Famous Test Matches – Australia v India, Adelaide, 1977-78

  The 1977-78 series between Australia and India was played in the midst of one of cricket’s most testing periods. The Kerry Packer episode had hit international cricket and a host of star players from most of the leading countries had become part of the ‘circus’, thus finding themselves out of their respective national sides.

  Thus the Australian side for this series had many established names missing, but on home soil and under the captaincy of the back-from-retirement 41 year-old Bob Simpson, they proved to be a formidable unit especially against an Indian side not accustomed to winning abroad.

  For India, led by Bishan Singh Bedi, this was perhaps their best ever chance to secure a maiden series triumph in Australia. Not only were they the only team not to be affected by the Packer exodus, but they also boasted of an experienced side with most players in the prime of their career.

  As was the norm in Australia those days, this series featured eight-ball overs. The first Test at Brisbane ended in a thrilling 16-run win for Australia, who were defending 340. In the second Test at Perth, India were left to rue again as the hosts chased down 339 to win by two wickets.

  India fought back admirably in the next two Tests, winning by 222 runs (in spite of being 0/2 on the first day) and an innings and two runs at Melbourne and Sydney respectively. The stage was thus set for a mouth-watering deciding fifth Test at the Adelaide Oval, and it did live up to the expectations. This six-day Test was played between January 28 and February 3, 1978. 

  With India coming into the game on the back of consecutive wins, this was a golden chance for them to record a historic victory. Australia gambled by making five changes to their eleven. These included four debutants – openers Graeme Wood and Rick Darling, off-spinner Bruce Yardley and pace bowler Ian Callen.


         Graham Yallop, playing his first Test in two years, scored 121 on the first day to lay the platform for Australia’s big total (source – heraldsun.com.au)

  Simpson won the toss and elected to bat on an easy pitch. The debutant openers impressed with a solid 89-run stand before Syed Kirmani stumped Wood off Bhagwath Chandrasekhar. Darling went on to compile 65 in his first Test innings. The next two batsmen Graham Yallop – who was back in the side after two years –  and Peter Toohey continued the accumulation, cashing in on a below-par bowling display.

  The pair put on 120 for the third wicket. Toohey was out for 60, but Yallop marched on to his maiden Test century. He added a further 104 for the fourth wicket with Simpson before Mohinder Amarnath’s medium pace snapped him for 121. Australia ended the first day at 353/5 with Simpson and Steve Rixon at the crease.

  The two overnight batsmen went on to add 69 for the sixth wicket on the second day. Simpson rallied well with the lower order, which made vital contributions to aid the captain’s quest for his hundred. He scored his tenth and last Test century and was out for exactly 100 to Karsan Ghavri.

  The tenth-wicket pair of Jeff Thomson and Callen further frustrated the visitors by adding 47 as Australia ended at a highly satisfying total of 505. Chandrasekhar bowled with heart to finish with 5/136. India had a woeful start in reply, as they lost three wickets for no run to totter at 23/3.

  Thomson removed Sunil Gavaskar and Amarnath in the same over while Wayne Clark sent back Chetan Chauhan. This brought together the wristy Gundappa Viswanath and the reliable Dilip Vengsarkar, and the two put the innings back on track with a century stand. They ensured that India ended the second day at 131/3, with Viswanath unbeaten on 79.

  The fourth wicket partnership stretched to 136 on the third day before Viswanath was out caught behind by Rixon for 89, giving Callen his first Test wicket. Seven runs later, Vengsarkar became Callen’s second victim as he too was caught behind, for 44. Anshuman Gaekwad and Kirmani put on 50 for the sixth wicket, but the lower order failed to help add to the total.

  The last five wickets fell for 53 as the innings wound up at 269. Clark (4/62) and Callen (3/83) were the pick of the bowlers. Australia were clearly in the dominant position with a cushion of 236 runs as they began their second innings. Bedi’s left-arm spin sent back Wood early, but Darling (56) scored his second half-century of the match as he added 67 with Yallop for the second wicket.

  Australia ended the third day at 103/3 as Bedi added two more to his kitty. The day was marred by Bedi’s outburst at the umpires, as the Indian captain felt that quite a few decisions were going against his team. Early on the fourth day, Simpson (51) combined with Gary Cosier for a 65-run fifth-wicket stand. But wickets fell at regular intervals as India attempted to make some sort of a comeback.

  The innings ended at 256 in the second session. Bedi picked up 4/53 while Ghavri made short work of the tail to finish with 4/45 (7/138 in the match). India thus needed a gargantuan 493 runs in fourteen hours to win the Test and the series. The record fourth-innings winning total at that time was India’s 406/4 against the West Indies at Port-of-Spain two years ago.

  In all probability, India’s only option was to bat out the time and secure a draw. Gavaskar and Chauhan began steadily, but with the score at 40, the former edged one behind off Callen. Chauhan followed soon after, falling to Yardley. India ended the fourth day at 101/2, with Amarnath and Viswanath at the crease.

zugunda    Gundappa Viswanath was India’s best batsman in the match, as he scored 89 and 73 in the first and second innings respectively (source – cricketvoice.com)

  Amarnath and Viswanath began strongly on the fifth day as they showed that India were not going to go down without a fight. The two ground the Australian bowlers in a third-wicket stand that fetched 131 runs. With the score at 210, Yardley provided the breakthrough for the hosts as he accounted for Amarnath, who made a composed 86 – the innings’ top score.

