The second Test between Sri Lanka and India saw 1478 runs scored and only 17 wickets taken. People may blame modern pitches, but matches such as this aren't a recent development.
New South Wales v South Australia, 1884
Fred Winsford was famed for the quality of his defensive play. However, having been brought up playing cricket against his brothers on a bowling green, he could only play the forward defensive - high-bouncing deliveries being outlawed by his father, who was chairman of the crown green bowling club in question. As a teenager, playing his first proper cricket match, Winsford had been so excited at finally being able to bowl bouncers that he'd never looked back. His fast bowling came on apace, but his batting was left utterly neglected.
He was good enough to play state cricket as a bowler, but opponents quickly worked out that Winsford couldn't deal with the short ball when he was at the crease himself. This meant a career of low scoring from No. 11, until one fateful day in 1884.
New South Wales were chasing 186 in the fourth innings, but the pitch had deteriorated to such a degree that it was effectively just a pile of dust. No matter where the bowlers pitched the ball, it would just shoot along at no greater than ankle height. New South Wales capitulated to 14 for 9, at which point Winsford strode to the crease and revealed that not only could he deal with this treacherous pitch, but calling upon the crown green batting experience of his youth, he could also do pretty much as he pleased in terms of manoeuvring the ball.
Unfortunately, the one thing Winsford couldn't do was hit the ball far enough to get two runs. Being as his batting partner was a walking wicket, Winsford was forced to face all six balls of every over, taking a single off the sixth each time. One hundred and seventy-two overs later, New South Wales emerged victorious and it was found that four people in the crowd had slipped into comas, their heart rates having fallen so low.
During a tiffin break, the captain took four of the stumps and dispatched them to his Bedfordshire manor. The batsmen were thus able to leave the ball with greater confidence, which slowed the fall of wickets
Pakistan International Airlines v Services, 1956
Wazir Wazir of Pakistan International Airlines was another player known for his defensive technique. Aged eight, he was taught both front-foot and back-foot defensive strokes by his father. He practised them assiduously, perfecting them, but sadly he never received a second cricket lesson, and therefore had no real way of scoring runs.
Used as an opener by PIA, his job was purely to see the shine off the ball. After 15 or 20 overs he would deliberately leave a straight ball and allow the run-scorers to come in. It was an incredibly successful tactic until Wazir fell out with his captain, Akmal Ajmal Ali-ul-Iqbal, midway through a match against Services in 1956. PIA made 550 in their first innings with Wazir carrying his bat for three not out. The match ended in a draw.
Gentlemen v Players, 1828
Following several years of successive defeats in the annual fixture, the Gentlemen were determined to emerge victorious in 1828. Set 240 to win, they knew it would be too tall an order, but their captain, UDRS Pocklington-Gerryweather-Huntley, had a few ideas as to how they could make life easier for themselves.
During a tiffin break, the captain took four of the stumps and dispatched them to his Bedfordshire manor via horse and carriage. The batsmen, BBC Huntlingdon-Pocklingsmeethe and MCG Gladlyaddled-Smeethington, were thus able to leave the ball with greater confidence, which slowed the fall of wickets and also the scoring.
After a series of run-outs, possibly resulting from Gladlyaddled-Smeethington's brandy drinking during the sixth tiffin break, the Gentlemen found themselves 65 for 9.
As the Gentlemen teams were frequently significantly weaker than the Players, it was not uncommon for the fixture to be arranged on the basis that the Gentlemen could field a greater number of batsmen. Pocklington-Gerryweather-Huntley now took the unusual step of requesting that this be made applicable midway through the match. As an employee of Pocklington-Gerryweather-Huntley outside of cricket, the Players' captain, Bert Woodbine, felt obliged to accept, and so the Gentlemen eventually triumphed, reaching their target for the loss of only 58 wickets.
Alex Bowden blogs at King Cricket. The matches in this article are fictional (but you knew that already, didn't you?)