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4 November 2010
The “Hot 100” page, the fastest and slowest batsmen in Test cricket, has been updated. This is only updated occasionally now, since I have found that the lists only change slowly when you are considering whole careers over the entire history of Test cricket. Still, there is some new data behind the averages. To calculate batting speeds, balls faced are used wherever possible; currently, this is available for about 86% of all innings. For innings where balls faced are not known, an estimate based on batting time and the prevailing over rate is substituted. Batting times have been found for more than 99% of all Test innings, so for most players, a reasonably comprehensive calculation of batting speed is possible.
While the all-time list changes only slowly, there are some notable developments. Virender Sehwag’s speed continues to rise; he has overtaken Kapil Dev, and he will soon overtake Adam Gilchrist for second spot at the rate he is going. Sehwag has scored at almost 99 runs/100 balls over the last two years, and equally incredibly has averaged over 60.
Tillekeratne Dilshan has risen four places to #9 on the list, pushing Andrew Symonds out of the top 10. Equally notable is Ross Taylor, who has gone from #33 on last year’s list to #16.
There are so many current players on the fast list that one wonders about a need to ‘adjust’ the figures to allow for the super bats and smaller grounds. Perhaps one for future study. There are no current players at all on the slow list. The slowest player who batted during 2010 is Misbah-ul-Haq, on 38.8 runs/100 balls for his whole career, ranking 358th out of 497 qualifying players.
Likewise, the “Most Tenacious” list – the players with the longest average innings – is little changed. Bruce Mitchell of South Africa has slipped down the list slightly, as a bit more information has come to light.
Reader Sreeram has made a good pickup, finding a new record for most runs in a two-hour Test match session. It came on the day, at Old Trafford in 1936, where most runs were scored (588). Previously, I had not been able to find a mention of the score at tea on the second day (in spite of checking five or six contemporary newspapers), and I had presumed that there had been an early tea on change of innings, but now it transpires that India went to tea on 69/0, after England went from 400 at lunch to 571 when they declared. That gives 240 runs in the session, beating the 236 by Australia in Jo’burg in 1921. England, for good measure, had scored 227 before lunch, in a 150 minute session. Unfortunately, it is still not possible to determine exactly how many overs were bowled in each session, or on that day as a whole (approximately 140).
The 236 by Australia remains the record for one team in a two-hour session, while the record for extended sessions is still 249. See the lists here.
24 October 2010
Crossing the Line
I recently came across a couple of extreme cases of no-balling, dating from the 1988/89 West Indies tour of Australia. This was a time when the no ball plague, set off by the front foot rule introduced in the late 1960s, reached its peak. Since the 1990s, the frequency of no balls has subsided a little, although outbreaks still occur.
There is usually a difference between the number of no balls given in the sundries and the number of no ball calls (by umpires) in an innings. Finding out the latter is not so straightforward for Tests before 1998, since we need to know the number of no balls that were scored from. Original scorebooks help here, though they have to be examined carefully. Generally there will be more no ball calls than no ball runs, but the number of called no balls can be reduced if there are cases of ‘four no balls’ etc.
I have pieced together a list of the most no ball calls in an innings. The first innings on the list, at the WACA in 1988/89, saw an unusual number of scoring shots off no balls, fifteen in fact, lifting the no ball count from 35 to 50. The West Indies also conceded 37 no balls in the second innings of that match, but there were ‘only’ 38 no ball calls.
The figures in brackets are estimates, based on the total number of balls faced by batsmen. There are a couple of other candidates for this list, for which the balls faced data do not make much sense, so they are not included.
Sri Lanka in 1992 had good reason to regret overstepping 71 times in the Colombo Test against Australia. Australia conceded only 14 no ball calls, and won the match by 13 runs.
The Closest Tests
India’s one-wicket win over Australia at Mohali was a rare enough thing, but was even more unusual in that both innings were closely contested, with only 23 runs between the teams after first innings. The list of Tests that were extremely close on both first and second innings is extremely short. Tests won by 10 runs or less or one wicket, that were close on first innings:
At the Oval in 1890, England beat Australia by 2 wickets after leading by 8 runs on first innings, and at Perth in 1977/78 Australian beat India by two wickets after being behind by eight runs. Honourable mention to the drawn Melbourne Test of 1974/75 where the scores were 242, 241, 244, and 238/8.
25 September 2010
Take Five Before Lunch
The scoring of a century before lunch on the first day of a Test is a fairly familiar record, at least to Australians, mainly because three of the four batsmen to achieve the feat were indeed Australians. It is also vanishingly rare, and it has been done only once since 1930 (Majid Khan in 1976). The decline in over rates has made it ever more difficult to repeat; even Virender Sehwag at his most Jessopian has not (quite) managed it.
Notable pre-lunch performances by bowlers is a far less familiar field. By chance, I came across two remarkable instances recently (20 August entry), and so I decided to create a list of most wickets by a bowler in the first session of a Test match. Like its batting equivalent, five wickets is very rare, especially since 1920, although not quite as rare as a batting century.
** on Test debut
Nice to see SF Barnes (perhaps the greatest of bowlers) on the list (Barnes once took eight wickets before lunch, but that wasn’t on the first day of the match). Valentine on debut is perhaps the most extraordinary, since he didn’t even open the bowling: Maninder Singh, bowling at #4, is the only other non-opening bowler on the list. Curious to see two New Zealanders achieving the feat only months apart in 2005. Graham McKenzie took his first five wickets in the first 45 minutes of the match, and for good measure forced another batsman to retire hurt.
As always, suggested additions to my lists are welcome. Note the update below in the previous entry on boundary hitting.
5 September 2010
The Worst Scorebook in the World
Perhaps an exaggeration, but such was my thought on seeing the official scorebook for the third Test between West Indies and Australia in 1991 at Port-of-Spain. I have uploaded a sample of this score here (bowling page from Australia’s first innings). For reasons unknown the scorer has used pointlessly minuscule writing for much of the innings, so small that it would have been possible to fit one thousand overs onto the page. The writing is clumsy, sometimes near-illegible, and the overs have not been placed in any rational order. For example, after headache-inducing research, I determined that Malcolm Marshall’s 18.1 overs are placed in the following order:
There is an additional (20th) over marked, which is completely spurious. I don’t know what it is doing there, or why the last five balls of his 19th over seem to be filled in, when the first ball had finished the Australian innings.
There must be armies of amateur club scorers out there who would be embarrassed if they produced work like this. And this is supposed to be the original source for the data and statistics for a Test match less than 20 years ago.
As a matter of interest, a couple of years ago I came across a memo in the SACA archives, from an Australian statistician, complaining about the state of this very scorebook (I wish I had taken a copy of the memo). I can only concur. I do know that on the next couple of tours (1995, 1999) a scorer was sent with the Australian team, rather than rely on local scorers. (I might add that many scores from the West Indies are in a much better state. For example, the 1965 tour scorebook, recorded by locals, is quite sound.)
There are ‘issues’ with other scores from this tour. To cut a long story short, it confirms a point I have made earlier; that balls faced data for batsmen recorded before the computer age are only approximately reliable. A quick look at three independent sources for balls faced for the fifth Test of 1991 shows significant differences, and a full re-score of the scorebook produces different figures again. At least in the re-score the total of balls faced reconciles with the number of balls bowled, which cannot be said for the other sources.
Don’t Bother Running
Most of the records for concentrated boundary hitting, i.e. high percentages of scoring in fours and sixes, have been set in modern times, thanks to improving bats and smaller grounds. So it was interesting to come across some detail on an innings by Roy Dias of Sri Lanka in 1982, which represents an earlier extreme case of boundary hitting. The Sri Lanka Daily News says that Dias, batting against India in Madras, reached his half-century with 12 fours. Now sometimes reports like this are misprints, but this one is supported by an earlier statement that Dias hit six fours in his first 25 runs.
So I put together a list of the most extreme cases of boundary hitting in a half-century that I have come across. Only a handful of these dates from before 1998.
And a very unusual one
Arguably the most extreme example is by Herschelle Gibbs in 2001, 48 of his first 50 runs in fours, although the freak innings by Tim Southee exceeded all the other boundary tallies, with 50 out of 53. Reggie Spooner in 1905 only received 5 runs for his “six”; with modern scoring, he would have registered 46 out of his first 50 in boundaries.
Dias, incidentally was playing in what was only his country’s fifth Test match.
UPDATE: Mohan and Sreeram have suggested some additions to the list. Gus Logie (81) hit 12 fours in his first 53 at Lord’s 1988. Saurav Ganguly reached 51 with 10 fours and a six at Hamilton on 1999 on the way to 101, as did Viv Richards (114) in his century against England at St John’s in 1981. RS Kaluwitharana hit 12 fours in his 51 against Zimbabwe at Colombo in 1998.
Cricket Archive gives Madan Lal 11 fours and a six in his 52* against Pakistan in Karachi in 1982, which would surpass Southee’s mark. However, this figure is in doubt. The Times of India report says Madan hit 10 fours and a six, and also specifically mentions strokes for 2 and 1, which would preclude the extra boundary.
20 August 2010
A handful of small items...
Historical research into cricket statistics can be, at times, a little dry, I must admit. But occasionally there are moments of amusement. I got a chuckle out of this particular headline, from the Times of India in 1989 (copied from a microfilm).
Speaking of unique innings, Ravi Shastri managed one at Eden Gardens in 1987. He was bowled by Abdul Qadir on the second ball he faced, having scored five runs off his first ball thanks to overthrows. This is the highest-known score by a batsman out second ball, since I haven’t found any cases of a batsman hitting a six and being out second ball, although Sanath Jayasuriya scored six not out from one ball against England in 1993. More than 40 batsmen have been out second ball and scored four.
UPDATE. Mohan has pointed out a contender. In the dying moments of the 1955 Kingston Test, Frank King, fresh to the wicket, hit a six off Ian Johnson and was out next ball. It is not clear that the six was off his first ball faced, but it may well have been. Frank Worrell had been out earlier in the same over, and Ray Robinson’s notebook gives King a time of 2 minutes.