  Vengsarkar joined Viswanath and the two took the score to 256, whereupon the fourth wicket fell in the form of Viswanath, who was dismissed by Clark for 73. Vengsarkar battled on and gave Australia plenty to ponder about, as he dominated a 67-run fifth-wicket stand with Gaekwad.

  At 323/4, India were threatening to give themselves a real chance of victory. But Yardley caught Gaekwad off his own bowling, and then with the score at 348, got the big wicket of Vengsarkar, who hit one straight to Simpson to end his innings of 78 on a disappointing note. India ended the fifth day at 362/6.

  Australia were again in control as the final day began, but another small twist remained. Kirmani, who had made 48 in the first innings, dug in again. He found a partner in Ghavri and the two gave Australia some nervous moments in their 67-run alliance for the seventh wicket. With the score at 415/6, Clark castled Kirmani (51) with the new ball.

  Two runs later, Callen removed Ghavri to extinguish the last sliver of hope that India had. Erapalli Prasanna and Bedi tried to narrow down the margin by adding 25 for the ninth wicket. Callen (3/108) dismissed Bedi while Simpson finished off the game by scalping Chandrasekhar, caught behind.

  India’s valiant effort ended with the score at 445, giving Australia a well-deserved 47-run win. Yardley, who picked up wickets at key stages, returned 4/134. A thrilling series ended in Australia’s favour by a margin of 3-2. Australia’s decision to make five changes in the eleven paid off very well, as all the four debutants as well as comeback man Yallop made vital contributions.

  India’s ordinary bowling on the first day eventually cost them a rare overseas series win and by the time they began to fight back in the second dig, Australia were already in a safe position. At that time, India’s total of 445 was the highest ever fourth-innings total in a lost cause. Since then, it has fallen second on the list, behind New Zealand’s 451 (in pursuit of 550) against England at Auckland in 2001-02.

  Not only was Simpson the winning captain, but he also ended as the highest run-getter of the series, with a tally of 539 at 53.90 with two hundreds and two fifties. His opposite number Bedi finished as the highest wicket-taker, with 31 wickets at 23.87.

  On their next tour to Australia in 1980-81, India drew the Test series 1-1 and later repeated the result in 2003-04. However, a series win in Australia still remains elusive, and is likely to be so over the next few years.

Match Scorecard


RECORD BOOK – The best bowling figures in a World Cup match

  Australia, under the captaincy of Ricky Ponting, defended their World Cup title with ease in 2003 – the first time the tournament was held in Africa. In 1999, they made it to the final by the skin of their teeth before comprehensively winning the trophy. But in 2003, they maintained a clean sheet by winning all eleven games, culminating in a 125-run win over India in the summit clash.

  Among Australia’s opponents in Group A were Namibia, who were playing in the World Cup for the first time. The two teams met on February 27, 2003 at the North West Cricket Stadium in Potchefstroom, in front of a decent turn-out of about 6000 people. This game was the fifth in the tournament for both the teams. Namibia, predictably, were soundly beaten in all their four games thus far in spite of a creditable showing against England. By contrast, Australia were dominant against all the sides they faced. Everyone expected a one-sided affair and not surprisingly it proved to be so.

  Ponting called correctly and opted to bat first. Medium pacer Burton van Rooi bowled with good control and was rewarded with the prized wicket of Adam Gilchrist in his third over. But Matthew Hayden was in a belligerent mood and treated the inexperienced Namibian attack with disdain.  He scored 88 off 73 balls before Louis Burger bowled him to peg back the Australians a little. Andrew Symonds and Damien Martyn got together at 146/4 and added 84 for the fifth wicket. Namibia did well to keep the score to 231/6 with seven overs left, but Darren Lehmann cracked an unbeaten 50 from 31 balls – including 28 in the final over – to propel the final total to 301/6 in 50 overs. Louis Burger impressed with his medium pace, taking 3/39 in ten overs.

zmcgrar       Glenn McGrath traps Gavin Murgatroyd LBW for a duck. The great bowler destroyed the Namibian batting en route to a World Cup record return (source – reuters/espncricinfo.com)

  Against Australia’s world-class bowlers, Namibia had little chance to survive their entire quota of overs or to get anywhere close to Australia’s huge total. The great pace bowler Glenn McGrath was in his element and the Namibian batsmen had no clue on how to tackle his accurate bowling. Jan-Berrie Burger, who made an attacking  85 off 86 balls against England, clouted McGrath for four off the third ball of the first over, but ‘Pigeon’ got his man a ball later, inducing Burger to edge one to Ponting in the slips. McGrath was surprisingly wayward in this opening over and ended up conceding twelve runs including six wides. Stephan Swanepoel was the second wicket to fall, when Ponting snapped up another catch, off Brett Lee in the fourth over. After four overs, Namibia were 14/2 and were up against it already.

