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The worst bowling average, and mystery injuries

The regular Monday column in which our editor answers your questions about (almost) any aspect of cricket

Steven Lynch

January 19, 2004

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The regular Monday column in which our editor answers your questions about (almost) any aspect of cricket:

You've had some questions recently about the highest Test batting average - but what's the highest (and therefore worst) bowling average? asked Robin Read

For many years this unwanted record was held by England's John Warr, whose solitary Test wicket, in the 1950-51 Ashes series in Australia, cost him 281 runs. More recently Warr was passed by the Sri Lankan spinner Roger Wijesuriya (an un-Murali-like 294.00). But the current leader, if that's the right word, is the Grenadian legspinner Rawl Lewis, whose one wicket cost him 318 runs. Lewis played three Tests for West Indies, but the only man he dismissed was Mark Boucher of South Africa, at Johannesburg in 1998-99. For a while during 2003 the average of Khaled Mahmud, Bangladesh's captain, eclipsed Lewis's - it soared into the 400s at one point - but a burst of wicket-taking against Pakistan reduced his average, which is currently an almost respectable 64.00.

Writing letters can be pretty harmful. Ask Derek Pringle
© Getty Images

What is the most bizarre cricketing injury? asked Suresh from Bangalore

I suppose one of the oddest reasons for missing a Test match belongs to Derek Pringle, the former Essex allrounder who is now the cricket correspondent of the Daily Telegraph. In 1982, he was forced to drop out of the third Test against Pakistan at Headingley after injuring his back, supposedly while writing a letter, although his own version is slightly different:

"My terrible injury was actually pretty mundane. I'd been sorting out envelopes for friends wanting complimentary tickets when I stretched and leant back on my chair, which promptly gave way. The tumble caused my back to spasm between the shoulder-blades, something that had happened to me before, so I knew I'd probably be unable to bowl for 48 hours - the usual time it took to clear up. As it was late, around midnight, I didn't summon the physio but rather attempted a home cure by pulling the mattress off the bed so I could sleep on the floor. Unfortunately this made my back worse and I had to withdraw from the match. I explained all this to the then physio, Bernard Thomas, who injected me with muscle relaxants, but then the Machiavellian little man told the press I'd done my back in writing a letter - presumably his attempt to toughen me up with some cod psychology. As in most cases the truth is duller than the fiction, though I believe Chris Old once pulled a rib muscle before a Test by sneezing, and Tony Greig ricked his neck shaving, the height of the hotel mirror no doubt causing him to perform that most dangerous of manoeuvres - the early-morning stoop."

The year after Pringle's mishap Phil Edmonds had to cry off a Test after hurting his back getting out of his car - his pain wouldn't have been eased when his replacement, Nick Cook, took eight wickets in his first Test and nine in his second, and kept Edmonds out for the rest of that 1983 summer, and the winter tours of New Zealand and Pakistan. And Ted Dexter, the former England captain and chairman of selectors, once ran himself over on the Chiswick Flyover in west London - he was pushing his broken-down car, and lost control of it.

South Africa passed 500 in each of their four recent Tests against West Indies - is this a record? asked Charl Branson from Johannesburg

It's actually only the second time in Test history that any team has passed 500 in four successive matches - and rather surprisingly West Indies were on the receiving end both times. In 1968-69 Australia scored 510 at Melbourne, 547 at Sydney, 533 at Adelaide, and 619 at Sydney again. England nearly achieved it in 2002 - they scored 529, 545 and 512 in the first three Tests of the summer against Sri Lanka, then fell just short with 487 in the first Test against India at Lord's.

Is there an official record for throwing the cricket ball? asked Danny Montague from Edinburgh

According to the Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, the record was set around 1882, by someone called Robert Percival (not a noted cricketer) at Durham Sands Racecourse in the north of England. He reportedly threw it 140 yards two feet, and that distance has never been officially beaten since, although the former Essex allrounder Ian Pont, who had tryouts with baseball teams in America, apparently threw 138 yards in Cape Town in 1981.There are unconfirmed reports that Janis Lusis, the Russian javelin thrower who won the Olympic gold medal in 1968, once threw a ball 150 yards - so maybe someone should hand Steve Backley a cricket ball ...

Has the No. 11 batsman ever made a Test century? asked Jonathan Rowe from Weston-super-Mare

No, the highest score made by a No. 11 in Tests is 68 not out, by Richard Collinge of New Zealand, against Pakistan at Auckland in 1972-73. That came during the course of a last-wicket partnership of 151, the Test record. That record was equalled by Azhar Mahmood and Mushtaq Ahmed for Pakistan v South Africa at Rawalpindi in 1997-98; Mushtaq scored 59 in that innings, and there have only been eight other half-centuries by No. 11s in Tests. There have, however, been nine instances of a No. 11 scoring a century in first-class cricket. The highest of them was 163, by the sometime England spinner Peter Smith, for Essex v Derbyshire at Chesterfield in 1947. The previous season, during a tour match against Surrey at The Oval, featured the only instance of both No. 10 and No. 11 scoring centuries in the same innings - the Indians' last pair, Chandu Sarwate (who died recently) and Shute Banerjee made 124 not out and 121 while putting on 249.

I missed out on this question in a recent quiz: Which British Prime Minister played first-class cricket? asked George Tombleson from Haywards Heath

This was Sir Alec Douglas-Home, Britain's Conservative Prime Minister from 1963 to 1964. As Lord Dunglass, he played two games for Middlesex in the 1920s, and won his 2nd XI cap for them. He also toured South America with a strong MCC team in 1926-27. In all he played 10 first-class matches, and took 12 wickets at 30.25. The former England captain Gubby Allen, who was at school with him at Eton, thought highly of him as a player. EW Swanton, in Man of Cricket, his biography of Allen, wrote: "Gubby rates our cricketing Prime Minister as having been a distinctly good slipper, as well as a useful awayswing bowler and a determined bat."

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 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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