The hunt for 1,000
It has been one of my fascinations since childhood: the annual race to see if any batsman can reach 1,000 first-class runs before the end of May. It is one of those records that is both eccentric and challenging. No one cares if a batsman makes 1,000 runs between, say, July 8 and August 20, but it is arguably harder to make the runs in a similar timeframe at the start of the season.
The feat has been achieved only twice since the Second World War: by Graeme Hick in 1988 and Glenn Turner, for the touring New Zealanders, in 1973. Tom Hayward, Wally Hammond, Charlie Hallows, WG Grace, Bill Edrich and Don Bradman (twice, naturally) all made the mark before 1945.
That does not mean that the record is unassailable, although you need a kind fixture list to be able to achieve it. Two years ago, Robert Key made 906 runs by May 28 but did not have another fixture until June. So who are the candidates to scale this Everest in 2006?
Mark Ramprakash, with 577 runs, and Scott Newman, his Surrey team-mate, on 554, are leading the way in terms of runs scored but they each have a maximum of only three first-class innings left before the end of the month. Lance Klusener, who is leading the averages this season with 335 runs for one dismissal, has five innings left in which to make 665 runs, while David Sales, his Northamptonshire captain, needs five runs fewer to get his 1,000, also with five innings to go.
Ian Trott, of Warwickshire, has 498 runs with five innings remaining, while Dinesh Mongia (326 runs, six innings to go), Martin van Jaarsveld (389 runs, seven innings) and Gordon Muchall (322 runs, seven innings) also need to average about 100 runs per innings to have a chance of making the mark. It's a tough ask, but it is doable even if it comes down to the final roll of the dice.
In 1988, Hick needed 153 runs in his final innings in May to reach the landmark and Worcestershire were playing the West Indians, whose pace attack that day featured Curtley Ambrose, Courtney Walsh, Patrick Patterson and Ian Bishop. Hick made 172. It makes you wonder why he never quite cracked it for England.