Some Fun Facts From the Annals of Cricket History
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? Here are a few mind-blowing cricketing tales from the days of yore.
1. Cricket dates back to at least 1550, and potentially much further than that.
(A History of Cricket)
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when cricket became a thing. It’s likely that cricket evolved over centuries from a children’s game of hitting a rock with a stick to the fully fledged sport we love today. That’s why it’s so hard to answer questions like “Where did cricket originate?”
2. Australian Charles Bannerman scored the first ever test century against England at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 1877.
The first ever test match featured the first ever century! Opening the batting in the first innings, Bannerman made 165, which was two-thirds of his team’s total score. The Englishmen couldn’t get him out, and he eventually retired hurt. It was a fitting metaphor for his career; Bannerman would play just two more tests before his career was cut short by illness.
3. The cricket origin of the sport’s greatest rivalry dates back to a satirical newspaper article from 1882.
England v Australia has always been the biggest fixture on the cricketing calendar, ever since the two nations played the first test match in 1877. But when Australia won its first match on English soil in 1882, the rivalry really picked up.
The Sporting Times published a tongue-in-cheek obituary suggesting that English cricket had died, its body would be cremated, and its ashes would be taken to Australia. Thanks to that melodramatic declaration, every subsequent England v Australia cricket series has been known as “The Ashes.”
4. WG Grace – arguably the man who invented cricket in its current form – played only 22 test matches and averaged just 32.29 with the bat.
With his huge bushy beard and a first-class career spanning a staggering 43 years, Dr WG Grace was cricket’s first superstar. His 54,000+ runs and 124 first-class centuries are the stuff of legend.
But despite these illustrious achievements, Grace – who played until he was 60 years old – had an underwhelming test career by today’s standards; he scored only 1,098 runs and two centuries. It’s worth remembering that in Grace’s era, scores were typically much lower, and the logistics of organising international matches were frightening.
5. Test matches used to be played without any time limits.
When people ask “How does cricket work?” they’re often shocked to discover that test matches can last up to five days. Well, until World War II, things were even crazier. Many early test matches were played without time limits, meaning that the two teams would play on indefinitely until they reached a result.
The ridiculousness of this system was exposed in 1939 when England toured South Africa. After 12 days, the match had to be abandoned lest the English players miss their ship home.
Since then, the rules of cricket have been changed so that any match that lasts five days without a result is declared a draw.
Test Cricket Statistics From the 20th Century
There’s no doubt in any aficionado’s mind that the 20th century was the golden age of test cricket. This was the century when cricket as a sport evolved from a niche game played by fancy people in England and Australia to an obsession for working-class people in countries like India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, South Africa, and the islands of the Caribbean.
Bradman, Sobers, Hadlee, Dev, Botham, Khan… many of the greatest cricket players of all time plied their trade during the 20th century. Here are some stories from that memorable era.
6. Jack Hobbs was one of the most famous English cricketers of all time. He remains the most prolific first-class batsman in history, having scored 199 centuries between 1905 and 1934.
Like WG Grace, Hobbs is a legendary cricketing figure whose career would have looked even more impressive had he lived in an age when international travel wasn’t so darn difficult. His test career – during which he scored 15 centuries at an average of over 56 – was remarkable at the time, but it’s his first-class results that really tell the story.
Hobbs scored a staggering 199 centuries and 61,760 runs, two cricketing records that might never be broken.
7. The first man to play 100 tests was awarded a peerage for his efforts.
Over the course of his 67 years, Colin Cowdrey – or should we say Baron Cowdrey of Tonbridge – went from a childhood among the tea plantations of India to being accepted into the highest echelons of British society.
He did so on the back of a remarkable 114-test career that spanned 1954 to 1975, during which he scored 7,624 runs at an average of 44.06. Cowdrey was the first cricketer to play 100 test matches and remains in the top 50 for matches played nearly half a century later.
8. From the origins of cricket to the present day, there have only been two tied test matches. Both took place in the 20th century.
In test cricket, a tie occurs when both teams end up with the same number of runs after both have completed their two innings. For this to happen, the final batsman has to be dismissed while the scores are level.
Of the nearly 2,400 tests that have been played, only two have been tied, so it’s no wonder that both have been immortalised in cricketing folklore. Australia’s cricket team was involved in both ties: against the West Indies in 1960 and India in 1986.
9. Cricket attendance statistics peaked in the 20th century and were particularly strong before the era of televised matches.
Imagine a sporting event attended by a million people. Well, the 1936-37 Ashes series in Australia got agonisingly close, with a total of 943,000 fans watching the cricket live over five matches. It’s no surprise crowds were so large; Australia came from 2-0 down to win the series 3-2 in the cricketing equivalent of a cliffhanger.
During that series, the Melbourne Cricket Ground saw the biggest crowd for an individual test match: 350,534 people. However, India and Pakistan smashed that record in 1999 with an estimated 465,000 people attending the match in Calcutta.
ODI and T20 Cricket Stats and Facts
Okay, we’ll admit it; we’ve been focusing exclusively on test cricket up to this point. But if you watch cricket nowadays, you’re probably as mad about the limited-overs forms of the game as you are about test cricket.
