Alex Massie

Things Coud Only Have Begun Better...

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Strauss: caught Amla, bowled Steyn 0 Photo:Duif du Toit/Gallo Images/Getty Images.

Andrew Strauss might wish that he'd lost the toss at the Wanderers this morning since, as it turned out and despite a stripey pitch, South Africa would also have batted first. Strauss may have been dismissed by the first ball of the test but he's in pretty good company: the first man to succumb to the opening ball of a test match was Archie MacLaren, done in by Arthur Coningham at Melbourne in 1894. Despite being skittled for just 75, England won the match by 94 runs...

Strauss's dismissal today was the 28th time that a batsman has succumbed to the first ball of the match. Among the other victims: Tom Hayward, Hebert Sutcliffe, Eddie Barlow, Conrad Hunte, Roy Fredericks, Keith Stackpole, Gary Kirsten and Sanath Jayauriya. Only two batsmen have falled to the first delivery more than once: Sunil Gavaskar (three times!) and Bangladesh's Hannan Sarker.

Sarker's record is miserably remarkable: he took the first ball of a test on 14 occasions and three times Bangladesh's number three found himself taking the second ball. Even odder, Pedro Collins dismissed Sarker on all three occasions.

Still, poignant, even humiliatingly so, as that is, poor Jimmy Cook's test career is equally mournful. since Apartheid cost him his finest years Cook had to wait until he was 39 before making his test debut. And his first innings in test cricket lasted precisely one delivery: caught Tendulkar, bowled Kapil Dev off the first ball of the match. He might, one imagines, have been forgiven for wondering if the long wait had really been worth it and if test cricket were actually all it's cracked up to be...

Perhaps the England skipper could donate part of his match fee to the Primary Club.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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