Nightwatchman (cricket)

In the sport of cricket, a nightwatchman is a lower-order batsman who comes in to bat higher up the order than usual near the end of the day's play. The nightwatchman's job is to maintain most of the strike until the close of play (remaining in overnight, hence the name) and so protect other, more capable batsmen from being out cheaply in what may be a period of tiredness or in poor light at the end of the day, and then again the following morning when the batsmen have not yet `got their eye in,' or when the early-morning conditions may favour the bowlers. The theory is that losing two top-order batsmen in quick succession would be worse than losing one top-order batsman and a tailender.

However the nightwatchman's effort is not considered to be wasted, nor is he expected to play foolishly; otherwise he would not last very long. The role of nightwatchman is generally given to players who emphasise defensive technique over quick run-scoring. However, there have been occasions when nightwatchmen have made a big score, and six have made centuries in test matches. Generally speaking, the nightwatchman plays conservatively on the night, but the next day may be allowed a freer role to score runs.

The tactic has its drawbacks; in particular, if the nightwatchman does survive until the end of the day, the beginning of the next day's play will see refreshed bowlers with better light facing a less capable batsman. As a result, not all captains utilise the tactic; Steve Waugh, for example, abandoned the tactic during his captaincy of Australia.[1]

The nightwatchman is not to be confused with the pinch hitter, a lower- or middle-order batsman who is promoted up the order in limited-overs games, or in tests where their team is looking for a quick declaration, in the hope of scoring quick runs without too much concern for their wicket.

Test centuries by nightwatchmen

There have been six test centuries by nightwatchmen (as of 2012), as recognised by Cricinfo:[2]

Player Team Score Versus Ground Year
Nasim-ul-Ghani Pakistan 101 England Lord's, London, England 1962
Tony Mann Australia 105 India WACA Ground, Perth, Western Australia 1977
Syed Kirmani India 101* Australia Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai, India 1979
Mark Boucher South Africa 125 Zimbabwe Harare Sports Club, Harare, Zimbabwe 1999
Mark Boucher South Africa 108 England Sahara Stadium Kingsmead, Durban, South Africa 1999
Jason Gillespie Australia 201* Bangladesh Chittagong Divisional Stadium, Chittagong, Bangladesh 2006

There has been debate about whether Nasim-ul-Ghani (who later opened in a Test) and wicketkeeper Boucher were genuine nightwatchmen – however, in the matches in question they both came in at No. 6, at the end of the day, ahead of more recognised batsmen, and Cricinfo considers them to have been nightwatchmen.

Alex Tudor (England) was close to making a century as a nightwatchman; he made 99 not out against New Zealand in 1999 at Edgbaston, and was stranded one run short of a maiden test century when the target of 208 runs for victory was achieved.

Also close was Harold Larwood. In the final Test of the 1932–33 Ashes, Larwood made 98 as a nightwatchman, the highest innings made in the role up to that time.


  1. English, Peter (17 October 2004). "A nightwatchman to remember". ESPN Cricinfo. Retrieved 12 April 2012.
  2. "Records – Test Matches – Batting Records – Most runs in an innings by a nightwatchman". ESPN Cricinfo. Retrieved 31 July 2012.

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