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Eleven part-time bowlers who got unexpected success

(From top left): Alastair Cook, Rahul Dravid, Michael Vaughan, and Ricky Ponting © Getty Images
(From top left): Alastair Cook, Rahul Dravid, Michael Vaughan, and Ricky Ponting © Getty Images

With the first Test at Trent Bridge drifting towards an inevitable draw and the second of a packed schedule fast approaching, Alastair Cook took the decision to rest his front-line bowlers and bring himself on – for the first time in 105 Tests. But in just his second over, he induced Ishant Sharma to edge a ball down the leg side to scalp his first Test wicket. Michael Jones looks at other occasional bowlers who enjoyed unexpected success.

1. Don Bradman

Don Bradman’s status as the greatest batsman the game has ever seen is beyond question, but his bowling was never in the same league. He did take two Test wickets, though — and the second of them could not have given him greater satisfaction if he’d been able to choose the victim himself. At Adelaide in the third Test of the Bodyline series — a match better remembered for the unrest in the crowd stoked by Douglas Jardine’s tactics, which came close to boiling over when Bert Oldfield was struck on the head — the batsman clean bowled by Bradman was none other than his old foe Wally Hammond. It made no difference to the result of the match —Australia went down by a massive margin — but by sending him back on a score of 85, Bradman at least had the pleasure of depriving his great rival of a century.

2. Arthur Morris

Arthur Morris was well known as Alec Bedser’s bunny, and the 18 times Bedser dismissed him in Tests remained a record until Mike Atherton fell to Glenn McGrath for the final time. It was perhaps fitting that one of Morris’ two Test wickets was that of Bedser. At Old Trafford in 1953, more than half the scheduled playing time was lost to rain, with the result that the home team’s reply to Australia’s 318 — in which Morris had been dismissed by Bedser yet again — was still in progress late on the fifth day. Bedser had hit a four and a six before Morris bowled him in his first over, ending the innings with England 42 behind. Australia had only 18 overs to face in the second innings, but for once the inevitability of the draw didn’t stop some last minute excitement as they collapsed to 35 for eight. Morris made a duck — but at least this time he managed to avoid his usual nemesis, falling to Jim Laker.

3. Sunil Gavaskar

As with most of the others in the list, Gavaskar’s moment of glory came near the end of a dull draw. At Faisalabad in 1978, Pakistan had piled up 503 for eight in their first innings, India declared behind at 462 for nine, and the teams were going through the motions on the final day with no chance of a result; the most notable aspect of the day’s play had been the reason for its delayed start: umpire Shakoor Rana had refused to take to the field at the scheduled time after he claimed that Gavaskar had used “insulting language” in response to Rana warning Mohinder Amarnath for following through onto the protected area of the pitch. Play resumed once Rana had been placated — although it would not be the last time he interrupted a Test in protest at a player’s conduct towards him. In the afternoon session Zaheer Abbas was making progress towards another century to go with his first innings 176, when Gavaskar deprived him of the milestone by having him caught by Chetan Chauhan for 96. Gavaskar dismissed Zaheer in a One-Day International as well, giving him a unique record: there are eight players who took exactly one wicket in each format, but Gavaskar is the only one for whom the victim was the same in both.

4. David Gower

For all his batting achievements, David Gower’s bowling career was not a memorable one. Against New Zealand at Lord’s in 1986, with the visitors needing one run to win, Gower lobbed up a long hop, which Martin Crowe smashed over midwicket for four to end the match — and he was no-balled for throwing into the bargain, leaving him with the curious analysis of 0-0-4-0. He did a little better at Kanpur four years earlier, though — after the loss of a day and a half to rain ensured the match would not progress beyond the first innings, Kapil Dev was making merry, hitting a century off only 83 balls as he dominated a partnership of 169 with Yashpal Sharma. In the closing stages of the match, Keith Fletcher handed the ball to Gower, and Kapil obligingly hit one down Graham Dilley’s throat.

