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Trivia #01: Fewest Players to Span Test History (Nov93)

Cricket Trivia 1 - Posed by A Bell:

I wonder what the fewest number of cricketers is whose careers overlap from the very first test to the present day? (Nov 1993)

Ian Gent: There is a chain of only _six_ players. In fact there are quite a few choices along the way, but I think this one gives the most overlap.

Player Country First Test Last Test J McC Blackham Aus Mar 1877 v E Dec 1893 v E S E Gregory Aus Jul 1890 v E Aug 1912 v E F E Woolley Eng Aug 1909 v A Aug 1934 v A G A Headley WI Jan 1930 v E Jan 1954 v E D B Close Eng Aug? 1949 v NZ Jul 1976 v WI G A Gooch Eng Jul 1975 v A

I don't think there is a chain of six without Gooch as a current player: Border for example debut'ed in 1978-79, and I assume Traicos and Imran have retired, (Nov 1993 - Traicos last played 13-17Mar93, v India)

There are some pretty large overlaps in career: apart from Close/Gooch, it's always at least three years. Surprising isn't the word when you realise that but for chance, there would be a chain of _five_ players! By the time of the first test, W G Grace was undoubtedly the greatest English player, and he played in the first test match played in England, and only the fourth ever played, in 1880. Had he been a part of the tour that played the first test only three years earlier, we would have a chain of five. W G's last test was in 1899 and was Wilfred Rhodes' debut. Rhodes played for England in West Indies in 1929/30, Headley's debut series. We thus get a chain from 1880 to today, of Grace - Rhodes - Headley - Close - Gooch. A career like Close's of 27 years is _long_. I noted down the other players in his first and last tests:

D B Close's First Test; (1949) Hutton/Washbrook/Edrich/Compton/Simpson/Bailey/Evans/Brown/ Hollies/Jackson

D B Close's Last Test: (vs WI, 1976) Edrich/Steele/Woolmer/Hayes/Greig/Knott/Underwood/Selvey/Hendrick /Pocock

Different Edrich's of course! John was Bill's cousin and 21 years younger. None of the other players in 1949 was still playing tests when any of Close's colleagues in 1976 debuted. The nearest to an overlap is John Edrich, debut 1963, and from 1949, H L Jackson, who played exactly two test matches, in 1949 and 1961!

(Contributed by Ian Gent)

James Tappin notes: Ian Gent mentions that the players Grace, Rhodes, Headley, Close & Gooch span Test history back as far as 1880. What is perhaps more remarkable is that they also span the entire history of cricket as we know it (i.e. overarm bowling) since W.G's firstclass debut was in 1864!

ColdPom asks: Just how many different ways were there of doing those first 4, Ian?

Ian Gent replies: The chain of 6 I posted was: Blackham/Gregory/Woolley/Headley/Close/Gooch

There are quite a few ways to do the first 4 players. The critical links in a chain of 6 is Brian Close, the only postwar player with a huge long career. Headley is quite critical also to get you from 1934 (Woolley) to 1949 (Close), but C S Nayudu (Ind) also does that. But Headley made his debut in 1929/30, in a series in which Rhodes and Gunn both played, both overlapping with Gregory. Also, if you go X/Grace/Rhodes/Headley/... there are a large number of choices for X, as Grace played in only the 4th test match. In short, the more recent players are the more critical, as careers over 15 years are rarer nowadays. At this moment, it's not clear if a chain of 6 still exists, as it relies on Graham Gooch (or another pre 1976 player) playing again. What is clear that a chain of 7 is going to exist for a long time to come, until the likes of Tendulkar, Lathwell, Slater, Lara etc etc retire. (Note that in the particular radio quiz quoted above, the added restriction was given that the recent test A vs NZ had to be included, but it would have been kind of hard for Gooch to play in that. But all players except debutants could have given a chain of 7 as they only had to have played before the 6th test at the Oval this year!)