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Highest recorded instances of runs scored off a single delivery

Overthrows, balls hitting roofs, local tournament rules have all combined to be many a bowler's nightmare

Overthrows, balls hitting roofs, local tournament rules have all combined to be many a bowler's nightmare

In normal circumstances, six is the maximum number of runs that can be scored off a single ball. But cricket has such scope for numerical quirks that these normal circumstances are often dismissed at the blink of an eye. There have been many times when more than six runs have been scored off a single delivery, but what would the highest runs scored be?

An article in the British Pall Mall Gazette from 15th January 1894 would have us believe that the answer is 286! This urban legend says that the batsmen had kept on running after the ball had been lodged in the branches of a tree inside the ground, completing 286 runs before an axe and a rifle were brought to the ground to get the ball down.

There is one gaping hole in this story – there is no explanation as to why nobody thought of catching the ball when it was falling from the branch. With the added fact to boot that this incident was said to have taken place in Australia when there had been no local reports in that country, this story can be categorised safely as a myth. 

In recorded reality, there are a handful instances of ten and nine runs being taken off a single legal delivery in the history of English first class cricket in the earliest years of the sport. All of these had come about by way of overthrows, with the exception of the Hon. F.G.B. Ponsonby who ran all of his nine runs for the MCC against Cambridge University in 1842.

Yorkshire pacer Ryan Sidebottom conceded 11 runs off one ball in 2003 against Glamorgan, but in his defence, he had been just returning from injury; he retired hurt after this debacle(assumably in body and spirit), finishing the day with figures of 0.1-0-11-0. He managed this infamous feat by bowling five consecutive wides and then getting smashed for a six over mid wicket.

However, he is not the only high-profile bowler from recent times to have faced this nightmare.

Highest recorded in Test cricket – 8

Andrew Symonds is one of four batsmen to have been at the crease on these rare occasions

In Test cricket, the record for the highest number of runs off a single delivery is 8 – this having been achieved four times. The recent instance of this ocurred in a 2008 Test match between Australia and New Zealand in Brisbane, when Andrew Symonds and Michael Clarke ran four runs and there were four overthrows as well. 

The unfortunate bowler on this occasion was New Zealand’s Iain O’ Brien, who had incidentally seen a catch dropped to let Symonds off the hook the previous ball. 

During a 2004/05 Test between South Africa and West Indies, Brian Lara had glanced a Nicky Boje delivery for three runs. Wicketkeeper Mark Boucher went after the ball himself, and his throw back in hit a fielder’s helmet, thus awarding five runs to West Indies. According to a recent rule change, the penalty runs would not be awarded to Lara, something he was left to rue on this occasion – getting out for 196.

England’s Patsy Hendren and New Zealand’s John Wright are the two other batsmen to have enjoyed the distinction of being on strike when eight runs were scored off a single Test ball, both by running four runs and getting four overthrows.

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