How will Graeme Smith fare in his 100th Test at The Oval?
Injured South African captain Graeme Smith in action during the second innings on day five of their Third Test against Australia at the SCG in Sydney, Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009. Smith retired hurt from the first innings with a broken finger. AAP Image/Paul Miller
News on cricket has been hard to find in recent weeks, with NRL, AFL, tennis, Olympic previews and Tour de France highlights dominating the sports reports.
Australia’s recent poor performance in England has also not added sparkle to the cricket scene down under.
Will the Test tussle between two strong cricket teams, South Africa and England, keep Australian viewers glued to their TV sets?
A milestone was reached in The Oval Test which started yesterday. South Africa’s captain Graeme Smith became the 52nd cricketer and sixth South African to play 100 Tests.
How will he fare during these five days?
England’s classy batsman Colin Cowdrey was the first to make 100 Test appearances. It was against Australia at Birmingham in 1968 and he celebrated the occasion by scoring a century.
Others to hit centuries in their 100th Test are Javed Miandad and Inzamam-ul-Haq from Pakistan, West Indian Gordon Greenidge, England’s Alec Stewart and Australia’s Ricky Ponting.
Ponting is the only one to score centuries in both innings in his 100th Test, scoring 120 and 143 not out against South Africa in Sydney in 2006. Inzamam made the highest score when playing his hundredth Test, 184 against India at Bangalore in 2005.
Australia’s legendary Shane Warne became the first spinner in the ‘100 Test Club’. He had a sensational hundredth Test as he captured 2-70 and 6-161 and scored 63 and an unbeaten 15 against South Africa at Cape Town in 2002. “There are few fairy tales, this is as close as it gets”, he said after Australia won the thriller by four wickets.
Since then only two bowlers – both spinners – have taken five wickets in an innings in their 100th Test appearances. They are India’s Anil Kumble (2-87 and 5-89 v. Sri Lanka at Ahmedabad in 2005) and Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan (3-87 and 6-54 v. Bangladesh in the 2006 Chittagong Test).
Among successful 100-Test players, India’s all-rounder Kapil Dev made 55 and took 4-69 and 3-82 in his 100th Test against Pakistan in Karachi in 1989-90. Sourav Ganguly’s 100th Test coincided with Melbourne’s 100th Test in 2007.
Fittingly for the Centurion Test between South Africa and New Zealand in April 2006, three cricketers played their 100th Tests simultaneously, a unique occurrence. They were Jaques Kallis and Shaun Pollock from South Africa and Stephen Fleming from New Zealand, the first Kiwi to play 100 Tests.
All three performed poorly in their landmark Tests.
But none performed as poorly as Australia’s Allan Border. The first Australian to play 100 Tests, against the West Indies on the MCG in December 1988, he was bowled by Curtly Ambrose for a duck.
Next day’s headlines make interesting reading: Border’s day is Curtly curtailed, Duck of the century and AB Duck is a bitter pill to swallow.
Rod Nicholson wrote in the next day’s Daily Telegraph, ‘Oh Allan! What a celebratory catastrophe at the MCG yesterday!’
By a coincidence, Border had also scored a duck in his Test debut.
India’s Sachin Tendulkar has played most number of Tests, 188, followed by two Australians, Steve Waugh 168 and Ponting 165. Of the 52 players who have played 100 or more Tests, Australia leads with 11, followed by England, the West Indies and India eight each, South Africa six, Sri Lanka five, Pakistan four and New Zealand two.
How will Graeme Smith go in his 100th Test at The Oval in the next four days? Will he do a Ponting or a Border?
The more pertinent question: Is playing 100 Tests a big deal today? The first time a cricketer achieved this milestone was Cowdrey in 1968, which was 91 years after the inaugural Test in 1877. In 44 years since then, 51 have made a hundred Test appearances because of the increase in Test cricket since 1970s.
But with ODIs and Twenty20 reducing the number of Test matches, will the landmark of playing 100 Tests regain its rarity?
Kersi is an author of 13 cricket books including The Waugh Twins, Cricket's Great All-rounders,Six Appeal and Nervous Nineties. He writes regularly for Inside Cricket and other publications. He has recently finished his new book on Cricket's Conflicts and Controversies, with a foreword by Greg Chappell.