Throughout its glorious history, Test cricket has produced many world-class players, and many records have been bettered time and again.
However, there are a few astonishing numbers that have stood the test of time, and it is quite possible that they will forever remain unchallenged.
The cliché says ‘records are meant to be broken’, but the following 11 records seem to be exceptions.
1. Highest batting average
99.94 is the benchmark for batting greatness. Sir Donald Bradman logged 6996 runs in 52 Tests at this gargantuan average – which is unlikely to be surpassed by anyone.
The great man might have achieved a round average of 100, had he scored just four runs in his last Test innings.
Among those who have played at least 10 Tests, only three other batsmen have finished their career with an average of more than 60, with South African Graeme Pollock’s 60.97 being the second-highest in the list – nearly 39 runs behind Bradman.
Among current players, Bangladesh’s Mominul Haque has the highest average with 63.05. But he has played only 12 Tests, so that figure is likely to go down.
2. Highest score in a debut innings
England’s Reginald ‘Tip’ Foster scored a small matter of 287 runs in his very first Test innings, against Australia at Sydney in 1902-03.
It will take a brave man to say that this record will be broken. After all, it has been standing for 112 years. This was Foster’s only century in his eight-match career, and he died at the young age of 36 due to diabetes.
Sitting second on this list is South Africa’s Jacques Rudolph, who scored 222* in his first innings against Bangladesh at Chittagong in 2002-03.
3. Most number of wickets
Muttiah Muralitharan of Sri Lanka retired in 2010 with an amazing 800 wickets, 92 clear of his closest contender – Australian Shane Warne. The controversy over his action notwithstanding, ‘Murali’ has been a legend of the game.
With the number of Test matches getting reduced by the year and bowlers retiring early, Muralitharan’s record will be nigh impossible to beat.
Among the current crop, India’s Harbhajan Singh is way behind at 413, and his career is as good as over. South Africa’s Dale Steyn currently has 383 wickets and looks fit enough to continue for some time. But one cannot expect him to get anywhere close to Murali’s tally.
4. Slowest fifty
Trevor Bailey of England, who passed away in 2011, was known as the ‘Barnacle’, since he saved his team from many a sticky situation with his customary, ultra-defensive batting style. No surprises then, that he is the holder of the slowest recorded Test fifty.
He took 350 balls and 357 minutes to reach the landmark against Australia at Brisbane in 1958-59, where he opened the innings. In all, he faced 438 balls for 68.
This is also the slowest fifty in all of first-class cricket. Even Chris Tavare could not beat this record, despite his best efforts.
5. Largest margin of victory by runs
In the first Test of the 1928-29 Ashes at the Exhibition Ground in Brisbane, England thumped the hosts by an unprecedented margin of 675 runs. Chasing an incredible 741, Australia were all out for 66. England went on to win the series 4-1.
In today’s level playing field, it is unlikely that this record is going to be surpassed – unless the Chinese are given Test status with immediate effect.
6. Highest partnership for any wicket
Considering the short attention spans of most batsmen today, it will take a lot to beat this record, even though it was set in as recently as 2006.
Immortality might have been ensured for the 624 runs stitched by the Sri Lankan pair of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jaywardene against South Africa at the Sinhalese Sports Club in Colombo.
Since then, there has been only one instance of a stand worth more than 400 runs in a Test – 415 by South African openers Greame Smith and Neil McKenzie against Bangladesh at Chittagong in 2007-08.
7. Best match bowling figures
Jim Laker, the English off-spinner, made the 1956 Old Trafford Test against Australia completely his own as he finished with eye-popping match figures of 19/90.
Laker took 9/37 in the first innings and then completed the first ever ‘perfect ten’ in Tests in the second innings, taking 10/53.
Anil Kumble of India has been the only other man to take all ten in an innings, but Laker’s match haul is unlikely to be repeated.
Laker’s feat is also the best ever in all first-class cricket, with only two others managing 18 in a match, way back in 1837 and 1861.
8. Oldest player on debut
In the very first Test match, played between Australia and England at Melbourne in 1876-77, England fielded a slow left-armer by the name of James Southerton who was only 49 years and 119 days old!
Surely experience does matter, but this record is probably the most likely to stay forever. It would be shocking if a modern Test team awarded a cap to someone older than this age, let alone on debut.
Southerton played only one more Test, and then achieved a record he would not have liked – he became the first Test player to die (1827-1880).
9. Longest career
England and Yorkshire’s legendary slow left-arm bowler Wilfred Rhodes’ Test career spanned a whopping 30 years and 315 days.
He made his debut aged 21 against Australia at Trent Bridge in 1899, and played his last Test against the West Indies at Kingston in 1929-30, aged 52 (when England famously fielded a ‘granddad’ squad – two players above 50 and three more above 40 – and yet amassed 849 in a drawn affair!).
Indian legend Sachin Tendulkar still needed to play for nearly seven years more to claim this record when he retired in 2013 – he sits fifth on the list, with a career spanning 24 years and one day.
10. Longest intervals between appearances
Egypt-born off spinner John Traicos, one of the handful of Test players to play for two countries, returned to Test cricket by turning out for Zimbabwe in their first ever Test, at Harare against India in 1992-93 at the age of 45.
This was 22 years and 222 days after he last played a Test for South Africa, for whom he played three Tests in 1969-70 just before the national side was banned from the game. For Zimbabwe, he played four Tests in all.
This remains the longest gap between two consecutive appearances by a Test player, and surely no one will ever have a shot at this record.
11. Highest score by a nightwatchman
People may disagree here, given how deep most Test batting line-ups are today, but I am sticking my neck out that Australian Jason Gillespie‘s record innings of 201 not out, against Bangladesh at Chittagong in 2005-06, will forever remain the record for the highest score made by a nightwatchman.
Gillespie achieved this feat, the finest batting performance of his career, in what turned out to be his last international appearance for Australia.
Roarers, can you think of other records which could make this list? And is anyone willing to bet on any of these records to be broken?