Veni, vidi, vamoose
A candidate for the unluckiest international player of all - and certainly the one with the shortest career - is the Dutch batsman Schoonheim, from Rotterdam, whose Twenty20 international debut (against Ireland in Belfast in August 2008) was rained off. But the captains did manage to toss up, which means the match counts in the records, so Schoonheim does have an official appearance to his name. All in all his international career lasted about three hours - the time between the toss and the decision to call the match off.
When Charles Macartney missed the second Ashes Test in 1920-21, in Melbourne, his replacement was a local man, Dr Roy Park. He went in at No. 3, but was bowled first ball: Australia won by an innings, so Park didn't bat again - and in fact he never won another cap, as his medical career took up more of his time afterwards. Legend has it that Park's wife watched him go out to bat at the MCG but dropped her knitting at the vital moment: while bending down to pick it up she missed her husband's entire international career at the crease.
A promising legspinner who played for Cambridge University as well as New Zealand's Central Districts, Loveridge went out to bat for the first time in a Test - against Zimbabwe in Hamilton in January 1996 - on his 21st birthday. He celebrated the big day with a four off Henry Olonga, but the next delivery broke his knuckle, forcing him out of the Test: he didn't even get a chance to bowl (or field). And Loveridge never played another Test, so the active part of his Test career lasted precisely 22 balls.
Perhaps the oddest first-class career of all belonged to Herbert, a useful club performer who was summoned to play for the Gentlemen of the South when they were one short against the Players of the South at The Oval in 1920. When Percy Fender, the Gents' captain, found out he only had ten men he asked his uncle, another Percy, to make up the numbers. Herbert turned up on the second day, having missed the first - and watched the rain bucket down for two days, so never saw a ball bowled in what turned out to be his only first-class "appearance".
An amateur batsman who had won a gold medal for hockey at the 1920 Olympics, MacBryan got a Test chance when Jack Hobbs was rested for the fourth Test of the home series against South Africa in 1924. But the match - and MacBryan's Test career - fell foul of the weather: only half a day's play was possible, and MacBryan didn't bat, bowl or take a catch. Hobbs returned for the final Test, in front of his adoring Oval crowd, and the unlucky MacBryan never got another chance.
The Irish-born Old Harrovian McMaster had the shortest first-class career of any Test player. That's because he only ever played one game - a match later designated a Test, in South Africa in 1888-89 - and that was all over in less than two days. McMaster made a duck, didn't bowl, and didn't have to do too much fielding either in Cape Town, as South Africa were bundled out for 47 and 43.
Another man with a stunningly brief Test career was the splendidly named Transvaal player Wimble, whose one cap for South Africa came against England in Cape Town in March 1892. England won by an innings early on the third day, and weren't held up for long by Wimble, who bagged a pair.
Bransby Cooper and Ned Gregory
The Australian pair of Cooper and Gregory share the record for the earliest end to a Test career: both of them appeared in the very first Test of all, against England in Melbourne, but never played again... and so were finished with Test cricket by March 19, 1877. Cooper celebrated his 33rd birthday on the first day of Test cricket - but Gregory's connection with it lasted rather longer, as his son Syd played 58 Tests for Australia between 1890 and 1912, and made no fewer than nine tours of England.
The shortest possible international career these days would comprise just a solitary Twenty20 international: as I write there are 21 people in this category, including the unfortunate Jelte Schoonheim (see above), but also some other current players who will undoubtedly appear again. One of those for whom time is running out is the Pakistan seamer Ali, whose one taste of international cricket came against Zimbabwe at King City in Canada more than three years ago, in October 2008. Anwar bowled two overs for 19, didn't bat... and hasn't had good news from the selectors since, even though Pakistan won that game.
A product of Winchester College, Townsend - whose father Charles also played for England - scored four centuries for Oxford University, and opened the batting in three of the four Tests in the West Indies in 1934-35, top-scoring with 36 as England crashed to defeat in the first Test in Port-of-Spain. But David returned to his native Durham after graduating, to work as a solicitor, and remains the last man ever to play for England without appearing in county cricket (he did turn out for Durham, but they were a Minor County then).
The Victorian medium-pacer Coulthard had a strange international career: he umpired a Test in 1878-79, then, three years later, played in one against England in Sydney. He went in at No. 11, scoring 6 not out, but did not bowl. By the fourth Test of that series, he was back in the white coat, umpiring again in Melbourne. Further chances - either as player or umpire - were sadly not forthcoming, as Coulthard died of consumption the following year, aged only 27.
Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2012.