Maninder Singh took five wickets in his first 33 balls at Bangalore in 1987 against Pakistan, in the first session of the match. The wickets came in the space of 26 balls. (There is a list of the known records in this category in the entry on the 26 April.) Given that the previous eleven Tests between the two countries had been drawn, accompanied mostly by severe boredom, Maninder’s breakthrough must have astonished spectators and fans. Even so, it was Pakistan who won the match, by 16 runs, after being bowled out for 116. Only twice in the last 100 years has a team been bowled out for less on the first day and gone on to win the match.
Graham McKenzie took five with his first 34 balls at the MCG in 1967/68, and forced another batsman (Rusi Surti) to retire hurt. McKenzie opened the bowling, and his wickets were all taken in the first hour of the match.
Update on Umrigar. I mentioned last year (December 9) that ‘Polly’ Umrigar had scored a century in a session, previously unrecognised, at Port-of-Spain in 1961/62. I didn’t have an exact figure but can now confirm that Umrigar went from 63 to 172 between lunch and tea, 109 runs. The tally benefited from the extension of the session by 30 minutes when the ninth wicket fell just before the scheduled tea break.
A Note on Consistency
There have been a couple of items recently where the subject of measuring a batsman’s consistency has cropped up. There was a paper in the Journal of Quantitative Analysis of Sports by Booroah and Mangan, kindly sent to me by Shekhar, and an item on Cricinfo by Gabriel Rogers referred to by Dave Barry.
I suppose I could get into the arcane of the statistical methods but one, much more basic, question is more interesting to me.
The question is : is a ‘consistent’ batsman better or more valuable than an ‘inconsistent’ batsman?
Although the answer might seem obvious, in my opinion it is not obvious at all. The trouble is, when a cricket commentator criticises a batsman for being ‘inconsistent’, he is not talking about the same thing that a statistician might assume. The commentator will almost always be referring to a batsman who fails frequently. Such inconsistency will be reflected in the player’s batting average. You will never hear a batsman being criticised for inconsistency after he scores a double-century, yet such a score will greatly increase a statistical measure of inconsistency.
It is not at all clear to me that a batsman who makes many half-centuries is more valuable than another, with the same average, who makes many single-digit and triple-digit scores. Indeed, the latter batsman will play more really memorable or match-winning innings.
Of course, which batsman is more valuable will vary depending on match circumstances.
So I disagree with downgrading a batsman’s average just because his scores are unusually variable (I don’t think that Rogers actually argues this, but Booroah and Mangan seem to). Rogers finds evidence that high averages correlate (rather roughly) with consistency, but has not yet shown that consistency is as useful as batting average as a measure of batting achievement.
Consistency is an interesting characteristic of a player, but not a measure of overall quality.
30 July 2010
One More Record for Sachin
Sachin Tendulkar’s 48th Test century, against Sri Lanka the other day, came just a few days short of the 20th anniversary his first Test century, a 119 against England at Old Trafford in 1990. (Coming before his 18th birthday, that first century made him the youngest Test century maker up to that time, with the questionable exception of Mushtaq Mohammad). This extraordinary timespan puts him ahead of Bradman by this measure of Test match longevity. I wondered who had had the longest careers at the top, as measured by their ability to score centuries. The following table resulted...
It is notable that the next five careers on the list all included long wartime interruptions. The list is also notable for the relative absence of other recent cricketers; none of the next eleven players is a contemporary to the Little Master. Vijay Merchant is an interesting case, in that he scored only three centuries in his Test career, two of them coming in his last two innings but five years apart, in the days when India played very few Tests.
Note that most of the dates refer to the first day of the respective Test matches, rather than the day each century was scored, so the figures are not exact.
A Tale of Two Triples
My ongoing Test studies have recently passed through 1965 and into 1966, and have included two triple centuries, by John Edrich 310* off 451 balls at Headingley in 1965 and Bob Cowper 307 off 589 balls at the MCG in 1966. These innings came only eight Tests apart. The latter innings has a touch of personal interest, in that it is my earliest clear memory of watching cricket on TV. I recall seeing Cowper, in glorious black and white, get bowled for 307, and commentator Norman May on the ABC was extolling this “magnificent innings”, and I thought, “no it wasn’t, it was really boring”. Forty-four years on, perhaps I can attempt a more sophisticated analysis.
The innings are similar only superficially. There are major differences in the detail of the scoring strokes. Edrich’s innings, with 52 fours and five sixes, remains the richest Test innings ever seen in terms of boundaries, quite surprising given the modern penchant for heavy hitting. Cowper, by contrast, hit only 20 fours, the fewest for any triple century, and the ten fours recorded in his first 200 is the lowest for any double century as well. The key to this was the difference in ground conditions. Contemporary reports talk of the “lightning” outfield that Edrich enjoyed, comparing it to the conditions exploited by Bradman in his 309 in one day in 1930. Edrich hit only three threes, and none at all in his last 190 runs. At the other end Ken Barrington’s first 50 included ten fours and a rare hit for seven runs.
By contrast, the MCG outfield that Cowper contended with was beyond dead slow. This was seen even on the first day, when the England batsmen hit ten threes before striking the first boundary. On the third day, Australia scored 234 runs for one wicket with only five shots reaching the boundary all day; another five fours were all-run. In addition to his two all-run fours, Cowper hit a record 26 threes in his innings, and had 167 scoring shots to Edrich’s 115. The number of scoring shots by Cowper is not especially unusual as triple-centuries go, but Edrich’s total is extremely low.
So in spite of scoring his runs 32% faster than Cowper, Edrich actually scored off a lower percentage of the balls he faced, scoring off 25.5% of his balls faced to Cowper’s 28.3%. This shows, that at the very least, Cowper was not guilty of the defensiveness that a twelve-hour triple century might suggest. The lack of boundaries was also uncharacteristic of Cowper, in spite of the fact that he never hit a six in his Test career. In his other Test innings, Cowper scored a healthy 47% of his runs in boundaries, vs 43.5% for Edrich. Conclusion? Cowper’s lack of boundaries, and Edrich’s surfeit, were largely the product of local conditions.
One can actually take Cowper’s 167 scoring strokes and distribute the ones, twos, threes and fours into the same proportions struck by Edrich. This a very theoretical exercise, but it produces an adjusted score under “Headingley” conditions for Cowper of, wait for it, 445 runs!
I calculate that Cowper ran over 8500 yards between the wickets during his innings, not including any running done for shots that reached the boundary. Edrich only ran about 3700 yards.
20 July 2010
Big First Partnerships
Earlier this year, Alviro
Petersen scored a Test century on debut. This is not especially rare, but he
was also involved in a double century partnership (209 with Hashim Amla)
The highest partnerships involving a batsman playing his first Test innings are 429 by Jacques Rudolph (against Bangladesh, ho hum) and 281 by Javed Miandad against New Zealand in 1976 (with Asif Iqbal). However, neither partnership was the very first for those batsmen. The highest debut partnerships are as follows
The Khalid Ibadulla/Abdul Kadir partnership us unique in that both players were making their Test debuts. They were a curious pair. Abdul Kadir played his last Test only a few months later, while ‘Billy’ Ibadulla’s next best score in Tests was 32, and, apart from that 166, his average was 12. Nevertheless, Ibadulla had a long and successful career in English county cricket.
By a curious coincidence, Ian Redpath appears twice on the list with separate partnerships of 219, firstly on his own debut, and then seven years later as a partner of Greg Chappell.
It is interesting that there is only one case from the last 1100 Test matches, but six from the first 800 Tests. In general, notable debuts are becoming rarer, mainly because players have much longer careers now (in matches played). The number of debutants per match, so to speak, is much lower than it once was. In the 1950s there were 1.55 debutants per Test. In the 2000s, it was 0.83.
UPDATE: Lawrence Rowe has been added to the above table, and Petersen removed (his 200 partnership was actually his second). Thanks to Mohan for pointing out the omission. I have run the analysis again and I don’t think there are any more cases. Seymour Nurse’s first Test partnership totalled 243 runs, but this included a batsman retiring hurt.
Apart from the players mentioned above, the other batsmen to be in double-ton partnerships during their debuts are Gordon Greenidge, Fawad Alam, Mohammad Azharuddin, Roger Hartigan and Wayne B. Phillips.
More Scorebook Mysteries
I have recently studied the official scorebook for the unique one-run victory by the West Indies against Australia in 1992/93. The score reveals an interesting irony. In 1998, the protocols for calculating scores were changed slightly. Previously, no balls only attracted a penalty run if no other run was scored from them. The current system, far more logical and perhaps 150 years overdue, adds the run regardless of other scoring. Where previously a no ball hit for four scored only four runs, now it scores five.
As it happens, that Adelaide Test contained no fewer than 63 calls of no ball. Off nine of them, runs were scored by the batsmen, three by West Indian batsmen and six by Australians. There were also two other no balls, one for each side, where the batsmen ran ‘byes’ or ‘leg byes’. So under the 1998 rule change, West Indies would have scored four more runs, and Australia seven, enough to give the match to Australia!
There are one or two oddities about the score, which could be critical in such a close match. I may return to this at a later time.
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4 July 2010
Test cricket is rarely more exciting than when a last-wicket pair is trying to hold out for a draw. While success for the batting team in this situation is rare, it has been noticeable recently. It cropped up twice in one series in South Africa last season, England making the escape on both occasions, and when Monty Panesar and James Anderson held out for 69 balls at Cardiff last year it pretty much cost Australia the Ashes.
I have put together a list of the longest 10th-wicket stands to force a draw in the final innings of a Test. It does not include cases such as at Cardiff, where the draw was effectively secured before the final ball was bowled (because the partnership had put England into the lead). The two-hour partnership between Allan Border and Terry Alderman in Trinidad in 1984 is in the same category.
