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Which batsman had the longest streak of single-digit scores in Tests?

In six consecutive Tests between March and July 2008, England picked the same XI. They won four and drew two of those matches Tom Shaw / © Getty Images

As I had mentioned in my previous piece, it's now time for a fun and wacky article, this one on streaks in Test cricket. You might have come across quite a few either in ESPNcricinfo's huge collection of records, in Steven Lynch's excellent weekly Q&A columns, or in features written by members of the site's stats team. But I'll venture to say that this might be the first time you will see all these 40 streaks in Test cricket grouped in one place.

Player combination

Same 11 players: England played the same team in six Tests in 2008. The XI comprised of: Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook, Michael Vaughan (c) , Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood, Tim Ambrose (wk), Stuart Broad, Ryan Sidebottom, James Anderson, and Monty Panesar. England won four and drew two with this XI. South Africa (on five separate occasions), Australia (three times), England (one other occasion) and West Indies (once) have played the same team in five consecutive Tests.

Same opening pair: This is a rarely mentioned streak. Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden opened in 91 consecutive innings between November 2001 and October 2005. They averaged 51.17 runs per completed partnership during this run. After the ICC Test in 2005, Hayden opened with Michael Hussey and other batsmen. Strauss and Cook had two opening streaks of 43 and 45 innings, averaging 43 runs across those streaks. These were separated by two Tests against Bangladesh in which Michael Carberry and Jonathan Trott opened, with Cook. Surprisingly, Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe only opened together in 11 successive innings. Hobbs opened quite a few times with Wilfred Rhodes, and Sutcliffe with Percy Holmes.

Same opening bowlers: The established fast-bowling partnerships do not rule the roost here. Kapil Dev and Karsan Ghavri opened the bowling in 45 consecutive innings between November 1978 and January 1981. In Lahore, in the Test before their streak began, Sunil Gavaskar opened with Kapil, and in the Test after it ended, in Melbourne, Dilip Doshi opened with Kapil. Anderson and Broad opened in 39 consecutive innings between 2017 and 2018. Pakistan and West Indies generally played musical chairs with their new-ball combinations. Their best pairs were Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis (16 innings) and Malcolm Marshall and Joel Garner (28 innings) respectively.

Results

Wins: Between October 1999 and February 2001, Australia won 16 Tests in a row, 11 at home Tests and five away. This streak was ended by India in the Laxman-Dravid-Harbhajan Test in Kolkata. Before their streak started, Australia played out two rain-hit draws in Sri Lanka.

Between the Boxing Day Test of 2005 and the New Year Test in 2008, Australia again won 16 Tests in a row, once again 11 at home and five away. Included in this streak are a two-wicket win and a three-wicket win. This streak was ended by India in Perth, where they beat Australia by 72 runs. Before this sequence, Australia drew a hard-fought Test against South Africa.

In 1984, West Indies won 11 Tests in a row, three at home and eight away. This streak was bookended by dominating near-win draws against Australia.

Innings wins: In the 2019-20 home season, India won four Tests by an innings. On no fewer than 15 occasions have teams registered three consecutive wins by an innings. It should be noted that the recent trend, post 2001, is to not enforce the follow-on, and teams end up with wins by huge run margins. Many of these could be innings wins in any other era.

Draws: West Indies drew ten Tests in a row between March 1971 and March 1973. But let me make it clear: this was not yet the famed West Indies side. The pace attack was pedestrian, with Andy Roberts, the first of those great fast bowlers, still a year away from making his debut.

Losses: This is on expected lines. Bangladesh lost 21 Tests in a row between November 2001 and February 2004 - 12 of them by an innings. A novice team, taken to the cleaners by the experienced teams. Zimbabwe have had streaks of 11 and ten losses in the past 20 years.

Innings defeats: Bangladesh, twice (once in 2001-02 and once in 2004) and Zimbabwe, in 2005, lost five consecutive matches by an innings. Zimbabwe's sixth loss was by ten wickets.

Tosses

Toss wins: Let me clarify that these toss wins/losses are from the team's point of view and not the captain's. From October 1998 to September 1999, Australia won 12 tosses in a row, seven at home and five away. Australia won five, drew three and lost four of these Tests. From January 1960 to June 1961, England won 12 tosses in a row, five at home and seven away. England won four, drew seven and lost one of these Tests. There have been six occasions when teams won the toss in eight consecutive Tests.

Toss losses: India had the misfortune to lose ten tosses in a row from December 2009 to October 2010. There were six home Tests and four away Tests. India won seven, drew one and lost two of these Tests. The last two wins were achieved despite Australia crossing 400 on each occasion. There were seven occasions when teams lost the toss in nine consecutive Tests.