With colourful uniforms and frantic scoring, one-day international cricket took the sporting world by storm in the 1970s. Under these new cricket rules, fans could enjoy fast-paced matches that always produced a result within one day. This shortened version of the game also allowed for more condensed tours and international tournaments like the World Cup.
Even if you’re aware of the history of ODI cricket, you might be asking yourself: “When was T20 cricket invented?” Fast-forward 30 years to 2004, when the game’s third and most popular format – Twenty20 – was born at Lord’s, the spiritual home of cricket in London.
Thanks to this three-hour version of the game, fans can now enjoy live cricket ball by ball on any weeknight after work. Lucrative T20 leagues like the Indian Premier League and the Big Bash in Australia attract the world’s best players and generate a lot of money for all involved.
Read on for some interesting facts and anecdotes about limited-overs cricket.
10. Where did ODI cricket originate? Amazingly, the limited-overs game was invented by accident in 1971.
Cricket really is the only sport that could accidentally invent a version of itself. The one-day game came to be during England’s tour of Australia in 1970-71, when weather conditions for the Melbourne test were so appalling that the first three days had to be cancelled.
Realising that there was no chance of squeezing a full test into two days, the captains reached a gentleman’s agreement to play a one-day match of 40 eight-ball overs per side. Australia won on the day, but cricket was the winner in the long run!
11. Mitchell Starc has dominated cricket World Cup statistics in recent years, having taken the most wickets of any player in both the 2014-15 and 2019 editions.
(Cricket World Cup)
When it’s World Cup time, Mitch Starc shines. The fiery left-arm quick claimed 22 wickets on home soil during the 2014-15 tournament at a ridiculous average of 10.18, helping Australia to its fifth World Cup victory.
He followed that up four years later by taking another 27 wickets at 18.59. It just goes to show that in knockout tournaments, there’s no substitute for genuine pace and aggression.
12. Speaking of World Cup facts and trivia, here’s one to break New Zealand hearts: An umpiring mistake might have cost the Black Caps the 2019 World Cup.
Interesting facts about cricket don’t get any more depressing than this if you’re a Kiwi. After 50 overs each, England and New Zealand were tied on 241 runs apiece. On the third-last ball, Ben Stokes hit Trent Boult for two runs.
But as Stokes lunged towards safety, the ball took a one-in-a-million deflection and ran to the boundary for four more runs. England was awarded six runs for the shot, but because the batsmen hadn’t crossed before the fielder threw the ball, it should’ve been five. Would New Zealand have held on if it weren’t for this mistake? We’ll never know.
13. Forget about his mediocre test cricket statistics; Lasith Malinga is a legend of short-form cricket, having taken five hat tricks in limited-overs international matches.
The mop-haired Sri Lankan paceman – affectionately known as “The Slinger” for his round-arm bowling action – has taken more ODI (three) and T20I (two) hat tricks than any other bowler.
What’s more, in two of those five hat tricks, Malinga managed to take four wickets in four balls. Rashid Khan from Afghanistan is the only other bowler in the history of the game to have taken four wickets in four consecutive balls. At just 21 years old and with 89 career wickets to his name already, Khan is poised to surpass Malinga’s record of 107 T20I wickets very soon.
Contemporary Facts About Cricket
If the 20th century was the golden age of cricket, the 21st century will be remembered as the era when the game reinvented itself. The birth of the IPL and T20 cricket has changed the way we see cricket, encouraging fast-paced and more inventive play that appeals to the masses.
The increased ease of international travel means that many more test match cricket games – and ODIs and T20Is – can now be played each year. As a result, many long-standing records have been broken since the turn of the century.
14. Sir Alastair Cook has broken several England cricket records, including those for the most matches played and the most runs scored in test matches.
Of all the English cricket players in the 21st century, none has left quite as deep an impression as Alastair Cook. The left-handed opening batsman arrived on the scene as a baby-faced 21-year-old and retired as a baby-faced 33-year-old. In the interim he notched up 12,472 test runs in 161 matches, both of which are records among those who have played the national sport of England.
15. Despite only becoming an ICC affiliate member in 2001, Afghanistan is today one of the top 10 cricket teams in the world.
(International Cricket Council)
Afghanistan’s rise as a cricketing nation is as inspiring as it has been meteoric. Not even 20 years ago, the country was absolutely unknown in the cricketing world. Today, Afghanistan’s men’s team is ranked in the top 10 in all three formats of the game and features some of the world’s best players, including leg spinner Rashid Khan and all-rounder Mohammad Nabi.
In 2019, Afghanistan broke new ground by claiming its first test victory and competing in the ODI World Cup for the first time.
16. In 2020, just weeks before the COVID-19 lockdown, Pakistan’s Naseem Shah became the youngest bowler in the history of cricket to take an international hat trick.
Shah was only 16 years old when he broke this record – three years younger than Bangladeshi spinner Alok Kapali, who had held the record since 2003, when he took a test hat trick at 19.
