The greatest spell in cricket history
June 3, 2014 7:04 AM   Subscribe

As a Canadian with no knowledge of cricket, this reads like the excited writings of deranged lunatic:

"There were times," wrote Jim Kilburn in the Yorkshire Post, "when Verity seemed to spend three overs preparing an lbw snare against a batsman who, unharrassed, would probably have mishit into the covers anyway."

Indeed. Here, take your meds.
posted by Phreesh at 7:57 AM on June 3 [6 favorites]

This definitely needs a translation for those of us unfamiliar with cricket. I still have no clue what a 10 for 10 is.
posted by Badgermann at 8:07 AM on June 3

So basically every sport has shown continuous improvement in it's athletes but cricket's best ... uhm, pitching performance? I have no idea... was in 1939.

I get why the British love it.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:18 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]

If you don't understand cricket, I can suggest two options.

a) DM's Guide To Cricket is a good starting place.
b) conclude that this thread may not be for you, and move on to the next post.

Option c), 'hurf durf cricket man talk funny' is on a level with 'Is this something I'd need a TV to understand?', 'sports suck anyway', or 'NOPE NOPE NOPE' in a post about spiders.

Badgermann: "This definitely needs a translation for those of us unfamiliar with cricket. I still have no clue what a 10 for 10 is."

Second paragraph:
It was on this day in 1932 that he produced the best bowling performance in the history of first class cricket, taking 10 wickets for 10 runs in a single innings against Nottinghamshire.
posted by zamboni at 8:19 AM on June 3 [14 favorites]

My post was serious. Why has no one done this since? Did he get lucky? Was he the best to ever play the game? Why hasn't technology/better nutrition/training/etc. led to better or similar performances?
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:22 AM on June 3

"as immutably as upon his grave"

so, not really immutably, then? the pioneer cemetery and the country churchyard won't be there in a century or two, as the memories of the dead give way to the greater needs of the living.
posted by bruce at 8:36 AM on June 3

What it means is that a single bowler (i.e. the pitcher) delivered all ten wickets (i.e. "outs") while allowing only ten runs. This is approximately as good as pitching 27 strikes while allowing maybe one or two hits and certainly no more than one run.

It's a little difficult to compare baseball and cricket because typical scores are so wildly different. The most common baseball scores are 3-2 and 4-3. The median cricket score, by contrast, is 257 points per side. So you can see how allowing only ten runs is pretty astounding.
posted by jedicus at 8:38 AM on June 3 [4 favorites]

OnTheLastCastle, in cricket the bowler lands the ball on the pitch (or the wicket, as it is also called, specifically to confuse outsiders), so the quality of the pitch has a big effect on the batsman's ability to score runs or to defend his wicket and not be out (in this context , "wicket" means his innings).

In Verity's day the pitches were uncovered so a rainstorm during the game could transform the quality of the pitch making it much more difficult to bat on. A wet wicket allows the ball to grip and deviate much more, especially if it bowled by a gifted spin bowler like Verity. This means spin bowlers' ability to deviate the ball off the pitch is much increased, making him a much more potent bowler. In the old days, a sudden thunderstorm could turn a pitch that was easy to bat on (because the ball bounced off the pitch in a predictable manner) into a "sticky dog", a pitch that was near-impossible to bat on because one ball could land three feet away from you and hit you on the knee, and a second ball could land three feet and one inch away from you and hit you on the shoulder.

Nowadays, pitches are covered overnight and, if it rains during play, the players are removed and the groundstaff use modern, lightweight and water-tight covers to cover the pitch so the effect of rain on the pitch is much reduced.

The main reason that this performance hasn't been repeated is Verity was a one-off. It is also relevant that he was playing for Yorkshire. In those days being selected for Yorkshire was a bit more important than getting into Heaven. I am not exaggerating.
posted by devious truculent and unreliable at 8:52 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]

Here's the scorecard for that game if anyone's interested.

For those who don't follow cricket or understand the 19.4-16-10-10 line:

19.4: This means he bowled 19 complete overs (6 bowls each), and 4/6 of another for a total of 118 deliveries. We'll leave aside the question of "extras," since we can't determine who bowled them from the scorecard.

16: Number of "maiden" overs. A maiden over is when the bowler delivers all six without giving up a single run.

10: The first 10 is the number of runs given up.

10: The second 10 is for the number of wickets taken. Once a team loses 10 wickets their turn for batting in the innings is over.

Disclaimer: Yank cricket fan
posted by Freon at 9:14 AM on June 3 [3 favorites]

I say, Senanayake's Mankaded Buttler. Never a dull minute.
posted by hawthorne at 9:21 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]

I think jedicus' comparison is somewhat apt, but pitching even a perfect game happens in baseball a TON more often than a 10 for 10 happens in cricket, which hasn't happened since this game in 1932.
posted by Inkoate at 9:30 AM on June 3

Bad show, hawthorne, what ?

Here is footage of Derek Underwood bowling out Australia on a wicket that had been doctored to help spin bowlers. Probably the best footage available of a deadly left-arm spinner bowling on a "sticky dog".
posted by devious truculent and unreliable at 9:36 AM on June 3

Imagine the United Nations One World Peace, Socialism And Atheism Party winning every state in the South. Imagine the entire Billboard Top Ten being Captain Beefheart songs, all year. Imagine every Taco Bell with two Michelin stars. Imagine bowling 10 for 10 in county cricket.

Three of these things will never happen in this world. But they're all equally likely.
posted by Devonian at 9:39 AM on June 3 [4 favorites]

"likely" never be beaten? How could it possibly be beaten?
posted by Segundus at 9:48 AM on June 3

Thanks for this link. A good dose of perspective after another season of IpL fluff.
posted by all the versus at 9:51 AM on June 3

Segundus: ""likely" never be beaten? How could it possibly be beaten?"

