The Gabba is now widely recognised as the fastest pitch in the world. Of the 56 Tests played in Brisbane, Australia have won 34, lost just 8 and drawn 13, with one tie. In terms of their win/loss ratio (minimum of 15 Tests), it is Australia’s best ground.
In fact, it is the third-best ground for a home team as far as win-loss ratio (4.25) is concerned, after the National Stadium in Karachi (10.5) and SuperSport Park, Centurion (7), again with a minimum of 15 Tests played.
Here are the top five batting, bowling and all-round performances in match contexts at the Gabba.
NOTE: All Impact numbers mentioned are in a match context, but in a career context, all these numbers are capped to 5.
1. Don Bradman: 187 v England, 1946. Batting Impact: 8.14
Typical Bradman. First day of Ashes series. Australia 9 for 1, as Bradman walks in. 46 for 2 as Lindsay Hassett (the second-highest impact Australian batsman after Bradman in Test history with a minimum of 40 Tests) does. Bradman is out next – 276 runs, and four hours later, for 187, which is a great foundation for the other batsmen to dominate. Hassett makes 128, Miller 79, McCool 95, Australia get 645. Miller and Toshack destroy England in both innings as Australia win by an innings and 332 runs. Australia go on to win the Ashes 3-0.
2. David Boon: 143 & 24 v New Zealand, 1987. Batting Impact: 7.70
A series defining performance from David Boon – one of the three that contribute to making him the sixth highest impact Australian Test batsman (minimum 50 Tests). McDermott, Hughes and Reid reduce New Zealand to 186 but it is not an easy pitch to bat on. No Australian gets even 40, except…David Boon, who gets 143 in five and a half hours. Australia make 305, which is enough of a lead to win comfortably, by eights wickets. This was the first Test and only one to produce a result in the series.
3. Greg Chappell: 201 v Pakistan, 1981. Batting Impact: 7.35
The highest impact Test batsman alive (and the second highest impact Australian Test batsman after you-know-who, minimum 50 Tests) came in to bat at a relatively comfortable 109 for 1, in reply to Pakistan’s 291. In seven hours, he helped add 339 to the Australian total and was sixth out at 448. Australia made 64 more runs and it was enough for them to secure a 10-wicket win. Coming into the game 1-0 up, Australia sewed up the series here.
4. Simon Katich: 10 & 131 not out v New Zealand, 2008. Batting Impact: 7.19
Australia managed just 214 in the first innings (thanks to a superb 98 from Clarke), New Zealand replied with 156. Australia were 0 for 1 in the second innings, Hayden gone. But Katich held on, and on and on. As wickets fell around him, he carried his bat for 131 out of Australia’s 268. Clark and Johnson destroyed New Zealand between them for 177, further accentuating Katich’s brilliance (and impact).
5. Michael Clarke: 139 v New Zealand, 2011. Batting Impact: 7
New Zealand 295. Clarke came in to bat at 91 for 3, everything to play for. First with Ponting, then Haddin, Clarke thwarted the New Zealand attack for over four hours and was sixth out ant 345. Australia reached 427, thanks to some hitting from Starc. And then Pattinson and Lyon finished the Kiwis off for 150 as a comfortable 9-wicket win was accomplished. Australian went 1-0 up in the series but New Zealand would draw level in a close Test match in Hobart to square the series 1-1.
1. Richard Hadlee: 9/52 & 6/71 v Australia, 1985. Bowling Impact: 8.57
Opting to bowl in humid conditions, New Zealand got their breakthrough upfront when Hadlee accounted for Andrew Hilditch with just 1 on the board. Kepler Wessels and David Boon steadied the ship with a 69-run partnership but it was Hadlee again who broke the partnership (Partnership-Breaking Impact) and accounted for Boon, Border and Greg Ritchie in the space of 10 runs (Pressure-Building Impact). Hadlee accounted for the first eight Australian wickets and took his ninth as the hosts were bowled out for 179. It was at that time the fourth-best bowling analysis by any bowler in an innings in Test cricket.
New Zealand posted a mammoth 553 in response. Australia’s second innings, much like their first innings was ripped open, this time by the duo of Hadlee and Chatfield. Australia were reeling at 67 for 5 before a 197-run sixth-wicket partnership ensued between Allan Border and Greg Matthews but it was Hadlee again who ended the partnership by taking the wicket of Matthews before cleaning up the rest of the tail.
New Zealand led the series 1-0 and eventually went on to win 2-1 with Hadlee playing a decisive role in the final, series-deciding Test. This was also the highest impact bowling performance of Hadlee’s Test career.
