A record is a record

On day two of the Test between Zimbabwe and Australia, Matthew Hayden went on to post a magnificent 380 (38 x 4, 11 x 6) as Australia racked up 6/735. Adam Gilchrist hit a brilliant 113 from 94 balls (12 x 4, 4 x 6).

To put the dominance of Gilchrist and Hayden into perspective, consider that in the two completed sessions up to tea on day two, Australia scored 363 runs! That normally represents a good complete day’s work for Australia. And remember, that is for Australia. For the rest, 250-300 runs per day is the normal. In the recently completed Test between India and NZ, the scoring was about 260 per day.

Incredibly, both Hayden and Gilchrist scored centuries between lunch and tea. Hayden also scored a century in the final session the previous day. Cricinfo claims that Hayden is only the second batsman to score over 100 runs in two session of the same innings (Hammond being the first in 1932-33) but I believe that Bradman also did it in the first two sessions when he scored 334 in 1930.

Hayden hit a single from the last ball of the middle session to reach 376 – and break Brian Lara’s ten year old record. Steve Waugh ended speculation of a declaration at the tea break and sent the lads out after tea, presumably to allow Hayden to reach 400. He lasted three balls after tea, adding a boundary before holing out to part time off spinner, Trevor Gripper (which is a wonderful name for any sort of spin bowler, I think).

As could be expected, there has been a lot of talk about whether or not the strength of the opposition (or lack of) takes some shine from the record. I think the short answer is “no”. Perhaps it is a little hard to be too excited about beating or even flogging Zimbabwe but to score 380 runs in an innings, any innings, is incredible. And more so any Test innings. Hayden did not give a chance until he was 340. It should also be noted that Hayden made his century from 210 tens balls. The next 283 came from just 227 balls. That is a phenomenal rate of scoring, especially when sustained for that period of time. If the innings is broken down per 50 runs scored, the last five fifties were scored in 29 – 48 deliveries each.

I think Ian Healy evaluated it quite well. He made the point that when Lara made 375 against more noted opposition (England), he wasn’t too sure that England was a super power at that time (they had been recently thrashed by Australia in the 1993 Ashes series). And who could remember what teams were like in the long term. All that is remembered is the score. You could refer to Hammond’s score of 336 in 1932-33 (then the record) against New Zealand. How strong were New Zealand then? They certainly had not won a Test match at that point in time.

If you did want to evaluate the worth of an innings, you need to take into consideration the quality of the opposition and the quality of the pitch. I believe that they are the two main factors. You can do that by looking at other scores in the same innings and match. In this match, only one other player on either side (Gilchrist, 113*) reach 100. Hayden scored 52% of the total (with six wickets down).

When Lara scored his 375, he stood head an shoulders about his team mates – the next best score was 75*. He scored 63% of the team total (with five wickets down). England however, exactly equalled the West Indies total with 593 all out, with Smith (175) and Atherton (135) scoring well.

When Sobers scored 365*, he shared an enormous partnership with Conrad Hunt, who made 260. Pakistan had a century maker in each of its innings. Sobers score was 46% of the team total (with just three wickets down).

In Len Hutton’s 364 against Australia in 1938, other contributions in the same innings were 187 and 169. Australia failed dismally in both innings with the best innings being 69. It should be remembered that neither Fingleton nor Bradman batted in either innings and that the lads had chased the leather to the tune of 903 runs before swinging the willow in anger.

I won’t go on (but would like to) but the point is that in the matches where the next three best Test scores were made (and the trend does continue), there were other big scores (150 plus) made in the same match. And in most cases, quite a few. This is not the case with this match (which I acknowledge is partly because the Zimbabwe batting is so weak).

Finally, in all of Test cricket, there have been just 17 triple centuries. Since 1884, when Billy Murdoch scored the first Test double century, the record has been broken 8 times – that’s 8 times in 120 years. I have attached a list tracing the progression of the record from 1884. There have been 1661 Tests, which would conservatively represent 50,000 innings – how many of those were played against “weak” opposition?

In my opinion, Matthew Hayden’s score of 380 is worthy any and all the credit it receives.

Score,Player,Year,Team,Oppoment
380,Matthew Hayden,2003-04,Aust,Zimbabwe
375,Brian Lara,1993-94,West Indies,England
365*,Sir Garfield Sobers,1957-58,West Indies,Pakistan
364,Sir Len Hutton,1938,England,Aust
336*,Sir Walter Hammond,1932-33,England,NZ
334,Sir Donald Bradmad,1930,Aust,England
325,Andy Sandham,1929-30,England,West Indies
287,Reg Foster,1903-04,England,Aust
211,Billy Murdoch,1884,Aust,England

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