September 5, 2011

Well begun is half-done

Should Nathan Lyon and Shaminda Eranga be worried that most of the bowlers who took wickets with their first ball in Tests didn't go on to perform many more great deeds?
12

Nilesh Kulkarni
Test cricket must have seemed very easy at first to the Mumbai slow left-armer Kulkarni. His first ball, late on the second day of the first Test against Sri Lanka at the Premadasa Stadium in Colombo in August 1997, had Marvan Atapattu caught behind. But things got slightly harder after that: India didn't take another wicket for more than two days, while Sanath Jayasuriya and Roshan Mahanama added 576, a world record at the time. Sri Lanka finished with 952 for 6, still the world Test record. Kulkarni bowled 69.5 more overs... and finished with 1 for 195. He played only two more Tests (one of them a virtual washout) and took just one more wicket.

Arthur Coningham
The first to take a wicket with his first ball in Tests, against England in Melbourne in 1894-95, Coningham never played another Test - but nonetheless had a very full life. He had toured England in 1893 without playing in a Test, but received a medal during the trip after saving a boy from drowning, and also supposedly lit a fire in the outfield during one match to keep warm. Later in life he embarked on a high-profile legal case in Australia, in which he accused a priest of adultery with his wife.

Maurice Tate
As we're beginning to notice, a wicket with the first ball isn't necessarily a passport to Test success. But one man who did go on to great things was Tate, the lion-hearted Sussex fast bowler, who dismissed Fred Susskind of South Africa with his first ball, at Edgbaston in 1924. Tate went on to be an Ashes hero - he took 38 wickets in the 1924-25 series Down Under - and finished with 155 Test wickets, the most by any of the bowlers under review here.

Richard Illingworth and Dick Howorth
Illingworth, now a leading umpire, followed another Worcestershire slow left-armer in striking with his first ball in Tests. Howorth did it against South Africa in 1947, when he was 38: Illingworth was nearly 28 when he followed suit 44 years later. Just before lunch on the second day of the third Test at Trent Bridge in 1991, Phil Simmons, the West Indian, smothered Illingworth's first ball, but it snaked back into the stumps and dislodged the bails - a fact missed by live TV viewers, as the BBC had frustratingly panned out to stop their coverage a few minutes early to accommodate regional news programmes just as Illingworth began his short run-up for his fateful first delivery.

Intikhab Alam
Legspinner Intikhab started his Test career by bowling the Australian opener Colin McDonald in Karachi in December 1959. "Inti" was not quite 18 then - but he's still around, enjoying (if that's the right word) several stints as Pakistan's coach and manager. In a long career, which included captaining his country and many seasons as a popular overseas player with Surrey, the jovial Intikhab took 125 Test wickets, and more than 1500 in all first-class matches.

Bill Bradley
The only bowler before Nathan Lyon to take a five-for in his maiden innings after claiming a wicket with his first ball was the energetic Kent fast bowler Bradley, who finished with 5 for 67 at Old Trafford in 1899 after dismissing Frank Laver first up. But Bradley played only one more Test - the next one, at The Oval - and, after failing to take a wicket there, never appeared again.

George Macaulay
Yorkshireman Macaulay was a late starter, making his first-class debut at 22. But less than three years later he was playing for England, in South Africa: his first ball in the second Test in Cape Town accounted for George Hearne, whose father had played for England (and South Africa too). Macaulay finished with seven wickets in the match, including 5 for 64 in the second innings - but they remained the best figures of a career that included only seven more Tests, spread over 10 years.

Matt Henderson and Dennis Smith
Two bowlers struck with their first balls for New Zealand in the 1930s. In the Kiwis' inaugural Test, in Christchurch in January 1930, left-armer Henderson had England's opener Eddie Dawson caught. Henderson took one more wicket... then disappeared from Test cricket for good. Three years later, also in Christchurch, the Australian-born fast bowler Smith bowled Eddie Paynter for a duck with the first ball of the second over. Since Herbert Sutcliffe had fallen to the first ball of the match, it left England - who had just arrived from the gruelling Bodyline tour of Australia - gasping at 4 for 2. But Walter Hammond (who'd been dropped at slip in that first over, from Ted Badcock), made 227 to steer them to an impregnable total of 560. Smith didn't take another wicket - and never played another Test either.

