Top 100 of the 21st century: 70-61
The countdown continues as we select the game's best players since 2000
Sam Ferris & Adam Burnett
15 June 2015, 07:40 PM AEST
70. Steve Waugh (Aus)
Key numbers (from Jan 1, 2000): 44 matches, 2,825 runs at 53.30
Waugh was in the final chapter of his time in Baggy Green by the turn of the century but he still managed to exert serious influence as captain and notch up 11 centuries in the final four years of his glittering career. In fact, despite his position coming under threat late in 2002, Waugh’s output hardly wavered, and there were memorable hundreds in London, Sydney, Kolkata, Sharjah and Wellington. As the century wore on, he was no longer the best player in a red-hot batting line-up, but few would have preferred anyone else walking to the middle in a crisis. In his 44 matches in charge from 2000, Australia won 33 and lost just six.
Best Performance: Simply for the theatre of it all, we can’t go past Waugh’s classic SCG Ashes century in January 2003, in which he reached three figures with a sweetly struck four from the final ball of day two.
69. Herschelle Gibbs (SA)
Key numbers (from Jan 1, 2000): 73 matches, 5198 runs at 44.05
Charismatic and controversial, Gibbs was a top-order dasher of the highest calibre. Attack was at times his only form of defence; running down the wicket to the world’s fast bowlers, cutting wayward quicks to ribbons and pulling off the front foot with imperious ease. While he might have dropped the World Cup in 1999, in the field he was a panther patrolling the infield with a deadly arm and a (usually) safe pair of hands. Three years passed between his final Test century and his exit from the game in 2008, but his reputation for enjoying a celebration lives on.
Best Performance: Up against the in-form England unit of 2005, Gibbs peeled off 161 in the first innings at the Wanderers to hand the Proteas a slender lead. In the second dig, chasing 325 to win, the right-hander defied the likes of Harmison, Hoggard, Anderson and Flintoff to provide the backbone of a rickety pursuit only to fall for 98 and with him South Africa’s hopes of victory.
68. Stuart MacGill (Aus)
Key numbers (from Jan 1, 2000): 32 matches, 149 wickets at 31.28
Despite being dealt the unfortunate fate of plying his leg-spinning trade throughout the Warne era, Stuart MacGill nonetheless managed to make his mark on the international scene. His trademark was a ripping leg break, and while he lacked the unerring accuracy of Warne, his wrong’un was better than the King of Spin’s and he had the same insatiable hunger for wickets. Enjoyed a period of 53 wickets in 11 Tests while Warne was banned in 2003-04 – figures that highlight his penchant for grabbing every opportunity at the top level.
Best Performance: MacGill was never more dangerous than on his home patch of the SCG and he highlighted this once again when he spun a web through the West Indies in 2001, ripping out six of the top seven (including Brian Lara) before finishing with innings figures of 7-104.
67. Stephen Fleming (NZ)
Key numbers (from Jan 1, 2000): 63 matches, 4288 runs at 41.46
Erudite captain, elegant batsman, Fleming was the heart, soul and brains of an overachieving Black Caps outfit that entered the new millennium unafraid of expressing themselves. Despite becoming his country’s first batsman to surpass 7,000 Test runs, statistically speaking, Fleming, with seven Test tons, wasn’t the most dominant stroke maker since the turn of the century but as a presence he’s up there as the most effective, while his influence extended well beyond the batting crease. Like a general marshalling his troops, the master tactician outwitted his Trans-Tasman neighbours in 2001-02 in a famous 0-0 drawn series that still haunts Damien Martyn.
Best Performance: Seven tons since 2000 of which three were double-centuries (and a 192), Fleming flayed Dale Steyn, Makhaya Ntini and South Africa to all parts of Newlands in May 2006, posting 262 runs of the highest order.
66. Jonathan Trott (Eng)
Key numbers (from Jan 1, 2000): 52 matches, 3,835 runs at 44.08
Jonathan Trott followed the Kevin Pietersen path from Proteas junior cricketer to full England international but aside from their mutual class, that’s where the comparisons end; where KP was an out-and-out entertainer, Trott was a rock for five years at No.3 and played a key role in his side’s rise to No.1 in the Test rankings. The Englishman scored nine hundreds in that time including what was effectively an Ashes-winning hand on debut, and at his best seemed capable of occupying the crease for days on end. At the end of 2013, he left England’s tour of Australia citing a stress-related illness and after a failed comeback this year, he retired from international cricket.
Best Performance: It doesn’t get more high pressure than making your Test debut in an Ashes decider, and Trott emerged with flying colours, making a composed second-innings century that put the blowtorch on Australia and ultimately set up a series win for England.
