Knife-edge thrillers, tears, and two slices of Onions

Sri Lanka go crazy after last man James Anderson falls with a ball to spare Getty Images

Thorpe and Hick sprint in the dark
v Pakistan, Karachi, December 2000

An England team in transition, led by the pragmatic Nasser Hussain, had earned draws in the first two Tests of the series. The third and final Test was headed in a similar direction, but on the final morning, Pakistan collapsed and left England 176 to win in a minimum of 44 overs. The Moin Khan-led Pakistan team slowed play down, hoping for the light to fade before England could reach their target. England were alert to the tactics and had 12th man Mathew Hoggard manning the sightscreen to speed play along as Graeme Hick and Graham Thorpe added 91 runs in 21.4 overs to get England close. By the time Thorpe hit the winning runs, in the 42nd over, the sun had set and the call for evening prayers had already sounded.

Thwarted by Windies' last pair
v West Indies, St John, February 2009

In 2008-09, England were in a rut. They had failed to win a single game on their tour of India and fell 1-0 behind in the Test series in the West Indies. In the third Test, they had an opportunity to make it 1-1. They dominated the first half of the Test and left themselves a day and a half to bowl West Indies out. Andrew Flintoff had injured his hip, but bowled through the pain, and despite a rain delay on the fifth morning and a Ramnaresh Sarwan-Shivnarine Chanderpaul stand that lasted more than 50 overs, England looked poised to win when they took the ninth wicket with 36 minutes still left to play. Daren Powell and Fidel Edwards, the Nos 10 and 11, survived spells from Steve Harmison and Graeme Swann, and even a final, heroic burst from Flintoff, to save the game. West Indies went on to draw the next two games and win the series 1-0.

Jimmy, Monty and the great escape
v Australia, Cardiff, July 2009

When the last day began, England were 20 for 2 and needed a further 219 runs to avoid an innings defeat in the first Test of the 2009 Ashes, after Australia had amassed 674 in their first innings. Their task began to look impossible as they lost two more wickets in the first ten overs of the day. Paul Collingwood, who batted out 245 balls in over five-and-a-half hours at the crease, gave them some hope, but when Peter Siddle dismissed him, England were nine down, Australia were still six runs ahead, and there was still around an hour left to play. James Anderson and Monty Panesar, two proper tailenders, had to not just bat out time, but also try to nick a few runs to ensure there would be an innings changeover and therefore a bit of time lost. Anderson hit Siddle for consecutive boundaries to give England the lead. Then, he and Panesar, with a little help from the 12th man and physio, who hopped onto the field with a change of gloves to buy some time, saw out the rest of the overs. It proved a vital draw as England ended up winning the Ashes 2-1.

Onions pulls England out of the soup, twice
v South Africa, in Centurion and in Cape Town, December 2009

Twice in three Test matches, No. 11 Graham Onions had to survive the final over to earn England a draw, and he managed to pull it off both times. Seldom have innings of 1 (12 balls) and 0 (11) been so vital. While Onions performed the final act in both games, England had other heroes. In Centurion, Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott batted through the second session of the fifth day, and it was only a late burst from seamer Friedel de Wet that gave South Africa a chance to win. Collingwood was still at the crease at the end, but he needed Onions' assistance to finish the job.

In Cape Town, England's task was harder as they had to see out a day-and-a-half to keep their 1-0 lead intact - they had won the Durban Test between the two escapes. Collingwood survived 188 balls and Ian Bell 213, but they still needed the tail to hang on at the end. South Africa did finally manage to win, in Johannesburg, and the series finished 1-1.

Prior rides his luck in epic
v New Zealand, Auckland, March 2013

Matt Prior reviewed and overturned an lbw decision on 16, was dropped on 20, and then, on 28, fended a short ball from Neil Wagner onto his helmet and into his stumps, only for the bails to refuse to come off. Destiny was on the England wicketkeeper's side, and by the end of the fifth day in Auckland, his unbeaten 110 off 182 balls was being called one of the finest match-saving knocks by an England batsman.

England had drawn the first two Tests of the series, but were in trouble in the final one. New Zealand had left them more than 140 overs to survive and reduced them to 90 for 4 by stumps on day four. Bell started the recovery with a 271-ball vigil, but when he was dismissed, Prior had to take over. Prior played his natural game even as Stuart Broad stonewalled at the other end. With three-and-a-half overs to go, Kane Williamson dismissed Broad for 6 off 77 balls, and took out James Anderson two balls later to leave England nine down. No. 11 Panesar survived five balls to ensure Prior's heroics did not go in vain.