Teams

400-plus scores: In the 1986-87 season, India went past 400 in six consecutive innings. The scores were 517 for 5, 676 for 7, 451 for 6, 400, 527 for 9 and 403. Surprisingly (or not), India won only two of the Tests. Australia, twice (1938 and 2003), and India, again in 2010, scored five consecutive 400-plus totals.

Sub-100 scores: In their first Test, South Africa scored 84 and 129. Then the might of Australia and England settled on them like a shroud. They did not reach 100 in their next six innings. The sequence was 47, 43, 97, 83, 93 and 30. All the matches were defeats to England. New Zealand, in 1958, and India, in 1952, had sequences of three sub-100 innings.

Opening partnerships of above 100: Four teams share a sequence of three 100-plus opening partnerships: England, in 1925 and 1947, Pakistan in 2003, and Australia in 2015.

Capturing all ten wickets: England took all the opposing team's wickets no fewer than 37 times between March 1885 and July 1893. Australia achieved it 33 times during their golden 16-win run in the 1999-2001 period.

Captains

This is a tricky bit of analysis. There are two type of streaks. A player captains his team in X Tests and then does not play in a few matches; "X" is one type of streak. And then he comes back and continues to captain, say, for a total of Y matches; this is another streak. "X" is from a team's point of view while "Y" is from the player's point of view. For "X", the key is "an unbroken sequence for both team and player". This is the more common definition. For "Y", the key is "as long as he played, he was the captain".

Captain - Team: Allan Border captained Australia in 93 consecutive Tests from December 1984 to March 1994. His results were 32-39-22 (W-D-L). Using a 2-1-0 points allocation, Border had a Result Index of 55.4% (103 points out of a maximum of 186). Ricky Ponting captained Australia in 73 consecutive Tests from November 2004 to December 2010. His Result Index was 69.9% (45-12-16).

Captain - Player: Graeme Smith captained South Africa in 108 consecutive Tests he played from April 2003 to March 2014. Smith's Result Index was 61.6% (53-27-28). Border's run of 93 Tests has already been chronicled. Stephen Fleming had a run of 80 Tests, with a Result Index of 50.6%, Ponting 77 Tests (70.8%), and Clive Lloyd 74 Tests (66.2%).

Winning Captain - Team: Ponting won 16 consecutive Tests as captain. This was during Australia's golden run in 2008. During their other golden run, Steve Waugh captained in the first 12 Tests, then Adam Gilchrist captained successfully against West Indies in Adelaide, before Waugh took over again to complete the run.

Winning Captain - Player: Ponting's 16 consecutive Tests as a winning captain is followed by Steve Waugh's 15 consecutive wins. Clive Lloyd had a run of 11 successful Tests in 1984.

Draws by captain: John Reid drew nine successive Tests as captain from February 1964 to March 1965. Nari Contractor, in 1962, and Garry Sobers, in 1973, drew eight successive Tests as captains.

Losing captain: Khaled Mashud lost ten successive Tests as captain from December 2001 to December 2002. Khaled Mahmud, who succeeded him, fared slightly better, losing nine in a row. Habibul Bashar, who took over the sinking ship, lost one Test, was lucky to save a Test because of rain and finally managed to save a fully played out Test. Those were the early days in Test cricket for Bangladesh.

Batsmen

Consecutive hundreds: This is a very well-known streak. Everton Weekes had a streak of five hundreds in 1948. His sequence of scores was 141, 128, 194, 162 and 101. This streak has remained a record for the past 70-plus years. It is interesting to note that his next score was 90. Jack Fingleton, in 1936, Alan Melville, from 1939 to 1947, and Rahul Dravid, in 2002, had streaks of four 100-plus innings.

Consecutive 90s: Clem Hill, in 1902, had a cruel sequence of 99, 98 and 97, missing three hundreds by a total of six runs. Fifteen batsmen had sequences of two nineties. It is interesting to note that there is just a single score of 99 in these 30 scores in the 90s. Apart from Hill, Frank Woolley, Gordon Greenidge (twice) and Mahela Jayawardene had dual nineties in a single Test.

Consecutive 50-plus scores: Weekes continued his run of five hundreds with innings of 90 and 56. This completed the record streak of seven fifties. Just look at his next two innings - 48 and 52. He missed an amazing streak of nine consecutive fifties by two runs. However, this time he has to share his record. Kumar Sangakkara had a streak of seven 50-plus scores in 2014. His sequence of scores was 75, 319, 105, 147, 61, 79 and 55. His aggregate of 841 runs is the highest in this group. But this does not end here.

Four other batsmen share this record of seven consecutive fifties. Andy Flower (2001), Shivnarine Chanderpaul (2007), Chris Rogers (2015) and KL Rahul (2017) had similar streaks. Flower's previous innings, before the start of the streak, was 48.

