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Strength to strength – sports


IannBroadly speaking, Freddie Trueman was right when, on claiming the record for most Test wickets, he volunteered: “Any booger who passes that mark will be bluddy tired.” West Indies off-spinner Lance Gibbs eventually broke Trueman’s record of 307 Test wickets. It took him 27,000 deliveries and his reward was a huge carbuncle on his spinning finger, so presumably he was sore as well as tired.

Since then, the record has been stretched to 800 wickets (which would have been thought of as unattainable in Trueman’s day) by Sri Lankan off-spinner, Muttiah Muralitharan. Murali deserved to be tired—it took him a mammoth 44,000-plus deliveries.

As an indication of how unlikely that record is, the former Australian fast bowler Rodney Hogg wrote that Shane Warne, who was only just beginning his first-class career, would claim 500 Test wickets. He was writing for The Truth, a Melbourne newspaper, and the editor sacked him for such a reckless prediction: “That’s ridiculous,” he claimed, “no one will take 500 Test wickets.”

Super club

Warne finished his career with 708 victims. With Stuart Broad’s recent ascension, there are now seven members of the 500 wicket club; three spinners followed by four faster bowlers. To achieve that landmark, Broad has delivered in excess of 28,000 balls but in defiance of Trueman’s prediction, he seems to be going from strength to strength.

In an era of stringent media training, Broad’s interview following his omission from England’s first Test side was refreshingly honest. He didn’t lambast the selectors, he just expressed his disappointment and then proceeded to display why, in the next two Tests, they were wrong.

Any selector worth the title should be delighted at such a positive player reaction to an omission.

Capturing his 500th Test wicket was a particularly satisfying part of Broad proving his point. Incredibly, the victim was Kraigg Brathwaite, the same player that his partner in bowling excellence, Jimmy Anderson, dismissed to reach his milestone. In contrast to Anderson’s fulfilling achievement [a bowled dismissal at Lord’s in front of an appreciative crowd], Broad reached his milestone in muted circumstances—a ground devoid of fans with only his grateful teammates to applaud his laudable achievement.

However, there was one mitigating factor. Thanks to the vagaries of cricket in the COVID-19 era, his father, former Test batsman Chris, was the match referee and consequently he was able to enjoy the moment with his son.

Isn’t that the game of cricket? Isn’t that sport in general? It takes on the one hand and gives on the other.

The seven members of the 500 Test wickets club are an eclectic group of bowlers; two leggies, an off-spinner, a swing bowler and three seamers. The one missing ingredient is an out and out speed merchant, which is probably an indication of how tough on the body that is as an occupation.

Of the group, Broad has the best average for his premier haul in Test cricket; a minuscule 1.88 for his 8-15 against Australia. However, Indian leg spinner Anil Kumble has the honour of a record that won’t be broken; he was the first member of the group—and currently the only one—to have taken all 10 wickets in an innings.

Muralitharan has two records that will likely never be beaten. He has an incredible 67 five-wicket hauls and an almost equally amazing 22 10-wicket matches. Warne is next on the list with a far distant 37 and 10 respectively.

Extreme exertion

The four seamers in the club have all taken three 10-wicket match hauls, which is probably an indication of the extreme physical exertion required to achieve such a feat. Even Trueman, never one to hide his light under a bushel, only achieved three 10-wicket hauls.

It’d be interesting to hear the response if ‘Fiery’ Fred was around today: “Eh Fred, young Broad equalled one of your records.

“Oh aye but it took him 13,000 more deliveries to bluddy do it,” might well be the expurgated version.

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