Readers will be familiar with ESPNcricinfo's very popular weekly Ask Steven
stats and trivia feature, and the complex Statsguru tool
. You ask Steven Lynch a query, like "How many times have the top three batters been out for zeros", and get an informative yet concise answer. Or, say, you want to know how many Test bowlers have bowled in excess of 60 overs in an innings, so you run a query in Statsguru and get your output as a table.
What I am doing is somewhat similar, but for three differences.
1. You do not have to think of a specific query or run a query yourself. I have done that and presented the tables.
2. There are some unique queries that no one would have thought of asking. Some of these are beyond what Statsguru will be able to process.
3. As I am wont to do, I have also done some additional analysis work and presented these in the tables.
I have looked for unusual occurrences within single Tests and presented these in the form of tables - some very unusual indeed. In view of the large number of tables, I will present these occurrences in two separate articles.
This first article will cover unusual happenings from match and team points of view - be it within an innings or a Test. The second part will cover unusual situations that pertain to players - both batters and bowlers. I will be glad to receive emails on what you might be able to think of, in addition to these, and will present the findings for those queries at a later date.
The article is current up to the Mirpur Test between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka last month (and it's nice to know there was one unusual occurrence in that specific match too).
First, the team-related tables. Some graphs contain multiple tables, often related to each other. Let me also make it clear that this is strictly a single-match-centric article. There are no series or career analyses here.
The first group relates to results achieved in Tests. Let me start with a nice one on narrow wins. This is one most followers of cricket will be familiar with.
The first table above is a list of wins by the narrowest margins - fewer than ten runs. There has been only a single one-run win - that of West Indies over Australia in Adelaide
in 1992-93. Defending 186, West Indies won by one run. More than a decade later, Australia again fell two runs short
, this time against England. At the turn of the 20th century Australia won by three runs
against England, the same margin that England won by in another Ashes contest, 80 years later
In summary, there have been ten instances of teams winning by fewer than ten runs - Australia winning three such Tests, but losing five times. The lowest total defended was 291, when Australia won their 1982-83 Ashes Test in Melbourne by seven runs
. Some of these wins are still fresh in the followers' memories - the Fanie de Villiers-inspired win in Sydney
in 1993-94, and the recent spinners-driven win for New Zealand in Abu Dhabi
four years ago.
The second is a list of wins by huge run margins. The widest of these was the 675-run win
for England in 1928. Six other matches were won by over 450 runs, where the winners dismissed their opponents for sub-200 scores.
One could say that winning by one wicket is slightly easier than winning by single-digit runs - there have been 15 instances of such wins. The highest total chased here was in England's amazing Headingley Ashes win
in 2019. The lowest total that was reached with only a single wicket to spare was New Zealand's 104 for 9 in Dunedin
in 1979-80 against West Indies.
I have developed a new measure for determining the difficulty of chases. Based on the RpW for the first three innings, I have determined "equivalent wickets" values for the final innings. This will indicate how difficult the chase was. If this value is below eight, the chase was manageable; anything higher makes it a tough chase. Anything above 15 is a near-impossible chase. Only England's win at Headingley in 2019 and South Africa's Johannesburg win over England in 1905-06
have values above 15, indicating how difficult they were. This adds lustre to Ben Stokes' great innings in 2019. Look at the scores in the first three innings - 179, 67 and 246 at Headingley, and 184, 91 and 190 over a hundred years ago in Johannesburg. New Zealand's chase in Dunedin over West Indies looked a rather easy one - 140, 249 and 212 were scored in the first three innings, and only 104 were needed in the fourth. However, Michael Holding, Colin Croft and Joel Garner were unplayable and, surprisingly, the last two New Zealand wickets managed to add over 30 runs.
England have had four such wins, while West Indies have three. Australia seem to be on the receiving end of many such close results - they have lost by one wicket six times.
The second table shows matches that were won by teams defending 125 runs or fewer. Ten teams managed to achieve this. Look at the last couple of entries. Australia and England had only 123
and 110 runs
to defend, but still won by over 60 runs each. India's mud-track win in Mumbai
in 2004 over Australia is also featured here.
The first table above features the five Tests
in which teams lost only two wickets while winning, and two Tests where they won with the loss of three wickets. All seven wins were by an innings and plenty. The analytical value I have presented here is the percentage of resources used, allotting 50% for the wickets and 50% for the margin of win. In 2005, England needed only 32.8% of their resources while crushing Bangladesh at Lord's
. A feat almost matched by Pakistan in Multan
against Bangladesh in 2001. (The low resource percentages used in these games where the winning teams lost three wickets is why I have featured them.)
