These 15 performances range from 1934 to 2011. Interestingly, most of them are by legendary players.

Many of these performances decided the series scoreline too.

NOTE: A series-defining performance (SD) shores up the value of that performance considerably – they are marked with an asterisk below.

All the Impact numbers mentioned are in a match context, but in a career context, all these match numbers are capped to 5.


1) Denis Compton- 278 v Pakistan, 1954. Batting Impact- 9.03
2) Ian Bell- 31 and 159 v India, 2011. Batting Impact- 7.91 *
3) Graham Gooch- 210 v New Zealand, 1994. Batting Impact- 7.51 *
4) Frank Worrell- 261 v England, 1950. Batting Impact- 7.48 *
5) Bev Congdon- 9 and 176 v England, 1973. Batting Impact- 7.33

Denis Compton’s 278 came in the second Test in a four-match series that would turn historic by the time it ended, with Pakistan drawing their first-ever series in England (1-1), thanks to Fazal Mahmood’s heroics. But here, he walked out at 102 for 2 in reply to Pakistan’s 157, and batted for nearly five hours, first with Reg Simpson (101) and then with Tom Graveney (84), to crush Pakistan and help take the lead in the series.

Walking in at 6 for 1, Ian Bell's stunning innings of 159 put England in a strong position, and helped trounce India 4-0 in 2011. © Getty Images

Walking in at 6 for 1, Ian Bell's stunning innings of 159 put England in a strong position, and helped trounce India 4-0 in 2011. © Getty Images

Ian Bell’s stunning 159 in the third innings of the second Test changed the momentum of the match, and the series, decisively. England trailed by 67 runs on the first innings, and Bell walked in at 6 for 1. His innings put England in a strong position, and thereafter, India’s fight in the series evaporated, as they were trounced 4-0.

Graham Gooch’s last Test hundred came at No. 3 after he walked out to bat at 16 for 1, with England trailing New Zealand by 235. Along with Michael Atherton and Robin Smith, Gooch helped take his team to 567, and Phil DeFreitas, Angus Fraser and Peter Such finished New Zealand off. This was the sole result match in the series.

Frank Worrell’s sensational performance came in the third Test with the series locked at 1-1 and England having made 223 in the first innings. He walked in with West Indies 95 for 2 and had Everton Weekes for company for a good part of his innings. Worrell’s five-and-a-half hour classic led to an innings total of 558 and eventually a 10-wicket win.

Bev Congdon’s captain’s knock in a fourth-innings chase of 478 took the score from 16 for 2 to 307, when he was the fifth New Zealand wicket to fall. It inspired his troops (particularly Vic Pollard) to keep the fight going and almost pull off one of the most sensational heists in cricket history. New Zealand lost by a mere 38 runs and continued to dominate a good part of the next (drawn) Test too, but lost by an innings in the third to lose the series 2-0.

1) James Anderson- 5/54 and 6/17 v Pakistan, 2010. Bowling Impact- 8.54
2) Clarrie Grimmett- 5/81 and 3/39 v England, 1934. Bowling Impact- 8.36 *
3) Muttiah Muralitharan- 3/62 and 8/70 v England, 2006. Bowling Impact- 7.89 *
4) Alec Bedser- 7/55 and 7/44 v Australia, 1953. Bowling Impact- 7.88
5) Bill O’Reilly- 4/75 and 7/54 v England, 1934. Bowling Impact- 7.79

* Series-defining performance

James Anderson played a big role in Pakistan’s rout in the opening Test in the 2010 series as they crumbled for 182 and 80. That set the stage for an eventual 3-1 series win for England.

Clarrie Grimmett and Bill O’Reilly combined brilliantly in a famous Australian win in the opening Test of the 1934 series – the first series after Bodyline. The Master (Grimmett) and the apprentice (O’Reilly), revelling in like-for-like leg-break googly at both ends, accounted for 19 of the 20 English wickets to fall in 185 of the 246 overs bowled by Australia. Both performances feature on this list – a rarity.

