May 17, 2016

Debutants born on the same day, and the best T20 figures

Also: England's highest scorer across formats, and five-fors against all 18 counties

If James Vince (above) makes his Test debut along with Jake Ball, a 139-year-old record will be equalled © Chris Whiteoak

England's two newcomers for the first Test against Sri Lanka were both born on the same day. Has this ever happened before? asked Rajiv Radhakrishnan from England
That's a great spot, as Jake Ball and James Vince - England's two new inclusions for Thursday's opening Test against Sri Lanka - were both born on March 14, 1991. Just as I contemplated going back through every Test scorecard to discover whether two men from the same side had ever made their debut together before, Wisden's statistician Philip Bailey spared me the trouble with a bit of fancy database-delving. And it turns out he saved me an awful lot of time: this has happened only once previously, in the very first Test of all, back in 1877. In that historic match in Melbourne, both Australia's opener Nat Thomson (the first man ever to get out in a Test) and his middle-order colleague Ned Gregory were born on May 29, 1839. There was a similar occurrence for opposite sides in Durban in 1913-14, when Lionel Tennyson made his debut for England, and George "Dusty" Tapscott his first for South Africa. They were both born on November 7, 1889. So watch out if both Ball and Vince win their first caps at Headingley - although I have a feeling that one of them might end up as 12th man, which would leave that 139-year-old record intact.

In a recent interview on ESPNcricinfo, Phil DeFreitas said he was pretty sure he was the only bowler to take a five-for against all 18 first-class counties. Is he right? asked John Lynch from Vanuatu
Phil DeFreitas is indeed the only bowler to take a five-for against all 18 possible opponents in the County Championship, during a long career for Leicestershire, Lancashire and Derbyshire. The full 18 has only been possible since Durham joined the Championship in 1992, and it obviously also needs at least one switch of counties to allow completeness. Before that, seven men had collected a nap hand of 17: seamers Tom Cartwright, Ken Higgs, John Shepherd and Ossie Wheatley, slow left-armers Tony Lock and George Paine, and legspinner Percy Fender. Six other more recent performers have managed 17 out of 18 in Durham's time. Martin Bicknell remained loyal to Surrey, so didn't get the chance to take five against them; his sometime colleague Ian Salisbury never managed a five-for in eight matches against Surrey. Courtney Walsh never played a Championship match against Gloucestershire (his only first-class game against them was for the Rest of the World in 1987; he took 2 for 20). Peter Such never managed a Championship five-for in five matches against Essex, while John Childs never did it in 17 attempts against Warwickshire. And Eddie Hemmings never achieved it in 25 matches against Middlesex, despite rattling off five-fors against all 17 other county opponents.

Ben Stokes has a highest score of 258 in Tests, but his average is only 33. Is there anyone who has a higher score but a lower average? asked Joshwin Maharaj from South Africa
Ben Stokes' current batting average, from 23 matches before the start of England's Test series against Sri Lanka, is 33.73. He would probably be grimly amused at the identity of one of the only two men below him in the averages who have a higher Test score: West Indies' Marlon Samuels, something of a red rag to Stokes' bull, currently averages 33.53 with a highest score of 260, against Bangladesh in Khulna in 2012-13. The other one is New Zealand's Bryan Young, who averaged only 31.78 despite making 267 not out against Sri Lanka in Dunedin in 1996-97. There are 20 other double-centurions with lower averages than Stokes' current mark, including Ian Botham (33.54), Vinoo Mankad (31.47) and Grant Flower (29.54). Bottom of the list is Jason Gillespie, whose 201 not out in his final Test innings raised his average only to 18.73; just above him on 22.64 is Wasim Akram, whose highest Test score was 257 not out, one shy of Stokes' recent tour de force in Cape Town.

Bryan Young has a highest Test score of 267, but an underwhelming Test average of 31.78 © Getty Images

Was Adam Zampa's 6 for 19 the other day the best bowling analysis in the IPL? asked Bharani Ganesan from the United States
Adam Zampa's 6 for 19 for Rising Pune Supergiants against Sunrisers Hyderabad in Visakhapatnam last week were the second-best figures in IPL history, behind only the 6 for 14 of Pakistan seamer Sohail Tanvir for Rajasthan Royals against Chennai Super Kings in Jaipur in May 2008. There have been only 13 better analyses than Zampa's in all senior T20 matches, the best of all being Arul Suppiah's 6 for 5 for Somerset against Glamorgan in Cardiff in 2011. The previous-best by an Australian was Michael Dighton's 6 for 25, from only three overs, for Tasmania against Queensland in Toowoomba in 2006-07.

Alastair Cook will soon complete 10,000 Test runs - but is he the highest scorer for England over all three formats? asked Arushi Makhijani from India
Alastair Cook needs just 36 runs to become the first Englishman to reach 10,000 Test runs - Graham Gooch is next on 8900 - but he's only third on the list for all international cricket at the moment, with 13,229 in Tests, one-day and T20Is combined. Ian Bell is just 102 ahead, with 13,331, but the leader for the time being is Kevin Pietersen, with 13,779 runs in all formats for England. Pietersen is only 37th (and Cook 40th) on the overall list, which is headed by Sachin Tendulkar, who made 34,357 international runs, more than 6000 ahead of Kumar Sangakkara.

In his recent autobiography, Younis Ahmed writes about the long gap between his second and third Tests. There are two players with longer gaps in their careers, but Younis reckons he holds the record for the number of matches missed, with 104. Is he right? asked Richard Green from London
There were 17 years and three months between Younis Ahmed's second Test appearance, in 1969-70, and his third, after a surprise recall in 1986-87. There are indeed two men who waited longer between Test appearances: George Gunn of England (nearly 18 years between March 1912 and January 1930), and John Traicos, who played for South Africa in 1969-70 and in Zimbabwe's first Test in 1992-93, some 22 years and 222 days later.

Younis is right in saying that he missed 104 Tests during his absence. That was a record at the time, but it's been surpassed since, as this list shows. The Surrey seamer Martin Bicknell missed a record 114 England Tests between playing two in 1993 and two more in 2003, while Floyd Reifer missed 109 between 1998-99 and returning as West Indies' captain during a contracts dispute in 2009.

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Steven Lynch is the editor of the updated edition of Wisden on the Ashes