Phantom and Co

Some entertainingly hopeless batsmen

Steven Lynch

October 15, 2012

Comments: 68 | Text size: A | A

Shem Ngoche is bowled by Umar Gul, Kenya v Pakistan, World Cup, Group A, Hambantota, February 23, 2011
Shem Ngoche: dismissed from all three balls he faced in the 2011 World Cup © Associated Press

Chris Martin
It would be hard to start anywhere else than with Chris Martin, an endearingly useless batsman who has had 102 Test innings for New Zealand ... and been out for a duck in 35 of them. That includes seven pairs - no one else has more than four in Tests. Only once in those 102 attempts has Martin reached double figures, which he did to riotous applause against Bangladesh in Dunedin in January 2008. Overall his Test average is 2.41, helped by the fact that exactly half his Test innings have been not-outs.

Seymour Clark
The longest first-class career without ever scoring a run belongs to Seymour Clark, an engine driver from Weston-super-Mare who played five matches for Somerset in 1930 after their regular wicketkeeper fell ill. His nine innings produced seven ducks and two nought not-outs: one kindly opponent tried to give him "one off the mark", and served up a lollipop that bounced twice ... Clark had a swish and was bowled. Despite his batting, Somerset were so impressed by his keeping that they offered him a contract - but he preferred long-term security and went back to the trains. Clark thought his highest score in club cricket was 3, two of which came from overthrows.

Pommie Mbangwa
The worst batting average for anyone who had more than eight innings in Tests is a none-too-princely 2.00, by the Zimbabwean medium-pacer Pommie Mbangwa. He scored 34 runs in 25 innings all told, with a highest of 8. Remarkably, Mbangwa - who is now a TV commentator - was once promoted to No. 10 in the order, which doesn't say much for the batting talents of the new No. 11 (Everton Matambanadzo). Mbangwa responded by surviving for more than half an hour... before being out for 0.

Jack Iverson
Australian mystery spinner Jack Iverson befuddled the 1950-51 England tourists, finishing the successful Ashes defence with 21 wickets at 15.23. His batting, though, was a different matter: he managed three runs in seven attempts in that series (his only flirtation with Test cricket), although he fared a little better at first-class level, averaging 14 with the aid of 27 not-outs from 46 innings. He wasn't much of a fielder, either: in his superb biography of Iverson, Gideon Haigh suggests that he was probably the worst all-round cricketer ever to play in a Test, although he did add that "It is not to say that there won't be a bowler again so outstanding but specialised that their incompetence with the bat and in the field will be overlooked."

Shem Ngoche
Left-arm spinner Shem Ngoche, one of four brothers to play for Kenya, had a terrible time with the bat at the 2011 World Cup. He played three matches, batted three times, faced three balls ... and was out three times. He didn't make contact once, leg-before first ball against New Zealand then bowled against Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Mark Robinson
Mark Robinson was a handy fast-medium bowler who played 229 matches in a first-class career that included spells at Northamptonshire, Yorkshire and Sussex (where he is now the director of cricket). In that time he took 584 wickets, and just crept past that with 590 runs. He had a record barren spell in 1990, when he went 12 innings without scoring (seven of them admittedly not-out), during a runless trot that stretched from May 18 to September 15, when he managed a single against Leicestershire on the last day of a season he finished with three runs from 19 games (average 0.50).

Glenn McGrath
When he started in international cricket Glenn McGrath was little more than a walking wicket - he was dismissed first ball in Tests and one-day internationals, a unique double - and it was more than three years before he made it into double figures in Tests (a heady 24 against West Indies). But McGrath worked hard on his batting, encouraged by his team-mates, and against New Zealand in Brisbane in November 2004 made a fine 61, sharing a last-wicket stand of 114 with Jason Gillespie (another who started out as a bit of a duffer with the bat but rounded off his career with an astonishing double-century as a nightwatchman).

