To celebrate England’s 1,000th men’s Test match, we ask: which one was the most mediocre?

Cricket at the Oval (CC licensed by John Garghan via Flickr)

It’s England’s 1,000th Test match. In honour of this inevitable round number, we thought it would be nice to pick out the most mediocre Test they’ve played.

Not poor. Mediocre. Just middling and neither here nor there really.

Method

We went through all of England’s 999 men’s Test matches and evaluated each of them using criteria far too extensive and complex to outline here.

When we found the most mediocre one, we put it in the results section below.

Results

The fifth England v West Indies Test match of 1988 was the most mediocre Test England have ever played.

Discussion

First of all, look at that bowling attack: Neil Foster, Phil DeFreitas, Derek Pringle, David Capel and John Childs. That is something. Or rather it isn’t – that is very much the point.

We were adamant that the team should field a spinner, but not one who ever made an enormous impact in Test cricket. Childs took two of his three Test wickets in the match.

Neil Foster finished his Test career averaging 32. DeFreitas averaged 33, Pringle 35 and Capel 50.

The batting was also very excellent in this match, just about breaching 200 in both innings. The two players of class – Graham Gooch and Robin Smith – both made fifties. No-one else did.

England lost the match and lost the series 4-0.

Finally, the match was played at the Oval, which is the most mediocre of all England’s Test grounds because they play there a lot but it’s not Lord’s.

While Lord’s is really just an average cricket ground, many people labour under the mistaken belief that it is more than that and while the logic is faulty, this is nevertheless enough to render the ground ‘not mediocre’.

Disclaimer

Okay, while we said above that we’d looked at all 999 Test matches played by England’s men’s teams, the truth is that we actually only looked at three (all of which involved Phil DeFreitas – sorry, Phil).

Also, we didn’t really measure the matches against lengthy and exacting criteria. We actually just picked out a couple of minor details after happening across a match that sort of felt like it had the vague air of mediocrity.

With these factors in mind, we’ll concede that there is a 1-2% possibility that the fifth Test against the West Indies in 1988 was not England’s most mediocre Test match.


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22 Appeals

  1. This is an awesome project. However, I might venture to disagree with your selection for one important reason. Because, as you have said many times, wickets are more important than runs in test cricket, low scoring is indicative of interesting bowling. Therefore, can I suggest that the ultimate in mediocrity is provided by one of those pointlessly high scoring matches in which just turning up seems to get you a big score.

    By this criterion, I give you the 3rd Test of the Indian tour in 1990, played at The Oval:

    India 1st innings – 606/9d
    England 1st innings – 340
    England 2nd innings – 477/4
    Match drawn

    The main reason for this selection is a) the batting, and b) the sheer number of mediocre players that contributed to those high scores. Yes, there was Tendulkar, and Mohammed Azhuruddin, but there was also Narendra Hirwani (13 tests) and Atul Wasan (4 tests) opening the bowling for India, and England fielded the uber-medicore triumvirate of Neil Williams (1 test), John Morris (3 tests) and Eddie Hemmings (16 tests).

    Also, it is in the 90s, not the 80s. As everyone knows, everything was better in the 80s, cricket especially. The 90s, however, is a byword for mediocrity. This match set out the stall for England throughout that decade. Pick a player, then drop him. Pick some more, then drop them too. Do just enough, but not more than that. And crucially, fail to be able to bowl.

    • King Cricket

      August 1, 2018 at 12:11 pm

      This is a very good choice. Our only real reservation would be how that first Indian innings felt at the time – particularly in light of England’s first innings.

      With Kapil Dev making a hundred from number eight and then England following on, a good portion of this match will have felt not mediocre, but borderline catastrophic.

      It also featured a fast bowler (Devon Malcolm) and a David Gower hundred.

      • That’s very true. I was going to suggest the 2nd test of that series, which was possible more mediocre on the surface. However, it also included Sachin Tendulkar’s first test century, which ruled it out completely.