The second table highlights the Tests in which the winning teams had first-innings deficits of 200 runs and more. Of the three wins
that came after the winning team followed-on, the two most are well known and need no describing. The exploits of Ian Botham, Bob Willis, VVS Laxman and Harbhajan Singh are still fresh in our minds. However, the three wins that were not after follow-ons deserve their explanations.
In 1992, Australia conceded a deficit of 291
to Sri Lanka in Colombo. But they scored 471 in their second innings and then Greg Matthews and Shane Warne dismissed Sri Lanka 16 runs short of the target. In 1950 in Durban
, Australia folded for 75 in reply to South Africa's 311. The hosts did not enforce the follow-on and were shot out for 99, after which Neil Harvey's majestic 151 anchored Australia's incredible win. In 2010, Australia fell behind by over 200 runs to Pakistan in Sydney
, and then scored 381, thanks to a Michael Hussey masterclass. After that, Nathan Hauritz and Mitchell Johnson dismissed Pakistan for 139.
The table above features matches in which there were significant last-wicket partnerships, either in the last innings or earlier in the match, which were instrumental in the teams winning close matches. I have considered last-wicket partnerships of 40 or more and either wins by margins below 30 runs or by fewer than four wickets. The result is a collection of very special matches, indeed.
The three Tests in which the one-wicket wins were earned by long unbeaten last-wicket partnerships are featured here: Stokes and Jack Leach at Headingley
in 2019, Kusal Perera and Vishwa Fernando in Durban earlier the same year
, and Inzamam-ul-Haq and Mushtaq Ahmed in Karachi
against Australia in 1994.
Way back in 1885 in Sydney
, the 80-run last-wicket partnership on the first day between Tom Garrett and Edwin Evans was vital for Australia in a low-scoring match in which they beat England by six runs. In 2012 in Bridgetown
, Australia beat West Indies by three wickets. The match-winning partnership was the unbeaten 77-run tenth-wicket stand by Ryan Harris and Nathan Lyon in the first innings. The Adelaide Ashes Test
in 1925 resulted in a win for Australia by 11 runs, with a last-wicket partnership of 73 between Jack Ryder and Arthur Mailey being key. In that famous 2005 Ashes Test at Edgbaston
, the two-run win was facilitated by a wonderful last-wicket stand of 51 between Andrew Flintoff and Simon Jones. Finally, 16-run win over India in Brisbane
in 1978 by an Australia side depleted by World Series Cricket owed a lot to Jeff Thomson and Alan Hurst, who added 50 runs for the last wicket.
Now for the unusual situations as far as innings are considered. Most of these tables are self-explanatory.
The first table above is a collection of Tests that were won by teams who made less than 200 runs in each of the Tests in question. No fewer than nine teams
achieved this, eight of these before 1947 and just once recently. Three of those teams even ended up achieving huge innings wins. Surprisingly, only one was a close match. In two of these matches the second-innings targets were chased rather comfortably. All in all, a very interesting collection of Tests indeed.
The second features the unfortunate teams that lost after scoring over 770 runs in the match
. In the first of these, at Headingley in 1948, England scored over 860 runs and set Australia a target of 404,which they got to in a canter. In all the other Tests on this list, the teams lost 20 wickets each. If we lower the cut-off to 750-plus runs, 12 Tests
make the cut. England have lost five such Tests and Australia have lost four. The most recent instance was when Bangladesh scored nearly 600 runs in Wellington in 2016-17
and still lost.
Only twice have teams had five century-makers
in an innings - Australia in 1955 and Pakistan in 2001. Once in 1934 and twice in 2006, batters made seven 50-plus scores
in an innings. Sri Lanka, Pakistan and England were the teams. More teams have had six batters failing to open their account - six in all
. Most of these occurrences have been in the last 30 years.
This table presents two contrasting situations. First, the eight teams
that scored at better than a run a ball in an innings of at least 25 six-ball overs - that is, equal to the rate that is considered good in ODIs. Barring the 1983 West Indian blitz over India, driven by Viv Richards, all these Tests were played in the 21st century. Five of these matches were won, and three were draws. Australia feature in three of these Tests.
At the other extreme, five teams (three of them New Zealand sides) have scored at below a run an over
. Not surprisingly, two of these Tests were lost, including that magnificent rearguard action by South Africa against India in Delhi in 2015-16.
