Ask Steven June 19, 2006

Left-handers all - and another one in a helmet

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

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



This is what Warne's bunny looks like © AFP

In all three England-Sri Lanka Tests, the first three batsmen in the order on both sides were left-handers - has this happened before in Tests? asked Jim Thorn

No, this has never happened before. The nearest was in two separate Tests in 2004, when six left-handers did feature - but only due to a change in the batting order both times. When Australia played India at Chennai in October 2004 their top three in the first innings was Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer and Simon Katich, while Adam Gilchrist came in up the order at No. 3 in the second innings instead of Katich. India had Irfan Pathan at No. 3, but Yuvraj Singh's opening partner was a right-hander, Virender Sehwag. Oddly, it happened again little more than two months later, at Durban: Jacques Rudolph batted at No. 3 in South Africa's first innings, and Nicky Boje was there in the second. But again there was a right-hand opener to spoil the party - Herschelle Gibbs, who opened with Graeme Smith. England's top three in both innings were Marcus Trescothick, Andrew Strauss and Mark Butcher. There have been six other occasions in Tests - all since 1994-95 - when in an unchanged top three, five of the six involved on both sides were left-handers.

Who was the first batsman to wear a crash helmet in a Test? asked Andrew Mottram from Cheshire

The first man to wear a recognisable modern-style batting helmet in a Test was the Australian left-hander Graham Yallop, against West Indies at Bridgetown in March 1978. He wasn't daft: Andy Roberts and Colin Croft took the new ball, with Joel Garner as first change. Australia's captain Bob Simpson, who faced the same trio without a helmet in that game even though he was 42, wrote: "Yallop made history by being the first batsman to wear a full protective helmet in Test cricket. The extra protection seemed to work wonders because he looked far more composed against the pacemen." Yallop made 47 - but West Indies still won, by nine wickets, inside three days.

Who is Shane Warne's bunny, and who has taken most catches off him, Adam Gilchrist or Ian Healy? asked Chris Kwiatowski from Redfern, Sydney

Shane Warne's "bunny" - the man he has dismissed most often in Tests - is Alec Stewart, who fell to him 14 times. Warne seems to target England captains: he also removed Stewart's successor, Nasser Hussain, on 11 occasions, and his predecessor, Mike Atherton, 10 times. He has also dismissed South Africa's Ashwell Prince on 11 occasions - and Prince has only had 18 innings against Australia. Adam Gilchrist has taken 39 catches off Warne to Ian Healy's 34 - but Mark Taylor took more catches off Warne than either of them, with 51. If you take stumpings into account, Gilchrist has featured in 57 Warne dismissals, and Healy 49. Mark Waugh also took 39 catches off Warne in Tests: Matthew Hayden has so far taken 38, and Ricky Ponting 35.

Bangladesh recently beat Sri Lanka for the first time, and I also remember them beating Australia and Pakistan. Have they beaten all the other Test-playing nations yet? asked Sagir Parkar

The match you mention against Sri Lanka was at Bogra February. Bangladesh have also beaten India once (at Dhaka in 2004-05), and Zimbabwe four times, as well as recording official ODI victories over Hong Kong, Kenya and Scotland. But there are four other Test teams that they have still to beat in ODIs - they have played seven each against England, New Zealand and South Africa and lost the lot, and have lost nine of eleven matches against West Indies, with two no-results.

Can you please tell me the name of the first Test player to die? Someone told me it was WG Grace, but I don't think it was, asked Mohammad Hasan from Pakistan

The unfortunate holder of this unwanted distinction is England's James Southerton, an offspinner who played in the first two Tests of all in 1876-77 - he was 49 then, and remains Test cricket's oldest debutant. Southerton died little more than three years later, in June 1880, at the age of 52. Although WG Grace lived on till 1915, when he was 67, his brother GF (Fred) Grace was not so lucky - he made his Test debut alongside WG at The Oval on September 6, 1880, but caught pneumonia shortly afterwards and died on September 22, aged only 29.

What unusual event delayed the start of the fifth Test between South Africa and England in 1930-31? asked Terence Frederick of London

This was the fifth Test of that series, at Durban, and the reason for the delay is one of Test cricket's most unusual ones: the bails were the wrong size, and the umpires had to make a new set! It's not as incompetent as it sounds - not quite, anyway - as the laws had recently been changed to increase the size of the stumps to the current size of 28 inches high by nine inches wide (previously it was 27x8). The stumps at Kingsmead were the right size, but the bails weren't. Gerald Brodribb, in Next Man In, his excellent study of the evolution of cricket's laws, reports that a new set of bails had to be made on the spot, and adds: "England, who had won the toss and put South Africa in on a drying wicket, made a strong protest at this annoying delay."

Steven Lynch is the deputy editor of The Wisden Group. 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, 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.