Cricket’s premier format, Test match cricket, has been played for more than 140 years. The format itself has withstood the test of time. Last week, Sri Lanka defeated Pakistan in a very interesting Test match. Including that game, there have been a total of 2278 Test matches played till now.
In these 2278 Test matches, feats have been recorded pertaining to almost every aspect of the game. From most runs in a career to most runs in an over, we have records for every facet of the game.
It is said that records are meant to be broken. Yet, there are few records that have lived on for over 100 years. Here are five records that have stood strong since the end of the 19th century.
#1 Highest percentage of runs in a completed Test innings (1877)
This record was made in the first Test match ever played and is yet to be broken. Unbelievable as it may sound, Charles Bannerman of Australia (who is also the first batsman to face a delivery in Test cricket) scored 165 runs of the team’s 245. This makes Bannerman’s percentage a staggering 67.34%.
Starting on 15th March 1877 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the match ended in four days with Australia winning by 45 runs. (Official Test status to this match was bestowed later).
The closest anyone has ever come to breaking this record is another Australian batsman, Michael Slater. Also opening the innings, he scored 123 out of the team’s 186 against England at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1999. Slater managed to score 66.84% of the total runs in that innings.
Even though such a feat requires a mammoth solo effort, it also requires failure on the part of the team-mates.
#2 Highest score batting at number 10 (1884)
Abul Hasan came the closest to breaking Read’s record
The records for the highest individual score at each batting position are mostly held by batsmen of the modern era – the exception being number 10!
The 16th Test match, played at The Oval between England and Australia in 1884, set the stage for this particular record. Australia put up 551 runs in the first innings, thanks to three centuries scored by middle order batsmen. England bowled 311 overs in total with all 11 players having a go.
In reply, the home team stumbled to a dismal 181/8. Walter Read then joined the opener William Scotton, who had managed to anchor himself at the crease. The duo then put up a partnership of 151 runs. Read was the last man out, having scored 117 which included 20 boundaries. Although England could not avoid the follow-on, the match was drawn.
Since then, only three other cricketers have scored centuries batting at number 10. Abul Hasan’s debut Test century of 113 runs for Bangladesh, against West Indies in 2011, remains the second highest.
#3 Lowest bowling average and strike-rate (1896)
This is one of the most phenomenal records to have survived the test of time. In the days when batting was not easy, a certain George Lohmann wreaked havoc. A medium pace bowler from Surrey with immaculate control over line and length, his variations bamboozled the batsmen.
Lohmann recorded bowling figures of 9/28 against South Africa at Johannesburg in 1896. These remained the best bowling figures in Test cricket until fellow Englishman Jim Laker took ten wickets in an innings in 1956. Lohmann retired after playing 18 Tests with a bowling average of 10.75 and a strike rate of 34.1 with 112 wickets to his name.
He holds the record for the lowest ever bowling average & strike rate in the history of Test cricket with the criterion being a minimum of 2000 balls bowled. Although a few bowlers did come close to taking a wicket every 34.1 balls, none of them are from the modern era.
#4 Oldest Test captain (1899)
The first superstar of cricket holds this age-related record. In his heyday, Dr. William Gilbert Grace ruled over the hearts of English cricket fans. Stadiums were packed when he was batting and they emptied out once he was dismissed. The legendary amateur cricketer scored over 54000+ first-class runs and took more than 2800 first-class wickets in his illustrious career.
Born in 1848, “WG” as he was fondly known, also played an active part in the Test match that culminated with the birth of the Ashes. In the twilight of his career, the bearded hero became the captain of the England team at the age of 50, in 1899.
Grace, however, was smart enough to understand that his fitness levels would not match the requirements of the game. He soon handed over the captaincy to Archie MacLaren. Grace played the last Test match of his career in 1899 against the Australians.
At 50 years and 320 days, Grace became the oldest captain in Test cricket. With hardly any modern cricketer extending his Test career beyond the age of 40, it is likely that this record too shall never be broken.
#5 Highest score in Test debut innings (1903)
Reginald ‘Tip’ Foster was born in a sporting family in the year 1878. He, along with six of his brothers, represented Worcestershire. Hence, for some time, the county was comically referred to as ‘Fostershire’.
Tip was the most talented sportsperson in his family. He even represented England in five international soccer matches.
Prior to his Test debut in 1903, Foster had already amassed a great number of runs in county cricket. He was honoured with the ‘Wisden Cricketer of The Year’ award in 1901.
Foster then concentrated on his profession as a stockbroker and played first-class cricket sparingly.
He, however, did enough to be chosen for the tour to Australia in 1903. Foster played well against the Australian state teams and was selected in the playing XI for the Sydney Test.
Australia scored 285 runs in their first innings. When Foster walked out to bat, England had stumbled to 73/3. He put on 245 runs with the last two batsmen and was the last man to get out. His score of 287 was higher than what Australia had scored in their first innings.
England went on to win the Test match. Foster’s 287 was the highest score in Test cricket at that time. Till date, it remains the highest score in a debut Test innings. The closest someone has come to breaking this record was Jacques Rudolph, who scored 222 against Bangladesh on his debut in 2003.
With the improved run-rates at which teams bat nowadays, it is probable that someday some youngster will improve upon this record which has stood for 114 years now.
After all, records are meant to be broken.