Go figure

A look at some of cricket's more improbable bowling analyses

Steven Lynch

March 10, 2014

Comments: 56 | Text size: A | A

Hedley Verity tosses the ball, 1940
Hedley Verity: sent down a spell to write home about in 1932 © Getty Images

The spell that inspired this week's selection came last week during the Asia Cup in Mirpur. Pakistan's experienced slow left-armer Abdur Rehman came on for the 11th over of the match against Bangladesh - and bowled three high full tosses. One was smashed for four, and another was caught... but it didn't count as a wicket, as all three were ruled no-balls on height. After the third one, the umpires suspended Rehman from bowling, and Fawad Alam had to complete (or, really, start) the over. Until then, the weirdest bowling figures in international cricket probably belonged to England's David Gower who, with the scores level, playfully threw the last ball of the second Test against New Zealand at Trent Bridge in 1986. The umpire called it a no-ball, Martin Crowe smashed it to the boundary... and Gower came off with figures of 0-0-4-0.

The 1963-64 India-England series would be near the bottom of the list of exciting encounters: all five Tests were drawn, and in the first one, in Madras, England - who had several regular players injured or ill - crawled to 317 from 190.4 overs. Of those, 32 were sent down by the left-arm spinner Bapu Nadkarni, at a cost of just five runs: his spell included 131 successive dot balls, and he was apparently furious when this sequence was broken by a misfield.

10 for 10
The best bowling analysis in first-class history was recorded back in July 1932 by the Yorkshire left-arm spinner Hedley Verity against Nottinghamshire at Headingley. Verity's full figures were 19.4-16-10-10. Notts were 38 for 0 at lunch on the third day, but then lost all ten wickets for 29 on a drying pitch. Verity's spell is the subject of a book, out later this year, by Fred Trueman's recent biographer Chris Waters.

4 for 362
The most expensive bowling figures in first-class history were recorded by the whimsical Australian legspinner Arthur Mailey, whose 64 eight-ball overs for New South Wales in Melbourne in December 1926 - while Victoria were amassing the record total of 1107 - brought him 4 for 362. Mailey consoled himself with the thought that his figures would have been much better but for three dropped catches - "two by a man in the pavilion wearing a bowler hat".

It's perhaps not a great surprise that the most economical ten-over figures in a one-day international belong to a West Indian from the 1990s. But it wasn't Courtney Walsh (who did once take 5 for 1 in 4.3 overs against Sri Lanka in Sharjah in 1986), or even the frugal Curtly Ambrose (who had figures of 10-5-5-1 against Sri Lanka in Sharjah in 1999). The scroogiest figures of all belong to a man of more modest pace than those two: Phil Simmons hurtled through his ten overs for just three runs in Sydney in December 1992. "Pakistan fell apart against Simmons's medium-pace swing," sniffed Wisden.

19 for 90
Still unapproached after 58 years, Jim Laker's match figures in the Ashes Test at Old Trafford in 1956 still defy belief: 9 for 37 in the first innings was followed by 10 for 53 in the second. Yes, it was a helpful pitch... but it didn't seem to help Laker's combative spinning partner Tony Lock much: he toiled away at the other end for 1 for 106 from 69 overs in the match.

From the sublime to the ridiculous: several bowlers suffered in the famous one-day international in Johannesburg in March 2006 in which South Africa overhauled Australia's 434 with one ball to spare. In all, 872 runs were scored that day - and 113 of them came off the bowling of the unfortunate Mick Lewis, a seamer from Victoria. It was Lewis' seventh one-day international... and his last.

The Somerset offspinner Brian Langford recorded an unbeatable bowling analysis in the first season of England's 40-over Sunday League. In Yeovil in 1969, Langford's eight overs were all maidens, after Essex's opener Brian Ward decided Langford was the danger man and decided to see him off. Essex still lost - the young Greg Chappell later took three wickets for Somerset, then top-scored with 36.

Yes! Mick Lewis removes AB de Villiers, South Africa v Australia, 4th ODI, Durban, 10 March, 2006
Mick Lewis went for 113 runs out of the 872 scored in Johannesburg on March 12, 2006 © Getty Images

5 for 2
The cheapest - and quickest - five-for in Tests came the way of the versatile Australian left-armer Ernie Toshack. On a sticky pitch in Brisbane in 1947-48 he needed only 19 balls (2.3 eight-ball overs) to wrap up India's innings, and finished with 5 for 2. Some 90 years earlier, in Launceston in 1857-58, a Victorian bowler called Gideon Elliott had demolished Tasmania for 33, finishing with first-class cricket's cheapest nine-for - he ended up with 19-17-2-9.

