May 15, 2012

Trumper and the frogs

Also: the last lob bowler, the last everyday hero, cricketers at Wimbledon, and more shared birthdays

Who is the only player to feature in a quadruple-century partnership in first-class cricket after going in at No. 9? asked Francisco Beyer from Argentina
The rather unlikely answer here is the great Victor Trumper, in the Australian XI's match against Canterbury in Christchurch in February 1914. This match was during a private tour captained by Arthur Sims, who, although born in England, was closely associated with New Zealand cricket (he had previously played a lot for Canterbury himself). Apparently Trumper was kept back to ensure a big Saturday crowd would see him bat, and he didn't disappoint them when he eventually entered at No. 9: when he came in, the tourists were 209 for 7, but he and Sims piled on 433 for the eighth wicket, Trumper making the lion's share, with 293. Sims was left with 184 not out, easily his highest score. Trumper's biographer Peter Sharpham wrote: "Trumper greeted Wilson with a massive on-drive which soared over the fence and landed with a great splash into the frog-pond well behind the main ground ... At one stage they put on 100 runs in an astonishing 21 minutes."

I noticed that Darren Sammy took a seven-for in his first Test. Are these the best debut figures for West Indies? asked Marcel Browne from Barbados
Darren Sammy collected 7 for 66 in his first Test, against England at Old Trafford in 2007 (these remain his best figures, after 23 more Tests so far). The only better bowling figures on debut for West Indies are Alf Valentine's 8 for 104 against England, also at Old Trafford, in the first Test in 1950. Valentine, a left-arm spinner, uniquely took the first eight wickets to fall in his maiden Test match, before his partner in spin Sonny Ramadhin nipped in with the last two. Both Ramadhin and Valentine had played only two first-class games before that famous tour.

Who was the last serious lob bowler in first-class cricket? asked Thomas Bell from England
I believe the last man selected for a first-class match in England primarily on the basis of his lob (underarm) bowling was Trevor Molony, in 1921. Molony's unusual style of bowling appealed to Surrey's unorthodox captain Percy Fender, who - encouraged after Molony dismissed Jack Hobbs in a trial game - chose him for Surrey's Championship team, where he lobbed up full tosses to a packed on-side field. He took 3 for 11 in his first match, against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge, and the Cricketer magazine observed: "The attempts of the last few batsmen to play him were ludicrous and evinced much laughter from the crowd." But Molony took only one more wicket in his other two appearances, and faded from the scene (there are some suggestions that Surrey's wicketkeeper, Herbert Strudwick, complained that the tactic was too dangerous). There have been occasional instances of lob bowling since - Wilf Wooller and Mike Brearley both tried it - usually in protest against slow scoring or the lack of a declaration.

Which cricketer was "the last everyday hero"? asked Jack Wall from Ireland
This description was the title of a recent biography of the great New Zealand batsman Bert Sutcliffe: written by Richard Boock, it was published by Longacre Books in 2010, and is an interesting read. An elegant left-hander, Sutcliffe scored 2727 runs in a long international career that stretched from 1947 to 1965 - and, famously, he never once finished on the winning side in any of his 42 Test appearances, a record that no one will want to break. Sutcliffe is probably best remembered for a brave innings in Johannesburg in 1953-54, when he returned to the crease with his head bandaged after being hit by a bouncer, and made his way to 80 not out.

You wrote recently about Test cricketers who also played tennis in the Davis Cup. Who was the last Test cricketer to play in the singles at Wimbledon? asked Maurice via Facebook
Cotar Ramaswami, one of those Test cricket/Davis Cup men, played in the singles at Wimbledon in 1922, winning one match before losing to Nicolae Misu of Romania in the second round. Ramaswami's compatriot SM Hadi, also mentioned in despatches in that previous column (a Davis Cup player, he also took part in the 1936 tour of England without playing a Test), reached the third round that year. But I believe the most recent Test cricketer to play in the singles at Wimbledon was actually the South African William "Buster" Farrer. He won his first-round match in 1956 before losing in the second, and later played six Test matches in the 1960s. He also played hockey and squash for South Africa.

And there's an update on another recent question, about cricketers sharing birthdays, from Hemanga in Australia
"Kim Hughes and Shivlal Yadav were both born on January 26. In 1981 they played against each other in the second Test at Adelaide. Their joint birthday fell on the fourth day of the match - when Hughes, who had scored 213 in the first innings, added another 53 - which was also the birthday (or national day, anyway) of the two teams involved, Australia and India."

Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2012. Ask Steven is now on Facebook