Tyrell Johnson
The Trinidadian fast bowler Johnson bowled England's Walter Keeton with his first ball in a Test, at The Oval in 1939, and later dismissed Len Hutton too. But the war meant West Indies didn't play another Test for almost nine years, and by then he was a back number - so, like Coningham and Henderson before him, Johnson never played another Test after starting his first one so brightly.

Ted Arnold
The tall Worcestershire medium-pacer Arnold dismissed Victor Trumper with his first ball in a Test, in the opening encounter of the 1903-04 Ashes in Sydney. Arnold went on to take six wickets as England took the lead in a series they eventually won 3-2. Arnold took six more wickets (to go with a pair) in another victory in the fourth Test, also in Sydney, and finished with 31 wickets from 10 Tests overall.

Chamila Gamage
The last before Lyon to achieve the feat, the multi-initialled air force fast bowler Gamage removed Mohammad Ashraful with his first ball for Sri Lanka against Bangladesh in Colombo in 2002. Sri Lanka had already won the first Test by a distance, and made seven changes for this second one: Gamage was one of the newcomers, but was destined to win only one more cap.

Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2011.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • RandyOZ on September 7, 2011, 2:04 GMT

    Lyon, already better than Swann, is showing great signs, looks like he could be a real find.

  • on September 6, 2011, 14:20 GMT

    so no big bowler has achieved this

  • on September 5, 2011, 19:48 GMT

    didnt ian bishop do this?

  • on September 5, 2011, 17:18 GMT

    Chamila was our Club Pro at Stokesley CC in North Yorkshire. He is a great guy and fitted in the club well. Interesting article.

  • on September 5, 2011, 16:21 GMT

    I was home watching the 1991 West Indies test when The Beeb buggered off for a break as Illingworth rolled in for the first time. As a 14 year old, I was none too pleased to miss the resulting wicket, when we got back to a rather embrassed Tony Lewis to explain what we'd missed...

  • on September 5, 2011, 14:04 GMT

    I think you missed Monde Zondeki of South Africa

  • Massy68 on September 5, 2011, 11:48 GMT

    I'm chuffed you got Richard Illingworth in there. Whilst commentating on Eurosport in this Tony Greig informed everyone that Ray Illingworth got a wicket with his first ball in test cricket! I tried to tell him at the time but couldn't shout loud enough :)

  • chandau on September 5, 2011, 7:23 GMT

    WEll getting a wicket off the first ball was done twice in the Galle match. Herath snared Watson with his first ball too (but then he's a vetoron compared to Lyon). It seemed the novelty wore off as the match went on ; Lyon managed only 1 in the 2nd innings and that too of the last man hitting out. He got the best conditions to make a debut BUT lets see how he does on a not so bowler (spin) friendly track. One good thing going his way is the plethora of leftys in the bowling lineup. Mitchell, Bollinger, et al will always create a rough where ever the match is played :)

  • themagpie on September 5, 2011, 6:08 GMT

    @gzawilliam - he only needs to look at one of his fellow post-Warne spinners for that - Jason Krajza. Krajza took 8 wickets first up, 12 wickets for the test, and to date has only played one more test.

  • mikeindex on September 5, 2011, 4:40 GMT

    With only 13 to choose from I was wondering which two you'd leave out - I see you got round it by including two bowlers in one para twice. I've always found it intriguing that of the 13, only two went on to take 50+ Test wickets and four never played another Test.

  • RandyOZ on September 7, 2011, 2:04 GMT

    Lyon, already better than Swann, is showing great signs, looks like he could be a real find.

  • on September 6, 2011, 14:20 GMT

    so no big bowler has achieved this

  • on September 5, 2011, 19:48 GMT

    didnt ian bishop do this?

  • on September 5, 2011, 17:18 GMT

    Chamila was our Club Pro at Stokesley CC in North Yorkshire. He is a great guy and fitted in the club well. Interesting article.

  • on September 5, 2011, 16:21 GMT

    I was home watching the 1991 West Indies test when The Beeb buggered off for a break as Illingworth rolled in for the first time. As a 14 year old, I was none too pleased to miss the resulting wicket, when we got back to a rather embrassed Tony Lewis to explain what we'd missed...

