The topsy-turvy XI

We’re going to transport you back to the dim and distant past to bring you some of the more unusual instances in international cricket. After watching South Africa opening bowler Wayne Parnell opening the batting in the 3rd ODI against NZ and scoring a fairly respectable 29, we thought we’d look at players who didn’t do their job. More specifically, they did someone else’s. So to qualify for this list, you either had to be a batsman who took a hatful of wickets, a bowler who scored a surfeit of runs, a non-wicketkeeper who donned the gloves or else Dwayne Leverock. So without further ado:

1. Andy Ganteaume, West Indies – A quick trivia question for you – who has the highest batting average in Test match history? Yes that’s right, Don Br-. Oh, wait, no it’s not – it’s Andy Ganteaume! Ganteaume was a wicketkeeper, and he qualifies for this list by playing one Test, against England in 1948, but not as wicketkeeper (although we admit we’re cheating a little bit by including him on that basis). In the meantime, he opened the batting and scored 112, before disappearing in a puff of smoke, never to play for WI again. The story goes that he batted so slowly upon nearing his hundred that he was told by his skipper to ‘get on with it’. He was demoted down the order in the second innings (presumably due to his sheet-anchor batting) didn’t bowl a ball in the match, didn’t take a catch, and if his name hadn’t been written on the scorecard, we’d have started to doubt if he’d ever existed and instead was merely a contrivance of some pub quizmaster in Barnsley.

2. Jason “Pizza Delivery Boy” Gillespie, Australia – Yes, the less good half of the fearsome McGrath-Gillespie bowling partnership makes it onto this list as an opening batsman. Gillespie wasn’t exactly a useless batsman, but he was hardly Viv Richards either. In his first 70 Tests, he managed only two fifties. The finesse to his career, however, came in his 71st and last Test, against Bangladesh in Chittagong. Everybody’s favourite fast-food conveyor came to the crease at 25/1 on the first evening as nightwatchman. By the time he stopped batting, it was Day 4, he had 201*, Australia had just declared on 581/4 and Bangladesh were probably thoroughly sick of the sight of him. Yes, we know it was only Bangladesh, but how many double centuries have you ever scored, dear reader? Unless some actual cricketers (and good ones at that) have started reading this blog, I’m guessing the answer is none. Now be quiet.

3. Alex Tudor, England – Tudor, like Gillespie, came in as nightwatchman at Number 3 after the early loss of Alec Stewart against NZ in 1999. Unlike Gillespie, he didn’t score a hundred, but he came as close as anyone has ever done without actually getting one, finishing on 99*. After bowling like a drain for the entire match (only taking one wicket), Tudor needed five to get to his hundred with the scores level and England about to win. He tried to heave for a six but could only top edge for four. And thus stands the only reason why anybody ever remembers Alex Tudor’s England career.

4. Harold Larwood, England – Larwood also shares something with Gillespie, in that the innings that gets him on the list occurred in his last ever Test match. A great fast bowler, Larwood’s batting career was not so great, although he did have a highest score of 70 going into the Sydney Test in 1933. Larwood came in at 159/2, proceeded to bat more fluently than Wally Hammond and ended up with 98, made in 138 minutes. Like Gillespie, he never batted again in Tests.

5. Ajit Agarkar, India – Ajit Agarkar had a pretty successful ODI career for India as a fast bowler, but it’s not that we’re looking at here. In Tests, Agarkar finished with an eye-watering bowling average of 47.32 from 26 Tests and a batting average of 16.79. Not much to look at. In fact, excluding the massive caveat we’re about to mention, the most notable thing about Ajarkar’s batting career in Tests was his four consecutive golden ducks (including a king pair). But then there’s the small matter of a Test century at Lord’s. If Sachin Tendulkar had one of those, he’d currently be sitting pretty on 100 international centuries. But he doesn’t. Ajit Ajarkar, however, does, and it came in 2002. Coming in at Number 8, Agarkar hit 109* in a losing cause, but can at least strut around for the rest of his life knowing he’s on this list… er, we mean the Lord’s Honours Board.

Superman had really let himself go.