Fittingly, the Pakistani paceman’s brilliant three-ball burst came against Bangladesh in Rawalpindi. Shah’s hat trick brought joy to millions of Pakistani cricket fans who had been starved of international cricket on home soil for 10 years as a consequence of a 2009 terrorist attack against the visiting Sri Lanka team.
17. Shane Warne holds a number of cricket test records, including being the first man to 700 wickets and scoring the most runs without making a century.
(Guinness World Records)
There’s never been a more colourful Australia cricket player than Warnie. The tubby leg spinner with the blond locks was as brilliant on the field as he was idiotic off it. While his achievements include taking more than 1,000 wickets in international cricket and being voted one of the five Wisden Cricketers of the Century, his list of notorious scandals is equally impressive.
Performance-enhancing drugs, shady meetings with bookies, sexting affairs – Warnie has done it all. That’s why it’s somehow fitting that despite making 3,154 test runs, Warne’s top score in an individual innings was 99.
Obscure Cricket Facts for True Fans
If you’ve spent this much time reading our article, we’re assuming that you’re a true cricket tragic. You know that Don Bradman averaged 99.94, and Murali took 800 test wickets. You came here for something even more interesting.
We feel you. That’s why we’ve wracked our brains and scoured the web to include some of the wackiest, most surprising cricket info out there in the section below. If you really want to know all about cricket, read on and enjoy!
18. There was a cricketer with a better test batting average than Don Bradman.
Wait, what?? Any cricket fan worth their salt knows that Don Bradman was the greatest batsman of all time and that he had the highest average of all time. Except he didn’t, technically. You see, while the Don had that famous average of 99.94,
West Indian Andy Ganteaume actually finished his career with a test batting average of 112. His secret? Ganteaume only ever batted in one test innings. After scoring 112, Ganteaume was dropped for scoring too slowly and never got recalled.
As far as cricket fun facts go, there are perhaps none more surprising than learning that the Don doesn’t actually have the greatest average of all time. However, if we were picking an all-star team of history’s greatest players for a one-off cricket game, we’d choose Don over Andy any day, despite that 12-run difference!
19. In test cricket, Jacques Kallis had a better batting average than Sachin Tendulkar and a better bowling average than Zaheer Khan.
Tendulkar and Khan are two of India’s most celebrated cricketers. But a search of any cricket statistics database will show that Kallis has them covered on both fronts. The portly South African all-rounder sits third on the all-time test runs tally, having scored 13,289 runs at an average of 55.37.
But people forget that Kallis was also an accomplished bowler – his 292 wickets at 32.65 rivals the achievements of many well-known bowlers. The only other all-rounder with similarly impressive statistics is West Indian legend Sir Garfield Sobers (8,032 runs at 57.78, 235 wickets at 34.03).
20. Despite being known as a bowler, Indian spinner Ravindra Jadeja has scored three first-class triple-centuries.
If you look at cricket statistics over the past 20 years, you’ll agree that Ravi Jadeja is one of the unluckiest cricketers of his era.
Despite having taken more than 200 test wickets at an excellent average as a left-arm spinner, as well as being a very capable batsman and a gun fielder, Jadeja often gets left out of the Indian team in favour of other spinners like Ravichandran Ashwin or Kuldeep Yadav.
Consider that, at first-class level in India, Jadeja has a high score of 331 and two other triple-centuries, and you might be left scratching your head.
21. When it comes to bowling in test matches, two of the four best cricket figures of all time were taken by debutants.
(Times of India)
It seems crazy that, in a sport that has been played for nearly 150 years, two of the top four bowling performances of all time have come from young men playing their first test matches.
Australian left-arm pace bowler Bob Massie started the trend in 1972 when he took an incredible eight wickets in each innings to finish with match figures of 16/137 on debut. Enter 19-year-old Indian spinner Narendra Hirwani, who went one run better by taking 16/136 in 1988.
22. Merv Hughes’ test hat trick took three overs and two days to complete.
This is one of our favourite facts about cricket. Due to a quirk in the way cricket scores are recorded, it’s possible for a bowler to bowl three consecutive balls – and take three consecutive wickets – across three different overs. Australian paceman Merv Hughes did exactly that in a cricket game against the West Indies in 1988.
Hughes dismissed Curtley Ambrose with the last ball of his over, then picked up Patrick Patterson with the first ball of his next over. That wicket ended the Windies’ first innings. A day later, with his first ball of the second innings, Hughes trapped Gordon Greenidge LBW. Three balls, three wickets – nice hat trick, Merv!
23. The man with the highest T20I score on debut plays for… Serbia!
(Serbian Cricket Federation)
It’s true! The international cricket background changed forever in 2019 when even the weakest ICC affiliate nations were granted full recognition every time they played T20 international matches. That has led to non-cricketing nations holding some undesirable world records, like most wides in a match and the lowest team total.
However, cricketing minnows have also claimed some memorable T20I world records. One of those is held by Serbia’s Adrian Dunbar, who made 104 not out on debut against Bulgaria in 2019. Although he got a duck in his only other international innings, we’re fairly sure Dunbar’s average of 104 is the highest of any T20I batsman. No pressure, mate!