  • on September 5, 2011, 14:04 GMT

    I think you missed Monde Zondeki of South Africa

  • Massy68 on September 5, 2011, 11:48 GMT

    I'm chuffed you got Richard Illingworth in there. Whilst commentating on Eurosport in this Tony Greig informed everyone that Ray Illingworth got a wicket with his first ball in test cricket! I tried to tell him at the time but couldn't shout loud enough :)

  • chandau on September 5, 2011, 7:23 GMT

    WEll getting a wicket off the first ball was done twice in the Galle match. Herath snared Watson with his first ball too (but then he's a vetoron compared to Lyon). It seemed the novelty wore off as the match went on ; Lyon managed only 1 in the 2nd innings and that too of the last man hitting out. He got the best conditions to make a debut BUT lets see how he does on a not so bowler (spin) friendly track. One good thing going his way is the plethora of leftys in the bowling lineup. Mitchell, Bollinger, et al will always create a rough where ever the match is played :)

  • themagpie on September 5, 2011, 6:08 GMT

    @gzawilliam - he only needs to look at one of his fellow post-Warne spinners for that - Jason Krajza. Krajza took 8 wickets first up, 12 wickets for the test, and to date has only played one more test.

  • mikeindex on September 5, 2011, 4:40 GMT

    With only 13 to choose from I was wondering which two you'd leave out - I see you got round it by including two bowlers in one para twice. I've always found it intriguing that of the 13, only two went on to take 50+ Test wickets and four never played another Test.

  • gzawilliam on September 5, 2011, 4:07 GMT

    Hmm ok. Quite an interesting statistic. But i would much rather see how players did when they got 5 wickets on debut? Surely that must give Lyon a bit more confidence than this list.

  • landl47 on September 5, 2011, 3:33 GMT

    As might be expected, taking a wicket with one's first ball in test cricket is no more indicative of future success than taking a wicket with any other ball. Let's hope for his sake that Lyon has a career more like Inti or Tate than the other bowlers who have done it.

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • landl47 on September 5, 2011, 3:33 GMT

    As might be expected, taking a wicket with one's first ball in test cricket is no more indicative of future success than taking a wicket with any other ball. Let's hope for his sake that Lyon has a career more like Inti or Tate than the other bowlers who have done it.

  • gzawilliam on September 5, 2011, 4:07 GMT

    Hmm ok. Quite an interesting statistic. But i would much rather see how players did when they got 5 wickets on debut? Surely that must give Lyon a bit more confidence than this list.

  • mikeindex on September 5, 2011, 4:40 GMT

    With only 13 to choose from I was wondering which two you'd leave out - I see you got round it by including two bowlers in one para twice. I've always found it intriguing that of the 13, only two went on to take 50+ Test wickets and four never played another Test.

  • themagpie on September 5, 2011, 6:08 GMT

    @gzawilliam - he only needs to look at one of his fellow post-Warne spinners for that - Jason Krajza. Krajza took 8 wickets first up, 12 wickets for the test, and to date has only played one more test.

  • chandau on September 5, 2011, 7:23 GMT

    WEll getting a wicket off the first ball was done twice in the Galle match. Herath snared Watson with his first ball too (but then he's a vetoron compared to Lyon). It seemed the novelty wore off as the match went on ; Lyon managed only 1 in the 2nd innings and that too of the last man hitting out. He got the best conditions to make a debut BUT lets see how he does on a not so bowler (spin) friendly track. One good thing going his way is the plethora of leftys in the bowling lineup. Mitchell, Bollinger, et al will always create a rough where ever the match is played :)

  • Massy68 on September 5, 2011, 11:48 GMT

    I'm chuffed you got Richard Illingworth in there. Whilst commentating on Eurosport in this Tony Greig informed everyone that Ray Illingworth got a wicket with his first ball in test cricket! I tried to tell him at the time but couldn't shout loud enough :)

  • on September 5, 2011, 14:04 GMT

    I think you missed Monde Zondeki of South Africa

  • on September 5, 2011, 16:21 GMT

    I was home watching the 1991 West Indies test when The Beeb buggered off for a break as Illingworth rolled in for the first time. As a 14 year old, I was none too pleased to miss the resulting wicket, when we got back to a rather embrassed Tony Lewis to explain what we'd missed...

  • on September 5, 2011, 17:18 GMT

    Chamila was our Club Pro at Stokesley CC in North Yorkshire. He is a great guy and fitted in the club well. Interesting article.

  • on September 5, 2011, 19:48 GMT

    didnt ian bishop do this?