Specials – Moments from Australia v Bangladesh Test history

  Australia and Bangladesh will be facing each other in whites after more than 11 years when they begin their two-Test series in Dhaka on August 27. The history between them in the longest format is brief – only four matches across two series have been played since 2003. Nevertheless, these Tests have had their share of conspicuous moments, not to mention a few stirring performances.

Darwin and Cairns join the Test club

  As part of Cricket Australia’s plan to host off-season matches at unexplored locations, two new venues were welcomed into the Test fold for Australia’s inaugural series against Bangladesh in 2003. The Marrara Oval in Darwin and the Bundaberg Rum Stadium in Cairns became the 89th and 90th Test venues respectively.

  To nobody’s surprise, Australia notched a comfortable 2-0 victory courtesy of resounding innings wins in both games. The gap in both, experience and skill, was evident on the first day of the first Test itself as Bangladesh, led by Khaled Mahmud, were shot out for 97. The win at Darwin was Steve Waugh’s 37th as captain, overhauling Clive Lloyd’s record.

Boof’s beefy blade, Love’s final fling

  Darren ‘Boof’ Lehmann had scored his maiden Test ton, at the age of 33, against the West Indies at Port-of-Spain in April 2003. Three months later, he took a liking to the raw Bangladeshi attack and amassed two more centuries, ending as the series’ highest run-getter. At Darwin, he walked in at 43/2 and scored 110, while at Cairns, he top-scored with a career-best 177 from just 207 balls.

    Opener Shahriar Nafees scored 138 on the first day at Fatullah in 2005-06, as Bangladesh gave a massive scare to Australia (source – AFP/farjana godhuly)

  Also playing in the series for Australia was three-Test-old Martin Love, who, like Lehmann, was an ace batsman in the first-class arena. His outing at Darwin was forgettable as he was castled by Mashrafe Mortaza for a golden duck. However, he made amends with an unbeaten 100 at Cairns, sharing in a fifth-wicket stand of 174 with Lehmann. This would be Love’s final Test innings.

Shahriar Nafees leaves the world champions stunned

  A weary Australian side began their first Test in Bangladesh, in 2005-06, just five days after their series-sweeping win in the third Test in South Africa. It was also the first Test to be played at the Khan Shaheb Osman Ali Stadium in Fatullah. The opening day belonged to 20-year-old southpaw Shahriar Nafees, who launched into the unsuspecting bowlers with aplomb.

  At lunch, Bangladesh’s score was a scarcely believable 144/1. Nafees, uninhibited and unleashed, added 187 for the second wicket with his captain Habibul Bashar and galloped to a maiden first-class hundred in 131 balls. He was eventually dismissed for 138, lit with 19 fours, a knock that powered Bangladesh to 355/5 at stumps. The great Shane Warne was taken for 112 off 20 wicketless overs.

Gilchrist and Ponting save Australia the blushes

  Replying to Bangladesh’s 427 in the first Test at Fatullah in 2005-06, Australia were gasping for breath at 93/6. Less than a year ago, the Tigers had beaten Australia in an ODI, and now, they had reason to feel upbeat about a potentially bigger upset. Adam Gilchrist, batting at six, provided relief to his confounded teammates with a timely 144 that restricted Bangladesh’s lead to 158.

  A poor show from the Bangladeshi batsmen in the second innings brought Australia back into the game, but a target of 307 was a challenge on a deteriorating wicket. Captain Ricky Ponting calmly responded to the pressure, keeping left-arm spinner Mohammad Rafique (4/98, 9/160 in the match) at bay and constructing a restrained, unbeaten 118 to steer Australia to a tense three-wicket win.

    Jason Gillespie smiles after his record-breaking double century at Chittagong in 2005-06 (source – gettyimages/cricket.com.au)

Magical MacGill – Bangladesh’s bogeyman

  Even though he plied his trade under the shadow of Shane Warne, leg-spinner Stuart MacGill almost always delivered when given the opportunity. Bangladesh’s batsmen would know this well, for MacGill has scalped 33 wickets in four matches against them, 14 more than anyone else in Australia v Bangladesh fixtures. Moreover, he boasts of an average of 15.75 and four five-wicket hauls.

  His first assignment against Bangladesh, at Darwin in 2003, saw him pick 7/86, including 5/65 in the second innings. He bettered these in the second Test at Cairns, taking 10/133 (5/77 and 5/56) to be named player of the match and series. In 2005-06, he recorded a career-best return of 8/108 in the first innings at Fatullah, and gathered eight more from the next three innings in the series.

Dizzy’s sensational vigil enters the record books

  Having broken out of jail in the Fatullah Test, Australia restored normality at Chittagong, winning by an innings and 80 runs to seal the series. The match was notable for one of the most remarkable innings of all time – the only Test double century by a nightwatchman. This honour went to the sprightly paceman Jason Gillespie, in what was to be his last international appearance.

