XIs November 29, 2011

Players with pairs lasting two or three balls XI

Ashwin's hundred reminded Andy Zaltzman of Agarkar's, which in turn reminded him of things that go quack-quack
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I sat down this morning to write about the phenomenal conclusion of the Mumbai Test. However, a trawl for some tasty statistics sent me a little off-piste. I could have returned to the piste, but I did not, and I will therefore discuss the match not in this blog, but in the relaunch episode of my World Cricket Podcast, due out later this week.

Instead, I have another Confectionery Stall XI for you, arising from investigations into R Ashwin’s Wankhede hundred – a historically momentous innings which means that Sachin Tendulkar and Ashwin between them have now scored 100 international centuries. No wonder the crowd went noisily berserk.

Ashwin became the fifth frontline Indian bowler this millennium to score a Test hundred, after Harbhajan (twice), Irfan Pathan, Kumble and Agarkar. In the two previous millennia, the only Indian bowler to have scored a hundred batting at No. 8 or lower was Kapil Dev, who scored two of his eight Test tons there.

Ashwin’s was far from the most unexpected of these lower-order successes. Ajit Agarkar can safely claim that honour. He might have had one first-class hundred under his belt when he walked to the wicket at Lord’s in 2002, but he also had nine runs in his previous six Test innings under the same belt, plus a shining belt-buckle engraved with details of a frankly heroic eight ducks in 18 Test innings to date.

Half of that quacky flock of eight ducks constituted a world-record-breaking sequence of four consecutive first-ballers in Australia in 1999-2000, a run of instantaneous ineptitude broken when he defiantly stodged out for a marathon two-ball duck in his next innings, enabling him to complete back-to-back pairs totalling five balls at the crease. It takes something special to record a King Pair. It takes something almost divine to follow it up with a three-ball pair.

At Lord’s, the game was already lost, but Agarkar defied both a useful England attack and his own career average of 7.4 to plank a statistically gobsmacking 109 not out. It remained Agarkar’s only Test score of more than 50. Few Test hundreds can have emerged so unexpectedly from a seemingly inescapable swamp of statistical precedent.

He later launched a similarly ingenious cricketing ambush with the ball. In the Adelaide Test of 2003-04, having lulled the Australians into a mathematically-justified sense of false baggy-green security by never having taken more than three wickets in an innings in 17 previous Tests over five years, Agarkar kebabed his way through them with 6 for 41, to set up one of India’s finest victories. He never took more than three wickets in an innings again – in fact, after that series, he never took more than two wickets in a Test.

Agarkar, a consistently effective ODI performer, thus established himself as unquestionably the greatest all-round one-off-flash-in-the-pan Test player of all time: 26 Tests – one major success with the bat, one major success with the ball. Of the 41 cricketers who have converted their only Test fifty into a century, Agarkar played more than twice as many Tests as the next man on the list. And of all the bowlers who have taken 50 wickets or more in Tests, only Agarkar can claim that on the one and only occasion on which he took more than three wickets in an innings, he turned that success into a six-wicket masterclass.

Agarkar’s hit-and-run Test career, and in particular his monumental, gravity-defying run of rapid-fire ducks, has inspired the Confectionery Stall Players Of My Cricket-Watching Lifetime Who Have Been Out For Pairs Lasting A Total Of Just Two Or Three Balls XI.

(I have selected the batsmen based on the quality of their careers, and the bowlers for their all-round ineffectiveness of the specific match in which they harvested their double-quick-time pair. At its best, this is a well-balanced XI that could challenge most teams, particularly with the bat. At its worst, it would be all out for 0 in 2.2 overs in both innings.)

Mike Atherton: 3 balls, v South Africa, Johannesburg, 1999-2000

Four years earlier on the same ground, South Africa had failed to dismiss the Lancashire Limpet in 10 hours 43 minutes and 492 balls of match-saving resistance. This time, they did so twice in nine minutes of batting, encompassing three balls, only one of which did not result in Atherton trudging off to the sound of Fate giggling to herself about what a neat line in irony she can peddle when the mood takes her.

