Friday, 8 January 2016

The Nervous Nineties

The nineties can be a nervous time for anyone. I am not talking about the decade where Bill Clinton had to go and explain to his missus Hilary that the Monica Lewinsky story was about to break, although I can imagine that he was twitching a bit. I am not talking about Britpop, Blair, the IRA ceasefire, the advent of the Premier League or the England cricket team getting smashed by the Aussies. This piece is all about why batsmen get out in the nineties...

Athers about to get run out for 99
I write from first hand experience. I have notched up five scores in the nineties since my last hundred even earning the moniker 'Heimlich' from one of my team mates who suggested that I choked when nearing three figures. They were all for varying reasons, although I would suggest that the umpire at Winchmore Hill CC who gave me out lbw on 99 when the ball hit my thigh pad, played his part in the proceedings. Sympathetic team mates bought me a half of froth and stuck a flake in it that night in the bar!

Generally they have been my own fault. A combination of tiredness, nerves and being an unfit, fat bastard kicked in. Another time I was on 92 and we needed six to win. My opening partner (we won the game by ten wickets) suggested that he would play his part by blocking out a maiden and then I would hit two fours to win the game and also reach the magical mark. He did his bit by showing six forward defensives to some dross and then first ball that I received was a long hop which I smashed. Unfortunately I hit it too well and flat batted it across the rope for six leaving me on 98 not out as we won the game. Doh!

The Waugh Twins in happier times

There have been much finer players than me who have been out famously in the nineties. We all have memories of Mike Atherton crawling, having slipped going for a third for 99. Mark Waugh was acting as a runner for his brother Steve when he went for a single that was so suicidal that we thought that he had joined Islamic Jihad. I should imagine that the conversation was somewhat muted in the Waugh household for a few days.

Hanif Mohammed's famous 499 was terminated also by a run out, more a case of the nervous 490's, by his batting partner called Abdul Aziz. Aziz passed away a couple of weeks later, and was famously inserted into a Pakistani scorecard as 'absent dead'. Coincidence?  Ex England skipper Graham Gooch who finished the career of David Gower for flicking the ball down long legs throat in Australia, the over before lunch, ran himself out the over before tea in Melbourne in 1980 on 99. Jason Gallian even managed to get run out for 199 twice in one season. Now that takes some doing.

The Little Master...out 28 times in the 90's in international cricket

MS Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar and Sanath Jayasuriya (twice each), Shaun Marsh and many more have also been out with their score on this number. Tendulkar was out a whopping twenty eight times in the nineties in international cricket. Saying that he did get a hundred hundreds. He was followed by Alvin Kallicharan and Michael Slater, although both of these also got the fair share of tons too. Shane Warne who wasn't a complete muppet with the bat, never got to three figures despite two scores at Test level in the nineties, including a 99. Ashton Agar made the famous 98 a couple of years ago, whilst we all remember night watchman Alex Tudor getting a 99 not out a few years ago. His batting partner that day Graham Thorpe received much ribbing and Tudes told us that he still isn't welcome in Wandsworth for a drink!

Gareth Berg last year, was run out by a forty yard direct hit by the sadly departed Matthew Hobden on 99 for Hampshire, yet some players have never suffered. The Don scored twenty nine Test hundreds without ever being out in the nineties, despite his famous career average. Greg Chappell and Michael Vaughan with twenty four and eighteen tons neither.

Thorpe...not welcome in Wandsworth

So why do so many cricketers get out in the nineties?

Well the truth is that they don't. It is just far more memorable when they do. Yes batsmen often play more conservatively in the nineties, and the chirp goes up. Often a good skipper will crowd the bat at this point, or employ a ring field, when it has been spread far and wide as the batsman has been putting 'the ball in the bush' as West Indians say. There have been many famous instances but the scores of ten to twenty just aren't that memorable. I am sure there will be many more fine players who can be added to the list above.

It is what makes cricket such a wonderful game.