Ask Steven - the return of the column where we answer your questions October 27, 2003

Dickie Bird's ex-record - and the Test player from Panama

He's back ..

He's back ... Steven Lynch, the editor of Wisden Cricinfo, returns with the column that answers your questions about (almost) any aspect of cricket. Some of his previous answers from the old Wisden site will be available online soon. In the meantime, here's the first of the new batch:

Garry Sobers dishing it out against England in 1973
© Getty Images

Does Dickie Bird still hold the record for most Tests as an umpire? asks Jarrod Clements
Dickie is no longer on top of that list. He umpired in 66 Test matches between 1969 and his tearful farewell at Lord's in 1996, and when he retired that left him clear at the top. He was the first man to umpire in more than 50 Tests. But he has now been passed by three current umpires: Venkat, from India, who has stood in 70; David Shepherd of England (75), and the leader Steve Bucknor, who has 83 Tests under his belt since his first one in 1988-89. Bucknor is still only 57, so must have a chance of reaching three figures before he hangs up his white coat. You can click here for a full list.

Which Test player was born in Panama? asks Chris Lee
This was George Headley, the first great West Indian batsman: he was born in Colon, the seaport at the Caribbean end of the Panama Canal, in 1909. He was taken to Jamaica, where his mother came from, when he was 10 - and by the time he was 20 he was on the verge of the West Indian Test team. In only 22 Tests he averaged 60.83, with ten centuries. His son Ron and grandson Dean both played Test cricket too.

In the recent Perth Test - the one in which Matthew Hayden scored his 380 - all five of the Zimbabwean bowlers used conceded more than 100 runs in the innings. Has this ever happened before? asks Albert Ross
It has happened three times before, but only on one of those occasions were no other bowlers used in the innings. The first time was at Kingston in 1954-55, when Australia made 758 for 8 dec against West Indies. Five players scored centuries in that innings - a record - and five bowlers conceded hundreds too: Tom Dewdney, Frank King, Denis Atkinson, Collie Smith and Frank Worrell ... and Garry Sobers just missed out, with 1 for 99.

It happened again at Lord's in 1973, and this time West Indies were dishing it out. They made 652 for 8 dec - with Sobers making 150 not out - and all five England bowlers (Geoff Arnold, Bob Willis, Tony Greig, Derek Underwood and Ray Illingworth) conceded over 100. The most recent occasion came at Brisbane in 1993-94, when Australia scored 607 for 6 dec against New Zealand, for whom Danny Morrison, Chris Cairns, Simon Doull, Richard de Groen and Dipak Patel all leaked tons.

When - and why - did Australia give up the eight-ball over? asks Achal Narayanan
Australia first tried the eight-ball over in Tests in 1924-25, and then used it in all senior cricket from 1936-37 to 1978-79. In 1979-80 they reverted to six-ball overs, and have used them ever since. It's usually said that they started using eight-ball overs in order to get more actual play in - there is obviously less end-changing going on - and it is also suggested, rather more mischievously, that they reverted to six-ball overs once the matches were being broadcast on Kerry Packer's Channel 9, because that meant there could be more between-overs advertisement breaks.

How many batsmen have scored four or more hundreds in successive Test innings? asks Aniket Raut
Only four men have managed this - and the surprise is that Don Bradman isn't one of them. Everton Weekes, the prolific West Indian, actually hit five centuries in successive innings against England and India in the late 1940s - and he narrowly missed a sixth, as he was run out for 90 in his next outing. Three other batsmen have managed four hundreds in consecutive innings: Jack Fingleton of Australia, South Africa's Alan Melville, and Rahul Dravid of India, who scored three in a row in England in 2002 and added an unbeaten 100 in his next Test innings, against West Indies at Mumbai in 2003-03. You can click here for more details.

Is there any qualification, as there is in the football Premiership, for which members of Sussex's team receive medals for winning the County Championship? asks Robert Downing
We weren't sure, so asked the ECB. Apparently players who have played six matches (or more) receive a replica of the trophy, paid for by the ECB. But Sussex can pay for additional trophies for other players and any backroom staff that they think should have one.

If you want to Ask Steven a question, e-mail him at The most interesting questions will be answered each week in this column. Unfortunately, we can't usually enter into correspondence about individual queries.