Top 20 in 2020: The best Test batting, 14-12
We continue our countdown of the best Test batting performances on Australian soil since 2000
3 June 2020, 06:00 PM AEST
There have been more than 250 scores of 100 of more in Tests in Australia so far this century, so narrowing it down to just 20 has been no easy task.
In judging the best performances, the cricket.com.au team considered the quality of the bowling attack, the difficulty of the conditions, strike rate, the length of the innings, the percentage of the team's total and the situation of the game.
A player's previous record and relative experience plus the impact their performance had on a match and a series also weighted heavily.
Before you get stuck into this countdown, you can re-live some other memorable batting performances by looking back on our 20 in 2020 Best Test Moments countdown from earlier this year.
14) Steve Smith, 239
Australia v England, Perth, 2017
By Andrew Ramsey
It was near enough to the centre point of the 2017-18 Ashes that England formally flagged they had run out of ideas to subdue Australia's captain and resident batting glutton, Steve Smith.
The declaration of omnipotence was made by Smith's rival skipper Joe Root via the field placings he deployed early in the middle session of the middle day of the five-Test campaign's middle match, as England toiled with a ball barely 10 overs old against a force rarely seen in the five-day game.
Of all the players across more than 140 years who have played at the elite level more than 20 times, only one – the statistical aberration that was Sir Donald Bradman – has scored runs with the remorseless consistency that Smith takes to the wicket.
His Test average of close to 63 is hardly Bradman's 99.94, but it's better than anyone else who's played the game for any meaningful period.
In their desperation to quell Bradman, England famously identified what they saw as the sole weak point in his technique (a skittishness against bowling aimed at his upper body) and devised a strategy that was then unleashed against every hapless Australia batter in the summer of 1932-33.
The method that Root and his men devised for Smith, 85 years after the Fast Leg Theory (aka Bodyline) was invoked and then quickly outlawed, was similarly designed to contain but was rolled out with neither menace nor consequence.
Like Douglas Jardine before him, Root stacked six fielders on the leg side and opened a vast hole on the opposite side of the wicket that stretched from gully to the dispirited bowler, while most of his troops were scattered on the western flank.
If the short fine leg fielder could have been generously judged to be a catching option, then he was one of three (along with a solitary slip and the man at gully) loosely defined as 'attacking positions'.
The rest of them could be collectively evaluated as either 'restrictive' (the deep cover and the mid-on) or 'speculative' (fine leg, deep square and deep mid-wicket) who waited in hope for the game's dominant Test batter to mis-hit or over-reach.
Both of those outcomes were about as likely as Smith declaring his team's first innings closed while still in deficit to England’s total of 403.
For just short of 10 hours of batting on days two, three and four of the match, Smith barely played a false shot.
In union with allrounder Mitchell Marsh, who enjoyed a breakout match in registering his first Test ton that he turned into an imposing score of 181, Smith was in commanding form.
He struck 30 fours and a six in a 301-run stand with Marsh, the pair scoring three quarters of the tally England had been relatively pleased with when they were dismissed by lunch on day two.
It was Smith’s second century of the series, and the seventh of the 11 hundreds he’s scored in Ashes Tests.
A tally that looks certain to grow even further.
13) Hashim Amla, 196
South Africa v Australia, Perth, 2012
By Martin Smith
"They were almost going at a one-day pace there for a while," observed a slightly stunned Australian wicketkeeper Matthew Wade at the end of day two of the 2012 Perth Test.
The "they" he was referring to was South Africa's Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla, who had just helped the Proteas plunder an incredible 206 runs in a single session on a wicket that had given up a little more than 400 in the previous five.
The duo had powered their way to a stand of 178 in 25.3 overs - at almost seven runs an over - with 23 boundaries. It was the third fastest stand of 150 or more in Test history and the quickest not to include the names Gilchrist or Afridi.
The rate of scoring indicates it was less one-day mode and more a Twenty20 onslaught.
But it wasn't a slog-fest by any means. After all, that's not Hashim Amla's way.
Rather, the gaps in the field were simply pierced with remarkable ease and precision. The WACA's vast outfield has rarely felt bigger.
Smith's innings of 84 was superb, but Amla's was - if only for the length of his stay at the crease - even better.
The captain fell in the shadows of stumps on day two while Amla moved to within one run of a century at the close.