Unbeaten in innings: There is a crowd of six batsmen sharing nine occurrences of three consecutive unbeaten innings (of scores of 50 and above). Out of these six batsmen, two are worth delving into a little deeper. Sachin Tendulkar had innings of 241*, 60* and 194* in 2004 and accumulated 495 runs in these three innings. Surprisingly, Tendulkar was out for single figures in the next six innings. (Perhaps the declaration in Multan when he was on 194 put him off.) Chanderpaul achieved this hat-trick streak four times in his career (2002, 2004, 2008, 2014). The other batsmen are Ken Mackay (1958), Brian McMillan (1997), Jacques Kallis (2002) and Ross Taylor (2016).

Now we move on to the other end of the spectrum.

Single-digit scores: For batsmen who averaged over 20 in their careers, Reid, in 1954, had a wretched run of ten single-digit scores. The telephone-number sequence was 0, 3, 6, 1, 9, 7, 6, 0, 3 and 1. That is the calling code for Sonapur in Assam and Erfurt in Germany. Maybe the paucity of good replacements kept him in the side. His next innings was a top-quality 135 against South Africa in Cape Town. Alan Knott (1977-80), Mohinder Amarnath (1983) and Kapil Dev (1981) had sequences of eight single-digit scores.

Zeroes: Among batsmen who averaged over 20 in their careers, the bespectacled Pankaj Roy had a quartet of zeros during the 1952 tour of England while facing the the express pace of Fred Trueman and the swing of Alec Bedser. He had previously made another zero and scores of 35 and 19 for Roy in the series. Mark Waugh made four consecutive zeros in Sri Lanka in 1992 while facing a total of 12 balls. Three of the dismissals were to bowlers whose names did not start with the letter M.

Bowled dismissals: Jimmy Sinclair of South Africa was bowled in seven consecutive innings in 1910. His scores were 28, 3, 0, 12, 22, 10 and 19. Tip Snooke of South Africa was also bowled in seven consecutive innings with scores of 7, 9, 2, 16, 23, 8 and 20. Three other batsmen have a six-innings streak of bowled dismissals, the most recent being Alec Stewart in 1994.

Run-out dismissals: John Jameson of England was run out in three consecutive innings in his first two Tests. His scores were 28, 82 and 16. He was then dropped and played in only two more Tests. As many as 55 players have a two-innings streaks of run-outs.

Bowlers

Ten-wicket hauls in a match: Who else but Muttiah Muralitharan? The master magician dominates the bowling streaks. It is interesting to note that of the 192 Test bowlers who have captured 100 or more wickets, only 26 bowlers have taken ten in a match at least four times. And of these 192, 63 have never taken ten in a match. This set of numbers puts Murali's performances in perspective.

He has taken ten wickets in a match in four consecutive Tests twice in his career. The first instance was in victories between August and November 2001 - 11 for 196, 10 for 111, 11 for 170 and 10 for 135. The next instance was between May and August 2006 - 10 for 115, 11 for 132, 10 for 172 and 12 for 225. Sri Lanka lost the first of those four Tests, but won the next three. Claire Grimmett finished his illustrious career with three ten-wickets hauls in 1936. The sequence was 10 for 88, 10 for 110 and 13 for 173. That was some exit.

Eight-wicket hauls in a match: I have determined that taking eight wickets in a match more often than not leads to Test wins. Yasir Shah leads this illustrious list with five successive hauls of eight or more wickets in a match between April and October 2017 - 8 for 154, 9 for 177, 8 for 218, 8 for 171 and 8 for 231. Note how generous Yasir has been in terms of runs conceded. It did not help Pakistan much since they lost three of these Tests. Then we have the master, Murali, who has achieved this streak no fewer than five times. In addition to the two sequences of four ten-wicket hauls, he achieved this again during 2000, 2002 and 2006. Charlie Turner and Sydney Barnes also had four such sequences during 1888 and 1914.

Five-wicket hauls in a innings: Turner achieved a streak of six successive innings in which he captured five or more wickets, in 1888: he had a sequence of 5 for 44, 7 for 43, 5 for 27, 5 for 36, 6 for 112 and 5 for 86. Tom Richardson (1896), Alec Bedser (1953) and Shane Shillingford (2013) had dream runs of five five-wickets per innings spells.

Four-wicket hauls in an innings: I have included four-wicket hauls since it is more valuable than scoring a hundred. Murali had a streak of nine consecutive innings of four-wicket hauls between December 2001 and May 2002. Waqar Younis had a streak of nine innings of four-wicket captures between April 1993 and February 1994. Turner had a streak of eight such innings.