Ajit Agarkar
Only eight Indians have their names on the batting honours board at Lord's after scoring a Test century there, and some big names (Gavaskar, Tendulkar, Sehwag) are not among them. One who is, though, is the Mumbai fast bowler Ajit Agarkar, who survived for four hours for 109 not out as India slid to defeat in July 2002. But it's not that innings which usually comes to mind when Agarkar's batting is mentioned: it's more likely to be his horror run in Australia in 1999-2000, when he was dismissed from five successive deliveries (a Test record) starting with his first-innings dismissal for 19 in Adelaide, followed by after a first-baller in the second-innings, a king pair in Melbourne, and another golden duck in the first innings in Sydney. In the second innings the SCG crowd roared when he survived his first delivery, from Glenn McGrath. Relieved, Agarkar faced up to the second one ... and nicked it to the wicketkeeper to complete his fifth successive duck.

Glenn McGrath is hit on the grill by a Steve Harmison bouncer, England v Australia, Lord's, first Test, July 21, 2005
Glenn McGrath: not the most elegant of batsmen © Getty Images

Reg Perks
A Worcestershire stalwart who won two England caps, swing bowler Reg Perks took more than 2200 wickets in a long career that stretched from 1930 to 1955. But he was less of a force with the bat - "started as a poor player but made himself into a useful tail-end hitter," said Wisden - and holds the record for the most dismissals for nought in first-class cricket. Perks made 156 ducks in all, topping a list otherwise heavily populated by Gloucestershire spinners: Charlie Parker bagged 150, Tom Goddard 149, Sam Cook 147 and John Mortimore 143. Don Shepherd of Glamorgan (149) is the only other interloper in the top six.

Alan Hurst
The unwanted record for most ducks in a Test series belongs not to Ajit Agarkar, as you might expect from the above, but to the Australian fast bowler Alan Hurst, who collected six blobs during the 1978-79 Ashes series Down Under, including pairs in Brisbane and Sydney. That was a six-Test rubber, though: nine players have collected five ducks in shorter series, including Agarkar and two specialist batsmen in Pankaj Roy (for India in England in 1952) and Mohinder Amarnath (India at home to West Indies in 1983-84).

Evan Gulbis
He has scored 62 in a one-day match for Tasmania in October 2011, so almost certainly doesn't really belong on this list... but Evan Gulbis is currently giving Seymour Clark a run for his money in first-class cricket. Gulbis (whose name means "swan" in Latvian) made his debut against his native Victoria in Hobart in November 2011, but was cleaned up fourth ball in both innings for ducks by the tearaway fast bowler Jayde Herrick. And in his second match, also against Victoria later the same month, Gulbis bagged another pair, caught behind off Clint McKay both times. This time the agony lasted only seven balls in total. Four innings, no runs...

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

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Posted by Shafi79 on (October 18, 2012, 14:14 GMT)

I think Murali should make the list for the "comedy" he used to produce when he came out to bat :)

Posted by   on (October 18, 2012, 9:37 GMT)

2 genuine candidates are missing from the list: 1. Courtney Walsh 2. Shahid Afidi

Posted by   on (October 18, 2012, 3:12 GMT)

Good to see no Lankan in the list, though Attapattu's beginning comes to mind. But, his later record shows he wasn't nearly a useless batsman.

Posted by MrArmchairCricket on (October 17, 2012, 2:21 GMT)

No Devon Malcolm, Phil Tufnell, Alan Mullally or Danny Morrison means this XI is invalid. Moreso when Evan Gulbis made 109* a month ago, albeit in a 2nd XI game for Tasmania against Queensland, against a bowling attack that featured Nathan Hauritz, Alistair McDermott and Ben Cutting.

Posted by Tigg on (October 16, 2012, 21:16 GMT)

What about Allan Mullaly? Or Phil Tufnell, who i once witnessed sharing a bat with Gus Fraser in a match at Arundel (they passed the bat between them as one walked off and one walked on).

Posted by   on (October 16, 2012, 18:20 GMT)

Agarkar has been included in this list solely based on that ONE series, which is really unfair. Then you might as well include Pankaj Roy, Mohinder Amarnath (for 83-84 series and Ricky Ponting for 2001 when Harbhajan made him dance..

Posted by a_massive_zebra on (October 16, 2012, 18:16 GMT)

A very poor list. There are far worse batsmen than Agarkar, Iverson and even McGrath. The likes of Benjamin Aislabie, Jack Saunders, Bert Ironmonger and Bhagwat Chandrasekhar should have been included.