This next table is a tribute to bowlers who sent down more than 250 overs in an innings. (For all bowling analyses, I have rationalised as needed to bring all matches under the six-ball-over rubric, although match values are still shown under the appropriate BpO.) West Indies have performed this feat of endurance no fewer than four times, and there have been 13 of these occasions
in all. Only two teams bowled more than 300 overs - in matches where triple-hundreds were made by, by Len Hutton and Hanif Mohammad. The highest team total ever - Sri Lanka's 952 for 6 in Colombo in 1997 - is somewhere in the middle, because India conceded a huge 3.5 runs per over in the innings. That instance is the last time any team bowled more than 250 overs in an innings.
Now for a look at mind-blowing team collapses. In Wellington
in 1946, New Zealand were already in trouble at 37 for 2 and then Bill O'Reilly and Ernie Toshack struck, taking the next eight wickets for a mere five runs. This collapse was worse than the one in New Zealand's 26 all out a decade later. Against Pakistan in Auckland in 2001, New Zealand were sitting reasonably placed at 121 for 2 and then lost eight wickets for ten runs
. Sandwiched in between is Australia's similar collapse
of eight wickets for ten runs in Cape Town in 2011. Then there are a number of seven-for-nothing type collapses. But the last one is different in that England actually won by 13 runs
in Sydney in 1887 despite collapsing. New Zealand have had four such collapses. It is interesting to note that England's middle-order collapse in the recently concluded Lord's Test against New Zealand
, of five wickets for eight runs would have come nowhere near selection.
The table above is a potpourri of dismissals. The only occasion when all ten wickets were the result of catches by fielders was when India played New Zealand at the Basin Reserve
in 1967-68. The Indian close-catching quartet, led by Venkataraman Subramanya, took all ten catches. India are also the holders of another unique record, taking all ten wickets bowled or lbw. They achieved this in Adelaide in 1947-48
against the powerhouse Australian team led by Bradman. There were six bowleds and four lbws. That Australia scored 674 in the process is another story. Two teams, back in 1889 and 1890, secured nine bowled dismissals
Five wicketkeepers have taken seven catches in an innings. Wasim Bari did this once by himself, and once in a shared situation. Twice in the early 2000s a team achieved seven lbw dismissals
- Australia once and England once. In that famous Narendra Hirwani debut Test in Chennai in 1988 against West Indies, Kiran More stumped five West Indies batters
in an innings - the only wicketkeeper ever to do so. On two occasions have teams executed four run-outs
- Pakistan vs India in Peshawar in 1955 and West Indies vs Australia in Adelaide in 1969. The former was one of the dreariest of Tests - 395 overs bowled at an RpO of 1.61 for 638 runs and 176 maidens.
This table is about extras
conceded by teams. This is not an indictment of the wicketkeepers in question. In many cases, it reflects the way the fast bowlers bowled. Against Pakistan in Bangalore in 2007, India conceded 76 extras
(35 byes, 26 leg-byes, 15 no-balls and surprisingly, no wides). Why? A mystery indeed. England's 74 extras
(35 byes, 12 leg-byes, 16 no-balls and 11 wides) in Port-of-Spain in 2009 is a similar mystery. In the case of West Indies conceding 71 extras
(21 byes, eight leg-byes, 38 no-balls and four wides) against Pakistan in Georgetown, 1988, you could put it down to their quartet of fearsome fast bowlers. Against Pakistan in Bridgetown in 197, West Indies conceded 68 extras
(29 byes, 11 leg-byes and 28 no-balls) in the second-innings total of 291, nearly a quarter of Pakistan's score.
It will not be a surprise that the West Indies teams of the late-20th century occupy four of the top positions here. Australia are the only top team to not appear on this table.
The first part of the table above lists the two Test innings
that did not produce a single double-digit score. These two Tests were played nearly 100 years apart. In 1924, South Africa were skittled out for 30
- the highest score being Herbie Taylor's 7. They fared much better in the second innings, scoring 390, but lost by an innings. In 2020, India were caught in the headlights in Adelaide
and scored 36, with Mayank Agarwal making 9.
The next table highlights the innings that produced 11 double-digit scores
. No single-digit score, nor a three-digit score. Twice in the 1960 and '70s, India achieved this feat. In Dunedin in 1968
, 11 scores between 12 and 80 took them to 359. In Kanpur
in 1976, again against New Zealand, 11 scores between 10 and 70 took India to 524 for 9. The declaration came just after the No. 11, Bhagwath Chandrasekhar, reached 10. This has happened three times since, in the last 30 years. In 2016 in Johannesburg against England
, South Africa made 313 but the range of individual scores was unique - between 12 and 46. No batter reached 50 - the only such instance.
