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The most boring batsman in Test cricket?

The column where we answer your questions

Steven Lynch

January 31, 2005

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Bob Taylor: more boring than Bailey? © Getty Images
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Who has been the most boring batsman in Test cricket? asked Mohsin Ali Khan

Well, that's an almost impossible question to answer - not least because we haven't got reliable balls-faced statistics for many of the early Test matches (it didn't become the norm to record that information until the last 30-40 years). In the early days there were legendary stonewallers like England's William Scotton, a left-hander who once carried his bat through a first-class innings and scored 9 not out. During the 1950s Trevor Bailey was a famous stumbling-block for England in Tests, once scoring 68 in 458 minutes against Australia at Brisbane in 1958-59. Later in that same match, which must have been an excruciating one for the spectators, Australia's Jim Burke went even slower, managing 28 in 250 minutes. But, using the information we do have, the batsman who scored at the slowest rate (among those who scored more than 1000 runs in Tests) was ... Bob Taylor, the England wicketkeeper of the 1970s and '80s. He faced 4260 balls for his 1156 runs - a rate of 27.14 runs per 100 balls. Englishmen lie second and third as well - Mike Brearley managed a strike rate of 29.80 runs per 100 balls, and Chris Tavare 30.60. Bill Woodfull, the former Australian captain, comes next with 31.12, and the New Zealander Bruce Edgar managed 32.07. Brearley also leads the way in ODIs, although he only scored 510 runs in them off 1120 balls, a strike rate of 45.54 runs per 100 balls. Top among those who scored more than 1000 runs in ODIs is Edgar (49.23).

Who has managed the most pairs in Tests? asked Mrijan Rimal

Four players have been dismissed for four pairs of ducks in Tests. Three of them are bowlers - Bhagwat Chandrasekhar of India and the West Indians Merv Dillon and Courtney Walsh, but the fourth is a specialist batsman. Marvan Atapattu famously started his Test career for Sri Lanka with just one run in six innings - including two pairs - and has bagged two more since. The 14 men who have collected three pairs include six current players, in Glenn McGrath of Australia, India's Ajit Agarkar, Ashish Nehra and Zaheer Khan, Manjural Islam of Bangladesh and the New Zealander Chris Martin.

I was wondering who has played in the most Test wins. Is it Steve Waugh? And who's next? asked Ben Jordan from Australia

Steve Waugh is indeed top, having finished on the winning side 86 times in Tests. And it's no great surprise to find Australians in the next three places as well - Shane Warne has been part of 73 Test wins so far, putting him past Mark Waugh (72) with Glenn McGrath (70) hard on his heels. Next are a brace of West Indians - Viv Richards (63) and Desmond Haynes (60). Only two players have been on the losing side more than 50 times in Test matches: Alec Stewart (54) and Brian Lara (51). And three Indians lead the way in the "most draws" column - Kapil Dev took part in 75 drawn Tests, Sunil Gavaskar 67 and Dilip Vengsarkar 64.

Tatenda Taibu's 153 out of 286 in the recent Test against Bangladesh seems to be a good percentage of Zimbabwe's total - was it a record? asked L Ramaswamy from India

Taibu's fine innings at Dhaka constituted 53.5% of Zimbabwe's total - a great effort, but not actually very close to the highest percentages. Fourteen batsmen have made 60% or more of a complete innings, and strangely the highest percentage - 67.35% - was set in the very first Test of all. Charles Bannerman, who scored the first run in Test cricket, went on to reach 165 (retired hurt) out of 245 for Australia against England at Melbourne in 1876-77. Another Australian, Michael Slater, ran him close at Sydney in 1998-99, with 123 out of 184, or 66.85% of the total. The highest percentage of an all-out ODI total is Andrew Jones's 63.51% (47 out of 74 - the next-highest score was 5) for New Zealand against Pakistan in the Austral-Asia Cup semi-final at Sharjah in 1989-90, although Desmond Haynes's 85 out of 117 for 0 for West Indies against New Zealand at Port-of-Spain in 1984-85 represents 72.65%.

What is the longest that a team has batted in the fourth innings of a Test to avoid defeat? asked Sudhir Syal

The winner, by what followers of horse racing would call "a distance", is England's innings of 218.2 eight-ball overs (1746 balls, equivalent to 291 modern six-ball ones) against South Africa at Durban in 1938-39, in the ten-day match that became known as the "Timeless Test". It was supposed to be played to a finish, but England had to leave after ten days to catch the boat home! They were chasing 696 to win, and actually managed 654 for 5. The next-longest fourth innings was one of 1149 balls by England against West Indies at Lord'sin 1950, but - chasing an unlikely 601 - they were all out in 191.3 overs and lost. When they beat South Africa at Durban in 1949-50 Australia's innings lasted 990 balls, exactly the same as England survived to draw the famous Test at Johannesburg in 1995-96, when Mike Atherton resisted for 643 minutes for 185 not out.

Regarding last week's question about a team using four wicketkeepers in a series, didn't England once use four in the same match? asked Trevor Southgate from Cirencester

The match you're talking about was the first Test against New Zealand at Lord's in 1986. Bruce French was the selected wicketkeeper, but he was hit on the head by Richard Hadlee while batting, and was unable to field after retiring hurt. At first Bill Athey, who was playing in the match, took over the pads for a couple of overs, then - with the generous agreement of the New Zealand captain, Jeremy Coney - England hooked their former keeper Bob Taylor out of a hospitality tent and persuaded him to pad up. He was 45 and had been retired for a couple of years then, but he kept immaculately for the rest of the second day, before giving way (again with Coney's approval) to a more conventional substitute - Bobby Parks of Hampshire - next morning. French returned to keep wicket for the last ball of the first innings and the whole of the second, making four keepers in all for England in that match. Such a procession is thought to be unique in Test cricket. By the way, in my answer last week I did make it clear that I was not including substitutes or stand-ins who may have kept in part of a match after an injury to the designated wicketkeeper.

Steven Lynch is the editor of Cricinfo. For some of these answers he was helped by Travis Basevi, the man who built Stats Guru and the Wisden Wizard. If you want to Ask Steven a question, contact him through our feedback form. The most interesting questions will be answered each week in this column. Unfortunately, we can't usually enter into correspondence about individual queries.

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Steven Lynch Steven Lynch won the Wisden Cricket Monthly Christmas Quiz three years running before the then-editor said "I can't let you win it again, but would you like a job?" That lasted for 15 years, before he moved across to the Wisden website when that was set up in 2000. Following the merger of the two sites early in 2003 he was appointed as the global editor of Wisden Cricinfo. In June 2005 he became the deputy editor of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack. He continues to contribute the popular weekly "Ask Steven" question-and-answer column on ESPNcricinfo, and edits the Wisden Guide to International Cricket.

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