Posted by ATC1810 on (October 16, 2012, 16:39 GMT)

I'm a bit surprised that you did not include Eric Hollies in your list, he did after all finish his first class career with more wickets than runs, 2323 wickets to just under 1700 runs. They used to say at Edgbaston that when Hollies came out to bat, the groundsman would hitch the roller up to the horse! I might also suggest Ed Giddins as possible candidate for the XI.

Posted by Erebus26 on (October 16, 2012, 12:10 GMT)

Some quite surprising choices. Agarkar had a bad run at test level but was a decent bat and McGrath, like the article mentions (which makes the choice even more peculiar), got better with age. Yeah he was still a number eleven but not a really bad one. I'm surprised some other more famous examples haven't been mentioned such as Courtney Walsh, Phil Tufnell and Danny Morrison.

Posted by 4test90 on (October 16, 2012, 9:30 GMT)

Regarding Agarkar, I took my young nephew to his first Test ever at the MCG in 2003. On the 2nd day Agarkar came out to bat and I was telling my nephew about that run of ducks 4 years earlier. Incredibly, Agit played the ball to the off side, took off for a single and was run out for another duck !!!!!! He did better in the 2nd innings - out for 1 !!

Posted by ygkd on (October 16, 2012, 8:33 GMT)

Bit harsh on Evan Gulbis! He made 81 in his last innings in Hobart grade.

Posted by warneneverchuck on (October 16, 2012, 7:52 GMT)

Wher is Afridi

Posted by   on (October 16, 2012, 6:42 GMT)

@hhillbumper SRT got around 250 runs at MCG and Sydney. you are obsessesed with his hundreds and his 40+ avg. last year (2011) is branded a failure by you.

Posted by Aristotle01 on (October 16, 2012, 6:39 GMT)

What about the whole England team that has faced spin in the last 100 years?

Posted by   on (October 16, 2012, 3:25 GMT)

We in new Zealand still hope Marto will come good with the bat

Posted by   on (October 16, 2012, 3:22 GMT)

Its absolute ridiculous to mention agarkar here. Evrn attapattu hsd scored 5 ducks in his first 6 innings and the only run he scored was actually a leg bye. So he shoulf be in this list right? One bad series doesnt make Agarkar a hopeless batsman. 17 & 19 are his test nd odi averages which is sufficient for a no 8 batsman. U forget all his contribution and show up that bad series. Apart from those 5, he made only 4 more ducks in remaining 35 innings and scored 552 runs in those

Posted by karthik666 on (October 16, 2012, 2:58 GMT)

Rolling_in_The_Deep - Why the hell must Robin Singh be in this list ????

Posted by Tomwm on (October 16, 2012, 2:31 GMT)

Great list. Like others I would include Chandrasekhar. I recall Bishen Bedi declaring in Perth in '77 rather than batting on and risking Chandra being injured by Thommo and Clark. He needed him to bowl. It may have cost India the match as they only lost by 2 wickets in the end. A few more runs might have got them home, but then again it was only Chandra left, so no damage really. Class act as a bowler though.

Posted by   on (October 16, 2012, 2:29 GMT)

What the heck, Agarkar in that list?.. if getting out for a duck on 5 successive occasions or so is a measure or batting calibre, then many batsmen and all rounders will fall in that category.. The most prolific run scorer of all time.. sachin got out for 3 consecutive ducks followed by 8 (0,0,0,8), afridi's recent scores, mohinder amarnaths home series against WI, or ganguly (who was almost a walking wicket in that australia series) 1,1,1,6,3 and so on.

Agarkar is by a huge margin the most successful allrounder of Mumbai for a long long time.. has won numerous matches for mumbai with his batting.. has won a few matches for india with quick fire cameos.. has the record for the fastest 50 in ODIs for India. A test century at lords.. 3 ODI 50s and a good first class batting average of close to 30 can never be called as a hopeless batsman. He can never be put along the likes of the Phantom or McGrath

Posted by Dashgar on (October 16, 2012, 1:53 GMT)

Where is Phil Tufnell, he's got to be the worst of the worst. At least Martin would try.

Posted by   on (October 16, 2012, 1:12 GMT)

I'm a bit surprised that Mike Whitney (Aus) isn't mentioned... I once heard him described as 'the automatic choice for number eleven, unless you are fortunate enough to be playing a twelve-a-side match.'

