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Angelo Perera's incredible feat, and the man who achieved it first


Angelo_Perera_Sri_Lanka_CricketThe Sri Lankan domestic circuit witnessed a remarkable performance earlier this month, as Angelo Perera, captain of Nondescripts Cricket Club, etched his name in the record books by becoming only the second man to score double-hundreds in both innings of a first-class match. The 28-year-old Perera, who has played four ODIs and two T20Is for Sri Lanka, achieved the feat against Sinhalese Sports Club on a batting-friendly surface at the P Sara Oval in Colombo.

In what was a Super Eight fixture of the Premier League Tournament Tier A, Perera arrived at the crease in the first innings with Nondescripts placed at 125/3, and proceeded to smash 201 from just 203 balls, including 20 fours and a six, before being the last man to fall at 444. However, Sinhalese Sports Club took a lead of 36, and then gained the upper hand by reducing Nondescripts to 44/3. Nondescripts began the final (fourth) day at 157/3, with Perera on 38*.

Perera joined forces with opener Pathum Nissanka to forge a fourth-wicket partnership of 267 that all but extinguished Sinhalese Sports Club’s hopes of pressing for victory. Nissanka, who had scored 95 in the first innings, perished for 165, but Perera marched on with more support down the order. He shared in a fifth-wicket stand of 123 with Malinga Amarasinghe, followed by a sixth-wicket stand of 120 with fellow Sri Lankan international Chaturanga de Silva (103*).

By the time he was finally dismissed, Perera had racked up 231 from 268 balls, studded with 20 fours and three sixes, to add to his first-innings effort. The benign nature of the pitch was evident from the fact that Nondescripts were 579/7 when the game reached its conclusion, but that does not take anything away from this extremely rare and highly laudable feat. Perera was duly rewarded with a place in Sri Lanka’s squad for the upcoming two-Test series in South Africa.

The first and only other instance of a batsman scoring twin double-tons in a first-class match was recorded in 1938, in a County Championship game between Essex and Kent at the Castle Park Cricket Ground in Colchester. Arthur Fagg, yet to turn 23, opened for Kent along with Peter Sunnucks after Gerry Chalk won the toss and elected to bat first. Sunnucks and wicketkeeper Hopper Levett were dismissed with only 28 on the board, at which point Les Todd joined Fagg.

Fagg dominated a third-wicket stand of 133 to put the innings back on track, and reached his hundred before lunch itself, in just 94 minutes. He added a further 137 for the fifth wicket with Chalk (61), before completing his double-hundred in 230 minutes. It was the left-arm spin of Reginald Taylor that finally got rid of Fagg, who was trapped leg-before for a monumental 244 in 295 minutes, with 31 fours. Kent lost their last five wickets for 43 to be bowled out for 429.

Essex replied with 350, with the cornerstone being an unbeaten 137 from captain Tom Pearce, who shared in a ninth-wicket stand of 131 with Ray Smith. Leg-spinner Doug Wright, known for taking the most first-class hat-tricks (seven), scalped 7/107. With Kent having gained a vital lead and the surface still conducive for batting, chances of an outright result looked remote. Fagg and Sunnucks cemented Kent’s position by steering the score to 142/0 by stumps on the second day.

The opening stand swelled to 283 on the last day, before Sunnucks was run out for 82. At the other end, Fagg cruised into unchartered territory, as he created history by notching his second double-ton of the match. This knock was even more aggressive than the one in the first dig – he had reached three figures towards the end of the second day in a mere 69 minutes, while his 200 came up in 165 minutes, which was quicker than his first-innings display by more than an hour.

Fagg finished with an unbeaten 202 in 170 minutes this time, hitting 27 fours on the way, as Kent declared at 313/1. When he was on 69, he crossed the milestone of 7,000 first-class runs. Essex wobbled to 8/2 before rain ensured that the match was drawn. Fagg ended the season with 2,297 Championship runs at 54.69, the second highest tally, consisting of nine hundreds and five fifties. Despite their opener’s rich vein of form, Kent finished ninth in the final standings.

Born in the Kentish village of Chartham on July 18, 1915, Fagg was a few days shy of 17 when he made his first-class debut for Kent against Warwickshire at Birmingham in 1932. By 1936, when he made his Test debut against India at Old Trafford, he was touted by many as England’s future opening mainstay, what with the retirement of the great Herbert Sutcliffe. Fagg was also selected for the 1936-37 tour of Australia, but his cricketing career would soon face a roadblock.

Midway through the Australian tour, after he had played the first two Tests, Fagg suffered a severe bout of rheumatic fever, due to which he had to be sent back home. Consequently, he was also forced to miss the entire home season in 1937. He had a successful return to the county scene, as seen from his exploits in 1938, but his Test career failed to take off. He had to refuse an invitation for the tour of South Africa in 1938-39, for he never fully recovered from the fever.

The last of Fagg’s five Test matches was against the West Indies at Old Trafford in 1939. However, he played for Kent till 1957, extending his first-class career to 25 years. He scored 27,289 runs in 435 first-class matches at an average of 36.04, hitting 58 hundreds and 128 fifties with a highest score of 269*. Besides, he was also an able wicketkeeper, and had 425 catches (including those taken while fielding) and seven stumpings to his name by the time he retired.

After his retirement, Fagg had an umpiring stint from 1967 to 1976, during which he officiated in 18 Tests and seven ODIs, including the second semi-final of the 1975 World Cup between New Zealand and the West Indies at The Oval. He breathed his last on September 13, 1977.

Fagg may not have been one of the all-time greats of the game, but there is no doubt that cricketing immortality was bestowed upon him the moment he completed his 200th run in the second innings at Colchester on July 15, 1938. The fact that it took more than 80 years for his feat to be emulated shows how special it was, and it remains to be seen how long it might take before the game witnesses such an accomplishment again.

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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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