Theoretically? Ten wickets taken for zero runs. In practice, that's unlikely to happen unless the teams are so mismatched that one side thinks they're playing soccer.
posted by vanar sena at 9:55 AM on June 3

these wickets, they're sticky?
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 10:14 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]

zamboni, thanks for the link. I finally understand the terminology I was missing.

I am understanding this correctly then, that no one has taken ten wickets with fewer than ten runs? This is not the theoretical maximum, but to beat it you'd have to be playing against toddlers.
posted by Hactar at 10:16 AM on June 3

Also you would need none of the other bowlers to take a wicket, so if you were playing against toddlers you still probably wouldn't beat it.
posted by dng at 10:18 AM on June 3

The Guardian's Spin email, from which this is excerpted, is a delightful thing. Every morning my inbox is full of the latest 'Country did this, county did that, so-and-so either excelled or didn't, here's some speculation' newsletters, and once a week Spin appears with this kind of article, or a thoughtful piece on the state of the game, considered and well put. It's the sort of article the Cricketer should be printing and isn't.
posted by Hogshead at 12:27 PM on June 3 [2 favorites]

I am understanding this correctly then, that no one has taken ten wickets with fewer than ten runs? This is not the theoretical maximum, but to beat it you'd have to be playing against toddlers.

Correct. Here's a list of all players to take 10 wickets in a first-class innings - there's been 80 in history and only 3 this century ["first-class" meaning that two states or provinces or counties are playing each other - Essex v Middlesex or Queensland v New South Wales, say].

In international cricket, a player has taken ten wickets in an innings on two occasions, out of 2122 matches played.
posted by Pink Frost at 2:53 PM on June 3

So basically every sport has shown continuous improvement in it's athletes but cricket's best ... uhm, pitching performance? I have no idea... was in 1939.

Others have covered the uncovered pitches angle that means this kind of performance is probably unrepeatable. But another reason why this event remains legendary has to do with the identity of the bowler himself. Verity was a spin bowler, a kind of cricketer that had (particularly at the time this happened) a certain frisson and aura in British popular culture.

Consider the terms often used to describe the spin bowler's art: "spin," "guile," "flight, "deception." Compare these with the words used to describe fast bowlers: "raw pace," "power," "swing," "cut." Batsmen dismissed by pace bowlers are often said to be "muscled" or "bounced" out. Those whose wickets are taken by spin bowlers, meanwhile, are "deceived," "undone." Their wickets are sometimes said to be "bought" or "burgled." They thrive in "unfair" environments, like "sticky wickets" and "subcontinental conditions." Part of this has to do with pace of the delivery. You have a tiny split second to see a fast bowlers' deliveries before they're on you. You need extraordinary visual processing power to do that, something very few people have. Being dismissed by an out and out fast bowler therefore has no real shame in it. You're just beaten by the inevitability of physics and neurology. With slow spin bowling, though, you have plenty of time to see the ball. You're just unsure what it's going to do -- which direction and how far it's going to turn in -- once it bounces. There's something weirdly personal about getting out to a spin bowler. Like you've been comprehensively outwitted and found wanting mentally. Like the bowler has read the weaknesses in your technique and found precisely the right delivery to expose them and make you look foolish.

In the early years of the twentieth century, the most famous criminal in British popular fiction (other than Moriarty) was A. J. Raffles, the anti-hero of E. W. Hornung's short stories. (In a nice twist to the story, Hornung was Conan Doyle's brother in law.) Raffles, the "gentleman burglar," was a county cricketer, described in the stories as "the finest slow bowler of his generation." In Hornung's stories, this confluence between slow bowling and other forms of "underhandedness" gains concrete form. Raffles uses the same sociopathic ability to read other people's minds that gets him wickets on the cricket field to infiltrate high society and steal their jewels and trophies. Raffles had a huge reading public in Edwardian Britain, and arguably the connection between burglary and spin bowling crystallised in Raffles adhered to spin bowlers for a long time after. Which isn't to say a culture (and later war hero) like Verity would have been perceived as criminal, exactly, but that a certain notoriety and aura clung to the art of spin bowling they practised. That 10 for 10 was earned (burgled even) in a way a fast bowler could never hope to match.
posted by Sonny Jim at 3:33 AM on June 4 [8 favorites]

So basically every sport has shown continuous improvement in it's athletes but cricket's best ... uhm, pitching performance? I have no idea... was in 1939.

Or that the relative balance of power between bowler and batter remains unchanged, despite (probable?) improvements in both.

Having been originally baffled by cricket, and having moved to England seven years ago and followed it by accident since then, I now regret deeply that my country is not a proper cricketing nation.
posted by YouRebelScum at 6:07 AM on June 4

So basically every sport has shown continuous improvement in it's athletes but cricket's best ... uhm, pitching performance? I have no idea... was in 1939.

Baseball also has some probably unbeatable records dating back to the same era. Maybe the one most like Verity's is Johnny Vander Meer's back-to-back no hitters in 1938. From the same time period is Joe DiMaggio's hitting streak in 1941. (Also in 1941, Ted Williams was the last batter to hit over .400.)
posted by bluffy at 9:55 AM on June 4

By coincidence, yesterday was the twentieth anniversary of the finest delivery in cricket in the twentieth century (seriously, google 'ball of the century', it's the top result): the first ball that Shane Warne ever bowled in Ashes cricket. Have a look at this to see what a spin-bowler at the peak of his power can do on a modern wicket. Even if you don't understand what's going on... you'll understand.
posted by Hogshead at 7:43 AM on June 5 [1 favorite]

« Older Elmer and Gertrude? They are likely pretty old.   |   'Hunger Games' salute banned in Thailand Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments