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Parsimonious perfection

While today a dot ball in limited-overs cricket is often seen as an achievement, in 1969 a Somerset spinner finished with figures of 8-8-0-0 in a 40-over match

Martin Williamson

July 30, 2011

Comments: 13 | Text size: A | A

Brian Langford in action
Brian Langford ... a record that is unlikely to be beaten © Unknown
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In the crash-bang world of one-day and Twenty20 cricket, dot balls are regarded as something of an achievement, and maiden overs an endangered species (if not an extinct one as far as Twenty20 is concerned). It is therefore almost certain that Brian Langford's return of 8-8-0-0 in the inaugural season of the Players' Sunday League in 1969 will never be equalled.

For almost a decade after one-day cricket was introduced in 1963, sides approached it in much the same way as they did the first-class game. Bowlers were played on their merits, unorthodoxy was rare, and aside from risky running in the dying overs, there was little to distinguish the various forms of the game, especially as coloured clothing was still years away.

Buoyed by the success of the Gillette Cup in bringing crowd and much-needed cash to counties, in 1969 the Test & County Cricket Board, the forerunner of the ECB, launched a 40-over Sunday competition. It proved an immediate hit with the public, even if it was less popular with players as matches were sandwiched between the first and second days of Championship games (the Saturday and the Monday), often requiring long journeys to fulfill fixtures that appeared to have been arranged by someone with no idea of travelling on Britain's roads on busy summer weekends.

Fortunately there was no such logistical headache for Somerset and Essex when they met in Yeovil on July 27 as the game coincided with their Championship clash in Taunton. So both sides only had a short trip across the county on a warm Sunday for the 2pm start. Essex were the favourites, lying second to Lancashire with only one loss in their 10 matches, while Somerset with two victories to their name, were second from bottom.

Langford, Somerset's captain, won the toss, and stuck Essex in to bat, and his bowlers took early wickets to reduce the visitors to 19 for 3 from 13 overs. On a pitch that turned from the start, Langford brought himself on after the second wicket fell. Brian Ward, the Essex opener, and Lee Irvine, their South African overseas player, reckoned he was the danger man, and decided on a safety-first approach for his eight-over spell. "I thought I'd play him out," Ward recalled. "Talk about records like Laker's... that'll never be beaten."

Langford duly wheeled away with little attempt made to score off him. Irvine fell to Peter Robinson at the other end, bringing in the hard-hitting West Indian allrounder Keith Boyce to the crease. But Boyce was unable to get the strike as Ward defended over after over. "I only bowled about three balls to Boyce otherwise I certainly wouldn't have finished with eight maidens," Langford admitted.

There were two moments that threatened to spoil his perfect figures. The first when a ball appeared to be gloved down to long leg, but umpire John Langridge signalled a leg bye, the second when Boyce pulled a ball straight into Robinson at short leg.

"At the start of the eighth over Langridge pointed out that I could finish with unusual figures, and I had to ask what he meant," Langford said. "It hadn't registered that I'd sent down seven maidens because I was captain, and had more important things to think about."

The eighth over to Ward was another maiden, and Langford retired from the attack with his small place in cricket history guaranteed. He had one last contribution to the innings when he ran out Doug Insole for 0 with a direct hit from deep square leg. The 43-year-old Insole, who had not played for his county for six years, had rushed down by train that morning after answering an SOS from the county, and had suffered the ignominy of having a child throw up over his cricket bag en route. It was a wasted trip, and was his last appearance in serious cricket, providing a statistically symmetrical finale as he had been run out by a direct hit in his first innings 22 years earlier.

Essex were eventually bowled out for 126 in 38.2 overs, and while that would be a poor Twenty20 score today, in those times it was low but not extraordinarily so. On the same day in the seven other Players' League matches only three teams passed 200 and the rest failed to reach 150.

