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Simon Sweetman column – As Gayle nears another milestone, who’s interested?

The editor of Cricket Statistician analyses recent events

Some records are obscure even as they are announced, some, though remarkable, are inevitable. Chris Gayle is about to become the first to make 10,000 runs in T20s. Well, somebody had to…and in fact none of the usual cricket websites offer this particular list.

Gayle has played 288 T20s with a batting average of over 40 and a strike rate just below 150. It has been suggested the T20 watcher is a different breed, more interested in the spectacle than the history or records of that variant, with, possibly, not even the highest individual score in the format (175 not out; Chris Gayle again) of interest.

I look at that list and muse on the fact that of the eight innings of over 150, there have been two each in Bangalore and Chelmsford.

But one record that sticks is the highest individual score in first-class cricket. The first innings of over 200 regarded as being first-class was played by William Ward in 1820 at Lord’s, when he made 278 for MCC against Norfolk. There are then six more – four of them by WG Grace – before we come to the first in an inter-county match. Then in 1876 WG raised the bar again, scoring two treble centuries in that season, with 344 for Gentlemen of MCC against Kent the higher. When he made 261 for South against North in the following year it was the 12th first-class 200: and Grace had scored seven.

Grace’s 344 was the record until 1895, when Archie MacLaren scored 424 for Lancashire against Somerset at Taunton, as Lancashire piled up 801, eventually winning by an innings and 452. MacLaren’s record is still the County Championship record and the highest first-class score in England (though Graeme Hick made 405 not out for Worcestershire v Somerset in 1988 – at Taunton – with the word being that neither Hick nor his captain, Phil Neale, realised that he was so close to a record when Neale declared).

It was in Australia that the next record came. Bill Ponsford, maker of huge scores, broke it twice, scoring 429 for Victoria against Tasmania in February 1923 and then 437 against Queensland in December 1927.

Though most of his records were eclipsed by Don Bradman, Ponsford remains the only man with two first-class innings of over 400.

And then came the inevitable: an unbeaten 452 by Bradman for NSW against Queensland in January 1930. This was to last a very long time. There was a near thing in India in December 1948, when Kathiawar conceded the game against Maharashtra, who in reply to Kathiawar’s 238 were 826-4 at the end of the third day of the four.

Bad luck, then, for Bhausaheb Nimbalkar, left unbeaten on 443. So Bradman’s record survived, finally falling in January 1959 to Hanif Mohammad for Karachi against Bahawalpur, who made 499 and then was run out.

Run out going for his 500th run late in the day.

That record would stand longer than any – 35 years – until beaten by Brian Lara in 1994 for Warwickshire. After two days Durham had declared on 556-8 and Warwickshire were

210-2 with Lara 111. The third day was lost to rain and with a result impossible the fourth day was all Lara. By lunch he had 285 and all seemed possible, and it was – 501 not out from Warwickshire’s 810-4.

This piece originally featured in The Cricket Paper, April 14 2017

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