RECORD BOOK – Kyle Abbott and sensational bowling debuts

  Kyle Abbott, the 25 year-old Dolphins fast bowler, made a stunning entry into Test cricket by capturing 7/29 in his very first innings for South Africa yesterday at Centurion to put the hosts on the verge of a series whitewash. Remarkably, he is South Africa’s sixth-choice fast bowling option and was able to play only because of a late injury to Jacques Kallis. In this post we look at other such outstanding debutant bowlers, and find out some interesting numbers:-

List  1 – Best Innings Bowling Figures on Test Debut (Top 10):-

8/43 – Albert Trott, Australia v England – Adelaide 1894-95

8/53 – Bob Massie, Australia v England – Lord’s 1972

8/61 – Narendra Hirwani, India v West Indies – Madras 1987-88

8/64 – Lance Klusener, South Africa v India – Calcutta 1996-97

8/75 – Narendra Hirwani, India v West Indies – Madras 1987-88

8/84 – Bob Massie, Australia v England – Lord’s 1972

8/104 – Alf Valentine, West Indies v England – Old Trafford 1950

8/215 – Jason Krejza, Australia v India – Nagpur 2008-09

7/29 – Kyle Abbott, South Africa v Pakistan – Centurion 2012-13

7/43 – Dominic Cork, England v West Indies – Lord’s 1995

Albert-Trott         Albert Trott of Australia holds the record for the best innings figures by a Test debutant, back in 1894-95 (source – sportskeeda.com)

  The above list features two names twice, that of Bob Massie and Narendra Hirwani. Massie, the Australian medium fast bowler, had a match haul of 16/137 on debut while India’s leg-break bowler Hirwani grabbed 16/136 in his first Test, giving him the best ever debut match figures of all time. Massie holds the record of the best debut innings figures as well as match figures by a pace bowler (Albert Trott was a slow bowler). Abbott has taken up the 9th spot on this list, and now has the record of the cheapest 7-wicket haul on debut, bettering Dominic Cork’s feat of 7/43.

List 2 – Best Innings Bowling Figures on Test debut (only first innings):-

8/61 – Narendra Hirwani, India v West Indies – Madras 1987-88

8/84 – Bob Massie, Australia v England – Lord’s 1972

8/104 – Alf Valentine, West Indies v England – Old Trafford – 1950

8/215 – Jason Krejza, Australia v India – Nagpur 2008-09

7/29 – Kyle Abbott, South Africa v Pakistan – Centurion 2012-13

7/46 – John Lever, England v India – Delhi 1976-77

7/49 – Alec Bedser, England v India, Lord’s 1946

7/81 – Marchant de Lange, South Africa v Sri Lanka – Centurion 2011-12

7/95 – William Ashley, South Africa v England – Cape Town 1888-89

7/99 – Mohammed Nazir, Pakistan v New Zealand – Karachi 1969-70

  Looking at the above list, we find that Abbott’s figures are now the fifth-best figures by a bowler in first ever Test innings. From the players in List 1, we have seen already that Massie and Hirwani took 8-wicket hauls in both innings on debut, while among the others, Trott and Klusener went wicket-less in their first innings while Cork managed one wicket.

  Interestingly, more often than not the careers of bowlers on the above two lists have faded away after their sensational starts. The two 16-wicket starters, Hirwani and Massie, have played just 17 and 6 Tests respectively while Krejza has played only one more Test and is unlikely to play any more. The most curious case is of Ashley, whose debut match was not only the sole Test he played, but also the only first-class match he played – the match being his country’s second-ever Test match. Trott, who tops List 1 played just 5 Tests (3 and 2 for Australia and England respectively) before tragically killing himself in 1914. The exceptions are Bedser (51 Tests), Klusener (49) and to an extent, Cork (37) and Valentine (36). de Lange has played only once after his debut, given South Africa’s top-notch pace attack. It will be interesting how often Abbott gets to play for his country when all the premier South African pacemen are match-fit.

narendra-hirwani-080711     Narendra Hirwani had a sensational debut at Madras in 1987-88 – his 16/136 is the best match return by a bowler on debut (source – itsonlycricket.com)

List 3 – Best Match Bowling Figures on Test Debut:-

16/136 – Narendra Hirwani, India v West Indies – Madras 1987-88

16/137 – Bob Massie, Australia v England – Lord’s 1972

12/102 – Fredrick Martin, England v Australia – The Oval 1890

12/358 – Jason Krejza, Australia v India – Nagpur 2008-09

11/82 – Clarrie Grimmett, Australia v England – Sydney 1924-25

11/96 – Charles Marriott, England v West Indies – The Oval 1933

11/112 – Alfred Hall, South Africa v England – Cape Town 1922-23

11/130 – Mohammed Zahid, Pakistan v New Zealand – Rawalpindi 1996-97

11/145 – Alec Bedser, England v India – Lord’s 1946

11/196 – Sydney Burke, South Africa v New Zealand – Cape Town 1961-62

  This is the list that actually underlines the consistency of the bowler to put up a good show throughout his debut Test. Hirwani and Massie are by a distance the only ones to have taken more than 12 wickets on debut. Martin, an English medium pacer of yore, is the surprise at 3rd place followed by Krejza. Just like Krejza, Martin played only 2 Tests, and the 37 Tests played by Grimmett (who has the 5th-best figures), are ten more than the combined number played by the top four on this list.

305662header       Abbott has had a great start to his career, but his challenge will be to defy the trend of debut wonders fading away quickly (source – scoresway.com)

  As I write this, Pakistan’s second innings (following on) at Centurion has resumed on Day 3, and South Africa have 9 wickets still to take. Therefore, Abbott has a great chance to move upto as high as the 3rd place on the list of all-time best match bowling figures on Test debut (List 3). While equalling Hirwani and Massie is impossible, he has the opportunity to take at least 5 wickets and go past Martin on the list. And if not that, Abbott will almost certainly end up with the best match bowling figures on debut by a current player. As of now, India’s Ravichandran Ashwin (9/128 v West Indies, Delhi 2011-12) and Bangladesh’s Sohag Gazi (9/219 v West Indies, Dhaka 2012-13) are the only ones from the current crop who have taken at least 9 wickets on Test debut. To take the South African record (held by Hall – see List 3), Abbott will have to take at least four wickets in the second innings.

  Irrespective of how many wickets he takes in the second innings of his debut Test, Abbott has already achieved a wonderfully rare start to his career. But considering the careers of many of the debut wonders named above, his great challenge will be to defy the trend and ensure that he holds his own in the future, especially among his accomplished fellow fast bowlers.

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