2. Shane Warne: 3/39 & 8/71 v England, 1994. Bowling Impact: 7.77
Riding high on Michael Slater’s 176 and Mark Waugh’s 140, Australia posted 426 in this first Test of Ashes 1994-95. England were jolted by Craig McDermott (6/53), who was ably supported by Shane Warne who picked up three wickets (two were of lower-order batsmen) and was highly economical (Economy Impact). Australia in their second innings posted 248 before declaring to set England a target of 508. England got off to a decent start and all of their batsmen got in but Warne kept breaking partnerships – most importantly at 219 for 2 when he took Thorpe’s wicket to end a stand of 160. Much like the first innings, Warne’s virtue in the second innings was his restrictive quality where he conceded only 71 runs off his 50 overs and picked up eight wickets out of which five were of top/middle-order batsmen. Of the 11 wickets Warne took in the match, six were of top/middle-order batsmen (not a great proportion) but it was his ability to be restrictive (Economy Impact) and break partnerships (Partnership-Breaking Impact) which stood out.
3. Alan Davidson: 5/135 & 6/87 v West Indies, 1960. Bowling Impact: 7.05
This match is of greater significance mainly because of the fact that this was the first tie in the history of Test cricket. Alan Davidson produced a great all-round performance (more on the all-round performance later in the piece) and started off the match on a good note by picking up the first three West Indian wickets to fall (they were 65 for 3). West Indies stabilised through a 174-run partnership between Garry Sobers and Frank Worrell before Meckiff snared Sobers’s wicket and within five runs of that dismissal, Davidson added Worrell to his tally. West Indies ended up posting 453. Australia replied with 505, riding mainly on Norm O’Neill’s 181. Davidson had a great impact with the ball on the West Indies’ second innings as well as he took six wickets out of which five were of top/middle-order batsmen including those of Sobers and Worrell — who were the top scorers in the West Indies first innings. Davidson also had a Pressure-Building Impact (taking wickets in quick succession to build pressure) in the second innings when took the wickets of Hunte, Sobers and Kanhai within a space of 39 runs. This was the second-highest impact bowling performance of Davidson’s Test career.
4. Glenn McGrath: 6/17 & 4/10 v West Indies, 2000. Bowling Impact: 6.88
With the Australians at the peak of their powers under Steve Waugh, Glenn McGrath produced the highest impact bowling performance of his career in this Test to decimate West Indies. McGrath picked up only three top/middle-order wickets in his first-innings haul of six wickets but conceded only 17 runs off his 20 overs and as a result had an exceptionally high Economy Impact. West Indies as a result were blown away for only 82 in their first innings. Australia in reply posted 332. In their second innings, West Indies were jolted early by McGrath yet again as he picked up the wickets of Campbell and Lara to reduce them to 10 for 2 (Pressure-Building Impact). McGrath returned to pick up two lower-order wickets but as was the case in the Windies first innings, McGrath conceded only 10 runs off his 13 overs and as a result had a very high Economy Impact for the second time in the match. All in all, McGrath bowled 33 overs in the match, conceded only 27 runs and picked up 10 wickets. The win ensured that Australia would equal the West Indians’ record of 11 consecutive Test wins and they later went on to break it as they won the series 5-0.
5. Dennis Lillee: 5/81 & 4/51 v Pakistan, 1981. Bowling Impact: 6.78
After being put in, Pakistan kept losing wickets at regular intervals (40/1, 60/2, 105/3, 111/4) mainly due to Lillee’s bowling display. All the five wickets in the first innings that Lillee picked up were of top/middle-order batsmen and he also had a Pressure-Building Impact when he took the wickets of Majid Khan and Javed Miandad within six runs. The only time Pakistan attained parity in the match was during a 125-run fifth-wicket partnership between Wasim Raja and Zaheer Abbas but Lillee accounted for both and as a result had a Partnership-Breaking Impact in the innings. Pakistan posted 291 and Australia, led by Greg Chappell’s 201, amassed 512. Pakistan got off to a strong start in their second innings with a 72-run opening partnership but Lillee got rid of both the openers in the space of 18 runs. Later in the innings, Lillee dismissed the set pair of Javed Miandad (38) and Wasim Raja (36) in quick succession to reduce Pakistan from 177 for 4 to 178 for 6. As a result, Lillee had a Pressure-Building Impact in the second innings as well. What is exceptional about this performance is the fact that all nine of Lillee’s wickets in the match were of top/middle-order batsmen. With this win, Australia sealed the series with an unassailable 2-0 lead, though they did go on to lose the third Test.