5. Mike Atherton

In the early stages of his career, Mike Atherton was considered a promising all-rounder — he took over 100 First-Class wickets, including five in an innings three times — but his recurrent back trouble ensured that his leg-spin was rarely seen on the international stage. On the final day against Pakistan at Headingley in 1996, though, he did decide to roll his arm over, the left-handed Wasim Akram opted to pad away a ball outside off stump, and Steve Bucknor, in his usual unhurried manner, raised his finger. Atherton could enjoy the temporary bragging rights over his old Lancashire team-mate — but, as he was forced to admit, Akram dismissed him in international matches rather more often than he returned the favour. Atherton’s only other Test wicket, at The Oval six years earlier, owed more to the generosity of the batsman than the merit of the ball, as Dilip Vengsarkar hit a full toss straight back at him.

6. Ricky Ponting

At Brisbane in 1996, Mark Taylor made the sort of decision which can either see a captain hailed as a genius or decried as a lunatic, depending on the result. Australia had made 479 in the first innings, riding on the back of Ian Healy’s highest Test score of 161 not out, but West Indies were progressing well in reply. With Carl Hooper and Shivnarine Chanderpaul adding 172, they had reached 249 for three and seemed set for a total at least approaching parity. Hooper had been fortunate to reach his century when the third umpire gave him the benefit of the doubt in a close run out call on his hundredth run, but his luck deserted him two runs later when he gave a catch to Ponting off Steve Waugh — who pulled a muscle in the process of delivering the wicket-taking ball. Rather than bring back one of the frontline bowlers to complete the over to the new batsman, Taylor threw the ball to Ponting, who bowled the remaining five balls to Jimmy Adams without incident. Taylor kept him on for another over; Ponting trapped Adams leg before for a duck, and 249 for three had become 255 for five. His job done, the specialist bowlers came back to blow the tail away and West Indies slumped to 277 all out. With a lead of 202, Taylor declined to force the follow-on, but after a third innings declaration Australia won easily.

7. Rahul Dravid

The Antigua Recreation Ground was known as a batsmen’s paradise, and bowlers the world over let out a collective sigh of relief when it was finally abandoned as a Test venue in favour of the new stadium at North Sound. One of many soporific draws it produced came in 2002, when West Indies hosted India. The visitors took more than two days to compile 513 for nine, with VVS Laxman and Ajay Ratra making centuries in a partnership of 217 for the seventh wicket. West Indies’ replay was memorable mainly for Anil Kumble’s decision to take to the field even after having his jaw broken by Merv Dillon; he sent down fourteen overs and claimed the prize wicket of Brian Lara. On the following days, after Kumble had flown home, tedium set in again: Carl Hooper and Shivnarine Chanderpaul made centuries, and West Indies ground on. By the fifth afternoon the home team had taken the lead, Ridley Jacobs had made the third century of the innings and Sourav Ganguly had resorted to shuffling between part-timers in order to give his specialist bowlers a rest. Jacobs lost patience, aimed a wild heave at a ball from Dravid and hit it high in the air. Laxman held a comfortable catch to send Jacobs on his way, and from 548 for six the innings drifted even further into absurdity after tea; Wasim Jaffer and Laxman also claimed their first Test wickets, before Dravid took over as keeper to let Ratra have a bowl; a halt was finally called to proceedings when West Indies had reached 629 for nine.

8. Michael Vaughan

Vaughan was a slightly more frequent bowler than some of the others on the list, but merits his place for the manner of the dismissal and the identity of the victim. At Trent Bridge in 2002, it was mainly thanks to Vaughan’s own 197 that England had piled up a first innings lead of 260, and when Virender Sehwag and Wasim Jaffer fell within the first two overs of India’s second innings, they could eye victory. Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar began the rebuilding effort, and had taken the total past 150 when Nasser Hussain opted to give Vaughan’s off-breaks a try. His first two overs were tidy enough, but a boundary in the third took Tendulkar into the nineties. The second ball of his fourth over was one any specialist spinner would have been proud of: it pitched two feet outside the line of the stumps, Tendulkar went to drive, misread the spin, the ball went through the gap between bat and pad, and hit the top of off stump. Tendulkar walked back for 92; India were still 86 behind, although a century from Dravid and 99 from Sourav Ganguly ensured they saved the match. Vaughan basked in the moment for years afterwards: when Tendulkar retired, he tweeted “A great player but struggled against part time off-spin”.

