In the space of 33 deliveries, Maninder Singh spun out Javed Miandad, Manzoor Elahi, Saleem Malik, Imran Khan and Wasim Akram for a pre-lunch analysis of 5.3-3-11-5. He finally ended up with 7 for 27 as Pakistan folded for 116 © Getty Images
In the space of 33 deliveries, Maninder Singh spun out Javed Miandad, Manzoor Elahi, Saleem Malik, Imran Khan and Wasim Akram for a pre-lunch analysis of 5.3-3-11-5. He finally ended up with 7 for 27 as Pakistan folded for 116 © Getty Images


Facing the perpetual complaint about cricket being a game biased in favour of the batsmen, Arunabha Sengupta augments his earlier article about centuries before lunch on the first day of a Test match with a look at the equally spectacular but largely unsung feats of bowlers taking five wickets or more in the same period.


Ball after ball, over after over, the untiring souls run in to bowl – and often the entire effort seems to be undertaken for the benefit of the man at the other end to demonstrate his skilled stroke-play. Even if they beat the bat, make the ball do wonders in the air and off the wicket, more often than not the offering of the bowlers seem to end up as material for the batsmen to carve out into works of art. It is the milestones of the batsmen which are cheered all the way, but the applause for a dismissal lasts only one ball.


While batsmen have been raising their bats at every fifty run milestone of their innings since time immemorial, the gesture of the bowler holding the ball aloft to acknowledge cheers for a five wicket haul has been a rather recent phenomenon.


It does indeed make a lot of sense to consider a bag of five to be as valuable as a century.


So, in order to be free from the allegations of continuing the crime of favouritism towards the batsmen with just the article of 100s before lunch of the first day of a Test match, I thought of saving my cricket loving soul with a complementary piece on an almost equally rare, but significantly more unsung, feat of bowlers taking five wickets during the first session of a Test match.


While a century before lunch of the first day of a Test has been struck only four times, the bowlers over the years have managed to take five-for on 10 occasions in a similar timeframe. And unlike the batting landmark which has not been repeated since 1976, the most recent occurrence of the bowling massacre is still fresh and smarting in the memories of Indian fans, with Dale Steyn’s thunderbolts blowing the Indian batting to smithereens in Ahmedabad, 2008.


Let us now take a look at the 10 days that shook the batting world. The bowling figures of the bowlers reflect the number of wickets they took before lunch on the first day and not their final tally in the innings:


1. Fred Spofforth: 5-37Australia vs England, Melbourne (MCG), 1879


Fred Spofforth, known as “The Demon”, was a most feared bowler. With 94 wickets at an average of 18.41 and a strike rate of 44.5, he is widely considered to be the first great Australian fast bowler.


When Lord Harris took the English side to meet the Antipodes in the early days of Test cricket, they ran into his high, leaping action. Before England opened their account at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Spofforth rattled the stumps of George Ulyett. At 14, he grabbed the fourth wicket of the innings by bowling AN “Monkey” Hornby. Following this, with the score reading 26, he bowled Vernon Royle and Francis McKinnon, and had Tom Emmett caught off consecutive balls to capture the first hat-trick in Test cricket.


England fought back from 26 for seven to 113, thanks to a 52 by Charlie Absolom, but ultimately lost by 10 wickets as Spofforth picked up 13 in the match.


2. Tom Richardson: 6-39, England vs Australia, Lord’s 1896


When Harry Trott won the toss against WG Grace and Australia batted in the opening Test, their strong batting line-up staggered against the might of the best English fast bowler of the day. Bowling unchanged for 11.3 overs, Tom Richardson – the big man with an even bigger heart – got Joe Darling, Harry Trott, Syd Gregory, Harry Graham, Hugh Trumble and Ernie Jones, each and every time knocking the stumps out of ground.


At the other end, his able ally George Lohmann got rid of the formidable duo of Clem Hill and George Giffen, following it up by dismissing wicketkeeper James Kelly. The visitors were skittled out for 53 before the lunch break.


With Grace making 66 in the first innings, England won the low-scoring and hard-fought match by six wickets.