Virender Sehwag: 2 balls, v England, Edgbaston, 2011

An uncharacteristic match strike-rate of 0 for the Delhi Devastator proved one of the most immutable rules in the scientific universe: if you are thrown straight into a Test match after four months out of the game following a major operation, against the world’s strongest pace attack in swinging conditions, in a crumbling team, you will probably struggle, even if you are, in different circumstances, capable of hitting a run-a-ball triple-century off Steyn, Ntini, Morkel and Kallis. And Harris.

Kim Hughes: 3 balls, v West Indies, Melbourne, 1984-85

It is fair to say that resigning the baggy-green captaincy did not help Kim Hughes rediscover the twinkling form that had helped him score an eye-popping undefeated hundred against Holding, Roberts, Garner and Croft, scored whilst Australia were being skittled for 198 at the MCG on Boxing Day 1981. In his first Test after his tearful departure from high office, Garner and Marshall dismissed him for a golden duck and a seven-ball 2 (a perfectly respectable innings against the mid-1980s West Indians, to be fair). In the next match, back at the scene of his previous triumph, Walsh snared him second ball, and Garner condemned him to another first-ball blob, and Hughes’ Test career was over.

Mark Waugh: 3 balls, v Sri Lanka, Colombo, 1992

Probably the most elegant three-ball pair of all time. The marginally younger Waugh bounced back in the following Test in Moratuwa, improving considerably to register an equally elegant nine-ball pair.

Alec Stewart: 3 balls, v Australia, Brisbane, 2002-03

England began the 2002-03 Ashes with miniscule hopes of victory, after a generation of baggy-green pummellings. By the end of day one of the series, those hopes were barely visible with an electron microscope, and England’s humiliation was complete when Stewart, one of England’s doughtiest servants through those lean Ashes years, suffered a Warne-induced golden duck to complete his three-ball pair.

Adam Gilchrist: 2 balls, v India, Kolkata, 2001-02

The world’s most destructive bat hit the ball two fewer times than its owner’s pads managed to in the momentous Eden Gardens epic. After a characteristically annihilative hundred in the series opener, Gilchrist was trapped in front in the middle of a hat-trick by Harbhajan late on day one. Four wild and crazy days later, he was pinned again, this time by Tendulkar, as the little Master ‒ who has averaged two Test wickets a year over his 22-year career ‒ took three in 13 balls. I was following the drama on Ceefax in my flat in London. Despite the drawback of only being able to see the scorecard change every five minutes or so, it remains one of the most exciting cricket matches I’ve ever watched.

Gilchrist was out lbw for 1 in both innings of the final Test. He had only been leg before once in his first 15 Tests before Eden Gardens. He was not out in this manner again for another 34 Tests. He had clearly learnt the valuable lesson that hitting the ball with his bat was a better tactic than hitting it with his legs.

Andrew Flintoff: 3 balls, v India, Headingley, 2002

Having ploughed through 27 overs for the solitary and distinctly unglamorous wicket of Sanjay Bangar, the Lancashire Leviathan would have hoped for more than three balls’ worth of batting. But Flintoff was still some way from cracking Test cricket, and he became another Harbhajan first-ball lbw victim, before, in England’s follow-on, being snaffled second ball by Zaheer Khan to register his eighth duck in 21 Tests. It would be almost a year before Flintoff reappeared in the Test arena. In the interim, he had acquired some crackers. And he started cracking things.

Justin Kemp: 3 balls, v West Indies, Jamaica, 2001

Not only did Kemp somehow contrive to be comfortably out-batted by Courtney Walsh in his final Test, but he also picked up only one wicket in 34 overs on a seamer-friendly pitch. Kemp was promptly dispatched into the Test match undergrowth by the South African selectors, whence he would emerge only four-and-a-half years later, for a solitary valedictory Test.

