Tragic Misses: So near yet so far….
By H Natarajan
Sachin Tendulkar’s unfortunate tryst with the 90s will surely become part of cricket’s stunning tragedies. To perish as many as six times within a span of 143 days and 21 ODIs is truly heartbreaking. The man, famously nicknamed ‘Tondulkar’, has now perished 16 times in the 90s – seven times more than any other player in ODI history.
Tendulkar, who has scored far more ODI hundreds than any player, has now gone without an ODI hundred since January this year, a stretch which accounts for two of his three dismissals on 99 – also the most by a player.
This tragic sequence takes the mind in rewind mode to the 1902 Ashes series where Australian Clem Hill fell in the 90s in three successive Test innings - 99 in the second innings of the MCG Test and then 98 and 97 in the following Test at Adelaide. Incredibly, he came within three runs of scoring another ninety by the time the series ended!
The hundred-run mark is a coveted milestone and when a batsman perishes just one short of the mark, the miss is particularly painful. Mike Smith, John Wright, Geoff Boycott, Salim Malik, Richie Richardson, Michael Atherton, Sourav Ganguly and Greg Blewett all had to endure that pain twice in their Test careers with Blewett suffering the misfortune twice in a single year.
What was most agonizing for Boycott was on the second occasion he remained unbeaten on 99 after last man Bob Willis was bowled by Geoff Dymock. Boycott, who was out for a duck in the first innings, carried the bat in the second essay and remains the only player in Test history to do so with a score of 99. Boycott’s first innings of 99 also had an added tinge of personal regret as it was the only occasion in Test history when a player had scored a 99 and hundred in the same match. Incidentally, Boycott is also the first player to fall on 99 in ODIs.
For Norman Yardley, John Beck, Maqsood Ahmed, Rusi Surti, Martyn Moxon, Alex Tudor, Dipak Patel, Shane Warne and Asif Kamal, the dismissal on 99 is truly tragic as it remained the highest score of their Test careers. For Tudor, it was a bitter-sweet moment as he remained unbeaten on 99 because England had achieved their winning target. Tudor was declared Man of the match, but that one-run miss may still hurt him.
Australian Arthur Chipperfield’s 99 was also quite painful as it came on his Test debut in an Ashes series. West Indian Robert Christiani is the only other batsman to get out on 99 on Test debut.
The pain must be even more for a batsman when he loses the chance to score a double hundred by just a run. Seven players – Mudassar Nazar, Mohammad Azharuddin, Matthew Elliot, Sanat Jayasuriya, Steve Waugh, Andy Flower and Younis Khan – find themselves in this undesired club. That one run meant a lot for Azhar and Elliot who both ended their careers without ever getting a double century in Tests. Andy Flower is the only player to remain unbeaten on 199. It was a big miss as Flower had scored 142 in the first innings. That one run cost him an opportunity to join the exclusive list of six batsmen who scored a double hundred and a hundred in the same Test.
If that was a sad miss, how about remaining stranded on 299! Only two men had got to the 300-run mark in Test history Andy Sandham in April 1930 and Don Bradman in June that very year. Less than two years later Bradman raised visions of scoring another triple century in Tests. However, last man Hugh Thurlow – playing his first and last Test and innings - was run out for a duck, leaving Bradman stranded on 299.
Could there be anything worse for a batsman? Well, yes! Getting run out going for the 500th run! That misfortune was suffered by Hanif Mohammad…The 499 remained the highest in all first class cricket for 35 years before Brian Lara scored that monumental 501 not out in 1994.
In 1846 Tests since 1877, there has been just one instance of a player scoring a triple hundred and hundred in the same Test – Graham Gooch against India in 1990. Mark Taylor came pretty close to achieving that feat before faltering. Taylor was on 334 and level with Don Bradman as the highest-ever scorer for Australia in Tests. Incredibly, Taylor chose to declare the innings than overtake The Don. Taylor later had the opportunity of emulating Gooch’s effort but was bowled or 92 in the second innings.
Everton Weekes once scored five hundreds - 141, 128, 194, 162 and 101 - in successive Test innings. He was in sight of making it six in a row when he was run out for 90.
In the 1967 Madras Test, Farokh Engineer launched one of the most fearsome assaults ever seen against an attack as formidable as Wes Hall, Charlie Griffith, Gary Sobers and Lance Gibbs. Engineer raised hopes of becoming only the fourth player in the history of the game to score hundred before lunch on first day of a Test – a feat not seen since Bradman achieved it last in 1930. Engineer got a hundred, but after lunch; he was six short when the teams came back for the luncheon break.
Chandu Borde had scored 109 against the fiery Wes Hall and Roy Gilchrist at Kotla in the 1959 series. Borde was four short of getting his second hundred of the Test and emulating the feat of Vijay Hazare who had scored century in each innings against Australia in 1948. Borde hooked Gilchrist and saw the ball crossing the boundary, but tragically he had stepped on to his stumps and was out hit wicket for 96.
A hundred on Test debut remains a dream for most players. Gordon Greenidge was seven short of achieving that dream when he was run out at Bangalore in 1974. He scored 107 in the second innings of the Test, but then missed out on the rare feat of a century in each innings on Test debut.
And in 2004, Shivnaraine Chanderpaul missed out the honour of getting hundred in each innings in the Lord’s Test against England. Chanderpaul scored 128, remaining unbeaten when the innings ended. And in the second innings, he was unbeaten again when the innings ended – this time when he was three short of getting to another century.
Australia opener Michael Slater scored 14 hundreds but he also perished nine times in the nineties. If those nineties had been converted to centuries, Slater would have almost averaged a hundred every three Tests. The record for the most nineties in a Test career is ten by Steve Waugh, who played 94 more Tests than Slater, who ended his career with 74 appearances.
As the cliché goes, “That’s Cricket!”