On four occasions
all 11 players have bowled in a Test innings. The only comment I'll add here is that the 1884 Ashes Test at The Oval had four-ball overs.
Let us now look at the most fours
in an innings. It is amazing to note that no fewer than 109 fours were hit in that 952-run total by Sri Lanka in 1997
. That works out around 46% of the total runs scored and one every 15 balls. India are the only other team to hit over 100 fours in an innings - at the SCG
in 2004. That Sydney innings had a much higher percentage of fours and a higher frequency of them.
In terms of sixes, the honours go to the New Zealand team, in Sharjah
in 2014. In their innings of 690, leading to an innings win, they hit 22 sixes. This is the only instance of 20-plus sixes being hit in an innings. Seven batters managed to cross the ropes.
The table above tells a story of captains who will have wanted to disappear into the earth or parade around the ground at the end of the match. The first lot made the decision to send the other team in, and then struggled in the field for about two days, witnessing scores of 600, following which their team lost by a huge margin. The reason for these decisions could in each case partly have been fear of the other team's bowlers. What else would have prompted Heath Streak to send Australia in in Perth in 2003
, after which he watched them pile up over 700 runs at around five an over? What was Mohammad Azharuddin thinking in 1990 when he sent England in at Lord's
? That England would be dismissed for 200? Unfortunately, a single batter scored 333 and India lost that match by 247 runs.
Garry Sobers did likewise at the SCG
in 1969 and saw Australia bat for over two days, following which, West Indies lost by a huge margin. Why did Habibul Bashar hand over first use of a belter of a pitch in Mirpur
to Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Co? A score of 326 for 0 at close on the first day led to the familiar "innings-and-tons-of-runs" type of win. Finally, in 2003, Brian Lara must have grossly overestimated
his pedestrian bowling attack of Jermaine Lawson, Tino Best and Vasbert Drakes when he sent one of the strongest teams ever in to bat. The result was a 605-run avalanche and a nine-wicket loss. Eight captains who put their opponents in saw 600-plus scores being scored, and 30 captains saw a total of 500-plus on the scoreboard before their own sides could bat.
The second lot of captains on the table did the same thing, saw their decisions misfire, agonising while 400-plus runs were scored, but managed to win
in the end. In Wellington in 2017
, Kane Williamson sent Bangladesh in, saw them declare at 595 for 8, managed to keep the deficit to around 50, then tore through Bangladesh and won comfortably. This is the highest first-innings score in a defeat.
At The Oval in 1998, Arjuna Ranatunga sent England in and toiled on the field for well over nine hours, after which his team batted beautifully to take a lead of nearly 150. Then the magician Muthiah Muralidaran produced arguably the greatest third-innings bowling performance of them all to dismiss England for 181, and Sri Lanka won by ten wickets
. One of the greatest away victories by any team. Ricky Ponting sent New Zealand in to bat in Christchurch
in 2005. New Zealand made 433 and Australia matched it before Shane Warne, the other magician, took over and dismissed New Zealand for a low score for Australia to secure a comfortable win.
In two Tests so far, eight hundreds
have been scored. In Antigua in 2005
, South Africa made 588 for 6, including four hundreds, and West Indies made 747, also with four hundreds . (All 11 bowlers bowled in West Indies' innings - as featured elsewhere in this article.) In Galle in 2013
, Sri Lanka scored 570 for 4, with three hundreds, and Bangladesh 638, also with three hundreds. In their second innings, Sri Lanka managed another two hundreds. Six other Tests featured seven hundreds.
There are 13 Tests in which 11 ducks were scored
. India feature twice on this table, both times at home. The last entry here came in when this article was nearly ready for publication. There were 11 zeros in the Mirpur Test
between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
For the table above, there is a strong possibility that there may be a Test or two lurking around, other than the ones in this list, that could fit the requirements. I have looked at domination of the bowling by types of bowlers. There are two problems. The first is the presence of multiskilled bowlers, led by Sobers, who could bowl pace or spin equally effectively. Sydney Barnes, Bob Appleyard, Colin Miller, and Eknath Solkar could be thought of as such bowlers. The other is the absence of verifiable data for some early bowlers. However, I have checked all the featured Tests carefully.
It is easier for pace bowlers
to make a clean sweep than for spinners, and this has happened on five occasions (with a minimum of 39 match wickets) - four of these when 40 wickets fell and once with 39. The 2018 Johannesburg Test between South Africa and India
falls under this category. There are six Tests in which the fast bowlers took 39 wickets. In four of these, the odd wicket out was a run-out. In the other two, spinners took the remaining the wicket.