65. Danish Kaneria (Pak)
Key numbers (from Jan 1, 2000): 61 matches, 261 wickets at 34.79
Another Pakistani who was lured to the dark side of the force, Kaneria was an uber-talented leg-spinner who was only behind legendary duo Warne and Kumble in the 21st century leg-spinning legion. While Warne was a master of control, Kaneria controlled a puzzling googly that only the best batsmen in the world could decipher. In 2005, he claimed 49 Test wickets from nine matches as he hurtled towards becoming Pakistan’s most successful five-day spinner. But his career was tattooed with a permanent black spot in 2012 when he was banned for life by the England and Wales Cricket Board for spot-fixing in county cricket three years earlier.
Best Performance: A marathon 60 overs against Sri Lanka in 2004 in Karachi yielded figures of 7-118, and with 3-72 in the first innings, Kaneria’s maiden 10-wicket haul helped Pakistan to a series-tying win.
64. Gary Kirsten (SA)
Key numbers (from Jan 1, 2000): 45 Tests, 3,497 runs at 49.95
Having long worked out the qualities that would turn him into one of Test cricket’s most reliable opening batsmen throughout the 1990s, South Africa’s Gary Kirsten enjoyed a stellar final four years to his career after the turn of the century. Focused, driven and uncomplicated at the crease, the left-hander was a key to the Proteas’ ongoing success and his experience and cool head neatly complemented the arrival and ascension of opening partner and long-term captain Graeme Smith. His appetite for runs continued until the twilight of his career, as he registered five hundreds in his final four series to bow out of the game as South Africa’s most prolific run-scorer.
Best Performance: Kirsten was the first person to score Test centuries against nine other countries, and he piled on 11 hundreds after 2000, so there are plenty to choose from. We’ll give you two: a defiant, backs-to-the-wall 153 in a losing cause against McGrath, Warne, MacGill and Lee in Sydney, 2002; and a brilliant 130 against England at Headingley, when he rescued South Africa from 4-21 and posted the only hundred of a match that South Africa remarkably went on to win.
63. Steve Harmison (Eng)
Key numbers (from Jan 1, 2000): 61 matches, 226 wickets at 31.82
Undeservedly, Harmison will most likely be remembered for his infamous wide to Andrew Flintoff at second slip to commence England’s forgettable 2006-07 Ashes campaign. Around that tumultuous series, Harmison was an elite, awkward fast bowler that climbed to the apex of the Test bowling rankings in 2004. His elongated frame (193cm) and gangly action produced extreme bounce with damaging effect, never more evident than when he cut Australia captain Ricky Ponting with a vicious bouncer in the first Test of the magical 2005 Ashes. Homesickness and apathy for travel brought an end to his career in 2009 after seven years at the top level, but not before his frightening reputation earned him one of Test cricket’s great monikers: ‘Grievous Bodily Harmison’.
Best Performance: Possessing a tall, bouncy action, Harmison looked like one of the legendary giant quicks that once roamed the Caribbean when he destroyed the West Indies at Sabina Park in 2004. The towering fast bowler obliterated the hosts, taking 7-12 to roll Brian Lara’s men for only 47.
62. Rangana Herath (SL)
Key numbers (from Jan 1, 2000): 56 matches, 255 wickets at 29.49
For much of his career, Rangana Herath suffered a similar fate to his spinning colleague from Australia, Stuart MacGill, stuck as he was in the shadow cast by the great Muthiah Muralidaran. Fortunately for the left-arm orthodox spinner, Sri Lanka is prone to producing turning pitches, so the option of two spinners was more common and Herath was often able to play a support act to the magical Murali. His consistency in line and length ensured he did it well, but since his legendary teammate’s retirement the unassuming tweaker has shown repeatedly he can lead an attack in his own right.
Best Performance: Outstanding on his home patch where he averages 23.45 (and last year took 14 wickets in one match against Pakistan), Herath also impressed in Australia in 2012-13, claiming five wickets in an innings in Hobart. It was in 2011 in Durban however when his finest hour arrived, as his nine wickets spun Sri Lanka to a first-ever Test win in South Africa.
61. MS Dhoni (Ind)
Key numbers (from Jan 1, 2000): 90 matches, 294 dismissals (256ct, 38st), 4,876 runs at 38.09
Sporting a rock star mullet with the gregarious game to match, Dhoni became India’s headline act when he pulled on the gloves for the first time in 2005. His ice cool demeanour as captain was in direct contrast to the flamboyant, agricultural style his batting became known for. When given the captaincy in 2007, Dhoni corralled a group of legends including Tendulkar, Sehwag, Laxman and Dravid into a unified force that climbed to the top of the Test tree. Along the journey Dhoni blasted whirlwind centuries, invented jaw-dropping shots (helicopter anyone?), and inspired a nation that had relied on one-day cricket and one man for too long.
Best Performance: The only thing missing from MS Dhoni’s career mantelpiece was a Test match double-century, so in 2013 he went out and slaughtered Australia in Chennai to complete his collection with 224 from only 265 deliveries. It was a typical Dhoni innings: savage, unrelenting, and captivating.