That man Lara, and a different kind of triple hundred
The regular Monday column in which our editor answers your questions about (almost) any aspect of cricket. This week a certain innings tends to dominate:
Has anyone before Brian Lara reclaimed the record for the highest Test innings? asked Ravi Jhanghiani from Wimbledon
No, Lara is the first to reclaim the Test record - and one of the oldest to do it, too. Actually the record for the highest Test score has only changed hands ten times in all since Charles Bannerman hit an epic 165 in the very first Test of all, at Melbourne in 1876-77. Seven years later Billy Murdoch, another Australia, recorded the first Test double-century, and the record has changed hands at irregular intervals since then. One person was in on three of the records: Wally Hammond had to field through Don Bradman's 334 at Headingley in 1930, he broke the record himself in New Zealand in 1932-33, and was England's captain when Len Hutton broke that record in 1938. Click here for more details of the progression of the record.
Is Lara the first person to score two first-class quadruple-centuries? asked Craig Jones from Llanelli
This is another no: Bill Ponsford, the prolific Australian opener, also passed 400 twice. Ponsford made 429 for Victoria v Tasmania at Melbourne in 1922-23 (Victoria made 1059, the first four-figure total), and bettered that with 437 for Victoria v Queensland, also at Melbourne, in 1927-28. Lara, of course, now has a full hand of multiple centuries: several singles, quite a few doubles, and now a 300, a 400 and a 500.
How many people witnessed both Lara's 375 and his 400? asked Jill Matthews from Kendal
The only other player involved in both matches was Graham Thorpe, who scored 9 in 1994 and 10 this time. Coincidentally, one of the umpires was the same: Darrell Hair was officiating in both games. There were a couple of near-misses: Shivnarine Chanderpaul played in 1994 but was dropped for this game, while Nasser Hussain, who played in 2004, was on the tour in 1994 but didn't play in the Tests. Among several mediamen and spectators who will have seen both, Angus Fraser played in 1994 - he took 2 for 121 - but had a slightly less exhausting time of it this time, in the press-box writing for The Independent.
Was the 446 at St John's the biggest first-innings lead ever conceded in a Test? asked S Viswanath from Bangalore
For a while, until Andy Flintoff got going with the tail, it did look as if it might be England's biggest deficit, which is 509, set against South Africa at Lord's last year. But even that is only fourth on the alltime list. At The Oval in 1938 England (903 for 7 dec) led Australia (201) by 702 runs. At Lahore in 2001-02 Pakistan scored 643 then bowled New Zealand out for 73, a lead of 570, while at Kingston in 1929-30 England made 849, bowled West Indies out for 286 ... and didn't enforce the follow-on despite leading by 563. They did eventually set the Windies a tempting target of 836 to win. There was an excuse: it was a timeless Test, so time shouldn't have been a factor - but in the end it was, as the match was left drawn after the ninth day, when the England team had to catch the boat home.
In Antigua Andrew Flintoff scored a hundred after conceding over 100 while bowling - has this ever happened in a Test before? asked Milton Andrews from Stoke Newington
Rather surprisingly this was the 40th time this particular double had been achieved - the most recent one was by New Zealand's Daniel Vettori against Pakistan at Hamilton last December. But two people have managed three hundreds in a match - India's Vijay Hazare, with 116, 145 and 2 for 110 in Australia's only innings at Adelaide in 1947-48, and Garry Sobers, with 110, 1 for 106 and 1 for 107 for West Indies v Australia, also at Adelaide, in 1968-69.
Is Geraint Jones the first Test player to have been born in Papua New Guinea? asked Jerome Johnson from Auckland
Yes he is - as a poster at St John's said, "There's only one Papua New Guinean Welsh Aussie English Geraint Jones." Geraint Owen Jones was born there in 1976 while his parents, who were Welsh, were working there: he was brought up in Australia, and moved back to England when he was 22. It's probably one of the most exotic locations for an England cricketer's birthplace: rivals include Lima in Peru (Freddie Brown), Milan in Italy (Ted Dexter), Malabar Hill in Bombay (Douglas Jardine) ... and Newstead Colliery in Nottinghamshire (Sam Staples).
Steven Lynch is editor of Wisden Cricinfo. For some of these answers he was helped by Travis Basevi, the man who built Stats Guru and the Wisden Wizard. If you want to Ask Steven a question, e-mail him at email@example.com. The most interesting questions will be answered each week in this column. Unfortunately, we can't usually enter into correspondence about individual queries.