A quirky sport of numbers, you’re never too far off from urban legends in cricket.
Fans love discussing the quirks of the game which leave them astonished. Take for example, a team getting all out for 3, or even 0 for that matter. How about 7 runs off 1 legal delivery? Or Travis Birt’s 20 runs off 1 ball?
Some urban legends though, are just too fantastic, and without any reliable evidence, continue to hang in between the realms of myth and reality.
Origin of the legend
One such story is of a humongous 286 runs scored off one ball. Pall Mall Gazette – an English newspaper with roots in London, is hailed as the originator of this story, way back in 1865.
In its ‘Sporting Notes and News’ section, 15 January 1894, the paper noted that a match was played at Bunbury in Western Australia between Victoria and a ‘scratch XI from the neighbourhood’. Victorians went in to bat and the first ball was hit into the branches of a tall jarrah tree which was inside the ground.
Now, as the legend goes, the home team appealed for a ‘lost ball’, but the umpires could see the exact spot where the ball was stuck and refused to declare the ball ‘lost’.
At this time now, the Victorians started running between the wickets. Unable to find an alternative, an axe was called for bringing down the tree. But as luck would have it, they failed to procure an axe and the batsmen kept on running.
Next, someone brought out a rifle to dislodge the ball from its position, and finally after many shots missing the target, the ball was shot down and brought to the ground. Fantastically, nobody caught the ball before it hit the ground.
The story goes on to state that the batsmen had run 286 runs by then, creating the world record for most runs off a single delivery in cricket. It adds that the Victorians declared then, bringing probably the shortest innings to a close, and if this legend is to be believed, and won the match!
Myth or reality?
However fantastically weird the story may seem, it’s important to note that there’s no concrete evidence available to prove that it actually happened.
Though the news was covered in other parts of the world, they quoted the Gazette as the source. The Australian media itself was full of scepticism, with Western Mail calling it an ‘enormous fairy tale’.
Running 286 runs on the pitch amounts to covering close to 6 kilometers while the ball was being retrieved from the tree. It makes little sense, but continues to be one fantastic tale.