  McGrath proceeded to make a mockery of the chase by producing a lethal spell. In his third over (the innings’ fifth), he dismissed Morne Karg, caught behind by Gilchrist. From that point on, he took at least one wicket in each of his remaining overs as the hapless Namibian batsmen fell like a pack of cards. In his fourth over, McGrath trapped Gavin Murgatroyd plumb in front. After seven overs, Namibia were 17/4. McGrath’s figures at this stage read 4-2-14-3. In his fifth over, he accounted for Danie Keulder as his fourth victim, caught behind. Half the side were back in the hut with just 28 runs on the board and a massive defeat loomed large.

  Worse was to follow for the beleaguered Namibians as McGrath kept up the pressure. In his sixth over, he completed his five-wicket haul when Gilchrist caught Louis Burger behind. Namibia managed to get past the lowest ODI total – 36 by Canada against Sri Lanka earlier in the same tournament – as they limped to 45/6 in 12 overs. In his seventh over, McGrath achieved a double-wicket maiden as he removed captain Deon Kotze (caught behind) and his brother Bjorn (bowled) in the space of four balls. Andy Bichel got a double-wicket maiden of his own as he cleaned up the last two wickets in the next over. Namibia’s last four wickets failed to score even a single run as the African side were shot out for 45 in just 14 overs. Captain Kotze (10) was the only one to reach double figures.

zmcn        McGrath acknowledges the crowd after taking his fifth wicket against Namibia (source – ecb.co.uk)

  Man of the Match McGrath’s final figures read a spectacular 7-4-15-7, and that too after going for 12 runs in his first over. This performance broke the record of the best bowling analysis in a World Cup match, which previously was 7/51 by West Indian fast bowler Winston Davis against Australia at Headingley in 1983. Besides McGrath and Davis, the only other bowler to take seven wickets in a World Cup is Bichel, who took 7/20 in Australia’s very next game of the 2003 World Cup, against England at Port Elizabeth. McGrath’s return is the best ever by an Australian and currently the third best in all ODI cricket, behind Chaminda Vaas’ 8/19 for Sri Lanka against Zimbabwe at Colombo in 2001-02 and Shahid Afridi’s 7/12 for Pakistan against the West Indies at Providence in 2013.

  Namibia’s total of 45 is the joint second-lowest in World Cup history along with Canada, who also made 45 against England at Old Trafford in 1979. The record for the lowest World Cup total is also held by Canada, who managed only 36 against Sri Lanka at Paarl in 2003 as mentioned above. At that time, Australia’s victory margin of 256 runs was an ODI record. Since then, there have been four more instances of a higher victory margin. Currently, this margin is the second highest in a World Cup game, following India’s 257-run win over Bermuda at Port-of-Spain in 2007. Namibia’s entire innings lasted just 84 balls, which is the ODI record for the shortest completed innings in terms of balls. Gilchrist’s six catches in the match is also a World Cup record for the most dismissals by a wicketkeeper.

  McGrath collected 21 wickets in all in the 2003 World Cup at an average of 14.76, the third-best tally behind Vaas (23) and Lee (22). He bettered this in the 2007 edition, where he took 26 wickets in 11 matches at 13.73 – a record for the most number of wickets in a single World Cup tournament – as Australia completed a hat-trick of titles. Thanks to these achievements, he also holds the record of the most wickets in World Cup history – 71 in 39 matches at 18.19 with two five-wicket hauls.

Match Scorecard – http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/65263.html

IN FOCUS – Bags of fifteen for Sajib and Rushworth

  Fifteen-wicket hauls do not come everyday, but during this week we saw two such instances recorded in first-class cricket. The two bowlers who achieved this are Saqlain Sajib of Bangladesh ‘A’ and Chris Rushworth of Durham.

zsaqs      Saqlain Sajib took 15/132 for Bangladesh ‘A’ against Zimbabwe ‘A’, the best bowling figures by a Bangladeshi in first-class cricket (source – observerbd.com)

  Sajib, a left-arm spinner with considerable first-class experience, returned match figures of 15/132 for Bangladesh ‘A’ against Zimbabwe ‘A’ in the first unofficial Test at Cox’s Bazar. On the first day of the match itself, he destroyed the Zimbabwean batting order to finish with 9/82 in 31.1 overs in the first innings, which ended at 206. These are now the best ever bowling figures in an innings by a Bangladeshi, bettering the 9/84 taken by Abdur Razzak for Khulna against Chittagong in 2012-13. He lost the chance of a perfect ten when off-spinner Farhad Hossain took the sixth wicket to fall. Interestingly, all of Sajib’s nine victims were caught by fielders. The Zimbabwe ‘A’ spinners bowled equally well to restrict the hosts’ lead to five runs.

