Laker's 19 and other solo spells

On July 26 fifty years ago, England and Australia began the fourth Test of the 1956 Ashes. Five days later Jim Laker had taken 9 for 37 and 10 for 53, a statistical anomaly that no bowler has come close to beating since. Only Anil Kumble has emulated Laker by taking all ten wickets in an innings but, on that occasion, he had managed only four in the first innings. If you were to bet on one record that would stand longer that all others, place your money on Laker's 19 for 90.

In that series, Laker was, by some distance, the highest wicket-taker with 46 scalps. Tony Lock, Laker's Surrey spin partner, was England's second-most successful bowler with 15 wickets. The 31 wickets that separated Laker and Lock ranks as the second-highest difference between team-mates in a series. Keith Miller was Australia's best bowler but even he finished 25 wickets behind Laker. The Australians were given a premonition of things to come when Laker took 10 for 88 during their tour match against Surrey. Click herefor the list of bowlers who've taken all ten wickets in an innings in first-class cricket.

Only Sydney Barnes has taken more wickets in a series than Laker's 46. On England's 1913-14 tour of South Africa, Barnes was rampant, taking 10 for 105, 17 for 159, 8 for 128and 14 for 144. In all he bowled 226 overs and took 49 wickets in just four Tests. The next highest wicket-taker for England was their captain Johnny Douglas who took ten.

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    Laker's 19 for 90 and Lock's 1 for 106 at Old Trafford was only the fourth instance of two bowlers taking all 20 opposition wickets in a Test. Since then it has occurred only twice (six times in 1809 Tests to date), the most recent being Bob Massie and Dennis Lillee at Lord's in 1972.

    The first instance of two bowlers taking all 20 wickets was at Melbourne in 1902 when Monty Noble snapped up 13 for 77 and Hugh Trumble took 7 for 87. Heavy rain had made the pitch unsuitable for batting. Trumble and Noble shot England out for 61 in just 15.4 overs after Australia had made 112. Joe Darling kept some of his batsmen in reserve in the second-innings and once the pitch had eased up the specialist batsmen coming lower down the order prospered. Reggie Duff scored a century on debut at No.10 as Australia set England an impossible 405 to win. The run-chase ended on 175.

    Laker was also the first bowler to dismiss all 11 opposition batsmen in a match. In the first innings at Old Trafford, Lock snared Jim Burke and Ray Lindwall remained not out. Both fell to Laker the second time around while Ian Johnson, whom Laker had bowled in the first innings, was unbeaten. This feat, too, has been performed only on six occasions - four times by spinners - with Muttiah Muralitharan being the last to do so during his 13 for 171 against South Africa in at Galle in 2000.

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