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Cricket World Rewind: #OnThisDay - When an Indian Prince piled up 333 runs in 5 and a half hours in County cricket

Kumar Shri Duleepsinhji
Kumar Shri Duleepsinhji

May 7, 1930 - Duleepsinhji, nephew of the legendary KS Ranjitsinhji, smashed a record 333 runs in five and a half hours playing for Sussex against Northants in 1930 in a knock that included 33 boundaries and a six.

How long does it take to score a triple century? Don Bradman scored his career best 334 in around six and a half hours. Matthew Hayden struck 380 against Zimbabwe in 2003 in over 10 hours. Brian Lara's 375 against England came in almost 13 hours. Mahela Jayawardene's 374 against South Africa at Colombo in 2006 took over 12 and a half hours.

What do you then make of a player who races to 333 in just over five hours? Given that it was not an international match, but the quality of the bowling was nowhere close to ordinary. The attack had three bowlers who represented England - Nobby Clark and Vallance Jupp had already played for the country, and Austin Matthews would do so later.

The great Duleepsinhji, nephew of the legendary KS Ranjitsinhji - after whom India's premier red-ball domestic tournament the Ranji Trophy is named - playing for Sussex against Northants in 1930 did something extraordinary. He struck 33 boundaries and a six during a five and a half hour stay at the crease at Hove which is still regarded as one of the best all-time first-class knocks.

Duleepsinhji was following the footsteps of his uncle Ranjitsinhji who had made his debut for Sussex in 1895 after arriving at Cambridge from India in 1891. He was a regular part of the team till 1904 and returned to India after leading the county for five years (1899-1903). 

His nephew Duleepsinhji began his cricket career as part of the Cheltenham XI from 1921 to 1923. His flair soon attracted attention.

HS Altham, the former President of MCC, wrote of him in Wisden: "In natural gifts of eye, wrist and footwork he is certainly blest far above the ordinary measure... there is no doubt about the judgment and certainty with which he takes toll of straight balls of anything but the most immaculate length. His late cutting is quite beautiful and there is a certain ease and maturity about all his batting methods that stamps him as of a different class from the ordinary school batsman." 

The batsman went on to make his debut for Sussex in 1926 and played for the county till 1932, captaining the side in his final year. He made his debut for England against South Africa in 1929, but did not prove to be an instant success. His highest international score came against Australia next year in June 1930 as the batsman hit 173 and 48 in the two innings, returning with a total of 221 in the game.

That very year, the Indian Prince did something spectacular in County cricket. Walking out to bat at one drop for Sussex, the batsman looked a class apart as wickets kept tumbling at the other end. 

Ted Bowley (1), James Parks (9), Thomas Cook (19), James Langridge (17) and Henry Parks (11) could not add much. Intriguingly, Duleep kept the scoreboard moving quickly, scoring the lion's share of the runs at the other end.  He added 77 with Cook, 75 with Langridge and 53 with Henry Parks. As a result, at the fall of the fifth wicket, the score read a rather impressive 235. 

Duleep found a good companion in Maurice Tate (111) as the duo added 255 in no time. Shortly after Tate's dismissal for nelson, Duleep departed as well as he stepped out to Matthews and was stumped. By that time, he had already done the damage with 333 runs and Sussex won the match by an innings and 209 runs.

Duleepsinhji's triple ton was the fourth most runs scored by a batsman in a single day's play in first-class cricket. Brian Lara holds the record for most runs when he struck 390 runs in a single day for Warwickshire in 1994, in the knock that saw him scale the 500-run mountain.

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