  But Sajib sealed the contest with another skillful display in the second innings. This time his figures were 6/50 in 21.2 overs as Zimbabwe ‘A’ subsided to 108. His performance eventually helped Bangladesh ‘A’ to ease to a six-wicket win. On a pitch tailor-made for the slower bowlers, all the 34 wickets in the match fell to spin. These match figures of 15/132 are now the best by any Bangladeshi. Razzak was the holder of this record too – he had taken 15/193 for Khulna against Barisal in 2011-12. In his 53-match career for Rajshahi (the team he currently plays for) and Chittagong, 25 year-old Sajib has taken 244 wickets at 20.91. He made his debut in 2006-07, but due to the plethora of left-arm spin options available for the national side, has never been able to press his case. Perhaps this feat will give the selectors something to ponder about.

chris rushworth ball    Chris Rushworth ripped through the Northants batting line-up twice in one day, finishing with 15/95, a new Durham record (source – theguardian.com)

  Just a day later, it was the turn of Durham fast bowler Chris Rushworth to do the same, against Northamptonshire at Chester-le-Street. Moreover, he took all the 15 wickets on the same day and that too in the space of a mere 18 overs. After Durham made 392 in their first innings, Rushworth took over on the third day – effectively the second day, as the first day had been washed out – and consigned Northants to a first-innings total of 83 in just 23 overs. His figures were 9/52 in 12 overs, the best figures in this county season. He was denied a ten-wicket haul when Ben Stokes took the ninth wicket. A few minutes later, Rushworth repeated the mayhem, this time taking 6/43 in just eight overs. Northants, already relegated, were shot out for a pitiful 90 in 17.2 overs. The dismal performance of the Northants batsmen made India’s second innings in last month’s final two Tests against England look like masterpieces in batsmanship.

  Rushworth’s 15/95 are the best match bowling figures in the county Championship since 2000, when Martin Bicknell took 16/119 for Surrey against Leicestershire. Also, they are now the best first-class match bowling figures by a Durham bowler, eclipsing the 14/177 by Alan Walker against Essex in 1995. Durham’s best innings figures remain the 10/47 taken by Ottis Gibson against Hampshire in 2007. 28 year-old Rushworth has been representing Durham since 2010. In 54 first-class matches till date, he has taken 182 wickets at 24.84. Strangely, he had failed to take a single five-wicket haul this season, but now sits third in the list of highest wicket-takers this season in Division One with 58 scalps. Durham, the 2013 champions, are placed fifth in the table with a match to go. Yorkshire have won the title with a round remaining.

  As far as Test cricket is concerned, it has been a while since a fifteen-wicket haul was recorded. The latest such instance was Harbhajan Singh’s 15/217 for India against Australia at Chennai in 2000-01.

Match Scorecards:-




Who Would Have Thought It – Cambridge University’s path-breaking chase

  The 1896 University Match between the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) and the Cambridge University was a remarkable one. Played at Lord’s between 25th and 27th June, 1896, this match created a record which was quite unimaginable in that day and age.

  The MCC side for this fixture had a decent look to it. Among their ranks were Kent’s opening batsman Alec Hearne and medium pace bowler Frederick Martin as well as the enigmatic Victoria and Middlesex all-rounder Albert Trott.

  The squad was led by Charles Hulls, who played his second and last first-class match. His opposite number was Frank Mitchell, who was a rugby international for England and was to later play Test cricket for both England and South Africa.

  Also in the Cambridge University eleven were William Gilbert Grace junior – the 22 year-old son of the legendary ‘Doctor’ of the same name – and Surrey’s Norman ‘Frank’ Druce, who was in the midst of a good season with the bat.

  Hulls won the toss and elected to bat. The University’s fast bowling pair of Horace Gray and Trinidad-born Eustace Shine immediately put the hosts on the back foot with timely blows. Gray removed Hearne and Trott cheaply to have the MCC at 23/2, before the Essex opener Herbert Carpenter and wicketkeeper George Davenport put on 45 for the third wicket.

  Gray dismissed Carpenter for 37, the innings’ top score, while Shine made severe inroads into the middle order. Three wickets – that of Carpenter, Davenport and Hulls – fell at 68 and from that point, the innings could never recover. The MCC were bowled out for 134 in 41.4 overs, with Gray and Shine returning figures of 5/62 and 4/48 respectively.

ztroyuu       Albert Trott took 6/59 in the first innings to help the MCC gain a narrow lead (source – wikipedia.org)

  The Cambridge University got off to a good start in reply through their openers Cuthbert Burnup – who had just began his county career with Kent – and Grace. The two added 41 before Martin and Trott started to engineer a collapse. Martin bowled Grace and Harold Marriott while Trott cleaned up Burnup as the score slid to 51/3.

  The performance of the middle order batsmen was even worse than those of the MCC, as the innings went into a freefall in the face of the left and right-handed bowling combo. From 41/0, the score crashed to 79/7 before finally winding up at 111 in 57.2 overs.

  Trott – who could bowl both pace and off-spin – took 6/59 while Martin finished with 4/32. Grace’s 26 was the highest score. With a narrow lead of 23, the MCC lost Hearne and Trott early again and finished the day at 92/2 with Carpenter and Francis Phillips at the crease. 337 runs were scored for the loss of 22 wickets on the first day.

  The pitch had clearly eased out by the time the second day started, as Carpenter and Phillips set about building the lead in imposing fashion. Their third-wicket partnership realised 168 runs before Mitchell dismissed Phillips for 74. Carpenter was in fine fettle as he added a further 93 with Hulls for the fourth wicket.

