When Wayne James recorded the most dismissals for a wicket-keeper in a First-Class match

Wayne James’s feat of nine dismissals in the first innings is still a record in First-Class cricket © Getty Images (Representational Photo)

Zimbabwe’s Logan Cup final of 1996 was dominated by wicket-keeper Wayne James. He not only recorded the most dismissals in a First-Class game for a wicket-keeper, but also scored 99 in both innings to lead Matabeleland to victory over the Mashonaland Country Districts. Nishad Pai Vaidya looks back at that game in Bulawayo.  

On April 21, 1996, Zimbabwe’s Wayne James wrote his name in history with a performance that would be the envy of any wicket-keeper batsman. In a once-in-a lifetime game, James bagged the record for the most dismissals by a wicket-keeper in a First-Class match and also scripted two fantastic knocks to guide his side Matabeleland to victory. It was the all-important Logan Cup final and Matabeleland comprehensively beat the Mashonaland Country Districts riding high on James’ exploits.

Prior to this encounter at Bulawayo, James had already represented Zimbabwe at the highest level. Having made his debut during the 1992 World Cup, he only managed to play four Tests and 10 One-Day Internationals (ODI) before this game. Andy Flower’s presence in the Zimbabwean ranks meant that his opportunities were few and far in between. James donned the Zimbabwe colours again later that year, albeit for a solitary ODI.

For this game, both sides had their fair share of international experience. Mashonaland’s internationals were Robin Brown, Alistair Campbell, Glen Bruk-Jackson, Craig Evans, Bryan Strang and Stephen Peal. Mark Dekker, James, Heath Streak and John Rennie were Matabeleland’s internationals. Interestingly, this game saw Heath Streak and his father Denis play together.

Mashonaland won the toss and elected to bat. They got off to a decent start with Brown and Trevor Stead adding 43 for the first wicket. Darshan Vaghmaria, the left-arm orthodox bowler gave Matabeleland their first breakthrough when he had Brown caught by James. Heath Streak then came in to dismiss Stead and his Zimbabwe teammate Campbell in quick succession as James snapped both catches.

Vaghmaria returned to fox the middle-order as James stumped Bruk-Jackson and Evans in quick succession. Mashonaland had slipped to 73 for five after a decent start. It was almost as if the ball followed James. There was a small partnership, but he was back in action with two catches as Mashonaland slumped to 114 for seven.

Jason Oates held firm at one end even as James wreaked havoc at the other. At that stage, they needed something special and Strang walked out to join Oates. They put up a fighting partnership of 137 with Oates reaching his maiden First-Class century. With the score on 251, Oates was dismissed by Vaghmaria. This was the only dismissal during the first innings in which James had no hand.

However, it was James’s match and one couldn’t keep him out of action for too long. Dekker had Strang caught by James for a fighting 66. Mashonaland were all-out for 265 with Peal being Dekker and James’ final victim. With nine dismissals (seven catches and two stumpings), James’ recorded the most victims for a wicket-keeper in a First-Class innings. He was at par with Tahir Rashid (eight catches and one stumping) who did the same in the Pakistan domestic circuit in 1992-93.

Matabeleland’s innings was rocked early and James found himself in the firing line at 15 for three. He then went on to score a crucial 99 to take his side to relative safety. A few cameos took Matabeleland to 220 — giving Mashonaland a 45-run lead.

With that advantage, Mashonaland would have fancied their chances. However, Rennie produced a fantastic spell of six for 42 to tip the balance in favour of Matabeleland. James accounted for three (all caught) of Rennie’s six. His fourth and final catch of the innings came off Vaghmaria. With that he bagged the record for the most dismissals (13) by a wicket-keeper in a First-Class game. Mashonaland were folded for 128 as Matabeleland needed only 174 to clinch the Logan Cup.

It was sense of déjà vu as Matabeleand slumped to 15 for four in their pursuit. James came in a slot lower than the first-innings, but that wasn’t going to change his fortunes. In partnership with Dekker, James saw it through with an unbeaten innings of 99. He had a real chance of getting to his hundred, but the winning runs were achieved with four byes. So near yet so far.

James would undoubtedly remember this game forever. Having scored 99 in both innings has added to the aura around the feat.  His feat of nine dismissals in the first innings is still a record in First-Class cricket. However, his match aggregate was broken in 2011 when Ibrahim Khaleel bagged 14 victims for Hyderabad in a Ranji Trophy game against Assam.

Brief Scores:

Mashonaland Country Districts 265 (Jason Oates 115; Darshan Vaghmaria 4 for 108) and 128 (Donald Campbell 35*; John Rennie 6 for 42) lost to Matabeleland 220 (Wayne James 99; Bryan Strang 4 for 69) and 176 for 4 (Wayne James 99*; Trevor Stead 2 for 19) by 6 wickets

Matabeleland win the Logan Cup