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The waiting game

Steven Lynch
August 16, 2011
There were three months between Mark Ramprakash's 99th and 100th first-class hundreds © PA Photos

The 100th 100
Mark Ramprakash's search for his 100th hundred occupied a lot of column inches three years ago, and it seemed an awfully long time before he finally got there, against Yorkshire at Headingley in August 2008 (his first century had also been at Yorkshire's expense, in 1989). But although it took Ramps three months to move from 99 to 100, the relatively small amount of first-class cricket played in England these days meant the span was only 11 innings. The longest wait in terms of innings to go from 99 first-class hundreds to 100 is 47, by Surrey's Tom Hayward, who scored his 99th against Lancashire at The Oval in June 1912, and had to wait more than a year - until Lancashire visited again - to complete his century of centuries at the end of June 1913.

A second Test cap
Don Cleverley, a fast-medium bowler from Auckland, won his first Test cap against South Africa in Christchurch early in 1932, and had to wait more than 14 years for his second, and last, one, against Australia in Wellington in March 1946. It wasn't exactly a glittering career: Cleverley failed to take a wicket in either match.

A first Test win
The longest wait, in terms of matches, for a first Test victory is a close-run thing between two Bangladeshi stalwarts. Wicketkeeper Khaled Mashud played 32 Tests before winning one, but his long-time captain Habibul Bashar went 33 matches without a win, before both were part of Bangladesh's inaugural victory, over Zimbabwe in Chittagong in January 2005. The leading non-Bangladeshi is Mushtaq Mohammad, who played 29 Tests for Pakistan before finishing on the winning side. But poor Bert Sutcliffe played 42 Tests without ever winning one: his team, New Zealand, had to wait 26 years - and 44 matches - before recording their first Test victory in 1955-56.

A double-figure score in Tests
Chris Martin, New Zealand's arch-rabbit, didn't reach double figures until his 49th Test innings - when, to great acclaim, he hammered 12 not out against Bangladesh in Dunedin in January 2008. This was almost double the next-longest wait - Bangladesh's Manjural Islam reached double figures for the first time in his 26th Test innings, against West Indies in Chittagong in December 2002. The Zimbabwean bowler-turned-commentator Pommie Mbangwa batted 25 times in Tests without ever reaching double figures.

A win in the County Championship
The longest barren spell by a team in the English County Championship was 99 matches, by Northamptonshire in the 1930s, during a decade in which they finished bottom every year from 1934 to 1938. But just as they looked like completing a century of unsuccessful matches, they entertained Leicestershire at Wantage Road in May 1939... and won by an innings. It was enough to get them off the bottom of the table that year.

Another Test appearance
The longest gap between Test caps in mid-career is 22 years 222 days by the Egyptian-born offspinner John Traicos, who won the last of his three caps for South Africa in March 1970, then appeared in Zimbabwe's first four matches when they gained Test status in 1992-93, when he was 45. The longest gap between Test appearances for the same country is 17 years 316 days, by the Nottinghamshire opener George Gunn, who reappeared for England in 1929-30, when he was 50, after winning his previous caps in February 1912. Another man with a peculiar Test career was Younis Ahmed, who won two caps for Pakistan in 1969-70, and two more 17 years later in 1986-87. In terms of matches missed, the longest gap is by Martin Bicknell: England played 114 Tests between his second cap in 1993 and his third in 2003.

A first Test century
Anil Kumble of India played 117 Tests - and 150 innings - before finally scoring a century, against England at The Oval in 2007. His long-serving team-mate Harbhajan Singh recently scored his maiden century in his 88th Test - and added another in the next match. Chaminda Vaas of Sri Lanka made his first century in his 96th Test.

Another Test century
The longest gap between Test hundreds is almost 14 years, by the Australian Warren Bardsley, who scored his fifth Test ton - 164 against South Africa at Lord's - in June 1912, and didn't add a sixth until June 1926, when he made 193 not out against England, also at Lord's. That gap included the First World War: the record for the longest interval between Test centuries not including a war changed hands earlier this month, when Hamilton Masakadza made 104 against Bangladesh in Harare, 10 years and a week since he made 119 against West Indies, also in Harare, on his debut at 17 in July 2001.

A historic scene: Chris Martin, owner of the record for longest wait for a two-figure Test score, connects © Getty Images

A Test cap
There are various ways of looking at the record for the longest wait here. The oldest man to make his Test debut was 49-year-old James Southerton, for England against Australia in the first Test of all, in Melbourne in 1876-77, while the Leicestershire allrounder Ewart Astill played a record 423 first-class matches before winning the first of his nine England caps when he was a couple of months short of his 40th birthday, in South Africa in 1927-28. Suresh Raina played 98 one-day internationals for India before finally winning a Test cap - and made up for lost time by scoring a century on Test debut.

A maiden first-class century
Bob Taylor had to wait a long time before establishing himself as England's first-choice wicketkeeper - he was 37 when Alan Knott's defection to World Series Cricket finally freed up a place - and eventually played more Tests after turning 40 than anyone else (29 in all: Jack Hobbs managed 27). And Taylor also leads the way in the list of those taking the longest to make a first-class century: his only one came in 1981, his 22nd season, in his 745th innings. It was a nice round 100, for Derbyshire, and it was compiled at Yorkshire's expense in Sheffield. Three years later Derek Underwood, also in his 22nd season, made his maiden century in his 617th first-class innings, to go into second place on the list. Taylor's innings left Tony Lock as the only man to score 10,000 first-class runs without ever making a century.

A hat-trick
A slight cheat here, but slow left-armer Joe Johnson of Yorkshire took wickets with his last two deliveries of the match against Leicestershire in August 1939. The war intervened, and he never played first-class cricket again - so Johnson (who died in January 2011) might be said to have been on a hat-trick for the remaining 72 years of his life!

Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2011

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