June 18, 2012

Don't call me a bunny

After Tino Best's near-miss at Edgbaston, a look at those who scored centuries from No. 11 in first-class cricket

Shute Banerjee
Arguably the most famous instance of someone scoring a first-class century from No. 11 came at The Oval in 1946, when Banerjee, from Bengal, hit 121, and shared a last-ditch stand with Chandu Sarwate (124 not out) that took the score from 205 for 9 to 454. John Arlott was watching: "Even more impressively, the stand was chanceless," he wrote. "Sarwate sent one streaky shot through slips but no catch went to hand. The two men batted capably and correctly, defending well against Bedser." Banerjee was possibly miffed at being sent in last: he already had two first-class centuries to his name. This remains the only time that Nos. 10 and 11 have scored hundreds in the same innings, and there has been only one higher tenth-wicket partnership anywhere.

Thomas Hastings
The first man to achieve this feat was the Victoria wicketkeeper Hastings, with 106 not out - his first century in any form of cricket - in a Sheffield Shield match against South Australia in Melbourne in January 1903. Hastings, whose highest score in nine previous first-class games was 23, put on 211 for the tenth wicket with No. 9 Mathew Ellis, who also made his maiden first-class hundred: neither of them ever scored another one. Ellis wasn't even supposed to be playing - he was originally named as 12th man but stepped in when the Test bowler Jack Saunders fell ill.

Arthur Gilligan
A cheerful thumper down the order, Gilligan - who captained England in Australia in 1924-25 - was good enough to score a dozen first-class hundreds. The first of them came in only his seventh match, when he spanked 101 from No. 11 to lift Cambridge University to an imposing 611 against Sussex, his future county. He didn't often go in last after that.

Peter Smith
The highest first-class score by a No. 11 is a lofty 163, by the Essex and England legspinner Smith. Playing against Derbyshire in Chesterfield in 1947, he came in at 199 for 9, with his side still 24 behind: he and Frank Vigar put on 218 for the tenth wicket to turn the match around (they eventually won by five wickets). "Initially Vigar tried to keep Smith away from the bowling," records Essex's official history, "but then, seeing how well Smith was batting, he gave him as much of the strike as possible... the Derbyshire attack contained three England bowlers in Copson, Pope and Gladwin."

Arthur Fielder
The Kent fast bowler Fielder scored an unbeaten 112 after going in last against Worcestershire in Stourbridge in 1909, holding his own in a county-record stand of 235 with the great Frank Woolley, who made 185. That may have been Fielder's only first-class ton, but he did have "previous" as a No. 11: in a nail-biting Ashes Test in Melbourne in January 1908, he and SF Barnes put on 39 for the last wicket to take England to the narrowest of victories. Fielder galloped through for a risky winning single, and should have been run out... but the throw was wild.

A well-to-do amateur, Ahsan played a few matches for MCC and Middlesex in 1901 and 1902. "He was a most amusing fellow," Plum Warner recalled in his autobiography. "The first two balls he received from Lockwood [Bill, of Surrey] he glanced to fine leg after the manner of Ranji, whereupon Lockwood remarked, 'One Ranji is enough. I don't want to bowl to another!'" Ahsan returned home, and re-emerged in first-class cricket more than 20 years later. Aged 45, and captaining Muslims against Sikhs in Lahore in March 1924, he went in last - and made a round 100, putting on 150 with Abdus Salaam (117 not out) before declaring.

Graham Stevenson
It was occasionally whispered that Yorkshire's Stevenson was another "new Botham": he bowled at around the same pace, and hit merrily when the mood took him. He didn't match Beefy (who did?), although he did play a couple of Tests. But he did score perhaps the most memorable hundred by any No. 11, against Warwickshire at Edgbaston in May 1982. It was memorable because, when Stevenson came in at 143 for 9 (still 15 behind), Geoffrey Boycott was entrenched at the other end. Nothing looked more likely than Boycs carrying his bat... but Stevenson lashed out, soon zipping past his more celebrated partner in what Wisden called an "extraordinary" last-wicket partnership of 149, which broke a Yorkshire record from 1898. To the amusement of most onlookers - including several inside the Yorkshire dressing room - the man out in the end was the No. 1, Boycott, for 79: No. 11 Stevenson was left high and dry with 115.

Ali Raza
Lahore Whites' wicketkeeper Raza made 126 not out from No. 11 against Hyderabad in Lahore in December 2004. He put on 239 for the tenth wicket - a Pakistan record and the third-highest in first-class history - with No. 9 Aqeel Arshad. Raza had a long career without ever managing another first-class hundred.

Razor Smith
From Raza to Razor: William Charles Smith of Surrey - affectionately known as "Razor" because of "extreme thinness", according to Wisden - was primarily an offspinner, but he biffed 126 from No. 11 against Barbados in Bridgetown during an MCC tour in 1912-13, pre-Test days. When he came in, MCC were still 177 short of making Barbados bat again, and they didn't quite manage it, despite Smith's valiant effort in a stand of 167 with his captain, Arthur Somerset (of Sussex).

Campbell Macmillan
The only African on this list, the Zimbabwean medium-pacer Macmillan entered with his side, Midlands, in some trouble at 148 for 9 in their Logan Cup match against Manicaland in Kwekwe in October 2002... and smacked 109 (his only first-class century) from 96 balls, with four sixes and ten fours, to drag the total to a respectable 292. It didn't quite pay off: Manicaland sneaked home by two wickets in the end.

Maqsood Kundi
Muslim Commercial Bank looked in trouble when they had to follow on against National Bank in Lahore in February 1982. But they did much better second time around, and had reached 384 for 9 - a lead of 221 - when last man Kundi joined Nadeem Yousuf, who already had a hundred to his name. They made sure of a draw by batting most of the last day and putting on 196: Kundi finished with 109 not out and Yousuf 202.

12th man: Vidyut Sivaramakrishnan
A bonus performer here, as when I started this list I thought there were only 11 centuries from No. 11 - but I'd overlooked the Tamil Nadu player Sivaramakrishnan, who came close to Test selection (he played for India A). A left-hand allrounder, he scored four first-class centuries, of which the highest was 193 against Karnataka in November 2008. His first one, against Delhi in March 2001, came from No. 11, the only such instance in the Ranji Trophy. Sivaramakrishnan, who was just 19 at the time, clouted 17 fours and three sixes (including 18 off four balls from an admiring Virender Sehwag) while scoring 115 of a last-wicket stand of 158 with MR Shrinivas, who made a sedate 42 not out.

Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2012.