IT is one of the most elusive records in the world of sport. The feat of Robert Percival on the racecourse at Durham Sands on April 18, 1882, was nothing short of amazing.

He hurled a 5 ounce cricket ball 140 yards and 2 feet. And in the intervening 119 years no one has come close to matching that distance.

Percival's record is shrouded in mystery. So much so that many are sceptical about his achievement.

There are no contemporary newspaper accounts of the record, and not much is known about the world record holder himself, other than he was left-handed.

Some research concludes he was from Shildon. Others mention Sherburn Hill and West Rainton, on the outskirts of Durham City.

Nevertheless Percival's record is recognised, both by Wisden - cricket's bible - and the Guinness Book of Records.

Modern day attempts at the record have been made, the most notable of which was a competition organised by The Northern Echo in 1978.

The victor on that occasion was Jim Anthony, an advertising executive from Cheltenham, and a former world record holder for hoying the welly and egg-throwing.

But his winning throw of 106 yards 2 feet 11 inches was well short of Percival's mark.

Essex all-rounder Ian Pont was reported to have thrown 138 yards in South Africa in 1981. And legendary fielder Colin Bland, from South Africa, was reputed to have thrown 150 yards. But neither has been verified.

The nearest challenger to Percival was Great Britain's javelin thrower Mick Hill. In Shropshire in 1991 Hill missed the world record by just a couple of metres.

But who knows, Percival could be knocked off his pedestal this summer.

Durham County Cricket Club marketing executive James Bailey said: "This is an incredible record, which has stood the test of time. However, with modern day training techniques and fitness levels, this could be the year when the record is finally broken.

"Percival's record was set in County Durham in the 19th Century. It would be fitting if we could re-write the record books in the 21st Century at the home of Durham County Cricket Club."

Ahead of the world record attempt on August 14, heats will be held during the interval of Durham's Norwich Union League home games against Lancashire Lightning on May 27, against Glamorgan Dragons on July 8, Derbyshire Scorpions on August 12, and a final heat on the Floodlit Challenge evening on August 14.

Contestants who apply to attempt the record through The Northern Echo will receive a free ticket for the Floodlit Challenge Evening. Others can register on the day of the heats and make an attempt at the record.

The 15 people with the longest throws from the three heats will be invited down to the Floodlit Challenge night to have an attempt at the World Record. There will also be five people selected from the fourth heat on the night.