What is common between Tony McKibbin and Nathan Lyon?    Wikipedia
What is common between Tony McKibbin and Nathan Lyon? Wikipedia

Let us cast a glance over the chart given below depicting the highest individual scores in the lowest team totals in Test history, where the team total has been less than 50. The data for the 20 instances is updated till October 31, 2016. The chart reveals some interesting facts and figures. Sir John Montague Brocklebank: The Baron who played for Bengal

Player Runs Total Vs Inn Venue Season
Bert Sutcliffe 11 26 England 3 Auckland 1954-55
Robert Poore 10 30 England 4 Port Elizabeth 1895-96
Herbie Taylor 7 30 England 2 Birmingham 1924
Albert Powell 11 35 England 4 Cape Town 1898-99
Victor Trumper 18 36 England 2 Birmingham 1902
Jock Cameron 11 36 Australia 1 Melbourne 1931-32
Tom Garrett 10 42 England 2 Sydney 1887-88
Verdun Scott 14 42 Australia 1 Wellington 1945-46
Eknath Solkar 18* 42 England 3 Lord s 1974
Fred Smith 11 43 England 3 Cape Town 1888-89
Tom McKibbin 16 44 England 4 The Oval 1896
George Lohmann 17 45 Australia 1 Sydney 1886-87
Syd Curnow 16 45 Australia 3 Melbourne 1931-32
Kane Williamson 13 45 South Africa 1 Cape Town 2012-13
Alec Stewart 18 46 West Indies 4 Port of Spain 1993-94
Bernard Tancred 26* 47 England 2 Cape Town 1888-89
Bert Sutcliffe 18 47 England 2 Lord s 1958
Ridley Jacobs 15 47 England 3 Kingston 2003-04
Nathan Lyon 14 47 South Africa 3 Cape Town 2011-12
Azhar Ali 13 49 South Africa 2 Johannesburg 2012-13

That Titan from New Zealand, Bert Sutcliffe, appears twice in this short list. His heroic deeds on behalf of a relatively weak and inexperienced side have gone down in legend and song, and very rightly so. In his epic battle against England at Auckland, when his team could muster only 26, there were 5 individual ducks, and the next-highest score was 7. Sutcliffe, opening the innings, was the fourth man dismissed in this innings, at a total of only 14, of which 11 had come off his own bat. Bob Appleyard had taken 4 for 7 to bring about this sorry end to the New Zealand second innings.

Against England at Lord s in 1958, Sutcliffe had batted at No. 6, top-scoring with 18. The only other man in double figures was Jack D Arcy (not to be confused with Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pride and Prejudice fame, as depicted by Jane Austen in her famous novel), with 14. In this innings, Sutcliffe was the eighth man dismissed, at the team total of 47.

The almost superhuman effort of a badly injured Sutcliffe, head swathed in bandages, returning to the batting cease at the team total of 81 for 6 in the New Zealand first innings of the second Test against South Africa at Ellis Park, Johannesburg, on the Boxing Day of 1953, in the company of Bob Blair, having himself suffered a personal bereavement on December 24, is too evocative of sheer admiration to forget in a hurry.

Fanciful as it may sound, it is easy to envision the Valkyries nominating this valiant warrior of the New Zealand clan for his rightful place at a cricketing Valhalla, and his sharing a table at Odin s feast with his peers in a memorable cricketing afterlife. But Sutcliffe would have been somewhat morose at the feast, having carried in his mindone unfortunate regret to his grave. Of the 42 Tests he played in, New Zealand failed to win even one. The worthy combatant had surely deserved the taste of at least one Test victory. Rusi Jeejeebhoy: India s reserve wicketkeeper on the 1971 West Indies tour

One striking feature of the above chart is the presence in it of only one man with a single digit score. Herbie Taylor was a true Champion for South Africa in the 42 Tests he played for them, leading the team in 18 of them. He played in 10 Test series in all, leading in 4 of them. Usually batting up the order, he was an expert craftsman on the matting wickets of his country, and proved to be equally proficient when on tour. In the final review of his career statistics, perhaps his greatest glory was in the 1913-14 home series against England, when, despite a record haul of 49 wickets (still a Test record for the most wickets in a Test rubber) by the enigmatic Syd Barnes for England (in only 4 Tests; he opted out of the fifth), Taylor scored 508 runs at an average of 58.80 for the series.