Ajit Agarkar: 3 balls, v Australia, Sydney, 1999-2000

Selected for his three-ball Sydney double-bloop rather than his king-pair pratfall in Melbourne on the anti-strength of his SCG bowling – 0 for 95 in 19 overs of persistent uselessness as Australia clonked their way to 552 for 5. Next time he faced the Baggy Greens, Agarkar backed-up his five-innings-in-six-balls nano-batting heroics with another pair of quacks in Mumbai, although this double dud took a stately 27 balls to complete. He finished his career with eight ducks in 16 Test innings against Australia – no one has scored so many noughts in so few innings against any opposition.

Rangana Herath: 3 balls, v Pakistan, Galle, 2000

In his third Test, Herath gave the cricket world one of its least impressive all-round personal performances – his one-ball first innings and two-ball second sandwiched a 36-over trundle of 0 for 115, making him the only player ever to score a pair with the bat and concede a wicketless century with the ball in the same match. The Sri Lankan selectors took note of the history being made before their eyes, and did not pick Herath again for almost four years.

Maninder Singh: 3 balls, v Pakistan, Karachi, 1982-83

In a strikingly ineffective debut, Maninder began as he meant to go on – on a mission to become statistically the worst batsman ever to play 20 or more Tests. Sadly, his average of 3.80 in 35 Tests has since been eclipsed by a man with an even greater devotion to being unable to hit cricket balls, the immortal Chris Martin (2.47 in 60 matches), but Maninder’s international bow also featured 23 wicket-free overs as India were mercilessly pounded by their arch rivals.

Remarkably, Maninder was batting as high as 10. The selectors, understandably, had assumed that they could not possibly have found a less capable batsman than the 4.6-averaging Dilip Doshi. They were wrong. Doshi outshone his tail-end compadré. His pair lasted four balls.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • AC on December 16, 2011, 20:13 GMT

    IG: Grow up. Aus has since won the infamous Sydney Test with enough umpiring errors for a decade and you wail about one decision?

  • Paritosh on December 8, 2011, 3:00 GMT

    Agarkar is easily one of the best allrounder in ODIs. Ya, he could not perform well in tests but that doesn't prove that he is a bad player. He is one of the most successful bowler of India and has played a lot of handy innings coming late in ODIs. I also remember his 95 in an inning when he batted at no. 3.

  • Kieron Azure on December 7, 2011, 5:51 GMT

    Well for all those who believe Harbhajan didn't deserve the Kolkata hat-trick since Gilly hit the ball so the lbw was invalid, I can only point out that the same thing happened to Harbhajan at Trentbridge in 2011 against the bowling of Broad. He clearly hit it yet was given lbw.

    What's more, Harbhajan was the middle victim of the hattrick, just like Gilly was!

    Karma sure has a way of coming back- that too after a decade!

  • Anonymous on December 3, 2011, 5:22 GMT

    jimmy amaranath's telecode 000100 aganist windies (83-84)

  • NALINWIJ on December 1, 2011, 14:09 GMT

    Amazing that 3 Indian's -Shewag,Agarkar and M.singh made the list but legends such as Chandrasekher and Doshi [brief honorable mention] missed out.

  • Mani Sekaran on November 30, 2011, 10:48 GMT

    Hi Andy,

    It seems that you have forgotten Maravan Attapattu

    Marvan Atapattu scored five ducks in his first six Test innings, which included two pairs which too in his debut season.

    Considering that he went on to play 90 tests, scored 5502 with 16 tons, he at the least deserves the position of 12th man

  • Anonymous on November 30, 2011, 10:48 GMT

    because of series of ducks by agarkar....he is famoulsly known as 'Bombay Duck'

  • DG on November 30, 2011, 8:34 GMT

    "a 36-over trundle of 0 for 115"... hahahaha. Gold. I'm going to have to start slipping "trundle" into conversations as a verb more frequently.

  • Satish on November 30, 2011, 6:53 GMT

    @IG : Do you suggest Andy to go and search each and every decision whether it is correct or wrong and then post his stats? I guess he is capable of that too.. Andy, could we get the list of batsmen who were cheated most by the umpires?

