Thinking about unGoogleable questions and cricket

Please note: Unless you’re a complete cricket statto nerd, this post is unlikely to be of the slightest interest to you. [Updated following comments. See below].

Many years ago, I used to take pleasure in setting questions that were hard to answer via Google.

My favourite example was this: In Test cricket, we are currently playing Test numbers 2197 and 2198. In each Test, we can have up to 44 “completed innings”, if all 11 players bat twice. So we have, as of today, a maximum of 2198×44 or close to 100,000 individual “completed innings” scores. In practice the total number of completed innings is much lower, probably closer to 50,000.

The lowest possible completed innings is 0. The highest achieved so far is Brian Lara’s 400. All the other innings completed so far are somewhere between 0 and 400.

Now imagine you have a Bingo card with all the numbers from 0 to 400. Imagine every completed innings to be a number called at the bingo session.

My unGoogleable question used to be: What is the lowest unscratched number on the card? But since I’ve written about it years ago, the answer is  now easily discoverable. It’s 229. No batsman has ended a Test innings on 229 thus far.

Obviously this number moves. The last time it moved was when Herschelle Gibbs scored 228 almost exactly thirteen years ago.

When Gibbs scored 228, there were one hundred and seventeen unscratched numbers between 228 and 400.

This past year, 2015, was a bumper year for scratches. We lost 245 to Shoaib Malik, 263 to Alastair Cook, 269 to Adam Voges and 290 to Ross Taylor.

Here’s what has happened since Gibbs’ 228:

  • 2003: Hayden scratches 280
  • 2004: Tendulkar lays aside 241 and 248; Atapattu flays 249; Sehwag takes out 309; Jayasuriya removes 253; and Lara blasts 400. A record year, six scratched.
  • 2005: Gayle hammers 317
  • 2006: Jayawardene slams 374
  • 2007: A fallow year
  • 2008: Sehwag (again!) takes out 319
  • 2009: Sehwag (yet again!) demolishes 293 and Younis does the same to 313
  • 2010: Another fallow year
  • 2011: Cook (who also shone last year) erases 294
  • 2012: Fallow
  • 2013: Fallow
  • 2014: Fallow (though Sangakkara doubled up Sehwag’s 319)
  • 2015: 245 (Shoaib) 263 (Cook) 269 (Voges) 290 (Taylor) disappear

So, since Herschelle Gibbs hit his 228, we’ve seen seventeen of the unscratched go, four last year alone.

Just one hundred more to go.

14 thoughts on “Thinking about unGoogleable questions and cricket”

  1. Yes, Tom Graveney did it first in 1957, a few months before I was born. And then Seymour Nurse did it in 1969, coincidentally someone who played in the first Test I ever went to, the 66-67 Second Test between India and West Indies at Eden Gardens. Stokes was the third person.

  2. I wonder what the number would be if you replaced “Test cricket” by all “first-class cricket” – somewhere between 0 and 501. First question – has every possible score below 300 been achieved at least once.

  3. Peter, I believe so. As far as I can make out, the lowest score yet to be achieved in recognised first-class cricket is 326.
    That’s then followed by 330, 346, 347, 348, 349, 354, 358, 360-363, 367, 368, 370-373, 376, 378, 379, 381, 382, 384, 387-389, 391-399.

    I did not check beyond 400, but it’s easy to do so. I have a list of all first-class quadruple centuries.
    Hope that helps.

  4. Excellent, JP, that’s an amazingly quick response! So, I guess the follow-on question is “For the first-class data set, who played the role of Herschelle Gibbs, when, and with what score”, In other words, when was the last time what you might call the “complete sequence” – the set of scores all of which have been achieved – was extended. I know it wasn’t 325, for example, because that goes back at least to Andy Sandham, with his then-Test-record in the West Indies in 1930.

  5. Thinking about it, I don’t KNOW that it wasn’t Sandham with his 325. It just seems excessively unlikely that every score between 0 and 324 had been achieved before 1930.

  6. Peter, the unbroken sequence in first-class cricket has developed beyond 300 as follows:

    302: 1920: Holmes, Yorkshire at Portsmouth
    307: 1962-63: Cowdrey, England at Adelaide
    320: 1987-88: Lamba, North Zone at Bhilai
    326: ….

  7. JP, that is totally amazing. Not the data itself, which is interesting enough but that your cricket stats wizardry is equal to the task of retrieving it. Thanks!

    On the side, it’s interesting that every score below 302 had already been achieved before my fellow Yorkshireman Percy Holmes made this score in 1920.

  8. I must confess that I did the grunt work on everything past 299 myself, but took as granted the statement I read that everything before then had been done earlier. I must verify that “by hand” before it can be taken as gospel.

  9. JP, I have to confess I love both cricket and stats so this is right up my street. I couldn’t resist taking a look at the stats myself and the possibilities are endless… the longest standing test score above 200 to be be crossed off by only one player – 251 Wally Hammond in 1928. The highest test score above 200 to be crossed off by more than three players – 270 by 4 players (Headley, Bradman, Dravid, Sangakkara). I also note that 8 poor batsman have been out on 199 (including Smith in 2015) and 2 even unluckier batsman have been not out 199* (Sangakkara and Flower) although both have scored 200’s in other games.

    By the way did you see this – Pranav Dhanawade a 15 year old teenager from Mumbai who scored 1009 not out in a team total of 1,465. The opposition only scored 31 in reply!

  10. I note that Inzamam-ul-Haq wiped out 329 in 2002, so he beat Clarke to it (ten years later 2012). I believe 2004 also saw 253 being crossed off by Jayasuriya so I think that makes 2004 even more of a record year in recent times with 6 gone, only surpassed by 1930 when 7 were crossed off! Ok end of sadness…

  11. Thank you James. In both cases my search yielded the “not out” score’s original date rather than the “out” version of that score, my bad. I stand corrected. I will change the body of the text accordingly.

  12. JP
    I’m Firoze Kapadia of the 1967 Batch of St Xavier’s School, Kolkata. Our Batch is planning a Golden Jubilee Reunion in 2017 and we are searching globally for our Classmates. One of them is Alfred Stephens of SC B 1967. While googling, I notice from your blog that Alfred’s brother, James Stephens had posted some comments way back in November 2008.

    Please help with the email ID of James Stephens so that we may reach his brother and our classmate Alfred.


    Firoze Kapadia

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