  ‘Dizzy’ came in at number three late on the first day, after his 3/11 had kept Bangladesh to 197. Three days later, on his 31st birthday, he was still in the middle, having doggedly batted nine hours and 34 minutes for 201*, when Australia declared at the fall of Michael Hussey, with whom he put on 320 for the fourth wicket. Before this, Gillespie had never passed 58 in first-class cricket.    

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Specials – Eleven Test records that may never be broken

  Throughout its glorious history, Test cricket has produced many world-class players, and many records have been bettered time and again.

  However, there are a few astonishing numbers that have stood the test of time, and it is quite possible that they will forever remain unchallenged.

  The cliché says that ‘records are meant to be broken’, but the following 11 records seem to be exceptions.

1. Highest batting average

  99.94 is 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 just four runs in his last Test innings.

  Among those who have played at least 20 innings, only three other batsmen have finished their career with an average of more than 60, with South African Graeme Pollock’s 60.97 being the second-highest in the list – nearly 39 runs behind Bradman.

  Among current players, Bangladesh’s Mominul Haque has the highest average with 58.75. But he has played only 15 Tests, so that figure is quite likely to go down.

zzdon           The great Don Bradman – holder of an immortal record (source – sportskeeda.com)

2. Highest score in a 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.

  It will take a brave man to say that this record will be broken. After all, it has been standing for 112 years. This was Foster’s only century in his eight-match career, and he died at the young age of 36 due to diabetes.

  Sitting second on this list is South Africa’s Jacques Rudolph, who scored 222* in his first innings against Bangladesh at Chittagong in 2002-03.

3. Most number of wickets

  Muttiah Muralitharan of Sri Lanka retired in 2010 with an amazing 800 wickets, 92 clear of his closest contender – Australian Shane Warne. The controversy over his action notwithstanding, ‘Murali’ has been a legend of the game.

  With the number of Test matches getting reduced by the year and bowlers retiring early, Muralitharan’s record will be nigh impossible to beat.

  Among the current crop, India’s Harbhajan Singh is way behind at 413, and his career is as good as over. South Africa’s Dale Steyn currently has 383 wickets and looks fit enough to continue for some time. But one cannot expect him to get anywhere close to Murali’s tally.

4. Slowest fifty

  Trevor Bailey of England, who passed away in 2011, was known as the ‘Barnacle’, since 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 recorded Test fifty.

  He took 350 balls and 357 minutes to reach the landmark against Australia at Brisbane in 1958-59, where he opened the innings. In all, he faced 438 balls for 68.

  This is also the slowest fifty in all of first-class cricket. Even Chris Tavare could not beat this record, despite his best efforts.

5. Largest margin of victory by runs

  In the first Test of the 1928-29 Ashes at the Exhibition Ground in Brisbane, England thumped the hosts by an unprecedented margin of 675 runs. Chasing an incredible 741, Australia were all out for 66. 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 partnership for any wicket

zzj       Mahela Jayawardene (374) and Kumar Sangakkara (287) put on a world record 624 runs for the third wicket against South Africa in 2006 (source – gettyimages)

  Considering the short attention spans of most batsmen today, it will take a lot to beat this record, even though it was set in as recently as 2006.

  Immortality might have been ensured for the 624 runs stitched by the Sri Lankan pair of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jaywardene for the third against South Africa at the Sinhalese Sports Club in Colombo.

  Since then, there has been only one instance of a stand worth more than 400 runs in a Test – 415 by South African openers Greame Smith and Neil McKenzie against Bangladesh at Chittagong in 2007-08.

7. Best match bowling figures

  Jim Laker, the English off-spinner, made the 1956 Old Trafford Test against Australia completely his own as he finished with eye-popping match figures of 19/90.

  Laker took 9/37 in the first innings and then completed the first ever ‘perfect ten’ in Tests in the second innings, taking 10/53.

  Anil Kumble of India has been the only other man to take all ten in an innings, but Laker’s match haul is unlikely to be repeated.

  Laker’s feat is also the best ever in all first-class cricket, with only two others managing 18 in a match, way back in 1837 and 1861.

8. Oldest player on debut

  In the very first Test match, played between Australia and England at Melbourne in 1876-77, England fielded a slow left-armer by the name of James Southerton who was only 49 years and 119 days old!

  Surely experience does matter, but this record is probably the most likely to stay forever. It would be shocking if a modern Test team awarded a cap to someone older than this age, let alone on debut.

  Southerton played only one more Test, and then achieved a record he would not have liked – he became the first Test player to die (1827-1880).

9. Longest career

zzwa      English great Wilfred Rhodes played 58 Tests spread across more than three decades (source – alloutcricket.com)

  England and Yorkshire’s legendary slow left-arm bowler Wilfred Rhodes’ Test career spanned a whopping 30 years and 315 days, during which he played 58 Tests.

