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Watch out for Ga'y'le Force Winds!
by Venu Palaparthi
May 06, 2005
When Chris Gayle belted a triple ton during the 4th test against South Africa, he became the fourth player from West Indies after Lawrence Rowe, Garry Sobers and Brian Lara to score a triple ton. Prior to his spectacular return to form, Gayle scored just 12 runs from 4 innings against South Africa.

Justin Langer recalled after watching him play: "I can't remember seeing a player hit the ball so hard or so far. Tall and strong, he stood upright and flayed the ball to all parts of the boundary." That is a nice turnaround for a player who has been called “laid back to the point of being horizontal!”

Gayle, who is often blamed for lacking focus as well as failing to move his feet, has acknowledged the role of that other famous West Indies triple centurion, Sir Garry. I've been working hard with Sir Garry Sobers," he said.

"We've done a lot in the nets and thanks to him it's paid off. It's all about balance at the crease and he has taught me a lot of things. Hopefully I can carry on from here and look for more big scores like these. I widened my stance a bit and feel a bit more balanced. Thanks to him it has paid off. In this game, I tried to be as still as possible."

[I cannot resist this chance to shamelessly plug www.pavilionshop.com, which sells DVD’s of both the Brian Lara’s triples and some exclusive footage of Sir Donald Bradman. All in USA NTSC format!]

Reverting to my role as a writer that is uncorrupted by selling opportunities, here is a look at some other triple centuries compiled by Gulu Ezekiel -

Andy Sandham: Better known as Sir Jack Hobbs’ opening partner for Surrey (with whom he shared in 66 century stands), Sandham was an unlikely candidate for gaining the honour of being the first to score a test triple century. The innings of 325 came in the fourth and final test at Kingston, Jamaica in April 1930 against a bowling attack far short of international standard.

Using a borrowed bat and shoes, Sandham added 50 runs in the second innings. The English team, led by FSG Calthorpe for whom this was the first and last series was more like a veterans outfit with two players over 50 and three over 40. Sandham himself was just three months shy of his 40th birthday. It also happened to be the final test match of his brief (14 tests) career.

England scored 849 in their first innings but the match ended in a draw after nine days as the tourists had to catch their ship home!

Don Bradman: Just three months after Sandham, Australian the batting legend claimed the world record with 334 against England at Headingley, Leeds on his first tour.

At 21 years and 11 months he was the youngest to achieve the feat till Garry Sobers in 1958 and also the only batsman to score over 300 in a day. His record of 309 runs on the opening day of the test is unlikely to be ever matched. Bradman also became the first cricketer to score two test triples when he followed up his 334 with 304 at the same ground four years later. The record was emulated in 2004 by Brian Lara.

Headingley also remained the only venue to see two triple tons till Lara’s 400 not out in 2004 at St. John’s, Antigua. He had scored 375 at the same venue 10 years earlier and now it holds a unique record with Chris Gayle’s 317. Bradman recorded a total of five triples and quadruple in his first class career. He is also the only batsman to score 299 not out in a test match (v. South Africa in 1932).

Garry Sobers: The 1930s saw five test triple centuries but there would not be another till 1958. Then, in one series alone (still the only time this has happened), there would be two - Hanif Mohammed’s 337 in the first test at Bridgetown, Barbados followed by the new world record by Sobers two tests later at Kingston, Jamaica. Sobers had made his test debut in 1954 and though hailed as a magnificent all-rounder and batsman, he had yet to score a test century. Questions were being asked about his consistency with the bat.

He answered the doubters by converting the first of his 26 test tons into the record when he passed Sir Len Hutton’s 364 not out against Australia in 1938. The 365th run came ironically came off Hanif’s bowling who bowled that particularly delivery left-handed, after taking permission from the umpire. At 21 years and 8 months he remains the youngest. West Indies won by an innings and 174 runs.

Lawrence Rowe: Throughout the 1970s and 80s, the Jamaican’s 302 against England at Kingston remained the only test triple century. Rowe was one of cricket history’s greatest enigmas. Two years earlier he had made a sensational debut with a century and double century against New Zealand, still the only cricketer ever to achieve such a feat in the history of first-class cricket. However, all three of these knocks came at home at Kingston where his average was 113.40. Abroad it was less than 30.

Garry Sobers picked Rowe as the most talented of the West Indies’ batsman of the 70s, above even Viv Richards. However, persistent health problems, including a debilitating allergy to grass, plus a fragile temperament meant he played just 30 test matches in a span of eight years. His career came to an end when he led a West Indian rebel team to apartheid South Africa in the mid-80s.

Graham Gooch: The modern trend of test triple tons was set in motion by England’s captain in the first test against India at Lord’s in 1990. It was the first triple ton between Bob Cowper’s 307 against England at Melbourne in 1966 and Lawrence Rowe’s 302 in 1974.

The last 15 years have seen a record seven from Gooch’s 333 to Chris Gayle’s 317.

However, it was wicket-keeper Kiran More dropping a sitter off Sanjeev Sharma with the batsman on 36 that allowed Gooch to not only record the highest score ever at Lord’s but also follow up with a century in the second innings a unique feat in the history of first-class cricket. His total of 456 runs is the most by a batsman in a test match. It was also the first triple ton by a batsman wearing a helmet! England won the match by 247 runs.

Brian Lara: In the span of less than two months the ‘Prince of Trinidad’ recorded the highest score in test cricket and then followed it up by becoming to first ever to cross 500 in a first-class innings when he hit 501 not out for Warwickshire against Durham in the county championship.

Lara’s 375 against England at the Antigua Recreation Ground at St. John’s in April 1994 erased one of batting’s oldest and most treasured records, that of fellow-West Indian Garry Sobers’ 365 not out 36 years later. But footage of the shot off Andrew Caddick a pull to the boundary that took him past the record showed he had dislodged a bail from its groove with his foot. Remarkably, it fell back in place and cricket history was made.

Exactly 10 years later against the same side and at the same venue, Lara became the first to record a quadruple century to give him a unique treble 300, 400 and 500 in a glittering but troubled career.

Virender Sehwag: For 72 years no Indian batsman had managed a test triple ton till the dashing opening batsman achieved the feat in the first test against Pakistan at Multan in March 2004 and he became the first to reach the landmark with a six. Just months earlier Sehwag had been caught in the deep at Melbourne in trying to go from 194 to his double ton with a huge hit. But this time he made no mistake off the bowling of Saqlain Mushtaq.

The Indian record till then had been VVS Laxman’s 281 against Australia at Kolkata in 2001. Sehwag’s stand of 336 for the third wicket with Sachin Tendulkar was also an Indian record. It was the sixth sixer of his innings and he also slammed 38 boundaries. It was his first test match against Pakistan and the first India were playing there since 1989. India won the test by an innings and 52 runs and the series 2-1.
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