At the time of his ultimate retirement from Test cricket, Taylor held a number of South African Test batting records: most runs (2,936), most centuries (7) and half-centuries (17). His average of 40.77 was only fractionally behind that of Aubrey Faulkner (40.79), although all these records were subsequently bettered by Bruce Mitchell in the 1940s. It is an undeniable fact that Taylor had most of his success on the matting pitches of South Africa, and he averaged 48.80 and scored 6 of his centuries at home. In comparison, his average for South Africa while on tour was 30.16 and his 20 away Tests produced only a single century. He scored 2,001 of his Test runs at home and this aggregate remained a record until after the readmissionof South Africa to the Test ranks after the sorry Apartheid affair.

Of Taylor s 42 Tests, 30 were against England. He scored all his centuries and accumulated 2,287 runs against that opposition. In England-South Africa contests only Mitchell has scored more runs while the 7 centuries is a record he shares with Mitchell, Dudley Nourse, Denis Compton and Jacques Kallis, very distinguished company over all these years. In Currie Cup matches he scored 3,226 runs at an average of 58.65 and was part of 7 championship winning teams, 4 with Natal and 3 with Transvaal. Punya Brata Badal Datta: A Bengal and Cambridge cricketer

In the Edgbaston Test against England in 1924, South Africa were dismissed for an embarrassing 30 in their first innings, skipper Taylor opening the innings and top-scoring with 7. There were 4 ducks in an innings in which the rival skipper, Arthur Gilligan, captured 6 wickets for an amazing 7 runs, Maurice Tate chipping in with 4 for 12. In the second innings, however, South Africa rallied somewhat to score 390, with a fine 120 from Bob Catterall. Even then, England won by an innings and 18 runs.

The above-mentioned Edgbaston Test of 1924 was, of the course, the second time that South Africa had been dismissed for 30 in a Test innings, the first instance being the Port Elizabeth Test of 1895-96. On that occasion South Africa had suffered the ignominy in the second innings, with 4 ducks and a top-score of 10 from Robert Poore, at No. 3, the only man in double-figures. George Lohmann of England had taken 8 for 7 in the innings from his 9.4 five-ball overs. England had romped home by 288 runs in only two days of play.

This brings us to the only man in this chart that had carried his bat while top-scoring in an unusually low team total. It was the second Test between South Africa and England at Cape Town (this venue finds mention no less than 5 times in this short list of 20 instances) in 1888-89, the second Test ever played by South Africa.

Replying to an England first-innings total of 292, South Africa had scored 47 in the first innings, Bernard Tancred top-scoring with 26 not out and becoming the first man in cricket history to carry his bat through a completed Test innings in the process. Of the 51 instances of a man carrying his bat through a completed Test innings till date (till October 2016), Tancred s 26* is the lowest individual score. His contribution should be evaluated in the light of the team total and the fact that the next-highest individual score was 7 by skipper William Milton. As always, there was a destructive opposition bowler behind the poor total, in this case, Johnny Briggs, who captured 7 wickets for a mere 17 runs.

Mention must be made of the gallant Eknath Solkar in the second Test of the woeful English summer of 1974, when England won the Lord s Test by an innings and 285 runs, as comprehensive a win as can be imagined. His second-innings score of 18 not out in a second-innings team total of only 42 (giving rise to a series of jokes about the summer of 42 ) was made from 17 balls and contained 2 fours and a defiant six, understandably, the only one of the innings. The tormentor-in-chief for England was Chris Old (5 for 21), ably backed up by Geoff Arnold, the man called Horse (4 for 19). George Dennett: Over 2,000 wickets, yet no Test cap

It had all begun with an intimidating first-innings total of 629 by England, replete with centuries from opener Dennis Amiss (188), skipper Mike Denness (118), and Tony Greig (106). India s first innings had ended on 302, with a top score of 86 from wicketkeeper Farokh Engineer, opening the innings with Sunil Gavaskar (49), and sharing a first-wicket stand of 131. India followed on, providing Solkar the opportunity of top-scoring in the second (heavily truncated) knock, and making a place for himself in the records.