Posted by   on (October 15, 2012, 22:46 GMT)

Why is Agrakar on the list?

Posted by Rolling_in_The_Deep on (October 15, 2012, 20:47 GMT)

Courtney Walsh, Alan Mullaly, Aqib Javed, Robin Singh..Courtney however managed to survive Saqlain mushtaq in a test courstesy Doug Cowie and Billy Doctrove who missed clear bat pad, edges and LBWs to win a test for Windies..

Posted by hhillbumper on (October 15, 2012, 20:30 GMT)

how about tendulkar in the last year?

Posted by   on (October 15, 2012, 19:40 GMT)

How can u include someone like Ajit Agarkar in the list of HOPELESS batsmen based on just ONE series ??? That itself is a pretty HOPELESS act. Even you can't justify it and you are just giving the description of those ducks to support your statement !!!!! HOPE you remember he has got the quickest 50 by an Indian in ODIs and a test hundred at Lord's (as you have mentioned) when. And it's totally unfair to the batsman of Agarkar's caliber when u r criticizing him and praising McGrath's Improved (!!) batting where he scored his only Fifty in his entire career !!! Putting both in the same list is totally ridiculous !!!

Posted by BoonBoom on (October 15, 2012, 19:15 GMT)

Mr Shahid Afridi must top the list of completely hopeless batsman yet a great entertainer for hi usual 2 -3 balls innings.... why did you miss him?

Posted by Sifly2828 on (October 15, 2012, 18:14 GMT)

Danny Morrison anther NZ bowler who couldn't hold a bat to save himself! Only Chris Martin would bat lower than Morrison!

Posted by   on (October 15, 2012, 15:16 GMT)

Agarkar also holds the record for the fastest ODI fifty by an indian batsman... off 21 deliveries

Posted by   on (October 15, 2012, 15:13 GMT)

Where is afridi name? most over rated player of history of cricket which known as limited overs cricket specialist, as he has 23 or 24 average in ODIs and 16-18 average in t20. He played 3-5 good innings, and remain 395+ games :D he just remain waste !

Posted by Vindaliew on (October 15, 2012, 13:58 GMT)

For a while, it seemed that Marvan Atapattu would end up on this list. Thankfully, his career had a second coming and he made it count.

Posted by Jonathan_E on (October 15, 2012, 13:53 GMT)

Courtney Walsh would be a high contender for this team, if it wasn't for the fact that he spent a large number of matches for the Windies batting at the heady heights of number 10 in the order... ahead of Pat Patterson, who somehow always seems to get overlooked in any talk of "The Worst Batsman Ever". Anyone who came in lower than Walsh deserves a mention, surely...

Devon Malcolm was entertainingly useless. He did in fact have a surprising number of the shots, it was just a shame how few of them connected, but I have seen him slogging Shane Warne about. One would have to say that Tufnell and Mullally were worse batsmen, though.

What about Bertie Ironmonger? The original "Ferret" - "because he goes in after the rabbits"...

Posted by   on (October 15, 2012, 13:52 GMT)

Maninder singh is the most incompetent batsman. Madras test was tied because of his inept batting, and then India lost to Australia in 1987 world cup opener by 1 run, here too Maninder was the culprit.

Posted by Venkatb on (October 15, 2012, 13:07 GMT)

Unfortunate characterization as they are all primarily bowlers who have to bat - fortunately the converse is not mandated where every batsman has to necessarily bowl, in which case you would have plenty of no-balls, long hops and some balls that would never make it to the other side of the wicket. Also would not include someone like Agarkar based on only 1 series - he has enough good batting credentials elsewhere.

Posted by Beazle on (October 15, 2012, 12:36 GMT)

Chris Martin is surely without peer- simply, the worst batsman ever.

Posted by ian_rob70 on (October 15, 2012, 12:28 GMT)

I would add Chandrashekar to that list, finished with an average of 4, possibly Devon Malcolm as well.