There have been 18 drawn Tests where the result was uncertain up to the final ball, not including the strange case in Kingston in 1978 when the match was abandoned by the umpires at the fall of the ninth wicket, after a crowd riot started. Only six of the 18 were achieved by the #10 and #11 batsmen batting together. Two batsmen have been involved twice, both current players: Graham Onions was involved in both England’s escapes in South Africa; Fidel Edwards has been there at the death twice for the West Indies.
The drawn Tests where the last pair held out for more than 50 balls, and the result was uncertain till the final ball (this excludes Panesar and Anderson, who had put England into the lead before the match ended), are:
Discovering the number of balls involved in the famous Mackay/Kline partnership took quite some research, since these things were little-reported in those days, and no scorebook of the match survives. So I have written a piece on the details of this partnership, and have posted it here.
15 June 2010
More on Long Bowling Spells etc
In the Unusual Records section, the longest-known bowling spells by individual bowlers have been recorded. The list suggests that the longest bowling spell by an Australian was 51.2 overs by Tom Veivers at Old Trafford in 1964, during England’s interminable 611 off 293.1 overs. (Veivers’ spell has been reported, incorrectly, in other publications as 55.2 overs.) I was certainly surprised, then, to find that not only is this not the Australian record, but that it was not even the longest spell Veivers bowled in 1964!
The Test played by Australia in Calcutta in 1964 is little remembered, partly because it was one of the first Tests in India to be ruined by rain, the last two days being washed out. In India’s innings, Veivers bowled 52 overs, and as it happened, it was in one ‘continuous’ spell (interrupted only by planned and unplanned breaks). The fact that Veivers bowled unchanged only became evident on re-scoring the scorebook (kept at Cricket NSW).
The match has another statistical footnote. When Indian spinner Durani (6 for 73) ripped through the Australian middle-order and tail, at one point there were no runs at all for 78 balls. Ian Redpath held up one end. Surti and Chandrasekhar were the other bowlers involved.
Another ‘new’ extreme scoreless spell emerged as I analysed the famous Mackay/Kline last wicket stand that saved the Adelaide Test of 1960/61. It appears that the last 10 (eight-ball) overs were maidens, giving a total of 80-87 scoreless balls. There were, however, some sundries, and one report mentions two runs scored by Mackay (others suggest these were byes). A full analysis of this great partnership will be posted on this blog in the near future.
Also previously overlooked in Unusual Records is the bowling of Ramadhin and Valentine in Brisbane in 1951/52. In Australia’s second innings, Ram bowled 40 (eight-ball) overs and Val 40.7, with opening bowlers Worrell and Gomez contributing just 2 and 3 overs respectively. At the end of the fourth day, each bowler had bowled 22 of the 49 overs at that point, and the two spinners continued on the final morning until Australia won the match, (by three wickets, a struggle all the way). One report suggests that the two spinners’ overs came without a bowling change which, equivalent to 107.5 six-ball overs, would make it by far the longest-known spell by two bowlers (the known extreme is 86 overs by the same bowlers at Lord’s in 1950).
However, given that Worrell and Gomez bowled the first four overs (Gomez taking a wicket in the fourth over), it is not logistically possible that the spin pair bowled that number of overs without change. They must have changed ends at some point, and indeed the Sydney Morning Herald states that they did, after tea on the fourth day. The report implies that this happened immediately after tea, with Gomez’ third over inserted after about 20 overs had been bowled. If so, the unchanged spell was 64.7 eight-ball overs, which would be enough for the record by a margin of just three balls. Unfortunately, none of the sources searched so far permit certainty.
Ramadhin and Valentine actually took the second new ball during this innings, after 66 overs. They raised many eyebrows by rubbing the ball on the ground to scuff up one side.
23 May 2010
The Fastest Debut 50s
In March I offered a list of the fastest-known centuries on Test debut. I can now add some thoughts on the fastest 50 on debut, sparked by the discovery of a contender from the deep past.
The ultimate statement on fast debut 50s was made by Tim Southee of New Zealand, against England in 2008. Southee took just 29 balls and 38 minutes to reach his half-century. However, coming in the final innings of the match, it was not his first Test innings. For that record, we must look elsewhere.
I recently obtained another set of newspaper reports (Johannesburg Star) from Australia’s first Tests in South Africa in 1902. These matches were notable for fierce scoring throughout, setting some records that still look impressive today.
The series started in Johannesburg on 11 October 1902. There is evidence that the Australian players, after a long tour of England in one of that country’s wettest summers on record, would rather have been on the way home than playing on a frosty Joburg spring day. Joburg at the time was a newborn city, which 15 years before had been nothing but veldt. It is also notable for cold mornings and high altitude.
On a matting wicket, South Africa scored a remarkable 428 for 7 on the first day, doubly remarkable because there was only 4 hours 20 minutes of play (88 overs). Most of the series seems to have been scheduled for only 5 hours play per day, three days per Test, the shortest schedule of any Tests ever played. Exactly why there was so little play on the first day, I haven’t fully divined from the reports. The Australians weren’t enthusiastic about their task and may have delayed the start with a practice session (there had been no warm-up or practice games, after their long journey from England). Both the bowling and fielding were described as sloppy.
The batsmen certainly made up for any time limitations. South Africa was 179 for 1 at lunch on the first day (41 overs), a total that, as far as I know, has not been exceeded in a Test before or since. But it was after a tea break was taken, at 293 for 3 off 67 overs, that the loudest batting fireworks were unleashed. AW ‘Dave’ Nourse, whose career would last almost 22 years, made his debut batting at #8. A reconstruction of the innings (from five independent South African newspaper reports) gives Nourse 50 off about 40 balls in 40 minutes (ten fours), on the way to 72 off about 65 balls. In partnership with EA Halliwell (57 off about 60 balls) the eighth wicket stand was worth 124 off about 115 balls.
When it comes to fast scoring in his debut innings, Nourse is a real contender. Here are the fastest such innings I know of (minutes batted, then balls faced)
Fastest Half-Centuries on Debut (minutes batted)
Fastest Half-Centuries on Debut (balls faced, where known)
** In team’s second innings
26 April 2010
A while ago a correspondent, Peter Thompson, asked about bowlers who had taken five wickets in a Test innings very rapidly. Now there is an entry on this subject under “Unusual Records”, but the question was specifically about bowlers who have reached five wickets in an innings in the shortest period after they first came on to bowl. An equivalent to a batsman reaching 100 very quickly.
The question was raised after Stuart Broad took five wickets at the Oval in 2009 after bowling only 8.4 overs (52 balls). This is quite a rare achievement in terms of recent Ashes Tests, but how does it rank over all of Test history?
After searching the ball-by-ball database, and some bowling records, the following list resulted. Note that the database only covers about 1100 of the 1950-odd Tests.
Fewest balls to reach five wickets in an innings
Some – well, most – of these bowlers benefited from bowling to tailenders, and for some, including the leader Ernie Toshack, the figures comprise their entire bowling for the innings. Perhaps Trumble is a more notable achievement (even thought the wickets was a ‘sticky’) since he came on with only two wickets down, and took another wicket with his next ball, to achieve the hat-trick, and six wickets in four overs.
There are no cases from 1955 to 2002. This is partly because the database is very incomplete from 1965-97, but I suspect also that it was not an era for such freakish achievements of this type. The search continues. Any suggestions welcome.
UPDATE: Maninder Singh took five in his first 33 balls at Bangalore in 1987 against Pakistan, in the first session of the match. The wickets came in the space of 26 balls.
Graham McKenzie took five with his first 34 balls at the MCG in 1967/68, for 19 runs, and forced another batsman (Rusi Surti) to retire hurt. McKenzie opened the bowling, and the wickets were all taken in the first 45 minutes of the match. He took 6/33 before lunch.
The Slowest Double-Century
I have written on this subject before, noting that that title of slowest Test double-century (in balls faced) is a close race. Sid Barnes took 607 balls to reach 200 in 1946/47, but Bobby Simpson just pipped that figure at Old Trafford in 1964. I have just completed a full re-score of Simpson’s innings (from Dave Sherwood’s running sheets held by Cricket NSW) and settled on a figure of 609 balls for his first 200.
The scorebooks for both innings have slight anomalies; the scorers, just occasionally, did not record the full number of balls in certain overs, and it is uncertain if these were really short overs or not. However, these problems are few, and I am happy with the above result.
It is possible that both these innings were shaded by Glenn Turner’s 259 in 1971/72. I have been supplied with a figure of 611 balls for the 200. However I have not seen this figure in print, and it is not found in the scorebook facsimile published with the tour book, so I would regard it as unconfirmed. It is not fully consistent with other figures from that innings.
Simpson’s first 200 contained only eleven boundaries, perhaps also a record on the low side. (Grant flower’s double ton for Zimbabwe contained 11 fours and a six, Bradman’s double at Adelaide in 1936/37 had only 12 fours. Bob Cowper’s 307 at the MCG may have had only 10 fours in the first 200). It was not until he had been batting more than eleven hours that Simpson changed his approach. At one stage 230 off 684 balls in almost 700 minutes, he scored his last 81 off only 57 balls. Not out overnight on 265, he eschewed major records by swinging at everything on the third morning, adding 46 off 22 balls, and scoring off almost every ball he faced. Simpson’s final tally was 311 off 741 balls (the figure given on the running sheets is 740, added up by hand). Cricket Archive has 743 balls; don’t know where they got that figure from.
6 April 2010
Another extreme case of a long period without scoring (see entry for 15 March) has turned up. It was during the Madras Test of 1963/64, and as such is not a great surprise, since this was the Test of Bapu Nadkarni’s record 21 consecutive maiden overs. Re-scoring the MCC scorebook reveals a very long spell without score on the third day, 79 balls in all straddling the lunch break, faced by Brian Bolus and Ken Barrington. Nadkarni and Kripal Singh each bowled a maiden before lunch, then Borde and Nadkarni (who changed ends) bowled 10 in a row afterward. There were no sundries, so this is the longest spell identified to date with no score whatsoever (the very few longer ones either definitely or probably contained sundries).