  • Aaron on November 30, 2011, 6:33 GMT

    @IG: You made that part up about the ump being related to Harbhajan, didn't you? Because as far as I can remember, the ump was AV Jayprakash, and he is not related to Singh by any stretch of the imagination.

    @Andy: Missing in this list are big bunnies like Ambrose, McGrath, Hoggard, Harmison, etc. :)

  • AC on December 16, 2011, 20:13 GMT

    IG: Grow up. Aus has since won the infamous Sydney Test with enough umpiring errors for a decade and you wail about one decision?

  • Paritosh on December 8, 2011, 3:00 GMT

    Agarkar is easily one of the best allrounder in ODIs. Ya, he could not perform well in tests but that doesn't prove that he is a bad player. He is one of the most successful bowler of India and has played a lot of handy innings coming late in ODIs. I also remember his 95 in an inning when he batted at no. 3.

  • Kieron Azure on December 7, 2011, 5:51 GMT

    Well for all those who believe Harbhajan didn't deserve the Kolkata hat-trick since Gilly hit the ball so the lbw was invalid, I can only point out that the same thing happened to Harbhajan at Trentbridge in 2011 against the bowling of Broad. He clearly hit it yet was given lbw.

    What's more, Harbhajan was the middle victim of the hattrick, just like Gilly was!

    Karma sure has a way of coming back- that too after a decade!

  • Anonymous on December 3, 2011, 5:22 GMT

    jimmy amaranath's telecode 000100 aganist windies (83-84)

  • NALINWIJ on December 1, 2011, 14:09 GMT

    Amazing that 3 Indian's -Shewag,Agarkar and M.singh made the list but legends such as Chandrasekher and Doshi [brief honorable mention] missed out.

  • Mani Sekaran on November 30, 2011, 10:48 GMT

    Hi Andy,

    It seems that you have forgotten Maravan Attapattu

    Marvan Atapattu scored five ducks in his first six Test innings, which included two pairs which too in his debut season.

    Considering that he went on to play 90 tests, scored 5502 with 16 tons, he at the least deserves the position of 12th man

  • Anonymous on November 30, 2011, 10:48 GMT

    because of series of ducks by agarkar....he is famoulsly known as 'Bombay Duck'

  • DG on November 30, 2011, 8:34 GMT

    "a 36-over trundle of 0 for 115"... hahahaha. Gold. I'm going to have to start slipping "trundle" into conversations as a verb more frequently.

  • Satish on November 30, 2011, 6:53 GMT

    @IG : Do you suggest Andy to go and search each and every decision whether it is correct or wrong and then post his stats? I guess he is capable of that too.. Andy, could we get the list of batsmen who were cheated most by the umpires?

  • Aaron on November 30, 2011, 6:33 GMT

    @IG: You made that part up about the ump being related to Harbhajan, didn't you? Because as far as I can remember, the ump was AV Jayprakash, and he is not related to Singh by any stretch of the imagination.

    @Andy: Missing in this list are big bunnies like Ambrose, McGrath, Hoggard, Harmison, etc. :)

  • Mangesh on November 30, 2011, 6:10 GMT

    Andy, must be a lot of hard work to get some of those quirky stats out. BTW, in the next Australian tour, Agarkar raised his bat after he scored his first run as if he completed a hundred!

  • S.J.R.Niles on November 30, 2011, 5:07 GMT

    I Believe that Marvan Attapatu's initiation in to Test Cricket also included a number of Ducks.

  • Andy on November 30, 2011, 4:47 GMT

    lmao at IG's comment

  • Sebastian Booth on November 30, 2011, 3:09 GMT

    IG, pretty much what I was going to say. The article got it wrong - he DID in fact hit the ball... Nothing wrong with the second dismissal though, Gilchrist himself even said in his autobiography.

  • psswain on November 30, 2011, 2:43 GMT

    Few days ago martin scored a quick half century at top of the order for a county team !

