During the fifth Test of England’s tour of South Africa in 1939, the visitors posted 654/5 on board in a drawn match, which remains the highest 4th innings score in Test cricket.

The match started off on a positive note for South Africa, who rode on centuries from Pieter van der Bijl and Dudley Nourse to score 530 as Reg Perks of England shone with a five-fer. In response, the England cricket team got bundled out for 316, giving South Africa a comfortable 214-run lead.

With a massive advantage already, South Africa decided to go big once again, this time scoring 481 runs to set a target of 696 runs for England to chase.

Unlike their first innings, England didn’t succumb to the pressure. On the contrary, as many as two players in Paul Gibb and captain Wally Hammond scored centuries while Bill Edrich scored 219 as England fell a mere 41 runs short of their target with 654/5 on board.

Interestingly, England are the only team to breach the 600-run mark in the 4th innings of a Test match. The closest anyone has ever come was New Zealand in 2002 during the first Test of England’s tour of New Zealand. 

After deciding to bowl, the Kiwis managed to dismiss England for 228, but faced an even more devastating spell of bowling that saw the hosts bundled out for a mere total of 147. With England now having an 81-run lead, the Three Lions scored 468/6d, setting up a target of 549 for New Zealand.

Despite New Zealand’s best efforts, they lost the match by 98 runs after getting all-out for 451.

In 2013, South Africa scored 450/7 in the final innings of the first Test of India’s tour of South Africa to record the third-highest 4th innings score in Test cricket and draw the match. Three years later, Pakistan put on the same fourth innings total of 450 against Australia, but unlike the Proteas, they were dismissed in a 39-run defeat.

The Indian cricket team, meanwhile, completes the top five list for highest 4th innings score in Test cricket with their effort of 445 runs against Australia in a 1978 Test match at Adelaide Oval.

The Pakistan cricket team recently came close to matching India’s fourth innings score but had to settle for 443/7 against Australia in a drawn match where captain Babar Azam scored his highest individual score in the longest format. The top-order batter scored 196 runs off 425 balls as his side salvaged a draw.

Highest 4th innings score in Test cricket

Team Opponent Score Year
England South Africa 654/5 1939
New Zealand England 451 2002
South Africa India 450/7 2013
Pakistan Australia 450 2016
India Australia 445 1978

Featured photo: AFP / William West