'For ever to be remembered as one of cricket's nearly men' - so says Rob Eastaway (behind the Times paywall) about... Donald Bradman. I nearly spilled my breakfast cereal. Bradman a nearly man? He only had a Test batting average at least 50 per cent better than all the other most successful batsman in the history of the game. Eastaway is referring, of course, to the four runs by which Bradman fell short of an average of 100. But still - with 99.94 I'd say he was more clearly way above nearly than he was nearly, merely. Eastaway's column is about why statistical landmarks matter to us; it's because humans are programmed to look for patterns, apparently. Be this as it may, he does get to the bottom of things here:
[C]ricket remains the king of statistical sports. The reason is twofold. Big numbers are an integral part of the sport, with every game guaranteed to generate applause-worthy fifties and hundreds (something even baseball, another statistical sport, doesn't do). The second reason is that cricket is played at a pace that gives us time to appreciate and to anticipate those big numbers. And, after all, with Test matches occupying five days, we have to fill our time somehow.
The sceptic - no, cynic - might say that this testifies to the boredom of cricket. Nothing of the kind. It is evidence of the deeper mysteries of the game. What we see before us on the field of play takes on further layers of meaning when set against the traditions of the past. And that includes the statistics.