Wednesday, October 21, 2009

One-match Wonders

International cricket is littered with players who were only fortunate enough to represent their country on one occasion. As it currently stands, there are 386 One Test wonders, 173 One ODI wonders and 65 women have played just the solitary One Day International match. Of course, some may yet continue their international careers, but here we present a tribute to those cricketers who achieved the highest Reliance Mobile ICC Player Ranking after their fleeting moment in the sun.

Starting in the Test arena, there is a surprising name at the top of the list. Drafted into England’s team for the final Ashes match this summer, Jonathan Trott distinguished himself with 41 in the first innings before becoming the eighteenth Englishman to make a century on his Test debut second time around. That double enabled him to reach 445 points and 52nd place overall. Of course, when he plays his next Test – in all likelihood on England’s upcoming tour of South Africa – the record will revert to New Zealander Rodney Redmond, who reached 434 points after scoring 107 and 56 against Pakistan at Auckland in February 1973. He couldn’t adapt to wearing contact lenses and never represented his country again.

With the ball, it is far more clear cut. Charles “Father” Marriott was picked to play the final Test for England against the West Indies at The Oval in the summer of 1933. Things didn’t look so good when he was dismissed for a duck by Manny Martindale, but he roared back to take 5-37 and 6-59 with his leg-breaks as England triumphed by an innings and 17 runs. Marriott turned 38 before England toured India the following winter, but he wasn’t selected for any of the Tests and never played again. In a distant second place is Aubrey Smith – the only England captain to star in a Hollywood film with Elizabeth Taylor – who reached 262 points after taking seven wickets in England’s first-ever Test in South Africa in 1889.

The late 1980s and early 1990s was a time when the England selectors were notoriously fickle with their selections, so it is perhaps unsurprising that two more Englishmen top the respective lists in the shorter format of the game. Kim Barnett only played one ODI which was against Sri Lanka at The Oval in September 1988. His innings of 84 from 146 deliveries enabled England to chase down their target of 243 with fourteen balls to spare. He was rewarded with the man-of-the-match award and a Reliance Mobile ICC Player Ranking of 243, one point clear of Ashok Mankad who made 44 for India against England at The Oval in 1974.

For David “Syd” Lawrence, his career was very much a case of what might have been. Often considered too wild to be viable in limited overs cricket, he was playing just his fifth Test when his knee gave way against New Zealand at Wellington in early 1992 at the age of just twenty-eight. His solitary ODI came the previous summer against the West Indies at Lord’s when he took 4-67 in eleven overs in a West Indies total of 264-9. Graeme Hick and Neil Fairbrother added a memorable 213 as England cantered home by seven wickets. Lawrence achieved 211 points for his effort, clear of Lonwabo Tsotsobe’s 188 for his 4-50 against Australia at Perth this January.

Looking at the women’s game, the same player heads both batting and bowling charts. Patricia Whittaker made her only One Day International appearance for the West Indies against England at Worksop in July 1979. Her 3-36 in ten overs helped restrict the home side to 167-6 and she followed up with an unbeaten 40 to help her side to a narrow two-wicket victory with just two deliveries to spare. After that sole appearance her batting rating stood at 216 and her bowling rating 128. However, that was the Caribbean team’s last taste of international action until the Women’s World Cup 1993 and so thirty years on from her moment in the sun, Whittaker is still top of both tables.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Associating with the Best

It is a tough life being an Associate cricketer. Twenty-five representative teams have played official One Day Internationals, and it is often in just the major tournaments that the smaller nations have the opportunity to pitch themselves against the big boys. In that respect, it is especially hard for those players to make an impact on the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings as the matches they play are so few and far between. However, by virtue of their performances on the highest stage of all, some have managed to make their presence felt in the higher reaches of the tables.

Perhaps the greatest sustained performance by any Associate Member was Kenya’s staggering effort in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2003. Buoyed by victories over Canada, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, it reached the semi-finals before it was out-gunned by a Sourav Ganguly-inspired India at Durban. It was in that tournament that opening bowler Martin Suji achieved the highest-ever Rating by an Associate Member player. He ripped out the Zimbabwean top order at Bloemfontein on his way to figures of 3-19 in eight overs to set up a convincing seven-wicket triumph. By doing so, he lifted his bowling rating to 646 – good enough for twelfth place overall in a list headed by Shaun Pollock.

Suji’s team-mate Peter Ongondo is the only other Associate player to have reached the lofty heights of 600 points with either bat or ball. In October 2007, he sneaked up to 610 after taking 3-16 and 1-10 in consecutive victories against Bermuda in Nairobi. He is still hovering around the 500-point mark with young left-arm spinner Hiren Varaiya close behind him who could possibly be the man to challenge Suji’s long-standing record. Another one to watch is Kyle McCallan of Ireland who is also currently in the top fifty with the ball.

Moving to the batsmen, one player currently stands head and shoulders above the rest and that is the Netherland’s Ryan ten Doeschate. He reached 1,000 runs in One Day International cricket in just 23 innings – a feat only surpassed by Viv Richards and Kevin Pietersen – both of whom took twenty-one. He currently stands 32nd with the bat with 593 points – the second-highest by an Associate player in the history of the game only behind Zimbabwean David Houghton.

Long before Zimbabwe were elevated to Full Member status, its batsman/wicket-keeper achieved the giddy heights of 597 points and 29th position overall after making a half-century against New Zealand at Kolkata in the Cricket World Cup 1987. Third on that particular list comes Canadian tyro Rizwan Cheema, whose big-hitting to the tune of twenty-one sixes in just eleven ODIs saw him rise to 551 points and 39th overall in August this year. In fourth is Steve Tikolo – long regarded as possibly the finest batsman outside the Test arena. The mainstay of the Kenyan batting for more than a decade, he has been incredibly consistent over that period, peaking back in 1999 at 535 after an innings of 67 against South Africa at Nairobi.

One final word on ten Doeschate. Not content with achieving the highest-ever batting Rating by a Dutch player, his bowling Rating of 473 after he bowled his side to a narrow eight-run victory over Afghanistan at Amsterdam this August is also the current national record. This unique double is without parallel for any of the other countries to play ODI cricket.

So we should celebrate these fine cricketers who – despite limited exposure to big-time cricket – have put together some great performances and thrilled crowds around the world.