In its glorious history, the wonderful game of Test cricket has produced many world-class players, and in the process, the records continue to tumble more often than not. But there are a few astonishing numbers that have stood the test of time, and in all probability, will forever stand unchallenged. The cliche says that ‘records are meant to be broken’. But the following cases are great exceptions:-
(It is to be noted that these records might not be broken. So it means that they are definitely not absolutely impossible to achieve)
1) The highest batting average
99.94. The benchmark for batting greatness. Sir Donald Bradman, logged 6996 runs in 52 Tests at this gargantuan average – which is unlikely to be surpassed by anyone. The great man might have achieved a round average of 100, had he scored four runs in his last Test innings (he scored a duck). Among current players, South African Jacques Kallis stands highest at a distant 56.94. With short attention spans of batsmen, and the tendency to play audacious shots by many – no chance, in a million years.
2) The highest individual score in debut innings
England’s Reginald ‘Tip’ Foster scored a small matter of 287 runs in his very first Test innings against Australia at Sydney in 1902-03. There have been a spate of promising debutants in recent times, but it will take a brave man to say that this record will be broken. After all, it has been standing for 110 years. Jacques Rudolph scored 222* against Bangladesh at Chittagong in 2002-03 – the second highest. This was Foster’s only century in his 8-match career, and he died at the young age of 36 due to diabetes.
3) Most number of wickets
Muttiah Muralitharan of Sri Lanka retired with an amazing 800 wickets in 2010, beating his closest contender – Australia’s Shane Warne safely by 92 wickets. The controversy over his action notwithstanding, ‘Murali’ has been a legend of the game, and this record looks likely to stand the test of time, with the number of Tests being tragically reduced by the year, and bowlers retiring early. Among the current crop, India’s Harbhajan Singh is way behind at 406, plus he is out of favour for the Test squad currently. Had Saeed Ajmal of Pakistan made his debut earlier than when he was 32, I would have given him the faintest of chances. But he is still only at 122, so Muralitharan wins hands down.
4) Slowest Test fifty
Trevor Bailey of England, who passed away last year, was known as the ‘Barnacle’, as he saved his team from many a sticky situation with his customary, ultra-defensive batting style. No surprises then, that he is the holder of the slowest ever Test fifty – he took 350 balls and 357 minutes to reach there against Australia in Brisbane in 1958-59, where he opened the innings. It is also the slowest ever in all of first-class cricket. I cannot imagine this record being broken anytime, anywhere.
5) Largest margin of victory by runs
In the first Test of the 1928-29 Ashes at the Exhibition Ground at Brisbane (Bradman’s debut), England thumped the hosts by an unprecedented margin of 675 runs. Chasing a mere 741, Australia were shot out for 66, as England went on to win the series 4-1. In today’s level playing field, it is unlikely that this record is going to be surpassed – unless the Chinese are given Test status with immediate effect.
6) Highest ever partnership for any wicket
Again, the short attention spans of many batsmen today might ensure immortality for the 624 runs stitched by the Sri Lankan duo of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jaywardene against South Africa at Colombo (SSC), in as recently as 2006. Many might disagree, with the rise in flat pitches et al, but this record will take a lot to be broken – highly unlikely.
Among the ones that I did not list above include –
1) Sachin Tendulkar’s tally of most runs and most hundreds (15533 and 51), because it is likely that another great batsman will grace the field in the years to come. Why, Jacques Kallis needs only 8 centuries to equal Tendulkar, and the all-rounder is not showing any indication of retiring anytime soon.
2) The lowest Test total of 26 by New Zealand 58 years ago. It actually came close to be broken, when Australia, who ultimately totaled 47, were reduced to a shocking 21/9 against South Africa at Cape Town just last year.
More to come in Part 2 of this ‘Specials’ edition.