I have been including, in the database for pre-1915 Tests, ball-by-ball reconstructions for certain innings and/or matches, made in the absence of complete scorebooks. I just wanted to make some points clear about this process, especially as the Database approaches the 1902 Tests played by Australia in England and South Africa.
It is a great misfortune that no scorebooks are known to exist for these matches. However, greater resources are becoming available in terms of match reports in newspapers, to the extent that it is possible to construct over-by-over (sometimes ball-by-ball) versions of some innings, particularly those that involve rapid scoring or frequent falls of wickets. The British Newspaper Archive now boasts dozens of titles, available in full and online, for the year 1902. In addition to this I have accessed, from libraries, copies of other newspapers that are not in this Archive. These reports vary in detail, but when distilled together, and taken with information from other sources (such as a partial score available for the Old Trafford Test), it makes possible a ‘best rendering’ of important innings that in turn allow estimates of balls faced and other important statistics.
This has also been done for the series in South Africa. Although sources are fewer, the South African papers of the time often used a strictly narrative style (old-fashioned at the time) of reporting that mentions almost all scoring shots in sequence. Australian papers prior to 1894 often used the same style; after that, a more interpretive style of reporting came into vogue that makes it much harder to reconstruct innings statistically.
1) Even with combined sources, gaps occur that must be filled using educated interpolation,
2) The sources sometimes conflict.
3) It is not always possible to come up with a sequence of overs that is perfectly consistent with every source.
Generally, however, the broad structure of innings are clear (who was bowling when, and in which overs wickets fell), and many of the scoring details can be accurately placed. It is just certain passages of play that must be filled in. Periods of slow play with occasional singles and maidens are particularly difficult; by the same token, they are often not important. Some other detail from the sources can assist, such as the reporting of the number of ones, twos, threes and fours for major innings, and this can be found in certain sources.
I hope that the reconstructions can be accepted in this spirit; that they are not exact, but offer a useful guide to the progress of certain important innings and matches.
There are more sources out there, unexamined: perhaps others can take up the challenge of tracking more of them down. For instance, Gerald Brodribb gives a ball-by-ball list of Gilbert Jessop’s famous 104 at the Oval, but does not name his (newspaper) source. Having looked at dozens of potential sources, I have yet to find this.
So don’t fret over potential errors: improve on it if you can!