scored: 380

    Result: Australia won by an innings and 175 runs

    The big burly Matthew Hayden bullied many an attack over the years in a career that yielded over 8,500 Test runs and Zimbabwe felt the full force of the opener's blade at the WACA in 2003.

    Over the course of 438 balls, the left-hander bypassed Brian Lara's record with a brutal innings that included 11 sixes and 38 fours

    Given the opposition's perceived "weak" attack, Hayden's achievement perhaps didn't receive as much credit as some of the others, but Ray Price, the Zimbabwean off-spinner who went for 187 runs without reward will certainly remember it.

    Fact:

    Hayden's score remains the highest in Test cricket by a man wearing the Baggy Green cap of Australia.

18. Virender Sehwag

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    Aijaz Rahi/Associated Press

    Occasion and date: Pakistan vs. India, 28th Mar-1st Apr, 2004

    Venue: Multan Cricket Stadium, Pakistan

    Runs scored: 309

    Result: India won by an innings and 52 runs

    When it is Virender Sehwag's day he is almost unstoppable as India's bitter rivals Pakistan found out in this painful innings defeat.

    Scoring at a rate of 82.40 per 100 balls, Sehwag utilised his full array of strokes to smash the bowlers to all parts with Saqlain Mushtaq's 43 overs disappearing for 204.

    The Indian opener was dropped multiple times during this innings but displayed his amazing ability to put the previous ball out of his mind to plough on into the record books.

    Fact:

    The match was also famous for "The Multan Myth", a communication mix-up that led to India declaring and controversially stranding Sachin Tendulkar on an unbeaten 194. 

19. Brian Lara

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    BARRY BATCHELOR/Associated Press

    Occasion and date: West Indies vs. England, 10th-14th April, 2004

    Venue: Antigua Recreation Ground, St Johns, Antigua

    Runs scored: 400 not out

    Result: Match drawn

    It was difficult not have a sense of deja vu when Brian Lara recorded his second career triple century albeit, going one better and turning this innings into Test cricket's first quadruple ton.

    Same time of year. Same location. And the same battered and weary beleaguered England opposition wilting under the unrelenting Caribbean sun.

    But the Trinidadian's innings received criticism in some parts with the knock, that went on into day three of the match, being labelled anti-cricket and selfish by members of the cricket fraternity.

    Fact:

    The innings remains the highest ever individual score in a Test match.

20. Chris Gayle

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    Arnulfo Franco/Associated Press

    Occasion and date: West Indies vs. South Africa, 29th April-3rd May, 2005

    Venue: Antigua Recreation Ground, St Johns, Antigua

    Runs scored: 317

    Result: Match drawn

    With a third triple century in 11 years, the Antigua Recreation Ground confirmed itself as the best batting track/bowler's graveyard in the world.

    After Brian Lara's double entry in the record books, Chris Gayle took his turn to punish a decent South African attack containing Shaun Pollock, Jacques Kallis and Makhaya Ntini in reaching a 483-ball 317.

    The match itself turned into a completely pointless spectacle with just 17 wickets falling in five days of play.

    Fact:

    A record breaking eight different players each scored centuries in this Test match.

21. Mahela Jayawardene

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    Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

    Occasion and date: Sri Lanka vs. South Africa, 27th-31st July, 2006

    Venue: Sinhalese Sports Club, Colombo, Sri Lanka

    Runs scored: 374

    Result: Sri Lanka won by an innings and 153 runs 

    South Africa's bowlers probably still have nightmares about the partnership involving Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara which survived 157 overs to put on an incredible 624.

    While Sanga fell for "just" 287, Jayawardene went on and on, and attempted to break Brian Lara's record...until Andre Nel delivered a ball that kept low.

    The wristy strokemaker's innings, which lasted an energy sapping 752 minutes, included 43 fours and one six.

    Fact:

    The partnership between these Sri Lankan run machine was unsurprisingly the highest ever in Test cricket while Proteas bowler, Nicky Boje, produced the 2nd worst Test figures without taking a wicket going for 221 off 65 overs.

22. Virender Sehwag

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    Rajanish Kakade/Associated Press

    Occasion and date: India vs. South Africa, 26th-30th March, 2008

    Venue: MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai, India

    Runs scored: 319

    Result: Match drawn

    On paper, a bowling attack headlined by Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Makhaya Ntini should be treated with respect but Virender Sehwag only knows one way to bat. 

    Despatching the South African bowlers to all parts, Sehway went from 100 to 200 in just 78 balls and then 200 to 300 in 84 deliveries.

    Over 35,000 fans turned up on day four expecting to see Brian Lara's record fall, only for the Indian opener to be taken in the slips.