There are two very intriguing names in the chart above, Tom McKibbin and Nathan Lyon, both of Australia, and both of whom had batted at No. 11 for the respective teams when they had been dismissed for ridiculously low totals. This naturally raises the question in the mind of the enquiring student of the game as to who had lent these two the required support in these remarkable end-games.

The third Test of Ashes 1896 was played at The Oval. England had won the game by 66 runs after having dismissed the opposition for only 44 in 26 five-ball overs. The scorecard shows 4 individual 3s and 3 ducks in the innings. McKibbin, batting at No. 11, top-scored with 16 in this innings. It may be added that in all of his 5 Tests, McKibbin had scored only 88 runs with a highest of 28 not out and an average of 14.66; in other words, he was not really a bunny with the bat in the tradition of other well-known tail-lenders (the names of Courtney Walsh and Chris Martin spring to mind by a process of natural progression here).

Even so, for the last man on the team sheet to top score in the innings, it requires someone higher up the order to lend some meaningful support. In this case that person was Hugh Trumble, batting at No. 9 and remaining undefeated with 7. They shared a tenth-wicket stand of 19, gold dust in the context of the innings. Hugh Trumble s Test batting record shows a very creditable aggregate of 851 runs, a highest score of 70, and an average of 19.79 spread over 32 Tests. Trumble had 4 fifties to his credit. It may be mentioned in passing that Trumble, mainly known for his bowling, and being the first bowler to take 2 Test hat-tricks, had scored 5,395 runs at an average of 19.47 and had 3 centuries in his First-Class career. Astill: Uncomplaining Leicestershire giant

In a more modern era, we come to the remarkable incident of the first Test between South Africa and Australia at Cape Town (again!) in 2011-12 when Australia were dismissed for 47 in the second innings, with Nathan Lyon, the Australian off-spinner, top-scoring with 14 (from 24 balls), batting at No. 11. Although there was no hat-trick in the innings, we find that the seventh (Ryan Harris, 3), eighth (Mitchell Johnson, 3), and ninth (Shaun Marsh, 0) wickets had all fallen at the team score of 21, with Vernon Philander (5 for 15) and Morne Morkel (3 for 9) running riot.

It was at this stage that No. 9 Peter Siddle and Lyon came together with a tenth-wicket stand of 26 (more than doubling the score), Siddle contributing 12 and remaining not out. Siddle has a highest score of 51 in Tests and a batting average of 14.53.

Lyon, the off-spinner and former member of the Adelaide Oval ground-staff, has 572 runs till date from his with a highest score of 40 not out and an average of 14.30. At this stage of his career, however, Lyon s previous best in Test cricket had been 13, so he had improved on his batting record. Despite a masterly 151 from skipper Michael Clarke in the first innings and sterling efforts from Shane Watson (5 for 17) and Harris (4 for 33) with ball in the South Africa first innings of 96 and the 188-run lead, South Africa won the match by 8 wickets, thanks to wonderful centuries by skipper Graeme Smith (101*) and Hashim Amla (112).

Azhar Ali s top score of 13 in the first Test against South Africa at Johannesburg in 2012-13 is noteworthy for the fourth-wicket stand of 24 runs with skipper Misbah-ul-Haq (12) in the face of a searching examination by Dale Steyn (6 for 8) in a first-innings total of 49. South Africa won the game by a large margin of 211 runs.

Tragic heroes, all of the above-mentioned players, they have each had better days in the sun, and have enhanced their own and the team s image in world cricket in many ways, at various times. Fate, however, had decreed that they should all be cheek-by jowl in the record books for this unusual and binding reason.

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