With the turn of the year, international cricket has now survived approximately 138 years spanning across three different centuries. Given this long a duration, a few peculiar happenings are bound to have occurred.
Having said that, cricket has had more than its fair share of peculiarities. Today, with inputs from Cricket Historian Extraordinaire Mayukh Ghosh, we look at some of the facts, figures, records and incidents that will probably make your head spin.
1) Sachin Tendulkar is in a class of his own – we’re more than 99% sure of that!
Given his popularity and demi-god status, there is hardly anything that remains unknown about Sachin Tendulkar. However, one trivia about him that is possibly relatively unknown is that over 99% of the cricketers to earn ODI caps have not scored even half as many runs as Sachin has. Talk about class being permanent over 24 long years!
2) Brian Close and the number ‘2’
In a story involving profuse use of the number ‘2’, Brain Close played 22 Tests in a career spanning 27 years. During this period, he missed exactly 222 Tests. Talk about double nelson! Danny Morrison will probably be spooked.
3) The Taylor-made story
More recently, West Indian fast bowler Jerome Taylor scored his maiden first-class century in a Test match. His previous highest score in first-class cricket was just 40. The only other player to score his maiden first-class century in a Test, without even having a first-class fifty to his name, was Bruce Taylor of New Zealand, way back in 1965.
4) Oh Crap!
Poor Jack Crapp. Having come out to bat at No. 3, Crapp was probably preparing for how he would be celebrating his century when the score read 7-231 with him on 99*. However, to his utter dismay, the last three wickets fell with him stranded on 99. Two of these were run-outs while the third was accounted for by the legendary Jim Laker. Any guesses as to what he must have uttered after the incident?
5) The paranormal Laker
Everyone knows that Jim Laker took 19 wickets against Australia in the Old Trafford Test of 1956. However, a lesser known fact is that Laker had figures of 10 wickets for 20 runs from 63 deliveries over the two innings at one stage, and that too at an average of 2 and a strike rate of 6.3. Paranormal, indeed.
6) Longest-standing Test record? Not quite.
Charles Bannerman, of Australia, has quite a few distinctions to his name. He played the first ball in Test cricket history, hit the first boundary and also scored the first hundred. However, what stands out about Bannerman is the fact that he scored a colossal 165 runs out of a total of 245 in that innings, which is still the highest proportion of runs by a single player (67.35) in a completed innings of a Test match. Many believe that this is the longest-standing record in Test history. However, you would be surprised to know that this is not the case. We’ll come to whose record has lasted for the longest time a bit later in this piece.
7) Cricket and the pharaoh
There was something fascinatingly unique about John Traicos, with him being the only player to have been born in one country and played Test cricket for two others. He played Test cricket for both South Africa and Zimbabwe, with a gap of more than two decades between them. And oh, he was born in Egypt.
8) Cricket and Jack the Ripper
Montague Druitt was a fast bowler who played for the MCC back in the 19th century. In 1888, he was found drowned in the Thames, nearly the same time as the killings by “Jack the Ripper” stopped. The police filed the case as suicide, and Druitt was suspected to be the serial murderer for quite some time. However, in further studies since the 1970s, the theory has almost completely been dispensed with.
9) The hat-trick that never was
There are many bowlers who have taken a hat-trick in the past and there will be many more in the future. Even more so, there will be players who would be on a hat-trick countless times further. However, I doubt if there will ever again be an incident like the one involving Chris Tremlett. It will probably forever remain the closest a bowler gets to a hat-trick. After being on a hat-trick on his ODI debut, Tremlett’s following delivery hit the stumps but did not dislodge the bails, hence denying him a hat-trick. Watch the video below to know more about the incident:
10) A true soldier on and off the field
A. D. Denton of Northamptonshire lost one leg while serving his country in the First World War. However, in 1919 and 1920, he returned to play three more first-class games, wherein he had one of his brothers running for him, and he fielded exclusively at point. When the Lancashire captain was approached for special permission, he wrote: "If any fellow has been to the war and has had his leg off and wants to play, he is good enough for me and can have 20 runners.”
A perfect tribute to a man who never gave up.
11) The two Jayas’ unique connection with Sri Lankan world records
They do not say Sanath Jayasuriya was a match winner for nothing. Sanath was the top-scorer in the highest Test score (340 out of 952), highest ODI score (157 out of 443) as well as the highest T20 score (88 out of 260), thereby scoring the highest amount of runs in the highest totals in each format of cricket. Another ‘Jaya’, Mahela Jayawardene, was a part of all three of these and was the only other Sri Lankan player to be so.
