Hanif Mohamad R.I.P.-some highlights

This time it is true-he did pass away on 11th August. We review some highlights of his career. There is of course Cricinfo for an overview.

Hanif made his debut in Pakistan’s very first Test in 1952, remembered more for Mankad’s 13-wicket haul. Here he made 51 and 1, and was also the designated wicket-keeper. That didn’t go too well, as he conceded 28 byes in India’s only innings besides taking one catch. He played his first 3  Tests (all against India in 1952-53) as a wicket-keeper but never kept in Tests later.

He is remembered for his 337 against the West Indies, which occurred in the very first test between Pakistan and the West Indies: http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/62835.html

Note that his 337 came in a follow-on, and the 4 successive century partnerships with Imtiaz, Alimuddin, Saeed Ahmed and brother Wazir. Ultimately Pakistan lost the series 3-1, running into Sobers and his 365 not out along the way. And the 970-minute innings is a record in all Tests, though not in first-class cricket now.

Hanif’s innings was a record for all first-class cricket for over 40 years, until it was broken in a Ranji Trophy match between two weak sides: http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/records/283145.html

In Tests, only Gary Kirsten has come close.

Then there was the first-class record which stood for over three decades. It came about a year after the Test mentioned above.

http://www.cricketarchive.com/Archive/Records/Firstclass/Overall/Highest_Player_Scores.html

And this was the match scorecard:

http://www.espncricinfo.com/pakistan/engine/match/308265.html

While most of the Karachi team had played or would play for Pakistan, the Bahawalpur team did not have any Test players.

The Parsi Institute Ground has since sunk into obscurity, hosting its last first-class match in 1976-77.

Finally, here is a souvenir from the birthplace of the Mohammad brothers (taken in 2013):

Gujarat2013 009

 

Make mine a double…..No, a triple (Part 2)

Gary Sobers was the first to score a maiden Test century which was a triple. Only two other batsmen (KK Nair being the latest addition) have done this. Although the circumstances here were not so dramatic, Bob Simpson’s Test career was more conventional but there was a twist in the end.

Robert Baddeley Simpson (generally known as Bob Simpson) was, unlike Sobers, a specialist batsman from the start. A right-hand batsman and occasional leg-spinner, he made his debut against South Africa in 1957-58 with 60 and 23* at No 6 and no bowling in a draw:

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/62830.html

He did well enough to keep getting selected and tended towards opening the batting. He also had occasional useful spells as a change bowler. In due course he captained Australia, starting with the 2nd Test against South Africa in 1963-64. Everything went well except for the lack of centuries.

After Australia regained the Ashes in 1958-59, the next few series were defensive stalemates with 1-1 victories in 1961, 1962-63 and so on until Snow’s bowling finally got back the Ashes in 1970-71.

Our story begins in earnest at the 4th Ashes Test at Manchester in 1964. Simpson was now opening and had  a good opening partner in Bill Lawry. Australia led the series 1-0 and only had to avoid defeat here to be sure of retaining the Ashes. Until the previous Test, these were Simpson’s figures:

Simpson1

No less than 14 fifties with a top score of 92 (twice). He had not done particularly well in the first three Tests of the series, and had not even claimed the occasional wicket.

Simpson2

Thus dawned Simpson’s 30th Test at Old Trafford, Manchester on 23 Jul 1964. This was not considered to be a batsman’s wicket and perhaps the wounds of Laker’s 19-90 in 1956 were still raw. On this occasion England’s bowling lineup was not particularly good, including the soon-to-be forgotten Fred Rumsey opening with an equally undistinguished John Price (who played long enough to trouble Gavaskar in 1971). The only bowler who stood the test of time was Fred Titmus, while part-timers like Dexter and Boycott also bowled in this match.

Simpson and Lawry opened and both got centuries (Lawry 106) in an opening stand of 201. At close on the first day (23 Jul) Australia had made 253/2 with Simpson on his maiden century with 109* and O’Neill on 10*.

Unlike in Sobers’s record-breaking innings which we saw earlier, nothing obviously went wrong with England’s bowling. It simply wasn’t good enough. At the end of the second day (24 Jul) Australia was 570/4 with Simpson crossing the second hurdle with 265* and Booth on 82 not out.

On the 3rd day Simpson’s marathon innings ended on 311, dismissed by the hard-working Price who ended with 3-183. Australia finally declared at 656/8 and England made a strong reply with 162/2 with captain Dexter (71*) and Barrington (20*) at the crease at the end of 25 Jul.

After the rest day, the rest of the match was somewhat of an anticlimax with England grinding out 611 (Dexter 174, Barrington 256) after finishing the 4th day with 411/3 (Barrington 153*, Parfitt 12*). McKenzie did take 7 wickets but did not seem to have much support. Veivers with 3 wickets was the only other successful bowler.

The innings dragged on for so long that Australia only batted two overs for 4/0 in the closing stages. But they led 1-0 with one to go, and the Ashes remained Down Under. Here is the scorecard:

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/62950.html

Simpson then broke out of his century drought, though unlike Sobers he did not cross 50 in the next Test. His final tally was 4869 runs with 10 centuries including the triple and two doubles. There were also 71 wickets with two fivers as well as 110 catches. He was set to retire after India’s visit in 1967-68 which predictably ended in a 4-0 sweep. But that was not the end of his career. He got a surprise Test recall almost 10 years later during the Packer crisis. Let Wikipedia take up the story here:

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“When Test cricket was decimated by the breakaway World Series Cricket in 1977, Simpson made a comeback after a decade in retirement to captain New South Wales and Australia at the age of 41. All of Australia’s first-choice players had defected apart from Jeff Thomson. Simpson had been playing for Western Suburbs in Sydney Grade Cricket but had not been playing at first-class level for a decade.

