Why cricket remains the ultimate stat and ball game

John Nicholson

Statistical analysis in football is very popular these days, indeed it’s fashionable. Companies are paid to measure, quantify and predict everything about the game. It is an industry in itself.

However, when it comes to the numbers game, football is late to the party that cricket has been drinking heavily at for a long, long time. In fact, one of the biggest attractions of cricket, to me, has always been the fact it is very statistically orientated.

A few weeks ago I wrote about my love of very low scores and how exotic the really, really small number is in cricket. But this is not my only statistical love in the game. Oh no. Far from it. Headline stats such as most wickets taken or highest batting totals are all well and good but are a bit too boiled beef and carrots for me. It’s the more spicy, lesser known records that I crave. Thankfully cricket is a welcome home to people who are obsessed with even the most obscure facts.

Obscure facts like who is the batter that has scored the highest percentage of their sides total in a test match innings? If you love cricket numbers you’ll have already sat a little more upright at the thought of that.

This has interested me ever since I was playing in a match at school and was bowled out for 9. My side made the grand total of 89 and one lad, Colin, made all the other 80 runs. Just me and him scored. I held up one end for ages, just trying to give him the strike, basically doing my best impression of Geoff Boycott. He was the only one who was any good at cricket and streets ahead of any of the players but scoring 89.88% of the total was great even by his standards.

I’ve never seen anyone score a higher percentage of an innings total since and long ago set about finding out what the record for this was in Test cricket. It is Test cricket’s longest running records because it occurred in the first ever played and was achieved by Charles Bannerman of Australia who, in March 1877 at Melbourne Cricket Ground, scored 165 of the 245 on the scoreboard. That is 67.34% of the total. Not as good as my pal Colin, but not bad. And this has stood ever since, though Michael Slater’s 123 out of 186 v England in Sydney in 1999 nearly bettered it with 66.84% of the total and India’s VVS Laxman’s 167 out of 261 against Australia in 2000 was the third highest at 63.98%. The record almost went to Bangladesh’s Liton Das this year; he had 25 out of 35/9 against West Indies before a last-wicket partnership of eight scuppered him. When it comes to ODIs (which as you know I do not consider proper cricket) Viv Richards’ 189* out of 272/9 at 69.48% is the toppermost.

However these pale into insignificance to the 83.43% by Glenn Turner who scored 141* out of Worcestershire’s 169 against Glamorgan at Swansea in 1977. The other batsmen scored just 27 between them and there was one extra. Fantastic. Still not as good as Colin. But fantastic, all the same.

Why is that so thrilling? I don’t really know, but it is a delicious statistic. If you love stats, you’ll get the tingle, if you don’t get the tingle, then nothing I could say would mean anything to you.

The most runs scored from an over? How much could that be? 36? Nah. Nowhere near. It is 77, sir! 77! Admittedly this was done on purpose by New Zealander Bert Vance in 1990. The scores off each ball were 0 4 4 4 6 6 4 6 1 4 1 0 6 6 6 6 6 0 0 4 0 1.

A Dhaka club cricketer bowled wides and no-balls in an umpiring protest, conceding 92 runs off just four legal deliveries.. He was banned for 10 years for doing that. Seems harsh.

OK, here’s another one. What is the lowest score in a Test match that no batter has ever scored? The answer is 229. Isn’t it amazing to think no-one has ever scored 229 in a test?. Well, OK, maybe it only is to me.

How about this? The only wicket-keepers to dismiss nine batsmen in an innings are Tahir Rasheed (8 caught and 1 stumped) for Habib Bank against Pakistan Automobiles Corporation at Gujranwala in 1992–93 and Wayne James (7 caught and 2 stumped) for Matabeleland against Mashonaland Country Districts at Bulawayo in 1995–96 (he also scored 99 and 99* in the same match)

Oooh, now that makes me feel all fuzzy and warm.

For me, the attraction of such statistics is party unknowable. They just appeal. I get the same thrill from knowing chart positions of my favourite albums or singles, not just UK chart positions (though I love them too) but overseas chart positions. I collect records from any and every territory on earth (I have a fondness for Bolivian releases, don’t ask me why)

It’s hard to stop stat-binging when you get a taste.

In Test cricket, who has bowled the most consecutive maiden overs? That is Rameshchandra Gangaram ‘Bapu′ Nadkarni who delivered an amazing 131 consecutive dot balls. That is 21 consecutive maiden overs plus change. His figures for the Madras Test v England were 32–27–5–0 in 1963–64. Wow.

Did you know Imran Khan played 88 Tests and 175 one-day matches and during this time he didn’t bowl a no-ball. That’s incredible. Or, well…it is to me, anyway.

If you feel like I do, this will all seem a perfectly reasonable passion, exciting even. But if you don’t, I will appear to be a lunatic…and maybe I am…but I’m not the only one.

So what’s your favourite stat? I’d love to know. And I’m sure a lot of others would too.

By John Nicholson

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