  He went on to score a then career-best of 161 before getting out caught off Grace. Richard Nicholls (59) and Walter Mead (46*) frustrated the Cambridge University with an 81-run stand for the ninth wicket – which was effectively the last wicket as Davenport was absent injured – as the MCC piled up 483 runs in 136.1 overs.

  Part-time medium-pacer Marriott – who was the last of seven bowlers used – ended up as the pick of them with a career-best 4/60. The target for Cambridge University was a mammoth 507 runs, and it seemed only two results were possible at this stage – a draw or an MCC win.

  The chase got off to a poor start as Grace was bowled by Trott for a duck with the score at four. Martin accounted for Burnup to make it 38/2. Marriott and Druce then guided their team to 98/2 at stumps on Day 2. The requirement for the final day was 409 runs with eight wickets standing.

  The demons in the pitch had long rested, and now the it was looking very conducive for the batsmen. Druce and Clement Wilson took charge of the proceedings as the third day began, with the two playing showing positivity.

  Druce was the more dominating of the two, and by the time he was bowled by Mead for a wonderful, game-changing 146, the score was 280 and the third-wicket partnership had fetched 242 runs.

  With a composed Wilson still at the crease, Cambridge University might have started to believe in themselves. But there was still a long way to go – 227 runs needed with seven wickets in hand.

zdruce       Frank Druce scored a wonderful 146 in the second innings to set the base for Cambridge University’s historic victory (source – wikipedia.org)

  However, Martin provided a crucial breakthrough just six runs later, as he caught Wilson for 82 off his own bowling. Marriott came out to bat at this point with a huge task in front of him.

  There was a lot of time left in the game, and with the extremely high over-rates of those days, all four results were entirely possible now. Marriott and William Hemingway took the score to 327 before Trott dismissed the latter.

  21-year-old Marriott was looking composed and chipped away at the target, but wickets were falling at the other end. Mitchell was out caught by Hulls off Martin to make it 352/6, while Hearne had John Stogdon caught by Nicholls – the score now reading 389/7.

  Marriott needed a willing ally if his team had to wrest back the advantage, which he found in the form of wicketkeeper Edward Bray, who batted at number nine. The two thwarted any further wicket-taking attempt from the MCC bowlers as they went about getting the remaining runs in a steady manner.

  Bray (32*) was not exactly known for his batting, but on this occasion he held his nerve and ably supported Marriott, who determinedly and maturely went on to score a century, playing the major role in the partnership. The MCC bowlers began to appear jaded when it mattered the most.

  The Cambridge University eventually achieved a historic victory when Marriott scored the winning single off Mead. The final score read an astonishing 507/7 in 189.2 overs, with the unbroken eighth-wicket stand bringing 128 runs. Martin toiled for 65 overs to claim 3/109. Marriott finished with an unbeaten career-best 146.

  Until this match, no team had ever chased down even 400 runs in the fourth innings of a first-class match. What’s more, there had been no instance of a team scoring as many in the fourth innings – whether in a win, loss or draw – of any first-class match.

  In this context, the feat achieved by the Cambridge University can be said to be a notable turning point as far as chasing big totals was concerned. Just four years later, another 500-plus winning chase was recorded, when the Players chased down 501 against the Gentlemen at Lord’s.

  Cambridge University’s record of the highest winning fourth-innings total stood unchallenged for 107 years. As of today, it stands third on the list, behind West Zone’s 541/7 against South Zone at Hyderabad in 2009-10 and Central Province’s 513/9 against Southern Province at Kandy in 2003-04.

  The highest fourth-innings total overall is England’s 654/5 against South Africa at Durban in the drawn Timeless Test of 1938-39.

Match Scorecard – http://cricketarchive.com/Archive/Scorecards/4/4571.html

Who Would Have Thought It – Border’s double debacle

  Most of the embarrassingly low first-class team totals were recorded in the early age of cricket. However, the Currie Cup of 1959-60 saw one of the most bizarre first-class matches ever played. Two of the three lowest first-class team totals after the second World War were recorded in this match between Border and Natal.

  Border, the perennial underdogs of erstwhile South African domestic cricket, played host to heavyweights Natal, who were led by Derrick ‘Jackie’ McGlew, at the Jan Smuts Ground in East London in the thirteenth match of the season.

  This three-day match, played between 19th and 21st December, 1959, was part of the top division (known as Section A), which also included defending champions Transvaal, Western Province and Rhodesia.

  Coming into the game, Border had been beaten thrice in three games thus far, whereas Natal had won twice in as many games. There was no doubt that the visitors were clear favourites, but the manner in which the Border batsmen capitulated was bewildering.


     South African Test all-rounder Trevor Goddard took 6/3, including a hat trick, in Border’s first innings (source – in.com)

  Border captain Kevin Commins won the toss and elected to field on a pitch which was usually known to be more bowler-friendly than most of the other pitches used in the competition. The decision looked justified as the Natal batsmen failed to negotiate the pace of the hosts’ opening pair of Sidney Knott and Athol Hagemann.