  He made his debut aged 21 against Australia at Trent Bridge in 1899, and played his last Test against the West Indies at Kingston in 1929-30, aged 52 (when England famously fielded a ‘granddad’ squad – two players above 50 and three more above 40 – and yet amassed 849 in a drawn affair!).

  Indian legend Sachin Tendulkar still needed to play for nearly seven years more to claim this record when he retired in 2013 – he sits fifth on the list, with a career spanning 24 years and one day.

10. Longest intervals between appearances

  Egypt-born off spinner John Traicos, one of the handful of Test players to play for two countries, returned to Test cricket by turning out for Zimbabwe in their first ever Test, at Harare against India in 1992-93 at the age of 45.

  This was 22 years and 222 days after he last played a Test for South Africa, for whom he played three Tests in 1969-70 just before the national side was banned from the game. For Zimbabwe, he played four Tests in all.

  This remains the longest gap between two consecutive appearances by a Test player, and surely no one will ever have a shot at this record.

11. Highest score by a nightwatchman

  People may disagree here, given how deep most Test batting line-ups are today, but I am sticking my neck out that Australian Jason Gillespie’s record innings of 201 not out, against Bangladesh at Chittagong in 2005-06, will forever remain the record for the highest score made by a nightwatchman.

  Gillespie achieved this feat, the finest batting performance of his career, in what ironically turned out to be his last international appearance for Australia.

 – Watch Jim Laker run through Australia at Old Trafford.

SPECIALS – Test records that might never be broken, Part 2

     This is the second and final segment of my list of Test records which might be untouched forever (continued from Part 1 – https://thecricketcauldron.wordpress.com/2012/10/17/specials-test-records-that-might-never-be-broken-part-1/)

7) Best match bowling figures

  Jim Laker, the English off spinner, made the 1956 Old Trafford Test against Australia completely his own, as he finished with an eye-popping match analysis of 19/90. Laker took 9/37  in the first innings, and then completed the first ever ‘perfect ten’ in the second innings (Australia followed on), taking 10/53. Anil Kumble of India has been the only other man to take all ten in an innings, but Laker’s match haul is unlikely to be repeated – although it did remain a possibility when former Sri Lankan spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan was in his prime. Laker’s feat is also the best ever in all first class cricket, with only two others managing 18 in a match, way back in 1837 and 1861.

   Jim Laker (second from right) leads the victorious English team at Old  Trafford in 1956, the game in which he collected a record haul of 19/90 (source – lccc.co.uk)

8) Oldest player on debut

  In the very first Test match played, between Australia and England at Melbourne in 1876-77, England fielded a slow left armer by the name of James Southerton, who was only 49 years and 119 days old at that time! Surely, experience does matter, but this record is probably the most likely to stay forever – indeed, it would be shocking if today a Test nation decides to award a cap to someone of this age. Southerton played only one more Test, and then achieved an unwanted record – he became the first Test player to die (1827-1880). 

9) Longest career

  England and Yorkshire’s legendary slow left arm bowler Wilfred Rhodes’ Test career spanned a whopping 3o years and 315 days – he made his debut aged 21 against Australia at Trent Bridge in 1899, while he played his last Test against the West Indies at Kingston in 1929-30, aged 52 (when England famously fielded a ‘granddad’ squad – two players above 50 and three more above 40 – and yet amassed 849 in a drawn affair!). India’s master blaster Sachin Tendulkar currently is 6th in the list, his career having spanned 22 years and 293 days thus far, and of course it is impossible for him to play for eight more years.

           Wilfred Rhodes – the grand old man of Test cricket (source – planetcricket.net)

10) Longest intervals between appearances

  Egypt-born off spinner John Traicos, one of the handful of Test players to play for two countries, returned to Test cricket by turning out for Zimbabwe in their first ever Test, at Harare against India in 1992-93 at the age of 45 – 22 years and 222 days after last having played, albeit for South Africa, for whom he played three Tests in 1969-70 before the Proteas went into exile from cricket. This remians the longest gap between two consecutive appearances for a Test player, and surely, no one will ever attempt to have a shot at this record. Traicos proved that age is just a number, as he took 5/86 on his Test return, and played 3 more Tests for Zimbabwe. 

11) Highest score by a nightwatchman

  Well, few people may disagree here, given how deep are most Test batting line-ups today – but I am sticking my neck out here that Jason Gillespie’s record innings of 201 not out for Australia against Bangladesh at Chittagong in 2005-06 will forever remain the record of the highest score ever by a nightwatchman. Gillespie, until this Test, had a few doughty 20’s and 30’s to his name, but he achieved his finest batting performance (his only test century) with this record knock – in what ironically turned out to be his last international appearance for Australia.

   Jason ‘Dizzy’ Gillespie surprised everyone, including himself, by scoring a record 201* in 2005-06 – the highest score by a n nightwatchman (source – espncricinfo.com)

  If readers of this post have a few more records to add to this list, they are free to comment.