The current answer to that question, which you should remember for your next trivia quiz, is 229. No-one has ever been dismissed for, or finished not out for, that score in a Test match. But consider this: that must have become the lowest by virtue of someone putting a tick in the box of a lower score. And, if we restrict ourselves to scores of 100 or more, the lowest un-made score before the first Test of all in 1877 must have been (by definition) 100. And once someone eventually registered a score of exactly 100, the title would have passed to the lowest number greater than 100 which hadn't been registered yet, and so on. So it should be possible to construct a list of the upward progression of the record over time, at least theoretically. But you'd need to be able to go through and log the first occurrence of each 100+ score, a task which would have been pretty much impossible before the internet, and the aforementioned Statsguru in particular. Even now, someone would have to expend a smallish amount of effort to do it. And someone has! But who? I'll put you out of your misery: it was me.
|Score||Player||Date||Match||Span (time)||Span (Tests)|
|100||JT Tyldesley||3rd July 1905||ENG v AUS||28y 110d||84|
|110||WH Ponsford||19th December 1924||AUS v ENG||19y 169d||73|
|114||H Sutcliffe||15th June 1929||ENG v RSA||4y 178d||23|
|125||PGV van der Bijl||3rd March 1939||RSA v ENG||9y 261d||90|
|139||ED Weekes||11th April 1955||WI v AUS||16y 39d||133|
|171||IR Redpath||11th December 1970||AUS v ENG||15y 244d||271|
|186||Zaheer Abbas||23rd December 1982||PAK v IND||12y 12d||267|
|199||Mudassar Nazar||24th October 1984||PAK v IND||1y 306d||54|
|218||SV Manjrekar||1st December 1989||IND v PAK||5y 38d||134|
|224||VG Kambli||19th February 1993||IND v ENG||2y 80d||84|
|228||HH Gibbs||2nd January 2003||RSA v PAK||9y 318d||423|
So the way this works is as follows: each entry in the list preceded the one below it (in the table, above it numerically) as the lowest un-made score in Test cricket, and was eventually bagged by the batsman in the "Player" column after holding the record for the time in the "Span (time)" column, at which point the record progressed to being held by the next number in the sequence, until it in turn was bagged, and so on. As you can see, the record holder in terms of time is the lowest possible century score, 100, which had to wait until 28 years of Test cricket had elapsed before Johnny Tyldesley bagged it in Leeds in 1905. Of course there are many more Tests per year these days, as the second "Span" column shows, but aside from a bit of a flurry in the 1980s and early 1990s when the record changed hands four times in just over ten years it tends to change hands about once a decade. As if to prove that point, as of today the current record has stood for 10 years and 12 days and 434 Tests. The next few available blank slots, should that one get bagged, since you ask, are 238, 245 and 252.
The way you work this out, just in case you're interested, is to make a list of the first person to bag each individual score, and then put a tick against each score whose bagged date is greater than any of the dates for scores below it. Here's the spreadsheet containing the raw data.
A couple of interesting things emerge from the blizzard of data: firstly that the most prolific score-baggers tend to be people from the earlier days of Test cricket when the list had more available gaps on it. Unsurprisingly this list is dominated, as most batting lists are, by one Don Bradman, who got first dibs on no fewer than eleven separate scores. As so often (and much to his posthumous chagrin no doubt) second place on the list is occupied by Walter Hammond with seven, followed by Denis Compton, Clem Hill and Victor Trumper with four.
178, and pick the earliest one (which turns out to be by Joe Darling of Australia in 1898). The only score for which this method fails is 234, since it turns out that both instances of that score were made during the same match, the Sydney Test of December 1946. Even a cursory examination of the scorecard doesn't help, since they were both also made in the same innings, by Sid Barnes and (inevitably) Don Bradman of Australia. So it all comes down to which of them was out first, and remarkably it turns out that not only did they both register the same score, but, having shared what remains a Test record sixth-wicket partnership of 405, were also both out within four balls of each other with the score on 564. Bradman was out first, as it happens (so his name goes in the list), and there is some speculation (encouraged by Barnes himself) that Barnes gave his wicket away shortly afterwards to ensure a share of statistical immortality.
Barnes appears to have been an interesting character; among other things his nickname of Suicide Sid - bestowed because of his habit of taking up fielding positions extremely close to the batsman at some risk of personal injury in those pre-helmet days - presaged the eventual manner of his death, a (probably) self-inflicted overdose of barbiturates. It's still not as good as Stan McCabe chasing a possum off a cliff though.