Muralitharan’s significant performance came in the final Test in 2006, running through the side in 30 of the 69 overs bowled. © AFP

Muralitharan’s significant performance came in the final Test in 2006, running through the side in 30 of the 69 overs bowled. © AFP

Muttiah Muralitharan’s hugely significant performance came in the third and final Test of the 2006 series, in a match that was entirely even-keeled at the halfway stage. A team batting effort set England 325, but after an 84-run opening partnership, Muralitharan ran through the side in 30 of the 69 overs bowled. Moreover, Muralitharan had an impact with the bat too in the first innings, as he was one of four Sri Lankan batsmen to reach 30 in the team total of 234, which also makes this one of the highest impact performances of all time. Sri Lanka drew the series 1-1 on the back of this performance.

Alec Bedser’s single-handed performance with the ball brought England back from behind in a Test that was eventually drawn. Australia made 249 and England were then dismissed for 144. Bedser took seven wickets for the second time in the match as Australia were demolished for 123. To dispel doubts about the wicket, England racked up 120 for 1 in 58 overs – those were the days when a brisk chase touching four-runs-an-over was unthinkable in the fourth innings.

NOTE: The only truly high impact Indian performance at Nottingham (which just misses being on this list) came from Zaheer Khan in 2007 (4/59 and 5/75 vs England, 2007). England collapsed for 198 on the first day, and despite a spirited 355 in the second innings, could not compete on a pitch where five Indian batsmen had crossed 50 in their total of 481, which made Zaheer’s performance even more creditable.  It was a series-defining performance, and the highest impact Indian bowling performance in England till date.

1) Richard Hadlee- 6/80, 4/60 & 68 v England, 1986. Overall Impact- 9.84 *
2) Tony Greig- 2, 139 & 4/33, 3/101 v New Zealand, 1973. Overall Impact- 9.40
3) Stuart Broad- 64, 44 & 6/46, 2/30 v India, 2011. Overall Impact- 8.50 *
4) Shaun Pollock- 2/65, 6/39 & 62, 0 v England, 2003. Overall Impact- 7.58
5) John Bracewell- 110 & 0/11, 3/29 v England, 1986. Overall Impact- 6.87 *
* Series-defining performance

Richard Hadlee produced a classic allrounder’s performance in the only result match in the three-Test series of 1986. First, he took the majority of wickets to dismiss England for 256, and then he walked out to bat at 144 for 5 and hit the second highest score of the innings to take his team to 413. He then took 4 for 60 in 33 overs – the most restrictive bowling performance in the match. It left his team just 77 runs to make, which they did with some glee.

Tony Greig took 4 for 33 to help dismiss New Zealand for 97 and give his team a 153-run lead, which seemed to be getting undone as he walked into bat in the second innings with his team 24 for 4. He walked back 210 runs later, after making 139 – the most attacking innings of the match, and then came back and took three wickets as well, as England won by 38 runs, despite Bev Congdon’s fourth-innings heroics (discussed above).

Stuart Broad’s 64 took England from a precarious 124 for 8 to 221. His hat-trick (and six wickets overall) made India crash from 267 for 4 to 288. Then, he chipped in with 44 as England (largely thanks to Ian Bell) began to dominate the match. The 2 for 30 in the second innings as India collapsed for 158 was just gravy.

Shaun Pollock’s performance here is the only one that came in a losing cause. After England got 445, Pollock made 62 (the most attacking innings of the match), taking South Africa from 261 for 6 to 362. Then, he blasted England out for 118 with a memorable haul of 6 for 39 and put his team squarely in the match. Unfortunately, South Africa could not make the 202 required, falling 70 runs short. James Kirtley, who was on debut for England, had a lower impact than Pollock in the match overall, but got the Man of the Match award – a great example of the flaw in giving it only to a member of the winning side.

John Bracewell’s timing in scoring his only Test century is the stuff of legend. After England scored 256, New Zealand were 239 for 6 when Bracewell came in to bat. Belying his Test batting average of 20, he compiled 110 before being the last man out at 413. Then, he came out and supported Richard Hadlee, getting three top-order wickets including Gooch and Gower. Neither Hadlee nor Bracewell had to do much after that as their team got the 77 needed easily, giving New Zealand the series and both men a series-defining performance apiece.

(Jaideep Varma/Soham Sarkhel)