Between lunch and tea England scored just 27 runs, including four byes, off 40 overs, with no wickets. Nadkarni bowled nineteen overs in the session for one run. I can confirm that Nadkarni bowled 130 rather than the reported 131 consecutive scoreless balls, spread over two spells. Just before tea Nadkarni conceded a single and The Times wryly observed he was then “taken off as though being altogether too expensive”, so Borde bowled the last over before tea (another maiden).
Bolus scored 88 off 406 balls, and takes his place in the pantheon of slow scoring, though not a match for Bruce Mitchell’s 88 off 475 balls in 1929 or Alec Bannerman’s 91 off 620 in 1892. Barrington’s 80 off 313 balls was sprightly only by comparison. Their partnership of 119 off 510 balls, at 23.3 runs per 100 balls, is the slowest century partnership for which I have exact figures for balls bowled.
Notes from the re-score: the first wicket appears to fall at 13 not 12. The reported stumps score on the second day requires revision, Wilson being 7 not out at sumps, not 2 not out. There are some anomalies in the scorebook that create some uncertainty about exact stats, but they do not affect the day of “interest”.
There is a more notable error in published figures for the second Test in Bombay. In England’s second innings, Borde is recorded as bowling 37 overs for 38 runs, but he actually bowled only 27 overs. The scorer wrote down 37, but only 27 overs are filled in, and this is confirmed by the re-score. India bowled 124 overs, not 134, in this innings.
In the first innings in Bombay, Fred Titmus scored 84 off 330 balls, reaching his 50 in 260 balls. This latter figure places well among in the Top 10 slowest half-centuries known. This was the Test where England were unable to field eleven fit players, such was the rate of injury and illness in the tour party, and only two specialist batsmen batted. Bhagwat Chandrasekhar made his Test debut in this match; those who ever saw him bat will not be surprised to learn that he was bowled by the first ball he faced in Test cricket.
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27 March 2010
One interesting Test series that is not represented by a surviving scorebook is the Ashes series of 1907/08. There is, however, a partial score of the first Test in the archive of Cricket NSW, incomplete and evidently from an amateur source. The Test was an exciting one, won by Australia by two wickets thanks to an unbeaten ninth wicket stand of 56 by Hazlitt and Cotter.
The MCC team featured one George Gunn, who was in Australia for ‘health reasons’ and not part of the squad. He had never played Test cricket, but was called up only a day or two before this match when the team was saddled with illness and injury. He scored 119 on debut on the first day, a fascinating innings that has been rather forgotten.
Now the strangest thing about that scorebook is while England’s first innings is otherwise complete, with every other individual innings, and every ball of the bowling analysis present, Gunn’s innings is completely absent. Hard to say why, but it appears that someone wrote down a team list before Gunn’s selection was announced, and stuck to that list!
Nevertheless, it was possible, barely, to re-score this innings and estimate balls faced. Estimate is the best word, because there are a considerable number of anomalies in the score (not entirely surprising given the other problems). I was interested in Gunn because he reached his 100 in 122 minutes, which ranks very high among the fastest debut centuries ever.
I was a little disappointed to come up with 135 balls faced for his 100 and 175 balls for the whole innings. A bit slower than expected, but still impressive, and worthy of the ‘Golden Age’. It is similar to estimates for Harry Graham in 1893 and Ranjitsinhji in 1899. Apparently the over rate while Gunn batted was rather fast – he was at the crease for 59 of the 76 overs in the innings.
Gunn’s batting time does not include a strange ten minute interlude after lunch when the Australian team threatened to go on strike. Off-field tensions between Australian players and the game’s administrators had led to a stand-off; the players had posted a list of people who were welcome in their dressing room, pointedly not including any of the game’s grandees. The authorities demanded it be taken down, the players refused, and conflict ensued. It would be another four years, though, before a real strike ended the careers of a number of senior Australian players.
Gunn’s time of 122 minutes for his debut century was recently beaten by Matthew Prior, 118 minutes at Lord’s in 2006. Devon Smith scored a century in 103 minutes in the second innings of his debut Test. I think that Gunn has the quickest century if you start from the beginning of his debut Test, about 200 minutes elapsed time after play started. Conrad Hunte achieved a very similar time in 1958.
Here is a list of the fastest known debut centuries, in balls faced. Where balls faced is not available, I have substituted estimates based on time and prevailing over rate, as denoted.
** in second innings
389 Balls without a Boundary
Following on from previous comments about the longest periods without scoring, I happened upon a period of more than three and a quarter hours where no boundaries were hit. It came in the fifth Test in Sydney in 1963/64, where the batsmen responsible were (mainly) South Africa’s Trevor Goddard and Tony Pithey, with a bit of help from Eddie Barlow. The spell included the entire pre-lunch session on the third day. Goddard hit a four in the first over of the innings, and the next boundary – by Pithey – came in the 49th (eight-ball) over. Goddard went 211 balls without a four and Pithey 184 balls. Goddard’s drought surpassed Trevor Bailey’s 196 balls during his notorious 68 at the ’Gabba in 1958.
The outfield was slow, but not so slow that Keith Bland could later that innings hit 13 fours and a six in his 126. Goddard and Pithey at one stage even went for 235 balls without hitting any threes. Pithey ended up with 49 off 245 balls, with two fours.
South Africa was punished for this inactivity. They dominated the rest of the match but ran out of time; an extra hour would have given them an easy win. As it was, they had to settle for a 1-1 series result. They weren’t the first, or last, team to fail to seize their moment against Australia.
15 March 2010
Time to Add Something
My blog-writing has slipped away. I have, however, been actively working on things cricket, this time of the paid variety. I will still try to occasionally add to the blog from time to time.
I have once or twice in the past alluded to an interesting but difficult record to research. What is the longest spell without scoring in a Test match? This category of record has been reported occasionally for individual batsmen or bowlers, but not for teams.
A complete list for the record is still not possible, but it may be worth presenting intermediate results from my burgeoning database. The database now contains ball-by-ball records for about 1100 of the 1950 or so Test matches. The longest spells without runs off the bat, in terms of balls bowled, in the database are
Balls without Scoring
92 England v West Indies, Lord's 1950 - 2nd Inns
During the final stage of a famous West Indies victory, England tailenders Wardle and Jenkins faced 15 consecutive maiden overs from four bowlers.
88-92 Australia v England, Melbourne (MCG) 1882 - 1st Inns
Alec Bannerman and Bill Murdoch faced 22 maiden (4-ball) overs from Barnes, Barlow and Bates.
81 New Zealand v England, Leeds (Headingley) 1958 - 2nd Inns
Faced mostly by John Reid and Bert Sutcliffe (0 from 51 balls) off Lock and Laker
79 England v India, Madras 1964 - 1st Inns
Bolus and Barrington around lunch on the 3rd day, during Bapu Nadkarni’s record 21 consecutive maidens.
77 England v West Indies, Lord's 1950 - 1st Inns
The same team and match as the #1 spot. Ramadhin and Valentine bowled. Bill Edrich scored one run off his first 84 balls faced in this innings.
74 Pakistan v England, Lord's 1954 - 1st Inns
Hanif Mohammad scored 20 off 223 balls in this innings, the slowest innings of its size known. Laker and Wardle were the bowlers.
74 Australia v South Africa, Johannesburg (New Wanderers) 1957 - 2nd Inns
‘Slasher’ Mackay and Peter Burge off Tayfield, VI Smith and Goddard.
71 West Indies v England, Birmingham (Edgbaston) 1957 - 2nd Inns
The Three ‘W’s, believe it or not (Worrell, Walcott, Weekes). This was in the aftermath of the record 411 partnership of Cowdrey and May.
70 England v Australia, Leeds (Headingley) 1961 - 1st Inns
Dexter, Barrington and Murray off Benaud and Davidson. The first eleven overs of the second day were maidens.
68 England v West Indies, Bridgetown, Barbados 1953 - 1st Inns
Hutton and Graveney off five different bowlers.
67 Australia v England, Sydney (SCG) 1884 - 1st Inns
Bannerman and Jones. Quite uncertain about this one.
67 New Zealand v England, Auckland 1962 - 1st Inns
Three batsmen off four bowlers.
The domination of the 1950s in this list is a little exaggerated, because Tests from 1964 to 1997 are less well-represented in the database at this stage. However, I would expect that the 1950s era would still feature strongly in a complete list. The absence of modern Tests is genuine. The longest scoreless spell in the last 550 Test matches is 62 balls by the Pakistan tail against India at Kolkata in 2005.
Most of the above sequences contain sundries, although sometimes it is not possible to exactly locate these, because they are not specifically recorded in the scorebooks. The highest entry on the above list where there was no score whatsoever is the fourth (77 balls at Lord’s 1950). Revised: see 6 April 2010 entry.
There are no exact times for most of these becalmed periods. What can we say about these spells in terms of time? If the over rates for the whole innings are applied to the above list, in order to estimate times, the slowest is the second on the list at 43-44 minutes. However, there is one modern contender here, thanks to slow modern over rates. Against Australia at Harare in 1999, Zimbabwe batted for approximately 43 minutes without a run off the bat (61 balls). The batsmen were GW Flower, Goodwin and Gripper, the bowlers McGrath and Warne. There were two byes and a no ball.
Any suggested additions to this list would be welcome.
UPDATE. I have just come across a report (Times of India) of the second Test between India and Pakistan at Kanpur in 1960. It says that for a period 45 minutes during the lunch-tea session on the first day “not a run was taken”. The report states that Borde and Umrigar “shared eleven maidens in succession”, but there might have been more if there were other bowlers involved as well. The over rate that day was 21 overs per hour (106 overs in 5 hours). At that rate, 45 minutes gives a minimum of 16 overs and probably more, since there were no runs or wickets, and Borde and Umrigar were not known for long run-ups.