Bob Simpson’s career performance graph.

His first assignment was a five Test series against India, and Simpson began where he left off a decade earlier. He top-scored with 89 in the second innings of the First Test in Brisbane, before scoring 176 and 39 as Australia won in Perth. Simpson failed to pass double figures in the Third Test in Melbourne, and made 30s in both innings in Sydney, as the Indians won two consecutive Tests to level the series. Simpson responded with 100 and 51 in the deciding Fifth Test in Adelaide as Australia scraped to a 3–2 series victory. Simpson totaled 539 runs at 53.90 and took four wickets.

He then led Australia on a tour of the West Indies, then the strongest team in the world. He made only one half century, 67 in the Third Test in Georgetown, Guyana. It was the only Test that Australia won in a 3–1 series loss. He had a disappointing series scoring 199 runs at 22.11 and taking seven wickets at 52.28. Simpson wanted to continue playing Tests as Australia hosted Mike Brearley’s Englishmen in 1978–79. His players wanted him to continue, but the Australian Cricket Board voted him out and installed Graham Yallop as the skipper. During his comeback, he had accumulated his 60th first-class century against Barbados during the Caribbean tour and become the oldest Australian to score a Test century on home soil.”

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It would be fair to say that he played a major role in India’s 3-2 loss though he was out of his depth against the West Indies, even though the last 3 Tests were played against a weak de-Packerized squad.

Thus end the stories of Gary Sobers and Bob Simpson, the first two Test players whose maiden centuries were triples. The third member of this exclusive club was KK Nair in 2016.

A weird coincidence: Although they were quite different types of players who peaked at different times, they were both born in 1936: Sobers on  Jul 28 and Simpson on Feb 3.

Make mine a double…..No, a triple (Part 1)

The most satisfying moment in a Test batsman’s career would be when he scores his maiden century-particularly when it is on debut, even if he never scores another century. This aspect was covered recently in this blog.

Then there are those whose maiden effort was a double century. This is somewhat more common than one may think. More about this shortly.

And there are two who went even further and made their first Test century a triple, and went on to score many more. More recently KK Nair became the third member of this exclusive club.

The first was Sir Garfield St Aubrun Sobers, generally known as Gary Sobers. He made his Test debut against England at Kingston on March 30, 1954 a few months before he turned 18. This was a relatively strong England team which had Len Hutton scoring 205 and defeating WI by 9 wickets. Young Gary batted at No 9 in both innings, scoring 14* and 26 besides taking 4-75 an 0-6 in the brief second innings. His first wicket was Trevor Bailey and the other three were tailenders (but famous names, Wardle, Lock and Laker). The scorecard is here: http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/62772.html

In his next few Tests he batted at various positions including opening and more often at No 6, besides chipping in with a few wickets. Essentially he came to be regarded as a bowling all-rounder who wasn’t a particularly good batsman. By the middle of February 1958 he had played 16 Tests, with these career figures:

Sobers1

He had scored 856 runs at 34.24 with 6 50s, though he had scored 52 and 80 in the last Test against Pakistan which then had an useful opening pair in Mahmood Hussein and Fazal Mahmood supported by spinner Nasim-ul-Ghani. The West Indies won by 120 runs, with the 22-year old Sobers batting at No 3 and 6. He had also scored a fifty in the first Test of that series, which is remembered for Hanif Mohammed’s epic 337 which drew the Test. There was some thought that the then world record of 364 by Len Hutton in 1938 would be overtaken. Hanif did not manage this, but the peak was scaled in a most unexpected manner in the third Test at Kingston, starting on Feb 26, 1958.

By the second day Pakistan had scored an apparently respectable 328 and the West Indies had replied with 147/1 for Kanhai’s dismissal. Hunte was batting on 100 and Sobers on 20.

While Pakistan could not be called a bad bowling side, in this innings Mahmood Hussein was injured while bowling his first over and Nasim could not bowl after his 15th over. The brunt of the bowling then fell on Fazal Mahmood, Khan Mohammed and Kardar (who was hardly a strike bowler and was also injured) and various part-timers.

By the end of the third day (Feb 28), Sobers had got past his century hoodoo and was batting on 228 and Hunte was on 242, with the score on 504/1. On the 4th day (Mar 1), Hunte was soon dismissed for 260 but Weekes and Walcott kept things going. Sobers got past Headley’s 270 to claim the West Indies record, then 300, and ultimately Hutton’s record which had stood since 1938. Once he made 365 not out, there was a crowd invasion which resulted in the West Indies declaring at 790/3, with Walcott on 88 at the other end.

Then came the rest day. After that a dispirited Pakistan batted with two men short and collapsed to a large innings defeat early on the 6th day: http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/62837.html

Sobers then made up for his earlier drought of centuries by scoring 125 and 109* in the very next Test. The West Indies won that series 3-1 and then dominated the 1960s. Sobers played an important role in this dominance. By the time he played his last Test in 1974, he had scored 26 centuries (including one more double) and a then record 8032 runs besides taking 235 wickets and 109 catches in 93 Tests.

He also had a long if not very successful stint as captain. He was arguably the best all-rounder in Tests. But who would have imagined this before this Test at Kingston?

There were two other batsmen who made their first Test century a triple, though perhaps the circumstances there were less dramatic. More about them later.

Tail Piece: Sobers’s Test record of 365 lasted for 36 years before it was overtaken by Lara, then briefly by Hayden and again by Lara. But there were other unwanted records made by bowlers in this Test. Pakistan’s Khan Mohammad still holds the record of conceding the most runs in an innings without taking a wicket, while Fazal Mahmood is also high on the list of runs conceded in an innings:

KhanMohd