New Zealand's nail-biting seven-run win over Australia on the fourth day in Hobart was the seventh smallest of all time in terms of margin of runs and the narrowest since July 2000. In fact, in the last ten years, only one match has been won by a lesser margin of runs – the epic Edgbaston Test of 2005, which England won by two runs.
In a tribute to the Hobart humdinger, here is a showcase of the narrowest wins (in terms of margin of runs) in the history of Test cricket:
Australia vs West Indies, Adelaide, 1993
In Adelaide on January 26, 1993, West Indies won one of the greatest Test matches of all time. The margin of victory, one run, was the narrowest any team had achieved in 116 years of Test cricket.
Chasing 186 for victory, Australia had slumped to 102 for 8 – they lost four wickets for ten runs in the 30 minutes after lunch - before a 22-year-old debutant, Justin Langer, put on 42 for the ninth wicket with Tim May, who was playing his first Test in four years. Langer's dismissal for 54, nicking Ian Bishop behind, was followed by May, batting with an injured hand, stitching together a 40-run stand with the last man, Craig McDermott. However, it was a classic case of so close yet so far, as McDermott was undone by a rising delivery from Courtney Walsh and gloved a catch to give West Indies the tightest win ever.
England vs Australia, Birmingham, 2005
The scenes for England to bounce back and reclaim the Ashes unfolded on a dramatic fourth day at Edgbaston, when the hosts claimed their narrowest ever Test victory. It was a great Test overall, not just for the pace at which it unfolded – 40 wickets and a run-rate of five during most of the nine sessions – but also for the happenings that led to an extraordinary on the fourth morning.
Michael Kasprowicz and Brett Lee, who hit an unbeaten 43, had put on 59 for the last wicket chasing a ground record target of 282. Australia were on the brink of victory when Kasprowiz gloved Steve Harmison down the leg side to Geraint Jones for 20, sealing a thrilling two-run win for England. With that, the Ashes were levelled at 1-1 and Australia never recovered.
England vs Australia, Manchester, 1902
The fourth Test of series between the two archrivals produced one of the most memorable matches ever, with Australia emerging triumphant by three runs. In a contest that fluctuated extraordinarily, England found themselves needing 124 to win on the final day but a spectacular collapse left the visitors with a 2-0 lead in the series. From 44 for 1, England slipped to 68 for 2, 72 for 3, 92 for 4, 97 for 5, 109 for 7, 109 for 8, 116 for 9 and lost their final with four runs needed for victory. Of the three bowlers used across 49.4 overs, Hugh Trumble and Jack Saunders bowled all but five overs and took all ten wickets. Incredibly, there was even a 45-minute rain delay between the fall of the ninth and tenth wickets.
Australia vs England, Melbourne, 1982
In an epic Test match of eerie evenness, one that ranks as all-time classic, England overcame the odds to snatch victory by three runs. On the fourth day England looked to be heading for a comfortable win until a last-wicket stand between Allan Border and Jeff Thomson gave them a near heart attack, but a juggling catch by Geoff Miller sealed a thriller.
Chasing 282 with two days to go for a win that would wrap up the Ashes, Australia were revived from two early losses through a century stand between Kim Hughes and David Hookes, but Norman Cowans triggered a collapse from 171 for 3 to 212 for 9. However, in walked Thomson to join Border, and a last-wicket stand of epic proportions followed. By stumps on day four the pair had taken Australia to 255 for 9, leaving another 37 runs to be scored on the final day.
Their stand had stretched to 70, meaning Australia were four short of victory, when Ian Botham produced an edge off Thomson's bat that flew to Chris Tavare at first slip. However, the catch bobbed out of his hands only to be held by Miller on the rebound. England had lived to see another day.
Australia vs England, Sydney, 1885
With a target of 214 to take a lead in series at the SCG, venue for the third Test, Australia closed the fourth day at 29 for 2. They proceeded to lose a third wicket without a run added to the score on the final morning, and at 61 for 5 the game appeared in England's hands. However, fifties to Wilf Flowers and Maurice Read altered the state of affairs and the calm and confident manner in which they blunted the bowling gave England skipper Hugh Massie plenty of concern.
Frederick Spofforth had the final word, though, when he bowled Read for 56 to snap a 102-run partnership and leave Australia 194 for 7. William Atwell was next to go for 0, run out, and when Bobby Peel fell to John Trumble for 3 England were right back in it. Batting with the No. 1, Joe Hunter, Flowers whittled the target down from 15 to eight, but Spofforth returned and took out Flowers for 56 with his first ball. England had won by just seven runs.
Sri Lanka vs South Africa, Kandy, 2006
After an innings defeat at Galle, South Africa bounced back with a slender win in a Test that was gripping from first ball to last. Two sub-standard innings from South Africa had left the home side to chase 177 for a series win. Instead, they lost Marvan Atapattu (a first-innings centurion) and Sanath Jayasuriya first ball each, and at lunch were 41 for 4. Once Russell Arnold's rearguard was snapped on 40 and Jonty Rhodes plucked a superb reflex catch to get Arjuna Ranatunga for a dogged 88, South Africa sensed a comeback. Needing 16 to win with three wickets remaining, Sri Lanka failed to cope with South Africa's disciplined bowling and inspired fielding, and the visitors won by seven runs.
Australia vs New Zealand, Hobart, 2011
On the fourth day in Hobart, New Zealand held on by seven runs when six-wicket hero Doug Bracewell bowled Nathan Lyon, breaking a stubborn 35-run partnership between Lyon and Dave Warner just when the Australians were looking like pulling off another miracle win in a fourth-innings run chase.
It was a dramatic end to a day that began firmly in Australia's command. Just when it seemed Michael Clarke's side was on course for victory, cruising at 159 for 2 in pursuit of a target of 241 to complete a series sweep, Bracewell engineered one of the great fight-backs in Test history. The young fast bowler, in just his third Test, triggered Australia's demise with the big wickets of Ricky Ponting (16), Clarke (0) and Mike Hussey (0) in the space of eight balls. Fittingly, it was Bracewell who struck the final blow, bowling Lyon to secure New Zealand's first win on Australian soil since 1985.