These record holders might’ve had the dedication but they certainly weren’t all the best. James Wallace pens down the best and worst batting records in issue 35 of Wisden Cricket Monthly.
The ‘First Man’ – basically the Neil Armstrong and Roald Amundsen of Test-match batting. As the receiver of the first ball in Test history, Bannerman’s place in cricketing history was already secured, but he didn’t stop there, becoming the first player to notch a fifty and then a hundred, eventually reaching 165. Australia were all out for 245, meaning the opener scored 67.34 per cent of his side’s total. Even now, 2391 Test matches later, no batsman has contributed a higher percentage of an innings total. Gideon Haigh wrote of Bannerman that, “A record can be broken; a first can never be busted to second.” Indeed, the only thing that was busted was the opener’s finger, which he broke after being hit, resulting in him also becoming the first player to retire hurt.
— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) September 8, 2020
What were you doing after 17 years and 61 days on the planet, eh? For me, it was likely another wistful day listening to overwrought Indie music, purloining my mum’s hairspray to keep my errant locks in place and trying and failing to get an arty girl with a thick fringe and an Austin Maestro to look in my direction. She did occasionally, but I suspect only to see where the stench of Elnett was emanating from. Anyway, in 2001 MASSIVE SHOW-OFF Ashraful, the Bangladeshi tyro, was bagging his first international ton, a classy 114 against Sri Lanka in Colombo, beating Mushtaq Mohammad’s record to become the youngest centurion in Test history. The old adage ‘Youth is wasted on the young’ should obviously only be judged on a case by case basis. I’d really like to know what Ashraful scored on his AS level exams though…
“This young batsman still has something to learn in the matter of playing a correct offensive or defensive stroke with the conditions in favour of the bowler.”
— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) August 27, 2020
If you think back to last year’s Ashes, and how it seemed like Steve Smith batted for all of eternity, then spare a thought for the England team which toured Australia in 1937/38. Don Bradman reeled off six centuries in consecutive innings against those weary poms. Jacques Kallis has since come the closest to matching it, scoring five in a row in 2003/04, but at least the burden of the bulky all-rounder’s blade was shared between the Windies and New Zealand. Joe Root and AB de Villiers both have fifties in 12 consecutive Tests to their name but when it comes to the art of batting, Bradman is still ‘The Don’.
Bangladesh opener Hannan Sarkar’s early career, which included a brace of nuggety fifties against Australia in 2003, showed promise. However, the snag was that he loved to shoulder arms, even if the ball was straighter than a Roman road. Along with the great Sunil Gavaskar, he holds the record for number of dismissals off the very first ball of a Test – sensationally, all three were to the same man, West Indian left-armer Pedro Collins. Sarkar played 17 Tests, averaging 20, before Bangladesh lost patience.
Walsh & Martin
It may sound like a second-rate ITV drama but the batting of Courtney Walsh and Chris Martin was actually worse than that. Between them, they mustered so many ducks that there must have been a whiff of pâté de canard in the air when they arrived at the crease. Walsh made a record 43 ducks in his 132 Tests and there was a slapstick pleasure in watching the Jamaican bat, his unique technique resembling a blindfolded man trying to swat a fly. The Kiwi No.11 was even less competent, failing to trouble the scorers on 36 occasions in only 76 Tests, as well as registering a record seven pairs.
The Aussie leg-spinner terrorised plenty of batsmen on his way to scalping 708 Test wickets but one thing that probably still keeps him awake at night, besides memorising his lines for the Advanced Hair Studios adverts, is that he racked up 3,154 runs without ever making a ton – a Test record. Warne reached 99 against the Kiwis at Perth in 2001 only to hack a delivery from Daniel Vettori straight down Mark Richardson’s gullet. It later turned out the left-armer had overstepped but Warne never came as close again.
First published in issue 35 of Wisden Cricket Monthly