Ironically, this was only two days after the famous finish to the Tied Test in Brisbane. By contrast, the report described the batting in Kanpur after lunch as “mortifying”, and “fit to make the angels weep”. Two days later, with India finally batting, Mr K.N. Prabhiu’s report waxed even more lyrical. When Jaisimha scored just seven runs in the two-hour pre-lunch session, Prabhiu wrote “Such batting sins against the light. If it is in the cause of Test cricket, a plague on it.” Jaisimha batted through the day for 54 runs, still the most meagre output by any batsman in a complete Test match day (containing at least 75 overs), a record equalled by Chandu Borde later in the same series.
All five Tests of that series were drawn, mostly in the dullest way possible. The two teams would not meet again for more than 17 years.
UPDATE 2. An extreme case from 1963/64 has been added to the above list. See entry for 6 April 2010.
3 December 2009
Some Unknown Centuries in a Session
Even though scoring rates in Tests are increasing with our smaller grounds and super bats, the scoring of a century in a session by a batsman was a little more common in the past than now (not withstanding the feats of Virender Sehwag, who scored 133 in a session just today). That’s thanks mainly to the higher over rates in olden times, when it was possible for 45 or 50 overs to be bowled in a session. In my recent research I have come across four one-session centuries that don’t appear to have been recognised in the record books.
1. WR Hammond (167) v India at Old Trafford 1936. Hammond was 118 not out in 120 minutes at stumps after reaching 100 at a run a minute. This appears to have been the product of one session. I haven’t seen mention of a tea break in any of the reports I have consulted, even the extensive one in the Manchester Guardian, and I have presumed that a slightly early tea was taken when India was all out for 203, after which England scored 173 for 2. In the next Test at The Oval, Hammond scored 92 runs in a session on his way to 217.
2. Kenneth “Bam Bam” Weekes played only two Tests, the last two played before World War II. In the final Test at the Oval, Weekes scored a spectacular century, going on to 137 at faster than a run a minute. His first 113 runs came between lunch and tea on the second day, West Indies going from 152/3 to 360/5. Just after tea, he hit 20 of the 21 runs conceded in a single over by Perks. An over-by-over reconstruction of this innings gives an estimate of 135 balls faced, with 100 coming off 110 balls. Shortly after he was out, a thunderstorm ended play for the day with the score at 395. The following day, the last in Test cricket for over six years, Learie Constantine hit an even more spectacular 79 off about 63 balls, an innings analysed in the blog entry for 6 Sep 2006.
Weekes’ more illustrious cousin Everton twice scored a century in a session
for West indies in the 1955/56 series in New
Zealand. On the first day of the series, Weekes went from 13 to 123 in the
final session, West Indies progressing from 48/2 to 234/3. New Zealand had
been bowled out for 74 earlier in the day: Weekes scored a century on the
first day of a Test for a team batting second,
UPDATE. Surprising to find that Colin Cowdrey hit a century in a session, a feat also unnoticed in the record books. On the first day at Edgbaston in 1962 against Pakistan, Cowdrey went from 47 at lunch to 157 at tea. He was out for 159 off 235 balls, three overs after tea. The century in a session may have gone unnoticed by record-keepers because Wisden makes no mention, but it was discussed in The Times. There is a scorebook, and it confirms this indirectly, although it does not give specific scores at the breaks. I think this is only the fourth known case of a century in a session from the 1960s, and Cowdrey’s 110 runs represents the most runs in a session in that decade.
Well, possibly. Another unnoticed century in a session had been scored by ‘Polly’ Umrigar at Port-of-Spain only a few weeks earlier. I haven’t yet found exact figures, but in India’s second innings Umrigar went from about 62 (in a score of 286) at lunch to 172 not out at tea (422 all out). The session was extended half an hour due to the fall of the ninth wicket. The context was remarkable. Umrigar’s efforts up to that point in the match included bowling 56 overs and scoring 228 runs, and this all before tea on the fourth day. He was said to be completely exhausted by this, no wonder.
India were following on, and in the previous Test at Bridgetown the team had taken 185 overs to score 187 runs, the slowest innings of its size in all Test cricket. What a contrast.
1 November 2009
A passing comment by Christian Ryan in his book about Kim Hughes (Golden Boy) got me wondering: which batsman has hit the winning runs in a Test match most often? Ryan had said that Jeff Moss in 1979 was the first batsman since Frank Penn in 1880 to hit the winning runs in his only Test. Not strictly true, as I found that Penn had been non-striker when WG Grace hit the winning run at the Oval.
Trivial as the question was, it gave the database a good interrogation. It is easy to find out who was present in Tests where winning runs were hit, but not so easy to work out which specific batsman was responsible in each case. I was able to identify the specific batsman in 93% of cases.
There have been fewer than 500 Tests decided by a wickets margin, and, for most players, hitting the winning runs is a rare honour. Bradman never did it (although he once faced the last ball of a Test which was won by four byes). Shivnarine Chanderpaul has not done it, and there are no clear instances for Graham Gooch in his 8900 Test runs.
Not surprisingly, the batsmen who feature most often usually played for very successful teams. Desmond Haynes was present at the death, either as striker or non-striker, on 18 occasions. Ricky Ponting has 13, Jacques Kallis 11, Hayden, Thorpe and Greenidge 10.
It is Ponting who emerges as the specialist in this field, hitting the winning runs nine times. He may share the top podium with Haynes, who has seven, but who was at the crease in two other Tests where I cannot identify the winning shot-maker. In one other winning Test, Haynes faced the final ball, but it was finished by a no ball. The players who have enjoyed the winning-shot experience most times are
*plus two other possible instances.
Byes have been the final winning runs in at least 12 Tests. Greg Chappell may belong in the above table; he has four known instances plus one possible.
Some 16 players are known to have done it on debut, most recently IR Siddiqui of India, against England in 2001, who like Moss hit the winning run in his only Test match.
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10 October 2009
While some players can look like immovable fixtures in Test teams – Allan Border famously played 153 consecutive Tests for Australia – others miss Tests frequently, through lack of form, unavailability, or injury. Here is a little calculation showing which players were in and out of their teams most often. It counts the number of times a player played for his country, without appearing in his country’s next Test.
Most for West Indies, 14 by S Chanderpaul, New Zealand 12 by RO Collinge
Note, this is not a measure of the total number of Tests missed during a career, but the number of times the player was in and out of the team. Some of the names on the table, such as Old and Emburey, are no surprise, but Brian Statham at the top of the table was a surprise to me.
Staham did miss some tours, and went on one or two when England did not send its strongest team abroad (such as 1951/52 to India), only to be dropped afterwards. His place on the table is also a sign of the strength of England’s bowling during his career. The list of England players who served as twelfth man during the 1956 Ashes series is an interesting one
Add to this list Frank Tyson, who was only selected for one Test of that series, and you have one formidable set of bowlers who couldn’t hold down a secure team place. Ten years earlier, any of these six would have been among the first selected for England.
The ratio of misses to played Tests for Statham is about 0.37. Some others who had shorter careers have higher ratios; in other words, they were dropped or injured more regularly. The highest ratios among those who missed Tests ten times or more are
0.83 ‘Nana’ Joshi of India – ten misses, played 12 Tests in the 1950s
0.67 Bill Bowes of England (1930s and 40s)
0.57 Andrew Hall of South Africa, a recent player.
0.48 Kumara Dharmasena of Sri Lanka
0.48 Neil Foster of England
In general, English players tend to dominate these lists, with 37 out of the top 95 places in an extended table (there are only six Australians). England selectors have never been loath to experiment with their team.
20 September 2009
The “Hot 100” section has been updated. I only update this occasionally now. It turns out that a player’s scoring speed, unlike his batting average, does not vary much during his career, so the lists only change slowly. Still, changes do occur; Virender Sehwag has cemented his place in the top five by increasing his scoring rate from 77.5 to 78.7 over the last year. However, he has not scored a Test century since July 2008, or 20 innings, the longest such stretch of his career. Perhaps he is pushing it too hard?
The only change in the order of the Top Ten is a one-place slip by Andrew Symonds, who has now fallen from grace.
There are more changes in the next ten players, whose speeds are clustered together much more tightly. Matt Prior of England makes a debut splash at #12 on the list. It was noted in an earlier blog entry that his 61 off 42 balls at Lord’s was the fastest innings of its size ever played against Australia.
A striking change in the “Most Tenacious” category is the disappearance of Mike Hussey, who a year ago was the highest-ranked current player, at #16 and 133 balls per dismissal. His BBD is now 109 and outside the Top 50.
There are a few changes with old-timers, too, as more information about their balls faced comes to light. Bruce Mitchell of South Africa has edged past Sid Barnes to take third spot in the “Most Tenacious” category. The actual change is small, from a BBD of 152 to 154, but it highlights the fact that there will always be a bit of imprecision in the figures from that era.
11 September 2009
Wild Mood Swings
While studying the 1957 series in England (see below), I noticed that Peter May had followed up his epic 285 not out at Edgbaston with a duck at Lord’s. I wondered if anyone had followed a higher score with a duck; surprisingly, there are three cases...
DG Bradman 299* (v S Africa), 0 (v England) 1932.
J Edrich 310* (v N Zealand), 0 (v S Africa) 1965.
RM Cowper 307 (v England), 0 (v S Africa) 1966.
In all these cases the innings were in separate series (with many months in between for Bradman and Cowper), so May’s innings are the extreme within a single Test series.
Cowper’s case is more extraordinary given his sequence of scores of 0, 307, 0, 1. It is certainly the highest score to be both preceded and followed by a duck, although Rahul Dravid also did this when he made 270 against Pakistan. No other player has flanked a score of more than 200 with a brace of ducks.
Ricky Ponting managed the inverse, flanking a duck with a pair of double-centuries when he hit 242, 0 and 257 in consecutive innings against India in 2003.
The highest score to follow a duck is 325 by Andy Sandham in the West Indies in 1930, with a sequence of 0, 5, 9, 0, 325. More recently, Younis Khan’s two highest Test scores, 267 and 313, both followed ducks.
6 September 2009
The Slowest Test Centuries
Test centuries come in plenty of shapes and sizes. The “slowest centuries of all time” is a reasonably interesting category of records that is not well-served in the record books or online. Test Cricket Lists has a good section on slowest centuries in minutes batted, but like other sources, doesn’t say anything on the more relevant measure of balls faced. Can more be said on this matter?
