January 8, 2017

Hundred before lunch? Nothing modern about it

David Warner joins an illustrious list that stretches back all the way to the start of the 20th century
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Working up an appetite: Charles Macartney on his way to a hundred before lunch at Headingley, 1926 © Getty Images

By producing a pulsating innings at the SCG, David Warner became one of only five players to score a century before lunch on the opening day of a Test, and remarkably, the first to do it in Australia.

Despite a vast improvement in bats and the dramatic influence over batting that T20 cricket has had, it was the first time for 40 years that a batsman performed this feat. So much for all those who spout that really aggressive batting has only become fashionable in the last two decades.

In fact there have been many buccaneering batsmen in history but only a rare few with the mental courage to wantonly attack the new ball. The one surprise omission from the list of century-makers before lunch is India's master of mayhem, Virender Sehwag. He had both the mental approach and the opportunity as an opening batsman to score a century before lunch on the first day of a Test but somehow the achievement eluded him.

It happened to be Sehwag who presciently suggested to Warner that he would have plenty of success at the Test level by maintaining his ultra-aggressive T20 approach. Before Warner had played a Test, Sehwag reasoned that with the field up for the new ball, the pint-sized dynamo would find plenty of gaps to pierce with his wide and powerful stroke range.

The player on that illustrious list who it's easiest to imagine Warner having a similar mindset to is Charlie "Governor General" Macartney, who belted his century before lunch in 1926. While padding up for Australia at Trent Bridge against Nottinghamshire in 1921, Macartney is famously reported to have said: "Some cove's going to cop it today."

He was true to his word and scored the second-fastest first-class triple-century by reaching 300 in only 205 minutes. It's easy to imagine Warner thinking, if not saying, something similar as he strapped on his pads at the SCG.

The first man to score a century before lunch on the opening day of a Test was the elegant Australian strokemaker Victor Trumper. He performed his feat in 1902 at Old Trafford after a damp pitch had convinced England captain Archie MacLaren to send in the opposition. Apparently MacLaren said to his team-mates on announcing his decision: "If we keep Victor quiet, lads, we'll bowl the rest out."

David Warner is one of four Australians to have scored a hundred before lunch on the first day of a Test © Getty Images

What makes Trumper's feat even more remarkable is that the scheduled 90-minute session was reduced to 75 by the rain. That night, when MacLaren was chided for his field placings by a few of his mates in a local pub, he replied: "Vic kept hitting them onto the practice field. Did you want me to place fielders out there?"

Not surprisingly, the incomparable Sir Donald Bradman surpassed all others in achieving the feat by repeating the dose in the second session. On the way to scoring a triple-century in a day at Headingley in 1930, Bradman followed his 105 runs in the first session with another 115 before tea. It has often been mistakenly said Bradman scored a century in each session that day, but even he apparently tired, as he scored "only" 89 in the final session to finish the day on 309.

The sole non-Australian to achieve this remarkable feat was Pakistan opener Majid Khan, who pulverised the New Zealand attack in Karachi in 1976-77. However, being the only non-Australian is not what makes the silky-smooth Majid's innings unique. He's the only batsman on that list who hit a six in dominating the opposing attack.

Though he was the first player to score a century before lunch in Australia, in reality Warner was only maintaining a remarkable tradition. All the Australian cricketers to achieve this feat played for New South Wales.

It's no wonder the saying evolved many years ago: "When NSW cricket is strong, so is Australia's." Warner is doing his bit to try to ensure that remains the case.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is a cricket commentator for Channel Nine, and a columnist

Comments have now been closed for this article

  •   cricfan63968509 on January 15, 2017, 14:57 GMT

    Warner hit 17 boundaries in that, but some r more aggressive, hitting hundred with 19 fours.

  • SG70 on January 13, 2017, 14:22 GMT

    Watching one of the top "fast" bowler from the 1890's ERA - Arthur Mold - bowl on YT gave me all the answers that I needed to know. It specifically confirmed my suspicion that historical accounts are to be taken with a bucket load of salt. If anyone believes these bowlers to be truly great fast bowlers even remotely comparable to modern fast bowlers .. then they have some serious issues to sort out first.

  • SG70 on January 12, 2017, 9:49 GMT

    @BOBC ... Any Comment on my last post ? Really interested to see what you think about the pace at which bowlers from that era bowled.

  • fayyaz03 on January 12, 2017, 9:29 GMT

    After Australia's next series, India will have to think thrice before inviting Australia according to Chappel Logic. Lolz

  • SG70 on January 11, 2017, 11:18 GMT

    @BOBC I am aware of Charles Kortright and his contemporary fast bowlers i.e Arthur Mold, Brearley etc.. My question is how fast do you think they were ... Wahab can crank it upto 150Ks do you think those bowlers were just as fast accurate and lethal ?

  • Beertjie on January 10, 2017, 22:03 GMT

    As a great admirer of Sehwag (but a lifelong Aussie fan because of my idolisation of Bradman), may I point out, @T20Forever, that the great man also missed to score 3 triple tons when his partner (*11, Tim Wall) got run out while he was trying to complete his 300th run!

  • BobCo on January 10, 2017, 13:02 GMT

    @SG70, bowling speed is not a modern phenomenon, nor is accuracy. For the latter, read a biography on Wilfred Rhodes. For the former, I'll point only to Charles Jesse Kortright, who many good and sound-minded people believed to be the fastest bowler of all time... wet wickets are no joke to play on. It is an often overlooked fact that the older greats' techniques were honed to deal with such things, a skill set modern players don't need and often don't have -- modern techniques tend to struggle against the moving ball. The reverse is also true -- no doubt older greats' techniques were flawed in other ways (Bradman aside -- he is a statistical anomaly that can't be explained away with any lack of skill of the opposition argument).

  • Simon2604 on January 10, 2017, 8:38 GMT

    @CICERO I'm not one of the "everything modern is better than everything old" brigade, but neither do I support the modern thinking that exceptionalism leads to bad outcomes and so all must be given prizes, I think that the fact that Warner almost certainly faced 30% fewer deliveries than did the other four suggests that however rare and remarkable their achievements were, Warner's deserves recognition for being even more remarkable.

    I accept what you say about bats and outfields, but rapid scoring was still possible in that era, as Gilbert Jessop demonstrated on numerous occasions.

  • cricmatters on January 10, 2017, 0:42 GMT

    Sehwag once got out on 195 in Melbourne Test and India lost that match. Since then he has gone on to score some real big ones. Sehwag's record of scoring big 300's in Test Matches will be harder but that is what Warner should aim for. Once you are in and well set, there is no point in giving up your wicket to a reckless shot. Your team winning the match is more important than how quickly you score your runs.

  • SG70 on January 9, 2017, 21:36 GMT

    @DEJFRITH

    "It would be interesting to see Dave Warner - and so many other high-scoring moderns - batting on rain-affected pitches - the true test of greatness." - As long as we also bring back the exact same bowling quality (speed and accuracy or lack of ) as it existed in early 1900's so as to make it a fair level playing field. And ofcourse minimal protective equipment. In that case my bet would be on Warner or any modern great, - There is a very good reason why they got rid of Un-covered pitches. They were a bit of a lottery ticket for the lucky bowling side that got to bowl on a wet wicket. Only in cricket could such stupidity last for nearly a century. I understand the need to praise and respect past era greats but beyond a point it becomes just tiring to read about the said players which might as well be close to fiction than reality.

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