At the time of writing the 50-over Cricket World Cup is taking place in India and on batter-friendly wickets we are witnessing some incredible hitting. Quentin de Kock has just hit the highest score of the 2023 World Cup so far (though that could change by the time you read this, such is the run-fest nature of the tournament), blasting 174 off just 140 balls. The biggest score by any player in a One Day International (ODI) is the massive 264 (from 173 balls) Rohit Sharma hit against Sri Lanka in 2014. However, if we move from white ball cricket to the more traditional arena of Test matches, the highest scores registered are considerably greater.
Whilst the emphasis on T20 and 50-over cricket is undoubtedly scoring runs, in particular hitting boundaries, these games restrict how long a batter can be at the crease. In theory if one batter miraculously farmed the strike perfectly for the entire game they could face all 300 balls in a 50-over clash. In reality, however, we believe the most balls ever faced in an ODI was the 201 Glenn Turner batted for in 1975 – but that was back in the days of 60-over games, with Rohit’s 173 the 50-over record (as far as our statistical analysis shows us!).
This is a huge limiting factor on the highest scores in the white ball format of the game but in Test cricket this not an issue. Hard as it may be to believe in the modern era, when slow over rates make 90 overs in a day seem like an impossibility, in 1934 England’s Len Hutton faced 847 balls as he amassed a huge score of 364 against Australia at the Oval.
For many years that stood as the highest score in Test history, but legendary West Indies all-rounder Garfield Sobers went one run better 20 years later in 1958. He finished 365 not out and that record lasted even longer, but who broke it and what is the highest score in Test history?
Highest Test Score is Brian Lara’s 400 Not Out
In April 2004 Brian Lara put England to the sword again and again as he struck a record-breaking 400 not out in Antigua. The West Indians declared on a mammoth 751/5 as soon as the brilliant Trinidadian brought up his 400. If they hadn’t it is perfectly conceivable (with some extreme rule changes and a vivid imagination) that Lara would still be batting now.
His hard-to-believe score came off just 582 balls at a time when scoring was often pedestrian. He hit 43 fours and four sixes against an England attack that included 2005 Ashes heroes Freddie Flintoff, Simon Jones, Steve Harmison and Matthew Hoggard. And Gareth Batty, who was dispatched for 185 runs. That said, Freddie and Jones also went for unwanted centuries, with Harmison the pick of the bowling with his 37 overs costing “just” 92 runs and earning him two wickets.
England would scrape a draw despite following on, their fine rearguard 422/5 in the second innings rendering Lara’s magnificent knock meaningless, as much as anything so beautiful and magnificent can ever be without meaning. He cut and pulled England mercilessly, picking up length so well and playing with such immaculate timing that even good balls were dismissed. 34 at the time, the legendary batter explained that amassing such a huge score had been a big struggle, though it certainly didn’t look like it at the time.
5 Other Scores of 350 or More
There has been a huge number of treble centuries – 31 in fact. The greatest of them all, Donald Bradman, has two, with Virender Sehwag, Chris Gayle and Lara himself, the only other players with multiple scores in excess of 300. But Lara holds another record, being the only player to have scored 350 or more twice.
Lara hit 375 almost 10 years to the day before accruing his 400 and again it came at Antigua’s Recreation Ground in St John’s. And again it was England on the receiving end of things. In amassing that huge total, off 538 balls, the Trinidadian broke his countryman Sobers’ longstanding record.
The next player to score over 350 was Australian opener Matthew Hayden, who is sandwiched between Lara’s two historic knocks with the second-highest Test total ever. His 380 came at Perth in 2003 and whilst some may question the quality of the opposition, Zimbabwe, it was still an incredible feat. What is more, Hayden’s strike rate of 86.95 is only bettered by Sehwag among those players to have notched a Test match triple century. He held the record for the highest Test score briefly, Lara besting him almost exactly six months later.
The brilliant Sri Lankan batter Mahela Jayawardene holds the fourth best score in the history of Test cricket. His is the highest score never to have been a record tally, coming three years after Hayden’s innings and two years later than Lara’s 400. Jayawardene blasted his 374 against South Africa in Colombo.
Sobers’ 365 not out and the 364 of Hutton that it bettered are thus far the only other scores of 350+ to have been made in the oldest format of the game.
Highest 10 Individual Scores in Test Cricket
The table below shows the top 10 scores to have been made in international red ball cricket. As we can see, Lara is the only player to feature twice. Interestingly, David Warner’s magnificent 335 not out against Pakistan is the only Test triple century since February 2014, suggesting that it may be some time before we see Lara’s record broken.
Some might believe that England’s new highly aggressive method under Brendan McCullum (highest Test score, 302) could see the record bettered. However, whilst England may (or may not) revolutionise the strike rate of Test batters, their win-or-lose-trying ethos makes such huge tallies less likely, as a declaration would probably come before such a score was possible.
* indicates not out