THE NEW ZEALAND tail-ender, Geoff Allott, broke the world record for the longest innings without scoring a run yesterday when he faced 77 balls before being out for a duck against South Africa in Auckland.
Allott survived 101 minutes to break the record of England's Godfrey Evans, who took 97 minutes to score his first run against Australia in Adelaide in 1946. Allott, however, had not scored when he was caught at slip by Shaun Pollock off Jacques Kallis.
Allott - who has more wickets than runs in his first-class career, 86 to 83 - came to the crease with his side on 320 for 9, still 102 runs short of the follow-on target after the tourists had amassed 621 for 5 declared in the first Test at Eden Park.
"It was probably the best duck I'll ever score," he said afterwards. "I had no idea of the record until the public address announcer said that I'd broken the New Zealand record." That was held by John Wright, who took 66 minutes to open his account against Australia in Wellington in 1981-82.
Asked whether he was afraid he might edge a four through the slips on the way towards the world record, Allott scoffed at suggestions he was aiming for the mark.
"A tail-ender is never afraid of getting runs - in fact, if Harry [Chris Harris] hadn't turned down about five easy singles then I might never have got anywhere near it," Allott said after the fourth's day play.
He did, however, enter into the spirit of the unusual occasion by raising his bat to all corners of the ground, and smiling broadly, as a small but enthusiastic crowd cheered every dot ball as he neared, and then broke, one of the game's least sought-after batting records.
"Even the South Africans were smiling," said a sheepish Allott. "You've got to see the funny side."
The day had begun perfectly for South Africa's bowlers who claimed two wickets in the first two overs to reduce the home side from their overnight 205 for 2 to 210 for 4.
Craig McMillan chased a wide delivery from Hansie Cronje and edged a catch to wicketkeeper Mark Boucher to depart for 25 to the sixth ball of the day, which left the middle order exposed to the new ball, due six overs into the day.
The second over was bowled by spinner Paul Adams and Matthew Horne made the mistake of playing back to the fifth ball, a rapid top-spinner which kept low and passed between bat and pad to bowl the opener for 93. He faced 225 balls and struck 13 fours.
Adam Parore, forced to postpone a court appearance for reckless driving in order to play on the fourth day, made nine runs from 54 balls before playing a ball from Pollock onto his stumps.
Lance Klusener removed Matthew Bell (6) and Dion Nash (1) in successive overs after tea as the home slipped again from 237 for 5 to 251 for 7.
Daniel Vettori dominated an eighth-wicket stand of 43 with Harris before top-edging a sweep against Adams to Cronje at mid-on. He made a bright 32 from 74 balls with five boundaries. Only one over was possible in New Zealand's second innings after Allott was finally dismissed and Matthew Horne scored all four of New Zealand's runs as they reduced the total deficit to 265.
Fourth day; New Zealand won the toss
SOUTH AFRICA - First Innings 621-5 dec (D J Cullinan 275no, G Kirsten 128).
NEW ZEALAND - First Innings
(Overnight: 205 for 2)
M J Horne b Adams 93
C D McMillan c Boucher b Donald 25
C Z Harris not out 68
A C Parore b Pollock 9
M D Bell b Klusener 6
*D J Nash c Boucher b Klusener 1
D L Vettori c Cronje b Adams 32
S B Doull c Gibbs b Adams 17
G I Allott c Pollock b Kallis 0
Extras (21lb, 2w, 6nb) 29
Total (160.4 overs) 352
Fall (cont): 3-210, 4-210, 5-224, 6-241, 7-251, 8-288, 9-320.
Bowling: Donald 27-16-40-2; Pollock 28-11-51-1; Klusener 27-7-60-2; Adams 46-18-103-3; Kallis 21.4-10-44- 1; Cullinan 2-0-8-0; Cronje 9-2-25-1.
NEW ZEALAND - Second Innings
M J Horne not out 4
M D Bell not out 0
Total (for 0, 1 over) 4
To bat: N J Astle, C D McMillan, C Z Harris, +A C Parore, R G Twose, *D J Nash, D L Vettori, S B Doull, G I Allott.
Bowling: Kallis 1-0-4-0.
Umpires: D B Cowie and D J Harper (Aus).
WORLD'S SLOWEST STARTERS
Minutes on nought
101 Geoff Allott
New Zealand v S Africa, Eden Park, 1999
97 TG Evans
England v Australia, Adelaide,1946-47
84 R K Chauhan
India v Sri Lanka, Ahmedabad,1993-94
82 PI Pocock
England v W Indies, Georgetown, 1967-68
74 J T Murray
England v Australia, Sydney, 1962-63
72 C G Rackemann
Australia v England, Sydney, 1990-91
72 H H Streak
Zimbabwe v Pakistan, Karachi,1993-94
70 W L Murdock
Australia v England, Sydney, 1882-83
69 R M Hogg
Australia v W Indies, Adelaide, 1984-85
67 C J Tavare
England v Pakistan, Lord's,1982
(Tavare went on to make 82.)