It is more difficult for spinners to have a clean sweep - in fact, it has never happened. The most wickets taken by spinners in a Test is 38
. That has happened twice - once between Sri Lanka and England in Pallekele in 2018
and the other, in that famous Afghanistan win over Bangladesh in Chattogram in 2019
. In both Tests there was a run-out and a wicket taken by a pace bowler. Thirty-seven wickets were taken in Kanpur in 1969-70
between India and New Zealand. Among the quick bowlers, Syed Abid Ali took two wickets and Bob Cunis the other.
This next table features Tests in which no fewer than 13 captains played. When England played India in Kolkata
in 1982, they fielded no fewer than eight captains who had already captained or would lead in future. Only Chris Tavaré , Derek Underwood and Bob Taylor would never captain England. India had six captains in that game. That makes an impressive combined figure of 14 leaders. Then there are eight Tests in which the teams fielded 13 captains. The interesting one is the 2005 Test between Australia and ICC World XI
. Australia fielded four captains, while the World XI fielded nine (only Murali and Steve Harmison were the foot soldiers). Pakistan fielded eight captains in a couple of Tests featured.
Let us now look at the most fours
hit in matches. It is amazing to note that no fewer than 238 fours were hit in the Sydney Test
in 2004 - 113 by Australia and 125 by India. That works out to around 55% of the total runs scored and one every 11 balls. If this frequency was applied to an ODI match, the match total would have been around 50 fours, unthinkable in the first 20-odd years of the format. In a Test that started a few hours later on the same day, in in Cape Town
, West Indies hit 114 fours and South Africa 99. A decade later, in Perth
, Australia hit 114 fours and New Zealand, 97. Overall, the percentage of match runs from fours stands at around 50 and the frequency at around 12 balls.
The Visakhapatnam Test
of 2019-20 produced an avalanche of sixes, 27 by India - a record for a match by a team, and ten by South Africa. The Sharjah match
mentioned earlier in this piece was not far behind: 22 by New Zealand and 13 by Pakistan. In these two matches around 15% of the total runs came in sixes, with a frequency of one six around every ten overs. That is two or three sixes before lunch on the first day. Amazing, indeed.
Two diverse tables finish the section on complete matches. The first is a selection of the largest number of century partnerships
in a Test. The highest is eight, in the Headingley Test
of 1948, the one that Australia won chasing over 400. The highest partnership was for the second wicket, 301 between Arthur Morris and Bradman in the fourth innings. The average partnership was a rather high 147.
There are six Tests in which there were seven partnerships of a hundred or more. England feature in five of these Tests. Two consecutive Australia-India Tests at the SCG are also featured. Similarly, two England-New Zealand Tests at Lord's also get in.
The table of the largest numbers of dismissals by type is self-explanatory. There are two Tests other than the one in the table in which there were six stumpings
. One is the Hirwani debut match mentioned earlier. The other was the SCG Test in 1895 between Australia and South Africa. Another notable feature of this table is that many of these Tests have been played in the last decade.
In the next article, I will cover individual performances that stood out in Test matches. Readers can send in their suggestions on this article - the special ones will be processed and will feature, along with tables for them, in a future article. Please note that all suggestions should have a Test as the unit for consideration. Nothing beyond the limits of a Test.
Added on June 15, 2022
The Trent Bridge Test
between England and New Zealand, which concluded on June 14, produced a few such unusual occurrences which would have been featured in this article. I have summarised these below.
1. England won the toss, inserted New Zealand, saw them score 500-plus in the first innings, and then won.
2. There were 225 fours hit in the match. In the featured table, this match would have taken second place.
3. New Zealand scored 837 runs and yet lost the match. In the featured table, this match would have taken second place.
Added on June 17, 2022
On the first day of the Test between West Indies and Bangladesh
, Bangladesh matched the record of six ducks in an innings. It has to be seen whether they will match or exceed the record of 11 ducks in a match.
Talking Cricket Group
Any reader who wishes to join the general-purpose cricket ideas-exchange group of this name that I started last year can email me a request for inclusion, providing their name, place of residence, and what they do.
Email me your comments and I will respond. This email id is to be used only for sending in comments. Please note that readers whose emails are derogatory to the author or any player will be permanently blocked from sending in any feedback in future.
Anantha Narayanan has written for ESPNcricinfo and CastrolCricket and worked with a number of companies on their cricket performance ratings-related systems