  Hopes of an upset win must have surely been harboured as Natal crashed to 21/5 and then 50/8, with only Geoffrey Griffin (22) crossing eleven. Wicketkeeper Malcolm Smith, batting at number nine, attempted to stem the rot with a 40-run stand for the ninth wicket with Peter Dodds.

  This helped prop up the eventual total to 90 all out in 26.3 overs, Smith top-scoring with 33. Knott and Hagemann bowled unchanged, sharing the spoils with 5/40 and 5/49 respectively.

  Border’s batsmen were in very ordinary form, as the team had suffered innings defeats in their previous two encounters. But on this occasion, they managed to plummet to new depths. The left-right combination of Trevor Goddard – one of South Africa’s best all-rounders – and John Cole wrought havoc in ruthless fashion.

  The two bowlers bowled unchanged from the second over onwards and consigned the hosts to an ignominious 16 all out in 23 overs – the lowest ever total in South African domestic cricket.

  Goddard began the damage by trapping Peter Muzzell leg before for a duck with the score on two. From thereon, the procession unfolded. The score went from 2/0 to 2/3 and then to 11/5 before the last three wickets fell at 16.

  Goddard recorded excellent career-best figures of 11-9-3-6, including a hat-trick, while Cole supported him ably with 4/13. Six batsmen, including captain Commins, were dismissed without scoring. The top score was nine by number five Daniel During, who was the ninth batsman to fall and was Goddard’s hat-trick victim.

zgriffgh           Geoffrey Griffin took 7/11 in Border’s second innings (source – alloutcricket.com)

  With his team trailing by 74 runs, off-break bowler Edwin Schreiber provided some vital strikes at the end of the day to leave Natal at 39/3. On a dramatic opening day, just 145 runs were scored for the loss of 23 wickets.

  On the second day, which followed a rest day, Natal’s number three Michael Elgie showed how to bat on such a wicket with a wonderful display of stroke-making. He ensured that the match was put well out of reach for Border and ended with an unbeaten career-best 162 out of a team total of 294/8 declared.

  He put on 122 runs for the seventh wicket with Lynton Morby-Smith (43) to rescue Natal from 145/6. Schreiber bowled whole-heartedly, taking 6/126. Border needed 369 runs to win the match, and the only question was how long would their second innings last.

  This time around it was the fast bowling of Griffin that spearheaded the attack. He had bowled only one over in the first innings but was at his fiery best in the second. The innings followed a painfully similar pattern to the first, as not even one batsman showed the skill or appetite to survive.

  Border lamentably crashed to 5/4 and then to 12/8. The final total was equally woeful – 18 all out in 26 overs. Natal had won by a thumping margin of 350 runs within two days. Griffin grabbed a career-best 7/11 in 13 overs while Cole chipped in yet again with 3/4. Smith was excellent behind the wicket, holding seven catches. There were five ducks and the top score was seven by Warwick Tainton.

  This was the first – and remains the only – instance of a team getting bundled out for less than 20 in both innings of a first-class match. Border went on to lose their remaining two games of the season as well, thus ending with a hundred percent loss record. Natal became champions by virtue of topping Section A and went on to win the title in five of the next six years as well.

  Needless to say, Border’s total of 34 is the lowest ever aggregate figure in first-class cricket. In all likelihood, this is one first-class record that will remain unchallenged. Before these two innings, the lowest total in South African domestic cricket was 23, also by Border against Natal at the same ground in 1920-21.

  Thus, Border hold the dubious record of the three lowest first-class totals recorded on South African soil. The fourth-lowest first-class total in South Africa was recorded in as recently as 2013, when KwaZulu-Natal Inland were bowled out for 26 against North West at Potchefstroom. 

  Since 1959-60, there has been only one lower first-class total – 14 by Surrey against Essex at Chelmsford in 1983.

Match Scorecardhttp://cricketarchive.com/Archive/Scorecards/23/23864.html

IN FOCUS – Finally some international cricket for Ireland

  It is a quite a shame that Ireland’s upcoming three home one-day internationals against Scotland at Malahide (Dublin) are their only ones scheduled before the World Cup, which is still five months away. Ireland’s most recent ODI was back in May, and before that, in February.zscottish

  The matches are set to be played at The Village on September 8th, 10th and 12th. Just three one-day internationals in the nine months and five in the year before the most important 50-overs competition in world cricket. How can one expect Ireland to rise to the level of the top cricketing nations, when they are being deprived of international cricket? Lack of fixtures is an issue that all the Associate teams are facing, and it shows the clear apathy towards those who are not full members. But Ireland’s drought in the past year has been all the more glaring, given that they are the leading Associate nation and that the World Cup is just around the corner.

  In the couple of months before the World Cup, almost all the major nations will be making a beeline to play ODI matches in Australia and New Zealand in a bid to get acclimatised to the conditions. Hence, once the showpiece event begins, it is very likely that the stronger teams will have even more of an edge over the relatively weaker ones. There could be many reasons for Ireland’s failure to secure regular fixtures. For one, the so-called ‘big’ teams do not seem to have the time to play what they might think of as ‘irrelevant’ teams. Secondly, they feel that Associate nations do not bring people to the ground and thus are not commercially viable. Thirdly, in my opinion, certain teams want to avoid facing Ireland as they are apprehensive of a potential banana skin moment. Why would they bother then?

