Michel Wood is here to celebrate the unsung heroes of Chennai. Who really didn’t catch the eye?
Amongst all the hokey cokey selection narratives bandied about after second Test, there is one aspect of the match that has been criminally neglected. Whilst players, commentators and pundits ignore it, any club cricketer must surely be asking the same burning question: who deserved the coveted ‘thanks for coming’ award?
The second Test’s contenders must include Dom Sibley’s return of 19 runs, Rory Burn’s 25, and Stuart Broad’s 20 wicketless overs. All these candidates jostled hard for the game’s worst performance, sticking their head manfully above the parapet.
Joe Root, with a huge score already in the series, was the real dark horse. “Yes! Here we go, I’m in this!” he must have thought as the surface spat on the first morning. And credit to him, he really threw his hat in the ring with six in the first innings and then desperately trying to get out lbw on the third evening. If you want a job done properly and all that.
Who says the winner needs to come from the losing side though? Why assume that in a winning team everyone plays a part. Not contributing in any noteworthy way during a side’s win but leading the celebrations afterwards is a skill in itself, one familiar to any specialist number eight batsman at club level. ‘Thanks for coming’ awards should not just be about bad performances; they should be awarded for non-existent performances as well.
Siraj came closest in this last Test, bowling only eight overs and getting out for four in the first innings, heroically lasting four minutes. He then ruined things for himself by carelessly hitting two gorgeous sixes second time around. He also snagged Ollie Pope down the leg-side with his first ball of the match. That’s no way to go unnoticed. To really stand out, you have to be so discreet that even statisticians struggle to remember that you were playing.
In recent history, there is only one man whose performance stands head and shoulders above the rest – a man so committed to going under the radar that even on his birthday, he was overshadowed by others. Let’s set the scene …
England were playing India at Lord’s in August 2018. The rain was relentless. The whole of the first day was washed out. Chris Woakes scored a century as England dominated in conditions as alien to Indian players as to those facing England currently. But forget that, because this Test was really only about one man: Adil Rashid.
India batted first in the rain and Rashid was not required to bowl. Fair enough, that can happen. When England batted, the top order scored plenty and Rashid was not required again. Then England’s seamers wrapped up the game by an innings the following day. Again, poor Adil was not required. He had neither batted nor bowled a single ball in the entire match.
To make things even sweeter, he was fielding at mid-on for most of the Test. He looked a natural competition winner. With the TV cameras ignoring him, he had also found a great fielding position to avoid too much scrutiny from the crowd. Rarely have I heard spectators turn each other in awe, “bloody hell, who is that fielding out of their skin at mid-on!” No need for any Jonty Rhodes dives here. With the ball zipping around like a post-lockdown 8 year old, you could hand a medal to any batsman who struck it purposefully to mid-on.
Staggeringly though, at one point Rashid was called upon to take a simple catch. The result? He lost the ball in the sun and it dropped behind him as he flapped his arms around. No need to trouble the scorers there either.
Any top order batsman can nick off for a duck early on. Any bowler can have a bad day at the office. What really sorts the wheat from the chaff when it comes to ‘thanks for coming’ performances, however, is not even having an opportunity to participate.
Will Rashid’s effort ever be replicated? I am certainly going to keep my eye out. Any idiot can score centuries and take 5-fers. It takes a true genius to pick up a match fee at elite level after doing nothing at all.
I am not sure about test cricket, but there was an Essex v Yorkshire match in which TPB Smith of Essex did not bat, did not bowl, and had not touched the ball in the field until the very last ball of the game, when fortunately for him he was still alert enough to accept the chance offered by Hedley Verity.
Greg Loveridge, Kiwi leg spinner. In his only test match (vs Zimbabwe) in 1996 he retired hurt on 4 with a fractured knuckle & took no further part in the match, and was never picked again.
Of course these days he’s a multi-millionaire property developer so things could be worse …
Ha! Wonder what Monty Lynch is up to these days?
Didn’t Chris Schofield do a Rashid? He’d be my shout.
Jack MacBryan of Somerset and – briefly – England. Didn’t bat in his only Test match when it got ruined by rain in 1924. Still he lived to 90 & died as England’s oldest Test player.
Enjoyable read! My vote goes to Broad when you also factor in his first innings duck leaving foakes stranded.
Yes it’s extraordinary how he comes in sometimes and just heaves across the line first ball, especially given that he can actually bat much better than Leach or Stone.
Stone facing Ashwin was pure comedy.
How about Gavin Hamilton’s only Test?
So legendary this has become a go to question in any sports Quiz.
Very enjoyable read this one and excellently written I must say.
As a frequent recipient of the thanks for coming award, I have to bow down to the brilliance of Adil in that test match. An outstanding performance.
Gladstone Small’s 21 ball over still takes some beating. Have never seen a player before or since lose his run up to the extent he finished his over bowling off 5 yards and still struggling. Next match he played as though nothing had happened. Amazing what tricks the mind can play.
My winner of “best named Test cricketer” Percy Twentyman-Jones made a pair in his only Test.
At the other end of the scale, the two seamers who bowled most in a Test were Neil Gordon and Chud Langton in the Durban ‘timeless test’. Gordon went on to the first Test cricketer to live to a hundred whereas Langton was dead within three years, killed in a plane crash.
I think there was an Australian player many moons ago who on debut, was run out without facing a ball and didn’t bowl. He never played again.
As a keen cricket statistician this did make me chuckle!
Enjoyable read! So now I know why at school I batted ten or eleven, never bowled, and was plonked at mid on (or occasionally fine leg) in the field. Sob.
I’d go for Alan Wells, golden duck then a 3 not out in his only test
I thought the whole series was a thanks for coming to Rashid until he knocked off KL Rahul with a ripper
To the author. I have not read your work before but I will certainly read your next effort. Brilliantly perverse
Interesting article. I guess at the other end of the spectrum would be Gary Pratt !!!
As always an interesting article