Life & Culture

The cricketing top scorer from Sky who has never been stumped

Behind the drama on the field, one man stays cool, calm and concentrated


When Australia were skittled out for 60 on the first day of the fourth Ashes Test in Nottingham a fortnight ago, the records fell as fast as Aussie wickets. But the commentators in the Sky Sports team trying to keep up knew they could rely on a trusted source for their facts and figures: statistician Benedict Bermange.

The former Maccabi Association London Sunday cricketer is a walking encyclopaedia who feeds the insatiable demand for historic detail from devotees of the game: who has played the longest Test innings, made the most ducks, bowled the most maidens, etc

Before yesterday's start of the fifth and final Test at the Oval, he was busy swotting. "I normally spend two solid days before a Test match going through what might happen, making sure the records are up to date," he said.

Over the past few weeks, he has been rubbing shoulders with four former English and one Australian captain. "It is still a bit surreal," he said, "Now I think of them more as work colleagues."

His "slightly unusual name" he feels has made him more recognisable. (He must be the second best-known Benedict on TV after Cumberbatch).

While the pundits pronounce behind the mics, he is at work with his black, red and green pens scoring the game by hand. "It's just in case the computer scorer who sits next to me, his computer crashes – we can recreate the entire match ball by ball. And if a batsman is approaching his 50 and we need to put a video together showing all his fours, I can instantly tell the guys down in the truck who put these things together that he hit a four at 3.38, at 4.06 and 4.15."

Now 40, he was taught to score when a boy by his father. When he started Haberdasher's in Elstree, "I was so good at it I was 12th man for the first three games of the season."

Former MAL players can relive their greatest exploits thanks to the record book Bermange helped to compile for the club.

One day, he picked up a copy of his parents' Daily Telegraph: "There was an article about some world ranking system which had just been launched. I got in touch with one of the guys who invented it. The contact I made from that letter subsequently worked for [former England captain] Ted Dexter." As a result, Benedict was able to get a week's work experience with Dexter while at school.

At Durham University, he once captained Andrew Strauss, now director of English cricket, in his college team. While a student, he also set up the first online cricket ratings site in 1994.

"Before 1999, the computer graphics for the World Cup in England required an extra scorer to log everything on to a computer," he said. "I got a phone call. "I was working as an accountant, running the website for PriceWaterhouseCoopers. I used up at my annual leave, taking a day off here or there to go to Leicestershire or Derbyshire."

He covered the next World Cup four years later and when Sky won the contract to broadcast home Tests in 2006, he joined the team full-time.

At home, he has editions of the cricketer's almanac Wisden going back to 1934. But with so much cricket being played these days and the proliferation of one-day contests, the old books are not enough. "If someone wanted to know which ship the Australians sailed to England on for their 1948 tour, Wisden is probably the best source," he said.

"If I want to know who has top-scored in most successive innings for England, I will look on my Access database. If I want to know which 19-year-olds have made the most Test runs, I will look somewhere else."

One of his favourite records from the last match was "the England team only had 53 letters in their surname, which set a new record for the fewest," he said. "I was praying that Wood would replace Anderson, which he did."

Bermange lives in Bristol, a few minutes from the local county ground, where the only Jewish cricketer who might have had a chance of actually playing in the Ashes, Australian Michael Klinger, sometimes plays for Gloucestershire.

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