Ashes 2010: A Look Back at Ashes Centuries Before Lunch

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David Green aka The Reverse Sweep investigates who’s hit a century before lunch in Ashes encounters.

This week on the first day of the 1st Test between India and New Zealand at Ahmedabad, Virender Sehwag went into lunch 13 runs short of becoming only the fifth batsman in history to hit a hundred before lunch on the first day of a test match.

Other than Majid Khan, who achieved this notable feat against New Zealand at Karachi in 1976-77, all the other instances came in Ashes tests and all were achieved by Australians. And not just any Australians either, but a trio of greats in Victor Trumper, Charlie Macartney and Don Bradman.

Trumper was the first to achieve the feat at Old Trafford in the 4th Test of the classic 1902 series, but surprisingly no mention is made of this in the Wisden report of the match other than to say that Australia reached 173 for one by lunch  – Trumper was unbeaten on 103.

We found more information about Macartney’s hundred before lunch on the first day of the Headingley test of 1926. Arthur Carr, the England captain, won the toss and wrongly judged that the damp pitch would be a bowlers paradise under a hot drying sun. When Warren Bardsley was out to the first ball of the match however, it looked like Carr may be right.

Then Carr’s luck turned when only four balls later he dropped a simple catch at slip to reprieve Macartney. The Governer General made Carr pay and unleashed an array of strokes to reach 112 not out by lunch in an innings Carr ruefully described as “just about the most wonderful century I have ever seen.” Raymond Robertson-Glasgow described some of Macartney’s outrageous late cuts as being “so late they are almost posthumous”.

In the 1930 series four years later, Bradman emulated Trumper and Macartney with the most stupendous of his superhuman performances on the tour by smashing 334 at Headingley – the scene of Macartney’s carnage in 1926. Like Macartney, Bradman came to the crease early following the dismissal of Archie Jackson and proceeded to launch himself into an England bowling attack that included Larwood, Tate, Tyldesley, Geary and Hammond. Characteristically, Bradman’s attack wasn’t as brutal as Macartney’s as he rarely hit the ball in the air, but it was full of splendid strokes all the same.

Will an Australian or English batsman join this immortal triumvirate in the upcoming series? Well, given the rarity of the feat and modern day over rates, we won’t be putting any money on it.

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