    Fact:

    Coming at more than a run-a-ball, Sehwag's stunning knock contained 42 fours and five sixes and is currently the fastest triple century ever recorded in Test cricket.

23. Younis Khan

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    Gareth Copley/Getty Images

    Occasion and date: Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 21st-25th Feb, 2009

    Venue: National Stadium, Karachi, Pakistan

    Runs scored: 313

    Result: Match drawn

    Younis Khan produced a classic "captain's innings" in his first game in charge of Pakistan after helping his team respond to an intimidating score of 644 from Sri Lanka.

    His triple ton, coming off 568 balls which included the best part of 65 overs from Muttiah Muralitharan, led his country to 765 and the safety of a dull stalemate.

    Fact:

    As well as Khan's monumental innings, this incredibly high-scoring clash featured six half centuries, one century and two double centuries on it's scorecard.

24. Chris Gayle

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    Eranga Jayawardena/Associated Press

    Occasion and date: Sri Lanka vs. West Indies, 15th-19th November, 2010

    Venue: Galle International Stadium, Galle, Sri Lanka

    Runs scored: 333

    Result: Match drawn

    Chris Gayle joined an elite group of four players that have scored two triple centuries with this powerful 333 off just 437 balls to punish Sri Lanka.

    The Jamaican rode his luck at times and was caught off a no ball but the nine sixes—taking him to joint fifth in the number of maximums in an individual Test innings—emphasised his attacking intent.

    Indeed, the only disappointment was that Gayle missed a chance to perhaps go on and make an even higher score, when he was bowled by Ajantha Mendis.

    Fact:

    Eleven of the 28 triple centuries have been scored by left-handers with Gayle of course contributing two of them.

25. Michael Clarke

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    Shaun Roy/Associated Press

    Occasion and date: Australia vs. India, 3rd-6th Jan, 2013

    Venue: SCG, Sydney, Australia

    Runs scored: 329 not out

    Result: Australia won by an innings and 68 runs

    Michael Clarke chose to declare his team's innings on 659, forsaking the opportunity to chase a plethora of records but his personal contribution of 329 was still the fourth highest score by an Australian.

    Coming off 468 balls the marathon knock included 39 fours and one six as the skipper milked India's bowling attack for over 10 hours.

    Clarke's decision to put India in was justified with the Baggy Greens going on to win by an innings.

    Fact:

    Up until that point, 3747 batsmen had played Test innings at the SCG but nobody scored as many as Clarke in this knock.

26. Hashim Amla

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    Themba Hadebe/Associated Press

    Occasion and date: England vs. South Africa, 19th-23rd July, 2012

    Venue: Kennington Oval, London

    Runs scored: 311 not out

    Result: South Africa won by an innings and 12 runs

    Just four batsmen came to the crease in South Africa's incredible first innings score of 637 against England, with Hashim Amla's triple century doing most of the damage.

    England's bowlers made just two breakthroughs in 189 painful overs as Amla absorbed 529 balls hitting 35 of them to the fence.

    With his immense powers of concentration and exemplary technique, it would be no surprise for the classy right-hander to score another similar huge score at some point in his career.

    Fact:

    Amla is the only South African batsman to have scored a Test match triple century.

27. Kumar Sangakkara

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    Alastair Grant/Associated Press

    Occasion and date: Bangladesh vs. Sri Lanka, 4th-8th Feb, 2014

    Venue: Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium, Chittagong, Bangladesh

    Runs scored: 319

    Result: Match drawn

    The consummate batsman Kumar Sangakkara added another 424 runs to his impressive career tally in this Test, including a record breaking 319 in the first innings.

    While none of his compatriots could pass 72, the former Sri Lankan skipper scored 54 per cent of his teams runs to lead them to a formidable total of 587.

    Some might suggest that Bangladesh possess one of the weak attacks in Test cricket but Sangakkara's sheer concentration skills in the partisan cauldron and heat of Chittagong demand respect.

    Fact:

    Sangakkara averages 95.05 across 20 innings against Bangladesh which includes six centuries and three 200+ scores.

28. Brendon McCullum

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    Ross Setford/Associated Press

    Occasion and date: New Zealand vs. West Indies, 14th-18th Feb, 2014

    Venue: Basin Reserve, Wellington, New Zealand

    Runs scored: 302

    Result: Match drawn

    Brendon McCullum is widely known for his big-hitting, rapid-scoring ways that have made him a sought-after commodity in T20 circles.

    But the New Zealand skipper proved he is more than capable of playing the long game too in this marathon innings that put India, well and truly, to the sword.

    Lasting 559 balls, McCullum hit the highest ever score by a Kiwi and guided his team to safety from a precarious position of being five wickets down and 152 runs behind.

    Fact:

    McCullum's contribution helped the Black Caps set a World record total for a third innings in Test cricket.