Frank Tarrant took 10 for 15 in the match © Getty Images
Frank Tarrant took 10 for 15 in the match © Getty Images

Here is how the fall of wickets column of this particular innings went: 1/0, 2/0, 3/0, 4/18, 5/18, 6/18, 7/18, 8/18, 9/21, 10/21 (14 overs)

And this is the same column in the second innings of the same team: 1/0, 2/5, 3/12, 4/22, 5/ 26, 6/26, 7/37, 8/37/ 9/37, 10/39 (20 overs)

Perhaps a little background history pertaining to this game may be indicated here.

Those were the heady early days of First-Class cricket in India, and only 6 First-Class matches were played in the entire 1915-16 domestic season. The only recognised multi-team tournament in India at the time was the Bombay Quadrangular, involving the Hindus, The Parsees, the Muslims, and the Europeans.

The tradition had begun in 1877, a very significant year in cricket history, with the first ever Test being played at Melbourne in March of the year. It had begun with an annual fixture between European members of the Bombay Gymkhana and the Parsees of Zoroastrian CC. In those days, this one off yearly game used to be known as the (Bombay) Presidency Match.

It was in 1906 that the Hindu Gymkhana, who had by then assembled a fairly competent team themselves, challenged the Parsees to a cricket match. When the challenge was declined by Zoroastrian CC, Bombay Gymkhana had stepped in and the first match was played between the Europeans and the Hindus in that year.

In the following year, 1907, the Bombay Triangular Tournament was launched, with the Hindus joining the fray. In 1912, it was decided by the powers that be to extend an invitation to the Muslim Gymkhana to join the by now popular tournament in erstwhile Bombay, giving rise to the Bombay Quadrangular Tournament. With the addition of another team, the Rest, in 1937, the tournament became the Bombay Pentangular. The fifth team comprised players of the Buddhist, Jewish, and Indian Christian communities as well as some Sri Lankans.

The Pentangular remained an annual event till the newly-formed BCCI made the announcement in 1946 that the Pentangular would be discontinued following the 1945-46 contest.

The first set of matches of the newly launched ‘Cricket Championship of India’, later renamed the Ranji Trophy in honour of the late KS Ranjitsinhji, were played in 1934-35. Records show a state of peaceful coexistence between Bombay Quadrangular/Pentangular and Ranji Trophy, then in its infancy, from 1934-35 till 1945-46, with the exception of 1942-43, when the Bombay tournament was not represented in the historical records of cricket in India of the time.

The archives inform us that the lowest innings total in a First-Class match played in India has been 21, and this has happened on two separate occasions, once in the match with which this narrative begins, and another at Jaipur between Rajasthan and Hyderabad, in 2010-11.

We are also informed that the most ducks in a first innings has been 8, there being 8 instances of this in all First-Class cricket till date. Of these 8 matches, the only one played in India, has been the above-mentioned game.

With the above preamble out of the way, let us now examine the Quadrangular match at Poona of 1915-16 in a little more detail.

The game was to have begun on the Thursday, September 9, 1915, and to have continued for the next two days. The rain Gods, however, decided otherwise, and the whole of the first day was lost to the elements.

The Muslims opted for first strike. The first 3 batsmen, SA Aziz, CM Ali, and Syed Ibrahim were all dismissed for ducks, all 3 wickets falling before any runs had been scored by the team. Feroze Khan, at No. 4, scored 8, the highest individual contribution of the innings. He received admirable support from No. 5 batsman, Mirza Yusuf Baig, who scored 4.

From the fact that the fourth through to the eighth wickets all fell at the score of 18, it may be assumed that the Extras column might have been somewhat busy during this phase of the innings. Indeed, the highest contribution of the innings, amounting to 9, was from Extras.

In this mass extinction programme, one man remained bloodied but unbowed, Saleh Mohammad remaining not out on 0. The innings folded for 21 in 14 overs, the entire mayhem lasting only 84 deliveries.

The Europeans used only 3 bowlers. Frank Tarrant, the roving Australian, had figures of 7-6-6-5, playing his first First-Class game in India. He was more than ably supported by the third man in the bowling sequence, another Australian named Harry Simms, who had the sensational analysis of 3-2-2-4. Simms’ effort was all the more interesting because he began with a hat-trick taking the wickets of Feroze and Baig, the only two who scored any runs off bat in the innings, then following up with that of Pyare Khan. He made it a four-in-four with the scalp of Nazir Hussain off the very next ball. The remaining wicket was taken by Kenneth Goldie, for 4.

At stumps on Day Two, the first day of actual play, the board showed the Europeans being 103 for 1, with Tarrant batting on 23 and Edwin Hardy unbeaten on 5. Goldie, who had opened with Tarrant, had been dismissed for 68 (the top-score of the innings, as it turned out).

The Europeans declared their innings on 201 for 5 on Day Three, leaving Hardy not out on 36. There was one individual duck for the Europeans also, from Malcolm Slater. KA Tamboovala put in a heroic bowling effort, claiming 4 of the wickets to fall, conceding 99. The other wicket went to Saleh.

The sorry tale continued for the Muslims in the second innings also. Ibrahim collected a pair on his First-Class debut. Pyare, also on debut, having been the third victim in a first-innings hat-trick, redeemed himself somewhat by scoring 4 out of a team total of 39 in 20 overs. Out of the 11 men taking strike in the second innings, there were 6 ducks, making it a grand total of 14 for the match for Muslims.

The highest individual score was 7 not out, by Ali, followed by a pair of 5s, by Feroze and Yusuf, heroes of the first innings. The other individual contributor was Tamboovala, who scored 3. The only double-digit contribution was from Extras, with an enormous (under the circumstances) figure of 15. The bowling was shared by Tarrant and Simms, who bowled 10 overs each, and who picked up 5 for 9 and 5 for 15 respectively.

The 14 ducks from the Muslims and the lone duck from the Europeans in their only innings, made for a grand total of 15 ducks for the match, the highest for any First-Class game played in India and one of only 2 instances of this undesirable tag attached to any team.

The other instance of 15 ducks in a First-Class game played in India was the Ranji Trophy game between Delhi (who had 2 + 4) and Orissa (6 + 3), played at Delhi in 2008-09. For the record, the highest number of individual ducks in a single First-Class cricket match has been 18 till date, in the game between Oxford and MCC at Magdalen Ground, Oxford, in 1838.

Not surprisingly, the Europeans won this Poona encounter (if it can be called that) of 1915-16 by an innings and 141 runs, bringing the curtain down on a game that has made the record books for all the wrong reasons.

Brief scores:

Muslims 21 (Frank Tarrant 5 for 6, Harry Simms 4 for 2) and 39 (Frank Tarrant 5 for 9, Harry Simms 5 for 15) lost to Europeans 201 for 5 decl. (Frank Tarrant 49, Kenneth Goldie 68; KA Tamboovala 4 for 99) by an innings and 141 runs

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