The slowest centuries time-wise are by Mudassar Nazar, 557 minutes against England in 1977/78, and Jackie McGlew of South Africa, 545 minutes against Australia in 1957/58. Mudassar’s 100 has been reported as 415, 419 or 420 balls, while McGlew comes in at a formidable 485 balls. Both tallies have been topped, as it happens. One that threatens McGlew is Allan (Albert) Watkins, who during England’s “Second XI” tour of India in 1951/52 saved the Delhi Test with 137, reaching his 100 off 480 balls (give or take a few, due to unmarked byes in the scorebook).
Two other centuries from the 1950s stand out. I recently re-analysed the scorebook Colin Cowdrey’s 154 at Edgbaston in 1957, in a famous stand of 411 with Peter May. Somewhere previously I reported this as 100 off 525 balls, but a few difficulties with the score had to be ironed out. There are a couple of errors in said score. For one thing, Cowdrey’s scoring strokes add up to only 150, not 154. Fortunately, the missing four is easily found in the bowling analysis, backed up by a mention in a newspaper report. And somewhere in Sonny Ramadhin’s record 98 overs a single is missing, most probably missed by the scorer in the 218th (!) over.
[I suspect that this score held at Edgbaston is a re-copy, possibly from Bill Ferguson’s running sheets. Ferguson was scoring for the West Indies team, a few months before his death. It is easy to make occasional errors when converting a linear score to a traditional one by hand.]
Once this is sorted, Cowdrey’s tally comes to 535 balls for his first 100 runs. His 615 balls for his first 150 runs is also an all-time record, even though he went from 100 to 150 off only 80 balls. That 615 balls also exceeds the slowest double century, 608 balls by Bob Simpson (or an unconfirmed 611 by Glenn Turner). This sounds like championship stuff, but there is one century that threatens Cowdrey’s mark.
Mudassar Nazar’s father, Nazar Mohammad, scored his only Test century for Pakistan against India at Lucknow in 1952/53. It was a model of immobility. After India was out for 106, Nazar got into his groove with 21 in a session and a bit (56 overs) on the first day, then batted right through the second day adding only 66 runs. The 51 overs before lunch included 34 maidens. By stumps he had 87 runs off 169 overs at the crease. He collected his ton quite promptly on the third day (perhaps at his captain’s behest), and it seems fair to say he reached 100 off very close to 174 overs (452 minutes). There is no real possibility of ever finding his exact balls faced, but if he got half the strike, it comes to about 520 balls.
The Times of India commented "there was not a single stroke he essayed which would have earned the approval of a connoisseur".
Still, it was effective. Nazar carried his bat for 124 not out, and Pakistan won by an innings, their only win over India prior to 1978. Nazar is also recorded as the first player to be on the field for an entire Test match (although it is hard to be sure that he was never substituted in the field).
Nazar may well have faced more balls than Cowdrey in reaching 100. Very slow scorers tend to get more than half the strike because they hit singles early in an over less often than their partners. Cowdrey faced 621 balls to Peter May’s 525 during their Edgbaston partnership. However, May was scoring much faster than Cowdrey, and this was an extreme case, while most of Nazar’s partners were scoring almost as slowly as Nazar, so the strike effect in this case was probably weaker. The estimate of 520 balls is the best we can do for now.
1 September 2009
Column from 21 August 2009
In Test cricket, caution seems to be a forgotten art. In the past, the early stages of Ashes Tests were always about manoeuvring for position rather than seizing advantage, but in the current series both teams seem to have dispensed with this tradition. At The Oval, England produced, once again, more than 100 runs before lunch and 300 in the day. At Lord’s, the 126 before lunch was England’s best opening session since 1938. Absence of caution was even evident in England’s catastrophic 102 all out at Leeds. The innings was all over in 33.4 overs (203 balls); this was shortest innings that England, batting first on winning the toss, have suffered in any Test since 1886/87 (45 all out off 143 balls at the SCG).
So, with the series all even going into the final Test or the first time since 1965/66, prospects for a result at the Oval should be good. The Leeds Test used less than half its available time. The match was over barely 51 hours after it started; England’s shock is understandable when you consider this was the shortest complete Ashes Test, in elapsed time from first ball to last, since the Lord’s Test of 1921.
One effect of modern batting dynamism is that it is rare now to find bowlers who rely on containment for success. This feeds into the debate over the use of spin bowling by Australia. Nathan Hauritz has not bowled badly in the Ashes series, but it appears that after the retirement of Shane Warne, specialist spin bowling has become something of a disposable luxury, and Hauritz finds himself on the bench at crunch time in the series.
One reason for this is that a traditional role of finger spinners – the ability to limit scoring and hold fast when batsmen are going well – has faded under the onslaught of super bats and smaller grounds. Australian spinners in the past could be relied on to stem the flow of runs if necessary, but today everyone gets hit. This is evident in the table, which shows that the run rates conceded by Australian spinners has been recently much higher than for pace men, a reversal of the traditional pattern. Hauritz himself is not a particularly expensive bowler, but truly parsimonious spin bowling seems to have become a thing of the past.
Would You Believe?
In the Leeds Test, England trailed by 94 runs at the end of the first day (England 102, Australia 4 for 196). This was England’s worst first day since the Oval in 1948, when they were out for 52, and Bradman’s Invincibles made 2 for 153.
17 August 2009
More Notes on the first Ashes Series, written for The Age
31 July 2009. Edgbaston has been the fastest-scoring ground for Ashes Tests over the last fifty years, and the only one to average 3 runs per over. Australia’s quick start has continued a recent tradition. The two fastest-scoring Ashes Tests ever played have been the last two at Edgbaston; in 2001 the teams averaged 4.36 runs per over, and in 2005 it was 4.32. England fastest batting was at Edgbaston in 1985 (5 for 595 off 134 overs), followed by 2005, with the Lord’s Test just two weeks ago ranking third.
You would think that the dropping of Phillip Hughes only months after making twin centuries would have few parallels, but there is an eerie precedent. In 1949/50, Jack Moroney was, like Hughes, a New South Wales opener who started his Test career with a duck in Johannesburg. Both made good score in their next innings (87 for Moroney, 75 for Hughes) and a century in each innings shortly afterwards (118 and 101* in Moroney’s case). However, Moroney only lasted two more Tests: a pair of ducks in 1950/51 cost him his place. He played only one more Test, a year later: Hughes will be hoping for a better future.
It can be little comfort to Hughes that his replacement, Shane Watson, had an average of just 4.7 as an opener in first-class cricket. Watson, though, has recently done well as an opener in One-Dayers.
Neither case is as strange as that of English opener Charles Russell, who in 1923 scored 96, 140 and 111 in his last three Test innings, and was never selected again. Like Hughes and Moroney, his success came in South Africa, and his first Test innings was a duck.
Mike Hussey, with a longer track record, has kept favour with selectors, but he needs a major score soon. He is playing his 40th Test; his average, 85 after 20 Tests, is down to 54. No other batsman has suffered a more severe fall at this stage of a career, in either absolute or relative terms. Jimmy Adams of the West Indies comes closest. Adams’ average dropped from 69 to 44 between his 20th and 39th Tests, but he did score a century in his 40th.
Hussey has failed to exceed his batting average in his last 15 Test innings. He still has a way to go to reach Mark Taylor’s 21 consecutive innings, but few others are ‘ahead’ of Hussey. The leader in this category (among recognised batsmen) is, surprisingly, England great Wally Hammond, who fell short of his batting average in 22 consecutive innings from 1933 to 1935.
Would You Believe?
Matthew Prior’s 62 off 41 balls at Lord’s was the fastest complete innings over 50 ever played against Australia, in any Test match. At 145 runs per 100 balls, it surpassed the 100 off 72 balls (139 r/100b) by Shivnarine Chanderpaul at Georgetown in 2002/03.
6 August 2009
Michael Clarke has marked his 50th Test match appropriately enough by raising his Test batting average above 50 (50.08 after the Edgbaston Test) for the first time since early in his career. In Ashes Tests, he currently stands in most eminent company: among Australians his average of 59.8 is second only to Bradman.
Statistically, his career has some unusual features. Although he now has twelve Test centuries, his top score remains 151 (on debut) in Bangalore in 2004. No other established batsman has ever averaged 50 with such a low top score; the nearest is ‘Golden Era’ great Stanley Jackson who averaged 48.8 with a best of 144*. Clarke’s career is in strange contrast to his close contemporary Virender Sehwag. Sehwag has a virtually identical Test average (50.06) to Clarke, but he has exceeded 150 eleven times, with five double-centuries and two triples. Who is more valuable, the inconsistent batsman who plays the occasional match-winner, or the steady type who can be counted on? An open question, perhaps.
Clarke has played some valuable eighties and nineties under pressure, but it is notable that he has never scored a century when Australia has been bowled out for less than 400. This may be partly because Australia scores 400 more often than not, but Ricky Ponting and Simon Katich occasionally make tons in low scores. Even Sehwag, with his predilection for giant scoring, has done it six times, including a recent double-century when India were bowled out for 329 by Sri Lanka.
In any case, Clarke’s career chart is looking healthy, especially compared to Mike Hussey. The chart compares the career tracks of Clarke and Hussey with the average of over 100 “typical” batsmen who have played 100 innings. Hussey’s declining trajectory, incidentally, is steeper than for any other player with a substantial career. He set an all-time record by scoring his first 1000 Test runs in 166 days, but his last 1000 runs have taken 557 days.
See Chart here.
Would You Believe?
Why do English crowds abuse Ricky Ponting? Perhaps batting greatness is now so unfamiliar in England that it goes unrecognised. No living Englishman has an average of over 48.1 in Tests; the last to average 50 was Ken Barrington (58.7), who retired over 40 years ago and died in 1981. Thirteen living Australians have averages over 48, led by Ponting on 56.0, and including Brad Hodge and Phillip Hughes, who can’t find a place in the current Test team.