3. Colin Blythe: 5-32, England vs South Africa, Cape Town 1906


South Africa had romped along to a 3-0 lead when they met England for the fourth Test match at Cape Town. It needed something special to flip them around from a losing streak, and that March morning, slow left-armer Colin “Charlie” Blythe provided just that impetus.


Pitching the ball up and varying his pace, he accounted for five South African wickets – including Louis Tancred, William Shalders, Dave Nourse, Maitland Hathorn, and Jimmy Sinclair – in the morning session, and coming back after the break, he bowled the great Aubrey Faulkner.


Even then, South Africa sneaked a 20-run first innings lead, but Blythe picked up five-for 50 in the second innings to ensure an exciting four-wicket win.


4. Sydney Barnes: 5-25, England vs South Africa, Johannesburg (Old Wanderers) 1913


A few months before the outbreak of the First World War, arguably the greatest bowler of all time was already unleashing his own bombshells that sent the Proteans scurrying for cover. Sydney Barnes bowled at medium-pace, swung the ball late and also managed to purchase huge deviation off the pitch, ending up with 189 wickets in 27 Tests at an average of 16.43 and strike-rate of a wicket in less than every seven overs.


In this particular Test, he started off with five wickets in the morning session, including the prized one of Herbie Taylor, and ended the innings with 8 for 56. When South Africa batted a second time, Barnes did even better by taking 9 for 103. England cruised to an innings win.


5. Alf Valentine: 5-34, West Indies vs England, Manchester (Old Trafford) 1950


With the standards of the wicket improving and the bat increasingly starting to dominate the ball, it took a while for the next 5-for before lunch of the first day to take place.


After a gap of 37 years interrupted by war, it occurred again when the West Indian left- arm spinner Alf Valentine made his debut at Manchester. On the first morning with the score on 22, Hines Johnson, the West Indian opening bowler, literally struck the first blow by hitting Len Hutton on the elbow and forcing him to temporarily retire.


Valentine was brought on one run later and found the Old Trafford wicket responsive to his spin. In the 17 overs he bowled before lunch, he picked up 5 for 34, becoming the first non-opening bowler to reach the landmark. He took the first eight wickets to fall, aided by some splendid catching by Gerry Gomez and John Goddard. He picked up three more in the second innings, but could not stop England from winning by 202 runs.


6. Graham McKenzie: 6-34, Australia vs India, Melbourne (MCG) 1967


The Nawab of Pataudi did not have extensive resources in the pace department, and neither did he have sufficient faith in whatever little was available to him. Reluctant to put the opposition in on a helpful surface, he opted for first strike, clinging on to the more realistic hope that his spinners would exploit a wearing track in the fourth innings.


However, a fourth innings did not ultimately transpire. On a lively strip, Graham McKenzie started by bowling Dilip Sardesai. He followed it up by getting Abid Ali snick one to the ‘keeper, and then had Ajit Wadekar caught. With the score reading 25, he dealt a triple blow, forcing Rusi Surti to retire with a blow to the head, and getting Farokh Engineer and Chandu Borde caught close in. By the time the players went in for lunch, he had also bowled Venkat Subramanya at 47.


Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi played a brave innings of 75 and followed it up with a second innings 85, but McKenzie’s haul of 10 wickets in the match ensured an innings win for the home team.


7. Maninder Singh: 5-11 (33 balls), India vs Pakistan, Bangalore, 1987


After four rather drab, yawn-inducing draws, so characteristic of early to mid-80, the pitch for the fifth Test in Bangalore proved to be an underprepared minefield. Kapil Dev kept the medium-pacers on for a dozen overs, bowling even Mohinder Amarnath for three overs, before turning to Maninder Singh. That he started his spell as the second change bowler makes the feat of the left-arm spinner even more unique.


In a space of 33 deliveries, Maninder spun out Javed Miandad, Manzoor Elahi, Saleem Malik, Imran Khan and Wasim Akram. His pre-lunch analysis reading 5.3-3-11-5. The turbaned tweaker ended with 7 for 27 as Pakistan folded for 116.