      • But in any case, this is what the internet is for. It’s like the GIMPS project. Nobody can search for new primes all by themselves, but ask the internet to do it and you suddenly have a million times the computing power.

        So with this. Searching through every England test match would take literally an infinite amount of time, but infinity divided by any finite number is twelve, so if everyone can take a look at a dozen or so test matches, the job will get done in half the time, or even fewer.

        GIMTS – the Great Internet Mediocre Test Search. Come on people, there’s mediocrity in them thar hills (where “hills” is a substitute word for cricket-based reference websites).

  2. I’d like to nominate England v India at Mohali 2008.

    England were 1-0 down in the two-match series but were very excited to get the chance to draw it.

    India got 300/1 on the first day and essentially put a stop to that immediately, with Sehwag being the only early wicket in order to make sure things didn’t get too exciting. England’s attack consisted of early career Anderson, early career Broad and late career Flintoff, making it a fine array of good players not really doing what they were supposed to be able to.

    England improved after that to stop India dominating, but they scored a lot less than India did and after a while the game sort of petered out in bad light for a draw.

    • King Cricket

      August 1, 2018 at 4:51 pm

      We’d argue that it is quite difficult for a Test match featuring any one of Jimmy Anderson, Andrew Flintoff, Kevin Pietersen or Monty Panesar to be mediocre, let alone all of them.

      In fact looking at the team, all in all it’s just not fast-medium enough.

  3. May I nominate the 4th and final test between England and India at the Oval in 2002?

    http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/15349/scorecard/64000/england-vs-india-4th-test-india-tour-of-england-2002/

    With the series intriguingly poised at 1-1 with both sides having traded weighty blows in a series of fluctuating fortunes, the scene was set for an epic tussle at the Second Home of Cricket.

    Each team duly proceeded to score in excess of 500, with Vaughan failing to make a double century but Dravid managing the feat. A fifth day lost entirely to rain then snuffed out any remaining hope of a positive result. Ajit Agarkar also played, and was shit.

    Dear reader, did I mention I was there?

    • At least one day lost entirely to rain should definitely be up there in the criteria, with double points if it’s the fifth day.

  4. This one has made a strong start. Although it may yet turn into an utter pasting for England.

  5. My starting point was to find Test matches involving New Zealand, as we all know that they play the most mediocre Test cricket. No chance of a Tendulkar century or a Warne blitz there.

    I propose the 3rd Test at Wellington in 1992 which had just enough runs and not enough wickets. Centuries by Stewart, Lamb, John Wright and Andrew Jones. England’s bowling attack was DeFreitas, Tufnell, Dermot Reeve, Botham and someone called David Lawrence. Hick picked 4 first innings wickets.

    Also the Test series was played after the 1st ODI and before the 2nd and 3rd ODIs for some reason.

  6. I would like to nominate a drawn test match in Zimbabwe during the 1990s.

    http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/16129/scorecard/63735/zimbabwe-vs-england-2nd-test-england-tour-of-zimbabwe-1996-97/

    Run rate at about 2 and 23 wickets fell across the test. Only 2 low scoring innings completed, no play on the fifth day. Alan Mullaly, Craig White, Nick Knight, John Crawley, Eddo Brandes.

    • The game before, we’d flipping murdered them.

    • King Cricket

      August 1, 2018 at 9:48 pm

      Really feel that any Test in which England played two spinners is just too damn exotic.

      Also, bowled out by Zimbabwe for 156? Surely that has to rank as being outright bad.

  7. Generally unnoticed Thing of the day – Nepal played their first ever official ODI.

    Against the Netherlands. They lost.

    Nevertheless, they must have a decent chance of being the next Test nation.

  8. I asked a friend. Here is his reply.

    Well several spring to mind. I presume “mediocre” means thoughtful and patient cricket, rather than the modern day cub-batted Protestant razzmatazz short.-boundaried piss up. From memory.

    Any from the Tony Lewis 1973 tour of NZ

    The last 4 of England’s tour of India 1981

    But for added mediocre players, any from England’s 1987 tour of NZ.

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