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On April 19, 1987, the debutant Brendon Kuruppu scored 201 not out. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at the slowest double-hundred in Test cricket.
They are the Sultans of Snooze, the Shahs of Slumber, the Tsars of Stupor, the Highnesses of Hibernation, the Caliphs of Coma, the Barons of Bedtime, the Caesars of Catnaps, and the Sovereigns of Shut Eyes. Even with a Gilbert Jessop or a Shahid Afridi going full blast at the other end, they could put you to a well-earned sleep within minutes. Boos and jeers never seem to have an effect on them.
Chris Tavaré was perhaps the greatest of them all. Mudassar Nazar, with that hundred of his, has made it to the shortlist. And then, there was Don Sardha Brendon Priyantha Kuruppu, whose first name of Don has been as misleading as any other.
Kuruppu was one of the two debutants in that Test at Colombo Cricket Club (CCC) Ground, the other being Andrew Jones. It was also Jeff Crowe’s first Test as captain; he put the hosts in.
Day One: Roy Dias lights up gloomy day
“The docile nature of the pitch and the oppressive, humid atmosphere deprived New Zealand of any advantage they hoped to gain by inserting Sri Lanka,” wrote Wisden. Roshan Mahanama edged one off Ewen Chatfield to Ian Smith after a 42-minute partnership of 29; Ashanka Gurusinha batted doggedly, adding 41 more, before being trapped leg-before by Richard Hadlee.
This brought Roy Dias to the crease, and for the first time in the Test, the spectators had something to cheer about: the stay was brief, but the strokes were electric, and the trademark wrist was at work. Unfortunately, minutes before play was called off due to bad light, he was caught off Hadlee.
Kuruppu had ambled his way to 66 when the umpires drew stumps with Arjuna Ranatunga (on three) for company. It was already his highest First-Class score. The 55 for Sri Lanka Under-23s against Pakistan Under-23s had been his only First-Class fifty till then. The hosts had scored 141 for three.
Day Two: Ranjan Madugalle comes to party
Ranatunga did not last long, and neither did Duleep Mendis, but Kuruppu eventually found support in Ranjan Madugalle. Wisden later wrote: “Apart from [Brendon] Kuruppu, only [Ranjan] Madugalle, who added 109 with him, batted with true authority.” Though Hadlee and Chatfield bowled on relentlessly with support from John Bracewell and Evan Gray, the pitch was too docile for the bowlers to create an impact.
Kuruppu batted on: he had been in the side for his quick cameos in the shorter version, but this innings had helped instil a new avatar inside the debutant. He reached his maiden First-Class ton, thereby becoming the first Sri Lankan to score a hundred on Test debut (the feat has later been emulated by Romesh Kaluwitharana and Thilan Samaraweera).
Once again play was called off early with the score on 317 for five: Kuruppu, having earned reprieves at 31 and 70, was batting solidly on 153, with Madugalle (59) for company.
Day Three: The record
Anshuman Gaekwad had taken 652 minutes to reach his double-hundred against Pakistan at Jalandhar in 1983-84. Perhaps unknowingly, Kuruppu took strides minuscule steps towards setting a new record. He lost Madugalle after a 109-run stand, but both Ravi Ratnayeke and Rumesh Ratnayake hung around, providing him with capable support.
Kuruppu gave two more chances on 165 and 181, but Ratnayeke had fallen to Bracewell meanwhile. By taking Ratnayake’s wicket, Hadlee caught up with Dennis Lillee’s tally of 355 Test wickets, thereby becoming the joint second-best in history. A run later Chatfield reached the 100-wicket mark when he had Don Anurasiri caught-behind.
Kuruppu was still in his 180s when Kosala Kuruppuarachchi joined him. To his credit Kuruppuarachchi hung around for 35 minutes, allowing Kuruppu to become the third batsman to score a double-hundred on Test debut (after ‘Tip’ Foster and Lawrence Rowe; the feat has subsequently been emulated by Mathew Sinclair and Jacques Rudolph). It was by far the slowest Test double-hundred, reached in 548 balls and 777 minutes.
Mendis declared immediately (50 minutes before tea) with the score on 397 for nine. Kuruppu’s innings was the third-longest in Test cricket at that time (after Hanif Mohammad’s 970 and Len Hutton’s 797); he has subsequently been overtaken by Sanath Jayasuriya (799), Kirsten (878), Brian Lara (778), and Hashim Amla (790). Kuruppu had hit 24 boundaries in his innings.
Ratnayake and Anurasiri struck early, sending the openers (Ken Rutherford and Phil Horne) back with 51 on the board. The day ended with Jones on 19 and Martin Crowe yet to score; the Kiwis still trailed by 346 runs.
Day Four: Lankans break, New Zealand resurrect
Martin Crowe played a few dazzling shots the next morning, before falling to Ratnayeke for a 30-ball 27; this brought his elder brother to the crease; a few minutes later Ratnayeke trapped Jones leg-before as well, leaving the tourists reeling at 99 for four. Gray was promoted over Hadlee, and the pair batted on grittily for close to three hours.
Then Kuruppuarachchi came back, removing Gray after his 105-ball vigil. Given the nature of the pitch, it could be safely said that New Zealand had as good as saved the Test, but they still had to save the follow-on: Hadlee walked out at 160 for five.
Immediately afterwards, Hadlee broke into an excellent assortment of strokes; with his captain holding one end up, the pair managed to save the follow-on. New Zealand finished the day on 214 for five, still 183 runs behind but out of danger. Jeff Crowe was unbeaten on 42 and Hadlee on 40.
Day Five: Jeff Crowe and Hadlee bat through
Neither side considered entertainment an option on Day Five; the day’s play was reduced to a formality. Wisden wrote: “Time had ceased to matter. The spectators lost interest, and not even free admission could attract them to watch as [Jeff] Crowe and [Richard] Hadlee batted throughout the final day.”
Play was called off sixteen overs before the stipulated time the moment Hadlee reached his 150. He remained unbeaten on 151 (with 14 fours and two sixes), scored from 240 balls over 406 minutes. Almost as a contrast, Jeff Crowe’s 120 not out took up 398 balls and 609 minutes: he had 13 fours to the fence.
- The other two Tests, at Kandy and Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC), were abandoned without a ball bowled.
- Kuruppu played only four Tests, finishing with 320 runs at an average of 53.33. Of Sri Lankans who have scored over 300 runs, only Kumar Sangakkara averages more.
- He scored four more First-Class double-hundreds, but that unbeaten 201 remained his highest.
- Gary Kirsten (741 minutes against England at Kingsmead in 1999-00) remains the only one to have taken over 700 minutes for a double-hundred. In terms of balls the Dave Houghton (524 balls against Sri Lanka at Bulawayo in 1994-95) remains the second-slowest.
- With 431 wickets Hadlee finished as the leading wicket-taker in Test, though his record had been broken by five others subsequently.
Sri Lanka 397 for 9 decl. (Brendon Kuruppu 201*, Ranjan Madugalle 60; Richard Hadlee 4 for 102) drew with New Zealand 406 for 5 (Richard Hadlee 151*, Jeff Crowe 120*; Ravi Ratnayeke 2 for 111).
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