  • Aditya on November 29, 2011, 22:47 GMT

    Chris martin probably didn't back up any of his extraordinary batting pairs with some extraordinary bowling performances like the guys on the list have done

  • Piers on November 29, 2011, 22:08 GMT

    I thought that Graham Gooch would be a shoe-in for his pair in his first test, but when I checked I found he'd lasted far too long to qualify - 10 balls in two innings. And he wasn't opening either.

  • PK on November 29, 2011, 21:18 GMT

    Nice work, Andy. Not normally a fan of yours, but I'll have to start reading your stuff again.

  • Huzefa on November 29, 2011, 19:20 GMT

    hahahahhahah.... love the way you put statistics in a completely different perspective. Was laughing loudly at Herath's misery and Sri Lankan selectors taking note of the history being made before their eyes... too good.

  • Sumeet Saurabh on November 29, 2011, 19:15 GMT

    Laughing fit! help!

  • Rahul on November 29, 2011, 16:10 GMT

    Ajit sucks.

  • Anonymous on November 29, 2011, 15:46 GMT

    ...defiantly stodged out for a marathon two-ball duck.... LOL

  • wolf on November 29, 2011, 15:03 GMT

    The worst batsmen to ever get a 50 has to be McGrath. He was challenging the title for worst ever early in his career then worked hard at it to become merely terrible.

  • chris on November 29, 2011, 14:43 GMT

    Superb. I particularly loved the one about Mark Waugh.

  • TheCentralGovernment on November 29, 2011, 14:42 GMT

    You made the right choice, its high time the Greatest all-round one-off-flash-in-the-pan Test player of all time was finally recognized ...

    @IG, not sure if troll or ....

  • nil on November 29, 2011, 13:28 GMT

    gayle scored a 180 ball 32 in that justin kemp test. he was that slow back then?? :O

  • Mouche on November 29, 2011, 13:15 GMT

    Ryan Harris' king pair against England at Adelaide in the 2010/11 Ashes should crack a special mention. Given 'out' 4 times in the space of 2 ball for the test. Given out LBW by the on field umpires and then given out again upon review in both innings.

  • venbas on November 29, 2011, 12:48 GMT

    Agarkar is a true stand out performer. The guy with the fastest ODI 50 (Indian), Test Century at Lords, 6-for at Adelaide that decimated a peak strength Australia team and then the Mumbai duck sobriquette so rightfully earned on top of a string of Zeroes...Legendary stuff mate!!!

  • Ramesh on November 29, 2011, 12:18 GMT

    Dilip Doshi outshone Maninder by getting a pair off 4 balls? ROFL. How do you manage to unearth such bizarre stats? Hats off!!!

  • Ruschhil on November 29, 2011, 12:11 GMT

    The Immortal Chris Martin!! Haha

  • Vivek on November 29, 2011, 11:55 GMT

    @IG, you mean the umpire was his brother/cousin? "Distant relative" would have been smarter than that feeble attempt at humour you made no?

  • Faheem Ahmed on November 29, 2011, 11:52 GMT

    I'm amazed to see no Marvan Atapattu in XI. who can forget his famous start.

  • AK on November 29, 2011, 11:35 GMT

    A petition on behalf of Messrs Courtney Walsh and Glen McGrath. "We believe we have done enough with 43 and 35 blobs respectively to top the charts. While we may not have met with the exalted standards set by our fast bowling co-conspirator Mr. Martin (on 6 pairs), we have a credible 4 pairs and 3 pairs respectively. While we believe that our omission from this exalted all time list may be a genuine oversight, we request the arbiters to kindly reconsider this decision. We are happy to provide references of our exploits from players, pundits and paying public alike."

  • Rakesh on November 29, 2011, 10:56 GMT

    Zaltzman is back to form!

  • Nishit on November 29, 2011, 10:52 GMT

    Which country has the most international cricket grounds?

