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5 highlights from Walter Hammond's career

Aditya Joshi
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England v The Dominions - Wartime Cricket At Lord's
England v The Dominions - Wartime Cricket At Lord's

Beefed up bats, covered wickets, specialist coaches, dietary and fitness consultants, flat decks to stash the broadcasters' pockets with the jingles of gold, this is an era where Steve Smith averages 61.38 after 64 Test matches and is labeled "Bradmanesque".

Thinly carved planks of willow, sticky wickets where teams had to resort to as far as inverting the batting orders, no logistical comforts and even adjusted for inflation, there is no way that a top-notch cricketer would earn $272,000 in the 1930s compared to Smith's neat $4 million in 2018. That is when Walter Reginald Hammond averaged 58.45 with the bat over 85 Test matches.

Sandwiched between the legendary figures of Sir Jack Hobbs and Sir Donald Bradman, "Wally" Hammond made a name for himself by being their cricketing equivalent, in the intermediate phase of the chronological timeline. Not only a statistical enigma, he was a great ambassador of a game, in an age of no televising of cricket, he was the kind who drew spectators to the grounds.

Wisden's Almanack captures his genius as follows:

The instant he walked out of a pavilion, white-spotted blue handkerchief showing from his right pocket, bat tucked underarm, cap at a hint of an angle, he was identifiable as a thoroughbred. Strongly-built, square-shouldered, deep-chested, with impressively powerful forearms, it seemed as if his bat weighed nothing in those purposeful hands.

On his birthday, we look at the major highlights from an illustrious career that spanned well over three decades, and had it not been for the intervening years of the World War, he would have added more accolades to an already remarkable string of achievements.

#5 Most prolific Test scorer for the longest duration

In the opening Test of New Zealand's tour of England in 1937 at Lord's, Hammond scored a pensive hundred on the first day of the match to set the match up for inevitable English domination. With Joe Hardstaff junior, he put up a dominating 245 for the third wicket, and on the second day of the match rewrote the record books by overtaking England's greatest of all time, Jack Hobbs as the highest aggregate scorer in Test cricket.

On June 27, 1937, he surpassed Hobbs' 5,410 runs and then was not usurped from the summit for 33 years and 151 days. The duration is a record for the greatest time period that particular record has been held for. England's Colin Cowdrey crossed his total of 7,249 but only after Hammond's mark had been imprinted on history for well over three decades.

To put that in perspective, Sachin Tendulkar has held that record for just 9 years and 244 days, and it already feels like a lifetime.

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