The column where we answer your questions

The cricketer who died on the Titanic

The column where we answer your questions

Steven Lynch

February 28, 2005

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The regular Monday column in which our editor answers your questions about (almost) any aspect of cricket. This week there's a distinctly Transatlantic flavour:



Jimmy Binks: near-record streak © Getty Images
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Did any first-class cricketers perish on board the Titanic? asked Cherry Evans from Cape Town

As far as I know, there was only one: John Thayer, a member of a prominent American cricketing family (three of his brothers also played). John Borland Thayer, a vice-president of the Pennsylvania Railroad, was just a week short of his 50th birthday when the Titanic went down on April 15, 1912. Some years before he'd played in seven matches now recognised as first-class - three for the Philadelphians and four for "American Born", all at the Germantown Cricket Club in Pennsylvania, a hotbed of cricket at the time. He didn't have a huge amount of success, scoring 138 runs at 11.50, and taking six wickets at 26.83. His highest score (24) and best bowling (3 for 17) both came for Philadelphia against the United States in October 1883. His wife, son and maid survived the ship's sinking. The most prominent sportsman on board the Titanic was probably Richard Norris Williams, who survived to win the American national tennis championship singles in 1914 and 1916, and also won the Wimbledon men's doubles in 1920.

What's the cricketing equivalent of Cal Ripken's "streak" of consecutive baseball games? asked Dana Forrest from Baltimore

Cal Ripken junior played an amazing 2632 consecutive major-league baseball games for the Baltimore Orioles between 1982 and 1998 without missing one for injury, illness or any other reason. The cricket equivalent, in English cricket at least, is the record for the most successive matches in the County Championship, and that's held by the Sussex batsman Ken Suttle, who [played 423 consecutive three-day games for Sussex between 1954 and 1969. He was neck and neck for much of that time with Jimmy Binks, the Yorkshire wicketkeeper, who played 412 consecutive Championship matches between his debut in 1954 and his retirement in 1969. Both of them were helped (if that's the right word) by never being selected to play for England at home, which would probably have interrupted their sequences. Binks played two Tests, both in India in 1963-64, and Suttle never played any, although he did tour West Indies in 1953-54 without winning a cap.

Have any Test cricketers been born in the United States? asked Denise Thompson from Trinidad

Two Test players have been born in the USA. The first was Kenneth Weekes, who was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1912. "Bam-Bam" Weekes, who went to live and play in Jamaica, played in two of the Tests on West Indies' tour of England in 1939. The hard-hitting Weekes slammed 137 at The Oval in what turned out to be the last Test match before the Second World War. Weekes eventually returned to the USA, and died in Brooklyn in 1998. More recently Jehan Mubarak, who was born in Washington, has played four Tests for Sri Lanka.

Has there ever been a baseball-style "double play" in cricket, in which two batsmen were out at once? asked Dilip Khaura from Delhi

No, there hasn't so far been a double play - at the moment the laws state that the ball becomes dead when a batsman is dismissed. But there is a move afoot to make it possible, in one-day cricket at least: a sub-committee of the International Cricket Council, chaired by the former Indian great Sunil Gavaskar, suggested this among several measures aimed at adding interest to the game at after a meeting earlier this month.

Who was the England cricket captain who played for the Hollywood Cricket Club? asked Richard Cramer from Los Angeles

This was Aubrey Smith, the former Sussex bowler who captained England in what turned out to be his only Test, against South Africa at Port Elizabeth in 1888-89. After an adventurous life he carved a niche for himself in Hollywood as an archetypal Englishman, and he appeared in more than 100 movies, including classics like The Prisoner of Zenda and The Four Feathers. In 1932 he actually founded the Hollywood Cricket Club, whose pitch was planted with imported English grass. Fellow expats, such as David Niven and Boris Karloff, played alongside some occasionally bemused locals. Smith was knighted for services to Anglo-American amity in 1944, and died in 1948. The story goes that, late in life and by then a famous face in films, Sir Aubrey paid a visit to Lord's and was spotted in the pavilion. "That man over there seems familiar," remarked one member to another. "Yes, said the second, who was obviously not a film fan: "Chap called Smith. Used to play for Sussex."

Was the USA team that played against Australia in the Champions Trophy in September the oldest, on average, to play in a one-day international? asked Gautam Bhose

Funnily enough I was asked this question at that time, and answered it in this column on October 4. Here's what I said then: "Yes, indeed it was - the average of that side at the Rose Bowl was around 35 years and seven months. It was appreciably older than the USA side that played in the first match of the Champions Trophy, as it included Donovan Blake, 42, and 38-year-old Nasir Javed, in place of Clayton Lambert, 42, and Jignesh Desai - a sprightly 30 - who played in that first game, against New Zealand. The venerable Holland team that played in the 1996 World Cup fills the next three spots on the table, but the oldest one-day side fielded by a Test nation was by England, against New Zealand at Wellington in 1974-75. Its average age was a touch under 33 years, and it included Fred Titmus, 42, and John Edrich, 37."

Steven Lynch is the editor of Cricinfo. If you want to Ask Steven a question, contact him through our feedback form. The most interesting questions will be answered each week in this column. Unfortunately, we can't usually enter into correspondence about individual queries.

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Steven Lynch Steven Lynch won the Wisden Cricket Monthly Christmas Quiz three years running before the then-editor said "I can't let you win it again, but would you like a job?" That lasted for 15 years, before he moved across to the Wisden website when that was set up in 2000. Following the merger of the two sites early in 2003 he was appointed as the global editor of Wisden Cricinfo. In June 2005 he became the deputy editor of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack. He continues to contribute the popular weekly "Ask Steven" question-and-answer column on ESPNcricinfo, and edits the Wisden Guide to International Cricket.
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