June 17, 2011


England's 250 barrier

Andy Zaltzman


Years since an English bowler reached the 250-Test-wickets landmark. Ian Botham, who ended with 383 scalps and a knighthood, reached 250 in the first Ashes Test of 1982-83, since when the closest to that mark has been Matthew Hoggard, whose career was unceremoniously taken round the back of a disused barn and humanely put down with the Yorkshire allrounder* stranded on 248 wickets. Since then, 25 bowlers have passed the 250-Test-wicket barrier: five Australians, four each from India, Pakistan, South Africa and West Indies, and two from both New Zealand and Sri Lanka. But none from Bangladesh or Zimbabwe. Or England. Anderson is closing in, on 217 (he could theoretically smash through the barrier in the first Test against India, if he really hits his straps), Swann is well past halfway after only two and a half years of Test cricket, and Trott has made some inroads recently - if he can maintain his Lord's strike rate of a wicket every 24 balls for the next couple of years, and persuade his captain to entrust him with the new ball, he will be there in no time. But the fact remains that, since Botham, as many Englishmen have reached 250 Test wickets as Frenchmen, Paraguayans, popes, or members of the North Korean secret service (unless Brett Lee has been in extremely deep cover).

Also: The average plausibility percentage of the official explanation after a player has broken something in a dressing room in a post-dismissal stropping blooper.

Also: The speed, in yards per hour, at which umpires move from their respective positions behind the stumps and at square leg before meeting to waggle their light meters around and infuriate the watching public - the slowest known form of human movement after the reluctant child's walk to the dentist.

* The United Nations Cricketer Categorisation Committee has recently confirmed that Hoggard's match- and ultimately Ashes-clinching 8 not out at Trent Bridge in 2005 qualifies him as a full-fledged allrounder

Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on the BBC Radio 4, and a writer

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Andy Zaltzman
Andy Zaltzman was born in obscurity in 1974. He has been a sporadically-acclaimed stand-up comedian since 1999, and has appeared regularly on BBC Radio 4. He is currently one half of TimesOnline's hit satirical podcast The Bugle, alongside John Oliver. Zaltzman's love of cricket outshone his aptitude for the game by a humiliating margin. He once scored 6 in 75 minutes in an Under-15 match, and failed to hit a six between the ages of 9 and 23. He would have been ideally suited to Tests, had not a congenital defect left him unable to play the game to anything above genuine village standard. He writes the Confectionery Stall blog on Cricinfo.

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