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About the 700 club in Test cricket


Test_cricket_700_plus_total_runsSri Lanka’s total of 713/9 in the first Test of their recently concluded series in Bangladesh was only the 23rd time a team scored over 700 in an innings in 2,295 Test matches, making it a very infrequent occurrence. Here is a look at some snippets and numbers involving these few gargantuan totals amassed over the course of Test history.

The first 700-plus total

The first Test total above 700 came during the deciding fourth Test between the West Indies and England at Sabina Park in Kingston in 1929-30, obliterating the previous Test record of 636 set by England against Australia at Sydney in 1928-29. In what was slated as a timeless Test, England accumulated 849 after their captain, the Hon. Frederick Calthorpe, elected to bat. The visitors’ 39-year-old opener Andy Sandham (325) recorded the first triple century in Test cricket.

Although his team held a first-innings lead of 563, Calthorpe chose against enforcing the follow-on, and ended up setting the West Indies the small target of 836 for victory. The hosts were 408/5 on the ninth day when the match was drawn by mutual agreement, since the boat taking the visitors home had to leave. England’s 849 remained the Test record total until 1938, when England buried Australia under the weight of 903/7 at the Oval.

Most 700-plus totals at a ground

The most number of 700-plus totals scored at a single ground is three – a record shared between two venues. Kingston’s Sabina Park has seen 849 by England in 1929-30, 790/3 by the West Indies against Pakistan in 1957-58 and 758/8 by Australia in 1954-55, while the Oval in London has witnessed 903/7 by England against Australia in 1938, 708 by Pakistan in 1987 and 701 by Australia in 1934.

Sri Lanka leads the pack

A quarter of Test cricket’s 700-plus totals have been mustered by Sri Lanka – they have now crossed the milestone a record six times despite being one of the newest Test nations. Incidentally, their first such instance went on to result in a new Test record of 952/6, against India at Colombo in 1997. Until that point, Sri Lanka had passed 500 only once in 74 Tests.

In the 20 years since, Sri Lanka have added five more 700-plus totals, all of them in the subcontinent. Australia, India and the West Indies follow with four 700-plus totals each, with England (three) and Pakistan (two) rounding the list off. South Africa (highest of 682/6), New Zealand (690), Zimbabwe (563/9) and Bangladesh (638) have not yet reached the 700-run mark.

Triple hundreds galore

Not surprisingly, of the 30 triple hundreds notched in Tests, 11 have come in innings where the team total surpassed 700. Thus, on average, every second Test total above 700 has featured a triple century. The two highest individual scores in Tests – Brian Lara’s 400* against England at St. John’s in 2003-04 and Matthew Hayden’s 380 against Zimbabwe at Perth earlier in the same season – were both part of 700-plus totals.

Run glut in the last two decades

As many as 15 of the 23 totals in excess of 700 have been scored in the past two decades. The 2000s saw ten such totals, while the 2010s have seen five thus far. Of the remaining eight, four were recorded in the 1930s (a period characterised by heavy run scoring, thanks to the emergence of the likes of Don Bradman and Wally Hammond), two in the 1950s and one each in the 1980s and 1990s.   

Home and away, wins and draws

The twenty-three 700-plus totals are divided quite neatly between home (12) and away (11). Further, 11 of them have resulted in a win for the concerned team, while 12 have led to the Test in question to be drawn. The highest total overseas is England’s 849 at Kingston in 1929-30; whereas the highest winning total overseas is Australia’s 758/8, also at Kingston, in 1954-55. The highest winning total overall is England’s 903/7 against Australia at the Oval in 1938.

Least and most wickets lost

The least number of wickets lost by a team scoring a 700-plus total is three, which has happened twice - the West Indies piled up 790/3 against Pakistan at Kingston in 1957-58, while Sri Lanka smashed 713/3 against Zimbabwe at Bulawayo in 2004. Of the 23 totals, 18 have ended in declarations and five in the team getting bowled out.

The instances when a team lost all ten wickets while making a 700-plus total are: 849 by England at Kingston in 1929-30, 747 by the West Indies against South Africa at St. John’s in 2004-05, 708 by Pakistan at the Oval in 1987, 707 by India at Colombo in 2010 and 701 by Australia, again at the Oval, in 1934.  

Highest and lowest leads

The highest first-innings lead by a team scoring a 700-plus total is a whopping 702 – England, after posting 903/7, bowled Australia out for 201 at the Oval in 1938, en route to a win by an innings and 579 runs, which is the Test record for the largest margin of victory by an innings. On the other hand, the first-innings lead of 65 gained by India, who replied with 707 to Sri Lanka’s 642/4 at Colombo in 2010, is the lowest by a team scoring a 700-plus total.

The lowest top score in a 700-plus total

Sri Lanka’s 713/9 against Bangladesh at Chittagong earlier this month was the first time that a 700-plus total did not include an individual double century, the highest score in the innings being 196 from Kusal Mendis. The previous lowest top score in a 700-plus total was Sachin Tendulkar’s 203 in India’s total of 707 against Sri Lanka at Colombo in 2010.


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Rustom Deboo is a cricket aficionado and freelance writer from Mumbai. He is an ardent devotee of T...

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