Even so, Somerset struggled, and at 82 for 8 appeared set for defeat before Robinson (24*) and Graham Burgess (26*) saw them home with a leg bye off the first ball of the last over. Their ninth-wicket stand of 45 took 15 overs.

The following weekend Langford was brought back down to earth when his eight overs went for 33 against Middlesex, but he resumed his niggardly ways with 8-1-17-1 against Yorkshire, 8-1-24-3 against Derbyshire, and 8-2-16-1 against Sussex in the final stages of the summer.

What happened next?

  • Essex slipped to finish third in the bale behind winners Lancashire and Hampshire, while Somerset remained second from bottom.
  • Langford captained Somerset in 1970 and 1971, steering them to fifth in the Sunday League and seventh in the Championship in his final season. He retired at the end of 1974 after 22 seasons with the county.

Is there an incident from the past you would like to know more about? Email us with your comments and suggestions.

Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by MENDIS_Forever on (August 1, 2011, 16:39 GMT)

what about Chaminda Vaas against ZIM; 8-3-19-8 .Still the ODI world record.

Posted by allblue on (July 31, 2011, 1:35 GMT)

Ron Hooker, playing for Middlesex in the same competition in the same year, gloried in a spell of 8-4-6-6 against Surrey. Those were the days!

Posted by   on (July 30, 2011, 20:51 GMT)

Great dig. Good read...although to fill the quota of 25 characters one have to gloss, unnecessary, superfluous, fillers.

Posted by   on (July 30, 2011, 13:37 GMT)

whatever may be the reason give that man his due incredible man

Posted by AlanHarrison on (July 30, 2011, 11:46 GMT)

Certainly a reminder of how different were the conditions under which cricket was played in those days. Pitches would then have been uncovered, which would have helped a bowler like Langford and made him harder to score off. However, more recent astonishing examples of parsimony in more high-profile one-day matches are not unknown. Consider A.Y. Karim's bowling figures in the following match against the all-conquering Australians of 2003:

Posted by EVH316 on (July 30, 2011, 10:12 GMT)

It`s illustrative of the changes in Cricket that a stat such as this cannot - with so many batsman friendly regulations now, like fielding restrictions and leg-side wides - be broken (at the highest level). I was especially amused by the experience of Doug Insole. Stories like this are a great reminder of the true quirkiness of this wonderful game. If it were on tape, I`d make every IPL franchise owner watch Langford`s spell on a loop until they resigned.

Posted by murthydn16 on (July 30, 2011, 9:10 GMT)

@Udendra L. Geeganage - good observation dude. Even people wud sleep in UK during Trott's batting - supposedly best batsman as per his team mate swann.

Posted by Mahesh4811 on (July 30, 2011, 8:30 GMT)

i loved that man sleeping on the boundary line :-)

Posted by GMNorm on (July 30, 2011, 8:05 GMT)

He'd go for 6-7 an over today. Standards in the past were not as high as people romanticise them to be

Posted by   on (July 30, 2011, 4:57 GMT)

Incredible figures. I wonder, though, how strictly legside deliveries were wided then. And wides were not added to the runs column of the bowler.

As a sidelight, I started my first Deodhar Trophy spell with two maiden overs and I thought that was special! I took 7 for 77 in 24 overs in 2 matches in the 60 over format, only to be dropped for the final. That, I am sure is another record unlikely to be broken.

Posted by AbhiSapre on (July 30, 2011, 4:36 GMT)

Wonder if Bapu Nadkarni had played a one day game, what would that have been like with records of 21 consecutive maidens in spell of 32 overs 27 maidens 5 runs for 0 wickets in tests. and overall economy of 1.67 it seems great even today.

Posted by   on (July 30, 2011, 4:12 GMT)

Now it explains why those people are sleeping on the boundary - in the pic.

Posted by johnathonjosephs on (July 30, 2011, 3:39 GMT)

In those days scores of 160 were deemed competetive does not equal today's standards on any level

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