  But then what is the point of a professional team when they cannot even play a reasonable number of international matches? How will cricket as a sport ever develop? The cosy coterie at the ICC have already dented Ireland’s hopes of getting proper Test match status by proposing a ludicrous Test playoff four years from now. But now it seems that there is a conspiracy to shut Ireland and other Associate teams from making a justified claim to be part of the top table. As we all know, the 2019 World Cup will have just ten teams if the ICC go ahead with their pathetic idea of having a league format. So there is every possibility that there will be no Associate representation in the 2019 World Cup. Ireland need every bit of playing experience if they are to become a force to reckon with in the near future. Unfortunately, the biased structure of international cricket is slowly killing that dream.

zkovben       Kevin O’Brien, who will lead the side in the upcoming series, bowls during Ireland’s most recent ODI against Scotland at Belfast in 2013 (source – bbc.co.uk)

  Coming back to the series against Scotland. This will be a series of great importance for the Irishmen, as they will look to zero down on their list of World Cup probables. During the long gaps between international matches, players have kept themselves busy in either the county Championship or the domestic Interpros. In July, an Ireland side took on Sri Lanka ‘A’ in a series of 50-over matches. Some like Kevin O’Brien honed their short-form skills in the Caribbean Premier League, while others like Paul Stirling and Gary Wilson did the same in the domestic limited-over competitions in England. As many as five senior players will be missing from the 13-man squad that will play Scotland, and this presents a great opportunity for the younger crop to push for a World Cup berth.

  Stirling, Wilson, captain William Porterfield, Niall O’Brien and Tim Murtagh will all be busy with their respective English counties and hence might have played their last international cricket before the World Cup. In fact, there are only four changes from the near second-string side that played against Sri Lanka ‘A’, them being the experienced quartet of Kevin O’Brien, George Dockrell, Max Sorensen and John Mooney, who all return to the side. Kevin O’Brien will be leading the team, and it will be interesting to see his leadership skills. It is also good to see Mooney back in the squad, after a stress-related illness forced him to pull out of the West Indies tour in February. Coach Phil Simmons has challenged his wards to make themselves ‘undroppable’ from the World Cup squad by performing well against Scotland.

  The pace bowling attack has been a bit of a concern for Ireland following the defection of Boyd Rankin and retirement of Trent Johnston. In this regard, Craig Young brings hope and looks a good prospect to partner Murtagh and Sorensen in the World Cup. The 24 year-old from Londonderry took six wickets in the two matches against Sri Lanka ‘A’. Greame McCarter, another pace bowler from Londonderry, will also be looking to make a mark. Among the others from the younger pool, Andrew Balbirnie and Andy McBrine are the ones to watch out for in the future. Balbirnie is an effective stroke-maker who should be on the plane to the Antipodes in my opinion. Off-spinner McBrine may miss out on a World Cup spot as he is a second spin option, but a strong showing against Scotland should give a bit of a headache to the selectors.

zsooyu     Stuart Poynter, who scored 109 against Sri Lanka ‘A’ in July, will be one of the young players hoping to press for World Cup selection (source – leinsterlightning.ie)

  Also in action will be the talented Poynter brothers – Andrew and Stuart. The latter made a wonderful 109 in a lost cause in the first match against Sri Lanka ‘A’ in July and similar displays against Scotland will hold him in good stead. Another player who I feel should be part of the World Cup is Stuart Thompson, the talented all-rounder who has so far impressed in his nascent career. Rounding off the squad are the two multi-day specialists – veteran Andrew White – who has been part of the last two World Cups and provides a handy all-round option if he does well against Scotland – and John Anderson. Strong performances from White and Thompson, coupled with Mooney’s comeback, will make things interesting as far as potential all-round options are concerned, with Kevin O’Brien, Stirling and maybe Alex Cusack already certainties.

  The Scottish side will also be looking to find a combination they can take to the World Cup, as they too will be playing their last ODI cricket before the quadrennial event. Led by the stylish batsman Preston Mommsen, Scotland come off a home series against New Zealand ‘A’ in which they were outplayed. The players to watch out for in the visitors’ side will be Mommsen himself, spinner Majid Haq, all-rounder Matt Machan and hard-hitting Michael Leask, who crashed 42 off 16 balls in an ODI against England in May. While World Cricket League winners Ireland are part of Group B in the World Cup, Scotland are in Group A by virtue of being the ICC World Cup Qualifier winners earlier this year.

  Following this series, both Ireland and Scotland will visit Australia and New Zealand in the last week of September to play against state sides as part of preparation for the World Cup. But that is not enough for two of the three best non-Test teams in world cricket. The need of the hour is regular international cricket against higher-ranked teams. It is high time they are included as a proper part of the fixtures calendar.

