Cricket: The Nineties: a decade for the record-breakers: More Tests and the influence of one-day matches combine to rewrite the records. Rob Steen reports

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The Independent Online
GOOD DAYS, these, for the statistic-lover. At the end of the endless English summer of 1990, one wit fed up with the glut of fresh batting milestones observed that the number set over the season itself constituted a record. Much the same can be said of Test cricket during the Nineties.

Allan Border, a man with little apparent concept of final curtains, is nearing 160 caps and 11,500 runs, having taken both records from Sunil Gavaskar. Kapil Dev recently supplanted Sir Richard Hadlee as the highest wicket-taker of all time. In 1990, Graham Gooch totalled 456 runs for the Lord's Test against India, while New Zealand's Andrew Jones and Martin Crowe eclipsed all partnerships the following winter with their 467 against Sri Lanka.

Brian Lara's achievement now means that six of the eight principal individual landmarks have been surpassed in the current decade. Only Jim Laker's 10 for 53 and 19 for 90 against Australia in 1956 survive unscathed.

The primary reason for the marks of Border and Kapil is, of course, opportunity. In the Sixties, 186 Test matches were played; in the Eighties, 266. Come the millennium, the Nineties will probably have seen 300.

A more vigorous outlook, though born of necessity, has been similarly influential. During the Sixties, the last decade before waning public interest in the five-day format prompted the reluctant introduction of the one-day international, 89 Tests were left drawn, a fraction under 50 per cent. For the first four years of the Nineties, the rate is below 38 per cent.

Faster scoring, encouraged by the limited-overs game and aided by accommodating pitches and the near- extinction of third man, has also played a vital part, even if tardy over-rates have changed the emphasis of the statisticians from time to balls. Gooch, nevertheless, took 10 hours and 27 minutes over his 333 against India, some six hours fewer than Hanif Mohammad expended for four more runs in 1958, and still had time to tot up another century.

The 1,603 runs scored all told in that Lord's match came from 393.3 overs, more than four an over, whereas when Len Hutton made his 364 in 1938, England ground along to 903 at barely 2.5 runs an over, albeit in the face of a over-rate nudging 120 per day.

When the West Indies amassed their previous record home score against England last month, their 556 runs flowed at more than 60 per 100 balls. In 16 Ashes series between 1946 and 1975, neither England nor Australia managed to average 50 per 100. Good old days? What good old days?

----------------------------------------------------------------- THE EIGHT LEADING INDIVIDUAL TEST RECORDS ----------------------------------------------------------------- HIGHEST SCORE 375 B C Lara West Indies v England (Antigua, 1994) MOST RUNS IN A TEST MATCH 456 G A Gooch, England v India (Lord's, 1990) MOST TEST RUNS 11,174 A R Border Australia 1978-94 MOST TEST APPEARANCES 156 A R Border Australia 1978-94 HIGHEST PARTNERSHIP 467 M D Crowe and A H Jones New Zealand v S Lanka (Wellington, 1990-1) MOST WICKETS 434 Kapil Dev India 1979-94 MOST WICKETS IN AN INNINGS 10-53 J C Laker England v Australia (Old Trafford, 1956) MOST WICKETS IN A MATCH 19-90 J C Laker England v Australia (Old Trafford, 1956) -----------------------------------------------------------------