Trivia - batting April 12, 2008

Sensational sessions

Test cricket has changed in many ways over the decades; to the statistician, one of the most striking is the speed at which it is played

Test cricket has changed in many ways over the decades; to the statistician, one of the most striking is the speed at which it is played. By that, I don’t mean the speed of bowling or scoring, though these are important, but simply the sheer amount of cricket that gets played in any given hour or day. Today, it is rare to see even 90 overs bowled in six hours, but in days gone by, 140 or even 150 overs in a day was commonplace. On the second day of the Lord’s Test of 1946, India and England wheeled through no fewer than 161 six-ball overs.

For spectators, it must have been rich entertainment when batsmen were on the attack. One of the most productive innings came at Lord’s in 1924, when England put South Africa’s bowlers to the sword, scoring 503 runs on the second day, for just two wickets, in less than five-and-a-half hours. England scored 200 runs before lunch and another 223 between lunch and tea. While 200 or more in one session is rare enough, keeping it up for two sessions in a row appears to be unique.

While doing a bit of general research, I came across more details of this Test in the original scorebook, thankfully preserved by the archivists at Lord’s. The 200 before lunch was greatly assisted by the bowlers getting through 57 overs (!) in an extended session. Jack Hobbs made his highest Test score, 211 off 300 balls. Hobbs was not given to collecting giant scores, and the Times commented that towards the end he batted as though he “seemed to think someone else might as well have a turn at batting”. One of those others was Frank Woolley, one of the most aggressive batsmen of his generation, who scored 134 not out off 123 balls, fine hitting in any era.

A tally of 223 runs in one session raises the question of records. Where does it stand? No one seems to have assembled a list before, so here is my attempt. This is one record that favours old-time Tests, but there are a few modern entries [all involving “minnows”]. Pre-War Tests in England predominate, mainly because sessions and days in other countries in the days of high over-rates tended to be shorter than in England. (a pre-War Test day in England was often six-and-a-half hours, but in Australia only five hours.) I have examined only those Tests that had specified tea breaks; tea breaks were not always taken in Tests before 1910.

In fact, there are quite a few extreme cases from sessions that were extended beyond the normal two hours, for various reasons. These have been put into a separate list. Note that all of the two-hour cases were the lunch-tea session, whereas all of the extended-session cases are in the opening or closing sessions.

Most runs in a two-hour (maximum) session
236 (43 overs) Aus v SA, Lunch-Tea, Joburg 1921 (119 off 85 balls by Jack Gregory)
233 (41 overs) Eng v Pak, Lunch-Tea, Nottingham 1954 (Denis Compton 173)
231 (45 overs) Eng v NZ, Lunch-tea 3rd day, Leeds 1949 (both teams batted)
223 (43 overs) Eng v SA, Lunch-Tea, Lord’s 1924
220 (47 overs) Eng v NZ, Lunch-Tea, Wellington 1933 (Wally Hammond 151)
208 (32 overs, 100 minutes) Aus v SA, lunch-tea, Sydney 1910/11
207 (29 overs) Aus v Zimbabwe Lunch-Tea Perth 2003 (both Matt Hayden and Adam Gilchrist scored centuries in the session)

Most runs in a longer session
249 (33 overs) SA v Zim, post-tea 1st day, Cape Town 2005
244 (58 overs, 165 minutes), Eng v Aus, post-tea, Oval 1921
239 (45 overs, 140 minutes), Eng v NZ, pre-lunch, Lord’s 1937 (two teams)
223 (35 overs, 150 minutes) Eng v Ban, post-tea, Chester-le-Street 2005 (Marcus Trescothick 127)
221 (150 minutes) Eng v SA, pre-Lunch, Oval 1935 (Les Ames 123)
219 (35 overs, 150 minutes) NZ v Zimbabwe, post-Tea, Harare 2005 (Daniel Vettori 127)
~210 (150 minutes) Eng v India, pre-Lunch, Oval 1936
208 (47 overs, 154 minutes) Aus v SA, post-tea, Melbourne 1910/11 (Victor Trumper 133)
200 (57 overs, 150 minutes) Eng v SA, pre-Lunch, Lord’s 1924

Readers are invited to submit others that I may have overlooked.


Speaking of remarkable sessions, I was asked if India, all out for 76 against South Africa in Ahmedabad, had become the first team to be bowled out before lunch on the first day of a Test match. Not quite, as it happens, but there appears to be only one precedent, and that was 112 years ago. In the Lord’s Test of 1896, Australia was bowled out for 53 in 85 minutes, allowing England to reach 37/0 before lunch.

India also became the first team to be bowled for less than 100 after scoring over 600 in their previous innings in the same series. Sri Lanka once went from 713/3 to all out 97 in consecutive innings in 2004, but as their opponents were Zimbabwe and Australia respectively, it’s not quite the same thing.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on May 15, 2008, 4:34 GMT

    236 (43 overs)in 2 hours. It is amazing when you consider there is a lot of leather being chased and to get the ball back to the bowlers quickly...... well its phenomenal. 43 overs = 258 balls in 7200 seconds = 1 ball every 27.9 seconds including fetching quite alot of balls from the boundary. I wonder how many dot balls / boundaries - and no mention of wickets falling either. The bowlers must have been mentally strong also to keep bowling and not drop their heads at the quick scoring. You wouldn't see it with the soft cricketer of today - a Shane Warne would slow it up for sure.