  • Ed the Red on November 29, 2011, 10:48 GMT

    May I be the first to complain about the lack of Sachin Tendulkar in this XI?

    Failing to score 100 for umpteen innings in a row must surely qualify him, even if he doesn't technically meet the criterion? Tendulkar must be in every XI every proposed - it's the law!

  • JR on November 29, 2011, 10:18 GMT

    Didnt Ryan Harris get a king pair in the 2nd test of 2010/11 ashes series, twice LBW when he refered both on DRS, but still sent on his way. Is that not the first king pair with DRS in bith decisions?

  • Rajat mehra on November 29, 2011, 9:13 GMT

    Awesome!!!!.......Just awesome.......only you could have done it Andy!

  • mickeyzim9 on November 29, 2011, 9:09 GMT

    @Mogomotse Lebotse; I am sure you mean Chris Mpofu and yes, he is giving The Phantom a good run for his money

  • Anonymous on November 29, 2011, 8:37 GMT

    haha...fun read!

  • IG on November 29, 2011, 8:30 GMT

    A very sound collection Andy...although Gilchrist's was a cheat to be honest. The ball pitched a full 68 yards outside leg (as opposed to miles) and he even hit it, but was given out LBW by the umpire who also happened to be Harbhajan Singh's (the bowler) Uncle's nephew from his mother's side of the family.

  • Mogomotsi Lebotse on November 29, 2011, 8:05 GMT

    I'm glad to see that Chris Martin is mentioned somewhere here, but i cannot believe that he did not maje this XI. You must have pulled your stats wrong because, as soon as I saw the title, I assumed that Mr Martin will be leading this attack. Since he is not, this list must somehow be invallid. and where is Mpumelelo Mbangwa (Zim), who I believe is giving Chris Martin some stiff challenge for the worst test batsman ever?

  • Shen on November 29, 2011, 7:55 GMT

    World Cricket Podcast, woo yeah!!!!

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  • Shen on November 29, 2011, 7:55 GMT

    World Cricket Podcast, woo yeah!!!!

  • Mogomotsi Lebotse on November 29, 2011, 8:05 GMT

    I'm glad to see that Chris Martin is mentioned somewhere here, but i cannot believe that he did not maje this XI. You must have pulled your stats wrong because, as soon as I saw the title, I assumed that Mr Martin will be leading this attack. Since he is not, this list must somehow be invallid. and where is Mpumelelo Mbangwa (Zim), who I believe is giving Chris Martin some stiff challenge for the worst test batsman ever?

  • IG on November 29, 2011, 8:30 GMT

    A very sound collection Andy...although Gilchrist's was a cheat to be honest. The ball pitched a full 68 yards outside leg (as opposed to miles) and he even hit it, but was given out LBW by the umpire who also happened to be Harbhajan Singh's (the bowler) Uncle's nephew from his mother's side of the family.

  • Anonymous on November 29, 2011, 8:37 GMT

    haha...fun read!

  • mickeyzim9 on November 29, 2011, 9:09 GMT

    @Mogomotse Lebotse; I am sure you mean Chris Mpofu and yes, he is giving The Phantom a good run for his money

  • Rajat mehra on November 29, 2011, 9:13 GMT

    Awesome!!!!.......Just awesome.......only you could have done it Andy!

  • JR on November 29, 2011, 10:18 GMT

    Didnt Ryan Harris get a king pair in the 2nd test of 2010/11 ashes series, twice LBW when he refered both on DRS, but still sent on his way. Is that not the first king pair with DRS in bith decisions?

  • Ed the Red on November 29, 2011, 10:48 GMT

    May I be the first to complain about the lack of Sachin Tendulkar in this XI?

    Failing to score 100 for umpteen innings in a row must surely qualify him, even if he doesn't technically meet the criterion? Tendulkar must be in every XI every proposed - it's the law!

  • Nishit on November 29, 2011, 10:52 GMT

    Which country has the most international cricket grounds?

  • Rakesh on November 29, 2011, 10:56 GMT

    Zaltzman is back to form!