India, riding on a fantastic 50 by Dilip Vengsarkar, reached 104 for three, before losing the rest of their wickets for just 43 more. A valiant 96 by Sunil Gavaskar, drawing upon all the reserves of experience in the last Test Match of his career, was not enough as Pakistan triumphed by 16 runs.


Wickets tumble in the bat dominated new century


While four of the pre-lunch five-fors have been understandably clustered in the pre-1914 days of uncovered pitches and the upper hand of the ball, surprisingly three such achievements have occurred in the 2005 to 2008 period – a phase most would put down as an era ruled by the might of the bat. 


Although the trend has been arguably queered by the presence of the statistics skewing minnow in the form of Zimbabwe, two such bowling performances have come against two of the strongest of batting line ups.


8. Chris Martin: 5-26, New Zealand vs Sri Lanka, Wellington 2005


On a green-tinged wicket, Stephen Fleming invited the Sri Lankans to take first strike. Chris Martin, normally an amiable character on and off the field, and a very accommodating one when armed with a bat, showed glimpses of undisguised menace.


With his third ball, he had Marvan Atapattu caught at point. In his fourth over he dismissed the two pillars of the Lankan line-up, Kumar Sangakkara caught close in and Mahela Jayawardene trapped in front. In his very next over, he had Sanath Jayasuriya edging to the slips. And with the third ball of his11th over spell, he had Tillakaratne Dilshan caught behind.


His final bag of six wickets reduced Sri Lanka to 211. Lou Vincent rubbed salt into the Lankan wound with a double hundred to ensure an innings win for the home team.


9. Shane Bond: 5-11, New Zealand vs Zimbabwe, Bulawayo, 2005


Barely four months later, another Kiwi bowler, the much faster and more morbidly-lethal Shane Bond, was putting the cat among pigeons on the first day of the Bulawayo Test. On one of the most placid tracks seen in years, the sheer speed of the New Zealander proved too hot to handle for the home batsmen.


Dion Ebrahim was caught plumb off the very second delivery. Two overs later Stuart Carlisle followed in an identical manner. Hamilton Masakadza holed out in the 5th over. Brendan Taylor and Craig Wishart led a mini fight-back, weathering the initial storm, but after James Franklin had accounted for Wishart, Bond came back to induce nicks to the keeper from Taylor and Heath Streak.


Thanks mainly to Tatenda Taibu, Zimbabwe stumbled to a somewhat respectable 211, but ended up losing soundly by an innings and 46 runs.


10. Dale Steyn: 5-23, South Africa vs India, Ahmedabad, 2008


Indian batting in their backyard is a formidable fortress that had halted the juggernaut of all-conquering Australians. The dusty slower tracks have normally been considered graveyards for the fast men.


However, in one of the most stunning displays of lightning pace, the South Africans spearheaded by Dale Steyn, decimated the home batting in just 20 overs for a paltry 76 runs.


True, there was a hint of lateral movement and the Indian team was without Sachin Tendulkar, but the collapse was as spectacular as unexpected.


After Wasim Jaffer was caught in the slips off Makhaya Ntini, Steyn bowled Virender Sehwag off an inside edge to make it 24 for two. Ntini followed it up by bowling VVS Laxman for three and Sourav Ganguly for a duck.


Steyn then produced the ball of the morning, a blistering late swing that defeated the broad blade of Rahul Dravid and struck the top of his off stump. With the backbone of the batting taken care of, the leading fast bowler of the world came back to make short work of the tail, removing Harbhajan, RP Singh and S Sreesanth.


India managed to last a while longer in the second innings, but could not avoid a drubbing by an innings.


It is perhaps a curious omen for the followers of the Indian team that such monster bowling feats have been witnessed twice in Melbourne Tests – one of them with India on the wrong side of the destroying red cherry. However, anxious fans waiting for the first test Down Under to get under way in a few days can take heart from the fact that neither of the two previous Melbourne Tests qualify as Boxing Day encounters.


(Arunabha Sengupta is trained from Indian Statistical Institute as a Statistician. He works as a Process Consultant, but cleanses the soul through writing and cricket, often mixing the two. His author site is at and his cricket blogs at http:/