  • testli5504537 on May 14, 2008, 9:42 GMT

    There is a big doubt in sorting these statistics. As somebody mentioned above, there is a variation in number of overs in each session. So the solution to this is take the session run-rate and sort which was the fastest.

    [Reply: what do you mean "somebody" mentioned it? The variation in over rates was the subject of the first paragraph of my post! And I gave the numbers of overs in almost every case! If you must insist on commenting, I suggest you actually read the whole post first.]

  • testli5504537 on May 14, 2008, 8:16 GMT

    Sorry but you just cant have 10 hour days in Test cricket, the spectators wont stay that long, the TV stations wont go for it and even the fittest athletes would reach exhaustion long before the end.What you get in quantity you would lose in quality.Do you really want to see fast bowlers bowling their 50th over of the day at half pace and batsman too tired to do anything about it?

  • testli5504537 on May 10, 2008, 23:54 GMT

    I'd also back Andy's suggestion of penalties in runs for slow over rates, although I think a fixed penalty per over would be better than calculating it based on run rate - say 5 per over short in the day, to put it in line with the penalties for other misdemeanours. Since most Test innings are scored at less than 5 per over, it would be in the fielding team's interest to bowl the overs rather than incur the penalty - the system is open to abuse if the batting team are scoring at more than 5 per over and the fielding captain decides to slow things down as a damage limitation exercise, but the threat of harsher penalties for that (banning the captain?) should prevent it. Obviously under my system, in which you're playing on until the light is too bad anyway, you couldn't catch up any "lost" overs, but if you're increasing the length of a Test by 20% and possibly more, that shouldn't matter too much.

  • testli5504537 on May 10, 2008, 23:45 GMT

    Wimbledon matches often last until 9 or 10pm, and if it's light enough to see a tennis ball served at 150mph then it's light enough to see a cricket ball bowled at 90mph (yes, the cricket ball is harder, but on the other hand the tennis players don't have all the protective equipment). Thus you would get a minimum of 135 overs per day, and quite probably more. Obviously the current rule regarding the final session (the calling of the last hour, with a fixed number of overs to be bowled during it) would be retained, so a team playing for a win/draw would know exactly how long they had to achieve it. Also, the extra overs each day would mean a Test could be scheduled over four days rather than five, and still be longer (540 overs against the current 450), which would ease the crowded international programme (unless someone decided to fill it with loads more meaningless ODI tournaments - IMHO the World Cup and T20 should be the only multi-team tournaments, all others bilateral series).

  • testli5504537 on May 10, 2008, 23:36 GMT

    I agree with Raj - although extending play to 12 hours in a day is a bit extreme, 9-10 hours wouldn't be unreasonable. In the old Gillette Cup/Natwest Trophy matches 120 overs were bowled in a day, so why only 90 in a Test? Play is called off if the light is too bad, so why not balance that out by continuing to play if the light is still good? Obviously starting at the crack of dawn isn't feasible, but, say, a 10am start wouldn't be unreasonable. The morning session could easily be 10-1, afternoon 1.30-4.30 (while we're at it, we might as well make the lunch and tea breaks the same length, rather than the current slightly anachronistic set-up), evening 5-8 or to whenever it gets dark if later. Since the exact length of the day's play wouldn't be known at the start of it, the minimum number of overs would just be 15 per hour times the actual length of the day's play.

  • testli5504537 on May 9, 2008, 17:34 GMT

    Slow over rates, double punishment. Every over that has not been bowled in 6 hrs play, multiplied by the run rate at that time, should be added to the score of the batting team, and in addition the extra overs have to be bowled thus if the run rate was 3 per over and 8 were left, the last 8 overs would be worth 48 not 24. I would like to bet they would bowl them on time then, as losing games means (or should mean) more than the plentiful amounts of monies the better players earn.

    Thats my view, for what its worth.

  • testli5504537 on May 5, 2008, 23:09 GMT

    the reason why we have such a low amount of overs bowled in a day is due to two reasons...prefessionalism in cricket is leading to bowlers fine tuning there technique to the point of ridicule making sure each stride is EXACTLY the length it should be and so forth. The second reason is poor captaincy. If 90 overs are to be bowled in a days play it is the captains responsibility to ensure it happens. More severe fines need to be imposed on the captains to make ensure 90 overs of cricket. no captain will play for nothing!!!!

  • testli5504537 on April 15, 2008, 15:49 GMT

    Let's not forget that time guidelines are much more strict now. Imagine a typical London summer day where the sun rises at about 5 AM and sets at 9:30 PM. Daylight for about 16 hours? So then how about 4 hour sessions instead of two hours. Now we have 180 overs in a day, right?

  • testli5504537 on April 14, 2008, 23:55 GMT

    Nathan Astle's historic 222 included NZ getting 181 runs in just 21.3 overs in the final session of day 4... not the biggest but certainly one of the fastest. I'd be intrigued to find out how many runs were scored after tea on day 1 of Ian Smith's memorable 173 versus India in 1990, considering most of those runs would have been blasted out during that session.

    [Reply: not sure. Smith and Snedden added 136 in 116 minutes during the final session. Previously Smith and Hadlee added 103 in 99 minutes, so 200 in the session seems unlikely.]

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