200s in Test cricket are not unheard of. In fact one could say they are even a little bit common. There have been 313 of them in the 2,000 plus Tests since 1877.
But that does not mean that they are easy; getting to 200 requires hours of concentration, it requires mental fortitude, luck, and batting skills of the highest order.
And while it is really an arbitrary number, getting to 200 I am sure is a bit of a relief for a player, as it releases the pressure; and just the same, I am sure falling at 199 is far more painful than falling at 176 or 184, especially when the player might never get to such great heights again…
In July, 2010, Armando Galarraga had a chance to pitch a perfect game, a true rarity in sport, a wonderful accomplishment; only the umpire, one Jim Joyce, blew the call on the final out and wrecked it for the young man.
The most heartbreaking part of it all was that everyone knew that Galarraga, an average pitcher at best, would never in a million years get another chance to complete a perfect game.
Which brings us to today’s entry in the 199 club…
Now Matthew Elliot was not the victim of a bad umpiring decision when he got out for 199 at Headingley during the Ashes series on 24 July, 1997, but it was the only time throughout his career that he would come anywhere near a double century.
In fact, in his 36 Test innings, he only scored two regular centuries, and only scored a total of 1,172 runs.
That 199 in 1997 accounted for nearly 17% of Elliot’s career Test runs.
Matthew’s knock came in Australia’s first (and only) innings after his countrymen had bowled out England for 172 (this was the 1990s, remember.) He batted for nearly seven and a half hours, seeing 351 balls…and he was dropped three times by England fielders (this was the 1990s, remember.) (Armando Galarraga could have used a bit of Elliot’s luck, surely.) …26 fours, 3 sixes, and a strike rate of 56.69…
The match was the third in the Ashes Series. England had won the first Test at The Oval, but Australia went on to win at Nottingham, at Leeds, and at Old Trafford to retain the Ashes. The dead rubber at Lord’s was a draw.
As mentioned, the ground that hosted Elliot’s 199 was Headingley, in Leeds, a last minute ground change which Australia unsuccessfully protested.
It seats 17,000 and has hosted Tests since 1899 – most recently Australia v Pakistan in July of 2010 (Pakistan won by three wickets.)
It is a beautiful and famous old ground, and is home to Yorkshire, by far County Cricket’s most successful domestic side.
Your geography lesson:
(I was hoping that I would discover something cool when looking into the 199s, like that they all happened in the Subcontinent. But Elliot’s knock came in Northern England, which is just about as far from the Subcontinent as you can possibly get without going to the moon.)
Despite Elliot’s lack of long term success at the International level (he as only played in one ODI for his country, and no T20s) he did have a long and somewhat successful career in Australian domestic cricket – though it was also riddled with injuries.
He retired from professional cricket in 2008, but surfaced again a year later to play in the Indian Cricket League for the Chandigarh Lions.
Elliot’s career was marred by bad luck and a bit of tragedy (he blew out his knee in only his second test match, for instance), this despite his immense talent at the crease.
He scored two centuries during his first Ashes series, was named one of Wisden’s Cricketers of the Year in 1999, but his form dipped and he was dropped from the national side that same year.
I can’t help but think that maybe things would have been different for him if he had gotten just one more run on that July day in northern England…
On the pitch: GAH! Too much to even go into…Napier, Abu Dhabi, Adelaide – I suggest Cricinfo.
I will say this about the Australia-India test at Adelaide: it is just about the most melancholy sporting event I have ever experienced. @mannerofspeakin tweeted that “an entire generation of Indian cricket fans are watching their heroes fade into the sunset.”
It is very sad to watch our heroes age, grow old, fade away. And we are watching that with VVS, Sachin, Dravid.
After 816 Test innings and 37,422 runs, their Test careers are over.
It is so terribly sad – and I mean that from the bottom of my heart.
God speed, fellas. You deserved better.
Until next time.