Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Triple Centuries

Triple centuries remain cricket's most prized individual possession. They are rare, but not unattainable unlike the 10 wicket in an innings hauls by Laker & Kumble. They tempt you every time you cross the 200 mark, maybe even 150, but the fact that only 24 players have attained this feat 28 times since Test cricket started in 1877 underlines the improbability of the event. ~0.03% of the time, if you want to be precise.

This is an in-depth look at the pinnacle of batting glory and how the highest batting records changed hands over the years. All 300+ scores have been listed in chronological order, but only the world records, at that time, have been formatted in bold, and some additional commentary added.
Andy Sandham

It required a solid 53 years and 193 Tests for a batsman to score one of these beauties. In the timeless Test between England and West Indies, played over 9 days under the hot Jamaican sun between 3-12 April, 1930 (6th was a rest day), Andy Sandham (England) became the first person to score a triple century during his 640 balls 325. England scored an imposing 849 but went on to draw the match by agreement. Oh, Sandham also went on to score a 50 in the 2nd innings. [Scorecard]

Bradman after his 334
What was a large leap for man, required a small step from the great man - Donald Bradman - to eclipse in 3 months. In the Leeds Test (11-14 July, 1930), Bradman scored the first of his two triple centuries, a fluent 448 balls 334. This was a rain curtailed match, restricting almost two entire days of play, and the Australia - England 3rd Test ended in a draw as well. [Scorecard]

This record stood the test of all of two and a half years. England, fresh off an Ashes win (the infamous Bodyline series of 1932-33) were visiting New Zealand. In the 2nd Test at Auckland played between 31 March - 3 April, 1933, English batsman Wally Hammond scored what's sometimes referred to as the greatest triple century. Hammond eclipsed Bardman's record with an unbeaten 336*. Although there are no known records of the number of balls he faced, here are some incredible stats from the innings "...In terms of time at the crease, his feat is remarkable. His first 50 came in 76 minutes, his hundred in 134, his 150 in 172, 200 in 241, 250 in 268, 300 in 288, and his final score of 336 in 318 minutes - five hours and 18 minutes. His ten sixes were a record in a Test innings - it remains fourth in the all-time list - as were his 34 fours..." (courtesy: ESPNCricinfo) Unfortunately this test ended in a draw as well, again due to inclement weather. [Scorecard]

Bradman was back with his next triple century in a year and a half, but his 304 against England in Leeds, 20-24 July 1934, wasn't enough for him to reclaim the highest Test score record. He never got it back. Also, as was a trend by now, this match ended in a draw as well. [Scorecard]. 
Len Hutton

The next 300 was a special one. In the 5th Ashes Test played between 20-24 August, 1938 at The Oval, London, Len Hutton (England) went on beat the existing record by a good 30 runs. Hutton scored an epic 847 balls 364. And this also helped England post a record Team total of 903 runs. The Australians were in a bit of a shock, and stumbled to their biggest loss, that of an innings and 579 runs. It remains the largest margin of defeat in Tests till date. Thus Hammond became the first person to score a 300+ and also win the Test. [Scorecard]

While it took more than 50 years to score the first triple hundred, the next eight years produced five. But then the drought was back. Till Pakistan's Hanif Mohammad batted for a record 970 minutes to score an unbeaten 337* against West Indies (Bridgetown, Barbados) in Jan 1958. This was in the second innings, after Pakistan was following on. He didn't get the record though, but helped draw the match for Pakistan. [Scorecard]

Sir Garfield Sobers
Perhaps the greatest all rounder in history, Sir Garfield Sobers, came back in the 3rd Test against Pakistan in the same 1958 series where Hanif Mohammad scored his 337*, to post a world record 365* not out. He was all of 21 years old. Not only did the West Indies go on to win the Test, 26 Feb - 4 Mar, 1958, in Kingston, Jamaica by an innings and 174 runs, but this record stood the test of time. 36 years to be precise, till another left handed batsman from the West Indies took it a notch above. [Scorecard]

The next 36 years saw only five 300+ scores in between, and none of them better than Sir Sobers' 365*. They're listed below:

Bob Simpson (Australia) 311 against England, Manchester, July 1964.Match drawn. [Scorecard]

John Edrich (England) 310* against New Zealand, Leeds, July 1965. Eng won by an Innings & 187 runs [Scorecard]

Bob Cowper (Australia) 307 against England, Melbourne, February 1966. Match drawn. [Scorecard]

Lawrence Rowe (West Indies) 302 against England, Bridgetown, March 1974. Match drawn [Scorecard]

Graham Gooch (England) 333 against India, Lord's, July 1990. Match drawn. [Scorecard]

The 333 by Gooch was followed up by a 123 in the 2nd innings, earning him the record of highest runs in a Test (456). It's a record that's not been broken till date. 
Brian Lara post the 375

In the summer of 1994, a young batsman from Trinidad & Tobago played an innings that finally saw Sobers' 36 year old record tumble. In the 5th Test between West Indies and England held between April 16-21, 1994 in St. John's, Antigua, Brian Charles Lara scored 375 runs in 538 deliveries including 45 fours. In the process he started the never ending Lara-Tendulkar supremacy debate, and this innings was invariably invoked by the Lara fan club every single time. This match, like most triple century matches, was drawn too. [Scorecard]

Lara's innings changed the frequency of these rare events. Since 1994 there have been 15 instances of 300 plus scores, while the first 100 years of Test cricket saw only 11. The world record for the highest score changed hands a couple of times since the 375 in St. John's. But the following protagonists played their parts in some memorable innings in the meanwhile.

