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Is it becoming too easy to score triple centuries?
by Gulu Ezekiel
May 06, 2005
Chris Gayle’s 317 against South Africa in the fourth and final test at St. John’s, Antigua last week was the 20th in all of test cricket and the ninth since Graham Gooch’s 333 against India at Lord’s in 1990.

England’s Andy Sandham was the rather unlikely candidate for the honour of being the first test triple centurion. His innings of 325 came in his 40th year on the 1929-30 tour of the West Indies.

That world mark however lasted just a few months and was broken by Don Bradman with 334 against England at Headingley, Leeds. Bradman became the first to score two triples when he followed that up with 304 at the same ground four years later.

The 1930s saw a spate of triple centuries with England’s Wally Hammond (336 not out v New Zealand in 1932-33) and Len Hutton (364 not out v Australia at the Oval in 1938) emulating Sandham and Bradman.

Hutton’s mark remained the record for 20 years till it was erased by Garry Sobers with 365 not out against Pakistan at Kingston, Jamaica. Sobers in turn held the record till 1994 when fellow-West Indian Brian Lara moved it up a notch to 375 against England at St. John’s.

Australia’s Matthew Hayden then raised the bar to 380 against a weak Zimbabwe side at Perth in 2004. But just six months later Lara took it back as he became the first to score 400 in a test match.

In between there have been triples by Australia’s Mark Taylor, Sri Lanka’s Sanath Jayasuriya, Pakistan’s Inzamam-ul-Huq and the first by an Indian, 309 by Virender Sehwag at Multan in 2004.

It took 53 years, from 1877, when the first test match was staged for a batsman to reach 300. Then from 1966 (Australia Bob Cowper v England) till Gooch in 1990, there was just one such innings (Lawrence Rowe’s 302 v England at Kingston in 1974).

India’s spin bowling quartet dominated from 1962 to 1977 by which time the West Indies had decided on a winning formula of four fast bowlers battering opposing batsmen. This worked till the mid-90s when the Caribbean conveyor belt of pace sputtered to a halt.

It is fair to say that international bowling attacks lack sting today and not just among the ranks of the rather pathetic current West Indies side. Take away Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Muthiah Muralitharan and Anil Kumble, and who is there among today’s bowlers who can post a serious challenge?

Is it any surprise that almost every country today boasts of more than one batsman averaging 50-plus? This has traditionally been the hallmark of true greatness in assessing the career of a batsman. That to my mind has now become cheapened as runs continue to flow in a torrent.

The likes of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe in particular have diluted the true strength of international cricket and made things much easier for batsmen. So have modern protective gear and vitally, the new bats which use hi-tech to pack a wallop into the blades. Bowlers as a result find themselves consistently clobbered over the boundary.

Where this will all end one cannot say. But cricket’s traditional balance of power, which till 10 years ago rested with the bowlers, has now apparently inexorably swung the other way.
 
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