Multistats November 25, 2011

Multistat: 134

This is a great time to be alive

Years since an 18-year-old Australian last took a Test wicket. In Johannesburg, Patrick Cummins became the 45th 18-year-old to take a Test wicket, but the first baggy green one to do so since Tom Garrett in the first ever Test series in 1877.

Cummins’ 6 for 79 were the fourth-best innings figures by a teenage debutant in Test history, behind post-war South African greenhorn Cuan McCarthy, Indian legspin whizzlet Narendra Hirwani in 1988, and Indian legspin whizzlet Narendra Hirwani in 1988 (again).

After one Test, Cummins is already in third place among teenaged wicket-takers for Australia, behind 19th-century swing king and Boer War fatality JJ Ferris (18 wickets), and Cummins’ current bowling coach, Craig McDermott (10 scalps before entering his third decade).

Also: The number of years for which the record of three Test debutants taking five-wicket hauls in a single month had stood, before November 2011 roared into the history books.

Cummins became the fourth bowler this month, after Doug Bracewell, R Ashwin and Vernon Philander, to take five wickets in an innings on his debut – no other month in the entire history of the universe has provided so many honours board-adorning debutant Test bowlers. This historic, unforgettable, numerically immortal month thus beats the previous debut five-fors record of three, which has stood since March 1877, when Billy Midwinter, Alfred Shaw and Tom Kendall all adorned the inaugural Test match with five-fors (a record that was jubilantly equalled by March 1889 and December 1927).

When you factor in Elias Sunny’s successful introduction into the Bangladesh attack in late October, the last five weeks have seen as many five-wicket-innings debuts as any previous entire year – 2003 boasted five such debuts, but has now been cast into the landfill site of statistical history by 2011. Five of the 13 debutants to have bowled since 21 October have taken five wickets on debut – maths fans will bark at you that this equates to 38%, compared with a figure up that pivotal date in human history of just 8.6% of debut bowlers taking five-fors (131 out of 1528). Truly, readers, these are great times in which to be alive.

However, a successful start with the ball is no guarantee that the bowler will Botham or Lillee his way to cricketing immortality. Before Philander picked up his second five-wicket haul in just his second match, and Ashwin did likewise in his third, none of the previous 12 five-wickets-in-an-innings debutants, dating back to mid-2007, have so far gone on to record a second five-wicket haul (some, admittedly, have had few opportunities to do so). Philander and Ashwin are also the first bowlers to take two five-wicket hauls in their debut series since Hirwani’s ludicrous 16-wicket maiden Test, and the first to do so in separate games since Nick Cook in 1983.

Of the 46 bowlers to have taken five or more in an innings in their first Test in the last 30 years, only Cork, Lee, Anderson and Edwards have gone on to take 100 Test wickets. Some still have lively ambitions to do so, whilst for others time is fast running out – it now looks increasingly unlikely that 50-year-old England seamer Neil Mallender will get many more chances to add to his five-wicket blitz against Pakistan at Headingley in 1992.

What does all of this mean for Cummins’ future career? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I’ve just had a bit of time to kill, and access to Statsguru.

Also: The number of years, as of 5pm UK time on 24 November 2011, during which international cricket has been played without anyone scoring 100 centuries.

Also: The likely minimum number of decades that will pass before anyone else scores 100 international centuries.

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

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