Why are some records unbreakable? Frequently, the game changes so significantly that certain accomplishments are rendered obsolete. An exceptional performance by a once-in-a-generation player occasionally cannot possibly be topped. The records of cricket may be the most fascinating combination of these elements, inspiring both wonder and intrigue. Can the 99.94 of Don Bradman be broken? How about Jim Laker’s 19/90? Describe Sachin Tendulkar’s 100 hundreds. Given how cricket has changed over the past ten years, these numbers appear insurmountable.
However, don’t take anything for granted. England will explain why. After surpassing Sri Lanka’s 443/9 (against the Netherlands in 2006) with 444/3 against Pakistan in Nottingham in 2016, 481/6 against Australia in 2018, and 498/4 against a worn-out Netherlands team in Amstelveen last Friday, they have now bettered the highest ODI total thrice in the past six years. Only in March 2006 did Australia surpass 400 (434/4) for the first time; shortly after, South Africa did so at the Wanderers during a legendary chase. The fact that it took one-day cricket just 16 years to increase from eight runs per over to over 10 runs per over illustrates how quickly this game is evolving.
Records that are set in unexpected ways naturally have longer shelf lives as a result of the effort involved, particularly in domestic cricket. It was the first time nine players scored 50 or more in the same innings in first-class cricket, similar to when Bengal declared on 773/7 during their Ranji Trophy quarterfinal victory over Jharkhand earlier this month. The only other time more than seven such scores occurred in a first-class innings was in 1893, when the touring Australians scored eight runs against Oxford and Cambridge Universities. Mumbai’s 725-run victory over Uttarakhand in the quarterfinals surpassed New South Wales’ 685-run triumph over Queensland in the 1929-30 Sheffield Shield match, which came after Queensland was bowled out for 84 while chasing a 770-run total. The goal of both contests was to outscore the opposition, which Bengal and Mumbai accomplished through a well-executed team effort.
Some first-class records have been more difficult to understand because of the difficult conditions that led to their creation. For instance, according to the Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians (ACS), the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy (Pakistan’s version of the Ranji Trophy) match was conceded by Karachi Blues 85 balls into the first day because they felt the wicket was too risky after falling to 33/4. The following two shortest matches also took place in Pakistan: 121 balls between Quetta and Rawalpindi in 2008–09 (who won by 9 wickets), and 162 balls between Sargodha and Bahawalpur in 1990–91.
Due to the majority of them being established on the subcontinent, age-related documents have also typically included certain disclaimers. The ACS website complies with this standard by describing the procedures used to establish the age of cricketers with the following caveat: “Some cricketers’ actual birthdates cannot or have not been verified. The material in the list below is based on the most up-to-date information, however it should be noted that there are certain cricketers from the 18th and early 19th centuries as well as Pakistan and Bangladesh who should be regarded with the required caution. All 10 of the world’s ten youngest first-class cricketers, including seven of them who played in Pakistan’s domestic league, were born in India before or after Partition. Alimuddin, a Pakistan Test cricketer who was born in Ajmer and made his debut for Rajputana in 1943 at the age of 12 years and 73 days, heads the list.
Even if they are fantastic, you can never be sure that these records won’t be altered. But the demands of cricket have now set the top ceiling. Thus, Wilfred Rhodes will always hold the record for the longest first-class career (1,110 matches over 30 years 315 days). The record for the oldest cricket player is also unbroken. A pillar of India’s contemporary game, CK Nayudu, played his final first-class game in 1963 at the age of 68 years, 4 days. But thirteen years earlier, Raja Maharaj Singh had made his debut as the captain of the Bombay Governor’s XI against a visiting Commonwealth XI at the age of 72 years and 194 days, making him the oldest first-class player in history.
Through its annual almanacks, Wisden has done an outstanding job of documenting the game over the years. Contributions to its enormous effort come from all over the world. The ‘Miscellaneous Records’ section, which lists anything from the greatest attendances to the highest partnerships and records of 10 wickets for no runs in minor cricket, is possibly the most intriguing of them all.