10-wicket bags are elusive at any level

Ben Stark's record-breaking 10-wicket haul in the first innings of Saturday's Hawke Cup qualifier against West Coast in Greymouth took Marlborough's cricket fraternity by surprise. Not because the left-armer isn't a highly-promising bowler with the ability to dismiss any batsman he faces - but because what he achieved is so unique, at any level.

Capturing all 10 wickets in an innings is a feat so rare none of the many fine bowlers Marlborough has fielded over 150 years of senior rep cricket had managed it, the previous best figures of 9-26 belonging to the aptly-named F Blizzard in 1894.

In test cricket, a "ten-for" hasbeen achieved only twice. Firstly by English offspinner Jim Laker, (10-53 from 51.2 overs against Australia in Manchester in 1956), then by Indian leggie Anil Kumble (10-74 from 26.3 overs against Pakistan in Delhi in 1999). Interestingly, Laker bagged 9-37 in the first innings of the same test for match figures of 19-90, comfortably the best test haul of all time. Richard Hadlee's 9-52 against Australia in Brisbane 1985 is the best haul by a Kiwi test bowler, the next best being seven-wicket bags.

The best single innings haul in international one-day cricket is 8-19 by Sri Lankan paceman Charminda Vaas in 2001.

The finest bowling figures in first class cricket, according to Cricinfo, are English left arm spinner Hedley Verity's 10-10 for Yorkshire v Nottinghamshire in 1932.

Only two other players have managed better figures than Stark (although, of course, his wasn't a first class encounter). They are George Geary (10-18 for Leicestershire v Glamorgan 1929 and Premangsu Chatterjee (10-20 for Bengal v Assam 1956-57). The best-first class bag by a Kiwi was claimed by Albert Moss, who took 10-28 for Canterbury v Wellington in Christchurch during the 1899-90 season.

Interestingly, across all grades there have been 24 recorded instances of players taking 10 wickets while conceding no runs.

While 10-0 seems an almost unbelievable achievement, another Marlburian was within one delivery of joining that elite group.

In December 1967, 14-year-old Stephen Fleming (not the future test captain), playing for Marlborough College A v Bohally, claimed nine wickets with nine consecutive deliveries. He still shares the record for most wickets in consecutive balls with Paul Hugo who was playing for Smithfield School v Aliwal North at Smithfield, South Africa, in 1930-31. Five players have taken eight wickets in eight balls.

The publicity surrounding Stark's achievement prompted a response from Blenheim resident and passionate sports follower Dave Richardson who recalled another such instance - although the player involved wasn't representing Marlborough, but was born here.

A few years ago his grandson, Callum Bailey, playing for Hastings Boys' High School first XI took all 10 wickets in an innings. The Hawke's Bay papers tagged him "The Sultan of Swing".

What made it more interesting was the fact his older brother, Jacob, was bowling at the other end and Callum dropped two catches off his sibling's bowling. Smart move as it turned out.

Callum is at Otago University studying law and cricket is on the back burner. He is also an accomplished hockey player, good enough to represent the Junior Black Sticks.

A couple of questions spring to mind regarding the whole sorry Taylor/McCullum/Hesson Black Caps captaincy debacle.

Did Ross Taylor show his true colours and the very reason he wasn't having regular success as an international skipper, by walking away from his team-mates as they departed for South Africa? After all, he's not the first player to lose the captaincy of an international team - and he won't be the last.

What is Martin Snedden doing at the moment?

The Marlborough Express