Sri Lanka cling on, England can't
v Sri Lanka, at Lord's and at Headingley, June 2014

With the penultimate ball of the Lord's Test against Sri Lanka in 2014, Broad hit the pads of No.11 Nuwan Pradeep. Umpire Paul Reiffel raised his finger, and England began to celebrate, but Pradeep confidently signalled for a review and patted the top of his bat. The ball had indeed hit his inside edge. Pradeep survived. Next ball, he got an outside edge, but the ball fell short of second slip and England were left sighing ruefully.

A week later, at Headingley, it was England's No. 11, Anderson, facing the penultimate ball of the Test, with his side clinging on desperately. Shaminda Eranga dug it in, got it to rear at him, and all Anderson could do was fend it to backward square leg. This time there was no reprieve, and Sri Lanka had completed a famous series win.

England were left dejected, particularly since they had battled so hard in both Tests. At Lord's, they had bowled their socks off, at one point even trying a field with five leg-side catchers, after Sri Lanka reached tea with seven wickets in hand, and came as close as they did thanks largely to Anderson's brilliance. At Headingley, they looked buried when their ninth wicket fell with more than an hour still left on the fifth day. Moeen Ali was in the middle of an epic innings - he would eventually end up unbeaten on 108 off 281 balls - but it was Anderson's 0 off 55 balls that was truly remarkable. It may have gone down as the greatest 0 not out had he not succumbed with just a ball to go. Eventually, Anderson broke down in tears as he collected his Man-of-the-Series award from Mike Atherton.

England defied in Antigua, again
v West Indies, North Sound, April 2015

Six years after Edwards and Powell kept England out on the final day, Jason Holder and Kemar Roach repeated the trick. It was not quite as dramatic this time - West Indies still had three wickets left when the match ended - but it was just as frustrating for England, who looked like they would cruise to a 1-0 series lead when they took the sixth West Indian wicket with more than 50 overs still left to play. Denesh Ramdin battled for 141 balls, and Holder scored a maiden Test century to revive West Indies' hopes. Once Ramdin was dismissed, Roach survived the final hour despite England crowding the bat. The series ended 1-1.

Bad light saves Pakistan's blushes, Rashid falls just short
v Pakistan, Abu Dhabi and at Dubai, October 2015

Only 16 wickets fell across the first four days of the first Test of England's 2015 tour of the UAE, and it was perhaps only because everyone watching had fallen asleep during that time that the match ended in scenes out of a fever-dream. England declared in the tenth over of the final day, ahead by 75 thanks to an epic 263 from Alastair Cook. Anderson then took two early wickets, and possibilities suddenly opened up. Pakistan's senior batsmen calmed the nerves somewhat, but then began behaving erratically; Mohammad Hafeez was run out, and Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq got out to inexplicable bursts of aggression. With Adil Rashid beginning to find sharp turn, Pakistan collapsed from 113 for 3 to 173 all out, leaving England 99 to chase with only about an hour of daylight left. England promoted their quickest scorers, and rocketed to 74 for 4 in 11 overs, but the light simply didn't last, giving Pakistan a weird sort of belated revenge for Karachi, 2000.

From Abu Dhabi, England went to Dubai, by which time Pakistan had regrouped and regained their usual mastery over UAE conditions. England started the final day three wickets down and 361 runs from their improbable target of 491. By lunch they had lost three more, and by tea, they were eight down. The game looked over, but Adil Rashid was not giving up. He batted a minute short of four hours, scored 61 off 172 balls, and with the help of Stuart Broad and Mark Wood took the game into its last 10 overs. Pakistan's spinners kept coming, and with 6.4 overs left, Rashid, perhaps wanting to push back some of the close-in fielders, tried to drive Yasir Shah and ended up spooning a catch to cover. Having drawn the first Test, England had fallen agonisingly short of a repeat in the second, and Pakistan went on to win the series 2-0.

Stokes and Broad complete turnaround
v New Zealand, Lord's, May 2015

England had been behind in the first Test of the series, after New Zealand piled up 523 in response to their 389. But a big second innings gave England the chance to win on the final day. Ben Stokes, who had hammered 92 and 101 in the match, then dismissed Kane Williamson and Brendon McCullum in the same over to leave New Zealand reeling at 61 for 5. The game looked sealed, but England were made to sweat as BJ Watling and Corey Anderson scored fifties and the tail took the game into the last hour. Memories of the draw against Sri Lanka from a year ago, at the same venue, were resurfacing, but with less than 10 overs to go, Broad got No. 11 Trent Boult to uppercut straight to third man. England took a 1-0 lead, but New Zealand came back to draw the two-Test series 1-1.