Innings with at least one wicket: I am very strict about this streak. If a bowler bowled a ball, it is taken as a spell. That is how it should be when determining streaks. Murali had a run of 52 consecutive innings in which he captured at least one wicket - between July 2002 and April 2006. He had another run of 49 innings in which he captured at least one wicket - between December 1999 and June 2002. Unfortunately in between these two streaks, he had a spell of 2-0-17-0 that broke the sequence. Otherwise it would be 102 successive innings with at least one wicket. Bishan Bedi had such a sequence of 42 innings from July 1971 to January 1977. Murali, Dennis Lillee and Waqar had streaks of 41 successful spells.

Wicketkeepers

Five dismissals in a match: Brad Haddin had a golden run of six Tests, between January 2012 and August 2013, in which he dismissed five or more batsmen. He dismissed 36 batsmen during this run. He dismissed four batsmen in the Test before and four and five batsmen in the two Tests afterwards. Geraint Jones matched this sequence of six Tests in 2006, dismissing 35 batsmen during this run. Wally Grout and Adam Gilchrist had five such Tests each during 1961 and 2004 respectively.

Players

Consecutive Tests: Cook had a sequence of 159 consecutive Tests. He scored 60 and 104 not out in his debut Test in Nagpur in 2006. Then he made 17 and 2 in Mohali. He did not play the Mumbai Test; that followed, but came back to the team at Lord's and played in England's next 159 Tests. Border played his first Test at the MCG in 1978. He scored 29 and 0. In the next two Tests his scores were 60*, 45*, 11 and 1. He was inexplicably dropped for the next Test, but came back to the MCG and played in Australia's next 153 Tests. These two are Bradmanesque distances away from the other batsmen. Gavaskar played in 106 consecutive Tests and Mark Waugh in 107 Tests.

Consecutive Tests through their entire career: Note the subtle difference. These players were never dropped and never missed a single Test. Brendon McCullum played 101 consecutive Tests, which formed his entire career. Similarly, Gilchrist played in 96 Tests, which was his entire career. Real giants indeed - on either side of the Tasman Sea.

Miscellaneous trivia

Test cricket is 143 years old. An almost perfect halfway mark can be found on August 18, 1948, the day Don Bradman said farewell to Test cricket. A very memorable day indeed. The halves are just over 71 years long. If one compares the two halves, 303 Tests were played in the first half and over 2087 Tests in the second half. The first half saw five triple-hundred scores and the second, 26. There were two scores of 299, one in each half. Surprisingly, there were six 15-wicket match hauls in the first half and six in the second half. There were two team innings of 900-plus, one in each half. There were two scores of 30 or lower in the first half and one in the second half. In all these occurrences, the first half seems to take the lead. The 400, 456 and ten wickets in an innings (twice) are the pluses for the second half.

There have been three long breaks in Test cricket. The First World War saw a break of 2483 days. The Second World War saw a break of 2411 days. And now, the Covid-19 enforced break lasted 127 days. We necessarily have to exclude the initial years when the first five Tests were played in 1877, 1877, 1879, 1880 and 1882. Regular schedules started after that.

The longest-standing important records are as follows:

  • The 81 run-aggregate in two innings record - the lowest in a Test when the batting team has lost 20 wickets - by South Africa has stood for 31,994 days and counting

  • The 26-run innings score record by New Zealand - the lowest in an all-out innings - has stood for 23,877 days and counting

  • Nineteen wickets in a match by Jim Laker has stood for 23,387 days and counting

  • 456 runs in a Test by Graham Gooch has stood for 10,967 days and counting

  • 952 runs - the record innings total by Sri Lanka has stood for 8404 days and counting

  • 400 runs in an innings by Brian Lara has stood for 5961 days (12/4/2004) and counting

On the other hand:

  • The last two-day Test was played around 790 days back (in June 2018)

  • The last 300 was scored around 250 days back (in November 2019)

  • The last Test hat-trick came around 180 days back (in February this year)

This shows that triple-hundreds and hat-tricks are always around the corner. But maybe not two-day Tests. However, no one is going to take 20 wickets in a Test or score 401 in an innings in a hurry. No team is going to fold up for 25, although Australia desperately tried to achieve this at Newlands a few years back.

No bowler has taken 18 wickets in a Test. No bowler has conceded 198 runs in a Test spell. Similarly no batsman in Test cricket has scored 229. No team has won by eight or nine or 15 or 43 runs. The most frequented hundred-plus score is 100. It has been reached 161 times. That may be because of teams declaring soon after their batsman reaches 100. It is no wonder that the score of zero has occurred no fewer than 10,601 times (12.5% - one out of eight innings) and 1477 of these were unbeaten zeros.

If any reader suggests a streak I've missed and I think that is a good one, I will incorporate those.

My next feature will be streaks in one-day cricket. The overall structure will be the same, but some aspects of the game special to ODIs will also be incorporated.

Email me with your comments and I will respond. This email id is to be used only for sending in comments.