0 for 259
In the innings in Kingston in 1957-58 best remembered for Garry Sobers' 365 not out, it's kinder not to look at the bowling figures: injuries left Pakistan with only two fully fit regular bowlers. One of them, Fazal Mahmood, toiled through 85.2 overs, conceding 247 runs - but at least he had the satisfaction of two of the wickets as West Indies ran up 790 for 3. Fazal's fast-bowling partner Khan Mohammad was not so lucky: after 54 overs he had 0 for 259, the most expensive wicketless analysis in all first-class cricket. "People always ask me about the 0 for 259," Khan lamented in later life. "They never ask about the time I got Len Hutton out for 0 at Lord's!"

In a County Championship match against Surrey at Grace Road in May 1955, Leicestershire's captain Charles Palmer gave his gentle medium-pacers an airing to enable his spinners to change ends to take an advantage of a wet patch on the pitch. But it was Palmer who hit the spot: he took a wicket in his first over, so he stayed on. He claimed another in his second, and after about an hour had the amazing figures of 8 for 0 from 12 overs. A bit of last-wicket swishing dented his figures slightly, but they were still remarkable: "I found my offcutters turning about two inches, but the Surrey batsmen kept playing down the wrong line," he remembered modestly. "In fact, I bowled down the Metropolitan Line and they played down the Bakerloo."

Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2013

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Posted by   on (March 12, 2014, 21:45 GMT)

@Pelham_Barton...you are quite correct....

Posted by   on (March 12, 2014, 10:01 GMT)

One of my enduring early cricket memories is Steven Boock kissing the ground after being relieved from his bowling spell after figured of 70-10-229-1 against pakistan at Eden Park... but I see that was still short of L.O. Feeltwood-Smith's 87-11-298-1 in terms of runs, and Sonny Ramadhin's tireless 98-35-179-2. How anyone can bowl 98 overs in an innings...

Posted by Rememberthegame on (March 11, 2014, 20:53 GMT)

Ah but Safraz is always going to be better remembered for his unsporting appeal for handled ball against Andrew Hilditch. Such acts rightly overshadow achievements in the memory.

Posted by regofpicton on (March 11, 2014, 13:31 GMT)

"Playing down the Bakerloo line" is now heard quite often. Is this remark of Charles Palmer's the origin of the expression?

Posted by BellCurve on (March 11, 2014, 13:10 GMT)

When comparing Sobers and Kallis few mention that Sobers' 365* came against a weak and severely depleted Pakistani attack and a very flat pitch. Yet the 365* is often used as the clinch the debate in Sobers' favour. I for one would suggest that Pakistan in 1957 were weaker than Bangladesh are today.

Posted by jazzaaaaaaaa on (March 11, 2014, 10:34 GMT)

What about Nathan Lyon in the recently completed Test Match. 22 overs, 17 maidens 0/10.

Posted by Pelham_Barton on (March 11, 2014, 9:47 GMT)

@haq33 on (March 10, 2014, 22:43 GMT): Under current laws, there is no problem: the penalty run for the wide ends the match and the stumping or run out is not counted. Under pre-2000 laws, I would come to the same conclusion, although the logic is less clear and I am not aware of any instance where this has gone to an official ruling. As with the case of the boundary off a no ball, I would look at what would happen in the middle of an innings. Suppose, for example, that the score is 120-3 before the stumping off a wide ball. Then there is no doubt that the score would be 121-4 afterwards. As I understand it, the fall of the wicket would be recorded as 4-121 not 4-120: this means that the run is deemed to have been scored before the wicket falls. Taking this to the end of match, the run is scored first, which ends the match, and the wicket therefore does not count.

Posted by Jagger on (March 11, 2014, 6:21 GMT)

You can't blame Mick Lewis. There's no way anyone can perform at their best with pants like that.

Posted by gibbons on (March 11, 2014, 5:14 GMT)

@The_other_side... er... both of those WERE mentioned here.

Posted by FieryFerg on (March 10, 2014, 23:18 GMT)

@Headbandenator - when Simmons played for Leicestershire in their Championship winning season in '98 he was reckoned to be the quickest in the country when he let it go. He didn't do it often, but when he did bowl as fast as he could it was seriously rapid. As you say with shoulders like that there was power to be had!

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Steven LynchClose
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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