‘Night-watchman’ is the most paradoxical concept in cricket.
The idea is to protect the next recognized batsman for the next day’s play, rather than exposing him in the same evening in rather testing conditions. But, how can a batsman of far lesser ability be sent to bat in place of a far more accomplished batsman and relied upon to survive that day’s play?
It may be found amusing, but it’s as much part of the Test matches as the white clothing, the follow-on, three sessions in a day, and so on.
The night-watchmen are sent to bat for the sole purpose of playing out the remaining few overs of that particular day and shielding the next recognised batsman. But, there have been a few instances when these nerdy not-so-good batsmen have actually gone on to do much more than what the team expected of them.
Listing such ‘night-watchmen’ heroics, here are the 5 most impactful innings by a night-watchman in Test cricket:
5. Steven Finn (England)
Match: England vs New Zealand | March 6-10 2013 | Dunedin, New Zealand | Scorecard
Score: 56 (203 balls)
Batting Position: Number 3
It was during the 2013 England’s tour of New Zealand when Steven Finn produced this match-saving innings for the three-lions.
The English side was floored for 167 in the first innings as Neil Wagner and Bruce Martin picked up 4 wickets apiece for the hosts. New Zealand continued their dominance in the next innings too, piling up 460 runs on the board with the loss of 9 wickets before finally declaring.
Trailing by 293 runs, England had to bat out more than two sessions on the fourth day and the whole fifth day in order to draw the game. The openers, Alastair Cook and Nick Crompton, did exactly what the team required forming a partnership of 231 runs before Cook was dismissed for 116.
Steven Finn, walked out to bat at number 3 as the night-watchman with mere 2 overs left in the day’s play. Finn successfully blocked his way into the final day of the Test match without adding a run.
Next day, England needed to bat till the very end to avoid a defeat and, to everyone’s surprise, Steven Finn was the defender-in-chief for the visitors.
With the situation demanding to stay long at the wicket, night-watchman Finn did exactly that playing out 203 deliveries.
En route to this marathon innings, Finn added 56 valuable runs which is in fact his only half-century in Test cricket.
When Finn was dismissed, the scorecard read 386/5 and any other result than a draw was mere fictional.