9. Jacques Rudolph

The Headingley Test against South Africa in 2003 was one in which England managed to let slip an advantage at least three times — extreme even by their own standards of the era. On the first morning they reduced the visitors to 21 for four, before Gary Kirsten and Rudolph added 95 for the fifth wicket; after breaking the partnership and adding another two quick wickets, they failed to finish the innings off from 142 for seven, allowing Kirsten to add a further 150 with the debutant Monde Zondeki for the eighth; South Africa made 342, a total which had seemed far out of reach earlier in the innings. England were cruising at 164 for one in reply, when Marcus Trescothick and Mark Butcher made the inexplicable decision to go off for bad light. It disrupted their rhythm, and both were dismissed soon after the resumption. On the third morning, Nasser Hussain was batting with Andrew Flintoff and, with five wickets already in the bag South Africa were filling in time until the new ball was due. Graeme Smith threw the ball to Rudolph, Hussain misjudged a drive and hit it straight back to the bowler. His job done, Rudolph was taken off after two overs and the new ball taken; Andrew Hall and Makhaya Ntini only required eight overs with it to clean up the remaining four wickets, and South Africa won comfortably.

10. Mark Boucher

Three years after Dravid’s wicket, there came another flat pitch at St John’s, another fifth day by which the draw was a foregone conclusion, another captain who decided to vary proceedings slightly by giving all eleven players a bowl — and another player taking the only wicket in a career of more than 100 Tests. After almost half the first day was lost to rain, South Africa batted on into the third morning before declaring at 588 for six, with four batsmen making centuries. The home team found batting no more difficult, though; Chris Gayle piled up 317, three others also reached triple figures, and by the final morning West Indies had taken the lead. In the afternoon session the total passed 700, and having already bowled 43 overs himself, Graeme Smith decided he might as well give everyone else a go too. At 737 for nine, Boucher handed the keeping gloves to AB de Villiers and came on for a trundle. In his first over he conceded a single to Dwight Washington and a boundary to Dwayne Bravo, before Herschelle Gibbs — like Boucher, bowling for the only time in his Test career — sent down an over from the other end. Boucher came back for another over, and this time Bravo, whose 107 had already set a new Test record as the eighth individual century of the match, gave a catch to Ashwell Prince, finally ending the innings on 747. When an eye injury ended his career, Boucher had collected 998 dismissals as keeper across all international formats, and one catch in the field – so including his one wicket gave him a nice round total of 1000 dismissals credited to his name in one way or another.

11. Ashwell Prince

Part-time bowlers are often considered ‘partnership breakers’, and Ashwell Prince may have been one of the more extreme examples. When Daniel Vettori was out early on the second morning at Cape Town in 2006, New Zealand were 279 for seven and South Africa could have hoped to restrict them to a reasonable total. Their hopes were ground into dust over the remainder of the day, as Stephen Fleming and James Franklin piled on the runs. Boeta Dippenaar dropped Fleming early in the afternoon session, after which he powered on past 150, then 200. Close to the end of the day, the total had passed 500, the partnership 250 and Fleming might perhaps have had his eye on Martin Crowe’s New Zealand record of 299. Makhaya Ntini, Dale Steyn, Andre Nel, Jacques Kallis and Nicky Boje had failed to make any impression, and Prince was the last resort – he had only bowled once before in a Test, in the same dead match at St John’s in which Boucher had claimed his wicket. Fleming got an inside edge onto his stumps, and was gone for 262; it remains the highest score by a visiting batsman in South Africa, and the highest to end in a bowler taking his maiden Test wicket. Fleming was able to declare the next morning on 593 for eight, although centuries from Hashim Amla and Prince enabled South Africa to save the match without much difficulty.

(Michael Jones’s writing focuses on cricket history and statistics, with occasional forays into the contemporary game)

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