They always say of Twenty20 cricket that it’s ideal for modern lifestyles because we’re all so busy these days, as if everyone’s got oh-so-many important things to do all the time and all those labour-saving devices have had no impact. It’s probably true though. We are busier. We’re busy watching Test cricket because they constrict entire series into little more than a fortnight so that we have no time for anything else.
This is our way of saying that we have to write about James Anderson’s England Test wicket record today because the next Test starts in a few hours. No time to mull things over. No time to reflect. We’re still chewing over the first Test, but already the plate’s being whisked away and replaced with the next course.
So Jimmy then?
The truth is, we have very little to offer. We’ve been writing about James Anderson fairly regularly for nigh-on a decade now, so we don’t have a huge amount to add. Just as you’re only really one day older than yesterday on your birthday – same as every other day – so Jimmy’s taken just one more wicket, even if it did take him past Beefy.
Who he went past is probably the most meaningful gauge of what it means to have become England’s top Test wicket-taker. Ian Botham was not like other England cricketers. He was a comic book hero who performed outrageous feats. Ask an Englishman who knows nothing of cricket to name an England cricketer and they will name Ian Botham. If you only know one cricketer, you know Ian Botham.
And Jimmy’s taken more wickets than him.
Several years ago
We’ve followed James Anderson’s career as closely as we’ve followed any career, right from his first-class debut. We claim no great insight here. It was just blind luck.
When he first appeared in county cricket, we were working with someone called James Anderson who also liked cricket and also followed Lancashire. As you might imagine, we both checked the scorecards religiously and joked about his progress. That progress was famously rapid.
We would have been behind him from then on anyway, but at some point shortly afterwards we saw him playing for Lancashire and he swung the ball and took wickets. We thought he was great. Perhaps this is hindsight, but within a year or so of that time, we can start testing our memories by comparing them against things we wrote on the internet. We wrote that he was great. But not only that. It seems we also wrote that he was magic.
We were there, looking at a Cricinfo scorecard, waiting for the number to change. That’s how people watch cricket these days, right? That’s how we experience these supposedly momentous events.
We think we speak for most people when we say that we’re glad that’s out of the way. A hundred international hundreds is an odd statistic, amalgamating Test and one-day performances to arrive at a nice, round figure and the brouhaha surrounding it has detracted from some intriguing cricket.
Tendulkar’s failures have sucked the limelight from those who deserved it and his ‘failures’ have taken the gloss of decent two-figure innings. Not his fault, but still irritating.
We have written a little bit about the achievement which we’ll probably publish tomorrow. We wrote it months ago, it can wait another day. For now we just wanted to give an honest reaction. How do you feel?
Update: India’s policy of rarely playing matches in Bangladesh would seem to have been vindicated by the fact that they lost this one. Impeccable procession micturition, Bangladesh.
And it’s about time. We were talking about Sehwag’s unspectacular one-day record on this site only the other day. He’s properly addressed that now by hitting the highest one-day international score of all time.
Sehwag deserves a one-day record – not because he’s an exceptional one-day batsman, but because he’s an unforgettable cricketer. 15 hundreds in 240 matches is nowt to write home about for a one-day opener (Trescothick hit 12 in 123 matches, Upul Tharanga’s got 12 in 131). But 219? Hell, that warrants digging out the fountain pen and some coloured paper.
“Dear mum, played a top knock against the Windies today, so work’s going okay. Regarding the car, it seems to have stopped making that sound, so I’m just going to leave it and hope it’s sorted itself out. Finally, the cat had to have his teeth cleaned by the vet, which cost a bloody fortune – as usual – but he’s eating okay, so I think he’s fine as well.”
We don’t get it. It was only Pragyan Ojha. What’s the big deal?
If we’d taken 800 Test wickets, we wouldn’t be jumping up and down about getting Pragyan Ojha out. We’d have been more worked up about dismissing better batsmen, like Ian Salisbury or Chris Lewis.
Due respect to Saeed Anwar, but from the minute Zimbabwe’s Charles Coventry equalled his world record ODI score of 194 against Bangladesh, someone needed to go past it.
That someone was Sachin Tendulkar. There are some pretty ordinary batsmen making big scores these days, but Sachin is not one of them. 200 not out is never a bad knock, but in a one-day international, it’s unique. South Africa were given a profound hiding.
Tendulkar lost his technique somewhere around 160 as his body started to cave in, but he didn’t let it stop him. He didn’t even let it slow him. He manipulated his calf muscles and punched himself in the back, trying to physically persuade his body into working order. The grimaces said that he wasn’t succeeding.
After passing the 194, Tendulkar found himself on 199 for what seemed like an age as Mahendra Dhoni monopolised the strike and repeatedly hit sixes. Given a ball to face in the last over, the crowd noise went up to 11. Tendulkar was sufficiently unarsed by the significance of the moment to take his chance and everyone saluted the finest one-day international batsman there’s ever been.
Sachin Tendulkar: 20 years of batting like this is beyond comprehension.
Zimbabwe’s Charles Coventry hit 194 not out against Bangladesh. Zimbabwe lost. This equals the world record individual one-day international score. How do we all feel about that?