Posted by Rossmead on (October 15, 2012, 12:09 GMT)

Murali is my favourite hopelessly entertaining batsman

Posted by murli786 on (October 15, 2012, 12:00 GMT)

I think Indian leggie BS Chandrashekar fits in this list as he was considered a terribly weak batsman

Posted by Stevo19 on (October 15, 2012, 11:28 GMT)

Terry Alderman, Bruce Reid and Mike Whitney would consider themselves fortunate to miss out on selection for this XI. Tuffnell's omission a shocking oversight. And Devon Malcolm, anyone?

Posted by npc_cricketlover on (October 15, 2012, 11:16 GMT)

@Junaid Ali ...Srinath would never be in a list of worst batsman.. He used to contribute with a few runs in most of his odis...His and team's confidence grew well after he scored a 30no against Australia in 1996 titan cup at bangalore. He shared a patnership of about 50 runs for the ninth wicket and won the match for india which was at 168/8 and target being 216. In the next match against SA(it was a triangular series) he was sent one-down and scored a half century(53) and he was only bettered by JhontyRhodes who scored 54 in that match and eventually SA winning the match...I remember this very well. However i agree with the rest of players u mentioned

Posted by arvin on (October 15, 2012, 11:11 GMT)

no chandrasekhar... possibly the worst test batsman after martin... bowler who have taken more wickets than runs scored both in tests and first class cricket in a long career... no article about hopeless batsmen can be written without including chandra...

Posted by   on (October 15, 2012, 10:58 GMT)

What about Srinath, Prasad, Ambrose, Walsh, Mulally, Allan Donald

Posted by Philippe on (October 15, 2012, 10:37 GMT)

where is afridi in the list? I think the worst batsman of all the times..

Posted by   on (October 15, 2012, 9:35 GMT)

Agit Agarkar i beleive also holds the record for the fastest fifty by an indian

Posted by JeffG on (October 15, 2012, 9:32 GMT)

As a Middx fan, i've noticed that Corey Collymore is trying to become the new "Iverson" - 23 matches for Middx over the past 2 seasons - 72 runs at an average of 6 with a highest score of 8 plus just one catch in those 23 matches. And to make matters worse, he also seems to have forgotten how to bowl in this last season - just 11 wkts @49

Posted by M-Anuj on (October 15, 2012, 9:25 GMT)

I believe the name which we are missing here is West Indian Great Courtney Walsh.

Posted by   on (October 15, 2012, 9:01 GMT)

What about Mark Taylor, John Dyson Foaud Bacchus ?

Posted by Aristotle01 on (October 15, 2012, 8:44 GMT)

where is Inzamam ul haq and Javed miandad on this list? They were pretty inept too.

Posted by jonesy2 on (October 15, 2012, 8:41 GMT)

cmon, phil tufnell was theee worst batsman of all time. so much so that he actually tried to avoid facing up to the bowlers. courtney walsh was way worse than glenn the great aswell.

Posted by roarster on (October 15, 2012, 8:32 GMT)

Alan Mullally's name usually makes the grade in these kind of listings. One of my favourite quotes from these pages relates to Mullaly's wacky willow wielding "There have been less effectual batsmen in the history of the game, but few looked as willfully vacuous as Alan Mullally as they went about their business."

Here are a couple of similarly theme items from previous editions:

Posted by tusharkardile on (October 15, 2012, 8:31 GMT)

After reading the title I was hoping to see Rohit Sharma on the list.

Posted by luckyarhaan on (October 15, 2012, 8:26 GMT)

This list is not complete without the inclusion of boom boom Shahid duck Afridi :-) he is so fond of ducks that he owns a duck farm now :-)))

Posted by John-Price on (October 15, 2012, 8:24 GMT)

Courtney Walsh has cropped up in the comments but this is not very fair - he has 8 first class fifties and a double figure fc average.

A better candidate (from the County Championship) would be Norman Graham (Kent), a 6'8" medium pacer who averaged 1.5 wickets for every run in fc cricket and 5.5 wickets for every run in List A matches.

Posted by   on (October 15, 2012, 8:03 GMT)

Alan Mullally springs to mind as well

Posted by   on (October 15, 2012, 7:52 GMT)

Wat abt Courtney and Venky Prasad...they must be in the list defly!!!!

Posted by   on (October 15, 2012, 7:37 GMT)

country walsh!!! most ducks in test cricket

Posted by am243am on (October 15, 2012, 6:10 GMT)

What about BS Chandrashekar?