1. Alan Davidson: 5/135, 6/87 & 44, 80 v West Indies, 1960. Match Impact: 13.34
As described in the ‘Bowling Performances’ section in this piece, Alan Davidson reduced West Indies to 65 for 3 in the first innings before Gary Sobers (132) and Frank Worrell (65) together with the lower-middle order took the visitors to a commanding 453. Coming in to bat at 381 for 5, Davidson (44) then put together a useful 81-run partnership with centurion Norm O’Neill and in the process helped Australia take the lead.
Davidson kept on picking wickets at regular intervals in the second innings, never letting any West Indian pair settle in and put together a big partnership. West Indies were bowled out for 284. Needing 233 for victory, Australia were staring at defeat at 57 for 5 when Davidson walked in. It was soon 92 for 6 before Davidson put together a splendid 134-run stand with Richie Benaud, the skipper, to take Australia to within touching distance of their target. But as luck would have it, Davidson was run out for 80. Benaud and the tail followed and Australia were bowled out for 232. Cricket had its first tied Test match.
Nine of Davidson’s 11 wickets were top/middle-order batsmen. His ability to absorb pressure (of falling wickets) and build partnerships (Partnership-Building Impact) with the bat also came to the fore.
2. Rusi Surti: 3/102, 3/59 & 52, 64 v Australia, 1968. Match Impact: 9.49
In the 3rd Test of India’s 1967-68 tour Down Under, Rusi Surti produced a stellar all-round performance. Surti, a left-arm medium bowler, made inroads into the Australian middle order, picking up three wickets even though Australia scored 379. Coming in to bat at 5 for 2 which soon worsened to 9 for 3, Surti added 128 with Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi. He made 52. He then doubled his wickets tally to six in the match with an impressive 3 for 59 off 16 overs in the second innings.
Needing 395 for victory, India were again in trouble at 48 for 2 when Surti walked in. It soon became 61 for 3. Once again it was the pair of Surti and Pataudi who resurrected the Indian innings with a 93-run stand. Surti was finally dismissed for 64. Jaisimha and Chandu Borde gave Australia a real scare but in the end, the visitors fell short by a good 40 runs.
Surti’s ability to score tough runs under pressure stood out.
3. Keith Miller: 79 & 7/60, 2/17 v England, 1946. Match Impact: 9.17
Keith Miller made 79 as Australia amassed 645 (courtesy tons by Bradman and Hassett) in the first innings of the Ashes opener in 1946-47. Miller ran through the England top order, reducing them to 56 for 5. He picked up two more to finish with 7 for 60 off 22 overs as the visitors were knocked over for 141. He again picked up two top/middle-order wickets (of Hutton and Washbrook) conceding just 17 runs off his 11 overs in the second innings. Ernie Toshack picked up six as England, following on, were bundled for 172 to give Australia victory by an innings and 332 runs.
4. Clive Lloyd: 7, 129 & 2/17, 0/7 v Australia, 1968. Match Impact: 8.38
After making a disappointing 7 in the West Indian first-innings total of 296 in the series opener, Clive Lloyd bounced back with the ball, ending a 217-run stand for the 2nd wicket between Ian Chappell and Bill Lawry by getting rid of the former for 117. He soon accounted for Lawry for 105. Australia collapsed from 217 for 1 to 284 all out. The third highest score in the innings was 17 – an indication of the importance of the two wickets.
Coming in to bat at 92 for 3 in the second innings, which soon became 93 for 4, Lloyd put together fine partnerships with Sobers and Carew, propelling West Indies to 353 and demonstrating his ability to score runs under pressure in difficult circumstances. His 129 was the highest score of the match. Australia, chasing 366, fell well short as Sobers picked up six and West Indies won by 125 runs.
5. Gubby Allen: 35, 68 & 3/71, 5/36 v Australia, 1936. Match Impact: 8.09
Gubby Allen captained England on their Ashes tour Down Under in 1936-37. In the series opener at the Gabba, Allen scored 35 in the first innings, coming in to bat at No. 9. A right-arm fast bowling all-rounder, he then gave England the initial breakthrough by getting rid of Badcock early in the Australian innings. His decision to promote himself to No. 7 paid dividends in the second innings. Coming in to bat at 122 for 5 which soon became 144 for 6, Allen forged partnerships with the tail to take England to 256. He was last man dismissed for 68. Allen (5/36 off 6 overs) then produced a devastating spell of fast bowling and along with Voce (4/16 off 6.3) tormented the Australian batting line-up and skittled them for a paltry 58. Out of his five second-innings wickets, four were of top/middle-order batsmen including that of Bradman. England were victorious by a massive 322 runs.