26 July 2009
Notes on the first Two Ashes Tests, written for The Age
There was a ‘clean slate’ look to the Cardiff Test. On an unfamiliar ground, half of the 22 players were making their Ashes debuts, the greatest number since the Ashes became an institution in 1882, (apart from war-time interruptions). The seven Australian debutants included the entire bowling squad, but it was batsmen Marcus North and Brad Haddin who excelled. It was just the second occasion that two Australians scored centuries on Ashes debut: Adam Gilchrist and Damien Martyn did likewise at Edgbaston in 2001.
It is decades since the face of Australian cricket changed so fast. In addition to the debutants, there are another seven Australian players who have played Tests in the last 18 months but are yet to play against England.
The new bowlers in Cardiff did not quite have the firepower to force a victory. England’s escape act, finishing on 9 for 252, had some unique features. Occasionally Tests are drawn with nine wickets down, but it is much rarer when the tailenders, the Number 10 and Number 11 batsmen, save the Test. This has happened only seven times previously (just once in Ashes Tests, thanks to Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath at Old Trafford in 2005); James Anderson and Monty Panesar were the first English tailenders to do it.
The 69 balls faced by Anderson and Panesar is also a record for any 10/11 pair holding on to draw, exceeding the 64 balls by New Zealanders Simon Doull and Shayne O’Connor in Hobart in 1997. Curiously, England were on the receiving end of a similar partnership only six months ago, when Fidel Edwards and Darren Powell stood fast for 60 balls to secure a draw for the West Indies in Antigua.
Anderson and Panesar saved England from one undesirable record. Their first innings of 435 would have been the highest score by a team losing a Test by an innings. The record remains 434 by South Africa in losing Sri Lanka (5/756) by an innings and 153 runs in Colombo in 2006.
Whatever the frustrations for the Australians, England’s problems were greater. Australia’s 6/674, the highest score in a time-limited Ashes Test since Lord’s in 1930, had commentators harking back to Bradman’s day for parallels. The five ‘centuries’ by England’s bowlers has no Ashes precedent, even in England’s epic 7/903 at the Oval in 1938, although five English bowlers had suffered similarly against the West Indies at Lord’s in 1973. The all-Test record is six by Zimbabwe against Sri Lanka in 2004.
Would You Believe?
In England’s first innings in Cardiff of 435, the top score was Kevin Pietersen with 69. Only once in Test matches has a team scored more with a top score less than 70. In Colombo in 1992/93 Australia, trailing Sri Lanka by 291 on first innings, came back with 471, David Boon top scoring with 68. Australia won by 16 runs thanks to Shane Warne’s breakthrough 3 for 13.
On the way to England’s first Ashes win at Lord’s for 75 years, Andrew Strauss enjoyed another luxury: the choice of enforcing the follow-on, for only the second time in the last 20 years for England against Australia. Strauss also become the first England Ashes captain to decline this option since Ray Illingworth in 1970/71. It was a sign of the changing character of modern Test cricket.
Not enforcing the follow-on no longer raises eyebrows. Since 2004, this has happened in 20 out of 45 follow-on situations. It should no longer be seen as a defensive move: in that time, 32% of follow-ons have led to draws, while only 20% of Tests have been drawn when it is not enforced.
One reason for the declining popularity of the follow-on lies in the faster scoring of modern Tests. England built on their best opening session (0/126) to an Ashes Test since 1938 to lead by over 500 with two days to play. England scored at 4.25 runs per over, their fastest in Ashes Tests apart from two at Edgbaston, in 1985 and again in 2005 (the famous two run victory).
Tucked away in England’s hectic second innings was a little gem: an innings of prodigious speed, 61 off 42 balls, by Matthew Prior. With today’s surfeit of heavy-hitting in One-Dayers and Twenty20s, it is easy to forget how rare such innings are in Test history. Prior’s half-century off 37 balls ranks third in Ashes Tests, behind Graham Yallop’s 35 balls at Manchester in 1981, with the probable leader being Jack Brown’s 50 off 34 balls (give or take a few, records are not exact) in his series-winning 140 off about 170 balls at the MCG in 1894/95.
At 145 runs per 100 balls, Prior’s 61 was the fastest innings over 50 ever played against Australia, in any Test match. I have drawn up a list of innings which were the fastest of their size: they make an interesting short list.
Fast Test Innings, by Size, against Australia
Each innings on this list is faster than anything larger. To start, Geraint Jones 27 off 12 balls, at 225 runs per 100 balls, is the fastest innings of more than 20 runs. For innings bigger than Jones’ 27, the fastest is Bob Crisp’s 35 off 19 balls (184 r/100 balls). And so forth.
Would You Believe?
In another sign of the times, Alastair Cook’s first 50 runs at Lord’s included a record eleven boundary hits. While others have reached scores of 51-53 with eleven boundaries (at least twelve cases) only once before has it been done in 50 runs or fewer in Ashes Tests – by Alec Stewart at the SCG in 2002/03.
9 June 2009
A few notes I made a while ago on Australia’s best bowling partnerships
Australia’s most successful bowling pairs in a Test series are the subject of the next table. Five- and six-Test series tend to dominate the list. This is not surprising, but even so it is odd to see six of the last seven Ashes series in England on the list, even series that we lost, while there are no Ashes series in Australia on the list since the 1978/79 disaster. Curiously, Lillee and Thomson in 1974/75 (58 wickets) don’t make the cut.
Alderman and Lillee’s 81-wicket haul in 1981 holds a substantial lead, and has not been exceeded by bowlers from any other country. How Botham and Brearley managed to win that series is one of the wonders of Test cricket.
Clarrie Grimmett and Bill O’Reilly’s 1935/36 peak came in their last series together. Grimmett was then dropped from the team after taking 44 wickets at 14.5! Although they were one of Australia’s most famous bowling partnerships, almost all of their bowling together came in overseas Tests.
Australia lost the 1978/79 Ashes 5-1 in spite of the 66 wickets by Hogg and Hurst. Australia did this by batting even worse than England in a real ‘race to the bottom’. Bowlers, it is said, win Test matches, but sometimes it takes more than two.
In 1931/32, Grimmett and Ironmonger only bowled together in three of the Tests. Ironmonger was left out of the Adelaide Test, where Grimmett took 14 wickets. In spite of this, Grimmett didn’t even get a bowl in the following Test at the MCG, where Ironmonger took 11 for 24.
It is surprising to see Shane Warne’s highest ranking with Merv Hughes rather than with Glenn McGrath. However, the Warne/McGrath firm is the only one to appear twice on the list.
Some bowling partnerships in shorter series are worth a mention. Australia’s best in a four-Test series is 42 wickets by McGrath (30) and MacGill (12) in the West Indies in 1998/99, while one of the finest performances of Warne/McGrath was 41 wickets in a three-Test series against Pakistan in 2002/03, Warne taking 27 of the wickets at 12.7.
And Australia’s worst bowling partnership? Well this is a bit hard to measure, but the Adelaide Test of 1931/32 is worth a mention as it featured Stan McCabe and HM ‘Pud’ Thurlow as opening bowlers. McCabe, a great batsman, was at best a useful medium-pacer who averaged less than one wicket per match during his career. Thurlow (0 for 86) was destined never to take a wicket or score a run in Tests, and even managed to get run out for nought to leave Don Bradman stranded on 299 not out.
Australian selectors really struggled to find any authentic opening bowlers for the Sydney Test of 1928/29. Grimmett took the new ball with one Otto Nothling, who, like Thurlow, was playing his only Test and did not take a wicket. England scored 636.
14 May 2009
A “New” Hit for Eight
When Andrew Symonds scored eight runs off one ball at the ’Gabba earlier this year, it attracted some attention as a very rare event. Only two precedents in Test matches could be named, plus another case where Brian Lara scored three with five penalty runs (which stretches the definition too far, I think).
So I was surprised to come across another, while analysing the Bombay Test of 1951/52. In the scorebook, it is quite clear that Vijay Hazare hit Brian Statham for eight after lunch on the first day of the match, taking his score from 19 to 27, on the way to 155 off 225 balls. The shot helped Hazare towards 50 off 52 balls, pretty good scoring in a mostly dreary series. Strangely, I can find no other detail about the shot: it is not mentioned in the Times of India, London Times or Wisden, although they give the correct number of fours for Hazare, 19. Sreeram tells me that Hazare does not mention it in his autobiography either. So the circumstances of the shot are a bit of a mystery.
The other known occurrences are: Patsy Hendren off Percy Hornibrook at the MCG in 1928/29 (not in Brisbane, as sometimes reported), and John Wright, also at the MCG, off Len Pascoe in 1980/81.
11 May 2009
How Fast Were the Bowlers of the Past?
Perusing the latest Wisden, one soon encounters a survey by David Frith of “The Ashes Masters”, a pretty good take on the greatest Ashes players. But I was struck by a short passage on Harold Larwood, where Graeme Fowler suggested that Larwood (and Fred Trueman for that matter) were not fast bowlers. The evidence cited is that wicketkeepers did not stand as far back to these bowlers as keepers do to today’s fast men. Fowler said he used to stand 25 paces back to Michael Holding, whereas those keeping to Larwood stood only 12 paces back.
Let’s leave aside the fact that Holding’s peak was more than 30 years ago, just 20 years after Trueman’s peak, and look at some other evidence.
I was reminded of a photo I had seen of Maurice Tate about to bowl at the SCG in 1924/25. I have posted it here (sorry, I seem to have lost the ability to insert photos in the text of this blog). It shows the keeper standing up to the stumps (as they did in those days to all but the fastest bowlers), but slips standing an awfully long way back. The photo appears to have been taken on an ordinary lens (no significant distortion apparent) from the old Paddington Hill at about a 45 degree angle from the pitch. By drawing a diagram of the scene to allow for this perspective, I came up with a distance of 25 yards from stumps to first slip, further to second and third. I came up with a similar figure for a picture I found of Michael Kasprowicz bowling in 1999.