He reached the milestone in the opening over the next day, from just the 87th ball he faced in the innings, before going on to fall just four runs short of a double-century.
It was an extraordinary performance in a match that would ultimately determine the world's No.1 Test team, a mantle the Proteas snatched away from the Australians with devastating speed on that second evening.
Amla seemed to toy with Australia's attack, as balls on the off stump were either flicked rapidly to leg or driven crisply through the off.
It has to be acknowledged that Australia's undermanned bowling attack did themselves no favours, but Amla was good enough to feast on their generous offerings. Nineteen of his 21 boundaries came on the off side, the exceptions being two pull shots that he hit well in front of square.
Smith's dismissal late on day two stemmed the flow but couldn't completely halt the torrent of runs that streamed from the blades of the Proteas batsmen.
Amla's 81-run partnership with Jacques Kallis and his 149-run stand with AB de Villiers were both scored at better than four an over. By the time Amla departed for 196, South Africa's lead had ballooned out from 86 to just a tick under 500.
The match, the series, and the title of the world's best was South Africa's, and it was largely thanks to their number three, the world's No.1 ranked ODI batsman at the time.
The Proteas would go on to triumph by 309 runs, a margin of victory that took some gloss of Ricky Ponting's farewell Test and also left no doubt as to the identity of world's premier Test nation.
And with his fourth Test century of the year, it was Amla who played a vital role in getting the Proteas to the top of the pile.
12) Cheteshwar Pujara, 123 & 71
India v Australia, Adelaide, 2018
By Dave Middleton
As is normally the case, Virat Kohli dominated the spotlight when India arrived in Australia for the Test summer of 2018-19.
But a simple fact was soon to dawn on the host nation; Cheteshwar Pujara would be the immovable object against which they would crash.
India's No.3 came into his own that season, putting an end to long-held beliefs of some detractors that he didn't have the technique nor temperament to thrive at the crease outside of the subcontinent.
A series-opening innings that lasted 246 balls across six-and-a-quarter hours and yielded 123 not only rescued his side from a false start, it proved decisive in a low-scoring Test.
Pujara found himself at the crease after just 12 balls in Adelaide but would prove all-but immovable for the remainder of the match; his first-innings century followed by top scoring with 71 in India's second dig as well.
On a scorching summer's day with the mercury touching 40 degrees in the middle, India were three down by first drinks and slipped to 5-86 soon after lunch.
But Pujara would not be swayed from his course. Here was a batsman with an old-school appetite for Test cricket, one who did not feature in the glitzy IPL, who was not fussed with looking flashy or playing the shots from the game's shorter formats that wowed spectators.
And for what he lacks in fluency and natural strokeplay, Pujara makes up for it in patience, and a dedication to preserve his wicket.
His battle with Nathan Lyon was captivating. Pujara was unafraid to step out of his crease, shortening the length Lyon had to work with. If the bowler dropped shorter, Pujara was quick to recognise that and cash in off the back foot.
Always wary of the pace and bounce an Australian surface can offer, sweeping was not an option, and when Lyon tempted him wider into the footmarks, Pujara simply kicked the ball away or tucked the bat behind his front pad.
It was that relentless refusal to surrender his wicket in the search of a boundary or a release of accumulated pressure that made Pujara the cornerstone of India's first-Test victory.
Indeed, it took a superhuman effort from Pat Cummins to run Pujara out in the fading light of the first day as the century-maker looked to farm the strike with the tailenders.
In rescuing India from that early wobble, and adding 123 runs for wickets seven, eight and nine, Pujara had done his job, blunting Australia's vaunted – and full-strength – bowling line-up.
In the wash-up of the series, Pujara – who added further hundreds in Melbourne and Sydney and had evoked comparisons with Rahul Dravid for his single-minded obsession with staying at the crease – said it was Adelaide that would long live with him.
"The reason is it was the first Test match and when you are playing a four-Test match series, I think it is always important to start off well," he said.
"I remember when we were 1-0 down in 2017 against Australia, that is the toughest time to make a comeback. As a team, you need to regroup, you need to think a lot on how to win that series.
"So, for me I think scoring that hundred in Adelaide in a tough situation is the best hundred I scored."
Top 20 in 2020: Best Test batting in Australia since 2000