The squads:-

  Ireland – Kevin O’Brien (captain, Railway Union), John Anderson (Merrion), Andrew Balbirnie (Middlesex), George Dockrell (Somerset), John Mooney (North County), Andrew McBrine (Donemana), Graeme McCarter (Gloucestershire), Andrew Poynter (Clontarf), Stuart Poynter (Durham), Max Sorensen (The Hills), Stuart Thompson (Eglinton), Andrew White (Instonians), Craig Young (Bready)

  Scotland – Preston Mommsen (captain), Richie Berrington, Freddie Coleman, Matty Cross, Josh Davey, Alasdair Evans, Hamish Gardiner, Majid Haq, Michael Leask, Matt Machan, Calum MacLeod, Safyaan Sharif, Iain Wardlaw

  Head to head in ODIs – 12 matches played with Ireland having won nine to Scotland’s three. Last match – at Belfast in 2013, won by Ireland by 7 wickets.

  Here’s hoping for some good cricket and good weather. And of course, a series win for Ireland.

SPECIALS – Tribute to Norman Gordon

  Norman Gordon, who was the oldest living Test cricketer, passed away at the age of 103 years and 27 days in his Johannesburg home on 2nd September. He was the first and only male Test cricketer to have crossed the age of 100.

  In August 2010, Gordon became the oldest living Test cricketer following the death of New Zealand’s Eric Tindill at the age of 99 years and 226 days. Following Gordon’s death, the oldest living Test cricketer at the moment is Englishwoman Eileen Whelan, who is aged 102 years and 309 days. The oldest living male Test cricketer is South African Lindsay Tuckett, who is aged 95 years and 210 days. The oldest first-class cricketer at the time of death was Derbyshire’s Jim Hutchinson who died in 2000 at the age of 103 years and 344 days.

  Gordon represented South Africa in just five Test matches, all of which came in the 1938-39 home series against England. His last Test was the famous Timeless Test in Durban. Thus, he was the last survivor of that historic match which stretched for ten days. His international career was unfortunately cut short by the first World War. He was one of the select few Jews who played Test cricket.

  Gordon, who was born on 6th August, 1911 in Boksburg, was a right-arm fast bowler who made his first-class debut for Transvaal against Natal in 1933-34. He failed to take a single wicket and did not play another first-class game for the next four years. He made a comeback in 1937-38, the season during which he cemented his spot in the Transvaal side. In January 1938, he recorded match figures of 9/130 against Orange Free State at Johannesburg. He took 4/98 in the first innings and followed it with a haul of 5/32 in the second innings, helping Transvaal to a 237-run victory. Two months later, he bettered that with a career-best 9/50 (4/21 and 5/29) at Port Elizabeth against Eastern Province, who were bowled out for 36 and 62 en route an eight-wicket defeat.

zgordon       Norman Gordon (1911-2014) – the epitome of timelessness (source – cricketweb.net)

  These kind of performances earned him a place for the Test series against England in 1938-39. He made an impact immediately, as he collected a Test-best of 5/103 in his debut innings in the first Test at Johannesburg. His first Test wicket happened to be the legendary Walter Hammond. In his first innings with the bat, he lasted just one delivery after being sent in as a nightwatchman late on the second day. He added 2/59 in the second innings to finish with a match haul of 7/162 – his best in Test cricket. In the second Test at Cape Town, he took another five-wicket haul (5/157). In the Timeless Test, he took only one wicket across both innings despite toiling for 92.2 eight-ball overs. His Test record thus consisted of five matches, in which he took 20 wickets at an average of 40.35. He was a typical tail-ender with the bat, averaging just 2.00.

  Though England won the 1938-39 series by a margin of 1-0, Gordon finished as the leading wicket-taker with his 20 scalps. During the war, he served in the army. He continued to play first-class cricket for Transvaal till 1948-49. In 1939-40, he recorded his career-best innings figures of 6/61 in the first innings against Natal at Johannesburg. He took 3/86 in the second innings as Transvaal cruised to victory by an innings and 168 runs. His final first-class game was against the touring Marylebone Cricket Club (M.C.C) on England’s 1948-49 tour of South Africa. He was quite past his prime to be considered for the Test series that followed. In total, he played 29 first-class matches, taking 126 wickets at a healthy average of 22.24 with eight five-wicket hauls. With the bat, he could muster only 109 runs in 31 innings at 5.19.

  Throughout his playing career, he was known for his stamina – his marathon spells in the Timeless Test testify that. He maintained this amazing level of fitness till the very last – he practiced as an accountant till he was 94 and regularly played golf till he was 96. In 2011, his hundredth birthday was widely celebrated in the South African cricket fraternity. After he retired from cricket, he started a sports shop in Eloff Street in central Johannesburg. During his career, he developed a good friendship with Hammond, his first Test victim. Gordon thought Hammond was the greatest batsman against whom he had ever bowled. Hammond called Gordon the best seam bowler he had faced since England’s Maurice Tate.

  “He was a person who lived a very full life,” former South African captain Ali Bacher said while paying tribute to Gordon.

  Gordon’s name will forever be associated with the Timeless Test. Indeed, he was in the middle of his 93rd over of the match when it was mutually decided to end the game, so that the England team could catch the homeward-bound ship on time. As fate would have it, timelessness became a facet of his life in the truest sense.

May his soul rest in peace.