6. Dwayne Leverock, Bermuda – Leverock is the only ODI entrant on this list and also the only person who’s in the team for his fielding alone. A competent one-day spinner, Leverock is most notable for not exactly being what you might call in the peak of physical fitness, weighing in at a hefty 20 stone. This might have something to do with the fact that he lives above a curry house. However, his career-defining moment came in the 2007 World Cup match against India. Leverock, at slip, presumably because having him anywhere else would be less useful than having no one at all, proceeded to take a stunning (and we mean that) one-handed diving catch to dismiss Robin Uthappa. The slo-mo of his substantial bulk hitting the turf is particularly good. India did proceed to put a massive 413 on Bermuda in their 50 overs, but nevertheless, Dwayne Leverock, we salute you.

7. Lala Amarnath, India (wk) – Amarnath was a character, and a short post like this can’t hope to do justice to his colourful career. He was the first Indian to score a Test century, in India’s very first Test. However, that’s not why he’s on this list. In the fifth Test of the 1948/49 series against WI, India’s designated keeper, Khokhan Sen, went down injured early after a diving attempt to take a catch. Amarnath, who was captain, took matters into his own hands (literally) and donned the gloves. He took 5 catches in the match, took the gloves off and never kept again, and remains the most successful emergency keeper in Test history.

8. Tom Horan, Australia – Ah, we’re onto the bowlers now (or rather, batsmen). Tom Horan played in the first ever Test match, but we’re rather more concerned with the nineteenth. Horan, Australia’s Number 3, was an occasional bowler (of style unknown), only taking 11 Test wickets. However, in 1885, for some reason, he came on at first change, took 6/40, said ‘Thank you very much’ and never took another wicket. That’s the sort of style you have to show to earn a place on this list…

9. Clem Hill, Australia – Clem Hill was a batsman, and rather a good one at that. Bizarrely, though, he appears here for his batting. We thought there ought to be a representative of the class of injured / ill batsmen, who came in when it was really the last thing they’d rather be doing. Think Colin Cowdrey batting with a broken arm. However, Hill, who batted mostly at Number 3, came down with a nasty bout of influenza during the Third Test of the 1907/8 Ashes. Given that this was in the days before penicillin, when flu stood a good chance of killing you outright, we think batting at all displayed a certain amount of cojones. Hill not only batted, coming in at Number 9 with the score at 180/7, he scored 160, his third highest Test score, while putting on 243 for the eighth wicket with Roger Hartigan. When he was out, Australia had 501/9 and they went on to win by 245 runs. Think about that the next time you drop out of your club match with a bit of a sniffle.

10. Michael Clarke, Australia – Clarke was having a fairly ordinary match in the 4th Test at Mumbai in 2004/5, making only seventeen before being stumped in Australia’s first innings. In a low-scoring match, India were relatively sailing along in their second innings at 179/4 when Ricky Ponting tossed the ball to Clarke to bowl the 57th over. 12.2 overs later, India were all out for 205. Clarke had bowled 6.2 of them and had taken 6/9, leaving everybody, and especially the Indian batsmen, scratching their heads wondering what the hell had just happened. Bearing in mind that one minute this was a man who had never taken a Test wicket, bowling against some of the world’s best players of spin, and the next he had the third-cheapest six-for in Test history, that’s some feat. He also took two catches, meaning in total he had a hand in eight wickets in the innings. As it happened, Australia collapsed catastrophically to 93 all out chasing just 107 to win, Clarke making only 7. Perhaps the cricketing gods couldn’t let him get away with such blatant daylight robbery.

11. Basil Butcher, West Indies – Butcher was one of the West Indies’ better post-war middle order batsmen, finishing with seven Test centuries and a very respectable average of 43. However, he was not known for his bowling – by the time the fourth Test against England at Port-of-Spain came around in 1967/8, he had only bowled six overs in Test cricket, all in one innings, and that had been nine years earlier. However, he then proceeded to take 5/34 in England’s first innings with his part-time leg-breaks, four of them coming in only three overs. He never took another wicket – that five-for comprised his entire haul of Test wickets – and he finished with a career bowling average of just 18. Of players who have played 35 or more Tests and have taken more than one wicket, no one has a better career average. Extraordinary stuff.

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  1. The useless XI « Two Grumpy England Cricket Fans

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