Tim Paine’s decision to declare on David Warner on 335 not out in the second Test against Pakistan gave rise to debate as to whether Warner should have been given a crack at Brian Lara’s record 400.
Much of the discussion was around team versus individual glory. There was a bit of commentary about the good of the team being the Australian way. Of course, we now know that Australia won the match – helping the good of the team argument – but with four sessions remaining, which aids the argument that chasing 401 wouldn’t have cost a win.
My take on it is a bit different. The world record score, while an individual achievement, does reflect on the whole country. And in the long run, it is the score itself that we remember and are inspired by, rather than the result in the match.
Therefore, allowing Warner to get to 401 would have been a positive for the whole of Australian cricket, even if the match had ended in a draw and even if Warner himself isn’t the most liked player.
To help demonstrate that point, I went back and looked at the history of the highest score world record and the circumstances in which they were set.
Charles Bannerman, 165 not out — Australia versus England, MCG, March 1877 — Australia won by 45 runs
The first ever innings in Test cricket and still one of the most famous. Bannerman retired on 165 not out having suffered a broken finger late in the Australian first innings. No one else scored over 63 in the match and Australian went on to the now legendary 45-run win with Tom Kendall taking 7/55 to stymie the English chase.
Bannerman’s masterpiece is still the highest on debut by an Australian and 67.3% is still the world record for highest percentage of total runs by one batsman in a completed Test innings.
Billy Murdoch, 211 — Australia versus England, The Oval, August 1884 — match drawn
Murdoch was the first great Australian batsman and this was the first double century in Tests. Australia’s 551 in that innings was the highest team score in Tests as well – the previous record was 420 – with Percy McDonnell and Tup Scott also scoring tons.
What is not well known is that Murdoch himself had a Warner moment four years earlier at the same ground when he was stranded on 153 not out, just 12 runs short of Bannerman, as Australia tried to set England a defendable target.
While the 1884 match was drawn, Australia were the dominant team and it was only an incredible 117 by Walter Read, batting at number ten, which saved England.
RE ‘Tip’ Foster, 287 — England versus Australia, SCG, December 1903 — England won by five wickets
Foster was one of seven brothers who played for Worcestershire. He died at the age of 36 but in his short life managed to captain England at both cricket and football. His 287 was famously on debut and remains the record score for someone in their first Test. It was also the highest score at the SCG until Michael Clarke’s 329 not out against India in 2014, his own self-inflicted Warner moment.
The match itself was one of the greats – England had a huge first innings lead, Victor Trumper then performed his own masterclass with 185 not out in less than four hours. Trumper’s innings was the fifth highest score in Tests at the time and England chased down 194 with five wickets left. Foster’s 19 in the second innings also meant that he was the first player to score 300 runs in a Test.
It was a great match and a great win for England, but 287 is all anyone remembers.
Andy Sandham, 325 — England versus West Indies, Sabina Park, April 1930 — match drawn
Andy who? you might ask, and it’s not an unfair question.
Sandham was a highly accomplished county cricketer, being Jack Hobbs’ long-term opening partner at Surrey and scoring over 100 first-class centuries. Yet he was never really Test class, having passed 50 once in ten Tests prior to that tour of the West Indies when he was nearly 40.
The tour was a strange one, given Test status even though England were playing a series against New Zealand at the same time. The England side included a 52-year-old Wilfred Rhodes and a 50-year-old George Gunn, playing his first Test series in 18 years. Only one England player in that match played the next Test against Australia just two months later.
The match was a seven-day bat-athon with England scoring a record 849 and then, bizarrely, batting again even with a nearly 600-run first-innings lead. Sandham scored 50 in the second innings as England set the West Indies 836 to win.
Sandham’s 375 for the match remained a world record until it was beaten by Greg Chappell in Wellington in 1974. The 325 score remains the highest in a player’s last Test, giving it a nice symmetry to Foster’s 287 on debut, and Sandham is still the oldest person to have scored a Test triple century.
England would probably have won the match and series, if not for batting too long. However, it will forever be known as Sandham’s match.
Don Bradman, 334 — Australia versus England, Headingley, July 1930 — match drawn
Sandham’s record only lasted two months. Bradman played many large innings but this one was genuinely extraordinary.
He came in during the second over of the innings, then famously scored 309 on the first day – still the record for most runs in a day. He scored 100 before lunch on Day 1, a feat only done six times in Tests. By the time the famous front page confirmed ‘He’s Out’, he had scored 66 per cent of the runs while he was at the crease.
It was no flat track, either. In a match packed with batting legends – Hobbs, Sutcliffe, McCabe – only the mighty Wally Hammond also made it past the 70s, a torturous 113 off 361 balls. Eventually England held on, having been made to follow on, but there was only one story of the match.
So for the first five times the highest score record was set, in four of them, the match is remembered for the record innings and little else. And even in the exception – the first Test – the match wouldn’t have been anywhere near as memorable if not for Bannerman’s innings.
In Part 2, we look forward to Lara’s mammoth score.