12) Bordering on the insane
Legend has it that when Fred, the younger brother of the famous WG Grace, caught Australian big-hitter George Bonnor at point, the ball had gone so high into the sky that the batsmen were well into the third run when the catch was taken.
13) The eldest Grace had more brute than grace
The elder brother of Sir WG Grace, EM Grace, was known to be one of the hardest hitters of a cricket ball. Owing to sprawling localities and too many closed spaces, the balls he struck for Thornbury were often lost. One umpire thought he had his bases covered when he kept up to nine spare balls at his disposal. It worked for a while, but Grace, on his way to a stupendous double century, used up the full quota of balls that the umpire had, and play simply had to be stopped!
14) Hey, forget about playing! It’s time to go home
Before the time when Test matches were limited to five days, there used to be timeless Test matches wherein the play went on until a definitive result was reached. In one such Test, where the English were on tour to South Africa, the match dragged well into the 10th day and the Englishmen were perilously close to chasing a world record target of 696. At the close of play on the 10th day, the Englishmen were comfortably placed at 654/5, requiring merely 42 for victory.
However, the captain of the ship that was supposed to take the team back to England refused to wait any longer, for reasons probably best known to him. And thus ended rather prematurely the story of what might have possibly been one of the most difficult all-time records to be broken.
15) You gotta catch that, Dad!
Freddie Flintoff is an amazing man. Apart from being a professional cricketer, he has dabbled in boxing and is also a very popular TV personality in the United Kingdom, which goes to show the vast range of talents at his disposal. That being the case, one can only wonder how good a sniper he’d have been if given a chance, considering he once hit a ball straight to his dad in the stands who, unfortunately, dropped a sitter. Flintoff still claims that to be the most memorable drop in his life, and is never shy of gloating about it.
16) Chris Tremlett, upgraded
If you thought Chris Tremlett was unlucky, you probably haven’t heard of SMJ Woods. Woods, sometime in the 1880s, hit the stumps as many as eight times in an over but had only three wickets to show for it. The first three were off no-balls, the fourth one finally got him a wicket, the fifth kissed the leg stump and went away for four byes, the sixth and seventh deliveries fetched him a couple more wickets while the eighth delivery again went for four byes after hitting the stump.
17) Oldest first-class debutant
What do you think would be the age of the oldest first-class debutant? What about the oldest player to play a first-class game? Well, for one, they are the same person. Raja Maharaj Singh made his first-class debut at the age of 72, captained the side, batted at No. 9, scored four runs, did not bowl, took no catches, and never played again. Interestingly, it was Jim Laker who dismissed Maharaj Singh, a batsman 44 years elder to him.
18) Oldest Test debutant
We had mentioned earlier that Charles Bannerman does not hold the distinction of the longest-standing record in Test cricket. Who does, then? Well, that distinction belongs to England’s James Southerton. He was 49 years and 119 days old at the time of his Test debut, against Australia in the first ever Test match in 1877, making him the oldest Test debutant ever. Remarkably, there has been nobody till date who has made their debut at an age older than Southerton.
19) Longest surname ever
The first-class player with the longest surname is a certain Fijian cricketer named IL Bula. An easy enough abbreviation for a man whose full name spells something like Ilikena Lasarusa Talebulamaineiilikenamainavaleniveivakabulaimainakulalakebalau. And no, we did not just make this up. It literally translates to “returned alive from Nankula hospital at Lakeba island in the Lau group.”
Questions like why he was named so will not be entertained. Seriously, no.
20) The free haircut
Yes, there has been an instance of a haircut on the cricket field as well. To make things even stranger, it was a Test match at Manchester and not a domestic game. Sunil Gavaskar was batting capless on a windy day in 1974, and after a few deliveries, umpire Dickie Bird had had enough. Tired of Gavaskar’s hair blowing into his eyes, he called for a pair of scissors and promptly did a Goldilocks on Gavaskar.
21) The ball that went through the stumps
We discussed Tremlett. We discussed Woods. However, the award for the unluckiest bowler has to go to Mushtaq Ahmed. Bowling to Symcox, by some absolute miracle, Ahmed bowled a ball that passed between middle and off stump without dislodging a bail. Watch the video to believe it: