Manish Majithia. Photo courtesy: Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association website
Manish Majithia. Photo courtesy: Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association website

In the unforgettable words of Charles Dickens in A Christmas Carol, the protagonist of the story, one of the best known archetypal misers of English literature, Ebenezer Scrooge, is described as being “Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire.”

This narrative tells the story of parsimony in a different context. There have been instances, both in Tests as well as First-Class cricket, where a bowler has not conceded any runs at all in an innings.

The instance of Richie Benaud springs to mind immediately because he holds the Test record of the most overs bowled, and most wickets taken, without conceding any runs at all in a Test match. At Delhi against India in 1959-60, Richie Benaud had figures of 3.4-3-0-3 in India’s 1st-innings score of 135 — the current world record.

In First-Class cricket, here are 4 instances of bowlers who have taken 5 wickets in an innings without conceding any runs:

- Dick Pougher, 3-3-0-5 for MCC vs Australians at Lord’s, 1896

- George Cox, 6-6-0-5 for Sussex vs Somerset at Weston-Super-Mare, 1921

- Dick Tyldesley, 5-5-0-5 for Lancashire vs Leicestershire at Old Trafford, 1924

- Percy Thomas Mills, 6.4-6-0-5 for Gloucestershire vs Somerset at Bristol, 1928

Whenever the issue of miserly bowling arises in conversation, the names of Bapu Nadkarni and Hugh Tayfield are the first to come under discussion. Let us examine the deeds for which their names are enshrined in cricket lore:

For South Africa against England at Durban in 1956-57, Tayfield had figures of 24-17-21-1. These were eight-ball overs. He bowled 137 consecutive dot-balls, a Test record.

For India against England at Madras in 1963-64, 6-ball overs, Nadkarni had figures of 32-27-5-0. His economy rate was 0.15, the best achieved by anyone in an innings in Test cricket who has bowled more than 10 overs. His figures for the third day of the match, bowling mostly against Brian Bolus and Ken Barrington, read 29-26-3-0. He bowled a record 21 consecutive maiden overs (131 dot balls in a row) in a 114-minute bowling spell.

Let us leave these stirring deeds aside for a while and turn our attention to a Ranji Trophy match of 1999, where, in an almost unobtrusive manner, a new First-Class record was created. It was a Central Zone Ranji Trophy match between Madhya Pradesh (MP) and Railways at the Maharani Usharaje Trust Cricket Ground, Indore, in November 1999.

Railways, led by Prahlad Rawat, put the opposition in. It was a decision he would regret very soon. MP ended Day 1 on 249 for 2, with opener JP Yadav on 136 and left-arm spinner Manish Majithia undefeated without opening his account.

The MP 1st innings ended the next day, but not before Yadav — who, ironically, would later move to later move to Railways and play a crucial role in their remarkable success story in the new millennium — had completed his double-century, being ultimately 4th man out for a 10-hour 265 (429 balls 24 fours, 6 sixes).

The 1st-wicket partnership between Yadav and wicketkeeper Krishnamurthy Rajagopalan realised 212 runs. There was also an unbeaten 67 by Abbas Ali, grandson of the belligerent Mushtaq Ali.

MP captain Rajesh Chauhan eventually declared the innings at 538 for 7. The 7 bowlers used were a tired lot by the time the innings was declared, one Balaji Rao sending down 2 wides and 10 no-balls in his 33 overs.

The same Balaji Rao would play for India A in the season after, against Steve Waugh’s all-conquering Australians. Unfortunately, teammates Harbhajan Singh and Rahul Sanghvi did much better; a forlorn Balaji Rao left for Canada, for whom he would play 33 ODIs including World Cup 2011.

Day 2 ended with Railways on 55 for 1, Sanjay Bangar on 30 and Abhay Sharma on 12. Railways were dismissed for 216 next day, skipper Rawat top scoring with 58. For the home team, captain Chauhan was the highest wicket-taker with 5 for 99.

Majithia gave a preview of what was to come with figures of 12.3-9-3-1. Asked to follow on, Railways ended Day 3 on 3 with Bangar on 1 and Chandra Mohan Jha on 2.

When the last day of the long yawn ended, Railways had added all of 83 runs in 104 overs to achieve a draw. The Notes inform us that this sum of 83 runs in a full day’s play is the world First-Class record for the minimum number of runs scored in a day.

And what of Majithia? How did he fare in all this? His 2nd-innings figures read 20-20-0-1.

In other words, he bowled 20 overs in this innings, all maidens, and picked up a wicket.

With this performance, this paragon of parsimony set a new Ranji Trophy, as well as First-Class, record of bowling the highest number of overs in a First-Class innings without conceding any runs at all, a veritable Ebenezer Scrooge on the cricket field.

Brief scores:

Madhya Pradesh 538 for 7 decl. (JP Yadav 265, Krishnamurthy Rajagopalan 70, Abbas Ali 67*) drew with Railways 216 (Prahlad Rawat 58; Rajesh Chauhan 5 for 99) and 86 for 5.

(Pradip Dhole is a retired medical practitioner with a life-long interest in cricket history and statistics)