Saturday, 3 December 2011

Tailend Tales

Rampaul on his way 
Everyone loves a tailender coming good.  Apart from the bowlers of course, and the fielders.  But those irrelevances aside when batsmen at the bottom of the order score big it is a cause for celebration.  It reconfirms belief in every club cricketer - 'If that clueless lump of nothing can knock off a few runs by using only one shot then so can I.'  It is life affirming.

In lower league cricket runs in the bottom half of the innings are gold dust.  In some teams that FB has graced runs in the top half of the order were gold dust too - but runs in the bottom half of the order are more goldy and more dusty.  A lower order batsman only needs to get a score once in his career and he can dine out on it for many a long year.  'Yes I got 23* last time out.............'  it doesn't matter that the bowlers were 8 year olds, his audience will expect and demand that they were 6' 8'' W Indians chucking it down at 90mph.  He should not disappoint them.

What the newly successful tailender must avoid is being promoted to a middle order position in the next match. The siren call will be hard to resist - it will appeal directly to a man's vanity - 'You got a few last week - you looked the thing - fancy number 5?' the skipper will whisper seductively.  But this seduction must be ignored.  But the tail ender who has contributed must resist he should demand to be put to the very bottom of the order.  He could say that he has forgotten his bat and his pads.  If possible he should get get injured while bowling or taking tea. If necessary he should feign injury - he could even attribute this injury to events while batting last week - 'Took one on the knee last week skip, don't think I can get onto the front foot.'  The fact that he has never ever played off the front foot in his career is neither here nor there.  This is a desperate situation.  For lightning will not strike twice and as his stumps are shattered by a straight one from a 9 year old, so too will his illusion of competence be shattered.  It can be too hard for a man to bear.  Feign injury.

Rampaul's knock yesterday was a top drawer tailender effort.  He scored 86* off 66 balls, with 6 6s and 6 4s (he likes the number of 6).  W Indies were in dire straits at 119 for 6 when he came in but ended the innings with a respectable 269 which included an undefeated partnership of 99 for the last wicket.  Prior to this effort Rampaul has batted 26 times in his 62 ODI matches with a highest score of 26* and an average of 9.47.  Sad to say Rampaul's heroics were in vain as India reached the required total with 11 balls to spare.

Saqlain acknowledges
his unlikely 100
The history of cricket has many stories of heroic tailenders.  The player with the lowest average ever to score a Test century is Pakistan's Saqlain Mushtaq.  In 78 test innings he scored 927 runs at 14.48.   The inventor of the doosra and one of the finest off spinners in the history of the game. Saqlain is the fastest bowler to achieve 100 wickets in ODIs.  But nothing was expected of him when he went to the crease.  Nevertheless in 2001 he scored 101* at Christchurch as Pakistan scored 571 for 8 dec.  It must have been a pretty flat wicket and perhaps Saqlain's main anxiety was getting through the night when he was left on 98 at the end of the fourth day.

Badcock is a Tasmanian hero and here is his memorial
The figures also show  Australian Jack Badcock as having one of the lowest averages among Test centurions.  In 1936-7 he made 118 against England at Melbourne.  In 12 Test innings he made only 160 runs - the highest proportion of a batsman's runs to be made in one innings for batsmen with 10 innings or more. Badcock was a prolific scorer outside Test matches and scored 7371 runs in First Class cricket at 51.54 and with 26 centuries.  But Badcock's Test career disappointed.   But he was not a tailender so, yet again, FB's thoughts have been distracted by some interesting numbers.

Gillespie celebrates
To return to tailenders, Jason Gillespie was genuinely a lower order batsman but one who could be relied on to stick around for a while.   In his 71 Test matches he averaged a respectable18.73 with 2 fifties.  He also scored 201* against Bangladesh in 2006 to give him an impressive difference in Test cricket between average and highest score. Not as impressive as Brian Lara's - 52.88 against 400 - but then he wasn't a tailender.

And finally, it is Zaheer Khan who has the highest Test score by a number 11 batsman when he scored 75 against Bangladesh in 2004. He batted with Sachin Tendulkar to put on 133 runs and set a new record of partnership for India’s tenth-wicket.

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