Almanac Cricket – Australia’s Narrowest Test Losses: 1981-2019


Further to the comments in John Butler’s recent post, here is a list of Australia’s narrowest losses in test cricket in the 1981-2019 period.  There’s a case for a few more losses/draws to be included, but my criteria was 1) a loss of less than 30 runs or 2) a loss by 1 wicket.  It makes for some sad reading, and I concede is an incredibly negative exercise, given Australia’s extraordinary success in much of the same period i.e. World Cups, Ashes Dominance 1989-2005, the greatness of Warne, Gilchrist, McGrath, Ponting, Hayden et al, and a golden era perhaps beginning with the win in the Windies in ’95 through to the retirement of Gilly 2007/08.


It’s just that the really, really close ones always seem to go against us.  I would never say we are chokers (we’ve also had some inspirational and unexpected victories e.g. Hobart 1999, Colombo 1992, Adelaide 2006/07), it’s just that the cricket gods have it in for us when it goes right down to the wire…


1 run vs West Indies, Adelaide 1992/93


2 runs vs England, Edgbaston 2005


3 runs vs England, Melbourne 1982/83


5 runs vs South Africa, Sydney 1993/94


7 runs vs New Zealand, Hobart 2011/12


1 wicket vs England, Headingly 2019 (73 added for last wicket)


1 wicket vs Pakistan, Karachi 1994 (57 runs added for last wicket, winning runs after a missed stumping by Healy)


1 wicket vs India, Mohali 2010


1 wicket vs West Indies, Barbados 1999 (at one stage WI 8/248 chasing 311, Lara masterclass)


12 runs vs England, Melbourne 1998/99 (chasing 175 in a dead rubber)


13 runs vs India, Mumbai 2004 (chasing 107 on a turner in a dead rubber)


14 runs vs England, Trent Bridge 2013


19 runs vs England, The Oval 1997 (chasing 124 in another dead rubber)


18 runs vs England, Headingly 1981 (chasing 130, the infamous ‘follow on’ game i.e. Botham heroics – Bob Willis helped too)


29 runs vs England, Edgbaston 1981 (chasing 151, the very next test)


tie vs India, Madras 1986 (after declaring twice, only losing 12 wickets in two innings)


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About Damian Balassone

Damian Balassone is a failed half-forward flanker who writes poetry. He is the author of 'Strange Game in a Strange Land'.


  1. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Geez Damo, reminds me of a certain football club…

  2. Damo and Phil, whilst we didn’t lose that famous ’61 Brisbane test against the Windies (a tie), we “Shot ourselves in the foot” with silly run outs at the finish.

    Phil, regards footy, over here in SA, Norwood, in ’77 lost 3 consecutive games by less than a goal. The first loss was against Port Adelaide at Alberton by, I think, 2 points, then at home (Norwood Oval) to Glenelg. Bloody Graham Cornes took a screamer moments before the siren rang out and kicked a goal to pinch a 3 point victory.

    Next week the Legs went to the Woodville Oval as red hot favourites against Woodville. During the week there had been much infighting amongst the Woodpeckers , as Woodville were known then, and the Redlegs were expected to win handsomely. In a big boil over, Woodville won by 5 points. By then I was gutted.

    Neil Craig, remember him, was a star player for the Legs in those matches, playing either in the centre or on the wing.

  3. John Butler says

    DB, thanks for allowing me to use your research in my piece. It was extremely pertinent and timely.

    It is precisely our general success through these years that makes this recurring ability to lose the close ones notable. Circumstances varied in each game – every test is it’s own adventure – but the conclusions remained uncannily similar.

    It’s a much more complicated thing than just “choking”. The notion of choking itself is hardly straightforward.


  4. Luke Reynolds says

    What Phil said….

    Would be interested in a list of close finishes for Australia in ODI cricket, suspect we’d come out better.

  5. Luke, Phil, I hate to admit it, but there is an interesting connection, to the black & white, isn’t there?
    By the way, I missed a couple of other losses: 20 runs vs Bangladesh in 2017 and 31 runs vs India last year in Adelaide (though we were always kicking against the pricks in that one).
    Luke, re the ODI, I think the draw in the ’99 World Cup Semi-final compensates for any close losses in that form – although I do recall an ODI in Perth circa 87/88 where Mike Whitney tried to hit over the top in the last over and we went down by 1 solitary run. It may have been just after Whitney held on for that famous draw against Hadlee in the Boxing day test.

  6. DBalassone says

    It’s great to finally win a close one after all these heartbreaking losses (see above). One of our greatest wins this morning. Back to bed now.

  7. How good was this ??? I still have nightmares over those close defeats, going back to Headingley 1981 when I sat up all night waiting for us to wrap up the English tail. Only 3 more wickets to fall, then I could hit
    the sack. But………………………………………..

    I got up this morning around 03-00 having no idea if/when the rain ceased, was play under way. When I saw we had two wickets in hand, requiring 30 to win I couldn’t watch. From then until the end I popped it on every few minutes to watch a ball, hoping not to Mozz us. Great win.


  8. Rulebook says

    Damian turning around to see the utter devastation on ABs face as he hurled a cricket ball when
    Craig McDermott was given out ( grrrrr ) v WI at the Adelaide Oval is a memory burned in to me
    I was working at a gardening establishment when Thommo was dismissed against England at the g a few potplants didn’t survive

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