Sanath Jayasuriya (Sri Lanka) 340 against India, Colombo, July 1997. Match drawn. [Scorecard]

Mark Taylor (Australia) 334* against Pakistan, Peshawar, October 1998. Match drawn [Scorecard]

Inzamam-ul-Haq (Pakistan) 329 against New Zealand, Lahore, May 2002. Pakistan won by an innings and 324 runs. [Scorecard]

Mark Taylor's declaration while on 334 not out was one of the more emotional moments in cricket, as he didn't want to surpass the then Australian record of 334 set by Sir Bradman in 1930.

Hayden creates the record
In 2003, the Zimbabwean team faced the wrath of the powerful Australian opener, Matthew Hayden. In the first Test in Perth, 9-13 October, 2003 Hayden smashed a record breaking 380 from only 437 balls, and this included 38 fours and 11 sixes. Lara's record had been taken away from him and he wasn't happy. Australia went on to win the Test by an Innings and 175 runs. [Scorecard]

In March 2004 Virender Sehwag scored the first triple century by an Indian, 309 against Pakistan in the Multan Test. He reached the milestone with a 6, the first person to do so. India won the Test by an innings and 52 runs. [Scorecard]
Lara becomes the 1st person to score 400
Exactly 10 years after the England-West Indies Test in St. John's, Antigua where Lara reached the then world record of 375 runs, the two teams met again, same venue. This time Lara was determined to not let Hayden stay on top of the record that was his, and he scored the first and only quadruple century in Test history, oh, he also remained not out while doing so. The 400* by Lara in the Antigua Test, 10-14 April 2004 remains the highest score by an individual in a Test innings and many feel it rightly belongs to the left hander from Trinidad & Tobago. Since the 1990s the West Indies team hasn't had much to smile about, besides the frequent gems from the man who goes by the name of Brian Lara. The match was drawn. [Scorecard]

After the quadruple century, there have 9 three hundred+ efforts by some of the modern greats, as listed below.

Chris Gayle (West Indies) 317 against South Africa, St. John's, April 2005. Match drawn. [Scorecard]

Mahela Jayawardene (Sri Lanka) 374 against South Africa, Colombo, July 2006. Sri Lanka won by an innings and 153 runs. [Scorecard]

Virender Sehwag (India) 319 against South Africa, Chennai, March 2008. Match drawn. [Scorecard]

Younis Khan (Pakistan) 313 against Sri Lanka, Karachi, February 2009. Match drawn. [Scorecard]

Chris Gayle (West Indies) 333 against Sri Lanka, Galle, November 2010. Match drawn, [Scorecard]

Michael Clarke (Australia) 329 not out against India, Sydney, January 2012. Australia won by an innings and 68 runs. [Scorecard]

Hashim Amla (South Africa) 311 not out against England, Oval, July 2012. South Africa won by an innings and 12 runs. [Scorecard]

Kumar Sangakkara (Sri Lanka) 319 against Bangladesh, Chittagong, February 2014. Match drawn. [Scorecard]

Brendon McCullum (New Zealand) 302 against India, Wellington, February 2014. Match drawn. [Scorecard]

Sehwag became the 3rd person after Sir Don Bradman and Brian Lara to score two 300s in 2008. Chris Gayle joined the club in 2010.

Finally, here's a summary of cricket's longest running elite club.

28 triple centuries (including a quadruple) have been scored till date.

24 players are a part of the club. 4 of them (Bradman, Lara, Sehwag, & Gayle) have done so twice.

26 of these 300s have come in the 1st innings, with only 2 (Hanif Mohammad and Brendon McCullum) have come in the 3rd innings. No one has scored a triple century in the fourth innings yet.

The break up of the triple centurions, by country, are as follows:
Australia (7), West Indies (6), England (5), Sri Lanka (3), Pakistan (3), India (2), South Africa (1), New Zealand (1)
[Zimbabwe and Bangladesh are the only 2 countries to not have a triple centurion]

The unfortunate countries who were on the receiving end of these treats were:
England (8), India (4), Pakistan, South Africa, New Zealand (3 each), West Indies & Sri Lanka (2 each), Australia, Bangladesh, and Zimbabwe (1 each)

Only 9 of the 28 matches that have seen a triple century have seen a result (the team with the triple centurion winning), with the remaining 19 ending in draws.

Sehwag's 319 against South Africa, at a strike rate of 104.9 is the only 300+ innings scored at more than a run a ball (During Hammond, Mohammad, & Sobers' innings the number of balls were not recorded).

Wally Hammond's 318 minute 336* against New Zealand in 1933 is the fastest triple century in terms of time required.

[This post will be updated after every 300 in the future]

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