Now Tate was no slouch, and was at his fastest in this series, but all reports indicate that he was not a true express bowler, and Larwood was faster at his peak. The photo shows that Tate was fast enough to justify the slips backing off a long way.
There are also published measurements of Larwood’s speed. My old (1968) edition of the Guinness Book of Records gives Larwood a speed of 93 mph (150 kph); other sources, including Frith himself (The Fast Men), say he was even faster. One could argue about the sources of this info, and the accuracy, but also bear in mind that any such measurements would be made on the basis of a very few deliveries, which were probably not the fastest he bowled.
Ultimately, it’s hard to prove one way or the other, but personally, I prefer the idea that the standards of what constitutes fast bowling have not changed much. If keepers of old did not stand back so far as the modern fashion, that does not automatically mean the bowling was slower. I still think that Jeff Thomson 35 years ago was as fast or faster than any bowler in the world in 2009, and there should be no reason to think that 40 years before Thomson, no one could bowl fast.
6 May 2009
A “Pre-Historic” Twenty20 International, of Sorts
As I have mentioned in the past, occasionally matches can be found that pre-date the official beginnings of their type. One such is the One-Day international between South Africa and Australia in 1966/67, almost four years before the first fully-recognised ODI. I have just come across another, a game with some of the trappings of a Twenty20 international, but played at Lord’s in 1951.
The England/South Africa Test at Lord’s that year was dominated by the bowlers and finished just after lunch on the third day. In fact it was only half the length of the Lord’s Test of the previous year, which set a few records that I discussed in my previous entry. At the end of the match, on the spur of the moment, the teams decided to play a “pick-up” or exhibition match, single innings for 90 minutes each, effectively 20 to 22 overs each. Though largely forgotten, the game has acquired some curiosity value in the era of Twenty20.
A good time was had, and the crowd was appreciative. The players evidently approached this match with the appropriate level of seriousness, which was none at all. The match (like the first ever Test and the first ever One-Day international) went unremarked in Wisden, perhaps with good reason in this case, but there was a mention of it in The Times. It gets some discussion in C.O. Medworth’s book of the 1951 tour (Noursemen in England), but none of these sources offer a score. The match is absent even from the vast databanks of Cricket Archive.
I came across this match in my collection of scorebook photocopies. I had copied it at Lord’s as part of the 1951 Test without realising what it was. Anyway, I can offer a score, possibly the first time one has been published.
South Africa Innings
The import of the match can be judged by the fact that Cuan McCarthy batted at Number 4, just about his only venture away from # 11 in his career (28 innings, top score of 5 in Tests). In spite of the promotion, he was bowled for one by Jack Ikin, whose Test bowling average was over 100.
The teams were similar to the Test teams, but with a few ring-ins. The 12th men, Ridgway and Mansell (whose 46 off 29 would be regarded as good T20 fare today), both played. Fred Ridgway never played a Test in England, but did play Tests in India as part of the “Second XI” MCC tour of 1951/52. Also playing for England was one Frederick Alexander, a Middlesex player who was probably on hand for fielding duties in the Test: he only ever played two first-class matches.
For South Africa, Hugh Tayfield (listed as “P. Tayfield” in the score) got a Guernsey. He would become famous as South Africa’s greatest spin bowler, but he was on the outer on this tour, and was not selected in any of the Tests. The eleventh South African player was not named in the scorebook, and I have presumed it was Dudley Nourse, the captain.
Note: the copies I printed out were cut off part way across, so I cannot read the names of players taking catches. The game continued for two balls after South Africa had won (perhaps the scoreboard had fallen behind), and this is how Mansell, who had hit the winning runs, lost his wicket.
20 April 2009
Sometimes a Test match of seemingly dull cricket can become rather more interesting on closer inspection. Such a match is the England v West Indies Test at Lord’s in 1950. I had kept a copy of the original score in my files for a few years before looking at it in detail recently. It reveals a pattern of cricket that has more or less disappeared from the game, perhaps for the better.
The result was not unremarkable: it was the West Indies’ first victory in England, and as such was a pivotal moment. It may also have been pivotal in setting Test cricket onto its 1950s trajectory of defensive attrition. The inability of the English batsmen to wrest the upper hand from the spinners Alf Valentine and ‘Sonny’ Ramadhin would cement in place a defensive approach to spin that passed previous extremes.
The 20-year-old Valentine had come to England with only two first-class wickets, but 13 wickets against Lancashire heralded a great debut at Old Trafford where he took eight wickets in the first innings, the best first day’s Test cricket for any bowler. After that, the Englishmen found it impossible to attack his bowling when in concert with Ramadhin. After the West Indies scored 326 at Lord’s, England on the second day fell – bit by bit – for 151, with the spin twins bowling together without change for 86 overs.
This is the longest spell without bowling change that I have encountered in my Test studies. Next highest is 79 overs by Wilf Rhodes and WE Astill at Georgetown in 1929/30. (Other extremes may well be found with further study; readers may care to suggest examples.)
At one point Valentine conceded just two runs in fifteen overs. After Cyril Washbrook was out at 2 for 74, there was no score at all for almost 13 overs. Bill Edrich, batting at Number three, scored only one run off his first 85 balls faced. As suggested in The Times, his batting (16 runs off 184 balls in the match) was not worthy of such a position, and he would be dropped from the team.
It is interesting, though, that The Times noted that most of the top-order batsmen were dismissed attempting attacking shots, suggesting frustration at the extreme accuracy of the bowling.
When the West Indies batted again, the three “W”s showed that batting sanity was still quite possible; all scored at respectable pace, Clyde Walcott’s 168 coming off 334 balls, and Everton Weekes’ 63 off 113 balls.
With a fourth innings target of 601, the England response was predictable, and some more extremes of slow scoring were set as the innings of 274 wore on. Washbrook reached 100 off 368 balls, pretty slow already, but he stalled completely on 114. He failed to score off the last 67 balls he faced, including ten consecutive maidens from Ramadhin. Others have had longer scoreless spells, but there is no parallel for a batsman already past the century.
Another record beckoned. Late in the innings, with Wardle and Jenkins at the crease, fifteen consecutive maidens were bowled (by four different bowlers, oddly enough), 92 balls in all without a run off the bat, and including the wickets of Wardle and Bedser. This rivals a spell in a Test at the MCG in 1882/83 as the longest without score. (There appears to have been four byes scored at some stage, but their location is not marked in the scorebook.)
This final stretch took the match past 600 overs, to a total of 3,645 balls bowled plus 5 no balls/wides, which remains the most bowled in any five-day Test match. Valentine’s 75 maiden six-ball overs in the match remains a record. It is said that Valentine could bowl a maiden over in 90 seconds, which helps explain how such a match could be finished with almost two full session to spare.
In the next match, at Trent Bridge, Valentine and Ramadhin would bowl more than one thousand balls in a single innings. Even when England seemed to have their measure, Washbrook and Reg Simpson needed 125 overs to put together an opening partnership of 212 runs, with Simpson requiring almost 400 balls for his 94 runs. At modern over rates, this partnership would take more than four sessions to play out, but in 1950 this meant two and a half sessions.
The attritional approach to spin bowling would remain a feature of Test batting in the 1950s and into the 60s. Perhaps England’s negativity stemmed from the confidence-shattering encounters with Bradman’s ‘Invincibles’. It may have been reinforced by the domination of ball over bat in the 1950/51 Ashes series. The previous generation of England batsmen like Hammond and Sutcliffe sometimes batted very slowly, but they did have an ability to keep the scoring ticking over with ones and twos, an approach sometimes abandoned completely in the 1950s. I found one 50-over sequence in the Lord’s Test where only five singles were scored; there were eight fours.
Strange then, that the match is remembered most for the celebratory attitude of the crowd. For the first time, West Indian immigrants in the crowd brought a ‘calypso’ atmosphere to an England Test. They must have been a patient lot, a patience that was ultimately rewarded.
15 April 2009
Left-handed batting has never been more “in” in Test cricket. Even after the retirement of the likes of Adam Gilchrist, Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden, the Australian team can still boast four lefties in its first six batsmen, thanks to recent debutants Phillip Hughes and Marcus North. In the Durban Test, left-handers scored almost 81 percent of Australia’s runs, a proportion very rarely seen. For Australia, there are only two precedents, both in 1983/84.
Oddly enough, recent West Indies’ teams dominated by lefties are an
exception, with important batsmen of the last decade – Lara, Gayle, Chanderpaul,
What we call ‘left-handed’ batting is not necessarily a sign of natural handedness. Most higher-order left-handed batsmen are actually natural right-handers, and they tend to have higher averages than those batting right-handed. Left-handers are more often found among the higher echelons of batsmen. Among recognised batsmen, the incidence of left-handed batting is 19 percent for those who average less than 35, 30 percent for averages of 35 to 45, and 32 percent for averages over 45.
Left-handers have scored almost half of all Australia’s runs in the current decade, an all-time high:
Not including Sundries.
While there are fluctuations, there is a clear overall upward trend, and it is also clear that the figures have almost always exceeded the incidence of natural left-handedness in the general population (about 10-12% depending on the definition), even in the early years of Test cricket.
Advantages for left-handers have been noted in a number of sports where handedness changes the angle of attack and opponents engage directly one-on-one. There is reportedly a strong effect in fencing, but no advantage in golf. For batsmen, another advantage lies in the technicalities of the LBW law that make it more difficult for right-handed bowlers against left-handed batsmen.
Teams that mix left- and right-handers also appear to have advantages (even though it didn’t work on the first day at Cape Town, with our champion right-handers Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke both making ducks). There are synergies that appear to benefit left/right partnerships. Matt Hayden and Justin Langer both had much better average partnerships with Ponting than they did with each other. I hope to comment on further on this another day.
Would You Believe?
The 275 runs (115 and 160) by lefty Phillip Hughes at Durban was the most by any player in his second Test match, by a margin of one run. The previous best was by Zaheer Abbas with 274 (batting once) at Edgbaston in 1971.