Statistical Snippets on The Ashes for The Age Magazine


By Charles Davis


2 November 2006


The most runs in a session by a batsman in an Ashes Test is 127 off 100 balls between lunch and tea by Stan McCabe during his legendary 232 at Nottingham in 1938. It was an innings much admired by Australian captain Don Bradman, perhaps less so by his other team mates, who were occupied playing cards, and had to be ordered to watch by their captain. McCabe set another record by scoring the last 66 runs, off 34 balls, of a last-wicket partnership with Fleetwood-Smith.


The fewest runs in a complete session is eight, by Trevor “Barnacle” Bailey in the infamous Brisbane Test of 1958-59. He faced 87 balls, on the way to 68 off 427 balls. At the other end, Bailey’s partners added eleven runs in the same session.


The only batsman to retire hurt first ball in an Ashes Test was Australian wicketkeeper Barry Jarman at Lord’s in 1968.


The “Golden Duck” is common enough in Tests, but the “Diamond Duck”, run out without facing a ball, is a much rarer bird. In Ashes Tests, this fate has befallen William Attewell, at the SCG in 1884-85, and Rodney Hogg, at Birmingham in 1981.


The longest bowling spell in an Ashes Test was extracted from off-spinner Tom Veivers, who bowled the last 51.1 of his 95.1 overs unchanged at Old Trafford in 1964. He bowled 19 maidens and took 2 for 85.


During the Sydney Test of 1894, George Giffen assumed Australia’s captaincy when keeper Blackham was injured. He immediately put himself on to bowl and bowled 50 overs unchanged, taking 2 for 102. Australia lost the match by 10 runs. Later in the series at Adelaide, Giffen bowled himself virtually unchanged through both innings.


Winning the toss still has its advantages in Ashes Tests. Since 1990, teams winning the toss have gone on to win 22 times, but lost only 13 times. Strangely enough, the advantage of winning the toss has disappeared in other Test matches, where toss-winners have lost more matches than they have won in the last 10 years.


Charles Bannerman’s famous 165 (retired hurt) at the MCG in 1877 was the very first Test innings. It has long eluded statistical analysis, but enough was recorded at the time to allow an estimate of his balls faced. Bannerman took about 150 balls to reach 50, but, in a remarkable character change, only 40 balls more to reach his 100. He then slowed again, reaching 150 off 315 balls and 165 off 330 before he was struck on the finger. Bannerman hit all but three of his 18 boundaries in the arc between cover and mid-wicket.


Bannerman’s 165* is still the highest score by an Australian on debut, but this is not the oldest record in Test matches. Of records that could still be broken, the first was set by James Southerton, who was 49 years old when he stepped on to the field in the 1877 Test. Southerton, who died in 1880, remains the oldest debutant in all Tests.


Although it is not quite the longest innings in terms of time batted in Ashes Tests, Bob Cowper’s 307 off 589 balls at Melbourne in 1966 is the only Ashes innings to end more than 4 days after it started, thanks in part to weather interruptions and a rest day. Colin McDonald came within an hour of doing this in “Laker’s Match” at Old Trafford in 1956. McDonald scored 89 off 325 balls.


The longest partnership in Ashes Tests, in terms of balls bowled, was an 877-ball marathon by Wally Hammond and Douglas Jardine at Adelaide in 1928-29. Only 262 runs were scored off 146 overs. The Australian record is the 805-ball partnership of Don Bradman and Sid Barnes, who added 405 at the SCG in 1946-47.


The longest delay in getting off the mark, in terms of balls faced, is 80 balls by John Murray, batting with a shoulder injury at the SCG in 1962-63. Murray passed the mark of 65 balls set by his fellow keeper Godfrey Evans in 1946-47. The highest figure for Australia is 76 balls by Carl Rackemann at the SCG min 1990-91, but perhaps a more remarkable case is George Giffen, who, on debut in 1881-82, faced about 60 balls before scoring his first run in Test cricket.


The longest known pause in scoring by two batsmen is 88-94 balls (22+ four-ball overs) by Bill Murdoch and Alec Bannerman in the second Test of 1882-83 at the MCG.


The highest innings without a hit to the boundary is 77 off 327 balls by Geoff Boycott at Perth in 1978-79. Boycott did hit one four, thanks to overthrows. Boycott hit no boundaries at all on the WACA ground over a span of 575 balls (almost 13 hours batting!) in five innings between 1970 and 1979.


Geoff Boycott faced 8568 balls in Ashes Tests, but never hit a ball for six. By contrast, Keith Miller hit 17 sixes in his Ashes career, but did not concede any sixes with the ball. He bowled 5717 balls against England.


Clarrie Grimmett bowled 9164 balls in Ashes Tests without a single recorded no-ball or wide.


David Hookes famously hit Tony Greig for five consecutive boundaries in the Centenary Test of 1977. The less well-known JJ Lyons also got five in a row, at the Oval back in 1893.


Don Bradman’s 46 fours at Leeds in 1930 is still the most in an Ashes innings. The most hits for three is 26 by Bob Cowper in his 307 at the MCG. Long boundaries and an ultra-slow outfield may have cost Cowper up to 50 runs.


In 1962-63, standard match payments to Australian players were £15 ($30) match fee plus £14 per day’s play, paid only if play took place. Gate receipts for the Ashes series were almost £200,000.


Even though boundary hitting has increased in recent years, the record for most boundaries in an Ashes Test century is well established. Joe Darling hit 20 fours in his 91-minute century at the SCG in 1897-98; Arthur Morris, at Leeds in 1948, matched this, but Ian Botham went a little better in 1981, also at Leeds, with 19 fours and a six. Botham went from 39 to 103 off 39 balls with a six, 14 fours and 2 singles.


Although at least twelve batsmen have suffered a “king pair” in Test matches (out first ball both innings), it has not yet happened in an Ashes Test.


Since 1945, the follow-on has been enforced 23 times in Ashes Tests. 74% were won by the leading team, 22% drawn, and 4% (the famous Leeds Test of 1981) lost. Only twice has a team declined to enforce the follow-on.


The most runs credited to a single stroke is eight, thanks to a double set of overthrows, by Patsy Hendren off Percy Hornibrook at Melbourne in 1928-29.


The Australian SMJ ‘Sammy’ Woods played for Australia in three Ashes Tests, yet he never played a first-class match in Australia in his life. A fine all-round sportsman, born in Sydney but studying in England, he was co-opted into the injury-prone 1888 touring team in England. He did not return to Australia, and later played for England against South Africa.