Posted by vatsap on (October 15, 2012, 5:59 GMT)

Walsh, Tufnell, Chandrasekar ?

Posted by viswanav on (October 15, 2012, 5:58 GMT)

How about Courtney Walsh and Muthiah Muralitharan?

Posted by highveldhillbilly on (October 15, 2012, 5:54 GMT)

Phil Tufnell? He was awesomely bad. No courage, no skill. Running to square leg against the fast bowlers was fantastic.

Posted by NanoTechnology on (October 15, 2012, 4:42 GMT)

12th man is of course England's entire lower order during the late 90s. Would Chris Martin still be number 11 in that team?

Posted by kirands on (October 15, 2012, 4:26 GMT)

Certainly no list of this category can be complete without B.S. Chandrasekhar figuring in it. Chandra, as he was popularly known, played 58 Tests for India, took 242 wickets but scored only 167 runs in his entire Test career. Once the Australians presented him with a bat with a huge hole in the middle, for fun of course. Chandra used to draw a huge applause from the 75,000 or 100,000 crowd in a stadium in India whenever he survived a ball.

Posted by Biggus on (October 15, 2012, 4:11 GMT)

Some bunnies there for sure. To this list I'd add two notable players and coincidentally also purveyors of leg spin, Jim Higgs and Bhagwat Chandrasekar. Terry Alderman springs to mind as well. All of these were so bad they were wonderfully entertaining, and inevitably brought cheers and applause whenever they managed to score.

Posted by Meety on (October 15, 2012, 4:00 GMT)

Love the file pic of Pigeon! @Steven Lynch - so harsh on the Phantom! Particularly as he was half of a matchwinning partnership for the Kiwis against Oz in the Hobart Test. The Phantom's epic 9-ball marathon was part of a partnership of 23 runs - with the margin of victory only 7 runs! Possibly the greatest 2 in NZ history?

Posted by   on (October 15, 2012, 4:00 GMT)

I guess B.S.Chandrasekhar should have made the list. And, let's also not forget Maninder Singh.

Posted by KarmatBaig on (October 15, 2012, 3:51 GMT)

Can we get a best CriciXI with players who wore glasses during their career like Zaheer Abbas, Eddie Barlow, Devon Malcolm, Vettori, Bedi, Doshi, Jalaluddin etc.

Posted by Testcricfan on (October 15, 2012, 3:39 GMT)

Its a little unfair on Agarkar to be bracketed with this lot :-) otherwise pretty entertaning stuff...I remember Agarkar's batting was the biggest joke around on what was a horrendous tour for India. Other mean streaks you should mention involves bigger names: Marvan Attapattu and Mohinder Amarnath, both of whom I think had 1 run in 6 innings...Glenn Mcgrath was an one-off when it came to predicting series results, his plans for opposition batsmen and confidence in his batting abilities. Bhagwat Chandrasekar and Courtney Walsh are unlucky to miss out on selection in this list, and honorable mention should be made of Phil Tufnell and Alan Mulally. The greatest No.11 of them all though, I agree with you, is the Phantom..

Posted by grimmettfan on (October 15, 2012, 3:37 GMT)

Pommie Mbangwa was once top scorer and top wicket-taker in the same season for his school- Dean Close School, in England. So he could certainly bat a bit at schools level, not that that counted for much in international cricket.

Posted by   on (October 15, 2012, 3:14 GMT)

Where's Devon Malcolm? My favorite batsman ever. The way he would randomly slog at every single delivery was a highlight of any Test Match. If someone could find that 48 he slogged and put it on Youtube it would be a sensation.

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Steven Lynch Steven Lynch won the Wisden Cricket Monthly Christmas Quiz three years running before the then-editor said "I can't let you win it again, but would you like a job?" That lasted for 15 years, before he moved across to the Wisden website when that was set up in 2000. Following the merger of the two sites early in 2003 he was appointed as the global editor of Wisden Cricinfo. In June 2005 he became the deputy editor of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack. He continues to contribute the popular weekly "Ask Steven" question-and-answer column on ESPNcricinfo, and edits the Wisden Guide to International Cricket.

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