The original 194 not out was scored by Saeed Anwar against India 12 years ago. Even in these days of tree-sized bats and four yard boundaries, Anwar’s score has still never been bettered. Does Coventry’s knock warrant equal billing though? It pushes Viv Richards and Sanath Jayasuriya down a spot in the list of top ODI scores.
It’s common for people to effectively disregard Test scores against Bangladesh, but how do you feel about ODI records? Do they count? And does it even matter? Is the game played to establish a list of records or is it played against eleven opponents for victory in that particular match?
We haven’t seen him bat, but we’re fairly certain that Charles Coventry is a worse batsman than Viv Richards and this record in no way disproves that.
Rahul Dravid hit his 10,000th Test run today en route to his 25th Test hundred. It’s a little bit overshadowed by Sehwag’s triple hundred, but that’s pretty much the way it goes for Dravid.
Dravid was very much the support act for Sehwag yesterday, hitting 68 in a partnership worth 268. Stunning innings like Sehwag’s can’t happen without a batting partner though and it’s no coincidence that The Wall was protecting the other set of stumps during VVS Laxman’s sublime 281 against Australia as well. In between all the forward defensives he found time to tot up 180, which is some second fiddle – a second fiddle encrusted with rubies, played by a perfectionist, perhaps.
Today’s 111 saw Dravid’s average edge above that of the man who’s overshadowed him most throughout his career. Rahul Dravid averages 55.41 in Test cricket. Sachin Tendulkar now averages 55.31 after registering a duck. With Sehwag only adding 10 to his overnight total, perhaps he and Tendulkar were merely being gracious enough to give Dravid a day of his own.
We move that Dravid’s day becomes a national – no – international holiday, so that he’ll get the respect he deserves for all eternity. There’s nothing like a day off to heighten your appreciation of someone.
Virender Sehwag has now hit the fastest Test triple hundred. He was always likely to achieve it, which is perhaps the biggest compliment of all. A freak innings like Nathan Astle’s is one thing, but Sehwag does this kind of thing consistently. At the close of play Virender Sehwag was 309 not out and he’d scored those runs off just 292 balls, hitting 41 fours and five sixes.
Sehwag’s hit 309 before, against Pakistan. It took him 375 balls. That shouldn’t be bettered, but it just was. Sehwag can also boast the second and seventh fastest Test double hundreds of all time (assuming this one still counts as the third fastest now that he’s gone past 300).
As we said earlier, no batsman other than Virender Sehwag can sustain this speed of scoring for such long periods. He has a unique ability to strike good balls for boundaries without offering chances. Can anyone else play such outrageous shots without seeming in any danger?
He’s only the third batsman to score two triple hundreds after Don Bradman and Brian Lara. Has he got any adrenaline left for tomorrow? Lara’s 400 will surely come under threat if he has. Ordinarily 91 runs is a long way, but Sehwag has so comprehensively shredded this South African team they’re liable to go foetal when they see him return to the crease. He’s made Rahul Dravid look like a tail-ender.
Virender Sehwag must surely be regarded as one of the greats now. Yes?
Opening partnerships are the most boring kinds of batting partnership – especially if it’s the first innings. There’s no context to the innings and you’re removing any doubt about the rest of the game. Let’s face it, after 415 runs without a wicket, it’s either going to be a South African win or a draw.
We admire it in for its cold remorselessness. We like players who don’t let the opposition have a sniff. But as records go, it’s not one of our favourites.
Must be a bit of a confidence booster though. Next innings, Smith and McKenzie can look at each other as they go out to bat and they can think to themselves: ‘We can bat for bloody ages together.’
Then McKenzie can think: ‘Smithy’s so strong’. And Smith can think: ‘McKenzie’s cover-driving’s dreamy.’ Then the pair of them will just drop their bats, discard their batting helmets and kiss.
Graeme Smith’s leg will bend at the knee and come up behind him.
It was Paul Collingwood. We’re sure he’s delighted with the honour. Muttiah Muralitharan is now the top Test wicket-taker of all time.
Murali’s had this record before of course, but no-one playing at present seems at all likely to overtake him, so we’ll assume that on this occasion, it’ll be his record for a while.
In this third paragraph, it’s customary to raise ‘the spectre’ of throwing allegations against Murali. The accusation is that he straightens his arm as he delivers the ball – this constitutes a ‘throw’ or a ‘chuck’ which is against the laws of cricket.
Even if he hadn’t been cleared of it 12 times, surely straightening your arm if you’re a spinner only makes it more difficult to land the ball where you want it to land. Go and try it next time there’s daylight – which’ll be about March in the UK. Straightening your arm only adds another variable into the mix.
If it’s really such an advantage, then his critics should just get out there and do it themselves. They should adopt his action and skip their way to 700-and-odd Test wickets at an average of about 21. That’s another thing, besides taking more wickets than anyone else, no-one around at present with more than a couple of handfuls of wickets can rival that average.
This piece should be more positive. Here are some links to some positive Murali articles:
Muttiah Muralitharan v England – 16 wickets in a match
First-hand experiences of facing Murali
Mahela Jayawardene reveals that you can’t master Muttiah Muralitharan